Bill James on Fielding, Part 10

BY foxsports • February 5, 2015

I got behind, but lately the flood of novella-length entries about Bill's new fielding methodology has stopped, so maybe I'll actually get caught up this week. Either way, I highly encourage you to subscribe to the site -- for Hera's sake, it's three bucks a month and you can read everything you've missed! -- but so far nobody's asked me to stop hitting the hlghlights. And this was a good one:

Anyway, I figured the career defensive won-lost records, of course, of all first basemen. The highest winning percentage at first base, among first basemen playing 1,000 or more games, belongs to Travis Lee.  I have him at 18-23, a .437 percentage, number one guy on the list.  

 Well ... that’s not good. Obviously I would prefer that the #1 guy on the list would be some defensive legend like Keith Hernandez or Vic Power or Gil Hodges. A first base equivalent to Roy Campanella.  That failing, I would prefer that it be some ancient guy like Ed Konetchy, so that nobody really could argue about it. Travis Lee is a modern player who never won a single Gold Glove. Any of the next ten names on the list would be dramatically easier to defend as a number one selection than Travis Lee.

Travis Lee never won a single Gold Glove, and interestingly enough, our system never sees him as deserving of a single Gold Glove; he has the highest percentage of all time, but not the highest value in any single season; I’ll clarify that distinction later on. Our system sees him as very consistently the second best candidate for the Gold Glove, but never first.

Bill has elsewhere written that he wants his methodology to reach conclusions that don't seem crazy. Usually.

This one seems a little crazy, guy who never won a Gold Glove coming out ahead of ... well, of everyone else. Of course, if you were going to be surprised at a position, that position might be first base.

I don't think Bill would argue that Lee's really the greatest-fielding first baseman of all time. I think Bill would argue that Lee was pretty damn good. It's hard to trust a methodology that surprises us this much. But it's hard to care much about one that doesn't.


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