Sunday, November 18, 2007

Silly Season Not Here

While the Red Sox bask in offseason glory, what burning topics should we discuss?

David Eckstein, free agent, seeks a contract in the Julio Lugo (four years, thirty-six million dollars) range. Eckstein was Dustin Pedroia before Dustin Pedroia. He's small, not especially fast, but has been a productive player. From a Win Shares perpective, it is what it is.

Eckstein's best OPS in the past four years was .758, and he averaged less than four home runs and forty RBI for the past four seasons. His big year had 8 homers, 61 RBI, and 90 runs scored. In 2005, his outlier year, he had 28 Win Shares, simply astonishing. The other three years, you're looking at 9, 12, and 11. Admittedly, he's a feisty 'overachiever', especially if you have a "Boras Book" focusing entirely on 2005. But anybody paying him nine million a year deserves the title, "former GM".

Carlos Silva is supposed to be the hot property starter this offseason? Yes, you may remember him on the Twins. He's not overpowering, has exceptional control, and gives up A LOT of hits. Obviously, the only way to survive giving up a lot of hits is not walking many guys. His win share total are 14, 14, 3, and 11 (total 42). Tim Wakefield's last four are 8, 16, 7, 10 (total 41). That shows you where we are in free agency.

You win with pitching and you cannot have too much. Signing Schilling made a lot of sense, especially if he comes back in shape (contract incentives) and has an impact mentoring the younger staff. In addition to Lester and Buchholz, Kyle Snyder still has potential to be a valuable pitcher.

Longer-term, the Sox seem set (via contract or player) at first, second, and short. I expect that Mike Lowell will have decided his future this week. Ellsbury and Drew will presumably be here for years, unless Theo loses his mind and trades all the young pitching for established, ridiculously priced pitching.

The Sox could obviously use reliable right-handed power. Some feel Matt Murton might be available from the Cubs. He hits at night, and better against left handers than right handers. He shouldn't require a king's ransom. Manny Ramirez has simply done what he was acquired to do, produce runs, and became the protector for David Ortiz.

Longer-term, the Sox will need to groom a replacement for Jason Varitek. As much as defense will always be the priority (managing the pitching staff), with the Sox correctly recognizing the head-to-head battle with the Bombers, offense will count.

The other 'matter' for management is recognizing the Francona Factor, his ability to deal with knuckleheads (professional baseball players, writers, and assorted media). A four year winning percentage of .579 and a pair of Championship Trophies deserve some respect and more dinero for the Sox skipper. I'd love to take him to lunch some day, and I'll buy.

A lot of factors account for a team's success, many beyond either manager or management's control. Guys get hurt, have statistical reversion to the mean (expect Mike Lowell to be more of a .290 than a .330 hitter), and breakdowns occur (bullpen efficiency is critical in one-run games). The Sox have won twice not by predominantly offensive achievement, but by balancing solid offense with superior pitching.

Sox fans can only hope they can continue the trend.

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