Best Seasons Since 2000: Shortstop

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Jan 31, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Former Texas Ranger Michael Young talks to the media during a press conference announcing his retirement at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Third Place: Elvis Andrus, 2012 Campaign. 2012 was the type of year Texas envisioned Elvis Andrus was capable of having on a consistent basis. As a 23 year old in his fourth full season as a Big Leaguer, Andrus produced his best slash line to date at .286/.349/.378/.727. Though a .727 OPS is mildly modest in general, it comes from an incredibly offense-light position across MLB; this past year, short stops averaged a .677 OPS while batting just .255 on average. In light of those numbers, a .727 OPS from a shortstop would be considered proficient production at the very least.

Regardless, Andrus’ value in 2012 resided in his increasing ability to get on base (.349 OBP), up steadily from each of his first three seasons. In addition to getting on base, Elvis slugged his personal best (.378) by collecting a career high 43 extra base hits. Four two consecutive years, Elvis was worth 4.0 WAR or more (according to ESPN) due to his ability to be a solid two-way player.

The repercussions of Elvis’ best season are well known. It is generally speculated that upper management considered his 2011-2012 campaigns to be the beginning of a modest upward trend as Elvis would continue to establish himself as a light, but solid, hitting shortstop capable of great defense for years to come. A 120 million dollar contract was the result of this seemingly sound assumption. Two years later though, Elvis has yet to come within 65 points of his 2012 OPS as his offense has devolved from proficient fro his position to slightly below average, this transition is of course exacerbated by the contract he signed following his massive contract that is about to begin next April.

Thus, another example is made of big seasons leading to even bigger repercussions.

Second Place: Michael Young, 2005 campaign. This was one of several truly impressive seasons on the part of Michael Young in which he would set career best totals in hits, homeruns, walks, OPS, and win an American League Batting Title. As a 28 year old, Young became an All-Star for the second year in a row (second of six consecutive years) and tied career highs with 69 extra base hits and 114 runs scored. In all, Young was credited with 6.3 oWAR for his 159 games of work and made just north of 2.5 million making him a real asset at an incredibly low cost.

It is hard to believe that Michael’s best season came just about a decade ago. At that point the Rangers had never made it out of the division series and Chan Ho Park was still in the rotation. Jon Daniels had just come to Texas from Colorado. C.J. Wilson had a 1-7 record out of the bullpen and owned a 6.94 ERA to show for it; 21 year old Edinson Volquez was supposed to be the next big thing and 30 year old R.A. Dickey was just trying to keep his head above water in the majors.

First Place: Alex Rodriguez, 2001 Campaign. In the first year of a then-major league record 10 year 252 million dollar deal, Alex Rodriguez lived up to the hype and produced for the Rangers to a mammoth degree. Obviously, now more than a decade in retrospect, Rodriguez’s name has become vilified in the wake of his steroid use, subsequent denial, and later conviction; each stage possibly more dramatic and ugly than the true words even suggest. Still, Rodriguez (with some extracurricular assistance) produced one of the best seasons by a short stop ever.

He slashed .318/.399/.622/1.021 on his way to 87 extra base hits (52 homeruns). He collected 201 hits and came around 133 times to score in a year that he missed exactly zero regular season games. He displayed solid patience with a 10.3% walk rate while maintaining some of his agility from Seattle with 18 stolen bases. In total, baseball reference marks Rodriguez down as good for 9.2 oWAR on the year.

Honorable Mention: None

Summary: In a way, Rodriguez’s prolific performance helped the Rangers progress as an organization. Had Alex failed to produce as his expectations dictated he should, Texas would have had a failed contract and a scapegoat for their stagnant location as a last place finisher. However, given Rodriguez’s output, Texas’ management could not blame Rodriguez alone, and had to face the facts that one insanely lucrative contract and player would not translate to team-wide success.

Rodriguez’s display of power kept his value high enough for the Rangers to unload his contract and win Alfonso Soriano in a trade with New York before the 2004 season. When, two years later, the Rangers traded away Soriano, a precedent was set for the Rangers to work as sellers/rebuilders and Mark Teixeira to be on his way out a year and a half later.

Since 2001, the Rangers had fielded consistent and durable shortstops in general.  Most people may not be particularly optimistic about Elvis Andrus’ contract, but his youth and health should leave his performance in his hands; offseason reports suggest Andrus is ready to move past his poor 2014 performance, shed some weight, refocus on his defense/baserunning, and justify the contract that is about to take effect.

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