The best part about watching the Super Bowl at home? I can turn to turn MLB Network’s “Top 10 Shortstops Right Now” at 9:00 PM without having a barrage of trash and obscenities thrown my way.
The MLB Network has been running episodes of its “Top Ten Right Now” series for the past few weeks. It is the second year for the series, which attempts to rank the top ten players by position going into the next season. The show is hosted by Brian Kenny, who is rather vague about the exact criteria used in the rankings. In general, the series claims that the players are ranked using an objective, metrics-based system that I believe utilizes a three year look back period to project the player’s performance for the upcoming season.
In my opinion, the best part of the format is that the objective list that is generated is not treated by the host or the commentators (usually Joe Sheehan and a rotating former player) as infallible. They debate the list, discuss the merits of the rankings, and outright dismiss some of the odder choices (for example, the list had Andres Torres and Marlon Byrd as the 10th and 9th best CF’s respectively, which is pretty impossible to defend and the hosts made no attempt to do so). The show treats the list as an opening for discussion, which is exactly how these types of lists are best used, rather than treating it as any sort of official ranking system.
Thus far, the network has aired episodes for starting pitchers, relief pitchers, center fielders, left fielders, right fielders, and shortstops. The Orioles representation on these lists have been about what one might expect. Adam Jones was ranked the 8th best CF and JJ Hardy was ranked the 8th best short stop. Nick Markakis, who made the right fielder list last offseason, failed to show up on that same list this year. I don’t have much to dispute with any of the rankings so far when it comes to players on the O’s.
I do think Hardy is potentially more than the 8th best shortstop in 2012. The hosts, specifically Larry Bowa, undersold Hardy’s defense a little bit I thought. To paraphrase, Bowa stated that Hardy was solid in the field and won’t hurt the team, but is more of an offensive player. Watching Hardy play an entire season at short last year, his value is made up of two components - above average defense and power. His defense is a huge part of his game and a big reason why he was ranked where he was due to having the second best UZR of all short tops in 2011. To sell him as a solid or average shortstop is an undersell no doubt, but not too big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
The worst part of these shows has to be the John Hart segments. Hart is brought in for two segments a show. In the first, he explains what the important characteristics are for that particular position. In the second segment, he gives his own personal top three, which is usually a reflection of what he notes as important traits in the first segment. It isn’t Hart’s opinions that really annoy me about these segments, even though I do often find myself disagreeing with him.
I just find the general premise that a certain position requires a certain type of player to be narrow minded. If a player is a good player, it shouldn’t really matter how he contributes. Hart discussed how in this low run environment, defense at SS is the most important factor. I just can’t buy in that. Sure, all teams want good defense at short, but the same could be said for any position. If a team is dismissing an offense-first, mediocre fielding SS for a shortstop with a good defensive reputation , but no bat (like the Orioles did for several years before obtaining Hardy), they are doing themselves a disservice. At any position, the player that can help you win the most games, either through preventing runs or creating runs (or a combination of both) is the player a team should want. It should not matter how that player goes about getting that done.
The Orioles should pop up at least once more on these lists when they get to the list of top catchers. As an Orioles fan, where Matt Wieters places on that particular list is probably the most intriguing element of this series for me.
Until then, I guess I’ll log some time with the Superbowl post-game show before turning in. As Al Michaels put it, “you won’t want to miss all the hoopla.” You can't argue with that.