Saturday, January 21, 2006

Coco Crisp Update 

Chris Snow is reporting today that "the Red Sox, in their ongoing quest to replace center fielder Johnny Damon, continue to work diligently with the Indians on a six-player deal, at the center of which is Coco Crisp, a 26-year-old with speed, range, and a bat that appears capable of hitting .300 each season."

That's the good news. The bad news is that you can all but guarantee that Andy Marte will be a centerpiece in said trade. Snow adds, "In the most recent version of a deal that has been undergoing regular revision, the Sox, according to multiple major league sources, would be giving up third base prospect Andy Marte, setup man Guillermo Mota, and another player, presumably a prospect. The Indians would send Crisp to Boston along with two other players/prospects. As of last night, the deal appeared to have some parts moving into and out of the equation."

The phrasing of "moving parts" leads me to believe that the main pieces of this deal have been pretty much agreed upon.

This potential trade is tough to judge at this stage, as we don't have any idea of who is included beyond Crisp, Marte, and Mota. If the Sox can get a top prospect (RHP Fernando Cabrera?) from Cleveland as well, then it may be worth it.

Hopefully more details will surface, and the trade can better analyzed.

Over at RedSoxStats.com, the feeling is that Coco Crisp is not worth Andy Marte, due to Crisp's questionable defense in center field. In limited time in center, Crisp has played poorly defensively, according to Baseball Prospectus' Rate2 fielding metric. However, Crisp has been nothing short of excellent in left field, which may lead the Sox brass to believe that Crisp is a good bet to improve with more time in center.

Meanwhile, my personal favorite, Jason Michaels, has been a defensive stud in center field.

Offensively, Crisp is solid. Of all prospective CFs, Crisp sits at the top. RedSoxStats has provided an offensive breakdown:

In terms of bang for your buck, I still feel Michaels is the better option. He rates better defensively and will be on base more often. With the exorbitant asking prices for Crisp and Reed, Michaels should be our target.

Friday, January 20, 2006

He's baaack 

As you probably already know, Theo Epstein is back. Back as what, you ask? Well, we still don't know, but he's back -- and I'm happy. However, per usual, the local hacks [read: Shaughnessy and Massarotti] are skewering Theo and the rest of the Red Sox braintrust.

What, are you guys suddenly surprised that he's back? The rumors have been flying about his return since just before the Winter Meetings in December. I don't claim to know the whole story of what forced Theo cut his "official" ties with the team for 2.5 months, but I do know that Theo is as capable as any to run a baseball team, and that his "official" return is a positive one, no matter how you choose to dissect it.

Were his reasons for leaving selfish? Perhaps. Are we ever going to find out what his reasons were? Probably not. Shaughnessy claims, without direct quotes, that members of the baseball operations department are displeased with Theo. Uh oh! It seems like Theo has remained plenty chummy with Ben and Jed, and from every single quote that has been released in reference to Theo, it has appeared that they can't wait for him to rejoin the front office. But you're right, CHB, Theo isn't a popular guy anymore.

"When Jed and I accepted these positions several weeks ago, we did so in most part to maintain a sense of continuity in baseball [operations]. Theo's return will be a significant step toward maintaining that continuity."
-Ben Cherington on the return of Theo Epstein

So, in short, nice try, Shaughnessy. It's nice to see you're still not missing an opportunity to inject yourself into the story. Your most recent article reads like Cliff Notes from an episode of 24. Whatever happened to journalism?

Anyways, enough time wasted on him -- back to Theo. Like I said, I don't know his personal reasons for leaving, nor do I really care. As a fan, and as someone who is looking to get into the very profession Theo is in, my #1 goal is fielding a competitive team, and in turn, winning championships. There isn't even a #2. Theo has proven himself a winner, just as Bill Belichick has (another victim of a CHB backhanded comment). These two men have earned the right to make decisions without being crucified.

Right now, there are only three certainties vis-a-vis the Boston Red Sox: Theo is back, we need a center fielder, and we need a shortstop. If the latter two can be addressed by April 3rd, the Red Sox will be in good hands.


In other news, the Red Sox signed infielder-outfielder Willie Harris to a minor league contract. He'll earn $650,000 if he makes the team and it's likely that he will. As it stands now, he probably tops the center field depth chart, although I envision the Sox acquiring a superior player to man the role in 2006. His OBPs of .343 and .333 the last two years aren't too terrible, and he has a career 80% stolen base success rate. If he's limited to less than 200 at-bats, he could be an asset.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Red Sox are showing interest in free-agent outfielder Jeff DaVanon, an indication that they aren't close to landing one of their top candidates: the Indians' Coco Crisp, Mariners' Jeremy Reed, and A's Jay Payton. Jeff DaVanon has been a favorite of many on SoSH, and the reasons are understandable. The guy has MASHED lefties in the past; however, if you look at his year-by-year OPS vs lefthanders, you'll see he pretty much only hits them in odd-numbered years.

2005: 28 AB, 1.050 OPS
2004: 22 AB, 0.376 OPS
2003: 38 AB, 1.035 OPS
2002: 11 AB, 0.348 OPS
2001: 25 AB, 0.899 OPS

Career: 130 AB, 0.806 OPS

So will Jeff DaVanon hit lefthanders in 2006? Your guess is as good as mine. If he can, then we've found an excellent platoon-mate for Nixon in right field. If the price is right, it's probably worth looking into.

Lastly, despite Rosenthal's report, Chris Snow is reporting that there were ongoing conversations between the Sox and Indians yesterday, aimed at bringing outfielder Coco Crisp to Boston. The deal, according to a major league source, probably would cost the Sox top prospect Andy Marte and probably would include multiple players changing sides.

Crisp would be an excellent successor to Johnny Damon, but is he worth Andy Marte (and possibly more)? Tough to say. As it stands, Crisp is a good player, who has the ability to become great. Andy Marte is a player who has dominated all minor league levels, but hasn't proven a single thing in the majors. The only way a trade with Cleveland is worthwhile is if the Sox receive Rafael Betancourt as well. Betancourt has a career 140 ERA+. He's the real deal.

Could shortstop Jhonny Peralta be included? I highly doubt it. Would I trade Andy Marte in a package for Crisp and Peralta? In a second.

I guess the only thing we can do is sit back and wait for things to unfold. Never a dull moment, huh?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Arroyo, Sox close in on 3-year deal 

CBS4's Dan Roche and the Herald's Michael Silverman are both reporting that Bronson Arroyo is nearing a 3-year deal worth between $11 and $12 million (Herald states it as "slightly less than $11.5 million"). The contract also includes another $1 million in incentives, according to the Herald.

A contract with $4 million AAV for a pitcher that is pretty much a shoo-in to post double digit wins is an absolute bargain. Pitchers far worse than Arroyo are getting contracts approaching $10M per season (see Washburn, Jarrod).

However, this deal is even more interesting due to the fact that Arroyo was "driven by a belief that accepting his first long-term contract will help him remain a Red Sox the rest of his career." His agents, Terry Bross and Gregg Clifton, were advising him to continue with 1-year deals, which would have probably made him more money, but he chose the security of a long-term deal instead.

According to Roche's report, "With this deal, Arroyo also has basically a 'gentleman's agreement' that he won't be shipped to another team this off-season." Extremely interesting, as I've felt all offseason that Arroyo was their most tradable commodity, and is now even more attractive with his fresh 3-year contract signed well below his true market value.

In Silverman's article, Clifton was quoted as saying, “I just hope, as does Terry, that the Red Sox don’t use this discount to deal him away to another team."

I find this entire situation very compelling because, while I've felt that Arroyo would be a very valuable trading chip, he is now signed to a ridiculously good contract, and actually wants to remain in Boston. He is exactly the type of player I want on this team -- a guy who values winning and happiness over a big payday. With guys like Manny and Boomer trying to force their way out of town, it is positively refreshing to see what Bronson Arroyo has just done.

It's funny, how a day ago I wrote how I felt the Red Sox would be well-served by trading Arroyo after signing him to a 3-year pact, no matter how much his salary called for. Now he is probably even more attractive to other teams, and would fetch even more in trade, and I suddently don't want to trade him.

If the Sox really are sincere when they say they're not going to trade Bronson, I've got to assume that the Sox are closer to trading Wells or Clement than we've been led to believe lately. There's no way the Sox pay Bronson $4 to be a middle reliever in an already overstocked bullpen. I believe the first shoe has finally dropped.

Arroyo should be held onto -- a pitcher with his contract and his attitude is far more valuable than the numbers bear out. As Curt Schilling so proudly stated, "I take the kid on Saturday. He's got balls the size of Saturn."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Batting Eye 

In his 2006 Baseball Forecaster, Ron Shandler explains how 'Batting Eye' is a leading indicator of potential batting average. The formula is simply (Walks / Strikeouts). While this may seem entirely intuitive, it's rather interesting when you see the breakdown of how a batter's Eye correlates with his batting average.

So for example, in 2003 Bill Mueller totaled 59 walks and 77 strikeouts, approximately resulting in a 0.77 Batting Eye. Therefore, he should have batted closer to .281 that season (and probably even lower than that), but due to some luck, he was able to raise his batting average by atleast 45 points.

However, Mueller obviously isn't the only batter finding himself hitting for a higher average than his Batting Eye would indicate. Shandler illustrates this by breaking the above Batting Eye graph into percentage plays.

Mueller was able to to fall into the 32% category of hitters that batted over .300 with an Eye in the 0.76-1.00 range. When you consider that he was at the very bottom of the 0.77-1.00 range AND batted well over .300 (.326, to be exact), you realize that his 2003 was filled with luck.

I personally believe that some hitters do have the ability to keep their BABIP (batting average on balls in play) high from season to season, while most hitters do not. Considering 2003 was the first full season that Mueller batted over .300, we can conclude that it was indeed luck.

On the other end of the spectrum, we see that batters with eye ratios under 0.50 have only a 21% chance of batting over .300. So while it's very possible that one of these batters will someday post a .300+ batting average, we can safely assume that they will not sustain this level of performance.

In a study covering 1995-2000, only 37 batters hit .300 with an eye ratio below 0.50 in at least 300 at-bats. Interestingly, of this group, only 30% were shown to exhibit the unique ability to accomplish this feat on a consistent basis. For the other .70%, the .300+ season was purely an aberration, never to be consistently repeated.

Sox sign Mota, Close to deal with Arroyo 

On Tuesday, the Red Sox and reliever Guillermo Mota were able to avoid arbitration by agreeing on a one-year, $3 million contract.

This seems pretty fair to me. Mota made $2,600,000 last season, so the $400,000 bump in salary was reasonable, and he assuredly would have earned more in arbitration.

Meanwhile, Josh Beckett and Bronson Arroyo, who are both also arbitration eligible, exchanged figures with the club, and hope to reach an agreement before their hearings in February.

In today's Boston Globe, Chris Snow reports:

"...the most intriguing development wasn't the deal that got done but the deal that is in the works: a multiyear contract, probably for three years, for Bronson Arroyo, the 28-year-old righthander who just three winters ago was waived by the Pittsburgh Pirates."

This seems like a no-brainer here. If the Sox choose to hold onto Bronson, he's locked in at a reasonable salary for the next three seasons. Should they choose to trade him, his contract is even more appealing, as teams will be aware of exactly how much he is set to earn. As Snow mentions, with Arroyo, you pretty much know what you're getting -- 30 starts, 10-15 wins, and an ERA in the mid-to-low 4's. Nothing spectacular, but with the current state of pitching, Bronson is far from a shlub.

Furthermore, Snow states:

"Beckett -- who is new to the team, new to the American League, and comes with some injury concerns (finger blisters and right shoulder tendinitis) -- is someone the team would prefer to ink to a one-year deal."

Can't blame the Sox here either. While it would certainly be nice to ink Beckett to a longer contract, it's just not responsible with his recent injury issues. He is under the contractual control of the Sox for the next two seasons, so there really is no rush from the team's end. If he is able to pitch 200 innings in 2006, the Sox will likely look to sign him to a long-term contract.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tek unhappy with moves 

In Tuesday's Boston Herald, Jeff Horrigan reports that Sox catcher Jason Varitek isn't pleased with the roster turnover that has taken place this offseason.

“I’ve played with these guys for a very long time and won a championship with these guys, so they’re very special to me,” said Varitek, who is entering the second season of a four-year, $40 million contract. “Doug, Kevin, Johnny and Bill brought intangibles of playing hard, getting dirty and grinding out games. You appreciate playing with people like that, and you hope that it isn’t lost by whoever they do bring in.”

“I can’t dwell on the fact that we don’t have (Damon and Renteria),” he said. “It’s like losing Pedro (and) you can’t replace them, (but) I’ll see what they present to us to fill these spots and work with what we have.”

I've never ever been critical of Varitek. He's a class act, and one of the players I can't help but root for, but right now, I'm crying "Boo hoo, Jason." You forgot to mention that your buddy Johnny had the opportunity to remain in Boston. He chose to leave. The Sox set a limit of what they were willing to offer him, went to said limit, and it still wasn't enough. That's life, and it's no one's fault.

I can understand how you're upset that they traded your backstop counterpart in Doug. I'm sure you guys bounced things off of eachother all the time, but the trade for Loretta was borderline robbery. For you not to appreciate that is a shame.

Kevin? Sure, he's a good guy, but he lost his ability to hit. Plain and simple. Youkilis will be nothing short of a significant upgrade at first base in 2006.

How come baseball is a "business" to these players, up until something happens that they don't agree with, then it's suddenly "personal"? It doesn't work both ways. A player leaves for greener ($) pastures, and it's just business, but God forbid a team trades a player you happen to be chums with. Well, then it's personal.

Change was inevitable, especially when you consider the ages of the players on the 2004 championship team. I would have loved to see Bill Mueller stay; however, he's now 35, and has bad knees to boot. Dealing for Andy Marte to eventually take over as the everyday third baseman was a deal that had to be made, even if it cost Edgar Renteria (who many weren't even upset to see leave).

Had any other player made these comments, I would have just brushed them aside, but for the team captain not to recognize that the team has upgraded (despite the holes at SS and CF), it's pretty disheartening.

I'll admit it, 2006 could very well be a small step backwards, but to disregard the influx of talent in the upper minors is foolish. By 2008, the Sox will be looking at a rotation including Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jon Lester. Andy Marte will be at 3B. Dustin Pedroia at 2B. Jacoby Ellsbury will hopefully be on the cusp of taking over a spot in the outfield. Craig Hansen will be an anchor at the back of the bullpen.

And you're upset, Mr. Varitek? Please forgive me, as I do not pity you. Yeah, you may have to work a tad harder in spring training getting to know the new guys, but that's your job -- and you're damn good at it. You and the rest of the team will be just fine. Have a little faith.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blown Calls. . . 

Never in my life have I seen so many poor calls in such a short period of time. There were probably even more, as I wasn't able to watch each game in their entirety. Let's recap:
  1. Asante Samuel's bogus pass interference penalty
  2. Asante Samuel being ruled out of bounds on his interception
  3. The non-false start call on Jason Elam's 50-yard field goal
  4. Troy Polamalu's non-interception
  5. Thomas Jones fumbling through the end zone, but having it ruled a touchdown
All of these blunders were soo obvious to the naked eye. Aren't the best officiating crews selected for the postseason? These mistakes should not be happening. In football, one missed call can completely change the outcome of a game.

Had Polamalu's interception been ruled correctly at the time of the play AND after the review, the game would not have been such a nailbiter. The Colts got a second life, and were a made field goal away from capitalizing on it. If Samuel isn't flagged for a pass interference penalty, the stagnant Bronco offense probably doesn't march 40 yards and score a touchdown, completely changing the dynamic of the game.

I understand mistakes happen. The game is played in real-time, not slo-mo, like we see on television, but these are game-changing errors. And one of them, Polamalu's INT, wasn't even ruled correctly after the official review. It wasn't ruled a catch because he didn't stand up with the ball after doing a complete roll, while having absolute possession of the football? So what happens when a receiver dives for a ball, catches it, rolls over, and is then touched by a defender? He never stood up with the ball, but he's still ruled to have had possession. It just doesn't make sense if you don't call it the same in both instances, but I digress.

Hopefully, next weekend's games don't rest of the refs' shoulders. Bring in the best officiating crews and let the boys play.

Update: On Monday, the NFL came out and acknowledged that referee Pete Morelli erred when he overturned Polamalu's interception of a Peyton Manning pass Sunday in the playoff game between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

Mike Pereira, the league's vice president of officiating, said in a statement that Morelli should have let the call on the field stand.

"He maintained possession long enough to establish a catch. Therefore, the replay review should have upheld the call on the field that it was a catch and fumble."

While I do appreciate the NFL being very frank when one of their officials makes an error, it still does not make up for such egregious mistakes. Again, I pray this weekend's games are error-free. May the best team prevail.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ramblings. . . 

  • If the Devil Rays want Andy Marte for Julio Lugo, well, they can keep Julio Lugo.
  • I think the Red Sox eventually enter spring training with Alex Cora penciled in as the starter at SS.
  • Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers on February 19th. Only 35 more days.
  • Matisyahu is the real fuckin deal y'all. Check him on Letterman tomorrow night.
  • The Sox will acquire a very good centerfielder. Coco Crisp? Jason Michaels? Jeremy Reed? A strong defensive RF/LF that could make the switch to CF? Don't be surprised.
  • David Wells won't be traded. He will report to Spring Training.
  • The starter who will be traded? Bronson Arroyo.
  • The Dodgers got hosed in the Danys Baez deal.
  • I better land that internship with the Sox :)
  • Asante Samuel did not commit pass interference; Troy Polamalu did intercept that pass; and Champ Bailey did fumble through the end zone.
  • The newest Boston Bruin, Nathan Robinson, has one of the better nicknames ever -- The Chocolate Rocket.
  • 24 is overrated and it's way too dark in CTU.
  • This iHome thing for the iPod is pretty damn sweet.
  • Dustin Pedroia deserves a legitimate shot at winning the SS position.
  • Vanderjagt's missed FG? Schadenfreude.
  • Julian Tavarez will not replace Johnny as the new Red Sox heartthrob. Sorry ladies.
  • Will Peyton Manning ever win a meaningful game?
  • San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkinson the Sox' signing of Tavarez: ''Plumbing the depths of idiocy, the Red Sox signed crazy man Julian Tavarez for setup relief. No problem, though; the Sox' fans are onto his fraudulence. They'll have him run out of town by the trading deadline." We'll see.
  • Champ Bailey on his interception: "It was a great play by me." Good to see he's still humble.
  • Ben Watson sprinting 100+ yards to cut down Bailey at the 1-yard line was one those No Way Did He Just Do That! moments. It ranks right up there with Carl Crawford scoring on a sacrifice fly from SECOND BASE.
  • Matt "We want the ball and we're gonna score" Hasselbeck is a joke. He did himself no favors with that fruity post-game outfit.
  • Snowmobiling is a blast.
  • I'm playing the best poker of my life right now, somehow. Seriously.
  • Can't wait until Harold and Kumar Go To Amsterdam is released.
  • Sorta bummed my digital camera didn't reach the reserve price on eBay. I'll have to relist it eventually.
  • The Steelers/Broncos game is another one of those Can They Both Lose? games.
  • My winter break is wayyyy too long.
  • I wish I was working more. I need the $$$.
  • Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2006 is going to be hanging together by snot by the time this coming baseball season is over. Incredible stuff.
  • Grandma's Boy was funny and no, I'm not kidding.
  • All Audioslave songs sound the same to me.
  • Chicken quesadillas might be the best food on the planet.
  • Bringing that 4'' tv to work the other day was a terrific idea.
  • Nomar Garciaparra will finally play a full season.
  • Kiko Calero's middle name? Nomar.
  • I miss Lazer 99.3 when I'm not at school. 90 minutes of non-stop rock.
  • CBS produces a better football game, while FOX produces a better pre-game show. Still, Boomer Esiason of CBS knows more than anyone else.
  • Josh Beckett will pitch 200 innings.
  • Last, but not least, the Toronto Blue Jays are becoming way overrated. If they finish higher than 3rd place, I'll shut down this blog.

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