Besides the battery, the shortstop position is perhaps the most valuable in the game of baseball. He is the soul of the infield, he is the playmaker of the infield, and he is the leader of the infield.
In fact, having an elite shortstop has translated into considerable success. The last three World Series champions have boasted a top shortstop in their respective lineups. The Phillies had Jimmy Rollins in 2009, the Yankees had Derek Jeter in 2010, and although not elite shortstop, Edgar Renteria played like one for the Giants last season.
So in an effort to create the ultimate shortstop, here is a list of the most desirable attributes from a handful of major league shortstops.
Let's start with one of those mind games played by all psychologists in the movies. When I say a word, you tell me the first word that comes to mind. However, the word I give will be a phrase and the word you give will be a player's name.
Ready? Okay, here's the phrase...
"Did it the right way."
Now if you answered with Derek Jeter, you have done either one of two things. You have thought up the correct answer on your own or you thought up the correct answer after being influenced by the name and picture on this slide.
Either way, Derek Jeter is the epitome of class. He has already turned in a surefire Hall of Fame career with not only his numbers, but with his mentality towards the game. Derek has graced the game with his intelligence both on and off the field.
Let's play another game. Just answer these questions:
1) Did you ever hear of damaging off-field problems concerning Jeter?
2) When was the last time you saw Jeter make a mental error?
3) How many rings does he have as the leader of the most successful franchise in sports?
Answer key: 1) No; 2) I don't know; 3) Five
Do you ever wonder what would happen if a cannon was surgically attached to a ball player's arm?
If you answered yes, it unfortunately has yet to done. But if you want the next closest, then watch Troy Tulowitzki throw a baseball.
Simply put, Tulowitzki's arm is incredible. It is powerful, it is accurate, and it is the best at its position.
And I'm not just blowing steam here. I do have some facts to back it up:
- Troy has led all shortstops in range factor in two of his four full seasons in the majors. He currently leads in range factor in 2011 with 5.01.
- Troy led all shortstops in putouts in 2007 and currently leads all shortstops in 2011.
- Troy has committed just 23 errors in the past three seasons, the lowest of any major league shortstop.
I'm taking J-Roll's hands for a couple of reasons.
For one, he consistently exhibits some of the game's best glove work. Rollins has finished among the top five shortstops in fielding percentage since 2006. (The 2010 is not included. Rollins played just 87 games and did not qualify.)
He has also made only 16 errors in his last 651 games. Jimmy's soft hands have earned him three Gold Glove awards and the Fielding Bible Award in 2008.
Secondly, Rollins is an extremely skilled hitter from both sides of the plate. In order to be a successful switch hitter, you must have a great deal of hand control to maintain a sound swing from two different sides. Rollins' ability to hit at a high level for the majority of his career testifies just that.
Duh. This one doesn't warrant an explanation.
Instead, just enjoy these numbers provided to you by Jose Reyes and his blinding speed:
- Reyes stole 56 or more bases per season from 2005-2008.
- Reyes led all major leaguers in stolen bases during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
- Reyes has led the majors in triples three times. (2005, 2006, and 2008)
- Despite playing just 98 games in 2011, Reyes leads the league with 16 triples.
- In 2011, Reyes has 30 strikeouts. He also has 34 stolen bases.
You may argue that legs and feet could be the same attribute for the purposes of this article.
And if you do, guess what...this is my article, not yours.
So on that note, Texas' Elvis Andrus has impeccable footwork. The young shortstop regularly displays his happy feet on both sides of the ball.
On the base paths, Andrus has become nearly impossible to catch. Elvis was caught stealing 15 times last season, finishing the year with the third highest total. However, Andrus has improved his base running in 2011, stealing 31 bags on 38 attempts.
His footwork has also paid dividends on defense. Even though he has only been starting since 2006, Andrus has exhibited some of the game's best range at short the past three seasons. He has ranked fifth among shortstops in total chances in 2010 and 2011 and third in 2009.
Making it on this list for the second time is Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, and for very good reason.
Tulo has tremendous power not just as a shortstop, but for any player, period. Excluding his injury-shortened season in 2008, Troy has belted at least 24 homers in four of the last five years. (24 in 2007, 32 in 2009, 27 in 2010, and 25 this season.)
In addition to this season, Tulowitzki led all shortstops in home runs and slugging percentage in 2009 and 2010.