March 2007

March 27, 2007

 

Roster Shape-Up

 

In a bit of a surprise, today the Red Sox sent Manny Delcarmen to Pawtucket. I’m surprised because he pitched in 50 games for Boston last year coving 53.1 innings.

 

A closer look reveals their motivation.

 

Okajima
Romero
Donnelly
Papelbon
Lopez
Snyder
Pineiro
Timlin – DL

 

With Delcarmen having options, he was the easiest candidate, not to mention he could stand to sharpen his performance. Delcarmen joins Craig Hansen and Davern Hansack in Pawtucket.

 

Fact is, the Red Sox added so many arms for the bullpen this off-season, they just ran out of roster spots.

 

This bullpen set-up provides Terry Francona with 3 lefty options. When was the last time the Red Sox had 3 lefty relievers in the pen at the same time?

 

The rest of the roster is what you’d expect

 

starters: Schilling, Matsuzaka, Beckett, Tavarez and Wakefield

 

catchers: Varitek, Mirabelli

 

infield: Ortiz, Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowell, Lugo and Cora

 

outfield: Ramirez, Crisp, Drew, Pena and Hinske

 

Opening Day, Monday April 2, 4pm @ Kansas City

 

Posted by Andy at 11:13 PM | Comments (4)

March 22, 2007

 

A Closer He Shall Remain

 

UPDATE: Rob Bradford is reporting on his blog that Papelbon will close and Julian Tavarez will take his spot in the rotation. Curt Schillig has more on his blog too.

 

ESPN is reporting the Red Sox have decided to place Jonathan Papelbon back into the closer role.

 

Wow, that was a bunch of rhetoric and bluster. The Red Sox maintained all off-season that Papelbon was better suited, health-wise, being a starter. They supposedly put together a workout regimen to help him build stamina.

 

I guess I don’t know what changed medically since the end of last season that justifies this move. Or were they just screwing with us from day 1?

 

I prefer Papelbon at 200 innings over 70 innings, but since he has proven he can close, I can’t be too angry. I will be angry if he has another partial shoulder seperation however.

 

I hope the Red Sox know what they are doing.

 

Posted by Andy at 02:56 PM | Comments (3)

D. Matsuzaka

 

As most of you know by now, Diasuke Matsuzaka pitched a beaut yesterday. 5.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO. I think most people would take that. It is only one start, I know.

 

Speaking of Matsuzaka, SI’s Tom Verducci just wrote a great piece on Matsuzaka and how Japanese baseball chooses to condition its pitchers. Verducci points out that what is considered a large workload in the States is just a warm-up in Japan.

 

In America, the idea is to minimize wear and tear on a pitchers arm while balancing that with some kind of stamina build-up. In Japan, the idea is to throw early and often. Many throws leads to a stronger arm. Former MLB manager and current Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine says "After being part of this for three years, I am convinced we do a bad job of coaching in the U.S. for pitchers."

 

Interesting. The clash might be upon us. Anything I say about this topic would basically be taken directly from Verducci, so you are best to read it yourself.

 

It is interesting to see the two different approaches. Driving in to work the other day, I had a similar thought. Why do the cars we drive look the way they do? 4 wheels, rubber tires, etc. Is this the most efficient and practical way to design personal transportation? Or had Henry Ford made a slight change to the basic premise of an automobile years ago, perhaps the cars we drive today would look much different. It is just like the strength and conditioning programs used in Japan and the States. For whatever reason, the philosphies split somewhere along the way (or perhaps were never the same at any point) and evolved to Japanese pitchers throwing 3, 4 or 5 times as many pitches in practice and games as their American counterparts.

 

We might see some signficant changes here in the States to the and conditioning programs employed by MLB teams.

 

Anyway, when you read Verducci’s piece and then look at Matsuzaka’s performance so far in spring training, 12.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 13 SO, you can’t help but get excited. Please though, the real test comes in about 10 days.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:53 AM | Comments (4)

March 19, 2007

 

Jon Lester

 

As Opening Day approaches, I got to thinking about the rotation and specifically about Jon Lester. Lester as we all know, has had a tough off-season fighting cancer. It seems he has recovered nicely, but he did lose a few pounds of muscle.

 

When spring training opened, the Red Sox were fairly cautious with Lester, but he has basically demonstrated that no caution is necessary. So we have great news that Lester is healthy and seemingly, no worse for the wear.

 

That being said, we all know Lester performed nicely for a rookie in the rotation last year. We also know we have 5 starters slated to start ahead of him, Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Papelbon and Wakefield. Baring injury, what happens to Lester? Does he start in the pen? Or do the Red Sox send him to Pawtucket?

 

My guess is there is no way they put him in the pen and instead send him to Pawtucket to work on his conditioning and to make sure he can handle 6-7 innings at a time. The Red Sox hand is also being force on this issue by the nice performance by Kyle Snyder this spring. Snyder is out of options and therefore can be claimed by any team should the Red Sox try to send him to Pawtucket.

 

I think Boston would like to try and trade Snyder rather than lose him in a waiver claim. But because Snyder is pitching well and b/c he has no options, this further cements the status of Lester.

 

Have no fear, with 2 old pitchers and 3 young pitchers with spotty health records, I’m sure the Red Sox will have a need to call on Lester early and often this year.

 

Posted by Andy at 02:02 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2007

 

Going Concern

 

As Spring Training progresses, the Red Sox appear no closer to settling on a closer (wow, what a poorly written sentence). No reliever has seperated himself from the others.

 

Taverez – 4.66 era
Pineiro – 4.91 era
Donnelly – 6.75 era
Hansack – 3.86 era
Hansen – 9.00 era
Delcarmen – 7.94 era
Timlin – hurt

 

Others have performed well, but probably aren’t in the mix because of their stuff:

 

Okajima – 2.70 era
Romero – 1.35 era
Snyder – 2.45 era

 

Based on all of the numbers above, and assuming the Red Sox don’t look outside the organization for a closer, I’d be tempted to give it to Hansack. Granted he has limited MLB experience (or even AAA experience), but he is older and pitched well last year. It would certainly be a gamble, but so would any of the other internal options.

 

Having said all of that, there is some buzz that the Red Sox are being positive about the situation to the press, but behind the scenes they have dispatched scouts to find a closer from outside the organization.

 

Here are some bits and pieces I’ve picked up so far:

 

Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports the Red Sox are looking at Derrick Turnbow and Jorge Julio.

 

ESPN’s Rumor Central says the Red Sox may have some interest in Armando Benitez.

 

Of course Chad Cordero is still an option too, but he’d most likely be the most expensive option. I think you’d have to part with Wily Mo Pena and a good minor leaguer.

 

If it were up to me, I’d try to get Cordero if the price wasn’t too steep. I would not give up Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden or Jacoby Ellsbury. But aside from those 3 and maybe another 1 or 2, I’d be tempted.

 

If the price were too high, then I’d focus on Turnbow. He was dominant in 2005, but came crashing down to earth in 2006. Turnbow has two pitches, hard and harder. Things really fell apart for him in July. The wheels came off both in terms of hits allowed but also walks. Turnbow might have an injury otherwise his 2005 might have been the fluke of the century.

 

I have no idea what the cause of his collapse was in 2006, but so far in Spring Training, he has gone 6 scoreless innings while giving up 3 hits and 1 walk and striking out 4. Good so far, but such a small sample size.

 

If Turnbown were not available, then I’d probably forget the Julio and Benitez options. Julio just isn’t that good a pitcher. A career 4.20 era and a 1.38 whip with no dominant seasons mixed in. Julio has been the kind of player to grab the closer job and then lose it half way through the season.

 

As for Benitez he is due $7.6m this season and has had a rocky history. There is no doubt he has great stuff, but his head is questionoable. Add to that he has had injuries issues the past 2 years and at 34, that probably isn’t good. He has only pitched a total of 68 innings ovoer the past 2 seasons.

 

If his cost wasn’t so high, I might take a flyer on him, but because of some high-profile blown saves, he was essentially run out of town as a Met and if a big market crowd turns on you, then maybe you shouldn’t pitch in a big market.

 

This is a tough situation for Boston. They really should have taken care of this months ago, especially when you consider how much they have spent on this squad. I’ve always been critical of the Yankees for spending $200m, but not having a good firstbaseman/DH combo. Well, I have to be fair here and say the Red Sox have spent too much to have allowed this to happen.

 

If they do make a move for a proven closer, well then great, but I’d prefer to see this issue resolved in the next few days rather than drag on into the regular season.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:36 AM | Comments (2)

March 13, 2007

 

Rotation Debate

 

WEEI’s Dale and Holley had an interesting debate on the Red Sox starting rotation today. Dale said the 2007 edition, will be better than the 2006 model while Holley, who I suspect was playing devil’s advocate, didn’t agree and instead he had worries about the 2007 rotation.

 

2006

 

Schilling
Wakefield
Beckett
Clement
and then a combo of Tavarez (4.47 era), Lester (4.76 era), Snyder (6.02 era), Hansack (2.70 era), Wells (4.98 era), DiNardo (7.85 era), Johnson (7.36 era), Gabbard (3.51 era), Jarvis (4.86 era) and Pauley (7.88 era).

 

Before I go onto 2007, what stuns me about the number of guys that had a start with Boston in 2006 is that it is such a contrast to 2004 when the Red Sox really only needed 5 starters:

 

2004

 

Lowe – 33 starts
Pedro – 33 starts
Schilling – 32 starts
Wakefield – 30 starts
Arroyo – 29 starts

 

Then 3 for Kim, 1 for Astacio and 1 for Alvarez. So the core rotation made 157 of a possible 162 starts. That tells me health plays just about as big a role in success as does talent.

 

Back to 2006, had Matt Clement and David Wells been healthy, we would not have seen the constant shuttling of AAA players to Boston for spot starts, etc.

 

So here is what we think we know for 2007:

 

Schilling
Beckett
Matsuzaka
Papelbon
Wakefield

 

Certainly if these 5 guys make 30 starts each, Boston has a very good chance of success. But I don’t think it realistic to count on that in 2007. Schilling is 40 and Wakefield is 40 (and he missed a significant amount of time in 2006 with injury).

 

Because trying to predict health is impossible, let’s move onto talent.

 

Schilling = Schilling
Wakefield = Wakefield
Beckett = Beckett

 

I’m ok with the above, that is to say those 3 are going to be the same as they were in 2006. While Beckett might show some improvement, it is fair to say Wakefield and Schilling might show some drop-off.

 

Papelbon > Clement and the other fill-ins
Matsuzaka > Wells and the other fill-ins

 

I’m confident with the notion that Papelbon will be better than Clement and the others because Papelbon has shown success in both of his seasons in Boston. In 2005, he had a 2.65 ERA in 17 games (in 3 starts he had a 2.25 ERA) and of course in he was very good as closer in 2006. I have to assume that he will be better than who he is replacing from 2006, it seems like a lay-up. Of course Papelbon did have some shoulder trouble last year.

 

Matsuzaka is a tougher call. Certainly scouts like his pitches and he has had success in Japan and at the World Baseball Classic, but there is still much unknown. He seemingly has it all to be a good to great pitcher, but until he does it, I’m not going to tell you he is a lock for a dramatic improvement over Wells and the others in 2006. But I certainly like Matsuzaka’s chances. By the way, NBC Nightly News did a feature on Matsuzaka tonight and his "gyroball." This is exactly the kind of exposure I’m sure the Red Sox are very happy to see. While the ways they can profit from Matsuzaka specifically are debatable, it does increase both the Red Sox and Matsuzaka’s visibility.

 

Anyway, I see this rotation being better than the 2006 version (I’m taking Dale’s side). It has the chance to be much better, but if old age rears its ugly head, we might be back to 2006.

 

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

March 01, 2007

 

2007 Red Sox Projections

 

I love projections. I always have…

 

I’m not sure they are worth a thing, but they are fun to look at. I posted some Bill James projections in December, now it is time to look at the ZIPS projections.

 

ZIPS is a creation of Dan Szymborski’s at Baseball Think Factory. Like any set of projections, these are easy to criticize and generally have their fair share of bombs. But, I never let thinks like "actual results" or "proof" or "statistical evidence" get in the way of me projecting the Red Sox to score over 1000 runs in 2007!

 

Yikes, I think I just fainted. I’m better now.

 

Ok, what do we have for offense? Well if you assume 13 position players make the squad; Cora, Crisp, Hinske, Lowell, Lugo, Mirabelli, Drew, Ortiz, Pedroia, Pena, Ramirez, Varitek and Youkilis, then ZIPS projects this group will score 860 runs. That’s an improvement of 40 runs over 2006.

 

In addition, this group will hit .277/.357/.463 with 215 HRs and 73 Steals (31 CS).

 

Not an overpowering projection and one I’m fairly disappointed with. Keep in mind, Boston scored over 900 runs in 2003, 2004 and 2005, so this kind of drop-off is not good, but it is better than last season.

 

As for the pitchers, as the following 12; Beckett, Delcarmen, Donnelly, Lester, Matsuzaka, Okajima, Papelbon, Pineiro, Romero, Schilling, Tavarez, Timlin and Wakefield. Actually, that’s 13, but with injuries to Timlin and with a bunch of old dudes on the staff, you can expect these 13 to contribute at some point. Of course I did leave off Craig Hansen and one could make an argument that either Delcarmen or Lester might start the year in Pawtucket. No matter, ZIPS has these 13 posting a 4.42 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while going 102-77. Yes, that is too many wins and losses combined and the innings pitched total of 1547 is too many innings, but no one is perfect here.

 

The key here is that this staff is projected to allow 831 runs!!! No!!! Ok, let me make myself feel better and actually take away Delcarmen and reduce the staff to 12. Results: 4.44 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 796 runs allowed. That’s better. Plug that info the Bill James Pythagorean win/loss machine and the Red Sox will have an 87-75 record. That’s not going to get it done.

 

So shrewd managing by Terry Francona and key talent acquisition are going to be necessary to improve the runs scored and runs allowed projections, right?

 

But before I get too worked up, keep in mind these projections assume that Joel Pineiro will have a 5.60 ERA. If anyone thinks Francona and Epstein will keep Pineiro around if he posts that kind of ERA, they’re crazy.

 

So projections are fun, but thank goodness, not really meaningful.

 

By the way, spring training has begun and as of this post, Boston is 0-1-1. I’m worried. No, I’m not. But it is fun to see some baseball again.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:15 PM | Comments (2)