TotalZone, 2008, Shortstops
In this season of giving thanks, let us be grateful that Retrosheet has released the 2008 season play by play files. Although the hit location field is for the most part blank (as it has been other than for the 1990's when project scoresheet data was used), batted ball type and fielded by information are complete for just about every play. This allows me to continue to calculate TotalZone the same way as I have for the 2003 to 2007 seasons.
My first step was to update my park factors, and step number 2 to produce run values for the shortstops.
If you don't care for the details, or have looked at this before, feel free to skip the details in this paragraph. I find how many plays each shortstop makes on groundballs. If he fields a groundball, and an out is recorded on the play, it counts, regardless of whether it's a throw to first, flip to second, or the SS steps on 2B himself. Next, how many hits and errors did the shortstop allow? Errors are easy enough. Hits are charged to the shortstop if it's an infield hit to short, a groundball single to left, or to center. Shortstops are charged with 39% of singles to left, and 55% of those to center. Next, combine the hits and outs for each SS into a zone, or, a TotalZone, and compare this to league average. Not all opportunities are created equal however, so I break down this data into buckets, depending on what side of the plate the batter hits from (pulled balls are easier to convert into outs) and whether or not 1st base is occupied, as a potential forceplay at 2nd affects positioning. We are comparing each bucket to the league average for each situation. Finally, a park adjustment is applied. To improve sample size, I use one park adjustment for all infield positions.
I can't, and won't, claim that TotalZone data is as detailed as UZR, plus/minus, or PMR. It does not distinguish between easy and hard plays. What it simply means, is that a player with a very good rating has fewer hits and makes more outs than normal for the portion of balls hit into his area, and a poor TZ fielder has more hits and fewer outs in his area.
Finally, here are the top and bottom lists for 2008. Once I do all the positions, I will post a spreadsheet with all the results. For 2008, there were no extreme rankings. There were a few head-scratchers as well.
+19, JJ Hardy
+12, Jack Wilson
+12, Marco Scutaro
+11, Yunel Escobar
+9, Cesar Izturis
+9, Cristian Guzman
+9, Michael Young
+6, Jimmy Rollins
A few years ago Young had a rating near -30, so this is a surprise.
-7, Ryan Theriot
-8, Jason Bartlett
-9, Brendan Harris
-9, Yuni Betencourt
Bartlett is a surprise as he has rated well in the past, and has received quite a bit of credit for Tampa Bay's defensive turnaround. Derek Jeter rated just below average at -4.