Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Red Sox Defensive WAR Leaders

This year, the Red Sox have three players that could win Gold Gloves, with Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury all having great years at their respective positions. I was curious as to Red Sox players who have been considered the best defensive players in the league, regardless of position. I used Defensive WAR, which is certainly not perfect, but I figured it was one way of checking.

Here are the Red Sox players to lead the league in Defensive WAR:
2008 Jacoby Ellsbury 2.2 (lead Majors)
2007 Coco Crisp 2.6 (lead Majors)
1997 Darren Bragg 2.1 (tied with Ivan Rodriguez)
1993 John Valentin 2.2 (tied with Luis Gonzalez for ML lead)
1974 Dwight Evans 2.3 (lead Majors)
1966 Carl Yastrzemski 2.4 (lead Majors)
1956 Jim Piersall 3.1 (lead Majors)
1955 Jim Piersall 2.5 (lead Majors)
1946 Bobby Doerr 1.3
1921 Everett Scott 1.8
1914 Tris Speaker 1.9
1901 Jimmy Collins 1.6

Of those players, not one won the Gold Glove that year. Piersall, Yaz, and Evans all eventually won Gold Gloves, but not for those seasons. Strange.

Unknown Heroes Pt. 21: Jody Reed

I first started my obsession with the Red Sox in 1991, so a lot of the players from that team are remembered fondly. Jody Reed is just another one of those players, joining Carlos Quintana, Greg Harris, and Tony Pena as underrated favorites of mine.

Jody Reed came up to Boston for good in 1988 and played shortstop down the stretch for the AL East champs. He was a short player, only 5'9" and he did not have much power, but he was a pesky little sparkplug for the team who was tough to strike out. He became the team's No. 2 hitter for much of his career with the Red Sox and provided mostly solid defense in the middle infield.

Reed was a solid hitter, hitting .280/.358/.372 for his Red Sox career which included an awful 1992 season. In general, he was a little better than that. Reed finished third in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1988 and had his best season in 1990, when he tied for the league lead with 45 doubles.

As mentioned, Reed had a bad 1992 and he was left unprotected in the expansion draft where he was selected by the Colorado Rockies and was immediately traded to the Dodgers. Reed was one of many longtime Red Sox who was let go after the 1992 season, which was kind of devastating for a young fan like myself.

One-Year Wonder Pt. 13: J.T. Snow

Every once in awhile, the Red Sox pick up a veteran player for a year, or just the stretch run that was a star at one point that I become fascinated with. It's a player that is basically only a role player at that point in their career, but may show flashes of their old brilliance. It's so unusual to see them as a member of the Red Sox, that I try to find as many of their cards as possible. This series will be about some of those players.J.T. SNOW
J.T. Snow was a slick-fielding first-baseman who won six straight Gold Gloves from 1995 through 2000 while with the Angels and Giants. Snow was also a pretty good hitter for quite some time on those two teams. Snow was brought to the Red Sox as a 38 year old part-timer for the 2006 season. Not much was expected of him, other than to help ease Kevin Youkilis's transition from third to first. That's about all that Snow provided.

Snow made it into 38 games with the Red Sox and only had 53 plate appearances, so he was mostly a late-inning defensive replacement. Snow only hit .205/.340/.205 with no extra base hits and only four RBIs. He had also clearly lost a step defensively.

Snow was released in mid June. He did show up back in San Francisco in 2008 for one game, but was otherwise finished.

Busts Pt. 19: Julio Lugo

Sometimes, offseason acquisitions work out. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes, they are spectacular failures.JULIO LUGO
I could do an entire series just on the disappointing Red Sox shortstops. Just as I KNEW Boston would sign Edgar Renteria during the 2004 season, I KNEW Boston would sign Julio Lugo during the 2006 season. Boston had tried to acquire him on a couple of earlier occasions and they of course were going to have a vacancy at the position since Alex Gonzalez was only on a one-year contract and did not hit terribly well.

In theory, this was a good idea. Lugo was a decent offensive shortstop with some major speed. He was not a good defensive shortstop, but his offensive output was usually enough to make up for it.

Unfortunately, it just did not work out.

Lugo's speed was an asset in 2007 as he lead the team with 33 stolen bases, but his offense was a disappointment. Lugo hit .237/.294/.348 with eight home runs and 73 RBIs his first year and was brutal defensively. He was only slightly better the next season, but missed about half the season. In 2009, he again was injured a lot and Boston finally decided to cut him loose after Jed Lowrie emerged, sending him to the Cardinals in a trade for Chris Duncan, who barely played for Boston.

Minor Moves: Trever Miller and Joey Gathright

Over the last two days, the Red Sox have made a couple of very minor moves.

Yesterday, the Red Sox picked up left-handed reliever Trever Miller after he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays. Miller had been terrible this year with a 4.19 ERA in 19 innings and a WHIP of 1.914. He had been successful in the past, but he is 38. He could be a warm body in the bullpen.

Today, the Red Sox picked up speedy centerfielder Joey Gathright from an independent league team Yuma Scorpions. Gathright last appeared in the Major Leagues with the Red Sox in 2009. He was on the postseason roster and was mostly utilized as a pinch runner. Gathright has stolen 80 bases in 109 attempts over his career. He will likely be a pinch runner for the Red Sox down the stretch as well, sort of a Dave Roberts-type role.

One-Card Wonder Pt. 20: Brendan Donnelly

For whatever reason, sometimes I am only able to find one card of certain players. To be considered a One-Card Wonder, a player must have been active since 1991 (when I started paying attention).

I have discussed Brendan Donnelly briefly in the past here as a former replacement player. So that was already one strike against Donnelly for having more than a couple of cards. He also only spent one season with the Red Sox and was injured for a large portion of the year. So that does not help either. Donnelly's Red Sox career lasted all of 27 games and 20.2 innings. 

Donnelly's only two Red Sox cards are from special sets. I only have the Red Sox gift set, so that is my only card of Donnelly. 

Donnelly was acquired prior to the 2007 season in a trade with the Angels for minor leaguer Phil Seibel. He was brought in to shore up the bullpen a little bit, and he was successful for the short amount of time he was active. He pitched to an ERA of 3.05 with a 15/5 strikeouts/walks. Unfortunately, the injuries caught up to him and he did not make an appearance in the postseason. 

The next year, Donnelly was one of the players whose name appeared in the Mitchell Report as being connected to performance enhancing drugs. Donnelly was allowed to leave as a free agent to the Indians.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Busts Pt. 18: Jeremy Hermida

Sometimes, offseason acquisitions work out. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes, they are spectacular failures.

They try sometimes. Every team tries to pick up a player for a low cost that they think could be a highly rewarding player. Boston traded a couple of spare parts to Florida for Jeremy Hermida, a player with a lot of power potential who was becoming too expensive for the Marlins. Hermida was expected to step into Boston's hallowed left field and start hitting home runs. Unfortunately it did not work out that way.

Hermida was injured a lot and when he was not hurting, he also was not hitting. Boston stuck with him for 52 games during which he put up a line of .203/.257/.348/.605 with five home runs. Not the numbers expected. Not even close. He was released and caught on with Oakland, but it appears he will never be the hitter he was expected to be when he was the 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft.

One-Card Wonder Pt. 19: David Aardsma

For whatever reason, sometimes I am only able to find one card of certain players. To be considered a One-Card Wonder, a player must have been active since 1991 (when I started paying attention). 

I have this 2008 Topps Update card of David Aardsma which is still my only card of the player with the Red Sox. Boston had Aardsma one year too early. His 2008 showed very little of the player who would emerge into the topflight closer for Seattle in 2009 and 2010. Aardsma was 4-2 with a 5.55 ERA. He did have 49 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings, but his WHIP was an astronomical 1.726. Who knew he would turn into a good closer? Certainly not Boston who traded him after the season for Fabian Williamson, who never made it to Boston. Kind of a bad trade in hindsight.

Unknown Heroes Pt. 20: Julian Tavarez

To say Julian Tavarez was a little crazy was a complete understatement. Well-known for his volatile temper, and some downright quirky behavior, you never knew quite what to expect next from Tavarez.

Tavarez was brought to the Red Sox as a free agent prior to the 2006 season to help solidify the bullpen. His stats were never terribly impressive. In his first year, he put up a 4.47 ERA and a 1.561 WHIP. The next year, he was a starter and a long man in the bullpen for the World Series Champion Red Sox. He had a bad record and bad stats, but he remained entertaining. Tavarez was released after nine games in 2008. He never had much success with the Red Sox. But that's not why he was so interesting.

Tavarez was suspended for the first ten games of the 2006 season after he got into a fistfight with Joey Gathright of Tampa Bay. Tavarez placed a tag on Gathright when he was covering home on a relay and then before Gathright could get, Tavarez was punching him. Tavarez was also known for rolling the ball to first base on occasion.

Tavarez was not much of a player, but he was a hell of an entertaining player.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I have always been partial to catchers. It's probably due to the fact that a catcher's job is markedly different and much more difficult than perhaps any other position. A catcher is in charge of calling the pitches and keeping an eye on the baserunners. He is also the last obstacle between a baserunner and scoring a run. It could also be the cool equipment.

Anyway, as a Red Sox fan and a fan of catchers in general, I always keep a close eye on the player behind the plate. I have been paying close attention since 1991. In that time, Boston has had a number of different starting catchers and backups. Out of pure boredom, I wanted to look at them.

Tony Pena was the Red Sox starting catcher when I first started paying attention to baseball. Pena was not much with the bat, but he was a tremendous defensive catcher with a strong throwing arm. Beyond that, he had such an interesting catching stance that it was hard not to be intrigued by him. Pena won the Gold Glove in 1991 as the best fielding catcher in the league that year.

Dave Valle was brought to the Red Sox for the 1994 season. Pena was allowed to leave as a free agent the prior year and Valle was supposed to be his replacement. Valle had a reputation as having a decent bat, but not being a real great defensive catcher. But in Boston, he was not able to contribute on either side of the plate. He was ultimately traded to Milwaukee after 30 games for Tom Brunansky.

Damon Berryhill, like Dave Valle, was acquired for the 1994 season. Unlike Valle, Berryhill was able to stick through the year. He was also not a great hitter, although he did bat .263/.312/.416/.727 with six home runs. Adequate numbers for a more defensive position. Berryhill was not a terribly effective defensive catcher though and did not hit well enough to make up for it. He was gone after the year.

Longtime Royal Mike Macfarlane was the next player brought in to be the starting catcher. Macfarlane also lasted only one year with Boston, but he brought significantly more home run power. His 15 home runs in 1995 were the most by a Red Sox catcher since Rich Gedman hit 16 in 1986. Unfortunately that was about the only part of his offensive game that was an improvement. He did catch 35% of runners attempting to steal, the best mark by a Red Sox catcher since Pena.

Next up was Mike Stanley who was one of the best players the Red Sox took from the Yankees in decades. Stanley had been an All Star with New York when he hit 26 home runs in 1993. He almost matched his power numbers in his first year with Boston, hitting 24 home runs with a slash line of .270/.383/.506/.889. Unfortunately, he was not nearly as impressive behind the plate and the next year became a first-baseman/designated hitter.

Scott Hatteberg was the first starting catcher developed by the Boston Red Sox since Gedman. Hatteberg came up at the end of 2006 and became the starting catcher in 2007. Hatteberg had the rare ability in catchers to draw a lot of walks. With Boston, his OBP was an impressive .357. Hatteberg's problem though was his inability to throw out baserunners, his caught-stealing percentage was a low 21%.

When it was determined that Hatteberg simply could not throw out runners attempting to steal, Jason Varitek became the starting catcher. Varitek was acquired in a terrific trade with the Seattle Mariners in 1997 and quickly became a rising star. Varitek could draw a walk, hit with power, and was a strong defensive catcher. Injuries curtailed his promising career somewhat in 2001 and it took until 2003 before he started to really impress again. He was a 3-time All Star, Boston's first All Star catcher since Gedman, won a Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove. He has caught a record four no-hitters, and is considered a great game-caller. He gracefully moved to a backup role in 2009. Varitek will one day be in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

Victor Martinez was acquired in a blockbust deadline deal from Cleveland in 2009. Boston wanted a better hitter behind the plate as Varitek's best days were behind him. Martinez certainly qualified. Though he had a little trouble with throwing out runners early in 2010, Martinez's bat carried him. He batted .313/.368/.497/.865 with 28 home runs and 120 RBIs in his short season and a half with Boston. He was not brought back after 2010 due to his expense and the unlikelihood that he would be able to continue at catcher.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was long coveted by the Red Sox front office. Theo Epstein saw an opportunity to acquire him at the deadline in 2010 and swooped in, giving up three minor leaguers with little chance of developing into stars to the Texas Rangers in one of the quieter moves of the deadline. Saltalamacchia did not play much in 2010 and started off very slowly in 2011. Since then, he has started to come into his own. He currently has 13 home runs and has become a much better defender as the season has worn on. One of the great questions is whether Saltalamacchia will continue to have a chance in Boston due to the development of Ryan Lavarnway.

Hard to imagine but at one point John Marzano was a first round draft pick. I am not sure he really fulfilled the expectations of the front office. Marzano was a serviceable backup for several years with the Red Sox, though it was not until 1990 that he really stuck with the big league club. He did not have a lot of power outside of hitting five home runs in 1987, his first chance with the team. He was an adequate defensive catcher and that is the only thing that kept him with the team. After being released by Boston in 1993, he did not make it back to the Major Leagues until 1995.

Bob Melvin became the backup to Tony Pena in 1993 after Marzano was released. Melvin was a journeyman catcher with the Tigers, Giants, Orioles, and Royals before joining Boston. Melvin really did not provide much more than a warm body behind the plate in his short time with Boston. He was not particularly good at any aspect of the game. He and Pena provided pathetic offense at the position in 1993.

Rich Rowland was acquired in a challenge trade of young catchers from Detroit. Boston gave up John Flaherty who had some promise but had yet to harness it. Rowland was already 30 and a career minor leaguer to that point, but he had some power. Rowland hit nine home runs as the backup catcher in 1994 with a .483 slugging percentage. His defense was decent as he caught 36% of attempted base stealers. Unfortunately he did not hit at all in 1995 and was quickly forgotten.

Bill Haselman, the longtime Rangers backup and Nolan Ryan's personal catcher, came to Boston after the 1994 season and cemented the backup catcher position. Haselman was decent with the stick and adequate behind the plate. He hit .252/.313/.409/.722 in parts of four seasons. He once hit a broken-bat home run over the Green Monster in left. He started the 1997 season as the starting catcher before injuries caught up with him. At the time, he was among the league leaders in doubles, but did not play much the rest of the year. After the year he was traded to Texas. He returned briefly in 2003.

Doug Mirabelli is perhaps the most famous backup catcher in Red Sox history. Acquired in 2001 when Jason Varitek went down with an injury and Scott Hatteberg's throwing problems became too glaring, Mirabelli settled into a decent role. He had a good year in 2001, hitting .270/.360/.518/.877 with nine home runs down the stretch. He became Tim Wakefield's personal catcher with his ability to catch the knuckleball and was one of the best-hitting backup catchers for several years. He and Varitek made quite the pair. Mirabelli put up am .893 OPS in 2004. His bat slowed after that, but he was still highly-regarded. He was traded after the 2006 season, but was re-acquired after Josh Bard could not catch a knuckleball and was famously police-escorted to the ballpark to catch Wakefield. He was released for good prior to the 2008 season.

During the 2007 season, Kevin Cash proved he too could catch the knuckleball. Cash was not much of a hitter but became the backup catcher for the 2008 season after Mirabelli was released. Cash was a better defensive catcher than Mirabelli and at the point was a bit more reliable with the bat. He hit a dramatic postseason home run for the Red Sox during the ALCS against Tampa Bay. He moved on to the Yankees after the season but returned briefly during the 2010 season.

Originally acquired from the Padres in 2006 when the Red Sox traded David Wells, it took Kottaras until 2008 to make his Major League Debut. He became the principal backup in 2009 when he also showed the ability to catch Wakefield's knuckler. Kottaras did not hit much, hitting only .237/.308/.387/.696 with one home run, but he was a decent defensive catcher. He developed a bit more power after being selected off waivers by the Brewers.

One-Year Wonder Pt. 12: Carlos Pena

Every once in awhile, the Red Sox pick up a veteran player for a year, or just the stretch run that was a star at one point that I become fascinated with. It's a player that is basically only a role player at that point in their career, but may show flashes of their old brilliance. It's so unusual to see them as a member of the Red Sox, that I try to find as many of their cards as possible. This series will be about some of those players.
Carlos Pena played for the Red Sox? Yep, for 18 games in 2006, the Rays nemesis was with the Red Sox. This was of course before he really became the power-hitting first baseman we think about now. The once highly-touted prospect bounced around a few times, never really finding his niche. Boston was his last stop before finally finding a home in Florida.

He was not too bad in Boston, hitting .273/.351/.424. He did hit one home run and was okay in the field. After the year, Pena was allowed to leave as a free agent. Kevin Youkilis was already firmly entrenched as the starting first-baseman, so Pena did not have a position. Too bad. The next year, he hit 46 home runs and finally became the home run threat he was always rumored to be.

Busts Pt. 17: Brad Penny

Sometimes, offseason acquisitions work out. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes, they are spectacular failures.


Brad Penny came to Boston for the 2009 season. He was one of four low-risk, high-reward players that the Red Sox signed that were surprisingly all lauded. However, Penny and fellow starter John Smoltz were massive disappointments. Rocco Baldelli was neither good, nor bad, and only Takashi Saito really improved the club markedly.

Penny had a bad year for the Dodgers in 2008 and was hurt a lot, but the two seasons before that he won 16 games each. He was brought in on a cheap deal and was expected to fill in the fourth starter spot behind Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Unfortunately, other than a few starts here and there (particularly against the Yankees), Penny was pretty awful. In 24 starts, he had an ERA of 5.61 with a 1.534 WHIP. He allowed far too much contact and gave up too many home runs. His record was 7-8, but that was more due to the run support he received than effectiveness on the mound.

Penny was released by Boston in late August and caught on with the San Francisco Giants. Of course, he suddenly starting pitching well after that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One-Card Wonder Pt. 18: Ramon Vazquez

For whatever reason, sometimes I am only able to find one card of certain players. To be considered a One-Card Wonder, a player must have been active since 1991 (when I started paying attention).RAMON VAZQUEZ
Ramon Vazquez was one of three players acquired from the San Diego Padres after the 2004 season in exchange for outfielder Dave Roberts. Vazquez was your basic run-of-the-mill backup middle infielder. His career in Boston was decidedly short as he was traded to Cleveland for Alex Cora after only 27 games.

Vazquez hit .197/.234/.230/.464. He had no home runs, two doubles, and four RBIs. His defense was not much to write home about either. It's no wonder he did not last long. None of the players Boston received in the trade really did, but Vazquez was the shortest tenured player.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unknown Heroes Pt. 19: Tony Pena

Okay, Tony Pena was not an "unknown" per se. However, he was past his prime by the time he got to Boston and he certainly was not one of the better hitters on the team. Pena was overshadowed by Wade Boggs, Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, and others. But Pena's real value was his defense behind the plate.

Pena was a fun player to watch, with his unusual catching stance which involved him stretching one leg out to his side. Despite this, he was a strong thrower, throwing out between 32 and 37% of base stealers in his four years with Boston. Pena won the Gold Glove in 1991 with the Red Sox, the last Red Sox player to do so until fellow catcher Jason Varitek in 2005. That year, he lead the league in putouts and runners caught.

Unfortunately, his bat was never as impressive as his glove, particularly in 1993, his final year when he put up an embarrassing .502 OPS. He certainly was not the same player as he was with Pittsburgh and St. Louis when he was an All Star several times and widely considered one of the best hitting catchers in the league. But Boston did not bring him to the team for his offense. It was his defense they were after and Pena certainly delivered.

2011 Draft

The signing deadline for players returning to college has passed and Boston got most of their big-name draftees signed. All four first- and supplemental rounders signed right before the deadline, so we can all hoard our Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Henry Owens cards. Mookie Betts was a surprise signee as well. I honestly did not expect the fifth-rounder to sign at all. But it's a good thing he did.

Unfortunately the Red Sox lost out on Senquez Golson, who was my particular favorite draftee. The speedy, potentially five-tool player decided he wanted to play football at Ole Miss instead of signing with the Red Sox. Good luck to him. I am disappointed, but I will never criticize a player for choosing to go to college. Education is very important. Hopefully if he decides to try to get back into the baseball draft, Boston can revisit with him. We'll see.

Ryan Lavarnway

Okay, I suck at making sure to post regularly. I am very sorry.

Anyway, Ryan Lavarnway was called up late last week for the Royals series. He had hit 30 home runs in the minor leagues and Boston needed an offensive boost with Kevin Youkilis hitting the D.L. and David Ortiz being slowed from a foot injury.

Lavarnway delivered.

Yes it was just against the meager Royals pitching staff but he has now played in seven games for Boston and has proved that he has a potent bat. Lavarnway has put up a line of .318/.423/.409 with three RBIs and two doubles. He has yet to hit a home run, but he has been raking in his short time with the big league club.

Here's the potential problem though. Where does he play next year? Lavarnway is capable of playing at three positions. He has been a part-time catcher and designated hitter in the minor leagues and has played at both positions since being called up from Boston (he is currently in the game at catcher tonight, I am watching it, I know). He could also potentially play first base. But all three positions are possibly locked up next year. It is true that DH David Ortiz and C Jason Varitek are both free agents after this season, but it's hard to imagine either one actually not coming back. Nor do I really want to unless Varitek retires, which he has made no announcement. In addition, Adrian Gonzalez will be at first and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has started to develop into a highly competent catcher.

So where does that leave Lavarnway? It would be a shame not to see him make it next year. I suppose the best bet would be to trade Saltalamacchia and hope that Lavarnway's improved defensive skills behind the plate are enough to keep him back there. Either that or he becomes a part-time player at all three positions. He does not have much left to prove in the minors. It's make or break time.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Red Sox Acquire Erik Bedard in Three Team Deal

Okay, first the details:

P Juan Rodriguez
P Stephen Fife
C Tim Federowicz

OF Trayvon Robinson
OF Chih Hsien Chiang

P Erik Bedard
RP Josh Fields

Bedard was once a highly-accomplished left-hander with a terrific curveball who racked up a lot of strikeouts. Boston is hoping that he is over his recent injury struggles and ready to get back into being that pitcher again. At the least he has to be considered an improvement over the still raw and struggling Andrew Miller. Miller has shown flashes of reaching his potential, but those have been fleeting and he really can not be counted on down the stretch yet. Bedard will hopefully fill his role, particularly with Clay Buchholz now being out for the year. Bedard has been pretty good when healthy this year.

Josh Fields was a first round draft pick in 2008 who has struggled a bit in the minors. This acquisition was important because Bedard is not expected back in Boston next year.

The Red Sox gave up quite a few prospects to get Bedard and Fields, but few of them look like more than role-players in the Major Leagues.

Chih Hsien Chiang was the best player they gave up as he was lighting up the Eastern League. I am a little disappointed that they gave up on him, especially since Che Hsuan Lin has somewhat stalled in his development. Chiang though has never really hit that well coming into this year and is mediocre defensively, at best. There is no telling yet whether his year has been a fluke or part of his development. Disappointing, but he was hardly the best hitter in the minor league system and not likely to be more than a fourth outfielder in the Majors.

Tim Federowicz was the best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system but has been surpassed on the prospect charts by Ryan Lavarnway. Boston could only really keep one and Lavarnway's bat is special.

Stephen Fife has a chance at becoming a back-end starter. I do not know as much about him, but he is 24 and in Double A, so he was not considered that highly.

Juan Rodriguez is a young fireballer. There is not much information about him available.

I think the major reason for this trade is to open some room on the 40 man roster this winter. Chiang, Federowicz, and Fife would all have been subject to the Rule V draft if not dealt and Boston risked losing one or all of them for nothing. So they were traded.

Boston also had a trade for Rich Harden fall through due to his injury problems on Saturday.