Around The Diamond is a weekly series where we will preview the Boston Red Sox position-by-position prior to the start of the spring training.
Red Sox Nation is still reeling from the New York Yankees winning it all in 2009, myself included. However the front office seems to be putting together a team in 2010 that, while it may not be able to slug run for run with the Yankees, intends to keep those batted balls from ever finding a grassy green patch or seat to call their home.
The secret weapon unleashed by the front office this season is the UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). UZR takes into account many aspects of defense and run prevention and assigns a numerical value to the player. The Red Sox outfield has a combined UZR rating of 29.8, whereas the Yankees combined outfield UZR rating is a dismal 4.1.
That isn’t to say this outfield has no pop. The projected starting outfield for the Red Sox in 2010 combined for the second most home runs in the AL East in 2009. Only trailing the Yankees.
Many Red Sox fans were surprised, perhaps even outraged when the final decision came down from Terry Francona that Ellsbury would start the 2010 season in Left Field, losing his center field spot to newcomer Mike Cameron. But if you stop and look at the more advanced fielding numbers there is a case to be made for this.
In 2009 Ellsbury had only recorded two errors, it was two more than he had recorded in all of 2008. It may be a small number, but there is a number too big to be ignored; his UZR rating. Ellsbury dropped from a moderately respectable 3.0 rating in 2008 to an atrocious -18.6 in 2009, whereas Jacoby has a career UZR rating of 10.1 in 80 games in left field.
I still have my doubts as to whether this is the right long term decision for the team, however it’s hard to argue with the numbers for the 2010 squad.’
The Red Sox will be Cameron’s seventh team in 16 seasons, however, his wanderlust has little to do with his abilities. Cameron may be only a career .250 hitter, but has hit 21+ home runs in five of the last six seasons and is a two-time gold glover in center field. He also boasts a very respectable UZR rating in 2009 on of 10.0.
The issues with Cameron come two fold; age & strikeouts. Cameron will be 37 heading into the 2010 season, and has been anything but patient at the plate in his career averaging close to one walk for every two strikeouts. Cameron won’t be expected to carry this offense by any means, but it could become a problem if Cameron becomes a rally killer in the six or seven hole in this line-up.
The biggest upside from Cameron may be an intangible. Hunger. He’s been vocal about the fact that his signing with the Red Sox was in pursuit of a World Series ring. Something that has eluded him in four trips to the postseason.
$15 million dollars. That’s the annual salary being paid to J.D. Drew to man right field for the Boston Red Sox. This has made Drew a magnet for criticism since he inked the contract back in 2007, and most of it is warranted. However, if Drew were making somewhere in the area of $8 million per year we may look at his time in Boston a bit differently.
Drew has a batting average of .276 since joining the Sox and has increased his home run totals each year (11 in 07′, 19 in ’08, and 24 in ’09). And in 2008 Drew was the glue that held the Red Sox together for it’s first 71 games. Drew batted .303, hit 16 home runs, and drove in 49 runs, all earning him his first All Star appearance (of which he was the MVP).
I’m not saying Drew can be counted on to carry this team, remember Drew only played 28 games after that All Star appearance in 2008 and hit .211 in that span. He’s aloof to pressure, he’s injury prone, and he can sometimes be anti-clutch. But Drew is our right fielder this year, and we could do a lot worse.
I’m not the biggest Jeremy Hermida fan out there, but he was traded to us for Hunter Jones and Jose Alverez (both were not going to impact the major league club) to be a replacement for the, now free agent, Rocco Baldelli. Hermida may not be a stud outfielder like he was expected to be when the Marlins took him with the 11th pick overall in the 2002 draft, but he’s just a fourth outfielder in Boston.
Personally I don’t like a guy with high strike out totals as a guy to look to for bench hitting. But I think that there is still some untapped talent left in Hermida, and with J.D. Drew’s injury history I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Hermida gets a chance to show the Red Sox whether that talent is still there or not.
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