Dave · April 21, 2009 at 8:29 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I know the Rays like to do cutting edge things that no one else is doing, but I don’t know that the three middle infielders/no center fielder plan is working out very well.

What’s that? Kapler’s playing center field, not the infield? Seriously? Are you sure?


50 Responses to “Hmm”

  1. henryv on April 21st, 2009 8:37 pm

    Well, considering nearly every starter they have has more home runs than our team leader… Its hard to blame them. Considering the height on that ball, that may be the hardest any M’s player has hit the ball all year.

  2. Dave on April 21st, 2009 8:40 pm

    I don’t care how weak our offense is, Kapler was playing about 60 feet too shallow. I mean, there’s atrocious positioning, there’s Yuni positioning, and then there’s where Kapler was standing that inning.

  3. henryv on April 21st, 2009 8:45 pm

    Maybe Kapler was hoping he could make a Jim Edmonds “dive when I don’t have to” catch.

    Hell, I don’t know. They could have been trying to cancel out the “Yuni rode the short bus” effect. You know, like a handicap in a pro-am golf tournament.

  4. henryv on April 21st, 2009 8:48 pm

    Hooray! Canucks sweep for the first time in their history. Also, Tim Lincecum.

    Sorry, I figured if I was going to break one rule, I might as well break two.

  5. Jeff Nye on April 21st, 2009 8:50 pm

    By all rights, I should delete that comment, but it gets to stay for now because I got a good minute-long laugh out of it.

  6. msb on April 21st, 2009 8:54 pm


    and they keep on playing him there.

  7. henryv on April 21st, 2009 9:08 pm

    Dave Simmsism of the night:

    “Gabe Kapler has been on the cover of a lot of fitness magazines.”

    Uhm… Okay, Dave. Thanks for that.

  8. San Diego Mariner Fan on April 21st, 2009 9:18 pm

    It shows the Rays tremendous respect for the Mariners hitting… not sure if its a good thing…

    But for now were making them pay.

  9. San Diego Mariner Fan on April 21st, 2009 9:22 pm

    And Chavez just routinly catches a fly on the track that Kapler couldn’t come within a mile of… Hmmm… indeed

  10. wabbles on April 21st, 2009 9:23 pm

    They are merely following the example of that AL powerhouse that for the past two years played Willie Bloomquist as its backup center fielder. I’m not making that up, by the way.

  11. UW10 on April 21st, 2009 9:25 pm

    Kapler’s positioning is terrible

  12. Carson on April 21st, 2009 9:25 pm


    Come on Maddon. I mean, thanks and everything, but you may want to make the change now.

  13. JI on April 21st, 2009 9:46 pm

    Whatever, every Jim Edmonds dive is legit.

  14. SonOfZavaras on April 21st, 2009 9:51 pm

    After the 7th inning, I could’ve sworn I saw Washburn mouth words like “Take THAT, USSMariner!”

    Seriously, who’s been messing with Washrag’s Wheaties?

  15. henryv on April 21st, 2009 9:56 pm

    Whatever, every Jim Edmonds dive is legit.

    Jim Edmonds should be playing soccer. 🙂

  16. UpOrDownMsFan on April 21st, 2009 9:56 pm

    Kapler should be credited with our win– Seriously. RoJo’s “triple” was an easy catch for someone actually playing center field on that at bat (when it was coming down he looked like he started after it from the infield). Even Yuni’s “triple” was probably at least attemptable if Kapler is actually playing where a centerfielder plays (certainly could have held him to a double or less). He had to sprint to Endy’s ball too– and it was 15 feet short of the warning track. Thank you, Kapler (who obviously lost some mysterious bet to Yuni yesterday in which the payoff was to make his poor positioning seem mild by comparison).

    (Just heard on the post game that Tampa said that’s the way they intend to play us against those hitters. He was where they wanted him. It’s a risk their willing to take… Um. Cool.)

  17. Joe C on April 21st, 2009 10:02 pm

    Jim Edmonds dive… Derek Jeter jump throw… Vlade Divac…

  18. joser on April 21st, 2009 10:09 pm

    Kapler is still swooning from that Nick Swisher strike-out. He really doesn’t know where he is.

    Actually, even on that last Sweeney hit it didn’t look like any of the outfielders knew where the hell they were. Maybe the whole retractable roof thing has them boggled. Look up there! It’s full of stars!

  19. Typical Idiot Fan on April 21st, 2009 10:09 pm

    A big fat chunk of the WPA for this game has to go to Joe Maddon’s insane positioning.

  20. Catherwood on April 21st, 2009 10:18 pm

    It was especially striking on the outfield camera track of Yuni’s triple — they showed the ball arcing lazily toward the wall, bouncing up against it, and rolling around for a few seconds before ANY defender actually showed up. It’s like they were running out of the dugout when he hit it or something. Astonishing.

    Maybe Tropicana Field is a lot smaller, and they thought they were just a few steps in from the track.

  21. Kazinski on April 21st, 2009 10:34 pm

    Lazy fly balls to the warning track are a lot easier to hit that stinging line drives to the gap.

    What we need after Pitch F/x comes online is Fielder F/x for advance positioning metrics. Can I patent that?

  22. Kazinski on April 21st, 2009 10:36 pm

    I meant Hit F/x, of course not Pitch F/x.

  23. skjes on April 21st, 2009 10:37 pm

    Maybe Kapler was intentionally playing infield to counter Wak’s freaky bunting fetish?

  24. henryv on April 21st, 2009 10:39 pm

    Field F/X… Now that would be cool. Imagine if you could trace the routing to a ball, speed, and glove reach… Sexy. Unfortunately, you actually have to create it, in order to patent it.

  25. UpOrDownMsFan on April 21st, 2009 10:45 pm

    “Unfortunately, you actually have to create it, in order to patent it.”

    Now Henry, where would America be if we all followed that tragically, economically flawed logic?!? (I kid, of course)

    PS- skjes, I liked your “maybe Kapler was playing for a bunt” explanation the best. It’s the most logical.

  26. Kazinski on April 21st, 2009 10:53 pm

    The technology is actually off the shelf for Field F/x. Remember a few years back when they doctored a puck in hockey games so the camera could follow it and trace it on the screen? It would be pretty easy just to put a microchip on a shoe or cap of all the players that would weigh a gram or less.

    But that’s old school, very likely they could just program the video processor to pick up the players just like they pick up the ball without any extra gizmos. Hell they can read the numbers off their backs to tell 2nd from short when a shift is on.

  27. tmac9311 on April 21st, 2009 11:05 pm

    this whole time i thought this post was referring to Kabler and Zornbrist as infielders playing the outfield, i just now got that it was posted mid game commenting on our two; near three triples that blooped into center field.

    and for a random note I wikipedia(‘d?) Kabler, as i was pretty sure he never played infield, and it referred to him as “known as a superb defensive player.”

  28. ScarTheBall on April 21st, 2009 11:07 pm

    I was at the game and the only thing that I could think Maddon and Kapler were thinking about was the fact it is a weak hitting Mariners squad with a LOT of wind blowing in from CF. Still was very odd and gave us the game.

  29. Mike Snow on April 21st, 2009 11:15 pm

    It would be pretty easy just to put a microchip on a shoe or cap of all the players that would weigh a gram or less.

    Shoe, please. The cap is much more easily shed during the action.

  30. matthew on April 21st, 2009 11:40 pm

    Kapler was just playing shallow because he was trying to time it so his leap/catch would end up on Sportcenter’s Top 10 Plays. Of course, ESPN won’t mention that his awful positioning allowed two triples. No complaints. Wish all managers were that stupid 🙂

  31. loki on April 22nd, 2009 12:32 am

    They did give him the #1 web gem slot for the one he did catch…

  32. Steve T on April 22nd, 2009 12:35 am

    That fancy soccer software we were talking about a while back successfully tracks the simultaneous movement of 22 players. I saw a match on an Italian feed a while back that even showed the number of meters each player had run as they were taken off. Quite bizarre. But it seems like that would be easy to implement in baseball, with fewer players and more static action (though Ichiro might rack up a few miles of errant arm motions out there if it’s not adjusted properly.

    Either that or in the cap button. I know caps fly off, but it would be COOL.

  33. Sidi on April 22nd, 2009 1:03 am

    Hey, for the money they make it shouldn’t be hard to get an RFID chip placed in every MLB player. You could track speed of outfielders (both maximum and average), how fast they reacted (in ms from the ball being hit), positioning, and know every time they visited that sleazy topless bar.

  34. Sidi on April 22nd, 2009 1:04 am

    Sorry, RFID chip implanted. Just put it in the subcutaneous fat layer somewhere.

  35. griffin on April 22nd, 2009 1:13 am

    griffey on a 2 game slump, bummer…
    hope he breaks out of this soon, i dont want to start seeing people wanting him axed from the lineup!

  36. AssumedName on April 22nd, 2009 6:59 am

    I’d be pissed if I was the pitcher. If both those triples should’ve been outs, isn’t there an error in there somewhere?

  37. Mike Snow on April 22nd, 2009 8:34 am

    An error in judgment, yes. As for an error in the sense of the baseball statistic, why should we be looking at fielding percentage in the first place?

  38. CCW on April 22nd, 2009 8:34 am

    I think it’s a pretty good bet the Rays have thought about this, so I’d be inclined to trust the Rays’ braintrust’s well-documented thoughtfulness ahead of our anecdotal evidence. I’m not quite sure how to quantify the effects of playing outfielders so shallow. The Rays’ defensive efficiency would probably go up, but they will give up more extra-base hits. Perhaps they’ve concluded that they’d rather cut down on an opposing teams OBP at the expense SLG%. Maybe they’ve decided that since they have good defensive outfielders, it makes sense to put them in a position to really use their instincts and wheels flagging balls down in the deep outfield.

    Bottom line: I don’t think you can dismiss the Rays’ defensive positioning just yet.

  39. CCW on April 22nd, 2009 8:37 am

    Meant to point out: this isn’t the first time the Rays have done this. I’ve seen 2 or 3 Rays games already this year where Upton played a noticeably shallow CF.

  40. Dave on April 22nd, 2009 8:42 am

    Kapler is no Upton.

  41. UpOrDownMsFan on April 22nd, 2009 8:51 am

    Yeah the Rays manager said it’s a strategy they’ve decided to use, that has been successful for them in the past. He admits it’s a bit risky, but they believe they have the athletes to make it work.

    I think essentially, they dare weak hitters to try to go long on them. And they bet that 3 guys in a row can’t do it successfully (a bet they lost last night).

    Safeco probably isn’t the best field to implement the strategy at, however– with it’s long alleys. And Upton is probably better at positioning himself in center than Kapler (there has to be a learning curve for players to using this strategy, I would think? Much like Endy still learning the Safeco corner carroms, after a mere 7 games played there… I’m pretty sure Kapler left with a mental note of “too far in” last night).

  42. CCW on April 22nd, 2009 8:56 am

    Maybe Kapler isn’t as good as Upton, but he’s pretty good. Here are their UZR/150 numbers in CF for 2008 and 2009. For Kapler, it’s only over 40 games or so, but it comports generally with his reputation and his similarly strong showing in LF:

    Upton 08: 11.1
    Upton 09: 16.8
    Kapler 08: 24.8
    Kapler 09: 28.5

  43. CCW on April 22nd, 2009 9:05 am

    Before someone kicks my ass, I need to retract the above. I took a better look at the UZRs for Kapler in CF. Over the past two years, he’s been great in CF (in a limited number of games). For his career, though, he’s at -13.2 in CF. Anyway, I think the point stands: I’m inclined to give the Rays as an organization the benefit of the doubt when it comes to overall strategy. (Or tactics. Whatever).

  44. Dave on April 22nd, 2009 9:06 am

    You’re quoting 35 innings of UZR for Kapler this year. After last night, he’s almost certainly going to be way in the negative.

    You’re really defending an indefensible position here.

  45. CCW on April 22nd, 2009 9:34 am

    If it’s indefensible, then why are the Rays doing it? I don’t have enough information to actually defend the position myself, but I also don’t think you have enough information to say it’s “atrocious”. Yes, this game, it didn’t work out, but that’s like saying that if Griffey hits a game-winning HR while playing left field, the M’s should always play him in LF over Endy Chavez. This is a long-term strategy that the Rays have almost certainly thought about more than it appears anyone here has thought about it.

    What if they have reason to believe Kapler is particularly good at going back on fly balls?

    What if they’ve examined ball-in-play statistics and actually run the numbers on the trade-off between OBP and SLG% and the depth of their CF?

    In short, what if the Rays have more information than us? I don’t know the answer. It’s probably not possible to get to the answer right now. I’ve never seen a study that really gets into outfield positioning (maybe the Rays have done one in-house). I just think dismissing a strategy based on the results from one game is not good analysis.

  46. joser on April 22nd, 2009 10:43 am

    Yes, I recall commentators mentioning Upton was “playing too shallow” during the postseason last year — both ALCS and the WS.

    And it appears to be standard procedure again this year:

    Upton pulled out his leather — and, seemingly a superhero’s cape — in the second, when Xavier Nady drove a ball to deep center field. Upton took off from his shallow position, and just when he appeared as though he would splatter like a love bug on a windshield, he stuck out his glove like a wide receiver and hauled in the blast with his back to home plate a la Willie Mays.

    Of course, you can do that when you’re BJ Upton. As Dave notes, Gabe Kapler isn’t.

    It may be that the Rays have a sound rationale for what they’re doing (OPS is inaccurate because OBP worth about 1.8x SLG, so give up some of the latter to prevent more of the former?) And when you have fast outfielders and regularly play in places like Fenway (and Tropicana’s outfield is about 20 feet smaller all around than Safeco) that might work. But it is like the Rays aren’t willing to adjust their philosophy to accommodate the capabilities of the players actually on the field.

    Either that or in the cap button. I know caps fly off, but it would be COOL.

    We’d want to track the caps separately anyway. Cap F/X

    More seriously, we aren’t far away from Hit F/X, and picking up the fielders is the last piece of the puzzle. It may not even require any devices on the fielders — you really just have to know their starting positions, since you know where the ball goes and you know where and when they got to it (or not). It might be fun to track the wanderings of really bad outfielders step by seemingly drunken step, but ultimately they either field the ball or not, and that’s really the only measure that counts.

  47. gwangung on April 22nd, 2009 11:01 am

    It may be that the Rays have a sound rationale for what they’re doing (OPS is inaccurate because OBP worth about 1.8x SLG, so give up some of the latter to prevent more of the former?) And when you have fast outfielders and regularly play in places like Fenway (and Tropicana’s outfield is about 20 feet smaller all around than Safeco) that might work. But it is like the Rays aren’t willing to adjust their philosophy to accommodate the capabilities of the players actually on the field.

    Hmph. Doesn’t that describe almost all managers and baseball traditionalists?

    Might be a good, overall strategy, but I think an intelligent manager adjusts to the players on hand.

  48. CCW on April 22nd, 2009 11:14 am

    By most accounts, Maddon’s a pretty smart manager – or at least a progressive manager. This is where a great beat reporter would come in handy. Someone ought to ask him these questions, about the strategy in general but also about Gapler in particular. I bet his answers would be very interesting.

  49. Kazinski on April 22nd, 2009 12:12 pm

    I didn’t pay attention to where Kapler was for most of the game, but it does make some sense to play him shallow when there is a runner on third with less than two outs, it certainly backfired last night, but it is a defensible strategy.

    It wouldn’t make any sense to position him there with a runner on first or nobody on, but I didn’t pay attention to that.

  50. henryv on April 23rd, 2009 2:00 pm

    I realize this is going back to what we talked about, but if you were going to put a tracking chip in players, I think the best place would be the belt buckle. Hats can come off, and feet are too variable, as a location, to judge movement.


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