9-22-2011 Link: A defense of Theo Epstein

For all of you who are laying the blame for our September meltdown squarely at Theo Epstein’s feet: Brian MacPherson of the ProJo points out that the injuries we’ve sustained to the rotation this year would have been devastating for any club. The fact that we’re still the favorites for the wild card is pretty impressive.

I’m not saying that Epstein is free from blame, not at all. But who could have foreseen the loss/implosion of 60% of our starting five? In my opinion, going into the season with Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves, and Felix Doubront as depth starters was not unreasonable. They went out and got Kevin Millwood and Erik Bedard, but I think the front office could have done more to shore up the rotation, once they realized how bleak the situation was getting to be.

And don’t forget the devastating losses of Rich Hill and Bobby Jenks too. This bullpen went from being a real strength to a weakness pretty quickly with the loss of these two. Matt Albers and Daniel Bard are getting overexposed because they haven’t been there, and Dan Wheeler hasn’t been effective.

9-8-2011: Pitching prospect projections

And now for the pitchers in our stable:

Felix Doubront, SP (99.1 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 6.6 K/9, 4.51 ERA)

Doubront has a really live fastball, but his command and secondary offerings could use some polish. While he was healthy early on, this 23-year old showed the ability to really pitch well at Triple-A, so he’s likely ready for the next challenge. I think there’s still a chance he can stick as a back-end starter, but it seems as if the Sox like him in relief, so we’ll see what happens.

Alex Wilson, SP (105.4 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 4.59 ERA)

If Doubront is the most ready, I think Wilson may have the most potential of this group as a starting pitcher. A big guy who throws a good sinking fastball, Wilson could come up here and contribute next season. If he can continue to grow as a pitcher and be consistent, we’ll see him up here in mid- to late-2012.

Kyle Weiland, SP (124.3 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, 4.64 ERA)

Weiland had a great 2011, but the 24-year old  hasn’t really shown enough to really be a good pitcher at this level. Given his track record and age, it’s likely we are looking at a swingman-type player.

In addition to these three, Andrew Miller and Alfredo Aceves are still vying for a starting role next season. The depth we have at this position means that we will likely get one or two of these guys to pitch well enough to replace Tim Wakefield when he retires (whether it’s this offseason or next year sometime).

Michael Bowden seems to have successfully made the transition to reliever, and I think he could see some significant time in our bullpen next season. And don’t forget we still have Junichi Tazawa at Pawtucket as well, though heaven only knows what we’ll see from him at this point.

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.

Read more of this post

6-21-2011: A quick note about Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller was pretty good last night. Apart from a costly mistake to Orlando Hudson, he threw the ball quite well for a depth starter. The big youngster has all the talent in the world, but has struggled with mechanics and confidence issues. His PITCHf/x data is not up yet on FanGraphs, so we have to rely on observations for now.

Miller took it into the 6th inning and was able to go out there and stick to his delivery for the most part; Terry Francona noted that even when he slipped out of his normal motion, he was able to correct himself and avoid extended wildness. Maybe the biggest encouragement was his fastball velocity, which had declined in previous years, but was sitting at 93-94 mph last night.

Peter Gammons said that the Yankees, among other clubs, were trying to get Miller to opt out on June 15, but failed when the Sox called on him this week. Miller might be one of those reclamation projects that pays some dividends. With Daisuke Matsuzaka lost for the season, that would be a welcome development.

6-9-2011: Injuries piling on

I’m feeling pretty good about our Sox right now, as they continue to show how faulty the Yankee rotation is. That being said, there are a number of problems developing on the injury front…

The Dice-K Drama

Daisuke Matsuzaka will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery next week. While many are suggesting that this is the end of his tenure in Boston, he’s still got one year left, and with the speed of recovery these days after TJ, I think we could see him come back for one more go-round. Okay, given the number of headaches Daisuke has given the Red Sox and the amount of time lost to injury, we can safely say that this signing was a failure. Matsuzaka did not live up to the hype or the contract, though he did provide some decent value when he was healthy.

Read more of this post

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.

Read more of this post

2-7-2011: Sox add Reyes to bullpen options, announce NRIs

The Red Sox announced the signing of veteran left-hander Dennys Reyes to a minor league deal this weekend. Should he make the big league club and play a lot, he could earn $1.4M in 2011.

A 34-year old this coming season, Reyes has played 14 years of MLB, and been mostly a journeyman LOOGY reliever. A strong groundball pitcher (career 50.0%), he throws a 90 mph fastball and a good slider, and has a show-me changeup that he will throw to righties. Reyes has always posted decent strikeout rates, but he walks a lot of hitters (as most lefty relievers do). He should be a solid, if unspectacular, option. We project him for about 40 innings and a 3.94 ERA.

Reyes’ signing makes it more likely that the Sox will employ Felix Doubront as a starter, rather than using him in the bullpen. The Sox now have several Major League-caliber lefty options after Hideki Okajima, including Andrew Miller, Randy Williams, Rich Hill, and Reyes.

Non-Roster Invitees

The Sox announced their list of NRIs for this year. As I’ve noted earlier, I like the way that they’ve focused on younger players with some upside as well as veterans who should contribute.