I seem to have waded into the Hardball Times and I may never get out.
John Dewan is Bill James’ somewhat more pragmatic partner, and his attempt to harness the great cache of information that Baseball Info Solutions has harnessed the last three years in service of identifying what qualities make a good fielder have to be respected.
Dan Fox, in his review, gets pretty excited about some of the minutia, like whether Alfonso Soriano is better going to his right or left, or on balls in the air or on the ground. It would be so great to have confidence in these numbers, but even with all the safeguards and adjusters in place in TFB, the small samples and differing conditions for all players make it really really really hard to be definitive about objective defensive measures.
But this sytematic approach may teach us something we need to move to the next level. I’m not a naysayer at all. As Dan points out, the data is the thing here. How we massage it and to what ends is going to determine its value. My copy hasn’t come yet. I can’t wait.