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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9-8-2011: 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 ┬áhasn’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.

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.

8-2-2010: Minor moves at the deadline, Lowell still in play

The Red Sox, expected to land an additional bullpen arm by the deadline, dealt one instead, and made another small acquisition at catcher. It was hard watching the Yankees land Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns, and this is a signal from Boston’s front office that while we’re not giving up on this season, they’re content to let it play out and finish third if we have to. Theo Epstein is clearly thinking 2011 at this point, and I don’t really blame him.

What it will take

Currently at 60-45, the Red Sox sit 6.5 games back of Tampa Bay. If the Rays play .600 baseball the rest of the way, they will have a 100 win season, and we need to go 41-16 to edge them. If they play .550 baseball, they will still have 97 wins and we will need to go 38-19 (.667) the rest of the way. Is this team capable of that? With a healthy rotation, an easier second half schedule and the impending returns of Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, you have to think that it’s at least possible. But it means we will have to win just about every series, and probably sweep the Rays in at least one of our two remaining series. We can’t play any worse than taking two of three from the Tigers, or we’re done. That’s why the management decided to go conservative at the deadline.

Let’s look at each move that was made:

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Links 7-27-2010: Sox addressing bullpen and catcher, Lowell, Ellsbury, and random stuff

Rumors are flying. The Sox were pursuing Scott Downs, but then the Jays wanted Jose Iglesias. Still sane, Theo Epstein said no. That’s just fine, says Brian MacPherson, because Downs might add only one win to the team anyways. Daniel Bard even suggests that we might not need to add an arm; ah, the ignorance of youth.

Then there were rumors that the Red Sox were actually trying to trade one of their relievers, rumored to be Manny Delcarmen or Ramon Ramirez. I think we’d be alright without either one, but you’d better have something else lined up besides Michael Bowden and Robert Manuel. That proposed deal would have brought veteran catcher Rod Barajas, who the Sox have liked in the past, to be our backup catcher; however it doesn’t seem like it’s still in play.

We’ve got Victor Martinez back, but catcher is far from settled at this point. The brass would definitely like to see someone in there with some experience who can play defense and hit some more than Kevin Cash as Jason Varitek insurance.

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7-26-2010: Tough trip continues, Martinez back today, Lowell and Ellsbury soon

With a split in Seattle, the Red Sox are having yet another tough West Coast trip. Despite getting some incredibly good starting pitching in that series with the Mariners, poor offense and the struggling bullpen contributed to the disappointing finish. With both New York and Tampa winning yesterday, the Sox can not afford much more underperformance. They need to win against teams like Seattle, and they need to at least hold their own against contending teams.

Hopefully the addition of Victor Martinez today helps. Just pray that his thumb holds up to the ardors of catching. Mike Lowell went 4-4 at Triple-A, and looks like he could be back (or traded) soon, and even Jacoby Ellsbury will begin playing rehab games this week. Dustin Pedroia may skip rehab altogether and land back on the club in two weeks. This Red Sox team could get healthy again in a hurry, but is it too little, too late?

Michael Bowden was optioned back to Pawtucket, but I’d expect him back after his 10 days are up. The bullpen is too shaky for us to go without him for too long. We’ll see how many arms we can add by the July 31 deadline.

Speaking of the trading deadline, I expect the Sox to make at least one minor move, and possibly a medium-sized one, but I don’t foresee anything big. The Tigers have recently expressed some minor interest in Lowell, but it looks like they are more in need of an outfielder right now.

The Hardball Times agrees that picking up David Ortiz’s option is not really good economically at this point, but they suggest signing him to a 1-year, $9M contract or a 3-year, $18M one. I’m not sure I like three years, though I’d consider two with a vesting option.

Ryan Lavarnway is making some progress with his catching at Double-A Portland. The hitting is already looking good, but he’s going to have to make some strides if he wants to stay there.