In last night’s Dodgers/Padres, with the score tied in the bottom of the 12th, and the bases loaded with just one out, Don Mattingly brought one of his outfielders into the infield to help cut a run down at the plate and/or get an inning ending double play. This happens occasionally and is not that unusual in and by itself. What looked a little unusual was that with a dead pull hitter (Seth Smith) up, they had 4 infielders between 1st and 2nd base, including “centerfielder” Andre Ethier right on first base. This unusual defensive alignment almost paid off. Smith hit a ground ball right to Dee Gordon, who fired home to get the force out, but the throw bounced and by the time AJ Ellis fired back to Ethier at first, the batter was (barely) safe.
What was interesting about this play, is that if Ellis’ throw had beat Smith to first base, this would be scored as your not quite run of the mill 4-2-8 double play. But why is that? The baseball rulebook (other than the scoring section) does not define specific positions, other than pitcher and catcher. There is also a reference to a first baseman, as they are allowed to use a different sized glove than the other fielders. What if a team, decided to play the whole game with 7 infielders? Or 7 outfielders? Does it make sense to arbitrarily assign them a defensive position? What if a right fielder wanted to use a first baseman’s mitt? The rules don’t allow it, but I suppose all he needs to do is be declared the first baseman, and just claim that he’s playing really, really deep and that would be ok. When the Ortiz/Texeira/any left handed slugger shift is on, and the third baseman is playing in shallow right field, why is the putout recorded as 5-3? I understand that Brett Lawrie, or whoever is out there, deserves the assist, but the batter’s record should show that he hit a ball into short right field… not 3rd base. Imagine a scout who is only looking at paper stats, and sees a guy who hits into a bunch of 5-3 ground outs. He might shift the infield towards third base, rather than away from it. I think scoring records should be based on where a player is playing, not what he was arbitrarily assigned to at the start of the game. If Ethier gets the putout at the backend of that double play, it should be scored a 4-2-3. His defensive record should also show that he played first base for 1/3 of an inning. But it doesn’t. According to any non-video evidence, Andre Ethier played 12 full innings in centerfield.
By the way, this shift only delayed the inevitable for a few moments. The next batter, Yasmani Grandal, hit a clean single into right field (which bounced between 1st and 2nd… wonder if 4 infielders there could have prevented THAT hit???) to send the Petco crowd home happy.
What’s my point? I don’t know. I just felt like ranting. What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments or tweet to me @baseballruben.