Latest on Lopez - Figgins

Q.  How serious is the switch at this point?

A.  Larry LaRue had an interesting point.  The old soldiers are used to this kind of "look-see" taking place later in training camp. 

To arrive the first day, and find Jose Lopez at 3B from the word Go, had the air of a switch that they were serious about sticking with.


Word is that Lopez will play at least the first week of games at 3B.


Q.  What is the determining factor?

A.  Gathering info from round about, it's clear that putting Chone Figgins at 2B is a non-issue.  Figgins would be at 2B if Jose Lopez can make it work at 3B.  JLo is the determining factor.


Q.  And can Lopez play 3B?

A.  One of the beat writers opined that, the first day, to him Jose Lopez looked very, very unhappy taking balls at 3B.  The question isn't Lopez' hands; Lopez has excellent hands.  The question is, if you hate playing there, it's just not going to work for anybody.

This writer reported that Lopez had no clue that he was going to be switched, in fact that the administration had assured everybody that there would definitely be no switch -- and then Lopez walked into camp, was sat down, and told he was moving.

SSI takes this characterization with a grain of salt, but the writer went on to note that big leaguers don't like to be treated that way.


But another writer / announcer, one constantly in the locker room, said that Lopez was very cheerful about the move, asked for extra ground balls, was enthused about how Figgins looked at 3B, etc.

This person said, actually Lopez is glad to be at 3B, because the one move that he dreaded was the move to first base.  "That was the one thing the org ever asked Jose to do, that I didn't see him very enthusiastic about."  Huh.


Dr. D will plump for the second interpretation, and Dr. D gingerly predicts that Jose Lopez will be playing 3B on April 6th against the A's.


Q.  Who's the winner here?

A.  The biggest winner would be .... drumroll ...Jose Lopez.

The buzz is that, around major league baseball, Lopez' mediocre footspeed, and low BB's, are seen as dreary negatives for a second baseman.

But hold on a second:  put Lopez at 3B, and all of a sudden his hands are plus, his arm is plus ... and he's got nice power.

It's based on 2B/3B stereotypes, but perception is reality.  At 2B, people might be a bit mmeehhhh on Lopez, but at 3B all of a sudden the $3M Lopez has shiny curb appeal.


Q.  And would the M's be better?

A.  My good bud the Rotochamp follows a lot of sharp cookies in finding the defensive add questionable, and the drawbacks considerable.

But SSI is a huge fan of the move.  I think it unlikely that Figgins is actually a Gold Glove 3B; I think that's just the stats hiccuping.  And if Figgins can play the much more demanding 2B position, OBP .400, and cut off balls up the middle, great.

I also see Jose Lopez as a truly plus 3B -- an ex-SS with butter-soft hands who could easily become one of the five best 3B's in baseball.

I would expect a significant increase in the team DER if the two were switched.  I'm rooting hard for the switch.


Dr D



Taro's picture

It actually does increase Lopez's value and decreases Figgins'.
One of the biggest reasons I was a big fan of the Figgins' deal was due to his improvement at 3B defensively the last couple seasons (he himself credits it to techinical improvement at the postion).
Now that Figgins one of those rare +15 run type elite defenders at 3B, Lopez is really going to have to be similarly good and/or Figgins is going to have to rock at 2B for the switch to even bring positive value.
I'm not a fan of the move, but I will be hoping that Figgins can transition his improvement at 3B over towards 2B.

misterjonez's picture

with your position, Taro.  *IF* Chone is actually an Adrian Beltre-esque defender at the hot corner, and *IF* his 2B defensive statistics are an accurate measurement of what he'll bring to the table (even rounded up to average-ish) then it's not a great move for his value or for the club's overall defensive alignment.
I'm forced to lean towards Doc on this one.  Figgins doesn't strike me as a prototypical 3B with his skillset.  Minus arm for the position, and generally relies on his impressive athletic ability rather than cat-like reflexes, from what I remember seeing of him.  That *sounds* like a 2B, not a 3B, so the experiment gets my vote for looking into it.
But again, if Figgy really is a +15 type of guy at 3B going forward, it's likely best to leave them where they are.  IF, however, he's more a +5 guy with a couple misleading seasons, then it makes all kinds of sense to swap them.
Keep in mind that the Angels fans generally credit his defensive improvements with an increased in-game focus level compared to previous seasons, not so much any technical improvements to his overall defensive contributions.  It's entirely possible that his 'gains' at 3B *WILL* translate to 2B if that is the case.
I'm not thrilled about it, but I'm in favor of investigating the swap in ST.


Is that the 2B Yahtzee slot is much harder to fill than the 3B slot.
The old Fangraphs positional adjustment conditions us to think that 2B = 3B, but this is far from the case.   The league averages for hitting might be similar at the moment, but the issue is degree-of-difficulty. 
If 60% of ML teams have a 3B replacement they like, and 20% have a 2B replacement they like -- just to take a hypothetical -- then Figgins is worth far more as a quality 2B mitt than as a very good 3B mitt.
I'll bet you a dollar that the PMR's and UZR's bear me out on Figgins and Lopez this year.  :- )

Taro's picture

In general I agree, but I think the postions are much closer than we were led to believe. 3B deals more in preventing XBHs while 2B has more opportunities (but 3B has more OOZ plays).
Orlando Hudson is a roughly comparable player to Adrian Beltre coming off a more productive season. Beltre got twice of Hudson's deal.
Felipe Lopez had 4+ WAR season last year at 2B and isn't even going to make $2mil gauranteed this year.
I do think 2B is more valuable (might be something updated by Tango later on), but these positions are pretty close in value. Its not nearly going to be as big as the adjustment from SS to 2B.

Taro's picture

Well put.
I don't buy into his 2B UZRs, but I do buy into him becoming an elite defender over the past two years at 3B.
Whether that will translate to 2B is the question (I haven't watched him enough to make a judgement on that). If Figgins isn't PLUS at 2B, the move doesn't make any sense. If hes a +10 2B than sure.

misterjonez's picture

Remember that AL league with the Gonnie Garko team?  Getting a qualified 1B was an absolute nightmare due to recent retirements/DH career changes and FA moves from the AL to the NL.  You're right about 2B in this regard, and if Figgins is something like +5 or +10 at 2B, then statistically the whole thing is a coup, with the icing on the cake being that a couple of our best ML-ready (or nearly ready) prospects can man 3B if needed.
I tend to agree with you about the overall defensive benefit of swapping them.  Lopez is almost certain to gain significantly, and I would imagine that Figgins doesn't lose much in the way of 'real' defensive contributions.  Plus it more clasically utilizes their particular talents.

misterjonez's picture

is turning double plays.  Athletically, Figgins creates excellent range and if he can man the hot corner to the tune of two GG-worthy years statistically, then you know his reactions are just fine.  And I think it's worth repeating that nearly everyone who watched him with the Angels said the biggest reason for his defensive improvements were a better work ethic and improved in-game focus.
Come to think of it, I can see that being the primary reason for BOTH his defensive and offensive improvements.  A guy like him, with all of the athletic talent that you can pack into a 5'9" (or whatever) body could easily have been skating by on pure talent and made it 'click' halfway through his career by re-dedicating himself to the task at hand.  This would seem to jive with the improved defense at the mid-point of his career (generally defensive skills are highest at the earliest stages, declining gradually) and his increase in BB's at pretty much the exact same time.

Taro's picture

Good point. Its very unusual for players to improve defensively as they age.
Maybe this improvement will translate to 2B?
I wonder if anyone could dig up those quotes from Figgins regarding his D at 3B to past couple years..

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