Thursday, August 2, 2012

They got little hands and little eyes...

Shortstop is the one position where defense is the only thing that matters.  Teams that don’t have good defensive SS don’t tend to last long into the season, with the exception of the Yankees when they had a strong pitching staff to get around Jeter’s shortcomings.  But quite recently, there has been a big increase of offense available at the position.  We had Ripken come up in the 80s ticketed as the first “big man” shortstop, and then 10 years later guys like A-Rod, Jeter, Nomar and to a lesser extent Tejada and Renteria come into the fold and just blow guys like Brendan Ryan and Omar Vizquel away with solid defense and big time run production.  I still think that defense is highly more important (which is why when Theriot was booted from the Cardinals SS position and replaced with Furcal they started to do a bit better) at shortstop than offense is, and I’m sure most people in baseball will agree with me.  Certainly, the Hall of Fame does, because when you look at this list, there are a lot of guys on there who you could call “All glove” or “No hit” (Looking at you Nellie Fox).  So, the question is, does defensive greatness make up for offensive shortcomings at this position?  Well, we’re going to find out right now.

The average HoF SS played for 16.6 years and had a career WAR of 69.5, for a baseline of 4.2 WAR/yr.  And already, I think some of the rankings may come as a bit of a shock, considering how valuable defense is, but even more valuable is good defense with good offense.


Not a whole lot to say about this grouping.  Yount’s value slips a bit from his late career move to CF (I did correct a little for that, not much) and Ripken’s gets hurt a bit by his few years at third (again, a little correction made), but other than that...I think this filled out the most smoothly.  Looking back, I was surprised at just how good Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto were.  I thought Rizzuto especially would end up booted, but he was a terrific defender and a decent enough offensive player.  He had a score of 107 for his fielding on fangraphs, which is incredible given his 12 or so year career.  Not the greatest SS, obviously, but definitely more deserving of induction than I originally thought.  And, no real complaints about the ones dropped off in the F category.  

I’m not going to do more totals until we hit the end, so let's get right into upcoming ballots:

Upcoming Ballots:
Alan Trammel:  Before I run the numbers, let me say that I think he’s been very overlooked by the writers and I have a gut feeling like he belongs.  But, let me also say that if he ranked in the D tier, as with most of them, I will say he doesn’t belong because I don’t feel like adding to the bottom of the list.  Now to calculate it....88.  So close but not quite.  I like the guy, but just not quite there I guess.  Oh well.

2013: No one worth talking about.  And no, Royce Clayton isn’t worth talking about.
2014: No new SS popping up.  Weird, thought there would be some.
2015: Nomar is up on the ballot.  Again, before running numbers, I’m going to say “No”, mostly due to the injuries he sustained.  And he comes out at 73.  Tough break.
2016: David Eckstein.  I’m pretty much contractually obligated to calculate his WAR+ value.  And even if I weren’t, I’d do it anyway for funsies.  45.  Damn, wanted it to be the lowest ever.  But, he had the most heart.

For the record, Derek Jeter despite his defensive inefficiencies, or perhaps because of them, has a WAR+ right now of 106.  So, take that for people who think I hate anything and everything about the Yankees, even though I totally do.

That’s it for the infield, I guess.  Up next, we go to left field and start getting some very interesting things happening.  And, we will get to look at one of my favorite players of all time, Ted Williams.  

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