Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Felipe Lopez a Scutaro-type fit for Red Sox

With the news today that Dustin Pedroia is open to a move to shortstop -- and keep in mind Pedroia only moved to second base to accomodate Hanley Ramirez -- the options for the Red Sox seem to have been thrown wide open. A team that seemed to be at the mercy of Marco Scutaro, natural fit that he might be, all of a sudden can take a look at the pool of available second basemen as it tries to fill out its infield.

Consider last year's the Wins Above Replacement numbers for the available middle infielders on the market -- and, for reference, Pedroia was worth 6.2 wins above his replacement last season:

Second basemen
Ronnie Belliard, 1.3
Eric Bruntlett, minus-1.0
Jamey Carroll, 1.5
Craig Counsell, 2.8
Ray Durham, 2.6
Damion Easley, 1.5
Orlando Hudson, 2.9
Adam Kennedy, 1.7
Felipe Lopez, 4.6
Mark Loretta, minus-0.2
Placido Polanco, 3.1

Orlando Cabrera, 0.6
Bobby Crosby, minus-0.7
Adam Everett, 0.9
Khalil Greene, minus-0.8
Marco Scutaro, 4.5
Miguel Tejada, 2.6

WAR, of course, is far from a perfect stat. But it is a stat that incorporates both offense and defense -- that's how Adam Everett is in the black despite an on-base percentage of .288 last season -- and it's a good starting point for measuring quality.

Scutaro, of course, is near the top of the list. But there's another player who actually had a higher Wins Above Replacement number than Scutaro -- and a player who can play either shortstop or second base at an acceptable level in the major leagues: Felipe Lopez. The 29-year-old infielder has bounced around throughout his career, but he posted the highest on-base percentage (.383) and slugging percentage (.427) of his career last season. His ability to work the count, though, has never wavered -- he's seen 4.0 pitches per plate appearance (or better) four times in his nine seasons.

As long as we've looking at infielders who had career years last year, let's compare Lopez head-to-head with some of the bigger names on the list:

On-base percentage in 2009
Orlando Hudson: .357
Felipe Lopez: .383
Placido Polanco: .331
Marco Scutaro: .379

On-base percentage, career
Hudson: .348
Lopez: .338
Polanco: .348
Scutaro: .337

Swinging at pitches out of the strike zone in 2009
Hudson: 20.6 percent
Lopez: 21.5 percent
Polanco: 23.7 percent
Scutaro: 12.3 percent

Swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, career
Hudson: 17.7 percent
Lopez: 19 percent
Polanco: 21 percent
Scutaro: 14.5 percent

Pitches per plate appearance, 2009
Hudson: 3.86
Lopez: 3.92
Polanco: 3.48
Scutaro: 4.06

Pitches per plate appearance, career
Hudson: 3.80
Lopez: 3.97
Polanco: 3.37
Scutaro: 3.79

Ultimate Zone Rating/150, 2009
Hudson (at 2B): minus-3.7
Lopez (at 2B): 7.6
Polanco (at 2B): 11.0
Scutaro (at SS): 1.0

Ultimate Zone Rating/150, career
Hudson (at 2B): 2.6
Lopez (at 2B): 2.6
Polanco (at 2B): 10.0
Scutaro (at SS): minus-2.9

Polanco appears to be the best option defensively but by far the worst option for what the Red Sox are trying to do offensively -- in other words, the same type of player as Alex Gonzalez. Hudson, on the other hand, has seen his defensive abilities decline rapidly and wouldn't necessarily be a fit, either. If the Red Sox were willing to settle for subpar defense at second base, they might as well make a deal for Florida's Dan Uggla.

(Uggla had a WAR of 2.9 last season even with his defensive deficiencies.)

Looking at the numbers, though, there's not really a measurable difference between Lopez and Scutaro -- and given that Lopez has the ability to play shortstop as well as second base, he's worth as much discussion around these parts as the man whose bandwagon this blog has driven.

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