Monday, July 25, 2011

Fair and Balanced

Thanks to everyone for reading Monday's post.  Needed to get some of that 46 stuff off my back before writing the binder brigade post you all have been waiting for.

Even I have been impressed by the way 46 has bounced back from his pitiful 2009 and 2010 seasons (correction: he raised his OPS+ from 79 to 97 in September, 2009), and his development as an offensive baseball player has exceeded the expectations of pretty much everyone who doesn't put together three-ring binders for a living.

He is still not a perfect player.  Fact:  He is second in the American League in caught stealing, partially because (at least in my opinion) he's not a great baserunner.  Similarly, the stats indicate that he's a good but not great defensive center fielder, but it's not because he's a smart one.  Hopefully even the binder brigade can admit that 46's speed makes up for deficiencies in other parts of his game.  If he had brains and speed out there in the outfield, he'd be better than Brett Gardner.  But why have brains if you can run fast?

The way 46 has gotten his Adrian Gonzalez on this year has been admirable.  There have been two and only two stretches (plus the night he needed the home run for the cycle) where he fancied himself a power hitter, swung for the fences, and sucked.  The first, of course, was his 10-55, 4 HR start when his inability to get on base was instrumental in the Red Sox' blazing start, and the second coincided with their Memorial Day weekend when they played just about as well as I ran.  The rest of the time, if the home run pitch was there, he went after it and happened to hit a home run.  If the double pitch was there, he went after it and hit the double.  If the single pitch was there, he went after it and got the single before running himself into an out at second base. 

Seriously, it's been awesome.  Especially considering the fact that he is leading off (instead of Drew, which, as you know, has been my enduring recommendation) and is getting these singles and doubles in front of a red hot Gonzalez and Ortiz and, more recently, a red-hot Pedroia, his willingness to go after the pitch that is thrown has been refreshing and productive.  He is not patient at the plate, but I am okay with that.  If he can get on base by getting hits, that's better than walking.  With his lack of patience, he's taking a lot fewer called third strikes down the middle.  The power hitter struck out 21 times in his first 21 games, and the real hitter struck out only 39 times in his last 78 games.

The player has hit according to situations as well, perhaps the best example coming over the weekend with his game-breaking single.  It's been pretty good.

I'm not going to go completely nuts and put 46 into Hall of Fame debates like Steve Buckley once did and like Chad Finn did a couple of hours ago.  But the counting stats are pretty impressive.  You (and I) might see him as a singles hitter, but he's sixth in the league in extra-base hits.  He's sixth in the league in slugging percentage, and third in hits.  Despite hitting in the lineup AFTER players like Drew (.219), Varitek (.236), Crawford (.254), and Scutaro (.260), 46 is one RBI behind David Ortiz.  He's eight RBIs ahead of Pedroia for third on the team.  Adrian Gonzalez's 82 RBIs?  Twenty-six of them are 46. 

It is also of paramount importance to note that 46 currently has the much-celebrated, highly-coveted distinction of (behind Curtis Granderson) having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders.

I'm also not going to go nuts and put him ahead of Gonzalez, Bautista, Granderson, or Miguel Cabrera, because he's having that kind of year.  I also, for the record, don't think Pedroia should have won that MVP a few years ago.  I'll leave that kind of garbage conversation to the people putting together the three-ring binders and ignoring that we're talking about 5/8 of a baseball season.  But I said it in March: I'm being fair and balanced this year. 

You can say the same about 46's game.  It's been fair and balanced.  He's playing the game well on the offensive and defensive side.  While he hasn't been Adrian Gonzalez, he's been good.  All around. 

Front.  AND back.


the gm at work said...

Thanks to all the binder boys out there. I slobber all over your boy, as you demanded repeatedly over the past week, and I get silence. Front and back. Many thanks.

ZWeiss said...

Loving this post; I agree with all of it. He's clearly not in the MVP conversation (and Hall of Fame converstations about him and Pedroia this early in their careers are ridiculous) and he's not a great outfielder, but he's been a pretty damn good player this year. He's got his problems, but like you said his speed makes up for that, especially in the outfield. Bottom line is, he's produced so far, and I hope he keeps it up for the Sox's sake.

the gm at work said...


Thanks for the pity post. You can agree with all of it; I can agree with most of it. 46 is not a terrible baseball player. He's done quite a bit this year to inspire the one-clap he does after he performs his job correctly.

John said...

I think the conversation the other day about him being MVP consideration was more about how no one in the media had really mentioned it as opposed to whether or not we actually thought he was deserving of the MVP. At least that was the way I was attempting to go about it.

Side note on the laser show. He is back up to .297 this year after an awful April(.255) and an even worse May(.227).

Rocci said...

You should probably switch over to calling him #2, since it's what he wears now, and it fits that you think he's a piece of crap.