Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ask Sports Sturm #2
Kinsler's Glove vs. Soriano's

Time once again for another "Ask Sports Me".

OK, I have put more thought and research into this, and I would like to look at this again.

I was asked why Ian Kinsler is not ridiculed for being a butcher at 2nd base like Soriano was.

Here is the reality. 20 2nd basemen have played the position enough this season to qualify as full-time. Kinsler is 20th out of 20 at fielding percentage. He has 16 errors, and no other 2nd baseman has more than 9 (Kelly Johnson and Felipe Lopez).

Some stats to consider:

Soriano with the Rangers
2004: 142 Games: 23 Errors - .969 Fielding – League: .982
2005: 153 Games: 21 Errors - .972 Fielding – League: .983
Soriano had 44 Errors in 295 games (one every 6.7 games)

2006: 119 Games: 18 Errors - .973 Fielding – League: .986
2007: 130 Games: 17 Errors - .977 Fielding – League: .985
2008: 88 Games: 16 Errors - .969 Fielding – League: .987
Kinsler has 51 errors in 337 games (one error every 6.6 games)

These numbers appear almost identical. But are they?

The fact is that they do not take into account a players range. I have to credit one of our readers for sending us this link on yesterday's blog: From Baseball Prospectus ...

With 12 home runs and 19 stolen bases, the Rangers' Ian Kinsler is on pace to become the first second baseman since Alfonso Soriano in 2002 to hit at least 25 homers and steal at least 40 bases in a season, and just the fourth in history. Kinsler also is akin to Soriano in the field. The current Cubs outfielder made more errors than any other major league second baseman in all five seasons he played the position, starting in 2001. Soriano's last two years at the keystone were spent in Texas, in 2004 and '05, and the player that succeeded him as the Texas second baseman--Kinsler--has taken on at least one aspect of Soriano's leather work. That's because Kinsler tied for the major league lead in errors in his rookie season of 2006 (18), was tops again last year with 17, and so far this season is first once more, with 14 already. However, Kinsler is a much better second baseman than Soriano was because of his extraordinary range, for while Kinsler makes a great number of errors, he also reaches more balls than any other second baseman: he has ranked first in Range Factor at second base by a healthy margin in each of his three major league seasons, including this year.

I guess I never was sure about this "extraordinary range" that people sometimes claim - many times paid announcers for the Rangers. But look at that quote from Baseball Prospectus:

Kinsler also reaches more balls than any other second baseman: he has ranked first in Range Factor at second base by a healthy margin in each of his three major league seasons, including this year.

I had no idea. Check out 2008 for chances per 9 innings for all 2nd Basemen:
1. Ian Kinsler - 5.79
2. Placido Polanco - 5.41
3. Freddy Sanchez - 5.27
4. Robinson Cano - 5.23
5. Mark Grudzielanek - 5.22

1. Ian Kinsler - 5.69
2. Mark Ellis - 5.45
3. Robinson Cano - 5.22
4. Tad Iguchi - 5.15
5. Jose Lopez - 5.14

1. Jamey Carroll - 5.86
2. Ian Kinsler - 5.58
3. Orlando Hudson - 5.47
4. Jeff Kent - 5.38
5. Mark Ellis - 5.30

That's right. In all of baseball, no 2nd baseman is even close to Kinsler in his first 3 years at getting to more balls more often.

Now, let us consider the work of Alfonso Soriano in the same stat:

In his 5 years as a major league 2nd baseman, here are his Chances per 9 inning averages:

2001: 4.45 (19th ranked of 20 full time qualifying 2B)
2002: 4.55 (16th of 19)
2003: 4.83 (15th of 21)
2004: 5.24 (4th of 20)
2005: 4.88 (12th of 17)

Astounding differences. So, the career numbers are as follows:

Kinsler: 338 games - 5.68 chances per 9 innings
Soriano: 764 games - 4.78 chances per 9 innings

That's right. For every 9 innings, Kinsler gets to 1 more ball than Soriano. That may not sound like much, but it is a ton. Imagine 1 more out every 9 innings. What could that mean in a pennant race?

Put another way, if you replace Kinsler with someone with Soriano's range (but let's say without Soriano's defensive error problem) then you must ask, would you trade 10 fewer errors for 162 more chances? Would 152 more outs converted per season lessen the pain of knowing Kinsler is leading the league in errors? I think so.

In fact, Kinsler, since 2000 has the 2nd best range number of ANY 2nd baseman who ever played with regularity, trailing only the retired Pokey Reese (5.72) and leading Orlando Hudson (5.47) amongst current players - and Hudson wins Gold Gloves with regularity. That is right. No active 2nd baseman gets to as many balls as Ian Kinsler. And it isn't even close.

So, in conclusion, Yes, it is true that Ian Kinsler has more errors (51) during his 3 years than anyone in the sport - and that isn't close, either (Richie Weeks has 41, Chase Utley 36) - but it should be noted that despite his fielding percentage being very low (.973), his range suggests that this is a stat that can be improved - and is worth the time to work it out, because he gets to a phenomenal number of balls that his replacement would not reach.

I no longer believe he needs to be moved to the outfield. Research has adjusted my opinion. Ian Kinsler needs to stay at 2nd base. He is much better than Soriano ever was with the glove.

What do you think of all of that?


Crisatunity said...

Go Sports Sturm Go.

WilkMan said...

OK, my math is not quite perfect, but if you try and calculate errors per chance:
Kinsler has one error every 38.214 chances.
Soriano had one error every 32.696 chances.
Doesn't seem close.

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Your math might be correct, but the 'extra chances' Kinsler gets are balls others can't get to. If others can't get to them, it's reasonable to assume that he's making a somewhat spectacular play. So, you might say that he's more likely to make an error on these 'extra chances' which means he'll accrue errors at a higher rate than everyone else because most of his errors are coming on balls that everyone else can't get to.
Statistics don't always account for the intangibles.

Michael said...

I can't quite follow what you're saying, but it appears to me that Wilkman's calculations agree with what you are trying to prove by referencing "intangibles". Statistics, in fact, never account for intangibles.

The thing that I wonder about is how the fielding percentage is calculated. Does that stat not take into account the number of balls a player reaches (giggle)? Based on Wilkman's calculations, it seems like Kinsler's fielding is superior to Soriano's, but that is not reflected in the fielding percentages of each player.

As for offensive stats, can someone add a new stat for the number of balls a player reaches (scratches) per AB?

Ryan Appleton said...

Hey man,

Great read.

So, quick question, does this info take into consideration the fact that Ranger pitchers get more groundballs than most teams as the majority of their pitchers rely on the sinker? You know what I'm saying? Kinsler gets more chances bc the majority of his pitchers throw sinkers which result in more groundballs....

Sorry if this has been addressed.

Ryan A