Carleton: Positional anarchy in baseball

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on August 23, 2017:

We’ve reached the end times. Last week the Cubs, facing Joey Votto, decided that the best way to defense him would be to have Kris Bryant play a little closer to the left-center field gap. The problem was that Bryant was listed as the third baseman at the time, and so he became the fourth outfielder. Votto smashed a grounder down the first base line for a double, but for a moment, it was possible that I was going to have to explain to my kids how it was that Votto had both popped out to third base and hit one into the gap in left-center field in the same plate appearance.

But Bryant’s turn as the fourth wheel on a tricycle wasn’t even the most positionally weird thing that happened last week. After Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores pulled up lame before the Mets played the Yankees, Mets manager Terry Collins was forced to start career-long catcher Travis d’Arnaud at third base. Then second base. Then third base. Then second base again.

Last year, Emma Baccellieri argued that baseball was subtly moving toward being a “position-less” sport. She pointed to the feedback loop that seemed to occur late in 2016 when, in an obvious bunt situation, Joe Maddon (who else?) had Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo change places. Normally, in a bunting situation, the first baseman prepares to charge the deadened ball, and if his play is to first, it’s usually the second baseman who receives the throw. Why not have Zobrist—who (at least part of the time) actually gets paid to field ground balls on the right side of the infield—field the ground ball on the right side of the infield and throw the ball to Rizzo, who gets paid to catch balls at first base?

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 23, 2017. Last Updated: August 23, 2017.