So it's about 3 AM, and I'm doing what I usually do, reading ESPN.com.
I stumble across Buster Olney's article
It's insider, so you may not be able to see it, but if you can, there it is.
Anywho, those of you who have read BtB at all probably know most of us hold the majority of the writers at ESPN in the highest of disdains, with special disdain for John Kruk and Buster Olyney.
So today, I was reading Buster's article about the best fielders ever at their position. I won't spoil his list for you, but I can tell you I guessed most of it, with the glaring exception of 3B.
I guessed Brooks Robinson, who I was told growing up was the greatest 3B ever (and you rarely hear othwerise). Buster picked Scott Rolen. It irritated me enough to pull up BP at 3 AM to prove him wrong.
Only I didn't end up proving him wrong, persay.
530/19 seasons (in which he played at least 80 games) = 27.9 FRAR per year(Replacement being 22).
250/8 seasons (leaving out 2002 in which he only plays 55 games, and excluding '05 so far to be fair to the stats) = 31.25 FRAR per year.
I wasn't ready to give up, because I didn't want to concede any point to Buster Olney, and moreover, I still believed Brooks to be better.
So I dove a little deeper, and checked out Brooks Robinson in arguably his prime against what we'll call Scott Rolen's "prime" (at least, with respect to his fielding, his 5 highest, consecutive seasons of FRAR, think Peak, but with FRAR, and made up on the fly to check out an interesting point).
Brooks Robinson: Peak FRAR: 188 (1966-1970). That's an avg of 37.6 FRAR per year. 37.6!!
Scott Rolen: Peak FRAR: 153 (1997-2001). That's an avg of 30.6 FRAR per year. That's 7 whole points below Brooks. Intriguing.
So I decided to do Scott's 5 best seasons, regardless of continuity (meaning not in succession)
Scott's Free Peak FRAR: 162. That's an avg of 32.4 FRAR per year.
Curious about Brooks's Free Peak? I bet you are.
Brooks Robinson Free Peak FRAR: 207. Read that again. That's an avg of 41.4 FRAR per year. 41.4 This series includes seasons of 52, 42, 41, 36, and 36 FRAR, respectively.
To perspective that, Rolen's highest season of FRAR is last year at 36, with his next at 34. 36 is Brooks 4th and 5th best, and his other 3 seasons absolutely destroy Scott.
Maybe it was because Brooks played for so long (although I think it has a lot more to do with Brooks having 4 seasons of FRAR below 20, with one as low as 14), but it seems to me, in his prime, Brooks Robinson would have, to borrow a line from my favorite literary contemporary, eaten Scott Rolen's children defensively at the hot corner.
Who knows, maybe someday Scott Rolen will put up seasons like Brooks did, or maybe he'll continue his consistency, and maintain his higher average FRAR per season, only time will truly tell. In 2 years, it will be interesting to do a comparison of Brooks peak (which was arguably from 22-32 for him, with respect to FRAR) and that of Scott Rolen.
So maybe Buster Olney was right, Scott Rolen is, sabremetrically, the better fielder, by about 3.3 FRAR a year. Call me a purist, a Buster Olney hater, or even just stubborn (I am, for the record, all 3), but I'll take Brooks Robinson, in his prime, on my hot corner anyday, and the numbers are behind me to back it up.
I'm just glad that some deep research remotely proved Buster Olney wrong, because if he'd been right, I'm not sure what the consequences could have been, probably something dire, like a Cubs world series championship or a Motley Crue double live album.
Entry link for the poll, tell me what you think!