How much hidden value does a multi-position player add?
Last week, I began discussing a question that has puzzled the sabermetric communityfor a while. How do we put a value on a player's ability to play multiple positions? Most teams have guys who are capable of pulling duty at several places on the field, but they are bench/utility players who serve as backups. What to make of the player who hits well enough to be a starter and fields well enough at multiple positions to be worth starting there?
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In the wake of the Dodgers' recent record spending, we might ask why Luis Cruz is still around.
Over the past year the Dodgers have become baseball's most eager spender, absorbing and offering rich contracts. While the Yankees are tightening their belt buckle to get around the luxury tax, the Dodgers are making pithy comments, such as "What budget?" Yet one anachronism remains in LA during these lavish times. Luis Cruz, earner of the big-league minimum, sticks out like a sore thumb in a lineup featuring three players earning $20 million, two more earning $10 million, and two others making more than $2 million. Cruz is the lone non-millionaire, and, it just so happens, the team's weakest link.
Prior to last season Cruz's big-league experience entailed 169 plate appearances with a sub-.190 True Average. With his reputation as an all-glove, no-hit infielder intact he bounced around the minors. Cruz even spent part of his 2011 season playing in Mexico, alongside the likes of Jose Castillo, Geronimo Gil, and Luis Terrero. Last July, minutes before the Dodgers promoted him to the majors, he decided to embark on a career in Japan. Even circumstances surrounding the promotion were less Disney and more pragmatic: the Dodgers needed an extra body to survive a rough patch of injuries, and Cruz embodies the idea of an extra body. But the now-29-year-old provided spark and finished the season with a .272 TAv—a mark that placed him 18th among third basemen with at least 250 plate appearances.
Which baseball player measures up to the Linsanity sweeping the nation?
Football season is over. Spring training is still a few days away. That means, for multi-sport fans like me, there is little choice but to get immersed in college basketball and the NBA. And doing so during the past week meant going Linsane.
Point guard Jeremy Lin emerged as the New York Knicks’ savior, reviving a team that was struggling to stay afloat in the absence of stars like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. A Harvard graduate who went undrafted and was rejected by two teams, Lin certainly did not take the beaten path to fame, but that only adds to the intrigue of his timely breakout. Hoops Analyst writer Ed Weiland is one of the few who can claim he saw this coming.
With All-Star selection around the corner, the BP staff fills out their ballots for who deserves to start in the Midsummer Classic.
It’s July, and that means another All-Star Game, one which—we might as well get this out of the way now—won’t be as exciting as those wonderful old All-Star Games when important things happened, like Ted Williams breaking his elbow and Dizzy Dean breaking a toe (Williams said he was never the same hitter; Dean destroyed his arm with altered mechanics) and Ray Fosse getting run over because damn it, Pete Rose just had to win an exhibition game.
(It is at times like these that I like to recall Mickey Mantle’s immortal words on the subject of Rose: “If I had played my career hitting singles like Pete, I’d wear a dress.”)
The tater trots for April 28: Zobrist's huge day, Berkman's Houston return, and Miguel Montero is slower than Vlad - somehow.
Thursday was a huge day for offense, with four different teams reaching double-digits in runs. Suprisingly, though, the number of home runs hit wasn't all that high. In the eleven games played, there were 22 home runs around the league, with eight home runs hit by the double-digit-scoring teams. As far as home runs go, at least, there was nothing out of the ordinary happening in Thursday's games.
Zorilla's versatility has allowed Joe Maddon to play to one of his greatest strengths, and it has made the utilityman an invaluable ballplayer.
Yesterday, I did an interview with Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune, in the course of which I said a lot of positive things about Joe Maddon. Not one to let an encomium pass by unchallenged, Mr. Fennelly asked me why I liked Maddon so much. I said, in far too many words, “flexibility,” but what I really meant was this: I like Joe Maddon because of Ben Zobrist. Similarly, I like Ben Zobrist because of Joe Maddon. They are a lot like chocolate and marshmallow. Taken separately, they have their moments. Put them together and magic happens.
Having an everyday sub is a sign of intelligence in managers. I first realized this when I began learning about Casey Stengel and realized just how important Gil McDougald was to his Yankees teams. Until the Herb Score incident derailed him emotionally, McDougald was an above-average hitter, though somewhat neutered by old Yankee Stadium (he was a career .296/.379/.469 hitter on the road versus .255/.333/.348 in the Bronx), who was the Yankees’ second baseman-shortstop-third baseman, depending on need, yet was in the lineup every day.
A manager has many jobs, but if you want to boil down one of the most important, that of allotting playing time, to its basic essence, it’s stay the hell away from the replacement level. When the team has an injury, does the manager shrug his shoulders and plug in Cody Ransom, Clay Bellinger, or some equally execrable bit of Triple-A fodder, or does he find a way to shuffle things so that he gets a good all-around player into the lineup, even at the cost of distorting the defense? The great managers don’t accept one-for-one substitutions that leave them at a major loss. They don’t replace Chase Utley with Wilson Valdez when doing so means that you’re writing off what had been a major part of your offense for the duration. They think, “How is the injury to my second baseman an opportunity to get a second right fielder into the lineup?” and they identify players who have the skills to make that possible—which is to say that they’ve anticipated how to deal with injuries even before the injuries happen.