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AZ SnakePit Awards: Play of the Year (Middle infield division)

These five plays illustrate why SS and 2B are generally regarded as the toughest defensive positions.

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

June 11: Ahmed lays out vs. MIL

Nick Ahmed’s offensive WAR to date is -2.3. Of the 289 major-leaguers with 1,000+ PA over the last four seasons, his OPS+ of 62 ranks 289th. But his defensive WAR is +5.4: Ahmed makes the difficult seem easy, and the impossible almost routine. It’s a shame that both last season and this, his playing time has been severely reduced by injury, making only 121 starts over 2016 and 2017 combined. But when he’s on the field, the results have often been spectacular. Witness the play above, to the very first hitter of the game, where he dives to cover a tricky short hop, then gets to his feet, and throws out the speedy lead-off guy.

June 17: Owings take charge vs. PHI

There’s a lot to admire about Chris Owings’s play, which certainly saved a run, with men on second and third, and two outs. Firstly, these kinds of high choppers are always difficult to judge. That’s especially the case when you have to run across the path of the ball, rather than being able to come directly toward it. And when your middle infield partner is also trying the same thing, you can’t afford anything less than 100% commitment. Even when the ball is in your glove, you then have to get the ball into your throwing hand and, make a strong, accurate throw to first, because you know the runner is motoring up the line. Owings does it all perfectly here.

June 22: Godley-to-Owings-to-Ahmed-to-Goldy vs. COL

This double-play was all the more difficult, the ball taking a deflection off the glove of pitcher Zack Godley. Not enough to slow it down significantly, just enough to change the direction as the ball headed toward the outfield. Owings was still able to make an adjustment on the fly, sliding to his right on the dirt, and then flipping the ball to Ahmed as he reached the bag. Nick didn’t hang around either, throwing the ball across to Goldschmidt, and in the end, it wasn’t even at all close at first base. But considering the many ways this could have gone wrong, from the moment the ball flicked off Godley’s mitt, the near-perfect precision and slickness shown here has to be admired.

July 21: Marte triggers #SadBryce vs. WSN

The loss of Ahmed late in June, could have been a hammer blow for our infield defense. Fortunately, it just opened the door for Ketel Marte, who demonstrated great range, and a cannon for an arm. The latter, in particular, is showcased by the play above, Marte throwing the runner out from a yard or two onto the outfield grass. But it was probably his amazing pick on the backhand, snaring a rifle bullet off the bat of Bryce Harper, and sliding to a halt on his knees, which secured its place in our final five. That the web gem ended the top of the ninth inning, with the score against Washington tied, didn’t hurt its value.

July 25: Drury roams and ranges vs. ATL

Scanning through the possible plays, I was impressed by how many similar candidates I could find for Brandon Drury. Perhaps it’s an effect of the increasing use of defensive shifts, but it seems that second basemen are now having to cover more ground this season than they did previously. There were perhaps half a dozen highlight reel plays that all had Drury covering a lot of ground, grabbing the ball almost when it seemed it had already gone past him, and then throwing to first for the out - sometimes from his knees or almost on his back. This was the most impressive of them, and was all the more so, considering Drury had only 21 professional starts at second before this year.

Poll

Which corner infield play should qualify for Play of the Year

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    June 11: Ahmed lays out vs. MIL
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    June 17: Owings take charge vs. PHI
    (1 vote)
  • 18%
    June 22: Godley-to-Owings-to-Ahmed-to-Goldy vs. COL
    (7 votes)
  • 44%
    July 21: Marte triggers #SadBryce vs. WSN
    (17 votes)
  • 18%
    July 25: Drury roams and ranges vs. ATL
    (7 votes)
38 votes total Vote Now