Friday, February 05, 2010

2010 Red Sox Projections - 3B

2009 vs. 2010 Red Sox - 3B:
2009 - Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis
2010 - Adrian Beltre

This is the first position that I've looked at with a significant personnel change. It won't be the last.

The Red Sox decided, this winter, that it was time to move on from Mike Lowell. There may have been (I'd say almost certainly was) some "buyer's remorse" in the front office about the contract that he signed after the 2007 World Series, and his age and injury history make him, if not a bad bet to be a productive player in 2010, then certainly a significant productivity risk.

Adrian Beltre is not the prototypical Red Sox hitter. He has poor plate discipline and consequently doesn't work the count or draw walks. (He also strikes out at a high rate, but I am under the impression that that's more of a concern for people who misunderstand exactly what it is that the Red Sox focus on than it is for the Red Sox themselves.) He had one fantastic year, hitting .334/.388/.629/1.017 with 48 HR as a 25 year-old in LA, but after signing a big contract with Seattle, has varied from bad to worse. In his five years in Seattle, he hit .266/.317/.442/.759, which translates to a 101 OPS+, essentially league average. You'd like to get more than that out of a third baseman. (Of course, over that same five year span, Mike Lowell hit .283/.339/.456/.795 with an OPS+ of 104, which, adjusted for context, is not that much better.)

There is one more factor to consider, offensively. Seattle's Safeco Field is an extreme pitcher's park, and a bad park for right-handed batters, and Beltre suffered from playing there. He hit .254/.307/.410/.717 in Safeco over the past five years, and .277/.326/.472/.798 on the road. An .800 OPS might be a reasonable expectation when playing half of his games in Fenway.

The one thing about which there's no debate, however, is his defensive skill. Baseball Prospectus Fielding Runs has him 10 runs better than average at 3B last year. It had Mike Lowell at two runs worse than average. UZR had Beltre 14 runs better than average last year, Lowell at one run worse than average and Youkilis 1 1/2 runs worse than average. It seems reasonable to expect that the addition of Beltre saves them 10-12 runs next year. The question is, does that offset the expected offensive dropoff?

I'm giving Beltre 85% of the at-bats at 3rd base, with 10% going to Jed Lowrie and 5% to Kevin Youkilis.

Red Sox 2009 vs. 2010 - 3B

Adrian Beltre (marcel)5447014430118703934951120316.265.318.430.74871.94.26

Jed Lowrie (marcel)64816401107001500011.251.325.400.7258.44.13

Kevin Youkilis (marcel)32592015400700000.294.387.511.8976.26.57

Adrian Beltre (PECOTA)5437014931120803934931120316.275.328.451.77977.54.66

Jed Lowrie (PECOTA)6471640187001300011.252.327.393.7218.44.10

Kevin Youkilis (PECOTA)31592015400600000.287.384.496.8806.16.33

2009 3B64189184432291065556114520526.287.347.496.843102.05.20

2010 3B (marcel)64084169371218650451181220518.265.322.431.75486.54.35

2010 3B (PECOTA)63983175371239451451131120518.274.331.448.77892.04.68

Marcel thinks that the offensive dropoff is bigger than the defensive improvement, Pecota thinks it's a wash. I agree with PECOTA, for a couple of reasons. One is that Kevin Youkilis is a better hitter than Mike Lowell, and his playing time at third base artificially inflates the offensive production that they got at that position. Two is that marcel isn't making any adjustments for home park, and I think we're talking about as big a difference as there could be for a right-handed power hitter. I can imagine Beltre providing offense equal to what they got from Lowell last year, and being a pretty valuable player, though I won't predict that. I can also imagine him struggling and striking out far too often. What's most likely is that he plays most of the time and they get production that is similar to, though shaped differently than, the production they got from third base last year.

2010 3B projection: Small offensive drop-off, offset by defensive improvement. Net Comparable

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