Tag 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.

 

C’s Circuit: Embrace the Cinderella Celtics

Brad Stevens continues to work magic with the Boston Celtics.

Brad Stevens continues to work magic with the Boston Celtics.

It’s tough not to feel good about the Boston Celtics these days. The team is 8-5 since the acquisitions of Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Jerebko, Luigi Datome just before the NBA Trade Deadline on February 19th. Also, the Celtics have won their last two games without Thomas (bruised back), including a thrilling 95-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, who are currently in second place in the loaded Western Conference.

The Celtics are a Cinderella story as they reside just one game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They don’t have a star player, but the Celtics play together and Brad Stevens has been fabulous calling plays out of timeouts at the end of games. For example in the 85-84 win over the Utah Jazz on March 4th, Stevens noticed that the Jazz had their 7-footer Rudy Gobert defending the inbounds pass and they were switching so he called a play for Tyler Zeller. Marcus Smart lobbed a long pass to Zeller who hit a buzzer-beating bank shot to send the Celtics to an exhilarating victory. In the win over the Grizzlies, Stevens drew a play for Kelly Olynyk, but he told Evan Turner to see if an alley-oop pass to Smart was available. Smart gained a step on former Celtic guard Courtney Lee and Smart banked in a shot before hitting the ensuing free throw to give the Celtics a 91-90 advantage.

Many fans have been rooting for the Celtics to lose over the past couple of seasons so they can get a potential superstar in the Draft. Isn’t it more fun to cheer for your team when they are underdogs? The most memorable victories in recent Boston sports history has been the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the St. Louis Rams, and when the Boston Red Sox came from 3-0 down to beat the hated New York Yankees in seven games in the 2004 ALCS and then they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Both of these teams’ championship runs were so improbable. I’m not saying the Celtics will go on a championship run, but it would be fun to cheer for the superstar-less Celtics and see how far they go.

The Celtics can follow the Atlanta Hawks’ model of success. Of course, the Hawks have made every postseason since 2008. Last season, the Hawks finished in eighth place and they fell in seven games to the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. This year, the Hawks used that run and some good health to claim the first spot in the Eastern Conference. Also, the Celtics will have about $30 million in cap space with a talented free agent class. They also have numerous draft pics over the next several years to remain in contention.

After all, everyone loves an underdog story and isn’t this the reason we watch sports? This is the season of Cinderella teams breaking people’s hearts around the country.

Excuse me for hoping the Celtics make a deep run in favor of taking a chance on a talented, yet not fully developed, teenager coming out of a year of college.The kid in me still enjoys fairy tale endings.

 

 

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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So, About That Red Sox Outfield…

With reports new acquisition Hanley Ramirez will move to left field, here’s how the Red Sox depth chart as it currently stands. Note the Red Sox outfield. It’s hard to believe that only two out of a total nine were on the 2013 championship team roster.

red sox outfield Cherington sure has his work cut out for him in the coming months…. time to trade an outfielder or three for some quality starting pitching.

Hot stove coming in hot!

 

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