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Putting Elvis Andrus's Rookie Season in Perspective

One of the things we've talked about is how Elvis Andrus was a particularly special player simply because of what he did this year...very few players spend a full season in the major leagues at age 20, as an every day player, and perform like he did.

In an effort to put this in perspective, I went to Baseball Reference and did a search of their database.  I asked B-R to list every season since 1901 where a player, age 20 or less, got at least 400 plate appearances in the majors, and was a second baseman or shortstop.

There were only 19 season, which was less than I expected.  And two of those seasons were by Robin Yount, so you have a total of 18 players who have done, in terms of playing time, what Elvis did in 2009.

Elvis had the 12th highest OPS+ out of those 19th seasons, just ahead of Gary Sheffield (and yes, for you young 'uns, Sheffield used to be a shortstop).  He also finished ahead of Robin Yount's age 20 season.

The guys ahead of him are, in order:

Alex Rodriguez

Arky Vaughan

Roberto Alomar

Edgar Renteria

Travis Jackson

Whitey Witt

Bill Mazeroski

Frankie Gustine

Robin Yount

Alan Trammell

Bobby Doerr

So that is four Hall of Famers, two guys who will be in the Hall once they are eligible (although Robbie is probably not a first ballot guy), a couple of guys who probably deserve to be in the Hall but aren't (Trammell and Doerr), and three guys who went on to be decent, but not great, players.

Think about that for a moment.  Think about how exceptional what Elvis Andrus did last year was, and the company it puts him in.

(Incidentally, Alex Rodriguez's age 20 season is probably the greatest age 20 season by any positional player, ever.  He had a 160 OPS+ and an OPS of over 1000.  No one else on the list had an OPS better than 787.  Arky Vaughan, one of the three or four best shortstops of all time, had a 113 OPS+, and no one else was better than 105).

Elvis also had the most steals of anyone on that least, had the 6th highest number of walks, and was tied for the 6th highest number of homers.  

Bump it up a year, and look at 21 year old shortstops, and there are only 22 who had a better OPS+ in 400+ PAs than Andrus had in 2009.

And again, you see a lot of HOFers or future HOFers (ARod, Vaughan, Rogers Hornsby, Young, Jackson, Cal Ripken, Joe Tinker, Rabbit Maranville), along with quite a few very, very good players (Trammell, Vern Stephens, Jim Fregosi, Dick Bartell) and guys who had long, solid careers (Frankie Crosetti, Alfredo Griffin, Zoilo Versalles, Donie Bush, Garry Templeton), with just a couple of clunkers (Mike Caruso, Joe Cassidy) mixed in.

Elvis had a special, special season in 2009.  I mean, we as Rangers fans, I think, getting to watch him every day, I think have a good sense for how good he is, particularly with the glove...but until I went and looked at the data, I didn't realize how exceptional it was for a middle infielder to be a major league regular this young, and hit as well as he did.