2020 MLB Defensive Short Stop Rankings: Trevor Story on Top

2020 was a surprising year for Major League Baseball – perhaps most surprising of all is completing even a 60 game season and crowning a champion.

For every player 2020 presented a challenge. Elite shortstops such as Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians and Andrelton Simmons of the Los Angeles Angels seemed to have down years defensively, while Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies rose to the top of the league.

Below is my ranking of defensive shortstops in MLB based on the following combination of factors:

Trevor Story2.5.96154.0
Dansby Swanson1.9.97410-4.4
Tim Anderson2.2.9673-2,3
Francisco Lindor1.7.98125.8
Adalberto Mondesi1.4.98320.8

Now, depending on which defensive metric you have the most faith in, Fielding Percentage, Defensive Runs Saved, or Ultimate Zone Rating, this seems like a defensible ranking of defensive shortstops in MLB in 2020, perhaps with the exception of leaving out Fernando Tatis, Jr., who would certainly be number six on the list, considering his total WAR of 2.9, his impressive .984 Fielding Percentage, yet rather average numbers for DRS, a 1 and UZR, 0.9.

I would be likely to place the most emphasis on UZR in the context of a 162 game season, but Fangraphs warns of placing too much emphasis on UZR with small sample sizes:

Beware of sample sizes! If a player only spent 50 innings at a position last season, it’d be a good idea not to draw too many conclusions from their UZR score over that time. Like with any defensive statistic, you should always use three years of UZR data before trying to draw any conclusions on the true talent level of a fielder.

Not being a statistical wizard, let me say that if we looked at three years’ worth of defensive statistics for each of the shortstops in the league, we would know who the top player is over that time period. However, 2020, for all it’s weirdness, was a season, and it has its distinctive place in the history of the sport.

So the shortened season makes somewhat of a mockery of the statistics, but they’re all we have for estimating, even in a cursory way, what player accomplishments are.

DJ LeMahieu: Yankee MVP, AL MVP

LeMahieu is a quiet leader who sets the pace at the top of the yankee lineup.

The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA) announced their American League Most Valuable Player candidates on November 2, 2020. The finalists are Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees and Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians. Each player had elite numbers in a pandemic-shortened season.

A cursory view of the stats for Abreu, LeMahieu and Ramirez suggests that Abreu and LeMahieu outpaced Ramirez in most statistical categories, such as WAR, batting average, OPS and even DRS. This is really a two-man race.

Abreu and LeMahieu are each at 2.8 WAR for the ’20 season, but that’s where the comparison ends. Abreu had much more slugging power and his 60 RBIs in 60 games is a feat no one else came close to. LeMahieu, on the other hand, was an offensive juggernaut, posting a .364 batting average and winning the batting title. His OPS was an eye-popping 1.011.

Defensively, Abreu was above average with a DRS of 5, while LeMahieu, uncharacteristically, was at the league average of 0. Both Abreu and LeMahieu have been All-Stars and MVP candidates in past seasons and LeMahieu holds six Gold Glove awards.

But no player can rest on their past accolades. Abreu was certainly the MVP of the White Sox in ’20, leading them to their first postseason appearance since 2008. Of course, Rick Renteria, now a Manager of the Year candidate and, surprisingly, ex-manager of the White Sox, had a lot to do with their run into the postseason.

LeMahieu was the offensive catalyst for a powerful Yankee lineup, featuring the league’s home run king for ’20, Luke Voit. LeMahieu is aptly named “Le Machine” by Yankee fans because of his consistently solid at-bats and his high on base percentage. LeMahieu often was the Yankee offense as the team’s heavy hitters were sidelined or hampered by injury.

LeMahieu is a quiet leader who sets the pace at the top of the Yankee lineup. In 2019, he finished fourth in the MVP voting. It’s time for the BBWA to get it right and recognize the excellence of LeMahieu’s contribution to the Yankees and to the league.