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Was Jayson Werth a better signing for Washington than Carl Crawford was for Boston?

Dec 13, 2010, 9:42 AM EDT

Carl Crawford

It seems crazy to suggest that the Werth signing was better than the Crawford signing but, as reader Jack Marshall pointed out to me over the weekend, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post does:

With the $142 million deal they gave to Carl Crawford, who has spent nine seasons proving that Fenway Park damages every part of his game, the Boston Red Sox just made the Washington Nationalslook smart. Or, at least, the Nats now look a lot less dumb for giving Jayson Werth $126 million … in lopsided Fenway Park, which works against all his tendencies as a hitter, Crawford has only hit one home run every 85 at-bats. In 338 career plate appearances in Fenway, a large sample over many years, he has an ugly .275/.301/.406 line.

There’s a name for speedy, weak-armed left fielders with those numbers. They’re called AAAA players.

Crawford’s line in Fenway Park is weighed down pretty heavily by his first three years in the league when he couldn’t do a damn thing there. He was up and down in Fenway between 2005 and 2008.  In 2009 he posted a line of .342/.350/.500 in Fenway. In 2010 it was .324/.350/.432.  Shocker: as Crawford has become a better hitter, he has become a better hitter in Fenway.  And all of that, we must remember, comes against what have been very good Red Sox’ pitching staffs.  I don’t think he’ll have a problem there.

Boswell also notes that Crawford’s defense is not suited to Fenway Park in that he has great range which will be wasted in that small left field.  Probably worth noting that the Red Sox play 81 games on the road.  Probably also worth noting that range goes side to side and not just forward and backwards. Again, this seems like a nit that Boswell is picking here.

Carl Crawford is a better all-around player than Jayson Werth. He’s younger. The Red Sox have more money to spend than the Nats.  The Red Sox, unlike the Nats, are capable of challenging for the pennant in the short term, thereby justifying a deal that is more likely to pay dividends in the short, rather than the long term. I mean, yes, Crawford’s deal is long and expensive and may turn out to be bad, but I can’t see any way that it’s worse than Werth’s, and nothing Boswell writes here changes my mind about that.

  1. BC - Dec 13, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    Why wouldn’t the Red Sox consider Crawford for center field? Stick Ellsbury in left.

    • mcsnide - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:05 AM

      I’ve been asking that exact same question ever since the deal was announced. You’ll move Ellsbury for Cameron, but not for Crawford? The reason Crawford is currently a LF rather than CF is summed up in one word: Upton. And last time I checked, Upton doesn’t play for Boston.

      • spindervish - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:25 AM

        This is incorrect. The Rays have played Crawford in left his entire career, which goes back to when Upton was still a defensively-challenged middle infielder. They played Baldelli in center over him, and even used Delmon Young there at times rather than move Crawford over. Reportedly he’s been adamantly against playing center his whole career. The thing I don’t understand is why, and also why the Rays would put up with that from a young player anyway.

        I’ve been trying to get someone on here to explain this to me for a couple days now, but so far no one’s deigned to respond.

      • mcsnide - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:49 AM

        Oops. Thanks for pointing out my “misremembering.” I guess that’s one of those cases where the thing that should have been replaces the thing that actually happened in memory.

      • themarksmith - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:53 AM

        Crawford has an awful arm, and it would be really bad for him in center. If he had to make a throw from RCF, it wouldn’t be good. The Rays had Upton and Baldelli, as mentioned, and they always had superior arms. My guess is the same will happen in Boston where Ellsbury and Cameron are probably better options.

        And although Fenway’s left field wall is shorter and hinders Crawford’s range a little, it will also help when he doesn’t have to make as long of throws.

      • spindervish - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:30 AM

        Is it pretty universally held that his arm is awful? Having lived in Boston and now South Florida, I’ve seen a ton of Rays games over the years, and I’ve never heard this or noticed his throws being particularly bad. Not that I’m an expert on eyeballing OF arm strength.

        FWIW, Fangraphs has his “Arm Runs Above Average” as positive the last two years, after a long run of negative values. His “Fan Scouting Report” ratings for release and arm strength are pretty weak though.

        If it’s conventional wisdom that his arm is terrible, then so be it I guess. Even still, I assumed his awesome range would be the more heavily weighted factor in determining where to play him. I mean, Damon was fine in center with his noodle arm, and Ellsbury doesn’t exactly have a cannon himself.

  2. phillygirl4 - Dec 13, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    People in Washington are getting defensive. It’s natural, considering most people think the team and this Werth deal is a big joke.

  3. Ari Collins - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Boswell’s a moron.

    1. Statistically, 338 PAs is only a little more than half a season and therefore not THAT relevant statistically. It’s a further worse sample because it a) includes his first couple years when he was clearly not ready for the majors and b) was up against better-than-average pitching overall.

    2. His road batting numbers are a .331 OBP and .430 SLG, which puts those numbers in further perspective. These road numbers aren’t telling of his true value, either; most hitters hit worse on the road, and TB is a pitcher’s park, so it’s not exactly inflating his numbers.

    3. Anyone who thinks Crawford is a AAAA player is an idiot. And I hope he gets hired to do statistical analysis for the New York Yankees.

    4. Probably and hopefully he doesn’t really believe what he’s writing.

  4. Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    From the get go, I’ve felt these deals were equally bad for the team and player friendly. Crawford got his “crawford money” for being a bit better. But both are hard to understand. Equally imo.

    Hey, who else thinks Werth would just plain MASH in Boston? And Crawford would be able to use his skills better in Washington?? I think if they swapped players they’d both be happier. Just a thought..

    • Jack Marshall - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:39 AM

      Crawford is just a flat-out better player than Werth, younger too, and I bet after 2010 everyone will know it. Let’s see what Crawford’s runs and RBI are like with the players he has around him now.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:10 AM

        He was on the Rays. I wasn’t aware that Crawford won the AL east all by himself.. Huh?? I learn something new daily. Crawford sure as hell has alot more slower players to play with now… I think Crawford will have less RBI, but more runs with where Bahhstaaan places him in the line up.

        Flat out better? I can’t agree with that either. Many baseball “people” think OBP is the most important stat which Werth is better in. Werth has a better SLG% and OPS too. So offensively the only stat where he’s better is BA. So his great defense is what makes him flat out better??? Or his base stealing? Because Werth is no slouch defensively and his numbers are close to crawfords there. So te only spot i see a big difference is base stealing.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:55 AM

        I would like to add (i was fearing the auto refresh and hit post)

        Werth will more than likely have a decline stuffed into a limp lineup, where Crawford won’t have that.

        Also Crawford can’t gun down baserunners from the OF like Werth can.

        Just some points to think about.

      • tomemos - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:21 PM

        “So te only spot i see a big difference is base stealing.”

        AND AGE. This has been pointed out to you like a bajillion times now.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:44 PM

        Yes,and i’ve mentioned it a million times myself. He is older. but I was pointing out differences in game, not age. Because really, it may or may not matter. It’s not a big difference. C’mon, that’s all you have? “He’s older, you’re a wall”. ok.

  5. Jack Marshall - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    And this is classic Boswell, a supposedly great sportswriter who has always left out key information that tended to undermine his thesis.

    About ten years ago, he used Jason Varitek’s wild pitch and passed ball totals to bolster Boswell’s (weak) argument that Tek was a poor defensive catcher, never noting that almost all of them came while catching Tim Wakefield. In 1988, when Lou Brock and Carl Yastrzemski were voted into the Hall of Fame, Boswell dismissed Yaz’s admission as based on longevity alone, never mentioning little items like, oh, his multiple batting championships, the Gold Gloves, the Triple Crown, and that MVP thing. He does this in all his columns, I’m sure: you just pick up on it faster when it involves a team you follow closely. Craig’s example of Crawford’s stats in Fenway is perfect: Boswell almost certainly knew he had hit well there in recent years, but intentionally misrepresented the data.

    • mcsnide - Dec 13, 2010 at 10:48 AM

      Throw in the “steroids milkshake” thing in Burns’ latest documentary, and Boswell is probably my least favorite person covering baseball.

  6. randomdigits - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    ” The Red Sox have more money to spend than the Nats.”
    Eh the Nats ownership is worth north of 2B if he wants to spend without regard to profitability he can.

    “The Red Sox, unlike the Nats, are capable of challenging for the pennant in the short term, thereby justifying a deal that is more likely to pay dividends in the short, rather than the long term.”

    Depends on your definition of short term I guess. The nats could certainly be competing by 2013 with Strasburg fully back and Harper in the big leagues. The bar to get into the playoffs in the NL is noticebly lower then it is in the AL East.

    I do think it was a dumb signing that was well over any other offer he received.

  7. Jack Marshall - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Jonny: I think that 60 stolen bases is a pretty big plus. And Crawford is younger, which counts. The difference between playing in the ridiculously hitter friendly park in Philly and the opposite in Tampa has to be factored in too. I repeat: after 2011, I don’t think we’ll be in disagreement….and my opinion will be the same.

    • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 12:19 PM

      “Jonny: I think that 60 stolen bases is a pretty big plus.”

      Oh, it is. But it’s the one. And comparing runs 106 (Werth) to 110 (Crawford), well that tells me the Stolen bases might have helped him just enough to give him 4 more runs. Stolen bases are worthless if you can’t get batted in. Look, Werth is a masher, he gets on base better. Crawford has a better avg and has more range. I’d offensively it’s a wash.

      And If I have to repeat this one more time. CBP is not ridiculously hitter friendly. Look at the players on the Phills, then look at their home vs. away splits. There isn’t one player on the Phills that show much difference in comparison. Which means it’s a myth.

      • tomemos - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:26 PM

        And you’re still ignoring the point that Werth is older than Crawford. It’s like talking to a wall.

  8. yankees1996 - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    Was the Jason Werth signing better for Washington than the Crawford signing was for the Red Sox?, NO, hell no! Why would anyone even think of asking that question? The sheer fact that Boswell even posed this question should be clear proof of how much of an idiot he is. Obiviously, I am not a Boston fan but the Red Sox can play him in any of the outfield positions and he is going to do very well. Crawford is one of the most well rounded players the Red Sox have ever had and the really impressive thing about him is that he is a pure athlete. I hate to admit this but the Red Sox have had an awesome offseason and their fans should be salivating waiting for the season to open.

  9. 18thstreet - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    I was blown away by what a bad column it was. He was picking and choosing stats, as if the Red Sox’ front office isn’t statistically minded. Does he think they aren’t AWARE of Crawford’s stats at Fenway? How many runs he’s scored?

    And I often like Boswell.

  10. apbaguy - Dec 13, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Boswell is great at the craft of writing. And once upon a time, when he was replacing the much loved Shirley Povich as the Post’s principal sports columnist-and finding that a tough task-he used to follow baseball more closely and actually try to do some independent statistical assessments.

    Now I think he’s a little jealous of the TV money two former Post sports guys (Wilbon and Kornheiser) are getting. He’s become more of a loud-mouthed homer, as the “Werth signing is better” column indicates. Which is in part understandable given that he grew up with the old Senators and the traumas of them leaving town and having no baseball for 40 years.

    Not that Werth is in any sense a bad player. His RAR last year was stupendous. But any argument that Crawford is less good relatively is a non-starter. 18th Street said it perfectly: The Sawx have a brilliant front office with powerful statistical capabilities (including Bill James). They look at a player for what he is individually and as part of the team.

    What Boswell was trying to do was to counter the prevailing DC attitude of “what the eff” regarding the Werth deal by concocting a K Street-like argument in support of the deal. That is, an argument fashioned to possibly persuade the undecided but not sway those with an already established, firm position, and to give air-cover for the decision makers, right or wrong. You see this all the time in DC.

    And you see through it all the time outside the Beltway.

    • Jack Marshall - Dec 13, 2010 at 12:36 PM

      That’s good insight, apbguy, and Boswell is a better writer than most. But he’s been cherry-picking stats and misapplying them his whole career; it’s his MO. This is certainly nothing new.

    • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 12:48 PM

      I agree the argument is ridiculous. It’s more than likely something he doesn’t believe himself. Both teams overpaid to get what they wanted, now they’ll deal with the results as they happen. Both teams knew this, and did it to get the guy they wanted.

      • Jack Marshall - Dec 13, 2010 at 1:30 PM

        Oh, Boswell definitely doesn’t believe it himself. He can read stats. That what I find infuriating…he misleads his readers to make a controversial/attention getting point that he doesn’t believe himself. Stupid sportswriters are a dime a dozen, but an intentionally misleading one really pisses me off.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:09 PM

        The difference between the two contracts argument is so worthless, and over that time frame? Without being able to see the future it’s based on educated guesses. Like WMD’s and “intelligence”..

        Both contracts are very player friendly, and that could turn out bad for one, the other, or both.

      • tomemos - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:38 PM

        Jonny, aside from the age difference, you’re also missing that Crawford has a very good chance of helping the Red Sox win right away, whereas Werth has no chance of helping the Nats win right away.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:53 PM

        How am I missing that? Am I all of a sudden thinking the Nats will be a force because of Werth?

        The Red Sox have at least a handful of reasons why the Crawford contract hurts them less than Werth to Washington. They will be fine. The Werth contract is more harmful to the Nats imo. I was arguing that Crawford is not the “flat out” better than Werth. That’s it. I was talking “game” not “contract”.

      • spindervish - Dec 13, 2010 at 3:20 PM

        As much as it pains me, I’m in agreement with the Philly homer here. I love Crawford and respect his skills, but I do think he’s a tad overrated. Terrible batting eye, for one. When he’s hitting .300, 40 walks a year is tolerable. If he dips to .275-.285, suddenly his OBP looks like crap. His most eye-popping stat, the SB, is generally overrated. His insistence on playing a corner means his power is nothing special, relatively speaking. Also, he doesn’t really hit lefties. If you believe Werth can maintain his recent production in the middle of Washington’s lineup, I think you can make the case that Crawford’s only a slightly better player, if at all.

        On another note, Jonny 5, I once saw you bemoan your hasty choice of a screenname. I feel compelled to tell you that I personally love it. Any reference, intentional or not, to the greatest “AI robot prototype gets struck by lightning, becomes a sentient being, befriends Steve Gutenberg” movie ever is worth a few points in my book.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 13, 2010 at 3:31 PM

        Spindervish, Oh it was definately intentional, but i had to take out the “useless H” People in NJ have no time for silent h.

        Anyway, you did make my point well. And although Crawford is better, if you flipped teams with the current contracts, the Nats lose again of the two, simply because the RS can blow money without it hurting them as much. That’s my take, equally bad for teams, equally player friendly. It just so happens the Sox have the ability to better absorb their huge contracts. And both players are awesome btw. Love to have either of them honestly, but not at that price. What are we the Yankees?

      • tomemos - Dec 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM

        Then you DON’T believe that “both deals were equally bad for the team,” as you said above. If you’re saying that both players are equally good right now, that’s something we can discuss, but it’s not what you keep saying and saying: that these deals are of equal (bad) value.

  11. gt929 - Dec 13, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Excerpted from an article by Gary Shelton of the St Petersburg Times dated 10-5-2010:
    Oh, he had his peculiarities. He would not play centerfield. He would not bat leadoff.

    Once, he says, when Tom Foley was the Rays’ farm director, Crawford says Foley told him that he was a leftfielder, that Rocco Baldelli was a better centerfielder. And that was that. Crawford was a leftfielder.

    “Foley says he never told me that,” Crawford says. “But you don’t forget when a man tells you that to your face. He crushed me. After that, I said, ‘I’m never playing centerfield again.’ ”

    As for batting leadoff?

    “I just thought I (stank) at it, to be honest with you,” Crawford says. “Lou (Piniella) put me second. Maybe I could have gotten better at it, but I just wasn’t comfortable. It didn’t have anything to do with stats. I just don’t think I’m a good leadoff hitter.”
    link to entire article:

    • spindervish - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:52 PM

      If that’s truly his reason for refusing to play center, that’s pretty stupid. Some guy back in the day said you weren’t that good at it and hurt your feelings so you quit? That’s some childish shit right there.

      Now, I am willing to consider that maybe he really wouldn’t be that great in center. From my perspective, if you can chase down pretty much anything in left like he can, you should fare pretty nicely in center as well. But what do I know? Ellsbury seems to have all the tools to be an exceptional CF, yet all the objective metrics seem to say he sucks, so much so that Boston wanted to make him a LF. Presumably they’re cool with his CF defense now though, what with Crawford in the fold.

      Also, the first year the Sox had Coco Crisp, he took a lot of heat for his defense, even moving some sectors of the press to call him a LF masquerading as a CF or something to that effect. The next season, he was lauded as an all-world CF. And I believe the metrics backed that up. So, like, you know…whatever.

  12. chrisbermansdoublechin - Dec 13, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    as a Phillies fan, … at that price, not sorry to see Werth go, … would have understood/expected him to go to the Red Sox, … IF I had my choice, I’d rather have Crawford, Werth is a supprting player, to expect hm to be a marquee player, who elevates the guys around him, Washington fans are going to be very disappointed

  13. Jack Marshall - Dec 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Yes, I would say “bad for both teams” is incorrect, Jonny. Crawford gives the Sox the best outfield coverage they’ve had in decades—maybe since the days of Tris Speaker, and the best speed game they’ve had in memory—a big upgrade for a team that got hammered in X-tras last season. His power is increasing; 20 homers isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

    But the main thing is that if Crawford helps the Sox get to the series a few times and win a couple over the next seven years, nobody will be complaining.

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