Most houses are immobile, so their location most determines their price. So does the location of a baseball player most determine his value.
More than Matt Adams’ house-like mobility suggests the Cardinals haven’t the keenest sense of real estate in the Best Neighborhood In Baseball.
What is it good for: Determining your value relative to others at the same position. In 1987, Jack Clark’s 35 home runs provided plenty of value, but not nearly what it would have had he capably manned 2nd base.
The Ripper would have displaced Tommy Herr and his 2 home runs, while allowing St. Louis to employ one of an abundance of folks who can swing it and play a passable first base. (Cecil Fielder, with one eye on Japan, could only get 175 ABs in 1987.)
Having corner infielders that can rake is a need, not a want.
It’s running water, versus a marble backsplash.
The opposite is true for middle infielders, and the Cardinals used to deploy Jhonny Peralta and Matt Carpenter up the middle, providing a large advantage over most who couldn’t say the same, offensively, about their up-the-middle defenders.
Those two are now in the corners, where their offense isn’t above average versus whom their opponents are playing there. Oh, and the Cardinals have not replaced them with good defenders at 2b and SS. So, where’s the net gain?
Maybe had the Cardinals just watched a division rival put on a run prevention clinic last year, posting an otherworldly .255 batting average on balls put in play, they would value defense a bit less casually. (How many Cub defenders would play CF better than any Cardinal not named Fowler: Almora, Heyward, Szczur, Jay, Baez, Bryant?)
Then again, Matt Adams did yoga this offseason.
CORNERS VS MIDDLE
Last season, twenty-one Third Basemen had an OPS >800, while just five Shortstops did.
Peralta hasn’t had an OPS >800 in three full seasons.
His 715 OPS last year ranked behind fellow division cornermen Eugenio Suarez, Hernan Perez, and David Freese, not to mention Greg Garcia and Dirty Dan Descalco.
Matt Carpenter hits well enough to rank among the upper crust of First Basemen. But at 2B, his 885 OPS ranked 5th, two points better than Robinson Cano. His glove keeps his WAR from being 2B elite–and I don’t think he plays a great 2B–but neither does the guy they’ve replaced him with. So, where’s the net gain?
Yadier Molina’s new deal will pay him well through his age-37 season. Some elude to him being able to mix in first base as he ages. None of the immense value Molina has provided behind the plate comes with him to first base. His career 399 SLG doesn’t play with Rizzo, Goldschmidt, Votto, Gonzalez, Belt… Where’s the net gain when Molina plays first?
Moving Molina to first base is akin to air lifting your Ladue brick tudor onto Times Beach.
The Cardinals aren’t the first team to slot someone in a position they’re not best suited for. But the product should be an obvious gain. Manny Ramirez in left or Miguel Cabrera at a corner will produce more runs than they’ll fail to prevent. Ozzie Smith prevented enough runs to make his 328 SLG moot.
I bet none of them even own yoga pants.