Links 10-01-2010: A quiet October in Boston

Well, we’ve been saying it for some time now, but it is now mathematically official – the Red Sox are out of it. Here’s Theo Epstein’s statement on their elimination. Nothing to do but root for the Rays against the Yankees now. And, of course, begin obsessing about the offseason. Sox Therapy is looking ahead too. Don’t cry over spilled milk, like this post does.

Notes on 2010

Go out and show some love for Mike Lowell on October 2, which has been dubbed, “Thanks, Mike” Night. He’s been a class character and I have the utmost respect for the man. And for God’s sake, someone get him his final home run ball.

Looking for a way to explain how the Red Sox could possibly have ranked second in offense after losing Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia for much of the year? Look no further than Adrian Beltre. His season had some of the hallmarks of an MVP year, with much of his success being found on hard-hit fly balls.

BP’s redux on the Red Sox this year was that it wasn’t just the injuries, but the poor starting pitching outside of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz that doomed the Red Sox. All of the focus has been on the bullpen, but I think they looked extra bad because they were forced to pitch tired by the rotation. Things should right themselves next year as Josh Beckett and John Lackey regress back towards who they were (fingers crossed).

There were some rumblings that the Red Sox seemed to fare poorly against poor teams, while they played well against tough opponents. This study at Dugout Central shows them as middle-of-the-pack in this regard.

David Ortiz downplays his 100 RBI season. Good for him. 100 is just a number, as is 20 wins. Lester still matches up against anyone else just fine.

Terry Francona insists that Jonathan Papelbon is all growed up, but Paps’ complaints about the umpiring tell us otherwise. It’s the game, Paps. Just do your job.

For those of you wondering why the Red Sox claimed Felipe Lopez for a stretch run with little hope and little need for him, Francona notes that he was insurance for Marco Scutaro, who was apparently playing with a lot of physical problems for some time. That, and his departure could net the Red Sox a compensation draft pick. He passed up a chance at the playoffs with the Padres to be here, though, so we’ll see what happens.

Looking ahead

The crowd believes Beltre will command 3-4 years at $13M per season as a free agent. If it’s three years, I might do it, but if it’s four, I’d hesitate a bit at that price.

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9-14-2010: Looking ahead to 2011

Sorry for the lack of postings, but I haven’t really been too motivated to write about the Red Sox, with even their mathematical playoff chances circling the drain. Can you blame me? It’s kind of hard to get excited about Darnell McDonald and Yamaico Navarro on a nightly basis. Now I know how Kansas City fans feel!

What went Wrong

If you’ll remember, we came into 2010 with a lot of confidence, and projected for a close finish with the Yankees for the divisional pennant. If you ask me what happened to this year’s team, I’d certainly cite injuries, but beyond that, we got off to a terrible start in April, while the Yankees and Rays roared out of the gate. Yeah, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury were on the shelf then, but we didn’t have an excuse to play under .500 baseball that month. Add Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Josh Beckett to that injury list, and you can see where even an incredibly hot May and June wasn’t enough to salvage the season. The bullpen was really bad, yes, but I think that’s more a function of the starters not doing well early on (4.86 ERA in April, 4.36 ERA in May) and burning out the bullpen. Hideki Okajima’s injuries and subsequent ineffectiveness was also a huge blow to this relief corps.

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Links 8-26-2010: Consensus building, Damon, Lackey and lefties, Reddick back

I’ve been saying it since Dustin Pedroia went back on the DL, but it appears that more and more people are priming their forks to stick into the 2010 Boston Red Sox. The playoffs are a tough sell at this point, but hey, anything can happen in baseball.

For every good thing that happens to the Sox, it seems that there is a black lining to it. Jon Lester was cruising along, but then he gets blown up in his last start. Josh Beckett is back, supposedly healthy, but he still looks shaky. Clay Buchholz has been dominating, but Patrick Sullivan reminds us that his numbers rest on a lot of “luck”. Hideki Okajima is being held at Pawtucket because of his last poor outing. They don’t want him to come to the Majors on a bad note.

There are some interesting names on the waiver wire, though I don’t expect the Red Sox to be able to land any of them. Scott Downs and Manny Ramirez are both out there. I’d like to add Downs, but no way would I claim Manny. The White Sox are reportedly interested in getting him, though. And guess what else? Man-Ram wants another contract extension. Surprise, surprise.

Unlike some, I was not at all surprised at Johnny Damon’s decision not to return to Boston. With the Sox on the very fringe of contending, what reason does he have to come here? The management refused to pay him what he thought he was worth, the fans have given him an icy reception several times, most of his “idiot” friends have moved on, and most of all he knows how this club works. If he came here, he’d be a part-time guy who would only play against righties. I don’t blame him in the least, though I think he could definitely help this team right now.

It appears that more than one observer has commented on John Lackey’s inability to put away left-handed hitters this season. Southpaws have hit .308/.381/.435 off of him this year, but righties hit him to the tune of .301/.353/.493 back in 2008. Splits can be tricky, because of sample size. We don’t know if this is a real problem or just a blip due to a bad year, and we won’t know until at least next year.

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Links 8-20-2010: Prospects post, playoffs slipping away, some bright spots, Papelbon

All told, the Red Sox spent a team record $10.66M on signing bonuses for this year’s draft class, guys who had not pitched a professional inning. It was a necessary infusion of talent into a farm system that has been drained of top prospects and had some of our best young guys get injured or tarnished this year. Considering we drafted well and signed all of our first 10 picks, evaluators have been picking the Sox draft as the best in our division this year.

Baseball America published their “best tools” series this week, and many Red Sox prospects got recognition, especially the superb defense currently at Double-A Portland.

Catching prospect Adalberto Ibarra did not pass his physical, so he renegotiated his contract with Boston to the tune of $700-800k. That’s a far cry from the $3M guaranteed deal that he originally agreed to. Sure, it saves money, but it must have been a significant issue for him to backtrack so much on the numbers.

Goodbye 2010?

Just when you think the Sox are ready to turn the corner, a day like yesterday happens. Dustin Pedroia is held out with foot pain, and Josh Beckett gets lit up by a so-so lineup in the Angels. Jarrod Saltalamacchia gets sent to the DL with a mystery leg infection. Add that up with no more Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, and you’ve got a boring October looming.

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Links 8-13-2010: Playoff hopes fading, Salty and Hall, draft deadline coming, Sickels reviews our farm

The Red Sox took two of three from the Blue Jays, which is okay, but we should have had game 3. If we let games like that slip away, I don’t see us getting back to the playoffs this year. The math is starting to get pretty tough for us, points out Rob Neyer.

It certainly won’t be any easier with Jonathan Papelbon lacking his previous dominance as a closer. It’s not just one game, but Pap is showing a gradual decline which started last year. He’s still a very good closer, but he’s rapidly losing elite status, and that’s bad with just one year of arbitration left.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was called up this week, and did just fine in his first start yesterday. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we let Victor Martinez walk this offseason, but there’s some hope yet for Salty to become something.

Seems like people only remember a couple of botched plays when they think of Bill Hall, but he’s had a pretty good season at the plate. Jeremy Greenhouse points out that, in at least one situation, you’d rather bat him than Prince Fielder.

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8-6-2010: Youkilis lost for the year, Cleveland redux, Yankees on tap

Now comes the disturbing and somehow predictable news… Kevin Youkilis will have surgery today and will miss the rest of the 2010 season. This news could not have come at a worse time, with guys like Dustin Pedroia and Mike Cameron still out, Victor Martinez playing hurt and Jacoby Ellsbury just trying to get back into the swing of things. We need to win now if we want to stay in the chase.

What will the Red Sox do about first base? For now, they will play Mike Lowell there every day. Despite his Daniel Nava-like heroics in his first at-bat, there are still some serious health concerns with Lowell. He may not be able to play every day, so we’re going to need a quality left-handed bat to complement him. For now, there are no plans to promote Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Lars Anderson. Theo Epstein would like to see if Salty can stick at catcher, so he’ll be working on that for now. J.P. Ricciardi really likes the addition of Salty, and says that it could really pay off down the line.

As far as other options, I think the Sox are trying to avoid paying any real talent to try and salvage what looks like it could be a lost year already. Jed Lowrie has reportedly taken some reps at first base as a fill-in for when Lowell can’t go. They will reportedly audition Carlos Delgado, and they do have room on the 40-man roster, but I’d be surprised if the Sox committed to play him while Lowell is around. He’s an option only if Lowell clears waivers and is traded. There are some other DFA/FA options out there as well, such as Casey Kotchman and Daric Barton.

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Links 8-3-2010: Hanging on by a thread, outfield outlook, Dice-K’s future

After the loss last night, the Red Sox are seriously hanging on by a thread. This season is starting to circle the drain unless we right things, and fast. If Kevin Youkilis’ thumb keeps him out for more than a game or two, it could be the end. It’s that tight. Dustin Pedroia is getting closer, but every game counts for us right now, especially against lesser competition.

The Yankees and Rays are doing exactly what we don’t want them to do, which is continue to win at about the same rate. We need one of them to collapse if we’re going to have a shot at October. The other team can get hot or whatever. It doesn’t matter, really.

Mike Cameron has hit the DL, and Daniel Nava is back up. Based on what is being reported, there’s a good chance that Cameron will not be back this season. With Jeremy Hermida designated for assignment, we are now looking at an outfield of Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew with Darnell McDonald as the fourth outfielder. That’s passable, but if Ellsbury can’t return, we will be crippled out there. More than ever, our postseason hopes may hang on Ellsbury, who will play again at Pawtucket today, then decide if he’s ready to rejoin the team or not.

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8-2-2010: Minor moves at the deadline, Lowell still in play

The Red Sox, expected to land an additional bullpen arm by the deadline, dealt one instead, and made another small acquisition at catcher. It was hard watching the Yankees land Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns, and this is a signal from Boston’s front office that while we’re not giving up on this season, they’re content to let it play out and finish third if we have to. Theo Epstein is clearly thinking 2011 at this point, and I don’t really blame him.

What it will take

Currently at 60-45, the Red Sox sit 6.5 games back of Tampa Bay. If the Rays play .600 baseball the rest of the way, they will have a 100 win season, and we need to go 41-16 to edge them. If they play .550 baseball, they will still have 97 wins and we will need to go 38-19 (.667) the rest of the way. Is this team capable of that? With a healthy rotation, an easier second half schedule and the impending returns of Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, you have to think that it’s at least possible. But it means we will have to win just about every series, and probably sweep the Rays in at least one of our two remaining series. We can’t play any worse than taking two of three from the Tigers, or we’re done. That’s why the management decided to go conservative at the deadline.

Let’s look at each move that was made:

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7-23-2010: Lackey finally arrives, Sox acquire Hannahan, not sellers yet

The John Lackey we thought we signed has finally shown up the past few starts. How about those 8 innings of no-hit baseball (albeit against the punchless Mariners)? But perhaps more important, his K/9 rate is up, his BB/9 is down and the HR/9 is also trending down. I get the feeling that we’re about to experience some major run prevention in August.

The Red Sox acquired IF Jack Hannahan yesterday from the Seattle Mariners for a PTBNL or cash considerations. Hannahan is a career .224 hitter, but he’s a premier glove man (not unlike Toronto’s John McDonald), and has Major League experience playing every infield position except catcher. He should provide good depth in the middle infield, something we’ve lacked so far. As Buster Olney is quick to point out, this could spell the end for Jed Lowrie. You could see Theo Epstein spin Lowrie off for a decent reliever. Mike Lowell went 1-5 in his first rehab game, and has announced that he has no plans to retire early; my feeling is that they will try to showcase and unload Lowell, but failing that, Lowrie is a goner.

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Links 7-16-2010: Mid-season analyses, Escobar to Jays, more fun stuff

Lots of fun analyses from all over as we start the second half after the ASB. Despite our recent slide, both BP and THT peg us with a 40-45% shot at the playoffs. I agree with Sox Therapy – we’re not in a bad position, all things considered. The consensus seems to be we should do something to shore up our bullpen and outfield. Here are some of my favorites:

Here’s a visual look at how the rotations and offenses stack up in the AL East based on FIP and OPS. Didn’t I tell you we’d have a good rotation? The problem was early that the defense was poor, and now some of our key pitchers are injured… For those of you who are convinced Daisuke Matsuzaka was one of the worst signings ever, here’s proof that that’s not the case at all. While it clearly wasn’t a jackpot signing, Boston has gotten a somewhat decent return for their money.

Our bullpen is another story. But when bullpens get overused, pitchers get exposed. And injured. That’s been one of the secrets to the success of the Rays’ bullpen, which is probably the best in the division right now.

The Hardball Times has a new visualization of “value” called PayScale, and they compared the 3 giants in the AL East. Boston is more efficient with their money than NY, but not as efficient as Tampa Bay. But we knew that… With the acquisition of Cliff Lee last week, the Texas Rangers are putting all the pieces in place to really make a run. Don’t underestimate them – I have their pitching staff as one of the best in baseball BEFORE the trade; it’s masked somewhat because their home field is so run-prone.

Speaking of defense, how has the improved run prevention strategy served the Red Sox so far? Here’s a look by BP based on defensive efficiency rating. According to them, the Sox are the third-most improved team defensively this season.

What about baserunning? In typical fashion, the Red Sox are the least out-prone team on the basepaths this year. The problem is, without Jacoby Ellsbury, we don’t steal a whole lot to begin with.

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