The Most Difficult Position Change in Baseball

The Most Difficult Position Change in Baseball

Pitcher becoming a position player and vice versa. It’s possible? Yes, it is, although it is not very common in baseball where the positions are well defined, and nowadays there are players for certain situations, with a defined role for the moment when the game needs it.

At present only one player moves position due to his power with the bat if he has excellent offensive skills and poor defensive qualities it is to integrate him in a position that does not demand outstanding defensive skill (more leftfield for example) to take advantage of his strength. That’s why seeing an established pitcher, making the switch to position player and an outfielder/infielder making the reverse way and getting on the mound is very strange in MLB. But there are exceptions and some are baseball legends today.

The Most Difficult Position Change in Baseball

In this first installment, I am going to focus on the pitchers that became position players and the next one will be dedicated position players that became pitchers.

From the mound to be a position player

What reasons lead a pitcher to change position?
The change of position was more frequent among pitchers in the early twentieth century and in the early years of baseball, where hitting was common for all players, some pitchers did well, were polyfunctional and occupied a position in the field, in his days of rest. Undoubtedly the most famous that made the change to position player is Babe Ruth  , who after spending 5 years with the Red Sox as a pitcher (94-46 / 2.28 ERA), for lack of baseball and his story decided to devote himself to mistreating His former colleagues on the mound, smash the ball every time he batted and set incredible offensive records. Going through the last few years or decades, only a handful made this movement and they were successful. Is it common now? No, most of the transitions were seen at the beginning of the century, only a few occurred in the last 40 years because the sport evolved since then and the pitcher only throws strikes. But it does not mean there will not be those in the future who try to reconvert their position in baseball.

  • The lack of control is the main reason when a pitcher loses the ability to throw strikes, it can be said that he enters a dead end for his career.
  • The “Dead Arm” syndrome in the throwing arm (especially at the beginning of the sport).
  • Multiple injuries to the throwing arm (elbow, shoulder, wrist).
  • Do not meet the expectations of development in the Minors Leagues.

The most difficult part of the change of position is:

  • Learn to hit and acquire discipline in the batting box.
  • Learn to field, use the glove correctly, read the batons and predict the location where the ball will fall (the most common positions are: outfielder and first baseman).

The commitment that requires change:  the conviction to try is the fundamental, the player must be sure and believe in what he is doing. Another important point: assimilate the change, learn to play the new position and above all be patient to see the results.

Those who were most successful in the change in MLB:

  • Babe Ruth (1914-1935), OF. Offensive statistics in his career: .342 BA / 714 HR / 2,213 RBI. Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • George Sisler (1915-1930), 1B. Offensive statistics of his career: .340 BA / 104 HR / 1,178 RBI. Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Stan Musial (1941-1963), OF / 1B. Offensive statistics of his career: .331 BA / 475 HR / 1,971 RBI. Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Dave Kingman (1971-1986), OF / 1B.  Offensive statistics of his career: .302 BA – 442 HR -1210 RBI.

The most recent:  Rick Ankiel (1999-2013), was a great prospect as a pitcher for Saint Louis, reached the majors with only 20 years in 1999, with a bright future ahead and did not disappoint. Control, speed, character was his cover letter. For 2000 was already regular of the rotation of the Cardinals (11-7 / 3.50 ERA) and had honors in the post-season of that year. That’s where his career changed forever because in 4.0 IP, he threw 9 in wild pitches and walked 11, lost the strike zone and was the beginning of the end of his career in the mound. He tried to recover his old form in the Minors but he was never the same. In 2005, he announced that he was no longer a pitcher and would be converted into a position player (outfielder), returned to the majors in 2007 also with the Cardinals and occupied the different positions in the gardens until he retired.