Shortstop, like center field, is one of those positions where there really isn't ever a shortage of athletic guys who "just get the job done". They're fast enough and they don't look over-matched; they rarely botch plays. But when it comes to defense, sometimes that's all it takes to be considered "good". When it comes to passing the eye test, if you're not screwing up then you're probably doing your job.
In August of 2012, the Twins sent Brian Dozier back to Triple-A to sort some things out. They'd also recently designated Danny Valencia for assignment. In their places stepped Pedro Florimon, who had been selected off of waivers from the Orioles the previous December. Before we get into how good Florimon has been defensively this season, let's take just one moment out of our day to remember what I said on August 16. Hint: I wasn't very nice.
In an article I called "Pedro Florimon: the Holding Pattern Until Brian Dozier Returns", I said...
I called the best defensive shortstop in the American League "organizational filler". And I'm happy to have been proven wrong.
The American League has no shortage of strong defensive shortstops, some with bigger reputations than others. We all remember J.J. Hardy of course. Then there's Brendan Ryan, Stephen Drew, Alexei Ramirez, Yunel Escobar, Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Asdrubal Cabrera...and Florimon has been better than them all this season.
By all means, Florimon gave us a few flashes of that brilliance last season. The inconsistency was there, but there were times when he made plays that would leave us in a state of disbelief. This year, especially after the first few weeks of the season, that consistency has started to cement itself and we're still being treated to regular plays like this. Or both of these plays.
Now, how about this one and this one and this one? Hell, here's one more since I have a hard time picking the awesome ones from the friggin great ones. There's no doubt that Pedro is passing the eye test.
But he's also passing the defensive metrics tests. Granted it can be frustrating knowing which one to look at since they all measure not-exactly-the-same-thing, but it gets easier when you see that Florimon is near the top of a number of categories.
UZR: 1st (8.6)
UZR/150: 2nd (13.5)
Range Runs: 1st (7.9)
Revised Zone Rating: 1st (.846)
We all know that Florimon is getting plenty of chances with this current spate of starting pitchers, but none of the categories listed above are counting stats. These numbers are based on how effective Florimon has been in the opportunities he's been given. Essentially, chance-for-chance, he's making more plays and converting more outs. That's the easiest way to look at it.
As we get to the end of the season we'll revisit Florimon's standing among the best in the game. For now he's a bright spot, and a guy worth watching to see if he can hold down shortstop over the next two or three seasons.
Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.