Best Shortstops of 2008

Other positions:  1B | 2B | 3B | DH | LF | CF | RF | CA

Like I did last year, I'm going to spend the few two weeks discussing the top ten players at each position based on 2008 performances.  This year I'm using Justin's stats, which have all the nice features of the home-brewed stats I calculated last year, but with the added benefit of making Justin do all the work:

  • BaseRuns-derived offensive linear weights, with park adjustments.
  • League-adjusted replacement-level, since AL pitching is stronger than NL pitching.
  • Proper position adjustments using the CA - SS - 2B/3B/CF - LF/RF - 1B - DH spectrum.
  • Combined STATS and BIS zone ratings converted to runs to measure fielding.

Players are listed at the position they played the most, but the defensive numbers from all positions are included, and players' contributions to multiple teams are combined. For the top ten players at each position, I've listed their offensive contribution above replacement level and their defensive contribution (position adjustment plus fielding relative to position) compared to average.  Position and fielding are broken out in the table at the end.  If you add offense plus position, you'll get a number with the same use as VORP, but better.

To help you put the Total Value number in perspective, here are some benchmarks given a full season of playing time:

  • League-average is about 20 runs above replacement.
  • The cut-off for true All-Stars is in the 40 run range.
  • Top 5 MVP candidates are worth at least 70 runs above replacement.
  • MVP winners have been in the 90-100 run range the past few years.

Without further ado, here are the top ten shortstops of 2008 (2007 numbers here):

10. Stephen Drew (29 off, -1 def, 28 tot) -- The only bad news on Drew's 2008 season is that his walk-rate took a huge hit from 2007.  But a 50 point increase in batting average and a 100 point increase in isolated power are certainly worth that trade-off.  I'm curious to see what his 2009 stat line looks like.

9. Derek Jeter (26 off, 3 def, 29 tot) -- Jeter significantly improved his fielding in 2008, although that's not saying much.  So even with his bat taking a step down he was still a productive shortstop.  The problem for the Yankees will come in a year or two when both his offense and defense take a hit in the same year.  Moving him to first isn't really a good answer, especially if planning ahead for that occurrence prevents the signing of Mark Teixeira.

8. Yunel Escobar (16 off, 15 def, 30 tot) --
From the Braves' point of view, that Edgar Renteria deal must have seemed like a no-brainer, huh?

7. Marco Scutaro (11 off, 24 def, 35 tot) -- Who knew Marco was this good with the glove?  JP Ricciardi, apparently.  If there's a team that should pay market rate for a huge bat at DH, it's the Blue Jays.  I'm guessing it won't be Adam Dunn, however.

6. Mike A Aviles (25 off, 10 def, 35 tot) --
Not only did Aviles play like one of the best shortstops in the majors, the upgrade from Tony Pena Jr. to him was worth a full five wins.  There are two main worries about Aviles in 2009.  One, he's old to have just made his MLB debut.  Two, his .325/.354/.480 line was extremely batting-average-driven.

5. Cristian Guzman (27 off, 9 def, 36 tot) -- I honestly don't know what to say, so I'll go with a hearty congratulations.  That four-year $16MM contract ended up not looking so bad.

4. J.J. Hardy (26 off, 13 def, 39 tot) -- There have been rumors floating around about trading Hardy or Prince Fielder for Matt Cain.  If I'm the Brewers, I pick Fielder.  And that's as much a compliment to Hardy as it is a knock against Fielder.

3. Jimmy Rollins (30 off, 18 def, 48 tot) -- Rollins totaled 54 runs above replacement last year, and once you account for the drop in league-wide offense, that's nearly as valuable as his 2007 level of production.  So why no MVP discussion this year?  Well, there's that whole 20-20-20-20 thing.  Plus, Rollins traded in some offensive production for defensive production, and we all know which one of those gets more attention.

2. Jose Reyes (51 off, 1 def, 52 tot) -- If Reyes can revert back to 2006 form in the field, that will help the Mets win the NL East next year as much as upgrading their left field situation.  Isn't it funny how this guy has gone from exciting and overrated to blah and underrated?  I'm actually now a fan.

1. Hanley Ramirez (69 off, 10 def, 79 tot) --
Wow, just wow.  The numbers and everyone's eyes all agree that HanRam took gigantic steps forward in the field this year.  If that new level of performance is here to stay, there's nobody in baseball I'd want on my team more, other than Albert Pujols.

Here are the top twenty-five most productive shortstops in 2008:

Rank Player Off Pos Field Total
1 Hanley Ramirez 69 7 3 79
2 Jose Reyes 51 7 -7 52
3 Jimmy Rollins 30 6 11 48
4 J.J. Hardy 26 7 6 39
5 Cristian Guzman 27 6 3 36
6 Mike A Aviles 25 4 6 35
7 Marco Scutaro 11 3 21 35
8 Yunel Escobar 16 6 9 30
9 Derek Jeter 26 7 -4 29
10 Stephen Drew 29 7 -8 28
11 Jhonny Peralta 28 7 -10 25
12 Jerry Hairston 23 1 1 25
13 Rafael Furcal 21 2 2 24
14 Orlando Cabrera 13 7 2 22
15 Miguel Tejada 4 7 10 21
16 Ryan S Theriot 19 7 -5 20
17 Cesar Izturis 0 5 15 20
18 Michael Young 17 7 -4 20
19 Erick J Aybar 9 4 5 18
20 Jason A Bartlett 10 6 0 16
21 Jed Lowrie 6 3 6 15
22 Maicer E Izturis 6 3 6 15
23 Nick Punto 11 3 1 14
24 Ben T Zobrist 14 1 -4 12
25 Jack Wilson -1 4 7 10

And the least productive shortstops in 2008:

Player Off Pos Field Total
Tony F Pena -22 3 2 -17
Juan Castro -11 2 -4 -12
Jeff S Keppinger -4 5 -10 -9
Brian J Bixler -10 1 0 -8
Luis Rivas -8 2 -1 -8
Ivan G Ochoa -8 1 -1 -8
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