From SABR member Don Drooker at Mastersball.com on November 22, 2013:
When it comes to baseball, there are casual fans, hometown fans, old-school fans, know-it-all fans, rabid fans and people like me. I’m a 365 day-a-year fan who enjoys all the nuances of the actual game as well as all the minutia of the hot stove season. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t check the transactions or think about free agent signings or muse about the topic of my next column. And, I’m not at all apologetic about my passion for the game because it has been a wonderful distraction in my life. As a wise man once said, “Life is more worthwhile when you can be passionate about something trivial.”
For me, being a member of The Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) is a delightful extension of my fandom. The brilliant people who write for the Society always make me think and open my eyes to the endless history of this great game. So, when they recently published their “SABR Defensive Index” (SDI) for 2013, it got me thinking about how far we’ve come in the last 30 years in regards to judging defensive excellence on the field. For many years, I was a critic of the annual Gold Glove awards because they never seemed to be based on reality, only reputation. The final straw was in 1999, when Rafael Palmeiro only played 34 games at 1B (and 128 at DH) but still won the AL Gold Glove. Of course, he won it in ’97 and ’98, so he must still be the best 1B in the league, right?
Since then, researchers have created defensive metrics that quantify the performance of major league players on the field, so we’re getting closer to the truth. Currently, the SDI ratings are incorporated into the Rawlings Gold Glove selection process and account for about 25% of the results when added to the votes from managers and coaches. So, let’s look at the SDI results and how they compare to the actual Gold Glove winners for 2013. The SDI numbers represent defensive runs saved relative to the league average at the position.
Originally published: November 22, 2013. Last Updated: November 22, 2013.