Tuesday morning, Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette and five of his teammates were identified as finalists for the 2022 American League Silver Slugger award at each of their positions. It is quite deserving for the 24-year-old, who, for the second straight season led the American League in hits and finished with a career-high 43 doubles this year.
I often feel that Bichette goes underappreciated in the Blue Jays fan world as he is often criticized for his defensive lapses, however, you can not take away his skills at the plate. The question for me is: What category of elite hitting short stops does he put himself in?
As stated, Bichette is still just 24 years old but has already played 393 Major League games after being selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. That amount of games puts him ahead of other greats like Barry Larkin (317), Corey Seager (355) and Nomar Garciaparra (320) at that age; and just behind Troy Tulowitzki (432).
One of the statistics that often is brought up for players getting into the Hall of Fame is having a career batting average of .300. At the conclusion of the 2022 season, Bichette has posted a .297 average through the start of his career, despite finding himself batting just .256 at the start of August this past season. That .297 batting average puts him ahead of Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr (.290), Robin Yount (.274), Alan Trammell (.272) and Larkin (.274).
Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette has had a strong start to his career as an elite hitting shortstop, better than many Hall of Famers, the question is can he keep it going?
A few days ago, BaseballHistoryNut tweeted out asking what is the most important baseball stat and my response was On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS).
So far through his career, Bichette has posted an impressive .831 OPS, tied with Tulowitzki through the same age, ahead of Derek Jeter (.809) and just behind Ripken Jr (.838). When it comes to pure power, I don’t think any shortstop will ever be able to compete with what Alex Rodriguez was doing in his early 20s as he had compiled 189 home runs and 194 doubles through his 24 aged season, while Bichette is sitting at just 69 home runs and 100 doubles.
However, Bichette was limited by having to play through the shortened 2020 season, but when you look at home runs per games played, Bichette sits right in line with the likes Francisco Lindor, Hanley Ramirez and Cal Ripken Jr were doing as they were all averaging around 0.17 home runs per game.
There are a lot of different metrics you can talk about on defense, which include range factor, zone fielding, Outs Above Average, and defensive runs saved; but the easiest and simplest to follow in my opinion is errors.
In the last two seasons, Bichette has posted 47 errors and a fielding percentage of .959. One name that keeps coming up on the list is Cal Ripken Jr, who in his 23 and 24-aged seasons made 52 errors and had a .969 fielding percentage combined. Ripken had an illustrious 21-year career that included two MVP titles, a pair of gold gloves, eight Silver Sluggers and 19 All-Star appearances; Bichette has been named as a finalist for what would be his first Silver Slugger Award and has made just one All-Star Game appearance. Comparing Bichette to Ripken Jr is not fair to either player, but putting Bichette in the same breath through their 24-year-old seasons is not a far stretch.
Bichette is still just 24 years and while you can’t quite yet compare him to those Hall of Fame players, if you put his numbers against their numbers for the first part of the career, there is some excitement about what the Florida native can do in the years to come.