Category Archives: Red Sox

This Week in Boston Baseballing, August 1 – 7 Scrollable gallery of all the new faces

The results of the games no longer matter as the Red Sox jockey roster spots to take advantage of the final two months as found time for auditioning. The first week of the month was a time for new faces in new uniforms.

Fans became acquainted with newcomers via trade: Yoenis Cespedes, Joe Kelly, Kelly Johnson and (briefly) Allen Craig. The team also called up Allen Webster and Alex Wilson as reinforcements for a pitching staff poached by contending teams such as the Orioles, Cardinals and Giants.

The scrollable gallery:

Meanwhile, older vets Stephen Drew and A.J. Pierzynski, dumped (rightfully) in favor of the youngsters, had their chance for some “revenge.”

 

This Week in Boston Baseballing, July 25 – July 31 Trade Deadline Bonanza Edition

From SFGate.com

From SFGate.com

The Red Sox dropped two of three to the Rays in Tampa Bay over the weekend. (But only one of the losses was a shutout!) Boston followed that up by getting swept at home by the Blue Jays. All that turned out to be prelude for the busiest trade deadline in team history. The home crowd sensed it: By the end of the Toronto series the night of July 30, with news of a Jon Lester trade already imminent, fans at Fenway Park were chanting “Jon-ny Lest-er! Jon-ny Lest-er!” as the Jays put the finishing touch on the sweep.

Lester and Gomes Traded To Oakland
The trading partner (the Athletics) and the return (Yoenis Cespedes) may have been a surprise, but Jon Lester being sent to a top contender for a spot in the World Series was not. On NBC Sports, Craig Calcaterra categorized the trade as a Win-Win:

It’s more complicated for Boston, obviously, but it all comes down to what you think of the Red Sox’ chances to contend in 2015. If you think they’re sunk and need to rebuild, sure, you lament the fact that you didn’t get prospects. I don’t think that’s the case however. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to think they’ll bounce back in 2015 and adding Cespedes to what has been a troublesomely non-productive outfield is a big boost in that regard. No, he was not indispensable in Oakland, but he’s coming to a good hitters park in Boston and represents a solid upgrade. On defense too, where he will be paired in the outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr., giving the Sox some awesome D in the outfield.

The idea that Boston was looking toward 2015 was the conventional wisdom from several other observers too.

 

On top of that reasoning, it was comforting to note that Cespedes’ 17 homers in 2014 would have been mostly of the ‘no-doubt’ variety if they were hit in Fenway Park.

John Lackey to the Cardinals
With news still settling on the Lester deal, word came Thursday early afternoon that John Lackey and his quite desirable $500k 2015 salary was headed to St. Louis in exchange for OF Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly. Craig’s WAR as of yesterday was -0.4 as his batting average and OBP have taken a major hit due to some bad batted ball luck (.368 BABIP in 2013 vs. .281 in 2014). He has in theory, however, bounce back potential over the long-term although he is already 30 years old.

Equally intriguing is Kelly, a 26-year-old right-hander with an underwhelming K/9 ratio but a high rate of ground balls induced. St. Louis has used him as a reliever for a portion of this season but his long-term value is as a mid-rotation starter who is still under club control for four more years.

Dave Cameron on FanGraphs doesn’t see the team’s sudden stockpile of right-handed hitting outfielders (Craig, Cespedes, Victorino) as an issue…yet:

The Red Sox are in asset collection mode. Joe Kelly is a pretty nifty asset to collect, and Allen Craig is a lottery ticket who might be good, might be terrible, or might not last very long in Boston. There’s no way of knowing what the 2015 Red Sox are going to look like, but they’re doing a nice job of giving themselves options. Their current pieces don’t all fit together, but they’ve got another eight months to figure out who should stay and who should go.

On ESPN Insider, Keith Law was less enthusiastic about the return on Lackey, but only because Law is operating under the dubious assumption that the pitcher would indeed pitch for the league minimum in 2015. (Spoiler alert: he wouldn’t…)

Craig’s only due $25.5 million over the next three years. So even if he only gets back to a 2-WAR level, he’ll be a good value. If he’s still limited by the Lisfranc fracture he suffered in his foot last year, perhaps another offseason of rest will help restore his old production.

Was Lackey worth more than this given his salary for next year? Assuming he’s true to his word and won’t hold out or demand an extension, I think he was, yes. He’s worth $15-20 million for a full season on the open market. His thrifty contract makes him incredibly valuable for one year, perhaps even valuable enough that his team deserved a higher-impact player than either Craig or Kelly.

Jake Peavy Goes to the Giants
Like Calcaterra’s view on the Lester/Cespedes deal, Tony Blengino on FanGraphs applauded the Peavy deal as a Win-Win for both sides:

The Red Sox and Giants struck a Saturday morning near-trading deadline special, with Jake Peavy headed west in exchange for pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree, with the clubs splitting Peavy’s $5M remaining 2014 salary. As with most of this month’s trades to date, real, actual, solid prospects were netted by the selling club. In this case, they’re both pretty close to big league ready. Before anyone rushes to call this a clear win for the Giants – Peavy is 1-9, 4.72, for the season, after all – let’s take a closer look at what the Giants are getting, and how Peavy fits into his new environment.

We wish Peavy luck in San Fran, where he should see a reversal of fortune thanks to a larger outfield in his home park that will potentially suppress a few homers over the final two months. As Blengino noted, that one win over the span of nearly four months can’t be blamed on a simple loss of stuff from Peavy.

Truth be told, post-peak Jake Peavy was never a particularly good fit in Fenway Park. He has always been a fairly extreme fly ball pitcher, and that in general is not a good thing to be in that environment. Utilizing my own 2013 park factors, based on granular batted ball data, Fenway had the second highest fly ball park factor, at a whopping 151.1. It’s been ever worse in 2014, at 165.5. Routine fly balls often become doubles in Fenway. Overall, including all batted ball types, Fenway had the highest doubles park factor in 2013, at 125.

Drew to the Yankees; Miller to the Orioles
Finally, the Sox let their two division rivals sweat it out a while on Thursday before dealing a couple of useful veterans to the Yankees and Orioles as they tool up for what could be a hotly contested AL East race. By the time news of these two deals came through just before 4 p.m., they almost felt like afterthoughts. However, the Red Sox acquired another top 100 left-handed pitching prospect from the O’s in 21-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez. Boston saves some cash by sending the remaining two months of Stephen Drew’s contract to New York in exchange for Kelly Johnson. Any other year, this could be looked upon by cynics as the team unnecessarily aiding its biggest rival. But with Oakland adding Lester to its staff and Detroit swinging a trade for David Price, the marginal upgrade of adding Drew does little to shift the balance of power in the American League pennant race away from three clear favorites in Oakland, Detroit and Anaheim.

Theo Poaches Doubront
Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein acquired Felix Doubront from Boston on Wednesday in exchange for a player to be named later. A sly move on Epstein’s part, he gets a durable left-handed starter for what is likely to be pennies on the dollar.

One More Year of Koji?
For those lamenting a less recognizable roster in 2015, Sean McAdam reported Monday that executives in the industry expected the Red Sox to extend a qualifying offer to Koji Uehara for 2015. The club resisted the urge to deal the closer as part of its myriad dealings yesterday, electing instead to retain him for the remainder of the season in order to keep its qualifying offer in tact.


If the Sox dealt Uehara, there would be nothing to stop them from attempting to re-sign him after the season, as they might do in the case of a trade involving either Miller or Lester…But they would lose the mechanism of the qualifying offer and have to compete with other teams, some of whom might be willing to give him more than a year. If the Sox hold onto Uehara and he’s offered $15 million for next season, it’s inconceivable that he would turn that down.

Could Christian Vazquez Be the Goods?
On FoxSports.com, Gabe Kapler wrote that Boston’s 3-2 win against the Rays on Sunday was due in large part to the rookie catcher’s “quiet glove”:

It took an advanced receiver to effectively manage the likes of Allen Webster on this day. Webster featured a heavy sinker and was all over the strike zone, in and out, throwing 42 strikes and 44 balls. A handful of those strikes were a figment of the umpire’s imagination, a credit to Vazquez’s confident, delicate pitch-framing ability….

Throughout the game, however, Vazquez handled every type of pitch beautifully – and in various locations. He set up quietly, displaying his target with ideal timing, was visibly invested in the batter’s setup, and in charge of the pitcher at every turn. Additionally, he manipulated and condensed his body to present an ideal target.

With the influx of pitching talent on its way to Boston over the past week, it’s nice to know that the team has two of the game’s best catching prospects in Vazquez and Blake Swihart.

Developing: Red Sox To Add Seats in Front of Green Monster for 2015 Season

green monster left field wall

As news that the Boston Red Sox had traded Jon Lester to Oakland for right-handed Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes rippled through the airwaves early Thursday, club officials were busy solidifying plans to “renovate” the 37-foot Green Monster left field wall at Fenway Park for the 2015 season.

Blueprints of final construction are still in the works, but several sources have confirmed that the team has apparently decided to keep its coveted Green Monster as a Fenway landmark while also reaping the benefit of a decidedly short porch in left field.

The club source balked at the idea that the planned renovation has anything to do with Cespedes’ arrival in Boston.

“Don’t worry. We will still have the same set-up as far as the popular Monster seats are concerned,” confirmed one team source. “The seats will just begin a bit, uh, lower to the ground…And the first row currently won’t be the first row anymore. Oh, and we’re finally going to get rid of that lame manually operated scoreboard.”

Said another creative PR guru: “Have you seen how high up those Monster seats are situated? They’re dangerous. We’re really ashamed we didn’t act sooner on this. Fan safety is a key priority for this ballclub. Next season, if you slip and fall from the current ‘front row,’ you’ll simply tumble down some stairs that span 15 or 20 rows.”

Meanwhile, the historical implications of altering a nationally recognizable landmark is being downplayed.

As one official explained, “Look, we understand the historical significance and all that. But let’s be real here. Offense is down league-wide. What is everyone getting all up in arms for? Major League Baseball should be thanking us for being so proactive.”

Several of the lazier scouts around professional baseball have also applauded the move with verve.

“I’m getting pretty sick of having to figure out if some guy playing left field in a cookie-cutter minor league park can handle the challenges of playing ricochets and wall-balls. Computers are going to be figuring all that out in a few years anyway. So why am I even wasting the effort?”

As for lost advertising revenue from lesser square footage of wall space in the park, the club already has the answer.

“Fifth inning, everybody gets a free magnet schedule to hold up sign placards that spell out Covidien. Seventh inning stretch, same thing – another magnet schedule – and everybody holds up a really cool sign that spells out Foxwoods.”

Asked for a rough sketch of what the seats may look like, an inside source sent along this graphic:

Yoenis Cespedes Hit Type chart

When informed that he’d sent along a Hit Chart for Cespedes’ first three seasons in the big leagues, the official responded with a simple, “Ooops.”

The Mike Carp 2013 World Series Bobblehead: A Lesson in Accepting Reality

Sometimes the reality, when all is said and done, just doesn’t quite measure up to the expectation. Red Sox utility player Mike Carp came into the 2014 season expecting to be written into the lineup quite a bit more often than he has. At the very least, he figured to be a tough-out left-handed hitter who would come off the bench in later innings and force the opposing team to perhaps burn one of its southpaw relievers in order to swing the platoon advantage. That of course, hasn’t happened all that much – Carp has only played in 36 games. Put in more simpler terms, there is a natural gulf between the optimism of a prototype and the harsh truths of the final product.

Take, for example, this lifelike graphical presentation of a Mike Carp Commemorative 2013 World Series bobblehead listed on the MLB Shop via RedSox.com:

M Carp advertised

Then, imagine you’re a rabid Mike Carp fanatic and you have just received this in the mail after a tortuous two-week wait while the merchandise wended its way through the U.S. Postal Service:

M Carp real

Then, and only then, do you revisit the product page and read the fine print tucked away near the bottom of the page: Design of product is subject to change.

Untitled

Now that the truth is staring – no, more like nodding – at you square in the face, there’s only one thing left to do. Box that thing up like it’s still brand new and sell the thing on eBay to the highest bidder.

This Week in Boston Baseballing, July 18 – 24

The Red Sox swept the Kansas City Royals over the weekend at Fenway Park and erupted for a 14-1 victory in Toronto on Monday night. That outburst took the team from 25th in runs scored to 16th in the Majors by night’s end. Unfortunately, the Sox dropped the next two games against the Blue Jays and, all the while, the Tampa Bay Rays were in lockstep with the Sox (now 9 1/2 games back in the AL East).

If we had to guess, the Red Sox front office probably started fielding quite a few more phone calls from contenders yesterday afternoon as Rubby De La Rosa departed the game down seven runs and Boston remained hit-less through the 6th inning.

Boston’s playoff odds according to Baseball Prospectus are down to 2.5%, a 1.0-point decrease over the last seven days. The CoolStandings model on FanGraphs is only slightly more optimistic with the odds at 4.8%. In other words, Andrew Miller’s bags are probably already packed.

Ortiz Passes Yaz’s Career Home Run Total
David Ortiz hit two home runs on Monday night to pass Carl Yastrzemski on the all-time leader board. He hit homers in the following two games at the SkyDome (he has 37 in all at the stadium, first all-time) and now has 454 career home runs. Papi reaching 500 homers may have seemed like a long shot a few years ago when he was first entering his decline phase, but the dropoff hasn’t been nearly as precipitous as – let’s admit it – most all of us expected.

Would a Concerted Playoff “Push” Be A Trap?
Writing for FoxSports.com’s Just a Bit Outside blog, Dave Cameron wonders whether going for broke for an AL Wild Card slot makes sense for fringe contenders during a year in which the two best teams – the A’s and the Angels – come from the same division, thus making it a near guarantee that the second WC team will be on the road for a one-game playoff.

There’s going to be pressure on a lot of teams within striking distance of the second wild-card spot to make a big move over the next week. Before they mortgage the future for a run at that spot, however, it’s worth asking what the realistic upside of winning the second wild card actually is. Yes, technically you get to say you made the playoffs, but in reality, all you’ve really done is worked yourself into a game with a better team, at their park, in a format that allows them to neutralize their biggest weakness.

Being part of the AL East, the Red Sox are more likely to make it to the playoffs as a division winner, anyway. That fact could have muddied the waters quite a bit for the Boston front office if the team hadn’t just lost three straight to the Blue Jays. At the time of this writing, about the only player on the team who is likely 100% untouchable in trade talks would be Xander Bogaerts.

John Henry Settles the Lester Contract Matter …. For Now
From the Thursday Boston Herald:

In an e-mail to the Herald last night, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said the team has agreed not to resume contract talks with its ace left-hander until the season is done. In late June, Lester said he didn’t want to be bothered during the season with negotiations and risk becoming a distraction for the team.

“I’m not going to discuss Jon’s situation out of respect for both Jon and (general manager) Ben (Cherington) other than to say that both sides have put further discussion off until after the season,” Henry wrote. “It’s clear that both Jon and our organization would like to see Jon back next year if possible.”

To paraphrase Lester’s reaction prior to Thursday’s game, the contract talks being on hold is “news” only in the sense that Henry said so to reporters. If this is the front office playing hardball though, you’ve got to hand it to them. The team appears ready for a prolonged blinking contest, no?

 

The Season of Brock Holt

Scrollable Photo Gallery: Scenes from the Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez Fight, 10 Years After

          July 24, 2004: NEW YORK 10 @ BOSTON 11

Tens years ago today, the 2004 Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 11-10 in a ballgame most remembered for the showdown between Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek. It has already been dissected and cited at long length as a symbolic turning point in both the two teams’ rivalry and Boston’s baseball fortunes as a whole and as they pertained to the 2004 World Championship run.

The image of Varitek accepting an immediately regrettable verbal challenge from A-Rod and unexpectedly plunging into Rodriguez and body-slamming him is ubiquitous with the RIVALRY at this point. But as we all remember that moment fondly, let’s not shortchange the drama that came in the hours before and afterward as part of the slugfest. Provided below are just a few visual reminders of the scene at Fenway Park one late afternoon in the heat of the summer a decade ago.

Prologue

 

Exposition

 

 

 

Conflict Rising

 

Peak Rivalry

 

Aftermath

 

Denouement



This Week in Boston Baseballing, July 12 – 18

Boston took two of three against the Astros in Houston before heading off for a four-day All-Star Break hiatus. The team enters the second half of the season 9 ½ games out of the race for first place in the AL East.

Dustin Pedroia (2.6) and Brock Holt (2.2) are the team’s leading position players in terms of WAR. Jon Lester (4.2) and John Lackey (2.4) pace the pitching staff.

According to FanGraphs’ projections page, the Red Sox have a 6.2% chance of making the playoffs as either the winner of the AL East or as one of the two Wild Card teams that face off in a one-game series prior to the American League Division Series. However, FG reckons they have just a 1.1% shot at making the ALCS. In other words, basically every player would have to outperform their projected stat lines for the remainder of the season for the team to climb back into things.

The 2014 Season’s Parallels With 1996 Aren’t So Bad…
It has been rare for a Red Sox team to struggle this mightily this early in the season over the past few decades. Even during the abortive 2012 season under Bobby Valentine, the team had postseason aspirations well into July.

This season, by comparison, has been much more akin to 1996. But that does not have to be a bad thing. From Matt Martinelli on the Improper Bostonian website:

Making their major-league debuts in 1996 were Trot Nixon (a cameo game for the former first-round pick) and Nomar Garciaparra, who shot through the minor leagues at a Mookie Betts pace. Youth won the day on that 1996 squad, which got its most valuable contributions on the offensive side from the 20-something crew of Vaughn, Valentin, Naehring, O’Leary, Bragg and even Jeff Frye. Garciaparra’s one month of play set him up for his dazzling 1997 rookie year, and the 1998-99 playoff appearances for the Sox.

A repeat of the 1996 season, which included an action packed final two months, a ton of playing time for the young kids, and an exciting charge by the free-agent-to-be ace pitcher is about what Sox fans should be hoping for at this point. Oh, and if the Sox go on a run to win twice as many games as they lose (like they did to end 1996), that would put them at 88 wins. It might be good enough for a division title in this parity-filled year. Maybe something might be a bit different from 1996 after all.

The following season in 1997 wasn’t exactly a bowl of fun, but by and large the Sox were competitive into late summer during each of the final years of the Duquette regime in 1998-2002. And that was with a John Harrington ownership group and the coaching staff that was strife with turmoil and mis-management. A similar wave of young talent in addition to a much more competent ownership group and front office should take the sting out of one outlying year of underperformance.

Is Jon Lester a Goner?
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian brought up the “real possibility” that Jon Lester may be in a different uniform next season. The Red Sox offered Lester a lowball offer of four years at $70 million earlier this spring. The team has since done the high-wire act during the first half of the season, basically leaving the door open for more serious offers without actually extending a more serious offer. The front office has greased the skids for his departure. Whether or not they have done so intentionally or they have simply fumbled these negotiations beyond repair is completely debatable and open to interpretation.

The $70m offer may not be all that unreasonable, though. Back in March, we wrote about Lester’s contract in the context of how the team has handled David Ortiz, who the club has never let reach true free agency. The Red Sox have paid Ortiz well to be a cornerstone of the roster, one of the better DH’s in the game but by no means a steal in terms of value because he brings no defensive value.

As a left-handed pitcher in his early 30s, Lester might simply be destined for a nine-figure deal one way or another. He is more underwhelming from the perspective of star power and charisma than a guy like Ortiz. Nevertheless, the best guess here is that he slots in at about 5 years and $125 million. There is a chance some team loses its mind and goes even higher and/or longer. If that’s the case, we’d prefer if that temporary insanity belongs to a team other than the Red Sox.