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Game 119 Open Thread: August 16, 2005

suppan halsey
11-8, 4.12 8-8, 3.96

this morning i linked to an article at Beyond the Boxscore that ranks nl lineups by NRAA, or net runs above average. was anybody shocked (as i was on closer inspection) by david eckstein's disastrous rating on that chart? according to NRAA he is worth negative 22 runs over the course of 162 games, which means he costs the cardinals nearly 3 wins a year. not surprisingly, the lion's share of this purported cost is defensive --- eckstein's Rate2 is a bottom-barrel 88, which means he is 12 runs a year worse than the average shortstop and 20 runs a year worse than an excellent shortstop like rafael furcal. (for the record, edgar renteria's Rate2 this year is 83 . . . .) but it did surprise me that eckstein also graded out as a net negative with the bat; using a metric called marginal lineup value, he costs the team 2 runs a year, the worst hitter on the team besides molina.

can that be true of a guy whose OBP is 25 points above the league average? yes, if he slugs .369. the basic conclusion is that eckstein is a nonentity offensively, contributing nothing. given that he has scored just 62 runs while leading off for the league's highest-scoring team (on pace for about 90 runs), you'd have to say that's a fair assessment --- you could plug almost any competent major-leaguer into that lineup slot and get 90 runs out of him.

but i take no satisfaction from such statements. as loyal readers know, i was skeptical of eckstein from the minute the cardinals signed him, and i watched with a critical eye for the first few months of the year. but i've come to appreciate the guy's situational intelligence; any player who, in a single fortnight, can give you a walkoff squeeze bunt and a walkoff grand slam has got to be playing the game right.

and from whom could the cards have gotten better results? among nl shortstops (admittedly not a distinguished group) eckstein still rates third in OPS at .720, behind only the reds' felipe lopez (.800) and the braves' rafael furcal (.747) and ahead of more highly regarded batsmen like jimmy rollins and cesar itzuris. and even if he's worth -2 runs at the plate, eckstein's still better than the man he replaced, edgar renteria, who is draining the red sox offense at a rate of 6 runs per season . . . . .