Saturday, May 06, 2006

A couple first month thoughts 

What to make of Mike Lowell?
After 27 games, I can't help but be incredibly impressed with what Mike Lowell has been able to accomplish this year. His defense has come as advertised, but his bat has been sooo much more productive than expected. When Theo made the trade for Josh Beckett, the Sox were required to take Mike Lowell, the $9 Million alabtross, for the trade to go through.

One month into the season, Mike Lowell is leading the league with 16 doubles. Will he keep up the .350 batting average? Not likely. Will he remain on pace for 95 doubles? Of course not. Mike Lowell may not have the 30+ homerun power he had in years past, but you can be sure that he will play a Gold Glove-caliber base while getting on base at an above-average clip. One question for the pundits out there -- I thought Mike Lowell didn't have any bat speed?

It's also important to note Lowell's split vs RHP and LHP. Coming into this season, Lowell's ability to hit LHP was his only saving grace, but this year he has shown an incredible ability to hit righties. This bodes well for his future prospects. His numbers vs LHP should rise, so if he can continue to hit righties at an above-average clip, the Sox will have themselves a serious threat. We must temper our excitement however, as the season is only one month old. Below are Lowell's RHP/LHP splits.

Who leads off when Coco returns?
In Coco's absence, Kevin Youkilis has done nothing but get on base. Should he remain in the top spot when Coco returns? Personally, I believe he should, but will Tito do this? I find it hard to believe. Youkilis needs to lead off for two important reasons. 1) His OBP is far superior to Coco's, and 2) Crisp's speed is much more valuable further down the lineup than in front of the Ortiz and Ramirez. With the big boppers coming up, it is safer to play station-to-station. If Coco steals seconds, the opposing team is likely to just walk Ortiz or Ramirez with first base now open.

What I'd like to see is Crisp batting in front of Loretta, preferably lower down in the order. With Loretta putting the ball in play 93% of the time, hit-and-runs could be executed to perfection with Crisp. However, vs LHP, this is difficult, because aside from Crisp and a rebounded-Loretta, there really is no one else to bat in the 2-hole. The lineups I'd like to see are to the left.

However, I think there is about a 5% chance these lineups are actually employed by Terry Francona. Look for Crisp in the top spot with Youkilis batting 2nd. It's not the most effective lineup construction, but it'll get the job done, I suppose.

Also note that the 2006 Sox Sabermetric Stats have been updated through Friday night's game.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sox reacquire Mirabelli 

Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine is reporting that the Boston Red Sox have finalized a trade to obtain catcher Doug Mirabelli from the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher Josh Bard, minor-league pitcher Cla Meredith and cash.

He also adds that the Yankees tried to obtain Mirabelli to block him from returning to Boston, but the Red Sox won out.

Personally, I love the deal. Many are clamoring over the loss of Cla Meredith, but I just don't see him ever being a quality major league reliever. They're arguing that his small sample size in Boston should be ignored, but I feel that his MLB performance from last year, plus his poor performance in AAA last year and this year goes a long way to prove that he may just never be successful above AA.

Sure, Bard could have eventually learned to catch the knuckler, but with the Yankees in town, it just wasn't worth waiting to find out. Mirabelli has proven he can catch the knuckleball and despite the praise Wakefield heaped upon Bard, he is much more comfortable with Mirabelli. It also can't hurt that while Wakefield has managed to square off against every single left-handed starter in the league, Doug has shown the ability to mash lefties.

It's also important to note that this deal opens up a spot on the 40-man roster. Roger would fit in nicely.

UPDATE: Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press is reporting that the Sox are receiving Doug Mirabelli for Josh Bard, minor-league reliever Cla Meredith and either cash or another player. This leads me to believe that the PTBNL will be rather insignificant.

UPDATE II: ESPN.com has updated their story and reports that the trade is Doug Mirabelli from the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher Josh Bard, minor-league pitcher Cla Meredith and $100,000. There is no mention of a PTBNL.

Sox fail with runners in scoring position 

The 9th inning on Sunday was a microcosm of the Sox' main struggle thus far: hitting with runners in scoring position. Sure, the Sox have been able to bop a solo homerun here and there, but from just watching the games, it seems as if they've been positively anemic at hitting with runners in scoring position.

On Sunday, trailing by 3 in the 9th inning, Mike Lowell and Wily Mo go back-to-back and bring the Sox within a run, then Trot Nixon worked a walk. Willie Harris ran for Nixon (which is the only thing Willie Harris should ever be doing for this team) and took off for second. An errant throw by Toby Hall landed Harris on 3rd with one out. At this point, based on the Run Expectancy chart, the Sox should score another .983 before the inning ends.

The next batter, J.T. Snow was hit by a pitch, increasing that number to 1.243 runs. At this point, the Sox should, at the very least, tie the ballgame. A simple fly ball will score the tying run, but Kevin Youkilis, the next batter, strikes out. Mark Loretta then goes on to groundout to the shortstop for the final out of the game.

This is how it's been all season it seems. Men get on base, but they don't score due to poor situational hitting. The Red Sox are third in the American League with 238 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but rank third-to-last with a pitiful .235 batting average. But, you say, the Red Sox have some sluggers on their team! Maybe they've not hitting for a high average, but they're surely crushing the balls that they are actually hitting! Wrong. The Sox rank 11th out of 14 teams with a putrid .336 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position.

I could obviously go on forever here, but you're probably better off just taking a look at the graph below to get a real idea of how bad they've truly been.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sox hope to turn it around vs Pinstripes 

A 3-6 roadtrip? Color me displeased. The comeback win on Saturday was nice, but you just can't lose 2-of-3 to Tampa. The offense really needs to pick up the slack, and hopefully Fenway will be just the cure for their hitting woes.

It was a nice attempt at a comeback earlier tonight, but really, the Sox were lucky to get as close as they did at the end. Rudy Seanez? Can you feel that breathing on your neck? It's Craig Hansen. We'll see if you're still on the club come mid-June.

So what will tomorrow night be like? It's going to be interesting, that's for sure. I'll be at the game, and my personal plan is to applaud Johnny, then mildly boo him for the rest of his at-bats. I just can't look past what he did in Game 7 of the ALCS, so he deserves to be thanked for that.

After that? He's a Yankee, and you won't find me cheering for him. I'm actually hoping something spontaneous breaks out as his name is announced. Nothing would be sweeter than a "COCO'S BETTER" chant as Johnny strolls to the plate. Too good to be true? Perhaps, but who honestly expected Mariano Rivera to receive a standing-o when he was announced at Opening Day 2005?

As for the actual game, and the series for that matter, I'm pretty thrilled that we didn't draw Randy Johnson because this club can't hit a lefty to save its life. In 25 games thus far, the Sox have faced a lefty starter 10 times! In a league where roughly 20% of the games are started by a left-hander, you really begin to realize the tough draw that the Sox have received. Wanna be depressed? Take a look at the Sox lefty/righty splits that I've posted on the stats website. In a word -- ugly.

I hate to say it, because I know the guy is giving it his all, but this may be Josh Bard's last chance to rein in the knuckler. If his passed balls end up being the difference in a game versus the Yankees, I just don't think the Sox can continue to employ him, just from a PR standpoint (and I'm usually one that really doesn't give a hoot about these things). It really makes you appreciate how talented Doug Mirabelli really was. Still, despite Loretta's struggles, I make that trade every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Recently acquired Corky Miller (pictured left) is currently the catcher in Pawtucket and has experience catching knuckle-baller Jared Fernandez in Cincinnati. There were rumors that he could have been called upon to catch Wakefield on Monday, but it appears the Sox are giving Bard one last shot.

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