Cafardo Mailbag: The Juan Carlos Linares Kool-Aid Edition

The Cafardo mail bag is back! This week we discuss cutting Bobby V some slack, Clay Buchholz to the minors, and the absurd JC Linares bandwagon.

Alfredo Aceves

Ok, boys and girls.  By now you know the drill.  People ask Nick questions, I intervene and answer correctly on his behalf.  All “questioners” will remain nameless unless they truly deserve to be mocked.  Luckily, no one has to be outed this week–although, it was close.  This is a pretty lengthy “bag” this week, so let’s jump right in, shall we?

I think we need to cut Bobby V. some slack! He’s coming back into MLB after a long hiatus. He only had a short time to get to know his new team. Watching the team the last couple of weeks, I see more smiles in the dugout, I see more enthusiasm, and I think they are starting to pull it together. It can only get better when Jacoby, CC, and Bailey come back. Am I wrong?

I agree that we need to cut Bobby V some slack.  A lot of the problems were not his fault.  Excessive number of injuries?  Not his fault.  Poor starting pitching?  Not his fault.  Brutal bullpen performance in early April?  Also, not his fault.  My problems with Bobby V have nothing to do with the team’s performance, but instead his questionable decision making.  Mike Aviles in the leadoff spot?  Really?  I’ll be the first to admit that he’s performed much better than I’d expected, but no one (and I mean no one) with a career .316 OBP should EVER bat out of the leadoff spot.  I realize Jacoby Ellsbury is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, but he has much better options in Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Sweeney, and Kevin Youkilis (now off of the disabled list).

As for the pitching…  While he’s not at fault for their actual performance, I do blame him for his inability to notice obvious cues when pulling the starting pitchers, and his penchant for bringing in mediocre relievers in high leverage spots.  Does/did he deserve a few mulligans?  Perhaps, but we’re almost to Memorial Day.  He should have a pretty good feel for his pitching staff by now.

Lastly, the commenter’s belief that there are “more smiles in the dugout” and “more enthusiasm” than last season is completely subjective.  No one made any complaints about their demeanor when they were on their torrid 81-41 stretch.  I think he’s seeing something that’s not really there.

What do the Sox do with Alfredo Aceves when Bailey is ready to pitch? What about Bard?

As we all know, Aceves is an unproven closer who lacks the mentality to be a top notch closer.  Clearly, he’s unfit for the job.  I hear Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine are counting down the days until Bailey returns.

No, seriously… Since Aceves’s five run meltdown on April 21st against the Yankees, he’s converted nine straight saves while posting a 0.96 ERA with a 19/5 K/BB ratio in 18-2/3 innings.  As long as he keeps pitching this well, I see no reason to remove him from a role that’s rightfully his.  Yes, Bailey was brought in to be the designated closer, but sometimes circumstances change.  That’s one of those times.

Bard’s situation is a bit trickier.  During the offseason, he was strategically moved to the rotation to maximize his short and long-term value.  Moving him back to the bullpen now would be an admission of failure.  While making such an admission wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world (certainly, it’s happened multiple times with every franchise), the problem is that he’d be the third choice for the highest role behind Aceves and Bailey.  That’s a huge problem in part because of the impact such a move would have on his future net worth.  Given the loss of potential earnings value, I find it hard to believe Bard would be happy moving to the bullpen in a less than premium role.

Still, with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook due back shortly, it’s becoming difficult to justify keeping the struggling Bard in the rotation.  While I believe Bard’s struggles to be mostly an adjustment period, his performance during his five May starts has been alarming.  In 28-2/3 innings, he’s produced a less than eye pleasing 5.65 FIP and a disturbing 9/19 K/BB ratio.  One of his primary causes of this is an inconsistent release point.  For some reason, his release point seems to fall as he goes deeper into the game.  This is likely due to fatigue, but it could also be as a result of shoulder pain.  I don’t have any proof he’s hurt, but it’s certainly a common symptom of potential discomfort.  It’s something to watch.

It seems to me that the best outfielder the Sox have in the minors, and the one with the most MLB potential (excluding those not close to MLB readiness such as Bryce Brentz, Brandon Jacobs, Jackie Bradley, etc) is by far Juan Carlos Linares. Why has GM Ben Cherington repeatedly overlooked Linares, who looks like he could help the Sox now?

With all due respect, I hardly think a 27 year old playing in AA (with only 64 career plate appearances in AAA no less) has the most MLB potential out of all of the players you mentioned.  Brentz, Jacobs, and Bradley all have significantly greater potential due to their young age and advanced skills.  The reason Cherington “overlooks” Linares is because he’s just not that good.  Furthermore, I’m struggling to find any reason to think he’s anything more than an organizational soldier–and that’s his ceiling.

Why are we keeping Nick Punto on the team? He can’t hit and we have a shortstop in Pawtucket in Jose Iglesias who is hitting well and he can play SS and then we can move Mike Aviles to utility and we would at least have someone off the bench who can play the field and hit.

When Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and/or Cody Ross return, Adrian Gonzalez will be forced to return to first base.  When that happens, there will be corresponding logjam in the infield that will cause either Will Middlebrooks to be optioned back to AAA or Kevin Youkilis traded.  Why we’d release an obvious utility man to promote Jose Iglesias, an incredibly weak hitting shortstop, while demoting a surprising Aviles to a utility role is beyond me.  I understand that people love Iglesias’s defense (and for good reason), but he’s nowhere near ready to play everyday in the majors.  Just to play every angle, there’s also no reason to call him up to play a utility role.  What Iglesias needs now is regular plate appearances in AAA.  Rushing him puts his future in danger.

Watching the Red Sox’ entire pitching staff, it appears that they are all afraid of every batter they face. They all seem to think it’s better to give up walks rather than allow the batter to hit the ball. Walks get the batter on 100 percent of the time, letting the batter hit gets the batter on about 30 percent of the time!

You’re absolutely right.  Everyone seems to be satisfied with nibbling on the corner of the plate.  It’s almost as if we have an entire rotation full of Dice-Ks–and he’ll be back in Boston before you know it.  The starters need to trust their stuff.  While I’m not advocating the concept of pitching to contact, the Red Sox starters need to attack the strike zone and stop avoiding contact.  Until they do, they’ll continue to get burned regularly by walks.

The retirement of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield has been given a lot of attention. However, we may have forgotten that another prominent former Red Sox has retired this year, Pedro Martinez. How many players could be so well known that just their first name is enough? Isn’t there a chance the Red Sox brass also give him his day at Fenway, sign him to a minor league deal like Nomar so he will retire as a Red Sox?

I would love to see all of that for Pedro.  I love the guy, and he deserves a multitude of accolades.

Can the Red Sox recoup some of the money they have lost with injuries to Lackey, Dice-K, and others who are out for he season. I thought the Astros did something similar with Jeff Bagwell.

Nope. Unless they can dupe some moron GM into absorbing the bulk of one of their contracts, the Red Sox are stuck with each of those contracts.  While Brian Sabean and Ned Colletti are still somehow employed, none of them are quite dumb enough to do what Tony Reaggins did when he foolishly agreed to take on nearly all of Vernon Wells‘s remaining contract a couple of years ago.  Not surprisingly, Reaggins no longer has his job as the Angels GM.

I know the Red Sox have at least 9 million reasons to keep Youk in the starting nine. But what about converting him to a super-utility role? One other note: thank god Bobby has been thrown out. Sure looks like with the extraordinary amount of bad/close calls going against the Sox, the umps were challenging him.

Really, it’s more like $12M, but I’ll assume your prorating for the three quarters of a season that remains.  Honestly, I don’t see it.  First, third, and DH are his only positions.  I suppose he could play left field in an extreme case, but it’s really far from ideal.  Given his extensive injury history, I don’t think its in anyone’s best interest to have him changing positions from day to day.

It seems the Sox are going to continue to have roster management problems as players come off of injuries because they have so many 4A players who are out of options. The Aaron Cooks of the world can’t really be dealt for anything, but might be needed again if the injury march continues. This seems like another consequence of the farm system atrophy or mistakes in managing the 40 man roster. Thoughts?

Most teams fill out their roster with quad-A players and fringe major league veterans.  In fact, some small market teams fill out their 25-man roster with these types of players.  I’ll be the first to admit that the farm system isn’t what it once was, but there’s a ton of potential.  Unfortunately, it’s mostly in Greenville and Salem.  Middlebrooks is looking pretty legit; Ryan Lavarnway isn’t far off; Ryan Kalish would be in the majors if he wasn’t hurt; and Iglesias could be called upon in the right situation.  It’s really not all bad.  The problem is the extent of the injuries they’ve faced this season.  The lack of starting pitching depth is a little startling, especially now that Alex Wilson has moved to the bullpen.

Why don’t we try Dustin Pedroia at the leadoff spot and put Ryan Sweeney back to No. 2, or will that create the possibility of too many lefties in a row?

Who cares?  We need guys that can get on base hitting leadoff–not out machines like Mike Aviles.  I completely support this idea.

What is the real story with Beckett not pitching, as I’ve heard conflicting reports even from the Globe? Story one is Beckett wanted to pitch even with the lat strain, but management decided to pass over him. Story two is Beckett asked not to pitch. Huge difference on how to judge his golf adventure on whether Josh declared himself available or not.

I’ve heard multiple stories.  One that it was a precautionary measure, nothing more.  Another, was more rumor or innuendo, but he was skipped to give a rotation slot to Aaron Cook.  At this point, the issue is moot.  People have already made their decisions about Beckett.  Many assumed he really didn’t care about the club, and now they’re backpeddling.  Sadly, these folks will be the first to flip their opinion back to hating him once something goes wrong again.

Do the Sox have any options left with Clay Bucholz? If they do, does Clay go to Pawtucket when Dice-K comes back to the rotation? If they don’t, do you think they should put Buchholz on the DL with a phantom injury to make room for Dice-K? In my opinion Buchholz is the weakest link right now. With Doubront and Bard putting up quality starts behind him, it seems like neither of them deserve to lose their spot when Dice-K is ready to make his comeback.

To be honest, this is the question I’ve been wanting to answer.  Yes, there’s an option remaining on Buchholz, but he has more than three years in MLB service time.  This means he’d have to be exposed to waivers before he could be outrighted to Pawtucket.  With Buchholz’s performance and contract situation being what it is (not to mention the supposed “gentleman’s agreement” between GMs about such players), I highly doubt any team would try to claim him.  Then again, he has a ton of potential, so there’s a slight chance someone might be willing to take a gamble.

Still, the strange thing about Buchholz’s performance is that he hasn’t been awful.  Yes, he’s been bad, but his struggles seem to come in single inning instances.  Allow me to explain:

  • In seven of his nine starts, he’s given up at least three (but no more than five) runs in a single inning.
  • In two of those seven starts, his bad inning was the first inning.  In four of those starts, it was the last inning he pitched.
  • During his bad inning each game, he’s given up 27 runs with a 4/12 K/BB ratio in five innings (48.60 RA).  His performance in all other innings?  18 runs with a 23/15 K/BB ratio in 44-1/3 innings (3.65 RA).  His strikeout and walk peripherals aren’t great, but his RA is light years better.

These stats are meant in no way to defend or justify Buchholz’s performance.  His bad innings are largely his fault.  Still, it’s a little unsettling to see so many of his worst innings come in his final inning of work; especially since two of them occurred in the seventh, and one was in the sixth.  To an extent, these were partially at fault of either (1) Bobby V for failing to pull Buchholz timely or (2) the bullpen allowing inherited runners to score.  Had he been pulled timely and/or the bullpen held the inherited runners, we might have a different take on his performance.  We’d still be disappointed with his lack of development, but our sentiments would be a little more positive.

Categories: Aaron Cook Adrian Gonzalez Alex Wilson Alfredo Aceves Andrew Bailey Boston Red Sox Brandon Jacobs Bryce Brentz Carl Crawford Clay Buchholz Cody Ross Daisuke Matsuzaka Dustin Pedroia Jackie Bradley Jacoby Ellsbury Jason Varitek Josh Beckett Juan Carlos Linares Kevin Youkilis Mike Aviles Nick Cafardo Mail Bag Nick Punto Pedro Martinez Ryan Kalish Ryan Lavarnway Ryan Sweeney Tim Wakefield Vernon Wells 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.

7 Responses to “Cafardo Mailbag: The Juan Carlos Linares Kool-Aid Edition” Subscribe

  1. kahlil May 25, 2012 at 11:32 AM #

    completely disagree with your assessment of aviles. i left detailed comments in your aviles article.

  2. Adam Botting May 25, 2012 at 11:36 AM #

    I would like to understand why each dollar is a separate reason to play Youkilis.

  3. IAredsoxfan May 25, 2012 at 5:03 PM #

    The axiom "you can never have to much pitching" is as close to gospel as it gets in MBL, especially in the AL East. Whether he likes it or not, I believe that Bard needs to back to the bullpen. For Tiant-sake, he has a 99mph fastball; USE IT!! Just because he was once/wants to be a starter, doesn't make him one. He proved in the minors he couldn't start and has done nothing so far to prove that he can be one in the majors. Dice-K, although extremely frustrating, has proven he can win on the big stage. Inning 6-7-8-9 could go Morales, Miller, Bard, Aceves. That's 4 guys who can flat bring it (94-100 mph).

  4. Danny May 25, 2012 at 9:39 PM #

    Man, I've been away from this website for too long. I've missed two whole mailbags!

    Anyways, I'm going to respectfully disagree on your Aceves comments. I think part of what made Alfredo so valuable to the team last year was his ability to come in and stabilize a game that went out of control with 2-3 good innings. We brought Bailey in to close, and we know he's effective – when healthy – in that role. So if we have a proven closer, why not have Aceves pitch the maximum number of innings possible in his bullpen role? You made a similar argument regarding Daniel Bard in a previous post that he was most valuable pitching more than one inning. It just seems to me the same would apply to a guy like Aceves, who was stuck in that netherworld between the rotation and the bullpen during the offseason.

    Great mailbag, though. I always enjoy them.

  5. Kcole May 26, 2012 at 1:17 AM #

    You know what's crazy, take this hypothetical: this spring the FO decided to go with Aceves as a starter and then pushed Bard back into the BP. right now Aceves would have proven to be a decent, probably pretty figgin' decent starter, and Bard would have easily secured the closer role. Flip of the coin isn't it? this is why I love baseball and hate hypotheticals.

    just for the record I too wanted Bard starting in April.

    Also happy to see a little defense for Buch. He's always had trouble during the spring, give him some time and I think he'll lock it down…."hope" he'll lock it down.

    And finally Aviles is not a leadoff batter, he's a bottom of the order rally starter, please put sweeny in the starting spot, not Petey for some reason his numbers are really not great as a lead off man…Have no idea what's up with that he's built for the lead-off spot but has never liked it. And although Youk is an option, really he's not, lead-off men should be a threat to steal, have you seen Youk run? talk about an easy out.

  6. JiminNC May 26, 2012 at 1:27 PM #

    You're not reading the Linares question right. The questioner say that "****excluding**** those not close to MLB readiness such as Bryce Brentz, Brandon Jacobs, Jackie Bradley, etc", he thinks Linares have the most MLB potential. You come back and say that those three players have more potential than Linares for the future. This was an assumption of the question–the questioner takes that for granted, but is looking for who could help now, if we EXCLUDE these guys.. He did NOT say that Linares has more potential than they do. If Linares were healthy, it would be perfectly reasonable, based on his record in Cuba and in the minor leagues, to think he'd contribute more than Podsednik.

    • Gerry May 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM #

      Good call. In the upper ranks, Nava is already proving he can play, Kalish & Repko are injured, Lin's defense and offense eerily parallel that of Iggy indicating more time at finishimg school. Linares is 27 because he, like Nava, took the long way around and, like Nava, is probably a major league outfielder in waiting. Linares is a good defender, has decent speed, and hits for average and with enormous power when he is healthy, which has been his problem the past two years. Besides his potential upside (even at 27) for the Sox, even as a 4th-5th OF, showcasing him at Fenway before the trade deadline seems wise, especially needing to clear space for the next round of Sox phenoms coming up from A-ball.