MSTI’s 2009 In Review: Shortstop

Welcome to day 5 of MSTI’s 2009 Year In Review.  Have a good Halloween?  Good!  So as you sit there with your coffee, trying to sober up after your heavy partying last night, pull up a chair and join us, as we tackle SS!  Let us begin:

85toppsrafaelfurcalRafael Furcal = C-
(.269/.335/.375 9hr 47rbi)

You know, Rafael Furcal has now completed his fourth year as a Dodger (already?!) and, even despite that, it still feels a bit difficult at times to truly evaluate his tenure when you look at his numbers.  In 2006, he started off sub-par due to wrist and hand issues, only to finish the year as arguably the team’s MVP with a scorching second half.  Then in 2007, he comes back with arguably the worst season of his career     Then in 2008, he gets off to the best start of his career only to get sidelined for four months with more injuries.

Of course, he comes back in 2009 with one of his worst seasons (by the way, note the weird odd numbered year = bad year, even numbered year = good year?).  And, let’s face it, for as much as we like Furcal here at MSTI (his interviews are always such a hoot!), 2009 was a forgettable year for Furcal.  Comparing this season to his general career numbers (it wouldn’t be fair to compare them to his one insane month of 2008), we saw a decrease in pretty much all of the important numbers.  His .335 OBP this year is lower compared to his career .350 OBP, while his .375 SLG% was lower than his career .408 SLG%.  In terms of OPS+, it was a below average 88, while his actual OPS dropped from his career .758 to .711; his EqA of .259 was below his career .269.

Looking further than that, though, let’s compare him with his peers.  Amongst the qualified NL SS’s, he ranks 6th out of 9 in BA and OBP, while ranking 8th out of 10 in SLG%, and ranking 7th in MLVr, with a number of -.012.  Nonetheless, while Furcal performed poorly for most of the year, he did have a couple of great months, putting up a great July (.343/.395/.500) and really coming on strong at the end with a fantastic September (.330/.400/.491) and looking much more like the Furcal of old.  But one thing that didn’t look like the Furcal of old is that he didn’t really steal many bases this year.  This year, in his 150 games, we saw him attempt to steal only 18 bases, stealing 12 of them, though the decrease was more than likely an effect of being cautious after last year’s back injuries.

Defensively, Furcal, for the most part, was, well, Furcal and that’s a good thing.  His .967 fielding percentage is pretty much par for the course and, while low, it’s generally come from throwing errors throughout his career, as his arm can make him the Rick Vaughn of shortstops at times.  His Zone Rating was 5.786 which ranked him 6th amongst NL SS’s.  The interesting thing to note with Furcal is that over the past two years, we’ve seen a decrease in his range factor.  Through 2007, the worst number he ever had in this category was a 4.77, though since that period, he’s put up numbers of 4.20 and 4.25.  Again, 2008 must be noted for being a very short season for Furcal, and, as always the case, defensive stats can be a bit murky, but it is interesting to note the trend continuing into 2009, however much value you want to put into that…

Still, his defense wasn’t something that I had complaints with this year.  That was fine.  The problem was at the plate and, unfortunately, Furcal put up a year that is to rank amongst his worst, hence the low grade, but the encouraging thing going into 2010 is that he did end the season on very much a high note and finally seemed to start regaining form and hopefully this is something we can see A LOT more of next year.  Even if he can’t be the big stolen base threat he used to be, when he’s on as a hitter, he is a very valuable weapon to have, so we shall see what the future holds for him.  I mean, it’s an even numbered year next year: he’s gotta do well!

85toppsjuancastroJuan Castro = C-
(.277/.311/.339 1hr 9rbi)

When Colletti signed him earlier this year, it seemed more of just Ned needing more porn to satisfy his fetish of signing light hitting shortstops, but you know what?  Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the signing, Castro didn’t embarrass himself this year, either.  Well, at least if “this year” is April – July, anyways.  During the first half of the season, Castro put up numbers of .357/.397/.437 with an .834 OPS!  Really, Juan Castro putting up those numbers?!  I mean, geez, what kind of stuff was he pulling out of Manny’s locker to do that?!  A welcome surprise, indeed.

Alas, it all crashed and burned in the second half, where Castro went .146/.146/.171 and a .317 OPS to go with it, which is more of the real Castro than what we saw in the first half.  Still, did I mention that, despite that second half, he still managed to finish with one of his very best OPS+ in his long and storied 15 year career?

Did I also mention that his career OPS+ is 52?!

Nonetheless, one great half with one awful one?  Well, that’s about one more great (or even good) half I thought we’d get from him, and he did play decent defense more times than not, so a C- for you, Fidel.


85toppschinglunghuChin-Lung Hu = Inc.
(.400/.333/.600 0hr 2rbi)

Given that Chin-Lung Hu had six, yes, count them, SIX plate appearances, do you know how tempted I was just to type in “Hu?” and leave it at that?

Still, even in these six at-bats, Hu managed to get a couple of hits, but he played hardly enough to warrant a great.  Though this year in Triple-A Albuquerque, Hu managed to have a slight improvement upon his 2008 year, hitting .294/.332/.393, with 6 HR’s and 53 RBI’s.  Not much else to say about the Hu-ster in Dodger Blue in 2009… except, well…

(crickets chirp)

Hey, did you know that, according to Wikipedia, always the crown jewel of credibility, that he has the shortest surname in MLB history?! (Note from MSTI: Or as Diamond Leung Tweeted to me, Hu is now tied with Tigers reliever Fu-Te Ni for that honor).

O.K., I think that means we’ve done enough on shortstop.  So tune in next time!

Next! Manny Ramirez’ fertility-fueled fun! Juan Pierre’s battle for relevance! It’s left field!

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg