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Throwing darts at fielding stats

3/15/2010

Anyone care to predict in which year we'll stop seeing stories like this? 2015? 2050?

“With a left fielder who can cover a lot of ground, it can push everybody over, just like a good center fielder can push everybody over,” Ellsbury explained. “Cam can play a little more right, and push me and J.D. over a little bit more, let us play a little closer to the line. It compacts everything a little bit more.”

That is how Ellsbury is viewing his new station on the field. He does not take the positional shift as a slap in the face. Nor did he view the Sox’ request that he move out of center field to be an endorsement of some of the defensive metrics (like UZR and Plus/Minus) that described Ellsbury as having been below-average as a center fielder in 2009.

“I’m not losing any sleep over [those statistics],” Ellsbury chuckled. “I’m all in favor of stuff like that, but it’s so hard to be accurate.

“I haven’t really looked into it, but from what I understand, a deep fly ball into right field, if it’s sky high, that’s looked at as the same amount of range as a line drive that’s caught. How do you break that down?

“To me, it really can’t be accurately measured. What’s the difference with shifting? If you just take a diagram, if the strategy for the team is to play deep or play shallow, how does that factor? There are a lot of things that factor.

“What happens if it hits the Monster? It’s only X amount of feet, but you’re saying that another outfielder would have caught that ball. Well, I couldn’t because there’s a 50-foot Wall right there. How do you judge that?

“Maybe over time, they can take some of the kinks out of it. But for now, in my opinion, I don’t think it’s very accurate.”

I can't speak for all of the kinks, but most (or all) of those have already been taken out of the more sophisticated fielding systems.

Which doesn't mean that Ellsbury isn't a good outfielder. It's quite possible that the systems haven't picked up some things, and we know that fielding numbers for just one season don't mean as much as hitting numbers. But I can't help noticing that when people (i.e. non-sabermetricians) throw darts at modern fielding metrics, they usually don't even hit the board.