added 11/3/2005 by Scott Barzilla
Okay, okay, I skipped a couple of spots. With Craig Biggio signed for another season and both Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman under contract, so I figured there was less suspense around those positions than catcher and shortstop. Like with the catchers, I will start with how the Astros shortstops compare with the other teams in the National League.
Hits EBH HR AVG OBP SLG OPS Atlanta 199 58 13 .297 .358 .440 .798 Cincinnati 183 68 24 .272 .330 .451 .781 St. Louis 199 44 8 .295 .365 .395 .760 Philadelphia 201 63 12 .285 .332 .424 .756 Milwaukee 151 54 15 .257 .326 .405 .731 San Francisco 173 38 3 .273 .339 .349 .688 San Diego 142 57 17 .235 .296 .390 .686 NY Mets 194 51 7 .273 .300 .385 .685 Florida 142 48 7 .252 .319 .364 .683 Chicago 180 44 9 .274 .307 .369 .676 Pittsburgh 160 43 8 .258 .306 .365 .671 Colorado 167 46 10 .252 .303 .356 .659 Arizona 169 42 5 .260 .308 .348 .656 Las Angeles 183 37 6 .264 .310 .338 .648 Houston 147 43 11 .241 .284 .352 .637 Washington 129 32 4 .227 .275 .308 .583
It took the worst regular in the National League (Cristian Guzman) to keep the Astros out of last at the shortstop position. Unlike with catchers, we can’t blame anyone but the regular (Adam Everett) for this. Unfortunately, finishing fifteenth among sixteen teams at shortstop is worse than it seems. A .684 OPS would have put the Astros right in the middle of the pack.
This is where I have had some serious issues with other fans. Some of have said you don’t need offense out of your shortstop. After all, Everett finished the season as the eighth hitter and “he wasn’t bad for an eighth hitter.” I don’t know how to break this to them, but no one has ever heard a scout say, “I’ve got a beat on a great eighth hitter on this high school team in Florida.” Your eighth hitter is your worst hitter, so comparing him to other eighth hitters is worthless. The Astros don’t have to get Honus Wagner to play the position, but they need someone that can at least break the .300 barrier in OBP.
There is no way to really say it any other way, Adam Everett is a horrible hitter. However, people point out that he is legitimate Gold Glove candidate with the glove and he is young, so maybe he could improve with the bat. Well, before we look at everything else, let’s take a look at his offensive numbers since he has come up.
PA H BB SO EBH HR AVG OBP SLG OPS 2002 103 17 12 19 3 0 .193 .297 .227 .524 2003 436 99 28 66 29 8 .256 .320 .380 .700 2004 435 105 17 56 25 8 .273 .317 .385 .702 2005 595 136 26 103 40 11 .248 .290 .364 .654
Adam Everett has increased his power numbers over the past three seasons, but his slugging percentage has not increased. This is because he made less contact in order to get those extra base hits. In particular, his walk to strikeout rate has actually gotten worse. Two things are working against Everett as a hitter. First, he will turn 29 next season. Most players reach their prime before they turn 29, but the most important point is that he will be entering his fifth season. Former Astros hitting coach Tom McGraw asserted that hitters become who they are in their fourth season. When you put these two facts together you see that Everett probably won’t get much better. Let’s see how he has done defensively in that time.
FRAR FRAA 2002 4 0 2003 18 2 2004 19 5 2005 27 6
Is Adam Everett really as good as we think he is defensively? According to these numbers he really isn’t that great defensively. In the grand scheme of things, six runs over a full season is barely above average. In order to put this in perspective we can look at the number of runs he creates above average (or below) in comparison with other shortstops (RCAP) and fielding runs above average (FRAA) to come up with total runs above average (TRAA).
RCAP FRAA TRAA 2002 -4 0 -4 2003 -2 2 0 2004 0 5 5 2005 -9 6 -3
This isn’t bad at all. Everett has been a virtually average shortstop overall for very little money. However, he is now arbitration eligible which means that we could conservatively expect him to make two million dollars this season. If you give him a long-term extension it could average three million a season. Suddenly, Adam Everett doesn’t look like such a bargain. Should the Astros give someone a long-term extension so they can tread water? Let’s take a look at what’s available in the free agent market at the position.
Available Free Agents
There are a number of free agent shortstops available. In no particular order, they include Alex Gonzalez, Rafael Furcal, and Nomar Garciaparra. Like with the catchers, we will look at how they’ve done offensively and defensively the last three seasons. As an aside, we will look at their peripheral hitting statistics and total runs above average as well.
Hits BB EBH HR AVG OBP SLG OPS Furcal 526 180 157 41 .285 .348 .429 .777 Garciaparra 362 75 132 46 .299 .346 .498 .844 Gonzalez 380 91 148 46 .249 .299 .413 .712
I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems that going with Alex Gonzalez would be like having an Adam Everett with a little more pop. So, this brings us to Furcal and Garciaparra. Both have negatives you don’t see directly here. Furcal has two DUI convictions that make him a questionable clubhouse presence. He also is heavily coveted by the Cubs, so Garciaparra might be more affordable. Garciaparra has better percentage numbers, but he also has spent significant time on the disabled list the last two seasons.
Garciaparra is a better fit if you’re looking for someone that can fit in the middle of your order. Furcal looks better if you need a guy for the top of your order. As far as the Astros are concerned, they’re simply looking for players that can make contact consistently no matter the situation. Let’s see how they do.
SO BB Ratio GIDP SEC SAC SF Furcal 225 180 1.250 21 .296 13 14 Garciaparra 115 75 1.533 26 .280 2 15 Gonzalez 313 91 3.440 36 .228 10 12
It looks like Furcal is the better hitter when we look at the peripheral statistics. Yes, it might appear as if he is a bigger strikeout threat, but we have to remember that Garciaparra has missed most of the last two seasons. In 2003, Nomar played everyday and struck out 61 times, so he was slightly better at making contact (Furcal averaged 75 a season), but Furcal also averaged 60 walks a season where Garciaparra drew only 39 that season. When we add in the fact that Furcal has never had fewer than 22 stolen bases and has averaged 33 over the last three seasons we see another reason to prefer him offensively.
FRAR FRAA Furcal 72 11 Garciaparra 18 -22 Gonzalez 56 -6
The gap has become that much wider. The only thing left is to compare these shortstops with Everett to see which ones would be considerably better than Everett in terms of total runs above average. We will give each the total they have achieved over their past three seasons.
RCAP FRAA TRAA Everett -11 13 2 Furcal 77 11 84 Garciaparra 42 -22 20 Gonzalez -6 -6 -12
The Final Analysis
We can eliminate Alex Gonzalez immediately from consideration, but the other two create some interesting debates. Nomar is better than Everett and if he is healthy, he is considerably better, but he is getting to the point in his career where you cannot count on 100% health. So, how much are you willing to pay for an additional six runs a season? We’ve already established that Everett will likely command around two million next season, so we can surmise that Garciaparra shouldn’t get much more than four or five million. Even then, you are gambling on him being healthy.
Rafael Furcal is an average of 27 runs a season better. That is considerably better, but the advantages only start there. Furcal will turn 27 next season, so he is actually younger than Adam Everett. He will likely command in the same neighborhood as Edgar Renteria (8-10 million a season). So, the Astros would likely have to settle for only Furcal if they went that direction. Is he good enough to justify the money? When you consider that he could be a part of the puzzle for awhile, has close to Everett’s level of defense and could be used at the top of the order, he would be a great pickup.