Do the Astros miss Adam Everett?
July 25, 2007 18 Comments
One June 14, Adam Everett, the best defensive shortstop in the majors, broke his leg and hasn’t played since.† The Astros have replaced him primarily with Mark Loretta, who is a better hitter (pretty much anybody is) but an absolute joke as a defensive shortstop.
According to the latest updated Ultimate Zone Rating numbers, courtesy of Mitchel Lichtman, Everett was 11 runs better than an average shortstop, and did this in about 1/3 of a season’s worth of playing time.† Everett as a +30 defender seems ridiculously high, but its right in line with what he’s done over the last few years, and less than what he did in 2006.† Loretta was at -5 runs, but in only 16 defensive games.† By the Zone Rating published by Hardball Times Loretta has made plays on only 38 of 64 balls hit into his zone, a terrible .594 zone rating, and he gets to few balls outside his zone as well.† Is he really a -50 fielder over a full season?† That would be highly unlikely that he’s as bad as the small sample size shows him, about as unlikely as the randome player who starts the year 38 for 100 is a true .380 hitter.† However, I think it is reasonable to assume that Loretta, who is getting older and primarily a second baseman, would be as bad as the worst regular defensive shortstops if he played regularly.† He might be the worst.† I’ll guess in a full season he’d be -20 runs at shortstop.
If the difference between Everett and Loretta is 50 runs over a full season, that’s about 67 hits, or 0.4 per game.† What has been the actual difference for the Astros since the injury?
I went to baseball reference, put the game logs into an excel spreadsheet, and looked at the numbers before and after Everett’s injury.† First of all, since the injury the ERA has risen from 4.42 to 4.65.† While I’m not controlling for different mixes of pitchers, or the defense from the other 8 players on the field, or offense of opponents played, a defensive shift of the magnitude from Everett to Loretta should show up somewhere in the team totals.† And in this case, it certainly does.
Looking at Batting on Balls in play, including reached on error, the Astros allowed a .318 average up to June 14th.† Since then, they have allowed an unreal .341 BABIP.† To bring them back to .318 I’d have to subtract 33 hits, and thats nearly one per game (34 games).
Even with Eric Bruntlett, a pretty good fielder, getting some time here as well, the Astros have given up more than twice as many extra hits as I would expect just based on my estimates of Everett’s and Loretta’s ability.
How much offense are they gaining with Loretta?† Loretta this season is hitting just slightly better than his career average, with Everett a bit below his.† Using career averages of 3.5 Runs created per game for Everett, and 5.2 for Loretta, if both players make 400 outs the difference is 25 runs, only half the difference in their fielding.
Astros fans should hope Everett recovers quickly.† Or for a lot more playing time for Eric Bruntlett.