Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Yes, ponying up ridiculous sums for a corner outfielder with a checkered health past has opportunities. Maybe Partners Healthcare will sponsor J.D. Drew as the Partners Red Sox outfielder. Sure, that's the ticket, another marketing opportunity.
J.D. Drew, when healthy, and motivated, has skilz. Availability? That of course, is another question. Some have speculated that Drew's signing somehow links to Matsuzaka's via the Boras connection. Doubtful. Boras isn't a guy who leaves a nickel on the table. Should we hate him because he does his job well? Don't answer that.
As for trading Manny for prospects or the likes of Scott Linebrink, was Linebrink a little off last year, or is he in a downtrend? Is a guy with an average win share rating of ten, your kind of guy?
Eerily, this has the feeling of A Christmas Carol, with Theo playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Certainly not parsimonious with the Red Sox Nation's dollars, but with the ghost of Christmas past (Johnny Damon) haunting him, he's now looking at the ghost of Christmas present (Manny), and very likely to confront the ghost of Christmas future (J.D. Drew).
I, for one, have regularly served as an apologist for Theo, based upon his early track record as Wunderkind. Sometimes I've felt like an apologist, not for his decision not to raid the farm last July, but for uncritically accepting his talent evaluation and organizational skills.
Aside from the bad hair, I'll never be confused with Einstein. But, if the scenario plays out where J.D. Drew's only familiarity with Eye of the Tiger is Rocky IV, and Manny remains Manny, then Theo won't become public enemy number one, just another quisling in the Nation.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Bill James' analysis: WIN SHARES
Meatloaf says, "two out of three ain't bad," so I'll defer to him. Drew obviously played at an extraordinary level in 2004 and rebounded to 'All-Star' caliber play last year, ergo, the big payday.
The Big Picture: Baseball Reference -
- Overall career stats: .286/.393/.512/.905
- Scored 100 runs once, 100 RBI once.
- Similarity scores: most similar player TROT NIXON
- Similar batters through age 30: include Jim Edmonds, Larry Doby, Kirk Gibson, David Justice
Three year statistics:
- Pre and post All-Star similar
- .263/.387/.427/.815 versus LHP
- very few appearances versus AL East rivals
Bill Belichick talks about the importance of both ABILITY and DURABILITY. The money has simply gotten out of control, but not just for J.D. Drew, but for almost any Type A player. Other teams set the market, and make baseball pretty unpalatable for the average Kansas City Royal fan. Drew is going to get his dough, no question. The question is whether his durability (going forward) will justify the investment.
Is the Drew pursuit part of a bigger plan to relocate Manny Ramirez (baseball Domino Theory)? We don't know. If it is, then that clearly makes the money a lot easier for the Sox to swallow. The Sox have made some good calls (Mo Vaughn, Pedro Martinez) in these situations and obviously rolled the dice and lost on Roger Clemens. The verdict is clearly out on Johnny Damon, although I'd guess that when all is said and done, they may wish they paid him.
Of course, the intangibles (Dodger teammates distaste for Drew, the 'Nancy Drew' label, and so on) are impossible to know. Fred Lynn sometimes got a bad rap for not playing hurt, but everyone knew that he was running into walls, not running into outfielders like certain unnamed Sox past outfielders.
You hope that Theo Epstein, John Henry, and Terry Francona got the chance to look into Drew's eyes, and tried to look into his soul.
Maybe we need the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit from Quantico in on this one. Does Drew really WANT to come into the lion's den and play with the Eye of the Tiger? Or is he just another mercenary playing for a paycheck? Sox fans willingly pledge our allegiance to these heroes. We just don't want management bringing in frauds. So what is it J.D.? Do you want to be great or just richer?
Saturday, November 25, 2006
First, the thirty-year old southpaw is a career .500 pitcher (59-58) with a 4.52 ERA. For the past three seasons, he is 37-34, with ERAs from 4.06 to 5.56 and an average WHIP ratio of 1.42 (not that great). He's been plagued by the gopher ball, surrendering an average of 26 homers/year during three years as well with a strikeout/walk ratio of 424/228.
From the Jamesian Win Shares perspective, he had 16, 4, and 12 from 2004 to 2006.
For three year splits, he has allowed opponents to hit .249 with .755 OPS against and had similar ERA at home and away. He's pitched about the same before and after the All-Star break but had better winning percentage before (not significant).
Against the Sox in three years he is 5-4 with a .227 average against and 3.27 ERA in 14 starts. Against the Yankees he is 2-6 in twelve starts with a .276 average against and 6.21 ERA.
The Yankees are rumored to be hot on the Lilly trail.
What exactly is Lilly? First, he's pitched in the AL, so it's not like he has to learn to pitch against the iron (Beckett?). Second, he's slightly better than .500 the past three years. Third, he doesn't seem to have much of a 'trajectory', he is what he is. Fourth, he has pitched well against Boston and Baltimore, but poorly against Tampa. Perhaps most important, for the Sox, he hasn't pitched well against the Yankees, and whether it's their lineup or the bright lights, that's pretty compelling stuff.
Verdict: pass on Lilly and hope that the Sox can turn it around against him, learning whatever the Bombers and Rays know.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Let's run the numbers. Ohka has had a WHIP ratio of 1.31 to 1.39 the past three years in the NL. The good news is that he had excellent control, averaging about three walks per nine innings. The bad news has been that his ERA has been rising, and his win shares haven't, 4 in 2004, 8 in 2005, and 5 in 2006.
He has pitched better on the road than at home the past few seasons, but hasn't pitched enough against AL teams to have a read on that.
Is he under consideration to add to his 10 million in career earnings? 10 million bucks and 48 career wins. What a country!
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Offensively, at .279/.381/.429/.810 he proved to be, what? With 91 walks he finished seventh in the AL, and he was eighth in doubles, and tenth in times on base. With 100 runs scored, his thirteen homers and seventy-two RBI seemed adequate, as long as he was hitting leadoff or second.
Now for the issues. His home versus away OPS was .844 versus .774 and pre-All-Star game he was .874 and post .728. His leadoff OPS was .815 and his leadoff OBP was .385. Although he fanned 120 times, 68 came before the All-Star break.
He was tied for second in OBP as first baseball with Paul Konerko, behind Jason 'Juice Guy' Giambi, led 'qualified' AL first basemen in runs scored, but was eighth of eight first basemen in OPS.
The AL leader in Win Shares at first base was MVP Justin Morneau with 27, followed by Konerko at 23, and Youkilis at 22. With Bill James' threshold for 'All-Star' capability at 20, I'll bet the Sox were quietly pleased with Youkilis' overall production, second half notwithstanding. Was Youkilis worn down, injured, or both? Probably.
What do the Sox need from Youkilis? If they choose to hit him second, they'd like fewer strikeouts and a little more power. But his low salary and run scoring make him a valuable commodity at this point in the club's evolution. On the other hand, let's not forget who checks in at number seven in qualifying first sackers in OPS, Kevin Millar, at .811.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The Sox struggled mightily down the stretch, both OFFENSIVELY and defensively (pitching). Offensively, what changed? No Manny Ramirez, no production. The sanctimonious buzzards (polite words) of the press want somebody who busts his tail every time he grounds out to short, and puts up big numbers. He must also communicate as effectively as say, Mike Greenwell, a media darling who averaged 10 homers and 60 RBI his last SIX seasons in Boston, and played left field as though he needed a helmet.Let's recite the reasons Manny Must Go.
- He doesn't run out every groundball (see Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski).
- He's overpaid. Almost everyone in baseball is overpaid.
- He doesn't produce enough. Compared to Hank Aaron or Willie Mays? Similar batters through age 34 at Baseball Reference include Griffey, Juan Gonzalez, Bagwell, Frank Robinson, Mays, Frank Thomas, Bonds, Mantle, Snider, and Thome. All except Gonzalez won't have to buy tickets to Cooperstown.
- He's a bad interview. Wait, the scribes don't say that in their columns, or do they? I have it on direct information that Manny wouldn't grant interviews to at least one writer. I don't care if Manny becomes Steve Carlton.
- Other players are unhappy that Manny receives special treatment. And I imagine that every player on every team gets treated equally.
- They can't win with Manny. What about that World Series monkey off the Sox back?
The Sox needed to dump A-Gone and get more offense at shortstop (again the Lugo Lust), and at the same time replace one of the top run producers of this generation with GOK (God only knows).
You can't really whine about the Sox as currently constituted, because Terry Francona couldn't pencil in the starting lineup for April without a Ouija board and LSD. We can reasonably expect Jason Varitek to catch and David Ortiz to DH, but beyond that, it's pretty much a crap shoot.We know Gary Matthews, Jr. won't be in center, because the Angels gave him 50 million reasons to go west. That would seem to diminish the likelihood of the halos trading half their roster for Manny, although an outfield of Manny, Matthews, and Vlad would impress even the most diehard eastern baseball fan.
Other than uncertainty up the middle (other than Varitek), limited power at the corners, worse defense (any shortstop replacement means worse defense), no closer, and an unproven bullpen the Sox, OUR SOX are ready to compete for their second championship in four years.I'm not saying that the Red Sox should overspend for mediocrity.
They've proven willing to open up the checkbook in the Matsuzaka posting, and by even negotiating with Lugo, they've proven, er...something.
(Monthly Commodity Research Bureau price chart with 20 period average, from Prophet.net)
But as John Henry knows, we've been in a commodity bull market, and baseball players are the ultimate sports commodities.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Let's look at some numbers within the context of the recognition that shortstop is a much more valued defensive position than first base, although Morneau fielded well and had a solid range factor. Although Jeter won the Gold Glove, many observers would rate him defensively behind a number of AL shortstops defensively, including Alex Gonzalez, Juan Uribe, and arguably Miguel Tejada.
Jeter .343/.417/.483/.900 118 runs, 14 homers, 97 RBI
Morneau .321/.375/.559/.934 97 runs, 34 homers, 130 RBI
Ortiz .287/.413/.636/1.049 115 runs, 54 homers, 137 RBI
Jeter proponents may argue the 'lifetime achievement' award factor, that he deserves recognition for the entire body of work for his career. Because the award does not include the playoffs, no issue arises there. Morneau had a solid but unspectacular stretch run (.879 OPS August, .889 OPS September), so that can't be argued. If last year A-Rod got the nod as a position player and New York tailwind, maybe this year Morneau got selected on some anti-Yankee sentiment. Hard to imagine that in this day and age, right?
Some say, "statistics are for losers," but recognizing individual achievement has a place in professional sports. Frankly, I would have guessed that Jeter would have been a lock for the award, but perhaps voters felt that Morneau simply meant more to his team during a pennant race than Jeter did during the Yankees cakewalk over the remnants of the Sox.
I doubt we'll see any Faith Hill moments over Morneau's MVP...and we can only hope that Michael Richards doesn't feel compelled to comment on this one.
Monday, November 20, 2006
His best season he hit .300, and had 83 runs scored, 13 homers, and 59 RBI. Do you want that for your corner outfield, DH, or first baseman? At second base his range factor (in limited appearances) is poor, 2.97 compared to a league average of 4.33.
His similarity scores include Shane Mack, Jay Payton, and Shea Hillenbrand.
Texas is rumored to be one of the teams inquiring about Manny Ramirez (a 10 and 5 man who must agree to any deals), whose value escalates in view of the Soriano deal at 17 million per for a mind-numbing eight years. My friends argue that Texas' chance of EVER winning are hurt by their grueling heat, which wears pitchers down, particularly during the dog days.
All this only goes to show that there aren't even six degrees of separation between anything in baseball and the Red Sox. Why? Because there is no separation between anything baseball and the Sox, the link being 'the Benjamins'.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Meanwhile, Alex Gonzalez parlayed his defensive excellence into almost five million dollars a year, which certainly makes signing Alex Cora at two million a year seem like chicken feed. Actually, the commercials are pretty short corn futures, so maybe chicken feed will come down. I'm sure that Mr. Henry would be able to give me a better answer on that.
And how will the Red Sox willingness to spend 51.1 mill to talk with the Japanese not spill over into the broader market? Why should a college or high school free agent be bound by the MLB draft rules as the Players' Association hasn't negotiated on their behalf? And why shouldn't American teams (e.g. the Royals) post their best players with trade negotiation rights going to the highest bidder?
You can be sure that in the end the losers will be THE FANS, paying even more for tickets, hot dogs, and water. That is the ultimate price of mediocrity.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
In the similarity scores at Baseball Reference, Lugos ten comps include Adam Kennedy, Rafael Furcal, David Eckstein, Eddie Bressoud, Pat Meares, Cristian Guzman, and Rafael Furcal. Not a whole lot of household names there, unless your household is Baseball Prospectus.
Last year in split duty with Tampa and the Dodgers, he had 12 homers, 24 stolen bases, and was .341/.421/.762. His batting numbers with the Dodgers were hideous, .278/.267/.548. His fielding percentage at shortstop was .957 (Alex Gonzalez was .985 I think), with an average range factor. In other words, he was a decent stick, but not so great with the leather. Ordinarily he had a higher fielding percentage and range factor, but the fielding percentage was mostly on turf, not the Fenway pressurized grass.
So why are the Sox pounding the pavement and opening the checkbook for Julio Lugo? Frankly, I don't know. I can't recall him hitting for the cycle or fielding like Ozzie Smith against the Red Sox. Maybe he did, I just can't remember. For a team that has profited from the Moneyball approach, the Sox seem to be playing Looneyball.
Lugo is on the wrong side of 30 now, has never had a season OPS over .780 and only once did his OPS exceed the league average.
There must be something more, somewhere. Let's check out Hardball Times. Aha. Lugo had 20 and 24 Win Shares in 2004 and 2005, both at putative All-Star levels, but then collapsed to 13 last season, with only 1 for the Dodgers. This has Bill James' laudable fingerprints all over it, BUT goes against the trend, so near and dear to John Henry.
Well there you have it, the case against, and maybe for Julio Lugo. He's a versatile player, with more of a bat than A-Gone, but who certainly can't carry Gonzalez glove. Maybe he's ready for a breakout in a big market, but he didn't prove it with LA, and it's not like somebody's paying us to take him, like the Sox did with Renteria. By the way, Hanley Ramirez had 25 win shares, Renteria 19, David Eckstein 12 last year, and A-Gone 9.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Reality Check: Welcome to Boston, Borat. How does your client feel about coming to America?
Borat: My country send me to US to make hero worship and lots of American money.
Reality Check: What does Daisuke think of Boston?
Borat: You are stupid. Boston people worship Japanese baseball pitcher, welcome with open wallets.
Reality Check: Do you have a negotiating strategy with Theo Epstein?
Borat: I did not come to Bean City to negotiate. We come to get paid, in many American ways and maybe in Euros.
Reality Check: Have you met the Red Sox negotiating team?
Borat: Have you no sense of smell? I have met with many of theme. Can you not sniff that?
Reality Check: Does Mr. Matsuzaka look forward to playing with any of the current Red Sox?
Borat: Cultural exchange big part of baseball experience. Daisuke know of warmth of Sox penthouse where players stay.
Reality Check: You mean clubhouse?
Borat: Know little, reporter man? Baseball players stay in penthouse, not outhouse.
Reality Check: Why does Mr. Matsuzaka want to play baseball in the U.S.?
Borat: American baseball very ghoul. Fans love players. Players love be with fans, you know, like monkey drive bus. Way much better pay than Kazakh scat collector.
Reality Check: Any final thoughts?
Borat: To Red Sox fans: you not smell as bad as New York.
Here's a little sample of Game Theory to ponder. How'd you like them applets?
David Marasco has more on The Winner's Curse.
I regularly discuss investing and the stock market at one of my other sites, and one of the most important principles in trading is similar, "buy 'em when you can, not when you have to." Most people tend to invest when the price is high, rather than when the price is low. We also tend to overvalue what is 'ours'.
A lot of free agent pitchers have turned out to be busts, for example Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, and Matt Clement. Of course, Curt Schilling helped bring the Sox to the Promised Land.
Epstein and the Sox braintrust have apparently made a bold move in bidding high for Matsuzaka. We can only hope that we have not succumbed to the winner's curse.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Matsuzaka certainly has quite a resume in Japanese baseball, and the Sox obviously wanted to atone for last season's atrocity with a big splash. Dealing with $cott Bora$ won't be easy under the best of circumstances. I'm sure that Boras has a coffee-table book already prepared explaining how Daisy already belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Let's look at some other Daisies.
Those of us old enough to remember L'il Abner and Al Capp remember Daisy Mae.
And the Dukes of Hazzard give us Daisy Duke...
So what have we here? Daisy Mats? Daiszilla? Yeah, Daiszilla. Bring on Daiszilla.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
And, oh yes, there's the matter of protecting David Ortiz and the relative lack of protection that he gets.
Yes, Manny can get 'squirrelly' at times (flaky bad players simply get released), and defensively he's not Yaz, but I'd rather have him out there than Mike Greenwell any day. Does he run out every grounder like his pants are on fire? No. He must have really set a terrible example for Hanley Ramirez, as he really underachieved for Florida. No, maybe it was Anibal Sanchez then. Yeah, Sanchez only batted .114 for the Marlins.
Does Manny set a wonderful example for all of his teammates? Maybe not. I don't really care if underachieving, overpaid guys gripe because they aren't happy with what Manny does. If you can hit like Manny, you can gripe as much as you like. Manny isn't malicious (to his teammates anyway), and for those who don't know it, Manny ISN'T Mr. Popularity with some of the writers, with some of whom he maintained a Steve Carltonesque silence.
I could really care less about what sportswriters think of Manny. As Mickey Mantle told Roger Maris, "hit 'em with your wallet.' Guys like Steve Lyons and Mike Greenwell got a pass for YEARS, because they were good interviews, but no longer good players. Sportswriters can make or break players, and don't kid yourself that some don't have agendas. Ron Borges spends much of his time trying to become the focus of stories, bashing the Patriots and Bill Belichick. Nasty? Just his shtick? No matter.
The Red Sox by the end of the season had declined into the bottom quartile of major league baseball teams. Was Manny the principal cause for that? The Sox probably overachieved for the first two-thirds of the season, winning and dominating the National League, but finished the season with fewer runs scored than runs allowed (820-825). For the Sabermetricians out there, Manny and Ortiz accounted for 260 runs created, almost a third of the team's offense. And you want to get rid of their second most productive player and protection for Ortiz?
Manny matters. The Red Sox have plenty of retooling to do in the offseason, but the most important task they have with Manny is to get him healthy and happier.
Friday, November 03, 2006
I doubt that even the most ardent fan could name five current major league first base coaches. Terrific coaches can help a team in many ways, from scouting, to honing fielding or baserunning skills, and probably some serve as liaisons between players and managers who are not on the same page. But what does that mean in terms of 'Win Shares' as it were?
If given the choice between great talent and great coaching at the major league level, I'd take the talent any day. The Cardinals' win this year rehabilitated Tony LaRussa's image. LaRussa has a career managerial winning percentage of .536. Is this good or bad? If you have the opportunity to manage the Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, and so on, the (financial) royalty of major league baseball, shouldn't you be expected to deliver a high winning percentage? LaRussa has a .549 winning percentage in eleven years with the Cardinals.
All of us agree that having a superior manager (define superior) beats having a mindless boor in the dugout. But by how much? I doubt that Tom Tippett at Diamond Mind or the guys at Baseball Prospectus can give us an answer beyond rhetorical. Maybe Bill James has a handle on managerial win shares, but he's not telling. Success in life so often simply means getting the most from what you have.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Derek Jeter is one of the leading MVP candidates of the league, a proven winner, considered a 'clutch' player by many who believe the 'clutch' performer argument, and handsomely paid by his employer. Should he win the MVP, I would be the first to congratulate him on his merits.
As for declaring him the best defensive shortstop of either this season or his era, the facts simply do not support that argument. Is Jeter a better player than other possible choices, such as Alex Gonzalez? Certainly, he is. And will Jeter enjoy having the Rawlings Gold Glove on his mantle? Undoubtedly. But like Olympic judging, he has won the award this year on subjective not objective merit. However often his fans launch expletives and insults to this observer, I will defend their right to their opinion, and simply point out that "facts are stubborn things."
And, of course, few major leaguers in any sport would trade individual achievement for this season's championship, that no member of either the Red Sox nor the Yankees will enjoy.
Let's examine whether this became a political hack job, using the yardsticks we have, range factor, fielding percentage, win shares, and so forth.
Derek Jeter has the Nomaresque talent of making the easy play look sensational, while Alex Gonzalez makes the exceptional play look easy. Jeter had 4.6 Win Shares (the Bill James rating system) compared with Gonzalez 5.9. Notable in that Gonzalez played fewer games. Jeter had a fielding percentage of .975 (compared with the league average of .970), a range factor of 3.97 (league average 4.02), and participated in 81 double plays, starting 149 games. Gonzalez had a fielding percentage of .985, a range factor of 4.22, and 68 double plays, starting 110 games. So Gonzalez had a better fielding percentage, range factor, and more double plays per game. Jeter played in New York. It's kind of like nepotism, not a big deal, as long as you keep it in the family.
Eric Chavez played for the division champion A's and had 6.2 defensive win shares. Mike Lowell had 6.6 defensive win shares. Chavez had a .987 fielding percent (league average .960), range factor of 2.88 (league average 2.54) and participated in 42 double plays. Lowell had a .987 fielding percentage, range factor of 2.98, and participated in 39 twin killings. Simply they had the same fielding percentage, Lowell more range, a slightly higher number of win shares, and the double plays were even. Chavez got the nod, because he was 'defending' his title?
So it wasn't enough that the Red Sox had a disappointing second half and an abominable stretch. They also get jobbed for individual honors by the shortstop from Gotham and a third baseman who nobody even saw play because the games came on after we were fast asleep. That, my friends, is baseball, a game so great that not even the idiots who run it can kill it.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
1. Much like Fever Pitch, that first walk up the ramp to see the resplendent verdant field, can never be forgotten.
2. "Loop towards shortstop. Petrocelli's back, he's got it, and the Red Sox win it! And there is pandemonium on the field...Listen!" -- Ned Martin's call of the final out of the 1967 Boston Red Sox "Impossible Dream" regular season (station was WHDH AM 850) I remember jumping around my parents' front yard deliriously after the Sox won. More than anything else, that season put the Red Sox on the map.
3. I attended a game against the Angels (I think) in the 60's, and during a rain delay, a groundskeeper keeled over (? heart attack) while running out the tarpaulin. "Baseball isn't a matter of life and death, it's a lot more important than that." Not that night.
4. Reggie Smith throwing out Dave McNally trying to score on a sac fly. Smith caught the ball just in front of the 379 mark in left center, and gunned out the Orioles pitcher. Wow. I saw Bo Jackson do something similar at Memorial Stadium in the first baseball game my son ever attended (a rain delayed affair).
5. The Sox being shut down 2-0 on a Jim Palmer two-hitter. Fisk had a double off the monster, but Palmer was totally dominating.
6. Mariano Rivera warming up in the enemy pen. The Sox trailed 3-0, and Rivera calmly delivered fastball (inside) or cutter (outside) on the corners with that familiar pop of the mitt that comes with 95 mph heat. I knew the game was over before Rivera ever left the pen. 1-2-3. Over.
7. B.J. Surhoff backing up third in a meaningless Game 162, in the eighth inning with the Orioles trailing 8-3 on a single to right with the runner going first to third. The game meant NOTHING, but Surhoff played like a pro up to the end.
8. Dwight Evans robbing Joe Morgan in extra innings in the 1975 World Series, turning a game-winning hit into a double play. Evans won't ever get into the Hall, but he was a helluva player.
9. Yaz delivering a single to center to tie Minnesota 2-2 in that final game of 1967. Yaz had the greatest season imaginable that year.
10. Yaz popping out to Nettles to end the 1978 season, as Gossage challenged him and got him with high heat. Some guy named Dent put a little hurt on the Sox that day, too.
These don't necessarily represent the most important events in Sox history, but just a few that meant something to me. How about your memories?