Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to Fix the Gold Glove Awards

The Gold Glove awards are supposed to highlight defensive brilliance at each position in each league.  Unfortunately, the selection process is flawed, since the managers and coaches in each league pick the winners and many times, reputation is the sole criteria in voting.  Torii Hunter wins the Gold Glove pretty much every year despite the fact that he's not the center fielder he once was.  This year there were several problematic Gold Glove winners, capped by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who is a notorious sub-par fielder.

Baseball showed that it can evolve last season by stepping into the late 1990s by instituting replay.  Now it's time to to really recognize the best fielders with Gold Gloves.  Here's how:

  • Take the vote away from coaches and managers - This is easy.  These guys know a lot about the game but they don't have time to actually watch the game and pay attention to who the good fielders are.  The baseball writers vote for the rest of the awards (minus the silver sluggers) and do a decent enough job at it.  Let's give them a shot.  I would say they are less likely to go just by a player's reputation.  Defensive statistics have increased in popularity in recent years and there are several good metrics to help a voter choose the best candidate.  I highly doubt a manager is going to peruse a statistics site to check on a fielder for his Gold Glove ballot... but maybe a writer will.
  • Make the voting public - Right now there are no counts to show that Derek Jeter beat Elvis Andrus by one vote or 14 votes.  Let's start to hold the voters accountable by publishing some vote totals.
  • Award a Gold Glove to a LF, a CF, and a RF - Presently, there are three generic "outfield" Gold Gloves.  Absolute garbage.  You can't compare a center fielder to any other position because they cover more ground than either of the corner positions.  At the same time, a guy like Carl Crawford will never be recognized for his outstanding defense because he's not a center fielder.  If infielders are split up by position, there is no reason why outfielders can't be. 

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Steve said...

Carl Crawford made 4 errors this year, and had a fielding % of .988.... the league average is .987.... But if you want to award average guys trophies that's fine with me

Mitch Richmond said...

"These guys know a lot about the game but they don't have time to actually watch the game and pay attention to who the good fielders are."

They don't have time to watch the game? It's their job. They're there. In the dugout. Watching games. They don't pay attention? What do they do then?

Rob Burckhard said...

Steve - I don't think errors and fielding percentage are really an adequate way to evaluate a fielder. If I didn't move one step playing right field and I caught every ball that was hit to my small space of outfield, I'd have a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Crawford is good because he tracks down nearly every ball hit to left field. In fact, this year the plus/minus system has Crawford at +32, which means he makes 32 more plays than the average fielder.

Mitch - Yes, I worded that poorly. My point was their job is to manage the game, rather than just watch it. If I'm a Major League manager, the last thing I care about is who is the best defensive third baseman. Managers are always looking at matchups and thinking strategy; they don't have time to study the ability of a fielder.

Bloglifetime said...

I applaud a Red Sox fan with an honest take on Jeter! We in NY love to let the rest of the league tell us how Jeter is finished, and then watch him do what he does day in and day out. It will be a sad day here when he hangs it up.

Steve said...

I don't even know what plus/minus means. Its not even a common stat used in baseball. How are you going to say that fielding percentage isnt an adequate way to evaluate a fielder?

Manager discussion probably sounds like this. "Hmm, should we bunt it to 3rd, XXXX doesnt usualy field bunts that well" or "Hmm, should we send him home? That outfielder has a bad arm".

Managers rate all players on their 5 tools including defense and they review those notes prior to each game to properly make decisions.

So again, no idea what plus/minus is in relation to fielding but why not give the Gold Glove to Ryan Sweeney of the Athletics. He had 333 chances (crawford 337) including 11 OF assists (crawford 6) with just 3 errors (crawford 4) and a .991 fielding %.

Wait--- Sweeney played 85 games in RF, 57 in CF, and 7 in LF (a total of 22 fewer games than Crawford did this year)... Good thing they dont give gold gloves to just one position in the OF or else he would really never have a chance.

All I'm asking from you is that you do some research before you post your 3 paragraph articles. Its great to have an opinion but back it up with facts every now and then.

baseballben said...

Unless I'm greatly mistaken, Fielding % is (PO+A)/(PO+A+E). Let's take two players, Horii Tunter and Granklin Futierrez:

Tunter plays, oh... say 977 1/3 innings and makes about 308 Putouts, 2 assists, 1 error. That's a .997 Fielding Percentage. Pretty solid, right?

Futierrez has (I'm just making up numbers here) 1353 1/3 innings, 445 putouts, 6 assists, 7 errors, and a .985 Pct.

Tunter has the higher Fielding %, and fewer errors, so he wins (even though he has fewer assists), right? Not so fast... part of the problem with traditional stats is that you can't make an error if you don't get to the ball.

Futierrez made FAR more putouts, but he had far more innings too. So let's look at the rate stats. GF had .329 putouts per inning, while HT comes in at .315. Not a big difference. But wait, if Futierrez had a PO/Inn rate of .315, he would have made 18 fewer plays this year. No big deal, right? 18 hits is the difference between .300 and .263 over 500 at bats!!!

So Futierrez would save 18 extra plays and throw out four extra runners, but he committed six more errors. Doing some rough math... 18+4-6 ... I'm taking Futierrez every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

baseballben said...

But wait- we haven't considered the groundball/fly ball tendencies of their respective pitching staffs. Or maybe one of them had all lazy fly balls right at him and the other had hard line drives in the gaps ... That's why we need stats like Plus/Minus, which take all of this into account!!! Just because you haven't seen Plus/Minus in box scores or on ESPN (yet) doesn't mean it's worthless... Do some research of your own before you write them off. Let's see how perennial Gold Glovers Torii Hunter and Derek Jeter turn out in those systems...

Steve said...

So...If guy a has 100 attempts and makes 10 errors vs a guy who has 1000 attempts and 100 errors you say that the guy with more attempts should be considered the better fielder because he had more opportunities? In fact, he is the worse fielder seeing how he did less with those more opportunities.

So back to my point then that Ryan Sweeney is better than Crawford? And 'range' is then overrated because you have the fast guys and then the Manny Ramirez/Milton Bradley, and thus, all Fast OF would get credit for more range, and greater plus/minus and thus win the Gold Gloves. (which is what happens, so thus they must take into consideration the Plus/minus when determining Gold Gloves.)

And your point about "lazy fly balls"--- If he catches the ball, regardless, he is doing his job. The old saying "its a line drive int he box score" applies to defense too. Because believe it or not, there is really no such thing as a lazy fly ball. Try catching a ball hit 80 feet in the air on a sunny day, or in a dome with a white roof, or near foul territory with AROD yelling behind you.

baseballben said...

I can't tell if you're pulling my leg or if you're being serious...

1. Did you read the previous post? Let's give them the same opportunities so it's less confusing. Say there are 100 balls hit to center field. Horii Tunter gets to 50 of them and catches every single one, leaving 50 to fall for hits. Granklin Futierrez catches 60, but makes 5 errors too (and 35 fall for hits). Tunter's Fielding % is 1.000, while Futierrez's is 60/65 = .923. Who's team is better off? The one that let 40 guys reach base or the one that let 50 guys reach base?

2. Sweeney's tough to evaluate given the multi-position and limited playing time issues. He does quite well in advanced systems, like Plus/Minus and Runs Saved, which takes into account "range", errors, AND arm strength. But then again, Crawford does even better. And what, exactly, is wrong with the fact that fast guys cover more ground and therefore catch more fly balls that would otherwise be base hits?

3. Yes, catching the ball means he's doing his job. However, if one guy makes 99 diving plays on line drives in the gap and one error, that tells us a lot more than someone making 100 catches on high fly balls hit right to them. What if the second guy had the same line drives as the first guy? How many would he catch? 50? 90? 99? all 100? That's what Plus/Minus tries to account for. Granted, it's not perfect. But it's a lot better than just using PO and E.

baseballben said...

Grammar police: "who's" in that first paragraph should be "whose"...

Steve said...

1- If Franklin gets to 60 of 100 and makes 5 errors then 45 guys reach base, not 40, or are you saying he gets to 55 of 60 (including the 5 errors). Thus his fielding is .916.. Either way, an error typically leads to extra bases so lets say franklin makes a dive and it bounces off his glove and the runner is at 2nd versus Hunter letting the ball drop in front of him and the guy is at 1st.
I'll take Hunter (or whomever makes the safe play) in that scenario every time. Stats show that guys on 2nd base score more often than guys on 1st base.

2- there is nothing wrong with fast guys having more range, but with that point I am refuting the point that Gold Gloves should go to each position because by the nature of the CF, he is supposed to cover more ground and thus should get more gold gloves.

3- I'm willing to agree with you that there is no exact way to determine whether a player deserves a gold glove or not, just like any award, with too many X-factors. Correct me if I am wrong (because I don't know this one), but there isn't any formula to calculate extraordinary plays such as dives and robbing homeruns? Also, does a player get a boost in the voting because of his reputation of having 1 season 5 years ago in which he made some memorable plays?

Brian Doyle said...

I'm in no mood to deal with tons of arithmetic and all the comments, but he mentions that the hypothetical players makes 60 outs out of 100, with 5 errors in the 40 non-outs. That's still only 40 reaching.

The fact of the matter is that something beyond fielding percentage is determinative of defensive ability.

baseballben said...

Correct me if I am wrong (because I don't know this one), but there isn't any formula to calculate extraordinary plays such as dives and robbing homeruns?

Actually, yes. Baseball Info Solutions tracks this data and incorporates robbed home runs into "Runs Saved".

Also, Steve, Plus/Minus accounts for the extra bases allowed on errors. If a fielder turns a single into a double by bobbling the ball, he's penalized for it. Check out fieldingbible.com when you get a chance.

Steve said...

thanks for finally giving me a link for all this. But here is why I cant take you guys or this stat seriously.

Looking at 2008 plus/minus Leaders:
Brian Giles +20 (2nd best amongst RF, 7th best in the entire league)
His #s in 2008: 286 Chances-- 276 outs, 7 errors, 3 assists. Not to mention he has very little range and a soft arm at 38 years old.

Meanwhile Nate McClouth is rated the WORST player in all of baseball with -40.?!?!?!!
His numbers in 2008 by the way:
390 chances -- 1 error, 5 assists!!! Oh yeah he is kind of fast too..

You guys started to get me with this plus/minus but after seeing the #s its merely a big Joke. There's no explanation to that absurdity.

Try again.

Steve said...

Nate McClouth by the way won the gold glove in 2008 with a -40 plus/minus... Your system is really a farse. Sabermetrics can only take you so far.

baseballben said...

Steve, the open-mindedness is appreciated. McLouth made some excellent plays last season that caught the voters' eyes. He made some diving grabs on plays that centerfielders rarely make, partially because he played shallower than just about anyone. He has excellent speed as well.

However, the truth is that McLouth couldn't reach anything over his head. If you go back and review every ball hit to him in 2008, it's actually kind of ridiculous. You don't notice it at first because you think it's just a great drive by the hitter. But when you watch ball after ball fall in front of the centerfield wall, you see why McLouth rates so poorly. He made some nice plays coming in on the ball, but saving a handful of singles doesn't make up for the extra base hits he let fall in.

Additionally, McLouth misplayed more balls off the wall than anyone in baseball in 2008. That's also something Baseball Info Solutions tracks.

There's a great article comparing McLouth to Carlos Gomez in The Fielding Bible - Volume II. If there's something wrong with the system, then be specific with your criticisms. General arguments like "it can't be right because Derek Jeter isn't ranked #1" or "everyone knows Nate McLouth is an excellent defender" don't hold water without appropriate supporting arguments. Around 600 years ago, everyone knew the world was flat.

Steve said...

I'm going to just agree to disagree because I understand you are trying to defned your point much as I am doing the same but I am just not capable of fathoming how McLouth has a phenominal fielding percentage, makes some exceptional plays, gets a gold glove, and is somehow rated the worst fielder in baseball in 2008 with the plus/minus system.

You can't tell me that for every play McLouth made, he made 1 missed play. How many balls could he have misjudged throughout the year, which didnt result in error? 5? 10? Either way I don't see him misjudging those balls as an exucse to rate him as the worst defender in baseball plus/minus. That implies that he is the only person who misjudges balls as well. So I am just not goign to ever see eye-to-eye with you on this after seeing those stats.

Moreover, there is no explanation for rating Brian Giles so high with his stats, lack of range, arm. The guy barely played this year because of age, injury, and lack of talent.

I don't know how to be more specific with my complaints because I don't know much about the formula and how someone determines certain human factors. (Example- a computer can determine a forumla such as batting average if you input ab and hits. But a computer cannot determine a players range unless a subjective human inputs information as to wear the ball is in relation to the player. Was it 6 feet away or was it 7 feet away?)

There is potential with these stats as I have frequently seen outfield range factors and runs saved etc. on some statistical websites but I don't know if they will ever become heard on TV during a broadcast.

I will also say that it is refreshing to see someone provide a legitiment argument with facts and stats rather than mild opinions. We could go back n forth on this for a long time and neither of us would agree. You should write for this site, or if you know Rob, ask to do a few of his articles.

Mike Colligan said...

This has been quite an interesting debate and you both raise some great points I hadn't even considered. We are always looking for insightful articles and commentary on the Blog and would be more than willing to allow you a forum to voice your opinion. If you're interested, please email us at info @ sportsjudge.com

Mike Colligan
Director of Business Development

Mike Colligan said...

As a follow up, in the big picture we obviously have a lot more stats in baseball to work with than ever.

Rob argued against managers voting because he didn't feel they were as likely to utilize defensive statistics as writers.

Where do both of you fall on this? Should there perhaps be a set equation (BCS-style system) to determine Gold Gloves?

Rob Burckhard said...

ESPN columnist Rob Neyer had some interesting comments on McLouth last year when the gold glove winners were announced.

This has truly been a fun discussion and I look forward to more debates as the off-season progresses. Anyone up for a discussion on the DH?

Rob Burckhard said...

Oh and @bloglifetime... I'm actually a Yankee fan and I certainly don't think Jeter is done. I just don't think he deserved a gold glove.

baseballben said...

Rob is spot-on with his three main points. Personally, I think the Fielding Bible Awards should replace the Gold Gloves. They handle all of the issues Rob addresses in his post.

They're voted on by a panel of experts who analyze baseball for a living. Moreover, these experts are not limited to a specific team, so they get to see a wide variety of games from both leagues (unlike managers. How many times has Joe Torre seen Nate McLouth play defense? Answer: 7 games in 2008. I don't know who Torre voted for the 2008 Gold Gloves, but do you really think he's got a good feel for McLouth's or any non-Dodger player's defensive abilities?).
In addition to the experts' personal observations, the FBA voters are knowledgeable about the various defensive evaluation systems in existence and know how to weigh the information to make the best evaluations.

For me, it's not even an contest. The Fielding Bible Awards are the best fielding awards out there and should replace the Gold Gloves within a couple years.