By MARK SIMON
Yes, Shohei Ohtani’s combination of hitting and pitching has been at a near-unprecedented level. And Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is chasing a Triple Crown.
But can I interest you in the season that Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is having?
Correa’s offensive numbers don’t differ too much from his established norms. He’s at .278/.364/.479 with a career-high tying 24 home runs and 34 doubles.
But his defensive numbers are worth pointing out too. He’s playing a premier position and pacing the field. He leads all shortstops with 20 Defensive Runs Saved.
The hitting-fielding combination is worth bringing up.
Per Baseball-Reference, Correa is the leader in Defensive WAR (he’s at 2.8 – the stat rewards players who play tougher defensive positions, like shortstop and center field) and has by far the most dWAR among players whose OPS+ is at least 120. He’s more than one win clear of the next-closest player, Marcus Semien (1.7). Those two players have arguably the most impressive offense-defense combination (we previously wrote about Semien here).
Correa is about to be worth 20 Fielding Runs and 20 Batting Runs per Baseball-Reference’s numbers. Only one other shortstop has done that since Defensive Runs Saved became a stat in 2003 – Trevor Story in 2019. No other player in MLB is even 15 and 15 this season.
With free agency looming, Correa has picked a good time to have the most valuable defensive season of his career. What makes him so good on defense is his combination of making great plays and avoiding mistakes.
Over the last three seasons, Correa ranks second among shortstops in Good Fielding Plays per 100 Innings and has the second-lowest rate of Defensive Misplays and Errors per 100 Innings.
When we say great, here are a few examples.
Here’s one of him playing the equivalent of second base in a defensive shift and robbing Matt Olson.
Here’s something similar from the shortstop position against David Fletcher.
Those plays going to his right are a key component of his excellence. Correa has the second-most plays saved among shortstops on balls hit to his right in 2021. He’s the only player in the top five of that stat who has a positive rating on balls hit to his left.
Going to your right means sometimes having to make long throws or throws from odd angles to complete plays. Correa has done that with aplomb. His 8 Runs Saved from his arm ranks second among shortstops to Nicky Lopez’s 11.
In short, Correa has a pretty good case for MVD (Most Valuable Defender) and he’s providing offensive numbers that are tough to match.