31 January 2006

Alex Gonzalez as Sox SS

Ok, well, the what-became-inevitable happened, and the Red Sox signed Alex Gonzalez (formerly of the Marlins) to a 1 year deal to play SS. Many folks I talk to do not like this one bit. In fact, one went as far to point out that Alex has the 5th largest negative difference in OBP vs. the league average of any player in the last 50 years (with at least 3500 PA). Yowzah!

So, the projected Red Sox lineup for 2006:

# Name - Pos. - 2005 OBP
1 Coco Crisp - CF - .345
2 Mark Loretta - 2B - .360
3 Manny Ramirez - LF - .388
4 David Ortiz - DH - .397
5 Jason Varitek - C - .366
6 Trot Nixon - RF - .357
7 Mike Lowell - 3B - .298 (.365 in '04)
8 Kevin Youkilis/J.T. Snow - 1B - .400 (.367 in '04 with 200 AB)
9 Alex Gonzalez - SS - .319
Team Average: .359

Lets look at the changes

1B Kevin Millar/John Olerud becomes Kevin Youkilis/J.T. Snow - Youkilis can easily match/beat Millar's 2005 production, with hopefully less attitude. JT and Olerud are interchangable, although Olerud was likely a slightly better hitter. Overall: Slight upgrade

2B Mark Bellhorn/Tony Graffanino becomes Mark Loretta - Player A: 7/38/.309/.366 in 379 AB. Player B: 3/38/.280/.360 in 404 AB. Who is who? Well, player A is a health Graffanino in 2 hitters parks. Player B is Loretta off an injury in a big pitchers park. I think Loretta will work out fine and give Dustin Pedroia another season to be ready. Overall: Slight upgrade

3B Bill Mueller/Kevin Youkilis becomes Mike Lowell - In 2005, Mike Lowell hit 8/58/.236/.298. He also won a Gold Glove. Moneyball has everyone convinced that OBP is it and that any variation from that plan is giving up on the Beane Mantra. However, really, Moneyball implies that what teams look for is undervalued talent. Right now, its infield defense. Not only does infield defense help pitchers by preventing runs and runners, but good defense also means fewer pitches per game for the staff as most outs will happen with fewer balls in play. So, maybe Lowell isn't a steal, but he fits into the idea that excellent fielding infielders are a premium. Overall: Offensive downgrade, defensive upgrade.

SS Edgar Renteria becomes Alex Gonzalez - I was and am still a staunch Renteria supporter. I think that he would have been much better for the Sox in 2006. However, with given the option to get Andy Marte from Atlanta, the front office jettisoned Renteria. Gonzalez averages about 16 errors a year with a FPC of ~.970, with is good, but he's still no Omar Vizquel. Will he hit better than Alex Cora? Likely. He has some pop as he hit 24 HR as recently as 2004 (ok, with a .230 BA), but for 1 year/$3M, he'll be fine in a hitters park like Fenway. Overall: Slight downgrade

C Jason Varitek/Doug Mirabelli becomes Varitek/A cast of thousands - Sorry, I just miss Dumpy Doug. Overall: Downgrade

CF Johnny Damn becomes Coco Crisp - Let's see: Damon walks for $12M more than the Sox offer, and the Sox more-or-less trade Renteria + prospects for Coco Crisp and David Riske. And Coco will likely cost the same as the difference in the Damon offers. And Damon will likely be retired with Coco is his age today. Whats not to like? Overall: Upgrade.

Rotation - Schilling/Wells/Clement/Wakefield/Arroyo becomes Schilling/Beckett/Wells/Clement/? - Suddenly the Sox have an abundance of pitchers. Who is the #5 starter? Arroyo? Wakefield? Papelbon? Does Wells get traded? Does Clement? However, any way you look at it, adding Beckett into the rotation makes it better. Overall: Upgrade

Bullpen - Foulke/TImlin/Embree/Myers/Papelbon/cast of thousands becomes Foulke/Timlin/Taverez/Seanez/Riske/Delcarmen - Any way you slice it, this bullpen is much, much better. Overall: Big Upgrade.

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