Thursday, December 27, 2012

Might as Well Face It, We're Addicted to Saves

First, go and read Jonah Keri’s terrific blog post from Grantland this past April.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Now that we’ve all chewed on Keri’s post,  here are some highlights and extended thoughts that I'll eventually get around to relating to the Red Sox 2013 bullpen:
  • Jerome Holtzman, a Chicago sportswriter, in 1959 created the save statistic, inadvertently creating the way major league teams have structured their bullpens for over fifty years.  Professional pitchers fight for their careers to get into a sacred closer role to accumulate this statistic created by the Chicago sportswriter, in order to cash in on the huge contracts bestowed on successful closers.  Rafael Soriano and Jonathan Papelbon get over $10 million a year, Koji Uehara gets 1 year $4.25 million.  Are Papelbon and Soriano three times better pitchers than Uehara?  Or do they just have better entrance music and happen to get the 25th-27th outs in a game rather than the 19th-21st?  The baseball powers that be has added incredible importance to the final three outs, and the established closers have a vested interest in keeping it that way.  Managers, for their part, are afraid to go away from the traditional model, lest they be labelled as trying to use a “bullpen by committee” when guys don’t know which inning they may be used in and when the approach results in a blown save or two by Holtzman’s statistic, the manager gets shamed back into announcing a “closer”.
  • The biggest argument for the traditional closer role is that there are certain pitchers who can handle the stress of the “clutch” situations with the game on the line getting those 25th-27th outs.  That there is an “ice in the veins” mentality to great closers that some guys just don’t have.  I don’t buy this argument.  I think it would be more stressful to come into a game in the 7th inning with the bases loaded and only one out than it would be to enter the 9th inning with the bases empty and no outs.  The key is to have your best pitchers on the mound during those moments when a game can potentially swing dramatically to one side or the other (or a team’s Win Probability begins to swing).  
  • Two of the best closers in the game last year, according to Keri’s statistic SD/MD, which we’ll get to in a moment, were Fernando Rodney and Jim Johnson.  Both were AL East pitchers, and both came into 2012 with huge question marks.  Johnson had been a middle relief or setup guy for most of his career and Rodney had sucked so bad in Anaheim’s bullpen the year before they let him go.  Were these two guys known for having ice water in their veins?  No!  For whatever reason, they fixed their control a year ago (Johnson and Rodney had a sub-2.00 BB/9 for the first time in their careers a year ago, Rodney down from 7.9 in 2011. 7.9!!!).  These two guys were not good closers in 2012 because they have ice water in their veins, they were good because they threw strikes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Competition?

Is there a new theme forming within the Red Sox offseason plan? Is Ben Cherington stealing a page from Bill Belichick's playbook?

So far this offseason the Red Sox "gameplan" has been quite clear:

  1. Protect your draft picks at all cost
  2. Target players who had down years in '12 but have a lot to prove
  3. Despite the down years, overpay for those players in order to get them on short term deals
  4. Improve the character of the clubhouse
Updated 12/27 *Here is a glimpse at another potential part of the offseason game plan from Brian MacPheron

With the not yet finalized, but seemingly imminent, trade for Joel Hanrahan we have to ask ourselves if there is a 5th part of this plan? Is Ben Cherington trying to create roster competition going into spring training? Or is this just the beginning of a plan that has not yet finalized and calls for several more players to be traded? As the roster is constituted right now one would have to say that there will be a lot of competition for jobs on this team.  

As further evidence that competition was a part of the offseason plan from the beginning we can take a look at some of Larry Lucchino's early offseason interviews.  In those interviews Larry Lucchino talked about having young players who were "hungry" as a key part of the team.  At the time we thought that he was talking about players like Iglesias, Kalish, Lavarnway, Middlebrooks and others.  What he may have been saying is that they want those players to be highly motivated to earn a spot on the roster and take away a starting job from a veteran like Middlebrooks did last year to Youkilis.  Giving players like Iglesias and Lavarnway a starting job is not an ideal way for a team to win a division or make the playoffs, but having them compete for jobs with veterans can create a winning team.  

Here is a look at a few of the spots that will feature competition during spring training: 

Monday, December 17, 2012

How Does Stephen Drew Affect the Sox Roster?

With today's signing of Stephen (don't call me J.D.) Drew the Red Sox offseason spending spree continues. Last week we took a look at the Sox roster and examined their few remaining needs, one of which was infield depth, we can cross that one off the list now that Drew has signed for one year and $9.25 million. Today we are going to take a look at the Red Sox roster and see who may make the 25 man out of spring training and who may end up being traded. The roster is listed by position with players that are likely to make the team, then in the comments section we can decide who goes to Pawtucket, who gets traded or released. We will assume all players are healthy for this offseason roster exercise (and hope it stays that way!)

  1. Mike Napoli (again, let's assume the deal gets finalized)
  2. Daniel Nava (don't be surprised to see him play some 1B in spring training)

We all know that injuries will take a toll on a few of these players which will make it possible to get to 25 by opening day. We also know that there will be a few surprises in spring training that we don't expect that will throw a wrinkle into things. Bryce Brentz is someone who I think could make the team ahead of schedule with a really strong spring training.

Here's how I'd get to 25: Lavarnway, de la Rosa, Kalish to Pawtucket; trade Aceves and put one relief pitcher on the DL (or send Bard to Pawtucket if he doesn't find his command)

What would you do?  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dempster-Yes, Hamilton-No, Napoli...Maybe?

...Sandy Rosario-Just wait a couple of days

The Red Sox continue to add pieces to the team through free agency after agreeing to terms with Ryan Dempster on a 2 year deal worth 26.5 million.  They also continue to overpay annually in return for shorter years.  Josh Hamilton got 5 years at 125 million from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Red Sox were not willing to go beyond 3 years for Hamilton so they were not able to sign him, but when the best player on the market goes for basically 50% of the going rate (Pujols got 250 million last offseason) an opportunity has been missed.  Now word is coming out that the Red Sox contract with Mike Napoli has been slow to be finalized due to some medical terms in the contract over injury concerns.  The potential glitch is serious enough for the Red Sox to be back in the market looking for other first base options.  Maybe this is what Cherington meant by "being disciplined".

The Red Sox signed Dempster with the hope that he would give them dependability at the back end of the rotation which is something that they have not had the last two years.  He is capable of throwing 200 innings in a season having done it seven times in his career.  The question is, can he be effective in the American League?  The Red Sox think so, and the nicest thing that I can say about it is that I hope they are right.  However, I think they are wrong on this one.  He wasn't terrible for the Rangers after his midyear trade last year, but he was terrible against good lineups like the Angels and Yankees.  The one piece of reasoning that I find laughable is that he pitched two gems against the Red Sox last year.  I got news for you, that was no feat. The 2012 Red Sox were experts at making bad pitchers look good.  Despite their ability to put up big run totals in some games against really bad pitching they were not a good offensive team last year no matter what the stats say.  Now if Dempster is the #4 or 5 starter and we are able to match him up against lesser teams than he may give us a better #5 starter than we've had in 2 years.  Plus with interleague play being dispersed throughout the season he may be able to pitch against a NL team more often than he would have been with the old schedule.  If he is managed well than he may be able to give the Red Sox what they need which is stability.  Just don't expect a 2.25 era because a 4.25 is much more likely.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Return of the Live Chat!

Join us tonight at 8:30 as the Live Chats make a December appearance.  We will discuss the Pats Monday Night showdown with the 11-1 Texans, the Red Sox/MLB Hot Stove, as well as I'm sure some Maine HS Hoops talk. Be there, Santa and his elves are watching!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What's Next For Red Sox at Winter Meetings?

The 2012 Winter Meetings are half over and the Red Sox have been the busiest team so far.  The Red Sox had plenty of money to spend in Nashville and it appears that their plan was to use that money to get players to sign shorter deals.  By upping the annual salary average over less years they were able to land Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli.  Rumor has it that the Indians offered Victorino 4 years and 44 million, but Victorino took the higher annual salary and a chance to play for a big market team and the shorter deal which is what the Sox wanted.  So far that plan has worked, which begs the question: What's Next?

Their biggest need now appears to be starting pitching.  There are a number of free agent options like Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson.  Those three guys would all appear to fit the Red Sox free agent strategy.  There are a number of trade possibilities as well.  Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe mentioned Cliff Lee, but there are other pitchers who are available.  Some of the rumored names available in trades are Chris Capuano, Homer Bailey, R.A. Dickey, Gavin Floyd and Derek Holland.  The Rangers need a CF and now that the Sox have signed Victorino perhaps a trade could be worked out for Ellsbury to go to the Rangers for Holland.

Other needs appear to be a left handed hitting first baseman for when Napoli catches, a veteran SS to provide insurance for Iglesias, perhaps a relief pitcher and another outfielder if Ellsbury gets traded.

I think, and it's only my gut instinct, that the Red Sox want Nick Swisher to take one of those 3 year deals with a higher annual salary so that he can split 1B with Napoli and RF with Victorino.  He would fill 2 of the four needs listed in the paragraph above.  If the Sox trade Ellsbury then I think the Sox will go after Swisher very aggressively.  Or they may sign Swisher first (who is supposedly waiting for Hamilton to sign to set the market) and then trade Ellsbury from a position of strength.  We could do a whole post on Ellsbury trade options and we probably will soon if rumors start to heat up, but overall I think that Sox fans should temper their expectations for what they could get in return for Ellsbury.  If they can get one blue chip pitching prospect I would take it.  The Atlanta Braves have the prospects and need a CF so that could be a fit.  If the Sox could get one strong SP for this year's rotation, I would take it, like the Rangers and Derek Holland mentioned above or the Phillies and Cliff Lee. One thing is for sure, he is as good as gone after next year.  Get something for him now.

The Sox could also trade from their catching depth and bullpen depth to get a starter with a little less talent then what they could get in return for Ellsbury.  Then they could keep Ellsbury and get one good year out of him and an extra draft pick after he leaves.

There are some decent free agent bullpen options available like Mike Adams and Rafeal Soriano.  However, I think this need is of much less importance than the others.

The Red Sox have been busy so far in Nashville, but I think they've got one more move left in them before they leave.  If Ellsbury is going to be traded it will happen after the meetings, but I look for them to sign a free agent SP before they leave the Opryland Hotel.  Let's hear who you think they should pick up to fill their remaining holes at SP, left handed hitting 1B, OF (if Ells is traded), RP and SS.  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

2012 Winter Meetings are Here!

The baseball world has converged on Nashville, and the actual meetings begin in the morning.
Let's use this post to gather any and all rumors, notes, news, or commentary on completed deals.

  Two quick thoughts: 1) many folks in and out of the game speculated that the Red Sox would be more active on the trade front than the free agent market.  If this is to become true, the Red Sox front office has certainly kept talks quiet.  Other than the Wil Myers-Lester rumor that came out of KC, there have been no concrete trade rumors. 2) on Sirrius/XM radio tonight, Larry Luchinno said the Sox were in on Josh Hamilton, the biggest concern being length of the deal.