Originally Posted by HaroMaster87
"Fielding averages? Utterly worthless as a yardstick. They are not only misleading, but deceiving. Take Zeke Bonura, the old White Sox first baseman, generally regarded as a poor fielder. The fielding averages showed that he led American League in fielding for three years. Why? Zeke had "good hands"! Anything he reached, he held. Result: an absence of errors. But he was also slow moving and did not cover much territory. Balls that a quicker man may have fielded went for base hits, but the fielding averages do not reflect this."
A la Ryne Sandberg...
I used to hear the Zeke Bonura example ued 40 years agowhen people were talking about fielding percentage being a questionable stat. I even read a Chicago Tribune columnist who wrote that Bonura had an errorless season, but he never moved for a ground ball to his right or left. I must have misread that, though, because when I looked it up, I found that Bonura made a lot of errors for a first baseman by today's standards. He was in double-digits in three of his seven seasons, although he only committed five as a rookie. Maybe he took so many throws for outs at first that he led the league in fielding percentage, but for his career, he was only slightly ahead of the league average. Baseball reference says his average was .992 for his career in which the league average was .991. Still, Bonura wasn't considered average defensively, as I understand it.
I don't think anyone in my lifetime has given much weight to fielding averages, especially for first basemen. Taking a perfect throw from a shortstop on a routine grounder holds the same weight as catching a foul pop up, catching a throw bare-handed that Mark Buehrle flipped between his legs or throwing out a runner at the plate after making a diving stop on a drawn-in infield.
Errors, on the other hand, are a red flag because they are plays that should have been made. But they dtill don't tell you much. An outfielder with a lot of errors might not be dropping fly balls. The highest number of outfield errors come from throws, which don't have to be that bad to get an error. If a throw bounces into a fielder who misses it, thr error is going to go to the thrower. In the outfield, you have more errors on balls that get by fielders or are fumbled by fielders after they hit the ground than dropped fly balls. And we've all seen outfielders who appear to be camped uner balls that land 10 feet behind them for hits. The line between a hit and an error can be a fine one, and when I was a kid, Ron Santo a few times bullied official scorers into changing his errors into hits.
In the end, errors are more useful in determning a pttcher's earned runs than determning who is a better fielder. And even then, there are earned runs where the pitchers should bear much of the blame. You can be a great fielder and make very few errors, but you don't have to be a great fielder to make very few errors.
All stats are out of context. Even contextual splits are a bit out of context. If you get a hit wiht a runner in scoring position because it hit the basseunner or dribbled halfway up the third baseline with a runner at second or came with your team down six with two outs in the ninth, it still looks the same as the one that broke a tie in the bottom of the eighth. But fielding stats are the most out of context of them all.