Thursday, June 6, 2013
Draft Live Blog: Future Disappointments
Draft starts shortly!
MLB.com coverage: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2013/draftlive_app.jsp
BA top 500: http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft-preview/
MLB.com top 100: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2013/
Hopefully the Yankees have some no-brainer’s drop into their laps.
Player A vs. Player B
The owner of the South Florida anti-aging clinic at the center of baseball’s latest doping scandal asked embattled Yankee star Alex Rodriguez for financial help after Major League Baseball filed a lawsuit that alleged he had sold performance-enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players.
When Rodriguez rebuffed Anthony Bosch’s request for money, believed to be in the hundreds of thousands, the self-styled “biochemist” turned to a strange bedfellow — MLB.
“A-Rod refused to pay him what he wanted,” said a source. “Baseball was worried about that.”
MLB reached an agreement this week for Bosch’s cooperation in its long-running investigation into one of the biggest drug scandals in baseball history and plans to meet with him on Friday.
The Daily News reported Wednesday that baseball was concerned Bosch might turn to players for financial help if MLB didn’t lock him into an agreement to testify.
“They were afraid someone else would pay him,” said the source. “Bosch is the only guy that can provide them with what they need.”
So MLB’s star witness is an extortionist as well as a drug pusher?
I mean this obviously doesn’t look good for Rodriguez but if MLB’s entire case hinges on Bosch’s testimony and evidence I’m prepared to be very skeptical.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
So, I Guess There is Some Draft or Whatnot Happening Soon
The draft starts at 7 PM Eastern tomorrow evening and the Yankees will have 3 picks in the first round (26, 32 and 33) and a pick in the second round, totaling 4 picks on day one of the now 3 day draft extravaganza.
Mike and I have given you an article about strengths and weaknesses of the past drafting classes/player development and the evolution of the Yankees drafting strategy. You may have noticed that I left 2012 out of my strategy post, and it’s obviously a bit early to judge players drafted just 1 year ago, so Mike didn’t cover 2012 all that much either. The reason I left it out is because the new draft system with draft pools and pretty severe penalties for exceeding the assigned pools went into effect last year. The goal of these changes was to better ensure that the best talent went to the teams most in need and in part attempt to fix the hilariously bad A/B Free Agent system.
What it did do was usher in what appears to be a new draft strategy around baseball. Last year the Yankees picked up a huge arm in Hensley in the first round and ended up getting a surprise deal (signed for 1.2MM 400L under the 1.6MM slot value) due to an “abnormality” that appeared in his physical, then broke the bank for Austin Aune (signed for 1MM just under twice the slot value of 548,400). Peter O’Brien, the Yankees other 2nd rounder, signed for slightly below slot and were followed by Nathan Mikolas, Corey Black, Rob Refsnyder and Nick Goody all of whom also signed for slightly below slot (excepting Refsnyder who signed for the exact slot amount). The next 4 picks were all signed for 10 thousand dollars, well below the slot values.
In short, the Yankees did what many other teams did, grab the good prospects in the first 4-5 rounds and fill the final 5-6 picks of the first 10 rounds with cheap, sure signs. Doing this allowed teams to funnel some of the saved slot money towards the front of the draft (picks 1-5) and towards the back of the draft where the more flawed but intriguing prospect fell.
I expect the Yankees to follow a similar strategy this year, day one of the draft will be very interesting, so will the early portion of day 2. In all likely hood the second part of day 2 will be wholly unexciting with many teams picking 4th year college players who will sign for negligible bonuses. Day 3 will contain some interesting picks, but a good number will be organizational fillers and a good number won’t sign at all.
So what is different about this draft from last year’s? For one, the Yankees have 12 picks and importantly, as everyone knows, 3 of them are first round picks. They had 11 picks last year but 2 were in the 2nd round, the slot values for first round picks are significantly higher. Because of that (and some built in inflation in the slot values), The Yankees have just under 8 million dollars to spend on their top 12 picks (and any over slot signings after the 10th round) compared to slightly above 4MM last year. Last year the Yankees had the 24th largest bonus pool, this year they have the 8th largest.
This draft should be a pretty big injection of talent into the Yankees’ minor league system, hopefully the Yankees draft well and sign some great players.
I’ll be around tonight and all of tomorrow to answer questions, opine on the draft and maybe do a bit of live blogging when the draft starts. I’m sure Mike will join in at some point too.
NEW YORK—The Yankees had it all working in the early innings on Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium and, despite tailing off as the day went on, held on for a 6-4 sweep-clinching victory over the Indians behind ace CC Sabathia’s complete game.
New York jumped out to an early first-inning lead against Indians starter Corey Kluber when former Indian Travis Hafner crushed a two-run homer into the second deck in right field. The Bronx Bombers tacked on four more runs in the second, keyed by a three-run homer off the bat of Brett Gardner.
For much of the day, the second-inning surge seemed as if it would merely go down as insurance for Sabathia, who cruised through the first four innings. Yet with the Indians finally breaking through later in the game, Gardner’s second-inning blast ultimately played a much bigger role.
I wish the Yankees could just play Toronto and Cleveland all the time.
Michael Bourn(L), CF: .303/.349/.408, 0.8 bWAR
Jason Kipnis(L), 2B: .238/.310/.440, 1.4 bWAR
Nick Swisher(S), DH: .253/.351/.447, 1.9 bWAR
Mark Reynolds(R), 3B: .247/.332/.485, 0.4 bWAR
Carlos Santana(S), 1B: .285/.394/.489, 1.8 bWAR
Mike Aviles(R), SS: .282/.308/.418, 0.6 bWAR
Michael Brantley(L), LF: .298/.357/.376, 1.2 bWAR
Yan Gomes(R), C: .291/.301/.582, 1.2 bWAR
Drew Stubbs(R), RF: .232/.289/.373, 0.9 bWAR
Lineup Total: .267/.336/.439, 10.2 bWAR
Brett Gardner(L), CF: .259/.329/.412, 1.5 bWAR
Robinson Cano(L), 2B: .283/.340/.513, 2.1 bWAR
Mark Teixeira(S), 1B: .267/.389/.667, 0.2 bWAR
Travis Hafner(L), DH: .245/.356/.489, 0.7 bWAR
Vernon Wells(R), LF: .245/.292/.426, 0.7 bWAR
Lyle Overbay(L), RF: .250/.294/.462, 0.5 bWAR
Kevin Youkilis(R), 3B: .247/.326/.377, 0.1 bWAR
Jayson Nix(R), SS: .248/.320/.302, 0 bWAR
Chris Stewart(R), C: .271/.330/.376, 0.4 bWAR
Lineup Total: .257/.323/.433, 6.2 bWAR
Two straight wins doesn’t change the fact that this homestand has stunk. Another win today won’t change that fact either, but it’s better than the alternative.
NJ.com: McCullough: Alex Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli among group reportedly facing MLB suspensions
NEW YORK — In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball is preparing to suspend as many as 20 players for violating the sport’s performance-enhancing drug policy, among them Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez, whose punishment could ban him from 100 games.
The broad penalties could signal the largest crackdown on performance-enhancing drug use in professional sports history.
After months of investigation, baseball officials broke through this week when Anthony Bosch, the director of Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, agreed to cooperate with baseball officials and testify against his alleged former clients, according to a bombshell report from ESPN’s “Outside The Lines.” Bosch is expected to meet with investigators this week. The suspensions could follow before the month ends.
Does doctor/patient privilege not apply when the doctor in question is not really a doctor?
Is it sad that I’m more disappointed that Cervelli could be suspended than I am that Rodriguez could be?
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
NEW YORK—For the second time in as many nights, Mark Teixeira provided the big blow for the Yankees. The first baseman slugged a three-run home run during a four-run third inning, providing New York just enough offense to fend off Cleveland, 4-3, on Tuesday night.
Indians outfielder Drew Stubbs hit a three-run homer of his own in the seventh off reliever Joba Chamberlain to cut the Yankees’ lead to one run, but Cleveland wasn’t able to complete a comeback. Former Yankee Nick Swisher had a chance in the eighth with two on and no outs, but he lined into a double play before New York reliever David Robertson escaped unscathed.
I think it’s time to anoint a new seventh inning guy.
The big news tonight was not a rare Yankee win. Instead, it’s the news that MLB seeks to suspend A-Rod, Braun.
Major League Baseball will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, possibly within the next few weeks, “Outside the Lines” has learned. If the suspensions are upheld, the performance-enhancing drug scandal would be the largest in American sports history.
One source familiar with the case said the commissioner’s office might seek 100-game suspensions for Rodriguez, Braun and other players, the penalty for a second doping offense. The argument, the source said, is the players’ connection to Bosch constitutes one offense, and previous statements to MLB officials denying any such connection or the use of PEDs constitute another.
IANAL, but this seems like a reach to me.
Michael Bourn(L), CF: .312/.358/.420, 1 bWAR
Jason Kipnis(L), LF: .242/.311/.447, 1.5 bWAR
Michael Brantley(L), SS: .297/.354/.376, 1.2 bWAR
Nick Swisher(S), 1B: .258/.358/.457, 2 bWAR
Carlos Santana(S), C: .288/.392/.495, 1.7 bWAR
Mark Reynolds(R), 3B: .246/.329/.487, 0.4 bWAR
Jason Giambi(L), DH: .203/.278/.478, 0 bWAR
Mike Aviles(R), SS: .283/.310/.425, 0.6 bWAR
Drew Stubbs(R), RF: .225/.283/.352, 0.7 bWAR
Lineup Total: .264/.336/.435, 9.1 bWAR
Ichiro Suzuki(L), CF: .261/.298/.344, 0.5 bWAR
Jayson Nix(R), 3B: .245/.313/.299, 0 bWAR
Mark Teixeira(S), 1B: .167/.286/.417, -0.1 bWAR
Robinson Cano(L), DH: .288/.346/.522, 2.2 bWAR
Vernon Wells(R), LF: .250/.298/.435, 0.8 bWAR
Kevin Youkilis(R), 3B: .247/.329/.384, 0.1 bWAR
David Adams(R), 2B: .242/.266/.387, 0.1 bWAR
Lyle Overbay(L), RF: .249/.294/.459, 0.4 bWAR
Chris Stewart(R), C: .262/.309/.369, 0.3 bWAR
Lineup Total: .258/.310/.414, 4.3 bWAR
I’m not sure that putting Overbay in RF against a lefty is all that logical, but the ways of the Binder™ are mysterious.
In David Phelps’s last start, he faced eight batters. He got one of them out while five of them scored. That start came against a Mets team that is averaging 4.05 runs per game. So he allowed a full run more in one-third of an inning than the Mets normally score in nine full innings. Cleveland is averaging 4.88 runs per game this year but since they can’t score .88 runs we should just round that up to five which means Phelps will give up six runs in one-third of an inning tonight. But that also means he probably will face nine batters instead of eight.
I guess that’s progress to a certain extent.
Yeah, the headline is about Overbay but this is the part that’s more interesting.
* Michael Pineda is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Class-A Tampa on Saturday after he went through a 65-pitch extended spring game yesterday without incident.
There is hope the right-hander could finally pitch for the Yankees next month after being out for more than a year following shoulder surgery.
Somewhere, a lonely patch of flat ground weeps.
Thanks to Mike K..
There’s really no foolproof way to tell who’s going to become a True Yankee©. It helps to be good, of course, but being good is no guarantee. And it helps not to be bad, but being bad doesn’t disqualify you. Worse players than Ben Francisco have become beloved Yankees, and there’s probably an alternate timeline in which Francisco gets a few timely hits, sticks around all season, wins a playoff game with a walk-off bunt, and spends his retirement rubbing shoulders and receiving standing ovations at Old-Timers’ Day with Luis Sojo and Homer Bush.
But this must be the darkest timeline, at least for Ben Francisco. Because in this timeline, none of those things has happened to him. Instead, these things have:
A retrospective on Ben Francisco’s Yankee tenure, a tenure that was all too brief with his official release yesterday. Thanks to Brian.
Monday, June 3, 2013
NEW YORK—Mark Teixeira may have needed to wait longer than he would have hoped for his first home run this season, but when he finally connected on one at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, he did so in grand fashion.
Playing in just his fourth game this season, Teixeira stepped in with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning and promptly roped a line drive to right field that just cleared the wall for his eighth career grand slam—and first home run since Oct. 1, 2012. The bases-clearing shot opened the scoring for the Yanks and they later piled on against Indians starter Justin Masterson en route to a 7-4 series-opening victory.
Masterson, who tossed a four-hit shutout against the Yankees on May 13, wasn’t nearly as sharp this time around. Along with Teixeira’s grand slam, center fielder Brett Gardner tagged Masterson for the decisive two-run single in the sixth inning, and designated hitter Travis Hafner ended the right-hander’s night one inning later with a solo blast to right field.
With the game knotted at 4 in the sixth inning, Gardner roped a grounder up the middle to plate a pair of runners and put New York ahead for good. In all, Masterson surrendered seven runs off nine hits and three walks over 6 1/3 innings of work.
I’ll admit to being skeptical about how productive Teixeira’s going to be right now, so the grand slam was good to see, particularly against a righty.
It was nice to see the team finally scoring runs, particularly with the way Masterson handled them last time, but the offensive holes on this team are still there and probably will still be there through the All Star Break at least. But at least for one night, they looked like a legitimate major league lineup again.
IndiansMichael Bourn(L), CF: .301/.350/.414, 1.1 bWAR
Mike Aviles(R), 2B: .275/.306/.422, 0.7 bWAR
Asdrubal Cabrera(S), SS: .256/.314/.438, 0.7 bWAR
Nick Swisher(S), 1B: .264/.362/.467, 2 bWAR
Mark Reynolds(R), 3B: .250/.330/.495, 0.4 bWAR
Carlos Santana(S), DH: .283/.390/.489, 1.6 bWAR
Ryan Raburn(R), LF: .296/.361/.531, 0.9 bWAR
Yan Gomes(R), C: .307/.316/.613, 1.2 bWAR
Drew Stubbs(R), RF: .225/.284/.348, 0.9 bWAR
Lineup Total: .267/.336/.458, 9.5 bWAR
Brett Gardner(L), CF: .256/.325/.408, 1.5 bWAR
Robinson Cano(L), 2B: .290/.349/.529, 2.1 bWAR
Mark Teixeira(S), 1B: .111/.200/.111, -0.1 bWAR
Travis Hafner(L), DH: .244/.358/.474, 0.7 bWAR
Lyle Overbay(L), RF: .247/.289/.461, 0.5 bWAR
Ichiro Suzuki(L), LF: .260/.294/.345, 0.5 bWAR
David Adams(R), 3B: .259/.283/.414, 0.2 bWAR
Reid Brignac(L), SS: .200/.235/.292, -0.9 bWAR
Austin Romine(R), C: .122/.143/.171, -0.6 bWAR
Lineup Total: .251/.309/.421, 3.9 bWAR
The homestand from hell continues.
Yes, this team’s solution to fix their putrid and broken offense is to force a 36 year old 1B with an OBP of .289 into the lineup in the outfield, a position he has never played in the majors. In fact, he last saw time in the outfield in the minors in 2001 when he was a spry 24 year old.
The good news is that one day soon it will be over.
No official word on how the Yankees are getting Pettitte onto the 25 man roster although I’m assuming Brennan Boesch is going back down to AAA.
A Tale of Six Shortstops
|Derek Jeter’s average projection||189||53||8||1||2||15||2||5||.281||.339||.369||22|
These are the splits for everyone while playing shortstop for the Yankees this season along with Derek Jeter’s average offensive projections pro-rated to the same playing time. Batting runs are pure offense compared to zero, not adjusted for position.
|Derek Jeter’s defensive projections||SS||497||-5||-3||-5||-4|
These are the year-to-date defensive statistics using three different play by play metrics for the Yankee shortstops this season, along with Jeter’s projections in those metrics pro-rated to the same playing time. Standard caveats about both the sample size here and the unreliability of defensive metrics apply, as always.
The projections don’t know how Jeter’s ankle injury will affect him offensively or defensively. It’s entirely possible he won’t be nearly as good as his projections think he is on either side of the ball.
But in the world where the projections accurately reflect what Jeter could be doing in 2013, 150 games of what the Yankees have gotten from shortstop compared to 150 games of Jeter’s projections is worth about 29 runs, or three wins. Even if you regress that in both directions and say the gap is closer to 15 runs, it’s pretty obvious the Yankees miss Jeter badly.
I hope the Yankees have some kind of plan in place to address this in 2014 if they aren’t going to do anything about it this year.
A Picture that’s Worth Three Words
wOBA: Weighed on-base average
See if you can guess the three words.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
NEW YORK—Jose Iglesias and David Ortiz homered off Hiroki Kuroda as the Red Sox defeated the Yankees, 3-0, in a rain-shortened game on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
Play was suspended at 11:25 p.m. ET with the Yankees about to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, one half inning after Ortiz launched a tape-measure solo blast into the right-field bleachers off Kuroda.
It was the second rain delay of the night. The umpiring crew halted play at 10:44 p.m. and resumed 37 minutes later, only to call for the tarpaulin again four minutes later after the completion of the top of the sixth.
With the way the Yankee offense has looked over the last few weeks I don’t think they were scoring 3 runs in 4 innings tonight. So I don’t think the game being called cost them anything.
It cost me sleep though, and that’s not cool.
Daniel Nava(S), LF: .296/.398/.485, 1.2 bWAR
Mike Carp(L), RF: .288/.338/.606, 0.1 bWAR
Dustin Pedroia(R), 2B: .333/.416/.446, 3.3 bWAR
David Ortiz(L), DH: .326/.400/.596, 1.1 bWAR
Mike Napoli(R), 1B: .269/.346/.500, 1.6 bWAR
Stephen Drew(L), SS: .218/.322/.381, 1.2 bWAR
Jarrod Saltalamacchia(S), C: .255/.329/.455, 0.4 bWAR
Jose Iglesias(R), 3B: .431/.455/.529, 0.9 bWAR
Jackie Bradley(L), CF: .171/.292/.244, -0.2 bWAR
Lineup Total: .288/.370/.477, 9.6 bWAR
Brett Gardner(L), CF: .258/.328/.411, 1.5 bWAR
Robinson Cano(L), 2B: .291/.347/.532, 2.1 bWAR
Mark Teixeira(S), 1B: .143/.250/.143, -0.1 bWAR
Travis Hafner(L), DH: .248/.363/.481, 0.7 bWAR
Vernon Wells(R), LR: .253/.300/.439, 0.8 bWAR
Kevin Youkilis(R), 3B: .254/.338/.394, 0.2 bWAR
Ichiro Suzuki(L), RF: .257/.292/.343, 0.5 bWAR
Jayson Nix(R), SS: .248/.317/.303, 0.1 bWAR
Chris Stewart(R), C: .262/.309/.369, 0.3 bWAR
Lineup Total: .260/.324/.417, 6.1 bWAR
Yesterday’s game wasn’t just a loss in the standings. It was also a Pythagorean loss, which means the Yankees are worse now than they were yesterday.
But it’s the rubber game of the series, and the Yankees can still win the series even if they are probably going to lose it run differentially. Hiroki Kuroda’s been the Yankees’ unquestioned ace so far this year, but Clay Buchholz has been the best pitcher in the AL and probably baseball.
This may be the best lineup the Yankees can run out there right now, but Boston’s is undoubtedly superior. So you have a better pitcher and better lineup going against the Yankees.
Other than that I like the Yanks’ chances.
We’re hosting the game thread here tonight and have invited the Replacement Level Red Sox guys to join us if they’re so inclined. Let’s hope for a fun Yankee victory and a correction for Buchholz’s unsustainable performance!
NEW YORK—The fingers waggled from the Yankees’ dugout and Phil Hughes obediently followed instructions on the mound, tossing four wide ones to David Ortiz to load the bases and take his chances with Mike Napoli digging in.
Hughes lost that third-inning gamble as Napoli blasted his fifth career grand slam to right field, and it turned into a rout from there as the Red Sox trounced the Yankees, 11-1, on Saturday night, handing New York its sixth loss in seven games.
“Tonight really was just one pitch I’d like to have back,” Hughes said. “I feel like if I can find a way to get Napoli out there, that’s really a momentum shifter.”
On their way to producing a season-high 18 hits, the Red Sox scored all five of their runs off Hughes in that third inning, with Napoli’s ninth home run of the season serving as the big blow.
I’m glad I missed this one.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
The Replacement Level Red Sox guys apparently did not learn anything from yesterday and have invited us to join their game thread again at the following link:
If you don’t want to mess with a one game winning streak, that’s probably the place to go.
They’ve also posted part 2 of our Q&A with them here: Q&A with RLYW: Part the Second, Reaping the Whirlwind. Since part one detailed how CC Sabathia was never going to get his fastball back what does that mean about part 2 where we trash Phil Hughes?
Maybe He’s not CC Moyer Just Yet
vFA: Average fastball velocity
vSI: Average sinker velocity
Friday, May 31, 2013
NEW YORK—CC Sabathia said that his biggest issues this year have been with command and aggressiveness. Friday’s performance serves as a good indication that when he gets them working in concert, he is still capable of dominating a ballgame.
Sabathia found the answers to his lingering problems in a sharp 10-strikeout performance, winning for the first time in more than a month as the Yankees snapped their five-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
The left-hander had not won since April 27 against the Blue Jays, a span of five starts, but he was happy to show off his good stuff on a steamy night in the Bronx. Working with a fastball that touched 94 mph and a put-away slider, Sabathia held Boston to a run on six hits over 7 1/3 innings, walking none.
When you’ve lost five straight, you take any win you can get. But seeing CC pitching well against the first place Red Sox on a night when Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis returned to the lineup was extra cool.
I think CC had his best fastball of the year and am now a bit more optimistic that he can get a few more ticks back as we move into the summer.
Can Phil Hughes follow up CC’s gem tomorrow?
The Replacement Level Red Sox guys have extended an invitation to talk about the game over there, so feel free to take them up on it by going to this link:
The nice thing about it is you’ll be among people who hate the Yankees almost as much as we do.
These are the worst 20 seasons for the Yankees in terms of games without a walk.
|Year||Gm||Gm w/o BB||%|
Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves.
Q&A with the Replacement Level Red Sox Blog
In anticipation of this weekend’s
bloodbath series with Boston, we though it’d be fun to do a blog crossover with our sister site, The Replacement Level Red Sox Blog. So we exchanged a few questions with each other to help the other team’s fan base get a sense of how things are going so far. Anyway, here are the questions we sent them and their responses.
1) Is Clay Buchholz really this good?
Well, yes and no. He’s certainly no Aaron Small, but he’s pretty talented. Buchholz has always had the arsenal to be a dominant pitcher: three different fastballs, a hammer curveball, a wicked changeup and, at times, the ability to command all his offerings. His past struggles have often come from pitching himself into trouble as a result of trying to be too cute with his approach. Then he’d lose faith in his stuff and his ability, and subsequently he’d be a wreck out there for a while.
Buchholz isn’t doing anything dramatically different mechanically, and his stuff is still the same as it’s always been. If there’s been a silver bullet for him this season, it’s been his willingness to attack the strike zone early with four-seam fastballs. In the past, he’d sometimes fall in love with the idea of trying to generate quick ground ball outs with his sinking two-seamer early in the count. Batters caught on to this and began laying off. Buchholz doesn’t throw the two-seamer for strikes as reliably as the four-seamer, so suddenly he was starting off with a lot of 1-0 counts. Now that he’s challenging hitters with first pitch four-seamers more often, Buchholz is starting off with more 0-1 counts and good things are happening. It will be interesting to see if the hitters adjust again and, if so, what Buchholz does in response.
2) What’s been the biggest surprise so far, aside from him?
I think the obvious answer among pitchers (despite his home run-a-palooza as I type this) is John Lackey. It is not just that Lackey has had success but how he has done it. When you watch him pitch the stuff and the results match up. I think most Sox watchers expected him to be improved, since it’s not mathematically possible to be worse than Lackey was in 2011, but now he actually looks like the pitcher he was in Anaheim.
Among position players, the other one is Daniel Nava. Nava in his previous two seasons had kind of done the Jed Lowrie thing where he would have a couple of great weeks then slump for a month but the two good weeks kept the numbers looking pretty. This year he has stayed reliable. He has gone from being a switch hitter in name only to at least showing some competence on the right side. Nava had a huge BABIP split between batting righty and batting lefty, so he might always have been a good enough hitter from both sides despite the top-line OPS split.
3) Who’s been the biggest disappointment so far?
Will Middlebrooks, no question. Middlebrooks was a big surprise last year for most statistically inclined Sox fans. He kept getting solid prospect rankings despite having no plate discipline whatsoever. Suddenly he’s on the Red Sox, he’s still striking out too much and not walking, but he’s making just enough contact and hitting for more than enough power to be a solid regular. I think a lot of Sox fans figured that the improvement in contact rate had to be real, and even if Middlebrooks never developed any real OBP, a good defensive 3B with 30-HR power is a plus player anyway.
Instead he regressed, the contact rate slid back down to completely unacceptable, and now he’s out with a back injury. The Red Sox backup 3B is Jose Iglesias, whose bat is doubtful at shortstop, and even he’s hitting better than Middlebrooks.
4) Who do you expect to play significantly better or worse going forward?
He’s an easy choice since he’s riding a hot streak, but Jacoby Ellsbury is definitely better than an 85 OPS+. He’s not a .260 hitter when he’s healthy—his BABIP is running about 25 points below his career norms—and even if the home run power never returns, Ellsbury should be better than this.
For playing worse, I should mention that Red Sox fans hate Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He’s hitting well so far, but he hasn’t changed his hitting strategy in any way—he still just takes his big stupid swing at whatever looks good. On top of that, he is a ludicrously bad defensive catcher. We are waiting for his OBP to return to its normal sub-300 level while cringing every time he uncorks a throw eight feet wide of second or stabs at a strike and pulls it out of the zone for a ball. I think he’s worse than his top-line numbers suggest, and he’s probably still going to get worse.
5) How confident are you that the team can sustain their early season success as the season moves on?
I don’t think this is a true .600 team. I do note that the 83-ish win consensus for the Red Sox was based on their having by a good margin the worst starting pitching in the division. As I argued earlier this year, with merely above average starting pitching, the Red Sox are an 87 win club and solidly in the middle of the divisional race. Upgrade to good, and it’s closer to 90. I’d probably peg them as an 87-89 win team that’s been playing over their heads by a few games so far.
6) What other team from the AL East is likely the biggest threat to the Red Sox and Yankees?
I felt the division was Tampa’s for the taking at the start of the season and I still think they are the team to be wary of. With the division featuring no pushovers I think the Rays’ depth on the mound is a huge advantage. If they can stay in striking distance I think having guys like Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome and Alex Torres give them innings as the year goes on is going to be a boost. I think that was a critical part of their comeback (and conversely the Sox failures) in 2011. I can easily see them just staying steady all year while the rest of the teams in the division have ups and downs because of that.
7) What do you think about having such a high pick in the draft compared to your typical normal lower slots and do you think the Sox will take advantage of it?
The high draft pick is cold comfort for the profoundly dispiriting season we endured last year, but it’s better than nothing. The emerging consensus among draftniks such as Jim Callis, Keith Law, and John Sickels seems to be that the Sox are tuning their draft approach to the high pick and are prepared to be more aggressive than usual. Whereas the Sox typically focus on college players in the first round (about 70% over the last five years), the rumors are currently coalescing around two high school players who may be on the board at #7: RHP Kohl Stewart and OF Clint Frazier. Both of those kids may go in the top six and leave the Sox looking for a Plan B, but they speak to a desire to turn this unusually high pick into the sort of high-ceiling talent the Sox rarely have access to at their usual position late in the round.
8) With pitchers like De Rosa, Webster and Ranaudo in the upper minors, pitching is clearly a strength in the Sox system, how does the rest of the system look? And who should we be worried about next year? In 3 years? in 5?
Pitching is undeniably the greatest strength of the system, as Matt Barnes (AA), Brandon Workman (AA), and Henry Owens (Hi-A) all have a case to be on that list as well. The rest of the system is deep in promising infielders and very thin in the outfield.
SS Xander Bogaerts (20) is the cream of the infield crop, showing much improved plate discipline and contact skills in his first full season of AA. The jaw-dropping power that landed him on a bunch of top ten prospects lists is starting to show up too. Bogaerts’ teammate 3B/1B Michael Almanzar (22) has shown signs he’s finally growing into his power swing and is mirroring Bogaerts’ maturing plate approach. One step down the ladder in Hi-A, 3B Garin Cecchini (22) isn’t so much kicking down the door for a promotion as he is just running straight through it, posting a 356/464/588 line (through Wednesday night’s game) with more walks than strikeouts. 2B Sean Coyle (21) and 2B Mookie Betts (20) have posted strong lines thusfar in A-ball, Coyle recently cooling off after a blistering April and Betts heating up in May.
Who should you worry about next year? Jackie Bradley Jr. Despite a rocky introduction to major league pitching he’s going to hit, and he’s already a spectacular defensive outfielder.
Who should you worry about in 3 years? The pitchers. The Sox aren’t going to hit on every one of their promising arms, but they’re going to have a very good and very deep starting rotation even if they only manage to bring two or three of their young guys to the big leagues successfully.
Who should you worry about in 5 years? Bogaerts. He’ll be in the show before then, but this is when he’ll be hitting his prime.
Update: And here’s our Q&A with them:
Thursday, May 30, 2013
NEW YORK—The slumping Yankees’ bats were slow again on Thursday as the club’s losing skid hit a season-high five games with a 3-1 decision against the Mets, who completed a Subway Series sweep of their crosstown rivals at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees were shut out in the season series by the Mets for the first time since Interleague Play began in 1997, losing twice at Citi Field before coming up empty in the Bronx as well, and they’re eagerly awaiting roster reinforcements from the Minor Leagues.
20 straight Yankees retired to end the game, 11 by strikeouts.