Does a set defensive position really help offensive production?

[This article is posted by Polka Bill, tell Polka and other fans what you think by joining Pittsburgh Pirates forum now! ]

It’s been suggested that having a player mentally prepared to enter the
season as the starter at one position will help them with their
offensive production.

I don’t buy it.

At least not at the major-league level.

I can understand wanting to draft a player and have them come up
through the minor-league system at one position so they learn
everything they can about what it takes to be a major-league at said
position. But position moves have to be made to get your best prospect
to the majors as soon as they are ready. Neil Walker was moved from
catcher to 3rd because that position is his best bet for making it to
the majors as soon as he’s ready. Jose Castillo was moved from SS to
2nd in the minors because Pokey Reese got injured and he was the best
prospect to come to the majors in case of an injury to a middle
infielder. And don’t you think it would have made some sense in having
Ryan Doumit and Brad Eldred shag some fly balls in the outfield when
management realized that to get their bats to the majors, a position
change might be needed.

At the major league level, these men are the best of the best. So does
it help the mentality of players to hear that Xavier Nady is our right
fielder, Freddy Sanchez is our 2nd baseman, Jose Bautista is our
starting 3rd baseman, and that’s that, end of discussion?

That might work for your teams that can afford to pay the best of the
best to come in and start at a designated position . But for teams like
our Pirates, it doesn’t work. When Jose Bautista got hurt last year
with the lacerated hand, did it not make the most sense to move Freddy
back to 3rd and let Castillo start at 2nd? I thought so, I think most
thought so, but because Freddy was dubbed our 2nd baseman, we were told
it was better for him to stay at 2nd and continue to improve there. But
at what cost? Castillo was your starting 2nd baseman for 3 years,
Freddy played lights out at 3rd the year before. Doesn’t seem like the
best choice for the entire team.

How about Xavier Nady. He played an outstanding 1st base after the
trade that brought him to the Pirates at the trade deadline in the
Ollie Perez deal. He showed that, when healthy, he can also play left
and center, and to know that he’s also played a little 3rd only excites
the fans more. But, the Pirates are saying they want Nady’s mind at
ease, for him to know he’s their right fielder and not worry about
position hopping. Seriously? Does that really help, knowing that it
might be better for the team to be prepared to make a position move?

But what about our players still without a position, like Ryan Doumit,
a switch-hitting power bat that is blocked in right and 1st. Well, he
wouldn’t be blocked with a little position shuffling to get your best
eight men on the field. If that means Freddy goes back to 3rd, or Nady
grabs his infield glove, or Doumit grabs his catchers mit, the object
is to win, not to pamper the players.

Is it really that big of a deal for a major leaguer to be told “Hey
pal, we’ve got an injury or we’re not getting the production from a
certain position, we need you to go there because you’re better than
the back-up.” You’d think these players would be more than willing. Are
they? Will management allow this to happen? That’s to be determined.