MLB: MAR 14 Spring Training - Red Sox at Orioles

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Red Sox’s play in recent days has been the productivity of Nick Green, the new starting shortstop. (What are the odds?)

And while he’s hitting .278/.350/.333, eons better than his 241/.310/.347 line, that’s not the story here. No, the story is his fielding.

Green is already tied for second in shortstops’ total amount of OOZ (out of zone plays). He has five and is tied with Nick Punto behind Orlando Cabrera, Marco Scutaro and Jason Bartlett, who all have six.

OOZ is valuable for the obvious reason: it shows the range of a player. Anyone is expected to get to balls in their zone; it’s their ability to get to balls out of their zone which separates them from the rest of the pack. Typically, players who get to balls out of the zone often (Julio Lugo is rather adept at this) tend to commit more errors because they are either rushed for the throw or make a fielding error on a ball they never should have gotten to in the first place.

Thus, due to the fielding percentages of most OOZ leaders are not top of the line, those that have minimal errors while leading the OOZ pack truly are fielding gods.

Using the very hacked statistic of OOZ/Ch (OOZ divided by chances [Putouts+Assists+Errors]) I have come up with the following leaders out of the crop of players mentioned above. I’ve summarized via percentage — so out of the player’s total chances count, the number listed holds the percentage of OOZ plays inside those chances. (Statistics through Saturday’s games.)

Green: 19.2%
Bartlett: 14.3%
Cabrera: 12.5%
Punto: 10.6%
Scutaro: 10.1%

Rather impressive, wouldn’t you say?

Even more impressive about Green’s numbers are that he only has 30 career games at shortstop, seven with the Red Sox. Compare that to 191 at 2B, 36 at 3B and three in right.

I have no explanation for Green’s ability to play shortstop, but I have to tip the cap to Terry Francona for believing Green could be a solution at short:

When the Red Sox were kicking the tires before signing the 30-year-old
Green in January, manager Terry Francona said they had an idea he could
play shortstop. And seeing his arm strength confirmed it. (Boston Globe)

With Julio Lugo on the cusp of returning, Green will quickly assume a
seat on the bench as the club attempts to segue Lugo into the shortstop
role. (Lugo actually is pretty good with OOZ, although he has fell off in recent years. For more on Lugo and OOZ, you can visit my Five Questions Red Sox preview over at Hardball Times.)

It’s looking more and more like Green may be worthy of the bench spot
all season long, or at least until Jed Lowrie returns (fingers crossed). Even if he can’t hit, his defense out of the infield is valuable. With the top-10 offense, the Sox can afford to carry a no-hit player in favor of his glove.

The impact Green has had on the lineup can’t really be quantified, and small sample size has a lot to do with it (remember, he’s only had six games at short) but since he’s been in the lineup with his defense and socking a hit here and there, the Red Sox have started clicking on all cylinders.

Is he the reason for it? No, but he’s a vital part that helped get it chugging.

(The ‘odds’ and ‘six games’ links in this article were sponsored.)