8-10-2011: Bedard, Aviles and Fields

I’ve been away on vacation, so I just found out a few days ago about the deadline deals that were made. I was very pleased to see that we landed a starter with potential as well as a right-handed hitter off the bench.

SP Erik Bedard and OF Josh Fields for C Tim Federowicz, SP Stephen Fife, RP Juan Rodriguez, and Chih-Hsien Chiang

As I mentioned before, I thought the rotation was the area we needed to improve the most. It would have been ideal to land a quality pitcher without recurrent health issues, but those guys are simply not available unless you trade the farm for them. I was glad to see that we didn’t send any real top-tier talent anywhere in this deal. Other than that, Bedard is almost the ideal acquisition – an established (but not too old) AL pitcher who’s pitched extensively in the AL East, and he is a middle rotation guy who is capable of being much better than that at times. His contract is expiring, so the Sox have the option of re-signing him or possibly getting draft picks when he leaves. The only other thing he lacks besides health is playoff experience.

Josh Fields’ primary function is basically right-handed pop off the bench. He is also a warm body you can stick in the outfield corners. He provides some depth in case something happens to Darnell McDonald.

Read more of this post

7-18-2011: What to look for at the deadline

The Red Sox are in first place and seem to be a lock for the playoffs. That part is great. And despite the struggles of J.D. Drew, our offense is the best in baseball right now. I don’t see acquiring a big bat to be the priority right now. However,¬†we are facing some major instability in the rotation and other areas, which could require some smaller moves to be made. Looking over our current situation, I’d recommend three moves by this year’s trade deadline. Here they are, in order of importance.

Trade for a 4th or 5th starter. Importance: Medium

Jon Lester and Josh Beckett seem to be on track for now, and John Lackey has shown some signs of improvement, but there is still no timetable for Clay Buchholz to return to the rotation. Andrew Miller has been a pleasant surprise, but we don’t know how long he can keep it up, and Tim Wakefield, who hasn’t gone over 140 IP in a year since 2008, is already at 81.2 IP. Should Buchholz not be able to return, or Miller lose it, or Wake’s body break down, I really don’t want two months of Kevin Millwood up here. He’s fine for a few starts, but that’s it.

Read more of this post

6-21-2011: A quick note about Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller was pretty good last night. Apart from a costly mistake to Orlando Hudson, he threw the ball quite well for a depth starter. The big youngster has all the talent in the world, but has struggled with mechanics and confidence issues. His PITCHf/x data is not up yet on FanGraphs, so we have to rely on observations for now.

Miller took it into the 6th inning and was able to go out there and stick to his delivery for the most part; Terry Francona noted that even when he slipped out of his normal motion, he was able to correct himself and avoid extended wildness. Maybe the biggest encouragement was his fastball velocity, which had declined in previous years, but was sitting at 93-94 mph last night.

Peter Gammons said that the Yankees, among other clubs, were trying to get Miller to opt out on June 15, but failed when the Sox called on him this week. Miller might be one of those reclamation projects that pays some dividends. With Daisuke Matsuzaka lost for the season, that would be a welcome development.

6-9-2011: Injuries piling on

I’m feeling pretty good about our Sox right now, as they continue to show how faulty the Yankee rotation is. That being said, there are a number of problems developing on the injury front…

The Dice-K Drama

Daisuke Matsuzaka will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery next week. While many are suggesting that this is the end of his tenure in Boston, he’s still got one year left, and with the speed of recovery these days after TJ, I think we could see him come back for one more go-round. Okay, given the number of headaches Daisuke has given the Red Sox and the amount of time lost to injury, we can safely say that this signing was a failure. Matsuzaka did not live up to the hype or the contract, though he did provide some decent value when he was healthy.

Read more of this post

6-2-2011: May wrapup, a great month

The month of May was a good one for the Sox, a really good one. They began the month at just 11-15 on the year, scraping the bottom of the division. The offense was barely average, and the pitching was decent but inconsistent. What a difference a month makes. Now Boston sits at 30-26 on the year, and is in second place, just two games back of the Yankees, despite the recent three-game sweep at the hands of the ChiSox. What have been the keys to this turnaround?

Offense

The Red Sox offense was the most potent in the American League in May, and not by a little. Putting up 126 runs in 29 games (5.38 runs/game) is very impressive by 2011 offensive standards, where league average is just 4.30 runs/game. Just a year ago, the average was 4.45 runs/game, and the year before that, it was 4.82 runs/game. So you probably have to kind of mentally add a quarter to a half run per game onto that figure if you want to compare with previous years.

Month R/G Avg OBP SLG BABIP wOBA BB% K%
April 4.11 0.243 0.331 0.380 0.283 0.319 10.9 21.1
May 5.38 0.287 0.349 0.472 0.317 0.361 7.9 18.4

As a team, the Red Sox put up a .287/.349/.472 slash line and a .361 wOBA (second was the Yankees at .340) and were about 26 percent better than the average AL offense. Looking at the walk and strikeout rates, it looks like the Sox as a team got more aggressive, and it’s been paying off. also, the power is back on. They hit the most doubles with 61 and tied with New York for first with 39 HRs this month. Even the running game got started (along with Carl Crawford), as the Sox swiped 28 bases in May. Some of this extra production comes from that high .317 BABIP in May. With league average at .286 on the year, that’s going to fall back to earth a bit. Still, this offense has moved up to fourth on the year and has the potential to keep pushing up the ranks.

Read more of this post

5-22-2011: Farm report for Portland

The Portland Sea Dogs stand at just 12-26 on the season, sitting in the basement of their division of the Eastern League.

Offense

As a team, there’s a lot to like about this year’s Sea Dogs. They’ve averaged 4.5 runs per game, good for 5th in the Eastern League, but their team line of .270/.348/.399 shows that they have a dynamic offense that gets on base plenty. In fact, most of their regulars show up as being league average or better:

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG OPS BABIP wOBA wRC+
Alex Hassan 166 16.1% 12.5% 0.359 0.472 0.531 1.003 0.384 0.458 194
Jonathan Hee 85 9.9% 25.0% 0.309 0.413 0.441 0.854 0.400 0.400 155
Will Middlebrooks 145 5.0% 24.6% 0.299 0.333 0.500 0.833 0.365 0.376 138
Che-Hsuan Lin 161 12.4% 10.1% 0.268 0.373 0.333 0.706 0.298 0.344 117
Tim Federowicz 156 9.3% 17.8% 0.267 0.331 0.400 0.731 0.300 0.332 109
Mitch Dening 74 8.1% 25.4% 0.238 0.333 0.381 0.714 0.289 0.324 103
Ryan Lavarnway 158 9.2% 21.3% 0.235 0.307 0.404 0.712 0.245 0.323 103
Oscar Tejeda 140 8.8% 18.9% 0.262 0.331 0.361 0.692 0.313 0.323 103
Chih-Hsien Chiang 97 6.5% 21.8% 0.241 0.290 0.425 0.716 0.277 0.322 102
Jorge Padron 148 9.7% 10.1% 0.271 0.340 0.341 0.681 0.293 0.317 98
Ryan Dent 64 7.8% 19.0% 0.224 0.281 0.276 0.557 0.271 0.281 74

The lineup has been paced by LF Alex Hassan, who at age 23 continues to put up very good offensive numbers, despite lacking the HR totals you want to see in a legitimate prospect. He lacks the pure athleticism the Red Sox usually like in their outfielders, but he has always hit well and he can play in right field, so he has some flexibility. His minor league career has been limited by some injuries, but Hassan has always produced, and he does smack quite a few doubles, which means he could still become a pretty decent Major Leaguer.

Che-Hsuan Lin, recently promoted to Pawtucket, is a very good defensive centerfielder, and he handles himself well at the dish. Not much power to speak of, but a high OBP and low K rate are nice to have in a speedy slap hitter. Still just 22 years old, I could see him being a 4th outfielder type as early as next season.

Solid performances from both Tim Federowicz and Ryan Lavarnway, which means that our catching depth will be quite a bit better next year than it is this year.

Read more of this post

5-21-2011: Sox acquire Morales, sign Millwood

Sox trade a PTBNL for Franklin Morales

The pitching injuries are piling up again. With Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks out, the bullpen is a little thin. I was a little surprised to hear that Hideki Okajima was DFA’d, but you have to know that the Sox were dissatisfied with their lefty reliever situation this year, quickly discarding Denys Reyes. This move comes down to upgrading the bullpen. Morales was considered a pretty good prospect just two years ago, and is a lefty who throws a 94 mph heater and a good curve. His presence makes the deteriorating Okajima expendable (his three-year numbers are all trending in the wrong direction). Theo Epstein is hoping that we can retain him if he can slip through waivers, but if not, we’ll trade him.

It’s true, Morales’ numbers are not good, but that’s why he was available. He strikes out more hitters than Oki, but has struggled with walking batters and giving up the long ball (though I hear that happens from time to time in Colorado). Perhaps Curt Young can work some magic with the young flamethrower. I’ll have to see what we send back in return for him, but this seems like a good upside deal to me.

Kevin Millwood signed to a minor-league deal

Read more of this post

5-17-2011: What we know about our pitchers by now

While several hitting statistics are starting to stabilize by this point in the season, pitching stats take quite a bit longer to mean something. At 150 batters faced, you can reference strikeout rate, GB rate and line drive rate, and at 200 batters faced, you can talk about fly ball rate and FB/GB ratio. Here’s a look at these numbers from our rotation:

2011 2010
Name BF K% GB% LD% FB% GB/FB BF K% GB% LD% FB% GB/FB
Lester 238 24.4% 55.3% 12.0% 32.7% 1.69 861 26.1% 53.6% 16.9% 29.6% 1.81
Buchholz 202 14.9% 47.0% 14.6% 38.4% 1.22 711 16.9% 50.8% 17.7% 31.5% 1.61
Beckett 195 25.1% 43.8% 16.4% 39.8% 1.10 577 20.1% 45.8% 19.0% 35.3% 1.30
Lackey 192 9.9% 33.6% 21.2% 45.2% 0.74 930 16.8% 45.6% 18.4% 36.0% 1.27
Matsuzaka 167 15.6% 31.6% 12.8% 55.6% 0.57 664 20.0% 33.0% 21.6% 45.5% 0.73
Wakefield 99 11.1% 37.5% 16.3% 46.3% 0.81 610 13.8% 37.0% 16.5% 46.6% 0.79

You can see that Jon Lester is his same dominant self, and that he is clearly the ace of this staff, boasting very high strikeout and ground ball rates. Josh Beckett is fully healthy, striking out hitters at the highest rate in the rotation and a lower line drive rate. Clay Buchholz is very solid in these peripherals, and so we should continue to see solid starts out of him, though he won’t likely reproduce that sub-3.00 ERA from last season.

Read more of this post

4-29-2011: April wrapup, the team

With two games left in April, the Red Sox find themselves at 11-13 on the young season, 4 games back of the Yankees, and right on the heels of Tampa Bay and Toronto in the standings. Thanks to a terrible 2-10 start, our Sox have not yet been on the right side of .500, though things seem to be evening out now. With these two games against the lowly Mariners and Felix Hernandez not due up until game 3, I have hope that we can finish the month above the .500 line.

Time to take stock of what we’ve seen so far, and separate the real from the illusion. Today we’ll look at the overall team performance, and in a later post we’ll look at individual players.

Offense

This lineup got a lot of positive reviews before the season even began, with some calling it possibly the best Boston lineup ever. I thought these expectations were overblown, but 4.3 runs a game and a .318 team wOBA is not what anyone had in mind. This lineup has actually been below average, which is mind-blowing. While they haven’t pounded fastballs much worse than anyone else, the Sox as a club have really struggled against hard breaking stuff (sliders and cutters).

Read more of this post

4-25-2011: Some props for the gloves

Wow, does it ever feel good to get the standings back into whack (for the most part). The Sox have now won 8 of their last 9 games, and looked really good doing it. Everything seems to be falling into place; even Carl Crawford is getting it started at the plate. The rotation suddenly looks like the collection of four aces I was effusing about before the season, and we are getting innings from them, making the bullpen look very strong recently.

The rotation is getting all the accolades for their recent domination, but don’t forget that a lot of this recent run is thanks to some pretty good defense. The Red Sox rank 5th in baseball with a .734 DER, just behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who we know can really pick it. Though it hasn’t had much time to really stabilize and be reliable, Ultimate Zone Rating likes the Red Sox at +6.6 runs on the year, 7th best in MLB. John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system has the Sox at -5 on the year, but we know that there were some pretty blatant gaffes early that probably contributed to that.

Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.