Tagged: bard

2011 Is Finally Here

Baseball.

I’m watching opening day. Wonderful.

I’ve been meaning to write a “here comes 2011” post for weeks now; I guess late is better than never. Most of what I have to say has been said in one place or another.

I’m optimistic about 2011 for the Red Sox, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about the pitching staff. I read a provocative question regarding the Sox staff somewhere this Spring: “Is the Red Sox staff good, or merely deep?” It strikes me as a legitimate question.

#1: Sure, Lester is an ace. No questions there.

#2: Buchholz is the poster child for sabermetric regression. Virtually every advanced metric last year (especially BABIP, xFIP, K/BB. K/9and strand rate) suggests that Buchholz was exceptionally lucky, and that his 2.33 ERA was something of a mirage. He won’t suddenly sink, but don’t be surprised to see an ERA closer to 4.00 than 3.00 this year. That’s good, not great.

#3: Beckett. Sigh. Entering the first year of a 4 year, 60 million dollar extension, one really has to wonder how much Beckett has left in the tank. This spring was not reassuring. When healthy, Beckett has a wicked curve and a nasty fastball. When not, his back injury flattens out both pitches and wrecks his control. Fingers crossed that we get more Dr. Beckett, and less Mr. Hyde.

#4: Lackey. I wasn’t a big fan of this signing last season, and I wasn’t surprised to see Lackey put up mediocre numbers last season. The guy is a horse, and he’g likely going to pitch his 200 innings. But they won’t be great innings–expect another 4.50 ERA.

#5: Dice-k? Wake? Doubrount? Player to be named later? Its hard to guess who will finish the year as the #5. Certainly, Dice “I can’t throw a ******* strike” K will be in line for the job, given his $10 million salary.

The bullpen should be outstanding. Any potential struggles by Papelbon should be absorbed by Bard (who will certainly be the closer after Papelbon departs for the Yankees this offseason). Jenks and Wheeler give nice 7th and 8th inning depth. I am a bit surprised that perennial prospect Michael Bowden didn’t make the team.

Obviously, this offense is ungodly. The Sox boast a potential all-time 1-6 with Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez, and Ortiz. I mean, JD Drew isn’t an all-star anymore, but its pretty scary when he’s your #7. The Sox will score runs. And, assuming Youkilis holds up at third (and I think he’ll be ok in terms of zone rating), they can field the ball, too.

The big question for me centers around Josh Beckett. I think that will determine whether the Red Sox win 95 games (and perhaps the division) or 90 games (and perhaps miss the playoffs).

The Yankees figure to be very good. There offense might come down a bit (Jeter, A-Rod, and Posada are all getting older), but I think their gamble on veteran, back-end starters is likely to pay off. I figure the Yanks can win 95 games.

I think the Rays are in trouble. Yes, they have the best starting pitching in the loaded AL East. And, yes, traditionally starting pitching wins in the regular season. But the AL East is a different beast–and all the other teams have very strong lineups (even Baltimore). I’m not sure starting pitching is enough, especially since the Rays bullpen got raped in the off-season. You can’t seriously start Dan Johnson at first base and hope to compete in the AL East. I figure, given their pitching, the Rays will win 90 games.

The AL Central has a few top contenders, and a few real stinkers–so I wouldn’t be surprised if that division put up two 94 game winners. And, since I think all five AL East teams are strong, I would be surprised to see three teams equal the win totals of the top AL East teams last season. In other words, I’m not convinced that the wild card will come out of the East–it certainly could, and probably will, but I don’t think it is the given that it has been lately.

So, here’s to hoping that I’m wrong about the pitching staff. That Buchholz is an ace. That Beckett is still a potential 20 game winner. That the Lackey who lived in LA will finally arrive in Boston. That somebody translates “contract year” into Japanese. Because, otherwise, this great lineup might sit home and watch the playoffs. Again.

Fantasy Team 2010: Lincecum, Cain, Pray for Rain

So here’s how my fantasy draft went this season (an 8 person league). We have 14 offensive categories (R, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, TB, E, AVG, OBP, OFA) and 11 pitching categories (IP, W, SV, HR, BB, K, GIDP, HLD, ERA, WHIP, K/9).

  1. (7) Tim Lincecum SP
  2. (10) Pablo Sandoval 1B,3B
  3. (23) Justin Upton OF
  4. (26) Víctor Martínez C,1B
  5. (39) Aaron Hill 2B
  6. (42) Chone Figgins 3B
  7. (55) Andrew McCutchen OF
  8. (58) Adam Lind OF
  9. (71) Kendry Morales 1B
  10. (74) Matt Cain SP
  11. (87) Heath Bell RP
  12. (90) Everth Cabrera SS
  13. (103) Francisco Rodríguez RP
  14. (106) Billy Wagner RP
  15. (119) Max Scherzer SP
  16. (122) Nyjer Morgan OF
  17. (135) Brian Matusz SP
  18. (138) Garrett Jones 1B,OF
  19. (151) Daniel Bard RP
  20. (154) Casey McGehee 2B,3B
  21. (167) Luis Castillo 2B
  22. (170) David Ortiz 1B

Let me immediately say that I had to leave my draft after pick 106, so the rest of the draft was on auto-pick. I created a list before having to leave, but it must have run out of picks. I would never, never have drafted Ortiz or Castillo. They were immediately dropped for (eventually) closer David Aardsma and OF Jason Heyward (both went undrafted).

I was particularly excited to get Justin Upton in round 3 (were Lincecum gone, he might have been my first round pick) and Kendry Morales in round 9. Matt Cain in the 10th was also unexpected. Most of the teams in my league are geared toward starting pitching, so I decided to collect every closer I could (with Bard as my one set-up guy). Essentially, I know I won’t be competeing in cumulative stats such as Wins, IP, GIPD. But I should dominate rate stats such as ERA, WHIP, K/9 in addition to saves, HR, and BB. Given the high k/9 for my whole staff, I’ll even compete in gross K’s (given that Matusz and Scherzer are projected as +9 K/9 pitchers).

The only pick I regret–and I regretted it immediately–was the Aaron Hill pick. Dustin Pedroia was still on the board. Hill’s 100 / 100 season last year led me to pick him, but this team is built around scoring runs and stealing bases. I should have picked Pedroia–I think I was hesitant to pick two Red Sox in a row for fear of overvaluing the home team.

I picked Sandoval and Figgins high, but I thought both of them gave me great production at shallow positions. I knew Figgins would count as a 2B, so that’s nice depth for the bench. I also feel that SF will be much better this year, and thus think that Sandoval will have more RBI chances than a year ago.

I wrote earlier this season about my approach to shortstop. I dropped McGehee to grab Alcides Escobar, and then had to drop Escobar to grab a second basemen while waiting for Figgins’ eligibility to update. I have since dropped the 2B man (Rickie Weeks) to pick up the Dodgers’ Furcal, who’s hitting lead-off to start the season. That pretty much cements my roster for now, and I’ll try not to make any more changes until we get a larger sample-size of at-bats (around 100 or so). After that, I’ll revisit the Cabrera-Furcal-Escobar -(Scutaro?) shortstop question.

I had a losing week last week, going 9-13-3, but that was with my team hitting a combined .233 to open the season. Morales and Martinez hit a combined .227. Adam Hill (sigh) only managed to get 8 at-bats before missing time with an early injury. And, finally, had I started Garrett Jones for the first few games rather than Morales or McCutchen, then I would have won two more categories. So, I’m pretty happy with my depth of talent, and am looking forward to competing for the postseason in my second season of fantasy baseball.

Seven Red Sox Story Lines for 2010

I’m not necessarily a big fan of arm chair prognostication. I’m a much bigger fan of narration–and think that the most compelling sports analysis involves narrative arc. So, rather than offer a prediction, I’ll call attention to what I think are the most intriguing Red Sox story lines heading into the season.

1. John Lackey’s health

Of course, every team needs players to stay healthy. But the Red Sox are counting on their version of Maddux / Glavine / Smoltz this season–a three-headed pitching hydra poised to eat up innings and rack up wins. Lackey has missed 23% of his starts over the past two seasons. Put simply: missing 7 starts would be bad in a division that will likely come down to two or three games.

2. Can Defense Really Win?

This is a question posed by about every major media commentator [wsj.com]: the Red Sox’s turn toward defensive minded players. To separate myself a bit, I will point to the increased interest in defense in many of baseball’s “think tanks.” Seattle focused on defense as well this off-season–if the Sox and the Mariners do win their divisions, be prepared to become familiar with obscure terms such as RF and DE. I’ve been interested in these new defensive stats for quite awhile simply because they are so hard to quantify (and so few people will believe in the impact of something that cannot be measured). Rest assured, if the Sox win 100 games, you’ll see some theoretical-mathematical approaches to defense popping up on ESPN.

3. Does This Team Really Have a 4th Starter?

Those first three pitchers are incredible, and the team should benefit from increased defense. But can either Wakefield, Dice-K, or Buchholz maintain the Sox’s pitching advantage by consistently giving a 6 inning, 3 ER effort? The easy answer is “yes”–but last year’s struggles suggest that the Red Sox might actually have three number one pitchers and three number fives. I’m hoping Buchholz looks more like the pitcher of last September–a pitcher with top-of-the-rotation potential, than what he looked like at the beginning of last season or for most of this Spring.

4. Can This Team Score Runs?

This is an obvious question that has been covered elsewhere. Very simply:

  • Which David Ortiz shows up? One who can hit .250 with 30 home runs or one who can hit .200 with 15 home runs? Or one that hits like Pat Burrell (ewww….)?
  • Is Scutaro a one year wonder?
  • Will Cameron have more hits or strikeouts? (Hint: the last time he had more hits than k’s was 2000).
  • Can Drew repeat his stellar 2009?
  • Will Ellsbury continue to grow or has he plateau-ed?

Ok, so I’m not optimistic about the answer to most of these questions…which leads to my next two storylines:

5. Will Josh Reddick Break Through this Season?

Only the die-hard Sox fans likely know who Reddick is. Last year, in Spring Training, Reddick hit .423 / .433 / .577. This season he followed it up with an even more amazing .404 / .426 / .702. That’s a 1.128 OPS from a 23 year old who can play all three positions. He had a rough trip up to the majors last September, going only 10 for 59 with 2 walks and 17 strikeouts. But, on the bright side, 6 of his 10 hits were for extra-bases. His major league service clock has been activated, so there’s really no reason to keep him in the minors any longer. He’s got a career .512 slugging in the minor leagues, and though he tends to swing (think Nomar), he could be the next big Red Sox wonder-kid. Here’s one prediction–if Ortiz struggles, then I think Lowell and Drew will platoon at DH while Reddick will come up from the Paw Sox to get a shot at RF everyday. We all know Drew is leaving after this season–Reddick is the best candidate to get his job. And getting Drew’s 15 million dollars off the book will give the Sox the option of…

6. Adrian Gonzalez (?)

Perhaps the Mauer contract will fool the Padres into thinking they can resign their local star. I doubt it. If anything, Mauer’s price tag probably emphasizes how little chance they have. The Red Sox gave Beltre a one-year deal in the likelihood that Gonzalez will be a free agent next year. Gonzalez at first, Youkilis at third… that would be quite nice. I have no idea if this will happen–but rest assured, if the offense problems in question 4 do materialize, then the Gonzalez to Boston rumors will continue to intensify.

7. Will Josh Bard Develop Into the Next Papelbon (Literally) ?

Ok here’s one from left field, so to speak. But Sox fans have to see the writing on the wall. All of the Sox home-grown wonder kids have extensions–Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, and Youkilis. Papelbon does not. And, if what I read is true, then its quite likely that he won’t. Papelbon wants to be the highest paid closer in baseball history, and the Yankees need a closer soon. Perfect match. The Red Sox will feel a lot more comfortable with the prospect of letting Papelbon go to free agency (Yankees, Yankees, Yankees) if and only if Bard realizes his 100 mph potential.

So there’s my 7 story lines for the season. I’ll add two minor league threads to pay attention to as well: the development of Lars Anderson (who, if he plays well, would be a nice chip in a possible Gonzalez trade) and shortstop Jose Iglesias.

Let the baseball begin.

Red Sox Halladay Offer

Last week I proposed the Red Sox trade for Halladay. Here’s what that offer looked like:

The Red Sox actually offer was leaked earlier today. It pretty close to my offer, with one major difference. Here’s what they put on the table:

  • Clay Buchholz
  • Choice of Bowden, Anderson, or Masterson
  • A lesser prospect [not a blue-chip]

The Sox put Buchholz on the table, which I didn’t think they would do. Notice that flamethrower Daniel Bard is off the table. Ultimately, this is likely all academic, since I don’t think that the Jays will trade Halladay in the division if they can help it. But it is nice to dream.

Wakefield, Buccholz, and Halladay (?), Oh My!

First, as if in response to one of my questions from a few days ago, Buccholz has found a temporary spot in the rotation. I don’t know if Wake is really hurt or not–but this gives him a chance to rest up for a bit (he was clearly feeling his age at the end of last season–giving him, essentially, the month of July off is a good thing), and gives Buccholz an extended audition for the three spot in the rotation. I say three spot, because despite praising the pitching last week, I think you can see that the Red Sox have a number one starter, a number two starter, a number four starter (Wake) and then three number fives (Smoltz, Penny, Dice-K). We need a reliable third starter for the playoffs, and I don’t think we have that quite yet. (Smoltz might recover, Buccholz might develop, Dice-K might return to form, I might win the lottery).

Second, I am probably just pushing the panic button because the Yankees have just overtaken us for first place, but I want to propose the notion that the Red Sox should make a go at acquiring Halladay. He would become the ace immediately, and that would just make Beckett and Lester that much more effective come playoff time. I’ve been looking at the offers the Jay’s are hoping for (specifically the offer the Mets allegedly rejected) and think the Red Sox could easily put a package together. PS, if the Mets and the Phillies did reject the reported deals, then they must be smoking crack. The Jay’s asking price is quite reasonable for what might be the best pitcher in baseball. It is not a stretch-run rental–you get him for another whole season. While prospects are valuable–the Red Sox have shown that–you also have to realize there is a limited window to win. For the Mets and the Phillies, due to contract obligations too long to cover here, that window is likely next season.

Anyway, here’s my potential deal. In exchange for Halladay, the Red Sox exchange:

That’s three highly scouted prospects (all have ranked in BP’s top 100). Bowden is pitching great at the AAA level. I covered how a little investigation shows Masterson’s numbers to be better than they initially appear last post. Bard is a flamethrower out of the pen, and could potentially replace BJ Ryan as closer for the rebuilding Jays. I see Anderson as the hardest to let go, only because in a year or two the Sox might envision Youk moving back to third and Anderson starting at first.

So, Sox fans, Jays fans, other fans, what do you think?