Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Boston Braves!

Because they're so focused on pitching and defense this year, you see. With the Lackey signing, Hermida getting his chance after all, and the acquisition of Beltre and his enormous bat of unimpressiveness, we're excited about the pitching staff, downplaying the holes in the lineup, and talking defense. Like geeky defense, the kind where the papers start talking about how many runs a third baseman like Beltre will save over Lowell:
The move is in line with the Sox’ stated desire to improve their run prevention. Beltre is an above average fielder, earning a 14.3 ultimate zone rating according to fangraphs.com. Contrast that with Lowell’s minus 10.4 UZR (or just ask a scout), and it’s clear the Sox have dramatically upgraded their defense at the position for 2010 and possibly beyond.
All well and good: if you can reduce the performance of players to an equation and determine that Beltre's stronger glove and weaker bat will generate more runs than Lowell's weaker glove and stronger bat, and balance in the cost of choosing Beltre over Youkilis when the only alternate is Casey Kotchman, the decision makes some sort of sense. Everything comes down to runs eventually, so if your defense-heavy team saves more runs than it gives up by being light in the offense department, you win ball games and don't look like an idiot for not trying to compete with the Yankees.

Except there's one problem: the Yankees were already pretty good in one category (pitching) and even better in another (offense) last year and they won the World Series. This year they might actually be a bit better - I'm thinking about the Granderson acquisition here in particular - and Boston's response is to jettison offense and hope the results come out in the wash. It might work, but I think as interesting as this Boston team seems for the new decade, we've got another summer of second place running to look forward to.