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March 17, 2009

Infield Win Shares: The shortstops

Around the time Greg Gagne left the Twins, I devoted a print column to the question of who the greatest shortstop in Twins history. I even included a clip-and-mail ballot for readers to send it, giving them the choice of Zoilo Versalles, Leo Cardenas, Roy Smalley or Gagne. (The mail-in ballot now seems like a quaint notion, doesn't it?)

As I recall, Versalles and Gagne essentially tied in the reader vote; my opinion was that I'd prefer Smalley if the all-time Twins team was playing in the old Met but Gagne if they were playing in the Dome. A cop-out opinion, I guess, but while Smalley was the better hitter, there was no way he would have been an acceptable shortstop on turf.

Since then the Twins have had two more shortstops hold the job for more than three seasons — Pat Meares and Cristian Guzman. And since then win shares have become available.

Here's how it breaks down:

Versalles: Seven seasons as the regular, 1961-67. High of 32 (1965, the MVP season); low of 9 (1967, when even average play from him probably puts the Twins back in the World Series.) Total of 119 win shares, average 17 per season.

Cardenas: Three seasons as regular, 1969-71. 64 total win shares. High of 23, low of 19. Average 21.3. Two division titles.

Smalley: Six seasons as regular, 1976-81. High of 24, low of 6, total 98, average 16.3

Gagne: Eight seasons as regular, 1985-92. High of 18, low of 4. Total 88, average 11. Two World Series titles.

Meares: Six season as regular, 1994-98. High of 13, low of 4. Total 49, average 8.2 (rounded up)

Guzman: Six seasons as regular, 1999-2004. Low of 5, high of 18. Total 79, average 13.2 (rounded up). Three division titles.

Versalles looks better than I anticipated, although his average is really lifted by the 1965 glory year. If we throw out that and his costly 1967 season, though, we still have five seasons with 15.6 win shares per year, which beats Gagne, Guzman and (especially) Meares pretty handily. Versalles' 1967 season, bad as it was

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