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But Can He Pitch?

Updated: 2016-10-21T10:44:05-04:00


Celebrating David Ortiz' greatest moments: "Alright, how we gonna take these motherf***ers down today?"


David Ortiz made his name against the Yankees, and changed the entire city of Boston in the process. It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. -Bart Giamatti, The Green Fields of Memory I'm gonna try to hit the ball over that white fence, all the way to the motherf***ing choo-choo train. -David Ortiz It may surprise you to learn that Boston has traditionally been associated with a bit of an inferiority complex. The reasons are numerous and complex, but they basically boil down to that substantial metropolis four hours down I-95. Who knew that surrendering to the British for the entire Revolution was the key to world prominence? (Yeah, it's gonna be one of those. I allow myself one moment of crude homerism a year. Welcome.) The fascinating thing about Boston's traditional and justified envy of New York is that the cultural influence, economic dominance, and just undeniable fact of NYC being a world-class metropolis hasn't factored into the loudest bits. Part of it, I think, is just being realistic, there's little chance that Boston will suddenly become a 20-million strong global metropolis or the center of Western cultural output. The rest is that New York and Boston agree on most things politically, so it's really only the sporting arena that's caused conflict. And because Boston's a baseball town first, last, and always, the fact that the Celtics have always destroyed the Knicks, or that the Bruins and Rangers have been relative equals over the years, never mattered as much as the Yankees' eternal rule over the legend and lore of baseball. And our writers never, ever, ever let us forget it. Did you know New York started winning World Series titles after the Red Sox traded them Babe Ruth? Did you know that Boston's relative dominance (six AL titles from 1903-1918, five WS wins) ended after that trade? Not, like, immediately after, and not because Boston ever lacked for hitters. And sure, it's possible that a combination of the randomness of baseball and the frankly astonishing racism of Boston's ownership might have been a factor. But a trade of the greatest player in league history to the only stage capable of holding him happened at that moment. So it must be related, because we all understand correlation. Weirdly, though, Shaughnessy never tried to restore the Kaiser to his throne. Royalties weren't as good, I guess, and The Curse of the Hohenzollerns isn't as catchy. This is all to establish that Boston's baseball fans had, heading into 2003, what can only be described as an unhealthy obsession with our team's success relative to the Yankees. Every matchup was world-historical, to us. We'll leave discussions of whether that made us fairly small-time until later, but we'll say simply that it's true. April, June, September; down five games, up five games; games against the Yankees mattered. And that's where we were heading into a July 4th series in 2003, four games behind New York for the AL East lead, with a new DH in the lineup. 2003 was a strange year. The second year under new ownership, it saw the hiring of the youngest GM in league history, a local kid named Theo Epstein. He'd spent the offseason acquiring undervalued talent, including former Twins 1B/DH David Ortiz. Ortiz didn't start right away, with DH time going to Jeremy Giambi and Shea Hillenbrand. (If ever you want to really consider the judgment of Boston's fandom/sports chatters, most of 2002 was spent debating whether Hillenbrand or Alfonso Soriano was the more promising rookie.) Hillenbrand was traded and Giambi benched, and so it was Ortiz's turn. He was fine. Boston had certainly had worse DHs, and they'd had better. And so the Sox went to New York, with Ortiz penciled in 6th to face David Wells and Roger Clemens. 18 innings, 20 runs, and four Ortiz home runs later, the Sox had cut the Yankees' division lead in half. They lost the next two games, with Andy Pettitte doing his usual stopper thing and Mike Mussina dueling Pedro Martinez to a draw that Byung-Hyun Kim would cough up. But Ortiz had established himself as a w[...]

What the Red Sox’ payroll means for their offseason plan


I mean, yeah, Encarnacion is probably coming to Boston. We’re in that awkward time period that no team wants to face but almost all do year-in and year-out. The Red Sox’ season is over, but the offseason has not yet begun. As the last three teams in the race duke it out, we are left to wait, dreaming of the team that might get us to that point in 2017. While their success or failure in that regard comes down to what happens on the field, the four months that we face now are about anything but. Baseball is a business, as they (correctly) say, and that’s never more apparent than during the offseason. Until winter is over, it’s all about money, so let’s see where the Red Sox stand in that regard. These 2016 Red Sox were far from cheap. The major league payroll for 2016 came in at nearly $200 million, and that’s before factoring in major league castoffs Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig, who account for some $20 million between them. That, it’s worth noting, is going based on actual 2016 salaries. The Red Sox, however, have often been known to care more about their luxury tax figure than their actual payroll—a number which is calculated based on the average annual value of a player’s contract, rather than what they might be making in any given year. While there’s been a regime change in management, ownership are the ones setting the payroll, and it seems unlikely they’ll have changed their opinion on that. Savings in one year can offset expenses in another, and vice versa. It makes sense a financial-minded guy like John Henry won’t focus too hard on the small picture of a year when looking at a franchise that’s lasted over a century. So where did the Sox stand there? Well, the picture actually gets a little uglier. Often the Sox have seen that number prove lower than their actual payroll, but this year it nudges up over $200 million with benefits and the like involved. They’ll likely be paying a couple million dollars in taxes. Not so bad, but also not a figure they’re likely to exceed much going forward. Making things a lot less clear: nobody knows what the luxury tax figure will be for 2017. Or the penalties. Or if there even will be one. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in December, and while there’s been little smoke to suggest that there will be significant difficulty in producing a new one (which should thankfully mean no stoppage come March and April), we can’t say for sure what it might end up looking like. If, however, we assume that things don’t change too dramatically, and that Dave Dombrowski will have about as much payroll to work with to build the 2017 team, then we can say this will neither be a particularly flush or tight year for the Red Sox. As ever, the focus lies on what’s coming off the payroll. For 2017, the names of greatest import are David Ortiz ($16 million) and Koji Uehara ($9 million). Aaron Hill ($12 million) and Brad Ziegler ($5.5 million) are also off, but the Red Sox were only on the line for parts of their contracts. Coming in under $5 million are Junichi Tazawa ($3.375 million) and Ryan Hanigan ($3.7 million, though he will still draw an $800,000 buyout). All told, the Red Sox are on the line for only about $125 million in 2017, and slightly less than that looking at average annual values (again, before considering Castillo and Craig, who do not count towards the luxury tax figure). But that’s also without factoring in arbitration eligible players. It’s a pretty safe bet that Joe Kelly doesn’t get a huge bump after an unsuccessful stint in the rotation and a shift to the bullpen, but Drew Pomeranz should see a noticeable jump from his $1.35 million, possibly up to about $4 or $5 million. Robbie Ross will get bumped up a bit to around $2 million. And joining the ranks of the arbitration eligible for the first time will be Brock Holt, Sandy Leon, and the big ones: Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, two Boras clients who could threaten to pull similar salaries to Drew Pomeranz even in just [...]

Daily Red Sox Links: Steven Wright, Mauricio Dubon, Terry Francona



Today’s links look at the Red Sox’s influence on front offices around the league, some questions the Red Sox need to answer, and an update on the Arizona Fall League

Mike Hazen leaving Boston for Arizona just provided even more former Red Sox influence around the majors. (Evan Drellich; Boston Herald)

After missing the end of the season, what can the Red Sox expect from Steven Wright in 2017? (Matt Collins; BP Boston)

Chad Finn looks at some lingering questions as the Red Sox prepare for the offseason. (Chad Finn;

This is my formal invitation for you to join me on the Mauricio Dubon bandwagon. (Christopher Smith; Masslive)

Terry Francona is back in the World Series, proving he can win regardless on his team’s payroll. (Alex Speier; Boston Globe)

A.J. Preller’s suspension for failing to hand over relevant medical data to teams like the Red Sox is over. I’m not sure how the Padres made it through this tough time. (Craig Calcaterra; NBC Sports)

Celebrating David Ortiz’s greatest moments: Game 4, 2004


At the end of what might be the greatest game ever played, David Ortiz delivered us from Evil. There is a line from one of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History Podcasts that I love and that I think is particularly relevant thinking about the legacy of David Ortiz. Carlin tells how he once asked a history professor what the biggest challenge to understanding history is, and his teacher replied, "we know their future."  We are now at the end of David Ortiz's brilliant career. We know him as the greatest clutch hitter in Boston Red Sox history. We know the Hall-of-Fame-caliber numbers he put up. We know what he did in the 2013 ALCS and the 2013 World Series. Most importantly, we know that he led The 25 back from three games down against the Yankees to the Red Sox' first World Championship in 86 years. Nothing can erase this from our collective consciousness and that presents a challenge for us in understanding the past. It is especially challenging if are trying to understand what might be the greatest game in baseball history and the most important moment of Big Papi's postseason legacy. From our comfortable vantage point in 2016, Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Game is a watershed moment for the Boston Red Sox franchise. Looking back, Kevin Millar's warning before the game- "don't let us win tonight," looks like prophecy. It is the game that gave us The Steal. It is not really the beginning of David Ortiz's run as the most clutch player in the game (if his 2003 ALCS performance wasn't enough to get that ball rolling, his walk-off in the 2004 ALDS would have to be the liminal moment in that narrative), but it is the moment that his name and clutch became permanently inseparable. We can see this all so clearly now. Back in 2004, we did not know any of this. In fact, when Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS began, it promised to be nothing more than another brief entry in the annals of pain that made up the history of the Boston Red Sox since 1918. I was just about to turn 25 at the time, living in New York City, just a few congested miles over the Triboro from Yankee Stadium. I remember watching this game in my tiny Astoria apartment without hope for victory in the series. I think my wife even asked why I was bothering to watch it (Mets fans can be fatalistic too, you know).  No team had ever come back from 3-0 at this point. Not one. Not a single team in more than a century of baseball. Game 3 had been as demoralizing a blowout loss as any that I can remember. It had also meant using Tim Wakefield, the scheduled Game 4 starter in relief to save a beleaguered bullpen and handing the ball to Derek Lowe, who had lost his place in the playoff rotation. Don't blame us if we ever doubted, as the song says. Sitting down to watch Game 4, I was hoping only that the Red Sox would delay the end of the season, pushing the inevitable bitterness of yet another heartbreaking loss to the Evil Empire a day further down the road. About five hours and 12 of the most agonizing innings of baseball ever played later, something had changed. It was still too dangerous to let yourself believe the Red Sox might win the next three, but it seemed better than impossible. At the very least, the Red Sox had just won the greatest game I had ever seen and they would play again later tonight (In my mind now, it is like 6:30 in the morning when this game ended, I just rubbed my eyes, finished my beer, made coffee and changed for work. That's an exaggeration of course, but only a small one. All of my memories of joy from 2004 are mixed with the memory of utter exhaustion. Those games took forever) There are far too many incredible moments in this game for me to recap them all. After the greatest closer in history, Mariano Rivera, faltered just a hair, walking Kevin Millar. After David Roberts stole second with the entire world knowing he was going. After Bill Mueller tied the game with his single up the middle, and after three of the tensest innings [...]

Red Sox Season Review: Eduardo Rodriguez


A trade I would make over and over again I wasn’t actually planning to do this today. Heck, I wasn’t sure I was going to hit on Rodriguez at all. It feels like that ground was covered enough as the season came to a close and everyone was trying to hash out the playoff rotation for a Game 4 that never happened. But something came up last night: Eduardo Rodriguez has a 4.25 ERA in 41 starts. Trading Andrew Miller (and, worse, failing to sign him as a free agent) looks worse every day— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) October 19, 2016 Suddenly, it felt very necessary indeed to rehash the Rodriguez story once more. Now, let’s ignore the fact that Andrew Miller was a free agent after 2014. Let’s ignore that the Sox had a chance to offer him the same money New York did and, if Miller was actually predisposed to stay in Boston, that should have been enough to land him regardless of where he was to end the season. Let’s go ahead and talk only Eduardo Rodriguez. First off: 4.25 ERA in 41 starts is being used as an attack on Rodriguez. That’s weird! That 4.25 ERA is good for a 104 ERA+ which, by definition, is above average. That’s an above average ERA in the first 41 starts in the career of a guy who will turn 24 on a day that might well feature his first start of the 2017 season. Yes please. Here’s a couple recent Red Sox lefties of note before their age 24 season, just for fun... Jon Lester: 26 starts, 4.68 ERA, 102 ERA+ David Price: 24 starts, 4.17 ERA, 104 ERA+ And here’s the crazy thing: that 4.25 ERA? That 104 ERA+? That’s so far from being fair to Rodriguez it’s not even funny. If you’ve heard this all before, feel free to jump off the train right now and head to the comments or the outdoors or wherever you’d like to spend your next few minutes. You know my opinion on Rodriguez’ season already. But for posterity: On May 30th, the Red Sox activated Eduardo Rodriguez from the disabled list. Here’s where we were less than two weeks before that. A setback which was going to keep him out of game action without even a timetable set for his return. It was one of those real gut-punch pieces of news. Not really because of how ominously vague it all was, but because of just how much the Red Sox needed Rodriguez back. And that context is extremely important when it comes to evaluating Rodriguez’ callup two weeks later without the full information that Rodriguez and the Red Sox had. At the time, the Red Sox rotation was Steven Wright, Rick Porcello, David Price in full-on disaster mode, and Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly (and Sean O’Sullivan while Kelly was out) making disaster mode look like Cy Young material. It was Spahn and Sain and Pray For Rain, only for the Red Sox, the rain was more likely to come in the form of 12-run offensive attacks than actual precipitation. Yes, the rotation was a damn catastrophe at the time. A few days after Rodriguez’ setback, Buchholz and Kelly had a pair of decent outings—12.2 innings with three earned runs between them, though Kelly was the only one with any positives to speak of in terms of peripherals. Then the next turn through the rotation came, Buchholz surrendered six runs in five, and Kelly five runs in four (point two). Suddenly Buchholz was in the bullpen—Kelly would make his last start (perhaps of his career) a few days later—and Eduardo Rodriguez was back in Boston, supposedly ready to go. Two weeks after his setback. Yes, he’d had a very positive outing against Lehigh Valley in-between. But Lehigh Valley is a team that finished the season with a .713 OPS against Triple-A pitchers. It seems safe to say that the Red Sox were more hoping Rodriguez was good-to-go than confident in it. But it’s not like they had much to lose. Rodriguez making rehab starts in the majors might be a disaster, but so were there other options. Well, a disaster it was. Rodriguez pitched to an 8.59 ERA in six starts with a 21:12 K:BB in 29 innings of wor[...]

What the Red Sox can expect from Andrew Benintendi in 2017


Andrew Benintendi was impressive in his major-league debut, but can we expect it over a full season? After terrorizing opposing pitching staffs throughout the 2016, the Red Sox offense should be right back towards the top of the leaderboards in 2017. Obviously, losing David Ortiz’s production in the middle of the lineup will be a major blow, but they should be able to find a competent enough replacement to make up for a good chunk of the offense. On top of that, they should see some steady progression from their young players, or at least something close enough to the status quo to keep the lineup more than afloat. Part of that will be getting a full season from Andrew Benintendi, who showed that he was capable of hitting major-league pitching in a small sample last year. After building that solid base, just how much can we expect the young outfielder to grow in 2017? Before we get into his future, though, I think it’s fair to look at how we viewed Benintendi before this past season started. We can often let what happened in a most recent campaign shape too much of what we think about the future, and it’s worth noting how a prospect was viewed before he reached the majors. That’s not to say his major-league performance doesn’t matter — in this case it will take up the majority of the post — but his past matters too. For Benintendi, I think the majority of analysts thought it was far-fetched that he’d see any significant time in the majors in 2016. I know I was among that group, at least. That obviously looked more and more silly as the year went on. It was also widely believed that he was more of the high-floor, low(er)-ceiling prospect, at least compared to someone like Moncada. Although I still believe that to be true (again, compared to Moncada), that doesn’t mean there’s no room for growth. On the year, Benintendi accrued just 118 plate appearances, due to his relatively late call-up in early August and a late-season injury. To say he impressed in that time would be an understatement, though. He finished the regular season with a .295/.359/.476 line, good for a 120 wRC+. In other words, he was 20 percent better than a league-average hitter. Pretty good for a kid for who was in college during the spring of 2015. Of course, with such a small sample his numbers are bound to fluctuate. So, let’s go over each portion of his game at the plate and try to figure out what to expect. Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports Among everything I saw from Benintendi this year, there was nothing more impressive to me than his ability to control the strike zone. The jumps to Double-A and the majors — both of which he made this year — include having to adjust to much more advanced pitching. He passed both tests. In the majors, he walked 8.5 percent of the time and struck out 21.2 percent of the time, staying right at league average in both areas. The operative description for Benintendi at the plate would be “patient.” Of the 422 players who saw at least 450 pitches this year, just 22 percent swung less often than Benintendi. This is despite the fact that, of the same group of players, just 14 percent saw more pitches in the zone. He was able to get away with watching all of these strikes go by because pitchers challenged him with a lot of fastballs. As his opponents begin to adjust, he’ll have to start jumping on early fastballs in the count. If he doesn’t he’ll watch that strikeout rate rise, even as a hitter who doesn’t struggle any more than one should expect against breaking balls. However, if he does make this adjustment, he should be able to keep his plate discipline at the league-average, if not improve upon it. Beyond the plate discipline, I think many people will point to Benintendi’s batting average on balls in play as an unsustainable part of his game. Technically speaking, they are correct. He finished 2016 with a .367 mar[...]

Daily Red Sox Links: Edwin Encarnacion, Torey Lovullo, Rich Hill



Today’s links look at the importance of marginal roster moves, five candidates for GM, and some old friends heading to the World Series.

With the offseason almost upon us, many words will be used to speculate on major moves to be made. However, as Rich Hill has proven, the marginal moves can have major impacts, too. (Alex Speier; Boston Globe)

Edwin Encarnacion is out of the playoffs, but his time in October showed that he is a strong option for the Red Sox. (Evan Drellich; Boston Herald)

Here are five candidates who could take over the vacant GM role. (Hayden Bird;

Torey Lovullo is still expected to be a top candidate for the Diamondbacks managerial gig, but Mike Hazen won’t make a quick decision. (Jen McCaffrey; Masslive)

Yesterday, Terry Francona advanced to yet another World Series. (Rob Bradford; WEEI)

He was able to do so on the back of Andrew Miller, who took home the ALCS MVP. (Bill Baer; Hardball Talk)

Celebrating David Ortiz’ greatest moments: One small homer starts seven big years


In a career full of huge hits, a solo shot in a blowout in June is easily forgotten. But even if we didn’t know it at the time, this one was a signal. On June 6th, 2009, David Ortiz hit a home run. That, in itself, is unremarkable. It was one of 541, after all. Part of an 8-1 victory over the Rangers, Ortiz' homer wasn't even all that important on the day in question. And no, it didn't even seem that important at the time. It didn't go unusually far or happen to hit one of those signs that says “hit it here, Papi” or anything like that. Hell, it’s so unimportant that I can’t find a single video or photo of the thing. Best I’ve got comes from a few days later against New York. If there was any reason that homer seemed special at all at the time, it's because it was only David Ortiz' second of the year. This interaction from the game thread gives you a pretty good idea of how things stood at the time: Times were dire. Ortiz was done, cooked, toast. He had endured a mediocre 2008, and then come into 2009 hitting .188/.281/.288 for 50 games. He showed no pop, no bat speed, no signs of life. He found himself missing games on the bench If you go back and watch Ortiz in those games, it’s hard to believe it’s the same guy. At 33, Ortiz’ decline was not exactly coming at an unreasonable time, either, particularly given his physique (though, sure enough, it still got some people whispering he might be older than claimed). And so, when David Ortiz went deep against the Rangers, it probably seemed more like a sad reminder of what was lost than anything. One for old time’s sake. It most certainly did not seem like the beginning of the second half of David Ortiz’ career. Alright, so it takes some gymnastics to get to that idea. Yes, Ortiz’ career started in Minnesota. But it’s pretty easy to argue that the story of Big Papi didn’t begin in earnest until 2003, when he came over to Boston. What Ortiz achieved in six years with the Red Sox in many way dwarfs what some legends managed in 20. If that had been the bookend on things, he would have gone down as an all-time great. I’m sure there would have even been talk of retiring 34 even then. Somehow, though, Ortiz’ horrific start to 2009 was not the end, even coming as it did after a disappointing 2008. The trend line lied and, on that day, it started to head in the other direction. Two games later, he would go deep again, this time in a 7-0 route of New York. He finished that series with another, and the month of June with a total of seven, having hit .339/.440/.726 after that point. He wouldn’t quite finish the season that hot, but he did hit to a .917 OPS from June 6th on. That he came so close to breaking the 30 homer mark again surprises me to this day. And that was the beginning. The rough years hadn’t been a complete mirage. Ortiz would “only” hit to a .899 OPS in 2010—only his .873 mark in 2014 is lower in Boston outside of the 2008-2010 period. But what started as a strong month for Ortiz became a renaissance year became a whole seven seasons of near-peak performance. From 2010 to 2016, Ortiz hit to a 151 OPS+. That’s three points better than his average with the Red Sox, and 10 points ahead of his career figure. Amazingly enough, that whole “slow start” thing we used to worry about didn’t even last. With his career having ended on such a high note in his age 40 season, David Ortiz can lay claim to being one of baseball’s most timeless players. We will never know how long he could have kept going for, and perhaps that is for the best. The unknown can be anything we want it to be. In my mind, David Ortiz is 50 years old and still winning games and flipping bats. And just about the only proof that shows otherwise comes from a bunch of players who didn’t last as long as Ortiz did to begin with. But for a while[...]