Category Archives: Boston Red Sox

Red Sox Report: “The Ground Ball Effect”

 

Justin Masterson pitching for the Boston Red Sox

He may have had a 5.88 ERA last year, but Justin Masterson plays an integral part in the Red Sox plan for 2015.

I don’t think there has ever been a team in recent memory that has inspired such wildly inconsistent predictions from baseball analysts than the 2015 Boston Red Sox.

While the Red Sox have been favored by many to win the AL pennant, some think the AL East is up for grabs, let alone the AL pennant.

There is optimism for the season ahead, especially considering it can’t get too much worse than a last place finish in the AL East. The doubt in the minds of many, however, stems from the pitching rotation, and rightfully so.

The starting pitching rotation far from inspires optimism. Clay Buchholz is in contention for shakiest ace in the history of the MLB. Rick Porcello and Wade Miley can pitch and eat up innings, which helps the bullpen – but aren’t exactly what you would consider conventional starters on a playoff team, let alone championship team. The same goes for Justin Masterson and “Machine Gun” Joe Kelly, who round out the starters.

This rotation seems underwhelming… at least typed out on a computer screen. I’d like to think otherwise. John Farrell and the front office certainly do.

The fact is, the pitching may rely on the Red Sox positional players for support, and no, I don’t mean just the potentially lethal lineup. As it stands, Red Sox starting rotation has an averaged ground ball rate of over 50%, led by Masterson’s 56%. With ground-ball pitchers, comes heavy reliance on the infield, which figures to be solid all around including an improved Bogaerts manning shortstop.

Will this work? Can the Red Sox get by with this rotation? The Red Sox seem to think so. It’s not a conventional rotation staff led by power pitchers, but at least there is a plan – a plan that feels so experimental, it seems more like a case study. With that, I’d like to dub this pitching case study as “The Ground Ball Effect”. I just hope Ben Cherington doesn’t lose the Phillies front office phone number when the trade deadline comes around, because the Red Sox might find themselves needing a Cole Hamels.

 

Red Sox Are Betting On Efficiency

I recently read an excellent article written by Alex Speier of the Boston Globe that I believe offers a great deal of perspective on both the Red Sox’ offseason strategy and their plan moving forward. There has been popular sentiment among most Red Sox fans that the team’s offseason goals remain incomplete due to the lack of an “established ace;” whether that deficiency changes the Red Sox’ postseason aspirations remains to be seen. However in the article mentioned above, Speier examines the returns on $20 million Average Annual Value contracts for pitchers, and then compares them to drafted amateurs who earned a bonus of $5 million or more, and Cuban free agents who received a bonus of $10 million or more. The article is definitely worth a read for more in-depth analysis, but the main conclusion is that while you generally get what you pay for, future considerations favor the Red Sox’ offseason strategy.

1 Hanley + 1 Sandoval = 1 Lester

1 Hanley + 1 Sandoval = 1 Lester

The first part of Speier’s article asks why the Red Sox flexed their financial muscle on Yoan Moncada instead of Jon Lester. This is really not a fair comparison, since the $63 million the team spent on Moncada (including the overage tax) is roughly one-third of what Lester eventually received from the Cubs in free agency ($180 million, including a seventh year option). Instead, let us compare Lester’s signing to what the Red Sox actually did with the money they saved from his defection. The Red Sox spent about $183 million to sign Hanley Ramirez AND Pablo Sandoval, effectively getting two above average players instead of one. While there is still room for improvement in the rotation, the lineup was also a major issue last season and getting two above average bats for the price of one above average starting pitcher should be applauded.

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Moncada Signing Solidifies Red Sox Infield

First a little disclaimer: the headline might be somewhat misleading. The Red Sox’ signing of Cuban uber-prospect Yoan Moncada does seem to stabilize the team’s infield picture, but for the future, meaning two or three years down the line. There is no current opening in the Red Sox infield, but there should be by the time Moncada is ready to show the world why the Red Sox just paid $31.5 million to a 19 year-old who has never played baseball in the United States. The tools, talent, and projectability are allegedly off the charts, so once he is ready the Red Sox might more or less have to find a spot for him, but it might not be as hard as it sounds.

Consider the Red Sox infield picture beyond the 2015 season; Mike Napoli is headed for free agency, and while he says he would like to stay beyond this season, there probably won’t be much motivation for the Red Sox to get something done beyond a one-year deal. So that leaves Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval locked up long-term, plus Xander Bogaerts sticking around at shortstop. However, given Sandoval’s less-than-inspiring physique (plus his career 0 DRS and 2.2 UZR at third), it might be best to move him to first base in the long term. If injuries or weight really become an issue, he could even DH on a near full-time basis, thereby leaving first base open for Hanley Ramirez. Regardless, the first base/DH duties should go between Sandoval and Ramirez, in whatever order the Red Sox see fit.

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Romo is a Good Target for Red Sox

sergio romoWhile we find ourselves in the midst of the Winter Meetings frenzy, the Stove is currently as Hot as it has been all offseason, with no signs of cooling ahead. Now that a certain starting pitcher has left for windier pastures, it is time for the Red Sox to move forward with their off-season plan. While it is true that the team is still in desperate need of multiple quality starters, a need also exists in the bullpen for a quality late-inning guy. The Red Sox did extend Koji Uehara at the very beginning of the offseason, but he probably should not be expected to hold down the back of the bullpen on his own. Enter Sergio Romo.



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There have been recent rumors that the Red Sox have, in fact, been interested in Romo this offseason (along with the Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees). This interest is merited since: 1) Romo has been very good throughout his career, and 2) the Red Sox have a need in the back of their bullpen. Romo is a good fit because he spent the first part of his career, and even parts of 2014, pitching in the eighth inning as a very valuable setup man. Since Uehara will most likely be pitching in the ninth (at least to start), it would be important to sign a reliever who has experience setting up and can move between roles as needed. His additional experience closing games (78 career Saves) over the past two-plus seasons with the Giants adds another valuable element: that Romo can slide into the closer’s role should Uehara decline or fatigue (again) in 2015.

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Jon Lester Signs with Cubs

Sorry Red Sox Nation. Jon Lester isn’t coming back to Fenway as a member of the Red Sox this year or ever. Instead of a jubilant homecoming, Lester has agreed to play for Theo Epstein’s Cubs in the North Side of Chicago, and instead of trying to help the Red Sox win their fourth title of the 21st century; he’ll be trying to help the Cubs win their first in over 105 years.

World Series - St Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox - Game One

For Red Sox fans, they cannot be mad Lester, or blame him for not signing with the Red Sox since they made him a very low offer last year at an extension, an offer so low it was insult to the ace of the club, and then traded him at the trade deadline.

Now the Red Sox must focus on picking up at least two other starters to start the season. They are currently negotiating with Justin Masterson who has had a decent career since being traded to the Indians from the Red Sox in 2009 for Victor Martinez. At best Masterson is a number 3 starter, and wouldn’t quite bolster the starting rotation.

If they are able to sign Masterson they will still wither have to go after a free agent pitcher like James Shields, or get on the phone and pull a trigger on a trade. At this time the most likely trade and best for the club would be with the Philadelphia Phillies for ace, Cole Hamels.

Hamels has a hefty contract but his career numbers are similar to those of Jon Lester. He would cost a little less in salary than Lester, but the Red Sox would still have to part ways with players in order to get him.

At this point the Red Sox need to do everything they can to stay in contention in 2015, especially after all the money they spent on Sandavol and Hanley Ramirez.

So Ben, get on your iPhone and start making calls!!!!!!

Jon Lester Watch: 2014 (Live Updates)

10:07:

It seems this is officially a two team race between the Red Sox and Cubs as Dylan Hernandez of the LA Time has reported the Dodgers are OUT. Thats 2 teams knocked out in less than an hour. We are getting very close.

9:20pm:

Jon Lester has Called the Giants and has told them, he will not be signing there. That leaves 3 teams in the race, and if Lester is on the phone, we might have a decision very soon!

8:00pm:

It appears all teams involved with Lester are backing off and are now just waiting for him to decide. The Red Sox have said they have showed him everything they have to offer, and Theo Epstein and the Cubs say now they need to let Lester have his space.

4:52pm:

Catcher David Ross has a meeting with the Cubs tonight. Why is this important? Because Ross has been Lester’s personal catcher over the past 2 seasons with the Red Sox. If the Cubs are meeting with Ross, this most likely means they are very close to signing Lester. OR they may be trying to sign him to lure Lester to Chicago. Things are really starting to get interesting.

Tuesday 4:40pm:

Its been quiet on the Lester front so far today, but Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston has quoted the GM of San Fran of saying they are in the backseat and that “heartstrings” may play a big role. That might be mean Boston, but it might mean the Cubs. Lester of course has ties with Theo Epstein and most of the Cubs front office all of who were with the Red Sox for the majority of Lesters career.

(9:54pm) The MLB Network is now reporting that the Red Sox are OUT on Lester. San Fran has now seems like the most likely landing spot, and right now Lester is their only focus.

(8:42pm) Jason Mastrodonato from Masslive.com didn’t think Cherington sounded too optimistic about Lester back with the Red Sox:

Hopefully this means that a decision is coming tonight.

(8:25pm) At some point tonight or tomorrow, we’ll know where Jon Lester is heading. As of now the belief is there are four teams in play for the lefty: The Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Boston Red Sox.

lester watch

Despite an earlier report by Ken Rosenthal, it appears the Red Sox are still in contention according to his agents, and Lester and his agents will be meeting with the Red Sox front office later tonight.

As for manager John Farrell, he told the media that he is still confident the Red Sox can sign him:

The meeting tonight between the Red Sox and Lester may be in place to give the Red Sox one final chance to match his best offer. Also it has been noted by a few members of the media not to count the Yankees out as they might make a last minute push to get Lester to the Bronx.

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