February 2004 Red Sox

February 12, 2004

 

Any moment now

 

Pitchers and catchers in 9 days or so. We’re getting close.

 

Some interesting stuff I’ve found floating around the web of late:

 

An interesting 2 part interview with Theo Epstein on Baseball Prospectus. Unfortunately, they’ve only published part 1 while part 2 is available through premium subscription.

 

Peter Gammons has started his reviews of each division.

 

The New York Mets new pitching coach, Rick Peterson, has introduced some high-tech evaluation to his Mets pitchers.

 

Also, how is Kevin Millwood worth $11m a season? He has had 2 good seasons and the rest are just average or to be fair, slightly above average. This week, he agreed to an $11m, one year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

See, this is where the current baseball economic system stinks. Millwood has been able to piece together some ok seasons while mixing in a few good ones. The result is a constantly rising salary for a slightly above average pitcher. The Phillies must think they couldn’t possibly walk away from his salary because A.) other teams would laugh and B.) they couldn’t replace his arm.

 

While B.) is probably true, A.) isn’t likely to be true. Another team would surely step up to sign Millwood, but anyone giving him $11m should be the team being laughed at. Ok, enough on that. By the way, I fully realize the teams are as much to blame as anyone for the current system, after all they feed it (isn’t it bad to end a sentence, let alone two in a row, with a preposition?).

 

It seems one of my favorite sites has been put on mothballs. MLB Contracts/Red Sox Contracts hasn’t been updated since 6/6/2003 for the MLB side and 11/18/2003 for the Red Sox side. Too bad, it has always served as my first click when trying to find contract info. Here’s to hoping the site owner is just in his off-season mode.

 

I highly recommend playing Diamond Legends or ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball. They are essentially the same game, but with a slightly different salary cap structure. If you do play, subscribing to DL Fans is a must. DL Fans has a database of actual performances for the entire roster of available players on each game. Good stuff and a bit addicting.

 

A sad bit of news. Art Martone, the Providence Journal Sports Editor, is no longer publishing his blog on the Projo.com website. Too bad. He always was a thoughtful, non-yahoo writer.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2004

 

Welcome Back Ellis

 

I like the addition of Ellis Burks. I realize he isn’t the same player he was a few years ago, but his bat should help out quite a bit.

 

First of all, it seems like yesterday Ellis was making his debut with the Red Sox. I remember recording his major league debut with the family VCR. The game was in the Kingdome in Seattle. I don’t remember the outcome of the game or even how Burks did, but I do remember one incident.

 

Jim Presley, the Mariners third baseman, was at the plate versus big Steve Crawford. Now when I say Crawford was big, he was huge. He was big back in a day players, especially pitchers, weren’t big at all. He may not have been the tallest or widest, but he was the biggest overall player in the game. Quite intimidating.

 

Well, for some reason, Crawford plunked Presley. Presley decided to charge Crawford who was hoping for just that. Crawford stepped off the mound, took his glove and spiked it to the artificial turf. He was ready.

 

Red Sox catcher, Marc Sullivan, in his greatest moment in a Red Sox uniform, saw Presley sprinting toward the mound, feeling great sympathy, he tackled Presley from behind, probably saving his life. Had Presley made it to Crawford, I’m sure we’d have witnessed the first on field homicide (Ray Chapman was an accident…I think).

 

Anyway, Burks’ debut was overshadowed by the fisticuffs. I think my folks still have that tape hanging around somewhere, I’ll have to view it sometime.

 

Back to 2004. Burks inclusion will allow Terry (since when did they start calling him Tito. That’s his dad’s name, right, but they’ve always called Terry, Terry, not Tito. I’m confused) Francona the chance to sit David Ortiz versus lefties or even sit Trot Nixon versus lefties and put Kevin Millar in right.

 

I know Millar isn’t a good glove man in the OF and he has little range, but let’s look at the defensive stats for Nixon. He doesn’t cover much ground out there either. Since Nixon stopped chewing, he has gained about 30 lbs and has lost the once decent speed he had. I’ll stop talking about defensive stats because we all know there are reasons, sometimes, players have a low range factor and it isn’t always because they are slow.

 

But, if you get Nixon’s bat out of the line-up against lefties, you might just have something.

 

I’m not for a straight platoon in left and DH necessarily, but I think you have to argue this is your best line-up versus lefties, while maintaining respectable defense:

 

Damon – cf
Mueller – 3b
Garciaparra – ss
Ramirez – lf
Burks – dh
Millar – 1b
Kapler – rf
Varitek – c
Reese – 2b

 

To help my argument (as opposed to hurting it), here are some career #’s for Nixon, Gabe Kapler, Ortiz and Burks:

 

Versus lefties (.avg/.obp/.slg)

 

Nixon – .216/.302/.339
Kapler – .281/.340/.464

 

Ortiz – .251/.317/.448
Burks – .311/.391/.528

 

While it probably isn’t realistic given his recent health to have Burks take all the DH at bats against lefties, it certainly is a good option. As for Nixon, while he absolutely kills righty pitching, he shouldn’t be an everyday player against lefties. Using Kapler and Burks against lefties will also give you 2 potent bats on the bench for later in the game in Ortiz and Nixon.

 

It certainly is amazing that we are even talking about Ellis Burks right now. Going into this off season, I figured the Red Sox would hold the payroll just short of the tax limit, or $120m or so. Now, with this latest signing (reports have Burks getting $750k, plus perhaps another $250k in attainable incentives) they are around the $128m-$130m range.

 

Let’s face it, there were many people in Boston that figured the sale of the Red Sox to John Henry and his cohorts meant the slow dismantling of a franchise that had previously spent lots of money. After all, Henry paid ¾ of a billion dollars for the team and Fenway Park and it was thought his debt servicing requirements would be too extreme to field a winning team (or at least one with a sizable payroll. We’ve learned a high payroll doesn’t guarantee success).

 

Well, nothing could be further than the truth. The Red Sox are finding new ways to generate revenue and seemingly are turning around and spending it in the form of quality player acquisitions.

 

Hey, a bench of Brian Daubach, Mark Bellhorn, Kapler, Burks and Tony Womack isn’t so bad.

 

One last note, 2 years ago, the idea of batting Garciaparra 4th and Ramirez 3rd was tossed around, but Grady Little didn’t implement it. I’m for trying it, at least for a while. Check out their career #s from the 3rd spot and the 4th spot in the line-up:

 

Garciaparra:

 

3rd – .321/.365/.550 in 1656 at bats
4th – .360/.416/.612 in 1115 at bats

 

Ramirez:

 

3rd – .350/.429/.638 in 354 at bats
4th – .325/.426/.625 in 2876 at bats

 

Well, historically, Garciaparra hits better in the 4th spot and Ramirez in the 3rd spot. It is true though that Nomar had his best seasons while in the 4th spot prior to his wrist injury, so his slumping (relatively speaking) in the 3rd spot might just be a nothing more than the new, post-injury Nomar.

 

Additionally, Ramirez has had far too few at bats in the 3rd spot to definitively claim he is a better hitter there.

 

Anyway, food for thought. I doubt Francona will have the guts to try it. After all, where they are hitting now seems to be working. The Red Sox did have the best offense in baseball too. Why mess with success?

 

Posted by Andy at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)