Preview: El Guapo's Ghost Rambles on about the Red Sox
El Guapo's Ghost Rambles on about the Red Sox
A baseball blog focusing on the Red Sox from a numbers geek, plus other random rumblings.
The Kids Will Be Fine
In March, the 2013 Red Sox season appeared to be a “bridge year.” It was anything but. Simply, the Sox met or exceed expectations at nearly every spot on the roster. These outlier performances got the Olde Towne Team to October baseball and the magic continued in the postseason. Incredible pitching performances, timely hitting and a little luck brought the big prize back to Boston for the third time in ten years. A younger me would have never believed that the Red Sox would be this successful. These are truly the best of times to be a Sox fan. The future is bright as well. The Sox boast one of the best farm systems, according to Baseball America. The 2014 season could be the year that the Red Sox get to the other side of the bridge. The promise land is one where the Sox have a plentiful number of prospects that leads to a roster filled with productive players at below market cost year after year. This type of team construction would give Yawkey Way the financial flexibility to seize any opportunity and roster a contender every season. Currently, the 2014 Sox are a ninety to ninety-two win team based on a reasonable ZIPS projection. They should be in the hunt to play October baseball once again. The ZIPS pitching forecast is rationale. The only one to quibble with is Koji Uehara’s .261 BABIP appears to be an outlier when the rest of the staff is around .290. Regardless, it is unlikely to change the bottom line, which indicates the Sox will have an effective and deep staff with options in the minors. On the offensive side, the projection includes Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley, Jr. playing virtually every day. ZIPS has Bogaerts hitting 267/331/429 with his best comparable player being Troy Tulowitzki (this is not a misprint). The system pegs WMB at 249/291/425 and JBJ patrolling center field with a line of 245/322/375. These are sensible projections and the Sox do have backup plans. If WMB does not meet his expectations, Garin Cecchini is a possible internal option. ZIPS has him hitting 266/342/374. Daniel Nava’s line of 257/344/384 is a bit pessimist. He can build on his 2013. Nava has the chance to adjust his approach, like Kevin Youkilis did, which could lead to more power. Nava can be a late bloomer. We know JBJ will go get it in center and a lower hitting line could be offset by a better one from Nava. The Sox need a safety net for X at shortstop; just not in the form of Stephen Drew. Bringing back Drew would likely necessitate a trade that erodes their pitching depth for the Sox to stay under the luxury tax and would forgo a compensation draft pick. It would also limit the playing time and development of X and WMB. Jayson Nix is a better option as a backup. As the best Red Sox position prospect for some time, X deserves a long leash like Dustin Pedroia had his rookie season. Relax and get ready to enjoy another laser show.[...]
Do Not Sell The Farm
So far, the Sox outperformed my expectations. Buchhloz, when healthy, has been as productive as Pedro. Lackey is pitching like a true ace. The pen has been solid. The meat of the order has performed well despite their lingering health issues. But it is not time to deviate from the long-term plan: to build the next great Red Sox team.
The Red Sox lead the A.L. or are second in the three conventional offensive metrics – average, on base percentage, slugging percentage - that correlate well to future production. Without assistance, we should anticipate drop off going forward. Salty and Nava have exceeded expectations before the Break. The duo could perform just as well in the second half, but it is unlikely. Also, it is highly probable that Iglesias and Carp are going to come back down to earth, if and when they get more attempts. These declines could be offset by better production from the Opening Day starters on the left side of the infield, Drew and Middlebrooks, or a sneak preview by Bogarets. Unfortunately, the probability of the Sox offensive upside is lower than their downside. Hence, the fantastic lineup from the first half is likely to tail off heading into the Fall.
On the other side of the ledger, runs allowed, the Sox have not been as successful. They are second in strikeout rate per nine innings, but are towards the bottom in walks per nine. The worst offenders of issuing free passes are Doubront and Dempster. A significant improvement may not come to fruition but the glove work should get better.
Another less discussed, although very important, metric is defensive efficiency. DE is the percentage of outs on ball put into play. It is the opposite of a hitter batting average on balls in play. DE is a good measure of a team’s glove work. The Sox are tenth in the A.L. On paper, the weak defensive players man the least important positions – left field and first base – so it is surprising that the club is among the bottom third in the A.L. It seems like the Sox need to play better or get luckier. Perhaps, the Olde Towne Team’s opponents have been hitting ‘em where they aint.
Overall, we should expect run prevention to get better and the lineup to take a step back. The Sox look strong heading into the second half. There is no need to trade the future for the present.
It Was A Good Run...But It Is Over Now
Assuming the Celtics objective is to win another Championship, which we should not doubt, and not just put an entertaining product on the court, then it is time to rebuild.
Since only one team in the past eleven seasons has won a title without a top ten PER player and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are no longer in that category, then it is prudent to start over. A team needs a superstar to go all the way in the NBA.
Without the ability to overpay for a player, Boston is not a "destination city" so the Celtics will have to acquire a superstar through the draft or trade for such a player.
It makes sense for Danny Ainge to acquire as many as assets as possible for another KG and Ray Allen deal. "Trading" Doc Rivers for a unconditional draft pick was a great move. KG, Paul, and others should be traded as well. And at the same time, putting a poorer product on the floor this season for what is projected to be a great draft in 2014.
The Celtics could be back quickly if all goes well. The third time tanking a season is the charm.
The Sox May Need Offense Come July...No Joke
The Red Sox have played a legit 600 baseball
over the first third of the season. If they continue on this pace, we are looking at a 95 plus win season and October baseball. But it is doubtful that the club will continue to play this well as they are currently constructed.
The Sox pitching is solid and deep. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are bring back memories of Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. But unlike in 1988, we are not praying for snow after DLowe's starts. John Lackey and Ryan Dempster are capable middle of the rotation starters (I have come around on the thirty something pair). Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves provide depth in the rotation without even considering the prospects. The pen has a threesome of late inning relievers and a loogy, which is the receipe for an effecitve modern bullpen. But pitching is only one part of the game.
Even though the Olde Towne Team's lineup ranks high in most offensive catgeories, sustained excellence may not continue. The top producers - Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino - all have health concerns. The production of journey man, Daniel Nava, has offset the terrible first third of the year put up by Will Middlebrooks. Nava will probably regress, but we should begin to doubt Middlebrooks ability to get out of his sophomore slump. The Sox should explore an upgrade at the hot corner that is not a short shop from Cuba. Jose Iglesias is not the answer.
In all, the 2013 Red Sox has been a pleasant surprise. But please do not be tempted to trade the future to get back to October baseball at Fenway. We want sustained success again.
Never Tell Me The Odds
by SOB, guest poster and buddy of El Guapo's GhostNever Tell Me the Odds!At the beginning of this season the odds on favorites to be division title winners in the American League of Major League Baseball were the Anaheim Angels, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays. All three have amassed a lot of talent onto their rosters and seem poised to go deep into the playoffs. They all have young rising stars and solid veterans. Each have Cy Young caliber ace pitchers. Two other teams, the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees, although seeming to take steps back in the offseason, still are considered strong contenders come the postseason.Enter the 2013 Boston Red Sox. After huge offseason signings in 2011 they seemed ready to dominate baseball in much the way the Yankees have for a decade and a half. But after a historic collapse in August and September of 2011, and a miserable start to the 2012 season, the Sox jettisoned much of their new “talent”, fired, hired, and fired two managers (including Terry Francona the beloved skipper of their world series teams), and seemed to be gambling on going in a much different direction than anyone could have imagined just two seasons earlier. They did manage to retain three veteran bats in David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as veteran pitchers John Lester and Clay Buchholz. The question was whether the Sox could put enough talent around these veterans or even if these five stars could carry the team that had been entrusted to them. Would they stay healthy?Suffice it to say that in March of 2013 the Red Sox were not a very safe bet to even make a wildcard spot, let alone have any shot at a division title or national title. But this is why we call it a “gamble”, and a “safe” bet is never a “sure” bet. Odds and statistics cannot measure heart, and in a city that started a revolution and most recently has weathered a terrorist attack on its very psyche, nobody can be surprised when an underdog can turn into a champion.Now the season is a month old, but the Red Sox are proving that they at least have come to play this year, something that Toronto and Anaheim have yet to do. Not only that, but they have the best record in the majors out of the gate. What were the odds? Lester and Buchholz look like the top two aces in the American League. Ortiz is in one of the best hitting streaks of his career. Pedroia and Ellsbury are getting hits and looking nimble in the field. But this is just a collective New England sigh of relief. What’s truly surprising are the little details: Daniel Nava is hitting out of his mind looking like more than just a very good minor leaguer a possible every day starter. Will Middlebrooks is staying sharp defensively on the field while weathering a minor sophomore slump behind the bat and is looking to be slowly coming out of that slump and providing a solid bat in the middle of the lineup. Mike Carp, in limited appearances, is also hitting out of his mind. And the bullpen, a big weakness last year and big question mark this season, is one of the best in the majors with the two Japanese pitchers Tazawa and Uehara along with closers Andrew Bailey and Hanrahan.Can the Red Sox keep up this strong start? Anyone’s guess. They certainly were no one’s early favorite coming into the season, and they will have to find ways to keep their stars fresh and sustain the ebbs and flows of batting slumps and streaks in a very long baseball season, while minimizing the injury bug that is always hard to avoid. In a sport that is all about momentum they certainly have it, and Boston has been known to spit at long odds, so if you’re a betting man/woman consider laying some money on the Red Sox being at least in the Wild Card come playoffs. Because even though you can’t measure heart, this team seems to have it, as well as a lot of fight, and this early momentum might just propel them past some[...]
2013 Should Be About 2014
The 2013 Red Sox is the infamous “bridge year.” And it is the right move. One eye on 2013 and the other on 2014 and beyond is necessary after accepting the Dodgers godfather offer last August.
In a watered down A.L. East, the 2013 Red Sox have an outside shot at the Division. A career year or two and some good luck can lead to October baseball in the Fens. But Yawkey Way should be planning to subtract rather than add to the club in July.
The Sox have a number of possible attractive pieces to trade. Free agents after the 2013 season are likely to be dealt. The most notable is Jacoby Ellsbury. The former MVP candidate, if healthy and productive, could command a piece to the 2014 puzzle. The others alone may not bring back a significant player but future assets are more valuable than Stephen Drew, Aaron Hanrahan, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltimacchia.
As we look towards the middle years of this decade, the Sox options on the mound is relatively deep. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Allen Webster, Jorge De La Rosa, Felix Doubront, etc. provide enough options that at least three could become top of the rotation starters. The right side of the defensive spectrum looks strong with Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Xander Bogaerts or Jose Iglesias. The organization appears to be missing another possible middle of the order bat. Middlebrooks and Bogaerts may not become the next Manny-Ortiz. The Sox should target a slugging prospect to diversify their offensive assets like they have on the mound.
The Tigers could be the ideal trading partner. They are in win-now mode, do not have an established closer, could use an upgrade in left field and have hitting prospect, Nick Castellanos
. He is a legit hitting prospect. A package with Castellanos, Ellsbury and Hanrahan as the principals could make sense for both parties. But the Sox would need to have both eyes on the future.
Terry Francona on E:60
I can see having Francona in a meeting to discuss the overall marketing strategy once or twice a year. He is the Production Manager. But it seems like the meeting was during the season and was specific to the falling NESN ratings. If so, this is outrageous.
Really...Wait 'Til Next Year
2013 and possibly 2014 will be bridge years to the accession of the next Red Sox core. All of the off-season signings were intended to do the following:· Allow the front office to better cultivate the precious crops on the farm. Yawkey Way does not want to be tempted to rush a player.· Provide the themselves with financial flexibility for the 2015 season when the prospects should be ready.· Present a product that would NOT appear that 2013 is a rebuilding season without having to surrender a draft pick or a current prospect.On twitter, I have quibbled with some of the signings. But other than the Shane Victorino deal, nothing was terrible. (The Victorino contract will haunt the Sox like a bad case of herpes.) The real question is does the Olde Towne Team have enough future average regulars by 2015 for this to be a feasible plan?No one knows their prospects better than the Sox, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But many prospects do not live up to their potential. Hence, another part of the bridge to 2015 plan should be adding to, and thereby diversifying the assets in the Sox portfolio of prospects. The only means to accomplishing this is in the trade market. Yawkey Way needs to move any player (Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew Bailey, etc.) that is unlikely to be a cog in the 2015 team when their market value peaks. [...]
Curb Your Enthusiasm on John Farrell
As fans, we try to be insiders. We read the main-stream media outlets, listen to sports radio and TV, check out of the blogs and chat rooms, but we are outsiders. We only have a tiny inkling about what characteristics would be a good fit as the Red Sox Manager - let alone who that person should be. We are not in the dugout or the clubhouse. The two essential places that one could start to collect information and draw an informed opinion on what characteristics would make for a successful Manager of our local nine. We can only go on what the media informs us, who more often than not come with their own bias. And when we do get a direct quote, the Red Sox employee is often filtering himself. We are always being put through the spin cycle. We do have unbiased data on players and therefore can do a before/after analysis of John Farrell’s four year tenure as Pitching Coach. It may give us an indication of Farrell’s impact on the 2013 Olde Towne Team’s pitchers. Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Jon Lester have enough information to analyze and are still property of the Red Sox heading into 2013. NAME IP K/BB ERA Year Clay Buchholz 22.2 2.20 1.59 2007 Clay Buchholz 76 1.76 6.75 2008 Clay Buchholz 92 1.89 4.21 2009 Clay Buchholz 173.2 1.79 2.33 2010 Clay Buchholz 82.2 1.94 3.48 2011 Clay Buchholz 189.1 2.02 4.56 2012 Daniel Bard 49.1 2.86 3.65 2009 Daniel Bard 74.2 2.53 1.93 2010 Daniel Bard 73 3.08 3.33 2011 Daniel Bard 59.1 0.88 6.22 2012 Jon Lester 63 1.61 4.57 2007 Jon Lester 210.1 2.30 3.21 2008 Jon Lester 203.1 3.52 3.41 2009 Jon Lester 208 2.71 3.25 2010 Jon Lester 191.2 2.43 3.47 2011 Jon Lester 205.1 2.44 4.82 2012 In terms of ERA, each pitcher peaked in Farrell’s last year in Boston and have fallen off to varying degrees over the past two seasons. But ERA is a flawed measure to evaluate a pitcher’s production (most notably since it does not accurately separate a fielder’s performance). Other newer metrics give us a clearer understanding of a pitcher’s true value, although the simple K/BB ratio usually does an admirable job in many cases. So when measuring Farrell’s coaching using K/BB, it is more murky. Buchholz had an uptick each year after 2010. Bard was better in 2011, and then had an epic collapse this season. Lester has slightly declined after Farrell’s departure in 2010. It is far from a given that Farrell will be able to bring these three back to their stellar 2010 ERAs, just like we are unclear if he will be a good fit as the Red Sox Manager.[...]
As regular readers know, I did not think the Red Sox needed to blow it up
. Since it was realistic that the core could be productive next year and the return in the trade market for the under-performing stars would be minimal. But the Dodgers made Yawkey Way a Godfather offer.
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When the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez his estimated economic value ([a comparable player's recently signed salary or an estimated market value] - [the player's wage]) was $15.33 million. In April of 2010, Ryan Howard signed a contract extension worth at least $125 million over five years (it should be six since $10 million of the $125 million is an option buyout for 2017). Howard's average annual salary is $20.83 million ($125 million / 6 years) minus Gonzalez's 2011 salary of $5.5 million yields roughly $15.33 million in economic value (EV) that the Red Sox acquired in December of 2010. (The analysis should also layer in future player production but this is the elementary version.)
As we know, the $15.33 million of EV cost the Sox, at the time three highly touted prospects. The Olde Towne Team sent Casey Kelly (Keith Law's 19th prospect for 2011), Anthony Rizzo (38th), and 2009 first-round draft pick Raymond Fuentes. Now, Gonzalez's comp is Prince Fielder. The former Red Sox first baseman's 2012 estimated EV is $16 million. For this, Yawkey Way received Law's 2011 94th prospect, Rubby de la Rosa (he did not qualify as a minor leaguer in 2012), Allen Webster (61st in 2012) and two other not rated prospects - Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus.
The trio that went to the Padres was a better haul than the foursome coming back to Boston at the time each deal was made. But it is not a wide margin and certainly not enough to warrant taking on the risks that are Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett (the $12 million going to LA, James Loney and Nick Punto are afterthoughts.) The Dodgers made the Red Sox an offer they could not refuse.
With a less than stellar free agent market in the next few years and financial restrictions in both amateur markets, the Red Sox will have few places (trade market, Japan) to reallocate the funds saved. The only semi-exciting name is Justin Upton. It looks like a rebuilding rather than a reloading process so the fire sale should continue.
Alfredo Aceves, Mike Aviles, and Franklin Morales have to be moved this winter. They trio will be free agents after the 2014 season. With 2012 arguably their best years, the threesomes value will likely never be higher than now. And as Branch Rickey said, "Trade a player a year too early than a year late." They need to be traded. As do the two 2013 free agents, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The only question is over the winter or in-season to maximum the return for each.
The Sox will not contend in 2013, probably not in 2014, so wait 'til 2015. October 2015 will have the Fens rocking like it is 2007.
Because John W. Henry can be the hero Boston kind of deserves and the one it needs right now.
As a college student during a summer, I studied at an institute in DC (yes, I am kind of a nerd). A third of the time, we discussed the nebulous concept of leadership. We tried to understand not only the characteristics of a leader, but also what is a leaders role within an organization. Since my humid DC summer, I have worked in numerous organizations (for and non-profits, tiny and large, domestic and international), a few consistent leadership tasks always surface. The person at the top of the pyramid sets the vision for the group. S/he is involved in the design of system(s) to reach the vision, mostly at the five hundred foot level. The top dog hires the right people to create and monitor the systems. As side from external issues, s/he only rolls up their sleeves when a terrible internal outcome presents itself. And this is where we are at with the Red Sox.
John W. Henry needs to go into the trenches to answer numerous questions. First off, is the vision of the Red Sox right? Does part of the Olde Towne Team’s mission contain making an acquisition to primarily excite customers, as Theo Epstein alluded to in an interview? Second is the Player, Manager, Medical Staff and Coaches evaluation system and decision making process within Baseball Operations functioning well and aligned with the vision? If the systems are performing well, which should be evaluated over a number of years, then the question is do the Red Sox have the right people?
Even though Henry’s modus operandi is to be a hands-off leader and delegate (by all accounts), it is time focus on your first child. They just arrested for possession and need you to be the rehab counselor. This analysis cannot be given to Larry Luchhino. It is a task only fit for the Principal Owner.
The Red Sox Should Be Sellers But No Need To Yell "Do Over"
Based on the current standings, eighty-eight wins is the minimum number of victories necessary to win a Wild Card spot. The Red Sox would need to win forty games over the next sixty-five or play around a 100 win team. Even the most optimistic observer would doubt the local nine’s ability to play like a juggernaut from here on out. Hence, the Sox should be sellers.
They should trade players whose value is likely at its peak. Mike Aviles, Cody Ross, Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla, and Franklin Morales fall into the aforementioned category. It needs to be about acquiring assets to build the team for next year. The heart of this Red Sox club can make a run in 2013.
The core of the team is still strong with only Josh Beckett and David Ortiz really fighting father time (although Ortiz has given him a beat-down). A return to form and/or health from Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz would not be a surprise. Nor would further development for Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront and Salty. It is not farfetched to think that the Olde Towne Team could be contenders a year from now.
The Red Sox offense is not going to get a huge boost from the returns of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. They will be primarily taking the plate appearances that went to Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Nava; both of whom have filled in quite well. (Marlon Byrd’s horrific tenure has been deleted from my memory although, I guess, not permanently.)
In the field is where the returning All-Stars could have the biggest impact. The number of balls that hit the outfield ground should diminish. Better range in two-thirds of the outfield can only aid a questionable pitching staff, which is the Olde Towne Team’s most notable impediment to October baseball.
The Sox can only "bank" on youngster Felix Doubront, reliever-turned-starter Franklin Morales and the five bullpen castaways for so long. The Texan, Josh Beckett, the F*^# Truck and want-a-be Texan, Jon Lester, and the I’m rarely healthy and pitching well, Clay Buchholz, have to lead this team into the playoffs. The trio need to be right for a shot at a flag. Don't let us down again.
The Red Sox Off-Season and the Projection for 2012
After the disappointing seasons of 2003, 2006 and 2010, the Red Sox made headline grabbing winter acquisitions (and being successful in two out of three years is a pretty damn good). The same Owners, CEO and “new” General Manager took at different route this off-season. With all due respect to career backup catcher, Kelly Shoppach, the butt of many Sabermetric jokes, Nick Punto, a platoon outfielder, Cody Ross, and a couple of good relief pitchers, Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, none are even close to the quality of Curt Schilling, Adrian Gonzalez and even J.D. Drew.
Changes to the luxury tax, the extra Wild Card team and 2012 being Fenway Park’s 100th year in operation (they are doubtful to see a drop in attendance like when it was the last year of MF Yankee Stadium), Yawkey Way did not have much incentive to be aggressive this winter. The lack of development of two top prospect position players, but ones that the organization still believe in, Jose Iglesias and Ryan Kalish, the Red Sox had no other place than the rotation to fill a need for 2012 and beyond. CJ Wilson, Yu Darvish, Mark Buehrle, and others on the trading block do not compare to Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke. (The Allard Baird connection to Greinke will make him a Red Sox player in nine months). It was wise for the Sox to be conservative this winter.
What was not wise was letting Theo Epstein walk for little compensation. Yawkey Way should have worked out an agreement early on, and certainly, before allowing Epstein to leave for the Cubs. The same assessment can be made for waiting to deal Marco Scutaro. It limited the number of suitors for the above average shortstop thereby bringing down his price.
The aforementioned blunders and the lack of product development could have led to the hiring of Bobby Valentine. Since I am not a fan of ostentatious people, (in general, I think they are hiding something), listening and watching Valentine is going to be painful. The Bobby V show will grow old if the Red Sox do not win. And I don’t see this being a playoff year.
The Sox have varying degrees of uncertainty in their core players. Can Kevin Youkilis, Andrew Bailey and Clay Buchholz stay healthy? Will Jon Lester take the next step and become an elite starter? Is Jacoby Ellsbury’s power for real? Can David Ortiz keep it up at his advanced age? This is before mentioning Carl Crawford’s wrist, Mike Aviles, platoon in right and the bottom two spots in the rotation. The Sox will be in the playoff hunt but should not be a favorite to get one of the four spots (the Tigers are a lock). Wait ‘til next year. Projected Wins
MFY – 95 - most well rounded team, deep pockets and farm system to acquire reinforcements, if necessary
Rays – 90 - biggest weakness LF is easy to upgrade during the season
Sox – 87
Tex – 90 - Hamilton and Kinsler spend too much time on the DL to run away with the Division
LAA - 89 - a huge hole at the hot corner that does not get filled
(image) SUPER BOWL PREVIEW
The normal and simple Patriots defensive strategy is to take out the opponents top weapon, but that Giant is not so obvious. The Giants have various threats playing at relatively comparable levels. Scheme is not going to have the impact it would against San Francisco. Hence, we are going to see the Patriots all too familiar bend but do not break defense - defending against big plays.
On the flip side, the Giants D-Line can consistently get pressure on Tom Brady thereby dropping seven giving them the best shot at slowing down the strength of the Patriots. We are still going to witness Brady dropping back, but not as much as many are expecting. New York/Jersey gave up an average of 4.5 yards per carry over the season. The Pats are going to exploit this weakness. Effectively running the ball will open up play-action and big play opportunities.
New England does not want to get into a shoot out with NY/J and won’t. Prediction: Patriots 23 – Giants – 21. The Pats hold on to their first half lead for a victory…and bet the under.
Yawkey Way Is Home To A Top Front Office? This Minor Details podcast with Alex Speier and KLaw
got me thinking that the Red Sox are quick to implement winning baseball strategies from other teams. First, it was OBP from Oakland, and then it was defense from their rivals in Tampa. Now, it seems the Sox are copying the Rangers by converting relievers to starters.
The Sox still have interest in Andrew Bailey, according to Buster Olney, even after acquiring Mark Melancon. The acquisition of another back end reliever would likely push Daniel Bard and/or Alfredo Acceves to the rotation. But the Theo Epstein and Ben Cherrington era has not discovered a winning undervalued baseball skill or strategy. (The jury is somewhat still out on paying above slot in the latter rounds of the draft.) The Sox front office has not been ahead of the curve and it could be a reason the Olde Towne Team has only had a better record than the Yankees twice during Epstein-Cherrington regime. Better innovation would benefit Yawkey Way.
By-the-way, WTF is going on with the Red Sox SIGNIFICANT compensation from the Cubs. It is unlikely to be SIGNIFICANT now since both teams have made deals. The Red Sox should have never let Epstein leave without having compensation in place. Larry Lucchino got played.
IT FEELS LIKE 2003
As side from a few, they Red Sox were terrible in Sept. If they were healthy or had a better farm system, they probably would have just been bad and gotten into the playoffs. Teams go into slumps. This one got out of hand primarily because Buchholz and Youkilis were out. But Sept is not the issue, it is the year long suck-a-tude of Crawford and Lackey.
Crawford's forecast to actual performance had to have a much bigger variance than anyone. Last year, he was a seven win player this year .4
Lackey has been a bust. It was expected he would suck in the later two-thirds of his contract
but not at the start. The Red Sox not having an alternative is one part bad luck, ineffective pre-hab or injury prevention
and poor minor league pitching development.
Regardless, the Red Sox still have a strong core so an overhaul would be a shock. They need a true top of the rotation starter and a closer in 2012. This kind of sounds like 2003, no?
THE STARTING PITCHING HAS SUCKED
The Red Sox problem is the ineptitude of John Lackey and Tim Wakefield (yeah, I’m calling out the second living Red Sox Saint). Both have been awful. Period.(image)
The Sox had sufficient pitching depth and acquiring another arm in-season would seem to be imprudent, as Brian MacPherson wrote for the Projo.com
. It appears that the Sox took all rationale steps in the off season to protect themselves against this very situation at the major league level. The issue that McPherson does not get into enough and probably warrants its own article is the lack of ready capable arms in the minors.
Relative to other development systems, the Red Sox could be doing just fine developing quality starters. But when you have a near perfect storm of injuries and ineffectiveness to spots 3-10 in the rotation, then everything needs to be analyzed including minor league development pipeline.
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!
This four game series in Texas is not BIG. It is a possible October preview in name only. First off, the most obvious, the Red Sox will not be playing four in a row away from friendly Fenway in the playoffs. Second, Jon Lester should be on the bump in second season for the Sox. Third, Terry Francona is going to write Ortiz, Youkilis, and Ellsbury on his lineup card every night in October and that won’t happen over these next four games in Dallas. If the Sox and Rangers face off in the postseason, Texas will be facing a better club than the one they will see in the next four contests.
Other than making sure the team is healthy and ready for October baseball, the Sox need to make a decision on the corners in the outfield, as it is seemingly a result that is actionable (pitchers are unlikely to make it through waivers this August
). Is Josh Reddick’s fifteen minutes of being an above average major league outfielder up? Aside from his home run yesterday, Carl Crawford’s timing at the plate appears to be horrid. Can he get on track in time for the playoffs? If the answer is no to either question, then Yawkey Way has to explore other options.
Internally, we know that Run DMcD is not the answer, although he can play the role of Bobby Keilty and Gabe Kapler. Unless J.D. Drew has found the Hot Tub Time Machine or had a procedure done in the Dominican
, he probably is not the going to keep the line moving in October. Unlike in 2007, the organization does not have an Ellsbury to take time from Coco Crisp. Ryan Kalish could have been that player, but he must have gotten cursed like Jed Lowrie during that stop at Merlotte's
. The Sox will need to trade for an outfielder. Get to work, Theo.
Are You Ready For Some...October Baseball?!
Football is all the rage right now, but the MLB playoffs are fast approaching. Since it is likely that the Red Sox will be playing in October (knock on wood), the most important thing is to keep everyone healthy and fresh for the postseason. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Erik Bedard should not be pushed. Nothing is more important than having the top three starters ready to rock in the second season.
The return of Jed Lowrie and the acquisition of Mike Aviles allow Terry Francona the flexibility to give guys a day off or two in the dirty dog days of August before rosters expand. The Sox are being prudent by taking a conservative approach to player health whether it is David Ortiz, Marco Scutaro, etc. It is more important to have the thick lineup ready for October than ending up on top of the A.L. East at the end of the regular season.
The last objective should be getting Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon ready to pitch more than one inning in October. Three innings from the shutdown pen pair would allow Francona to matchup the rest of the relievers, if necessary, in the middle innings. We do not want Matt Albers getting the ball in the seventh up a run with the heart of the order ready to take their hacks off the journey man. With rosters expanded, Francona should have enough options to start transitioning Bard and Pap up to one plus innings with additional rest between appearances in the last week or two in September.
So if the Sox continue to play the B team, it is for the best. "Relax" and get ready for the October "laser show" and have some "muddy chicken" for the next six weeks. It is all about getting ready for the playoffs.
CARLOS BELTRAN CAN BE THE RED SOX RIGHT-FIELDER George: Anyway, as I was lying in the puddle, I think I may have found a way for us to get Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn't have to give up that much.Currently, the Red Sox have one glaring hole - right-field. Even though the Local Nine lead the world in most offensive categories, the trade winds are swirling to replace J.D. Drew, even more so than usual. But according to Peter Gammons on WEEI, the Red Sox are not getting Carlos Beltran or Michael Cuddyer. He asserts that the Sox can not take on any more money. Theo Esptein disputed that notion recently, although this winter he did state that the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez played a key role in giving the club the financial flexibility to sign Carl Crawford. With this in mind, any potential acquisition will likely get more scrutiny from ownership since it will be above the budget. The other asset usually a part of a deadline deal is minor league prospects. The Red Sox are not rich in this area either. The Olde Towne Team had three players make Baseball America's top 100 prospect list this winter - Jose Iglesias, Anthony Ranaudo, and Drake Britton. Of the three, only Ranaudo is living up to expectations. The Sox have prospects to trade but no asset another team will covet. The Olde Towne Team can not pull off another three prospect trade for an All-Star as they did this winter. The Red Sox will need to find a unique situation to pull off a impact deal later this month. And the previously mentioned, Beltran provides that type of opportunity.The Mets right-fielder has a number of clauses in his contract that push a trade to the Red Sox. First, Beltran can not be offered arbitration after the 2011 season. Hence, the Mets will not get any compensation when the former All-Star departs this winter as a free agent. The team from Queens needs to trade Beltran this season to get anything in return.Beltran also has a no-trade clause. He can dictate which team will gain his services for the stretch run. If we assume the Scott Boras client wants to play for a team with a good shot at winning a World Series, then the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox will top the list. The Mets will want to deal with the Red Sox rather than assisting one of their rivals. Sandy Alderson is calling Epstein first and often.Finally, $5.5 million of Beltran's $18.5 million 2011 salary will be paid after this year. The outfielder will be paid roughly $3.2 million each year from 2012-2018. Without going all CPA in this space, the Mets can send the money necessary to keep the Red Sox under the luxury tax threshold in 2011. In exchange, John W. Henry can pick up a part of Beltran's deferred compensation. Under the current rules, the future payments made by the Red Sox to Beltran will count against the cap the year they are paid (MLB may not even have a luxury tax in 2012 and beyond with a new CBA). The Red Sox can avoid paying additional, if any, luxury tax with the assistance from the Mets.With the money even, the Red Sox and Mets can use last year's Lance Berkman trade as a starting point for the appropriate prospect(s) going to Queens for the right-fielder. Since the dollars will be even, the Mets should get less than the three star prospect (Mark Melancon) and low level minor leaguer (Jimmy Paredes) that the Astros received, as $4 million was sent to the Bronx. Assuming the market for Beltran is as limited like for Berkman in 2010, then the Sox can afford to move that type of prospect(s). The Red[...]
THE SUMMER IS NOT LOST
The Red Sox have been rolling of late going thirteen and three over their last sixteen games. Everything has been clicking. The Olde Towne Team has even gotten lucky. They won five out of six one-run games. The start of the season slump has been erased.
Over this dominant stretch of the season, the workmen like starts from Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves have been a pleasant surprise and a stark contrast to the double roller coaster of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. (image)
The bottom of the rotation needs to keep the Sox in the game and the offense can go the rest. With Lackey and Felix Doubront on their ways back, they should have enough options to find at least one an adequate performance from the back of the rotation every time through the rotation.
Stability from the starters and with about a third of the season in the bank, we can reasonably see Red Sox baseball in October at the end of the 162 game tunnel. And I won’t need to find a real summer hobby. Now if I can find some good fried clams in Vermont, the summer will complete.
NOT TOO MANY SOUTHPAWS
With John Lackey seemingly finding what Ponce Deleon could not and we got the “National Treasure” Diasuke Matzusaka (now injured?) and not his alter ego “Shame of the State”, the Red Sox have the ability to continue to roll over the competition. Hopefully, the Olde Towne Team can overcome their second slow start in back-to-back seasons.
At a minimum, the Sox should evaluate if their Spring Training process is a factor in getting out of the gate slowly. But that is a question for Theo, Tito and their minions over the winter. The latest concern is the lineup being too left-handed making it vulnerable to southpaw starters.
The Red Sox bench has been assembled to mitigate the issue some hitters have against left-handed pitchers. Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald are options for two out of the three outfield spots when a southpaw is on the mound. Marco Scutaro starting at shortstop can have a domino effect by giving another infielder a half a day off at DH thereby sitting David Ortiz versus lefties. As the roster currently stands, the Red Sox could have a starting nine with only two left-handed batters, but Terry Francona has to be willing to put the plan into action.
THE PANIC BUTTON HAS BEEN FOUND BUT WE DON'T NEED TO HIT IT JUST YET(image)
A nearly yearly objective of Red Sox is to build a baseball team that has a high probability of winning ninety-five games and making the playoffs. It was a near universal notion that the 2011 Olde Towne Team was going to accomplish the above goal. As we know, it has been a very rough start. So the question has to be asked: can the Red Sox still make the postseason?
The answer is yes. We have a lot of Red Sox baseball to still watch and players with a track record produce at a similar rate to the back of their baseball cards or player page come the end of September
. Even the riskier players – the ones in their mid-thirties – that could have drops in performance, the Red Sox have a number of internal options. If J.D. Drew, David Ortiz or Marco Scutaro can’t produce as they have in the past, Mike Cameron, Darnel McDonald, Ryan Kalish, Jed Lowrie, or Jose Igelasis could step in. This team will score runs. The issue is run prevention and specifically, starting pitching.
A simple and optimist projection for the rotation would be that games Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Josh Beckett start, the Red Sox would win sixty-five percent of those ninety-six games (32 GS each) for sixty-two wins. The remaining sixty-six games would feature John Lackey (32 GS), Daisuke Matsuzaka (25 GS) and Tim Wakefield (9 GS). The Red Sox would win half of this trio’s starts, which brings the Olde Towne Team’s win total to ninety-five games. But given the terrible starts and stuff from Lackey and Matsuzaka, neither should be counted on to even with fifty percent of their starts without significant improvement. They have shown nothing so far. The Red Sox need to prepare for other rotation options in and outside of the organization.
The team’s poor start does not give them the luxury of waiting for Lackey or Matsuzaka to work out their issues on every fifth day. The duo is too important. A club cannot think of themselves as playoff contenders when roughly a third of their games they find themselves behind the eight ball after only a few innings of play.
If neither shows improvement in their next start or two, Felix Doubront and Wakefield should take a regular turn. The Olde Towne Team cannot be patient with Lackey or Matsuzaka, as they have with other veterans that get off to a slow start. The Red Sox may need to make a tough decision or two in the next couple of weeks.
THE FANTASY LIFE
With many owners drafting fantasy baseball teams in the near future, I wanted to discuss some of my unconventional thoughts on the subject. The first can be applied to both draft and auction formats; the other only in auctions.
In most fantasy baseball leagues, pitchers are not valued enough. Before adjusting for the added health risk of the throwing a baseball too often, all pitchers should be valued the same as all hitters because they contribute to the same number of scoring categories in the vast majority of leagues. Since most leagues have fewer eligible pitching spots than hitters, pitchers should be valued more than hitters. In my League, we play nine hitters and five pitchers with two bench spots so the maximum number of pitchers that can contribute is seven. All things being equal, pitchers are worth a minimum 28% more than a hitter in my League.
Of course, not all things are equal. A hitter’s fantasy statistics are less dependent on their teammates compared to a pitcher’s. A hitter’s fantasy production will be less prone to year-to-year fluctuations than a pitcher’s. And we already touched upon the increased health risk. Hence, a fantasy pitcher offers more risk and reward than the equivalent hitter. But if you play in a keeper league, as I do, holding onto a low draft pick or a cheap good pitcher can be an advantage since your team is minimizing risk (high round pick or low cost) with the same amount of reward or 28% over a hitter in my League.
When my team was going nowhere last year, I implemented the strategy mentioned above by trading for David Price and Clay Buchholz, who each cost only $2 or 2% of the budget. The newly acquired pair teamed with Neftali
Feliz to be the foundation of my club and auction strategy going forward – spend on hitters since spending on high risk-high reward pitchers is not necessary. This fantasy strategy can be applied to many leagues.
Another plan that I used and haven’t seen floating around in the series of tubes
was to acquire two completely different hitters. The opposites can complement one another and cost you less than two hitters without any major flaws. My combination of Mark Reynolds and Ichiro Suzuki should average out to 270-75-20-75-20 at a cost of $26 or 26% of the budget. This is a play that should only be tried in auctions. It is too risky for draft formats.
Good luck to all owners not in my League.