Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trade Deadline Recap

Okay, I could write for three pages about all the trade deadline stuff this year.  No huge blockbusters (except for maybe Jimenez and Pence), but lots of moves (many lateral), silence from the Yankees, and the Red Sox doing exactly what they need to do.  My goal is to discuss the Red Sox' two moves, identify the biggest winners, identify the biggest losers, and figure out if the Yankees can be counted in either of those conversations.  Pat's allegedly returning to the real world this week, so maybe he'll chime in later this week.

Aviles:  One of SoreGloveHand's followers said the Red Sox traded Yamaico Navarro for Yamaico Navarro.  Pretty true.  The only person pumped up about the acquisition of a utility infielder hitting .222 might be Heidi Watney.

Bedard:  Wrote a thesis about it on Friday, and I'm thrilled to have Jason sipping the K.A. flaves with me.  It is a bummer to give up Federowicz, but it's kind of a signification that the team things my boy Jarrod Saltalamacchia is for real.  The Red Sox needed some kind of upgrade even in August and September over Andrew Miller, and having this guy healthy is an upgrade over what Lackey is giving you right now.  Say what you want about his health - we're talking about three months.  And say what you want about his demeanor - this fixes a fatal flaw.

Winners:  Biggest winner is Cleveland.  In acquiring Jimenez, they have all those things that made the player appealing to the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays.  It fits the need of augmenting their surprise playoff chances, and it also helps rebuild the Indians franchise that everyone assumed would need rebuilding.  Fukudome over Travis Buck is little more than a lateral move, and losing Cabrera to San Francisco is a debatable point.  Other winners include the Braves with Bourn (on this point, how much has Jordan Schaefer's stock fallen since he got busted for roids?), the Phillies with Pence (thanks to ZWeiss for straightening that one out for me), the Tigers with Fister, the Giants with Cabrera and Beltran, and probably in second overall, the Rangers.  Uehara and Mike Adams are huge reinforcements for their bullpen.

Losers:  San Diego:  The 2010 dream is very over.  Colorado:  The dream is over there as well.  Houston:  The dream never started.  Seattle:  What a disaster.  Let's all hope we never talk about "run prevention" ever again.  Toronto:  A net loss, losing Frasor and doing A LOT of paperwork for a guy who has been called "JD Drew 2.0" in St. Louis in Colby Rasmus.  Toronto also lost out on Jimenez, whom would have made a lot of sense toward making them relevant in the East in future years.

Yankees:  Apparently the Yankees are comfortable with the team they have.  They should be okay with their bullpen.  If I were them, I would have gone after Bedard and beaten the Red Sox for them, just to provide Garcia/Colon insurance.  But let's not get it twisted:  They're in a pretty safe spot for the AL wild card, and CC is a beast on the verge of an opt-out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Drinking the Erik Bedard Kool-Aid

I'm right there.  Right now, Clay Buchholz's short-term future is very much in question, and I'm like the rest of you:  The idea of having John Lackey as the Red Sox' third starter in October and even September is not exactly the kind of idea that makes you sleep well at night.  Plus, I'm not completely sold on Josh Beckett's ability to hold it together for another three months.

Therefore, I'm all for Erik Bedard.  I think he's the starting pitcher on the trade market who makes the most sense (Jimenez, while an intriguing candidate, will be too expensive and has never pitched in the American League, nevermind the East.).  He's on a one-year contract, so it would essentially be a one-year rental.  Therefore, the Mariners aren't going to be asking for the sun, moon, and stars for this guy.  The price tag will be reasonable.  If it has to be Josh Reddick while the perceived value is high, so be it.

Not sure if you've heard it before, but Bedard is a health risk.  Fine.  The Red Sox aren't paying $20 million for this guy to possibly go on the DL.  Injury risks are taken into consideration when you're doing free-agent analysis, not 3-month rental analysis.  He's healthy now.  He could get hurt, but then again, so could Beckett.  Or Buchholz could come back.  We don't know. 

We do know, however, that he's not a performance risk.  With the exception of his rookie year in Baltimore, he has never exceeded 4.00 in ERA or a WHIP of 1.38 (which I'm pretty sure is half of Lackey's or Andrew Miller's at this time).  He strikes out nearly one guy per inning, with his K/9 being a staggering 10.9 in his last free-agent year.  While his Seattle stats may have been helped by the stadium, nobody's stats are helped by Camden Yards or the AL East - and he's done both, obviously, during his time in Baltimore.

Another oblique benefit for bringing in Bedard, other than 1) his performance and 2) less pressure on Lackey, is the long-term benefit for Clay Buchholz.  We don't know what's wrong with this guy, and obviously, neither do the Red Sox' doctors.  What else is new?  Having Bedard instead of Lackey as your stopgap Buchholz replacement is a relief, because it allows to team to rehab their long-term investment instead of rushing him back for a haphazard pennant race.

Bottom line is:  Red Sox need Erik Bedard.  This is what you do at the trade deadline.  A few days ago I said there was no fatal flaw.  The Buchholz injury IS a fatal flaw.  Time to fix it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Money is a Major Issue

Just a thought - too drained to write about too much tonight.  But there have been a lot of words spoken about Andrew Miller before and after tonight about his walks and all that.  I'm not going to count tonight's stats, not because they're devastating to my case (they're not), but because it's easier.

Miller, prorated to 176 innings (this is Baseball Reference's doing):
4.65 ERA, 91 K, 125 BB, 18 HR, .790 opponents' OPS, 1.74 WHIP.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, 191 innings (2010-2011):
4.81 ERA, 159 K, 97 BB, 17 HR, .706 and .664 opponents' OPS, 1.39 WHIP.

I'm not saying Andrew Miller is a godsend, but he's been a good fill-in for a #5 starter.  Matsuzaka is a complete bust.  These numbers were put out there in the first place because of the comparisons that have been brought up with both pitchers walking a ton of guys and still getting away with it to a certain extent.  The parallel is a little extreme, because not even the biggest Matsuzaka hater can say these guys are just as bad as each other.

Is the dirision thrown at Matsuzaka because of expectations?  Is this because of money?  A combination?  People like to say in a lot of different cases, "take the money part of it out."  You cannot.  It's impossible. Money is a big part of expectations management.  It's the difference between a temporary stopgap that shouldn't be a permanent fix and a disaster that should be run out of town.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fair and Balanced

Thanks to everyone for reading Monday's post.  Needed to get some of that 46 stuff off my back before writing the binder brigade post you all have been waiting for.

Even I have been impressed by the way 46 has bounced back from his pitiful 2009 and 2010 seasons (correction: he raised his OPS+ from 79 to 97 in September, 2009), and his development as an offensive baseball player has exceeded the expectations of pretty much everyone who doesn't put together three-ring binders for a living.

He is still not a perfect player.  Fact:  He is second in the American League in caught stealing, partially because (at least in my opinion) he's not a great baserunner.  Similarly, the stats indicate that he's a good but not great defensive center fielder, but it's not because he's a smart one.  Hopefully even the binder brigade can admit that 46's speed makes up for deficiencies in other parts of his game.  If he had brains and speed out there in the outfield, he'd be better than Brett Gardner.  But why have brains if you can run fast?

The way 46 has gotten his Adrian Gonzalez on this year has been admirable.  There have been two and only two stretches (plus the night he needed the home run for the cycle) where he fancied himself a power hitter, swung for the fences, and sucked.  The first, of course, was his 10-55, 4 HR start when his inability to get on base was instrumental in the Red Sox' blazing start, and the second coincided with their Memorial Day weekend when they played just about as well as I ran.  The rest of the time, if the home run pitch was there, he went after it and happened to hit a home run.  If the double pitch was there, he went after it and hit the double.  If the single pitch was there, he went after it and got the single before running himself into an out at second base. 

Seriously, it's been awesome.  Especially considering the fact that he is leading off (instead of Drew, which, as you know, has been my enduring recommendation) and is getting these singles and doubles in front of a red hot Gonzalez and Ortiz and, more recently, a red-hot Pedroia, his willingness to go after the pitch that is thrown has been refreshing and productive.  He is not patient at the plate, but I am okay with that.  If he can get on base by getting hits, that's better than walking.  With his lack of patience, he's taking a lot fewer called third strikes down the middle.  The power hitter struck out 21 times in his first 21 games, and the real hitter struck out only 39 times in his last 78 games.

The player has hit according to situations as well, perhaps the best example coming over the weekend with his game-breaking single.  It's been pretty good.

I'm not going to go completely nuts and put 46 into Hall of Fame debates like Steve Buckley once did and like Chad Finn did a couple of hours ago.  But the counting stats are pretty impressive.  You (and I) might see him as a singles hitter, but he's sixth in the league in extra-base hits.  He's sixth in the league in slugging percentage, and third in hits.  Despite hitting in the lineup AFTER players like Drew (.219), Varitek (.236), Crawford (.254), and Scutaro (.260), 46 is one RBI behind David Ortiz.  He's eight RBIs ahead of Pedroia for third on the team.  Adrian Gonzalez's 82 RBIs?  Twenty-six of them are 46. 

It is also of paramount importance to note that 46 currently has the much-celebrated, highly-coveted distinction of (behind Curtis Granderson) having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders.

I'm also not going to go nuts and put him ahead of Gonzalez, Bautista, Granderson, or Miguel Cabrera, because he's having that kind of year.  I also, for the record, don't think Pedroia should have won that MVP a few years ago.  I'll leave that kind of garbage conversation to the people putting together the three-ring binders and ignoring that we're talking about 5/8 of a baseball season.  But I said it in March: I'm being fair and balanced this year. 

You can say the same about 46's game.  It's been fair and balanced.  He's playing the game well on the offensive and defensive side.  While he hasn't been Adrian Gonzalez, he's been good.  All around. 

Front.  AND back.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Murder You Violently in the Info War

One of the more priceless lines of Charlie Sheen's February ranting began to manifest itself in the 2013-2014 offseason war of information last week.  Not a typo.  On Thursday morning, Theo Epstein had an interview with WEEI, much of which was recapped on Pete Abraham's blog.  I feel like the headline, "Red Sox would like to lock up [46] with a long term deal" was something that may have come directly from the team.  The fact that the general manager is talking about this two years and three months in advance is very clear:
Your hero 46, whose OPS+ in his last full season was 79, is gone after 2013.  Time to start training yourself for it.

As many of you know, I stopped referring to 46 by his name in December 2007, not because of any coincidential loyalties I had to Coco Crisp, but because it was a memorable time in baseball history.  As 46's Red Sox were winning Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, Alex Rodriguez announced that he was opting out of his contract.  A move allegedly orchestrated by Scott Boras, Arod decided he was going to upstage the game he played, the game that made him rich, the hand that feeds him, on the biggest night of its season.  Boras took the fall, and many of his customers fired the agent, saying that the way the game was disrespected that night was too much for them to take.

Kenny Rogers is okay with beating his wife, but he is not okay with what Boras did.
Gary Sheffield is okay with steroids and smoking rock with his uncle Dwight Gooden, but he is not okay with what Boras did.

It looked like the super-agent who had made a mockery of the MLB draft and had broken a slew of etiquette rules during his reign as a super-agent in the game, had met his match and was going down.  Then the tide turned, because a player decided, "hey, I'm going to fire my agent and hire you, because I think it's cool that you spit on the game during its biggest stage.  I didn't really care about that World Series I won, because I got a stolen base and won a free taco for everyone."  If that player happened to be some dude on the Cardinals or Rangers, I would have crushed him.  That player, however, happened to be 46.  In my eyes, 46 is the reason Scott Boras still has a job.  Aside over.

The Red Sox know that 46 doesn't give a crap about the well-being of the team and only cares about his future pay.  Seriously, he was a main catalyst in that World Series, so he probably should have cared about what happened that night in 2007.  But that's what pulling a move tells you about a guy's character: he will go beyond the boundaries of good taste to get that paper.  That's why he previously didn't play at 99% during his rib injury debacle last year.  Unlike people who don't regulary read How Youz Doin Baseball or look at birth certificates, the Red Sox know that 46 is turning 28 years old in seven weeks, making him 30 when he is eligible for free agency.  And the Red Sox also know how popular this player is.  Let's put it this way:  somewhere in the Franchise's family, there will be a 5-year-old kid in 2014 with an atypical first name, a name shared with the most reviled player in the city after a contentious contract negotiation.  Poor kid.  Hopefully he just goes by "Jake" by then.

So this is what Theo said:  We've had negotiations, we'll continue to have negotiations, he's the type of player we like to keep around, we'd love to announce he's going to be here for a while.  Translation:  When he leaves, it's not due to our lack of effort.  It's because of the player.  It obviously doesn't make sense for them to reach a conclusion right now, as the player's played out of his mind all season, inflating his value due to a small sample size (Julio Lugo was good for this long before being traded from Tampa to LA in 2006).  But Theo is not completely devoid of intelligent though.  He better start saying that he's trying.

Because we're in the information wars.  And if the Red Sox don't get a head start murdering 46 violently in the information wars, you bet 46 will murder them violently.  We're 27 months out.  46, it's your move.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Perkins Redux

Here's an idea:  The Red Sox have the best record in the American League.  They are getting decent production out of their shortstop position and since the departure of medical staff victim Mike Cameron, they're getting decent production out of their right field position.  Their pitching staff is sort of a wild card because of the sporadic effectiveness of Wakefield and Lackey and the injuries to the three good pitchers on the staff, and losses caused by Bobby Jenks have even been minimized.  Therefore, I have a modest proposal:

Don't trade for anybody.

This team was constructed as the best team in baseball history, correct?  Similar to the Celtics' starting five never losing a playoff series?  Why mess with what has worked so far?  So why are the Red Sox entertaining the thoughts of acquiring...
-An injury-prone guy past his prime who has had a lackluster career since 2004?
-A guy, once heralded as a future star, who has fallen off the face of the earth since 2008, being labeled as a malcontent, a whiner, and a guy who can't accept a role as a role player?  Not to mention the fact that he was relegated in favor of Angel freaking Pagan.  So, in other words, a cranky version of Jeremy Hermida?

Let's start with Francoeur.  Yup, I remember the Sports Illustrated cover, too.  But shortly after that cover came out, this player started hitting .230 for several month long stretches, got traded for next to nothing, got crushed by fans and teammates alike in Atlanta after being traded, pouted again in New York after being benched (for Beltran, funny enough), and then signed a cheap contract with the Royals and has played pretty much to the low contract expectations.  Look at the numbers, folks.  Would this guy give you anything better than the numbers Josh Reddick would give you?  If you are falling in love with the idea of HEY HES A RITEY!!1, we're talking about a guy who could poison a clubhouse if put into a Darnell McDonald-level role.  No thanks, I've already had the Shea Hillenbrand experience.

How about Beltran?  He's not a bad player, but the guy who made about $50 million in a month during October 2004 is NOT the player who made that money.  He's got a contract coming up this winter once again, but injuries have eroded this poor guy's game.  He's leading the NL in doubles, which is sort of intriguing, especially if you translate Citi Field into Fenway Park numbers.  But almost $7 million PLUS a top-tier prospect for potential that would probably max out at the Jason Bay level?  I think enough money is already committed to the right field merry-go-round.  I'd prefer to see what Reddick can do.

A late name thrown out there while I was authoring this post would be Hunter Pence.  That, on the other hand, is salivating.  But Peter Abraham is speculating that the Astros will be looking for too much, and knowing the fact that the Astros have some Red Sox insiders there (specifically their manager), I'm thinking the Astros won't be looking for any "fake" prospects.  Plus, the Red Sox are supposedly very high on two outfielders in their own system right now with Reddick and Ryan Kalish.  Is it worth blocking their way to the position soon to be vacated by Drew?

My suggestion is to not mess with the mojo, very similar to my post about Drew versus Reddick.  Let the hot hand ride out the rest of the season.  When Theo messed with the mojo in the most spectacular way back in 2004 (I was against this trade as well), he did it to fix (his words) a "fatal flaw" defensively.  I don't see such a fatal flaw in this team unless Clay Buchholz is going in for surgery.  There's no reason to shake things up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Most Objective Look Possible

At least the most objective look you can get out of The GM.  It's time to forget the Second-Highest OPS of All AL Outfielders, forget the grand slam, forget the contract, forget the 440 weak ground balls to the right side, forget the Matt Joyce foul ball when instinct took over, forget the 1997 draft, and forget June 2008.  Right now the Red Sox are at a crossroads with JD Drew, and they have to make the decision regarding this guy about what they want to do with him. 

Josh Reddick, in limited playing time of course, has overwhelmingly exceeded JD Drew's rate stats (Drew's OPS+ is 74 right now, by the way).  The thing is, Drew's been so hideously bad in his last season before certain retirement that in that limited time, Reddick has come close to Drew's counting stats as well.  Reddick's 13 extra-base hits in 79 AB has exceeded Drew's eleven in 233 AB.  Drew still maintains a four-RBI lead, 22 to 18. 

The "objective" part of this is that I am not willing to release Drew and pay him the remaining $5,703,703.70 due to him on his contract.  (Remember how after 2009, Theo Epstein said that he was still worth "a tick" over $14 million a year due to stuff like "underlying performance?"  Those days were fun.)  Drew is currently an important bench player if the Red Sox need a bases-empty walk to start a rally late against a bad right-handed pitcher down the stretch.  And what if one of the Red Sox' good outfielders gets injured or decides he needs a month or two of heliotherapy down in Arizona?  That's where Drew fills a gap.  If you release him, who of value fills the roster spot?  If you play him, what value do you get out of him?  Nothing.  So you sit him.  That's where JD Drew's maximized value is.

It's not like JD Drew is going to be pissed off about sitting on the bench.  It's not like he's ever had any kind of ego or has ever played like he has something to prove.  Like Peter Gibbons, baseball has given him the motivation to work just hard enough to not get fired.  He's gotten on these quick spurts of actually performing shortly after people started to get on him on talk radio and the newspapers, and then has gone back into hibernation.  The hibernation started during the losing streak this year, and he hasn't kicked it.  People have been crushing him for a while now, and there haven't been any of these spurts.  The closest Drew has come to putting together a respectable stretch was an 11-game stretch where he hit .303 in May.  His longest hitting streak has been seven games.  Woof.  But benching this guy isn't going to light a fire under his rear end, as it hasn't yet.  It's not going to let him pout either, as he seems to like to take days off for no reason.  It's just what he is - a bench player.

Francona has done this before when he benched Coco Crisp for much of the home stretch in 2007, and then reversed the curse on 46 when he was pathetically bad in 2008.  Both players provided something of value to the team as bench players, and Drew can do the same thing while playing behind a superior player in Josh Reddick.  Reddick might not be the long term answer for the Red Sox, as some of his previous stretches with the big club have looked painfully bad.  I say "painfully" because I've been waiting a long time for this guy to replace Drew, and it seemed the day would never come. 

That day has come, but I'm not under the delusion that it's permanent.  If Reddick returns to earth or, even worse, goes Jed Lowrie on us for the month of August, JD Drew should still be there, ready to pitch in and ride into the sunset with some dignity.  After all, he can raise his OPS to "a tick" over league average in only a few at-bats.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Two Guys, One Injury

No guys, I'm not making any snarky comments about legions of athletes who have shown up to work despite sore ribs.  At least not today.  I think it's notable to keep score especially tonight, on the eve of Yao Ming's anticipated retirement announcement and in the middle of Dustin Pedroia's hot streak.

As you will remember from this offseason, there were a lot of people concerned about Pedroia's long-term health, as his injury was the same injury as the one as Yao's.  Granted, Pedroia is not a 7'5" Chinese dude who likes to write checks, already got directions on his own GPS device, and plays a sport that requires such constant ankle, foot, and even knee manipulation that you saw my co-author and at least one of my commentors walk around campus like Andre Dawson by the time they were seniors.

But still.  Same injury.  Never healed.  Took about ten years of drinking Sprite for Grant Hill's injury (same one) to heal and for him to be a half-decent player again.  If I didn't take the year off from fantasy baseball, I would have avoided Pedroia like the plague for these very reasons.  I probably would have selected Mike Cameron knowing how I recovered from his injury as well, but that would have turned out poorly.

But here he is.  He's back close to hitting .300 again, and if you prorate his stats thus far over 162, he's on pace to hit .295/24/90 with 40 doubles and an OPS of .870.  His 2009 stats were .296/15/72 with 48 doubles and an OPS of .817.  He will not play 162 or even the 154 he played in 2009, but the bottom line is, these stats are only a hair below his MVP season.  The player's just fine.  Since June 10 (yeah, over a month), he's running an OPS of 1.16, nine home runs, 13 doubles, and a batting average of a silly .379.  Let's face it, the guy who had the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders is not the reason the Red Sox still have that slim lead in the East.  It's probably not even Gonzalez over the last three weeks.  It's Pedroia.

Meanwhile, it's sad to see the end of Yao's career.  I went to his first game in Boston and was one of two white guys in a balcony section, surrounded by Chinese guys.  (My tour guide, one of my friends from high school, held a sign that said "Add Gas," or, in other words "Go.")  He seemed like a charismatic player and he opened up the idea of American basketball to a whole new niche of fans.  He wrote checks, never got lost while driving in new places, never punched any fans, never sexually assaulted anyone in Colorado, never held a self-promoting television special, never compared his bowling to the Special Olympics (was that Lebron or Obama?), and had a decent (but not great) career in the NBA.

Then he hurt his foot, and it was all over.

As Red Sox fans, we should all watch the Yao retirement tomorrow and be happy that this is not Dustin Pedroia.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Great Game

Lots of things to say about last night's game, but I'll try to focus on just a few:

1.  Josh Beckett.  It's fun to think that the Beckett that's shown up this year is the real Josh Beckett, but let's be serious here.

2.  Alfredo Aceves.  Other than Saltalamacchia, he might be my favorite player on the team.  He'd play right field if asked.  Thing is, he can actually pitch quality innings, too.

3.  JP Howell and Jake McGee.  If they were Red Sox, the way they just came in and walked guys, I'd be on this blog asking for their DFA. 

4.  The Red Sox' incompetence in capitalizing off of Howell and McGee sucking.  That's inexcusable.

5.  Adrian Gonzalez and Bobby Valentine.  This was an interesting storyline.  I think it was in the eighth, Pedroia was on second with no outs.  Gonzalez chased the first pitch and flew out to left field, failing to advance the runner.  Valentine crushed him for that.  What I found strange about it was that players do that kind of dumb crap all the time.  I think that's the situation every time JD Drew swings at the first pitch.  And I've never seen anyone get killed for several innings for a semi-dumb move like that.  Perhaps Gonzalez is so freaking good that he's held to a higher standard than anyone else.  Yikes.  Tough crowd.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Viable Alternatives

Lots of all-star break chatter on sports radio was dominated by the upcoming offseason and whether the Red Sox will - or should - re-sign or try to re-sign two cornerstone public figures on their baseball team.  Let's go one by one:

SHOULD THE RED SOX SIGN DAVID ORTIZ?

I'm not one to forget much, other than the locations of my keys, wallet, and phone.  Therefore, I do not forget April and May 2009 and April and May 2010.  Those were embarrassing.  With the exception of basically those three and a half months (he was okay by mid-May 2010), there was never a point in David Ortiz's steroid-fueled Red Sox career that sucked.  He got some crap about being in decline in 2007 because he didn't hit 50 home runs like he did in 2006.  Yup, when you're hitting .330, you deserve to have people talk about how terrible you are.  Other than the 3.5 months that very well may cost David Ortiz several million dollars on the open market this offseason, the worst we've ever seen of this player might be right now.

He does not suck right now.  He's an All-Star, and a deserving one except for the fact that he was a heinous steroid abuser.  He is, however, in a DH market and only a DH market.  That market has been extremely unkind to players in the past several off-seasons.  Adam Dunn got paid, I guess.  And Guerrero's $8m wasn't bad.  But the very same option Ortiz was crying about (this is COMPLETELY aligned with the stuff Pat was talking about this week about Ortiz still being a superstar in his own mind) in November was something that any rational thinker would have considered a gift by February.

WILL THE RED SOX SIGN DAVID ORTIZ?

Probably.  They have money coming off the books, getting rid of Ortiz's own $12 million, Drew's $14 million, and a few other pieces here and there.  Look, there's talk about another team that might offer Ortiz the 3-4 years and $45 million he wants.  There's only one team in baseball history that would have done that, and that team is the 2006 New York Yankees.  Brian Cashman doesn't do that kind of stuff anymore unless the Steinbrenner brothers really have their foot in the middle.  The Red Sox have money to burn and no better alternative for the next two years.  Lance Berkman?  More sucky seasons than Ortiz over the last however many years.  Jim Thome?  Doubt it.  None of these other potential free agents can touch what Ortiz would do in a realistic scenario.  This isn't even factoring in John Henry's soft spot.

SHOULD THE RED SOX SIGN JONATHAN PAPELBON?

Pat wrote some things about Papelbon's numbers a few days back, but to be honest, he has not sucked this year.  He's been an above average major league closer once again.  He's better than any reasonable internal option the team has at this time.  The rest of the potential free agent list is littered with names like Rafael Betancourt, Mike Gonzalez, (possibly) Joe Nathan, Chad Qualls, Fernando Rodney, Francisco Rodriguez (I think), and Joel Zumaya.  There's a lot out there.  But are any of those guys more likely to put up better numbers than Jonathan Papelbon?  Probably not.

However, Papelbon will demand an unprecedented contract for a position that can be extremely volatile from year to year.  And the Rodriguez contract has proven that there will almost always be a team stupid enough to do that kind of thing.  If someone else wants to take him for five years and $50-60 million, the Red Sox should not just walk away.  They should run away and roll the dice on one of these other guys - except for maybe Gonzalez after what's done down this last weekend.  If affordable for four years or less, I'm okay with bringing him back.

WILL THE RED SOX SIGN JONATHAN PAPELBON?

Seems like the team has had enough of his crap.  They also seem to know the contract demands, and I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't devote time to re-signing this guy.  The Boy Wonder and his stat nerds have a defined value for this player, and I feel like their number and the player's number are too far apart.  Be prepared to hold your breath until the Red Sox develop another guy like this.  Let's take the next couple of months trying to pronounce Ranaudo.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pivotal

Another blast from the past:
Imagine if Jason Varitek ends up getting 300-325 at-bats this year. Not good, because he's really only good for about 200 at-bats a year. I have a strong feeling that from at-bats 201 and beyond, Varitek's batting average is .175 at best. (My apologies for not actually looking this up - the 2008 version of me would have.) It's like Pedro Martinez 2003 after pitch 105.


If Jarrod Saltalamacchia can't provide a trustworthy level of production on both sides of the ball, the Red Sox' catching position could be a serious, serious problem. Not that I think this will make the Red Sox an 85-win team. But if Saltalamacchia is below-average and unreliable enough that Varitek requires more than 200 at-bats, the team's catching position will revert to its 2008 level. A scary proposition. The only Varitek any of us - including Varitek himself according to his recent NESN appearances - want to see from here on in is Varitek, Backup Catcher.

Perhaps the single most important thing from the first half that will affect the second half is the emergence of Jarrod Saltalamacchia as an above-average major league catcher.  He started out in the exact way that would have made all of our worst fears (described above) come true.  But here we are, halfway through July, and the Red Sox have the third- and fourth-best catchers in the AL on their rosters with a certain number of at-bats (don't know the number of at-bats, as I heard this stat on the radio).  Their OPSes are .757 and .773, both above league average.  It's been more than half the season and Varitek's only come to the plate 150 times over more than half the season, with one third of those PAs taking place in May when Saltalamacchia was really struggling. 

The catcher position is hitting .251 with eleven home runs and 42 RBIs.  The strikeout totals are 87, which is very high, but let's say Varitek got as many at-bats this year as he did in 2009.  He'd literally give you a .130 batting average through the end of the season.  Saltalamacchia seems to be a guy who has his ups and downs, but he is hitting .272 since April 30th and a staggering .301 since June 1st!  So here's the bottom line:

1.  Saltalamacchia has been awesome and a direct contributor to the success of the Red Sox in the first half.
2.  Saltalamacchia's awesome-ness has indirectly contributed to the success of the Red Sox in both the first and second halves, because Jason Varitek still has some gas left in the tank for when he's needed.  If Saltalamacchia hadn't put forward a solid B+ effort so far, his at-bats would have been worthless and Varitek's at-bats starting right about now would have been worthless.

It's been a long time since I advocated his trade to the Red Sox for Clay Buchholz.  They got him on the cheap, but he arrived as the player we all thought he would be.  Welcome.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Here's a Quick Solution

-Kevin Gregg: We want to get outs, right? There's no reason to sign this guy. He has NEVER been under 3.40 for a full year. He has been walking guys at an alarming rate or giving up homers at an alarming rate his entire career.

That was a classic line from last offseason.  I only like to re-hash old posts when they make me look smart.  But this guy is a joke.  Friday night's game was pretty silly with Gregg going after Ortiz three times.  Shows how good relief pitchers like Gregg actually are - they have a target as large and as immobile as David Ortiz is, and he still repeatedly misses hitting him.  That's disgusting.  And this is the third team in the American League East now with whom the Red Sox have had multiple brawls since 2001.  They've had multiple altercations with the Yankees, Orioles, and Rays. 

Since the historic Red Sox fireworks in 2004, the Yankees have had bench-clearing incidents with each of their AL East cohabitants, including a melee with the Rays in spring training.  This makes me think: If baseball is committed to ridding the game of violence, what can they do?

How about bringing back the traditional schedule?  Currently, these teams play each other nineteen times, which is more than enough time for each team to exact revenge on each other over and over and over again.  If you think there won't be violence between the Red Sox and Orioles in their next series later this month, you're wrong.  I'm not going to pretend that sparks don't fly outside the division, but if the Sox and Angels go at it in April, they have a few months to diffuse it.  With the traditional schedule, they'd probably have plenty of time to diffuse it anyway.

I cited the year 2001 because that's the year the unbalanced schedule started.  Due to the unbalanced schedule and the commissioner's office to perpetuate natural rivalries like Marlins-Mariners, baseball has sprung all sorts of leaks, with the popping up of intra-division brawls, especially in the second half of the season (remember how much the Reds and Cardinals love each other?) being just another symptom of a stupid problem.

Bringing back the traditional schedule would solve the following, the last of which also has some relevance tonight, because I bet you're not staying up any later than you otherwise would tonight.

1.  Intradivision violence and overall violence.
2.  The lost art of the west coast trip (something discussed last summer).
3.  Players crying about the DH despite a $180 million payroll.
4.  The cheapening of intradivision rivalries.
5.  Lack of parity in schedule strength for wild card and interleague considerations.
6.  The "foreign" aspect of the All-Star Game and World Series.  Free agency will continue to water this down, but that's somewhat inevitable.  This is a quick and easy fix.  But you're not watching tonight because it's just not as cool anymore.  There's no pride and no sense of league supremacy.  Dumb interleague games are a reason for that.

I've written it before, but only probably about two of these six problems before tonight.  But it's time to get rid of the interleague experiment and time to abolish the unbalanced schedule.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Play When I Wanna Play

I've heard that the Red Sox, as constructed, were destined to take their place on Immortality Peak and unseat the 1927 Yankees as the greatest team of all time.

This might be true.  As Eric Ortiz infamously predicted, with a healthy Beckett, Pedroia, and 46, this team is a pretty good baseball team.  Perhaps they are the best team ever.  Looks like that right now, as they have pulled off the following stretches of wins:

8 out of 9
13 out of 15
12 out of 13
9 out of 10

Please note that none of these stretches overlap each other.  These stretches account for 42 of the Red Sox' 53 wins.  The rest of the stretches, of course, they are 9-28.  You can accuse me of saying that the team is 0-35 in games when they aren't winning, but this is four hot streaks accounting for nearly 80% of the wins.  This team either sweeps series or loses them - it's like they can't win two of three.

This is at least a small indicator that the 2011 Red Sox, while they could be the best team of all time, has a switch very much like the 2009-10 Celtics or Randy Moss, as they play when they wanna play.  I'm starting to think that the Red Sox might very well be significantly better than the Yankees - more than the paltry one-game lead they have - and the Yankees are just plain better than the teams they play.  The Yankees play a more even brand of baseball, as Pat had pointed out about a month ago, and this has remained true until they decided they want to take a vacation from losing throughout July.

During their losing streaks, the Red Sox have exhibited sloppiness, bad pitching, questionable managerial moves (such as making the entire Pittsburgh series a "sandwich game" before playing Philadelphia, and lack of focus, instead of crying about how their lives suck or how the team is suffering from a competitive disadvantage against the Pirates.  As you guys who have been reading this for a while know, that drives me absolutely nuts.  JD has done this his entire career.  Not completely different, 46 goes through these stretches where he thinks he's a power hitter (nice at-bat while trying to complete that cycle on Saturday...swing for the fences much?), and the times when 46 is playing for the fantasy stats instead of playing within his abilities seems to be coinciding with the times they're scuffling.

Not that this should be much of a surprise.  At the beginning of the season, there was a question of whether this team is "hungry."  A lot of them have already won titles.  Almost all of them have big contracts.  One of them is JD Drew.  I feel like if this team could keep the focus, they really could run up the score on the American League East, including a very good Yankees team.  It's very good fortune for everyone else that the Red Sox only play when they wanna play.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DJ3K

Congrats to Derek Jeter, the 28th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 career hits. This is an incredible accomplishment, and Jeter is certainly deserving both of the achievement as well as the attention and praise he is getting as a result.

It obviously couldn't have happened in a much more special way. Becoming the only player besides Wade Boggs to get 3,000 on a homer, doing it off one of the game's better pitchers, with the entire stadium chanting the familiar "Deh-rek Jee-ter", it being an absolute no doubter to the left field bleachers, as part of a 5-5 day including the game winning hit in the 8th. When you look back at all of the big days he has had as a Yankee and as a baseball player, it seemed fitting. It was a career day in a career filled with career days, so as amazing as it was it wasn't even all that surprising.

when you think about how long this game has been played and that only 27 people before him have reached this milestone, you get a sense for how incredible an accomplishment this is. When you look at the names of those 27 players, you get a sense for how incredible an accomplishment this is. 24 of the 27 are in the Hall of Fame, and the three that aren't either aren't eligible or aren't in because of a controversy. When you look at the history of the Yankees, how long this franchise has been at the top of the sport, and how many of the games all-time great players they've had that have propelled them to the top, and consider that no Yankee before Jeter has ever done it, you really get a sense for how incredible an accomplishment it is.

As Jeter himself said at one point, it's hard to get 200 hits in a season. Only a handful of guys do it every year. You have to average 200 hits for 15 seasons to get to 3,000. That's even harder.

And yet Jeter has made it look relatively easy all along. Up until these last two years, he's been a model of consistency. In the 14 years between his rookie year in 1996 and 2009, he never hit below .291, and hit .300 or better in 11 of those 14 years. His quadruple slash line over that period was .318/.388/.459/.848. He averaged 16 homers and 31 doubles per season.

While all of those numbers are from very good to excellent, especially for a shortstop, the only thing that really jumps out at you is the hits. That's the part of it, at least for me, that makes Jeter so special. He played almost his entire career in the height of the PED age, and he was a throwback. In an era where players were bigger and home runs were bigger, Jeter was almost a throwback. He just kept racking up hits. While balls were flying out of the park at record pace, Jeter was busy getting more hits than any of those guys, as he has had more hits than any active player since his career started for quite some time now.

Getting 3,000 hits, while obviously supreme in its own right, also serves to reinforce what kind of player Derek Jeter has been. And that's awesome.

I was a very young baseball fan when Derek Jeter was a rookie. He's my favorite athlete ever, in any sport. I've had the pleasure of seeing or hearing on the radio a vast majority of his 3,003 hits. For all of these reasons any many more, this carries a little extra significance, as I'm sure it does for many Yankees and Jeter fans.

It's been frustrating at times to see a player who has meant this much have his game decline the last 1.5 years. But yesterday was an awesome reminder of what a spectacular career he has had, filled with a lot of days just like yesterday, where you find yourself almost laughing at how good he is, how he always got it done in the big spots, how he elevated his game when the stage was greatest. It's not so much the case anymore, but I've had many fans of other teams - people that really don't like the Yankees and some that really don't like Jeter - that they never liked facing him late in games with the game on the line, because they always felt like he was going to get a hit. Up until the last little bit, he was always the guy I wanted up in those same spots. That's one of the biggest compliments you can give in my book. And it makes a lot of sense, looking back at it now, to not want to face him as the opposition and to want him up as a Yankees fan, because he was getting hits at a higher frequency than anybody else in the game.

And hey, in 6 games since coming off the DL he has 4 doubles and a homer, which represents almost half of the extra base hits he had in 62 games before going on the DL (12). I said after the 2009 bounceback from his 2008 season that I was never going to count Derek Jeter out until he retired. Even if the evidence is overwhelming that he should be counted out at some point, yesterday was a reminder as to why I won't.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Baseball Roundup

I don't get too worked up about All-Star selections, because there are always going to be snubs. Some are more egregious than others, and while the egregious ones often make no sense at all, at the end of the day it's not that big of a deal. This is especially true for the Yankees who typically have more All-Stars than anybody else. That's the case again this year with 6. As usual, they had a few in contention who didn't make it: Sabathia, Teixeira, and Robertson.

Teixeira I understand. He lead the majors in homers at the times selections, and is Top 5 in RBI. His OBP and SLG are very good, and would be excellent if his average wasn't so poor. Average is hardly the most important thing (especially for a guy like Teixeria, whose job is to hit homers and drive in runs not put up impressive triple-slash stats, those are just a bonus), but you have to have distinguish these guys somehow. Especially at first base, a crowded position, especially in the AL. On most other teams he probably makes it, but totally understandable that he wouldn't on the Yankees at that position.

Robertson I also understand. His numbers are as deserving as anyone in the game at any position, so unlike Teixeira there is no performance rationalization, even a relative one like Teixeira's. But a set-up man isn't going to make it on the Yankees in most cases unless the Yankees' manager is picking the team and can take care of his own guys. There are too many other teams that need to get a single representative on the roster, going to be tough for the Yankees to get a set-up man on. If anyone has ever been proof of this, it's Robertson and his 1.05 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 34.1 innings. I get it though, completely.

Sabathia I do not understand. He leads the AL in wins with 12 (11 at the time of the selection). He has a 2.90 ERA. He's Top 5 in the league in strikeouts. He is the best starter on the best team in the league to date. He is a clearly better candidate than some of the manager's selections, importantly including certain guys from teams who already had representatives. But here's the real kicker: he is scheduled to pitch on Sunday, which would automatically DQ him from the All-Star Game. This makes it a no-brainer for Ron Washington. You name Sabathia, he becomes an All-Star in title, and you immediately get to name his replacement. So Washington gets the guys he wants for whatever reason, and does the right thing with Sabathia at the same time. The All-Star Game is all about recognizing guys for this season. But even if Sabathia wasn't the most deserving pitcher left off this year (he likely is), you want to give a little extra consideration to guys who are among the games elite every year. Sabathia has unequivocally been the best overall pitcher in the American League the last five seasons, so you give him the nod. He's a guy that should be involved in the All-Star Game. Especially when he's not even eligible to pitch, you give him the honor of being named and then get someone else in the game. Bad job here.

This hasn't been much of a roundup, more All-Star focused, but a few other quick thoughts.

Good to see Papelbon back to his old ways. He's already given up more runs that he did in 3 separate full seasons, and is on pace to go over 30 for the second consecutive year. Considering closers are usually somewhere in the 60's in terms if innings pitched, that's not good. At all. I know Papelbon is the closer, and has been for a long time. It's tough to pull a guy in the middle of a season because of the fallout. But Daniel Bard hasn't allowed an earned run since May. When you look at their bodies of work the last 1.5 seasons it's not even close. No matter what they decide to do, it wouldn't hurt for someone to help Papelbon with pitch selection. When you're struggling you don't need to throw 0-2 fastballs like Papelbon did on the single that resulted in the play at the play last night, a pitched that was called with CAPTAIN VARITEK BEHIND THE PLATE. Papelbon has always had poor pitch selection in my opinion (I always go back to that 0-2 fastball he threw Rodriguez in the zone in June 2007 with nobody on and two outs in a tie game, when Rodriguez was on that absolute tear. Rodriguez promptly deposited it to right center to put the Yankees up 1 and they went on to win. Absolutely senseless to not try to get Rodriguez to chase there, and there are plenty more examples like this.) but he could get away with it more when he was a better pitcher. He needs better pitch selection now.

Finally (and sorry for the length, I haven't had a chance to post as much lately so getting some thoughts I've had recently out now), I remember thinking back in the middle of May, when Gonzalez had been going off for a few weeks, that Teixeira was getting outplayed. Badly. Almost like he was getting called out (even though obviously he wasn't.). Since May 19, just after that first Boston sweep at Yankee Stadium when Gonzalez went bananas, Teixeira has hit 16 home runs and driven in 43 in 43 games. That's what I'm talking about as far as an answer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some Guys Just Can't Handle Lake Buena Vista

Bringing back a classic picture in honor of the fact that I'm currently in Lake Buena Vista.  Consider it an installment in "The Best Of HYD Baseball." 



Just wanted to let you know that after three days so far at Lake Buena Vista and drinking the water here, I did just take a look at the numbers from 2006 and before from Julio Lugo and JD Drew.  They didn't look like anything worth a combined nine years and $106 million.  So it wasn't just something in the water.  A 63-game sample of good baseball with Tampa Bay does not mean you're a good baseball player.  Jed Lowrie can put up those numbers, and he did this year.

I'll be checking in sporadically.  Feel free to leave your comments.