Tagged: cameron

Reviewing Spring Training Red Sox Story Lines in September

Back in April, I wrote a list of Seven Red Sox Story Lines for 2010. Let’s see how they played out.

1. John Lackey‘s health

Lackey remained healthy all season, unfortunately those sub-par career numbers in Fenway Park weren’t just the result of a small sample size. Although, to be honest, his Home/Road split this year is nearly identical. You’ve got to wonder why Lackey put up the worst WHIP and K/9 of his career this year. Given that its the first year of a questionable contract, I am concerned. Let’s hope that uncharacteristically high BABIP is an aberration (especially on a team built for defense), and that he can knock a run of his 4.50 ERA next year. There is hope here, since his FIP is 3.88.

2. Can Defense Really Win?

OK, was that great defensive team ever on the field together? Ellsbury was out most of the year, as was Cameron. Fangraphs shows the Red Sox’s team defense numbers as mediocre–right in the middle of the league. Of course, the way this team hit for much of the season, they were able to win with offense. The loss of Youkilis (on top of Pedroia) is what really did this team in–they are 3 games over .500 without him.

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

Holy crap they do. Clay Buchholz has been the best starter on the team this year. I’m not sure who the #5 will be next year, but you have to feel good about a rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey, and any one else.

4. Can This Team Score Runs?

Here’s the questions I aksed in order:

  • 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….)? Answer: The good Ortiz. Eventually. A big question for the Red Sox this off-season will be what to do with Papi. I’ll save that for another post.
  • Is Scutaro a one year wonder?Answer: Yes. I wrote in another post that the Red Sox needed last year’s Scutaro–the one who walked 90 times to push his OBP to .379. They didn’t get that guy. Scutaro is back to his career averages this year, which means a .331 OBP.
  • Will Cameron have more hits or strikeouts? (Hint: the last time he had more hits than k’s was 2000).Answer: 14 BB, 44 K’s, and only 48 games.
  • Can Drew repeat his stellar 2009?
    Answer: No. This is one of the worst seasons of Drew’s career–his OPS is below .800. Its too bad he’s slated to earn 15 million plus for one more year.
  • Will Ellsbury continue to grow or has he plateau-ed?
    Answer: Oh the injustice of it all.

/

5. Will Josh Reddick Break Through this Season?

I wrote this post after Reddick finished his second straight insane Spring Training. But that seems to be the only place that Reddick shines. Reddick struggled through a terrible season at Pawtucket and has a .630 OPS in 53 PA this season. We did have a few great call-ups this year: Darnell McDonald has a .779 OPS (that’s .011 less than Drew for about 14.5 million fewer dollars), and Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish surprised in flashes. Any of those guys could be a 4th outfielder next season.

6. Adrian Gonzalez (?)

Who would have thought the Padres would be contending for a title this year? Gonzalez should be an MVP candidate, and the Red Sox will likely have to wait and see if the Padres give him the Mauer treatment this off-season.

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

I thought this was from left field, but I was right! Bard is every bit the stud he was advertised to be, and should be the closer opening day 2011. I don’t know if Paps will be traded or not, but Bard is clearly the future at the back of the Boston pen.

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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.

The Smell of Spring / Assessing the Red Sox’s Off-Season Moves

So I am ready to jump right back into baseball. With Spring Training upon us, I’ve spent a few lunches looking at the Sox’s major off-season moves. The questions surrounding the Red Sox this season focus on whether this team has enough offensive firepower to win games. I decided to look at the changes one at a time to see how they break down.

Lowell Out, Beltre In

When I first heard about this move, I was less than pleased. Looking at the numbers, I’m still not happy. Beltre could be mediocre at best, and threatens to be an absolute disaster. Granted, his dismal 2009 numbers were impaired by serious injuries. But no one is sure he is completely recovered from those injuries. Even if he returns to “Seattle years” form, the Red Sox’s starting third baseman wouldn’t fit the patient, grinding line-up they have assembled. In the past ten seasons, Beltre walked 50 times only once; over the same span, Lowell has crossed 50 walks 5 times. Beltre’s career 162 game average BB:K ration is 46:104; he strikes out twice as often as he walks. Lowell’s? 56:83. Additionally, Lowell has near equal power (23 HR per 162 games vs. Beltre’s 24) and a much better career OBP (.343 vs .325).

Beltre was the quintessential one-year wonder, he has done nothing of significance since his “incredible” (“grumble, grumble”) 2006 campaign. His OPS+ since then? 93, 105, 112, 108, 88. Remember that an OPS+ of 100 represents an average, replacement level player.

I get that most feel Lowell has lost his defensive prowess since the hip injury and cannot be counted to play more than 120 games. But Red Sox fans should be weary that Adrian Beltre might turn into the next Edgar Renteria.

Bay Out, Cameron In

I admit that when I first heard Cameron was coming aboard, all I could hear was the whiff of his bat. But, looking closely at the numbers, replacing Bay with Cameron isn’t quite as devastating as I initially thought. Notice I said “quite as.”

Unlike Beltre, Cameron fits the Sox’s philosophy. He is a grinder whose 4.05 pitches/plate appearance tops Bay’s 3.95 (.10 might seem insignificant, but its not). Further, Cameron’s career 162 game average BB:K ratio is almost equal to Bay’s: 75 :156 to 86:157. I never realized how often Bay strikes out; adding Cameron to the line-up doesn’t really increase the number of K’s.

Unfortunately, Cameron’s career OBP% is .40 lower than Bay’s (a mediocre .340 versus Bay’s steadily productive .376) and he average 10 fewer home runs per 162 games (23 vs 33). As with Beltre, Cameron’s signing has been discussed in defensive terms, but he’ll need to make a whole pile of amazing plays (i.e., “there’s no way Jason Bay gets to that ball”) to begin to make up for the impending drop in outfield offensive production.

Scutaro In, Maybe?

Given the sorry shape of the shortstop position in Boston the past few seasons, there really isn’t anyone to whom Scutaro can compare. Though the young Jed Lowrie had an impressive rookie campaign (including 4.06 pitches/per plate appearance), I don’t think anyone considers him a candidate for a full-time position. But the reason I tag a “maybe” onto Scutaro is that he is coming off of the proverbial career season. I know this sounds ridiculously reductive and preposterous, but I think a Red Sox post-season berth can be directly tied to Scutaro walking at least 85 times next season. Yeah, I think its that simple–and that it could be a significant challenge.

Consider that last season was the first time in Scutaro’s 8 year career that he managed to walk more than 57 times, walking 90 times in 680 plate appearances. His career OBP coming into last season was .325. Last season? .379. Given that his batting average showed only a modest increase last season (up to .282 from a career average of .262), that means most of his offensive production came from patience at the plate. Scutaro never had an OPS+ over 100 in his career–he’s always been a below-average player. Now he’s being asked to repeat last season’s OPS+ of 111, 4.06 pitches/plate appearance performance.

Consider too that Scutaro hit 2nd all season for the Jay’s last year. A major part of his challenge will be to maintain the same plate discipline while hitting 7th, 8th or 9th in the order. He won’t be seeing as many good pitches lower in the order without the great bats surrounding him. I guess if Ellsbury struggles or if the top of the order suffers a key injury Scutaro could find his way higher in the order. But he better be ready to get his first at bat in the third inning some nights.

Of course, if the Sox do make the playoffs, it won’t be solely because of Scutaro’s patience at the plate. But I would be very surprised is Scutaro returned to pre-2009 form and the Red Sox still mustered enough offense to make the post-season.

And, unlike our other candidates, Scutaro is not an upgrade in the field. Throughout his career, his defensive numbers have been better at second base. So, on top of having to repeat incredible offensive spikes in production, he has the challenge of playing (slightly) out of position.

Victor Martinez In All Year

I think I have been a bit gloomy thus far, so I’ll end on a [slightly] positive note. The Red Sox will have Victor Martinez for an entire season. But Martinez is not a top of the line slugger, as much as he is a grinding, productive catcher (an OBP of .372 versus a SLUG of .465). Though his power number check in at just 21 HR per 162 games, he has grown more patient at the plate with every season, finishing last year with a 75:74 BB:K ratio and 4.05 pitches/per plate appearance (up from career averages of 67:79 and 3.80).

Over all, I think the Red Sox have taken a small step back offensively. How small a step will be in part up to David Ortiz, but I’ll leave that pondering for a future post. In concluding this one, I’ll say that the upcoming season is definitely going to be less about fireworks and more about sparks. Sparks grinding off the wheel.