Archive for Red Sox

The International Spending Limits Are Not Limits At All

Major League Baseball’s signing period for international prospects kicked off on Wednesday and will continue until June 15, 2015. Teams may sign players residing outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico who have or will turn 16 by September 1 of this year. Just a few years ago, teams were allowed to spend as much as they wanted to develop and sign international prospects. That all changed with the current collective bargaining agreement, which went into effect in 2012.

The CBA imposes bonus pool limits on international signings. The team with the worst winning percentage in the prior year receives the largest bonus pool for the next year. The team with the best winning percentage receives the smallest. The remaining 28 teams fall in between, again according to their winning percentage from the prior season. International players who are 23 years of age or older, and have played professional baseball for five or more years, are exempt from the bonus pool limits. Click here for the list of bonus pools by team, with the Houston Astros on top with $5,015,400 and the St. Louis Cardinals at the bottom with $1,866,300.

In additional to the bonus pools, MLB also assigns slot values for international prospects, even though there is no international draft. But the slot values are tradeable, and are therefore valuable for teams looking to spend more on international prospects than their assigned bonus pool would allow. A team can trade for up to 50% of its bonus pool, but it must trade for a specific slot value. For example, a team with a $4 million bonus pool can trade for up to $2 million in pool space, but it must receive in return specific slot values that add up to $2 million, or less. Click here for the list of 120 slot values assigned to each team. The Astros have the top slot value of $3,300,900 and the Cardinals have the lowest at $137,600.

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Jake Arrieta’s Eight Worst Pitches from Monday

About a week ago, Jake Arrieta tried to throw a perfect game against the Cincinnati Reds. I mean, every pitcher is always trying to throw a perfect game, but Arrieta actually made a lot of progress before ultimately falling short. Then, Monday, Arrieta tried to no-hit the Red Sox. A no-hitter is a little less perfect than a perfect game, but Arrieta got deeper before ultimately falling short — again. He departed to a standing ovation in Fenway Park. For Arrieta, in the small picture, it was a pair of frustrating missed shots at history. For Arrieta, in the bigger picture, it was a twin demonstration of the pitcher Arrieta is becoming. You might not realize this, but the Cubs rotation has the highest WAR in the National League, and it’s not all because of the two trade targets.

Once again, in his latest start, Arrieta was masterful. Once again, Arrieta kept hitters off balance by mixing everything and featuring a lot of his new, improved slider. Or maybe it’s a cutter — people haven’t agreed. Arrieta was constantly down and constantly on the edges, and as the Red Sox waited for him to make mistakes, he picked up out after out. Arrieta turned in a start worthy of a tribute, so, as a tribute, I’ve taken care to identify the eight worst pitches Arrieta threw to the Red Sox during his 7.2 innings. It wasn’t an easy project.

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Did Masahiro Tanaka Make a Mistake?

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Mike Napoli called Masahiro Tanaka an idiot on the baseball field. It would, of course, be misleading — Napoli didn’t say that to Tanaka’s face, and Napoli wasn’t asserting that Tanaka is some kind of moron. Napoli was simply gleeful, returning to the dugout Saturday night after breaking a tie with a ninth-inning dinger. Down two strikes, Napoli was pleased to see Tanaka throw him an elevated fastball, and Napoli knocked it out of the yard to right-center. Though the ESPN Home Run Tracker says the ball would’ve left just one of 30 stadiums under standard conditions, that one, presumably, is New York, and within a few minutes the Yankees lost. Dingers have been Tanaka’s one human side.

If you listen to Napoli, Tanaka was a fool for throwing a fastball. Obviously, according to results-based analysis, Tanaka was a fool for throwing a fastball, since that pitch ultimately was the difference in the game. There’s no question that Tanaka made a mistake in that he missed his spot and left the pitch up. But let’s think a bit about the sequencing. Did Tanaka make a mistake in going with the heat in a 1-and-2 count? Was Tanaka being an idiot, or did he get burned by a fine idea?

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What Might Mookie Betts Be?

Over the weekend, the Red Sox summoned Mookie Betts from Triple-A; he made his big league debut last night, going 1-3 with a walk. While no single game will ever reveal much about a player’s skillset, the process by which he approached the game seems to fit with his minor league profile:

He didn’t chase pitches; he swung at only two of 11 out-of-zone-pitches.

He makes contact; he put the bat on the ball on all eight in-zone swings.

According to MinorLeagueCentral, Betts only swung at 34% of the pitches he was thrown in Pawtucket, and he made contact on 88% of his swings. Minor league data isn’t as reliable as major league data, but in general, swing and contact rates are pretty easy things to track and should at least be in the ballpark. While Betts will almost certainly see more in-zone pitches and be forced to swing more often in the big leagues, he has shown a pretty disciplined eye at the plate, and we shouldn’t expect him to expand the strike zone even against big league pitching.

And swing/contact rates do tend to carry over from the minors to a decent degree. For instance, if we look at the other prospects of note who have been promoted from the International League this year, we see that their swing and contact rates in the big leagues were in the same general range as their were in Triple-A.

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Brock Holt: Leak Plugger

During a year in which they own the right to call themselves champions until someone dethrones them in October, it’s safe to say things aren’t exactly going the way the Boston Red Sox anticipated. At this point last year, the Red Sox had the best record in the American League at 49-34 and were on their way to winning the eighth World Series title in franchise history. This year, they’re 38-44 and currently own just a 17% chance to make the postseason at all, according to the very smart FanGraphs Playoff Odds.

The starting rotation, outside of Jon Lester and John Lackey, has been a disaster. Shane Victorino has barely played due to back and hamstring injuries. Dustin Pedroia has been reduced to a league average hitter as his complete lack of power starts to look more and more real. The A.J. Pierzynski signing hasn’t worked out like it did for the Rangers last year and Pierzynski’s time in the MLB appears to be coming to a close. It took Daniel Nava a month to go from starting major league outfielder to starting minor league outfielder. Xander Bogaerts hasn’t lit the world on fire like some hoped and Jackie Bradley Jr. has done nothing to prove that he can hit major league pitching, at all. Even David Ortiz, despite his gaudy home run total, hasn’t been totally himself at the plate.

When a season is going like this, one must try to find a bright spot, somewhere, lest one risk being a total pessimistic bummer. Even on the worst of teams, you can usually point to at least one guy that’s been exciting, surprising or shown some promise one way or another.

Enter Brock Holt.
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Jon Lester’s Favorite Teammate

Among starting pitchers with at least 40 innings, here are the biggest increases and increasers in strikeout rate since 2013, by percentage points:

The Red Sox are playing well again, which means we get to write positive things about them. Among the most positive things has beenJon Lester, who’s taken a step forward after having taken a step back. Lester, for a couple years, posted ace-like numbers. The following three years he lost a lot of strikeouts, but now he’s back to the old level and then some, carrying what’s otherwise been an inconsistent starting unit. For Lester, it’s a good strategy in what remains a contract year — play better baseball. After all, better baseball means better baseball money.

An increase like Lester’s causes one to dig around for potential explanations. It’s not that he’s really throwing harder. It’s not like he’s dramatically changed his pitch mix. It’s not a matter of getting ahead more. Between 2011 and 2013, 29% of Lester’s pitches thrown were with two strikes. This year, he’s at 30%. But over those three years, under 18% of those two-strike pitches turned into strikeouts. This year, he’s at 24%. That’s a change, and it might lead you somewhere else.

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Prospect Watch: Cecchini and Flores and Their New Futures

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Boras Blinks: Stephen Drew Re-Signs with Boston

Last off-season, the Red Sox made Stephen Drew a qualifying offer, giving him a chance to return for 2014 with a $14.1 million salary. He turned it down, and sought a multi-year offer in free agency instead. No offers came, and the Red Sox moved on. They brought Xander Bogaerts to camp as their regular shortstop, and gave Will Middlebrooks a chance to reclaim the starting third base job. While Boras made noise about the problems with the qualifying offer system, he continued to suggest that Drew’s market would emerge once the draft occurred and the attached compensation pick went away. The draft will be held in two weeks, and so Drew could have signed with any club as a “true free agent” 16 days from now.

Instead, today, he essentially accepted the qualifying offer from the Red Sox, taking a pro-rated version of the $14 million salary he turned down seven months ago. Once he’s ready to resume facing live pitching, Drew will presumably once again take over as the Red Sox shortstop, with Bogaerts shifting back to third base, and Middlebrooks serving as depth or a trade chip once he returns from the DL.

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Mookie Is Coming

Mookie Betts is hitting .400. Mookie Betts has reached base in 70 consecutive games. Mookie Betts walks more often than he strikes out. Mookie Betts doesn’t have a position, but it doesn’t matter. Mookie Betts is coming.

The question is when? Since Ben Cherington took over as the team’s director of player development in 2003, the Sox have promoted 75 position players to the majors. Parsing that list for playing time, duplicates (as in someone got a September call-up but was still rookie eligible the following season) and players who weren’t really Red Sox farmhands, such as Brandon Snyder, leaves us with the following 18-player list:

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Jake Peavy Is Living on the Edge

Generally, when you think of Jake Peavy, you often think “Cy Young winner.” But that was a long time ago. These days, Peavy lives on the edge between “effective enough” and “not fooling anybody.” He is living there because he has become more cautious about living in the heart of the plate, where he used to. His earned run average paints him as one of the better pitchers in the American League, but if you look beyond that there is definitely cause for concern.

It’s no surprise that a pitcher getting on in years would have diminished velocity, particularly one with Peavy’s injury history. And diminished his velocity is. In his last few starts, he has worked his way back up to an average fastball of 90 mph, but that is a far cry from the 92-93 mph heat he was flashing in 2007-2008. Actually, he has been in the 90 mph range for a number of years. According to our PITCHf/x numbers, his first season with an average four-seam fastball under 91 mph was 2011. As his velocity has dropped, he has worked hard to refine his control in order to stay effective. To wit:

Jake Peavy, K%-BB%
Seasons K% BB% K%-BB%
2002-2010 24.0% 7.8% 16.2%
2011-2013 21.1% 5.6% 15.5%
2014 21.6% 13.5% 8.1%

As you can see, Peavy was able to lower his walk rate nearly in stride with the drop in his strikeout rate when his average four-seam fastball velocity dropped under 91 mph. That is the sign of a pitcher who is aware of his limitations. He is likely still aware of them this season, but this season the underlying results have been a little different.

At this point in the season, there are 109 qualified pitchers. Of them, nobody has a higher walk rate than does Peavy. As we noted, his velocity is down, so there’s one thing. And if we look at his zone percentage, we can see that it is also way down. His PITCHf/x zone percentage has him nearly four percent below average this season, and he is in the bottom 15 among qualified starters in zone percentage overall. That’s not necessarily a death knell — Masahiro Tanaka is even lower than Peavy on the list, and he is doing just fine.

The difference, of course, is that Tanaka is getting hitters to swing at 49.9 percent of the pitches he throws, whereas Peavy is at just 45.3%. Another difference is that when hitters swing at Tanaka’s pitches, they make contact just 69.5% of the time, while Peavy’s contact rate is 80.6%. Neither Peavy’s swing percentages or contact percentages put him among the league laggards — both are essentially league average — but taken in context with his zone percentage, it’s not exactly encouraging.

I went over to Brooks Baseball to get a more granular look. What I found is a pitcher who knows he can’t challenge hitters like he used to. First, let’s take a look again at that 2011-2013 window:

Peavy 2011-2013

Not bad — this is a guy who is living at the bottom of the zone, including his favorite spot, burying the ball down and away to right-handed hitters and down and in to left-handed hitters. Now, let’s look at 2014:

Peavy 2014

This chart looks a little different. His favorite spot is still there, but overall this chart shows a pitcher who is keeping the ball on the outer edges — or off of them — as much as possible. Peavy has been much more reticent to throw the ball down the heart of the plate than he has the past few years. Chopping up the numbers, we find that while he threw to the three squares in the middle of the strike zone 13.7% from 2011-2013, this season he is down to 13.1%. The center square on its own is even more illuminating. From 2011-2013, Peavy pitched to the center square 5.5% of the time. This year, he is down to 4.2%. Obviously, it is still early, but Peavy is setting up a pattern of staying out of the middle. As such, the increased walk rate might not be a fluke.

That increased walk rate might play if Peavy is able to keep his batting average on balls in play in the neighborhood in which it currently resides. His BABIP is .239, and at the moment that gives him the 10th-lowest BABIP among the 109 qualified pitchers. Peavy has never had a BABIP even close to this low, but then he has never worked out of the zone as frequently either. According to Brooks, the only pitch that he is throwing inside the strike zone this year more frequently than he did from 2011-2013 is his curveball:

Jake Peavy, Ball Percentage
Pitch 2011-13 2014
Fourseam 30.89% 33.66%
Sinker 30.14% 34.63%
Change 41.01% 49.51%
Slider 35.12% 40.30%
Curve 38.22% 33.85%
Cutter 32.56% 47.22%
Slow Curve 20.00%

The low BABIP is also likely a factor in his very high left on base percentage. Currently, only five qualified pitchers have a higher LOB%, and Peavy’s 89.4% mark would easily be a career best. That’s not to say he can’t keep this up. From 2008-2013, there were 28 pitchers who maintained an 80% or better LOB%, though no one achieved a rate higher than 85.2%.

So, yeah, maybe he can live on this edge, where he gives up a high rate of walks and home runs (both his HR/9 and HR/FB are at their highest levels since 2003, and are far higher than they normally are) but generates either strikeouts or weak contact (his current 15.1% line drive rate would be a career best) the rest of the time. That’s an acceptable trade-off if he can pull it off, but that is certainly a tough balancing act. In the meantime, only four qualified pitchers have a worse E-F score (that’s ERA minus FIP) than Peavy’s -1.96.

On one hand, Peavy has thrown quality starts in six of his seven starts this season, is generating lots of weak contact and his ERA makes him a borderline All-Star candidate. On the other hand, he has walked at least four batters in five of his seven starts, is sporting one of the highest home run and walk rates of his career (and in the game this season) and he is not challenging hitters. In other words, Peavy has staked out a place firmly on the edge of both the strike zone and effectiveness in general, and it is going to be hard to put too much faith in him while he’s sitting there.

The Return of Regular Baseball and a Monday of Miracles

Monday featured, for the first time in 2014, a full slate of meaningful baseball, albeit with a bit of a lull in the late afternoon as the only live game for a stretch had the Rockies and the Marlins. I met a friend at a neighborhood bar a little after 5, and the bar had the game on all of its screens, and after a little conversation I found I was completely hanging on the action. Come August, I probably won’t be watching the Rockies and the Marlins, but this early in the year, everything’s interesting. And while we always know that anything can happen, there’s no cynicism around opening day. By the middle of the year, anything can happen, but we know what’s probably going to happen. In late March and early April, it’s more fun to imagine that baseball’s a big giant toss-up. That Marcell Ozuna looks good. If he hits, and if the Marlins get their pitching…

I don’t remember what most opening days are like, but this one felt like it had an unusual number of anything-can-happens. That is, events that would take one by complete and utter surprise. What are documented below are, I think, the five most outstanding miracles from a long and rejuvenating Monday. From one perspective, this is evidence that the future is a mystery and all a surprise is is a run of good or bad luck. From another, more bummer of a perspective, this is evidence that opening day doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things and come on why are you already projecting Grady Sizemore to be a five-win center fielder? Why are you already freaking out about the 2014 Blue Jays? Be whatever kind of fan you like. Just remember that baseball is a silly game, and you’ll never outsmart it.

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Steamer Projects: Boston Red Sox Prospects

Earlier today, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the Boston Red Sox.

It goes without saying that, in composing such a list, Hulet has considered the overall future value those prospects might be expected to provide either to the Sox or whatever other organizations to which they might someday belong.

What this brief post concerns isn’t overall future value, at all, but rather such value as the prospects from Hulet’s list might provide were they to play, more or less, a full major-league season in 2014.

Other prospect projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Philadelphia / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Texas / Toronto.

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Red Sox Pull Capuano from Cautious Market

When Ryan Dempster walked away, it was pretty clear what the Red Sox needed to do. Though Dempster’s salary was too high, the pitcher served an important function as swingman and rotation depth. So it was up to the Red Sox to find a replacement, and the most obvious replacement on the market was Chris Capuano. Capuano was both a starter and a reliever just last year, and with Boston, he could compete with Felix Doubront for the fifth rotation slot in camp. In short, it’s not a surprise at all that, Thursday, Capuano and the Red Sox agreed to terms, pending a physical.

What’s more of a surprise are the terms themselves. Capuano signed for one year, despite having looked for two earlier in the offseason. And his guaranteed base salary is just $2.25 million, with incentives that could push the deal up to a maximum of $5 million. Granted, there might’ve been a discount because the Red Sox just won the World Series. Granted, there might’ve been a discount because Capuano grew up in Massachusetts. But if there were substantially bigger offers out there, it stands to reason Capuano would’ve taken one of those, so it’s curious that he was available so cheap.

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It’s Time to Shoot Xander Bogaerts into Space

As I approach the wrong side of thirty, I find myself shifting preferences when it comes to video games. While my earlier days were filled with shooters or the latest Madden game, I now play more low-key offerings. I’ll still throw in a Bioshock ever now and again, but my game playing time is for more serene these days. Less quick-twitch shooting, more strategy. I play a lot of Civilization V. I play a lot of Out of the Park Baseball. And lately, I’ve been playing a LOT of Kerbal Space Program.

Kerbal Space Program is a sort-of simulator in which you control an alien race that is trying to explore space. You build rockets, achieve goals, and push to discover as much as possible. It’s insanely fun. In fact, as I typed those last few sentences I had to fight a strong urge to save what I was writing and fire the game up again. You start off with small goals — break the planet’s atmosphere, achieve gravitational orbit, land on one of the planet’s moons, etc. But after all that is done, it’s time for interplanetary travel. This is where things get tricky. Not only do you need to design rockets that toe the fine line between needed fuel and mass, you need to check and double check every stage of your rocket to make sure things execute as desired. You don’t want to leave one of your adorable cosmonauts floating around in space with no fuel to get home. There’s a ton of planning and designing to do and when you’re confident you have what you need … you wait.

See, when you’re ready to go to another planet, you can’t shoot out of the atmosphere willy nilly and go. You have to be in proper alignment. If your destination is behind the sun relative to your location, you can’t point and shoot. The stupid sun is in the way. Also, there are gravitational forces at work. In order to conserve fuel, you need to have gravity work for you. Therefor, your destination must align perfectly with your point of origin in order to assure proper trajectory. In Kerbal Space Program, this means waiting. This also means the takeoff windows are fairly small. When the planets align, you have to be ready. This, of course, is a terrible and terribly long analogy for baseball and player development. I could go longer, but I won’t. Instead, I want to talk about Xander Bogaerts. Read the rest of this entry »

Ryan Dempster Sort of Retires But Not Really

From just missing out on the Marlins’ first World Series title to being a member of the Red Sox’s eighth, Ryan Dempster has experienced plenty in his big league career. He might have just had his final experiences as a player however, as the 36-year-old Canadian native announced on Sunday morning that he will be sitting out the 2014 season. If this is the end, it has been a good run for Dempster, who has achieved some notable things in his career. And while the announcement comes at the dawn of spring training, his retirement doesn’t create a panicked situation for Boston in a vacuum, as the team has several pitchers ready (or close) to graduate to major league duty.

Dempster certainly isn’t going to be mistaken for one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, but in a way, he was. Using our leaderboards, we can see the following:

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Who Should Hit Leadoff for the Red Sox?

On Saturday, Buster Olney mused on who would hit leadoff for the Red Sox this season. And it’s an interesting question, since the Red Sox had grown accustomed to Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the batting order. As we’ve discussed a couple of other times this offseason, it’s one of those good problems — Boston has a plethora of talented hitters, so it isn’t like they have to shoehorn a bad hitter into the top spot. But a decision still has to be made, so let’s take a look.

The first thing we want to do is look for clues. Who hit leadoff when Ellsbury was hurt? Four players took turns last season, three of which remain on the team — Dustin Pedroia (11), Shane Victorino (eight), Daniel Nava (eight) and Stephen Drew (one). Much of those came in September, when Ellsbury missed extended time. During September, the breakdown was Pedroia (11), Victorino (five), Nava (one) and Drew (one). Last year is really the only decent barometer we have. Ellsbury missed a ton of time in 2012, but most of his fill-ins are no longer around. Nava hit leadoff 25 times, but the motley crew of Mike Aviles, Scott Podsednik, Pedro Ciriaco, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Kalish, Nick Punto and Brent Lillibridge combined to bat in the leadoff spot a whopping 88 times. It really was a debacle of a season.

In addition to it being a debacle that was perpetrated by now ex-Red Sox players, 2012′s squad also was not helmed by John Farrell. He was in Toronto. And he acquitted himself well in his two years there, so far as leadoff hitters are concerned. In 2011, Yunel Escobar was his primary leadoff hitter, as he held down the top spot for 110 games. As we know from The Book, it is best when you have one of your three-best hitters in the top spot in the order, and Escobar was indeed tied for the third-best hitter on the 2011 Jays. In 2012, Escobar started in the top spot as well, but after he started the season with a .217/.254/.274 triple-slash line in his first 24 games, Farrell turned elsewhere. Ultimately, Brett Lawrie would spend the most time in the top spot, and while he only posted a 98 wRC+ he was indeed the third-best position player on the roster.

Last season, Ellsbury wasn’t one of the three-best hitters on the Sox. In fact, by wRC+, he was seventh-best. However, a) he had been that caliber in the past, b) the Red Sox lineup was stacked last season and c) he was the entrenched guy, so moving him off the spot in Farrell’s first year in town probably was a headache that he didn’t need. In the end, it didn’t matter — the Sox outscored every other team by 57 runs. So we’ll give Farrell a pass on that decision, and turn our attention to this year with the hope that Farrell will make an effort to get one of the team’s three-best hitters in that spot this season.

So who will be the team’s three-best hitters? Well, one player we can eliminate from the discussion right away is Jackie Bradley. The youngster still carries with him much promise, but after his poor showing in 2013, his projections are modest. Of the 10 players that you would consider starters for the team, Bradley’s wOBA projection is in the bottom three or four in each system, and his projected .308 wOBA by ZiPS comes in dead last. There will inevitably be talk about him taking over at the top of the lineup, but until he puts a good half of baseball together (at least), that talk should be tempered.

Aside from Bradley, we can also rule out Will Middlebrooks and A.J. Pierzynski. Neither are good enough hitters, and it’s likely that neither is going to play frequently enough to keep the stability at the top of the lineup. With those three removed, we find the following players left:

2014 Projected wOBA
Name ZiPS Steamer FANS
David Ortiz .377 .376 .393
Mike Napoli .350 .352 .363
Dustin Pedroia .340 .348 .357
Xander Bogaerts .333 .325 .358
Shane Victorino .331 .335 .334
Jonny Gomes .327 .338 .325
Daniel Nava .322 .339 .347

As you can see, Ortiz and Napoli are projected to be the two best hitters across the board. Either would be a great choice at the top of the order, but they’ll probably fill in the two, three or four-holes. I would also rule out the Gomes/Nava combo because I like to have that consistency at the top of the lineup unless the platoon in question is so good as to justify the exception. I don’t see that here. This leaves the realistic grappling for the top spot between Pedroia, Victorino and Bogaerts.

The question at hand is whether simply to stick one of the three best hitters at the top, or whether to try and best leverage the team’s best baserunner. The Book also says that to leverage your best baserunner, put him in front of a batter who hits predominantly singles and doesn’t strike out a lot. That’s Pedroia. As much fun as it is to see Pedroia pop a laser shot over the Monster, he’s a singles and doubles hitter. During the past three seasons, the only players to hit more singles have been Elvis Andrus, Ichiro Suzuki, Starlin Castro and Michael Young. Only Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist have hit more doubles. Pedroia also keeps his strikeouts in check — only 14 qualified players have struck out in a lower percentage of their plate appearances during the past three seasons. Putting Victorino (who will likely be the team’s best basestealer/runner) at leadoff in front of Pedroia would leverage Victorino’s baserunning about as well as you could.

However, you also want the player at the top of the order to draw a lot of walks, and Victorino doesn’t really do that. You’d also be hard pressed — based on these projections — to call him one of the top three hitters in the lineup. You could definitely call Pedroia one of the top three hitters in the lineup, and Bogaerts may eventually have a case as well.

Bogaerts is really the X-factor here (you see what I did there?). The FANS expect him to be one of the team’s three-best hitters this season, and while that may be optimistic, the talent is obviously there (also, the FANS projections are pretty good, as you can read about here). Bogaerts also has a keen batting eye, which make him an ideal candidate to hit at the top of the order. He struck out a fair amount in his very brief major league debut, but a) The Book reminds us to not consider strikeouts when constructing a lineup, and b) Bogaerts’ strikeout numbers in the minors were not egregious, and he should adjust as he gets more plate appearances. If he hits right from the jump, he would probably make for a better candidate at the top of the order than would Victorino, simply from the standpoint of being able to see more pitches. Victorino was right around league average, at 3.83 pitches per plate appearance (the American League average was 3.86), but Bogaerts was up at 4.10.

Again though, it’s important to consider how the team has operated. Victorino hit in the top two spots in 115 of the 117 games he started last season, so it will likely take some extended dominance from Bogaerts and/or an extended slump from Victorino to knock him from that perch. If it’s a foregone conclusion that Victorino will be in one of the two top spots, then it would seem that the better alignment would be to have him in the leadoff spot, with Pedroia behind him in the two-hole. Eventually though, if Bogaerts develops as expected, Pedroia in the one-hole and Bogaerts in the two-hole could be a devastating combination.

The Return of the Return of Grady Sizemore

On the one hand, I’d feel like an unoriginal hack for going over Grady Sizemore‘s career history. It is, after all, familiar to just about everyone — or at least everyone reading this website. He’s kind of like an outfield version of Mark Prior or Rich Harden: unbelievable talent, unbelievable fragility. He was amazing in 2008. But Franklin Gutierrez was amazing in 2009. Sizemore’s just another guy who hasn’t been able to stay on the field, and he’s well past the point of people thinking it might be bad luck.

On the other hand, over the past couple years it’s not like Sizemore’s provided anything to write about. Since the start of 2012, Sizemore has as many big-league plate appearances as Barry Bonds and Eddie Collins. And so if you’ll indulge me, I think it’s worth the very briefest of refresher courses.

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The Problem With Stephen Drew’s Market

If Stephen Drew were a better player, he’d be in greater demand. I guess you could say that’s the main problem with the free agent’s current market. The better a player is, the more that player is wanted, and I can’t believe this is a sentence I’m writing on FanGraphs. It’s the same with literally everyone. If any given player were better, he’d be in more demand and/or he’d be guaranteed more money. Remember, every player has room for improvement, and baseball is such an easy game! There’s no excuse for not being perfect, really.

Drew’s good, though. Good enough to be wanted by someone. He’s in his 30s, but he’s not old, and he’s a proven, everyday shortstop. He seems to be over his grisly ankle injury, and he was worth 3.4 wins for a World Series champion during a season in which he missed a few weeks. He can hit a little, he can field,and he plays up the middle. Given no other information, you’d figure that sort of player would be pretty appealing. Yet what we observe is that Drew’s market hardly exists. We can never be sure of the inside reality — and we don’t know how this is going to turn out — but for now, it looks more like Drew’s in pursuit of a team, rather than a team is in pursuit of Drew.

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Red Sox Land an Eight-Figure Bargain

The goal, always, is to win a championship, and indeed there’s nothing better than being able to win a championship, but such a triumph can come with certain consequences. Prominent among them is the common desire to keep a championship team together, even if other moves might be more useful. There’s also the tendency to over-favor a championship model, since, you know, the plan already worked once. But an advantage of winning it all can be that other people want to join the team, or that quality members want to come back. After the Red Sox won it all, Mike Napoli became a free agent. And late last week, Napoli re-signed, reportedly leaving money and years on the table to give the Sox a discount.

Consider that Napoli is 32 years old, and he re-signed for two years and $32 million. Curtis Granderson is 32 years old, and he signed for just about twice that much despite coming off a bad year. Carlos Beltran is 36 years old, and he signed for an extra year despite age leaving him a mess in the field. All three players were extended qualifying offers. It’s not directly comparable, but Tim Lincecum was given a slightly bigger contract than Napoli despite having allowed a billion runs over the last two seasons. Napoli’s getting up there, yeah, and the issue with which he was diagnosed a year ago hasn’t gone away, but as players in his situation go, he’s signed to something of a bargain deal that fits right within Boston’s organizational model.

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Red Sox Clone Koji Uehara, Sort Of

This past season was the season of the Red Sox, and in a lot of ways the Red Sox’s season was the season of Koji Uehara. From the emergency closer service to the relief equivalent of a perfect game to all of the playoff heroics, Uehara emerged as an important and unhittable star, becoming widely known to a nation that had almost entirely overlooked the earlier portion of his big-league career. One question we have now is, will Uehara be able to repeat? Another question is, how didn’t we see something like this coming? As a reliever between 2010-2012, Uehara issued 16 unintentional walks, with 183 strikeouts. The biggest concern was durability; in 2013, Uehara was durable. And amazing.

Given Uehara’s rise to fame and the Red Sox’s success, it would make sense for some other teams to try to mimic their model. There existed on the market a relief pitcher with an awful lot in common with Uehara, a guy who might be a bit underrated. Thursday, that pitcher found a new home. Because Edward Mujica has signed with the Red Sox.

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