Outskirts of Red Sox Nation

Monday, January 22, 2007

First Past The Post

I knew it all along. The meritocracy is alive and well. If you do something and do it well, no matter what it is, people will notice and you will be recognized for it. Or, in my case, do something in a mediocre fashion but with an abandon that borders on obsession and people will notice.

Whichever is the case, this will be my final post from the Outskirts of Red Sox Nation. Effective later this week, my low-VORP baseball thoughts will be able to be found at the upstart juggernaut (can you be both?) web site Red Sox Times. Proprietor/founding member Tim Daloisio has been working on a banner and a space for me in his stable of writers. I'll be writing under the byline of "Past a Diving Jeter," which will remain, for my money, the sweetest four words in the english language. My focus will, at least in part, be on the goings on throughout the AL East and baseball in general with a eye on how it affects the Old Towne Team.

So thank you to the Norwich Bulletin, who provided the impetus and invitation to start this blog. Thank you to those who have occasionally swung by to visit here. I'd ask you to please change your links to the Red Sox Times, and be sure to check that out as often as you're able without making it too obvious that you're avoiding doing something productive. Thanks.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Christopher Nixon, Cleveland Outfielder

ESPN just reported that Christopher "Trot" Nixon agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal to play for the Cleveland Indians this year. Three million's no slap in the face, but the whole thing just makes me a little sad. Trot's played his whole career in the Sox system, was a fan favorite, and had some really huge moments for the Sox. My personal favorite is the two-run homer he hit off of Roger Clemens in the ninth inning of that great Pedro-Rocket pitcher's duel in 2000. I don't know what the final numbers say, but he always seemed to have Clemens' number- which I suppose makes sense, as he generally killed fastballs from righthanders.

It's not that I think Trot would have been good for the Sox as a full-time player going forward, and it's not that I wish him ill or want him to retire or anything. It just makes me sad. I'll miss him in the Sox uniform. He'll probably form the lesser half of a RF platoon with Casey Blake, who is a righty. I wish him well.

I'm Sorry, Mr. Gonzalez is Not Available To Answer Your Call

Much sought-after Pittsburgh closer Mike Gonzalez is now formerly-much-sought-after former-Pittsburgh closer Mike Gonzalez. The Braves announced that they had completed a trade for Gonzalez. The Braves gave up young first baseman Adam LaRoche, and picked up Gonzalez and minor league shortstop Brent Lillibridge.

The short-term, local news for the Red Sox is, of course, that Mike Gonzalez is pretty much not readily available as a last-minute pickup for the bullpen. Admittedly, though, the news and apparent crisis over what the Sox are going to do for a closer seems to have dulled a bit. This may have more to do with a certain football team continuing their season deep into January, but nevertheless, even the dedicated baseball journalists have stopped smacking themselves in the forehead, wondering if Joel Pineiro is going to work in a relief role. When the Patriots' season ends (hopefully not until early February), we may return to this subject and find that Mike Gonzalez would have been easier to acquire than we thought, but for now, it's a closed door that warrants barely a footnote. After all, Chad Cordero and Brad Lidge are still out there, aren't they?

Looking deeper into this transaction, though, it looks as if that old salt, John Schuerholz, has done it again. Adam LaRoche is a very solid player, probably a couple of notches above average for his position. Mike Gonzalez is probably at about the same level- and both players will fill important needs for their new teams. The kicker of this transaction is the third player. Brent Lillibridge could be the guy to make this a huge win for the Braves. Though scouts and projections vary a bit on his upside, he appears to have the tools and the talent to have an upside resembling that of Rafael Furcal. Adding a potential 6-win shortstop as a throw-in on a deal like this is what separates the decent general managers from the great ones. You taking notes, Theo?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm No Role Model

Despite the demonstrated force of bloggers seen in the rise of Howard Dean and the brief rise of Ned Lamont, as well as the continued presence of Matt Drudge and Kos, I thought that we had a pretty clear understanding here. Bloggers exist largely to circulate wildly inappropriate and potentially libelous rumors. Print journalists exist largely to print boring, verifiable fact. Bloggers who work too hard on fact and cold, detached reporting have the wrong hobby, and journalists who engage in too much overt rumor-mongering look unprofessional. Being wacky, impertinent and off-the-cuff is MY job, damn it, not yours!

The most egregious example of this blurring of media lines comes from Murray Chass of the New York Times. The New York Times! In a recent column in which he noted the fact that despite reaching tentative agreements, neither J.D. Drew nor Barry Bonds are officially signed by the Red Sox and Giants, respectively. He goes on to say, "the thought arises..." that wouldn't it be interesting if the Sox decided to drop their offer to Drew and sign Barry Bonds instead. This way, he could play left field and Manny Ramirez could go back to his original position in right field.

This is a stupid thing to write- I'll deal with the merits in a second- but it's just incredible that Chass was this glib. Because it was in the Times and mentioned Red Sox players, it automatically showed up on dozens of web sites that scour the internet for Sox articles from legitimate publications and legitimate journalists. This article was a poor example of either of those. Chass should know the power of his position and the influence of the Times over the news world. The Times should know this as well, and try to stop their writers from being so stupid.

Even if it came from Joe Blogger at RedSoxRuleTheUniverse.com, it's a stupid thing to write. First of all, anyone who has any familiarity with both Manny Ramirez' defensive ability and Fenway Park's right field dimensions would be unable to recommend moving Manny over there as a sensible defensive shift. Secondly, the idea that the Sox would sign Bonds is, if not entirely laughable, quite nearly so. Bonds is nearly universally vilified in the baseball world; in fact, it's possible that San Francisco is the only place he is still applauded. Dumping him into one of the roughest media/fan markets in the nation is not a terribly winning strategy. The Sox ownership is nothing if not market-savvy. Bringing Bonds here is not likely to be high on Larry Lucchino or Theo Epstein's "to-do" list, especially with the latest revelations about amphetamine use. Third and most significantly, Barry Bonds hates Boston. He said so repeatedly. This opinion is mostly formulated based on his father's impressions of Boston, which he believed to be quite racist, but nevertheless, that opinion has passed down to Barry. He's said he'd never play here- though I'm sure that Murray Chass was unaware of that fact. He is only, after all, a baseball writer for the New York Times. Fourth, there's no indication from either side that the Drew contract won't be signed, and both sides are saying it's just about some specific legal language. Though this is probably slightly euphemistic, I've got no reason to believe the deal won't be finalized prior to Spring Training.

Ok. That's enough useless anger spent on Mr. Chass. Maybe he thought he was being wacky or clever, or stirring the pot. I just don't think it's funny. Or wacky. Or clever. It's just stupid. If Rush Limbaugh calls feminists "feminazis," it's one thing. If Dick Cheney starts saying the same thing, it's an entirely different matter. Wacky speculation and irresponsible journalism have their place. The New York Times just isn't that place.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


In what felt like Christmas morning for me, I checked in to Baseball Prospectus and found out that PECOTA has been released. For those of you who don't know, don't care, or just think I'm a hopeless dork (even without the benefit of one of the Lego-based "dork detetectors" that my daughter, wife and I built the other night), PECOTA is the baseball performance projection system developed for the BP website by Nate Silver and others. It has been proven to be somewhere between 65-75% accurate in predicting player performance. Actually, it does much better than that in some cases, and much worse, particularly for pitchers. I'm going to work up some future entries on this when I get some time to do it, but I thought I would just start with a quick teaser.

This one goes out to all of those "veteran leadership" guys who are pooh-poohing the apparent annointing of Dustin Pedroia as the second baseman of the future for the Sox. "Why didn't we re-sign Mark Loretta? He's an all-star!?" is the frequent refrain. I myself wouldn't have minded seeing the Sox sign Loretta as a backup, but agree that Pedroia is the way to go. PECOTA agrees with me. I can't do formatting very well in Blogger, but here are some comparative projections:

Pedroia- .294/.360/.431
Loretta- .276/.341/.388

Some more advanced metrics
Pedroia- .277/22.2
Loretta- .252/12.7

and the defense:
Pedroia 130/+6
Loretta 114/-3

and now the key:
Age: Pedroia (23) Loretta (35)

In every facet of game performance, Pedroia projects (based on his actual performance, not scouting, etc.) to be significantly better than Mark Loretta. In fact, PECOTA sees Pedroia as being the 5th most productive second baseman in the AL next year by VORP (behind Cano, Kendrick, Kinsler, and Iguchi). He and Kendrick are the youngest, both 23. Now I'm not saying that Pedroia's the next coming of Jeff Kent or Joe Morgan, but he's going to be pretty good, I think. He'll be better than Loretta, better than most guys out there, and plenty good enough to earn his keep on this team.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Patchwork Quilt

When the winter is cold (as it is apparently, finally going to be here in Connecticut) and when there are few scraps of material to do anything with, you simply need to do what resourceful yankees (that's yankees with a small "y") have done for centuries- you make a patchwork quilt to keep yourself warm.

The long weekend has yielded but few little nuggets of news and analysis about the Red Sox, but we'll see if we can take them and stitch them together into something to keep the fires of the hot stove burning just a little longer:

-Pedro Martinez has a son? Pedro, even in the hot-to-trot media market of Boston, kept a very low personal profile. The only thing that I think I even heard about his personal life when he pitched in Boston was that he had a big, expensive condo where his mother stayed and various family members came and went. This weekend, we learned that not only does Pedro have a son, but this son is 19 years old! Pedro, I believe, is 35, which by my math means that...Pedro was a teenage stud. Here I believed all the stories of Pedro of this shy skinny kid sitting under the mango tree in San Pedro de Macoris, when meanwhile he's actually behind the mango tree gettin' busy with some Dominican doll...at any rate, his son (Pedro E. Martinez) is also a pitcher, who held up pretty well in the Dominican winter league. Hopefully young Pedro (the "E") can do a better job at following in his father's footsteps than some other high-profile, similarly-named legacies we've dealt with lately...

-Wily Mo Pena and Brandon Donnelly have both been offered arbitration by the Sox. This takes care of the only two (the only two?) arb-eligible players in the Sox roster, and, for the most part, starts to close out the money situation for the 2007 roster.

-...but not so fast. J.D. Drew is still a giant question mark. He of the 5-year, $70 million contract is still nowhere to be seen, and his contract has still not been signed, some 41 days after the preliminary deal was announced. I know this is maddening for Sox fans, and probably for Terry Francona as well, but from the front office's standpoint, there really isn't much hurry. If you're generally ok with the contract and the condition of Drew's health, waiting is a good thing. The longer the Sox wait, the less leverage that Boras and Drew have, because fewer and fewer teams will be trying to keep the window cracked open for Drew to slip through if possible. Of course, there's always the possiblity that the Drew deal doesn't get done, but that just means the Sox may have to go with a combination of Pena/Hinske/Nixon in right field next year which is both far from idea AND far from the end of the world as we know it.

-Mike Lowell did some interviews over the past couple of days in which he discussed how unsurprised and pleased he was that Manny wasn't actually traded, and also the state of amphetamines in baseball. The substance of the interview was less interesting to me than the tone and intelligence of Mike Lowell. He's a quality guy, a worthy successor in many was to Bill Mueller at third base. It also reminds me of Bill James' comments that third basemen are some of the nicest guys in baseball- Paul Molitor, Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo, Bill Mueller, Mike Lowell- princes all. It's utterly unsurprising that Shea Hillenbrand couldn't hack it at third base for too long.

So there are some of the scraps we had to deal with. I wish I could say that I brought them together with some unifying principle that makes this an amish-quality pattern. Somehow I don't think my "Pedro's a stud and Shea Hillenbrand sucks" literary quilt will fetch top dollar at the Lancaster County Craft Fair...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Looking at the baseball section of the Boston Herald today- the Boston Herald, mind you- there are major stories about how Andy Pettitte is all set to "pick up where he left off" in New York with the Yankees, as well as a story about how much the Yankees want Roger Clemens to rejoin their team. First of all, this isn't really news, is it? The Yankees want Clemens? I have a news flash also- Boston would really like to win another World Series. Stop the presses! Secondly, what the heck is the Herald doing wasting column-inches on a story like that? Isn't there any Red Sox news to talk about? Well...not much, really. We're still waiting for J.D. Drew's contract to be memorialized, as they say. We haven't signed any questionable reclaimation-project pitchers in the last few days. Curt Schilling hasn't shot his mouth off on WEEI lately either.

Taking the Boston Herald's lead, then, this seems like a pretty good time to announce that I'm expanding the sphere of my baseball punditry. Of course this announcement has a "tree falling in a forest" metaphysical feel to it, but it's an announcement all the same. Starting soon, I'll be writing a semi-regular column for the Red Sox Times website. My section will be called "Past a Diving Jeter," and will at least attempt to place the Red Sox in context of the entire league, and the AL East in particular. I'll try to look at moves that other teams are making, and assess their relevance to the Sox efforts.

For the time being, I'll keep blogging at this spot, but I'm excited about this new development. If you get a chance, check out the work that Tim Daloisio has done with Red Sox Times, and keep an eye out for my new stuff there.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rushing to Conclusions

Finding myself a bit pressed for time today, it seems like a good opportunity to clear out my post-it notes with the links and blog ideas. These articles and discussions are worth your while:

-Tim Daloisio and company at Red Sox Times are working over this Joel Pineiro/closer situation as if it were the partitioning of Berlin, but the results are illuminating. The bottom line on all of this, I think, is that we don't yet know what to expect from Pineiro or any of the other guys in the bullpen (Hansen, Delcarmen, Donnelly, Okajima, etc.) We've got all of Spring Training and the early part of the season to figure out what they've got and how effective they can be. The upside, for me, is that we've got a closer there somewhere. The downside is that we don't, but then again, we've got a huge variety of potential trading pieces to get someone more effective.

-If you're looking for a more effective reliever, it might be a good idea to ask yourself what type of pitcher they are. I love it that a bunch of these stats-heavy websites have started purchasing data from Baseball Info Solutions and other services. They know what to do with this information, and can get it to the rest of us in an interesting way. Baseball Analysts recently posted an article about "categorizing pitchers" by type- looking most specifically at groundball vs. strikeout guys. This is incredibly illuminating to me. Look at some of the names on that grid. J.J. Putz and Joe Nathan on the strikeout axis, and Brandon League and Cla Merideth (doh!) on the groundball axis. Cla seems to have some of the sink to his pitches that made Derek Lowe an effective closer for a while. The big a-ha for me on this chart was Brad Lidge. Despite his alleged problems, he's still getting strikeouts with over 30% of the batters he faced PLUS inducing groundballs on over 40%. Guys aren't getting a ton of good swings on him. If the existing bullpen candidates aren't looking too great, I'd go harder after Lidge than I would after Gonzalez or Cordero.

-I know that most readers won't be able to see this, but I thought I'd point out that the self-appointed geniuses at Baseball Prospectus have put together their analysis of the Sox top-ten prospects. I don't think non-subscribers can get a full analysis, but the sneak-preview is below:

Excellent Prospects
1. Clay Buchholz, rhp
Very Good Prospects
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, cf
3. Michael Bowden, rhp
Good Prospects
4. Jason Place, cf
5. Daniel Bard, rhp
6. Bryce Cox, rhp
Average Prospects
7. Dustin Pedroia, 2b
8. Craig Hansen, rhp
9. Kris Johnson, lhp
10. Justin Masterson, rhp