The Maturity of Elvis Andrus

With the Rangers off to such a hot start, the focus has been on the starting pitching, the explosive offense, Yu Darvish and Josh Hamilton. And by all means, those things should be discussed. The pitching had been better than advertised especially with the dominance of Darvish and the incredible start that Josh Hamilton and others have had at the plate.

One thing lost in all the talk about this team is the maturity of Elvis Andrus. Elvis is only 23 years old; let’s not let that fact go unnoticed. Andrus is a career .270 hitter in his short career that has speed, the ability to lay down a bunt when needed, and can battle at the plate. Now, Elvis strikes out too much, and doesn’t walk enough for my liking in the 2 hole in the lineup. However, he gives the Rangers quality at bats more times than not, and can be a valuable part of the lineup.

But what really has dawned on me so for in this young season is his maturity in the field. He hasn’t taken a bad plate appearance to the field with him. He’s been able to separate the offensive side of the game from the defensive side. In 24 games this season, he has only one error, and almost every throw has been right on target. In his career, Elvis has committed 63 errors with a fielding percentage of .970, which isn’t terrible, but to be an elite shortstop, that number needs to .980 or higher. And it looks like Elvis has taken that next step in the field.

When you look at great defensive shortstops, you cannot simply compare them by errors alone. You have to dig deeper into the stats. Let’s compare 2 shortstops of the same era.

               Chances     Errors    Fld %
Player A:   659            13       .980
Player B:   677            25       .963

When you compare this information alone, Player A appears to be a superior defender based on the significantly better fielding percentage. However, we know that fielding percentage alone tells a very small portion of the story of a player’s defensive value. If you dig deeper and consider arm strength and range, you’ll notice this.

                          Rtot       Rdrs
Player A             4             -1
Player B             9              7

Rtot (Total Zone Fielding Runs) is the number of runs a player is worth above or below average, defensively.
Rdrs (Defensive Runs Saved) is the number of runs a player is worth above or below average based on plays made. Basically how many runs a player saved, defensively.

Player A is 2011 Gold Glove Winner Erick Aybar.
Player B is Elvis Andrus.

The point of the above stats is that you cannot simply lump players together by errors made, but how valuable they are defensively. And Elvis is very valuable at shortstop in Arlington. We see his value manifested in his ability to range to ground balls that many major league shortstops see roll past their outstretched dives.

That brings us to Jurickson Profar. As Dan Allsup pointed out in his article about signing Profar to an extension, Elvis may or may not be a Ranger in the near future. Elvis is going to command big dollars on the open market, and he’ll only be 26 when he hits free agency. There are several scenarios out there that have been discussed. The majority of those with an opinion on the subject believe Andrus will be a New York Yankee in three years, as a natural replacement to Derek Jeter, who has a player option that he will likely pick up in 2014. The stars appear to be aligned for Andrus to fit into pinstripes. However, the Rangers new TV deal begins in 2015, and with it the additional $75-$150 million of revenue, and the Michael Young contract albatross will no longer be hovering. The Rangers have the 7th-highest payroll in baseball in 2012, when some of these factors are considered that ranking could be even higher in 2012. It’s not a certainty, but the Rangers shouldn’t be counted out of the running for locking Andrus up in free agency. If Andrus stays a Ranger, Profar would likely slide to 2nd base, and Kinsler move to a corner outfield position. If Andrus signs with another team, Profar is in line to be the shortstop of the future, with Kinsler remaining at 2nd base. Neither situation is a negative outcome for the ball club.

Personally, I’d like to see Andrus wear #1 for the Texas Rangers for a very long time. He is only going to get better as he hits his prime. His power will rise, his average will mostly likely go up, and defensively, he may get even better as he continues to mature. Elvis Andrus is going to win multiple Gold Gloves. I just hope it’s in a Ranger’s uniform. 


Patrick Despain is the Editor for ShutDownInning.com. He can be reached at Patrick.Despain@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @ShutDownInning.
Patrick Despain
Patrick is a member of the IBWAA and creator of Shutdown Inning. He was raised him Arlington, Texas and grew up watching games on HSE and listening to Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz on the radio. He is a long time Rangers fan and never achieved his dream of being a bat boy. He know lives in Georgia with dreams of a Texas return.

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