We continue our trip through the Bill James Handbook with a look at how the experts graded out fielders. John Dewan, the author of The Fielding Bible Volume III, releases the Fielding Bible Gold Gloves inside the Bill James Handbook. The idea is that he cherry picked ten experts and had them vote on their Gold Gloves. Of course, he had a vote and his Fielding Bible scores were released for the top and bottom fielders in 2011.
So, he has his picks. Total Run Index included a conglomerate of numbers from different sources independent of the Fielding Bible. When we look at the Gold Glove winners for the experts, Fielding Bible, and TRI we notice some differences. As I present the chart, keep in mind that these Gold Gloves were ML wide instead of both leagues.
Experts Fielding Bible Total Run Index Catcher Matt Wieters Matt Wieters Matt Wieters First Base Albert Pujols Mark Trumbo Adrian Gonzalez Second Base Dustin Pedroia Ben Zobrist Omar Infante Third Base Adrian Beltre Pablo Sandoval Placido Polanco Shortstop T. Tulowitzki Brendan Ryan Brendan Ryan Left Field Brett Gardner Brett Gardner Brett Gardner Center Field Austin Jackson Austin Jackson Jacoby Ellsbury Right Field Justin Upton Torii Hunter Mike Stanton
What I can tell you from the list above is that each list has eight players that were positive impact fielders. So, while there is considerable disagreement in some spots, no one picked a horrible fielder. Compare that with the actual Gold Gloves if you wish. However, there is a point to be made here with the table above: the sabermetric community is nowhere close to having universal agreement on who the best fielders are.
This is important because traditionalists often assume that the scientists get together to downgrade certain guys or boost certain guys. This is simply not the case. Many of the folks above are purely independent. So, when they all agree on a player you can probably take it to the bank. We see that in a few positions (left field and catcher). One of those had a player elected for a Gold Glove in front of him. That’s when it becomes painfully obvious that those that vote for the Gold Glove award really don’t know what they are doing.
I included total runs index not because I consider myself a fielding expert but because those that produced numbers included in the TRI were not included in the group of experts. John Dewan is my personal favorite, but he did not get included in mine. So, you get a pretty good cross-section of the sabermetric community.
We will look at fielding a lot more when the Fielding Bible is actually released in February, but the implication is clear. When the entire community says that certain fielders are poor (Nick Markakis, Eric Hosmer, Asdrubal Cabrera, Adam Jones) it isn’t the opinion of one guy sitting behind his computer. It isn’t the collective opinion of a bunch of guys at a kind of Star Trek convention for stat geeks. It is the considered opinion of more than a dozen sabermetric experts that happens to come together in agreement on certain players. People that argue with me love to make it personal. It’s not about me. I’m just the messenger.
In addition to being the editor of hardballchat.com, Scott Barzilla is also the proud father of one and the author of four books. His books can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Barzilla's Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical advancement.