May 27, 2008

Lugo - He's Going To Get Worse

A week or so ago, I read MR's open letter to Julio Lugo at the Fire Brand of the American League blog:
"I have been a Red Sox fan since birth. ... I want to think happy thoughts about everyone in a Sox uniform because they bring joy to my life.

Mr. Lugo, you do everything in your power to sh—t on my efforts to be a nice person. ... you make it hard to enjoy watching baseball. You make me pound angrily on my computer and yell obscenities in the presence of church going women and soft eared children. ..."
Now, I'm no stranger to irrational (or rational) disgust for various ballplayers -- and I won't be joining Lugo's Fan Club anytime soon -- but this venom (and MR is far from alone) seemed out of proportion to Lugo's actual 2008 performance.

So I went off to check.

So far this season, Lugo is getting on base at a higher percentage (.357) than David Ortiz (.355), Dustin Pedroia (.328), Mike Lowell (.324) and Coco Crisp (.316). His batting average (.289) is only .001 lower than J.D. Drew, identical to Pedroia, and higher than Lowell (.276), Jason Varitek (.275) and Crisp (.287).

However, those numbers are fairly empty and unproductive, as Lugo is doing most of his hitting when no one is on base.
          AVG   OBP   SLG
Empty .337 .375 .410
Men On .227 .338 .242
RISP .182 .309 .182
With runners on second and/or third, Lugo is slugging a mighty .182. His slugging percentage for the season is .336 -- bringing his OPS+ down to a roster-worst 88.

Looking at more progressive stats, we see how hollow the average and on-base numbers are. Lugo's Equivalent Average (EQA) is .254 -- below league average and the worst mark on the team. He has contributed only .2 of a run over what a replacement level hitter (i.e., a generic easily-available player from AAA) would have done so far this year. The Hardball Times credits Lugo with 1 Win Share -- the same total as Justin Masterson.

Lugo is also striking out more often than in any season since 2004 -- and hitting many more groundballs.
      GB/FB     LD%     GB%     FB%
2002 1.54 20.6% 48.1% 31.3%
2003 1.59 20.5% 48.8% 30.6%
2004 1.53 17.8% 49.7% 32.5%
2005 1.59 21.6% 48.1% 30.3%
2006 1.39 19.7% 46.7% 33.6%
2007 1.26 16.7% 46.4% 36.8%
2008 3.30 14.7% 65.5% 19.8%
Lugo's percentage of fly balls has fallen through the floor. And after grounding into nine double plays in each of 2006 and 2007, he's already hit into seven this season.

Fangraphs uses a stat called Win Probability Added (WPA), which is "the difference in win expectancy between the start of the play and the end of the play. That difference is then credited/debited to the batter and the pitcher". Again, Lugo is dead last on the team (that also includes every member of the pitching staff).

We all know Lugo has made 12 errors; no other shortstop has more than eight and only three have more than six. ESPN's fielding stats have Lugo with the worst range and worst zone rating of any shortstop in baseball.

So why will Lugo get worse? His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .347. (Fangraphs has his BABIP at .352.) Lugo's BABIP over the past three years and his career:
2005   - .325
2006 - .311
2007 - .262
Career - .313
Lugo definitely had some bad luck last year. His current .347/.352 mark will surely drop. As hard as it may be to believe, Lugo has been lucky at the plate this year. That luck is not likely to last.


Jack Marshall said...

Redsock: The personal venom in that post is typical of the dark side of sports blogs, and good for you for looking at the stats.

But don't you think it is just as likely that Lugo will start hitting for more power, as in the past, and that his fielding will improve to more typical levels? He's not really old enough to anticipate a true collapse. He knocked in over 70 runs last year while slumping, oviously a fluke, but still...he's never been Dal Maxville before.

Patrick said...

He's like Gagne. We manage to win in spite of having him on our team. If things get bad, we can always sit him and his 7 million dollars (sob!) down and put in Lowrie.

allan said...

Someone at Over The Monster has a different opinion.

While Lugo does have the highest average and OBP among AL shortstops, he's 7th in slugging, 6th in OPS, 8th in Runs Created and 5th in RC/27.

Therefore, calling him "the top offensive shortstop in the AL" is silly.

allan said...

It's actually $9 million!

allan said...

Wow. Every AL SS has a negative WPA, but Lugo comes in 7th out of 9.


Going in, I figured Lugo was bad, but not that bad. The surface stats look acceptable, but underneath those, yikes. It turns out he is that bad.

Zenslinger said...

While we can expect his BABIP to go down some, can't we expect his hitting with RISP to rise and his errors to taper off some?

He's a disappointment, but sometimes you have to dance with who brung you. I mean, how many great-hitting and great defensive shortstops are out there? Maybe he's overpaid, but part of our deal is that we can overpay a few people.

I did think that Over the Monster was good to point out that Alex Gonzalez would not have been a great person to keep given his injuries since he left the Sox.

Bartman said...

When I think of Lugo with men on, GIDP and SO come to mind. What's the opposite of a clutch hitter?

allan said...

Unless Lugo is toast, he has to slug better.

When I said he'll get worse, I mainly meant batting average. That will be the stat that gets the most attention, as it did last year.

I almost didn't mention the fielding at all, because I think far too much is made of the errors. But his range has diminished too.


And he's certainly overpaid, but you're right, whatta gonna do? There is the knowledge that if he really becomes an anchor, the FO could cut him loose and eat the cost.

Still, it's a bit shocking that he has the highest AVG and OBP of any AL SS, huh?

Zenslinger said...

Still, it's a bit shocking that he has the highest AVG and OBP of any AL SS, huh?

He does seem to have this thing with presenting statisical anomalies. Remember last year, during his crushing slump at the beginning of the year, he somehow had this massive overabundance of RBIs?

allan said...

Of course, I remember it!

Jack Marshall said...

I confess, I coveted Lugo when he played for the Devil Ray. I thought he had great range and had slashing power. Without the power, though, he's not much. Why oh why didn't Theo find a way to keep Cabrera?

Zenslinger said...

The Over the Monster author says we got both Ellsbury and Lowrie in compensation for giving up OCab. Kind of hindsight type of logic, seems like the perfect SS continues to elude us. Unless it turns out to be Lowrie.

nixon33 said...

i hate lugo.

andy said...

I yelled this several times at this past weekends games, "LOWRIE!!!"

I bet you can remember when I yelled it out.

Make the change and make it now.

Jassmond said...

Thanks for confirming my (now rationalized) rant. Long time reader, first time poster.