Bill James on Defense, Part 1

When I say Part 1, I mean my Part 1. Over at Bill’s website, he’s in the middle of what seems a sprawling, month-long (at least) series of articles about defense, introducing his new system of Win Shares and Loss Shares. Which is something we’ve been waiting for, for a long time.

But my Parts will just be occasional notes about stuff that interests me, or seems worth a comment. If you want more than just these little bits, you’ll have to subscribe to the site (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is well worth the ridiculously minimal expense).

In his latest article, Bill notes that we’ve never had "magic numbers" for fielding, like those we have for hitting and pitching. 

There is one thing, however, that should be a magic number for fielders:  100 double plays for a middle infielder…  For a middle infielder to participate in 100 double plays is less than one-half as common as for a player to drive in 100 runs.

Of course, there is the problem that playing on a bad team helps a player turn more double plays, since bad teams have more runners on base against them than good teams. The winning percentage of teams who have had a second baseman with 100 double plays is .517; a shortstop, .518. I don’t know what it is for 100-RBI men; I’m sure it is higher than that, since playing on a good team helps a hitter pile up RBI.

I’m just saying … did you ever see a press note, "Johnny Fasthands is just six double plays away from turning 100 double plays for the second time in his career." We see those notes every day, late in the season … Jack Brewer is just 3 doubles away from hitting 30 doubles for the fifth consecutive year, etc." There are no similar notes about fielding. But there should be this one.

Love it. Gotta have it. Last season, Hanley Ramirez (119) was the only shortstop with at least 100 double plays. In 2013 and ’14, J.J. Hardy turned 221 double plays, easily the most among shortstops in those seasons.

The second basemen aren’t quite as interesting, simply because they turn more double plays (for the obvious reason). In the last five seasons, there have been 18 100-DP seasons by second baseman. Hat’s off to Jose Altuve, who’s led the majors in each of the last two seasons. Bill’s right, of course: infielders who play for lousy teams do have an edge here, since there are more potential double plays.