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The Sports Daily > Firebrand AL
Second to none: Bellhorn or Crespo?

Now that Nomar Garciaparra is out until the early beginnings of May, Pokey Reese will be shifting over to shortstop. Nobody questions Reese’s ability to defensively star. However, comparing Reese to Nomar offensively is a laugh. So clearly, where we need to try to make up for this offense is second base. But who can best give us this offense? Is it Mark Bellhorn or Cesar Crespo?
Let’s start with Bellhorn. In 2002, with the Chicago Cubs, he hit 27 HRs in 445 ABs, posting a .258 batting average and getting on base at a .374 clip. He also had a VORP (Value Over Replacement Player – number of runs contributed over what a replacement level player would contribute in place of aforemented player) of 42.1. That means, over the course of the season, he was 42.1 runs better than a replacement player. For comparison, Barry Bonds’ 2002 VORP was 146.6, while John Valentin was 5.4, playing for the Mets.
Moving onto 2003: Bellhorn enters as the incumbent Cubs starter, and has 139 at bats for them, batting .209/.341 with 2 HR. He is traded to the Colorado Rockies, where he has 110 at-bats, hitting .232/.368 with … zero home runs. His VORP for 2003 was -4.9. Therefore, he was worse than John Valentin was in 2002. For example, the Red Sox had Damian Jackson as a super-utility player last year. His VORP was -3.5. So we have someone who was worse than Jackson starting at second. Why didn’t we keep Jackson, hmm? I’ll tell you why. That 2002 season that came out of nowhere and is not likely to come back.
Why? Take a look at his career stats, INCLUDING his career year. 1017 AB, 36 HR, .230/.345 in six seasons. His career average for a season comes out to 444 at-bats, with a .230/.345, 16 HR. And this is with his career year. Without this career year, Mark Bellhorn is hands down worse than Damian Jackson. The last two years of his six year career show a marked improvement in plate disclipline. Other than that, Bellhorn is horrible. So it’s like a lottery. Bellhorn has six total seasons in MLB. One of those seasons he was a solid starter. In two of those seasons he had OBPs above .324. So we’re trying to strike gold, pretty much, in asking him to hit, oh say … .250/.350.
Especially with his Spring Training stats…having a worse average and OBP than Pokey Reese. (.180/.200 to .219/.438.)
Then we have someone on fire in spring training, hitting .349/.492, who has 182 total at bats in the major leagues and is 24. His career MLB stats bode out to a .202/.310. That’s not far behind Bellhorn, even though Bellhorn is much better when it comes to HRs as Crespo has 4. But keep in mind, Crespo has a total of 182 bats in the majors, while Bellhorn has 1017 AB. So, by using simple math, if Crespo had 1017 AB, he would have 22 HRs. And that doesn’t even factor in the maturity factor, because Crespo is 24 compared to Bellhorn’s 29.
Last year for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Crespo hit .267/.323 with 9 HR. He is considered a super-utility player, and can play everywhere: the infield, the outfield. So obviously he has good defensive skills. Bellhorn? He has a career fielding percentage of .966 at almost every single position (mainly third and second), while the lgFP (league Fielding Percentage) is .973. His Range Factor is 2.86 compared to an lgRF of 4.09. Crespo’s time in the majors come out to a 2.38 RF with a lgRF of 3.70.
Crespo seems to be a better defensive player, with better hitting skills than Mark Bellhorn. Bellhorn has a slight edge in HRs – but not by much, and only greatly benefits with his skill in OBP – which I may add, has only been shown in the last two years. This year, Bellhorn has a .180 average and .200 OBP in spring training, so his eye may have left him and been transferred to Crespo.
Any way you cut it, Crespo should be the second baseman until Theo can find a suitable replacement.

Comments

  1. I've been iffy on the Crespo issue, but the points you mention make me think. Why not play Crespo at second? He's only 24, and could be the future. The Sox should atleast split the time 50/50 I think until Nomar is back. Great article, Evan.

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  2. I saw bellhorn play (surprisingly well) against the dodgers down here in vero beach. sox looked somnolent on that day-as was i,escorting 6 grandchildren to the game and playing red sox trivia tothose o ver seven. my research is limited…the sox are a passion,not an obsession to me. i remember some awful red sox-don buddin at shortstop standing out….mickey mcdermott on the mound….pumpsie green in the infield instead of jackie robinson..leon culbertson in the outfield instead of dom—but who the hell was sam horn??????

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  3. I think Bellhorn is the choice. 2002 clearly was a peak year; it was like Mueller's 2003 season. No one's expecting that. Nonetheless, Bellhorn can hit. Here are Bellhorn and Crespo's career numbers at Triple-A:
    Bellhorn
    1196AB 61HR .280BA .410OBP .520SLG
    Crespo
    1060AB 26HR .262BA .343OBP .413SLG
    Both played primarily in the PCL, a good hitters' league. (Crespo's 465 AB with Pawtucket excepted, of course.) Bellhorn played in Edmonton two years, a good hitters' park. Still though, a 174 point OPS advantage is significant.
    It's true that Bellhorn played in 6 different MLB seasons. However, in three of them he had 15, 16, and 82 PA. It's tough to conclude anything from such sparse playing time.
    In his other three seasons, his stats were:
    1997 261PA .228/.324/.357
    2002 529PA .258/.374/.512
    2003 307PA .221/.353/.293
    2002 sticks out but it's also the only time he has played regularly, so it can't be completely discounted. 1997 wasn't a disaster when you consider he was a 22-yr old rookie in Oakland (tough hitters' park). 2003 is pretty bad, but no one posts a .293 SLG–that should be taken with as many grains of salt as his .512 SLG. In an offense like Boston's, on-base pct takes on added importance since outs take opporunities away not from bad hitters, but from good ones.
    As for fielding, Bellhorn looks to be at least average (check his ZR at ESPN), which is an improvement over Walker. I don't know about Crespo since I don't have his minor league numbers.
    I think you start Bellhorn until he proves to be a disaster. The Sox obviously didn't want to rely on just him; they probably looked to him and Reese to both be available as 2B/utility guys in case one of them didn't hit at all–a distinct possiblity.
    The only basis for choosing Crespo are the 2004 ST stats, and they just don't hold nearly the weight as 1000+ Triple-A at bats and 1000+ major league at bats.

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  4. Neither Crespo nor Bellhorn is the answer longterm. Not by a long shot. But both are very versatile (Bellhorn can play all over the IF, and Crespo can play just about anywhere, IF or OF). Neither appears to have much range or speed. So I think it's pretty safe to say that, regardless of who gets the 2B job until Nitwit heals up, we're sacrificing both O and D in the interim.
    Where's Tony Womack when you need him?

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  5. First off, Sam Horn is a nobody that specific people remember years and years later, much like Brian Daubach. You can look him up at baseball-reference.com.
    As to Mike, SportsRetort.com, you make a very good case for Bellhorn. I concede the ZR, ESPN's ZR stats for Bellhorn raised my eyebrow.
    Perhaps you're right in giving Bellhorn another chance, and knock his playing time seasons down to 3, The thing is, however, 2 of those seasons have presented similar statistics. Besides, I'm not sure playing regularly has anything to do with it.
    In 2003, Bellhorn had 2 months above .244 – July at .245 and September at .350. He lost most of his playing time in August, with 15 AB and September with 20. Before that he had 50+ in every month (excluding March).
    In 2002, Bellhorn posted a
    .245 AVG in April in 53 AB
    .205 in May in 39 AB.
    .260 in June in 50 AB.
    .313 in July in 96 AB.
    .252 in August in 119 AB.
    .239 in September in 88 AB.
    Pretty much his entire season was boosted by July, even though most of his power came in June, July, and August.
    Also factor in that Bellhorn played in the minors for 8 years, from ages 21-29, and his most eye-popping AAA stats come from ages 29, 27, and 26 – ages that Crespo has not reached yet.
    I think Randy Booth hit it on the nail when he said they should split playing time 50-50.
    As to the Anonymous guy – Womack would have been worse than either Bellhorn or Crespo.

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  6. 1. If you want to discount the playing time "argument," that's fine, but my other point is that Bellhorn's one big season still counts. You can't conclude his true abilty is represented only by the other two seasons; you have to factor in the fluke season as well. When you do that, you have a guy who has been a decent major league hitter. Combined with his minor league stats, you have a strong indication that he can indeed hit.
    Re. the monthy splits, I honestly don't know what to do with monthly splits because they're by definition small sample sizes. And with Bellorn, BA is probably the least relevant stat to judge him by.
    2. Triple-A stats. Standard practice is to consider Bellhorn 29, Crespo 25 in 2004 because those are the ages they'll be for the majority of the season. So:
    Crespo
    age AB OPS
    22 273 .790
    23 322 .770
    24 465 .727
    Bellhorn
    age AB OPS
    22 241 1.036
    23 309 .821
    25 436 .920
    26 156 .908
    28 54 1.226
    The way I see it, the argument for Crespo could be based on a) his defense, b) that at 25 he could improve, c) Bellhorn had his big seasons at an advanced age, so his better stats can explained along developmental lines.
    In reverse order:
    The above stats should dispel c). Bellhorn was playing well at Triple-A at age 22. He also played in the majors at age 22; he didn't play well, but he wasn't a complete disaster, either.
    b) if Crespo is improving, his Triple A stats don't reflect it. The IL is tougher on hitters (I believe) than the PCL (because the PCL has parks at altitude such as Albuquerque, Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs), but it's still hard to see how his Pawtucket stats are a significant improvement.
    a) I have no idea about Crespo's defense. Bellhorn has graded out okay statistically. That doesn't preclude someone from saying he looked bad in ST, but then again, the same could be said of Crespo.
    The argument for Bellhorn is that he has a better major and minor league track record so far, and his 2002 season suggests a higher present-day upside as well.
    I do like Crespo–I think the fact the Sox kept him and let Womack and Shumpert go reflects well on the organization. Crespo may be a valuable future utilityman due to his age and versatility, but I don't think there's enough of a track record to suggest he's a full-blown prospect and thus deserving of the shot.

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  7. Sam Horn was a slow home run hitter with a Cecil Fielder-esque physique who got trapped in the minors and never really got a shot. I think he hit a HR in his first Boston or perhaps 1st Fenway AB.
    FWIW, he has a higher career OPS+ than Daubach or Ortiz do entering 2004.

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  8. There are three kinds of minor leaguers.
    [1] Those that stay the same at each level.
    [2] Those that improve and reach the majors.
    [3] Those that get worse as playing level increases.
    There has been nothing to dispel the notion that Bellhorn is #3 so far. You say not to discount the fluke season, they count just as much as the other two playing-time season. Maybe so, but you have to weight the two playing-time seasons just the same. Darin Erstad had a fluke season a couple years past, he's not approached that level since. Sometimes the cards just fall the right way. For Bellhorn, that seemed to be July and August of 2002.
    Crespo, OTOH, looks like he's #1. Now perhaps he'll turn out to be #3, who knows, but he looks to be on his way to being #1. His career major league stats are not too far behind Bellhorn (but small sample size, yes). With each level of play, he gives you around the same statistics.
    Now perhaps the better bet (or should I say, risk) right now is Mark Bellhorn at second. I just tend to stay with the bigger sample size. There are many people that destroy AAA that can't make it in the majors (hence AAAA). AAAA players are MUCH more in numbers than those who follow option #1.
    Crespo is a valuable bench player RIGHT NOW, we can say that. But Bellhorn is a bench player too, not a starter. And looking at Bellhorn's AAA stats, there's some fluctuation there, too.
    Let me add in SoxProspects.com's comments on Crespo.
    "Good bat speed and decent power. Strikes out and walks a lot due to taking a lot of pitches; he has good plate discipline. Very fast and instinctual on the base paths. Defense is steady at third, short, and right, with a good arm."
    Things we can take from this – Bellhorn has good plate disclipline, Crespo also. Crespo translates into stolen bases, and also has instincts – instincts and speed that can be translated to defense. Now even though it leaves out 2nd, we'll disregard that – Pokey could always move back to 2nd. Plus, Crespo is a utility PLAYER, he can handle second. And he has a good arm.
    So my argument is that Bellhorn is prone to fluctuation and doesn't seem to be as good a defender as Crespo. His speed is less than Crespo.
    And may I also add, Crespo had an on-fire spring, while Bellhorn hit worse than Pokey and didn't seem to have a good eye.
    While Bellhorn has the higher UPSIDE, he also has the higher DOWNSIDE. Do we want to risk getting the downside? See, if we get the upside, that's great, that translates into a higher VORP and more wins. But if he gets the downside, well … you know. Crespo, however, is pretty much even.
    So to put this in context using completely random numbers. Bellhorn's upside VORP is 60, his downside VORP is 0. If we come in knowing Bellhorn will either be 60 or 0, and also knowing Crespo will give you a 30, I'd pick Crespo. 100% is better than 50%.
    Not to say that Crespo is 100%, I'm just saying.

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