Friday, December 21, 2012

Red is the new black?

I opened my email this morning to see the above graphic. I don't know who in the Red Sox front office thinks that most Sox fans are also fashionistas, but I giggled.  They're desperately trying to sell tickets, waiving fees on all Sox Pax today in an effort to extend that sham of a sellout streak.

The Sox have been relatively busy so far this offseason, signing, among others, Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes, and (presumably) Mike Napoli.  It remains to be seen whether this flurry of signings will influence fans or increase on-field performance.

The Red Sox were notable absent from the Josh Hamilton race, which was an excellent choice, in my opinion. Hamilton would likely have struggled under the baseball microscope in Boston, and the Red Sox are trying to stay away from long expensive contracts.

Will any of this affect the ticket-purchasing of fans? Will you be staying away because of a lack of Josh Hamilton? Will you wait and see how the team looks out of the gate? Or will you buy tickets as usual, and hope for the best?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Boo Youk?

Kevin Youkilis and the New York Yankees have agreed on a one-year, $12 million deal.  Youk passed up two years/$18 million to head to Cleveland (and back to former Red Sox manager Terry Francona) to sign with the Bronx Bombers for one year - but a better chance at postseason play.

Kevin Youkilis hasn't played for Boston since June, but before he was traded to the White Sox he had played 953 games for the Red Sox over nine seasons, starting in the legendary 2004 season.  Youk gained fame with the publication of the book Moneyball which reported he was coveted by the obsessive A's GM Billy Beane, who had dubbed the then-minor leaguer "The Greek God of Walks."

Youkilis is Jewish, not Greek, but his on-base percentage was as advertised, and his power numbers consistently improved over his first few seasons in Boston until he was less of an on-base machine and more of a homerun-threat who could work the count.

In 2008, Dustin Pedroia won the American League MVP Award, but there were many who felt that Youk had outshone Pedey on the field - Youkilis finished third in voting for the award.

When Youk was dealt to Chicago this summer, I was pretty bummed. I wore my Kevin Youkilis shirt the day after the trade, because Youk has been among my favorite players for a long time, and I swore to always root for him.

And now, after that brief stint with the White Sox, Youkilis will head back east to the Evil Empire.  I've often said that Kevin Youkilis is the kind of player that you love having on your team, but find unbearable when he plays for your opponent. The way he takes every pitch personally is endearing when he's on your side, but exasperating otherwise - even teammate and enigma Manny Ramirez thought Youk often went too far, leading to a dugout altercation in 2008.  Personally, I'll be rooting for him to do well in New York - even as I hope the Yankees lose as often as possible.

Will Red Sox fans boo Kevin Youkilis when he returns to Fenway Park in pinstripes on Friday, July 19th? Even if they do decide to boo, will he even be able to tell the difference between such noises of derision and the admiring "YOUUUUKKKKK" he always heard when heading to the plate?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

2013 Bill James Projections - Shane Victorino

2011: 132 games, .279 BA, .355 OBP, .491 SLG, 17 HR, 61 RBI
2012 projection: 149 games, .277 BA, .344 OBP, .441 SLG, 17 HR, 64 RBI
2012: 154 games, .255 BA, .321 OBP, .383 SLG, 11 HR, 55 RBI
2013 projection: 155 games. .269 BA, .338 OBP, .418 SLG, 14 HR, 59 RBI

I'm not sure I'm quite as excited as David Ortiz is about the Shane Victorino signing.  Papi absolutely gushed about Victorino on the Extra Bases blog:
“That’s my boy,” he said. “I’m very happy that he’s going to come in and join us. He’s going to be a guy people are going to love in Boston. People are going to love him. He goes at it hard. He’s got a lot of adrenalin going on. I love that. It gets me going.”
When David Ortiz is that excited about a player, I'm on board. Personally, I'm shamefully tuned out of National League affairs (with a few exceptions), and because Victorino has played exclusively for the Phillies and the Dodgers in his career, I haven't really been that cognizant of his output.

That said, the fact that he can comfortably play all three outfield positions is huge. In his career, Victorino has played 1002 games over nine seasons, 762 games in center field, 148 games in right field (where he will play the bulk of his games for Boston), and 111 games in left field. The importance of this flexibility cannot be overstated, especially since our current center fielder is in his last year under contract, and is a Scott Boras client.

On the offensive side, Victorino is a solid switch-hitting batter. Fenway Park is about 20 feet shallower down the left and right field lines than Dodger Stadium, the home for which Bill James and his team made their power projections, so it's possible that we see better power numbers than the Handbook projected.

Overall, I think it's super important that Victorino seems genuinely excited to be coming to Boston - if you don't believe me, just check out his Twitter page:

Yeah, I think he'll fit right in.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2013 Bill James Projections - Mike Napoli

2011: 113 games, .320 BA, .414 OBP, .631 SLG, 30 HR, 75 RBI
2012 projection: 131 games, .271 BA, .364 OBP, .537 SLG, 31 HR, 83 RBI
2012: 108 games, .227 BA, .343 OBP, .469 SLG, 24 HR, 56 RBI
2013 projection: 127 games, .248 BA, .350 OBP, .498 SLG, 29 HR, 75 RBI

As I'm sure you are all aware, yesterday the Red Sox inked Mike Napoli to a three year, $39 million contract. He'll mostly be playing first base, but he can certainly take his turn behind the plate, as well.

I really like this contract. Napoli has a good bat, and while he's entering his age-31 season, spending more time at first base than catcher should only help his numbers (he played more than half of his games at catcher the last two years).

This also gives the Red Sox even more depth at catcher, allowing them to use one of their many backstops (remember when we couldn't get ONE backup catcher?) for one of their various other needs - pitcher, outfield, whatever.

By all accounts, Mike Napoli is also a great clubhouse presence, and while that certainly wouldn't fill the void of an unproductive player, when added to a package like Napoli it's a nice bonus.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2013 Bill James Projections - Clay Buchholz

2011 projection: 13-9, 29 starts, 193 IP, 3.54 ERA, 74 BB, 168 SO
2011: 6-3, 14 starts, 82.2 IP, 3.48 ERA, 31 BB, 60 SO
2012 projection: 13-8, 30 starts, 191 IP, 3.53 ERA, 73 BB, 162 SO
2012: 11-8, 29 starts, 189.1 IP, 4.56 ERA, 64 BB, 129 SO
2013 projection: 12-11, 30 starts, 205 IP, 3.56 ERA,  72 BB, 163 SO

Possibly the most striking thing about Clay Buchholz's 2012 performance is that he managed to hold on to a positive winning percentage and win eleven games while his ERA leaped up more than a full run from 2011.  Buchholz made a huge jump in innings between the injury-riddled 2011 campaign and last season, tossing a career high 189.1 innings in 2012.

Bill James projects that Buch will continue to make strides in the 2013 season, with a new career high in innings (205), and a bounceback in his ERA to a much more acceptable 3.56.  It's easy to think of Buchholz as the skinny kid that came up for a cup of coffee in 2007 and won three games in three starts that fall - partly because he still looks just the same.

But 2007 was five years ago, and Clay Buchholz will be 28 next season (29 in August), a player entering his baseball prime. He's not a kid anymore, and if we're ever going to look to him to step up and be a leader on the staff, this has to be the time. I think John Farrell's presence will be good for the pitching staff: though he's the manager and not the pitching coach, he has a lot of respect from the Red Sox staff. I don't think there will be too many pitchers skipping out on their workouts or sneaking from the dugout during games to drink beer on Farrell's watch.

Hopefully Clay can eek out a few more wins than James has him projected for, but even if he can't, a pitcher with 205 innings is certainly nothing to sneeze at.