Quick Additional Note On Lopez/Figgins

From zero posts on the topic to two in a few waking hours. You don't know what I'm gonna do next!

Anyway, one of the main topics of discussion both here and elsewhere as far as the whole Lopez/Figgins scenario is concerned has been the matter of positional adjustments. There's been a lot of research on this, and while I'll spare you the math, people smarter than me have found little difference in how players field at third base and second base. That is, while second base gets more opportunities, third base gets more difficult opportunities, and the overall position adjustment between the two positions is zero. Given an average 2B, and given a switch to 3B, you would expect him to post a similar or equivalent UZR.

Implied by this is that the underlying skillsets required at 2B and 3B are the same, but that doesn't hold. While, overall, there isn't much difference, you can see some individual differences when you break things down. Let's do a little analysis of the Fan Scouting Report. If you compare all the 2Bs to all the 3Bs, or if you compare the top 20 2Bs to the top 20 3Bs, you end up with meaningful differences in the following two categories:

Velocity/sprint speed: more important for 2B than 3B (difference of 0.4 for total, 0.4 for top 20)
Throwing strength: more important for 3B than 2B (difference of 0.5 for total, 0.8 for top 20)

This, of course, comes as no surprise. It's completely intuitive - second basemen need better range, and third basemen need stronger arms. Now we just have a little statistical evidence.

Figgins is quick, light on his feet, but there are questions about his arm strength. Lopez is a little slower, but he's got a better arm.

This is what people mean when they say Figgins seems more naturally suited for 2B while Lopez is more naturally suited for 3B. Figgins has the body and skillset of a second baseman, and Lopez has the body and skillset of a third basemen. It just so happens they've been playing in different positions.

By flipping them, then, the M's are simply trying to find out if they can maximize each player's strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. In a hypothetical world where both players adjust to their new roles quickly, then, in theory, the M's should be better off. And if they can't adjust quickly - if Lopez can't handle the heat, or if Figgins struggles with the DP - then that should become evident pretty fast, and the whole experiment can be called off, with no damage being done.

It's February 24th. What's the harm?

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