Year Inducted: 1999 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 385/497)
Very few, if any, player plays solely one position for his entire career. Most players start at a difficult position like shortstop or center field and switch to an easier position as age or injuries set in. It is incredibly rare that players move to a difficult position as they age, and usually it is due to team need rather than any other reason. There are two prominent examples of this in the Hall of Fame. One was, of course, Craig Biggio, who played multiple positions due to team need. The other was the only player to win an MVP at two different positions, Milwaukee’s own Robin Yount.
Yount was one of the best players of the 1980’s. Playing his entire 20-year career in Milwaukee, Yount slashed .285/.342/.430 with a wRC+ of 113. Yount collected 3142 hits in his illustrious career, along with 251 homers, 583 doubles and 126 triples and quickly became the best player the Brewers ever had. Yount shared a lineup with Paul Molitor for a long time, and the two of them helped guide Milwaukee to its one World Series appearance in 1982, a season that saw Yount truly step forward and become a great player with a line of .331/.379/.578 with great defense at shortstop and was a near-unanimous MVP. That season also saw Yount step forward as a run producer with the first of his three 100 RBI campaigns, ending his career with 1406 RBI and scoring 1632. Yount was also a solid baserunner in his career, swiping 271 bases and being worth +11 runs on the bases.
Yount came up as a strong hitting shortstop, a position that he manned from 1974-1984. Then, a shoulder injury forced him to the outfield, where he played primarily center field until the end of his career. As a shortstop, Yount was worth +104 runs defensively, an impressive amount considering he played at a time of Ozzie Smith, Davey Concepcion, Cal Ripken and Alan Trammell, some of the best shortstops defensively of all-time. However, when he switched to the outfield he had to learn it at the Major League level, which rarely bodes well for his defensive abilities. But, considering that his total defensive runs were +27, he was not too bad out there.
Yount’s fWAR is really hurt by his outfield defense at the end of his career. Still, among all players whose primary position was shortstop, Yount ranked 8th all-time in fWAR at the end of his career, which is extraordinary considering the circumstances. During the years he was solely a shortstop, Yount ranked tops in fWAR, further evidence that at a time he was the top player at his position. Yount also falls at an interesting point in baseball history. His career started slightly before Ripken’s, and ended slightly before the big shortstop boon of the mid 1990’s with the advent of Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez and others, so historically he can sometimes be pushed to the side. Yount’s position change may poorly effect some of his numbers, but Yount’s placement both in the Hall of Fame and in this ranking are very secure.
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