03/16/2004 8:45 AM ET
Behind the numbers: Range Factor
One statistic that has become especially prominent is Range Factor, primarily because of the popular debate in recent years about which shortstop is best. And it also was mentioned frequently when the Yankees decided to keep Derek Jeter at shortstop, despite his low Range Factor rating in 2003 (of all shortstops with 100-plus innings, only Chris Gomez had a lower number) and move Alex Rodriguez, who ranked in the top 10, to third base.
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Such player-personnel decisions -- and hopefully Gold Glove balloting -- are evaluated based on a number of criteria at each position and Range Factor is only one of them. But it still is a useful and often revealing statistic.
Range Factor is calculated by adding putouts and assists and then dividing that total by defensive innings played. It is a simple measure to determine how many successful defensive plays a player makes, as opposed to fielding percentage, which simply measures a player's ability to avoid errors. Range Factor is a useful tool in comparing players at the same position, but is heavily team-dependent; an outfielder will have a lower Range Factor if he plays behind a ground-ball pitching staff, while the infielders will have higher RFs. For example, the Yankees pitching staff last season ranked highly in the Majors in strikeouts and in fly ball/ground ball ratio, so their infielders would necessarily have lower Range Factors than those on other teams.
It is only possible to compare Range Factor within specific positions. A great Range Factor for a shortstop would be an embarrassment for a first baseman, who has many more total chances during a typical game.
While Edgar Renteria of the Cardinals was the National League's Gold Glove winner at shortstop, it was Houston's Adam Everett who topped the list across the Majors at this position in Range Factor, an unofficial stat. Everett rated high in other metrics at shortstop fielding, but was middle-of-the-pack in double-play performance. For the purposes of this exercise, MLB.com focused on one position, shortstop, set a reasonable cutoff mark of 1,000 defensive innings and compiled this list of the top 10 leaders in 2003:
Player PO A DI RF
1. Adam Everett 207 344 1000.2 4.96
2. Angel Berroa 264 473 1381.2 4.80
Julio Lugo* 211 336 1024.2 4.80
4. Rafael Furcal 237 481 1350.0 4.79
5. Jack Wilson 218 454 1294.2 4.67
6. Jose Valentin 225 396 1200.0 4.66
7. Orlando Cabrera 258 456 1385.2 4.64
8. Miguel Tejada 240 490 1417.2 4.63
9. Alex Gonzalez (FLA) 237 426 1315.2 4.54
Alex Rodriguez 227 464 1369.2 4.54
* Lugo's Range Factor is listed for 117 games with Tampa Bay. He had a lower 4.41 Range Factor earlier in the season, covering 21 games and 173 1/3 defensive innings for the Astros. Judging by Range Factor alone, that trade paid at least one obvious benefit for both the Astros and the Rays.
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.