Cafardo Mail Bag: Mission Impossible Edition

Chip takes some risks to help Tim out in answering Nick Cafardo's mail.

Let me set the scene for you.  It was Friday afternoon.  Tim Brooks, Fire Brand‘s current Cafardo mail thief, sends me an instant message.  (Actual chat transcript)

Tim:  I have a mission for you should you choose to accept it.

Chip:  Cut the crap, Tim.  What do you want?

Tim:  I need you to do me a really big favor.

Chip:  I’m serious.  Put on your freaking running shoes and get to the point.  I don’t have time to deal with your BS today.

Tim:  Ok, ok.  I need you to do the Cafardo mail bag both this week and next.  I’ve been compromised.  Nick spotted me stealing his mail last week, and now the situation is too loco.  I need to lay low for a while.

Chip:  Loco?  Seriously, you’re going with loco?

Tim:  This is serious, man!  Someone has to do it.  Do you want the job or not?

Chip:  I don’t know.  It sounds pretty dangerous.  I’d be risking my freedom by violating the restraining order he has against me.  (pauses)  Screw it.  I’ll do it.  The readers of Fire Brand deserve to read responses to Cafardo’s mail the way it’s supposed to be written.

Tim:  Thank you.  It’s so cray-cray right now, I just need a break.

Chip:  Cray-cray?  I’m done with you.  Bye.

===========================================
Jose Iglesias

Let’s jump right in with Nick’s opening statements.

Hey, what happened to all of you “stop touting Jose Iglesias” readers?

Miss you guys. Seem a little quiet now. No worries, it’s a long season and I’m sure I’ll hear from you again.

While I don’t agree with making Jose Iglesias a utility player because he should be the starting shortstop (and throw away the key), at least he’s still on the team and flashing great defense.

Wow.  It didn’t even take a Nick-baiting question to get the Nick Cafardo-Jose Iglesias love fest started.  I’m not surprised though considering Iglesias has replaced Bobby V as the apple of his eye.  (Not judging…ok, maybe a little.)

Still, I’m not surprised that the anti-Iglesias crowd has stopped writing into the mailbag.  Iglesias has a higher batting average than everyone right now.  Is it going to last?  Good god, no.  Even Ted Williams couldn’t keep up that pace.  It’s fun/frustrating to watch though, depending on your point of view.  Enjoy it while you can though.  That .507 BABIP won’t last forever.

Drew could become a trade chip. On June 15, he’s eligible to be traded. Doubt the Red sox do anything that drastic this early. But there are a few teams out there who would love either Drew or Iglesias.

Nope.  Sorry.  Nick has been bringing up this fact nearly every week (in some format) since Spring Training.  It’s pretty clear that he has an agenda he’s trying to push.  I don’t mean to say that he has something to gain by it, but it’s getting annoying.  He needs to report the news more, and create the news less.  That’s what he’s doing with this remark.  The Baltimore Orioles radio booth even mentioned that the Boston media has been hearing rumors of an upcoming trade involving Stephen Drew.  I wonder who wrote about that…

=======================================================================
Now onto the questions!

The Red Sox look like a team with one ace, a very good offense, and four average starting pitchers. I think a lot of teams would kill for this, and it’s not bad for a rebuilding year, but I have a hard time being confident about the playoffs. Do you think this is a valid concern? And if so, what could a team that doesn’t want to shed any prospects really do?

You’re right.  A lot of teams would kill for a roster like the Red Sox right now.  Before I hit your primary questions though, I want to address the “four average starting pitchers.”  I wouldn’t call Jon Lester average just yet.  There’s no reason to believe Lester’s last six starts are any more indicative of his first ten.  Over his last six starts, three of them were pretty solid. Two of those three would have looked even better if Farrell hadn’t left him out an inning too long.  Even yesterday’s start had some positive aspects.  Eight strikes, no walks, and 22 swinging strikes (his highest total since 9/17/2011) are all things that indicate the tide could be ready to turn.

To answer you question directly, I wouldn’t worry about the playoffs just yet.  I certainly understand the apprehension, but the team we have now probably won’t be the team we have in late September.  Let’s wait until after the July 31st deadline before deciding if it’s time to be concerned.

If the Red Sox do make a trade though, they’re going to have to trade away prospects and/or young major leaguers with upside.  Cherington is deliberate, but he’s not a statue.  He’ll weigh the costs and benefits before triggering a deal.  One thing that help is the farm system is stacked with promising pitching in the upper levels of the system.  That kind of surplus makes it easier to trade prospects away.

Injuries aside, who has been the Red Sox biggest disappointment so far?

Aside from injures, I’d say Will Middlebrooks (who Cafardo mentions) and Felix Doubront.  Some would say (me) that there were red flags with Middlebrooks all along.  He tends to be overly aggressive, which leads to too many strikeouts and too few walks.  I don’t want you to think that I’m saying his aggressive nature will always work against him.  I think we all saw last year how it can work for him.  This year, it’s a different story.  The balls he puts into play keep finding their way into gloves.

Part of his struggles may be bad luck.  His .231 BABIP is 104 points lower than last season despite hitting only slightly fewer groundballs and line drives.  He is hitting more fly balls (which hurts), but he’s hitting fewer pop ups.  Based on this information, we should have expected his BABIP to drop somewhat, but not 104 points.

With Doubront, his disappointment stems from the fact he hasn’t taken that next step forward.  He’s the same pitcher he was last year.  He’s shown flashes of brilliance, and shades of Dice-K–frequently in the same game.  Until he can take that next step, questions will remain about whether he’d be better used in the rotation or out of the pen.

I know the team is paying Drew a lot of money, but with Iglesias on fire and Middlebrooks coming back, is there a chance he’ll sit and ‘rest’ so the kids can play?

I understand to an extent why fans would want Iglesias to play, but I don’t understand the fascination of wanting Middlebrooks to play over Stephen Drew.  Drew is playing better than WMB in pretty much every category–in some cases, by a lot.  The only area where Drew isn’t performing well is batting average, but he more than makes up for it in OBP.  Defensively, Drew has blow WMB away while playing a tougher position.

If you want to make the argument that Drew should move to third, so Iglesias can play short, I get that.  (Even though Iglesias will soon show that he can’t hit.)  Drew has played beautifully at short, but Iglesias is definitely the more talented of the two.  Making the argument that Middlebrooks should play over Drew is nothing more than an exercise in bias.

What do you think are the chances Clay Buchholz starts the All-Star game?

Good, but not great.  Had he not suffered through these bizarre AC joint and neck injuries, I would have said yes.  Now, it’s 50/50 at best.  Personally, I’d prefer he get selected, but sit out.

If the Phillies make Jonathan Papelbon available, can you see the Red Sox make an aggressive bid for him and what players could the Sox move for Papelbon?

No.   They didn’t even make a single bid for him when he was a free agent after the 2011 season.  At that point, it was just money.  Now, it’s taking on salary AND giving up prospects.  Right now, we have a closer.  His name is Andrew Bailey.  I realize you guys might not think he’s good, but he is.  Armed with a 2.95 ERA and a 30/9 K/BB in 21 innings, he is more than capable of closing.

Like the Drew rumor though, this is more Cafardo news manufacturing. He was vocally against the club letting Papelbon leave two years ago, and he’s stated on multiple times that he doesn’t know if Bailey can handle the closer duties.  This, like Bobby V and Jose Iglesias, is just another axe he’s choosing to grind down to the nub.

As for who the Red Sox would trade for Papelbon, I can’t answer that question.  It’s a scenario that makes little sense for the Red Sox both at the moment and in the future.

With the Sox looking for relievers, one who seems to be having a good year in Pawtucket is Ryan Rowland-Smith. He is 3-0 with an ERA of.76 and a 29/9 SO to BB ratio. He is not on the 40-man roster, so what’s the scoop?

Right now the 40-man roster’s full, and the only way to add a player to the roster is by removing someone else.  While Rowland-Smith is pitching very well, no one else on the roster has deemed themselves worthy of being designated for assignment yet.

Why is it that catchers, who see thousands of pitches and motions, are not better hitters?

Catcher is an incredibly demanding defensive position.  While they might see thousands of pitches and motions, most are primarily focused on mastering the arts of calling pitches, framing pitches, blocking pitches in the dirt, throwing out base stealers, etc.  Hitting, to them, comes secondary.  As far as seeing pitches and how that should make them a better hitter, I’m not sure that works.  Keep in mind that when the catcher is receiving pitches, he’s seeing it from a much different angle than what he sees at the plate.

Would the Red Sox ever bring up Juan Carlos Linares to the major leagues? What are his stats?

Will they ever bring him up?  Maybe.  This year?  No.  There are too many outfielders in front of him for that to happen.  Plus, he was already demoted from Pawtucket to Portland.  His stat line on the year is .217/.320/.331 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 181 plate appearances.

What is your assessment of Mike Napoli so far and is there any help at first base down on the farm?

I think he’s been great.   He’s exactly the player we hoped we were getting before we found out he had a degenerative hip condition.  Plus, he’s been better than expected defensively at first base.  Has he been a world beater?  No.  But he’s been more than adequate.

As far as the farm is concerned (Nick ignored this part entirely), the answer is there isn’t much.  There’s the Brandon Snyder/Drew Sutton quad-A combo in Pawtucket.   Travis Shaw looked good last year, but he seems to be doing his best Lars Anderson impression in Portland.  David Renfroe in Salem used to seem promising, but that was a long time ago.  Now, he’s just filler.  Greenville is, well, Greenville.  Other than Mookie Betts at second, there’s nothing to see in that lineup.

One name to consider is Michael Almanzar.  He’s primarily a third baseman in Pawtucket now, but there’s a blockade on the left side of the infield right now.   He could move across the diamond to first.  That’s about it though.

Jon Lester doesn’t seem prone to awkward and bizarre injuries like Clay Buchholz. Do you think weight training to build Buchholz up might eliminate these nagging problems without altering his effectiveness?

Really good question, but I’m not really sure.   He’s added bulk a couple of times over the years, and it seems to have helped.   Still, I’d be worried about adding too much more.  Additional weight can affect pitching mechanics, and could result in either poor performance or additional injuries.  With his super lean body type, I’d suggest staying away from too much weight training.

Categories: Andrew Bailey Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Felix Doubront Jon Lester Jonathan Papelbon Jose Iglesias Michael Almanzar Nick Cafardo Mail Bag Ryan Rowland-Smith Stephen Drew 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.

53 Responses to “Cafardo Mail Bag: Mission Impossible Edition” Subscribe

  1. Lyndsay June 18, 2013 at 7:44 PM #

    Can I offer some constructive criticism? It is very difficult in this format to tell what the questions from the general public writing to Nick are, and what Nick's responses are. And it's a lot easier to see where your opinion on it Chip is coming from when I can read what the reader asked and what Nick said first, since the point of this column is to present Cafardo's handling of the question and contrast it with Firebrand's. Can you structure this post so it's easier for the reader to tell what voices are speaking? Thanks.

    • Chip Buck June 18, 2013 at 7:54 PM #

      Hey Lindsay. Thanks for the comment. Tim and I do the mail bag in different ways. I very rarely include Nick's response, and have always done it more as if the readers were asking me the questions directly. Occasionally, I'll reference how Nick responded, but it's rare. The only place in the piece where I actually placed any of Nick's commentary was in the first two blurbs. Everything else was in the format I described earlier. I'll go into the back end of the site to separate the two parts to make it easier to read.

    • Chip Buck June 19, 2013 at 6:58 AM #

      One more point, Lindsay. The point of the Cafardo mailbag, for me, was never to present Cafardo's handling the question…or at least it wasn't when I created this feature a couple of years ago. My goal with this piece has always been to re-answer the questions rationally and logically while providing some occasional snark where needed. I felt (and still feel) that was lacking in Cafardo's answers.

      When I went on my six month sabattical, Tim took over the mail bag for me and added Cafardo's responses. While it's a different style and angle than mine, he's done an excellent job with it. As I see it, we're like Stewart and Colbert. We're both providing similar info, but we're doing it in a different way. Some will prefer one over the other, but we're both awesome.

  2. Mikey Boots June 19, 2013 at 12:32 AM #

    I wouldn't mind if you put Cafardies responses right next to yours. I'm nor saying I agree with everything you say/write, but your arguements look like asimov compared to my niece. Except my niece doesn't try to start media and team drama through senseless articles and incredibly ridiculous biases

  3. Dave K June 19, 2013 at 1:38 PM #

    What's the point if we can't see Cafardo's responses for comparative purposes?

    • Chip Buck June 19, 2013 at 2:59 PM #

      Copied and pasted from my response to Lindsay:

      The point of the Cafardo mailbag, for me, was never to present Cafardo's handling the question…or at least it wasn't when I created this feature a couple of years ago. My goal with this piece has always been to re-answer the questions rationally and logically while providing some occasional snark where needed. I felt (and still feel) that was lacking in Cafardo's answers.
      ========================================================
      If you want to see Cafardo's responses, feel free to check out his column.

  4. Gerry June 19, 2013 at 2:15 PM #

    Hi Chip, i get a kick out of the mailbag, and never like reporters pushing their agendae, but all of the do. Nick was so wrong on Hamilton, Valentine but so were many others. He was right on Iggy, and getting Pap back is certainly worthy of conversation. As Pete Abe (a non-Iggy supporter) wrote, if you take away ALL of Iggy's infield hits, even the legit ones barely in reach of SS, his BA would tumble to .297. In other words, he is learning to hit, probably as an above average SS, which would make Iggy truly elite. Time will tell, but he is helping the team win alot of games. It is likely that Iggy's offseason work, strength building, plus just being a year older, stronger, smarter has allowed his bat to catch up. For once I am grateful for Nick's agenda.

    Btw, the Sox won a key doubleheader with kudos to Doubront, Acevas, Nava, Gomes. Lackey is ace-like. Ross and Buch are on the DL with Youk and Teix. Bradley, Bogaerts, DLR, Workman, Wilson are pounding on the door. Meanwhile one of my go to Sox sources talks about Trivial Sweets and old news podcast 141 is headlining? Que pasa?????

    • Chip Buck June 19, 2013 at 2:57 PM #

      It's WAY, WAY, WAY too early to say if Nick was right on Iglesias. You're taking way too much out of a great stretch of 102 plate appearances, and completely ignoring the 900+ awful plate appearances in AAA. Could he have improved at the plate? Absolutely. I would not doubt that he's made some improvement. Has he improved this much? No way. His BABIP is sitting right at .500. If we were to drop it to a league average rate of .300 (which is about 20 points above his AAA average), he would be hitting .261/.304/.412 mark. That's good, but it assumes that all of those regression outs would included only singles and not any of the doubles. It's tough to say what he should be hitting exactly, but I can certainly tell you that you shouldn't be banking on Iglesias being a good (or even passable) hitter yet.

  5. Tim Brooks June 19, 2013 at 3:50 PM #

    I say things like "loco" and "cray cray." True Story.

    • Chip Buck June 19, 2013 at 4:25 PM #

      I thought you'd like that, Tim. Haha :)

  6. Dale Sams June 20, 2013 at 11:44 PM #

    I've never understood these things…but I will say…the Doubront and Bailey comments are heeeeelarious.

    Hell they were hilarious when they were written. Doubront has pitched quite well (before his 8 inning start), and for a supposed fifth starter???

    And obviously the Bailey comments…say no more guv, say no more.

    Actually I will say more. This isn't the only place to write a 'don't panic' article on or around the 17th. And literally three days later, Bailey is out of the picture.

    • Chip Buck June 21, 2013 at 2:24 PM #

      Dale – I'm not so sure what's so funny about either responses. At the time, there wasn't a rational reason for concern about Bailey. It was just Red Sox Nation doing what they do best–panic. Now, after three blown saves, we can see that maybe it's time to make a move. Prior to this rough stretch that's come *after* he's come back from the DL, Bailey had pitched really well this year. If you can't see that, I can't help you. My educated guess is that he's still feeling the effects of is injury.

      As for Doubront, calling him a disappointment was fair. Given his stuff, one would have logically expected him to progress beyond his inconsistent, walk happy five inning outings that have personified his 2012 campaign. I wasn't saying that he was disappointing a fifth starter. Instead, I was saying that the fact he had minimal growth. My reasoning within the article literally could not have been more clear.

      • Dale Sams June 21, 2013 at 11:24 PM #

        3 days ago, Bailey was exactly the same as he's been since coming back from his injury. Lowered velocity and dirty innings…he also seemed to be eschewing his breaking stuff, but I actually saw a couple of those before the game was over yesterday,

        There's panic and then there's Gagne-like inevitiblity. And that was Bailey. He hasn't done anything since 2010, and that was only at the Coliseum. This wasn't Papelbon blowing two straight in Colorado/ "replace him!". THAT'S panic, Bailey had more red flags than a hurricane warning. And even when he was doing well earlier this year, I called it effectively wild.

        tl;dr: If it wasn't time to panic two innings ago, how can it be now? It's just two more innings.

        As for Doubront: He's given up more than three earned runs twice in 13 appearances. But yes, you are right…it would be nice if he went longer (no sarcasm)

        And seriously, you can't see the humor of you defending Bailey and criticizing Doubront right before the last three days?

        • Chip Buck June 22, 2013 at 9:34 PM #

          Bailey prior to going on the DL – 24/4 K/BB, @ HR allowed, and a 1.74 ERA. After the DL, 9.00 ERA, 4 HR allowed, and a 6/7 K/BB. The difference between now and when I wrote my opinion is that I'm not willing to jump to conclusions over a couple of bad games. The difference now is that it appears as if there's actually something wrong with him. THAT is the issue. Bailey pre-injury was pretty fucking fantastic. Honestly, I think you're looking for issues. Fans like you aren't happy unless they're whining about something.

          As for "criticizing" Doubront, I think you're being WAY too overly sensitive about that. I provided a reasonable critique which 99% of baseball analysts and MSM writers would make about him. I'm sorry that doesn't fit your fan boy view of Doubront, but it's true. He hasn't taken that next step forward. He hasn't gotten more efficient. He's pitching at the same level as he did last season, which means…wait for it…he hasn't taken that next step forward. For someone with high quality swing and miss stuff, that's a little disappointing. It's not like we're talking quantum physics here.

          • Dale Sams June 23, 2013 at 10:59 PM #

            "Fans like you aren't happy unless they're whining about something. "

            "fanboy"

            WOW….I've actually posted here a number of times, and never heard that. You've always been polite before. But I won't be making that mistake again, You sir can go royally fuck yourself and take your shitty spammed website and shove it up your ass.

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