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Just The Sports: Gary Cohen Was/Is Wrong

Just The Sports

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gary Cohen Was/Is Wrong

Sometime during the last two innings (either the eighth or ninth inning) of the Mets-Red Sox game, Gary Cohen, play-by-play announcer for the New York Mets said that Boston has the best defense in the major leagues this year. Of course he was basing this on the fact Boston has accumulated the least amount of errors and of course, he was also wrong in anointing the Red Sox as the team with the best defense.

The fact that Cohen has made this point repeatedly demonstrates that the memo about errors has not been circulated nearly enough and so I will do my part to spread the word about why looking at errors is an idiotic way to judge how good a defense is. That so few people will actually read this blog is superfluous.

An error is one statistic that baseball needs to rid itself of. It is ridiculous to attach so much weight on a statistic that is essentially a subjective value judgment about what a player should have done given the circumstances. Also, errors punished fielders for having the ability to get to a ball in the first place because to get an error, the fielder first has to be in the position to field the ball. Therefore, a player with limited range could conceivably go through a whole season without being charged with an error, but cost his team runs because of his inability to get to many balls.

In an effort to help Cohen avoid making the same mistake a fifth time, I will point him to the Baseball Prospectus website. There they have many defensive measures, but the one I will look at to refute Cohen's claim is a team's defensive efficiency. This statistic measures the rate at which a defense converts balls put into play into outs. By this measure, the Red Sox are not number one and are not even in the top ten. They are actually 12th with a defensive efficiency of .703.

The Detroit Tigers have the best team defense in the major leages with a defensive efficiency of .729.


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