Sunday Red Sox Ramblings

David Ortizphoto © 2006 Jamie Baker | more info (via: Wylio)

First of all, it’s really ridiculous what the Red Sox are doing right now as they are just putting on a clinic. The Yankees and Blue Jays were no match and they preceded that by beating up on Oakland. Adrian Gonzalez has been better than you could have imagined and David Ortiz is back to being ‘Big Papi’.

How does that happen?? How does David Ortiz go from a 72% contact rate and skyrocket to 88%? 88% is near-elite and in the Dustin Pedroia-territory.

This is something I would like to watch film on. No charts or graphs, just raw video of every Ortiz AB from 2010 and 2011. What has gotten into him? How much has the A.Gonzalez effect really had?

Some people (Yankees fans) are floating out and gently reminding the skeptics of PEDs. It’s a plausible answer for me when you see the random new explosion from an unlikely profile. Jose Bautista’s name gets passively floated out there as well but you get reactions from pure outrage (as though you just said something racist) to complete agreement of suspicion.

I talked with Chip Buck about this whole Ortiz-explosion and I have to agree with him more that it is sample-size rather than anything else.

PEDs are a copout explanation (though incredibly disappointing if it were to be true) and skills growth at age 35 seems doubtful. It might be that Ortiz has regained confidence and developed a new way of seeing left-handed pitching that has allowed him to re-master them.

It’s just so baffling of a skill-jump to me. You don’t go from flailing at LHP and hovering around 72-75% contact rate and then POW — now you are a 88% contact hitter while EXPANDING your power.

It’s not like he’s turned into a Punch and Judy hitter. Ortiz has smashed 16 HRs and created over 7 RCG. He’s a monster and to the tune of the Manny Ramirez days.

Currently, the Red Sox have two hitters with an EYE at or above 1.00 — Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. For those who are unfamiliar with the stat “EYE”, it is a batter’s ability to recognize pitches at the plate and make contact. EYE is the ratio between BB% (base on balls percentage) and CT% (contact percentage). It will indicate who has good strikezone judgement and who can put the bat on the ball.

An EYE of 1.00 means you take as many walks as you do strikeouts. Anything over 1.00 is elite. For reference, Carl Crawford walks 4% of the time and makes contact 84% of the time. He has walked just 9 times total while striking out 44 times. Crawford’s EYE is 0.20 and is last on the team.

David Ortiz and Carl Crawfordphoto © 2011 Keith Allison | more info (via: Wylio)

Crawford makes pretty good contact (84%) and it’s what he does after the contact that makes him so valuable — and more than make up for the minuscule walk rate. Crawford’s OBP (.272) is the worst among regulars by nearly 50 points , but over the last 31 days, that hasn’t mattered.

For the last month Crawford has displayed near-elite, extra-base power with 16% of his flyballs leaving the yard. His .298 xBA is a direct result of the offensive outbursts against Detroit, Cleveland, Oakland and the Yankees. It would be nice to see Crawford get the line drive rate back up to 20% (currently 17%), but his LD rate has been on a three-year decline, making it unlikely.

In the last 7 days, Crawford has had just a 5% line drive rate (48% groundballs, 5% line drives, 48% flyballs) but hit two homeruns negating the impact on his BA.

JD Drew is still struggling to find a groove in 2011. His .234 BA is lowest among regulars and he remains an enigma to many.

Pedroia’s power outburst in 2010 may have been fueled by a 3-HR clinic in Colorado, but before breaking his foot and missing most of the year, Pedey has some real skills growth.

In 2011, he has given it all back with power scores as low as they have been since his rookie season. Since skill erosion of this level would be unlikely for a polished, 27-year old hitter, it’s either just a bad stretch or that foot is still impacting him.

Banging up his knee last week cannot be blamed for the woes, but if injuries are not the problem, then today’s Laser Show may just open the gates. Get your tickets now.

Finally, there is Tommy Hottovy, the left-handed specialist who was a feel-good story. Hottovy had spent his entire six-year career in the Red Sox minor league system and was summoned to Boston to fill a gap.

Dustin Pedroiaphoto © 2007 Keith Allison | more info (via: Wylio)

Since his arrival, Hottovy has appeared in 4 games and allowed zero runs. With a sparkling-clean 0.00 ERA, he looks like a permanent solution for the role with Rich Hill injured and out for the year.

Except for that Hottovy is quietly walking a frayed tight rope across his appearances and if something doesn’t change quick, he’s asking for trouble.

Hottovy’s xERA (7.65) and xFIP (6.83) are eventually going to ensnare him. He can be a menace to left-handed hitters because he is a sidearmer, but averaging over 11 walk per game and striking out an average of four batters per game is a recipe for meltdown.

Hottovy has walked 3 batters in 2 innings but in Pawtucket, he averaged just one walk and over 10 strikeouts per nine. Hottovy will want to shake those jitters soon and get back to dominating before the rope break and he falls back to the minors.

Side Session:
Fans should be happy to see San Diego Padres 1B Anthony Rizzo do well. Rizzo was the prized-prospect who Boston dealt to the Padres to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. Rizzo homered in his debut and it keeps the Red Sox Draft Machine in tact. These aren’t fool’s gold prospects and it helps strengthen the Red Sox’ market position in the long run.

Categories: Adrian Gonzalez Anthony Rizzo Carl Crawford David Ortiz Dustin Pedroia J.D. Drew San Diego Padres Theo Epstein Tommy Hottovy

6 Responses to “Sunday Red Sox Ramblings” Subscribe

  1. scott June 12, 2011 at 10:16 PM #

    "These aren’t fool’s gold prospects and it helps strengthen the Red Sox’ market position in the long run. "

    Great point!

  2. RC Seattle June 13, 2011 at 9:32 AM #

    Could Ortiz simply finally be feeling completely healthy again? It does a lot for your confidence and focus when you aren't always in pain.

  3. guest June 13, 2011 at 11:18 AM #

    Great article analyzing the red-hot Sox. One minor quibble; the sample size on Hottovy is WAY to small to make any generalizations. I mean, 2 1/3 innings pitched just isn't enough to base any statistics on.

    • darryljohnston June 15, 2011 at 11:00 AM #

      Fair enough, my only counter would be that short-term, stop-gap specialists don't get sample size leeway. A lot rides on their spot appearances and free passes from a specialist will not cut it.

      Fair though, Mr. Guest.

  4. Joe June 13, 2011 at 1:20 PM #

    While JD Drew is struggling, Mike Cameron is struggling even more. He's batting a putrid .156 on the season with an equally dismal OBP of .221. It's obvious that he's not the player he once was and that he is ill-suited to the backup outfielder position. On the other hand, a healthy Darnell McDonald is tearing up AAA pitching and proved last year that he is capable of being a part-time player and remaining productive. Why let Cameron's excessive salary sandbag the Sox into playing him every time a lefty starts? Give Darnell his shot– he's earned it.

  5. Bryan June 14, 2011 at 11:14 AM #

    I like the EYE metric. I also like that Gonzalez is not only raking, but demonstrating a great understanding of the game. http://replacementlevel.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/