Can Sox Go with Lugo?
(Boston Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
Hench: Numbers Don't Lie: Lugo Stinks
"Boston has had a spinning wheel approach at short since 2004 and the roulette ball has landed on No. 30, as in the 30th-best shortstop in the big leagues.
After the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years in '04, many Sox fans thought they should re-sign Orlando Cabrera whose defensive wizardry was a big part of the team's championship run. The Boston brass thought his asking price was too high and refused to meet it.
Cabrera signed with the Angels for $32M over four years. For a million fewer dollars a year than the Red Sox are paying Lugo, the Angels have a shortstop who is considerably superior defensively and hitting .333 with an .834 OPS. Lugo is hitting .217 with a .591 OPS. In 664 career at bats, Braves pitcher Mike Hampton has a .292 OBP and a .354 slugging percentage for a .646 OPS. In other words, the Red Sox would have scored more runs with Mike Hampton leading off for them than Julio Lugo.
After Cabrera was deemed too pricey, the Red Sox brought in Edgar Renteria for four years at $10M per. After one season of fan discontent, Renteria was dealt to the Braves with the Red Sox eating part of his salary. Bear in mind that on June 7, 2005, Renteria was hitting .272 and had an OPS of .698, over a hundred points higher than Lugo's is now. And this year? Well, with Boston swallowing $8M of Renteria's salary over the three remaining years, Atlanta is paying less for Renteria — who is hitting .319 with an .878 OPS — than Boston is paying Lugo.
Before the 2006 season the Red Sox dealt minor league shortstop Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins in the deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. While Beckett and Lowell are two of the reasons the Red Sox are contenders, since we're talking about shortstops, it's worth noting that Ramirez, last year's NL Rookie of the Year, has an .863 OPS.
As a stopgap, the Red Sox brought in Alex Gonzalez to play shortstop in 2006. Even for those of us who grew up idolizing Rick Burleson, Gonzo was clearly the best defensive shortstop in Red Sox history. The guy was a magician. So naturally he had to go. Gonzalez is making $3.5M in the first year of a three-year deal with the Reds and has 11 home runs and an .830 OPS.
Which brings us back to Lugo, the weakest of the five shortstops the Sox have had to choose from in the last four years and the least valuable shortstop in the Majors through the season's first 10 weeks. As troubling as a .217 batting average and .277 OBP are for a leadoff hitter, consider this: the guy is super fast. He's 17-for-17 in stolen base attempts. So, yes, some of those precious few hits he's amassed in a Red Sox uniform have come courtesy of his legs. His bat? It must be made of Cottenelle. At bat after at bat, he swings mightily, makes contact and the ball either rolls pathetically to an infielder or arcs in a harmless parabola to a shallow outfielder.
It seems as if he never gets on base. Thanks to Lugo, the Red Sox are 14th in the American League in leadoff OBP, almost 50 points behind the 13th-place Devil Rays.
If you're Red Sox batting coach Dave Magadan, what do you do? What do you say to a guy whose at bats invariably end as if he's swinging a heavy, squishy banana stalk. "Uh, Julio, c'mon, buddy, stop grounding the ball weakly to the right side?" -- 6.8.07, Kevin Hench, FoxSports.com