Cafardo Mail Bag: Red Sox Nation Has Some Terrible Ideas Edition

Let's just say that I'm glad none of these people work for the Red Sox...
Buchholz - Samara Pearlstein

Buchholz - Samara Pearlstein

This is a pretty long mailbag, so I’m just going to hop right into it.  No time for discussion.  No time for clever narratives today.  It’s all mail, all the time. I hope you have a strong stomach because you’re really going to need it today…

Am I wrong in thinking that something may be wrong with Adrian Gonzalez? He has dropped more than 40 points in average. The last time I saw him hit a fly ball to anyone was a pop-up to short left field. He doesn’t look comfortable at the plate and is doing a lot of swinging and missing. Please don’t put it all on the weather. Remember it’s not warm in October.

Perception is a funny thing.  First of all, A-Gon has hit pop-ups in only 2.9% of his plate appearances, which is significantly lower than his 5% career mark.  While there are certainly questions about the accuracy of batted ball data, pop-ups are not typically in question.  Most commonly, the questions result from whether or not something is a line drive vs a ground ball or fly ball.  That classification might seem obvious, but we’re finding that our classification of such batted balls are often times affected by line of sight.

Secondly, his whiff and strikeout rates are right around his career norms.  His 8.9% whiff rate matches the 8.4% mark he posted last season.  His strikeout rate, though slightly elevated, is certainly within a reasonable range of what you’d expect out of him.

Part of A-Gon’s struggles are due to simple regression toward the mean.  Last season, he hit .380 on balls in play; something that was unsustainable.  This season, he has a .307 BABIP, which is much more inline with his year-to-year performance trend.  The problem this season is that he’s not hitting home runs.  He’s hitting fly balls at a rate consistent with his career norms, but they’re not leaving the yard.  This will probably change shortly.  We just need to be a little patient.  He will come around.

A couple times in the last week or so, I have seen an opponent slide into second base on a double play that was far away from the bag — not even close. In one instance, Mike Aviles really could have been hurt. Why aren’t these umpires calling interference? Should Bobby V or somebody say something?

I’ve gone back and forth on this one.  Initally, my thought is that Bobby V (and all managers really) should be out there trying to protect their players from getting injured.  In some ways, those plays are frequently illegal, not to mention bushleague.  At the same time (and Nick mentions this in his response), these non-calls benefit both teams.  By not arguing, it gives the Red Sox an advantage they can use at some point down the line.  It’s actually a pretty tough call that needs to be handled on case-by-case.

What is Lars Andersons‘ role on this team? It seems like Bobby Valentine is putting too much faith in this guy, especially by allowing him to pinch-hit late in games. Are they trying to showcase him as trade bait?

Obviously, this question was submitted before Mr. Anderson was sent back to AAA where he belongs.  He’s a first baseman whom they asked to play left field and pinch hit.  I didn’t understand it when he was recalled, and I still don’t understand it.  I can’t imagine they’re trying to showcase him as trade bait.  At this point, he’s an organizational soldier.  He’s never going to be a regular on a major league roster, and he’ll serve as nothing more than depth in case of an emergency.  Players like him don’t have much trade value.

Why are Kelly Shoppach, Nick Punto, and Darnell McDonald all in the lineup on the same night? They are three weak outs in most games, and with our bullpen on shaky ground, we need our strongest bats in the lineup every night these days. I can see plugging a guy in here or there to give a regular player a day off, but I don’t understand why Valentine has all three of these guys playing in the same game.

It’s all about the matchups.  Historically, Shoppach (.384 wOBA vs. LHP) and McDonald (.349 wOBA) are very effective against left-handed pitching.  Even though they’re weaker players than guys like Ryan Sweeney or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, they’re actually the smarter choice in the lineup.  As for Punto…well, he sucks equally against left-handed (.293) and right-handed pitching (.292).  He’s best used as a late inning defensive replacement.  Unfortunately, that’s not always possible.

If Clay Buchholz continues to struggle, is there any chance he could be sent to Pawtucket to work things out?

I don’t see him getting sent down to Pawtucket, but I can envision a scenario where a blister or phantom shoulder problem causes him to go on the DL.  If it’s a shoulder issue, they could theoretically send him to do some minor league rehab afterwards to help him get back on track.

Just spent the weekend freezing in Chicago, but the Red Sox wins dulled the cold. I sat along the third base line and watched Kevin Youkilis closely. He seems old and slow. Was it just my frostbitten brain or has Youk’s range drastically fallen off?

While his back injury certainly limited his range signifiantly, he’s something of a statue out there at third base.  He’s not Mike Lowell post-hip surgery slow, but he’s not exactly Adrian Beltre either.  I see him being a DH in the not too distant future.

What happens to the pitching staff once Cook and Matsuzaka are called up? Will Cook be OK with going to the bullpen? He’s been lights-out starting in Pawtucket. Our two best starters so far have been Doubront and Bard. Do you move those guys, or do you move one of your supposed aces: Lester, Becket, or Buchholz?

Great question.  Let’s start with Cook.  I don’t necessarily agree that Cook was “lights out” in Pawtucket.  Decent with a massive helping of good fortune, absolutely.  Also, AAA and and MLB are two completely different leagues with vastly different levels of competition.  Plus, Cook’s performance on Saturday (although impacted by a nasty gash on his knee) wasn’t exactly promising.  I have no doubt he’ll pitch better in the future, but he’s a league average pitcher at best.  He’s not worthy of pushing someone else from the rotation–at least not at this point.

Dice-K’s situation is a little more difficult.  At this point, neither Doubront or Bard deserve to be demoted (yes, that’s right, demoted) to the bullpen.  Both pitchers have performed very well, and both deserve a few more starts in the rotation regardless of the depth situation.  The one guy that could be demoted is Buchholz, but I don’t think it makes sense for the club long-term.  Buchholz signed an extension prior to the 2011 season, and Dice-K is certainly not in their plans beyond this season.  Can the Red Sox really justify making that move?  It seems straightforward, but there are a lot of moving parts.

Either way, it’s a really good problem having “too much” depth.

Which player will have a better offensive year: Carl Crawford or Johnny Damon?

I don’t have much faith in Damon as an everyday player.  This is especially true if he’s expected to play in the outfield where he has about as much range as Raul Ibanez.  (Read: less than my 88 year old grandmother)  Still, the answer to this question is largely reliant on two things:  (1) the amount of time Crawford misses due to injury, and (2) Crawford’s ability to hit after wrist and elbow injuries.  If I had to guess, I’d put my money on Crawford, but only because his age and talent levels are more favorable at this point.

Do MLB contracts have provisions for long term injured players? Is Carl Crawford receiving his full salary all this time on the DL? And, in general, if a player receives a career ending injury early in a contract or a long term injury lasting several seasons, does he still receive his full salary?

All long-term contracts are guaranteed.  To answer you questions, yes and yes.

As much as I love Jon Lester, his starts have always had inconsistent results. Do you think its time for the Red Sox to trade him?

If by inconsistent results, you mean consistently being one of the most effective and valuable starting pitchers in the major leagues for the past four seasons, then yes you are correct.  I’m a little curious as to why you think he’s inconsistent.  Also, if he’s so inconsistent, who would be interested in trading for such a pitcher?  And what would you get for him outside of the organizational filler scrap heap?

Look, Lester’s been off a bit this season, but its a well known fact he’s pretty brutal in April.  This April has done nothing to change that fact.  Still, he’s a very good pitcher who’s making a very reasonable salary.  Given the tumultuous state of the rotation, I don’t feel it’s the brightest move to trade your ace.  Then again, I’m just thinking rationally, so…

Why are we not hearing about Ryan Kalish? What is the time table for his return?

Because he’s hurt, and there’s not a lot to report at this point.

I keep hearing from fans and the media that Bard should be the closer. He has been a very good setup man, but in ?09, out of four save opportunities, he only saved one. In 2010, he had three saves out of 10 chances and in 2011 he was 1-for-6. That’s only five saves in 20 save opportunities in three years. In a whole year, that would equal about 30 blown saves. Am I missing something here?

Yes, you are missing something here.  Intelligent thought.  First of all, other than fielding errors, saves are the single dumbest baseball stat that’s ever been created.  Yes, it’s even worse than Jim Bowden’s magical creatoin that is OPSBI.  Secondly, the situations in which Daniel Bard was asked to pitch were typically higher leverage situations than most closers are used to pitching in.  Most closers come into the game working with a two or three run lead with no one on and no one out.  Clearly, that’s a “high pressure” situation.  (You can’t see me rolling my eyes right now, but I am.)  Bard was frequently brought in during in the middle of an inning with runners on base and either a tie or one-run lead.  The margin of error he experienced was much smaller than that of someone like Jonathan Papelbon.

The problem with the save is that most people feel that all saves are created equally.  They’re not.  A save with a three run lead is far less valuable than a one-run save.  Until we stop this line of thinking, we’ll continue to be burdened with flawed arguments like this person’s question.

Oh, and lastly…he should not be going back to the bullpen.  A pitcher that can pitch effectively for six innings is more valuable to a team than someone that throws only one inning.  It’s basic logic.

What would be the benefits of releasing Carl Crawford as it would relate to the “cap hit” he would have. I know the NFL has a system that favors teams over players after a player is let go. So, how much, if anything would the Sox save by letting Crawford go, as opposed to keeping him on the DL.

There isn’t a salary cap in baseball, so there wouldn’t be a cap hit.  Also, all long-term contracts are guaranteed in baseball, so they’ll end up eating the entire contract.  My question to you is why do you want to let Crawford go for nothing in return when he’s had one bad season and a couple of injuries?  It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Fans have been quick to drop Kevin Youkilis in favor of Middlebrooks (who, admittedly looks brilliant, but has had few at-bats at the higher levels of the minors), but I don’t hear much about Ryan Lavarnway. Here is a player who does have plenty of at-bats and success at the upper levels of the minors and is clearly ready to move up.

Lavarnway is not in the minors because his bat needs work.  He’s there because his glove is not ready to play in the majors every day.  Additionally, Shoppach and Salty are playing reasonably well.  Who’s spot is he going to take?

With all of the trouble in the bullpen and the reluctance to remove Bard as a starter, why not go after the Brewers’ Francisco Rodriguez? Outside of his personal issues I think he would be worth kicking the tires on at least.

It’s not a bad idea, but I have a feeling it would be cost prohibitive.  The Red Sox’s bullpen has gone through a rough patch.  Teams know they’re looking for help.  At this point, other GMs can name their price, and the Red Sox have very little leverage in negotiations.

Why is Daniel Bard allowed to decide if he goes back into the bullpen for now? Lots of guys wanted jobs as starters this spring and some of them are in the bullpen. Bard is in a position to really help his team by doing something he’s proven that he can do very, very well but he’s talking as if he’ll only do it on a temporary basis. Why is management letting this be his decision? Isn’t it management’s job to decide these things?

I think a better question is what has Daniel Bard done to deserve a demotion to the bullpen?  He’s been our best (or second best) starting pitcher this season.  A great closer is a really nice luxury to have, but what’s the point if your starters aren’t good enough to hold a lead?  Let’s not put the cart before the horse people.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford Clay Buchholz Daisuke Matsuzaka Daniel Bard Darnell McDonald Felix Doubront Jon Lester Jonathan Papelbon Josh Beckett Kevin Youkilis Lars Anderson Nick Cafardo Mail Bag Ryan Kalish Ryan Lavarnway Will Middlebrooks

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

5 Responses to “Cafardo Mail Bag: Red Sox Nation Has Some Terrible Ideas Edition” Subscribe

  1. Julian May 7, 2012 at 12:23 PM #

    You state that A-Gon's problems are "…this season is that he’s not hitting home runs." True statement except that his home run problem started right after the All-Star break last year. I recall that he hit few homers after the break and may not have hit one for close to a month. It seems to me his home run issue is a continuation from last season and may be indicative of some problem, perhaps physically.

    • ChipBuck May 7, 2012 at 2:54 PM #

      A-Gon hit 10 of his 27 home runs after the All Star break. Here is the breakdown by month:

      April – 1
      May – 9
      June – 6
      July – 2
      August – 5
      September – 4

      While there was a drop, there wasn't as significant of a drop as some would lead you to believe. In terms of HR/AB, it was 21.3 prior the break, and 26.8 after.

      I'm not saying you're wrong. Just that it doesn't appear to be a continuing problem from last season because it wasn't really a problem.

  2. Jon May 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM #

    In your haste to make fun of the person who asked about Bard's saves and blown save, I think you missed an opportunity to give an answer that might actually help the person learn moreabout baseball.

    Bard was a set-up guy back then, therefore able to earn a "blown save" when he coughed up a lead but unable to earn a "save" when he held a lead. So you would need to compare his "blown saves" to his "holds" plus the few "saves" he earned to understand his success ratio.

    • ChipBuck May 7, 2012 at 2:55 PM #

      You make an excellent point about the fact that he didn't have an opportunity to create a save, but I think comparing the difference in leverage between a closer and a true fireman shows the distinction pretty clearly. Closer and saves are wildly overvalued. The idea that one must have a certain mentality to pitch the ninth is simply not true. Every season there are plenty of mediocre closers that do an acceptable job closing out games and racking up saves.

      • Jon May 7, 2012 at 10:18 PM #

        Sure, but the question was submitted by someone thinking Bard has been called on to save 20 games in his career and blown 15 of them. That needs to be corrected before getting into the difference between tough saves and easy saves or else your answer reads like an excuse for his 5 for 20 success rate. He's not 5 for 20. He's 84 (saves plus holds) for 99 (save situations).

        If you don't correct the obvious mistake and dive into a more complex answer, one would assume there was no obvious mistake and one would accept the initial proposition as a fact, which it clearly is not.