Rotation Set

The Red Sox announced their rotation plans for the next few days.

Monday – Jon Lester

Tuesday – Justin Masterson

Wednesday – Bartolo Colon

Thursday – Daisuke Matsuzaka

The most interesting of these to me is Colon as if he does well, it’ll force a longer-term decision by the Red Sox.  Options include returning Craig Hansen or even Clay Buchholz back to Pawtucket.  I am still happy the Red Sox were able to get Colon as he could end up being a big help while the younger pitchers find their rhythm.

If Colon struggles, well so what, release him with little financial liability.

As far as Masterson is concerned, I have to assume this is a spot start only what with the Red Sox playing a doubleheader this past Saturday.  Even if Masterson dominates in his start, he will be sent back to the minors for more development, as it should be.

The Red Sox host the Kansas City Royals for 4 starting tonight.

Micah Owings, the Next Babe Ruth?

Arizona starting pitcher Micah Owings has gotten his career kicked off in a decent fashion.  At 25 years old, he is entering his 2nd season at the Major League level and has won 13 games with 9 losses.

A college boy, Owings attended Georgia Tech in 2003 then transferred to Tulane University in 2004.  He had to wait a year per NCAA rules after a transfer, but picked up the ball again in 2005 for Tulane.  He was selected by the Diamondbacks in 2005 and signed with them thus ending his collegiate career.

Owings continued to pitch well once in the Diamondbacks organization.  Here’s a look at this numbers since college:

Year Level W L IP ER H BB K ERA WHIP
2003 GT 9 3 88.0 39 84 21 58 3.99 1.19
2005 TU 12 4 129.2 47 111 25 135 3.26 1.05
2005 A+ 1 1 22.0 6 17 4 30 2.45 0.95
2006 2A/3A 16 2 162.0 60 162 51 130 3.33 1.31
2007 AAA 0 0 5.0 0 4 1 7 0.00 1.00
2007 MLB 8 8 152.2 73 146 50 106 4.30 1.28
2008 MLB 5 1 49.2 21 41 16 42 3.81 1.15

So what you say?  I agree, his pitching has been just fine, but nothing that would make you run out and buy his rookie card.

As my headline suggests, there is more to Owings than his arm.  Owings can hit too.

There have been many pitchers that could hit a bit.  Yankees fans, you might remember Rick Rhoden was used as a DH.  Tim Wakefield was a star shortstop in high school and started his pro career as a shortstop, although his batting record in the majors is…bad.

Wes Ferrell is probably the best hitting pitcher not named Babe Ruth.  Ferrell put up .280/.351/.446 numbers in his 15 season career.  He was an ok pitcher too.

We all recognize Ruth as the best hitting pitcher of all time.  Because of his hitting talent, he stopped pitching as it was best to get him in there everyday.  I do wonder how long and how well he’d have lasted had he pitched and played OF on his "off-days."

Back to Owings.  In just 2 season at the Major League level, Owings has opened eyes with his hitting.  Check these results out at the MLB level:  .341/.372/.636/1.008.  Sample size you yell!  Ok, how does 95 plate appearances sound?

Fluke! you yell.  Fine, check out his minor league numbers: .371/.375/.516/.891 in 66 PAs.

Where does this come from?  Check out his career numbers at the plate including college:

Year Level G AB R H HR RBI .Avg .Obp Slg. OPS
2003 GT 57 209 43 64 15 42 .306 .392 .593 .985
2005 TU 64 217 61 77 18 63 .355 .470 .719 1.189
2005 A+ 1 1 0 1 0 1 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
2006 2A/3A 25 59 9 21 1 13 .356 .361 .508 .869
2007 AAA 1 2 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
2007 MLB 34 60 9 20 4 15 .333 .349 .683 1.032
2008 MLB 15 28 5 10 1 3 .357 .419 .536 .955
Totals   197 576 127 194 39 137 .337

Micah Owings can hit.  I don’t care what his college numbers were so much as how good he has been as a professional.  I dare you to find me a pitcher who has put up such batting numbers in a large a sample size at the pro level that didn’t become a star.

I did think of one:  Rick Ankiel.  While he is not a star, he could always hit and for a while could really pitch.  After a "serenity now!" her dropped the pitching thing and his now starting OF for the Cardinals.  Not bad.  But even his "total numbers" which include time as a starting OF, he doesn’t quite compare to Owings.

Owings is putting up numbers that are amazing.  He his getting on base (mostly via the hit) and hitting for power.  I challenge the Arizona Diamondbacks to give this kid regular PT as a batter.  Heck, you can use the offense, who couldn’t?

While his pitching numbers have been good, I think Owings might better help a team with his bat.

I Say Start Him Again

I have a feeling I am in the minority here, but I say give Kennedy another start.  I know the #’a weren’t pretty today, but he attacked the Rays hitters and got beat.  That is a different approach than we have seen and I think it merits another try.  Plus, who else are you going to trot out there right now? 

What I would do is skip his next turn (Yankees are off Monday) and pitch him next Saturday against the Mariners.  Let’s face it, they are not a good offensive club and I think Kennedy could do well against them.  

That’s what I think, how about you? 

Baseball Is Loaded

Have you noticed the player signings in the past few days?  Hanley Ramirez just signed a big contract with Florida.  Scott Kazmir just got a deal from the Rays and now Ryan Braun got an eight-year deal from the Brewers.

Clearly, the game is loaded with money if the "small" market clubs can make these types of deals and it just reinforces how important the farm system is going to be in the future.  I would guess that fewer and fewer true stars will see free agency and as with anything, lower supply means greater demand.  That means Sabathia and  Mark Teixeira will probably hit the lottery this offseason and any superstars who do make it to free agency will do likewise.  

Big start for Kennedy today, they really need him to step up and guess who got sent down to make room for him?  (Do you really have to guess, it’s the $46-million dollar man and I don’t think we can rebuild him)

The Invasion Will Begin At 19:00 Hours

Dateline Tampa

In response to Supreme Commander, Hank Steinbrenner’s, vows to turn things around "by force" if needed, the Yankees will invade Tropicana Field tonight.

Damon and Jeter were scheduled to parachute in and start the attack, But after several satelite passes, the Yankees doctors in charge of coordinating the attack noticed that there was a large roof on top of the structure and cancelled the maneuver. 

Bobby Abreu was going to be in charge of demolitions, but it turns out he is afraid of walls and is therefore AWOL.

Jose Molina, Morgan Ensberg and Robinson Cano are being left at the team hotel since they are incapable of offensive operations at this moment.  

Jason Giambi will be leaving the hotel now in hopes that he can make it to the Trop by "go" time.

Kyle Farnsworth is being held in reserve for special operations because nobody wants to mess with Kyle.

Sadly, Carl Pavano is MIA.

More details as they come available.   

 

Yu Darvish

No, that’s not a Yiddish curse word.  Rather it’s the name of Japanese baseball’s next superstar.

ESPN.com had a great look at Darvish courtesy of Jim Caple.

Darvish has dominated in his brief time in the Japanese League.  At 21 years old, he isn’t eligible for free agency for years, but his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters has said it would consider the wishes of any of its players to play abroad.

Of course the Ham Fighters are saying that, they stand to make a nice windfall.

The question I pose to you:  Is paying a posting of say $50mm plus just for the right to talk with Yu a good idea?  Consider also you need to sign him to a contact.  Using recent examples, the Red Sox ponied up $51mm for the right to speak with Daisuke Matsuzaka and then signed him to a 6 year, $56mm deal.  So that’s $107mm over 6 years for an untested player.  So far so good, although he hasn’t dominated quite the way I had hoped and he is probably the most frustrating player in the Red Sox what with his tendencies to walk too many.

One of the original post/sign transactions was for Ichiro and that turned out to be a fantastic transaction for all involved.

There are other examples that haven’t worked out so well, at least not yet.

For the purpose of appealing to the site constituency, let’s imagine you are the GM of the Yankees or the Red Sox and it is ultimately up to you what to do regarding Darvish.  Let him go somewhere else, or put down your best offer and hope for the best?

My answer:  If I’m Theo Epstein, of course I make an offer to Nippon.  Without knowing what, if any financial obstacles the Red Sox are dealing with, I would make my offer in the low 50mm range.  Assuming you could sign Darvish for a similar $8-10mm a year deal like Matsuzaka did, that means your commitment is $106mm – $112m over 6 years or around $18mm per year.  Mentally I would want to avoid any contract over $20mm a year (I understand that by paying $50mm a year upfront makes it an even more expensive deal, but for simplicity, I’ll use average per year).

The reason this posting system can be so good for MLB teams is that they needn’t pay luxury tax on the posting fee and they don’t owe any draft pick compensation.  At the same time, the system can be a disaster as no one yet has figured out a way to determine if players will thrive here or flop.

So I’m penciling in Yu Darvish in as the # 3 next year in the Red Sox rotation.  Done and done.

No!

In a stunning move, the Red Sox have designated Julian Tavarez for assignment.   That means Tavarez will either be traded, released or assigned to Pawtucket within the next 10 days.  I’m kidding about the stunning part.

What it really means is this.  We will never see a professional baseball player bowl a baseball to first base.  We will never see a pitcher try to pick off an opponent by running from the mound to second base, only to flop in the general vicinity of second base all the while missing the runner by yards and seconds.

It was easy to poke fun at Tavarez, as I just did, but at the same time, he was a good person.  WEEI interviewed Tavarez during either the 2006 or 2007 season and I came away with great appreciation of him.

Tavarez was born in the Dominican Republic and unlike his current lifestyle, he was raised in relative poverty.  Tavarez spoke of sleeping on a dirt floor.  For those of us who’ve faced difficult times (or what we perceived as difficult times), try calling a dirt floor your bed.

Tavarez is unorthodox, but found a role in Boston.  Being in the last year of his deal, Tavarez was expendable.  Rumors abound that Boston was close to dealing him to the Colorado Rockies.  In fact, Manny Ramirez was quoted as saying the Red Sox should deal him for one of Milwaukee’s sausages.  Ahh…Manny, a man of thoughtfulness.

Now that we’ve covered the human side, what it means is that Sean Casey is back.

On another note, Red Sox pitchers need to walk fewer batters or give up fewer hits.  When you keep your WHIP (Walks plus Hits divided into Innings Pitched, basically the number of base runners you allow per inning) below 1.30 or so, you have a much better chance of success.  Take for example:

Wakefield:  1.38 Whip, 2-2

Buchholz:  1.63 Whip, 2-3

Beckett:  0.94 Whip, 4-2

Matsuzaka:  1.22 Whip, 6-0

Let’s Use Our Heads

There are a ton of stories in the paper today about how yesterday’s rainout helped the Yankees.  The thinking is that because the rain washed out Andy Pettitte’s start, the Yankees can shift the rotation and skip Igawa’s scheduled turn on Wednesday.  All of that is true, but consider the fact that by pitching today Pettitte will not be able to make his scheduled start on Friday which is the opener of the Subway Series.

Add in the fact that the Mets were rained out last Friday and had to play two on Saturday.  They used Santana and Pelfrey in their two games Saturday.  They play this upcoming Thursday and then head to the Stadium Friday.  They can slot Pelfrey and Santana however they want for those two games so does anyone doubt that they will save Santana for Friday night against the Yankees? 

Because of the rain, the Yankees have to chose when they want to pitch Rasner, Thursday or Friday, they will need to use either Igawa or the infamous "TBA" for the other start.  Considering the opponent and likely starter, I think it is unlikely you would see any of the rookies, including Kennedy make Friday’s start.  So, I would imagine Rasner goes Friday and that leaves Thursday’s start up in the air.  This is just a guess, but I would suspect that Dan Giese, the 30-year old journeyman who is doing well in AAA gets the call.  Giese pitched for Scranton on Saturday which means he is in turn and he has a 1.13 ERA in 39 innings so far this year.  My backup candidate would be Chase Wright.  Wright is only at AA, but he has pitched pretty well and we have obviously seen him before.  Wright’s one advantage is that he is already on the 40-man roster.  The Yankees could move Cervelli to the 60-day DL to make room for Giese so I don’t think it is that big an advantage.   

I think the one thing every Yankees’ fan can agree on is that we don’t want to see Igawa again.  Stay tuned…. 

UPDATE 6:10PM- Apparently it will be Kennedy pitching Thursday.  Is one start in the minors enough to have fixed him?  I’m not sure about that, though I favor using him over Igawa.  The problem is, what do the Yankees do if he bombs on Thursday?  And, what do they do with Igawa at this point?  That’s definitely $46 million down the tank, but how long do they continue to pretend he has a future in New York as a starter?  How about trying him as a reliever now and see if that does anything to improve his value?

 

There’s A Hole…In My Lineup

So far the "Merry Merry Month of May" has been anything but that for the Yankees’ catchers.  Combined they are 4-for-29 with 1 RBI (.138 AVG).  That is absolutley putrid and below their combined career numbers (.233 AVG combined).  Jorge Posada is starting to do some light throwing, but he is three weeks away at best and probably more.  The Yankees can’t even be sure he will be able to return as a catcher on a full-time basis because his shoulder needs surgery, they just hope he can wait until November. 

The Yankees need to go out and trade for a backup catcher who can hit.  Failing that, let’s bring Stewart up from AAA again and see if he can hit.  I’m not sure he can, but he does have the benefit of some youth on his side.  Either way, the Yankees know what Moeller and Molina can do with the bat and it isn’t much. 

The Yankees are 18-19, they have scored exactly the same number of runs as they have allowed.  They either need to pitch better or hit better to break out of this funk and that is hard to do when you have a hole in both the lineup and rotation.  Ideally, you fix both, but realistically nobody is going to trade you a starter in May.  So, try and find some offense and catcher would be a wise place to start. 

Farewell Lugo

Julio Lugo is just awful right now.  Let’s see, the Red Sox as a team have committed 21 errors as a team.  Lugo has 11, that’s more than half.  Lugo was never considered an elite SS, but he was considered at worst average.

Theo Epstein got himself into this mess signing Lugo to a 4 year, $36mm deal.  Lugo’s Red Sox career has been bad, and that’s being generous.  So what can the Red Sox do about it?  With 2+ years left on his deal, benching Lugo seems a bit silly but trading him also seems silly as the Red Sox would likely have to pick up a big part of his deal (baring receiving an equally bad contract in return).

If they do sit him down, I suppose Alex Cora (due back Sunday) could play each day or at least be put into a platoon situation.

If I’m Epstein, I find a way to cut this guy loose ASAP.  Trade him or bench him, but just don’t keep him out there.  Jed Lowrie has proven that at worst he is an equal swap and by giving him the job, the Red Sox get to see another component of their future.  If Lowrie stumbles, Cora can lend a hand.

I think the most telling thing about Lugo and his inability to fit in here is this quote after Thursday’s game given to the Herald’s Steve Buckley:

“I don’t care, but sometimes it would be nice to say something positive,” he said. “But all the time it’s negative things, you know? Sometimes, you know, people should say something that’s positive. But every time it’s something negative . . . bring it up, bring it up, bring it up. Why?

“I understand you (the media) are going to write whatever you want . . . but I come here every day and bust my ass . . . if things don’t work out sometimes, that’s the way it’s going to be. You understand? But sometimes you bring up the same things . . . You get tired of that.”

This is what Red Sox players have to prepare themselves for mentally.  Those that can handle it excel, those that cannot are, well, Edgar Renteria.  Take your game somewhere else Julio.  If you want to play to empty stands and non-caring fans, go to Florida (14,980 fans a game).

No matter Lugo’s capabilities, it’s time for Boston to move on and find someone who can handle playing in Boston.