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Monday, March 29, 2021

Versatile Infielders Are Baseball’s Secret Weapon

Cronenworth posted a slash line of .285/.354/.477 in 2020, good for an OPS+ of 130, while playing primarily second base for San Diego, along with some fill-in at shortstop, first base and third base. But with those positions occupied by Fernando Tatís Jr., Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado, respectively, second base looked like the primary landing spot for Cronenworth in 2021. So it might have been a surprise when the Padres spent significantly this offseason to add Kim Ha-seong, a South Korean infielder who tore up the KBO last season and who is likely to play second base in San Diego. Cronenworth will likely continue to cover several positions — and he seems to revel in it…..

This plan isn’t specific to San Diego. MLB teams are increasingly using their best offensive players all over the diamond, even at critical middle infield positions. No fewer than 34 players got at least 100 regular-season plate appearances while logging time at both second base and shortstop in the 60-game 2020 season. To put that in perspective, back in 1990, just 20 players collected 300 plate appearances over a full season while playing at both second and short.

But this, too, understates how often the players most likely to provide key offensive contributions, rather than a defensive security blanket, are used in this role by major league teams now. Of those 34 players in 2020, 13 had an OPS+ north of 100, while those just below that line, Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals, are central to the plans of their teams in 2021. Marte is likely to get regular work in center field as well, while Edman becomes the primary option at second for St. Louis after Kolten Wong left as a free agent.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 29, 2021 at 04:36 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: utility infielders

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   1. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: March 29, 2021 at 05:28 PM (#6010601)
I read this headline as "Versatile Infielders Are Baseball’s Secret Women".

How you doin'...?!
   2. Walt Davis Posted: March 29, 2021 at 05:57 PM (#6010605)
The 2B/3B/OF player has been a mainstay for most of the last decade and such players often picked up a bit of 1B. Or if they could actually handle SS then all the better. I thought the 26th man might make them a bit less common but maybe not.

I'm not sure what to make of the 2B/SS factoid for 2020, wish they'd presented it for 2019. 2020 was of course really weird and, without actual minor leagues, I'm sure teams did all sorts of odd things to paper over injuries, covid opt-outs and suckitude at the ML level last year.

It's hard to do a PA search with stathead but I did get a list of players in 2020 with at least 20 games at both 2B and SS. That was three players, each with an OPS under 600. If we drop it to 10 games, we get 14 players, 6 with an OPS+ of 100 or better (7th place was an 86 OPS+). Cronenworth is one of those and he had 3 starts at SS (and 8 times he moved over late, I assume in blowouts). Joey Wendle might have been the premier player here with 18 starts at 3B, 18 at 2B and 9 at SS.

Now I think I see how they did their search -- at least 100 PA total and at least 1 game at each of 2B and SS. If you require even 3 games at each position, you lose 9 guys. Push it to 5 games and it's down to 19. Did Dylan Moore grab 2 starts at SS because the Ms wanted to put a bat at SS or did somebody have an owie? One of his starts was the first game of a DH. He did grab 10 starts at 2B but was mainly a corner OF (20 starts).

Looks like the change was in 2018. For most of the 2010s, for 200+ PA, at least 3 games at both 2B and SS, there were about 32-33 per season. That creeped up a bit in 2016-17 before jumping to 42 in both 2018 and 2019.
   3. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: March 29, 2021 at 06:15 PM (#6010606)
MLB teams are increasingly using their best offensive players all over the diamond, even at critical middle infield positions.

2009 Ben Zobrist says hello
   4. we all water; we all 57i66135 Posted: March 29, 2021 at 08:06 PM (#6010618)
scott kingery misfired.
   5. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 29, 2021 at 08:22 PM (#6010621)
Secret Weapon? Gil McDougald spent a decade moving around the infield for the 1950s New York Yankees, who did quite well. You’d think people would have noticed.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: March 29, 2021 at 08:31 PM (#6010624)
Games started (100+)

NYY McDougal - 516 2B, 436 3B, 269 SS
BKN-LA Gilliam - 969 2B, 598 3B, 183 LF

Tony Phillips 663 2B, 484 LF, 336 3B, 216 SS, 134 RF
Ben Zobrist 794 2B, 363 RF, 196 SS, 107 LF

none of them til Zobrist ever started a game at 1B, though

Pete Rose - 905 1B, 652 LF, 627 3B, 600 2B, 581 RF
   7. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 30, 2021 at 12:16 AM (#6010640)
Cavan Biggio is a multi-positional player for the Jays.

In just short of a full season's worth of games (159), he's started 150 of them and played:

- 116 at 2B
- 18 at RF
- 10 at 3B
- 5 at DH
- 3 at CF
- 2 at 1B
- 1 at LF

He will get very little time at 2B this year (Marcus Semien is playing there) and will play more at 3B and occasionally the corner OF positions.
   8. Howie Menckel Posted: March 30, 2021 at 01:08 AM (#6010645)
Games started (100+)

Craig Biggio - 1959 2B, 392 C, 265 CF (and 98 LF)
   9. sanny manguillen Posted: March 30, 2021 at 09:28 AM (#6010657)
Honus Wagner, 1901-02: P 1, 1B 32, 2B 2, 3B 24, SS 105, LF 21, CF 11, RF 83. Wagner was 29 when he became a fulltime shortstop.
   10. villageidiom Posted: March 30, 2021 at 10:23 AM (#6010674)
Cavan Biggio is a multi-positional player for the Jays.
You are absolutely correct. Still, I was amused at seeing "5 at DH" in the evidence of his versatility. Hey, maybe JD Martinez is more defensively versatile than I gave him credit for.
   11. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 30, 2021 at 11:09 AM (#6010682)
What an interesting time for fielding. Use of players like this is expanding. The shift and other defensive maneuvers are making the positions a little fuzzier. Guys like Moustakas and Travis Shaw are being used at tougher positions.
   12. The Mighty Quintana Posted: March 30, 2021 at 12:11 PM (#6010692)
Yeah, those great Brooklyn teams also used Billy Cox at multiple positions and, later in his career, Jackie Robinson.
   13. McCoy Posted: March 30, 2021 at 12:47 PM (#6010702)
Dusty Baker approves
   14. DL from MN Posted: March 30, 2021 at 01:20 PM (#6010705)
Makes sense. We're in an era where the job of a baseball player is to hit in the lineup. On defense, besides the pitcher and catcher, they mostly they wait for the batter to strikeout or go yard.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: March 30, 2021 at 04:28 PM (#6010757)
Craig Biggio - 1959 2B, 392 C, 265 CF (and 98 LF)

This and to an extent Rose and maybe some of the other examples aren't the same thing. This is also flexibility but the guy, generally, wasn't playing multiple positions in the same year, he was shifting positions. Especially in Biggio's case he was a C then he was a 2B then, to pursue 3000 hits, he became an OF. He presumably could have played all three positions in a season if the team needed it but he wasn't used that way.

Now Ed Kirkpatrick had a number of seasons where he had starts at both C and CF, along with LF, RF, 1B and 2 at 3B. FWIW, TZ rates him as average in both CF and C.
   16. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: March 30, 2021 at 05:04 PM (#6010769)
As always, the correct answer is David Fletcher, who is the best. He started 27 at SS, 15 at 2B, and 7 at 3B last year. He only moved to the outfield once late in a game in 2020, but he started in the outfield 18 times in 2019. He put up a 117 OPS+ last year and was on pace for a 5.5 WAR season after a 4.5 WAR season in 2019.

David Fletcher is just an exemplary specimen of a baseball player and human being.

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