The Determinator: Shortstops: #1-5 + Honorable Mentions
Before every season, baseball minds across the sport test their skills with crunching numbers, diving deep into analytics, and reviewing game footage in order to determine who the best players are in the game. Often times they give their analysis fun names; one of the most notable being The Shredder from MLB Network.
Sometimes the results astound people- like in 2015 Hanely Ramirez was rated the top Left Fielder in the MLB before ever playing there. Other times, the results are unsurprising- spoiler alert, but Mike Trout was probably the best CF in baseball, and most likely will be again.
Every weekday at 4:00 PM throughout the next few weeks, I will be posting my own analysis on who the top players at each position truly are.
Welcome to The Determinator.
Today I will reveal the Top-5 Shortstops in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. On Monday, will be the #6-10 Left Fielders in the MLB.
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2020 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
The Determinator: Shortstop-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 135 different players who played any amount of time at shortstop during the season, I set-up two separate boundaries for shortstops:
They must’ve had at least 250 PA’s during the 2019 season.
They must’ve had at least 500 innings at third base during the 2019 season.
This limited the number of shortstops down to 32.
However, without further ado, let’s get to numbers 1 through 5:
If a player led a statistic for their position, it will be bolded.
Number 5: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Top-5: HR, wRC, WAR
Top-10: SLG, SB, wRC+, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-15: AVG, OBP, Off, Innings
Total Score: 40Embed from Getty Images
Francisco Lindor, while still producing to an All-Star level and winning the AL Gold Glove last season, took a major step back from his 2018 campaign (7.6 fWAR), producing only 4.4 fWAR in 2019. That was still good enough for a Top-5 placement amongst shortstops, which shows how great Lindor is that he can take a big step back and still be Top-5. However, as he took a step back in fWAR, so did he allow his fellow shortstops to catch up to his rankings, pushing him down a level as he was only Top-5 in the aforementioned fWAR, along with HR’s (32) and wRC (99). That being said, Francisco Lindor is undoubtably a top talent shortstop that would make just about any team in the MLB better, and was a hot-ticket item when it was speculated that the Indians may have been looking to shop him around. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him topping the list again next year.
Number 4: Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals
Top-5: Games, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: HR, wRC, WAR
Top-15: SLG, wRC+, BsR, Off
Total Score: 43Embed from Getty Images
Paul DeJong came out as the best defensive shortstop in the MLB in 2019, even though he missed out on the NL Gold Glove to Nick Ahmed. Even with that though, he did make the NL All-Star team, the first in his career. DeJong led all shortstops in Fld (11.4), UZR (11.4), and Def (18.5), with a Top-5 DRS (14). This great defensive value definitely helped his case in The Determinator, as DeJong was one of only two shortstops to achieve a Top-5 finish in every defensive category. He also had okay offensive value (2.2) combined with a wRC+ of 100, showing that he was exactly league average, which ranked him exactly 15th amongst shortstops.
Number 3: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: Fld, UZR, Def
Total Score: 51Embed from Getty Images
It does pain me to consistently see Red Sox players ranking very highly across many of The Determinator’s Top-10 lists, even if Bogaerts is 100% worthy of being in this position. Leading all shortstops in OBP (0.384), wRC (130), and Off (37.6), along with the 2nd best shortstop fWAR (6.8) and solid defensive metrics (8.2) makes this an easy call and placement. All this brought Bogaerts his 2nd All-Star appearance, 3rd career Silver Slugger, and his highest ever placement in MVP voting (5th) with a 35% share. This is Bogaerts 2nd such great season in a row (he had a 135 OPS+ in 2018), and fits the standard 7-year peak timeline that most veteran players find themselves. Expect Bogaerts to be a formidable foe for years to come.
Number 2: Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
Top-5: Games, OBP, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings, Def
Top-10: AVG, SLG, Fld, UZR
Top-15: SB, BsR, DRS
Total Score: 60Embed from Getty Images
I firmly believe that Marcus Semien- not counting rookie debuts- was the biggest break-out star in 2019. Before last season, in his 6-Year career from 2013-2018 Semien had a total Off of -5.4 and a total Def of 12.6. Up to that point in his career, Semien was seen as a decent fielder whose biggest showing was one great season with the glove in 2018 (Def of 15.6). However, he absolutely exploded in 2019 with an Off of 37.5 and a Def of 14.1, both Top-5 amongst shortstops. This led Semien towards a lead in fWAR (7.6), which was surely helped by his tops in Games Played (162) and Innings Played (1453). This brought about a Top-3 AL MVP vote, with a 54% vote share, even though he didn’t receive any other hardware, nor the All-Star Game.
Number 1: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
Top-5: OBP, SLG, HR, SB, wRC, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: AVG, wRC+, Innings
Total Score: 70Embed from Getty Images
Trevor Story quickly became a household baseball name when he broke into the league in 2016 when he set an NL record for most HR’s in a rookie season for a shortstop (27). In 2017, Story fell from that booming entrance into the league, but he came back to form in 2018 and continued showing his abilities again in 2019. He got into his second straight All-Star game and won his second straight NL Silver Slugger for shortstops, which is easy to see why when you look at the statistics: a 0.294/0.363/0.554 triple-slash with 35 HR’s an Off of 23.8, a wRC+ of 121, and a total fWAR of 5.9. However, what many people miss is his great value on defense, as he was one of two players, including Paul DeJong, who ranked Top-5 in every defensive statistic measured, cumulating in a Def of 15.1. This top offense and defense brought him the top spot in The Determinator.
With a shortened season in 2019 for both Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres at shortstop, neither were able to crack the Top-10 list. Them and some other notable stars missed out, and before going into a brief talk about the former Yankee shortstop and expected shortstop for 2020, lets look at some honorable mentions.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox – Lead SS in AVG (0.335), Scored 29 Points, Ranked #11
Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals – Lead SS in SB (43), Scored 26 Points, Ranked #12
Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks – Lead SS in DRS (18), Scored 23 Points, Ranked #14
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros – Scored 22 Points, Ranked #15
Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels – Scored 21 Points, Ranked #16
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers – Scored 13 Points, Ranked #23
Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves – Scored 5 Points, Ranked #28
So, how did Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres each rank?
Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres:
Wow. I did not think that looking at that photo would make me sad, but it did. Truly, Yankee fans will miss Didi Gregorius in 2020 (and for seasons to come), even if it was probably the right move for the organization to make to let him walk.
We’ve already talked about Gleyber Torres in the Second Base rankings (he was #9, which you can find a write-up here) and as a shortstop, Gleyber again led the position in HR’s hit (38). In total, Gleyber scored 25 points, slotting him in as the #13 shortstop- a ranking that should far increase in 2020 with more consistent playing time at shortstop.
For Didi Gregorius however, his limited play and non-dominant performance only netted him a mere 2 points from The Determinator. He scored a Top-15 finish in both Fld (0.2) and UZR (0.2), neither of which were very special. As with talking about finding a way to get Gio Urshela into the Top-10 that was released on Wednesday, it would be an exhaustive and unimportant exercise trying to find a way towards adding on an additional 30 points to tie Trea Turner (32 points).
That being said, with a healthy season to get back to 2017 or 2018 form, Didi Gregorius should be able to find himself making a solid contention for a bottom 10 spot next season. Gleyber Torres should be looking to find his way into a Top-5 spot for the 2020 season on the other-hand.
As much as I will miss Didi Gregorius- thanks for this by the way– I am looking forward with great anticipation towards seeing Gleyber Torres take the reigns as the next great shortstop in Yankee pinstripes.
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.
Click here to see the #6-10 Shortstops.
Check back in tomorrow at 4:00 PM to see the #6-10 Shortstops in the MLB.