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Friday, September 11, 2009

FanGraphs: Cameron: Cristian Guzman and Position Changes

Or why a big donkey can’t be near SS…unless it’s Sylvester Superman, of course.

As Bill Ladson notes, the Nationals are giving strong consideration to the idea of shifting Cristian Guzman from shortstop to second base next year, due to what they consider to be diminishing range as he ages. For now, let’s put aside the fact that UZR doesn’t exactly agree with that sentiment and address what shifting across the bag will do to his value:

Nothing.

...This is where offensive position adjustment statistics, such as VORP, fail. If the Nationals would save themselves 5 to 10 runs a year by having a better defender at shortstop than Guzman, then they’re likely to get a net gain by moving him to second base (assuming that this better defender hits like a shortstop and not a pitcher, of course). And if the move produces a net gain for the team, then it’s impossible to accept that Guzman is getting less valuable in the process.

Now, the Nationals could be wrong about Guzman’s defensive abilities, and they could be marginalizing the value of a guy who UZR thinks is still a pretty decent defender at the position. But don’t just let someone tell you that Guzman is automatically losing value because his offense doesn’t compare as well to the average second baseman. That’s only part of the picture.

Repoz Posted: September 11, 2009 at 12:28 PM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nationals, sabermetrics

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   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 11, 2009 at 12:57 PM (#3319500)
There's a lot of assumptions baked into that conclusion: 1) Guzman will be better at 2B than his is at SS, 2) the Nationals have or can find a SS who is significantly better than Guzman defensively 3) this new SS is not a significantly worse hitter than the 2B who's being displaced.

Why not lay it out mathematically? The positional adjustment from SS to 2B is 5 runs (2B is +2.5, SS is +7.5). Guzman needs to be 5 R's better defensively at 2B to maintain the same value. Whether this is likely or not, we don't know. But his value might go down.

What Cameron is really saying is that it might be a good idea to move Guzman, regardless of whether his individual value goes down or not. If [D(new SS)-D(Guzman at SS)] + [O(new SS)-O(alternative 2B)] + [D(Guzman at 2B)-D(alternative 2B)] > 0 it's a good move. If its's <0 it's a bad move.
   2. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 01:11 PM (#3319508)
And if the move produces a net gain for the team, then it’s impossible to accept that Guzman is getting less valuable in the process.
No, Guzman is definitely less valuable (assuming "his offense doesn’t compare as well to the average second baseman.") His value on the field, and as we measure it. While the team may be overall better, Guzman's specific value is lessened, IMO.

It's like Pete Rose's value. Rose moved all over to help the Reds, but that is never considered when we discuss his value.
   3. sunnyday2 Posted: September 11, 2009 at 01:30 PM (#3319513)
Is it really so far-fetched that the Nationals could improve themselves at 2B and SS with a couple of new faces? If they're unhappy with the guy, why is he in the equation either way. It's like the Twins gyrations trying to justify a place for Nick Punto. Wherever he goes, he's a liability. Just admit it and move on.
   4. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2009 at 01:57 PM (#3319532)
I was going to quote the same sentence as Dial did. DC's logic is messed up.
   5. I Am Not a Number Posted: September 11, 2009 at 02:06 PM (#3319545)
No, Guzman is definitely less valuable (assuming "his offense doesn’t compare as well to the average second baseman.") His value on the field, and as we measure it. While the team may be overall better, Guzman's specific value is lessened, IMO.

It's like Pete Rose's value. Rose moved all over to help the Reds, but that is never considered when we discuss his value.


Another example might be Youkilis in Boston.

Say Lowell were injured for all of 2010 and Youkilis had to move to 3B full time with the ripple effect of Martinez being fulltime at 1B and Varitek fulltime at CA (I understand that fulltime for a catcher means something less but this is just a simple illustration).

The Red Sox would presumably derive more value from the CA/1B/3B troika of Varitek/Martinez/Youkilis than it would from Martinez/Youkilis/replacement-level-3B, but Youkilis's personal value, as calculated in isolation, would likely be lower at 3B than at 1B (I would presume that his drop in defense from 1B to 3B would not be offset by the gain in positional adjustment).

So Youkilis would have less value at 3B than at 1B, even though the team would be better served overall with him playing there.

Now, when compared to a similarly valued 1B, Youkilis could be argued to be more valuable to a team since he gives them the option of using him as a 3B.
   6. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: September 11, 2009 at 02:27 PM (#3319575)
Even if this guy never improves from his rookie year, the Nats would be better with moving Guzman. SSS warning, of course. :)

I had never heard of Ian Desmond. Looking at his minor league numbers, his 2009 "breakout" is strictly BA infused and he's not really a prospect?
   7. GuyM Posted: September 11, 2009 at 02:29 PM (#3319582)
No, Guzman is definitely less valuable (assuming "his offense doesn’t compare as well to the average second baseman.") His value on the field, and as we measure it. While the team may be overall better, Guzman's specific value is lessened, IMO

No, his value is the SAME, if Guzman's defense at 2B is what we expect from a SS -- i.e. 5 runs better at 2B (compared to avg 2Bman) than he was at SS (compared to avg SS). In other words, if the position adjustment is correct, and Guzman's transition is typical, his value is unchanged.

What's true is that our assessment of his offensive value declines slightly, while his defensive value increases the same amount.

Of course, if Guzman becomes a spectacular fielding 2Bman (if he had great range but weak arm for a SS), he might gain value. Or vice versa.

Cameron's indictment of VORP boils down to: if you don't take defense into account, you won't accurately measure a player's full value. Duh.
   8. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: September 11, 2009 at 02:47 PM (#3319598)
I had never heard of Ian Desmond. Looking at his minor league numbers, his 2009 "breakout" is strictly BA infused and he's not really a prospect?


I'm generally ignorant on prospect stuff, but Desmond is something of a prospect, I think. The organization really pushed him hard at a young age, for some reason promoting him to Double-A prior to his 20th birthday (edit: or his 21st birthday, I suppose). He didn't handle it well, and I suppose it can be argued that he's just putting it all together now. But, yeah, I don't think there's anything great in his future -- certainly not up to Bodes' comparisons of him to Derek Jeter, for instance!
   9. BDC Posted: September 11, 2009 at 02:48 PM (#3319599)
Two other cases: moving Cal Ripken to SS from 3B. Did this make him more valuable? As Bill James noted at the time, it was kind of a musical-chairs move, with the same infielders now sharing 2B and 3B who had shared 2B and SS before. But obviously, yes, Ripken's value went up in the middle and long run, even though the Orioles ran ten dozen mediocre guys through third base over the next decade. It never made any sense to move Ripken back to third till his defense slipped and Mike Bordick appeared.

Or, take Jeter and AROD. Having them both is an embarrassment of riches and obscures the issue. It might not matter to the Yankees where they play, assuming they will share SS and 3B in some alignment and their defense doesn't matter (a huge assumption, but for the purposes). However, if Jeter had caught the bus in 2005, you'd have absolutely wanted to move AROD back to short. He would be more valuable there than at 3B, period.
   10. OsunaSakata Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:03 PM (#3319615)
What was the consensus around here when ARod went to the Yankees? I thought he should have stayed at SS and Jeter should have moved to CF. It always seemed to me that Jeter's most spectacular fielding plays were running under popups. That would be a useful skill in CF.
   11. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:09 PM (#3319626)
No, his value is the SAME, if Guzman's defense at 2B is what we expect from a SS -- i.e. 5 runs better at 2B (compared to avg 2Bman) than he was at SS (compared to avg SS). In other words, if the position adjustment is correct, and Guzman's transition is typical, his value is unchanged.
Ah. See, I don't have that "expectation". I dispute there is a "typical" transition. there is an average, but the change isn't typical - it swings wildly, IME. Well, I am not looking at SS=>2B right this second, but position changes aren't one way. many switch and do it poorly; many switch and do it better. Taking the average of one foot in a bucket of ice and one on fire doesn't mean I am perfectly comfortable.
   12. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:11 PM (#3319630)
What's true is that our assessment of his offensive value declines slightly, while his defensive value increases the same amount.
Also, this assumes the way you do "positional adjustments" is correct. I strongly disagree.
   13. Chris Needham Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:17 PM (#3319641)
Of course, if Guzman becomes a spectacular fielding 2Bman (if he had great range but weak arm for a SS), he might gain value. Or vice versa.

This is why the move doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Guzman's problem is his lateral range. He doesn't move from side to side well, in part, because of some nagging foot problems.

He doesn't have problems throwing, besides the occasional error. And he doesn't really bobble the ball that often -- he's relatively sure-handed.

So it's not like moving him to 2B would compensate for a bad arm, or let him pick up the ball and still throwing the runner out after booting it.

Moving him to 2B doesn't address any of his weaknesses, and it takes away a few of the things he does do well defensively.
   14. Craig in MN Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:26 PM (#3319656)
This is why the move doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Guzman's problem is his lateral range. He doesn't move from side to side well, in part, because of some nagging foot problems.

His range wasn't great before the foot problems. I hope it hasn't gotten worse. Otherwise #13 is right on. Guzman won't improve (relatively) as a second baseman.
   15. Ginger Nut Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:27 PM (#3319658)
I think the confusion arises when two different ways of thinking about "value" are treated as if they were the same.

Assuming Guzman can play either short or second, he would still be the same player regardless of which position he plays. So his maximum possible value is X.

If his team chooses to play him at 2B, then the value they are pulling out of him is X-Y. That doesn't change Guzman's intrinstic value, what he could potentially be worth to another team that wanted to trade for him, for example. But it does change his realized value--how many runs above average he's actually saved/created on the field.

An analogy would be, let's say you have $10,000 to invest and treasury bills are paying 3%. It's absolutely certain that a year from now your $10K could be increased by that amount of interest--it's worth that much as an investment. If you choose to take that money and invest it in a savings account that pays less than the T-Bill rate, that's your choice. It changes the amount of value you actually got out of the money, but it doesn't change the intrinsic value of the money, since someone else could have put it into a T-Bill if you'd given it to them.

So, playing Guzman at 2B will reduce Guzman's realized value, but as long as we assume he could still play shortstop if the team (or a trading partner) wanted him to, then standing on the right side of the infield instead of the left doesn't change his actual value to the organization. One example of this is that, in theory they should be able to trade him to another team for a 2B who hits somewhat better than he does, if the other team also remains convinced that he would be able to play SS for them while the 2B they would be trading away to get Guzman cannot play SS.
   16. BDC Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:40 PM (#3319672)
Great point, Ginger Nut. It also relates to an aspect of the Hamner/Ashburn problem. Let's say Granny Hamner is an outstanding shortstop who gets to make very few plays because his flyball pitching staff is giving Ashburn all the putouts in CF. How valuable is Hamner's defense? It isn't actually creating many extra outs for the Phillies, either in bulk or by rate stats. But the value is definitely there, even if concealed by the context. The same pertains to any player playing well to the easier end of the spectrum of his defensive abilities: he's more valuable (in certain senses) than his production indicates.
   17. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 11, 2009 at 03:49 PM (#3319682)
The Rockies had a situation similar to this, when they had Clint Barmes, a good defensive shortstop, but then came up with a better one. Barmes has turned out to be good defensive second baseman but not a spectacular one.

One thing a second baseman does completely differently from a shortstop is the pivot on the double play. It's awfully hard to tell how good a SS-turned-2B will be at this until he actually starts doing it.

Even then, a lot depends on how much effort the former SS is going to put in to learning how to do it. I suspect that someone like Barmes - who needed to learn to play second to save his career - is going to try a whole lot harder than someone like Guzman, who is obviously nearing the end of his career no matter where he plays.
   18. GuyM Posted: September 11, 2009 at 05:03 PM (#3319741)
I dispute there is a "typical" transition. there is an average, but the change isn't typical - it swings wildly,

Also, this assumes the way you do "positional adjustments" is correct. I strongly disagree.


What odd remarks. Of course a positional adjustment is based on the average outcomes. And of course any specific player may do better or worse than that average. Guzman's skills may be better leveraged at 2B, worse, or about the same. All I'm saying is that, on average, there will be no change in value.

And by my position adjustments, do you mean VORP's?

On the other hand, your position is that Guzman is "definitely" less valuable at 2B. How does that make sense? Are you saying players always become less valuable when moving to a less challenging position? That would mean they must always become more valuable going the other way. So Adam Dunn's value "definitely" increases if the Nats move him to CF? I don't get your thinking on this.
   19. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 05:12 PM (#3319749)
What odd remarks.
thank you.
Of course a positional adjustment is based on the average outcomes. And of course any specific player may do better or worse than that average. Guzman's skills may be better leveraged at 2B, worse, or about the same. All I'm saying is that, on average, there will be no change in value.
I am saying the SD of the changes is greater than the average, so using the average is a WAG, and a "PECOTA" style evaluation, like Needham does in #13 is a better idea.

And by my position adjustments, do you mean VORP's?
No, I meant Tango's.

On the other hand, your position is that Guzman is "definitely" less valuable at 2B. How does that make sense? Are you saying players always become less valuable when moving to a less challenging position? That would mean they must always become more valuable going the other way. So Adam Dunn's value "definitely" increases if the Nats move him to CF? I don't get your thinking on this.
No, it assumes he could play the toughter position adequately. If you take a competent fielder at position X and move him to a less demanding position (which generally requires a better bat), then you are getting less value from him. Yes, his hitting ability will be the same, but the ability to replace his bat is greater, and usually the move means a less demanding position defensively.

I am pretty close to calling SS/2B a wash defensively. Not quite, but they are very, very close.
   20. GuyM Posted: September 11, 2009 at 05:35 PM (#3319766)
If you take a competent fielder at position X and move him to a less demanding position (which generally requires a better bat), then you are getting less value from him. Yes, his hitting ability will be the same, but the ability to replace his bat is greater, and usually the move means a less demanding position defensively


If a position is "less demanding," then why don't you expect the players moving there to on average be better fielders (relative to position average)? Let's say a player is an average fielder at a position. Are you saying that you would generally expect him to also be average at a "less demanding" position? In which case, what does "less demanding" mean? And that would also mean an average fielder would also be average at a more demanding position, which can't possibly be true.

If 2B/SS is a wash, then there are a lot of 2Bmen in the minors or on the bench who should be playing SS in the majors. Not impossible, but what's the evidence for this?

Much more likely, I think, is that 2B and 3B are really a wash.
   21. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 05:47 PM (#3319782)
If a position is "less demanding," then why don't you expect the players moving there to on average be better fielders (relative to position average)?
Because it is less demanding for several reasons, not the least of which is number of chances, and types of chances. But specific skillset are a huge factor here. When people talked about moving jeter to CF, I looked at the SS+>CF dynamic. there were only about 6 players in th last 20 years to get 500 IP at both positions. It turned out that the lean/fast guys transitioned well, and the sturdy ones transitioned poorly. It was boom or bust though, and so you may say "On average it's a +2 runs, when in reality, there is no "average". His skillset will say he's going Boom or Bust. And so Guzman moving to second (or Dunn moving to CF) will be dependent on their skillset. Tango simply doesn't have enough IP at multiple positions to cover this. I have 12 more years than he does, and I have 6 players moving from SS to CF. We simply cannot be making these assertions. It's largely unknown. That's not to say there aren't some positions where the SD is small enough for this to be a solid assessment.
Let's say a player is an average fielder at a position. Are you saying that you would generally expect him to also be average at a "less demanding" position?
I think I answered this above.
In which case, what does "less demanding" mean?
I think I answered this above.
And that would also mean an average fielder would also be average at a more demanding position, which can't possibly be true.
No, you cannot swim upstream, only downstream. Ballplayers are tuna, not salmon.
   22. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 05:49 PM (#3319783)
If 2B/SS is a wash, then there are a lot of 2Bmen in the minors or on the bench who should be playing SS in the majors. Not impossible, but what's the evidence for this?
Ben Zobrist? And really, I don't know there are that many competent 2B/SS on the benches that can hit enough to play 2B.

Much more likely, I think, is that 2B and 3B are really a wash.
Maybe. I don't have all my stats on this computer, and I could be mis-remembering. the pivot at 2B is greatly undervalued in our analyses, I think.
   23. GuyM Posted: September 11, 2009 at 05:58 PM (#3319798)
So if I understand, your position is that if player X is an avg fielder at SS, he will likely be an avg fielder at 2B too (with large SD, I understand)? But player Y who is an avg fielder at 2B, would be below average if moved to SS? Right?

The only way this can be true is if you believe teams have done a very good job of assigning players to their position #1, taking advantage of their specific skill set. But if you have that much confidence in team's judgment, then why not trust them to move only (or mainly) players whose skill set allows them to succeed at position #2? If they've done such a smashing job initially, aren't they likely to mainly move those players who should be moved? Plus, they have more information now.

I agree that small sample size makes some of Tango's position adjustments questionable. (And I personally prefer to use offensive differences to set position values anyway). But in this particular case, SS to 2B, surely there is a large sample. What does your data show?
   24. GuyM Posted: September 11, 2009 at 06:00 PM (#3319801)
And really, I don't know there are that many competent 2B/SS on the benches that can hit enough to play 2B.

That's my point -- they may not hit well enough to play 2B, but they should hit better than the weakest hitting starting SSs. And if the positions are a wash defensively, they should play SS.
   25. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 06:09 PM (#3319811)
Guy,
the pivot is hte determinant for 2B to "catchup with" SS. Not the straight fielding. Plus there are many 2B who are 2B because they have a weak arm. So they can't move over. SS moving over really cannot take advantage of having a strong arm, so SS=>2B is still average, while 2B=>SS below average. The skillsets are important here, and I don't believe it requires the faith in MLB decisionamkers you purport. See what Needham wrote in #13.
   26. GuyM Posted: September 11, 2009 at 06:23 PM (#3319834)
Chris, what I don't get is why a move to a "less demanding position" (which means very little, anyway, if skill set is so important) MUST make a player less valuable. Couldn't a player start at SS, lose some arm strength, and then be moved to 2B and become more defensively valuable (because his shortcoming at SS has little impact at 2B)? Couldn't a SS with a great arm but so-so range move to 3B and become a gold-glover there? Why are these impossible scenarios?

On the one hand you seem to be saying every player/situation is different, but also saying that a move down the defensive spectrum MUST reduce a player's value. I agree with the first, but the second doesn't logically follow.

And do you have actual #s on the 2B/SS and SS/2b transitions?
   27. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 06:30 PM (#3319843)
Chris, what I don't get is why a move to a "less demanding position" (which means very little, anyway, if skill set is so important) MUST make a player less valuable. Couldn't a player start at SS, lose some arm strength, and then be moved to 2B and become more defensively valuable (because his shortcoming at SS has little impact at 2B)?
Yes. But it is very unlikely that would compensate for the hitting drop.
Couldn't a SS with a great arm but so-so range move to 3B and become a gold-glover there? Why are these impossible scenarios?
Yes. I apologize for stating in complete absolutes.

On the one hand you seem to be saying every player/situation is different,
I am not saying that. there are groupings, but they aren't as simple as "position played"
but also saying that a move down the defensive spectrum MUST reduce a player's value. I agree with the first, but the second doesn't logically follow.

And do you have actual #s on the 2B/SS and SS/2b transitions?
Yes, I have numbers on every positional switch. I have been meaning to write it up. And using minimums of a thousand innings at both positions. I'll have to locate it.
   28. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 06:57 PM (#3319878)
Ooh, I have it here on my work C: drive.

For the switch from SS => 2B, where players have played 2000 innings at both positions (this isn't controlled for aging at all, but generally, I don't think there is a good trend), ther are 18 players over the last 20 years (1987-2008). 16 saw a difference of 5 runs or more. Four of them were better SS than 2B. heck, there are few enough to see if anyone has a aging pattern. Jay Bell moved to second at age 34, and he was about done already, so his performance at 2B was worse than it was at SS. Jose Vizcaino, Rey Sanchez and Manny Lee all played both positions throughout their careers, and were simply better at SS. I don't have an explanation.


the other 12 are about 12 runs better per 1350 IP at 2B than SS. So I think I was wrong on SS=>2B being equal earlier. As the sample gets larger, the SS play differntiates (my previous sorts had used half as many innings).
   29. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 07:06 PM (#3319884)
Running the same data on players going from second to third (1987-2008, min 2000 IP at each position), there are only 6 players that have done that. Only Tony Phillips was better at 2B. He was a lot better at 2B too. the others were all notably better at third, with the average being 9 RS/1350, with a range from 3 to 13.

david Bell is hte outlier here, in that he moved from 2B to third, and got better at an older age. Everyone else kind of mixed it around.

So:
SS=>2B, +12 runs, less pivot skills.
2B=>3B, +9 runs

How about that? If you lower the IP requirements, these numbers get smaller. At 100 IP, SS=>2B is 3 runs and 2B=>3B is 1 run.
   30. GuyM Posted: September 11, 2009 at 07:22 PM (#3319900)
Interesting. Pretty big differences, and even larger if you assume fielding declines with age. What about 3b=>2B?
   31. WhoWantsTeixeiraDessert Posted: September 11, 2009 at 07:32 PM (#3319913)
I think Rizzo's tired of watching him flipping the ball across the infield like a 2B when he's actually playing SS. I've watched a few runners beat out plays on him lately, and it's getting old. He seems to think he can be one of those guys who always throw it just hard enough to make the play. He ain't.
   32. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: September 11, 2009 at 07:35 PM (#3319918)
Chris, I have a hard time accepting a fielding analysis like this with such huge IP cutoffs and no adjustment for aging.
   33. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 08:09 PM (#3319958)
What about 3b=>2B?
Sorry it is 2B<=>3B, not one direction or the other.
   34. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 08:11 PM (#3319960)
Chris, I have a hard time accepting a fielding analysis like this with such huge IP cutoffs and no adjustment for aging.
As noted, the players that didn't "do both" and only moved as they aged were few.

As for the cutoffs, if we want to know where the real "talent" lies, a large cutoff is needed. The true difficulty of a position will only show up in those samples, no? I can do lesser if you want to see it.
   35. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: September 11, 2009 at 08:14 PM (#3319963)
My preference is to do a weighted average - that way you treat players with more PT as more indicative of what's going on, but you don't exclude players from the sample and can thus increase your overall sample size. In Excel it looks something like:

=SUMPRODUCT(C2:C153,D2:D153)/SUM(D2:D153)

Where your C column is what you're averaging and D is your weight.
   36. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 08:37 PM (#3319990)
I'll take a look at this later, CW.
   37. fret Posted: September 11, 2009 at 08:49 PM (#3320000)
Chris, even with 2000 IP at both positions there still must be some uncertainty in the zone ratings. Take your 18 players in the SS<=>2B sample and assume the "null hypothesis" that each of them was 8 runs better as a 2B in true talent. (Or whatever the average figure is.) Then just based on random chance, there would still appear to be some variation between players. Presumably a lot less than you actually found, but more than zero. If you list the number of total chances for each player at each position we can figure out how much using the binomial distribution.
   38. Chris Dial Posted: September 11, 2009 at 10:05 PM (#3320073)
fret,
understood. I can do that a bit later.
   39. Walt Davis Posted: September 11, 2009 at 10:38 PM (#3320094)
Sorry, commenting as I go, discovering much has already been addressed ... but posting anyway! :-)

If 2B/SS is a wash, then there are a lot of 2Bmen in the minors or on the bench who should be playing SS in the majors. Not impossible, but what's the evidence for this?

Much more likely, I think, is that 2B and 3B are really a wash.


I think this is the skill sets issue (which Chris mentions). All IF "need" sure-handedness although the SS probably has the least time to recover from a bobble so perhaps they need a bit more. 2B and SS would probably equally benefit from good range -- if anything the 2B probably "needs" a bit more given 1B are probably less mobile than 3B and have to stay close to the bag. 3B don't need much range (though obviously greater range won't hurt). SS and 3B need a stronger arm than 2B. 2B have to make the wacky pivot while 3B need to be able to charge bunts and choppers and make that awkward throw on the run. SS and 2B generally need to be better on popups than 3B.

In modern history, 3B and 2B tend to be pretty similar in overall offensive value (3B with a slight edge) but the shape of the production is somewhat different with 3B having more power. That is you can put a bigger guy at 3B because he doesn't need as much range.

SS=>2B, +12 runs, less pivot skills.

Pivot skills aside, isn't this roughly equal to the difference in the average hitting -- i.e. isn't this the inherent adjustment in VORP?

The 2B/3B transition would seem to be larger than the offensive difference.
   40. Walt Davis Posted: September 11, 2009 at 11:08 PM (#3320106)
And yet I edited out something I meant to keep.

What I thought was an interesting argument (obvious in retrospect I suppose) is the one about the number (undeniable) and difficulty (debatable) of chances at each position. Anyway, it's obvious that both the benefit of good defense and the harm of poor defense are less in magnitude at 2B and 3B than they are at SS. Therefore the proportion of total value that derives from offense is greater at 2B/3B than SS and therefore there's more benefit to playing a good bat, poor glove at those positions.

Getting back to the +12 SS->2B ... to be +12 per 150 games in fewer chances suggests the absolute difference is even larger. Moreover, it's not clear to me if the average absolute defensive ability of the SS who move (or are multi-position players throughout their careers) equals the average absolute defensive ability of SS overall. That is, in Guzman's case, a supposedly below-average SS is being moved to 2B. If that's the general case, that +12 is an understatement. On the other hand, maybe that's balanced by the true multi-position guys who maybe can handle multiple positions because they are defensive wizards in an absolute sense. But what we want is the difference between how good they were at SS and how good they are at 2B and I'm not clear that's what Chris has done.

Finally I'll add that I think just about anybody can play OF capably. Almost any decent 2B/SS/3B can be an average or better OF. I just don't think OF is hard to play. The same is not true in reverse though -- obviously for LH throwers but I doubt there are more than a small handful of OF who can transition to the IF. The defensive advantage of moving a SS to CF is probably fairly small while moving a CF to SS would be disastrous.

Doubly finally, I think it was Dan but maybe Chris who briefly mentioned some work they were doing that was showing that once a player has stopped playing a position, they quickly lose their ability to play that position. It came up in a discussion of Mark DeRosa and whether, after playing little if any 2B this year, he would still be an above-average 2B defensively. I'd imagine that's an ever smaller sample size but it is a conclusion I think is true (but I'd think it would take more than a season).

EDIT:Finally I'll add that I think just about anybody can play OF capably. I meant any 2B/SS/3B ... not Todd Hundley.
   41. Srul Itza Posted: September 11, 2009 at 11:43 PM (#3320126)
Thanks for the edit, Walt, or the thread would have devolved into a contest for who can provide the longest list of crappy outfielders.

Still, I am going to disagree, to some extent, that "just about any [2B/SS/3B] can pay OF capably" -- depending, of course, on your definition of "capably". Guys in the infield cover a lot less ground than guys in the outfield, so pure speed -- as opposed to quickness and reaction -- is called for.

In the infield, you aren't generally trying to figure out where the ball is going off the crack of the bat -- that's very apparent immediately. In the outfield, that is a distinct skill, as is apparent from the number of players who take terrible routes to the ball because they don't have this skill, as opposed to the guys who gobble up everything, in part because of their speed, but also because of their ability to understand where the ball is going.

Maybe I just have a higher standard of "capably" than you do.
   42. Chris Dial Posted: September 12, 2009 at 01:10 AM (#3320199)
Anyway, it's obvious that both the benefit of good defense and the harm of poor defense are less in magnitude at 2B
Actually, 2B get almost the same chances SS do. It's close enough (20 chances over 1440 innings) to not be a factor. Third base has 100 fewer chances, but 2B doesn't. Plus 2B has the pivot.
   43. Chris Dial Posted: September 12, 2009 at 01:11 AM (#3320200)
But what we want is the difference between how good they were at SS and how good they are at 2B and I'm not clear that's what Chris has done.
I took the players that played both positions and subtracted their performance at 2B (cumulative performance) from their performance at SS. That difference.

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