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Who's at fault for playing out of position?
Posted by Herb at 10/25/2007 6:39:00 AM
View more posts by this author

 

Jeff Erickson mentioned in his World Series blog that he thought the media was going a little too far in annointing Troy Tulowitzki over Ryan Braun as the NL ROY. I figured that I'd write up a new blog on the subject since I'm going to take it in a slightly different direction.

The thing I don't get is how many people act like Braun's personally responsible for playing such bad defense at third base. It's as if they think he can go out there and yell to Bill Hall "Hey, I'm not doing so well here so let's switch positons for a while." He's not a very good third baseman, but the Brewers are telling him to keep playing third, he's not forcing them to do it. If the Cardinals played Albert Pujols at third base this season, he would likely be pretty brutal over there. Would that change your opinion of Pujols as a player? Probably not, because everyone would know that he's playing out of position and they'd just dismiss his defense at third base. For some reason a lot of people can't do that with Braun.

Not to pick on any one individual, but here's a prime example. Nate Silver at baseballprosectus.com posted a blog recently about his "Top 50 Most Valueable Long Term Talent" list which appears in SI. He's rating the most valueable players over the next six years and notes that Braun is on the cusp of the top 50 due mainly to his defense. What? If he had come up as a RF or LF and was just average then he's probably a no brainer for that top 50 list, not "on the cusp". He notes that Jay Bruce would be in the #15 to 25 range, which may be accurate, but if Braun had been moved to the outfield immediately after being drafted would there really be a heck of a lof of difference between Braun and Bruce? Silver is basically knocking Braun 25 spots down the list because he was told to play 3B instead of the outfield.

We're not talking about a guy who's so uncoordinated that he's relagated to DH. We're talking about a guy who was a SS in college and is fast/quick enough to steal 15 bases in 20 attempts this year. But because his defense at third base was so bad this season, probably historically bad, people want to focus on that and take him down a notch as a player.

To be fair, these were just quick thoughts on what his final list would look like, not the last draft, and Nate is a fine writer so hopefully he'll come to his senses. What I think it does illustrate is that his first reaction was to knock Braun down for his defense, which I think a lot of media people do.

On an ironic side note, Silver also mentions in his blog that Aramis Ramirez is a lock for the top 50 and notes that he "suddenly learned to play defense". This is the same Aramis Ramirez who had a .928 fielding percentage over his first 163 games in the majors.


Comments....

I think it's valid to factor Braun's defense into the equation when discussing the NL RoY. That's an award based on what happened in 2007, and in 2007 Braun kicked the ball around at third base something fierce.

I'd agree that downgrading him as a prospect because of his defense at third is short-sighted though, unless someone truly believes Braun's trapped in an organization that will continue to force him to play third even while he demonstrates he can't.
Posted by ESiegrist at 10/25/2007 3:38:00 PM
 
Braun dominated Tulowitzki offensively (though Tulowitzki wasn't bad).

Tulowitzki dominated Braun defensively (and Braun *was* bad).

I can see voting for Tulo, but I'm amazed and pleasantly surprised that writers are looking past gaudy offensive stats and actually rewarding a player for his defense. It's not like they do that often.

One last note: Tulowitzki played on a team that (barely) made the playoffs. Braun played on a team that (barely) missed the playoffs. For MVP voting, the distinction might put Tulo over the top, but I wasn't aware that that should be factored into the voting for ROY, especially when it could be argued that if Braun had been called up a month earlier, the Brewers might have made the playoffs.

If I were voting, I'd give it to Braun, but I wouldn't begrudge anyone giving it to Tulo, who really is a good defensive player.
Posted by kennruby at 10/26/2007 7:11:00 AM
 
Braun came in 9th in the majors with a 1.004 OPS, and came in second in slugging percentage behind A-Rod with a .634 slugging percentage. Obviously, defense should play a factor in determining the RoY, but when was the last time a rookie came second in the majors (and first in his league) in slugging percentage?
Posted by bscwik at 10/26/2007 1:54:00 PM
 
The Hebrew Hammer, hands down.
Posted by cliss at 10/26/2007 3:59:00 PM
 

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