Rule #1 in a fight is to never punch “down” a weight class, it is a no-win situation…so we promise to keep civil, but we also feel the need to stick up for all sensible baseball fans. Because apparently if you think Jason Bartlett is a better defensive shortstop than Brendan Harris then you are “nuts” and need to “rethink what you think you know about baseball“…
Anyone who has watched [Jason Bartlett] play since the start of the season and thinks he has “great range” is a crazy person still buying the crap we were sold in the off-season. I judge baseball by watching the game, not stats. I know good and bad players. I’ve been around the game my entire life and this guy is an average major league shortstop at best. Anyone who wants to argue this with me I’ll gladly sit down and break down video with you and show you you’re nuts…there is a serious problem here if they defend Bartlett over Harris. This flat tells me these are “strictly stats guys” and aren’t watching the games. The only game I have yet to see is the Thursday day game Jackson pitched because I do have a job and that wasn’t televised. There is no comparison at this point. I don’t care what Bartlett did in Minnesota, I’m judging him here. I don’t watch the Twins, I watch the Rays. If anyone wants to tell me that Bartlett is better here now than Harris was last year I advise you to rethink what you think you know about baseball.
We never said Bartlett was a gold-glove shortstop, even though we do watch a lot of Twins games (we blame that on our old roommate). Rather it is baseball people that say Bartlett is gold-glove caliber. And his problem has never been range or his glove. His problem is throwing the baseball, as was the cause for most of his errors last year and all three errors this year (one was a throw to second base).
But the argument here is apparently not how good Bartlett is, which is arguable, but rather whether or not Bartlett is better than Brendan Harris. Honestly we can’t even believe we are spending more than 30 seconds on this topic.
Brendan Harris plays defense like he is wearing cement shoes. As “stat guys” we could point you to the Probabilistic Model of Range (via Baseball Musings), which shows that Bartlett makes many more outs than predicted while Harris makes fewer outs than predicted (look at the first chart for each player “groundballs” and note that the dotted blue line is usually positive for Bartlett, while Harris’ dotted line is more often negative. Think of the X-axis as the infield moving from the left field line to the right field line. Harris’ chart is for shortstop only). For the record Harris had no range at second base either (again note that the dotted line is usually negative).
Sadly MLB won’t let us “break down the video” but we will give you this recap from a game last August, long before we ever dreamed of Jason Bartlett in a Rays uniform…
We have talked a lot recently about the horrible Rays defense. In the 10th inning we saw a perfect example of how bad the defense can be without committing an error. With a runner on first base and 1 out, Trot Nixon is facing Al Reyes with the score tied 2-2. Reyes is not a hard thrower, so a lefty is more likely to pull the ball through the hole on the right side, so Brendan Harris was cheating a little in that direction. Nixon hit a routine ground ball to Harris’ right. Harris basically took one step and then fell down in what we can only assume was an attempt to dive for the ball. It should have been a tailor-made double play. Rather, it was now first and third with 1 out. Harris not only showed perhaps the worst range ever for a second baseman, but he also showed a lack of natural baseball instincts. While he needs to cheat a little towards the hole with Reyes on the mound, he should have noticed that Dioner Navarro had set up about six inches off the plate, away, from the batter. Even at 87 mph, there is no way Nixon is pulling that ball. Harris should have been leaning up the middle before the pitch was even thrown.
We really wish we had video of that play. In hindsight, it was one of the funniest things we ever saw. He literally just fell down. You can tell the difference, because a player that dives while moving will actually slide a little on the turf, no matter how slow he is going. Harris did not.
Harris can hit the ball, and if you think he hits enough to overcome his defensive liabilities than that is an argument, but there is a reason that Harris is now playing second base for the Twins. Bartlett may be a gold glove shortstop or he may be “average”. Either way, Brendan Harris makes him look like Omar Vizquel.
What we think about baseball…and what baseball scouts think about baseball…and what most sensible baseball fans think about baseball…is just fine, thanks.
Now if you will excuse us, we have some work to get done before Sweet Home Alabama comes on tonight. Us “stats guys” don’t need to watch the games.