Kyle Seager, Chris Snelling and other "Ballplayers"


Rick, who thankfully left Caffeinated Confines to favor us with his baseball perspective, sez,


[Speaking of position switches] Carp sounds like a 60's throwback, but then, our era also saw Tommy Harper (as well as Pete Rose) move from 2nd to 3rd.  Good hitters.  Tommy transformed himself from a speedster (73 SBs with 95 walks as a 2nd baseman in '69) to a power hitter (31 HRs as a 3rd baseman in '70) with the move. 

Now THERE'S a guy who knew how to play a role.  Harper wasn't a good 2nd baseman, but you had to make room for Rich Rollins and Tommy Davis.  But I sure don't suggest we move Ackley there.  He needs to be given a position and stay there, and it ain't 3rd. 

BTW, if there were any ballplayer I would like to meet someday, it's Tommy Harper.  I'd just like to tell him how neat it was having him as our star player on that Pilot team.  He may have been the best athlete on the ballfield in 69-70.

So, what's my point?  Or am I simply waxing nostalgic?  Yeah, I'm waxing nostalgic.  But I see the problem, and believe Jack and Co. will find a way to fix it.  We'll either get a monster DH or a 3rd baseman in the offseason.  Or we'll see Carp at 3rd somewhere in Venezuela this winter.  Who knows? 

I hear yer, Rick ...

That was Eric Wedge's assessment of Kyle Seager -- no special skill, just a "ballplayer."

"Just a ballplayer" is a compliment that would annoy, and go over the heads of, our Baseball Prospectus amigos :- ) but Wedge is referring to several things about Kyle Seager.

Seager's key physical attribute is hand-eye coordination -- as opposed to speed, power, or athletic giftedness as it would apply to football.

Seager has a dirt-dog attack mentality, obviously enjoys the game of baseball -- his attitude is, "Just give me a glove and put me on the diamond, and it's my job to catch the ball."  It's just hardball in the sandlot.  In contradistinction to a prima donna like Chone Figgins, who is unsettled if he doesn't have a comfort zone in the batting order and in the field.  Y'feel me? 

Seager has a natural alertness on the field, an intelligence and ability to outsmart the game, the ability to learn and adapt to baseball contexts ... we remember Inside Pitch telling us about one Mariner we'd drafted, "That guy is just a ballplayer.  His intelligence will allow him to get better."

There are athletes born to football, athletes born to basketball, and athletes born to conquer a whizzing, spinning little 5-oz hardball that ricochets around the field.

Which is why I like the Seager-Snelling comparison more and more as we go along ... SSI's question on Kyle Seager is not whether he should get a long look, and not whether he should be penciled in for 350-400 AB's or more next year.  SSI's only question is whether 3B is the best position for Chris Snelling.


=== Other M's ===

Rick also mentioned Mike Carp as being in the "ballplayer" category -- thinking of Tommy Harper's willingness to switch positions.  Carp not only hit well while playing an uncomfortable position (LF), but hit great while being exiled to the DH slot.

Pete Rose was the ultimate "ballplayer," a guy who just wanted a stick and a glove and a ball, and Rose might have been history's best position-switcher.  He switched from LF to 3B (!) in the MIDDLE of the 1975 season and keyed one of baseball's all-time blitzkriegs.

I wonder if Rick isn't on to something here:  "ballplayers" are the guys who can switch positions.


Carp, Ackley, and Seager are the New Zduriencik Ballplayer, guys who switch positions a lot, LOT better than you expect them to.

Not everybody has to be a ballplayer.  Ichiro's the anti-ballplayer.  The surgeon-caliber Baseball Technician has a role in the game too.

Whatever kind of player you get, make sure he's tough.


=== Seager as a SS ===

Seager is hitting .280/.335/.400 in his first 1/5 of a season, for a 109 OPS+.   In August it was .340/.370/.500, but the EYE had continued to lag around 0.30.

Last several games, Seager with 2 BB's and 0 K's.  That would be the next step up the staircase, for the EYE to start improving.  


Seager embarrassed himself in his debut game at shortstop.  But you know what, you start thinking about Willie Bloomquist as a "ballplayer."  

Willie never hit much, but he did provide his teams some super versatility.  He's played 100 major league games or more at EVERY position on the diamond -- LF, CF, RF, 3B, SS, 2B -- except for 1B, and he's played 37 games there.

Thinking about it in Rick's terms, you start to imagine that if the M's sent Seager to the AFL to play some SS, that Seager could learn that too.  If Willie could learn to back up at SS, why couldn't Seager?

Willie Bloomquist's glove, and Chris Snelling's bat, that would be a whale of a ballplayer.



Dr D



Mike Shannon was a right fielder, Ken Oberkfell was a 2nd baseman and Terry Pendleton was a 2nd baseman.  They were all switched and all became good 3rd basemen.  Shannon was the only one with power but the other two helped teams to the playoffs and world series.  Oberkfell and Pendleton were not considered hot prospects but Herzog new they were ballplayers and wanted them in the lineup.  There are many ways to construct a roster. 
Unless Z goes for it next year with free agent signings and blockbuster trades then I would love to see Seager start for the M's at 3rd base.  Edgar's profile didn't really differ much from Seagers.  Good average, hit doubles and the occasional HR.  He progressed to be much more than that but I could definately see Seager progressing as well.

Rick's picture

The Mariners have also shifted ballplayers from 2nd to 3rd. Both came to the Mariners as second basemen, but Carlos went to 3rd then SS and Bell to 3rd. We saw their power really develop after they left Safeco. Supposedly Jeff Cirillo made Bell expendable (didn't understand that one at the time), and Guillen was simply taken for granted (simply handed to the Tigers).
I'm really excited for Both Seager and Nick Franklin, and it's good to know we won't simply let them escape for nothing like those two did.


Let's remember that Seager has just 90 gamesw of AA/AAA under his belt.  A year ago he was whacking away at A+ pitching.
I love guys who make that big leap (and GM's who allow it).  Seager now has 32 games of MLB experience.  Were he still beating up on AA pitchers he would be quite a "project."
He had one full A+ season, other than that the M's have pushed him along with gusto.  He's responded everywhere.
He's not been overmatched vs. MLB arms this year and he'll get better.
You can win with a Seager at 3B.  He won't bat cleanup, but 35 doubles and 10 homers make him better than Oberkfell AND Pendleton when they were in ST. Louis.  And the Cards won just fine with them.  Pendleton became a bonker when he landed in Atlanta's launching pad.
If he's the guy, Seager will do.  Probably more than just do.


Might have realized that 3B can become a sort of catch-all, more than we realize ... in a similar way to 1B becoming a catch-all for fielders without a hometown.
Great Cards list.  By the time Whitey got to KC, they had 3B pretty well landlocked :- ) but it would be interesting to see what he would do with the M's 3B situation right here.

Jack in Osaka's picture

I've been a Mariners fan since the 2001 season when I began to follow Ichiro's adventures in Major League baseball. There's nothing quite like coming in at the top, as I did with that unbelievable team. NHK-TV broadcast almost every game so I got a very rapid grounding in Mariners baseball. Since then it's been a rocky road downhill but I find myself still emotionally invested in the team despite their bitter fall from grace.
Over the last couple of years I've become a fan of SSI which seems to have the most intelligent discussion of all things Mariner. It's far more analytical that most blogs without the rather didactic point of view of  blogs like USS Mariner. At least here, difference of opinion is not simply dismissed with a condescending wave of the hand. So finally, I've decided to join (occasionally) in the conversation with the full realization that I lack the depth of baseball knowledge that I have admired in many of those who have posted here. I'm a casual fan but not a fair weather one. Anyone who has stuck with the Mariners over the last ten years can hardly be accused of that.
I do have one thing that I have been thinking about that I'd like to put out for other's opinions. What's the chance of moving Seagar back to his natural position, 2nd, and putting Ackley in centerfield. I believe he played the outfield in college and the thinking was to leverage his batting ability at a glove position, thus his move to 2nd. Centerfield is also considered a glove position. Could he hack it out there? That would leave Robinson and Wells to fight it out for LF/4th OF. That would also free up 3rd base, perhaps giving Catricala a shot - that is if they can work with him on his defense until it is at least acceptable. They might platoon him with Figgins, that is he can ever figure out a way to beef up his lightweight batting skills. Anyway, that's a notion that struck me and I'd like to see if others think there might be some merit in going in that direction.


WWEWD=What would Earl Weaver do?
Perhaps Brooks Robinson isn't the world's best comparison, becasue of his glove, but he will have to do.
The '69-'71 Orioles are on the short list of best teams, over a 3-year run, ever. They won 109-108 and 101 games.  The lost to the absolutely fated and karmaic Miracle Mets in the '69 series.  won in '70 over a Reds team with three future HOF'ers and then lost in the WS in '71 to the Pirates, who only had two HOF guys
Brooks Robinson was, of course, the O's 3B through that stretch. 
'69:  .234-.298-.395  92 OPS 21/23 (2B/HR)
'70:  .276-.335-.429  109OPS 31/18
'71:  .272-.341-.413  114OPS 21/20
If we assume that Seager is a .280-.335-.400 109OPS guy, with 30+ doubles and 10 HR's, then, batwise, he fits into the lineup of one of the best teams ever.  Now, it is very true that Earl also had Boog Powell and Frank Robinson and Don Buford over those years, but if he didn't have Brooks Robinson, I don't think he would have refused to played a 30+ double 109 OPS dirt dog 3B.
Seager may have peaked this year.  such is withing the realm of possibility.  It is more possible that he shows typical skill progression and is better in upcoming years. He may "only" be the guy we see now and Franklin may well be better next year, but I can live and the M's can win with Seager at 3B.
BTW, the '69 O's were the best team I've ever seen.


Then he's an impact player.  At a club-controls salary.
The THEORETICAL concern here is merely the scenario in which he hits .285 with no power ... like 23 doubles, 6 homers and a sub-.399 slugging percentage.
If Seager can hit 35 doubles and 10 homers, he projects to be a good ballplayer, no question.


1.  If you're actually not a booked-up saberdweeb ;- ) then your judgments are EXTRA valued around here right now.  *heh*  One thing we could use is some new camera angles.
Personally, I enjoy my *wife's* take on the Mariners as much as anybody's.  She catches all kinds of stuff that I miss.
2.  If you register, there won't be any delay in your posts.  Your choice, of course.
3.  That's actually been a popular idea at SSI, the idea of Ackley to CF and Seager to 2B.  Terry McDermott follows on by putting Mike Carp at 3B, but G-Moneyball (the resident minors super-scout, along with Spectator) says that Vinnie Catricala may make 3B contortions moot.
It seems to me that 2B's are much, much more valuable than CF's, so would leave Ackley at 2B, but I could be wrong.  Maybe CF's are harder to find than I think...
... but remember, I personally think that any fast outfielder can look great in CF *in Safeco.*
Hope you post daily, Jack.

Rick's picture

Is the left handed bat, at 3rd base. It's something I've dreamed of for a long time. Seager wont get swallowed up by Safeco, the way Bell and Cirillo could. If Franklin becomes a fixture at SS, we'll have a real lefty leaning infield, that may look like it needs balancing, except that Smoak, Ackley, Seager, and Carp don't appear to have any kind of real platoon disadvantage. I just see a team being constructed that will dominate at home. after years of Tui, Morse, Yuni, Lopez, this is a wonderful development in the making. Good hitters that torch righties.
Btw, Jeff, I'm not logging in because I lost my registration password, and attempts to reset it aren't being sent to my email.

benihana's picture

Back before the 17 game swoon, remember it was Seager's name floated by national pundits when hypothesizing a Carlos Beltran move.
Seager has tons of value for teams looking for a long term option at 2b.  
Why in the world would you mess with your franchise cornerstone?  Did we learn nothing watching the Figgins / Lopez swap a year ago?  Leave Dustin alone.
If you believe Seager's bat can stick at third, great, check one off the list.  
The attitude that is baffling to me and seems to be growing more and more prevalent, is the one which suggests on one side that we can't compete with 6 rookies or first year players at key positions on the roster next year, and then out the other side say we can't trade these young players yet because we don't know what they can do?  So? We punt 2012?  Or do we really think that it's an option to start the season with only three roster spots written in ink? Felix, Pineda, and Ackley.  Two of them are even second year players.  What kind of production are we gonna get out of the vets, Ichiro, Ryan, Olivo, Gutierrez, Vargas, League?  What kind of production are we gonna get out of the youngsters: Wells, Robinson, Seager, Carp, Smoak, Moore, Beaven, Furbush? Are Hulzen and Paxton the answer?  
Punting 2012 is not an option I would embrace, nor do I think it's an option Z will embrace.  So, the M's have one month to see who can stick, then they've got an offseason in which they must turn the question marks into exclamation points.
- Ben.


Moving Ackley again would be a "bet your job on it" decision if I'm Jack's boss. I'm not saying it would be a bad move...or a good move. But it sure better be the right move given the history here.

ghost's picture

Terry Pendleton was one of the greatest defensive third basemen of all time. His teams won with his soft bat at third because he made up for it with leather...Seager is (IMHO) a slightly better hitter than Pendleton if he develops as i expect, but a far worse glove. He'll learn to be passable...but he'll never best Pete Rose at third defensively...and Rose was pretty bad defensively at third.


The attitude that is baffling to me and seems to be growing more and more prevalent, is the one which suggests on one side that we can't compete with 6 rookies or first year players at key positions on the roster next year, and then out the other side say we can't trade these young players yet because we don't know what they can do?  So? We punt 2012?  ...the M's have one month to see who can stick, then they've got an offseason in which they must turn the question marks into exclamation points.

Agreed.  This year has ALREADY been a 4 month trial.  How much more of a trial do you need?
Wells, Robinson, Carp, Seager, Lueke, Wilhelmsen, Cortes, etc are all getting extended looks.
Figure out who you're gonna roll with to make a winning ballclub next year.  This August, despite being a much better performance than June or July, was still a losing month.  Even with all these kids pouring their hearts out and in many cases producing plus performances, it's not enough.
Our pitching has not been the same since we traded Bedard and Fister - understandably.  Step two of that solution is getting Paxton and Hultzen up here to take the place of Beavan and Vasquez...but what if that doesn't happen in April?
There are lots of decisions to make.  Does the 0-for-30 Wells just went through take him from starter to backup permanently or does his earlier HR binge get him some leeway?  Does Guti's good-average, high-BABIP, zero-power month extend his time with the club, or does Trayvon's performance even with his terrible eye get him a shot instead?
Jack has a lot more pieces to work with than he did when he got here.  But based on what we have in the minors and all the options in the majors he's gonna have to pull a winning team together - or one that can be a winner with the right FA adds.
I don't think we can win with 6 of the 9 hitters in the lineup being guys with 1.5 years of pro experience or less (Ackley, Seager, Carp, Wells, Robinson, Smoak).  But maybe we can.  I think we HAVE to play at least three, in Ackley, Carp and Smoak.  Seager is probably 4, because we don't have many options at 3rd and Figgins is worthless.  If Guti was not atrocious, I would think that neither Robinson nor Wells should start.  With Gui having the miserable year he's having I could very well see us having Trayvon in CF.
I can't justify 6, though.  In a perfect world there'd be 4 with either Trayvon or Wells rotating through the OF.  In a Guti-less world, there's 5 with Wells as the 4th OF.
But what we do to add to the lineup is gonna decide it.  We still need one or two bats.  We need to figure out how we plan to hold the fort in the rotation (I think that's the Furbush/Beavan plan) til Paxton and Hultzen get here, and what to do to strengthen the pen (FAs or trades to help out League, Lueke, Wilhelmsen and maybe Gray).
The offseason plan should be built around how to win in 2012, not just how to line things up for 2013.
Hopefully, that's what we do.


I think youth is going to become more valuable (also any type of power in general).  I think that we will see that players will age much faster now that we are out of the era of PEDs.  The 162 game schedule is so ridiculously rigorous that the resilience of youth will become an important factor.
I'm not too worried about starting 2012 with a bunch of kids... as long as it is the right bunch of kids.  Throw in a DH like Prince?
Also, players like Snelling, Seager, etc (assuming they can stay healthy) will have more value in the coming era than they did in the PED era.

paracorto's picture

he projects to be a good ballplayer, no question."
But then again he would be as well big value at 2B... with Ackley in the OF. Thus we're back to the point made by Jack in Osaka and others - myself included. With the upgrade of having a better defensive 2B too. OK, there's still open 3B - or maybe not at all with Figgins and Franklin, Triunfel, Catricala and Martinez.

tjm's picture

. . . would be for the Seager believers to be right. Then Carp goes to left and one of Guti/Trayvon/Wells plays center. The other two are backup. trade-bait. And all this ruckus about moving Carp to 3B and Ackley to CF could just go away for good. Geez, who started this anyway?
Meanwhile, I think Jack has discovered the next undervalued asset class. We had OBP, UZR and now? Southern white men. It's downright weird how many southerners the M's have acquired/drafted. Ackley, Smoak, Seager, Hultzen, Moore, etc. And Carp's from Long Beach, which might as well be Georgia!
I'm with G on 2012. I'd try Wilhelmson in the rotation, get a DH and make a run at Yu Darvish.


Another TOR performance from Fister. 13ks! I understand we went for quantity over quality... and Wells is alright, I guess. But I wish we had saved that trade chip for a sure thing. This reminds me of the Morrow trade. Not terrible, but we should have been able to get more in each case IMO.


That used to be the axiom.  I don't think we did, which is why I've been lukewarm on the trade.  Yes, Furbush can start, but Fister was a quality #3 starter.  Yes, Wells might be an okay starter or backup, but we had several other options there.  Francisco Martinez might put it together at 3B, or more likely he might not.  Ruffin is a decent relief arm, but not worth a #3 starter in any sense.
I still wouldn't have made this particular deal for Fister.  If Furbush can be a #4 starter, Ruffin can close, and Wells is a league-average LF, we win.  We had a lot of holes to fill, and a lot of plus pitching talent in the minors.
I don't think all that happens...which means we need to use the assets we got wisely.  Roll Martinez or Wells in with another deal and then see what the total becomes.
Otherwise the loss of Fister could hurt more than we'd like. 

Taro's picture

Fister is on pace for a 5+ WAR season (true-talent likely lower) and figures to be durable with 5 years of control left.
Thats quite a valuable piece. I wouldn't be shocked if Fister amassed more WAR than Pineda over the next 5 years.
One of the pieces coming our way needs to develop into an impact player.. Or that deal is a pretty big miss.

Taro's picture

With Seager the only concern I have is his D (thought he would be plus based on being a converted 2B).. He has enough power and overall offensive skillset if he pans out, but mediocre defense at 3B would limit his potential.
I really think some trades need to be made in the offseason. The majority of our young position players are long-shots with signifant flaws that limit their upsides. Even Carp and Seager are at risk to stick around as regulars unless they can mash at the plate.


Technically we've got 4 shots at it, but Furbush is gonna have to work hard to get a rotation slot, let alone be a 4+ WAR pitcher.  I think he will wind up in the pen in a year or two.  He and Ruffin are both good arms, but unless one of them becomes an outrageously good, Putz-level closer neither will be even a 3 WAR arm.  
Martinez is talented, but he's got work to do.  His power increased...but just from .080 to .135, and that's not good enough.  To do it, his eye dropped from .4 to .2.  If his power gain was .200 or something I could believe his eye would come back and he could be an impact player, but I still haven't seen that in his game.  I hope the scouts are right - he's just 20.  But he's got to find power and take walks to be useful, and I don't see that happening soon.
Give it a couple of years I guess.
And I've already said I don't think Wells is that player.  We got a lot of pieces, but 2 WAR from Furbush, 1 WAR from Ruffin and 1 WAR from Wells does not equal 4 WAR from Fister.  I hope we get at least that, but I'm still nervous about our return on that deal if all the pieces stay here.
Fingers crossed - we need more impact players, and you hate giving one away if Fister can keep this up.  


Seager played 3B in college until his junior year, IIRC, and then switched to 2nd.  So moving him back to 3rd is setting him back to his original position.  The fact that he can play 2nd is a bonus, and I think he's decent at it, but he's only really decent at both defensively.  He works hard, though, and has good hands and a good arm.  I don't think good defense is beyond his grasp, and I like his bat to produce at either.
I expect Carp in LF and Seager at 3B.  Smoak will be at 1B.  I dunno why but I still believe Kubel will be the DH/OF we go for in FA.  And that leaves CF/4th OF between Wells, Trayvon and Guti.
I think we trade for a catcher, but who goes depends on what the org giving up the catcher needs.  With a young catcher trade, a Kubel-ish add, and a couple of pen arms, I don't think we're in for a crazily exciting offseason.
But I'd love for them to prove me wrong. :)

paracorto's picture

via Drayer:
"Ron Fairly had an interesting idea on the pregame roundtable segment. He said that he would like to see Ackley some in center, Seager at second and Liddi at third. I wouldn't mind seeing that myself. One way to get Liddi more looks and also get Ackley and Seager into their natural positions. This could be interesting."

tjm's picture

An excellent discussion of metrics:
" . . . building a lineup without a slugger (or two) is like building a mall with seven Sunglass Huts and no department stores.  A few sluggers are swift, slender middle-infielders.  Most of them aren’t.  To paraphrase Reggie, there are lots of drinks and precious few straws.  If you get left without one, no amount of Range Factor, WHIP, or baserunning acumen can save your season.  Just ask the Padres, or the Mariners."

Taro's picture

The best point made is about the unreliability of OF UZR based on a pitching staff's FB tendencies. It points to a potential flaw in the recording of UZR. All the more reason to use multiple defensive statistics and scouting to come up with more reliable defensive measurements.
WAR doesn't hate sluggers neccesarilly though, and taking one year WAR samples to support a point don't really move me (especially with the volatility of UZR in one-year samples).

Taro's picture

Going away from the volatility of UZR in short-samples for a bit..
The idea of WAR is based on the positional value. The lower you are on the defensive scale, the MORE you have to hit to amass value because the population of players that can play your position competently is significantly larger.
12.5 C7.5 SS2.5 CF2.5 2B2.5 3B-7.5 LF-7.5 RF-12.5 1B  
*scale is in runs
One of the reasons 3B/2B score so high is because transitions between the positions did horribly. Experience is a large factor at SS/3B/2B as is being RH.
This is why conversions in the IF (beyond 1B) are generally a bad idea unless you're looking for long-term gains. The skill level to play each position is high. When SS transition to 2B, they do not get better unless they're experienced at the position (if fact on average do 1 run worse). Jack Wilson showed this to us. When 2B transition to 3B or visa-versa, they generally do horribly (around 6-10 runs worse). Chone Figgins' conversion last year is a good example.
Transitions to the OF are less difficult, alhtough the premium at CF is high. This is why I think we should keep Ackley at 2B and Seager at 3B. 1B conversions generally do horrific in the OF (Carp seems to be an exception), but the other IF positions generally do laterally when moved to the OF. 


Y'know ... I get annoyed when a key central point (deserving of its own bold heading in the story) is demonstrably fault with 3 second of research.
Who is the CURRENT #1 player in AL by WAR?  Jose Bautista = 8.1.
The second highest WAR is Pedroia at 6.5.
While I have railed against UZR myself, the article utterly misses the point that WAR is specifically designed to compare apples (1Bs) to oranges (SS) because no other stat out there even bothers to try.
Moreover, WAR is assembled by adding the seperately available offensive and defensive WAR figures ... which means, if one has an IQ above a turnip, you can freely and readily ignore the defensive plus/minus and just use the raw offensive WAR ... (where Bautista is still #1 and Miguel Cabrerra is #2) ... poor Pedroia falling all the way to 5th.
WAR does not, in any way "hate" sluggers.  WAR simply rewards being better than the competition AT YOUR POSITION.  If every 1B out there is hitting .800, then hitting .850 doesn't mean much.  If every SS out there is hitting .650, and you're hitting .850, then that IS valuable.
In point of fact, the WAR list for the AL matches up surprisingly well with the slugging list for the AL.  Top 10 in WAR (including defensive WAR) and slugging at this moment for the AL are: (minimum 120 games)
Batista --- Batista
Pedroia --- D. Ortiz
Ellsbury --- Granderson
AGON --- Mig Cabrerra
Gordon ------ AGON
Mig Cabrerra  - Konerko
Granderson --- Cano
Avila -------- Ellsbury
Longoria ---- Avila
Zobrist ---- Teixeira
I don't see WAR hating on no sluggers.  Not kind to DHes, perhaps.  (Well, duh).


The problem with WAR in my mind is it fails to accurately account for the scarcity of opportunities.  While you can build a roster of 25 player with 1 WAR ability for basically $15 M, you only get to use 9 of the hitters at one time.  You need to focus acquiring the best 15 players, not the best 25 (stars and scrubs). 
At the micro level, Bill James most important insight was appreciating that the second most important counting stat in baseball is outs (following runs).  Players that make a lot of outs to generate runs were hideously overvalued in the 70's and 80's.  
In roster construction and WAR, the value of outs must also be fully appreciated.  While this is acknowledged at the on-base percentage level, it is not fully accounted for with regard to great hitters in my opinion.  Special hitters in the corners, allow you to carry Brendan Ryan and Franklin Guittierez -- special defenders at the positions that get the most opportunities.  If you have a great SS and 2B and a ground ball staff, you can afford to run Manny Ramirez out there every night.  While I understand that WAR 'accounts' for these effects with replacement level and positional adjustments, the defensive scale is generally -2 to +2 wins, while the offensive scale is -2 to +7 wins.  The roster flexibility that Albert Pujols generates cannot is not accounted for with WAR.  WAR undervalues great players, because they make the job for the GM, the manager, and the banjo hitting shortstop easier.
To zeroth order, baseball is a game where the contributions of the individuals are additive. At present, no one has a compelling theory for first order effects, though winshares and Matt's quantitative descriptions of defense certainly try with some success. That the theories are hard to construct and challenging to understand, doesn't make the effects irrelevant or even small.

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