Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hall Of Fame Edition, Part 1

Hall of Famers by Position

SP  -  6
2B  -  3
3B  -  4
1B  -  2
RF  -  1
CF  -  1

C, LF, SS, RP - 0

No HOF Shortstops...Really?

We've been very exclusive in our HOF selection (only 17 so far), but it's hard to believe we haven't inducted a single SS.

I (very unscientifically) went back through all our Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning SSs', figuring if we had a deserving HOF'er or 2, they'd show up prominently in those lists.

Gold Glovers
We've had 9 SS's win 3 or more GG's (max is 4, and only 2 have done that).

Of the very early (remember, great hitting era) 3+  GG'ers, only Chad Fitzgerald could hit a lick.  His career .696 OPS seems more like a product of the times (his career spanned Seasons 1-10)...certainly ratings like his would produce much lower offensive numbers today.

Of more recent vintage, Zephyr Mailman posted a career OPS of .678  and won a Silver Slugger (albeit with a .715 OPS), and Artie Linebrink has a career .693 OPS.  Adjusting for era, those 2 are probably the best hitters to win 3+ Gold Gloves.  Neither really seems compelling though.

It's worth noting that only 1 other SS has won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger - current Giants SS Renyel Ozuna.  But even though his  Silver-Slugger-winning OPS of .761 in Season 31 looks pretty good, his career mark is only.593.

If we consider career "+" plays as a marker for career defensive greatness, 3 currently-active players dominate the list.  Current White Sox SS and 3-time GG Rafael Manzanillo leads with 185 career good plays at SS.  Right behind him are current Cleveland SS Kurt Blackley (4 GG's and 183 + plays) and Ozuna (178 + plays and 2 GG's, although he probably should have won his 3rd last year). At age 29 - 2 years younger than Blackley and 4 younger than Manzanillo, Ozuna seems likely headed for the top of this list. He also has a higher lifetime fielding % (.984) than either Blackley (.980) or Mazanillo (.974).

So Ozuna could emerge in a few years as the best defensive SS in league history.  Is that enough for HOF by itself?  I'd be tempted to say yes, but I'd sure like to see a higher career OPS than .593 accompanying it.

The Hitting Shorstops

On the flip side, we're looking for hitting shortstops who were at least pretty good fielders, so we're starting with winners of at least 2 Silver Sluggers at SS.

First thing we do is eliminate guys who won SS's but played more games in their careers at 3B, 2B etc than they did at SS.  That knocks out Vin Sanchez, who won 4 shortstop SS's early in his career.

Then I took a a couple of arbitrary defensive metrics - I eliminated the guys whose bad plays far outnumbered their good plays (career at SS) or had a shortstop fielding % below .965.  This consigned most of the field to "3B's masquerading as SS's to get another bat in the lineup" status (technically, it eliminated all but 1), but several are worth commenting on.

Dustan Beimel won 6 shortstop silver sluggers from Seasons 14-22, compiling a career .791 OPS.  But he had 5 good plays to 158 bad, and his .966 fielding % is on the extreme low end of consideration for "real SS" status.

Adam Shipley won 3 shortstop Silver Sluggers, and came in at 46-14 on +/-.  But the career fielding % was .956.  Troy Freeman was better defensively (112/4, .964), but even with 2 Silver Sluggers was only a career .698 OPS.

Gil Sodowsky merits mention because he's at 6 Silver Sluggers and counting.  But he's at 11/39 on +/- and .952 fielding %.

One player made it through this filter:  Santiago Vazquez.  Vazquez played in 1956 (1166 of them at SS) games for the Astros, Mets and Padres from Seasons 10-22.  He won Silver Sluggers in Seasons 13 (.823 OPS - .274/44/115) and 15 (.864 OPS - .294/36/98) en route to a career .794 OPS with 391 home runs...pretty spiffy for an actual SS.  His +/- was a pedestrian (but certainly not terrible) 25/37, but his career fielding % was a very respectable .979.

Vazquez' HOF eligibility expired long ago, but would I advocate for him if he were eligible?  Probably so.  Unless I overlooked someone (completely possible), he's probably been the best combination of offense/defense in a shortstop we've had.

Moot point there, though.  I think the bigger question is, "Do we put an all-defense SS in the HOF if he's the best defensive shortstop ever?"  I think we'll be facing this question for real a few years hence when Ozuna retires.

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