Henning on the Tigers left side defense

Lynn Henning writes today about the Tigers infield defensive improvements (emphasis mine):

Those plus-minus ratings are part of compelling research done by scouts and video analysts for John Dewan, president of Baseball Info Solutions, and author of The Fielding Bible, a data-rich evaluation of major league defense that is carried by such Web sites as billjamesonline.net.

Dewan’s research joins with such indicators as Major League Baseball’s “Range Factor” index to help determine a fielder’s true effectiveness. The statistics are broader and deeper than the somewhat deceiving statistic known as fielding percentage, which states only how many balls a player reaches that are successfully turned into putouts.

Thank you Henning. While readers here know that fielding percentage is one of the most useless defensive stats, the greater baseball reading population doesn’t. That’s in large part due to the fact it is so commonly cited in articles like this.

And I don’t bring this up as a knock on mainstream writers because I know with limited inches there is only so much they can do introducing a new stat and explaining it. I’m sincerely appreciative of the fact that Henning took the time for the brief explanation of +/- and used it in favor of FP.

(Now if only he’d gone with zone rating instead of range factor.)


  1. Coach Jim

    January 26, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I’m confused where this idea came from that Guillen was an OF with Seattle. According to baseballreference.com, Carlos played no games in the OF with Seattle at the major or minor league level.

    I am dubious about his effectiveness in the OF. If range is a problem, isn’t OF all running? Also, the only throwing motion we’ve seen over the years is that funky infield flip. Yes, I do coach baseball, and I would never recommend that throwing technique to kids. I wonder if he’ll be able to switch to the larger arm motion, over the top, outfield-style throwing. He may surprise me and be terrific, I just don’t expect it. He is a darn good hitter though, and is worthy of the opportunity.

    I also noticed Sean Casey decided to retire. That’s odd since he batted .322 last year, and really has never had a bad year. I would think a .300+ LH hitter is worth something to someone.

  2. Lee Panas

    January 26, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    This is not the first time Henning has attempted to explain sabermetrics to his readers. I also applaud the effort. I think Dewan’s introductory write-up of the statistic was the best I’ve seen for any of the new fielding metrics. That alone should make it more appealing to the mainstream. I agree with you on range factor. I saw Beck using it recently too. It’s a step in the right direction but zone rating would be better.

  3. Mr X

    January 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Guillen does run quite well on the bases when he’s healthy. I’ve seen him score from 1st base unexpectedly a few times. He’ll probably be just as effective as Thames was in LF. Thames was so slow at getting to balls and turned quite a few singles into doubles. I don’t expect miracles from Gullen defensively, I just hope that he stays healthy, swings the bat better, and gets his power numbers back. He’s an important player to the team.

  4. Mr X

    January 26, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Sean Casey made a good move. His days as an everyday 1bman were over. I imagine there are a ton of ex-ballplayers wanting those jobs on MLB Network too. Better take that job before it’s too late.

  5. Dave BW

    January 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    btw we’ve apparently signed Timo Perez. Again.

  6. Mark in Chicago

    January 26, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I can’t wait to see Timo hitting 3rd on account of his bunting prowess.

    One of the more ludicrous sequence of events from Jimmuh.

  7. Chris in Dallas

    January 26, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Lee: It’s a slow process. We’ll get there eventually. It’s good to see that some of the dead tree writers are starting to pull their heads out of the sand.

  8. Dave BW

    January 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Mark —

    I saw part of WS 06 Game 1 today, and Neifi Perez was starting. I know this even seemed retarded at the time, but wow

  9. Vince in MN

    January 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Guillen is our DH in waiting – as soon as Sheffield’s arm (or shoulder or whatever) falls off. Until then he may be a serviceable LF. I can’t imagine he will be “our regular LF” for the whole seaon.

  10. Kathy

    January 26, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Timo did a fine job for us in ’07. They love him in Toledo. Some guys never make it to A ball let alone AAA and they can make a pretty good living playing in the minor leagues imo.

  11. Matthew Gargano

    January 27, 2009 at 11:47 am

    IMO the acquisition of Adam Everett and the presence Ramon Santiago give the Tigers some real depth in SS… I can’t believe Henning didn’t weigh in on that as much…

    I totally agree with Vince about Guillen… he’s the eventual DH when Sheffield breaks down.

    If only Wikin Ramirez could hit some sliders….


  12. Tim D

    January 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Guillen still has good speed. Playing the OF allows him to just run, as opposed to all the awkward movments required in the IF. Infielders get hurt more than outfielders. So maybe he will stay healthier. I expect he will get to balls ok, but I share the concern about his throwing. He has a strong arm but he’s never had to make a throw from the gap to 3B or home.

    I like Timo Perez notwithstanding his shortcomings. He’s just a fun player. Hopefully Leyland won’t be tempted to give him a big role. He’s fine for the Toledo injury stopgap.

    Henning has come around in recent years on sabermetrics. I think he agrees with Dombrowski, that the new metrics are useful but that nothing replaces the subjective assessment of professionals. That said I expect Inge and Everett to be net negatives, their gloves not saving enough runs to make up for their “offense.”

  13. Mark in Chicago

    January 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Goodness Dave BW, I forgot Timo started Game 1. What a frightening thought. Timo is fine as a replacement player, but the history has been Jimmuh giving him a bigger role than he should. That is concerning. To be fair, Timo had a great stint at the end of 2007 where he performed way above his norms. However, I fear Jimmuh will use that as evidence that batting him 3rd is not a bat-sh*t crazy decision.

    Great comments about Lynn Henning’s article. It’s a slow process, but more and more “mainstream” writers are coming around to the impact of sabermetrics. Baby steps, I suppose, but progress is progress. For the record, I share concerns about Guillen in left. Aggressive managers like Scoscia and Ozzie Guillen are going to run on him all day long. It’s something that bears watching, maybe Clevlan makes the team given his versatility and defensive prowess. If so, Thames probably gets traded in spring training for relief help. Too bad we don’t have a guy like Matt Joyce to put out in LF in the late innings…..

  14. Dave BW

    January 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Even worse — it was Neifi!

  15. Chris in Dallas

    January 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I share the concerns about Guillen’s arm in the OF. One thing makes me optimistic, though – they’ve made do with Ordonez’s “arm” in RF these past few years. With that in mind, I don’t think it will be a terrible liability.

  16. Vince in MN

    January 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Guillen’s arm:

    What’s Everett’s arm like? He’ll be the cut-off man on balls that go in the gaps to left.

  17. Chauncey

    January 27, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Coach Jim- I too was really surprised that Sean Casey decided to retire. I think part of his problem is that he doesn’t hit home runs- which everyone expects guys playing at one of the corners to do- I think too much emphasis is placed on homeruns, and would gladly take a lefty on the Tigers that hit .322, but oh well…

    BTW, I also don’t think Guillen’s range in left field will be a great liability. They made due with Thames for large parts of the last couple years, and I can’t believe that Guillen’s range could be any worse.

  18. billfer

    January 27, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    @Chris in Dallas

    Ordonez’s arm actually rates as average, and has for a few years.

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  20. greg

    January 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

    My only concern with Guillen in LF is the health of his arm, he had quite a few bouts of wildness at SS due to supposed health issues with his arm. We shall see, but I’d think overall he has to be an upgrade over Thames defensively and certainly good enough for LF.

    I too would prefer that Guillen DH down the road(actually right now I’d like that if Sheffield doesn’t bounce back), but I think the front office has their eyes on Maggs being ticketed for the DH role at some point as he ages.

  21. Chris in Dallas

    January 28, 2009 at 11:11 am

    billfer: I’m just going by my eyes on that one. I would assume he rates as average because he is an accurate thrower. He doesn’t exactly have a cannon, though. But I guess everyone can’t be Ichiro.

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