2008 Review, Part 1: Infield

I'm starting the off-season by taking a look at the performance of the various positions this season. There'll be four sections, covering respectively: the infield, outfield and catchers [just to balance the positions players at four per section], starting pitchers and the bullpen. All stats will refer only to the appropriate position e.g. CoJack's stats for 1st base will reflect only his at-bats playing there. I'm manfully trying to avoid too much speculation about what might happen going forward, and concentrate more on what happened in 2008.

1st base
Overall: .278/.359/.446 = OPS .805 [sOPS+ 98]
NL avg: .277/.359/.479 = OPS .838
Games started: Jackson 66; Tracy 62; Dunn 14; Clark 12; Burke 6; D'Antona 1; Whitesell 1

Conor Jackson started the season as the full-time incumbent of the position, with Burke the occasional spot starter, and performed well enough there offensively, posting a line of .302/.399/.481, above the NL average for the position. Initially, he was spelled mostly by Burke, but the return of Chad Tracy and the departure of Jackson for the outfield prompted some shuffling.

The arrival in trades of Clark and Dunn further complicated matters, and by the end of the year, no less than seven players had started games at first for Arizona. Dunn's output was clearly the best [.255/.377/.608] by any player, while Chad Tracy's results there were a disappointing .256/.293/.393. Defensively, however, he had a .993 fielding percentage, with only four errors, and had an above-average range factor to go with it.

2nd base
Overall: .276/.349/.407 = OPS .756 [sOPS+ 103]
NL avg: .271/.338/.408 = OPS .746
Games started: Hudson 105; Ojeda 30; Eckstein 18; Burke 9

There's no doubt that the loss of Hudson proved a much greater issue this year than it did down the stretch in 2007. O-Dawg batted .308 before going down for the season on August 9: the three replacements, combined, hit only .218, with 3 HR and 20 RBI in 216 at-bats, and none of them had an OPS of better than .640. That's probably a good part of the reason why we scored 4.27 runs per game after Hudson's injury, compared to 4.51 before losing him. His .333 BA with runners in scoring position would have been particularly-welcome.

However, all the metrics point to Hudson's decline with the glove, his speed now beginning to drop, as you'd expect since he'll be 31 by year end. His fielding percentage was a career-worst .982, and his Range Factor also dropped for the fourth straight season. Per nine innings, his RF was actually below league average for the first ever time. We will likely miss his offense next season, but the defense he provided in 2008 should be relatively easy to replace.

Shortstop
Overall: .291/.339/.487 = OPS .826 [sOPS+ 128]
NL avg. .265/.335/.441 = OPS .776
Games started: Drew 147; Ojeda 13; Burke 2

After a disappointing 2007, this was the Stephen Drew we signed up for. Only one shortstop in the majors with 200+ PAs had a better OPS than Drew's .835 - Hanley Ramirez. No shortstops, and only one middle infielder (Chase Utley), had more extra-base hits than Drew's 76. He set a franchise record for homers at the position, with 21, and his OPS was fifty points better than the previous best by a qualifying shortstop [Jay Bell's .785 in our debut year]. Of course, out-hitting the likes of Tony Womack and Royce Clayton is a light thrill at best...

Not much room for anyone else at the position, with Drew starting some 91% of games, but The Ballplayer Formerly Known as the Littlest One [until the arrival of Eckstein] did bat .321 in 53 at-bats, with more walks than K's. Defensively, Drew had 14 errors, putting him middle-of-the-pack in the majors. However, both Range Factor and Zone Rating concur that he was below average, respectively ranking him 17th and 18th of eighteen qualifiers. Still, we can cope with that as long as he keeps hitting, especially during the second-half where he went .326/.372/.556, for an OPS of .927. A few more walks might be nice, but otherwise, I guess Drew's coming to dinner.

Third-base
Overall: .230/.313/.431 = OPS .744 [sOPS+ 92]
NL avg. .276/.334/.404 = OPS .738
Games started: Reynolds 149; Ojeda 9; Burke 2; Tracy 2

Mark Reynolds was perhaps the most mercurial of the Arizona players this year, and I doubt I need bother re-hashing in detail his team-leading HR and RBI totals, along with his major-league leading error and strikeout numbers. Both with the glove and at the plate, he was capable of astonishing brilliance one moment and infuriating ineptness the next. In his defense, this was still his first full season in the majors, and his youth provides some hope that he will improve both his defense and his contact rate next season. Whether that's at third or elsewhere...

Our Swiss army knife - small, but with a thousand uses - Ojeda was not merely the spot starter but got a lot of use as a late-inning defensive replacement. He started just nine games, but appeared in more than three times as many overall, and played errorless ball in 110 innings. His range was also above league-average, though he only went 4-for-41 at third. Chad Tracy got a couple of looks at his original position, though his surgically-repaired knees restricted his range of lateral movement too much for him to see significant time there.

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