A month ago, when the Milwaukee Brewers signed Mike Moustakas, Craig Counsell said that they’d give him a look at second base. It was a surprising statement given that Moustakas hasn’t played a single inning at second base in his entire career and given that Travis Shaw, the Brewers’ third baseman for most of last season, played 39 games at second base after Moustakas joined the team in a midseason trade. The expected move was that Shaw would go to second and Moustakas would end up at his usual third base.
This is especially true given that hardly any established players move from a corner position to a middle infield position and even fewer do it for the first time when they’re 30 like Moustakas is. Utility guys maybe, but it’s not like Moustakas was even a superior third baseman. He was fine, but no one ever considered him a defensive whiz over there.
Yet, here we are. The early spring training experiment is going to continue into the regular season:
On the one hand I want to say that if such a move — an eight-year veteran moving left on the defensive spectrum for a contending team — had a great chance of success, it would’ve been more common in baseball history. On the other hand teams are obviously looking at defense in a far more granular way now than they used to and are thus able to rely far less on the “it’s not frequently done” prejudices and far more on data and positioning and all of that. The Brewers are not idiots, after all, and they want to win what might be the toughest division in baseball this year, so they wouldn’t do this if they didn’t truly think Moustakas could pull it off.
It’ll be fascinating to watch. 1987 Craig, who used to put square pegs in round defensive holes in order to maximize offense while playing baseball simulations on his Commodore 64, approves.