|Ex-Red Sox Julio Lugo reportedly plans to retire||02.04.13 at 8:11 pm ET|
According to MLB.com, former Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo, who is currently playing for Escogido (Dominican Republic) in the Caribbean Series, plans to retire at the conclusion of the tournament this week.
“It might be [the end], unless something comes that changes my mind,” Lugo told the website. “But I think this is going to be it for me.”
Lugo, 37, last played in affiliated baseball in 2011 with the Braves, spending 22 games in the big leagues and hitting .136/.208/.136/.345 in 48 plate appearances. In parts of 12 big league seasons, he hit .269/.333/.384/.716 with 80 homers and 198 steals. He signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the Sox prior to the 2007 season, but ended up spending just two and a half seasons in Boston before getting designated for assignment, hitting .251/.319/.346/.664 with 10 homers and 48 steals in 266 games.
Still, while he offered limited return on the Sox’ investment, he did turn in a meaningful half-season for the Sox in 2007. After struggling badly in the first half, he recovered to hit .280/.322/.406/.728 with solid defense in the second half, and he started all 14 of the Sox’ postseason games that October, hitting .271/.340/.333/.673 in the playoffs while delivering strong defensive play against the Rockies in the World Series.
Even so, he became a defensive liability with little offensive impact in the next couple years, resulting in his eventual departure from the Sox.
“I played good and had a good career,” Lugo told MLB.com, “and I just think it’s the right time now.”
|If Defense Wins Championships…||07.29.09 at 10:41 am ET|
With just days until the trading deadline, the greatest issue facing the Sox may not be their pitching or their lineup. Instead, it could be that the team’s Achilles heel is the same one that altered the shape of the franchise on July 31, 2004.
That year, the Red Sox made the dramatic decision to trade Nomar Garciaparra as part of a four-team blockbuster that brought Orlando Cabrera to Boston with the hope of improving a porous defense. This year, on the whole, the Sox’ defense has shown signs of similar weakness.
By several measures, the Red Sox’ defense has been among the worst in baseball this year. And last night, it played a huge role in a crushing 9-7 loss to the A’s in 11 innings.
The most noteworthy miscues came as Oakland pushed across three runs in the ninth to tie the game against Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. On consecutive two-out plays, the Sox failed to convert infield grounders into outs, with shortstop Nick Green compounding those issues by committing throwing errors.
On the first, a ball skidded off the mound past Papelbon. Green rushed in, fielded off balance and winged a ball into the dugout.
‘That,’ said Green, ‘was a play nobody makes, it was just not the right decision, I should have just held onto it.’
The next play was a grounder into the hole between third and short by Rajai Davis of the A’s. In past years, third baseman Mike Lowell ‘ who was playing in ‘ might have made the play. On Tuesday, he did not, and so Green was left to field the ball at deep short. He unleashed a hurried throw to first that Davis beat; the A’s speedster then raced to third as the ball bounded down the right-field line.
Though the errors were glaring, it is worth noting that from May 18 through July 27, Green had committed just one error, and was playing defense at an above-average level. Even so, those ninth-inning dribblers highlighted a problem that may be more significant than a couple of errors.
The Red Sox gave up a colossal 21 hits in their loss to the A’s. The natural conclusion would be to say that the pitching was atrocious. But while it wasn’t a brilliant night for Sox pitchers, their performance was likely better than the unbelievable 9-21-0 on the scoreboard might suggest.
Sox pitchers didn’t allow any homers, fanned nine batters and walked a modest total of three in 11 innings. These should all translate to strong outcomes.
But their performance was made considerably harder by the fact that balls kept ‘finding holes.’ Oakland had eight ground-ball hits, four of which never left the infield. The problem for the Sox is that such events ‘ softly hit balls ‘finding holes’ or being turned into infield hits ‘ have been relatively commonplace this year.
‘Sometimes you wish they’d hit the ball hard somewhere so you don’t feel like you’re getting cheated,’ Sox starter Clay Buchholz said. ‘Sometimes mis-hits find holes. It’s baseball. You win some, you lose some. Tonight was just a tough night.’
By one measure, in fact, the Sox may be the worst team in baseball at turning a ball in play (anything except a walk, a strikeout or a homer) into an out. The Sox’ have turned just 67.4 percent of balls in play into outs, the worst mark in the majors.
Some of that can be luck, in which case, a turnaround could be just around the corner. And some of that is a byproduct of playing in Fenway, though even if accounting for park effects, the Sox would still be one of the worst defensive teams in baseball.
While it’s easy to suggest that the Sox have their issues in the field, it’s also possible to take the argument too far. It would be too easy to exaggerate the defensive struggles on the basis of one brutal night against the A’s, especially since the Sox have basis to say their defense is improving.
Since the team made the decision to stop having Julio Lugo play short, its defense became better. On nights when Kevin Youkilis is at first and Dustin Pedroia at second, the Sox have a pair of Gold Glovers patrolling the right side of their infield. The left side is another story, particularly given the limitations in the field of Lowell as he recovers from surgery.
‘Rest and time will allow him to get closer to 100 percent,’ Sox G.M. Theo Epstein said of Lowell at the time of the deal for Adam LaRoche last week. ‘It’s clear to those watching the games that he’s not moving around as well as he would like’¦He might not be 100 percent till 2010.’
The problem for the Sox is that Lowell is nowhere near his defensive norm in 2009. According to John Dewan’s Fielding Bible Plus/Minus ‘ which measures the number of plays above or below the number an average defender would make ‘ Lowell entered Tuesday having made 20 fewer plays than the average third baseman.
That is a far cry from his steady excellence of the last few years, when Lowell made six, seven and seven more plays than the average third baseman. The Sox believe that his range will continue to improve the further that he gets from surgery, and it bears mention that Lowell’s excellent defensive instincts remain undiminished.
On Tuesday, he made a fine running play on a foul pop in the Oakland dugout, reaching over the rail on the run to snag the ball. Even so, the Sox are simply struggling to turn balls in play into outs, and there is little doubt that Lowell’s range is a part of that.
The being the case, it will be interesting to see how the Sox lineup changes on Wednesday, with David Ortiz out of the lineup and a left-handed starter on the mound for the A’s. Lowell is starting, as are Youkilis and LaRoche. Will Lowell be the starting third baseman or designated hitter? The answer could be revealing about the Sox’ defensive concerns.
Lowell’s not the only one who has had his defensive struggles this year, at least as measured by Dewan’s Plus/Minus system. Jason Bay‘s defense registers a -11, although some of that is a byproduct of playing in Fenway, where the Wall does very strange things to left-field defensive measures. Surprisingly, Jacoby Ellsbury is a -9 defensive player this year, a pretty startling change from 2008, when he made eight more plays than the average centerfielder.
All of that said, the Sox are once again exploring every possible avenue for improvement. And so while the attention has focused on discussions about Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Adrian Gonzalez (a Gold Glove first baseman), it would not be a surprise to see the Sox make another move to further reinforce a defense that has been a weakness this year.
This offseason, when the Sox pursued Mark Teixeira, they noted that he was a player who could impact them both offensively and defensively. Now, as the trade deadline approaches, the team would once again appear to have a desire to improve in both of those areas.
|Introducing Chris Duncan||07.25.09 at 12:04 am ET|
Prior to Friday’s game against Columbus, Pawtucket Red Sox pitcher Michael Bowden sits at his locker, facing away from the rest of the clubhouse, in a deep focus as he prepares for his start. Manager Ron Johnson gets some things done around his office while watching TV. A group of players sit in the middle of the room with a deck of cards. It’s the same old McCoy clubhouse, except for the big guy in the corner wearing the wrong team’s gear and frantically filling out papers for a physical: meet Chris Duncan.
The first baseman/outfielder who was acquired in Wednesday’s Julio Lugo trade, Duncan came to Pawtucket Friday straight from the airport. He had been demoted by St. Louis to Triple-A Memphis earlier Wednesday, hours before being traded.
‘It would have been cooler if I was actually going to Boston, but I’m still excited to come here, get a chance to play, and hopefully get back on track,’ Duncan said. The 28-year-old left-handed hitter was hitting .227 with five homers this season for the Cardinals after hitting at least 20 dingers in both 2006 and 2007.
Duncan’s career in St. Louis was definitely a bumpy one. He was able to be named the team’s Rookie of the Year in 2006, win a World Series title, and play under both Tony La Russa and his father, Cards’ pitching coach Dave Duncan. However, when the struggles came, so did the hounding from the fans and media.
‘I learned a lot,’ Duncan said, still wearing a sleeveless shirt with a cardinal perched on a baseball bat. ‘I had the chance to play for the greatest manager ever and play a lot of winning baseball. It was just time to move on.
‘I was just getting a lot of criticism and booing,’ Duncan added. ‘It just wasn’t easy, but that’s part of the game and hopefully I can start fresh here.’
Duncan also acknowledged the depth at the positions that he would try to play for the Red Sox. With news coming the same day of Mark Kotsay being designated for assignment, Duncan understood that he may be in the minors potentially until September call-ups. Be that as it may, he’ll be willing and able if and when he does get the call.
‘I’m just trying to get settled in here,’ Duncan said. ‘[I’ll] get some at-bats and let that stuff take care of itself.’
His father Dave isn’t Duncan’s only relative in baseball. Chris is the brother of Yankee Shelley Duncan (currently playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), who made more news with a pen than his bat on September 14, 2007, when he signed ‘Red Sox suck!’ on a young fan’s ball at Fenway Park. Given the opportunity, Chris, still practicing his penmanship on the forms necessary to clear him to play, said he just may settle the score between the rivals and siblings.
‘Maybe I’ll put ‘Yankees suck!’’ Duncan joked.
That won’t be necessary, but then again neither will much of an offensive output from Duncan, given Adam LaRoche‘s stranglehold on his ideal job in Boston. Considering the Red Sox were able to get him for a guy they were planning on giving up for free, anything the former first-rounder can bring is gravy.
|Lugo a Met? Not Just Yet…||07.21.09 at 1:46 am ET|
Several reports in recent days have indicated that shortstop Julio Lugo, whom the Red Sox designated for assignment on Friday, is expected to sign with the Mets next week. The Sox have 10 days from last Friday to either trade or release Lugo, and presuming that there are no takers for him on the trade market, it would appear likely that he will gain his free agency after clearing waivers (which would be requested on July 27) on July 29.
Yet it would appear that his signing with the Mets, while possible, is not a foregone conclusion. According to a major-league source, the Red Sox contacted the Mets earlier this season and sought little to nothing in return for Lugo, at a time when the Mets’ injury situation was sufficiently dire that the team seemed like it needed middle infield help. Moreover, at that time, the Mets were still very much in the division race, with more incentive to make a deal than they have now (as they try to determine whether to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline). Even so, at that time, the Mets had sufficient reservations about the shortstop that they declined the trade offer for him, even at minimal cost.
While there is a chance that the Mets might sign Lugo once he is released, the team has shown little urgency to acquire him when given prior opportunities. As for reports of Lugo’s presence at the Mets academy in the Dominican, that should not necessarily be interpreted as a sign of an imminent deal. Lugo worked out at the Mets’ facility in Boca Chica ‘ which was opened last summer, and is considered an excellent one ‘ this past winter, when he was still a member of the Red Sox. A deal certainly could happen for Lugo and the Mets, but it appears somewhat premature to treat such a development as a certainty.
If Lugo is released and signs a major-league contract with another team, the Sox would be on the hook for the remainder of his salary minus the prorated amount (likely a percentage of the league minimum) for which he signs. If Lugo signs a minor-league deal, the Sox do not begin getting salary relief unless or until he is called up to the majors.
|A lot of love for former Sox shortstops…and none for the current one||07.06.09 at 7:55 pm ET|
Orlando Cabrera, who has been coming to Boston as a member of opposing clubs for years, was greeted with similar (though, of course, not quite equal) warmth for the memories of his work at shortstop in place of Garciaparra in contributing to the 2004 championship.
Tonight’s Red Sox shortstop got no such love. Julio Lugo, who was out on the field at 3 p.m. to take early batting practice and stay sharp during a period when he is getting almost no playing time, entered today hitting .435 (10-for-23) in his last 10 games. He had started just three of the Sox’ last 18 games. He was scheduled to sit tonight, but Dustin Pedroia’s departure for a family matter prompted Lugo’s name being added to the lineup roughly one hour before tonight’s game.
Lugo flied out in the first, and then, when after he fielded Adam Kennedy’s grounder up the middle in the top of the third, he tried to plant his foot on the grass for the throw. Lugo’s chuck to first sailed over the head of first baseman Aaron Bates for an error, Lugo’s seventh of the year.
Reaction at Fenway was not warm. Lugo was immediately booed. It appears that his relationship with Boston fans is all but irreparable. Lugo could probably open an orphanage and buy everyone in the park tonight a Fenway Frank. It would not matter. He would likely still be the most scrutinized man at Fenway Park.
|What Alex Cora Means for the Julio Lugo Market||06.10.09 at 12:58 pm ET|
Alex Cora spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons as the back-up to Julio Lugo. But right now, the former Red Sox utilityman has helped to ensure that the Mets don’t need to contemplate a desperate move, which is how the Mets and virtually everyone else in Major League Baseball would view the acquisition of Lugo.
Jose Reyes has a torn hamstring tendon, and so, as Newsday reports, the dynamic Mets shortstop is likely sidelined for about a month. Cora, who was acquired by the Mets (on a one-year, $2 million deal) this offseason in part because the Mets imagined that he would be a perfect complement and mentor to Reyes (and outfield prospect Fernando Martinez), has been pressed into starting duty for the Mets. And he’s responded.
Cora, who has started four of the last five games for the Mets since returning from the disabled list on June 4, is hitting .304 with a .402 OBP. He has played his usual excellent defense, and has also earned enormous respect from his Mets teammates for playing through a painful thumb injury, as detailed in the New York Times yesterday.
As such, though one major-league source suggested that the Mets consider themselves in “dire straits” with regards to their shortstop situation, New York’s National League club is “not quite (so) desperate” as to have interest in Lugo. Multiple sources indicate that Lugo is available on the trade market, though the likelihood of a trade involving the shortstop, who still has roughly $15 million left on a contract that runs through 2010, seems very, very slim.
|Lugo: I can take it||06.06.09 at 4:40 pm ET|
“It’s tough,” Lugo said. “Nobody wants to be booed. Not me, not anybody. Sometimes, the only person who knows what’s going on or why you miss a ball is you because you’re the only one out there. You know what happened.
“Those fans, they just want you to make the play. They don’t understand sometimes that you make an effort. But you know what? At the same time, I’m not making excuses. Not at all,” he said.
Lugo didn’t get to two balls while playing shortstop on Friday night in Boston’s 5-1 loss to the Rangers. He heard loud boos from the Fenway faithful. Nick Green is getting the start at short for Saturday’s game.
Lugo told reporters that he does keep his lines of communication open with Red Sox manager Terry Francona. And Francona acknowledged that those conversations are important to his shortstop.
“It’s important to him,” Francona said. “I don’t think he always likes what I tell him.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Brad Penny crosses Julio Lugo off Christmas card list||06.05.09 at 9:10 pm ET|
Brad Penny just left a game that quickly unraveled. Through the first two outs of the fifth inning, he was shutting out the Rangers and pitching as well as he had at any point this year. Then, Julio Lugo undermined his cause, and Penny’s outing went from commanding to retreating in the span of three outs.
Lugo’s inability to field a grounder in the fifth allowed the first Rangers run to score, then sustained the inning to allow a three-run homer by Ian Kinsler. Then, with two outs and a runner on first in the sixth, Lugo failed to come up with a grounder up the middle and to his left, his dive ultimately proving inadequate. Again, this was a ball that a shortstop with average range would have turned into an out; Lugo did not, and the ball dribbled into center for a single.
And so, instead of another concluded inning, Penny had a two-out situation with runners on first and second. That turned into another run when Chris Davis jumped on a fastball and slammed it to deep right field, where it bounced into the stands for a run-scoring, ground-rule double. That signaled the end of Penny’s night. The right-hander was yanked trailing 5-0.
Penny’s line will suggest that he logged 5.2 innings giving up five runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five. But that yield could have been far less, perhaps as little as one run. And so Brad Penny — a free agent at the end of the year, for whom every earned run will likely cost him money — had his ERA go up from 5.63 to 5.85, on a night when that mark could have easily drifted downward.
Rangers starter Kevin Millwood has endured no such betrayals. He has contained the Sox through six innings, scattering five hits, and he leads, 5-0.
Worth noting: many are crediting the emergence of the Rangers as a first-place team in the A.L. West with significant defensive improvement, brought in part by putting Elvis Andrus at shortstop and moving Michael Young to third. The Rangers currently rank sixth in the majors with a 70.5 percent defensive efficiency. The Sox, as mentioned earlier, have a 67.3 percent mark that is 27th in the majors, and tonight, the difference in the game has been defined by that gap.
|Julio Lugo’s range (or lack thereof)||at 8:43 pm ET|
This is why errors have become almost useless in measuring defense.
Brad Penny was on the cusp of working his way out of a first-and-second, one-out jam. Penny got a pop-out from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, then induced what could have been an inning-ending grounder from Elvis Andrus. Off the bat, the ball seemed playable — no more than a couple steps to the right of shortstop Julio Lugo. But Lugo’s steps towards the ball were short and hesitant, and his attempt to spear the ball with a dive proved inadequate. It wasn’t an easy play, but a good read of the ball off the bat likely would have resulted in the third out of the inning. Instead, the ball bounded through to left field, scoring the first run of the game, and prolonging the inning. Ian Kinsler followed by blasting a three-run homer into left field, and Penny and the Red Sox suddenly found themselves in a 4-0 hole.
Lugo was not charged with an error. All of the runs were charged to Penny as earned. Nonetheless, a play that a good defensive shortstop would have turned into an out instead resulted in four runs for which the pitcher was only partially culpable.
And that, in short, is why it is more useful to examine defensive efficiency (the percentage of balls in play turned into outs by a team) than it is to consider errors and unearned runs. By that measure, the Sox have been abysmal this year. They have turned balls in play into outs just 67.3 percent of the time, a mark that ranks 27th among the 30 major-league teams. The limited range of Nick Green (a natural shortstop) and even more limited range of Julio Lugo are significant contributors to that poor mark, and part of the reason why the Sox find themselves entering the sixth inning trailing the Rangers, 4-0, rather than in a scoreless tie.
|The Green Way||05.24.09 at 12:57 pm ET|
Before Sunday’s game against the Mets, Sox skipper Terry Francona continued to sing the praises of infielder Nick Green — Boston is 17-6 this season when he starts at shortstop.
“I actually thought Nick played a really good game,” Francona said of Green’s effort Saturday night against the Mets. “We love the kid. That’s part of reason he got extended look in spring.”
Julio Lugo remains on the bench. Francona had originally indicated that whoever played Saturday at shortstop would get the day off on Sunday. Green started on Saturday.
Asked about his health on Sunday morning, Lugo replied, “I’m fine,” and headed out to batting practice without further comment.
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