I admit it. I was on the Free Hector Luna bandwagon. But since fans and writers alike are beginning to bomb on Ronnie Belliard and dismissing him as a non-hustling, non-hitting fat piece of poop I feel compelled to state a fact: That fact is that Ronnie Belliard does not ****, and in the end, this trade actually could make some sense. I know it’s been dismissed as not one of Jocketty’s finer deals, and I see the logic but I really think people are overvaluing Hector Luna.
The facts are is Hector hit .263/.335/.384 over his 6 year minor league career. Between 02-03 he posted a decent .738 and a .727 OPS but it wasn’t good enough for the Tribe to decide to put him on their 40 man so the Cardinals scooped him up. We all remember 04 where Luna hit like he belonged in the minors, but we did look like he had the potential to be a decent utility player. He couldn’t beat out Abe Nunez out of spring training in 05 and went down to Memphis where he hit .224. He was only called up out of neccessity and something seemed to click as he hit .285/.344/.409. He did benefit from some very good luck as his BABIP (BA of balls in play) was .342.
The story is the same for Luna in 06, where he hit well .292/.355/.417, but that BA seems to be fluky with a BABIP of .330. That’s pretty high considering Luna’s a groundball hitter.
I’m not trying to trash Hector Luna. I think he could be a decent regular in the future if things break right for him, but he wasn’t going to get the chance to be one here in St. Louis. And I think we should be using the same healthy measure of skeptism we take with Chris Duncan, and that is his minor league numbers have not forecasted greatness, and while he hit well in limited duty over the last 2 seasons, I think much of that has to do with LaRussa spotting Luna well against lefties. Since coming over to Cleveland, he’s hit for a .374 OPS in 25 plate appearances, so I’m sure some fans are moaning over losing Belliard for a piece of poop just as we are fussing over giving up Luna for Fat Deuce.
Now to Belliard. The trade does not make sense if Belliard is indeed a rental, but if he’s not if it’s true that the Cardinals are interested in resigning him then it doesn’t seem so bad. Belliard has posted VORP’s of 16.6, 24 and 29.9 (06-04). That’s good for 6th, 6th, and 3rd among all AL 2nd baseman. He projects okay over the next 2 seasons, about as good as the other available second baseman available this winter like Ray Durham, Todd Walker, Adam Kennedy and Mark Loretta.
I guess I’m just tired of hearing about how Belliard is worthless and how’s ruining this team. Let’s give him more then 10 games before we make this judgment. And I admit, I wonder he’d would’ve been received better by some fans if he didn’t have braids and wear his uni baggy.
I think this a Tony-driven move, which just further irritates me. Basically, Walt saw that Luna would not be started, so he traded him for essentially the same player with a veteran reputation. Thank God it gets Miles out of the lineup everyday. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how Luna turns out in Cleveland.
Here’s a little more nonsense for LaRussa. "I think he has a chance to be a special player and he’s still learning." Tony, if you thought he was so special why didn’t you play him? Whatever.
So fine, Belliard should be an upgrade at second base. And whether Luna is just a utility player verses a starter is yet to be seen. Baseball Prospectus sees Luna over 2006-2008 0.2, 1.6, 3.6 VORP player. Of course, Luna is soundly beating that projection in limited duty with an 8.9 VORP. As for Belliard, his VORP projections are 14.8, 14.9 and 13.6. Currently, his VORP is 15.8. That’s only behind Roberts, Iguchi, Cano and is ahead of other names like Mark Loretta, Mark Grudzelaniek, Placido Polanco, Adam Kennedy and All Star Jose Lopez. (Currently, Miles’s VORP is 0.1…yeah.)
Defensively, according to The Fielding Bible by John Dewan, Belliard is above average. With the +/- ratings, in 05 he had a +20, tied for 3rd with Grudzelaniek and Hudson. He was a +1 in 04 and -3 in 03…He is especially good at making plays to his right and has a good arm. As I mentioned earlier, he is a big upgrade at turning 2. Miles had a .401 GDP percentage over 3 seasons, 25th out of 25 regulars. Belliard .531, good for 7th out of that 25. He was 5th in 05, with a .589 DP%. I don’t know the numbers, but I can tell you by watching Aaron Miles has been garbage at turning the double play, and it’s hurt this team considerably. According to ZR, Ronnie doesn’t fare as well.
Is this a bad trade? I dunno. It just sends Walter back to the drawing board this winter for a second baseman. But, hey…Miles is done as a starter!! We’ll wait and see what Hector does now. My gut tells me Luna could be decent, but I’m still not sure he’s a regular in spite of his hot hitting this year. Wishy washy minor league stats, and he’s had his share of mental lapses. (Throw home, NLCS, anyone?) I wish him the best in Cleveland. The keystone door just keeps revolving…..