Where Does Austin Nola Rank Among Recent LSU Shortstops?

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The question of where Nola ranks as a LSU shortstop came to me as I watched him against Georgia. He finished the weekend only batting one for 10 on the weekend, but the one hit was huge. Nola launched a two run homer in the bottom of the eighth that catapulted LSU to victory.

That weekend sums up Nola’s career. He doesn’t put up amazing numbers, but just when you forget about him he comes through big. He’s the invisible man, but not in a Ralston Turner way. Nola one problem is the only area he is great in, no one cares about.

The issue is most LSU or baseball fans do not keep up with fielding stats and why should they? After keeping up with all the different offensive and pitching stats, there isn’t much room for more information. So give me a minute to explain basic fielding percentage stats to you.

Simple saying that Austin Nola has a .977 fielding percentage this year wouldn’t wow the average fan. Why? Because according to LSUsports.net Nola ranks 22nd on the team in fielding percentage, but fielding is like an onion; it has layers. Nola’s fielding percentage is a lot better than 22nd when you consider he has fielding 171 balls, and has only made four errors. He is the Kim Kardashian of short stops, OH! (Using my Dice-Clay voice).

The question has to be asked where does Nola rank compared to the last four strong LSU shortstops and infielders. I had to add infielders because all of these guys at one point of their LSU career played another position, only Nola played four years at SS (that should count for something).

Where exactly does Nola rank compared to DJ LaMahieu, Michael Hollander, Ryan Theriot and Aaron Hill? We took a look at all five players offense and fielding stats over their career and took into account players leaving early for the draft. I understand that the era of Theriot and Hill was a different brand of baseball than Nola and LeMahieu played in, but I think you might be surprised how little of effect that had on the overall numbers.

For reference it should be noted how many games each player started.

Austin Nola- 202 (and counting)

DJ Lemahieu- 139

Michael Hollander- 212

Aaron Hill- 156

Ryan Theriot- 201

Lets start off by looking at the career offensive stats for each player.

Batting Stats

  AB H BA R RBI 2B HR TB BB K RC ISOP
Nola 742 219 .295 149 146 40 14 313 99 116 118.35 .126
LaMahieu 532 184 .345 113 87 24 11 250 51 72 100.77 .124
Hollander 791 221 .279 146 119 41 17 311 90 141 109.78 .114
Hill 621 208 .338 141 150 55 23 392 82 59 161.70 .296
Theriot 783 256 .327 190 130 18 5 332 157 92 145.86 .092
Ranking 3 3 4 2 2 3 3 3 2 4 3 2

Notice the last line ranks Nola up against the other four. Nola struggled in his career with his batting average and strike out rate. Over his career, Nola has struck out once in every 6.40 at-bats compared to Aaron Hill’s one strike out to every 10.50 at-bats.

The rest of the stats are very favorable for Nola. He is third in runs created which is impressive considering his first two years as a started he batted eighth or ninth in the lineup, while the rest of the players were considerable higher. What else is impressive is his ISO-power compared to the others. Nola is third in homers and doubles, but second in ISO-power with weaker bats and better overall pitching that the others had.

I am not giving Nola a pass because of the weaker bats and better arms he faces every week, but there are enough stats above that after Aaron Hill, you could select Nola second. The only person who I could put in from on Nola after Hill is Ryan Theirot. He has the highest RC of all on the list and his walk to strike-out ratio would make him the perfect lead-off batter for the 2012 Tigers.

Next lets take a look at fielding.

Fielding Stats

  Field % Catches Put Outs Assist Errors DP RF
Nola .963 883 330 520 33 94 4.02
LaMahieu .950 590 202 356 31 59 4.01
Hollander .928 811 214 867 90 82 5.10
Hill .950 649 235 377 37 89 3.92
Theriot .932 984 291 569 69 126 4.27
Ranking 1 2 1 3 2 2 3

Before we dive into the stats you need to know that DJ LeMahieu was replaced by Nola at shortstop and finished the 2009 season at second-base. Michael Hollander started his career at short, but was moved to third due to LeMahieu. So by process of elimination this alone proves that Nola was better than these two. Aaron Hill started his career at second base before moving over to short, leaving only Ryan Theriot and Nola as the only Tigers in this discussion to play short during their tenure.

Nola out right dominates this category and he can only improve his numbers as the season goes on. Nola has the strongest fielding percentage and will pass LeMahieu with the best range factor before the season is over.

Putting some context on this, Austin Nola has 33-career errors, Ryan Theriot (who is in the majors) had 32 his senior year alone. Thirteen is the most errors Nola had in one season (2010) and is five fewer than the next player (Hill-22, Theriot-32, Hollander-18, and LeMahieu-22).

Lets try to tie a bow on this puppy. Before I began researching for this article I assumed that he would rank behind Hill, Theriot and LeMahieu. Those three are either in the majors or are about to get called up. It would be difficult to put Nola above those guys right?

Before you make that call, I want you to look at one final stat. I don’t know what to call it because I just created it. Lets call it the participation stat (trademark pending).  What I did is add up the total amount of positive stats (hits, runs, RBIs, 2B, HR, TB, BB, catches, PO, A and DP) and subtracted them from the number of negative plays (K, ER), then divided that number by the number of games starters. This is a stat that needs much tweaking, but go with me. Here are the results.

  Participation #
Nola 12.44
LeMahieu 13.12
Hollander 12.67
Hill 14.56
Theriot 14.41

The point of this stat is to show just how active each of the above player was per game. It doesn’t guarantee the higher the number, the better the player. But it gives us an idea of how involved they were and true to form it shows that Nola was/is the invisible man.

I say that because I can make the case Nola is the best all-around shortstop on this list. Though the trails Hill on the offensive side, on defense he is the equivalent on 2000 Tiger Woods compared to the rest.

The question I ask myself is who would I take if I was drafting a team. Immediately scratch out Hollander (no offense). Hill and LeMahieu would require me drafting them higher than they should be because of their offense, so let eliminate those. With only Theriot and Nola left, who brings more to the table? Theriot is the perfect lead-off batter. He hits for average and has above average speed, but Nola is a little more well rounded.

If I picked Nola I could bat him second thru eight in the lineup. I know I would have the best fielding shortstop in the league, and he has enough pop in his bat to avoid the “defensive-specialist” tag. But that is just my opinion…

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Tags: Aaron Hill Austin Nola Dj Lemahieu Fielding Stats LSU Baseball Michael Hollander Ryan Theriot

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