Perhaps more than any other area of baseball, measuring outfield defense has always been made more difficult simply because perception, in so many cases, is not reality. Which outfielder made the better play — the one who made a flying grab to catch the ball, or the one who made the exact same play look easy because he was faster or took a better route?
Cheap Jerseys You know which one of those plays made it onto nightly highlight reels for the last three decades, and for so much of that time, it was the eye test that ruled the day. But in the back of your mind, you always knew that there’s no such thing as style points when grading defense. You knew that sometimes the play that didn’t look like anything special was actually extremely special.
Of course, sometimes the plays that look great are exactly that, but we’ll get to that in a second. Today, we’re going to take what we hope is a step forward by introducing one of several new Statcast™ metrics we’ll roll out in 2017: Catch Probability. (See also: Hit Probability.) It’s a simple number that can be applied to every tracked batted ball to the outfield, and it’s on a scale of 0-100 percent, where a zero percent Catch Probability is “that ball is never, ever caught” and a 100 percent Catch Probability is “caught by everyone, always.”
That’s important, because we know that not every fly ball is created equally. An out may be an out in the scorebook, but there’s a very different amount of skill required to catch the lazy fly ball that has a 95 percent Catch Probability as opposed to the sinking liner that has a 10 percent Catch Probability. Regardless of how it “looks,” we should attempt to credit that difference in difficulty accordingly.
wholesale jerseys So that’s exactly what we’re doing. Since Statcast™ tells us the exact start position on the field for each fielder and also tracks the hang time of each batted ball, we know the two most important pieces of data to define the difficulty of a catch opportunity are: 1. How far did the fielder have to go? 2. How much time did he have to get there? (Which direction he was running is also important, and while it’s not incorporated right now, it will be rolled into the formula early in the season.)
For each of those two data points, there are important specifics to point out. First, we’re using “Distance Needed,” not actual “Distance Covered,” and that’s because a fielder who runs a poor route and artificially adds more feet to his path shouldn’t get extra credit. Second, we’re starting the clock at the pitcher’s release, not the point of batted ball contact, and we’re calling that Opportunity Time. Why? Because we’ve seen great fielders like Kevin Kiermaier specifically talk about reading the catcher’s signs to anticipate where the pitch will be and get a head start in that direction. That’s a skill, and that deserves credit.
Los Angeles Dodgers Jerseys You can see how these two measures add up to Catch Probability in the chart below, and you can use an interactive verstion right here.