One of the toughest aspects of crediting fielding is putting it on the same scale as offense. Whereas hitters hit for AVG, tally HRs, and knock in RBIs, fielders try to avoid committing errors and range after out-of-zone plays (OOZ). Raise your hand if you intuitively know how many OOZs equal one HR? Anybody? Yeah, didn't think so.
So the next step is to translate everything onto the same scale -- runs is a popular choice. After all, a run saved is a run scored. On offense, we've been doing that for a while in the form of linear weights. On defense, it's all relatively new. My favorite method is to convert zone rating into runs saved. (You can read about that method here.) But still, how intuitive is it to say that Hitter A has create 50 runs or that Fielder B has saved 20 runs? Most people aren't familiar with that scale.
My proposal, which I outlined last week, is to translate production onto the RBI scale, which even BBWAA members can understand. From my first article, each additional run created (or prevented on defense) is worth 1.6 RBIs.
As an example, Mark Ellis has a .897 BIS zone rating and .868 STATS zone rating -- not very helpful. Compared to the average second baseman, he's made 27 and 19 extra plays respectively -- more helpful. Converted to runs and averaged, he's saved 18 runs -- we're almost there. But converted to RBIs, Ellis' fielding is worth 29 RBIs. Yes, twenty-nine RBIs. That's pretty signifcant, right? That's the difference between Ryan Howard and Aramis Ramirez on the RBI leader boards. Adding 29 RBIs to Ellis' own offensive total of 41 RBIs yields a new total of 70 RBIs -- makes him seem like a decent ballplayer, right? Well, he is.
Ok, time for some tables. Here are the players who gain the most RBIs from their defensive contributions (where defense = position + fielding your position):
|Franklin R Gutierrez||26|
|Carlos A Gomez||26|
|Kurt K Suzuki||23|
And here are the players who lose the most RBIs based on their defensive shortcomings:
|Brad B Hawpe||-38|
|Delmon D Young||-33|
|Jorge L Cantu||-28|
|Jason J Kubel||-25|
|Alex J Gordon||-23|
How about the overall RBI leaders if RBIs were actually an accurate measure of overall value, including both offense and defense?
|Matt T Holliday||108|
|David A Wright||104|
|Dustin L Pedroia||103|
|Josh H Hamilton||96|
|Ryan J Braun||95|
Adrian Beltre and Ryan Braun have been equally valuable? Crazy! Brian Giles has been Manny Ramirez's equal -- why haven't I read that article at ESPN.com yet? Matt Holliday's still one of the best players in baseball? Nobody told me that!
How about the players who are most underrated by their actual RBI total compared to what they're actually worth?
|Mike A Aviles||28|
|Gabe J Gross||27|
|Matt T Holliday||27|
|Kurt K Suzuki||26|
Funny enough, the most productive players in each league appear near the top of this list: Albert Pujols and Grady Sizemore. Great and underrated?
Finally, here's the Ryan Howard list -- players who are most overrated by their actual RBI totals:
|Ryan J Howard||-84|
|Jeff B Francoeur||-74|
|Mark A Reynolds||-70|
|Ryan F Garko||-62|
|Jorge L Cantu||-57|
|Brad B Hawpe||-52|
|Delmon D Young||-52|
|Jason J Kubel||-46|
I count three guys on that list who are receiving way more MVP support than they deserve: Howard, Carlos Delgado, and Justin Morneau. This table also answers the questions, "should the Yankees bring back Bobby Abreu?", "do the Rays miss Delmon Young?", and "was not re-signing Jose Guillen the reason the Mariners stunk it up this year?"
If you read this post, some of these lists should look familiar. I've just re-scaled Justin's stats onto the RBI scale and compared it to actual RBIs. All fielding stats through September 5th. All actual RBI stats through September 9th. Thanks to The Hardball Times for providing most of the stats Justin uses in his calculations.