Infante and Beyond

Part three of the Twitterverse giveback. FanGraphs’ colleague Zach Sanders asks about the Braves’ utility players. This confused me, because Sanders is a smart fellow who can figure things like this out himself quicker than I can. He seems slightly nefarious though, so I’ve arrived at the conclusion that his request is just Eric Hinske bait. That’s cool, Sanders. I’m totally onto you.

Anyhow, by “Braves utility players” I’m going to take creative liberty and assume that Sanders means Omar Infante. Take a glance at Infante’s positional column on Baseball-Reference. Since 2007 here are the values:

2007: 468597
2008: 75648
2009: 456879

For those who speak in English, not numerical positional coding, allow me to translate: Infante has seen quite a bit of time at second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field over the last three seasons. By “quite a bit of time” I mean, he’s really seen playing time all over the field. Last season, for instance, he made 30 appearances at second; 10 at third; 10 at short; 10 in the outfield corner spots; and 8 in center. Plus three pinch running appearances. Infante himself is a pretty useful player. He’s roughly a league average hitter who excels versus lefties and he fields most of those positions well, or at least passably.

My guess is he’s going to continue to play all over since Martin Prado appears to be the better player overall. That makes for a boring piece though, so allow me to parlay this into another Tweet (this one from Philkid3 who used to write on Beyond the Boxscore) in which he wonders aloud whether the back-up middle infielder should primarily possess the skill set of a shortstop, which is presumably interpreted as being able to fill-in at shortstop when necessary. Infante himself actually was a shortstop until the Detroit Tigers acquired Carlos Guillen in 2004. He then moved to second before becoming the super sub that he is today.

I want to open this one up to discussion a bit more, because my answer is that yes. Not because you necessarily want it (although I do think you want the defensive flexibility that being a passable shortstop emits), but because most utility players seem to be former shortstops who couldn’t cut it at the position full-time for whatever reason. Although, maybe I’m off base.




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4 Responses to “Infante and Beyond”

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  1. Zach Sanders says:

    I can figure these things out, I’m just far too lazy to do so.

    I would say that, yes, you want a backup infielder to play short since that is the more difficult position. If you can get it done at short, you’ll be fine at second base.

    Mariners are having this problem right now, and it’s might not turn out pretty.

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  2. Bronnt says:

    Regarding Infante-I wouldn’t expect to see him in center this year since the Braves have both Melky Cabrera and Nate McLouth to man the position. He was forced there a few times last year since they had no true back up for center the entire season.

    Shortstop is perhaps the most defensively demanding position on the field. As a result, there’s a very small number who can both hit and play defense at above replacement level for the position, but there are a ton of guys floating around who make livings solely on the value of their defensive contributions at shortstop, so there’s a rather large pool of available talent to serve as back-ups.

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  3. TJ says:

    Excels vs. Lefties I didn’t know a near non existent career platoon split qualified as excelling.

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  4. DonCoburleone says:

    For strictly utlity infielders Maicer Izturis of the Angels has got to be the best right? Limited time at 3rd I know but he excels at 2nd, is very good at SS and hes worked himself into a solid hitter. I could definately see a scenario where he ends up getting more starts at 3B than Brandon Wood this year.

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