Tagged: youkilis

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.

Advertisements

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.

So, Its Over; and So it Begins

Ah, blog. I haven’t been here in awhile. But, now that the season ended mercifully (i.e., without a loss to the Yankees), I thought I would throw up a quick post. I actually put this on my regular blog, and then decided to copy it here.

As a Boston/New England sports fan, the first decade of the new century went rather well. Perhaps too well. Our cultural ethos is constructed around losing and misfortune. Might it be that things are returning to normal?

This was an odd year for the Red Sox. While the offense struggled mightily, and while the pitching staff failed to live up to the lofty expectations, the Sox still made the playoffs. To lose in a sweep is a bit unexpected; to see Papelbon blow the save seems fitting for a season in which he, and other beloved veterans, struggled.

The Red Sox still have a very good collection of young players. The bloated contract of J.D. Drew will haunt them for at least one more year (two if Drew stays healthy). It will be interesting to see what happens with Jason Varitek and Jason Bay in the off-season. ESPN doesn’t have the CERA (catcher’s ERA) numbers for Martinez behind the plate, but I am going to guess its not as good as Varitek’s 3.87 (since the team ERA on the season is 4.35). It should not be overlooked that Martinez, and not Varitek, was catching yesterday as the Red Sox stellar, hard-throwing bullpen imploded. I was previously concerned about this.

Bay had a roller-coaster season. I imagine he is seeing dollar signs this off-season. The Yankees have a considerable amount of money rolling off the books this year. I still fully expect Carl Crawford to execute the one million dollar buyout on his contract to become a free agent. That will put Crawford, Bay, and Matt Holliday (ouch, that error hurt–I still think his numbers with St. Louis were an aberration–buyer beware with this guy) at the top of a talented group of free agent outfielders, that additionally includes Manny, a resurgent Abreu, Magglio Ordonez (injuries a factor here), and others. Most of the major markets–Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers (bye bye Manny?) will be potential buyers.

I have a feeling that the team will see a major shake-up this off-season: only time will tell if Varitek, Bay, Papelbon, or Mike Lowell returns next season. Papelbon in particular will be interesting to watch. The Red Sox still control him, but they have had difficulty coming to terms the past few seasons–and just barely avoided arbitration last year. I think part of the hesitation here is giving Papelbon, who has a chronic shoulder issue, a high-end long term deal. To avoid arbitration, and make the deal worthwhile for all sides, the contract would likely work out something like 32 million for 4 years (K-Rod got 37 million for 3 as an outright free agent). I had a feeling, when the Sox wouldn’t pull the trigger on the Halladay deal, that Bard was being groomed as a future closer. So, as much as I love the glare, I wonder how much longer Papelbon will be in Boston. Please note that my wondering has absolutely nothing to do with his performance yesterday. He lived dangerously at times this season, but is still a top closer. I just think, medically and economically, the Red Sox front office has showed hesitation to lock up Paps as they have locked up Pedroia, Youkilis, and Lester.

As to the Patriots, it is very hard for me to watch Tom Brady right now, if only because he set the bar so high. But his deep ball looks as accurate as JaMarcus Russell’s right now. I remember when Joe Montana returned from his elbow injury- though still great, he wasn’t Joe Montana. That’s how I feel watching Brady right now. Again, time will tell whether, like Donovan McNabb, he is able to recover from this injury or if, like Carson Palmer, Brady never quite returns to the level he was pre-injury.

Pitchers Hit Your Target–You Shouldn’t Get a Second Chance

I always maintain that a pitcher has the God given right to throw inside. The great ones–Ryan, Clemens, Martinez, Maddux, Johnson–always controlled 100% of the strike zone, no matter what the count and what the situation. I also understand that pitchers need to protect hitters. You can’t have your start player up there wondering if he’s going to get plunked every time.

The mistake that Porcello made last night was that he missed Victor Martinez. If he had hit him, I don’t think he would have buried one in Youkilis’s back an inning later.

I don’t know if Porcello received an order from veteran manager Leyland or if, after Cabrera left with an injury, Porcello felt that a close shave wasn’t enough justice. My feeling is that, given rising tensions and the fact that Tazawa’s pitch didn’t seem intentional (in fact, Cabrera in part swung into it), Leyland wouldn’t have called for a hit.

If Martinez gets plunked, there’s likely a few words and an uncomfortable moment. But to clearly, without question, drill Youk the next inning was unacceptable.

We’ll likely lose Youkilis for a few games now (I’m guessing 4). Lowell will have a chance at more heroics. I hope that last night’s intensity carries over for those games without Youk–since you can make a strong argument that no single hitter has meant more to a team this season (key: one of those arguments circling the real definition of MVP). The Sox lineup has been woefully underproductive or streaky this season–the fall of Papi, the disappearance of Jason Bay, the hip of Lowell, the sub-par slugging of Pedroia, etc. The one constant this year for the Sox has been Youkilis, whose worst month still shows an OPS of .822 with 15 RBIs and 16 RS. We’ll miss him, but hopefully that’s the tackle that gets the ball rolling