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.

Rays lose a tough one [Tampa Bay Sports Blog]
More Defensive Charts [Baseball Musings]
The Hangover: Joel Guzman Does Not Homer Or Strikeout. We Are Confused [Rays Index]

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17 Comments

  1. Drew S says:

    please tell me that other guy is just trying to be funny or satirical or confrontational. Please, PLEASE tell me he did not just try to argue that Brendan Harris is better defensively than ANYBODY!

    Harris makes Jorge Cantu look like a good defensive player.

    i read that entire post on the other site and that is 2 minutes I wish i could get back

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  2. Anonymous says:

    "never punch "down" a weight class"

    was that a punch? If not, what should we call it? How about a none-to-subtle noogie to the top of the head.

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  3. Scott says:

    Add pretty much everyone I've talked to over at Rays of Light to the "doesn't know anything about baseball" category. Not a single one of us has uttered, "Gosh - I sure wish Brendan Harris was still our shortstop" once yet.

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  4. The Professor says:

    scott-you crazy statheads

    anon-noogie works for me

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  5. Anonymous says:

    offensively is the only argument to be made for Harris and that is not even that drastic of a difference. and definitely not enough to overcome his defensive short-comings. and besides the Rays have plenty of offense that they can afford to hide Bartlett's bat in the 9-hole

    to ever consider Harris a better defensive player than bartlett is sheer lunacy. i could have gone my entire life without watching Bartlett playing defense i would still know that he is better than harris

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  6. Anonymous says:

    "Honestly we can't even believe we are spending more than 30 seconds on this topic."

    neither can I

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  7. Anonymous says:

    it's not your fault you don't watch the games. obviously mom doesn't have a TV in her basement.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    For sure Bartlett is more talented defensively than Harris. I don't think the raw talent is the question. He has better range and is a better natural fielder as Cork pointed out. Absolutely.

    As a Rays fan though, I have to admit that Bartlett's throwing is getting to the point of unacceptability. He gets to a lot of balls that most shortstops would not, but he seems to repeatedly make bad throws. It really shouldn't be that hard to make a good throw to first base (or second base for that matter). This must be somewhat of a mental issue more than a physical issue. I am hoping that Bartlett can work through this throwing slump and get his defensive game back on track. He looked really amazing the first few games of the season, but has been dreadful recently.

    Further, Bartlett has been unimpressive at the plate. His career numbers suggest he will improve significantly over his early season performance. I am hoping this starts to happen soon as well.

    This probably won't be a well received sentiment, but if this crap keeps up I would be tempted to stick Aybar at shortstop to see what he can do after he gets back from injury.

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  9. The Professor says:

    of course the bigger point that i didn't touch at all, is that Bartlett, talented or not, has done nothing to show that he should be the shortstop over Reid Brignac in 2009.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Prof,

    Your Maddon-Meter hasn't moved. If it doesn't go down after last night's game - why is it there?!!

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  11. The Professor says:

    DRG is in charge of that and he has been on wife-duty the last couple of weekends. he should be back this weekend

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  12. John says:

    Do you think Adam Lind could be our Right-fielder? He's in AAA for the Blue Jays and I don't think he's in their future plans with Travis Snider, Wells, and Rios covering the outfield as soon as 2009. Do you think trading our promising but redundant Houser/Mason for Adam Lind would be a fair deal?

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  13. The Professor says:

    i'm not sure about lind. i dont feel like he is that much better than say Ruggiano and i have never been crazy about Ruggiano. a little better? probably, but not at the cost of a pitching prospect. and while mason and houser may be lost in the Rays shuffle, i would hang on to both and maybe we get lucky and one explodes and can be a great relief pitcher or spun in a trade for something better.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    I assume the point of this post is that neither Bartlett or Harris is much of a SS and Rays' fans should all pray that Brignac is ready for next year.

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  15. Tommy says:

    "I judge baseball by watching the game, not stats."

    End of argument. I didn't know Joe Morgan was a Rays fan

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  16. DirtbagFan says:

    I hate to beat a dead horse, but to say that Harris is a better defensive player than Bartlett is like saying that Ty Wiggington never hits into a double play...

    As much potential as Bartlett may have I don't think we'll ever see it come to fruition here- he'll be traded or packaged in a trade once Brignac is ready to take his place (in my humble opinion)

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  17. Anonymous says:

    I don't care what all of you say about Bartlett. I think he is a great player and some in Minnesota will miss him.

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