10-13-2011: Some random thoughts on free agents

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to leave all this clubhouse talk behind and start thinking about next year. We’ve got a number of decisions to make on our own guys, and I’ve heard lots of names bandied about, which I’d like to weigh in on and discuss.

David Ortiz, DH (age 36 next year)

The guy has been great for us, and he had a wonderful bounceback year. I expect he’ll be wanting a three- or even four-year deal, but I would like to see the Sox spend no more than 2/20 on him if he stays. Is anyone convinced that he will definitely duplicate his numbers next year? How about in two years? Three? Given his age and his recent comments, maybe we SHOULD let him go, take our draft picks and let Kevin Youkilis DH. We can sign a stopgap third sacker and let him compete with Jed Lowrie/Mike Aviles for the job until Will Middlebrooks is ready.

C.J. Wilson, SP (age 31 next year)

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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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9-7-2011: Just how good are these prospects, anyway?

The Red Sox had a lot of their top prospects succumb to injury or slump in 2011, but not all the news is bad. Once these guys get up to the Double-A and Triple-A levels, it becomes possible to project what their batting lines might be based on their component rates (how often they walk, strike out, hit home runs, etc.).

Here’s a quick look at what we might get out of these guys next year, based on their track record so far (all numbers assume starting roles for the Red Sox next season, adjusted for Fenway Park).

Josh Reddick, RF (.261/.321/.433 with 35 doubles and 18 HR in 557 AB)

Reddick finally got healthy and got the chance to open some eyes this year with his bat, his glove and energetic play. While he had a great season, most of his batting average came from an unusually high rate of singles, as shown by his high-ish .329 BABIP. His projected 7.6 BB% and 20.9 K% rates for next year suggest that he might be on the cusp of a starting role. It’s worth noting that it won’t take much to better the .232/.304/.360 the Sox got out of their right fielders this season. I fully expect the Sox to give him a shot at the job in the offseason, but they should bring in a short-term veteran for him to compete with.

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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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5-10-2011: 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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4-25-2011: Some props for the gloves

Wow, does it ever feel good to get the standings back into whack (for the most part). The Sox have now won 8 of their last 9 games, and looked really good doing it. Everything seems to be falling into place; even Carl Crawford is getting it started at the plate. The rotation suddenly looks like the collection of four aces I was effusing about before the season, and we are getting innings from them, making the bullpen look very strong recently.

The rotation is getting all the accolades for their recent domination, but don’t forget that a lot of this recent run is thanks to some pretty good defense. The Red Sox rank 5th in baseball with a .734 DER, just behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who we know can really pick it. Though it hasn’t had much time to really stabilize and be reliable, Ultimate Zone Rating likes the Red Sox at +6.6 runs on the year, 7th best in MLB. John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system has the Sox at -5 on the year, but we know that there were some pretty blatant gaffes early that probably contributed to that.

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4-20-2011: Saltalamacchia struggling to earn the trust of the staff

Terry Francona hinted that Jarrod Saltalamacchia may not have the full confidence of the pitching staff:

I think sometimes a catcher can put down the same signs, but depending on who it is, the pitcher throws with a little more commitment. I think Tek has earned that. It’s always going to be hard for the next guy to come in to compare themselves, the way the game’s being run, with Tek.

I’ve said all season that I think this is a problem, as can be seen by Salty’s catcher ERA this year (7.14) versus that of Jason Varitek (2.40). I can see how it would be hard for anyone as the new guy to follow a guy who’s caught four no-hitters. However, Victor Martinez wasn’t the best defensive catcher, and they had no problem throwing to him last year. Salty may just not have the ability to win over his staff, and that’s a problem. If things don’t change soon, I’d like them to give Mike McKenry a look when they have an opportunity (perhaps when Varitek goes on the DL in June or whenever).