Saturday, September 27, 2008

ALDS Comparison

The Red Sox will match up against the Angels again this year, a matchup the Sox have dominated in recent years. How will things play out in 2008? The best way to determine that is by comparing each position, and I'll use a very simple statistic of OPS+ to compare offenses, which works since we're comparing same positions. I'll use ERA+ and WHIP to compare starting pitchers. None of these is perfect, but they're effective.

Catcher:
Boston's Jason Varitek's OPS+ is a lowly 74, but his numbers did improve some (albeit not much) in the second half. In half a season, the Angels' Mike Napoli has a 140 OPS+ and has been on an absolute tear lately.
Big advantage: Angels

1B:
Boston's Kevin Youkilis had an MVP-type season, finally getting the Bad Second Half Player monkey off his back and finishing with an OPS+ of 146.
Mark Teixiera is the bigger name, the guy half of Boston wanted to trade for at the trading deadline in anticipation of Youk's second-half swoon. In 52 meaningless games for the Angels Tex had an OPS+ of 184, but is closer to a 140-150 OPS+ guy and has never played in the postseason.
Edge: Even

2B:
Boston's Dustin Pedroia is another viable MVP candidate after winning the Rookie of the Year last year. His OPS+ is 123, but 147 in the second half. He's a monster at second base.
Howie Kendrick of the Angels, however, was injured a lot in 2008 and finished as exactly an average player, at a 100 OPS+. His second half OPS+ was an anemic 82.
Big edge: Red Sox

SS:
With Julio Lugo and his 79 OPS+ out for the year, rookie Jed Lowrie stepped in with a respectable 92 OPS+, topping Erick Aybar's 83 OPS+ for the Angels.
Slight Edge: Red Sox

3B:
The third base situation is a little dicey for the Sox, with Mike Lowell reinjuring himself in Friday night's loss to the Yankees. You might see Lowrie shift to 3B and Alex Cora play SS for the playoffs. Let's assume that Lowell plays, though. In limited time this year, his OPS+ was 105. All of his numbers were just a tick lower than his career numbers, so that makes sense based on his age.
Chone Figgins killed the Angels at third base this year, with an 83 OPS+. But he provides speed and gets on base at a decent clip.
Edge: Even

DH:
David Ortiz and his career 1.005 playoff OPS dominate this category against pretty much any team. His OPS+ of 125 this year was his lowest during his Red Sox tenure, but was 140 during the second half.
The Angels, meanwhile, split time at DH between Juan Rivera (85 OPS+) and Kendry Morales (75 OPS+).
Huge Edge: Red Sox

LF:
Boston's Jason Bay had a 132 OPS+ for Boston, right in line with his 134 for Pittsburgh and his 130 career average.
Garrett Anderson, though, finished with a 99 OPS+.
Edge: Red Sox

RF:
Right field is another sticky situation for the Sox: JD Drew went to the hospital yesterday for his back, putting his availability in doubt for the ALDS. If he were to play, his OPS+ is 139. If not, the Sox would likely shift Jacoby Ellsbury and his 89 OPS+ over to RF.
The Angels, meanwhile, throw future Hall-of-Famer Vlad Guerrero and his 132 OPS+ out at LF. Ellsbury's speed and defense help, but can't outweigh Vlad's offensive contributions.
Big Edge: Angels

CF:
Sticking with the assumption that JD Drew is injured, the Sox will play Coco Crisp in center. His OPS+ is the best of his Boston tenure, but sadly still only 94.
Torii Hunter brings a 113 OPS+ to the Angels.
Edge: Angels

Starting Pitching:
Josh Beckett: 114 ERA+, 1.19 WHIP. And a 6-0 postseason record with a 1.73 ERA. Better K/9.
John Lackey: 116 ERA+, WHIP of 1.23.
Slight Edge: Red Sox
Jon Lester: 143 ERA+, 1.27 WHIP.
Ervin Santana: 134 OPS+, 1.10 WHIP. Better K/9.
Edge: Angels
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 163 ERA+, 1.32 WHIP.
Joe Saunders?: 124 ERA+, 1.24 WHIP.
(or) Jared Weaver: 101 ERA+, 1.29 WHIP.
Edge: Red Sox

Bullpen:
Red Sox: 469.2 IP, 3.97 ERA, 1.34 WHIP.
Angels: 433 IP, 3.74 ERA, 1.35 WHIP.
Overall: Slight Edge to Angels

Setup Guy:
Hideki Okajima: 172 ERA+, 1.18 WHIP.
Jose Arredondo: 264 ERA+, 1.05 WHIP, new to this role, rookie.
Edge: Angels

Closer:
Jonathan Papelbon: 232 ERA+, 0.89 WHIP.
Francisco Rodriguez: 192 ERA+, 1.31 WHIP.
This is sure to be the most controversial one, because I'm giving a Big Edge: Red Sox, but it's hard to dispute Pap's dominance. Sure, K-Rod has 62 saves, but Papelbon's peripheral numbers are far superior, making him the better pitcher. The Angels just had so many save chances this year because they scored 85 fewer runners than the Sox, meaning fewer blowouts and more save chances. And the Sox use Papelbon more judiciously so he's fresh for the playoffs. In 14.2 playoff IP, Papelbon has not given up a run and has a 0.75 WHIP.

Disagree? Post your opinions in the comments.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eye Opening

From yesterday's article by Peter Gammons (italics are mine, for emphasis):
Garciaparra, who had rejected a four-year, $60 million contract that would
have expired at the end of this season
, was a megastar in Boston, and when
the Red Sox struggled for two weeks after the trade, Epstein and the baseball
people were second-guessed to the media by some of their promotional gurus
upstairs. Eleven weeks later, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals.

Wow. I remember him turning the offer down, but I hadn't given it much thought since then. Imagine if they'd had that trainwreck eating up their payroll since then? And we think Schilling's $8 million this year is bad!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quick Hits

From today's Peter Gammons blog:
  • It's hard to talk about the MVP Award for Manny when the team that paid the Dodgers to take Ramirez is 27-13 without him through Sunday and have seen their runs per game increase from 4.94 at the time of the deal to 6.22 since.
  • Peralta is the only AL shortstop to make the top six in OPS (.786, tied with Derek Jeter for sixth among major league shortstops, behind Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy and Stephen Drew), homers (21, third behind Ramirez and Hardy) and extra-base hits (62, fourth behind Ramirez, Reyes and Drew). Actually, if he qualified, Jed Lowrie would be between Drew and Peralta in OPS, and in his brief time at shortstop, Lowrie's defensive range numbers are in the top three of the 62 major league shortstops, according to three teams that keep extensive defensive numbers. There's a lot to be said for studying video of opposing hitters' swing paths and tendencies.
  • Is Justin Masterson on the brink of becoming one of this postseason's most important figures? As the Red Sox try to get Jonathan Papelbon -- who can be a starting pitcher who throws three pitches -- to get back to using his splitter and be less predictable, Masterson has emerged as manager Terry Francona's most trusted pitcher in the eighth inning. Masterston has a 1.26 ERA in his past 17 appearances, and with Hideki Okajima coming back and Javier Lopez holding lefties to a .128 average since before the All-Star break, Boston's bullpen has started to come together.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Yankees Can Have AJ Burnett

Hankenstein opened his fat mouth this week and said that "everyone" is looking at AJ Burnett. Well, that may be the case, but you can have him - and overpay him.

You may recall when I prophesied the downfall of the Zito Empire. (And when I tooted my own horn when I was proven right.) Burnett may not be that bad, but he's way overrated.

Burnett's ERA+ is a pedestrian 95 this season, and just 109 for his career. Since 2001 he has averaged 23 starts per season.

His career WHIP is 1.29 and is 1.39 this season. That's not good. Take a look at some other trends (all in chronological order):

Pitches/PA: 15.1/15.8/16.0/16.1/16.8 - he's laboring more and more each year.
K/BB: 3.03/2.67/2.61 - not a huge decline, but still not good.

Career BAA/OBP/SLG/OPS is 2.36/.318/.367/.682, but is .258/.332/.413/.741 this year.

His K/9 has stayed strong, though, at 9.31. So I'm not sure what to think about Burnett. I'd just let the Yankees overpay for him. His W-L record and the strikeouts are what's so tantalizing about Burnett, and we all know W-L record is overrated.