Monday, December 30, 2013

On Experience

Historically, the Red Sox have not rushed prospects to the bigs. Sure, there was Carl Yastrzemski at 21 in 1961, Tony Conigliaro at age 19 in 1964, Ken Brett at age 18 in 1967.

Jim Rice (21) and Fred Lynn (22) made their appearances in 1974, and were rookie stalwarts on the 1975 World Series team. Jacoby Ellsbury had an 1.188 OPS in the 2007 World Series at age 23.

Obviously, these 'exceptions' don't establish that Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts will light the baseball world afire in 2014. But it doesn't preclude the possibility that they can impact the Sox lineup as previous young players have.

A multitude of fortunes must break your way to win championships. Do Red Sox fans expect that a team that hit a collective .227 in the postseason would get enough pitching to capture its third title in a decade? Do they recognize that without other-worldly performance by Koji Uehara this was impossible? Did they anticipate that Jon Lester would go 4-1 in October with a 1.56 ERA? Do we anticipate in our insanest dreams that these outliers will return in 2014?

Mean reversion is a part of baseball. Position by position, are the Red Sox likely to be the same, stronger, or weaker offensively and defensively next season?

C - offensively and defensively similar
1B - offensively and defensively similar
2B - a healthy Pedroia may have more power and similar defense
SS - offensively possibly stronger, defensively probably weaker
3B - offensively and defensively stronger (if Middlebrooks improves...a big if)
LF - offensively and defensively similar
CF - offensively weaker, defensively stronger (Bradley Jr. can throw)
RF - offensively weaker (OPS outlier for Victorino), defensively similar
DH - offensively slightly weaker

Admittedly, this projection makes huge assumptions about the performance of Bradley, Jr., Bogaerts, and Middlebrooks. I won't argue that a projected Drew-Bogaerts combination would produce less than Bogaerts and Middlebrooks. But nothing is certain in sports - performance, health, consistency.

Experience counts when it wins. When it loses, they call it washed up. Could the Red Sox expect a fold from the next Tigers first baseman or another clutch failure from the Cardinals or next NL champion? We discuss projections and premortems as though they're gospel, but we never know until the season's done. Don't plan your parade too early, regardless of your sport or team. That's experience you can take to the bank.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Years ago I penned the piano falling from the sky and flattening Red Sox fans. 1967 wasn't so bad, the Sox prohibitive underdogs to the Cardinals of Gibson and Brock. No expectations. 1975 brought a miraculous series, squashed by the Big Red Machine. Ed Armbrister, where are you now? 1986 continued the misery, a thousand paper cuts in a vinegar plant, combining servitude in the ICU at Bethesda Naval Hospital with the apocalyptic collapse against the Mets.

I'll ignore the 1972 'bad trip' around third base of Luis Aparicio leading to a half-game pennant loss, the 1978 Torrezian playoff game drilling by the Bucky Dentist, or "why does my wife ask me to call her Pedro?"..."Because I never take her out (2003)". The former meant little in the big picture, and WS I erased the Yankee defeats better than any tranquilizer. The worst demons hit the fan.

Maybe young Sox fans envy grizzled Sox addicts the suffering. How many Sox fans can remember 1946 with the controversy about Pesky holding the ball? Most of those will suffer amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles sparing them memories both good and bad. Exorcising your demons via Alzheimer's should never be a primary choice.

How many championships is a fan entitled to during a lifetime? Never enough. Find the right place at the right time. We lived in Washington during the Redskins' golden age as they captured a trio of Super Bowl titles. Red Sox fans would have to have a collective meth addiction and the age of Methuselah to approach the 'Skins' fans disillusionment.

But Boston fans need a calculator. The Bruins had their pair of titles in the '70s and Celtics fans had perennial celebrations during the "11 for 13" Russell era. As a UCLA Bruins fan during the 60's and 70's, I savored a 9 for 10 run. Okay, so they're the OTHER Bruins, but it still counts...for me.

The Patriots could never equal the four for four frustration of the Buffalo Bills, the Vikings' long Super Bowl drought, or the Cubs' wandering around baseball's desert since 1908. Dan Marino, Ernie Banks, Charles Barkley, Carl Yastrzemski and others never earned a title. Who exorcises their demons?

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Does the Sox Say?

For the two of you who haven't seen this.

While you may take a few things to the bank, the Yankees' internal pledge to stay below the salary cap isn't one of them. Their salacious pursuit of Masahiro could easily blow their pitching budget into the stratosphere. The posting fee for the Japanese import is twenty million and the right-hander is angling for a 17 million dollar per year contract. "If you want economy, then you have to pay for it."

Meanwhile, the Sox have a surfeit of pitching (a dangerous concept indeed with the fragility of pitchers), but the odds favor them relocating one for cap space and maneuvering room to sign either Stephen Drew or more outfield help. Drew must be kicking himself (better yet uber-agent Scott Boras) for declining fourteen million dollars. First round draft pick compensation weighs on Drew like Roseann Barr singing the National Anthem.

What I fail to understand is the bum's rush for Will Middlebrooks. Yes, I understand that he has a nasty habit of chasing sliders away. When dogs can be trained to sing (everyone has seen the howling puppy video), why can't a twenty-something year-old slugger be trained to "see" those sliders go by? So you want to hold him responsible for the obstruction call? Three-run homers compensate for excessive strikeouts. Post All-Star break he was .276/.329/.476/.805. You're saying what about October, he hit .160. Then you can't lust after Stephen Drew, who hit .111 in fifty-four October at bats. While consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, sabermetricians eat that 'stuff' up.

Decisions, decisions. What will the Sox ante up to start the Jon Lester Retirement Fund? I'm feeling that 100 million over five years would be reasonable for a guy who can take sure-fire financial security and run, or go sign with the Baltimore Orioles (or others) and get torpedoed by medicals.

What won't happen in 2014? Unless Dennis Eckersley has been cloned and stashed away somewhere, nobody is going to have a Uehara-like relief numbers. Short of putting gawd almighty himself on the mound, John Farrell simply can't expect a repeat. Including the post-season, 88 innings, 40 hits, 9 walks, 117 strikeouts. Post All-Star break, including the post-season, 45.2 innings, 16 hits, 1 walk, 57 strikeouts, and an E.R.A. of  0.39. Strikeout ratio of 57 to 1 after the All-Star break. Those aren't even Nintendo numbers.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Cars

Rany Jazayerli, he of baseball authorship, pens about the demise of the Yankees. First, I think it unseemly to dance on another's grave, especially so when they have previously danced upon your'n so regularly. Second, baseball, being a game of mean reversion, sometimes exorcises strange demons and no birthright or copyright guarantees the Red Sox either a division or world title in 2014.

In the world of baseball economics, the fantasy "wins/dollar", the Red Sox pummeled the Bombers, but both New York and Boston have a long way to go to catch Houston. Houston may have had only 51 wins, but spent 29.3 million dollars, .574 million dollars per win.

The WC Red Sox 177.2 million dollars for their 108 (including post-season) wins, 1.646 million per win. But the Yankees, they of the 237 million dollar payroll, spent 2.79 million dollars per win, almost five times as much as Houston. Texans celebrate your frugality amid plenty.

The beauty of being a big-market team is either in savoring the success of excess or the misery of bad judgment. Spending megabucks allows GMs to make a flurry of bad decisions without consequence. "Eat all you want, we'll make more." Matt Thornton at seven million for two years, no big deal. Ellsbury at 22 million a year? A bargain at twice the price. Plus you get the drama of A-Rod in "New York Legal", Mark Teixeira on "Comeback Mountain", and Derek Jeter, the Captain, working "True Grit" as he clings to shortstop like a six-year old with his favorite teddy bear. Win or lose, it won't be boring.

The Red Sox won't be boring either. New faces at catcher, shortstop, and center field will test the 'strength up the middle' adage, although front office insecurity could still return Stephen Drew or even put Matt Kemp in play. David Ortiz is angling for another extension (wouldn't the Qualifying Offer be tantamount to the same?) and the Contract Year guys should provide plenty of drama, too.

The Duck Boats are put away...and they'll be packing up the truck any day now.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

Sometimes "strength" is as much illusion as reality. Consider the Red Sox starting rotation.

The "strength" argument looks at Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, Peavey, Doubront, and Dempster...with contenders like Brandon Workman (serious) and Allen Webster (are you serious?).

Lester and Lackey are legit and I'm a Doubront fan, although his pitch efficiency (ability or willingness to pitch to contract) is an issue. Peavey is at least healthy, but Buchholz's 2013 can't be viewed (healthwise) as confidence inspiring and Dempster gives you more innings than high production.

Yes, you can win with an E.R.A. approaching 5, as long as you lead the league in both on base percentage and runs scored, which is not assured.

As for Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, and Henry Owens, you cannot expect to catch lightning in a bottle, no matter how tall the bottle. While all could pitch next season in Boston, we simply can't expect more than stopgap production.

The Sox overall ERA was in the upper half of the AL.

As starters, the Sox starters had a K/BB ratio in the bottom half of the league. As many of you may know, K/BB ratio predicts future ERA better than ERA itself.

The Red Sox principal advantage over (for example) the Yankees is pitching. The Yankee bullpen is in rebuild mode with the Rivera retirement, and their current starting rotation is Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Pineda (coming off injury), and presumably a (luxury tax eating) free agent. Manny Banuelos is coming off surgery and Dellin Betances has a live arm and low H/IP ratio speaking to his potential. Nova pitched only 139 innings last season but certainly has an upward trajectory.

Never underestimate the need for quality starting pitching, no matter what you think.

Money can't play.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sox Don't Sleep on This Nap

Mike Napoli tweeted his return to Boston...and Sox fans couldn't be happier.

Napoli, in my opinion, was the most important of the cadre of free agents hanging in the dollarsphere, reportedly agreeing to a two year, 32 million dollar deal.

The Red Sox now have established right-handed power, with the power production of Will Middlebrooks at the other corner and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop to be determined.

As of now, the most likely lineup will look something like this:

RF Victorino
LF  Nava
2B  Pedroia
DH  Ortiz
1B  Napoli
SS  Bogaerts
C   Pierzynski
3B  Middlebrooks
CF Bradley, Jr.

Also, there's huge money potentially coming off the payroll at the end of the season (pending the disposition of Jon Lester and John Lackey). Roughly speaking Ortiz (11.5M), Dempster (13M), Peavey (14.5M), Ross (3M), Pierzynski (8.25M) yield over 50M dollars to be redeployed. Obviously, the Sox still have interest in Stephen Drew who still has a few other potential destinations...

The speculation re: the return of Drew also impacts the Sox potential interest in Matt Kemp (depending on how interested the Dodgers are in acquiring more pitching and a third baseman and in taking on some of Kemp's remaining contract).

Kemp's remaining money is simply Crawfordesque. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. (Table from

When healthy, Kemp had been a force.


With Jonathan Papelbon (13M) on the block, will the Yankees be interested or will David Robertson be The Man in the Bronx?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

More on Free Agency : Hot-blooded

The simple reality is that with more money floating around chasing fewer free agents (more promising talent being locked up early, like Evan Longoria), it creates a seller's market. Jacoby Ellsbury, Scott Kazmir, and Hunter Pence (among others) take advantage of that reality.

In Boston, we like our players to show emotion, outward manifestations that they care. That doesn't mean that we can't embrace a 'cold-blooded' performer doing his job, like Ellsbury, and good looks aside, his personality and affection for the audience (engagement) never matched his ability. One can legitimately ask, "is that a problem for you?"

If the Sox could field twenty-five baseball-playing, fire-breathing robots, cleverly manufactured in Bill James' baseball laboratory, and win the World Series every year, would that be enough for us? Conversely, how should we feel about media-friendly self-promoters, who underachieve yet develop a cult following.

The raw numbers look pretty good, but for the last SIX seasons in Boston, this popular player had an AVERAGE WAR (wins above replacement) of 1.3. The OPS looks pretty good, but are the numbers tainted by the era? We'll never know and nobody ever said Gator Greenwell looked like The Hulk.

Do I want robots or glad-handers on the field? Does a player need to be one or the other? With the media sophistication and media education available, there's no reason why a productive player can't also be at least media-responsive or 'trained up' to do so.

And if you're paying hundreds of millions of dollars to a guy, wouldn't you want him to establish a greater connection with your fans?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Buy Low, Sell High?

In the bright afterglow of another championship season, the competition has the audacity to raid the Sox pantry, shoplifting the Red Sox former centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury for the GDP of a small country. Of course, not everyone in New York is doing cartwheels. Daily New columnist Mike Lupica put it, the Yankees "don't just pay, they overpay."

Meanwhile the Red Sox lie low, waiting for the market to sort itself out, excepting the Boris Badanov Burke Badenhop era, and another Boston Bad Boy, A. J. Pierzynski, whom you'd think was less popular than Whitey Bulger. 

Now we're worrying about Jon Lester leaving, and probably soon starting to whine about signing Xander Bogaerts to a long-term deal. 

Yes, there is an imperative to value assets properly, to develop your high value pieces, young players under control with manageable salaries. Those 'values' allow you to sign higher priced (and often bigger gambles) free agents. 

First, more on Ellsbury, who authored a near MVP season in 2011, sandwiched among lengthy periods of injury. Does one philosophically believe that some players are injury prone? Some players seem more durable than others, or is it just random. Tim Naehring was the prototypical value player who couldn't stay healthy. Jed Lowrie was another talent who didn't seem capable of staying on the field. Is Ellsbury another 'injury prone' player, or a superstar just derailed at times by misfortune?

A separate issue is how much you assign Ellsbury's value. He's not the 2011 32-homer guy over a sustained period of time, but he has value above conventional OPS value because of the stolen bases. Also, the expectation of the back end of the contract (35 plus years old) isn't Barry Bonds-esque. 

I won't argue with the Sox' decision to pass on "The Winner's Curse" that was Jacoby Ellsbury. The reality is that you might strike it rich with an occasional 'bargain' like Jonny Gomes or David Ross, but expecting chicken salad from chicken feathers year after year is fools' gold. Talent wins and adding free agent championship pedigrees and number one draft choices will win out over the best junkyard dogs over the long pull. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Can You Say? Wake Me Up

I haven't written for a long time. There's a simple answer...superstition. Don't interrupt karma.

How do you win a World Series with less talent and more panache and character than the 2013 Red Sox? I don't think it's (to paraphrase Jonny Gomes) possible to explain it with words.

From the Boston Marathon tragedy (much like 9/11 culminated in a Patriots' Super Bowl), a spirit arose that meant walkoff wins and unlikely heroes.

The Sox finished with a closer who was never meant to close, a backup catcher who missed more than a third of the season on the DL, a first baseman who almost was never here because of a hip problem, a third baseman from Aruba via a late-season call-up, and a reserve left fielder who started games 10-1 in the postseason.

They won with two dominant starters (chicken and beer redemptions) and unlikely bullpen stalwarts including two Japanese pitchers, a left-handed molecular physicist, and another tall Texan who began his major league career as a starter threatening no-hit immortality.

Their number one third baseman sat most of the post-season and got called for obstruction to end game three, their top catcher was displaced, and they overpaid (according to most, including me) for a right-fielder on the downside of his career who won a Gold Glove and delivered key hits in the ALCS and the World Series.

What can you say? Superstition pays. Wake me up.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spin Cycle: What's Not to Like?

Here's how it works, borrowing from behavioral finance. What's mine is good, what's yours is okay, and possession affects perception. . Boston: We get a former Cy Young Award pitcher to bolster our staff down the stretch run. We trade an outstanding young defender with limited offensive production and some minor leaguers including a young power arm. We deal from a position of strength and get stronger. We have major league ready players to step in. We take on salary without trading our elite prospects. We are confident that we have strengthened our team. What's not to like? . Detroit: We protect ourselves (with a suspension coming in all likelihood) by getting the top infield defender in baseball. This bolsters our pitching and we have a strong offense that needs to be supplemented by augmented run prevention. We surrender a promising young outfielder. What's not to like? . Chicago mentality: We get a top outfield prospect and other prospects. We trade a starting pitcher with a high salary and a history of arm trouble on the back nine of his career. We're not going anywhere and we get prospects and economic flexibility going forward. What's not to like?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm Not a Believer

The Red Sox have enjoyed a wonderful season...and all the players, coaches, and management deserve a healthy dose of credit. But I'm not a believer. Over the long pull, team spirit and very good players can win a lot of games, but talent wins championships and the Red Sox don't have enough as currently constituted.

Their pitching, especially the starting pitching without Clay Buchholz is not championship caliber, despite good efforts from Lackey, Lester (recently), Doubront, Dempster, and Workman. In a short series how do you feel against Verlander and Scherzer, or Price and Moore...and more?

Their offense, despite leading the league in runs, has been spotty more recently. You say "it's good pitching." Well that's what you face in the playoffs.

Michael Young, greybeard, for Will Middlebrooks? That's asinine. There isn't one player they can get who puts them over the top, and if Ben Cherington drives up to my house and tells me differently, I'll know he needs psychiatric help.

Do I think they will make a "show the fans they care" move? Yes. But I don't think trading anyone meaningful (including Middlebrooks) for a stopgap prayer makes sense. Iglesias' hot start has cooled, one day from Drew doesn't make him better, and both Nava and Saltalamacchia have struggled big time recently. When virtually half your lineup is weak, you shouldn't mortgage the future for rental property.

The Sox are fifth in runs scored and fifth in OPS in July. They are sixth in ERA and eighth in batting average against in July. John Henry made his bones as a trend-following commodity trader. Well, the trend is not working in the Sox favor lately. Yes, they face an easier schedule soon, which may only enhance the "fool's gold" thinking so prevalent now.

But the Sox need to work on the long-pull revitalization...and if that means trading any of the Bogaerts, Cecchini, Owens, Barnes, Bradley, Vasquez ilk, I think we're going to regret it.

The Sox have played great for what they are...but management going for a Hail Mary in a p.r. move makes all the sense of MLB's slow playing the PED scandal...just plain dumb.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Prodigal Sox

New Englanders know 'Calvinist' theology, figuratively through scripture and literally through the Calvin Schiraldi meltdown from the 1986 post-season.

Perhaps it is fitting that the 2013 baseball season opens with the 'reformed' Red Sox, offering fans a different attitude and ambience, although extrapolating to the long season is one part impudent and one part folly.

For example, the Sox will not go errorless in 2013, will not have an ERA sub 3, and Daniel Nava will not have forty plus homers, although who would have predicted him to have homered in consecutive games from opposite sides of the plate...this season?

I'm not wholeheartedly jumping onto the bandwagon, but admittedly, one has to be encouraged by the results from the notoriously slow-starting Jon Lester and from Clay Buchholz. Sox fans had reason to expect a productive bullpen, but nobody expected Koji Uehara to look like the bullpen edition of Greg Maddux or Joel Hanrahan a reasonable facsimile of Dick Radatz.

Are there questions?  Certainly after watching the Sox struggle against Pettitte, Happ, Cecil, and for the most part Chen, we have to wonder about adjustments against left-handed pitchers. Wunderkind Jackie Bradley, Jr. has sprung a leak against southpaws and hard stuff under the hands. We still don't know about the longer-term health of David Ortiz, Stephen Drew, or John Lackey.

And while it's kumbaya in Camelot for a week, the marathon season sometimes exposes the tensions and travails of millionaire wallets and egos, and the mercurial nature of others, like Ace Aceves.

But all those caveats aside, the Red Sox version 2013.0 has exceeded early expectations and done so with good will if not duende. You can't ask for more than that.

Friday, March 29, 2013


We're on the cusp of the baseball season, and a thousand questions arise. Let's toss out a few.

  • Has there ever been a great manager who began as a pitching coach?
  • Is the Red Sox pitching rotation 'fixed'? 
  • Should the Sox keep Jackie Bradley, Jr. at the big league level?
  • Time heals all heels? What will David Ortiz bring to the table and when?
  • Who will overachieve and who will underperform?
John Farrell brings two years of managerial experience and a .475 winning percentage with him. First, managerial performance follows talent, and the Jays weren't great. However, you can name the great contemporary managers who were pitching coaches in a nanosecond.  Highly regarded Bud Black was the NL Manager of the Year in 2010 with San Diego, but he's not headed to Cooperstown anytime soon. The definitive article is here

Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz had great Spring Training and that matters. Jackie Bradley, Jr. did, and it doesn't. Huh?  Whether Farrell rejuvenates the Popeyes and popup lid clan remains to be seen. There's plenty of balance in the AL East, and the Yankees start out without A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, and Granderson. If the Sox start poorly, that reflects poorly against a team with one-arm tied behind its back. 

Numerous observers remarked that JBJ reminds them of the excitement surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury's arrival. Let me ask this rhetorical question...if six years from now, JBJ's career were IDENTICAL to Ellsbury's to date, would you be satisfied or disillusioned?  Are the Red Sox treating JBJ with respect or as a commodity, not yet on the 40 man roster?  Yes, we realize that management is trying to get "something for nothing" if they need to move Dan Butler, Alex Hassan, or Mauro Gomez off the 40-man.  And every GM in the majors knows they have to do it. Nobody's predicting immediate stardom for Bradley, Jr. and if he goes down to Pawtucket at some point in the year, few will be shocked.  I only hope that the communication between management and Bradley, Jr is frequent and respectful.  It hasn't always worked that way.

The game's afoot. As a physician, I'm acutely aware of the potential severity, chronicity, and debility of foot and ankle problems. Certainly the Sox should have a more potent lineup with Ortiz in the middle of it, but I'm not counting on it.  I don't think Ortiz will be the biggest team disappointment however. 

Who will succeed and who will struggle?  Presuming that Mike Napoli stays healthy, I like his chances to put up .280/.350/.500/.850 numbers.  Conversely, Shane Victorino has been on a downward trajectory. Coming to a new league won't necessarily help him. His WAR numbers the last three years are 3.1, 5.4, and 1.5.  Which guy is he? I suspect that he's more 1.5 to 3 than a 4 to 5 guy, and he's only been over four twice, and has a lot more mileage on him since then. I'm expecting something like .260/.320/.400/.720 which doesn't really cut it for thirteen million. 

The questions are many for this team and we'll see whether they have the answers. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Slogan's Run

Welcome to the 2013 Boston Red Sox, a Tom Werner production. "Every pleasure is yours to experience."  After all, the bad karma of Bobby Valentine has evaporated, and a kinder, gentler Prodigal Son, John Farrell returns to steer the ship.

Red Sox Nation lives as a dystopian society, where older fans, reminded of "25 players, 25 cabs" are to be eliminated in favor of 'pink hats' and any corporate memory of the embarrassment of late in 2011 and all of 2012 removed.

In honor of principal owner John Henry, trend-following commodities guru, maybe we should go with "this time it's different."  If only Johnny Gomes could be a pitcher, then we could wax poetic about the second coming of Ricky Vaughn.  Future disgruntled centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is hardly to be heard, as media grooms us for (not 1984, but 2014) Jackie Bradley, Jr.  And no doubt Shane Victorino has all the style and soul of the Kia hamsters.

Juan Nieves has already been drinking the Kool-Aid, as the Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Doubront front line is already the parousia of Palmer, McNally, Cuellar, and Dobson from the 1971 Orioles.

I'm the Positive Dog, but even I have limits.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hope is not a Strategy in "The Price is Right"

The Red Sox rely on reversion to the mean coming into the 2013 season. That is, having more players achieve closer to their 'normal' performance.  The "Moneyball" approach looks to translate historical performance in key metrics, to oversimplify, OPS for offense and K/BB for pitching, into effective play.

Traditionalists argue that Moneyball overlooks what others would call baseball instinct. Sabermetricians could reply that your "lying eyes" see what they want.

I lack the inclination to review the entire team by plate appearances, but we can go through a couple, especially the "strength up the middle" dynamic. Among AL catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was eighth in OPS (.742) and tenth in WAR (1.2). The good news, if that matters, is that he was better than Jesus Montero.

In centerfield, Jacoby Ellsbury has been a model of inconsistency. Injury-plagued, the Sox 'golden boy' has had an AL MVP runnerup campaign and then 2012.

Ellsbury, who received a one million dollar raise to nine million dollars, was twelfth in the AL in OPS, and last in Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

If Ellsbury suffers much work absence this season, the Sox have an "insurance policy" in the Flyin' Hawaiian Shane Victorino.

Victorino comes in with a thirteen million dollar price tag. The only problem is that Victorino is not much of a difference from Ellsbury. Even with the anticipated stolen bases, the runs created story isn't likely to be much different.

For their careers, both have averaged less than three Wins Above Replacement for what passes as full seasons, although Ellsbury's .791 career OPS is a bit higher than Victorino's .770.

Victorino has won three Gold Gloves and Ellsbury one.

Sox fans are familiar with player inconsistency, injury, and disappointment.  Who doesn't remember George "The Boomer" Scott hitting .303 in 1967 and .171 in 1968. Or Dwight Evans, who hit under .250 five times and over .280 seven times? And we remember Jack Clark's cup of coffee on the way out the door and Nick Esasky wiped out by vertigo.

So how will the Red Sox actually do?  The Sox have more question marks than Frank Gorshin's Riddler in Batman. Will David Ortiz's heel recover and will Mike Napoli's heel hold up?  Is Johnny Gomes more than a platoon player? Will the Red Sox rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster, and Felix Doubront be a rotisserie success or get fried?

Here are some projections.

Baseballguru (80-82) third.
Red Sox individual (ZIPS)
Athlon Sports Dismal
Bleacher Report Benched

The computer simulation season projections are still pretty thin.  And what does it matter?

With teams still under construction and health (and PED issues) still up in the air, it's too early to take strong stances on performance.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tale of the Tape

What you see is not always what you get.  Baseball fans and baseball organizations are often mesmerized by numbers. We should be able to measure production. Of course, isolated statistics (small sample size) may not always reflect perception...or future production.

Here are statistics from two Red Sox players from 2012. Both had similar plate appearances, but one had better on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.  He also had better isolated power (IsoP) and Secondary Average (SecA). One player is adored throughout much of Red Sox Nation. The other is an afterthought.

Player one (88 games played) is Daniel Nava, he of the better stats. The other is Jacoby Ellsbury. Of course, Ellsbury has a more polished resume' and a fantastic "once in a lifetime" season in 2011. Ellsbury has suffered through two seasons of misery with extended time on the DL. But what is perception and what is reality?  Nava will struggle to make the team and Ellsbury anticipate a 12-20 million dollar a year contract. Go figure.