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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4-8-2011: Yankees series predictions, Aceves called up

If there was any inkling of overconfidence by these Red Sox coming into the 2011 season, it’s gone now. The defensive and baserunning miscues we saw this week showed a general lack of focus and preparedness, and those need to be dealt with, NOW. Our boys limp into Boston 0-6 on the year, having been swept in embarrassing fashion by the Rangers, and now even the rebuilding Indians at the Jake. I don’t think any less of this team talent-wise, but I do think that there’s a comfort level which has to be reached, and it will only happen after we win our first game.

Game 1: Phil Hughes vs. John Lackey

Normally, I’d say that Hughes is a better pitcher, but you have to take into account the beating that he took in his first start against Detroit. Don’t discount the fact that his fastball was clocking in at only 89 mph, whereas it’s normally about 3-4 mph faster. I think Lackey surprises us with a pretty solid outing (say 2-3 runs over 6 innings) and we finally win our first game here.

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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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12-23-2010: Sox offense in good shape for 2011

Nobody yet knows what lineup Terry Francona will use next season, but we know that whatever lineup he uses will be pretty good. We also know that should a player go down, whether in the infield or outfield, we’ve got some pretty good contingency players in Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron, guys who could be starters for some teams out there.

If you plug in our projections into the Baseball Musings lineup analyzer, you get an average of 5.502 runs per game, or about 891 runs on the year. Take away 8% due to the play of substitutes, and we project this squad for 820 runs in 2011. This is actually slightly lower than what we projected for the 2010 squad by 12 runs. But assuming that our regulars play more than they did this year, we are still looking good.

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12-9-2010: Sox sign Carl Crawford!

Not a bridge year indeed. Peter Abraham reports that the Red Sox have signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a 7-year, $142M contract. Ken Rosenthal confirms this too. If this is what Theo Epstein means by a complementary player… There go the theories about shrinking the payroll.

Wow. Just wow.¬†It has long been known that the Sox coveted Crawford, but I did not expect this. The Sox are opening up the vaults in their best imitation of the Yankees. There’s one major difference, however. Epstein is locking himself into long-term deals, yes. But he is locking up players who are still in their prime and play defense as well as hit, providing value in more than one dimension.

As MLB Trade Rumors points out, scooping up Crawford is a major coup in a division where they are taking him from the Rays and keeping him from the Yankees. Perhaps drinking his own Kool-Aid on Brett Gardner’s excellent 2010, Brian Cashman was a bit late to the Crawford party, and it cost him big.

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Links 10-15-2010: This year, next year, and prospect news

About This Season

Pitching and defense¬†didn’t work because we didn’t pitch well and we didn’t play defense. At least not well enough. But we did still finish 6th overall according to this sabermetric ranking of teams. The Giants? Eleventh.

What exactly did the injuries cost us this season? Could we still be playing, had things gone differently? It’s a question many people are asking, including Brian MacPherson. On the other hand, putting our injuries into the context of MLB shows that while we did lose a lot of position players this year, our pitching staff actually fared quite well.

He didn’t miss much time because of it, but Marco Scutaro was playing hurt a lot this year. I was quite pleased with his performance for the most part, but the OBP was slightly disappointing.

Exactly how good was Jon Lester this year? If you look at the total of no-hit innings pitched this year by each pitcher, Lester finished second, behind Felix Hernandez. That’s pretty good company. On the other hand, we should expect a bit of regression next year from the lowest ERA on our staff.

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On the Horizon: OF Ryan Kalish

I guess I must be getting behind on these, since Ryan Kalish has already made his Major League debut and completed his official rookie season. Here we take a closer look at this promising young outfielder, and what his role with the team could be in 2011 and beyond.

Background

Just 22 years old, Kalish was drafted in 2006 as an over-slot 9th rounder out of Red Bank Catholic HS in New Jersey and is already a veteran of Boston’s farm system. Already committed to play baseball and football (quarterback) at University of Virginia, he hesitantly decided to sign with the Sox, his childhood favorite team. In addition to his $600k signing bonus, the Red Sox have agreed to pay his future college expenses. Highly competitive, he has drawn a lot of comparisons with Trot Nixon because of his all-out, “dirt-dog” style of play. Fans will love his aggressive play on the field. He is a charismatic player who draws the admiration of coaches and teammates, and he is said to be very mature (read this interview to verify it for yourself – part 1 and part 2). Kalish suffered a broken hamate bone in 2007 which required surgery and affected him in 2008 as well, but it appears to be fully healed now.

2010 was Kalish’s official rookie season, and he exploded upon the scene, going seven for his first 13 with a .538/.533/.615 line and hitting this memorable shot at Yankee Stadium. As with all rookies, Kalish went through his struggles and made adjustments, and he showed the tenacity and competitiveness that has made him successful.

Tools

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