With the continued radio silence from Fenway, it’s pretty hard to generate new blog material on the Red Sox right now, as Evan can attest. A week or so ago, we Firebranders already talked about the domino-effect scenario we’re facing: once the BrainTrust starts making moves, we can begin to make rational guesses about their ideas going forward, but until that happens we’ve got a blackout situation on our hands. And Zach can predict whatever he likes, but I don’t make any pretensions about my past performances in MLB’s busywork Free Agent Frenzy game. I concede. I have no idea which way the winds of Chance & Fate are going to blow the money that will fly this offseason. It’s best that I just leave it at that.
So, although I only write about the Red Sox once a month, I’m going to have to resort to an evaluation of the recently announced Gold Glove awards. I don’t like to do these much, if only because the commentary usually just ends up sounding like sour grapes. But when the blogging gets tough, the tough get nitpicky.
Now, the Red Sox made some great strides defensively this season. Mike Lowell showed us how the hot corner is supposed to be played. Kevin Youkilis, moving across the diamond to accomodate Lowell at 3B, played a better-than-average 1B, the first Red Sox regular first basemen in a long time about whom that can be said. And Alex Gonzalez drew rave reviews at SS, pairing with Lowell to form the strongest defensive tandem on the left side of the infield that the Red Sox have seen in many years.
Funny thing, though. Despite the talk about defensive improvement, and despite the infield defense being stronger than I can ever remember in my life, the Red Sox as a whole wound up shamefully low on BPro’s Defensive Efficiency rankings — 4th worst in all of baseball, in some really bad company. Perhaps there’s been a slight disconnect between perception & reality, ya think?
So we’ll run down the fielding positions quickly. I still haven’t bought my Fielding Bible and all the UZR data I can find is out-of-date, so I’m just going to use BPro’s FRAR and FRAA (in that order, in parentheses, after the player’s name). It’s not a perfect stat to use for comparison, because BPro’s fielding stats are cumulative, but it’s what I’ve got to work with.
I’ll show the numbers for the GG winner, those for player who I think should have won the award, and those of the primary Red Sox player at the position under consideration. Oh, and I’m excluding pitchers from the discussion. Because nobody cares.
Winner: Ivan Rodriguez (41 FRAR, 15 FRAA)
My pick: IRod
Red Sock: Jason Varitek (22 FRAR, 2 FRAA)
First Base
Winner: Mark Teixeira (20 FRAR, 10 FRAA)
My pick: Richie Sexson (21 FRAR, 11 FRAA)
Red Sock: Kevin Youkilis (16 FRAR, 5 FRAA)
Second Base
Winner: Mark Grudzielanek (35 FRAR, 9 FRAA)
My pick: Robinson Cano (38 FRAR, 16 FRAA)
Red Sock: Mark Loretta (17 FRAR, -10 FRAA)
Third Base
Winner: Eric Chavez (36 FRAR, 17 FRAA)
My pick: Brandon Inge (45 FRAR, 23 FRAA)
Red Sock: Mike Lowell (40 FRAR, 20 FRAA)
Winner: Derek Jeter (39 FRAR, 9 FRAA)
My pick: Jhonny Peralta (58 FRAR, 27 FRAA)
Red Sock: Alex Gonzalez (18 FRAR, -5 FRAA)
Outfielder #1
Winner: Torii Hunter (24 FRAR, 2 FRAA)
My pick: Curtis Granderson (44 FRAR, 20 FRAA)
Red Sock: Trot Nixon (19 FRAR, 7 FRAA)
Outfielder #2
Winner: Ichiro Suzuki (29 FRAR, 8 FRAA)
My pick: Ichiro
Red Sock: Coco Crisp (16 FRAR, -1 FRAA)
Outfielder #3
Winner: Vernon Wells (18 FRAR, -6 FRAA)
My pick: Brian Anderson (30 FRAR, 12 FRAA)
Red Sock: Manny Ramirez (-3 FRAR, -16 FRAA)
A little commentary on my part won’t hurt, I guess. I’ll start by pointing to the numbers for Manny Ramirez and remind you that this is where FRAR & FRAA fail in a head-to-head comparison, lacking context. If Manny had spent more time on the field, his numbers would be much worse. And I’ll continue by pointing to the numbers for AGon, which I’ve been following closely all year. Yeah, for all the talk about how Gonzo might be among the best defensive SS’s this club has ever had, the numbers simply don’t bear it out. Again, a case of perception not matching reality. Youkilis at 1B was about as good as anybody going: there were a couple of guys better, but 1B is a really really shallow position as far as defense goes: the numbers say it was a wash between Sexson and Tex, but after those two, Youks was about as good as there was. Lowell at 3B, on the other hand, is also as good as anybody out there, but 3B is a position stacked with defensive talent in the AL. Our OF is painfully bad. And Mark Loretta is a trooper, but to be honest I won’t be sorry to see him go. Same for Nixon, I’m sorry to say.
Basically, looking at our numbers above, it’s not hard to see where the Red Sox were largely mediocre (and in some cases, jus’ plain bad) on the defensive side of things this year. And don’t let the mediots tell you otherwise. So we’ll enter 2007 facing a rather bleak picture, to be honest, when in 2006 we couldn’t pitch the ball or catch the ball, and our offense wasn’t what it has been in recent years.
On last sidenote. In my search for a topic this week, I suppose I also could have mentioned the possibility of Pedro retiring, but that really lacks relevance anymore. He’s gone, I’ve moved on. But as to the retirement, I say, Pedro, keep your legacy intact. I’ve always thought of you as another Sandy Koufax anyway.