Ball Hogging and Player Won-Lost Records: The Case of Garry Maddox
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
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|CAREER (reg. season)|| || |
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|PostSeason (career)|| || |
|3.0||3.5||0.464|| ||-0.1||3.1||3.4||0.476|| ||0.0|
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|COMBINED|| || |
Garry Maddox won 8 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1975 through 1982 and was considered the gold standard of centerfield defense.
Garry Maddox's Fielding
My Player won-lost records, on the other hand, show Garry Maddox to have been an average defensive centerfielder over the course of his career. Maddox's fielding Player won-lost record in center field is shown in the next table (Maddox also played a total of 219 innings at a corner outfield spot - all but 1 inning in his rookie season).
Now, as anyone familiar with Gold Gloves knows, they are not necessarily the best measure of fielding prowess - far from it in many cases. And similarly, one of the lessons of modern fielding metrics is that looks can frequently be deceiving when it comes to judging major-league fielding ability.
But other fielding metrics, such as Michael Humphreys' DRA and Sean Smith's DRS, both agree with the consensus of the time: Garry Maddox was a great centerfielder. For example, Maddox led his league in DRS among centerfielders 4 times (1976, 1978-80) and finished second 3 other times (1975, 1977, 1981).
Player Won-Lost Records vs. Other Defensive Systems
This concerned me: it seemed like an obvious mistake on the part of my Player won-lost records. But then I read Michael Humphreys' entry on Garry Maddox in his book:
"[Maddox] was at best an average fielder when he came up with the Giants. Traded to the Phillies, he played next to possibly the worst outfielder of all time: Greg "The Bull" Luzinski. On almost all teams, the centerfielder takes all chances in the outfield that he can, including soft flies that could be handled in the gaps by the corner outfielders. But with The Bull, Maddox may have taken what would normally be fly ball chances of the left fielder. Maddux had only one good season when he wasn't playing next to Luzinski, the strike-shortened 1981." (Wizardry, p. 302)
Let me compare how Maddox rates in DRA, DRS, and Player won-lost records.
In order to compare DRA and DRS with Player won-lost records I normalized DRA, DRS, and net fielding wins (NFW) as calculated by me. To do this, I created "z-scores" associated with all three statistics. The basic formula for a z-score of variable x is (x - m) / s, where m is the mean of the statistic and s is the standard deviation. I calculated z-scores for each player for all three fielding stats using a value of m equal to zero (since all three of these statistics are constructed to be relative to league average by construction).
For his career, Garry Maddox's z-score in DRA is 1.279 and for DRS it's 1.296. This means that both DRA and DRS rate Maddox as having been 1.3 standard deviations above average over the course of his career, which is an outstanding total (top 5 among centerfielders with 10,000 or more innings from 1952 - 2009 in both cases). But for Fielding Player won-lost records, his net fielding wins earn a z-score of -0.433 (-0.074 for Component 5, which measures whether balls in play become hits or outs).
Here's how Garry Maddox's record looks in DRA, DRS, and my net fielding wins (Component 5 only, NFW5) season by season. The seasons where Maddox was not teamed with Luzinski are bolded.
My Component 5 numbers for Maddox are much more stable with and without Greg Luzinski as a teammate. This stability of Maddox's Component 5 numbers suggests to me that my system does well in dealing with "ball hogs". Maddox is not being over-valued in my system, as compared to DRA and DRS, because he caught an inordinate number of fly balls to left-center field.
My numbers are more stable than DRA and DRS, but does that mean that my numbers are correct?
Let me pick out one season. I don't claim this season is representative, it's just the first one that I looked at. According to Player won-lost records, the 1979 Phillies accumulated a total of approximately 1.2 net fielding wins overall and the Phillies outfield accumulated approximately -0.6 net fielding wins. This ranked them 7th in the National League that year in net fielding wins. According to Baseball-Reference.com, on the other hand, the Phillies led the National League in Defensive Runs Saved with +54, with their starting outfield scoring a combined +24 (+26 by Maddox, +18 by Bake McBride, and -20 by Luzinski).
At the team level, we should be able to get a pretty good sense of how good a team's defense is by looking at the team's Defensive Efficiency Rating (DER, the percentage of balls-in-play turned into outs) (especially with regard to Component 5). According to Baseball-Reference, the Phillies ranked 6th in the NL in DER in 1979 at 0.703 vs. a league-wide value of 0.700. Those numbers are right in line with my assessment of Phillies' team fielding. On the other hand, it seems somewhat unlikely to me that the best defensive team in the National League would be merely average at converting balls in play into outs.
The above analysis, while entirely true, is, perhaps, somewhat misleading. The analysis above focused only on what I call Component 5 - the ability to convert balls in play into outs. Another component of my fielding is Component 6 - whether hits-in-play end up as singles, doubles, or triples.
The next table shows Garry Maddox's Component 6 fielding record (as a CF only) divided into three segments: as a San Francisco Giant (at ages 22 - 25), as a teammate of Greg Luzinski (at ages 25 - 30), and as a Philadelphia Phillie without Luzinski as a teammate (at ages 31 - 36). The data here are all context-neutral and teammate-adjusted (although "teammate-adjusted" in my system means controlling for the team's pitchers, not for the other outfielders)
|San Francisco Giants||1.5||1.3||0.527||0.2|
While Maddox's Component 5 records are very stable with and without Luzinski, the same does not seem to be the case with respect to Component 6 - the extent to which hits on balls in play become doubles or triples. Although, while Maddox was better in Component 6 fielding without Luzinski as a teammate, this was mostly because he was good at preventing extra-base hits as a very young man playing with the San Francisco Giants. Even after Luzinski left the Phillies, Maddox remained below average in Component 6 fielding (outside of the 1982 season).
Hits Allowed by the 1979 Philadelphia Phillies
Returning to the 1979 Phillies, the Phillies led the National League in 1979 in both doubles (274, 2nd place was the Pirates with 260) and triples (59, next highest was the Cubs with 55) allowed. In contrast, the Phillies were one of only two National League teams in 1979 to allow fewer than 1,000 singles (987; the Houston Astros led the NL with 963 singles allowed).
If Garry Maddox was routinely running down doubles and triples that were Luzinski's fault, I may be under-rating Maddox and over-rating Luzinski. To try to assess this and dig a bit deeper into the Component 6 results, I took a closer look at all of the triples allowed in the National League in 1979. Leaguewide, I am able to identify a specific outfielder as the first fielder to handle 473 of the 518 triples hit in the National League in 1979 (91.3%). Of those triples for whom I can identify a specific outfielder, they broke down LF-CF-RF as follows 19.5% - 33.2% - 47.4%. This is what I would expect. Triples are most common to RF because the RF has a longer throw to 3B. The deepest part of most ballparks is CF, leading to the reasonably high number of triples to center. But triples to left field are relatively rare (92 of 473 identified triples in the 1979 NL) because the throw from left field to third base is relatively short.
I am able to identify a specific outfielder as the first fielder to handle 58 of the 59 triples allowed by the 1979 Phillies. The percentage breakdown by field, from LF to RF, was 15.5% - 46.6% - 37.9%. In other words, the vast majority of the "extra" triples allowed by the 1979 Phillies were hit to center field - or, more accurately, were eventually fielded by Garry Maddox (although 2 of the 27 triples hit to CF against the Phillies in 1979 were hit while Greg Gross was playing CF).
But were all of those triples Garry Maddox's "fault"?
One possible problem that my system might be having with the Luzinski/Maddox outfields could be if Maddox ended up tracking down a fair number of hits that were Luzinski's fault. Under my system, one key (perhaps "the key") defining characteristic of balls-in-play is the first fielder to touch the ball. Specifically, certain assumptions about the probability that a play could have been turned into an out and by whom are calculated based on who the first fielder was to touch the ball. So, for example, if a triple is fielded by the center fielder, the system assigns more "blame" for that triple to the center fielder than to the adjoining fielders.
Location data for balls in play in 1979 are extremely sparse. Of the 518 triples hit in the National League in 1979, 14 of them (2.7%) were identified as having been hit to left-center field and 22 (4.2%) were identified as having been hit to right-center field. For the Phillies, only 1 of the 59 triples they allowed was identified as having been hit to left-center field (1.7%) with 4 identified as having been hit to right-center field (6.8%). The evidence does not support the theory that Maddox is being charged with a lot of triples that should have been played by Luzinski, but, really, the data are simply too sparse to tell us anything (Maddox is credited as the "first fielder" on the one triple known to have gone to left-center field allowed by the 1979 Phillies - in the top of the 6th inning of this game).
Another possibility could be that Maddox had to shade more heavily to left field to cover for Luzinski (his right fielder most of this time was Bake McBride, who was a very good defensive outfielder - he even played over 3,000 innings in centerfield in his career), which helped convert some fly balls to outs but which resulted in more extra base hits on some balls that could, perhaps, have been cut off (or even caught) by somebody playing a more conventional centerfield. In other words, Maddox's Component 6 numbers may be "legitimate" in the sense that he did allow more extra-base hits than a conventional centerfielder but this may have still been because of Luzinski's presence.
While the data here suggest there may be some issues in who Player won-lost records "blames" for the extra-base hits allowed by the Phillies of this era, it is important to keep in mind that Component 5 is by far the more important factor than Component 6, as can be seen in the table showing Garry Maddox's career fielding record which I presented earlier.
Overall, I find the results here very interesting. I am somewhat reluctant to claim that I have established definitively that Garry Maddox was wildly overrated as a defensive centerfielder. But he might have been.
All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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