Why the “Shortstop Offense” is not a problem for “Bobby Sox”
By Earl Nash
When a reporter asked Bobby Valentine, today, if his lineup could afford “little to no production from the shortstop position,” Valentine replied with sarcastic humor:
“Probably not. My fast brain says probably not.”
Yes, even a slow brain would answer: “Probably not.”
Good thing the Sox are not bloody likely to get “little or no production from the shortstop position.”
With all the angst being fostered by the media about the Offensive Hole at Shortstop, larger than The Big Dig, you would think that Aviles and Punto will bat below the Mendoza line [.200 or less] and the SS slot in the batting order will be an automatic out.
But, a review of the stats for the “No-O Trio” at shortstop gives lie to the hysteria. Aviles, who will get the majority of the starts at SS is projected by Baseball Reference for .288, 12 HRs, 62 RBIs, and 82 Runs scored. “Where did they get that .288 projection?” asks the “mo-ron” two bar stools to the left, who is hogging all the free pretzels. And you retort: “It’s his career BA. And gratuitously add: “He batted .317 in 107 ABs for the Sox in 2011…”
And, before that “mo-ron” on his way to the Mens’ room mutters: “Yeah, but I hear he can’t hit lefties…” tell him “the stats show he hits LHPs and RHPs equally well…” And add: “So, he doesn’t need a platoon partner to make up for a deficiency in his splits.”
And, before the guy sitting next to the pretzel gobbling “mo-ron” raises a concern that Aviles has “never played a full season at SS,” remind him that, “during the past 4 years, Aviles has logged 152 games at SS, 142 at 2b, 60 at 3b and 5 in the OF and he hasn’t collapsed yet.”
Punto will get a minor portion of the total SS innings, as he can also fill in at 3b and 2b to spell the fragile Youk and Dustin ” Myself Off “ Pedroia.
Say, he plays 25% of the SS innings and you have to live with his batting .249, but he gets you 40 RBIs, 63 Rs, and 17-20 SBs; is that “little or no production”? Recall he hit .278 in 166 ABs with a .388 OBP last season with the Cards.
So far, you have 75% of your SS ABs at .288 and another 20% at .249. The remaining 5-10% of your SS ABs will be taken by Iglesias, who will likely serve as a late-inning defensive replacement. Even if the kid only manages his career low of .235, he will only represent a small slice of the SS position offense. He did hit .295 in 2010 and his only MLB stat is .333, 2 hits in 6 ABs and he scored 3 Runs.
Let’s take 600 total SS ABs for this example. Playing SS, Aviles gets 75% or 450 ABs; Punto gets 20% or 120 ABs; Iglesias gets 5% or 30 ABs. Thus, you have a .288 hitter going to the plate 450 times; a .249 hitter appearing 120 times; a .235 hitter getting 30 ABs. Does that add up to “little or no production” from the SS position?
Bobby Valentine lived with Rey Ordonez, a career .246 hitter with a .280 OBP for seven seasons with the Mets; he can probably get by with a Shortstop Trio that will out produce Ordonez by a lot. And, if any team in MLB can afford to get a little less offense from the SS position, it’s the Sox, who nearly always outscore all the other 30 teams in MLB.
It is axiomatic in the media business that “bad news sells” and expecting the worst has been the theme for Red Sox rooters for generations, so it is no surprise that the Boston media and web pundits are fabricating problems for the Sox—SS, RF, 5th starter, Crawford—but the stats for the three-man hybrid SS for the 2012 season demonstrate that citizens of Red Sox Nation are being told they must “buy Wolf Tickets.” They must buy into the worry that The Big Bad Wolf is coming to eat your shortstops’ bats.
But, our bats are made of brick, Mr. Wolf, so go blow.
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