The 25-year-old center fielder delivered a pointed rant against the movement when asked about his poor defensive metrics on Friday morning. Gose ranked dead last on the Tigers with -10.4 UZR (ultimate zone rating) and -12 DRS (defensive runs saved) in 2015 and was among the lowest in the league among these metrics as well, according to FanGraphs.com.
"I could care less," Gose said. "I think that whole analytics thing is a big scam anyways."
Gose is not alone in feeling that his abilities in center are not accurately reflected by the numbers. Detroit manager Brad Ausmus has consistently come to Gose's defense, reiterating that the metrics do not seem to match up with what the coaching staff has seen from the outfielder.
"I do think there's some subjectivity to defensive analytics that do make them not as hard and fast as offensive numbers,” said Ausmus. "I don't think anybody is trying to scam anybody with defensive metrics. I just think they're a little more subjective and therefore a little less accurate."
I'm not here to poke fun of Gose, although I imagine he'd have a different view of analytics if they had said something else about his defense. And while Ausmus has apparently spoken highly of Gose's defense, the Tigers still went and traded for Cameron Maybin (who just fractured his wrist and will be out until at least mid-April) and signed Justin Upton, likely pushing Gose to a reserve role once Maybin returns.
Yes, that's probably more a reflection of Gose's bat -- he was hitting .338 through May 27, then hit .219/.298/.324 the rest of the way -- but Maybin had a .697 OPS versus .688 for Gose, so if the Tigers did really view him as a plus defender, why bring in Maybin?
Interestingly, Maybin also had poor metrics in center field in 2015:
Defensive Runs Saved/1,200 innings
Fielding Runs Above Average (Baseball Prospectus)
Two of the systems say Gose was below average and one says he was decent enough. He certainly had a good defensive reputation coming up through the minors. He's fast, and sometimes fast guys are overrated as defenders. Good defense in the outfield is as much about instincts, reads and positioning as raw speed. Anyway, what struck me is Gose's raw range factor was fine: He made 2.86 plays per nine innings, compared to the MLB average in center field of 2.60.
The Tigers, however, allowed a higher-than-average percentage of fly balls: 32.9 percent (the MLB average is 30.2 percent). In raw numbers, they allowed the second-most fly balls (1,497) of any staff in the majors (the Angels led with 1,498). The Pirates allowed the fewest at 1,060. So Gose may have made more plays simply because he had more opportunities.
One thing that hurts Gose's Defensive Runs Saved total is his number of Defensive Misplays. Baseball Info Solutions credited him with 17 Good Fielding Plays but 28 Defensive Misplays + Errors.
Here are some of Gose's misplays from the BIS site (besides his four errors):
May 2: Breaking back on a shallow hit
May 12: Bad throw to the plate
May 25: Failing to anticipate the wall
June 12 and 17: Failed dives for line drive/fly ball
July 6: Ball bounces off glove
July 7 and 12: Bad route
July 31: Ball bounces off glove
Aug. 12: Mishandling ball after base hit
Aug. 18: Wasted throw after hit
Aug. 28: Missing the cutoff man
There were several other failed dives, a couple more mishandling of the baseball. These plays all result in extra bases for the opposition, even if Gose wasn't charged with an error. It could be that Gose's raw range is average or above but he hurt himself with too many of these miscues. They add up under the DRS system. The only center fielders with a bigger difference between Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays were Adam Eaton (minus-24), Angel Pagan (minus-13), Delino DeShields (minus-13) and Austin Jackson (minus-13).
Ausmus is right in that there's some subjectivity involved: What exactly is regarded as a good fielding play? But the analytics aren't a scam and they're not out to get Gose. One-year fielding metrics can come with question marks. I didn't watch the Tigers enough to get a good idea of Gose, but FanGraphs compiles a Fans Scouting Report each year, where fans can evaluate and grade the players on their favorite team or the team they watch the most. Gose rated 18th among center fielders, the fans rating him poor in arm accuracy and hands, so they picked up on some of those miscues as well.
Taking in all the information, I'm inclined to believe Gose didn't have a good season in center field. Just don't blame the analytics.