Positional Discrimination in Baseball?

Discussion in 'Baseball' started by PhillyBirds, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. PhillyBirds

    PhillyBirds Mentor

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    It's been well-documented here at Caste Football that white athletes that play football are often discriminated upon if they play a number of "taboo" positions. White runningbacks and cornerbacks are often converted to fullbacks and safeties, respectively. We're told on scouting sites that they lack "athleticism", "game-breaking speed", the ubiquitous "hip-swivel" and countless other terms.

    While Major League Baseball has remained more white-friendly relative to the NFL, a deeper look reveals white bias has spread to our national pastime as well. Most organizations overvalue and hoard Latin-American and black prospects, and many teams have "gone Caste" at the major league level, like many of the NFL teams we follow here.

    A cursory glance at the demographics of all 30 MLB teams, however, reveals a lot of white athletes. Compare the white starters at a few baseball positions to what we see daily in the NFL, and you'll agree baseball hasn't gone full Caste yet:

    (Out of 30 teams)
    White 1B starters: 15
    2B: 14
    3B: 20
    C: 13
    LF: 14
    RF: 17

    SOURCE (Team depth charts)

    Encouraging numbers, to be sure. However, I have excluded two positions from this list on purpose: shortstop and center field.

    Shortstop and center are the two toughest positions to field in the infield and outfield, respectively. Most people should be able to agree on this. They both require a good combination of smarts, athleticism, and attitude. Most people would believe that the best athletes go in these spots.

    Veteran CFers may know where I'm going with this. Considering the list above, many people might find it a bit odd that there are only seven starting white shortstops and six starting white center fielders in the majors.

    As runningbacks and corners go, white shortstops often move to second or third, while white center fielders are moved to the corner spots. DWFs would obviously think then, that the few white men who man these positions are inferior, needing to be replaced with a superior black or Latin athlete? Enter some sabermetrics and statistics. My favorite. [​IMG]

    Ultimate Zone Rating (or UZR) is "the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined." Basically, it quantifies a player's aptitude as a fielder, in terms of runs above or below average. I'll be working with UZR/150, the same stat, but averaged over 150 games, or a full season more or less. (SOURCE). Looking at the UZR leaderboards from 2009 for both positions (SOURCE and SOURCE) we can come out with UZR/150 averages for both:

    UZR/150 Average (SS): 9.7 runs.
    UZR/150 Average (CF): 5.0 runs.

    Now to list the UZR/150s of the white starters and draw some conclusions.

    SHORTSTOP

    Brendan Ryan, Cardinals: 13.8
    Ryan Theriot, Cubs: 8.3
    Paul Janish, Reds: 11.7
    Stephen Drew, D-Backs: 3.9
    Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: -0.9
    Jed Lowrie, Red Sox: 10.6 (2008, didn't play in 2009.)
    Jack Wilson, Mariners: 20.4 (MLB leader at SS)

    CENTER FIELD

    Aaron Rowand, Giants: 1.5
    Colby Rasmus, Cardinals: 13.7
    Nate McLouth, Braves: 4.7
    Josh Anderson, Royals: 11.8
    Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 16.6
    Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: -18.3

    So with the exception of Jacoby Ellsbury, who was horrendous, white fielders more than hold their own in the two toughest positions in baseball. Jack Wilson was, statistically, the best fielding shortstop in the majors, yet receives little to no fanfare these days. Colby Rasmus dazzled in his rookie year in the center field spot.

    Granted, some of the data is inconsistent. But the gist of my research is that I believe there is some positional discrimination in baseball. Number of white starters aside, it is quite obvious that white men can capably play both shortstop and center field nowadays. So next time your favorite white prospect is described as "lacking range" or "better suited to a corner outfield spot", remember that there is often more than meets the scout's eye.

    Or not.
    Edited by: PhillyBirds
     
  2. PhillyBirds

    PhillyBirds Mentor

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    Ah, maybe a little too statistics-heavy for some. I'll bear that in mind next time. [​IMG]
     
  3. foreverfree

    foreverfree Mentor

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    A little too SABRmetrics heavy.

    John
     
  4. jaxvid

    jaxvid Hall of Famer

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    Actually a very good analysis, and the kind of thing I wish we could do more here at CF. All you lurkers out there that have an interest in this kind of thing, please sign up and have at it.

    I think one thing that biases the study is the positional slotting that occurs before the player makes it to the majors. Not only that but white players that are speed/avg/glove guys are weeded out anyway as the only white kids signed off of college campuses are the big burly home run hitters or power pitchers.

    No major league teams sign high average good glove white players, the bonus is too much of a gamble on a guy who might or might not hit professional pitching as well. Meanwhile the majors can fill up on cheap Pedro and Jose's who weigh 160 (before the steroids) and learned to field with cardboard boxes for mitts.

    For example I bet the average height of a white baseball player is 6'2 or something and is 4 inches over the average black/hispanic. (that would be something for the stat guys to look into). A result of the power preference for white players.

    I think we have discussed this before here too.

    BTW isn't Scott Posednik a CF?
     
  5. FootballDad

    FootballDad Hall of Famer

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    I also like the statistical analysis. What are the comparative numbers for black centerfielders and shortstops? Assuming that they are equal/favorable toward the white athletes, which is the norm, these are the types of analysis that I like to use when posting on other sites. Just like what ToughJ and others provide for white football skill position players.
     
  6. PhillyBirds

    PhillyBirds Mentor

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    Perhaps emphasizing my point, Podsednik has actually started more games in left field than in center for his career; 363 versus 351. For a guy who was at one time regarded as one of the fastest men in the league, that's certainly a bit odd, eh?

    Still, Scotty Pods is seriously one of my favorite ballplayers. However, he only started 47 games in center field for the White Sox in '09. He really didn't have enough innings there to give an accurate UZR, and he's also a free agent at the moment.

    (SOURCE)Edited by: PhillyBirds
     
  7. icsept

    icsept Master

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    Statistical analysis of fielding is difficult outside of tracking "errors" which can also be subjective. So, apparently many whites don't pass the eye test when it comes to fielding. If whites are underrepresented at shortstop and centerfield, then it is highly likely that managers have bought into the myth of dark skinned athletic superiority.

    If this UZR catches on, then we'll have another argument. But as we all know, even good statistics are not effective in counteracting the myth.
     
  8. PhillyBirds

    PhillyBirds Mentor

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    A few updates on our Caste baseball positions, as the Hot Stove begins to cool for the off-season:

    - The Royals signed both Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel recently to one-year deals. It will be interesting to see who they choose as the starter in center: Podsednik has played there more, but his defense has declined as he's aged, and has played mostly left as of late. Ankiel is probably the better defender, and is a bit closer to 30 than Scotty Pods. Ankiel's departure also leaves Colby Rasmus as the full-time starter in center for St. Louis.

    - The Boston Red Sox signed SS Marco Scutaro to take over full-time. Scutaro is a good player, and his addition will probably send Jed Lowrie to the bench as a utility man. Lowrie struggled mightily with injury last season.

    - Josh Hamilton is now listed as the starter in left field for the Rangers, coming off a partially injured 2009. [​IMG] His replacement? The "super athletic" Julio Borbon, who posted a less-than-dazzling -13.1 UZR/150, albeit only in 154 innings in center field. Woohoo.
    Edited by: PhillyBirds
     
  9. LabMan

    LabMan Mentor

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    Philly,

    The Royals will be a good bet for our folks to watch this year,they also added Jason Kendall,the Red Sox have added Bill Hall and Mike Cameron,has Joe Morgan been complaining?,the Rangers take a step forward to eliminate most White centerfielders,surely a showcase position.
     
  10. PhillyBirds

    PhillyBirds Mentor

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    Looks like the Reds have replaced their white shortstop, signing journeyman Orlando Cabrera to a one-year deal. This move sends the slick-fielding Paul Janish to the bench, at least for this season [​IMG] . This move comes despite Reds management insisting that Janish would be the starter come 2010.

    Cabrera used to be one of the better fielders in the league, but certainly isn't anymore. In 2009 (1,388.2 innings) between the A's and Twins, Cabrera posted a UZR/150 of -13.7. Janish may not be much of a hitter, but at this point is a vastly superior fielder than the veteran Cabrera.Edited by: PhillyBirds
     

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