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:
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.