MLB Season Ends

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why My Optimism Is Waning

My friend Adam sent me a couple of interesting emails about the Red Sox and their current problems, and I have to agree with him that they are facing an uphill battle to make it to the postseason. Here's what he had to say:

Pitching problems aside, the Sox' offense hasn't been good.  Over the first 30 games, they averaged 5.30 runs per game.  In the 31 games since then, they're averaging 4.77 R/G.  While that's better than league average, if you remove one 12-run outburst, they're pretty much an average offense. 

As for the injuries, Ross is a platoon player; no one knows what to expect from Crawford; and Ellsbury's ETA is sketchy.  This is from
Peter Abraham:

Folks keep asking about when the injured players will come back. These are just guesses based on what little information is provided: Cody Ross (late June), Carl Crawford (around the break), Andrew Bailey (after the break) and Jacoby Ellsbury (after the break, maybe).
Ross hopes to start a rehab when the team gets back home. Crawford may be a week or two later as he builds up arm strength. Bailey is close to getting back on the mound. All three of those guys have said they feel good physically and are close to doing what they would normally do.

Ellsbury
is much harder to gauge because he hasn't been on the field as much.

The one injury no one is talking about is Pedey's.  He hasn't hit well since returning.  Food for thought, here's a comparison of Pedroia and Nick Punto since the injury:
 
Pedey – 8 GS (30 AB) .167 AVG/.257 OBP/.200 SLG
Punto – 7 GS (27 AB) .259 AVG/.333 OBP/.407 SLG

While those numbers are small sample, you have to question how long the Sox will let Pedroia play with a bad thumb.  Youk lost a third of a season with a thumb injury.  And thumb/wrist issues generally don't get better the more you play.  Pedey was hitting .295 AVG/.350 OBP/.450 SLG/.800 OPS before the injury.  Without DL time, the likelihood is Pedey will have a significantly worse season this year. 

Strangely enough, Adrian Gonzalez has an ever lower OBP than Pedey since May 28th.  Gonzo has been pretty bad all year.  With 38% of the season played, Gonzo has yet to have a month with an OBP over .337 or SLG over .436 (his total so far in June).  Although Gonzo's overall numbers were very good last year, 28% of his total HR hit as a member of the Red Sox were hit in May 2011.  Right now, the Sox are paying $21.5 million for a .263 AVG/.313 OBP/.416 SLG hitter.

Looking at the remaining schedule before the ASB, only 10 of their remaining 27 games are against sub-par teams.  They play three at Wrigley this weekend and have a West Coast swing for 7 games against Seattle and Oakland (the Sox don't generally play well in either place).  Atter they come back East, they play 4 games v. the MFY at Fenway before the ASB.  After the Break, the play 3 in TB, and are home for 4 v. the Chisox and 3. the Jays, before playing 3 in Texas and 3 in the Bronx Bedpan.  After this stretch, there will be two days until the Trade Deadline. 

If they break out or catch fire, they'll have to do it against some of the better teams in baseball.  Because if they're 52-52 at the Trade Deadline, they're pretty much done. 

This year's team isn't very good.  They have a shot because of the expanded playoffs.  But they are very flawed and aren't likely to acquire players through trades that will help.  They aren't going to get much for YoukMiddlebrooks and (maybe) Kalish are the only help available from the organization (there's no place to play Lavarnway).  I see them as an 85-88 win team max.  It'd be quite an accomplishment for this team to win 90 games.  If they win 95 games, it'd be one of the great turnarounds in baseball history. 

Personally, I think the best thing that could happen in the long run is for the Sox to do poorly this year, jettison their manager and retool.  I think they should move Ellsbury, once he's healthy, as he'd likely bring some useful players back.  I'd love to see Crawford tear it up when he gets back (which is unlikely), so the Sox have a shot at moving him and his ridiculous contract. 

One other thing to remember: while the Sox clearly miss Ellsbury's production (he was great last year), this year's team is getting far more production from LF than they got last year.  So far, Boston's cobbled together OF has produced the 3rd most productive LF in the AL (118 wRC+).  Last year's Sox LF was middle of the pack (88 wRC+).  Daniel Nava alone has been worth 1.1 WAR more than Crawford last year.  Furthermore, even assuming Crawford bounces back to become a 4 WAR player (probably his max away from the Trop), he'd max out at 1.3 WAR over the final two months of the season.  That's roughly Daniel Nava right now.  That's why I'm not breathlessly awaiting the return of Crawford.

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