Judging the fielders in the age of shifts is a difficult challenge. As I read about Sano – should he move to 1B I am constantly trying to evaluate what the qualities are for those two bases. 3B – quick reflexes (believe me the ball gets to 3B quick) and a strong arm. 1B – reflexes of a different type, not grabbing missiles, but rather erratic throws, short hops, flexibility to stretch and grab, and still a range for fielding the position. 1B have that strange responsibility for “covering the base” when a runner is on, anticipating throws from C and P. It is a very challenging and underestimated fielding position.
For generations we have put the big lunking Ted Klusewski or Dick Stuart at the base and just said throw at the body and he will be okay. Keith Hernandez and Joe Mauer were fielding examples at 1B, but Brooks Robinson, Nolen Arenando would not be mistaken for those 1B rolemodels because they are the gold standard for 3B.
Sano is not quick but seems to have the reflexes for third and the arm to respond when balls bounce off his body. What now we shift and suddenly he is a SS – does anyone see him as a SS? He moves towards the “hole” and he has more area to cover. Now we need foot speed as well as reflex.
The SS and 2B positions have now overlapped and the challenge for the players today is to make the turn at second base coming from so many new angles. Of course, in the launch angle age there is a major decrease in DPs.
We used to judge these positions by range and athleticism – thing Ozzie and the 2B/SS was a tandem – Groat and Mazeroski, Fox and Aparicio, Grich and Belanger, Whitaker and Trammell (why is Trammel in the HOF and not Whitaker?), Robinson and Reese, and Morgan and Concepcion are examples. We had Versalles and Bernie Allen…
In 2015 Dave Schoenfield wrote – “In 2015, the MLB average was 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.9 walks; in 1955, it was 4.4 and 3.7. That means more balls in play and more baserunners in 1955, although even with fewer home runs per team in 1955, the overall number of double plays has remained steady: 121 per team in 1955, 125 per team in 2015.” Fascinating stats show that the GDP leader stats do not really change from year to year. Ernie Lombardi (Mr Slow feet) 26 in 1933, Manny Machado 24 - 2019. https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/GIDP_leagues.shtml
What has changed is the fact that 2B now a hybrid SS. Is Polanco a good SS in the old system? How does he and Arraez fit the new paradigm.
Do we need to consider changing the names of the positions? Are players really interchangeable at these positions?