Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Glove Week!, Part III: The Phillies Outfield 2004-2006 

My first stop in the morning, after I get done reading the gory details of what the Phillies did the night before, is to check out The Hardball Times (THT) and look at some of their stats. THT is a great, one-stop shop for bloggers interested in sabremetric stats that they cannot get anywhere else. Recently, much to my delight, the THT editors elected to add fielding stats like Zone Rating and Range Factor to their statistical milieu. Like a starving man eager for his meal, I dove right in and extracted some information about the recent past that interested me.

I am excited to report that THT will, for the first time I am aware of anywhere, be posting current data on Zone Rating, on balls fielded out of zone (OOZ), the number of balls hit into the fielder’s zone, and that THT will also be breaking down errors between throwing errors and fielding errors. I hurriedly devoured the 2004 – 2006 data and thought that I might given an overview on what I’ve noticed about the Phillies defense between 2004 & 2006. We'll start today with some notes on the Phillies outfield.

Range Factor. As I noted in Part II, RF isn’t a perfect stat. It is subject to the performance of what pitchers do and whom pitchers face. But I figured that comparing the players against each other might shed some light on some questions about how good the Phillies outfield really is. Let’s start with the Left Field:

Range Factor (2004 - 2006)
Burrell (’06): 1.93
Dellucci (’06): 1.93
Victorino (’06): 2.70
Burrell (’05): 1.71
Michaels (’05): 2.40
Burrell (’04): 1.92
Michaels (’04): 2.06

Pat Burrell is the incumbent but he’s been spelled for various stretches of the season by Jason Michaels in ’04 & ’05, and by Shane Victorino last season. It is tempting to state that Burrell is a poor defensive left fielder when you compare him to his colleagues, but I have a few words about that … for one thing, matched up with a similar player, Burrell and David Dellucci had identical Range Factor stats. Comparing Burrell to Jason Michaels and Shane Victorino is unfair. Both Michaels and Victorino are outstanding defensive outfielders and ought to be recognized as such, also consider that Burrell plays on a team full of groundball pitchers. This stat doesn't fairly critique Burrell's performance. We’ll come back to Burrell later …

Range Factor: Center Field
Rowand (’06): 2.57
Victorino (’06): 2.70
Lofton (’05): 2.53
Michaels (’05): 2.79
Michaels (’04): 2.67
Byrd (’04): 2.38

As you can see, center fielders get in on more plays than left fielders, so the numbers rose. It is interesting – and I won’t belabor this point, since I’ve made it 1,000 times in the past – but Aaron Rowand had a terrible, terrible season with the Phillies in 2006. Shane Victorino outshined him in every way possible. Playing in half the innings of Rowand, Victorino had as many assists and committed no errors to Rowand’s five … more on errors later … But clearly, Shane Victorino was the superior center fielder in 2006. It will be interesting to see if Rowand bounces back in 2007 … Also of note, backing up my statement that Jason Michaels is an outstanding defensive outfielder, note how well Michaels did with the Phillies in 2004 and 2005, though you have to wonder if those ’04 numbers ought to be Eric Milton-adjusted (i.e., an outfielder enjoying a flyball pitcher).

Range Factor: Right Field
Abreu (’06): 1.95
Dellucci (’06): 1.72
Conine (’06): 1.68
Victorino (’06): 2.37
Abreu (’05): 1.80
Abreu (’04): 2.22

No longer a Phillie, David Dellucci and Jeff Conine played a little right field before Shane Victorino settled into the job, which he will hold in 2007. Abreu has long been derided by bloggers and sabremetricians for being a poor defensive right fielder – his 2005 Gold Glove has been widely ridiculed – and these numbers don’t exactly support the charge. Average, not below-average, might be the more accurate conclusion of Bobby Abreu’s fielding skills. Again, Victorino was just THAT good in 2006.

Mistakes … Who made mistakes? Unless my math is off, the Phillies outfield went from making 14 errors in 2004 to 17 in 2005 to 10 last year. So the mistakes, the errors, actually went down. But who made ‘em?

Burrell: 1 throwing, 2 fielding
Rowand: 2 throwing, 3 fielding
Dellucci: 1 fielding
Abreu: 1 throwing

Rowand’s five errors look even worse compared with the fact that his replacement for much of the season, Shane Victorino, made none in any inning he played in the outfield. Yes, Victorino's fielding percentage was a sterling 1.000 in 2006. Burrell cut his errors from to 3, from 7 from ’05 to ’06, but you have to factor the decline in innings played 987 from 1,297.

Burrell: 1 throwing, 6 fielding
Abreu: 1 throwing, 3 fielding
Lofton: 2 throwing, 2 fielding
Michaels: 2 fielding

Again, Michaels played a lot of innings defensively and did a nice job.

Burrell: 4 fielding
Abreu: 2 throwing, 3 fielding
Byrd: 2 fielding
Michaels: 1 throwing, 2 fielding

Let’s move onto the issue of fielding range. How often did the Phillies get to balls that were hit to the edge of their fielding zone? I ran the numbers and came up with some conclusions … Let’s start with every blogger’s favorite whipping boy, Pat Burrell:

2006: 352 / 4
2005: 367 / 15
2004: 302 / 19

BIZ = Balls in Zone
OOZ = Outside Of Zone

I think this sums up a problem that the Phillies have. Pat Burrell gets to fewer and fewer balls hit into his vicinity. His Zone Rating has been declining from .623 to .602 to .571. He’s losing his effective range as a fielder. In fact, he was the worst defensive left fielder in 2006 in terms of Zone Rating last season, finishing eleventh of eleven amongst N.L. left fielders. There's really no doubt about it - this evidence - as opposed to Range Factor is dispositive.

Now let’s scope out Bobby Abreu’s decline as a fielder as well:

2006: 278 / 10
2005: 401 / 12
2004: 407 / 25

It is ironic that baseball chose to give a gold glove to a poor defensive outfielder during a season where he was doing worse than he usually does. In terms of Zone Rating, Abreu is middle-of-the-pack at best. Let's move on to centerfield.

Rowand (’06): 260 / 43
Victorino (’06): 154 / 35
Lofton (’05): 211 / 31
Michaels (’05): 153 / 33
Byrd (’04): 189 / 36
Michaels (’04): 80 / 25

Interesting points ... Victorino seemed to get to more balls outside of his defensive zone than Rowand, getting to just eight fewer in 343 fewer innings. Victorino's Zone Rating was better as well: .818 to .796. Rowand was ninth of eleven N.L. centerfielders in ZR, a major disappointment. In 2005, when Aaron Rowand was arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball, he finished third of eleven AL center fielders in ZR. Quite a difference a year makes.

Remarkably to me, Victorino's Zone Rating was good but a little middle of the pack, roughly comparable to Carlos Beltran (.817) and well behind the Astros Willy Taveras (.861)

Miscellaneous notes ... If Jason Michaels had logged enough innings in 2005 he would have ranked second in the N.L. amongst centerfielders in ZR (.837) behind the Cubs Corey Patterson (.841); and he would have ranked first in 2004, besting the Marlins Juan Pierre (.838 vs .835) ... And Marlon Byrd was terrible in 2004. Only Marquis Grissom and Steve Finley were worse in 2004. Here are the Zone Rating numbers …

Lofton (’05): .806
Michaels (’05): .837
Byrd (’04): .767
Michaels (’04): .838

What does Plus / Minus tell us? John Dewan's Plus / Minus numbers are available to us, although you have to do some detective work to figure out 2006 individual numbers. Here is how the Phillies outfield has ranked over the last four years:

2003: +9 (4th in N.L.)
2004: -22 (11th in N.L.)
2005: +1 (7th in N.L.)
2006: -48 (16th in N.L., and actually second-worst in baseball behind the Boston Red Sox at -69)

Yeah, they were terrible in 2006. Let's start with Rowand:

2003: -1
2004: +5
2005: +30 (led MLB)
2006: -4

The heck happened to Rowand in 2006? That's a swing of 34 plays that he made, or one every fourth game or so. Here is Abreu:

2003: +7
2004: -6
2005: -13 (this is the year he won the gold glove)
2006: unk

To figure 2006 Plus / Minus I took available data and did a little math. In the case of Rowand he's listed as a +31 for 2004-2006, so once you subtract his +5 in 2004 and +30 in 2005, you get his -4 in 2006. Abreu, I haven't a clue what he did in 2006. I say he did poorly, but I cannot say.

Jason Michaels:
2003: -1 (as CF)
2004: -1 (as CF)
2005: +4 (as CF)
2006: +12 (as Cleveland's LF)

It is a pity that the Phillies lost Michaels to the Indians because he is an outstanding defensive outfielder and a good hitter too. Lucky Cleveland.

Pat Burrell:
2003: +11
2004: -2
2005: +3
2006: unk.

I think we can safely assume that Burrell was probably a negative number and that it may even be a double-digit negative number. Burrell's rank is something I am very curious about.

Alright, tomorrow we'll take a quick look at the Phillies defensive infield. (Except for First Base.) Oh, and after taking consecutive rain-outs, the Phillies got just enough dry weather to get hammered by the New York Mets 8-1. Garcia wasn't quite what he was cracked up to be, the leaky bullpen gave up five runs and the Phillies hit into three double plays. Oh, and Shane Victorino committed an error. Poor Charlie Manuel apparently challenged a talk radio show host to a fight. Pretty much a matter of time until he gets the axe, sad to say.

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All those stats aren't helping your team win broseph. No matter what they look like on paper the phools will always be a joke.
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