Average OPS+ from 2008 – 2014 (the entirety of Panda’s career):
All DH’s: 109
Pablo Sandoval: 124*
David Ortiz: 145
* The last time Sandoval had an OPS+ above his average was 2011
Webster’s Dictionary defines mercurial as follows:
mer·cu·ri·al adjective (ˌ)mər-ˈkyu̇r-ē-əl
characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood.
AT THE PLATE:
Let’s take a look at his career numbers (minus his 2 AB’s in Boston in 2005).
The first thing that jumps out is a clear line of demarcation between 2010 and 2011. Surely, the shoulder injury and subsequent surgery in 2011 had a negative effect on his offensive production going forward. His OPS+ during 2006-2011 was 142 while it dropped to a still elite 130 during the 4 subsequent seasons. The marginal decline does not seem too alarming if you are willing to ignore the fact that his OPS+ in 2013 was an other-worldly 189. Most disturbing, however, is the fact that he averaged 152 games during the first 5 years of his career and only 116 during the four most recent seasons. When you couple that 116 games/season average with numerous questions about his work ethic and willingness to play with nicks and bruises, one begins to see a disconcerting trend. You need to look no further than the L.A. Times last season to become a little skeptical about how a 5 year contract will turn out.
It remains to be seen if the elite hitter will be on the field in 2015. Adding a likely position change to the outfield into the mix certainly does not increase the likelihood of that happening either.
IN THE FIELD:
Below are Ramirez’s career advanced sabermetric fielding statistics.
The take home message here is that Hanley is a below average SS. The Red Sox did not sign him to play SS, so it is somewhat irrelevant. The transition to LF will greatly depend on how motivated he will be to learn a new position. Hopefully he can find some motivation in his lucrative 5 year deal.
Based on Rtot/year, Hanley Ramirez costs his team about 6 runs per year more than Pablo Sandoval (who is an average defensive third baseman saving you 1 run per year above the norm). Ramirez’s roughly one season at third did not indicate that he would even be an average defender there. However, one has to wonder why the Red Sox saw the need to sign both players instead of a starting pitcher.
On August 25, 2012 everything changed for the Boston Red Sox when they jettisoned roughly a quarter billion dollars in payroll in the forms of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez. According to Sox principal owner, John Henry, “We learned a lesson in ever-growing, long-term contracts with free agents.” Oh what a difference two years and a last place finish can make! According to multiple media reports, the Red Sox are putting the finishing touches on a 5 year, $90 million contract with Hanley Ramirez and a 5 year, $100 million deal with Pablo Sandoval. So much for lessons learned.
In the second half of 2014, Red Sox starting pitchers finished 2nd to last in ERA in the American League (4.84) and last in WAR (3.5). As of this writing, that is the staff that will open the 2015 campaign. Thus, it seems completely reasonable that signing an aging malcontent SS/3B and an overweight singles hitter completely solves this glaring problem. Not only does it fly in the face of the “new model” of overpaying for short term deals, it is difficult to see how these additions make the 2015 Boston Red Sox appreciably better than the disappointing 2014 squad.
What remains unclear is how these new signings will fit into an opening day lineup. It seems safe to assume that Sandoval and Xander Bogaerts will man the left side of the infield. Does this mean that Hanley Ramirez will find a spot somewhere in the outfield? The current 40 man roster already lists Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Allen Craig. Both Mookie Betts and Brock Holt, although lists as infielders, also logged significant innings in the outfield last season. The idea that any combination of the above without including both Betts and Bogaerts would lead to the acquisition of anything better than a number 3 starting pitcher in a trade seems fanciful. Dealing either of their two best prospects would be a colossal mistake.
If Ben Cherington and his minions value Pablo Sandoval at $20 million per year, how much is Jon Lester worth? $40 million per year? In the post steroid era, the rest of baseball believes that pitching and defense win. To date the 2015 Red Sox have neither. It’s going to be a long winter in Beantown and an even longer summer.
According to multiple reports, the signing of Pablo Sandoval is imminent. The only people excited about this are working on Yawkey Way (and Panda himself of course). The viewpoint being put forward by management is that Sandoval fits several needs: 1) a left-handed bat, 2) a third baseman, and 3) a future full-time DH when David Ortiz retires. On the surface, this reasoning actually seems quite sound. Will Middlebrooks, the incumbent “can’t miss” prospect at third base, seems more interested in spending his offseason as a wedding planner eschewing the idea of playing winter ball. The only other obvious option at third would be Mookie Betts.
It would be naive to think that Ben Cherington and his analytics obsessed minions failed to notice The Panda’s 3 consecutive seasons of declining OPS and OPS+. Not to mention his portly 5′ 11″, 245 pound frame. Pointing to his gaudy postseason numbers is specious at best. So why all the love?
The Red Sox spent a great deal of time thumping their chests after an improbable World Series championship in the 2013 offseason over their new fiscally responsible approach to long-term contracts. In overpaying Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, and Stephen Drew in short-term deals they got one magical season out of the quartet and were not on the hook long-term. This seemed like a formula for the future, then 2014 happened. It seems that they have done a 180 based on the reported discussions of 5 or 6 years with Pablo Sandoval.
One is tempted to think that with a new GM in Cherington, history could not possibly be repeating itself. The Red Sox severely overpaid Julio Lugo in 2006 at 4 years and $36 million when there didn’t seem to be another team even interested in signing him. John Lackey‘s 2009 five year $82.5 million deal could be described similarly. The 2013 mid-season signing of Stephen Drew is yet another recent example of bidding against themselves. Lackey was at least an improbable mainstay of a 2013 championship season, while Lugo was terrible from day one. Surely there are other examples of the “panic signing” strategy in recent Red Sox history, but it seems that Sandoval will be the next.
I would be remiss to ignore the fact that Sandoval is a good major league player. The problem is that he is not great. He has a three year track record of decline, and he is already morbidly obese. The Red Sox point to the fact that San Francisco is not a “hitter’s park” yet his offensive numbers were actually worse on the road. There is no doubt that he can help them fill a hole at third base for a year or two, but the Red Sox are over valuing him as a player simply because he is the “best available” in a very thin free agent market. Simply put, the case for signing him is there if it is for three years. It just doesn’t make sense beyond that.
Conventional wisdom seems to be that Sandoval will morph into a full-time DH within 3 seasons. Doesn’t this make him solely a candidate for the American League? It is impossible to believe that San Francisco would offer anything more than a 3 year deal. Have an other AL teams shown interest in Sandoval? Answer: not to anyone’s knowledge. Does it seem that the Red Sox are once again bidding against themselves? Answer: YES!
One additional consideration is that Xander Bogaerts is probably best suited to play third base. If one scours the Internet, it is impossible to find a quote from anyone not associated with the Red Sox who thinks he has the defensive attributes to be a shortstop. In two short seasons, the left side of the Red Sox infield could be manned by an overweight third baseman, and a shortstop with no range. Finally, it makes absolutely no sense to consume a roster spot with a future full-time DH who isn’t really a great hitter. Most AL teams have already abandoned the idea of a full-time DH in favor of rotating position players throughout the season. This approach is clearly warranted if you don’t have a hitter of David Ortiz’s calibre. Alas, Kung-Fu Panda is not the right guy.
There’s been more than enough opinions espoused by fans and “experts” alike regarding the 2012 incarnation of the Olde Towne Team. It might even be a little fair to back those pinning the bulk of the blame on Bobby V. The truth is not nearly as simple as that. A few thoughts in no particular order:
- Mike Aviles is a decent hitter, but Scutaro and Lowrie both would have easily handled those two balls he booted in yesterday’s collapse.
- Alfredo Aceves is Bronson Arroyo. One great year, but there’s a reason the Yankees didn’t offer him a contract before the 2011 season.
- Bard belongs in the bullpen. He might one day be a dominant starting pitcher. Something to consider in 2012.
- Blame Valentine if you want. Connie Mack couldn’t win with a bullpen of Aceves, Albers, Thomas, Padilla, Morales, and Tazawa. It’s no more complicated than that.
Perhaps an 0-6 start to the season isn’t the worst thing that could have happened to these Red Sox. In fairness to the organization, they should not be accused of singing their own praises à la the Miami Heat. In fact this is quite possibly the first time in the Theo era in which we have not been inundated with veiled references to how smart they are with the Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford acquisitions. While those additions will eventually pay dividends (most notably Gonzalez and much less so Crawford), the questions still remain with pitching.
Jon Lester is a bona fide ace. Clay Buchholz has tremendous potential but is hardly a lock to repeat his stellar 2010. This logically brings us to John Lackey and Josh Beckett. For some completely inexplicable reason, conventional wisdom among national pundits and local “experts” is that they are both #1 starters. Really? Let’s take a closer look:
Beckett had a great 2007 and marched through October like Walter Johnson. Since then he has been no better than an average starter (see table below). There is no rational reason to believe that he will suddenly recapture the dominance of 4 years ago. He no longer can rely on a 97 mph fastball to bail himself out of trouble. In his first start this season, he was consistently in the 91-93 mph range.
The virtual statistical twin to Beckett over the last 3+ seasons. He also has lost a bit on the fastball. The key difference here is that he never possessed true ace stuff. He was the number one starter on a mostly mediocre Anaheim staff before signing with Boston before the 2010 season.
Cumulative statistics 2008-present
Player ERA+ IP W L H ER BB SO ERA BA OPS OPS+ Edwin Jackson 107 612.2 38 32 618 282 229 457 4.14 .263 .750 98 Ervin Santana 107 588.0 41 25 585 263 169 496 4.03 .258 .730 94 John Lackey 106 558.1 37 25 581 257 161 428 4.14 .270 .754 98 Jonathan Sanchez 106 520.1 30 34 438 233 262 547 4.03 .227 .699 89 Derek Lowe 105 611.0 46 34 638 264 174 407 3.89 .272 .716 95 Joe Saunders 104 593.1 42 32 626 273 184 321 4.14 .274 .762 102 Josh Beckett 104 519.1 35 23 527 254 138 491 4.40 .261 .735 89 John Lannan 103 536.2 27 36 562 243 190 280 4.08 .272 .755 105 Scott Baker 103 548.2 38 23 542 252 137 455 4.13 .256 .727 93 Javier Vazquez 103 587.1 37 37 556 275 175 560 4.21 .248 .728 92 Bronson Arroyo 101 643.0 48 34 627 296 192 416 4.14 .257 .742 100 Joel Pineiro 101 515.0 32 26 553 233 96 278 4.07 .276 .738 99 Jon Garland 101 600.2 39 33 638 275 207 335 4.12 .276 .763 106 Randy Wolf 101 624.1 36 32 592 274 218 469 3.95 .251 .730 101 Ricky Nolasco 100 562.0 42 26 556 268 119 532 4.29 .256 .726 93 James Shields 100 645.1 38 36 697 305 145 521 4.25 .274 .764 103 A.J. Burnett 99 620.0 42 34 613 305 262 577 4.43 .259 .751 98 Johnny Cueto 98 531.0 32 32 531 252 185 428 4.27 .261 .770 107
Much of the hype surrounding the 2011 Red Sox centers on the depth of the starting pitching. If the Sox entered the season with John Lannan and Javier Vazquez instead of Beckett and Lackey, would every so-called expert have picked the Red Sox to win the East by 6 or 7 games? I doubt it. However, the reality is that they would be statistically identical with those two guys in the rotation.
This rotation is solid, but it has just as many questions as the Yankees rotation. It breaks down like this:
- C.C. Sabathia vs. Jon Lester: a virtual wash.
- Phil Hughes vs. Clay Buchholz: two young guys, Buchholz probably has a slight edge because he has actually put together one solid season.
- John Lackey vs. A.J. Burnett: I hate to admit it, but they are the same guy. Lackey has been more consistent throughout his career, but Burnett still has the ability to be completely dominant on occasion.
- Ivan Nova vs. Josh Beckett: slight edge to Beckett but way bigger upside for Nova.
- Freddy Garcia vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka: slight edge to Matsuzaka.
Perhaps the 0-6 start will serve as a reminder to everyone that they still need to play these games. I still like Boston to win the division, but they need to start doing everything better very soon.
- .190 AVG, .275 OBP, .301 SLG
- RISP: .175 AVG, .250 OBP, .200 SLG
- 8.33 ERA, .290 opponent AVG
- RISP: 24.00 ERA, .350 opponent AVG
- Starters: 8.53 ERA, .308 opponent AVG
- Bullpen: 7.98 ERA, .258 opponent AVG
Spinning it forward:
- Jon Lester career at Progressive field: 4 GS, 1-0, 22 1/3 IP, 26 H, 17 R, 12 BB, 24 K, 6.85 ERA
- Jon Lester with Jerry Meals as home plate umpire: 2 GS, 1-0, 12 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 7 BB, 13 K, 3.00 ERA
Alex Speir (WEEI.com) wrote, “So maybe there is something to this slider thing after all.”
If this is true then I’d like to know why he waited until the bases were
loaded. The only plausible excuse for his deflating performance
yesterday was that the game was already lost when he entered the game. I
know that there are 159 more to go, but who can really feel confident
after this weekend in Texas? I’m willing to accept that Lester’s
performance was probably an aberration, but Lackey looked nothing short
of awful with a fastball in the high 80’s. Hopefully we’ll see the
October 2007 Josh Beckett on Tuesday in Cleveland.
Why not bat Carl Crawford 2nd in this lineup? Here’s my take:
- He likes to slap the ball to left field. This tends to open up even more if Ellsbury is on first base with the SS covering second on a steal;
- Makes it slightly tougher on the catcher to throw to second on a steal by Ellsbury.
- Not a bad guy to have setting the table if Ellsbury does not reach base.
- He simply is not a good enough hitter to justify batting him in the 3 hole.
I’d go like this:
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Carl Crawford
- Dustin Pedroia
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Kevin Youkilis
- David Ortiz
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia
- J.D. Drew
- Marco Scutaro (Lowrie is a better soution here, but they love Marco for no good reason)
This lineup gives a good lefty/righty balance. I don’t think that Pedroia would be a stretch batting third. More pop than Crawford, and he’s right-handed.
For what it’s worth…
AL East: Boston
AL Central: Minnesota
AL West: Anaheim
AL Wildcard: New York
- Boston is in no way the overwhelming favorite that everyone pegs them to be. Underwhelming performances (see 2010) from Beckett, Lackey, and Papelbon could have them finishing second or worse.
- Oakland might have the best pitching in the AL. We’re not convinced that they have enough offense to win a division.
- Texas is the defending AL Champion, but their starting pitching is suspect.
- The White Sox will contend in the Central. Detroit won’t.
- For a team that was an off-season “loser,” the Yankees sure look good. Mid-summer acquisition of a marquee starter could swing the balance in their direction.
NL East: Atlanta
NL Central: Milwaukee
NL West: Colorado
NL Wildcard: Philadelphia
- Cincinnati doesn’t have the pitching to repeat.
- Not convinced that the Giants will score enough runs to repeat.
- Philly will have trouble scoring runs without Utley and a continued decline of Rollins.
- Even without Wainright, St. Louis could still win a weak division.
- The Brewers need big years from Greinke, Marcum and Fielder.