#Hot Corner

Ryan Flaherty: The new Mark Belanger?

Bob Levey

In the second inning today, Orioles second baseman Ryan Flaherty made a nice play on a pop fly down the right-field line. Which led to this exchange between broadcasters Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer.

Thorne: And Flaherty's really settled in now. The Orioles tried to find someone with, maybe giving up a little defense in return for a bat at second base. It didn't work. So Flaherty's there, and playing on a regular basis now...

Palmer: He's become the Mark Belanger of the Orioles. You know, Mark Belanger won eight Gold Gloves. And when he got a hit, everybody cheered, everybody was happy. But his job was to pick it at shortstop, and that's what Ryan has done at second base.

I do appreciate, as always, the historical reference. And Palmer, of course, was literally there for Belanger's entire career. But this doesn't quite do justice to Belanger's talents.

For one thing, Belanger ranks as one of the great defensive shortstops of all time, while there's very little evidence that Flaherty's much better than average at second base. Really, he's just a utility infielder who won't really hurt you anywhere except maybe at shortstop.

For another, Flaherty's been a much worse hitter than Belanger. Flaherty entered today's game with a 54 OPS+ over 304 major-league plate appearances. Belanger was essentially the Orioles' regular shortstop for 11 seasons (1968-1978) and posted an OPS+ lower than 54 just once; his overall mark during that span was 72.

Which obviously wasn't good, at all. Belanger, despite enjoying a few decent seasons as a hitter, was pretty terrible. But he wasn't so terrible that he couldn't hold down a regular job for many years, because his glove was just that brilliant. Flaherty, though, is a place-holder at second base until Brian Roberts gets back. If that doesn't happen, Flaherty's going to eventually lose his regular job. Unless he somehow starts hitting some.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.