Monday, February 28, 2005

Jesus in the Outfield

This article talks, amongst other things, about who will be in the starting line up on April third against Randy Johnson and the Yankees. David Ortiz will be starting against the game's best lefty, but Trot Nixon will not. Jay Payton and his .216 AVG in a team high 37 at bats against the Unit will likely start instead. Am I the only one that doesn't see the logic in that? I understand wanting to sit Nixon against tough lefties and they don't come any tougher then Randy Johnson, but Nixon could probably go up flailing, get lucky, and beat a .216 AVG. Might as well start him!

Centerfield - Well, last year we finally got what we paid for. After two rather average years,Johnny Damon stepped up and was worth every penny of the $8 million that he made last year. In addition to having the best leadoff hitter not named Ichiro in the game, the Sox had a leader, a mascot, and a figure that everyone could identify with. He called the team a bunch of idiots and it stuck. He showed up to spring training looking like Jesus/a caveman and provided plenty of good natured jokes for the entire year. He got on base, scored runs, stole a few bases, and even managed to smack the ball around quite a bit hitting a career high 20 homers. There is no question that Damon was one of Boston's most valueable players last year. The only question is, can he do it again? Nah, probably not. Who knows, maybe it was the hair and beard (which he still has) that powered him to a great year at the age of 30. But more then likely we can expect his AVG to drop 20 points and his OBP and SLG to drop 30 a piece. Damon has had a couple of pretty impressive seasons before 2004. His last two years with Kansas City in 1999 and 2000 he had some good numbers. So his performance wasn't unprecidented. I just wouldn't get my hopes up. I don't know about you, but the guy could go 0 for 600 this year and I wouldn't really care. His on and off field performance last year made everything well worth it.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

No news is good news

It's a sad day indeed when the only thing passing for news is the fact that Ramon Vazquez almost became a professionaly volleyball player.

A few bits of spring training news can be found here. Schilling threw off the mound again and still isn't pleased with how he's performing. But he is still pain free. Clement will be starting the spring opening on Thursday against the Twins. Wakefield will be pitching against North Eastern on Friday afternoon while Timlin will start that night against Boston College.

No news is good news though, I suppose. The last thing we need is the news of a Sox player going down with an injury.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

It's just Manny being Manny

We can expect more from left field then almost any team in baseball in 2005. We've been getting more than almost any team for the last four years now. And things don't appear to be changing. Is $20 million a year a lot to pay a ballplayer? You bet your ass it is. Is it worth it? When that ballplayer is Manny Ramirez, yes. Some criticize Manny's defense. They call him a one dimensional player. They call him a headcase. He doesn't have his head in the game, his hair is too wacky, or maybe he smiles too much. Do you know what I see when I look at Manny? I see the best run producer in the game. Yeah, there are some holes in his game. But the goods far outweigh the bads. Manny is reaching that age where his skills are going to start to fade. His average has dipped and his K/BB ratio has climbed. But for 2005 and for several years to come, very few in the game can match the guy you'll see in front of the green monster.

It's Saturday, there's zero news going on, and that's really all I got.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The new shortstop in town

I already mentioned what I think about the Red Sox thirdbase situation. I don't believe Bill Mueller will last the whole season, healthwise, but Kevin Youkilis will build on his solid rookie season and give us one of the best number nine hitters in the game. Third base should be a position that the Sox get a slight increase in production from last year, but what about shortstop?

Last year we used three full time shortstops; Nomar, Pokey, and O-Cab. Reese, as we all witnessed, is one of the worst hitters in the game. He was pretty much an automatic out every time the ninth hole in the batting order came up. With all the negative thoughts people have about Nomar and his 2004 season, he put up a very respectable .321/.367/.500 while in Boston. He was just begining to get hot when he was shipped out. Once he got to Chicago he only managed a .297 avg, which is something Cubs fans are going to have to get used to now that Nomar isn't playing 81 games in Fenway, but that is neither here nor there. Cabrera put up a nifty little .294/.320/.465 line while playing for the Sox and that's right around what I'd expect to see from our new main man, Edgar Renteria. Few people actually believe that Renteria will match his eye popping career high totals that he hit in 2003, but .300 isn't out of his reach and he'll be knocking doubles off the green monster all year long. Overall, the production that we can expect from Renteria is about even with the average of the trio that held the position last year. The Sox are a little bit short in the depth department, relying on Ramon Vazquez, but in general the Sox will break even.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bellhorn? Who could ask for anything more

Damn right! The rings will be presented on opening day, just as they should be. That makes me a happy man.

To continue with the good news, Schilling took the mound for the first time this spring. He was dissapointed with the results, but Francona and Dave Wallace were encouraged. And there's not a mention of pain.

Second Base -Is Mark Bellhorn the second best hitting second baseman in the American League? The casual fan will tell you no. He struck out too many times! His average was too low! He didn't talk as much as Kevin Millar! Of course, as in many cases, the casual fan is wrong. According to his 37.6 VORP he's second only to Alfonso Soriano. If you want to go by RC/27, Bellhorn was the AL's top option. His .264 average won't turn any heads, but a .373 OBP from second base is more then anyone has a right to ask for. And 17 home runs is a hell of a number from that possition. So he definately was one of the best in the game last year. Will he repeat it? 2004 was only the second time that Bellhorn had a starting job and both years he put up good numbers. The problem is when he wasn't starting. He put up some really bad numbers then. Bellhorn has the skills to put up some good numbers and those skills aren't just going to go away. He has a good eye and when he sees a pitch he likes, he can hit it hard. It'd be pretty easy for Bellhorn to repeat what he did last year and give us another solid year.

Bellhorn is likely to give us another solid season, but we didn't do much to upgrade our depth. Pokey Reese gave the Sox 244 at bats split between 2B and SS and oh, what horrid at bats they were. I don't care how good the man's defense is, when he bats .221/.271/.303, he shouldn't have a job in pro ball. Needless to say I wasn't exactly crying myself to sleep when they didn't bother to resign him. The problem is that we went out and got a guy who's bat isn't much better, but can't compete with Pokey when it comes to using the glove. Last year Ramon Vazquez also failed to break the new Mendoza line by putting up an OBP of .297. Even his career numbers of .262/.334/.344 aren't too impressive. But at least he has versatility. And we got him and Jay Payton for our fifth outfielder. So I can't really complain. I just hope that Bellhorn stays healthy this year.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Our capable crew

If I see Barry Bonds or Jose Canseco on my tv one more time I swear I'm going to scream. There is no possible way that I could care less about this steroid scandal and that is all we get to hear about. I can't stand any of the players involved from Bonds to Canseco to Giambi, Sheffield, and all the rest. Bonds dropped yet another level in my book (if that's even possible) with his press conference today. The guy's a racist prick that lives in a fantasy world. But anyways...on to the point...

First Base - My friends and I had an idea during the ALCS last year. We know that Kevin Millar puts up decent numbers. His .297/.383/.474 line for 2004 was a lot higher than I expected. His 37.6 VORP is fourth among AL first basemen. His 6.43 RC/27 is also good enough to rank fourth among AL first baseman. Maybe it was his horrible first half. Or maybe he runs his mouth off too much to be taken seriously. Whatever it is, it's hard to believe that he puts up decent numbers. Every time I see the guy at the plate he seems to make an out. So it only makes sense that Millar performs great when my back is turned. Last year during the playoffs I took to either closing my eyes or leaving the room every time Millar was up to bat. He's not an elite firstbase masher and he does have a few issues on the defensive side of the field, but for the money we're paying him (about $3 mil this year) he more then gets the job done. He showed up to camp about 20 pounds more then he was last year and he is at the age (33) where his skills are going to start to fade, but a .290/.375/.490 line isn't out of the question.

The Sox also have more options as a backup to Millar then they did last year. Defensive whiz or not, I can't get behind anyone that hits .238, especially not when he plays first base. So I wasn't all that sad to wave good bye to Doug Mientkiewicz. Dave McCarty is fighting for a job this spring and here's hoping that he doesn't get it. The man I'd like to see on the bench backing up Millar is Roberto Petagine. There wasn't much made of his signing and his previous numbers aren't all that great but his performance in Japan was pretty impressive. He's getting on in years at the age of 34, but he has good plate discipline and plenty of pop. Obviously no one is expecting him to hit 37 home runs or put up a .446 OBA (his averages in six years over in Japan), but he should be a great guy to have coming off the bench. He also put in 80 games in the OF in 2003 so he has a little versatility in him.

The other options at first include Kevin Youkilis and possibly Ramon Vazquez. Of course there's always David Ortiz when Terry Francona feels that defense won't really matter. I already mentioned that I'm a pretty big fan of Youkilis and I really hope the firstbase plan works in spring training. Vazquez is a very versatile guy and played a few games at first last year, so in a pinch he could be put there.

Over the course of the year I think we can expect better production at first. Millar may dip a bit, but that will be made up by Petagine and Youkilis backing him up instead of McCarty and Mientkiewicz. The Sox don't have the typical big slugger hiding away at first, but they do have a capable squad for a really good price.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Dynamic Duo behind the plate

Can you feel that? Can you feel that change in the air? That's the feeling of spring training. Today is the first full squad workout. As I sit here and type Johnny Damon is stretching in preparation for some wind sprints. Curt Schilling is tossing the ball, seeing how his ankle feels. David Ortiz is practicing his hugs. A slimmer, more flexibleTrot Nixon is feeling healthy. David McCarty, Adam Hyzdu, and a few others are fighting for that 25th spot. And everyone is there. It's a weird feeling to look at the news articles during spring training and not see something missing. There are no articles about how Pedro is showing up a week late. I could write a little good riddance entry about Pedro, but why bother? These are happy times that deserve only happy thoughts. So how about a posistion by position look at the Sox this year, starting with catcher? That sounds like a good time to me.

Catchers - There's no change for the Sox here. Last year we had the best hitting catching team in baseball and those two are coming back for more. No one is going to argue against the fact that Jason Varitek is extremely over paid. A $40 million deal for a 33 year old catcher usually isn't a good idea. But just like no one is going to argue against him being overpaid, no one is going to argue that the signing wasn't a good idea. The Red Sox aren't the A's. They don't need to watch their payroll. They can afford to give a bad deal to an irreplaceable part of the team. Good deal or not we can expect a decline from Varitek. I'm not a huge fan of the BABIP stat, but I think it's a pretty good indicator, in this case, that Varitek was one luck SOB last year. I have a feeling that Fenway increases BABIP by a bit, but in 2004 Varitek had a .373 BABIP. That's just nuts. And that's not something that we can expect to see again. Expect a drop from Varitek's .296/.390/.482 line to something more around his career totals. Something like .275/.350/.450 is what we're likely to see.

Doug Mirabelli also had a career year last year posting career highs in avg and oba. We can expect another 160 AB's from our backup, catching Wakefield every fifth day. The great part about Mirabelli being a backup is that even though his avg is likely to drop 30 points, that only means that he'll collect about 5 less hits.

The third option, just in case one of the top two go down, is Kelly Shoppach, at one time billed as our catcher of the future. Shoppach does have some pop to his bat, smacking 22 homers last season in Pawtucket, but he has a bit of a problem putting the bat on the ball, hitting just .233 while striking out 138 times (in 399 at bats). From what I hear, he's good behind the plate. He's an agile guy and knows how to call a game. If we don't trade him, I expect that he'll be a hell of a backup catcher one day. If we do trade him, I think he could turn into a serviceable starter on some teams. As for this year, I'm looking forward to seeing him in the majors if Varitek or Mirabelli gets hurt. Not that I want either to get hurt, of course. And not that I expect Shoppach to ever turn into an all-star. It's just that I wouldn't mind seeing one of the prospects that we've been hearing about for a couple of years.

We'll likely see a drop in production from our backstops, but it's still a strong point for us. The kind of numbers we're likely to see coming from behind the plate and in the 7 or 8 spot in our order is still near the top of the league. And the intangibles (ya know...after years of making fun of Jeter for that word, I really hate using it...) that both bring only improve their value. The only bad thing we can expect is on the basepaths for the other team. Our catching duo let 123 runners steal a base last year, worst in the league.

Monday, February 21, 2005

It appears as if Wade Miller will be starting the season on the DL, which we all pretty much expected. The article doesn't talk about him very much, but it looks like his arm strength is there and he may not be too far behind.

The same article also has a few words on Byung-Hyun Kim, but it doesn't actually say anything of any importance. This fluff piece mentiosn him, but says nothing of any importance. To this point I still haven't heard anything on Kim, good or bad. To me, that's not a good thing. If the guy was showing the arm that he had a couple of years ago, I think that news would be all over the place. To me the silence is a good indication that, if he's even with the team come opening day, he'll be on mop up duty.

The only news I can find about Matt Mantei is him becoming the next Sox player to take a shot at the Yankees. Some may call the recent Sox attacks on the Yankees and A-Rod immature and un-"classy", but I think they're pretty amusing. Sure, it's pretty much grade school talk between two kids at recess, but it's entertaining. Plenty of people in the media and in the blogworld think that enough is enough...but I think that this stuff should just keep on coming.

The news is still the same about Curt Schilling. They're not rushing him, but he still wants to be ready for opening day. But if he doesn't start on Opening Day, who does? Every year baseball folk lean more and more towards the arguement that it really doesn't matter what the pitching rotation is and it really doesn't matter who opens the season. I tend to agree. Most teams give the opening day start as a reward to a team leader or veteran that's been around for a while. That's why if Schilling isn't ready to open the season, my vote goes to Tim Wakefield. The guy has been on the team longer then anyone else and this could, quite possibly be, his last year here.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Yankees should hand them the rings from their knees

Fuck that. Fuck that in so many ways. A degree of decorum and respect??? Postponing the World Series ceremony so the Yankees don't feel like we're rubbing it in their faces is the dumbest thing in the world. First of all, it's not like they went out of their way to schedule the ceremony when the Yankees were in town. The ceremony was scheduled on the Red Sox home opener, just like every other World Series ring ceremony and it just so happens that the Yankees are in town. Second of all, if the situation was reversed, do you think that the Yankees would even give it a thought? Of course not! They'd go right on presenting those rings right under the Boston's nose. It blows my mind to think that someone in the Red Sox front office actually came up with this idea and that it was actually well received. I'm just glad that most of the media (WEEI DJs, Around the Horn guys, PTI guys, etc.) find the idea as bad as I do.

The biggest thing that I don't like about this rivalry is the notion of "class". I've heard for years that the Yankees are just bursting with class, while the Red Sox? Well, they have absolutely none at all, of course. I really can't see it. I can't see what makes the Yankees classy. Is it because they're boring? The way that they never seem to have anything fun, do anything fun, or be anything more than boring? If that's what you think class is, why the hell would the Yankees be proud of that? I really think that too much is made out of this "class" bullshit. Because, really, when it comes down to it, that's all it is...bullshit. And it's that bullshit that's causing the Red Sox to pull a stupid stunt like not presenting the rings in front of the Yankees. They want to show that they have "class" too.

Baseball is not a gentleman's game. From the days of Babe Ruth boozing it up to the days of Ty Cobb drop-kicking second basemen all the way up to the days of Barry Bonds being a prick and Kevin Millar doing shots before play off games. Baseball has never been a gentleman's game. Baseball is not about class. It's not about having a superior attitude. It's not about politeness, respectability, being the better man...none of that. Baseball is a competition. Do people even know what competition is these days? Two teams go into a game. One comes out on top, the winner. We cheer them. We celebrate them. One team comes out a loser. We laugh at them. We point at them and tell them how much they suck. Why? BECAUSE THEY DO SUCK! They lost! At the beginning of the season 30 teams go in, one comes out. One team won the competition. One team has bragging rights, respectability, and the ability to call themselves champions. 29 other teams lost. It doesn't matter if it's Arizona losing 158 games or if it's the Yankees for executing the biggest choke in baseball history or anyone in between. They all lost.

I want to see the Red Sox present the World Series rings on their home opener. I want to see 35,000 people cheer their heads off with each ring presented. I want to see the place absolutely explode when the Red Sox take the field. And I want to see 35,000 chant "YANKEES SUCK" the second the Yankees take the field. Does that make me a bad person? Does that make me less classy? Good.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

News from Pitchers and Catchers Eve

Trot Nixon has been in the news a bit in the last couple of days. On Tuesday he had a few things to say about Alex Rodriguez.

"Like Rodriguez says," Nixon said, "he's running stairs at 6 in the morning while I'm sleeping and taking my kids to school. I'm like, well I'm not a deadbeat dad, Alex."

On Nov. 18, Rodriguez's wife gave birth to a daughter.

"He's got a kid now, too, so I guess he'll have his limo driver take her to school," Nixon said.

Definately my favorite part of the article. An on-the-field rivalry between the Yankees and the Sox is a great thing, but I love when it carries over off the feild. I'm making a prediction right now. First time Nixon slides into third against the Yankees he's going to dropkick A-Rod.

Nixon has also been getting in shape focusing more on flexibility and agility in order to help stay healthy. He's lost 14 pounds and says that he feels great. The Sox need a healthy Nixon to repeat this year. I like Jay Payton over Gabe Kapler, but I'd still love to see Nixon batting fifth or sixth. It just makes the line up that much more impressive.

The Sox made a couple of moves on Tuesday. Neither should make that much of an impact. Denney Tomori will likely only make the team if a couple of guys (Matt Mantei, Wade Miller?) aren't healthy and at the age of 37 he doesn't have many chances left. Alejandro Machado, acquired for a player to be named and cash is already working for his fifth organization and he's only 22. That's probably all we need to know about him. He seems to have decent on base skills and a little speed, but there's absolutely no power in his bat.

I can't find an article online (it will likely be in Wednesday's papers), but I heard a Terry Francona interview on Sports Center. Apparently he was talking with WEEI when he was rear-ended. It was only a minor accident and no one was hurt. The last thing he told the DJ before he hung up? The guy that hit him was a Yankees fan. The car had Yankee decals on it. I'd love to hear more stories like this. I wonder how many Red Sox and Yankee fans have collided before. I know I've accidently hit two parked cars. Both cars belonged to Yankee fans.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Our first full year of our very own God

Bill Mueller had knee surgery last week, but is expected to be back to play on opening day. According to Francona the surgery will be a "nonfactor once the season starts." Forgive me if I'm not convinced here, but Mueller is 34 years old and he's missed time over the last several years because of this knee, including six weeks last year. Is this something that should have Sox fans shaking? Nah. Even if Mueller isn't available on opening day, we have a God to take his place.

Enter Kevin Youkilis, Greek God of Walks. We got a good look at Youkilis last year and I think we're all looking forward to seeing him over the course of a full year. Between the time off that Mueller will very likely have throughout the year and the work that he is likely to get in at first base (depending on how the experiment goes in spring training), Youkilis is likely to get a lot of at bats this year. How will he do? I'm sure he'll do just fine.

Last year Youkilis burst onto the scene with a .318/.446/.477 line in 44 May at bats before settling in with a .286/.351/.443 line playing full time in June. His season went downhill from there as the league adjusted to him, but still, a .367 OBA isn't too bad. He'll adjust to the majors this year and will be able to maintain early summer numbers. His RC27 (runs created over 27 outs) was 5.82, a bit low for the hot corner, but when you compare that to Mueller's 5.91 it doesn't look that bad. And while Mueller's age and injuries will likely contribute to a decline, Youkilis is only getting started. His four year minor league totals of .297/.442/.423 don't really promise for much power, but his style fits in perfectly with the Red Sox philosophy and he doesn't have to hit it a ton to start bouncing doubles off the Monster. Well, what about defense? According to David Pinto's DER Youkilis was the second best defensive third baseman last year.

Kevin Youkilis, our first home grown talent that will contribute since his polar opposite Shea Hillenbrand, will do just fine this year. And I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

State of the (Red Sox) Nation

News from the Nation over the last few days...

Five days until pitchers and catchers. Five. That's it. Less than a week. We can make it. Yesterday was Truck Day. As we speak the equipment trucks are chugging along on their way to Fort Myers.

Planning a trip to Cooperstown? Now you'll be able to see Curt Schilling's bloody sock. It's sad that in February, that counts as news.

Derek Lowe has a few things to say about his former team. "How do I want to be remembered in Boston? Two or three years from now, nobody will remember my numbers, but they will remember what I did in the playoffs." I don't know about you, but I'm going to remember shaking in my seat, sweating bullets, every time they actually put that guy on the mound in the 2004 playoffs. He somehow managed to pull a damn good performance out of his ass to win all three clinching series games, and I will remember that. But I will also remember cringing every time I saw him take the mound the last couple of years.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sosa comes to the AL East

The only real news going down right now is Jose Canseco and steroid talk. Now that's a topic that I don't really care about, didn't bother to pay attention to much, and don't really feel like discussing. So, since this blog wasn't around last week, let's talk about last week's news.

Sammy vs. Nomar

I've heard a lot of talk about how people have never seen a player fall so far, so fast with his team and the fans than Sammy Sosa. Apparently those people weren't paying attention last July when Theo Epstein pulled the trigger that sent Nomar away in return for two players whose value didn't add up to Nomar's. Before the whole A/Rod for Manny trade fell through nearly all of Boston's fans were 100% behind Nomar. Then, after a little grumbling and after some (understandably) hurt feelings, Nomar began to be seen as a bad guy. It esculated over the year to the point where Nomar no longer wanted to play in Boston and many of the fans didn't want him here anyways. To me the Nomar situation seems much like the Sammy situation. We all know how the Nomar trade turned out for the Sox. The inferior players we received in return wound up being an important part of our 2004 World Series victory. Cabrera and Minty became loved by all and Nomar was pretty much forgotten about. Now, I'm not saying the same will happen in Chicago. Sosa might be in decline, but Jerry Hairston is a servicable bench player, at most and the two "prospects" the Cubs got aren't exactly superstars in waiting. I'm just saying, to me, the situations seem very similar.

The biggest thing I don't get about the Sosa deal is why there wasn't more interest. The only thing it's costing Baltimore for Sammy Sosa to play for them this year is a utility player, a couple of "prospects", and less than $9 in Sammy's salary. Why didn't any other team jump on this? Sure, Sosa is in decline, but if he puts together a healthy season 40 homers isn't out of the question. Now the Orioles have an icon in right field to draw in the fans and a guy who, even at 36, is a legitimate clean up hitter in any line up. Instead of throwing $50 million too much at Magglio Ordonez, why didn't the Tigers throw a few players at the Cubs to get Sosa? Or, instead of Alou, why didn't the Giants throw in an offer for Sammy? There are probably half a dozen teams out there that could use Sammy Sosa, but the only major rumors that were circulating were the Mets (who dropped out after landing Beltran) and the Orioles.

As for the Orioles, am I afraid? No. Sure, the Sox will probably, for some God forsaken reason, lose the season series to Baltimore. But third place is about the best that Baltimore can hope for. They have a hell of a (really old) line up, but they're still pretty thin and still are quite a few arms away from being a contender.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Countdown = 7

With the Superbowl done with there is nothing standing in our way. It's just seven days until pitchers and catchers report. That is just one short week before we can finally stop waiting and begin celebrating. In honor of such a joyous time, I have decided to create this blog.

There are actually several reasons behind this blog :

What can you expect here? Well, I am a Sox fan first, baseball fan second. I would push my own mother down a flight of stairs if the Sox could somehow get a win out of it. But I am still a fan of baseball. I don't get a chance to watch too many games because I work nights, but I watch all I can and watch SportsCenter on repeat until I go to bed after work. I'm a huge fan of the numbers of the game. Because I don't get to see much, a lot of times I rely on the numbers to give me a picture of the game. The box scores, the stats, the totals...all of it interests me. From the old reliables like HR's and SV's to the newly created ones like BABIP and K/9.

In this blog I hope to recap the Red Sox season while throwing in some random notes about the game in general. Trade talk, stat talk, game talk, player talk. I hope to touch it all.

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