Welcome back, everyone, to the latest installment of my exhaustive Top 100 countdown of second basemen. On with the show at #70.
70. Mark Ellis, A's 2002-08
Career WARP3 39.5, Career EqA .272, 1 season 9+ WARP3, 1 season 8+
Ellis is an underrated second baseman primarily because the things he is best at -- good defense and decent middle-infield power -- tend not to show up in statistics or make people good fantasy players. Ellis has, however, been an All-Star quality player in the years his hitting has been good, and still above average when he hasn't hit well due to his defense. Where he ends up career-wise will essentially be a battle between whether he hits like 2005 (.316/.384/.477), 2007 (.276/.336/.441), or 2008 (.229/.327/.377). Ellis apparently hits like a decent-hitting catcher; his top 10 comparables through age 30 include Don Slaught, Terry Steinbach, Hal Smith, Sandy Alomar Jr., Dan Wilson, Darren Fletcher, and Bengie Molina.
69. Tony Taylor, Cubs 1958-61, Phillies 1961-71, Tigers 1971-73, Phillies 1974-76
Career WARP3 59.2, Career EqA .254, 1 season 8+ WARP 3, 1 season 7+, 1-time All-Star
Antonio Nemesio Sanchez Taylor played from 22 to 40, settling into a utility role at the end of his career. A good young player with the Cubs, his real salad days were with the Phillies, where he turned in a few really good seasons along with a huge number of average ones. His best years were good, but there weren't as many years where he was above average to rank him higher than this, even though he may have been worth more for his career than many players higher on the list. Taylor was a very inconsistent hitter with very little power; he hit a home run less than every 100 at-bats and only 298 doubles in 7680 at-bats. Taylor was pretty fast, which was his primary offensive asset alongside average-at-best singles hitting and patience. In his standout years, 1959, 1960, and 1963, Taylor's batting average was up and his defense was above average. Much of the rest of the time, he was unspectacular.
68. Luis Castillo, Marlins 1996-05, Twins 2006-07, Mets 2007-08
Career WARP3 53.9, Career EqA .266, 6 total seasons 5+ WARP3, 3-time All-Star
A 3-time Gold Glover between 2003 and 2005, those were his best defensive seasons at just above average. For his career, Castillo was a barely below average defensive second baseman. He probably did not deserve his defensive reputation, but he has at least been an acceptable defender during most of his years in the league. Castillo's best attributes are easily his "leadoff attributes": average, patience, and speed. He's in sixth place among active players in steals, 18th in triples, and 16th in singles, all at age 32. Castillo puts balls into play, striking out very little; but has almost no power, hitting about 15 doubles and 2-3 home runs per season. Castillo's a pretty good hitter anywhere outside the middle of the order; the fact that he's got almost no platoon split in his non-power switch-hitting numbers is just a bonus. With Edgar Renteria, Castillo formed the youngest middle infield in National League history--they were both 21 in 1997, though Castillo was hurt in 1997 and missed the postseason and the World Series title. He got his real chance in 2003.
67. Pete Runnels, Senators 1951-57, Red Sox 1958-62, Colt .45s 1963-64
Career WARP3 54.6, Career EqA .268, 2 seasons 7+ WARP3, 3-time All-Star, 6-time MVP vote recipient
Runnels won AL batting titles in 1960 and 1962, narrowly losing out to teammate Ted Williams in the 1958 race. A doubles hitter, Runnels was not a good runner or much of a home run threat, but had excellent on-base ability including a career average of .291 and an OBP of .375. Mostly a shortstop and first baseman with the Senators, he neither hit nor fielded at those positions as well as he did in his Boston years at second base, which is both strange and a clear indication that he was being played well out of position at first for essentially no reason. A below-average defender, Runnels gets on the list because he was a very fine hitter at his best, twice finishing in the league top 10 in OPS+, a rarity for a second baseman.
66. Damion Easley, Angels 1992-96, Tigers 1996-02, Rays 2003, Marlins 2004-05, Diamondbacks 2006, Mets 2007-08
Career WARP3 50.5, Career EqA .260, 2 seasons 8+ WARP3, 1-time All-Star, 1-time Silver Slugger
Easley's two best years, the years he was worth 8 wins and may have been the best second baseman in the AL in 1997-98(Roberto Alomar was having down years), were Detroit's doldrum, early-Comerica years with long fences and even longer odds against much winning. Easley hit 22 and 27 homers despite the long fences. Essentially an average fielder at second, third, and short, Easley has also been an overall average hitter when those two seasons are taken out of the equation. He was good for a little everything: some walks, some steals, some doubles, some homers, and some strikeouts; no surprise there--these were the 1998 Tigers. Easley is proof that hang-around value as a solid infielder with some pop is actually worth something; it won't get you higher up this list unless you have a good peak, but Easley did.
65. Delino DeShields, Expos 1990-93, Dodgers 1994-96, Cardinals 1997-98, Orioles 1999-01, Cubs 2001-02
Career WARP3 57.0, Career EqA .272, 4 total seasons 6+ WARP3
A speed demon with a take-pitches approach and bad-to-ok defense, DeShields was a free agency migrant and leadoff-man-for-hire during 1990s. He sure was fast; his 463 steals are good for 45th all time and his career was practically over by age 31. DeShields' double-play partners read like a who-isn't-who of 1990s shortstops: Spike Owen, Jose Offerman, a cooked old Greg Gagne, Royce Clayton, and Mike Bordick. Bordick and Offerman are both in DeShields' top 10 comparables, though it's not really clear why.
64. Juan Samuel, Phillies 1983-89, Mets 1989, Dodgers 1990-92, Royals 1992, Reds 1993, Tigers 1994-95, Royals 1995, Blue Jays 1996-98
Career WARP3 50.8, Career EqA .270, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 5 total seasons 5+ WARP3, 3-time All-Star, Silver Slugger
A free-swinger's free swinger, Juan Samuel was never outside the top 5 in the league in strikeouts from 1984-1991, leading the league in 1984-1987. A pretty good slugger who hit huge numbers of doubles and quite a few homers, Samuel was probably best during his early career when he was a tremendous baserunner. This was the mid-1980s NL: Tim Raines, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, and Juan Samuel all tore up the basepaths. Samuel was a rotisserie-league stud, filling columns with runs, RBI, steals, homers while hitting around .260. Unfortunately, he's a bit of a stathead's nightmare: he had no patience, walked very little, and just hacked away at everything for his whole career. Some guys like that get more patient and have a late-career resurgence. Samuel just pretty much sucked after '91, but hung around the big leagues unlike some cooked old players. Samuel's strikeout feats are impressive: he's 52nd all time despite only ~6521 plate appearances.
63. Harold Reynolds, Mariners 1983-92, Orioles 1993, Angels 1994
Career WARP3 43.7, Career EqA .254, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 2 seasons 7+ WARP3, 2-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove
The final Baseball Tonight analyst on our list, Harold Reynolds was at least a very good defensive second baseman from 1988-1990, when he won his three Gold Gloves. During his prime he was also an above-average offensive player, though most of his value was from his speed. Not a particularly good hitter for average (.258 career), Harold was a pretty good doubles hitter and would have put up generally superior offensive numbers away from the Kingdome. As it is, Harold's done pretty well for himself, combining defense and offense during his best years to become a strong player for five straight seasons.
62. Mark McLemore, Angels 1986-1990, Indians 1990, Astros 1991, Orioles 1992-94, Rangers 1995-99, Mariners 2000-2003, A's 2004
Career WARP3 61.3, Career EqA .256, 3 seasons 7+ WARP3
McLemore is best known to current fans for his "supersub" role with the Mariners, where he somewhat surprisingly played his best baseball as a 36-year-old utility man. McLemore was an everyday second baseman for most of his late-blooming career, and was excellent defensively despite an uninspiring physical stature and playing most of his games after age 30. A singles hitter with on-base capacity and a good set of wheels, McLemore had career highs in slugging and stolen bases (stealing 39 and only being caught 7 times) at age 36 with the Mariners, bucking every reasonable statistical trend and proving himself to be a much better second-sacker than almost anyone remembers him being.
61. Tom Herr, Cardinals 1979-88, Twins 1988, Phillies 1989-90, Mets 1990-91, Giants 1991
Career WARP3 54.0, Career EqA .268, 1 season 8+ WARP3, 8 total seasons 4+ WARP3, 1-time All-Star
As the double play partner of Ozzie Smith on a team that won a World Series and appeared in two others, Tom Herr is probably more famous than his production would merit by itself. Still, Herr had some very good qualities and good years despite being a slightly-below-average defender and a poke-hitter (.350 career SLG). Herr's best qualities were judicious baserunning (188 steals to 64 caughts), occasional doubles-mashing, and during his best years, walk-drawing. His 1985 season, which got him to 5th in the MVP voting, was a pretty good hitting year (.302/.379/.416) that got him a ton of "80s stats" (RBI and runs) and probably makes up the bulk of his career reputation.