This Week in Boston Baseballing, February 1 – 6

The baseball season is rapidly approaching. Pitchers and catchers will begin to show up in Fort Myers in about a week and position players won’t be too far behind. Some guys, like Daniel Nava, Jon Lester, Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr., have already been down in Florida for a few days.

Unless you have a strong opinion about who should bat leadoff or the relative merits of re-signing Stephen Drew, buzz around the team continues to be fairly minimal considering the Red Sox won the World Series last year. That figures to change in the next couple of weeks.

The Leadoff Hitter Debate
On FanGraphs, Paul Swydan comes to the conclusion that Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia are the most logical candidates to take over for Jacoby Ellsbury vacated leadoff spot in the batting order. Ellsbury’s replacement in center is Jackie Bradley Jr. and, at first glance, may seem like he fits the bill since his on-base rate in the minors was strong. However, Bradley does not have a lot of raw speed, nor is he a notably better baserunner than Victorino or Pedroia. That’s leaving out the difficulties JBJ had getting on base at the major league level during his brief stint with the team at the start of the 2013 season.

As Swydan notes, the youngster who could enter the leadoff discussion isn’t JBJ but rather Xander Bogaerts, who showed an almost shocking amount of poise and discipline during his postseason at-bats.

Bogaerts has a keen batting eye, which make him an ideal candidate to hit at the top of the order. He struck out a fair amount in his very brief major league debut, but a) The Book reminds us to not consider strikeouts when constructing a lineup, and b) Bogaerts’ strikeout numbers in the minors were not egregious, and he should adjust as he gets more plate appearances. If he hits right from the jump, he would probably make for a better candidate at the top of the order than would Victorino, simply from the standpoint of being able to see more pitches. Victorino was right around league average, at 3.83 pitches per plate appearance (the American League average was 3.86), but Bogaerts was up at 4.10.

Victorino would figure to get the first crack at leadoff once the season begins. John Farrell seems to be the kind of guy who appreciates continuity so even if Shane struggles at the start of the year, this argument could be a non-starter if the team is scoring runs. Lineup construction is of limited value to begin with and there is no sense putting undue pressure on Bogaerts if it can be avoided.

David Ortiz Lost Some Weight Maybe
Moronic talk radio fodder: What if he’s gotten TOO SKINNY?

The Stephen Drew Saga Continues
In the Tuesday Boston Herald Clubhouse Insider, infield coach Brian Butterfield fanned the flames of uncertainty:

“Shortstop is so demanding, and they get so many groundballs and there’s so many times they’re handling the ball, consistency becomes so important, especially if you’re talking about a championship-caliber club,” Butterfield said. “If you do have a young shortstop and he’s going to be the guy — and we still don’t have a definitive answer on that — he needs to mature quickly and become a consistent defender in order for us to be successful. The groundball that he can get to on time and on balance, you want to get to a point where you know that runner is out. That’s a consistent shortstop.”

Drew was great for the team last year. But it’s worth asking why the Red Sox continue to be interested. Is it because they’re simply not convinced Bogaerts can handle the shortstop position at the big league level? Or is it that Drew could be had for a salary so far below what his production merits that Ben Cherington just can’t pull himself away? Or are they doing Drew the favor of keeping in touch to aid his market? After all, it’s looking like Drew probably did the Sox a courtesy by declining arbitration and a 1 year, $14m contract.

The Team Announces a Stacked 2014 Red Sox Hall of Fame Class
The primary news of the week coming from official team releases was the announcement of the team’s 2014 Hall of Fame Class: Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra and radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione.

Standards for induction are relatively lax:

To be eligible for nomination, players must have played at least three years with the Red Sox and must also have been out of uniform as an active player at least three years.

But let it be known that the team hasn’t had any inductions since 2010, a year that included inductees such as John Valentin, Jimmy Piersall and Don Zimmer. Pedro, Clemens and Nomar all go in together.

Curt Schilling Announces Cancer Diagnosis
Here’s hoping Schilling is able to kick this as quickly as possible and that he gets a fair chance to show what he has as a color man in the ESPN Sunday Night baseball booth.

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