Recently FanGraphs added Inside Edge fielding data to the wealth of information already available on their site. Basically, Inside Edge is an attempt to meet half way between the quantitative fielding metrics and the qualitative scouting reports. Luckily FanGraphs supplies us with an easily digestible overview of what Inside Edge does:
Inside Edge scouts watch every play and grade how easy or difficult it is to successfully field on the following scale:
- Impossible (0%)
- Remote (1-10%)
- Unlikely (10-40%)
- About Even (40-60%)
- Likely (60-90%)
- Almost Certain / Certain (90-100%)
Essentially every play is thrown into one of the buckets listed above. We can then observe
whether or not the player in question makes the play that’s been assigned to a specific bucket. Over the course of a season we can see whether or not they had a propensity for making difficult plays (high % in remote) or if they were steady but unspectacular (very high % in likely, almost certain but less in remote).
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Seven Orioles players had enough innings in the field to qualify and be listed, and comparing them to the league average at their position gives us some insight into how the player stacks up. Let’s take JJ Hardy for example:
We can see that Hardy is one of those unspectacular yet solid type of guys. He makes the easier plays better than almost anyone, but the more difficult plays are hit or miss. Keep in mind that the “likely” and “Almost Certain” plays make up the bulk of the chances a player like Hardy will get. In fact, last season he only had 18 opportunities that fell into the “remote” or “unlikely” categories, two of which he got the out on.
Let’s move to a more controversial player: Adam Jones. We’re all familiar with the narrative on Jones at this point. He’s a gold glove winner who generally looks pretty good when he’s out there. Some say he takes bad routes to balls, and others say he gets poor jumps. Maybe his positioning is off. Regardless, the defensive metrics say he’s a poor outfielder, or at least below average. His mantle disagrees.
Inside Edge data tends to agree with the advanced statistics, which isn’t especially confounding. This data tends to match nicely to the range based advanced stats because it’s essentially a slightly different way of analyzing a player’s range. While UZR or DRS break the field up into zones and identify how many balls in each zone a player caught, Inside Edge gives each batted ball a qualitative rating on how difficult it would be to make a play.
We can largely ignore the “remote” and “unlikely” groups again, as Jones had just nine total opportunities in those categories. However, in the more common “about even”, “likely”, and “almost certain” categories Jones comes up either lagging behind his peers or about even. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the hardware he’s received from the Rawlings company.
The last player we’ll take a look at is the best fielder on the team: Manny Machado. We all know how good Manny can be on defense…
Machado’s reputation is well deserved, as he outperforms the average third baseman in every single category here. He makes more of the routine plays, but also blows away the competition when it comes to the more difficult ones. Granted, the same caveat applies about sample size and how many more routine plays there are, but the numbers for Manny are impressive nonetheless.
These data sets are interesting, and give us yet another way to look at defense. It’s not the data we really want: