Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2011 Position Preview: First Base

Kevin Youkilis has been a steady force in the Red Sox line up for the past four years. Every year, he ends up being one of the most feared in the line up, while playing Gold Glove caliber first. Then, this past offseason, the Red Sox decide they can find a better option at first and move Yook over to third. And you know what, no one disagrees.

If people in Boston haven't been paying attention to what's been going on in San Diego for the past five years, they've been missing out on one of the premium bats in all of baseball. He is 29 years old, in the middle of his prime, and the Red Sox have an opportunity to lock him up for a long time. To say the Red Sox upgraded at this position, regardless of how great Youkilis did, is an understatement.

Let me put some things in perspective for you. Petco Park, home of the Padres, Gonzalez's former team, ranked 26th of 30 MLB teams in ESPN's Park Factor statistic (a stat which judges how much of an advantage the stadium has; above 1 is hitter-friendly, below 1 is pitcher-friendly), with a rating of 0.882 in 2010. In 2009, it was dead last with a rating of .741, and again finished dead last in 2008. I think you get the idea. Now, keeping in mind Gonzalez has played half of his games in the extremely pitcher-friendly park, here are the statistics Gonzalez put up in those years.

2008- .279 BA 36 HR 119 RBI .871 OPS 2.9 WAR All Star; Gold Glove; 18th in MVP voting
2009- .277 BA  40 HR 99 RBI .958 OPS 7.0 WAR All Star; Gold Glove; 12th in MVP voting
2010- .298 BA 31 HR 101 RBI .904 OPS 6.3 WAR All Star; 4th in MVP voting

Those statistics speak for themselves. Now here's the next piece of good news. From 2008-2010, here are Fenway Park's Park Factors, with rank followed by rating: 5th, 1.077; 8th, 1.072; 7th, 1.083. These numbers show us something that everyone already knew, hitters have a great time hitting at Fenway. And icing on the cake? Gonzalez is going to have a field day using the Monster. I'm talking 40+ doubles good. In an article written in 2009, ESPN talks about Gonzo's opposite field prowess. He led the league with 21 opposite field homeruns. I have a feeling he can produce a lot like the Ortiz of old.
Here are my predictions for his season.

.304 BA 37 HR 123 RBI .972 OPS 6.7 WAR All Star; MVP-top 5; Gold Glove

Gonzalez is going to have a monster year for the Sox, and prove to be a great offseason pickup.

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