Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spring Training Results Don't Matter.....But....

Every baseball fan and people within the game will tell you spring training results do not matter and are no precursor to success or failure in the upcoming season.  Remember in 2015 Mike Napoli going into a free agent season smashed home runs all over the Grapefruit League, and when the bell rang he stopped hit nearly altogether for months.

But that does not mean some observations cannot made.  Spring Training results don't matter, but....

1. Hanley Ramirez can play first base. Ramirez is not going to win the gold glove, and may still not make it all the way through the season as the starting first sacker.  But he is an infielder and he can handle ground balls (even with some diving stops mixed in), and he can catch the throws made to him. Admit it, all winter long you had visions of Hanley standing transfixed in one spot and literally dropping any throw that happened to hit his mitt.  Hanley will be at least adequate at first, but to keep this job he will need to hit like Hanley Ramirez going forward.

2. Jackie Bradley, Jr. "looks" great at the plate.  I am not even talking about numbers here although JBJ has flirted with .400 and hit two or three home runs.  I am talking about the short, quick stroke that is driving the ball in all directions around the field.  I am also taking note of the variance in his attack.  One of his home runs came on the first pitch of the at bat, at other times he is still waiting to hit deeper in the count.  I may be one of the last Red Sox fans who feels JBJ can be a .280-.290 hitter, based on his minor league credentials.  But even if he hits .240-.250, he will be an asset because of his defense.

3. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are ready to become the faces of this franchise.  Betts is being mentioned as an AL MVP candidate and Bogaerts will hopefully get the All-Star nod he deserved in 2015. The pair of 23 year olds have very bright futures and the future is now.

4. If spring training stats for pitchers do not really matter what are we to make of Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly?  Porcello's spring ERA is 9.77 and Kelly entered today's Grapefruit League start with an ERA of 1.35 (and left it at 2.63).  If fans want to throw Porcello off the bus because of his numbers shouldn't the same fans be encouraged by Kelly.  The answer for now is the rotation after David Price will need to prove itself when the games begin for real.

5. David Price and Craig Kimbrel are as advertised.  Nothing that has been done on or off the field this spring has lessened one iota of enthusiasm over this two key acquisitions.  This pitching staff will be much better than 2015 just because of their presence.

6. No AL East team has separated itself from the pack. For that matter no American League club at all, even the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals, look like an force that cannot be dealt with by the Red Sox.

7. Pablo Sandoval looks like a player continuing his decline.  Can looks be deceiving? Sandoval worked hard all winter per various reports, but the man looks fat.  The man also looked fat when he was a key part of three World Championship teams in San Francisco.  Travis Shaw has had a wonderful spring and according to John Farrell they are in competition for the job.  If Sandoval is not starting for Boston, he is nearly useless on the bench. Can they possibly trade his bloated......contract?

8.Injuries matter.  Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to miss April and new bullpen ace Carson Smith may miss one or two months at the start due to flexor muscle issue.  Is this the same staff with Steven Wright starting and Matt Barnes and/or Noe Ramirez in the bullpen?  We are about to find out.

9. Sam Travis is going to be a star.  The Sox have what is considered a big four of prospects: Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benentendi, and 18 year old pitcher Anderson Espinoza.  Travis may make it five.  The Indiana U. teammate of Kyle Schwarber impressed with blazing bat in the Florida games with the big club. MLB reporter Jon Heyman recently quoted a scout from another team as saying Travis would be the next Paul Goldschmidt. The Sox will take that.

10. John Farrell is panicking before the team even breaks camp.  You cannot blame him, the conventional wisdom is if the Red Sox are floundering by Memorial Day, Farrell is likely to be fired. Personally I think his leash is shorter than that.  I would expect a managerial change to be made by the end of April if the team is not heading in right direction.  But as much as I hope Travis Shaw is a big part of this team, a potential benching of one of your veterans, like Pablo Sandoval, on Opening Day would be a panic move.  The announcement today that Brock Holt will platoon in left field to open the season with Chris Young is a double panic move.  Brock Holt's numbers have always gone down the more he plays.  You are misusing an asset, a top notch utility player, by trying to make him basically an everyday player.  You are compounding the error by benching Rusney Castillo now. This winter Dave Dombrowski  said it was time to find out what they had in Castillo.  What has changed?  I am all on board with the Red Sox blazing out of the gate.  But you need a manager looking to lead to a team to victories throughout the entire season, not just winning enough in April to keep his job.

10 comments:

  1. I totally agree with your thoughts on the manager. I'm all for shaking things up a bit if guys don't produce, but basing those decisions on spring training results is ludicrous. If healthy, I think that Pablo is the type of veteran that could turn it on when the lights get brighter on opening day. But, Farrell is panicking. Why announce who's going to start at what position? Why not just say that it's going to be a day to day thing based off of who produces?

    Ever since spring training started Farrell has been talking about the importance of a good start. Well, the way to get off to a good start is not to talk about it! Just work your ass off and manage the team the best way you know how. He's clearly not doing that and I'm afraid that a fast start is the last thing that this team is headed towards.

    I'm also all for tweaking your approach but doing a complete 180 degree change in philosophy is the fastest way to lose your team. I know the veterans talked about playing for Farrell at the end of last year while he battled cancer, but I'm not sure that feeling is going to carry over to this year the way that things are going.

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  2. I still think that when Opening Day gets here, Pablo Sandoval is our 3B and he will get his shot to keep his everyday job there. Nothing that I have read has said that Shaw has won the 3B job, just that it is a competition. I think Farrell and co. are trying to light a fire under Sandoval's tank ass and send the message that just because you have a huge contract doesn't mean you can be lazy and not give a damn about getting in shape.
    Also, maybe the Red Sox have found out what they have in Rusney Castillo, and what they have is a $70 million outfielder for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Brock Holt is a good baseball player. A Holt/Young platoon has great potential to be the kind of guys who are always up to stuff that helps the team win. Rusney will get at-bats if he earns them, which so far he has not done in a Red Sox uniform.
    I like the moves by Farrell. I like seeing that he has a sense of urgency. The last two seasons this team got off to terrible starts, they were buried by May 1, and they finished in last. We don't need to be holding Rusney's hand through April.
    For that matter, if JBJr is hitting .140 through Tax Day, then Rusney could find himself starting in a hurry. It sounds like JBJr has shortened up his stroke a lot since his batting .100 days in 2014, so hopefully that won't happen.

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  3. Also, the Carson Smith injury has me very concerned about our bullpen once again heading into 2016. I couldn't be more stoked to have Craig Kimbrel aboard for the 9th. I feel tepid about Koji and Taz splitting the 7th and 8th. I don't want those guys pitching every day this season, so I would like to have them alternate 8th innings and days of rest. But that means we're going to see a whole lot of Tommy Layne, Robbie Ross, Noe Ramirez, and Matt Barnes as the bridge to get from our starters (Barnes might have to come in in the 2nd or 3rd inning every time Porcello starts) to the back end guys. This makes me want to punch a hole in a wall.

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  4. Good points Brandon, I do think there is some element of motivation to these decisions. I don't want to give either player (Sandoval or Castillo) a month to come around, but at least give them a week. If they go hitless in the first 2-3 games then give someone else a shot.

    What happens if Hanley totally tanks at first base? Hanley ought to buy Sandoval a steak dinner...nevermind...but Sandoval did take the heat off of Hanley this spring in a big time way. Then what are you going to do with Shaw? Move him to first base is the answer than you'll have Pablo at 3rd again. I think when the dust settles you'll see the Panda at 3rd and Shaw at 1st more often than not and Hanley will be the one who becomes the overpaid extra that everyone wants to trade.

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  5. The problem with your theory is that Hanley Ramirez has a beautiful swing that should be peppering seeds all over Fenway. When Hanley is healthy we have Big Papi and Manny reincarnate to anchor the batting order behind the b boys

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    1. The problem with your theory is it's from 2011. Hanley is not Manny. It's not even close. Manny was an all time great right handed hitter, so we put up with his stupid antics. Hanley does not deserve that same slack. He had 3-4 very good seasons, but he's been in a steady decline for 3 years.

      I just think it's funny how the lords of the keyboards have switched their venom from Hanley during the offseason to Pablo once spring training started. Now Pablo certainly deserves his criticism because he made zero effort to show up in better shape and his defense at third base has become a joke. But people have been so busy ripping Pablo that they all of a sudden just assume that Hanley is going to be able to play first base and be productive with the bat. I'm very skeptical of either of those things.

      I think it's more likely that Panda has a better second season in Boston than Hanley does.

      Plus, I think we'd be foolish to think that Travis Shaw can play 3B everyday. It's a little premature to assume that he's going to be a steady offensive player based off of his 250 or so at bats last year, but it's totally foolish to think he can be a good defensive third baseman,hes' basically played zero 3B in the major leagues.

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    2. You're right, Hanley's offensive numbers have been in decline from 2013 through 2015. But I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about his potential production at the plate in 2016. As long as he's healthy, I see one of the best swings in the game that generates some of the hardest hit balls off the bat of anyone in the MLB.

      If Hanley can play an adequate 1B like Art describes above, I think he'll be just fine in 2016.

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    3. Well I'll agree with that. He is a capable middle of the order hitter, but Manny Ramirez he is not. I'm also more skeptical in his ability to play 1B than you and Art. But, my real beef is just with the fact that he's gotten a free pass on his first base defense this spring because all the attention has been given to Sandoval's inabilities.

      It seems to me that people are propping up Travis Shaw's ability to play third every day and Hanley's ability to play first every day based more on Pablo's inability to play third every day. Shaw's spring training numbers on the whole look great but most of those were racked up in the first couple week against non major league caliber pitchers. However, his 3B defense was much better than Panda's in spring training (0 errors to Pablo's 4). I just don't think that Shaw can play 3B everyday in the major leagues. He hasn't even done it in the minor leagues.

      I think the Red Sox would be and maybe still will be better with guys like Shaw and Holt being used at multiple positions instead of everyday players. Shaw could play some 3B, 1B and LF to prevent Hanley, Rusney and Pablo from getting overexposed. And Holt would be better used as a true utility guy in all three OF positions and all IF positions.

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  6. Count me in the camp of using Holt and Shaw off the bench as well. The roster as currently constructed takes a perceived strength (bench play) and turns it into a pile of rubble. The strength of the bench was going to be the versatility of Shaw and Holt, playing them regularly at 3B and in LF. Fatty and the Cuban on the bench provides John Farrell with zero versatility. The loss of Carson Smith might be the nail in John Farrell's managerial coffin, the bullpen is not significantly better than last years with the exception of Kimbrel. Also I'm very concerned about Smith's recovery as it is an elbow injury. Also put me in the Hanley supporter column, I think he'll be fine as our everyday 1st Baseman. Although, speaking as one of Manny's biggest supporters, I will agree that Hanley is no Manny. Bring on the Tribe and another baseball season! Lastly, keep the Jenny Dell Trophy cozy, Brandon, it will be residing in Pittsfield come September.

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    1. Well said Jason. The team as constructed is better with Holt, Shaw and their versatility on the bench. But, also getting 3-4 starts per week.

      However, if the Red Sox are using these announcements as a way of motivating Sandoval and Castillo hopefully it will pay off, and the competition will bring the best out of those guys in the long run.

      Does having Shaw and Holt in the lineup everyday mean that JBJ is going to play against lefties and righties? When Young was signed the thought was to have him platoon with JBJ. Now that he's in left field against all lefties does that put Mookie in CF and Castillo in RF? Or do you leave JBJ and Mookie in CF and RF respectively against all SP's?

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