Crizer: The infielders are not what they seem

From Zach Crizer at Baseball Prospectus on March 13, 2019:

When push came to shove this past October—a World Series berth and elimination, respectively, in the offing—the Dodgers and Brewers chose to start Max Muncy and Travis Shaw at second base in Game 6 of the NLCS. At first blush, this might present as semi-desperate improvisation. Both teams had seen buy-low deadline deals for keystone options fall flat, and both had platoon-related logjams keeping everyone from playing their “natural” positions. A broader view, however, paints a different picture of deliberate lineup stacking, of a strategy about as subtle as a 230-pound second baseman.

This week the Brewers announced their intention to make Mike Moustakas their everyday second baseman—a tweaked version of the bopper-centric NLCS lineup that Aaron Gleeman writes about in more detail today—and the Dodgers are charging into 2019 with no truly set positions for Muncy, Chris Taylor, or Enrique Hernandez, but second base will likely be a part-time home for all of them. Much like the bullpen revolution, this seems to be a case of the postseason accentuating lines of thought that are about to become prevailing wisdom. If “slug first, ask questions later” is the philosophy for trying to win Game 6 of the NLCS, it’s probably viewed as a good way to win most games.

There are big changes afoot on the dirt. Where strict gatekeepers used to inspect for defensive prowess, an increasing number of infielders are being selected for their bats. The tone of “where can he play?” has been completely flipped on its head. The prioritization of hitting over traditional positional norms is already fairly striking in the data.

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Originally published: March 14, 2019. Last Updated: March 14, 2019.