Mark Ellis possibly had a career season in 2005. He led the A's in batting average and OPS. For a second baseman, that's a remarkable feat. He was rewarded with a two-year contract with an option year. This after Billy Beane basically said that he wasn't looking to sign any of his arbitration-eligible players to a multi-year deals in the interview with Athletics Nation.
You could make the argument that Ellis was the best at his position in 2005 when you combine offensive and defensive contributions. Who are the contenders?
Jeff Kent, Alfonso Soriano, Chase Utley, Marcus Giles and Brian Roberts all had outstanding years and merit consideration.
Ellis finished fourth among all second basemen in the majors in OPS. The only three better than him were Utley, Roberts and Kent. Ellis was sixth in terms of VORP, which measures a player's value offensively. Roberts, Kent, Soriano, Utley and Giles were all higher than Ellis. Ellis, for the record, was the highest rated A's position player in the value over replacement player system. Ellis had the second highest batting average for second baseman and hit only two fewer home runs and 11 fewer RBIs than Marcus Giles, despite 143 fewer at-bats. Brian Roberts had 127 more at-bats and only hit five fewer home runs, despite his torrid start to the year. Soriano carries the baggage of that .309 OBP to go along with his 36 home runs. No one can say Kent didn't have a great offensive year, but that brings me to my next discussion. Defense. Keep in mind that Ellis ranks near the top in terms of 2005 value rankings for all of the systems looking at second baseman's offensive production.
But the difference comes when you look at the defensive rankings. You can almost immediately rule out Soriano and Kent in this discussion because they are not above average defensively according to Dave Pinto's defensive rankings. Ellis was in the top six in fielding percentage at his position, with Placido Polanco, Orlandon Hudson, Adam Kennedy, Mark Grudzielanek and Craig Counsell ranking higher. Ellis was the highest ranked second baseman in terms of zone rankings, according to ESPN.com.
So, ultimately, if you look at the combined 2005 offensive and defensive contributions from second basemen, the only player who is competition for Mark Ellis was Chase Utley, who was the best all-around second baseman in 2005. Utley was remarkable offensively, even though his stats were helped by a nice hitter's park in Philly. But he was also great defensively as well. Utley was second in zone rating, and near the very top of Pinto's rankings. Second base isn't traditionally a position where you get a huge offensive contribution, but Ellis was the A's best offensive player in 2005 and he was quite possibly the best defensive second baseman as well.
Will Ellis repeat that perfomance in 2006? The 28-year-old is in his prime years, and he should have more at-bats to prove himself if Macha is true to his word and bats Ellis at leadoff. It's remarkable that Ellis had the season that he did given the shoulder injury he had the season before. If you take that into account and the fact that Ellis should have many more at-bats, I think you'll see something similar from him in 2006, even if the stat line drops a little.
Still for Ellis to do what he did in 2005 is a testament to the guy's determination and drive to be the best ballplayer he can be. Hopefully Bobby Crosby can remain healthy and collision-free in 2006 and we see what this double-play combo can really do in a full year. I have a feeling it could be magical.