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Sabermetric Fielding: Adam Everett’s Legendary 2006

Posted by Neil Paine on May 12, 2010

(Note: All of the data in this post was obtained from the new Baseball-Reference Fielding Stats.)

Sometimes a player has a season so magnificent that it becomes truly legendary. A batting example would be Babe Ruth's 1920, when he had more home runs by himself than any other team in the American League. For basestealers, Rickey Henderson's 130-steal 1982 campaign has gone down in history as the most prolific in modern history. And for pitchers, you have Pedro Martinez's 2000, when he posted a 1.74 ERA in a league where the average was 4.91. All of these feats have been justifiably lionized over the years for their brilliance, but where's the love for the greatest fielding performance of the postwar era?

I'm talking, of course, about Adam Everett's 2006 season, the greatest fielding season in terms of runs above positional average since 1952:

Rank Player (age that year) Total Zone Runs Year Throws
1 Adam Everett (29) 40 2006 R
2 Darin Erstad (28) 39 2002 L
3 Jose Cruz (29) 38 2003 R
4 Andruw Jones (22) 36 1999 R
5 Mark Belanger (31) 35 1975 R
Andruw Jones (21) 35 1998 R
7 Rey Ordonez (28) 33 1999 R
Brooks Robinson+ (31) 33 1968 R
9 Ken Griffey (26) 32 1996 L
Brooks Robinson+ (30) 32 1967 R
Ozzie Smith+ (34) 32 1989 R
Robin Ventura (30) 32 1998 R
13 Brandon Inge (29) 31 2006 R
Jim Piersall (26) 31 1956 R
Randy Winn (35) 31 2009 R
16 Buddy Bell (27) 30 1979 R
Clete Boyer (24) 30 1961 R
Darin Erstad (25) 30 1999 L
Graig Nettles (26) 30 1971 R
Aurelio Rodriguez (22) 30 1970 R
21 Adrian Beltre (25) 29 2004 R
Willie Davis (24) 29 1964 L
Darin Erstad (26) 29 2000 L
Bobby Grich (24) 29 1973 R
Franklin Gutierrez (26) 29 2009 R
Al Kaline+ (26) 29 1961 R
Pokey Reese (26) 29 1999 R

That he did it at the game's most demanding non-catcher position makes his feat even more astonishing. Here are the greatest shortstop seasons since '52 by TotalZone runs above average:

Rank Player (age that year) Total Zone Runs as SS Year Throws
1 Adam Everett (29) 40 2006 R
2 Mark Belanger (31) 35 1975 R
3 Rey Ordonez (28) 33 1999 R
4 Ozzie Smith+ (34) 32 1989 R
5 Ozzie Guillen (23) 28 1987 R
6 Luis Aparicio+ (26) 27 1960 R
Mark Belanger (24) 27 1968 R
Ron Hansen (26) 27 1964 R
9 Mark Belanger (29) 26 1973 R
Mark Belanger (34) 26 1978 R
Rey Sanchez (33) 26 2001 R
12 Ron Hansen (25) 25 1963 R
13 Mark Belanger (32) 24 1976 R
Mark Belanger (33) 24 1977 R
15 Ernie Banks+ (28) 23 1959 R
Cal Ripken+ (23) 23 1984 R
John Valentin (28) 23 1995 R
Omar Vizquel (40) 23 2007 R
19 Bucky Dent (27) 22 1979 R
Yunel Escobar (26) 22 2009 R
Ozzie Guillen (24) 22 1988 R
Cal Ripken+ (29) 22 1990 R
Cal Ripken+ (30) 22 1991 R
Cal Ripken+ (34) 22 1995 R
Rey Sanchez (31) 22 1999 R
Rey Sanchez (32) 22 2000 R
John Valentin (26) 22 1993 R

A Gold Glove-caliber shortstop season is typically around +15 runs, and Everett had nearly three times that many in 2006! Everett, while a legit GG-like SS in 2004 & 2005, had never approached that +40 figure before and hasn't since, but for one magical season he was as fine a fielder as anyone in the postwar era has been.

9 Responses to “Sabermetric Fielding: Adam Everett’s Legendary 2006”

  1. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Odd that Andy Pettitte didn't pitch nearly as well in '06 as he had in '05. As a lefty groundballer with an average K-rate, one would think he'd benefit from Everett as much as anyone. Looks like most of his problem was on flyballs -- he gave up a career high in HR, and fewer of the ones in play got caught.

  2. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Randy Winn's 31 fielding runs above positional average in 2009 nicely mirrors the 30-point dropoff in his OPS+ from 2008 (105 to 75).

  3. Gerry Says:

    So Everett's 2006 was two-and-a-half percent better than Erstad's 2002. That's legendary? on a par with Ruth/Henderson/Martinez? Fun, yes; nice to learn about, sure; legendary, not so much.

  4. Djibouti Says:

    I gotta read more into the Total Zone system, but I find it hard to believe that Vizquel only shows up once in the top 80 SS seasons, and it's from the year he was 40.

  5. Johnny Twisto Says:

    It is a bit odd that his best rated season would be when he was 40, but by all accounts Vizquel's glove has aged remarkably well (it's the only reason he still has a job). +/- and UZR also rate his 2007 season very high, his best during the period they are available (since 2003 and 2002, respectively), so that's three different estimates of defensive performance concurring that he was excellent that year. Oddly, he did not win the Gold Glove that season, after winning the previous two (Rollins began his ongoing run). He may not have any other seasons in the top 80, but he does have six other seasons of at least 12 runs above average, which would be considered Gold Glove-type performance.

    Gerry, if it was really the best defensive performance of at least the past 60 years, why wouldn't you consider that legendary? Bonds only hit 4% more HR than McGwire, does that mean his 2001 season wasn't legendary? "Legendary" may be the wrong word for Everett, as I don't foresee his being well-remembered in baseball lore, but that's not because he was "only" one run better than the next guy on the list. "Magnificent" seems apt.

  6. Gerry Says:

    Bonds also broke a record for slugging of 80 years' standing, slugging about 100 points higher than anyone other than Babe Ruth.

    Anyway, I take your point, and I'll certainly agree to "magnificent." I object only to the implication that it's on a par with the Ruth/Henderson/Martinez achievements.

    And I mean no disrespect to Neil, and thank him for the post.

  7. Johnny Twisto Says:

    If we had better defensive stats, maybe we would see it as on a par with those other seasons. (Or maybe we'd see someone else's season that way, and consider Everett merely "great.") It is hard to revere any single-season defensive performance the way we do with hitting or pitching because we just don't have the confidence or hard numbers needed to understand it.

  8. Whiz Says:

    One definition of legendary would be a performance nobody has come close to in any season, not just the same season. Ruth qualifies (hitting more HR in 1920 than any other team). Henderson beat the previous SB record by slightly more than 10%, so that is impressive. But Martinez doesn't really satisfy this criterion (many pitchers had an ERA lower than that in other years). Ron Hunt's 50 HBP in 1971 do fit this description (the next closest in any season was is 35), as does Barry Bonds' 232 walks in 2004 (34 more than the next closest, which was ... Barry Bonds).

  9. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Owen Wilson's 36 triples in 1912 — five more than anyone else ever, and 10 more than anyone post-1900.