Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Top Ten: Shortstops

1. Honus Wagner: In 1908, Wagner lead the league in (deep breath) hits, doubles triples, RBI, stolen bases, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. Holy crap. One more "Honus Wagner was awesome" story. Back when gloves were so tiny that you could stick them into your pocket, Wagner grabbed a piece of tobacco with it just as the ball was hit to him. He reached down with is bare hand and threw the man out at first. With his hand still in his pocket.
2. Cal Ripken Jr.: Ripken revolutionized the position. Before him there were no power hitting shortstops except for one player a few slots away. Ripken opened the door for people like Nomar and A-Rod.  That's what people forget. He wasn't just durable. Cal Ripken was an all time great.
3. Derek Jeter: This paragraph is going to be really hard to write. Even though I'm a Twins fan, I hate the Yankees. I also dislike Jeter. It may not seem fair, but I don't like him because there's nothing not to like about him. I'll go with an Onion headline to sum it up. "Derek Jeter handles career milestone so graciously you just want to punch his little face." Oh, yeah, the baseball part. His defense has always been overrated, but can sure handle the stick. Career slash line is .312/.381/.446.
4. Ernie Banks: Here really is the first power hitting shortstop. Between 1955 and 1965 he clubbed 383 homers, averaging 35 a year.
5. Arky Vaughn: Hey, it's another Pirates Shortstop! Vaughn was no Honus Wagner (But again, who was?) Vaughn gets my vote for most underrated shortstop of all time. How was this man never voted into the Hall of Fame by the writers? He maxed out at 29% and wasn't voted in until 1983 when he had been dead for 31 years. The guy was a career .318 hitter with an on base percentage of .406. What was wrong with people?
6. Ozzie Smith: One thing lots of great fielders have in common is that they made a lot of errors, but had great range. Smith had the second part, not the first. He leads all shortstops in almost every fielding stat. He's underrated offensively as well, batting over .300 one year and being an excellent base stealer.
7. Luke Appling: How exactly does someone get the nickname "Old Aches and Pains"? It's not as if he was constantly injured. Between 1932 and 1949 he only played less than 130 games once, not counting the year military service caused him to play just 18 games in 1945. And in between those years he hit over .300 twelve times.
8. Joe Cronin: An excellent shortstop and a pretty good player manager as well. He hit over .300 eight times, over 100 RBI eight times, stole at least 10 bases twice and hit over 15 homers five times. Cronin was a complete player.
9. Joe Sewell: One my favorite statistics of all time: In his 14 year career, Sewell struck out 114 times and averaged 10 per 162 games. In 1929, he struck out 4 times in 155 games. When you're making contact at that rate, you're naturally going to be pretty good.
10. Barry Larkin: Injuries kept Larkin from moving up on this list, but he was pretty darn good when he was healthy. He had an unbelievable blend of speed and power, stealing 51 bases one year and hitting 33 homers in another.

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