Buster Olney doesn’t think Vizquel, Tejada, Nomar were shortstops

49 Comments

Let the record show that I gave fair warning: I thought Buster Olney might adjust his lists from Monday’s ESPN Insider column after being presented with the glaring omissions. Alas, I was ignored.

The bulk of Olney’s column today was designed to point out how totally not overrated Derek Jeter is. He dives into the numbers to do this or, rather, had someone else dive into the numbers for him. That someone was Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Information. And what we’re left with was these two lists, which are being presented as data for shortstops from 1995-2013.

Defensive WAR

1. Jack Wilson (20.7)
2. Rafael Furcal (14.3)
3. Jimmy Rollins (12.9)
4. Mike Bordick (12.8)
5. J.J. Hardy (12.5)
6. Troy Tulowitzki (11.9)
7. Royce Clayton (11.6)
8. Alex Gonzalez (10.4)
9. Rey Ordonez (10.1)

Derek Jeter — dead last at minus-9.2.

But when you weigh how good he was offensively … well, the scales are tipped pretty heavily in his direction in the 19 years he has played:

WAR among shortstops with at least 3,000 plate appearances in that time

1. Derek Jeter 71.5
2. Jimmy Rollins 42.0
3. Rafael Furcal 39.1
4. Jose Reyes 33.2
5. Troy Tulowitzki 32.3

Notice anyone missing? If you’re like me, you noticed several. Obviously, Alex Rodriguez isn’t there, even though he’s still played more games at shortstop than at third base. But that’s understandable; considering his time at DH, he’s now made just a tad less than 50 percent of his career appearances at shortstop.

But Omar Vizquel? Miguel Tejada? Nomar Garciaparra? All three of those guys should be on the bottom list. They would be there even if you just counted their time at shortstop and left out their appearances elsewhere. Of course, so would Rodriguez, using that standard (he totaled 63.7 WAR from 1995-2003 alone). But Olney’s list here isn’t using that standard; Jeter’s mark of 71.5 WAR above includes his time at DH.

(I love the plate appearances disclaimer, too, because if the Mike Trout of shortstops had managed to amass 40 WAR in 2,500 plate appearance, well, that’d just be a fluke, right?)

And the defense list? Vizquel accumulated 17.3 WAR on defense on defense after 1995 (28.4 in his career). Adam Everett was at 15.7. Clint Barmes 16.0 (WAR totals are from Baseball-reference, since that’s obviously the list Olney was using even if it wasn’t credited in the column). All kinds of guys are missing from that list. Apparently, those appearances they made at second base or third disqualified them.

Still, there are no disclaimers here from Olney. Nothing at all that explains why Vizquel, Tejada and Garciaparra weren’t included when no one would argue that they weren’t shortstops. And the whole point was to compare Jeter to other shortstops, even though I don’t see anyone actively trying to make a case for any of those guys over Jeter. Olney goes on to write this:

Jeter has almost 1,000 more hits in this timeframe than any other shortstop (Edgar Renteria, who began his career at just about the same time as Jeter, finished with 2,327 hits). Jeter has more than 600 more runs than any other shortstop in his era (Rollins is second, with 1,247). Alex Rodriguez has the most home runs for shortstops in this time, with 344; Jeter is second, with 256, and Jeter has 57 more homers than the rest of the field (Rollins, 199).

Now, this is just flat-out wrong. And it’s amazing that Olney, even though he was willing to blindly publish Havens’ lists, could write this paragraph without even thinking of Tejada et al. Tejada, not Jeter, has the second most homers of any shortstop during this era (291 of his 307 homers came as a shortstop). Olney is also cheating on his numbers. It makes only a small difference, but notice how he merely counts A-Rod’s homers as a shortstop here yet doesn’t subtract Jeter’s home runs (five) and runs scored (40) from his 58 games as a DH from his totals.

I’m sure most of this was just sloppiness and that Olney didn’t intentionally leave these guys out with the idea of improving Jeter’s case. But since he apparently isn’t interested in fixing it, I’d say he deserves to take a little heat.

Report: Royals sign Neftali Feliz

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals have signed free agent reliever Neftali Feliz, pending a physical. The Brewers designated Feliz for assignment last week and released him on Monday.

Feliz, 29, opened the season as the Brewers’ closer, but struggled and was eventually taken out of the role in mid-May, giving way to Corey Knebel. In 29 appearances spanning 27 innings with the Brewers, Feliz posted a 6.00 ERA with a 21/15 K/BB ratio.

The Royals have had bullpen issues of their own, so Feliz will try to provide some stability given his track record. It’s not clear yet if the Royals want to let Feliz get his feet wet at Triple-A or throw him right into the bullpen mix.

Mets may move Asdrubal Cabrera to second base upon return from DL

Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
1 Comment

Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that the Mets may move Asdrubal Cabrera to second base when he returns from the disabled list. Cabrera has been on the disabled list since June 13 with a sprained left thumb, but he’s expected to be activated on Friday.

Cabrera, 31, last played second base in 2014 with the Nationals. He has played shortstop exclusively as a Met the last two seasons. Jose Reyes would continue to play shortstop if the Mets were to go through with the position change. Cabrera would displace T.J. Rivera, who has been playing second base in place of the injured Neil Walker.

In 196 plate appearances this season, Cabrera is hitting .244/.321/.392 with six home runs and 20 RBI. He has made 11 defensive errors, which is tied for the third-most among shortstops behind Tim Anderson (16) and Dansby Swanson (12).