So why is it that the fellow posters on the CBB have had full inboxes since the NCBWA All America team was released? It all comes down to snubs… one in particular, but four have gotten me jazzed up.
It’s no secret to my fellow publishers at the CBB that this Commodore has a favorite player who goes by the name of Flash. Ryan Flaherty is the consummate John Olerud clone at the plate, lacing singles and doubles all over the field. He is the undisputed top bat at Short Stop (according to CBB partner StatStud.com) when looking at statistical measures and is riding an SEC record 35 game hitting streak into 2008.
What sets Flash apart is that he does so while being one of the most consistent gloves in the field. At a baseball level where a .950 Fielding Percentage at Short is considered outstanding, Flash has posted .969 Fielding Percentages in both his Freshman and Sophomore campaigns.
In fact, Flash was the top player left out of the CBB’s Top Players list. I wrote Flaherty’s description and publish it here for the first time:
Ryan Flaherty, Vanderbilt. Arguably the top returning Short Stop in America, this third team All-America (Rivals.com) Commodore is literally rolling into 2008, carrying a 35-game hitting streak and a successful run as Team USA’s second baseman. Flaherty flies a little under the radar due to a lack of homerun power (only 6 in his first two years); however, what “Flash” lacks in power he makes up for in consistency. In 2006, Flaherty led the Commodores as a true freshman with a .339 batting average, to complement 19 doubles and 49 RBI. This past year, Flaherty overcame a five week mega-slump to bat .381, with career highs in runs (59), hits (104), doubles (23), RBI (57) and stolen bases (12). Most impressive is Flaherty’s defensive prowess. He may not have quite as much range as a Beamer Weems of Baylor, but Flash has put up consecutive .969 fielding percentages in his first two years.
I’m not the only one who thinks highly of Flaherty. Last month, Kendall Rogers of Rivals.com named him the top returning shortstop in his Power Rankings, which can be read here. Earlier today, Doug Kroll of CSTV released his Shortstop rankings and came to the same conclusion, ranking Flash first ahead of 2. Danny Espinosa (LBSU), 3. Beamer Weems (Baylor), 4. Gordon Beckham (UGA) and 5. Cole Figueroa (Florida).
So what’s the beef? Well, the NCBWA released its All America team with Villanova’s Derek Shunk on the first team, Espinosa on the second and Brandon Crawford (UCLA) on the third. Rather than rehashing all the stats, let’s just look at the markable reasons why Ryan Flaherty, Beamer Weems and Gordon Beckham were victims of the snub at Short by looking at the two most two most important statistical measures for a shortstop: OPS and Fielding Percentage. Yes, there are variations such as ballpark factor, strength of schedule and range factor that come into play, but the statistical anomalies are just amazing here.
- Player OPS FLD
- Shunk .915 .909
- Espinosa .936 .947
- Crawford .909 .947
- Flaherty .969 .969
- Beckham .969 .943
- Weems .980 .956
The statistics are not misleading here. Flaherty and Weems stand out for their defensive consistency and join Beckham in putting out offensive firepower. Ultimately, there is no conceivable excuse for not placing Flaherty and Weems on the All America team, and a very solid argument exists for Beckham, the most powerful hitter of the bunch.
According to StatStud.com, Flaherty was the 57th best position player (914.5 rating) in 2007. Beckham ranked next at 132nd (813.5). Weems was 146th (806). Crawford was 157th (794). Espinosa registered at 400th (646). Shunk came in at 478th (613). In other words, this race shouldn’t have been all that tough. But the snub of Flaherty is not unique.
Texas’ Jordan Danks did not simply join Flaherty on Team USA this summer, he also presented one of the most exciting players in all of College Baseball. As a Sophomore, Danks hit .332 with a whopping 63 runs and a perfect 19 of 19 in steal attempts. Danks lacks power, but is incredibly patient at the plate, compiling 47 walks and a final StatStud power ranking of 195th at 758.5. With a total of 11 Outfielders appearing on the three All-America teams, one has a hard time understanding how Danks gets beat out. But Danks isn’t even the biggest snub in the Outfield.
Sam Houston State’s Bobby Verbick was honored on the NCBWA’s All America team for 2007 after a monster season that saw him hit .370 with 14 HR and an eye-popping 81 RBI. StatStud had him as the 16th best positional player (1096 points) last year. This year, apparently he doesn’t register.
Positioning on the Third Team was also an absolute mystery for two of the top players in the country. Texas A&M’s Blake Stouffer is a front runner (with ASU’s Brett Wallace, Vandy’s Pedro Alvarez and UVA’s Jacob Thompson) for Player of the Year. StatStud rated Stouffer 7th among positional players in 2007 (1152 points) and you’d be hard pressed to argue that any Second Sacker is better. Yet he appears on the NCBWA’s Third Team behind Mississippi State’s Brandon Turner and New Orleans’ Johnny Giavotella. Both are capable players, but not in the league of Stouffer.
Meanwhile, behind the plate, Florida State’s Buster Posey was also relegated to the Third Team behind ASU’s Petey Paramore and UNC’s Tim Federowicz. The three are close, but Posey has a strong case for the top spot. StatStud rates Posey 93rd (853.5), Federowicz 130th and Paramore 147th (804.5). Kroll and Rogers rated the three Posey, Paramore then Federowicz, with Rivals dropping Federowicz to the sixth spot behind Doug Hogan (Clemson), Preston Clark (Texas) and Phil Disher (So.Car).
So what does all this mean? It means this article could probably run several hundred words more with other snubs. Pre-Season lists are constantly flawed. Just see the Brooks Wallace Watch List, which has had to consistently be updated because superstars such as Clark and Rice Owls Aaron Luna and Cole St. Clair were all omitted initially.
These lists are subjectively based; however, given the lack of general media coverage of College Baseball, uneducated or halfhazard compilations are damaging to accurate coverage of the game. When looking to assess the best players in the land, the average fan (rather than a scout who can see 80 games in a year) looks to these lists. The CBB cannot guarantee that we’ll get everyone right in our February Pre-Season All-America Team, but we can guarantee that guys like Blake Stouffer and Ryan Flaherty will be leading the charge on the first team and guys like Jordan Danks, Beamer Weems and Bobby Verbick won’t be forgotten either. There’s a little alchemy that goes on in creating this list… but we’ll try to stick with more science and less PR magic in getting it right for our readers and the fine young men we cover.
Photo courtesy of Mike Rapp of Vandy Sports