The ongoing problem at shortstop: Julio Lugo

You know, I try not to overreact to a particular game or string of games, because baseball is one of those marathon sports. But I need to get some things off my chest about Julio Lugo:

Theo Epstein’s revolving door for shortstops seemed to have finally stopped before the 2007 season, when he landed the shortstop of his dreams, Julio Lugo. He was scouted as a pretty good offensive player, and a good defender, if not a little erratic with his throwing. Lugo signed a lucrative 4-year, $36M deal that would make him Boston property until 2010, and there’s a vesting $9M option for 2011 if he reaches 2,400 PA in that time with 600 PAs in 2010.

Fast forward to June 2008. A year and a half into his contract, Lugo has yet to impress the Fenway Faithful, hitting a composite .248/.315/.349 in 212 games. Last year, it was the hitting that was lacking. Parasite, Lugo said. This year, his 16 errors lead all Major League shortstops, by 5 errors. Even Hanley Ramirez, noted butcher of ground balls, only has 11. Baseball Prospectus estimates that through his fielding, Lugo has cost the Sox 10 runs more than an average shortstop, and two more than any player off the waiver wire. They also say that he’s only been average offensively for his position.

But what about his .278/.369/.349 line this year? While the batting average isn’t bad (10th among Major League shortstops), and Lugo is taking far more walks than any other time in his career (4th in OBP among shortstops), there is no production. Among shortstops with at least 200 PA, he ranks dead last in runs scored and 2nd to last in RBI. His .072 ISO ranks 16th among 19 qualifying shortstops, and all of the other ones are good defenders. He has also hit a ridiculous 59.5% of balls on the ground (along with just 16.0% line drives), and grounded into 10 double plays this year; that’s a lot for a guy with good speed. In fact, if you take away the 8 infield hits he has this season, Lugo is batting just .249 on the year.

With 2 1/2 years still remaining, what are we to do? He’s basically untradeable. We can’t keep playing a guy who can’t hit and can’t field just because he gets a big paycheck, right? Jed Lowrie could provide more bat and at least equivalent defense right now (certainly a better fielding percentage). But then what happens to Alex Cora? The only other option would be to waive Lugo and give him away for nothing; that’s no good either.


One Response to The ongoing problem at shortstop: Julio Lugo

  1. Dave says:

    Two weeks later it is no better and perhaps worse. Now Lugo is sitting at the end of close games. Cora is not providing any offense either. I simply do not understand how Lowrie stays in AAA. It is not like they have a surplus of starters as with the starting pitching staff. Perhaps there is a larger plan for later this month that will include a move at SS, but the Sox are not getting enough production from SS and C. This is alleviated by Ortiz’ hopeful return but unlike the C, no great leadership or defense is offered in return from the SS spot. I now this is a pipe dream, but would there be any hope of stagging someone like Michael Young in return for pitching and prospects?

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