December 3, 2006

My $0.02 On Alex Gonzalez

As we all know, the Reds recently signed Alex Gonzalez to a free agent deal, reportedly $14 million for three years. The move essentially means Gonzalez replaces Felipe Lopez as the Reds' regular shortstop.

This deal has been slammed pretty hard in some circles. The people who are upset with this, though, all seem to think guys like Barry Larkin, or for that matter Alex Rodriguez, grow on trees.

I look at it this way: For a little less than $5 million a year, the Reds have a guy who committed just 7 errors in 111 games at short last year. That's important when you play in a launching pad like GABP, where every guy who reaches base because of a Cinci error could end up being an extra run scored by the other team when a ball that would have been caught for an out in another city flies into the seats at GABP.

The Reds not only got the youngest free agent shortstop on the market (Gonzo is 29), they got a guy who fills a real need at the most important defensive position on the team with the possible exception of catcher. One of the Red Sox bloggers wrote that “Gonzalez was the best defensive shortstop I've ever seen play in a Red Sox uniform and it was a treat to see him play everyday. At least once a game he'd do something that seemed impossible.” Consider that in light of the fact that in recent years the BoSox have run Nomar Garciaparra, Pokey Reese, and Orlando Cabrera out there.

Another Boston blogger wrote, “You can quote all the defensive statistics you want to. The truth is, I watched every game this guy played last year and he is by far the best in baseball at shortstop…if the ball was anywhere to the left side of the infield it was an out…the DPs you will see him make will make you forget the contract.”

Oh, yeah, the contract: Look at what teams are signing players for this year. $5 Million this year is $3 million last year. If Gonzalez is even among the top five defensive shortstops in the game, that's a bargain in GABP where you try to get pitchers to induce grounders, and need to have guys who can actually catch those grounders to make the pitchers more effective. For the Red Sox, maybe his glove didn't offset his poor hitting, but this isn't Boston, it's Cinci. Shortstop isn't as much of an offensive-minded position in the NL as it is in the AL. He's certain to be an improvement over Lopez and Clayton.

Bottom line here: The Reds were not about to go win the World Series the way they were. They may have a light-hitting shortstop, but does anyone need to be reminded that the Cardinals just won the World Series with a light-hitting shortstop? And the Marlins won the World Series in 2003 running the guy Kriv-Dawg just signed out there as their everyday shortstop. He hit .256 with 18 homers in 2003 - numbers that aren't at all out of reach for him in 2007 playing his home games at GABP).

So, my take on the deal is that this makes two pretty good additions to the Reds that Krivsky's stolen from the Red Sox. He better cut that out, or Theo's not going to send him a Christmas card.


20 comments to “My $0.02 On Alex Gonzalez”

  1. smartelf says:

    Yea I agree with that blogger, that stat heads shouldn’t be judging a guy’s defensive ability. Number of chances and put-outs does not determine a guys range, too many other factors not the least of which is the pitching staff. From everything I hear by people who have watched him play is that AGON is an outstanding defensive talent. People that crunch numbers instead of watch the games aren’t as impressed.

  2. KC2HMZ says:


    Well, this is an unexpected development – In my never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the fact that you can’t use linear equations to quantify a non-linear game, I have finally found an ally!

    (Still wondering how anybody can accord merit to a system that assigns the same value to Rickey Henderson that it assigns to Boog Powell)

  3. smartelf says:

    Yup. And most of the people criticizing Griffey’s defense the past couple of years are also using numbers instead of reality. I saw numerous diving catches and running down balls. He was better in 05 than in 06, but he was still a good CF last year. Yes Freel has more range, but he has more range than just about anyone in the game right now. Griffey has lost a step over the years but he is still overall a good defensive player, but the stat heads can’t stand him playing in CF. There are tons of similiar examples. Also, conversely I think the stats don’t indicate just how bad Dunn is in LF. He is painful to watch, but statistically he looks just a tad below average. I think he may be the worst LF I have ever seen play. He makes routine plays look adventurous, and difficult plays are nearly impossible for him. And easy plays get muffed with surprising frequency. A guy that looks at his glove in perplexed befuddlement throughout the season is a terrible defender, I don’t care what the stats say.

  4. BubbaFan says:

    Few would argue that defensive stats are…problematic. Offensive stats, fine, there’s some consensus there. But defensive stats…it’s kind of like religion. Everyone has their favorites, and you’re not likely to convert anyone. 🙂

    I was reading a debate about Yankees’ left fielder Melky Cabrera on another blog. One site crunched the numbers and ended up finding Melky below replacement level, with a surprisingly small range. Another site crunched different numbers and found him the best defensive left fielder in MLB. You don’t have this kind of disparity with offensive stats.

    As for A-Gon…IMO, he’s great on defense. Boston just wanted someone who could hit, too. It’s the AL East, after all. They’re more into slugging than speed and defense.

  5. Joel says:

    Actually, I’m not sure what you are arguing because the general consensus across the major statistics is that Gonzalez is pretty damn good defensively. The only one that I remember seeing that says he wasn’t top notch was Dewan’s plus-minus system, and Dewan admits that Gonzalez is very good but doesn’t look as good in his system. Word is that he has excellent hands, a strong arm, and is probably the best in baseball at turning the double play. Unfortunately those kinds of things are lacking in some of the new stats, but even still he ranks pretty high in most of the lists I’ve seen.

    I think most of the complaints that people have about Gonzalez is that his lack of offense means that the Reds are going to continue to struggle to score runs next season. Personally, I don’t mind taking an offensive hit at shortstop if it means improved defense (and Gonzalez dwarfs the combo of Lopez/Clayton in that matter). But because they won’t get much offense out of their shortstop, the Reds need to get a better bat in right field. Unfortunately, I don’t think Krivsky sees it that way.

    As for Griffey’s defense, I think you’ve just demonstrated why there is a need for more objective statistics on fielding. What you saw were nice diving plays and running catches. What I saw were dives on plays that should have been routine and a lot of balls going over our center fielder’s head. Yes, Griffey still [b]looks[/b] smooth in the outfield, but the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t have the ability to cover center field anymore. He’s 37 years old and has had multiple major surgeries on his legs. I don’t know why this should be a surprise to anyone.

    And I don’t know what metrics you are seeing that says that Dunn is just a tad below average in left field. Every one that I’ve seen ranks him in the bottom five in left field in the Majors. He’s bad, but he’s bad in a position where bad defense doesn’t hurt as much. Left fielders don’t have nearly as much ground to cover as center fielders. And the mistakes that they make go to a much more shallow wall. If I’m going to sacrifice defense, it’s going to be in left field.

  6. Joel says:

    Oh yeah, one last thing. I don’t know of anyone that would say that Boog Powell and Rickey Henderson have the same value. In fact, many “statheads” would say that Rickey is one of the top 5 left fielders of all time and the greatest lead-off hitter of all time. I don’t know anyone that would put Boog Powell on a greatest anything lists – except maybe names. Boog is fun to say.

  7. smartelf says:

    In 05 I saw Griffey go back and snare a would-be double in the deep right-center gap at Petco Park, one of the deepest parks in baseball. Perhaps you recall that play. Last year I don’t think he would have made that play. i did say he has lost a step, but I don’t think its costing us as much runs as some of the people think. Freel is a dynamite outfielder and I would sacrifice offense on his behalf, except he was pretty good at the plate until he was forced to play every day which I think wore him down some. his overall numbers coupled with his speed still make him an excellent leadoff batter, so I don’t know how much better you can do in RF. I’d look more for a guy to spell him every now and then. Plus I guess you need an insurance policy because more than likely he will take over CF for prolonged time when Griff goes down. So yea, we need another outfielder plus a 1B platoon… Craig Wilson is really a perfect fit, or at least the best option avail. and maybe we have the money left to get it done. It would certainly be good for him, to hit at GABP and he has to like his odds of getting a lot of playing time when you factor in the Griffey injury probability. At worst (for him) he would get split time at 1B and outfield, at best he becomes an everyday player. So I think if the Reds make a reasonable offer he should accept unless somone else is willing to pay him and give him a starting job… I doubt that would happen, but who knows.

    As for Dunn, I think if you look at his error total it isn’t bad, but it happened in bunches, like on opening day, and there were a bunch of plays that didn’t earn him the E but they were bad anyhow… terrible throws, inability to make a play on a ball, etc. True, the leftfield wall is shallow, but he isn’t exactly adept at playing it off the wall, although sometimes he gets lucky. I still maintain he is the worst leftfielder I have ever seen play. Apparently he is even worse at 1B because they won’t play him there anymore. I still recommend dedxterity/agility drills for the Big Donkey, instead of all that fishing in the off season. Maybe hunting would be better… hunting on foot and having to bag a deer might be a good challenge.

  8. smartelf says:

    And before anyone tried to accuse me of character assassination on Adam Dunn, I’d like to also state that he is probably the strongest guy I’ve ever seen crush a baseball in person. When he wallops them it is a sight to behold, if you can manage to spot it as it launches out of the park. So I guess we take the good with the bad. I was disappointed at how he did at the plate down the stretch. If he could have had a big month of August or September I think we might have made the playoffs.

    Oh well, new unis and all, maybe this is our year.

  9. Geki says:

    You’re a fucking idiot.

    I’m not even going to go into detail, I’m just going to sum up my opinion of you and your idiotic views in one simple, profane sentence. You are a fucking idiot.

  10. smartelf says:

    Hey geki… guess what? You’re the fucking idiot. You wanted Aurilia cut last spring and now he is making 8 mill. over 2 years. With advice like that I bet you do real well in the stock market. Moron.

  11. Geki says:

    And how many people predicted Aurilia to have the season he did? I freely admit that I didn’t expect him to play that well, and I’m glad I was wrong about that. I expected him to come in, play fairly mediocrely, and then whine about playing time when he wasn’t starting. Turns out he got to start quite a bit due to injuries and ridiculous trades, and he performed. Kudos to him.

    The problem here is that I’m not predicting the future when I’m saying you’re an idiot. You think Ken Griffey Jr. is anything but a bad CF. Fielding stats generally do suck, but you seem to be under the impression that diving catches make somebody a good fielder (and I’m sure you also think the Gold Gloves mean something). Griffey isn’t just a bad defender, he is the worst defensive outfielder in baseball in terms of what he costs the team. Dunn is without a doubt a worst defender, but he plays a position with far less leverage, so his fielding woes are diminished while Griffey’s become exaggerated due to playing in center. He’s not a good defender right now, hasn’t been for several years, and never will be again. the sooner you, Krivsky, Narron, and (most importantly) Junior realize this, the sooner this team will be able to truly devote itself to pitching and defense. That mantra becomes a joke when you have Junior in center, quite simply.

  12. smartelf says:

    OK, well at least now I know which part of my comment you find fault with. Yes, a lot of people besides yourself seem to think Griffey is hurting us in CF. It seems to me our record got worse each time he got hurt. i also attended at least 3 games in which he won the game for the team… and i watched several others where he tied it up or gave them the lead only for the bullpen to blow the game… and i don’t recall a single instance of his defense costing us a game. Can you recall one instance, and describe it here? And how many instances total do you think his defense cost us a game, as opposed to his bat winning us a game? I can definitely recall that amazing grab in San Diego, which was not a diving grab,. but rather him going backwards and making a spectacular running grab just short of the fence in right centerfield, one of the deepest gaps in baseball.

    I know his range isn’t great anymore, and for a centerfielder it is probably a notch below average, but again I have to say that we got worse when Freel took over in center by losing Griffey’s bat and I don’t see any other solutions. left field is occupied by Dunn, and even if Griffey switched places with Freel how many runs is that really gonna save us? It would mean Griffey has to adjust to a new position, one he never played, in his final year as a Red… it doesn’t make sense. I expect this is Griffey’s last season, and I expect him to get rested often, and I expect Freel will be in CF for stretches while Griffey nurses injuries. I just don’t see an alternative solution because its not like we can trade Griffey right now.

  13. smartelf says:

    As for Aurilia, yea his season surprised a lot of people, but the point I was making last Spring was that he showed he was our clutchest hitter in 05, by leading our team in hitting with runners in scoring position. Also, now you conveniently argue about a player being detrimental by wanting more playing time and complaining about it, when you completely dismissed that notion in our debate about LaRue, saying it was nonsense.

  14. KC2HMZ says:

    Joel – I hesitate to use the word “stathead” because it seems like a derogatory term that’s likely to offend certain people, so for the sake of being politically correct for once in my life, I’ll use the term “statistical analysis enthusiast.”

    Some time ago, there was a statistical analysis enthusiast who came up with a system for ranking players based on incorporating numerous other stats, some traditional and some non-traditional, and somehow rolling them all into one ultimate number that supposedly allowed for comparing players across different eras of baseball and so forth. This guy used a computer to come up with that ultimate number for several hundred players over a period of several decades, and posted it to his blog.

    As I scanned the list of players, I noticed that Henderson and Powell had, under this guy’s system, earned the exact same rating.

    The reason I had a problem with this doesn’t require a college course on statistics to understand. Middle-school pupils across America are taught by their math teachers about what I like to call “The Common Sense Test.” That is, when using math to solve for the solution to a problem, you have to look at the solution you come up with and ask if it makes sense. Now, Henderson isn’t in the HOF yet, but has a good chance of getting there eventually. Powell will never be in the HOF. Plus, I saw both of those guys play. So the calculation that produces the result of “Henderson = Powell” not only fails the Common Sense Test, it fails it on such a grand scale as to be utterly ridiculous.

    And this guy was serious about this system.

    I really do sometimes wonder if some of these guys have ever actually seen a major league game or are just people who love to play around with math and numbers and are taking advantageof the fact that major league baseball provides a huge, publicly available database of numbers for them to play with. Because often, that’s how they seem to come off…to me anyway, and, it would seem, based on what was posted elsewhere, that smartelf has had the same thought, so apparently I’m not the only person who has wondered about it.

    Anyway that’s what I was referring to.


  15. Geki says:

    [i]Also, now you conveniently argue about a player being detrimental by wanting more playing time and complaining about it, when you completely dismissed that notion in our debate about LaRue, saying it was nonsense.[/i]

    LaRue wasn’t complaining about playing time, or at least not running to the media if he was.

  16. smartelf says:

    I watched a pre-game show on Fox Sports net where he was interviewed by either Chris Welsch or the other guy (not grande, the pregame guy) whereby LaRue stated he still felt he should be the starting catcher, and just because he was starting slow didn’t mean he shouldn’t be the starting catcher. He pointed out that he historically always starts off slow, and that shouldn’t be held against him. I’ve also read quotes where he said he signed his contract with the understanding he was the starting catcher. So he didn’t “run” to the media, he just very firmly staked out his turf and when Ross threatened his status as “the starting catcher” he most definitely had his feathers ruffled. I am not dreaming this up, or fantasizing it, or engaging in character assassination here. Maybe you didn’t catch that particular interview.. it occurred when he was mired in a horrible -for slump and Ross was starting to get more starts.

  17. smartelf says:

    that should have read 0-for slump… also I remember LaRue was wearing his John Deere cap during that interview.

  18. Red Hot Mama says:

    Geki and smartelf – It’s not that I haven’t wanted to call each of you few choice words at one time or another. It’s just that I’m getting complaints about the personal attacks.

    Argue as much as you like but watch the name calling. I don’t want people to feel like they’re not welcome to comment here.

  19. smartelf says:

    I didn’t want to swear… I avoided doing it when he called me dumbass elf in the LaRue thread… but this time I had to realiate when he didn’t even state which part of my comment he had a problem with but just called me an F-in idiot… how can I not respond to that aggressively? you know whose at fault here, RHM. And you remember this occurred last Spring as well during our discussion of Aurilia. I am guessing Geki is an angry young man that can’t handle a difference of opinion without going ballistic.

  20. Geki says:

    Difference of opinion vs. being wrong are two entirely separate things. You’re a master at the 2nd.

    And whoever was complaining is a big honkin’ pansy.