Researchers and bloggers of the Miami Marlins, such as myself, need your help, Fish Stripers! Every year, Tom Tango of the Book Blog holds the Fans Scouting Report, which is a collection of ballots from fans of each of the 30 teams in baseball. What are the ballots judging? Fans are asked to scout the fielding or defense for all of the players on their favorite teams. Here is Tango on the project:
There is an enormous amount of untapped knowledge here. There are 70 million fans at MLB parks every year, and a whole lot more watching the games on television. When I was a teenager, I had no problem picking out Tim Wallach as a great fielding 3B, a few years before MLB coaches did so. And, judging by the quantity of non-stop standing ovations Wallach received, I wasn't the only one in Montreal whose eyes did not deceive him. Rondel White, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Andre Dawson, Hubie Brooks, Ellis Valentine. We don't need stats to tell us which of these does not belong.
Fans are asked to judge those players in seven different categories:
- Reaction/Instincts: Your general approach out in the field, which likely encompasses things such as routes, properly judged jumps, and other aspects of "fundamental" defense
- Acceleration/First Steps: This is the quickness of your jump and how fast you get to top flight speed towards the ball
- Velocity/Sprint Speed: This is your top flight speed and closing distance on the ball
- Hands/Catching: This is what we generally consider as the "fielding errors" section, where you judge a player's glove capability and skill at handling grounders/flies once you are already in position.
- Release/Footwork: This is the first of three "arm" categories. Once you receive the ball, how well do you transfer, plant, and set up for the throw.
- Throwing Strength: Whatever it says on the tin. The strength of the player's throws.
- Throwing Accuracy: Whatever it says on the tin. The accuracy of the player's throws.
You are asked to judge the players on a scale of one to five on each category, and from there the Fans Scouting Report takes the conglomerate of the ratings and converts them to an overall score in a 0 to 100 scale, with 50 being league average and 20 points being one standard deviation.
The Fans Scouting Report is a valuable resource for bloggers like me, because it gives us a conglomeration of what is supposed to be objective scouting reports on players' defensive skills, rolled up into a neat number for comparison and analysis. Furthermore, it is supposed to be done by fans who watch these players on a day-to-day basis, so they have a good amount of experience in watching those players. And for those who think that fans cannot be trusted to provide good judgment, it does seem as if a group as small as 13 fans is still very reliable at least, and that reliability does bode well towards the potential for accuracy.
One final note before you submit a Marlins ballot, Tango notes that you should not use defensive statistics in your evaluation:
And, most importantly, do not, absolutely do not, look at any numbers. Don't look at his fielding percentage, range factor, zone rating, UZR, or anything else that someone else is telling you. I just want you to rely on your eyes. You are the scout. I need you to rely completely on your own observations.
Try to keep the UZR's and the DRS's away from the Fans Scouting Report, and use only your eyes to evaluate the players. Give it a try and vote today, and tell us how you voted in the comments. Later today, we'll discuss a few players in particular who merit defensive discussion in this 2012 season.