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  1. I doubt it. I bet (since all of this is conjecture at this point) these guys’ rate pretty bad by the end of the season in turning double play efficiency. I’m not saying you can’t find a few freak guys who can master the footwork, but for the most part you aren’t going to see those big lumbering guys pull if off as well as the smaller guys.

    Comment by hans — April 7, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  2. No one’s talking about big lumbering guys. This isn’t moving Prince Fielder to second base.

    Height != lack of athleticism. Teams have been fine with tall shortstops for the last 20 years, so there’s no reason you can’t have a tall second baseman.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — April 7, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  3. Would this be the result of people valuing outfield defense more and infield defense less or specifically deciding that second base is less important than people originally thought? Or maybe it’s just the result of people deciding that foot speed is not as important for a second baseman as people originally thought? Or maybe the big guys that traditionally play third are actually faster than people give them credit for? I don’t know, I’m just firing off ideas. What do you think?

    Comment by Dan Mellen — April 7, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  4. Dave, did you happen to watch Mark Teahan play second during spring training? It was about as ugly as it gets. Now, don’t get me wrong — I think Teahan is more than athletic enough to eventually pick up the position, but he was committing errors at second ’round bout the same pace as Andruw Jones was striking out.

    Schumaker’s got the best shot it seems, as he looked real solid at the position. Stewart is defense isn’t great, but his bat in the line-up really helps. I actually was thinking that the Rockies were going to bring in AFL star, Eric Young.

    Speaking of AFL Stars, how about Murphy — Do you predict him getting second base at-bats with the signing of Sheffield?

    Anyways, I totally agree with your point in theory, but in practice it’s a whole new ballgame. I look at it like a WR trying to play CB in the NFL: both are athletic as all hell, except WR are the big guys and CB are the small ones.

    The reason behind this, is the fluidity of the hips and how fast they can get them turned around. Sure, Randy Moss and Champ Bailey are equally athletic but larger guys are at a disadvantage, as they cant snap their hips as fast.

    Turning two requires almost the same motion as a corner coming out of their back-pedal. There are some tall guys that can do it quickly, but not many.

    This is why most corner-backs are 4 inches shorter than WR, and most second basemen are smaller than third basemen.

    Comment by kris — April 7, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  5. Interesting that this happens the year after a 5’6″ 2B wins the MVP….

    Comment by alskor — April 7, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  6. IMO your entire argument is pseudo-science BS conjecture. Show me any evidence that a short guy has a significant advantage at 2nd base.

    Comment by Kenshin — April 7, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  7. I’m also very interested to see how this all turns out, especially the Teahen situation.

    The very worst full time 2B are about -15 runs, so let’s assume he’s the worst, and let’s say Teahen doesn’t do any better with the bat than last season, you’re looking at -23 runs or so below average, add +20 for replacement and +2 for position and you’ve got yourself a replacement level player (which Teahen was last year anyway).

    That’s worst case scenario.

    Comment by David Appelman — April 7, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

  8. I agree with your Height! = lack of athleticism misnomer, (um…the NBA) that should be removed, but I’m doubting that these converts will be all that good (i.e. there defense is going to suck relative to the position so much that the offense isn’t going to matter much)……now if this has an effect all the way down the systems where you maybe see tall athletic OFs and third baseman types who can hit being given a shot at 2B and allowed the time to become proficient at the specialized skills of the position (i.e. the double play footwork and throw, etc.) that could result in better offensive and competent defensive 2Bmen.

    Comment by hans — April 7, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  9. I’ve thought about this a lot. I feel like teams have preconceived notions of what a 2B should look like, both physically and from a tools perspective, more than any other position. I think it’s probably the most homogeneous position in the game. You’ve got 1B from traditional sluggers like Cabrera to glove & average guys like Kotchman and Youkalis, SS from Everett to Tulowitski, LF ranging from Crawford to Manny, CF ranging from Hunter to Gomez, etc. But the range of 2B is pretty narrow. In essence, you’ve got Pedroia, a bunch of guys like him but not as good, and then Chase Utley in his own world.

    And how many 2B bat second in the lineup in baseball? It’s almost like the default is to have CF and 2B as the top two hitters.

    I’d like to see someone like Jeter come up soon in some system and instead of saying, “we’ll just deal with your lack of range at SS because you’ve got great hands and a great bat,” say instead, “that sounds like the perfect 2B, and a way to get more offense into our lineup without sacrificing too much in defense.”

    Comment by Eric Cioe — April 7, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

  10. IMO kris is making a solid point here; the NFL comparison is apt, though corners are usually fast former WR with slippery hands.

    Comment by LukeW — April 7, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  11. “Tall shortstops mean tall second basemen” makes sense, because second base is the flip side of shortstop, so to speak.

    Comment by Tom Au — April 7, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  12. I’m not saying that someone cannot be effective at second base, plenty of players can be effective at second base with bad hips.

    I’m just not sure what you’re disagreeing with. Are you disagreeing with my football analogy? Cornerbacks aren’t just Wide Receivers without hands, they’re a breed unto their own and I’m sure there is some science correlating center-of-gravity to hip-fluidity.

    Tall players have higher center of gravities? Science!
    Short Players have low center of Gravities? Science!
    Is it easier to sharply turn with a high center of gravity, or a low center of gravity? Science!

    Anyways, second base is obviously a whole lot more than just being able to pivot and I do agree that there are plenty of players that should be able to play an *average* second base.

    Comment by kris — April 7, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

  13. Yea, I may be wrong, but Tulo is a pretty damn good fielder

    Tejada would have been a better ‘other side of the spectrum’ player

    Comment by person who actually watches baseball — April 7, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

  14. I don;t see a problem with what Kris said.

    Momentum, transfer and release while turning the double play is the primary difference between SS and 2B, and the reason why tall SS are more widely accepted than tall 2B. When a SS is the pivot man, his momentum carries him through bag toward first. It allows the SS to receive the ball, transfer it from glove to hand, and complete a short, strong release in one fluid motion with the entire play in his field of view.

    When a 2B is the pivot man, his momentum carries him through the bag toward 3B, meaning he has to plant and shift his momentum back to first to make a strong throw, a move similar to a running back making a cut or a point guard performing a cross-over move. You don’t see a whole lot of 6’4” second basemen who can turn two like a 6-footer for the same reason you don’t see a whole lot of 6’4” running backs or 6’6” point guards who can slash like 6-footers. The closer an athlete’s center of gravity is to the ground and the shorter his levers are, the quicker he can change direction and perform a finishing move with power.

    Comment by Choo — April 7, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

  15. Also, there is almost no surefire 2B in most teams minor league systems. With the exception of maybe Gordon Beckham, is there anything in BA’s Top 100 that can make a splash?

    Comment by Brent — April 7, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  16. Most everyone here, including the author, are missing the point(s) of the 2B vs 3B argument, which “funnel” players into the different positions

    2B are involved in a lot more plays, about 50% more, than 3B.
    2B have to cover a lot more ground than 3B
    2B have to turn DPs, try watching a 3B turn a DP when teams use the shift vs lefties. I saw mike lowell turn one last year and it was the ugliest turn Ive ever seen (not saying he wouldnt be better if he practiced, just saying)
    3B have a longer throw than 2B
    3B play a more “offensive demanding” position than 2B, which usually coincides with bigger players

    One quick anecdote, during the 08 AS game, the NL had more SS reserves than 3B. Late in the game, there was a ball hit slowly to the 5-6 hole, when all of a sudden the 3B came out of no where and made an amazing play, getting the runner at 1st, with ease. IMO, the vast majority of 3B dont come close to making that play. but it turns out it was christian guzman playing 3rd, so for him, it was a “routine” play

    http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=3143341

    just watch that clip, look at where he fields the ball, and tell me how many 3B have that kind of range.

    And to comment on the football analogy, the reason why cornerbacks are almost always short, is bc changing direction is the most important after skill, and quicker guys tend to be shorter. The WR knows where he is running to, the CB has to react, many times to double moves, so they must be able to change directions seamlessly and in stride with the WR. Dont get me wrong, there are other reasons why a player chooses WR or CB, including they cant catch, they dont like to hit, WR is a glamour position…

    Comment by Missing the Point — April 7, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

  17. It’s worth mentioning that Teahan was a 2nd basemen in college so he’s not totally inexperienced. he just hasn’t played the position in a number of years. I’d expect him to improve dramatically by mid-season.

    Comment by OsandRoayals — April 7, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  18. 2nd base has had occasionaly power hitters like Jeff Kent, but if any of the above 3 become league-average hitters by the all-star break or close I’d expect to see a larger shift towards power for 2b. However the now greater emphasis on defense may counteract that.

    Comment by OsandRoayals — April 7, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  19. Dave, what would you estimate the conversion is in UZR from second to third?

    Comment by Sam — April 7, 2009 @ 11:03 pm

  20. … and at the same time as the Marlins have opted to begin the season with an average second baseman (Bonifacio) at third base, and to keep a below average second baseman (or, at least, a conspicuously awkward one in Uggla) at second.

    As a sidenote, I fully expect Bonifacio to maintain a 1400 or whatever OPS through the end of the season. No two ways about it; it’s a lock.

    Comment by Carson Cistulli — April 8, 2009 @ 1:00 am

  21. I think one of the main points is 2B may become more on par with 3B in the future in terms of offensive demands. Teams may begin to realize they add more from a bigger bat guy at 2B than they may lose from their defense – especially if they stop profiling some guys that may be adequate enough at 2B off the position because they may not fit the stereotype for a 2B. It just comes down to whether the player can add more total value from + offense and – defense.

    Other than that I agree with the rest of your points.

    Comment by B — April 8, 2009 @ 8:42 am

  22. Defense should adapt to what the offense threatens. If there are Brett Butlers on every team you need 3B who can charge the bunt and throw hard on the run. If the 3B mostly faces hard liners from ordinary speed guys the lateral range is more important and possibly less focus on arm.
    In the recent HR spike it would make sense if you have one Luis Castillo and one Jeff Kent, that if the other team has longball threats you play it like softball and put your fast guy in LF to catch what doesn’t go over the fence and the guy with lower range at 2B, assuming they have similar arms. But if you have a groundball staff in a league where people steal and hit-and-run a lot, having the faster guy at 2B where he doesn’t have to cheat to the base as much with runners on and has a bit more range makes sense. Conventional baseball thought probably since the days of Hank Aaron would be if you had those two and didn’t have a good trade outlet, you would move the power-hitting Kent to LF, maybe so he doesn’t get hurt by runners, rather than deciding which combo helps the defense most. Possibly in an earlier era there was a difference in injury risk that made strategic sense

    Comment by Gilbert — April 8, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

  23. Cornerbacks are 4 inches shorter than wide recievers not because coaches say “oh he’s shorter lets put him at CB because his hips turn faster,” it’s because coaches say “oh he’s not tall enough to play WR let’s put him at CB.”

    and as was already said, there have been tall shortstops who have fielded the position fine for decades. Why can’t a second baseman do the same? ARod and Jeter are 6’3″, Cal Ripken was a solid 6’4″ 225lbs. Ripken and A Rod were very good SS, Jeter at least has never been SO terrible that it over shadows his bat.

    Are you really saying that because a second baseman takes a slightly different angle to the bag, that these guys will not be able to turn a double play?

    Comment by Evan — April 8, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  24. I think we need to give these guys more than six weeks of time at second to judge their skills there.

    Comment by Sky — April 8, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

  25. Cant disagree with you post enough.

    teams cant switch fielders for every batter or for every pitcher, just isnt logical. The softball analogy is false bc softball teams have ~10 players to choose defensive positions from thats it. MLB teams have basically unlimited players to choose from, ranging from MiLB players to free agents, to making trades with other teams.

    and speed isnt the end all be all for a fielder-case in point jim edmonds. he was a GG fielder bc he got great jumps and took amazing routes to balls, not bc he was fast.

    I think teams decide at the end of the day they would rather play someone like pedroia at second and lowell at third than play lowell at second and youk at third.

    I also think there isnt a stat to fully encompass the effect of a great defender. In one play by a great defender that an average defender doesnt/cant make, how do you quantify the number of runs saved, the number of pitches the pitcher doesnt have to throw and the batters the pitchers may not have to face possibly with guys on base, possibly pissed off bc the fielder booted a ball, the saving of bullpen arms bc the starter stays in the game longer, the next day where RP can pitch bc he didnt throw 3+ days in a row…

    I look at a guy like rey ordonez (i know he played SS, but the principle can be applied to a 2B), who was absolulety amazing in 98 and 99 in the field but could barely hit his weight. But watching him day in and day out you saw how much his defense IMO more than made up for his lack of bat. BC basically every game he would make a play that most SS couldnt make.

    Comment by Missing the Point — April 8, 2009 @ 2:20 pm

  26. I think its interesting that Mariner’s 3B prospect is seeing some time at 2B according to a recent article. The article also talks about him seeing time in LF and just increasing his versatility overall, but when it mentioned 2B I immediately thought of this article.

    The thing about Tuiasosopo is that he was a “big SS” coming out of high school so most people thought his natural transition was to the hot corner. In the future, maybe we’ll see more of these players get a chance at 2B. Also, Tuiasosopo isn’t exceptionally tall, I believe 6’2″, so he isn’t a hulking 3B, but he’s definitely a big 2B.

    Comment by coreyjro — April 8, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

  27. The worst case is actually that Teahen gets hurt and gives the club nothing at all for his salary. Oh, and why assume he can’t be worse than -15 runs? It’s entirely possible.

    Comment by Jack — September 12, 2010 @ 12:30 am

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