One of the most interesting things about extreme infield shifts is how unextreme they are. They are like some lame grownup’s idea of extreme, a little bit of flash and inconvenience but ultimately very safe. The shift was invented by sane people. Real extreme comes from insanity, and it makes us deeply uncomfortable.
Everybody’s talking about the football coach who never punts—4th and 15 at his own five-yard line, he’s going for it. That’s fearless. It’s hard to think of a baseball equivalent, one that would work or even one that might work. Russell Carleton this week explored the listener-suggested idea of having the left and right fielders swap, depending on batter handedness, to make sure the better defender gets more attempts to field the ball. The gory math supports the use of the relatively conservative proposal, but Carleton concludes what we can't help but conclude:
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Are teams passing up an advantage by not telling their corner outfielders to trade places based on the batter?
On Friday’s episode of Effectively Wild, listener Matt Trueblood emailed the show to ask Ben and Sam a fascinating question. Why is it that teams do not have their left and right fielders switch places more often, particularly if one of them is a better fielder than the other? We know that some players like to pull the ball, while others like to hit to the opposite field. Why not put the better fielder in the place where it’s more likely that the ball will be hit? It’s a fascinating question because there is no rule that prohibits it from happening. In the era of the infield shift, why hasn’t anyone tried this?
Carlos Gomez is a prolific home run thief, but he might not be the only fielder having a special defensive season.
Carlos Gomez hates homers. Allowing them, that is. Gomez took a homer away from Jay Bruce on Sunday, which gave him five home run robberies on the season, according to Baseball Info Solutions. That's the most they've recorded for any fielder in a single season in the 10 years that they've been keeping track. I've collected all five here:
Does a good fielder make the fielders around him better or worse?
Ozzie Smith is widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop (and somewhat by extension, the best defensive player) of his era. Anything that was hit into that no-man's land between second and third was gobbled up by the Wizard. In a game that adores offensive numbers, there was something so special about Ozzie's glovework that he ended up in the Hall of Fame despite a career .262/.337/.328 triple slash line.
Do substitute defenders perform worse in the field than starters?
I have a fascination with super-utility players, the guys who can play anywhere on the diamond. Players like Tony Phillips, Ben Zobrist, or even Denny Hocking. They're so handy to have around because a manager can fill out a lineup with a little more flexibility and know that he has someone to fill whatever hole is left. He's a wild card that gives a general manager more choices when putting together a roster. He's the type of player who adds a little extra value that the box score— and WARP—don't really capture.
A little more than a week ago, Jon Heyman of CBS sent out a tweet wondering why it was that Starling Marte and Bryce Harperhad the same WAR. Heyman was quoting Baseball-Reference's version of WAR, which at that moment in time showed Marte and Harper tied at 1.7 wins. Harper had clearly been the superior hitter, but drilling down, it turned out that the fielding metric used by Baseball-Reference loved Marte's defense enough (and thought Harper's was average enough) to call them equals.
Is it worth paying certain pitchers more for what they do when they're not on the mound?
I was talking to a friend the other day who pointed out that, had Johnny Cueto not been knocked out in the first game, and had not Mike Leake been the Reds' uninspiring only option to replace him, the Giants probably wouldn’t have won the NLDS or, consequently, the World Series. That seems reasonable:
Max crunches the numbers and comes up with the top 10 catchers of the 2012 season based on overall value both at and behind the plate.
The season has reached its midpoint, so this seems like a good time to take a look at some rankings. I debuted here at Baseball Prospectus with a series on evaluating catchers defense, so catchers are the subject of the top-10 list that follows.
The catchers will be listed with four numbers beside their names. The first three cover batting, baserunning, and defense. The fourth is the sum of the numbers pertaining to each of those areas.
Bone up on the basics of scouting with a primer on evaluating a prospect's running, fielding, and throwing ability.
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Revisit the second part of Kevin's scouting vocabulary primer, which covered the qualities that are evaluated when a scout looks at a prospect's running, fielding, and throwing abilities. The piece was originally published as a Future Shock column on March 15, 2006.