Spector: On players’ and coaches’ skepticism of defensive metrics

From Jesse Spector at The Hardball Times on December 22, 2016:

Kevin Pillar led major league center fielders during the 2016 season in defensive runs saved (DRS), Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150), out of zone plays, all the things that are supposed to tell you in 2016 who’s the best in the field. Advanced defensive metrics are the reason that a former 32nd-round draft pick with a .688 career OPS is regarded, rightfully, as a star.

The proliferation of defensive numbers has made it easier to concretely communicate just how good a player like Pillar is, rather than just saying, “yeah, he’s good out there, but he still doesn’t hit enough.” Because of the defensive aspects incorporated in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), we know that Pillar is a three-win player, and quite valuable to a Blue Jays team that’s made back-to-back trips to the American League Championship Series. The numbers love Pillar.

“I don’t love them back,” Pillar says. “I don’t get them. I don’t get any of the defensive stats that they’re throwing out there except for good play. The eye test. I believe in the eye test. I think a good outfielder or a good defender, you can see with your eyes. You don’t need numbers to tell you how good they are.”

It’s not a new concept that professional baseball players would be averse to fancy stats, and if you talk to enough outfielders about DRS and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), there are some common phrases that pop up, starting with an assertion that a player’s only responsibility is to contribute on the field.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/players-and-coaches-skepticism-of-defensive-metrics/

Originally published: December 22, 2016. Last Updated: December 22, 2016.