Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Heroes and Zeros: Red Sox

For finishing in last for the 3rd out of four years, there is a lot of positive momentum in the Boston franchise going into the off-season. With a young outfield clicking on all cylinders, a start shortstop in the making, a young catcher breaking out and a couple of bright spots on the mound, there is reason to believe that Boston can be a contender in 2016 with a couple of key moves.

But Boston being in last this year is also the function of a horrendous start and the failure of some key free agents. So let's look at projections from April and where some of the players ended up (all stats courtesy of Fangraphs) at season's end.


Mookie Betts

Projected: 582 Plate Appearances | 148 H | 13 HR | 80 RBI | 50 BB | 73 K | .289 BA | .350 OBP | .428 SLG | .779 OPS | 3.6 WAR

Actual: 654 Plate Appearances | 174 H | 18 HR | 77 RBI | 46 BB | 82 K | .291 BA | .341 OBP | .479 SLG | .820 OPS | 4.8 WAR

Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Projected: 116 Plate Appearances | 24 H | 2 HR | 11 RBI | 9 BB | 28 K | .234 BA | .302 OBP | .349 SLG | .650 OPS | 0.4 WAR

Actual: 255 Plate Appearances | 55 H | 10 HR | 43 RBI | 27 BB | 69 K | .249 BA | .335 OBP | .498 SLG | .833 OPS | 2.5 WAR

Xander Bogaerts

Projected: 552 Plate Appearances | 130 H | 16 HR | 63 RBI | 41 BB | 114 K | .260 BA | .320 OBP | .416 SLG | .736 OPS | 2.3 WAR

Actual: 654 Plate Appearances | 196 H | 7 HR | 84 RBI | 32 BB | 101 K | .320 BA | .355 OBP | .421 SLG | .776 OPS | 4.3 WAR

Blake Swihart

Projected: 92 Plate Appearances | 21 H | 2 HR | 10 RBI | 5 BB | 17 K | .245 BA | .288 OBP | .365 SLG | .653 OPS | 0.3 WAR

Actual: 309 Plate Appearances | 79 H | 5 HR | 31 RBI | 18 BB | 77 K | .274 BA | .319 OBP | .392 SLG | .711 OPS | 1.5 WAR

David Ortiz

Projected: 526 Plate Appearances | 126 H | 23 HR | 78 RBI | 62 BB | 88 K | .277 BA | .364 OBP | .492 SLG | .856 OPS | 1.8 WAR

Actual: 614 Plate Appearances | 79 H | 37 HR | 108 RBI | 77 BB | 95 K | .273 BA | .360 OBP | .553 SLG | .913 OPS | 2.8 WAR

Wade Miley

Projected: 11-10 | 4.16 ERA | 29 Games Started | 176 IP | 137 K | 59 W | 1.35 WHIP | 1.3 WAR

Actual: 11-11 | 4.46 ERA | 32 Games Started | 193.2 IP | 147 K | 64 W | 1.37 WHIP | 2.6 WAR

Eduardo Rodriguez

Projected: 1-1 | 4.41 ERA | 3 Games Started | 18 IP | 13 K | 7 W | 1.40 WHIP | 0.1 WAR

Actual: 10-6 | 3.85 ERA | 21 Games Started | 121.2 IP | 98 K | 37 W | 1.29 WHIP | 1.7 WAR

If you were alive in the mid to late 70s and a Sox fan, then you know who the "Gold Dust Twins" were. Fred Lynn and Jim Rice came into the majors at the same time in 1975. Lynn won the MVP and Rookie of the Year award that year while Rice was RoY runner-up. From 1975-1980 they were one of the most potent 1-2 outfield combos in the game. Then the Sox traded Lynn to the Angels for Jim Dorsey, Joe Rudi and Frank Tanana rather than pay him what he was worth (and screwing up his contract extension going into free agency). And the Gold Dust Twins were no more.

Betts and Bradley, Jr. are not the Gold Dust Twins, even though I think Betts definitely has it in him to reach Fred Lynn numbers on a yearly basis. But this a young duo that gives the Sox some of the best outfield defense in the majors. And with Bradley now hitting major league pitching successfully, the expectation is going to be seeing these two gentlemen make more than a few All-Star games, with Betts even pushing for MVP a couple of years down the line. Yeah, he's that good.

One guy who might keep Betts from winning an MVP is his teammate at shortstop. In 2015 Xander Bogaerts finally grew into the expectations everyone had set for him. He saw a quantum leap in his offensive numbers in 2015 and was arguably the best overall shortstop in the AL this year. His line this year might even garner him a few goodwill votes for MVP seeing as he kept Boston from completely sucking this year and as a makeup for keeping him off the All-Star team.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Should David Ortiz Be In The Hall of Fame?

The other day I noted on our FB page that Ortiz is likely to end his baseball career with the following numbers, should he play next year:
500+ HR
1600+ RBI
600+ 2B
You can also throw in the following two lines:
1100+ Extra base hits
1250+ BB
Should that come to pass, David Ortiz would be only the third player in Major League history to have those numbers. The other two are Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Which, in its own way, is supremely fitting. One man did it clean and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The other used PEDs and may never get in.

So should David Ortiz retire with the above numbers, should he get in the Hall of Fame?

First, let's remove the "No DH" argument from this discussion. The DH is here. It is a recognized position. And punishing a player for that is like not voting for a pitcher in the MVP race. Which is to say, it's stupid. So, forget he is a DH.

On the numbers alone, does David Ortiz have the resume?

To the above stats, add in nine All-Star Games, the 2004 ALCS MVP, the 2013 World Series MVP and three World Series rings. Also add in the 2005 AL Hank Aaron award for best hitter and six Silver Slugger awards. Never mind the clutch hits year-in and year-out.

I would say that, on the numbers alone, that David Ortiz should make the Hall of Fame.

But it is never that easy, is it?

David Ortiz was also named as being on the infamous 2003 list of MLB players who tested positive for one (or more) of a number of substances in the "Survey Test" that ultimately forced the MLBPA to agree to drug-testing in Major League Baseball. And in a time where players like Bonds and Roger Clemens may very well never be voted into the Hall of Fame, a time where a current player like A-Rod will also likely never be in the Hall of Fame because of his admitted PED use, why would it be any different for David Ortiz?

Allow me to be the Devil's Advocate for a moment.

The 2003 list of one knows exactly what was on that list of substances beyond the fact that it was more than just steroids or what we commonly refer to as PEDs nowadays. Widely thought to be on that list as well as steroids were recreational drugs and amphetamines.

Amphetamines should be of particular note because they have been pervasive in baseball for decades. The infamous "greenies" in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four were taken by countless players, including many Hall of Famers.

So could David Ortiz have been using steroids or another PED? Yes, that is possible. But it is also equally possible he took a stimulant that was accepted as a part of baseball culture or a substance that was added to a supplement without his knowledge.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dombrowski In, Cherington Out

Less than two weeks after saying they weren't going to pursue hiring David Dombrowski, the Red Sox have hired Dombrowski as their new president of baseball operations.

The immediate impact of this hiring is that Ben Cherington is going to step down as general manager of the Sox. He was offered the chance to stay in the GM position by Dombrowski. But Cherington was never likely going to stay in what he (rightly) saw as a diminished role with Dombrowski coming on board.

This is the biggest front-office shake-up since Tito Francona and Theo Epstein left at the end of 2011. And with Cherington's eventual departure (he is staying to help in the transitional period) this marks the end of the Lucchino - Epstein Era in Boston (Cherington was heavily promoted by Lucchino and Epstein through the Boston ranks). With Dombrowski taking over, the possibility exists for massive change in the Boston organization.

Dombrowksi and John Henry have a history together. Dombrowski was GM of the Florida Marlins for a four-year period when Henry owned that franchise. So perhaps this signing isn't that surprising.

Dombrowski also has a reputation for making bold trades. He's the man who traded for Miguel Cabrera, David Price and Max Scherzer in Detroit. More recently, he's the guy who fleeced the Red Sox in the Rick Porcello trade. So the odds are likely that things will not remain the same in the Boston clubhouse over the next few months.

That likely will not extend to John Farrell. Despite back-to-back last place finishes (if things remain the same the rest of 2015), it would be bad form (and bad press) to can a manager who just started chemo for his cancer. You could also make the argument that Farrell has not been given the right players to have this team in contention. Health issues aside, I would guess that Farrell would still be given a season to prove he can win with Dombrowski running the show. I would guess that goes for his staff as well.

And just what will the Red Sox look like in 2016?

Here's the thing; everything is on the table. Dombrowski has no allegiance to any of these players. He didn't draft them or watch them come up through the ranks. He didn't trade for any of them. And that means that some players Red Sox fans consider untouchable may not actually be so.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Game Review: Out of the Park Baseball 16

I took control of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015, kicking Ruben Amaro, Jr. to the curb. The mandate from management? "Try to not suck."

By the spring of 2019, the Phillies had just finished winning back-to-back titles. Mission accomplished.

I took control of the San Diego Padres, kicking A.J. Preller to the curb. The mandate from management. "Try to not suck."

By the spring of 2022, the Padres had run off a string of five straight NL West titles and captured three World Series trophies. Mission accomplished.

Have you ever heard of the living legend Larry Townsend? He plays in the Four Counties League in Ireland for the Ennis Music. From Port Alfred Bagotville in Quebec, Canada, Townsend has won seven MVP awards in his 12-year career. The Music have brought home the championship eight times in the last 10 years.

This may be news to you since I created the Four Counties League and the Music, along with 15 other teams. I set up the rules and parameters, including how often foreign players became available through scouting, which is how L.T. came to be.

Three examples of what you can do with Out of the Park 16, the latest baseball management sim from Out of the Park Developments. This game is both deep and wide in what it brings to the table.

I am a big fan of sports management sims. To now my favorite has been Football Manager. But I think, for me, OOTP 16 surpasses it. Not only because it is a baseball sim, but because the versatility of the game allows you to indulge almost any baseball fantasy.

Want to take control of a franchise from it's inception to the modern day? You can do that. Want to do the same thing but allow for non-historical trades and signings so Babe Ruth stays on the Yankees? Or maybe have Ruth...and Ty Cobb...and Rogers Hornsby on the same team. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 1921 World Series Champion Boston Braves.

Or maybe you want to run a parallel league to the majors? You can do that. A small independent league situated only in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas? You can do that. A massive international league that covers all of Europe? You can do that too.

OOTP 16 allows you to indulge almost any idea you want, small or large. You can do it as the general manager, controlling the high-level decisions, drafts and trades. Or you can be the manager, handling every in-game detail from lineups to whether you want your batter to bunt or swing away.

If there is one drawback it is that the learning curve can be a little steep. They have a good online manual you can access from the program but it still takes some trial-and-error to get comfortable. I also personally had problems with keeping a historical team from moving in a historical league, or replacing them with a different team. OOTP 16 would inevitably replace my custom team with the historical franchise when it moved. But that could have been me missing the how-to on avoiding that problem.

If you do play a historical league and allow for non-historical trades and player development, you can compare the player's career in your league to their actual historical performance.

For example, in my Boston Braves game, I signed a young man in 1914 by the name of Guy Morton from Vernon, CT. In real life he played for Cleveland. He had an average career, going 99-88 over 11 seasons.

In my game he is a monster. In 10 years he has a record of 204-126, a career WAR of 58.9 and looks like he isn't going to stop any time soon. It's just one more cool piece to a very fun game.

It is also customizable. I downloaded a mod that had MLB quality logos and uniforms for over 1000 potential teams. There are others that modify teams, rosters...anything you can think of. OOTP 16 allows you to alter existing ballparks or build new ones. You can fire and hire managers and staff for not only your team, but your minor league system. Jack up ticket prices, rename end-of-season award, give each player a nickname...if I listed every thing you could do to with this game I would be here for weeks.

In the end, OOTP 16 is just a lot of fun. Controlling a franchise, watching the seasons unfold, celebrating a division title and then crying as your star pitcher blows out his elbow before the World Series (it happens). You can download it for purchase directly from OOTP or on Steam. If you do download it on Steam, it will let you know how may hours you have played the game.

I am currently on hour 165.

I love this game.