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Posts Tagged ‘Jason Bay’


Photo by Stuart Cahill

It is becoming most likely that both Jason Bay and Mike Lowell will be spending 2010 someplace other than Boston.  The left side of the field may see a complete turnover.  What gives?

Two words: offense, defense.

Defense: Lowell’s hip injury made him one of the worst 3rd basemen in baseball.  His recovery may be complete now, and he may do better next year.  But the run differential there was just too big.   The Red Sox decided they could not take the risk.  If you have great pitchers, why give the opposition some free hits?  Lowell, sadly not the defender he once was, was doing just that.

Bay’s defense was average at best.  He was better than Manny Ramirez, but that is not saying much.  One reason Texiera got so much money is that he was an elite hitter AND fielder.  Bay’s estimate of his value (greatly jaded by his agent no doubt) is overestimated, in part due to a failure to recognize his shortcomings in the field.

Offense: Both Lowell and Bay love to pull the ball.  That is a great strategy in Fenway Park.  It has that short left field.  But that strategy doesn’t always play well elsewhere.  A basehit in Fenway (thanks to that Wall) is an out in many other parks.  This was the problem Theo was talking about after the Red Sox wilted against the Angels.  Theo wants a more balanced offense to widen that run differential.  With better defense, and guys who can hit at Fenway and away from Fenway, they will get more wins and more easily.

Though these two guys are good/great teammates, and play hard each and every night, their shortcomings created problems for the Red Sox.  Those shortcomings led to their quick playoff exit.  Theo is in the process of addressing those shortcomings.  It may be painful now, but perhaps it will be a great relief later.

Update: we could include health.  Lowell’s issues are well documented.  But the Red Sox have reservations about Bay’s knee and shoulder which may have affected his game mid-season.

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The Annual Winter Meetings of MLB will be taking place this week.  The free agent signings have begun, but the biggest fish remain to be caught.  A few minor trades have taken place, but there may be some big ones to emerge as GMs and agents converge.

Going into the meetings, the Red Sox have lost 2 players from last season.  Billy Wagner and Saito have both shifted to the formerly of Boston now Atlanta Braves.  Losing Wagner, a type-A free agent, freed up the possibility of solving Theo’s perpetual SS dilemma by signing free agent Marco Scutaro.

Some people have been critical of this move.  But Theo did not pull another Lugo (or Renteria).  The deal was for only 2 years (not 4), and is affordable by baseball standards.

This allows for one of two things to happen.  Either, Jed Lowrie proves he can stay healthy and productive, or more importantly international free agent signee Iglesias proves he can hit as well as field.  The Red Sox have a solid defender who can get on base and score runs in Scutaro.  Though 2009 was his best year he may benefit from being in a better line up and seeing better pitches.  One of the main needs for the Red Sox has been addressed.

That leaves left field as the biggest problem to be addressed.  Jason Bay, in the eyes of some, is their best bet.  I beg to differ.  Yes, Holliday will cost more money.  But his average production is better than Jason Bay’s.  Even when you look at this past year, Holliday is a better hitter.  Holliday strikes out considerably less than Bay.  This means he puts the ball in play more often which means that runners can advance instead of stifling the offense.  He does hit, on average, into 2 more double plays per season than Bay.  He also hits for a bit more power.  His defense is also better than Bay’s.  Bigger bat, and so is his glove.  Theo should be willing to pay a little more to get a better player.

Much has been made about a possible trade for Padres’ first baseman Adrian Gonazalez.  The Red Sox have some chips in major league ready players that could make it possible.  They can offer Lowrie and Casey Kotchman in addition to a few prospects.  Hoyer’s past with the Red Sox can work for him in this regard.  He knows the best players the Red Sox have in their system.

If they were able to pull that off (thereby getting a 2nd big bat to make it a lethal offense) it would make Lowell expendable.  I hate saying that.  He’s, by all accounts, a great guy and has played well for the Red Sox.  But Youk could shift back to 3rd, improving our defense.

This could be an important series of meetings.  I don’t expect the Red Sox to sign a left fielder, but I do expect that a lot of the groundwork for that signing and any important trades should be laid.  It should be a busy week for Theo.

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Boston.com reports that John Henry cut 1/4 of the staff of his Florida investment firm.  He has taken some big losses in the market (most of us have, except my friend in prison who has been able to make money).

This makes me wonder about the Red Sox payroll.  In recent years they have not kept up with the Yankees’ payroll.  They have tried to integrate young talent, and have made some good deals to keep young talent at reasonable prices.  But where the Yankees have continued to expand their payroll the Red Sox have not.  The Red Sox no longer have the 2nd highest payroll, but are slowly sliding down the scale.

Our New LF?

As the Red Sox sought to extend Jason Bay, they just couldn’t seem to get it done.  They didn’t offer the money he wanted, and possibly the number of years.  Now that he is on the market, they probably won’t be able to afford him with suitors like the Yankees (unless they get Holliday), Mets and Giants interested in adding a big bat (4 teams, 2 big bats, you do the math).

Josh Beckett has approached the Red Sox about an extension.  But Peter Gammons notes that he may want Sabathia-type money, which the Red Sox are loathe to give a pitcher over 30.  If they can’t compete in 2010, they may trade him (or trade him to compete in 2010).  Otherwise, they may have to let him go and use the compensatory picks.

John Henry’s financial troubles may mean some cost-cutting down on Yawkey Way.  It may mean that the Red Sox can’t compete with other big market teams for top free agents and international players for a few years.  It just makes we wonder, is our ride of success just about over?

Case in point- Jeremy Hermida.  His role on the 2010 Red Sox was not defined in the press conference.  They talked about his potential, the potential that has had them interested in him for years but which has not turned into reality.  Of course, in Florida he has not been surrounded by good to great players that offer any protection (Hanley Ramirez’ stats truly are amazing in THAT line-up).  Truth be told, I was one of those sucked in by his “potential” a few years ago, drafting him in a fantasy league.  It was supposed to be his breakout year.  Theo is hoping this turns into his breakout year in a park suited to this swing and a team that might need him to swap sides of the field.  Yes, the Sox may still spend money since they generate so much money, but they may not be willing to spend the $18-20 million/year necessary to bring back Bay or lock up Holliday.  So Hermida may be a low-cost option in LF.  He might not, but he might.  Then again, he might be trade bait, as Harold Reynolds thinks.

The key signal to which way the Red Sox go is not just the free agent market, but whether they can get the Padres to trade Adrian Gonzalez.  He would be a monster, people think, at Fenway.  But after the uncertainty of whether or not ownership will use him to rebuild, there is the price to be paid and whether or not a suitable deal can be made.  Keep watching.

Update: MLBTradeRumors speculates that the Red Sox sign Jason Bay, oft-injured Rich Harden, Mark Scutaro, and Cuban hurler Aroldis Chapman.  I’m not sure I see them spending that much money, but I’d welcome most of those moves.

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In the midst of juggling my 3 jobs, I’ve decided to come up for air and talk some Boston Red Sox.  Many commentators are focusing on their offense, as if it won’t get it done.

Let’s look back at last season.  We had a less than healthy Papi, a nearly crippled Mike Lowell, an injured Josh Beckett and an absent Wakefield.  Turns out our starting shortstop had a fracture in his wrist too.  Both our hitting and pitching were in trouble.  And we were one win away from the World Series.

This was because Dustin Pedroia continued to improve, and Youk had a career year.  Jon Lester discovered how to pitch deep, and strong.  Dice-K was one lucky guy with a big WHIP and low ERA to garner a good win total.

I’m not as pessimistic about this season as some people.  Yeah, no Money-Ramirez.  That also means far less drama. Jason Bay, while not the one man wrecking crew that an interested Man-Ram can be, is a very good hitter and a better defender who will give you a good effort night after night.  Papi no longer has to worry about his wrist, and Lowell will be healthy.  I don’t expect the 2007 Lowell, since he’s 2 years older, but he should still put up respectable offensive numbers for a 3rd baseman.

What excites me about the 2009 Red Sox is the pitching staff.  We seem to be witnessing a return of Beckett 2007, which means he could be a dominating pitcher now that he’s healthy again.  He has been that guy in Spring Training (yeah, it’s only Spring Training), which he wasn’t last year. 

Although we aren’t sure what we are going to get from Penny and Smoltz, if they flounder we could have Buchholz 2007 to step in.  He seems to have regained a good arm slot, and his confidence.  He’s not the tentative pitcher who was giving up runs like a 2-for-1 special was going on.  Lester has offered us no reason to doubt he’ll continue his domination of hitters.  He’s confident and strong.  With Penny and Smoltz, the Red Sox can occasionally rest Lester, Beckett, and especially Wakefield.

The bull pen should be better (though bull pens are tempermental things).  Masterson was the key to making it steady last year.  If Delcarmen can be consistent (which he seemed to be after Masterson joined the pen), and Saito can set-up and occasionally close, we can have a healthy, aggressive Papelbon for the playoffs.

Pitching wins championships, and the Red Sox have a championship caliber pitching staff.  While their offense will not reach the heights of the 2003-4 Red Sox, it should be more than sufficient to provide the runs this staff needs to be very successful.

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Globe staff/Jim Davis

Globe staff/Jim Davis

I was nearly jumping for joy with them after an exciting final 2 innings to last night’s game.  Jon Lester continues to build a reputation as a money pitcher, throwing 7 shutout innings that was nearly wasted by a spent bullpen.

Francona made an uncharacteristic mistake, I think, by pulling Okajima.  Another walk, a passed ball and Hunter’s timely hit tied that game.  Maybe Okalima would have surrendered a home run.  I don’t know.  But I didn’t like it then.

After Shields got the heart of our line up out in the 8th, I thought it was going to be another marathon session.  That is until the Angels had a man on 3rd in the 9th.  An incredible play by the Captain to end the threat.  Yes, a bit controversial- but the ball was knocked out by the ground, not the tag.  Like Cal Ripken, it would be interesting to see what the rule book actually states.  I think they made a reasonable call- but I am biased.  [what is different here from a play at the plate is that Varitek clearly had possession & control of the ball prior to the tag- he’d run 90 feet with it.  in a play at the plate, the action happens so fast the ump can’t be sure if the catcher has control of the ball until after the play is done.  if ESPN asked for my opinion to refute their ‘expert analysts’, I suspect they might go ‘hmmm, hadn’t thought of that.’]

It seemed like the Angels got a break on that ground rule double by Bay.  Especially when Teixeira grabbed that screaming line drive down the line.  But another Red Sox rookie came through as Lowrie dumped a single into right field so Bay could get home.  Awesome ending (unless you cheer for the Angels).

Now the Rays- a solid, gutsy team.  When the Rays won the regular season series the Sox were struggling with injuries to Lowell, Drew & Beckett.  Yes, Longoria and Crawford were out too.  What I didn’t know until yesterday was that Drew led the Sox with game-winning RBI, despite missing a good chunk of the season to back injuries.  His effortless defense, combined with that, gives him an edge of Crawford (a player I really like).

So now we see who is better- the battered Sox who just dispatched the team with the best record in baseball, or the upstarts who eliminated a one dimensional team in the White Sox.  Make no mistake- the Rays can win this series.  They are good enough and deep enough.  They got rid of the clubhouse distractions and have lots of character guys who also play very well.  This is no lopsided series.  The Rays have the Red Sox’ respect.

I think the Red Sox will win due to the intangibles.  It is not just having been there before- but succeeding there before.  They’ve developed a great system of scouting teams and prepping players that pays dividends in the playoffs.  They have a few days to put together a game plan they can execute.  That gives them an edge- not a guarantee, but an edge.  It should be fun to watch.

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Photo by Reuters

Photo by Reuters

Yes, I stayed up well past midnight, though I nearly fell asleep at 9.  I was in the intermediate state where I’m semi-conscious and snoring, but don’t realize it.  This is much to CavWife’s consternation.  I went to bed after Big Papi’s single in the 9th gave the Red Sox another insurance run.  I was confident enough in Papelbon to head to bed.

Keys to the Game

  • Jon Lester– he struggled early but worked his way out of trouble repeatedly.  A rare Jed Lowrie error on what would have been the 3rd out allowed the Angels to score their only run.  Since Lackey was shutting the Sox down, it looked like it may have been enough.  But Lester got better as the game wore on, getting his last 7 batters out.  He was still throwing a mid-high 90’s fastball after 100 pitches.  He continues on the path of establishing himself as an ace.
  • Jason Bay– after striking out twice, Jason got the Sox first hit with a man on base, driving a Lackey mistake into the left field seats to give the Red Sox the lead in the 6th.  He was 2-4 with 2 extra base hits in his first professional playoff game.  No jitters here!
  • Angels’ 8th Inning
  1. Jason Ellsbury made a fantastic catch to start the inning.  The Angels get that hit and the inning could have had a different outcome.  He saved rookie Justin Masterson from a messy situation.  His performance at the plate, and basepaths certainly didn’t hurt matters.  With Ellsbury on track the Red Sox are dangerous.
  2. Vlad moved like he was 300.  He moves like he is in constant pain.  As he sat on first base I was hoping this would be to our advantage.  It did when he tried to take 3rd on Hunter’s bloop single.
  3. Youkilis traps the bloop single and comes up throwing.  It was a great play by Youk to minimize the damage (probably a bit of luck too).  He didn’t give up on the play, and was able to throw out  the creeky Vlad at 3rd by 15 feet.  This kept Masterson out of a serious jam.

Though the Angels dominated the season series, the Red Sox continued their playoff domination of the Angels.  They have now won 10 straight against the Angels dating back to 1986.  They beat them in ’86, ’04 and ’07 on their way to the World Series.  But this series is NOT over- the Angels are a very good team.

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For a team in the midst of a playoff hunt, injuries are not very helpful.  Injuries have been an issue for the Red Sox all season long.  The latest batch of injuries had Josh Beckett, J.D. Drew and Sean Casey all visiting the doctor today.

Despite the injuries, the Red Sox have weathered the storm okay.  They haven’t gained ground on the Rays, but they haven’t lost ground either.  Theo has made some waiver wire moves to support the team in the face of injuries picking up Paul Byrd and Mark Kotsay.

The Sox got good news on the Josh Beckett front.  He’ll rest another week, and should start again next Friday.  This is quite important.  They could make a playoff push without Drew.  They can probably get to the playoffs without Beckett, but to win in the playoffs without Beckett and Schilling would be near impossible.  I’m not sure I can trust Dice-K in the playoffs yet.  But Beckett and Lester provide 2 great performers that could carry the Sox staff in the playoffs.  Take out Josh, and it is probably one and done.

Jason Bay has been a fantastic addition for the Sox.  His production has exceeded Manny’s while with Boston this year.  Speaking of Manny, I don’t think he’s missed a game or gone to the doctor with that injured knee.  In fact, he’s been hitting great and running out plays, even stealing a base, like all is well.  Certainly leads one to believe he was faking it like in previous years’ hamstring issues.  I’m glad the Diva is gone.  He had some great years in Boston, but he was unreliable.  Imagine what his numbers would be if he gave a consistently good effort?

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