Superdupersubs (Part 4: 1990-2007)by Steve Treder
July 01, 2008
We've examined the Superdupersubs of 1901-1940, 1941-1970, and 1971-1989. Now we're ready to meet the Superdupersubs of the modern era.
As a reminder, a Superdupersub is a player who meets the following criteria:
- He must appear in at least 100 games in a given season, and come to the plate at least 300 times;
- He must appear in at least 20 games at three or more defensive positions (and if it's just three positions, they can't all be in the outfield);
- He must appear in at least 10 games at four or more defensive positions;
- He must appear in at least five games at five or more defensive positions;
- He must appear in at least one game at six or more defensive positions.
And he has to do this in at least two seasons.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1986 CHW-PIT 138 496 87 10 LF 76 1B 34 RF 28 CF 10 3B 4 1995 NYM-BAL 141 614 151 22 3B 70 RF 38 LF 32 1B 10Our capsule of Bonilla in Crossroads said this:
Bonilla never even attempted to kid anyone that he was a good third baseman, but neither did he ever surrender to the notion that he couldn't be. He always took it seriously, worked very hard, gave it his best. Bonilla was assuredly slow, but he had quick hands and a passable arm, and maintained himself as a presentable enough third base defender to appear there in nearly a thousand games in thirteen separate major league seasons.Indeed Bonilla played more frequently at third base than any other position, though he was only intermittently a full-timer there. Bonilla's defensive versatility was a skill very rarely displayed by players as huge as he was (6-foot-3, 240 pounds), and it was among his several significant assets. What a terrific player he was.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1987 MON 138 495 78 12 2B 68 CF 45 SS 25 RF 16 LF 8 1B 1 1992 HOU 135 360 56 4 SS 65 3B 29 LF 20 2B 9 CF 1 RF 1He was such a light hitter that his major league status verged on the marginal, but Candaele was such a good defender that he kept getting chances anyway.
His mother was quite a remarkable ballplayer.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1989 SDP 117 387 133 18 3B 37 LF 34 RF 21 SS 14 2B 9 CF 1 1992 CIN 147 601 132 28 LF 69 2B 42 3B 36 CF 16Roberts was a player who didn't seem to get the recognition he deserved. He was rather injury-prone, and thus only at his best for a few seasons, but when at his best he was just terrific: a high-average hitter with good plate discipline, excellent speed, and of course remarkable defensive versatility.
Alas, for the past several years Roberts has been employed as an "in the stands" reporter on the Giants' local home-game cable TV broadcasts. Now, "in the stands" reporters serve no positive purpose under the best of circumstances, and when Roberts is the "in the stands" reporter, well ... how to describe his on-camera skills? "Awful" would be putting it charitably.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1989 OAK 143 524 100 14 2B 84 3B 49 SS 17 LF 13 RF 4 1B 1 1990 DET 152 687 101 22 3B 104 2B 47 SS 11 RF 4 LF 4 CF 1 1991 DET 146 655 123 23 3B 46 2B 36 LF 25 RF 23 SS 13 CF 9 1992 DET 159 733 118 23 2B 57 RF 35 CF 24 3B 20 LF 14 SS 1One of the most remarkable careers of his era, or any era for that matter.
Alex Patton's guidebook following the 1994 season included this comment on Phillips, written by Bruce Buschel:
Last season may have been his best ever, in an odd career that keeps pushing its peak backward. Thirty-six is not normally prime time. Perhaps energy is finite and Phillips has stored up the unexpended energies from his platoon and part-timer days.
Perhaps it's simply will power — he is an intense man who came to stardom late and revels in every minute. Watch him before a game. There is purpose to every swing, every shagged fly. Don't expect to see Tony Phillips smile. He's not having fun in the traditional sense.
Nor is he talented in the traditional way; he was not blessed with great speed, power, or size. That's not to say he's not one of the best 25 players on earth. It's the Pete Rose Profile — while everyone thought Rose did not possess much "natural ability," what he had was excellent eyesight, superb eye-hand coordination, great endurance, ungodly determination and world class instincts.
Are those not natural gifts? Are we now entering the debate of nature v. nurture? Yes, entering and exiting.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1989 CIN-LAD 115 358 66 4 2B 46 3B 24 LF 20 SS 18 RF 1 1991 LAD 145 485 100 13 3B 113 2B 27 SS 20 LF 1 1992 LAD 135 380 78 9 2B 81 3B 33 SS 10 RF 8 LF 7 1996 CIN 125 333 92 10 3B 24 LF 23 RF 18 1B 16 2B 8 CF 1 1998 CIN-NYM 132 317 76 3 RF 73 LF 34 3B 10 2B 2 CF 1 1B 1 P 1
Not especially good at any single thing, Harris was a round-bodied left-handed hitter who was competent at getting on base, at running the bases, and at making the routine play at just about any defensive spot. Thus manager after manager found him a useful guy to have around, and indeed he matched Don Demeter with the all-time record for most superdupersub seasons, at five.
Harris was so handy that following his superdupersub days, he hung around as a standard utility man just about forever, and eventually accumulated the all-time record for pinch-hits, with 212. It's true that the record was less a testament to Harris's sheer quality as a hitter than it was to his getting a whole lot of pinch-hit at-bats, but the at-bats were a function of the fact that Harris brought a variety of skills to a ball club's bench, for a very long time.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1990 OAK 140 447 57 7 2B 83 SS 38 3B 27 RF 1 1993 NYY 119 465 112 13 SS 55 2B 52 3B 27An unusual superdupersub in that not only did he practically never play in the outfield—that single right field appearance you see there in 1990 was his lone outer garden deployment in 13 seasons and nearly 2,000 major league games—but additionally, Gallego's infield appearances were strictly limited to second base, shortstop, and third. Of course, the fact that he was the sort of player who put the "short" in shortstop may explain his absence of first base assignments.
Gallego survived testicular cancer before reaching the major leagues.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1992 SFG 124 420 118 11 RF 48 1B 27 LF 22 3B 14 CF 13 2B 4 SS 3 1993 LAD 143 570 99 12 RF 113 3B 23 1B 12 SS 2 LF 2 CF 1The authors of the 1994 guidebook Essential Baseball had such a keen eye for supersubs that they coined the term "IMP"—for Impact Multiposition Player—and deployed it as its own category for presenting and comparing players.
Here's what they had to say about Snyder:
An IMP who may have found a home in RF though his TOPR [Total Offensive Production Rating] would have put him well below that of an average NL RF ... Career seemed much like Lazarus a couple of years ago — dead. But he's arisen from a string of horrible seasons to prove he belongs in the bigs. But unlike Lazarus who was commanded to rise and walk, Snyder doesn't walk. If only he did! Just 47 BBs and 147 Ks ... Still has occasional power but nothing like the belter he was when he arrived with Cleveland in the late '80s ... Some will blame the hitting theories of White Sox instructor Walt Hriniak for messing him up. But in truth Snyder's decline was already at full speed when he arrived in the Windy City and made it even windier (one "fan" every 3 at-bats) ... But still has a remarkable throwing arm and can play several spots afield ... The kind of player you love to have as a "tenth man."Indeed it's the case that Snyder's offensive profile was atypical among superdupersubs; they tend to be slappy line-drive types, not all-or-nothing power guys. Snyder joins 1950s slugger Frank Thomas as the only Homeruncentricity Trifecta men to be superdupersubs.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1992 NYY 121 461 102 13 SS 75 3B 26 LF 14 RF 7 2B 3 CF 2 1995 NYY 111 432 102 13 2B 62 SS 28 LF 20 3B 19 RF 1An interesting take on Velarde from Glen Waggoner's 1996 guidebook:
At some point, guys like Velarde hurt teams more by blocking the development of young players more than they help by providing some versatility and production. It's not Velarde's fault — he is what he is, a good utility man who can best help a team by coming off the bench and filling it at a number of positions. It's just that the presence of a guy like that gives a timid front office an excuse for not taking a chance on younger, untested players with bigger upsides.Well, then. The younger, untested player with bigger upside in question was some kid named Jeter. I don't know, but I'm not thinking that having Derek spend his age-21 season in triple-A was all that tragic.
But what this vividly illustrates is just how differently the Yankees' organization was seen at that point than it would be shortly thereafter, and certainly than it's become since. The Yankees haven't not been in the post-season in any of the years since that was written, but when it was written the Yankees had just made their first post-season appearance in a decade-and-a-half, and been eliminated in the first round. Thus the mid-1990s view of the Yankees was as a rather hapless operation with a "timid front office," a perspective that would quickly become quaint.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1995 CHW 119 349 113 10 1B 47 RF 32 LF 30 CF 5 P 1 1996 CHW 146 498 122 16 CF 73 RF 73 1B 23 LF 3 1997 CHW 145 573 104 15 RF 75 1B 52 CF 45 LF 4Joining Jimmy Wasdell, Tom McCraw, and Gene Richards as just the fourth lefty-throwing superdupersub in history.
Waggoner's 1999 one-liner on Martinez nailed it: "He should be able to hit .280 in his sleep, don't you think?"
F. P. Santangelo
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1996 MON 152 467 104 18 CF 76 LF 33 3B 23 RF 18 2B 5 SS 1 1997 MON 130 440 100 10 RF 51 LF 40 3B 32 CF 13 2B 7 SS 1 1998 MON 122 462 68 6 LF 72 2B 35 CF 23 3B 1 RF 1 1999 SFG 113 325 107 10 CF 49 LF 26 2B 11 RF 9 3B 3 SS 1In the opening installment of this series, we made the point that while superdupersubs come in many different varieties, the archetype is the undersized battler who makes up in sweat what he lacks in smoothness. Such players are self-made, not natural-born, as they spend their careers working every angle that will endear them to management, gaining competence (though rarely mastery) in a breadth of skills, doing "the little things" right, and so on.
This was true at the beginning of the 20th century, and it remained true at the end, and rarely over the decades has a player more purely exemplified this type than Santangelo. Here's what The Scouting Notebook had to say about him in 2000: "Average speed and arm strength are about the only notable physical tools that Santangelo can claim. The rest he has to make up through hard work and scrappy effort."
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1996 KCR 118 462 87 5 3B 51 LF 47 1B 19 SS 11 2000 STL 134 420 80 9 3B 86 1B 28 LF 18 RF 16 2B 13 2001 STL 123 370 102 12 3B 33 LF 33 RF 26 1B 23 2B 4The Crossroads series a few years back discussed the role that third base plays as the midpoint, the intersection, of the defensive spectrum. As such, quite a few superdupersubs have been "natural" third basemen, pivoting in either direction.
Paquette was that sort. He was pretty good with the glove at the hot corner, but not dependable enough with the bat to hold a regular job there (he had good power but zero, absolutely zilch, strike zone discipline). So, his teams found fill-in uses for him at first base and as a corner outfielder (where he was better than average defensively), and occasionally as a middle infielder (where he could hold his own on a short-term basis).
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1997 MIL 132 482 94 12 2B 63 SS 44 1B 19 3B 15 1998 MIL 140 491 112 16 1B 70 SS 56 3B 22 2B 13 LF 1 1999 MIL 153 664 90 14 SS 74 1B 66 2B 17 3B 14 2007 HOU 133 511 89 11 SS 72 2B 49 1B 24 3B 23One of the better superdupersubs of this or any era, Loretta had a couple of seasons in mid-career—his age-31 and age-32 years, with the Padres—in which he was deployed as a full-time second baseman, and he played as a bona fide star, indeed something close to a great player. Thus, in retrospect, perhaps it was a mistake for the Brewers to use Loretta as they did through his mid-to-late 20s, when presumably he was at his physical prime. But even if that's the case, it's clear that Loretta's anywhere-in-the-infield versatility and consistently useful line-drive bat delivered a lot of value anyway.
And late in his career, with Houston Loretta has returned to the supersub role and picked up right where he left off.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1999 HOU 127 444 91 12 3B 71 LF 25 SS 13 RF 9 CF 7 2B 4 1B 1 2000 HOU 124 409 92 11 3B 51 SS 27 2B 26 LF 6 RF 4The thing that stands out in Spiers's otherwise unremarkable utilityman career was his the degree to which he improved his management of the strike zone in his 30s. Many players will show an increase in walk rate over the course of a career, but rarely as dramatically as in this case. It transformed Spiers from a guy with just another backup infielder's bat to someone with meaningful offensive value.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1999 MIN 136 421 72 8 SS 61 2B 56 LF 17 RF 13 CF 11 3B 6 1B 2 2000 MIN 134 433 97 11 2B 47 CF 21 RF 19 3B 16 LF 16 SS 15 1B 12 2001 MIN 112 363 72 5 SS 47 2B 17 1B 11 3B 6 LF 6 CF 5 RF 5Hocking would fit the "scrappy" stereotype of superdupersubs, except that it was really asking too much of him to be in the lineup that frequently. He was a utility man whom Twins' manager Tom Kelly relied upon more heavily than he should have. The Scouting Notebook put it this way:
Hocking is a useful utility player who struggles when overexposed. His best efforts usually come as a defensive sub and emergency substitute, but he shouldn't be expected to play regularly, even for a couple of weeks.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1999 DET 100 315 99 5 2B 32 1B 32 3B 21 2001 TEX 133 512 128 17 LF 78 RF 15 2B 13 3B 11 1B 5"Cat" is one of those guys whose best position is batter's box, but in his 20s Catalanotto was at least nominally a second baseman. Since then he's been mostly a left fielder, and among the better platoon hitters of his era.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 1999 STL 152 574 84 11 2B 96 LF 32 CF 23 RF 19 3B 6 1B 2 SS 1 2001 NYM 116 319 106 8 LF 48 3B 25 RF 25 SS 12 2B 5 1B 3 CF 2 2003 NYM 119 313 61 5 2B 55 SS 42 LF 16 1B 5 3B 2 RF 2 CF 1"Super Joe" displayed the gritty/hustling mode as well as any superdupersub ever has, but he really wasn't a good enough hitter to have justified as much playing time as he got. McEwing was quite streaky at the plate, and could get hot for a few weeks (he hit .386 in April as a rookie in 1999) and that image seemed to overshadow the far more frequent reality of him struggling with the bat.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2000 NYM-BAL 132 464 92 12 SS 96 CF 16 LF 12 2B 5 3B 4 RF 3 2002 BAL 149 652 101 16 LF 74 SS 41 CF 31 2B 12 RF 5As remarkable a career as you're ever going to see. Here's what we said when discussing Mora in the context of Non-Batting Batters:
The most impressive story here, and probably the most impressive story among any of the non-batting batters in history, is that of Melvin Mora. Signed by the Mets as a scrap-heap 27-year-old free agent with no major league experience, Mora was used by manager Bobby Valentine in 1999 in a last-guy-on-the-bench garbage-time non-batting batter mode. But the next season, Mora played his way into a semi-regular role, and after being traded to Baltimore, he has emerged in his thirties as an outstanding player, a two-time All-Star.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2000 MON 124 379 94 9 3B 55 SS 44 2B 13 1B 11 2001 MON 148 514 71 8 3B 73 LF 35 2B 25 1B 14 SS 4 2002 HOU 130 421 107 15 3B 104 LF 9 RF 3 SS 2 2B 1 1B 1 2003 HOU 123 449 72 5 3B 83 2B 25 SS 11 1B 6 RF 1 LF 1 2005 SDP-CHW 109 351 72 6 3B 46 2B 21 SS 20 1B 14And here he is, tying Demeter and Harris for the all-time lead with five superdupersub seasons. Exactly why, I can't figure out.
Blum is a lot like Lenny Harris, but not as capable: he doesn't have Harris's speed on the bases nor his defensive range, and modest a hitter as Harris was, Blum isn't quite as good with the bat. In short, while Blum is a guy I'd be happy to include on my roster, his role would be strictly utility. The semi-regular playing time he's been granted over the years hasn't really been warranted.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 BAL 139 601 123 24 1B 80 LF 22 3B 17 RF 16 2005 FLA 131 384 110 10 1B 45 LF 37 RF 28 2006 BAL-PHI 142 539 86 9 1B 73 LF 68 RF 26Not too many guys have their first full major league season at age 27 and then go on to a 17-year, 2,000-game career.
I played in a Fantasy league for many years in which one of the guys just loved Conine. He could be counted upon to pay a premium price for "The Barbarian," but then Conine would reliably deliver solid offense, and his defensive versatility was just as useful in Fantasy ball as it was in reality.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 SEA 125 487 115 18 LF 63 3B 36 SS 35 2B 9 CF 8 RF 2 2002 SEA 104 407 110 13 LF 82 3B 14 CF 12 2B 2 SS 1 RF 1One of the more interesting careers of all time: A study in perseverance.
McLemore was given a shot by the Angels as a regular second baseman in his early 20s, but was overmatched at the plate. He fell back into part-time status and then back to the minors, and hit bottom in a ten-month period at ages 25-26, when he was discarded by the Angels as a player to be named later, then released by the Indians (after hitting .150 in 28 games), and then released by the Astros (after hitting .148 in 21 games).
But McLemore just kept at it. He always had good speed, and he developed defensive versatility. He became an adequate hitter, and then became a downright good hitter. The career that had been as good as dead wound up lasting 19 seasons. McLemore achieved his career highs in hits, doubles, and RBIs at age 28; in batting average and OBP at age 31; in walks at age 33; in plate appearances and runs scored at age 34; in triples, stolen bases, slugging, OPS, and OPS+ at age 36; and in homers at age 37.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 STL 161 676 157 29 3B 55 1B 43 RF 39 LF 39 2002 STL 157 675 151 32 LF 117 3B 41 1B 21 SS 1 RF 1Generally, of course, superdupersubs are just overgrown subs, fill-in guys who work their way into the starting lineup, more or less by accident. But once every few decades, it seems, a flat-out great hitter finds himself deployed in the superdupersub role. In the 1900s it was Honus Wagner, in the 1950s it was Stan Musial, in the 1980s it was Pedro Guerrero, and in the 2000s, at the outset of his career, it was Prince Albert.
Pujols is comparable to Jimmie Foxx not only in that both are among the best right-handed hitters ever to swing a bat. They also share the attribute of being graceful and well-rounded athletes, quick on their feet despite carrying tremendous upper-body strength, and with nimble hands, resulting in outstanding defensive aptitude. In both cases their teams spent several years toying with them at different defensive positions before finally settling with them at first base. In both cases it wasn't because of poor fielding at the other positions, but simply that their offensive production was so spectacular that their teams decided to not mess around with this kind of franchise-player talent, and just allow him to focus on his hitting.
And in both cases, once settled at first base they became superb at the position. In Foxx's day there was no Gold Glove award, but I suspect if there was he would have bagged a few; Bill James's Win Shares system has Foxx leading AL first basemen in defensive Win Shares multiple times, and overall gives his defense the letter grade of "A." And Pujols has been a Gold Glove winner.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 SFG 128 446 81 9 3B 70 2B 42 SS 24 2003 CHC 108 333 84 7 2B 42 3B 37 SS 32 1B 2The sort of guy who's handy to have on your bench, but if he's getting this much playing time, you have injury problems.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 NYM 120 340 118 13 2B 54 SS 25 3B 20 P 1 2002 SEA 112 376 92 9 SS 40 3B 38 LF 25 2B 11 RF 10 2003 KCR 141 557 77 11 2B 89 3B 33 RF 15 SS 6 CF 5 LF 1 2004 KCR 114 430 56 4 3B 42 2B 36 LF 22 SS 12 RF 9 CF 3Though he was a real little guy (listed at 5-foot-8, 155 pounds), Relaford had nice pop in his bat. But his batting average, and his walk rate as well, were just all over the place.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 CLE 141 312 75 6 LF 36 CF 35 2B 28 3B 27 RF 18 SS 14 2003 LAD 128 380 104 9 2B 59 CF 38 LF 31 SS 9 1B 8 3B 5 RF 4 2004 SEA 113 391 83 8 3B 36 1B 23 LF 21 2B 18 SS 14 CF 1 RF 1Orlando's big brother was an interesting player: he never threatened for a second to be a regular at any position with any team, but he was so exceptionally flexible defensively that he was used as a one-man bench by three different teams in succession.
Offensively, Jolbert wasn't a good hitter overall: He had no semblance of plate discipline, and tried to pull everything. But with his long skinny arms he was remarkably adept at hooking hump-backed liners down the left field line for two bases. In 2003 he had 98 hits, and 32 of them were doubles, about as high a proportion as you're ever going to see.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 FLA 144 495 140 20 RF 66 LF 27 1B 15 3B 10 2004 BOS 150 588 117 17 1B 69 RF 55 LF 20Mr. "Cowboy Up" has never exactly wowed observers with his athletic grace—this would explain why he appeared in only two major league games before he was 27—but while Millar has never played any position especially well, he has been able to handle several. And for most of his career he's been a very fine hitter.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2001 ARI 141 533 82 14 SS 58 2B 55 3B 38 1B 2 2007 MIL 122 334 65 5 3B 50 SS 27 2B 24He isn't a bad player by any means, but I've never understood why Counsell has gotten as much regular playing time as he has over the years. He's a reliable fielder at second, short, or third, and as a hitter he's, well, not an embarrassment: that adds up to utility man, I would think, not first-stringer. Yet Counsell has started nearly 1,000 major league games.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2002 HOU 125 438 90 11 SS 58 3B 30 2B 25 1B 5 2004 HOU 138 385 75 8 SS 64 2B 37 2B 21 1B 8Vizcaino's career, on the other hand, followed a perfectly sensible arc. He spent his initial few years establishing himself as a utility player, then broke through as a solid-but-unspectacular starting shortstop through his late 20s. Then in his 30s Vizcaino appropriately receded back into the utility role, in which his defensive versatility and his switch-hitting served him well.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2002 PIT 136 439 96 12 RF 76 CF 42 3B 26 2B 3 LF 2 2004 PIT 155 555 90 15 RF 79 3B 55 LF 25 CF 19 1B 1 2005 PIT 142 512 91 12 3B 65 CF 41 RF 23 2B 20 1B 3 LF 1A modestly-sized fellow who generates surprising power; all in all a very useful player.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2002 MON 153 603 117 17 CF 73 LF 72 1B 23 RF 3 2003 MON 146 602 115 18 LF 95 CF 42 1B 27 RF 16 2004 MON 160 688 119 22 1B 86 LF 59 CF 18 RF 10 2005 WSN 148 661 103 23 CF 92 LF 38 1B 25 RF 6The fifth left-handed-throwing superdupersub in the history of superdupersubs put together an extremely nice several-year run with the Expos/Nationals. You never knew which of his four possible positions Wilkerson was going to play, but you knew he was going to be in the starting lineup, delivering consistently sound offense.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2004 ANA 148 638 101 20 3B 92 CF 54 2B 20 SS 13 RF 2 LF 1 2005 LAA 158 720 103 22 3B 56 CF 50 2B 42 LF 15 RF 8 SS 4 2006 LAA 155 683 89 17 CF 96 3B 34 LF 16 2B 9 RF 6 SS 2In nearly every respect, Figgins is a current-day replica of Cesar Tovar: For all practical purposes they're the same player.
Just like Tovar, Figgins delivers consistent high-average line-drive hitting, outstanding speed, and competent (though not brilliant) defensive work at third base, second, or the outfield. Just like Tovar, Figgins is unfazed by being yanked around from one position to the other, game-to-game or even inning-to-inning.
And just like Tovar, this mode of deployment has caused observers to congregate in two camps. On the one hand are those who assert that this fine talent isn't being allowed to develop to its fullest, that if his team would just settle him in at one position—any position—he could develop superior defensive skill to go along with his offense, and truly blossom. On the other hand are those who say that so long as the juggling is truly serving a larger team purpose, and isn't simply a function of indecisiveness, then this very special talent is already being leveraged in a creative and competitively advantageous way.
Myself, I'll equivocate to the extent that each case really does need to be considered on its own, but my bias is in favor of the latter point of view. The value of a "set" lineup is generally quite overrated, I think, and while the typical player no doubt benefits from being allowed to focus on a limited set of challenges, the flexibility afforded by the player able to perform multiple tasks creates extra value.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2004 CIN 143 592 96 19 3B 56 RF 46 CF 42 2B 15 LF 12 2005 CIN 103 431 96 12 2B 48 LF 25 CF 18 RF 13 3B 10 2006 CIN 132 523 93 13 CF 54 RF 42 2B 13 3B 13 LF 13A stocky guy with great speed and not much else, but doggone it he plays good baseball. Freel's scrap-heap pickup-who-makes-good story is one of the best. Most players in the majors have more raw talent than Freel, but most have achieved, and will achieve, far less than Freel.
Year Club G PA OPS+ WS Games by Position 2006 TEX 136 572 108 14 RF 60 3B 40 2B 26 SS 7 LF 5 1B 1 2007 CHC 149 574 102 17 2B 93 3B 37 RF 22 1B 9 SS 1 LF 1Speaking of feel-good stories ... DeRosa was just a good utilityman through his 20s, but has broken through as a first-rate superdupersub in his 30s.
But am I the only one who, on occasion, has gotten him confused with Mark Loretta?
References and Resources
Alex Patton, Patton's 1995 Predictions for Rotisserie Baseball, New York: Wings, 1995, p. 183.
Norm Hitzges and Dave Lawson, 1994 Essential Baseball, New York: Penguin, 1994, p. 48.
Glen Waggoner, editor, Rotisserie League Baseball: 1996 Edition, Boston: Little, Brown, 1996, p. 82.
Glen Waggoner, editor, Rotisserie League Baseball: 1999 Edition, Wilton, CT: Diamond Library, 1999, p. 135.
John Dewan, Don Zminda, and Jim Callis, editors, The Scouting Notebook 2000, Morton Grove, IL: STATS Publishing, p. 679.
John Dewan, editor, The Scouting Notebook 2002, Morton Grove, IL: STATS Publishing, p. 180.
Steve Treder can often be found spending way too much time talking baseball at Baseball Primer. He welcomes your questions and comments via e-mail.
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