There's been a lot of Hot Stove talk surrounding the Red Sox and I want to touch on a lot of it, if I have the time. Maybe I'll split this into 2 posts. Feel free to post a comment with your opinions. I'd be glad to hear them.
Daisuke Matsuzaka/Barry Zito: I'm very excited about Para-Daisuke (think you've got a better nickname? Comment it below). You can pay $90 million for a crappy has-been like Barry Zito, all of which will go towards the cap, or you can pay $90 million for someone with a ton of potential, with only $40 million going towards the cap. Seems like an easy decision to me.
Zito pitched in an enormous park and his stats still sucked. Imagine him pitching in Boston or Texas? Here are the facts about Zito:
2006 stats: 16-10, 1.40 WHIP, and .257 BAA. He actually ranked 13th in the AL in BAA, which is pretty good, but his enormous number of walks (99) shot his WHIP way up. He lead the AL in walks, finishing with 15 more than runner-up Gil Meche. Josh Beckett was 4th, with 74. Teammate Dan Haren pitched 2 more innings than Zito but finished with half as many walks (49). Your AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, pitched 12.2 more innings and finished with 52 fewer walks.
Let's put his WHIP into perspective. Zito's 1.40 ERA tied him with Kris Benson and was worse than Vicente Padilla's, Kevin Millwood, and Josh Beckett (1.29), among many others.
Zito throws 16.6 pitches per inning. Throw him into the rotation with Beckett and Schilling, who are also high (but not that high!), and you wear out your bullpen.
Now for the downward trend of his stats. When you're signing a free agent pitcher, you want his stats to either be trending upwards or staying the same. At Zito's age (29 in May), they should be steadily improving. But that's not the case. In the following comparisons, the stats go in chronological order, like 2002/2003/2004/2005/2006.
Strikeouts per 9 innings: 8.61/7.14/5.67/6.89/6.74/6.15. Bad trend there.
K/BB: 2.56/2.33/1.66/2.01/1.92/1.53. Again.
He appeared to have a major down year the season after his Cy Young (2002), then went back up a little, but has steadily gone back down each year since.
His ERA is 4.05 over the past 3 seasons and 4.21 after the All-Star break. Not too impressive.
How about the AL East the past 3 seasons? In 8 games started against the Yankees, he's 1-5 with a 7.-1 ERA. In 4 games against Baltimore, he's 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA. Against Tampa Bay, he's 2-1 with a 4.07 in 5 starts. He's fared well in 2 starts against Toronto. In 3 Fenway appearances in those 3 seasons, he has been hammered for a 7.20 ERA.
His career record is 102-63, which is a solid 39 games over .500, but only 9 games over .500 in his past 4 seasons. His record averages approximately 14-12 over those years. Is that worth $17 million per year? No.
Now onto Matsuzaka. This guy won the MVP of the WBC, an impressive feat in itself. Wikipedia has some interesting facts about the guy, too. He has averaged 4 fewer losses per season and 0.5 more wins than Zito over the past 4 seasons. His innings have stayed pretty consistent while his hits have dropped from 165 to 138. His walks have dropped from 63 to 34 and his WHIP from 1.18 to 0.92. His ERA trend is from 3.97 to 2.13. Those are staggering numbers, even if they are in Japan. Let's attempt to adjust for the American League difference. I don't have any proof to back this up, but I'd say a 3.50 ERA and 16 wins are pretty reasonable if his game translates to America and all sources think it should. You'd take that, right? I certainly would.
The Sox have been scouting in Japan for a while and all scouts seem to think this guy is the real deal. Don't worry about how much they paid for him. John Henry has the money. They're more worried about the salary cap than they are laying out sums of cash.
I think the Sox have a formidable rotation for 2007 and beyond and I'm excited about it. I hope Beckett shows that Cy Young promise that Peter Gammons wrote about before 2006.
J.D. Drew: I like Drew, but like everyone else am worried about giving this guy a 4 year deal. And no, I don't care that it's for more than they could have paid Damon. This year's market is completely different what with the increase in the salary cap and the huge dollars coming from MLB.
Here's what's to like about Drew: how about a steady .900 OPS hitting behind and protecting Big Papi? The guy has some power, averaging more than a home run every 20 at-bats, meaning 25 homers in a full, 500 at-bat season. And yes, he's reached 500 at-bats in 2 of the last 3 seasons, averaging 25.5 homers and 96.5 RBI in those 2 seasons. He sees a lot of pitches and walks a lot, drawing comparisons to Trot Nixon, but he has a lot more power.
Among all MLB right fielders, Drew ranked 5th (barely behind Ichiro) in Zone Rating at .891, meaning he gets to more balls than most guys. Trot Nixon was at .873, which would have been 8th had he played enough innings to qualify.
What not to like: he averages around 110 games per season and is considered to be the ultimate "non-gamer." Do we really need Manny and this guy on the same team? At least Manny plays 150 games a season, which Drew has never done. His BA, OBP, SLG, and OBP have all steadily declined over the past 3 seasons. He's 31, so he's not likely to improve from season to season as much anymore.
Can he hit in the AL? Tough to say. He bats .164 against curveballs and I'd imagine he'd see more in the AL. Can anyone help with that one?
Coming up tomorrow or this weekend: Manny, Lugo, Meche, Eaton, Speier, and my desired 2007 team. And no, I'm not going to touch Clemens.