Bob Ryan & the Burgeoning Boston Chapter of the Alex Gonzalez Fan Club
Bob Ryan took to the pages of the Boston Globe yesterday to list Alex Gonzalez's departure for Toronto as the latest in a series of shortstop mishandlings by Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein. The logic seems to go something like this: Gonzalez suits my eye when I watch him field a baseball. He even hits a little bit. Theo has no credibility on shortstops. Therefore Gonzalez should have been retained.
But let's be perfectly clear on Alex Gonzalez. He's one of the very worst hitters in Major League Baseball and has been for a number of years running. He's now 33 years-old, and while his solid glove has made him as good as an average player or so in his best seasons, there is no reason for a championship-aspirant club to simply hand such a mediocrity the role. Not with Jed Lowrie in the fold, and not with Marco Scutaro very much available. Here's the class of hitter Gonzalez finds himself in, presented in a table of the worst hitters since 2005 as measured by OPS+ (min 1700 PA's):
But in fairness to Gonzalez, we should incorporate fielding into our analysis, something we can easily do thanks to Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic. For a direct comparison to Scutaro, consider that in Gonzalez's two best seasons were 2.8 and 2.5 in 2003 and 2007 respectively. On the other hand, Scutaro, in his first two seasons as a full-timer in 2008 and 2009, averaged 3.6 Wins. Even if Scutaro should sign with Seattle or Texas or the Dodgers, Sean Smith projects Lowrie at .249/.334/.385 to Gonzalez's .249/.291/.374. Like Gonzalez, Lowrie has held up quite well with the glove at shortstop.
I feel for Bob Ryan and his loyal followers that they will have to wait for Gonzalez's number retirement ceremony to welcome their hero back to Fenway. But in the meantime, trust me, the Red Sox will be just fine without Alex Gonzalez.