Friday, December 17, 2010
With the signing of Bobby Jenks and Matt Albers over the last couple of days, the Red Sox bullpen now has at least enough bodies to start the season. Jenks is the much bigger name of the two, and he came with a much bigger price tag ($12 million over two years). Theo has to be happy that he avoided a third year, which has been given to many of the free agent relievers this offseason, such as Joaquin Benoit, Scott Downs, Matt Guerrier, and Jesse Crain. In a recent article, Dave Cameron pointed out that multi-year contracts for relievers just don't work, unless you happen to be signing Mariano Rivera.
At first glance, Jenks looks like a pitcher in decline. Between 2008 and 2010 his ERA has steadily risen from 2.63 to 3.71 to 4.44, and in the end of 2010 he lost the White Sox closer job due to injuries and inefficiency. However, if you look at his underlying numbers, 2010 was one of Jenks' best seasons of his career. Jenks has always had an electric fastball that flirted with triple digits in the early part of his career, but that did not always translate into strikeouts. His strikeouts per nine innings in 2008 was a career low 5.55; he was able to maintain h is good ERA thanks to a low walk rate (2.48/9 IP) and some good luck in the form of a high strand rate and a very low percentage of fly balls that left the yard. Since 2008 his strikeout rate has risen, despite increasing ERAs. In 2009 Jenks was victimized by a high proportion of fly balls that left the park (17%). On average, 10% of fly balls become home runs, and this is considered to be a skill that is outside a pitcher's ability to control (the number of fly balls allowed, on the other hand, is not). In 2010 Jenks posted one of the highest strikeout rates in the major leagues (10.42/9 IP), kept his walks in check (3.08/9 IP), and had a very high groundball percentage. Despite the spectacular strikeout and groundball rates, Jenks had his worst year since becoming the White Sox closer. Quite simply, it doesn't add up. Look for Jenks to have a great bounce back season, and give the Red Sox a trio of power arms that rivals the best top three on any other team. Because Jenks was non-tendered by the White Sox, he also won't cost the Red Sox any additional draft picks, which are needed to restock the farm system following the Adrian Gonzalez trade. As an added bonus, the Red Sox now can comfortably let Papelbon walk as a free agent following the 2011 season. Daniel Bard is still the closer in waiting, but if for some reason he doesn't prove ready the Red Sox have a proven closer as a fall back option.
Matt Albers is a lot less exciting. He's reliable, having pitched more than 67 innings in both 2009 and 2010, and can be stretched out into a long relief role, as shown by his 110 innings pitched for Houston in 2007 and the fact that he led the AL in relief appearances longer than one inning last year. He's also mediocre – he doesn't strike a lot of batters out (5-6 per 9 IP), he walks more than he should (4-5 BB/9), and should be good for an ERA around 4.50. He does keep the ball on the ground, keeping his home run rates low. While he won't be in the mix for the high leverage innings, he should be a good innings eater, which could be key given the injury potential in both the bullpen and the starting rotation. Replacement level pitchers are terrible; it varies from year to year, but often times they have an ERA of 5 or greater. Albers value isn't related to how well he'll pitch, but rather that you can count on him to be better than replacement level. Based on Fangraph's Wins Above Replacement statistic (WAR), the Red Sox had almost -2 wins from individuals with negative WAR. Even if Albers can pitch some of those innings at replacement level, he'll be an asset.
There is definitely room for another bullpen signing, particularly another lefty if the Red Sox was to keep Doubront in AAA as a starter. Right now Doubront is the only left handed pitcher I've projected to be in their bullpen, as both Albers and Jenks are right handed. Alternatively, if Rich Hill and Andrew Miller pitch well in spring training, either of them could snag a spot in the bullpen. As both are left handers, this would allow the Red Sox to send Doubront back to AAA for more seasoning as a starter. Both Hill and Miller are former starters who are trying to remake their career as relief pitchers, so they're hardly a sure thing. One final option might be to simply go with all the righties. As Tony Massarotti points out, both Jenks and Bard had excellent years against left handed batters in 2010, despite being right handed.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Left field was a disaster for the Red Sox last year. While Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, and Ryan Kalish all did a lot more than the team expected, the offensive bar is set very high for left field. The Red Sox left fielders ranked 28th in batting average, 28th in OBP, and 18th in slugging. Carl Crawford is an obvious improvement offensively, and according to all the advanced metrics his defense is off the charts. Also, catcher was a weak point for the team last year. Current reports indicate that Russell Martin is close to signing with the team. While he is not the All Star he was in 2008 (thanks Joe Torre! Who knew that 449 games in 3 years would harm a young catcher?), Martin still posts an excellent OBP for a catcher (.347 last season, .360 for his career). For a lineup as deep as the 2011 Red Sox, a catcher who can work the count would be a nice addition.
After a strong finish to the season, many folks are pushing for Jed Lowrie to be given the starting shortstop job, pushing Marco Scutaro to a super utility role. I agree with this, as Scutaro is a free agent after the 2011 season and in an admittedly small sample size, Lowrie was the best hitting shortstop in the AL. I've put Scutaro in my lineup for a couple of reasons, one of which is based on practicality. The front office has made it clear that they're going to start the season with Lowrie as the super utility player. Also, putting Lowrie in the lineup would make the runs per game calculation a bit tricky; due to his age and injuries Lowrie hasn't accumulated enough MLB at bats to make a good prediction using my admittedly basic model.
What about Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick?
For 2011, both Kalish and Reddick appear to be blocked. As I wrote in my original post about the 2011 lineup, the Red Sox feel that Kalish could use more time in AAA, despite his strong showing last September. If a major injury occurs to an outfielder, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Red Sox turn to Kalish again. In 2011, the path to the big leagues is clear for at least one of them. JD Drew's contract expires after the 2011 season, and Kalish's great athleticism and arm strength seems like a great fit with the spacious right field in Fenway. The future isn't as clear for Reddick. He is organizational depth for the time being, but may end up as part of a trade package, as the younger Kalish has passed him in front office's mind. His line at AAA (.266/.301/.466) isn't particularly impressive, but the potential is definitely there, as shown by his post All Star Break numbers (.363/.385/.643). Reddick didn't impress in the Dominican Winter League either, although he showed a good approach at the plate (10 BB in 76 PA, much higher than his AAA walk rate). Next year is a make or break year for Reddick with the Red Sox; another mediocre showing in AAA could lead to him getting traded for some in season help.
Friday, December 3, 2010
I've always felt that resigning Beltre was more important than resigning Victor Martinez, mostly because of Beltre's exceptional defense and Martinez's poor defense and a looming positional change. The big question was whether or not Beltre would want to remain on the east coast, as he had played every prior season with either the Dodgers or the Mariners and his family remained in the Los Angeles area after he signed with the Red Sox. The Oakland offer (5 years, $64 million according to ESPN's Jayson Stark) remains on the table. Beltre has said the years are more important than the dollars, so if the Red Sox could sign Beltre for 5 years and $60 million, I'd be ecstatic. I ought to be, considering I felt that he would end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years and $60 million coming into the off season. Right now the Red Sox are offering 4 years, $54 million - a slightly higher salary than Oakland, but a year less.
To top it all off, if the A's are the team to sign Beltre, they'd only have to give up their second round pick, as their first round pick is protected.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
The one potential surprise in here is the Red Sox picking up Scott Atchison's option. The key thing to remember here is that the Red Sox are not necessarily expecting Atchison to be a huge contributor, but instead a solid option in the back of the bullpen. Atchison has a average strikeout rate (6.2 K/9), an average walk rate (2.85 BB/9), which unsurprisingly led to an average ERA on the season (4.50, ERA+=97, where 100 is league average). For $40,000 over the major league minimum, average is actually pretty good.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Now that my throat is starting not to look like something out of a George C. Romero movie, I can finally make that follow up post to my lineup post from last week. As I mentioned in that post, the Red Sox pitching rotation is pretty much full at this point. Barring a trade or a release, the Red Sox have a rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey, and Matsusaka through the end of the 2012 season. Unlike the cheap, homegrown talent in the lineup, this is a pretty damn expensive rotation, weighing in at just under $50 million in 2011 and just over $50 million in 2012.
So sticking with arms on the team, I think the pitching staff should shape up something like this:
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Hat tip to Pete Abraham for linking to it from the Globe's Extra Bases Blog.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
This was written just after the Red Sox regular season ended. Here is an updated version of this post now that Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are on the team.
Going into the 2010 offseason, the Red Sox are in an interesting position. On the one hand, they have an incredible amount of money coming off the books this year, with over $55 million thanks to the expiring contracts of David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, and everyone's favorite player, Julio Lugo. The Red Sox may be looking to pare down their payroll, however. The total salary for the 2010 team was $168 million, $45 million more than the 2009 team and $25 million more than the highest team salary with Theo as a GM. The Red Sox are also opening up massive holes in their lineup. Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, and David Ortiz were the first, third, and fifth most valuable offensive players by WAR on the team. Thanks to the excellent seasons Beltre and Martinez had, they won't be coming back for their 2010 salaries of $10 million and $7.7 million. Based on WAR from Fangraphs, and their valuation of a win at $4 million, below are values for the departing players.
|Off books post 2010|
In case you didn't notice, all of those guys play offense. The Red Sox rotation is full right now, but that is a discussion for another day. So right now, with just the players under contract, how does the 2011 team shape up? Here is how I see it:
The lineup is very much up in the air. Theo suggested that Saltalamacchia might be in the mix for the starting catcher job, but I've left him at backup instead. Of course, we're talking about an injury prone catcher who had trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher last year. Now, to preemptively answer some questions...
Why is Scutaro a $5.5 million utility guy?The simply answer is that Jed Lowrie was just that good in the second half, drawing lots of walks and showing good power (.287/.381/.526). Incredibly, based on Lowrie's VORPr (a per at bat version of Baseball Prospectus' Value Over Replacement Player statistic), Lowrie was the best offensive shortstop in the AL, not that he had much competition. I'm not a sentimental sort, but considering all he's been through he deserves a shot at a full time job. The front office remains very high on him and at 26 now is the time to see if he can stick as a starter. Also, Scutaro has an extensive injury history and his shoulder wore out this year, preventing him from playing much shortstop after the All Star Break. Given Scutaro's history of playing all around the infield, he's perfectly suited to being a super utility infielder makes more sense. However, given the injuries all around the infield for the Red Sox this year, I think it makes sense to try and hold on to Scutaro rather than trade him.
Why isn't Ryan Kalish on the team? He was the Red Sox' best outfielder in September!I think that he is almost ready, but it makes sense to give him some more time in AAA and wait for an opening in the outfield. He should be playing every day, and that wouldn't happen in the majors right now. An injury or a really hot start to the season in Pawtucket could change that, though. A poor August dragged his overall numbers down, but he hit .263/.325/.474 in September, while playing some great defense and generally showing why scouts are incredibly high on him. He's only 22 and wasn't expected to see any significant time in the outfield this year. If there is a silver lining to the outfield injury cascade, it is we got to see a glimmer of Ryan Kalish's potential a year early.
Why is Julio Lugo's WAR N/A for 2010? Everyone knows he contributed to wins simply by not being there.I think I'm going to miss having Lugo as a punching bag, although it is pretty low hanging fruit.
So what do the Red Sox need to do for 2011?
Just like last season, they're looking at importing a lot of hitters. The bidding will be pretty fierce on Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Beltre, but I'm hoping that with $40 million in expiring contracts, not counting Ortiz' option, that the Red Sox can make a run at an outfielder and resign Beltre. I think Carl Crawford would be a perfect fit with the goals of the front office to be younger, more athletic, and play good defense. Just like Beltre at third base, Crawford's glove in left field is consistently head and shoulders above all other defenders. As a left handed line drive hitter he should be able to pepper the Green Monster with double after double. MLB Trade Rumors recently asked readers to “crowd source” Crawford's free agent contract, and the end result was a relatively reasonable 5 year, $70 million deal ($17 Average Annual Value). Considering Crawford's age, I might guess that he gets a 6 or 7 year deal, though. A similar exercise with Adrian Beltre estimated a 4 year, $52 million deal ($14 AAV). Those two contracts would add $31 million a year in salary, but would land two of the top free agents on the market and two of the very best defenders in all of baseball. I think that if there is an inefficiency in the free agent market today, it is with defense. The Cameron signing didn't work out due to injury, but it doesn't disprove the underlying theory. Signing Crawford and Beltre would require letting Martinez walk. It hurts to say it, but if you're going to bet on a player into his 30s, you're probably better off not banking on the catcher.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the Red Sox have a lot of expiring contracts following the 2011 season as well. The recent two year deals by Cameron and Scutaro will be ending, freeing up $13.25 million, JD Drew's mistakenly maligned 5 year, $70 million contract also be ending, and Papelbon will be a free agent and will presumably be taking his services, complaints, and his $10+ million salary elsewhere. That gives the Red Sox the flexibility to go after free agents now or wait until next offseason when some of the biggest sluggers in baseball including Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Adrian Gonzalez hit free agency.
~A. Bartlett Giamatti (1938-1989), Former Commissioner of Major League Baseball
Friday, October 1, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
1. When asked if he'd take a pay cut to stay in Boston, Ortiz indicated that he wouldn't, saying “I don’t feel like going anywhere else but if I have to, I have no choice.” He also said that he'd already taken a pay cut five years ago, when he signed his 4 year, $52 million extension.
2. According to Rob Bradford at WEEI, Ortiz doesn't want a one year deal, because he wouldn't be "comfortable".
First off, Ortiz didn't take a pay cut in 2005. According to the irreplaceable Cot's Baseball Contracts, his salaries since joining the Red Sox before the 2003 season have been $1.25 million and $4.6 million. After the 2004 World Series victory, Ortiz agreed to a two year extension worth $5.25 million in 2005 and $6.5 million in 2006. An option year was included, but the Sox again extended him, this time for 4 years and $52 million ($12.5 million per, plus $6 million in signing bonuses) through the 2010 season. So it is a little hard to stomach him saying that he took a pay cut to stay. Sure, that first extension was a bit below market value, but the second was near the top of the pay range for full time DHs. As a point of comparison, Hafner signed a four year, $57 million extension during the 2007 season, despite the fact he was still under contract for another year and a half. Since that deal the market for full time DHs has plummeted. Adam Dunn, who is essentially a DH at this point, signed for 2 years, $20 million before the 2008 season. Hideki Matsui and Vlad Guerrero had to settle for one year, $6 million on the open market, despite the fact that Matsui was coming off of a 28 home run, 90 RBI season.
Second, I don't know how the Red Sox could possibly go with a two year deal without a pay cut. It would be an insane over pay to go with a two year, $25 million deal, considering the fact they could just take one year at $12.5 million. I know he's the face of the franchise, but left handed sluggers can go from a stud to the proverbial glue factory in a year. I've written about it with the Howard deal, along with lots of other folks who are an awful lot smarter than I am. As a side note, I love the concept of a baby albatross. Two years for $20 seems reasonable to me - Ortiz gets his $12.5 million option picked up, with $7.5 million for 2012. That $7.5 million would be about market value for an older designated hitter. In his bounce back 2010, Ortiz has been worth $11.5 million, although he was only worth $13 million in 2008 and 2009 combined. When a player's production matches his salary one year out of three I just don't know how you can possibly go ahead and sign them up for another three years at that same salary. I think the Red Sox are smart enough to realize this; I hope David Ortiz is too.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Dan Haren (.364/.375/.527) and Yovanni Gallardo (.268/.339/.554). Haren has been lucky on balls in play (BABIP of .422), as have many of the pitchers who are outperforming the hapless Mariners DHs, but I believe that Yovanni Gallardo is a better hitter than the Seattle DH composite. His BABIP is not particularly high, and his career numbers in 181 (.221/.260/.429) at bats top the dreadful stat line compiled in Seattle. Maybe the Mariners should argue for the elimination of the designated hitter in the future. It certainly doesn't seem to have helped their offense at all this year.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
The Red Sox Beacon has a nice article on Felix Doubront in the bullpen. Given the Red Sox depth at starting pitcher and the weakness in the 'pen, I agree with their assessment that Felix could be in the bullpen to stay.
Baseball Prospectus has an interview with new top prospect Anthony Ranaudo.
And perhaps best of all, Joe Posnanski, who gets my vote for the best sports writer out there right now, has an article about Jeter's future defense, offense, and pay than fills me with glee.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
While it is a bit depressing to see the Red Sox "sell low" on a player, Delcarmen was getting worse while simultaneously getting more expensive as he was going to enter arbitration for the second time this offseason. Chris Balcom-Miller seems like a solid return for Delcarmen. Before the trade a Rockies blog had a small write up on him. I haven't been able to find a description of his stuff, which is key in projecting a pitching prospect, but he's posted very good numbers in the hitter friendly Pioneer League. His strikeout and walk numbers are very good (117 K and only 20 BB in 109 IP), but it is important to keep in mind that strikeout numbers typically drop and walk numbers typically rise as a pitcher moves up in the minors. According to one scouting report, Balcom-Miller has the upside to be a mid-rotation starter.
The other benefit is that I think this move will make the 2010 Red Sox a better team, even if their playoff hopes are pretty much dead. I figure Robert Manuel, recently named as the PawSox MVP will snag Delcarmen's roster spot. It seems that every single time I write about the 'pen, I have marvelous things to say about Manuel, but he really does deserve a shot. In 64 IP at AAA he put up a 1.68 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He'll have some competition for innings once the rosters expand, but the Red Sox need to get a look at him and see if he's a viable major league reliever.
As I was writing this the Red Sox called up Manuel to replace Delcarmen. Now let's see how he does.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Despite the injuries, the Sox have played fairly well this season, as their 69-54 record would put them within striking distance in any other division in the majors, and would even lead the AL West. However, when you're in the same division as the Yankees and Rays there really isn't any margin for error. Without a doubt the starting pitching has been a huge disappointment for the team this year. Although the starters' 4.21 ERA is more than half a run better than last year's numbers, the Red Sox rank in the AL and MLB as a whole is nearly identical. I suppose it really is the year of the pitcher. Of course, that half a run of ERA was given back by the bullpen, who have only been the 9th best in the AL this year, a far cry from last year's #2 ranking. That is a huge disappointment considering the Red Sox decision to go with pitching and defense this offseason.
Despite the insanity and inanity surrounding the decision to go with defense this offseason (the decision to go with pitching, which has apparently blown up in the Red Sox face, was not subjected to nearly the same amount of babbling on talk radio) the defense has actually been substantially better this year, despite having to play role players across the diamond. Pedroia, Drew, and Beltre are all among the leaders in UZR at their respective positions and the Red Sox moved up to 8th in baseball in park adjusted defensive efficiency, 10 spots better than last year's team, according to Baseball Prospectus' numbers.
It is still a bit early to do a post mortem on the season, as the season isn't all dead yet, just mostly dead. I wouldn't count on Miracle Max though, I hear he's a Yankee fan.
Friday, August 20, 2010
The big question marks in the Red Sox draft were the following two picks, college starters Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo. As I wrote in my initial write up of the draft,and has been written about in many other places as well, Ranaudo was a highly rated prospect coming into the college season who struggled in his junior year. In order to raise his draft stock, Ranaudo decided to pitch in the Cape Cop league to prove he was healthy. He certainly did. Ranaudo was probably the most dominant starter in the league this summer, throwing 30 innings without allowing a single run, while striking out 31 and walking 8. It took right up until the deadline, but the Red Sox were able to get Ranaudo to sign for a $2.55 million bonus, the largest of their draft class.
Brandon Workman, a starter out of Texas, was also considered a relatively tough sign. Coming into the draft he was expected to go in the bottom half of the first round, but fell about 30 picks to the top of the second round at 57th overall. As with Ranaudo, Workman and the Red Sox were able to work out a deadline deal, with Workman signing for an $800,000 bonus, which is about the slot for a player selected slightly higher.
All told, the Red Sox managed to sign 14 of their top 15 draft picks, only failing to sign high school righty Tyler Barnette. It is always hard to analyze a draft right after it happens, but the talent the Red Sox ended up with in this year's draft seems awfully impressive. They ended up with four picks in Baseball America's top 30 rankings and managed to sign them all. To top it all off, the top 4 are all college players, who can replenish a farm system that is currently a bit depleted at the upper levels.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I'm afraid that there's going to be another big posting drought, as I won't have much time to work on blog entries while I'm in South Africa for the next two weeks. Don't give up on the Red Sox just yet; the last time Andrew and I were out of the country was late June through mid August of 2004 and the Sox managed .700 ball without us.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Right now, priority #1 has to be to trade Jose Guillen. Yes, he's owed $4.5 million on his disastrous 3 year, $36 million contract. No, he can't play defense. Yes, he's had repeated run ins with management and other players due to a bad attitude and lack of effort. But he can hit pretty well, and there are some teams out there (the Giants immediately come to mind) that have some pretty putrid outfielders of their own. I would call up Brian Sabean, especially now that some of his other targets have already been moved, and offer to eat the salary. Jose Guillen is a sunk cost. No matter what the Royals do, they're not going to be able to recoup that money - it is gone whether they trade him or not. Considering that they've already budgeted that money and the fact that ponying up the $4.5 million ought to net them a much nicer prospect, Moore just needs to suck it up and get whatever he can for Guillen. A solid, if unsexy, relief pitching prospect would be a nice find; the Royals' bullpen has very little depth beyond Soria and Robinson Tejeda. I'd try something similar with Rick Ankiel, although since he's coming off an injury and was not effective when he was healthy, it could be a very limited market.
With the two trades, my proposed trade for Guillen, and DeJesus' injury, the Royals would all of a sudden have loads of playing time. For the time being they've been playing Wilson Betemit at 3B. Betemit is a nice stop gap and a solid utility player, but come September, they ought to take a a look at Mike Moustakas at third base. Moustakas destroyed the ball at AA this year, and while he's currently struggling at AAA, he clearly is the third basemen of the future for them.
With Guillen gone, the Royals would need a full time DH. Thankfully, they have Kila Ka'aihue rotting in AAA. Despite years of terrible production at DH, the Royals have let Ka'aihue rot in AAA without ever giving him a chance with regular playing time. He put up a 1.000 OPS in AAA in 2008 at the age of 24, which earned him a call up, but he had a chance as a full time player. The following offseason, the Royals traded Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs. Nunez has closer the last two years for the Marlins. Mike Jacobs put up a .297 OBP for the Royals in 2009 and was then non-tendered. Whoops. Ka'aihue slumped a bit in 2009, but has been unbelievably good at AAA again this year. According to Minor League Splits, his minor league equivalent OBP is .370, only the now injured David DeJesus and Billy Butler have higher OBPs.
Finally, the Royals need to play Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier full time from here on out. Maier is the only true center fielder under contract for next year, so they need to see if he can put up acceptable numbers or if they need to look elsewhere. Finally, Alex Gordon, the next George Brett, is now a left fielder. According to scouting reports, his defense has been solid. After missing most of last year with a hip injury and getting demoted this year, the Royals need to give him one last shot with regular playing time to see if they can salvage something out of this fallen top prospect. Despite his horrendous .573 OPS (which actually beats out fellow fallen 3B prospect Brandon Wood's .411 quite handily), there are reasons to hope. Gordon hit .315/.442/.557 in the minors, so if he can finally translate that minor league success to the majors, the Royals could have at least a league average left fielder on their hands.
Despite years of futility, there is some hope for the Royals. Beyond the players I've mentioned, they also have Eric Hosmer (1B) who is excelling as a 20 year old in AA and Mike Montgomery, an excellent 20 year-old left handed starting pitcher who also was promoted to AA this year. Some have gone so far as to say that the Royals have the best farm system in baseball. Making the little right moves, such as giving some older minor leaguers a shot, could help surround these up and coming young players with a nice supporting cast.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
All of that does make him valuable, but these reports are just insane. According to George King of the NY Post and Jon Heyman of SI, the Jays asked the Yankees for Jesus Montero or Joba Chamberlain for Downs and asked the Red Sox for Casey Kelly or Jose Iglesias. I guess it doesn't hurt to ask, but hopefully Alex Anthopoulos knows that the days of trading a couple prospects for a reliever rental are long gone.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Boston Red Sox
Vendors with critical violations: 4%
Inspection report excerpt: Inspectors found raw steak that had warmed to almost 60 degrees, which was above safe temperatures.
New York Yankees
Vendors with critical violations: 48%
Inspection report excerpt: Five hot dogs registered 91 degrees in a hot-holding unit when they were supposed to be no cooler than 140. Inspectors also had a vendor dump a bottle of Chivas Regal whiskey containing dead fruit flies.
Are the dead fruit flies good luck like the worm in the tequila? (OK, it is really in mescal, if you're being picky about it)
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
However, based on a study by Sean Smith (creator of the CHONE projections), switching from a start to a reliever typically increases strikeouts by about 15%. Considering how weak the bullpen has been this year, thanks to injuries and underperformers including expected 7th and 8th inning guys such as Delcarmen and Okajima, Bowden could play a major role down the stretch. That said, don't mistake him for Daniel Bard last season; Bowden doesn't have anywhere close to the strikeout rate or the upside, even out of the pen.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Obviously, neither Cash nor Molina are going to hit much, but what impact will this have on the team offensively? Based on ZIPs projected rest of season stats, the dropoff from Victor Martinez to either Cash or Molina (their projected lines are very similar) looks to be about 4 runs over the 12 games Martinez will be on the DL, assuming he comes back after the minimum. Using the quick conversion of 10 runs to a win, the injuries to Martinez and Varitek look to cost the Sox about four tenths of a win. It's a number that is a lot lower than I expected, but it is assuming that Victor can come back after a minimum stay on the DL, and it isn't factoring in the other injuries at 2B, SP, and OF. All in all, those are starting to add up, especially in a tight AL East race. At this point I'd be happy if the Sox can just hold it together and play .500 ball until the All Star Break.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Eric Patterson was drafted by the Cubs in the 8th round of the 2004 draft by the Cubs, after his junior year at Georgia Tech. Patterson moved relatively quickly through the Cubs system after being drafted, reaching AA in his first full minor league season and AAA in his second. After a full season in AAA at age 24 when he posted an 817 OPS, Patterson had a cup of coffee with the Cubs. Although he had come up through the system as a second baseman, Patterson was used as an outfielder in his 7 game stint with the Cubs.
This was the apex of Patterson’s value as a prospect, as he was ranked 6th in the Cubs minor league system. After a strong showing in AAA (870 OPS), but a poor one in the majors, Patterson was shipping to Oakland. Just as with the Cubs, Patterson hit well with the A’s AAA affiliate in Sacramento, but was terrible when called up to the big leagues. This pattern repeated itself in 2009, and after spending most of 2010 as a bench player for the A’s, Patterson was designated for assignment to make room for Coco Crisp, who was coming off the disabled list.
Despite his struggles at the major league level, there is a lot to like about Patterson’s tools. For starters, unlike his hacktastic brother, he has an excellent eye. One scout quoted in the 2010 Baseball Prospectus Annual said that he was half the athlete Corey Patterson was, but twice the ball player. Also, Patterson has elite speed and is an excellent base runner. He stole 43 bases in 49 tries in AAA in 2009, and has yet to get caught in 22 major league stolen base attempts. In one aspect he is similar to his brother – contact. Unfortunately, neither Patterson can make consistent contact with the ball, as Eric Patterson’s career strikeout rate of 28.4% of his major league at bats shows. However, he did post 15-20% strikeout rates throughout his minor league career, so there is some hope for improvement.
Perhaps the biggest hope for improvement is that no one has given him a shot at full playing time. Granted, his performance hasn’t warranted full PT, but his minor league numbers indicate that he could be a viable major league second baseman. Pedroia’s 6-week DL stint may give Patterson the regular time at second to establish himself. Even if Theo and Tito decide to platoon Patterson and the right handed hitting Bill Hall (although I don't think either of them view Hall as a real 2B), Patterson will get the fat part of the platoon. If he does adjust to big league pitching, Patterson could be a valuable utility player for the Red Sox for the remainder of the season and beyond, thanks to his ability to play multiple positions and his base running ability. Also, because Patterson only accumulated 0.144 worth of major league service time coming into the season, he will be cost controlled for at least another two years. Overall, I think this is a great gamble by the front office. Patterson certainly isn’t going to Wally Pip Pedroia, but he has the potential to fill a gaping hole for the team now, and be useful down the road.
Update: So the Red Sox are going to place Victor Martinez on the DL after all. Hopefully he'll miss close to the minimum. With Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown, the two AAA catchers, on the minor league DL, it isn't clear who the back up will be. You wonder if the Red Sox will revisit Ianetta with the Rockies, although they've avoided making impulsive moves in the past.
The Sox "ace", Josh Beckett has missed about half his starts due to back and oblique injuries. When he was healthy enough to start, Beckett posted a gaudy ERA well over 7. If all goes right, Beckett would return in late July.
The expensive Japanese import, Daisuke Matsuzaka, has also missed about half of his starts for the team, mostly due to a sore fore arm. He has been solid, if unspectacular, in the nine starts he has been able to make, although it may be due to a bit of luck when it comes to keeping balls in the park (4.50 ERA vs a 5.13 xFIP, which is normalized for home run rate).
Even Clay Buchholz hasn't been spared. Trying to break up a double play in San Francisco on Saturday, Buchholz came up lame. Initially diagnosed with a hyper extended knee, Buchholz was later diagnosed with a minor hamstring tear. That sounds a lot scarier than it is; technically speaking, any strain is a tear. Buchholz is slated to be skipped in the rotation once, then return. The Red Sox have some flexibility here because they have two off days over the next week.
The guy who was supposed to lead the offense, Jacoby Ellsbury, has played all of NINE games all season, thanks to broken ribs courtesy of Adrian Beltre. Ellsbury was off the DL for a bit, before new fractures were discovered after he was unable to play effectively. Ellsbury is supposed to return sometime after the All Star Break, although very little information has been released since he went out to Athlete's Performance Institute in Arizone for rest and rehabilitation.
The player whose defense pushed Ellsbury from center field to left field, Mike Cameron, has battled an abdominal injury. At first, it was diagnosed as appendicitis, then kidney stones, but it turns out Cameron had kidney stones AND a tear in his abdominal wall. Ouch. This injury often requires surgery, but through rest and rehab, Cameron was able to come back after a month on the DL. However, for two weeks he wasn't able to play in consecutive games and is still bothered by pain from the injury.
Jeremy Hermida, the outfield depth for the Red Sox and one of the most talented 4th outfielders in the game, was another victim of a collision with Beltre. He was thankfully able to avoid breaking his ribs, instead just bruising them. Hermida has been out since June 9th and is looking at an early July return.
And finally we get to Pedroia, who Buster Olney argues is one of the most irreplaceable players in the game. The Sox are extremely weak at 2B in the farm system and off the bench, and even some of the players in the minors who might be able to fill in are hurt, such as Jose Iglesias, who broke his finger a week ago and Tug Hullet, who had been signed to be their back up infielder, has been horrendous in AAA. The Sox did snag Eric Patterson in a trade with the A's, although he's only slightly more of a real 2B than Bill Hall is. Patterson's minor league numbers are outstanding (.309/.363/.487 over 1300 AAA at bats), but he's struggled in his major league career (.224/.301/.340). We'll see if he can pull a Nava.
Yet somehow, despite all of this, the Red Sox are leading the wild card and only a game back of the Yankees. To start the season, if you had told me Beckett was going to miss half his starts and Ellsbury would have only played nine games by July 1, I would have taken 5 games back of the wild card in a heartbeat. I am not really sure how they've managed to do it, but they're just winning games.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Strasburg has been his efficiency so far. In this era, pitch counts are heavily scrutinized from both ends – too few pitches and the old timers start to rant about back in their day pitchers would routinely throw 130, too many and you start to have people complain about a manager running a young arm into the ground. And that does happen; just look at the damage Dusty Baker did to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, both of whom had similar amounts of hype surrounding them as Strasburg. In order to protect their investment, the Nationals have played it safe and kept Strasburg on a relatively tight pitch count. In his three starts, he’s yet to top 95 pitches. That makes his strikeout totals even more impressive. You see, keeping a pitch count low and striking out a ton of batters simply don’t go hand in hand. From a common sense standpoint, you can induce a weak grounder with one pitch, but a strikeout takes at least three.
So far in his admittedly brief major league career, Strasburg is averaging 14.2 pitches per inning. That puts him in elite company, with some of the most efficient starting pitchers from 2009 – Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter. But just how exactly does he do it? Swinging strikes, and lots of them. Batters are currently only making contact with 35% of his pitches out of the zone, compared to the MLB average of 66%. Unsurprisingly, Strasburg is leading the league in swinging strike percentage (15.8%, well ahead of second place Tim Lincecum). Not only that, but Strasburg is also top 3 in the league in generating swings on pitches out of the zone. Most guys that generate swings on pitches outside of the zone are command/control guys, who, if you’re feeling mean, could be labeled junk balers – Carl Pavano, for example. The intersection of guys who get batters to swing at a lot of pitches outside of the zone and guys who get lots of swings and misses when a pitch out of the zone is pretty much just Strasburg.
There are a couple of caveats, despite his amazing start. First, Strasburg hasn’t faced the strongest competition so far. The White Sox, Indians, and Pittsburgh are all in the bottom third of the league in terms of offense against right-handed pitchers, and the White Sox were without the benefit of a DH. Also, Strasburg doesn’t throw very many pitches in the zone. To a certain extent, this may be because he doesn’t have to, as evidenced by his ability to generate swings outside of the zone and because of his stuff, but the league may catch up to him a bit. Finally, we are talking three starts so far, but man, have they been impressive.
Update: Strasburg pitches on national television for the first time tonight, Monday, June 28, facing the Braves on ESPN 2. Sadly, Braves uber-prospect Jason Heyward will miss the game with a sore thumb. For those of you like me, who haven't had a chance to see him yet, this is a great opportunity.