Says John Fay:

(Alex) Gonzalez’s defense is debated on the blog a lot. You can look at numbers, but anyone who sees him on a daily basis will tell you he’s been outstanding.

Whatever. To the contrary, I’d say that anyone who watches Gonzo closely on a daily basis will tell you that he has absolutely no range and that his defense is atrocious.

Gonzalez makes a diving stab occasionally and everyone wants to talk about how awesome he is; meanwhile, an actual good defensive shortstop (Paul Janish?) would have made most of those plays without even leaving his feet.

Okay, discuss….

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

Join the conversation! 51 Comments

  1. Though my watching has been limited to many less games than others on here, I have to say that while Gonzalez has lost a step, I came away from the games I’ve been to or watched on tv thinking that he’s still a pretty decent defensive SS, I would much rather have him out there than Janish, if only because the potential that Gonzalez has with the bat is much great than Janish’s and their defense is relatively equal.

    Though I will admit not having looked at any objective numbers. I tend to value objective numbers (even on a shaky subject like defense) more than my own eyes.

  2. I wouldn’t say atrocious, but he’s definitely lost a step.

  3. While his defense is not as good as Fay claims, it’s certainly far better than RLN makes out.

  4. His UZR/150 is 9.4 so by the numbers it isn’t that bad…but his range isn’t that of a good to great SS.

  5. I will argue that Janish’s MiLB numbers indicate that he has more potential offensively than Gonzalez, and there is absolutely no doubt that Janish is superior defensively.

  6. I, on the other hand, trust my eyes more than stats when it comes to defense, especially middle infielders.

    He’s decent. he makes the occasional great play, but his range is not what it used to be. I would put him in the ‘average’ category. There’s not anything wrong with that….unless of course you are proclaiming him great, or you are on a team focused on ‘speed and defense’ (which is code for ‘cant hit a lick’).

  7. I think the labeling of “great” on Gonzalez is what irritates people more than anything.

  8. …and by ‘average’, I mean ‘average at best’.

  9. Gonzo’s lateral quickness isn’t what you need it to be, but his ability to convert tricky hops into outs helps him retain some value. He’s not atrocious, just lacking in range. Is it really that big of a deal? You’re probably talking one ball every other game. What he’s NOT doing with the bat each night is by far the more damning offense.

  10. I think his defense is worse than what RLN is making it out to be. Next time you are at the game (I’ve been to 12 games this year so far), watch GOnzalez defensively. You will see that he can’t move. It’s awful.

    Janish isn’t a major league SS either, but at least he has a glove.

  11. One ball every other game? That seems like a lot to me, and yes, I think one ball every other game is a big deal. That’s a lot of precious outs that aren’t being converted.

    He’s not the worst in the league, but JOhn Fay is smoking something if he thinks Gonzalez is “outstanding”

  12. Exactly, Jim. That’s my biggest issue. It’s like everyone is trying to justify something.

    Truth be told, defense is not our biggest issue and I can live with AGon if we would win a game against a team with an atrocious pitching staff when our number 5 starter only gives up one earned run. When that game comes down to a defensive error, there’s a problem far greater than whether Gonzo has lost a step. TOS.

  13. Not sure what “closely” means, but Gonzales bat is more of a concern than his D. He has made the plays at SS, and as I watch each game “closely,” but I’m sure not as “closely” as Chad, I really do not see a lot of balls getting by him that most SS get to. He has been making plays in the hole and up the middle, so I think “no range” and “atrocious” is just so much hyperbole.

    I hate his hitting thus far, hacking at anything within two feet of the plate, but his D has been adequate and stable. I would agree that Janish is a better defender right now, but I don’t see him being any better than Gonzo on an everyday basis, the Judy hitter that he is.

    But then, I’m not sure I qualify as watching “closely” enough.

  14. I think the labeling of “great” on Gonzalez is what irritates people more than anything.

    Bingo. Give this man a kewpie doll.

    Even if he is average (I think he’s probably below average, but what do I know?), why do we have to listen to Welsh and Grande call him awesome every night? And why would Fay say he’s so great.

    I figure if neither of our shortstops are going to hit, let’s put Janish in there. At least he can pick it with the glove.

  15. I don’t hate Gonzalez, but even I can see plenty of balls getting by him. Ask Aaron Harang if balls are getting by Gonzo…….he’s been screwed by that several times this year.

  16. when you have to pinch run for a middle infielder in crucial situations, it’s apparent that there are some range issues.

    I still think Gonzo’s bat would be much better than Janish long term. I don’t think Janish would hit the Mendoza line over 200 Ab’s. Unfortunately our offense is so putrid right now you have to play AGon, IMHO. All of this may very well be mute by the end of next month if we don’t get a couple of bats.

  17. Ask Aaron Harang if balls are getting by Gonzo…….he’s been screwed by that several times this year.

    That one game earlier in the season when Harang tossed everything in the dugout is a prime example. I think Harang would have tossed Gonzalez if he had been close by.

  18. I do think Gonzo gets more credit than he deserves from some because he makes slightly difficult plays look like web gems because he has to dive for balls he shouldn’t. Having said that, when he does get a glove on the ball he’s good at getting a throw away quickly and accurately. I’m not convinced Janish over the long term would be that much better offensively, but he certainly wouldn’t be worse, and his defense would almost certainly be better.

  19. Janish is no worse of a hitter than Gonzalez. Compare their first seasons of MLB. Gonzalez was even worse than Janish’s first season.

  20. I have a question. Who cares how announcers describe a player? Does that affect Walt’s and Dusty’s decision making? Do you think they are influenced by what is being said?

    As for Harang, he was likely frustrated at lack of run support. If he was throwing his glove for lack of range on defense, he would have thrown it in the river in prior years as the statues in LF and RF jogged over to pick up another bloop hit.

  21. Gonzalez’s UZR/150 is third in the NL behind Rollins and Hardy. Janish would be second if he had logged enough innings. Defensively, either is a capable defender. This year, Gonzalez/Janish pairs to be probably the third best offensive SS in the NL Central, behind Tejada and Theriot. However, neither Tejada nor Theriot can field to save their lives. The hole in the lineup at SS would be less noticeable if you could fill out other positions with better offensive players. Because of injuries, that cannot be done at the moment. SS should not be the concern right now. Batting order is the problem. Taveras/Hairston should not be 1 and 2.

    FREE DREW STUBBS

  22. Would you make a trade w/ Houston for Tejada if they dump him at the trade deadline?

    Announcers description of a player does not affect Walt’s and Dusty’s decision making…but it would seemingly echo
    what they hear Walt and Dusty say.

    When it comes to Taveras, the problem isn’t batting order, the problem is getting the best 8 in the lineup. The problem is they could have went with Hopper/Dickerson until Stubbs was deemed ready.

  23. I think it’s much ado about nothing. AGon’s glove is fine. The problem is that he should be batting 8th (or 9th) every game istead of 6th or 7th. Plus, Janish should be getting more spot starts than he does, but I have no problem with AGon’s D.

  24. Yeah, the “great” label is causing people to overreact and say he stinks. He doesn’t. He’s not as good as he once was, but he’s still a heckuvan upgrade over the garbage we’ve had there for the last forever. I also think he and Phillips work really well together, something that is often overlooked when talking about a player’s defensive capabilities.

    He played some pretty good D over the last three games – at one point I actually said aloud, “I’m glad we have a real shortstop there.”

  25. I haven’t had the chance to see that many games this year, but the numbers say he’s been a pretty good fielder. However, his bat has been so awful that his value is less than that of a replacement player. Janish, all things considered, has been better.

  26. While the “great” rating might irritate some,I find the “atrocious” rating a lot more irritating, and much less accurate. He’s quick, smooth, still has a good arm, and knows what he’s doing. He has a very quick release on DPs. He teams very well with BP, who insists that AGon is the best SS he’s ever played with (including Omar Vizquel).

    I listen to almost half of the Reds games as broadcast by the other teams announcers. ALL of them would irritate you by calling his defense great.
    I’m not arguing that his defense is still great, but one of the indicators is the groans let out by broadcasters (including former players such as Mike Shannon and Rob Dibble)when Gonzo steals what they think is a sure hit.

    Do they think it’s a sure hit becasue Gonzo’s range is limited ? BS.

    Dibble BTW said the Reds have the best middle of the infield defense in the NL Central.

  27. I concede “atrocious” was hyperbole. Trying to get a reaction.

    I disagree that he is quick. Quite the contrary, in my opinion. And his feet are stuck in cement. Among the worst I’ve seen in some time.

    On the other hand, he is pretty good on the double play. On the balls he gets to, he is usually sure-handed (with a couple of notable exceptions this year). And I won’t argue with you that he “knows what he’s doing.” He just can’t do it anymore.

    Do they think it’s a sure hit becasue Gonzo’s range is limited ?

    Yes. Absolutely. Without question. Watch the replays on half the balls he dives for. Note that he’s barely moved before diving many times (when “great” shortstops would have come up with the ball without being forced to dive). But it looks like a great play because he dove and came up with it.

    I understand your points, pinson, even if I disagree with most of them. I’m not sure, however, that using Rob Dibble as evidence makes your argument any stronger. He could throw really hard, and he is one of my favorite Reds of all time, but he’s widely considered a lightweight.

    The point is that Fay and Grande and Welsh say that Gonzo is “great.” Under no circumstances is he a great shortstop. Why is there such a need to defend him?

  28. More importantly, as some have noted, if your shortstop is going to put up an OPS+ of 52 (!!!!) and an OPS of 587 (as Gonzo has)…

    …he had better be a “great” defensive shortstop (and Gonzo is not). In fact, he’d better be one of the best ever to play, because that’s the only way to justify those numbers being in the starting lineup.

  29. To my amateur eyes, Paul Janish looks like a considerably better defensive shortstop than Alex Gonzalez this year.

    Shocking AGon offensive stat:

    Alex Gonzalez (166 PA) has scored EIGHT runs this year.

    Paul Janish (49 PA) – SIX runs.

    Johnny Cueto and Micah Owings combined (60 PA) – 8 runs.

  30. I love how people are quoting the defensive stats.

    RF shows him to be terrible; UZR shows him to be above-average. One month ago, those same stats were showing Gonzalez at the bottom of the league in fielding. Those same stats are also showing Jeter as one of the top three or four defensive shortstops in the AL right now.

    My point is that we should just wait. I think those defensive metrics are very interesting, but I wouldn’t draw any conclusions based upon 43 games worth of defensive data.

    For defensive stats, that’s a tiny sample size. Much less reliable than offensive stats at this point. Three bad games and he’d be at the bottom of the lists. (Look at Dickerson, who was definitely “atrocious” in left field…he was so good in CF for a week that he looks like one of the best defensive outfielders in the majors now.)

  31. Similar to what Steve and others have said, the real problem is his offense.

    While, it is an interesting conversation regarding whether Janish or Gonzalez is a better fielder(I would say it is certainly Janish), it would be very hard to make any kind of decent argument that having Janish on the field would cause the other team to score more runs. It would be even harder to say that he could give up more runs on defense than he would make up for on offense.

    So, if Janish can even do pretty much just as well as Gonzalez, we have to trade him. We have a number of guys who can fill in at shortstop if we really need it, his salary is inflated, and we need a bat at virtually any position.

    Even if Janish isn’t the long-term solution, sitting on our hands and thinking Gonzalez can miraculously be a better player isn’t an option. Gonzalez’s similars almost all started an abrupt slide at about his same age.

  32. I know I will take heat from this, but defensive stats are terrrible measures. Your eyes will tell you the story if you really want to know. ESPECIALLY in a short time period.

  33. Is Gonzo and Janish that different (offensively and defensively)?

    Do you expect Gonzo to be with the team next year?

    If you answer both questions no, then you call teams looking for SS help, like Boston or the Mets, and get a deal done.

  34. Can I be the first person to bring it up this year? If there are not good options outside the organization for the Reds at SS but there are some good options at 2B, then move Phillips over to Short and acquire said 2nd baseman.

  35. GregD, I was trying to say exactly what you said, only it was much more confusing. The real issue is that we are wasting a roster spot and money on someone who isn’t an improvement over a replacement player.

  36. Yep, you beat me to it, Randy. I agree with Randy. I didn’t refresh the page and see your comment until after I posted mine.

  37. Guys the horse is dead, buried and turned to dust. Phillips is not going to play shortstop.

    No doubt Gonzo doesn’t have the range he once did and some of the diving and acrobatic plays people rave about wouldn’t be so special if his range were better.

    I will say however I think his defense has been better in ’09 than it was in ’07, when he struggled with his son’s health issues. In ’07 he flubed alot of routine stuff and that really isn’t the case this year. Probably a concentration thing in ’07.

    If a trade could be worked out for Gonzo that might not be a bad thing. I would like to see Janish given a chance, but I also think the time he has spent on the bench here the first 2 and a half months have served him well. It remnds me a little of the way Ray Knight was brought along in the late 70s. A decision on Janish needs to be made before Valaika and Cozart make it to the scene. And like everyone else, I don’t think team performance suffers as Janish can now do as well offensively and defensively.

  38. Reds fans are awful demanding of a shortstop, considering the same people give a .250 hitting, 100+ K 3rd baseman with 30 errors a year an ‘above-average’ tag. While I could live with .250 and hustle out of my 3rd baseman, he’d better play stellar D. Just because 3rd base is a weak spot around the league doesn’t suddenly lower the standard for acceptable. If every 3rd baseman in the league hits .210, that doesn’t make .220 awesome. Couple that with the fact that of all active players, EE ranks 76th in errors. Thats out of 700+ players, most with 8 years or more of playing time, and he’s cracked the top 100 in only 3+ years. Having said that, Gonzo is not great, nor is he “atrocious”, but the reality is, he is the best shortstop on the team. Could it be upgraded? Sure, but right now I think finding a 3rd baseman who is motivated, doesn’t need trips to AAA to get his head out of his ass and can play ‘average’ defense comes before that, and a run producing left fielder does, too. The goal is still 2010, The Cubs, Cards and Brewers are falling back to the pack, and the Reds should have some young players coming up. Don’t give up on what took so long to build, dealing a ton of prospect depth doesn’t help long term.

  39. If you’re going to make a stats-based post, you’d be wise to use something other than batting average and errors.

    But kudos for sneaking an Encarnacion = unmotivated/not-hustling reference in there. Nice work.

  40. First of all, Taveras and Hairston have not had awful seasons. Each has been awful at times, but each has played well at times too. Taveras had a fairly good April (.262/.351/.338), and a bad May (.269/.307/.333). Hairston had a horrid April (.179/.256/.282), but played very well in May (.294/.342/.559). Each are doing poorly so far in June. I’d argue that each has shown the ability to meet expectations and deserve some latitude (although I’ve always been a fan of the Dickerson/Stubbs CF platoon).

    Second, take a look around the division. Every team has holes. The Brewers are trying to survive with Hardy (.219/.298/.344), Kendall (.222/.316/.269), Hall (.204 .275 .342), and Hart (.243/.308/.388) as regulars. The Cards are trying to deal with Thurston (.245/.349/.399), Duncan (.246/.329/.406), and Ludwick (.238/.296/.449). The Cubs who were the offensive powerhouse coming in are stuck with poor numbers by key guys such as Soto (.219/.335/.308), Bradley (.215/.329/.369), and Fontenot (.247/.327/.414).

    The offensive funk doesn’t stem from Taveras, Gonzalez, and Hairston. The funk stems from Votto missing games, EdE missing games, and Bruce hitting (.214/.304/.471).

  41. David I think you are right on.

    I would like to think you might be able to move a veteran like Gonzo to one of the contenders needing a shortstop (not saying the Reds aren’t a contender because they are)to maybe pick up some hitting and/or a prospect and maybe even trade Weathers to a bullpen needing some depth because of the emergence of Masset again to pick up some hitting depth or a prospect. You always have Homer who could fill that early earlier inning releif role Masset has been filling.

    I am heading to Columbus tonight to see Homer pitch.

  42. Q – When did EE every have 30 errors?

    A – 0

    Q – How many times has EE struck out 100 times?

    A – Once

  43. You prefer the vague, lazy use of OPS? Which BP rates as the single most useless statistic when used by itself. You can’t reduce a player evaluation to one number. It’d be nice, but it’s not accurate. I could state that his OBP has dropped each of the last 3 seasons, or that his strikeout rate has climbed over the same period of time. True, his OPS is around .800, but thats only a portion of the story. I’d love to see him click it on, but i think he was handed the keys at 3rd, and may need some competition to motivate him. It’s simply my opinion, the just of my point was could the Reds have a better SS, sure, but they could also have a better 3rd baseman and a better LFer.

  44. Range may come back as his leg/knee get stronger.

  45. EE K-rate has actually dropped

    Biggest concern offensively for EE is how his line drive rate has dropped while his fly ball rate has increased. One might surmise he has gotten away from what he did earlier in his career. If true coupled with the fact that he is a tireless worker, we once again need to ask what the organization’s hitting instruction is doing for him. Didn’t I read somewhere that all kinds of people in the organization are telling him what to do hitting wise. While I may not be the biggest Jacoby fan, it is his job and his job alone to coach the hitters on this team. If Dusty Baker wants to be the hitting instructor then dismiss Jacoby.

  46. Range may come back as his leg/knee get stronger.

    If that is true then why isn’t he rehabbing somewhere?

  47. I do believe Gonzo’s bat is starting to come around. He has hit the ball better recently and I don’t believe Janish would hit any better (with probably even less pop). However, if I could get something for him I certainly would trade him (Red Sox maybe?) as I don’t think there would be much difference between the two.

    I was at all three Nats-Reds games so I didn’t read all the game threads but did anybody bring up Austin Kearns or Dunn? They both looked awful. Dunn got on a couple of times, but when he was up in key situations he did not come through (and got picked off second) and Kearns was just awful and has been awful all year.

  48. I wonder if the Reds first and second hitters tonight have the lowest combined OBP in MLB…

    Taveras (.294)
    Gonzalez (.266)

    The line up tonight would literally be better if Dusty just turned it in upside down by accident.

  49. I have not seen enough games first hand to comment of Gonzalez’s defense beyond the metrics. In the games I have seen, I would say good glove/arm, bad range.

    But as several people have pointed out context is important. His offense is terrible and he cannot run. We could carry the bat if the glove was outstanding or the rest of the order was strong enough to make up for it, but I do not think either is true. Frankly, and I never thought I would say this, I wish we had Kepp. at this point, or would be willing to give Janish/Sutton more of a shot.

    Longer term, I would hope we agree it is a position that needs to be addressed.

  50. I’ve thought Dunn and Kearns have always looked bad.

Comments are closed.

About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

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