The Determinator: Shortstops: #6-10
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 #6-10 Shortstops in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. Tomorrow, will be the #1-5 Shortstops in the MLB, plus honorable mentions.
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 third basemen down to 32.
However, without further ado, let’s get to numbers 6 through 10:
If a player led a statistic for their position, it will be bolded.
Number 10: Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
Top-5: AVG, SB, BsR
Top-10: OBP, SLG, wRC, wRC+, Off
Top-15: HR, WAR
Total Score: 32Embed from Getty Images
Trea Turner, is only the fifth player across each position analyzed (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS) to make The Determinator’s Top-10 list while not being a Top-10 player by fWAR (3.5) at his position. (As a quick aside, it is interesting to me that so far it appears that both fWAR and The Determinator seem to be pretty consistent in ranking players.) In relation to Trea Turner, most of his value comes from being a much more traditional ‘hit-and-run’ type of player, as opposed to the current idea of selling out for the ‘three-true outcomes’. His highest ranks amongst shortstops came in AVG (0.298), SB (35), and BsR (6.5), and while his SLG (0.497) does show a profile of a good extra-base hitter, most of that came because of his legs where Turner recorded 37 doubles to only 19 HR’s. Since being 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2016 (behind Corey Seager), Turner has yet to record any hardware, MVP votes, or All-Star appearances, due in large part to having only one fully healthy since then. If healthy, Turner could surprise many who haven’t paid attention to him in 2020.
Number 8 (Tied): Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins
Top-10: Games, AVG, OBP, HR, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: SLG, DRS
Total Score: 34Embed from Getty Images
Jorge Polanco is a great example of a player who is consistently good across the game, but not a superstar at any one thing. He is one of only two players on today’s ranking to record at least a Top-15 finish with any defensive stat, recording in DRS (1), which is interesting, but not entirely unexpected. Defensive at shortstop is a well sought out tool, and an MLB player can stick around with great defense even if they only produce adequate offense. So, for most players who aren’t the superstars at shortstop they rank well in either offense or defense. Polanco is another offense-first shortstop, recording a rank in all 7 offensive stats with his wRC (108) coming out as his lone Top-5 skill. His triple slash of 0.295/0.356/0.485 with 22 HR’s led him towards an All-Star appearance and 13th place in MVP voting with a 5% share.
Number 8 (Tied): Jonathan Villar, Miami Marlins
Top-5: Games, SB, wRC, BsR
Top-10: OBP, HR, Off, WAR
Top-15: SLG, wRC+
Total Score: 34Embed from Getty Images
Fans of this series and The Determinator would see that Jonathan Villar is our first player to record a Top-10 placement across two positions, the other being second base (of which you can find here). Like with the previous write-up about Villar, I still expect him to be a major candidate for regression to the mean during the 2020 season as he will be playing on an uncompetitive team with a weak line-up around him. That being said, it is interesting to see the difference in build between second basemen and shortstops when using Villar as an example. In both cases, Villar led his position in Games (162) and BsR (10.5), but as a shortstop was not the SB leader (Villar recorded 40), nor did he place Top-5 in fWAR (3.6). He had a breakout season in 2019- similar to his 2016 campaign in Milwaukee- so this past season wasn’t a complete fluke. Villar could end up anywhere from being an average to an all-star middle infielder next season…even though he is currently slated to be the Marlins’ 3B. Very interesting.
Number 7: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+, Off
Top-10: HR, SB, BsR, WAR
Total Score: 37Embed from Getty Images
Fernando Tatis Jr. did almost everything he needed to do in his rookie year to get people excited about the talent he is bringing to the game. The unfortunate thing however, is the big thing that set Tatis back was his health. Over the past two seasons across the MLB and MiLB, Tatis has played in an average of 87 games per season (88 in 2018 at Double-A; 86 in 2019 at MLB and Double-A) and ended up on the IL twice in 2019 with a left hamstring strain and a stress fracture in his lower back. However, if he is able to stay healthy Tatis is a budding superstar and there is no doubt about it. He led all shortstops in SLG (0.590) and wRC+ (150) this past season and also had a Top-5 Offensive value (27.3) in under half a season played. I would also expect that his defensive metrics would improve with a full season of play to analyze.
Number 6: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Top-5: WAR, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: SLG, HR, wRC+
Top-15: AVG, SB, wRC, Off, Innings
Total Score: 39Embed from Getty Images
Javier Baez came into the MLB in 2014 with a brief stint from August to September. The following year, he had some family troubles and ended up on the then-called DL twice, managing another September call-up. Finally in 2016 he got his break, ended up missing the first few games of the season and has ever since been at the MLB level and been healthy. 2018 was Baez’s breakout season, as he earned his first All-Star bid, was 2nd in the MVP voting to Christian Yelich, and won the shortstop Silver Slugger. In 2019 his numbers dipped a bit, but he did record an All-Star bid. Baez has a lot of value built into his defensive game, ranking in the Top-5 across all 4 metrics, Fld (10.2), DRS (15), UZR (10), and Def (15.7) and gets help from good numbers at the plate with a triple-slash of 0.281/0.316/0.531 with 29 HR’s, a wRC+ of 114, and an Off of 11.2. If he is able to improve his offensive game closer to his 2018 performance, Baez should easily crack The Determinator’s Top-5 for Shortstops again next season, especially given his defensive prowess.
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.
Check back in tomorrow at 4:00 PM to see the #1-5 Shortstops in the MLB.