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Alex Gonzalez's Defense

Alex Gonzalez

I keep reading that Alex Gonzalez's defense is overrated, but I just wanted to point out that that's kind of arguable. From Joe Sheehan at BP:

So what makes Gonzalez a good stealth signing? After all, he has been above a .300 OBP as many times as he's below that mark, and he's coming off his third straight year with a sub-700 OPS. That anemic bat wouldn't seem to make him a good choice as any kind of free agent, much less one to praise.

Gonzalez, however, is one of the top defensive shortstops in the game. While his numbers in Clay Davenport's system don't look good, Gonzalez consistently ranks among the top glove men in play-by-play systems or zone-based ones, such as the work of Mitchel Lichtman or Chris Dial. With the PBP systems largely in agreement on his value, I take those numbers more seriously than the Davenport ones. Gonzalez's defensive prowess elevates him from a replacement-level player to a slightly-below-average one, more than worth just shy of $5 million per season. He's one of the few players in the game whose defense really does make up for his offense.

Gonzalez may have a greater opportunity to help the Reds than he would on a normal team, too. The Reds don't have a strikeout staff (11th in the NL last year), and in particular, their bullpen is loaded with groundball guys. Gonzalez should help shore up a defense that has been among the worst in the game the past few years. The Reds still look to have major problems with outfield defense--and this signing is another reminder that the Reds no longer have Felipe Lopez at shortstop--but Gonzalez is a better player than his raw numbers indicate and should make them better in '07.

The commenters over at Baseball Think Factory are a fairly savvy bunch, and all the comments I read over there from Red Sox fans seemed to indicate that Gonzalez is a hell of a defender. Some metrics seem to say that he's average, but my personal belief is that we're going to be very impressed with his defense.

I still like this signing quite a bit, and I'm encouraged after the recent moves. Dumping LaRue's salary was a fine move (even though he'll probably bounce back just fine), and Mike Stanton should be a good pitcher this year. Maybe not in 2008, but in 2007 he'll probably help. These moves obviously aren't going to be enough to get the Reds over the top, but I think the Reds are a better team today than they were a week ago.

I realize that Gonzalez doesn't get on base as much as anyone would like, but I think that's mitigated somewhat by the power. With the move to GABP I wouldn't be all that surprised to see Gonzalez repeat his 2003 or 2004 when he had 18 and 23 home runs respectively.

Things aren't so bad right now. Of course, Krivsky will probably go out and sign a 43 year old relief pitcher tomorrow to make me look silly, but I'm fine with the direction the team is going in at the moment.