Monday, February 27, 2012

The Captain Goes Down With the Ship

Today, it was announced that Jason Varitek plans on retiring on Thursday. Varitek spent 14 years with Boston, and was named their captain in 2005. Varitek is a career .256 hitter, and while he has declined the past few years, his influence has done the opposite. Pitchers love throwing to him, and he is shaken off as rarely as John Lackey has a good day (he didn't get shaken off much). Perhaps the moment he's most remembered for is when he got into a fight with Alex Rodriguez (right), in a game that many considered turned the 2004 season around-- they later won their first championship in 86 years. I've grown a bit tired of Varitek and his constant outs the past few years, but he's the man and I certainly appreciate what he's done for the Red Sox franchise.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012 Predictions: AL West

1st Place: Los Angeles Angels- Take an 86-76 team from last year, and add securities at pretty much every position they lacked last season. This team could easily go to a 95-100 win team in 2012 based on the tremendous offseason they just had. Take a pitching staff that was the best in the American League in 2011, and add a fantastic starting pitcher in C.J. Wilson (16-7/2.94/206) and an excellent reliever in LaTroy Hawkins (3-1/2.42/28). Their hitting was middle-of-the-road in 2011, but expect that to jump in 2012 with the mega-signing of Albert Pujols (right) (.299/37/99). Also, expect what was an insecure position in 2011 to become stable with the addition of catcher Chris Iannetta (.238/14/55). It will be a tough fight with the Rangers for the division, but I expect the Angels to edge it out.

2nd Place: Texas Rangers- The 2010 and 2011 American League champions pretty much stood pat in this offseason. While this does not make them a bad team in any way, the Angels additions, coupled with the loss of C.J. Wilson will push them to second place. However, the loss of C.J. Wilson won't be nearly as substantial if Yu Darvish (left)(18-6/1.44/276 in Japan) plays up to par. Also, much like what they did at the Trading Deadline last year, they upgraded their bullpen-- this time, with the addition of Joe Nathan (2-1/4.84/43). Expect the Rangers to be contenders for the Wild Card(s?) with the Rays and Red Sox, and to be strong competitors throughout the year.

3rd Place: Seattle Mariners- The Mariners were one of the worst teams in the league last year at 67-95, but while they stood pat-- the A's mortgaged their team. The Mariners didn't do a whole lot this offseason. The only real thing they did was to upgrade their offense (worst in the league in 2011), by acquiring Jesus Montero (right)(.328/4/12 in 18 games) and John Jaso (.263/5/44 in 2010), both catchers. They also upgraded their bullpen a bit, with the acquisitions of Hector Noesi (2-2/4.47/45), George Sherrill (3-1/3.00/38), Shawn Camp (6-3/4.21/32), and Hong-Chih Kuo (3-2/1.20/73 in 2010). They won't be good, but they may reach 70 wins and be at least better than last year.

4th Place: Oakland Athletics- Now we have the A's, who will make a run at the worst team in the league after trading away all of their stars this offseason. They traded away their two best starting pitchers (Trevor Cahill to Arizona and Gio Gonzalez to Washington), as well as their closer (Andrew Bailey to Boston). One could argue that they could afford to do so, with a 3.71 ERA in 2011 (10th best in the league), but I disagree. What they got in return for those pitchers were mostly prospects, but they did acquire some young players who could help their 24th ranked offense. They acquired young outfielders in Seth Smith (left)(.284/15/59), Josh Reddick (.280/7/28), and Jonny Gomes (.209/14/43). Expect the A's to be one of the worst teams in baseball.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Red Sox Start Full-Squad Workouts

With each passing day the season gets closer, as the Red Sox had their first full-squad workout today. On a different note, it's exactly one week until the Red Sox' first "game"-- as usual, a double-header against Boston College and Northeastern University. As I said yesterday, I'm really proud of the Red Sox. All of them seem to be working really hard and almost everybody has reported before the necessary date. I suppose it's what we should expect from hometown heroes and grinders like Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, David Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis (right), but everybody has been saying all the right things and it sounds good. These guys seem to be taking a leadership role in the clubhouse and I'm getting familiar with Bobby Valentine. It looks like he's been really dedicated to righting the ship here in Boston and I prize him for that. I've got to admit, it's getting really hard for me not to be optimistic!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Entire Red Sox Team Is In Ft. Myers

For the first time in a while, I can honestly say that I am really, truly proud of the Red Sox. While several pitchers reported before the official date, the date for position players to report was practically unrecognizable. This was because everyone was already there! Almost every player on the Boston Red Sox was in their brand new spring training facility and working out before today's official reporting date. Also, it's looking like Bobby Valentine is working out great. He has been great with the media and looks like he's been drilling the Sox hard, which is exactly what they need after last September. From team mainstays like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, to newcomers like Nick Punto and Cody Ross (right), everybody seems to be working hard with something to prove after last year's disappointment. I'm still not convinced they'll make the playoffs, but I'm feeling a lot more confident.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Red Sox, Cubs Finally Settle Theo Epstein Compensation

It's finally all over! Something we thought would be settled in early November is finally over as the Red Sox received Chris Carpenter (no, not that one) and a player to be named later for a player to be named later and Theo Epstein. Carpenter is a converted relief pitcher who cracked the majors last year. In 10 outings and 9.2 innings, Carpenter put up good numbers with the Cubs-- going 0-0/2.79/8. He had good strikeout numbers in the majors-- 7.45 per nine-- but control issues, with 6.52 walks per nine. This problem wasn't limited to the majors either, as he 6.82 per nine in 22 outings at AAA Iowa. The 26 year old power arm throws a fastball and a slider-- his fastball averages out at a blistering 96.5 mph and his slider isn't too shabby at 88.2. It'll be interesting to see who the Red Sox and Cubs pitch in as their players to be named later. Still, Carpenter looks like a guy who has a lot of potential and could potentially make the team out of spring training if he impresses.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Crawford Still Possible For Opening Day

In a recent interview, Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford stated that he may be healthy enough to play on Opening Day. Earlier this offseason, we learned that Crawford had had surgery on his left wrist. Crawford had a very disappointing year in 2011 in all facets of the game. In 2010, Crawford had a career year with the Rays, going .307/19/90 with a .356 OBP and .495 SLG. In the field he also excelled, with a remarkable 18.2 UZR in 154 games. That offseason, he signed a gigantic 7 year/$142 million contract with the Red Sox and it all went south from there. Last season, he put up career lows all across the board with a .255/11/55 stat line plus a measly .289 OBP and .405 SLG. In the field, he also declined with a -2.2 UZR-- however, he was playing the tough left field in Fenway Park so that is partially forgiven. Hopefully, Crawford rebounds from a tough 2011-- he is too good of a baseball player to just fall off a cliff in my opinion.

Red Sox Pitchers And Catchers Report!

A new baseball season is approaching! Yesterday, the next big step towards baseball season came as Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. It's finally time to cast away the disappointment and despair of the end of the 2011 season with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett (right) apologizing for the chicken and beer shenanigans. It appears that the Red Sox new acquisitions-- particularly Andrew Bailey-- are fitting in well with the team. Bailey has been chatting quite a bit with the media-- stating that he won't back down from anyone as the closer of the Boston Red Sox. He is not in the least worrying about taking over the role in the wake of the best Red Sox closer ever-- Jonathan Papelbon-- who departed for Philadelphia this offseason. On a separate note, I'm sorry for the difficulties that have come with my G-mail (and blogger) account being hacked and briefly shut down. While I'm not the most optimistic fan in the world right now, I'm very excited for baseball season.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Waking Up Without A Red Sox Icon

A Red Sox icon is gone today-- as Tim Wakefield announced his retirement from baseball. At 45 years old, Wakefield has spent 19 seasons in the major leagues (17 with the Red Sox) and was one of the twenty five in 2004. He leads the Red Sox all-time in starts and innings pitched and is 3rd in wins with the Red Sox, ranking behind only Roger Clemens and Cy Young. He got his 200th and final win this past year and will retire as one of the most beloved members of the Red Sox ever. He faded a bit near the end of his career, with rough seasons in 2010 and 2011. He was only 7-8/5.12/93 in 2011. However, he was always a great teammate and was one of the classiest guys in baseball. He's also had one of the more versatile roles in history, succeeding as a starter, reliever, closer, and back to starter-- each with reasonable success. He may not make it into the Hall of Fame with his 4.41 ERA, but I think his number should be retired by the Red Sox.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Red Sox Sign Ross Ohlendorf, Add Some More Depth

Don't get me wrong, I actually really like what the Red Sox are doing-- compiling their depth with guys who have done it before. I'd rather have Vicente Padilla and Aaron Cook than Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland any day. They made another move of this nature today, signing Ross Ohlendorf. Ohlendorf had nice years in 2009 and 2010 before falling apart in 2011, partially due to a nasty shoulder injury and partially he was just ineffective. He put together a miserable season of 1-3/8.15/27 in 9 starts for the Pirates. However, if Ohlendorf returns to form, he could go back to 2010 when he went 1-11/4.07/79 or in 2009, when he was even better at 11-10/3.92/109 in 21 and 29 starts, respectively. His peripherals over the years have shown he's been a bit lucky, however, with a 4.44 FIP and 4.75 xFIP in 2010. However, if Ohlendorf can stay healthy and puts up good numbers this spring, the sky is the limit-- assuming the sky is a 4.00 ERA.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With David Ortiz

Just hours before the scheduled arbitration hearing between David Ortiz and the Red Sox, they came to an agreement with Ortiz. The deal is worth $14.575 million over a year; that number was the midpoint of the $16.5 million Ortiz wanted and the $12.65 Boston offered him. That $14.575 is the most ever that a designated hitter will earn annually. It also preserves the Red Sox' record of no arbitration hearings since 2002-- which is good, as the last thing the Red Sox want to do is cause any hurt feelings amongst the players by going to war with them over a few million dollars. Ortiz had a strong bounce-back year in 2011, batting .309/29/96 after batting no higher than .270 since 2007. Ortiz' numbers will likely decline next season to some degree, but don't put a .290/25/85 year out of reach. Everybody loves Big Papi and it's great that he'll be returning with no hard feelings.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 Predictions: NL East

1st Place: Philadelphia Phillies- I'm gonna start off with a quick, easy prediction here-- the Phillies will win the NL East and be the best team in the National League. Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at their offseason. The best pitching staff in baseball (a 3.02 ERA in 2011) should stay about the same in 2012. However, it may dip a bit with the losses of Roy Oswalt and Ryan Madson. However, they helped compensate for the loss of Madson by building their bullpen a bit with acquisitions of Jonathan Papelbon (right)(4-1/2.94/87) and Chad Qualls (6-8/3.51/43). They didn't do a whole lot for their 13th in the league offense-- just small acquisitions like Jim Thome (.256/15/50), Ty Wigginton (.242/15/47), and Laynce Nix (.250/16/44). Expect the Phillies to be among the league's best in 2012.

2nd Place: Washington Nationals- I am a huge fan of what the Nationals did this offseason and I think that for the first time since they moved to Washington, they could be a contender. Their offense (24th in 2011) is still a bit shaky, the only real acquisition being Mark DeRosa (.279/0/12 in 47 games). Their pitching was already 7th in the league in 2011, and in 2012 it should be among the league's best in 2012. Acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez (left) (16-12/3.12/197) and Edwin Jackson (12-9/3.79/148) should bolster the pitching rotation while Ryan Perry (3-5/3.59/45 in 2010) and Brad Lidge (0-2/1.40/23) should bolster the bullpen. Expect the Nationals to move from a .500 team to a potential wild card team.

3rd Place: Atlanta Braves- Under normal circumstances, I would place the Braves ahead of the Nationals after they went 89-73 and just missed the playoffs in 2011. However, they did nothing this offseason. Honestly, the only move they made that could affect the roster at all was signing Adam Russell (right)(1-2/3.03/13) to help out their bullpen. However, they could be helped by some young arms coming up from AAA, Randall Delgado (7-7/3.88/135 in the minors) and Julio Teheran (15-3/2.55/122 in AAA) should spend time with the Braves. Expect the Braves to be a solid team, but not a true contender.

4th Place: Florida Marlins- The Marlins went through a stunning change in character this offseason-- usually a quiet team, they made several big splashes in the offseason. Most teams don't just go from 72-90 and last place to a contender, but the Marlins will make a run. They really helped out their pitching rotation by acquiring Mark Buehrle (13-9/3.59/109), Wade LeBlanc (5-6/4.63/51) and Carlos Zambrano (9-7/4.82/101). They also helped out their bullpen by acquiring Heath Bell (3-4/2.44/51) to be their closer. They didn't do a whole lot for their offense, but what they did was big-- acquiring shortstop Jose Reyes (left)(.337/7/44, 39 steals) and moving Hanley Ramirez to third. Expect the Marlins to be a part of the Nationals, Braves, and Marlins who will be battling for second place in 2012.

5th Place: New York Mets- The Mets are a bad team, and they didn't do anything to improve in the offseason. They have no payroll space, as it is being eaten up by bad contracts for Jason Bay, Johan Santana, and David Wright. The only real move they made this offseason was trading Angel Pagan to the Giants for reliever Ramon Ramirez (3-3/2.62/66) and outfielder Andres Torres (right)(.221/4/19). Also to bolster their bullpen, they acquired Jon Rauch (5-4/4.85/36). Finally, they acquired Ronny Cedeno (.249/2/32) in a move to cover the shortstop position. The Mets are essentially a lock for last place in an NL East that should be a good division.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Red Sox To Sign Sean White

Today, the Red Sox made potentially the least meaningful move this offseason-- signing reliever Sean White to a minor league deal. White has spent some time in the majors, he played with the Mariners in 2007, 2009, and 2010, but he spent 2011 with the Rockies' AAA affiliate. In AAA this year, he didn't have a whole lot of success at 4-2/5.68/54. His peripherals showed that he pretty much deserved that too with a 4.77 FIP and a terrible 1.1 K:BB ratio. He pitched for a decent 5.90 K/9 but an awful 5.36 BB/9. He wasn't very good with the Mariners in 2010 either at just 0-1/5.24/15. His FIP of 4.68 and xFIP of 4.55 showed that he was a bit unlucky but his 3.93 K/9 were just terrible. His last (and only) good year was in 2009, when he went 3-2/2.80/28 in 52 games. He doesn't strike out anybody, but I suppose if he excels this spring, he could compete for that last spot in the bullpen.

Happy Truck Day To All!

Today is a great milestone in the offseason as the season is approaching faster than John Lackey is declining. Today is Truck Day, which I'm pretty sure is not as big a deal as Red Sox fans make it out to be. In case you don't know, it is when the truck carrying all the Red Sox' equipment heads from Fenway Park down to Fort Myers where the Red Sox play Spring Training. The season truly is rapidly approaching though, as pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 19th, the Red Sox play their first spring training game (as usual, a double-header against Boston College and Northeastern University) on March 3rd, and on April 5th, the Red Sox will gather in Comerica Park, Detroit to start the 2012 season. I'm glad the offseason is almost over, but I can't say I'm terribly optimistic about this season.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Would The Red Sox Be Ok With Padilla, Cook, and Silva?

Lately, many Red Sox fans (myself included) have been pushing for the Sox to sign a big-name pitcher like Roy Oswalt or, until recently, Edwin Jackson. I would love it if they did that, but the likelihood of that happening is very low at the moment. Therefore, today I will look into how the Red Sox could do with one of Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook, or Carlos Silva rounding out the rotation.
     First, let's look at Vicente Padilla. Padilla has not seen a whole lot of time the past few years, as he has been derailed by injuries in 2011 and 2010, pitching in just 9 and 16 games, respectively. So, let's head back to his 2009 season, which he played for the Rangers and Dodgers. In that season, he went 12-6/4.46/97. His peripherals showed that he pretty much deserved those numbers, with a 4.45 FIP and 4.36 xFIP. His K/9 at 5.93 and BB/9 at 3.30 were both slightly worse than his career averages. His BABIP of .305 was pretty normal that year. His career stats show a 4.31/4.43/4.39 pitching line plus 6.33 K/9 and 3.17 BB/9. Overall, for a #5 starter, an ERA around 4.50 and something like 6 K/9 would be very acceptable.
     Next is Aaron Cook, who was one of a group of solid, good pitchers from about 2004-2009 until injuries derailed his career. In 18 games with the Rockies in 2011, he pitched to an unimpressive 3-10/6.03/48. However, his peripherals show that he shouldn't have been nearly as bad-- his FIP was 4.54 and his xFIP was 4.37, not too far off of Padilla's. However, his strikeouts have never been impressive, at just 4.45 in 2011 paired with a walk rate of 3.43. Still, the one thing Cook has always been able to do is make batters hit it on the ground. The sinkerballer's striking 55.1% ground ball rate in 2011 was actually lower than the 57.4% in his career.
     Like Cook, Carlos Silva doesn't strike anyone out either-- however, he doesn't walk anybody either. Silva didn't pitch in the majors in 2011, but he did pitch 21 games with the Cubs in 2010, so let's look at that year. Silva went 10-6/4.22/80 in a pretty nice year for the veteran. His peripheral stats show him as even better with a 3.75 FIP and xFIP. His strikeout rate was the best of his career at 6.37, compared to his career 4.02 per nine innings. His walk rate was stellar as always, at 1.91, compared to his career 1.73 mark. However, Silva's lack of strikeouts wouldn't bode well in the AL East, in my opinion. I think Padilla would be the best option for the #5 spot, and I actually think he could be a nice pickup-- a 4.50 ERA is never bad for a #5 guy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With Alfredo Aceves

The Red Sox have avoided arbitration with Alfredo Aceves, leaving only David Ortiz's case still on the table. Aceves' deal is worth $1.2 million with a bonus $100K in incentives for games pitched and/or starts made. Aceves was the most consistent and best reliever outside of Jonathan Papelbon in 2011, going 10-2/2.61/80. Aceves, who has pitched with both the Red Sox and Yankees in his 3 year career, has a remarkable winning percentage. His career record is 24-3, the highest winning percentage ever for a player in 20 or more decisions. In 2011, Aceves will make a bid as a starter, however, I think he is more valuable as a reliever. A reliever who can pitch 2+ innings is more valuable than a starter who can pitch 5 innings in my opinion. In 2012, Aceves will be a part of what I think will be a very good bullpen including Aceves, Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Matt Albers, and a few others. I'm glad that we only have one arbitration case remaining.

2012 Predictions: NL Central

1st Place: Milwaukee Brewers- The Brewers rode a great 2010-2011 offseason to a division lead and playoff berth at 96-66. They did quite well with the 11th best hitting in the league and 8th best pitching. Much of that team stays intact, with one notable exception-- the loss of Prince Fielder. However, to some degree, they made up for that loss with the acquisition of Aramis Ramirez (right)(.306/26/93) to play third. They traded their current third baseman Casey McGehee to the Pirates for Jose Veras (2-4/3.80/79) to improve their bullpen. Expect their win total to fall off a bit with the loss of Fielder, but I still think they'll take the NL Central.

2nd Place: St. Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals had a great year in 2011, winning the World Series and shocking many-- including myself. However, like the Brewers, they lost their great star (Albert Pujols) in this offseason. Also like the Brewers, they replaced him to some degree, with outfielder Carlos Beltran (left)(.300/22/84). However, besides that, the Cardinals had a very quiet offseason. Their pitching staff that was 12th in the league with a 3.74 ERA will be all back, and potentially stronger with the likely addition of Roy Oswalt (9-10/3.69/93). The hitting will take a hit, but expect the Cardinals to make a strong push for the Wild Card(s).

3rd Place: Cincinnati Reds- The Reds were a major disappointment last year, as many people thought they may repeat the 91-71 season and first place finish of 2010-- however, they slipped to 79-83 and 3rd place in 2011. I think they'll stay in 3rd, but I think they will be a much better team in 2012. They mortgaged their future to improve a pitching staff that was 20th last year-- trading for Mat Latos (right) (9-14/3.47/185) from the Padres. They also helped their bullpen by troves, acquiring Ryan Madson (4-2/2.37/62) and Sean Marshall (6-6/2.26/79). On hitting, they didn't do a whole lot but phenom Devin Mesoraco (.289/15/71 in AAA) will be taking over the reins at catcher. Expect the Reds to miss the Playoffs, but not by a whole lot.

4th Place: Chicago Cubs- The Cubs were another disappointment in 2011, going 71-91 and finishing 5th. They haven't done a whole lot this offseason, but they got front office minds Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer so they are headed in the right direction. They also improved one of the worst pitching staffs in the league by acquiring Paul Maholm (left)(6-14/3.66/97), Chris Volstad (5-13/4.89/117), and Travis Wood (6-6/4.84/76). Their biggest acquisition to an offense that was 18th in the league was David DeJesus (.240/10/46 in a down year). All in all, the Cubs haven't done enough and Bud Selig's compensation for Theo Epstein sits on the horizon.

5th Place: Pittsburgh Pirates- The Pirates were looking like an early season surprise before the wheels came off the bus in June when they went from a 1st place team to a 4th place team at 72-90. Their pitching staff was pretty good for much of the year, but Paul Maholm left for Chicago, and the only real starter they've signed is Erik Bedard (right) (5-9/3.62/125). However, they have gotten some help with their 27th ranked offense, acquiring Rod Barajas (.230/16/47), Clint Barmes (.244/12/39), and Casey McGehee (.285/23/104 in 2010). Still, the Pirates won't be a contender or close in 2012.

6th Place: Houston Astros- The league's worst team at 56-106 in 2011 will probably stay in the cellar in 2012. Their hitting ranked 27th in 2011 and their pitching ranked 28th for a terrible team. They haven't really improved either one very much. In fact, they even traded their best reliever-- Mark Melancon-- to Boston for Jed Lowrie (left)(.252/6/36) and Kyle Weiland (0-3/7.66/13). All they've done otherwise is acquire Chris Snyder (.271/3/17) and Jack Cust (.213/3/23). Expect the Astros to be the league's worst team for a second year running.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sox.Rox's 3rd Birthday!

Hey everybody, today is the third anniversary of when I started this blog about the Red Sox. I've really loved this experience of blogging very regularly about something I love and I really love it when you guys read what I wrote (and especially when you comment). However, I've begun to feel that as my writing has improved, the Red Sox have receded-- let's take a look. In 2009: swept in the ALDS, 2010: missed the playoffs, 2011: September happened. However, I certainly hope they come back strong in 2012 and can be a serious contender. Right now I think they are on the outside looking in, but with an Oswalt they could be serious contenders. Anyhow, thanks for reading my blog for 3 whole years and I really appreciate it.