Monthly Archives: May 2013

High Five!

I love Koji Uehara and apparently so does Shane Victorino. Check out his goofy grin after Uehara whacks him for not paying attention.

Here is some food for thought:

  • The Sox have two guys in the AL top 10 in strikeouts – Mike Napoli is second with 66 and Will Middlebrooks is ninth with 54. Chris Carter leads the league with 70.
  • The Sox have two players in the top ten in OBP – Dustin Pedroia is tied for 3rd at .417 and Daniel Nava is 9th at .400. Neither, ahem, bat lead off.
  • As a left handed batter in 2013 against right handed pitching, Salty is hitting at a .303/.374/.562 clip. He does not get enough love from Sox nation. He compares favorably with two other AL switch hitting catchers in the same data set:
    • Carlos Santana – .293/.440/.533
    • Matt Weiters – .212/.276/.398
  • The Sox (437) trail only the Tigers (438) in pitching strikeouts. They led the AL in strikeouts in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2010.
  • Since his disastrous outing for the Sox on May 8, Allen Webster has made two starts for the Pawsox, winning both. He’s missing bats, but struggling a bit with his control:
    • 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 5 SO
    • 5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 HR, 5 BB, 7 SO
  • The Sox have used kid gloves with Rubby De La Rosa. His starts have slowly increased from 2 innings to 3 and now 4. His last three four inning starts:
    • 4 IP, 3H, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 6 SO
    • 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 7 SO
    • 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 3 SO
  • Our old crazy drinking buddy, Alfredo Aceves, has made 4 starts in Pawtucket. He is 3-1 with 23 IP, 22 H, 11 BB, 21 SO. Not sure that’s worth much in trade value.
  • I’ve been espousing Daniel Nava as lead off batter. No one seems to be listening. Ellsbury and his pathetic .317 OBP still tops the order. Okay, maybe the Sox need a new suggestion. This is one they might actually pay attention to – recall Jackie Bradley Jr. and bat him lead off. In his last ten games he is hitting at a .300/.391/.475 clip. He is in the midst of an 8 game hit streak. I doubt the Sox will make this move, they have too many outfielders as is.
  • Will Middlebrooks (5th round in ’07 – just ahead of Anthony Rizzo), Ryan Lavarnway (6th round in ’08), Jackie Bradley Jr. (1st round supplemental in ’11) and Alex Wilson (2nd round in ’09) are the only Sox draftees since 2007 to get time with the big club.
  • The above is not all that unusual. The Rays have only had Price and Moore reach the bigs since 2007. The Yankees have only had David Phelps and Adam Warren make any big league impact. That just goes to show how much time players spend in the minors and how little return on investment there is. We are nearly six years out from the ’07 draft and not tons of impact felt by many teams – keep in mind top level first round picks don’t end up with the Sox or Yankees, or even the Rays in the past three years. You want an impact player? Stink, so you can draft high. See the Washington Nationals.

Between all the expected rain drops, the Sox need some wins this weekend. It is hard to believe, but I am comforted by the fact we have Lackey on the mound tonight. He has pitched pretty well so far this season. Masterson, though, has been on fire. Last year in his only start at Fenway, he lasted six innings and gave up six runs. He seems, however, to be a different pitcher this year. We can only hope he doesn’t like tossing in the rain.

Then on Sunday we need Lester to do his usual and Scott “Rock the” Kazmir to be the pumpkin he is.

Go Sox!

 

 

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Sox finally notch a win …

Stephen Drew and Dustin Pedroia are carrying the load. In the last two weeks:

Rk G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Dustin Pedroia 12 48 8 19 4 1 5 5 6 .396 .453 .542 .994
2 Stephen Drew 11 39 4 13 3 2 9 5 10 .333 .409 .564 .973
Team Total 124 410 45 101 27 13 45 36 93 .246 .311 .412 .723
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2013.

If only we could clone these two.

40 games into the season (hard to believe that the 2013 season is nearly 25% complete), here is how the 2013 Sox compare to other teams in the century:

Year Record thru 40 Run differential Season Total Finished
2002    29-11 89 93-69 2
2007    28-12 77 96-66 1 – WS
2003    26-14 32 95-67 2 – Wildcard
2006    25-15 31 86-76 3
2000    25-15 85 85-77 2
2008    24-16 31 95-67 2 – Wildcard
2004    24-16 37 98-64 2 – WS
2009    24-16 24 95-67 2 – Wildcard
2001    23-17 58 82-79 2
2005    23-17 30 95-67 2 – Wildcard
2013    23-17 25
2011    20-20 -6 90-72 3
2010    20-20 -8 89-73 3
2012    19-21 13 69-93 5

Does this tell us anything? No. Just thought it would be nice to see how this start stacks up.

The Sox rank last in OBP by third basemen:

  • Sox .245 (Middlebrooks)(24 years old)
  • Astros .259 (Dominguez)(23)
  • Jays .268 (Lawrie)(23)
  • Royals .272 (Moustakas)(24)
  • White Sox .287 (Gillaspie)(25)

Bill James’ Total Runs stat has these guys ranked like this:

  • Moustakas : 11
  • Middlebrooks : 13
  • Lawrie : 17
  • Dominguez : 20
  • Gillaspie : 21

To put this in perspective, so far this season Manny Machado has a total runs scored value of 44, Evan Longoria is at 40, Miguel Cabrera is at 39, and Jayson Nix, playing third for the Yankees, has a value of 18. Will Middelbrooks is a big problem for the Red Sox, even with his double and homer from last night. Is the guy we want at third base for the next five years? I think not, but I don’t see that he Sox have any immediate alternative. How can the Red Sox brain trust have let this happen? Where was Bill James?

Should John Farrell give Ciriaco some more time at third? In 100 fewer ABs Ciriaco has drawn 1 more walk then Middlebrooks. This is not to say I want Ciriaco at third, it just shows you how bad Middlebrooks has been. I guess I need to accept that Middlebrooks is our next Butch Hobson. That is not a comforting thought.

* * *

Let’s try a troubling “Guess the player”:

Player A 150 AB at leadoff, .253/.323/.387, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 20 RS

Player B 189 AB at leadoff, .256/.323/.360, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 23 RS

Player A makes 2.85 million and is a free agent in 2015. Player B makes 9 million and is up for free agency. Would you pay either of these guys 15 million a year for five years?

Player A is Brett Gardner

Player B is Jacoby Ellsbury

Scott Boras is going to have a difficult time selling this picture. There is a 0% chance Ellsbury returns to the Sox in 2014.

Near perfection!

Jon Lester was on last night, tossing his first complete game shutout in five years (Game Score was 90). In the history of the organization, there have only been four other 1 hit, no walk shutouts:

  • Pedro in 2000 v. the Rays (Game Score – 98)
  • Hideo Nomo in 2001 v. the Jays (Game Score – 99)
  • Curt Schilling in 2007 v. the A’s (Game Score – 89)
  • Josh Beckett v. the Rays in 2011 (Game Score – 91)

To put this game in perspective, there have only been 8 Red Sox games where a pitcher has only allowed one baserunner. Lester was not perfect, but he was good and hard hit balls were right at defenders. Isn’t it always the case that the lightest hitter on a team seems to be the one to break up a no hitter or a perfect game? Last night it was Maicer Izturis, who is hitting .219/.246/.333 in 120 PA this year. He’s not a bad hitter, but there seems to be some cosmic joke out there when the ninth batter breaks up a perfect game bid. Granted, it was only the sixth inning, but the game had the feel that something special was possible.

The Sox, though, still do not have a perfect game in their history.

The worry for me last night during the game was partly for Lester’s perfect bid but also for the Sox hitters against the pathetic Ramon Ortiz. He topped out at 89 and was throwing junk. They had lots of men on base but could not do much with their opportunities through the first six innings. It was not until their four run seventh that fans could breath easier. Some of the issues:

  • In May, Ellsbury’s OBP is .271. Victorino’s is .419.
  • In May, Ortiz is hitting .171/.237/.343.
  • In the last seven days, Napoli’s slash line is .182/.250/.227.

One good pitching outing can make the team look great. But, the problems have not been solved. I think Farrell needs to consider moving Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot. In his career, Ellsbury gets on at a .341 clip as a leadoff hitter. That’s acceptable, but not spectacular. This year he is getting on at a .318 rate as leadoff hitter. That puts the Sox 21st out of 30 MLB teams and 11 out of 15 in the AL.

The top 5 in the AL:

  1. Oak – .392
  2. Tex – .373
  3. Hou – .367
  4. Bal – .359
  5. Cle – .355

The bottom five in the AL:

  1. Min – .238
  2. Tor – .287
  3. CHW – .288
  4. Sea – .317
  5. Sox – .318

Farrell could put Victorino in there, but Victorino is only a career .320 OBP leadoff guy. Here is a novel idea – try Nava at leadoff. He has done it in 27 games and gets on at a .352 clip.

A new order for Farrell:

  1. Nava
  2. Pedroia (your best guy should bat second)
  3. Ortiz
  4. Napoli
  5. Salty
  6. Victorino
  7. Ellsbury
  8. Middlebrooks
  9. Drew

If Ellsbury wants his big free agent payday, he needs to start performing. A drop in the order might be the kick in the pants he needs. Since the start of the 2012 season he has done this:

.267/.314/.367 with 5 HR, 38 RBI

That is not a player you pay big money, even with Scott Boras’ help.

Ramon Ortiz? He’s still playing?

It’s a new day. The sun is shining and the struggling Toronto Blue Jays are in town. The Jays are 4-10 in their last four series (NYY, Bos, Sea, TB). Comforting for the Sox but lets not forget that the Sox are 1-6 in their last two series. A series of scuffling teams. But …

… there is a bright side for the Sox, the Jays are in such a desperate pitching situation (DL for Josh Johnson, horrible injury to JA Happ, and Ricky Romero sent down to AAA) that Ramon Ortiz will take the mound to open the series.

Ramon Ortiz. Remember him? He’s 40. He’s pitched for like a dozen major league teams and has a career ERA of 4.93. I forgot he was still in the majors and was stunned to see he was the starting pitcher tonight.

What’s he been up to?

2012 – Entire year for Yankees AAA team, 13-6 with a 3.45 ERA
2011 – Cubs, he started two games and threw 33 innings of 4.86 ERA
2010 – Dodgers, he again started two games and threw 30 innings of 6.30 ERA
2008-2009 – Pitched in Japan and then jumped around the minors from the Giants to Dodgers to Mets to Rays.

This is the best the Jays can do? After all the off season wheeling and dealing the Jays engaged in they don’t have any depth on the mound? Alex Anthopoulos should be ashamed. No pitching depth and he rehired the mediocre John Gibbons (a 318-326 record as a manager). This is a team I have grown to dislike and I can’t imagine Jays fans are too happy.

This is one game where there is some pressure on the Sox to win. Anytime you see Ramon Ortiz take the mound, you should be rushing to the plate.

I went to a baseball game and a football game broke out …

Debacle – a sudden and ignominious failure, a great disaster.

In the history of the Red Sox, only 33 times have they given up 15 or more runs, 20 or more hits, with 2 or fewer home runs. Last night was one of those 33. By the time the Twins had finished their half of the second inning, the Sox were down 11-5. Either this was going to be a back and forth mashathon or the Sox were in for a long night. It was the latter. My neck hurt from watching balls fly over or bounce off the Green Monster.

Allen Webster most certainly experienced some whiplash last night. He is only the sixteenth player in Red Sox history to start a game, last two or fewer innings and give up 8 or more runs. Take some comfort though, that list has some good names on it.

On another down note, Ortiz went 0-5 and snapped his 27 game hit streak. It was a downer all around.

The Sox and Twins finish their four game series tonight with a John Lackey/Kevin Correia matchup. Lackey has gradually increased his pitch count this season from 77 to 81 to 98. With last night’s shellacking, the Sox coaching staff will be praying for a clean, long outing from Lackey. In his career pitching at Fenway, though, Lackey has thrown nearly 270 innings with a 21-17 record and a 5.37 ERA. That does not bode well.

On the flip side, Kevin Correia has only tossed one inning at Fenway in his career. He’s been remarkably/surprisingly good so far this year. History tells us though that he is not a sub 3.00 ERA pitcher. In fact, he hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2009. Correia’s walk rate is way down this year (his proximity to Scott Diamond seems to have rubbed off in a positive way) as is his batting average on balls in play – .269 vs. his historical average of .293. He’s also stranding runners at an historically high clip – 82.6% as opposed to his last four year’s percentage of 71, 68, 69, 69. It may not be tonight, but he’s due for a correction.

These are some worrisome times for the Sox. They started off well going 20-8, but have since stumbled to a 1-5 record hitting at a .250/.308/.412 clip over that time. Their pitching has added to this perfect storm of mediocrity with a staff ERA over the past week of 6.54. The Sox, despite being tied with the Orioles atop the AL East, are not looking like a first place team with Hanrahan and Bailey on the DL and their new ninth inning man, Junichi Tazawa, struggling to end the game last night. They have no depth at 3B and even if Middlebrooks, out of the lineup last night after his collision with Ross, returns to the scene he does not seem to be the answer. I’m not sure the Sox can continue to carry a 3B who gets on base less then 30% of the time. As of this post, the Sox have the lowest on base percentage of any team at third.

Rk I Split Year G OBP
1 KCR as 3B 2013 30 .298
2 CHW as 3B 2013 32 .294
3 ARI as 3B 2013 34 .282
4 HOU as 3B 2013 34 .273
5 LAD as 3B 2013 33 .267
6 TOR as 3B 2013 35 .252
7 PIT as 3B 2013 33 .244
8 BOS as 3B 2013 34 .237
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2013.

As I’ve said before, there is nothing on the horizon at third base for the Sox. Pending a trade, they seem to be stuck with Will Middlebrooks for the season. 600 ABs out of your third baseman with a lousy on base percentage is not going to lead them to the promised land. Ben Cherrington needs to do something about this.

Off to see Allen Webster

Round 18 of the 2008 MLB draft. Dodgers select Allen Webster. They tell him they’ll give him $20,000 to forgo Community College but he won’t be a shortstop, he’ll become a pitcher. Webster signs immediately.

Fast forward to 2012 … Cherrington calls up Ned Colletti and works his magic. The Sox trade Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and their gigantic contracts to the Dodgers. Colletti is in a generous mood and throws in James Loney, Ivan DeJesus, Jr., Rubby De LaRosa and Allen Webster.

At that point in time, Webster had done this in the minors:

  • 2008 – Rookie League – 18 IP, 1-1, 3.44 ERA, 6.4 SO/9
  • 2009 – Rookie League – 68 IP, 4-1, 2.36 ERA, 10.1 SO/9
  • 2010 – Class A – 131 IP, 12-9, 2.88 ERA, 7.8 SO/9
  • 2011 – Class A+ and AA, 91 IP, 6-3, 5.04 ERA, 8.4 SO/9
  • 2012 – Class AA (mostly Dodgers), 130 IP, 6-9, 3.86 ERA, 8.9 SO/9

Thank you Dodgers. Increasing strikeout rate while learning to pitch. Not a bad progression. Let us give Ben Cherrington some credit here. He snatched a good one away from the Dodgers (and this doesn’t even touch on the acquisition of DeLaRosa) while dumping a crapload of salary.

So far at Pawtucket, Webster has tossed 20 innings of 2.70 ERA with a strikeout rate of 11.7 per 9. I love this guy and predict he will take over for Doubront in the rotation. Doubront will go to the bullpen and if he can learn to throw strikes in short stints could make a big impact on the Sox bullpen. Allen Webster should be here to stay.

Just like we Drew it up …

What do I know? I said the Vance Worley match up would be a good one for the Sox. On paper, yes. In the reality of last night, not so much. I also said the Twins bullpen was pretty good. On paper, yes. In the reality of last night, outside of Anthony Swarzak, no.

Vance Worley, but for a fourth inning Pesky Pole homer by Shane Victorino, kept the Sox in check for five innings allowing only two runs. He came out for the sixth with his pitch count at only 78, so he could not have been tired when the wheels came off. It was his third time through the order and apparently the Sox had seen enough of his stuff to start doing some damage. In reality though, Worley’s problems started at the end of the fifth when Stephen Drew drove in Daniel Nava with a single and then Ellsbury roped a double to center. Drew tried to score but was thrown out at the plate. I hear that replays show Drew was safe. Worley wasn’t fooling anyone at this point but still Gardenhire let him start the sixth. The Sox took advantage with two singles to start the frame. That meant Worley gave up four straight hits before Gardenhire sent him to the dugout in favor of Brian Duensing. Duensing seemed ready to escape the jam when he got Ortiz to ground into a double play, but Napoli smoked a single to center scoring Victorino. That made the score 4-2. Duensing walked Nava and more damage appeared possible. It was to be a night, though, of single run innings for the Sox. Duensing ended the rally by striking out Salty.

Andrew Miller had an on night and escaped an Alex Wilson created jam the next inning by fanning Morneau and Parmelee. It was the kind of outing that keeps Miller in the majors. Stephen Drew, the game hero, followed in the bottom of the inning with a homer to tie the game. Breslow was up next and looked great setting the side down in order in the eighth. Breslow is no dummy, I discovered. He graduated from Yale, majoring in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. You don’t see that kind of resume often on a major league roster. Not a rocket scientist, but a scientist nonetheless.

In the bottom of the eighth, Pedroia put the Sox up 5-4 with his first homer of the season, halfway up the light tower. Perfect. Time for a closer to turn out the lights. The problem the Sox face is that with Andrew Bailey on the DL, Joel Hanrahan has taken over that role. And, as I’ve said before, I don’t think he is cut out for it.

As the ninth started, the guy in front of me told his friends that Hanrahan was a guarantee. It was then that I knew we were doomed. Two batters later, after some odd tosses and one that went to the backstop, Dozier ripped a homer over the Green Monster. Hanrahan turned out to be a stiff, not a guarantee. He conveniently has injury excuses for his meltdowns – hamstring, tight forearm. I am a tad cynical and find it pretty convenient that these “injuries” coincide with blown saves. In reality, I just don’t think Hanrahan is a closer. Maybe he can close in Pittsburgh but not in Boston.

On a final note, I’ve commented on Middlebrooks before and his decision to go for homers and avoid the walk. That is a recipe for a demotion. Working in Middlebrooks’ favor is that the Sox don’t really have much to replace him with. Their best third base prospect is Garin Cecchini in Single A Salem. Drew Sutton is playing third at Pawtucket and has at least drawn more walks then strikeouts 15/13. He is no spring chicken, he turns thirty at the end of June. His major league slash line in 308 PA reads 256/309/399. Not much of a threat to Middlebrooks whose line in 411 PA is 260/297/470. Middlebrooks is Drew Sutton with a tad more power.

Ryan Dempster starts tonight against Scott Diamond. Diamond is not overpowering, his fastball tops out at 88. But he moves the ball around a bit, has somehow added a few Ks to his pitching line, dropped a few walks and kept the ball in the park. Those things have led to a good start to his 2013 season. If he can keep that up then his 12-9 3.54 ERA 2012 won’t seem like a fluke. A decent, but not great pitcher. He, at the moment, is the Twins ace.