Carleton: Do defenders deserve all the credit?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on February 10, 2020:

I want to talk about the weird way in which we measure defense in baseball. To start, here’s a statement that we know to be mostly true, but a tiny bit false. The catch is that the way in which it is false is different from the way that you might think it to be false. Ready?

At a certain position (pick one), the average fielder faces X plays he could reasonably make per inning. We’re not even talking about whether he actually converts any of those balls to outs, just how many chances he has. And so, over Y innings, with some reasonable minimum, we expect that a fielder will face (X * Y) chances. With me so far? Of course, it’s not going to be exactly that number all the time. Some players get a few more than that, some a few less, but usually we solve such things by saying that the fielder will face (X * Y + error) chances. Any deviation from the prediction is chalked up to random variance and we all have tea. See? True and a little bit false.

But let’s for a moment consider how that affects the way in which we usually account for a player’s defensive chops.

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Originally published: February 13, 2020. Last Updated: February 13, 2020.