Pitchers continue to get injured while batting, so should baseball continue to require NL pitchers to hit?
I'm not known around the Internet as the world'sbiggestA.J. Burnettfan. During last Wednesday's BP roundtable, I even dusted off an old Simpson's riff: "I'm a well-wisher in that I wish him no specific harm." Now, to set the record straight, any voodoo dolls I may have referenced over the past decade or so for any player exist only in my breathlessly hyperbolic narratives, and I would never actually wish injury on a ballplayer, particularly not such an injury as befell Burnett later that day. The recent trade that sent the enigmatic righty from the Yankees to the Pirates mandates that he practice his hitting and bunting, and unfortunately, a less-than-stellar bit of work on the latter sent a ball into his own face, fracturing his right orbital and necessitating surgery. Fortunately, it does not sound as though he suffered a detached retina, which could have threatened his career.
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Does a new set of stats reflect much of a change in who could stand to upgrade in left field?
Last week, I explored the majors’ surprising downturn in offense from left fielders, a result counterintuitive to our understanding of Bill James’ defensive spectrum, which runs DH-1B-LF-RF-3B-CF-2B-SS-C. The positions to the left of the spectrum, which require far less defensive skill, are the ones where offensive production is supposed to be the highest, yet left field has been engaged in a decades-long battle for offensive supremacy with right field—which requires a stronger arm for throwing to third base—and this past year slipped behind center field for the first time since 1966. I placed the major reason for the downturn at the feet of teams attempting to copy the 2005 White Sox, who used Scott Podsednik—a center fielder to that point in his career—in left field, and attempted to show how the defensive gain supplied by the speedsters did not outweigh the loss of offense. I even got to talk about the phenomenon on television.
The corner outfield spots are known for production, but one field has been far more dominant in recent years.
My working theory was that it began with Scott Podsednik. In December 2004, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams sent slugging left fielder Carlos Lee to the Brewers for a three-player package that included Podsednik, who was coming off a so-so season as Milwaukee's center fielder. He had stolen 70 bases and bopped 12 homers—a nice return in the fantasy realm—but had hit just .244/.313/.364. His .237 True Average was hardly anything to write home about, and here at BP, both Christina Kahrl and Joe Sheehantossed aroundphrases like "as a hitter plugged into left field, the nicest thing you can say is that he makes a great part-time center fielder." At the time, the Sox were set with an All-Star caliber center fielder in Aaron Rowand, 27 and coming off a breakout .310/.361/.544 campaign, which didn't exactly clarify matters.
While third base is often considered an offense-heavy position now, last year proved to be a major down season.
As so often happens, my recent Replacement-Level Killers and Vortices of Suck miniseries have focused my attention on the landscape of offensive production at each position. Back in July, while putting together the midseason Killers, I was struck by just how awful a year it had been for third basemen. Age, injuries, and mysterious slumps had sapped the production of so many hot cornermen that their collective True Average (.253) trailed that of second basemen (.256)—a seven-point swing from the year before, a change that couldn't simply be explained by Chone Figgins' switch in positions. As someone who internalized Bill James' defensive spectrum before I was old enough to drive, this anomaly fascinated me.
Shortstop is a huge weakness on many major-league teams, but is there about to be an infusion of talent through the pipeline?
I’m going to curb my desire to craft a cute narrative about the importance of the position. (As is often the case, I’m going to satisfy my desire of cuteness delivery by assembling cute prospect tiers.) If you read Baseball Prospectus, you are already ahead of the baseball knowledge curve, so I don’t need to get didactic about the inherent skill set required to play the position, or the overall value a quality shortstop brings to the table. If you really want to read my take on what it takes, you can always check out my “U Got the Look” series and read 12,000 words of meandering scouting patois presented with a perfectly striped bow of instability.
For this exercise, I turned a blind eye to the substance offered by the middle-class prospects at the position, focusing instead on those with high ceilings, those with flashy leather and questions with the stick, and those who find themselves the targets of positional deficiency whispers. The tiers are self-explanatory, but not comprehensive; it would take three more editions to include all the names in my notes, and frankly, you don’t want to read four articles discussing every shortstop prospect in the minors. Actually, I take that back. You probably do. Let me rephrase: I don’t have the sanity it would take to write four articles breaking down every shortstop in the minors. I have to monitor my sanity reserves; after all, I’m heading back to Arizona for a lengthy scouting trip. Give me strength. Let’s get started.
The inaugural installment of a new series by beatwriter Marc Carig. This week: Miguel Cabrera hits almost every strike he gets and a former Gold Glover proposes the simplest of defensive metrics.
DETROIT--It must be hard work making an entire league of pitchers cower in their cleats, but to hear the scariest hitter in all of the American League talk, it would be easy to think that what he was doing was effortless.
How important is a team's glove work up the middle when stacked against the offense provided?
Earlier this month, I examined the timeworn adage that a ballclub must be strong up the middle—at catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field—to win. What I found was that while the aforementioned positions are the most demanding ones defensively—they're the four at the right end of Bill James' defensive spectrum, which runs 1B-LF-RF-3B-CF-2B-SS-C—the collective defensive abilities of those players had a much lower correlation with team winning percentage than their collective offensive abilities. In other words, having good hitters up the middle is far more vital to the winning effort than having good fielders.
How many of the last millenium's burning baseball questions remain unanswered over a decade down the road?
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Over 11 years after their publication in Baseball Prospectus 2000, how many of Keith's questions for a new millenium have we already set to rest?
On a player development level, where are the gloves going to come from, and where did they go?
Adam Dunn is finally a designated hitter this year, an inevitability that would have occurred years ago had he played with American League teams that didn't have to worry about hiding his defensive inefficiencies at first base or a corner outfield slot. Dunn is hardly the first bat-only player to be worth big money, and he'll hardly be the last.
Multi-positional players are outliers in a sense but basically just regular major-leaguers.
You may not have noticed (in fact, it would be rather odd if you had), but Carlos Guillen became the only active member of an exclusive club a week ago today. It happened at the very instant that Alex Rios swung through a 2-2 offering from Max Scherzer to end the bottom of the sixth inning in the Tigers’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox on June 10. ESPN didn’t interrupt its regularly scheduled programming to bring you live coverage, the scoreboard at U.S. Cellular didn’t flash a congratulatory message while Guillen doffed his cap and took a victory lap around the warning track, and the moment didn’t crack the headlines in the following day’s papers.
However, with that out recorded, Guillen completed his 200th career defensive inning at second base. In and of itself, that milestone is unremarkable, but it assumes a little added luster in light of the fact that second base is the fifth position at which Guillen has surpassed that innings threshold, which struck me as an unusual accomplishment for someone who’s no slouch with the lumber, and not known as a glove man. Guillen happens to have blown by the 30-WARP barrier last season, which gives us a second convenient, arbitrary cutoff to work with. Only 423 position players since 1900 have accrued 30 career WARP, so Guillen would be breathing fairly rarified air from that qualification alone, but the subset of players with 30-plus WARP who have also spent at least 200 innings at a minimum of five positions has to be far more exclusive, right? Funny you should ask. Without further ado, I give you the Carlos Guillen Club (positions played are listed in descending innings order):
Will Joe Mauer and a bevy of catching prospects be able to stay behind the plate over the long haul?
Now that the Super Bowl is over and sports fans can turn their gaze southwards, toward Florida and Arizona, we are going to have to find a group of underrated, hard-working everymen to laud even as we overlook them. Sorry, Saints offensive linemen, your brief moment of hagiography is over. Before their knees begin to creak and their backs begin to spasm, let us consider for a moment the path of a catcher. The catcher aesthetic is gritty, dirty, achy, and inglorious. Not pretty-in the face or with the bat? No problem, catchers, Nichols' Law of Catcher Defense has got your back, offsetting your failure in other, less tangible ways.