Archive for March, 2011

The Curious Case of Ben Zobrist

This piece was originally written for a mainstream audience, yet I’ve never been able to find a good place for it. I think it’s a good example of how you can write sabermetric pieces without relying heavily on advanced statistics and without scaring away new readers. Enjoy.

There are some players in baseball that are chronically underappreciated by fans. These are the players who do not fit into any of our traditional molds: they are first basemen, but not power hitters; leadoff hitters, but not basestealers; bullpen aces, but not closers. Growing up following the game, we learn to expect certain things from specific players, and become baffled when a player does not fit in a specific mold. What to do with a clean-up hitter that only hits 20 homeruns, or a leadoff hitter that hits .260 and steals 4 bases? Both these players may still be valuable – the clean-up hitter could have hit 50 doubles and the leadoff hitter could have reached base more often than a .300 hitter – but our expectations blind us, leading us to view these players as inherently less valuable than others.

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