One of the reasons I’m hesitant to pick the Dodgers in the NL West despite all that talent is that almost all of that talent has question marks. Some guys have health questions. Some guys have to show that their best years aren’t behind them. Some guys — well, Hanley Ramirez — has to show that he can go back to his old, tougher defensive position and not be a liability.
As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times notes, that last one is becoming a bigger and bigger question:
Ramirez is the designated hitter for the Dominican Republic in Monday’s World Baseball Classicsemifinal against the Netherlands. He has alternated between third base and DH in the tournament, batting .176 with two home runs in the previous six games.
His fielding last season so concerned the Dodgers that they wanted him to play shortstop in winter ball, but a shoulder injury limited him to DH. He played 25 innings of shortstop over six games at the start of spring training, then left to join the Dominican team.
I don’t know how someone who was already a defensive liability at short can be ready to play a full season at short with minimal preparation there. But I guess we’ll see it play out in real time with Hanley Ramirez.
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.