It’s fairly unclear as to what voters take into consideration when choosing winners of the gold glove award – the one stat that has consistently been used to determine a players fielding ability, has been fielding percentage. Fielding percentage basically takes the player’s total number of chances converted into outs (assists/put outs), then takes the total number of errors, and uses a simple equation to figure out what percentage of the time the particular player makes the plays.
Fielding percentage does a fine job of determining how well the player makes routine defensive plays, but it leaves much to be desired. Are making the routine plays (i.e. not booting the ball, dropping the ball, or letting the ball get through your legs) the only important aspect of being a good defensive player? Almost anyone would tell you that the answer is no, and they’ be right. Making the routine plays is but one small part of playing defense – the other 2 big ones being range, and arm accuracy/strength. That’s where UZR, or ultimate zone rating, comes in.
Here is the explanation of UZR via fangraphs.com: The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined.
So yes, it still takes the routine plays into account, but it also brings range into the equation. Why is range important? Well, think about it. Which defensive player would you rather have on your team?
Player A, who never drops the ball, makes all the routine plays, but has no range and can’t run down anything in the gap/hole,
Or Player B, who makes the occasional error, but has excellent range and frequently chases down fly balls in the gap, robbing countless extra base hits?
If you said player B, you’ve made the right choice. But if someone were to only look at fielding percentage, player A would look like the superior defender.
If you’d prefer player A, you really need to stop and think about what aspects of defense are more valuable. If the gold glove voters are only looking at things like fielding percentage and reputations, they’re not getting anything close to the full picture, and they more than likely aren’t making good choices.
There have been so many undeserving gold glove winners in the recent future, that it has become more than apparent that the voters are not making informed decisions. FP and past statistics/reputation are both fine things to look at, but when it comes down to finding the truly excellent defenders, UZR is the stat to consider. It takes everything into account that makes a good defensive player, and it’s the only statistic out there that’s going to come close to telling the whole story. Defense has always been something that’s tough to quantify, but UZR manages to do a pretty damn good job of it.
Managers of baseball, please, before more deserving performances are overlooked, start paying attention to UZR. If you don’t know anything about UZR, get someone to explain it to you. If no one around you knows anything about UZR, hire someone who does. Thank you.
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