Yesterday I mentioned a few "super utility" players, and of course I missed a few more. Actually, I probably missed dozens of them. But a friend is particularly interested in just one:
Mark DeRosa did a pretty good job as a super utility guy for the 2007 and 2008 Cubs.
In 2007 he started 88 games at 2B, 31 at 3B, 13 in RF, 5 at 1B, 1 in LF.
In 2008 he started 80 games at 2B, 32 in RF, 21 in LF, 10 at 3B.
He was even more versatile for the 2006 Rangers: 59 in RF, 39 at 3B, 26 at 2B, 4 at SS, 4 in LF, 1 at 1B.
And, in 2009, split between St. Louis and Cleveland: 99 at 3B, 16 in LF, 9 in RF, 5 at 1B.
Just in case you were wondering if someone else had done what Tovar and Phillips had -- and this wasn't just one year, it was three.
Well, it wasn't just one year for Tovar and Phillips, either. Tovar did it for five seasons (1966-1969, 1973), Phillips ... well, that depends.
It's hard to have a conversation about Super Utility without coming up with some sort of definition. How about 20 appearances in the outfield, plus at least 10 appearances at different infield positions?
I referenced starts yesterday, but maybe that's not really the point. In 1988, Tony Phillips started only 18 games in the outfield, but he made 31 appearances as an outfielder. That's almost more impressive, because it suggests that he was good enough to occasionally be used as a defensive replacement out there. Phillips also played in 31 games at third base and 27 games at second.
By this standard, Phillips also qualifies in 1991 and 1992. But what about 1993, when he played in 108 games as an outfielder and 51 as a second baseman, but his only other infield action came in one game at third base? Maybe it should simply be 20 games in the outfield and 20 games in the middle of the infield somewhere?
By either definition, Phillips qualifies again in 1997, making him roughly even with Tovar. But I don't think the middle-of-the-infield-somewhere definition really works. Because there have been a number of cases where a second baseman was simply parked in left field to get his bat in the lineup, or because he couldn't handle second base anymore. And not because the manager was using him as a utility player.
Once I started looking for these guys, though, I found a lot more of them than I remembered: rookie Casey Candaele in 1987, Mariano Duncan in 1992, Denny Hocking in 1999, Omar Infante in 2010, Willie Bloomquist every year ... and going back much farther, there was Lee Magee in 1919, the immortal Jim Bucher in 1935, Billy Goodman in a number of seasons ... and those are just some of the highlights I spotted quickly.
As it turns out, the Super Utility Player really isn't anything new. Like most things in baseball, if it seems new it's only because we've come up with a new name for it or because our memories are terribly short. There might be more of them now, though, probably because there are more teams, plus more relief pitchers hogging the roster spots.