One Third Done

On the eve of interleague play, the Yankees have reached the conclusion of the first third of the season, a point where it is still too early to sweat the standings, but long enough to see some individual trends and patterns. Clearly, it has been a successful first third of the season for the Yankees; they end it with a 35-20 record, which is the best mark in baseball. This is even more impressive when you consider they were 8-11 after getting swept at home by the Red Sox.

The 2004 edition of the Yankees is currently made up of mediocre starting pitching, an excellent bullpen and a scary lineup. Let’s take a look at each area of the team.

Unlike years past, the Yankees do not roll out a starter who can dominate every day. Mike Mussina got off to a horrible start, but seems to be getting back on track. Kevin Brown was great at the start of the season, but has been roughed up as of late. Javier Vazquez has been dominating, but tends to give up a long ball at the most inopportune times. Jon Lieber has been up and down; his last two starts the down part of his season. Jose Contreras, I don’t want to talk anymore about Jose Contreras. On talent alone, this squad should improve and the Yankees will definitely need better in October.

The reason why the Yankees have not been hurt by their so-so starting pitching is that their bullpen has been lights out. Mariano has converted 23 out of 24 saves and Tom Gordon has given Joe Torre a second closer out of the bullpen. Paul Quantrill has been solid, with a few bumps along the way. The only real problem in the bullpen has been the lefties, White and Heredia have been terrible, but Joe Torre hasn’t needed to use them in crucial situations.

Offensively, the Yankees are a team you can never count out of a game, regardless of the score. A Rod, Sheffield, Matsui, Posada and Giambi are all having monster years. Ruben Sierra has been great when used. Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo have hit enough to cover second. The only real problems in the lineup are Bernie and Jeter. Bernie’s OPS has gone from .601 in April to .789 in May to .868 in June. An OPS over .800 for the season would make the Yankees happy. Jeter seems to have turned things around since the end of May, but he has a lot of hitting to do to get up to his normal career levels.

So, the Yankees head into the next part of the season with a solid foundation and apart from some minor tweaking here and there, no need for a bigger move- though that doesn’t mean one won’t be made in Yankeeland.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

Some Advice to American League Fans

Robert Caro in his fantastic book, Master of the Senate, details how Lyndon Johnson won the 1948 Texas Senate race by waiting until his opponents’ votes had been counted and then went around to the various precincts to “make sure” that he had enough votes to win. Unfortunately, American League voters will not have this luxury and that is why the first round of All Star votes is so troubling.

Yes, in years past you could go out and vote for your favorite players with a clear conscience, but that all changed when the wizards who wanted to bring us Spider Man covered bases decided to make the All Star Game “matter”. Since pride certainly would no longer motivate players, the thought was that the winning league having home field advantage in the World Series might. Sickening? Absolutely, but it is the system we operate under and therefore it behooves Yankee and Red Sox fans (yes, you from the other side of the page) to vote with their heads and not their hearts. So, let’s take a look at the current leaders at each position and some names who should be considered.

Catcher
Pudge Rodriguez has a good lead over both Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. I would say the fans have it right here and any of the three would make a good choice.

First Base
Jason Giambi is the leader here with Carlos Delgado second. More worrisome is the fact that Red Sox fans have put Kevin Millar third. Come on, Red Sox fans, we need to look at the big picture here, if you won’t vote for Giambi, perhaps writing in Paul Konerko or Ken Harvey would be more palatable.

Second Base
Not surprisingly, Alfonso Soriano leads the vote totals, but the guy who we want on the team, Juan Uribe, hasn’t cracked the top 5, probably because he isn’t on the ballot. This may take some work, but get out those pencils and start writing in his name. (Note to Red Sox fans, not to pick on you, but Pokey Reese is second in votes and he isn’t even the best second baseman on your team!)

Shortstop
I am really not trying to single out Red Sox fans, but Nomar is leading all shortstops and he hasn’t played a game yet! Yankee fans have done little to distinguish themselves in this category by putting Derek Jeter second. Look, Jeter and Nomar are the most popular players on their teams, but the American League needs Miguel Tejada or Michael Young at shortstop. Put the partisanship aside and look at the numbers, it isn’t even close.

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez is first and would be a good choice, but Red Sox fans should feel free to vote for Hank Blalock as I imagine voting for A Rod may just be too painful.

Outfield
The leaders are Vlad Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and…Johnny Damon. Ok, I have picked on Red Sox fans enough; let’s just leave it at the fact that hairstyles won’t help the AL in the actual game. Manny and Vlad make a great pair and Carlos Beltran would be a fantastic way to round out the outfield. (And give the AL a true Centerfielder in case anyone is worried about outfield defense.)

I am quite sure that I will receive plenty of angry emails from Red Sox fans. Let me just say, I admire your loyalty, but you will be sorry if Game Seven of the World Series is at Minute Maid Park and not Fenway because the American League did not field the best team possible in the All Star Game.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the performances of Tanyon Sturtze and Bret Prinz in Jose Contreras’s latest train wreck. Yes, Sturtze gave the Yankees 4 1/3 innings of shutout relief, but he gave up five hits and four walks in those innings. I stand by my original statement; he just doesn’t belong on the roster and a better team than the Orioles would have figured out how to score on him Wednesday night.

As for Prinz, he certainly passed his first test with a very impressive seventh inning. He needs to be put out there a few more times before we will know what we have, but it was a good start.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

The Bridge, Part 2

At the conclusion of a successful road trip, the Yankees returned home to almost blow a five run lead in the ninth. They avoided a devastating loss, but again they needed to use Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera in a game they should have put away easily.

Now, the decision to use Quantrill was interesting, he came into the game with a four run lead. Yes, he has traditionally pitched the seventh inning this year, shouldn’t this be the spot to use someone else? After all, the “Big 3” are first, second and third in appearances in the American League this year. Gabe White, Felix Heredia and Tanyon Sturtze have been terrible and the fact that Joe won’t use them with a four run lead speaks volumes.

The problem is, you can’t send the same three guys out night after night and expect them to always click. Part of the reason the Yankees signed Quantrill and Gordon was to reduce Rivera’s workload. While he hasn’t appeared in the eighth inning much this year, he is still being used a ton. Quantrill’s ERA was twice as high in May as it was in April. Clearly, the Yankees need to have a fourth option in the bullpen to give these guys a night off.

The good news this weekend was that Steve Karsay has hit 94mph in a rehab start and his miraculous recovery may put him back in the Bronx by mid-June. However, Karsay cannot be counted on as a fulltime contributor just yet. The Yankees need to look at three different options to provide that fourth arm: Brett Prinz, Scott Proctor and Colter Bean.

Prinz is back in the majors after Kenny Lofton’s latest hamstring problem has landed him on the DL. While this stay is supposedly only temporary, until Giambi comes back Sunday, the Yankees should pitch him as much as possible and try him out in some tough situations, it’s time to find out what he is really worth.

The same can be said of Scott Proctor. Proctor has a powerful fastball and seems the perfect candidate to deliver the big strikeout. His control can be off at times, but I am willing to bet that Mel can help him trust his stuff more and cut down on his walks.

The last candidate is Colter Bean. Bean was actually selected by the Red Sox last winter in the Rule 5 draft, but returned to the Yankees when the Sox didn’t put him on their opening day roster. Bean has been awesome in Columbus striking out 36 in 29 innings while only giving up 17 hits and 3 runs. Those numbers are certainly worthy of a major league tryout.

All of this is a polite way of saying that Tanyon Sturtze stinks. This is not surprising as he has bounced from place to place in his career and has a career ERA of 5.20 in over 600 innings. Trading for Sturtze was a desperate play to get another candidate to start in place of Donovan Osborne. Osborne is gone and Contreras is pitching somewhat effectively, it is time for Sturtze to go. Get one of the other three in there and let’s see what they can do.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

What’s Wrong With Jeter

As requested, today’s column will take on the much written about subject of Derek Jeter’s missing bat. The multitude of theories as to the reasons he is hitting below .200 can be broken down to these:

1- He has suddenly gotten old
2- His approach is hurting him
3- He is hurt
4- He has a psychological problem with sharing the same infield with A Rod

Let’s take a look at each one.

Jeter is 29 years old; about to turn 30, he has been in the majors for the past nine years and played over 1200 games. These are substantial amounts, but nothing that should have him worn out already. The fact is players of Jeter’s caliber do not suddenly flame out at thirty. A couple of years past thirty and they certainly do, but the clock has not struck midnight for Derek yet.

As to his approach, it is hard to think that something that got him 1500 hits and a career average of .317 before this season has suddenly turned against him. However, he is on pace to strike out 135 times and walk only 45. This may be more a factor of his pressing at the plate and not a sign of a flaw in his swing that pitcher’s have suddenly found and started to exploit. Jeter has always been a free swinger and it is hard to put too much emphasis on projections only one-quarter of the way through the season.

Injury is the most common reason given for his struggles. He must be hurt and not saying anything is the way the story goes. This is the hardest argument to believe as in watching Jeter it is hard to see any difference in his game. Last year, after he came back from his shoulder injury, you could see he wasn’t as aggressive on the basepaths or in the field. This year, your eye tells you something different. Furthermore, the statistical evidence doesn’t backup the injury hypothesis. Jeter is on pace to have one of his best defensive seasons ever. His current range factor is 4.8, an improvement of a point from last season. Yes, the Yankees are turning more double plays, and this helps increase his range factor, but the rate of increase in double plays is not as high as the rate of increase in his assists and putouts. For those of you who don’t like Range Factor as a measure of defense, his current Zone Rating (a percentage of balls fielded by a player in his defensive area) is .895, almost .40 points higher than the best mark of his career. I find it very hard to believe that he would be able to play that level of defense with an injury.

And that brings us to the last argument and the hardest one to prove, that A Rod’s presence is somehow affecting Derek’s offensive performance. It is hard to believe that someone who has consistently performed at such a high level and in high-pressure situations would have a problem with any new teammate, but I suspect that Derek may be pressing a little because of A Rod. Let’s face it, almost everyone (me included) said that A Rod should be the shortstop and Derek should change his position, not the other way around. I don’t care how accomplished a person you are, any type of criticism like that would cause you to want to prove people wrong. I suspect Derek has been trying to prove to the world that he is a great shortstop. As we have seen with almost all the new players coming to the Yankees in recent years, pressing like that doesn’t work well. (See Giambi in 2002, A Rod at the start of 2004 and Sheffield to date) Hitting in the majors is hard enough without having to lug any extra pressures to the plate.

Am I right? Only time will tell, if Derek starts hitting again and no other explanation is given, then I would say I am. If he continues to perform poorly in 2004 then perhaps he is suffering from a mysterious injury or something that I haven’t thought of in this column.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

Red Sox May 2004

May 23, 2004

 

Back to Their Winning Ways

 

The Red Sox swept the Blue Jays this weekend. Good stuff. Now on to some tougher competition. The Oakland A’s come to town on Tuesday, followed by the Seattle Mariners.

 

Hold on a moment. Oakland is good (24-18 through 5/22) but Seattle is terrible (14-28 through 5/22). What happened to Seattle?

 

More on that in a moment.

 

Coming into the Blue Jays series, the Red Sox were 9-11 for the month of May. With the sweep, they are 12-11. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they’ve had a very easy schedule in May. They’ve faced the Rangers (4 games), the Royals (3 games), the Blue Jays (7 games), the Indians, (7 games) and the Devil Rays (3 games).

 

Those teams through 5/22 had a combined record of 85-121. Yikes, that is some terrible competition. Take out the 25-17 Rangers and the rest of them were a combined 60-104. Brutal.

 

So the fact the Red Sox have only gone 12-11 goes to show A.) How bad they have been playing and B.) How lucky they are to have had such an easy schedule in May.

 

Imagine if they’d been playing the Angels, the Yankees and the Twins instead? Hopefully this drought ended with this weekend’s series and they are back to playing some good baseball.

 

Back to Seattle. What is wrong with these guys? Well for starters, they’ve only hit 28 home runs. That is last in the league. Their #s look like this: .258/.323/.368. That works out to an 691 OPS. Ugly. Compare that to the league leading offense of the Texas Rangers who have hit 60 home runs and have posted .289/.350/.491. Those are 2003 Red Sox-esque.

 

Couple the Mariners lousy offense with an average pitching staff and you’ve got trouble. Oh yeah, they are also very old.

 

P – Player – Year of Birth
C – Dan Wilson – 1969
1b – John Olerud – 1968
2b – Bret Boone – 1969
3b – Scott Spiezio – 1972
ss – Rich Aurelia – 1971
lf – Raul Ibanez – 1972
cf – Randy Winn – 1974
rf – Ichiro – 1973
dh – Edgar Martinez – 1663…wait, 1963

 

So it’s not like it is a bunch of young guys struggling, it is a bunch of old, veteran guys struggling.

 

I bet they’ll figure it out soon enough and might end up at .500 by the end of the season.

 

Notes:

 

David Ortiz signed a 2 year extension for $12.5m with a team option. That’s good news. That leaves Pedro, Lowe, Varitek and Nomar as the remaining star free-agents to be. Here is my prediction (my 5/23 prediction):

 

Nomar – Gone
Varitek – Gone
D-Lowe – Stays
Pedro – Stays

 

Interesting eh? I think that betting goes against coventional wisdom around here. My take is that Nomar just hates the attention he gets here. As for Varitek, he is 32 and, I’ve said it before, catchers rarely have much to contribute past the age of 32. Bill James has published something to this extent and I’m sure Theo Epstein knows about it.

 

Why give a Scott Boros client (Varitek) the $8-10m per season when you have a potential replacement not too far away in the form of Kelly Shoppach. Even if Shoppach isn’t ready in 2005, you could go with a combo of Doug Mirabelli and Andy Dominique or they can sign another catcher as a one year fill in for 2005 until Shoppach is ready.

 

I just can’t see them meeting Boras’ asking price.

 

Lowe stays because unless he fixes his mechanics, no one will give him what he wants anyway. I suppose the only risk in this guess is that perhaps the Red Sox won’t want him either…at any price.

 

As for Pedro, if he was so willing to encourage David Ortiz to stay with the Red Sox, that means he wants to stay here too. I have no idea how well he’ll play this year, but I just can’t see the Red Sox letting him walk, especially if Curt Schilling would be upset and there aren’t many other top line starters going into the market at the end of this year. At least none as good as Pedro.

 

Of course, this isn’t my final answer.

 

There was a rumor floating around that the Red Sox would package Byung-Hyun Kim and Johnny Damon to Seattle for Freddy Garcia and then send Garcia to the Royals for Carlos Beltran.

 

If they were able to make that, that’d be the best move in the history of baseball. Well one of them anyway. Damon is getting paid $8m this year and is due for $8.5m next year. Kim is getting $4m and $6m respectively. Beltran is in the midst of his walk year getting paid $9m. Wow, the Red Sox would be unloading $12m in salary this year, their starting CF, who from all accounts hasn’t done what we’d hoped, and their former 5th starter who is now in AAA for an All-Star CF with 30/30 potential.

 

Wishful thinking. They might still get Beltran, but they’ll have to give up some cheap talent, not expensive talent.

 

Scott Williamson was placed on the DL with mild elbow tendonitis. Good that they caught this now rather than have him deal with it in August. By the way, is anyone else worried that Alan Embree will also get shut down sometime this summer? He is getting used at an high rate and has struggled with elbow/shoulder soreness each of the last 2 seasons. Let’s hope Terry Francona knows this.

 

Lastly, Kevin Youkilis was called up this week to play 3rd while Bill Mueller’s knee gets better. While I would have liked to have seen him play a full 2004 in AAA, it is nice to finally get to see him operate.

 

He does have great command of the strike zone. Not only that, he seems really good at laying off teaser pitches, that is pitches that ultimately break out of the strike zone.

 

But, the fact remains he has only played a few games and is sure to struggle a bit. Let’s hope Mueller gets back soon (and plays better than he has to date) and Youkilis keeps his training up at Pawtucket.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

 

The Jamesian Way

 

I think a good portion of baseball fans could learn a thing or two from reading Peter’s (the Yankee fan on this site) commentary on Bill James and James’ idea of bullpen use.

 

As we all know, the Red Sox 2003 bullpen was horrendous in the first few months. Until B-H Kim showed up, they really didn’t have a closer. Forget about Kim’s struggles later in the season and his 2/3 of an inning in the postseason, there is no doubt he helped the bullpen overall.

 

In April and May, 2003, the media needed to point the finger at someone or something so as to place blame for the scuffling bullpen. Well Bill James, Theo Epstein and their unorthodox beliefs took the heat.

 

How many times did you read something like, “The Red Sox bullpen-by-committee approach failed them again last night.”? The idea being that the Red Sox didn’t need a closer, rather any pitcher could get the last 3 outs of a game.

 

The fact is, Bill James and ultimately Theo Epstein, believes(ed) no such thing. James’ strategy is that each bullpen had a pitcher one can point to as the “closer.” More often than not, the closer is the best pitcher in the bullpen. James goes on to ask, why is it that the best pitcher in the bullpen will only be used to get the last 3-6 outs (usually 3) of a game? Even if those outs don’t represent a particularly difficult situation.

 

Just how tough is it to get 3 outs and therefore the save when your team has a 3 run lead? It really isn’t that tough. Most members of the bullpen can probably get those 3 outs, more often than not.

 

Imagine this scenario: Red Sox winning 6-5 in the sixth inning. Tim Wakefield, the starting pitcher, just doesn’t seem to have a harness on his knuckleball (or his 70 mph fastball for that matter). The opponent has two on and no one out. Grady Lit….er…Terry Francona comes out and relieves Wakefield. Who should he bring in?

 

Well, it is quite possible that the rest of this half of the sixth inning is the most crucial part of the game. If the reliever that Francona summons struggles, there goes the lead and perhaps a chance to win.

 

So, the manager can go with one of his 3 or 4 middle relievers, his set-up man(or men) or his closer. Well I don’t know about you, but since this represents probably the most important spot in the game, I’d bring in my 2nd or 3rd worst bullpen arm (one of my 3 or 4 middle relievers). Right?

 

If you agree, that means you are playing traditional baseball. The rule being you don’t summon your best bullpen arm a/k/a the closer, because it isn’t the 8th or 9th inning.

 

James, on the other hand, would have summoned the “closer” because he is the best arm available at what has presented itself as the biggest potential turning point in the game.

 

My point in talking about all of this is that the Boston media, for the large part, got the strategy the Red Sox were trying to employ wrong.

 

So what about those that say the 2004 Red Sox bullpen is far better than the 2003 version? They are right, that’s because they have a healthy Scott Williamson, a healthy Alan Embree, a great “closer” in Keith Foulke and a handful of other bullpen arms that are pitching well.

 

Basically, the Red Sox have 3 current or former “closers” in their bullpen in Foulke, Williamson and Timlin (4 if you count the recently demoted Kim). They were all, at one time, considered the best arm in their respective bullpen.

 

That’s why the 2004 bullpen is so good, it is because it is loaded with talent. Tons of talent. The key is that James’ figured it was best to use your best guy when he is needed most, be it the 6th or 9th inning.

 

Regardless of what James thinks, Terry Francona has gone back to traditional bullpen management, rightly or wrongly. Foulke has only closed games or worked in tie ballgames, best I can tell with my limited research.

 

It is hard to argue with success, but at the same time, all of the arms in the pen, especially the ones I mentioned by name, have all pitched as well, if not better, than you’d expect given their career stats.

 

Did any of that make sense? If so, great. If not, ask Bill James to explain it. That’s probably your best option as I probably didn’t do his theory justice. By the way, James doesn’t just come up with theories and go from there. He always, ALWAYS, has stats to back him up. I just can’t seem to find any online.

 

Here’s what I did find though:

 

www.billjames.com – A site that deals with nothing to do with the baseball Bill James. In fact, this James appears to be a Brit (I couldn’t verify this, but he just looks British. Is that wrong of me?) who is a consultant/e-business entrepreneur/generalist in all things vague. I really couldn’t figure out what he does or what he is trying to sell/offer.

 

www.billjames.org – Wow, Bill James is a politician? This Bill James is a Republican, serving, for his third two-year team, on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. Don’t forget he represents District 6 (the Pineville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Arboretum areas….derrrrr). Wow, this guy is….is….really, really boring.

 

Well I guess the baseball Bill James doesn’t have his own site, so you’ll have to contact him through his employer, the Boston Red Sox.

 

Notes:

 

The Red Sox just lost their 2nd in a row. Cripes, I hate it when they lose to crappy teams.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

 

Wind Bag

 

I have not the energy nor the interest to deal with Pedro’s most recent comments except to say that I really can’t relate to the situation he is in. If I were making $17.5m per season and in the last year of my contract, perhaps I’d have something useful to say, but since I don’t, it just looks like two very rich men with a dispute.

 

As for baseball related stuff, boy did Pedro look bad on Saturday. He just isn’t the same as when he threw 95 mph. That is a fairly obvious statement, but one that needs to be said.

 

I heard someone on WEEI today say that “when Pedro has all of his pitches working and has pin point control, he is a great pitcher.” Well, thanks for that special insight genius. I think if I had 3-4 pitches working and pin point control, I’d be a good pitcher too.

 

My point here is that in order for Pedro to be dominant, he has to have everything working for him. In years past (circa 2000), he didn’t need great control or all of his pitches working. He could rely on his 96-97 mph heat to tip the scales. Without that special weapon though, he has to be firing on all cylinders to be dominant.

 

Take that for what it is worth. I just think Red Sox management is wise to tread lightly with Pedro and his contract status.

 

Speaking of contracts and the Red Sox, let’s take a look at next year’s free agent pool. I found a site, one whose accuracy I haven’t verified, that lists the potential FAs for the 2004-2005 off season.

 

Baseball Roster Central keeps tabs on FAs for this year and beyond. Fairly neat.

 

Of interest, the biggest free agent pitchers (starters) available this coming off season are:

 

Pedro Martinez
Derek Lowe
Freddy Garcia
Matt Clement
Roger Clemens
Odalis Perez
Al Leiter
Kevin Millwood
Kris Benson
Woody Williams
David Wells

 

While not all of the guys above are stars, they certainly have won a few games between them.

 

It is interesting to note that should the Red Sox lose Pedro and Lowe to free agency, they will have a tough time replacing them with equal or better quality. What twosome is better than Pedro and Lowe?

 

Millwood/Clement?
Williams/Perez?

 

It is because of this potential dramatic drop-off in pitching after this year for the Red Sox that I bet either Lowe or Pedro will still be in a Red Sox uniform in 2005 or Theo Epstein will engineer a trade for a major arm. With two of Oakland’s big three scheduled to be free agents after next season, perhaps Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder will come to Boston.

 

Wow, I’m way ahead of myself. It’s barely May and I’m already looking at next year. I can’t help it though. Baseball transactions and finances provide some of the most interesting drama for me. Sniffles.

 

Speaking of drama (or anti-drama), the Red Sox are hitting just .221/.337/.349 with runners in scoring position through May 2. That is horrible. The only good news is that their opponents are hitting only .200/.302/.315 with runners in scoring position.

 

With Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon and Ellis Burks all hurt, I don’t see things changing anytime soon. Add to that the recent slump of Manny Ramirez. Manny went 2-11 with 6 K’s vs. the Texas Rangers this past weekend. Manny and David Ortiz were carrying the offense (Ortiz went 2-11 with 4 K’s against Texas). With them cooling off, someone has to pick it up. Pick it up!!!

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)

Red Sox April 2004

Patriots Day 2004

 

The Red Sox took 3 of 4 against the Yankees this holiday (in MA anyway) weekend. I’m not getting too excited though, there are still 150 games left.

 

It was nice to see both Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling hold the Yankees to 2 runs apiece and even Bronson Arroyo on Monday, despite a rough start, battled and kept his team in the game.

 

Only Derek Lowe’s disaster of a start on Sunday failed to meet muster. I won’t dwell on it too long, but his 10 days between starts may have had an impact, although I really don’t know. Why didn’t he throw a simulated game in between? Who cares, you can’t win them all after all.

 

The one common denominator in the 3 Red Sox wins was the bullpen. In the Red Sox wins, the pen pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. Not too shabby.

 

Add to that the 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for Lowe on Sunday and the bullpen went 13 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 9 walks, 8 k’s and only 1 run. While the walks were high, the hits were low, so all in all, an overwhelming success.

 

Imagine me writing about the strength of the Red Sox bullpen last year at this time.

 

So the Red Sox are at 7-5 and head to Toronto for 3 and then on to the Bronx for 3 more. Certainly not an easy trip ahead.

 

A side note, what a day Patriots Day proved to be in the Boston sports world. The Red Sox won, the 108th running of the Boston Marathon came and went, the Patriots traded for Corey Dillon and the Bruins….wait, the Bruins are an embarrassment.

 

Other than the Bruins, quite a sports day.

 

Back to the B’s for a second. What a pathetic lump of an organization they’ve become. In the past 10 years, they’ve won one playoff series. All the while losing 6. Oh yeah, they completely missed the playoffs in 1997, 2000 and 2001.

 

Face it Bruins fans, there are just too many things working against us. 1.) A terrible place to watch hockey (or any sport for that matter) in the Fleet Center. The bowl is so wide and spacious, there is no way to generate any noise. It is the exact opposite of the Boston Garden. 2.) The constant neglect of the regular season squad by ownership has sent once faithful fans packing. So on any given night, the New England Revolution are more likely to be talked about at the water cooler. 3.) Finally, look at the on ice leadership for the Bruins. You have Captain Joe Thornton. He is amazingly talented, but is there a player in the league who took more stupid penalties than he did all season long? No. Wait, yes, his Assistant Captain, Martin LaPointe. He took just as many, if not more. As for the other Assistant, Sean O’Donnell, I’ll give him a free pass.

 

So the Bruins really need an ownership change, but since that isn’t likely to happen, I think it time Jeremy Jacobs sent Mike O’Connell and Harry “I haven’t won a Stanley Cup in 33 years” Sinden packing.

 

In the time the Bruins last won the Cup, the Canadians have won 7 times, the Oilers 5 times, the Penguins 2 times, the Islanders 4 times, the Flyers twice, the Avalanche twice, the Red Wings 3 times, the Devils 3 times and the Stars, Flames and the Rangers once each.

 

So save yourself some grief and root for the Celtics…oh crap. I mean root for your local High School teams.

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2004

 

Francona’s Way

 

A week and change into the season and we are starting to get a better idea as to how Terry Francona is going to manage. While it is far too early to see if his style is a good one, there are a few points I’d like to comment on.

 

Francona pulled Pedro Martinez midway through the top of the 8th in his most recent start because Pedro had exceeded his pitch count. Who cares? I care. Last year, Grady Little would have left him in out of respect.

 

Respect? Grady’s idea of respect was to allow a competitor to pitch his way out of trouble or in some cases allow him to finish what he started. I certainly can understand how that approach would endear a manager to his players, it just isn’t sound strategy though. Especially with Pedro.

 

Respect, when it comes to a fragile shoulder, is taking a guy out so he can pitch another day. It is also understanding when to get a player out when he has nothing left. Francona is a student of relevant statistics. The stat that told him batters hit Pedro at a .370 clip last year from pitch number 106-120 was enough for him to realize Pedro had given all he could give.

 

How many pitches did Pedro throw in his last start? 106.

 

In addition, I liked Francona’s use of David McCarty in relief in the April 9th game. It’s hard for me to understand why people were so upset by it. With Ramiro Mendoza unable to pitch and Bobby M. Jones unable to throw strikes, Francona didn’t have much choice.

 

Down three runs with runners on in the top of the 9th, Francona brought in McCarty to spare further bullpen usage. While McCarty wasn’t effective, he did finish the 9th.

 

I suppose my biggest gripe about this is why did Boston management think Jones was worthy of a bullpen spot in the first place and how did they manage to overlook Mendoza’s injury?

 

Jones is a bad pitcher. My guess on him is that he has a ton of talent, but can’t seem to get it coordinated with his head. As a result, he wows his employers during spring training, but crumbles when it matters.

 

His career 5.77 era and 1.73 whip ((hits+walks)/innings pitched) prove he is lousy. That’s over 324.2 innings and 6 seasons.

 

I’m being serious here, Jones has never really had a good season whatsoever. The Sports Forecaster has each of his pro seasons listed. Take a look for yourself. Only his 2003 AAA stats were something resembling good.

 

I don’t mean to get on his case, but I have to ask Theo Epstein why he thought Jones had a better chance of contributing than Tim Hamulack or Mark Malaska.

 

As for Mendoza, I think it is time the Red Sox just sent him packing. If he was unwilling/unable to pitch when it mattered, how was this fairly important revelation missed prior to the game? To that I say, “Who cares.” Just release him and move on.

 

Lastly, I was very sorry to see Brian Daubach cut loose when the Red Sox brought Frank Castillo up as a boost to the bullpen. As it turned out, they didn’t need Frank Castillo making the move unnecessary in hindsight. That’s not to say Castillo won’t contribute in the next few days, but his presence was certainly a result of last week’s overworked bullpen.

 

According to Wednesday’s Boston Globe, Daubach cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Pawtucket meaning he could be back in Boston in no time. With the Red Sox carrying 12 arms, Daubach will have to wait until the starters are completely stretched out and the bullpen ready for an 11 man staff.

 

A big series starts this Friday. The Red Sox will host the Yankees. While it is too early in the season to give these games too much attention, they’ll make for some good baseball.

 

The match-ups (as of Wednesday’s rainout):

 

Friday 8:05 pm – Javier Vazquez vs Tim Wakefield
Saturday 1:20 pm – Mike Mussina vs Curt Schilling
Sunday 2:05 pm – Jose Contreras vs Derek Lowe
Monday 11:05 am – Kevin Brown vs Bronson Arroyo

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2004

 

161-1?

 

The Red Sox still have a chance to win 161 games this year. Phew. I thought the prospect of a 160 win season so unappealing, I nearly swore off the 2004 campaign.

 

Honestly, have you ever seen such hysteria after an opening day loss? It was one game. So what? The Red Sox started the season off 0-1. Well now they are 1-1, happy?

 

I have to say the actual hysteria seems driven almost exclusively by the media. I normally am not one for talk radio, but I happened to catch a fair amount of it Tuesday. WEEI’s Dale and Neumy show devoted an inordinate amount of time to the Red Sox 0-1 start and the furor caused by Pedro Martinez leaving the ballpark prior to the completion of the Sunday night’s game.

 

Let me get the Pedro thing out of the way. Was it wrong? Yes. Should his teammates be annoyed? Yes. Is it a big deal? No, not really. After all, this sort of thing probably happens all the time. But in cities like Kansas City, Seattle, Los Angeles and Miami, this sort of thing is dealt with and everyone moves on and no one really gives a crap, at least not the fans.

 

In fact, the media probably doesn’t even consider it news worth enough to write about it save perhaps for a brief mention in the team “notebook” section.

 

So, let’s allow Terry Francona the time to talk to Pedro and put the issue in the past.

 

Back to Tuesday’s game. Curt Schilling stepped up and pitched solidly in his Red Sox debut. Add to that the great performances from Alan Embree, Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke and one could conclude the Red Sox just might do alright this year.

 

I’m certainly happy for the win, but if the Boston media doesn’t get a grip, I might not be able to read another paper, listen to another AM station or watch a sports news segment for the rest of the season.

 

It used to be that people wouldn’t really start paying attention to the Red Sox until mid-May or so. In May, the weather starts getting consistently nice, college students are just completing their finals, younger students start dreaming of summer vacation and there are enough completed games in hand to start forming an opinion of the Red Sox chances.

 

With this year’s approach, talk radio is already worrying about the Red Sox ability to compete. It is just too much, too soon.

 

Notes for Tuesday’s game.

 

Johnny Damon must be thrilled with Kevin Millar and his wandering ways. For those who missed it, Millar playing RF and Damon playing CF collided making what should have been a routine play on a fly ball. While Damon was the one delivering the blow to Millar’s head, he must not have taken kindly to yet another Red Sox teammate running into him.

 

Surely he was thinking about the playoffs last year and his collision with Damian Jackson. Interestingly enough, immediately after Millar hit the ground, Damon stood over him without showing much concern, but rather, what would appear, disbelief.

 

I guess this goes to show not having an experienced everyday RF (Trot Nixon) in there is a risk.

 

I have to say I love watching Foulke pitch. That change-up is just devastating. Even though he has had trouble getting his fastball into the 90 mph range, he does such a good job matching his change-up delivery with his fastball delivery that no batter is safe.

 

I’m not sure I had realized this, but the Red Sox have 3 set-up guys in their pen that can each hit 95 mph with their fastball. Alan Embree has been known to hit 96 and 97, Scott Williamson can hit 95 while healthy and Mike Timlin easily tops 94 while occasionally hitting 95 (a recent development in his lengthy career). That is some good stuff. Let’s hope they all stay healthy, no guarantee especially with Williamson and Embree.

 

Late in 2003, I wrote about Derek Lowe being a weak link in the Red Sox rotation. Specifically that he was far too up and down for the Red Sox good. Well, I’m beginning to wonder if I was just plain wrong. Perhaps his inability to prepare for the 2003 season was the key factor in him not performing consistently in 2003.

 

Wait, I’m falling into a trap. How can I start gushing about Lowe based only on his spring training numbers? I can’t. Let’s talk in mid-May.

 

Some payroll numbers:

 

Per my new favorite payroll site, Dugout Dollars, the Red Sox have a cap number of $129.54mm. With the luxury tax triggered at anything over $120.50mm, it looks like they’ll have to pay some extra this year.

 

The interesting news is that they are only at $72.83mm for 2005 and $52.80mm for 2006 with the luxury tax kicking in at $128.00mm and $136.50mm respectively in those years.

 

The New York Yankees are as follows:

 

2004 – $195.18mm
2005 – $170.44mm
2006 – $117.29mm

 

Can they afford to pay the luxury tax? Don’t worry, I’m kidding.

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 2004 Red Sox

March 30, 2004

 

Oh So Close

 

The Red Sox open the regular season this coming Sunday night. A primetime match-up against the Baltimore Orioles. I’m fairly happy to get this thing going.

 

As it turns out, the injuries I mentioned in my last post actually have lingered and now stand to impact the start of the 2004 season.

 

Nomar Garciaparra is just now trying to get back into game shape. Even if he is able to resume playing in the next day or so, it remains to be seen if he will be ready for opening day.

 

The good news is that it doesn’t appear he’ll need to go on the DL.

 

Trot Nixon’s injury on the other hand is the most serious of the bunch. He has a slightly bulging disc in his lower back that will keep him out until May.

 

Nixon’s injury means the Red Sox will rotate Manny Ramirez, Gabe Kapler, Kevin Millar, Brian Daubach and Ellis Burks in and out of rightfield. Fortunately, Theo Epstein has put together a deep bench, one capable of filling in for Nixon during his injury.

 

Lastly, Byung-Hyun Kim is battling through shoulder inflamation. His injury should hopefully keep him on the DL no longer than mid-April. Bronson Arroyo stands to get the 5th spot in the rotation during Kim’s injury which means the Red Sox have a little more bullpen capacity.

 

The following are assured to have a spot on the 2004 pitching staff:

 

Pedro Martinez
Curt Schilling
Derek Lowe
Tim Wakefield
Bronson Arroyo

 

Keith Foulke
Scott Williamson
Mike Timlin
Alan Embree

 

But who will round out the staff? Assuming 14 bats, that leaves 11 pitchers. I’ve listed 9 above. The candidates appear to be from the following:

 

Frank Brooks
Tim Haulack
Mark Malaska
Ramiro Mendoza
Reynaldo Garcia
Bobby M. Jones
Anastacio Martinez

 

Of interest, of all the guys listed above, only one has an ERA higher than 3.00 this spring. That’d be Mark Malaska with a 4.50. So Terry Francona and Theo Epstein have a tough decision ahead.

 

Brooks was claimed off waivers from Oakland on March 18th. He has had a good spring and has a pretty good track record in the minors. All of the guys above though have pretty good to great performances this spring. Let’s hope Kim gets healthy soon.

 

Oh yeah, I didn’t mention Mendoza’s chances. Unfortunately, he makes too much money to be waived unless he completely falls apart. So far, in just 2.2 innings, he hasn’t been scored upon this spring, so I’m assuming he’ll be one of the 11 arms making the 25 man roster.

 

So, are you all happy with the following line-up?

 

cf – Johnny Damon
3b – Bill Mueller
lf – Manny Ramirez
ss – Nomar Garciaparra
dh – David Ortiz
1b – Kevin Millar
c – Jason Varitek
rf – Gabe Kapler
2b – Pokey Reese

 

Nomar, of course, might not be in the line-up come opening day and would presumably be replaced by Reese. 2b would be manned by Mark Bellhorn. If that happens, just move everyone up a spot and move Bellhorn to the 8 spot.

 

For arguments sake, let’s assume Nomar is in the opening day line-up. This 9 is pretty solid. I’m happy with things.

 

The rotation looks solid too as does the bullpen. So while things look good on paper, it is time for the Red Sox to go out and play some winnning baseball.

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

 

Zzzzzzzz

 

To date, spring training has been fairly boring. That’s a good thing no doubt. Byung-Hyun Kim is trying to overcome some arm troubles, Trot Nixon’s back is bad, Nomar Garciaparra has been battling a strained Achilles and David McCarty got too tired trying to balance a position player’s workload and a pitcher’s workload.

 

That about sums things up.

 

Kim’s injury means the Red Sox will probably use Bronson Arroyo in the 5 spot to start the season. That also means they’ll have to keep an extra reliever around. Not sure who that’ll be especially since we don’t know who they would have kept had Kim stayed healthy.

 

Nixon’s back problem means the Red Sox may use Manny Ramirez in right and Kevin Millar in left as reported by the Boston Globe in Wednesday’s sports section.

 

An outfield of Millar in left (limited range), Damon in center (no arm) and Ramirez in right (hmmm, I was going to criticize him, but he isn’t that bad), isn’t too appealing, but it’ll have to do. My point about Ramirez is that he really hasn’t been that bad in left. In fact, he turned into a pretty good outfielder last season. He has spoken about his desire to improve his defense and apparently the hard work is paying off.

 

Let me know if I’m way off base with my assessment of Ramirez with the glove.

 

Nomar played in Wednesday’s game going 0-2. Glad he is back in the line-up because as it stands now, there is a good chance the Red Sox will start the season with Nixon and Kim on the DL. That would not be a good start to the season, especially when compared to the overall health the Red Sox had in 2003.

 

Yikes, I’m reaching into the well and have nothing. Sorry, it’s just been a slow spring training.

 

Actually, the Providence Journal’s Art Martone had an interesting piece in Sunday’s Projo. Basically, it revolves around the steady change in how baseball teams conduct their baseball operations.

 

Michael Lewis’ Moneyball best described the new way as being more statistically oriented with less input from traditional scouts. As it is today, close to the start of the 2004 season, there seems to be more statistically oriented teams than old school teams. Martone has a good look at the change and those still doing things the old way.

 

I still like the Red Sox approach. Theo Epstein has surrounded himself with a great sampling of all styles. Bill James and Voros McCracken representing those using numbers and Bill Lajoie and Lee Thomas are more the scouting types. Epstein makes his decisions based on input from all of the above.

 

Like most of you didn’t already know that.

 

One last thing. I’m quite concerned that one of my favorite sites hasn’t been update since November 2003. MLB Contracts/Red Sox Contracts hasn’t been updated in months and even has some code issues with its counter. It has been my salary bible for the past few years. While I don’t know who publishes the site (it is a uk site I believe), I just hope the owner finds the time to keep it going.

 

As a fallback, USA Today has a great salary database. The only problem is that it only covers contracts of years past, it doesn’t show existing contracts and their terms. So sad.

 

Wow, while I was feeling sorry for myself, I decided to visit Doug Pappas’ site. Pappas is an expert on baseball finance, but I have never found his info easy to use. BUT, and that’s a big BUTT, I reviewed his links page and found a new site, dugoutdollars. It is a different format than I’m accustom to, but I’ll take it.

 

Funny, the person that runs dugoutdollars credits MLB Contracts/Red Sox Contracts as his starting point.

 

I hope you all enjoyed the running drama of the past 4 paragraphs.

 

As you can tell, real baseball needs to start soon.

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2004

 

The swap

 

Well howdy-doody. I think the Boston Herald’s Jeff Horrigan reads this site. Why? This is why. Then again, perhaps that means Terry Francona reads this site, not Horrigan.

 

For those too lazy to read the link above, Horrigan reported in today’s Red Sox Notebook that Francona has swapped Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez in the line-up. Nomar will now hit clean-up while Manny will hit 3rd.

 

The reason I think Francona reads this site is because I mentioned in my 02/05/2004 post that the swapping of Nomar and Manny in the line-up was an idea worth testing. I continued to say I didn’t think Francona would have the guts to try it. Not because he is worthless and weak, but rather because Nomar hitting 3rd and Manny 4th seems to work just fine.

 

Well, I stand corrected and conceed that Francona does indeed have the guts to try it. He has already made the change and plans on sticking with it this season. Good for you Terry.

 

Now, let’s test my theory one step further and see if Red Sox management is reading the site.

 

Many experts think the Red Sox should hire Andy (this author) to a 10 year, $500,000 per year contract to act as a professional fan. Duties would include watching every game and drinking beer in the stands at Fenway.

 

However, those same experts think the Red Sox don’t have the guts to hire Andy.

 

If my theory is correct, I soon will be hired!!!

 

By the way, I completely and totally forgot to include the Oakland A’s rotation in my 2/23/2004 rotation debate. My mistake. They are good, I just forgot about them. Perhaps the training I am undertaking to get the "professional fan job" is taking its toll. Drinking beer and watching baseball will do that.

 

Andy can be reached at Andy@yankeesredsox.com.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

 

They’ll be back. Or will they?

 

Things are a bit slow in Red Sox training camp so far. That is a good thing. With that in mind, I figured I’d take a look at some of the players who could walk next year unless they get something done with Red Sox management this year.

 

Who are they?

 

Pedro Martinez
Derek Lowe
Nomar Garciaparra
Jason Varitek
David Ortiz
Scott Williamson
Doug Mirabelli

 

Well, some of those names aren’t quite as big as the others, but these guys are all important members of the team…and they are listed in no particular order.

 

Let’s first look at what they are going to make in 2004:

 

$17.5m – Pedro Martinez
$4.5m – Derek Lowe
$11.5m – Nomar Garciaparra
$6.7m – Jason Varitek
$4.6m – David Ortiz
$3.2m – Scott Williamson
$825k – Doug Mirabelli

 

Let’s pick these guys apart.

 

Pedro – He seems to realize that he’ll be lucky to get anything close to the $17.5 he is making this season. Then again, if the New York Yankees (you are all familiar with them) go after him, the sky’s the limit. Seriously.

 

If, however, he realizes he is so hated in New York and Pedro eliminates them from his list of suitors (or they eliminate him), then I have to figure he’ll get a $14m per year contract assuming he has a good year.

 

If you are Theo Epstein and John Henry, do you give him that kind of money over 4-5 years. See, Martinez is one of, if not, the smartest players in baseball. Sure he can be immature and is overly sensitive, but he is still smart and knows how to use the press to ratchet up the pressure on his bosses. I have to figure Pedro, by mid-season, will be in front of the press telling the world the Red Sox brass best “sign me quickly or the price will keep going up.” Who will blink first? I’d say the Red Sox. Expect Petey back in 2005.

 

Lowe – Derek has it in his mind that he is a goner after this year. Well, I don’t know about that. If he has another 2003 type season, then his price won’t be that high. Yes he won 17 games, but his 4.47 ERA was terrible (especially when compared to his 2.58 ERA in 2002). It is true though that his second half was better than his first half. Lowe blames his first half struggles on his inability to properly prepare for the 2003 season due to the rest he need to recover from his skin cancer.

 

While that might be true, his second half wasn’t that good either. He posted a 4.02 in the second half. Not chopped liver, but not his 2002 either. Will he be back in 2005? I think that depends on his performance. If he has a great year, I think he is out, but if he manages another mediocre effort, then he probably will be back. The better he does, the more he’ll cost and vice versa (not rocket science I know, but just trying to make a point).

 

Nomar – This is a tough one. Nomar is still grumpy with the Red Sox and the Red Sox are obviously not thrilled with Nomar now as they were a year ago. Ok, so Nomar is man enough to put all the off-season trade talk behind him (he’s said so publicly…), does that mean he’ll be back in 2005?

 

If not, the Red Sox would have to bid on the likes of Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria. Both are good, but neither has put up the kind of numbers Nomar has put up. Then again, if Nomar’s best days are behind him (read the latest Gammons to seen what I mean), then dropping $60 or more over 4 years would be a foolish move.

 

I think I’m in the “Nomar will have a great year in 2004” camp. Why? I don’t know. Maybe Mia (the better of the two athletes in the marriage) will give him a few tips or perhaps the fear of getting married has passed and he’ll knock the cover off the ball again. I don’t know, but I’m betting Nomar will be back in 2005.

 

Varitek – I think one of 2 things will happen with Varitek in 2005. Either he’ll stay with the club in a reduced manner or he’ll be gone. Why? Well for one thing, Bill James is on the Red Sox payroll. James has looked at the history of catchers and concluded that they decline at an earlier age than other players.

 

Varitek is 32. That’s about the time catchers start showing their age (or the effects of their difficult job). With Kelly Shoppach waiting in the wings, I think this is Varitek’s Last Harrah, at least as a starter. If Shoppach is even just OK at Pawtucket this year, I think the Red Sox will try to re-sign Varitek with the understanding he is to be Shoppach’s mentor and will only play 40% of the time. If he is ok with that great. If not, then he’s a goner.

 

Ortiz – Another doozy. I’m not sure what to expect from Ortiz this year. On the one hand, he had a career year in 2003, he’s still fairly young at 28 and might still have a few great seasons in him. On the other hand, he has a history of injuries and has never had the pressure of putting together a repeat season.

 

I have to guess that whether he has a good season or bad, he isn’t going to be a member of the Red Sox in 2005. If he does well, Epstein will let him go (maybe tender him and get the 2 draft picks) and find another cheap alternative. If he does poorly, Epstein might cut him loose and again, find another cheap alternative. Tough call though as Ortiz is very much into the Red Sox atmosphere and might be willing to stick around at a lower cost.

 

Williamson – I’m thrilled the Red Sox kept him around for 2004. Given the performance of the 2003 bullpen, Williamson and Timlin handing the ball off to Keith Foulke is a zillion times better than Ramiro Mendoza and Alan Embree handing the ball off to Chad Fox. That’s no knock on Mendoza, Embree and Fox….ok, it is a knock. They stunk. They were horrid. Yuck.

 

Ok, so Williamson, to me anyway, is a great guy to have in the bullpen. Does that mean he is back in 2005? I doubt it. He’ll start getting antsy about his career and realize that it’s time he was either a closer or a starter and not a set-up guy. Some team will drop the cabbage and grab him for one of those 2 roles. Fine, as long as he gives the Red Sox a great 2005.

 

Mirabelli – Well he’s back if Varitek isn’t and isn’t if Varitek is. Got it? Good.

 

Ok, now on to the important stuff. Did anyone else see the Nomar interview with Joe Amorsino from Channel 7 this past Sunday night? The format was basically a staccato burst of questions from Amorsino to Nomar. Many in the true/false or yes/no vein.

 

One, however, was bigger than that. Amorsino asked Nomar the following: “Eddie Vedder or Justin Timberlake.” The answer……………Justin Timberlake.

 

Dear Lord no! What? Are you kidding? How is that possible? Amorsino was shocked. As was I. Peter Gammons must be spinning in his gra….er….Baseball Tonight analyst chair.

 

Well, perhaps we have the 2004 version of Kevin Millar’s Bruce Springsteen lip-sync.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

 

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)

 

Rocket Return

It is official, Roger Clemens has signed a deal with the Houston Astros. Hopefully, this will end the ridiculous notion that Clemens is one of the great Yankees and should go into the Hall of Fame in Pinstripes.

Clemens is a great pitcher, one of the best ever, and he was an important part of the Yankees who went to four of the last five World Series. Yet, Clemens should not be remembered as a Yankee, but as a Red Sox. He pitched for them the longest and won more games for them than he did for any other team. Yes, he won his 300th and struck out his 4000th with the Yankees, but those moments do not erase all his time with Boston.

There were bad feelings on both sides when he left Boston and I imagine those will be repaired in the next few years. Remember, Carlton Fisk wasn’t exactly a fan of Boston when he left, yet he is in the Hall of Fame as a Red Sox.

Clemens won 77 games for the Yankees, or 14 less than Tommy John did. He deserves to be remembered as a big contributor for the Yankees, but he doesn’t deserve a monument.

Peter can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

January 2004 Red Sox

January 27, 2004

 

Boone-Head

 

It looks like the Yankees need another 3b. Aaron Boone reportedly tore his ACL playing basketball, a violation of his contract. Who cares if it was a violation of his contract, either the way, the Yankees aren’t worried about the $, they are worried about finding a replacement. While Boone isn’t a superstar, he is more than adequate.

 

There doesn’t appear to be much out there in the way of free agents or players in the organization: Drew Henson (minors and not playing well), Enrique Wilson (utility guy, they wouldn’t want him in there any more than necessary)., Miguel Cairo (same deal) and Travis Chapman (who? A non-tender from Philly. Plays 3rd, I know nothing more about him).

 

Perhaps the Yanks will decide to go with a rotation of utility guys and minor league call-ups to man third, or most likely, they’ll trade for a mid-level 3b. The Yankees don’t have too much more to offer in trades, so Cashman and Steinbrenner will have to be creative…I mean, give the other team a ton of cash.

 

Well, it’s too bad Boone injured himself. Playing pick-up basketball doesn’t sound too risky to me but then again, if I had $5.75m coming my way and a clause in my contract forbidding hoop, I think I could turn my attention to Sega basketball instead.

 

Seriously though, it isn’t good to see a player on a competitor get injured. My preference is to beat a team playing my best players vs. his best players, etc. Of course, this doesn’t mean the Red Sox are the better team but you get the idea.

 

Some other Red Sox notes: The team is looking at Ellis Burks as a possible bench option. I have to imagine this won’t work, because he’ll either ask for too much money, or the Red Sox will realize his health is just too shaky, at best.

 

Also, the Red Sox announced 2 minor league deals. One for Terry Shumpert and the other for Tony Womack. Neither gets me too fired up. Even in his prime, Womack was nothing better than a really fast player (fantasy owners thought he was useful) with nothing much else. Shumpert has always amazed me that he’s been able to make a go of it this long in the majors.

 

I’m amazed because when the Red Sox signed him in 1995, his career to date was terrible!!! I’m talking about an average just above the Mendoza line and no power or on-base capabilities. Sure he could play a few positions, but there were certainly better utility player options. But since then, he has actually posted some decent numbers including a really great season in 1999 with Colorado.

 

Sure the light air helped, but in ’99 he went .347/.413/.584 in 262 at bats. Wow. He never approached those numbers again, but he remained fairly solid with Colorado.

 

Anyway, had I not looked at Shumpert’s post Red Sox exploits, I would have continued to see this guy as a nothing. My mistake.

 

Don’t forget:

 


Damon

 

Ramirez Nixon

 

Garciaparra Reese

 


Mueller Millar

 

Martinez
Schilling
Lowe Ortiz
Wakefield
Kim

 


Varitek Foulke
Williamson
Timlin
Embree
Arroyo
Mendoza

 

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

January 20, 2004

 

On again, off again

 

Ok, ESPN is reporting that the mega-du-wop trade between the Red Sox, the Rangers and the White Sox is back on the burner. I really had convinced myself that this thing was finally dead and had turned my attention to Manny and Nomar in the heart of the line-up.

 

Oh well. Perhaps not.

 

But, since you brought it up, er….I figured I’d once again see what the so-called experts are predicting for the 4 main players in this trade.

 

Baseball Notebook has the ARod and Magglio Ordonez as the better option. Because I’m not sure how much info I can pass along to you without Baseball Notebook getting upset with me, let me give you the totals from package A.) Nomar and Manny and for package B.) ARod and Magglio.

 

Package A.)

 

G Runs HR RBI SB Avg OBP SLG E
309 235 77 246 13 .329 .400 .611 29

 

Package B.)

 

G Runs HR RBI SB Avg OBP SLG E
318 259 95 256 26 .328 .402 .636 16

 

BM is projecting 64 HR’s for ARod in 2004, that’s why package B is offering up so many more home runs. I’m not sure how realistic that is. Overall though, it looks like not only will Package B give you more offense, it’ll also give you better D and more durability. Interesting.

 

How about Stats, Inc.? Well they don’t provide the same stats, but here is what they do provide:

 

Package A.)

 

Runs HR RBI SB Avg OBP SLG
202 61 224 9 .326 .391 .555

 

Package B.)

 

Runs HR RBI SB Avg OBP SLG
232 81 255 22 .312 .392 .578

 

Their numbers are a bit more conservative and again, an advantage for package B.). Stats is projecting a down year from Manny, in both overall production and durability. He is still solid in their eyes, but isn’t the Manny from Cleveland anymore. So sad.

 

Well, that’s about all I can muster on this renewed trade talk. Apparently both sides are meeting this weekend to see what they can accomplish. Don’t they realize the Patriots are in the Super Bowl? Priorities for cripes sake.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2004

 

More Projections

 

Some more statistical projections for the 2004 Red Sox I thought you might find interesting. As I mentioned earlier this month, Stats, Inc. has a projections feature, in the meantime, I also stumbled upon BaseballNotebook.com’s projection data as well. Like Stats, Inc., Baseball Notebook has various updates to their stats as the regular season approaches, so I used what both sites are using today.

 

For the purpose of these projection notes, I used the following 25 man roster:

 


Jason Varitek
Kevin Millar
Pokey Reese
Bill Mueller
Nomar Garciaparra
Manny Ramirez
Johnny Damon
Trot Nixon
David Ortiz
Mark Bellhorn
Gabe Kapler
Doug Mirabelli
Brian Daubach
Pedro Martinez
Curt Schilling
Derek Lowe
Tim Wakefield
B-H Kim
Mike Timlin
Alan Embree
Ramiro Mendoza
Mark Malaska
Bronson Arroyo
Scott Williamson
Keith Foulke

 

Ok, Stats, Inc. has the Red Sox scoring 832 runs and allowing 521 earned runs (can anyone tell me why else 521 is an important Red Sox number?). Stats, Inc. doesn’t indicate how many total runs they think a pitcher will allow. I guess this is because they aren’t as interested as team fielding or perhaps they just haven’t found an acceptable way of determining unearned runs.

 

Regardless, to get an idea of how many total runs the Red Sox might allow in 2004 based on Stats, Inc. earned run total of 521, I took the previous 3 Red Sox seasons to see how many more total runs they allowed than earned runs.

 

Here’s what I got:

 

R ER R/ER
2003 809 729 1.110
2002 665 602 1.105
2001 745 667 1.117
2219 1998 1.111

 

So over the past 3 years, the Red Sox have allowed about 11% total runs than earned runs. Applying that to the 2004 Stats projections, that means the Red Sox will give up 579 total runs. So now Stats has the Red Sox scoring 832 and giving up 579. I realize me taking a 3 year average isn’t that scientific, but that’s all I can think of doing.

 

Baseball Notebook has the Red Sox scoring 878 runs and allowing 614 total runs. Baseball Notebook does us the favor of including earned and unearned runs in the projections, phew.

 

Ok, with my 25 man roster, Stats, Inc. and Baseball Notebook.com have fewer than expected plate appearances. Now because they only project At bats and Walks, that’s all I can really work with here (you see I’m far too lazy to project sacrifice hits, sac flies and hit by pitch totals). To adjust for this, I’ve added 5.7 % more runs to the Stats, Inc. total and 6.1 % more runs scored to the Baseball Notebook totals, or 880 for Stats, Inc and 932 for Baseball Notebook.

 

Oh crap!!! One more problem popped up. My 25 man roster translates into only 1351 innings pitched through Stats, Inc. projections and 1403 innings pitched through Baseball Notebook.com. The reason that is a problem is because the Red Sox have done pitched the following of the past 3 seasons:

 

IP
2003 1464.2
2002 1446.1
2001 1448.1

 

That works out to a 3 year average of just about 1453 innings pitched, 7.5 % higher than Stats, Inc. IP total and 3.5 % higher than Baseball Notebook’s IP total. So I added 7.5 % and 3.5 % to their projections respectively and got 623 total runs allowed on Stats, Inc. and 636 total runs allowed on Baseball Notebook.com.

 

Here’s what we have now:

 

Stats, Inc.

 

Now that we have that info, let’s use it to determine the expected Red Sox record in 2004. For those of you who have read Bill James, you’re probably familiar with the Pythagorean winning percentage. It is essentially the expected winning percantage a team can expect based on how many runs they score and allow. The Pythagorean winning percentage specifically is this:

 

Runs Scored * Runs Scored_______________
(Runs Scored * Runs Scored) + (Runs Allowed * Runs Allowed)

 

Apparently, in recent years, it has been determined that instead of using the squared value of these, to get a more accurate reading, you instead use this:

 

Runs Scored to the 1.83 power________________
(Runs Scored to the 1.83 power) + (Runs Allowed to the 1.83 power)

 

All that is way over my head. All I know is that the Pythagorean winning percentage is surprisingly accurate in determining a teams wins and losses.

 

So applying the first formula above to Stats, Inc and Baseball Notebook’s projections, here are the expected wins and losses for the 2004 Red Sox:

 

Stats, Inc: 108 wins, 54 losses and a .666 winning %.

 

Baseball Notebook: 111 wins, 51 losses and a .682 winning %.

 

Hmmm, pretty similar. I think it is safe to say that any Red Sox fan would love to have either of those win totals for 2004. But, it is important to note that I’ve done a fair amount of assuming doing this. I am assuming a specific 25 man roster even though there are 2-3 roster spots wide open. Additionally, there are bound to be minor league call-ups and trades, but since I can’t possibly predict those (wait, isn’t this whole piece about predictions and projections?), I’ve simply used the 25 man roster above.

 

By simply assuming that any shortfall in at bats and innings pitched can simply be made up by applying the same runs scoring ability and runs against average is wrong as most likely the players making up the differences are likely to be bench players or minor league call-ups…guys that just aren’t as good as the front line players.

 

Additionally, Stats, Inc. and Baseball Notebook don’t give team projections, just player projections, so while the sum total of the 25 man roster provides the Pythagorean winning percentages above (with the previously mentioned tinkering), I’m certain most employees of either one of these firms would tell you it’s highly unlikely the Red Sox will win 108 games, let alone 111.

 

Alright then, enough excuses and disclaimers from me. Some interesting Baseball Notebook individual projections include Manny Ramirez having a monster season. Monster to the tune of a .335 average,115 runs, 43 HRs and 127 RBI. They also have Nomar Garciaparra bouncing back with a more Nomar-like season: .324 average, 120 runs, 34 HRs and 119 RBI.

 

On the negative side of things, they aren’t expecting so much from Pokey Reese with the bat: .219 average, 44 runs and 44 rbi. Ughh, that’s some awful run production.

 

While they expect Nomar and Manny to have great seasons, the general overall trend is for the rest of the squad to fall back to earth a bit.

 

Yes, I know, this stuff doesn’t mean a thing, but I’ve said it before, it is fun to think about. The 2004 season is just around the corner, about 1 month.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2004

 

AL West

 

The Anaheim Angels signed Vladimir Guerrero this week. 5 years, $70m or $14m a year. That’s a ton of cash in this day and age. It is also a ton of cash for an Angels team that was supposedly already at $95m in payroll for 2004.

 

Angel ownership has already stated they wanted to be only around $90-$95m level for 2004. Was this a good move? Can they get themselves back down to $95m before the start of the season?

 

First off, let’s talk about the bold move of signing Vlad in the first place. The last time they opened their wallet for a big-named free agent was when they signed Mo Vaughn in December 1998. We all know what happened to Mo. We don’t? Ok, I’ll tell you. Mo, had a decent enough 1999 hitting 33 home runs and driving in 108 runs, but his averages across the board fell. In addition, he only played 139 games.

 

2000 was more of the same. Good numbers, but not like his Red Sox numbers. In spring training 2001, he got hurt and missed the season. From there, Mo was never the same. He came back in 2002 and struggled with the Mets, having been traded over the off season for Kevin Appier. 2003 was even worse. He is now almost assuredly out of baseball for good.

 

Too bad too, he was a great player and an entertaining interview.

 

Back to my point. The Angels certainly didn’t make out on the Vaughn signing. Appier had one good season for them, but other than that, Vaughn’s signing was a big-arsed mistake.

 

Will Guerrero’s signing be the same? I have to assume most of you think not. After all, Vlad will only be 28 in 2004. Vaughn signed his deal when he 31. That being said, Vlad missed 50 games in 2003 with a back injury. But he’s young, he’ll get better, right?

 

Well Juan Gonzalez also has back problems and his durability, or lack of it, is well documented. In fact, over the past 2 seasons, Gonzalez has played a total of only 152 games for the Texas Rangers. That for $24m. Crazy. What a crappy investment. That’s ok though, Tom Hicks, the Rangers owner, is known for flushing his money down the drain. Just take a look at Chan Ho Park or Rusty Greer’s contracts.

 

But for Anaheim, money is usually more a concern than it is for the Rangers.

 

So, is signing Vlad a mistake? Is it fair to assume that one player with a back injury is going to perform like another player with a back injury? Probably not. But I’m not sure spending $70m is a good way to find out.

 

Personally, I think Vlad will average 140 games or so for the length of the contract. With his skills and improving plate discipline, he’ll still make an impact, but I don’t know, it still seems so risky. I realize Vlad was the premier free agent on the market, but can Anaheim justify shelling out another large chunk of money when A.) They’re last big FA signing burned them and B.) They were already at budget before they signed Guerrero.

 

Time will tell if it was a good signing. Now, who are they going to unload to make budget? I can’t imagine anyone taking on $14m worth of contracts from the Angels. No team has that kind of flexibility (well, maybe one). So what will they do?

 

Move Darin Erstad? No chance, he stinks. They’d have to take on another large contract to move him. On a side note, look at just how bad Erstad has become. It’s a shame.

 

Can they move Glaus? Same thing, he is on a major decline and they’d certainly have to take on a big contract to unload him.

 

I don’t know who they’ll move. Perhaps ownership will allow a $109m payroll this year. Who knows? At the very least though, Anaheim has greatly improved their chances for 2004. They’ve added Bartolo Colon, Kelvin Escobar, Jose Guillen and Vlad Guerrero. Add those guys to Garrett Anderson, Troy Percival, Ben Weber, Brendan Donnelly and Francisco Rodriguez, and they will certainly be competitive. But good enough to beat out Oakland and Seattle?

 

Wow, the AL East should be fun to watch this year.

 

Red Sox notes: Absolutely nothing happened this past week worth mentioning, expect that Larry Lucchino signed a 4 year contract extension. One that guarantees him a Red Sox paycheck through 2011. See, I just don’t understand the relationship he and John Henry have. Lucchino must really be smart and a key behind all of the good things the Red Sox have done these past 2 years, because if you just looked at his public statements, you’d think he was a yahoo.

 

I guess he must have something going for him. It’s probably just a case of the public having the wrong impression of a very public personality.

 

Some interesting negotiations are due to take place in the coming month. The arbitration cases of Scott Williamson, Trot Nixon, David Ortiz and Byung-Hyun Kim will be handled soon. My bet is that the Red Sox will come to terms with each one prior to an arbitration hearing.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2004

 

Hot Stove on Simmer

 

Things have slowed to a crawl since the death of the ARod deal. That’s probably just as well. I was too wrapped up in the whole mess.

 

One small signing did take place. Brian Daubach was signed to a minor league deal. That means he could platoon with Kevin Millar at first or give Manny a day off or two. Daubach was a good fit with the Red Sox through 2002, but just became too expensive. He was an example of the collective bargaining agreement working against the player.

 

Daubach made $2.35m in 2002 with the Red Sox and was arbitration eligible. Had the Red Sox tendered him arbitration, he’d probably have made $4m or so in 2003. Because the market corrected a bit last off-season, the Red Sox rightly figured they could grab a much cheaper replacement. In fact, they did just that by signing David Ortiz, himself a non-tendered casualty, to a 1 year, $1m contract. Daubach probably thought he could do better than what the Red Sox could offer, so he tested the market. By the time things settled, he was left taking the White Sox offer.

 

While Ortiz proved himself a terrific bargain, Daubach ultimately signed with the Chicago White Sox on a minor league deal and wound up sticking with the big league club and earned $450k, but struggled badly at the plate.

 

Throughout 2003, Daubach frequently mentioned that he had hoped to stay with the Red Sox. He is great friends with Tim Wakefield and absolutely loved his time in Boston. Hopefully for his sake, things work out. He certainly won’t be a distraction and assuming his skills haven’t completely deteriorated, he should be a decent lefty bat off the bench. His career versus right pitchers: .270/.351/.496. He’s probably best sitting in the dugout rather than facing lefties though: .218/.295/.387.

 

There really aren’t too many more moves the Red Sox have to make. Aside from a few arbitration cases (Nixon, Ortiz, Kim and Williamson) and the standard offering of spring training invitations, there isn’t too much more to settle. From what I can tell, the line-up is set.

 

Jason Varitek – c
Kevin Millar – 1b
Pokey Reese – 2b
Bill Mueller – 3b
Nomar Garciaparra – ss
Manny Ramirez – lf
Johnny Damon – cf
Trot Nixon – rf
David Ortiz – dh

 

Additionally, it’s safe to assume the following pitchers will make the opening day roster assuming their not traded or released first:

 

Pedro Martinez – sp
Curt Schilling – sp
Derek Lowe – sp
Tim Wakefield – sp
Byung-Hyun Kim – sp
Alan Embree – mr
Scott Williamson – mr
Mike Timlin – mr
Ramiro Mendoza – mr
Keith Foulke – cl

 

That’s a 10 man pitching staff. The only pitching contests might be the remaining bullpen spot. Mark Malaska and Bronson Arroyo are the leading candidates at this time. If Terry Francona goes with a 12 man staff, problem solved. If he goes with 11, either Malaska or Arroyo goes to AAA Pawtucket. Or, if Theo Epstein doesn’t like what he sees during spring training, he might just cut or, if humanly possible, trade Mendoza. I’m not sure anyone has the stomach for what he might bring to the table in 2004. If he is dispatched, again, problem solved.

 

Assuming an 11 man staff, that leaves 5 bench spots. Gabe Kapler, Mark Bellhorn, Doug Mirabelli almost certainties to be on the team. As of now, I don’t have a full list of spring training invitees, but I do know David McCarty and Brian Daubach are in the mix. If there are indeed 5 bench spots available, then they both make the squad. McCarty is the superior defensive player while Daubach is the better hitter. They’d make a fairly good 1b platoon actually. McCarty cannot hit righties: .227/.281/.339 but is ok against lefties: .259/.330/.407. You saw Daubach’s splits above.

 

Looking at McCarty though, his bat is just too weak for the 1b position. Millar is much better suited to play there. Perhaps McCarty gets the ax in spring training in favor of someone else. Adam Hyzdu perhaps?

 

On another note, Stats Inc. recently released their projections for the 2004 season. Stats will update these projections as the off-season progresses based on expected playing time, injuries, etc. One must subscribe to Stats Fantasy advantage to get them so I’ll share a few interesting things.

 

Based on the following pitching staff: Martinez, Schilling, Lowe, Wakefield, Kim, Embree, Williamson, Timlin, Mendoza and Foulke(10 man staff), Stats Inc. projects them to go 106-43. That’s a .711 winning % or 115-47 over a 162 game schedule. Wow. That includes a team ERA of 3.06 and a WHIP of 1.14.

 

As for the bats, assuming the line-up I have above and a bench of Mirabelli, Bellhorn, Kapler and Daubach (13 positional players), Stats Inc. projects a .280 average, a .353 OBP (close estimate), a .471 SLG, with 832 runs scored, 207 HRs, 822 RBI, 630 Walks and 74 SBs.

 

That isn’t bad, but it’s a big drop off from last year’s run machine. The 2003 Red Sox scored 961 runs, hit 238 HRs, and hit .289/.360/.491.

 

But, with the much improved pitching staff (projected anyway), that should make up for it. The one problem with all of these projections, other than the obvious fact they are just projections, is that Stats Inc. doesn’t have projections for Arroyo, Malaska and McCarty either because they haven’t played enough major league ball, or because of too few appearances over the past few years. While I don’t put too much stock in this stuff, it is fun to look at.

 

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