MLB.com vs A Sip of Sports (Shortstop Edition)

MLB.com and A Sip of Sports agreed on 24 out of 30 (80%) choices at shortstop. This is the most, so far, at any position. The reason for that is only once at shortstop did we put their choice at a different position (Texas). The rest we just disagree. Four of the remaining five are close, and we have no big problem with the MLB.com pick. The only outrageous selection was for the Minnesota Twins. 

Atlanta Braves: MLB.com chose Johnny Logan. ASIPOFSPORTS chose George Wright.

As we mentioned in our Braves/Bees/Beaneaters/Red Stockings/Red Caps article, choosing the best shortstop in franchise history is pretty desperate work. There’s no Robin Yount or Cal Ripken, no Barry Larkin nor even Bert Campanaris. There’s no obvious choice. Two players are in the Hall of Fame who were long term shortstops for the franchise. The two are Rabbit Maranville and George Wright. We were pretty clear about our doubts about Maranville in our previous Braves’ article, so that leaves Wright. Wright played in the infancy of major league baseball, but he was the best player in the game at that time. MLB.com chose Johnny Logan, who was the shortstop for the Braves’ championship teams in the late 1950s. He was a four time All-Star and probably the fifth best player on the team (Aaron, Mathews, Spahn, Burdette). His WAR in that time was 33.5 with 175 Win Shares. He never won a Gold Glove, but his defense was pretty good (B+).

The other one short stop to mention is Herman Long. Long played 20 years after Wright, and 60 years before Logan, and would have been our choice if we hadn’t taken Wright. His 35.5 WAR matched Logan and his 238 Win Shares was 26% higher than Johnny. His defense was excellent (A+). He was doing this for a team that was averaging 138 games a season. That deflates both WAR and Win Shares by about 10% a season. The teams he played shortstop for won five National League Championships. He was probably the third best player on those teams (behind Kid Nichols and Hugh Duffy).

Finally, what about George Wright. You must remember that he was already the best player in baseball when the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players began in 1871. Allowing that the records found on the National Association, and published in the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, are somewhat suspect, Wright’s Red Caps played 32 games in 1871, 47 in 1872, 59 in 1873, 70 in 1874 and 79 in 1875. The first season of the National League the Red Stockings played 70 games, then 60 in 1877 and 1878, his last year in Boston. This explains his low 23.3 WAR. Remember that Wright’s teams won 4 of the five Championships in the National Association and 2 of the 3 when he competed in the National League. That’s six championships in eight years. Still, that was a long, long time ago, and the game he dominated might be inferior to a modern high school game. This was our most problematic pick, and we’re open to other opinions. But for now, we stand by Wright as the correct choice.

Washington Nationals: MLB.com chose Trea Turner. A Sip of Sports chose Ian Desmond.

If Turner stays in Washington for another couple seasons, and plays at the same level he’s established in the last four years he’ll pass Desmond and be the number one guy. People always overrate current players, giving them credit for seasons they haven’t had yet. At this moment we’re comfortable with our choice, but assume Turner will change that in a few years.

San Francisco Giants: MLB.com chose Travis Jackson. A Sip of Sports chose George Davis.

Both of these picks are in the Hall of Fame. Jackson played almost 100 years ago, Davis around 120 years ago. Davis had 11 seasons in New York, Jackson 15, but Davis’ best seasons were much better.  WAR and Win Shares are a mixed bag, Davis leads in WAR 44.6 to 43.7, while Jackson had more Win Shares 211 to 201. Our rating system puts Davis ahead 2,403 to 2,218 while in the Big Apple. Statistically, Davis is ahead narrowly, but he played for the Giants in the 1890s while Jackson played in the 1920s and 1930s. Davis’ overall value in the big leagues is much higher because only 50% of his total value was with the Giants while 100% of Jackson’s was in New York. We’re very comfortable with our choice, but if you think baseball improved 10% in the 25 years between the two careers then Jackson is a reasonable pick.

San Diego Padres: MLB.com chose Khalil Greene. A Sip of Sports chose Garry Templeton.

San Diego has no good choices at shortstop, maybe in a couple of years Fernando Tatis will change that. In his seven big league seasons Khalil Greene only played more than 121 games twice. He averaged only 110 games in his six San Diego seasons. His OBP/SA/OBPS was .302/.422/.723 and a WAR of 9.3 with 73 Win Shares. On defense he was okay, not great. Templeton played more than 121 games in 8 of his nine seasons with the Padres. He wasn’t the offensive producer Greene was, with a OBP/SA/OBPS of .304/.369/.673, but Templeton played in the 1980s while Greene was active in the more run friendly 2000s. Templeton was a good glove, probably a little better than Greene. His WAR in San Diego was 10.1, Win Shares 105. Both players averaged 12 Win Shares a season. It’s close, but Templeton played 42% more games (1,266-736) at the same level and was marginally better on defense.

Ozzie Smith is another question. The Padres gave up Smith in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals when they acquired Templeton. This trade worked out extremely well for St. Louis, but it was not an obvious bad deal for San Diego when the trade was made. In Smith’s four years in San Diego he did win two Gold Gloves, but his OBP/SA/OBPS was only .337/.328/.666 and overall WAR was 11.0 with 52 Win Shares. That’s an average of 13 Win Shares a season. Again it’s close, but Templeton played 54% more games (1,266-583) than Smith did at almost the same level. Templeton was always a disappointment to Padre fans, because of what Smith accomplished in St. Louis. We still think we got this one right. 

Minnesota Twins: MLB.com chose Roy Smalley. A Sip of Sports chose Joe Cronin.

Did MLB.com forget that the Minnesota Twins franchise was in Washington for their first 57 years? None of their top five picks at shortstop for the Senators/Twins were Washington Senators. Ever heard of Joe Cronin? In Cronin’s seven years in the Nation’s Capitol his WAR was 36.7 with a OBP/SA/OBPO of .387/.455/.842 and 173 Win Shares. Roy Smalley’s numbers aren’t even in the same universe. His WAR was 20.8, OBP/SA/OBPS of .262/.350/.750 with 128 Win Shares. Joe Cronin had Win Shares of over thirty for 4 years with the Senators, Smalley had Win Shares over 20 twice, with a high of 24, with the Twins. Smalley did play more games with the franchise (1,148-940), but at a much lower level. On defense Bill James grades Cronin an “A-” and Smalley a “B”. Cronin is consistently rated in the top ten of all time shortstops, and is in the Hall of Fame. Only explanation for the MLB.com pick is they didn’t consider any players from before the move to the Twin Cities in 1960.  

Texas Rangers: MLB.com chose Michael Young. A Sip of Sports chose Alex Rodriguez.

We put Young at second base. Young played all over the infield with the Rangers, 792 (43%) games at short, 446 (24%) at second, 358 (20%) at third, and 77 (4%) at first. This was a tough decision for A Sip of Sports. We felt that Rodriguez’ three years in Texas were less valuable than Young’s 13, but more valuable than Ian Kinsler’s 9 at second base. ARod averaged 35 Win Shares a season with the Rangers, Kinsler’s high was 24. This will all be academic if Elvis Andrus has one more solid season, because he would pass both Young and Rodriguez as the top shortstop in franchise history. For now MLB.com ‘s choice of Young and Kinsler has merit, but we’ll stick with Rodriguez over Young. 

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