Early in his career Sports Illustrated wrote about Ozzie Smith being the greatest fielding shortstop ever. They didn’t stop there. They asked who the greatest fielder before Ozzie was. They answered this with an article proclaiming it was Luis Aparicio. This impressed me, so I gave Aparicio extra points at shortstop. As I did Ozzie.
Bill James has written more than once how close Luis Aparicio and Bert Campaneris were as players despite Aparicio being elected to the hall of fame and Campaneris not really being considered. In my first rankings I had them right next to each other with Campaneris ahead. Campaneris won this time too until I gave the bonus. Basically with the bonus Aparicio passed a lot of shortstops who were pretty close to each other, ending with Joe Sewell at number 25. I’m glad I did it.
I also gave fielding bonuses to two other shortstops, Joe Tinker and Mark Belanger. I gave a bonus to Joe Tinker because when Bill James was doing win shares and loss shares who reviewed a lot of the good fielding shortstops from the early days. He had Joe Tinker with zero loss shares for fielding. That impressed me, so he got a bonus. Mark Belanger is rated just being Ozzie Smith, taking second for career fielding. While I don’t agree 100 percent with that evaluation, I think that is impressive enough to earn a fielding bonus.
In his first 9 ears in the majors Luis Aparicio led the American League in stolen bases. He had some years with real impressive totals. For example, he had four years with 50 or more stolen bases. Sometimes, he didn’t do many and didn’t need that many to lead the league. As a rookie, he led with his lowest total as a leader 21 stolen bases. In his first three years he never stole 30 bases in a season.
According to WAR Aparicio was always an above average base runner even when he was older. He was outstanding more in his early years.
It wasn’t that way as a hitter. It is kind of funny in 1970 at the age of 36 he had a fluke year in hitting. He had a batting average of .313. Not the greatest, but a really good season, especially when you consider in 10 of his 18 seasons his on base percentage was below .313. He had a career high on base average in 1970 of .372. This isn’t outstanding but very good.
What a lot of people forget and took me awhile to figure out was that Aparicio was the starting shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles when they won the World Series in 1966. He drove in two runs in the World Series which isn’t impressive until you find out there were only 15 runs scored by both teams in the series. His big RBI was in the 5th inning of game after Willie Davis made his 3 errors, Aparicio doubled in Etchebarren making the score 3-0. The hit improved the Orioles chances of winning the game by 8 percent.
However, I was thinking defensively as the Orioles picked up Aparicio starting in 1963 thru 1967. In 1968 Mark Belanger became their shortstop. With Brooks Robinson at third base, he got to play next to a great fielder the last 15 years of his career. That is two of the four shortstops I gave a fielding bonus to.