A steadily underrated performer…

Florida – 3 —- Cleveland – 2 FINAL (11 Innings)

I don’t remember what exactly I was doing at 21 years old, but it didn’t have anything to do with collecting game winning hits in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 of the World Series. Edgar Renteria knows something about that, though.

It’s the ultimate, "Welcome to the big time, kid" moment. Despite putting together a career that has him on track to crack the vaunted 3,000 hit plateau around age 38, Renteria has toiled in relative obscurity since lining that single up the middle on a late October night in 1997.

Jimmy Leyland, on a visit to Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex as first year Tigers manager last spring, cracked a big smile and stopped his season outlook talk with reporters in mid-sentence upon sighting the rookie shortstop of his 1997 Florida Marlins club.

“Excuse me guys, this kid got a big hit for me one time,” joked Leyland as he walked over to embrace Renteria, who had become a seasoned veteran of 11-years (at the time).

His teams know what he can do. Maybe some of that October magic rubbed off that day, as Leyland went on to pilot a Tigers team that was supposed be somewhere in the midst of a rebuilding process to their first World Series appearance since 1984.

Think about the names that have been trumpeted during Renteria’s career as the premier shortstops in the game. There was the trinity of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra. Then Miguel Tejada came along, winning an MVP award himself. Renteria, 31, broke in less than a year after Ozzie Smith played his last game, and was around for Cal Ripken’s final years, albeit at third base.

These days, Renteria has a hard time asserting himself as the premier shorstop in the National League East. Most experts have been singing the praises of the New York’s Jose Reyes, Florida’s Hanley Ramirez and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins. Conspicuous in his absence in the discussion is Renteria.

Perhaps there is still a lingering stigma from Renteria’s free agent contract with Boston two season’s ago. Unfortunately, he went to a city that is ready to crown new heroes as soon as they sign on the dotted line. They expect results, and why not? Committing 30 errors certainly didn’t champion the cause of "wait and see." Renteria is a two-time gold glove defender, so one could see that season as a complete anomoly in the scope of his 12-year career.

Atlanta has been pleased to add a quality bat that has been post-season tested to the top of the order when Rafael Furcal signed with the Dodgers. While his 40-steal days may be behind him, Renteria has been a key component of the Braves formula since his arrival. And it doesn’t take a 4-hit game in a 9-3 comeback win over the Central-leading Brewers to tell me that.

There’s no need to rattle of stats that will point to any of these four players as being "worse" than the next, because Renteria and Rollins, 28, are both different types of players than Reyes and/or Ramirez. If anything, I’d like to show that Renteria deserves his mention when you are talking about the NL East’s great shortstops. Really, the NL’s great shortstops.

Here is a closer look at the 2007 NL East shorstops (sans Felipe Lopez):

Player                 

AVG

R

H

HR

RBI

SB

OBP

SLG

Hanley Ramirez

.314

46

66

7

14

16

.386

.500

Edgar Renteria

.323

37

67

7

27

3

.386

.514

Jose Reyes

.310

42

67

2

25

29

.394

.468

Jimmy Rollins

.273

43

63

9

32

10

.321

.502

All statistics through games of May 31, 2007

There is no doubt about the excitement that Reyes and Ramirez, both 23-years old, bring to the top of the order for their respective clubs. Both are having great years again in 2007, as you can easily see. Obviously, the best is more than likely yet to come from these exciting young shortstops.

The trio of Ramirez, Reyes and Rollins (though Philadelphia has batted him 3rd as well) all do most of their work in the lead-off spot for their respective teams, while Renteria hits second ordinarily. Table-setter would be a good word to describe all four. Take this breakdown of productivity a step further:

Player

Hit Safely

Multi-hit games

Hanley Ramirez

40 of 51 games

19

Edgar Renteria

40 of 50 games

20

Jose Reyes

41 of 51 games

18

Jimmy Rollins

38 of 53 games

21

All statistics through games of May 31, 2007

All four have contributed much to their respective causes. Top of the order production is key for any lineup to pile up victories. Here’s a look at each team’s record when their shortstop scores a run, and when he deoes not score:

Player

W/ Run

W/O Run

Actual Record

Hanley Ramirez

17-13

9-15

26-28

Edgar Renteria

19-8

11-15

30-23

Jose Reyes

25-5

9-13

34-18

Jimmy Rollins

20-11

6-16

26-27

All statistics through games of May 31, 2007

Perhaps the most telling facet of Renteria’s career has been the way in which he has piled up hits in just 12 seasons. The Atlanta shortstop has 1,837 base knocks heading into today’s series opener in Chicago, and is on pace for 213 this season. Couple that with his season average of 161 hits per season, and Renteria looks to be on track for 3,000 hits somewhere around the 2013 season. That assumes that he stays healthy and productive… which is no sure thing, but nonetheless food for thought.

FYI: The youngest player to 3,000 was Ty Cobb. He collected his 3000th hit on August 19, 1921 at the tender age of 34.

That’s all for now, but the next time somebody talks about the best shortstop in the NL East – or the NL for that matter – don’t let them go without hearing the case for Edgar Renteria.

Till next time,

G-Mc

1 Comment

Nice job, Grant. Added this to my favorite links. Edgar is the man.

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