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Are The San Francisco Giants Better in ’19 Because of “Dodger” Tactic?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants slides in safely at home plate to score on a single hit by Gorkys Hernandez #7 in the bottom of the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park on September 29, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants slides in safely at home plate to score on a single hit by Gorkys Hernandez #7 in the bottom of the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park on September 29, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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While many things have been written about how the San Francisco Giants new President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi might effect the roster of the club the Zaidi era will most certainly feature an important new on-field tactical element as well.  So the question must be asked: “Are the Giants better in 2019 because of a (UGH) Dodger Tactic?

However, being a San Francisco Giants fan at heart (meaning I hate the Los Angeles Dodgers), before praising anything Dodger blue, let us first take a little tally of World Series titles in the new millennium (Giants 3 and Dodgers nothing). That said, the Dodger’s recent tactic of the multi-positional use of players is definitely a hallmark of “Zaidi baseball.”

Now, baseball teams have long had what we call “utility players” or certain specific players whose business it was to be ready to fill in at many positions on the field.  On the current Giant’s roster we can look at players like Alen Hanson, Abiatal Avelino, Pablo Sandoval, and Breyvic Valera in this light.

Some players, like Avelino and Valera, seemingly were intended to be utility players from the start while others, like Hanson and Sandoval, were at one time either great prospects or stars yet now have had to become utility players in order to increase their chances of remaining on a major league roster.

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What is different about Zaidi’s new multi-positional philosophy is that playing many different positions is not just for a chosen few utility players but for all.  So, for example, Brandon Belt is not thought of as a first baseman but rather just as a baseball player who bats left handed and might play in many different places in the field.

Belt serves as a great example in another way as in the pre-Zaidi era, a favorite argument among Giants fans, was whether he should play left field or first base?  And, inevitably, some would argue that Belt was a first baseman and thus should always play there while others would argue the merits of making Belt into a left fielder and having Buster Posey play more first base.

Now, under Zaidi, such arguments are mute as the norm will be for players to play many different positions and not really be defined by their defensive position as much as by whether they are positional player or pitchers (with even this distinction sometimes being blurred by players like Pablo Sandoval who can do both).

My analysis is that this will be a tremendous advantage for the 2019 San Francisco Giants who, by all accounts, are rather thin in some positional areas.

Thin spots like outfield are made better by adding, at least in left field, Brandon Belt and Allen Hanson to their ranks.  Thin spots in the infield, like a right handed hitting second baseman, are made better by adding Austin Slater, who played in the infield at Stanford University, to their ranks.  And thin spots at catcher are made better by adding Pablo Sandoval, who came to the major leagues as a switch hitting catcher, to their ranks.

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I, for one, have not understood why this multi-positional tactic was not embraced long ago with regard to players like Belt and Sandoval.  So, as much as I am a baseball purist at heart, I look forward to the San Francisco Giants employing this “Dodger” tactic in 2019.

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