FanPost

Kendrick at first or third?

I was thinking about Scioscia's rationale for playing Kendrick at third the other day, that the other team's lineup was stacked with lefties and he'd be unlikely to see many balls hit to him.  As it happened, Kendrick didn't see a ball hit to him all night, so it worked out.  But that started me thinking about exactly how often third basemen have a chance to screw up versus first basemen, and whether the Angels' all-right-handed starting staff might mean their third basemen get fewer chances than normal.  So I started poking around a bit in the stats and doing some calculations of my own.  I don't have any grand conclusions, but I thought the following tidbits were interesting:

  1. Angels third basemen AND first basemen have the fewest total chances at their respective positions in the league.  I was floored by this.  Angels first basemen have had 877 TCs (league average is 933), while Angels third basemen have had 251 TCs (league average is 290).
  2. Correcting for plate appearances, the Angels are still 13th out of 14 in both categories.  Note this is not a bad thing, it just means that fewer assists and outs are being made at the corners than is normal for the league.  Also note that I probably should've looked at TCs per AB, rather than TCs per PA, but I don't doubt the general gist would've been the same.
  3. Looking at the ratio of chances at third base to chances at first base, the Angels are skewed towards the first base side.  As a whole, AL first basemen have had 3.249 chances for every one that AL third basemen have had; for the Angels, that number is 3.494 (4th highest in the league).
  4. However, third basemen obviously make errors at a much higher rate than first basemen, since a large proportion of a 1B's chances are routine throws to him.  On average, AL first basemen commit an error every 169.64 chances or so, while third basemen do so every 23.85 (all numbers are 2006 data to date).  
  5. The ratio of total chances per error for first basemen to total chances per error for third basemen is 7.11.  In other words, in order for someone who was league-average at both positions to make the same number of errors at first and third base, he would have to have 7.11 times as many chances at first as he did at third.  This is much higher than any team in the league; the Blue Jays are highest at 3.71.  Obviously, that number goes up some if there is a higher than normal number of pull hitters in the opposing lineup.
So, what does this mean in terms of Kendrick?  Hey, beats me.  What I suspect is that the Angels shouldn't actually worry too much about putting him at first base, even against a left-handed-hitting lineup, but someone would have to do an analysis of how often left- and right-handed hitters pull the ball on the ground to know.  I just thought it was interesting.

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