Red Sox call it quits with Lugo

MLB: MAY 16 Red Sox at Mariners

Less than three years after Julio Lugo was signed to be the answer at shortstop for the Red Sox, he is no longer on the team.

Lugo’s agent has confirmed that the Red Sox have designated the embattled shortstop for assignment.

In 266 games for the BoSox, spanning 1,060 plate appearances, Lugo hit an underwhelming .251/.319/.346 with 10 home runs and wildly inconsistent range.

While Lugo got off to a miserable start with the bat in 2007, hitting .197/.270/.298, he held his own on defense. Lugo had always had solid range but was prone to booting the ball or throwing it away. The Sox were able to adjust his positioning, which yielded results, as he improved his UZR/150 at shortstop to 4.3 from -8.0 the previous year. It would be the last time he would help the Sox on defense.

In 2008, during an injury-plagued year, he checked in at -2.6.

This year, Lugo’s offense has seen an uptick, hitting .284/.352/.367 in his best offensive display since his time with Tampa Bay in 2006 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the deadline in 2006. However, his defense has become atrocious: he’s checking in at a cool -43.2 UZR/150.

To put that in perspective, when Yuniesky Betancourt was traded to the Kansas City Royals last week, he was the consensus worst shortstop in the game according to many bloggers. His UZR/150 on the year? -17.4.

With at least 50 innings played at the position in 2009, he’s easily the worst in UZR/150. The second worst is the Mets’ Ramon Martinez, at -29.1 in 81.1 innings, or 162 less innings than Lugo. Ouch.

Of course, UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating divided over 150 games) isn’t the end-all, be-all of defensive shortstops. You have the Fielding Bible’s Plus/Minus splits plus other defensive statistics that are just starting to see the light of day.

So far this year, Lugo is 11 defensive runs below average under John Dewan’s plus/minus system. This is horrendous in 243 innings given the numbers rack up as the season goes on. The season leader in 2008 was Betancourt (there’s that name again!) at 14 runs below average in 1,325 innings.

What does the future hold for Lugo?

Well, middle infielders are in demand these days. He should have no trouble finding a spot, but which spot he chooses is largely contingent on which teams will offer him starting jobs. Lugo is determined to remain a starter and would like to start producing day in and day out to land a starting gig next year. With the news that the Pirates have tendered shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez contract extensions, it’s unlikely the Pirates could promise a starting gig for Lugo — unless the team reverses course and trades one of the two players before the deadline and picks up Lugo to start.

Oh, what am I thinking? Lugo’s defense is right up Dayton Moore’s alley. “Now starting at second base for the Kansas City Royals…”

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Comments

  1. Steve said...

    Lugo being designated for assignment is a surprise to no one.  YB and JL are essentially equal when it comes to performance on the field which makes DM’s trade for YB all the more head scratching when he simply could have sent the red sox a bag of batting practice balls the Greinke had looked at in exchange for Lugo.

  2. dlreed52 said...

    Benjamin Disraeli once observed that there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.  And while the sabermetric analysis of statistics can reveal a great deal about ballplayers, it occasionally conceals as well.

    In Lugo’s case, we see a player who would perhaps be a valuable addition to a rotisserie league but who, in reality, is a middle infielder with a decent bat but utterly devoid of instincts defensively. Rarely have I seen a fielder as inept at turning the double play due in no small part to his tendency toward hesitation.  I’ve observed numerous occasions when, with runners on first and second, Lugo has contemplated throwing to third instead of immediately making the relay. Such delays convert potential twin killings into fielder’s choices and extend innings.

    And extended innings lose ballgames.

    As yet, sabermetrics lacks the sophistication to reveal such subtleties, subtleties readily apparent to the careful observer but difficult to organize on a grid.  It’s also the reason Julio Lugo may have looked like a $36 million ballplayer on paper when the Red Sox braintrust was considering its options in the winter of 2006-1007.

    But ballgames are not won on paper.

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