Position Player Review

As the Red Sox are set to meet the mid-mark of the season tonight against the Oakland A’s (Wakefield v. Zito), it’s time for that canned piece that people do everywhere that can be aptly summed up as “Review”. Without futher ado, here is the Review column for Fire Brand! The three hitting statistics that will be grouped together for everyone is Average, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage. They will read as such: AVG/OBP/SLG.
Instead of grading each player A, B, C, D, F, or INC, I will grade them as the following:
Exceeds (he exceeded expectations and is doing great!), On Target (no problem with this guy, he’s giving us what we expected), Missed Target (not giving us exactly what we had hoped for, but is decent enough), Slip-Sliding (not what we expected and expect at all), and Considering (this is basically an INCOMPLETE grade. They did okay enough, considering.)
Jason Varitek is the Red Sox’s starting catcher, and has performed very well defensively, logging a .998 fielding percentage with a catcher’s ERA (Earned-run average of club’s pitchers with a particular catcher behind the plate) of 4.15. His zone rating (percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive zone) is an expected 1.000. On the offensive side of the plate, he is hitting .272/.378/.431 , although that is misleading considering his offensive stats have been tailing off month by month (.292/.418/.508 to .287/.398/.494 to his June totals of .263/.352/.350 ). All in all, he has a high OBP and is the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse. If the Red Sox decided to anoint a captain, ‘Tek would be it. However, Jason prefers to lead by example. If you want the face of the Red Sox, you’d go to Pedro (or Nomar, but I’d strongly suggest against it), but if you want Mr. Red Sox, why, that’s Mr. Varitek here. On Target.
Doug Mirabelli is our backup, and is having a solid season. His fielding percentage is .992 with a CERA of 3.45. The fielding percentage slippage is explained by the fact he is Wakefield’s personal catcher. The CERA is a little surprise, considering that he catches Wakefield, who currently has a 4.27 ERA. Certainly is good on the defensive front. On the offensive front, he’s giving Barry Bonds a run for his money: .297/.366/.656 (Bonds has a .790 OPS). ‘Belli has 19 hits, 11 of which have gone for extra base hits. I am among the pantheon who support giving Mirabelli more starts against lefties and allowing Varitek to catch Wakefield. It’s not a good idea at all to have your primary catcher uncomfortable with catching someone. Mirabelli has a .364/.391/.864 line against lefties, and a .262/.354/.548 line against righties, mostly on career track. But a philosophy instilled by manager Grady Little has carried over, unfortunately. Exceeds. (Did you think his hitting would be this good?)
David Ortiz has most of the starts here. He has a .984 fielding percentage (as does Millar). For a first baseman, that is unacceptable. All starting first-basemans should have a fielding percentage comfortably above .990. That being said, Ortiz is a better defensive first baseman than Millar (more on that later). On the offensive side, Ortiz is one of the two bash brothers we have depended on. Hitting a scintillating .306/.359/.609 with an AL-leading 76 RBI and 22 HRs, Ortiz is one of Theo’s best, if not the best, pickups. He helps keep the clubhouse loose and is a great man to have in a Red Sox uniform. Exceeds. (The reason he is Exceeds and is not On Target is because no one thought he would have to play this much first base, and considering he hasn’t stunk up the team in the field, he exceeds expectations in everything.)
Kevin Millar has a .984 fielding percentage, a 9.20 Range Factor [ (PutOuts + Assists) / Innings Played ] and a .765 Zone Rating. Ortiz has a 9.40 RF and .811 ZR. So Millar has not been providing good D at first. Millar, however, has been very good in left field, but very bad in right field, with a .973 FP, 2.05 RF (Nixon is 2.23) and a .873 ZR (Nixon is .923). Defensively, Millar has been a bust. Offensively, these are his numbers: .268/.346/.387. Not a good enough batting average (career: .288), a decent enough OBP, and a horrendous SLG. 2002 SLG = .509. 2003 SLG = .472. The guy is done, he is not a starter anymore. He is now a bench player, which is very bad. A bench player making $3.5 million? Ouch. Slip Sliding.
Bellhorn has the great majority of playing time here (67 games, 65 starts out of 80 games played), and has a .981 FP, 4.72 RF, .832 ZR split. That’s not very good range at all, but perhaps we are spoiled by Pokey, as his second base defensive stats read 1.000/6.53/.917. For comparison, Todd Walker’s splits last year were .975/4.75/.788, so that is clearly an improvement. Offensively, Bellhorn stands in at .259/.382/.421. This guy would be a major player if not for his 91 K in 290 AB and his .421 SLG – unacceptable given his strikeout rate. We were expecting better offense (offense as in slugging percentage), and in the offseason, the consensus was that he would provide pretty good defense, something he could have better work on. However, we didn’t expect him to play as large a role or catalyst as he has had, so that negates the negatives and puts him solidly On Target.
Pokey Reese leads off here, as he has 53 starts at this position. He has a lovely .976 FP, 4.80 RF, .910 ZR. We all know how good Pokey is defensively, so we don’t need to talk about that here. Offensively, he is hitting .245/.289/.338. While not his worst, not his best. As a number nine hitter though, providing the defense he has … he is Exceeds. We knew he had good leather, but did he have this much? We did not know that.
And then we come to Nomar, who apparently has demanded a trade according to ESPN’s Dan Patrick. Nomar has an abysmal fielding record this year, giving us splits of .935/3.90/.645. Let me assure you, that Zone Rating is not a misprint. Offensively, Nomar turned it up in the Atlanta series (one game too late, critics say), boosting his offensive totals to .284/.322/.444 (barely over Bellhorn’s). That OBP shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it has been dipping the past few years. The .284 batting average is good considering he has 81 at-bats under his belt, or in other words, hasn’t finished ‘April’. If this was April, we would be dissapointed in his defense, but optimistic about his offense. But it’s July, and we see that Nomar has no range, no power and more importantly, no more passion. He is a Missed Target, but is given a Slip Sliding because of his defensive woes, his only recent offensive upswing, and his character.
Bill Mueller has not been doing very good fielding. Kevin Youkilis has a Zone Rating a full .100 points over him. Mueller’s ZR is .663, Youkilis’ is .785. Guess Youkilis isn’t that bad defensively as he was said to be. Mueller has a fielding percentage of .916, and a Range Factor of 2.00. However, he just came back from injury, so perhaps those numbers will increase. We can’t really give Mueller a “Missed Target”, because last year was clearly an “Exceeds” season, offensively. However, Mueller gives us the line of .263/.329/.404 offensively, while his career sits at .291/.373/.421. While his career line is encouraging news for the second half as most people always regress to the mean, we have to give Mueller a Missed Target here.
Kevin Youkilis was a surprise call-up when Mueller went down, considering as he wasn’t ripping the ball off the cover in Pawtucket. However he has been a great surprise for the Red Sox major league team this year and his stock as risen considerably. We’ve already covered Youkilis’ defense, so let’s look at his offense. .297/.400/.449. Nice! Almost a .300 hitter, and a .400 OBP guy. It’s too bad his SLG isn’t over .500, but in a couple of years he very well could be. He’d be one of the best players at his position on both ends of the ball. Couple that with one of the Red Sox’s only feel-good stories of the season (so far), the air-fiving after his first hit which was an MLB homerun, and this guy gets a resounding Exceeds. (Let me interject here that not only was I wrong about that we should start Crespo over Bellhorn, I was wrong that we should have called up Snyder over Youkilis. I’m a man, I can admit when I’m wrong.)
Manny Ramirez’s offensive escapades are well known to everybody (.340/.436/.656), so most people would argue he gets an Exceeds grade so far, considering his interaction with the media and fans has skyrocketed, and he is now a go-to guy in the clubhouse. However, let me temper your happiness with two sets of numbers.

2004 .972 1.68 .738
2003 .982 1.83 .789

His fielding has gone down, perhaps because he does not feel as pressured or mad to improve it. But either way you look at it, his attitude rates an Exceeds, his offense an On Target, and his fielding a Missed Target, which gives him an overall score of On Target.
Johnny Damon is second in the major leagues with a .918 Zone Rating, and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game today. The man gets to the balls. Offensively, he is above his career averages and is having his best season offensively for the Red Sox, not counting the stolen bases. He has a .296 average, .388 OBP, and is slugging .450. He is clearly a worthy grade of Exceeds.
Gabe Kapler has the most starts in right field, so he deserves to be listed here with the starters. Kapler is the third best defensive outfielder behind Damon and Trot Nixon. Offensively, he is acceptable at all levels except his slugging : .259/.303/.356. We didn’t expect him to be starting this much, but he has. The split escapes me, but we have a very good record when Kapler starts. Factor in his defense which was not a big dropoff from Nixon’s, and his hitting which was better than Pokey’s … his all-out hustle, his “Dirt Dog” mentality, and I am going to give him an Exceeds.
Trot Nixon has been basically perfect in the field, so we know that his leg issues are not hampering him in the field. Offensively, though, he started strong but has dipped. .240/.316/.460 is his line so far. Career, he is .277/.365/.495, so the power is there. The only thing lacking is his stroke, but he’s had only 50 at-bats. While it’s a little late to be saying “only” 50 at-bats, we need to exercise some modicum of restraint with Nixon as we do with Nomar. I really want to give him a grade of On Target here, but I can’t because that wouldn’t be fair to Nomar’s grade. Nixon has been the same in the field as he always has been, and is a born leader. His (recent) offensive woes and being out as long as he has been unfortunately earns him a Missed Target.
David McCarty has been a very good fielder for us, at first base, left field, and right field. (Also pitcher!) He is the 2004 version of Dave Stapleton. (Dave Stapleton was the good fielding first baseman that backed up Bil Buckner and is the subject of much second-guessing – why didn’t John McNamara put in Stapleton for Buckner in the last inning?) He is also our primary PH off the bench, and does it well. He is batting .227/.326/.413. He has definitely earned a grade of Exceeds. Where would we be without him?
There were also other assorted members on the bench earlier. There was Cesar Crespo, Brian Daubach, Andy Dominique. They all get a grade of Considering. It is fortunate for us (at least I think so) to have Kapler, Bellhorn/Reese, Youkilis/Mueller, and Mirabelli on the bench. The bench is finally settling down and becoming a strong point, which it was not before due to injuries. Now that a full lineup is being fielded for the first time this year, we should see better and better things off the bench. The overall grade for the bench the entire year was a Missed Target. The overall grade for the players currently on the bench is an Exceed.
Using all the information above, we come up with a Defensive Grade of Slip Sliding, and an Offensive Grade of Missed Target. Yikes.