Anthony Rendon the Second Baseman

 

There is a scene in the movie Moneyball where manager Art Howe refuses to
play Scott Hatteberg at first base because he has a first baseman in Carlos
Pena and Hatteberg is not a first baseman. Anthony  Rendon
is not a second
baseman and the Nats have a natural second baseman in Steve  Lombardozzi
. The
chances that the Nats situation goes the way of the A’s situation is unlikely
as Rizzo and Davey have often been in step when it comes to moves. There have
been some recent signs that maybe Davey isn’t too keen on the new guys. In a
recent interview about the Nats bench struggles Davey Johnson said he was going
to keep using the guys he saw do it last year over the new guys like Eury  Perez

or Jeff  Kobernus
, and just this past weekend in Atlanta Davey Johnson used Henry
Rodriguez


over the recently called up Erik  Davis
in the 10th inning of a tie
game, and the very next day, when down by one, called on Zach  Duke
again over
Erik Davis.  

Davey Johnson was going to use the
guys he had and he was going to favor the guys that helped him win 98 games
last season. Mike Rizzo has since removed three of those guys with Henry
Rodriguez and Zach Duke being designated and Danny  Espinosa
being placed on the
disabled list. In Espinosa’s place Anthony Rendon was recalled from the minors.
He didn’t start last night and at second was natural second baseman Steve
Lombardozzi who hit the walk-off sac fly in the bottom of the ninth. With Bryce
Harper

still hurt it is possible to play both Lombardozzi and Rendon and then
decide from there who should play second, but the decision of the front office
is already obvious. Anthony Rendon wasn’t called up to sit, and after just
three games at second in the minors the Nationals are ready for him to be their
everyday second baseman.  

Now the line-up card is Davey’s to do
with as he pleases, but if Rendon isn’t in there on a daily basis in the near
future then Rizzo is going to have a choice of either demoting or trading Steve
Lombardozzi, who is a versatile and a valuable utility man who can play a
variety of positions, or to lose Davey Johnson who is a man that Mike Rizzo
deeply admires and who he wants to be the manager of the club, but Mike Rizzo
didn’t call up Rendon to sit. 

There is some concern over Rendon’s
defensive stylings at second. He did make two errors in three games, but minor
league errors can be deceiving. Error in general can be deceptive but minor
league fields are not taken care of in the same way as major league fields and
often times do not play true. It is also unknown how far he ranged to get to
the balls that he made errors on or anything else about how they happened. What
is known is that before he was recalled the Nats called AAA manager, Tony
Beasley, and asked him if Rendon had the footwork to handle second base. The
answer was yes.    

Until Rendon had started playing
second base I was skeptical as to if he could play it. It was a position he
hadn’t played as a professional and didn’t play much in college, and hasn’t
consistently played since little league. There is a moving trend in baseball of
viewing second base as less of a defensive position. Back in the long ago days
of baseball second base wasn’t viewed as a defensive position. Third base was
given more defensive importance and offensive powerhouses like Rogers Hornsby,
Napoleon Lajoie, and Eddie Collins were common at the position. Even more
recently teams like the Braves and Mets took major league outfielders in Kelly
Johnson and Daniel Murphy and moved them to second base. Johnson played no
games in the minors at second before moving there as a major leaguer in 2007
and Daniel Murphy had played only 19 games in the minors before being deemed
ready for the position in the majors. 

There are other such cases as Neil
Walker
was a minor league catcher who became a minor league third baseman and
then a major league second baseman, and Matt Carpenter who until July 5, 2012
had played zero professional games at second base did so for the first time at
the major league level. There is a shift in major league baseball where second
is starting to be viewed in the way it was before the 1930’s: A position where
teams can stick someone like Daniel  Murphy
, Matt  Carpenter
, or an Anthony
Rendon and live with the defensive downgrade. The reason the first shift of
second base becoming a defensive position happened was because of the rise in
the double play.

Last season there were 3,614 double
plays turned in the major leagues out of 184,179 total plate appearances or
double plays accounted for just fewer than two percent of all plays in
baseball, and not every one of those double plays even involved a second
baseman. Why not put a more offensive minded player at the position if the play
you’re worried about only happens less than two percent of the time? This isn’t
just a shift in the double play, but in fielding in general. The fielders are
becoming less and less important with each passing day. So far this season
there have been 65,631 plate appearances and 20,625 have ended with a strike
out, walk, homerun, or hit by pitch. That means that 31.4% of all plays haven’t
involved a fielder. On top of that 31.4% of three true outcome plays there have
been 9.5% infield fly balls. Meaning that nearly 40% of plays in baseball
either don’t require a fielder at all or should be able to be made by even the
most mundane of fielders. This is why an offensive minded corner infielder can
be put at second base, and why the defensive spectrum is starting to shift
again with second base once again being viewed as a more offensive position.
   

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