Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CHB Tosses Papi Under The Bus. What a Shock.

Dan Shaughnessy thinks that David Ortiz is the biggest problem with the Red Sox. My friend Adam thinks otherwise, and sent me a very good analysis last night of the first week of Sox games so far:

No surprise here, I tend to disagree with CHB. Ortiz is hardly the Sox' biggest problem right now.

Looking at this team, the biggest problem is the bullpen. The Sox seemingly have little depth in their pen. I don't care whether or not Paps is as good as Rivera because the closer role is overrated. Having a dominant 60-70 IP is pretty meaningless unless the rest of the pen--the pitchers who throw the other 350+ relief innings--are good at their jobs.

Papelbon is a very good relief pitcher. Bard has a great arm. Oki is a good, not great, reliever. After that, the Sox have lots of questions. MDC's velocity is down. If he can return to his 2007/2008 form, the Sox are in good shape because MDC is a righty who is very tough on left-handed hitters. The bottom three pitchers in the pen--Ramirez, Atchison, and Schoeneweis--are nothing special. Even worse, Boston's pen lacks pitchers capable of consistently throwing multiple innings. This is very important. The MFY have at least three long relievers: Aceves, Mitre, and Park.

The lack of length and depth in the Sox' bullpen will have to be addressed. If it isn't, Sox fans better hope the starters go deep in games on a regular basis and/or the offense pounds other teams. Unless the Sox' pen improves or the FO makes a move, there will be a lot of pressure on the starters and the offense.

But, let's get back to CHB, a writer who has a singular inability to analyze baseball. While Shaughnessy has a rudimentary understanding of the game, he is very good at tearing down star players and making dire predictions. (Remember when Beckett wouldn't be re-signed?) The Sox have played 7 games and the season is 8 days old. While it's true Ortiz has struggled so far (.436 OPS), he isn't the only one. JD Drew (.536 OPS) and VMart (.650 OPS) haven't done much offensively so far. One could argue that both of these players are more important to the Sox' offense than Ortiz.

I'd prefer that the Sox started the season 7-0 and that the pitching and offense were flawless. Still, it's way too early to panic. CHB disagrees:

For starters, let's dismiss the notion that it's unfair to question Ortiz' place in the lineup after only one week. This is not a five-game sample, folks. It's a three-year trend.

By a "three-year trend," I'm assuming CHB really means the last two seasons and the first week of this season because Ortiz's best year was 2007. Considering the fact that Ortiz was hurt in 2008 and started slowly in 2009 because of the injury, panicking after Papi's bad first 6 games is dumb. In 2008, despite a wrist injury, Ortiz hit .264 AVG/.369 OBP/.507 SLG (.877 OPS) in 109 games. Ortiz hit .264 AVG/.356 OBP/.548 SLG (.904 OPS) in 104 games after June 1st last year. Anyone see a trend?

According to CHB, the Ortiz problem, coupled with the loss of Bay and Francona's loyalty to his veteran players is a huge problem for the Sox. CHB notes: "Tito stayed with Mike Timlin and Jason Varitek long after they stopped contributing and it's not going to be easy to tell Ortiz to sit." This is just stupid.

First, Timlin's results were good in 2007. He wasn't good in 2008. However, he was OK from July 5th to August 29th, a 17-game stretch where he gave up 6 ER in 20 IP (2.70 ERA). A review of the game logs indicates that Timlin was only used in two non-garbage-time situations. Both times he pitched well, earning a win in a 12-inning game and pitching a scoreless 8th inning in a 2-1 loss. Timlin only appeared in 6 games after August 29, 2008, mostly in low-leverage situations. And he only pitched 2.2 post-season innings. By the end of the season Mike Timlin was the 6th option out of the pen, after MDC, Paps, Oki, J-Lo, and Masterson. Does CHB even watch the games?

As for Tek, I have been very critical of the decision to keep him around. But that's Theo's fault, not Tito's. Francona's other options at catcher since 2006, when Tek started sucking, were Mirabelli, the other Javy Lopez, Kevin Cash, and George Kottaras. Is it any wonder why Tek got lots of playing time? Someone should explain to CHB the difference between a manager's job and that of a GM. Once the Sox obtained VMart, Tek's days as a starter were over.

Finally, and just for the sake of argument, let's look at Jason Bay so far this year. In his first 6 games for the Mets, he has hit .261 AVG/.370 OBP/.391 SLG (.762 OPS). Those aren't exactly stellar numbers, especially when you consider the fact that Bay has 0 HR and 2 fewer RBI (a stat that CHB thinks is important) than David Ortiz.

"I don't want David looking over his shoulder a game and a half into the season,'' the manager said after Ortiz's outburst with the media during the Yankee series. "I want him to walk up there and feel comfortable ... He's done a lot of good things here and I think he thinks some people bailed on him last year. Being reactionary isn't my job.''

It's strange that CHB uses this quote from Tito because the Sox' manager is 100% right. CHB disagrees:

It's time to react. Mike Lowell and Jeremy Hermida are on the Boston bench, waiting for a chance to hit.

Since CHB bases his decisions on small sample sizes and Hermida has been better than Ortiz so far this season, let's compare the two players since the beginning of the 2008 season:

Hermida – .255 AVG/.335 OBP/.403 SLG (.738 OPS) 30.16 AB/HR
Ortiz – .248 AVG/.346 OBP/.478 SLG (.824 OPS) 19.04 AB/HR

Hermida isn't better. Also, playing Hermida at DH weakens the Sox' OF depth. If there's an in-game injury, Hall would have to play the OF. If Hermida move from DH to OF, the pitcher would have to hit. The Lowell argument has some merit, when you consider how well he hits left-handed pitching. So a platoon situation may be necessary in the future. But it's way too early to sit Ortiz--especially since the stats show that Ortiz has been a far better hitter than Mike Lowell over long stretches of 2008 and 2009. Even if a Lowell/Ortiz platoon becomes necessary, Papi will get the bulk of the playing time.

As usual, CHB offers little in the way of analysis. This is his usual knee-jerk bullshit. CHB lives to trash Boston icons. Ortiz isn't a "big" problem. If he sucks, he'll be replaced. Ortiz's contract ends after this season.

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