Lugo and the Lefties

Ok, first things first…How bad is Julio Lugo? I know the trendy answer is to say, "REALLY F-ING BAD!" but I’m just not convinced that’s the case. Can we all agree that Brendan Ryan’s had a pretty good season? Ok, so he’s not the greatest hitter in the world (.299 wOBA, -5.5 wRAA this year) but he’s a very good fielder. So far this season he’s been worth nearly 9 runs above average on defense, 6.8 of them while playing the field’s 2nd toughest position. From a defensive standpoint, only 2 shortstops have been worth more runs than Ryan and his UZR/150 (15.0) is higher than any qualified shortstop in the big leagues. Right now, Ryan’s been worth 1.5 WAR and $6.6 – equal to the D-backs Stephen Drew. He’s on a pace -- despite a recent offensive slump -- to finish above 2 WAR, thus making him an above average major league shortstop. The question, therefore, becomes, how much better than Lugo is Ryan?

It goes without saying that Ryan is a better defensive shortstop than Lugo is. For his career, Lugo is actually an above average shortstop, registering a UZR/150 of 2.6 but there is a significant downward trend in his defensive numbers. He was a below average shortstop in 2006 and 2008 but slightly above average in 2005 and 2007. In 32 games this season, he’s been awful (minus 8.3 runs) but it’s reasonable to believe that Lugo would be no worse than 8 or 10 runs below average for a full season. That’s still at least a win and a half worse than Ryan, however.

Offensively, Lugo is considerably better than Ryan. His career BB rate is 8.5% and his career OBP is .335 but he’s only had 1 season w/ an OBP below .340 in the last 5. His career wOBA is .323 and in 123 PAs this season it’s been .329. Lugo’s career line drive rate is 19.4%. He’s been basically a league average offensive player – not league average offensive SHORTSTOP, but league average HITTER – every season of his career except for 2001 and 2007. In fact, R.J. Anderson makes the case over at fangraphs that Lugo is a league average offensive player. So, if that’s true, and Lugo is a league average offensive player and 10 runs below average defensively – add about 20 runs for the difference between replacement level and league average and 7.5 runs for the positional adjustment for Lugo playing shortstop, and Lugo would be roughly 17.5 runs above replacement level – 2.5 runs below average for a full season. Basically, Lugo is likely a slightly below league average player – probably less than a win worse than Ryan. All in all, considering the fact that Boston’s paying his entire salary, we’re getting about an $8 M player for nothing, except Chris Duncan and a PTBNL. Not at all shabby, IMO.

Throw in the fact that he can play 2B and 3B (if he really has to, but I’ll bet he makes at least 1 appearance either at 3rd or in LF) and that he has a career .716 OPS against lefties and we have a guy who can be a pretty good value to the team going forward. He’s certainly better than Tyler Greene or Brian Barden (or Joe Thurston, btw) and, if Tony allows it, should play 2B in Skip’s stead whenever a lefty’s on the mound. It’s worth noting, additionally, that the difference between a shortstop and a left fielder is 15 runs in favor of the shortstop meaning that Duncan would have to be a win and a half better than Lugo on offense and defense for them to just be of equal value. And he’s not…period. Never has been and probably never will be.

Word is that Big Dunc is not at all happy about the trade and that Tony’s not thrilled either but this trade unquestionably makes the team better in the short run. Consider also that Lugo is signed for next year and the Red Sox are picking up the tab and we at least have a pretty good bench option settled for next year as well. I’ll reserve full judgment on the deal until we hear who the PTBNL is but my initial reaction is that it’s a good move for the team.

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The other thing I wanted to address this morning is something that’s gone, basically, without notice (or at least very little fanfare) and that’s the state of our left handed relief. This year’s tandem of Trever Miller and Dennys Reyes has been significantly better than last year’s duo of Randy Flores and Ron Villone. The stats below tell us all we need to know: (the BA, OBP, and SLG are against left handed hitters)

K/9 BB/9 FIP BA OBP SLG
Miller ‘09 10.36 2.96 3.33 .123 .164 .211
Reyes ‘09 8.06 3.63 3.89 .222 .283 .259
Flores ‘08 5.96 7.01 5.27 .314 .422 .549
Villone ‘08 9.00 6.66 4.51 .176 .311 .318

Randy Flores could do his own stand-up comedy with his version of Jeff Foxworthy’s "You Know You’re a Redneck When…" by calling his routine "You Know You Suck When…" You know you suck when this year’s southpaws have OPSes that are lower than your SLG!

Together Miller and Reyes have been worth nearly 4 runs above average which sounds like it isn’t much, but when you consider the fact that they’ve thrown less than 47 innings combined, it’s impressive. They also tend to work some of the highest leverage situations, both having gmLIs above 1 and, in fact, only Franklin has a higher LI than Reyes. They work under pretty constant pressure and have been more productive than every other reliever on our staff except for Franklin. There just aren’t many lefty specialists who’ve been better than Miller and Reyes this season. They’ve been a significant upgrade (3.8 runs below average in ‘08) over Flores and Villone and it’s something that should be noticed and that Mo should be given credit for since the 2 of them are signed for a total of $1.5 M this season.

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