Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Where The Red Sox Are At: Position Players

To start the mid-season review of the Red Sox, we'll look at the established starters and how they have performed over the first half of 2009. We'll also compare their line to the first half of 2008.

Kevin Youkilis

2009: 256 AB | 56 R | 79 H | 16 HR | 53 RBI | .298 BA | .985 OPS

2008: 328 AB | 56 R | 103 H| 15 HR | 63 RBI | .314 BA | .933 OPS

Kevin Youkilis continues to be a steady performer for the Red Sox. Even with a minor slump with the All-Star break approaching, he has one of the better lines on the team. As always, he fielding is near-perfect. He earned his second trip to the All-Star game this year and will likely have many more to come. Youk is the rock of this lineup.

Dustin Pedroia

2009: 347 AB | 65 R | 105 H | 4 HR | 40 RBI | .303 BA | .807 OPS

2008: 395 AB | 67 R | 124 H | 9 HR | 47 RBI | .314 BA | .815 OPS

If Youk is the rock, then Pedroia is the lightning that sparks the team. Much like Youk, Pedroia has been remarkably consistent for the first half between 2008 and 2009. Pedroia always seems to get the timely hit when the team needs it the most. His fielding is a little lower this year; he has five errors in 2009 and had six for all of 2008. But like Youk, he made his second All-Star game and likely will continue to do so for many years to come.

Nick Green

2009: 210 AB | 26 R | 54 H | 4 HR | 30 RBI | .257 BA | .721 OPS

2008: N/A

Joining the team in the off-season as almost an after-thought, Nick Green has solidified the shortstop position in the wake of Lowrie's injury. After a rough April and early May in the field, Green has been one of the sharpest shortstops in the league. And his bat has supplied some timely pop from the bottom of the lineup. He has exceeded every expectation. Imagine a full season of Julio Lugo at the position. That's the disaster that Green has helped Boston avoid.

Mike Lowell

2009: 266 AB | 30 R | 75 H | 10 HR | 41 RBI | .282 BA | .789 OPS

2008: 290 AB | 43 R | 86 H | 13 HR | 57 RBI | .297 BA | .867 OPS

I was expecting a huge differential between the two years for Lowell. And while that's the case in his OPS, Lowell's not too far off in his other numbers. Considering he's had a bum hip all season, that pretty damned impressive. And while Lowell has lost a step in the field range-wise, he is still an effective third baseman. But I think the tread is starting to wear thin on his tires and the Sox have to address the issue sooner than later.

Jason Bay

2009: 311 AB | 56 R | 81 H | 20 HR | 72 RBI | .260 BA | .908 OPS

2008: 341 AB | 64 R | 98 H | 19 HR | 53 RBI | .287 BA | .918 OPS

I included Bay's numbers from Pittsburgh in 2008 to illustrate a point. I heard a couple of jokers talking on the radio today about how Bay isn't steady. Well, look at those numbers. Figure in an extra 30 at-bats and I'd wager the stat lines would be near even or better in most of the categories. Bay has had an All-Star first half of 2009. And his fielding has been impeccable; he and the Royals' David DeJesus are the only starting left fielders in the AL without an error.

Jacoby Ellsbury

2009: 333 AB | 47 R | 99 H | 5 HR | 29 RBI | .297 BA | .747 OPS

2008: 323 AB | 60 R | 88 H | 5 HR | 27 RBI | .272 BA | .721 OPS

Jacoby has improved slightly over his 2008 numbers. And the mid-season line doesn't reflect his constant improvement during 2009. Only 25 years old, we still haven't seen the full measure of his potential. He is a solid fielder, with only one error so far in 2009. And for the record, Ellsbury should have had a Gold Glove in 2008. Those aren't awarded in the outfield by position, but to three outfielders. Ellsbury played all three positions and was error-free. Ellsbury definitely has an All-Star game or two in his future.

J.D. Drew

2009: 262 AB | 49 R | 66 H | 12 HR | 38 RBI | .252 BA | .854 OPS

2008: 278 AB | 63 R | 84 H | 17 HR | 55 RBI | .302 BA | .984 OPS

Drew shows a substantial drop in every major category. Only 16 fewer at-bats doesn't account for all of that. And unlike Lowell, he doesn't have a major injury as an excuse. In short, he is the under-performing talent we all knew him to be when he came to Boston. Is this line worth $14 million per year? I think the answer is obvious to all of us. I can't wait for Josh Reddick to make it to Boston.

Jason Varitek

2009: 230 AB | 35 R | 55 H | 13 HR | 38 RBI | .239 BA | .826 OPS

2008: 257 AB | 20 R | 56 H | 7 HR | 28 RBI | .218 BA | .653 OPS

No one should be surprised by Varitek's massive improvement between 2008 and 2009. Last year 'Tek had to deal with an ugly divorce that understandably distracted him during the season. With that behind him, 'Tek is supplying some needed production from the bottom of the lineup. And he's the second-best fielding catcher in the AL. He also has yet to allow a single passed ball in 2009.

David Ortizz

2009: 293 AB | 38 R | 65 H | 12 HR | 47 RBI | .222 BA | .733 OPS

2008: 210 AB | 36 R | 53 H | 13 HR | 43 RBI | .252 BA | .840 OPS

At first blush, the 2009 numbers look good until you realize Ortiz had 83 more at-bats going into the break in 2009. That said, when you consider how brutal April and May were for Ortiz, it's impressive that he is where he is. But if Ortiz is a 20-25 homer and 80-100 RBI guy as a DH going forward, is he worth $13 million or more per year? That's the question the Boston brass has to ask itself.


Boston's starters have been, for the most part, rather consistent between 2008 and 2009. That may seem odd to some people considering Boston started the year at 2-6, went through a 3-6 stretch at the end of May and have had times where their bats have gone completely silent. But this is still a solid lineup and these numbers are a testment to that fact. They have the third-best OPS in the AL (.799), fourth-best RBI total (440) and seventh-best in hit totals (796). The interesting thing is the Yankees are first or second in every category across the board and yet are three games back. And that points to the next section I'll do tomorrow...Boston's pitching.


OW said...

You're a bit tough on J.D.Drew, I think. His OPS exceeds that of Jacoby (all star of future), Nick Green (timely pop) and Pedroia (continuous all star. With one error he is as good in that department as Jacoby, and three times as good as Reddick (three errors). Yeah, not as good as last years numbers, but he was fantastic the first half of the year, carrying the team. Maybe not with the salary, but still a solid performer. If he makes too much, that is hardly his fault.

Dave said...

True, no one made Theo offer him that ridiculous salary except Theo himself. But for $14 million you expect a level of performance year in and year out, and Drew doesn't give you that.

Also, Ellsbury's OPS is up while Drew's has dropped. Green was a cheap pick up in the off-season whose contributions relative to cost and expectations have exceeded Drew's. And no one expects Pedroia to be cranking out homers like Drew should be, so his OPS will suffer b/c of the slugging differential. Pedroia does lead Drew in OBP and has struck out 47 times less, despite having 85 mroe at-bats.

Performance relative to cost matters, especially considering the way the game is played and run today. And Drew simply doesn't produce at the level his salary demands. And yes, you can say the same about Ortiz this year. But at least he's getting back in gear. Drew hit .189 in July.