Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Your 2006 Boston Red Sox

It looks like the Opening Day roster is essentially set. The article I linked to lists everyone who is leaving, so let me list the final 25 who will make the team.

CF - Coco Crisp
2B - Mark Loretta
DH - David Ortiz
LF - Manny Ramirez
RF - Trot Nixon
C - Jason Varitek
3B - Mike Lowell
1B - Kevin Youkilis
SS - Alex Gonzalez

Nice group, and as I have written before, while I think the Sox will take a step back from the 900 or so runs they're used to scoring, they will still be a top-5 offense.

Bench - J.T. Snow
Bench - Wily Mo Pena
Bench - Adam Stern
Bench - Josh Bard
Bench - Alex Cora

Not bad. I'm not in love with any of these guys, but Stern has looked spectacular, and Pena can be valuable if he's limited to a platoon against lefties. Bard seems to have Wakefield's confidence, which is really all that matters, and Cora can be a defensive star anywhere in the infield. Snow is likely to be gone whenever the Sox feel like recalling Hee-Seop Choi., and I hope that happens sooner than later

SP - Curt Schilling
SP - Josh Beckett
SP - Tim Wakefield
SP - Matt Clement

That's it for now, with David Wells slated to come offthe DL to be the fifth starter a couple of weeks into the season. Again, a really solid group if Schilling is healthy and approaches his old self. If this group (including Wells) is healthy, this may be the best, deepest rotation the Red Sox have ever had.

CL - Keith Foulke
RP - Mike Timlin
RP - Rudy Seanez
RP - David Riske
RP - Julain Tavarez
RP - Jonathan Papelbon
RP - Lenny DiNardo

I'm much more comfortable with this group than I was with last year's bullpen, but I'm still pretty nervous. Foulke's knees are a complete question mark, Timlin is 40, Riske and Seanez have been terrible this spring, Papelbon is actually a starter, DiNardo is temporary help once Wells returns, and Tavarez is utterly, completely insane. My guess is that Foulke will be fine, and so will Timlin. Same with Papelbon, who is a stud. But I can see Riske, Seanez and Tavarez being long gone before the All-Star break, their spots taken by Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen and a permanent role for DiNardo. That group would actually make me feel pretty good.

All in all, I'm happy with the club. My only concerns are Mike Lowell's bat, the health of the rotation, and the volatility of the bullpen. Two of the three, Lowell and the pen, have solutions ready to deploy (moving Youkilis back to third, bringing up the young relievers), leaving only the rotation's health as something we'll have to watch for. To me, that's the key to the entire season.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Goodbye, Tony

Well, I'm not too happy about the fact that the Sox will now get nothing in return, but I'm glad for Tony Graffanino that the club finally waived him. Now he can catch on somewhere (St. Louis? The Cubs or Mets?) that he's wanted and needed.

This was pretty much a forgone conclusion once the team offered him arbitration, a move I still don't understand. By offering it, they pretty much guaranteed that no club would offer him a contract and surrender a draft pick to the Sox. That, in turn, forced Graffanino to accept arbitration, which at least meant that he would be guaranteed a decent contract. Unfortunately for both him and the Sox, that move made him completely useless to the Red Sox, who already had Mark Loretta in camp and Dustin Pedroia waiting in the wings. With other teams knowing the Red Sox had to move Graffanino or waive, no one would offer them anything of real value in return, making today's waiver inevitable.

Keep in mind, the arbitration offer that set all of this off was made while Theo was still doing social work. For all of the posturing Johnny Damon has done about the Theo void and how it prevented him from returning to Boston, I think that's a load of baloney. But Graffanino, on the other hand, is a good guy and a good player who truly was victimized by the team's profoundly disfunctional off-season front office shenanigans.

I hope someone in the front office offered him a sincere apology on his way out the door.

Other Sox Notes:
  • I love the signing of Hee-Seop Choi. The rumors all spring have been that both Mike Lowell and J.T. Snow are showing their age worse than Farah Fawcett. Signing Choi, who has always fit the Sox offensive blueprint of patience combined with power, allows them to cut Snow loose if he can't cut it anymore, or move Youkilis back to third if Lowell can't cut it anymore, or both. Plus, he still has a minor league option left, so they don't have to make these decisions anytime soon. Just a perfect signing all around.
  • So, Josh Beckett even plays his Spring Training games with a chip on his shoulder? Beautiful. If this guy can stay healthy, I get the feeling I'm going to like him for a long, long time.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fenway Got Fisk Into The Hall

I was playing around with some numbers on Fenway Park's advantage to hitters when I learned that the advantage Jim Rice enjoyed in Fenway was actually less than the advantage enjoyed by Carlton Fisk.

Rice certainly hit better in the Fens, with home field gaps of 43 batting average points, 44 on-base percentage points, and 87 slugging percentage points over his road games. But then look at Fisk. He batted .300 in Fenway and .259 everywhere else. He got on base at a .377 clip in Fenway, .329 everywhere else. And he slugged .532 at Fenway and just .433 everywhere else. Take his career averages everywhere except Fenway and extrapolate them out to his full career, and his numbers look a tad worse than Ted Simmons.
























Now, Simmons came nowhere near being elected to the Hall of Fame (he received 17 total votes in his one year on the ballot), while Pudge got in on his second try. Why is it that his Fenway numbers weren't counted against him, while Jim Rice's are? Someone please explain that to me.

Other Sox Notes:

  • Where to begin? How about with the pleasant news that Juan Gonzalez decided to pack it in as soon as he heard about Wily Mo. Maybe I was a bit hasty in evaluating Pena's value. By getting rid of Gonzalez, he's providing benefits already...
  • It looks like Pena will still be used as an outfielder, meaning that Dustan Mohr is the odd man out, but he played well enough this spring to have some trade value, so a nice signing by Theo and Gang nonetheless. This also means that Youkilis will still be the regular first baseman (at least as of now) and the Lowell will still be the starter at third, so I guess the front office isn't panicking about him yet. His bat has picked up in recent days anyway, so I guess there's hope...
  • So Johnny Damon doesn't approve of the Arroyo trade, huh? So let me get this straight: I'm supposed to care about the opinion of a self-described "idiot" who told the world in his autobiography that he cheated on his wife then married a pole dancer before leaving town to our arch-rival over money? Ummm, I don't think I'll be losing any sleep over Johnny's sage assessment of Theo's moves. Here's a tip Johnny; Get over it. You asked for more money and years than anyone but New York thought you were worth, then settled for the same number of years the Sox offered without ever giving them the chance to match the money. You made that bed, so quit crying "disrespect" and go play for your new team.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Welcome, Wily Mo

A big thank you to David Wells for dropping his trade demand, then immediately turning around and demanding a certain rotation slot and calling his manager an idiot. Those two actions simultaneously make the Sox want to trade him again, while making other clubs even more leery about giving up anything in return. Well done, David. Well done...

And now it looks like that won't happen, as Bronson Arroyo leaves town in exchange for Wily Mo Pena. A couple of thoughts on this one. First, sorry to see Bronson go, because he was a likeable enough guy and had a great arm, but his head never did seem to be screwed on straight enough for my taste. This almost certainly means that Jonathan Papelbon won't start the season in the rotation, which is okay with me for now because he hasn't looked that good in the rotation and Lord knows the bullpen can use the help. This cleans up the staff to a great degree, and that's a good thing.

My other thought, however, is that Pena wouldn't have been my first choice. He doesn't fit the Red Sox mold in terms of patience (.303 career OBP) and is a defensive butcher everywhere he goes. Either Austin Kearns or Adam Dunn would have been my strong preference. Plus, this is a bad sign for the overall value of Mike Lowell. The only place Pena fits is in right field or at first base (though he has never played first in the big leagues). I don't see Trot Nixon going anywhere soon, not with the spring he is having and not with his right-handed backups slaughtering the ball. That means Pena has to play first (or DH while Papi goes back into the field), leaving Kevin Youkilis nowhere to go but back across the diamond to third. That leaves Lowell as the odd man out at $9 million per year. Great guy, great glove, but that's a freakin' waste of money. Maybe there are other moves pending (and please, God, don't let them involve someone like Juan Gonzalez anymore), but as of now I look at this deal as a bit of a panic move to shore up the offense

Other Sox Notes:

Get well soon Needlenose.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hit 'Em All Curt

I love the way Curt Schilling is throwing the ball, and I love the fact the he is now proclaiming his willingness to throw inside. Let's face it, for a baseball player, Schilling is old, and he's been throwing the same way for a lot of years. Coming off an injury, he needs every edge he can find, and if that means a few scrubs get dusted in Spring Training as he establishes his new reputation, so be it.

Other Sox Notes:

  • Don't look now, but the bullpen looks like it could be a mess again this year. David Riske has an ERA over 10 in his four outings, and Rudy Seanez's mark is nearly 16. Throw in Bronson Arroyo's hideous 19.64 ERA, Keith Foulke's continued absence, and Mike Timlin and Julian Tavarez both being out with their World Baseball Classic teams, and suddenly the entire projected bullpen is either missing or throwing poorly. Color me nervous...
  • On the positive side, it looks like there may be two viable options to platoon with Trot Nixon in right field. Adam Stern was just sick for Team Canada in the WBC (.667/.727/1.333), and he has to stay on the major league roster for a few days anyway to start the season due to his Rule V status. And Dustan Mohr has been destroying the baseball this Spring. He's hitting .500/.588/.929 so far, including two homers, and he apparently loves to hit in Fenway Park, posting a career OPS of 1.140 in five games there. And, oh by the way, Trot himself is raking the ball this Spring, too (.500/.600/.833). I love Gabe Kapler, but if these guys can keep this up when the season starts, I don't know if Gabe will have a spot when his Achilles is healed...
  • To expand that thought, for those of you who were nervous about the offense this season, pay attention to what's going on this Spring. Trot is raking the ball. Papi and Varitek have been huge in the WBC. Manny came into camp in spectacular shape, and stroked an RBI single on the first pitch he saw. Three newcomers, Coco Crisp (.615/.667/.923), Mark Loretta (.455/.500/.455), and J.T. Snow (.417/.417/.500), have all been hitting lights out. Only Alex Gonzalez and Mike Lowell have struggled. Kevin Youkilis has too, but Snow is there to back him up, and frankly I worry less about him than the others. He's a patient hitter, and when you are patient, you're helping your club offensively even when you don't get many hits (see Bellhorn, Mark). I'm telling you now, this team will score. They will have one of the top three offenses in terms of scoring in the entire league. That means, with the vastly improved defense, that it all comes down to the pitching again this year.