The latest news out of Spring Training is that Omar Vizquel will miss 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. The official word is that it’s a ‘torn medial meniscus’ in his left knee. Vizquel has had knee problems a couple of times in his 19-season career, the most recent was two surgeries that he had on his right knee in 2003. Since his ’03 double surgery, Omar has appeared in 150 games — if you round up — per season.
It looks like Vizquel could miss the first couple of weeks of the season, depending on how the surgery and rehab go. With his age — Omar will be 41 this year — it doesn’t seem impossible that he could have some lingering problems. 41-year-old shortstops are a rarity in the game of baseball. Even the great Ozzie Smith only played in 82 games in his age 41 season. It was the final season in Ozzie’s spectacular career.
Losing Omar really downgrades the infield defense. As of now, the Giants are going to play Kevin Frandsen at shortstop. With the injury temporarily ending the second base competition between Ray and Kevin, Durham is assured to start the season as the regular second baseman for the Giants. Frandsen obviously isn’t a shortstop. In his minor league career, he’s only appeared at short in 44 games as compared to 185 at 2B. Frandsen started 15 games at shortstop for the Giants in 2007 and it was obvious that he was either uncomfortable or stretched at the position. I’d say it’s probably a little bit of both.
Frandsen’s sample size at SS is so small, looking at any defensive metric isn’t really going to help. Tom Tango’s excellent Fan Scouting Reports had the fans rating Frandsen a 45 overall as a fielder. In Tango’s system, 50 is considered league average, so Frandsen by the fan rating is a little under league average. Move him from an easier position (2B) to a harder position (SS) and it could be an adventure. The Giants seem to be serious about finding Frandsen playing time and for now it’ll have to be at short.
As I stated above, Omar’s injury really downgrades the infield defense. In addition to moving Frandsen to a position where he’ll most likley be stretched as a fielder, it’s making Durham a full-time starter again. Leg injuries have hampered Durham’s range over the past few years and his defense has suffered. In ’07, by the Fielding Bible, Durham was a -10, meaning that he made 10 less plays than your average second baseman would have. With Durhams age and chronic leg problems, he’ll probably once again be in the negative for ’08. Losing Omar essentially downgrades both SS and 2B in one move.
If the Giants don’t trade for Joe Crede and decide to start Aurilia at 3B, the infield could look pretty scary. I’ll give Frandsen the optimistic bump and say that he could play SS at least close to average defensively. I think that’s really generous, but Durham is going to be below average and Aurilia is probably going to be the same at third. Ort should be fine at 1B, I think he’ll play the position at least average and Molina is a below average catcher. Weight issues and the lack of mobility have really hurt him.
Put it this way:
The Giants are going to have to replace Pedro Feliz — the best defensive 3B in all of baseball — and Omar Vizquel — not what he used to be, but still an excellent defender at SS — with Rich Aurilia and Kevin Frandsen.
For a team that needs to rely on defense as one of it’s core components to win games, things just got a little more dicey.
I’ve been assured that Vizquel should come back from the injury relatively quickly. That’s a little more palatable. Who knew that a sub-700 OPS shortstop could be needed so much?