Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bill Buckner

A few days ago was the 25th Anniversary of the infamous Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Red Sox and Mets. Of course that was the game in which Bill Buckner let Mookie Wilson's groundball roll through his legs, scoring the winning run from second base. Ultimately the Red Sox lost the World Series despite being just one strike away in Game 6, a pain the Texas Rangers just learned this week.

Anyway, this is obviously a very famous play in World Series history and has become the major event Buckner is known for, which is a shame. Buckner actually was a decent player, even in his time with the Red Sox. He had his best years with the Dodgers and Cubs, but he was a decent player with the Red Sox.

Buckner played two stints for the Red Sox, first from 1984 through the first half of 1987, and then returning for 22 games in early 1990. Buckner was acquired from the Cubs in a deal for Dennis Eckersley and Mike Brumley. Eckersley actually did not develop his Hall of Fame career until later and Brumley never did much in the Major Leagues at all.

Buckner's first year in Boston was not terribly good as he hit only .278/.321/.410 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs. But his 1985 was his best season with the Red Sox as he batted .299/.324/.447 with 16 home runs and 110 RBIs. He lead the team in stolen bases with 18, a far cry from his much more plodding play in 1986 due to his surgically repaired ankles. 1986 was another good year as he hit .267/.311/.421 but contributed 18 home runs and 102 RBIs. In 1987, his numbers dropped a great amount, possibly due to the pressure from the fans, but he was also 36 years old.

Buckner returned in 1990 and hit an inside the park home run, but that was about it for highlights. His career was over later in the year.

But the one thing most people remember about Bill Buckner with the Red Sox is that one error. It is a shame.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1999

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.1999 - BRIAN DAUBACH
Brian Daubach came out of nowhere. He played in just ten games at the Major League level prior to 1999 when he played for the Marlins the prior year and did very little in 17 plate appearances. So it was a move with no fanfare when Boston signed him as a free agent in December of 1998. Who knew that the 27 year old rookie would be the team's principal first baseman and a contender for the A.L. Rookie of the Year by the end of 1999?

Daubach went on a tear late in the season and ended up leading A.L. rookies in on base percentage and slugging percentage while hitting 21 home runs and driving in 73. Daubach was not too bad in the field either and would actually improve over the course of his career.

Daubach never really got the attention he deserved due to his status as a former scab player, but 1999 was the beginning of a four-year stretch where he hit 20 plus home runs and drove in more than 70 runs each year as Boston's first baseman.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ben Cherington Named General Manager

Well so long to Theo Epstein, who will be missed. Ben Cherington takes over the reins as G.M. for the Red Sox. Hopefully his years of apprenticeship under Epstein will pay off and the organization will not miss a beat. Hopefully.

In other news, John Lackey will have Tommy John surgery meaning he will be out for the season. Which makes two Boston starting pitchers in the last year with Matsuzaka being the other one. Hopefully the Red Sox will be able to fill in the rotation behind Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz. Perhaps Wakefield will be back next year.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1998

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. 

1998 - JIM CORSI
Jim Corsi came to the Red Sox before the 1997 season, in what was actually his second tour of duty with the organization. He was in their minor league system in 1985 through 1986 before being released and catching on with Oakland. Corsi was a decent bullpen option in 1997 but was even better in 1998 and was the unheralded hero of the relief corps, which already featured Tom Gordon and Dennis Eckersley. 
Corsi was a 1.3 WAR relief pitcher in 1998, going 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA and 49 strikeouts versus 23 walks in 66 innings over 59 games. Corsi finished nine games for Boston and notched two saves. His WHIP was a decent 1.227. 

Corsi did return in 1999, but at 37, he was ineffective and ultimately released. He found his way into the Baltimore bullpen and for 13 games was relatively decent, but that was it for his Major League career.

David Ortiz Wins Roberto Clemente Award

Another award went to a Red Sox player recently as David Ortiz won the Roberto Clemente Award, an award given to a player who excels off the field. Ortiz is very active in the community and has his own charitable fund which helps children receive medical care in the Dominican Republic and United States. It is the second year in a row a Red Sox player received this award. Tim Wakefield won it last year.

Now, the question becomes, do the Red Sox bring him back next year?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Jacoby Ellsbury Named AL Comeback Player of the Year

Well deserved if you ask me. After playing only 18 games last year, he rose to superstar status while becoming the Red Sox first ever 30-30 man. He may win a few more awards by the time all is said and done this year.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1997

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.1997 - JEFF FRYE
Jeff Frye played the most games of his career in 1997. For the first time in his career, he was looked at as a regular player from the very beginning. Frye was the Red Sox second-baseman entering the season and he held on to the position for a large chunk of the season while also filling in at other positions on occasion.

Frye was also pretty good with the bat that season as he hit .312/.352/.433 and even stole 19 bases. Frye was an extremely integral part of the Red Sox lineup that season as he provided a very good bat with the occasional pop, speed on the basepaths, and versatility in the field.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1996

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.1996 - REGGIE JEFFERSON
In 1996, Reggie Jefferson finally broke through when he was given the opportunity. Jefferson received a lot of at bats at designated hitter and in left field, covering for injuries to Jose Canseco and Mike Greenwell, respectively. Jefferson proved to be one of the most consistent hitters in the Red Sox lineup that season. His season lessened the impact of the trade of Canseco and the retirement of Greenwell after the season.

Jefferson contributed a slash line of .347/.388/.593 with 19 home runs and 74 runs batted in. It was Jefferson's best season of his career. He became the full time designated hitter the next year as his defensive abilities were highly suspect.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1995

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.1995 - STAN BELINDA
The 1995 season saw a lot of changes for the Red Sox. They brought in new players at second base, catcher, right field, and designated hitter, as well as overhauling their rotation and bullpen, and letting young players take over at third base and center field. Stan Belinda was a part of the new look bullpen when he was signed as a free agent in April of 1995.

Prior to joining the Red Sox, Belinda was reasonably successful with the Pirates and the Royals as a reliever, but he arguably had his best year with the Red Sox. Belinda lead Red Sox pitchers with 63 games pitched in the shortened 1995 season. He struck out 57 in 69.2 innings versus 28 walks. Belinda finished the year at 8-1 with 10 saves and a 3.10 ERA solidifying the bullpen for the AL East champs. Together with Mike Maddux and Rheal Cormier, the Red Sox setup men in 1995 were the best group the team had in years.

2011 Season Wrap-Up Pt. 4

For the last post, I will look at the other pitchers.

I expected Atchison to be around a lot more than he was, but he was blessed (cursed?) with remaining options so he could be shuttled between Pawtucket and Boston as often as management wanted. He did make it into 17 games in about six different stints with the Red Sox, with an ERA of 3.26 and 17 strikeouts versus only six walks in 30.1 innings. Not bad. I have no idea if he will be back next year or not.

Bowden is another player who appears to be running out of time to make a difference on the big league club. He has now played parts of four seasons in Boston, never making it into more than 15 games in a season. He is still relatively young, but I think it is time to have him stick in Boston or trade him. Enough jerking him around back and forth.

Doubront apparently did not show up to Spring Training in shape this year and he struggled some in the minors. By the end of the season though, he was in Boston. Perhaps next year is the year that Doubront makes it to Boston full time. He is a left-hander and I previously mentioned Morales might be able to make it as a starter. Doubront has that ability as well.

Rich Hill completely overhauled his pitching motion and was getting terrific results. The left-hander pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and three walks, while striking out twelve. Then he got hurt and his season was over. He was making progress, hopefully Boston sticks with him a little longer.

I had no idea Hottovy was even still in the Red Sox system until I saw that he was called up to Boston this summer. Hottovy has languished since 2003 in the minor leagues. His persistence finally paid off and he was brought up when Hill went down with an injury. However, he was not terribly impressive, with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP, so he likely will not be back.

The 2006 first round pick of the Tigers has yet to harness his awesome ability, but he did show some flashes this year. Miller had a few good starts for the Red Sox, but far too many where he simply walked too many batters. It is still too early to give up on him completely though, he is still just 26. If he can harness his command, he could make the starting rotation next year. But that is a pretty big "if".

Miller was acquired towards the end of the season as veteran left-handed relief. He pitched just two innings, without giving up a run, hit, or a walk. Not bad, but it's hard to imagine him coming back next year.

Okajima lost favor pretty quickly in Boston and it looks like his Red Sox career, if not his Major League career, is over. Okajima notoriously was upset that Boston sent him down to the minors and refused to come back to Boston when they attempted to recall him. He demanded a trade a couple of times. Too bad it had to end this way, as I really liked him coming into the season.

Reyes broke camp with the Red Sox then had four miserable games to start the season. He was sent to the minors and never returned.

Tazawa made it all the way back from Tommy John surgery and made it to the Red Sox bullpen by the end of the year. He has pretty good stuff and could be ready to make an impact in the rotation or the bullpen next year.

I am sure I am not alone in suggesting that Weiland was rushed to the Major Leagues this year. He was simply not ready to face big league hitters. That said, he could be ready to be a setup man next year in Boston as he did perform well in that role late in the season, or he could be trade bait.

Another left-hander that pitched in fewer than ten games as Boston was looking for a good southpaw option in the bullpen. Williams did not fare much better than Reyes, Okajima, or Hottovy. He likely will not be back next year.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1994

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.1994 - KEN RYAN
Ken Ryan was not really a complete surprise. He was touted to be a potential closer-in-waiting, but in 1994 he took the next step. Boston entered the season with Jeff Russell as the incumbent closer, but ineffectiveness and the rise of Ryan eventually lead to him being traded to the Indians for Chris Nabholz and Steve Farr.

Ryan had his best season as a closer that year, saving 13 games and finishing the year with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.313 WHIP.

Ryan was given the closer position in 1995 from the start of the season, but he struggled and was eventually replaced when Boston acquired Rick Aguilera. Ryan was dealt after the season for another closer Heathcliff Slocumb.

2011 Season Wrap-Up Pt. 3

Today I will be looking at the position players who were on the bench, or only played a partial season.

Lars Anderson will probably be traded this offseason. He was almost traded at the deadline in July to Oakland for Rich Harden, but Boston was concerned about Harden's medical status and withdrew from the trade. Anderson has nothing left to prove in the minors, and with Adrian Gonzalez locked up in Boston for the next seven years, it is time to move him. Anderson simply did not develop into a legitimate Major Leaguer in time.

I was confused by this trade when it happened, but Aviles definitely prove to be worth it. Aviles hit .317/.340/.436 with two home runs and four stolen bases since arriving in Boston. Even more valuable was his versatility as he played five positions for the Red Sox. Aviles will be back next season as a super utility man.

Cameron was injured and ineffective for the Red Sox who did not get their money's worth on his contract. Cameron was traded to Florida early in the season and only played 33 games for Boston with an atrocious batting line of .149/.212/.266. He had a nice career, but his time with Boston was not a highlight.

Gathright only made it into seven games for Boston, mostly as a pinch hitter. He was one for two in stolen base attempts and likely will not be back next year.

We did not see much of Iglesias, which surprised me. His bat is not ready yet for the Majors, but his glove certainly is. It is a shame we have not seen him in the field much yet. He could make an impact next year.

An injured knee limited Conor Jackson since being acquired from Oakland. He made it into only 12 games with the Red Sox and did not do much other than some sparkling defensive plays when he played. He will likely not be back next year as he is a free agent.

It may be time to put Lavarnway in the Majors full time. He could play at catcher and designated hitter. His bat is definitely ready as he proved on the next to last game of the season when he hit two home runs. His defensive skills have also improved.

Time is running out on Lowrie. Every time it seems he has locked up the shortstop position, he goes down with an injury. Since coming back from that injury, he did not hit well. He could still be a valuable utility infielder, but with Mike Aviles around, does Boston really need two? Who knows. Lowrie could be a better offensive shortstop than Marco Scutaro, but his defense needs work.

McDonald started very slowly, but started picking up towards the end of the season. He finished with a batting line of .236/.303/.401, not the best numbers, but they seem worse because of his dreadful start. McDonald is a versatile outfielder with power and speed, so he could stick as the fourth outfielder next year.

Navarro was being groomed to be a utility infielder until he was dealt to Kansas City in the Aviles trade. He is expected to be a similar type of player.

Overall, Reddick had a nice season. He struggled down the stretch but ended up with a nice line of .280/.327/.457. He should compete with Ryan Kalish for the full time right field job next season. But Kalish has more potential, so we will see what happens.

Not much to say about Spears, he made it into three games and did not produce a hit. He is 26, pretty old to just now be breaking into the Majors. If he makes it back, it will not be as more than a role player.

Sutton was actually fairly impressive in short work as a utility infielder. His line was .315/.362/.444. I am not sure why he did not stick at the Major League level. He may not be back next year with Lowrie and Aviles around.

The Captain will be 40 next year and he still wants to play. He was somewhat valuable this year, as he did hit 11 home runs as a backup catcher. But his defensive skills have continued to decline. It is getting hard to justify keeping him around, especially with Lavarnway ready to step in, but it will be just as hard to let him go, as much as he has done for the organization. It will be an interesting decision-making process.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Underrated Player of the Year: 1993

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.1993 - GREG A. HARRIS
I would have picked Danny Darwin for this post, but I have already covered his surprising 1993 season in another post. So, here we are with the remarkably versatile Greg A. Harris.

After two okay seasons in the rotation, Harris was moved to the bullpen full time in 1992 and responded with a pretty good season. In 1993, Harris was essentially the long man out of the bullpen, but his numbers were very impressive. He lead the league with 80 games pitched, which was a Red Sox record for some time. Think about that, there are 162 games in a season, and he pitched in 80 of them. No wonder he blew his arm out in 1994. He threw 112.1 innings, which is unheard of out of relievers these days. Harris finished the year at 6-7 with a 3.77 ERA and 103 strikeouts versus 60 walks. His WHIP was 1.380.

1993 was still fairly early in the reformation of bullpen roles, so Harris's season stands out quite a bit today. He was an absolute workhorse that year. He was the most consistent reliever on the team and helped in a variety of ways, even picking up eight saves. The bullpen would have been in a lot of trouble without Harris.

2011 Season Wrap-Up Pt. 2

Today, I am going to look at the main starters and relievers.

Beckett was possibly the ace of the staff this year as he had the most consistent year, other than his final two disastrous starts against the Orioles. Beckett was an All Star for the third time with the Red Sox and lead the team in ERA with 2.89. For a while, he was considered to be a Cy Young Candidate. However, his last couple of starts have more than likely taken him out of the running for any votes at all. It was a nice bounceback year after his awful 2010 though. Hopefully he stays motivated and comes back next year in shape and ready to pitch. Boston desperately needs him.

Lester took a little bit of a step backwards this year after contending for the Cy Young Award last year. Something just was not right with him parts of the year and he had a lot of trouble with his command down the stretch which lead to three awful starts in a row. Nevertheless, he lead the team in wins and strikeouts with 15 and 182 respectfully. Hopefully this year was not a sign of things to come for Boston's young ace and he gets back to his dominating stuff next year.

To say John Lackey was bad this year is a massive understatement. I still do not quite understand how this free agent acquisition turned out this badly. Lackey has not been the pitcher that he was with the Angels the entire time he has been in Boston. It is a shame because he could have given the Red Sox another ace-level starting pitcher. Lackey had an absolutely awful year, going 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA. I have no idea what it will take to get him back on track, but something needs to be done over the offseason.

At this point, Wakefield is just hanging on trying to get the Red Sox record for career victories. He has not been pitching very well and most teams run at will on him. He finally got career victory number 200 earlier this year and is six wins away from the Red Sox record. I do not really have a problem with him coming back for that record next year if he is pitching well in Spring Training. Otherwise, I just can not see how a team striving for the postseason can keep him around in anything other than a bullpen role. He finished the year a disappointing 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA. Not his best year.

Along with Youkilis, Clay Buchholz's injury was a crushing blow that the team could not overcome. They did not have the pitching depth to cover for the loss of their third ace. Buchholz struggled to start the season but was beginning to figure it out when he went down with a stress fracture in his back. He finished 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA. There was talk that he was ready to pitch in the postseason so he should be back to full health in 2012.

Another injury that Boston could not overcome, though on a lesser scale, was the one to Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka continues to disappoint in Boston ever since his 18 win 2008 season. He still nibbles at the corners way too much which leads to a lot of walks and he gets hit hard. It is about time to characterize his acquisition as a bust. He likely will not make it back until late in the year next year from Tommy John surgery and will be a free agent after the season. It is possible that he has pitched his last game for the Red Sox.

Bedard was acquired from the Mariners at the trading deadline in order to make up for the losses of Buchholz and Matsuzaka. It just did not work out that way. He had a few solid games, but came away with only one victory and an awful lot of questions. His strikeout numbers were good and his ERA was not bad for a fourth or fifth starter, but he was expected to be more than that. We have probably seen the end of Bedard in Boston and lost four decent prospects to get him.

Like Beckett, Papelbon had a very good bounceback season for the Red Sox in 2011. His season was even better and he dramatically increased his possible value on the free agent market this year. Papelbon became the first closer to save 30 or more games in each of his first six full seasons. His strikeout numbers were ridiculous, striking out 87 in 64 innings and his ERA was 2.94, which is not overly impressive, but he had one or two bad outings. Now the question is, will he be back next year?

Bard was being groomed to take over Papelbon's spot at closer should he leave, but it is important to have a good setup man too. Bard mysteriously struggled down the stretch but had some good games in the middle too. He is not as dominating as he was last year, but it may have just been a down year. I would not be comfortable going into next season with him at closer without any fallback options, but it is not my decision to make. Who knows, he could excel at the position.

The hero of the season from the pitching staff was Aceves, whose acquisition from the Yankees drew little notice at first. Some astute Yankees bloggers were a little upset that he was let go, but he was deemed expendable by the team. Boston's front office does not agree. Aceves finished 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA, and fit in a variety of roles. He started four games and even had a save. Next year, he should be groomed as a starter. That would go a long way to fixing some of the rotation issues. His stuff is that good.

Wheeler's overall numbers do not look that great, but that was more because of his disastrous first month. He was pitching much better later on until he too went down with an injury. If Wheeler had not been hurt, Aceves could have been moved into the rotation. He has an option and Boston should consider picking it up. A veteran bullpen arm is not always easy to come by, especially one as good as Wheeler.

He is only in this wrap-up because of the expectations at the beginning of the season. Jenks was acquired as a backup option at closer if Papelbon struggled and otherwise to be a co-setup man with Bard. He only pitched in 19 games though with an ERA of 6.32. His strikeout numbers were good, but he also issued a lot of walks. Hopefully his injuries are healed and he can be ready to come back next year, he is still under contract after all.

A shrewd pickup early on, Morales came in and anchored the pen from the left side. He had some struggles at various points, but by the end of the season, he was every bit as reliable as Bard or Aceves. Morales is another player who could be sent in to the starting rotation, his stuff is electrifying. He finished the season with a 3.61 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 32.1 innings, against 11 walks. Morales was once one of Colorado's top prospects and he started to show why this year.

Matt Albers looked like the under-the-radar pickup of the year for the Red Sox at one point when his ERA was below 2.00. It did not end up that way as he had a string of games in which he was hit all over the field. He was still a somewhat dependable arm out of the bullpen, with some good strikeout numbers, 68 in 64.1 innings. He should be back next year, just not in a setup role.