20 Best Defensive Infielders in Baseball History

Mark MillerCorrespondent IMay 2, 2012

20 Best Defensive Infielders in Baseball History

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    Much of the time, the credit for a team's ability to hold other teams in check goes to the pitching staff, as they're oftentimes the ones missing bats and painting the corners with sliders and changeups.

    But their infielders no doubt play a vital role in stopping any team from scoring runs, as top-notch defensive plays can stop opposing teams' momentum, while creating an energized buzz for their own squad.

    Feel free to add any names you think may have been missed, but here are some of the best defensive infielders in baseball history.

Bill Mazeroski

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    Despite being remembered for some opportune flashes of offensive brilliance, Bill Mazeroski was enshrined in the Hall of Fame thanks in large part to his great fielding abilities.

    Turning double play after double play, Mazeroski played more than 2,000 games at second base with the Pittsburgh Pirates, earning a .983 fielding percentage along the way.

    Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Bobby Grich

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    Bobby Grich played an important role in the infield for two franchises during his career, though he played alongside an especially impressive cast in Baltimore when he joined Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson (both on this list).

    The six-time All-Star won four Gold Gloves with the O's and boasted a number of prolific offensive campaigns to go along with his leather.

    Photo Credit: NY Times

Brooks Robinson

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    With tremendous range, Brooks Robinson made sure balls seldomly left the infield in Baltimore, as he played in nearly 2,900 games at third base and compiled an impressive .971 fielding percentage along the way.

    As if numbers like that weren't enough by themselves, Robinson also won an astounding 16 Gold Gloves, taking home the honor every year from 1960 to 1975.

    Photo Credit: Brooks Robinson-HOF

Buddy Bell

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    Buddy Bell spent 18 seasons manning the infield for a number of different teams during his time in the league, with some of his best coming in a Texas Rangers uniform.

    Four of his five All-Star appearances and every one of his six Gold Gloves came with the Rangers, where he put together a .293 batting average and .351 on-base percentage.

    Photo Credit: ESPN

Cal Ripken Jr.

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    As baseball's iron man, Cal Ripken Jr. changed the way the game viewed the shortstop position as he took ground balls day in and day out year after year.

    Despite all his accomplishments in the field, Ripken actually only won two Gold Glove awards, though the perennial All-Star saw a great deal of success every time he took the field.

Clete Boyer

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    When Clete Boyer took to the field, you could always count on a very strong effort at the hot corner.

    He won a Gold Glove award with the Atlanta Braves in 1969, though his best years came with the New York Yankees, where he provided the best defense the Bronx Bombers could hope for as the pitching staff induced ground ball after ground ball that he scooped up with ease.

    Photo Credit: John Griffith

Derek Jeter

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    Derek Jeter's long and successful career with the New York Yankees may be winding down, but whenever he does decide to hang up his cleats, he can know that he was one of the most complete players to ever put on the pinstripes.

    He's won five Gold Glove awards with the Yankees, made 12 All-Star appearances and seven times finished in the top 10 of AL MVP voting.

Gary Gaetti

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    Gary Gaetti played a vital role for the Minnesota Twins defense in the '80s as they worked their way towards a world championship in 1987.

    He won four straight Gold Gloves with the Twins from 1986 to 1989 and finished his career with a .965 fielding percentage in nearly 2,300 games at third base.

Glenn Hubbard

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    As one of the best defensive second basemen of all time, Glenn Hubbard played the majority of his 12-year career with the Atlanta Braves and was an extremely reliable option all along the way.

    He fielded many grounders during his time thanks in part to the pitching he had in front him, which he parlayed into a .983 fielding percentage, five times committing fewer than 10 errors in a season.

    Photo Credit: Cardboard Junkie

Graig Nettles

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    Graig Nettles was a strong offensive performer on a regular basis, hitting 390 career home runs in 22 seasons with six different teams.

    He was far more consistent in the field, however, winning a pair of Gold Gloves at the hot corner as he earned a .961 fielding percentage in over 2,400 games at third base.

    Photo Credit: GraigNettles.com

Luis Aparicio

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    As one of the most fluid infielders ever, Luis Aparicio made a name for himself with his outstanding defense, as he didn't have much of an offensive side to his game.

    With a number of strong postseason appearances, he showed his true leadership on the diamond. Aparicio's place in the Hall of Fame is a testament to his defensive prowess.

    Photo Credit: Chicago White Sox

Mark Belanger

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    Mark Belanger may not have added a great deal of productivity to the game with his bat, but he was certainly one of the best shortstops that ever played the game from a defensive standpoint. 

    He committed very few errors playing in the strong Baltimore infield, and while he had a number of strong players helping him out like Brooks Robinson and Bobby Grich, his efforts were still extremely impressive.

    Photo Credit: Baltimore Sports Then and Now

Mike Schmidt

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    Mike Schmidt may be remembered for his offensive prowess, as he was an astounding power hitter that could go deep at any moment, but his defense was actually just as impressive.

    He was a smart infielder more than anything and could release the ball with ease, something he turned into 10 Gold Glove awards.

Omar Vizquel

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    Omar Vizquel's continued ability to field as he always has is a testament to his true skill in the infield.

    He's played alongside a cast of some of the all-time greats, and while he's not the flashiest player in the world, his 11 Gold Glove awards speak volumes as to what he's been able to accomplish.

Ozzie Smith

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    Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith wowed the fans in St. Louis for many years, and with his well above average athletic abilities, he made countless highlight-reel-worthy plays.

    He won 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards during his time with the Cardinals and made All-Star appearances in 15 of his 19 seasons in the league.

Pee Wee Reese

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    Playing in an infield that forever changed the game, Pee Wee Reese was a fantastic defensive shortstop that had great chemistry with Jackie Robinson for years as a Dodger.

    Reese was consistently among top vote-getters in the MVP race and made many All-Star appearances in an outstanding Hall of Fame career.

    Photo Credit: FenwayPark100.org

Roberto Alomar

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    One of the newest members of the Hall of Fame, Roberto Alomar spent a great deal of years providing top-notch defense for a number of teams.

    He won 10 Gold Glove awards in 17 seasons, earning a .984 fielding percentage at second base, where he played virtually his entire career.

Ryne Sandberg

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    Ryne Sandberg will go down as one of the best to put on a Chicago Cubs uniform. While he had a .285 batting average, .795 OPS and over 1,000 RBI, he's also one of the best defensive infielders to play the game.

    He won an impressive nine Gold Glove awards at second base, earning a .989 career fielding percentage at the position.

Tony Fernandez

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    As a relatively solid contributor on offense, Tony Fernandez had a career .288 average in 17 seasons in the league, showing flashes of great speed with his extra-base hits and stolen bases.

    He was also a solid defensive infielder, winning four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1986 to 1989 and putting together a .980 career fielding percentage at shortstop.

    Photo Credit: MinorLeagueBall

Wade Boggs

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    Wade Boggs was a great, instinctual infielder at third base, and it's clear that he could hold up his end of the bargain on offense as well, as evidenced by his .328 career batting average and multiple batting titles.

    He only won two Gold Glove awards during his career, but his consistency at the hot corner was an asset to the Yankees and Red Sox during each of his 16 seasons with them.

    Photo Credit: BigTopFive.com


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