11-3-2011: On the search for a manager…

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but do you really want your next Boston Red Sox manager to look like THIS?

image courtesy NESN

image courtesy the Boston Globe

The guy might know his baseball, but he looks like a total dork (anyone remember Gary Cole as the boss from Office Space?). He also came off to me as really proud of himself for having a statistical system in place to evaluate players. Dude, it’s not new anymore. Everyone does it; the question is how good are you?

Not that I’m terribly excited by the prospect of Dale Sveum taking over, either; I remember not really liking him as a third base coach.. I’m really glad that they are continuing to interview candidates.

Why did they fire Terry Francona again?

Links 11-1-2011: Pedroia wins a Fielding Bible award

Congratulations to Dustin Pedroia, who finished first among all second basemen in this year’s Fielding Bible Awards (expanded results are here). Adrian Gonzalez finished in second place among all first basemen, making the right side of our infield the best in baseball. Those of you holding out for us to sign Albert Pujols, it ain’t happening. You can’t play either of those guys at DH or anywhere else.

Carl Crawford finished eighth in left field, and Jacoby Ellsbury was sixth among centerfielders.

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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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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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.

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.