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The All-Time MLB Team, Shortstop: nominations and ballot

Offense? Defense? Or a combination of both?

BBA-EXPOS-ORIOLES-RIPKEN Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images

Well, I should really have got this under way before the switch-over to the new commenting system. I’d forgotten that it would nuke comments on existing articles, or I thought it would only be fore a couple of hours rather than... until April. I therefore have had to go largely on memory, in terms of the players that were nominated and the justifications for them. I hope I’ve got most of the bases covered, but my penance is that I don’t get to copy paste out of the comments, and have to do the damn research myself. I can only apologize. :) Here they are, in alphabetical order. There must be something about the letters A-Q which are averse to producing great shortstops...

Cal Ripken Jr.

The proverbial Iron Man, Ripken broke one of the baseball records perceived as immortal: Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. Cal obliterated it by more than three full seasons, his 17-year streak ending at 2,632 games in a row. He won Rookie of the Year in 1982, and became the first player to follow that up by winning MVP the following season. That was his age 22 campaign, making him one of the youngest MVPs ever. He was arguably even better in 1984, posting his first 10 bWAR season, but won his second MVP award in 1991, when he hit .323 with 34 home-runs, and was worth 11.5 bWAR. That’s tied for the the highest ever by a shortstop. He’s also the only man ever to have given me batting tips.

Ozzie Smith

Known as ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for his defensive briliance, Smith won thirteen Gold Gloves at shortstop in the National League, the only player there to have more than nine. His total defensive WAR of 44.2 is the most by anyone at any position in MLB history, nobody else having reached even forty dWAR. While he never reached an OPS of even .800 for a single season, and only had 28 home-runs over his 19-year career, his fielding prowess led to 15 All-Star appearances. Smith did win the Silver Slugger in his 1987 campaign, when he hit .303, and finished second in the MVP voting. Ozzie also averaged more than 30 stolen bases per season, reaching a peak by going 57-9 there in 1988.

Honus Wagner

Though Jack has, rightly, mentioned the changes in league quality over time, there’s a reason it was called the dead-ball era. In 1908, when Wagner was putting up a .957 OPS, the NL average was only .605. His OPS+ that year was 205. Wagner has five of the top six seasons by OPS+ from a qualifying shortstop, with Arkie Vaughn’s 1935 campaign the only time anyone else has reached even 170. Despite being nick-named ‘The Flying Dutchman’, he was German, but did steal 723 bases, leading the league in stolen bases five times and good for 10th on the all-time list. Wagner also won eighth batting titles, and led the league in slugging on six occasions.

Willie Wells

At least I do have this from Jack in the original article: “The all time leader in Negro League position player WAR with 51.1, he is also 2nd in games and PA. He played until he was 43, full time through age 41. But his career wasn’t just quantity and longevity. An all around threat, he had an incredible peak, hitting for average and power, stealing bases and was considered the best defensive shortstop of his generation. From 1926-1930, he averaged 10.4 WAR per/650 PA and 195 OPS+ on a .374/.454/.665 triple slash. He also averaged 39 HR and 179 RBI and 31 SB per 162 games. For his entire career he clocked in with a .331 BA, .946 OPS and 153 OPS+.”

Robin Yount

The first four picks in the 1973 draft gave us two Hall of Famers, in Yount and Dave Winfield. Unlike some nominees, Yount wasn’t an instant success: over his first six years, he had an OPS+ of 89 and averaged under 2.5 bWAR, though did reach the majors at age 18. But after reaching his full potential, Yount was one of the greatest players of the eighties. He notched MVP awards with Milwaukee in 1982 and 1989, while his 55.3 bWAR ranks fourth across all position players in the decade. His first MVP season was likely the best of his career, worth 10.5 bWAR and with an OPS+ of 166: no qualifying shortstop in the past fifty years has put up a higher OPS figure, and it trails only Ripken’s 1991 for bWAR over the last hundred years.


Who was the greatest shortstop of all time?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Cal Ripken Jr.
    (20 votes)
  • 12%
    Ozzie Smith
    (6 votes)
  • 38%
    Honus Wagner
    (19 votes)
  • 4%
    Willie Wells
    (2 votes)
  • 6%
    Robin Yount
    (3 votes)
50 votes total Vote Now