Derek Dietrich has been the Marlins’ starting second baseman since being called up from the minors in the middle of last season and he’s actually hit well this year with a .773 OPS in 41 games, but he’s been demoted back to Triple-A because the team thinks his defense is terrible.
Dietrich has seven errors, which is tied for the MLB lead among second basemen, and Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald writes that he “has had plenty of defensive struggles” even beyond the error total. Ultimate Zone Rating agrees, pegging Dietrich as 9.0 runs below average in 800 career innings at the position.
But still: 24-year-old middle infielders with a .773 OPS don’t grow on trees and Dietrich’s defensive numbers aren’t considerably worse than plenty of other regulars with good bats. He’s a former Rays second-round draft pick who was acquired by the Marlins in exchange for Yunel Escobar and certainly seems good enough to remain in their long-term plans.
The Orioles don’t yet have the worst record in baseball. They’re tied for the most losses with 16, but they have two more wins than the Marlins and one more than the Royals, so let’s say that they have overachieved to this point. Kudos to being a bit plucky in the early going!
But make no mistake: the Orioles are not a good team and I suspect they will soon be the worst in the league. When they are, they will likely get blown out quite often and when they are blown out they will put position players on the mound more than almost any other team. Heck, they’ve done it three times already this year and the season is only three weeks old.
The latest Orioles position player to pitch was catcher Jesús Sucre, who took the mound in last night’s 12-2 loss to the White Sox. And he wasn’t half bad! He retired the side in order and needed only nine pitches to do so:
There once was a time when it was a novelty to see a position player pitching. It happens all the time now, partially because of blowouts, partially because teams have decided it’s better to get embarrassed a bit than to burn a bullpen arm in a game they’ve given up trying to win.
I suspect the Orioles will take the practice to a whole new level in 2019, though. For better or for worse.