Chat with Jayson Stark
You have to take one shortstop to start your team. And it has to be a guy who will play this entire season at an age younger than 25. (New Yorkers please take note: That ground rule happens to eliminate Jose Reyes from this argument.) So which phenom would you take, Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki?
Ramirez, the 2006 rookie of the year, is as talented as any young player in the whole sport, and had the most top-secret monster season in baseball last year. But his critics -- what few there are -- have every right to bring up his pesky defensive issues. And Tulowitzki lost the 2007 rookie-of-the-year election to Ryan Braun by two stinking points, in a season in which he put up eyeball-shattering defensive stats. But the argument against him is that his terrific offensive numbers were clearly Rocky Mountain-aided.
The case for Ramirez
The case for Tulowitzki
The ChoiceAs I said, this is totally impossible. If you asked me to take one of these players, I'd take Ramirez. But scouts and GMs I talked to question whether he's going to spend all, or even most, of his career at shortstop. So if I have to take one shortstop to build my team around, I'll take Tulowitzki. (How's that for inspired hedging?) This is a position where the No. 1 requirement is defensive dependability. And except for possibly Omar Vizquel, there isn't a more dependable defensive shortstop alive than this kid -- already. So that's my pick. Let the chat debate begin. Vote: Which young shortstop would you rather have?
Archive: Hot Stove Heaters
Jayson Stark (1:00 PM)
OK, welcome to The Great SS Debate. Everybody ready to kick this around for an hour? I am. So let's get rolling.
How about a kid named Jose Reyes?
Jayson Stark (1:01 PM)
All right. Let's explain the ground rules again, because all you Mets fans apparently didn't read them up above. Reyes doesn't qualify for this debate because he turns 25 in midseason. We're debating shortstops who will be YOUNGER than 25 all season. So NO MORE JOSE REYES QUESTIONS, or I'll have to send you to your room.
Jeff (Lawrence, NY)
Jayson, I am big fan of your articles, though I miss the mustache. On to my point, this discussion reminds me of the Jeter, ARod, Nomar conversation of the mid to late 90's. I would have to go with Ramirez based on his speed and pwer numbers alone plus he is doing it in a Pitchers park as opposed to Tulowitzki's Coor fierld inflated numbers. At the end of the day when people were discussing Arod and Jeter and Nomar they didnt bring up Omar VIzquel and the reason is that although defense is great its the other numbers that matter a little bit more.
Jayson Stark (1:04 PM)
I agree. The whole NL shortstop field in general reminds me of that Jeter-ARod-Nomar-Tejada AL debate. But that one seemed as if it was mostly about offense. This is one of those classic baseball arguments. What do you value more -- offense or defense? Ramirez has tremendous defensive tools, although he sure is inconsistent. Tulowitzki puts up offensive numbers, although he's helped a lot by the miracle of altitude. So it's not quite that simple, but that really is what it comes down to -- the glove or the bat?
Jayson Stark (1:05 PM)
And by the way, there will be no more facial-hair debates in this chat, either!
Sparks (San Marcos, Tx)
Give me Tulo...he plays the game like Jeter...on and off the field this kid is a leader.
Jayson Stark (1:09 PM)
I said this in the intro, but let me say it again. I can't remember any 22-year-old player who walked into any clubhouse and took over the way Tulowitzki did. And the attitude with which he plays the position is incredible. Anybody remember the last play of the NLCS? It was that Eric Byrnes checked-swing roller that, 95 percent of the time on all other teams, is the third baseman's ball. But Jamie Carroll just pulled up and let Tulowitzki take it. I asked about that afterward, and Carroll told me he could FEEL Tulowitzki coming and knew how much he wanted to make that play. Then I asked Tulowitzki about the last out, and before I could even finish the question, he said: "I'll tell you one thing. I wanted the ball hit to ME." Isn't that exactly what you want in a centerpiece shortstop -- a guy who is one out from the World Series and wants the ball hit to him so much that he'll practically run over the guy next to him to field it?
John (Vershire, VT)
I tell you who I'd rather have. I'd rather have Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and a world series ring.
Jayson Stark (1:10 PM)
You know, there's a Red Sox fan in every crowd. No more of THAT talk, either. The trade worked out great for the Red Sox. We know that. This is a different debate. So let's stick to the topic!
You bring up a good point with the defense. Tulowitizki is the better defensive SS he only committed 11 errors, while Ramirez gave up 24 in 2007. But, despite that fact I'd still take Ramirez because defense improves with more experience at the position and Ramirez can steal bases much more efficiently than Tulowitzki. Ramirez's 51 SB to Tulowitzki's 7 SB in 2007 so I can stick Ramirez anywhere in the lineup top or in cleanup and still feel satisfied.
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
This is the heart of this debate when it comes to Ramirez. Is he going to mature into a more reliable player, or is this what he is? I know the Marlins' people think he'll be like a lot of young shortstops who make tons of errors early in their career -- and get better as he goes along. But I haven't seen a whole lot of improvement on that side of the ball in two years, so that jury is still out.
Didn't Hanley rank as one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball last year? Do you see a position change ahead for him if you continues to show poor range?
Jayson Stark (1:17 PM)
Here are the defensive numbers. See what you think. Ramirez has committed 50 errors over the last two years. That's the most in the NL and second in baseball behind Carlos Guillen. He made 13 throwing errors last year. That was the second most in the major leagues (behind only Felipe Lopez, who made 15). And compare the range. Ramirez 391 assists in 151 games, Tulowitzki 561 in 155 games. HUGE difference. But the Marlins keep saying they don't foresee moving him. Nevertheless, I know they've kicked around trying him in center field. And people from other teams talk all the time about how they think he'd be better in the outfield. It really complicates this discussion.
Rick Rowcotsky (Colorado Springs, CO)
What about Tulo's massive range? I wonder if someone has tallied how many runs saved, or how many extra outs this kid has recorded. Besides, it was only Tulo's rookies season, maybe we should be comparing them again next year.
Jayson Stark (1:19 PM)
This is another interesting topic. If we have any mathematicians out there, I'd love to have somebody do that math. If Tulowitzki got to 170 more balls than Ramirez last year, how many runs does that convert to? Is it enough to make up for the difference in offensive production? I bet it is, but I'd love for someone out there to do that math.
Ryan (Santa Ana, CA)
I would have to go with Ramirez, he is at a disadvantage against Tulowitski, nobody goes to Marlins games and plays in a pitcher-friendly park.... If Ramirez were to play in a Major baseball city, Ramirez would bring in a higher attendance as opposed to Tulo... Another great debate idea- Greatest defensive shortstop, Omar Vizquel or Ozzie Smith? Vizquel baby!!!
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
I never thought about the who-would-you-pay-to-watch angle. Always fun. I love the way Tulowitzki plays with steam coming out of his ears. But I'd take Ramirez on that front. You never know what he'll do next. And Ozzie versus Omar WOULD make a tremendous debate. I think Omar is a Hall of Famer, and I made a case in my book that he's the most reliable, sure-handed defensive shortstop ever. But for pure defense, I'd have to take Ozzie. Check his total chances sometime and stack them up against Omar. It's not even close, not on the range front anyway.
Tony ( St. Louis, MO)
You have said it already, it has got to be Troy. I understand that most of us here in this debate are astounding fantasty baseball contributors, so a biased man would undoubtedly take Ramirez, but as you said, to "build a franchise" around one guy, who is going to be a shortstop for his ENTIRE career, it has to be Tulowitzki. He has the glove, range, pop, and speed. Also, he brought his A game in the post-season, can't ask much more out of a rookie.
Jayson Stark (1:28 PM)
Look, we won't get to find out what Ramirez can do in the postseason for a long, long time because the Marlins aren't exactly knocking on the door. But I think you've captured the essnce of this debate as well as anybody out there has so far. We're trying to build a team. We're looking for a SHORTSTOP, a guy we can count on to play the heck out of a premium position for years to come. And we're certainly looking for a player who can play in the big game and know what rising to the moment is all about. We already know all those things about Tulowitzki. There's a lot we don't know about Ramirez, as spectacular as he is.
Omar (Chicago, IL)
Isn't it a matter of speed or defense between these two shortstops? Personally, I'd value defense over speed out of my superstars simply because I think I can find more role players who specialize in speed than those who specialize in defense. Under Moneyball rules, Billy Beane would argue that they're both overrated. Which do you covet more, Jayson?
Jayson Stark (1:30 PM)
I don't see Ramirez as just a speed player. That's the problem with your premise. The guy had 83 extra-base hits last year! You know how many other shortstops in history have gotten 80 extra-base hits in a season? Four -- Ernie Banks, ARod, Robin Yount and Jimmy Rollins. So I don't think we're just talking about a track star here. We're talking about a major run producer.
Jim (Cambridge, MA)
Sore shoulder for 2 years and now surgery for Hanley? That has to come into play when building a franchise. Also, would we even be having this debate if Tulo didn't play half his games in Coors? I know, I know, it's not as much a factor as it used to be. But if we double his road stats, his offense would make him much more difficult to compare with Hanely, even given his outstanding play at short.
Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
The shoulder is another factor we haven't talked about much with Ramirez. But I haven't heard one scout say he thought the shoulder was responsible for Ramirez's defensive problems. The word I keep hearing most is "maturity," or "immaturity." He has some footwork issues that contribute to the errors. But what concerns me is that there's a sloppiness about the way he plays shortstop that causes a lot of these mistakes. This isn't a position, for me, where sloppiness is acceptable.
Jayson Stark (1:37 PM)
Before I go on, I looked up Bill James' Win Shares computations for both players this year. Ramirez 27, Tulowitzki 24. Ramirez computed to a 25 WS as a rookie. I'm still not sure how to figure, or even explain, Win Shares. But I know it takes in offense AND defense. So is that any kind of answer to the question of whether Tulowitzki's glove saves enough runs to overcome the difference in offense?
Andrew (Charlotte, NC)
Seriously!! How can this even be a debate? Ramirez is by far (opposite of close) the better option. Tulo is a slightly better hitting Vizquel, but at any point would you have deabated Vizquels' worth over A-rod (when he played SS) or Jeter? Hardly!
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
I don't know how much you've seen Tulowitzki play, but this guy's a better hitter than Vizquel. He had a road trip where he hit three go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning or later. And "road trip" means none of those games were played at Coors. I love Vizquel, but he's never had a road trip like that in his life. You're right that if he were another Omar and this was the equivalent of an ARod-vs-Vizquel debate, it would be an easy choice. I just think you're under-selling Tulowitzki in a big way.
David (ESPN Research)
Ozzie: 12,624 chances Omar: 11,301 1,323 more
Jayson Stark (1:42 PM)
David Bearman of our research department checked in with that one. Thirteen hundred chances is a ton of chances. I can't do this on the fly, but I invite anyone interested in the Ozzie-Omar debate to look up the number of seasons with 500 chances. Then rembmer that Ozzie did it all on TURF.
Aaron (Rapid City, SD)
How about Tulo going to the mound to calm a pitcher down in the Playoff game with San Diego? I can't remember the pitcher. You didn't see Helton going to the mound. Tulo is a special player. Ramirez is a special hitter. I'd take Tulo at SS and trade for Hanley in center when the Marlin downsize again in a couple years.
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
Great point. This guy may look like he's 15 years old, but he never acted like a rookie. He acted like that was his team, and the only things on earth he cared about were winning and his teammates. He's an off-the-charts attitude star.
The fantasy sports have blinded many people to what really matters in sports. Having played baseball in college, there are some many important things that do not show up in the box score. Give me the good bat, with great defense...over the great bat with below average defense any day at SS.
Jayson Stark (1:47 PM)
Hey Jamie, I'm so glad you made that point. This is NOT about who puts up the better fantasy numbers. I recognize Ramirez does that. And I said, right out of the chute, he's going to have the better offensive career -- possibly a Hall of Fame offensive career. But is it safe to trust him to do all the stuff you need done at maybe the most important defensive position on the field, next to catcher? I don't know that you can. Not yet at least.
what do scouts say about how much more of a hitter Hanley became after he reached the bigs? I mean...we all heard about how special he was going to be, but he didn't do anything in the minor leagues. Promote him to the highest level of competition, and he becomes an offensive juggernaut? what?
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
Exactly. What people always said about Ramirez in the minor leagues was that he didn't act as if he was particularly motivated. He knew he was heading for the big leagues. He knew how good he was. And he basically coasted until he arrived and it was time to turn it on. Now that's the way he plays defense. So is he going to hit that switch that enables him to get totally into catching the ball every inning of every game? Or is he going to continue to coast at times? If I'm building my team around a player at this position, I don't know that I'm comfortable building it around a guy who isn't into it all the time.
Ryan (Santa Ana, CA)
i know we're on the Ramirez Tulowitzki debate but i have to bring up the Vizquel-Smith debate for a second... True ozzie smith had more gold gloves and is a hall of famer... but look at the stats Ozzie smith career fielding percentage- .978, highest in a season- .987, career errors-281... Omar Vizquel career fielding percentage- .984, highest in a season- .993, career errors- 181... But back to the Ramirez-Tulo debate... Ramirez, i believe will have more durability, i see Tulo moving to third base like his idol- Ripken... What do you think?
Jayson Stark (1:53 PM)
We keep getting sidetracked with this Ozzie-versus-Omar debate. So let's finish this one off right now. Ozzie had eight 500-assist seasons (including one with 600). Omar had zero. I love Omar, but let me say this again: There's no comparison when it comes to range. Ozzie was the greatest ever in that department.
Mike (Frankfort, IL)
"If Tulowitzki got to 170 more balls than Ramirez last year, how many runs does that convert to?" The question is not that easy. I can't find any overall team stats on this, but Colorado had 10 pitchers in the top 50 in the National League in Ground Ball to Fly Ball ratio (in other words, creating more ground balls). Florida had 3, one of them being Jorge Julio who started the year with Colordo. Tulowitzki gets more grounders because his general manager has created a pitching staff that gives them up. Ramirez plays in Miami, where the humidity holds down fly balls and they don't care about pitchers who allow a lot of balls that go up in the air. Those 170 extra balls that Tulowitzki got to also include a lot of extra chances he got that Ramirez didn't.
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
It's very fair to bring that up. The ballpark and the infield grass contributed to both guys' numbers., no doubt. And the makeup of the pitching staffs contributed, too, obviously. But 170 chances isn't just a miniscule difference. I'll say this again: Tulowitzki's defensive numbers are a reflection of ATTITUDE as much as they are a product of the stuff you cite.
Dan (Westminster, CO)
I read an article about Tulo during the playoffs where his dad told a story about how Troy had to moved up in age during little league because he was a "ball-hog" and threw too hard to first base. When the coaches told Troy he was throwing too hard, he said 'get someone over there who can catch'! Obviously this guy lives and breathes baseball and you can see it in his on-field demeanor. I love how much emotion he shows after big plays, and how he is always talking to his fielders and pitchers. Make mine Tulo in a runaway!
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Great story. I remember asking Todd Helton what went through his head when he saw Tulowitzki field that last ball in the NLCS, deep in the hole with a good runner heading down the line. He said: "I knew it would be an out." That's what everybody on the field thinks when the ball gets hit to Troy Tulowitzki: THAT'S an out. The ultimate shortstop compliment.
Jayson Stark (2:00 PM)
You know, gang, we could debate this till the first day of spring training. But there's only time for one more.
Tedster (Austin, TX)
I really think the argument stopped when the word "shortstop" was inserted. To me, that's just shy of a catcher argument: namely, "would you prefer Ivan Rodriguez in his prime or Mike Piazza with some additional defensive lapses". This is a defensive position. At any given time there is MAYBE 1-2 absolute bangup defensive shortstops in the league. There are, on the flipside, DOZENS of premier hitters floating around. To pass on a truly unique offering such as Tulo just to snag one of several dozen big bats, you're ignoring the concept of why certain types of players play certain positions. I'd rather have a decent defensive shortstop and a great power-hitting right fielder than base my team around a defensive liability stuck in the wrong position.
Jayson Stark (2:02 PM)
You've got it, man. I said way up at the top that if I had to pick one PLAYER out of these two, I'd take Ramirez. But the magic word is "shortstop." Hanley Ramirez could very well turn into ARod Jr. offensively. But I'm betting that the guy in this debate who owns the position we're debating over the next 10 years is Tulowitzki. Maybe we can do another chat in 2018 and see if I'm right. Thanks for a great chat, folks. Good arguments!
SportsNation on Facebook
THIS WEEK'S CHATS
- 11:00 AMNoleNation's David Hale
- 12:00 PMNFL with Dan Graziano
- 1:00 PMDallas' Jean-Jacques Taylor
- 1:00 PMSweetSpot's Schoenfield
- 1:00 PMCubs, Sox with Levine
- 2:00 PMGeauxTigerNation's Laney
- 2:00 PMNFL blogger Kevin Seifert
- 2:00 PMBoxing with Brian Campbell
- 2:00 PMNASCAR with Newton
- 3:00 PMFantasy's Stephania Bell
- 4:00 PMNFL with James Walker
- 4:00 PMHornsNation's Wilkerson
- 11:00 AMFantasy's Matthew Berry
- 12:00 PMPatriots with Mike Reiss
- 12:00 PMTideNation's Scarborough
- 12:00 PMWolverineNation's Rothstein
- 12:00 PMMLB Insider Keith Law
- 1:00 PMNFL blogger Mike Sando
- 1:00 PMGiants with Youngmisuk
- 2:00 PMNASCAR with Terry Blount
- 2:00 PMBuckeyeNation's Ward
- 2:00 PMSport Science's Brenkus
- 2:30 PMNFL with Bill Williamson
- 3:00 PMNFL with Paul Kuharsky
- 4:00 PMFootball Scientist KC Joyner