While perusing the season’s infield hits leaders, I ran across a fair share of usual suspects. Ichiro leads the pack (as he is wont to do) and names like Juan Pierre, Brett Gardner, Rajai Davis, and Carl Crawford aren’t unexpected whatsoever. The sight of Ryan Braun, however, had me taken aback when really it shouldn’t have.
Braun is of course a former third baseman moved to the outfield who hasn’t latched onto the concept of playing good defense. His skill set as a batter is pretty well-established. He hits for power, doesn’t strike out too much, doesn’t walk too much either, but maintains a high BABIP in part because of his speed – he’s generally good for two or three full hands of stolen bases. I knew Braun stole some bases. Heck, I looked right afterwards to see whether: 1) Braun stole bases, and 2) if he often collected so many infield hits. Yet, I still didn’t feel comfortable with Braun being Ichiro-lite.
So I asked someone with more exposure to Braun than most people about it…Jack Moore. He surmised that while Braun was a poor defender, it had less to do with his speed and more to do with his instincts and angles. It adds up. Still, accepting that Braun has nearly as many infield hits as Derek Jeter (and more than Johnny Damon, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Pierre, Crawford, and numerous others) the last three seasons felt odd because of his defensive limitations.
Thus I was wondering: what other players get poor raps on their speed and baserunning abilities because of their defensive reputations? The one name that I found more absurd than Braun is Jason Bay, who has 56 infield hits the past three years which is a few more than either Jose Reyes or David Wright have. When I think of Jason Bay, I don’t think of him busting down the line and beating out balls hit deep into the hole or down the line.
Who are some others with speed that simply doesn’t show up in the defensive evaluations because they lack other skills?