Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Truck Day! / Questions Going Into Camp

Falling only behind your wedding day and the birth of your kids in a Sox fan's life, Truck Day is when all the equipment is loaded up at Fenway and makes the long trip to Florida

Here is the list of what will be loaded onto the truck, according to the team:
20,400 baseballs
1,100 bats
200 batting gloves
200 batting helmets
320 batting practice tops
160 white game jerseys
300 pairs of pants
400 T-shirts
400 pairs of socks
20 cases of bubble gum
60 cases of sunflower seeds

Riveting stuff, I tell you! Riveting! But why 100 more t-shirts than pants? Hmmm....

Yeah, it's a little goofy. But when you live in New England and two feet of snow is sitting on the ground, you take your signs of spring where you can find them.

But it does mean that we can start speculating on the Sox and what is in store for them in 2016. Here are three questions to keep in mind:

1. How will Ortiz perform in his last year?

2016 marks the end of the prolific career of David Ortiz. I am not sure what the Sox will do without his bat; he has failed to hit 25+ HR only twice in the last 13 years and 90+ RBI three times. But that is a question for later this year. For now, what can they expect from Ortiz in 2016/ Here's a projection from Baseball Reference

30 HR | 91 RBI | .513 SLG | .863 OPS | 64 R

Slightly beneath the totals of his last three seasons but not too far off. If Ortiz holds true to form, he should generate most of this offense in the second-half of the year. But the Sox are going to miss hit bat. I am not sure who on their team right now would come close to these numbers as a DH.

2. Will David Price solidify Boston's pitching rotation?

This is the single biggest question for Boston. If their new ace can elevate Boston's starting pitching to even average levels, the Sox should be a playoff contender. Here is the projection in 2016 for Price, again courtesy of BR:

13-8 | 3.09 ERA | 195 IP | 192 K | 43 BB | 1.128 WHIP

Even that basic projection would have made Price the best pitcher on Boston's staff in 2015. Personally I think he is more likely to grab between 16-20 wins thanks to Boston's run production and improving defense. And that kind of anchor in Boston's rotation will make the rest of their staff better. Especially Porcello, who I think is due for at least a .500 season this year.

3. Who will be the starting catcher?

This is going to be the most interesting position to observe during Spring Training and in the regular season. The Sox have two young starting catchers in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. Vazquez has the better arm and defense but Swihart likely has the better bat. Of course, with Vazquez making his return from Tommy John surgery and missing the 2014 season, he won't start the season in Boston. But his talent is undeniable.

If Vazquez is okay and plays well in AAA, then the Sox face an interesting question. They have Ryan Hanigan on contract through this year with a 2017 option. They won't carry three catchers on the main roster. Could the Sox possibly consider trading Vazquez or Swihart during the season to fill a need? Or would they rather have two young, talented, controllable catchers on the roster heading into 2017 and beyond?

It's a tough question. But I think Swihart will be your starting catcher and if Vazquez gets back into form, Dombrowski may use him as a blue-chip trading piece to fill a vital need. Even though most Boston fans would hate to see that happen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Voting For the Hall of Fame

So the votes are in and we'll have two new members to the Hall of Fame this year. It's not surprising that Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. made the cut. Piazza was the best offensive catcher since Carter and Fisk hung up their cleats. And Junior is the best position player I have ever seen in my life. A defining moment of all the times I have been to Fenway Park will be when I saw Junior, on a dead run, make an over the shoulder catch at the Triangle in center field.

I was surprised others did not make it in. If I were a voter for the Hall (and I'm not), my ballot would have looked like this:

  • Mike Piazza
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Trevor Hoffman
  • Curt Schilling
  • Mike Mussina
  • Larry Walker

To me the other two no-brainers on that list are Jeff Bagwell and Trevor Hoffman. Bagwell was a monster at first base. Rookie of the Year in 1991. He won the MVP, albeit in the 1994 strike-shortened season. Of course, that same year he pulled off an amazing feat by averaging more than one RBI per game (116 in 110 games). His lifetime JAWS of 63.9 ranks 6th all-time for first basemen. Bagwell is 64th all-time in total WAR. Hoffman is one of only two closers to have 600+ saves (the other being Mariano Rivera). No one else even has 500 saves. A lifetime ERA of 2.87. Eighth all-time in WHIP (1.058). And you could make a strong argument that he should have won the 1998 NL Cy Young Award.

Then you have the ones that you have to argue for. Curt Schilling never won the Cy Young. But he came in second three times. He had two dominant years back-to-back in 2001-02. In both those years he was the Sporting News NL Pitcher of the Year. From 2001-04 his average was 18-7 with a 3.11 ERA (ERA+ 150)and 252 strikeouts. But his true value came in the post-season. In 12 series his record was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. In the World Series those numbers were 4-1 | 2.06 ERA | 0.896 WHIP. His 80.7 WAR is 26th all-time for pitchers. His career WHIP of 1.127 is in the top 50 all-time. Most impressively, his K/BB ratio of 4.383 is second all-time, trailing only Tommy Bond, who pitched before there were airplanes.

Mike Mussina was in the top 6 of Cy Young voting in 9 of his 18 years. He registered 11+ wins per year for 17 straight years, only missing out in his rookie season. That alone is an amazing feat. He won seven Gold Gloves as a pitcher. 24th all-time in WAR for pitchers (82.7). 33rd all-time in wins with 270. 19th in strikeouts. One of only 12 pitchers to have a WAR higher than 80 with 270+ wins and 2800+ strikeouts. His consistency was probably why he wasn't appreciated more.

Larry Walker in his hey-day was a monster. If you look at his prime three years (1997-99) you see a dominant batter at the height of his powers. His average over those three years: .369 BA | 36 HR | 104 RBI | .451 OBP | 1.141 OPS. Throw in a MVP award in 1997 while you're at it. Seven Gold Gloves. .313 lifetime batting average. 15th all-time in OPS. His fielding percentage in right field (.986) is 30th all-time. He contributed at the plate and in the field.

So yeah, I am one of those guys who doesn't vote for Tim Raines because while he was good at a lot of things he was only great at stealing bases. I can't vote for Bonds or Clemens because of the PED issue, although I think they will get in before their 10 years are up. I feel bad for Alan Trammel; had he played 10 years later or if sabermetrics came along 10 years earlier I think he'd be in.

But I think this would be a ballot you could look at and defend. No glaring absences. None of that "No one should be a unanimous 1st year inductee" crap.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sox Trade Wade Miley and Aro to Seattle for Carson Smith and Roenas Elias

Let's play a quick game. I am going to put down two projection lines for two pitchers in the AL for 2016. The stats are from Baseball Reference.

Pitcher A

9-10 | 4.27 ERA | 177 IP | 145 K | 1.362 WHIP | 7.4 K/9

Pitcher B

7-9 | 4.02 ERA | 132 IP | 115 K | 1.303 WHIP | 7.8 K/9

Pitcher A is Wade Miley. Pitcher B is Roenas Elias. And this is why yesterday's deal may have been a steal for Boston.

I am not going to deny that I was hoping Miley would stay in Boston. He was the only free agent Boston signed last year to give the Sox exactly what they expected. He was a solid back-end starter who ate up innings. The only reason Boston's bullpen didn't completely burn out last year was that Miley averaged six innings a start.

But that also made Miley a valuable trade chip. He's cheap money for the next two years, reliable and under 30. So to flip Miley to Seattle for Carson Smith made a lot of sense.

Carson Smith has the potential to give Boston a 1-2 punch for the next three years like the Yankees had with Betances and Miller. Last year Smith posted a 2.31 ERA, 13 saves, 22 holds and a 1.01 WHIP while striking out 90 batters over 70 innings. And while that may not be how Boston starts the year (I can't see them kicking Uehara back as a 6th/7th inning guy yet) don't be surprised if it happens by mid-season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

David Price Joins the Red Sox - Breaking it Down

The bombshell in the sporting world last night was the news that the Red Sox signed free-agent pitcher David Price to a seven-year, $217M dollar contract. The premier free-agent pitcher on the market this off-season, Price gives the Sox the top-flight pitcher they were lacking last year. Between this and the trade for Craig Kimbrel, Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has solidified Boston's pitching to a large degree.

The details of the deal are pretty straight-forward. Price can opt out after three years (end of 2018 season). He makes $30M each year for the first three years, $31M in the fourth and $32M each of the last three years. So you can also look at this as a three-year deal, which changes some things we can talk about in a moment.

Lifetime, Price is 104-56 with a 3.09 ERA. He won the Cy Young in 2012 and finished second in 2010 and 2015. He has thrown 200+ innings in five of the last six years. He is without argument one of the best pitchers in baseball and gives Boston their first Cy Young winner in the rotation since Pedro Martinez left at the end of the 2004 season.

Lifetime at Fenway, Price is 6-1 in 11 starts with a 1.95 ERA and a 0.946 WHIP. He is 16-2 lifetime against the Blue Jays, 13-7 against the Yankees. Being a lefty in Fenway has not presented Price with many problems over his career and I don't think it will now, any more than it did Jon Lester. And he is solid against the big teams in the AL East.

Oh, and Price doesn't cost the Red Sox their first-round draft pick.

So based off of the above, this sounds like a great signing. And for the most part, it is. But there is one rather large red flag.