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Terry Shumpert was the ultimate Rockies super utility man

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Colorado Rockies have long been familiar with utility and super utility players with varying degrees of success. When you think of a Rockies utility man many faces potentially come to mind: Pat Valaika, Daniel Descalso, Jonathan Herrera, Cristhian Adames, Jordan Pacheco, Jamey Carroll, and most recently Garrett Hampson. Hampson, Carroll, and Herrera have all been successful as utility men for the Rockies, but now over 20 years ago the Rockies had their ultimate role player. Terry Shumpert played five seasons with the Rockies starting in 1998 as one of the team’s first “true” super utility men. Shumpert was so successful in this role that’s Thomas Harding named him one of the franchise’s top five bench players of all time—along with noted bats John Vander Wal, Seth Smith, and Ryan Spilborghs—despite his prowess not necessarily being at the plate.

Originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the second round of the 1987 draft, Shumpert had a solid debut in 1990. He slashed .275/.292/.363 in 91 at-bats while playing mostly second base. Diminishing returns in the next few seasons (.220/.272/.341 with a total -1.6 rWAR over five seasons while playing 2B, 3B, SS, and some DH) rendered him expendable to the Royals, who traded him as part of a conditional deal to the Boston Red Sox. Shumpert received very little playing time across his next three destinations with Boston, then the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. He had just 111 total at-bats from 1995-1997, slashing .243/.301/.387 for a combined -0.6 rWAR. However, his use as a utility player continued to grow as Shumpert saw reps in the corner outfield in addition to all infield positions but first base.

Shumpert signed with the Rockies for the 1998 season but appeared injust 23 total games—mostly as a pinch hitter. He played just 20 total innings of defense, all as a second baseman. When injuries and a constantly fluctuating lineup thrust Shumpert into a more sizeable role in 1999, he finally had his time to shine as both a frequent player and a super utility man.

During the 1999 season, Shumpert played 412 23 innings at second base through 54 appearances and 46 starts. He also made appearances at every position but catcher, first base, and pitcher. Most of his utility work came at third base or spread across the entire outfield. Shumpert was also the 7th most valuable player on the team by rWAR with 2.4, one of just three position players to crack the top 12 behind Larry Walker (5.1 rWAR) and Todd Helton (2.9 rWAR). Shumpert also experienced his best career season as a hitter, slashing .347/.413/.584 in 92 games. Through 262 at-bats he hit 26 doubles, three triples, ten home runs, and drove in 37 RBIs. His batting stats would normalize over his next three seasons with the Rockies, but his use as a super utility player would not.

Terry Shumpert - Utility Use in Colorado

Year G GS Positions Played (Order of Appearances) PA AB BA OBP SLG rWAR
Year G GS Positions Played (Order of Appearances) PA AB BA OBP SLG rWAR
1998 23 1 PH, 2B 28 26 .231 .286 .385 -0.1
1999 92 61 2B, PH, 3B, CF, LF, RF, SS 304 262 .347 .413 .584 2.4
2000 115 55 PH, LF, 2B, 3B, SS, 1B 300 263 .259 .340 .456 0.4
2001 114 51 PH, 2B, LF, 3B, SS 265 242 .289 .337 .438 0.3
2002 106 49 2B, PH, LF, SS, 3B, RF 268 234 .235 .304 .372 -1.0
Total 450 217 2B, PH, LF, 3B, SS, CF, 1B, RF 1165 1027 .282 .349 .464 2.1

Terry Shumpert would make more than 100 appearances in each of his next three seasons with the Rockies while playing at least four defensive positions in addition to pinch hitting duties. 2002—his age 35 season—would be Shumpert’s worst year with the Rockies while receiving significant playing time. He would be granted free agency following the season and catch on with the Tampa bay Devil Rays for 2003. Though the now 36-year old Shumpert would see significantly reduced playing time—59 appearances and 22 starts—he was still used for super utility. In his final big league season Shumpert would play every position but catcher, pitcher, first base, and center field.

Shumpert tried to catch on with the Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004, but was unable to crack the big league roster. He would retire after 2004 having played every position in the majors except pitcher and catcher: a testament to his positional versatility.

And his time with the Rockies was a clear positive. Through his five seasons in Purple he slashed a solid .282/.349/.464, hitting 30 home runs and posting an rWAR of 2.1 while again playing every non-battery position defensively.

Rockies Utility Player rWAR

Player rWAR Seasons G GS Positions Played (Order of Appearances) PA AB BA OBP SLG
Player rWAR Seasons G GS Positions Played (Order of Appearances) PA AB BA OBP SLG
Jamey Carroll 3.5 2 244 166 2B, 3B, PH, SS, RF, CF 802 690 .275 .357 .370
Terry Shumpert 2.1 5 450 217 2B, PH, LF, 3B, SS, CF, 1B, RF 1165 1027 .282 .349 .464
Jonathan Herrera 1.5 5 375 228 2B, SS, PH, 3B, LF 1109 984 .265 .325 .332
Garrett Hampson 1.3 4 329 232 CF, 2B, PH, SS, LF, 3B 1053 959 .240 .298 .383
Daniel Descalso -0.1 2 200 105 PH, SS, 2B, 1B, 3B, LF, RF 498 435 .239 .322 .382
Jeff Baker -0.5 5 231 123 PH, 2B, 1B, RF, 3B, LF 617 561 .257 .313 .458
Kurt Abbott -0.8 2 138 84 2B, PH, SS, 1B, RF, LF, CF 381 357 .269 .303 .437
Pat Valaika -1.4 4 231 72 PH, 2B, SS, 3B, 1B, LF 433 402 .214 .256 .400
Cristhian Adames -1.4 4 166 59 PH, SS, 2B, 3B, 1B 343 306 .206 .283 .278
Jordan Pacheco -2.8 4 270 211 1B, 3B, PH, C, 2B, LF 935 878 .281 .317 .379

Shumpert had the most positional versatility compared to the other super utility men listed at the beginning of this article, and was topped in rWAR while with the Rockies by just one player: Jamey Carroll. Carroll posted an rWAR of 3.5 over two seasons with the Rockies, also hitting arguably the most important sacrifice fly in franchise history. Shumpert played more positions than Carroll as a utility player, and his 2.1 rWAR trumps every other player listed. His contributions to a team very much in flux during the late 1990s and early 2000s is an often overlooked part of Rockies history. With how much the current Rockies dote on positional versatility, Terry Shumpert is perhaps the ultimate super utility man to wear purple pinstripes.

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