I’ve come up with a theory I call the Choke Point theory. It relates to defense. The theory is, if you were building a team and focusing on defense first, how would you do it? Would you grab guys who’re sure things with the glove but have limited range, or would you grab guys with extended range who, even if they’re not the best with the glove, could use their range to get in front of the ball, knock it down ala Brooks Robinson and toss out the runner? BTW, there’s a stat to measure this, called Range Factor.
After much thought, the answer seems obvious, that answer being choice two. Having 4 guys with a good Range Factor, specifically, the 4 infield spots, creates Choke Points where groundballs can’t get through, resulting in a low BABIP.
Also, it eliminates the need for all of those defensive shifts, thus neutralizing the smart hitter who can go the other way when he’s shifted against.
Now, there are other factors to consider, like having a decent arm to throw out runners at first, but arm strength can be built up. What can’t be built up is that quick first step to the ball, something that extends a fielders range, that’s instinctual and harder to teach, but it can be worked on.
Plus, you can build a whole team around an infield defense with excellent Range Factor. How? Extreme groundball pitchers. They’re out there, and some are ignored because of a low amount of strikeouts or a lack of a blazing fastball.
But, if you draft or acquire 4 infielders with a very good Range Factor, build that groundball staff and get your offense from the three 3 outfield positions (and the DH in the AL) I think you’ll find yourself with a good team.
Now, I’m not a sabremetrician, so I may have missed something. Feel free to point it out, after all, this is just the first draft of my theory.