Friday, January 25, 2008


This is just a heads up, I'm going to be very busy over the next week. There likely won't be all that many posts over that time. But I'll try to make up for it when I return in full force some time around next weekend. Hope everyone has a good week. If I'm not back by Super Bowl Sunday, good luck Giants fans (you're gonna need it).

GM's Might Wanna Lay Off the Speed

There was some talk about Santana, but frankly I found it boring. So, I decided to talk about a different popular story from today. Baseball America took a look at 2002's hardest throwing starting pitcher prospects. And surprise, surprise, most of them have been below league average to this point.

2002's list of hardest throwing prospects includes the likes of Erick Threets, Colt Griffin, Sean Henn, Ben Howard, Seth McClung, Nick Neugebauer and Anthony Pluta. All of those prospects hit at least 98 mph on the radar gun. And most of the successful hardest throwing prospects found major league success as relievers. Bobby Jenks, Francisco Rodriquez and Brad Lidge would fall into this category.

Carlos Zambrano was on the list as well. I've never thought of Zambrano as an elite pitcher, but that's probably unfair. While I think Zambrano's pitching style is more conducive to National League success, he's been one of major league's best starters for the past five years. Over that time, he's always provided over 200 innings, usually posting an ERA in the low 3's.

Hard throwing prospects can be sexy. Chicks dig the long ball and GM's dig the 98 mph fastball. But could it be possible that an extremely hard fastball actually hurts the development of pitchers? Why work hard to develop your secondary pitches when you've been able to get by with just a fastball for most of your baseball career? Why polish your location when you can blow it by young hitters regardless of location? And these flame throwers do seem to be at a higher risk for injury than the typical pitcher.

Many flamethrowers do suffer from spotty location. Baseball America compiled a list of 23 current prospects whose fastball has been registered at 98 mph or faster. 18 of them have pitched in the minors and eight of those 18 have allowed at least a walk for every two innings of work. Red Sox propsect Daniel Bard was on the list, but I'd be surprised if he's ever a successful major league starter. Hope you see this Daniel, I'd love for you to prove me wrong.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Free Agent Deadlines, Busts And Clay

The Red Sox made Brad Wilkerson an offer for a one year, $2 million deal with incentives. They'll likely have their yes or no answer by tomorrow as the deadline on their deal runs out today. I'm not a fan of Wilkerson, but he's one of the better options left for a bench player. If they can get him for only $2 million, I suppose it would be a success. He was seeking a 3-year deal worth $7 million a year.

Keith Foulke has auditioned for most teams. But he couldn't get his velocity over 84. Ouch. It's possible that he won't get an offer from any team. I think it's safe to say that he's not on the Red Sox radar anymore, if he ever was.

Roto Authority has a short article on Buchholz. The author projects Buchholz to have a 3.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.32 next year. He says he wouldn't be surprised to see an ERA anywhere between 3.50 and 4.50 from the pitcher next year. Even the pessimistic number would be spectacular for a sixth starter.

A lot of people give Epstein credit for drafting and helping to develop what is currently rated as the second best farm system in baseball. But what he's done is truly amazing. Not only has he built a top-notch farm system, but he's managed to retain most of his prospects, and be ulta-cautious with them while still managing to win a second championship in four years. How many other teams would have shut down Papelbon and Buchholz in the heart of pennant races? Would they also have given Lester 17 starts to recuperate at the beginning of last year, while Julian Tavarez was a regular starter in the rotation?

Drafting players is only the beginning. Ensuring their healthy development involves so much more.

Dusty Brown's More Than Just A Good Porn Name

It could be the name of a major league catcher some time soon. Here's a somewhat recent article on the Red Sox prospect. Brown's a 25-year-old righty, who was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket last year. He may be the best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system, and from what I've heard he's got a heck of an arm.

I would be surprised if he wasn't brought in to compete for the back up catcher job in Spring Training. And even if he doesn't win it outright, he might could be awarded it later in the year if Mirabelli continues his poor hitting. Brown's a clear underdog, having been drafted in the 38th round of the 2000 draft. But he's doing better than expected, having hit .268/.344/.453 last year in Portland.

Will the Rookie of the Year See A Sophomore Slump?

Funny that people are expecting a sophomore slump for Pedroia. No one would have guessed it back in April when he batted below the Mendoza line and had an OPS of .544. But at the time, his BABIP suggested a huge turnaround, and it was correct. Pedroia had incredibly bad luck in April, getting only one hit for every five balls that he put into play (about 50% below normal).

Given how accurate the use of BABIP was then, I'll use it again to see what can be expected of Pedroia in 2008. Overall in 2007, Dusty had a BABIP of .340. This was significantly higher than his Expected BABIP of .305, so it's probably fair to expect a regression in Pedroia's 2007 batting average of .317. I expect that he'll probably hit more like .300 next year.

At the same time, however, there may be a reason to expect his OBP to increase. Pedroia either drew a walk or struck out freakishly infrequently in 2007. He only drew a walk in 8.2 percent of his bats, which is low for him. The pitches he saw per plate appearance was the lowest among all Red Sox with at least 400 at bats. I'm sure Dave Magadan will work with him on that, and typically the more pitches a hitter sees per at bat, the more walks and strikeouts they get.

So overall, I'd expect a decrease in average and an increase in OPS. That's pretty typical of rookies. Pitchers generally learn to pitch to the weak spots of them and the actual rookies better learn how to get on base and drive major league pitches. There aren't any real red flags in Pedroia's numbers. He frequently makes contact and he doesn't strike out much. While he was lucky, he wasn't freakishly lucky like B.J. Upton was last year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Diminishing" Red Sox and Yankees Packages for Santana

There has been such a lack of Santana news lately, that I was wondering if teams forgot he available. But Charley Walters had an update today which makes it sound more like teams have simply lost interest. The most important thing he said is that the Yankees are no longer considering parting with Phil Hughes. If Walters is accurate in this, then the Yankees have virtually eliminated any chance they had of acquiring Santana.

Walters specifically said that, "offers by the New York Yankees (no more Phil Hughes) and Boston Red Sox are diminishing by the week. Walters doesn't mention how the Red Sox offers for Santana have diminished, but I wouldn't be surprised if they've taken Ellsbury off the table. I'm not sure how much that affects their chances of acquiring Santana, however, as it appeared that the Twins preferred the Red Sox package which included Jon Lester.

If this is all true, then I think the Mets chances of acquiring Santana have increased. But without the Yankees involved anymore, the Red Sox chances of acquiring Santana could be as good as ever. I've said it before, and it seems to be even more and more likely now - Twins fans will probably be disappointed with the return on Santana.

Twins GM Bill Smith can only yank these teams around for so many months. If he's lost out on a chance to acquire a Phil Hughes, Jacoby Ellsbury or Fernando Martinez, it would be a very rough start to his tenure as Twins GM.

The Great Debate!

(Winslow Townson/Associated Press)

Jerry Crasnick opened up a huge can of worms when he dare uttered the words, "Joba Chamberlain vs. Clay Buchholz". He spoke to nine mystery personnel from the Eastern League, and reported that most of them preferred Chamberlain. And it's clear that Crasnick himself rather prefers the hefty Nebraska native. But he eluded to a great divide between talent evaluators, saying that Baseball America's Jim Callis and John Manuel are so divided on the issue, that they should duke it out in a steel cage match.

A was a bit surprised to read that there is so much debate, however, and I wonder how much of this is Callis trying to create a story. From everything I've read up until this point, Buchholz seemed rather decisively to be the preferred pitcher. Every ranking of MLB prospects that I've seen, including the rankings on Scouting Book, have ranked Buchholz as the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. And John Sickels of has echoed that sentiment. And I'll be surprised if the prospect rankings of Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus agree. But that doesn't mean the issue can't be discussed.

Clay Buchholz

The greatest strength of Buchholz is that he has three plus pitches. His strongest, and best strikeout pitch is his straight changeup. His second best pitch, which is also quite the strikeout pitch, is his dramatic hard 12-6 curve. And his third best pitch is his two-seam fastball.

Many make the mistake of saying that his straight fastball is his best pitch, as that's the pitch that he can occasionally get up to 97 mph. But Buchholz probably uses his four-seam fastball only once for every three or four times he uses his four-seamer.

Buchholz has an extreme over-the-top delivery which puts extra downward movement all of his pitches. This often makes it difficult for hitters to square up with the ball. Buchholz mixes in his pitches very well, not over relying on any one pitch, and gets an equal amount of outs on the ground and in the air.

Joba Chamberlain

The greatest strength of Chamberlain is that he can throw the ball very hard. This doesn't just mean that he can get his fastball up to triple digits. He has late zip on his fastball, and the speed of his slider makes it a strong strikeout pitch. Although, as a starter, Chamberlain's velocity will go down. Before making the change to the bullpen, Joba's fastball typically sat around 92-95 mph.

Unlike Buchholz, Chamberlain doesn't have a plus third pitch. And how he continues to develop his curveball and changeup, will likely have quite a bit to do with his future success at the major league level. Even Crasnick, who likes Chamberlain quite a bit, said that his curveball on a good day is only "above average" and on some days it's actually rather bad. Crasnick referred to Joba's changeup as a work-in-preogress. It is likely his worst pitch.

It will be interesting to see how Chamberlain mixes in his pitches as a starter, as it wasn't really something he had to do out of the pen. If he relies almost exclusively on his fastball and slider, the results could be like those of Randy Johnson in 2006.

One minor issue with Chamberlain, which doesn't exist with Buchholz, is his history of injuries. Chamberlain was quite heavy in college, and used rather heavily in the Big 10. He does have more wear on his body than the typical 22-year-old and he has had multiple injuries. It may not help that new Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a history of overworking his starters, as he did with Marlins pitchers Scott Olsen and Anibal Sanchez.


I think Chamberlain could immediately be a shut-down reliever at the major league level. But as a starter in 2008, he will be learning on the job. The reality of the situation is that Joba's third pitch is still pretty raw, and he may have had backwards development in it as a reliever in 2007.

I think Buchholz is a question mark as well, although I think he's proven more as a starter. I don't think it's transition to the role will be quite as rough. It's easy to be excited about these pitchers but they are very young and will be on limited innings workloads. I think a lot of people overestimate the kind of impacts these players will have in 2008.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sox Continue To Look At Bench Options

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Red Sox have shown interested in first baseman Tony Clark. Clark slugged .511 last year in 221 at bats for the Arizona Diamondbacks. But Clark only got on base at a rate of .310 last year and will turn 36 in June. Clark likely wouldn't be a first choice of the Red Sox, as he played rather miserably for them in 2002, and he can only play one position.

The Red Sox have also shown interest in Ryan Klesko, Bobby Kielty and Brad Wilkerson. But if they can't fill up the rest of their bench with free agents, they may look within the organization. I've already stated my desire to see outfielder Brandon Moss in the team in 2008.

The Red Sox could also try first baseman and left fielder Chris Carter for their bench. Carter hit .324/.383/.521, with 18 home runs at the Triple-A level before being dealt to the Red Sox. But his defense is rather poor.

New Poll: What Do You Think of the 6 AM Starting Times In Japan?

In case you haven't heard, the Red Sox will play the first two games of the season in Japan. And the starting times for those games in the Eastern Time Zone? 6:05 AM. Although, a few weeks ago the Red Sox schedule said those games would start an hour earlier, so it could be worse. On the bright side, the Red Sox will begin the season on March 25th, which is more than a full week earlier than last year.

You can voice your opinion on the starting time in the new poll on the right.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Polls Are Closed: What's Your Opinion On Santana?

The polls are now closed and well over 100 people have spoken. The second most popular selection in the poll was that neither Red Sox package of prospects was worth giving up for Santana. But 26 more voters (and 50% of the voters overall) said that they'd give up the Lester, Lowrie package for Santana. Only 9% of voters, however, were willing to give up Ellsbury and Lowrie in a package for Santana.

And I have to say that I actually agree with the results. While I would much prefer that the Red Sox keep Ellsbury, I would be happy with dealing Lester, Lowrie, Crisp and Masterson for Santana. I'm fully aware that Santana will come with a steep price tag, and I expect Lowrie to be a pretty good middle infielder for years to come. And Lester could potentially be a front of the rotation starter who costs more than $25 milllion a year less than Santana. But the addition of Santana to a Red Sox rotation consisting of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling and Buchholz, is just too exciting to pass up. I don't think it's realistic to expect even the best of pitching prospects to be as good as Santana. A pitcher of Santana's caliber only comes around once an era, not once every few years.

If the Red Sox were to acquire Santana, I wouldn't expect him to put up 2004 numbers. He's not going to put up a WHIP of 0.92 facing AL East hitters in Fenway Park. And I doubt that Santana will ever strike out 265 batters in a season again. But I would expect Santana to be one of the best three pitchers in the American League over the next five years. And that would give the Red Sox an absolutely lethal pitching rotation.

Of course, Santana would take up quite a bit of payroll. And there is a rather high risk in taking on a six or seven year contract with any pitcher. Just Thursday, Buster Olney said that he heard from a talent evaluator who suspects that Santana might have a health issue. But that is of course speculation at this point. Most talent evaluators probably have a different explanation for Santana's sub-par season last year.