Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Proposal

Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday we were punting beer cans at unsuspecting geriatrics and walking shirtless down Boylston. Okay, the last part might still be happening and will continue to happen for the next two years, but I digress.

So lets recap, see ya later Ellsbury and Saltalamacchia (Thanks be to God, and also with you, however that goes). Hello AJ Pierzynski and hello again Mike Napoli.

As of right now the lineup would look like this:

Victorino (S)
Nava/Gomes (S/R)
Pedroia (R)
Ortiz (L)
Napoli (R)
Bogaerts (R)
Pierzynski (L)
Middlebrooks (R)
Bradley Jr. (L)

That isn't a terrible lineup but losing the continuity of Ellsbury at the top of the order along with his base stealing ability will have some impact but not as much as you may think. Because as Billy Beane and Co. have taught us you are replacing aggregates NOT raw numbers. However, if there is the possibility to improve the lineup and I think there is, we should not hesitate to make the deal.

While I like Jackie Bradley Jr., having two other unknowns in the lineup in Middlebrooks and Bogaerts, invites the possibility for a slump by 33% of your lineup. I fully believe that Bogaerts will hit but the fact is that 1/3 of your guys don't have a full continuous season in Major League Baseball and that is difficult to bank on as a big market team. Playing two players with a limited track record is much more easily masked throughout a lineup of nine than three players, as odds are you will have to hit two of three back to back at some point (as evidenced above). Therefore, do you smell it? Yup I smell a trade.

It's time to call up the Milwaukee Brewers and look into their right-handed hitting outfielder. No not the one that drags innocent urine sample collectors through the mud, the other one.

My Proposal:

Red Sox Acquire: Carlos Gomez
Brewers Acquire: Clay Buchholz, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts

Why this makes sense for the Red Sox:


Carlos Gomez was the 2nd best CF in the NL last year in terms of WAR (7.6 tied with Miguel Cabrera) and would fill the void that Jacoby Ellsbury left at the top of the order. He also plays a better defensive center field than Ellsbury. He may not steal as many bases or hit from the left side but he just turned 28 and will be for the duration of the 2014 campaign. For those of you that are not familiar with what Gomez did last year for the Brewers let's have a looksee, shall we?





While Ellsbury walks a little more and strikes out less they are fairly equal offensively. He clearly has more power as evidenced in the .100 point difference in ISO and the .08 difference in SLG. Surprisingly in terms of overall runs created he created 30% more runs than an average player while Ellsbury only created 13%. Gomez was worth 1.8 more wins than Ellsbury last year by and large because of his defense. In looking at his scouting report he has a plus arm which would put plus arms in both RF and CF which is invaluable given how spacious Fenway Park is. It's not outrageous to say that he is double the player that Ellsbury is defensively.

Trading away Clay Buchholz may be a risky decision however in order to get something of value you must give up something of value. He may be a classic case of thriving in a different environment. The raw ability is there without question, but his inability to stay on the field for the Red Sox has made him far from "untouchable".

Bradley Jr. would no longer be necessary in the Red Sox organization because of the presence of Gomez therefore he would have to be in the trade and would replace Gomez in CF for the Brewers.

Why this makes sense for the Brewers:

The Brewers are not competing for a World Series in 2014. But in looking at their depth chart they have Yovanni Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and a bunch of nobodies, aka need to acquire pitching. No one wants to go to Milwaukee unless they overpay so acquiring  via trade would seem to be their best bet in obtaining talent for their staff.

Enter Clay Buchholz.

When healthy he is very good, and would really lengthen their staff and has a relatively affordable contract. Obviously health is an issue and this would be contingent on health. In an abridged season for him he was masterful at times and worth 3.2 WAR. Pairing him against Lohse and Gallardo, he is unarguably the best pitcher of the three, which would give Milwaukee a top of the rotation-type pitcher.


Jackie Bradley would be the perfect center fielder for a team that is most likely not going to be in contention and can "get his feet wet" with a full year in the majors while not having to do so in the pressure cooker that is Boston, not to mention be cost controllable for the next 6-7 years.

Mookie Betts is someone that the Red Sox genuinely like and have said that he has the athletic ability to play other positions. However, he is blocked by Red Sox for life Dustin Pedroia at his primary position, Xander Bogaerts is a better player and is ready now to become a star at either 3B or SS so he is expendable and his value could not be higher despite being in A ball. His slash line of .314/.417/.506 along with 15 HR and 38 SB is definitely intriguing for a smaller market team to acquire.

If the Brewers were close to contending I don't think they would even think of doing this, but acquiring young affordable talent for 3-4 years down the road for when they are ready is something that makes sense for the Brewers at this juncture.

In terms of money, this also works because the AAV of Carlos Gomez is 8 million  and the AAV of Clay Buchholz is 7.7. So you are essentially taking on 300K of salary between those two players which would even out when you factor in that JBJ is getting the league minimum (500K ish) for the year for the Brewers.

Here's hoping the trade-winds blow our way and we can talk about more than just an agitator behind the dish.

Stay Tuned
Norton

Monday, October 21, 2013

World Series Preview-dictions

The Red Sox are back in the World Series in a rematch of the 2004 showdown with only 3 familiar faces in the games. The only two players that are still around on both teams are David Ortiz and Yadier Molina whom was a 22 year old rookie during that World Series. The only other hold over is Mike Matheny then catcher, but current manager for St. Louis. Personally I thought the Dodgers were a much better match up for the Red Sox because they have the edge in most aspects of the game. The Cardinals are a mirror image in most ways and this series is going to go the distance.

The Red Sox and Cardinals respectively beat teams that were widely selected to win their leagues pre season. However, The Red Sox and Cardinals both beat Cy Young award winners in their Championship Series' and runs were definitely at a premium for both teams.

Looking at the probably pitching match ups and how each pitcher has fared against the opposition goes as follows:

It is pretty plain to see that that most of these pitchers have not faced any of the other batters more than a handful of times or not at all. This should lead to numerous pitcher's duels throughout the series. Wainwright has never pitched against the Red Sox in his career and the player with the most success against him is Victorino with a .227 batting average, yikes.

As you all know I am an avid ball-washer of Jon Lester and he can and will go pitch for pitch with Wainwright but you're going to see pitching performances in Game 2 and Game 3 by Michael Wacha and John Lackey respectively that will reinvigorate your love for the game of baseball.

While I would certainly consider moving Lackey to Game 2 given that he and Lester have been the best two starters in the playoffs for the Red Sox. Game 3 means you're going in Game 7. Do you want any part of this no-stamina version of Clay Buchholz in a Game 7? Me either. There is also something to be said that keeping Buchholz on a normal rest schedule (4 days) may improve his command for his pitches instead of the longer layoff in between games. John Lackey has shown that a layoff didn't bother him in the ALCS and the way he has controlled his emotions and thrown with conviction exudes confidence going in any game this series. One other thing to take into account is that Lackey and Peavy are better hitters than Buchholz as well. Keeping Buchholz away from doing anything other than the required pitching and fielding motions would seem to be very important.

Michael Wacha however has been the most dominating starter in the post season and has an ERA of 0.43 and 22 strikeouts and 8 hits, in 21 innings pitched. Couple this with the fact that not one player on the Red Sox has ever faced him, if you thought the Detroit pitching staff shut down the Red Sox offense Michael Wacha is going to make Scherzer and Verlander look like "Way Back" Wasdin and Rolando Arrojo.

With a hat tip to Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs:

During the regular season Michael Wacha's velocity per pitch looked like this:

Fastball: 93.6 miles per hour
Changeup: 85.9
Curveball: 75.6

Solid for any starter, probably topping out at 95-96 but sitting around 93-94. Now looking at the postseasons numbers:

Fastball: 95.5 miles per hour
Changeup: 88.4
Curveball: 77.3

He has added 2 miles per hour to every pitch making him damn near unhittable living at 95-96 but topping out at 98-99. This has Complete game shut out written all over it in Game 2 (and possibly Game 6) for the Cardinals.


Looking at the overall starting pitching in this series I'm calling Wainwright and Lester a wash. Wacha versus vintage Gibson, I'm taking Wacha right now so he has the advantage in any game he's throwing. Buchholz is a shell of himself right now with no stamina, no velocity, and I almost think you throw him against Wacha and hope he gets lucky so as to not waste Lackey who will assuredly give you a very good start. But giving up 1 run may be like 10 in Game 2. Lackey has faced two guys (Beltran and Holliday) on the Cardinals and they are a combined (0-16). If he shuts down those two players he should win the first game in St. Louis. This match up is also not favorable for Peavy either and I fear he will get lit up in Game 4. Lynn versus Peavy will be a lot like the Fister versus Peavy game in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Starting Rotations: Push

As well as the Red Sox bullpen has pitched this postseason the St. Louis bullpen has been just as dominant. Each team has 3 relievers with 0.00 ERAs. Uehara has a 1.00 and Tazawa has a 1.80. Martinez and Axford have also both been VERY good too with a 2.70.

Two dark horses that I think could play a big role in this series are:

Ryan Dempster: With Buchholz not looking like himself and Peavy almost pre-destined to lay an egg versus the Cardinals, Dempster in long relief needs to pitch well. Dempster's ability to either limit damage or provide length in the bullpen may be huge in making sure the core relievers don't get completely gassed during the series.

Randy Choate: Choate hasn't given up a run in this postseason and he will be the late reliever you see against David Ortiz (3-9 with 3 RBI lifetime). If the Red Sox win this one-on-one it would go a long way to winning the series.

Trevor Rosenthal and Koji Uehara have both been as dominant as you could ask for as closers, with a .71 and .56 WHIP respectively.

Bullpens: Push

The Cardinals lineup is very similar to the Red Sox where it has a few run producers but a lot of role players that come up with timely hits.

Carlos Beltran has the strange ability to morph into Stan Musial once the calendar flips to October. He has 2HR 8BB 12 RBIs in 11 games this postseason and he always seems to be up during the most crucial at bat of the game for the Red Birds. Shutting him down in the series is paramount if the Red Sox want to win.

Going to a National League park is a serious disadvantage both offensively and defensively for the Red Sox whom have to lose one of their biggest power threats in each game. Given that the Cardinals don't have any lefty starters, I would expect Ortiz to play in at least 2 out of 3 in St. Louis.

Allen Craig is coming back which gives them a better option at DH than most NL teams would have going into an American League stadium, but his level of effectiveness remains to be seen given that he has been out a month and a half.

Both teams need to get runs off the starters in order to win, because runs will most likely be hard to come by with the bullpen's pitching the way they have been pitching.

Lineups: Slight advantage Red Sox when at home/Slight advantage Cardinals when at home. Push

In terms of overall team defense or DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) the Red Sox are at +9 for the year while the Cardinals come in at -39.

To put it in perspective, the chart at left shows what the overall defensive numbers would look like for one player. It is obvious that +9 is leaps and bounds better. But positionally the Red Sox are markedly better in CF, RF, 2B and 1B.

The teams are close at 3B, SS and LF. But where the Cardinals have a huge advantage is behind the dish. Yadier Molina, as we have gone through at length here, is the best defensive catcher in baseball. What the Red Sox have done better than any team in baseball this year is run the bases. Stealing bases and putting pressure on other teams by advancing the extra base (See Middlebrooks, Will in Game 5 ALCS) has been a huge part to this teams success.

Yadier Molina is the X-Factor in this series because he is the deterrent of every team's running game. He threw out (20 of 46) 43% of runners this year. The fact that there were only 46 attempts against Molina in 132 games behind the dish speaks volumes.
Here is a video from the NLDS. I have his pop time here at 1.97 seconds. (Time it if you want, as soon as the ball hits his glove to the nanosecond the 2nd baseman touches it) If the pitchers can get the ball to the plate in 1.5 or better (I had Martinez at 1.27), that means that mathematically the Red Sox will have to get to 2nd base faster than 3.24 seconds. That's a tall task for Ellsbury or Berry let alone anyone else. This could be a major problem for the Red Sox because the strongest player on the Cardinals makes the biggest strength for the Red Sox (base running) seemingly non-existent. This should not go unnoticed and should actually be frightening.

The overall team defense advantage goes decidedly to the Red Sox, but the caliber of defense that Yadier Molina plays is that of vintage Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez and you won't see many catchers that are as defensively gifted in any era in the history of the game.

Advantage: Red Sox

This managerial face off is also just as close as every other aspect of this series. Both managers in my opinion (outside of the Franklin Morales decision, seriously Farrell, you were just trolling us right?) have worked their pitching staffs brilliantly in the playoffs. Pulling the right strings at the right times leading to victories that other managers *Cough Don Mattingly Cough* just aren't mentally capable of accomplishing.

They have been swift and deliberate with taking the starters out of the games, and virtually both everything that they have touched has turned to gold. However two things to be aware of for each manager:

Farrell: He's going to stick with Drew. Get over it. There are only right-handed starters for St. Louis, and he is an above average defensive shortstop. That being said, he needs to be prepared to hit for him in this series in the later innings if this slump continues. Not only does he need to be prepared to hit for him, but Bogaerts needs to be moved to 7 in the order while in the NL stadium. Bogaerts is making more contact than Drew and putting Bogaerts in the 8 hole will negate his bat because the 8 hole gets pitched around in the National League in order to face the pitcher. Also Drew getting on base via IBB will be a welcome site compared to the lonely walk back to the dugout every time up at bat.

Matheny: Matheny needs to find a way to put pressure on both Saltalmacchia and Bogaerts. Without being reckless he needs to steal all day on Saltalamacchia simply because he can be stolen on. I am not an advocate of bunting to sacrifice outs but Bogaerts hasn't had many slow rollers at third base and testing him early in the series is something that should be explored. A natural shortstop has the range but it's a different angle to play and may be able to be exploited.

Manager: Push 

These teams are so evenly-matched. They both went 97-65 in the regular season. They have good starting pitching, lock down bullpens, adept at grinding out at bats and mangers that are decisive with sound reasoning for their moves and I expect this to be a World Series that people talk about for a long time. 

I'm taking the Red Sox in 7 games but the Cardinals are not to be over-looked. This is a very good team that can beat the Red Sox and is a much more difficult match up than the Detroit Tigers or the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Stay Tuned

Norton







Thursday, October 10, 2013

Changing up the Rotation

After watching the way that Farrell managed Game 4 versus the Tampa Bay Rays, I would say that my criticism that letting Stephen Drew bat against McGee was in fact the wrong decision and he has learned from his mistakes and won't ever do anything to my disliking again. Well, maybe not, but I thought that was one of his finest games at the helm of the Red Sox and he out-managed  a guy who drinks wine and wears hipster glasses, which clearly correlates to great managing.

(***Note: I still stand by my pick of Oakland in 5***)

All tire-pumping aside, I think the rotation needs a slight alteration for the ALCS, and it should go as follows:

Lester
Buchholz
Lackey
Peavy

Right now he has only really announced that Lester will start Game 1, and I think this is the reason for the non-announcement for the rest of the series. Let's delve, shall we?

Performances all around were ranging from Very Good (Lester and Peavy) to Competitive but not Great (Buchholz and Lackey).

Lester is the consensus number one, if anyone disputes that I would advise you to go watch a new sport like Professional Lacrosse.

Buchholz sort of slogged through his outing with the inability to keep the ball down consistently despite only giving up the one mistake. Lackey was sort of what Lackey is, a guy that competes, and usually keeps his team in the game. Also knowing that he had 10 days off in between starts spoke to his lack of command during parts of the game.

But I am proposing that Buchholz be the Game 2 starter instead of Game 3 in the upcoming series regardless of opponent. I know that Lackey has pitched better at home this season than on the road, however in his career he has better peripheral numbers than Buchholz in both Comerica Park and the Oakland Colosseum.

Lackey, coming from Anaheim, has had more than his fair share of Oakland and he has done very well in that stadium.

One of the main reasons for Lackey pitching in Fenway in the ALDS was to neutralize the left-handed batters which have a massive right field to deal with at The Fens compared to a more hitter-friendly Tropicana Field. In this case both ballparks are massive and it shouldn't really matter where he starts in this series.

Looking ahead to a potential series with Oakland as I predicted, Sonny Gray the best starting pitcher on the A's, is going to win seemingly any time he steps out there. Unless he throws on short rest he'll go Game 3 and then again in a potential Game 7. I want Lackey, someone that has more success in the Colosseum to try and match him zero for zero instead of Buchholz and his 9.58 ERA in Oakland.

Buchholz, for whatever reason (better competition?) has struggle in both of those parks. Despite being 2-2 against the A's in his career the gaudy numbers that they have against him in Oakland (.342 avg, .440OBP, .492 SLG ) combined as a team are akin to their team being Freddie Freeman.Yeah, no thanks!

So, within this series, you may need to adjust for Buchholz the way you adjusted for Lackey in the last series and put Buchholz on the home rubber. Throwing him in Game 2 also ensures that he will throw at home again in Game 6 which puts your player once again in the best place to succeed.

For those impressed with Peavy and wanting him to pitch Game 2, I don't blame you. He was dominant, in control, and the kind of bulldog that a Curt Schilling was for the Red Sox in post season's past. Also, if not for match ups and was (rightly) pulled in the 6th he very well could have gone for a complete game. But I want him in the 4 spot for a myriad of reasons.


  • He is the new guy. Buchholz and Lackey have seniority on the team and in "baseball code" this does mean something. Also he's not selfish and doesn't view being the 4-starter as most teams actual 4-starter. They are pitching rich, and he gets it.
  • During the regular season he did not pitch so much better or worse than either Lackey or Buchholz to warrant being moved up in the rotation as a foregone conclusion. If he had pitched head and shoulders better it would make the first bullet obsolete but they were all by and large equal, in terms of overall production.
  • Situationally, I want him in the 4 spot. If the Red Sox are down 2-1 in a series (I don't see any team getting out to a 3-0 series lead) I actually have more confidence in him in the 4 spot than Lackey to come through and even the series at two games apiece and hand the ball back to Lester.
  • I have an unadulterated man crush on him, and when that happens only good things can happen for him (see Lester in 2012, oh wait.)
The Sox are set up as well as they can be heading into this series getting three days off (the perfect amount of rest) before their next series and they can line up their rotation as they see fit, I like them to advance no matter the opponent.


Stay Tuned

Norton

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Explaining John Farrell's Moves

John Farrell, like every other manager, coach or head of in-game decision making deserves to or at the very least is not immune to criticism. We should go over the in-game situations and whether it was a defensible decision.

(***Note: Do not base opinions on outcome, base it on thought process. No one likes a Monday Morning Quarterback.***)

Pitching to Evan Longoria with two outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, First Base open: 

Many people drew parallels to what Joe Maddon should have done by letting Ortiz beat him with a man on third and two outs but the situation is completely different. At this point, as manager, you are already behind 2-0 and you don't want to go down 3-0 by arguably the hottest hitter on the team especially with strikeout machine Mike Napoli on deck. The move should have been to walk Ortiz.

However, while up 3-0 if you walk Longoria you are putting the tying run on first base. Myers hasn't done much throughout the series admittedly, a double ties the game but a home run in that situation puts the Rays ahead while a home run with Longoria although difficult to stomach, only ties the game.

The other aspect is Clay Buchholz history vs. Evan Longoria and it has been largely one-sided. Entering yesterday's game in 34 at-bats Longoria had 7 hits (.206 average), 0 home runs, and 13 strikeouts. That number of strikeouts is the most for Clay Buchholz vs any batter and conversely the most for Evan Longoria vs any pitcher. This is called domination by a pitcher versus a batter.

Longoria is undoubtedly the best player on the Rays, and you don't want the best player to beat you on most occasions. But given Buchholz and his gaudy numbers versus one of the leagues best and ultimately putting the tying run on base is risky. Hindsight says you shouldn't have pitched to him, however at the time the call is totally defensible and what I would have done knowing the batter history vs said pitcher. Pitch selection however is a completely different argument.

Farrell Decision: Defensible

Pinch Running Quintin Berry for David Ortiz in the 8th inning:

This is another move that people are judging based on the outcome and the hindsight of not having Ortiz up in the 9th inning.

Quintin Berry has one job on the team during this post season: pinch run for David Ortiz or Mike Napoli late in the game and steal the base or score the run.

David Ortiz led off the 8th inning with a walk. (Lead off base runners score almost 40% of the time) Given that there is only one regulation inning afterwards the odds of the Red Sox batting around to get back to Ortiz, not impossible, but slim. Ortiz is not fleet of foot so any ball in the gap it is a question whether he can score from first, however with Berry, it is a certainty. Also Berry gives you the stolen base factor which is one more thing for relievers to think about which means their full focus is not on the batter. If there are any outs I doubt Ortiz comes out of the game, but given that no men have been retired in the inning you need someone that can run in that situation.

Berry then stole the base while Mike Napoli was up, in turn giving the Red Sox three opportunities to hit with a runner in scoring position without sacrificing an out to get a runner to second base. Ultimately the Red Sox didn't get a hit in the next three at-bats and Ortiz is out of the game for its duration.

Berry came in and did the only job he has on this team and if you aren't going to use him in this situation when would you use him?

Farrell Decision: Defensible

NOT Pinch-Hitting Bogaerts for Drew with 2 outs in the 8th inning: 

Jake McGee is on the hill, very hard throwing lefty that is actually better against righties (.217) than lefties (.235).

Stephen Drew at the plate has a wretched .196 batting average on the year vs lefties.

Xander Bogaerts is on the bench, Jamey Wright (righty) warming up in the pen.

There comes a time when sticking with a player is detrimental to team success and that time comes when Stephen Drew faces lefties. If he starts the game versus a lefty I have no problem with it, but later in the game it is not beneficial to have a .196 hitter against a lefty especially one that has lefties only hitting .235 off of him. If the splits were above .250 for the year it could be an acceptable risk to let Drew bat.

Farrell's explanation:

"McGee has been dominant against right‑handed hitters. He's almost a right‑handed reliever in some ways because of the strong reverse splits he has," Farrell said. "Stephen is a good fastball hitter. We know McGee is going to come at us with 95 percent fastballs, if not more. There was no hesitation to leave Stephen at the plate."

*Full Disclosure: I understand there is a Small ML Sample Size here, however this is a player that EVERYONE expects to be handed the reigns at the beginning of next year. But we will use some Minor League Splits for a greater sample*

If Xander Bogaerts comes in the Rays might make a pitching change or they may let McGee face Bogaerts.


  • If they let McGee face Bogaerts LHP vs RHB (.298 avg, .926 OPS)
  • If the let Wright face Bogaerts RHP vs RHB ( .280 avg, .782 OPS)
The comment that "Stephen is a good fastball hitter" is also a bit contrite given that in a small sample size at the Major League level Bogaerts is hitting .600 against similar pitchers. Also, wouldn't you want a rookie batter up at the plate against a "one-trick pony" as McGee is with his fastball? If you want to take Ferrell's number at his words and you're getting 95% fastballs Bogaerts is one of the top prospects in all of baseball, the kid can hit a fastball, it would seem to at the very least be a push. 

If they make the pitching change then you get Jamey Wright on the hill, whom is a worse reliever than McGee and also his splits versus righties yield a .255 avg. 

So here's the decision:

Drew at .196 versus McGee .235 vs Lefties
Bogaerts at .298 versus McGee .217 Righties
Bogaerts at .280 versus Wright at .255 Righties

Most likely Maddon keeps McGee in the game and you get a slightly more-favorable matchup, albeit a big spot for a rookie, where a predominantly fastball pitching Southpaw versus a good fastball hitting right-handed batter

The decision Farrell made (letting Drew hit) was based largely on defense later in the game. But where you have already pinch ran for Ortiz in the inning you have already committed to needing this run to come in and assuring that you weakened your lineup for the right reasons. Not pinch hitting for Stephen Drew not only doesn't make sense it was borderline irresponsible. 

If, as a manager, you are unprepared to hit for a player with drastic splits as Drew has versus lefties and are that worried about his defense, then he should not be on the roster and John MacDonald should have gotten the roster spot. 

Farrell Decision: Indefensible

Shane Victorino bunting with runners on 1st and 2nd no one out in the 9th:

The semi-progressive baseball crowd saying, "you can't bunt with 1st and 2nd no one out, you're killing an inning" doesn't get it. 

While a runner on second with no one out has a 60% chance of scoring, all things being equal , a bunt gets you two runners in scoring position with Pedroia coming up. Great contact hitter. If Victorino doesn't get a hit you are looking at a 45% chance of getting the runner in with one out from second or a 54% chance of getting the run in with one out and the runner at 3rd.

It would be one thing if the personnel that you have bunting was incapable or unfamiliar to bunting but Shane Victorino is a virtual certainty at getting the bunt down. Therefore with one out you have a better than 50% chance of the run scoring with a guy that is in top 5 in the league in hardest to strike out.

Also, consider Victorino's thumb. A pitcher with a power sinker pounding him inside is asking for a weak ground ball to the left side and possible rally-killing double play.

Thinking ahead, they could possibly have intentionally walked Pedroia to get to Mike Carp who just a few weeks ago beat the Rays on a grand slam against a similar sinker ball pitcher. However, with a historically wild pitcher, Farrell made an educated guess thinking that they would pitch to Pedroia to give him some flexibility in case he walked someone. Also this move takes away Rodney's change-up. A pitch that frequently bounces in the dirt and gets away from the catcher, which leaves you with two players that feast on fastballs in Pedroia and Carp coming up in the next two batters.

Ultimately, he put his players in the best position to succeed with this decision. And the tying run ended up scoring so the juice was worth the squeeze.

Farrell Decision: Defensible


Very rarely are you going to see a successful double-switch in an American League game, which leads me to believe that the Rays got a little lucky, but sometimes its better to be lucky than good. The Red Sox are still in the drivers seat, and have an advantage going into Game 4 with Peavy getting the nod against Hellickson.

Stay Tuned

Norton

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oakland v Detroit preview

While you patiently await my Red Sox ALDS preview might as well preview the other AL match up.

Peripherals:

Oakland (96-66) won the season series from Detroit (93-69) 4 games to 3. Each team won one-run game.



While most people think the Tigers offense is a juggernaut, the Athletics have actually hit more home runs than the vaunted Motown Nine. The Tigers undoubtedly have the more well-known hitters and certainly have the advantage in batting average on the year, however the rest of the offensive stats are pretty close while leaning towards Detroit. This series should be very close and I expect it to go five games.

Oakland's defense and base running advantage can not be overlooked in this series. The Athletics have more than doubled the Tigers in steals on the year and I expect them to try and run as often as possible especially on Alex Avila and his Saltalamacchian 17% caught stealing percentage.

I will give the edge in overall offense to Detroit but its not a runaway. Base running and Defense give the edge to Oakland. If for some reason these two aspects of the game improve for Detroit or Oakland gets picked off/thrown out a lot, this series will be much shorter than the five games I see it at now.

Difference Makers:

This section we are going to look at the top 4 offensive catalysts for each team vs. the potential starters.

Just looking at Crisp's numbers I will make the educated guess that he will have the biggest impact offensively for the A's in this series followed by Donaldson who seems to be having one of "those years" and actually ended the year .1 WAR better than Miguel Cabrera. let that sink in.

Reddick whom already has numerous holes in his swing would seem to be destined for a rough series, but it's a short series and anyone can string a couple hits together during 5 days.

There are only 2 total career home runs by these four off the starting pitchers they are going to face both surprisingly by Coco Crisp, and despite their home run lead over the Tigers for the year, they have the capability to play small ball which may come into play given that runs may come at a premium in this series.

Cabrera obviously is one of the top 8 offensive players in Major League Baseball history, but his production vs these Oakland starters is impressive despite the relative small sample size. I would expect a ton of intentional walks and "not letting him beat you" out of the Athletics. (Note: Cabrera is not healthy, and although deserves attention, may not be the offensive force he usually is. It goes without saying without him being him this lineup can be pitched to.)


This would make Martinez probably the next bet to have a big series based on track record and history versus the Oakland starters. But each of these 4 has at least one home run against at least one of the pitchers.

Torii Hunter has 10 and 5 strikeouts respectively against Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker, he also has been handled well in a small sample size versus AJ Griffin.

Brass Balls:

Sometimes it's about stepping up when the light shines brightest and we need to look at the Postseason track records of the starters of these two series.

The Tigers starters as a whole have done a better job than Oakland in letting runners on base given that every pitchers WHIP is better than even the best WHIP of the Athletics. That should not go unnoticed.

However, I am starting to buy into the school of thought that Verlander can't pitch as well (or is not as good) in the postseason compared to the regular season. Maybe we should call him Peyton Verlander? I digress. His HR/9 goes up .6  and his ERA balloons in the postseason, which in 70 innings is a pretty substantial amount. I will not say that Verlander is a liability but his performance in October has not inspired ANY over-confidence. Sanchez however in 3 starts? Nails.

Griffin and Parker have had very little experience and Gray having none. Parker has had a rough go in 2 starts in the post season and Griffin was average in one start. I have watched 3 starts of Sonny Gray's, all Wins, and he is going to do EXACTLY what Matt Moore did to the Rangers in 2011. The fact that none of the Tigers have faced him only gives him an advantage and unless he turns into a puddle out on the mound, ala Rick Ankiel, I expect him to win his start no matter whom he is up against.

The Pens:

The Athletics have a decided advantage in bullpen. Although most would consider it a big advantage to be leading in GB% outside of Jose Iglesias everyone is below average on defense especially in range which means ground balls trickle through the holes a lot more often than most infield defenses.

If the Athletics can get into the Detroit bullpen they should have a wonderful opportunity against everyone except for Rondon who's 103 mph fastball is a tall task for nine Mike Trout's let alone the Oakland A's. But with Rondon being shut down at the end of the year his availability is still uncertain as of right this moment, along with fellow bullpen arm Phil Coke. This would be a significant disadvantage for the Tigers and one that could make for an early exit. If the starters get knocked around or run up the pitch count after six innings.

At the Helm:

While some may give the managing edge to Leyland because of pedigree I am not. I have watched him on multiple occasions this year run starters back out in the game when they had no reason to be out there, part of it because of a lack of confidence in the bullpen and the other part because he's a crotchety old-time baseball guy and believes his starters are borderline infallible.

I am however not giving the advantage to Bob Melvin either. Melvin has done a wonderful job guiding the A's to 2 consecutive playoff births and Division titles, but I haven't seen anything out of him that blows me away either. This is a Push.

Verdict:

The Tigers virtually eliminated themselves from World Series contention when they got no-hit by the Florida Marlins on the last day of the season. No team that has ever been no-hit in the regular season has ever went on to win the World Series. Science.

I will take Oakland in 5, because I believe that Verlander can be gotten to in the playoffs, for whatever reason, and I'm not sure why. But I can't remember a dominating performance out of him ever when the lights shine brightest. So, if he is pitching games 1 and 5 I'll take the Athletics.

Stay Tuned,

Norton