It’s not official yet, but Dylan Hernandez is reporting that Rafael Furcal will indeed be headed to the disabled list thanks to his strained left hamstring. This is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. What’s far more disheartening is that Hernandez also claims that Nick Green will be called up from AAA to take his place, rather than Chin-Lung Hu.
Somehow, I’ve actually written about “Green vs. Hu” several times, initially when the first rumors about Green arriving came early last December:
If you don’t know much about Green, that’s because you shouldn’t. This is a guy who is 31 and has played for five teams in parts of five seasons, almost entirely as a backup. In 2009, he was pressed into service as Boston’s starting shortstop for nearly half the season thanks to a multitude of injuries, and responded with a pretty bad .236/.303/.366 line. That’s not even a case of a guy being exposed due to too much playing time; that mirrors exactly his career line of .239/.307/.352. Even in over 3000 PA appearances in the minors, his OBP is just .324. “Getting on base” is clearly not Nick Green’s strength, no matter where he plays.
“But hey,” you might say. “He’s a shortstop, so if he really can’t hit, he must be a whiz with the glove, right?” You’d say that, and you’d be wrong. For his entire career, he’s a whopping 0.6 fielding runs above average. That’s not horrible, but nor is it an asset.
So please, enlighten me. When you’re trying to come up with backup infielders, paying Nick Green more than you’d have to pay Chin-Lung Hu to be 5 years older, a far inferior fielder, and a likely inferior batter (Hu at least has a .342 OBP in the minors, and at his age still has time to improve) makes sense in what way exactly?
Then when he was actually signed in January and it sounded like he’d make the club, I was still not all that happy about it:
Now I will grant that it’s a minor-league deal, so the money is negligible and the commitment is zero. But Rosenthal paints it as though he will be the backup shortstop, without even mentioning the possibility of Hu. So someone please explain this math problem to me:
Hu is a better fielder than Green.
Hu is younger than Green.
Hu is healthier than Green.
Hu is likely at least as good of a hitter, if not better, than Green.
Hu has at least a slight chance of upside, while Green has none.
Therefore, Green > Hu. Of course it does.
So what’s changed since then? The correct answer is “well, it’s only a month into the season, so unless Green’s already put up 20 homers while Hu broke his leg, that’s not nearly enough time to be more important than the last several years of established history”. But we all know it doesn’t work like that, because if it did we wouldn’t have seen any Ortizii on this squad.
In spring training – and yes, I know that these stats don’t mean much, but don’t pretend they don’t often decide jobs – Hu had a line of .281/.324/.281. Obviously there’s no power there, so it’s not stellar… but it’s also streets ahead of Green’s .139/.324/.167. After camp broke, neither one has been hitting very well in the first month at ABQ - Hu at .227/.261/.242, and Green at .219/.242/.438.
So I can’t pretend that Hu is forcing his way back into the bigs, and it’s quite possible that he’ll never be an acceptable major league hitter. But that’s sort of it, isn’t it? Assuming that Furcal returns from the DL on May 14 when he’s eligible, you’re just looking for a shortstop fill-in/bench infielder for the next 10 games or so. You don’t need or expect any sort of offensive contribution; you just need someone who can play a better shortstop than Jamey Carroll. Now, there should be no question – none, to the point where I don’t even need to break out the stats to back it up - that Hu is a superior defender to Green. But not only that, he outhit him in the spring, and he’s got a better (if still pretty lousy) OBP so far in AAA.
Sometimes you wonder why this team is floundering… and sometimes you wonder if the list of poor decisions should be updated on a daily basis.