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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2-3-2011: Handicapping the AL East

It’s February, and we’re all itching for things to get started. I went ahead and did a little exercise based on my projections. Consider these a back of the envelope prediction for the division.

For offense, I plugged in OBP and SLG into Baseball Musings’ lineup analysis tool, multiplied by 162 games, and took away 8% of those runs based on the play of substitutes and injuries, etc. Historically, it’s worked out that way for the Sox the past few years.

Team Offense R/G Runs
NYY 5.57 830
BOS 5.50 820
BAL 5.35 797
TB 5.06 754
TOR 4.77 711

The Yankees still have the most thump, but not by a large margin. Adding Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford is nice, but it’s full seasons of Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury that will really narrow that gap. Baltimore has added a lot of pop this offseason, and they could be dangerous to pitchers’ ERAs this season. The Rays’ offense may be a bit better than this, but my projections don’t really like Ben Zobrist or Reid Brignac all that much. The Blue Jays have some potential, but they remain punchless as usual.

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1-14-2011: The Yankees and Soriano, 2011 draft picks, Sox offseason pays off

The Yankees signed a pretty good reliever in Rafael Soriano yesterday, but curiously, I’m fairly positive about it. I’m happy because his 3-year, $35M deal (with TWO opt-out clauses) smacks of desperation. It’s like they were trying to copy what we did with Bobby Jenks, but botched it badly. Nobody pays this much to a setup guy, but somehow Scott Boras made the Yankees just look foolish. Brian Cashman had to directly go back on his word to sign Soriano, and they gave up their first-rounder to Tampa Bay in order to do it. They also ensured that we would get Texas’ first-round pick for signing Adrian Beltre. The Yankees haven’t improved this offseason, and they have some heavy payroll commitments coming up. I’m not saying that Soriano won’t make them better. He’s a very good player when healthy. But they could end up flushing quite a bit of change down the toilet on this deal.

We’ve done pretty well on gathering draft picks while also improving as a team (getting younger and more athletic). Only Tampa Bay has acquired more early picks, but I’m of the opinion that they will take a pretty big step back this year, so they’ll need them.

The Red Sox offseason has already paid off, as far as upper management is concerned. They are selling tickets like crazy, and ESPN has picked up four of their early games on Sunday nights. They are relevant again. They also have some ticket voucher giveaways coming right up.

Hideki Okajima has resigned with Boston for one year on the team’s terms. I still think he could be mildly effective, though we probably won’t see any more low-2 ERAs from him anytime soon. I feel somewhat comfortable with him and Felix Doubront as lefty options out of the pen, though even the righties don’t have terrible splits against lefties.

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12-9-2010: Sox sign Carl Crawford!

Not a bridge year indeed. Peter Abraham reports that the Red Sox have signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a 7-year, $142M contract. Ken Rosenthal confirms this too. If this is what Theo Epstein means by a complementary player… There go the theories about shrinking the payroll.

Wow. Just wow.┬áIt has long been known that the Sox coveted Crawford, but I did not expect this. The Sox are opening up the vaults in their best imitation of the Yankees. There’s one major difference, however. Epstein is locking himself into long-term deals, yes. But he is locking up players who are still in their prime and play defense as well as hit, providing value in more than one dimension.

As MLB Trade Rumors points out, scooping up Crawford is a major coup in a division where they are taking him from the Rays and keeping him from the Yankees. Perhaps drinking his own Kool-Aid on Brett Gardner’s excellent 2010, Brian Cashman was a bit late to the Crawford party, and it cost him big.

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12-5-2010: Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez

It happened a bit faster than what I projected, but the Red Sox are reportedly close to completing a deal that would send Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a PTBNL to the San Diego Padres for one Adrian Gonzalez. According to many sources, he has passed his physical and it is a done deal. The Red Sox have until 2 PM today to negotiate a contract extension with Gonzalez, who has just one year left on his contract.

If they don’t extend him right now, the deal can still be completed and he can be extended later on, and that might actually be beneficial, points out Alex Speier. So don’t be shocked if no extension gets announced along with the trade.

What we are getting

Gonzalez is a bona fide superstar, having topped 30 HR each of the past four seasons and 100 RBI in three of those (he had 99 RBI back in 2009). Consider that the Padres offense as a whole has been abysmal, not even reaching 700 runs scored since 2007, so he regularly gets the Barry Bonds treatment (35 intentional walks last year alone). Add to that the fact that PETCO Park is one of the worst hitters parks for left-handed batters in all of baseball, and his track record there is just incredible.

Adjust for the transition to the AL, then playing half his games in Fenway against the AL East, and we get a conservative line of .279/.364/.509 for 2011. That’s more than 4 wins based on offense alone. Once you add everything else, we’re talking about a 5-6 win player.

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11-19-2010: Crazy offseason scenario number 1

All of this Justin Upton talk has me thinking. The Red Sox need two bats to replace Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, and it’s generally thought that we will likely sign a free agent corner outfielder (Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford) and a corner infielder. What if, instead of blowing $100M on two good but aging players, we fill those spots via trade for good young players, utilizing our top prospects? Stay with me here.

Step 1. Send Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Josh Reddick to Arizona for Justin Upton

I know, you’re saying WHAT? But hear me out.

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Links 11-10-2010: Sox contact every free agent, offseason predictions, Crawford vs Werth

We should clear up something: just because the Sox have contacted Jayson Werth doesn’t mean they’ve targeted him as THE acquisition for the offseason. In fact, Theo Epstein tends to work like a shrewd hedge fund manager and plan for contingencies, diversifying his free agent portfolio. Basically the Sox have many possible plans of action, and which one they take is determined by the market. If the price for Werth climbs too high, they default to another plan with someone else. Accordingly, the Sox have contacted just about every major free agent already to try and gauge who would fit well and what their expectations are. This serves the double purpose of masking our true intentions, in case someone out there wants to bid us up.

Offseason predictions

The writers at MLB Trade Rumors have taken a stab at predicting where this year’s free agents will end up. Their consensus is that the Yankees will land Cliff Lee, and the Angels will nab Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre. I agree about Lee; after re-signing Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera to pricey deals, I think the Yankees will land him (at over $20M per season) and basically be done. The Halos need to make a big splash, and while they love speed and are in dire need of the outfield defense Crawford would provide, they have other big problem areas, most notably third base and the rotation. I find it unlikely that they will land both Crawford and Beltre, who will command upwards of $30M/year between the two of them. The Angels featured the worst third base production in the Majors last year, and they have no internal options there. They love their Hispanic players, so my guess is Beltre goes with them (he likes the West Coast anyway).

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