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December 20, 2016

Flu-Like Symptoms

How Versatility Became Cool

by Rob Mains


I discovered something interesting when I wrote the Transaction Analysis for the Braves’ signing of Sean Rodriguez (yep, they save me for the really important deals). Here’s the sentence that sent me down the trail toward this article:

As positional versatility grows in value in baseball—there were two players who played six or more positions in 2013, compared to 17 in 2016—Atlanta acquired one of the most versatile.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Dude, you wrote 600-something words about Sean Rodriguez. It’s inevitable that you’d come up with some random stuff that’s mildly interesting.”

OK, I’ll admit, some of what I wrote—like drawing the distinction between the poor man’s Ben Zobrist and the unable-to-escape-the-cycle-of-poverty man’s Ben Zobrist—doesn’t really rise to the level of sophisticated empirical analysis. But positional versatility is something that’s suddenly come into vogue. That’s interesting.

Last year Rodriguez played seven positions. In descending order, he appeared in 57 games at first, 29 at second, 27 at shortstop, 17 in right, 11 at third, 10 in left, and five in center. Let’s use that as our floor for multi-positional players: five games per position. That way we don’t give a player credit for a weird extra-innings emergency stint or two at a position[i].

I like graphs. And I like the period from 1969 to present, because in 1969:

  • Baseball expanded from 20 teams to 24
  • Divisional play and the multi-tiered postseason began
  • The pitcher’s mound was lowered
  • The strike zone expanded
  • They took those rocks off the moon, and nothing’s been the same since

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<< Previous Article
Prospectus Review: On ... (12/20)
<< Previous Column
Flu-Like Symptoms: Wil... (12/16)
Next Column >>
Flu-Like Symptoms: New... (01/05)
Next Article >>
2017 Prospects: Texas ... (12/20)

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