Bill James on Fielding (Part 15)

Bill has published his lists of the best-fielding second basemen, and the worst-fielding. A few quick notes:

– Bill Mazeroski isn’t just atop the list of second basemen with at least 1,000 games at second base; he DOMINATES the list. There’s as much space between Mazeroski and the No. 2 guy on the list as between the No. 2 guy and the No. 20 guy.

– In another post, I mentioned that Ryne Sandberg, according to Bill’s method (and common sense), didn’t deserve to win nine straight Gold Gloves. But as Bill also mentioned (and I think I did, too) this doesn’t mean that Sandberg wasn’t an excellent fielder, and in fact he shows up 12th on Bill’s new list. Twelfth all-time. Which I think you’ll agree is really good.

– Frank White, who’s been compared to Mazeroski because a) he also didn’t hit much, and b) also won a bunch of Gold Gloves, doesn’t show up among the top 25. Which Bill doesn’t mention, maybe because (like me) he wishes it were otherwise.

– 109 second baseman have the requisite 1,000 games at the position. The worst of them, by quite a lot, is Rickie Weeks. I guess it’s a good thing the Mariners have a pretty dependable second baseman.

Dick Green, who played for the A’s in the 1960s and ’70s, scores pretty well here. This isn’t a surprise, as Green’s defense was widely admired at the time. About Green, Bill writes this squib:

Dick Green never won a Gold Glove, but he played for the Kansas City A’s of my youth, whose announcers regarded him a fielding demi-God who had no equal. Green almost won the MVP Award for the 1974 World Series—without having hit in the series. He made play after play after play, in the field, on balls that didn’t seem to be playable.

I always like that example, because it demonstrates the limitation of the play by play value added approach to player evaluation. I suspect that a play-by-play analysis of the 1974 World Series would conclude that Green had a poor series, because he had no hits in the series and also was charged with one error in the series, and a play-by-play analysis has no way of knowing that the fielding plays he made were not routine plays. But his defense was one of the main reasons the A’s won the 1974 World Series.

Which is why we do watch, when we can, the actual games. It’s just not really possible to watch all of them and see everything. Well, except now there’s OMGf/x. Which, if it had been around 40 years ago, might well have said something really great about Dick Green’s value in the World Series.