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Monday, November 15, 2021

Breaking down the ‘Big 5’ FA shortstops

It’s similar, though not identical, if you expand the OPS+ list to the past three seasons.

131 OPS+—Seager
130 OPS+—Semien
126 OPS+—Correa
114 OPS+—Story
113 OPS+—Báez

This time, the Statcast metrics rank it as: Seager, Correa, [big gap], Story, Semien and Báez.

Depending on how you want to view it, there’s either a Big Two here (Seager and Correa) or a Big Three (with Semien joining them), and then Story/Báez likely as the final two.

It’s worth noting, as well, that this aligns pretty well to strikeout rate, where Correa and Seager are better than average, Semien roughly average, Story a little worse than average and Báez’s 34% strikeout rate in 2021 one of the highest marks in the game.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 15, 2021 at 10:56 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: carlos correa, corey seager, javier baez, marcus semien, trevor story

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   1. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: November 15, 2021 at 02:30 PM (#6052977)
Correa is a clear #1 to me. He's the youngest (virtually same age as Seager) and has the highest ceiling. His fielding numbers are better than Seager. Yes, some health concerns, but to me, he's the best bet of any of these guys.
   2. BDC Posted: November 15, 2021 at 02:52 PM (#6052981)
It also must be relevant that Correa, Seager, and Story have always played shortstop, while Semien moved to 2B last year and Baez has played as much at other positions as at SS over his career. Any would probably make a fine SS for a while yet, but the guys who have never been moved off SS would seem to be better longterm SS bets.

Or maybe I'm wrong, and playing shortstop is like riding a bike, you never forget no matter how much practice you get.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: November 15, 2021 at 03:15 PM (#6052984)
Baez is an excellent SS and will be capable of playing the position for quite a few years. His time at not-SS is due to Addison Russell (also an excellent SS) and, briefly, Lindor (also an excellent SS and now franchise cornerstone). So in fact, Javy wasn't moved off SS, he was moved to SS. That said, obviously his K-rate means his offense could crater at any moment so he may well end up in a backup/"super-sub" role. Also that "flexibility" may make him attractive to teams that already have a SS. FWIW, Statcast rates his SS defense as highly as Rfield does (which is in the 10-15 runs per year range).

Semien's the oldest and seems to have been only about average at SS (though some good seasons in there) so is the most likely to not be a SS. Seager is likely to be the next to have to give the position up for defensive reasons. I was surprised the Dodgers moved Turner to 2B and I wonder if that's because they think Seager has less defesnive aptitude and would need an offeason to adapt to playing elsewhere. I don't think it's needed but I won't be shocked if the team that signs Seager moves him elsewhere immediately.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: November 15, 2021 at 03:37 PM (#6052988)
Further on Javy's defensive prowess, via statcast

2021: 82nd overall, middle of the pack for SS (so a bit troubling)
2020: #3 overall, #2 SS
2019: #1 overall (by 6 runs!)
2018: #41 overall, middle SS
2017: #20 overall, #4 SS (Russell was #2 SS)

2017-21: #4 overall -- Lindor, Ahmed (tied with Lindor in less PT), Simmons

2017-21: Correa #14 overall, Story #61, Seager #146, Semien #209

Addison Russell is (hopefully was) an a-hole and was as smooth a SS as Vizquel with even better range. Russell, with just 320 ML games for 2017-21 is still ranked #16 overall by statcast. Javy is probably not quite that good overall and is obviously more of the spectacular/noooooo! variety, but he's very very good.
   5. BDC Posted: November 15, 2021 at 04:04 PM (#6052998)
Baez is an excellent SS and will be capable of playing the position for quite a few years. His time at not-SS is due to Addison Russell (also an excellent SS) and, briefly, Lindor (also an excellent SS and now franchise cornerstone). So in fact, Javy wasn't moved off SS, he was moved to SS

This seems very reasonable, so I am not doubting it. But it's interesting – I wonder how many successful SS were, as you say, moved onto SS after establishing themselves at other positions (or as with Baez at a mix of them). Michael Young, but as a SS he was something of a joke, Gold Glove notwithstanding. Honus Wagner, I suppose. But I don't know enough about the history of shortstops to know how common this is. Most SS seem to obey the principle that all RH throwers start as shortstops as kids and are eventually moved off till only the best remain.
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: November 15, 2021 at 04:51 PM (#6053019)
But it's interesting – I wonder how many successful SS were, as you say, moved onto SS after establishing themselves at other positions (or as with Baez at a mix of them).


David Eckstein was installed at SS by the Angels very soon after acquiring him, but he played almost exclusively second base in the minors and in his initial 16-game big league callup.
   7. John Northey Posted: November 15, 2021 at 05:15 PM (#6053023)
The biggest name to be moved to SS was Cal Ripken Jr - from 3B to SS despite being larger than shortstops were supposed to be. He also was legendary for positioning when it wasn't done to extremes.
   8. Ron J Posted: November 15, 2021 at 05:31 PM (#6053027)
#7 Though Ripken's unusual positioning was more to do with playing deeper than any other SS and trading on his arm and the fact that he read the ball well off the bat and had a quick initial reaction.

   9. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 15, 2021 at 05:34 PM (#6053028)
It’s similar, though not identical, if you expand the OPS+ list to the past three seasons.


That's slightly unfair to Story, whose best season was four years ago. If you expand the list to the past four seasons, Story and Correa are tied at 118.
   10. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: November 15, 2021 at 06:25 PM (#6053031)
The biggest name to be moved to SS was Cal Ripken Jr - from 3B to SS despite being larger than shortstops were supposed to be. He also was legendary for positioning when it wasn't done to extremes.


Honus Wagner played 20+ games at second base, 80ish games at first base, 150 games at third base, and more than 230 games in the outfield, before he played any shortstop at all. He didn't play SS until halfway through the 1901 season after a solid month at 3B and mostly RF before that.
When the 1901 season started, Wagner had nearly 500 big-league games behind him, and he'd pitched more than he'd played shortstop.
   11. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: November 15, 2021 at 06:40 PM (#6053034)
#10, Wagner was a freak of nature for his time. He was big, solid and really fast. Just an incredible all-around athlete who would've excelled at any sporting endeavour. I'm thinking Mike Trout of 1897.
   12. Paul D(uda) Posted: November 15, 2021 at 07:23 PM (#6053036)
AROD is another answer here
   13. KronicFatigue Posted: November 15, 2021 at 07:23 PM (#6053037)
Stupid question but is it generally guaranteed that if a player can play SS, they can then later move to 2nd or 3rd? Or is that transition a skill that Semien and Baez have already proved they possess?
   14. Ron J Posted: November 15, 2021 at 08:01 PM (#6053038)
I can think of only two SS who weren't regarded as a decent 2B when tried there.

Gene Alley was judged as not being very good at 2B while active. On the other hand from what we can tell from the newer metrics he did just fine at 2B. And he was being compared to Bill Mazeroski.

Kurt Stillwell was also not regarded as being able to handle 2B. And the metrics we have now don't like him at second. Or short.

In both cases they were supposedly poor at the pivot on the DP. Again though Alley was being judged by the standards of Maz.

EDIT: One interesting case is Glenn Wright. They move Maranville to 2B rather than Wright even though Maranville was the better defensive player. Wright was felt to have poor footwork, but the primary reason they stuck him at short was an exceptional arm that they thought would be wasted at second.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: November 16, 2021 at 12:30 AM (#6053067)
Baez played SS almost exclusively in the minors until July 2014 when the Cubs acquired Russell. Russell made the majors in early 2015 but played 2B in deference to Starlin Castro until early August. With Castro (still just 25), Bryant (23) and Russell (21) it seemed like Javy's fastest path to the majors might be as a utility guy. There was plenty of speculation that Baez would be traded after 2015, instead they managed to ship off Castro ... but then they went out and signed Zobrist. Anyway, Javy was moved off SS to accommodate Russell and moved back when Russell eventually flopped and had his off-field issues.

SS and 2B ... yes I think it's "guaranteed" that a SS can play 2B ... or at least can learn it in a reasonably short period of time. The confounder is usually age -- if they're starting at 2B, they've usually been moved because their range has declined due to age. Sometimes age works really quickly and you can go from an average SS to a poor 2B pretty quickly. If a player's been moved to a bench role, that is usually a slowed bat and maybe slower legs and they may not get enough PT at 2B to really learn it or just not be good at moving all over while starting just twice a week. But if it made sense, I wouldn't hesitate to move a young, prime, decent defensive SS to 2B or 3B (depending on whether their strength is range or arm/reaction.

Bill Russell played OF in the minors 66-68 and mostly OF in the majors from 69-71, almost no SS. Then in 72 the Dodgers made him the starting SS, TZ says he was about average but he quickly became very good and remained a very good SS through 1983. In 84 age caught up to him and he was a floating bench player, below-average TZ when at SS.

Craig Counsell was a weird one -- he was mainly a bench 2B then AZ gave him 46 starts at SS (45 at 3B) at age 30. He was mainly 3B the next couple of years but had 29 starts at SS and did OK by TZ and DRS. Then Milw made him a starting SS at 33 and he did well. Then Arizona moved him back to 2B. Then they put him at SS again at 35 and apparently he was otherworldly (14 TZ, 20 DRS in about half a season). Then he just picked up starts at SS here and there but was still doing so at 40. For his career, in about 3 full seasons of play at SS, nearly all in his 30s, he put up 11 TZ or 13 DRS per year.

Jose Hernandez was similar to Counsell (and to Baez). A rotating bench IF early in his career, Milw made him a starting SS at 31 and he did well; even better at 32. Then not so well for the Rox, shipped to the Cubs then Pirates who played him at 3B. He was only a bench player after that. Still, it all added up to about 5 full seasons at SS and TZ rates him a bit above-average. Denis Menke is another guy who flipped between a pretty even split of SS/3B/2B to starting SS for 23-26 and 28-29 but mostly at 2B for 27. He ended up with 5-6 full seasons' worth at SS, a bit below-average TZ but nearly as many starts elsewhere through age 32.

There's always Tony Womack. He played mostly 2B for the Pirates. Then the World Champion DBacks played him in RF, one of your more curious baseball decisions. Stuck with a WS hero, they decided (what the heck) to move him to SS where he was pretty much full-time for 3 years and part of a 4th. TZ says he was average there. Wow, in his first full season at 27, TZ rated him as -26 at 2B ... that's tough to do, especially tough to do when you've got an above-average range factor and a nearly average FP. Even Matt Stairs in his 30s might have been able to hold 2B to a -20. I suspect it would be tought to justify that TZ number.
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: November 16, 2021 at 01:10 AM (#6053073)

AROD is another answer here


To what question? Arod was exclusively a shortstop and then moved to third. That's not like Ripken or Wagner or others who moved to short after establishing themselves elsewhere.
   17. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: November 16, 2021 at 05:35 AM (#6053076)
I think there are two real distinctions between Correa and Seager, who are very similar hitters:

1. The most obvious is injury history. They both have one, but Seager's is far more worrying.

2. I think it's highly likely that Seager will be playing third base by the time his contract his half up. He's a fine SS for now, but he doesn't have a lot of steps to give if he starts to slow.
   18. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: November 16, 2021 at 07:00 AM (#6053077)
The other crazy counterpoint to the "SS can move to other positions easily" stance (which I agree with as a general statement) is Hanley Ramirez. He had ~800 games as a below average but playable SS before he meaningfully played anywhere else. And then proceeded to be bad at 3B, 1B, and then hilariously bad in LF. If you just look at the numbers, it's like he lost an eye.
   19. BDC Posted: November 16, 2021 at 10:07 AM (#6053095)
Thanks to all for this detailed information on shortstops and positions in general - very interesting material and helpful in thinking about players' futures.
   20. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: November 16, 2021 at 02:22 PM (#6053167)
Bill Russell played OF in the minors 66-68 and mostly OF in the majors from 69-71, almost no SS. Then in 72 the Dodgers made him the starting SS, TZ says he was about average but he quickly became very good and remained a very good SS through 1983. In 84 age caught up to him and he was a floating bench player, below-average TZ when at SS.


Pretty phenomenal career when you consider he was also moonlighting as an NBA player, and he was 50 in '84, so no real surprise age finally caught up to him a bit.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: November 16, 2021 at 05:10 PM (#6053195)
Correa may have narrowed his lit of suitors by one, as this came out today:

"Speaking on the "Me Gustan Los Deportes" podcast last week with former MLB second baseman Carlos Baerga, Correa, who won his first Gold Glove this season, took issue with the five Gold Gloves the former New York Yankees shortstop won during his 20-year career.

"Derek Jeter, how many Gold Gloves did he win?," Correa asked. "Five, I think he won. ... Derek Jeter didn't deserve any."

..........

[he's not wrong, but....]
   22. Bhaakon Posted: November 16, 2021 at 06:47 PM (#6053206)
The other crazy counterpoint to the "SS can move to other positions easily" stance (which I agree with as a general statement) is Hanley Ramirez. He had ~800 games as a below average but playable SS before he meaningfully played anywhere else. And then proceeded to be bad at 3B, 1B, and then hilariously bad in LF. If you just look at the numbers, it's like he lost an eye.


The relevant question is probably less "Can a typical SS be reasonably expected to transition well to 2B/3B?" and more "Why is this particular player no longer playing SS?"

   23. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 16, 2021 at 07:52 PM (#6053210)
AROD is another answer here.
To what question?
Who (along with others) just bought the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC?
Former president Donald Trump’s real estate company plans to sell the federal lease to its luxury D.C. hotel to Miami-based CGI Merchant Group, according to a report Sunday in the Wall Street Journal.
. . .
An investment firm whose investors include former Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez, CGI Merchant announced a fund last year through which it acquires hotels and partners with McLean, Va.-based Hilton Worldwide to operate them.
   24. Srul Itza Posted: November 16, 2021 at 08:48 PM (#6053217)
I think there are two real distinctions between Correa and Seager, who are very similar hitters:


Also, Correa has apparently found one area where he can be honest:

Carlos Correa: Derek Jeter 'didn't deserve any' of his five Gold Gloves

As the kid today (or was it 15 years ago) say, "Oh, Snap!"

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