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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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.

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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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5-3-2011: 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.

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3-21-2011: The bullpen shakeout

On a team with few questions, the newly rebuilt bullpen has gotten the most attention this spring. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got and what we expect to happen with the roster.

The Locks

Those guaranteed a job include Jonathan Papelbon (closer), Daniel Bard (setup) and Bobby Jenks (setup). Having a top three like this really makes this a formidable bullpen, at least against righties. Dan Wheeler (bridge) will almost certainly be part of this bullpen, so that leaves only 2 spots, really. Should the Sox go with four starters to open the year, I could see them carrying one more reliever to begin.

The Other Contenders

What we really need is for one of the lefties to come out and dominate again. You would think that Hideki Okajima would be guaranteed a spot, being a lefty with experience pitching for the Sox, but actually, the equation is not that simple. Okajima’s contract has a clause in it that allows the Sox to send him to the minors, and with the way Dennys Reyes is throwing, I expect them to exercise it. Reyes is also out of options, which makes it almost certain that if it comes down to the two of them, it’ll be Reyes. Felix Doubront is just as good, if not better than these two, but the Sox will start him at Pawtucket, most likely as a starter, this season.

Of the remaining righties, you’ve got a ton of possibles, including Scott Atchison, Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves, and Michael Bowden. Each of these guys has a different advantage. Atchison is the vet from last year, who is the most known quantity, while Albers has the out-of-options advantage. Aceves and Bowden can be swing men and give you multiple innings, with Aceves having better stuff and Bowden being the long-time Sox farmhand deserving of a shot. I’ve listed these guys in probable order here.

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.

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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