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June 14, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Matt Williams costs Scherzer a no-hitter

Today Matt Scherzer pitched a complete game one-hitter. The only hit he gave up was a 7th-inning bloop single by Carlos Gomez into shallow right field, just out of the reach of second baseman Anthony Rendon. I think that if Danny Espinosa had been playing second, he would have caught it. I’ve seen Danny chase down quite a few soft fly balls out there, and he’s just a touch quicker than Anthony—quick enough to make up that half step by which Anthony missed it.

Why wasn’t Danny playing second? With Ryan Zimmerman on the DL, yesterday and today Matt Williams had Danny playing first base, Anthony playing second, and Yunel Escobar playing third. If those three guys are all playing infield, does it make any sense to play them at those positions? I think it’s pretty obvious that it doesn’t:

  • Espinosa is the best second baseman, with Rendon second best and Escobar third.
  • Rendon is the best third baseman. I haven’t seen Espinosa play enough at third to say who’s second best between him and Escobar.
  • None of the three has had experience at first base.

Knowing that, the logical positioning is to play Escobar at first, Espinosa at second, and Rendon at third. Williams’ failure to use the best positioning is an example of a general tendency I’ve seen with Williams—to try to avoid making his regular players uncomfortable. From my observation, that tendency is not characteristic of championship managers. Winning managers are willing to challenge their players and make them feel uncomfortable in order to help the team win. Yes, it’s possible to over do it, and managers should try to avoid making their players miserable. But just as it didn’t make sense to bat Michael A. Taylor lead off, and he was moved down to 8th, similarly it doesn’t make sense to play Espinosa at first when a better defensive alignment would have him at second and Escobar at first. Good managers should make the smart and tough decisions.

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