Playing Players Out of Position

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when you can't trade 'em, but want to play 'em 

One of my leagues is trade bound. It is a standard draft by mail league. Yet, the managers are so satisfied with their drafts each year that they average about one or two trades a year – and most of those are with the new manager in the league.


Even in that league, no one has such an imbalance that players are noticably playing out of their eligible positions. Yet, in the Yahoo Scoresheet Groups, questions and even a few recommendations persist that involve thirdbasemen playing second or outfield, etc. Question: how do your teams get so out of whack? Is it that impossible to make a reasonable trade? Are you so in love with “your” players that you can’t bring yourself to part with them?


Many Scoresheet managers are always looking for ways to “beat the sytem”. It is part of the fun for them. I manage to do quite well without such tricks. Most of these beat-the-system schemes are probably detrimental to their winning. In this case, even if they are absolutely sure their calculations are correct and the player they have out of position should add more runs with his offense than he will detract from his fielding penalty, how do they know that out-of-position player will actually hit as well as expected? How do they know how much the fielding penalty will affect the other team’s hitting? Scoresheet suggests an effect on batting average, but do they know that a certain number of doubles and triples are robbed, too? Do they know whether or not they have to multiply that number by 7, 8 or 9 as that fielding will be fielding against every batter who doesn’t strikeout, walk, or hit a home run, while their own hitting stats will come up once every 9 batters? Are they weighing other factors such as protectibility of sluggers vs. good fielders and the revised scarcity of good players at the misfielded position?


I had Rusty Greer playing firstbase on and off in the late 90s, because I had Williams, Griffey, and Ramirez, and it was always easier to find another outfielder/DH of decent value than it was a firstbaseman. It does hurt your D, so I finally found someone to take Greer for a younger potentially protectable firstbaseman – some player called Jason Giambi. Sometimes, it is OK to make a trade.


Playing an infielder at firstbase is no problem. Why not? I have infielders listed at firstbase on both teams – although, just on my bench. For example, on my Hot Stat Rats, Cantu is on the bench as 2b-1b, because Upton is listed above him as DH and I want to take no chances that Upton – who is still an error machine – will play firstbase ahead of Cantu.


It, also, doesn’t kill you to play your shortstop at thirdbase or outfield. That’s exactly where Jason Bartlett is listed as my top substitute vs. LHP along with his real position shortstop. An average shortstop has a 3B range of 2.61 (-.04 from average) and an outfield range of 2.07 (about the same as an average corner outfielder). The deduction for playing second base is steeper 4.14 (-.09), so I would avoid that.


Incidently, if you have the choice of playing your better fielding shortstop or your weaker fielder out of position, Scoresheet has recently rigged their system to make it advantageous to keep your better fielding shortstop at his position and move your weaker fielder to third or outfield – or wherever. Don’t tell the Yankees, but that is as it should be. The fielding rating differences from the norm are reduced only by the average of the new position divided by the old position per point of difference rather than changing by the full point difference.


For example, let’s say you have Julio Lugo 4.81 and Jhonny Peralta 4.75 as your shortstops and you want to play one of them at thirdbase. The 3B average fielding rating is 2.65, while the SS average is 4.75. The fielding range differences between Lugo and Peralta are .06. Last year, you could have put Lugo at thirdbase and his range would have been 2.61 + 0.06 = 2.67. All together 2.67 (Lugo’s rating at 3B) + 4.75 (Peralta’s rating at SS), they would have a 7.42 combined range at those two positions. If you move Peralta to third instead, it would make any difference. He’d get a 2.61 (+0,00) and Lugo would remain 4.81, so it would still add up to 7.42 or a +.02 above the average of those two combined. With the new system, if you move Lugo to third his range would be 2.61 + ((2.65 / 4.75 = .558) x (4.81 – 4.75 = .06) = .033 which would be rounded to .03) = 2.64. That’s a point below average which when added to Peralta’s 4.75 becomes 7.69, still a total of one point below the average for the two positions. However, if you move the weaker fielding Peralta to third, his range is 2.61, while Lugo’s keeps his .06 points above average of 4.81 combing to 7.42: two points above average.


Similarly, if Peralta and Mike Young (4.69) are your shortstops, your better off moving Young to third. Instead of being a -.10 below average (.06 for Young, -0.04 for playing a shortstop out of position as 2.61 - 2.65 = -0.04), Young’s -.06 is multiplied by .558 to become a -03, so the total fielding range of Young at third and Peralta at short is only -.07 below average.


So, if you must, play the weaker fielding shortstop at third – no matter whether he is below average or the other shortstop is well above average. But, don’t play your thirdbaseman at shortstop, but if you do: play the better thirdbaseman at shortstop. Instead of multiplying the thirdbaseman’s range differential by 2.65 / 4.75, it will be multiplied by 4.75 / 2.65, thus it will be doubled instead of halved. An average thirdbaseman’s range will be 4.33 or -.42, so you have a lot to make up.


Based on the information I've seen from the Bartons, (correct me if I'm confused), it seems .40 points of range factor only would equal about .220 points of O+S (based on .10 points = .025 BA or .030 slugging, or .055 O+S, hence .40 = .220). So, if you can't find someone who you would expect to hit .630 O+S, then you are OK putting a .850 hitter in his place if he is .40 points out of position. That seems essentially prohibitive to me - and appropriately so. Then there is the error rates which get pro-rated for each position, then there are scarcity issues, there are aging patterns for corner positions vs. up-the-middle positions (the latter having longer careers), and you are probably hurting yourself much more than you realize. But then, some people just love playing beat-the-system.


Class dismissed.

John Carter