Best and worst fielders to date

Best and worst fielders to date

That ubiquitous "Top 10" leaders on the sports page looks the same as it did when Walter Cronkite served up the evening news. Especially true when it comes to fielding, solid analysis traditionally has been hard to find. Touch a ball and make an error, and it's duly noted. Miss one because the legs are old and creaky and a player is off the hook.

This doesn't jibe with reality as baseball fans know it, which is where PROTRADE's Moneyball Valuation System enters the void. Our system measures every component of every play, comparing what happens in real time to what has happened historically. The result is a difference -- positive or negative -- between the expected (aka most likely) result and what occurs, by player. Moneyball fairly allots credit and blame on every batted ball, finally taking range into the fielding equation. With fielding, we the result is expressed in saved and lost runs.

With that in mind, here's a "Leaders" list with a PROTRADE twist -- the Top 5 and Bottom 5 outfielders and infielders of 2006.

While digesting this, keep in mind that fielding for average is no different than hitting for average. While Ichiro Suzuki is hitting .366 this year and Nomar Garciaparra is hitting .354, there are also guys like Freddy Sanchez (.347) and Gary Matthews Jr. (.340) who have no real track record of doing this. We expect them to sink eventually, just as we expect many of the top fielders through 65 games to come back down to earth.

5 Best Outfielders
Player Team Runs Saved
Randy Winn Giants 23.04
Carlos Beltran Mets 15.55
Endy Chavez Mets 14.18
Mike Cameron Padres 13.34
Ryan Freel Reds 13.28

San Francisco's Winn leads the entire Majors in fielding this season, but we think his 2006 performance is an anomaly. Though Winn has built up a big lead over everyone else, expect the Mets' Beltran (provided he avoids injuries) to pass him by the end of the season

5 Worst Outfielders
Player Team Runs Lost
Garret Anderson Angels -12.49
Russell Branyan Devil Rays -12.51
Joey Gathright Devil Rays -12.63
Jeromy Burnitz Pirates -13.27
Brady Clark Brewers -13.98

This isn't exactly a who's who of butchers. Garret Anderson has been terrible in the past. But for the most part, this list is made up of average-to-slightly-below-average fielders who are probably having a short run of really bad luck. Keep in mind that the truly bad outfielders are already first basemen, DHs or just pinch-hitters, which lessens the effects of their poor fielding. So a player has to be good enough to get the opportunity to play badly all year to show up on a list like this one. To put it another way, David Ortiz is a horrendous left fielder, but Boston would never give him the chance to prove it.

5 Best Infielders
Player Team Runs Saved
Corey Koskie Brewers 20.93
Pedro Feliz Giants 20.58
Adam Everett Astros 18.80
Placido Polanco Tigers 16.27
Robinson Cano Yankees 14.67

Infield, there are a few more surprises. Everett and Polanco are Gold Glove caliber infielders, but Cano didn't impress last year.

5 Worst Infielders
Player Team Runs Lost
Felipe Lopez Reds -14.25
Chone Figgins Angels -14.51
Juan Castro Twins -14.72
Marcus Giles Braves -15.22
Tony Batista Twins -16.53

There isn't a good fielder on this list, so perhaps infielders are more consistently good and bad than outfielders.

For a few of these guys, we don't really care how poorly they field, provided we get their bats in the lineup. It didn't really work for the Angels, though, since Figgins is a substantially better center fielder than third baseman. Give the Angels credit for figuring that out in a matter of months. The Yankees still haven't realized Derek Jeter is better off as a center fielder himself.

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