Milwaukee Brewers

Brewers can survive with Mike Moustakas playing second base

Mike Moustakas is set to become a second baseman, but a deeper look shows the Milwaukee Brewers can survive with him there.

Of 8,070 defensive innings in his major league career, Mike Moustakas has spent 8,035 at third base. When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired him from the Kansas City Royals last July, they shifted third baseman Travis Shaw primarily to second base to accommodate Moustakas.

The Brewers brought Moustakas back on a one-year deal, along with the idea he’d get some run as a second baseman in the spring. That has come to fruition, as earlier this week manager Craig Counsell confirmed Moustakas will be the team’s primary second baseman this season.

The value Moustakas brings is largely derived from his offense, with at least 22 home runs and 82 RBI in three of the last four seasons (66 home runs over the last two seasons). He has been barely above replacement level defensively (3.2 collective Defensive WAR for his career, via Baseball Reference).

With an emphasis on launch angle and exit velocity in recent years, along with an upward trend in strikeouts, ground ball volume is on the decline. Second base is a spot you hide a lackluster defender in a beer league softball game, but the concept might become more prevalent in MLB.

Via Ryan Fagan of Sporting News, here’s a look at the average defensive chances for a second baseman (per nine innings) over a sampling of years (a decade apart) going back to 1968.

1968: 5.28
1978: 5.51
1988: 5.27
1998: 5.08
2008: 4.99
2018: 4.29

That 4.29 is the lowest in major league history, and an 18.6 percent drop from 1988. The trend applies to shortstops too, also with a historical low in chances per nine innings in 2018.

1968: 5.08
1978: 5.08
1988: 4.81
1998: 4.76
2008: 4.53
2018: 4.01

In 40 spring innings at second base (entering Tuesday), Moustakas had the ball hit to him 14 times with three putouts, 11 assists and zero double-play opportunities. The Brewers dipped into the idea of shifting a third baseman to second base with Shaw last year, and he made one error in 268 innings (129 chances) while turning 11 double plays.

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Moustakas merely has to catch the ball when it comes to him along that same line, and convert those plays into outs on a regular basis. As long as he hits 25 home runs and drives in 80, the Brewers will be putting their best offensive lineup out there and get exactly what they expect from Moustakas.

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