Thursday, June 14, 2007


On an unpleasant note, I'd like to take a moment to discuss that huge sucking sound coming from the Red Sox lineup. The culprits are Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp, who have cumulatively managed to hit somewhere around Awful. Their lousiness has been covered up by the Sox hot start and the large lead in the AL East, but the Sox aren't going to be able to maintain a double digit lead over the Yankees with two guys in their lineup OPSing .500.

On the face of it, their problems are similar ones. Crisp and Lugo both have been hitting (or not hitting) terribly. Crisp has been slightly worse, with an OPS+ of 51 (100 is average – for some reference, Kevin Youkilis has an OPS+ of 149). Lugo has an OPS+ of 55.

Shown another way, EQA (that’s Equivalent Average) is a Baseball Prospectus invented quick-and-dirty hitting stat designed to look like batting average. It takes into account all aspects of a player’s offensive contribution. It runs on a scale like batting average (.300 is good, .260 is average, etc.). Crisp has an EQA of .217 and Lugo as an EQA of .227. What Crisp and Lugo are doing is illegal in some states.

For all the bad press Bobby Abreu has taken in New York, his EQA is .265, right around average. He hasn’t done nearly the damage to his team (at the plate) that Crisp and Lugo have done.

Earlier I said the problems are similar on their faces. Both guys have been killing their team with their terrible hitting. The difference lies in their contracts and in the Sox farm system.

Lets start with their contracts. Crisp is signed to a relatively manageable deal that runs through 2009. He is due 4.75M in 2008 and 5.75M in 2009. There is an 8M club option with a .5M buy-out in 2010. That means that if the Sox were to move him, they wouldn’t have to pay too much of the deal if anything because there isn’t that much to pay in the first place (relatively speaking).

Further, the Sox also have their number one prospect, Jacoby Ellsbury, a center fielder, playing well in AAA ball. This combined with the large number of good free agent center fielders available next off season, means that there are numerous options available to replace Crisp’s sub-par production in the future.

The immediate problem is what to do about a starting center fielder who can't hit. Do the Sox mortgage some significant part of their future for half a season of a Torii Hunter? I hate to say maybe.

Hopefully Crisp doesn't force their hand. He used to hit in Cleveland, so there is some precedent for thinking he may, at some point, actually hit the ball hard, but he’s going to have to do some serious damage to overcome his hideous start. And when considering this, one should remember that Crisp hasn’t hit in a year and a half.

With the team doing so well (last night not withstanding) the Sox need a center fielder who can hit at least a little, and the easiest solution for the Sox would be if that center fielder was Coco. If Crisp doesn’t pick it up he may find himself on the bench or on another team (which might not be a bad thing for him). The Sox will likely wait another month before starting to really consider their options.

The trade deadline is about a month and a half away. If Crisp is still not hitting by then, expect a flurry of rumors at minimum.

Lugo is another story. The Sox have Lugo signed for three and a half more years and every shortstop in the majors, even Alex Gonzalez, is out-hitting him.

Lugo’s horrible offensive performance was outlined above. As for improvement, there are two choices, really. The first is just hope he improves. This is the likely course of action. Because of his contract, there isn’t much Epstein can do unless he just wants to admit the whole thing was a huge mistake. This means that the Sox will probably have to live with terrible production from the shortstop position this season, simply because this is the first year of a 4 year deal.

The second option is make some sort of trade, but as I said this is unlikely because of the length of the contract that Lugo was just given.

Further exacerbating the problem is that the Red Sox don’t have anyone who looks like a major league shortstop in their system. They do have Jed Lowrie who is hitting .285/.416/.461 in AA Portland, but at this point he’s considered a lower ceiling prospect and not someone who is likely to start at shortstop for the Sox anytime soon.

If Lugo doesn't improve, Theo made a hugely expensive miscalculation in terms of money ($36M over 4 years) and games lost. If Lugo doesn't get better he'll have to be replaced sometime before his contract is up, and that will cost the team more money. They'll have to pay a replacement at the going rate i.e likely more than a good shortstop makes now, and they'll have to pay someone to take Lugo off their hands. Ugh. It looks like another Renteria situation.*


*I'm a big Epstein fan, but there is no question the Red Sox have bungled the shortstop position since the end of the 2004 season. They had Orlando Cabrera a good fielding decent hitting player who they could have easily resigned after the championship in '04, but they opted for the less known quantity in Edgar Renteria. Renteria had hit better than Cabrera throughout his career, until he came to Boston.

Renteria's terribleness forced the Sox hand and they traded him for pennies on the dollar to Atlanta in a deal that ultimately landed them Coco Crisp (coincidence?). The Sox then went with Alex Gonzalez who was over hyped as a fielder, although he was very good, but couldn't hit worth a poop. Then they signed Lugo, the guy they wanted all along, who was supposed to hit, but hasn't come close to doing so.

The tale of the tape:

The Sox are now paying two starting shortstops: their own and Atlanta's (Atlanta's is hitting quite well, thank you very much). Boston fan's favorite shortstop plays for Anaheim, and the Sox are stuck with someone who sucks for the next 3.5 years. Thats called bungling the position, folks.


Anonymous said...

One note--EqA isn't exactly "quick and dirty"

If you check the glossary at Baseball Prospectus ( you can read more about how it is calculated. It is scaled and spread so that it corresponds to the scale for batting average, but incorporates many more aspects of run production. It is meant to be convenient, but is not quick or dirty.

mattymatty said...

Thanks for the comment.

Fair enough. I wasn't originally going to include EQA in my analysis, but I decided to after writing the majority of the post. I probably should have pulled out the "quick 'n dirty" line.

I subscribe to BP, so I'm pretty familiar with EQA and what components go into it, but thanks for the link just the same.