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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Kids Will Be Fine

In March, the 2013 Red Sox season appeared to be a “bridge year.”  It was anything but. 

Simply, the Sox met or exceed expectations at nearly every spot on the roster.  These outlier performances got the Olde Towne Team to October baseball and the magic continued in the postseason.  Incredible pitching performances, timely hitting and a little luck brought the big prize back to Boston for the third time in ten years.  A younger me would have never believed that the Red Sox would be this successful.  These are truly the best of times to be a Sox fan.

The future is bright as well.  The Sox boast one of the best farm systems, according to Baseball America.  The 2014 season could be the year that the Red Sox get to the other side of the bridge. 

The promise land is one where the Sox have a plentiful number of prospects that leads to a roster filled with productive players at below market cost year after year.  This type of team construction would give Yawkey Way the financial flexibility to seize any opportunity and roster a contender every season.

Currently, the 2014 Sox are a ninety to ninety-two win team based on a reasonable ZIPS projection.  They should be in the hunt to play October baseball once again. 

The ZIPS pitching forecast is rationale.  The only one to quibble with is Koji Uehara’s .261 BABIP appears to be an outlier when the rest of the staff is around .290.  Regardless, it is unlikely to change the bottom line, which indicates the Sox will have an effective and deep staff with options in the minors. 

On the offensive side, the projection includes Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley, Jr. playing virtually every day.  ZIPS has Bogaerts hitting 267/331/429 with his best comparable player being Troy Tulowitzki (this is not a misprint).  The system pegs WMB at 249/291/425 and JBJ patrolling center field with a line of 245/322/375.  These are sensible projections and the Sox do have backup plans.

If WMB does not meet his expectations, Garin Cecchini is a possible internal option.  ZIPS has him hitting 266/342/374. 

Daniel Nava’s line of 257/344/384 is a bit pessimist.  He can build on his 2013.  Nava has the chance to adjust his approach, like Kevin Youkilis did, which could lead to more power.  Nava can be a late bloomer.  We know JBJ will go get it in center and a lower hitting line could be offset by a better one from Nava. 

The Sox need a safety net for X at shortstop; just not in the form of Stephen Drew.  Bringing back Drew would likely necessitate a trade that erodes their pitching depth for the Sox to stay under the luxury tax and would forgo a compensation draft pick.  It would also limit the playing time and development of X and WMB.  Jayson Nix is a better option as a backup.  As the best Red Sox position prospect for some time, X deserves a long leash like Dustin Pedroia had his rookie season.  Relax and get ready to enjoy another laser show.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Do Not Sell The Farm

So far, the Sox outperformed my expectations.  Buchhloz, when healthy, has been as productive as Pedro.  Lackey is pitching like a true ace.  The pen has been solid.  The meat of the order has performed well despite their lingering health issues.  But it is not time to deviate from the long-term plan: to build the next great Red Sox team.

The Red Sox lead the A.L. or are second in the three conventional offensive metrics – average, on base percentage, slugging percentage - that correlate well to future production.  Without assistance, we should anticipate drop off going forward.  Salty and Nava have exceeded expectations before the Break.  The duo could perform just as well in the second half, but it is unlikely.  Also, it is highly probable that Iglesias and Carp are going to come back down to earth, if and when they get more attempts.  These declines could be offset by better production from the Opening Day starters on the left side of the infield, Drew and Middlebrooks, or a sneak preview by Bogarets.  Unfortunately, the probability of the Sox offensive upside is lower than their downside.  Hence, the fantastic lineup from the first half is likely to tail off heading into the Fall.

On the other side of the ledger, runs allowed, the Sox have not been as successful.  They are second in strikeout rate per nine innings, but are towards the bottom in walks per nine.  The worst offenders of issuing free passes are Doubront and Dempster.  A significant improvement may not come to fruition but the glove work should get better.

Another less discussed, although very important, metric is defensive efficiency.  DE is the percentage of outs on ball put into play.  It is the opposite of a hitter batting average on balls in play.  DE is a good measure of a team’s glove work.  The Sox are tenth in the A.L.  On paper, the weak defensive players man the least important positions – left field and first base – so it is surprising that the club is among the bottom third in the A.L.  It seems like the Sox need to play better or get luckier.  Perhaps, the Olde Towne Team’s opponents have been hitting ‘em where they aint.

Overall, we should expect run prevention to get better and the lineup to take a step back.  The Sox look strong heading into the second half.  There is no need to trade the future for the present.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It Was A Good Run...But It Is Over Now

Assuming the Celtics objective is to win another Championship, which we should not doubt, and not just put an entertaining product on the court, then it is time to rebuild. 
Since only one team in the past eleven seasons has won a title without a top ten PER player and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are no longer in that category, then it is prudent to start over.  A team needs a superstar to go all the way in the NBA.

Without the ability to overpay for a player, Boston is not a "destination city" so the Celtics will have to acquire a superstar through the draft or trade for such a player.
It makes sense for Danny Ainge to acquire as many as assets as possible for another KG and Ray Allen deal.  "Trading" Doc Rivers for a unconditional draft pick was a great move.  KG, Paul, and others should be traded as well.  And at the same time, putting a poorer product on the floor this season for what is projected to be a great draft in 2014.

The Celtics could be back quickly if all goes well.  The third time tanking a season is the charm.

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Friday, June 07, 2013

The Sox May Need Offense Come July...No Joke

Will Middlebrook AP
The Red Sox have played a legit 600 baseball over the first third of the season.  If they continue on this pace, we are looking at a 95 plus win season and October baseball.  But it is doubtful that the club will continue to play this well as they are currently constructed. 

The Sox pitching is solid and deep.  Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are bring back memories of Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe.  But unlike in 1988, we are not praying for snow after DLowe's starts.  John Lackey and Ryan Dempster are capable middle of the rotation starters (I have come around on the thirty something pair).  Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves provide depth in the rotation without even considering the prospects.  The pen has a threesome of late inning relievers and a loogy, which  is the receipe for an effecitve modern bullpen.  But pitching is only one part of the game.

Even though the Olde Towne Team's lineup ranks high in most offensive catgeories, sustained excellence may not continue.  The top producers - Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino - all have health concerns.  The production of journey man, Daniel Nava, has offset the terrible first third of the year put up by Will Middlebrooks.  Nava will probably regress, but we should begin to doubt Middlebrooks ability to get out of his sophomore slump.  The Sox should explore an upgrade at the hot corner that is not a short shop from Cuba.  Jose Iglesias is not the answer.

In all, the 2013 Red Sox has been a pleasant surprise.  But please do not be tempted to trade the future to get back to October baseball at Fenway.  We want sustained success again.


Sunday, May 05, 2013

Never Tell Me The Odds

by SOB, guest poster and buddy of El Guapo's Ghost

Never Tell Me the Odds!
At the beginning of this season the odds on favorites to be division title winners in the American League of Major League Baseball were the Anaheim Angels, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays. All three have amassed a lot of talent onto their rosters and seem poised to go deep into the playoffs. They all have young rising stars and solid veterans. Each have Cy Young caliber ace pitchers. Two other teams, the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees, although seeming to take steps back in the offseason, still are considered strong contenders come the postseason.

Enter the 2013 Boston Red Sox. After huge offseason signings in 2011 they seemed ready to dominate baseball in much the way the Yankees have for a decade and a half. But after a historic collapse in August and September of 2011, and a miserable start to the 2012 season, the Sox jettisoned much of their new “talent”, fired, hired, and fired two managers (including Terry Francona the beloved skipper of their world series teams), and seemed to be gambling on going in a much different direction than anyone could have imagined just two seasons earlier.  They did manage to retain three veteran bats in David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as veteran pitchers John Lester and Clay Buchholz.  The question was whether the Sox could put enough talent around these veterans or even if these five stars could carry the team that had been entrusted to them. Would they stay healthy?

Suffice it to say that in March of 2013 the Red Sox were not a very safe bet to even make a wildcard spot, let alone have any shot at a division title or national title. But this is why we call it a “gamble”, and a “safe” bet is never a “sure” bet. Odds and statistics cannot measure heart, and in a city that started a revolution and most recently has weathered a terrorist attack on its very psyche, nobody can be surprised when an underdog can turn into a champion.

Now the season is a month old, but the Red Sox are proving that they at least have come to play this year, something that Toronto and Anaheim have yet to do. Not only that, but they have the best record in the majors out of the gate. What were the odds?  Lester and Buchholz look like the top two aces in the American League. Ortiz is in one of the best hitting streaks of his career. Pedroia and Ellsbury are getting hits and looking nimble in the field.  But this is just a collective New England sigh of relief.  What’s truly surprising are the little details: Daniel Nava is hitting out of his mind looking like more than just a very good minor leaguer a possible every day starter. Will Middlebrooks is staying sharp defensively on the field while weathering a minor sophomore slump behind the bat and is looking to be slowly coming out of that slump and providing  a solid bat in the middle of the lineup. Mike Carp, in limited appearances, is also hitting out of his mind. And the bullpen, a big weakness last year and big question mark this season, is one of the best in the majors with the two Japanese pitchers Tazawa and Uehara along with closers Andrew Bailey and Hanrahan.

Can the Red Sox keep up this strong start? Anyone’s guess. They certainly were no one’s early favorite coming into the season, and they will have to find ways to keep their stars fresh and sustain the ebbs and flows of batting slumps and streaks in a very long baseball season, while minimizing the injury bug that is always hard to avoid. In a sport that is all about momentum they certainly have it, and Boston has been known to spit at long odds, so if you’re a betting man/woman consider laying some money on the Red Sox being at least in the Wild Card come playoffs.  Because even though you can’t measure heart, this team seems to have it, as well as a lot of fight, and this early momentum might just propel them past some teams that have a lot more talent on paper and a lot more salary in their pockets!

If you prefer to wait a bit longer before betting on the Red Sox or your team, you can always go for a baseball slots game like Hot Shot at an online casino like www.mobilecasino.mobi in the meantime. This five reel nine pay line slot has everything a lover of baseball could want, from graphics of pitchers, hitters, catchers’ mitts and a baseball field, to the sounds of whooping fans and bats hitting baseballs accompanying the play. It also offers a very good chance of a payout, with the burning baseball wild icon standing in for other missing reel icons to give you a winning line-up, and the nine pay lines also boosting your chances – even if you don’t walk away with the $2000 top jackpot.

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Sunday, April 07, 2013

2013 Should Be About 2014

The 2013 Red Sox is the infamous “bridge year.”  And it is the right move.  One eye on 2013 and  the other on 2014 and beyond  is necessary after accepting the Dodgers godfather offer last August.

In a watered down A.L. East, the 2013 Red Sox have an outside shot at the Division.  A career year  or two and some  good  luck can lead to October baseball in the Fens.  But Yawkey Way should be planning to subtract rather than add to the club in July. 

The Sox have a number of possible attractive pieces to trade.  Free agents after the 2013 season are likely to be dealt.  The most notable is Jacoby Ellsbury.  The former MVP candidate, if healthy and productive, could command a piece to the 2014 puzzle.  The others alone may not bring back a significant player but future assets are more valuable than Stephen Drew, Aaron Hanrahan, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltimacchia. 

As we look towards the middle years of this decade, the Sox options on the mound is relatively deep.  Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Allen Webster, Jorge De La Rosa, Felix Doubront, etc. provide enough options that at least three  could  become top of the rotation starters.  The right side of the defensive spectrum looks strong with Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Xander Bogaerts or Jose Iglesias.  The organization appears to be missing another possible middle of the order bat.  Middlebrooks and Bogaerts may not become the next Manny-Ortiz.  The Sox should target a slugging prospect to diversify their offensive assets like they have on the mound.

The Tigers could be the ideal trading partner.  They are in win-now mode, do not have an established closer, could use an upgrade in left field and have hitting prospect, Nick Castellanos.  He is a legit hitting prospect.  A package with Castellanos, Ellsbury and Hanrahan as the principals could make sense for both parties.  But the Sox would need to have both eyes on the future.

Thank you - Red Sox!

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