One of the best off-field developments in baseball this year was MLB bringing in pseudonymous saberist Tom Tango to work with their Statcast data, the product of player-tracking technology that promises to unlock such mysteries of the game as the relative values of positioning and reaction time, and in all make analytics a matter not of estimates but of precise measurement. This is exciting not just because Tango is a great baseball mind who’s worked with major-league teams and helped develop good, useful statistics like WAR and FIP, but because he’s very open about what he’s working on. (See here, for example.) This means that if he does discover some unified-field theory of defense, it will almost certainly end up out there for the public to use and even improve upon, rather than getting locked away for the use of cagey general managers.
This brings us around to a project Tango is working on now, the 14th annual Fan Scouting Report. The idea here is simple: Get a lot of baseball fans to record their observations and opinions about defense in a systematic way, and you’ll get some interesting, useful results due to wisdom-of-the-crowd effects. (As the site that obtained a Hall of Fame ballot, turned it over to readers, and got excellent results, we agree with this line of thinking.) This leads to fun stuff, like seeing which players fans think have the best arms or where fan observations conflict with advanced statistics, and also provides a just plain useful pool of data. Given that Tango is now working with technology that is essentially the Holy Grail of objective judgment, that data—a credible source of subjective judgment—is now more useful than ever.
Anyway, if you have a few minutes, head over to Tango’s site, check out all the interesting data he’s pulled together over the years, and grade out the players on the team or teams you know best, especially if you follow a team no one cares about. (It’s much easier to get a lot of people to rate the Boston Red Sox than the Chicago White Sox, for obvious reasons.) As he puts it:
We know the fans know what they are talking about. We know they know how to observe good and bad fielding. Now, I just want to know what the fans know. And, hopefully, so do you.