Friday, September 30, 2011

Late Congratulations to Jacoby Ellsbury on 30/30

Ellsbury has been the team's biggest bright spot all season and he accomplished on Sunday, a feat which no other Red Sox player has ever done, stealing 30 bases and hitting 30 home runs in the same season. I have been waiting a long time to see someone from this team do that and it finally happened. I will be honest, I did not think he would do it coming into the year as his career high in home runs prior to this season was only nine.

Underrated Player of the Year: 1992

In this series, I look at one player per year from 1991-the present who came out of nowhere or had a great year that no one really noticed or expected.1992 - TOM BRUNANSKY
The second year I was a fan of the Red Sox, they were terrible, finishing in last place for the only team since I have been a fan. The major reason for their last place finish was an almost complete lack of offense. All of their regulars who were counted on for the last several years had down years, even Wade Boggs whose batting average dipped down to the .250s. It was incredibly bad.

Tom Brunansky was the only Red Sox regular to have even a decent year. Bruno was the only Red Sox player with an above-average OPS+ in 1992. That said, his numbers were still not on par with some of his earliest years. Bruno never cracked 20 home runs with Boston, odd for a right-handed power hitter, but his best years were definitely behind him.

1992 was Brunansky's best year in Boston as he batted .266/.344/.445 with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs, both of which lead the team that year. That is how bad Boston's hitters were in 1992. Brunansky also lead the team in doubles, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Without Brunansky it's kind of scary to think where Boston would have ended up.

After the season, Brunansky was allowed to walk as a free agent to join the Brewers and the Red Sox replaced him with Andre Dawson and Ivan Calderon. In 1994, Bruno was re-acquired in a trade for Dave Valle and finished his career with the Red Sox, hitting ten home runs in 48 games for the team.

2011 Season Wrap-Up Pt. 1

I have not been posting much because the last month of the season has been very hard. Boston quite simply played like shit the last month and it is extremely upsetting. With the payroll that this team had, it is unacceptable that they did not make the playoffs at all. Some changes need to be made and it sounds like that change is that Terry Francona will not return next year. Francona had a nice run and was the longest-lasting Red Sox manager since Joe Cronin, but the way this team finished has to have a root cause, and I think it's management. I think Theo Epstein should be on a short leash too right now. His big-money acquisitions have not worked out, and the team has not been able to develop much pitching beyond Papelbon, Bard, Lester, and Buchholz.

There were some nice things to develop out of the season. The biggest one was the development of Jacoby Ellsbury into a legitimate superstar. His motivation was called into question last offseason, but he took things to the next level this year.

Let's look at each of the regulars today and spread this wrap-up out over the next couple of days. Tomorrow will be the pitching staff and principal relievers, then the next post will cover the bench players and short season players.

Saltalamacchia proved that he was basically ready to be a full-time player. He also proved that he will always be just a little bit inconsistent. I hate using that word because of Joe Morgan, but there is no other way to describe it. Salty was terrible the last month and his numbers really suffered because of it. He is not a particularly good catcher at stopping the running game, but that may be more due to the pitchers on the mound. He really struggled defensively the last month. His offensive numbers were decent: .235/.288/.450 with 16 home runs, but they would have looked better had he done ANYTHING in the last month. I think he will be on a short leash moving forward as Ryan Lavarnway looks ready to take over.

Gonzalez had a nice season and nearly won the batting title. He should win a Gold Glove as he was a great defensive first-baseman. I was personally a little disappointed with his season, despite nearly winning the batting title and being among the league leaders in RBIs and hits because his home run numbers were down significantly. After the All Star Break, he simply had a power outage. He finished the year with only 27 home runs, his lowest total since his first full season in 2006. Apparently he had some nagging injury in his left shoulder that sapped his power. If that is the case, he should be back to full strength next season. He is only 29 right now, so it is too early to start the decline phase of his career and his numbers were impressive otherwise.

It is hard to imagine but Dustin Pedroia may have had his best season of his career this year. He has already won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in his young career and he just keeps getting better. This year saw him increase his power and base-stealing numbers. He hit a career high 21 home runs with 91 RBIs and stole 27 bases. I made a prediction earlier on this blog that Pedroia would soon join the Red Sox 20/20 players and he did do that. Pedroia's slash line was an impressive /307/.387/.474 and he contributed with some outstanding defense. Pedroia should be in line to receive his second Gold Glove this year.

Scutaro was one of the few players who actually improved his numbers over the last month of the season. Early in the year it looked like he would play out his contract and leave unceremoniously as he battled injuries and the Red Sox looked to replace him with Jed Lowrie, Mike Aviles, or Jose Iglesias. But Scutaro played his heart out over the last month and finished the year at .299/.358/.423, and yes those numbers are better than Derek Jeter's numbers. He was also an impressive defensive player. I have no idea whether Scutaro will be back next year or not. Lowrie has more upside as an offensive player and Iglesias will be better defensively but both players are limited on the other side.

One of the most damaging injuries of the year was the one that limited Kevin Youkilis to 120 games. Youkilis's overall batting numbers were down most of the year, particularly his batting average. Despite that, he turned in a decent line of .258/.373/.459 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs. Not his best numbers, but nothing to get too worked up over. Youkilis was not a great defensive third-baseman, but he was decent enough. If he returns to full strength next year, there will be nothing to worry about. Otherwise Will Middlebrooks is lying in wait to take over.

J.D. Drew had his worst season ever. He was bothered by frequent injuries, which is not unusual, but this season was particularly bad, even for him. Drew has definitely played his last season in a Red Sox uniform. Drew played only 81 games in 2011 with a line of .222/.315/.302, horrible numbers for a corner outfielder. It is time for him to leave Boston. He had some nice moments, but his salary was probably too high for his production over the course of the contract. I am a Drew apologist as he was pretty damn good a couple years, but this year was horrendous.

Jacoby Ellsbury has become a star. He made his first All Star Game and has a shot at the MVP award. I do not think he will get it, but his overall numbers are incredibly impressive. Ellsbury became the first Red Sox player ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. He hit .321/.376/.552 and lead the Majors in total bases. He also had more than 200 hits, more than 100 RBIs, and more than 100 runs. Ellsbury also played very well in center field and should give the Red Sox three Gold Glove awards. It is time for Boston to lock up their young star for years to come and hope that this is the player he truly is.

Crawford had an absolutely miserable year in his first year in Boston. He was my biggest disappointment personally because I was absolutely thrilled when he signed as a free agent. His line was a terrible .255/.289/.405 with only 18 stolen bases. He also played uncharacteristically bad in left field, just one season removed from a Gold Glove himself. Let's hope that this is just a bad season and not a downward trend. Crawford will only be 30 next year, so he should not be entering his decline yet and he still has several years and a lot of money left on his contract. I genuinely like Crawford, I hate seeing him play like this.

Ortiz is a free agent this year as well and I honestly do not know whether we have seen the last of him. He hit well down the stretch, but not for nearly enough power. He finished the season just shy of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. He improved his batting average significantly and for once actually hit left-handers well. Ortiz will also be 36 next year. He can not keep this up forever. I would like to see him back next year at possibly a reduced cost. There are not a lot of great DH options out there, unless Boston decides to go with a committee. Still Ortiz has been the heart and soul of the team for awhile. I think he should retire as a Red Sox.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1991

In this series, I look at one player per year from 1991-the present who came out of nowhere or had a great year that no one really noticed or expected.

Joe Hesketh was a barely-noticed acquisition for the Red Sox at the end of June in 1990 after being released by the Braves. He only pitched in 12 games for the Red Sox in 1990, mostly out of the bullpen, and his numbers were not real impressive. Hesketh had bounced around for several years and never really captured the promise of his rookie season in 1985.

So it was a pretty big surprise when Hesketh proved to be a very valuable member of the pitching staff in 1991. The lefty made it into 39 games that year, including starting 17 and finishing five. Along the way, he managed to win 12 games, the most in his career while only losing four, leading the league in winning percentage. Hesketh also turned in 104 strikeouts in 153.1 innings. His WHIP was a decent 1.272 and his ERA was 3.29. His WAR was 3.0, not bad for a journeyman left-hander.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Failed Prospects Pt. 12: Eric Wedge

In the early 1990's, the Red Sox had a number of highly-touted catching prospects in the minor leagues. Scott Hatteberg, John Flaherty, and Eric Wedge were all expected to one day star in the Major Leagues. All three players made it, but none of them were really stars at all. Wedge was perhaps regarded the highest of the three players and did the least of the three at the Major League level.

Wedge was a third-round pick in the 1989 draft and skyrocketed through the Red Sox system, making his Major League debut in 1991 with one at-bat on the last day of the season. He singled.

In 1992, he got a bit more of an extended stay in the Big Leagues, playing in 27 games and bashing five homers in just 68 at-bats. He had a line of .250/.370/.500 in those 27 games. Then, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and the Rockies plucked him away.

Wedge only played in nine games for the Rockies in 1993 and was back in Boston for 1994, but only made it into two games. That was the end of his Major League career. Wedge bounced around the minors for a couple more years before giving up in 1997. He was 29 when he retired.

Since then, Wedge has made it back to the Major Leagues as a manager for the Indians and now Mariners. He has been far more successful as a manager than he ever was as a player.

Underrated Season: Tom Gordon 1998

Seeing that Mariano Rivera saved his 600th game last night made me think about Red Sox closers. Boston has had some good ones over the years, and Jonathan Papelbon is likely the best closer in Boston history. But there is one season that kind of goes by unnoticed now. It was big at the time, but few people really remember it now.

In 1998, former starter Tom "Flash" Gordon turned in his first full season as a closer. And what a season it was. Gordon lead the league in saves and games finished that year. He blew only one save all season and set a record for consecutive saves that was eventually broken in 2003 by future Red Sox Eric Gagne.

In the meantime, Gordon had a WHIP of 1.008 with 78 strikeouts versus 55 hits and 25 walks allowed in 79.1 innings. He went 7-4 with a 2.72 ERA that year. Gordon's out pitch was a devastating 12-6 curveball. When that pitch was working, Gordon was unhittable and it was definitely working all year in 1998.

Gordon made it to his first All Star Game that year and even garnered some MVP consideration based on his saves record. He finished 13th, but it was still higher than any Red Sox closer has in years.

Unfortunately, Gordon's saves record did not last long and he was lit up in the postseason. Gordon also never had another season like it. He was injured and ineffective in 1999 and missed the entire 2000 season. He did eventually make it back as a pretty decent setup man with the Yankees and then closed for another season with the Phillies, although his postseason troubles did continue. Those are the likely reasons Gordon's 1998 is not considered among great closer seasons.

Congratulations to Tim Wakefield on Earning Win #200!

He finally did it on his seventh or eighth try. He needs only six more wins to match Roger Clemens and Cy Young for all-time wins with the Red Sox. He might get one or two more this year and have to come back next year for one more season to make it.

Search for BoSox: 2011 So Far

I haven't been doing this much lately, even though I have been continuing to get cards once in awhile.

The big pulls of 2011 so far (inserts, parallels, SPs):
Topps Wal-Mart Black Border Jonathan Papelbon
Topps Toppstown Dustin Pedroia
Topps Toppstown Victor Martinez
Topps 60 Clay Buchholz
Topps 60 Jon Lester
Topps Lineage Cloth Sticker Carl Crawford
Topps Allen & Ginter Jon Lester SP

and the pull of the year so far...
2010 Bowman Chrome Green Xfractor Will Middlebrooks

Yes it's a 2010 card, but that doesn't really matter. Middlebrooks is having a huge year in the minors and this is a great card.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Unknown Heroes Pt. 23: Alex Cora

I have no idea why I sometimes like the utility infielders so much. It is not as if Alex Cora were a great player, or even really a good one. Yet, I liked Cora. He was valuable in that he could play multiple positions, in his time with Boston he played every infield position. But that is where his value ended. He had virtually no power, and while he did have some speed, he did not get on base nearly often enough to utilize it. Yet here we are. Alex Cora was a part-time player, but that did not mean I liked him any less.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Unknown Heroes Pt. 22: Jeff Reardon

As I believe I have mentioned before, I have always been a fan of closers for some reason. I also mentioned that I am a big fan of the 1991 team, as the first team that I really watched. So it's not such a surprise that Jeff Reardon is a player that I have a lot of reverence for.

Reardon was not really a dominating closer by the time he arrived in Boston, but he was nonetheless impressive. Reardon was originally brought in at a time when Boston already had Lee Smith, but his arrival meant that Smith was trade bait, which was in hindsight probably a mistake. Reardon saved 21 games in his first Boston season with a 1.130 WHIP. It was not a great season, but he did have an excellent 1991, saving 40 games, a then-team record. He also appeared in the All Star Game that year, the first Red Sox closer to do so since Bob Stanley.

Reardon pitched into the 1992 season for the Red Sox and was typically effective. He had his career highlight that year, breaking the all time saves record with his 342nd save late in the year. That proved to be the reason the last place Red Sox were holding on to him and he was traded before the waiver wire deadline to the Atlanta Braves for Nate Minchey, who would eventually make a few starts for the Red Sox, and Sean Ross, who never made it to the Majors.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Former Cornhuskers to Play for the Red Sox

I am a University of Nebraska graduate, graduating in 2003 with my bachelor's degree in psychology and in 2006 with my Juris Doctorate. As such, I watch former Cornhuskers closely. Unfortunately, the Red Sox have only had three former Cornhuskers make their Major League roster at any point so far, and one of those was during the 1970's before I was even born. And none of those players have many baseball cards showing them with the Red Sox.

BUDDY HUNTER (1971, 1973, 1975)
Buddy Hunter is the only former Cornhusker to be drafted by the Red Sox and make it to the Major Leagues so far. Hunter was born in Omaha, NE and was drafted in the third round of the 1969 draft. He played parts of three seasons with the Red Sox, and never more than 13 games. His slash line is not bad really: .294/.478/.412, but he never stuck in the Majors. Hunter played second, third, and DH for the Red Sox.

KIP GROSS (1999)
Kip Gross showed up in Boston in 1999, despite not pitching a single game in the Majors since 1993. Gross went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA in 12.2 innings, striking out nine while walking eight. Needless to say, Boston did not really want to keep him around at the Major League level for very long. He was released at the end of the year, but spent most of his only year in the organization in the minor leagues. Gross was a native of Scottsbluff, NE.

ADAM STERN (2005-2006)
The Canadian-born Adam Stern did not last long with the Red Sox. He played a total of 46 games with the Red Sox, mostly as a reserve outfielder. Stern was plucked from the Braves in the 2004 Rule V draft and was injured much of the 2005 season, allowing him to stay on the Red Sox Major League roster which meant that Boston did not have to offer him back to the Braves. In those 46 games over parts of two seasons, Stern hit just .143/.189/.257 with one home run, six RBIs, and two stolen bases. Stern was traded to the Orioles for Javy Lopez toward the end of the 2006 season.

Red Sox Trade for Conor Jackson


Last night at the August 31 trading deadline, the Red Sox acquired Conor Jackson from the A's in exchange for 25 year old Jason Rice.

Conor Jackson is only 29, but it feels like he has been around for a long time. He was once a highly-regarded prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, but never really reached his potential. He had a couple of 15 home run seasons early in his career but stagnated after that and was traded to Oakland in 2010. This year, Jackson is batting .249/.315/.342 while playing all four corner positions. It is this versatility that lead Boston to acquire him. He helps shore up the depth a little bit for the stretch drive. He will likely not play much.

Jason Rice was a fairly successful reliever in the minors who has just not taken the next step. He was likely to be claimed in the Rule V draft this winter if Boston did not move him now. We will see how he develops.

Bobby Jenks was transferred from the 15 day to the 60 day DL, effectively ending his disappointing first season in Boston.