ST LOUIS, MO: Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers celebrates in the dugout after scoring to take a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning during Game Two of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus isn't much of a hitter. But he's still a tremendous player overall, and in Thursday night's Game 2 of the World Series, everybody got to see why.
The original headline wasShows Off Impressive Package In World Series Game 2, but there was something about that one that didn't seem to convey the desired meaning.
Here's the thing about Elvis Andrus: he isn't a very good hitter. He's still young, yes, and he could blossom into something more, but right now he isn't very good. This season, he posted an 87 OPS+. For his career, he has an 80 OPS+. Since breaking into the league in 2009, he's been about as good a hitter as Gordon Beckham and Mark Ellis, and he's hit as many home runs as Willie Bloomquist.
Here's the other thing about Elvis Andrus: overall, he's a really good player. He's still very young and he could blossom into something more, but right now he's already terrific. His array of skills is a strong one.
How can a guy who isn't a very good hitter end up as a very good overall player? How convenient that you ask, because Andrus answered that question with his performance Thursday night. Let's get to the details!
He's still okay at the plate
As we've established, Andrus isn't exactly prime Alex Rodriguez with the bat, but he's not a black hole. He has a career .340 OBP, for God's sake. Additionally, he doesn't chase many balls out of the zone, he makes a lot of contact, and he's able to hit to all fields. Consider his ninth-inning at-bat against Jason Motte. Andrus showed bunt for the first three pitches, before Ian Kinsler stole second base on his own. Then Andrus fought off a fastball before taking another fastball inside for ball two. He fought off another fastball, this one over the inner black, and then Motte left something offspeed over the plate. Andrus lined it to right-center for a critical single.
Those are the sorts of at-bats that Andrus can have. He's not much of a threat to hit the ball out of the yard, but he can make the pitcher work, and he can hit the ball on a line. He hits enough.
He's a wizard in the field
Not only is Andrus a shortstop, which is super important - he's a really good one. If you care about UZR, he's listed as one of baseball's best since 2009. If you don't care about UZR, you can trust your eyes, which will tell you the same thing. Andrus isn't immune to his errors, but he makes up for them and then some with range and flash. Thursday night, he made an absolutely sensational play on a shot up the middle that directly prevented the Cardinals from scoring a run:
He was also part of another sexy double play, earlier:
Defensively, Elvis Andrus does things that a lot of other shortstops can't do. He plays the hardest position, and he plays it exceedingly well.
He's a superb baserunner
The obvious thing about Andrus's baserunning is that he has 102 steals (and been caught stealing just 33 times) over his three-year career. That's good, but he really shines in other situations. There are lots of other ways for baserunners to advance, and Andrus is often able to recognize them and take advantage. FanGraphs tracks a baserunning statistic that measures effectiveness while ignoring steal attempts. Since 2009, Andrus shows up as the best non-stealing baserunner in baseball, just ahead of speedsters Michael Bourn and Juan Pierre.
Andrus's baserunning prowess was on display in Thursday's ninth inning. Andrus reached first on a single, but then sprinted to second when Albert Pujols made a lazy attempt to catch Jon Jay's throw back to the infield, allowing the ball to get away. Then, in the next at-bat, Josh Hamilton lifted a sac fly to right, and Andrus tagged up from second and slid into third ahead of the throw. That put Andrus 90 feet away from scoring the go-ahead run with one out, and Michael Young would drive him home with another fly.
Describing Elvis Andrus as "quietly awesome" is weird in a way, since he does so many of the things that announcers love. He hits the ball the other way, he can bunt, he plays good defense, and he runs the bases well. But I don't care what announcers think; I care what other people think, and I think the vast majority of people underestimate just how much Andrus brings to the table. He put it all on display Thursday night, and in the end, Andrus might have been the biggest reason why the escaped St. Louis with a win.