David Pinto has begun to release his defensive ratings for 2005. These ratings are based on a probabilistic model of range, comparing the number of outs recorded based on zone information with the number that would be expected from league averages and visiting player performance. The Blue Jay middle infielder statistics were very interesting. Thanks to Wildrose for the tip.
Orlando Hudson put up whopping numbers, recording between 76 and 83 more outs than would be expected (depending on which model is used). The second best regular second baseman was Chase Utley who recorded between 46 and 51 more outs than expected. At the other end of the spectrum, Robinson Cano recorded 55 fewer outs than expected.
These figures do seem a little high all the way around. A ground ball converted to an out rather than not converted is worth approximately .6 runs (.5 for the single and .1 for the out) in a 4.5 run per game context according to Tango's linear weight figures. This would mean Orlando saved between 46 and 50 runs with his glove against league averages. For comparison, he was 37 fielding runs above replacement and 17 fielding runs above average, according to Baseball Prospectus. At shortstop, John McDonald was one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. He was the best on ground balls, and signficantly above average if balls in the air were included. Russ Adams was 20 outs, or 12 runs worse than expected. This was below average, but not the worst in the league as David Gassko's Range and BP's fielding stats had him.
Interestingly, David Pinto's worst defensive shortstop rating went to Derek Jeter, by far. This contrasts mightily with BP's account, which has him as an above average defensive shortstop last year. I suspect that we have not heard the last of that debate.
Defensive evaluation remains a particularly difficult analytical topic. We will wait for the UZRs, which will hopefully be released soon. These provide a very important benchmark.