Assists by Position

In the post Should an upgrade at Catcher be a Rizzo Priority? #Nats, Section222 asked this question

One additional thought — do the available fielding stats show how many assists players had throwing to the different bases? It would be interesting to see how our IFs and OFs compare to other teams on throwing runners out at 3B or HP.

And Ghost paged me thinking I could answer it. Well, I can’t quite answer that question with the Game Day data, but I can tabulate how many plays involve multiple positions.

The Description field in the atbat table for the Game Day data contains values like

  1. Austin Jackson grounds out, shortstop Erick Aybar to first baseman Albert Pujols.
  2. Adeiny Hechavarria grounds into a double play, shortstop Andrelton Simmons to second baseman Jace Peterson to first baseman Freddie Freeman.   Marcell Ozuna out at 2nd.
  3. Ryan Howard doubles (2) on a line drive to right fielder Bryce Harper.  Chase Utley out at home on the throw, right fielder Bryce Harper to second baseman Danny Espinosa to catcher Wilson Ramos.
  4. Cody Asche singles on a sharp ground ball to right fielder Bryce Harper, deflected by first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.   Freddy Galvis to 3rd.

The graphs below were obtained by parsing this description field to search for text:

  1. pitcher
  2. catcher
  3. first baseman
  4. second baseman
  5. third baseman
  6. shortstop
  7. left fielder
  8. center fielder
  9. right fielder

And create an order field for what position was involved in the play based on where in the description each of the above text strings appear. So technically, these are not really counts of assists (see example 4 above which is a deflection); this is a tabulation of what combinations of players are involved and how many times that combination occurs. A few more notes about this:

  • Separate bar charts were done for each of the 9 positions – based on who touched the ball first.
  • Plays that did not involved multiple fielders (e.g., fly ball out, strike out, and so so) were excluded. Plays that involved a hit were included if, for example, there was a deflection or if a runner was thrown out (e.g., trying to advance to 3rd on a single, trying to stretch a single into a double, and so on).
  • There were actually quite a few more combinations. In the interests of making the graphs readable and not going over-board with too much detail, each chart has 12 bars with the 12th bar being all of combinations that occurred less frequently groups together.
  • Unfortunately the editor for creating posts did not allow me to lay them out like an actual field. This is as close as I could get.
    • First row is left, center , right
    • Second row is shortstop, second
    • Third row is third, pitcher, first
    • Fourth row is catcher
  • You can click on the thumbnail to see a full size image.
  • These charts are for all the games in 2015.
  • And I am sure it is no surprise that the first baseman has more second touches than any other position.










First Touched Other Positions Count Rank
Catcher First 62 4/30
Shortstop 9 6.5/30
Second 7 26.5/30
Third 4 5.5/27
Pitcher 1 7.5/12
Center Left 3 2/19
Second 3 3.5/20
First 2 2.5/11
Pitcher, First 1 1/1
Right 1 18/22
Second, Shortstop 1 1/1
First Pitcher 54 23/30
Second 13 6.5/30
Shortstop 9 28.5/30
Right 4 7/26
Shortstop, Pitcher 3 9.5/29
Shortstop, Second 2 3/6
Catcher 1 23/26
Second, Pitcher 1 7.5/11
Left Second 3 18/29
Catcher 2 18.5/26
Shortstop, Catcher 1 10/13
Third, Second, Shortstop 1 1.5/2
Pitcher First 143 7/30
Second 20 6/30
Shortstop 8 9/30
Third 8 1.5/30
Shortstop, First 7 19.5/30
Second, First 6 17/30
Right 2 2.5/5
Second, Shortstop, First 2 1.5/6
Third, First 2 4.5/17
Catcher 1 20.5/24
Center 1 19.5/24
First, Catcher 1 2.5/4
Second, Catcher 1 1/1
Second, Shortstop 1 6.5/11
Shortstop, Third 1 5/8
Third, Catcher 1 4.5/7
Right Shortstop 4 6.5/29
Catcher 2 12/25
Pitcher 2 1/1
Second 2 5.5/14
Second, Catcher 1 8/11
Shortstop, Second 1 2/3
Second First 329 18/30
Shortstop, First 37 7.5/30
Shortstop 28 14.5/30
Pitcher 5 4.5/26
Center 3 10.5/26
Right 3 14.5/28
Catcher 1 9/13
First, Shortstop, Third 1 1.5/2
Shortstop First 293 26/30
Second 54 8/30
Second, First 29 25.5/30
Center 3 13/29
Third 3 11/29
Catcher 2 11/20
Left 2 21.5/29
First, Third 1 1.5/2
Third First 182 30/30
Second 22 23/30
Second, First 15 27.5/30
Shortstop 6 10.5/29
Left 2 28/30
Pitcher 2 2/11
Pitcher, Shortstop, First 1 1/1
Shortstop, First 1 19.5/24

Now, lets take a look at the counts/numbers for the Nationals.

The columns included in the table are defined as follows:

  • First Touched is the position/player who first made contact with the batted ball.
  • Other Positions is the list of other positions/players who were involved in the play.
  • Count is how many such plays the Nationals had in 2015.
  • Rank is how the Nationals compared to the other 29 teams. The first number is the rank (largest values is a rank of 1). And the second number is how many teams had a comparable play. UPDATE: If multiple teams tied, the rank is now the average rank (e.g., if 5 teams tied for 2nd thru 6, they all have a rank of 4). Given how many ties there are this is probably clearer than ranking the Nats as 2nd which is what the first version did.

Consider some example of what these numbers mean using the data rows where the left fielder was the first player to touch the batted ball.

  • Nineteen teams had a play where the likely scenario was a basehit/error in which the center fielder picked up the ball after it was touched by the left fielder.Note also that the Nats ranks first in the number of such plays. However, there were three other teams that also had 3 such plays.
  • The Nats had 2 throws by the left fielder direct to the catcher and ranked 16th out of 26.

Suffice it to say that this is somewhat interesting. But I have to admit/acknowledge that I am not sure what insight that this provides.

Perhaps you, our readers, can fill in some details regarding how you might use this information.

If anyone is interested in seeing the text description in the Game Day data for any of these plays, just make a request in the comment section.

As long as there aren’t too many of them, that information will either be added to the post or as a reply to the comment.

Update 11:15am: Numbers have been reworked to deal with a logic error in how deflected balls were coded in the source data.

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