Golden Gloves Part 2, outfielders

Yuki Yanagita unleashes a throw while playing for the national team.

Of my six picks for outfield Golden Gloves, four were elected. The other two missed selection by 100 votes apiece.

My picks, their final vote totals placing in the poll of Japan’s baseball media and overall rankings in their league from baseball analytics site Delta Graphs. Unless noted all players are center fielders
Central League
Yohei Oshima, Chunichi Dragons (177) 2nd, DG CF 2
Ryosuke Hirata, Chunichi Dragons (139) 3rd, DG RF 1
Masayuki Kuwahara, DeNA BayStars (38) 7th, DG CF 1

Others:
Yoshihiro Maru, Hiroshima Carp (230) 1st, DG CF 4
Seiya Suzuki, Hiroshima Carp (102) 4th, DG RF 3
Takayoshi Noma, Hiroshima Carp (61) 5th, DG LF 1
Norichika Aoki, Yakult Swallows (39) 6th, DG CF 3

Pacific League
Yuki Yanagita, SoftBank Hawks (156) 2nd, DG CF 3
Haruki Nishikawa, Nippon Ham Fighters (143) 3rd, DG CF 2
Kazuki Tanaka, Rakuten Eagles (29) 5th, DG CF 1

Others:
Shogo Akiyama, Seibu Lions (216) 1st, DG CF 4
Seiji Uebayashi, SoftBank Hawks (134) 4th, DG RF 2



My votes started using defensive win shares and pretty much moved straight on from there. Outfield defensive win shares are about the weakest part of the entire system in my opinion. Because win shares tries to establish a cumulative positive value with no rental cost for taking up playing time, one will see left fielders who play everyday get listed above center fielders who contribute much more defensively but who play fewer innings.

So I make a slight adjustment for playing time and I also consulted analytic site Delta Graphs to make my choices. Unfortunately, their analysis of defensive contribution over 1,200 defensive innings produced exactly the same results as Bill James’ team-oriented-holistic approach. DG uses Arm ratings and UZR — which I can’t calculate, but this year I have some interesting data about how many times runners advanced against each team on plays to the three different outfield positions. This data is cumulative. If there is a single with a runner on first and and the lead runner advances to third and the batter remains on first that’s coded as “R1 > R13.” Hits with two outs are different from those with fewer than two, so they are treated separately.

I currently have only cleaned up my 2018 data set, so their is more noise than a data set looking at two years worth of data points.

My decision to exclude Shogo Akiyama, who won his fourth straight Golden Glove, received the most attention, one twitter follower pointing out the disparity in the vote totals amassed. One does have to respect that more members of the baseball media voted for Akiyama.

But, let’s compare what little evidence I have:
The Hawks pitchers’ were slightly more likely to get infield ground outs than outfield fly outs than the Lions.

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The Hawks’ center fielders fielded 20 fewer singles and 14 more extra-base hits, suggesting Akiyama might be better at cutting off balls in the gaps than Yanagita and his cohorts. Akiyama appears to have made a slightly higher percentage of potential catches — although that’s guessing. Delta Graphs gave Yanagita a higher UZR rating than Akiyama.

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Here’s how the teams’ center fielders interacted with base runners after a single to center with fewer than two outs and a runner on first:

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And here they were with two outs:

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And with a runner on 2nd with fewer than two outs:

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And with a runner on 2nd with two outs:

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As a group, the Hawks center fielders had 10 assists, took part in four double plays and made three errors. Akiyama appears to be easier to run on, had four assists, took part in one double play and made four errors. He’s pretty good at going and getting balls, but he doesn’t have a great arm.

With runners on 1st and 2nd with fewer than two outs, four runs scored against the Hawks on 10 singles to center, while two outs were made.

Against Akiyama, seven runs scored on 14 singles without an out being recorded.



Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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