#### Ramp

##### Muckdog

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You arrive at what has become the new showpiece position of baseball:

Shortstop. National League.

Uh-oh. You ask yourself: Who's the All-Star shortstop in the National League? Our advice to you if you take your hole-punching seriously: Good luck.

"It's got to be our guy," says Brewers manager Ned Yost, referring to the erupting J.J. Hardy. "No question."

Well, it could be his guy. Hardy went into Thursday leading the league in home runs (13), RBIs (39) and total bases (103). But does it have to be his guy, no question? Uh, sorry. There is a question.

"My answer is Jose Reyes," says Tony Bernazard, vice president for player development of Reyes' own New York Mets. "And if Jose Reyes were on another team, I'd still pick Jose Reyes, because this guy can do it all."

And he can, too. We discussed that only a couple of weeks ago in Rumblings and Grumblings, as you might recall. Reyes leads the league in stolen bases and triples. He's also hanging with the league leaders in on-base percentage (.411), batting (.337), doubles (13), extra-base hits (22) and total bases (90). And over on the defensive side of the leaderboard, he's also first in zone rating. So if that's not doing it "all," it's close.

But does the argument end there? Nope. Can't. Shouldn't.

Yet another NL shortstop -- Florida's remarkable Hanley Ramirez -- leads the league in runs scored (37) and has a higher on-base percentage (.422), slugging percentage (.553) and batting average (.342) than Reyes.

Then you have a fourth NL shortstop -- the Phillies' multitalented Jimmy Rollins -- who is first in multi-hit games (19), has scored as many runs as Reyes (35) and is up there with the leaders in departments all over the stat sheet (home runs, triples, steals, total bases and hits).

And we haven't even touched on a fifth shortstop who is batting .331 (Edgar Renteria). Or a sixth shortstop (Rafael Furcal) who just ripped off three straight four-hit games. Or a future Hall of Famer (Omar Vizquel), your incumbent World Series MVP (David Eckstein), two hot rookie-of-the-year candidates (Troy Tulowitzki and Stephen Drew), a guy with seven home runs (Alex Gonzalez) or three of the the best defensive shortstops on earth (Adam Everett, Khalil Greene and Jack Wilson).

So go ahead. Fill out your ballot. You can't go wrong.

But you can go right, if you just consult our handy-dandy All-Star Shortstop Index.

We aspired to sort this out as scientifically as possible. So we decided to rank the big five -- Hardy, Reyes, Ramirez, Rollins and Renteria -- in six major categories, assign points on a 5-4-3-2-1 scale, then add them up and tell you which shortstop you -- our responsible voting public -- should vote for. Ready? Here we go:

CATEGORY NO. 1 -- OPS

On-base Plus Slugging percentage (OPS) used to be a funky, sabermetrician's stat. Now it has just about gone mainstream. It's as accurate a measure of offensive productivity as you'll find. And you shouldn't be shocked to see Hardy atop our OPS leader board:

1 -- Hardy .999 (5 points)

2 -- Ramirez .975 (4 points)

3 -- Reyes .943 (3 points)

4 -- Renteria .898 (2 points)

5 -- Rollins .877 (1 point)

CATEGORY NO. 2 -- RUNS PRODUCED

Now let's mix in this old-fashioned tool for quantifying basic productivity. Our Runs Produced formula is so easy, you won't even need a calculator to follow it: Runs scored plus RBIs, minus homers. What this stat tells us is how many runs a player has "produced" this year by either scoring them or driving them in. We subtract home runs just so they're not counted twice. You'll note that Ramirez is last in the group, even though he's first in the league in runs scored, because he drove himself in with five of his eight RBIs, via homers.

1 -- Reyes 56 (5 points)

2 -- Hardy 54 (4 points)

3 -- Rollins 52 (3 points)

4 -- Renteria 48 (2 points)

5 -- Ramirez 40 (1 point)

CATEGORY NO. 3 -- RUNS CREATED PER 27 OUTS

We love this stat. "Runs Created" essentially tells you how many of a team's runs are created by each hitter, factoring in just about every number on the stat sheet. "Runs created per 27 outs" simply estimates how many runs a team of, say, nine J.J. Hardys would score in one game. There are different variations on the formulas. But we're using the one on ESPN's own stat page. And this is where Ramirez's package of diverse talents really shows up, although he's second to Reyes. This guy, one scout told us this week, "has the talent to be an all-time great."

1 -- Reyes 8.88 (5 points)

2 -- Ramirez 8.86 (4 points)

3 -- Hardy 8.55 (3 points)

4 -- Renteria 6.91 (2 points)

5 -- Rollins 6.61 (1 point)

CATEGORY NO. 4 -- VORP

VORP is a Baseball Prospectus invention. Another simple concept, even if it's one we'd have no idea how to compute on our own: Value Over Replacement Player. In other words, this is how many more runs this player is worth to his team than an average sub playing in his place. Reyes and Ramirez have been wrestling for not just the shortstop lead, but the league lead (along with that Barry Bonds fellow), for days now.

1 -- Reyes 24.7 (5 points)

2 -- Ramirez 24.3 (4 points)

3 -- Hardy 20.9 (3 points)

4 -- Rollins 15.9 (2 points)

5 -- Renteria 15.3 (1 point)

CATEGORY NO. 5 -- EQUIVALENT AVERAGE

This is another stat that's kind of the specialty du jour over at Baseball Prospectus. It measures a player's offensive value per out, again factoring in baserunning and a wide variety of offensive stats. It also adjusts those numbers for league, home ballpark and pitching. It's a tremendous concept. Just don't try to figure this out at home, without adult supervision.

1 -- Ramirez .340 (5 points)

2 -- Reyes .330 (4 points)

3 -- Hardy .323 (3 points)

4 -- Renteria .309 (2 points)

5 -- Rollins .297 (1 point)

TRIVIALITY

J.J. Hardy went into Thursday leading the National League in RBIs. If he keeps this up, he would be just the third middle infielder to lead either league in RBIs since Ernie Banks did it in 1958. Can you name the other two? (Answer later.)

CATEGORY NO. 6 -- DEFENSE

It's a little early to compute any one all-encompassing defensive stat. So we looked at fielding percentage, range factor and zone rating, then averaged them out to figure out the defensive ranking for this group. Including defense actually had a major effect on our final standings, bumping both Hardy and Rollins northward.

1 -- Reyes (5 points)

2 -- Rollins (4 points)

3 -- Hardy (3 points)

4 -- Ramirez (2 points)

5 -- Renteria (1 point)

THE TOTALS

1 -- Reyes (27 points)

2 -- Hardy (21 points)

3 -- Ramirez (20 points)

4 -- Rollins (11 points)

5 -- Renteria (10 points)

We're guessing Reyes didn't need our help to win this election. If his talent and charisma didn't pull that off, that NY on his cap probably would have catapulted him over the top. But if we accomplished anything with this study, at least we helped reassure you aspiring Jose Reyes voters that he's everything people keep saying he is.

"Those other guys can do what Reyes can do here and there," Bernazard said. "Jimmy Rollins can do some of the things Jose Reyes can do -- but not all. Hanley Ramirez can do some of the things Jose Reyes can do -- but not all. But Jose does all those things. And Jose is a winning player, who does it playing in the pressure cooker of New York. This guy is a special player."

Well, heck, he won the Rumblings and Grumblings All-Star Shortstop Index tabulation derby, didn't he? So he must be special.

Jayson Stark