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Tim Anderson is Playing like an Elite Defensive Shortstop

by Sox On 35th Contributors

White Sox Trivia: Which two players started 60+ games at shortstop for the White Sox in 2016? If you guessed Jimmy Rollins and Tyler Saladino, you are not only correct, but 2016 was probably a rough time for you as a Sox fan.

Looking back at that season, the argument could be made that Tim Anderson’s call up and his ensuing success led to what happened that following fateful offseason.

The shortstop position for the Sox at that time was a tiny microcosm of where the team was as an organization. After the decline of Alexei Ramirez, the team had no direction or future plans for the position. Similarly, the organization was headed for another losing season, stuck with a few valuable assets, including one perennial Cy Young candidate and one of the greatest White Sox pitchers of all-time in Chris Sale.

After an injury-plagued season for Jimmy Rollins, who only played 41 games, the White Sox designated him for assignment and called up Tim Anderson. Seeing what a young, promising draft pick could do at such a vital position, the White Sox decided to have a fire sale and sell off everything but the vending machines the following offseason.

Since then, Anderson has only improved and has worked on every part of his game. He has shown signs of serious home run power, explosive speed, and better plate discipline. His slugging percentage is up almost 15 points from last season, he’s stolen more bases this season than his previous two seasons combined, and both his K% and BB% have improved. The only question mark was his defense, which is a major concern for a shortstop. There idea of a move to centerfield was even floating about because of both the lack of outfield depth and a couple of prospects and free agents that happened to also play middle infield. Anderson definitely had all the tools to be a great shortstop, but recently, he’s starting utilize them to transfer his defense into one of the best in the American League.

Anderson has only committed five errors since the start of July, only one in August, and two in September so far. Prior to Sept. 7, his last error was committed on August 8 almost a full month before. Prior to July, he had committed 12 errors, including 10 in just March, April, and May. But errors aren’t everything when determining a player’s defensive production. It’s nice to see Anderson cut down on the mistakes, but in reality, he’s been putting on a show.

According to Fangraphs, he’s made 16 plays with an out-probability of 0%. That’s tied for the most in all of baseball. The only other shortstops in baseball with 16 of those plays are Francisco Lindor, Andrelton Simmons, and Freddy Galvis. The next highest out-probability range is 1%-10% and Anderson has made 23 of those plays. Only Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons have more of those plays in the American League.

Many of the amazing plays Anderson is making has to do with his great range as a shortstop. His RngR (range runs, a metric used to measure his range) is 7th among all MLB shortstops, behind Iglesias, Turner, DeJong, Semien, Simmons, and Lindor. His DRS (defensive runs saved) is good enough for 6th among American League shortstops, behind players like Iglesias, Lindor, and Simmons.


Anderson has gone from an infielder that was rumored to be a future center fielder, into a much more reliable defensive shortstop, with the potential of being one of the best in the American League.

This is only Anderson’s first year of improving his defensive play and this has only been happening over the last few months. The work he’s put in and the improvement he’s shown in a short amount of time already has him putting up defensive numbers comparable to Simmons, Lindor, Galvis and some of baseball’s truly elite defenders.

If Timmy can continue to improve his defense, as he has with other the parts of his game over the last three seasons, he will be a very dangerous player.

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His defense has shown a vast improvement this year, great! a future Mark Belanger. He has not really improved offensively, except hitting more home runs (2 more than last year). An increase in slugging of 15 points is not impressive when his OPS barely cracks 700. He can’t get on base hitting or walking, too bad he can’t steal first base. Until he learns to hit the ball and stop striking out 150 times a year, we will be looking for a new shortstop that has an on-base % that is respectable……or at least over 278! Yikes

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