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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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.

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6-2-2011: May wrapup, a great month

The month of May was a good one for the Sox, a really good one. They began the month at just 11-15 on the year, scraping the bottom of the division. The offense was barely average, and the pitching was decent but inconsistent. What a difference a month makes. Now Boston sits at 30-26 on the year, and is in second place, just two games back of the Yankees, despite the recent three-game sweep at the hands of the ChiSox. What have been the keys to this turnaround?

Offense

The Red Sox offense was the most potent in the American League in May, and not by a little. Putting up 126 runs in 29 games (5.38 runs/game) is very impressive by 2011 offensive standards, where league average is just 4.30 runs/game. Just a year ago, the average was 4.45 runs/game, and the year before that, it was 4.82 runs/game. So you probably have to kind of mentally add a quarter to a half run per game onto that figure if you want to compare with previous years.

Month R/G Avg OBP SLG BABIP wOBA BB% K%
April 4.11 0.243 0.331 0.380 0.283 0.319 10.9 21.1
May 5.38 0.287 0.349 0.472 0.317 0.361 7.9 18.4

As a team, the Red Sox put up a .287/.349/.472 slash line and a .361 wOBA (second was the Yankees at .340) and were about 26 percent better than the average AL offense. Looking at the walk and strikeout rates, it looks like the Sox as a team got more aggressive, and it’s been paying off. also, the power is back on. They hit the most doubles with 61 and tied with New York for first with 39 HRs this month. Even the running game got started (along with Carl Crawford), as the Sox swiped 28 bases in May. Some of this extra production comes from that high .317 BABIP in May. With league average at .286 on the year, that’s going to fall back to earth a bit. Still, this offense has moved up to fourth on the year and has the potential to keep pushing up the ranks.

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5-21-2011: Sox acquire Morales, sign Millwood

Sox trade a PTBNL for Franklin Morales

The pitching injuries are piling up again. With Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks out, the bullpen is a little thin. I was a little surprised to hear that Hideki Okajima was DFA’d, but you have to know that the Sox were dissatisfied with their lefty reliever situation this year, quickly discarding Denys Reyes. This move comes down to upgrading the bullpen. Morales was considered a pretty good prospect just two years ago, and is a lefty who throws a 94 mph heater and a good curve. His presence makes the deteriorating Okajima expendable (his three-year numbers are all trending in the wrong direction). Theo Epstein is hoping that we can retain him if he can slip through waivers, but if not, we’ll trade him.

It’s true, Morales’ numbers are not good, but that’s why he was available. He strikes out more hitters than Oki, but has struggled with walking batters and giving up the long ball (though I hear that happens from time to time in Colorado). Perhaps Curt Young can work some magic with the young flamethrower. I’ll have to see what we send back in return for him, but this seems like a good upside deal to me.

Kevin Millwood signed to a minor-league deal

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5-17-2011: What we know about our pitchers by now

While several hitting statistics are starting to stabilize by this point in the season, pitching stats take quite a bit longer to mean something. At 150 batters faced, you can reference strikeout rate, GB rate and line drive rate, and at 200 batters faced, you can talk about fly ball rate and FB/GB ratio. Here’s a look at these numbers from our rotation:

2011 2010
Name BF K% GB% LD% FB% GB/FB BF K% GB% LD% FB% GB/FB
Lester 238 24.4% 55.3% 12.0% 32.7% 1.69 861 26.1% 53.6% 16.9% 29.6% 1.81
Buchholz 202 14.9% 47.0% 14.6% 38.4% 1.22 711 16.9% 50.8% 17.7% 31.5% 1.61
Beckett 195 25.1% 43.8% 16.4% 39.8% 1.10 577 20.1% 45.8% 19.0% 35.3% 1.30
Lackey 192 9.9% 33.6% 21.2% 45.2% 0.74 930 16.8% 45.6% 18.4% 36.0% 1.27
Matsuzaka 167 15.6% 31.6% 12.8% 55.6% 0.57 664 20.0% 33.0% 21.6% 45.5% 0.73
Wakefield 99 11.1% 37.5% 16.3% 46.3% 0.81 610 13.8% 37.0% 16.5% 46.6% 0.79

You can see that Jon Lester is his same dominant self, and that he is clearly the ace of this staff, boasting very high strikeout and ground ball rates. Josh Beckett is fully healthy, striking out hitters at the highest rate in the rotation and a lower line drive rate. Clay Buchholz is very solid in these peripherals, and so we should continue to see solid starts out of him, though he won’t likely reproduce that sub-3.00 ERA from last season.

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5-9-2011: The rebuilt bullpen, a work in progress

After one month, it seems that everything about the sub-.500 Red Sox is unsatisfactory. I read this article the other day impugning our new bullpen, and I’ll admit there have been some really bad moments, but has it really been that bad?

As a group, the bullpen has an ERA of 4.89 thus far, which ranks as the 4th-worst bullpen in the AL and 6th-worst figure in all of baseball. But if you take a closer look at the figures, they have not pitched that badly. Rather, their 7.37 K/9 and 0.86 HR/9 rank solidly in the middle, and they’ve walked very few batters at 3.17 BB/9. This translates into a much better 3.74 FIP and 3.78 xFIP (corrected for HR luck), which puts them right in the middle of the pack. Considering that they pitch in the uber-talented AL East, I’d say that’s not a bad performance at all. I’d be happy to get that kind of performance from them for the year.

One glaring weakness has been their inability to prevent runners from scoring, as shown by their 64.6 LOB%, fourth-worst in MLB behind the White Sox, Astros, and Mariners. You could chalk a lot of that up to bad luck, but whatever the reason, once guys get on base, they tend to score more often against the Sox than other teams.

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