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Defensive Stats Getting their Due

Interesting article on the world of defensive statistics in the Seattle Times today. For starters, that a newspaper would take the issue seriously without resorting to cliches and snide asides regarding sabermetrics, stats, et al, is perhaps an indication that advanced statistical measurements are gaining acceptance among the last of the holdouts – the mainstream media.

That might be reading too much into it. The writer, Mariners beat writer Geoff Baker, is vastly more interested in this side of baseball than most beat writers (as you'll see in the story, he questioned Raul Ibanez about the quality of his defense according to sabermetric ratings – what other beat writers do that?). So, maybe it's just him. But still, it's good too see the discussion being raised in an outlet outside of Baseball Prospectus and the like.

More interesting, though, is the evolution of defensive statistics and what could be coming this season. MLB plans to install in every ballpark a Hit F/X system similar to its Pitch F/X system. Whereas Pitch F/X measures the speed and break of every pitch, Hit F/X would measure the speed and trajectory of every batted ball. Also, a couple of the major defensive stat providers plan to record the "hang time" of fly balls this year, which should provide a better assessment of whether a fielder should have gotten to a ball.

It's a good overview of the benefits and pitfalls of using defensive statistics. And if you want some background on the story and the writer's thinking about it, read Baker's blog.