Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Position Should Xander Bogaerts Play?

When the Nationals drafted Bryce Harper first overall in 2010, he was a power-hitting catcher.  The Nationals decided to change Harper’s position to outfielder - a move that was reviled at the time.  Then in 2012, Harper and fellow rookie outfielder Mike Trout put on the best rookie display the MLB has seen in a long time.  The Nationals’ decision to move Harper to the outfield has clearly paid off for their franchise, for a number of reasons.  The success of these rookies has me wondering if it’s time the Red Sox put serious consideration into changing Xander Bogaerts’ position, and doing it right now.

Here are the arguments for the three most likely positions:

Position: Shortstop
The Argument: Don’t mess with Bogaerts’ development by changing his position.  Leave him right where he is and develop him as the Red Sox shortstop for the next ten years starting in 2014.  

Position: Third Base
The Argument: Not much of an argument here.  Will Middlebrooks is playing 3B for the Red Sox for the foreseeable future.  There is not good depth behind Middlebrooks in the Red Sox system, however, so if Middlebrooks gets hurt again in 2013, Bogaerts may end up getting a lot of at bats at 3B.

Position: Outfielder
The Argument: Bogaerts is blocked in the infield for 2013.  The Red Sox have good position depth at SS.  If you want your best lineup on the field, then moving Bogaerts’ bat to the outfield where he could be the starting LF for the next decade isn’t a bad idea.  If the Red Sox are in the pennant race heading into late 2013, wouldn’t they want the uber-talented Bogaerts to give them the same kind of boost that Manny Machado gave to the Orioles last year?  Would playing the outfield be easier on the body and prolong Bogaerts’ impact on the lineup long-term?  Can Bogaerts play some outfield for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic so we can see him running down fly balls?

Here’s the bottom line question: do the Red Sox want to get Boegarts on the major league club this year? If so, they might have to move him to OF, baring injuries.  I don’t think the Red Sox will move him.  I think they purposefully went after a guy like Stephen Drew on a one year deal so that Bogaerts and Iglesias can compete for the SS job in 2014 and beyond and they are committed to this plan.  But if the Sox are within shouting distance of the pennant in 2013 and Bogaerts is raking in the minors, I think we have to work out a way to get him in the lineup by the end of this season.  If this means playing some outfield, then I’m all for it.  It’s baseball, not rocket science.  No rule says a guy can’t play outfield one year and shortstop the next.  

Do you think the Red Sox should consider moving Bogaerts?  Discuss in the comments section below:

Friday, February 22, 2013

How Many Wins are Needed to take the AL East??

Many Red Sox fans who reside on the optimistic side of the Nation, as well as a number of pundits commenting on the 2013 Red Sox have predicted these Sox will move from 69 wins up to " the 80's".
Some have specifically mentioned low 80's. Some of the truly faithful (yours truly included) have tossed out a 85-90 or so number (also including Barry on two of the recent podcasts).

Also, ever since around the Winter Meetings in December, many folks have extolled the parity of the AL East.  It is long ways from the days of Yankees and Red Sox clubbing the rest of the division.

This has led me to wonder how many games will teams in the AL East win, and how close can Boston come to winning the division with those 80 something wins many are calling for?

The over/under lines set for each team by Sportsbook.com discussed on the most recent RSM podcast are:

Yankees 88.5
Jays        86.5
Rays       86.5
Sox         82.5
O's          78.5

If all of the teams hit these lines on the( +/- .5) nose, what jumps out at me is no one in the AL East will win 90 games.  I think most, if not all of the predictors of Boston winning 85 games or so, are actually saying " yes the Sox will be improved and may be on the edge of contending for the second wild card, but nothing else".  But in fact could 84-88 wins contend to win the AL East?

Short of going through the entire schedules of all five AL East teams and guessing win, win, loss, etc. it is hard to pick win totals.  And at this time of year it is hard to tell which teams are tougher opponents than others ( for example 2012 A's and O's).  But here are some general assumptions and projections based on type of games scheduled.  Since parity is the name of the game in the AL East, these assumptions are made for all five teams equally, this is not an attempt to pick a division winner.

First the AL East teams play 72 games within the division( 18 vs. each other team).  Since the whole premise here is equality in the ranks we will assume that all the teams split the intra-divisional games.

36 wins

Each of the AL East will have 20 games against National League teams.   This year the AL East is pitted against the NL West for 16 games. The home and aways and the mix is slightly different for each team but 16 games vs. the Giants, Dodgers, Dbacks, Padres, and the Rockies. ( For example the Red Sox play 3 each at Fenway vs. Padres and Arizona, make a 6 game west coast trip with 3 each in LA and SF, and Boston plays 4 times vs. Colorado, 2 at each team's park.)  The last four interleague games are scheduled for late May, 2 games at one park and 2 more at the other teams place in a four day period.  The AL East teams get:

Yankees- Mets
Red Sox-Phillies
Orioles-Nationals
Rays-Marlins
Blue Jays- Braves

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast: Over Unders!

The Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast is back with an episode of over/unders!  Barry and Brandon go through the following lines together in the podcast.  If you'd like to join in the conversation, tweet at us @redsoxmaineiacs, or leave an argument for an over/under or add new over/under lines in the comments section below:

AL East Win Totals
Baltimore 78.5
Boston 82.5
Tampa Bay 86.5
Toronto 86.5
NY Yankees 88.5

Individual Pitcher Win Totals
Jon Lester 13.5
Clay Buchholz 12
Ryan Dempster 11.5
Felix Doubront 11
John Lackey 9.5
Rubby De La Rosa 3
Franklin Morales 5
Alfredo Aceves 7

Individual Pitcher Save Totals
Joel Hanrahan 35
Andrew Bailey 14
Daniel Bard 5

Individual Batter Home Run Totals
David Ortiz 30
Mike Napoli 25
Will Middlebrooks 23
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 21
Dustin Pedroia 16
Jacoby Ellsbury 16

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast 2013 Spring Training Preview

The Red Sox Podcast is back as we discuss Spring Training 2013.  Brandon and Barry discuss the new coaching staff, offseason acquisitions, and 2013 outlook.  Listen below as we discuss John Farrell, Brian Butterfield, Juan Nieves, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, Rubby De La Rosa, and more!

Listen Below:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Addressing" the Red Sox 2013 Rotation

A couple of weeks ago on the "Downtown with Rich Kimball Show", Chris Bahr of the Sporting News was interviewed and the subject of the AL East arose.   Bahr gave a one or two line synopsis of each team in the division.  His comment for Boston was "other than adding Dempster they have not addressed the rotation woes."  This for one thing drove me nuts and secondly is factually wrong.

Now if Bahr had said that he thought their rotation was still the Sox weakest link or it needed a bigger name added over the winter, I would still disagree, but that would be an opinion that may turn out to be true.  But Boston has most certainly "addressed" the starting pitching rotation. They have done so in the following ways:

1. Hiring John Farrell.  Among the attributes Farrell will bring to his job is a deep knowledge of pitching and this pitching staff in particular.  He also commands the respect of the holdovers on this staff from his pitching coach stint.

1A.  Sticking with and counting heavily on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz as aces.  I list this as 1A because this reason is intertwined with Farrell's return.  If the Sox had decided to dump this duo and tried to trade or sign two pitchers capable of heading a rotation, it would have been nearly impossible, completely impossible without dealing the top kids which Cherington was determined not to do. Counting on Lester and Buch to return to the results of past seasons with Farrell in charge is a completely reasonable assumption to make.  It is not like these two have not produced before, they have and are both young enough to do it for years to come.

2. Dempster is not the only veteran innings eating starter added to the 2012 starters.  Welcome back, John Lackey! (OK,  I know, I know). But it is a fact that Lackey as well as Dempster have produced season after season of 200 or so innings ( Lackey's career average is 187.5 IP), and despite Lackey's two mediocre seasons in Boston before his Tommy John surgery, he won 14 games in 2010 and 12 in 2011.  And with Lester and Buchholz fronting the staff, Dempster and Lackey only need to be innings eaters in the 3/4 spots.  Anything better from the two vets is gravy. ( but not chicken gravy, please).

3. Felix Doubront.  It is nearly lost in 2012's debacle that the Red Sox had a rookie lefty starter win 11 games while making 29 starts, with a 2.35 K/BB rate.  There were some bumps, an ERA of nearly 5 for example.  Pencilling Felix into the five hole while looking for progression in his career is the plan, but if he hits a bump in the road, the Sox have....

4. Veteran depth in Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves.  Aceves lusts to be a starter, but his versatility in the pen suits the Sox needs more, but he could be stretched out to start in a hurry if needed ( if he doesn't crazy himself outta town.)  Morales could conceivably beat out Doubront for the fifth spot with a strong spring. Just a few years ago he was a major big time starter prospect for the Rockies. If he could grab the job and run with it, he could be the only positive to come out of the Bobby Valentine error.

5.  Young starting depth acquired last summer.  In the blockbuster Nick Punto trade with the Dodgers the Red Sox not only famously unloaded all that payroll, but also took two kid pitchers who could both be top notch big league starters and soon! They are Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster.  De la Rosa actually started 10 games or so with LA in 2011 before having TJ surgery which he has recovered from.  He throws up around 97 mph and some scouts have compared him to Pedro ( more there in a moment).  Webster, who has two complete years at AA, has a hard sinking fastball which has him compared to Derek Lowe.  Slated to begin 2013 at Pawtucket, he could help in Boston this year if needed.

6. Steven Wright. Another "young" pitcher acquired last summer, with much less fanfare from Cleveland for Lars Anderson.  Wright is a 28 year old knuckleballer who has some people( including John Farrell) mentioning him as a possible starter for Boston during 2013.  He will begin at AAA, and as with most knuckleballers is a crap shoot.

7. Improved bullpen depth--one way to improve the rotation is to take the pressure off them and to reduce some innings here and there by using a strong bullpen.  The Sox have added new closer Joel Hanrahan plus strong veteran set up specialist Koji Uehara. Plus back to the Farrell Factor, can he rejuvenate Daniel Bard to his former lights out eighth inning ace??

8. Addition by subtraction.  There will be no games started by Aaron Cook, Zach Stewart, and the always lovable Daisuke Matsuzaka. ( ok, I admit I will miss Dice, but I suspect no one else in the Nation will.)

9.  The Red Sox have brought back Pedro!  Alas, Larry Lucchino has not found a time machine or a cloning device to add a Pedro in his prime to the rotation ( but he is still digging around in some old Fenway storage areas for that time machine).  But hiring Pedro as a special assistant to the GM is a great move by the Red Sox.  In the long term, his presence will likely encourage young Dominicans to sign with the Sox.  But first and foremost Rubby de la Rosa should become his special project ( the other kid pitchers could watch and learn also).  But bringing out the best in Rubby would be a great Pedro starting point and possibly a huge boon to this year's team.

So to Chris Bahr and others, there are 10 ways the Red Sox have "addressed" the 2013 rotation.  They most certainly have addressed it, but now as the next several months go by we will get the answer to the question:  Have the Red Sox addressed their starting rotation correctly?? That is the question.