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  1. “Really, if you think teams are sorting 2B/3B based on arm strength, explain Jamey Carroll playing third base.”

    disclaimers: I know nothing about the Expos whatsoever. first of all, Jose Vidro was entrenched at the 2B spot for several seasons before Carroll came up from the minors. Carroll in the minors before 2002 was a 2B / 3B / SS in that order. but in 2002, he played 83 games at 3B and only 29 at 2B. this could have been for multiple reasons – my guess is that they knew he wouldn’t get playing time ahead of Vidro, and they had a hole at 3B that they thought he might fill.

    I don’t think that decision had anything to do with body type or arm strength. Vidro was the full time 2B from 1999 to 2004, Orlando Cabrera was the full time SS for that same period, and so Carroll’s only possible role was 3B. it’s the same thing with A-Rod moving to 3B when he came to New York. it’s not because he was a failed SS that “profiled” better at 3rd; it’s because they already had an established shortstop in Jeter, like him or not.

    Comment by David — December 18, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  2. Think quick feet allows a player to become a great second baseman. Shorter players have shorter strides and can move around the four hole, and make the plays at second when the ball is hit to the left side. Shorter players are closer to the ground and can be quick to the ball at third because their glove is laready their. I’ve played and second base is tougher because you are more involved and it is in quick moves.
    Arm strength is only good if it is accurate and these utility players have it because they know that they are at the major league level for their defense and have to stay solid, especially with their throw.
    Willy Aybar is becoming my favorite player because of his defense and his bat. He can play all four infield positions.

    Comment by RPC — December 18, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  3. One thing I’m wondering is if there are arm strength/accuracy type stats that aren’t based on fans scouting reports. I would assume it would be pretty easy to measure the time it takes for the throw to get from 3rd to 1st. I’m sure scouts do this all the time. If data like that is available, it would be interesting to see how someone’s arm strength comes into play for a second basemen vs. a third basemen.

    Comment by lookatthosetwins — December 19, 2008 @ 3:33 am

  4. There is absolutely a mechanical correlation between having shorter legs and having a faster acceleration – yes, acceleration, not speed. It takes world class sprinters 40+ meters to achieve top speed in a straight line on a track, a typical baseball player on dirt would be MUCH worse. “Speed” is a misnomer here, what we are really talking about is acceleration or explosiveness. Top speed is more or less irrelevant when discussing infield defense, and a definite a red herring. It might be semantics, but using “acceleration” and/or “explosiveness” instead “speed” could create less confusion. But with regards to athletes with longer legs, they do typically accelerate slower, all other things being equal (though there are exceptions to everything). It takes more power to get those long legs moving, and anyone who took a basic anatomy/physiology class in college will understand that longer muscles simply take longer and more energy to contract, resulting in slower acceleration.

    Of course, total height does not always correlate with leg length – I’ve seen 5’8″ guys with legs the same length at 6′ guys. Leg length seems to be more important than height here. I don’t imagine the leg lengths of players are available anywhere on the net…

    Comment by Terminator X — December 19, 2008 @ 5:37 am

  5. The entire premise of this argument, all three posts of it, is demonstrably incorrect.

    “This is because the population of both positions is made up almost exclusively of players who were deemed inadequate for shortstop. … Both groups come from the failed SS pile of players …”

    Except in the sense that *all* MLB players are inadequate or failed SS because they played the position in Little League, this simply isn’t true. The average (median) MLB 2B last year had 199 games of professional experience at SS; the average 3B had 11. There were 20 converted SS out of 28 2B (excluding Iwamura and Iguchi, whom I’m not sure about), but just 10 converted SS of the 30 3B (only 6 of whom were really converted due to inadequacy). The clear majority of MLB are not failed SS in any sense of the concept.

    Here are the professional games at SS for everyone. (This took a good hour or two of diving through old Baseball Guides, because fielding data on b-ref is very incomplete for the low minors.)

    First, the 2B, with the converts listed first:

    Lopez, F., 1095
    Grudzielanek, 1007
    Barmes, 868
    DeRosa, 649
    Phillips, 577
    Sanchez, 382
    Cabrera, A., 377
    Lopez, J., 370
    Ellis, 366
    Johnson, 364
    Polanco, 266
    Casilla, 217
    Kennedy, 201
    Roberts, 196
    Kinsler, 184
    Pedroia, 138
    Cano, 70 (split time first 2 years)
    Kent, 41 (converted mid-1st year)
    Matsui, Y
    Ramirez, Al., Y

    Inglett, 45
    Uggla, 18
    Durham, 3
    Castillo, L., 2
    Hudson, 1
    Kendrick, 0
    Utley, 0
    Weeks, 0

    And the 3B (Rodriguez and Hall not converted because of inadequacy, and Vazquez and Castillo not really regular 3B):

    Rodriguez, 1437
    Guillen, 1101
    Vazquez, 947
    Hall, 778
    Castillo, J., 466
    Cantu, 463
    Jones, 362
    Figgins, 313
    Mora, 250
    Reynolds, 135

    Feliz, 25
    Encarnacion, 19
    Glaus, 18
    Blake, 15
    Lowell, 13
    Zimmerman, 9
    Beltre, 7
    Bautista, 2
    Crede, 1
    Gordon, 1
    Hannahan, 1
    Ramirez, Ar., 1
    Atkins, 0
    Buscher, 0
    DeWitt, 0
    Kouzmanoff, 0
    Longoria, 0
    Rolen, 0
    Wigginton, 0
    Wright, 0

    Given that most MLB 2B *are* failed SS but very few MLB 3B are, the observed difference in offense between the two positions is exactly what you’d expect. And it would appear that the clear majority of MLB 3B are assigned there at the beginning of their professional career because they are deemed unable to play either SS or 2B.

    Comment by Eric M. Van — December 19, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  6. Except in the sense that *all* MLB players are inadequate or failed SS because they played the position in Little League, this simply isn’t true.

    Right, because Little League and the NCAA are the same thing.

    Give me a break, Eric. Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Glaus, and Evan Longoria all played shortstop in college. Longoria moved to third base because Long Beach State had this kid named Troy Tulowitzki. Pretty much every major league third baseman has played SS competitively. They get moved because they’re deemed to be too big for the middle infield. Conventional wisdom says that this is true, but there’s no evidence to support the claim.

    If you have any evidence that the pool of 2B are better defenders than the pool of 3B, let’s see it.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — December 19, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  7. This all sounds intuitively correct, but if it was actually true, third basemen who move to second should see a decline in defensive performance. Dave is saying that this is not the case.

    Comment by david h — December 19, 2008 @ 11:48 am

  8. It is correct (in generalities). Longer limbs DO take more energy to move and are typically slower to accelerate. The only way it would not be true is if explosiveness was the only factor in how good a defender is – it’s not. It’s merely one factor, and I’m offering a possible explanation as to the bias towards shorter players at 2nd.

    Comment by Terminator X — December 19, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  9. You are absolutely correct in asserting that guys who were converted from SS while in college could be counted as conversions. So let’s add Orlando Hudson and Chase Utley to the list of converted 2B. Now you’ve got 79% converts vs. 43%, as opposed to 70% vs. 33%.

    So it’s still true: most MLB 2B are failed SS, but most 3B are not. More often than not, they were moved off the position at about the time they graduated HS, probably about three or four years before the age where the average 2B is moved from SS. That’s the first indication that 2B skills are much closer to SS skills than 3B skills are.

    The whole methodology of comparing difficulty by looking at people who were asked to play both positions may seem to make sense at first glance, but it doesn’t begin to hold up to scrutiny. It’s like asking whether it’s harder to write a limerick or a sestina by looking only at the works of people who wrote them both (in fact, the sestinas will probably be better). Limiting the study to people who only performed both tasks is the equivalent of assuming that there are no people capable of performing one but not the other–which is answering the question you are trying to ask.

    The evidence that 2B are better defenders is right there before your eyes in the offensive difference between the two positions. There is tremendous incentive to move guys as far to the skill end of the defensive spectrum as possible. The 2005 Red Sox had Bill Mueller blocking Kevin Youkilis at 3B and Mark Bellhorn crashing and burning at 2B, but no one suggested that Youkilis play 2B, because that’s a wacky idea. (And this is a team that aggressively challenges conventional wisdom, one that once went after a top defensive FA 3B to fill their SS hole despite the player’s almost complete lack of experience at the position.)

    I’m sure there are many other examples you could find of teams that could have improved themselves markedly had they moved a 3B to 2B, if in fact no defense would be lost by such a move. But it just doesn’t happen. Yes, there’s a lot of conventional wisdom, thinking within the box, and outright stupidity in MLB management. But it doesn’t take a real act of genius to look at a guy and say, hey, we could get his bat into the lineup if he could only play over here. Earl Weaver did it 25 years ago when he realized there was no good reason to play Cal Ripken at 3B. The fact that no one is breaking ranks with the CW on the 3B to 2B move indicates that it’s based on a rational assessment of the actual skills involved.

    Comment by Eric M. Van — December 19, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

  10. That’s the first indication that 2B skills are much closer to SS skills than 3B skills are.

    Or, it’s the first indication that the height bias permeates down into amateur baseball.

    The fact that no one is breaking ranks with the CW on the 3B to 2B move indicates that it’s based on a rational assessment of the actual skills involved.

    Really, Eric? 2B are better than 3B because MLB is a completely rational marketplace where nothing is ever valued incorrectly for long periods of time?

    I present to you “the closer”.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — December 19, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

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