Red Sox Cool Off

Red Sox

Hanrahan allowed 5 ER in just .2 IP (courtesy of ESPN.com)

If Wednesday night was the unsuspecting stab in the back, then Thursday has to be the twisting of the knife. Perhaps that is a bit hyperbolic for a season that isn’t even 1/16th over, but I am a Red Sox fan and we are fluent in hyperbole. One strike away from a victory and a 6-2 start, Joel Hanrahan surrendered a single, two straight walks, a wild pitch in which the tying run scored, and a three run home run into the monster seats. He managed to give up a total of five earned runs and effectively ruin my night. A win would have secured the Red Sox a third straight series win over an AL east opponent. Now the discussion has to be opened back up about who gives this team the best chance as closer. Andrew Miller and the, once Papelbon replacement, Andrew Bailey both had good games and seem capable of taking over the role. Did you know, since Papelbon left the Sox, he has 38 saves and 4 blown saves, and the Red Sox, in the same time span, have a combined total of 39 saves and 24 blown saves.

The local nine followed up Wednesday’s disastrous finish with a 3-2 loss in the rubber match. The game was highlighted by Will Middlebrooks’ second straight 0-4 game (after going 0-3 in the home opener). He appears to have left his swing in Toronto. The 5 through 9 hitters in the Sox lineup accumulated 2 hits over a combined 18 registered at-bats. So far, in this still young season, the starting pitching has been phenomenal, the middle inning relief has been stellar, the closer role is up for grabs, and the front of the order has been mashing the ball. Once the back end of the order starts hitting, or at least drawing more walks and getting on base, the Sox will stop dropping these winnable games.

With all of that complaining out of the way, we still hold a share of first place in the East. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Quick Six: Six Takeaways from Game 1 of 162

game

(courtesy of MLB.com)

1. The Debut of Jackie Bradley Jr. If you’ve been following this blog, chances are you’ve heard about this young prospect the Sox have who goes by JBJ. Well he impressed yesterday by scoring two runs, getting on base three times, and driving in a run. In left field, he tracked down a Cano fly ball with the prowess of a veteran, not a player who’s been playing the position for a week. However, perhaps his best play of the game was beating out a throw to second base on an infield single. It extended the second inning, which led to three more runs for the Sox.

2. The Plate Discipline at the Back of the Lineup. The top of the order is supposed to whack the ball, get homeruns, and drive in runs. Those are the heavy hitters. An ideal lineup has plenty of these guys, but at the bottom of the order are guys that get pitchers tired by making them throw a lot of pitches. The five through eight hitters in the lineup worked a combined total of 8 walks. Carl Crawford had 3 walks all of last year. The plate discipline Monday helped knock Sabathia out by the sixth.

3. The Top of the Order is in Rare Form. The most impressive member of the local nine on Monday was definitely Shane Victorino. He drove in 3 RBI’s on 2 hits, while his teammates adjacent in the batting order, Ellsbury and Pedroia, combined for 5 more hits and 3 RBI’s.

4. A Good Start. Jon Lester struck out 7 in the five innings. This was the perfect opening day start. He got the win, pitched out of some adversity, and kept his count under 100 pitches. It also brings me great pleasure to share this fact; the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain now has an ERA of 40.50.

5. The Bullpen had a nice day. The Sox used five relievers to close four innings on Monday. In total, they only allowed one hit, however Andrew Miller got into some trouble in the seventh after walking two. However he came back with two straight strikeouts, only to have the third out recorded by way of the K as well, courtesy of Andrew Bailey.

6. What to do with Drew? Stephen Drew would have been the starting Shortstop yesterday had it not been for the concussion he suffered in Spring Training. His replacement Jose Iglesias notched three hits, an RBI, and scored a run. We already know Iglesias is better than Drew in the field, if he keeps swinging the bat like this, then Stephen won’t be the first “Drew” in New England to lose his starting job while injured (looking at you Bledsoe).

Sabermetrics for Dummies: Part 2 – P.E.C.O.T.A.

sabermetrics

(Nate Silver, who developed PECOTA, is one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World)

As stat-tracking technology becomes better and better, and budgets become tighter and tighter, baseball teams are starting to turn to numbers, or sabermetrics, to determine the worth of their players. These are a few of the statistics that all teams use to evaluate players.

Today’s stat: P.E.C.O.T.A.

It’s only part two of this series and the acronyms are already at six letters. If that doesn’t scare you off, learning the meaning of PECOTA will. It stands for “Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.” It was developed by statistician Nate Silver in 2002. If you don’t know who Nate Silver is, just know that he predicted the exact results, state for state, of the Obama vs. Romney 2012 presidential election weeks before Election Day. So he’s pretty good at this prognostication business.

PECOTA is a system for forecasting the performance and career development of baseball players. It does this by comparing current baseball players to a database of nearly every single major and minor leaguer that has had stats recorded since World War II.

When analyzing current players, PECOTA will match them with comparable major leaguers based on something called “similarity scores.” These scores are determined by four different factors: production metrics (batting average, walk rate, strikeout rate, etc.), usage metrics (plate appearances, innings pitched, etc.), phenotypic attributes (height, weight, age), and position (infielder, pitcher, etc.).

Players are then matched up with those they appear similar to. By looking at how the comparable players finished their career, it is easier to predict how the player in question will finish his.

PECOTA is unique to other projection sabermetrics because it analyzes players based on a three-year window that they are in compared to similar players in a similar three-year window.

Baseball Prospectus (the website that operates PECOTA) uses this projection system to predict what will happen days, months, and years into the future. In February they came out with their 2013 season predictions based on the PECOTA principles. In this prediction, the Sox finish second in the east and keep on playing after game 162. Nate Silver’s statistics we’re dead on about Massachusetts being an “Obama-Biden” state, let’s hope they’re right about it being a playoff baseball state as well.

Sabermetrics for Dummies: Part 1 – W.A.R.

w.a.r

Miguel Cabrera (left) and Mike Trout (right) elevated W.A.R. to a national discussion during their AL MVP race (ESPN the Magazine)

As stat-tracking technology becomes better and better, and budgets become tighter and tighter, baseball teams are starting to turn to numbers, or sabermetrics, to determine the worth of their players. These are a few of the statistics that all teams use to evaluate players.

Today’s stat: W.A.R.

War… what is it good for? Sorry about that, I had to. It turns out that W.A.R. is actually good for something. In fact, it’s the most significant statistic in all of the sabermetric community. W.A.R. is an acronym for Wins Above Replacement. This stat is used to quantify the effect that single players have on the number of wins a team earns. A player’s W.A.R. number is the amount of wins the team would lose if the player in question were to be replaced by a minor leaguer or bench player.

For offensive players, W.A.R. is a combination of batting, base running, and defensive data. All of this data is converted to take into account the position that is played and the quality of potential backup. For pitchers, defensive data along with runs vs. innings pitched statistics calculate their W.A.R.

A baseball player with a W.A.R. between 0-2 is regarded as anywhere from a scrub to a reliable bench player, however that person shouldn’t be a major league starter. A solid starter would score between a 2 and a 3. A good player would achieve between 3-4, an All-Star 4-5, a superstar 5-6, and finally an MVP would have a W.A.R. above 6.

Last year’s AL rookie of the year Mike Trout earned the highest W.A.R. of 2012 with an astounding score of 10.7. The American League MVP Miguel Cabrera finished fourth in the AL in W.A.R. with 6.9, right behind his teammate Justin Verlander (7.5) for the AL champion Detroit Tigers. The best a Red Sox player could muster up was Dustin Pedroia’s 4.7, which ranked 10th among AL position players in 2012.

Baseball might be the only context where this declaration is accepted, but here’s to hoping for more WAR in 2013.

Point/Counterpoint on Jackie Bradley Jr.

jackie bradley jr

(bostonherald.com)

Jackie Bradley Jr. is the future of the Red Sox. Everyone agrees on that. However, is he the present as well? It depends on who you talk to. Here is the definitive pro vs. con list of having Jackie Bradley start the season in Boston.

Pro: He is playing very well in spring training, batting an unbelievable .429 average. His bat could definitely help the major league team immediately.

Con: Spring training is a very small sample size, and it is occurring in a place 50 degrees warmer than Boston in April. It is much harder to hit in colder temperatures and might be too much of a change for the young 22 year old to handle.

Pro: This young 22 year old has handled EVERY single thing thrown at him in March.

Con: The Boston media, Yankee Stadium on opening day, and an outfielders nightmare, the Green Monster are lurking.

Pro: Even if he gets out to a slow start, he can benefit from the mentoring of Dustin Pedroia, who spent his first month in the majors batting a .172 average. Now look at him… laser show, relax (for reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPvMOVFshyI).

Con: JBJ has only ever been a center fielder, which is his natural position. However, the Sox already have a dynamic center fielder in Jacoby Ellsbury. So to play Bradley, he is going to have to play a different position. This off season, the Red Sox gave a lot of money to Shane Victorino to come to Boston and patrol right field, so obviously that’s not an option either. This leaves left field open, which presents a problem because left field at Fenway is unlike any left field ever (see Monster, Green). With the likely exit of Ellsbury after this season, do the Red Sox really want to have their future center fielder spend a whole year tormented in left and possibly risk ruining the confidence of a 22-year-old kid? Manager John Farrell doesn’t think so. He says that Bradley will only be a center fielder, and if need be, he can play right once in a while, but no left field for the prospect. So there you have it, Jackie Bradley Jr. will not play with the Red Sox on opening day, he will not start, and he will never play left field. Repeat, he will never ever, ever, play left field for the Red Sox.

Pro: Jackie Bradley Jr. is starting in left field today (March 24th).

(twitter.com)

(twitter.com)

See you opening day.

Xander Watch Final Update

xander

With a 4-1 defeat last night at the hands of the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands were bounced from the World Baseball Classic. For Red Sox fans, that means that prized prospect and Dutch citizen Xander Bogaerts will return to spring training for the duration of March.

The first order of business will be determining which spring camp Bogaerts will be heading to. He finished last season playing for Portland and will likely begin there this season, however, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE; John Farrell would like to see Bogaerts get some at bats with the big league club in Fort Myers. There are still plenty of players in the Sox camp who will not be on the opening day roster, so it makes sense to add Bogaerts to the group even if he is not competing for a spot.

However the timing might be perfect for the 20-year-old infielder. Projected everyday shortstop Stephen Drew has recently been ruled out of playing on opening day because of concussion like symptoms, and shortstop of the future Jose Iglesias has had a lackluster spring at the plate (batting just .220). Bogaerts played 3B for the Netherlands in the WBC, but Farrell thinks, “He’s still, in our eyes, a shortstop.”

If Bogaerts can enter camp and string together a few good games at the position, he could play himself into a big role in this organization very early in the 2013 campaign.