Confessions of a Stats Freak: Red Sox 2009 Preview (Part 1)

Its time for a little baseball prognosticating. I’ll admit to being a stats addict, and I’m going to look at the stats from Spring Training 2008, compare them to the stats from the 2008 regular season, and then see what conclusions I can draw for this coming season based on the 2009 Spring Training stats. Whew. Good thing I’m a stats freak ’cause that’s a lot of numbers.

We’ll look first at the Captain, and see if his 2009 will be better than 2008.

‘Tek hit .320 in 2008 Spring training, with 3 homers and 7 RBIs.

In 2008, he hit .220 with 13 home runs and an astounding 122 strike-outs in 131 games.

So far this spring, Varitek has hit .206 with 3 homers and 12 RBIs. Maybe the lower spring training batting average bodes well for ‘Tek, his 2007 spring training batting average was .108, and he ended up hitting .255 with 17 home runs in 2007.

My prediction is that ‘Tek will hit somewhere between .229 and .245 for 2009. We’ll see.

Next, we’ll take a look at Jacoby Ellsbury

In 2008 spring training, Jacoby hit .209 with 4 RBIs and 3 runs scored.

During the regular season, despite slumps, Jacoby finished with .280, 47 RBIs, 98 runs scored and 50 stolen bases.

This spring, Jacoby has hit .250 with 8 runs scored, 5 RBIs, and 1 steal.

Look for him to hit around .300 this season, with more runs scored and more stolen bases if he can avoid the slumps. Since this will be (sort of) his third year in the majors, maybe he can avoid the sophomore slump? If he does, Ellsbury will be one of the game’s elite lead-off hitters, combined with his great defense, should lead to an excellent player.

Now lets look at the AL MVP Dustin Pedroia.

In 2008 spring training, Dustin batted .179 with 1 homer and 4 RBIs.

The 2008 season, he stepped up his game considerably, hitting .326 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs.

This spring, not including his brief stint at the World Baseball Classic, Pedroia has hit .370 with 4 RBIs and 10 hits.

Pedroia throws off the stats a little, because so far, he’s been a slow starter (he hit .196 in 2007 spring training, then hit .317 for the year). But because of the World Baseball Classic, we don’t have all his stats. If you figure them all out, Dustin’s spring average is .279, considerably higher than his usual spring training average. That means I have to forget stats and just guesstimate.

I’d look for Pedroia to do better than his stellar year last year and hit around the .335-.350 mark. This may be overly optimistic, but he’s got the will and the drive.

That’s it for part one, next I’ll look at Lowrie, Lowell, and Youkilis and see what kind of years they will have.

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Red Sox Spring Training Analysis (Part 1)

It’s time for a little baseball prognosticating.

I admit to being a stats addict, and as such, I’m going to look at
the stats from spring training in 2008, compare them to the stats from
the 2008 regular season, and then see what conclusions can be drawn for
this season based on this year’s spring training numbers.

Whew. Good thing I’m a stats freak…’cause that’s a lot of numbers.

We’ll start by looking at the captain, and see if his 2009 will be better than 2008.

‘Tek hit .320 in 2008 Spring training, with three homers and seven RBI.

In 2008, he hit .220 with 13 home runs and an astounding 122 strikeouts in 131 games.

So far this spring, Varitek has hit .206 with 3 homers and 12 RBI.
Maybe the lower spring training batting average bodes well for ‘Tek;
his 2007 spring training batting average was .108, and he ended up
hitting .255 with 17 home runs in 2007.

Prediction: ‘Tek will hit somewhere between .229 and .245 for 2009. We’ll see.

 

Next, we’ll take a look at Jacoby Ellsbury.

In 2008 spring training, Jacoby hit .209 with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.

During the regular season, despite slumps, Jacoby finished with .280, 47 RBI, 98 runs scored and 50 stolen bases.

This spring, Jacoby has hit .250 with 8 runs scored, 5 RBI, and one steal.

Look for him to hit around .300 this season, with more runs scored
and more stolen bases if he can avoid the slumps. Since this will be
(sort of) his third year in the majors, maybe he can avoid the
sophomore slump. If he does, Ellsbury will be one of the game’s elite
leadoff hitters. That, combined with his great defense, should lead to
an excellent player.

 

Now lets look at the AL MVP Dustin Pedroia.

In 2008 spring training, Dustin batted .179 with one homer and four RBI.

By the time the 2008 season rolled around, he stepped up his game considerably, hitting .326 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI.

This spring, not including his brief stint at the World Baseball Classic, Pedroia has hit .370 with four RBI and 10 hits.

Pedroia throws off the stats a little, because so far, he’s been a
slow starter (he hit .196 in 2007 spring training, then hit .317 for
the year). But because of the World Baseball Classic, we don’t have all
his stats. If you figure them all out, Dustin’s spring average is
.279–considerably higher than his usual spring training average. That
means I have to forget stats and just guesstimate.

Look for Pedroia to do better than his stellar year last year,
hitting around the .335 to .350 mark. This may be overly optimistic,
but he’s got the will and the drive.

That’s it for part one. Next, I’ll look at Lowrie, Lowell, and Youkilis, and see what kind of years they will have.

Four Big Questions for A Fantasy Baseball Beginner

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As I begin my first foray into the fantasy baseball world, I’ve come
up with more questions than answers. Here are a few things I’ve
learned: fantasy baseball is way harder than fantasy football. My
fantasy draft is just days away and I have no idea what I’m going to
do. I’ve spent the better part of a week with the flu, so I used that
time to watch 30 Clubs in 30 Days, as well as look at thousands
of box scores and predictions and fantasy advice. But I still have
questions. Here are the four big ones I’ve been trying to answer:

Question 1:

What’s the best strategy? Do you put all your money on the big name
guys and  have the rest of your team come from late rounds? Or do you
maybe spend more on two or three great players, then take all the good
middle round picks to fill up the rest of your roster? Is it smart to
try and take all the good pitchers so you can force trades in your
league for better position players?

Here’s
why this confuses me: in my Fantasy Football league, you go for your QB
and your RBs, because they get you the most points, then it just
depends on who you want and when they come up in the draft. But fantasy
baseball? There are a million different strategies and I have no idea
which one works best.

Question 2:

How
far do you trust your instincts? I fully believe that Jacoby Ellsbury
and Jason Bay are going to have phenomenal years. I also expect C.C.
Sabathia to get injured or not do as well this year based on the sheer
amount of work he did last year. But he’s ranked high in the ESPN draft
order and projected to have a great year. Bay ranks fairly high and
Jacoby is not that far down, but tehn comes the question: if you are
not going for a name like Sabathia, do you try and take Bay earlier
than he’s supposed to go to try and get a better price? It is all very
confusing.

This also applies to
currently injured players, like A-Rod. Do you still take him in the
draft even though he won’t be playing for a while? Or should you wait
and try and pick him up as a free agent? (not that I would ever take A-Rod, but I’m curious.)

Question 3:

For
our draft, its an auction draft, and we nominate players on our turn.
Here’s a big strategy question that I just can not figure out. Do you
nominate the player you want or nominate someone to make others spend
their money. Like if you want Youkilis as your 1B, but its too early
for him to go, do you nominate Teixeira in hopes of getting your
opponents to spend more of their money, thus leaving you with more
draft power in the middle rounds, or do you go ahead and nominate
Youkilis and hope you don’t have to overpay for him?

I
did two mock drafts and tried both tactics with mixed results.
Sometimes I got the guy I wanted, sometimes I overpaid, sometimes
someone else nominated them and the bidding got too high.

Question 4:

Homerism.
I looked at my team, and I had Pedroia, Beckett, Bay, Lester and
Papelbon on my team, and Drew and Masterson on the Bench. Drew and
Masterson I don’t mind because if they do look good, or if Drew has
another month like he did last June, I can throw him into my outfield,
but I began to wonder about the others. Did I pick Beckett and Lester
because I think they are going to have a great year, or because they
are Boston pitchers?

Papelbon,
Pedroia, and Lester were all smart picks, I think. My gut is telling me
that Lester will have a better year than last year, and Paps is always
good, plus, he’s in a contract year, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
Pedroia is off to a good start and I think he’ll have another great
year, he still wants that batting title, so I would count on him having
a high average and on base percentage.

Beckett…well,
he is a smart choice, but I can’t tell if I took him because of his
stats or because he’s from Boston. The same question applies to Bay.
There are a lot of good out fielders in the draft, and Bay is certainly
one of them, but was my decision to pass on others based on the fact
that I wanted the Boston player?

Like
I said, its all very confusing. But when I took a close look at my
tentative roster, almost all the players I want to draft are from the
American League. So not only am I a “Homer” I’m also a league
discriminator.

So those are my four burning fantasy questions. Next I’ll try and highlight a few guys who, in my opinion, will be busts and sleepers.

“Wright” Stuff: Team USA Knocks Off Puerto Rico

Team USA finally manages a defeat of Puerto Rico and makes it to the World Baseball Classic semi-finals on the back of Mets 3B David Wright.

It was a wild one last night, and one of the best baseball games I’ve seen in a while. Of course, it has only been spring training, but still, this was phenomenal.

Puerto Rico drew the first blood with a solo dinger off of Ted Lilly in the second, but Team USA responded with
two runs of their own, including a huge slide and bad throw that
brought David Wright home on a Brian McCann sac-fly. Kevin Youkilis
added to the lead with a solo tater off of Jonathan Sanchez with two outs in the third.

But Puerto Rico wasn’t going anywhere. A two run shot by Carlos Delgado in the fourth (also off of Ted Lilly) evened things up 3-3.

In the sixth, an Alex Rios single with two men on put Puerto Rico up 4-3. They built on teat lead the top of the ninth, when Ramon Vasquez hit one that got by Derek Jeter, allowing the man on second to score and putting Puerto Rico up 5-3 with half a frame left for team USA to stave off elimination.

Shane Victorino led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off of his Phillies teammate JC Romero, followed by a single from Brian Roberts. A line-out by Derek Jeter moved Victorino to third. Roberts stole second, and Jimmy Rollins walked to load the bases.

Puerto
Rico brought in Fernando Cabrera to relieve Romero and face Kevin
Youkilis, their two run lead in danger of disappearing. Cabrera walked
Youkilis on 5 pitches, leaving the Americans down by one run.

Mets
3b David Wright stepped up to the plate, and on the 2-1 pitch, he hit a
bloop double to the right corner, bringing home two runs and keeping
the Americans in the WBC

It
was quite a game, and if you missed it, you missed the best baseball
game since the Red Sox ALCS game 5 comeback last season.

The Americans will move on while Puerto Rico returns to spring training. Regardless of how things go from here, Team USA has already outshone the 2006 team. But with players like Wright, Rollins, Victorino, Jeter, and Youkilis (among many, many others) its hard to see them giving up now.

Team USA will play Venezuela, who they split a series with in Toronto, to see who will will Pool 2 tonight (March 18th) at 7 PM eastern. If you haven’t been watching the WBC, tune in now, because things are getting very interesting.

The Beasts of the East: Who Wins Baseball’s Best Divisions?

It seems like everyone is making their picks for who wins the AL East, I’m going to take it one step further and look at both the AL and NL East, arguably baseball’s best divisions.

Lets
start in the National League. The East is a powerful division, will the
defending World Champion Phillies again take the top spot? Will the
Mets suffer another late-season collapse? Can the Marlins overtake them both? Will the Nats actually look good this year? Barring major injuries and some fluky miracle season, here are my picks for the NL East:

  1. New York Mets (2008: 89-73, 3 GB) Here’s why: K-Rod and JJ Putz should ease the Mets’ bullpen woes,
    somewhat. It will at least keep them from hemorrhaging so much at the end
    of games. They have a good offense anchored by Wright, Reyes, and
    Beltran, the Mets should be able to make the playoffs this year. If
    they don’t, I give up, they must be cursed.
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (2008: 92-10, WS Champs) They kept most of their World Series winning team together, backed by a great offense with players like Utley, Howard, Victorino, and Rollins. However,
    the injury bug tends to bite hard the year after winning it all (look
    at the Red Sox from last year: same team, new injuries). Look for the Wildcard to come from the East this year.
  3. Florida Marlins (2008: 84-77, 7 1/2 GB) The Marlin’s
    are a good young team on a tight budget, and could surprise everyone
    and take over the East this season. With Hanley Ramirez and excellent
    pitching, the Marlins are a force to be reckoned with. Look for them to
    hang around and make life miserable for the Mets and Phillies.
  4. Atlanta Braves (2008: 72-90, 20 GB) Atlanta made some good moves in the off-season, with good pitching additions, but a weak offense will have them trailing the Mets, Phils, and Marlins this year. They are young, so look for the Braves to start contending more in a year or so.
  5. Washington Nationals (2008: 59-102, 32 1/2 GB) The Nats
    are young. I wouldn’t look for them to be great this year, but I would
    expect a better season than 2008. They’ll still come in at the bottom
    of the NL East, but with a much better record.

Now
on to baseball’s toughest division. The AL East has appeared in the
World Series 54 times out of 104 series. Of those 54 appearances, they
have won the World Series 38 times. That’s a pretty impressive
division, and its only getting tougher. Here are my (mostly) unbiased
picks.

  1. Boston Red Sox (2008: 95-67, 2 GB, Wildcard) Boston made a few little moves in the offseason that will have a very big impact. “Bargain” additions of Smoltz, Penny, Saito, and Tazawa make a descent bull pen and good pitching staff into a phenomenal pitching staff with a lights-out ‘pen. They have a few young guys to watch, both on the field and on the mound, and have several key players returning from injury in Lowell, Ortiz, and Beckett. This
    team came within one game of the World Series last year when they were
    hurt, now that everyone’s back, look for them to retake the East.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays (2008: 97-65, AL Champions) Everyone is still waiting to see if the Rays are “for real”. They are. The addition of Pat Burrell certainly helped the Rays, but they may have the same issue as the Phillies: health. In order for the Rays to compete, Troy Percival needs to stay healthy, and the pitching staff is a little lacking in depth.
    The key cog in the Ray’s wheel is David Price. He came in and pitched
    well late in the season, but once there’s a legitimate scouting report
    out on him, major league hitters will figure him out. He has to stand
    up to the pressure and eat up good innings. If not, the Yankees may
    take back the second spot, and wi
    th it the AL Wildcard spot.
  3. New York Yankees (2008: 89-73,
    8 GB) Why, if they spend $400 million dollars on stellar players this
    off-season, are the Yankees in third? Because they spent millions of
    dollars on a very small number of players and neglected to give
    themselves some dep
    th.
    CC Sabathia ate up a lot of innings last year, many times on short
    rest. It takes longer than a few months to recover from that and puts
    you at risk for injury. Burnett should do okay, and the addition of Teixeira will definitely help the Yanks, but without much of a bullpen and with
    starters who don’t always eat up innings, the Yanks may find themselves
    losing games late. Mariano Rivera, great closer that he is, is also
    approaching 40, and will start to decline.The Yanks will keep things interesting, and be competitive, making things tough for the Rays and Red Sox.
  4. Toronto Blue Jays (2008: 86-76, 11 GB) The Jays, in any other division, would be a playoff team every year. The loss of Burnett could hurt them, but they still have Halladay
    and a great pitching staff. They are looking for some players to return
    to form and some young guys to give them a lift, but probably not
    enough to compete for a playoff spot because their division is so
    tough. 
  5. Baltimore Orioles (2008: 68-93, 28 1/2 GB) Though the
    Orioles have a young, good offense, their lack of pitching means they
    will again be in last place in the division. Look for them to do a
    little better than last year, but with a division this tough, where
    they have to face the Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and Jays in 72 games this
    season, its going to be a difficult year.

News from the Weekend:

The Red Sox locked up LHP Jon Lester for 5 years, and ended talks (temporarily) with
OF Jason Bay. Because of his free agent status at the end of the 2009
season and the down economy, Bay decided to wait and see what the
market does. He would like to stay in Boston, but not at a cut rate
when he could get more elsewhere.

Dustin Pedroia
has a minor abdominal strain and will need a few days of rest before
resuming baseball activities. The injury is minor and should not effect
his opening day status.

The shortstop debate is over for the Red Sox, at least temporarily. Julio Lugo will have arthroscopic surgery on his knee tomorrow and will be out of opening day. Jed Lowrie will (most likely) start the season as the Red Sox shortstop.

Manny
Ramirez started his spring training by being pulled from a game due to
a hamstring injury. After trying to cut off a double in left field, he
felt tightness in his hamstring and was pinch hit for in the bottom of
the 4th inning.

The Weekend Wrap-Up: Lester, The WBC, and Boys Being Boys

As I’ve been watching the
World Baseball Classic, which has been highly entertaining so far and
which I will discuss in a moment, I’ve begun to question a staple of
the sports world. The butt slap thing.

I’m a girl, we don’t do
the butt slap congratulations thing, and personally, I don’t get it. I
mean, isn’t a pat on the back much easier? Me, being an astounding 5′
1″ could easily reach these guys butts, but when you’re taller, you
have to reach down further, correct? So I was watching team USA’s
inning 6 route of Venezuela, due mostly to poor pitching choices on the
part of Venezuela, and when Youk came in with a run, when Dunn got his
homer, when Youk got his homer after the epic eleven pitch at-bat, as soon as he got around his teammates, butt slaps all around.

I’m
just going to put it out there as one of those guy things that we girls
will never understand, no matter how much we love sports.

Now that we’ve gotten the somewhat awkward question out of the way, lets get down to the business of baseball.

As
I said earlier, the World Baseball Classic has been vastly
entertaining. I’ve watched most of the games, I was shocked, like most
people, when the Netherlands upset the Dominican, and when Australia
came roaring back, down by four, to rout the heavily favored team
Mexico 17-7 in Mexico City. Speaking of upsets, as I am typing this,
Italy has just knocked team Canada out of the WBC. So now Italy and
Venezuela will face off again to see who makes it to round 2.

Korea
won Pool A in nail-biter fashion, beating Japan 1-0 after losing to
Japan 14-2 on Saturday. Australia’s win over Mexico was the country’s
first win in World Baseball Classic history, and it was an exciting
game to see. This weekend was good for hitters, bad for pitchers, as
most of the teams are using the long ball to put up huge scores, with
four games ending with the winning team in double digits.

And now for a few questions.

For
Kevin Youkilis: Is this offensive prowess going to continue throughout
the regular season? Here are Kevin’s WBC stats: 8 AB 3 H (2 HR) 7 R 3
RBI 9 TB 2 BB 2 SO.
If he kept that up for the season, he’d finish
with a .375 average and .500 OBP, and he’d finish much higher than 3rd
in the MVP race.

For Chipper Jones: What is going on? In seven at-bats he’s had one free pass and five strikeouts. This is not looking good for the man they thought might finish over .400 last year.

For
Dustin Pedroia: Does the poor performance at the WBC mean anything?
Remember in 2007 when Dustin hit under .200 the first month of the
season and then turned out a Rookie of the Year, World Series winning
finish? Besides, Dustin has still come up with two clutch hits and two
RBI, hitting from either the one or two spot,
which is two more than David Wright has hitting from the five hole.

For
Venezuela’s Manager: I question the pitching decisions you have made,
but after seeing Italy handle Canada, I reserve judgment until after
the rematch as to whether or not you made a mistake that first game.

For
Alex Rodriguez: Could you maybe not make any headlines for the next
week or two so that the sports media can talk about baseball and not
your hip surgery, or your marital problems, or your club-house manners,
or you having juiced, or your cousin who gave you drugs. Seriously,
that list is ridiculous. I’d much rather be kept up-to-date on
injuries, contract signings, and young guys making a splash at spring
training.

No offense to A-Rod here, I know the press blows these stories way out of proportion and beats them into the ground, but still

Finally,
on to my favorite Southpaw. Rumors have been flying around all weekend
about a five-year, multi-million dollar contract the Red Sox have on
the table for young lefty Jon Lester. This will be the third farm boy
the Sox will attempt to sign to a long-term deal this year, as both
Pedroia and Youkilis were locked up in the off season. The Sox
discussed a long-term offer with their eccentric closer Jonathan
Papelbon, but only managed a one-year deal avoiding arbitration.

Though
Lester has not yet signed the contract, the Sox will most likely come
to terms with him and Papelbon either this year or next.

Here’s one last thing to leave you with. Picture day always produces a few funny moments, and here are the Red Sox outtakes. Enjoy.