Thursday, May 28, 2015

Red Sox at Rangers 5/28 Live Chat

Live Blog Red Sox at Rangers 5/28 Live Chat
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 MLB Draft- June 8th

Two weeks after Memorial Day will be the annual MLB Draft.  For the second time in three years the Red Sox pick at number seven.  RSM gives you a look at twenty names or so that will be under consideration in and around the seventh pick.

We here at RSM make no claim to be amateur scouts or first hand experts on the draft.  But in today's internet/social media world there is an abundance of information available on these players from individuals or organizations that do scout or follow the amateur players.  The thumbnail sketches presented here, as well as the speculation on where the players will be selected are a collective opinion of these "experts".

First a little description of tenor of this draft.  It is not considered a strong draft, as compared to other recent years.  In addition there is no consensus overall first pick: there are at least six to eight players that have been mentioned as the first overall pick in various mock drafts and prospect rankings.  There also have been players "taken" first overall in some mock drafts that are ranked as low as 44 in other reports.  A handful of players (a large handful in fact) are mocked from at or near the top down into the teens or lower.  Keep this in mind as you see the categories we have the players broken into.  One last note, there are least three pitchers who would have all been top five picks that have been injured and now are wild cards.  We will discuss them in their own category.  One other thing is making the top of the draft extremely difficult to forecast.  Arizona is picking first, and there is no hint seemingly where they will jump.  There are even many rumors they will take one of two high school players who have risen this high school season from nowhere near the first round up to the teens.  Arizona might do this to sign the player under slot and use the money later in the draft.  Houston sits at number two and the wrinkle there is the Astros also pick at number five ( #2 is a compensation pick for not signing Brady Aiken at number one last year and #5 is their own regular pick). So Houston could make an out of the box pick at two knowing only two more players go off the board before they pick again.

Here are some names to watch for on draft night (from a Red Sox perspective):

NAMES THAT WILL BE GONE BEFORE NUMBER SEVEN

1. Dansby Swanson,  SS Vanderbilt
2. Dillon Tate, RHP   UC Santa Barbara
3, Brendan Rodgers,  SS Lake Mary High School-Florida

Now again this draft has the potential for complete unpredictability, but there have not been any mock drafts or rankings we've seen that have any of three names getting down to seven.

Swanson, the 2014 College World Series MVP, is considered a gap hitter with lots of doubles, and with a high OBP potential.  But in the ongoing SEC tourney, Dansby has three home runs and he seems to be emerging as the most likely number one overall pick (as likely as this draft can be).  If Swanson is not first, Houston will very likely pounce at number two. If Swanson goes number one, this could directly effect Boston (as we will examine later).

Tate has been considered the best college arm available all season.  This also factors into the volatility  of the top of the first round. Tate burst onto the scene for the first time this year as a college junior, with no long term resume as an amateur.  Also despite hitting the guns at 98 MPH, Tate has slipped a bit near the end of his regular season.

Rodgers is considered by nearly every ranking as the best overall prospect in this class, and in a more normal year would be the consensus overall number one this draft lacks.  He has power potential,  a very quick bat, and is expected to have the defensive ability to stick at shortstop.  But for whatever reason all the reports indicate Arizona does not consider Rodgers worthy of the number one pick, and Houston at two wants a college player, likely a hitter. But Rodgers seems very unlikely to go lower than four to Texas.

If any of these three do get to seven Boston would like to take them, especially the shortstops.

NAMES MOST OFTEN CONNECTED TO THE RED SOX

1. Alex Bregman, SS        LSU
2. Carson Fulmer, RHP    Vanderbilt
3. Daz Cameron, OF         Eagles Landing Christian Academy- Georgia
4. Andrew Benintendi, OF  Arkansas
5. Brady Aiken, LHP         IMG Academy

This list is in order of Boston's interest, according to reports.  Of course the Sox, as most teams, keep their real rankings close to the vest.  For example, almost no one had Boston on Trey Ball at number seven two years ago.  Let's look at this list in reverse order.

Aiken was 2014's overall number one but did not sign due to Houston concerns over his elbow.  This spring Aiken did require Tommy John surgery and is out until mid-2016.  As we wrote about at the time of his surgery, Boston could gamble and take Aiken despite the TJ operation, and use this chance to grab an overall one type talent.  Two drawbacks to that train of thought: first the Sox do not pick again after #7 until #81 due to the free agent signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.  Secondly and much more importantly there are multiple rumors out there that Aiken has a condition in his elbow and /or UCL that made his surgery much more dicey than the standard TJ procedure.  ESPN's Keith Law has mentioned reports of Aiken's condition more than once, and had pretty much convinced us Aiken to Boston was not happening.  But then lo and behold last week Law came out with his first mock draft.  Law had Boston taking Daz Cameron, who we will discuss in a moment, but he also added if Boston is comfortable with Aiken's medicals they might end up taking him.

Benintendi is a draft eligible sophomore at Arkansas.  Earlier this spring Law had him rated at 38 and MLB.com had at 63.  The 5'10' 170 lb. outfielder has slugged his way through the '15 campaign, and that has skyrocketed him the rankings.  He has never played in the Cape Cod League or any of the showcase type tournaments, which lessens the certainty of his ability to the scouting community.  The two teams most mentioned with Benintendi are the Red Sox and the Cubs.  If the three names coming up are all gone (and they very well could be) and Boston decides not to risk Aiken, Benintendi could be the guy.

Cameron is the son of former Red Sox OF Mike Cameron.  His skill set is reportedly similar to Dad's.  Plus, plus defense in CF, with no one outstanding tool but above average across the board.  Daz is definitely a first rounder and he will go no later than 15 or so.  There is a split of opinion on Cameron. For every report that ranks him around twelve and says Boston would be reaching to take him at seven, there's an equal number of mocks that having Daz going four, five, or six to Texas, Houston, or the Twins.  The other wild card with Cameron is his reported price tag.  It is said the Cameron family wants $5 million dollars to skip college.  This could be a double-edged sword for Boston.  It likely improves the chance he drops to seven, but does Boston want to pay Cameron the five mil? Best guess is Cameron goes before seven, but Boston will take him if the college guys they want more are gone.

Fulmer was drafted in the 15th round of out of high school by Boston.  There are varying opinions on the 5-11' righty.  He is the guy mentioned in the intro that has been mocked number one overall and ranked at 44 in rankings (not a mock draft).  The persons with lesser views on Fulmer think his future is only as a bullpen guy.  Others see Fulmer and his 93-97 mph fastball, as a big league starting hurler.  He also is considered a guy who will make the big leagues in a hurry.  He is one of two college arms mentioned as this year's Brandon Finnegan, in other words able to pitch in a big league bullpen this year.  Most mocks have Fulmer going no lower than number eight to the White Sox.  The other Sox are likely crossing their fingers Boston does not draft Fulmer for a second time.

Bregman, like Fulmer, was drafted by Boston in 2012, in the 29th round out of New Mexico.  but Bregman was set on going to LSU.  Bregman grew up playing baseball with and against Blake Swihart in New Mexico. Bregman is considered the best college bat in the draft, and he rarely strikes out.  At 5'8" Bregman may have a move to second base in his future.  Bregman by far is the player most often mocked to Boston.  If Bregman is not the best college bat, he is neck and neck with the aforementioned Dansby Swanson.  And here is connection to Boston mentioned earlier.  Houston really seems to want Swanson at number two. But if Arizona starts the draft by grabbing the Vandy shortstop, many draft observers think Houston would settle for Bregman, costing Boston any chance of getting him.  In addition, Houston picks twice before Boston, they could grab Bregman at five if not at two.  As of today, Bregman seems to be the Sox guy....if he gets to seven.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Red Sox Stuff 5/19

The Red Sox return home from the west coast and start a three game series tonight versus the Texas Rangers.  The Red Sox seem to be on the verge of righting the ship, but there are still a number of issues that are preventing this team from getting hot and going on a run.  We'll go through a number of these issues and then bat them around in the comments section.

Now let's head to the back of the channels and have some highly secret (only not secret at all) meetings about all things Red Sox.

1. New pitching coach Carl Willis has seemingly fixed the starting rotation over night. Is he a magic man? Is it a coincidence? There were some signs of improvement prior to his arrival, but you can't deny that since he got here the starting pitching has been excellent.  Maybe the firing of Juan Nieves was the wake up call that some of these guys needed, sprinkle that in with a new voice and a little fine tuning and we could see a major turn around with this group.  Or...the coincidence may have come with the fact that the Red Sox faced some bad offenses on the west coast.

2. The offense has stolen the mantle as the weakest link from the starting rotation.  I hope they find their bats in the Fenway clubhouse and some hits.  Is it time to move Mike Napoli down in the order? Is it time to move Hanley to 1B and call up Rusney Castillo? I still believe that a Mike Napoli hot streak is right around the corner, but how long can they afford to wait?

3. Just based off of the eye test alone, and some comments recently from John Farrell it is clear that Xander Bogaerts has made great strides defensively.  But has it come at the expense of his offense? Or at least his power? Like a catcher who has to make his defense a priority only to have his offense suffer because of it.  Has the same thing happened to Xander? If it has is that OK? Should shortstop be a defense first position like it was in the 1970's and 80's? His power seems to be all but gone and not just home run power but that gap to gap power that he displayed in his short time in 2013 and early 2014. Will Xander find his power stroke?

4. Big Papi seems to have figured some things out and he's hitting the ball hard again.  Now if Dustin Pedroia can do the same we might start scoring some runs.  Are we witnessing the end of Big Papi? And the downside of Dustin Pedrioa's career? (Note: At this rate Dustin WILL NOT be in the MLB top 10 best players of 2015, he may not even be in the top 100 next year).

5. The bullpen seems to have settled down some and the roles seem to be a little more clear.  Matt Barnes has pitched well, not great, but good enough since his move to the bullpen.  The clearly defined roles at this point are Koji as the closer and Taz as the 8th inning guy. Barnes and Ogando seem to be handling the 6th and 7th innings, but the left handers haven't been very good especially Craig Breslow. The 2013 stretch run may have been his last hurrah.  My prediction is that he'll be the next one to be DFA'd. Should the Sox dump Breslow?

6.  Allen Craig passed through waivers and is no longer on the Red Sox 40 man roster. But, he still is with Pawtucket.  Put baseball aside for a moment and his fall from grace has been very sad.  By all accounts he is a very quiet guy, but a good guy.  I really thought he was going to have a great bounce back season this year, but he couldn't take advantage of the opportunities he was given early in the season and now he'll have to find himself in AAA and if he's going to get another chance at the big league level it will likely be with another organization.  At this point Bryce Brentz would get a shot in Boston before Craig.

7. The Red Sox seem to have weathered the storm, but they also left some opportunities on the table to have a better road trip.  5-5 is better than 2-8, but they easily could have gone 7-3.  Is this team close to returning to the form that put them at the top of the AL east in early April or are they destined to spend the season in the middle of the pack in the AL east? Is tonight the night they start to turn things around at home vs. the Rangers?

My answer? It's more probable than not...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

RSM Book Review: "Pedro"

Pedro is a recently released (May 5) autobiography of Pedro Martinez, written along with Boston Herald baseball writer, Michael Silverman.

The book is very well written, and a great read (I finished it just three evenings).  Page after page, Pedro's intensity, joy for life, and love of baseball shines through.

The book begins by painting the picture of Pedro's childhood in the Dominican Republic.  Their family was poor, but not extremely so for their area.  Pedro even gives an explanation of what he meant by "sitting under the mango tree".

His road towards a professional baseball career really accelerates when his older brother, Ramon, signs with the Dodgers.  Pedro, who is six years Ramon's junior, eventually gravitates to an academy run by the Dodgers there in the Dominican Republic.

There is talk because of Pedro's small stature that he is only given his chance due to being Ramon's little brother.  Pedro actually overhears a room full of Dodger coaches and scouts discussing sending him home and ending his dream before it begins.  But the academy pitching coach, Eleodoro Arias, tells the room he feels Pedro has the "heart of a lion".  Pedro stays and signs with LA.

His journey in pro baseball in the States begins in Great Falls, Montana and he progresses rather quickly to the Dodgers.  He has what I would call a love/hate relationship with the Dodgers, who use Pedro almost exclusively in the bullpen.  He feels the Dodger organization is "disrespectful" to him.  Disrespect is a constant theme throughout the book, and is obviously the fuel that drives Pedro's career.

Pedro is crushed when traded to Montreal, and says, "the Dodgers turned their backs on me, which is why to this day, my back is turned to them".

But Montreal is where Pedro blossoms (speaking of blossoms, Pedro also discusses his love of flowers, instilled by his mother in his childhood) and he learns to love the city of Montreal.  His Expo years are capped by winning the 1997 NL Cy Young Award, but then he is traded again.  Pedro was initially unhappy again.  Expo GM Jim Beattie tells his Cy Young winner he has been dealt to Boston, and "Boston is a great city for you, Pedro".  Martinez hangs up on him.

But Boston GM Dan Duquette (a former Expo GM) has now traded for Pedro twice and quickly puts together a long term deal to make Pedro the highest paid pitcher in baseball.  His Boston career begins.

One thing that sets this book apart from the standard sports autobiography/memoir is Pedro, as he was on the mound,  is not the least bit bashful about giving an unvarnished opinion or story about other players or people within the game.  The Boston section of the book goes in the Yankee rivalry, the Don Zimmer incident (and the HBP that sparked it), the Boston media, his arm issues, the Boston fans, contract issues, whether or not he threw at hitters intentionally (and if so what % of the time), and his Boston managers (Pedro greets both Grady Little and Tito Francona to the clubhouse as new managers with exact same salute).  He also point blank tells the reader who he blames for the 2003 ALCS Game Seven debacle.

Of course there are plenty of recollections of the magical 2004 season.  Pedro confirms that the Kevin Millar idea of taking shots of Jack Daniels in the clubhouse during the '04 post season comeback did occur.  But according to Pedro, a much more exotic concoction was also consumed.  It was called Mama Juana, and it was put together by Manny Ramirez.  You have to read it to believe it.

Among the players Pedro dusts off with his literary fastball up and in are:

Mike Piazza
Will Clark
Reggie Sanders
Don Baylor
Luis Gonzalez
Joe Kerrigan (hint: Pedro does not like Joe....at all....in the least)
Curt Schilling (as an opponent and later as a teammate)
Mike Stanley
John Flaherty  ("a guy who couldn't hit")
Gerald Williams
Mike Lansing
Karim Garcia  ("who is Karim Garcia?")
Jorge Posada
Tim McCarver
Nomar ("a class act")

There is a lot on Manny Ramirez.

And there are others, including hitters who wear "pussy pads" on their elbows. Also Pedro talks at length about the baseball writers whose controversial votes cost him the 1999 AL MVP, and maybe another CY Young or two along the way.

There is an extensive section on the contract talks when Pedro was free agent in the winter of '04 and how he decided to leave Boston.  His return to the NL and the Mets and Phillies years conclude the playing career portion of the book.

Near the end of the book Pedro discusses being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in this year's class.  He is "elated and humbled".

I highly recommend this book for any baseball fan, but of course to Red Sox fans especially.  You will enjoy the ride nearly as much as experiencing a Pedro start at Fenway Park in his heyday.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Red Sox Maineiacs Live Podcast 5-15-15

In this edition of the Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast, we start with a round of Maineiacs Roundtable where we discuss the hot topics in Red Sox Nation. Then we play "The Rating Game" where the guys rate factors of the early season start. Come join us!


Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast on BlogTalkRadio

Thursday, May 14, 2015

This Used To Be A Nice Neighborhood

My last post painted a pretty bleak picture for the 2015 Red Sox.   When I set out to investigate their poor start of 13-15 ( at the end of the last home stand), I discovered the Sox had had nearly identical starts every year since 2010, expect for the one year in this decade that they won the World Series.

Since that research I have been looking at the Red Sox current situation from any and all sides looking for an escape from this self imposed trap the Sox have placed themselves into.

One variable (and there are others, for example the 2015 team has a different set of players than some past years) that may be the most important is the competition the Red Sox will have to beat out to win the AL East.  Brandon, also mentioned this in his comment about the bad start.

So I took a look at the previous five seasons and the AL East standings for each year.  There may be a pattern that could give some hope to Boston (or any other AL East team).

2010

1. Tampa Bay        96-66
2. New York          95-67
3. Boston                89-73
4. Toronto              85-77
5. Baltimore           66-96

A few 2010 notes: both the Rays and Yankees went to the postseason, the AL East champs Rays lost in the ALDS and the wild card Yanks swept the Twins in the ALDS and lost the ALCS to Texas.

The Red Sox after a 14-14 start (one game better than this year) went on to win 89...would 89 win it this year?

The division broke down into a pattern of three 90 win or near 90 win teams, with the fourth place finisher lagging somewhat behind and the last place team way, way out of it.  You could call it a pattern of three contending teams, and two outside looking in.  It would not be out of bounds to consider Toronto in it as well.  But we will call the pattern of the five teams:

3-1-1

2011

1. New York        97-65
2. Tampa Bay       91-71
3. Boston              90-72
4. Toronto             81-81
5. Baltimore          69-93

Notes for 2011:  The Yankees and Rays each went to the post season again, in reversed roles.   However, both teams lost in the ALDS.

The Sox started 13-15, the same as this year, and went on to win 90 games.  Their 7-19 September toasted this Sox squad not their start.

For the year the AL East did break down into three 90 or more win teams, and the other two lagging behind(one at .500 and the O's way behind again).  Again the pattern could be called 3-2, but we will again go with:

3-1-1

2012

1. New York       95-67
2. Baltimore        93-69
3. Tampa Bay      90-72
4. Toronto           73-89
5. Boston             69-93

2012 again had two AL East teams in the post season, this time the Yankees( who have not appeared since then) and the upstart Orioles.  Baltimore won the first ever AL Wild Card playoff game over Texas, and then lost to the Yankees in the ALDS.  The New Yorkers were then swept by Detroit in the ALCS, and have I mentioned New York has not appeared in the post season since....oh I did, well it's true.

The Red Sox started 12-16 and then collapsed in the basement of the AL East.

The pattern of the division was very much like the previous two seasons, only with Baltimore and Boston changing roles and Toronto slipping back even further.  For the third year of this decade the AL East had three teams with 89 wins of more, and the second straight year of three teams of 90 wins or more.  2012's pattern was a definite:

3-2

2013

1. Boston           97-65
2. Tampa Bay    92-71
3. Baltimore       85-77
3. New York      85-77
5. Toronto          74-88

The AL East again had two postseason teams, but by the slimmest of margins.  In the second year of the second wild card team, the Rays tied for that spot with the Rangers.  Tampa Bay won the one game play in over Texas, and then won the actual Wild Card playoff game over Cleveland.  The Rays lost the ALDS to the Sox.  For the first (and so far only) time in this decade the World Champion came for the AL East after the Red Sox beat Detroit in the ALCS and St. Louis in the Fall Classic.

The Red Sox started '13 with their only good beginning to a campaign in the 2010's: 20-8 and you can see where it led.

2013 was the first year that going into the season many pundits predicted the AL East would bunched up, perhaps from top to bottom.  The pattern from the previous three seasons did change, but the final standings were not close from top to bottom.  Only two teams won over 90 games, two were in the middle with good but not great seasons, and the Blue Jays finished 23 games out of first by essentially duplicating their 2012 season.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Red Sox Maineiacs MLB Predictions Contest

Are you and your buddies looking for a picks contest outside of March Madness brackets or NFL pools? Do you want an easy way to show your co-workers at the office that you know more about Major League Baseball than they do? Looking for a way to lose more money in made-up sports endeavors to go with your fantasy teams and Super Bowl squares? 

You’ve come to the right place! 2015 marks the fourth year of the Red Sox Maineiacs blog/website. Every year, all four of our founding fathers have posted our MLB Predictions. See the MLB Prediction tab above if you want to look through four years of predictions and witty jokes (well, jokes at least). 

But what is the good of making picks every year unless you come up with a way to track who is winning, right? Here is the points system I worked out to determine who has won each year of our picks contest, and our overall Picks Champion:

Regular Season Predictions:
For each MLB division:
1st place prediction correct = 5 points
2nd place = 4 points
3rd place = 3 points
4th place = 2 points
5th place = 1 point

**In 2012, when we started this picks contest, there were still six teams in the NL Central, and four in the AL West. For that season, the points awarded for correct order of finish went from 6 points-1 point and 4 points-1point in those divisions.

Award Predictions:
10 points for correct Rookie of the Year, MVP, Cy Young, and Manager of the Year

Postseason Predictions:
Correct Wildcard winner = 15 points
Division Series winner = 20 points
Championship Series winner = 50 points
World Series winner = 100 points


Observations:
  • In three years, with four attempts at it per year, with four pretty knowledgable baseball fans giving it a shot, nobody has correctly predicted a World Series champion. In fact, in twelve tries the only time any of us has correctly predicted a World Series participant was when Art correctly predicted the Royals to be in the World Series in 2014 (which is pretty impressive!)
  • Shocking to no one who reads this blog, Art has a comfortable lead in the all-time standings, ahead of Barry by 95 points.
  • In 2012, Barry predicted that Bobby Valentine would be AL Manager of the Year. 
  • In 2014, Art predicted 13 of the 15 National League teams’ finishes exactly right. The only two he missed were Arizona and Colorado. Art had Arizona 4th and Colorado 5th. Arizona finished 5th and Colorado finished 4th. 
  • Art has correctly predicted at least one Championship Series participant every year.
  • Despite Art’s success, he is the only participant to not improve their overall score every year of the contest.
  • 2013 was the only year of the contest that none of the participants predicted the Red Sox would make it as far as the ALCS.
  • I’m going to take a close look at Art’s 2015 predictions, consult some betting lines on over/under win totals and division winner odds and see if I can make some hay.
So fire up a Google Sheet, gather up some friends, and start your own MLB Predictions Contest!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Another Disappointing Start & An Ominous Warning Sign

I count myself among the "glass is more than half" contingent of Red Sox Nation.  Always have, always will.  Despite my unwavering optimism, the 3-6 home stand just completed versus three AL East foes was upsetting.  The Red Sox record after that nine game stand sits at 13-15 in fourth place, 4.5 games behind the first place New Yorkers in a bunched up division.  But it is still early, right?

But the recent Red Sox seasons have been marred by poor beginnings, this much I know from memory. But just how have the starts to the recent seasons (and some not so recent campaigns) gone?  I researched this question and the answer was extremely unsettling.  For the purpose of this exercise we will consider a "start" to a season being the first 28 games.  That is only because through yesterday,  May 7 of this year, the Sox have played 28 games, and will allow us to compare 2015 to years gone by.  Here is a list of the bad news that I discovered.

1. The 2015 start is almost identical to five of the last six seasons:

2015   13-15  4th place  4.5 GB
2014   13-15  4th place  3.0  GB
2013   20- 8   1st place   2.0  games ahead
2012   12-16  5th place  6.5 GB
2011   13-15  4th place  5.0  GB
2010   14-14  4th place   6.5 GB

So 2015 has the exact same W-L as last year and 2011, one game better than 2012 and one game worse than 2010. Of course the seasons of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 were all years the Red Sox failed to make the post season finishing third in '10 and '11 and last in the AL East in '12 and '14. Of course the outlier is 2013 when the Sox had a great beginning and went on the win another World Series.

In their two third place seasons the Sox finished seven games out of first place. Of course, in 2011 they had righted the ship from that 13-15 start to lead the AL East by a half game on September 1.  Then came the great collapse which cost Terry Francona his job when the Sox went 7-19 in September.  The only thing worse than a bad April is the combination of a bad April and worse September.

To recap in four of five seasons in this decade the Sox have started with basically an identical record as '15 and did not make any post seasons and only came close once.

2. During the Red Sox most dominant stretch since the 1910's the team started well every year.

From 2003 to 2009 the Red Sox made the post season six of seven years. Here were their starts to those seasons:

2003  19-9      Lost ALCS in seven games
2004  17-11    World Championship
2005  16-12    Lost in ALDS to eventual World Champ White Sox
2006  16-12    Missed post season
2007  19-9     World Championship
2008  16-12    Lost ALCS in seven games
2009  17-11    Lost ALDS to Angles

Not once in that stretch did the Sox have to come back from a start that put them in a hole.  And only in '06 did they not go onto the postseason.  Six of seven years including four where they went to Game Seven of the ALCS or better.

3. The better the start the bigger the prize is at the end.

In the twelve year span from 2003 to 2014 ( the last twelve seasons) the best starts were, to recap:

2013   20-8    World Championship
2007   19-9    World championship
2003   19-9    ALCS Game Seven ( and if not for Grady Little, Aaron Boone, who knows)
2004   17-11  World Championship
2009   17-11  The one exception, but they did make the ALCS.

4. Only one Red Sox team in forty years has overcome a .500 or worse start to have a "successful" campaign.

And it was a .500, not under.  The 1999 Red Sox under Jimy Williams began 14-14 and then finished 94-68 and as the wild card and the AL East runner up to the Yankees to whom they lost to in the ALCS after beating Cleveland in the ALDS.  Only one team in the same forty years has come back from a sub .500 start to a winning record for the season.  The 1996 Sox under Kevin Kennedy started 9-19 but rebounded to finish 85-77.  This allowed the Sox to finish third in the AL East, seven games behind, but still cost Kennedy his job.

Now on the bright side (sort of) one reason there have been no other recoveries other than the '11 squad mentioned above who recovered only to nosedive again in September is that for many of the seasons between the late 70's and through the first decade of the 2000's, with a small handful of exceptions, the Red Sox got off to good starts.  Even the Morgan Magic team of 1988 which fired John McNamara in July and stormed into first when Walpole Joe took over began 16-12.

5. And now for a bit of good news.

Once upon a time the Red Sox had seasons in which they specialized in starting poorly and charging back for pennants or near pennants.  The 1975 team, which was honored this week at Fenway, began their season 14-14.  And this was after blowing a late season seven game AL East lead to Baltimore in 1974.  The '75 Sox finished 95-65 and ran away with the East and you know the rest...seven game loss in the World Series to the Reds.

The 1972 team lost the AL East to the Tigers by a half game. This half game difference came about due to an early season players strike, and none of the games were made up leaving certain teams playing different amounts of games.  That Sox team under Eddie Kasko started 10-18 before racing to a 85-70 record in the abbreviated season.

And finally the Impossible Dream Red Sox of 1967 began that magical season at 13-15 before going on to beat the Twins twice at Fenway in the season's last weekend to finish 92-70 and went to the seventh game of the World Series versus St. Louis.

Before that season the Red Sox had only been in the World Series once since the 1918 win, and that was 1946 when the Red Sox came roaring out of the gate.

CONCLUSION

So the Sox had three recoveries from a poor start in one nine year span from 1967 through 1975. The 1996 entry came back to have a winning season but no post season appearance ( as did the '10 and '11 teams).  And the boys of Jimy in 1999 recovered from a start only one game better than this year to make the ALCS.

So these are the odds this 2015 Red Sox team are facing.  Can it be done?  It can, but it has not been done by this franchise in over a decade and a half.  And the Red Sox have not recovered from this type of start to win a World Series for nearly a century, if ever.

Is it still early?  Maybe, but April matters ( as does early May)!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nieves, Mujica, and More Red Sox Ramblings

It's been a busy off day for the Red Sox! The team is 28 games into the regular season, and they enter their off day with a 13-15 record. The Sox are in last place in the AL East all by themselves, four games behind the Yankees. The Sox are 3-7 in their last 10 games, which is the worst 10-game mark in the American League. Only the Rockies have been worse in their last 10 games in all of baseball. The Sox have responded by firing Juan Nieves and DFA'ing Edward Mujica. Let's break down some Red Sox thoughts banging around in my head as the Sox travel to Toronto for a series starting tomorrow night at the Rogers Centre:
  • The news came down this morning that the Red Sox have DFA’d Edward Mujica. This, combined with the fact that Matt Barnes was switched into a relief role in Pawtucket, seems to indicate that Barnes will be added to the Boston bullpen for the Blue Jays series. To this, I say, FINALLY!!!!!! WHY HAS IT TAKEN UNTIL MAY 7 TO REALIZE THAT MUJICA IS TERRIBLE AND BARNES IS ONE OF THE ONLY PITCHERS ON THE 40 MAN ROSTER CAPABLE OF GENERATING A 95+ MPH FASTBALL AND SWING AND MISS STUFF?!?!? Seriously though, it was clear in Spring Training that Barnes was the only Red Sox reliever with a 97 mph heater and he was capable of being a major league relief pitcher. The only reason to roll with Mujica and Varvaro was to try to prove that the Red Sox brass didn’t make mistakes in signing Mujica to a 2 year/$9.5 million contract and trading for Varvaro. Mujica finishes his inglorious Red Sox career with 73.2 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 84 hits (!), and only 51 K. For those counting at home, that’s $42,986 for every out he recorded with the Red Sox, with meatballs galore along the way. The only thing Mujica ever did right was plunk Jacoby in the ass, and it took him three tries to do that. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Edward. I don’t expect Barnes to come up and be Dellin Betances, but he is better than the Mujica, Varvaro, Ross Jr, Breslow, Layne, Hembree, pu pu platter that we’ve been running out there in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings so far this year. Barnes will at worst become their fourth best reliever, and with the struggles of Tarawa and Ogando this week, he might be their best setup guy within a month. I’m cheering for you, Barnsie! 
  • As I write this post, news is hitting Twitter that the Red Sox have fired pitching coach Juan Nieves. This comes as a bit of a surprise to this blogger, but when the players you’re responsible for perform this poorly, you have to own the consequences. The Red Sox front office clearly thought they had the guys in Buchholz, Miley, Porcello, Kelly, and Masterson to have a good rotation this year, and their performance has been way below expectations. They gave a three year contract to Wade Miley before he threw a pitch with the Red Sox and he has been a disaster. Bottom line is it’s Nieves’ job to get the most out of these guys. Somebody has to take the blame, and it’s falling on Juan’s shoulders. The reaction on twitter seems to be fairly split between “How is this his fault? He’s saddled with terrible pitchers!” to “Good riddance! First Mujica, now Nieves, and Buchholz should join them!” To me, if there is blame on the coaching staff here, and there has to be, it should be on the top guy: Farrell. He is supposed to be a pitching guru. Here’s the bottom line question: which pitcher has gotten better in three years of working under John Farrell and Juan Nieves? I’m not sure you can point to a single pitcher that has made great strides under Nieves. The Sox have got to get better. The question now becomes, who replaces him?
  • We might be one or two more bad starts away from acquiring another power arm for the bullpen: Joe Kelly. I know he is a guy that the Red Sox were hoping would blossom into a top of the rotation guy or even an ace, but so far he has just not been able to consistently control the strike zone, work ahead of hitters, or get deep into games. In a one-inning-at-a-time role, Kelly could probably dial his heater up to 98-100 mph. Eduardo Rodriguez looks like he is ready for a big league call-up any day now. I think this won’t happen until June at the earliest, as the Sox will want to see what the bullpen looks like with Barnes out there, want to give Kelly more time to develop consistency, and give Rodriguez more seasoning at AAA. But it’s worth putting on the back burner.
  • What is Daniel Nava still doing on this team? The guy has clearly lost whatever contract he signed with the devil in exchange for his 2013 performance, and has crashed back down to be the AAAA-type journeyman that he was probably always meant to be. He’s 6/42 this season, including 0 for his last 19. With the game on the line last night, he came up to pinch hit for Allen Craig, looked like he had no chance, and promptly tapped out to first. In the preseason, John Farrell explained that Shane Victorino was going to the the starting RF, partly because “we haven’t forgot what he did for us”. Meaning, he maybe wasn’t the best player, but we sure did appreciate that nice run we had back in 2013! I wonder if they’re hanging onto Nava for the same reason. Gee, it’s nice that we’re hanging onto some nice guys, but it seems to me like some guys that can hit big league pitching would be even better. With Victorino coming back, Jackie Bradley Jr hitting at AAA, and Rusney Castillo working his way back into health, Nava’s days are numbered anyway, but he needs to go the way of Varvaro and Mujica sooner rather than later. Garrin Cecchini has been playing the OF for Pawtucket and hits left-handed. You’re telling me he couldn’t be doing better than Nava in Boston right now? Yeah, he’s slashing .187/.208/.280, but still!!
  • Last night in the 8th inning, Mike Napoli singled to left to move David Ortiz to second base. John Farrell elected to pinch run for Big Papi with the newly-acquired Luis Jimenez. After all, the runner on second represented the tying run, the Red Sox were five outs away from another loss, and Ortiz is so slow these days he was almost thrown out on a force play at second when Napoli’s laser beam fell under the glove of the Rays’ left fielder. You know what happened next: the Red Sox loaded the bases (Jimenez became the runner on third, which meant Ortiz would have scored on basically any batted ball that Jimenez could score on), failed to score on two tappers to first, and then Jimenez came up in the bottom of the 9th in Ortiz’ spot in the order with two men on and two out with the Red Sox down two runs. Because the Red Sox have not elected to put Hanley Ramirez on the 15-day DL yet, and because they elected to pinch hit the punchless Nava for the equally punchless Allen Craig the inning before, only Sandy Leon remained on the bench. Jimenez predictably grounded out, weakly. So what do you think? Do you think John Farrell made the right call in pinch running for Ortiz in the 8th? It’s easy to use hindsight and say that they should have kept Ortiz in the game since his spot in the order came up in the 9th, but to me no matter the outcome, it’s bad game management to take Ortiz’ bat out of your lineup in that spot. How many balls could have been hit that Jimenez could have scored from second on that Ortiz could not? Only a single to center or right that falls in front of the fielder, right? Otherwise, Ortiz scores on the same hits. And since the runner represented the tying run instead of the winning run, there’s a good possibility if he did score that they would be headed to extra innings, where Ortiz’ bat would definitely be needed. If the Sox had a better pinch hitting option left on the bench in case the spot came up, I would have been in favor. If it had been the bottom of the 9th and that was the tying or winning run, I would have been in favor. But to do it then, and then be forced to have a career .217 hitter be your last out? Poor game management in my opinion.
  • Speaking of making a decision on Hanley, how long are we going to wait? If Hanley is not healthy enough to even pinch hit, then shouldn’t they put him on the DL now and give him two full weeks to rest so he doesn’t aggravate the injury further? How many more nights with a short bench and Luis Jimenez/Sandy Leon at-bats will we have to sit through before the Sox make a decision and open up a roster spot?
  • The Yankees are hate-able again! The Sox/Yanks rivalry has fizzled out in recent years, due to both teams missing the playoffs, being irrelevant, losing the hated players of old, etc. But it’s back now! Between the disgusting pubic mustaches, Jacoby Diva Ellsbury hitting everything and calling out the Sox in post-game soundbites, A-Rod doing A-Rod things with his purple lips, Mark Texieria’s mouth breathing, Andrew Miller-dominant-closer, and Joe Girardi’s lemon-sucking puss face, the hatred is back in a big way, baby. 
  • While the Sox are stumbling as of late, the AL East has given no indication of having a dominant team or two that is going to run away with the crown. The Sox are in last, but reside only 4 game out of first, which is the smallest gap between any first and last place teams in the majors. While the Red Sox did not take advantage of a 22 game stretch of games against AL East opponents (quite the opposite, actually), they didn’t dig a hole they can’t climb out of, either.
  • And finally, Mookie. Good lord, Mookie. The quick-bat power. The speed to turn a monster wall-ball into an easy stand-up double. The gold chain. I love it. All of it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Red Sox Should Trade for Francisco Rodriguez

On Sunday night, the Milwaukee Brewers fired their manager, Ron Roenicke, and all but publicly declared their intention to pack it in on the 2015 season, sell off what parts they can, and rebuild for 2016 and beyond. The Brewers rank 19th in the Baseball America 2015 Organizational Talent Rankings, so they could stand to trade away some of their veteran assets to help stock their prospect shelves. 

Which brings me to the terrible Red Sox bullpen, and Francisco Rodriguez, or K-Rod. I believe Ben Cherington should trade for K-Rod as soon as possible.

First, let’s talk about the money. K-Rod is owed $3.5 million this year, $5.5 million for 2016, and has a team option for 2017 for $6 million. There is no way in the world that the Brewers want to pay $5.5 million next year for a 34 year old closer whose best years are behind him. Especially on a team that looks to be entering a tear down and rebuild. So he’s a great candidate to be traded to somebody this season, and his contract gives leverage to teams looking to acquire him to talk about second-tier prospects. Of course, we must then consider whether or not the Red Sox would be willing to acquire a currently 33 year-old closer who would be owed $5.5 million as a 34-year old. On first glance, it seems to fly against the strategy that Boston is employing in avoiding pitchers on the downside of their 31st birthdays. However, being 33/34 years old is a lot different from being 37/38 (or 40 like our current closer). If you look at the contract that Andrew Miller signed with the Yankees at $9 million a year, a closer with K-Rod’s track record for only $3.5 this year and $5.5 next year doesn’t look so bad. Finally, if the contract was any longer, or if the 2017 option was a player option instead of a team option, I think it would be a deal breaker. But being signed through only 2016 is short enough to take the risk of acquiring a 33 year old pitcher.

As I have said over and over again on this blog, from posts to live chats to podcasts, the Red Sox bullpen is a dumpster fire. To me, it is the single biggest weakness of the 2015 Red Sox. More so than the starting rotation. I understand the starting rotation has been shaky (being nice), but a stronger bullpen would have already held on to 3-4 more wins this season, and would have allowed for 3-4 more comeback opportunities if we could have kept the other team down after our starter departs. We have to improve the bullpen through promoting prospects and acquiring new arms, and do it soon, or 2015 will go the way of 2012 and 2014. Acquiring a relief pitcher past his prime might be against their philosophy heading into 2015, but how is that philosophy working out for us about now?

Let’s talk about how good K-Rod is at this point in his career. Or, maybe we should say “let’s talk about how much K-Rod has left in the tank”. I think it is understood that we are not going to get the 20-year-old fireballer who had 13.5 K/9 and 13 K/BB ratios in 8.2 IP in the 2002 World Series, which earned him the nickname “K-Rod” in the first place. We are not going to get the guy who finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting and 6th in the AL MVP voting in 2008 when he had 62 (!!) saves for the Angels. So who would we be getting?