I’ve been wanting to write this one for over a week now, but haven’t found the time. Here’s a quick take.
Crawford is Over-paid
First, I was waiting all fall to see who would overpay for Crawford. I did not think it would be the Red Sox. Crawford is an athletic talent–but there is no way a player with an OPS under .900 should cross the 15 million a year mark. Especially not a 29 year old player built on speed with questionable career plate discipline.
Go look at what an exceptional speedster like Tim Raines did after his 29th birthday compared to before: from 1982 to 1988 Raines hit .306 / .392 / .447 with 75 SB, 90 BB’s, and 285 TB per 162 games. From 1989 to 1995, Raines dropped to .284 / .378 / .406 with 42 SB, 92 BB’s, and 246 TB per 162 games. Cutting off his shortened first year, from 2003 to 2010 Crawford compiled a .299 / .340 / .448 line with 56 SB, 40 BB’s, and 293 TB per 162 games.
My point in showing these numbers is two-fold–first, obviously, I expect that Crawford’s production, predicated on speed, will diminish as he crosses 30. Second, to show that Tim Raines‘ production was amplified by something that Crawford has never displayed–plate discipline. Even in his last two “big money” seasons, Crawford has only totaled 97 walks, while striking out 203 times. During the second half of his career, Raines never walked fewer than 61 times (and the 61 was in a strike-shortened 101 game 1994 campaign). Furthermore, during the second half of his career Raines never struck out more than 68 times and averaged only 62 k’s per 162 games (thus far, Crawford averages 102 k’s/162).
And, oh, by the way, does anyone think that Tim Raines was ever worth 20 million a season? Because that’s what we just paid Crawford. I’m not sure if I think Tim Raines is a better player than Crawford–but one can legitimately raise the question. And the very fact that you can entertain the question suggests the Red Sox made a big mistake (it also, I believe, suggests that Jacoby Ellsbury‘s long-term tenure with the Sox is in question, since the two are such similar players–but that’s left for another day, another post).
I’m a pretty big fan of Baseball Evalution’s Stat Geek Baseball–and they valued Crawford similar to Shane Victorino, projecting a contract of 5 years and 60 million. Everyone knew that he would get more than statistical value, but the Sox nearly doubled their projection. Boo.
For awhile now, I have been waiting for this. And I’m glad it came. I thought, after the Joe Mauer trade, that San Diego might have delusions of financial legitimacy in baseball’s ridiculously uneven financial landscape. No offense to Peter Gammons, but this wasn’t a “win-win” situation. The Sox stole the Padres blind. The Padres made the best of a terrible/terribly unfair situation. In case you haven’t heard, Gonzalez is in Boston (pending an extension) for three Red Sox prospects: Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes.
In an article today, Gammons claims that Rizzo and Kelly will both be in Padre–that seems overly optimistic to me. Rizzo maybe–he hit 25 home runs between A and AA last year (20 of them in AA); however, he also posted an OBP of only .334 and struck out 132 times. Kelly struggled pitching in AA last season, posting an ERA above 5.00 and WHIP above 1.6, though his K-BB ratio was pretty strong (81 k’s, 35 bb’s, 95 ip). Fuentes’ is only two years out of high school, but they’ve been pretty mediocre years (last year in A ball he hit .270-.328-.377, though he did steal 42 bases). Eventually these guys might develop. Eventually. But I feel pretty confident that the Sox gave up 3 players who aren’t Youkilis, Buchholz, and Ellsbury caliber. They might all be first round picks–something Padres’ and baseball-economic-apologists will highlight–but they aren’t necessarily great talents.
In Gonzalez, the Red Sox grab one of the best players in baseball. Period. He’s not yet 30. He put up a .888 OPS in an incredible pitcher’s park. And, true to Red Sox strategy, he devours pitchers and runs up counts.
I’m hoping to here the extension announced soon. And I’m figuring it will be colossal–something like 8 years 160 million sounds right (just about what they were going to throw Mark Texeria before he went to the Yankees). I am a bit nervous, given the Phillies insanity with Howard’s contract, that the Sox won’t be able to work out a deal with Gonzalez.
So, in short, sorry Padre fans. You didn’t deserve this. But Gonzo is going to look damn good in Fenway.
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.
I thought I might take a few minutes and review my pre-season expectations as we wind down to the post season. Below are my picks from Spring Training.
NL EAST: Phillies
I’ll admit, I really hope I end up wrong on this one. It would be a nice story if the Braves could win one more for Bobby Cox. As of last night, the Phillies have taken over first place in the NL East by 1/2 game. I’m not sure the Braves’ offense, sans Chipper Jones, has enough to retake and hold the lead against a healthy Phillies squad down the stretch.
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals
Here’s another one where I’m happy to be wrong–I like to see an underdog win (especially given baseball’s extremely uneven playing field). Votto is for real, and the Reds won the all the games they needed to win (even if they tend to struggle against the upper-echelon teams). I think there starting pitching is too thin for the playoffs, but they are a great story.
NL WEST: Giants
As of today, the Giants are two back in the loss column to the surprisingly good Padres. I do think the Giants will take them–but this in large part relies on what the Padres do with their young stud Latos. I’ll assume anyone reading this knows the Verducci Effect. Latos threw 120 combined minor league and major league innings last season. He’s already over the Verducci guideline–throwing 160.2 thus far in 2010. History would advise the Padres shut him down now. Chances are, given the economic situation in San Diego, they will pitch him into the ground over the next month. I also think he should be a frontrunner for the NL Cy Young, but I’ll save that for a future post.
NL WILDCARD: Braves
Yup. If the season ended today, then I would have called it. Again–I’d rather see them win the division and secure home field.
AL EAST: Rays
Please, Tampa, please–don’t blow it. You are pretty much my only hope.
AL CENTRAL: White Sox
I originally liked the Twins in the spring–but I drank the White Sox kool-aid and bought into the possibility of a resurgent Jake Peavy. I thought the White Sox could win 90 games–and it looks like they will. What’s unexpected is the Twins winning 95 or 95 games. I thought the central would be a stronger division (what happened to the Tigers? Oh yeah, injuries).
AL WEST: Angels
I didn’t like any team in this division–and I’m happy for the Rangers for the same reason that I’m happy for the Reds. I also wonder how this pitching staff will hold up in the playoffs against high powered offenses; thier pitching numbers get padded in an offensively challenged (read: historically inept) Al West. Any chances the Angels had broke with Morales leg.
AL WILD CARD: Red Sox
I have already cathartically released my disappointment for the Sox this season–but it wasn’t meant to be. Now the Rays will likely win the Wild Card, and the Yankees the division. The Yanks are relatively healthy this year, like last year; even if Pettitte can’t contribute in the playoffs, I think the Yankees have to be the favorites. Oh sweet baseball gods, what have I done to deserve this two years in a row?
As a Red Sox fan, this is “kinda” a tough trade deadline.
The Yankees got better, but not that much better. Kearns is a quality reserve; his career .258/.353/.426 line pretty much screams replacement player. I’m glad to see them pick up Berkman, just because I think that tank is empty and that contract is large (though the Astros are flipping part of the bill). Its fun to watch the Yanks give up prospects and waste money. Wood is the big pick-up here, and the one that the Yanks got for nothing. If Woods underperforms, the Yanks can cut him. If he returns to last years form, then the Yanks grabbed a quality arm on the cheap for what figures to be a ridiculously tight August and September.
The Sox, on the other hand, were uncharacteristically quiet. Of course, the Sox expect most of their position players to return in the next couple weeks, so investing prospects for temporary replacements didn’t make sense. Yes, we acquired Saltimacchia. This would have been front-page news a few years ago. As my cousin Andy put it, The Paw Sox got a nice upgrade at catcher for their stretch run.
But we didn’t acquire the one thing we really needed: relief help. In fact, we gave up on one arm–Ramon Ramirez, acquired in the Crisp deal a few years back. This really surprised me–because although Ramirez has struggled a bit this year, he’s a proven guy. I believe I heard whispers that he wasn’t too happy with his role on the team, and this likely mandated a move. Because, while his stats aren’t quite as good as 2008 or 2009, they are still better than a lot of relief pitchers around the league.
While I am disappointed that we didn’t get a reliever, I’m also happy we aren’t the Twins. Minnesota gave up one of their best offensive prospects, catcher Wilson Ramos to rent Nationals closer Matt Capps. In 1519 career plate appearances, Ramos has a .283/.330/.426 minor league line. And he can catch well. Capps is a vanilla closer–he’s never topped 30 saves in a season, has a craptastic K/9 ratio, and an un-inspiring 3.47 ERA. Yahoo has a great post up with all the complaints of Twins fans for overpaying for Capps.
The Sox were supposedly in the bidding for Capps. And the whole situation stings my memory with a needle from 1990. Remember the ghost of Larry Anderson? The Red Sox traded a first base prospect with a career .321/.390/.436 minor league line to the Astros to rent a journeyman starter/reliever. Anderson pitched X innings and won Y games. That prospect, Jeff Bagwell, hit 449 home runs, drove in 1529 RBI, and retired with a .948 OPS. Oops.
So while we didn’t really get any help, we didn’t make a regrettable mistake. I generally like the Twins, so let’s hope they don’t regret this trade 20 years later.
Hey baseball blog. Um, sorry to have neglected you so long. I still think about you. And I visit you a few times to click some of the links in your sidebar. But I always feel a bit ashamed at how empty you feel. So here goes a quick post.
This is an odd season to be a Red Sox fan. I am happy that we are in third place?
No, because I thought we would be in second place, watching an injury plagued Yankees pitching staff fall to pieces. As of today, the Sox are 6.5 back of a powerhouse Yankee team.
Yes, because there’s not many teams that could lose their starting left fielder, starting center fielder, starting right fielder, 4th outfielder, starting second baseman, starting catcher, back-up catcher, #1 starter, #4 starter, and #5 starter in a season and still post a 58-44 record while being second in the league in runs scored.
The Sox are getting healthy now–Beckett had another great performance today against an Angels team that usually gives him fits; Martinez has looked pretty good in his return; Buchholz is getting back into rhythm; Ellsbury is playing well in his rehab stint and could rejoin the team in another week or two.
The Rays have been solid this year, but their offense strikes out way too much to be considered elite. Their pitching staff has a number of young arms on the back end of the rotation; I think Sox fans can hope that those guys break down or wear out as the 162 game grind extends into the later months. In other words, I think a healthy Sox team can catch the Rays.
Of course, my dream scenario is that the Sox and the Rays push the Yanks out of the playoffs. That looks like a long shot at this point–but there’s still a chance that Sabbathia’s arm finally falls off.