Tag:Greg Maddux
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The last generation of great pitchers (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson) have now been replaced by a younger ensemble of hard-throwing hurlers.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: April 14, 2008 11:16 pm

Red Sox Recap 4-14-08

The Red Sox pulled off an improbable comeback win to the first game of a two game series against the Indians. Some thoughts on the game:

Jon Lester’s night began very promising, having not allowed a hit through the first three innings. However, when he did begin to give up hits, he started to pay for the walks he gave up. Although this is now his third season in the big leagues, it is first to start the season with the major league club. Lester still shows a lot of issues prevalent among young starters, but it is almost getting to the point that Lester should be beyond these issues. He did hold the Indians hitless over the first three innings, so he clearly has the stuff to compete. But, Lester has always shown issues on the mound once he has gone through the line-up once. He seems to get extremely timid on the mound, and starts to labor by throwing too many pitches off of the plate and trying to get hitters to bite on balls that are out of the strike zone. This is a situation where Jason Varitek needs to take some time aside and rework Lester’s game plan. Lester needs to focus back on the basics: first pitch strikes and changing speeds during the second time through the lineup. Otherwise Lester’s fastball, while effective and has good movement, is not enough on its own, and he will continue to aim rather than pitch.

Since Lester’s struggles will provide the Sox with big problems, let’s take sometime to analyze a few more of his trouble spots. Lester has shown a strange reluctance while facing left-handed hitters, which is saying something considering his reputation for nit-picking against most hitters. He rarely throws inside against any lefties. If it is Travis Hafner, it is understandable, but he has to pound his fastball inside against left-handed batters and then go away with his cut-fastball, probably his best pitch. But, he is in the habit of throwing straight fastballs on the outside corner, which lefties rarely chase, especially with less than two strikes. Here’s where the issue of changing speed comes into play, and seeing as Lester’s change-up is at 87 MPH, when his straight fastball might touch 93 on occasion, there are clear issues here, and Lester needs a greater disparage of speed between the pitches.

Not meaning to overlook the most exciting part of the game, the Sox picked up a very impressive come from behind win. Manny Ramirez is clearly locked in at this early point in the season, which we have not been saying about David Ortiz, who picked up two hits, though of much lesser fanfare. For others who have been struggling, Mike Timlin worked an inning of effective relief, and was credited with the win when the Sox came back in the ninth. The performance, in which Timlin did not surrender a hit and recorded a strikeout, lowers his ERA from an absurd 81.00 to a still ghastly 20.25. But, all jesting aside, Timlin needs to have performances like this, because this will be his primary job: keep closes games close. If Timlin implodes like he had done in his only two appearances this year, the Sox may not have come back. Also good notes from the bullpen, the performance of Julian Tavarez should not be overlooked. He came in with the bases loaded and got two strikeouts, and wound up with four in total in two and two-thirds innings. There is a reason that the Sox resigned Tavarez this past off-season, and it was for Tavarez to be able to warm up quickly, come in, stop the damage, and eat up good innings. Needless to say, he is a very valuable player on the team, and the Sox made the right decision to hold onto him.

Watching the Sox come back against Indians closer Joe Borowski, and then Jonathan Papelbon close the game out for the Sox, simply made fans scratch their heads. No disrespect to Borowski, who led the A.L. in saves last year, but he is a junk ball pitcher, at best. The fastball he threw to Ramirez was clocked at a less than mediocre 82 MPH. Some pitchers can be effective without an overpowering fastball (Greg Maddux is going to win over 350 games as such), but a closer can not hope to use off-speed pitches to step up a fastball in the low 80s. Then, in stark contrast, Papelbon absolutely overmatched the Indians in the ninth, save a good swing by Hafner. Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera had no hope to even make contact with Papelbon’s fastball. It is also worth pointing out that because of the reputation of Papelbon’s stuff, he does not have to throw his splitter and yet hitters still have to anticipate it, which is why even above average hitters are always late on his fastball. If Borowski is going to continue to be relied on, the Indians may find themselves in trouble in September.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox rap up this short trip to Cleveland. (To view previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com