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Sox Therapy
— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Be a Prospect, the Lavarnway (Minor League Thread)

It’s been a while since the last minor league thread, so let’s talk about Ryan Lavarnway. The big question about him has always been whether he would be able to stick at catcher. That hasn’t really changed—reports on his defense are still iffy at best. But Lavarnway is crushing the ball into such a fine powder that he may make that discussion simply float away on an afternoon breeze. After putting up a respectable .284/.360/.510 line in AA, he has murdered the International League at a rate of ...

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Darren Posted: July 19, 2011 at 07:56 PM | 84 comment(s)
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Expectations

When evaluating a team halfway through a season, you have to account for over- and under-performance, and put together a rough guess as to who can be expected to play better or worse in the next couple months.  Since that discussion is ongoing in other threads, I thought it would be useful to give the discussion its own thread, and to provide some statistical baselines for conversation.

I took the preseason ZiPS projections, and I figured each player’s projected runs created.  I adjusted ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 18, 2011 at 03:00 PM | 19 comment(s)
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

All-Star Break Content II: Streakin’

The first half was by any reasonable standard a very successful one for the Red Sox.  They stand in first place by a game, with a winning percentage a little over .600.  Under Theo, the Red Sox have had three first halves this strong – 2009, 2007 (hey, this sounds pretty good…) and 2006.  So obviously it’s no guarantee of a division win or a world series, but the Red Sox have, in the aggregate, done everything you’d expect from a club that was supposed to be the best in baseball at the ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 12, 2011 at 05:21 PM | 33 comment(s)
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Monday, July 11, 2011

All-Star Break Content I: Makin’ Moves

The All-Star break means there’s no baseball, so I’m going to do a bit more writing about baseball than I usually do to try to fill up the sports-shaped hole in my soul.  The first thing I want to talk about is the upcoming trade deadline.  The Red Sox have three weeks to improve the roster for the stretch run, and while surely Theo is working the phones and trying to put together a seven-team, eighteen-player blockbuster that brings Hanley Ramirez back to Boston, I want to focus on trades ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 11, 2011 at 01:33 PM | 62 comment(s)
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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

One out of five ain’t good

The initial reports on Jon Lester’s injury could be worse.  Sean McAdam reports it’s a lat strain that will cost Lester two weeks.  Thing is, Buchholz was supposed to be out for the minimum, too, and now he’s heading to see a back specialist in North Carolina.  Daisuke Matsuzaka was supposed to be on the active roster.  And, of course, John Lackey was supposed to be a major league pitcher and not a curse visited upon the first-born.

The Red Sox will have to try to keep pace in the AL ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 06, 2011 at 03:13 AM | 71 comment(s)
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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Is Andrew Miller the new Wade Miller?

Theo Epstein has made something of a practice of taking high-upside pitchers off the scrap heap, rehabbing them, using them poorly, and releasing them after they lose a bunch of baseball games.  The list from Wade Miller and Matt Mantei to Brad Penny and John Smoltz records a litany of his greatest failures as GM.  That’s the thing with cheap high-upside pitchers – if there weren’t a real good chance they’d suck, they wouldn’t be cheap.

Andrew Miller, who won his second game with the ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 03, 2011 at 01:56 PM | 47 comment(s)
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Toast

I’ve been wanting to write something up about the midseason decisions that precede the trade deadline.  Tito and Theo and the rest of the organization need to determine which positions will require upgrading, and which players in the organization deserve a shot to help out before the team looks outside its own system and considers selling its prospects.  Even a very good club has multiple areas where it could make an upgrade, so to keep this short(ish), I want to consider just the question of ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 25, 2011 at 06:28 PM | 110 comment(s)
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Friday, June 17, 2011

That was supposed to be hard

This last nine-game stretch was one of the toughest of the season.  Nine games on the road against the Red Sox’ toughest competitors in the AL East.  Nine games on the road against teams that would be in contention in any division in baseball.  If I had run a log5 analysis on these series on June 6th, using BPro’s W3% at the time, I would have found the expected record for the Red Sox to be .500.  A 5-4 trip would have been a legitimate success.  The chance of the Red Sox winning eight or ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 17, 2011 at 12:06 PM | 33 comment(s)
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Minor League Thread: Where Prospects Come From

I was putting together a midseason review of the top ten prospects, but it was getting depressing.  In its place, here’s a happy topic – the Red Sox have a significant number of kids who weren’t in contention to be top 10 prospects last year, who have done a lot of good stuff this year.  A couple of these guys are having the sorts of seasons that get you into the next Baseball America, and a couple are having seasons that could get them onto a major league roster. 

Darren already ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 15, 2011 at 02:24 PM | 30 comment(s)
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2011: Dustin Pedroia’s Worst Year? Or His Best?

Normally, when I find out that a player on the Red Sox has been playing hurt for a long time, and it has obviously been hampering his game, I get pretty annoyed with the team’s decision making. Why oh why, I wonder to myself, would you keep sending a player out there to play terribly rather than putting him on the disabled list and giving someone else a shot. Past examples include running Mike Cameron out CF for months last season while his guts were falling out and letting Curt Schilling ...

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Darren Posted: June 15, 2011 at 01:23 PM | 87 comment(s)
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Friday, June 10, 2011

Today in Inconclusive Ramblings: Josh Beckett

I’d like to start these inconclusive ramblings with my one firm conclusion.  Josh Beckett is a good pitcher if any only if he is commanding his curveball.  Beckett’s curve is one of the great pitches of our era, the perfect platonic form of the hard breaker.  I think we don’t appreciate the pitch as much as we should because it looks like we think every curveball should look – except no one else throws one exactly like it.  The point is, that curve is such a dominant offering that ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 10, 2011 at 12:10 PM | 23 comment(s)
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Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Wonderful Two Months of Jacoby Ellsbury

Has anyone been playing around with the WAR leaderboards at Fangraphs or B-Ref?  I hadn’t really grasped just how good a season Ellsbury has been having until I saw it compared to the rest of league.  Ellsbury’s 366/473 slash line is good – and better than it looks because of the return of 1980s offensive levels to baseball – but when you combine it with his defense and baserunning, he’s an elite player right now.  Chone WAR has Ellsbury 10th in the league and 3rd on his team (behind ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 09, 2011 at 12:03 PM | 69 comment(s)
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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Minor League Thread: The Draft

The compensation structure of baseball’s amateur draft is basically broken.  The Red Sox are one of several teams that have figured out how to beat the system.  You use your financial advantage to acquire high-quality players, then when you let them go, you take the compensation picks.  Though you may lose a compensation pick for acquiring your own good player, it’s not hard to collect more compensation picks than you give up.  At the same time, because there is no hard slotting of draft ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: June 04, 2011 at 02:54 PM | 41 comment(s)
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Regression to the Mean

Regression to the mean is that phenomenon in which continued observations will bring a measurement closer and closer to its predicted mean.  What the Red Sox have been doing over the last six weeks isn’t exactly regression to the mean.  Since their 2-10 start, the Red Sox have been playing .700 ball.  Since their little stagnation 8-9 run that I complained about in an earlier thread, the club has won 11 and lost 2.  The Red Sox, for the full season, and now on a 92-win pace, not meaningfully ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 28, 2011 at 12:03 PM | 26 comment(s)
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Monday, May 23, 2011

On Terry Francona… or, Jose Stirs the Pot

This is a guest post from Jose Is The Special Seabiscuit nee Can You Seabiscuit.

Earlier in the season, when the Red Sox were struggling and Terry Francona was taking his share of the blame for the club’s struggles, I spent some time reflecting on why I like and defend Francona as a manager as much as I do.  Having done this I realized that there a few things that lead me to give Terry Francona more rope than perhaps others do.  He is not perfect, but I think he continues to be the right man ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 23, 2011 at 11:30 PM | 67 comment(s)
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hassan Chop (Minor League Thread)

It’s been a while since the Red Sox have had a minor leaguer putting up ridiculous numbers for any extended period of time. Recent Sox stars have generally had good track records but not the type of breakouts that make you do a double take. Dustin Pedroia, for example, had some really nice batting averages and low K rates, but his best full season of stats was .305/.384/.426 at AAA. Jon Lester had some great stats in the low minors but his numbers in the upper minors were depressed by his ...

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Darren Posted: May 19, 2011 at 01:40 PM | 30 comment(s)
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bad Pitchers Hurt, New Pitchers Needed

The Red Sox had a dilemma a few days ago.  Their #4 and #5 starters were both under contract for many millions of dollars, and they were pitching extremely poorly.  They’ve solved that problem, in the last two days, by sending both pitchers to the disabled list.  This creates a new dilemma.  While it’s bad when your 4th and 5th starters aren’t pitching well, it’s also bad when 40% of your games are in the hands of your 6th and 7th starters.

Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield have been ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 18, 2011 at 11:00 AM | 47 comment(s)
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Monday, May 16, 2011

A Bunch of Stuff about Carl Crawford

Typically, when you pay someone more than $20M to do a thing, you expect them to not suck at that thing.  Carl Crawford has taken the unexpected route.  Despite a few runs of games where he knocked a single or two, Crawford’s overall batting line is best described as pretty good, for a pitcher. 

ZiPS projected him to 360/490 coming into the season.  Crawford’s been so bad that his projection is down to 345/460.  Seriously.  50 points of OPS projection lost in less than two months.  If he ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 16, 2011 at 08:55 PM | 146 comment(s)
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Great Stagnation

By the last week of April, I figured the season had turned around.  The horrific 2-10 start had been washed out by a streak of eight wins in nine games.  All the Sox had to do was start playing like the team we all knew they were, and they would be running with the league leaders all the way in.  Since April 25th, the Red Sox, instead of playing .600 ball, have put up a maddeningly inconsistent 8-9 record against generally unimpressive competition, in the midst of a long home stand.

Like most ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 14, 2011 at 12:19 PM | 51 comment(s)
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Monday, May 09, 2011

Platoon Update

The Red Sox platoon% keeps rising.  Through Sunday, it is 67.6%, up from 65.7% a month ago, and up from the ~60% range the Red Sox have settled into in recent years.  This really isn’t, mostly, an effect on platooning.  The Red Sox have faced 12 left-handed starters in 34 games.  The Red Sox only start two RHB against left-handed starters, now that Lowrie is the everyday SS, which gives them a platoon% of 78% in games against lefties.  The Red Sox’ amazing platoon percentage comes about ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 09, 2011 at 12:16 PM | 13 comment(s)
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

One Month of Bullpen

The bullpen hasn’t taken a lot of blame for the Red Sox’ poor start, but they haven’t been particularly good.  The team’s 2-5 record in one-run games is partly about bad luck, but they’ve received quite poor high-leverage pitching from everyone but Papelbon.  Thanks to Papelbon, the Red Sox bullpen has been about average.  With an untouchable closer, and a pretty good set-up guy in Bard, the Red Sox should be above average.  The problem, then, has been everyone else.

The two big ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 03, 2011 at 01:51 PM | 119 comment(s)
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

That’s when I developed my catching problem

I was planning a post on the catching problem.  I wasn’t expecting we were going to see, literally, a catching problem in which our 800-year-old catcher lost a game because he couldn’t catch the ball when it was thrown to him.  While Varitek’s embarrassment was a one time thing - though one that reflects his current defensive shortcomings - the larger issue on this club is that the catchers have been cumulatively below replacement level.  Varitek and Saltalamacchia are sitting at a combined 400 ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 28, 2011 at 02:01 AM | 70 comment(s)
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Winning: Still Fun

Sometimes the universe does even itself out a bit.  Following an execrable 2-10 start to the season, the Red Sox went on an 8-1 tear, capped by the four-game sweep in Anaheim they completed over the weekend.  Winning is always fun, and the immense hatred of BTF Angels fans for the Red Sox and their fans has instilled in me a real feeling of rivalry with the Angels, so taking four in their house was particularly sweet.

In March, I would not have expected to be this happy about standing at 10-11 ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 25, 2011 at 01:12 PM | 35 comment(s)
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Minor League Thread: Contact is the Answer

For minor leaguers, a strikeout is not just another out.  Prospects who strike out a lot project notably worse as major leaguers than kids with similar overall numbers and lower strikeout rates.  I’m not sure what exactly the mechanism is – I’ve heard both that batter strikeouts increase at a higher rate relative to other numbers as players move up the ladder, and that prospects with good numbers and high K-rates are much more likely to have the prospect-status based on unsustainable ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 22, 2011 at 09:32 PM | 31 comment(s)
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Monday, April 18, 2011

The .500-hitting shortstop semi-dilemma

Jed Lowrie has hits in more than half of his at-bats.  He’s started four of the last five Red Sox games.  So far the noises from the Red Sox are along the lines of “you can’t sit Lowrie” – they’re saying they’re riding the hot hand rather than replacing their perfectly acceptable veteran shortstop.  I have gotten the sense, reading between the lines of some comments in Sox Therapy, that there is a small, not particularly vocal minority of Red Sox fans who would like to see Jed ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 18, 2011 at 06:13 PM | 115 comment(s)
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

So you say you want to piss your pants, well, you know

After last night’s rain out, the Red Sox announced that John Lackey will miss his turn in the rotation entirely, with Clay Buchholz taking Friday’s start.  This is very much a short term focused move by the Sox, who are choosing a somewhat better rotation for the Jays series over giving Lackey his scheduled chance to get himself back on track.

The choice to skip Lackey in the rotation does seem to fit with the most (and only) reasonable pants pissing narrative, that the Red Sox were counting ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 14, 2011 at 11:47 AM | 112 comment(s)
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Platoon

This offseason, one of the few issues that people identified on the Red Sox roster was that the lineup was mostly left-handed.  This was, then, one of the key areas where Terry Francona would have to manage the club, by establishing job-sharing arrangements to balance the lineup.  We’re now 11 games into the season, and the platoon patterns are starting to emerge.

The definite everyday players are Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, and Gonzalez, who have not missed a game.  JD Drew looks to be ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 13, 2011 at 11:57 AM | 66 comment(s)
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Friday, April 08, 2011

Hey, a Yankees series.  I’m looking forward to that.

For several years, with or without blog, I’ve usually run some quick and dirty log5 and binomial projections to coincide with the first Yankees series.  The idea has been that, rather than blathering about “we gotta get momentum” or “the games in September are the ones that count,” we can use math to roughly estimate how much this series matters to the future of the Red Sox season.  This year, the task is quite easy, due to a little-understood feature of the “log5” equation.

This ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 08, 2011 at 01:52 AM | 66 comment(s)
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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

.186/.271/.295

I’m finding it more difficult to come up with things to say on the blog during the season than before the season.  It’s probably partly because I need to get my nose out of the spreadsheet and into some baseball games, or whatever one does with one’s nose when it isn’t engaged in paradigmatically nerdy activities.  Cause the thing is, I listen to the Red Sox losing another game, I go check their season stats to date, and there’s the team hitting line – a 565 OPS.  What do you say ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 06, 2011 at 11:14 AM | 88 comment(s)
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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Losing: Still Not Fun

The one positive thing I can say about today’s loss is that this was a particularly difficult Opening Day loss to overreact to.  In the end, they got beat by a team that, if healthy, is one of the four or five best clubs in the world.  The Sox lost because their best pitcher showed up with not one of his pitches working, and then their best reliever had poor command and a couple of balls found gaps at the wrong time.  Is anyone really coming away from this game thinking, “Jon Lester used to ...

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Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: April 02, 2011 at 01:16 AM | 113 comment(s)
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