Sarris: Recent trends have flipped baseball’s conventional wisdom on first base and short

From SABR member Eno Sarris at The Athletic on January 29, 2019:

The shortstop can’t hit all that well, but he’s a wizard with the glove. The first baseman just stepped off the set of WWE and has forearms like pumpkins, but can only reach balls he can fall on. These descriptions might have made sense for the large part of baseball’s past, but they aren’t really true anymore.

Last year, shortstops were better with the stick then they had ever been before in the free agency era — only five percent worse than league average with the bat. First basemen? Still better than league average, but only five percent better — their worst collective offensive season in the same period. As a result, the two positions, which couldn’t be any further away when it comes to defense, were closer than ever when it came to offense.

When you map it out, it doesn’t look like a fluky one-year blip on the history of baseball. It looks like a trend. Maybe one that is the result of other, smaller trends, but a trend nonetheless.

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Originally published: January 30, 2019. Last Updated: January 30, 2019.