Before we get to the ranking of baseball’s best shortstops, a story about an All-Star second baseman.
A few years ago, the Houston Astros‘ staff encouraged batting champion Jose Altuve to be more patient at the plate. The staffers assured Altuve they weren’t asking him to hunt walks, but they believed if Altuve could refrain from swinging at some really bad pitches, he would put himself in better ball-strike counts, draw a few more walks and compel opponents to throw the ball over the plate. In this way, he’d give himself a better chance to do damage when he did swing.
If pitchers and catchers believe you’ll hack at pitches outside the zone, the staffers noted, they’ll keep working outside the zone. Altuve adjusted, and yep, he’s doing more damage.
It’s remarkable how many among an exceptional group of shortstops in this era could be helped by making the same adjustment that Altuve made — and for some of them, it could be the difference between being really good and being the best.
Case in point: the Cubs’ Javier Baez.