For the most part in the eyes of a general baseball fan, gold gloves, fielding percentage and number of errors is how a player is judged defensively. However, if one goes into more depth of fielding stats, the value of a player’s glove can be measured intensely. One stat that does that quite well is called total zone total fielding runs above average (Rtot).
Rtot is a calculation that roughly measures how many runs, above or below average (average being 0), the player was worth saving. For example, back in 1998, Derek Jeter had an Rtot of 2, which means that that season he saved approximately 2 runs from scoring on the Yankees pitching staff. Now, that may not seem like a whole lot, but if one thinks about it, 2 is actually very respectable. There are many cases where a player might have tremendous range in getting to the ball, but actually catching it while keeping control of it is another thing. Rtot is that other thing. Essentially if the man with the glove’s Rtot stays at or above 0 for his entire career; then they are considered to have saved a solid amount of runs or advancement of runners throughout their major league tender.
There have been quite a few stars in the game’s past that had a high fielding percentage, but low range factor and Rtot. This means that almost every time there was a simple play to be made, the player would make it. However, in result of average range and/or glove, the player is usually unable to make a sparkling play, but just because he didn’t, doesn’t mean it is an error, as errors are only given out to a play that should have been routine, then dropped by mistake. See the difference:
Great run saving type play.
Routine play that results in an error.
For each positions for different types of plays vary of course. Outfielders won’t make as many errors as infielders usually due to having to catch a fly ball for the most part, not having to dive one way and deal with bounces off the dirt. But, all in all, the Rtot stat will come out pretty similar because just as saving the ball from escaping the infield, turning a double into a single is just as heroic.
Rtot doesn’t exactly measure one’s full ability to make routine plays that well, but it does tell of how often the player made a highlight catch. Derek Jeter may had won 5 gold gloves with a great fielding percentage and arm, but his Rtot was actually -182 for his 20-year tender. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t very reliable with the leather, it just means that he wasn’t able to be superman every play. Then, there are guys like Ozzie Smith or Willie Mays, who had a Rtot above 100 for their career; meaning they went above and beyond (both had 10+ gold gloves). Rtot can be tricky to configure, but if one cant find flashy highlights of a certain player, just look at this one stat and it will define how magical their glove really was.