PDA

View Full Version : John Dewan: Does playing shallow work?



Willihammer
09-19-2013, 10:13 AM
The Twins usually field a (defensively) talented center fielder. They also like to place that CFer pretty deep. Does it work?



Here’s what we did. We started with the 35 center fielders in baseball with the most playing time this year and looked at how often they went back on a batted ball and how often they broke in. The concept is that if a center fielder has to go back more often than others he is playing shallower. The player who has played the shallowest center field this year, based on this method, is the Nationals’ Denard Span. He has gone back on a batted ball 212 times out a total of 503 plays. That’s 42 percent of the time. At the other extreme, the deepest center fielder is Aaron Hicks who’s gone back 115 times out of 369 plays (31%).


Does Playing Shallow Work? | Articles | Bill James Online (http://www.billjamesonline.com/does_playing_shallow_work/)

ericchri
09-19-2013, 11:32 AM
Weird, Denard Span and Ben Revere top the chart and Aaron Hicks is bottom of the chart. Kind of hard to point at it being Twins coaching a specific way. Granted Revere and Span aren't with the Twins anymore, but they spent their entire careers before this in the Twins system, it would seem odd they would make a massive change in the way they set up. But apparently if I read it correctly, playing a deep CF appears to be the more beneficial method, so Hicks is doing it right.

ashburyjohn
09-19-2013, 11:42 AM
That was always the knock on Puckett of course, that he played so deep and could occasionally snare a ball headed over the fence but gave up a ton of singles in front of him. Hicks playing deep suggests a lack of confidence, not befitting a great defensive reputation when he came up. But I guess the gist of the article is that this is a wrong interpretation.

Willihammer
09-19-2013, 11:55 AM
Weird, Denard Span and Ben Revere top the chart and Aaron Hicks is bottom of the chart. Kind of hard to point at it being Twins coaching a specific way.

IIRC Denard and Revere both played fairly deep as Twins players, as Hicks did and Puckett did before him (I believe Hunter did too). Also, this


Playing for veteran manager Davey Johnson has also been a welcomed perk for Span, who had spent the entirety of his major league career under the guidance of Ron Gardenhire (http://www.1500espn.com/pages/roster.php?pID=171).


"He's definitely laid back," Span said. "He lets us just play the game, I'll be honest. It's definitely different than what I'm used to, not micromanaging, just lets you do whatever. As long as you're ready to play at seven o'clock, that's all he cares about."



Denard could have been referring to anything here. But, its quotes like this, combined with my memory of him playing fairly deep as a Twin that suggests to me that outfield positioning is being ordered by the coaches, in which case it would be one calculation they seem to be getting right.

whatever54
09-19-2013, 11:55 AM
That was always the knock on Puckett of course, that he played so deep and could occasionally snare a ball headed over the fence but gave up a ton of singles in front of him. Hicks playing deep suggests a lack of confidence, not befitting a great defensive reputation when he came up. But I guess the gist of the article is that this is a wrong interpretation.

Am I missing something? Maybe Hicks playing deep does suggest a lack of confidence, but that's not how I'd be inclined to look at it. It always seemed to me that better athletic ability, accurate judgement of where a ball is going, good running speed and a good arm allow an outfielder the option to play deeper, which is where you want to be so as to keep plays in front of you.

Willihammer
09-19-2013, 12:00 PM
Its been mentioned here a number of times how the Twins outfield defense ranks at or near the bottom in defensive metrics like UZR. Well, to UZR, a catch is a catch is a catch. A ball that otherwise would go for a triple counts the same as one that would otherwise go for a bloop single. So maybe the outfield D hasn't cost this team so many runs after all, because they are better positioned to save the extra base hits at the cost of a few extra singles.

edit: nevermind, that's not right. UZR uses weighted average run value for each zone, so theoretically UZR would reflect any advantage or disadvantage of good positioning

USAFChief
09-19-2013, 12:04 PM
The Twins have played all 3 OFers deeper than most teams thru the Gardy era. Its readily apparent any time you go to a game.

My opinion is its another manifestation of their overall risk aversion. They'd rather give up balls that fall in front of OFers for hits than the occasional XBH that gets over an OFer's head.

Shane Wahl
09-19-2013, 12:18 PM
As a little leaguer, my coaches drilled into me the idea of always taking an initial step back if not clearly judging the ball properly. I wonder if playing shallow and doing something like that mitigates the potential problems of playing so shallow.

Or maybe it was because we were dumb kids and that's the best option.

Anyway, that Denard quote cracks me up.

Shane Wahl
09-19-2013, 12:19 PM
Just get your ass to the Big Leagues, Buxton!

ericchri
09-19-2013, 01:02 PM
I wonder if arm strength would have anything to do with it? Revere's arm was obviously terrible, but Span's never seemed great (average at best). I wouldn't be surprised that guys with better arms are also willing to play back another step or two knowing they still have a chance to throw guys out.

I do know it's a whole lot easier to run while looking forward than it is while looking backward. I would find anyone who naturally wants to set up shallow making themselves go back more often to be a little odd. Just a natural comfort thing, really.

Really neat topic, I love the little off-the-wall things you can look at in baseball.

ThePuck
09-19-2013, 01:22 PM
IIRC Denard and Revere both played fairly deep as Twins players, as Hicks did and Puckett did before him (I believe Hunter did too). Also, this



Denard could have been referring to anything here. But, its quotes like this, combined with my memory of him playing fairly deep as a Twin that suggests to me that outfield positioning is being ordered by the coaches, in which case it would be one calculation they seem to be getting right.

where did you find this quote from Span?

Shane Wahl
09-19-2013, 01:25 PM
I wonder if arm strength would have anything to do with it? Revere's arm was obviously terrible, but Span's never seemed great (average at best). I wouldn't be surprised that guys with better arms are also willing to play back another step or two knowing they still have a chance to throw guys out.

I do know it's a whole lot easier to run while looking forward than it is while looking backward. I would find anyone who naturally wants to set up shallow making themselves go back more often to be a little odd. Just a natural comfort thing, really.

Really neat topic, I love the little off-the-wall things you can look at in baseball.

I second this completely. All of your post is quite true.

John Bonnes
09-19-2013, 05:08 PM
Its been mentioned here a number of times how the Twins outfield defense ranks at or near the bottom in defensive metrics like UZR. Well, to UZR, a catch is a catch is a catch. A ball that otherwise would go for a triple counts the same as one that would otherwise go for a bloop single. So maybe the outfield D hasn't cost this team so many runs after all, because they are better positioned to save the extra base hits at the cost of a few extra singles.

edit: nevermind, that's not right. UZR uses weighted average run value for each zone, so theoretically UZR would reflect any advantage or disadvantage of good positioning

Your correction is right - a catch depends on where it is made (and some other factors, like whether it was a line drive or a fly ball) to determine its value. The same things is kind of true for a hit - if most players catch that ball, it hurts their hit/miss statistic a lot more than if most players don't catch it.

However, there is one caveat on hits - once you find out how many hits/catches each player has, they're all converted to runs at the same rate. So a hit that falls in front of an outfielder and a hit that falls behind an outfielder and rolls to the wall - both of these are converted to runs at the same rate, even though they would likely not have the same effect.

Willihammer
09-19-2013, 08:11 PM
Your correction is right - a catch depends on where it is made (and some other factors, like whether it was a line drive or a fly ball) to determine its value. The same things is kind of true for a hit - if most players catch that ball, it hurts their hit/miss statistic a lot more than if most players don't catch it.

However, there is one caveat on hits - once you find out how many hits/catches each player has, they're all converted to runs at the same rate. So a hit that falls in front of an outfielder and a hit that falls behind an outfielder and rolls to the wall - both of these are converted to runs at the same rate, even though they would likely not have the same effect.

And DRS does the same, as I understand it, but then DRS takes the added step of figuring out how many extra bases are being saved or lost, and factors that in. As you say, UZR does not.

And so, consistent with Dewans article here, guys who play deep generally score about the same as the shallow guys in terms of UZR, but because they are saving these base advancements, they outperform in DRS:




Player
Position
DRS
UZR





Span
Shallow
2
9.7





Revere
Shallow
-6
-1.9





Fowler
Shallow
-4
-1.5





DeJesus
Shallow
-5
2.3





Rasmus
Shallow
11
9.6





Saunders
Shallow
4
7.2





Jones
Shallow
0
-4.2





Jay
Shallow
-11
-6.7





Ruggiano
Shallow
-6
-3.2






Shallow Total
-15
11.3

Difference
-26.3


Jackson
Deep
6
-0.9





Lagares
Deep
24
17.6





Pagan
Deep
-8
-4.7





Blanco
Deep
4
7.2





De Aza
Deep
-18
-4





Hicks
Deep
2
-7.1






Deep Total
10
8.1

Difference
1.9






Am I understanding this correctly? Is there any reason to use UZR instead of DRS, for outfielders?

kab21
09-19-2013, 09:10 PM
As a little leaguer, my coaches drilled into me the idea of always taking an initial step back if not clearly judging the ball properly. I wonder if playing shallow and doing something like that mitigates the potential problems of playing so shallow.

Or maybe it was because we were dumb kids and that's the best option.

Anyway, that Denard quote cracks me up.

I think they gave that advice because you were inexperienced kids that couldn't judge fly balls very well. I played CF in HS and I played as shallow as possible. This was possible because I was sort of fast and I could run down almost every ball over my head. Athleticism helps but my gift was being able to run full speed to exactly the right spot.

One thing that could explain Twins CF'ers playing so deep for most of the last decade is that the corner OF'ers have been statues. If the corner OF'er has more range then the CF'er wouldn't need to be as concerned with alleys as much.