Evaluating defense has always been one of the more difficult tasks for performance analysts. The first reason for this is that looks can be deceiving. Sure, that acrobatic shortstop playing in the country’s largest market might appear to be a superior defender to the untrained eye, but all too often we draw our conclusions by putting emphasis on the outcome rather than the process of fielding the ball, itself. The second reason is the still-severe limitations we face with regard to collecting data, and how to properly interpret that data once we get a meaningful amount of it. Granted, there are some statistics that can be used when evaluating defense–errors, fielding percentage, Range Factor, Zone Rating, etc.–but none of them is without its flaws.
Which bring us to one of Bill James’ measures for quantifying defensive performance: Defensive Efficiency (provided here by Keith Woolner). Defensive Efficiency is a metric that measures a team’s ability to turn balls-in-play into outs, using the formula (TotalOuts – Strikeouts)/(BIP-HR).
Despite being raw and only applying to entire teams, Defensive Efficiency is a fair measure of overall defensive performance. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.
Kevin Towers completed his ninth season as General Manager of the San Diego Padres this year. Since advancing to the World Series in 1998, the Padres have traded or let go of several big names, while investing in the draft and farm system as part of the rebuilding process. The team now looks ahead to a higher revenue stream with the opening of Petco Park for Opening Day 2004. Towers recently chatted with BP about the future of the team, the new ballpark, and the Brian Giles trade.
Judging from my Inbox, I’m supposed to be upset because Fox dictated to MLB that the two LCS games last night would be played simultaneously, with one shown on the cable channel FX. I might have ranted about it a couple of years ago, but to be honest, this is a minor, understandable move. Afternoon baseball games during the week don’t draw very good ratings and are difficult for fans in broad swaths of the nation to see. Even motivated fans on the west coast who might be able to shake free from work to catch a 5 p.m. start are pretty much screwed by a game at 1 p.m.
A lot of the frustration over various scheduling decisions is justifiable, because the decisions are driven primarily by television and often run counter to logic. However, neither Fox nor MLB can do anything about the fact that the continental United States spans four time zones. None of the solutions will placate everyone, so the one that allows the widest possible audience to watch the games is acceptable. Rest assured that if a similar conflict occurs next Wednesday, Game Six of the Red Sox/Yankees series will be played at 4 p.m. Eastern, clearing the night for the Cubs/Marlins Game Seven.
As it turns out, the Cubs solved yesterday’s problem by about 6:15 Pacific time, pushing ahead of the Marlins 5-0 after two innings. Brad Penny didn’t have much command and Sammy Sosa punished him for it with a three-run bomb to an el station somewhere in the Loop. Everything after that, including two Alex Gonzalez home runs (see? I told you he’d be a great player some day!), was gravy.
Why is an account required to vote in the Internet Baseball Awards? Where did the write-ins go? And why isn’t Rafael Soriano on the AL Rookie of the Year Ballot? Your IBA questions answered in this edition of From The Mailbag.