9-7-2011: Just how good are these prospects, anyway?

The Red Sox had a lot of their top prospects succumb to injury or slump in 2011, but not all the news is bad. Once these guys get up to the Double-A and Triple-A levels, it becomes possible to project what their batting lines might be based on their component rates (how often they walk, strike out, hit home runs, etc.).

Here’s a quick look at what we might get out of these guys next year, based on their track record so far (all numbers assume starting roles for the Red Sox next season, adjusted for Fenway Park).

Josh Reddick, RF (.261/.321/.433 with 35 doubles and 18 HR in 557 AB)

Reddick finally got healthy and got the chance to open some eyes this year with his bat, his glove and energetic play. While he had a great season, most of his batting average came from an unusually high rate of singles, as shown by his high-ish .329 BABIP. His projected 7.6 BB% and 20.9 K% rates for next year suggest that he might be on the cusp of a starting role. It’s worth noting that it won’t take much to better the .232/.304/.360 the Sox got out of their right fielders this season. I fully expect the Sox to give him a shot at the job in the offseason, but they should bring in a short-term veteran for him to compete with.

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8-12-2011 Links: Pedey vs Cano, Sabathia vs Sox, Gonzalez grounded, defense, prospects report card

Dustin Pedroia is in the midst of his best season ever, and it has sparked discussions about whether he or Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in baseball. Here is Jonathan Scippa’s interesting take. As for me, give me Pedey every time.

Coming into the year, we were worried about our lefty-leaning lineup and some very tough starters in our division. So why is CC Sabathia so bad against Boston this season? David Pinto takes a look.

Mike Axisa at FanGraphs has some nice plots which show how Adrian Gonzalez has fallen into hitting a ton of grounders since about June 18, and how that has directly sapped his home run power. He could be headed for about a 27 HR season, which is lower than most people predicted, but is pretty well in line with the 30 HRs I predicted.

As Sox Therapy points out, the Red Sox defense has gone from very good to great this season, and it’s been a huge reason for our success in June and July.

Wondering how our top prospects are doing on the farm? John Sickels has a summary for you. (SPOILER: It ain’t pretty.)

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.

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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.

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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.

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5-10-2011: What we know so far about our Red Sox lineup

This year is just over one month old, but it seems like the Red Sox have been scuffling forever, doesn’t it? Besides that 10-day streak of pitching dominance, this year’s team just hasn’t felt like contenders to me. BUT small sample size, you say! Yes, I grant you that. There are certainly signs of hope. Carl Crawford is turning it on now, and Adrian Gonzalez’ power is showing up one month late. But when is it safe to say something according to the numbers we already have?

When stats start to mean something

Turns out sabermetricians have already gone and done the hard work for us. Here is a handy list of statistics and around how many plate appearances you need before they start to mean something. Given that most of our regulars have about 100-150 PA, that means we can only really draw meaningful conclusions about the following:

  • Swing rate (50 PA)
  • Contact rate (100 PA)
  • K rate, LD%, Pitches/PA (150 PA)

Not a whole lot to go on. But let’s do the exercise anyway:

2011 2010
Name PA Swing% K% Contact% LD% Pit/PA PA Swing% K% Contact% LD% Pit/PA
Pedroia 151 44.0 20.5 79.4 13.7 4.36 714* 39.7 7.2 93.0 20.0 3.96
Gonzalez 149 48.2 16.8 85.7 16.8 3.71 693 48.8 19.3 78.7 21.1 4.50
Ellsbury 140 44.7 22.5 84.3 20.4 3.79 693* 41.2 11.9 88.4 17.7 3.77
Crawford 136 47.7 18.8 83.3 15.9 3.76 663 51.1 17.3 82.8 16.5 3.75
Ortiz 131 43.4 14.2 81.7 20.4 4.23 606 44.5 28.0 75.8 17.3 4.37
Youkilis 128 35.9 30.7 78.5 21.1 4.63 435 38.5 18.5 87.0 16.3 4.28
Lowrie 105 51.5 19.2 82.5 18.5 3.89 689** 43.2 22.1 83.0 20.0 3.98
Drew 104 39.2 25.0 81.3 10.8 4.55 546 38.3 22.0 82.7 16.5 4.08
Scutaro 76 35.1 5.9 97.0 11.1 3.76 695 37.5 11.2 94.8 17.3 4.04
Salty 73 52.3 27.5 74.8 16.0 4.08 972** 49.4 30.6 72.8 20.4 3.92

[* = 2009 stats, ** = career stats used]

You can see that most of the numbers fall into place, but there are some notable differences. Dustin Pedroia’s numbers are all out of whack. He’s swinging more at the dish and striking out almost three times as much as he did last season. His contact rate and line drive percentage are WAY down, which to me suggests some kind of injury. Is this a result of his offseason foot surgery? Could be. He may need some extra time off, which might actually be doable while Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro are both healthy.

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5-9-2011: The rebuilt bullpen, a work in progress

After one month, it seems that everything about the sub-.500 Red Sox is unsatisfactory. I read this article the other day impugning our new bullpen, and I’ll admit there have been some really bad moments, but has it really been that bad?

As a group, the bullpen has an ERA of 4.89 thus far, which ranks as the 4th-worst bullpen in the AL and 6th-worst figure in all of baseball. But if you take a closer look at the figures, they have not pitched that badly. Rather, their 7.37 K/9 and 0.86 HR/9 rank solidly in the middle, and they’ve walked very few batters at 3.17 BB/9. This translates into a much better 3.74 FIP and 3.78 xFIP (corrected for HR luck), which puts them right in the middle of the pack. Considering that they pitch in the uber-talented AL East, I’d say that’s not a bad performance at all. I’d be happy to get that kind of performance from them for the year.

One glaring weakness has been their inability to prevent runners from scoring, as shown by their 64.6 LOB%, fourth-worst in MLB behind the White Sox, Astros, and Mariners. You could chalk a lot of that up to bad luck, but whatever the reason, once guys get on base, they tend to score more often against the Sox than other teams.

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5-3-2011: April farm report for Pawtucket

One month is in the books. You know what’s going on with the Major league club, but here’s a look at our minor league affiliates and some of the interesting performances at each level.

Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA)

The Paw Sox have gotten off to a strong 14-11 start. They have managed to score 5.3 runs/game (2nd best in the International League), while allowing only 3.6 runs/game (3rd in the IL). Despite a middling batting average of .258, the team boasts an excellent .350 OBP and .442 SLG. The pitching has been solid, but perhaps not quite as good as they’ve been early on. The low ERA is largely dependent on a very low rate of 7.5 hits per 9 and 0.7 HR per 9, best in the league.

Name PA Avg OBP SLG OPS BB% K% BABIP wOBA wRC+
Hector Luna 30 0.429 0.467 0.929 1.395 3.3% 14.3% 0.429 0.592 284
Yamaico Navarro 100 0.321 0.430 0.607 1.037 13.0% 15.5% 0.343 0.451 187
Michael McKenry 43 0.306 0.419 0.528 0.946 16.3% 27.8% 0.375 0.426 169
Drew Sutton 94 0.321 0.394 0.536 0.929 9.6% 27.4% 0.424 0.409 157
Tony Thomas 66 0.268 0.379 0.536 0.915 12.1% 26.8% 0.316 0.406 155
Josh Reddick 109 0.250 0.330 0.583 0.914 11.0% 17.7% 0.222 0.399 150
Lars Anderson 102 0.284 0.422 0.333 0.755 18.6% 27.2% 0.383 0.363 126
Juan Carlos Linares 64 0.233 0.281 0.500 0.781 6.3% 20.0% 0.244 0.331 103
Nate Spears 61 0.189 0.295 0.321 0.616 11.5% 28.3% 0.222 0.291 76
Daniel Nava 96 0.158 0.323 0.224 0.547 19.8% 28.9% 0.218 0.269 60
Ryan Kalish 60 0.236 0.300 0.309 0.609 8.3% 18.2% 0.289 0.268 60
Luis Exposito 56 0.192 0.250 0.327 0.577 7.1% 17.3% 0.214 0.261 55
Jose Iglesias 77 0.233 0.263 0.233 0.496 2.6% 23.3% 0.304 0.228 32

Two of the best hitters have been names who were once considered top prospects at their positions, but fell behind Ryan Kalish and Jose Iglesias on the depth chart. SS Yamaico Navarro has been blistering hot at the dish with 14 XBH, while racking up great walk and K rates. He won’t keep slugging like this, but this 23-year old could earn a look late this year if he keeps hitting well. And if you thought we had a lot of middle infield depth at the Major League level, there’s also 28-year old Drew Sutton, currently batting .321/.394/.536.

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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).

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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.

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