Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August Announcements Send Tremors Through Red Sox Nation

Three stunning announcements that impact the present day Red Sox and much more importantly their future have come in the first eighteen days of August.

Two had been at least whispered about on some level, while the second of the three came out of the blue to all including the person involved.  But the timing of all three announcements were sudden and unexpected at the moment of the word breaking.

On Saturday night, August 1, the word came out that Larry Lucchino was stepping down as Red Sox President/CEO.  It was also announced that Sam Kennedy would be promoted to President on the business side only.  But no plan was formalized to replace Lucchino's voice on the baseball operations side of the equation.  Immediately there was speculation the Sox would hire a President of Baseball Ops, a format used in recent years by the Cubs (Theo), Dodgers (ex-Ray GM Andrew Friedman), D-backs (Tony LaRussa), White Sox, and Phillies.

Rumors had swirled since at least spring training if not sooner, that Lucchino was being phased out.  But the sudden Saturday night timing was still unexpected.  Did Lucchino plan this exit as he contended or was he pushed?

The second bombshell announcement landed as the Red Sox began their current home stand last Friday, August 14.  Manager John Farrell spoke in the media room, and told everyone he had been diagnosed earlier in the week with cancer-- Stage One Lymphoma.  This of course overshadows any of the other August announcements because this is a real life crisis, not a baseball related one.  Farrell informed us that his doctors are very confident in his beating the disease because it was caught early.  Farrell does have nine weeks of chemo therapy ahead of him, so consequently he will not manage again in 2015.  Bench Coach Torrey Lovullo will be the interim manager. After months of speculation about John Farrell's job security due to the impending second straight last place finish, this is now pushed to the back burner.  But the now delicate matter still will need to be addressed sometime after the season.

Last night, August 18, late in the Red Sox win over Cleveland, the next earthquake announcement hit Fenway Park.   As hinted at since the Lucchino announcement, the Red Sox did indeed hire a President of Baseball Operations, and the choose to announce it during a week night game in the middle of the NESN/WEEI Jimmy Fund Telethon.  Long time baseball exec Dave Dombrowski was their man.  Dombrowski had built winners in Montreal and Miami years ago, and had been the President of the Detroit Tigers for over a decade until a couple of weeks ago.  He will report directly to John Henry and Tom Werner and will have final say in all of baseball operations dealings. Dombrowski's hiring is effectively immediately.  Within the announcement came word that Ben Cherington declined to remain as General Manager under Dombrowski and was leaving the Red Sox after helping with a transition period.

This a bold move by a franchise that needs boldness as 2015 will be the fifth time in six seasons this team has missed the post season (granted that sixth season, 2013, was a humdinger).  Here are just a few random initial thoughts:

This is the end of the Theo Epstein Era.  Ben Cherington was in his fourth year as GM and had actually been with the Sox since 1999, longer than Theo.  But Ben and many of his men were Theo era holdovers and the expoused much of the same philosophy. Dombrowski will bring in a completely fresh set of eyes to examine this franchise and any players they may attempt to acquire from other teams. As I read today, excluding one year of interim GM Mike Port (2002) the last Sox GM not born and bred in New England was Haywood Sullivan!

Dombrowski has a well deserved rep as an excellent trader.  Unless the So decide to reverse field on signing over 30 pitchers ( and that was a John Henry policy not Ben may or may not change.) trading will be crucial in finding the needed pitching.  The type of deal the Sox need is the type of deal Dombrowski pulled off to acquire Max Scherzer, before he was MAX SCHERZER, from Arizona.

Dombrowski has a reputation of unloading his farm system to acquire veteran big leaguers.  For example he traded his top two prospects years ago to get Miguel Cabrera.  Those top rated kids were Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin.  It is entirely possible (likely even) DD will trade one or several of the prized Sox kids.  This may be because it is his style or it may be he will evaluate the prospects entirely differently than Ben. But I strongly disagree that Dombrowski unloads the entire farm or young stars all ready on the team.  His reputation is for building successful teams, not raping farm systems for the fun of it.  I suspect DD will be very happy to have a team built around Bogaerts, Betts, E Rodriguez, Swihart/Vazquez, Bradley, Castillo, etc. But he is a fresh eye and voice, maybe he will trade Betts or Bogaerts for a Sonny Gray type.  Or maybe being a new regime with power to apply, he will deal Dustin Pedroia or some other unexpected move.

Dombowski has has a rep for not being a analytics guy, but instead an old school scouting guy.  His replacement in Detroit, Al Avila, said one of his first moves would be to beef up Detroit;s numbers department.  But Boston has this asset in place and John Henry himself made his millions by crunching numbers. I will be very surprised if Dombrowski takes this team back into the Dark Ages of baseball info usage.

Bullpen.  The major flaw of the 2015 Red Sox (and God knows there are other flaws) was a horrid bullpen.  This is the biggest worry I have about a Dombrowski administration.  His Detroit teams made the post season year after year, but every Tiger team seem to have mediocre to poor bullpens.  DD will have to find nearly an entirely new pen in Boston.  Peter Gammons tweeted last night that DD prefers hard throwing pitchers, let's hope he finds several for the 2016 Boston bullpen.

Bringing Dombrowski in now rather than October or November will be a huge help in getting ready to overhaul the Sox.  It will give the new man several weeks to evaluate the whole franchise from top to bottom.

Dombrowski's own signing will be just the beginning of major front office and staff overhaul.  First a new GM to work Dombrowski must be selected. Names like Frank Wren, former Atlanta GM, Dan O'Dowd, ex- Rockies GM, and ex-Angel Jerry DiPoto ( all ready hired last week by Boston as a "consultant") are among the rumored candidates. But I would expect nearly all of the baseball ops execs who worked around Cherington to go.  Dombrowski has been in the game for over 30 years, he will have numerous candidates to bring into his department.

And as mentioned in the Farrell section above, at the appropriate time (NOT NOW) the delicate matter of John Farrell remaining as manager will have to be addressed.  Normally everyone would fully expect a new regime to name their own manager.  But when your incumbent skipper has cancer, that complicates the issue.  And who knows maybe Dombrowski wants John Farrell as his manager.

This winter's hot stove has all ready been lit in Boston, and it was ignited by using gasoline. From the inferno hopefully a contending club will emerge for 2016.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- August 2015

As hard as it is to believe, August is the last full month of the minor league baseball season.  And as we again rank the top prospects as they enter that final month, we have some changes at the top of our list due to graduations and several new names in the lower ranks.

Eduardo Rodriguez, last month's Red Sox top prospect has graduated to big league rookie season status.  And although he is a dozen or so at bats shy of officially graduating, we have also bumped Rusney Castillo off our list.  It seems obvious at this point, Rusney is going to spent the rest of 2015 in Boston.

The July 31 trading deadline did not create any changes to our list, with no Sox kids being dealt away, nor were any prospects acquired by dumping Sox veterans.

Before we meet the new #1 Sox prospect and several players who have burst onto the Top 30, here is the usual housekeeping:  The team listed behind each player is their team as of July 31, and the number in { } is July's ranking.  The slash lines used are:

Hitters: HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and Pitchers: W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB/.

Here is the Top 30 for August 2015:

1. Rafael Devers, 3B Greenville {2} Each of the players in the top 6 spots were all considered as the new top dog, but Devers edged them all out.  Although his BA for July was down to .258, Rafael continued to show the power he is known for with five home runs and sixteen RBI.  One of the home runs was the third grand slam of his pro career, on July 25.  Not only has Devers delivered at the plate at only age 18, but a number of scouts feel he has been showing better defense than expected at third.  Despite his very young age, there has been some speculation the Sox may bump Devers up to high A Salem soon.  This remains to be seen and a full year at Grenville would certainly not set Devers back at all.

2. Yoan Moncada, 2B Greenville {3} The heralded Cuban youngster has come to life in the second half of the South Atlantic League season.  His line for July was 4/13/.316/.419/.945 with six doubles, a triple and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts. His play at second base has been less than sterling, and there is very good chance his future big league position will be elsewhere.  Moncada, too, has been rumored to be on the cusp of a promotion to Salem.  In fact, Yoan's move to Virginia is more probable than Devers.

3. Manuel Margot, OF Portland {5} Margot continues to adjust to AA, hitting only .231 in July. But in addition to an outstanding defensive game in center field, Margot's July included nine extra base hits, and seven steals.  As with Devers and Moncada, Margot is still very young, he will not turn 21 until after the season on September 28.  When the Red Sox go shopping for a young controllable ace type pitcher this winter, you can be sure some or all of these first three names will be requested by the other side of any deal.

4. Henry Owens, LHP Pawtucket {6} From the start of the AAA season through June 9, Owens had seven games in which he walked four or more batters with an ERA of 3.64.  From June 14 through July 23, Owens pitching in his regular rotation had NO games in which he walked as many as four batters.  His ERA for that stretch was 2.77.  Another illustration that Owens has seemingly tamed his command issues to some degree.  For the season he had 103 strikeouts and 56 walks( this includes the good streak in June and July) at ratio of less than two K's per walk.  But in five July starts Owens had a K/BB of 34/8, better than a 4 to 1 ratio.  On August 4th Boston recalled Owens and he made his first big league start at Yankee Stadium.  He took the loss, in large part due to the putrid Boston bullpen who followed Henry to the mound.  Owens pitched 5+ innings allowing three runs on five hits.  Owens at one point retired 12 in a row, and he struck out five and walked only one.  Owens should get an audition for the 2016 rotation for the rest of 2015.

5. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {4} Johnson has had a roller coaster ride since our last rankings. As we predicted Johnson made his major league debut in July.  On July 21 Johnson started versus the Astros in Houston.  Johnson pitched fairly well ending up giving up four runs in 4.1 innings. At the time of this start, Johnson ( partially due to the All Star Break) had not pitched in nearly two weeks, and he looked rusty.  But this seemed to be the start of Johnson' s audition, but unexpectedly after the start he was optioned back to AAA.  A week or so later John Farrell told reporters both Johnson and Owens would be recalled in a matter of days.  Johnson made a start for Pawtucket on August 2, and went only four innings and sixty pitches, and everyone assumed the brief outing was a tuneup for his recall to Boston.  But the next day, Brian went on the DL with " left elbow tightness".  He was diagnosed with ulnar nerve irritation. The Sox say it is not serious and requires only rest and rehab, and he is not done for 2015.  But any injury that mentions ulnar nerve in the pitching elbow waves red flags.

6.  Andrew Benintendi, OF Lowell {8} The number one pick in the Red Sox 2015 draft made his pro debut in July for the Spinners.  Andrew had a strong offensive start: 4/10/.229/.396/.867.  The low batting average is more than offset by the near .400 OBP.  Last year the Sox assigned high draft pick Sam Travis to Lowell and by August 1, had promoted him to Greenville.  Benintendi should be expected to follow the '14 path of Travis and join the loaded Drive team any day now.

7. Javier Guerra, SS Greenville {10} Perhaps no other player on this list has boosted his stock more than Guerra in 2015.  Known as a top flight defensive shortstop, Javier has continue to rake at the dish all season long.  His red hot line for July: 5/17/.366/.398/.953.  This is not a one month hot streak, his YTD line: 13/54/.302/.351/.844.  Guerra is another teenager, who will not turn 20 until September 25.

8. Sam Travis, 1B  Portland {13} Travis has earned the five spot jump by handling the Eastern League almost since the day of his mid season promotion from Salem.  In a 27 game stretch in July Travis hit .356.  His July OBP was .407.  Travis was drafted last year out of Indiana University with a reputation of being a complete hitter.  Nothing in pro ball has disputed that so far, and Travis could be in the Red Sox first base mix before 2016 is out.

9. Anderson Espinoza, RHP  GCL Red Sox {18}.  The young righty is another hard charger up our list.  Anderson has continued to shine in Florida after his promotion from the Dominican Summer League.  His combined line for 2015: 0-1/1.15/1.05/38-11 in 39 innings. His relative slight stature bring comparisons to Pedro, but let's give it a few years and enjoy watching his development.

10. Michael Kopech, RHP Greenville {9} First let's admire Kopech's YTD line: 4-5/2.63/1.23/70-27.  These numbers put up in 65 innings will be Kopech's final line for 2015.  On July 16 MLB suspended Kopech for 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance, Oxilofrine.  This is a stimulant often used for weight loss.  Kopech apologized for the transgression, while claiming he did not intentionally use the stimulant.  From strictly a baseball point of view, the Sox will have Kopech pitch in the Instructional League and maybe winter ball to make up for any missed innings.

11. Michael Chavis, 3B Greenville {14} Chavis line for the year: 10/39/.222/.274/.654 illustrates two points. Last year's first round draft pick is showing the power scouts felt he possessed, but there is still a adjustment to pro ball as his low BA and OBP show.

12. Trey Ball, LHP Salem {12} Ball continues to make steady, but not spectacular progress.  His line for July: 2-2/3.67/1.26/14-13 largely mirrors the YTD line: 8-8/3.69/131/59-45.  But he has pitched 102.1 innings through July and that pro experience is what is needed for the first round draftee from 2013.

13. Deven Marrero, 2B-SS Pawtucket {11}  The good news for Marrero is due to Dustin Pedroia's hamstring injury, he spent from July 1-25 in the big leagues.  The bad news is he only received five plate appearances for Boston and back at AAA he only played four games and had just fourteen at bats for July.

14. Travis Shaw, 1B-3B Boston {15}.  Shaw continued to yo yo between AAA and Boston, and on August 1st Shaw may have pushed his way into Boston's plans going forward.  Playing third base at Fenway versus the Rays, Shaw exploded for two home runs, a double and single, with 3 RBI and five runs scored. Boston did not move Mike Napoli at the deadline but that move is still expected, and when it does it will be interesting to see how many of those at bats Shaw will get.

15. Ty Buttrey, RHP Salem {17} The big righty's numbers slowed some in July with a ERA of 5.11, but his line for Salem this year is still an acceptable: 7-5/3.65/1.40/56-31.  Barring a complete collapse in August, Buttrey has regained his highly regarded prospect status in 2015.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast - Trade Deadline Edition

Brandon and Barry sit down in this episode of the Red Sox Maineiacs podcast to discuss the current sad state of affairs in Red Sox Nation and the upcoming MLB trade deadline.
Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast on BlogTalkRadio

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trading Deadline Five Days Away- A Red Sox Look

Over the last month or so instead of specific rumors of players coming to Boston (other than the Cole Hamels talk ongoing since last winter) the trade deadline discussion centering around Boston has been are they buyers or sellers?  The Red Sox train wreck of a post All Star break road trip (0-7 in Anaheim and Houston) has seemingly answered that question.  But has it?

There seems little doubt the Sox are not realistically in the '15 playoff hunt and will be looking to sell off some veteran players.  And there seems to be no reason at all to be shopping for the rental names mentioned since last off season ( Cueto, Zimmerman, Samardjiza, Price, etc.).  But rather than simply moving some veterans out of the way, Ben Cherington seems to be on the hunt to find talent (likely pitching talent) that can be acquired and controlled for seasons beyond 2015.

The one rental name the Sox reportedly still had interest in was Johnny Cueto from the Reds.  The thinking was the Sox would pay the rental price and then have two months to court Cueto to sign and stay in Boston.  This method of acquiring Cueto ended today, when he was traded to Kansas City for three young lefty pitchers.  If ( a big if) the Sox are willing to pay Cueto the  $200M plus this winter, he will now be a free agent without a draft pick loss attached (there is no way KC shells out the $ to keep him from free agency).  Something to watch later.

In lieu of any specific rumors as of yet, let's take a look a some players the Sox could trade away.

Mike Napoli: the most likely to go, but does he have any trade value?  I think a marginal relief pitching prospect could be had for Nap.  If he has a good week this week that will improve the chances of getting something.  Tampa Bay is one team listed as shopping for a bat.  Would the Sox trade within the division?  Well the first three "deadline week" deals in MLB were all intradivision deals: the Kazmir deal, the Aramis Ramirez deal, and the Juan Uribe-Kelly Johnson to Mets.  In addition last year the Sox traded Stephen Drew to the Yankees and Andrew Miller to Baltimore.

Shane Victorino: if he can get through this week healthy there may be a market for Vic.  It has been reported the Sox were finding more of a market for Victorino than for Napoli.  The Mets for one has been mentioned.  Again, as with Napoli,  this would be a small deal to get marginal prospect and free up roster space

Justin Masterson:  Even more unlikely there is any market for Justin either  but maybe some team takes a flier on him as a bullpen arm.

Daniel Nava:  The Royals have interest in Nava as a lefty bat off the bench.

Criag Breslow, Robbie Ross, Jr., Tommy Layne: Any of all three could be moved, Layne reportedly has the most interest.

Now onto some players who could bring more back in return.  Not a blockbuster trade like last July 31, but deals that could bring back an useful arm or two.

Alejandro DeAza:  If Boston was contending Alejandro would stay in Boston.  But a team that is contending could certainly use his bat and outfield defense.

Koji Uehara: The fact Koji is signed through next year, could be a positive or negative in moving him.  But for a team desperate for a closer (Toronto?) you could get a good return.  But there are other younger closers on the market: Paplebon, Kimbrel, and maybe Aroldis Chapman.

Junichi Tazawa: Taz would seem like a pitcher to hang onto for 2016 and beyond, but maybe this is time to move him before the overuse he has gotten comes back to haunt him.

Jackie Bradley, Jr.:  I think this is the wrong time to trade JBJ instead move some veteran outfielders and give him a chance to play everyday.  But in recent days there have been reports of the Giants and Royals having moderate to strong interest in Bradley, Jr.

Wade Miley: Not every pitcher dealt at the deadline is an ace.  Miley is signed for two years beyond this at a very reasonable salary.  He would fit into the middle to back of any rotation, and the teams that miss out on the big names (or cannot afford them) may come calling for Miley.

Joe Kelly and Allen Craig: the two former Cardinals more likely should have been listed in the not much of a market category(at least Craig), but some NL team that remembers their efforts in St. Louis may be willing to trade for one or both of them.

Brock Holt: this is an idea I floated as a comment to Brandon's recent post.  Find a contender with a need at second base ( KC, Angels, Mets) and see if you can get a package of two or three good players for your All Star.  Ned Yost, the KC manager, seemed to love Holt when he picked him for the AL All Star team.  Holt could play left field while Alex Gordon is out injured and move back to second when Gordon comes back.  The Sox have recalled Jemile Weeks now that Dustin Pedroia is back on the DL. In spring training the Sox were grooming Weeks as another all over the field utility guy.  Could he be a Holt replacement??

The other type of Red Sox rumor making the rounds, as mentioned above, is that the Sox are searching for younger, controllable pitchers.  One name mentioned a lot is All Star Sonny Gray of Oakland.  It seems unlikely Gray is available, although Billy Beane has traded younger players unexpectedly before.  Even if Beane would deal Gray, it seems that the package would have to include Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts.

Other places the Sox have inquired per reports are the Mets (Zack Wheeler, out until'16 after Tommy John surgery), San Diego( Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross), maybe Seattle (Taijuan Walker), and Cleveland ( Carlos Carrasco, who the Indians will at least on according to multiple reports, and Danny Salazar or Trevor Bauer).

There were two other reports I read that did not mention Boston at all, but I found interesting.  The rebuilding Braves have been inquiring all over baseball about finding a young catcher. A seperate report, talking about all of the young pitching the Braves have been stockpiling since last winter, suggested the Braves may be willing to trade 24 year old right hander, Julio Teheran.  This year Teheran is 6-5 with a ERA of 4.49 with 102 K's.  But last year he was 14-13 with an ERA of 2.89 with 186 strikeouts., and was a NL All Star.  Would Boston trade Blake Swihart for Teheran?  Would Atlanta make the deal one for one, or would they want an arm or two included? I am in the keep Swihart camp, but acquring this type of pitcher would be awfully tempting.

As the week winds it way towards Friday's deadline RSM will continue to post any updated rumors or deals right here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Eulogy for the 2015 Red Sox

In our podcast on Sunday, July 12, Deacon Art and I agreed that the Red Sox had worked their way back into 2015 playoff contention. At the time of the podcast, the Red Sox sat 5.5 games out of first place in the AL East. They had a game that evening against the Yankees, and if they could win that game they would have headed into the All-Star Break a manageable 4.5 games back. They had won 9 of their last 12 games. They had a chance to head into the break 5-1-2 in their previous eight series. Instead, since that podcast, the following has happened:
  • The Sox lost the July 12th game to the Yankees. Our dumpster fire bullpen served up a two-run homer to a rookie playing in his third ever major league game and the Sox lost 8-6.
  • The Red Sox were swept by the Angels in a four game series
  • The Angels outscored the Sox 22-4 in the four-game shellacking
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, the rookie phenom, lasted 1.2 innings while surrendering 6 hits, 3 walks, 2 home runs, and 7 earned runs without recording a strikeout.
  • Clay Buchholz is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. The Red Sox are calling the exam “precautionary”, but this blogger is predicting that Andrews finds elbow ligament damage, Buchholz undergoes Tommy John surgery, Buchholz doesn’t pitch again until late 2016 or early 2017, and Buchholz has thrown his last pitch as a Red Sox.
  • The Red Sox are currently 9.0 games out of first place in the AL East and their playoff probability according to Baseball Prospectus is at 9.5%.
  • The Red Sox players exhibited body language during last night’s sweep-clenching beatdown that is usually reserved for people who have recently watched their beloved dog run over in the street in front of their own eyes. John Farrell has the look of a man on death row hoping that his execution comes quickly just to get it all over with.
Folks, the 2015 season is done. Over. Finished. At least in terms of contention for a playoff spot. The Red Sox brass have to realize this. Red Sox fans, judging by Twitter, already realize this. As we approach the 2015 trading deadline, the focus of the Red Sox organization should be shifting away from “what can we acquire to help us get into the playoffs” to “what we can trade away for the long term benefit of our organization”. 

It is time to focus on building towards 2016. And yes, it is July 21. That means another two and a half months of meaningless baseball being played by a last-place team auditioning talent and stockpiling major league reps for players looking ahead to 2016. For the second year in a row. All signs point towards a third last-place finish in four years. 

So where do we go from here? The Red Sox have a number of decisions to make. Let’s run through six of them:

1. Is Ben Cherington the GM we want leading our roster construction? 
The theory of baseball roster construction and game management is changing. This is not a new story. The era of working pitch counts, drawing walks, getting on base, and paying nine figures for established aces is fading, if not already gone. The new approach is to avoid striking out, putting the ball in play, running like hell, scoring early in the game to get a lead, compiling a rotation just good enough to get through five or maybe six innings, preventing hits by emphasizing defense and shifts, and investing in a lights-out bullpen to shorten games to six or seven inning affairs. If Ben Cherington watched the 2014 playoffs, he should have seen the Royals and Orioles among other teams moving towards this approach. Instead, Cherington zigged when the market was zagging. He spent his wad on hitting, signing the two best bats on the market in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, even though Ramirez had no apparent position to play. Cherington spent the rest of his cash to extend two pitchers who had yet to throw a pitch at Fenway in Wade Miley and Rick Porcello, which has turned out to be something between a shrug and a debacle. He “addressed” the bullpen with his leftovers, patching together Robbie Ross Jr, Anthony Varvaro, Edward Mujica, Tommy Layne, and Craig Breslow. On the surface, these moves made sense. I bought into the approach this offseason. If the game was moving towards low-scoring games, then why not invest in the scarce commodity of power hitters? If the trend is moving away from nine-figure aces, then why not invest in two middle-tier starters with potential to improve? Made sense on paper. Now with the benefit of hindsight, these moves look like a GM who is behind the times, won’t learn the lessons of baseball going on around him, or is just incompetent at his job. Will Cherington learn and change tack heading into 2016 and beyond? Should we trust him to learn these lessons and modernize the Red Sox roster? Cherington seems like a smart guy, and I almost always lean towards organizational stability over reactionary firings, so if it were up to me I would keep Cherington and give him a mandate to learn the lessons going on around him in baseball and adjust his priorities accordingly.

2. Is John Farrell the manager we want leading this team?
To me, no. As I said above, I almost always lean towards organizational stability over reactionary firings, but there comes a point when the firing isn’t reactionary any more and the body of evidence overcomes the benefits of stability. The time has come. Farrell’s career record as a manager is 364-377. And that’s including the 97-win 2013 season that is looking more and more like a miracle. If 2013 is taken off of Farrell’s resume, he’s 267-312 as a manger. Assuming the Red Sox finish last in 2015, without 2013 Farrell will have presided over two fourth-place finishes and two last-place finishes. As Bill Parcells once said, “you are what your record says you are”. Farrell’s reputation as a strong clubhouse leader and voice of reason with the media is also taking a hit. Yesterday, after Sandy Leon was DFA’s, Farrell actually looked into the camera and said with a straight face, “Sandy did an outstanding job for us”. Oh really John? Leon was outstanding? What games were you watching?!?!?! I know Leon was a serviceable major league backstop and he threw out some potential baserunners, but did you watch any of his at bats? If he had gone up there and bunted every single time he could have matched his .180 batting average. Leon had about as much of a chance of getting an extra base hit as I do of being elected the next pope. Come on. When Farrell spouts such non-sensical horse manure to Red Sox fans in the midst of his ship sinking into the abyss of meaninglessness, it’s time to go. Fire him now, replace him with Butterfield if he will stay through 2015, then open up a search to find the next Kevin Cash, A.J. Hinch, or Paul Molitor. Enough already.

3. Can the Red Sox trade Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino for anything worthwhile?
There’s no way that Napoli or Victorino get any at-bats in a Red Sox uniform come August, and other teams know this. What would a team give up to get a player who will probably be DFA’d anyways? Will a team take a flyer on Napoli regaining some pop with a change of scenery, maybe to the NL? Will a team want Victorino’s veteran presence in the clubhouse during a pennant race? Maybe. But they won’t give up more than a basement prospect, which is fine. Get what you can and move on.

4. Will the Red Sox consider trading Dustin Pedroia?
I hope so. It won’t be easy seeing the scrappy captain go, and it would certainly be tough seeing Pedroia playing in a different uniform, and it might not be easy to move his 6 year/$85 million contract, but I think it’s time. At this point in his career, Pedroia is a good defensive second baseman, he hits for average, and he reportedly is a clubhouse leader. That’s fine for a player with a reasonable contract and who is willing to hit seventh in a lineup. The Red Sox took off with their late June/early July winning streak with a top three of Betts, Holt, and Bogaerts in their batting order. As soon as Pedroia has come back, the Sox have plummeted. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Or maybe Pedroia’s brashness is grating on players in the locker room. Maybe his declarations that he’s still a top-ten player is causing him to think “me first” with his approach. Maybe Pedroia thinks too much of his ability at this point in his career. Maybe having a top three of all right-handed hitters is a bad idea and Betts and Bogaerts should hit first and third respectively for the next 15 years. 

And then there’s this: of all the Red Sox players on their roster, Pedroia would probably net the biggest haul in return, allowing the Sox to continue stockpiling assets for building a team or when they need to acquire talent in a pennant race. Several of the Sox’ recent prospects have busted: Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Travis Shaw, Bryce Brentz, etc. Maybe it’s time to re-stock the upper levels.

While I was watching the Angels crush our souls over the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that the Angels have Johnny Giavotella playing second base. The Angels want to win a title now, while Trout is still in his prime. Would they take on 6 years and $85 million of Pedroia to put their lineup over the top? Andrew Heaney looked really good on Monday. Maybe a deal headlined by Pedroia for Heaney could be worked out? Count me in.

5. Will the Red Sox consider trading David Ortiz?
Now this one would REALLY hurt. Nothing would hammer home the point that this era of Red Sox baseball is coming to a close like seeing Ortiz traded away to spend the rest of his career in a different uniform. But he’s still a productive hitter for an American League team in a pennant race, he’s a clubhouse genius, and his contract is favorable. Beyond that, I think the Red Sox would love to be able to slot Hanley Ramirez in as their DH for the future and replace his awful defense in LF. David Ortiz has ascended to the Boston sports Mount Rushmore with his presence through three World Series titles and his “this is our f***ing city” speech, but will the Sox consider moving him while he could still net some prospects in return? I can’t stomach this one, no matter if it does make sense on paper.

6. How can the Red Sox develop their young core?
Look, the Red Sox still have a very promising young core. Betts, Bogaerts, and Swihart look like cornerstones. But how can these guys be developed when they are in a culture of losing? How do you get better on a last place team with meaningless at bats? It’s tough. But once again, the Sox will look to get these three along with Rusney Castillo, Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, Pat Light, and as many other young players as possible major league-level reps in 2015. I think a change in manager might help clear the air and allow these guys to focus on developing for 2016 and beyond rather than playing for a lame duck manager throughout 2015. 

As always, let’s hash out these decisions and any others in the comments section below.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Deacon Art and Brandon Podcast: The Red Sox at the Break

Deacon Art and Brandon sit down for a podcast where we talk about the Red Sox first half, the team's approach heading the trade deadline, the current series with the Yankees, the starting rotation, the dumpster fire...err, bullpen, Brian Johnson, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, and everything else related to the Sox that we can think of.

You can skip past the part where I bumble around and try to turn on the Deacon Art's microphone with faulty wi-fi while asking if he's there four times. SKIP TO THE 1:00 MARK OF THE PODCAST AND GO FROM THERE. Sorry about that folks.

Go Sox!

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- July 2015 Edition

We have hit the halfway mark of the MLB season and the Fourth of July weekend, and it is time to once again rank the top prospects of the Red Sox organization.  As anticipated we have some changes in our top 30 this month.  Two players have graduated from prospect status to big league rookies.  They are Matt Barnes {#9 last month} and our previously number one ranked prospect, catcher Blake Swihart.  Also some of the new draftees from the 2015 June amateur draft join our list after officially signing with Boston.

As always the team listed after the player's name is his current location and the number in { } is last month's ranking.  We use two stat lines:

Pitchers: W-L/ERA/WHIP/ K-BB

Let's meet the new number one Red Sox prospect and check out how the players are ranked by RSM.

1. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP Boston {3} Since his recall to Boston on May 28, Rodriguez has been the Sox second best starter behind only Clay Buchholz.  Eduardo began red hot with a near historic first four games, with a combination of innings pitched, few hits allowed, and strikeouts rarely seen in all the years since 1914. He ran into two tough starts versus Toronto and Baltimore, which was attributed to pitch tipping.  If Eduardo can make the mechanical adjustments to eliminate this tipping of his pitches, he should be in line to complete a strong rookie season for Boston.  This is very likely Eduardo's first and last appearance at the top of our rankings.  Three more starts or so will also graduate Rodriguez into the big league rookie season category.

2. Rafael Devers, 3B Greenville {5} The 18 year old hitting phenom's June did not match his torrid May, but he still finished the month with a line of 6-36-.305-.336-.793 for the season to date with 19 doubles and a triple.  Devers was one of the Drive members to be named to the South Atlantic All Star team.  In addition Devers has been selected to play in World vs. USA Futures Game, played as part of MLB's All Star festivities.

3. Yoan Moncada, 2B Greenville {2} The Cuban star was edged out of the second spot by his Drive teammate, Devers.  The young switch hitter with the huge international reputation is still adjusting to playing in the States.  His line so far for the Drive is 1/11/.230/.315/.634 with five doubles and a triple.  Moncada has also stolen nine bases without being caught.  It will be very interesting to see if Moncada's game heats up as the second half of the minor league season continues.

4. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {4} The day of Johnson's big league debut should be right around the corner.  With Joe Kelly now in AAA,  Justin Masterson on a game by game leash, and Rick Porcello cratering, Brian Johnson's time should be now.  Johnson, the Paw Sox only IL All Star representative (which would have been beyond comprehension when 2015 began), has continued to produce: 8-5/2.38/1.08/76-24 with fifteen starts on the year.  His June stats closely mirror his year to date numbers.  It will be a very big surprise if Brian Johnson does not make his major league debut in July.

5. Manuel Margot, OF Portland {6} Around the halfway mark of the minor league season the Red Sox made several promotions within the system (several of which we will see later on this list). The biggest name was Margot, who recovered from an injury plagued May to hit .316 with two homers for Salem in June, and was promoted to AA.  In Manuel's first 39 at bats for Portland he has not skipped a beat.  His AA line is 1/5/.282/.300/.736 with three doubles and three stolen bags.  Margot's first AA home run came in his first game at Hadlock Field.  Manuel will be the second Sox player in the Futures game.  As the trade deadline comes at the end of this month, Margot's name is sure to be mentioned in any big Sox rumors.  But in the mean time, there is now a real Sox prospect to see when the fans visit Portland.

6. Henry Owens, LHP Pawtucket {8} Owens has not produced the eye popping numbers as he has done in the lower levels of the minors.  But Henry is still having a very important year in his development.  He has now made sixteen starts and pitched 90 innings at AAA this year, along with six starts and 38 innings there in 2014. His command improved in June with 27 strikeouts versus 13 walks,  a better rate than the first two months of 42-35.  As with other tall pitchers in the past the 6'6" lefty needs to work on repeating his delivery and commanding the zone.  This is why his June numbers are encouraging.

7. Rusney Castillo, OF Pawtucket {7} Castillo continues not to be able to earn and hold on to playing time in Boston.  He has 74 at bats for Boston with poor to mediocre results. The best plan going forward for 2015 would seem to be to get as many at bats in AAA as possible for Rusney.  So far in AAA his numbers are good; 3/11/.310/.364/.824 with six doubles and eight stolen bases in ten tries.

8. Andrew Benintendi, OF Lowell {N/A} The new number one draft pick ( #7 overall) of the Boston Red Sox debuts in our top ten.  Benintendi lead his Univ. of Arkansas team to the College World Series.  His tools include hitting for power and average with better than average speed and a strong throwing arm.  He throws and bats left handed.  Andrew played two seasons at Arkansas, and he truly exploded onto the scene this season, as illustrated by his two lines in college.

2014: 1/27/.276/.368      in 225 at bats

2015: 20/57/.376/.488     in 226 at bats

Benintendi won the 2015 Dick Howser Award symbolic of the college baseball player of the year and the Golden Spikes Award for amateur baseball player of the year.

Benintendi will begin his pro career at Lowell after officially signing with Boston this week.  Benintendi, who turns 21 on July 6,  is expected to make a brief stop at Lowell before moving onto Greenville or maybe even Salem.

9. Michael Kopech, RHP Greenville {10} June was more of the same for Kopech, as the 2014 first rounder  continues to put up a very solid first full pro season.  After pitching just 13 pro innings in '14, Kopech has a line of 3-5/3.06/1.22/58-17 in 50 innings , while lighting up the guns in the high 90's regularly.

10. Javier Guerra, SS Greenville {11} The nineteen year old shortstop from Panama is just one of many recent international signees who are exploding onto the Red Sox prospect scene.  Guerra, a SAL All Star, has put up an impressive line for the season: 8/36/.271/.328/.796 with 15 doubles for the plus rated defender.

11. Deven Marrero, INF Boston {12} The recent placement of Dustin Pedroia onto the disabled list led to the major league debut for Marrero.  Brock Holt took the starts at second, but Marrero was brought up as the utility infielder.  On July 1, Marrero started his first MLB game on Canada Day in Toronto.  Through that game Marrero started his big league career at 0-6.  Marrero is a great defender and his bat as always is the question.  But didn't we say that about Jose Iglesias as well?

12. Trey Ball, LHP Salem {14} 2013's first round, seventh overall pick continues to make steady progress through the system.  Trey had an outstanding June at Salem: 3-1/1.59/1.09/19-13 in five starts. In mid-June Ball put up 15 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. This brought his year to date won/loss record to 6-6 with an ERA of 3.70.  Ball's June seems to mirror his 2014 Greenville season when a poor first half was followed by a strong second half.  July and August could be important months for Ball.

Halfway Home

The Fourth of July is often considered the halfway mark of the MLB season although with the fluid Opening Day date from year to year, it is not really the case.  But this year for the Red Sox they will enter today's Independence Day weekend at exactly the halfway mark: 81 games in the book.  Here's a few quick thoughts about the Red Sox at the halfway marker.

*Of course, the first half of 2015 has been a massive disappointment for the Red Sox.  They are in last place in the AL East with a record of 37-44.  There has been a sliver of hope in the last week provided by a 5-2 road trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto.  This has cut the Sox deficit in the division from ten games out to six.  The other four teams are all bunched within one game of each other.  Despite many stories lately about how much better the AL East is than predicted, I still consider it a mediocre group, all teams with major flaws.  This may leave the door ajar for the Sox to to walk back in. Maybe.

* Here comes the math.  In order to get to 87 wins the Sox need to play 50-31, a .617 pace.  To get to 90 wins, 53-28, a clip of .654.  That leads to two questions: can the Red Sox play over .600 ball and would that be enough to win the AL East?  Based on their first half it would be hard to imagine an over .600 winning percentage.  In addition no AL team has played at that pace so far ( Houston .580 and KC .579 are tops).  But the Sox are not without talent ( enough talent??) and they are still due for that elusive winning streak.  As to 87-90 wins garnering the title:  As of today the Orioles and Yankees are tied for first, only five games over .500 ( they both have two more games to play until they reach 81). If those teams split the next two, they would both be on pace to finish twelve games over .500 or in other words: 87-75.  So 87 might do it, but the math for Boston to get to 87 is still daunting.

* If the Red Sox are going to climb back into the thick of the AL East race it is imperative they do at least one thing.  Beat the other AL East teams early and often ( especially often).  As amazing as it sounds the Red Sox reach the halfway mark with a winning record against all non-AL East teams: 21-19.  Now not a great record but a winning one.  But even after the 5-2 trip the Red Sox are 16-25 in the division.  If the Red Sox were only one game over in the division, their record would be 42-39 The same record as the Rays and Jays have today, and same number of wins as the other two teams (and of course five more Sox wins in the division would be allotted to some or all of the other teams lessening their marks).

* David Ortiz had a slow start to his season, especially versus left handed pitching.  Is Papi washed up?  Most certainly he is not.  His three run blast in the first inning at Toronto last night gave him 14 in the first half of '15.  This puts Ortiz on pace to hit 28.  In the previous seven seasons ( 08-14) Ortiz hit exactly 200 home runs. This is an average of 28.5 home runs per year, David is on target to match that number almost on the nose.  His batting average is down and he may or may not be the Big Papi of his prime, but he is still a presence in the middle of the order.  Anyone's order.

* In the last week with Dustin Pedroia (who by the way is having his best season in years, except for hitting with runners in scoring position) on the DL and Hanley Ramirez injured, John Farrell moved Xander Bogaerts in the three spot in the batting order.  This is where the Red Sox should leave the X Man for the next fifteen years or so.  Last night's four hit game brought his average to .297 and Xander has also been driving in big runs.  My prediction for Xander for the second half is the home runs come along like the rest of his game has and he finishes with fifteen of more home runs.

* Mookie Betts is another player who is continuing to blossom right in front of our eyes.  After a dip for a month or so that caused Farrell to drop Betts out of the leadoff spot, Mookie is back at the top and he should be there just about as long as Bogaerts hits third.  If the Sox make any kind of run in the second half, Betts and Bogaerts will lead the charge, and do not forget both of these guys are only 22.

* Hanley Ramirez is never going to win a Gold Glove in left field (or anywhere else), but I still maintain almost all of the screeching over his "worst left fielder of all time" defense, has just as much to do with his offense.  If Ramirez' bat heats up as in April, and he finishes with 35-40 home runs, the clamor over his D will die down a lot.

* Clay Buccholz is an enigma.  One of the black marks on his resume is he has never pitched over 200 innings in a season.  Well he is over 100 at the halfway mark, and he is having an All Star type campaign ( although I suspect he will not make the AL team).  If the Sox flounder for rest of July, and Buch continues to pitch as he has in 2015, Ben C will have a huge decision to make at the deadline: trade Clay Buchholz or keep him at very reasonable 13M options for each of the next two seasons?  If the Red Sox continue to play as they did on this last road trip the question is moot, you keep him.  But if the Sox are still last and further behind than they are today, I think he goes to either Houston or the Cubs.

* The team ERA is still last in the AL, and this will need to addressed internally or externally if the second half is to feature a big turnaround. Buch, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Wade Miley are 3/5 of an acceptable rotation.  The need to audition Brian Johnson as soon as possible, and hope for about faces from at least one of Rick Porcello ( the biggest first half disappointment, I was thrilled when Porcello was extended, and still believe he can pitch successfully in Boston, but 2015 my be a lost season for Rick), Justin Masterson, or Joe Kelly.  Rob Bradford had an interesting post on stating the Red Sox were on the hunt for younger, controllable beyond 2015 pitching in the rotation and the bullpen.  I think this may be the route the Sox go at the deadline whether they are buyers or sellers.

* The end of bullpen with Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa has been very good, but with the possible exception of Alexi Ogando the rest of the pen is a dumpster fire.  If Ben is looking for young pitching, hopefully he grabs some bullpen arms with power in them.

* My prediction for the upcoming 81 games is better than the first half.  But I do not think they can play the likely needed .600 to win the division.  45-37 for a .555 % gives Boston a final record of 82-80.  I think the Sox will pull into at least the fringes of the AL East race, and will not finish last.  Some interesting games and semi-contention will at least make for a more interesting summer than we expected a couple of weeks ago.

There are always story lines in Red Sox Nation, so enjoy the rest of 2015's baseball season.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Red Sox All Star Prospectus 2015

We are merely 2 weeks away from the midsummer classic, this year being held at the Great American Ballpark, home field of the Cincinnati Reds, on July 14th. Much has been written and made about the fans voting efforts in the American League, where currently 7 Kansas City Royals are in line to start. This post will look at the potential for AL All-Stars based on each team needing a representative and estimating who will end up as the top vote getters. We will also discuss the prospects of the Sox to make the squad. 34 players will make the AL All-Star team with the 9 starters and the 34th Man selection determined by the fans. Players in bold are our selections to make the team, those in italics also were given consideration.

As this is the fourth year of the all-star prospectus, let's take a look back to see how Cousin Jason has faired in selecting the All-Star teams.

2012: 9 for 9 on the starters, 19 for 25 on the remaining roster: 28 for 34 .824
2013: 9 for 9 on the starters, 17 for 25 on the remaining roster: 26 for 34 .765
2014: 7 for 9 on the starters, 20 for 25 on the remaining roster: 27 for 34 .794

So overall, we are hitting on a little better than a 79% success rate on choosing the AL All-Star roster over the past 3 years. By any baseball statistical measurement, that is a great rate! On to this years selections:

C Salvador Perez, Kansas City
Perez is a lock to start as he leads Russell Martin of the Blue Jays by nearly 6 million votes. In fact, Perez has the most votes in the AL with a sizeable lead of nearly 800,000 over Miguel Cabrera.
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Cabrera is the first of a few non-Royals to make up ground in the latest voting update, he currently leads Eric Hosmer of the Royals by nearly 1.3 million votes.
2B Jose Altuve, Houston
Altuve is another player gaining ground on the leader which is currently Omar Infante, the most undeserving of candidates. Altuve has trimmed the lead down to a manageable 450,000 or so and based on the outrage of the baseball world outside of KC he should be able to overtake Infante in the last week and save a roster spot for a deserving all-star.
3B Josh Donaldson, Toronto
Donaldson is the biggest mover currently in the voting world, having cut the lead of Mike Moustakas of the Royals from 1.6 million 2 weeks ago to 33,000. Based on this upward trajectory, Donaldson should get the nod and possibly even catch Perez for the most votes. Although being on Canada's team does Donaldson get his votes at par?
SS Alcides Escobar, Kansas City
Escobar is most decidedly going to be the starter as he currently has a lead of 2.6 million votes over Jose Iglesias of the Tigers.
LF Alex Gordon, Kansas City
CF Mike Trout, Anaheim
RF Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City
In the OF, Mike Trout has the 3rd most total votes and the reigning All-Star MVP will most assuredly start his 3rd consecutive midsummer classic. Cain and Gordon are also in great shape to start leading Yoenis Cespedes of the Tigers by 3.1 million and 1.9 million votes respectively.
DH Nelson Cruz, Seattle
Our final pick to over take a currently leading Royal, Cruz has got his deficit to Kendry Morales down to 286,000 votes.

C Stephen Vogt, Oakland, Russell Martin, Toronto
Brian McCann, New York
In an all-around weak position for the AL, Vogt and Martin stand above the other candidates. Vogt is the best offensive catcher in the league and Martin has made great strides since his horrendous start. Although, choosing McCann over Martin would not be a surprise.
1B Albert Pujols, Anaheim, Prince Fielder, Texas
Jose Abreu, Chicago, Mark Teixeira, New York, Eric Hosmer, Kansas City, Kendry Morales, Kansas City
Pujols has been a hitting machine over the past month and leads the AL in home runs. Fielder, while he has spent most of the year as the Rangers DH needs to make the roster because of his outstanding offensive numbers and most likely will be the Rangers lone representative.
2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland, Dustin Pedroia, Boston
Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay, Brian Dozier, Minnesota
Kipnis has been the best second baseman in the AL this season. Pedroia was having a solid season prior to this past weeks hamstring injury. His injury will probably keep him out of the All-Star game and perhaps opens the door for Logan Forsythe of the Rays. Forsythe's versatility helps his case.
3B Manny Machado, Baltimore
Mike Moustakas, Kansas City, Alex Rodriguez, New York, Jimmy Paredes, Baltimore, Kyle Seager, Seattle, Brett Lawrie, Oakland, Pablo Sandoval, Boston
Machado has put together a very good season and could be the lone third baseman to make the roster of back-ups. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Ned Yost chooses his own guy Mike Moustakas to make the roster as well.
SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston, Jose Iglesias, Detroit
Marcus Semien, Oakland
Shortstop is also another weak overall position in the AL. Deacon Art made a case for Bogaerts as an All-Star a few weeks ago. Since that time, Xander has only enhanced his case. Meanwhile, other shortstops, such as Marcus Semien of the A's have regressed. Iglesias, known for his defensive wizardry, has put up a fine .330 average albeit it as pretty much a singles hitter (61 of 70 hits).
OF Yoenis Cespedes, Detroit, Adam Jones, Baltimore, Brett Gardner, New York, JD Martinez, Detroit
Michael Brantley, Cleveland, Hanley Ramirez, Boston, Mookie Betts, Boston, Kevin Pillar, Toronto, Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay, Josh Reddick, Oakland, George Springer, Houston, Jose Bautista, Toronto
Gardner has put together another fine season and could be the lone Yankee on the All-Star roster. Cespedes has taken to Detroit, putting up fine offensive numbers. Jones has also put together a fine season, although he has been slowed in recent weeks by injury. Lastly, Martinez is having a tremendous season and should give the Tigers 2 outfielders on the roster.

Sonny Gray, Oakland, Chris Archer, Tampa Bay, Dallas Keuchel, Houston, Chris Sale, Chicago, Felix Hernandez, Seattle, David Price, Detroit, Glen Perkins, Minnesota, Huston Street, Anaheim, Zach Britton, Baltimore, Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay, Wade Davis, Kansas City, Corey Kluber, Cleveland
Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay, Hector Santiago, Anaheim, Yovani Gallardo, Texas, Scott Kazmir, Oakland, Jesse Chavez, Oakland, Mike Pelfrey, Minnesota, Edinson Volquez, Kansas City, Ubaldo Jimenez, Baltimore, Garrett Richards, Anaheim, Clay Buchholz, Boston, Mark Buehrle, Toronto, Luke Gregerson, Houston, Joakim Soria, Detroit, Andrew Miller, New York, Greg Holland, Kansas City, David Robertson, Chicago, Dellin Betances, New York
We probably have selected too few pitchers in this year's all-star prospectus and Kluber is perhaps a wild card to make the roster. However, the reigning Cy Young winner has very solid peripherals despite his 3-9 record. Gray has been perhaps the best pitcher in the AL leading in ERA along with his 9-3 record. Archer and Boxberger have been the keys to the Rays great first half. Keuchel has been tremendous for the upstart Astros. Sale has been dominant despite only 6 wins and could be the lone White Sox representative. King Felix has been his usual, tremendous self. Price has solid for the Tigers. Perkins could be the lone Twin on the AL roster and deservedly so with his league-leading 24 saves. Britton and Street have been very good closing out games for the Orioles and Angels. Davis is another wild card, in that he is not a starter and not the primary closer for the Royals. However, for a year and a half he has been untouchable and should get rewarded by his manager with an All-Star nod.

So there you have it, Cousin Jason's 2015 All-Star Prospectus. It is a very real possibility that the Red Sox only have a single All-Star although injury plays a role in that.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Streaking in the AL East ( Or Can The Red Sox Have The Much Needed Winning Streak?)

For all of the 2015 campaign as our Red Sox have floundered ( to put it politely), the carrot that has been held in front of us is that elusive long winning streak that will put the Sox back in the hunt. The curative effect of that type of win streak may be diminishing as the Sox deficit is now nine games rather than the four or five of earlier in the season.  But the question we ask here is can this team have such a long win streak?

To look for clues to help us predict the future of this Red Sox team, we will search in three places:

1. Performance of recent poor Red Sox teams: 2012 and 2014.

2. The streaks and standings of this year's AL East.

3. The results for the past eight seasons for the team which resided in last place in the AL East on June 20.

RED SOX 2012 & 2014

Last year's Red Sox squad had one each of a long winning streak and string of  losses.  But they both had happened before June 20. From May 15 to May 25 the Sox lost ten in a row. Amazingly, they ended this streak by immediately going on their longest winning streak of the year, seven from May 26 to June 1. After the back to back streaks the Red Sox were only six games out on June 1, but from that point on never had another winning streak of more than five games.  And they only had one of these, wrapped around the All Star Game ( the middle three wins coming versus the Royals, the eventual AL Champ).

In 2012 the longest win streak was six games, but that came in April.  The only other strong stretch came at this time of year.  The won 11 of 14 from June 12-27.  The bad news for this year's Red Sox team concerning that period is the '12 Sox were 6.5 games out before the 11 of 14 and were still 6.5 games out after it.  The other interesting thing about the one hot stretch of 2012 is nine of the eleven wins were in interleague games.

2015 AL EAST

This year's Red Sox team snapped what had been their longest losing streak of the year at seven games earlier this week.  At this point in the season, the seven games is also the longest losing streak by any AL East team (although all the teams have had similar streaks).  Twice this season, the Red Sox have matched their longest winning streak. Unfortunately the longest winning streak so far has been three. From April 9-11, one over the Phillies and two over the Yankees (including the nineteen inning marathon win).  Then the recent three game sweep of Oakland at home, which temporarily raised some hopes.  Here is a list of the other AL East teams and their longest win/loss streaks of the year:

Team                   Winning Streak                          Losing Streak

Tampa Bay              5 (April 22-26)                         6 ( May 23-29)
New York               7 (June 1-9)                              6 (May 17-24)
Baltimore                6 (June 7-13)                            5 (April 20-24 & May 30-June 3)
Toronto                 11 ( June 2-14)                           5 (May 13-17)

So not only has Boston had the longest losing streak of the five similarly bad stretches, but they have not had any thing that could reasonably be called a wining streak.  All of the divisional opponents have had decent ( Rays) to excellent ( Jays) streaks.  It is not unreasonable to think Boston could have one of their own.

Standings as of June 20 AM in the AL East

1. Tampa Bay        --
2. New York          1 GB
3. Toronto              2 GB
4. Baltimore           4 GB
5. Boston               9 GB


Now we will take a look at the previous eight seasons (2007-2014) in the AL East to see who was in fifth place on June 20.  We will look to see if any or all of these teams were able to put together any type of winning streaks before or after June 20.  We will also review the finishes of those June cellar dwellers.

2014: Tampa Bay     29-46 13 GB    1. Tor.  2. NYY 1.5 GB 3. Bal. 3.5 GB 4. Bos. 7.5 GB

The '14 Rays began their best stretch of the season in late June.  From June 25 to July 6 they won ten of twelve, and then on July 12 began a nine game winning streak. From June 25 to July 26 the Rays went 20-5 cutting their deficit in half from 13 GB to 6.5.  From June 20 to the end of 2014 Tampa Bay had a wining record of 48-39.  But they still finished fourth (passing only Boston after June 20) at 77-85, nineteen games behind Baltimore.

2013: Toronto          35-36 7 GB     1. Bos. 2. O's 1 GB  3. NYY 3.5 GB 4. TB 5 GB

The reason the Jays were only one game under .500 and within seven games of the lead is because on June 20 the were in the midst of their only great streak of the year: eleven wins in a row from June 11-23.  This hot streak cut their deficit from 12 games to 5.  After June 23, the best win streak Toronto had was three, which they did several times.  In both July and August the Jays suffered through seven game losing streaks.  The finished 2013 still last in the AL East, 74-88, 23 GB Boston.

2012: Boston.  This team has all ready been discussed above, but to sum up this team had nothing to resemble a winning streak after June 20.

2011: Baltimore        33-37  10 GB   1. Bos.  2. NYY 1.5 GB  3. TB  4.5 GB 4. Tor. 8.5 GB

This Orioles team, the most recent of a number of Baltimore teams in last place on June 20, had their longest winning streak of the year ahead of them. They won six in a row from August 22-28, but by late August Baltimore had long since buried themselves with a nine game losing streak from July 4-15, which was the middle part of a horrid 14 of 15 loss stretch. The Birds finished 69-93, in last place 28 games behind the Yankees.

2010: Baltimore       19-50   24 GB    1. NYY  2. TB 1 GB 3. Bos. 1 GB 4. Tor. 5.5 GB

This O's entry buried themselves by June 20.  The only good news here to be found for explorers of winning streaks (like ourselves) is after June 20, Baltimore had seven four game winning streaks (four was their longest), and sandwiched a single loss between two of the four gamers to have one stretch in August where they won eight of nine.  This O's team also finished the year in last, 66-96, 30 GB the Rays.

2009: Baltimore       31-37   10 GB     1. Bos.  2. NYY 3 GB  3. Tor. 5 Gb  4. TB  6 GB

The best winning streaks put up by this cellar dwelling O's team was five, which they did twice.  But not after June 20, one was in late May and other was during June 20, the 17th to 21st of June.  No other win streaks at all after June 20 and a late September 13 game losing streak capped off a 64-98 finish, 39 GB New York.

2008: Toronto         35-40   10.5 GB    1. Bos.  2. TB 1.5 GB  3. NYY 5 GB 4. Balt. 5.5 GB

On June 20 ( the 21st to be exact) the Jays were finishing the worst losing streak of the year, seven games.  The Jays went on to be the best performer on this list ( more on that at the end of this post), they had a ten game win streak ahead of them, on August 30- September 9.  After June 20, the Jays overall record was 51-36. Despite this strong second half of the season, the Jays could climb no higher than fourth.  This is to a large degree because the first place Rays won 97 games and the wild card Red Sox won 95.  The Jays finished with a winning record of 86-76, only eleven games behind the Rays and only three behind the third place Yankees.

2007: Baltimore  30-41   16 GB        1. Bos.  2. NYY 10 GB  3. Tor. 11.5 GB  4. TB 14.5

What a glorious season with the Sox ten games ahead of the pack in late June (but I digress).  The Orioles again did have their best win streak ahead of them, but it was only five games in late July. Otherwise the O's limped to the finish line in fifth again, 27 games behind the AL East and eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox.


So is there any hope of finding a long winning streak for the Red Sox in any of these past eight  seasons? The answer as usual is maybe.  Only three of the eight entrants had a streak of nine wins or more.  The '14 Rays with nine, the Blue Jays in '13 and '08 with eleven and ten, respectively.   That is less than a 50% record (3 of 8), but there is the likelihood the numbers are skewed by several truly awful Oriole teams ( to be honest by a equally putrid 2012 Bobby V Red Sox team).  But it certainly is possible for a last place team on June 20 to reel off a win streak of ten games or so.

Now on to less good news: the eventual finishes of the June 20 fifth place teams.  Not a single one of the eight finished above fourth place.  Three fourth place finishes, the other five in last.  The same odds as having the long win streak pertain to finishing out of last place, three out of eight.  But again the chances of finishing above fourth is zero for eight.

So the answer to the question in our post title, can this Sox team have a long winning streak is likely yes ( at least a roughly 40% chance if not better).  But the evidence is even stronger this streak (unless it were to reach 20 games or some other outlandish number) will not lead to a post season berth.  But it would be worth something just to climb back into the fringes of a race.

We will finish by going back to the best team on the list of previous AL East June 20 last place occupants: the 2008 Toronto Blue Jays.  As stated above the Jays finished a losing streak on June 21, and went on to play .586 ball the rest of the way and got to 86 wins.  Getting to 86 wins in 2015 in this AL East could mean much better than the fourth place the Jays got in '08.

Now for the really interesting thing about the 2008 Blue Jays.  On June 20, the very same date this is being typed, Toronto fired their manager, John Gibbons (who of course is also their current manager, but that is another story) and replaced him with former Jays skipper Cito Gaston.   So the best team on our list above, and the only team to finish strongly and in fact ten games over .500, embarked on this turnaround after firing their manager. Hmmmmmmm.