Thursday, January 31, 2013

RA Dickey: Superhero

We're all familiar with the small, tight-knit fraternity of MLB knuckleballers - mostly because of the wonderful career and community service achievements of Boston's own Tim Wakefield. But I'm sure you've all heard of the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner, RA Dickey, formerly of the New York Mets, and a member of the Toronto Blue Jays starting this season.

Dickey had a phenomenal season last year, all the more so because of the fickle nature of the knuckleball, but this post isn't about his baseball statistics. No, this post is about something far more serious than baseball, so stop reading now and come back tomorrow if that's not what you're looking for right now.

RA Dickey is currently in Mumbai, India, volunteering with an organization called the Bombay Teen Challenge, which aims to save some of the estimated one million women and children forced into sexual slavery in that country alone.  Dickey wrote about his own sexual abuse in his book, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, and was also profiled in an excellent piece by Sports Illustrated (also featuring Kayla Harrison, gold medalist in judo) on sexual abuse and athletes back in December.

Last offseason, RA Dickey climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, raising over $100,000 for the Bombay Teen Challenge, and this year he's continuing his contribution in probably the best way he can: by getting over there and getting the word out. Charitable contributions are a big part of being a professional athlete: players have a serious soapbox to sound off on whatever issues are most important to them, and Dickey isn't about to waste that chance.

If you'd like to know more about Dickey's service trip, you can check out this story from the AP on ESPN. If you want to find out more about the Bombay Teen Challenge, please visit their website and/or like them on Facebook. Because of the brutal nature of the crimes that BTC is trying to fight against, there's a sort of culture of silence surrounding the whole issue - and it's time to end that silence. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Indefinite Steroid Era?

The Miami New Times has dropped a bomb on professional sports with an exposé by Tim Elfrink entitled, "A Miami Clinic Supplies Drugs to Sports' Biggest Names." Among many, many others, Alex Rodriguez's name appears multiple times in the article, and in the records of alleged steroid distributor Tony Bosch.

In addition to some fantastic investigative journalism, I want to give kudos to the New Times graphic design department for the hilarious cover art displayed with the online article:

I can't decide whether the syringes are meant to resemble literal missiles being dropped at the quaint community depicted, or if they're meant to look like a telltale rainbow? Either way, it's almost enough to distract from the incredible substance of the article.

Lending credence to the evidence of A*Rod's continued drug use are certain names of the Yankee superstar's MLB peers, who have been caught and punished for using a banned substance - like Melky Cabrera, who was suspended for 50 games this past season for testing positive for some illicit drug. Old friend Bartolo Colon is also among those listed in Bosch's records - and was also suspended last season when MLB drug tests revealed his use of synthetic testosterone.

A*Rod, of course, denies the allegations, and the Yankees have released a statement saying that they'll leave the investigation to the Commissioner's Office (which has obviously never bungled a steroid problem before, so THAT'S A RELIEF).  However, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe speculates that the Yankees might sue to have A*Rod's gargantuan contract finished early if the allegations can be proven - which is a shame for me on a personal level because I was really enjoying the buckets of money that the Yankees were paying Rodriguez as we all watched his health deteriorate before out very eyes.

Sadly for Rodriguez, he's out for an extended period of time due to his perpetually bad hip (surely another coincidence, and not a side-effect of many years of steroid use), and as such won't have the chance to be tested by MLB and then get on the field in an attempt to prove he can play clean.  

But even with MLB testing for HGH fr the first time (in season) in 2013, can the results be trusted? Even players making just the major league minimum salary have the money to pay for the newest undetectable drugs, and to hire someone to monitor their regimen.  Even a clean testing record is relatively meaningless in an era where the newest designer PEDs are all but undetectable for the right price, and baseball is full of multi-millionaires.  The article fromthe New Times just reminds us that we're really nowhere different from a decade ago: anyone could be using, and there may never be a way for fans to know for sure who's clean.

But there is one thing we can all be pretty sure of: A*Rod - like Cabrera, and Colon, and Manny Ramirez before him - is not.

[I highly recommend heading over to the Miami New Times website and reading the whole article if you have ten minutes to spare - it's really a good piece of journalism.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reader's reluctance and Tito's new book

I got my copy of Francona: The Red Sox Years, right on time on its release date from Amazon.  It is currently sitting, unopened, on my bedside table.  I'm sure it will be well-written, as everything Dan Shaughnessy has a hand in writing has a certain style, and I'm sure it will be interesting, because Terry Francona's arrival in Boston coincided with a very exciting time in Red Sox history.

So why haven't I opened it yet? It's not because I'm in the middle of another book (surely a lackadaisical winter reread of Harry Potter can be put aside for a new release like this one), nor is it because I don't have the time - indeed, I have a shameful amount of free time lately.

No, my reluctance to dive into what is sure to be a page-turner has more to do with a halfhearted attempt at preserving my illusions. I know that there were players who were difficult, even during the magical 2004 and 2007 seasons (the sections on Manny Ramirez alone must be pretty hefty). But I'm not ready to lose my mental pedestals for players whose indiscretions might have flown under the radar of the fans - if, for instance, there's a passage about anyone that at all resembles the Roger Clemens anecdotes from Joe Torre's The Yankee Years, I might just lost it.

I've heard good things about the book, and I'm sure that once I manage to start it, I'll be through it in a matter of days.  I'm equally certain that the book will have me feeling some serious nostalgia for the good old days of the Pedey/Tito bromance.  Have any of you guys read the book? Am I being nervous for nothing? Let me know here in the comments, on Twitter, or on the Facebook page!

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Ryan Sweeney

2011: 108 games, .265 BA, .346 OBP, .341 SLG, 1 HR, 25 RBI
2012 projection: 105 games, .285 BA, .353 OBP, .392 SLG, 4 HR, 36 RBI
2012: 63 games, .260 BA, .303 OBP, .373 SLG, 0 HR, 16 RBI
2013 projection: 86 games, .273 BA, .335 OBP, .370 SLG, 2 HR, 24 RBI

Yes, it's official, Ryan Sweeney will be back in Boston for the 2013 season. Though technically signed to a minor league deal, Sweeney has been invited to spring training, and with Ryan Kalish's impending surgery, you have to assume that Sweeney will be on the Opening Day Roster.

Sweeney made an early departure last year after he broke his hand punching a door in the in the clubhouse out of frustration.  The only possible positive outcome of such a childish action is that it easily got buried in the overwhelming amount of terrible news surrounding last season's Red Sox.

Sweeney apologized at the time for his display of temper and its repercussions, and is even making jokes about it on his Twitter:

He seems happy for the opportunity, and is, in his own words "exited to be back with Boston," which is especially impressive given how the season ended here in 2012.  I'm still super bummed about Kalish's seemingly continuous health problems, but Sweeney has some comparable numbers (although we admittedly lose some power potential). 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A new addition to the Nationals Park Presidents Race

I'm sure you're all aware of the Washington Nationals Presidents Race, an event that takes place during the fourth inning of every Nats' home game. If you haven't ever heard of such a thing, let me offer a brief explanation: the Nationals have mascot versions of some famous American presidents, and they race around the stadium.

Until now, the presidents competing have been those featured on the famous national landmark, Mount Rushmore: Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. Yesterday, the Nationals threw a wrench into tradition, and introduced a fifth competitor  in the person of President William Howard Taft, whose biggest achievement was less that he was a president, or anything he managed to get done as president, but that he is the only president to also serve on the Supreme Court.

Taft also had an historic falling out with Teddy Roosevelt, and as Teddy is the traditional last-place finisher at the Presidents Race, I think we can safely assume that there will be a Roosevelt/Taft rivalry developing soon at Nationals Park.

As amusing and unique as the Presidents Race is, I've never really wanted the Red Sox to have a gimmick like this.  I think that one of the best things about Fenway Park is the typical LACK of these kinds of things; people know when to cheer without being prompted by the scoreboard, they stay engaged without random sound effects, and on-field entertainment is mostly left to the actual game.

That being said, I will make it a point to get down to DC and catch the new Presidents Race - it might be gimmicky, but it sounds extremely entertaining, especially with a new member in the mix!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Injuries abound

Ryan Kalish can't catch a break. I wrote his projections post a week ago today, under the assumption that he would be healthy and ready for spring training and Opening Day - and it's become clear that's not the case.

Kalish has struggled with myriad injuries in his short career (he's just 24), and had surgery last offseason in an attempt to fix his torn labrum, and he's had other surgeries, as well. Everyone had been optimistic that the light was on at the end of the tunnel, that Kalish would finally be healthy enough to fulfill his potential. Alas, this is not the case, and he will be out "for the foreseeable future" because of impending surgery on his right shoulder.

If you should need some schadenfreude to brighten your day after hearing that, I definitely have some news for you.  The Yankees should be without Alex Rodriguez until at least after the All Star break, and quite possibly for the whole season.

Of course, A-Rod is 37, and he's been injury-prone for a number of years, so this isn't surprising. And yes, the Yankees have proven that they can win without the power-hitting Rodriguez, but I take a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that they'll be paying him at least $28 million dollars to play a maximum of about two months.

I would never, ever wish injury on anyone - including A-Rod, who is very close to the top of my most disliked player list - but it is nice to remember that the Red Sox aren't the only team dealing with serious injuries before the season is even underway.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Welcome back, Pedro!

"This team, this city, it's in my heart," said Pedro Martinez of Boston and the Red Sox yesterday afternoon, in what can only be described as a successful attempt to make me tear up. As I'm sure you're all aware by now, Martinez has been hired by the Red Sox as a special assistant to the general manager, and Red Sox Nation is overjoyed to welcome him home.

Martinez should be uniquely helpful to a clubhouse in flux: his affable and jocular demeanor should relax a team that's gotten much too uptight, and his incredible pitching pedigree can only be good for a rotation in transition.

Pedro Martinez encompasses my adolescence as a Red Sox fan. He came to Boston when I was eight years old, just as I was beginning to understand the hopelessness inherent in my fandom, and he seemed ready to turn everything around. Of course, it took all seven of his Red Sox seasons, but what seasons they were!

He won two of his three Cy Young awards with the Red Sox, and four of his eight All Star selections were as a member of the Red Sox - he was absolutely dominant on the mound, not to mention all of the shenanigans we enjoyed along the way. Who can forget the time he told the media: "I don't believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him - maybe I'll drill him in the ass!"

Through it all, Martinez was always here for a a good time, and always looking to win. He did us proud in the 1999 All Star Game, and consistently left everything on the field - a tendency perhaps best characterized by that fateful day in October of 2003, when Grady Little left him hanging, and Pedro dutifully (and unsuccessfully) gave it his all. The very next year, he helped to bring the Red Sox to an impossible comeback and then a sweep of the World Series.

Even if Pedro Martinez is an absolute failure as a front office guy (and I don't believe for one second that he'll be anything but spectacular), he's among the storied few who will be forever beloved by Red Sox fans. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Daniel Nava

2012: 88 games, .243 BA, .352 OBP, .390 SLG, 6 HR, 33 RBI
2013 projection: 87 games, .266 BA, .367 OBP, .414 SLG, 6 HR, 35 RBI

After Daniel Nava's spectacular entrance into the bigs in 2010 (where he hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw), he settled into being the kind of player we all anticipated: a serviceable and affable fourth or fifth outfielder.

Nava is currently second on the Red Sox depth chart in left field, just under Jonny Gomes, and he's played both left and right field in his time in Boston. He's about average with the bat and on defense, but certainly passable for a backup - and I've never heard a negative word about him, attitude-wise.

I have a somewhat personal attachment to Nava, as I was at his very first major league game. It was an interleague contest against the Phillies, and I had cheap bleacher seats. It was raining hard enough that my friend and I discussed moving to better seats that had been abandoned by fans looking to stay dry, when Nava came to bat with the bases loaded, and promptly deposited the very first pitch just about a dozen rows below us.

We had previously been surrounded by Phillies fans who were, to put it lightly, intoxicated and boisterous, and the grand slam from Nava shut them right up.  My friend and I were soaked to the skin, and had a long drive back to New Hampshire ahead of us, so we bought some dry (and overpriced) clothing from the Red Sox Team Store, as a permanent souvenir of a great game.

I'm always happy to see Nava on the roster (even when it means that a better player couldn't be had). He came up for the first time when the Red Sox were still considered an elite team, and I'm hoping that they get back to that place while he's still hanging around.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mike Napoli and Avascular Necrosis

It's official. Mike Napoli has signed with the Red Sox for one year and $5 million, with bonuses up to $8 million for staying on the field despite his hip problems.

According to Napoli's agent (via's Extra Bases blog), Napoli has been diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips. From WebMD:
Avascular necrosis (AVN), also called osteonecrosis, aseptic necrosis, or ischemic bone necrosis, is a condition that occurs when there is loss of blood to the bone. Because bone is living tissue that requires blood, an interruption to the blood supply causes bone to die. If not stopped, this process eventually causes the bone to collapse...
In its early stages, AVN typically cause no symptoms; however, as the disease progresses it becomes painful. At first, you may experience pain when you put pressure on the affected bone. Then, pain may become more constant. If the disease progresses and the bone and surrounding joint collapse, you may experience severe pain that interferes with your ability to use your joint. The time between the first symptoms and collapse of the bone may range from several months to more than a year.
 According to Napoli's agent, he doesn't have any pain or symptoms yet, so it's very possible that he'll make it through the season without missing time, given the timeline of the disease. He's being treated by   "a metabolic bone disease specialist," and hopefully that will stave of symptoms for many years, because he's just 31 years old, and should have a long career ahead of him - playing more first base and less behind the plate should certainly help.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Daniel Bard

2011 projection: 6-3, 76 IP, 34 BB, 90 SO, 2.72 ERA, 0 saves
2011: 2-9, 73 IP, 24 BB, 74 SO, 3.33 ERA, 1 save
2012 projection: 6-2, 70 IP, 25 BB, 79 SO, 2.31 ERA, 2 saves

2012: 5-6, 59.1 IP, 43 BB, 38 SO, 6.22 ERA, 0 saves
2013 projection: 3-4, 67 IP, 28 BB, 67 SO, 3.63 ERA, 1 save

We saw it before, when the Yankees screwed up the development of Joba Chamberlain, switching him from starter to reliever and back again, instituting the "Joba Rules" of innings limits and generally making certain to squander the potential of their best reliever outside of the legendary Mariano Rivera.

There were fans who were concerned that the same thing would happen to Daniel Bard when the idea of switching him to a starter was first floated last offseason. I have to admit that I did not share those concerns  despite the fact that Bard's biggest stride in the minor leagues was made when he was switched from the rotation to the bullpen; I should have seen this coming.

The Daniel Bard as a starter experiment was a failure of epic proportions, in a season marked by failures on every level. After a somewhat promising Spring Training, it became very clear once the season started that Bard wasn't working in the rotation. He made ten starts, but ended the season as disappointed as the rest of us.

Hopefully a return to the bullpen will improve Bard's numbers as much as Bill James and his team seems to think - an ERA drop of almost three full runs is nothing to sneeze at. The rotation is (for the moment) full, and there's no need for Bard to deal the the added pressures of closing, since the Red Sox currently have two experienced closers. In addition, the presence of John Farrell can only help things for formerly struggling Red Sox pitchers. I think (I hope!) Bard will return to his former dominance in an eighth inning role in 2013.

Monday, January 21, 2013

This must be how it feels to be a Yankees fan...

Last night, the Patriots lost to the Ravens. Everyone on my Twitter and Facebook feeds who lives outside of New England was jubilant, while I was morose. I know that it's kind of ridiculous to mourn a Patriots loss in the penultimate round of the playoffs, especially when they so regularly play in the postseason, and have certainly won their share of Super Bowls in my lifetime, but that doesn't lessen the immediate feeling of disappointment.

I'm perfectly aware of the vitriol that most of the country feels towards the Patriots, and I like to think that it's similar to how I (along with millions of others) feel about the New York Yankees [though the comparison falls apart when you remember that the Yankees spend tens of millions of dollars more than anyone else, while the Pats operate with the same salary cap as every other NFL team].

The Patriots are elite year after year. The quarterback married a supermodel, and even does some modeling of his own. The coach is surly and aloof, and the franchise was unlucky enough to be caught filming the opposition's signs (though you're deluding yourself if you think the Pats were the only team doing that).

I fully understand why people don't like the Patriots. If I was from another region of the country, I probably wouldn't like them very much myself. But it does make it hard to deal with a big loss when you know that virtually everyone in the country is celebrating. This experience doesn't make me any less eager to savor the schadenfreude when the Yankees lose, but I do at least feel an inkling of what their fans must feel.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tributes to Stan Musial and Earl Weaver

As I'm sure most of you know, baseball lost two legends yesterday with the passing of former Orioles Manager Earl Weaver and Cardinals first baseman and outfielder Stan Musial. I certainly don't claim to have any outstanding knowledge about the two of them, but has a collection of really fantastic tributes if you all are looking to know more:

All of them are well-written and extremely informative. Though Musial and Weaver be remembered fondly and forever, baseball will sorely miss these two.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Ryan Kalish

2012: 36 games, .229 BA, .272 OBP, .260 SLG, 0 HR, 5 RBI
2013 projection: 129 games, .252 BA, .320 OBP, 384 SLG, 10 HR, 48 RBI

Ryan Kalish has been almost ready for the bigs for what seems like half my life. He came up for fifty-three games back in 2010, then injuries kept him off the field for most of 2011. He had 103 plate appearances last season, and didn't quite live up to the predictions for his potential.

On the Red Sox official depth chart, Kalish is second to Shane Victorino in right field, and third to Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava in left. Jacoby Ellsbury is all alone on the chart in center, but Kalish has played that position in the past, and is perfectly capable of giving him a day off, or taking over if (heaven forbid) Ells goes down with a injury.

I have a soft spot for every prospect that comes up through the system, and we've been waiting for Kalish for years now. He certainly has the potential and the tools to not only meet Bill James' projections, but to exceed them: we just have to wait and see what kind of playing time he'll get.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy birthday to me!

It's my birthday today, and I've gotten the news I was waiting for: there are Red Sox players already down at Fort Meyers getting ready for spring training. So what if they don't actually have to be there for weeks? Who cares if practices don't officially commence for almost a month? Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales are in Fort Meyers already!

[If you wanted to "Like" this blog on Facebook, it would make me very happy on my birthday!]

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Jonny Gomes

2011: 120 games, .209 BA, .325 OBP, .389 SLG, 14 HR, 43 RBI
2012 projection: 120 games, .240 BA, .333 OBP, .439 SLG, 16 HR, 53 RBI
2012: 99 games, .262 BA, .377 OBP, .491 SLG, 18 HR, 47 RBI
2013 projection: 113 games, .236 BA, .337 OBP, .441 SLG, 16 HR, 49 RBI

Jonny Gomes was one of the first signings the Red Sox made this offseason, as he became an official member of the team on November 21, just three weeks after the World Series ended.  Gomes has been remarkably consistant throughout his career, and while his numbers aren't exactly eye-popping for a corner outfielder, predictability is something the Red Sox could most definitely use.

Gomes isn't a terribly impressive defensive left fielder, but he should be able to patrol the small area in front of the Green Monster with less worry. Though he spent a lot of time last season as a designated hitter in Oakland, Gomes has also played all three outfield positions in his career.

It remains to be seen whether Gomes will take on the bulk of playing time in left field, or if there will be a platoon including him, Daniel Nava, and/or Ryan Kalish. Whatever the case, hopefully left field is less plagued by injuries in 2013 than it has been in recent years.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Counting down to pitchers and catchers

While stumbling around the internet this morning, I found a wonderful website to give me hope even on days (like today) when the snow is falling outside.

Introducing Spring Training Countdown, a site with the sole purpose of letting anxious baseball fans know how long they'll be waiting for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training:

As you can see, there's less than a month until spring training! And even this clock can't estimate when the early birds will start to arrive; there are always players who show up before they have to, and with the abysmal showing the Red Sox had in 2012, I'm hoping we have a lot of them.

By the time you read this post, the screenshot  just took for the photo will be minutes or hours old - so go ahead, click through, and indulge your daydreams of springtime and baseball for a few moments.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Felix Doubront

2012: 11-10, 161 IP, 71 BB, 167 SO, 4.86 ERA
2013 projection: 12-11, 202 IP, 74 BB, 189 SO, 3.70 ERA

Felix Doubront is one of those players that has to do the rookie hazing dress-up routine multiple times, because he keeps getting called up and then sent back down. Last season, he had by far his longest stay with the big club (29 starts), and he'll be the presumptive fifth man in the rotation to begin 2013.

Last year had to be a tough one to be new to the major league routine, what with a new manager who seemed determined to make waves, teammates who were more than happy to jump ship to LA, and a long downward spiral to a last place finish in the division.

But Doubront did about as well as any of his teammates: he won more games than he lost, and pitched more innings for the Red Sox than all of his other stints combined. James projects that Doubront will pitch over 200 innings in 2013, and lover his ERA by more than a run. If Doubront can become a solid, mid-level starter, for right around the major league minimum, then I for one will be happy.

I've said this before, but watching kids come up through the minor league system and then perform at the major league level is one of the single greatest things about being a baseball fan. Doubront is well on his way to becoming a solid contributing piece of the Boston Red Sox, in 2013 and beyond - and I can't wait to see how he develops.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Alfredo Aceves

2011: 10-2, 114 IP, 42 BB, 80 SO, 2.61 ERA, 2 saves
2012 projection: 8-5, 118 IP, 43 BB, 85 SO, 3.43 ERA, 0 saves
2012: 2-10, 84 IP, 31 BB, 75 SO, 5.36 ERA, 25 saves
2013 projection: 5-5, 88 IP, 33 BB, 67 SO, 3.68 ERA, 0 saves

Alfredo Aceves was never supposed to be the closer last season. But Andrew Bailey went and got seriously injured in spring training, and Aceves was the best option at the time, though he made it clear (repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms) that he greatly disliked the bullpen, and wanted to be a starter.

He's certainly in little danger of being asked to be the permanent closer, as the Red Sox have signed Joel Hanrahan and retained the now-healthy Bailey.  Unfortunately for Aceves, the starting rotation is looking rather full as well, with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront.

So Aceves and his attitude are likely to get pushed into the bullpen, where his role will have even less glory and earning potential than it did as a closer, because middle-relief, long-relief, eighth-inning guys, and mop-up men are indeed the UNSUNG heroes of a ballclub: you can't survive the season without them, but they don't usually get a lot of credit.

It remains to be seen whether Aceves will be able to take such a demotion, or if he'll demand a starting role or a trade. Alfredo is a very talented pitcher with some great stuff, but there's a reason that the Yankees weren't clamoring for him back (and it's not because they always look for pricier alternatives).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I'm not a diehard Pats fan, but...

I'm not really a Patriots fan, per say, but more of a sports fan from New England whose default team happens to be the Pats. I can't tell you how many yard Tom Brady has thrown for this season, nor how many touchdown passes Wes Welker has received - but I am happiest when the Patriots are doing well.

In the last decade or so, it's been pretty predictable that we'll be seeing the Patriots in the playoffs (though since the NFL allows 12 of 32 teams, one could argue that's not such a lofty achievement). I don't watch every week during the season, mostly because I typically forget there's a game until it's mostly over; with baseball, there's a game pretty much every day, so watching becomes part of my routine.

But I am excited for this evening's game. I want to see the Pats make it all the way to the Superbowl, and then win it (unlike the fiasco last year). Here's hoping that starts tonight!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Escaping the Carnage of the World Baseball Classic?

According to's Extra Bases blog, the Red Sox may send just two of their major leaguers to the World Baseball Classic this year, with the possibility that both Alfredo Aceves (Mexico), and Shane Victorino (USA) will participate. This is a striking change for the Red Sox, who sent a much larger array of players to the 2006 and 2009 WBC.

The 2009 tournament particularly affected the Red Sox, because after Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched Team Japan to its second WBC title (and himself to its MVP), he was on and off the disabled list for the entire MLB season. The Red Sox did get some amusement out of that year's WBC, as Kevin Youkilis restyled his famous goatee:

And we all had some mixed feelings about the brand new bromance between Red Sox second baseman and all around dirt dog Dustin Pedroia and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter - I mean, I know the tournament is supposed to be about forging connection, but come on!

And for what? The USA finished fourth in the 2009 WBC, because most US players feel their first allegiance is to the team that pays them (and MLB), while in Japan, playing for the national team is a huge honor.

And so I predict that this year, like every World Baseball Classic thus far, Japan will take home the first place, and Daisuke Matsuzaka might even claim his third MVP (though the rosters haven't been announced yet, so no guarantee he's playing). But for the Red Sox, the effect the tournament has on spring training and the 2013 season should be (thankfully) minimized.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Joel Hanrahan

2011: 70 games, 40 saves, 68.2 IP, 1.83 ERA, 16 BB, 61 SO
2012 projection: 69 games, 37 saves, 67 IP, 3.36 ERA, 23 BB, 67 SO
2012: 63 games, 36 saves, 59.2 IP, 2.72 ERA, 36 BB, 67 SO
2013 projection: 59 games, 40 saves, 57 IP, 3.63 ERA, 26 BB, 58 SO

Despite spending his entire career with the mostly less than respectable (pre-2012) Nationals and Pirates, Joel Hanrahan has pretty respectable numbers. It's unclear how the Red Sox will be handling the Andrew Bailey/Joel Hanrahan closer balancing act, though the online depth chart does designate Hanrahan as the ninth inning guy.

Hanrahan spent some time at Fenway Park this week, and seemed willing and ready to share time with Bailey: "...we'll get along great. All you can do is root for each other to have success and pull for the team. That's what we're going to do, I believe. He was in a tough spot. Any time you injure your hand in spring training, that's not fun. Especially coming over to a new team. I'm sure he's got to prove this year." (quote via's Extra Bases blog).

Hanrahan also commented on the increased media presence at Fenway as opposed to his old home with the Pittsburgh Pirates, conceded that he was bound to say some stupid things, and reassured everyone that he would just roll with the punches.

Overall, Hanrahan seems like a good fit for the Red Sox. The projections that James and his team did were calculated under the assumption that Hanrahan would be the closer for the Pirates, so it's possible that he'll see more save opportunities - though it's nice to know that (barring a trade), the Red Sox will have two established closers waiting in the bullpen.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

BBWAA: get off your high horse

I don't know about you guys, but I find it pretty rich that so many BBWAA members with votes for the Hall of Fame refused to vote for anyone with the "stain" of steroid use - especially when it was their silence for so many years that allowed a few users to turn into a full-blown "Steroid Era."

Do I agree with the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs? Of course not, but to say they made a mockery of the games and its records is laughable. You know what else made a mockery of longstanding records? The expansions of the regular seasons and postseason: more games results in more chances to break records, while more teams in the playoff field somewhat dilutes the dominance required to set a postseason homerun record.

Baseball is a game of nostalgia. I get it. If you pulled a player out of a 1903 baseball game and put him in a present-day baseball game, it would be nearly the only thing about the present day he would understand, and that's really special. But that's just on the surface of things; there are plenty of things about the game he would NOT understand. Designated hitters, pitch counts, airplane travel, Tommy John surgery, and beerless clubhouses are just a few of the things that would be endlessly confusing for our proverbial baseball original.

Modern players have all kinds of advantages over their predecessors, including but not limited to: full time training staff, laser eye surgery, innovative doctors on the team payroll (I'm looking at you, Curt Schilling - that bloody sock game doesn't happen in 1912), cortisone shots, and more. Even the huge salaries now commonplace in baseball play a role: not being required to work as a ditch digger in the offseason could certainly stave off retirement a few years and strengthen your HoF numbers.

Somehow we came to the conclusion that there are some scientific advantages that baseball players are allowed to utilize, like the aforementioned conditioning programs, cortisone shots, and even surgeries -but PEDs are off limits. And that's an acceptable distinction, since unlike most of the other methods here, steroids destroy your body in the long run.

But it definitely rubs me the wrong way when HoF voters, the very men (and a few women) who were in clubhouses in the nineties, watching as players ballooned up to comic book proportions, who looked the other way, get up on their pedestal and claim they're voting to preserve the sanctity of the Hall. Where were they when players were taking pills and injections and ruining the sanctity of the game? Most were pretending not to see, in order to preserve their clubhouse access and their jobs, which is understandable. But you don't get to do that, and then act like you're somehow baseball's magical savior when you vote to keep the very players you protected with your silence out of the Hall.

It's impossible to prove that anyone who played in that era was clean; Clemens and Bonds had the misfortune of being caught, but there's no saying who was clean and who wasn't. It's unfair to award Hall of Fame votes only to those who somehow escaped public suspicion. After all, perhaps they were just sneakier than those who were caught. I want to see players in the Hall of Fame who were the best of the era, and some of those who were caught were among the best. Anyone interested in baseball enough to visit Cooperstown will understand the Steroid Era numbers must be taken with a grain of salt, just as they understand that it's difficult to compare the Deadball Era to those that came after it.

No matter what the voters decide, there will be players who are unfairly penalized for playing when they did. Some of them will be the rare players that stayed completely clean, and thus unable to compete with the superhuman strength surrounding them. But mostly it's the fans who were cheated: we'll never know who of our favorites was clean and who was using, but the BBWAA has the gall to be all sanctimonious in keeping them out? When it was them looking the other way that sustained the drug abuse in the first place? The whole thing makes me ill.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - John Lackey

2010: 14-11, 33 starts, 215 IP, 4.40 ERA, 72 BB, 156 SO
2011 projection: 13-12, 33 starts, 227 IP, 3.89 ERA
2011: 12-12, 28 starts, 160 IP, 6.41 ERA, 56 BB, 108 SO
2012: [No stats; missed entire year recovering from Tommy John surgery]
2013 projection: 12-12, 33 starts, 209 IP, 4.04 ERA, 59 BB, 163 SO

There's no use pretending that John Lackey is a popular figure around here, because the inaccuracy of that notion would be staggering. Lackey is disliked for his role in the Beer and Chicken fiasco of 2011, for his surly refusal to own up the the shenanigans, and for the impression that he might have known he was eventually headed for the surgery table before he signed the 5 year, $82.5 million dollar contract with the Red Sox in the 2009-2010 offseason.

But there are some redeeming qualities about John Lackey, and I would like to point them out to you this morning, because I really think that Lackey will be an important and valuable piece in the 2013 Red Sox rotation. For starters, Lackey is a legitimate innings-eater: the fewest innings he's pitched in a season since coming up to the majors for good is 160 - and that was 2011, when he would end the year with elbow surgery. I have no trouble believing that Lackey can pitch over 200 innings this year, after being surgically repaired and having the 2012 season to get healthy.

Not coincidentally, 2011 was also the only year in his decade-long career that Lackey's SO/BB ratio was below 2 (1.93). For reference, Curt Schilling had three such years in his own career, Randy Johnson had six, and even Hall of Famer Bob Gibson had five. So what's the point? Just that Lackey strikes out a LOT more batters than he walks - and that is definitely a good thing.

In my opinion, John Lackey's single biggest flaw is that he wears his emotions on his sleeve. This tendency is fine, and even somewhat endearing, when that emotion is something like triumph, or pride, or excitement, but the feeling we usually see Lackey expressing on the mound is disgust. He gets disgusted when his teammates botch a defensive play behind him, and disgusted when the call doesn't go his way: both rational and understandable feelings, but when the fans in the nosebleed seat can see your anger, it's time to tone it down.

I really think that Lackey can (and will) redeem himself to Red Sox fans this season. For one thing, he'll be the only big, surly, Texan starter in the clubhouse since Josh Beckett was shipped off to LA. But the most important thing is that he should finally be 100% healthy (which is a real achievement for the Red Sox in recent years), and he should be able to perform up to his considerable potential.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Will Middlebrooks

2012: 75 games, .288 BA, .325 OBP, .509 SLG, 15 HR, 54 RBI
2013 projection: 153 games, .277 BA, .316 OBP, .490 SLG, 29 HR, 99 RBI

In the total disappointment of last season, watching Will Middlebrooks rake was one of the bright spots. Of course, in keeping with the rest of the season, he eventually succumbed to an injury in the form of a broken right wrist.

Middlebrooks' success was the reason we initially said goodbye to Kevin Youkilis, but at this point I'm okay with it. We already watched Youkilis transform from a chubby kid with a weird batting stance into a bona fide slugger, a cleanup batter for a contender (still with a weird batting stance). Now I want to watch Middlebrooks grow into the MVP type player I know he can be.

Watching young players grow into their potential is one of the single greatest things about being a baseball fan, and we  (and he!) got somewhat cheated of that when Middlebrooks broke his wrist last season. One of the things I'm looking forward to most in 2013 is watching a healthy Will Middlebrooks - it should be a lot of fun.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Ryan Dempster

2011: 10-14, 34 starts, 202.1 IP, 4.80 ERA, 82 BB, 191 SO
2012 projection: 11-12, 32 starts, 203 IP, 3.95 ERA, 80 BB, 185 SO
2012: 12-8, 28 starts, 173 IP, 3.38 ERA, 52 BB, 153 SO
2013 projection: 11-10, 31 starts, 190 IP, 3.74 ERA, 66 BB, 172 SO

Did you ever think the Red Sox would sign a pitcher coming up on his tenth anniversary of Tommy John surgery? That's exactly who they have in 35-year-old Ryan Dempster, who went under the knife in August of 2003 while playing for the Cincinnati Reds.

Dempster has a career winning percentage of .500, a balanced 124-124 record, and a career ERA of 4.33. His most similar pitcher through age 35 according to baseball-reference is A.J. Burnett. This could admittedly freak you out, but not if you remember that A) Burnett had great stuff but he psyched himself out a lot, and B) the Red Sox are paying Dempster $26.5 million over two years, and the Yankees paid Burnett $82.5 million dollars over five years - literally paying him to play for Pittsburgh in the final season of that contract.

Ryan Dempster has been bopping around the majors since his career debut with the Marlins in 1998; the Red Sox will be his fifth team. But he brings something important to Boston: consistency. Dempster predictably turns in about 30 starts per season, comes in just under 200 innings pitched, and has an ERA around 4. That's certainly not spectacular, but there is something to be said for routine.

If Dempster can perform up the the standards Bill James has projected for him (though these numbers were calculated under the assumption that he would mostly be pitching in Texas), he will be well worth the money the front office has invested in him.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Congratulations hockey fans, the lockout is ending!

I am not a diehard Bruins fan, but bandwagon at best: ask me to name five players, and I'll happily obige, but ask for five more, and I'll be stumped. However, I really do enjoy watching hockey. I went to high school at Hebron Academy in Maine, and if a hockey school ever existed, that one was it. I even joined the girls' ice hockey team my junior year, though I had never played before, hoping my field hockey prowess and my childhood ice skating would make me at least a mediocre player. It was, to say the least, a failed experiment.

All that being said, I am absolutely THRILLED that the NHLPA and the NHL have finally come to an agreement. Unlike many of my friends, the many months of missed games have not ruined my winter, but I will be very happy to have hockey in my life again.

I was only four years old when the 1994 World Series was cancelled because of a labor dispute, and to be perfectly honest, I don't remember it at all. I can't even imagine what it must be like to wait all year for a season that never starts - and for hockey fans, this is the second time in a decade, though at least this lockout will have a happier ending that the '04-'05 version.

What I'm trying to say (in my own meandering fashion) is congratulations Bruins' fans, and hockey fans all over! Lockouts hurt the fans much more than the owners or even the players, and this is a day worthy of celebration for YOU. Even if I'm not a diehard hockey fan, I know how the announcement of a season's kickoff feels, and after all you've been through this winter, you deserve some good news.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A birthday wish for Jose Iglesias

Because today happens to be Jose Iglesias' twenty-third birthday, I wanted briefly to revisit yesterday's post.  Twitter user @theHooHaagroove was as skeptical as I was upon seeing Bill James 2013 projections for Mr. Iglesias:

In fact, James predicted that Iglesias will get a multitude of hits, to the tune of a .240 batting average over 139 games played.  Of course, these numbers were calculated before Stephen Drew came aboard, under the assumption that Iglesias would earn the starting shortstop job.

I want to be very, very clear about something: when you watch only the tops of innings of games Iglesias played at Fenway, and the bottoms of the innings of games on the road, Iglesias is the best shortstop the Red Sox have had in many years. His defense is practically impervious to criticism, and an absolute joy to watch.

But on the offensive side of things (and I mean "offensive" in every sense of the word), I'm with @theHooHaaGroove. We've been waiting and hoping and praying to the Baseball Gods for Jose Iglesias to find his stroke since he defected from Cuba in 2009. This season is the last on Iglesias' four year, $8.25 million contract, and the Drew signing is an obvious signal from the front office that they aren't content to rely on him to finally reach an acceptable level of output at the plate.

By all accounts, Iglesias seems like a stand-up young man, and I think I can safely say that Red Sox fans all over the world want nothing more than for him to find his stroke - if for no other reason than the ability to watch him shut down the entire left side of the infield.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Jose Iglesias

2012 projection: 50 games, .241 BA, .277 OBP, .277 SLG, 0 HR, 10 RBI
2012: 25 games, .118 BA, .200 OBP, .191 SLG, 1 HR, 2 RBI
2013 projection: 139 games, .240 BA, .285 OBP, .283 SLG, 2 HR, 32 RBI

There's no sugarcoating the facts anymore: Jose Iglesias' offensive numbers are just as brutal as his defensive highlight reel is breathtaking.  It's never been a secret that Iglesias was coveted for his skills with the leather rather than the lumber, but instead of improvement, last year we saw increased struggle.

With the signing of Stephen Drew, it's safe to assume that Iglesias will not be seeing 139 games at shortstop in the majors. Indeed, perhaps the Drew signing is admission from the front office that Iglesias will be spending some more time robbing base hits in the minors in an effort to bring himself above the Mendoza line, below which he can never be the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.

Only an animated GIF can really do Iglesias' defense justice.

If Iglesias can find his stroke to the tune of .240 as James suggests (somewhat optimistically, in my opinion), his defense is sparkling enough that he can finally fulfill his destiny as the "Shortstop of the Future" that we seem to have been hearing about approximately forever.

On a more personal note, the arrival of Iglesias (and other players his age) in the majors is a sort of shock to me. I've been watching baseball for a large portion of my life, and the players have always been older than me. Jose Iglesias is older than me, but only by about two weeks, and it somehow feels very strange to have people in my peergroup taking the field every day - especially since my life is in a constant state of flux.

I love watching Iglesias play defense (even if it makes me feel personally unaccomplished), and I would welcome the chance to watch that every day - if only seeing him stride to the plate didn't make me wince. Hopefully 2013 is his year.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Dustin Pedroia

2011 projection: 158 games, .297 BA, .372 OBP, .462 SLG, 17 HR, 77 RBI
2011: 159 games, .307 BA, .387 OBP, .474 SLG, 21 HR, 91 RBI
2012 projection: 143 games, .299 BA, .378 OBP, .469 SLG, 17 HR, 73 RBI
2012: 141 games, .290 BA, .347 OBP, .449 SLG, 15 HR, 65 RBI
2013 projection: 156 games, .296 BA, .367 OBP, .459 SLG, 17 HR, 76 RBI

It's no secret around here that Dustin Pedroia is my favorite player. Not just my favorite player on the current manifestation of the Boston Red Sox, but my favorite player on any team, at any time. Sure, there are arguments to be made in favor of others, but Pedey will always be above the rest for me.

The man with all the nicknames (Laser Show? Muddy Chicken? What will we get this year?) saw his playing time and his numbers fall off a bit last season, and all of a sudden there are people asking if this was the beginning of the end: did Pedroia sacrifice his health permanently and thus his production potential by throwing his body around with such reckless abandon all these years?

At least Bill James and his crew don't seem to think so, and neither do I. Pedroia will come out of the gates swinging for the fences and cursing like a sailor, out to prove that the last eighteen months were the outliers for the Red Sox, and ready to lead the team back to its place of glory. I can't wait to watch.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Bill James Projections - Stephen Drew

2011: 86 games, .252 BA, .317 OBP, .396 SLG, 5 HR, 45 RBI
2012 projection: 134 games, .264 BA, 332 OBP, .429 SLG, 13 HR, 61 RBI
2012: 79 games, .223 BA, .309 OBP, .348 SLG, 7 HR, 28 RBI
2013 projection: 118 games, .252 BA, .325 OBP, .411 SLG, 11 HR, 48 RBI

I'm sure you all remember Stephen Drew's brother JD, or, as I liked to refer to him, No-Feelings Drew. As you can see by the unabashed exuberance displayed in the photo above, Stephen Drew is very different from his brother - at least in temperament.

Drew has struggled with injuries the last two years, but when he's on the field he's a relatively consistant shortstop - better at the plate than Jose Iglesias, even if his glovework lacks the flash and brilliance of the "Red Sox shortstop of the future."

Make no mistake, this is a one-and-done deal, as Stephen Drew is represented by Scott Boras, and is due to become a free agent in 2014. Boras is either uniquely talented or incredibly lucky in getting great performances out of his clients in contract years - and I for one hope Stephen Drew's 2013 is no exception.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Blogger's Resolution

The 2012 season was the most disappointing run for the Red Sox in quite some time - and it seems as if I was channeling their spirit, because 2012 was also the least productive year for me at the blog since it's inception in January of 2009. I sincerely apologize for letting a less than stellar season (and a summer job that prevented me from watching seven weeks worth of games) get in the way of my blogging. I assure you all that the only New Year's resolution I'm making is to be more consistant in this space, and since it's something I actually ENJOY, it should be easy to keep.

I've even set a daily reminder on my phone, so it will beep annoyingly every day until I write a post!

I hope you all had a happy and safe New Year's Eve, wherever you are, and as always, thank you for reading! When I started this blog, I never thought anyone would be bothering to read it but me, but we're rapidly approaching 100,000 pageviews (which is especially impressive given the dearth of posts last year), and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

Go Sox!