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Pause for Concern

In the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo writes about a disappointing start for the Red Sox:

“Of course I’m concerned,’’ wrote Sox owner John Henry in an e-mail. “We can’t dig ourselves too deep a hole. The Yankees and Tampa Bay are so strong.’’

…There are no such things as major shakeups in baseball because there are guaranteed contracts and it’s hard to sit a player making $12 million. Injuries certainly take their toll on any team, and the Sox have been without their leadoff hitter/igniter Jacoby Ellsbury. The Sox are 1-6 since Ellsbury exited the lineup after a collision with teammate Adrian Beltre last Sunday in Kansas City. They lost two out of three to the Twins, then were swept in four games by the Rays.

Henry wouldn’t comment on whether he believes there needs to be a shake-up, indicating that was more general manager Theo Epstein’s responsibility.

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1 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 20, 2010 7:39 am

it’s hard to sit a player making $12 million


2 Sliced Bread   ~  Apr 20, 2010 8:28 am

tsk. Hate to see small mahket teams suffah like this.
(pause for concern)
Clearly, they have no choice but to trade Lestah for Damon.

3 RIYank   ~  Apr 20, 2010 8:45 am

[1] And in any case, did Cafardo mean Ortiz, or Lowell?

[2] Wicked hahd.
It's time faw rotiz t'go. A great run, I have the greatest respect faw Big Papi, heah's yaw check, don't let the door hit you on yaw way out, ya know what I mean?

(That was the Rhode Island version.)

4 rbj   ~  Apr 20, 2010 8:49 am

So is Henry telling Theo to fire the manager who won the first two Red Sox WS championships in 86 years? Henry doesn't want the blood on his hands?

5 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 20, 2010 8:49 am

[1] Probably because teams aren't willing to give up on the potential performance that caused them to pay $12mn in the first place. While the money is a sunk cost, the expectations aren't. It's kind of like throwing good money after bad. Most of the times you just lose more money, but on occasion you recoup your losses. I don't agree with the logic, but what are the alternatives? It could be that the Red Sox don’t think Lowell can perform either. Going into the season, I thought Boston’s year hinged on Big Papi, so it might make sense to send him out there every game and cross your fingers.

6 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 20, 2010 8:50 am

The silliest suggestion is sending Lester down to the minors. If that’s an option, then Boston can fold up its tent.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 20, 2010 8:54 am

It’s clearly early, but I think the Sox early season struggles does raise some questions about the strategy of relying on older/injured players to anchor a defensive philosophy. I think that’s the bigger flaw in Boston’s approach because I am going to assume they weren’t foolish enough to use UZR as their guiding defensive metric (they must have a better, more sophisticated in-house approach, right?). Too many people bought into the kool-aid about how Theo had exploited a neglect of defense, when the reality is Boston won’t win unless they pitch and hit.

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:02 am

I'm willing to completely ignore the Sox's current record and continue to believe they're a force in the division. Lester always starts slow. Platoon Papi and just wait for things to gel, that's the sum of my suggestions.

9 Sliced Bread   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:09 am

yeah, it's way early, so why not enjoy it while we can?
The Cafardo thing is Taster's Cherce, Art of the Morning, and Beat of the Day all rolled into one.
I laughed, danced, marveled and feasted.

10 Paul   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:23 am

It's not that surprising to me. They aren't this bad, but when we consider that defensive metrics are not reliable, and certainly not as reliable as offensive metrics, I don't know why some folks were so positive the Sox had improved. Offense was always going to carry them at home, until they sacrificed the offense. And they did. Beltre was the only sure thing among the acquisitions and his OBP is historically awful. Scutaro is average defensively and offensively. And Cameron was ripe for rapid decline especially considering the CF in Miller Park is easy compared to Fenway. Then when we consider the catching - 21 SB against 1 CS or 50% worse than the next worst team (Arizona) - one of the most important defensive positions was punted. And that sums up the real problem. Where the Sox are truly bad, they have no backup plan. Now consider that they were planning on trading Lowell - who should be the DH right now.

I still expect the Sox to win 90 games because of their home park and their righty-heavy lineup. That will keep them in the hunt for most of the season. But I don't see a team - even at their best - that can truly compete with the Yankees or Rays. They have the pitching and not much else. V-Mart at catcher was a huge mistake. And that goes back to the Beltre signing. If they thought he'd be so great, why didn't they lock him up for more than one year? It's not like this year's free agent crop is much better.

11 Shaun P.   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:24 am

Its a shame the Red Sox aren't as influenced by the Boston media as they once were. It would be nice if the Sox would over-react to a sample that doesn't worry me, though I like all the losses.

The Red Sox fans, on the other hand, . . . . they are still happy to over-react to this, as usual. At least from what I've seen/heard/read over the last week.

12 RIYank   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:26 am

[7] Yeah, I think we're seeing one good reason defense is undervalued. I'm perfectly willing to believe it's undervalued. The problem is that it's so difficult to identify in a better-than-impressionistic way that it's not smart to spend your money on it. Interesting.

Much more pause for concern: Will Carroll is twittering about a "Ped suspension incoming"
"More on suspension -- has already been through appeals process. This + came in spring training. most likely."
"For those playing the speculating game, I do not think it is a repeat offender. It is also *not* an amphet +."

(I don't tweet, caught this on Metsblog.)

13 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:34 am
14 Paul   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:35 am

[8] "Platoon Papi"

The real problem is he should have been platooned in 2008 and 2009 - check his splits. His manager has completely undermined him at this point. We're going on the third season in a row where he isn't a full-time player anymore.

"just wait for things to gel, that’s the sum of my suggestions."

And at catcher? The Sox pitching is getting rocked when no one is on-base. What if they're so afraid of walking guys and watching them easily end up in scoring position that they are throwing too many strikes?

"I am going to assume they weren’t foolish enough to use UZR as their guiding defensive metric (they must have a better, more sophisticated in-house approach, right?)"

But really, what could they use with guys that aren't their own players, especially guys that don't play in Fenway all that much? So yeah, I bet they used UZR or some other publicly accessible metric for at least Beltre and Cameron.

It isn't just old guys - the defensive stats are flaky and way too many people put too much faith in them - like a religious choice. Given the number of observations the R is just bad, especially for OF. The new cameras will help, but I really wonder if we're pushing the limits of empiricism. Where and how balls are hit may be so variable as to swamp any individual player's skill. I mean, I don't believe Jeter simply improved years of decline from some simple off-season exercises.

15 Paul   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:39 am

"Its a shame the Red Sox aren’t as influenced by the Boston media as they once were."

You mean like Mirabelli?

I have little doubt they'll overreact this year if the season is going down the toilet. It could net them Adrian Gonzalez but they'll give up Kelly, Anderson, and Reddick to do so. They have the money freed up next year and there's little available that they don't already have.

The real fun part is teams are going to humiliate them on the basepaths all season long. And there's little they can do about that.

16 Paul   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:47 am

Here's the Sox pitching split with no one on base:

.281/.349 /.494

I'm guessing they're throwing meatballs rather than put someone on base.

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 20, 2010 9:57 am

Considering some of the slow starts the division-winning Yanks have had, I don't think 4-9 should be THAT much of an alarm.

How about RELEASING Papi, and playing Hermida full-time and Lowell as full-time DH?

18 a.O   ~  Apr 20, 2010 10:24 am

[8] I guess you have to say that since you believe they will win the AL East. It is the same logic that keeps the $12M underperformers in the lineup. But of course you're right: Way too early to draw conclusions.

19 Yankster   ~  Apr 20, 2010 11:06 am

[8] [18] There's nothing more wonderful than hearing that the Sox, who made an awkwardly heavily cutting edge stat-influenced set of off season choices, are going to wait for their players to regress (upward) to their means. It's a real pleasure to have them sailing actively into the abyss, certain of their infallibility, of their direction. On the other hand, it means extra wins for the Rays, which are clearly happy and hungry.

The alternative to the Sox approach is what the Yanks did: a bit of the blend of the stats and the old school: get people with great attitudes (Teix, Granderson, Swish), that also have great new school stats, like pitches seen, or on base, stats that seem to be occluded from other teams by the presence of behavior like strikeouts and ugly swings.

Woo hah! And Cliff, it was brave to support the new defensive Sox approach, and I hope you will keep analyzing where it works and why it isn't adding up to wins. If they win the AL East, I'll certainly be awed by your powers of prognostication.

20 RIYank   ~  Apr 20, 2010 11:56 am

Here's a fun question.
What position players on the Red Sox would start on the Rays?

My Little Pony makes the cut because Zobrist is mainly the RF.
Maybe JD Drew could snatch an OF spot, although not judging by his 2010 production.

I won't ask which Sox could start on the Yankees; that would just be rubbing it in.

21 seamus   ~  Apr 20, 2010 12:08 pm

It's way too early to draw any real conclusions. But, if this holds my very low opinion of the 2010 Red Sox will be justified. But they are certainly better than 4-9. Not many teams aren't.

22 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 20, 2010 12:30 pm

The pause just got a little longer...Edes is reporting Cameron may miss 6 weeks. Again, even if you agree with the defensive metrics, basing a strategy around older/injured players is risky (especially when there is much doubt about the quantified upside).

23 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 20, 2010 12:36 pm


"Mike Cameron, who was scratched from yesterday's lineup and sent to Massachusetts General Hospital, has been diagnosed with an abdominal tear near the attachment site of the abdominal muscle and the pelvis, according to a team source. The injury is a type of sports hernia, and will send Cameron to the disabled list, enabling the Sox to bring up a much-needed replacement. "



24 RIYank   ~  Apr 20, 2010 12:41 pm

Oh, man, that sounds painful.
So it wasn't a kidney stone after all.

Yeah, people didn't talk all that much about the risk of hiring a 37 year old as your starting CF -- when the "old team!" warnings were bleated it was, as usual, the Yankees who got the finger wagged at them.

I seriously wish Cameron as speedy a recovery as possible.

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