Posts Tagged ‘John McClain’

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A.L. East Shortstops 2009

March 30, 2009

Do you know how when you watch a Die Hard movie and you see John McClain getting the perpetually brutalized, you can’t help but think about how awesome and tough he is for walking around on two broken legs with eight fingers in an effort to defeat his foreign enemies? Well, when Derek Jeter watches that movie he thinks “Yeah, me too.”

Derek Jeter has been a great hitter, and is pretty much a baseball and Yankee icon since the team won the 1996 World Series, and watching a player on your team yough out injuries to try and help the team can be very inspiring. But Jeter’s John McClain imprsonation last season did nothing but drag the Yankees and himself down. His refusal to sit out and rest after hand and wrist injuries, most notably thanks to a Daniel Cabrera fastball to the hand, killed not only his own season but really cost the Yankees as well. Jeter was not himself most of the season, with only 39 total extra base hits all year. For perspective, in each of 2006 and 2007 he accumulated 39 extra base hits on doubles alone. As a result his slugging dropped to the second worst mark of his career, and his OPS was the lowest he has ever had. The batting average was there, and his walk rate was right in line with 2007, so it is probably safe to say that his skills have not eroded, and the lack of power can be attributed to the injuries. In September, Jeter rebounded to slug .474, when he was presumably healthy for the first time in a lone time.

Jeter’s glove work (his lack of range, specifically) has been documented quite well already, and his speed is getting to be marginal, so his contributions have to come from him being an above average hitting shortstop. His range will only get worse, and unfortunately PECOTA sees his bat following last years downward trend to a line of .293/.359/.408 and an EqA of .272. I think Jeter rebounds to 2007’s levels, with an EqA closer to .290, but his diminishing defense will continue to temper his offense, even if he improves.

Regardless of his shortcomings, Jeter will likely remain the cream of the crop as far as A.L. East shortstops go. The Red Sox will open the year with Jed Lowrie as the starting shortstop, perhaps with a twist of Julio Lugo squirted in later in the year. Lowrie is a decent player, is younger and better than Lugo. Unfortunately, that is about as good as it gets for Lowrie, who has little power, little speed, and little range at short. He is a very mediocre hitter, with a peak probably in David Eckstein range. That’s nothing to sneeze at, Eckstein was a quality starter for several years, but the hype I’ve heard for Lowrie has been way too loud. Pecota expects a season of .252/.336/.436 and .269 EqA, and I can’t say I disagree.

Cesar Izturis has a career .299 on base percentage, and the Orioles signed him this off-season to a two year deal. The lack of production that Baltimore got last season at the shortstop position was so absurd that, to quote Baseball prospectus, “Izturis has moved to one of the very few teams for which he will actually represent an offensive upgrade, as the multitude of O’s shortstops combined for a .533 OPS last year.” PECOTA calls for a near repeat of Izturis’ last season with the Cards, .243/.319/.358 and an EqA of .237, coupled with above average defense.

I have already written a few times about the Rays improved defense last year, and Jason Bartlett was one major reason for that. Bartlett is a good (but limited) player to have around: strong glove and above average speed to enhance the mediocre-even-for-a-shortstop bat he has. The forecast from PECOTA is a line of .261/.314/.363 and a .243 EqA. This calls for a drop in all three of his slash stats (they also predict a drop in his plate apearances). Bartlett’s value comes from his defense, so as long as he maintains that the Rays will have no problem trotting him out every day.

The mediocrity keeps on coming with Marco Scutaro, one of the more boringly dependable and unspectacular players in baseball. Scutaro plays any position around the infield, fields them all very well, and has just enough on-base ability to overcome his lack of power of base-stealing. He’s pegged for a season of .256/.332/.366 and .250 EqA. Consistent and safe, if nothing else.

It doesn’t take much to stand out at shortstop in this division; there are no Jose Reyes’ or Hanley Ramirez’ to be found like in the N.L. East (though Hanley was a Boston prospect before being traded for Josh Beckett). Jeter still stands atop this pyramid, but mostly by default.

Next time around, what will probably be a really long article previewing the outfielders. Put on some coffee and break out your bifocals, you’re going to have some reading to do.

(By the way, Happy Birthday to me. Normally, writing is my birthday cake, but now that this is done I’m going to tear into a real cake.)

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