There’s a provocative article in the New York Times today about how much Manny’s poor defense in left field hurts the Sox. According to the article, basically everyone is in agreement that Manny is the worst left fielder in baseball by a pretty wide margin. The question is, how much does that matter?
At one extreme, the most conservative estimates suggest that
Ramírez’s outfield play last season, when compared with an average left
fielder’s, cost the Red Sox 13 runs. That’s not good, but not bad
enough to make him meaningfully worse than elite corner outfielders
like the Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero, the Yankees’ Bobby Abreu and the Pirates’ Jason Bay.
By contrast, Lichtman’s system says Ramírez was 32 runs below average
last year, which would make him one of the game’s most overrated and
overpaid players. If he was actually that awful, he was no more
valuable than the Mariners’ Raúl Ibáñez, the Blue Jays’ Reed Johnson or the Angels’ Juan Rivera.
truth most likely lies in the middle: the average of the P.B.P.
systems’ results for Ramírez is 15 to 20 runs below average. That’s
enough to take a significant bite out of his value. If his hitting
begins to deteriorate this season (he turns 35 in May), and his base
running remains poor (subtracting another two runs or so), he is likely
to be worth about as much in 2007 as Oakland’s up-and-coming Nick
Swisher. In other words, an All-Star, but not a franchise player, and
certainly not worth anywhere near his $20 million salary.
The article raises interesting questions about the way the Sox’s roster is currently constructed. Would Boston be better served playing Ortiz every day at first, for instance? How much are fly-ball pitchers like Schilling and Beckett hurt by Manny’s performance in the outfield?