In Defense of Eric Sogard

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Sogard gets a lot of flack from fans who clearly don’t look at the numbers. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Sogard is a polarizing figure within the Oakland Athletics’ organization. On one side, fans love him for his “nerd power” and his great attitude off the field. On the other hand, not a single night went by on the A’s post game show where someone didn’t call for Sogard to be sent back to the minors never to return again. The fact of the matter is, though, Eric Sogard is a very solid second base player and, I could make an argument, the cornerstone of Oakland’s middle infield going forward.

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Now, before you Sogard haters flood my inbox with hate mail, take a look at the numbers compared to the top second basemen in the game. Because Sogard plays a platoon position and saw considerably less time on the field than our “top” guys, I’ve stripped the stats down to the “per inning” base so, yes, Cano may have 54 more double plays than Sogard but he’s also played 583 more innings.

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The first thing you’ll probably notice is that Sogard’s “chances per inning” is the highest on the list. That statistic combines putouts, assists and errors charged to the player. A higher number isn’t necessarily good or bad but it does indicate that Sogard saw more balls in play, per inning, than the other second basemen we’re comparing him to. Where that statistic looks best is when you factor in his total errors per inning which are on the low side of normal which means that his total chances statistic isn’t inflated by a high number of fielding mistakes.

Sogard’s putouts and assists rank second and first respectively when inning count is factored and his double plays per inning sits right in the middle. I tend to ignore the double play stat when it comes to the Oakland Athletics because it is so difficult for a defense to get good at turning double plays when there’s a different guy in each position every night. The fact that Sogard is competitive in this statistic is, to me, a little amazing.

Do these numbers tell the whole story? Not at all but it does give defenders of Sogard a clear argument that he plays a more than capable second base. If anyone tells me that Sogard is a liability at second, I would ask them if they felt the same about anybody else on my list. The answer will always be no, despite Sogard’s comparable or superior numbers.

The next argument that will be made is that Sogard is a liability offensively and for most of the year I would grant that argument. If a team is going to keep a player strictly for defense, I’d like them to be hitting at least .240 and, of course, .250 or .260 would be even better. Anything higher than that and you’re not really keeping him on the roster for his defense, he’s a five tool player. After the all star break, though, Sogard was hitting .267 with a .346 on base percentage, ranking him in the top 20 for second base in all of baseball (after you take out the roster expansion players who batted .667 post break) and fourth on his own team.

If Sogard can replicate those numbers offensively (he finished 2013 with a .266 average) and continue to play well at second, I see no reason why fans should be concerned about him as a liability. He’s a more than capable second base player who fits well in the eight or nine hole in any lineup. When you couple that with a likable personality, a gimmick and a devoted fan base, Sogard could genuinely become the face of the franchise if they keep him. Much speculation has been made that Sogard will be traded and with three more seasons of team control and his stats, he may have serious trade value for a team looking to bolster up their middle infield.

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