Sarris: Is Manny Machado really as bad as he’s looked at shortstop?

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on July 5, 2018:

The​ Manny Machado​ sweepstakes are in full bloom, and​ he​ might find himself​ on a new​ team shortly. He’s​ proven​ himself​​ as a grand addition to any lineup — he’s currently a top-ten bat — but the acquiring team may currently be wondering where he’ll play in the field. Because this shortstop thing… well, while it’s hard to know anything about defense for sure, this is one experiment that doesn’t seem to be working all that well.

By defensive metrics, Machado went from one of the best third baseman of his time to one of the worst shortstops on record. The sample isn’t huge, since we’ve only had these defensive metrics since 2002, but the difference really is that radical. Since the start of 2014, only two third basemen were better with the glove. By the same metric, this year’s effort at shortstop is the 11th-worst since FanGraphs started using Ultimate Zone Rating as a defensive metric in 2002.

To be fair, it was a rare experiment to begin with. Usually, players move “down the defensive spectrum” as they age — in other words, they play the more difficult positions like shortstop and center field in their athletic peaks, and then they play the easier positions later on, if their bat is good enough to keep them around. Only nine players have ever played more than 81 games at third base before playing more than 81 games at short the next season.

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Originally published: July 5, 2018. Last Updated: July 5, 2018.