Continuing on with the second base/third base discussion, I figured it would be helpful to look at all the players who were given some kind of significant amount of playing time at both positions in 2008. Which guys did teams decide were good enough to be more than emergency fill-ins at both 2nd and 3rd, and what traits did they share that made them eligible to move between both spots?
Here’s the list of guys who got at least 50 innings at both 2B and 3B in 2008:
The list contains the usual assortment of utility players that aren’t all that interesting in terms of the discussion we’ve been having. Guys like Ozuna, Punto, Tolbert, and Vazquez are given roster spots that essentially require them to play multiple positions, so the fact that they did so isn’t a big surprise. The guys on the list that I find interesting, however, are Aybar, Baker, Stewart, Belliard, DeRosa, Carroll, and DeWitt. Let’s take a look at this group.
Aybar – 5’11/200 lbs, short and stubby body type. Played both 2B/3B in the minors, but spend 2/3 of his games at 3B. Played primarily third base in the majors, but has racked up 192 innings at second base over the last couple of years. His UZR at second base is much better than at third base (small sample size caveats apply).
Baker – 6’2/210 lbs, decently athletic. Was a 3B/1B/LF/RF in the minors, and up until this year, had just played those positions in the majors. Not particularly well, either, getting a negative UZR score at all four corner spots in his career. Was given 370 innings at second base this year, and while his defensive numbers suck there too, they’re better than we’d expect considering how little UZR thought of him at 1st/3rd.
Stewart – 6’3/205 lbs, good athete. Exclusively a third baseman as a professional until this year, when the Rockies gave him 93 innings at second base. His UZR was much better at second than at third, but again, the sample is tiny.
Belliard – 5’10/214 lbs, short and fat. Spent almost his entire career at second base, but split time between 2B/3B this year. Was just not good at third and downright awful at second. The epitome of the height bias – if he was 6’3 or 6’4 with the same mass and defensive skills, he’d never play second base, and people would scoff at you for thinking he could.
DeRosa – 6’1/205 lbs, decent athlete. Spent his early career as a utility guy, racked up lots of playing time all over the field. Basically the same defensive ratings at both second and third, and interestingly, not that different at SS either.
Carroll – 5’9/170 lbs, short and skinny. Had the worst arm ranking of any second baseman in the Fans Scouting Report, and has still racked up nearly 1,000 major league innings at third base. Really, if you think teams are sorting 2B/3B based on arm strength, explain Jamey Carroll playing third base.
DeWitt – 5’11/175, pretty good athlete. Like Aybar, a 3B/2B coming up through the system, with a majority of his time spent at third base. Spent most of his time at third this year, but got 193 innings at second base late in the year. UZR liked him at third, deosn’t like him at second, but again, that’s all very small sample stuff, since he was a rookie.
Overall, the list of guys who were allowed to play second base and third base leans towards the shorter end of the spectrum. The Rockies bucked the trend by giving Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker time at second base, and if UZR is to be believed, it worked. Overall, though, very few tall third baseman were allowed to play second base, and among those who spent time at both positions, there wasn’t a huge difference in their ratings at either 3B or 2B. For those who have been selected as worthy of playing both, they seem to be about the same at either one. While the tall guys can’t play 2B bias continues to show up, it seems that teams are okay with short guys (even ones with noodle arms, like Carroll) playing third base in limited roles.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the selection bias aspect of this group, and ask what we can infer about those who weren’t allowed to spend any time at second base.