The Other Fifteen

Eighty-five percent of the f---in' world is working. The other fifteen come out here.

Ranking shortstops for 2008

People often say, "You can't have an All Star at every position!" Know this (tattoo it on yourself where you'll see it if you think you'll forget): any time this is brought up, you're talking about a crappy ballplayer. I mean, seriously. Nobody starts off conversations about good ballplayers that way. It's some sort of red flag that people want to keep a baseball player on the field for non-baseball reasons.

Apply that sort of thinking to your everyday life. Say your kid brings home a report card with an F on it. How would you react if he said, "You can't have an A+ in every class!" Or say your spouse is responsible for making dinner and sets it (and the kitchen) ablaze. "You can't have filet mignon at every meal!"

I'm not asking for straight As, and I'm not asking for fancy French cooking. I'm asking for the shortstop equivalent of a C, or some chili macaroni Hamburger Helper. I'm looking for average. It's a total straw man argument.

To go ahead and illustrate my point, I've compiled a list of what I've supposed to be the starting shortstops for every team in the majors, and calculated Wins Above Replacement using Sean Smith's projections. [In the case of the Angels and the Nationals, I've used two shortstops.] I've also included perpetual Cubs fan favorite, the Great Destroyer himself, Ronny Cedeno.

I held playing time constant for all players, and have not used any park adjustments. Both of those (false) assumptions would tend to favor Ryan Theriot in comparison to other shortstops.

Cubs players are in bold.

Troy TulowitzkiCOLNL0.35614.004.06
Miguel TejadaHOUNL0.3730.003.74
Jose ReyesNYMNL0.3496.002.98
Jimmy RollinsPHINL0.3552.002.95
Jason BartlettTBAAL0.3213.002.50
Hanley RamirezFLANL0.375-17.002.35
JJ HardyMILNL0.348-1.002.31
Adam EverettMINAL0.28331.002.10
Derek JeterNYAAL0.358-15.002.07
Khalil GreeneSDNNL0.337.002.05
Jhonny PeraltaCLEAL0.345-8.001.99
Jack WilsonPITNL0.3277.001.88
Michael YoungTEXAL0.352-14.001.84
David EcksteinTORAL0.3233.001.78
Edgar RenteriaDETAL0.33-2.001.71
Rafael FurcalLANNL0.3311.001.57
Macier IzturisLAAAL0.333-6.001.52
Yunel EscobarATLNL0.34-6.001.43
Orlando CabreraCHAAL0.323-1.001.43
Alex GonzalezCINNL0.3234.001.40
Ronny CedenoCHNNL0.331-1.001.40
Stephen DrewARINL0.339-6.001.38
Julio LugoBOSAL0.321-3.001.14
Bobby CrosbyOAKAL0.3066.001.13
Omar VizquelSFNNL0.30210.000.80
Ryan TheriotCHNNL0.3121.000.55
Yuniesky BetancourtSEAAL0.312-5.000.48
Tony PenaKCAAL0.27910.000.03
Cesar IzturisSLNNL0.2952.00-0.28
Christian GuzmanWASNL0.31-9.00-0.45
Felipe LopezWASNL0.316-13.00-0.48
Erick AybarLAAAL0.288-10.00-1.25
Luis HernandezBALAL0.2681.00-1.36

So, when I say that almost anybody would be an improvement on Ryan Theriot, I'm not exaggerating or showing some sort of bias against scrappy white guys. He's not the worst starting shortstop in the majors, but he's not too far away.

Now, obviously this is based upon projections of performance, and those projections could be wrong. The projections on offense are probably more reliable than the projections on defense. But that's as true for Troy Tulowitzki as it is for Luis Hernandez. Unless you have a specific reason that the projections are underrating Ryan Theriot relative to the other shortstops in baseball, I don't see a reason to think he'll be very good for the Cubs next year.

He's an average defender at shortstop - he's got sure hands, even if his range isn't very good; not a butcher like Michael Young or Hanley Ramirez, but not a solid defender like Troy Tulowitzki or Omar Vizquel. At the same time he's not a very good hitter - he's not as bad as the Felipe Lopez/Christian Guzman contingent, but he's certainly not even in the vicinity of the Orlando Cabrerra/Alex Gonzlez "respectable but not spectacular" benchmark. He does nothing particularly well.

The worst part of it is, you do not need a lot of advanced metrics to figure this out. The fact that his defense is good but not spectacular should be readily obvious to the armchair scouts out there; Cubs fans voting in the Fan's Scouting Report pretty much came to that conclusion. Cubs fans are equally able to figure out his deficiencies on offense; the Community Projections over at Bleed Cubbie Blue were very much in line with what other projection systems were saying.

In fact, let's rerun his WAR, this time using nothing more than the collected wisdom of Cubs fans. Converting the Fans' Scouting Report to runs using Tango's method puts Theriot at plus 7 runs; for a projection we really should factor in aging and regression to the mean, but screw it. Fans project Theriot to have a .316 wOBA, a whole four points above CHONE. That works out to a WAR of 1.29 - certainly more optimistic than what I have here, but far from outstanding.

As a group, Cubs fans seem very able to figure out Ryan Theriot's absolute value as a player. So why do they seem so unable to grasp his relative value? Maybe it's just a case of the vocal minority skewing my perception of Cubs fans, I dunno.

As a bonus, some quick, largely non-Cubs related, thoughts:

  1. Troy Tulowitzki is an absolute monster. The second-best defensive shortstop in the game, and a solidly above-average hitter? There's a Coors Field effect in there, but damn.
  2. Plus 31 runs for Adam Everett? Holy crap. If you can think of a more underrated player in all of baseball, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
  3. Tejada shows up rather better than I thought he would. Without knowing the precise aging curve that Sean Smith used for his defensive projections, I'd have to be tempted to take the under on that projection, though.
  4. Erick Aybar is just bad. Just... bad. I really wonder what the Angels are planning to do about that.
  5. The Red Sox can't be happy about the Julio Lugo signing right now.
  6. What the hell, Cardinals? Cesar the Wonder Out is making $2.85 million on a one-year deal; Eckstein is making $4.5 million on a one-year deal. There's almost no way that the difference in performance between the two is worth $1.5 million - and it's possible that Eckstein would have given the Cardinals a hometown discount. Especially given Eckstein's marketing potential for the Cards (he's absolutely beloved by them), this is just stupid on their part.

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9 Responses to “Ranking shortstops for 2008”

  1. # Anonymous Maddog

    Well done, Colin. I'm not sure the allure that some fans have to Ryan Theriot, but it's annoying.  

  2. # Anonymous Vince

    Nice job again Colin.

    Unfortunately this love affair with Theriot is not going to go away anytime soon.

    I'm not sure how bad he would have to play for Cubs fans to turn against him, considering his awful season last year. It seemed the worse he did, the more they loved him. And seemingly, so did the manager and GM.  

  3. # Anonymous DeRoMyHero

    The saddest part of the whole thing is that Adam Everett was non-tendered by the 'Stros, and was available for the signing -- no draft picks lost, either.

    Just for grins, can you plug in DeRo's historical SS data and see where he'd fit? (I realize it won't do any good if the only 2B replacements are Fontenot, Cedeno, and Theriot.)

    BTW, I disagree with you that Michael Young is a "butcher" (in the mold of "Manos de piedra" Ramirez) -- he makes every play that he gets to, he just has NO range.


    Can you send Lou a link to your blog?  

  4. # Blogger Colin Wyers

    DeRosa would be 1.10 WAR as a shortstop, given an assumption that he's -11 runs as a shortstop. Which isn't so much based on his historic numbers at as it is based upon his defense at second last season and his age.

    Maybe butcher wasn't the most precise phrasing I could have used, but Young is the sort of guy that really should be moved over to third base. I understand why he won't be, I just think that in a perfect world he'd be a third baseman somewhere.

    That said... I'd take him right now.  

  5. # Anonymous DeRoMyHero

    Interesting that you project DeRo as -11 and -14. Based on having seen DeRo play SS (but accounting for age), I might make him a -8. I think it still means that he is half a run better than Riot at SS, and if we could get a 2B we might really gain something.

    Do you have any way of projecting EPat as a 2B defensively based on his minor league stats? All the talk is that he's a butcher at 2B, but so is Uggla. If his bat is like Uggla's, maybe he'd be worth it.  

  6. # Blogger Ty

    Excellent, excellent work Colin. The analysis is interesting, of course, but I really liked the writing, too.  

  7. # Blogger Webmeister

    Colin, great job. I calculated Tulowitzki's WAR quite a bit lower, but I used ZIPS and put in a park factor adjustment to his wOBA/Runs Above Replacement. The formula I've been working with is


    This is the scale factor for runs.
    It seems to give me more realistic numbers than not doing any park adjustments.

    vr, Xei  

  8. # Blogger Colin Wyers

    Xei -

    I have no idea what that formula is supposed to be doing; that's probably related to not knowing what you do with the resulting number when you've run the calculations.

    I have to confess - I understand what park factors are doing, and I think they're necessary, but I hate the "dumb" park factors that places like Baseball Reference use. Different parks play differently for different types of hitters.

    If I was going to put a lot of effort into things and claim that my numbers were "park adjusted," I'd want to use component park factors (ie, park factors for singles, doubles, triples, HR) before calculating wOBA. And I'd want to use seperate park factors for left-handed and right-handed hitters. (You can see a breakdown of them at First Inning.)  

  9. # Blogger Webmeister

    Yeah, component park factors are best. Bill James has them, right? If you want to keep it simpler though, you can adjust based on runs allowed by the park. In my book.

    Component PF >
    Park Runs PF >
    No park adjustment at all.

    You get really wierd results, especially from hitters on the Phillies, Reds, Orioles, White Sox, Rockies etc..., and on the pitching side the Padres and a few other teams, if you don't make any adjustments.

    But you are right, component park adjustments are the way to go if you want to take the complexity up another couple of notches.

    I have the component park factors in my simulator, but am only using the Park Runs adjustment in my WAR calculations. But then again, what do I know. :)

    vr, Xei  

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