Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Greatest Defensive Players- By Position in Baseball History

TPC is currently competing in Sports2Debate's first ever Blog Madness Tournament, and has been matched up against My Sports Rumors in the opening round of the North Region.

Here is the first question. TPC urges his fans to vote early and often!

-Name your All-Defense Team, using every player in the history of MLB.

-One player at every position listed below.

-Back up your statements with facts. Refute your opponents points.

-C: 1B: 2B: SS: 3B: OF(3): P(3):

The Peoples Champ has been known to be offensive at time (or if I was Canadian Oh-fensive), so we now we go the way of defense, and as TPC will tell you- Defense Wins Championships- and therefore, the Greatest Defensive Team in History will have it's share of rings.

First and foremost, if you want a great defensive team, you need to limit the amount of hard hit balls at you, so on the mound we will have the Greatest Pitcher of the Modern Era- the one with the lowest career WHIP (1.0512), which is Pedro Martinez. When he was in his prime his WHIP was always an unearthly Sub 1.00, which means he doesn't get hit. It's a lot easier to play D when the ball isn't getting hit hard at you. I'm a Yankee fan, and nothing makes me hurt more than putting a Red Sox on this list, but Pedro was the best I ever saw.

In dealing with the rest of the squad, we will take into account a few things:
The players range (as defined by his range versus his peers, gold gloves (although subjective), using The People's Eye- you don't need to have statistical proof that Ozzie Smith was a genius, and general stuff I like to throw in). We also take into account the player must have played 1000 games minimum to define a decent work.

Anyone who has watched baseball knows Keith Hernandez with his two World Series rings and record 12 Gold Glove Awards at 1b is the best player at that position. When you take into account putouts per game (a very telling stat for 1b) Hernandez is one of the tops in the modern era and factoring in range and fielding percentage he has no peers.

At 2b we have Bill Mazeroski and Ryne Sandberg. Statistically, no one else is in the game. Mazeroski had a range factor of 123 to Sandberg's 122. Joe Morgan, Frank White and Roberto Alomar, all of whom are generally considered as some of the best defensive 2b in history have range factor between 105-110. (Range Factor - the number of (Putouts + Assists) per game (or 9 innings played). Sandberg gets the nod because he has the highest fielding percentage in history at the position at .989 (Mazeroski is at .983). He gets to the most balls and he catches the most by percentage? Uh-huh, that's the guy I want. Sandberg also has 9 Gold Gloves to Mazeroski's 8.

At SS I will not insult any one's intelligence with statistical proof that Ozzie Smith is the greatest of all time at his position. Anyone who has ever seen him play knows this 100%. Bill James once told Peter Gammons Ozzie saved his team over 100 runs per season. That's the difference between a 3.50 and a 4.30 ERA for a pitcher. WOW.

I love Greg Nettles. I loved how he single handedly saved the 1978 World Series with his glove. I also loved the way Buddy Bell and Mike Schmidt played the position. All great 3b. However, Brooks Robinson, who not coincidentally has the All time Fielding percentage mark at 3b (.971 compared to Bells .964, Nettles .961 and Schmidt's .965) with good range, great arm, etc etc. Brooks is your man. Brooks also owns 13 Gold Gloves, the most by any 3b.

To round up the infield, our Catcher is the hardest position to "prove" who was the best defensively. Some think it was Pudge- no one threw out runners at a higher clip, some say it was Bench who had good throwing percentages and better passed ball and wild pitch numbers than Pudge, and some say it was a guy like Brad Ausmus, who statistically is as good all around as anyone who ever played the game. However, Catcher is also a position of Generalship (did i just make that word up) and I'll go with Yogi Berra who was one of the all time greats in preventing wild pitches and passed balls, and he also has 14 pennant winning flags to prove it.

In Center Field, as much as I would like to put Joe D or The Mick or even Willie Mays on this list, Richie Ashburn was the statistically best CF'er of them. First off, the most important stat for a CF'er is the range factor, in other words, how many extra balls do they get to than the average guy at that position. Ashburn has the top Range Factor in Major League history of any outfielder at 147. To put that in perspective, Gary Maddox was 2nd on the list at 140 and Mays was at 136, while Ashburn had a better Fielding Percentage than Mays and was even with Maddox at .983. No one else is even in the statistical discussion. Ashburn also had the best "arm" amongst the group throwing out an average of 16% more players than the average OF'er while Mays was at 5%. Kirby Puckett had an astonishing 48% better mark, but he got to 20% less balls with a worse fielding percentage, so he isn't in the discussion.

The corner OF'ers we have to adjust the stats for, being range is important but an arm is more important because of the amount of run prevention a good arm accounts for. It's why I would take Jesse Barfield and Roberto Clemente (moving Robbie over to left) as my two corner Of'ers. First Barfield. He had the best arm in Major League Baseball history, throwing out more than twice the amount of runners than the average ML Of'er (his number is actually 202). He had a good fielding percentage and decent range to boot. Clemente had slightly better range and the second best arm of all time, throwing out 78% more runners than average. To put these numbers in perspective, Bonds, some considered an all time great fielding Left Fielder prior to his "alleged" steroid issue, had slightly better range and Fielding Percentage numbers, but through 2005 (his numbers since have decreased dramatically) he threw out 35% more runners on average. Basically, Barfield and Clemente prevented a ton of singles turning into doubles, guys going first to third or scoring from 2B on a single, and they have done it while playing RF, the most taxing in terms of throwing runners out..

Well, there you have the greatest fielding team in history according to The People's Champ.

(statistics were mostly taken from a truly great site).


Anonymous said...

Please insult my intelligence with regard to Ozzie Smith. What are the stats? He always seemed a bit overrated because of the highlights.

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Bill said...

you give the nod to ryne over maz??? if you check your stats, you will see that ryne had some over-inflated fielding percentage years where he only played a few games at second, but maybe that's nit-picking.
in 16 years ryne turned 1158 doubleplays - very impressive until you realize maz turned 1706 in 17 years....
also, maz did this w/ a "pancake" glove, not the preformed "scoop" glove used by ryne-
maybe in light of the bigger picture, you might reconsider your pick - just sayin'

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Jose said...

Henry Blanco is the best Defensive Catcher I have ever seen....

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Matthew Huskey said...

Wow, if you are going to use this formula the center field and pitcher selections are not even close! Richie ashburn is not even in the top five. How about Andruw Jones who in 17 seasons in the outfield had a ridiculous .990% and 50 errors compared to Ashburn's. 983% and 110 errors over only 14u seasons. Pitching you have to look no further than Greg Maddox and the major league record holder for consecutive gold gloves at any position. Of course i failed to include Andruws 11 consecutive.

Matthew Huskey said...

Also let me point out on pedro Martinez, even though i consider him a good pitcher, he only had 219 wins. Maddux had a hall of fame career with 355. Maddux a total of 18 gold gloves to pedros 0. Maddux had 4a cy youngs to pedros 3 and about 220 more strikeouts. Maddux was the best ever at Fielding his position and was a much more dominant comparison. Pedro will probably not make the hall and maddux will get around 93%.

Anonymous said...

I think you insulted your own intelligence and credibility by thinking Ozzie was the best...he's one of the best--omar vizquel is the GOAT. Both were capable of the miraculous, but Omar was more consistent on the routine play and did it for roughly 6 more years than Ozzie. How many cartwheels does Omar have to do to get your respect?

David Holste said...

I will agree Omar Visquel as best SS but i cannot argue if someone puts Ozzie at number one. I think P is 100% Greg Maddux. Pedro never won a gold glove. I think CF is the toughest to call.