Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Most Important Position in Baseball

With the mega-contract that was signed by Troy Tulowitzki earlier this week Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target posed the question, "What is the most important position in baseball?"

This is a great question for bloggers to write about because there can be so many different ways to interpret the question and there are a variety of ways to approach finding an answer.

I tried not to read too much about what the others had written on this topic (You can see their links at the bottom of this article).

I decided to make a three tier system for players.  Tier 1 will include my top position players, Tier 2 will include my middle level position players, and Tier 3 will include my lower level position players.

Tier 1: Starting Pitcher, Catcher, and Shortstop
Starting Pitcher:  The starting pitcher can dominate a game.  If players can't hit a pitcher it doesn't matter what defensive players are behind him.
Catcher:  The catcher can set the tone of the game.  A catcher calling a good game can help a pitcher to dominate.  Having a defensive catcher can stop runners from moving around the basepath.
Shortstop:  A dominant shortstop can control the defensive pace of the game behind the pitcher.  If a pitcher doesn't have his best stuff the defensive behind him needs to be even better.  The shortstop can control that defense.

Tier 2: Center Field, Third Base, Second Base, and Relief Pitcher
Center Field:  The man in control of the outfield.  A bad center fielder can lead to some interest plays in the outfield.  Great athletes are usually designated to center field because of the multitude of tasks that is required of this position.
Third Base:  The hot corner can be a position that is the difference between an out and a double.  Quick reflexes and a solid glove are all part of a third baseman's make-up.   
Second Base:  The other part of the double-play combination can be a thriving part of a team's defensive game plan.  Having a mobile second baseman can help to compensate for other positions that might be lacking defensively.  
Relief Pitcher:  The importance of relief pitching continues to play a role in the sport of baseball.  One bad inning or one bad pitch can be the difference in winning a World Series or not even qualifying for the playoffs.  

Tier 3: First Base, Right Field, and Left Field
First Base:  There are many unathletic players that are placed at this position.  These players can be in the line-up solely for their hitting prowess.       
Right Field:  With the center fielder covering lots of ground, the right fielder can be a position in which a team hides a lower level player.  Some great center fielders have had to make the shift to right field in the later portion of their careers.
Left Field:  The other corner outfield position can be another hiding spot for a young up-and-coming player or an aging veteran.  

Here are some links to other bloggers opinion on the topic:

The folks at Knuckleballs had a couple different opinions:  The first is looking to score a 10 from the position players and the second gives love to starting pitchers

As part of this post I posed the question on my Facebook profile to see what kind of responses I would get from my family and friends.  Here are the responses:

-Catcher, they are like the captain!
-Catcher.  They are the eyes of the whole field.
-Pitcher. Without them you have a lot of people standing around :)
-Catcher, they hold that team together and keep the pitcher going.  Without them the team would be a mess!
-The pitcher because they are the main defensive player
-Everything starts with the pitcher, catcher in a close second.... or the guy that 100% of the time that hits homers
-Catcher or middle reliever, although I guess you can't pin the middle reliever as just one position, I would more say the bullpen (minus the closer)
-Well the most important position on the field is the pitcher....They (I consider the entire staff playing one position) can win and lose the game depending on how they throw...
-I have to go with either SS or 3B.  Good defense can bail out everyone else on the team.
-I would say pitcher
-Starting pitcher ?
-Shortstop.  Something about how that position sets a tone for what goes on behind the pitcher, in front of the outfield, and make the play that inspires teammates to play a bit tougher, with more of an edge.  If you have a shortstop that knows situations, communicates with the outfielders and infielders, bring a positive attitude to every play, you've got a team that is on the same page and is thinking ahead.  Your shortstop is usually one of your most intelligent defensive players and makes other better around them.  Defense wins games.
-I wold say the Closer.  Look what happened to the Astros (Brad Lidge) in 2005 when Albert owned him, or even Nathan in the '09 playoffs when he was unable to bury the Evil Team no one likes.  You need the person at the end of the game you can count on to bring home the W.

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