Last night, I got in a little bit of a Twitter discussion about the left field situation for the Red Sox.
Jared Carrabis tweeted out that De Aza should be playing left field. He never wanted to see Hanley there again, and he didn’t care about Hanley’s bat.
I responded that it sounded like a foolish plan, and that Hanley’s defensive woes were vastly overrated.
The response from Mr. Carrabis? That he could think of four or five plays in the game last night that De Aza made that Hanley wouldn’t have made.
That’s not an uncommon response. People are under the impression that Hanley’s defense is killing the Sox in left. That if even an average outfielder were out there, the Sox would be winning a lot more games. As you know if you visit here a lot, I think defense is generally overrated. I would expect that an adequate athlete should get to most balls. Sure, the superior defenders get to more. But, they don’t get to enough to make up for any loss of production at the plate. Basically, Hanley’s bat makes up for the few balls he can’t get to in left. If that weren’t the case, Jackie Bradley Jr would be the Sox starting center fielder. Would have been for quite some time. But, even his superb defense couldn’t make up for his lack of hitting. And, he only had to make up the difference between himself and Brock Holt. Or, Rusney Castillo. If he can’t bridge that gap with a once in forever type glove, why can De Aza make up an even bigger difference with his glove?
It was the four-five plays in last night’s game that really stuck with me. People really think there’s that much of a gap? Let’s take a look. I checked out the MLB summary to see how much action Alejandro De Aza got out in left field.
Bot 2: Pillar doubles to left with two outs. Martin out at “home” 7-6-5
Bot 5: Martin flies out softly to left with one out.
Bot 6: Reyes flies out to left with one out.
Bot 6: Donaldson doubles to left, scoring a run.
Bot 6: Bautista flies out to left center ending the inning.
Bot 7: Colabello grounds a single to left with one out.
Bot 9: Donaldson flies out to left with one out.
That’s it. Seven plays. Which four or five do you not think Hanley would have made? Can we agree that Hanley would have fielded the groundball single in the seventh? The others?
You could maybe argue that only De Aza makes the play to nab Martin. Maybe. Although, I could argue that Bogaerts probably nails him at home, instead of third. Maybe you could say he doesn’t get to Bautista’s flyball to the gap…although Mookie looked like he’d be in pretty good position if he knew that Hanley would have been there. Maybe you could say that Hanley doesn’t reach Donaldson’s flyball, and it falls for a double. Although, in the bot of the ninth in a two run game, De Aza is probably in there for defense anyway.
So, really. Look at the plays the left fielder had to make last night. Which ones get by Hanley? Do you think De Aza stopped Donaldson from getting a triple in the 6th? Doubt it. Are there 4 or 5 plays? 2 or 3?
Any that cost the Sox the game?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that Hanley is a great defender. I’m not that crazy. I definitely think De Aza is a better one. That’s why I’d have him in left for the ninth. I’m just saying Hanley’s offense more than makes up for the plays he may not make in the field.
Otherwise Jackie Bradley Jr would be your AL MVP.