Felix Pie Is Probably A Better Left-Fielder Than Nolan Reimold

I don’t want to make a habit of this, but Roch said some stuff again*, regarding an article he read at FanGraphs about the O’s outfield depth:

“Also, any discussions about Felix Pie’s defensive superiority must be confined to center field. The guy was atrocious in left.

I’m not saying Nolan Reimold is ready to win a Gold Glove over there, but Pie hardly represents a significant upgrade.”

* I wouldn’t even be reading, but there’s not a lot going on now in baseball and I was kind of bored. I should really just refrain. Same reason I try not to listen to C-SPAN on the radio – I end up yelling at my dashboard too often. And that just makes me look like a crazy person to the people around me. Perhaps like this will.

Um…

LF UZR/150

Pie: +19.4 runs in ’09, +15.3 career
Reimold: -17.3 runs (in ’09/career)

CF UZR/150

Pie: +5.3 runs in ’09, +8.3 runs career

Also, judging by what I said at mid-season, Pie was at +7.5 UZR/150 at that time so it’s not like he started out the year really struggling.

The standard fielding adjustments indicate that a guy should be about 10 runs better in a corner than in center, so that difference for Pie between the two positions makes sense (and is the opposite of what Roch said). Now UZR isn’t perfect and the sample sizes aren’t huge, but a gap of over 30 runs per 150 games between Reimold and Pie and you want to tell me that Nolan (not accounting for Achilles injury, which I suspect hampered him a little) is in his league as a defender in left-field? Just throw that out there as a definitive statement based on your own observations and nothing else? I don’t think so.

Don’t like stats? How about the Fan Scouting Report then? Pie was not only rated better overall – by the fans, using their own eyes – but he was rated better in every single aspect of fielding from reactions/instincts to speed to hands to release/footwork to throwing strength and accuracy. That doesn’t differentiate between positions, but I have a hard time believing someone who is “atrocious” in half of his time on defense would be rated so highly.

CHONE projects Pie as a +8 defender next year, and Reimold as a -2. Felix is very probably a better fielder than Nolan. He’s a better center-fielder, and he’s a better left-fielder.

Someone made some of these points to Roch, and he responded thusly:

“I’m late responding because I was driving, but I’ll trust my eyes over any outfield “stats.” Pie was terrible in left, then showed some improvement later in the season. He hadn’t played the position, so it’s understandable. He had trouble taking the proper routes and just looked uncomfortable out there. Reimold was hobbled most of the season with a variety of ailments, which impacted his ability to make plays. Again, not saying he’s Gold Glove material, but to act like Pie is head and shoulders above Reimold in left is ridiculous”

And then later:

“Gee, I’m so glad there are defensive stats out there to disprove everything I saw, and what everyone else saw who sat in the press box every night. I’m well aware that Pie had to adjust to a new position, as I wrote to another reader, and he improved as the season went along. I’m not new to the beat. But VASTLY superior? I guess we’ll agree to disagree. And I guess we’rel discounting Reimold’s various leg and Achilles ailments while judging him. Pie is much better in center field. That’s my major point. Sorry if atrocious ruffled a few feathers. At least I didn’t say putrid.”

Nice use of scare quotes around stats. Just to be clear, it’s a statistic regardless of how correct you think it is.You’d think a “professional”* would realize that.

* See what I did there?

If Pie is much better in center-field, than he is very likely to be much better in left-field. That’s generally how it works. If he wants to make the claim that Pie’s instincts are worse in LF, then I’d accept that. Assuming the Fans weighed both positions about equally when making submissions, Pie’s 2.8 reactions/instinct score could easily be a 4 in CF and a 1.6 in LF (to Reimold’s 2.3). There are many other aspects of fielding though, and Pie seems to excel at those. I will also point out that you can’t use Reimold’s Achilles thing since you’re talking about what you saw happen. You didn’t see a healthy Reimold play better defense in some alternate universe. The false equivalence between Pie adjusting to LF and Reimold being hurt makes no sense, since the implication is that Reimold is better than the stats say. But then, wouldn’t that imply the Pie is better than the stats say as well and so their relative positions aren’t likely to change? It’s just a bunch of hog-wash.

The difference is that Roch says he’s right because he says so (with complete certainty), and I say that I’m probably right because the best estimate of what happened on the field using stats as well as the aggregate opinion of many O’s fans who actually watched the players both say so.

As I said when I started blogging here:

And there will be frequent occurrences of words like “pretty much”, “about”, “somewhat” and so forth….

“The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice.” – Bertrand Russell

So I won’t say that Roch is wrong and a pompous fool, but I will say that I think he’s very probably wrong and came off sounding a bit like a pompous fool. See the difference?