Perfect evidence of why stats are so important to give a more realistic evaluation of defense, as opposed to just going on observation alone, can be found in the Baseball Tonight Web Gem leaderboards, which have finally appeared on ESPN.com’s “Baseball Tonght Clubhouse” page after weeks of claiming on air that the leaderboards were there when they were actually not.

Because which major league team is at the top of the leaderboards for most web gems by a single team? Why none other than the Washington Nationals, with 17 appearances by one of their players on Baseball Tonight’s web gem sequence. Yes, the same Washington Nationals who are in fact probably the worst defensive team in all of baseball, by any statistical measure.

I can only presume that the Nats players have to dive so much because they reach the edge of their range so quickly.

8 Responses to “Exhibit A of why we need stats to properly evaluate defense”

  1. silverscreentest says:

    That’s 17 spectacular plays out of 2500(?) for the whole year so far. It measure number of web gems, not overall defense. A lot of them are probably Ryan Zimmerman who is a legit gold glover. At least one play was Justin Maxwell who would also be a legit gold glover if he could hit well enough to play regularly.

  2. Paul Moro says:

    silverscreen, that’s the point of the post. With the naked eye, we evaluate players’ defensive abilities primarily on how many diving catches they make (i.e. webgems). But in actuality, as Nick notes, webgems don’t tell you much. Because the best fielders get to the ball without having to dive, whereas those with less range are forced to hit the dirt.

  3. Robert Tyson says:

    Not sure if I am buying the whole “bad defense equals more great diving plays” theory. Guys like Ozzie Smith and Graig Nettles made diving stops all the time. Jim Edmonds was a very good outfielder who (according to some) didn’t have to dive, but chose to.

  4. I’m curious if the producer of Baseball Tonight is a Nats fan. The last time I checked, and this was around 2004, the guy who was running the show was a die-hard Phillies fan, and every once in a while the on-air talent would make jokes at his expense.

  5. No wonder the Nationals are so good.

  6. Paul Moro says:

    Robert, you’re right. I wasn’t clear about that. Obviously, great defensive players make thrilling plays too. The point is, just because they get put on tv, it doesn’t mean that they’re automatically good. That’s what the stats are for.

  7. I’ve seen tons of “web gems” that make the cut where the outfielder misreads a ball off the bat and recovers by making a diving play.

    John Kruk subsequently takes a great from eating his meatball sub to mumble something about “omg amazing play” and then goes back to punching Steve Phillips.

  8. Takes a “break”. Jesus Christ, I suck.

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