I'm going out on a limb here as I have little experience in statistics, but my pursuit of coming up with reasons why Brendan Ryan is bad has uncovered something I find confusing, but also might be interesting enough to warrant your attention. Generally, his WAR being so high while being such a terrible bat. Specifically, what's up with his Rfield being 24 while the total Rfield for all Mariners being 40 (Baseball Reference). This is all in terms of batters value only. Pitchers are excluded.
It goes even beyond just the Mariners. Brendan Ryan has the highest Rfield for any position in the American League. The next closest is Mark Teixeria with 15. The team leader average (Including both leaders for Anaheim) is 11 with and 10 without Brendan Ryan (Using Ichiro as the next in line for the Mariners).
The National League has Darwin Barney, whose Rfield is 26, with Andrew Simmons following with 15 as well. Their average (Including both leaders for LA) is only 8.
I also looked at teams combined Rfield, but found no pattern, just oddities:
- The Mariners with 40 and the Angels with 31 are 2 of 6 teams with positive numbers for the AL. No one else has anything over 16.
- The Braves have a team Rfield of 39, with only 4 players negatively contributing, and of those 4, only Jack WIlson has a number lower than -4.
- The Rockies combine for a -54 Rfield. Wow.
So getting back on point, why does Brendan Ryan have values of 25, 22, 18 and 24 for 2009 2010 2011 & 2012 respectively?
When comparing him with J.J. Hardy (Who leads the Orioles with 12), Ryan has a slightly better fielding percentage but worse range factor per nine and per game. Hardy also has 4 more double plays and a higher percentage for converting fielded balls into outs. However, Ryan SLAUGHTERS Hardy in terms of sabermetric and total zone fielding and BIS (Runs over average). Like 8 and 12 vs. 10 and 24.
Now, I know WAR's defensive basis is somewhat debatable. There's also these:
Outfielders are charged with line drive and fly ball hits that they field. The responsibility split between infielders was originally 50/50, but has been refined based on more detailed analysis. Singles to left are charged 60/40 to third and short, to center it is 52/48 between short and second, and to right it is 55/45 first base/third base.
Runs estimates are constant using run values from recent seasons. While this may overestimate the value of a hit saved in seasons with a low offensive context, it does allow us to compare fielders from different eras.
I checked ballpark factors between Safeco and Busch stadium (2009 and 2010 Ryan numbers are from Cardinals), but there isn't any obvious trends (mostly because we're looking at such a small sample size of too much raw data). I'm tempted to say that lower averages across the board might partially be to blame in combination with Safeco being such an outlier this year (ESPN has Safeco's park adjustments at .643 for runs), but not solely to blame.
I'm also of the overwhelming opinion that Brendan Ryan is the world's biggest ball hog. I understand some people don't see that as a bad thing, but it irritates me to no end when I see him running directly at Ackley's face, or over in the third base foul territory right on Seager. This might also be a minor contributing factor.
I'm also prepared to just admit I guess that Brendan Ryan is not only the best defensive short stop, but he's at least twice as good as any other short stop in the game today. And that both of those things matter in and out of any kind of context. But I'm also lying.