10-26-2011: Lackey getting TJ surgery

At his inaugural press conference, new GM Ben Cherington announced that pitcher John Lackey will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of 2012.

Several take-home points from this:

  • Lackey’s poor showing in 2011 was likely due at least in part to his bum elbow; it wasn’t completely a change in talent level so much as it was an injury.
  • The front office should have secured another starter besides Erik Bedard, or at least had a better contingency plan.
  • The lost season means that Lackey’s option year kicks in for the league minimum (making him potentially tradeable towards the end of his deal).
  • The option year means that the AAV of his deal goes down to $13.8M, which helps in determining the CBT payroll.

The Sox will have to be in on one substantial free agent pitcher, or else swing a deal for one this offseason. What do you think is the right approach?

Link 10-20-2011: PITCHf/x analysis of Lackey

Josh Weinstock takes a look at what’s troubling John Lackey the past two years as a Red Sox.

The PITCHf/x data shows his velocity and movement to be just fine, but it appears his command is slipping. Specifically, fastballs to lefties have been right over the plate at times and have gotten clobbered to the tune of .343/.401/.514 this year. Much of that is due to an astronomical .383 BABIP for southpaws, but you have to admit it’s concerning the way everything appears to be over the heart of the plate.

One other hint that command was an issue: try 19 hit batsmen in 160 IP on the season, a new career high. His previous high was 12 back in 2007, and he pitched 224 innings that year.

If you look at his pitch selection, you’ll see that Lackey went away from his fastball and towards his slider a lot more this year, possibly because of this issue. That’s been his only plus pitch since he’s joined Boston. The pitching coach needs to get in there and work with this guy, because he’s not going anywhere until he builds up some trade value.

10-17-2011: The Lackey situation

Everyone is pretty worried about John Lackey and the three years remaining on his contract. What do we do with this albatross? Certainly none of the stats guys saw this coming. Curt Schilling claims that Lackey can’t rebound from the year he’s had, and the stats are beginning to agree. Here’s what we see in the crystal ball, taking into account his poor performance this year:

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10-13-2011: Some random thoughts on free agents

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to leave all this clubhouse talk behind and start thinking about next year. We’ve got a number of decisions to make on our own guys, and I’ve heard lots of names bandied about, which I’d like to weigh in on and discuss.

David Ortiz, DH (age 36 next year)

The guy has been great for us, and he had a wonderful bounceback year. I expect he’ll be wanting a three- or even four-year deal, but I would like to see the Sox spend no more than 2/20 on him if he stays. Is anyone convinced that he will definitely duplicate his numbers next year? How about in two years? Three? Given his age and his recent comments, maybe we SHOULD let him go, take our draft picks and let Kevin Youkilis DH. We can sign a stopgap third sacker and let him compete with Jed Lowrie/Mike Aviles for the job until Will Middlebrooks is ready.

C.J. Wilson, SP (age 31 next year)

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10-12-2011: Epstein to join the Cubs

If you haven’t heard it by now, Theo Epstein to the Cubs is pretty much a done deal at five years and between $15-20M. He will assume GM duties there, but he will be given basically free reign and report to only one person. It’s hard to blame him for wanting the opportunity Chicago offers, with a bigger market, a high-profile team, and a chance to make history – again. Still, if I were him, I don’t think I would want to leave a team like this, after the biggest September collapse in Major League history.

From what was reported, the front office was trying desperately to keep Epstein, but he’s had issues with them before about having more autonomy. On the bright side, the Sox stand to gain compensation for letting him leave a year early. It looks like it will be a high-profile prospect and cash, and names like RF Brett Jackson and SP Andrew Cashner have been mentioned. I’d be glad to add either of those guys to our organization; both of those are areas of need.

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Link 10-12-2011: How it all went down in September

Finally, the sordid details of the problems in the Red Sox clubhouse have come out. The Globe’s Bob Hohler lays it all out for us. The lowlights include a dysfunctional and fractured clubhouse, a “me-first” attitude among most of the players, and a general spoiled brat, complaining attitude.

Looking at this, I have to place a big part of the blame on Josh Beckett. He’s the guy who should have stepped up and talked to these guys who were getting out of line. John Lackey was the new guy, and would have been ostracized if he had pulled this stuff on his own, and Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are followers (though they didn’t have to be); they couldn’t have been like this without Beckett leading the chicken-and-beer-fueled charge. Instead we hear that Beckett was grousing that he fell out of contention for the Cy Young, and veterans like David Ortiz yakking about an RBI which should have been added to his stat line. Just disgraceful and disgusting. No wonder Terry Francona and Theo Epstein want to leave.

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10-6-2011: The year that was

Alright, now that the initial sting has worn off a bit, I can go back and actually try to analyze this past season with some objectivity. We’ll cover our predictions, what went right and what went wrong.

First up, we predicted that the Sox would take the division with 92 wins. While the win figure was not off by much, the Yankees took it with 97 wins (not 90), and of course the Rays edged us out in the final game of the season with 91 wins (not 83). We also had Baltimore with 79 wins and Toronto at 76. Oops.

OFFENSE

We projected Boston to be 2nd best in the AL East at 820 runs behind New York’s 830 runs. In actuality, we led all of baseball by scoring 875 runs compared to 867 for the pinstripes.

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Link 10-5-2011: Top 50 pitching prospects

John Sickels at Minor League Ball gives his take on the top 50 pitching prospects and how they fared in 2011.

You have to go all the way down to number 46 to find Anthony Ranaudo, the only Red Sox prospect on the list. Not good for a team with some major questions about the rotation, not good.

To be fair, I don’t think that John Lackey will be this bad again in 2012, and with Clay Buchholz returning, we will have a strong rotation once more, but our number five is 43-year old Tim Wakefield right now, and if Lackey continues to struggle, we could be in big trouble going forward.

9-29-2011: RIP to the Red Sox

Last night was such a fitting end to the Red Sox’ 2011 season. With the Sox up 3-2 and the Rays trailing New York 7-0, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that, at worst, we’d be playing that one-game playoff today. But one rain delay, a Dan Johnson pinch-hit home run and a Jonathan Papelbon collapse later, it was suddenly gone. I just have no words. How do you explain a season where we were roundly picked as the best team in baseball, and we collapse like this? How do you explain THIS (image taken from FanGraphs.com):

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Links 9-26-2011: Ellsbury’s power surge, Papelbon’s heater and Lackey at Fenway

In winning game 2 of the doubleheader with New York, Jacoby Ellsbury hit his 31st home run yesterday. Needless to say, I and everyone else have been flabbergasted by his power surge in 2011. Baseball Analytics takes an interesting look at how he has been doing it, and in addition to pulling just about everything down the line, their heat maps tell the story that he has just been punishing thigh-high fastballs from righties. His month-to-month SLG and average HR distance has been increasing all year long, so this could be a real change in what to expect from Ells going forward; I’d guess that he goes from being a 10 HR guy to maybe a 18-22 HR guy.

Jonathan Papelbon has had a real renaissance of a season, which has really rescued this overtaxed bullpen and helped it remain as one of the most productive in the AL. Baseball Analytics shows that he’s been using that high heat very effectively this year. The velocity is not changed much from previous years, but I think he’s setting up the pitch much better by mixing in his other pitches. He’s been locating the four-seamer more inside to lefties, and that’s helped.

Bill Petti points out that John Lackey has been especially horrific at Fenway Park this year, where 12 of the 20 HRs hit against him have come. If you believe in mapping ball landing spots onto another stadium, he suggests that as many as 7 of those taters might not have been taters at Anaheim Stadium. Lackey’s FIP would then be a much more respectable 4.18 on the year. FIP is a linear approximation, so it tends to underestimate at the low and high ends of the ERA spectrum anyway, but certainly, we have to be concerned about Lackey as a hittable fly-ball pitcher at Fenway. Those guys typically have to balance those extra homers with more Ks and fewer walks if they want to be successful.

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