Stats & Info: FanGraphs

Metrics shed light on Jeter, Gold Gloves

November, 9, 2010
Derek Jeter

Below is a look at some notable winners from the 2010 Rawlings American League Gold Glove voting. While analysis of fielding remains behind similar evaluations of pitching and hitting, there can be no disputing that some of the voting results and advanced fielding metrics are at odds.

Perhaps the most interesting result was that, whether you look at Baseball Info Solutions plus-minus or’s Ultimate Zone Rating, not a single player who ranked first in his respective position finished first in the Gold Glove voting. That’s not to say that several high-quality performers weren’t recognized, but that the elite defenders at each position by advanced metrics were shut out across the board.

SS Derek Jeter

The yearly debate continues. The New York Yankees Derek Jeter received his fifth career Gold Glove award this season, and, according to Baseball Info Solutions, it’s nearly indefensible. According BIS, Jeter’s plus-minus was -13 in 2010, the second worst among all shortstops. In the same vein, Jeter had 33 defensive misplays, second most among AL shortstops to the Los Angeles Angels Erick Aybar. By another metric, UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games), Jeter also failed to hold up, coming in as the third-worst at the position, ahead of only Kansas City Royals Yuniesky Betancourt and the Tampa Bay Rays Jason Bartlett.

What’s equally interesting is that Jeter ranked first among shortstops in fielding percentage at .989 (among those with at least 500 innings), thanks to only six errors. This suggests that the voters are looking at only one aspect of fielding (errors), while ignoring equally important aspects such as range. As the advanced metrics suggest, it’s not Jeter’s ability to field balls he gets to that’s the issue, but rather his ability to get to balls in general.

OF Carl Crawford and 3B Evan Longoria

The two winners from the Tampa Bay Rays represent arguably the strongest choices in the AL. Crawford has long been one of the best left fielders in the game and was rewarded in 2010. He ranked second among all AL left fielders in plus-minus at +12, while also ranking second among outfielders in UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games). Longoria also holds up well under these metrics, ranking third among AL third basemen in plus-minus at +13, first in Good Fielding Plays with 60 and, in terms of spectacular plays, ranked first among third basemen in Web Gems points this season.

OF Franklin Gutierrez
Franklin Gutierrez


Gutierrez’s selection is noteworthy because it arguably comes a year too late. Gutierrez was the most dynamic defender in baseball last season according to UZR/150, leading all of baseball with a +28.9 mark. In 2010, however, that fell back to +6.8, still quite good but just seventh overall among outfielders. Gutierrez and Seattle Mariners teammate Ichiro Suzuki (also a winner) tied for the MLB lead with three home run-saving catches, while Gutierrez also had the most Web Gem points among AL outfielders. So while Gutierrez was not the best outfielder this season, or even one of the top three, the voters probably took a year to catch up to his fielding excellence.

FanGraphs: Why Boston will finish third

April, 22, 2010
What would you have said if I had told you before the season began that the Padres would be leading the NL West on April 22? Odds are you would have called me crazy, and justifiably so. But here we are, and that's because crazy things happen, especially in short time frames.

While what has happened so far can’t be taken as gospel of what will happen over the rest of the season, we can see that some things have shifted. By looking back at preseason projections and applying them to what has already occurred, we can get an updated look at how teams and players may perform this year. To explain the methodology, I'm going to use the Phillies as an example.

In the April 5 edition of ESPN The Magazine, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections predicted that Philadelphia would win about 93 games. They have won 9 of their first 14 games already, so does that mean they are going to win 84 games the rest of the year to bring their total to 93? No. We wouldn’t expect them to play worse the rest of the year just because they got off to a good start.

Our best assumption is that they are still a 93-win team the rest of the way, so we simply take their projected win percentage (.571) and apply it to their remaining games (148), making their updated projection 94 wins. They have added a win to their preseason expected total by playing so well in the first two weeks of the season.

For an updated look at how ZiPS thinks your team will finish the season, here are the updated projected standings through April 20, rounded to the nearest win:

Even though they are currently leading the NL West, the Padres are still projected as the third-worst team in the majors, behind the Blue Jays and Astros. The Jays are also off to a good start (9-7), but keep in mind that they have yet to play the Yankees, Rays or Red Sox.

The Red Sox's falling into third place was the only major change when comparing the update with the original predictions. For the preseason ZiPS predictions in The Mag, the Red Sox were projected to win the AL East. After their slow start, they are now projected to miss the playoffs. That slow start created a large hole that they now have to dig out of, and with two good teams in the division, it won’t be easy. While Boston’s slow start isn’t reflective of how good the Sox are as a team, their place in the standings may just be “real," because they now have to play better than their true talent level in order to close the gap. They may be able to do it, but it will now be an upset if the Red Sox make the playoffs.

Zach Sanders is a writer for FanGraphs.

FanGraphs: Hanson, Wells do it differently

April, 9, 2010
It was a treat to watch a matchup Thursday night between two sophomore hurlers: the Atlanta Braves' Tommy Hanson and Chicago Cubs' Randy Wells. Hanson finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, while Wells was sixth. Clearly, both pitchers have the potential to play large roles in their respective organizations' futures. However, when they take to the mound, these two hurlers employ very different, yet effective, approaches.

Last season, Hanson's fastball sat at 92 mph, while his slider came in at 83 mph, his curve at 75 mph and his seldom-used change-up at 83 mph, according to Pitch Type velocities at FanGraphs. In the first inning of last night's game, the 23-year-old came out like a man possessed and was throwing his fastball 96-97 mph, his slider 89 mph and his curve 75 mph. The Cubs hitters were simply overmatched, and Hanson struck out the side (with a walk of Derrek Lee mixed in).

Hanson came out in subsequent innings and took a little off his pitches; the adrenaline had clearly drained a bit. Even so, he was still pumping his pitches in at a higher velocity than last season's averages. When all was said and done, he had struck out seven batters in 5 1/3 innings, while issuing three walks and two solo homers. Along with the seven K's, another seven of his outs came on fly balls and two were via the ground ball.

A former minor league catcher who couldn't hit, Wells is already 27 years old. The late bloomer came into the first inning of last night's game showing respectable velocity at 88-92 mph. His approach, though, was to induce contact with his heavy sinker. Wells' ground-ball rate was just shy of 50 percent in 2009 (while Hanson just scraped 40 percent). The Cubs pitcher had his good sinker working Thursday, and he made the Braves hitters look like they should all take up new careers on the mound. And he did it without mid-to-high-90s heat.

Wells induced 13 ground ball outs; that's important because it means none of those batted balls were a threat to go over the wall for a home run, or to split the outfield defense for a bases-clearing triple. Just two of his 18 outs came in the air. When Wells did get into trouble, he was able to defuse the situations with three double plays. Jason Heyward, Atlanta's rookie phenom, was rendered impotent by Wells' approach. The right-fielder could not get any lift on the ball. He rolled into a force play in the second inning and then, after breaking his bat, grounded weakly back to Wells in the fourth. All the Braves hitters shared his frustrations.

In 27 starts in '09, Wells posted a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 3.0, while Hanson came in at 2.6 WAR in 21 starts. While the Braves right-hander is clearly a crowd favorite for his radar-busting velocities and eye-popping counting stats, Wells has shown that he can be an equally effective big league pitcher -- albeit with a lower overall ceiling -- by pounding the lower half of the strike zone with sinkers and pitching to contact.