Royals Time Machine: All-Time Defensive Team
SHORTSTOP: FRED PATEK
Here we have our first tough decision. The KC Royals have had a number of good defensive shortstops in their history, including Tony Pena, Jr., Buddy Biancalana, Greg Gagne, U.L. Washington, Jay Bell, David Howard, and Rey Sanchez. The only shortstop to ever win a Gold Glove in a Kansas City Royals uniform is the current occupant Alcides Escobar.
Instead, I decided to choose 70’s player Fred Patek to my all-time defensive team.
Again, this wasn’t an easy decision, made more difficult by the lack of advanced metrics back in Patek’s day. Yes, I could make the easy choice and go with the hardware. Yet, it’s the advanced metrics that give me pause.
The eye test will tell you that Alcides Escobar is a terrific defensive shortstop, and I certainly wouldn’t feel bad about picking him for my all-time KC Royals defensive team. But, Tony Pena Jr. compiled a 14.8 Ultimate Zone Rating (a counting stat) in only 2,081.2 innings compared to a 14.6 UZR for Escobar in 7,113.2 innings.
If we attempt to use a modern metric that can be applied to old-time players, Patek leads all Kansas City Royals shortstops with a 90.7 DEF (fangraphs) rating. But, DEF is a counting stat. Still, Patek has a 90.7 DEF in 1245 games, while Escobar has a mere 51.2 DEF in 806 games.
If you want to use dWAR (baseball-reference), Patek is also the career leader for KC Royals shortstops at 13.3 career dWAR. He has the best single season dWAR for any shortstop in club history with 3.2 dWAR in 1972. Yet, if you’re going to use dWAR, then you have to consider Rey Sanchez who compiled the best three-year run of any Kansas City Royals shortstop with 7.9 dWAR between 1999-01.
In the end, I noted that Fred Patek was named to three AL all-star teams (more than any other KC Royals shortstop). With a career .633 OPS and a high-water mark of .688, Patek wasn’t getting those nods for his bat.
That’s why Freddie Patek is my all-time Kansas City Royals defensive team shortstop.
Next: Third Base