Talking to a player like Sam Fuld — one with an analytical mind and questions about the game — can be all sorts of fun. Like this week, he suggested that teams might switch corner outfielders in the middle of a game for defensive reasons.
“If you have extremely varied skill levels in the outfield in the corners, between right and left field, like an elite right fielder defensively and a slugger in left,” Fuld said, “I think we’re going to see those guys flip flop within an inning depending on who’s coming up.”
This isn’t something that would make sense on most teams. Most left and right fielders are too close in talent to move around just because a right-handed pull hitter is at the plate. Even with a recent high-profile defensive whiff, it wouldn’t make sense to move Jayson Werth to left and Bryce Harper to right when lefty pull hitters are at the plate. The small defensive upgrade would be negated by the unfamiliarity with the other outfield corner.
“It would only occur when you have one really good and one really bad defensive corner outfielder,” Fuld agreed, adding: “If you get a right-handed pull hitter, you might want that elite defender in left.”
Let’s look at the defensive numbers of teammate corner outfielders over the past two years and see who might be a candidate for this switch. The following teammates had more than a 15-run discrepancy in defensive prowess (measured by Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games):
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.