Shortstop a Sore Spot

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Of the two positions that has produced the most wrath within the Reds fanbase has been that of the shortstop. With Reds skipper Dusty Baker proclaiming during the Reds Caravan that Paul Janish was the guy for the position, the number of starts between he and free-agent signee Edgar Renteria suggest a different tale.

Going into this evening’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Janish is drawn the start in 51 games compared to 29 for the 2010 World Series MVP. This alone has created a dischord as well. Not so much because Janish has not produced with the bat when he starts at short (.236/.260/.276, 0 HR, 18 RBI), it is the obvious fate that the left side of the infield suffers defensively…and it does.

Here’s the numbers to prove the falloff…

While Renteria does have higher RF’s compared to those of Janish, the UZR for Edgar is simply deplorable. And take the shortstops as a whole compared to the rest of the NL…

Not pretty there either. They rank 13th in errors committed with those 14 (4th most) and hold a .964 fielding % (12th). The defense, when manned primarily by Janish, really is better even though the numbers imply the range is a little diminished. Adding to Janish here, he has improved his RF/9 and RF/G compared to last season (4.47 for RF/9 and 3.34 for RF/G). Yes, his fielding percentage is a little lower (.981 in ’10) and he has already committed more errors (4 in ’10), Janish has already played more games here in 2011 (56 overall including late inning substitutions) as he did in 2010 (53).

Where both Janish and Renteria catch the most flak is at the plate. Once you look at the following table, you will see why.

Last season, there was a guy named Orlando Cabrera that contributed a great deal to those 2010 numbers. The Reds saw fit to let him go and not offer to pick up their option. One reason was the money (about $4 million), but the other reasons included the growth of Janish at the plate (which has not surfaced in 2011) and the Reds did not see OC as their starting shortstop for 2011.

On the last point, the Reds were right. OC signed a cheapie deal to be the second baseman in Cleveland. But I’m curious if the front office offered OC a deal similar to that of Migeul Cairo (2 yrs/$2 million). That’s what Cabrera got: #1 million, one year…and he’s at second. Maybe it was not being a starter as well. Or maybe there was simply no reason to have him roster. Well, once the Renteria signing was made, there was no hope for that, now was there? And the position has suffered this season.

In fact, looking back up at the offensive numbers, the only stat where the Reds are even in comparison to the other NL teams is in RBI. The runs have suffered because Cabrera occupies either the leadoff spot or was in the #2 hole. With that Votto guy hitting third, you will get chances to score. The shortstop for 2011, has been relegated to the bottom of the order especially as of late. And may I add, for a good reason.

The banter has been for GM Walt Jocketty to go after a shortstop. Jose Reyes has the attention of some Reds fans, but as has been stated here and in a lot of other places, the price for renting Reyes will most likely be too steep. And let’s not forget his contract. Well, the Mets may be resolved to eating a lot, if not all, of that.

Another name to crop up recently has been J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles. Apparently, if the Reds want hardy, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and his almost $6 million deal will have to be a part of that deal. Hardy would be a rental like Reyes, but could be a little cheaper investment ($5.85 million) compared to Reyes ($1 million). Of course, it could be contingent on who may go to either the Mets or O’s. That is for another post…

Either way you shake it, the shortstop has come up short thus far in 2011. At the end of last season, I graded the Reds shortstops with a B-. That may have been a little generous. This time, no generosity. You cannot give this position anything above a D+. The bats are simply non-productive and the defense has not been what is was last season even though Janish is still a great defensive player.

If only there was another alternative…