Defensive Spectrum Be Damned

Over the last 10 years or so, the “advanced” statistics that became popular evaluated players against a position specific offensive baseline – VORP, for example. If a shortstop and a second baseman had the exact same batting line, the shortstop would rate higher by that kind of metric, due to the fact that second baseman hit better as a group than shortstops. As such, it’s become exceedingly common to see people write things like “he’s got enough offense to be valuable as a shortstop, but he doesn’t hit enough to play second or third”.

Positions are essentially just a way to arrange players in a manner that produces the most efficient defense possible. You can literally play anyone anywhere – there’s no rule preventing the Nationals from sticking Adam Dunn at shortstop, for instance. They realize, however, that they will field a better team by minimizing the amount of times that Dunn has to move laterally in order to make a play, so they hide him at first base.

From Cristian Guzman and Position Changes

I agree in heart with this post.  However, I believe it misses a couple of crucial points.  It does not take into account how a player can get used to his position, or how he can have a skill set that is more attuned to a position’s needs.  For instance, a third baseman needs less lateral range than a second baseman, who in turn needs less back and forth range than a shortstop,  and the defensive spectrum fails to recognize this.  UZR is not perfect, and no measure but FieldFX ever will be.  However, this is such an imperfect science, I don’t expect that we will ever be able to grasp all the nuances of defense.

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