Tag Archives: SANDOVAL

THE YOUTH IN RED SOX FUTURE

THE YOUTH IN RED SOX FUTURE

The Red Sox are in last place in the American League East, 12 ½ games behind the Yankees. This weekend, they scored 45 runs and had 60 base hits in three games against the disappointing Seattle Mariners who were expected to contend for the Western Division Title this year but instead are mired in fourth place, with a 55-63 record, 9 games behind the surprising Houston Astros.

After winning the first two games 15-1 and 22-10, the Sox lost the third game of the series, 10-8, despite scoring 8 runs on 13 hits and coming from behind 7-0 to force the Mariners to twelve innings before they got beaten.

It is pretty obvious by now, with a record of 52-65, that they are not going to be in the playoffs. The best that they can hope for is to rebuild their pitching staff over the winter and develop the young talent that they have available to them into a contender.

With Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval out of the lineup with minor injuries yesterday, the Sox started Mookie Betts in center, Brock Holt at third, Xander Bogaerts at short, Rusney Castillo in right, Travis Shaw at first base, Blake Swihart behind the plate, Josh Rutledge at second , Jackie Bradley in left and Henry Owens on the mound. The only starter over 28 years old was designated hitter David Ortiz.

The average age of these starters, not counting Ortiz, was 24.5 years. At this point, the Sox could do worse than start these youngsters the rest of the way to give them experience, to be able to evaluate their potential for the future and perhaps even to enhance their value as trade bait for the future.

With 25 year old Christian Vasquez coming back from elbow surgery next year and Dustin Pedroia returning to play second, they will have some excess talent available that might help them trade for pitching. You have to assume that Owens, 22 year old Eduardo Rodriguez and 24 year old Brian Johnson are a part of their starting pitching plans for the future so they may not need a lot of starting pitching help.

This may be a lost year for the Red Sox but the future can look bright if they work on developing the talent they have and filling the holes they have through smart trades.

There should be no reason for Ben Cherrington, if he is still there after this season, to throw away more money on the Free Agent Market when the talent is there to rebuild with. At this point another Blockbuster trade that would allow them to dump Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval in exchange for a quality starting pitcher might be the answer to their prayers.

BASIC STATS BEST MEASURE

Last Tuesday, In an article titled ‘ Headley Deal Looks Like A Bargain ‘, Paul Casella, writing, on line, for Sports On Earth, on December 15, compared the deal the Red Sox made for third baseman Pablo Sandoval with the deal the Yankees gave to third baseman Chase Headley to keep him in New York.

San Francisco Giants Free Agent Sandoval signed a five year contract with the Sox worth $95. million or $19. million a year. The Yankees agreed to pay Headley $52. million for four years or $13. million per year to stay in New York.

Sandoval was with the Giants for seven seasons before becoming a Free Agent at the end of last season. During that time, he averaged .294 but, in 2014, hit just .279. Headley, on the other hand, has a career batting average of .265 and hit .262 in 58 games with the Yankees last year after being traded from San Diego.

In comparing the two players, Casella pointed out that, from 2012-2014, Headley’s offensive WAR was 13.6 while Sandoval’s offensive WAR was only 8.2, ( Baseball Reference has it at 8.8 ). As far as defensive WAR was concerned, Headley was 2.4 for that period while Sandoval was -0.1.

If you have followed baseball as closely and as long as I have, these new statistics, especially what they call the Advanced Defensive Metrics which gives you the defensive WAR number don’t make too much sense but you can’t watch a baseball game or read a baseball article without some ‘expert’ quoting them. WAR, by the way, stands for Wins Above Replacement.

According to Baseball Reference, which I irreverently refer to as the bible in these matters, offensive WAR is ‘ A single number that presents the number of wins a player added to the team above what a replacement player would add ‘. That same publication defines defensive WAR as ‘ A defensive measure of wins above replacement, but given only the defensive stats of the player and his position adjustment ‘.

If that doesn’t confuse you altogether, there is another statistic which Casella did not refer to, the Rtot which Baseball Reference is ‘ The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made. This number combines the Rtz, Rdp and Rcatch numbers into a total defensive contribution ‘. By the way, Headley had a 23 Rtot last year compared to Sandoval’s mere 8.

All this advanced Sabermetrics doesn’t do a thing for me. I am from the KISS school of analysis, Keep It Simple Stupid. A lot of major league baseball teams, in fact just about all of them, are making decisions these days based upon these new formulas, and there seems to be a new one every day, that are unproven and theoretical at best.

Ever since Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics Guru, was idolized in the book Money Ball, teams have been reducing their scouting staffs and relying more and more on computer models to make their personnel decisions. Don’t get me wrong, some of Beane’s original ideas had merit. For example, he and his Sabermetrics people relied on a batter’s on base percentage and factors such as the percentage of time he put a ball in play as opposed to striking out in determining the value of a batter’s performance.

Both teams should benefit from the signings of Sandoval and Headley and it’s hard to tell which will be better especially relying on Sabermetrics for your information. The first figures I look at are batting performance, specifically batting average and on base percentage. Batting average, in case you didn’t know, is basically the percentage of times a batter gets a hit as opposed to making an out. Really a very simple measure of performance.

Headley hit .262 with the Yankees last year in 58 games. Sandoval played 157 games and hit .279 with the Giants. The difference between a .262 hitter and a .279 hitter, based on 500 at bats in a 162 game season is 8.5 hits or one hit every 19 games.

Both are good fielders but Sandoval struck out only 85 times with the Giants in 157 games while Headley struck out 122 times in 135 games between San Diego and New York so Sandoval puts the ball in play more than Headley, yet Headley’s on base percentage was .352 and Sandoval’s .335, pretty close. Headley is two years older than Sandoval but may age better than Sandoval due to the Panda’s tendency to carry extra weight.

I don’t need those mystical formulas to come to two conclusions about the relative value of these two players or any others. Either one should be an asset to their chosen team. On the other hand, either one, or both, could have a bad season and no one can guarantee which it will be, no matter what method of evaluation we use.

Whatever they do, good season or bad, high WAR or low WAR, they will both get their multimillion dollar salary and we will gladly pay exorbitant ticket prices for the privilege of watching them.

My feeling is that the proven method of having experienced, retired players scout the prospects, evaluating their potential, noting their performance in terms of batting average and on base percentage gives you a much better picture of a player’s future performance than a bunch of figures based on nebulous numbers based in theory.

Third basemen are hitters first and fielders incidentally so who cares about their defensive WAR anyway.

RED SOX NEED PITCHING NOW

In the press conference this afternoon announcing the signing of Pablo Sandoval to a Red Sox contract, Sox General Manager Ben Cherrington talked about the impact Sandoval would have on their ability to score runs. He pointed out that ‘… run scoring is down around all of baseball’ and went on to say how important it is to get players like Sandoval in the prime of his career to improve your offense.

There is no question that the addition of Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, who is reportedly just a physical exam away from joining the Sox, will give the Red Sox more run scoring ability. With the veteran bats of David Ortiz, Yoenis Cespedes, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig and the potential hitting ability of Rumsey Castillo, Brock Holt and Xander Bogaerts, the 2015 Red Sox could be an offensive juggernaut.

Sandoval is a switch hitting, good fielding third baseman who hits a lot of line dives which is what is needed in Fenway. He has plenty of playoff and world series experience which should make it easier for him to handle the media circus that is Boston. Ramirez is a career .300 hitter who spent the last three years in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. In seven years with Miami before going to Los Angeles in 2012, he hit .300 and hit .299 in his time in L. A. He will be 31 next month and rumor has it he may be going to play the outfield in Boston although he is a shortstop by trade and has no outfield experience.

If the Red Sox hold onto Cespedes, Castillo fulfills his potential and Ortiz has the kind of year he is capable of, this Sox team should be able to score runs with the best of them.

On the other hand, if Cherrington does not come up with a couple of starting pitchers, Red Sox fans could be in for a lot of high scoring losses. Jon Lester is meeting with the Cardinals next week and the Cubs, Braves, Giants, Blue Jays and Royals are also competing with the Sox for his services.

The new additions leave the Sox with an excess of outfielders and infielders that could be used to secure some pitching help in trade where it would probably be much less expensive but perhaps not as good.

There are some good Free Agents out there but the question is how much are the Red Sox willing to pay to get the pitchers they need. Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester and the other starters out there are all looking at big numbers and Sox just committed themselves to roughly $200. million for the Panda and Ramirez.

In addition, as of this writing the Sox still need another catcher to handle whatever kind of pitching staff they end up with. Christian Vasquez proved his ability last year but he is still relatively inexperienced and it would be nice to pick up a veteran to share the load and mentor him.

For the fans of Red Sox Nation, lets hope that the Sox ownership is committed to giving this impressive offense the pitching it needs to be successful.

THE MARKET FOR THIRD BASEMEN

Third Basemen seem to be in the news a lot this off season. In the American League East, for example, the Red Sox, who went from defending the title to claiming the cellar in one season, are trying hard to woo Pablo Sandoval away from the World Champion San Francisco Giants. They have tried for three years to make Will Middlebrooks into their third baseman and seem to have finally given up on the experiment.

They have also been rumored to be looking at the Yankees Chase Headley, who is a Free Agent, for that spot. While all this is going on, they have Brock Holt, who was one of their only bright spots offensively last year, who played 39 games at third while playing every other position except pitch and catch, without a starting position.

The Yankees, of course, just unloaded Zelous Wheeler, who played 37 games at third for them last year, to Rakuten of the Japanese Pacific League, while anticipating the return of Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez is an unknown quantity at this point, not having played a full season since 2012, when he hit only .272 in 122 games and just having been through major surgery on his hip at age 39, he will be 40 in July. The Yankees are also rumored to want to get Headley back because of their concerns over ARod’s ability to come back after the lengthy absence.

Of course, the Yankees still have Martin Prado, who they got from the Arizona Diamondbacks late last season and who played 110 of his total 143 games between the Yankees and D’Backs at third base last year. He is a 9 year veteran with a career batting average of .291. He has played several positions in his career but has played 414 at third.

After his second major injury in two years, the Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will be coming back, hopefully at full strength. He hit .278 in just 82 games in 2013 but tore a ligament in his right knee in a game against the Yankees on August 11. He had an operation and missed the rest of the season but is expected to be ready for spring training. He had missed the first month of the 2014 season after injuring his other knee in September of 2012. He has that rare combination of hitting and fielding ability not found often in today’s third basemen.

Most major league teams worry more about having a third baseman who can hit and is a passable fielder rather than a good fielder who is a passable hitter. Fielding ability is secondary for third basemen. In the American League East last year, third basemen who played the bulk of the games for their teams averaged just 2.54 chances per game compared with shortstops who averaged 3.7 per game and second basemen who averaged 4.97 per game.

The bunt, which used to be one big reason for having an agile, good fielding third baseman in the American League, has all but disappeared. In addition, with the increase in the number of defensive shifts used, a third baseman spends a lot of his time in the shortstop or short right field position.

The old adage that a baseball team has to be strong up the middle is more true than ever today. The increase in velocity of pitchers contributes to more balls being hit up the middle instead of being pulled down the lines.

With the lack of emphasis on fielding for third basemen these days, it’s no wonder Pablo Sandoval is almost the biggest story in baseball these days. He has the additional advantage of being a switch hitter but last year hit only .199 against left handed pitching but .317 against right handed pitching. His problem with fluctuations in his weight and the fact that he has gained an excessive amount of weight during the season may make some teams afraid of long term contracts with him due to the possibility of injury.

Whatever happens with Sandoval, Headley, Rodriguez, Machado or the rest of the third basemen out there, most major league teams want a third basemen that can deliver runs and also, by the way, stop a ball at third occasionally.