Starting Rotation

2012 Positional Recap 

In 2012, Red Sox starting pitchers amassed a 5.19 ERA, good enough for fourth last in the majors. Only Cleveland, Minnesota and Colorado had poorer rotations. The rotation has gradually performed worse and worse over the past three seasons, and certainly has played a big role in the team’s lack of success. Red Sox starters went 48-72 this season, finishing under .500 for the first time this millennium. Red Sox starters pitched 4 shutouts this season, the fewest in the majors and 7 less than the year before. No starting rotation allowed more earned runs than the 2012 Red Sox rotation and only three rotations walked more batters. Their .272 batting average against was 5th worst in the majors, and again, was the franchise’s worst in recent memory.

No regular starter had an ERA under 4.5 this season. No regular starter had more than 11 wins this season. Red Sox starters had a combined WAR of 9.1 this season, which is less than half of the collective WAR they had in 2010, 2009 and 2007, and most of the decades prior. Overall, there is an easy argument to be made that this was the worst Red Sox pitching staff in my 23 years of living.

Individual Production 

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

Continue reading »

Outfield

2012 Positional Recap

Collectively, the Red Sox outfield last year a disaster. Over 162 games, the three outfield positions posted a combined 4.3 WAR. Only the Indians, Mets and Astros saw less production from the three outfield positions than the Sox did. They were third to last in wOBA (.308), third to last in slugging, second to last in home runs (39)…and the list goes on.

Obviously injuries played a huge role in the disaster that was the 2012 Red Sox outfield, but for the team to see more success next season, many issues in the outfield must first be addressed and fixed.

While only collectively accounting for about 1/4th of the outfield playing time, Ryan Kalish, Marlon Byrd, Nate Spears, Brent Lillibridge, Jason Repko, Lars Anderson and Che-Hsuan Lin all had a negative WAR last season. Cody Ross was the only Red Sox outfielder to play in over 90 games last season (he played 130). Daniel Nava logged the second most games played with 88, Jacoby Ellsbury missed exactly 88 games, and Ryan Sweeney and Scott Podsednik were the only others to play in over 60 games. The Carl Crawford experiment came to an abrupt end after only playing 31 games for the Red Sox this season and posting a 0.4 WAR. Darnell McDonald was also relied upon for major innings this season, and continued to play as poorly as he seemingly always has.

Individual Production

(I’m omitting McDonald, Anderson, Lin, Repko, Lillibridge, Spears and Byrd. All of them either won’t be back next year or didn’t play a significant amount of games last season. More importantly, they were all awful, and you don’t need to see a few statistics to see that)

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

I’m not certain that a single assumption can be made about the 2013 Red Sox outfield. The safest assumption would seem to be that Jacoby Ellsbury will be patrolling center field. However, there is a significant case to be made that the Red Sox should look to move him. We wrote back in July why the Red Sox should look to trade Ellsbury at the deadline, and much of the same reasoning keeps the notion worthwhile now in the offseason. Ellsbury does have more value than almost everyone else on this roster and is set to reach free agency and a huge payday after the 2013 season. The Red Sox team salary kerfuffle — which many felt was a reason Theo Epstein bolted in the first place — isn’t as convoluted as it once with after the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. Perhaps keeping Ellsbury is more contractually viable with Carl Crawford gone.

Should the Red Sox entertain moving Jacoby Ellsbury?

I’m not going to state my case as to what I think the Red Sox should do with Ellsbury, but I think there are some clear pros and cons to each argument. If he his dangled by the Red Sox brass it would be reasonable to expect plenty of teams expressing interest. The Rangers could be interested especially with the uncertain returns of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and the impending free agency for players like Nelson Cruz and Michael Young (both enter free agency after 2013). He could be a nice long-term option for the Rangers, and the Rangers have shown little aversion to spending. The Braves could be interested if Michael Bourn bolts. Perhaps the Reds, who get little to nothing from the lead off spot, would make a play for him. Maybe a team like Seattle, Philadelphia or Washington make a play. There assuredly is a market for Ellsbury, and it will be up to the front office to properly gauge that.

Internal options: Internally there are plenty of options, granted few with tremendous amounts of long-term appeal. Ryan Sweeney, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Che-Hsuan Lin all will be in play, but as I stated earlier none of them took a solid advantage of their significant playing time this year. Cody Ross was one of the biggest bargains in baseball last season and very well could be lured back, for a sizable pay raise of course. Top outfield prospect Jackie Bradley could be ready for the majors later on in the 2013 season. The same could be said for Bryce Brentz.

An improvement in terms of health could make a world of difference for the outfield corps, but it’s hard to imagine a huge upgrade in production unless the Red Sox look externally. There is plenty of depth internally for the Red Sox, but no real top level talent after Ellsbury. It is very possible that the team starts next season with an outfield of Sweeney/Ellsbury/Ross with some combination of Nava/Lin/Kalish on the bench, but how much of an improvement would that lead to? Probably not much.

Free agent options: There is a decent amount of outfield talent hitting the free agent market this offseason; the most talented of them all being Josh Hamilton. Hamilton would provide the star power, but the cost of which doing so probably isn’t it worth it, especially for a team that is suddenly trying to be a bit more responsible fiscally. There are question marks with Hamilton, and he isn’t exactly young any more. The notion of signing him seems counterintuitive to me.

Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and BJ Upton would all provide tangible upgrades to the corner outfield positions, but much like Hamilton, none of them seem to be a great fit. Bourn had a sensational year, and much of his value comes from his defense in center field. So long as Ellsbury is around, it would make little sense to splurge on Bourn. Bourn would be a solid replacement if Ellsbury were traded, but his payday will be in the same range as what Ellsbury’s will be, and if the point is to be fiscally responsible and cautious, signing him again would again seem counterintuitive. Upton’s youth and potential (can it still be called that after 7 seasons in the majors?) are likely intriguing, but the reality is he has not played elite baseball in quite some time now. Some team will surely offer him a long and massive contract, and it should not be the Red Sox. Swisher seems like a more ideal fit (he can play in the outfield, first base and DH), but he again will command a long contract with a high AAV.

After that trio there are the likes of Melky Cabrera, Shane Victorino, Torii Hunter, Ryan Ludwick, Jonny Gomes, Delmon Young, Scott Hairston, Juan Rivera, Grady Sizemore, Angel Pagan and so on.

Trade possibility: Perhaps the Red Sox look to make a trade. Shin-Soo Choo and Justin Upton were both supposedly being actively shopped last season.

 

The Red Sox clearly have the depth to stand pat this offseason in the outfield, but doing so might not be the best move. There are plenty of avenues the team could go down, and if the front office decides it wants to continue spending, outfield seems to be the logical place where that can happen. Whether or not they should look to throw around money is an entirely different question…

So, Red Sox Nation, who do you hope and expect to see starting in the outfield next season?

All stats are from fangraphs.com, including WAR, unless stated otherwise.

Shortstop

2012 Positional Recap

Mike Aviles held down the fort at shortstop this year, and probably did better than most expected. What probably left Red Sox feeling the most salty this season was how well Jed Lowrie performed in Houston in addition to how poorly Mark Melancon played this season. While Lowrie did go down with an injury later in the season, in 97 games he accumulated a solid 2.5 WAR while hitting .244/.331/.438 and belting 16 home runs.

The shortstop position posted a 2.1 WAR this season, ranking 20th in the majors. Mike Aviles played in 136 games this season, and Jose Iglesias in 25. Aviles played at a below average level and the 31 year-old doesn’t figure to play a large role in the club’s future plans. It is certainly possible that the Red Sox won’t enter the 2013 season with Aviles on the roster and if that’s the case, the team might look to move him rather than non-tender him.

Individual Production

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

I don’t envision Aviles returning. While Jose Iglesias did little (offensively) to suggest that he’s ready to be an every day MLB shortstop, I think he’ll be given every opportunity there is to open the season as such. He can hit better than .118 and he’ll eventually cut down on the strikeouts. Defensively he was every bit as good as anyone could have hyped him up to be. His value defensively might be as high as any other middle infielder in the majors. Brendan Ryan might be a good comparison in terms of what Iglesias could realistically provide next season. Ryan has as inept of a bat as really anyone else in the majors, but his defense is so strong that he still posts strong WARs (5.5 fWAR and a 6.9 rWAR the past two seasons). Ryan hit under .200 last season with an OPS of .555 and there is no way to ever mistake anyone into thinking he was an asset with the bat. However, Brendan Ryan’s WAR according to baseball-reference.com (3.3) would have ranked second on the Red Sox last year had he played for them. The value in Iglesias’ defense is difference making, and it very well could be a significant enough asset to counteract his weak bat. If the team can get similar production from Iglesias as the Mariners do from Ryan, it will be serviceable.

Iglesias’ defense is as good as advertised, but is his bat too much of a liability?

Aviles losing out on the job probably makes him expendable, as the Red Sox now have Ivan De Jesus who can fill the utility infielder role, along with Pedro Ciriaco. De Jesus has zero options left and is the more impressive minor league career than Ciriaco. Ciriaco and De Jesus could both be kept for the bench, but I think this also opens up Ciriaco to a trade.

Internal options: There is a great amount of depth internally even beyond Iglesias, Aviles and Ciriaco. The organization’s top prospect, Xander Bogaerts, is a shortstop. His ETA probably isn’t until sometime in 2014, and the club will be in no real rush to hurry the 20 year-old. 2012 1st round pick Deven Marrero projects to remain at shortstop as he climbs towards the majors. 19 year-old and 2009 international free agent Jose Vinicio is very raw, but has tremendous natural tools that, with some physical development, could see him evolve into a strong major league shortstop.

Free agent options: If you aren’t too thrilled with the prospects of Mike Aviles or Jose Iglesias starting at shortstop next year, you probably aren’t alone. Unfortunately, externally there aren’t many options. Stephen Drew has a $10M mutual option that probably won’t be picked up. Jhonny Peralta has a $6M option and it is uncertain whether or not that will be picked up. After that, there isn’t really anyone that figures to be a significant enough upgrade. The remaining crop are 30-something-year-old veterans who provide nothing that Mike Aviles doesn’t already.

Trade possibility: The Red Sox could always look to trade for an upgrade at short, but it seams most plausible that they will enter the 2013 season with an internal option starting at short, be it Mike Aviles or Jose Iglesias. A few names that could potentially be available: Yunel Escobar and Asdrubal Cabrera both have been noted as possible trade candidates.

So, Red Sox Nation, who do you hope and expect to see starting at shortstop next season?

All stats are from fangraphs.com, including WAR, unless stated otherwise. 

Second Base and Third Base

2012 Positional Recap

2nd: Second base was one of the few positions the Red Sox got well-above average production out of. The reasoning for that is obvious – Boston’s best player, Dustin Pedroia, played 141 games at second. The 4.2 fWAR generated from the position was 6th best in the majors.

3rd: Production at third wasn’t particularly as stellar, but a large reason was because of Youkilis’ poor play, as well as the play of various utility infielders that filled in during parts of the season. Will Middlebrooks, who figures to be the opening day third baseman next year, had a solid rookie campaign. There are still a few obvious shortcomings in his game — mainly his propensity to strike out and his minuscule walk rate — but he played about as well as anyone could have hoped. After Middlebrooks went down with an injury, Pedro Ciriaco filled in admirably and figures to have secured a solid shot at gaining an opening day bench spot next season.

Individual Production

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

Little needs to be said about second base; Dustin Pedroia — barring the unimaginable — will be the starter. Pedro Ciriaco figures to be the bench utility man and will fill in at backup if needed. Ivan De Jesus is another internal option at backup 2B (or really anywhere around the infield).

Will Middlebrooks’ broken wrist figures to be completely healed by the time spring training arrives, and should be penciled in at third to start the season. Ciriaco again figures to be the logical backup here as well.

Internal options: Waiting in the horizons at third are a pair of star infield prospects, Xander Bogaerts and Garin Cecchini. Bogaerts, the club’s top prospect,  is a SS as is, but his transition to third base or a corner outfield spot seems nearly inevitable down the road. Cecchini is still years removed from a call up, but he has All-Star potential at third base as well.

Free agent options: There’s no real reason to assume the club will use free agency to address either of these two positions. The market isn’t very attractive either.  The Yankees will assuredly pick up Cano’s option (if they don’t just extend him), and the same goes for the Mets and David Wright. After that there don’t appear to be any players that would be an upgrade in any way at all.

Trade possibility: Again, it’s hard to imagine the team looking to trade for a 2B or 3B, but you never know…

 

The uncertainty at shortstop and first base is countered nicely with almost absolute certainty at second and third. While Will Middlebrooks still has a lot to prove, his playing time is all but guaranteed. Even after this tumultuous and unpredictable season that saw many of our favorite Red Sox players traded, it’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where Dustin Pedroia is shipped off.

So, Red Sox Nation, who do you hope and expect to see starting at second and third next season?

All stats are from fangraphs.com, including WAR, unless stated otherwise.

First Base

2012 Positional Recap

The Red Sox have long seen tremendous production from the first base position. The position had produced a top 10 WAR  in the league each of the last 5 years before the 2012 season. That trend figured to continue, and continue for a long time with Adrian Gonzalez manning the position for years to come. The position now all of a sudden is one of the most pressing areas of need on the roster, and there are no obvious or exciting replacements glaringly available.

Red Sox first baseman posted a 2.6 WAR in 2012, ranking 14th in the majors. It’s probably worth noting that Adrian Gonzalez accumulated a 2.8 WAR on his own, so you can do the math in regards to what happened when he wasn’t playing. The position only managed to hit 23 home runs this season, which bested only 8 teams. Across the board the position produced at as an average of a level as you could possibly imagine offensively. Breaking the unit down any further probably is a waste of time because so much of the season’s numbers are a result of Gonzalez. But after he left, the production that replaced him was abysmal. 162 games of Mauro Gomez and James Lonely would have translated into some spectacularly putrid production.

Individual Production

Kevin Youkilis played a fraction of his games with the Red Sox at first base, and Lars Anderson made a few appearances as well. Neither are obviously with the team and have thus been excluded.

Looking Forward to the 2013 Roster

If we were hoping for some silver linings with some of the players on this team as the season wound down, we didn’t find it from any of the first basemen. Mauro Gomez contributed admirably given the circumstances, but he still is a questionable talent who projects to be nothing other than a bench player throughout his career. There were rumors — albeit most stemming from Bobby Valentine — that Gomez would get some work in at the corner outfield positions this offseason. This would further solidify his role as a bench player on the team. He has shown an ability to hit both lefties and righties equally, and that mixed with the ability to play multiple positions could secure him a roster spot with the team for years to come. However, pegging him in as the starting first baseman for the 2013 Red Sox isn’t something anyone should be eager about. James Lonely continued to show a remarkable lack of power — and really a general lack of ability now for the past few seasons. There isn’t any reason that the Red Sox should entertain bringing him back next season.

Well, that didn’t last too long

Internal options: Organizationally there are few alternative options. The Red Sox acquired Jerry Sands in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, but he doesn’t project to be much more than a bench player, much like Gomez. Travis Shaw is still years away, and his upside still is very much debatable. The internal options are not terribly palatable.

Free agent options: The free agent class doesn’t seem to provide many options either. The elite first basemen in the Majors are all signed to long-term deals (Votto, Fielder, Pujols, Gonzalez etc.). The great crop of youth at the position won’t be available really any time soon either. The options thus are few and far between. Any time Adam LaRoche is considered the cream of the free agent crop, well, you know there isn’t much out there. That’s no disrespect to LaRoche, who had a fine season (including some clutch postseason hitting), but he shouldn’t be on the Red Sox radar (LaRoche also has a $10M mutual option which is worth noting). After LaRoche the barrenness of the field really becomes blindingly obvious. Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena form the next tier in quite unimpressive fashion. After that it’s slim picking from the scraps that are Eric Hinske, Aubrey Huff, Xavier Nady, Lyle Overbay and Ty Wigginton.

The Red Sox could go after someone with the intent of switching their position. Candidates could be Nick Swisher, Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera or Delmon Young (yikes). There are obvious cons to all of those, be it money/length of contract or ability. Would the Red Sox make a run at Kevin Youkilis as a stop gap?

Trade possibility: If I feel comfortable predicting any trade it would be predicting a trade to acquire a first baseman; the alternatives options are just so unappealing. Maybe the team inquires about Chase Headley, Lucas Duda/Ike Davis, Billy Butler, Bryan LaHair, Justin Smoak, Mark Trumbo/Kendrys Morales, Justin Morneau and so on. Most of those guys probably are unrealistic options, but you never know. If there is an infield position where the Red Sox may be willing to move prospects and talent for, you would imagine it would be for a first baseman; the position is too valuable an the internal options are just so unimpressive.

 

This offseason figures to be a volatile and unpredictable one for the team, but if there is one single position to keep an eye on it is without a doubt first base. The combination of the lack of internal options and the lack of free agent options could force the club to make a splash via trade, and that is always exciting.

So, Red Sox Nation, who do you hope and expect to see starting at first base next season?

All stats are from fangraphs.com, including WAR, unless stated otherwise.

In the next upcoming days Bloody Sox will be posting 2012 positional review/early 2013 positional roster speculation pieces for each and every position. There will be 7 pieces total breaking down how each position performed as a unitlast season as well as previewing how each position shapes up for next year. No heavy speculation or Earth-shattering insight, just some simple primers to get ready for the offseason.

Whether or not you are comfortable labeling this upcoming offseason and next season a transitional period or even the start of a rebuilding process, this offseason figures to be wildly unique in regards to what us Red Sox fans have grown accustomed to. There are plenty of roster spots up for grabs, numerous positions of glaring weakness and the club now has a farm system that is once again a strength and not a weakness. The team has less money committed for the upcoming season than it has in ages and ultimately there exists more financial flexibility than there has been in years. That flexibility was created at the expense of losing a lot of talented players. The Red Sox figured to have learned from past fiscal mistakes, and can be expected to act with a bit more restraint in regards to the salaries they hand out. The 2013 roster as currently constructed is far less talented than it has been in a while, and GM Ben Cherington and the rest of the front office certainly have their work cut out for them.

Ben Cherington has a lot of work to do to get Boston back to World Series contenders

This year’s free agent class won’t have the collective talents to meet the market’s needs, which is not a good thing for a team in Boston’s circumstances. The talented players come at a premium, and if the goal is not to hand out big bloated contracts, well, that might prove impossible to accomplish.

The Red Sox have 4 players signed to contracts for next season. John Lackey will make $15.25M, Dustin Pedroia $10M, Jon Lester $11.625M, and Clay Buchholz $5.5M. That is only $42.437M in committed contracts.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andrew Bailey, Alfredo Aceves, Craig Breslow, Ryan Sweeney, Mike Aviles, Daniel Bard, Franklin Morales, Rich Hill and Andrew Miller are all entering arbitration. It’s a safe bet to guess that collectively that group will make anywhere between 30-40 million dollars next season. The rest of the roster is full of players on their rookie contracts.

A very rough estimate of where the Red Sox will be after arbitration is about $80-90 million. Considering the fact that the Red Sox haven’t had a payroll under $120 million in almost a decade now, it’s obvious the team will have piles of money to spend. Last season’s opening-day payroll, for example, was $175 million and the two years before that were both over $160 million.

There are a countless amount of approaches the club can take to this offseason, and much of it is contingent on what the front office’s expectations for next year will be. Though reluctant to say so, it might be best to use next year as a true rebuilding and transitional season; don’t splurge on the big name free agents, continue to build the farm, and see what you have in regards to the young players that are major league ready. The Red Sox fan base is inherently spoiled at this point, and three years without playoff baseball seems like an eternity to most. But rushing things and not being realistic in terms of how good this team really is only will serve to be disingenuous and counterproductive. The reality is that the Red Sox will enter next season as underdogs and that should now be embraced. You can’t win every year, and sometimes trying to do so only backfires. This team has learned that the hard way, and now it’s time to fix things up again.

 

The first positional capsule will be the on the catching position. It is posted below. Here is the rest of the schedule for these pieces.

Saturday October 13: First Base
Sunday October 14: Second and Third Base
Monday October 15: Shortstop
Tuesday October 16: Outfield
Wednesday October 17: Starting Rotation
Thursday October 18: Bullpen

I am not exploring the DH position in depth. We know what we have in David Ortiz, and the prognosis for 2013 is completely contingent on him returning. If he returns we will be in great shape. If he doesn’t, well, we will speculate about it when and if that time comes.

Hope you enjoy, and feel free to comment.

Continue reading »

By: Nick DiBattista

Okay, so maybe Beckett wasn’t that good last season. And by not that good, I mean that he was of more use to us on the disabled list (which he spent a solid couple months on) than he was pitching.  His ERA ballooned up to 5.78, although he was a bit unlucky in addition to his ineffectiveness (.338 BA on Balls in Play). Mr. Beckett also had elevated walk and home run numbers, perhaps attributed to his injury. Either way, he was not the lone sore spot in a vaunted “paper” rotation.  John Lackey started his Red Sox career off on the right foot, but struggled in and out of grooves for most of the first half.  Lackey is an innings eater, though, and he did just that down the stretch, with 10 of his final 12 starts lasting 6 or more innings.

 

All’s not bad in the Fen, however. Lester was magical again, setting a career high in wins (19) and tying his career best in K’s (225). Daniel Bard established himself as the go to guy in the 8th inning, as well as the future closer, although that picture got a little murkier with the big name additions this offseason.  Lo and behold, the Sox staff appears loaded again, and if Beckett or Lackey (or even Dice-K) can step up their game, the rotation should provide plenty of quality starts.

STARTING ROTATION

Ace: Jon Lester

2010: 19-9, 3.35 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 225 K, 5.6 WAR

2011 Bill James Projections: 14-9, 3.53 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 193 K

Not sure if I’m missing something here.  Last time I checked, opening day left handed starters in their prime didn’t grow on trees. Why then, does the infamous Bill James have him regressing this season? James’ projections are usually optimistic if anything.  I suppose the overall regression isn’t that much, as wins are a team stat, and a 30 strikeout drop would be accurate if he were to miss a start or two.  Lester’s thrown over 200 innings the last three seasons, so hopefully that is not the case. Continue reading »

By: Sean Clifford

After a disappointing 2010 season that was marred by injuries and resulted in a third place finish in the AL East, the Red Sox have much to be excited about in 2011. Major acquisitions of 3-time All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and former Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford have created more buzz in Beantown than any offseason in recent memory. By adding these superb bats to a lineup that scored 818 runs last year, while dealing with major injuries to key contributors, the Red Sox offense has the potential to be the most explosive in all of baseball.

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez

2010: .298/.393/.511, 31 HR, 101 RBI, 5.7 oWAR, 160 GP

BJP* 2011: .312/.399/.600, 40 HR, 113 RBI, 161 GP

Ladies and gentleman, meet Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox new first baseman. He has been in the top 20 for NL MVP voting each of the past 4 seasons and has gone to 3 consecutive All Star games. His slash line from 2010 does not do him justice as he played his home games in arguably the worst hitters park in all of baseball, Petco Park. His line outside of Petco is nothing short of fantastic (.315/.402/.578) and he hit nearly twice as many homeruns on the road than he did at home. Fenway should give Gonzalez’ stats a huge boost and should make him an even more dominating presence at the plate than in years past. Also, Gonzalez is coming over from the Padres who never surrounded him with true offensive threats, whereas in Boston, he should benefit from the increased protection in the lineup. Don’t be surprised to see Adrian Gonzalez emerge as a candidate for the MVP award at the end of the season.

*Fun Fact: Fenway Park is one of only two active ballparks that Adrian Gonzalez has never played in, the other being new Yankee Stadium.*

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia

2010: .288/.367/.493, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 2.7 oWAR, 75 GP

BJP* 2011: .297/.372/.462, 17 HR, 77 RBI, 158 GP

Last season, Pedroia displayed more power than Red Sox fans have come to expect from him. Unfortunately, some of that power was on display when Dustin cracked a foul ball off his foot, breaking a bone and sidelining him for the season. Pedroia boasts one of the more impressive career resume’s with 3 All Star selections, an MVP award and a ROY award, all by the age of 27.  Continue reading »

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