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.

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4-8-2011: Yankees series predictions, Aceves called up

If there was any inkling of overconfidence by these Red Sox coming into the 2011 season, it’s gone now. The defensive and baserunning miscues we saw this week showed a general lack of focus and preparedness, and those need to be dealt with, NOW. Our boys limp into Boston 0-6 on the year, having been swept in embarrassing fashion by the Rangers, and now even the rebuilding Indians at the Jake. I don’t think any less of this team talent-wise, but I do think that there’s a comfort level which has to be reached, and it will only happen after we win our first game.

Game 1: Phil Hughes vs. John Lackey

Normally, I’d say that Hughes is a better pitcher, but you have to take into account the beating that he took in his first start against Detroit. Don’t discount the fact that his fastball was clocking in at only 89 mph, whereas it’s normally about 3-4 mph faster. I think Lackey surprises us with a pretty solid outing (say 2-3 runs over 6 innings) and we finally win our first game here.

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11-11-2010: Why you won’t see a Matsuzaka-Fukudome trade

Yesterday, people were astir with a rumor started by Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune. He said that a deal was in the works to send Kosuke Fukudome to Boston (plus others) in exchange for Daisuke Matsuzaka in a swap of underwhelming Japanese players. Both players have disappointed in their Major League stints, and alienated the home crowds to some extent; maybe a change of scenery is what they need? The logic appears sound. But a closer look shows there is no way this deal would go down.

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Links 10-15-2010: This year, next year, and prospect news

About This Season

Pitching and defense didn’t work because we didn’t pitch well and we didn’t play defense. At least not well enough. But we did still finish 6th overall according to this sabermetric ranking of teams. The Giants? Eleventh.

What exactly did the injuries cost us this season? Could we still be playing, had things gone differently? It’s a question many people are asking, including Brian MacPherson. On the other hand, putting our injuries into the context of MLB shows that while we did lose a lot of position players this year, our pitching staff actually fared quite well.

He didn’t miss much time because of it, but Marco Scutaro was playing hurt a lot this year. I was quite pleased with his performance for the most part, but the OBP was slightly disappointing.

Exactly how good was Jon Lester this year? If you look at the total of no-hit innings pitched this year by each pitcher, Lester finished second, behind Felix Hernandez. That’s pretty good company. On the other hand, we should expect a bit of regression next year from the lowest ERA on our staff.

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2010: The Year in Review

I’ll spare you the same comments again about the team’s overall performance here, but let’s go and examine each phase of the game and each player in detail.

Offense

We predicted the offense to be capable of scoring upwards of 832 runs this season, and the 2010 team scored 818 runs (still good for second in the AL), which is understandable given the injury situation. So offensively, things went more or less as planned, or even better. There were a number of big surprises from individual players.

Projected Actual
Name AB BA OBP SLG AB BA OBP SLG
Jed Lowrie 275 0.260 0.334 0.391 171 0.287 0.381 0.526
Adrian Beltre 581 0.277 0.326 0.444 589 0.321 0.365 0.553
Bill Hall 337 0.230 0.293 0.396 344 0.247 0.316 0.456
Kevin Youkilis 517 0.292 0.393 0.514 362 0.307 0.411 0.564
Jason Varitek 196 0.222 0.328 0.380 112 0.232 0.293 0.473
David Ortiz 514 0.258 0.358 0.483 518 0.270 0.370 0.529
Dustin Pedroia 630 0.300 0.369 0.451 302 0.288 0.367 0.493
Victor Martinez 499 0.298 0.374 0.480 493 0.302 0.351 0.493
Marco Scutaro 540 0.285 0.369 0.404 632 0.275 0.333 0.388
Mike Cameron 477 0.254 0.337 0.458 162 0.259 0.328 0.401
J.D. Drew 437 0.273 0.386 0.487 478 0.255 0.341 0.452
Mike Lowell 463 0.285 0.343 0.461 218 0.239 0.307 0.367
Jeremy Hermida 226 0.255 0.338 0.402 158 0.203 0.257 0.348
Josh Reddick 92 0.252 0.312 0.429 62 0.194 0.206 0.323
Jacoby Ellsbury 541 0.290 0.347 0.410 78 0.192 0.241 0.244

At the top of the table, you see those players who outperformed their predicted OPS by the greatest margin, and at the bottom are the laggards. Although he wasn’t the biggest plus on a pure OPS scale, playing time meant that Adrian Beltre was this season’s offensive MVP. Jed Lowrie was a big boost at the end of the season, and performed surprisingly well at the dish after finally recovering from mononucleosis.

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Links 9-20-2010: Beckett and Lackey, farm awards, V-Mart, crowdsourced contracts

Joe Pawlikowski examines Josh Beckett and John Lackey, and concludes that Beckett is probably more likely to return to form next season.

The Red Sox announced their minor league awards for 2010. Pitcher of the year is Felix Doubront, who did great as a starter, then bit the bullet to relieve for the Major League club.

After years of our top prospects kind of flaming out and struggling, Ryan Lavarnway and Anthony Rizzo are building some real value after very strong 2010 campaigns. And don’t forget Oscar Tejeda and Jose Iglesias, who also performed very well this year. Prospect guru John Sickels believes that Rizzo has passed up Lars Anderson as the top 1B prospect in our system.

The Red Sox signed four more international players, according to the Full Count blog.

Sully at Red Sox Beacon puts Darnell McDonald’s season into context for us. Yes, his defense was exposed in center field, but McDonald was better than a lot of  “name” outfielders out there this year. Without him, this team would have been sunk a while ago.

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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 8-3-2010: 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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Links 7-22-2010: Trade outlook, getting healthy is painful

There is about a week and a half left before this year’s non-waiver trade deadline, and it appears that the Sox are trying to upgrade their bullpen, outfield and catcher. To me, this year has been all about health, and it may not make sense to pull the trigger on a big trade at this point; Sox Therapy agrees.

According to various reports, the Sox have shown interest in the following players:

Relievers: Scott Downs (TOR), Leo Nunez (FLA)
Outfielders: David DeJesus (KC) , Cody Ross (FLA), Corey Hart (MIL)
Catchers: Chris Iannetta (COL), Chris Snyder (ARI)

That doesn’t mean much in July, however. Everyone’s calling around about options, but that doesn’t mean something’s necessarily going to happen. The market for relievers is notably bad this year – Blue Jays initially asked for Jose Iglesias in exchange for Downs. That shows you how tough it is to actually get a deal done as a buyer. I’m on board with the names on this list, but not so big on spending a lot to get Ross or Hart, not when we already have Jeremy Hermida, Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. With Jacoby Ellsbury out until God knows when and Mike Cameron being slow to heal, I’m convinced we need someone who can play a passable center field, and DeJesus fits that the best.

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