Why are shortstops so bad this year, and does it mean anything for the future?
We know that positional strength comes and goes in cycles, like most other things in life. The early and mid-90s were great for first basemen and elite starting pitchers, the late 90s and early aughts for shortstops. The time since then has mostly been dominated by Albert Pujols, but it’s been pretty excellent for outfielders and second basemen, too. We can debate those classifications, I suppose, but you get the idea.
Over the last few years, though, I’d argue that the fates have shaken things out more or less evenly. In 2010, the MLB top 20 position players by WARP included at least one of every position but catcher (Joe Mauer came in at 22); in 2011, the top 12 had one at every position. The top 20 for 2012 includes 11 outfielders, three third basemen, three catchers, two second basemen, and, shockingly, just one first baseman. I’m pretty sure that each of the last three seasons has been branded the Year of the Pitcher at one point or another, but I’m not sure that’s totally justified, either; there are great pitchers, of course, but not so many or so dominant that they seem to dominate the sport.
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Hustle is usually a subjective term, but it doesn't have to be. Here's how we can decide who really runs hard.
First, an exercise. Get a piece of paper and a pen, or a pencil, or if you can’t find a pencil prick your finger and write with your blood. Or just type it somewhere, but don't get blood all over. Rank the following 10 players by how much you think they hustle:
Anthony Rizzo may be making headlines, but the Cubs' much-maligned shortstop might their best hope for future success.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Sahadev Sharmais a contributor to ESPN Chicago and ChicagoSide, where he regularly covers the Cubs and White Sox. Sahadev spent four years as a radio producer at ESPN 1000 in Chicago and often dabbled in the blogosphere. In the fall of 2010, Sahadev focused his attention on the writing side of the business and quickly realized that was where he belonged. If not spending his free time with his wife, one-year-old son, and two Italian Greyhounds, you’ll likely find Sahadev appreciating Starlin Castro’s ability to hit, defending Adam Dunn, or watching YouTube clips of the Illini’s 2005 NCAA tourney comeback against Arizona. Follow him on Twitter @sahadevsharma.
Counting on a player to transition from teeny bopper to Bash Brother at age 27 isn't a good fantasy strategy.
Twenty-seven. Oh, the age of 27. As you might be aware, age 27 gets a lot of attention in fantasy baseball circles, often cited as a “magic” number when a hitter reaches his physical peak and is most likely to break out. It doesn’t take much effort to stumble upon a fantasy writer who discusses this theory, heraldingtheupcomingseason’scrop ofage-27ers.
The theory goes that because a player is reaching his physical peak, he is most likely to have a career year during his age-27 season. Unfortunately, most of the support offered for this theory comes in the form of conjecture or anecdotal evidence. I wrote an article last offseason at THT that examined whether age 27 actually is the prime age for breakouts. Unsurprisingly, I found that it wasn’t. Of course, this won’t stop people from continuing to write about it, as they see a player like Rickie Weeks post a 29-home run season in 2010 at the age of 27 and assume that the age is somehow magical. But these people ignore the age-27 players who stumble, such as Adam Lind in 2010, and the players who break out at other ages, such as Jose Bautista at age 29. Anecdotal evidence is never sufficient and can often lead to season-sinking assumptions.
It is always shocking to me today when you look into the dugout and you see the manager, a couple of coaches, and a small handful of players. Where is everybody? We are told that some are in the clubhouse watching video, some are taking practice swings in the indoor batting cages, some getting treatment from the trainers. Some are… well, we don’t know, but we’re supposed to believe they’re all industriously applying themselves to the game, only out of sight. We have to take their word for that, though intuitively we know it can’t be completely true—do you always apply yourself with 100 percent concentration when your boss isn’t watching?
We also have one manager on record complaining about the empty dugout phenomenon. When Joe Torre was with the Yankees, he looked around one day when the team was at bat and realized that the only person in the dugout was him and the batter in the hole. Thereafter, he apparently restricted mid-inning trips to the clubhouse, perhaps by a system of hall and bathroom passes.
Michael looks at a pair of Seattle middle infielders and a speedy Dodgers shortstop.
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