Thursday, June 28, 2012

Red Sox Links and Thoughts 6-28-12

Today's post is light on the links and heavy on the thoughts, and also includes a poll results recap.  Here goes:

Another Red Sox Maineiacs poll has come to a close.  This week’s question asked what it is you wanted to get in return for Kevin Youkilis.  Which is timely, since you may have heard he was traded this week.  A starting pitcher and prospects tied 5-5-2-1-0-0.  I suppose all ten of those voters got their wish when we acquired Zach Stewart.  He will be made into a starting pitcher at Pawtucket, despite pitching out of the ChiSox bullpen some this year.  I guess you could still call him a prospect too, although his star has faded considerably since his younger days and several franchises ago.  Funny, no votes came in for a 28-year-old super utility player with a .214 career batting average, but we got one of those too in Brent Lillibridge.  All in all, not a killing by the Red Sox, but at least we have solved the corner infielder cluster and we can get on with the business of winning baseball games.

Speaking of Zach Stewart, he was sharp in his Pawtucket debut on Wednesday night, retiring 12 in a row at one point and holding the Charlotte Knights scoreless through five innings before surrendering three hits and a run in the sixth.  His line for the night:

5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 K, 0 BB

Remember back on May 10 when the Red Sox fell to seven games under .500 at 12-19? Remember when Josh Beckett should be traded and Valentine should be fired and we should blow up the team for prospects and re-build for the future?  Seems like a long time ago now.  

Today is a bright day in Red Sox nation.  The Sox are five games above .500 for the first time in 2012 and are tied for third place in the AL East with the Rays.  The Sox head out west for a seven game road trip in Seattle and Oakland.  Even though Oakland has played some good baseball (one of only 8 teams in the AL with a + run differential at +3), these are two teams that we should be able to beat up on.  A 5-2 record sounds about right for this trip.  We return home after the trip for a huge series with the Yankees before the All-Star break.

There is a lot of credit to go around for the Red Sox’ recent surge.  We’ve now gone 11-3 in our last 14 games.  We’ve had solid starting pitching, our bullpen has been downright brilliant, we’ve had pop in our bats, and our youthful exuberance has been a sparkplug.  But I think the biggest kudos should go out to everybody’s favorite lightning rod, Bobby Valentine.  I’ve said it once on here and I’ll say it again - he should be the frontrunner at the midway point of the season for AL Manager of the Year.

Further proof that the Boston media wants nobody to be happy, and that there are so many media sharks in the pool that the slightest whiff of blood makes them come running (swimming?) furiously to be the first one to get a story out on the record, comes this report from Alex Speier at the WEEI.com blog So let me get this straight, Buchholz spent five days in the hospital, including two in the ICU, so he’s not going to fly to Seattle with the team.  Seems reasonable.  A friend of his asked him to come to a charity event since he didn’t have baseball games to go to.  Also seems reasonable.  But wait.  Alex Speier wants to be able to print a juicy story so that his Twitter feed blows up and his blog gets a ton of views and he gets invited onto local TV and radio shows and he is solely responsible for this HUGE scandalous story!  So let’s add some juicy tidbits:

The “charity” event was at MGM Foxwoods Casino/Resort, meaning Clay was probably out drinking, gambling, and womanizing until the wee morning hours because that’s what people do at Foxwoods!!!!

There was a pool party as part of the fundraiser that was sponsored by Stoli Vodka, meaning Clay surely got free booze and was partying poolside while fresh out of the hospital and not on the team plane to Seattle!!!!

This is the next Golfgate! This is a scandal! Let’s have a 24-hour media cycle where every Sox media personality gets on their high horse and screams about how these Sox pitchers “don’t get it”!!!!

Garbage.


Back to the State of the Sox:  the most interesting development to watch over the next 2-3 weeks is to see how returning players are re-inserted into roles.  This team as currently structured is rolling (again, 11-3 people).  However, players are going to start coming back off the DL in waves.  Let’s break it down into pitchers and hitters:

Pitchers: Buchholz should be ready to go in a week or so.  Hopefully he’s the same pitcher when he returns as he was in his five starts (4-0, 2.53 ERA) before being hospitalized.  Josh Beckett is set to return to the rotation Saturday night in Seattle.  With everybody healthy, you assume their rotation looks like this:

Josh Beckett
However, Franklin Morales has been so good as a starter that they almost have to find a way to keep giving him starts until he falters.  He gets another chance to prove he belongs tonight in Seattle, matched up against King Felix.  Aaron Cook is also still floating around.  Quite a crowded rotation with everyone healthy.

Andrew Bailey is also about ready to return to the bullpen.  I would think they would want to leave Fettuccine Alfredo Aceves alone as the closer for now, and add Bailey to the 8th inning mix along with Vicente Padilla.  If it were up to me, Matt Albers would be the odd man out for a demotion or DFA.

Outfield:  By far the most interesting Red Sox storyline of July, to me, will be how they handle the outfield.  Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish have been two catalysts for the recent stretch of outstanding baseball this team has played.  Cody Ross has raked since coming back off the DL.  However, once Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford return healthy, they will be the everyday CF and LF.  That leaves the RF spot, and Ross will be a big part of that.  Also, Ryan Sweeney is set to return soon.  By my count, that is six outfielders who all deserve a shot at playing time, not even counting Darnell McDonald, Scott Podsednik, and Brent Lillibridge.  Holy cluster Batman.

Perhaps my biggest concern of all is Crawford.  If he comes back and struggles initially, the Nation is going to be RELENTLESS with bashing him, and will probably resort to booing him and chanting “we want Nava” when he comes to the plate.  And here’s the thing: he will almost certainly struggle initially upon his return.  It’s very difficult to just step back into a major league lineup and play well immediately.  He needs to be given about two full weeks of rope to get himself re-acclimated.  Unfortunately, he’ll probably get about four days.  Ellsbury will probably be given longer because he is more of a fan favorite and he had a monster 2011, whereas Crawford’s 2011 was an abomination.
Out of this cluster, here’s what this one fan would do:

Starting OF:
Crawford
Ellsbury
Ross/Nava platoon

Backups:
Sweeney
Lillibridge (super utility)

Here are Daniel Nava’s 2012 RH/LH splits:
Split G PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
vs RHP as LHB 39 111 89 32 13 0 1 18 15 21 .360 .477 .539 1.017 48 6 .456 123 172
vs LHP as RHB 23 47 38 8 2 0 1 7 7 6 .211 .326 .342 .668 13 0 .219 46 82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2012.


Here are Ryan Sweeney’s 2012 RH/LH splits:
Split G PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
vs RHP as LHB 47 163 153 48 16 1 0 13 8 32 .314 .350 .431 .781 66 .393 113 108
vs LHP as LHB 16 20 18 2 1 0 0 0 1 7 .111 .158 .167 .325 3 .182 -11 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2012.


As you can see, both have been good against RHP, making both a good candidate for platoon duty.  Whichever one doesn’t see regular playing time in a platoon should probably be put on the trading block.  Either one would probably be able to get an arm or a prospect or two in return.

Ryan Kalish should probably be sent down to AAA to continue playing every day.  I hate to say it with the way he has played in Boston, but if the Red Sox need to put together a big package for a big name to improve the major league club before the deadline, Kalish might be involved.  Crawford is blocking LF, Ross and Sweeney were just added this year, and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz aren’t far behind him in the system.  That said, I would be fine with handing him the everyday RF job starting in 2013.

Scott Podsednik and Darnell McDonald should be given their walking papers in one form or another.

A new poll will go up later today, probably in reference to the outfield issue one way or another.

That’s my opinion, we welcome yours...in the comments section, below.  Until next time, Go Sox!

3 comments:

  1. This is definitely going to be the top story of the next month for the Red Sox. How will the injured players return affect the team? It will be interesting to see how it works. As far as the outfield goes I think there are enough at bats to go around for Ellsbury, Ross, Crawford, Nava and Sweeney. I agree that DMac and Podsednik will be DFA'd. Kalish belongs at AAA. I think it's a bit misleading to say that Kalish has come to Boston and played well. The team has played well while he's here, but he hasn't played great. He's been solid, but not spectacular.

    In the rotation, I think Buchholz is going to be out longer than Brandon mentioned they are saying it will be after the All Star Break. So it may be more like two weeks instead of one. That may give Morales a couple more starts to prove his worth.

    Lastly, I haven't been Bobby V's biggest supporter and I still believe that the players on the team don't respect him so they may be winning in spite of him, but you can't argue with the fact that he has juggled the lineup well and handled the bullpen well to this point. If the Red Sox make it through this tough start to the season to win the division he will win the manager of the year award.

    One more thing. The most interesting situation may be the closer situation after Bailey comes back. I'm not sure that there is a cut and dry solution to that situation.

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    1. I think you're right about Kalish, Barry. I just looked him up and he is sitting with .250/.300/.286 slash lines and only has one extra base hit in 30 plate appearances (and that was a double down the first base line the other night that was almost caught for an out). I think my opinion of him was skewed by that base running play he made the other day when he went first to third on a ground out. I loved that play so much. Like, it makes me giddy and goosebumpy just thinking about it. Moving on...

      I got three comments from the Red Sox Maineiacs into Sean McAdam's chat today on csnne.com, including one about Andrew Bailey. I asked him who he thinks Bailey replaces in the bullpen and if he comes back as the closer or a setup guy. McAdam dodged the first question by not suggesting a name who would get the boot when Bailey returns (although I have to think it will be Albers; everybody else has been so good out there). He did go on to say that he thinks Bailey will be the closer upon his return because of Fettuccine's versatility. They could use Aceves anywhere from starting to long relief to a setup guy. Bailey, obviously, is a big time proven MLB closer.

      I'm not sure it's that simple, though. I think that would be a slap in the face to Fettuccine. Aceves missed out on a spot in the starting rotation this spring to a guy who stunk up the joint and is now in AAA. Aceves has made himself into a pretty damn good closer. Now we're just going to tell him that he suddenly has some type of nebulous, undefined role out there? I would still work Bailey back in slowly with some 6-7-8 inning duty until he shows that he is lights out, and even then I would be hesitant to pull the trigger on taking Aceves out of the closer role.

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    2. Way to go getting the Maineiacs name out their in Sean's chat on CSNNE. Here's how I see the closer situation playing out when Bailey gets healthy:

      I don't think that Bailey will be thrust right into a one run save situation in his first appearance. He needs a comfortable situation for his first 2-3 appearances, but if in those appearances his stuff looks good. He then becomes a part time closer splitting the closing duties with Aceves for a small time (2 weeks). Then eventually Bailey will be the full time closer as long as he pitches well. He may not be able to pitch back to back days after he comes back from an injury so they can use both guys in some save situations as long as the opportunities are there.

      Just like all the other roster situations I'm sure this will work itself out. As far as who goes out of the bullpen when Bailey gets back it could be Melancon back to AAA. He's been good since he returned but not so good that he has displaced someone permanently. I'm sure that someone will need a DL stint or will become tired and ineffective at some point which will open up the roster spot. I know one thing and that is you can never have enough pitching especially in the bullpen.

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