You’re With Me, All-Leather

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Updated: January 17, 2016

You’re With Me All-Leather

by Stevedores_Fan_Bob

For the first time, bloggers have been awarded votes in certain PEBA Awards.  Always a forward-thinking league, the PEBA home offices have recognized the impending death of traditional print media, and the ‘it’ and ‘cool’ factor associated with baseball bloggers.  To further bring the voting process into the 21st century, I, Stevedores_Fan_Bob, your not-as-prolific-as-I-used-to-be Longshoremen blogger, am making public my ballots for the All-Leather Awards.  These awards are, in my opinion, the ones about which there can be the most healthy debate.

PEBA's Leather Afficionado

4-time All-Leather Award Winner Eric Jacobs

In short (and I will expound as I explain my ballot), here are the points that I generally analyze when filling out my ballot:

Rule 1: Advanced Defensive Metrics like Zone Rating and Efficiency

Rule 2: King of the Mountain (incumbents have to be forcefully unseated)

Rule 3: Team Defense (a new consideration for me this season)

Rule 4: Being a Homer (I’m a Longshoremen fan, first and foremost and will generally vote for any Longshoreman that has a reasonable argument for the award.)

So without further ado, here’s my ballot, Imperial League first:

P- Iwane Sato (-1.6 ZR, .919 Individual Efficiency), RGV (+18.3, 72.3% Team Eff): Pitching All-Leather Awards are totally useless. The sample sizes are so ridiculously small as to be meaningless. I generally vote for pitchers that I like.  While I’ll play homer on the Sovereign League Awards, I used something new this year in the Imperial League, based on current sabermetric thought. I identified the team that had the best team defense (RGV, with a 72.3% Def Eff, arguably, although I could have gone with team ZR, which liked Marseilles with a +45.8) and picked a starting pitcher with good defensive stats.  WHO WON: Terry Dumont (-0.1, 1.026), Dayton (+3.6 ZR, 70.5% Team Eff): Well, he had a lot of total chances, so there’s that. Meh.

C- Yoshihisa Tanaka (139 G, 20 RTO/54 SBA (37% RTO%), 4 PB), Dayton (+3.6 ZR, 70.5% Team Eff): I consider the advanced catcher defensive metrics that we get to be a waste based on some sabermetric articles I read about the time they were developed. I value how a catcher controls the running game, and to a lesser extent, passed balls (although the PB differences are generally de minimis enough that they don’t matter). For me, running game control includes suppressing SBA as well as RTO%. Tanaka was good on all counts, played enough games, and passed the eye test. WHO WON: Tanaka.

1B – Carlos Miranda (130 G, +4.5, 1.042), Hartford (+21.0, 70.6% Team Eff): Only slightly more important than the pitching award. At least we don’t have the sample size issues here. For all positions, I generally look at the players with the “most” playing time, and prefer those with high ZRs and Eff ratings (even though I’m not sure what Eff ratings are intended to convey). Because I believe that representative sample sizes are so big for ZR (and presumably for the mysterious Eff), I won’t necessarily take the highest of either metric if two or three players are in the same ballpark for those stats. Past All-Leather Awards (so long as deserved) and recent past performance weigh into my analysis too. Here, Miranda’s 130 games, +4.5 ZR, and 1.042 Eff carried the day. I am starting to consider team defense, too, although I didn’t for this position. WHO WON: Miranda

2B – Ruben Diaz (132 G, +14.0, 1.052), Havana (-23.2, 68.2%): Our first All-Leather vote for someone on a crappy defensive team. While Diaz is certainly a worthy choice, this was a pretty weak ballot, honestly. Tony Brown (133 G, +7.2, 1.027 Eff) was the only other guy even close to Diaz, whose numbers were good, but not historically great. WHO WON: Diaz.

3B – Eric Jacobs (148 G, +9.2, 1.039), Amsterdam (-42.9, 69%): An even crappier defensive team gets one of my All-Leather votes. Jacobs has now won the last four SL All-Leather Awards at 3B, and didn’t have any real challengers in another weak field. WHO WON: Jacobs.

SS-Leon Brunelle (158, +12.0, 1.040), Marseille (+45.8, 70.7%): Chalk one up for preparing this analysis – it caused me to change my vote. I was all set to vote for 2019 and 2020 winner Phil Anderson (159 G, +8.7, 1.026), Charleston (-22.3, 69.8%) before giving another look to Smooth. The rather marginal difference in Brunellle’s defensive metrics, Anderson’s increasing error-proneness, and Marseille’s status as a team with an elite defense were together enough to overcome my prejudice for making someone knock an All-Leather incumbent who still puts up good defensive performances off the mountain. With CF, I consider this the most important of the All-Leather Awards, and the one to which I pay the most attention. WHO WON: Bartolo Chavez (114 G, +11.4, 1.050), New Orleans (+34.2, 68.8%):   By this year’s defensive metrics, this is a solid choice, but Chavez’s low number of games played were a deal-killer for me.  Plus, he was a merely adequate shortstop  just last season, so it’s hard not to look at this year’s defensive numbers and not think there’s some sort of fluke factor there.

LF – Dave Nash (+7.1, 1.035), New Orleans (+34.2, 68.8%): So I overcame my prejudice here, and awarded my vote to Nash over now 4-time defending All-Leather LF Don Mercer (+6.6, 1.034) despite similar playing time and defensive metrics. I don’t have a good reason for this minor departure from my well-developed process. The vagaries of defensive metrics mean never having to say you’re sorry. Sue me. WON WON: Mercer.

CF – Johnny Dand (+8.4, 1.028), San Antonio (+10.5, 72%): Honestly, this is a pretty disappointing metric for a CF who played 159 games. ZR, like WAR, is cumulative, after all, and therefore greatly affected by playing time. Miguel Yanez (+10.4, 1.040) had a better season, but has been a very inconsistent defensive center fielder on a year-to-year basis, ranging from average to outstanding. Arthur Collins and Rick Chapman, the only CFs with comparable playing time, are butchers out there. WHO WON: Don Chapman (116 G, +17.6, 1.078), Maresille (+45.8, 70.7%). This one’s not so bad. Truth be told, Chapman was almost certainly the best defensive CF to play in PEBA this season, with eye-popping ZR metrics given his limited playing time. That limited playing time is the rub, and why I didn’t vote for him. By hitting 168/207/271, Chapman indicated that there are limits to how weak a bat a golden glove will allow you to carry.

RF – Robin Baldwin (+6.2, 1.032), Marseille (+45.8, 70.7%): This is a bit of a lifetime achievement award given to a player whose past defensive metrics were better than this season’s, as Baldwin has never really played enough games at any one outfield position to merit my consideration. This position featured a lot of adequate-to-good defenders, but no great ones. WHO WON: Baldwin.

SL All-Leather Ballot:

P- Armando Gallegos (-0.2, 1.026), Canton (-23.4, 67.8%): So I’m a homer.  Pitching All-Leather Awards are stupid. Gallegos looks like an athlete and induces a lot of groundballs.  That’s a bigger contribution to defense than the 50-60 total chances that the “top” “fielding” pitchers record.  Also, Gallegos won one of these back in 2016, and needs a second one to balance out his mantle. WHO WON: Ricardo Aguilar (+2.0, 1.121), Duluth (-7.1, 70.6%). Meh. Who cares. It’s like a participation trophy.

C- Bob Turley (130 G, 18 RTO/45 SBS, 40% RTO%), Tempe (+24.9, 67.5%): It’s a close two man race, with Turley suppressing the running game more than Jesus Negrete both by throwing a higher percentage of guys out, and convincing less runners to attempt steals by his mere presence behind the dish.  Negrete gave up 3 passed balls and Turley gave up 6.  You can’t go wrong with either guy.  Turley, the incumbent, gets my vote again. WHO WON: Negrete.

1B- Wilson Munoz (141 G, +4.6, +1.042), Crystal Lake (-0.4, 71.4%): Munoz is a very good defensive first baseman in a league with a lot of adequate guys, but no one to really challenge him for the title for the best defensive player not good enough to play a real defensive position. WHO WON: Jamie Boyd (-2.0, .984), Bakersfield (-42.6, 70.4%), a subpar first baseman on a team with very little range, if the zone rating metrics are to be believed.  This would be a travesty at a real defensive position, but at first base, its neither surprising, nor the end of the world.

2B – Alfonso Reyna (159 G, +10.6, 1.036), Tempe (+24.9, 67.5%): Another incumbent gets the vote here.  There were other good keystone sackers, but none with the metrics that Reyna put up. WHO WON: Reyna.

3B – Toshiyuki Yoshida (155 G, +16.4, 1.070), Niihama-shi (+14.8, 70.3%): In what may have been the toughest choice on either ballot, Yoshida’s fantastic season beat out last year’s incumbent, Tsukasa Okada and another former All-Leather winner at the position, Kurt Keller.  Either of those runners-up would have probably won the Imperial League Award. WHO WON: Yoshida.

SS- Brian Coleman (134 G, +7.0, 1.025), Tempe (+24.9, 67.5%): Reyna’s double play partner gets my vote at SS, despite having an off year according to the defensive metrics.  Incumbency means something.  Juan Hernandez, among others, made this a tough choice. WHO WON: Hernandez.

LF – River Pope, Aurora (124 G, +10.3, 1.069):  Pope lapped the field in the new-fangled defensive stats enough to overcome playing only 124 games at the position. WHO WON: Gabriel Martinez (152 G, -3.4, 0.986), Canton (-23.4, 67.8%):   OK, This one is not quite spit-take inducing but it’s controversial if you believe in the newer defensive metrics, as Martinez’s range as seen by ZR is subpar, while his Range Factor (2.40) was the best of all those on the ballot. So Martinez either is rangy or not-quite-a-statue, depending upon which range metric you believe. This debate actually pits the new-fangled defensive statistics (Zone Rating and Defensive Efficiency) against the older new-fangled defensive statistics (Range) and some old guard statistics (Baserunner kills, Total Chances, Errors) in a stark light.  Among those on the ballot, here’s how Martinez and Pope compare in some stats:

Innings: Martinez 1317 (1st), Pope 1102 (5th)

Range (Factor): Martinez 2.40 (1st), Pope 1.98 (7th)

Fielding Percentage: Martinez .983 (5th), Pope (9th)

Total Chances: Martinez 358 (1st), Pope 251 (6th)

Total Chances per Inning: Martinez 1st (0.27), Pope 0.23 (6th)

Total Chances per Error: Martinez 59.7 (5th), Pope 31.4 (9th)

Zone Rating: Pope +10.3 (1st), Martinez -3.4 (7th)

Defensive Efficiency: Pope 1.069 (1st), Martinez 0.986 (7th)

So, which statistics matter? This is a tough decision if you give credence to old guard defensive stats at all, and I’m now reconsidering how I should have voted – see Rule 4 above, and for that matter, Rule 2, as Gabriel Martinez won his second straight.

CF – Michael Demers (155 G, +14.6, 1.049), Canton (-23.4, 67.8%): Demers won this award in 2020, and injuries likely cost him the award last season.  He was as proficient with the glove this year as everm and was a worthy choice. WHO WON: Javier Cruz (128 G, +9.8, 1.042), Yuma (-16.3, 69.1%): Unless you care about games played (and I do), this wasn’t the worst choice.  Indeed, Cruz was practically Demers doppelganger – He, too had a previous All—Leather Award, and his sabermetric defensive stats were dead ringers for Demers’.

RF – Joe Kenny (150 G, +5.3, 1.027), Duluth (-7.1, 70.6%): Kenny was the best of a good, but not great, lot of right fielders. He led the position in innings, total chances, baserunner kills, ZR. . . and errors. WHO WON: Kojuro Ishiyama (132 G, +2.6, 1.017) Okinawa (+22.0, 71.0%): This isn’t a bad choice, Ishiyama is a less error-prone outfielder than Kenny, but got to less balls and threw out less baserunners.  All in all, this award is rightfully a toss-up between Kenny and Ishiyama.