What is the first thing that you think of when Jed Lowrie’s name is brought up? ::crickets:: Is he a guy who has battled injuries and still yet to blossom or is Lowrie a guy that will turn out to be a first-round bust? Most Red Sox fans I talk to about Lowrie shrug him [...]
After an off season that centered around pitching and defense we had the standard jokes this April, but since May those jokes have not been able to joke about defense. There has been some trouble finding solid options in left field and center field, but the defense has solidified to hold up its end.
According to UZR/150 the defense has been worth 6.0 runs for every 150 defensive games played. Last year the team was worth only 0.5 runs for every 150 games. Depending on how many innings they total that could be an improvement of 30-40 defensive runs.
It looks like we can finally spend our time harping on other things this year like A low K/BB from John Lackey or Jonathon Papelbon instead of worrying about our short stop production. Marco Scutaro won’t be leading the box score every night or getting top billing in the recap, but you won’t see him as the goat either.
Since 2003 when Nomar Garciaparra totaled 5.4 WAR in his last great season the Red Sox have only had two Short Stops total more than 1.5 WAR. Jed Lowrie in 2007 and Alex Gonzalez in 2006. Some of those were in limited time so they were better than they seemed, but only these two seasons had a real chance to be greater than average in a full season.
So far in 2010 Scutaro has been an average hitter totaling -0.5 batting runs above average. His contact has been better than ever only striking out 10 percent of the time. His 2009 season was solidified though with a 13 percent walk rate where he is only walking 10 percent so far this year.
The Sox lineup, as always, is a meat grinder. They have four players in the top 20 in the American League in pitches seen per plate appearance (P/PA) and Pedroia ranks seventh at 4.27 (behind Youkilis who is fourth at 4.36) through 217 plate appearances (Victor Martinez is 11th at 4.12, J.D. Drew 13th at 4.11 while Marco Scutaro is 33rd at 3.92). Pedroia is also second in the league in total plate appearances at 217, behind only Denard Span of the Twins at 218, and leads the league in total pitches seen. Factoring in the entire majors, Youkilis ranks ninth and Pedroia 19th in P/PA.
Sitting in the No. 2 hole in the Sox lineup, Pedroia pesky plate appearances have a ripple down effect. Take for instance last Thursday when Boston beat Minnesota 6-2 on the strength of Jon Lester’s nine-strikeout complete game. Pedroia was 0-3 with a walk and a run against the Twins and Francisco Liriano and was instrumental in knocking Minnesota’s wily lefty out of the game after 4.2 innings with five earned runs on five hits and three walks. Pedroia was in the midst of a 4 for 39 slump at the time that spanned from May 12 to 23 before putting up three hits against the Rays on Monday.
There is a difference between the Red Sox and nearly every other team in baseball – and it’s pretty obvious. How lucky are our home town fans, that our very own Boston squad has significantly more money to spend on players most other teams. Actually, all but one – but who’s counting. Too bad they’re in our division. But that’s alright, so long as we use our resources wisely.
So, what is using our resources wisely?
From the Red Sox’ perspective, it’s much different from most teams. Over the past five seasons, the team’s highest budget was $143 million, registered in 2007. We’ll save spectulating on this year’s budget, which will be quite high, as there could still be some maneuvering left to go, and the value of free agents and draft picks in this economy is yet to be determined. Therefore, we’ll treat 2007 as the team’s theoretical budget through which to speculate on how the team can formulate its spending practices.
Citing the research of analyst Keith Woolner, a theoretical replacement level team would win approximately 44 games. Putting this in perspective, this standard of futility is comparable to the some worst teams of all time, including the 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119), the 1962 Mets (40-120), and 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates (42-112).
After seeing this, two thoughts come to mind. One, wow, how far have the Mets come since that
disturbingly dreadful inaugural season 47 years ago. The other, what in the hell happened to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who found a way to produce a 20-134 record (.130 win percentage) and be doomed to the annals of worst team in MLB history. Ouch. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, only 3,179 fans attended the team’s first 16 home games…
This will certainly be a defining offseason when Red Sox historians look back on Theo Epstein’s legacy as Boston GM. If the acquisitions work, fans and media alike will sing high praise – and the untouchable GM will become all the more invincible. If the moves fail, he will be chastised and become vulnerable for the first time in his career.
It’s difficult to give a grade to Theo at this point of the offseason – much less begin to rip him in the media. For one, there’s still so much work to be done that any analysis is incomplete, especially with Mike Lowell hanging in limbo. On the other hand, the fact that there’s been so much contention over every signing thus far means that there’s likely not a single person left in New England that is happy with our GM – and any failure for the free agents in the upcoming season will be overmagnified. Marco Scutaro, John Lackey, Mike Cameron. There is no concensus – lots of very intelligent people have advocated on both sides for all three acquisitions.
Marco Scutaro is the best of a poor class of free agent shortstops. He’ll end up costing the Red Sox a 2nd round pick and is signed to a very favorable 3-year (or some would say 2-year) deal. He’s a late bloomer who some argue is a one-year wonder. Scutaro will have to be every bit as good as his breakout in 2009 for both sides to be satisfied. A good personnel move? Yes. But, it will be hard for Theo to win this one in the media…
As Harold Ramis once said to Seth Rogen in Knocked Up after Seth knocked up his one night stand, “This is a good thing.” It may have looked tragic at the time, but he got a beautiful daughter out of it and even got to spend the night with Katherine Heigl. Not a bad haul for a drunken mistake.
The same can be said for the signing of Marco Scutaro. It wasn’t quite the way we planned it (myself not included, I like Toronto import, especially given the alternatives), but it’s what we have. Maybe the little guy will grow up to be a Rembrandt, maybe he’ll be an alcoholic, but either way, he’s ours and we need to love him.
But let’s get something straight. There is a lot to like here – and signing Scutaro is like making the best of a bad situation.
The nuts and bolts of Marco Scutaro are that he is an average fielding shortstop with plus offensive skills for his position. These kinds of players do not grow on trees…
Pedroia to Short?
Sometimes, the answer is so obvious that it was staring you in the face the entire time. Well, maybe Pedroia to short isn’t that obvious, but I’m surprised that it took this long for anyone to suggest the move at all, myself included.
There are risks here, though. Pedroia was moved off short for a reason. Even during the minor leagues, many scouts liked him at the keystone long term. Now, three seasons into his major league career at second base, there is no saying what his arm or his range will look like across the diamond. Though he’s got great fielding skills for a second baseman, there are differences in reading grounders, going to the left up the middle, throwing distances, positional defensive standards, and a litany of other concerns when changing positions…
Like most teams, the Boston Red Sox offseason will be defined by the willingness of their owner to open his wallet.
Fortunately for Sox fans nationwide, Uncle John certainly has some deep pockets. However, the amount he is willing to spend will have a lot to say about the direction that this team will be headed.
The prudent move by the Red Sox will be to look for incremental gains in what is partly a transitional year, while also being a year of opportunity. The club has nearly its entire 2009 starting lineup under contract, including its entire starting staff and at least seven of nine position players. For a team that won 95 games last season, that’s a recipe for success. Still, the American League gets more competitive every year, as the AL West, the Yankees, and our little brother Rays make it harder and harder to buy the Wild Card.