Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2011 Bill James Projections - Red Sox Rotation

Yesterday we established that the 2010 version of the Red Sox performed at a poorer than expected level because of pitching, and not (exclusively) injuries. This was particularly surprising because the rotation was the one thing we all figured we wouldn't have to worry about: Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, and Matsuzaka - and we even had Wakefield, who, despite his age and lack of consistency, is a hell of a sixth man.

However, there were injuries to Beckett and Matsuzaka, and Lackey was rather less productive than we'd collectively hoped (I suppose you could say he was LACKing - get it?!?). The bullpen was a volitile mess, especially if you look at their performance without counting the stats from Bard and Paps (who had his worst season, but still superior to most relievers).

So what's in store for next year? No one can know for sure, but the Bill James Handbook at least offers predictions based on math I don't really understand, rather than total guesses pulled out of thin air.

So, without further ado, here are James' predictions for members of the presumptive pitchers for the 2011 Sox (accompanied by their 2010 numbers):

Josh Beckett:2010: 6-6, 21 starts, 127.2 IP, 5.78 ERA
2011 prediction: 10-9, 26 starts, 168 IP, 3.86 ERA
Beckett's lost season was a HUGE part of the reason the Sox missed out on the playoffs in 2010, and even a reasonable bounce back like the one James is predicting would give the Red Sox a fantastic edge.

Clay Buchholz:2010: 17-7, 28 starts, 173.2 IP, 2.33 ERA
2011 prediction: 13-9, 29 starts, 193 IP, 3.54 ERA
I'm going to go on record here and guess that James is underestimating Clay. The dominance we saw last season was not a fluke, and I'm confident Buchholz can be consistent in 2011. There's a reason Theo hasn't accepted any trade offers for Clay, and what we saw last year was just the beginning.

John Lackey:2010: 14-11, 33 starts, 215 IP, 4.40 ERA
2011 prediction: 13-12, 33 starts, 227 IP, 3.89 ERA
When I actually saw Lackey's 2010 stats, I have to confess to being a bit surprised that he was such an innings-eater. If he can live up to these predictions as the third/fourth starter, I will be content.

Daisuke Matsuzaka:2010: 9-6, 25 starts, 153.2 IP, 4.69 ERA
2011 prediction: 10-9, 27 starts, 173 IP, 3.85 ERA
Again, I'll take it. No, Matsuzaka has never been the ace we thought we were getting way back in the offseason of 2007, but (aside from his lost 2009) he's been more than adequate for the back of the rotation, and I expect he'll continue to be consistent(ly infuriating to watch).

Jon Lester:2010: 19-9, 32 starts, 208 IP, 3.25 ERA
2011 prediction: 14-9, 31 starts, 204 IP, 3.53 ERA
I think Lester will do better than this, especially if he can figure out how to avoid the awful April we've come to expect from him. James badly underestimated Lester in his predictions for 2010, and I think he's cut the southpaw short again this year.

Tim Wakefield:2010:4-10, 19 starts, 130 IP 5.34 ERA
2011 predictions: 6-6, 14 starts, 115 IP, 4.07 ERA
If Wake gets to start at all in 2011, it will be spot starts here and there. The knuckleballer's career is winding down, and though it's hard to say goodbye, this season will likely be his last.

I'm going to leave the relievers out of this equation for now, since roles and such will be in flux, and the Sox bullpen is likely going to see some serious revamping before Opening Day (which is MUCH too far away). But, if the members of the rotation listed above can match their projections (and if one or two of them *cough*Buchholz*Lester*cough* can exceed them), I think 2011 will be a much more productive year for the Sox, at least pitching-wise.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Surprising shortcomings of the 2010 Red Sox

According to the rankings in the 2011 Bill James Handbook, the 2010 Boston Red Sox had the third best offense in the American League. The only offense that performed better than Boston was their AL East competition, the New York Yankees (Tampa Bay came in third, not shockingly).

The Sox had more doubles than any other team in the AL, with 358, and they had the second-most home runs with 211 (98 at home, 113 on the road). They had the second most RBIs (782), behind those pesky Yanks, who drove in 823. Perhaps most interestingly, the Red Sox blew all other teams out of the collective water in the total bases category, collecting 2546 total bags, fifty more than the next highest total.

Despite missing the offense of the prodigious Youkilis, the Red Sox had a productive year scoring runs.

So with such an impressive offensive pedigree, how did the Red Sox miss out on the playoffs? The easy answer is, of course, the barrage of injuries suffered by the home nine, but the numbers tell a different story. Obviously, the Red Sox scored more than enough runs to be a playoff-caliber team, and yet somehow they did not manage to get there.

The explanation, according to James, is simple: baseball has two sides, offense and defense, and the Red Sox were pretty terrible at the latter. Remember way back during the 2009-2010 offseason, when Theo promised us a run-prevention machine? Yeah, those claims are pretty laughable, because the Handbook's advanced stats rate the Red Sox defense as the third worst in the American League, only better than the Angels and Royals.

However, most people would agree that the single most important asset to a successful ball club is pitching, and for all of the praise the Boston rotation garnered before the season, it certainly didn't live up to expectations. The Sox pitching staff was the fourth worst in the AL in 2010, better than cellar dwellers Cleveland, Baltimore, and Kansas City. Red Sox pitchers gave up 679 earned runs, had an ERA of 4.20, and gave the most free passes in the league, with 580 walks.

All of these things together led to a dissapointing season. If the once-vaunted rotation had lived up to even one tenth of its potential, we could have had October baseball. But, for whatever reason, they couldn't. The Red Sox offense - which, if you recall, was everyone's #1 worry last offseason - was championship caliber, and the other facets of the team couldn't keep up.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at James' predictions for 2011, and see if the coming season has a happier ending in store... Hopefully it at least has fewer casts, boots, surgeries, and contusions.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Red Sox Nation!

All too often this blog has become a place for rants and complaints: mostly because none of my friends or family really care about the Red Sox (at least, not like I do), so this is a somewhat healthy way to vent my frustrations. However, in spirit of today's holiday, I thought I would post a list of Red Sox-related things for which I am thankful:

  • 2004 and 2007: Seven years ago, we were coming off the biggest heartbreak since 1986. We still claimed lovable loser status, and there were people who swore that the Cubs curse would break before ours. Then, seven years ago today, our own Theo Epstein made a trek to Curt Schilling's Arizona home for Thanksgiving, and a deal was eventually done. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • An 89-win season: Fully two-thirds of MLB teams finished behind Boston this season, and this despite the 2010 Parade of Carnage that saw SIX Opening Day starters spend an extended period on the disabled list, not to mention the grab bag of injuries to bench players and pitchers beyond Opening Day starter Josh Beckett.
  • The chance to cheer for prospects: The Red Sox have had a fantastic farm system, and despite Theo's ill-fated "bridge year" comment of yesteryear, we got to see some fantastic things this season. If I had proclaimed, this time last year, that we would soon be cheering on Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish, Felix Doubront, and Josh Reddick on a regular basis, you all would have had me committed. The kids, as they say, are all right, and they certainly proved themselves this season.
  • My proximity to Boston: Sure, I'm three hours away at home, and two when I'm at school, but the fact is that I can drive there any time I wish (so long as there's not a blizzard or something). There are fans all over the country, and all over the world, who have never set foot in Fenway Park, have never been to the the East Coast of the US, and so are constant minorities in their baseball-rooting interest. I'm thankful that there are thousands of Fenway Faithful all around me, that Red Sox hats abound (more in NH than CT), and that people around here are generally so passionate.
  • Dustin Pedroia: You had to know this was coming. However, it's not just my favorite player for whom I am thankful, but all of his home-grown teammates, especially those who are still under Red Sox control, pre-arbitration, and those who took wallet-friendly deals to stay with the Sox. Players like Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, John Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Jed Lowrie (remember him!?), and yes, even Jacoby Ellsbury.
  • The wallet of John Henry, et al: Yes, yes, I know all of RSN is claiming that Henry's acquisition of the Liverpool Football Club is the reason that VMart is now a Tiger, but I'm going to go on record as skeptical of that theory. The fact is, Henry is fabulously wealthy, and he bankrolled the second-highest payroll in MLB last year. I know it's difficult to keep perspective on how lucky the Sox are financially when the Yankees are outspending King Midas 200 miles to the south, but please try to remember: we are very, VERY lucky to have an owner who is willing to spend when his GM thinks it's appropriate.
  • Theo Epstein: Speaking of the GM, we happen to have one of the best. I know people's opinions are tainted right now because of the Victor Martinez debacle, but the fact is that Theo always knows what he's doing (except, apparently, with shortstops). Do you recall the offseason a few years back (I believe this was pre-Martinez, but perhaps not) when all of RSN was howling at Mr. Epstein to go out and get a new young backstop? Jarrod Saltalamacchia was near the top of the wish list, and Theo managed to acquire him for peanuts. Theo has a plan. Chill.
  • You! Yes, dear reader, I am thankful for you. When I started this blog nearly two years ago, I never expected to get more than a few reads, if I got any at all. Really, this was going to function more like a journal for me to get out my Sox thoughts, since no one in my life particularly cared to discuss baseball 24/7. The audience I have now blows me away, and I'm extremely thankful to be able to write for such a passionate group of fans.
Did I forget anything? Do you disagree? Feel free to add your imput in the comments section, and have a very happy Thanksgiving! [And to my non-American readers, have a happy Thursday!]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Jeter's worth

"As much as we want to keep everybody, we've already made these guys very, very rich, and I don't feel we owe anybody anything monetarily. Some of these players are wealthier than their bosses." -Hank Steinbrenner (right, in the photo above)

As unpopular as this remark is sure to make him among Yankees diehards, I think Hank Steinbrenner is handling this right. He understands that Jeter's value is highest when he's wearing pinstripes, and that Jeter needs the Yankees more than the Yankees need Jeter.

No matter what lengths A*Rod would go to keep Jeter in town.

All snarkiness aside, Derek Jeter is no longer the player he used to be. (We could argue all day about how good he used to be, but that's beside the point here.) He's no longer worth anywhere near $189 million over 10 years, and not only because he would be forty-six years old.

Jeter's defense has been on the decline for years, no matter how many Gold Gloves he's been awarded, and his bat wasn't at the level we've come to expect in 2010. Yes, Jeter is an adequate shortstop, but he wants a superstar salary, and Hank Steinbrenner is calling his bluff.

Steinbrenner has encouraged they Yankees' captain to test the open market, and, if he finds a contract offer that suits him, to sign elsewhere. And why does Hank feel confident enough to tell Jetes to take a hike? He knows that there's no way Jeter will find anything close to the Yankees' offer from anyone, because the original offer was very generous.

Let's be serious for a minute: Derek Jeter will be playing his home games in the Bronx in 2011. Yes, there might be some hurt feelings, but in the end, the two will work out a deal, because Jeter needs the Yankees, and they want him back. Hank Steinbrenner knows exactly what he's doing, and it's going to work like a charm.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Victor Martinez to the Tigers

The first major event of the Red Sox offseason is imminent, and it's not the news any of us were hoping for. No, Theo didn't manage to trade for Adrian Gonzalez or Elvis Andrus, or perform a miracle and sign Cliff Lee (at least, not yet). Sadly, the first big-name signing this offseason involves the Detroit Tigers winning the services of former Sox catcher Victor Martinez.

According to MLB.com, the Tigers offered VMart four years and $50 million, and that was enough. We know that Martinez was rather miffed that the Sox didn't extend him before the 2010 season, a la Josh Beckett, or even during the season, despite Theo's well-documented dislike of carrying on contract discussions in-season.

At first glance, this looks bad. Catastrophic, even, since the Red Sox are left with the mostly-untried Jarrod Saltalamacchia and (possibly) the ever-aging Jason Varitek. However, there are reasons for the choice to not retain Martinez - and trust me, this was a CHOICE on Theo's part.

The Red Sox aren't sure how long Victor can continue to be an effective backstop, and his defense behind the plate has never been spectacular, despite some strides in that area in 2010. For a catcher, VMart is extremely effective with the bat, but once he has to make the inevitable transition to first base (or DH), his numbers will be league-average at best. The Red Sox are currently overpaying an aging designated hitter, and it's not a position that they like to be in.

According to boston.com's Extra Bases blog, the Red Sox offered Martinez two separate contracts: "three years and $36 million or four years and $42 million," but neither seemed to be enough for the soon-to-be 32-year-old, as he took Detroit's offer instead.

Before everyone storms Fenway Park's front office with their torches and pitchforks, please take a second to understand that Theo Epstein always has reasons for signing the players he does, and letting others walk - and usually, the reasons are good (excepting at the shortstop position). With Martinez's presumptive salary off the books, the Red Sox have a great deal of wiggle room for their 2011 payroll. They will also doubtless offer Victor arbitration, and thus receive two draft picks for him, as he is a Type A free agent.

This could be the non-deal that allows the Sox to go out and sign a Carl Crawford, or a Jayson Werth, and which could potentially give them the freedom to part with some prospects (and someone like Jacoby Ellsbury) for Adrian Gonzalez.

It's important to remember how things have panned out in recent years when Theo has allowed a Red Sox free agent to walk. Jason Bay came off a great season for the Sox and had a terrible, injury-plagued season for the Mets (though he would have fit in with the walking wounded at Fenway). Pedro Martinez was a shell of his former self by the middle of his deal, post-Sox. Nomar Garciaparra, anyone? (Okay, so that was a trade, but he was never the same.)

I trust Theo. Almost unconditionally. In fact, I might believe in him more than I do my friends and family (probably a problem in my personal relationships). I believe he has a plan, that he will leave no stone unturned, and that ultimately, he'll put a great team on the field in 2011. All they have to do is stay healthy...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Viva King Felix!!!

Seattle's Felix Hernandez took the American League Cy Young Award this week, and despite all the whining from the peanut gallery (ahem, New York and Tampa), King Felix was the right choice.

Obviously, with a record of 13-12, Hernandez wasn't even in the running in terms of wins, but we did learn from last year's winner (Zack Greinke) that the voters are beginning to understand that wins are by no means the most important statistic. If fact, wins are completely subjective; a pitcher could literally have a 0.00 ERA with no hits, walks, or hit batsmen, and end his season with zero wins.

On the other hand, it's conceivable that a player could have an ERA over 5 and win twenty games. Neither of these scenarios are likely, of course, but that fact that they are technically possible should set the alarm bells off in your brain: wins are practically useless as a statistic.

Felix Hernandez had the lowest ERA in the league (just .06 runs better than our own Clay Buchholz) at 2.27, and the highest WAR (6.0), all while pitching more innings than anyone in the American League.

Of course, the whining coming out of New York and Tampa Bay is predictable, since they can claim the third and second-place players, but the reasoning behind their arguments is bordering on absurd:

Keith, I expected better from you, but I guess I'll have to ask you to leave the sports talk to those who have done the research and actually UNDERSTAND the statistics. You could just as easily argue that Price and Sabathia (I presume he was referring to them) actually had the benefit of knowing a good lineup - a PENNANT CALIBER lineup, if you will - would bail them out if they turned in an occasional stinker. Hernandez? Not so much. HE was pressured to give up ZERO runs every time he pitched, and STILL not always get the win.

I also had someone make the argument that Price should have won because "he was young and carried the team on his back." Umm, okay... except King Felix is YOUNGER THAN PRICE, and Price was responsible for 19.7% of the Rays' total wins, while Hernandez was responsible for 21.3% of the Mariners' total wins.

So I guess the point here is this: despite the fact that the BBWAA has learned that there's more to life than a sparkly win-loss record, fans have not. I guess it's up to their peers to educate them, one stubborn traditionalist at a time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Five-Minute Musings

I have a few minutes before class this morning, and thought I would post a quick rundown of recent events:

1.) The Oakland Atheltics have reportedly made a five-year, $64 million dollar offer to Adrian Beltre. According to the Globe's Nick Cafardo (as reported by Pete Abraham), the Sox are willing to go up to four years, $52 million. In fantasy land, Agent Scott Boras is claiming that the third baseman is worth five-years, ninety million dollars. So what is Beltre worth to the Red Sox? And what is being in a competitive, passionate city worth to Beltre? Last year, he turned down bigger money from the A's to come to the spotlight in Boston, but he was also looking to be showcased so he could get a big deal this year. Players don't hire Boras because team loyalty means a lot to them, so this could be interesting as it unfolds. Stay tuned.

2.) Tom Werner is looking to appease fans who were under the impression that the 2010 Sox were based on spare parts so he could fund his little soccer venture in England. [Pretend for a second that statement isn't ludicrous, that the Sox didn't have the second highest payroll in MLB last year, and that they didn't sign the biggest pitching free agent in the '09-'10 offseason. Theo said BRIDGE YEAR, so they obviously weren't trying.] He has gone on record as claiming the Sox will make a significant splash in the free agent market: “I think that we are going to sign, I won’t promise, but we’re going to sign a significant free agent. We are going to make a trade to improve ourselves,” Werner said. “I want to assure everybody that there is no bridge year here this year. [In] 2011, we’re committed to win.”

3.) The Red Sox were just honored by Major League Baseball for their charitable endeavors as an organization. From a release by MLB, via the Boston Globe Extra Bases blog: "Major League Baseball and Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig have named the Boston Red Sox as the inaugural recipients of the Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence, which was created to recognize the charitable and philanthropic efforts of an MLB Club." Obviously, the Red Sox encourage their players to both be active within the Red Sox Foundation, and to support their own charities, and it seems like that work is getting some recognition. The really cool part is that this comes just week after Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield received the Roberto Clemente Award. It makes this organization easy to support.

4.) Ron Gardenhire (Twins) was named the AL manager of the year yesterday (the Padres' Bud Black took home the honor for the senior circuit). I was holding out some hope for Tito, who placed fourth, and if the Sox could have scraped a playoff berth, I really think he would have made it. People around here are constantly screaming about "Fran-coma" and how terrible he is, and how they could do his job so much better. To those people I say: SHUT UP. Terry Francona led a bag of beleaguered major leaguers and spare minor league parts to 89 wins last season. Do you honestly think you would have done any better?

5.) I would like to point out that the offseason coverage by the team over at boston.com has been spectacular thus far. Of course, I have come to expect a certain degree of excellence from the Globe, but the amount of info that they're giving us on a daily basis is more than you could expect from any other team in any other market. In particular, I would like to extend a shout-out to Pete Abraham, who is constantly updating the Extra Bases blog, and also because he's a generally nice guy (last spring, I had to do a project on athletes as role models, and Pete Abe was nice enough to answer the email I sent him, asking for imput). So, thank you Mr. Abraham, and thank you to your fellow writers on the Sox beat: without you all, we'd be even more starved for baseball.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Periodic Table of Hall of Famers

[Click to enlarge.]

This is just too cool. I have a feeling I would like it even more if I was a chemistry and/or other sciences person. Via Larry Granillo at http://wezen-ball.com/other/other/the-periodic-table-of-hall-of-famers.html

Monday, November 15, 2010

Breaking News: I love Dustin Pedroia

This weekend, I learned that I am apparently not forthcoming enough about my personal opinion of Dustin Pedroia. Somehow, a friend of mine was under the impression that Jacoby Ellsbury was my favorite baseball player.

Now, this might be acceptable for someone who has never met me, or who knows next to nothing about the Red Sox... but the friend in question meets neither of these stipulations. Needless to say, I informed him that we are in a huge fight.

His excuse was that "Every girl I know is head over heels for Ellsbury." Excuse me, but in case you hadn't noticed, I'm not your average fangirl. I have three different posters of Sox players on my wall, and not one of them features Jacoby Ellsbury, no matter how "dreamy" some people find him.

Shockingly, THIS poster does, in fact, hang on my wall.

I've ranted about Ellsbury before, so I won't repeat myself (though I am rather proud to have coined the nickname "D-Ellsbury"), but I do want to get to the point of this post, which is, you guessed it, Dustin Pedroia.

It was three short years ago that the scrappy second baseman was named AL Rookie of the Year, and, a year later, the American League MVP. Since then, Pedroia has grown from an impressive rookie to a seasoned veteran, but he missed more than half of 2010 with injuries (which, by the way, totally ruined my summer).

So what can we expect from the feisty infielder next season? Just the usual: backtalk, dirty uniforms, laser shows, grit, spectacular glovework, tenacious hitting, and a work ethic that would make Paul Bunyan proud.

I know I should have spent today writing about THIS year's ROY winners, Neftali Feliz and Buster Posey, and I'll probably get to it later, but I was feeling particularly nostalgic for the days when Pedey was a young phenom.

And he's just so NICE.

So, for any of you who might be still confused (ahem, you know who you area), Dustin Pedroia is my favorite player. In my eyes, he can essentially do no wrong (even if the dipping is disgusting), and if I ever had the opportunity to meet him I'm quite sure I would hyperventilate. People are always talking about intangibles, and while I'm of the opinion that "veteran presence" and "calm eyes" are useless without a passable skill set ON the field, I'm equally confident that Pedey means a lot more to the Red Sox than simply his batting average, OBP, or even WAR.

And you know what else? He means the world to Red Sox Nation, too.

Best intangible ever? Adorable son.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lefty for lefty: Andrew Miller to the Sox

Former Tigers and Marlins LHP Andrew Miller.

As some of you might have heard, the Red Sox recently (Friday) finalized a deal with the Marlins that will send left reliever Dustin Richardson to the Marlins for lefty Andrew Miller. On the surface, the two are pretty similar: both were draft picks out of college in 2006, Richardson is 6'6", 220 lbs, while Miller is 6'7", 210 lbs, and both hail from the south (Kansas and Florida, respectively).

However, this is where the similarities end. Richardson was brought along very cautiously by the Sox, as is their general pattern with pitching; he didn't make his big-league debut until September 28, 2009 against Toronto (1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 SO, 0 BB, 0 ER).

Successful debut? Yessir.

On the other hand, Miller was pitching for the big-league Tigers just twenty-two days after he signed with the club, and sixty-four days after his last game as a collegiate pitcher, debuting for the big club on August 30, 2006. The then 21-year-old pitched a scoreless eighth inning - at Yankee Stadium, no less - and I'm sure several Tigers execs patted themselves on the backs for rushing him to the bigs.

Unfortunately, Miller's success would be rather tempered after that, and he was traded to the Marlins in the winter of 2007, part of the package of players that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.

Andrew Miller has literally never spent an entire season in the minor leagues - not even a shortened Low-A type season. His career numbers look like this: 15-26, 5.84 ERA, 294.1 IP. Dustin Richardson, on the other hand, spent all of 2006-08 in the minors, and most of 2009, and his numbers look like this: 0-0, 3.31 ERA, 16.1 IP. Miller's WAR stands at -3.8 for his career, and Richardson's is 0.3.

So at first glance, it looks like the Red Sox are getting a raw deal here. However, you all know that I trust Theo Epstein almost unconditionally, and you don't have to look all that deep to see Miller's appeal. Relief pitching is notoriously volatile, and Richardson is a young reliever coming off a generally consistent year, and so Theo is selling high, something he loves to do.

Miller is a former sixth pick overall, and he's also the former teammate of another Sox relief
pitcher: fellow-2006-first-rounder Daniel Bard. Bard fell to 28th overall, where the Sox scooped him up, and kept him in the minors for three years before he made his debut in May of 2009. Bard, of course, has never looked back.

Daniel Bard (above) and Miller were light-out teammates at UNC.

Despite all of Miller's well-documented struggles, Bard still thinks h
e's a great pitcher, and that perhaps the Marlins tried to do just a little too much tinkering with his delivery: “The stuff was too good. The projectability with his body was there. To me, it still is. All the tools are still there. Nothing has changed. I’m sure he had some stumbles along the way he would like to get rid of, but he’s still only 25-years-old and on the cusp of being a really good major league pitcher.”

Of course, the Red Sox have some very good pitching coaches in the organization, even without the now-departed John Farrell, and I'm sure Theo has something in mind to get the still-young lefty back on track. The praise of Daniel Bard should not be taken lightly: by now, he's figured out what it takes to be an affective big-league pitcher, regarding actual skills and mental toughness, and if he thinks Andrew Miller has it, I'm inclined to trust him.

[Quote in this post from WEEI.]

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crazy for Cliff Lee (but not insane)

"The Rangers may do something crazy when it comes to Lee, but they won't do something insane." - T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com

What on Earth does that even mean? That they won't outbid the Evil Empire? I hate to be critical, but DUH. Even if the Rangers front office had half a mind to try to outbid the Yankees, such a thing is impossible (as Red Sox fans will remember). Yes, the Rangers have a lucrative new television contract... but the Yankees OWN their own network, and in the biggest market in the country.

Nolan Ryan, at least, fully understands just how hard it will be to retain Lee, but their best bet may lie with the three rules of real estate: location, location, location.

New York taxes and the cost of living (even if Lee should choose to live in New Jersey) will add up very quickly. The Rangers can offer the ace millions less than the Yankees, and the adjusted gross value after taxes and all that jazz will probably still be higher if the fireballer stays in Texas.

And, apparently Lee's wife was no fan of New York Yankees faithful:

Perhaps the Rangers' greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above. "The fans did not do good things in my heart," Kristen says. "When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it's hard not to take it personal." (Via Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY)

There's also the fact that both Kristen and Cliff Lee's families live a forty-minute flight away from Arlington, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the couple recently purchased a home in the city.

Of course, the Yankees will have Lee's friend and former teammate, CC Sabathia, looking to recruit him, and the Bronx Bombers have the resources to commit more money and years to any offer they give.

The Rangers are quietly attempting to woo Lee - they haven't made any well-publicized treks across the country, but they're determined to give this their best shot, and prepared to offer him more money than any Ranger since A*Rod (remember him?).

Rangers second-baseman Ian Kinsler wants Lee to stay in Texas: "In the offseason, I'm probably going to call his phone, oh, a couple of hundred times."

You do that, Ian... Personally, I want Cliff Lee in Arlinton for a long time to come. Actually, in an ideal world, he would go to the National League, so I wouldn't have to see him mow down my boys a few times every summer - but I'll take Texas.

Come on, Jon Daniels.... Make it happen. Do something CRAZY! But not insane.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Adrian Beltre, Silver Slugger

Not that this is particularly surprising given the torrid year he enjoyed, but 2010 Sox third baseman (and current free agent) Adrian Beltre has been awarded the Silver Slugger for American League third basemen. Beltre hit .321, slugged .553, and belted 28 home runs, all while earning a league-best 49 doubles, and even legging out a couple of triples.

Not bad, Mr. Beltre... Not bad at all. Unfortunately for the Sox front office, as much as they'd like Beltre back, it seems as if agent Scott Boras is angling for a long-term contract. You all know as well as I do that Theo is reluctant to give players more years than he thinks they're worth - he'd much rather overpay for a shorter contract.

As frustrating as it can be to watch our free-agents walk year after year, Theo's strategy is a sound one. Within a few years we'll be treated to a first hand example of what happens when you hand out contracts with a shelf-life that exceeds the players' prime. Yessir, the Yankees core is finally aging, led by Captain Intangibles himself, and by 2013 New York will employ wayyyy too many aging superstars (except Mariano Rivera. Everyone knows androids are impervious to aging.). Personally, I can't wait.

But back to Beltre. I don't see him back next year. It's a shame, because he fits so well in Boston and at the hot corner in Fenway Park, but the fact is he'll get more money and more years if he goes elsewhere, and players don't hire Scott Boras if they're looking to take any sort of home-town discount.

But seriously... Who else can hit a home run - from one knee?!?

One thing you can probably count on is Beltre staying out of the Bronx; they're pretty set in the third-baseman department at the moment. If you asked me right now, I'd have to guess that Beltre will be on the West Coast next season. His family is still out there, and he's expressed an interest in playing out there in the past. I'm torn between wishing for his presence on an NL team so we don't have to get beaten by him, or wishing for him to land in the AL so that he can come back to Fenway, and we can all yell one last time: "YOOOOO ADRIAN!!!!!!"

But wherever he ends up, you can be sure that he'll get paid. And after the year he had for us in 2010, he most definitely deserves it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quotable Quotes: Ted Williams

Last time I was at home, I stopped in at a local store, just looking to browse. As always, I ended up in their small section of baseball paraphernalia, and then I saw a book I knew I just had to have:

This book is nearly eight hundred pages long, and every page has between four and seven quotes on it - quotes from players, managers, Hall of Famers, scrubs, sportswriters, fans, and anyone in between. That's somewhere around four thousand quotes.

I've since been combing it for especially relevant Sox quotes, so I'll have something to write about during the offseason. For this first installment of "Quotable Quotes," I thought I'd pick adages from and about the late, great Teddy Ballgame. So without further ado, here are the best that The Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations has to offer.

"There has always been a saying in baseball that you can't make a hitter, but I think you can improve a hitter more than you can improve a fielder. More mistakes are made hitting than in any other part of the game." - Ted Williams

"You dumb hitters. By the time you know what to do, you're too old to do it." - Ted Williams

"If ever a player deserved to hit .400, it's Ted. He never sat down against tough pitchers. He never bunted. He didn't have the advantage of the sacrifice fly rule like those hitters before him." -Joe Cronin

"Hitting is 50% above the shoulders." - Ted Williams

"Wait until [Jimmie] Foxx sees me hit." - A young Ted Williams to a writer who had just told him "Wait until you see Jimmie Foxx hit."

"No one can ever see the ball hit the bat because it's physically impossible to focus your eyes that way. However, when I hit the ball especially hard, I could smell the leather start to burn as it struck the wooden bat." - Ted Williams

"Yeah, you can pitch him low, but as soon as you throw the ball run and hide behind second base." - Manager Lou Boudreau, on pitching to Williams

"I don't care to be known as a .400 hitter with a lousy average of .39955." - Ted Williams, before playing the final game in 1941 to bring his average up to .406

Obviously, Red Sox fans are right to be proud of Williams, the Splendid Splinter himself. Even beyond the accolades, and despite his obvious disdain for the press (and, at times, the fans), Williams was a genuinely good human being. In arguably his greatest act, Ted Williams used his Cooperstown induction speech to make a plea for baseball equality: "I hope some day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro ballplayers who are not here only because they weren't given the chance."

Yes, Williams could be cantankerous. Yes, he didn't care much for fans or writers. But he was OURS. The greatest hitter who ever lived was a Boston Red Sox, and no one can ever take that away.

This will be an ongoing feature during the offseason - do any of you have requests for specific players or quotations?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yankees fan resorts to anonymous name-calling

So this is the comment I got after yesterday's post discussing the travesty of Derek Jeter's fifth Gold Glove. I really wish "Anonymous" had elaborated: am I an idiot for agreeing with baseball-reference that Jeter didn't deserve the award? For intimating that the Yankees would sign him for more than his market value? For calling your precious Captain Jetes less than a team player?

Whatever it was, "Anonymous," at least I have enough conviction behind my views to post them with a name so everyone knows who I am. Why the "anonymous" tag? You can sign in with Blogger, Google, AIM, iChat, WordPress, LiveJournal, and several other services, so don't give the "I don't have an account" excuse.

You commented as "anonymous" because you're afraid I'm right. Your precious Captain is not the player he once was, and "the player he once was" was never all that impressive, at least defensively. I'll tell you a secret, anon: I'm HARDLY the only one who thinks this way. I don't pull the topics for my posts out of thin air. I read dozens on sports sites and stats sites every day, including many who report for neither the Red Sox or Yankees (like, I don't know... BASEBALL-REFERENCE).

The next time you come to my blog to insult me and spew your vitriol without any evidence or reasoning, find the courage to do it under your own name. And if you're still thinking that I was targeting poor Derek Jeter because I hate the Yankees, here's some links to people who wholeheartedly agree with the entire premise of yesterday's post.

NBC Sports: http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/11/10/what-theyre-saying-about-jeters-gold-glove/

The New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/2010/11/10/2010-11-10_derek_jeters_selection_as_american_league_gold_glover_at_shortstop_exposes_flaws.html

ESPN: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5784846

Bleacher Report: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/513590-highway-robbery-derek-jeters-gold-glove-win-is-inexcusable

MLB Fanhouse: http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/11/09/derek-jeters-fifth-gold-glove-evidence-of-award-gone-wrong/

So, anonymous, next time you want to call me an idiot, please take all of thirty seconds to Google "Derek Jeter Gold Glove" and check that 90% of the internet doesn't agree with me. Bye-bye, now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Long live Derek "E6" Jeter!

I love baseball-reference. This is not news to any of you, but today, more than other days, I wanted to start a post with my appreciation of that particular site, rather than tucking a parenthesized citation into the middle of a stat-laden paragraph.

So why today of all days? Because if you went to www.baseball-reference.com earlier today, you were greeted with this fantastic chart listing the 2010 American League Gold Glove recipients:

The "We can't believe it either" has since been taken down, presumably so that they'll have space to list the National League Gold Glove shortstop tomorrow, but it was just too funny. The fact that a statistic-based website feels it is necessary to openly mock the AL GG selection should show how flawed the system has become.

Derek Jeter is not a good defensive shortstop, and he hasn't been for quite some time. Wanna know why he only made six errors this season? Jeter has no range, so the same hits that someone like Elvis Andrus knocked down but couldn’t get over to first in time just rolled right on by Captain Jetes. Errors are a fail-stat; they prove nothing.

Jeter's UZR is horrible: -4.7. He can't get to anything anymore, and all of the intangibles and calm eyes in the world aren't going to change that. I can't wait for the Yankees to sign him for the next four or so years for three or four times as much as he'd be worth on the open market. I can't wait for his skills to erode on the field before our eyes eighteen times a year. And I can't wait for the inevitable temper-tantrum "Mr. Team Player" will throw when the Yankees start to phase him out at shortstop.

"Past a diving Jeter." = music to my ears.

Don't kid yourself into thinking he'll move without drama - that is, if they can find somewhere to put him... first base, third base, and DH are pretty much covered in Yankee Stadium for the next five years. Despite a reputation for being a team-first type of guy, Jeter flat-out refused to shift to third base in 2004 when A*Rod came to town, despite the fact that Jeter was the inferior shortstop, even then.

So I'm sure he'll demand his "due respect" and stay at short for a few seasons longer than is wise. And I'll even support the additions of more Gold Glove awards to his trophy cabinet, so long as I get to see "E6" in the New York box scores for years to come.

Fenway Park Tour, 2010

This Sunday, my friend Steph and I took an impromptu trip to Boston. We thought we were going to see our college field hockey team play in the NESCAC Finals, but our athletics website had a a typo, and it turned out that they weren't playing after all.

So there we were, sitting on Tufts' campus with nothing to do. We were watching the first half of the Tufts/Bowdoin game when I remembered that I hadn't redeemed my Red Sox Nation Fenway Park tour for 2010. Steph and I promptly decided we would leave at halftime and head to Yawkey Way.

I always forget that you can park on Yawkey Way when it's not a game day...

When we arrived, there was a bigger crowd than I had initially expected, but I was okay with that. Steph had never taken a Fenway tour before (she's more of a Pats fan), and the only time I'd taken one, I had gotten the handicapped accessible version (which did allow me to see a lot of the hidden areas of the ballpark), so we were both pretty excited.

Our tour guide was an older gentleman named Steve who referred to his 2004 and 2007 World Series rings as "chick magnets," and continually made jokes about the group of Canadian Naval officers on the tour, referring to them as "the whole Canadian navy."

When we reached the first stop on the tour, the EMC Club level, we were greeted with a view of the latest renovations, this time to the right field grandstand and right field box sections:

Last year, Tom Werner, John Henry, and co. replaced the damaged cement under the left field side, as well as painting the wooden seats and fitting them with springs so they retract by themselves when you stand up. This winter, the right field sections get the same treatment: the seats have been removed so that the cement can be repaired, and they will be returned in time for Opening Day. As I'm sure you all know, Fenway Park is the oldest Major League ballpark still standing, and it also boasts the oldest seats: these same wooden ones, installed in the 1930's.

The tour then moved through the park, and we were ushered through the Red Sox Hall of Fame:

Steve was quick to share that the late, great Ted Williams is a member of several different Halls of Fame: the Red Sox HoF at Fenway, the Baseball HoF in Cooperstown, the Fly Fishing HoF in Livingston, New York, and the Marine Corps. HoF at Quantico.

The tour moved on, through the bowels of the old ballpark, and on towards the Green Monster seats.

Of course, I'm much too poor to buy those tickets, so getting up on the Monster during a tour is the only time I'll sit there. That said, it is quite a view.

The tour wrapped up over in the left field infield grandstand seats, where Steve regaled us with anecdotes about the team's and park's history. I have to admit, I was dissappointed that the organization is still perpetuating the myth that Harry Frazee financed No, No, Nanette with money from selling Babe Ruth, when it's simply not true. Sure, it's a cute story, but spreading misinformation isn't going to do anything for Sox fans' reputation for being somewhat informed.

That aside, I was happy simply to be at Fenway Park once more, since I haven't been since returning to school in August. I also won't be seeing any games until at least late May, since my study abroad program is keeping me out of the country until then, so it was definitely nice to get a chance to bid the park adieu for now.

Oh, and I made sure to yell "SIGN V-MART" in the general direction of the front office on my way out.

[All pictures in this post were taken by me (Kayla Chadwick), but can be reproduced so long as you credit me as the photographer.]

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fire Joe Morgan? Check.

That's right, Red Sox Nation. ESPN has officially parted ways with announcer Joe Morgan, whose voice assailed our ears on Sunday Night Baseball for more than two decades.

Gone are the days when we'll have to dread the Sox playing the Sunday night games for any other reason besides Monday-morning fatigue. There will be no more meandering stories about Morgan's days as a player, and, alas, not more reason for snarky Twitter users to point out that according to baseball-reference, Morgan wasn't even playing in the game he's waxing poetic about.

It is the end of an era, as ESPN has failed to renew his contract, as well as that of Jon Miller. No official word yet on who will replace them, but as long as it's not Tim McCarver, I think we'll be able to handle that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

One more year of Big Papi

As I'm sure you've heard by now, the Red Sox have acted to pick up David Ortiz's option for 2011, and will pay the slugging - and aging - designated hitter $12.5 million next season.

Now, as soon as we hit the middle of April and Papi is sitting at .145 with no homers and a single RBI, fans will be screeching that he's washed up, overpaid, and taking up valuable roster space. We all know this will happen: for one, it's happened the last two years, but he's also not getting any younger.

Ortiz would not be worth $12.5 million on the open market. Despite the fact that he was one of the few 2010 Opening Day starters who managed to stay off the disabled list, and finished the year with a .270 average, 32 home runs, and 102 RBIs, DHs aren't as valuable as they once were.

No matter what he might tell you, David Ortiz cannot be an everyday first baseman, and so he must play in the American League. Most teams with a choice these days opt to keep the DH spot open to rotate in their aging or injured players when they need some rest, and so full-time DHs are not in particularly high demand.

However, this is be now means a bad decision from the Red Sox' point of view, as it prevents them from having to commit to him for more years, as they certainly would have had to do if they wanted him to take a pay cut. It is very likely that 2011 will be a farewell tour for Papi, unless there's some sort of 2006 revival, and/or witchcraft.

To be perfectly honest, I think this is for the best. David deserves to have a farewell tour that showcases him before the inevitable decline intensifies. Hopefully, after this year, the two can part ways amicably: Papi will retire with dignity, and the Sox will bid him farewell in a classy manner. This is unlikely, because baseball players, as a rule, keep playing long after they're particularly productive. But hey, a girl can dream, right? And you know me... I'm always dreaming of baseball.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2010 World Series, in Tweets

So that's it. The World Series is over, and it's taking baseball with it. The Giants are world champs, and while I was rooting for the Rangers, I can handle this result. I could tell you my thoughts on the matter, but I think it's more interesting to get the reactions of others, so here are some of the tweets that made the round last evening:

As always, if you are the author of any of these tweets, and would like yours removed, contact me and I will be happy to oblige.