Derek Jeter, undoubetdly the most iconic player on this list, performing his patented jump throw.
Ranking MLB shortstops over the last half decade can prove a tricky task. With greats like Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins growing older, and young superstars like Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Elvis Andrus bursting onto the scene, to say the position has been in flux would be an understatement.
In order to settle who ranked where and why, I used a myriad of statistics, but I always kept one thing in mind. In order to be a truly great shortstop in the modern era, you need to be both a wizard with the leather and a force at the plate. I tried my best not to favor either side of the ball, but when it comes to shortstops, it's hard to ignore how important defense is to a team's success.
The one statistic that was weighed most heavily was WAR or wins above replacement, because after all, "You play to win the game!" When ranking anything objectivity should always reign king, but sometimes letting the numbers totally dictate can produce staggering inaccuracies.
So, without further ado I give you the 10 best shortstops over the last five seasons.
Alexei's been extremely solid since coming over from Cuba four seasons ago. His 10.4 career WAR is strong for a shortstop, and most defensive metrics recognize him as an average, but improving, fielder (0.8 career dWAR).
He's also been a solid baserunner, amassing 46 steals in a White Sox uniform.
Alexei's best season came in 2010, when he batted .282 with 18 home runs and 13 stolen bases. He also made great strides defensively last year, helping himself become a more well-rounded player.
What's most impressive about the "Cuban Missile" is that he has managed to put up the numbers to get on this despite playing at least one full season fewer than everyone else on this list.
Although Peralta's 13.2 WAR since '07 is good enough for eighth on this list, the fact that he's played over 1,000 less innings at shortstop than the guy ahead of him knocks him down a peg.
His .756 OPS over the past five years is good for a shortstop, and his .427 slugging shows that he's got a little more pop than patience.
Defensively Peralta is certainly above average, posting a 1.6 dWAR between both short and third. Although not Gold Glove-worthy, this is still an impressive feat given Peralta's lack of speed, which unfortunately makes him by far the worst baserunner on this list.
His 2011 campaign has been his best season since '05, when he slugged over .520 and posted a .884 OPS. At 29, Jhonny remains one of the better offensive options at short, while simultaneously providing adequate defense.
Hardy's another guy that's had a strong 2011 season and is set to post career highs in home runs, slugging and OPS-plus.
However, Hardy is no one-hit wonder. His solid year to year production, with the exception of '09, has earned him the number eight spot on this list.
Even though all the talk about Hardy this season has been about his bat, it's his defensive ability that makes him one of the more balanced shortstops in the league. Couple his 2.5 dWAR over the last five seasons with his American League leading .990 fielding percentage in 2011 and you begin to see what this guy brings to the table defensively.
Hardy's no slouch with the lumber either. He's hit 20 homers or more three out of the last five seasons, and his 29 in 2011 is the best among AL shortstops. The 28-year-old just re-upped with the Orioles for three more years, a deal that is sure to benefit both parties tremendously.
Considering he plays in one of the biggest markets in the game, Marco Scutaro receives very little recognition for his solid play.
Scutaro is a player that can do a little bit of everything. Defensively, he ranks as the third best player on this list with a dWAR of 3.0. Aside from a glaring lack of power (42 home runs in his last 635 games) his offensive production has been pretty solid, posting a .348 OBP and back-to-back 35-double seasons entering the 2011 season.
Scutaro's been effective on the bases as well, swiping bags at a 70 percent efficiency rate since '07.
Although Scutaro's best season came in '09 as a Blue Jay, he's provided durability and consistency at a position that has plagued the Red Sox since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra in '04. Considering he turns 36 in October, Scutaro's put together an impressive five seasons.
At 37 years old, Jeter is undoubtedly the most iconic player on this list, but he's also the oldest. As the Captain's entered the twilight of his career, he has received a good amount of scrutiny for his declining performance.
But, despite all the fodder from New York talk shows, Jeter has performed relatively well over the last five seasons, posting a 15.7 WAR over that stretch. Offensively, Jeter has been the second-most valuable shortstop on this list, but it's his much maligned defense that knocks him all the way down to sixth.
If anyone wanted to make a case for the irrelevancy of the Gold Glove, look no further than Derek Jeter. Despite winning the award twice in the past half decade, Jeter's dWAR is an astounding -3.7, which is good enough for dead last among the 17 shortstops evaluated.
Although an albatross defensively, Jeter has been able to make up for it with his bat, posting a OPS of .787 since '07. However, Jeter's offense has declined over the last two seasons, posting a below average OPS of .710 and .745 in '10 and '11, respectively.
Although Jimmy Rollins has actually posted the same WAR as Derek Jeter, he edges out the Captain because of his more well-rounded game.
Rollins WAR of 15.7 is due in large part to his bat, toting an OPS of .769 over the last five seasons. However, Rollins has performed admirably in the field as well, posting a dWAR of 1.9 over that same stretch.
Offense and defense aside, it's Rollins base running that sets him apart from the pack. J-Ro's 164 stolen bases is an impressive feat in an of itself; but when you factor in that he's only been caught 25 times, you start to see why Rollins the perfect blend of speed and smarts.
Rollins' best season came in '07 when he took home NL MVP honors by hitting 38 doubles, 30 home runs, 20 triples and swiping 41 bases. Rollins became only the fourth member of the 20-20-20-20 club, and is the only player in baseball history to achieve 30 doubles, 30 home runs, 20 triples and 40 stolen bases in a single season.
Believe it or not, Yunel Escobar ranks as the fourth-best shortstop in the majors over the last five seasons.
Escobar probably receives half the media attention that Jeter and Rollins get on a daily basis, but his 17.4 WAR indicates that maybe he shouldn't. The main reason for Escobar's ranking is without question his defense. With a dWAR of 4.9, Escobar has been the second-best defensive shortstop in the majors over the past half-decade.
Despite a high number of errors, Escobar still manages to perform excellent defensively. This is due in large part to his excellent range and strong throwing arm, two essentials to being a good defensive shortstop.
Escobar has produced offensively as well, posting OBPs of .365 or higher four times in his five-year career. He's also been able to hit for average (.290) and shown decent power (.401 slugging) since breaking into the league in '07.
At 28 years old, Escobar still has some good prime years left. That's good news for Toronto, who traded aging replacement-level shortstop Alex Gonzalez for Escobar in the middle of last season.
Jose Reyes has been one of the most electrifying players in the game since bursting into the Mets lineup in 2003. Nothing is more indicative of that than the first half of this season.
Although injuries have hobbled Reyes' production over the last five seasons, he has still managed to put up an impressive 18.6 WAR. Reyes' speed is probably his greatest asset, and although he isn't the most efficient base runner on this list, he is the fastest.
Reyes' speed helps him defensively as well, making him an average to above-average shortstop in the field.
Reyes' best offensive season has probably been 2011. Although he's missed time with not one but two DL stints, Reyes totes a .329 batting average and a career-high OPS of .854. He's also swiped 36 bases and only been caught seven times.
With a thin field at shortstop, Reyes is set to get big money in the offseason. And by all counts, he deserves it.
Hanley Ramirez has been by far the most prolific offensive shortstop in baseball over the last five season. His individual WARs of 7.6 and 7.2 in '08 and '09 are absolutely mind-blowing. His OPS since '07 is just a tick below .900—ridiculous production from the shortstop position.
Honestly, if it weren't for back-to-back disappointing seasons, Ramirez would be far and away the No. 1 player on this list. However, in both '10 and '11 Ramirez has posted a combined WAR of 4.1 and .799 OPS.
Although those numbers are decent, they are certainly not top-spot worthy. Another reason why Ramirez is second on this list is because of his defense. Only Derek Jeter, who is 10 years older than Ramirez, rated worse defensively.
Despite Ramirez's prolific bat, he may be forced to move from shortstop to third base, especially if he doesn't continue to hit the way he has in the past.
It's hard to say a bad thing about Troy Tulowitzki. As far as shortstops go, the guy can do it all.
Offensively, he is a machine. After battling injuries and poor production in '08, Tulowitzki has been on an absolutely tear. With a remarkable .931 OPS of that span, Tulo has managed to cement himself as the best shortstop in baseball.
Although offense is a big part of Tulowitzki's game, it's his defense that sets him apart from the rest.
His 6.4 dWAR over that past five seasons tops the list by a win and a half. Although not a terribly efficient base stealer, Tulowitzki has show improvement in that area over the past few seasons, yet adding another facet of his already well-rounded game.
In 2011 Tulowiztki is set to bat over .290, hit more than 24 home runs, and drive in over 95 RBI for the fourth time in his five-year career.
Perhaps the scariest part about Tulowitzki is that he is only 26 years old. With most of his prime years left, it's going to be truly incredible to see what kind of player he ultimately becomes.
With only three years of experience under his belt, Andrus just didn't have the necessary volume of playing time to qualify for this list. That being said, he is certainly worth mentioning.
Andrus is a prolific base stealer and raw but impressive defensively. Since breaking into the league in '09 he has stolen 100 bases—not a bad start to your career.
Offensivley Andrus is a little raw and antiquated. A light singles hitter, he relies heavily on a high batting average to get on base. That being said, he has shown better patience each year in the league, leading to higher on-base percentages.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Andrus is that he is only 22, and has gotten better each year. If Andrus keeps improving at the rate he's going, then Tulowitzki and company might have to make some room at the top.