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Tag:David Ortiz
Posted on: June 11, 2010 1:04 pm
 

Who Would You Give Up for Strasburg?

In the words of Nationals' radio play-by-play broadcaster Charlie Slowes following the remarkable debut by Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday in Washington D.C., "There's a new mayor in town, and the campaign took one night."

It is permissible to let our imaginations run wild with a player like Strasburg, and not just because everyone else is doing it. However, the fact remains that it is very unlikely that there is a player in baseball right now with the potential to hit 60 home runs, which has long been the most alluring statistical figure in baseball. But the last two A.L. home run champions (37 for Miguel Cabrera in 2008, 39 for Carlos Pena and Mark Teixeira in 2009) have only totaled 76 home runs, which would break the standing home run record by only 2!

As baseball fans, we have to look elsewhere from home runs for a national story. The past few years, the age of the young pitcher has been dominating the national scene. Tim Lincecum has two Cy Young awards by age 25, Zack Grienke took home the Cy Young at age 25 and posted a ridiculous ERA for the A.L., and N.L. teams this season can speak to the utter dominance by 26-year-old phenom Ubaldo Jimenez.

The strikeout has become the new home run. The last generation of great pitchers (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson) have now been replaced by a younger ensemble of hard-throwing hurlers. It is obvious to say that every team wants Stephen Strasburg, and not so that local diners can cash in on a wide variety of sandwiches called "The Strasburger." Every teams wants him for the national draw that he is getting, in addition to the seemingly limitless pitching talent.

So, the question is: Who would you be willing to part with for Stephen Strasburg?

The Boston Red Sox have 25 players on their active roster, and a total of 34 players have donned a uniform so far this season. They have seven minor league affliates, which would put the total number of payers affliated with the Boston Red Sox at around 200.

There is only one player that I would not give up under any circumstances, even if the trade was 1 to 1, and that is Jon Lester. Lester has, believe it or not, the exact same potential that Strasburg does, except that Lester has already begun to follow through with success. Does this sound crazy?

The sport of professional baseball is over 150 years old. Using <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/historical/player_stats.jsp?c_id=mlb&baseballScope=mlb&teamPosCode=all&statType=Overview&sitSplit=&venueID=&timeFrame=3&timeSubFrame2=0&Submit=Submit" target="_blank">mlb.com's historical statistics page , they list approximately 17,200 hitters who have recorded an at-bat in the majors and about 8,350 pitchers who have recorded an out, with incomplete records dating back to 1871. Yes, there will be some duplicates, but we can very roughly estimate that somewhere around 20,000 people have played professional baseball. Of that number, who has the highest winning percentage with at least 100 starts?

If you guessed Stephen Strasburg, well you'd be wrong. If you guessed Jon Lester, you've earned a sticker for today. With a career record of 49-18, Lester's .731 winning percentage is higher than anybody with at least that many starts. Oh, and he also happens to be leading the A.L. in strikeouts.

Lester has everything that Strasburg has - the size, the pitching repertoire - without the same fanfare because he wasn't the number one overall pick. Lester also has done all of his work in the best division in baseball since he came up, so imagine what his numbers would have been like if Boston played in the N.L. West. Lester has not pitched his last no hitter, and he will win at least one Cy Young Award. At 26 and with the record he has already acquired, Lester is Boston's Strasburg.

As for the rest of the players in Boston, it would depend on what else was included in the deal, but the only other player I would not trade, unless it was 1 to 1 (which would never happen), would be Dustin Pedroia. Rookie of the Year, MVP, and a Gold Glove already, he has batting titles and several more GGs in his future.

The next closest player that I would have initial problems dealing away would be Kevin Youkilis. He plays two positions, is a very consistent .300+ hitter with one of, if not the best, eye in the game, he has the potential to hit 40 home runs and is the cleanup hitter on the team that has scored the most runs in the A.L. this year. But, and this is somewhat surprising, Youkilis is already 31, which means that he is in his prime right now. Nobody expects him to fall off anytime soon, but we said the same thing about David Ortiz, whose last impact year came when he was 31, and we all feel that at 34, he is exceptionally over the hill.

I was thinking that, with respect to the almost 200 players in the Sox farm system, there would be some that I would hold onto. I might have to hold onto Casey Kelly, but he is only in his first year being a full time pitcher, while around the same age as Strasburg.

Lester is a dominant pitcher already, and he would be the one player from this Red Sox team that I would not give up for Stephen Strasburg. <!-- EndFragment-->
Posted on: December 14, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2009 7:06 pm
 

Big Day of Baseball Means Big News for Sox

Phew!

Baseball is recovering from the biggest day of this off-season thus far. The Boston Red Sox were at the middle of a lot of the day’s news, even if they were not involved with the biggest name.
 
The Sox were considered the top bidders in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes and that the GM’s winter meetings came and went with Halladay still donning the baby-blue uniforms came to some insiders as a surprise. When Curtis Granderson went to the New York Yankees in a three-team trade last week, many thought that that removed one a top competitors, as the Yankees gave up two young pitchers and a top prospect to land their new centerfielder.
 
But the Sox did not swing a deal for Halladay as the asking price was ultimately too high. The Philadelphia Phillies made the big splash, acquiring the high priced right-hander in yet another three-team deal that is reportedly sending Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners .
 
The Sox were however able to land a very valuable right-hander in John Lackey. Lackey came to Boston to undergo a physical and it was reported hours alter that he had agreed to a five-year contract.
 
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is believed it is similar to the contract given but the Yankees to A.J. Burnett , who received $82.5 million over five years (16.5 per year). Both pitchers have had similar success, but Lackey is younger and has been more consistent over his career.
 
Lackey has put together five straight seasons with at least 10 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA, which is tied with Halladay for the second longest active streak (Johan Santana ). Lackey also has solid post-season experience having played in October ball regularly with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Lackey owns a 3.12 ERA in 78 post-season innings pitched.
 
Lackey would begin the season as the Sox third starter behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester . Daisuke Matsuzaka becomes the fourth starter, with Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield vying for the fifth spot.
 
The impact of Lackey’s signing is big for Boston. For several seasons, we have been able to say that the Sox possess a great deal of depth in the rotation. But when July comes around, injuries and trades combined with players that do not pan out (see Penny, Brad and Smoltz, John), the Sox have realized that solid starting pitching is a scarce commodity.
 
Behind the trio of Beckett-Lester-Lackey, the Sox have one of the elite rotations in baseball. And if Matsuzaka can return to the 2007-08 form when he won 33 games, and Buchholz can pitch the way he ended 2009, then the Sox have the best starting five in baseball.
 
The strength of the rotation and the siging of Lackey also takes some of the burden off of the offense, and indeed, the ability of Theo Epstein to sign a big-time hitter, which leads us to the other big news for Red Sox nation.
 
It was reported that Jason Bay has declined Boston’s most recent offer, believed to be around 4 years/$60 million. The New York Mets offered Bay $65 million over four years earlier this week, but were not considered real players to acquire Bay.
Bay is looking for five years, and it seems like whichever team is willing to invest that money in him will be where he lands.
 
Bay will be 31 years old next season, and a five year deal will mean that he is 36 in the final year of his contract, which is older than both David Ortiz and Mike Lowell , who is practically on the Texas Rangers roster as we speak.
 
The Sox foresee Bay having to move to designated hitter possibly as early as the third year of his next contract, which means that the Sox will be paying upwards of $15 million for yet another aging DH. An extra year means the Sox have to commit a significant amount of money to a very limited player, while home grown players like Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all will be up for new long term deals by that time.
 
Bay’s agent has stated that he and his client are moving on from the Sox. Given Bay’s talents and his excellent power numbers last year, there will always be suitors. But the Yankees are likely off of that list after trading for Granderson, and the Mets will return several players from injury with an already swollen payroll.
 
Matt Holliday still remains available and he is likely the next target on Epstein’s list. Holliday would be a slight upgrade from Bay, but is represented by Scott Boras, so any contract will likely reflect it. Epstein has typically shied away from Boras-represented players (that he didn’t draft), but without Bay, there is a gapping hole in the Sox lineup.
 
The Sox also made a $15.5 million offer to Cuban right-hander Aroldis Chapman, considered to be the most prized foreign player. 

Chapman is 21-years-old and recently defected from Cuba. He is known for regularly recording triple digits on the radar gun with his blazing fastball.

Posted on: August 3, 2009 4:24 pm
 

The Statement MLB's Steroid Users Should've Given

Alex Rodriguez sat at a table at the New York Yankees spring training facility in Tampa, Florida eight days after he admitted to three years of steroid use and delivered a statement regarding his usage.

Rodriguez appeared uninterested during the recital of the statement he had prepared. His body language showed that he felt annoyed that he had to be there and such an ordeal was even necessary.

Rodriguez is not the only one. The majority of Manny Ramirez’s comments addressing his positive test earlier this season came from the supposedly grounding statements “I didn’t kill nobody. I didn’t rape nobody.”

It is clear that baseball players, especially the ones whose names appear on the now infamous list of 104 who tested positive in 2003, are surprised at the severity in which the fans and media are addressing the issue.

Players who have tested positive revolve the majority of their comments concerning their use around apologies to their teammates and fans, calling their actions mistakes that they wish that they did not make.

In reality, we know that they are saying those things because the media relations department of each club has told them to be apologetic and denounce their actions. But, since are opinions of these players is already significantly lessened, why not have them speak the truth for once?

Below is a sample statement that players who have tested positive should adhere to. It applies to Rodriguez, Ramirez, David Ortiz, or any other of the 104 names on the “anonymous” list.

“First, I would like to thank the fans, my teammates and the organization for their patience through this time. As you all know, I tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug during the 2003 season.

“It is no longer a surprise that steroids have had an impact on the game of baseball. Earlier this decade, dozens of players were using steroids and other substances that are today banned. Before 2003, there was no penalty for using drugs that would affect your performance on the field.

“I was caught up in the PED movement. Players who I knew were not as good as I was were suddenly outperforming me, all the way to newer and bigger contracts. As I investigated and was given information about this issue, the following became clear to me:

“The growing number of players who have used PEDs were doing so without recourse and no penalties. Because their numbers and production was better, they were rewarded. As a human being, I have an obligation to provide for my family as best as I can, and steroids helped me level the playing field.

“I am not proud of my actions, but I cannot entirely regret them. Let me be clear: steroids are exceptionally dangerous when used long term. The consequences can cost you much more than your playing career. I direct my comments here especially toward the young fans of baseball: Steroids are banned in baseball for a reason. It was wrong then, and remains wrong now.

“That said, try to put yourself in my shoes. No one knows that you are using, and there are no repercussions if you test positive. Again, I am not proud of my actions, but whenever a loophole exists, people will always take advantage of it.

“Since testing has begun, I have not used PEDs of any kind, as shown by my lack of positive tests. Testing in baseball has leveled the playing field, which is all that I was striving for from the beginning.”

All baseball fans are still waiting for an honest approach.

Posted on: July 31, 2009 5:11 pm
 

Recapping the Sox' Deadline Deals

The Boston Red Sox were one of the busier teams leading into today’s 4pm trading deadline.

The major deal was the Sox acquiring Cleveland Indians All-Star catcher Victor Martinez, and the minor deal was swapping first basemen to get Casey Kotchman from the Atlanta Braves.

Martinez is the biggest offensive pickup of the 2009 trading deadline. Martinez had a injury plagued 2008 season that lead to mediocre numbers, but he has picked it up again in 2009 and reestablished himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the game.

A switch-hitter, he gives the Sox excellent versatility in the line-up and on the field. While not official, it is expected that he will play predominantly at catcher and designated hitter. He is a better left-handed hitter, and that will allow the Sox to rotate Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek in the line-up against lefties.

The Sox gave up RHP Justin Masterson, who had been splitting the year in the bullpen and rotation, and minor league pitchers Nick Hadagone and Bryan Price.

Masterson was a solid cog of the Red Sox team, but often found himself as the odd man out. The Indians will probably utilize him as a starter, which is where most scouts see him headed, but the Sox were never in the position to give him a chance to develop in that respect.

Hadagone was the biggest chip the Sox gave up. A left-hander in class-A Greenville, Hadagone underwent Timmy John surgery and recently returned from the disabled list and was very impressive. Price is a right-handed pitcher also in Greenville.

The other trade, while it possesses less excitement, was much more peculiar. The Sox obtained Kotchman, traded as the major component of the deal that brought Mark Teixeira to the Angels, for recently acquired Adam LaRoche.

It is odd not because LaRoche only spent a few days with the Sox, or that the Sox traded him because of the surplus of first basemen the Sox possess after getting Martinez. It is strange that the Sox would trade him, an everyday player, for another left-handed first basemen used to playing everyday.

Terry Francona is going to have to do an incredible job of juggling the line-up to make sure everyone gets enough at-bats to be happy. Kevin Youkilis has to play everyday, an one would expect that Martinez is also going to be in the line-up everyday.
 
This means that somehow Francona has to rotate them so that Varitek, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz get playing time. Lowell’s time figures to be cut the most, as Youkilis will likely play most of him games at third base for the rest of the season.

Given Martinez’s poorer numbers against lefties, and Lowell and Varitek’s success, they will be playing against left-handers. But while Varitek has been described as a walking ice-pack and Lowell is coming off of hip surgery, they can’t be thrilled at the prospect of their playing time being reduced.
Kotchman has likely drawn the shortest straw. His playing time will be significantly reduced as virtually every other player in this rotation can play multiple positions, where Kotchman is relegated to first only.

Back up catcher George Kotteras will return to triple-A Pawtucket. He is the personal catcher for knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield, who is on the disabled list. He won’t be activated for a few weeks, at which time the Sox will have to decide who should catch him.
   
To replace Masterson, the Sox have several immediate choices to pick from. Southpaw Javier Lopez was optioned down at the beginning of the season because of terrible struggles, but he has turned his season down in the minors. The Pawtucket Red Sox’ closer Fernando Cabrera is mowing down hitters with an ERA under two while being perfect in save chances. Lefty Hunter Jones and righty Michael Bowden have already pitched out of the bullpen this season for the Sox, and they also have Japanese prospect Junichi Tazawa.

Until Wakefield comes back from the DL, one of those triple-A relievers figures to replace the gap in the bullpen.

Heading into tonight’s game against Baltimore, the Sox are a significantly upgraded team both offensively and defensively. The only problem will be getting a group of good players fair playing time, which any manager will tell you is a good problem to have.

Posted on: July 30, 2009 9:52 pm
 

Papi's Biggest Moment was his Worst

The baseball world was already aware that Manny Ramirez was at least at one point in his career using performance-enhancing drugs thanks to his positive test at the beginning of this season.

The breaking news today came from a New York Times report that announced that fellow longtime Boston Red Sox David Ortiz was, along with Ramirez, on the list of 103 players that had tested positive for a banned substance during the 2003 season.

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

First, take into account the mathematical odds. There are 30 major league teams, each with a 25-man roster. That is 750 players. If we throw in even another five players per team that average significant enough time to be on the roster, that would give us roughly 900 players who were in the majors in 2003.

That means that one out of every nine players is on that list of being caught using PEDs, or about three per team. Some teams, no doubt, will have significantly more players on that list because of the environment in each clubhouse and the notable players that have already been identified as users: Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, San Fransisco Giants, Houston Astros, etc.

Throw the Boston Red Sox into that distinguished mix.

Second, and this is in no way to be interpreted as racially prejudicial or demeaning, there is clearly a seperate PEDs ring in the Dominican Republic. By that I mean that it seems that in the DR, it is much easier for individuals to obtain PEDs of varying nature.

Believe him or not, if anything that Alex Rodriguez said in his press conference addressing his usage was true, it was that he was a young kid who was able to get drugs that he had no idea what they were, except that it would make you stronger.

We have seen a trend that many of the top-level players who are caught using PEDs have a Dominican connection: Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada, Ramirez and now Ortiz, just to name a few.

Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, was that Ortiz was a castaway from the Minnesota Twins – a player deemed too big, too slow and too one dimensional to play in the majors. That expendable piece of the Twins organization went on to hit 41, 47, 54 (franchise record) for the Red Sox during the ’04-06 seasons.

At the time, we did see a large, very strong left-handed hitter that reminded us of Jim Thome every time the ball jumped off of Ortiz’s bat. He was 28 in 2004, the first year he hit 40+ home runs in a season, which is right in the middle of the prime of a hitter’s career.

While we thoroughly enjoyed Ortiz’s best years in Boston, and the two World Series titles that he and Ramirez helped the Sox win, this is by far the biggest moment of Ortiz’s career in Boston.

Bigger than walk-offs against the Angels and Yankees in the 2004 play off series; bigger than the Red Sox single season home run record; bigger than solidifying himself as one of the best clutch hitters and best designated hitters in the history of the game.

David Ortiz replaced Nomar Garciaparra as everyone’s favorite Red Sox player. He was always outgoing, gregarious and accepting of the media. Even through his recent struggles, Ortiz forced a smile on his face. No one outside of New York (and perhaps a few other teams still looking for ball that he has launched over their fences) had a bad thing to say about him.

Until now.

Posted on: May 26, 2009 6:42 pm
 

Papi Dropped/Buchholz Nearly Perfect/Penny Rumors

In a big day for Red Sox news, the biggest story is that David Ortiz has finally been dropped in the lineup. Terry Francona released his lineup for tonight’s game against the Minnesota Twins, and it has J.D. Drew in the third spot, with Ortiz taking Drew’s position in the six hole. Ortiz has not been anywhere but the three position in the batting order since May 2005, when he and Manny Ramirez were sometimes swapped as clean-up hitters.

After having a decent series from May 19-21 against the Toronto Blue Jays, picking up three hits including his first home run of the season, he then went 0-for the series against the New York Mets. He was benched yesterday while the Sox faced a tough left-hander in Francisco Liriano. His batting average recently dipped below the Mendoza line and now stands at .195.

Dropping Ortiz down to the six hole seems like a big move, but it is more to maintain the continuity of the rest of the lineup. This way Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay remain largely unaffected, or at least, will not have to move in the lineup. They will benefit from Drew’s higher on-base percentage and better speed.

In other news, Clay Buchholz, pitching for triple-A Pawtucket, took a perfect game into the ninth inning of the PawSox game yesterday against the Louisville Bats. A leadoff single broke up the bid, but Buchholz retired the rest of the hitters in the ninth on his way to a one-hitter. He is now 3-0 with a 1.60 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched for Pawtucket.

Buchholz has been absolutely dominating in the minors this season, and yet he could not seem to get a roster spot in Boston. However, this last performance may have done it. In news related to Buchholz’s performances, the Boston Globe reports that Brad Penny is on the trading block.

The team would be looking to move Penny for two reasons. Firstly, the Sox need to make room for Buchholz. There is no reason for him to stay in the minors. Secondly, the Sox will use Penny as an opportunity to bring in some kind of bat off of the bench. The players whose names that have been thrown around, such as the Washington NationalsNick Johnson, will be too expensive for only a deal involving Penny.

But, the Sox could hope to pick up a player in the same way that they got Mark Kotsay last year, but this player will likely be able to contribute more off of the bench. But, the Sox will be bearing in mind that by the All-Star break, the Sox bench will likely be Kotsay, Rocco Baldelli, Nick Green, Julio Lugo and George Kotteras. That bench is pretty solid and fills the need offensively, so Penny may be exchanged for something else.

Posted on: May 20, 2009 6:13 pm
 

Red Sox First Quarter Report Card

Tonight is the 40th game of the season for the Red Sox, which means they have now completed one quarter of the 2009 season and here’s one look at how Boston has stacked up:

Offense:

Offensively, the Red Sox have been solid in most areas, despite injuries and slumps to significant players. However, after one quarter, the Sox find themselves fifth in the A.L. in batting average, first in on-base percentage, fourth in OPS, fifth in home runs and fourth in runs scored. These are all good numbers and averages, but unfortunately for the Sox, the are often trailing in these categories to the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and in some of the statistics, the New York Yankees (needless to say, the A.L. East is a stacked division). Individually, the Sox are getting huge contributions from the people that we would most expect, with Jason Bay (second in the league in home runs, RBIs; third in OBP) leading the way. Mike Lowell has been much better than anticipated, not only ranking 12th in the A.L. in RBIs, but also playing in all but one of the Sox games, surprising after undergoing surgery in the off-season. Kevin Youkilis was the best hitter in baseball through the first 25 games of the season (leading the A.L. in BA, OBP, OPS) before landing on the disabled list with an oblique strain. While he has just returned to the Sox, it will be interesting to see if he continues being productive, as oblique injuries are some of the toughest to gauge and return from. Predictably, the Sox are getting sub-par performances from some players. Jason Varitek has showed some good power with five home runs, but his other numbers reflect last year’s offensive debacle. J.D. Drew is now in his third year of not producing his value, but a juggle of the lineup may increase his statistics. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are stalwarts at the top of the lineup, both hitting over .300 and setting the table for the offense. On the other side of things, the Sox bench and bit-players Rocco Baldelli, Jed Lowrie (before going on the disabled list), George Kotteras and Jeff Bailey (filling in for Youkilis) have all struggled offensivly. And that brings us to David Ortiz. Ortiz, as we all know, was benched for the Sox entire series with the Seattle Mariners because of his abysmal start to the season. Although now playing again, the Sox will have to make changes if Ortiz continues to struggle, and that means bumping him down in the lineup. The most likely scenario is switching him with Drew, who has done very well in his career in the no. 3 hole in the lineup. If the struggles continue, the Sox will need help from outside the organization because the bench is not getting the job done.

Grade: B     - The Sox offense has won them games early on, but will need Youkilis and Bay to remain productive to pick up the slack for other hitters.

Starting Rotation:

The starting pitching for the Sox has been, well, terrible in relation to pre-season expectations. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox top three starters, all have ERAs well above five. Matsuzaka went on the disabled list with “shoulder fatigue” which was more likely an excuse to simply get him properly rested and ready for the start of the season which was interrupted by the World Baseball Classic. Beckett has pitched better than Lester has thus far, but both are struggling with command issues and leaving too many pitches up in the zone. Lester has already given up 10 home runs (he gave up 14 all of last year). If the top three in the rotation have been bad, then the Sox number five starter has been even worse. Brad Penny was thought of as a low-risk, high reward signing for the Sox when he came to Boston on a one-year contract. He has been knocked around in almost all of his starts and despite a 3-1 record, his ERA is an unsightly 6.69. With Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz ranking 1 and 2 in the International League in ERA, the time may come very soon when Penny finds out what a “low-risk” contract is all about. Tim Wakefield has been excellent all season, and the one starter that has really pulled his weight. He tossed back-to-back complete games earlier this season, one of which was a no-hitter for seven innings. He leads the rotation in ERA and in innings pitched. Justin Masterson has filled in well for the injured Matsuzaka, but inconsistent; in four of his six starts he has yielded two runs or less, while he has given up six in each of the other two starts.

Grade: C-        - The Sox have their top three starters are performing well below average, one starter performing well, and one performing badly. Change will come to the rotation if some of these starters continue to struggle.

Relief Pitching:

The Sox bullpen was tabbed in spring training as one of the best in the majors, and they have certainly lived up to expectations. The overall bullpen ERA is second best in the A.L., and are getting key contributions from talented young arms. Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez have appeared in 37 games entering tonight, and both have ERAs under 1.00 and 26 holds between them. Hideki Okajima (2.89 ERA and 12 holds) and newly acquired Takashi Saito (3.86 ERA and 16 holds) have both been dependable in the late innings. The Sox’s bullpen overall ERA (3.01) is somewhat skewered by Javier Lopez, who is no longer with the team after being designated for assignment and now pitching for Pawtucket, and Hunter Jones, who was brought up as a long reliever to eat up innings after Masterson went to the rotation. Jones figures to be sent down now that Matsuzaka has returned and Masterson will be back in the bullpen. Uber-prospect Daniel Bard has been called up recently after Lopez’s demotion and will also contribute solid innings. Bard was the closer for Pawtucket, and posted a 1.12 ERA and six saves in 16 innings pitched while racking up a remarkable 29 strikeouts (16.3 strikeouts per nine-inning). Meanwhile, Jonathan Papelbon has closed the door with the same results as we are used to, leading the A.L. with 11 saves, but has had to labor significantly more through some of his appearances. Papelbon changed his deliver slightly so as to incorporate an off-speed pitch to compliment his fastball and splitter, but the result has been some wildness as he has already walked two more batters this season than he did all of last season. But again, the results have been fine, as he is always able to get himself out of seemingly any jam.

Grade: A        - The Sox bullpen has been nothing short of outstanding, and with Bard and Masterson replacing Lopez and Jones, it will only continue to be one of the stronger aspects of this ball club.

Defense:
Defense has been a bit of a concern for the Sox thus far, as they rank 11th in the A.L. in overall team fielding percentage. But, most of the problems are coming from the shortstop position. With Lowrie out for a couple of months, and Lugo also hurting, the job fell to Nick Green for much of the month of April. Green is a natural second basement, and it has shown in his defense as he has racked up an A.L. leading eight errors. Since his return, Lugo has been little better, if not worse, recording four errors in only 12 starts at the position. Mike Lowell has played better than his numbers will indicate, and has made several higlight reel plays at the hot corner. Bailey has played above average defense in the place of Youkilis. The outfield has been excellent, with Drew committing the only error among them, and Ellsbury will once again be a serious contender for a Gold Glove. George Kotteras does have six passed balls, but has done an excellent job handling Wakefield all season.

Grade: B         - The defense has been solid at times, but shortstop, like catcher and centerfield, is a critical position defensively and that the Sox have a huge hole there is a problem that likely won’t be addressed until Lowrie’s return.

Bench:
Due to injuries, the Sox bench has become at times the Sox starting lineup. There was not many other options that Bailey at first, and despite his .190 average, he does provide a source of power at the bottom of the lineup. Green is a good hitter, and will be a solid backup later in the season to several positions, including in the outfield. Rocco Baldelli has had to play probably more than was expected, and struggling subbing as the designated hitter, but he is much better suited to play occasionally and in the outfield. Kotteras is having his struggles offensively, but the time has long been since the Sox looked for offense from the catcher position.

Grade: C+       - The bench has had to play more than they should at this point, but Green and Baldelli will provide offense off the bench later in the season, and the return of Mark Kotsay will also bolster the Sox’s depth.

Overall Grade: B+
The Sox find themselves a few games back of the Toronto Blue Jays, but ahead of both the Yankees and Rays. The Sox desperately need better performances from their starting rotation, but otherwise find themselves at the level of production they expected. The rash of injuries to begin the season seems to be clearing up, and it is essential to keep the players healthy and within their roles on the club.

Posted on: May 16, 2009 2:28 pm
 

The Great Red Sox Line-up Fix

Everyone is well aware of the season long struggles of Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, whose numbers, .208-0-15, would be cause for grumblings even for a player such as Jason Varitek, who also struggled heavily last season.

Manager Terry Francona benched Ortiz for Friday's series opener versus the Seattle Mariners, and said that Ortiz could sit for more than just the one game. The benching follows Thursday's afternoon extra inning affair against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in which Ortiz went 0-7 which three strikeouts while tying Trot Nixon for the franchise record with 12 runners left on base.

For the Sox game against the Mariners, J.D. Drew was moved upinto the number three spot in place of Ortiz. Francona always try to alternate batters in his lineup, left-right-left-right, as much as possible, and with the lefty Drew, Francona was able to keep his alternating batting order.

Last season, when Ortiz was on the disabled list for a wrist injury, Drew filled in predominantly in the number three hole. Everyone remembers the scorching month of June that Drew put up, with the line of stats: .337/.462/.848 for a 1.310 OPS, 12 home runs, 21 extra base hits, 21 base on balls and 27 RBIs.

All of those numbers came from hitting in the number three hole, and when Ortiz returned, Drew went back into his customary role in the bottom half of the lineup, and had what we have come to know as typical J.D. Drew Red Sox numbers: a high on-base percentage, few extra base hits, and untimely hits.

In the number three hole for the first time this season last night, Drew went 3-5 with a double, run scored and an RBI.

It may seem as though this is looking into too small a sample, but this is not just a coincidence.

The Red Sox line-up is in rough shape these days anyway, because of injuries to Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. In the place of Ortiz last night, Rocco Baldelli got the start as the designated hitter and batted fifth. If we sub Ortiz back in that lineup, and put Youkilis in (due back from the disabled list in about a week) we'll get:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Pedroia
3. Drew
4. Youkilis
5. Ortiz
6. Jason Bay
7. Mike Lowell
8. Jason Varitek
9. Julio Lugo

Per Francona's alternating hitters rule, the line-up in that respect remains unchanged, with the only two hitters from the same side of the plate in a row is Bay and Lowell.

This line-up does several things. First, (and most obviously) it takes advantage of Drew's prowess in the number three hole and allows his RBI opportunities with Ellsbury (who is, by the way, batting .307 on the year while trailing only Carl Crawford for the major league lead in stolen bases) and Pedroia so often on base.

Second, Ortiz will still be thought of as somewhat of a threat to opposing pitchers, as evidenced by the 20 walks he has drawn. Bay will provide protection for him, so pitchers cannot simply throw around him. The rest of the line-up remains unchanged.

The only problem with this is that Francona is a player's manager. He has said that he has a great deal of loyalty to Ortiz and is not going to give up on him only six weeks into the season. But, if Ortiz continues to struggle and Drew continues to be hot in the three spot, the change must happen for the Sox to really get the most out of their offense.
 
 
 
 
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