…In Which the 2004 World Series Was Won By Intangibles, Cafardo Style!

Counting prospects before they hatch, discounting "best shape of their lives," wondering if Mike Napoli will be an elite defender, and suggesting that it was intangibles that brought you 2004...Nick Cafardo do what he do!

Credit due to Boston Globe, by way of Cleveland.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Except for the Alfredo Aceves blip, the Red Sox have had a pretty uneventful spring training so far. There seems to be harmony in the clubhouse with John Farrell at the head of things. The players seem to be happy and good natured. All we have to see now is whether they can play.

Did they seem happy last year at this time? If memory serves, there was no huge red flags until Bobby V roasted Youk a few weeks into the season, followed by the Dustin “that’s not how we do things in Boston” Pedroia retort.

 Mike Napoli is getting his first formal training at first base, working daily with third base coach Brian Butterfield. Don’t expect the end result to be someone like Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis with the glove. The first base defense won’t be that good.

#analysis #scouting

Don’t get too worried about Felix Doubront being a little out of shape. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can look good and play bad and look bad and play well. And don’t get too excited about John Lackey being in shape. He has to show he can come back from Tommy John surgery.

It takes all that I can to go on. I want to stop here. How can I continue? This man needed a flight to Fort Myers to report this stuff? He needs to be around the players to know that your reporting shape is not predictive of the season and that a lifelong poor-average defensive catcher may not be an elite defender in this first season in a new position?

I also wonder if they’re missing the boat on Jose Iglesias. Is it better to have an above-average shortstop who can hit like Stephen Drew or a magician at shortstop whose offense is poor but who can save outs, games and a pitching staff in Iglesias?

Is this serious?

That’s what spring training is for?

Oh, it was serious. Ok.

This is not what Spring Training is for, this is what advanced metrics is for. In fact, your colleague, Chad Finn, just addressed this issue quite intelligently. The essence of his reasoned argument was that Brendan Ryan saved 29 runs at SS in 2012, the best in baseball. Therefore, an average SS who can hit is worth more than a SS who is a net loss at the plate, elite defense or otherwise.

Here’s the mailbag:
I’ve seen a lot written in the Extra Bases blog lately about the involvement of Pedro Martinez with the pitching staff. I was hoping to get your opinion on this. What do you think the true impact of Pedro’s role will be on the actual performance of the pitching staff? Do you think that his involvement will directly lead to more wins for the Red Sox
compared to typical coach? Or will the benefit be much less subtle than that?
— Mike, Melrose

It’ll be more subtle than anything. He’s not a full-time instructor. Whatever he can observe and talk to players about little things will be helpful. He can valuable in other ways such as evaluating amateur talent. I’m thinking he might be more valuable in that area than anything else.

Pedro as scout? That will be his most valuable contribution? I suspect his sound bites keeping the media away from young players will actually be of more value than his scouting ability.

Suffice it to say that my highest hope is that he can remind me of 1999, 2000, 2004, and occasionally teach a pitcher how to improve a secondary pitch. Value repaid if he does 3 of those four things.

Alfredo Aceves is just to [sic] much trouble. He’s OK, but not that good, a superstar in
his mind only. Trade him or just release him, but get the bad apple out of the way
before he is a cancer to this team. Do you think the Sox can get anything for him?
— Bob, Newfields, New Hampshire

The strange thing for me is they devoted so many resources toward signing good character players and then they leave Aceves in the clubhouse. Aceves’s problems just didn’t sneak up on them. There’s a laundry list. The incident the other day as just one
of a few.

Yawn. No one cared about his personality problems in 2011 (when he was good), and he became a cancer in 2012 (when he was good for the Red Sox, but bad for the rest of baseball).

In five years the Red Sox will still have a great home-grown infield (Will Middlebrooks 1B, Dustin Pedroia 2B, Deven Marrero SS, Xander Bogaerts 3B) but what else will they have without risking a big free-agent acquisition. After the infield talent everything drops off (save for Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr.). What are they going to look like in five years? Also is Jonathan Crawford the person the Sox should be drafting? He seems to have ace-caliber pitches and could team with Barnes for a great 1-2 punch. I think we to take need a pitcher with our high (7 overall) draft pick. Why aren’t they going after Mike Carp more? And finally, who is going to be Johnny Gomes platoon mate?
— Xander

Lots of points, Xander. I mean what organization knows what they’ll look at in five years? Those plans change constantly. Toronto expected to look a lot different than what they look like entering the season as they had planned. The Red Sox’ plan also changed dramatically after they dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Jose Beckett. As for who they’re drafting, Jonathan Crawford would be a nice pick. I’m sure they’ll always choose a pitcher unless there’s a slugging first baseman they like better. On Gomes, they have always intended to platoon him. Nava and Sweeney are the front runners. I suppose Jackie Bradley could thrust himself into the mix if he has a great camp.

What. A. (15) Question(s).

Why does everyone project to move Middlebrooks to 1b? His value is significantly less as a 1b as his bat will likely never become elite. Frankly, Bogaerts is more likely finish with a 1b bat. Just interesting that Middlebrooks has pop and a solid glove at third, why move him? He would likely have more value in a trade than in a position change to first. If Bogaerts had to move, it would, in my estimation, bring more value to move him to LF and hope that Middlebrooks’ plate selection improves, as his power and glove are ML level at 3b, but his patience and bat do not translate as good/borderline all-star at 1b.

Can the Red Sox trade Aceves to Pittsburgh for Garrett Jones or Seattle for Mike Carp or Justin Smoak. Thanks for your time
– Jeffrey O’Neill, Rochester, New Hampshire

Can’t get Jones or Smoak for him, but Carp for sure.

We got Carp for less. Next.

Jose Iglesias made many games worth watching last season — every day he seemed to make at least one remarkable play. Compared to a .300 hitter, a .200 hitter will get about one fewer hit every three games or so, but if during those three games he creates three extra outs in the field, playing him still appears to put the team way, way ahead. At least in theory: no-brainers in baseball are sometimes elusive. In reality how does the WAR (or other all-in benefit statistic) work out when a .300-hitting shortstop with only average defense is compared to the very best defenders
(e.g. Brendan Ryan) if the plate production is only .200?
– Tony, Portland, Oregon

Yikes. Way above my intellectual capacity. All I know is what pitcher wouldn’t want Jose Iglesias to be the starting shortstop? He does save outs, saves pitches thrown. This is why Joe Maddon is so excited about having Yunel Escobar at shortstop. He really believes his pitchers will benefit.

This answer hurts me so much. Is WAR that hard to understand? Baseball-Reference breaks it down by defense, offense, and total.

Iglesias is, as of right now, Rey Ordonez. Ordonez was fun to watch on SportsCenter once or twice a week, but SC does not show you the weak at bats night after night. Listen, friends of mine will attest to my personal obsession with Iglesias. I love the man, to unhealthy levels. But he needs to be able to hit major league pitching. To date, he still struggles with AAA pitching. Let’s be honest with ourselves.

If Xander Bogaerts progresses as expected, and another candidate moves into the shortstop position, why not move Middlebrooks to first and Bogaerts to third. Why aren’t the Sox looking to slide Rubby De La Rosa into the No. 5 spot?
– Mike, Fredericksburg, Virginia

That scenario could play out, but it’s not time for that yet. Bogaerts is going to be at Double-A. We’re looking at one to two years before that decision has to be made. Unless there’s an injury, the Red Sox have five starters and Franklin Morales, Aceves and Steven Wright. De La Rosa is also coming off surgery. He needs time.

I delved into this a bit earlier, but it should be said that this is a more measured response from my boy NickieC.

Do you think Jonny Gomes will become a full-time LF by the end of the season?
– Ryan, Sharon

I don’t think so. He’s shown throughout his career that he’s had problems hitting righthanded [sic] pitchers. He has a career .223 average vs. righties, .209 last season with Oakland. Is there a better option lefthanded [sic]? If there isn’t he’ll play more. But I think the Red Sox will make sure they have someone ho[sic] can put up better numbers from the left side.

We shall look forward to this all season. Jonny gets bad breaks on the ball in left, so he needs to dive often, sometimes has a Mohawk haircut, and does crazy things like go gator hunting. Fans love him. There will be a lot of cries for him to play more, and there will great dreams of Jackie Bradley getting half of a season in the bigs, tearing it up in left field, and easing my mind as to whether or not we can let Jacoby Ellsbury go in the offseason.

I have a big man crush on Bradley, too. In fact, I saw him yesterday in Dunedin. He played nine innings and was on base all five times he came to the plate (in a game which R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson pitched). I may be biased on the whole Bradley thing…

I know players work out in the winter, but with injured players like David Ortiz, do they work out with their own devices or does the team follow closely, monitoring progress on a frequent basis?
– John, Hermon, Maine

In Papi’s case the team was all over him this offseason. They had their trainers and medical staff with him quite a bit. He does have his own people in the Dominican, but it’s monitored closely by Sox training staff. That’s usually the case with an injured player, especially a high-profile one.

This is a good question to ask a reporter, rather than suggesting he play faux-GM. I find the answer insightful and interesting as well, though in 2013 the phrase “his own people” scares the crap out of me.

I think this culture stuff is way overrated. I know it’s a long year but winning will make the culture a non-issue. As far as I’m concerned the word is an excuse management has allowed the media to use for not putting the best team they possibly can on the field. Just win, baby, and watch the culture word disappear from the media and the players’ discussions. Cut the baloney excuses ! And forget culture.
– Tony, Jupiter, Florida

You’re right to a point, but the Red Sox did have high-profile players like Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett to go along with Ortiz and Pedroia and it didn’t work. I hear what you’re saying. Winning does create good chemistry, but if you don’t have players who can win, you’re spinning your wheels.

Yes, winning breeds chemistry, and good players breed wins. Rocket science, even if the combination of all three is hard to balance.

I’ve heard the theory that maybe Jarrod Saltalamacchia is at the stage in his career where the Sox have seen everything they feel they need to see of him, that maybe this would be the time to move him if the price was right. But don’t you think he’s also capable of a bigger offensive season this year now that he’s more comfortable as the No. 1 catcher? He devoted so much time with his pitchers last year and working on his defense and calling a good game, while not working on his hitting as much, that perhaps it contributed to his high strikeout rate and low OPS? Then factor in John Farrell’s presence to help with the staff and I can see a stronger offensive season from him. Your thoughts?
– Bob, Mountain View, California

I wouldn’t trade him. When his plate discipline gets better, he’ll hit 30 homers every year.

Salty will turn 28 early in the season. It’s starting to get late to make projections like “when he learns plate discipline.” We have just prayed a Hail Mary and treated it as iron clad collateral. Please.

Of course, every team in baseball knows that Salty does not know the difference between a ball and strike and that running on him is easier than Mike Piazza, so do not count on getting an elite player in return. The question is, would the return be greater than the difference between him and Lavarnway.

In a world in which the Red Sox would trade Dustin Pedroia, would Xander Bogaerts be able to handle second base defensively? A trade package for Pedroia would be epic and could push the Sox’s minor league system over the top. With the doubts about Bogarets [sic] ability to play shortstop could second base be the answer?
— Daniel, Nahant

I would think so, though his body type is best suited for third, first or the outfield.

I truly hope that world does not exist. Though Bogaerts could be Robinson Cano at second. That said, Pedroia is the second best at the position.

Please explain 40-man roster to me. Someone the Sox are sure to count on this year (Ryan Sweeney) is not on the 40-man roster at this time according to list posted on boston.com, but, on the other hand, stud prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley aren’t either. Yet minor leaguers such as catcher Dan Butler are?
– George, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

With younger players it has to do with service time. You don’t put them on 40-man until you have to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. A player who was signed when he was 19 or older and has been under a minor league contract four years has to be
protected on the 40-man or be susceptible to the Rule 5 draft. If he was drafted before 19 years old, he has to be protected after five years. Butler is an older guy they didn’t want to lose in the draft. Ryan Sweeney as a free-agent who signed a minor league deal with an invitation to camp. If he makes the team he will be added 
to the 40-man roster.

Another great question to ask a reporter. Another helpful answer. Again, no one asked him to play GM. I like this formula.

Could the Red Sox have landed Trevor Bauer? He seems like an ace in the making. All the Indians gave up was basically a no-hit, all-glove SS. Why couldn’t they have sent Iglesias for Bauer? I’m sort of emotional about this one.

– Steve, Canton

Yes, they could have acquired him. They do have excess at the shortstop position.

This is a misleading and profoundly unhelpful answer. Is Nick tired? Bored? Isn’t he paid to do this?

There is no sense in the baseball world that Iglesias would have got the job done. Further, DiDi Gregarious (the SS Arizona ended up getting for Bauer) is rated more highly on prospect lists (because he may actually hit .250+/.300/.400 with good defense, numbers few think Iglesias can get to) than every minor league shortstop in the Red Sox farm system, save Bogaerts, who would be an overpay for the Sox. So could the Red Sox have gotten Bauer? Yes, 29 teams could have bid. Would it have taken more than Iglesias? Probably. Is Bauer good? Yes. Is he a head case that raps poorly? Yes. Is he likely to break down because of odd pitching mechanics? Well, that,
too, is possible.

I know it’s a minor injury, but Clay Buchholz injuring his hamstring already is not a promising start. Is this an issue of poor conditioning, bad luck or a sign of something more serious? He’s had hamstring trouble in the past, so I would have thought (hoped) careful attention would be paid to making these muscles as strong and flexible as possible coming into the season.
– Amy, Northbridge

He’s supposed to be a good athlete with speed, but you remember he hurt himself running the bases one year and now hurt himself during a simple drill. Have no idea what’s going on. These guys have great trainers looking after them.

Injuries. Happen.

There is a lot of debate about whether the Red Sox owners are up to the job, and while I agree with some of the criticisms, I’m also left with questions which I’d like to hear your thoughts on. Werner and Lucchino come across as phony and hollow. John Henry however is more complex. He made his money from number-crunching, not
marketing. He hired Bill James before sabermetrics was mainstream; he tried to hire Billy Beane, and eventually settled on Epstein — all in support of a quantitative approach to baseball, which looks at players’ statistics to find undervalued and reliable game winners, rather than following the old fashioned subjective ideal of a player who “look good” (whatever that means). It was the numbers approach which won for us in 2004 and 2007, and the creepy return of the subjective approach which led to the collapse of 2011. What I don’t understand is how Henry went from being an anti-image baseball innovator to presiding over two disastrous years in which we signed expensive underperformers like Crawford because they looked good. Maybe he found winning too easy, forgot what made him successful, and got his head turned by the glamour. Yet he recently complained about the fact that Bill James has been less prominent in the organization — Bill James, the epitome of numbers versus image. It seems like a paradox to me. As a Red Sox fan I only hope that John Henry goes back to the number crunching, unsexy, winning approach. Bring on the Band of Idiots reunion tour!
— Eric, Edinburgh, Scotland

The “Idiots” had nothing to do with numbers. I think that as mostly intangibles. You can argue 2007 was part of the number-crunching. I think they use both methods and that’s the way it should be. They simply haven’t picked the right free agents for what ever [sic] reason. I think the Red Sox have very good owners. They spend a lot of money on the team it’s just that their decisions haven’t been right, but I think they strive for a winner every year.

Sweet. 2004 was all about intangibles. Had nothing to do with Manny being the best free agent in Red Sox history, Ortiz being the best non-tender signing in baseball history, Millar, Bellhorn, Mueller all being sabermetric-style signings? No.

All intangibles.

Ok.

Thanks for coming.

Categories: 2004 ALCS 2004 ALDS 2004 World Series Boston Red Sox David Ortiz Devin Marrero Dustin Pedroia Felix Doubront Fenway Sports Group J.D. Drew Jackie Bradley Jacoby Ellsbury John Lackey Nick Cafardo Mail Bag Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogearts

Thinks Pedro deserved the MVP and that Justin Verlander did not, that Dwight Evans was better than Jim Rice, that Marty Barrett was a worthy choice as favorite Red Sox player when I was a child, that J.D. Drew was very good for the Olde Towne Team, that Fenway Sports group owning Liverpool is not a proper reason to support that loathsome soccer club, that Peter Gammons needs a key lock on his cell phone, still thinks that Nomar Garciaparra is better than Derek Jeter, and that, finally, there is no such thing as being completely bias-free. When not writing about or watching the Red Sox, I moonlight as a father, a husband, a pastor, a doctoral candidate, an infielder and #2 hitter on the church softball team, soccer fan, Disney pass holder, snark manufacturer, and pizza connoisseur. Free time free since 2001.

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