Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Thought You Were Gonna Ask Me (Volume 2)

Red Sox made it back to .500 last night, which is pretty pleasant. They've played pretty well the last week and a half or so. They are still a distant second in this town behind the Bruins, but that's life. A few things I want to talk about, so it's time for a list.

1. Although JD Drew is still a pretty huge disaster, he's looking a lot better at the plate. He's doing things we have not seen him do his entire time in Boston: protecting the plate. In the last few days, the guy who throws the ball in "like he's at a picnic" according to Baseball Tonight has fouled off some borderline pitches and has actually taken some pitches outside the strike zone out the other way. He whacked one of them off the wall. The guy has actually been aggressive, as he should be if he's making $14 million.

2. Bronx, I added Brett Gardner to my fantasy team. Javier Vazquez is a freaking disaster. Can't wait to see him contribute to a division win for the Devil Rays.

3. Really nice to see that Jon Lester realized the regular baseball season is underway. From what I saw last night, he was pretty brilliant. Granted, it helps when your opponent is overaggressive at the plate and strikes out a ton. But he located well and struck out eleven. We had some conversations a few weeks ago about the inefficiency of strikeouts and how the Red Sox pitchers had not been inducing any of these inefficient activities. We're not going to get staggering totals from Lackey, but we will get quite a few from the other four starters on this staff.

4. From the Francona praise department: This year the guy has had balls. It takes balls for him to sit Ortiz and demote Wakefield. But, as he's said in many press conferences, he's just trying to do what's best for the team. Sounds like Belichick, but that's his job. He has some balls for standing up to the two veterans. He gave Ortiz specifically an adequately long leash, and with the long leash, Ortiz did nothing to prove himself. But then again, the idiot said he didn't have anything to prove. In the case of Wakefield, it's understandable that he's pissed off, but he shouldn't be crying.

5. They said on the radio yesterday that it seems like Francona is tired of being asked why he's pinch hitting for Ortiz everyday. I wonder why: It's a dumb-ass question. Why do you think he's pinch hitting for Ortiz? Because Ortiz sucks? Because Ortiz can't hit lefties? Because Lowell can hit ROOGYs better than Ortiz can hit LOOGYs? Do you think it's just because of a hunch? If you're asking why Francona's pinch hitting for Ortiz, you haven't watched enough baseball this year.

6. From the Francona criticism department: Gonna have to bust out the "B-Team" category. No, he really can't control the fact that Darnell McDonald and Billy Hall are playing on the same day. But the decision to sit Papelbon, Bard, and Okajima all on the same night is asinine. I'm completely for extending Buchholz through the eighth inning as long as he's pitching well (which he was last night--it would have been a crime to demote him to the bullpen). But it's a stubborn, irrational thing to do to shut them all down on the same night and leave one-run lead protection to RamRam, who simply has not gotten the job done. It worked out, but that does not make it responsible behavior.

7. Too much Varitek last night. Yes, he is hitting, and no, he is not wearing ice packs all over his legs all day, as reporters have said. However, they might want to realize it's April. If he gets too much playing time, he will be less effective and have the ice packs back on his legs again by August. That defeats the purpose of keeping him fresh so he can crush dingers every time he plays.

8. Sports hernia updates: Cameron has been hitting off a tee and plans to start running this weekend. I went to the batting cages last night, which in retrospect may not have been the best idea. However, I am getting better very slowly. No way I'm going to be running in the next three weeks though.

9. Let's bookend this post by giving credit to one of my non-favorites who is showing up to play again. Billy Koch, I mean, Papelbon, has looked excellent in each of the last two games. Especially two nights ago, he located perfectly, had a little bit of that zip back, and had excellent late movement on his pitches. No more warning track fly outs. No more walks. Maybe this is a new Jonathan Papelbon.

14 comments:

from the bronx said...

gm, i hope gardner works out for you. i'm very encouraged by his last 25 at bats. he started off posting good numbers in terms of BA/OBP, but he was getting on base with a silly number of infield hits and didn't look great at the plate. over the last few days, he seems to be taking better swings and driving the ball better. i expect good things from him all summer.

Anonymous said...

DV

I could never understand why so many people around baseball thought trading for Javier Vazquez was a good thing. He was never a good American League pitcher and specifically struggled in New York his first time around when he was younger and better. Now? This can't come as a surprise to many people.

Varitek needs to be used sparingly and against lefties as much as possible. Anything more than that and you're right, he's going to be right back in the same position he was by June of last year--unable to hit anything. That being said, the guy has been nothing short of awesome this year and I'm honestly glad to be able to say that.

Also, Francona has been great so far this year, though I think he's always done a great job (I'm a little higher on him than a lot of Sox fans) and there's no way--NO WAY--that anyone who has watched the Sox over the past year can honestly ask why he's been pinch-hitting for Ortiz without coming across as someone who knows nothing about the Red Sox.

Lastly, I wouldn't say that we're seeing a new Papelbon. I'd say we're seeing the old Papelbon--the guy who was lights out in 2006 and 2007. He's not just throwing his fastball anymore. He's changing speeds (did I see a slider last night? Or was it a curve? Whatever it was, it registered at 83 MPH) and he appears to be back throwing a good splitter again. If he continues to pitch like this, we'll all be happy to say that your over/under for blown saves won't be met.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

gm -

is it ever a problem that okajima has a day off? i would think that's a good thing even if it means a position player has to close.

gardner should be solid for your fantasy team. he's playing well and can continue to contribute if used properly. the frustrating part about him is that he could be more. most scrappy, non-total package guys like him get where they are because they are exhausting everything they possibly can to produce. gardner is giving the production he is relying totally on physical tools (of which his are not elite), without doing the little things at a high level. last friday he bunted on his own with runners on first and second and nobody out in a tie game, and offered at a pitch near his eyes and popped it up to the pitcher. he catches a lot of stuff because he's so fast, but could catch more if he didn't take routes to balls that made him look like he was blindfolded. two nights ago and last night he came up with a runner on 3rd with less than 2 outs, and two nights ago hit a routine grounder to 3rd (run scored on an error) and last night hit a weak pop up to short left that didn't score the runner. and despite all of this he's still producing. but he could be producing so much more if he did more little things, which guys like him usually do.

gunn -

i have no problem with the idea that vazquez isn't going to succeed this year. so far that looks pretty good. but, "he was never a good american league pitcher" is buying into hyperbole based on a bad second half and one pitch in an alcs. his era+ for three years with the white sox (who happen to be in the american league)? 106. 100 is average, and 106 is above average. above average being different from not good. it's also not great, and people who thought he was going to be great like he was in the national league were also misguided. but most people thought trading for vazquez was a good thing because they were getting an above average pitcher to pitch on the back end of their rotation. that doesn't mean they'll get it, and though he's struggled early (1) so have a lot of pitchers and (2) i can guarantee you it's not the first time he's had 4 shaky to terrible starts. but it does mean people who thought trading for him was a solid, low risk move were reasonable in their assessment. saying he was not a good american league pitcher (and you're not the only one) is ignoring the facts. even in 2004, he made the all-star team with 10 first half wins before shoulder issues contributed to an awful second half, and all that considered his total AL ERA+ is still above average. he may end up stinking this year, but it's not because he never experienced AL success. andy pettitte's ERA+ the last 3 seasons since returning to new york? 104. by these standards he's no longer a good american league pitcher either.

Anonymous said...

PF

I'm glad we're using numbers to quantify Javier Vazquez because here are some very important numbers for Javier Vazquez:

92, 98, 126, 98.

Those are his ERA+ numbers in his four full seasons in the AL (I'm not going to slap up his impressive 45 this season because it's still very early). Basically, he's a homeless man's Josh Beckett in that he had one season that makes people think he's something he's not--a capable American League pitcher. In his other three full seasons he's been worse than league average. We can all agree that three full seasons is a significant sample size.

So while my actual statement that Vazquez was 'never good' is not accurate--because he did in fact have one good season in the AL, the spirit of what I said is correct. For his AL career, he's proven that he is a below average starter. Certainly, being below average is not good and therefore I think the thrust of my argument is on solid footing.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

gunn -

not really. 98 is essentially average, a tick below, but no more noticeable than a 102 is above average. i think we can all agree "average" is not only those who happen to land squarely on 100, because that would mean we'd have very few average pitchers, which we all know is not the case. so for 3 of his 4 seasons in the american league, he's been average, and one season he was quite good. even in his worst american league season in 2004, his first half era+ was 119, before tossing up an 80 in the second half. did he have a 39 point swing because he ate something at the all-star break, or did something happen? it's been pretty well documented he was hurt. that means nothing for that season - he took the ball and he's accountable both for that second half performance and for the overall sub-par season that resulted due to that second half. but for our analysis it's certainly something we can look at. so now we're at a vast majority (better than three quarters) of his total time in the american league spent pitching at average or above average levels. so while he had one outstanding season, outstanding isn't the only thing that makes people think capable. so too does average. and that is exactly what most people analyzing this move said the yankees were getting, an average to above average pitcher on the back end of their rotation. why? because that's what his track record indicated for almost 90% of his time spent in the american league. and since we're differentiating average from not good, not only was your actual statement wrong, but so too is the spirit of what you said. that's not to say that javier vazquez is going to be any good this year. not only does past performance not dictate future success, but there are also other things in vazquez's ledger that indicate maybe he's not suited to pitch for the yankees specifically. but it certainly has nothing to do with the totality of his work in the american league. the facts that both you and i just presented both back that up, and stating otherwise is incorrect.

Anonymous said...

PF

While we're talking, how about the Wall Street Journal article that says Derek Jeter was a better Yankee than Mickey Mantle. I have to hear your thoughts on this.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

haha i was hoping to squeeze a little more out of that debate. thank you for bringing some good, strong, conversation-starting opinions to the table today. we needed to spice things up a little bit.

i only breezed through the article, but from what i saw they were factoring in a lot of different things - many of which were unrelated to baseball ability. obviously, purely based on baseball performance any list of the best yankees has to have mickey mantle above derek jeter. as great as jeter is, mantle is either a top 10 player of all-time or if not right in the conversation. he was one of the most complete players ever, where as jeter has one thing he does't do well relative to all-time greats (hit for power). it's really not close.

as i said i don't know all of the other things they considered, but when factoring in non-baseball things it's an interesting conversation. jeter has certainly had incredible impact, but for people from my father's generation (he's by far and away my father's favorite all-time player) mantle seems to be at least as popular, and probably more. i don't know enough about that type of stuff to comment. but it's an interesting thing to think about.

back to our other conversation, i want to point out that i don't think your end result is incorrect. i think it is very reasonable to think vazquez is going to struggle. i just think the reasons for that are other than he just can't pitch in the american league, because i think he's proven he can do that at least at an average level, which can be very valuable at the back of a rotation. i think if anything it has more to do with the yankees specifically. people laugh at the idea that certain players can't handle new york, and that they will pitch to their track record. i disagree with that, i think new york (and other big market pressure cookers) do get to some guys. the thing i'm holding onto more than his track record of an average pitcher that gives you lots of innings and a lot of missed bats (which i do think is important) is his first half with the yankees in 2004. that showed that he can do it. i'm just hoping he will again. nothing fancy. just 200 innings of league average baseball. that's really all i ever expected when we traded for him, and that type of moderate production is exactly why i was excited about the trade, because i think there is a ton of value in that.

the gm at work said...

thank you for bringing some good, strong, conversation-starting opinions to the table today. we needed to spice things up a little bit.

Was that a knock on me? I'm the only one bringing up relevant Yankee issues around here, as you are refusing to talk about Vazquez or Nick Johnson. Get off your sample size pedestal.

Patrick said...

not at all. posts from you are always excellent (which is more than i can say for myself). it's just nice when we can get something beyond that going in the comments, which is tough to do early in the season when both teams are playing pretty well. off-season moves, poor play, and big games breed comments, so it was nice to have a back and forth. get off your sensitivity pedestal.

Anonymous said...

DV

I don't think anyone is questioning what you're bringing to the table, keep up the good work.

PF

I think we are just drawing different conclusions from the same data. I look at the sub 100 ERA+ numbers and say that he's below average. You see them and say he's average. It's certainly open to interpretation.

As for Jeter and Mantle, my knee jerk reaction was to arrive at the same conclusion you did. So I looked at Mantle's career numbers to be sure. He had SIX top-2 MVP finishes and nine top-five's. We all know about the home runs and the RBI's, the switch-hitting and playing CF (a premium position), but I don't know if the average baseball fan knew that for basically half his career he was one of the five best players in the league.

That's not to denigrate Jeter at all. It's kind of like saying that Larry Bird was a better player than Michael Jordan. Larry Bird was a GREAT player. By most accounts a top-five player of all-time (though I see Lebron bumping either he or Magic out of there and Kevin Durant could well do the same). That said, there's nobody better than Jordan and there's no argument about that. And there shouldn't be. When you look at Derek Jeter he's one of the greatest shortstops, maybe the greatest (who's better anyway? Cal Ripken? I looked at their numbers and from what I saw Ripken's best years were better than Jeter's best years, but Ripken had some clunkers in there. NO clunkers whatsoever on Jeter's resume. I say he's better. And can you really put ARod on the list? He only played short for eight seasons. But maybe that's enough, I don't know) and his place in baseball history is clearly safe. But I don't think you can say he's better than Mickey Mantle was for the same reason you can't say Larry was better than Michael.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

i think you're probably right about that. i think we also have different expectations. i hear people talking about him being a solid addition, and i view that as him being in the low-mid 4's ERA, 200 innings, 180+ strikeouts, and 12+ wins with an era+ around 100. anything in that range and i'm going to be psyched because i think that's great value out of the 4 or 5 spot, and great innings protection for a rotation that's been through a lot. despite the slow start, i still expect him to get into that range numbers-wise. very possible i'll be wrong. others may look at those numbers and say, that's just not that good, hence the difference in expectations.

either way, what i take issue with is the idea that he was "bad" in the AL. i think a lot of people look at guys who thrive in the NL and aren't nearly as good in the AL and take that to mean they just can't pitch in the AL, when in reality it might just be they are a lot better in the NL but there is nothing wrong with what they did in the AL. we can certainly debate for a while what precise adjective we would use for javier vazquez's AL ledger to date. but i don't think we can use "never good" to the point where it was predetermined he was going to stink in 2010. for his four years in the american league he averaged: 206 IP, 4.50 ERA, 195 strikeouts, less than a hit per inning, and an alarmingly good K/BB that was over 3/1. now, i know you're going to tell me a lot of that is inflated by his good 2007. but outside of ERA, virtually every other stat is in a pretty similar range minus his low K/9 in 2004. that means other things were factors in his ERA variations (2004 nyy's defense and 2006-2008 cws's defense were both terrible). now i'm not saying any of this is really good. i'm saying none of this is bad to the point where he would be labeled "has proven he can't pitch in the AL". i can show you a lot of stat pages that look like that, and it's a lot uglier than what i laid out above. again, i think there may very well be other things that keep javier vazquez from pitching well this year. i also think he's a guy that is more built to thrive in the NL. i just don't think that automatically means that he can't offer anything in the AL because it's not near what he does in the NL.

Patrick said...

as for mantle and jeter on the baseball field it's not really close. even if mantle played a non-premium position i'd still have him above jeter. the fact that they both played premium positions just puts mantle that much more out in front. mantle was an all-around superstar. jeter is a different kind of player because he doesn't have the home run power. that's what makes mantle one of the 10-20 best all-around players ever and jeter in that next grouping. both displayed admirable consistency at immensely high levels (one of jeter's best qualities from a resume perspective), but mantle was just better.

the only SS that i think is definitely ahead of jeter right now is honus wagner. in addition to the consistency of elite play, the fact that jeter will go down this highly ranked (top 2) at such a valued position and the winning are probably jeter's biggest baseball resume boosters.

the gm at work said...

On the Mantle thing, I'm just happy that I'm able to watch the Next Mickey Mantle play right field for the Red Sox five days out of seven. While Jeter was/is great, Mantle was the whole picture. And "clunkers" is a generous way to describe many Ripken seasons. One of my friends is hellbent on proving to the world that Cal Ripken is not a Hall of Fame player. While he takes it to a different level similar to the way I take "Coco Crisp doesn't suck" to a different level, homeboy has many valid points.

On Vazquez, I have one question directed mostly at Pat: Is Vazquez a better or worse AL pitcher than your BOY Chris Carpenter? What words would you describe Chris Carpenter with?

PF said...

vazquez, and no comparison. carpenter's 6 year averages in the AL (one of which was a shortened rookie year, and he did spend a little time in the bullpen): 145 IP, 4.83 ERA, 102 strikeouts, over a hit per inning, and a 1.85/1 K/BB. none of these stats were better, and most aren't even close. carpenter is the epitome of the AL/NL difference for pitchers, but even i'll admit at this point some of that may not be fair due to dave duncan being his pitching coach. still, his AL era is 4.83 and his NL era is 2.93 in almost the same amount of innings. his split is much more dramatic than vazquez's.