I am a former sports editor and currently serving as a historian at the American Baseball Research Society and running a valet operation.
who are the best shortstops of all time in mlb history?
When I was a kid growing up in Cleveland in the 1990s, it wasn’t surprising that I expected to emulate Omar Vizquel’s dazzling defense on the baseball field. but what is a child to do when he has almost no athletic talent? First, he emulates the pros in a hectic backyard where no one is looking, then he examines and learns about the game.
One of the most fascinating developments in baseball history has been the changing landscape of the shortstop position. From a weak hitting position that focused primarily on defense to the modern power hitting configuration, the shortstop has undergone a major transformation. but most of all, defense still reigns supreme among shortstops, who regularly make standout plays in addition to routine plays from one of the most demanding positions on the diamond.
With that evolution in mind, I took a specific approach to ranking the best shortstops in mlb history. I considered each shortstop’s success compared to his era and assessed how much his contributions impacted the overall history of the position and the game of baseball.
To be considered, a player must have played at least half of his games at the shortstop position (this disqualifies Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Alex Rodriguez). This list of the top 10 shortstops in MLB history is based on the following criteria:
- impact (place in history, how position changed, etc.)
- defensive success (fielding percentage, runs saves, gold glove, etc.)
- offensive success (individual awards, above-average career totals, etc.)
10. arky vaughan
- Years played: 1932-43, ’47, ’48
- Shortstop games: 1,485 of 1,817 (81, 7%)
- playoff appearances: 1947
- fielding percentage: .951
- key offensive stats: .318 batting average, .406 on-base percentage, 1,173 runs and 128 3-pointers
- accolades: star (1934-42)
While his defense wasn’t as spectacular as the other players on this list, the offensive punch Arky Vaughan delivered still ranks him as one of the greatest shortstops of all time. A perennial star during his prime, Vaughan hit at least .300 in all but two seasons of his 14-year career (including a league-best .385 in 1935 for the Pirates). Vaughan’s biggest blow came on defense, especially early in his career when he committed 40 or more errors in five of his first nine seasons. however, vaughan was inducted into the hall of fame by the veterans committee in 1985.
9. young robin
- years played: 1974-1993
- games at shortstop: 1,479 of 2,856 (51.8%)
- playoff appearances: 1981-82
- fielding percentage: .964
- offensive stats key: .286 batting average, 323 doubles, 885 runs and 142 stolen bases*
- recognitions: mvp (1982); golden glove (1982); star (1980, ’82, ’83); and silver slugger (1980, ’82)*
Robin Yount, a lifelong brewer, spent the first 11 of his 20 seasons at shortstop before closing out his career in the outfield (1985-93). As a shortstop, Yount enjoyed his best season in 1982, when he was the American League Most Valuable Player and led the Brewers to the World Series. he hit a career-high .331, his 210 hits and 46 doubles led the league, and he batted .414 during the fall classic in a losing effort against the Cardinals. Yount later added another MVP trophy in 1989 and finished his career with 3,142 hits. he earned hall of fame status with the class of 1999.
*stats and accolades include only the years 1974-1984, when yount played shortstop.
8. alan trammell
- years played: 1977-96
- games at shortstop: 2,139 of 2,293 (93.3%)
- playoff appearances: 1984 and ’87
- fielding percentage: .977
- stats key offenses: .285 batting average, 412 doubles and 1,231 runs,
- Accolades: World Series MVP (1984); gold glove (1980, ’81, ’83, ’84); all-stars (1980, ’84, ’85, ’87, ’88, ’90); and silver slugger (1987, ’88, ’90)