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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ranking the Shortstops

Honus Wagner - Bill James' Top SS of All Time

I've been thinking about starting a series in which I rank the top 5 players at each position. Quite often I have an idea like this, get a couple of posts in and get bored with it. I can't promise that won't be the case here, but we'll see. I'll start with the shortstops. I'm going to do the MLB as a whole rather than break the players up into leagues. Besides, I don't know that I can find 5 NL shortstops who are truly worth mentioning. A few years back, the Big Three (A-Rod, Jeter, Nomah) dominated this category. Now with A-Rod on the hot corner on Nomah on the DL (who had Opening Day in their office pool?) only one of the Big Three remain. Let's take a look at the new top 5.

#1 - Miguel Tejada: His power numbers dropped a bit last year from the previous two. Whether that was an abberation or the beginning of his age 30 decline remains to be seen. Regardless, Tejada still puts up great numbers in a pitcher's park and is an above average defender. He may make a few mental errors in the field, but his range allows him to get to balls the other power hitting shortstops can't reach.

#2 - Michael Young: He's a converted 2nd baseman and it shows. Young is the worst defender on this list, but he more than makes up for it with his bat. The numbers he put up last year were incredible, (.330/.394/.528)even better than Tejada's. The difference is the park they play in. While Tejada is in a light pitcher's park, Young plays in the most extreme hitter's park outside of Coors Field. For that reason plus his lack of defense, he sits at number two in this list. (Yankees fans are still waiting to see Jeter's name)

#3 - Jhonny Peralta: This is the guy that gets me excited. At age 24, he's got a chance to be special and I believe by the end of this year he will have climbed to the top of the list. But for now he sits at three. He still needs some work on his defense, but he can hit with the best of them. Now he just has to prove he can put up those numbers consistently. (Where the hell is Jeter!?)

#4 - Derek Jeter: Here you go Yankee fans. I mean no disrespect to Jeter by putting him at number 4. I just think real highly of the other 3 guys. Jeter is the oldest member of this list and appears to be in a gradual decline. Despite the Gold Glove last year, he remains a below average defender. He should still hit for high average and get on base with the best of them, but I expect his power numbers to diminish each year. Still a great player though.

#5 - Rafael Furcal: Furcal is the most traditional shortstop in the top 5, and if he continues as he did last year, he's the best defender by far. His range factor is a full half a point higher than the next closest person. Furcal's speed also gives him an advantage over the rest of the competition. He's a top 5-10 basestealer in the league. The only thing holding him at number 5 is his bat - compared to the other 4. His AVG, OBP, and SLUG rank lower than all the other shortstops on the list. And it's not even close. He still remains a cut above the number 6-10 guys, though.

Honorable Mention: Edgar Renteria
Julio Lugo
Orlando Cabrera
JJ Hardy
Carlos Guillen (when healthy)

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