Tuesday, February 23, 2010

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, LF

Baseball Prospectus' 2010 Projection:































Baseball Prospectus' Take:

"Classic case of speed and some highlight-reel dives distracting from bad routes, bad jumps, bad positioning, and a bad arm...Ellsbury's batting-average dependent production won't carry him in a corner...Unless you're Rickey Henderson or Tim Raines, stealing 70 bases is not a sustainable skill...Jim Rice thinks Ellsbury has Hall of Fame potential, which is true if you work under the assumption that the standards will continue to erode, thanks to the induction of players like Jim Rice.

X-Mark's Take:

It looks like BP is pretty down on the biggest Boston heartthrob athlete not named TFB. Usually I would completely agree with this assessment, and in a way I do. Jacoby is batting average dependent, meaning if he has a few unlucky months where some of his groundballs get swallowed up and his liners find the wrong people and he ends up with a .270 AVG, his above average OBP and solid-for-a-speed-guy SLG will start to look pretty awful.

And as fun as it is to watch Jacoby get on his mythical horse and chase down a deep fly to the triangle, he really did look confused in center last year (although I think his true talent is somewhere around average and last year was sort of an aberration).

But check this out:

25 691 94 27 10 8 60 49 74 70 12 0.301 0.355 0.415 2.4
25 624 93 37 9 11 80 32 112 50 10 0.315 0.355 0.466 4.2

The first player season is Jacoby from last year (shit, another guy who could really use a nickname; unfortunately the obvious ones are all Native American related and my guess is that would not really fly these days).

The second player season is Carl Crawford from 2007. The same Carl Crawford who is going to get a 6 figure deal from either the Red Sox or the Yankees in 2011.

There are some differences here. Crawford had a little bit more power, Ellsbury a bit more patience. And the WARP is better for Crawford but that is mostly because of Jacoby's outlier of a defensive season. But at the end of the day, they are both pretty similar in their age 25 seasons in value.

This really gives me pause because I've always been a big Jacoby detractor. But maybe the move to left will give him a little better health and the ability to drive the ball a little more. Also, his defense should almost definitely improve although in his 81 home games it will be a little bit of a wash (of course his presence will allow Cameron to shade a bit back and towards right therefore capably manning the triangle).

What I'm getting at is that Jacoby has some potential for a real breakout this season even beyond all the stolen bases and highlight reel defensive plays. With his improving patience at the plate he should be one of the better lead off hitters this year and challenge Crawford for the top defensive left fielder.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010 Baseball Prospectus Handbook

It's here, it's really here!

A special thanks to the X-Parents for my belated Christmas present. The 2010 Baseball Prospectus Handbook has finally arrived at my humble abode.

For those of you unfamiliar with Baseball Prospectus, it is the Eric Clapton of the baseball statistical revolution (Bill James is Robert Johnson, creating the blues; Moneyball is Blues Boy King, making the blues mainstream; and Joe Morgan is Kid Rock, taking a dump all over the blues). They have molded it, advanced it, almost perfected it (although there are a lot of newer groups and writers out there like Tom Tango and FanGraphs who have taken statistics to a whole new level; think of them as Jack White and Stevie Ray Vaughan), and made it extremely entertaining and increasingly more palatable to new comers.

They have assembled an incredible ensemble cast of writers who specialize in prospects, injuries (Will Carroll is the absolute guru of baseball and basketball injuries), transactions (Christina Kahrl, a transsexual incidentally, covers everything from the big Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay trade to the September call-up of my old friend Adam Rosales), scouting, and, of course, the latest and greatest in statistical findings and analysis.

And for those skeptics out there, it is not all equations, pocket protectors, and mother's basements like the douche mainstream assumes. These writers are no different from you or I (although they are probably significantly smarter). They have families, get drunk, and have a good time. The fundamental difference between them and most of the baseball writers you are familiar with is that they are compelled, nay, driven, to look beyond commonly held baseball beliefs.

Not to turn this into a big scouting versus stats discussion, but the main difference between the Baseball Prospectus writers and their much better compensated print journalists is that they ask who, what, when, where, why, and how (supposedly what every journalist is taught on day one that most of them seem to forget; along with not making yourself the story, I'm looking at you Dan Shaughnessy).

The biggest misconception about people like the BP writers (with whom I would absolutely love to be associated with) is that they do not watch baseball; that all they do is look at spreadsheets and run computer progams and live in a fantasy world. That cannot be further from the truth. These people love baseball. They make their careers out of it. And I'm going to let you all in on a little secret: there is very little money in this pursuit of baseball bliss. So I ask you all, if these people, who are clearly smart enough to run wall street or Washington (check out BP alum Nate Silver's political blog, which was really the only place to correctly predict Obama's landslide win) don't absolutely love baseball, then why would they not pursue much more lucrative careers elsewhere?

Ok, sorry for the mini-rant. Back to the point. Baseball Prospectus produces a handbook every year. It contains in-depth analysis for every team and player in Major League Baseball, a huge (and growing) number of Minor League players, and a large handful of interesting essays. It is a must have for fantasy fanatics and "stat geeks".

So, since I'm sure none of you, save for maybe Toby O'Donnell, have this years edition, I plan to share with you their insight of the Red Sox 25 man roster all before opening day. In order to avoid accusations of plagiarism, I will just give you a small snapshot and include a little of my own analysis.

With a full time job, another very successful blog, and a wonderful girlfriend, I hope I am not biting off more than I can chew here. But I am gonna try my ass off to get it done, because I think those of you who actually read this blog (which I think is up to about 6 people now, a far cry from the 256 followers my other blog has on Facebook) will enjoy what BP and I have to say.

First up, hopefully Saturday, the controversial starting Left Fielder for the BoSox, Jacoby Ellsbury.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

And I Know, A Change is Gonna Come

Sam Cooke A change is gonna come
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Since my last post over at SexyBurger.com was dedicated to changes, I figured, for continuity sake, to write a sports blog about changes, and turned to my very soulful friend, Sam Cooke, to kick things off for me.

Now I had my angle, all I needed was a subject matter. What in Boston sports could possibly need changing?

Quite obviously it's my beloved Celtics. For weeks I tried not to panic. I stayed positive through Rasheeds 29% shooting on threes (including this 0-8 performance in a loss to Orlando in November). I stayed positive through going 0-3 against Atlanta in our first 3 meetings this year. I stayed positive through 3, count em, 3 3-game losing streaks in the span of a month. I even stayed positive after a that 96-94 loss to Orlando when KG gave up that game winning drive to Rashard Lewis and KG and Paul looked like Walter Mathau and Jack Lemon all game.

I can stay positive no more. At this juncture, headed into a much needed All-Star break (although the guys who need the rest the most, KG and Paul, are actually playing in the game) my team is a mess. 1-7 against Orlando and Atlanta. Consistently blowing double digit second half leads. A loss to Nawlins, playing without the best point guard in the league. A very pedestrian 15-9 at home, a far cry from the glory days of dominating the Garden. The worst turnover rate in the league. And I'm afraid to say it my friends, but Rasheed is still here, and he ain't goin anywhere for another two years.

It's time to re-evaluate things. It's time to make a deal. It's time to trade Ray.

Ray Allen has been a phenomenal player his entire career. Banner 17 probably cemented his place in the Hall of Fame. He will one day pass d-bag Reggie Miller as the all time 3 point shooter. He was a huge part of our championship season. By all accounts he is a great guy, a great teammate, and a great father. He played Jesus Shuttlesworth for Christ's sake.

But I've never been a Ray guy and every day it becomes more and more evident that he is not an elite player or even really a starter on a championship team.

Here's a little annecdote: Back when I worked for the Sarasota Reds in 2007 there were two very large transactions swung in fairly close proximity. The first was the trade for Ray Allen on draft night (I was working a game the night of the draft lottery and the night of the draft and almost cried on the field when we lost the lottery and traded for a 32 year old shooting guard). The second was Orlando's signing of Rashard Lewis for something like $120 Million over 6 years.

I was at the time, and still am, one of the biggest Celtics fans in the world. My old boss, the esteemed Jeff Maultsby, was and I assume still is, one of the biggest Magic fans in the world. We took solace in our respective teams horrible mismanagement. 32 year old shooting guards tend to fall off a cliff (turns out in Rays case it is 34 year old shooting guards). Signing anyone, let alone a non-superstar, to a $120 Million contract is suicide. We were both ready to renounce basketball altogether because it looked like neither of our teams would reach the top of the basketball world ever again...

I guess that's why we both worked in baseball. Clearly both moves worked out in the short term.

But, long term? Ray is toast. Rashard got suspended for steroids (see it's not just baseball!) and has not thrived in Orlando's reshaped roster this year. So maybe Jeff and I were just a little bit right.

There is hope however, and it's not named Rajon or Kendrick. It's named expiring contract.

For those of you not versed in NBA economics, there is no real quick explanation for what an expiring contract is, why it's so valuable, and how NBA trades work. If you'd like to learn more go to this link. But basically, Ray Allen's big contract is over after this year (expires) and it is huge. Which means that if another team that is closer to the salary cap line (the Celtics are way over meaning Ray's expiring contract won't get them under the cap next year to make a run at the ridiculous crop of 2010 free agents) acquires Ray this year and gives us back longer term contracts, they can get under or further under the cap line next year. So the Celtics can look to trade Ray, who is making $19.7M this year, for another $20M worth in contracts.

Thanks to ESPN's fantastic trade machine, we can actually play around and see what deals work. I personally believe there is one trade they should make that would fix a lot of our issues, which I will give you first, but there are others. (click on the links of the trades to see how the trade works out and to click on any players name to see who they are if you don't know them)
  1. Ray Allen to Sacramento; Kevin Martin and Andres Nocioni to Boston: This gives us a younger more athletic shooting guard who would become part of the new core along with Rondo and Perk when they officially take over the team. Nocioni would bring some toughness to the bench and may even be able to serve as a back up 4 so we can run some small ball lineups that we did during the championship runs. Only problem here is that Nocioni's contract is awful. But Kevin Martin is really really good.
  2. Ray Allen and Eddie House to the Knicks; Al Harrington, Jared Jeffries, and Nate Robinson to Boston: This would probably wreak havoc on the chemistry, although at the moment it seems fairly tenuous as is. But Al Harrington would give us a legit 6th man, instead of Sheed's walking corpse. Jared Jeffries would give us a versatile defender who can guard 4 positions. And Nasty Nate would give us instant offense off the bench in far more versatile ways than 22-foot-jump-shot-Eddie. Plus it would move either Tony Allen or Marquis Daniels to the starting 2, where I think they would both play better being the 5th option, rather than the 2nd option off the bench. Of course this would help the Knicks get LeBron and another top free agent next year and I really don't want to help them.
  3. Ray Allen and Tony Allen to Golden State; Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette, and Anthony Randolph to Boston: This is the most interesting trade I could possibly imagine. All three GS players are ridiculously talented. Ellis scores at will. Maggette is like a young Paul Pierce when he wants to be and gets to the line at ease. And Anthony Randolph right now looks like Bambi at times, but has the upside of Kevin Garnett. No bull shit, he's that good and athletic. But they don't exactly fit here. To them, defense is a matter of foreign policy. Assists are what old women need to cross the street. But boy would it be fun to watch Rondo throwing lob passes to Randolph for the next 10 years. For me, that is really the linchpin of the trade. I'd put up with the bad defense and bad contracts of Ellis and Maggette just to watch Rondo and Randolph channel their inner Payton and Kemp.
  4. Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to Philly; Andre Iguodala and Sam Dalembert to Boston OR Ray Allen, Brian Scalabrine and Sheed to Philly; Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand to Boston: This one is fairly unlikely, but Philly really would love to get rid of Dalembert and Brand. I think both could be useful as the first big man off the bench (granted at very high salaries it is not very efficient) and obviously I would rather have Brand because that means getting rid of Rasheed. But the real reason to make this move is for Iguodala. Paid like a superstar, he is really in the next tier below. You would not want him as the first option on your team if you are trying to win a championship. But as the second banana on offense and covering the best wing player on defense, he would make the aging Celtics a true force. This is the player I want the most, but I don't see this trade happening as Philly is said to want more than just cap relief for Iggy.
  5. Ray Allen to Utah; Andre Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer to Boston: Utah does this purely to shed salary, although it would help their offense a lot if Ray can regain his shooting touch at all. We would gain a starting 2 guard whose offense has slipped a lot this year, but who plays absolute lock down defense in Ronnie Brewer. And we would get a monster of a 6th man who could start at 3 or 4 when Paul or KG can't. AK47 (best nickname in the league and thankfully not a retired Celtics number) can do a little bit of everything and this season has really returned to the form that made him such a fantasy stud a few years ago. He is a constant threat for 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. Off the bench that is ridiculous. This trade does not help our offense enough though and both players have trouble in complicated systems so unelss Ainge is ok with just getting even more suffocating on D and losing a step on O, I don't think he does this.
So there are 5 options (and there are others but this is getting long) that would make our team younger, more dynamic, and a hell of a lot more fun to watch. In most cases the offense improves. In most cases we get some younger pieces that are locked into deals that will become a part of a new core once the current Big 3 is done (which appears to be sooner and sooner every day). Scenario 1 is the most likely and makes the most sense for both sides. Scenario 4 B is my dream. Scenario 3 would be scary, fun, and sexy. At the end of the day though, I wouldn't expect any of these to actually happen.

It is sad to have to get rid of a guy like Ray who contributed so much to Banner 17 and is such a great guy. But it is even sadder to go through 10 years of mediocrity when a little pro-activity could have prevented such a tumble. Unfortunately, it seems like Danny Ainge will stand pat, make a rather pointless trade like Glen Davis for D.J. Augustin (why do we need a back-up point guard when rondo should play 40 minutes a night?), and we will continue our tumble down the Eastern Conference standings, possibly playing our way right out of the first round, head into next year with no cap space even with $30+M coming off the books, have KG and Paul age another year with their own monster contracts, watch the awkward transition of Rondo and Perk trying to take over the team, be stuck in shitty draft pick land for the next 3 years, and wonder where it all went wrong?

Damn, what happened to being positive?