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Alexei Ramirez remains top shortstop at turning two

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League-leading double-play numbers improve dramatically, even with a partial season from Gordon Beckham

Even Josh Donaldson's spiking couldn't stop Alexei Ramirez.
Even Josh Donaldson's spiking couldn't stop Alexei Ramirez.
Thearon W. Henderson

Last year, Larry noted that the White Sox boasted baseball's best double play combo with Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham. The eye test suggested so, but the numbers confirmed it, as FanGraphs said both players led their respective positions in Double-Play Runs Saved.

Their success was one of the few bright spots for an awful defensive team in 2013, and they carried their skills into 2014, more or less.

Ramirez represented the "more," leading all shortstops with 4.5 Double-Play Runs, a whopping two-run improvement over his chart-topping total last season. Beckham was the less: With 2.6 DPR, he finished second behind The Strong Arm of Baltimore's Jonathan Schoop.

That's still impressive, but Ramirez and Beckham might have lost sole possession of the title in their final season together. The Orioles' tandem has its own case, so they might have to share the tag-team title.

Shortstops:

  1. Ramirez, 4.5
  2. J.J. Hardy, 3.8

Second basemen:

  1. Schoop, 3.2
  2. Beckham, 2.6

Ramirez's strangehold on the shortstop leaderboard is especially impressive considering three different Sox played at least 200 innings at second base in 2014. Plus, Leury Garcia contributed 100 himself, but the variety on the other side of the bag didn't knock Ramirez off his game.

Rather, the Sox led all MLB teams in double-plays turned with 168, topping the Rockies by one. The fact that the Rockies are second hints at one of the stat's flaws -- you need baserunners for double plays, and both the Sox and Colorado pitching staffs struggled. To counter this issue, Baseball Prospectus tracks double play percentage. The gross number of baserunners watered down their conversation rate, but they've been clearly above average in each of the last three seasons despite three different situations at second base.

  • 2014: 13.6 percent (7th)
  • 2013: 13.2 percent (11th)
  • 2012: 14.4 percent (3rd)

Hawk Harrelson stumped heavily for Ramirez's Gold Glove case over the last two months of the season, and slick twin killings inspired a lot of the praise. Alas, this won't surprise many people, but it's not nearly as clear-cut as he'd lead you to believe.

In fact, if you start with the numbers, Ramirez faces an uphill climb. The SABR Defensive Index accounts for 25 percent of the vote, and Ramirez scored unimpressively with both Defensive Runs Saved (one run below average) and UZR (0.7 runs below average).

Over at Bill James Online, John Dewan (author of The Fielding Bible books), had Ramirez as an also-ran to Hardy in his ballot assessment.

Shortstops: Andrelton Simmons was not quite as dominant in 2014 as he was in 2013, when he finished the season with an unprecedented 41 Runs Saved. However, his 28 Runs Saved this season still provides a nine-run cushion over the closest shortstop to him, Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart. Meanwhile, almost all of the good shortstop play took place in the NL this season. J.J. Hardy is really the only viable candidate for the Gold Glove Award in the AL. Part-time players like Jose Ramirez and Nick Franklin provide some optimism for improvement in the AL, but this season, most of the full-time competition finished with negative Runs Saved totals.

So Alexei isn't going to get much help from that quarter of the ballot. His hardware hopes rest on his reduction in errors (15, down from 22 in 2013) and the eye test, so if you wanted to sway the vote in his favor, I'd lean heavily on all the beautiful double play footage you can find.

Star-divide

Now roll that beautiful double play footage!

Here's a sampling of six favorite White Sox double plays -- at least ones that involved Ramirez -- in chronological order.

May 12, 2014

The Sox shifted more than most teams, which put the middle infielders in some unusual positions for double plays. Here's a case where Beckham has to feed Ramirez from the shortstop side of second.

The amount of coordination that went into turning this one is remarkable.

May 14, 2014

Ramirez takes a flip from Beckham and turns an important double play in the ninth inning, surviving a brush with death via a spiking by Josh Donaldson in the process.

Had the two teams met sooner than September, the memory might've been fresh enough to trigger a purpose pitch. Instead, the Sox had to settle for a series victory.

Aug. 9, 2014

There's nothing that remarkable about this double play, except 1) it sends the game into extras, and 2) Erik Surkamp's wholly unnecessary glove throw.

Aug. 12, 2014

With the bases loaded and the Sox clinging to a 2-0 lead in San Francisco, Beckham hits the dirt on a hard grounder up the middle and starts a 4-6-3 from his belly, and with his glove.

This was one of the plays of the season, but Petricka dulled its effect by serving up a game-tying single to the next batter. However, the blown save gave Beckham the opportunity to deliver the game-winning single in the the 10th.

Aug. 20, 2014

One of Ramirez's trademarked sliding-stop 6-4-3s, this time with Garcia on the pivot.

Sept. 27, 2014

Carlos Sanchez doesn't have The Strong Arm of Beckham, but he gets rid of the ball extremely quickly to make up for the difference. One way he does it: cutting out the middle man.

Sanchez registered 1 DPR over his first 232 innings. That's a little better than Beckham's rate, and while small sample size caveats apply, I think it's safe to say that this is a positive part of Sanchez's game. If he can hold off all challengers for the second base job, the Sox's double-play numbers will probably be in good hands, and in both senses of the phrase.