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Positional Value - A huge pet peeve of mine


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#1 BWA

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 07:44 PM

Hey Everyone,

 

This is my first post here in the message board. Hopefully it brings on a good conversation.

 

One thing I've seen a lot of in the comments section here at BN is discussion about position value. For example, Javier Baez is more valuable as a shortstop than as a 2nd or 3rd baseman, or Brett's Favorite, Junior Lake is more valuable as a center fielder than a left fielder (offensively).

 

Now I fully understand that players like Baez and Castro, who are expected to hit above average at a premium position that has weak offense league wide, would have increased TRADE value. Other teams value them highly because of that unique skill set. However, what irks me is when it is discussed about their value to the Cubs changing based on which position they play. Assuming Baez and Castro both hit to their potential, the only change in value they have to the Cubs is how good of defense one or the other can play at 2nd base rather than shortstop. Either way, both bats are in the lineup.

 

To further stress my point I will go back to a hypothetical Junior lake example. Say the Cubs had signed Ellsbury and thus lake was moved to left field. So lake's bat doesn't play as well in left field as it does in center, so the argument seems to be that he is less valuable now. In my mind, lake was going to be in the lineup regardless and since he probably plays a better left field than center, his value to the cubs actually increases.

 

Last example would be Kris Bryant moving to the outfield. Lets say Olt sticks at third and Bryant is called up and moved to a corner outfield spot. Sure his TRADE value would decrease if he sticks in the outfield so long that teams view him only as an outfielder, but his value to the Cubs would remain the same assuming his outfield defense is comparable to his 3rd base defense. And ultimately the Cubs would be better because they like Olt at 3rd and Bryant can replace a lesser performing outfielder.

 

TL;DR: In my opinion, positional value is only true as TRADE value because other teams may desire to fill a hole at a weak position, but positional value has no value to the team the player is currently on, unless they intend to trade said player.

 

There's my rant. Any thoughts?



#2 hansman1982

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 08:49 PM

On opening day, sure. At that point you cant really add anyone until june. Therefore you maximize what you have.

However, when considering we want these guys for a few years you want them to be able to handle a tougher defensive position.

Lets's say the cubs needed to add an OF. Now, its easier to find someone who can play LF and give you a .750 OPS than it is to find someone who can play CF and givr you a .750 OPS.

Therefore, if Lake can play CF amd put up a .750 OPS he has more value because it's easier (and cheaper) to get a .750 OPSing LF.

#3 Luke

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 08:57 PM

Most of the time when we refer to positional value as it pertains to prospects, it is with trades in mind.  On that count you're absolutely right.

 

There is an aspect, though, to valuing the offense provided by a player differently in different positions.  Offense is easier to find at some positions than others.  A player who can put up high quality offensive numbers will be more valuable if he does so at a position where offense is harder to find.

 

Using Fangraphs, I've listed out the number of players at each position who had a wRC+ over 100 in 2013 (taking the default settings for qualifiers):

 

C - 7

1B - 22

2B - 13

3B - 15

SS - 5

CF - 13

LF - 13

RF - 19

 

Now, suppose we have a guy who can play SS, 2B, or CF and will put up a wRC+ of 105.  Where would he be the most valuable (not considering defense for a moment)?  Shortstop.  At that position he'd be one of the best in baseball.  At second or in center he'd be more in the middle of the pack.

 

Another way to look at it - where is it easiest to find offense?  First base an corner outfield.  If the Cubs played Lake in CF they would have little trouble finding Lake-like production or better for left.  That means the team would probably be better with Lake in center.



#4 OCCubFan

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 09:10 PM

On opening day, sure. At that point you cant really add anyone until june. Therefore you maximize what you have.

However, when considering we want these guys for a few years you want them to be able to handle a tougher defensive position.

Lets's say the cubs needed to add an OF. Now, its easier to find someone who can play LF and give you a .750 OPS than it is to find someone who can play CF and givr you a .750 OPS.

Therefore, if Lake can play CF amd put up a .750 OPS he has more value because it's easier (and cheaper) to get a .750 OPSing LF.

Right on



#5 OCCubFan

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 09:13 PM

Most of the time when we refer to positional value as it pertains to prospects, it is with trades in mind.  On that count you're absolutely right.

 

There is an aspect, though, to valuing the offense provided by a player differently in different positions.  Offense is easier to find at some positions than others.  A player who can put up high quality offensive numbers will be more valuable if he does so at a position where offense is harder to find.

 

Using Fangraphs, I've listed out the number of players at each position who had a wRC+ over 100 in 2013 (taking the default settings for qualifiers):

 

C - 7

1B - 22

2B - 13

3B - 15

SS - 5

CF - 13

LF - 13

RF - 19

 

Now, suppose we have a guy who can play SS, 2B, or CF and will put up a wRC+ of 105.  Where would he be the most valuable (not considering defense for a moment)?  Shortstop.  At that position he'd be one of the best in baseball.  At second or in center he'd be more in the middle of the pack.

 

Another way to look at it - where is it easiest to find offense?  First base an corner outfield.  If the Cubs played Lake in CF they would have little trouble finding Lake-like production or better for left.  That means the team would probably be better with Lake in center.

Isn't it curious that LF production (by this measure) is the same as CF and less than RF? I would think LF is less demanding to play than RF and certainly less than CF. Less dramatically, the difference in the production from 3B vs 2B is less than I would expect.



#6 Luke

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 10:02 PM

That only counts the number of people over 100 by wRC+.  It does not measure how far over.

 

In fact, just counting up players who hit that metric wasn't a great way to make my point, but it was faster than finding the average OPS or average wRC+ for all those positions.



#7 Internet Random

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 10:12 PM

In fact, just counting up players who hit that metric wasn't a great way to make my point, but it was faster than finding the average OPS or average wRC+ for all those positions.

 

Yeah, I started to respond that I'd be curious to see the average wRC+ for each position... before I predicted what would be my own response to such a query as, "Get off your ass and do it yourself."


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#8 BWA

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 10:48 PM

Thanks for the input guys. Basically, you guys confirmed what I was trying to say, in that it is mostly trade value. My whole point is that if we have Castro, and Baez moves to 2nd, he could be a darn good 2nd baseman. He would be a better shortstop but we already have a good one in Castro.

 

I also tend to think that if we were to trade Baez, even after him playing 2nd for us, we could deal him to someone who wants him as a shortstop and they can pay the shortstop price. At least for a couple of years.

 

 



#9 Internet Random

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 10:58 PM

My fourth-grade teacher pointed out that there's not too much you can do with money other than trade it.

 

You can burn some bills for warmth, or use a dime as a screwdriver in some situations, but the non-trade uses of money are pretty limited.

 

Ignoring the trade value of money kind of ignores the essence of what it is.

 

There might be parallels here.


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#10 FarmerTanColin

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 01:01 AM

Thanks for the input guys. Basically, you guys confirmed what I was trying to say, in that it is mostly trade value. My whole point is that if we have Castro, and Baez moves to 2nd, he could be a darn good 2nd baseman. He would be a better shortstop but we already have a good one in Castro.

 

I also tend to think that if we were to trade Baez, even after him playing 2nd for us, we could deal him to someone who wants him as a shortstop and they can pay the shortstop price. At least for a couple of years.

 

Your right when it comes to maximizing the more "elite" talents. Chances are they produce above average wherever you place them so its more important to just get them at bats. Micheal Young for years in Texas was like this.

 

But to maximize the borderline players like Junior Lake, Barney, etc. Position has a more definitive impact. Which is why this year I think we finally see Barney out of the starting lineup because better production can be hand there. 

 

In determining WAR fangraphs has this breakdown ...

 

Catcher = + 12.5 runs

SS = +7.5

2B/3B/CF = +2.5 runs

RF/LF = -7.5 runs

1B = -12.5

 

So you can see if Castillo moved to first base he'd basically be replacement level. Also helps explain why guys like Lahair, Justin Bour, dont find much major league time because if they need to overcome the positional "hole" or have a gaping hole in their swing that finally gets exposed (LaHair). Vogelbach will need to hit a ton to see the majors.



#11 scorecardpaul

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 08:27 AM

O.K.  let an old dude try to explain this to you without any fancy metrics....

A player could could be an  All Star  shortstop.  Lets say, in the off season he damages his back and comes into spring training unable to play SS.  The only defensive position that he can now play is first base.  His offensive production stays exactly the same.  Even if he could play gold glove defense at first base he would be a bad first baseman.  The offensive numbers that made him a hall of famer at shortstop would only be average at first base.  I know this is an extreme example, but the fact is. it is much easier and cheaper to find a player who can put up better offensive numbers at the less demanding positions.  Baez would still have value to the Cubs if he could only play left field for them, but his value would be greatly diminished because it would be much easier to find a left fielder who could put up similar or better numbers.  If Baez can play shortstop, he could be the best offensive shortstop in the game?



#12 BWA

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 11:38 AM

ScoreCardPaul:

 

Yes, in that situation I fully understand the context of positional scarcity. We can easily pick up a good hitting first baseman, but the same is not true for a shortstop.

 

I suppose I was arguing that it doesn't matter if baez moves positions because we already have Castro, a shortstop we like (hopefully hes good again anyways). Or If Olt works out, we don't have to worry about moving Bryant to the OF because we already have a third baseman that we like. If the more valuable position is available, obviously you want the prospect to play at that spot.



#13 wvcubsfan

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 04:31 PM

ScoreCardPaul:

 

Yes, in that situation I fully understand the context of positional scarcity. We can easily pick up a good hitting first baseman, but the same is not true for a shortstop.

 

I suppose I was arguing that it doesn't matter if baez moves positions because we already have Castro, a shortstop we like (hopefully hes good again anyways). Or If Olt works out, we don't have to worry about moving Bryant to the OF because we already have a third baseman that we like. If the more valuable position is available, obviously you want the prospect to play at that spot.

i see where you are coming from and for the most part I agree with you.  Present day every player has the same "value" to the Cubs no matter the position they play.  The "added value" they have is being able to perform at a more difficult defensive position adequately if needed.

 

Make no mistake, the only way one of the prospects changes position is if they will not provide more "total value" at the ML level at the position they are playing in the minors.  If/when Baez or Bryant make it an issue you can bet that the brain trust will be determinimg the pros and cons of shifting the guy that's in the majors (Castro / whomever most likely Olt) versus the kid soming up.

 

I haven't seen Baez enough to have an opinion, but it seems that even with his occasional blunder Castro is still probably the better defender at short.






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