So, The Panda Will Replace Big Papi in a Few Years?

November 25, 2014 · Posted in Hot Stove · Comments Off 

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

 

Hanley Ramirez: Getting To Know You (Again)

November 25, 2014 · Posted in Hot Stove · Comments Off 

Webster’s Dictionary defines mercurial as follows:

mer·cu·ri·al adjective (ˌ)mər-ˈkyr-ē-əl
characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood.

Hanley Ramirez, the newly minted Boston Red Sox $88 million 3B/SS/LF, is the personification of mercurial as his career timeline suggests.

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.

The jury is still out on the Ramirez signing. The Red Sox will regret the Pablo Sandoval signing in a few short years (Google Edgar Renteria and Carl Crawford if you don’t understand).

 

Mr. Henry, What’s Going On Here?

November 24, 2014 · Posted in Hot Stove · Comments Off 

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.

Pondering Panda

November 19, 2014 · Posted in Hot Stove · Comments Off 

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.

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