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.

Attepted Ranking of Outfield Arms

(Reuters Photo)

The Hardball Times attempted to rank the best outfield arms of 2007. This is the third year that they've attempted to measure outfield arms with their own sabermetric formula. John Walsh who created the system to measure outfield arms claims his systems is "concise". And to his credit, he does measure a multitude of factors, such as how often a runner is thrown out or held from advancing in virtually every situation imaginable.

As for the best outfield arms of 2007, according to the formula, here are the top arms based on how many runs they saved their teams (according to Walsh):

1. Alfonso Soriano: 17.0
2. Mike Cuddyer: 14.6
3. Jeff Francoeur: 12.2
4. Shane Victorino: 12.2
5. Delmon Young: 10.8
6. B.J. Upton: 8.5
7. Willy Teveras: 6.1
8. Alex Rios: 5.6
9. Jim Edmonds: 5.6
10. Mark Teahan: 5.3
11. Ichiro Suzuki: 5.2
12. Ryan Freel: 5.0
13. Melky Cabrera: 4.5

Looking at those names, I didn't have any issue with the rating system. In fact, I was excited about it. But when I saw the ratings for the Red Sox, I became a bit skeptical. Here they are:

Coco Crisp: - 0.2
Manny Ramirez: -1.5
J.D. Drew: -3.1

Now I don't know about you, but I find it hard to take a system seriously that says Coco Crisp has the best outfield arm on the Red Sox. And I'm even more critical when the same system says that Coco Crisp actually has an almost average arm. As someone who watched almost every Red Sox game last year I can confidently say that Coco Crisp clearly has a well below average arm. It's sabermetric formulas like this one, which are in conflict with common sense at times, that cause people to doubt sabermetrics in general.

So John Walsh's system likely needs a little tweaking. I have a feeling it's not ballpark independent. The fact that right Field in Fenway Park is so large probably influences Drew's rating negatively. From what I've seen, Drew has a slightly above average arm for an outfielder. At least it's pretty apparent that Drew has a better arm than Manny Ramirez. I'd also be curious to know what Walsh considers to be holding a runner.

If a hitter drives the ball to the wall, and then runs into second base as the outfielder backtracks to retrieve the ball, is that the same as a hitter advancing to second base on a misplay by the outfielder? And if a ball is hit down the line in right field at Fenway Park, it's going to take a lot longer for the outfielder to retrieve the ball than it would a ball was hit down the left field line in Fenway. I doubt Walsh's system factors this in.

I'd also be curious as to how he weights his factors. Stopping a runner from going from first to second, and getting into scoring position, obviously has a different value than stopping a runner from going from second to third. I wonder if he weights those two factors accordingly.

But I have to give Walsh a lot of credit for trying. I don't see why someone wouldn't be able to eventually come up with a rather accurate sabmermetric formula for rating outfield arms. And with a little tweaking, Walsh's system could be improved. Sabermetric formulas are always being refined and improved to be more accurate. It's rare that a complicated sabermetric formula is created, and then not improved on somehow down the line.

Wilkerson's Not the Answer

The Boston Herald is reporting that the Red Sox have shown interest in Brad Wilkerson. Wilkerson would provide versatility to the team, as he can play all three outfield spots and first base. And unlike many other bench players, he can actually play those positions decently.

But Wilkerson is asking for a 3-year $21 million contract, which is far too expensive for a bench player. Wilkerson hit 234/.319/.467 last year, and managed a dismal line of .195/.277/.402 away from the friendly hitting confines of Ameriquest Field.

Wilkerson's best attribute is his ability to hit for power. But as a dead pull lefty, Wilkerson's power numbers are likely to drop drastically in Fenway Park. As I've already demonstrate, Fenway Park is one of the least friendly parks in the league for left-handed power hitters.

The Red Sox may think they could turn Wilkerson into a revitalization project. Once upon a time, he had plate discipline and hit for serious power. But it's been four years since he had an OBP of .360 or better or a SLG of .430 or better.

How Does the Mets Package Stack Up?

Carlos Gomez (Jim McIsaac/Agence France-Presse)

The latest on Santana, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is that Twins officials have privately said that they expect Santana to be dealt by Spring Training. The article also says that while the Red Sox and Yankees are still involved, the Twins have showed the most interest in the Mets offer lately.

That Mets offer includes Carolos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra. The only problem is, most baseball fans I'm sure have little to no idea what kind of prospects those players are. And it doesn't help that respected prospect rankings by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus aren't due for another month. But thankfully, there's John Sickels of

Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book. He looks at the top 20 prospects in every organization, and assigns them letter grades based on their value. When trying to compare trade packages made up mostly of prospects, these simplified prospect ratings can be very useful.

The Mets package for Santana is rumored to consist of Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra. The Twins are attempting to get the Mets to add Fernando Martinez to the deal, but they aren't the one with leverage in the situation. The Twins have to unload Santana, they don't have the monetary resources to retain him.

So what kind of prospects are the Mets offering? Their package includes three pitchers in Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber. Guerra received a rating of B+, making him the highest rated player in the package. But he's yet to pitch above the Single-A level. Molvey and Humber received grades of B and B- respectively. And both of them are likely to begin the season in Triple-A.

Carolos Gomez is the only position player in the deal. Sickels rated him a B prospect. He's kind of a toolsy outfielder with average plate discipline and little power.

So what's the positive of the Mets package? It offers more pitchers than any other package. All four players offered in the deal will also be cost controlled for many years to come. By accepting the Mets offer, the Twins would also be dealing Santana to a team outside of the American League.

On the other hand, the players in the package have virtually no major league experience. And none of the players that the Mets are offering have true star potential. There's no great position player or pitching prospect.

This makes it almost the opposite of the Red Sox package. The Red Sox are offering the package with the most major league experience when compared to all other packages available for Santana. And the Red Sox are also offering a package which has the most high quality talent out of any package available.

The Red Sox package of Ellsbury, Lowrie and Masterson contains two grade A- position players and a grade B pitcher. Or if the Twins want more major league experience and a wider range of players, they could go for the Red Sox package of Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson. That package could potentially fill two rotation spots, the Twins need for a center fielder, and their need for a middle infielder who can actually hit.

Based on the talent available in the deals, I find it hard to believe that the Twins would prefer the Mets package based on the return alone. But the Twins would likely prefer to deal Santana to the National League. And Santana would prefer to go to the National League as well, where he'd likely dominate weaker hitting competition.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Baseball Think Factory Loves the Red Sox

Baseball Think Factory is the group responsible for ZiPS Projections, considered by some to be the most accurate projections available to the public. On Monday they released their projections for Red Sox players. If you're interested in the full projections, they're available here.

But even more interesting than the projections themselves, were the kind words that Baseball Think Factory had about the Red Sox. They had the following to say once they analyzed projections of American League teams:
"This might not come as a great shock considering the Red Sox just won the World Series for the 2nd time this decade, but ZiPS sees the Red Sox as the best team in the AL. Well, technically, I haven't done the Orioles yet, but I'm taking a wild guess that the Orioles aren't going to look better than the Sox on e-paper.

No real suprises here. It's a deep team. While they obviously don't have spare better-than-average 1B, DH or LF/RF backups stashed away, nobody really does, and the team is very deep everywhere else. The amount of minor leaguers that project to be non-terrible at up-the-middle positions is downright staggering and I'm not even counting guys like Lars Anderson who should pop up in the 2009 projections."

Could it be that the Red Sox are actually the favorites going into 2008? If so, it would the first time that I can ever remember it happening in my lifetime. These ain't your Daddy's Red Sox.

Francona Discusses Red Sox Rotation

(Jim Davis)

Red Sox manager Terry Francona fielded questions on Thursday at the Boston Baseball Writers' Assocation of America. And for those of you wondering about the Red Sox rotation in 2008, he answered almost every question you could have.

According to Francona, the Red Sox will begin their rotation with Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Although, Matsuzaka's wife may be having a child while the Red Sox are in Japan, so Matsuzaka may not be able to pitch in the second game of the season. I think it would be a real shame if Matsuzaka can't make the trip to Japan. It would be exceptional to see him pitch in front of his fellow countrymen who idolize him so much.

The Red Sox will play three exhibition games after they come back from Japan. Those exhibition games will allow them to use their top two starters not only in the first two games of the season, but also the third and fourth game of the season. The number three, four and five pitchers for the Red Sox will pitch in the exhibition games.

Francona also talked about the back of his rotation. Wakefield will begin the season as the team's number four starter. And Lester and Buchholz will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. Given pitching coach John Farrell's strong like of Jon Lester, I'd be surprised if he didn't start the season in the rotation. But both Lester and Buchholz do have minor innings concerns. Their total workload will likely be capped somewhere around 180 innings each.

It's good to have Clay Buchholz, considered by most to be the best pitching prospect in baseball, as a backup starter. He could likely provide some high quality replacement innings for any other pitcher in the organization who either struggles or gets injured. Even though I think it's likely that Buchholz will start the season outside of the Red Sox rotation, if he pitches anything like he did last year, I'm sure he'll find a way onto the roster.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Masterson vs. Marquez

I have a reader who insists that Yankees minor league pitcher Jeff Marquez is hands down better than Red Sox minor league pitcher Justin Masterson. Usually I'd say, "who cares"? But given the importance of both pitchers in any potential Johan Santana deal, this may actually be of some relevance. And since there's no important news today, why not discuss it?

Justin Masterson is a 22-year-old right handed sinkerball pitcher in the Red Sox minor league system. He was drafted out of San Diego State in 2005, and he finished last season at Double-A Portland in the Eastern League.

Jeff Marquez is a 23-year-old right handed sinkerball pitcher in the Yankees minor league system. He was drafted out of Sacramento City College in 2004, and he finished last season at Double-A Trenton in the Eastern League.

So far, the pitchers are rather similar. Masterson is a bit younger, and has developed a bit faster. Two years removed from college, he's pitching at the Double-A level. In contrast, Jeff Marquez was pitching at the Rookie level when he was two years removed from college. But other than that, they're pretty similar. That is, until you consider how they've fared over their minor league careers.

Masterson last year pitched 58 innings in the Eastern League. Over that time, he allowed 7.60 hits, 2.79 walks and struck out 9.16 batters for every nine innings that he pitched. In that same league, Marquez pitched 155.1 innings. Over that time, he allowed 9.62 hits, 2.55 walks and stuck out 5.45 batters for every nine innings that he pitched. At the same level Marquez had the better ERA and BB/9. Masterson had the better WHIP, H/9, HR/9, K/9 and WHIP. And Masterson was better in all of those categories, with a year less of minor league experience.

Now, in the face of this evidence, I have a feeling how a Yankees fan might respond. "But Marquez is a sinkerball pitcher, his hit and strikeout rates don't have to be low to be affective. Look at Chien-Ming Wang." That ignores the fact that Masterson is also a sinkerball pitcher, but I'll entertain it anyways. Why not?

Sinkerball pitchers don't necessarily have to strike out batters. And since they pitch to contact, their hit rates are typically higher. What a sinkerball does need to do, however, to be affective, is induce ground balls. So let's take a look at ground out to fly out ratios. Marquez last year had a GO/FO of 1.36 last year. Decent, but not even half as good as the GO/FO ratio of 3.52 which Masterson posted in the same exact league.

Still not satisfied that Marquez isn't the better pitcher? Perhaps you'll be swayed when I tell you that over the entirety of their minor league careers, Masterson has posted a better WHIP, H/9, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9 than Marquez. He's also done with less time to develop. And his numbers have been better even though he pitched most of his innings in Lancaster, which could seriously be the most hitter-friendly ballpark in professional baseball.

So, I've yet to see a reason to believe that Marquez is the better pitcher. They both throw hard mid-90's sinkers and both have decent mastery of their secondary pitches. But if anyone thinks they have an argument as to why Marquez is the better pitcher, feel free to share it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Stat O' the Day - Best K/BB for American League Starters

1. C.C. Sabathia - 5.65 K/BB
2. James Shields - 5.11 K/BB
3. Josh Beckett - 4.85 K/BB
4. Johan Santana - 4.52 K/BB
5. Curt Schilling - 4.39 K/BB
6. Javier Vazquez - 4.26 K/BB
7. Erik Bedard - 3.88 K/BB
8. Andy Sonnastine - 3.73 K/BB
9. Scott Baker - 3.73 K/BB
10. Joe Blanton - 3.50 K/BB

Red Sox Rookie Program

The Red Sox are currently holding their second annual Rookie Program. The program is designed to help prepare some of the team's best upper level talents for the major leagues. It involves work outs, drills, and programs to prepare the players for the pressures of the major leagues.

Clay Buchholz is visibly larger than he was this time last year. He's put on about 13 pounds in preparations for the wear of a full major league season. Devern Hansack was also invited to the program. He's a great story, being one of the few natives of Nicaragua ever to play in the majors. But other than that, there isn't too much news to come out of the program.

The Boston Globe did have some good pictures of the workouts and drills though.

LHP Dustin Richardson (John Tlumacki)

Richardson and Buchholz (John Tlumacki)

SS Jed Lowrie (Charles Krupa)

RHP Devern Hansack (Charles Krupa)

So, ready for Spring Training?

Rotoworld Ranks Most Valuable Starters for 2008

Rotoworld ranked the top 75 starting pitchers of 2008. Keep in mind, this list ranks the most valuable starting pitchers for a fantasy league, not a major league baseball team. Although, given that fantasy leagues are based on the statistical produciton of major league players, the list does in a way rank how valuable these starters are.

On the list were Red Sox starters Josh Beckett (6), Dasiuke Matsuzaka (14), Curt Schilling (49) and Clay Buchholz (69). It seems as if most people expect a much better season from Daisuke next year. In the "overrated file" you'll find Chamberlain, Carmona, Penny, Harden, Garza, Willis, Wang, Hughes and Zambrano.

I'm itching for some prospect lists as well, but most of the more respected ones aren't released until late February.

An Alternative Take On Manny

The Ump Bump wrote a story about their thoughts on Manny's production next year, and his chances of retiring with the Red Sox. It's definitely worth a read if you have the time. If you don't, I'll summarize the important points.

"Under that baggy, pajama-like uni, the man is rock-hard."

Manny getting into great shape this offseason isn't much of a factor, he's always in great shape. His injuries are likley the result of his age, not him being out of shape.

"To me, he’s an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer. If he retires with Boston, they’re sure to retire his number. Is he really going to walk away from that? And is Theo really going to let him? I don’t think so."

Ramirez has two rings with the Red Sox, and finally got through a year without asking to be dealt. He has the most history with the Red Sox and I agree that Epstein won't let a first ballot Hall of Famer walk away. I think Epstein wants to retain both Ramirez and Varitek until they retire. If either player leaves the Red Sox before retiring, Red Sox rules wouldn't allow for their numbers to be retired.

The Ump Bump's story was inspired by one over at MVN. The MVN article discusses the chances of Manny bouncing back next season, and quotes Peter Gammons on the subject. Sound familiar? If it does, that's probably because I used the same quote in an article on the same exact subject less than two weeks ago.

With Winter Winding Down, Twins Aren't Any Closer To A Deal

I'm sorry, but if you're not entertained by the Santana Saga, then you haven't been paying attention. I feel like the Twins should be nominated for a Soapy Award at this point; although they'd have some stiff competition in Hank Streinbrenner. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, or are perhaps a little confused, here's a recap of the happenings the past few days.

On Friday, the Yankees reportedly weren't talking to the Twins about Santana. Then just yesterday, the Yankees repordetly talked to the Twins, but just to let them know that they took their offer off the table. Then less than eight hours later, Hank Streinbrenner weighed in to let everyone know that while "there was no official offer on the table at this time", he hasn't taken his offer off the table.

In case that left you confused as well, Hank did in fact clarfiy the statement. According to Howlin' Hank, he couldn't have taken an offer off the table because "there wasn't an official offer anyway." Sometimes I wonder if Hank just says whatever he thinks will get him the most attention.

So what's developed since yesterday? Well, more of nothing mostly. According to the Star-Ledger Staff, neither the Mets or Yankees appear willing to make a deal with the Twins unless they lower their demands. The Red Sox have been at that same stage in negotiations for some time. So what's this mean?

All three teams appear to have made their final offers. The Red Sox are offering a package of Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson and also a package of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson, but not a package containing both Lester and Ellsbury. The Yankees would offer a package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Marquez, but not a package including both Hughes and Ian Kennedy. And the Mets are offering a package of Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra but not a package including Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez.

Either team could quickly make a deal, by giving up the extra guy. But I don't see why any team would. The Red Sox likely believe that they have the best offer. Hank Streinbrenner has said that the thinks his team has the best offer. And the Mets probably don't feel a need to add a fifth prospect to their deal given the fact that they're the only National League team in the running, and they're Santana's desired landing point. Furthmore, they're probably the only team of the trhee with a realistic chance of being able to acquire Erik Bedard.

I seriously doubt that the Twins will go into the season without having dealt Santana. Whether he's bluffing or not, Santana has said that he won't accept a midseason trade. So if the Twins don't deal him before the season begins, the Twins run the risk of getting nothing but two sandwhich picks in the draft when Santana walks.

The Boston Herald, with the help of Baseball America, gave a run down on the three packages which the Twins could currently select from. The article classifies the Mets package as risky, given the fact that most of the players are years removed from being major league ready. The article also classifies the Yankees package as lightweight, given the fact that it includes one blue chip player and two throw-in caliber players.

And I think most fans outside of New York would agree with both statements. If the Twins want the safest return for Satnana, it would likely be the Red Sox package. The Red Sox package includes the most major league ready talent, and fills the most immediate needs for the Twins. The Yankees package offers the Twins a possible ace, but little else. And the Mets package offers the Twins the most overall talent, although little to none of it is major league ready.

For any Yankees fans worried about losing Phil Hughes, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. Accepting a package of Hughes, Melky and Marquez probably wouldn't be in the best interests of the Twins. And there's absolutely no chance that the Yankees would give up both Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy in a package for Santana. Although, if it's the Red Sox that acquire Santana, Yankees fans may be wishing otherwise for the next six or seven years.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Minor League Comparables: Clay Buchholz

(Winslow Townson/AP)

According to Sox Prospects, Clay Buchholz is like a right-handed Cole Hamels. And I can see why they arrive at such a conclusion. Both pitchers are 6'3'' and weight 190 pounds, and Buchholz is only 7.5 months younger. And both pitchers posses 90+ mph fastballs, notoriously nasty changeups and solid, above average curves.

Then there are a few differences. Clay doesn't walk as many batters. In the minors, Clay walked 2.43 hitters for every 9 innings of work, Cole walked 3.31. Clay's fastball is also about 5 mph faster and his curveball is more developed. And of course Clay has a completely clean injury history, something rather rare for young pitchers.

On the other hand, Cole has much more major league experience. He's also stuck out more batters over his minor league career. Some may attribute this to the fact that he pitched in the Florida State League for much of his minor league career. But I think it probably has to do more with the fact that Hamels pitched less than 50 innings above the Single-A level while Buchholz pitched more than 200.

The difference in Hamels' upper level minor league experience could have made the transition to the majors a little more challenging for him. Although, Hamels did pretty well right away. He had a 4.08 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and solid peripherals in his rookie year.

If you're looking for the pitcher with the most similar minor league numbers to Buchholz, that would probably be Jake Peavy. Peavy had an ERA of 2.60, a H/9 of 6.83, a BB/9 of 3.18 and a K/9 of 11.31 over his minor league career. Buccholz had an ERA of 2.46, a H/9 of 6.60, a BB/9 of 2.43 and a K/9 of 11.23. I don't think there's a single minor league line from this decade that's as comparable to that of Buchholz's.

Peavy didn't have as smooth a transition to the major leagues. Unlike Buchholz, Peavy struggled in his first major league starts. By his sophomore year, however, he was putting up solid top of the rotation numbers.

Peavy's frame is also similar to that of Buchholz. Peavy's about two inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter. The velocity on Peavy's fastball is more comparable to Clay's however. And he's another pitcher whose best pitch is a plus changeup.

If any of you have more thoughts, or other young/minor league pitchers who you think are comparable to Buchholz, feel free to let me know in the comments. I welcome any suggestions, and am happy to discuss who Buchholz might compare to, or how he may perform at the major league level.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Facing the Red Sox Offense Is A Tiresme Affair

The Red Sox have long had a reputation for wearing down opposing pitchers. Their game plan is to drive up the opposing pitcher's pitch count early. That way the Red Sox can face the soft underbelly of pitching staffs - the middle relief. And this strategy is often effective, especially when facing the top members of a team's rotation.

But just how effective are the Red Sox at this strategy? Well, with the exception of Dustin Pedroia, every member of 2007's Opening Day Red Sox lineup was among the top 50 American League hitters in pitches per plate appearance. The nine members of 2008's starting lineup averaged 3.94 pitches per plate appearance last year. Here's how that breaks down.

Ellsbury - 3.67 PPA
Pedroia - 3.80 PPA
Ortiz - 4.10 PPA
Ramirez - 3.86 PPA (career average of 4.03)
Lowell - 3.80 PPA
Drew - 3.93 PPA
Youkilis - 4.27 PPA (career average of 4.40)
Varitek - 4.12 PPA
Lugo - 3.88 PPA

So how does that patience affect pitchers? At that rate, it would take about 25 plate appearances to drive up the opponent's pitch count to 100. And how long did it take the Red Sox to get 25 plate appearances in a typical game? Well, I'm pretty sure there isn't a figure available for that, so I'll attempt to get an estimate.

Red Sox hitters had 6,426 plate appearances last year. Opponent pitchers logged 1,422.2 innings against the Red Sox. So that means the average offensive Red Sox inning had about 4.52 plate appearances. And so it took about 5.53 innings for the Red Sox to drive up a starter's pitch count to the magic mark of 100.

And unlike other teams that drive up the pitch counts of bad pitching, the Red Sox wore out some of the American League's biggest workhorses. Royal Halladay, who averaged 7.27 innings per start, averaged just 6.66 innings against the Red Sox. Chien-Ming Wang, who averaged 6.64 innings a start, averaged just 6.14 against the Red Sox. And Andy Pettitte, who averaged 6.27 innings per start, averaged just 5.55 innings against the Red Sox.

Miscellanious Trade News

Somewhere online I found this interpretation of Johan Santana pitching to Pablo Ozuna. Sad part is, it's probably more interesting than the Santana Saga has been for weeks. I miss Legos...

Not too much new going on with the Red Sox. Santana's agent has said that his client isn't demanding a deal by the time pitchers and catchers report. Great, so the Santana Saga could drag on for another month and then some. I have a feeling that the Twins are interested in the Mets just because their offer is the most recent.

Ken Rosenthal has a source saying that the Yankees are no longer talking to the Twins. Funny, I feel like I've heard this story at least three times. Bad news for both the Red Sox and paranoid Yankees fans everywhere. Without the Yankees involved in Santana, I'm not sure what else the Red Sox could do this offseason to sabotage them. I hope they have enough money to sign a backup outfielder after they paid so much for George Mitchell. Will that money count when major league baseball tabulates the luxury tax?

Mike Cameron was recently connected to the Yankees, but he's recently agreed to a deal with the Brewers. I'm kind of glad, Cameron would have been an upgrade over Melky Cabrera on both sides of the ball. In some more good news for the Red Sox, the Orioles appear determined to trade away Brian Roberts and Erik, sorry, Érik Bédard.

The Orioles are going to be REALLY bad next year. They finished just three games better than the worst record in the majors last year. They've already dealt away their cleanup hitter, and they're in talks involving their leadoff hitter and staff ace. They could go into next season with a middle infield consisting of Luis Hernandez (.290/.300/.362) and Freddie Bynum (.259/.300/.452) and their Opening Day starter could be Daniel Cabrera. Although, I think I'd go with Guthrie.

The Orioles could help to inflate AL East records next year. According to Pythagereon Record, the Red Sox should have won over 100 games last year. Without Julian Tavarez being a mainstay in the rotation, they could be the first American League team to top the 100 win mark since 2004.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stat O' the Day - Most Grueling American League Hitters

1. Reggie Willits - 4.44 PPA
2. Jack Cust - 4.40 PPA
3. Bobby Abreu - 4.38 PPA
4. Kevin Millar - 4.32 PPA
5. Troy Glaus - 4.32 PPA
6. Johnny Damon - 4.30 PPA
7. Jason Giambi - 4.30 PPA
8. Kevin Youkilis - 4.27 PPA
9. Brad Wilkerson - 4.26 PPA
10. Nick Swisher - 4.25 PPA

(Pitches per plate appearance)

John Farrell An Unsung Hero of 2007

(Brita Meng Outzen/

In 2006, Red Sox pitching was utterly embarrassing. Their staff ranked fifth to last in ERA and was below major league average in quality starts, batting average against, total walks, complete games and shut outs. Although the Red Sox finished third in the AL East, their pitching staff was more comparable to those of basement dwelling teams.

In 2007, the Red Sox saw dramatic improvement in their pitching staff. Among other American League teams, the Red Sox staff's ERA, WHIP and BAA went from 10th or worse to first. The staff's overall walk total decreased by 27 and their strikeout total increased by 79. Newcomers Diasuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima helped, but for the most part the Red Sox returned the same pitching staff from 2006. Of the 13 pitchers who made significant contributions in 2007 (at least 35 innings), all but two of them were holdovers from 2006.

So what was the largest difference to the Red Sox pitching staff in 2007? I'd like to make the case for new Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. First of all, I'll provide a quick background on Farrell. Outside of college baseball he had never coached before 2007. He did serve as the Director of Player development for the Cleveland Indians starting in late 2001. He helped the organization to have 2003's top rated farm system according to Baseball America.

He left the Indians organization to become the Red Sox pitching coach last year, and already he's made some serious waves. In Spring Training, Farrell worked with Josh Beckett to help him standardize his delivery. Beckett posted his lowest BB/9 since he was drafted and had a career year at the major league level.

Farrell also worked with new pitcher Hideki Okajima. In the humidity of Florida Spring Training, Okajima had trouble with his changeup. So Farrell helped him to devliver a new grip on his changeup, which would create more movement. The result was the creation of Okajima's split-change nicknamed the "Okie Doke". And against major leaguers in 2007, Okajima had a lower WHIP than he ever had in the 11 years that he faced Japanese hitters.

Under the tutelage of Farrell, young pitchers Jon Lester and Manny Delcarmen also saw positive improvements in their development. I'm not sure if Jonathan Papelbon really needed all that much tutelage, but in 2007 he lead the majors in K/9 innings pitched.

In 2008, Farrell will look to continue the development of young Red Sox pitchers. Farrell has fallen in love with Jon Lester, and seems determined to make the young lefty his next project. But I'm sure Farrell will also work extensively with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. And God forbid if Farrell works on Beckett any more, that would just be unfair.

More News On Mirabelli

Mirabelli's 2008 contract is reportedly worth a base salary of $550,000. Incentives could make it worth as much as $1 million. It's not the salary that most interested me, however. Along with salary figures, the Boston Herald is reporting that the Red Sox originally attempted to sign Mirabelli to a contract without a guaranteed salary.

This would seem to indicate that the Red Sox are losing faith in the backup catcher. I think it's likely that they'll bring in other options to compete for the job in Spring Training. And if Mirabelli doesn't make the team, his $.55 million salary wouldn't be difficult to eat.

Mirabelli's main competition is likely to be Red Sox minor league catcher Dusty Brown. Brown hit .268/.344/.453 with Double-A Portland last year, and he offers the same quality defense that Mirabelli brings to the table. To this point Red Sox minor league catcher George Kottaras appears to be a failure offensively. After posting OBP's over .390 in back to back years at Double-A, he's yet to get his OBP over .316 at the Triple-A level.

On another note, that $10 million plus a year salary for Varitek appears to be speculative. The Boston Herald estimated the figure based on the salaries of Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. Each of those catchers are making $13 million a year.

Quote of the Day

In case you haven't noticed, I've been trying to avoid the Santana Saga lately. But I couldn't help myself when I saw this quote.

"According to the Star Tribune, the Mets are confident they'll get Johan Santana signed if they can agree with the Twins on the players involved in a deal."

If they could just agree on the players involved, I'm pretty sure the Red Sox or Yankees could sign a Santana deal as well. The Mets do look like the current frontrunners though.

Sox to Bring Back Mirabelli

According to Extra Bases, the Red Sox are close with a deal to bring back Mirabelli as their backup catcher. I'm a little disappointed as I was hoping the Red Sox would attempt to upgrade the position, but there is a lack of quality catchers on the market. Mirabelli hit only .202/.278/.360 last year, but at least he can play defense.

There is also word that the Red Sox may try to sign Jason Varitek to an extension. According to Tony Massarotti the contract could be more than $10 million a year. I would be disappointed by this news as well as I was hoping the Red Sox would pursue Kenji Johjima as their full time catcher of the future.

Stat O' the Day - Hardest American League Pitchers to Hit

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why We Wait: October Glory

This is the second article in the Why We Wait series. If you don't know what it's all about, you can check out the first article here.

Any good Red Sox fan was probably raised to think of a World Series Championship as if it was the Holy Grail. While it was possible that the Red Sox could eventually win one, believing in it was like believing in an ever elusive myth. Perhaps some of us were lucky enough to have relatives old enough to remember 1918. Most of us, however, didn't. If we had relatives that were alive then, they likely weren't old enough to remember the World Series.

For me, I was more like tales of 1986. My dad had the Champagne bottle popped, and the glasses ready before you-know-what happened. I also heard stories of the fever surrounding the 1967 Impossible Dream season. But the Red Sox lost that World Series in a Game 7 as well, as they did in all five of their World Series appearances from 1918 to 2004.

I grew up hearing my father tell me "maybe in your lifetime". And my father was only reciting what his father told him some 20 odd years before. But things are obviously different now.

When the Red Sox won it all last year, it was clearly different from 2004. In 2004, the Red Sox did the impossible. If they never did it again, I would have been happy. There wasn't a day that went by between October of 2004 and October of 2005 that I didn't think about how great it was that the Red Sox were champions. It didn't feel like they won a World Series; it felt like they won a century long war against a cruel, mocking tyrant.

Last year was different. I appreciated the process much more. Plenty of people told me that the Red Sox would choke again, like they always do. But I just laughed. There really wasn't any weight to those words anymore. After 2004, horror stories of choking Red Sox teams were all just talk. This was an entirely different team, in an entirely different century. There wasn't a day all season that I thought the Red Sox were going to miss the playoffs.

And when they won it all, it didn't feel like salvation. It felt more like confirmation. Confirmation that this wasn't the Red Sox of old. Confirmation that they were a true force to be reckoned with. And confirmation that almost two decades of unrewarded faith was worth it, no matter how much suffering it caused. And the reward was more than I ever could have imagined just four years ago.

It's so unbelievable, that often I forget that the Red Sox won in 2007. But every time I'm reminded, I can't help but smile. And that's why we wait.

Foulke Tired of Flipping Burgers?

One story that hasn't been talked much about this offseason is the unretirement of Keith Foulke. The former Red Sox closer is looking to return to the majors in 2008. He's throwing in front of Diamondbacks talent evaluators some time this month, but it's been rumored that his first choice is the Boston Red Sox. Smart man.

Foulke wouldn't be horribly old, having turned 35 a few months ago. But while I was a big fan of him in 2004, I still don't like his chances of being effective in 2008. His ERA and peripherals were all below leave average for an American League reliever in 2006. His velocity likely won't be any better now that he's taken a year off.

He might not be a bad gamble for the Red Sox however. He was almost as effective as Kerry Wood's been the last two years when healthy. And Foulke would come at a fraction of the price. At this point, any addition to the Red Sox bullpen would be more a luxury than a need. The Red Sox lead the league in ERA and BAA last year. It looks like they plan on using Many Delcarmen (2.05 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 5.73 H/9, 3.47 BB/9, 8.39 K/9) as their right-handed set up guy next year.

Looks like Foulke's not the only former Red Sox pitcher looking to come out of retirement. Rich "El Guapo" Garces made an attempt last year. Matt Mantei is going to throw for the Tigers, in hopes of getting a minor league deal. Mantei had one of the funniest closer's walk out songs of all time - "Ice Ice Baby".


Good morning everyone! I'm thrilled to inform you that Royal Rooters is in for big things. My good friend Ethan has invited me to join the site in hopes of adding fresh content. So who am I?

Well, my name is Michael Christopher. I'm a 20 year old college student. Right now I'm studying sociology, but who knows what I'll graduate with a degree in. In case you couldn't tell by the name I have a little bit of Irish in me. (But for the record, I prefer the drinking quite a bit to the fighting. And apparently so did Notre Dame's football team last year).

There will be many new things in store for the site in the near future. The site will look for a "mascot" of sorts, but don't bother sending in videos or anything. The finalists have already been chosen. You'll know more about it soon.

In addition, the comments will no longer be moderated. I'm a fan of free speech. And now with two contributers, we can stay more up on the comments. Although, just because I'm a fan of free speech doesn't mean anything goes. Please keep the comments relatively clean. No racial slurs or links to porn sites.

And finally, there will be some more "Why We Wait" articles and possibly another "The Fenway Effect" article. At least those are a few things to work on while we think of new content.

That's it for now. I look forward to meeting the readers here, and I hope you like what you read. Have a good one.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Youkilis - Like Jeter But Without the Price Tag?

Recently, I saw a Yankees fan write that she wasn't scared of Youkilis at the plate. In fact, their exact words were, "if it’s the bottom of the ninth with a full count, I want Kevin up to bat". Now as someone who's been in the stands when Kevin's hit an incredible 2-out, game winning 2-run home run, I took offense to that. So I did a little research, and you might be surprised what I found out.

For the purposes of framing this argument, I'll use the old, played-out technique of Player A vs. Player B. And I apologize for doing this, but in this case, I think it's relative.

Player A hit .288/.390/.453 with 16 home runs and 83 RBI. They also hit .329/.429/.573 with runners scoring scoring position, driving in 67 runs in those 149 at bats.

Player B hit .322/.388/.452 with 12 home runs and 73 RBI. They also hit .354/.426/.456 with runners in scoring position, driving in 62 runs in those 147 at bats.

The numbers are eerily similar. I think most people would give the advantage to Player A. Even though he didn't hit for as much average he was more productive overall. As many may have already guessed based on the name of this article, the two players are Kevin Youkilis and Derek Jeter. And knowing that, an astute baseball fan can probably tell which player is which based on the averages and home run totals. But I doubt many baseball fans would have known that the two had such similar numbers.

Now knowing who the players are, Yankees fans may make the argument that while Youkilis drove in 10 more runs, Jeter scored 17 more runs. But that ignores the fact the Jeter had 558 at bats in the 2 spot of the order compared to Youkilis' 256. Over those at bats, Youkilis scored a run every 5.22 at bats. In that same spot in the order, Jeter scored a run every 6.2 at bats.

Now for another comparison. You already know who the players are, but this puts them on an even playing field without the name recognition of Jeter.

Player A has hit .309/.377/.469. in the postseason.

Player B has hit .373/.459/.725 in the postseason.

Judging by Jeter's reputation, I think most be inclined to put his name in place of the player with the better hitting line. And they'd be incorrect. Jeter is actually Player A. I concede here, Jeter has had a much longer history of doing well in the postseason. He has 495 postseson at bats compared to Youkilis' 51. But can you punish a player for what is out of his control? I don't think anyone would take Coco Crisp over Jacoby Ellsbury just because Crisp has had more at bats.

And now for another comparison, but this time I won't be masking the names. Kevin Youkilis won his first Gold Glove last year in his second year at first base. He made 0 errors in 1084 total chances at first. Among others at his position he ranked first in the majors in fielding percentage and sixth in Zone Rating.

On the other hand, Derek Jeter made 18 errors in 607 total chances. Among others at his position, he ranked 16th in the majors in fielding percentage and last in the majors in Zone Rating. From 2005 to 2007, the Bill James Handbook ranks Derek Jeter as the worst defensive shortstop in baseball.

Here a Yankees fan could make the point that while Youkilis is a much better fielder, Derek Jeter is much more valuable on the bases. And indeed, they'd have a point here. Although Jeter had a bad year on the bases in 2007, getting caught more than half as many times as he stole a base, Jeter typically steals about 22 bases a year and gets caught five or six times. Youkilis typically steals five or six bases and gets caught twice.

If you look at Win Shares, Jeter finished with 24 last year, while Youkilis finished with 20. Those are rather similar numbers, especially when you consider that Jeter had much more playing time and played more of that time in front of the heart of his team's batting order.

Considering everything, it would appear as if the abilities of Youkilis and Jeter are very similar. You could even make the argument that Youkilis was the better player last year. Youkilis is also much younger, and has much less major league experience. His abilities may improve over the years. And of course he costs a fraction as much as Jeter.

So next time a Yankees fan tells you they're not scared of Youkilis, you can tell them that you're not afraid of Jeter then. Cause Youkilis outhit Jeter last year, especially in Jeter's trademark areas: with runners in scoring position and in the postseason. Then you can tell them that Youk's goatee was boss.

The Fenway Park Effect - Fenway Park and Power Hitting

(Matt Campbell/European Pressphoto Agency)

While Fenway Park is a good park for scoring runs and hitting for average, it's affects on power hitting are a little different. Fenway ranked as the easiest park the American League in which to score a run (+18%) and the easiest park in the majors for right-handed hitter's batting averages (+13%). On the other hand, it ranked as the third hardest park in the league in which to hit home runs (-13%) and the second hardest park in the league for left-handed hitters to hit a home run in (-21%).

Even though Fenway's Pesky Pole is only 302 feet from home plate, Pesky Pole is a pretty small target. Fenway Park is the only park in the majors in which the right fielder stands behind the right field foul pole. Overall, Fenway Park's right field is rather spacious, with the majority of the right field wall being at least 380 feet away from home plate.

Right-center gets as deep as 420 feet in what is officially dubbed "the Triangle". The name may not sound all that creative, but it predates that of "the Bermuda Triangle" by about 50 years. People were much more creative in the 60's.

Fenway Park hasn't always hindered home runs. No one's quite sure why it has become so unfriendly to power hitters, but the change seems to have coincided with recent Fenway Park renovations. These renovations likely altered the wind currents in the park. At least that's one of the only explanations I can think of given the fact that the actual dimensions of the field itself haven't changed one bit.

It was in 2006 that I first realized dramatic differences in home/away home run totals. In that year, Red Sox regulars hit 66 home runs at home and 98 home runs on the road. So did the Red Sox just play better on the road? No, in fact they won 13 less games on the road.

Park effects don't necessarily affect wins, just statistics. Cause while it may be 13% harder for a Red Sox player to hit a home run at Fenway Park, it's also 13% harder for any of their opponents to hit a home run there. That's not to say that teams can't be built around their parks. For example, the Athletics and Padres both pitch in extreme pitcher's parks and so have built their teams around pitching.

As already mentioned, Fenway Park hinders left-handed power hitters the most. In 2006, David Ortiz hit 18 home runs at home and 36 home runs on the road. Trot Nixon hit one home run at home and seven on the road. So it shouldn't be all that surprising that when J.D. Drew came over to the Red Sox last offseason, his home run total went down from 20 to 11. He hit almost twice as many home runs on the road as he did at Fenway.

But the largest surprise to me was to what degree Fenway Park hindered home runs for right-handed batters. Is there such a thing as a cheap home run over the Green Monster? Sure, but in reality those home runs are rather rare. More often, the Green Monster works to prevent home runs. It was 7% harder for a right-handed hitter to hit a home run in Fenway Park, than it was for them to hit a home run in a home run neutral park.

That's not to say the Green Monster doesn't help double totals. Of all American League parks last year, Fenway was the easiest one to hit a double in. Overall, it was 34% easier to hit a home run in than a neutral park. So Fenway Park probably works to increase slugging percentages for right-handed hitters at least.

I wish the Bill James Handbook provided separate doubles ratings for both right-handed and left-handed hitters in Fenway Park. Then I'd have a better understanding of just how much the Green Monster works to create doubles. It would also help to explain the effects of Fenway Park on left-handed hitter's batting averages.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Clemens To Sue McNamee

Clemens filed a law suit against McNamee for defamation. This is somewhat surprising given how hard these cases are to prove. But at this point, what does Clemens have to lose? He's claimed his innocence countless times through countless different forums, but the vast majority of people still think he cheated.

McNamee is now likely to file a suit against Clemens. I thought McNamee would file one even if Clemens didn't. It's possible, however, that McNamee will let Clemens be the one who has to try to prove one of these difficult defamation cases. McNamee may not want to pay more lawyer fees when he has such an advantage in the Clemens defamation case.

Sports Illustrated had an exclusive interview with Brian McNamee. It's actually pretty interesting if you have time to read it. McNamee defends hismelf against Clemens' accusation that he was "movin' steroids" saying "the feds look at bank accounts, and there's no money unaccounted for. I don't launder money. I don't have anything in my mattress. If I was pushing drugs, what did I do with the money?"

McNamee also says he respects Clemens and thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame. He even downplays Clemens' alleged steroid use. According to McNamee, "Roger was in no way an abuser of steroids. He never took them through our tough winter workouts. And he never took them in spring training, when the days are longest. He took them in late July, August, and never for more than four to six weeks max ... it wasn't that frequent."

It's tough for me to believe either one of these guys. Neither one seems very trustworthy. But I'm inclined to believe what the Mitchell Investigation has uncovered. Why would investigators be out to get Clemens for no reason, as he claims? What motive would there possibly be?

2008 Bill James Hitter Projections

Jacoby Ellsbury - .320/.374/.436, 78 R, 5 HR, 46 RBI, 42 SB
Dustin Pedroia - .300/.369/.436, 77 R, 9 HR, 57 RBI
David Ortiz - .298/.407/.587, 109 R, 40 HR, 130 RBI
Manny Ramirez - .301/.405/.552, 99 R, 33 HR, 113 RBI
Mike Lowell - .282/.349/.459, 64 R, 17 HR, 81 RBI
J.D. Drew - .278/.393/.465, 90 R, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 5 SB
Kevin Youkilis - .290/.399/.454, 89 R, 15 HR, 78 RBI
Jason Varitek - .253/.349/.418, 60 R, 17 HR, 70 RBI
Julio Lugo - .266/.331/.380, 76 R, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 26 SB

The Handbook loves Ellsbury. He's spectacular at hitting for average and he'll be hitting in a very batting average friendly park. In his worst minor league stint in 2006, Ellsbury still hit .295 and got on base at a rate of .375. In case you're wondering why his runs are so low, this assumes that Ellsbury plays 125 games next season.

The Handbook also projects a somewhat severe decline in Lowell's totals (-.071 OPS). I'd have to agree that Lowell is unlikely to put up a season like 2007, as it was a career year. Perhaps Fenway's friendly confines can help his offensive numbers from declining sharply as he ages. The Handbook also projects a minor sophomore slump for Pedroia (-.018 OPS).

On the flip side, the Handbook sees rebound seasons for Manny (+.076 OPS), Drew (+.062 OPS) and Lugo (+.068). I wouldn't be surprised to see Lugo bounce back even more in the 9 hole. Lowell hit .305/.353/.483 in that spot in the order last year. Those numbers are similar to the ones he put up with Tampa Bay in 2005 and 2006.

According to these projections, the average OBP of a Red Sox regular would be .375. That, however, doesn't take into account the fact that different players will get different amounts of at bats. The two members of the Red Sox likely to have the lowest OBP's (Varitek and Lugo) will get the least amount of at bats at the bottom of the order.

Who knows how accurate these specific totals will be. What's more important to me, is how likely it is that the Red Sox offense will improve next year if these overall numbers are at all accurate. Ellsbury will likely make a large difference at the top of the order, both in scoring runs and in providing depth to the lineup. Youkilis, who routinely has OBP's around .385 will be one of the batters furthest down in the order. The Red Sox would no doubt also be helped by a healthy David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

Will the Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored? Probably not. But you have to be happy when a championship team's offense is likely to improve.

Mets Positioning For A Santana Deal?

A few days ago, I mentioned that Peter Gammons thought the Mets were stockpiling talent in preparation for a Johan Santana deal. This, he thought, may explain why the Twins have been waiting to make a deal. A couple of days ago, the Mets dealt for fourth outfielder Angel Pagan. And Pagan could theoretically replace Carlos Gomez on the Mets roster next year, should Gomez be dealt in a Santana deal.

That same day, it was reported that the Mets have interest in Athletics pitcher Joe Blanton. Could they be trying to pressure the Twins into a deal? If the Mets were to acquire Blanton, it would take them out of the Santana sweepstakes, leaving only two teams. And the true interest levels of the Red Sox and Yankees are somewhat questionable. Of all three times, I think it's fair to say that the Mets need Santana the most.

In addition to pressure from the Mets, Hank Steinbrenner appears to be applying pressure to the Twins to make a deal. On Thursday when talking about Johan Santana, Steinbrenner said, "in the next two weeks, we're going to have to get everything done." For once, I wish Hank had the slightest bit of credibility when it came to ultimatums. Maybe he actually could help to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, Hank's believability is more like that of a car salesman than a team owner.

Clemens Meltdown

Perhaps Clemens is finally starting to realize that he may not make it into the Hall of Fame. He's shown some erratic behavior lately. On Friday, he taped a phone conversation with McNamee, without McNamee knowing the conversation was being recorded. McNamee was emotional; he was one of Rogers' close friends for a long time. But to McNamee's credit, he didn't know he was being recorded and he still didn't say anything that would call his testimony into question.

Then today, Clemens broke down in his scheduled press conference in Houston. According to Peter Abraham at 5:56,

"The press conference is over. Clemens started cursing, said he didn’t care about the Hall of Fame and walked off the stage. Pretty ugly scene."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Clemens On 60 Minutes

I don't know how many other people just caught the interview, but I thought it was pretty interesting. Clemens was visibly angry, but he seemed as nervous as he was angry. Clemens was licking his lips so often that it looked as if he was wearing lip gloss. When the camera panned away, you could see that he was fumbling with something in his left hand. At times, his right eye even seemed to twitch. It would be interesting to see if any body language "experts" dissect the interview.

One of his main defenses seemed to be, why would he take something that would cause him to break down? He even specifically mentioned the negative affects of steroids on flexibility. And Clemens seemed to act as if he never suffered under similar issues. Any injuries that caused Clemens to break down later in his career could be related to his age, and not at all to steroids use, but I think it's pretty clear that Clemens did suffer from such injuries.

Here are some actual excerpts from the interview. They aren't exaggerated, but rather taken word for word from the transcript.
Wallace: Why would Brian McNamee tell the truth about Andy Pettitte and lie about you?

Clemens: Andy's case is totally is, is totally separate. I was shocked to learn about Andy's situation. Had no idea about it.

Clemens: Why would I want to get tight or lose my flexibility, put something harmful in my system that's gonna cause me to break down when I've had a 24 year career?

Wallace: Look, because you're at the end of your career, and because you you don't want to give up the career and give up the fame and so forth. So if it's necessary to stick something into you—

Clemens: I didn't play my career to get fame or go to the Hall of Fame or worry about all that. That's nice. That, all that's nice. Again, it's not who I am. I've worked my tail off to get where I'm at. I'm not gonna put something in my body for a quick fix that's gonna tear me down.


Wallace: In two of the three years that McNamee claims that he injected you—'98 and 2001 you won 20 games and the Cy Young award as the American League's best pitcher.

Clemens: I won—in 1997 I won the Cy Young Award. 2004 when he supposedly, I wasn't doing it.

Wallace: Yeah, but these are the years in which McNamee claims that he injected you.

Clemens: It didn't happen. It didn't happen. It just didn't happen.

The Fenway Park Effect - Introduction

Ever wonder how Dustin Pedroia managed to hit .317 as a rookie? Perhaps you're left scratching your head over how Drew's home run total was cut in half in 2007? Maybe you want to know if Fenway Park really does cause errors, as Renteria claimed in 2005? Well thanks to the Bill James Handbook, we have some answers.

Now park effect doesn't explain or account for everything. Obviously, Pedroia has to be able to hit to get a .317 batting average, regardless of the park he plays in. Park effects mostly help us to understand some trends in pitching and hitting performance. It's especially useful when trying to understand how players' performances may be affected by switching teams. At the same time, it works to create more answers. Such as how is it that the Red Sox lead the AL in ERA, while also pitching in the league's most hitting friendly park?

First of all, I'll talk about Fenway Park's effect on producing runs. A park rating of 100 is neutral, regardless of the category. In the category of producing runs, Fenway Park received a rating of 118 in 2007. That rating lead the majors, but what exactly does it mean? A rating of 118 means that it was 18% easier to score a run in Fenway Park, than it was to score a run in a neutral run scoring park.

So what does such a rating tell us? The first conclusion I'd come to is that the Red Sox offense is probably a bit overrated. If it is 18% easier to score a run in Fenway Park, than it is a neutral run scoring park, Red Sox offensive numbers are probably inflated. This could help to explain how the Red Sox have ranked among baseball's top five offenses in five out of the last six years.

But that's only half the story. If it's so much easier to score runs in Fenway Park, then what's that mean for the Red Sox pitchers? No doubt, if it's easier to score runs in Fenway Park, it's also much harder to prevent runs. But how much more difficult is it for Red Sox pitchers to prevent runs?

In a perfect world, the average American League park would be neutral. And since the Red Sox play half their games at Fenway Park, it would be 9% harder for Red Sox pitchers to prevent runs, assuming they make half their starts at home and half on the road. And in this case, Beckett's already sterling 2007 ERA of 3.27 would look more like 2.97 had Fenway Park been a hitter neutral park.

But we don't live in a perfect world. In reality, Beckett pitched almost 20 more innings at home than he did on the road last year. And the average American League park wasn't neutral. The average American League park last year was somewhere between Comerica Park and Kauffman Stadium, and was around 5% easier to score a run in than a neutral park.

So I'll account for the fact that Beckett pitched 54.8% of his innings at home, and the fact that the average AL park had a run scoring rating of 105 or +5%. Now, if Beckett pitched in a hitter neutral park, his ERA would have looked more like 3.11. So was he robbed of a Cy Young Award?

Not so fast, the second most run scoring friendly park in the American League was Jacob's Field, where C.C. Sabathia pitched his innings when he was at home. If you adjust both of their home innings to the neutral American League park, their numbers would look more similar, but only slightly.

And my calculations above ignored the fact that Beckett pitched many of his starts in NL Parks, where the average run scoring factor wasn't 105. And the NL parks which Beckett pitched in were different than the NL parks that Sabathia pitched in. So when it comes down to it, park effect is so complicated that it's wise to just ignore their effects on competitions like the Cy Young Award.

Besides, Rays fans would have more a case for Delmon Young being robbed of a Rookie of the Year Award. Fenway Park's effect on right-handed batting average was almost as great as its effect on run scoring. And unlike the Cy Young Award where both competitors played in rather similar parks, Delmon Young's Tropicana Field actually was one of the least friendly parks for right-handed batting average. It was also a below neutral park for run scoring.

More than ERA, park factors affect the total runs that teams score. This is because ERA is a ratio stat, and the total effects of it are divided by 9. The same can be said about other ratio stats like H/9, BB/9 and K/9. Raw totals like Runs Scored are more skewed by park effect. If the Red Sox played in a neutral run scoring park in 2007, their runs scored total would look more like 802. This means that their runs scored total might not have ranked among the top five in the American League.

Again, this is difficult to calculate because eight out of the top ten run scoring teams in the American League last year played in parks which were friendly to scoring runs. The only two teams in the top 10 who were hurt by their park factor were the Rays and the Blue Jays.

The effect of Fenway Park on offensive production is so complicated, that I've broken it up into multiple parts. This article is only the beginning. Later, I will look at how Fenway Park affects average, home run totals, and errors. Many of these answers are sure to surprise you.

I know some of this information can be complicated, and not all of you have the Bill James Handbook handy as you read this. So if you have any questions, or need anything clarified, feel free to ask.

Sox On the Basepaths

Kelly O'Connor

In addition to providing projections for hitters and pitchers in 2008, the Bill James Handbook also rates the base running abilities of players. James provides every hitter in the majors a baserunning rating. These ratings are based on how factors such as bases taken, advances on outs, advancing extra bases on balls put in play, stolen bases, and outs made on the basepaths.

I'll provide two numbers. The first number is their baserunning rating. The second number is the percentage of the time that a player scored once they got on base (largely dependent on their spot in the order).

Jacoby Ellsbury: +13, 31%
Dustin Pedroia: +3, 34%

David Ortiz: +5, 30%
Manny Ramirez: -1, 29%

Mike Lowell: -11, 23%,
J.D. Drew: +6, 33%
Kevin Youkilis: +10, 28%

Jason Varitek: -23, 22%

Julio Lugo: +20, 29%

Alex Cora: 33%, +3

Coco Crisp: 35%, +37

Based on this information, you could make a case for Youkilis batting second in the order. He is a much better baserunner than Pedroia. Last year, Youkilis was rated the best baserunner on the team. For the second year in a row, Varitek was the team's worst baserunner. Overall in 2007, the Red Sox ranked as the 11th best baserunning team in the majors.