Monday, October 10, 2011

Who Am I?

By Mark Smith
Stereotypes are interesting social phenomena. While they are almost always given a negative connotation, stereotypes are actually quite useful descriptions. Let’s take a look at an example. If I wanted to describe to you an overweight white person with a Southern accent, a John Deere hat, jeans, and a wife beater t-shirt, it is a lot easier to say “hillbilly” than all of that (sorry to anyone currently wearing such a thing; this is only example, and I’m about to justify my use of it). It saves a lot of time to be able to simply use our social observations to make a quick description of a person. The problem, however, is in the use of stereotypes. Instead of using them simply as descriptors, we attach judgments to those images or assume they are a certain way (often negative), and we often do so without knowing much about the person. The stereotype, therefore, isn’t the problem. It’s the prejudice we use to associate with those images.

In baseball, we also have certain stereotypes, but we like to use the phrase “profiles for the position”. We have a certain image of what a catcher is supposed to be, of what a left fielder should be, and what a second baseman should be. When players don’t fit those profiles, it often becomes difficult to accept their contributions. Take Carl Crawford (well, pre-2011 anyway) and Brett Gardner, for example. They don’t fit the usual “mold” of a left fielder, and because they get a lot of their value from defense and baserunning, it was hard for people to accept that they were better than the traditional big bopper. On the flip side, shortstops such as Omar Vizquel are supposed to play good defense and run the bases, so he gets plenty of credit for having done so.

Now, these “profiles” can be helpful. They are there for a reason, and it is generally helpful to find guys who fit the “mold”. The thing to remember, however, is that there is value in people who don’t fit the traditional mold, and we shouldn’t judge someone based on how well he/ fits that mold. Looking at the person and observing what they bring to the table is always advised before making any judgments.

And after all that, here are players at each position who have had the most stereotypical (not the best) years for a player at the position. I’ll give a vague description of the player. You need to either remember or write down your guesses, and at the very end of the post, I’ll put the answers (well, at least my answers; feel free to argue). Here we go:

Catcher:  Catchers are relative unknowns. They don’t hit much, and most of what they do (pitch-calling, receiving, etc.) is fairly under-appreciated. They have to hit enough to play every day, but they aren’t particularly good at it. Leadership is another important characteristic, but it’s more of an under-the-radar leadership.

Nope.
First Baseman: If there’s one thing a first baseman has to do, it’s mash. He doesn’t have to hit, look good in a uniform, or play good defense. We only care about offense. Guys like Albert Pujols are overachievers.

Second Baseman: These are our scrappy guys who don’t hit particularly well but don’t strike out much, making them pesky. They play pretty good defense, but they aren’t flashy. They’re more yeoman-like. David Eckstein will forever be the paradigm, and we may never see another like him.

Shorstop: They don’t have to hit, but we love the flashy gloves and strong arms. They have a lot of ground to cover and the longest throw to make, so we don’t care if they hit really well as long as they lay good defense. Preferably, they don’t hit for much power, so Alex Gonzalez is out.

Love you and you were at one point but not anymore.
Third Baseman: As the other corner infielder, third baseman need to hit as well, and we like power from this sot. Defense is preferable but not necessary, leaving Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre as athletic guys who are just showing off. Third basemen should have a little pudge on them, too.

Left Fielder: On the offensive spectrum, left fielders fit right behind first basemen. They don’t need speed, and we prefer them bulky to help them hit home runs. They won’t play good defense, but we don’t really care about that here.

Center Fielder: All we want here is speed, defense, and slap-hitting. They’re the scrappy guys of the outfield.

Right Fielder: These guys tend to be the most well-rounded of the outfielders. Offensively, they have to hit and hit for power, but we like them to be able to play defense, especially with a cannon arm. Speed isn’t particularly necessary as it might take away from the power.

Bench Bat: This guy hits fairly well but with more power than patience or average. While he can also play a few defensive positions, he's a liability if out there for long periods of time.

Utility Infielder: He plays several different infield positions, which must include shortstop, but he doesn't hit well enough to start at any of them.

4th Outfielder: He can't hit, but he can play all three outfield positions, which is nice to have late in a game.
 
Righty Ace: These guys are the flame-throwers in the rotation, but we also want them to be durable. Typically, we like them to be a bit thicker built, but it isn’t necessary.
Nothing to do with this, but it's my post.

Lefty Ace: While he needs to throw 90, he’s not a flame-thrower due to his slight build, but he gets the most out of having excellent secondary pitches and control.

Innings Eater: He’s unspectacular, but sometimes, you just need a guy to throw 200 innings of solid baseball to fill out that rotation. He probably doesn’t throw hard.

Middle Reliever: You expect these guys to throw hard, but they don’t have prolific strikeout numbers and probably give up too many home runs. It helps to be able to throw multiple innings, but they’ll be rarely called on to do so.

LOOGY: He is left-handed, throws submarine, and only faces lefties.

Closer: These guys rack up the saves, and while they are usually good relievers, they don’t necessarily have to be the best in the bullpen. What you want is intensity, flair, and personality along with a big fastball. Bonus points for glasses.

I’ll just take the time to note again before you look at the answers that these guys had the most stereotypical seasons for guys at their positions and not the best seasons. And that a lot of this is obviously tongue-in-cheek.

Answers: Kurt Suzuki, Prince Fielder (Ryan Howard also acceptable), Darwin Barney, Alcides Escobar, Aramis Ramirez, Matt Holliday (Michael Morse also acceptable), Michael Bourn, Mike Stanton, Eric Hinske, Maicer Izturis, Tony Gwynn, Jr., Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Shaun Marcum, Grant Balfour (Matt Albers also acceptable), Randy Choate (Javier Lopez also acceptable), Jose Valverde (Francisco Rodriguez also acceptable)

9 comments:

David said...

I'm trying to do this with all-time star-players... or at least really well-known ones. You know, the best of the most stereotypical players of all-time.

Catcher: Jason Kendall
1B: Cecil Fielder
2B: David Eckstein (like it says in your post)
SS: Ozzie Smith
3B: Chipper Jones (kind of cheating, since he was in your post)
LF: Willie Stargell
CF: Juan Pierre
RF: Dave Parker
Bench Bat: Matt Stairs (can't see that there'd be any other answer)
Utility Infielder: Craig Counsell or Mark Loretta - both personal favorites.
4th Outfielder: Jeffrey Hammonds
Righty Ace: Roger Clemens
Lefty Ace: Tommy John
Innings Eater: Matt Cain (200 innings like clockwork)
Middle Reliever: Tug McGraw
LOOGY: Jesse Orosco (The one. The only.)
Closer: Trevor Hoffman (the closer-iest of all closers)

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Excellent post and I enjoyed David's comment too.

Mark Smith said...

David,

Nice list, but I have a few minor disagreements. :) Kendall's probably a bit too athletic to be catcher as we usually see stouter guys behind the plate. All-time, I might go Thurman Munson, though he probably hit too much for that. For lefty ace, I might go Lefty Grove instead as Tommy John might have been more innings-eater. But that's a good list. Maybe I'll try an all-time list at some point.

DawsonBergmann said...

The All Blue Jays Version

C- Gregg Zaun
1B- Carlos Delgado
2b- Marco Scutaro
Ss- Tony Fernandez
3B- That guy who hit a bunch of home runs that one time
LF- Adam Lind
Cf- Dewayne Wise
Rf- Alexis Rios
Bench Bat- Matt Stairs
Utility Infielder- Mike McCoy
4th Outfielder- Rajai Davis
Righty- Roger Clemens
Lefty- Jimmy Key?
Innings Eater- Shaun Marcum
Middle Reliever- Jason Frasor
Roogy- Octavio Dotel
Closer- B.J Ryan

I wasn't alive when they were good, so apologies if there are any glaring errors

Bryan said...

I only got Suzuki, Howard, Bourn, and Valverde. The pudge comment at the end of the 3B writeup made me sure it was Youkilis. Looking forward to the least stereotypical seasons at each position. Asdrubal Cabrera, maybe? Gerardo Parra?

Mark Smith said...

Bryan,

A post about the least stereotypical seasons is a good idea. Might try that.

Trev said...

My correct answers:
1B: Prince Fielder
3B: Aramis Ramirez
CF: Michael Bourn
Bench Bat: Eric Hinske
RHP: Felix Hernandez
LHP: Cliff Lee (this M's fan weeps)
CL: Jose Valverde

Fielder, Bourn, Hinske, Felix, and Lee really stand out.

The only omissions I see were not having a Molina brother and Willie Bloomquist (perhaps as 25th man?).

Trev said...

Oh, and DH is missing. David Ortiz of course.

AdamE said...

My Current Stereotypical Players

C Barajas
1B Fielder
2B Theroit
SS Furcal
3B Youkilis
LF Holliday
CF Bourn
RF Gonzalez
BB Thome
UI Visquel (was protptypical SS)
4th Teahen
R Ace Halliday
L Aace CC
IEater Wakefield
MR Proctor
LOOGY Lopez
C Valverde