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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Passan: Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki stands alone as baseball’s most dominant shortstop

Tulowitzki is also a better hitter than Jeter ever was – a better hitter, frankly, than almost every shortstop in history. From 2009-11, Tulowitzki posted an on-base-plus-slugging of over .900. Only A-Rod, Honus Wagner and Ernie Banks have more .900-plus OPS seasons at shortstop. Lest you think it’s just a function of the thin air on Colorado, only Wagner, Vaughan, A-Rod, Banks, Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell have more seasons with an OPS+ – adjusted for ballpark and league, with 100 being average – of greater than 130.

What Jeter has is longevity, and at shortstop, that is career-defining. His sustained excellence – a career .313/.383/.442 line – is buttressed by the fact that he’s one of just five career shortstops with more than 10,000 plate appearances. The others are Luke Appling, Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio and Omar Vizquel – the first three Hall of Famers and Vizquel a candidate as much for his durability as his numbers.

...The current drought saw the highest OPS by a shortstop being Ian Desmond’s .845 – and the next highest was 38-year-old Jeter’s .791. Hanley Ramirez, once Tulowitzki’s mate in shortstop excellence, continued to fade, and third base is an inevitability. Jimmy Rollins, who once won an MVP, is on the downside of his career. Starlin Castro, now 23, has carved out a niche as a perfectly acceptable hitter but nobody’s idea of a superstar. Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar are very similar players: great gloves and baserunning instincts with some average and little to no pop. Yunel Escobar is a perpetual disappointment. J.J. Hardy can’t get on base. Ditto Alexei Ramirez. Brendan Ryan’s .555 OPS was the 65th worst of the last 50 years. Of those 65 marks, 43 have been from shortstops.

Thanks to Butch.

Repoz Posted: March 28, 2013 at 05:28 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rockies

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   1. Cooper Nielson Posted: March 28, 2013 at 07:02 AM (#4398189)
"It's such a demanding position," Tulowitzki said. "You look at those guys, and other than Jeter, they all had to move.

This is misleading in several ways. Obviously A-Rod can't play shortstop (or anywhere else) right now, but he moved well before he "had to." And you could argue that Jeter "had to" move... but didn't.

Tulowitzki is also a better hitter than Jeter ever was

I'm not buying this. Passan briefly waves off the Coors Field argument with a factoid about OPS+ seasons above 130 -- Tulo has 3, Jeter has 2. But if you drop the bar to 125, all of a sudden Jeter has 7 and Tulo has... 3.

Tulo's career OPS+ is 118 and Jeter's is 117. Through Jeter's age-27 season (Tulo's age last year), it was 123. Sticking with OPS+, Tulo hasn't had a season remotely close to Jeter's 153 in 1999. Tulo's a better home run hitter, but that's about it.
   2. Drexl Spivey Posted: March 28, 2013 at 07:18 AM (#4398193)
Brendan Ryan’s .555 OPS was the 65th worst of the last 50 years. Of those 65 marks, 43 have been from shortstops.


That's a pretty fascinating fact. I would have guessed that catchers and fluke off years would have combined to beat SS years.
   3. Cowboy Popup Posted: March 28, 2013 at 09:07 AM (#4398249)
Starlin Castro, now 23, has carved out a niche as a perfectly acceptable hitter but nobody’s idea of a superstar.

Castro, or maybe Reyes on turf, would be my pick to catch up to Tulo this year. He's added a bit of power over the last couple of years and I wouldn't be surprised to see him add even more this year.
   4. AROM Posted: March 28, 2013 at 09:16 AM (#4398258)
Nomar also had 3 seasons of .900 OPS and 130 OPS+, but his are more impressive, with 2 150s and a 140. Twice with raw OPS over 1.000, which Tulo has not done. Nomar also had 3 more full seasons at short with OPS+ between 121-127.

   5. AROM Posted: March 28, 2013 at 09:27 AM (#4398270)
Tulo was 27 last year. Among shortstops up to age 27, minimum 500 games played, he ranks 11th in OPS+. The top 10 are:

A-Rod 144
Vaughn 143
Nomar 139
Banks 136
Hanley 132
Ripken 125
Ed McKean? 125
Stephens 123
Jeter 122
Boudreau 120

6 are in the HOF or have HOF credentials including the 2 current Yankees. Another is active, and 2 are serious flame-outs (Nomar, Stephens) for very different reasons.

Tied with Tulo are Joe Cronin (HOF) and Jim Fregosi (lost it early)
   6. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 28, 2013 at 09:30 AM (#4398272)
Nomar was such a great player in his 20s. It's too bad he fell apart. I guess he can join the all-20s all-stars with Mattingly, Murphy, and many others.
   7. DanO Posted: March 28, 2013 at 12:06 PM (#4398447)
Brendan Ryan’s .555 OPS was the 65th worst of the last 50 years. Of those 65 marks, 43 have been from shortstops.



That's a pretty fascinating fact. I would have guessed that catchers and fluke off years would have combined to beat SS years.


I dunno--at least 10 of those years had to have come from Johnnie LeMaster alone.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 28, 2013 at 12:15 PM (#4398456)
That's a pretty fascinating fact. I would have guessed that catchers and fluke off years would have combined to beat SS years.

If he searched by qualified seasons, most Cs don't play enough to qualify for the batting title.
   9. Spectral Posted: March 28, 2013 at 12:18 PM (#4398459)
I don't understand the need to denigrate other great players to make one great player look greater. As good as Tulo is, using a 130 OPS+ is a dishonest approach. Jeter's three year peak was 127, 153, 128. Tulo's is 131, 138, 133. Those are sufficiently close that I'd say it's a reasonable argument to say that Tulo is as good of a hitter as Jeter was, but he's not just plainly better. Really though, that peak Jeter season was worth 58 batting runs according to Bref, while Tulo's career Rbat is 70 at present. Tulowitzki's a wonderful player, but he hasn't done anything on par with Jeter's '99 season.
   10. Ron J2 Posted: March 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM (#4398473)
#7 The remarkable thing about Hal Lanier is that much of his career was spent at second base rather than shortstop.

The Giants were an ... interesting organization back then, alternating "forget about the glove" (Dave Kingman was only the second worst defensive 3B in that general time frame. Yes, Jim Ray Hart was that bad) with "forget about the bat" (Lanier and LeMaster for instance)
   11. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 28, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4398520)
Zobrist was moved to shortstop at the end of last year, so if he stays there he could very well be the best hitting shortstop in the game. His dWAR plummeted last year, though. But since bbref doesn't have splits on that, I don't know if he was still playing stellar at 2B and was not so good at SS or if he just had an off year with the glove all around.
   12. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: March 28, 2013 at 01:22 PM (#4398530)
Asdrubal Cabrera's not quite on Tulo's level, but you'd have to think Droobs is also a candidate to catch Tulo in 2013. He's entering his Age 27 season and has hit .272/.335/.443 (118 OPS+) with an average of 34 doubles and 20 homers over the past two years.
   13. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 28, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4398543)
Zobrist was moved to shortstop at the end of last year, so if he stays there he could very well be the best hitting shortstop in the game.


Zobrist isn't any better a hitter than Tulowitzki is, and at age 32, he's not likely to improve.
   14. puck Posted: March 28, 2013 at 01:53 PM (#4398561)
OPS+ isn't a good tool to compare Jeter and Tulo on offense, right? Jeter's always had the high OBP plus must have a pretty good advantage in baserunning.

Though wRC+ on Fangraphs isn't hugely different from OPS+--is this park-adjusted and does it include baserunning? Tulo's best 3 years are 132, 134, 140. Jeter's: 133, 138, 157.

   15. valuearbitrageur Posted: March 28, 2013 at 02:03 PM (#4398570)
Starlin Castro, now 23, has carved out a niche as a perfectly acceptable hitter but nobody’s idea of a superstar.


I didn't give up on Adrian Beltre till he was 24.

Through age 22 season
Player games/OPS+
Beltre 493/100
Castro 445/105

If only Starlin could play some valuable defensive position like SS to save him from being a bust as big as Beltre was. Beltre's OPS+ was only 93 from ages 23-24, not sure what happened to him after that, doesn't appear to be with Dodgers anymore so I can only assume he washed out of the league.
   16. Dan Posted: March 28, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4398572)
Zobrist was moved to shortstop at the end of last year, so if he stays there he could very well be the best hitting shortstop in the game. His dWAR plummeted last year, though. But since bbref doesn't have splits on that, I don't know if he was still playing stellar at 2B and was not so good at SS or if he just had an off year with the glove all around.


There are "splits" on that. dWAR is Defensive Runs Saved, converted to wins, with a positional adjustment added in. Why people continue to cite it like its some unique defensive stat is beyond me. Per DRS, Zobrist was worth 9 runs above average in his time in RF, -5 at 2B, and 0 at SS. So the poor second base play and the position adjustment for the time in the OF are what drag his dWAR down.
   17. SG Posted: March 28, 2013 at 02:15 PM (#4398584)
OPS+ isn't a good tool to compare Jeter and Tulo on offense, right?


If you're just saying "hitter" it's probably good enough, and Passan is ignoring base running so he can make his point I guess.
   18. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: March 28, 2013 at 02:16 PM (#4398585)
That's a pretty fascinating fact. I would have guessed that catchers and fluke off years would have combined to beat SS years.


I'd guess that this is due at least in part to where you set the plate appearance cutoff -- given the physical demands of the position, lousy-hitting catchers are probably more likely than all-glove shortstops to lose playing time to their even-worse-hitting backups.
   19. Nasty Nate Posted: March 28, 2013 at 02:22 PM (#4398592)
I don't think the Rays intend to use Zobrist at SS this year.
   20. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: March 28, 2013 at 02:25 PM (#4398594)
All these other guys are just keeping the throne warm for Andrelton Simmons.
   21. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 28, 2013 at 02:48 PM (#4398607)
[16] Thanks. I never knew that dWAR came from Rdrs.
   22. jdennis Posted: March 28, 2013 at 03:01 PM (#4398616)
hey, i saw an earlier post referencing ed mckean w/ a question mark

he was an all-hit, no-field shortstop in the 1880s-90s, if anyone wants to know. very poor range. might have been a good choice for your team though. davis was obviously the #1 choice and jennings the 2, dahlen the 3 at that point in his career (in fact for the exact timeframe it might be jennings, then davis), but all the really weak hitters like tommy corcoran, germany smith etc. were just average fielders in addition to that, meaning there were no true defense-only shortstops, so mckean was the 4th best SS to have even though he had poor range and still wasn't as good a hitter as the top 3.

as far as the article is concerned, i agree with the other comments, you can't really make a good argument for tulo over jeter. i'm also surprised that shortstop is falling back to its normal mode of weaker hitting, along with catchers. second basemen seem to be holding up better i guess. all this stuff going right back to the way it was in the 80s is very indicting of the steroid era.
   23. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: March 28, 2013 at 03:29 PM (#4398634)
I don't understand the need to denigrate other great players to make one great player look greater. As good as Tulo is, using a 130 OPS+ is a dishonest approach.


It's carefully selected to make Tulo look good.

Tulowitzki is also a better hitter than Jeter ever was – a better hitter, frankly, than almost every shortstop in history. From 2009-11, Tulowitzki posted an on-base-plus-slugging of over .900.


1: Tulo's career high of 138 is the 55th best single season mark for a SS (since 1901)

2: Jeter's high of 153 is 24th, Jeter's next best is 132, Tulo's next best is 131...

3: Colorado air...

4: Six players have more 130+ OPS+ years (as a SS) than Tulo- but see:
A: Ripken, 162, 146, 144
B: Joost, 137, 137, 134
C: Han Ram, 148, 145, 143
D: Joe Cronin 138, 135, 135
E: Boudreau 165, 145, 134
F: Nomah 156, 153, 140
G: V. Stephens 141, 137, 133

Then there's Yount who had seasons of 166, 150 and 130 at SS, and later 152 and 130 as a CF

Tulowitzki is also a better hitter than Jeter ever was
Debatable

a better hitter, frankly, than almost every shortstop in history.
False, plain and simple
   24. Walt Davis Posted: March 28, 2013 at 06:18 PM (#4398726)
False, plain and simple

I dunno, how are you defining "shortstop" and "almost every"? I get 355 guys with at least 300 games at SS and, based on his career to date vs. their entire careers at any position, he's 12th in OPS+ meaning he's hit better than 96.6% of them. Is 97% good enough for "almost every"? Is 300 games enough for "shortstop"?

That's the beauty of weasel words.

No need to respond, I agree with you -- it's frankly sort of silly to even talk about a guy with fewer than 750 starts at SS in comparison to all-time SS. He does make some effort in this regard (seasons of high OPS+) but the "through age 27" comp is a better comp.

But then I'm the whacko who thinks that games played at a position actually play a role in all-time rankings of that position so we all know I'm a total nutter.
   25. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 28, 2013 at 06:22 PM (#4398730)
I dunno--at least 10 of those years had to have come from Johnnie LeMaster alone.

I bet Jose Iglesias adds a couple before he's done.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: March 28, 2013 at 06:30 PM (#4398733)
On Beltre/Castro:

Through age 30, Beltre had just a 105 OPS+, fine but nothing special. Through that time he had 60 Rbat, 54 of that coming in his great age 25 season. He had 41 WAR but 21 of that was playing time and 14-15 of that was defense. Over 11.5 seasons he was about .5 wins a year better than the average 3B if you ignore defense.

If Castro puts up a 105 OPS+ through age 30 that would be fine at SS and it's the player he is right now. That's 1 win above average for his position on offense. But, so far, he has been below-average defensively. He's on pace for about 31 WAR through age 30. That's nothing to sneeze at of course but it's a full win per year less than Beltre and then Beltre turned into a 130 OPS+ hitter.

Point being that Castro either needs to become a better hitter or an excellent fielder if he's going to become a star. He is reasonably well-primed to become a better hitter. But the more likely outcome is in the Templeton-Renteria range with a chance at Fregosi.

Oh man, we've gotten another decimal place on bWAR. Me no like.
   27. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: March 28, 2013 at 06:51 PM (#4398745)
That's the beauty of weasel words.

No need to respond, I agree with you -- it's frankly sort of silly to even talk about a guy with fewer than 750 starts at SS in comparison to all-time SS. He does make some effort in this regard (seasons of high OPS+) but the "through age 27" comp is a better comp.


especially since being 12th all time is nothing t sneeze at- (18th in BBREF WAR)

but weasel words or not the article does such an oversell it's really a disservice to Tulo
   28. AJMcCringleberry Posted: March 28, 2013 at 07:35 PM (#4398768)
Just imagine how good he'd be if he could stay healthy.
   29. puck Posted: March 28, 2013 at 08:11 PM (#4398784)

but weasel words or not the article does such an oversell it's really a disservice to Tulo

You'd think this article was from Woody Paige or some other Denver Post writer, or maybe just some Rockies fan with a blog who created an account here to link to his paean to Tulo.
   30. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 28, 2013 at 08:57 PM (#4398809)
But then I'm the whacko who thinks that games played at a position actually play a role in all-time rankings of that position so we all know I'm a total nutter.

You're not a nutter, just a bit of a zealot. (It's never been your disagreement with the common method that people react to; it's your incredulity at the existence of the common method. At least, that's what it's been for me.)

Oh man, we've gotten another decimal place on bWAR. Me no like.

Wow, we're apparently doing fractions of a run over the course of full careers now. This, we agree on.
   31. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: March 28, 2013 at 09:25 PM (#4398832)
Without looking it up, I would have guessed that McKean played in the Union Association (checks bbref) He didn't, but he did play in the NL in 1890 when all the best players jumped to the PL.
   32. Moeball Posted: March 29, 2013 at 01:50 AM (#4398940)
it's frankly sort of silly to even talk about a guy with fewer than 750 starts at SS in comparison to all-time SS. He does make some effort in this regard (seasons of high OPS+) but the "through age 27" comp is a better comp.


Well, I understand someone getting excited looking at the early portion of a player's career and going "Wow, this guy is off to a great start - if he keeps this up he'll likely be a future HOFer". So I understand the author's enthusiasm, but his assertions in the article are clearly over the top. Especially with the injuries Tulo has sustained in recent years, I am less excited by his future prospects than I was a few years ago.

We've had similar threads before on guys like Pedroia - ROY and member of championship team, then won an MVP award, has made AS teams and won GGs - yes, he's doing the things that point you on the path towards Cooperstown - but there's still a long way to go before he gets there. I wouldn't anoint him just yet. I say just sit back, enjoy the ride and see how it plays out!

I guess the cautionary tale is Chase Utley; he'll probably finish short of the Hall but, at his peak, he was just about as good as any second baseman in history (averaged 6 WAA/season for the 5 years 2005-2009 - I think the only 2B that I see surpassing that over a 5 year stretch are Hornsby, Collins and Morgan. Note that the numbers have changed again, BTW). Injuries can change anyone's outlook.
   33. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 29, 2013 at 04:18 AM (#4398948)
Strange that Passan makes all of one brief reference to Reyes, who seems to be back on a HOF track. Repeat his playing time for the last seven years of his career and Reyes gets up around 10,000 PAs as of his age 36 season. Those last seven seasons include a ton of time lost to injury, too. Getting to the majors at 20 brings all kinds of perks with it.

Adding again the WAR for those last seven seasons gets Reyes to 52bWAR. Huh. If 60 is a useful benchmark for Hall cases, he'd still need to hang on very competently until age 40 to have a shot. He's not Jeter in the field but even optimistic views of his defense don't suggest he'll be able to play there until 40.

Seems strange that Reyes in 2011 wins a batting title with some walks, decent power, strong baserunning at SS, and still pulls only 4.65 WAR. bWAR doesn't like his defense. I wonder how, a decade from now, we'll understand the numbers as they relate to Reyes' D. He hasn't seemed nearly as bad as bdWAR is painting him for 2011 and 2012; bad enough that if the Jays have options they might start to think about moving him. If you believe BBRefs numbers, anyway.

   34. valuearbitrageur Posted: March 29, 2013 at 04:23 AM (#4398949)
Over 11.5 seasons he was about .5 wins a year better than the average


Ignoring defense is ignoring greatness in Beltres case. He always seemed like he had the talent to hit better, but even before he did he was a special player

Maybe Beltres is the wrong comp for Castro, esp. given his late career. But Castro is entering his age 23 season, these cats who come up at ages 19 and 20 have massive talent levels. Some never figure it out, but never count out them out. They can take that step forward anytime, but especially in their early to mid twenties.

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