Welcome to the wacky world of Tampa Bay second basemen. Yes, these are the Rays and thanks to the magic that was Joe Maddon and the cunning that is Kevin Cash, the middle infield assignments at Tropicana Field have been nothing short of lively. With my Rays-loving heart leading the way, here are this fan’s picks from worst to first of the High-Five of Tampa Bay second basemen.
From July 2006 to January 2015, Ben Zobrist did it all for the Rays. Seriously, he played almost everywhere. But where he played most was second base. And he played it very, very well. In fact, Zorilla, you are No. 1 on this High-Five of Second Basemen.
No. 1: Ben Zobrist
The Tampa Bay Numbers
Home runs: 114
Batting average: .264
Games played at 2B: 547
Fielding percentage: .986
Let’s just put this man in perspective. Ben Zobrist played 174 games more at second base than any other man in Rays’ or Devil Rays’ history (Miguel Cairo comes in second).
The one-time boy from Eureka, Illinois handled 269 more chances at second, recorded 90 more putouts, assisted in 184 more plays at the position than anyone else ever has wearing a Tampa Bay uniform. All that while, Zobrist only made only 29 errors for a .986 fielding percentage overall.
No. 1 spot on the High-Five nailed right there.
But there’s more.
Zobrist could hit. In his 3,850 at-bats for Tampa Bay, he collected 1,016 hits, 511 RBIs, 114 HRs, 542 BBs for a .264 BA and an OPS of .783. His total WAR for his time calling the Trop home? Only 36.0.
Now, let’s pull back and look at how Zobrist’s numbers ranked in the American League through his Tampa Bay years. Sit back, this is going to take a spell.
A two-time All-Star for the Rays (’09, ’13), Zobrist was first in the AL in WAR for position players in ’09 with an 8.6. In total, three times he finished in the top ten in the AL WAR category (’09, ’11, and ’12). Twice he ranked in the AL’s top ten in on-base percentage (’09, ’12), doubles (’11, ’12), triples (’09, ’12), extra-base hits (’11, ’12), and fielding percentage as a second baseman (’11 and ’13, when his .993 was first). To top all that off, Zobrist finished 8th in the AL MVP voting in 2009, 16th in 2011 and 18th in 2012.
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In many wonderful ways, Zorilla was the Tampa Bay Rays for many years. From 2006 through 2014, the man was everywhere and did everything at the Trop. Most importantly, Zobrist did it all with grace on the field and a fierce faith in his heart. For all these reasons, Ben Zobrist is, without doubt, No. 1 on the High-Five of Tampa Bay Rays Second Basemen.