Christian Vazquez is Better Offensively Than This!

christian vazquez

Christian Vazquez is a touted-prospect for one reason, and one reason alone; his skills behind the dish. According to every defensive metric, whether it be pitch framing, defensive runs saved, or caught stealing percentage, the 24-year-old catcher is rendered elite. Oh, and did I mention he’s just a rookie?

Even though he’s already drawn comparison to guys like Yadier Molina and Jonathan Lucroy from a defensive perspective, he still hasn’t been of great value since his call-up due to his ineffectiveness with the stick. In 147 plate appearances this season, Vazquez has only managed to churn a weak .234/.292/.289 slash line.

Now, I detest the notion that what Vazquez’s has done offensively this year will be more or less what we see the rest of his career. Looking at his minor-league numbers over the past few years, we can evidently see this isn’t the offensive player at his best.

*(Note: Minor-league stats are only shown when Vazquez compiled 250+ plate appearances in a specific level of the minors)

2011 (444 PA) with Single-A Greenville: .283 AVG, .358 OBP, .505 SLG, .316 BABIP and 133 wRC+

2012 (342 PA) with Single-A Salem: .266 AVG, .360 OBP, .396 SLG, .326 BABIP, 114 wRC+

2013 (399 PA) with Double-A Portland: .289 AVG, .376 OBP, .395 SLG, .316 BABIP, 119 wRC+

2014 (270 PA) with Triple-A Pawtucket: .276 AVG, .336 OBP, .385 SLG, .340 BABIP, and 98 wRC+

Those numbers aren’t eye-popping by any stretch of the imagination, but they sure are above-average. They also showcase his tendency to walk at a high-rate, which is indicated by his stupendous on-base percentage totals.

Another reason I’m optimistic about his offensive potential is his low .270 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). That mark is .23 percentage points below league-average for catchers this season, and should deviate towards league-average, eventually, but there’s no guarantee.

Vazquez has the potential to be a solid commodity from an offensive standpoint as well as a defensive standpoint. With the latter, he’s already well above-average, but the former will take some honing. Whether that is next year or a few years from now, I’m upbeat about his offensive aptitude.

Allen Craig’s Poor Play is Beneficial to the Red Sox

Allen CraigFriday night Allen Craig may have made the worst play I’ve seen from the Red Sox all year. (If you click here, you’ll be taken to the video of the play.) However, some of you may either not be able to access it or you’d just prefer to read, so I’ll give you a brief rundown of the play.

With one out in the top of the 10th inning, the Toronto Blue Jays had a runner on second (John Mayberry Jr.) and third basemen Danny Valencia at the plate. Valencia, then, hit a fairly deep fly ball to right fielder, Allen Craig, for the second out of the inning. Well, Craig didn’t seem too cognizant of the situation, and he lackadaisically trotted back to the right field bullpen as if there were three outs or no one was on base. By the time Craig realized what was happening, Mayberry Jr. was rounding third, and he ended up scoring on a fly ball from second.

Now, Craig’s not the best defensive corner outfielder, so, really, a miscue on the field shouldn’t come as a surprise. That said, this particular blunder focused in — to me, at least — on how poor Craig has been with Boston and on the season in general.

Through 445 plate appearances this year the right-handed hitter has compiled a pedestrian .224/.285/.334 clip and -0.9 fWAR, which is a far cry from his .315/.373/.457 slash line and 2.5 fWAR the season prior.

A lot of Red Sox fans aren’t too pleased with Craig’s contributions since being traded to them midseason. That’s understandable, but bear in mind this is a lost year, so why does it matter if he plays well? Actually, I’d argue that there’s an evident silver linings to his shoddy play.

Given the Red Sox’ logjam in the outfield, a couple of outfielders will inevitably have to be dealt before the ’15 season gets underway. Craig’s value is at an all-time low, and, truthfully, it would be foolish to sell low him. He does have an abundance of talent and if he was playing like he did last year or close to it there’s no way they could justify keeping him on the bench.

With his horrendous play, however, they have an excuse to keep him around on the bench next year, and see if he can resurrect the All-Star Allen Craig of the previous two seasons.

Giancarlo Stanton’s Nice But…..

Giancarlo StantonIt’s no secret Boston Red Sox fans want Giancarlo Stanton and want him badly. I mean, why wouldn’t you? His raw power is in a class of its own, he’s a decent defender, and he’s only freakin’ 24 years old! Oh, and just imagine his sweet right-handed swing in Fenway Park with the Green Monster only a short distance away from home plate. You’d be crazy to pahk your cah on Lansdowne Street whenever Stanton was penciled into the lineup, because there’s a good chance you’ll leave the game with a shattered car window.

That being said, Boston should not prioritize pursuing Stanton this offseason. Before you hastily, and prematurely, scoff at me, give me a chance to share my rationale.

The Red Sox have a talented crop of outfielders now and looking ahead to next season. This includes Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, and the newly-signed Rusney Castillo.

Not only does Boston not have an urgent need for another outfielder, but they have a logjam. What’s bound to happen is they’ll have to deal two or three of those guys before the ’15 season commences.

I like Stanton as much as the next guy, however, Boston should look to improve their inexperienced rotation before upgrading a strong surplus.

If Cherington and Co. decide to sacrifice coveted-prospect(s) for anybody it should be for a pitcher. Whether that be for Cole Hamels or someone else, that needs to be their main focus.

Surely they could acquire pitching on the free agent market, yet Boston’s shown of late they’re weary to pay top-dollar for prized free agents. This puts Boston at a huge disadvantage to acquire a Jon Lester or Max Scherzer on the free-agent market.

Conversely, given their abundance of talented prospects, the Red Sox have a leg up on other teams on the trade market.

So, really, the wise thing to do in this situation would be to offer a package of prospects for a quality starter before draining your farm system on Stanton. If, however, they find a way to acquire say a James Shields on the free agent market then, yes, by all means get the man. They just need to get their priorities straight before attempting to land the biggest fish on the trade market.

How Have the Red Sox Trades Fared in August?

Boston Red Sox tradesIt’s been an entire month since the Boston Red Sox made numerous moves geared for future successes. It’s interesting — well, to me, at least — to take a look at how those guys have fared this August with their new ball clubs. Keep in mind, however, this is an extremely small sample size and doesn’t say much about their talent or value. Now, without further ado, let’s see how these guys have played (starting with the subtractions) this past month.

Those We’ve Lost During the 2014 Red Sox Trades

Jon Lester with Oakland Athletics (40 and 2/3 IP): 2.66 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 4.63 K/BB, and .278 BABIP.

Jonny Gomes with Oakland Athletics (40 PA): .250 AVG, .350 OBP, .250 SLG, .320 BABIP, and 73 wRC+.

Andrew Miller with Baltimore Orioles (12 IP): 0.75 ERA, 1.04 FIP, 5.67 K/BB, and .227 BABIP.

John Lackey with St. Louis Cardinals (38 and 1/3 IP): 4.23 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 3.50 K/BB, and .312 BABIP.

Felix Doubront with Chicago Cubs (7 IP): 1.29 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 4.00 K/BB, and .318 BABIP.

Jake Peavy with San Francisco Giants (41 and 1/3 IP): 2.40 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 3.10 K/BB, and .276 BABIP.

Stephen Drew with New York Yankees (80 PA): .153 AVG, .225 OBP, .306 SLG, .170 BABIP, and 40 wRC+

Corey Littrell with High-A Palm Beach (Cardinals’ Affiliate) (31 and 2/3 IP): 4.55 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 1.90 K/BB, and .383 BABIP

Both now ex-Red Sox position players (Drew and Gomes) have been horrendous with their respective clubs. The pitchers who were dealt, however, have been nothing short of stellar, with the exception of Lackey. Lackey had one really bad start against the Orioles where he allowed nine earned runs — which has distorted his numbers significantly — and he’s pitched well in every other start with St. Louis. Peavy, the first Boston player to be dealt, has been quite lucky with his unsustainable BABIP, but making half his starts in AT&T Park certainly helps. Finally, Doubront has only pitched one outing with his new team. Oh, and how incredible has Andrew Miller been? With Zach Britton and Miller in that bullpen, I wouldn’t want to be a left-handed hitter facing the Orioles.

Talent We Gained During the 2014 Red Sox Trades

Yoenis Cespedes (111 PA): .276 AVG, .297 OBP, .457 SLG, .309 BABIP, and 105 wRC+

Allen Craig (33 PA): .138 AVG, .242 OBP, .310 SLG, .176 BABIP, and 54 wRC+

Joe Kelly (28 IP): 3.86 ERA, 5.38 FIP, 1.00 K/BB, and .211 BABIP

Kelly Johnson (25 PA): .160 AVG, .160 OBP, .200 SLG, .267 BABIP, and -12 wRC+

Heath Hembree (6 IP): 4.50 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 0.40 K/BB, and .300 BABIP

Edwin Escobar (1 IP): 0.00 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 0.00 K/BB, and .000 BABIP

Eduardo Rodriguez with Double-A Portland (37 and 1/3 IP): 0.96 ERA, 2.42 FIP, 4.88 K/BB, and .299 BABIP

Well, Johnson’s tenure as a Red Sox didn’t last long, as the utility man was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles a mere month after being acquired by Boston. Speaking of trades with the Orioles, Rodriguez, who the Red Sox attained in return for Miller, has been lights out since joining the Red Sox’ organization. Continuing with the narrative of prospects Boston received in return for big-league talent, let’s talk about Escobar and Hembree. One’s a starter (Escobar) but made his MLB debut out of the bullpen, and the other’s a reliever (Hembree). Both, truthfully, haven’t played enough to pass proper evaluation on, so let’s continue with the three players who have logged multiple innings in the majors. The position players, in Craig and Cespedes, have followed completely different scripts upon their respective arrivals in Boston. Cespedes has been clutch as all heck and is now a new fan-favorite, while Craig has been injury-riddled and when he has played has been largely ineffective. Lastly, Kelly has pitched adequately with horrendous peripherals.

What’s Up With Clay Buchholz?

Clay BuchholzThe old Clay Buchholz has, to the Red Sox’ delight, decided to show up in four of his last five starts. Here are the stats, if you’re curious.

August 31st vs. Tampa Bay Rays (9 IP): 6/0 K/BB (strikeout to walk ratio), 0 ER (earned runs), 3 hits.

August 25th vs. Toronto Blue Jays (8 and 1/3 IP): 4/2 K/BB, 3 ER, 4 hits.

August 20th vs. Los Angeles Angels (6 IP): 5/2 K/BB, 6 ER, 7 hits.

August 15th vs. Houston Astros (7 IP): 9/2 K/BB, 2 ER, 7 hits.

August 9th vs. Los Angeles Angels (8 IP) 8/2 K/BB, 3 ER, 6 hits.

His ERA has dropped from 6.20 before his first start against the Angels to a much more appealing, yet still abysmal 5.40 ERA. For a lot of pitchers a 5.40 ERA wouldn’t necessarily give a team a glimmer of hope, but for Buchholz, who’s been utterly disappointing this year, it’s a positive and an improvement. So, what has the right-hander done differently?

Well, for starters, he’s gone to his breaking stuff more frequently over the past month. According to Brooks Baseball, he’s thrown his big curveball 20.28 percent of the time in August, which is the most he’s thrown it (percentage-wise) since May of 2012. Considering the curveball has been very effective since the 2010 season, it’s not a bad thing. What’s odd is despite opposing hitters only compiling a .611 OPS off the pitch this season, Clay decided not to use it nearly as much from April through June compared to last season when he sported a nifty 1.74 ERA.

Maybe he didn’t want to damage his arm throwing too many curves, but Buchholz needs to mix it in, especially with his four-seamer not working as well as it has in the past. Last year, hitters were only slugging .317 off the 30-year-old’s fastballl, however, they’ve slugged .470 off it this season, which is not bad but nothing close to what he did in ’13.

His changeup has consistently been a plus-pitch and so has his curveball, yet his frequency on the latter pitch diminished while the former didn’t — not substantially, at least. If Buchholz continues to keep hitters off-balance with variety (using all his pitches) then he’ll be a more consistent pitcher because of it.

That said, luck has been a part of his success, too, and that’s indicated by his .273 BABIP in August. Oddly, his BABIP decreased (on a month-by-month basis) while his ground ball rate decreased (from last month) and his fly ball rate increased. So, naturally, we can evidently see good fortune has had a huge bearing on Buchholz’s prosperity of late.

Luck, increased curveball usage, and better control (i.e. less walks) have had a sizable impact on Buchholz’s newly-found success. There’s no telling if it’ll continue, but given his track record in years past, maybe he can really be valuable as a starter 2015 and beyond.

The Fallacy Surrounding Rubby De La Rosa’s Changeup

Rubby De La RosaI remember fondly watching Rubby De La Rosa’s 2014 debut against the Tampa Bay Rays May 31st at Fenway Park. He dazzled; not allowing a run to score in seven innings. What sticks in my mind more than anything, though, is how utterly ineffective Tampa’s lineup was against De La Rosa’s most highly-touted pitch, his changeup. Naturally, tweets from Red Sox Nation, myself included, far and wide were advocating the nastiness of his changeup. He utilized that pitch a bewildering 28.6% of the time in that contest, trailing only his two-seam fastball (32.4%) in terms of usage, yet, still, it couldn’t be hit.

Since then it seems because of the misleading eye-test, we’re trapped in this fallacy that his changeup is what it was game one and in the minor-leagues. However, that is so far from the truth, and as it stands, the right-hander’s changeup, in actuality, has been his worst pitch this season.

I don’t say that based on a deceptive small sample size assumption, but, rather, on cold hard evidence. According to Fangraphs, De La Rosa has thrown the pitch 278 times while hitters have clobbered the offspeed pitch for an imposing .945 OPS (.275/.383/.563 slash line).

To further emphasis its decline throughout the year and to get more than one source concurring the changeup’s inefficiency, I looked to the single best Pitch F/X data website, Brooks Baseball, for answers.

What I found was De La Rosa’s changeup was arguably at its best in his ’14 debut, as hitters only managed to churn a pedestrian .125 slugging percentage off it. But as the year persisted it just got worse, and hitters slugged .420 off it in June, a frightening .640 in July, and .500 in August.

All said, it’s not surprising to see De La Rosa going to the changeup less frequently and favoring the slider, a pitch that needs developing. Given Boston’s situation (no chance at reaching the postseason), it’s not a problem that Rubby has gone to his inexperienced pitch more often. Actually, it’s rather productive getting a feel for how to work that slider in against big-league hitters, whom, obviously, have an advanced approach at the plate. So, yeah, I like that he’s attempting to mix it in his arsenal more, but at the same time, I’m weary he’s not using the changeup enough, because, despite its performance, it’s his best pitch.

Take a gander at his per-month usage of the change correlated with his per-month performance.

Note (*All percentages are courtesy of Brooks Baseball

May (7 innings): Used the changeup 43.81% of the time and sported a 0.00 ERA in that span.

June (25 and 1/3 innings): Used the changeup 32.92% of the time and sported a 3.20 ERA in that span.

July (22 innings): Used the changeup 19.69% of the time and sported a 5.32 ERA in that span.

August (23 and 2/3 innings): Used the changeup 19.06% of the time and sported a 3.80 ERA in that span.

Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris wrote a good article the other day looking at which pitchers are throwing a higher percentage of changeups the last month, and added De La Rosa, who had the biggest drop in changeup percentage, to the conversation. We reached the same conclusion; RDLR performed better when throwing his changeup more often. However, he did not delve into its poor performance of late, and that’s just what I did here. Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two about De La Rosa’s changeup within both passages, and you’re no longer clung to the fallacy that it’s been effective all year.