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Posts Tagged ‘Jacoby Ellsbury’


2014 didn’t go well for the Red Sox. After going from last to first, and the World Series where they beat the Cardinals, they returned to last place.  There were a number of issues. Lester and Lackey were solid, but the rest of the rotation pretty much stunk. Buchholz was still trying to fix the bad mechanics he picked up when he was hurt in the latter part of 2013. Eventually they gave up on Jake Peavy’s streak of futility and Doubrant’s inability to do just about anything.

Their attempts to replace Ellsbury failed. Sizemore couldn’t maintain his hot spring, and Jackie Bradley Jr. couldn’t hit- period. With Victorino on the DL much of the year this resulted in a horribly under-producing outfield for the first half of the season. Relying on Jonny Gomes full-time isn’t a good idea.

Their infield plan of Bogaerts and Middlebrooks just didn’t work as Xander pressed after the Red Sox brought Stephen Drew back when Middlebrooks got hurt- again. Napoli was never the same after an injury, and A.J. was a cancer behind the plate.

The rebuild started mid-season as they traded or cut every starter but Buchholz and traded Gomes away. They took a chance on Allen Craig’s track record, hoping 2014 was an injury-induce aberration. They signed Rusney Castillo for the future. Out of desperation they put Mookie Betts in the outfield where he flourished on his third call up.

In the off season they got the Panda for third, making the perpetually injured Will Middlebrooks unnecessary. They also picked up Hanley Ramirez to play outfield and added Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson to Clay and Joe Kelly to replace the under-performing Webster, De La Rosa and Ranaudo.

So … they entered Spring Training with a glut of outfielders: Betts, Ramirez, Castillo, Nava, Craig, Bradley and the surgically-repaired Victorino. They also didn’t have a clear cut ace, and a suspect bullpen.

They left Spring Training with projected starting catcher Christian Vazquez in need of Tommy John surgery, their closer Koji Uehara and Joe Kelly on the DL. The excess in the outfield has Castillo and Bradley in AAA at least until there is an injury to either Victorino or Ramirez, or a trade of either Craig or Victorino. Did you get all that?

Much is made about a $72 million dollar player being in AAA. Well, that is over 6 years so $12 million average, just over $10 million this year. Victorino is making $13 million. So the money is not the issue here. Particularly when we realize Betts played his way into center. Castillo is in the big leagues long term. Next year at the very latest, but most likely earlier particularly if Victorino struggles, gets hurt or traded. Victorino has lots of rust and injury echo to shake off. He is historically not very concerned about spring training. Let’s see if Shane can show up and play every night. Unfortunately the only guys with options were Castillo, Betts and Bradley.

They want to go from last to first again. It might happen, largely because of the offense. This could be a devastating offense. Off-season surgery may have enabled Pedroia to return to being the Destroya, and Napoli to stay awake by actually sleeping at night. Napoli has been killing the ball. Betts has been getting on base and while not as dangerous as the Tiger’s line up it should be a gigantic improvement over last year’s anemic offense.

The big question is the pitching. Clay is looking more like the early 2013 Clay, who dominated, than last year’s model. Porcello is looking good. Masterson seems to have regained his arm slot and has improved velocity. Miley isn’t expected to be a 2 or 3 like in Arizona. His job is to throw 200 innings with an ERA around 4. They just need Kelly to get back quickly

Fortunately they are in a division with a bunch of flawed teams. They have a chance to take the division. But there is also a good chance they won’t. This is like a return to the old Red Sox formula: all hitting and decent pitching. It may get them to the playoffs, but I don’t think it will get them a World Series. The good news for them is that Bogaerts, Betts, Castillo and the Panda will be around for awhile. Next winter they can get some of the elite pitchers who look to be heading into free agency. Or bring up some of their top pitching prospects. They have moved in the right direction, but probably not far enough (yet) to add another title.

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The 2014 season seemed promising for the defending World Series champion Red Sox. They returned almost all of their starting rotation. The missing member of the 6 primary starters from the previous season was its weakest link: Dempster. The bullpen was largely intact as well. The pitching seemed to be ready to go. The one mystery was how Buchholz would bounce back from the injuries that hampered him for the 2nd half of the season.

They had a number of new players in key positions. Two were highly touted rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. Ellsbury would be missed in terms of offense but they hoped to make that up with Xander’s estimated production to be far greater the Stephen Drew’s. I was not wild about the signing of Pierzynski but his offense was expected to compensate to the loss of Saltalamacchia (he was go from .273 to a paltry .220 with the Marlins). The hope was for Middlebrooks to bounce back.

The plan was slightly altered when Grady Sizemore had an awesome camp and make the opening day roster. Looked great but then he failed to produce at the same pace. Or nearly any pace.

But I get slightly ahead of myself. All the breaks that went their way in 2013 didn’t in 2014. The new replay system seemed stacked against them in the first month as everyone tried to adjust. Lots of blown calls seemed to go against them. Some of these were game changers, or so it seemed.

Another thing that went right in 2013 is that a high number of players who played above their means. They had above average seasons, often career years. Saltalamacchia, Nava, Carp had career best seasons. Papi hit exceedingly well for his age. He hit for average and power. Napoli bounced back to have a good offensive season as did Victorino. Part of what went wrong was regression to mean for the players still on the roster, and not on the injured list.

The main problems initially were a lack of production from the outfield. Nava was pressing and in a big slump to start the season. Victorino was hurt and the combination of Sizemore and Bradley hit about .220. Middlebrooks continued to struggle. The offense was stagnant. Even Pedroia and Papi got off to a slow start. Seemed like the only guys who didn’t were Napoli and Xander.

Buccholz was just plain horrible. New reliever Mujica was too, and blew some games early. Peavy just couldn’t buy a break.

And then the real problems started. Napoli injured a finger and was never the same. Middlebrooks got hurt, again. This “forced” them to re-sign Drew and shift Xander to 3rd. For the first time in his career, shortly after the switch, Xander entered a big, ugly slump. Unknown to the rest of the world, Pedroia was still hurt and not productive at the plate though he still played stellar defense. But he was the only one. Okay, Bradley was playing fantastic defense. Xander struggled at third, and they couldn’t throw a base runner out.

The changes started to come fast and furious. They gave up on Sizemore and cut him (he was hitting .216 at the time and hit a slightly more respectable .243 for the Phillies). Pierzynki was cut (he hit .254 for the Sox and would go on to the Cards and hit .244 for them on the way to the playoffs). Peavy (1-9, 4.72) was traded to San Francisco where he was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA helping the Giants make the playoffs. Amid tons of chatter about signing an extension, Lester was traded to the A’s who he helped make the playoffs. Lackey was sent to St. Louis whom he helped make the playoffs. Noticing a theme here? Let’s not forget trading Miller to division champion Baltimore.

One plus was that Christian Vasquez had the opportunity to show he can handle a staff and throw out runners. His production was not great, but he stopped the other teams that ran at will on Boston early in the season. Those runs saved amount to something important.

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With the 2014 Red Sox still under .500, the Boston sports media has a new hobby. They keep talking about who should get traded from these Red Sox since, they think, this team’s season is over.

I can understand some of the push to trade players come July. I am in favor of that if they aren’t in the race. It would potentially give some of the younger players time to get used to life in the Big Leagues.

My problem is the guys they think we should trade. I hear about Lester, Lackey and Uehara. These guys make the least sense when you are talking about trades. Why? There is no one in the system who can replace them.

Jon Lester is a home-grown guy. Apart from his battle with cancer years ago he has been healthy as the workhorse he is. He is a known commodity who gives you 200+ innings every year and most of the time has a sub-.400 ERA. He has proven post-season dominance. Proven in the harsh environment of Boston with the media and demanding fans. Unlike Kirk Minihane, no one knows if Lester is leaving our not after this season. He likes it here. The Red Sox did seem to make a tactical error with a low offer. They do want to continue discussions. I can understand why they didn’t open the money bags for Ellsbury, but he’s not Ellsbury. Jacoby was often hurt and Jon hasn’t been hurt. They had a comparable player in the minors ready to take his place, and the hitting should eventually get there as it has at every other level along the way. But while there are some MLB worthy pitchers in the system, it is doubtful they will be as dominant as Lester in the next 5 years. They should pay him. They can’t control if he chases the money, and would get a compensatory pick. But trading him, unless you get a similar pitcher is crazy. And that pitcher has to fit in Boston. Scherzer is available this off season. But he finally pitched a complete game, and while in a good baseball city hasn’t had to pitch in Boston for a whole season. In other words, he is far more of a gamble than Lester’s health!

Lackey is also a top of rotation pitcher. He has no immediate replacement in the system. You don’t need replacements for Ortiz, Napoli, Pedroia, Bogaerts or Bradley. Nava has regained his swing and should produce again (is producing again). So what do you get, and is that worth trading a 1/2 starter? Not in my book.

I can’t find the article advocating a trade for Koji, at the peak of his value. Who closes for you? That’s all I ask? Miller and Tazawa have not proven capable of closing when they have had the opportunity. Does anyone remember how hard it was to get a closer after Papelbon left? Yes, he’s at high value right now. So … you have to replace him.

These are players who make up your core moving forward. They are not your problem, and can’t fix your problem. Trading them creates a new problem. In other words, such a trade normally makes a “big splash” (which the media likes) but tends to keep a team non-competitive. You just have new problems.

Most projections I’ve read for guys like Owens, Webster, Ranaudo etc. have been 3/4 in the rotation. Not aces. Hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Trades at this point for the Red Sox seem to be more about enabling the future to happen than re-stocking. You want to get rid of guys who open the door for people young pitchers or catchers. The guys you trade are people like Peavy or AJ. They won’t get you a treasure trove of prospects or MLB players, but to a desperate contender you will get more than what they are worth. They allow you to bring up (or keep up) Workman, Vazquez etc. You also have time to wait for Betts and Cecchini (or Middlebrooks).

Media guys don’t have the best interest of the team in mind. Often fans don’t either. Let’s leave it to the professionals to figure all that out.

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2012 was a nightmare year for the Red Sox. They were mediocre until the Nick Punto Trade. After the trade that freed up all that money for the future, they were downright horrible.

2013 was in incredible surprise. I thought they would be good, but not World Series Champion good until about August. The hopes of Red Sox Nation were restored. The new model seemed to pay off: no long term contracts, overpay if you need to to do it.

Then came the off season. I will admit, I thought they would be better than they have been. But it seems that Ben over-played his hand. There was too much change. I saw recently that most World Series Champions experience about 20% roster change. The question is, what 20% should change. In 2004 they lost Pedro and Damon. Those were very big pieces to lose. In 2005 they were good but were quickly dumped from the playoffs from the eventual World Series Champion White Sox.

They seemed to learn the lesson. After the 2007 championship, they held on to Mike Lowell who was their primary free agent. It would be a mistake as his hips betrayed him. It nearly paid off as they got all the way to game 7 of the ALCS. All they needed was either a healthy Lowell or Beckett to return to the World Series.

After the victory in 2013 they had some difficult decisions to make as Ellsbury, Napoli, Drew and Saltalamacchia were free agents. All of them were key starters. They made reasonable attempts to retain Napoli and Drew. They made a feeble attempt to retain Ellsbury. Who knows, if they made a real offer during the exclusive negotiation period he might not have gone to the Yankees. I would not pay him what they paid him, but I certainly would have offered him more than they did. They decided to move on from Salty.

The reasons for both were the development of prospects at short (Bogaerts), center (Bradley) and catcher (Vazquez and Swihart). The result was that they had a new catcher to buy time for the prospects, an inexperienced left side of the infield in Middlebrooks and Bogaerts and an inexperienced centerfielder. They also took a gamble on a rebuilt Grady Sizemore who looked very promising in Spring Training but created a log jam in the outfield.

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Many Boston Red Sox fans, self included, are still on a World Series championship high. It was an off-season that had a bit of drama as Jacoby Ellsbury left to don pinstripes, Jerrod Saltalamacchia went home to the Marlins, and Stephen Drew entered the nether world after turning down the Red Sox’ qualifying offer. They retained Mike Napoli, took a flyer on Grady Sizemore and signed some more arms for the bullpen.

Spring Training itself was relatively quiet. Ryan Dempster, for whom they overpaid in the previous off season, decided to sit out the season with a variety of injuries and a desire to spend more time with family. It was a bit of a shock that solved one of the Red Sox’ “problems” since they had 6 pro level starters. We should have seen the Big Papi drama coming. He craves security, as well as the spotlight. They ended up signing him to an extension that should result in Ortiz retiring as a member of the Red Sox. I have no problem with the deal since he is still one of the best hitters in the big leagues. The option years have benchmarks that should mean they don’t end up in a Yankee’s like situation of paying a nearly useless player lots of money. The other storyline of importance (Peavy’s injury wasn’t much of a distraction when it was all said and done) was about who would play centerfield: Bradley or Sizemore. This was prompted by Sizemore’s amazing return to health and a level of play reminiscent of his days as an All-Star for the Indians. Bradley’s offensive struggles didn’t help his cause. Proving that he can play 4 days in a row, at a high level, sealed the deal and Sizemore has been named the opening day centerfielder.

The Outfield As a nameless GM said, the Red Sox should ride the Sizemore horse as long as they can. This means that as long as he plays they experience little to no drop off in play after losing Jacoby. He is an experienced lead off man (though he won’t play that role immediately,Nava will play that role) who is probably a better defender than Jacoby (whose speed covered a multitude of sins on his initial reads) and has more power than Jacoby. He won’t steal anywhere near the number of bases as Jacoby, but he can steal a few bags. He has thus far proven more healthy than Jacoby. If he does get hurt, Bradley can more than fill his shoes defensively and hopefully he’ll sort out the offensive issues he had this spring. Victorino can do spot starts in center, but he will mostly patrol right field, assuming he’s healthy. Last year he provided the best right field defense of any Sox player since Dwight Evans. That is saying something. Nava and Gomes will likely platoon in left giving the Red Sox an outfield with 2 excellent, 1 good and 1 mediocre defender but all hitters who help the team. Should the bodies start dropping, in addition to Bradley, they have the revived Brentz to play right field. He displayed the power that could make him a middle of the line up guy at some point. (more…)

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I had the expectation that the Red Sox could make the playoffs. I saw many of the issues from 2012 resolved by the changes that the front office made. They got some guys known to love playing the game, and able to grind out at bats. The previous season they lost plate discipline. I expected the starters to return to much better form than they exhibited the previous year. I can’t see Lester and Buchholz having lost it. Guys can just have bad years, and when there is turmoil in the club house it is hard to focus on your job. So, I expected both the pitching and hitting to be better.

I didn’t expect a World Series. As the season developed, I saw it as a distinct possibility particularly after soundly beating the Tigers and Dodgers late in the season. I was encouraged in that they didn’t have any big losing streaks.

I was also encouraged by their resiliency. They survived after Clay’s rather inexplicable injury. They survived season-ending injures to the 2 men competing to be the closer: Hanrahan and Bailey. It was disconcerting to see Miller also go down with an injury, but they had enough depth to deal with his loss in the bull pen. It was Pedroia, in my mind, that set the pace for the team. He suffered a thumb injury in the season opener and kept playing. His power numbers were down, but he still hit for average and still played exceptional defense, earning a Gold Glove award.

A tragedy like the Marathon bombings could have distracted them. In this case it drew them together and provided them with additional motivation. Some analysts have said they took off after this, but they were playing great ball with great results before the Patriots’ Day tragedy and the following hysteria until the brothers were killed and captured by authorities.

One concern was their hitting against the elite pitchers, particularly lefties. Sometimes funny things happen and the Red Sox ended up facing 3 of the best pitching staffs in the Rays, Tigers and Cardinals in the playoffs. Not an easy assignment. Thankfully the Red Sox had a pretty good staff of their own. Ellsbury carried them offensively in the first round. Papi was a consistent force in the last 2 rounds. There were surprising contributions from Gomes, Victorino and Napoli who struggled offensively. They had just enough offense to win these pitching battles.

It ended up being a very satisfying.

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In the last 2 seasons the Boston Red Sox have not lived up to expectations. Before the 2011 season some proclaimed the “best team in baseball”. They certainly had talent, but winning baseball games is about more than having talent. The 2011 and 2012 seasons were painful lessons illustrating this.

Heading into the current season, most analysts and fans were down on the Red Sox. They looked at the Blue Jays’ acquisitions (forgetting the lessons they should have learned from the ’11 Sox and ’12 Angels) and anticipated the Rays and O’s to continue to play well thereby giving the Red Sox a snowball’s chance in Hades.

I, and a few others, were not so negative. I saw a number of positive things- particularly a return to the plate approach that had made them successful in the past. Others talked about how they wouldn’t score runs. I begged to differ. So far I am right. They have one of the most productive offenses in baseball.

Pedroia (USA Today Sports)

What is amazing is that this has happened without Middlebrooks being a middle of the line up bat. Or even productive. Or even in the majors. Big Papi has picked up where he left off with a new plate approach gained from conversations with A-Gon(e). There was a tangible benefit from that trade for Alex Gonzalez: the new and improved David Ortiz. He has simply been great the last 2 seasons. When on the field. This was a major concern after missing the last third of ’12 and all of Spring Training. But he has not had any problems with the foot. He has even stolen bases. This is a great sign.

Napoli started the season like a man on a mission. But it is a season, not a month. He struggled in June. As July has come on he has pulled out of his slump and shown a resurgence of power. He still strikes out more than you’d like but he drives in lots of runs and sees lots of pitches. He has also been more than serviceable in the field. He’s not a Gold Glove candidate but he’s not an error-machine either. With Pedrioa’s steady and often spectacular defense, the Red Sox have had a consistently good right side of the infield. Dustin has been spectacular. He has made so many amazing and crucial plays it is uncanny. While his power numbers have been down, he is still doing his job at the plate. I can’t fathom why he was only 3rd in AL All-Star voting for 2nd. Apparently no one is watching the Destroyer play. When you consider he’s playing with a completely torn ligament in his thumb, it is even more amazing. Petey is just amazing and we need to enjoy the greatness while it remains.

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