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:

Starters
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.

Backups
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.

Pitchers
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

GHOSTS OF JUNE 20 PAST IN THE AL EAST

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.

 RECAP

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.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Still Watch the Red Sox

As Red Sox fans wake up on this Sunday morning we have to try and swallow a five game losing streak with our coffee.  It doesn't taste good.  Optimism is getting harder and harder to muster up for each game and the proverbial (seemingly annual) tweets about the Red Sox having to go ___ and ___ the rest of the way to win 90 games are all over the twittersphere. So to say that optimism is low is a huge understatement.  But being a born and breed New England Red Sox fan that was brought up during the "there's always next year" era means that your dire straits pessimism after a loss is always followed by a rehabilitation of optimism prior to the first pitch of the next game.  (**Side note: the only time I've never been able to muster up the next day optimism, no matter how hard I tried, was after game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, and we know how that turned out.)  So with all that being said. I'm actually still confident that the 2015 Red Sox can still turn things around and even if they can't there's still plenty of reasons to keep watching this team.

Here's the Top 10 reasons to keep watching the 2015 Red Sox:

10. If you're a real Red Sox fan you keep watching/listening no matter how bad it gets.

9. There's a trend in Major League Baseball to go with relatively young former players as managers even though they don't have managing experience (we'll overlook the Miami Marlins as an outlier to this trend) and the Red Sox have an outstanding candidate to fit this mold: JASON VARITEK.  No matter how bad a season gets in any sport a coaching change can excite the fan base (usually for a short period of time). If this season continues to get worse I'll keep watching to see if Jason Varitek becomes the new manager of the Boston Red Sox.

8.  Dustin Pedroia.  His heart and hustle are still on full display and his bat has been on fire since being moved into leadoff spot.  This roughly one and a half seasons of losing has to be killing him.  But knowing that he'll never stop hustling no matter how bad it gets will keep me tuning in.

7.  The trade deadline.  Can the Red Sox get another Eduardo Rodriquez at the trade deadline? The Red Sox don't have a trade asset as valuable as Andrew Miller this time around, but they will be in a rare position to be both a seller and a buyer.  One thing is for certain.  If they're in last place they won't be trading for any rental starting pitchers like Jonny Cueto and Jordan Zimmerman.  But, they could go after a starting pitcher or two who will be under team control for a longer period of time.

6.  Rusney Castillo- This poor guy was seen as the savior while he was in Pawtucket.  He hasn't given the Red Sox a Yasiel Puig type lift.  But he still is an excellent athlete with lots of potential.  He needs to play everyday so the Red Sox can find out what they have.  Unfortunately right now it feels like he's going to fall into the Dice-K category of international bust.

5. Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and Pat Light.  With Eduardo Rodriquez pitching so well it appears that the other PawSox lefties will get their chance before the season is over too.  Especially Johnson.  I also threw Pat Light into this group, even though he throws right handed.  He was just promoted to Pawtucket from Portland.  Light was converted to the bullpen this year and it seems to have rejuvenated his career.  He throws high 90's (98+) and that's exactly the type of arm that this team needs in the pen.

4. How will the Hanley, Panda, Big Papi, Mike Napoli log jam play out. Ben Cherington successfully added a lot of talent to this roster for 2015.  This years team is a lot more talented on paper than last years.  But what became clear pretty early on in the season is that the pieces don't necessarily fit well together.  Hanley is not a left fielder.  Third base is taken by Sandoval, so Hanley can't move there.  First base belongs to Napoli (that may be the problem), so for now Hanley can't move there and when you have Big Papi at DH it's hard to rotate anyone else through that spot.  It's becoming more clear that Mike Napoli isn't going to have the big year that some people predicted.  He's a pending free agent and he had his sleep apnea surgically repaired, so the overwhelming consensus coming into the season was that he's going to have a huge year.  Well it hasn't happened and it may be time for him to go.  Keep watching to see how this turns out.  We haven't even talked about the Big Papi situation.  He seems to be heating up currently, but if the team keeps losing and he keeps getting left out of the line up versus lefties it's going to get U-G-L-Y ugly, you ain't got no alibi you UGLY!!

3B. Mookie Betts. I'm not even sure what to call that collision with the bullpen wall on Friday night, but thankfully Mookie wasn't more seriously injured. Mookie was all the rage early in the year and rightfully so, but he's now going through the Xander Bogaerts like struggles in his first full year in the majors.  To be fair it's what happens to every young player not just Xander.  Look no further than Bryce Harper as an example.  It takes time people.  But that's part of the problem in Boston.

3A. Blake Swihart. I fought my urge to put Blake at #1 on this list.  But, if I'm honest with myself he is the player that I find myself most excited to watch and I'm most disappointed on those days when Sandy Leon is in the lineup.  It's not just offense that I enjoy watching with Blake either.   He made a great throw on Friday night to throw out Jose Reyes trying to steal and his pitch framing abilities have been better than I expected.  He has struggled recently with blocking balls in the dirt.  The 1-0 loss to the Orioles where the winning run scored on a wild pitch being example #1, but he also failed to block a ball on Friday night versus the Blue Jays too.  Overall Swihart is just fun to watch.  His athleticism and strength jump off the screen.  His movements are very fluid and natural and he runs well for a catcher add that in with the fact that his swings from both sides of the plate look natural and you can see why scouts liked this guy.  If you're thinking to yourself that this guy has a huge man crush on Blake or that this will be the world's next great bromance than I won't disagree with you.

2. Eduardo Rodriquez.  The Red Sox haven't developed their own pitcher since Junichi Tazawa and they haven't developed their own starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz (or Jon Lester depending on your opinion of Clay Buchholz).  Eduardo technically was "developed" by the Orioles, but the Red Sox get credit for letting him throw his changeup his way and getting him to the big leagues.  Regardless of those semantics.  The Red Sox haven't had a young pitcher with this much excitement around them since Jonathan Papelbon.  Today will be a huge test for him versus the Blue Jays. Who have arguably the best offense in baseball, they kill left handed pitching and they are the hottest team in baseball right now with a ten game win streak.  If Eduardo shuts them down for 7 innings today and breaks two streaks, the Jays winning streak and the Sox five game losing streak.  We'll be hearing the word "ace" A LOT for the next five days.

1. Xander Bogaerts.  We've said it over and over. Xander looks like a new man this year.  He's confident and relaxed.  He's aggressive and patient when he needs to be.  He's staying even keel and avoiding the long slumps that affected him last year.  He's answered any questions about whether he can handle SS at the major league level.  All that's left to do is maintain for a full season.  Will Xander make the All Star team? The Deacon makes his case in this post. Whether he makes the All Star team in 2015 or not, the important thing is that he has taken his game to that level of being in the discussion.  Xander's season in 2015 gives us hope that all these other young players can follow the same path.  Players like Mookie, Swihart, Eduardo, Rusney, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and don't forget Christian Vazquez.  Unfortunately for all these players to develop we are going to have to be patient, but if Xander is the guiding light for us to follow than it may just be worth it to keep watching these 2015 Boston Red Sox.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Xander Bogaerts, 2015 American League All Star

The fans of Red Sox Nation continue to watch Xander Bogaerts mature as a major league shortstop.  You can see his confidence grow at the plate and in the field.   As the season approaches mid June the All Star Game is only about a month away, July 14 in Cincinnati.  Bogaerts will need to seal the deal over the next few weeks, but here is the case to name Xander to the AL All Star squad.

First let us say Bogaerts will not be voted on as the starting shortstop.  In a topic that deserves a post all of its own, the fans of the upstart defending AL champs, Kansas City Royals are stuffing the digital ballot box and currently seven Royals lead the voting at their position.  It is ironic the game is in Cincy, because this voting is eerily reminiscent of 1957 when the fans of the Reds voted in seven of their mostly undeservingly players (and Cards' Stan Musial).  Then commissioner Ford Frick, partially revoked the vote by removing two Reds outfielders and replaced them with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.  The vote was taken away from the fans from 1958 through 1969.

The most recent voting at shortstop has this top five and their rounded vote total:

1. Alcides Escobar, KC          3.92M
2. Jose Iglesias, Detroit           1.81M
3. Marcus Semien, Oakland    910K
4. Jed Lowrie, Houston           713K
5. Jose Reyes, Toronto            464K

Let's more closely examine Bogaerts and his competition for the two or three spots available for shortstops on the AL squad.

First we will get a list of all AL shortstops who have had a minimum of 150 at bats through June 8.  There are only twelve, but two of the twelve were optioned to the minors last Sunday: Danny Santana of the Twins and Jose Ramirez of Cleveland.  That leaves only ten AL shortstops who would be reasonable candidates ( listed in order of their batting averages):

Jose Iglesias, DET                .331
Xander Bogaerts, BOS         .296
Marcus Semien, OAK          .275
Erick Aybar, LAA               .265
Alcides Escobar, KC            .263
Didi Gregorius, NY              .238
Elvis Andrus, TEX               .237
Alexi Ramirez, CHI              .233
Brad Miller, SEA                  .228
Asdrubal Cabrera, TB           .203

These are the ten we will examine.  You may notice this list eliminates two of the top five vote getters, Jed Lowrie and Jose Reyes.  As usual with both of these gentlemen, they have spent much of the season on the DL.  The fact they have received so many votes (especially Lowrie) is really a bigger indictment of the flawed voting system than the KC voting.  Another name shortstop who has missed most of the season and is not on our list is JJ Hardy of the Orioles.

Besides introducing the field, this above list also shows a grand total of five AL shortstops hitting over .260, only two Iglesias and Bogaerts over .290.

Here is a check of several other offensive categories:

Home Runs
1. Semien    6
2. Miller      5
3. Five others at 2 ( inc. Bogaerts)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Red Sox @ Orioles and NBA Finals Game 3 Live Chat

The Sox play in Baltimore tonight, and the NBA Finals heads back to Cleveland tied at one game apiece. We're here to chat about it.
Live Blog Red Sox @ Orioles and NBA Finals Game 3
 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

RSM Mock Draft on the Eve of the MLB Draft

The 2015 MLB Draft begins tomorrow night, June 8th, and goes through June 10.  The first night will be televised on the MLB Network.  As a way to discuss any late speculation of the players various teams are interested in, RSM will present a mock draft of the first round.  The actual first round, not counting compensation picks for losing free agents, will consist of 26 picks, with five teams forfeiting their selection due the signing of a free agent. Houston will pick twice in the first round with the extra pick being at #2, for not signing Brady Aiken at number one last year.

The Red Sox select seventh, and in our mock draft we will discuss how the first six picks could influence the Sox selection.

We will mention as we did in our previous draft related post: there is no claim to be a scout or to have any first hand reports on any of these players or any inside information.  Everything presented here is from gathering information published from a number of outlets and RSM is presenting our best prediction.

1. Arizona- There are three basic theories on which way the D'backs will go at the top.  First, and the overwhelming opinion is they will take Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson.  Swanson is considered the best college bat available and even though there are as many as four or five college shortstops that will likely go in the first round, Swanson is considered the most likely to stick as a shortstop in the pros.

The other rumor for Arizona that will not die is that they will take a player rated down the board and sign them to a cut rate deal to save money for later in the draft.  HS catcher Tyler Stephenson from Georgia, who is ranked from 10 to 15 on most boards is the most heard name.

Lastly there is a school of thought, the new Arizona Tony La Russa led front office may take a college pitcher likely Tyler Jay, a lefty from Univ. of Illinois. This seems the least likely.

I cannot shake the feeling the new D'back regime will try to show the world how smart they are and grab Stephenson, but in the end there is just too many arrows pointing to:

 Pick: Dansby Swanson, SS Vanderbilt

2. Houston- The Astros pick at two and five and there is a mountain of speculation that the Astros want two hitters, ideally one from college and one from high school. Florida High School shortstop Brendan Rodgers is considered the best overall talent in the draft by most observers.  But for whatever reasons, Arizona does not seem interested at one and reportedly Houston is only slightly more than luke warm on him.  The two other HS bats Houston are interested in will likely be there at five (at least one of them), so the thinking is Houston goes college bat at two.  The guy they want the most seems to be Swanson, who in our mock is gone. That is why the very first pick could directly affect the Red Sox .  Because if Swanson is gone, Houston likely grabs the guy the Red Sox want the most, according to reports. That is LSU SS Alex Bregman.

On a recent podcast, Kiley McDaniel, one of the draft gurus at Fangraphs, said he thought there is only a 5% chance Bregman gets to Boston.  Even though every team with picks two to six are all rumored to be considering Bregman, if Arizona passes on Swanson I think the chances of Bregman to Boston go up a lot. If Swanson is there at two, there is no way Houston passes.  And then at five, Houston would be much less likely to grab Bregman, who would be so similar to Swanson, although that combo at two-five would not be impossible.  But I think Houston goes HS bat at five if they have Swanson in the fold at two.  Houston is going to come away with one of three shortstops at number two Swanson, Rodgers, or:

Pick: Alex Bregman, SS LSU

3. Colorado- The Rockies will also consider any one of the three shortstops as a possible successor to Troy Tulowitzki. In our mock, the only choice left would be Brendan Rodgers.  But besides the shortstops, Colorado is always looking for home grown pitching.  And the name most connected to the Rockies is Tyler Jay.  Despite pitching nearly exclusively from the Illni bullpen this year, Jay has risen to be considered the best college arm in this draft.  Even if Bregman and Rodgers both slide here             (which will happen if Arizona goes with Stephenson), the Rockies will select:

Pick: Tyler Jay, LHP Illinois

4. Texas- If Brendan Rodgers slides to four ( which he has here), there is little doubt Texas will take him.  But Texas is a team most of the experts admit to have little feel for which way their pick will go.  If they pass on Rodgers, college arms ( like UCSB Dillon Tate, who a few weeks ago was considered a likely number one overall pick) or HS bats (like outfielders Daz Cameron or Kyle Tucker) have all been tied to Texas. But it would be hard for  a fourth team to pass on a high school kid who may be the best player in this draft:

Pick: Brendan Rodgers, SS Lake Mary High School ( Florida)

5, Houston- The Astros come around for their second pick in the top five.  If they have a college bat in tow ( as they do with Alex Bregman in this mock) a HS bat is nearly a definite with Daz Cameron, the Georgia HS OF ( son of Mike Cameron) a possibility but much more likely is another MLB relative, Kyle Tucker, the brother of current Astro rookie, Preston Tucker. The tall lefty batter has prodigious power.  The only other rumor for this pick is Houston trying for a under slot deal to save cash for later picks, and maybe taking Arkansas OF, Andrew Benintendi, who has shot from nowhere this season to a likely top 12 pick.  The most likely match for Houston is:

Pick: Kyle Tucker, OF  Plant High School (Tampa, Florida)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- June 2015 Edition

There is little change in our Top Ten with the same ten names as last month, with some shuffling of rankings.  However the wind of change is ablowin  and by July this list could look very different.

For the first time in our rankings four of our top ten players are currently playing in Boston.  All four of these players are on pace to graduate off from this list if not in June certainly by July.  Here are the criteria that rule when a player is no longer rookie eligible and therefore no longer a "prospect":

130 at bats for hitters
50 innings pitched for hurlers
45 days on a MLB 25 man roster ( in other words September call up days do not count)

In addition to the pending graduations, the Red Sox will add a top prospect on June 8 with the number seven overall pick in the MLB draft. Players taken in other rounds could also show up here.

Another factor which could alter our list is the possibility of a trade by the big club which would include one or several of these names.  The more the Red Sox flounder the more this trade looms.

As usual the team listed after the player is his team as of the start of this month.  The lines used:

Hitters:  HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS

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

June's Top 30:

1. Blake Swihart, C- Boston {1}  Of course the big news on Swihart is that he was recalled from AAA on May 2 and played the entire month in the major leagues.  Swihart, who was hitting .338 at Pawtucket, did not explode onto the scene with his bat.  But he has been very solid behind the plate and more and more there are flashes of his plus bat.  Blake ended May with a seven game hitting streak. Swihart will reach his 45 days in the show by June 17, and unless the Sox make an abrupt U-turn behind the plate, Swihart should remain with Boston at least until Ryan Hanigan ( whose injury precipitated Swihart's premature recall) returns which seems to be in July at the earliest.  This will take Swihart off our list.

2. Yoan Moncada, 2B- Greenville {3} In mid-May Yoan finally was let loose from extended spring training and assigned to the loaded Greenville Drive.  By the end of the month, Moncada had gathered 35 at bats with a line of 1/5/.257/.316/.744 with a double and a triple.  The expectations when Moncada signed were that he could reach Portland this season have seemingly diminished due to the longer than expected time in Florida.  But if his bat heats up, Salem could on his travel itinerary later this summer.

3. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP- Boston {6}  Eduardo's outstanding big league debut on May 28 in Texas just cemented an all ready deserved move up our top ten.  Rodriguez pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed no runs on only three hits with seven strikeouts.  His overall line at AA was 4-3/2.98/1.10/44-7.  Eduardo has a golden opportunity to grab a spot in the Red Sox rotation and not let it go for a very long time.  Another half dozen starts like his first would also graduate the big lefty from our list.

4. Brian Johnson, LHP- Pawtucket {5} Johnson has put up a line at Pawtucket that is very similar to fellow lefty Rodriguez: 6-3/2.60/1.07/57-17 in ten starts.  This puts Johnson up on deck as the next AAA pitcher to get a crack at the Red Sox rotation.  The upcoming performances of Sox pitchers like Rodriguez, Steven Wright (and there will be no more waffling about the type of "prospect" Wright is, he has graduated), Joe Kelly, and Justin Masterson may determine when Johnson gets his big league shot.  Johnson capped off his May on the 29th with a start of six perfect innings with nine strikeouts.

5. Rafael Devers, 3B- Greenville {8} Devers ended April with a fine .308 batting average but with no home runs and only six RBI.  There were questions of when his vaunted power would arrive.  The answer was May 3rd.  In the Drive game that day, Devers went five for six, with two home runs and two doubles.  He has not looked back as he tore through the month of May ending it with a twelve game hitting streak.  His line for May was 3/16/.364/.394/.970 with ten doubles and a triple.  His overall BA of .341 at the end of May leads the South Atlantic League.  And Devers is doing all of this at age 18.  Despite the beating the SAL is taking from Devers, he may spend the entire season there because he is only 18.

6. Manuel Margot, OF  Salem {4}  Margot had a lost month in May.  After trying to play through an injury in the early month he finally told the club he was hurting and was on the DL from May 13 to 30. In 37 AB's he only hit .135. June could be a key month for Margot, as attempts to reach Portland before 2015 is over.

7. Rusney Castillo, OF- Boston {2} Castillo takes the biggest plunge down the list from two to seven.  Admittedly, this may be a knee jerk reaction to Castillo's performance (or lack of same) in his limited Red Sox career.  But to date since signing Castillo last August there has mostly been only a string of nagging injuries through the fall league, winter ball, spring training and at AAA.  In addition to the injuries there has been a succession of misplayed fly balls (and some spectacular catches, too) and examples of what seem to be poor baseball instincts.  Rusney is now playing in Boston and has a chance to grab a job.  If he does the debate over Rusney will take place in a different forum, because he too is on the verge of graduating from this list.

8. Henry Owens, LHP- Pawtucket {7} Owens has lagged behind the other two lefties at the front of the Paw Sox rotation.  Henry has definitely struggled with his command at AAA.  For the year Owens has 42 strikeouts versus 35 base on balls.  Despite the control issues Owens' ERA is only 3.15.  Owens is not yet on the Red Sox 40 man roster, so between that fact and his command issues, Owens is likely looking at an entire season at Pawtucket.  But if the 6'7' left hander can harness his pitches, he may still yet be the best major league hurler of the three Paw Sox lefties.

9. Matt Barnes, RHP- Boston {9} The fourth member of the top ten currently in Boston, and Barnes may have the most secure spot of the four.  Converted to the bullpen from his minor league career as a starter, Barnes has pitched in various bullpen roles, long relief, one inning at a time, and nearly every thing in between.  Barnes picked up his first two big league wins in May, with an ERA of 2.02.  Barnes is also looking at graduating from this list by July.

10. Michael Kopech, RHP- Greenville {10} The Sox have been carefully handling the first round pick from 2014.  His line for the year to date is 2-2/2.76/1.10/38-11.  Kopech has pitched in eight games for a total of 32 2/3 innings, about four innings per outing.  Kopech has always been a flame thrower, but in May for the first time Kopech hit 100 mph on a radar gun during a game.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Red Sox Know Biggest Loss Would Be Relevance" is Insulting to Red Sox Fans

The Red Sox had an off day on Monday, which meant the beat writers dusted off their notepad to cobble together a story. Rob Bradford, a writer I usually have no problem with and consider very competent, went trolling for some clicks with a column trying to claim that if the Red Sox finish last in the AL East again this year, interest in the team will plummet and the Sox’ place as a cash cow in the Boston sports scene will dry up. It was an easy Chicken Little rainout column that is insulting to true Red Sox fans.

Here are some excerpts, with my return thoughts:

“This organization will find itself at a crossroads this summer, trying to avoid the kind of ditch even a $200-plus million payroll or shock-and-awe transaction won't eliminate. If the Red Sox can't find a way to remain in contention for something -- anything – they'll be in danger of drowning in the kind of apathy their entire sport is desperately flailing to avoid.”

First of all, is there a bigger cliche among sportswriting than the “baseball is going the way of boxing and horse racing” column? Bryan Curtis did a great piece on this at Grantland in October of 2014. Calling baseball "desperately flailing" is a new one. Dramatic.

Second, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a couple losing seasons to get rid of Red Sox Nation. More on this later.

Third, I find it interesting that during football season, sportswriters write a lot of think pieces about concussions, brain injuries, and the future of football. They write articles that claim the violence and brutality of the game will push teens towards sports……more like baseball! So in the fall, we claim teens are going to run to baseball. In the spring and summer, we say that mighty football is going to swallow up boring baseball. 
But if we’re going to do it, then here goes: say you have a son who is eight years old. Which sport would you advise him to play if you wanted him to make the most money possible and retire with as little long-term damage to their body as possible? It’s baseball, and it’s not close. Go compare LeBron James’ contract with Max Scherzer’s. Compare an ex-NFL player’s brain and body to a retired baseball player. As long as baseball is the answer to that question, it’s place is secure in American culture.

“In Seth Mnookin's 2006 book, "Feeding the Monster,” CEO Larry Lucchino, "raised the haunting legacies of teams like Baltimore, Colorado, Cleveland, and Toronto," who won big and led the league in attendance for portions of the '90s before falling on hard times that led to diminished interest in the 2000s.”

Are you really going to compare the Red Sox and what they’ve meant to New England for over a hundred years to the Colorado Rockies franchise that didn’t exist before 1993?

And here’s perhaps the most important part of my entire response, so get your notepads ready: Bradford completely dismisses Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Blake Swihart. You know how the old adage goes: baseball teams are built up the middle - your catcher, shortstop, and center fielder. These three guys won’t be what they are in 2015 for long. Every player needs an adjustment period to the major leagues. Even Mike Trout and Bryce Harper struggled early on, and they’re the greatest talents of their generation. Bogaerts, Betts, and Swihart (and Ed Rod?!?) are poised to be bankable stars that Boston can build their team around. When was the last time we had this much legitimate homegrown talent? Let them get their reps and grow into good players and Sox Nation will love them.

“They're well aware that the new newest wave of Red Sox fans are already a confused bunch, wondering who to believe after so many ups and downs. This might just be the season their minds are made up and they decide they'd rather play lacrosse than watch the Red Sox.”

Please. The only thing more cliche than the “Baseball is dying” column is the claim that lacrosse is going to overtake baseball as America’s spring and summer sport. Name one professional lacrosse player. Google how much a professional lacrosse player makes per season and get back to me.

“If things go the other way, then the Red Sox will face the most perilous moment of John Henry's ownership. Football is already king, and the NFL's signature franchise resides 35 miles away in Foxboro. Good luck taking eyeballs away from the defending Super Bowl champs.”

Yes, New England loves their Patriots. That’s not going away any time soon. But have you noticed the Celtics and Bruins lately? The Celtics have a great young head coach, but are three players away from being exciting. The Bruins are in salary cap hell and might have to bottom out for a season or two. There’s not exactly throat-cutting competition for the second spot on the Boston scene. And oh yeah, there’s only eight home dates per year on the Patriots home calendar. And again, diehard Red Sox fans got the name “diehards” for a reason. They won’t stop paying to come to Yawkey Way, watching the exciting youngsters we have, and hearing the sounds and smelling the smells of their youth in the old building.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Watching the 2015 Red Sox is a Slow-Burning Hell

Last night was the conclusion of a terrible month of May for the Red Sox. And yet: there we were, up by a run with our dependable closer on the bump, looking to tie a series against a team that was red hot heading into our encounter. On the road. One of those wins was by wunderkind Eduardo Rodriguez. And best yet, the train wreck that is the 2015 AL East has produced a tie atop the leaderboard of New York and Tampa Bay with a 26-25 record. The Sox could get within three games of the lead with a win to end May.

And then, ground ball to Sandoval (I’ve been up front on board paddling the panda canoe from the minute they signed the guy, but he’s been bad at third lately, he’s not the switch hitter he said he was, and he isn’t hitting for power. Other than that, awesome signing!).

Then the walk, which was the correct move.

Then the predictable hanging splitter, the double, the superior fat guy (Fielder >> Sandoval) rounding the bases, and the Red Sox left watching another team celebrate like they just announced free spiral hams on the field in front of them.

WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!

First it was the starting rotation. Everybody and their brother screamed from whatever perches they have that the Sox failed in getting an ace and they should acquire one post haste (everywhere except on this blog, that is). Then the Sox fired Juan Nieves, brought in Carl Willis, and the rotation has steadied itself. 

(Note on Nieves: for everybody claiming that Nieves should have built up enough credit to get through the 2015 slow start, think about how much work Nieves really had to do in 2013. That staff was made up of savvy veterans who were out to prove themselves - Lester for a contract, Lackey as a comeback, Dempster for one last hurrah, Koji proving he could be a closer, on and on. How much coaching did that staff need? How much success has Nieves had with developing the next wave of Red Sox pitching talent since then? Nieves didn’t have ONE success story on his belt he could point to and say, “the pitching coaching staff, led by me, developed this Red Sox starter”.)

The bullpen continues to be the most pungent side dish of rotten eggs to the 2015 Season That is a Slow-Burning Hell. Koji has now allowed a couple of walk-offs. Mujica, Varvaro, Ross Jr, Breslow, and others have taken turns being among the worst pitchers in baseball. Ogando and Barnes are better than that, but not to the point where you feel good about handing them the ball up one in the 7th. Tommy Layne is our best lefty out of the pen. Read that sentence again. Tazawa is really the only guy I trust in this bullpen and he’s already thrown 200 innings in 2015. 

But while the bullpen is disgusting, it is only a side dish to the entree of moose feces which has been the offense. On Saturday, I saw a stat on the Fox game that the 2015 Red Sox have scored the fewest runs per game in the month of May of any Red Sox team since 1920. You know all the reasons - the low BABIP, Hanley’s shoulder, Big Papi, Napoli’s streaking, missing Ryan Hanigan (hindsight question that is going to be rendered moot soon as Swihart adjusts to the bigs: wasn’t it right about the time Hanigan got hurt that this season took a turn towards the porta-potties? Was Hanigan the secret glue that was winning games in April? I thought the local Andover boy story was going to be a feel-good narrative for 2015. See? Slow-Burning Hell), etc.

And, oh, what’s this?!? Coming up on the outside, it’s bush league defense making a charge on this list of reasons we’re seven games under .500! Rusney looks like a high-schooler out there taking bad angles on balls in right (if Rusney isn’t going to hit, and now, then JBJr should be the right fielder. Also: Shane Victorino, hurry back from the DL! You can’t get here fast enough!), the Slap Weasel isn’t a shortstop and shouldn’t be playing major league games there, and they call him Fat Panda for a reason.

But still. Last night. Win that game, go home with a series tie, and turn the calendar page to June. Start fresh. With Ed-Rod in our rotation. 


Instead, it’s party time in Texas and I’m in a slow-burning hell season.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Red Sox at Rangers 5/28 Live Chat

Live Blog Red Sox at Rangers 5/28 Live Chat