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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best
Monday, July 14, 2003
Second Base vs. Third Base before 1920
I don’t think I buy into the studies that say that 2B made more plays than 3B and turned almost as many DPs as they do today as evidence that the position was equal to 3B in this time period, in terms of importance.
1B make more plays (in terms of putouts and assists) than anyone on the field. Does that make them more important? The fact that 2B made fewer DPs in the 19th Century is significant, because there were MANY more baserunners, due to all of the errors. As a % of men on 1B, DP are much lower than in post 1920 baseball. Also, while 2B might have (I’m going from memory) 4 or 5 plays per game compared to 2 or 3 for 3B, the 2 or 3 the 3B makes are MUCH more difficult, considering that there was much more speed in the game during this timeframe, and the throw was much longer and the ball was coming at them faster.
Finally, the most convincing evidence is that 2B clearly and easily outhit 3B before 1920 (at about the same level that 3B outhit 2B today). If the positions were defensively equal, managers would have let better hitters play 3B.
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