Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Know Thy Enemy: Shortstop

Next up in our position by position debate, we are going to review Shortstop. If you are just catching on we are beginning a debate on who has the better player at each position between the Red Sox and the Yankees. To be clear, this is not a debate on who has the better team, just the better player at each position. A debate on who has the better team would require much more than a position by position evaluation, and would take much more effort than my burgeoning social life would be willing to give. Having better players does not necessarily make you a better team. Just ask the Dominican team from the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Red Sox Shortstop

Lets begin by reviewing a quick history of the shortstop position for the Red Sox. In 1996, the Red Sox brought up rookie shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. They had, in the makings, a franchise player. Nomar batted for power, which was a rarity at that position, and he batted for average as well (he batted over .300 in each season from '97 - '00, hitting .372 in 2000). But alas, Garciaparra was injury prone, and he was a baby about it. In 2004 the Red Sox got fed up with him. If I understand the story my Red Sox friends have told me, it all came to a head in that wonderful game where Jeter showed his gangster prowess by running into the stands, cutting his face, and then turning to the crowd he yelled "Are you not entertained!?!" By the accounts of these Sox fans, Nomar had been asked by Francona if he could play that day. Nomar said he could not, because he was hurt or le tired. After Jeter made that play Nomar asked to get into the game, but Francona refused. Shortly thereafter, Nomar was traded to the Cubs, and the Red Sox won their first championship in 86 years without him. To replace him, the Sox had both Pokey Reese and Orlando Cabrera. By all accounts, Cabrera was well liked, but he was traded to the Angels as the Sox went after free agent Edgar Renteria. It was a bad move. Renteria struggled in Boston much like Coco Crisp is now, and after the 2005 season, they sent him back to the National League where he belonged. They probably foresaw that hot prospect Hanley Ramirez, another potential franchise player, would be ready to take over in 2006. Instead they traded him to the Marlins as apart of the Beckett trade, and signed Alex Gonzalez to play short for the year. Gonzalez is a defensive wizard, but probably because he traded all his hitting ability for defense. He finished that season with a .255 average as Hanley Ramirez won the rookie of the year award hitting .292 with 51 stolen bases that year. Last season, Ramirez batted .332 with 29 homeruns and another 51 stolen bases. Gonzalez simply wasn't their answer at short. So who was their answer at short? Apparently Julio Lugo. I'm not sure what they expected to get from Lugo when they gave him the 4 year deal. Besides the fact that he looks like Jiminy Criquet, he doesn't have much to offer the Red Sox. Lugo is fast, and has experience in the AL east as he played for Tampa Bay, but neither his bat or his glove are anything to write home about. He finished last season with a .237 average with 8 homeruns, 73 RBI's and 33 stolen bases. You can expect him to improve next season and get near his career average, which means a .270 batting average with 10 or so homeruns and another 30 bases stolen.

Yankees Shortstop

If we were to give a history of the Yankees shortstop position, it would be very brief. It would say 1996 Derek Jeter arrived. 2008 he's still here. In 2006 he came in second place for the batting title with a .343 average. Last season, the Yankees shortstop battled an arthritic knee and a Scott Kazmir fastball planted right above his left knee cap to hit .322. Although his post season left much to be desired, he had a batting average of .354 throughout the regular season with runners in scoring position. A healthy Jeter will give you a .300+ batting average, 200+ hits, and some thrilling games.

Shortstop Winner: Yankees. Despite his decreased range, Jeter is still a better shortstop than Lugo who has a career fielding percentage of .966. Jeter also brandishes a mightier bat than Lugo.


Anonymous said...

orlando cabrera actually left as a free agent after the 04 world series victory. I honestly thought renteria was a huge upgrade (which he was offensively), but he made like 50 errors in his first year and got run out of town. I think the red sox went so strongly after lugo because he had absoulutely smoked them in the past (when he was with Tampa). Kind of like the patriots going out and trading for Wes Welker because he torched them the year before. I definately agree that jeter is the better choice at shortstop though.

Fernando Alejandro said...

Thanks for the correction. Before going to the Sox, Renteria was pretty good, and since he's left the Sox he's been pretty good. That time with the Sox just didn't pan out. You're right in saying that he was pretty ugly at short. I remember one throw he made where he held onto the ball too long and he threw it on the ground in front of him. Ugly error.

Bucky7588 said...

ugly, but hilarious. i think it was a yankees/red sox game..

Fernando Alejandro said...

You know I was trying to think why I would have been watching a Red Sox game to have seen that, but I think you're right, it was a Yankees game.