The 2008 OPA! Gold (and Lead) Gloves

That running sound of people stampeding toward something isn’t Black Friday shoppers.  (Did you know that Christmas and Chanukah used to be religious holidays?)  It’s all my Sabermetric brethren running to the servers of Retrosheet (Can I take a moment and gush about Retrosheet and how cool they are?) for the newly posted 2008 play-by-play data file.  Last night, I told Mrs. Cutter, “I just got my early Christmas present.”  She just nodded and smiled.

With the release of the new file, I can run the 2008 season through some of my favorite syntax programs.  First on the list is my defensive rating system, OPA! (out probability added above average).  By way of a short introduction, OPA! breaks fielding into its component parts (range, fielding, arm, and catching the throw on ground balls, for example) and eventually sums it all up in a neat little run value.

First, let’s award some Gold (and Lead) Gloves.  These go to the players who saved (or bungled away) the most runs at their position during the 2008 season.  A player who spent more time at the position will have more of a chance to rack up more runs saved (or bungled), but we’ll adjust for that later.  The reason that there’s no catcher award is that I can’t really measure catcher defense with OPA!  Runs saved (or bungled) are in parentheses.

 

Position OPA! Gold Glove (AL) OPA! Gold Glove (NL) Real Gold Glove (AL) Real Gold Glove (NL) OPA! Lead Glove (AL) OPA! Lead Glove (NL)
Pitcher John Garland (2.54) Kyle Lohse (2.76) Mike Mussina (1.06) Greg Maddux (1.89) Fausto Carmona (-2.56) Brandon Webb (-5.13)
First Baseman Mark Teixeira* (13.93) Albert Pujols (16.32) Carlos Pena (2.90) Adrian Gonzalez (13.28) Richie Sexson (-14.11) Mike Jacobs (-18.92)
Second Baseman Mark Ellis (17.88) Chase Utley (11.93) Dustin Pedroia (3.20) Brandon Phillps (-0.71) Brian Roberts (-11.94) Richie Weeks (-12.38)
Third Baseman Scott Rolen (14.58) Chipper Jones (9.89) Adrian Beltre (9.97) David Wright (-9.00) Mark Reynolds (-10.43) Edwin Encarnacion (-16.45)
Shortstop Mike Aviles (8.58) J.J. Hardy (13.03) Michael Young (1.08) Jimmy Rollins (-3.77) Edgar Renteria (-11.68) Stephen Drew (-13.25)
Outfield Jacoby Ellsbury (25.83) Ryan Braun!!! (23.67) Ichiro Suzuki (6.38) Carlos Beltran (11.89) Jason Bay* (-35.79) Brad Hawpe (-47.75)
Outfield Franklin Gutierrez (24.96) Randy Winn (23.11) Grandy Sizemore (-3.50) Nate McLouth (-11.60) Jermaine Dye (-25.62) Adam Dunn (-20.43)
Outfield Denard Span (16.31) Cody Ross (19.50) Torii Hunter (-21.02) Shane Victorino (4.16) Torii Hunter (-21.02) Gregor Blanco (-16.34)

 

A few notes.  I know that Bay and Teixeira both started out in the NL and made their way to the AL in 2008.  Oddly enough, the next logical candidate for the AL OPA! Gold Glove (someone who did well with the glove and spent time in the AL) was Casey Kotchman, for whom Teixeira was traded.  If Bay is removed from consideration altogether for his lead glove because of his league-hopping, then Nick Swisher (-17.90) would assume his mantle.  (Perhaps that’s the wrong word given that we’re talking about futility in outfield defense?)  If you want a purely AL first baseman to give the OPA! Gold Glove to, then it would go to Daric Barton. 

An aside: that gives Oakland the best first baseman in the AL with Barton, Ellis and his Gold Glove at second, and Jack Hannahan was actually the 2nd best AL (and MLB) third baseman behind Rolen.  Bobby Crosby, their SS, was 3rd best in the AL.  There’s hidden value in defense, eh Billy?

Then, there’s the outfield issue.  Like the actual Gold Glove voters, I considered “outfielder” to be a generic term.  In fact, most of the winners of the OPA! awards spent time at two or even all three of the outfield positions (Ellsbury and Gutierrez played all three.)  If you want to look at each outfield position seperately, the winners of the Gold and Lead Gloves (AL/NL) in each league were:

Gold Gloves
LF – Johnny Damon/ Ryan Braun 
CF – Carlos Gomez/ Cody Ross
RF – Franklin Gutierrez / Jason Werth

Lead Gloves
LF – Jason Bay*/ Adam Dunn
CF – Nick Swisher/ Lastings Milledge
RF – Jermaine Dye/Brad Hawpe

The depressing thing is that the BBWAA voters didn’t pick any of the “correct” choices at any of the positions.  Adrian Gonzalez at first base was about as good as they got.  And they lazily selected Torii Hunter again (all three AL OF winners were repeats), despite the fact that he won a Lead Glove.

Ryan Braun, after “winning” a Lead Glove last year at third base, won a Gold Glove in left field.  This speaks to how poor left fielders are at fielding in general and also the fact that outfield defense is really prone to a lot of variation.  In other words, just about anyone can have a good year in the outfield.

Chase Utley.  What the heck does that guy gotta do to get noticed?

More 2008 stuff coming soon…

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4 Responses to The 2008 OPA! Gold (and Lead) Gloves

  1. Brian Cartwright says:

    First Manny, now Bay…it seems that whoever plays lf in Boston ends up terrible. What I think is happening is that balls hit of the Green Monster, which should be considered unfieldable, are not marked as such in the play by play and thus counted againsted the fielder as balls not caught.
    Could you find what Ramirez and Bay did in Fewnay compared to all other parks? In the absence of explicit scoring, we might be able to calculate a park factor correction.

  2. Sean says:

    I’m pretty sure Bay was horrible with the Pirates this year though too.
    Any chance we can see Manny’s OPA with the Red Sox and Dodgers? Also, Bay’s both teams. I think most metrics didn’t say Manny was horrible defensively with the Dodgers, but then again small sample and he may have been trying harder.

  3. Pizza Cutter says:

    Actually, OPA! corrects (somewhat) for the park effects. Outfields are shaped differently (and Fenway is an extreme case), so here’s what I built in.
    Because I’m comparing everything to league average, I needed a good baseline for what the league average was in each park. Since I can’t have that average over-weighted by the home fielder (let’s say that there’s an amazing/awful CF patroling some park). Since roughly half the chances that go to the outfield are handled by the “home” outfielders, we can’t have that awesome/awful guy contaminating the league average. So, I looked only at what the visiting teams to the park did. Bay/Manny is being compared to what all the other left fielders did in Fenway (or PNC).

  4. Colin Wyers says:

    I would go ahead and include the home fielders in that, but prorated out to a proportion of the total – say max it out at 1/14th of the league for the AL. I’d also regress that figure a bit, I think.

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