<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Matter of Time 


Well the first Jason Varitek puff piece is up over at the worldwide leader and I have to be honest, I thought it was pretty fair. While most reporters will never mention Varitek's shortcomings and fall all over themselves to bestow nothing but overreaching praise on our own Captain Intangibles, Sean McAdam tempers himself here and delivers a fair account of what Varitek's value might be beyond his demonstrable productivity. I particularly liked this point.

The 2005 Red Sox rotation will be, for the first time in seven seasons, without Martinez and will include two starters making the difficult first-time switch from the National League to the American League -- Wade Miller and Matt Clement.

Varitek will help immeasurably with the transition. His intimate knowledge of AL hitters and their tendencies will help fill in the gaps for the Red Sox newbies.



Another Gem from Buster 


Caught this article over at espn.com in which Buster Olney goes out on a limb and notes the Yankees will have a good team if they can land Carlos Beltran and Randy Johnson. Without question the best part of the article comes when Olney cherry picks optimistic tidbits for the potentially potent Yankee lineup. He writes...

But in 2005, the Yankees would have a superteam,
their best regular-season squad since 1998, when they won 114 games. Should the
Yankees succeed in signing Beltran, this is what their

Opening Day lineup would look
like:

SS Derek Jeter: Has a career .315 batting average.CF Carlos Beltran: Scored a
career-best 121 runs in '04.

3B Alex Rodriguez: At the age of 29, has 381 career home runs.
RF Gary Sheffield: Led the Yanks with 121 RBI in '04.
LF Hideki Matsui: Was second on the team with 174 hits last season.
DH Bernie Williams: Had a .360 on-base percentage in '04.
1B Jason Giambi/Tino Martinez: Could be in a battle for playing time in spring
training.

C Jorge Posada: Has hit 20 or more homers and driven in 80 or more runs for five
straight seasons.

2B Tony Womack: Had a career-best .349 OBP in '04 for the Cardinals.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Yankees will have quite a team in 2005 but the way Buster evidences his contention that the Yankees are a “superteam”, with little one-liners on players that may or may not be on the team, leaves quite a bit to be desired. Hell, I could submit a devil’s advocate list that is no less telling than Buster’s notes. Here goes.

SS: Derek Jeter: .352 on-base in 2004 yet more evidence he is declining.
CF: Carlos Beltran: Most overrated free agent in years. Career OPS+: 111 Trot Nixon’s career OPS+: 121
3B: Alex Rodriguez: Slappy McBlue Lips lacks the intangibles to play in the Big Apple

RF: Gary Sheffield: .393 On-Base lowest in 10 years. Like Jeter, in full decline mode.
LF: Hideki Matsui: Given discrepancy between 2003 and 2004, one of the biggest regression candidates of 2005.
DH: Bernie Williams: Kinda reminds me of Tony LaRussa using his DH spot on Marlon Anderson
1B: Jason Giambi / Tino Martinez: League average is best case.
C: Jorge Posada: 33 years old and likely to join his mates in downward spiral mode.
2B: Tony Womack: Career .274/.319/.362 batter


Cherry picking is fun. Wheeeee!


Monday, December 27, 2004

The Long View 


Before Christmas weekend, I posted what is likely to be the Red Sox’ opening day roster and I think it was pretty evident that I liked what is in store for Sox fans in 2005. I have been painting such a rosy picture here lately because when you compare what can reasonably be projected for the 2005 Red Sox versus the performance of the 2004 Red Sox, Theo and the Red Sox front office have done almost everything anyone could have hoped for. They have made significant improvements across the board. But as I have stated before, what was good for the 2005 Red Sox was not necessarily good for the 2007 Red Sox and it is with this in mind that I will consider the longer-term state of the club, analyzing the players and contracts that will still be on the books for the 2007 season.

The Red Sox have six players that they know will be under contract in 2007 and a seventh (David Ortiz) that I think would have his option picked up by the team. They are (listed by name, age in 2007 and salary):

Matt Clement, 32, $8.3 million

Clement should still be an effective starter at this time, as his high K-rates make him a likely candidate to provide quality innings well into his thirties. I would even suggest that if he could curb the walks a little bit, Clement could be an elite starter at this point in his career. Remember, his closest comp is Jason Schmidt, a strong right-handed K machine that will be 32 this season and has emerged as one of baseball’s better starting pitchers. We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. A more conservative projection for Clement is that he will still be good and being compensated commensurate with his performance, give or take a couple million dollars either way.

Keith Foulke, 34, $5.25 million (with complicate options that could pay him a good deal more)

I have mixed feelings on this one. Because reliever performance fluctuates so dramatically from year to year, parking big money in your bullpen is generally a good way to ensure you won’t be maximizing bang for your buck. Bargains emerge every year and highly paid veterans see their effectiveness fall off the table. But Keith Foulke is most definitely the exception to the rule. Since 1999, Keith Foulke has turned in one remarkable year after another and is currently as reliable as anybody not named Gagne or Rivera. Further, he pitches more innings than your run-of-the-mill closer and seems to have no problem eschewing the “quick, get as many saves as I can” mentality that many at the back end of bullpens seem to have. He knows that saves mean next to nothing. So I reckon that Foulke will still be good in 2007. He doesn’t rely as heavily on velocity as many closers do and there is no reason to think his devastating change-up or pinpoint accuracy will disappear. Like Clement, he too is a good bet to be pitching well enough to justify his salary in 2007.

David Ortiz, 32, $7.75 million (provided the Sox pick option up)

I’m sold on Ortiz. I think he has a rock-solid approach at the plate and provided he stays healthy, this contract should be just fine. There are two red flags, however. First, there are doubts about Ortiz’ age. Now, anything I could add to that discussion would be utter speculation on my part so I don’t care to harp on it but it is an issue. If in 2007 Ortiz is 35 and not 32, obviously that changes things. Second, even if Ortiz is just 29 right now, players with this body type have historically fallen off of their peak more rapidly than younger, more fit players. The good news here is that the Red Sox will not have to decide whether or not to pick up Ortiz’ option until after the 2006 season when we all will have a better idea of what type of player Ortiz will be.

Manny Ramirez, 35, $18 million

Manny is overpaid now. Let’s just make sure we all understand that. He will be grossly so in 2007. Like Ortiz, because of his body type, I think Manny is a good bet to regress considerably starting in one of these years. As his athleticism declines, so will his already poor fielding skills and as long as David Ortiz is on the roster, there’s nowhere to hide Manny. It stinks to think about it since Manny is the best hitter I have ever seen in the carmine hose but all of the rumors about the Sox looking to unload him make all the sense in the world. Sooner than any of us think, Ramirez will become burdensome and he will most certainly be so in 2007.

Edgar Renteria, 32, $10 million

Like Ramirez, I would submit that Renteria is already overpaid. 2003, his .330/.394/.480 season, seems to be a true outlier. In all likelihood, Renteria will be above average throughout the life of the deal but one has to wonder how good of a player he will be in 2007. 32 may not seem so old but Renteria’s position requires supreme athleticism and even mildly declining skills can translate into seriously diminished effectiveness. Lose a step or two to both sides at short and the team ERA can spike. If you slug just around .400 or so, you better be able to get from first to third on a single to right or score on most singles from second. I am afraid $10 million for Renteria in 2007 may really be out of whack.

Curt Schilling, 40, $13 million

Tough to call. Given Roger Clemens’, Randy Johnson’s and new teammate David Wells’ respective successes into their forties, it would be foolish to altogether write off the possibility that Schilling will still be a dominant starter. But the smart money says that he will start to miss a little time each year and lose a little effectiveness by 2007. Schilling will most likely be a top 15 starter instead of a top 5 one. Still, there is nothing wrong with that and even though he will probably be overpaid, it won’t be by an overly burdensome amount.

Jason Varitek, 35, $10 million

This one is gonna hurt. His offense is solid but his defense continues to slip. Varitek right now is the very worst catcher in the American League with respect to throwing out runners. I am willing to accept that he adds something in the clubhouse and that his handling of a pitching staff may even shave a little off of the team ERA. But all of the magical, intangible pixie dust in the world doesn’t change the fact that catchers decline quickly and that even in his current form, Varitek is a very good and not great player. His .882 home OPS since 2002 is remarkable but it also appears that a lot of the credit for his success belongs to the cozy dimensions of Fenway Park. His road OPS over the same stretch of .760 isn’t quite as impressive and may be more indicative of his true value. By 2007, I think Varitek’s contract will be an enormous drain on the team and the $6 or $7 million dollar player we all know and love right now will probably be worth about $2 or $3 million by then while being paid $10 million.

None of this is earth shattering and it’s not like the Red Sox did not perform analysis of this sort. And so since they undoubtedly know they will have a number of overpaid players by 2007, what does that say about their long-term plan? I could be wrong but it seems to me that they are making a huge bet on continued progress of a strengthening farm system. With over $72 million dollars in 2007 being allocated to 7 players and at the most, two premium talents, the Red Sox will need to go out and acquire a top tier free agent or two in order to continue to contend. If a top-flight free agent acquisition is going to be feasible, it will be imperative that they round out their roster with quality, homegrown talent that will be able to make significant contributions on the cheap. Without serious production from a couple of this year’s Portland Sea Dogs and say, Kevin Youkilis or another prospect or two they could potentially acquire for Millar or Mientkiewicz, the Red Sox will have a difficult time maintaining their elite status into 2007 and 2008. It’s a big bet that shows Epstein has the utmost confidence in his player development and scouting staffs. We’ll see how it plays out.




Thursday, December 23, 2004

Where We Stand Now (Hint: Me Likey) 


Now that Varitek and Wade Miller have signed, here is the Sox opening day roster as of today. Keep in mind, Byung Hyun Kim and Millar or Minky are likely to be elsewhere.

Lineup:

Damon CF
Bellhorn 2B
Ramirez LF
Ortiz DH
Millar 1B
Nixon RF
Varitek C
Renteria SS
Mueller 3B


Bench:
Mientkiewicz
Payton
Vazquez
Mirabelli
Youkilis

Starters:
Schilling
Miller
Clement
Wells
Arroyo

Bullpen:
Foulke
Mantei
Timlin
Embree
Wakefield
Halama

Um, that's a good team.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ugh... 


Thanks to Dirt Dog, I have a new favorite mediot quote of the off-season and it comes from the ever reliable Buster Olney:

"There is surprise in some baseball circles that the Red Sox are holding to budget with certain players and are not going the extra mile, especially since they raised ticket prices... I don't think Clement is a good fit in Boston, stuff-wise, he has too many idiosyncracies, superstitions, and doesn't handle pressure well."

Instead of being loyal to a gamer like Derek Lowe, the Sox have to go out and get a sub-.500 guy with a bunch of "idiosyncracies" like Matt Clement.

Christ.

Olney also said on ESPN Radio yesterday...

"the notion that the A's can contend for the division is laughable."

Now think about this. Last year, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson combined for a 4.02 ERA in 414 innings pitched. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that Barry Zito and Rich Harden could best that in 2005. That would leave the three kids, Blanton, Haren and Meyer, to match the average pitching from the remainder of 2004's rotation. The rotation will probably be a bit worse, but not dramatically so. The bullpen, however, will be vastly improved. Juan Cruz, Huston Street and Kiko Calero will join Chad Bradford, Justin Duscherer and Octavio Dotel to form what may be baseball's best set of relievers. Offensively, they should improve at catcher, second base, shortstop, third base and at a corner outfield spot with the addition of Charles Thomas. They will probably have a bit of regression from Eric Byrnes and Mark Kotsay and Nick Swisher may or may not match Jermaine Dye's 2004. Now, I am not sure if the A's will contend or not. I happen to think they will. But that's not the larger point.

Since Jeff invited me to post here over a year ago, I would say we have done just an ok job of carving out what we are going to offer. But I think that what I have taken to the most is dispelling much of the widely held contentions floated around by famous baseball writers for mainstream outlets. Quite simply, there's too much crap out there and I derive considerable enjoyment from actually performing some rudimentary analysis that the writers themselves ought to perform in order to arrive at their conclusions.

Because "2/3rds of the Big Three are gone therefore the A's don't have a prayer of contending" should not entitle you to "expert" status.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Train Roll On... 


The subtle, incremental improvements for the Red Sox continue while the mainstream media can't see it because the Yankees managed to sign Jaret Wright. Or something.

Jay Payton (3-year splits): .289/.344/.460
Gabe Kapler 2004: .272/.311/.390

Ramon Vazquez (3-year splits): .264/.338/.348
Pokey Reese 2004: .221/.271/.303

I'll miss Dave Roberts. Though limited, he was both smart and electric - the type of player that would have truly thrived in another era. He will be forever remembered around these parts for speedily traversing the most important 90 feet in the history of Boston sports.

But credit Theo Epstein for this acquisition. Payton is Kapler but much better and more versatile. Vazquez is Reese minus the sparkling glove but also more versatile and a much better bat. As loveable as Roberts was, trading a 32 year old outfielder with a .679 career OPS for two bona fide Major Leaguers, a prospect and cash was a no-brainer.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Addendum 


Thanks to Joy of Sox, I just caught this bit from Garry Brown of the Springfield Republican. My favorite excerpt? Here it is...

"The Pavano signing was a real coup. As for Wright, he went 15-8 in an impressive comeback with Atlanta last season, and appears to be the blue-chipper he once was as a kid with the Cleveland Indians.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox lost Pedro Martinez to the New York Mets, and that's tough to take no matter how you look at it. Clement is a strong-armed starter, but he's a long way from the brilliance of Pedro. As for Wells, the Sox can only hope that he'll deliver well enough to offset the loss of Derek Lowe."

Pavano a coup? After one good season? Wright impressive but all he can muster up for Clement is that he is a "long way from the brilliance of Pedro"? All we can hope is that Wells will "deliver well enough to offset the loss of Derek Lowe"?

2004 VORP
Wells: 40.3
Lowe: -11.5

2004 ERA+
Wells: 108
Lowe: 90



The Offseason to Date: Successful or Not? 


Yesterday, in an article titled “Sox Head Backwards”, Tony Massoratti of the Boston Herald tried to make the case that the Sox had regressed so far this off-season. I thought the piece ridiculous yesterday when I read it and now, having done a bit of a analysis, I think it more so. First, I thought I would tackle the contention that the Sox had lost ground thus far on its own merits. Then, I decided to take a look at it from another perspective – that progress for the Red Sox only matters in consideration with the New York Yankees. I will compare the moves baseball’s two powers have thus far executed.

The Red Sox have lost three major contributors to the 2004 team, with another key player, Jason Varitek, as yet unsigned. Orlando Cabrera, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe will all play for teams other than Boston in 2005. The Red Sox have replaced the three with Edgar Renteria, Matt Clement and David Wells. For the purposes of the analysis, I am going to look at what each departing player provided in 2004 and what might be reasonably expected of the three replacements in 2005. VORP, as most know, is Baseball Prospectus’ Value Over Replacement Player.

VORP for Departing Players:
Orlando Cabrera (time with Sox extrapolated to reflect Renteria’s PA’s): 38.0
Pedro Martinez: 51.2
Derek Lowe: -11.5
Total: 77.7

3-Year VORP for Incoming Players:
Edgar Renteria:
2002: 46.5
2003: 71.0
2004: 27.3
3-year mean: 48.3

Matt Clement:
2002: 46.9
2003: 23.9
2004: 36.9
3-Year Mean: 35.9

David Wells:
2002: 39.4
2003: 36.7
2004: 40.3
3-Year Mean: 38.8

Big caveat: there are obvious flaws with my analysis. Simply accepting one’s three-year weighted VORP average, though instructive, should not be taken as gospel projection. For instance, because of David Wells’ age, injury past and the inherent red flags that accompany being a fly ball, left-handed pitcher in Fenway he is a good candidate to regress a bit. So let’s call a safe VORP projection for Wells closer to 30. It works the other way as well. Given that Matt Clement is 29 years old and is coming off a season in which he struck out 9.45 batters every nine innings, I think he is a good bet to perform closer to the higher end of his three totals. Interestingly, his page on Baseball Reference shows that the most comparable pitcher for Matt Clement through age 29 is the San Francisco Giants’ Jason Schmidt. Here’s what Schmidt has done in his two seasons after age 29:

2003: 183 ERA+, 9.01 K/9, 0.95 WHIP
2004: 139 ERA+, 10.04 K/9, 1.08 WHIP

I want to be perfectly clear that I don’t think Matt Clement will replicate these two seasons – but it’s possible. And I think we can be confident that Clement will be probably around a 40 VORP pitcher in 2005. With respect to how we might tweak a projection for Renteria, I am going to leave the three-year mean alone because Renteria is in his prime and his seasons are all over the map without any discernible trend.

The key to all of this analysis is the enormous upgrade a merely good pitcher represents over Derek Lowe. Simply replacing the 2004 Derek Lowe with Wells or Clement (take your pick) means that it would be nearly impossible for the Red Sox to literally “head backwards”. Because Lowe pitched below replacement level this season, which is to say that a AAA pitcher with any sort of talent could have pitched significantly better than him, Matt Clement and David Wells are almost sure to out-pitch the 2004 versions of Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez. Also, Edgar Renteria is a pretty good bet to outplay Orlando Cabrera.

Of course because there is another team in Boston’s division that will not stop at anything to acquire any player they wish, this analysis matters little without comparing changes to our southwesterly neighbors. Because both teams’ offensive moves are incomplete at this point, I am going to compare the teams’ starting rotations under the assumption that the Yankees will acquire Randy Johnson. I know I stated on Friday that I thought that Randy Johnson would represent an insurmountable upgrade for the Yankees, I have changed my tune after looking at the numbers. Again, we’re talking VORP. I know the formatting sucks. Sorry for that.

#1 Starters:
Schilling Johnson
2002: 70.3 78.6
2003: 51.2 14.6
2004: 72.9 69.3
Avg: 64.8 54.2

#2 Starters:
Clement Mussina
2002: 46.9 42.2
2003: 23.9 50.9
2004: 36.9 26.4
Avg: 35.9 38.7

#3 Starters:
Wells Pavano
2002: 39.4 3.9
2003: 36.7 22.3
2004: 40.3 62.4
Avg: 38.8 29.5

#4 Starters:
Arroyo Brown
2002: 26.3 -1.7
2003: 27.1 50.9
2004: 24.7 26.4
Avg: 26.0 28.0

#5 Starters:
Wakefield Wright
2002: 47.9 -15.9
2003: 28.2 -10.7
2004: 9.4 40.3
Avg: 28.5 4.6

2004 Totals:
Boston: 184.2
New York: 224.8

Three-Year Avg. Totals:
Boston: 194
New York: 155


Obviously, this all comes down to whether or not the Yankees were right to bet on career years from both Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. If the two have established new performance levels, the Yankees undoubtedly will have the better staff. If the two revert back to their previous performance levels or split the difference between 2004 and previous seasons as I think they will, the Red Sox will probably have the better rotation. I am not going to issue any sort of prediction right now as I still don’t know whose is the better rotation. I do know, however, that this offseason has been a very good one so far for the Red Sox and attempts by local media hacks to pass it off as anything else should be passed over in favor of more reasoned and well thought-out work.


Friday, December 17, 2004

Stuff 


- Well there is no sense in poo-pooing this one. If the Yanks land Randy Johnson, regardless of what it does to the long-term health of the Bombers, I would say it quickly catapults them to clear favorite status in the AL East and I am not sure there is a move the Sox could make to counter it. The one hope would be that this would be the year that the party ended for the Unit and that’s a possibility. One of these years, age will catch up to Johnson and he will just plain suck. I think there’s about a 15% chance of that happening this year.

- All the Red Sox have guaranteed themselves in signing Edgar Renteria is a shortstop that will most likely perform above the league average for the life of the deal. Nothing more. Offensively, it appears as though Renteria’s off-the-charts 2003 was a real anomaly and any expectations that Edgar will return to such levels are probably unwarranted. His defense is a question mark. UZR has him rated quite well while Baseball Prospectus’ defensive metrics show Renteria as a decidedly poor fielder. But Renteria won’t hurt the Red Sox and I suppose there is something to be said for that.

- Another Hall voter without the first clue of how to evaluate a baseball player. I particularly liked this extract:

“A slap-hitter at a power position, Boggs was a classic one-dimensional ballplayer. Although very good at that dimension - he won five batting titles - he had nowhere near the impact of his former Boston teammate, Jim Rice, who inconceivably keeps getting overlooked by my Baseball Writers Association of America colleagues.”

Boggs had a career OPS+ of 130, Rice’s was 128. Boggs played third, Rice left. Boggs had a career RC/27 of 7.03, Rice 6.32. Boggs could play defense, Rice could not….I could go on. Bear in mind that this guy also referred to Andre Dawson as “a great run producer” in the same piece. Yes that Andre Dawson of the .323 career on-base.

Sigh.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Where We Stand 


The Red Sox roster as currently constituted:

Lineup:

Damon CF
Bellhorn 2B
Ramirez LF
Ortiz DH
Millar 1B
Nixon RF
Renteria SS
Mueller 2B
Mirabelli C

Bench:

Roberts OF
Youkilis IF
Mientkiwicz IF

Rotation:

Schilling
Wells
Arroyo
Wakefield
Halama

Bullpen:

Kim
Traber
Embree
Timlin
Mantei
Foulke

Around the internet and in the newspapers, there is this feeling that the Red Sox are somehow in disarray in light of the loss of Pedro Martinez. While Pedro's loss certainly hurts the Red Sox, they could go into 2004 with this team and be a real contender. Folks need to relax a bit. A couple of the current concerns?

Doug Mirabelli will have to start.

Sorry folks but Doug Mirabelli slugged over .500 last year and for his career has hit at a .242/.331/.426 clip. The average American League catcher last season hit .264/.323/.416. While an upgrade over Mirabelli would make sense, it only makes sense if the Sox can pull it off affordably. Having merely a good catcher in lieu of an excellent one won't kill your team.

Their rotation won't cut it.

Oh really? Well put it this way. Their pitching is better than it was in 2003, the year they fell five outs short of reaching the World Series. Schilling is the equal of 2003 Pedro, Wells is far bettter than Lowe, Arroyo is every bit the pitcher Wakefield was that year, Wakefield will be more dependable than Suppan was that year and Halama is about Burkett's equal. If the lineup above hits like it should, the rotation listed would do just fine.

The best news of all of this is that I have presented an unfinished product. The Red Sox still have a good $15-$20 million dollars before the 2005 squad will be in place. So relax, folks. Let this thing play out.



Renteria signs with the Red Sox 


The Boston Globe just threw this up on their web site

Renteria to Sign with Boston

I think they overpaid for him, but facing the facts of the game (they have the extra money with Pedro leaving, and Renteria is the NL's best shortstop and one of the 3 best in the game), it will probably be worth it.

Plus, he as been to two World Series, and has one RINGZZZZZ. Or something.

I'm a fan of ERent, simply because of the most bizarre batting stance in baseball this side of Tony Batista, that he looks like he's 14 years old, and he's the only guy that I can find in baseball history to end two World Series.

Welcome to Boston, Edgar.


If You Don't Believe Me... 


Sometimes people accuse me of having some sort of blind, unsubstantiated love for Pedro Martinez. Well take a look at this analysis over at the Baseball Crank.

Pedro has been, and figures to be, pretty good.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Speechless 


Per Tony Mazz on WEEI, Pedro to the Mets.

4 years, $56MM.

Ouch.

Update: I'm curious which camp readers here fall into. On the one hand, you could kick and scream and pout and say we lost a 33 year old who just pitched 217 innings and is 1 year removed from a 2.22 ERA. On the other hand, all the Sox have to do to replicate their World Series winning club is find a guy that can post around a 3.90 ERA because that's what Pedro provided in 2004.

I think I am feeling more of the former.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Boomer 


The Red Sox inked long-time AL East enemy David Wells to a two year contract over the weekend. While much of Red Sox Nation may wonder why the services of a 41 year old fat man would be so coveted, look no further than his ability to throw strikes at will. It is no secret that Theo and company value strike zone command, both at the plate and on the mound. A hitter that doesn’t swing at bad pitches will earn walks and make pitchers offer up more hittable pitches. Patient hitters reduce a pitcher’s margin of error. On the pitching side, a hurler like Wells that is eternally pounding the strike zone with a mix of pitches can often try and make the specific pitch and location he wishes because he is so seldom behind in the count. Further, because the control pitcher isn’t afraid to let his fielders help him, he can go deep into games thanks to an 8-pitch inning here and a 6-pitch inning there.

To illustrate just how good Wells’ control is, I would point out this nugget. Since 2002, in three seasons, Wells has surrendered 85 walks. The man one would have to assume he is replacing, Derek Lowe, issued 71 free passes in 2004 alone. Wells’ K numbers are underwhelming however and I suppose I ought to rein my tone in a bit. What he most surely will be is a bit above league average, something that will be just fine for a team with a lineup like Boston’s. Remember, Derek Lowe may have been the very worst pitcher to take a regular turn for any rotation in the American League.

The deal is not without risk. Wells is 41, overweight and has battled back problems on and off for a few years now. Wisely, the Red Sox structured a contract that shifted risk from their own balance sheet to Boomer’s by loading up with incentive clauses. Further, Wells is a fly ball southpaw in Fenway. Still, in a market where lesser performers like Kris Benson and Jaret Wright strike it rich, this move is good no matter how you want to take a look at it.

While I am by no means advocating it and I have little doubt Pedro and perhaps another starter will be signed soon, I think the Red Sox could head to Fort Myers tomorrow with a rotation of Schilling, Wells, Arroyo, Wakefield and one of BK Kim, Billy Traber or newly signed John Halama and still have a helluva chance at an AL East crown. It would easily be a 150 VORP rotation.

The most significant aspect of the deal is that it reinforced that the Sox are currently operating in the sweetest of sweet spots. There are three factors behind this phenomenon. First, they have a forward thinking and curious front office that realizes they don’t have all the answers. This allows for genuine research and objective analysis. Second, the Sox are an absolute cash cow at this point. You can’t walk a quarter of a block here in Boston without seeing Sox gear of some sort on somebody. Ticket prices are through the roof and NESN has proven to be a more lucrative acquisition than anyone could have hoped. The third factor is that Boston has become a desired destination for prime Major League talent, a drastic change from decades past. We’ll see how the rest of the Hot Stove season shakes down but I wouldn’t fret. The Sox are in truly remarkable hands.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Busy Busy Busy 


No time to write about everything I want to. I hope I can tonight. In the interim, check out the Big Dog kickin' ass and takin' names over at The Hardball Times.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Too Good to be True 


Great, great news for the Sox.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Yup. This Guy Has a Ballot 


Happened across this Rocky Mountain News item this morning in which Bernie Lincicome has these to offer.

"As for the next Hall of Fame, as flawed as it may turn out to be, my vote is as follows: Sandberg, Dawson, Mattingly, Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Steve Garvey, Tommy John and Jack Morris."

"As for Boggs, the one I may vote for, but not this year (I am not going to reargue my position on first-time honorees being the elite of the elite) the old slap hitter was no Rose. His cheating did give us a new medical term, sexual addiction. This led to a whole string of bad-conduct alibis, talk show themes and very probably Jerry Springer."

Nine votes, five position players, no Boggs. But Lincicome, beacon of morality he is, explains that because Boggs had an affair and because he was "no Rose", Boggs does not deserve first-ballot status. I am not so much interested here in the moral tinge of his argument though I do find it reprehensible. It's just par for the course these days and doesn't differentiate this guy in any way. What I want to point out is another example of a mainstream baseball writer, with a Hall vote no less, who seems to have little idea of what constitutes a good baseball player. Consider the list of hitters Lincicome selects ahead of Boggs and I will throw in Charlie Hustle, since Bernie asserts that Boggs was "no Rose", for good measure.

Sandberg: .285/.344/.452 - 114 OPS+
Dawson: .279/.323/.482 - 119 OPS+
Mattingly: .307/.358/.471 - 127 OPS+
Rice: .298/.352/.502 - 128 OPS+
Garvey: .294/.329/.446 - 116 OPS+
Rose: .303/.375/.409 - 118 OPS+
Boggs: .328/.415/.443 - 130 OPS+

You could make a case, a good one in fact, that Boggs was the very best hitter of the lot, regardless of what position he played. When you consider that Boggs played third base and did so quite well, there is no question that Wade Boggs is the best player on this list. I think, in general, it is a good rule of thumb to be measured when you issue criticism, especially when your contention is not fully supported by the data. I think Mr. Lincicome may have inspired a new rule that all who write about baseball must henceforth adhere to. Consider it Dewey's House Rule 1.1:

When player A's slugging average is less than player B's on-base average and player B also has outslugged player A, rerardless of context, one can never say that Player B "is no" Player A.

People ought to wake up to just how good Wade Boggs was.

Friday, December 03, 2004

This Sucks 


It sucks that the holier-than-thou crowd is going to have its day. It really does. There is no player I have enjoyed watching more than Barry Bonds and I don't feel betrayed in any way by his admission. I do feel awfully sad though. Those that have, unsighted, mercilessly ripped Bonds for everything short of kicking the Philly Phanatic in the shin are going to always be able to claim they were right. I bet Rick Reilly is writing as we speak, happy as a pig in shit.

And man I hope Barry happens to stumble across this passage by John Perricone over at Only Baseball Matters. Sums up just about everything I am feeling right now. Keep it clean, full disclosure and then kick ass anyhow.

"What I can do is offer a suggestion to him and his management team. Take the Pepsi Challenge. Make this season a BS free season, nothing behind closed doors, everything open and subject to review and comment. All supplements, protein shakes, everything. Let reporters come to your workouts, let them see what you eat, rub on, whatever. Show it all, to everyone. And then go out and win your fifth MVP in a row, pass Ruth, pass Aaron. Play 140 games at 41 years old, win your third batting title, hell, hit .400! Show us that it's still you, that it's been you and your talent all along.
It will, of course, do nothing to silence all of your detractors; who will always have the satisfaction of knowing that they were right, in the end; that Bonds is a cheat. But for your fans, for those of us who have defended you blindly, defended your right to be innocent before proven guilty, who have defended you as a superstar who has never been pulled over for a DUI, or busted for doing blow, or beaten your wife, or been drunk at an awards show. Defended you as a star who did his job and went home, for those of us who will never hear the end of it, do it for us. Give us something to hang our hats on. What have you gotto lose?"

John J. Perricone, the pro-Bonds crowd's poet laureate.


Couple Things 


- I should clarify what I wrote yesterday because it's not that I don't care. I just don't care to wage any sort of moral crusade against any of the idividuals purported to have used steroids. But all of this stuff really, really stinks. I don't know what to make of any of it, however. I'll post something coherent if I am ever able to collect my thoughts on the topic.

- There is a great piece on Wade Boggs up over at Baseball Think Factory. I hope the Hall voters recognize just how great Boggs was.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Am I a Bad Person? 


Because I really cannot muster up the energy to care about this Jason Giambi business. I just don't fancy myself holier than thou, Jason or Jeremy Giambi, or anybody for that matter.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

This Stuff Qualifies as Noteworthy These Days 


- Sean McAdam reports today that the Red Sox have conducted trade talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks regarding the services of one Randy Johnson. The Big Unit would not come cheaply according to McAdam however, as he reports that any deal would have to include Bronson Arroyo, Jon Lester and another top prospect. Until the story gets some more legs, I don't really feel like devoting much time to the matter.

- The Giants penned Armando Benitez to a 3-year, $21 million dollar contract. Benitez is excellent, make no mistake, but $7 million seems like a lot of hay to be handing out for what? 65 innings of work? Was anyone else's offer even in the same galaxy as Sabean's? I can't tell you how terrible a job I think Brian Sabean has done the last bunch of seasons, postseason appearances or not. When you look at the deals he has handed out to Tucker, Alfonzo, Nen, Snow, Vizquel and now Benitez, I don't think you can conclude anything other than Brian Sabean's chief attribute he is seeking out in a ballplayer is service time. Not cheap talent, not undervalued talent, not projectable future ability but service time. Did you know that Marvin Benard made $4.2 million in both 2002 and 2003? Or that Kirk Rueter made over $6 million this past season? Where would that franchise be without the deity that has roamed left field for the last 10 years?