Tuesday, December 12, 2006

FA Signings by WARP-3 (Position Players)

Quick post with some analysis of the FA signings this offseason, as promised in an earlier article. What I've done here is taken Baseball Prospectus's WARP-3 value, and weighted it 3-2-1 in favor of the most recent seasons - so 2006 has the most weight. WARP-1 is described as "The number of wins this player contributed, above what a replacement level hitter, fielder, and pitcher would have done", but WARP-3 is adjusted for difficulty, and accounts for 162-game seasons (not really necessary since the seasons in question were 162 games). What I'm basically trying to show here is the amount of money teams paid per year (AAV = Average Annual Value) per WARP-3. This is quick and dirty, and doesn't take into account certain aspects of the player, but should serve as a baseline for analyzing some of these signings.

The graph file is pretty big, so hopefully it is readable. If you would like the original Excel email me for it at Bosoxwest@yahoo.com.

Spreadsheet here:

The interesting thing to note here for Sox fans is of course where Drew and Lugo fall in the mix. Drew is getting around $250K less per WARP-3 per year than Soriano, and about $100K more per year than Matthews Jr. In the abstract this isn't great in and of itself, except when you take into account the fact that Soriano's contract has three more years on it than Drew's and the fact that 2006 was Matthews Jr's career year almost by a factor of 2. In that upper echelon of AAV per WARP, outside of Soriano and perhaps Ramirez, there's no player I'd rather have than Drew, and given the years the contract looks pretty good. The Lee contract, as previously noted, is a fucking joke - pardon my french.

The Lugo signing, once again, looks very, very good. Look at the names above him, and it becomes pretty clear. Interestingly, the Cora signing looks absolutely ridiculous on paper. I guess they're paying for intangibles.

The best positional bargains of the offseason thus far? Kevin Millar, and Adam Kennedy. Of the guys who could play every day and help the team (Counsell and Clayton will be bench players), these guys signed for very short money in the current market. In baseball, as in all other areas of life, it does not pay to be an unathletic-looking white guy.

I'll try to take a look at pitchers in the coming weeks. It's a bit trickier, but we'll see how the trending works out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Red Sox Select Nick Debarr in Rule 5 Draft

In today's Rule 5 Draft the Sox picked up big righty reliever Nick Debarr. Debarr was a 14th round pick by Tampa Bay in the 2002 amateur draft. Debarr is 6' 4" 220 lbs. and pitched for Visalia in the California league last year. He came back last year from Tommy John surgery, apparently very well.

Here's a quick scouting blurb on him from Rays Baseball in 2004:

"DeBarr is a hoss; 6’4, 220, 20 years-old, possess a low-90’s fastball that BA thinks could improve as DeBarr continues to add strength, a plus splitter and a decent slider. He had better results when he became more aggressive, a trait he will need to keep as he moves up to Bakersfield this year."

What do we like about Nick? A good K rate (avg. 6.8 but nearly 8 last year), has fixed the K:BB rate (up to nearly 4:1 last year after a tough previous season), and a low WHIP (1.13 last year), and of course he has the prototypical "pitcher's build". What's not to like? Well, he's only had success at high-A, so he's a longshot to stick on the 25-man roster for the season. He'd really need to surprise.

Naturally, when your bullpen features Mike Timlin, you want to amass as many options as possible, and if Debarr can locate his fastball and in fact has a plus secondary pitch, he could help this team. Under normal circumstances we could decide we like him and trade or send cash to Tampa Bay to keep him, but since Tampa Bay despises our FO that might be tough. It may well be a situation where we throw him into the fire, and it's sink or swim. Or, I guess he might be a trading chip to be used in the near term, or kicked back to TB.

At any rate, for $50K, it seems like a reasonable chance to take. As I've always maintained, nothing's more fun than rooting for the longshot, so here's to Nick.

The other positive outcome from the Rule 5 Draft is that exposed Red Sox prospect Chad Spann was not claimed by any team. This probably explains why he was left unprotected. Spann has a ways to go yet, certainly defensively, but has the potential to be a big-league contributor, so I'm happy he stays with us. Moerover, Pawtucket already has a lot of holes on that team, and I don't want them to suck. So there's that.

And a week until the Matsuzaka deadline...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sox Sign Two, Get Raped By Media

It appears that Manny is staying, and Drew and Lugo are coming on board, and essentially the Sox are spending a boatload of money. Really, there should be no surprises here. They've looked at trading Manny for the past three years, and it hasn't happened, and their demands have escalated if anything, due to the absurd free agent costs in the current market. The reports on Drew and Lugo have positioned the Sox as the front-runners for weeks now. They had the biggest needs, the wherewithal, and they pulled the trigger.

First off, let me say that I haved mixed feelings about these signings but no doubt everyone does. What I am comfortable accepting is that given today's market these are not only fair, but probably good contracts. Before we start going berserk about Drew's injury history or Lugo's LA stint, which we can certainly do, we have to start with the new baseline: the contracts of Soriano and Lee.

Soriano signed an 8-year, $136 million contract. This contract is staggering, of course. Lee, who was signed to a simply terrible contract, will get $100 million for 6 years in Houston. Taking a WARP average of the last five years, those guys are getting paid roughly $2.5 Mil (Soriano) and $3.7 Mil (Lee) per WARP, or Win Above Replacement Player.

I am guessing that the average AAR per WARP at somewhere in the vicinity of $2.2 Mil, for this offseason, but I will research further. The Soriano deal makes some sense from this perspective, in that he was one of the best available players - it's really just the number of years that scare you. The Lee contract is ridiculous no matter how you slice it (and reportedly he turned down a fatter offer from SF because they completely and utterly suck). He hits. That's it.

Now, on to the Sox signings. Drew first. Drew is getting the same AAR as Soriano per WARP at $2.5 Mil per - again, using an average of his last five years. Here's the thing there - Drew's productivity was greatly hampered by injury. Taking an average of his three healthy years, he's only getting about $2.1 Mil per WARP. So, and this has also been discussed ad nauseam, if healthy Drew is a good signing, even looking at the big numbers in the contract, according to the current market cycle. Thanks to all the negative press, people are conveniently ignoring the fact that he is the closest thing to a 5-tool player to hit the market in years. If it weren't for the injury history, he simply couldn't be had. We're taking the risk. End of story.

So. The knocks on Drew of course are that he is injury-prone (which he is), and that he doesn't play with "passion". The first is a semi-legitimate beef, since he has missed a lot of time over the years. However, he's had two fluke bone breaks, and has also received praise from former managers for playing while hurt. I tend to think this is just bad luck for the most part. I mean, he's no Nomar, that's for goddamn sure. The second is just garbage. Sure, everybody loves Trot Nixon's dirty style of play (and media presence) but you'd be arguing pretty hard to convince me Manny's been "playing with passion" the past years. All we should concern ourselves with is the production. Their personalities are their own.

As an aside, the biggest complainers about Drew's lack of passion are the Dodger fans, who hail from Los Angeles, the most spiritually abject place on the planet. I mean, please. It's getting to the point where we should remove the word "irony" from the dictionary.

The Lugo signing, and I will be the first to point out that I was for keeping Gonzalez on the cheap when it was still an option, and before Soriano had destroyed the marketplace, may turn out to be a steal. He's only getting $1.9 Mil AAR per WARP, and by all accounts he will perform at a higher level in Fenway, and in this lineup, than he has historically. I don't know - I liked Gonzalez's glove a lot, but Lugo brings a lot of different facets to the team. We'll see, but again, based on his historical performance, and compared to the current market rates, he'll be underpaid! Insane.

Now, let me be clear: I've gone through this exercise just to make Sox fans feel better. Really, the Sox simply needed to sign both players since Manny was not going to bring their replacements back. We needed a right-fielder with some power and defensive ability. We needed a #5 hitter. We needed a SS. We're a big market team and we went out and bought the best we could find. That is all.

What we're seeing now in the media, and within the fanbase IMO, is a significant backlash due to the Matsuzaka posting outcome being followed by the Manny trade circus (and anti-climax) and the two big FA signings. Right now the Sox are the 800-lb. gorillas in the room at the winter meetings. The Yanks already have a massive lineup they could hardly expect to improve upon, and just needed to quietly acquire a couple of arms. Notice that the $26 Mil they shelled out to talk to future #4/#5 starter Igawa didn't cause even a ripple in the media. They'll probably sign Pettitte on a one-year deal to finish his career, and he'll be a key piece to what is looking on paper like a championship-caliber team. And nobody is saying anything because the Sox are stomping around the offseason table like Godzilla. Oh, and also, the stomping makes for good copy.

The position many of us will find ourselves in - even moreso than we do already - is that of Second Bully. For years we've defined ourselves as the Galahad of the baseball world: cursed, ever questing for the Holy Grail of a Series title while battling the Dragon from New York. Well, the grail is ours as of 2004, and with this offseason, the Sox have officially begun breathing fire in the eyes of the rest of baseball. This of course does not change our situation one bit - we are still chasing the biggest payroll in American sports in the toughest division in MLB, and we'll do what we have to do. When all is said and done, there's just one requirement: win. However, it's clear the days of sympathetic fans from other cities are long gone.


If you are at all interested in the future of the Red Sox roster, take a trip to the Sox Prospects Wiki: http://soxprospects.wikispaces.com/. One stop shopping.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sox Hot Stove Is Cookin'

Apologies for a long absence. Work is killing me, and I'm too damn prideful to post snippets. I should be able to post consistently in a couple weeks. For now, thought I'd share some thoughts on the offseason, an a couple quick Winter Ball updates.

Rolling the Dice

First, the offseason. The big splash has already been made with the Sox paying $51.1 Million just to speak to Daisuke Masuzaka and his miasmic agent Scott Boras. The media has made a big stink about the expenditure, especially in NY, and have tried to whip up an anti-Sox frenzy by calling this a crazy over-spend. It is not. It is a perfectly sensible, market-rate to below market-rate spend in the 2007 free agent world, even with the Sox overmatching the Mets' next-best bid by $10 Mil.

There are a lot of angles to this deal. The first is the Sox's need for an ace starting pitcher. In today's free agent market, that meant they had three choices: Matsuzaka, Zito, and Schmidt. Schmidt was probably not coming East, and Zito is nowhere near "ace" quality, certainly not against the AL East, and pitching in Fenway. But those two guys were expected to get something in the vicinity of 5/$90M contracts, and that was if you were able to actually sign them. Doing so would (will for the eventual team) take some time, because they will wait until the Padillas, Lillys, and Suppans of the world sign to set the market.

This brings us to the second angle. The Sox have numerous holes to fill, not just SP. Winning the bid on Matsuzaka means they 1) have a monopoly on he negotiations, so they don't have to worry about other teams' bids (or fabricated other teams' bids) and 2) are assured of knowing one way or the other in 30 days. This streamlines their offseason efforts and allows them to spend more energies filling the other holes - RF, SS, RP, b-C, possibly trading Manny, etc..

The next item to figure into the deal is the money. There's the Japanese market itself, where the Sox are looking to gain a foothold. This presence will serve two purposes - one, it makes prospecting easier and more productive, and two, it generates new revenue streams. Averaging all the back-of-the-envelope assessments I've read out there, the Sox should realize in the vicinity of $5-10 Mil annually in ancillary benefits. There's your posting fee, coming back pretty quickly.

The other part about the money is that the posting fee doesn't count against payroll, and so will not go towards incurring luxury taxation, as other signings will. People argue that it goes against Red Sox operations, but if you're JWH, there are countless ways to account for that money.

There is no way to apologize for the fact that the Sox are able to spend $51 Million to speak to Matsuzaka, and there is no reason to either. If they spent $90 Million to sign Zito, it would just be another big market signing, and they are a big marke tteam. If they spend $100 Mil to sign Dice, but $51M is just to talk to him, suddenly they're insane? He's just 26 years old, and by all accounts is one of the best pitchers in the world! He carries the same risk as any pitcher - injury, and league/division adjustment - but if you're talking about spending in that range, get the best guy out there, especially if only half the money goes against payroll, and the other half gets recouped by ancillary market revenue! Christ! Reports from MLB scouts state that he can throw 5 different pitches for strikes. Last year righties hit ~.208 off him, and lefties ~.205 - that is ridiculous. This signing is a smart move by a team that can afford to make big signings, and did.

JD and Julio

By all accounts, the Sox are major players for both of these guys. Sadly, the Cubs are too, although why any player would sign for a team that will destroy their careers is beyond me. If ever a team were truly cursed, the Cubbies are that team.

The shortstop dilemma is very real. With A-Gon having signed with the Reds, there is a lot more pressure to get Lugo signed. We probably don't want Craig Counsell patrolling short next year. In this market Lugo will get a ridiculous amount of money, and it will be an overpay, but the Sox don't have a clear SS replacement in the system. There is still hope for Lowrie, who came on strong in his last 100+ ABs, but whose defense has yet to be proven in the position. Negron is still in A-ball and has a long road to hoe. A team like Boston should not be trotting out a C-level shortstop, so I would expect they go the distance in the Lugo negotiations.

The JD Drew situation is a little different. There is no question he is the best all-around outfielder on the FA market, but after Soriano's clown-car contract (thanks a lot Cubs) he will be looking for something absurd like 5/$75M. If he were a guy without health issues you could probably make the argument that's not too untenable in the current MLB environment, but he's not. Still, Theo has wanted him for a while, he is an instant solution for the gaping 5-hole in the lineup, and defensively he takes care of RF and/or perhaps CF until Ellsbury lands in the event of a Crisp trade. The wrinkle in the Drew negotiations is that he makes Crisp or Super-Genius a 4th outfielder (and Murphy nothing, really) or trade bait unless the Manny trade happens.

I'm thinking if they sign Drew and Lugo they trade Manny. People are rightly pointing out that replacing Manny's production in the lineup, pound for pound, is impossible, and that's true. Drew is a good enough hitter to protect Papi, however, in my opinion (and folks will argue), and the fact is that all the "keep Manny" talk is predicated on the assumption that Manny was faking his injury(s) last year. If we were to take into account the fact that his knees might actually be going, Theo and Co. will never get back the value they can right now. This offseason is a perfect storm in terms of getting value back for Manny's bat, and I think they'll take advantage of that, if they can acquire two offensively productive positional players in Drew and Lugo.

AFL, HWL Notes

In the Arizona Fall League, which recently finished up, the Sox had a number of players suited up for the Peoria Javelinas. Ellsbury and Spann played the field and Dinardo, Hertzler, Jackson and Pauley were on the mound. Team stats are here, but for the most part everybody was average, with the exception of Kyle Jackson's luck - he was 6-0 with a 6.23 ERA, and last I heard was hitchhiking to Vegas. Dinardo impressed the most on the mound, with a 1.27 WHIP and 3:1 K:BB ratio. Neither Spann nor Ellsbury shone at the plate, but the raves about Ellsbury's defense continued. One study, which you can see here at SOSH, has Ellsbury at 65 plays above average for 150 games, which, while probably impossible, highlights the simply outstanding range and instincts. Even if he doesn't hit, there are a few scenarios which see him on the 40-man by end of 2007.

Meanwhile, out in Hawaii, Jeff Corsaletti and John Otness are playing for the West Oahu Cane Fires. Ryan Phillips went out there but pitched just once and hasn't been seen since, and no one knows why. Otness has really impressed, hitting .328 with an OPS of .845, and playing decent D. Corsaletti, on the other hand, is in a crushing slump, hitting .138 with an OPS of .500. He's not K-ing a ton, so either he's not making good contact or is incredibly unlucky. Impossible to know.

Cane Fires team stats are here. That league is still ongoing. I can't understand why there is no TV market for these leagues, because I for one would watch. There's an idea for any of you young entrepreneurs out there.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Whither Youks?

One of the biggest discussion points in the world of Red Sox geeks recently has been the future of Kevin Youkilis. Youks is not a classic corner infielder due to his lack of power, and the Sox, with their payroll, should probably be able to upgrade. That said, Youks has a very favorable price-tag, plays hard, and maybe is just cursed with crappy accountant's body. Who's to say? Well, I took a look.

First, the bad news. Youks, as a first baseman, doesn't realy match up too well against other first basemen, when looking at the usual stats:

2006 stats:

Player A: AB 569 R 100 HR 13 RBI 72 AVG .279 OPS .381 SLG .429 OPS .810
Player B: AB 430 R 64 HR 15 RBI 64 AVG .274 OPS .374 SLG .437 OPS .811

Obviously, player A is Youks. The problem is, Player B is Millar. That's right, KFC-eating, JD-drinking, hair-highlighting Kevin Millar. Notice, I didn't say "fat", or "lumpy" - that description would have no business being in a Youkilis comparison.

Youks's thing was supposed to be strike-zone command, and contact. As we saw, it was middling, as he struck out 120 times. However, he walked nearly 91, and his Line Drive percentage at nearly 25% was good. He did was he was advertised to do.

Here's the thing. Youks' OBP is good, but it's 9th among starting first basemen in the majors. You have to get down to #20 on the list before you find a guy whose OBP is under .350 (Prince Fielder), which is still respectable given the power. Meanwhile, Youks SLG is #22 of 24 (just above Todd Walker and Jeff Conine). So the guy kind of averages out in the lower part of the middle of the pack. Not too good for a $130Mil payroll.

That said, Youks has impacts that are more than the sum of his parts, statistically speaking. His RC (Runs Created) for the season puts him at #12 overall (although his RC/Game or RC/27 is #15) for first baseman. He was also #3 on the Sox in WPA for the season, although to some degree this is injury-related. Still, at 1.94 he compared favorably to Overbay and Konerko (and Soriano) who were just above 2. I use those numbers to show that while he may not produce a lot in the way of the more typical numbers, he helps the team win (he led 1Bmen with 12 sac hits, for example).

Now, the other great things about Youks is he plays both positions. When you move Youks over to third his OBP becomes much more elite - he's at #5. His SLG is still poor at #17, but his OPS is still #13. However, his RC and RC/G move up to #8, and he shoots up to #6 in WPA for 3B. At third base, the argument can easily be made he's one of the top ten offensive producers in the game. That's more like it.

I think the position of many people is that the Sox should be able to afford a corner infielder who is higher than the 12-15 range at his position. And that's fair, if you look at Youks as a first baseman. The real issue is, how do we address that? The real impact first baseman playing today are not easily acquired, so we'd need to take a flyer on a Carlos Pena, or trade for an unproven up-and-comer, or give up some major prospects and put a ton of money into a Teixeira. Unlikely.

However, again, by some more "holistic" metrics, Youks is a top-10 producer offensively at the other corner (for example, he's 20+ runs better than Inge and Blalock). Of course, his glove won't match up with Lowell's, but his contract does, so that's another angle to consider. I guess it seems to me that this is a problem of perspective - I don't like thinking about keeping Youks at first when we break down the numbers, but it may be easier to find an impact bat at third and Youks plays first reasonably well.

If someone has to be dealt to create more offense, in the end, it will come down to the moving pieces. If not, and the Sox could acquire a bat at 1B, Youks makes an elite platoon guy, but I would think that's a last resort. The facts are, Youks is valuable enough at third to play there for the Sox, or be an important piece in a deal this offseason, with Lowell winning the job by default.

The Not Too Too Distant Future?

Chad Spann, a 22-year old third baseman in the Sox organization, has put up a .918 OPS in his first 43 ABs in the Arizona Fall League. This is a small sample size, but the AFL is a who's who of up and coming prospects. Spann, at a young age, is building on a pretty impressive year at Portland (.833 OPS), and if he can keep it up the Sox may have the corner position solved for some time to come. At this point he needs to cut down on the Ks, but at his age, discipline can still come.

Friday, October 06, 2006


2006 is over, and good riddance. Regardless of where you choose to point your finger, the story remains the same

There is only one real story in Red Sox Nation right now, and that pertains, again, to the future of Manny Ramirez. Nearly all the offseason speculation could be said to hang on the outcome of a Manny trade, or non-trade. I am personally ambivalent about trading him, because it is very hard to duplicate the production of a 1.000+ OPS hitter, but of course it's not too hard to gain back some runs by putting someone in left field who has a clue.

Let's assume that Manny is serious this time, that Tito has had enough, and that the Sox have to make a trade. Next, we have to look at the dependencies around this deal. What are the keys to keeping the team competitive without one of it's most imperative offensive components?

The first goal will be to ensure Big Papi has some protection in the lineup. They will not be able to replace Manny with equal production from a single player, but they cannot detract from Papi's production. Adding two more good bats should accomplish this. I've discussed in this space before the fact the Sox production from the five-hole in 2006 was the worst in baseball - for the season they were the only team to have a sub-.700 OPS in the five spot. That is simply incredible, and in my opinion the strongest contributor to their abysmal performance with RISP (.748). They need a solid #4 with longball power and good strikezone judgement, and a number five who either crushes mistakes or has enough gap power to drive guys in regularly (at minimum). These things may not necessarily be achieved with the Manny trade itself, but the trade can't happen without these things also happening, unless they are tanking for 2007.

The second goal will be providing a similar degree of value to the club as Manny now provides. Manny is a lot of hit, no D, no speed corner outfielder who nonetheless has the second highest WPA on the team behind Ortiz, and is rated as having the 14th-highest VORP for positional players in all of baseball (just for fun, Hanley Ramirez was #22). Manny also has some negative "intangibles" that bring his value down, and of course his age and health need to be factored in. Nevertheless, getting value on the dollar is tough, even bearing in mind that the old adage "a penny saved is a penny earned" applies here due to his cost.

Given these two things, how does the FO manage the trade potentiality? First, off they look at the overall needs of the team. As I mentioned above they need a #4 and #5 hitter, but even more desperately they need pitching - at least one starter and a reliever or two. They need defense up the middle - Crisp is not a CF and AGon is on the market. These needs exist independent of the Manny trade, but the trade would need to address at least some of them.

The pitching situation doesn't sort itself out easily. So far they've got Schilling, Beckett, Wake, Paps, Snyder, and (gulp) Tavarez. We can assume they need one more. If the Sox were even to pursue Matsuzake, they would almost certainly be outbid by the MFYs, who can throw all the cash in the world at Seibu for the negotiating rights, and then it's a done deal. That leaves them either in a bidding war for Zito, or closing early on a Padilla or Wolf. My vote would be for Padilla, who put together some strong starts last year in Texas' bandbox. I like Zito a lot, but the price is going to get crazy. With regard to the Manny trade, it's been supposed that Anaheim would do Santana-plus for Manny, but that doesn't feel right to me. I don't think they need him enough.

Of course, the FO could trade the entire farm for Dontrelle Willis and watch all the players traded away excel for Florida, who then wins the Series in 2007. I suppose that's the most likely outcome. To be honest, pitching is too much of a premium in the AL for me to see Manny bringing back enough to make the deal work, unless the arm is not close to big-league ready. That doesn't seem to fit here, so I'm thinking the deal is for a positional player(s).

If the FO decides Wily Mo Pena, Super Genius is ready to hit fifth full-time, that creates one less issue to deal with. The fact that the SG does not hit lefties well is a problem though, because spare bat Eric Hinske also does not hit lefties well, which is presumably why he is a spare bat. Ideally the Sox move Lowell and pick up a true corner infielder with some power, who slots into one of these spots. Aramis Ramirez is the free agent solution, although one would have to assume he moves into the clean-up spot. I had another idea for the Manny trade though.

In spite of reports that the firing of Buck Showalter may have put to rest the Rangers' interest in trading for Manny, the best trade I see out there for the Sox is trading Manny and a so-so arm for Michael Young and a high-ceiling prospy, and sending Texas $6-7 million a year over the next two years. If they pick up Young's option for 2008 they would still be getting him at fair market value, and he brings a lot back in return. Replacing Gonzalez's bat with Young's means you can fill in the rest of the offensive gaps more easily, because Young is such an upgrade. His defense may not be as stellar: defensive ratings have him just below Gonzalez in UZR (.863 to .836) but having better RF (4.86 to 4.36) in 2006, and he had more errors. But sewing him up at short gives the team a solid option for a number of years at a prime position.

Texas has youngster Joaquin Arias ready to go: he has played well at AAA and is often cited as one of the most athletic players in the Ranger organization. He's a gifted, Hanley-type player who's just starting to put the ability and the experience together. Manny would destroy Arlington Stadium, just destroy it, and a Teixeira, Manny, Blalock line-up is pretty fearsome. Young has made it clear he wants to win (read, fix this mess or trade me), and while the Sox probably didn't impress him that much this year they would have every opportunity to do so next year provided they do things right in the offseason. He appears to be the type of player who would relish the passion in Boston.

In my opinion this deal leaves the Sox with the most flexibility in the near term, assuming that nobody knocks their socks off with MLB-ready talent (which I am assuming). They can afford to be over the luxury tax threshold under the current CBA, and a lot of money comes off the books after next season in Schilling. They can sign a couple of the free agent names if they need to. If they ponied up for Zito and a second-tier bat, or Ramirez and Padilla in addition to Young, and grabbed a decent reliever off the heap, it would be okay by me.

Next week: my latest crazy scheme.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sox' Bloated Corpse Floats Down River Styx

When Shaun Marcum took the mound, I know what you were all thinking: "This guy will probably two-hit us". And you were right. With Shaun's pedigree, it was perfectly reasonable to expect him to put together a 10 strike-out, one walk, two-hit shutout for 8 innings. I mean, up until yesterday he had a sparkling 1.8:1 strikeout to walk ratio, and a dominant ERA of 4.92. He is clearly one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Conversely, you might have been thinking: "This Red Sox team is pretty much done". And you'd also have been right. Right now there are very few storylines worth watching on the field, and for me they all revolve around seeing the young kids perform.

We should never see Gabe Kapler on the field in place of David Murphy - this is a useful time for Murphy's development (Tito loves his veterans, though). One has to assume he will make the team next year as the 4th/5th outfielder, and it would behoove the Sox to do everything in their power to get him comfortable in the bigs. He has looked good defensively, one gaffe aside, and he does have a nice swing. Not much you can say about a guy in 19 ABs, but all his peripherals are in line with a guy who isn't yet overmatched. One early-bird reported that he has tremendous batting practice power, so there's that. Not useful, but nice.

Pedroia has made some adjustments in his swing, holding his hands higher and loading the bat better, and has come alive a little bit at the plate. He continues to have simply awful luck, with a BABIP of just .183, despite a decent line-drive percentage at 22.5% (to give an example, Loretta's LD % is 27.2 but he's hitting 100 points better). His 7% K rate is the best on the team.

McAdam has a good story on the two positional players here. The Pawtucket Times has a heartwarming article on Loretta's helping Pedroia ease into the majors. Again, Loretta shows what a professional and stand-up guy he is. If only his legs weren't made of cement, I'd keep him on this team until he retires.

Another, less happy storyline that has come up in recent weeks revolves around the Red Sox coaches. There has been a lot of message-board speculation around the various coaches recently, mostly focused on the pitching coaches. The media (well, McAdam, with the Worcester G & T commenting also) have recently unearthed some comments pointing at Papa Jack, article here. It appears Papa Jack is not, um, helpful if you aren't hitting well, which, to me, is kind of important. When you are hitting well, one would sort of think the coach's job is pretty much just to say things like "good hit", which even I can probably do fairly well (my Meyers-Briggs test be damned). Personally, I've long thought his "one size fits all" hitting approach was particularly damaging to a guy like Crisp who got here by relying on his natural abilities and "doing his thing", as it were. We'll see; he strikes me as the Lee Trevino of the Red Sox.

The complaints against the pitching coaches stem from the frankly craptacular performances by players who fans felt should have done better. Craig Hansen in particular has looked like a shadow of the kid the Sox signed out of St. Johns, and has been tinkering with his mechanics essentially his entire time as a pro. Beckett has obviously struggled until recently making a couple changes (delivery, more two-seamers) that one could argue should have been made much sooner. And recently Cla Meredith attributed his success to moving away from what the Sox staff had indicated should be his approach. Link to the Olney blog is here (reg. required), but the highlight is:

  • "He decided to bag some of what the Red Sox development staff had tried to encourage him to do. Right-handed submarine pitchers often have trouble against left-handed hitters because the left-handers see the ball longer, and the Red Sox had pushed Meredith to focus on throwing the ball inside to lefties -- to jam them. After being dealt to the Padres, Meredith decided to go with his own approach: Keep the ball away from them, sinking the ball to the outside corner."
Currently the Sox have two heads in Nipper and Wallace, and one would expect in this case too many cooks can spoil the soup, as it were. That said, Wallace's health is a concern, although most folks would probably prefer him as the coach, anecdotally.

Apparently we will learn the day after the season ends who will stay and who will go. The "charges" against Papa Jack are pretty damning, and since he has about 47 hitting DVDs out there I'm sure he'll be all-right, so I'm guessing he's gone. I think I'd like to see some changes just to shake things up and add a little life. This was not an impassioned team this year, and while the White Sox have proven that even passion (or, depending on your perspective, insanity) doesn't win every year, it's kind of nice to have.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sea Dogs clinch EL Title; Sox take two from NY

Sea Dogs Win! Sea Dogs Win!

Yesterday the Sea Dogs beat Akron in Game 5 of the Eastern League championships to win their first title, behind an eight-inning, 3 ER start from Devern Hansack. It marked the first time Hansack had gone deeper than seven innings in his career. Immediately after the game Hansack was called up to Boston and has been added to the 40. A big day for the Nicaraguan. Game story is here.

Keoni De Renne's bases-loaded triple in the third turned out to be the back-breaker. It was De Renne's first triple of the season, and in fact just his eighth extra-base hit. After the game Keoni was notified that he would not be called up to Boston. Probably ever. Still, a clutch performance by the diminutive Hawaiian.

Personally, I think this is a huge victory for the Sea Dogs and the Sox organization. This sort of playoff experience is great for the prospects on that team, and there are a few who we are hoping will make an impression with the BoSox, notably Jacoby Ellsbury, Brandon Moss, and new guy George Kotteras. Edgar Martinez and Chad Spann are also MLB hopefuls but missed the series. It's even more impressive that Portland pulled off the win without these key cogs. I wish to god NESN would televise these games, but apparently they can't, because they are retarded. Or maybe there's a more technical reason.

Sox Sweep Doubleheader

Yesterday was kind of fun, although meaningless, wasn't it? Always nice to take two at the Toilet, even though the Yanks will shortly buy another division win. The reason it's nice is because the real losers are Yankee fans, and whenever they lose, I'm happy. I know there are good Yanks fans out there, because I've met some of them, but often even those guys are apologists for Yankee spending - the sense of entitlement is in their DNA, like expansive body hair. It makes me crazy. It annoys and embarrasses me that the Sox spend $70 Million more than Oakland and KC, and all the rest. I feel that each time we lose - especially to them - it adds insult to injury to everyone involved, to all of baseball. Not Yankee fans - they believe that not only is the fiscal lopsidedness their right, they believe it is a moral imperative. They're baseball's version of the Duke brothers in Trading Places.

Anyway, off the soapbox and back to baseball, or what passes for baseball in the Bronx. We probably won't get a salary cap imposed in this space. Torre didn't play his full contingent in either game yesterday, resting his players for the upcoming playoffs. So, we didn't really take down the $200 Million machine in all it's fullness. Still, there were a few high points for the Sox to take away from the wins.

Number one, Kyle Snyder put together another good start, going five innings, striking out seven, and only giving up a couple runs. Moreover, he bailed himself out of a couple jams, including a bases-loaded nightmare that would have caused him to implode just a few weeks back. I am starting to believe this kid can be a decent #5 starter. Certainly, for the money, we have to keep him next year. There doesn't seem to be a predictive "Kyle Snyder Face"; that's good.

Number two, Pedroia had a clutch pinch-hit double for an RBI, and looks much more comfortable at the plate. He also jacked a Mussina pitch about 400 feet down the line, just missing an HR, in the second game. Let the DPed are begin.

Number three, Crisp hit the ball well and made a spectacular catch to rob Mr. Potato Head Jorge Posada ("You say potato, I say Posada") of a tater. Everyone in this organization needs him to perform well, and I think he's finally settling in. I for one will be disappointed if we pull the plug on him in the offseason. He may (will) never be a superstar but we have not yet seen what he can bring to this ballclub.

Lastly, the Sox dingers. David Murphy hit his first ML homerun in the first game, and Big Papi hit his 49th of the season. With Manny out his quest for Fifty hit a bit of a snag, but he'll pull it off somehow. He's Big Papi, and if you won't give him strikes to hit, he'll golf your weak-ass junk pitches out of the yard. He is tired of walking. I can say this because he and I talk a lot, usually with me asking him questions and taking his non-responses for affirmatives.

The Twinkies are next, and this series is going to be the tough one. We are extremely fortunate they shut Liriano down. Let's hope Wake gets some of that old magic back tonight.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pedroia Not Winning Lottery

It goes without saying that when you come up and hit .122 in your first 18 games, people are going to go batshit and generally act like you molested their sister. Or, maybe that just happens around Fenway, or maybe it happens anywhere if you're ARod, regardless of your stats. At any rate, the Dustin Pedroia bandwagon has not left the carport.

Let's look at some of Pedroia's peripherals though. In point of fact, his low numbers can at least partially be attributed to simple bad luck. His BABIP (BPA), or Batting Average on Balls In Play, is just .119. Average is around .290. To some degree this can be explained by his not hitting the ball hard in some at bats - Wily Mo's BABIP is .410 for example, because even his grounders get through the infield in a hurry - but in many cases it's just bad luck, and some spectacular defensive plays. We all remember the Anaheim series.

Pedroia is only striking out once every 11 ABs, which at 9% ties him for best on the team. This is a key indicator. He's not walking as much as expected but once he settles down from this tough beginning he'll start taking more pitches and getting on base, and I think we'll all be satisfied with having him on the team. He has nothing left to prove in AAA, that much is certain.

This brings up the next question, which is what do we do with Loretta next year? Defensively he turns the double-play well but his range is atrocious. Still, he's far from the worst available. Offensively you know what you're going to get, but you'll probably get it with DP, and maybe a bit more. Loretta would really just be a back-up player next year, IMO, but would that be acceptable to him? There are probably 6-10 teams that would benefit more from having him start over their incumbent. He's a better bat than Cora, although Cora is better defensively, and they're both smart baseball guys who are great to have in the clubhouse. We'll see how it plays out.

Portland Game Three

At 6pm ET today Portland plays game three of their playoff series against Akron. The Sea Dogs lead 2-0 in the series and coule clinch the Eastern League title with a win today. Supposedly you can listen free from WBAE here.

Andrew Dobies gets the start for Portland. He was a 3rd round draft pick back in 2004 out of UVa. He's a work in progress who has a tendency to give up the big innings, but reports are he's recently added a cut fastball that has helped him mitigate this.

Sox Head Into Bronx

There isn't much to say about this mismatch. Really, the only game we should even have a chance at winning is the Tavarez start (I have stopped referring to him as the Anti-Christ after he told me it hurt his feelings and he couldn't face his kids - also after he stopped sucking). Tonight's "Tee-Ball By Beckett" start could be nigh on unwatchable. But I'll still watch it, because we repealed the Prohibition Act.

So, in absence of a win, here are a list of things you can still root for in the Sox-Spanks series:

  1. Wily Mo Pena hits a 600-foot home run into the parking lot which strikes a Yankee fan in the head, thereby stopping an in-progress mugging.
  2. Bobby Abreu's gigantic ass attacks and consumes Randy Johnson before it can be stopped.
  3. ARod strikes out 5 times in a single game and is mauled by angry Yankee fans on his way out of the stadium. He placates them with free haircare products.
  4. Kyle Snyder performs the Wizard of Oz number "If I Only Had A Brain" in between innings.
  5. During a bench-clearing melee Don Zimmer appears from nowhere and attacks Julian Tavarez - you know how this ends.
  6. Manny is called upon to pinch-hit and play an inning in left, and urinates against the left-field fence.
  7. Jason Giambi spontaneously explodes into a massive liquid spray of equal parts HGH, grease, sweat, and guilt.
  8. Derek Jeter comes out of the closet before the first game, saying "Some of you may think less of me now that you know I'm gay, but look at it this way - at least I don't throw like Damon."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Newsflash! Murray Chass Revealed To Be Twelve-Year Old Boy

In a stunning series of events, it has been revealed that incompetent sports "writer" Murray Chass has been dead for years, and is in fact a twelve-year old Yankees fan who managed to hack into Chass' NY Times corporate network account.

Chass, best known while he was alive for his ability to like bagels AND donuts, made the sports scene while covering the Yankees (and to a lesser degree high society badminton) in 1969 with his article "Amazing Mets Win World Series; Yankees Still Better". Chass' ability to drive circulation allowed Times editors to dispense with the laborious processes involved in fact-checking and accountability, which just increased Chass' already prolific ability to spew forth poorly constructed drivel. New Yorkers could not get enough.

It has seemed that Murray ("Shiny Murray" as he's known to Mary Tyler Moore fans) would always be there for Yankees fans and others with a low-grade education, and in voice he has, but since the recent unmasking of twelve-year old Barry L. Iterrit, there are now more questions than answers.

Thus far Barry has refused to answer the question everyone is asking: "WHEN?" We don't know how long Barry has been churning out the spurious articles, but we do know his heart was in the right place. When asked why, he responded:

"When I found out, my first thought was that my Dad might go crazy and do something stupid, so I decided to just, you know, fake one article or maybe two to buy some time. I figured the paper would replace Murray with someone else my Dad could understand, like that guy who wrote 'Everybody Poops', or Joan Rivers. I was just trying to help. We Yankee fans need Murray to feel good."

At this point, we only know that the charade has been going on at least since 2003. That's when Barry hired James Avery, best known for his role as Will Smith's father on 'Fresh Prince", to portray Chass at a ceremony to receive the 2003 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. When investigators pointed out that Avery was African-American and Chass not, Iterrit replied "he was the best I could do". Low turnout and an open bar at the awards ceremony are attributed to the success of the impersonation.

For now, the investigation goes on, but that can't succor fans, players, and former clinch George Steinbrenner, who are reeling. One Yankee player who requested anonymity stated:

"I don't know what to think. For a while I wondered about the quotes, I mean, they made no sense and I couldn't remember saying any of them, but I just figured that was Murray's way. He was always pulling for us and bashing - I mean really, savagely bashing - the other teams, so it just seemed best to go with it. I guess in retrospect it should have been obvious that the writing, and the agenda, was juvenile, but it's tough enough remembering to take the HGH without...wait....ummmm...nevermind."

The stunning news of the hoax might have caused upheaval throughout Yankee-opolis, but once again a familiar face saved the day. Boss George Steinbrenner stepped up and reassured everyone, everywhere, that the organization would go on. He made a statement yesterday afternoon from his vacation bunker outside Berlin, saying:

"We acknowledge that this is a difficult time for the Yankee family. Rest assured that Murray - er, Barry - will remain on the Yankee payroll - er, New York Times payroll - until further notice. It is the message that is important, and the message will remain."

Follow-up questions, including "what is the message?", "is that a full turtleneck or a dickie?", and "do you ever shampoo?" were met with silence, and in one case, a hired thug beating.

Note from author: This is a parody. Murray is still with us, and sadly, still writing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fun On The Farm

As the big league club re-enacts the Great London Fire, I hope people aren't missing the great stories we have going on in the minors. Currently Portland and Wilmington are in the playoffs with Lowell still fighting for a spot.

Tonight Portland evened up the series against Trenton by pounding the Yankee wannabees by a score of 10-3. New guy George Kottaras DHed and went 2-4 with a HR and a stolen base. Ellsbury went 2-4 with 2 RBIs, both hits coming in the 7th when Portland knocked out starter Tyler Clippard and scored six runs. Seadog starter (and resurgent semi-prospect) Tommy Hottovy pitched six innings and held the Thunder to 3 ER. The final game in the series is tomorrow.

In Wilmington, things didn't turn out so rosy. Michael Bowden pitched extremely well, but his team disappoints him as Wilmington fell to Frederick 2-1. Bowden went 5.1 IP, allowed just one hit (but gave up three walks), and struck out 5. Both runs scored were the result of errors, although Bowden was charged with the first run.

The first run scored when Mark Wagner committed a throwing error on a steal attempt by Paco "Don't Call Me Taco" Figueroa. Paco would score from third on a groundball single by the next batter. Bowden got out of the inning with a routine GB and then a swinging K.

The second run scored when a fielding error by second-baseman Iggy Suarez allowed Pete Maestrales to score from second (Iggy has been "wedgied" in punishment and may miss tomorrow's game after complaining of a "broken asscrack"). Justin Masterson, who was promoted two stops to Wilmington from Lowell, came in and induced the GDP to close out the inning, and went the next 3.2 innings without incident. He struck out 2, walked one, and allowed zero hits. If you haven't heard it elsewhere, let me be the first to say it: Masterson is the shit. I pray he can be developed into a starter, and then not traded (not necessarily in that order).

The Blue Rocks' bats were silenced by Frederick pitcher Craig Anderson, who at 5-1, 4.78 for the season wasn't supposed to pitch 7 innings and give up just 5 hits and a run, but Aussies are a crafty bunch, as we all know. Natale, Lowrie, Johnson, Wagner and Suarez all singled for Wilmington, and Suarez added a BB (not enough to save his asscrack, sadly).

Otness, Bell and Corsaletti went 0/3. Corsaletti also walked and scored. Easy Andy Pinckney took the 0/4 collar and struck out twice to earn the trip to Dairy Queen. Even as we speak, he is morosely eating his Dilly Bar and gearing up to have a huge day tomorrow.

In Lowell, the newly-enhanced Spinners team beat curious Scottish low-A team Aberdeen 6-1. Kris Johnson, Jordan Craft, Dustin Richardson and Josh Papelbon combined for the win, allowing no earned runs. Note: I linked to Johnson's Sox Prospects page instead of directly to the stats page because his picture looks like he's headed straight for Death Row.

Hot bat Mike Jones and Jonathan Still, who DHed, combined for 5 hits and 4 RBIs in the game. Manny Arambarris walked three times, which should only improve his .365 OBP. Little unusual in a #3 hitter, but at least he's showing patience.

In most cases, if we don't pay attention to these guys now we never will, since the vast majority will never make The Show. But for now, it's the perfect cure for a crappy Boston Red Sox season, and it might just be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Red Sox Nation: Civil War

As if Theo Epstein weren't have a bad enough year already, the prospect he traded away (with another, higher-rated prospect) for under-achieving posterchild Josh Beckett (and $9 Million dollar pretty good guy Mike Lowell) threw a no-hitter tonight for the Florida Marlins. Anibel Sanchez, who also shut down the Spanks during his first start in Yankee Stadium, has the Nation in an absolute uproar. And who's fanning the flames? Official Theo-hater Ken Rosenthal, entitled tonight's episode of his "Drunk Alone" column "Sanchez has no-hitter; Red Sox have no clue". Interestingly, he also panned the Front Office for not trading any prospects at the deadline. I guess he just sucks.

However, Ken's ability to take both positions is schizophrenically representative of the civil war going on throughout Red Sox fandom in this, the Red Sox team's personal equivalent of the Chinese calendar's "Year of the Spastic Colon". Everywhere, sides are taken:

A) The front office are idiots! They keep trading away these great prospects for guys that suck. Beckett sucks, Crisp sucks, Mirabelli sucks. And, their free agent signings also suck! Renteria sucked, Seanez sucked; Tavarez sucks, Clement sucks! Meanwhile, Meredith, Bard, Sanchez and (um) Renteria are great!


B) You are an idiot. Proven MLB talent is extremely difficult to acquire. Most prospects flame out. These are the risks of doing business. Success in the NL means absolutely nothing in the AL East, as the aforementioned pitchers have proven so succinctly. It's far too early to decide on the recent trades, and at the time, nobody complained on any of these acquisitions, so kindly shut the fuck up.

Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong, and that will never change. The name of the game is talent evaluation, the key root word being "value". The FO determined that Josh Beckett's MLB-proven talent and upside (bear in mind he's 25) was worth more than the "raw" abilities of Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez. Ramirez had struggled at AA (.720 OPS his second go round) and Sanchez had an injury history, so they rolled the dice. Were they blinded by Beckett's Yankee-beating in the World Series? Maybe. Did they underestimate the abilities of the two young kids? At this point it sure looks that way.

It's going to come down to this, and correlatively, to hindsight. On every deal. Win-win deals appear to be a rare commodity these days, because you're trading apples and oranges (veteran for prospect, cheap for expensive, etc.), and because these deals don't go down in a vacuum, generally. The Crisp deal is a favorite for the prospy-lovers because Marte was so highly-touted and Crisp has struggled (I myself had difficulty with this one), but because Crisp was supposed to play up the middle, and Marte is a corner, the values are skewed.

In this particular case Crisp has revealed himself also to be a corner, but at the time the thinking was that we need a CF and he fit the bill. And this highlights the concerns we should have with the FO. Not that they trade prospects, or that they wouldn't trade prospects for proven vets, but that some of the guys they bring in don't perform as advertised. Are they accurately evaluating MLB talent?

It appears that they have a good eye for natural talent - take a look at how the prospects are performing; sadly for other teams in some cases. So why when they acquire guys who have had success elsewhere in the bigs do they shit the bed in Boston? Certainly to some degree it's the change in leagues. You could also argue it's the insane nature of the fans and media here, but the fans and media in New York are by and large career criminals who defy evolutionary theory, yet every player who goes to NY invariably improves unless he is a freakishly hideous beanpole redneck with a penchant for theatrics. Is it the coaching? Perhaps; I'm certainly beginning to wonder about the Sox coaches ability to help players improve at the big-league level, Papa Jack excluded. Is it the chemistry? Does this team require an "idiot leader" to succeed?

Honestly - who the hell knows? Personally I think it's a little of each. If you don't have $200Mil to spend on payroll winning the World Series truly is catching lightning in a bottle. And even if you do, there are no guarantees, thank Christ. This year just went to shit, end of story, and now we're pissed off, and everything sucks.

Let's look at the bright side though. If HanRam and Anibel continue to have success in Florida, in a few years we'll be able to trade for them during the Marlins fire sale. We'll still be able to afford them then. God help us if the guys we trade have a better first season, though. There will be hell to pay.

AA Red Sox vs. Yanks

In case you haven't been paying attention, the Portland Sea Dogs are struggling against the Trenton Thunder in the AA playoffs, almost even as we speak. They lost today 3-1. The positive was that Sox prospect Devern Hansack had a good outing with 2 ER in 6.1 IP. The negative was that Yankee uber-prospect Philip Hughes K'ed 13 while BBing one in 6 innings and basically dominated. When he arrives, we are in for bad times. Game Two is 7:05 PM EST tomorrow.

Ending on a High Note

Wilmington (High-A) is also in the playoffs. Clay Buchholz started today and here is his line:

6 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 10 K

When he arrives, we are in for good times.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Big Picture

It's beyond argument now that the 2006 Red Sox season is over, in baseball terms.  But Sox fans need to root harder than ever now.  Now, we're simply rooting for the health of two of our most beloved players, heart and soul of the team David Ortiz and young gun Jon Lester.

Ortiz was re-admitted to the hospital with more heart arrhythmia, and thankfully appears to be well, but put quite a scare into the Fenway Faithful.  As we've learned in the past, these things are tricky, and we should all keep Big Papi in our thoughts, if only to thank him for the truly amazing performances he's given over the past few years.  There is no other player like him.

Lester was suffering back pain and swollen lymph nodes, and the Herald (perhaps irresponsibly) reported that he will be tested for cancer.  This story made us all catch our collective breath, I'm sure.  The kid is only 22 years old, in the prime of life with a starry career ahead of him.  We all need him to be okay, to let us continue to believe that at it's heart, baseball is a healing game, a game of life and living in all it's nuanced, small breaths, motions, and pauses.   Lymph nodes are used in fighting infection, and it's likely the swelling was due to infection: that is what I am keeping in my mind.  Rebound, Jon.

Obviously this blog features none of my usual snarking, for which I apologize (to some degree).  It is easy, especially doing this, to forget these guys are just people, just guys living their lives. In the end, I consider myself lucky to have this team, this fan family, and they and we deserve a few minutes of appreciation and hope.

Coming Soon: The trade of Fatty!  Where will he be eating next?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sox Worst in MLB In August

We're all familiar with the old saying "missing the forest for the trees".  Those of us in the habit of breaking the game down into it's myriad components certainly seem to be guilty of this right about now.   We all know there are a lot of problems with this club, and the injuries are killing the Sox too, but they are the worst team in all of baseball this month, at 8-17. 

The worst team in all of baseball for the month of August. I mean, I don't care what happens to you, you cannot be the worst team in baseball for an entire month at $120 Million a year.  Okay, to be fair, they could possibly win the next few days and climb out, but this is truly a debacle. And it gets worse, because en route to accomplishing this feat they were swept by two of the other teams way down on the shit list in Seattle and KC. 

I really think we're talked out for 2006.  This is a likeable team, player to player, they really are.  They're just not good enough.  So I'll just ask this on behalf of these players, because if they had thought of it, or cared, they would have: Sox fans, just go out and root for these guys to play hard for pride, and let that be enough for 2006.  Maybe this year is punishment for our hubris, I don't know.  I'm going with a new fan motto for the rest of the year: Simplify.  I'm going to try to appreciate the little things that make baseball great for the rest of the season, and enjoy the game for itself.

This should last about a day since I'm going to the game tomorrow night at the Coliseum to see Kason Gabbard pitch.  Since he's really a prospect, I will use that loophole to overanalyze his performance while a well-built A's team continues to steamroll towards the playoffs.

If you want something to feel good about, the Sox' rookie club won the GCL championship.  Story [url=http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060825&content_id=124083&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp] here [/url].  These players are light-years away, but this is great for the franchise.


Lars Anderson, the sweet swinging, power hitting kid oddly named Lars, has signed.  He was really supposed to be a tough sign, but the Sox got it done.  If they come to terms with Bard, which looks likely according to reports, the 2006 Draft will be the biggest success of the season for the organization.  In terms of actual Red Sox team MLB performance this means nothing, but it's fun to root for "upside", isn't it?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Red Sox Nation: Panic Sets In

Here we are in mid-August, and the Sox are 4.5 back from their best chance at the playoffs (WC), 6.5 back of the Yankees in the East after getting gang-raped at home, and the bandwagon's wheel-less chassis is being dragged Lasndowne Street by four lame and most likely drunk Clydesdales.  If you predicted this situation then you're either a fantastic baseball prognosticator, or you've already killed yourself.

Naturally when things go to shit like they have, people start wanting to blame someone, usually someone else.  In the old days everyone would go right after the manager, because their decisions occur during games we lose, and oftentimes can be second-guessed pretty easily.  The Yankees have changed all that though, by using their fabulous wealth to solve all baseball problems.  Nowadays, if your team starts losing and doesn't fix it, the reason is because your GM didn't buy you better players over the trading window.   Affixing blame to the front office also gets folks out from under the weight of having to understand the game, since that is an important component of criticizing the manager.  Good times.
Our front office appears to have made some mistakes in their actions and non-actions this year, judging from the standings and heretofore performance of star acquisitions Beckett, Crisp and Mirabelli.  Nevertheless, they are adhering to a preset program, which is to put the team in a position to win 90-95 games a year and go from there. 

Now, to me, there are two heads to the FO's philosophy that they will build a club to win 90-95 wins every year and see what happens.  One is that by not putting all their eggs into one (projected)100+ win super-team filled with expensive free-agents, they will have the flexibility to perhaps make a couple of upgrades come the trade deadline and offseason. The other is plain old luck. In the AL East 90-95 wins does not guarantee a playoff spot - 95 doesn't guarantee a playoff spot.  So they're basically admitting that each year the cookie could crumble.  Certainly this year the cookie has crumbled, due to a spate of injuries, some underperforming pieces, and a couple tough breaks in a few games here and there.

So, does this philosophy make sense, and is this acceptable? I mean, is that just The Game, playing out over the course of the season? Personally, in spite of some of the more dubious decisions on their part, I can't get that worked up about the F.O. right now. I always felt that this was a team that was built well IF things went our way - maybe to a dangerously high degree, but I attributed that to this being a semi-rebuilding year. Obviously things haven't and the results are painful, but if I'm honest, we're not far deviated from what I saw to be the mean outcome looking at this roster on paper back in the spring.  Lotta old guys, lotta young guys - turns out that means a lotta "ifs".

Still, people are enraged that the FO didn't do anything at the deadline, in spite of a farily believable claim that asking prices were too high.  People are still complaining that we let Pedro and Damon walk.  I understand the sentiment, but the logic behind the belief.  Is the consensus that with $120 Million to spend luck should be more or less taken out of the equation? Or perhaps taken out just now, while we have the core players in place? I'm trying to figure out how I'll be happier. Contending every year but with an acknowledged reliance on getting good breaks? Or trying to ride the years where we're primed to take the true "win now" approach. That may mean we have really lean years where I despise watching them, but we would be really IN it for the good years.  Or that's the theory.  If the Sox have proved anything, it's that bad luck can bite you regardless of what approach you take (for reference, see Dent, Bucky).

I believe the current and future baseball environment will make it much harder simply to use $$$ to precipitate a ton of real "win now" years. The Yankees were able to help themselves to Abreu because he was a product of the free agent insanity that revenus sharing has curbed.  So I guess by default I am coming down on the more balanced and luck-reliant approach in the abstract, and the concrete question I'm really asking is - would I be okay with the team utterly sucking when Schilling, Papi and Manny are gone if we really went for it now? Are we as Red Sox fans trying to have our cake and eat it too? Are we just ignoring the fact that if we blow through our prospects we will have some shit years down the road, most likely, or are we stating that we don't care if we have shit years if we win another Championship in the near term.

It seems like this year, at least, we care if we have shit years. We're pretty pissed off, actually.  Is that because we think we should have won it all again with the core guys, or is it just because we cannot accept that a Red Sox team sucks while the Yankees are dominant? I know the second part is very hard for me, because my hatred of the Wanks is truly pathological.  Or maybe, is it because we had a strong first half, and then collapsed, engendering a Pavlovian response in those of us who remember the collapse years from days gone by. Perhaps we thought 2004 had exorcised them, and were wrong.

The fact that so many of my sentences have ended in question marks tells me one thing: the situation is pretty complex.  If I can't come down in a firm position after looking at just some of the angles, I guess it just makes me feel more foolish for attempting to judge Theo and Co. These guys have to deal with the myriad variables of a changing league, all the other shysty GMs, a semi-retarded manager and a clubhouse full of guys who oftentimes don't do what they're supposed to.

It's very possible that the Red Sox F.O. is screwing the pooch, and come 2008 we are going to be really, really bitter.  But maybe their plan is the best one, and it just hasn't been fully realized.  I think this team still has some legs, and in spite of all my experience, I am going to keep hoping they can compete for the rest of the season and come in next year feeling like they've grown.  Maybe 2006 isn't the year, but I won't throw away 2007 yet.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Testing Email Blogging

Not sure if this will work...

Since Google and Blogger merged, they have fucked a large number of bloggers, myself included.  I have not been able to login to my blog in over a week, hence the lack of posts.  If this works I will continue to email posts to the blog from here on in.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sox Grab Two Left-Handed Bats

Yesterday the Sox made two moves to add some depth to the team, acquiring 1B Carlos Pena in a free-agent signing, and pulling off another waiver-wire deal for Eric Hinske. The Pena signing is interesting in a "why not" sort of way; it was just two years ago that the guy hit 27 HRs in 486 at-bats (while also striking out more than a quarter of the time) and his glovework at first is well-reputed. In light of the premature demise of Choi's career, this made some sense. Pena will report to Pawtucket.

Hinske will have an immediate impact. He can fill in at 1B, 3B and the OF, and with Mike Lowell determined to end his season by hitting balls off himself, Hinske can really help. His defense cannot sniff Lowell's defense's jock, but he is serviceable, and Mikey needs some rest. It may be that Hinske plays first and Shiny Kevin Youkilis moves back to third; who knows. Either way, Hinske's versatility will serve to give some guys a few much-needed rest days.

There is another added bonus to the Hinske signing also (two, depending on how you look at it). Hinske over the course of the past two seasons has only performing exceptionally well against two teams: Boston and the Yankees.

2006 vs. Sox: AVG .391| OBP .417| SLG .565| OPS .982
2006 vs. Yanks: AVG .368| OBP .429| SLG .737| OPS 1.165

2005 vs Sox: AVG .393| OBP .439| SLG .672| OPS 1.112
2005 vs. Yanks: AVG .314| OBP .356| SLG .510| OPS .866

Actually in 2005 he also killed KC, but I can't really count that as "performing exceptionally". The short story here is we have added a Yankee-killer to our team while simultaneously subtracting a Sox-killer from a division rival. Of course, these things sometimes have a way of not holding up over time, so right now the best way to view this is as entertainment, with a side of hope. That being said, it's nice that the deal was made right before the big Sox-Yanks series.

OBP Machines On The farm

There are currently four players in the Red Sox minor league organization with OBPs over .400. Granted, none of them is above A-Ball, but in some ways that is also encouraging.

Topping the list is Aaron Bates, who appears to be bored by the NYPL, with an OBP of .436, thanks in large part to a BA of .360. He only has 100 ABs under his belt, but he is eating up rookie-ball pitching for the Lowell Spinners.

Zach Daeges ist he true steel, with an OBP of .423 in 166 ABS, and a nearly 1:1 K:BB ratio. Daeges has nearly twice as many RBIs as the next closest player with 30 (to Still's 17), and really appears to have an advanced approach at the plate. Hard not to like this kid.

At Lowell, Zak Farkes also has an OBP above .400 at .409, but given his high-ish K rate (above 20%) and low-ish BB rate (around 8%) I don't see this continuing. He's hitting .329 right now. Still, you have to hope Farkes progresses enough to reach the majors just to give us the possibility of a Foulke-Farkes matchup during an ESPN telecast. Joe Morgan would crap himself.

Not surprisingly Jeff Natale is the only player with an OBP above .400 that isn't in rookie ball. His 1-1 with 3 BBs performance yesterday pushed him up to .406. His average and slugging are still depressed, at .256 and .333 respectively, but strike zone command is certainly not the issue. The Italian God of Walks must be bemusing Billy Beane right about now. Sadly, his defense is still an issue as he has 10 errors in just 68 games (although that is better than Renteria).

It occurs to me that if I still lived back east, I'd head to Lowell for a game while the guys we drafted this year are playing there. There will be some legitimate talent there the next couple of years (and hopefully beyond, but you know), and it's not that far from NH if you needed beer on a Sunday anyway. Why not?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Looking Ahead

I think it's becoming evident by now that the coin has landed on the "rebuilding" side. All in all, I think the FO did a decent job of putting together a 2006 team that could have been extremely competitive had they been extremely lucky health-wise, had some over-performers, and maybe caught lightning in a bottle. This team did not pan out that way; that's baseball. Technically they're still right there in the mix, but it's pretty clear given their current performance level that come September they will not be in the catbird seat.

Previously I focused on the offense's poor situational hitting, not really as a means of explaining the losing, but as a contributor to it due to their leaving a lot of runs on the table. I thought it was interesting in light of the fact that when you just look at run production the team still performs versus the rest, at #4 in the AL since the break. The issue is that they weren't performing to potential situationally. Still, you can't complain when your team averages more than five runs a game. The pitching, of course, is what is killing this team.

Since the All-Star Break here's how our pitching has fared against the rest of the AL:

Record: 15-16 (speaks for itself)
ERA: 4.99 (only TB, Balt. and KC are worse, and yes, we just went 4-6 against them)
R/ER: 175/154 = 22 Un-Earned runs (worst in AL)
WHIP: 1.50 = avg. of 13.5 baserunners per 9 (only Seattle, Balt, TB and KC are worse)
OBP Against: .352 (tied with Seattle and Balt. TB and KC are worse)
SLG Against: .451 (CWS, Balt, TB and KC are worse)
CS/SB: 23/4 (only CWS at 25/4 are worse)

I don't think there is anyone in RSN, myself included, who would have predicted this situation looking at the roster in the spring. Injuries and some unexpectedly poor performances have put us behind the eight-ball. We probably aren't going to get there this year, so let's look ahead.

The question of course, now that the free agent market has become a pit fight beyond anything we have previously known, is who from within the system will contribute in the near future? I like to follow the young guys because it's fun to do so - they're young, living the dream, having the occasional big night - but the reality is that most of these guys will not become big leaguers.

Here are some players, by league, that might contribute in the 2007-2008 seasons:

AAA: Pawtucket's much-heralded spark plug/fire hydrant Dustin Pedroia is the only player who looks like he's ready for the bigs. David Murphy has the draft pedigree, but hasn't performed well enough to be expected to contribute. There are no pitchers in AAA who will help the big-league club much.

AA: Ellsbury is the cream of the crop here, and probably in the system. He was recently named Eastern League Player of the Week. He is insanely fast, has a bit of gap power, and is plus defensively. It would be fantastic if he were ready for 2007 but it's likely we see him late 2007/for 2008. The fact that he has two last names guarantees us something.

There is some hope hard-throwing converted catcher Edgar Martinez might help out of the bullpen. He was an All-Star this year, and can bring the heat with a couple of balance pitches in his repertoire. Having Rich Garces as your MLB comparison kind of leaves one with mixed feelings though, doesn't it? (Note: I linked to Martinez's Sox Prospects page not to make you click-through to get his stats, but so you could see that he is chubby - like El Guapo.)

Brandon Moss is still languishing in AA but remains on Sox Prospect's top ten list at #10. This is hard to swallow, but if accurate doesn't bode well. I just can't see how it's accurate. He's nearly 23 and middling-to-good in AA. Chad Spann is his doppleganger, although has hit for more power in AA with a .472 SLG this year. Spann surprised people, so might still be on the upswing. If I had to put money on one horse it would be Spann, but it would be money I found on the ground in a public restroom and wasn't attached to.

Luis Jimenez is the x-factor. Knicknamed "Little Papi" due to his immense size and somewhat considerable power, Jimenez has hit 15 HRs in AA in just 329 ABs, but also managed to amass just a .465 SLG - lower than Spann's. Strikes out almost 20% of the time, but also walks a bit. He seems to get injured a lot recently, so the book is still out on LP.

Single-A: It's always a stretch to consider anyone from A-ball contributing at the major league level in two years. Hansen is sort of "contributing" now, but he was deemed nearly major-league ready right out of college (turns out that may have been a rose-tinted assessment).

In Wilmington, there are a few guys that could contribute in the short term. First is Bryce Cox, the fireballing reliever drafted after dominating for Rice in the CWS. His stuff is supposed to be electric, but then, so was Hansen's. Nevertheless, he has moved through the system quickly already.

Jed Lowrie has battled injuries, but comes with a pedigree. He has stalled this year in overcoming his setbacks, but there is the chance that he could come back strong and move quickly next year. He showed some surprising power in college, putting up an OPS over 1.100 his junior and senior year. He has to be considered a longshot, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Mark Wagner (picture link included for laughs) has just been promoted to Wilmington after tearing up low-A in Greenville. At this point he has to be considered the top Catcher prospect in the system, due to... well, there being no others to speak of. He shows good strike-zone command at the plate, and has hit for average and (some) power this year.

Another recent promotee is Clay Buchholz. He has a live arm, and apparently drew some interest over the trade deadline. It might be a stretch to see him make the bigs for the Sox, but if he's ready in 2008 the timing would be pretty sweet.

In Greenville still, Michael Bowden has put together some strong performances, and if he continues to perform at his current level he could move quickly could make the jump. He is big boy with a pitcher's body, and has got excellent peripherals thus far into his career.

That's pretty much it. Positionally, only Pedroia and Ellsbury look sure to help the team over the next couple of years. This year's draft was a good one but there is noone who will be close to ready by 2008, barring a miracle (okay, maybe Masterson). Cox and Martinez will probably end up in the bullpen, maybe as soon as later next year, and we can hope we see Buchholz and/or Bowden making some spot starts in 2008.

The short version is this: it's going to be another exciting off-season. Now, back to your regularly scheduling Red Sox supporting. As I like to say" 'Probability's got nothing to do with it".

Friday, August 11, 2006

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Comin' for to carry me home.

The Sox have just endured what is the worst road trip in recent memory, having just lost 5 of 6 to the two (arguably) worst franchises in the majors. The split against Cleveland, thanks to our old pal Fausto, netted the team a final record of 3-7 for the trip, and when they arrive at Fenway today they will be fortunate not to be pronounced DOA.

There is nothing left to say right now. The pitching is incredibly poor, and the offense is not producing runs unless one of the Big Three goes yard. Poor starts and execrable relief outings have engendered a vicious circle that is killing the team. In spite of the ultimate outcome last night, Schilling's (near)8-inning effort last night was the best thing to happen to these guys in a while.

I'm just repeating myself at this point, but it is what it is. We're at the point where the players play and the managers manage, and it's time for them to get to it. In Wily Mo's case this might be hard - he is batting seventh, protected in the lineup by sarcasm-inspiring white-hot bat javy Lopez. Oh, Tito, why?

On to brighter pastures...


Two high-upside high school prospects signed with the Sox, Ryan Kalish and Tyler Weeden. Both were considered longshots at the time of the draft, so this is good news, tempered by the fact that it could indicate the Sox are missing out on a couple other coveted draftees.

Ryan Kalish: 6' 1" 200lbs - L/L Kalish was a three sport athlete for Red Bank Catholic High School. The Virginia sports page had this to say:

"Kalish is ranked No. 76 by Baseball America. He's four-year starter for Red Bank Catholic having led the team in hitting the past three seasons. He owns a .466 career batting average having produced 100 hits in his first three seasons for the Red Bank Catholic. On the mound, Kalish has recorded 190 career strikeouts. He led the conference in stolen bases. Kalish has garnered all-parochial, all-conference and all-division team honors in baseball. He is a three-sport athlete (baseball, football, basketball) and has led Red Bank Catholic to its first division championship since 1989 as the starting quarterback. As a sophomore, he hit .507 and drove in 21 runs and posted a 6-1 record with a 1.60 ERA."

Moreover according to the Sox's Jason McLeod, Bosox scouts claim he didn't swing and miss at a pitch the entire season. That is pretty impressive. Kalish hasn't hit for HR power yet but had a .578 SLG in high school, and is pretty much the definition of "projectible" at this point. Comparisons are being made to Trot Nixon, and that's pretty good, although it would help if Kalish could hit lefties.

Tyler Weeden: 6' 2" 200lbs - R/R Rumor had that Weeden was a no-sign some time ago, so this came as a surprise to me, albeit a pleasant one. Tyler was also a state-level quarterback in high school. On some level I guess this makes he and Kalish annoying, since they obviously got much more tail than I ever did in high school, but whatever. Moving on.

Baseball America had this to say about Ty:

"Though Ty can throw 90-92 mph off the mound, he won't follow in his brother's footsteps as a pitcher. Scouts still talk about the batting-practice show he put on at the Area Code Games last summer, displaying tremendous power to all fields. If scouts believed he could play catcher, he'd go in the first two rounds. But they're skeptical because he doesn't have the agility or receiving skills to match his arm strength. He's probably destined for first base, where much more offense is required, because he may lack the athleticism to handle an outfield corner. Nevertheless, his righthanded power is a valuable commodity, and he'll be a decent draft pick if he's considered signable away from Arkansas."

Weeden will not play this season due to his signing a 2007 contract, but as we are learning to our disgust now, having more power in the organization never hurts. Good signs, both.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sure, the pitching sucks, but...

Since my quiet (yet enraged) acceptance that our pitching would suck nearly every appearance, I have spent my time watching games with the hope that the Sox would score ten runs every outing. They never do, and this puzzles me because they always seem to be threatening. The Sox are excellent threateners, but do not seem to follow up with action. It occurred to me that perhaps I was just catching them during off nights - I can't watch all the games - so I decided to look at how the team is performing on offense situationally.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that I was not pleased with what I found out. Let's take a quick look at the team OPS by team in the AL, for the season. I have broken them out by situation (double-click to open larger image):

A couple things jump right out, don't they? First off, the Sox are the only team to get progressively worse at the plate until they are in a 2-out RISP position. Now, they're starting pretty high with that .828 OPS with nobody on, but the pattern is not what you want to see. Cleveland is a good example of a team that succeeds regardless of the situation.

Next, the fact that the Sox absolutely suck ass with the bases loaded is pretty disappointing isn't it? They do lead the league in bases-juiced sac flys, which is nice. This might be due to their also league-leading .70 GB:FB ratio in that situation (this hasnt stopped them from being right up there in DPs, don't worry). Another strange factoid from the bases-loaded stats page - the Spanks lead the league in HBP with the bags full, at SIX. They are not afraid to lean into one.

The story is pretty clear, although there are no doubt several reasons for it. In spite of being second in the league in runs scored, the Sox are leaving a ton of runs on the table. It would appear they are averaging 8.38 men LOB per game (see the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum). That's really just not very good. I mean, it's good that their high-OBP mantra has paid off because with their total inability to consistently drive guys in (Papi and Manny excluded) that is how they're scoring runs - attrition. My point is that with more consistent situational production the awful, awful, just awful pitching might be more easily weathered.

As I mentioned earlier there are probably a lot of reasons for this situation. One of them, however, has to the be this: the Sox get the worst production out of the #5 spot in the lineup of any team in the AL. In all of MLB, only Florida's OPS is lower (.682 to Boston's .695). How is that possible? Here are some figures:

SLG: .354 (worst in MLB)
Total Bases: 149 (worst in MLB)
RBIs: 51 (tied for 3rd worst in MLB)
BBs: 68 (tied for 2nd to top in MLB)

The walks might be an indicator that the hitter isn't seeing a ton of good pitches to hit, but the #1 BB count at the five-spot belongs to the Yankees who are producing at a .966 OPS with a .549 SLG in the position. So it's hard to argue that with any conviction. Rather, it looks like the approach is the one I used in second grade: "a walk's as good as a hit - maybe better!"

I think at this point most of us would like to see Lowell or WMP in the five-hole, with Youks leading off and Crisp hitting down in the order. Youks doesn't have speed but is getting on base in front of the guys who consistently drive in runs. Crisp's speed would be best used in creating runs for the bottom of the order guys. Or so it seems to us in our armchairs. But, really, when all is said and done, we're just nitpicking. If it gets right down to it, we'd simply like to see a win and the lineup be damned.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sox vs. D-rays: Diary of a Train Wreck

What is there to say? A loss to the Strip Club is never acceptable, but it's generally best even while losing, as a rule of thumb, not to be confused with a drunken softball team. And I'm not even singling Wells out here.

Are we familiar with Casey Fossum? I think we are. Do we believe that Casey is a skilled major league starter? Umm, no; historically, no. We think Casey is a guy with a career 5.12 ERA, a .275 BAA, and in general, no staggering ability. We acknowledge that Casey's last start against Detroit was a gem, but also note that in his previous outing he gave up 5 ER and 7 R in 1.1 IP versus Anaheim.

In retrospect, I both have no idea who the aforementioned "we" are, and (and this is much more unfortunate) I guess I also don't know how Fossum differs from Beckett, outside of the price tag. That is a pretty sad admission. But look:



Fossum is a 27-year old left-hander making $2 million dollars a year. No one is expecting him to be an ace, and generally speaking, he isn't - except against the much-vaunted Red Sox lineup of course. But, at least so far in 2006, he's as much an ace as Josh Beckett. Maybe someone needs to explain to Joshie that strikeouts are fun, but keeping the goddamn ball in the park is maybe more fun. Other than this, I have no point.

Oh, wait, I have one point. Thus far, Javy Lopez is 0-for-9 with two pretty brutal double-plays and in general looks lost at the plate. It's early, but I'm thinking to myself, how much bounce-back did I have at 35? I mean, without the anti-aging properties of PBR. He really (no, really) needs to perform. It might be time for an inspirational speech from Wily Mo, along the lines of "if you don't start hitting, I will crush your puny head in my fist like a grape". In my mental clubhouse, that is how Wily Mo rolls. Yes, he is a Super Genius, but sometimes he doesn't need the big brain.

Tomorrow it appears we'll get another look at Jason Johnson, and I know we're all silently mulling over the possibility of using the term "re-invigorated". Or, for some of us, perhaps the term "less sucky" would be more appropriate. Either way, JJ needs to keep us in the game, and we need to score more than a single run against another Tampa Bay "ace".