Buster Olney wrote an ESPN column today (subscription required) about the latest Gold Glove awards and how difficult it is to evaluate fielding. He tells an interesting story of how coaches make their Gold Glove choices off the top of their heads, and he also criticizes some of the latest fielding stats.
Now, advanced fielding stats aren’t perfect, but Olney makes his case by first finding fault with Range Factor (which was created over 20 years ago) and then totally screwing up a description of the most advanced stats (like MGL’s Ultimate Zone Rating and John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system). Olney says, Other statistical measures depend on an evaluator sitting in the press box effectively gauging whether a fielder might have/should have reached a ball…
No they don’t, Buster! Companies like Baseball Info Solutions do track where each ball lands on a field, and they then calculate how often each ball batted in that location was fielded for an out (they also factor in how hard the ball was hit, and what type of batted ball it was). Fielders are compared those average outcomes and then ranked accordingly. No one sits in a pressbox and determines whether a ball should have been caught or not.
The disappointing thing is that Olney has covered the majors for years. How can he not know this????