Friday, July 29, 2011

Them's Fighting Words

Since I forced you all to sit through a J.D. Drew post and a post about team doctors this week, here is something more entertaining. Although the doctor post only had 9 hits so I guess not too many of you suffered.

Sexy Boston Sports' Pugilistic Enthusiast Kati Welch sent me a post idea via text message a couple weeks ago: "Can u (sic) do a blog comaparing (sic) sports fites (sic)?And (sic) why hockey ones are bogus, haha” (yes folks, she is a high school English teacher). Done and done*. Today I am going to look at the brawl styles of the four major sports by comparing each sport to the different types of people who get into bar fights, with bonus video clips from fights from each sport. Let’s get ready to rumbllllllllllllllle!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm not a doctor, I just play one on TV

The above title was allegedly overheard in the Red Sox locker room this weekend.

Alex Speier of reported today that the Red Sox are “very concerned” about the status of Clay Buchholz and his ailing back. What was once thought to be a muscle strain could now be something serious like a broken bone. Before we get into the nightmare scenario of John Lackey being one of the team’s three top starters in a playoff series, I want to look at what the hell is going on with the Red Sox medical staff. In chronological order:

2004: The Red Sox lose team physician William Morgan and hire Dr. Thomas Gill as team medical director. Morgan was the brilliant mind behind Curt Schilling’s bloody sock moment. He used tissue from a dead body to suture the tendons in place in Schilling’s ankle, a procedure that had never been done before, and allowed the pitcher to contribute to the first Red Sox championship in 86 years. Gill was the chief of the sports medicine division at Mass General so he carried with him an impressive pedigree.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Serious Man

Below is a long, rambling, musing on a player most of you don't want to read about. Kind of like one of his at bats.

I once read an article by a "stat-head" blogger (I can't remember the blogger or the article now) that said something like, "if I want to know a person's understanding of baseball, I just ask their opinion on J.D. Drew."

J.D. Drew is in the final season of 5 year, $70 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. In the almost 5 years he has been here, this quiet, above average baseball player has become the most reviled athlete among Boston fans of any sport that I can remember in my lifetime. Whether you are an alcoholic (Vin Baker), a narc (Nick Kaczur), a police beater (Randy Moss), a wife beater (Wil Cordero), an old man beater (Manny Ramirez) or just straight up lunatic (Carl Everett, Delonte West), you are more well liked in Boston than J.D. Drew. All because he specializes in the most important thing a hitter needs to do.
In baseball, an offense receives 27 outs to score as many runs as possible. The teams who score the most runs are (usually) the teams who send the most players to the plate before making those 27 outs (you can see a deeper study of the correlation between not making outs and scoring runs in the book Baseball Between the Numbers). Whether a player bats 1st, 4th or 9th, his ultimate job is to not get out. Let me repeat that: no matter where you bat, the ultimate goal of a hitter is to not get out. It is not to move the runners along and it is not to drive in runners (except maybe in the instance of a close game in the final couple innings). As long as a team is not making outs, the other team cannot come to the plate to attempt to not make outs themselves.

This is a simple concept that I am sure most of you get. Obviously you don’t want your hitters going up to the plate trying to make an out (except for the sacrifice bunt, which is an overused tactic that we can get into at another date). When they step to the plate, you want your hitters trying to get on base by any means necessary. So if this is a concept that most of you get, why the unabashed hatred of J.D. Drew?

Drew ranks 142nd all time and 17th among active players in on base percentage (OBP) with a mark of .384. OBP is the measure of how often a player doesn’t make an out. He ranks above Willie Mays, Derek Jeter, Mike Schmidt, Vlad Guerrero, Duke Snider, Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron and a host of other Hall of Fame ballplayers. 

Ok, some of you may be thinking, “here we go again, another stat-head pimping on base percentage as the be all, end all of baseball.” He also ranks 133rd all time and 36th among active players with a .490 slugging percentage (SLG), the measure of a hitter’s power. He is tied with Reggie Jackson and ahead of George Brett, Yogi Berra, Andre Dawson, Kirby Puckett, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield and many more. He ranks just 667th in batting average at .278, but is ahead of guys like Cal Ripken, Ernie Banks, Dwight Evans, Joe Morgan, Mathews, Willie McCovey and Carlton Fisk. He is also widely regarded as a very good outfielder and he has been to the playoffs with every team he has played on (a total of 8 times). 

Ok, so now you are willing to admit that he has had a very good career overall, "but he has SUCKED with the Red Sox and they completely overpaid him." I am going to have to cheat just a little bit here because, admittedly, he has been terrible and overpaid this year. So what I am going to do is look at his first four years with the team because it's not like this is a new sentiment this year; Drew has been hated since he took his first called third strike in the bottom of the first inning in the third game of the 2007 season. From 2007-2010 among players with at least 2000 plate appearances (500  per season), Drew ranks 21st in OBP, 45th in SLG, 30th in on base plus slugging and 31st in Wins Above Replacement. Another way to look at this would be if all non-pitchers were removed from their roster and the teams had a draft based on performance from 2007-'10, J.D. Drew would arguably be the first pick in the second round. Also, shows that over those 4 years, Drew was valued at $58.4M while earning $56M. So now that we've established that he was one of the 30 or 40 best non-pitchers over his first 4 years with the Sox and about properly paid I'll ask again, why the unabashed hatred of J.D. Drew?

Since there are so many people close to me who feel this way (despite my repeated attempts to convince them otherwise) I can actually break this down to five easy answers.

1) His contract: In 2006, Drew opted out of a 5-year, $55M contract with the LA Dodgers and everyone thought he was crazy to do so. Of course that was until Theo Epstein swooped in with a 5-year, $70M offer. Everybody thought the contract was insane because people didn't understand the value he provided at the plate and in the field. No matter what happened with Drew, fans were going to always be skeptical of him because of the seemingly bloated contract. It also didn't help having...

2) A "bad" first season: It actually wasn't that bad of a season. It was a little above average with the bat and very strong in the field. But he only hit 11 HR, drove in 64 RBI and his batting average was only .270. "We paid $70M for this?" was the collective thought. In actuality he still got on base a lot, had 30 doubles and played stellar defense, but none of this mattered. Things were amplified when people were able to derisively cheer for what is now dubbed the "$14M grand slam" that he hit in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians and...

3) Trot Nixon: Ah Trot. The original Dirt Dawg. Enemy to the Snuggle bear, hero to Red Sox Nation. Nobody embodied the type of player that Boston fans like to root for better than Trot. He loved to play in the mud. He was as close to a hockey enforcer as you can get. He also did not do the things that help baseball teams win as well as J.D. Drew did. His AVG, OBP and SLG were all a little worse (.274/.364/.464 vs. .278/.384/.490). His defense was more exciting because of all the dirt, but all the dirt was a product of him not being able to get to balls as cleanly as Drew did. And what did all that rolling around in the dirt get Trot?

4) Injuries: In Trot's last 4 years with the Red Sox he played 420 games. In Drew's first 4 years with the Sox he played 525 games. Trot was far more injury prone than Drew and yet Drew gets the label of being soft. Granted, some of the stories that have come out about him asking out of games do paint the picture of a guy unwilling to play through injuries. Besides 2008 he has never had any serious injuries, which seem to be acceptable, but they are always nagging ones that sound like something we all think he should play through. However, when it comes to injuries 1) we don't know how severe the pain is from player to player, 2) the media can spin the severity however they please and I bet with Drew they have been overly unflattering and 3) I think playing through injuries is very overrated and usually detrimental to the team. Just look at the last few years of Cal Ripken's consecutive games played streak. From '92-'98 he was a below average hitter. He was not nearly as valuable as he probably could be had he taken a few games off. But nobody seemed to really care as he flashed that winning smile around Baltimore whether he popped out to second or doubled to left. Which brings us to the last point...

5) Attitude: I want to go back to what the since forgotten blogger said from my opening paragraph, "if I want to know a person's understanding of baseball, I just ask their opinion on J.D. Drew." When I first heard this I thought it was funny and brilliant. I know for a fact that Drew is a really good baseball player and most fans in Boston say that he sucks, therefore those people that say he sucks do not understand baseball. Now that I've thought about it some more, though, I don't think it rings as true. In this post I think I have clearly shown that until this season Drew did not in fact suck as a baseball player. So when people scream from the rooftops that Drew sucks, I'm not really sure even they think he's a bad ballplayer (again, besides this year).

The thing is that Boston fans are some of the most passionate (crazy) in all of sports. We live and die with every pitch and we expect the players to do the same. Guys like Nixon, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz wear their emotions on their sleeves so we can all see ourselves in them. We imagine that if we were lucky enough to make it to this level we wouldn't squander any opportunity to do our best. We also believe that if a guy is so lucky to make it this far that he should savor every moment of the game and give it his all, which are all acceptable feelings.

Unfortunately, sometimes we expect a little too much from these guys. It is extremely difficult to play 162 games a year with all the traveling, injuries and rabid fans. Guys do different things to cope with all the rigors of being a major league ballplayer ("ya but they get millions of dollars to do it!" That's economics my friend. If you'd like to discuss why these players generally earn what they make or in most cases are underpaid, I'd be happy to teach you.) Some guys pop amphetamines. Some guys drink. Some guys act like maniacs. J.D. Drew acts like Even Steven because he knows in baseball there is always the next pitch. Misread a fastball down the middle for called strike three? That's ok, get 'em next time. Make a diving catch to save a no-hitter? Time to jog back to the dugout to get ready to hit. Stroke a walk-off home run? Ok, that was pretty sweet, here's a fist pump. And this is why everyone hates the guy.

It's not the called third strikes and the fact that his best skill is walking. Like I said earlier, Trot Nixon was a similar but slightly worse player, but since he acted like a crazy person every now and then, every body loved him. Since it seems like Drew doesn't care people say he sucks, when what they really mean is that he is not a fun player to watch.

Therein lies the real problem with J.D. Drew. To me and probably most fans the most important thing in sports is winning games. Drew is arguably one of the best 200 hitters in baseball history as far as helping his team win games. He definitively does not suck at baseball. Unfortunately there are nearly 500 hours of baseball played in the regular season that some of us watch and sometimes we need more than just winning. Sometimes a great 8 pitch at-bat that ends in a walk putting runners at first and second with two out is just not something the fans want to see. And sometimes even a well-timed home run isn't as exciting as it could be when it looks like the player enjoyed it less than the fans. The only thing that Drew owes Boston fans is playing his best. Some would argue that he hasn't done that, but I think his record speaks for him. However, in the curious case of J.D. Drew, the fans wanted more and he evidently wasn't willing or able to give them that.

These are the mental gymnastics one must take to declare that a very good baseball player sucks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jacoby Mays Hayes

"Say hey! Jacoby Mays Hayes here. I play like Mays and run like Hayes."

Jacoby Ellsbury exploded into the hearts of Red Sox Nation (and the spank banks of the female and gay faction) in 2007 with a scorching September call-up and legendary World Series performance. His combination of world-beating speed, line-drive power and movie-star looks made him an instant icon in Boston. His Hall of Fame plaque was already etched. Streets and babies were being named after him. Women were leaving their husbands just to get a crack at him. The sky was the limit.

Then reality sunk in. Buoyed by a .380 batting average on balls in play (a really high BABIP like this signals he was getting lucky) in his brief debut, Ellsbury was destined to come back to Earth. In 2008 his destiny was realized. Sharing time with Coco Crisp in center and filling in for Manny Ramirez in left, Ellsbury played 145 games in his official rookie season. The speed was still fully on display. He stole 50 bases in 61 attempts for a very good 82% success rate, becoming the first Red Sox player to steal 50 bases since Tommy Harper in 1973. The fielding numbers also said he was a star in left where he challenged Carl Crawford for the title of best left fielder. Unfortunately, the power and luck both disappeared. In 609 plate appearances he mustered just 9 home runs, 7 triples and 22 doubles for a slugging percentage of .394. His BABIP dropped to .312, which took his average down to .280. With the drop in average, his OBP also plummeted to a below average .336. Though he was blessed with the traditional lead-off hitter profile, Ellsbury was unable to provide value from the spot while getting on base so little.

The next season was even more of a mixed bag. Ellsbury upped his steal total to a Red Sox’ record 70 (with an 85% success rate). His luck at the plate also returned some so he was able to post a line of .301/.355/.415. However, the numbers were inflated by an increase in singles that can be attributed almost as much to luck (where the defense is positioned plays a huge role in many singles) as to skill. His power output was exactly the same as the year before. His walk rate improved a little, but was still far from elite. When I watched his at bats it was clear that opposing pitchers were not respecting him because they knew the worst that could happen would be a ground ball single. If he were to advance his game he needed to make pitchers think twice about pounding the strike zone with fastballs.

Another interesting wrinkle to the season was his shift full time to center field in the wake of Crisp’s departure. His speed and Web Gem plays made it appear that he was an incredible center fielder. However, if you watched him close enough you realized that his routes were awful and he was actually not getting to a lot of balls that he should be. The Jacoby Special was taking three steps back on a shallow fly ball then having to race in and make a diving catch to save the play. The defensive numbers supported this notion and ran counter to what most fans thought about his play in center. The numbers said Ellsbury was one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball, if not the worst.

Before the 2010 season, the Red Sox signed 37-year-old center fielder Mike Cameron with the intent of sliding Ellsbury back to left. The stat heads all agreed this was the right move while the main stream media wailed that it was another example of Theo Epstein trying to get too cute. Unfortunately we never got the chance to know either way. Both players missed the majority of the season, combining for 66 games on the year. Ellsbury was blasted locally for milking his multiple broken ribs and not making more of an effort to come back down the stretch. The heartthrob who was destined for the Hall of Fame was now Public Enemy Number 1 on Yawkey Way.

Heading into 2011, there was an endless list of questions about Jacoby Ellsbury. Was he healthy? Was he any good? Would he be traded? What provided a clearer picture about his defense, the numbers or the eyes? Is he single? Is he a clubhouse cancer? The question no one was asking was: would he become one of the premier speed/power guys in baseball?

Yesterday, Jacoby Ellsbury hit his 14th and 15th home runs on the season and pretty soon he should double his previous career high (9 in 2008). He is third in baseball in steals with 28 (though his success rate is a piss poor 73%). In addition to home runs, he is setting career highs in slugging, on base percentage, walk rate, line drive percentage and home runs per fly ball. His defense even seems to be improving. According to Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement, he is the 6th most valuable hitter in baseball (just behind Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez). He has completely transformed himself from a speedy slap hitter to a speedy power hitter. To put his season into some historical perspective, Ellsbury is on pace to hit 25 home runs and steal 47 bases; here is the entire list of players who have met both thresholds in a single season:
Player SB HR Year Age Tm BA OBP SLG OPS
Rickey Henderson 87 28 1986 27 NYY .263 .358 .469 .827
Eric Davis 80 27 1986 24 CIN .277 .378 .523 .901
Joe Morgan 67 26 1973 29 CIN .290 .406 .493 .899
Rickey Henderson 65 28 1990 31 OAK .325 .439 .577 1.016
Joe Morgan 60 27 1976 32 CIN .320 .444 .576 1.020
Cesar Cedeno 57 26 1974 23 HOU .269 .338 .461 .799
Cesar Cedeno 56 25 1973 22 HOU .320 .376 .537 .913
Ryne Sandberg 54 26 1985 25 CHC .305 .364 .504 .868
Barry Bonds 52 33 1990 25 PIT .301 .406 .565 .970
Hanley Ramirez 51 29 2007 23 FLA .332 .386 .562 .948
Eric Davis 50 37 1987 25 CIN .293 .399 .593 .991
Bobby Bonds 48 26 1970 24 SFG .302 .375 .504 .879
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/21/2011.

On this list you have three Hall of Famers (Henderson, Morgan and Sandberg), one of the three best players of all time (Barry Bonds) and his All Star father (Bobby Bonds), one of the most exciting and tragic young players ever (Davis), a perennial MVP candidate (Ramirez) and the criminally underrated Cesar Cedeno. Is this the season that propels Ellsbury into this elite level or is this the best we are going to see from the center fielder at the age when most players peak? In a career full of questions, this latest one is far and away the most intriguing. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trade Deadline Targets: Catcher

The title for this post is a little bit of a red herring. You will not see any catching trade targets in this post. Well you will, briefly, but not for the purpose of listing people the Red Sox may acquire. You see, after a horrible start to the season in which no Red Sox catcher homered until May 15th, both Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek are hitting above average for the season.

In case you have forgotten how bad things were with the Red Sox catching position back in May, here is an excerpt from my Week 5 Observations post back on May 10:
Red Sox catchers. If you combine the OPS’s of Jarrod Saltalamacchia(.522) and Jason Varitek (.466), they would still rank just 6th in all of baseball. Salty has allowed the most stolen bases in the AL and Varitek ranks to third last in caught stealing percentage of all AL catchers with at least 15 starts. We are supposed to believe that Varitek has played a large role in Beckett’s and Dice K’s turn around and apparently Salty is getting much better at calling games. But when do we see some tangible production from this crew? Varitek is hanging on because he’s the captain and Salty is holding it down because he still has promise and is the same age as Varitek when it clicked for him. This is all well and good, and I can live with low production from this spot on offense, but it appears neither are doing anything well, which is just depressing.
Mark Twain taught us that tragedy plus time equals comedy so feel free to laugh at that early season depression. As of this writing, Salty’s On Base Plus Slugging (OPS) is .758 and Tek’s is .741. Combined, Red Sox catchers rank 7th in all of baseball in OPS and they are closer to 2nd than they are to 12th. And if you put stock in this sort of thing, the two have helped guide a rag tag bunch of starting pitching replacements to a respectable 15th in runs allowed in baseball. It seems pretty clear to me that catching is no longer a problem for this team this year, and that is a very, very good thing.

The trade market for the catching position is about as thread bare as Oscar Bluth’s remaining pair of pants. Former General Manager Jim Bowden lists as his top available catchers Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro, Ivan Rodriguez and Jose Molina. Of the first three, Rodriguez has the highest average (.214) and on base percentage (.276) this season and Barajas has the highest slugging percentage (.370). Molina is having a strong season in limited playing time, but at 36 years old he has a career .286 OBP so I would not expect his strong start to continue.

The fact of the matter is there are not a lot of great hitting catchers out there. Besides the insanely underrated Brian McCann (6 All Star games in his 6 full seasons and he gets very little mention as a potential Hall of Famer why?), the rest of the top performing catchers (by OPS+*) are a strange brew. Detroit’s Alex Avila had “nepotism” written all over him last year, but this year is the best hitting catcher in the American League. Ramon Hernandez of Cincinnati is a former All Star, but he is 35 and shares time with Ryan Hannigan. Carlos Santana spends 1/3 of his time wearing a first baseman’s mitt for Cleveland. Miguel Montero, Buster Posey, Wilson Ramos and Matt Wieters (ranked 5th-8th, respectively, in OPS+) represent the next tier of established catchers in or approaching their prime behind McCann. Then sitting 9th is our own Salty (Tek is 13th ) ahead of recent or current All Stars Yadier Molina, Carlos Ruiz, Geovanny Soto and the cold as ice Russell Martin.

*OPS+ is the percent above or below average (average represented by a value of 100) a batter's OPS is compared to his position with adjustments for playing in a hitter's or pitcher's park.

Should either of the current catchers falter or get hurt, the Sox should still be all set. Down in Pawtuckett, 23-year-old Ryan Lavarnway is establishing himself as a legitimate player and pulling away as the Sox top catching prospect. Since his promotion to AAA in June, he has hit .381/.451/.729 in 133 plate appearances. He could definitely use some more time in the minors, but in a pinch he should serve as a more than adequate compliment to the remaining catcher. For more on Lavarnway, here is prospect maven John Sickels
All told, Lavarnway is a career .284/.375/.509 hitter in 320 minor league games, with no deterioration in his performance as he's moved up the ladder. Indeed, if anything he's improved, easing scout concerns about a long swing by showing power to all fields. He has decent plate discipline and his strikeout rate has actually declined as he's moved up. Although he won't win batting titles in the majors, I expect that he'll carry the power forward. The serious question has always been defense, and while Lavarnway has spent much of his career as a DH, his glove has improved...Although Lavarnway will never win gold gloves, if he maintains his current progress he can be at least adequate defensively, while providing considerable power on the offensive side. We should see him in Fenway later this year, and he could take a larger role on the major league roster in 2012.
Sum it all up and there is a great chance that Boston will be all set at catcher for the rest of this season and possibly for years to come. Salty seems to be cashing in on some of his immense promise, Tek is having a bit of a resurgence and Lavarnway appears to be the catcher of the future. Good times behind the dish for the Sox.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trade Deadline Targets: Right Fielders

Mike Cameron telling Carlos Beltran that Boston is a scary place
It’s a walk-off! It took 16 innings and almost 6 hours, but the Red Sox scored a 1-0 victory over the Rays last night to capture the series win. As exciting as this marathon was, the game highlighted one of the Sox’ most glaring holes, outfield depth. Last night, Red Sox outfielders combined to hit 0-17 (with 5 walks). Granted, only 3 members on the whole team got hits and Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the team’s top performers this year, accounted for 8 of those 17 hitless at bats, but it was another night of poor performances from a group that appeared to be, at worst, league average before the start of the year. The team will get some help tonight when Carl Crawford returns from injury, but they could probably still use more reinforcements. Crawford (.659 OPS), J.D. Drew (.637), Darnell McDonald (.520) and Mike Cameron (.477 and since released) have all performed far below expectations. Crawford is in the first year of a massive 7 year deal so he is not going anywhere, but the team could look to add a starting right fielder or at least a right-handed-hitting outfielder to compliment the all-lefty group of Crawford, Ellsbury and Drew. Today we will look at the options that Theo Epstein might consider over the next few weeks and place them in groups near and dear to my heart, burgers.

Brasserie Jo's Grand Jo Burger topped with crispy pork belly and braised beef cheeks (Hall of Famer, wicked expensive, but it’s only money)

Carlos Beltran, Mets

I had this burger this weekend for the first time. It was the best burger I have ever had. Though it cost almost $20, it was worth every penny. It was a beef burger topped with pork belly and beef cheeks (I still have no clue what either of these are), lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese because I asked for it. And that was it. No ketchup, mayo, mustard or any of the crazy condiments we use at Sexy Burger. It was simple and sophisticated all at once and it almost made me cry with its incredible taste.

Beltran is the crown jewel of the outfield trade market. This potential Hall of Famer is having a resurgent (.893 OPS) and, more importantly, healthy season in the final year of his huge contract. Like the Grand Jo, Beltran has always played the game with a quiet elegance. He has a smooth, but powerful swing. He glides after balls in the outfield. He is the most efficient base stealer of all time. He plays without a lot of the flash of lesser players. As a switch hitter he would be a great fit for this lineup, probably behind David Ortiz. He would also push Drew to a bench role or maybe, as the Boston media hopes, into retirement. Best of all, it may not take much besides picking up his full salary to get him away from the cash-strapped Mets. Even though the team is surprisingly at .500, they are still miles behind the Phillies and Braves for the division and Wild Card leads, respectively, so they should be sellers at the deadline. Would a package of Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish and Kyle Weiland or Michael Bowden be enough to get this done if the Sox pick up the rest of his salary?

In-N-Out Burger’s Animal Style Burger (potential franchise players that would be very difficult for Boston to acquire)

Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Andre Ethier, Dodgers; Hunter Pence, Astros

In-N-Out is a franchised burger chain that is almost exclusively located on the west coast. People who have had an In-N-Out burger, particularly the Animal Style, swear it is the best franchise burger they have ever had. Since there are no locations east of Texas, it would be very inconvenient for people from Boston to get this burger.

All three players in this category would be franchise players for any team that didn’t already have about 4 or 5 like the Red Sox. They are each signed beyond this year so they wouldn’t just be rental players. Because of this, they would all be extremely difficult to acquire. Kemp is the best and youngest of the group. He plays center for the Dodgers right now, but is much better suited for an outfield corner. He is on pace to join the 40/40 club (40 homers and steals) this year. He would only become available if the Dodgers decide they need to have a fire sale because of the ownership mess. Of this group, Ethier is probably the worst hitter, worst fielder, worst baserunner and the oldest and hits left handed so he may not be a fit. However, he is a good hitter and great friends with Dustin Pedroia (they went to college together) so he will always be connected with the Red Sox. Finally, Pence is a very good hitter and decent fielder. He is also signed the longest (through 2013). I think he has become a little overrated, but he is definitely a good piece. He probably would be the most difficult to acquire because the Astros vastly overrate their own players and tend to hold on too long. I think acquiring any of these players would take at least Jose Iglesias and Anthony Ranaudo and potentially even Clay Buchholz, so I don’t think we see any of these guys in Boston this year unless things go from bad to worse in Los Angeles.

Five Guys Cheeseburger (decent, but if you are expecting All Star performance you will be disappointed)

Jeff Francouer, Royals; Melky Cabrera, Royals; Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs; Michael Cuddyer, Twins

Every player on this list is either a former All Star (Fukudome, Cuddyer) or a player who has received so much unwarranted praise you would think they were an All Star (Francouer, Cabrera). All are about average players having pretty good years so they would definitely be useful to the Red Sox. Francouer would be the perfect platoon partner for Drew as he crushes lefties. Cabrera would be one of the better defensive options (he’s really bad in center but would probably play well in right) and a third outfield stolen base threat. Fukudome would fit the Sox mold the most as an on base machine and very good defender (though he is a lefty). Cuddyer has excellent versatility with his ability to play all four corners and second base and has the biggest power in this group. But just like a burger from Five Guys, these players may all be a little more expensive than they are worth. The Royals are notorious for over-valuing their veterans; Fukudome is on the last year of a very big contract; the Twins are actually creeping back into the playoff race so they may be reluctant to give up their All Star. Fukudome could probably be had for a lower tier prospect like Weiland if the Sox take on his salary. The Royals and Twins would probably start off by asking for Iglesias or Ranaudo, but they may settle for a package of Reddick and Bowden.

Wendy’s Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe (Value Menu options; some value but like fitting a square burger on a round bun)

David DeJesus, A’s; Josh Willingham, A’s; Luke Scott, Orioles; Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins; Ryan Ludwick, Padres

I don’t think anyone on this list should play full time over J.D. Drew, but some could be good platoon partners.  DeJesus had an excellent season last year that was cut short to an unfortunate injury. Whether that injury is still bothering him or Oakland’s huge park is playing a role, he has had a horrible season this year. He is still a good defender but as a lefty bat he wouldn’t be a great fit for this team. Willingham is a right handed power bat who has had some of his power sapped this year probably from Oakland. Though his bat would look nice, I don’t think the former catcher would be able to handle Fenway’s big right field. Same goes for Scott, who should have been Baltimore’s every day DH this year before they got starry-eyed and threw a bunch of money at aging Vladimir Guerrero. Bonifacio is fast and versatile on defense, but (current 15 game hitting streak notwithstanding) can’t hit a lick. Ludwick has experienced a steep decline since being traded to San Diego last year and it is not just in home games as his home/away OPS are only .003 different. All of these players could probably be had for some cash and a player to be named later, but none would really provide the Sox anything they can’t get in house.

What the Red Sox should do

Trade for the Cubs’ Reed Johnson (I didn’t include Johnson on any of the above lists because I couldn’t think of a burger that is cheap and underrated). As one of Drew’s biggest defenders the last 5 years, it pains me to say that he is probably done. The team clearly needs to move on. In his place I would give Reddick the majority of the playing time to see what the team has. He appears to be a very capable defender and if he shows that he is over matched at the plate, the Sox offense is still the best in baseball even without a good hitting right fielder. To help ease the rigors of playing every day in the Major Leagues, Boston should look for a right handed hitting platoon partner. Johnson is having his best year at the plate this season and has always killed lefties. Though the Cubs would prefer to trade Fukudome or Alphonso Soriano, the Red Sox should be able to get Johnson with some cash and a mediocre prospect. Also, they need to release Darnell McDonald immediately. He should never see another at bat with this team. Seeing him batting fifth on the interleague road trip was an embarrassment to this team.

What the Red Sox will do

I have no friggin’ clue. This is a tough position to decipher because of Theo’s love for Drew. My guess is that they get a right handed option off the bench like Johnson, but keep Drew as the starter against righties and move Reddick to the 5th outfield role. But I could see the Mets getting desperate with Beltran, the Dodgers getting desperate with their players and Billy Beane really working the phones to unload his underperforming players. Desperation produces unpredictable results so for all I know we could see Jason Bay clumsily patrolling right when all is said and done. Either way, I’d say this is the position most likely to see an addition, I just don’t know what caliber.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Trade Deadline Targets: Relief Pitchers

Grant Balfour Reliever Grant Balfour #50 of the Oakland A's reacts after giving up a two-run home run to tie the game for the San Francisco Giants in the eighth inning at AT&T Park on May 22, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The Giants won 5-4.
2009, Billy Wagner, Regular Season: 15.2 innings pitched, 3 runs allowed; Post Season: 1 inning pitched 2 runs allowed
2007, Eric Gagne, Regular: 18.2 IP, 14 R; Post: 4.1 IP, 3 R
2006, Javier Lopez, Regular: 16.2 IP, 10 R
2006, Bryan Corey, Regular: 21.2 IP, 11 R
2005, Chad Bradford, Regular: 23.1 IP, 10 R; Post 1.1 IP, 0 R
2005, Mike Remlinger, Regular: 6.2 IP, 14 R
2004, Jimmy Anderson, Regular: 6 IP, 4 R
2004, Terry Adams, Regular: 27 IP, 19 R
2003, Byung-Hyun Kim, Regular: 50.1 IP, 24 R; Post: 0.2 IP 1 R
2003, Scott Sauerbeck, Regular: 16.2 IP, 14 R; Post: 0.1 IP 0 R
2003, Scott Williamson, Regular 20.1 IP, 15 R; Post: 8 IP, 1 R

Above is the list of relief pitchers Theo Epstein has acquired by mid-season trade in his tenure as Red Sox GM. I haven’t seen a list this uninspiring since I looked at M. Night Shyamalan’s IMDB page post-Sixth Sense. Assembling a bullpen is extremely unpredictable. Trying to do so mid-season can be downright reckless as you can see by some of the pitchers on this list. Gagne, Lopez, Corey, Bradford, Remlinger, Anderson, Adams, Kim, Sauerbeck and Williamson were all disasters down the stretch after the Red Sox acquired them. In fact, of this list of 11 pitchers, only Wagner pushed the needle in the right direction. That is a 9% success rate! While it seems like every team could use bullpen help this time of year, trading for relievers does not seem to be the answer. Still, I would expect the Sox to probably add a piece (hopefully just a lefty specialist) either by the deadline or perhaps through waivers. Here are some names you will probably hear over the next couple months, categorized in honor of the master of shit (and the Shyamalan twist), M. Night Shyamalan.

The Sixth Sense (the big names, could have impact)

Heath Bell, Padres; Joakim Soria, Royals; Kerry Wood, Cubs; Huston Street, Rockies

Bell, Soria and Street are all well established closers who post big save totals. Wood is the former Roger Clemens clone who has rediscovered himself in the back end of the bullpen. All would fit nicely as a 7th/8th inning guy and Street and Soria could be kept around for next year to replace Jonathon Papelbon. Personally, I wouldn’t trade for any of these guys, and it’s not because “they’ve never done it in Boston, and closing in Boston takes a special type of mentality that you just don’t have when you close games in middle America” (an approximate quote from long time baseball writer Tony Maserotti yesterday, conveniently forgetting that ’04 World Series hero Keith Foulke was brought over from Oakland). The reason I wouldn’t trade for any of these guys is because I think it would take far too much to get them relative to their worth. It seems as though most Major League GMs agree with this assessment as there have been very few big name closers traded mid-season lately*. It is just not worth it to give up a prospect with a decent chance of becoming a big league regular for a guy who may give you 20 regular season and 5 post season innings. I would not expect to see any of these guys in Boston this year (though watch out for Bell next year, even though I’d rather keep Pap around).

*Francisco Rodriguez was recently traded to the Brewers. This is a completely different situation because of the Mets’ money woes and K-Rod’s $17.5M option that vests next year if he finishes 55 games. The Brewers gave up little to get him because the Mets just wanted to shed most of his salary.

Unbreakable (not well known but every bit as good as the big names, could be had for much less)

Luke Gregerson, Padres; Mike Adams, Padres; Rafael Betancourt, Rockies; Sean Marshall, Cubs; Randy Choate, Marlins; Grant Balfour, A’s; Brad Ziegler, A’s; Koji Uehara, Orioles

All of these pitchers are having strong seasons for non-contending teams. Because they do not pitch the 9th inning with a lead of 3 runs or less they become undervalued. They all sport strong strike out to walk ratios, which is what you look for most in a reliever. They would all be the 3rd or 4th best reliever on the Red Sox if acquired, but like The Sixth Sense group, their impact would be minimal (sensing a pattern yet?). Marshall and Gregerson would probably be the most difficult to pry away from their teams; Balfour, Choate, Uehara and Betancourt would probably be the easiest. They could probably be acquired for a C prospect like Jeremy Hazelbaker plus a really raw, young pitcher from one of the Sox rookie teams.

The Last Airbender in 3D (saves in baseball=3D in movies, both are totally pointless)

Matt Capps, Twins; Leo Nunez, Marlins; Kevin Gregg, Orioles; Brandon League, Mariners; Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers

Capps tricked the Twins into giving up a top prospect (Wilson Ramos, now a regular for the Nationals) because they needed a new closer who had “done it before”. Nunez is some average reliever who was essentially the lesser of all evils for the Fish. Gregg is the magician who has lured 4 teams now into allowing him to close despite walking 4.5 batters per 9 innings over the last 5 years. All Star Brandon League has a 3.85 career ERA. Broxton actually used to be a really good reliever but injuries and wildness have submarined his career. Trading for one of these guys is like paying an extra $5 for a 3D version of a movie just because 3D (like saves) is supposed to be this wonderful, magical thing.

What the Red Sox should do

Trade for Choate. The one weakness in the Red Sox bullpen is a lack of a lefty specialist. In the greater scheme of things, a guy who has only pitched 18.2 innings this year won’t make much difference between winning and losing. However, if the Sox are up 1 in the bottom of the 7th in Game 7 of the World Series against the Phillies and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard come to bat, it is going to mean a lot to have a guy who can shut down lefties. This year, Choate has held lefties to a .250 OPS. Not average. Not OBP. Not SLG. A .250 OPS.

I would heavily advise them against trading for anyone but a lefty specialist at this point in the season. Guys from The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable groups would certainly be upgrades over current members of the bullpen. However, I believe the Sox can make the playoffs with what they have in the bullpen right now and once they are in the playoffs, the relievers would mean even less. Because games are so spread out now, Papelbon and Daniel Bard can pretty much pitch in every close game and pitch for more than 1 inning. The team will also have Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves, Dan Wheeler, Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield and maybe Bobby Jenks if he can get straight to fill in the gaps. Unless a game goes 14 innings, the only bullpen guys who are really going to matter are Pap and Bard and I don’t think anybody on this list could or should replace them this year.

What the Red Sox will do

Trade for Balfour. Balfour is a high strikeout pitcher who fares equally well against lefties and righties. He has had success in the AL East when he pitched for the Rays the last few years. He also is signed for $4M next year and was supposed to be part of a strong A’s bullpen that would help them reach the playoffs. Since they are last in the AL West, Billy Beane is probably not too thrilled about paying this kind of money for a bullpen pitcher. He should be pretty easy to pry away, and though he is not a lefty specialist, he would give Francona more flexibility than Choate. The same flexibility that Jenks was supposed to provide when Theo envisioned the three closer bullpen in the offseason.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trade Deadline Targets: Starting Pitchers

Hiroki Kuroda Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Three of the National League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 12, 2008 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
Over the next week I am going to look at the baseball trade market for the positions the Red Sox could be interested in. I’ll be looking at players you are likely to hear about in rumors between now and July 31st (the non-waiver trade deadline) and splitting them into different groups based on their likelihood to be traded and how valuable they would be to the Red Sox. I’ll also close each post with what I think the Red Sox should and will do. Today let’s start with the position that shouldn’t be a need, but with injuries to Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and possibly Josh Beckett it could very well be a huge area of concern.

The Megan Fox Group (totally hot, totally unattainable)

Matt Garza, Cubs; Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies 

I’ve heard these two names mentioned recently as possible trade targets for teams. Listen closely boys and girls: there is no way either of these players will be traded at this year’s trade deadline unless Washington calls offering Bryce Harper or the Angels offer Mike Trout. Both guys are young (27 years old), relatively affordable (Garza has 2 more years of arbitration, Jimenez has two cheap club options in ’13 and ’14) and excellent pitchers. Short of giving up Jacoby Ellsbury and Buchholz, I don’t see these guys coming to Boston.

The Zooey Deschanel Group (non-traditionally hot, only attainable if hotness unrealized by the beholder)

Scott Baker, Twins; Tom Gorzelanny, Nationals

Both guys are young (29 and 28, respectively) and fairly cheap (Baker: 2 years, $15.75 M; Gorzelanny: 1 more year arbitration), so on this merit alone they may be hard to acquire. But Baker barely won the fifth starter job coming out of spring training and Gorzelanny has already been traded twice in his career so it seems as though teams undervalue both pitchers. Baker is probably tougher to pry away because he has strong traditional stats like a winning record and an ERA of 3.01 at the moment, but Gorzelanny has a losing record and highish (3.96) ERA. Where both excel, and why I would love them on the Red Sox, is their high strike out to walk ratios. Baker strikes out 3.47 for every 1 he walks and Gorzelanny checks in at 3.04. This is a great single metric to look at to evaluate in-season performance. It’s possible that one of these clubs may consider a deal for either Jose Iglesias or Anthony Ranaudo, but is this too much?

The Amanda Peet Group (attractive girl next door, feel like you could totally have a shot)

Erik Bedard, Mariners; Fransisco Liriano, Twins; Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers; Ted Lilly, Dodgers

Bedard and Liriano could be home runs for the Red Sox and totally attainable (especially once Seattle realizes they aren’t contenders). Both come with major injury red flags, but both have also been Cy Young candidates in the not too distant past so both could make the playoff rotation even if all current starters return. Bedard is having the better season, but is currently on the DL. Liriano had a terrible start to the season, but since he has ditched the Twins proposed “pitch to contact” method, he has been much better. Their high risk/high reward profile would probably require a couple B prospects like Will Middlebrooks, Yamaico Navarro, Kyle Weiland or Oscar Tejeda.

Kuroda and Lilly could turn out to be the most available good pitchers on the market. Each has really good strike out to walk ratios, but Lilly has suffered from the long ball. The reason they are so available is because of the financial mess that the McCourts put the Dodgers in. Lilly has two years left on his contract for $22.5M, so Theo may not want an older pitcher on a long term deal (cough John Lackey cough), but Kuroda is on a one year, $12M deal so he becomes a free agent after this year. A team as desperate as the Dodgers are may let either of these guys go for some C+ prospect like Lars Anderson (yes, he’s just a C+ now) or even less.

The Blake Lively Group (completely overrated and overpaid, can be had, but no thanks)

Jake Peavy, White Sox; Edwin Jackson, White Sox; Ryan Dempster, Cubs; Carlos Zambrano, Cubs

I haven’t heard Peavy or Dempster mentioned in any trade rumors, but they both strike me as pitchers who would be moved if the Sox were willing to take on their salaries. Peavy, the former Cy Young winner, is trying to come back from an injury nobody has ever come back from. His traditional stats look bad, but his walks and home runs are incredibly low so his performance may be undervalued by the White Sox. Unfortunately, his name value will definitely be overvalued by them and he is set to make $17M next year so I don’t think he is a fit. Dempster similarly underperforms in traditional stats, while excelling in some other areas. Again, he has a player option for $14M next year that he would probably pick up so I don’t think he is worth it.

Jackson and Zambrano have both been mentioned as possibly on the move. Jackson is a free agent after the year, so money isn’t an issue, but he is one of the more overrated pitchers in baseball. He has been traded for 4 times already on the promise of his tremendous stuff, but everywhere he goes he disappoints. Zambrano is saddled by a large salary next year of $18M (and an easily vested option of $19.25M in ’13). He is also extremely overrated. Burdened by high walk rates and a decreasing strike out rate, Big Z is nowhere near the pitcher he was when he had top 5 Cy Young finishes three out of four years. Dude can hit though so maybe they could try him in right field?

The Wanda Sykes Group (I wouldn’t touch them with your dick, but could be had for a song)

Javier Vazquez, Marlins; Brett Myers, Astros; Jason Marquis, Nationals; anyone on Kansas City

Vazquez used to be a stud, but has completely lost the ability to pitch effectively due to a loss of fastball velocity. Myers is giving up a ton of home runs this year and is an extremely streaky pitcher who I don’t think would last a day in the American League. He also beat his wife in Boston so I don’t think he would be well received. Marquis is just not very good and also has no business pitching in the American League. Don’t even get me started on the dredge taking the mound in Kansas City. If the Sox acquire any of these guys, you know Theo is truly desperate.

What the Red Sox should do

Theo should stand pat for as long as possible. It appears that the injuries to Lester, Buchholz and Beckett will not be too serious and that barring any new injuries they will all be healthy for the post season. Even with a couple of these guys missing another month or two, I think the Red Sox will at worst end up as the Wild Card because of their ridiculous offense. If it turns out that one of these three does have a serious injury, then he really needs to look at acquiring someone from the Deschanel or Peet groups. The key here is the playoff rotation; if they acquire someone who will play a role in the playoffs then it is worth it. Otherwise, I don’t think anyone on this list (save for Jimenez and Garza) would push any of the Sox top 3 starters to the bullpen in the playoffs. In addition, I think Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Kevin Millwood and Kyle Weiland are more than adequate to serve as 4th and 5th starters for the rest of the regular season. 

What the Red Sox will do

Trade Anderson for Kuroda. The Dodgers are bankrupt so they should be willing to shed money. They also have one of the worst first basemen in baseball in James Loney. Though Anderson has lost most of his prospect luster, there is still enough there to pull off this trade. I suspect that either Lester or Buchholz will not be back by the trade deadline so Theo and the boys will be a little skittish. Even if everyone is healthy, I imagine the Sox will look for an upgrade in the 4 spot because Major League teams now use 4 starters in the playoffs even though they don’t really need to. I’m sure Theo, the owners, Terry Francona and all of Red Sox Nation would rather receive a prostate exam from Andre the Giant than watch John Lackey pitch in a playoff game this year, so expect to see someone like Kuroda added.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Beer League All Stars

Baseball has had a long standing connection to drinking. As two of America’s past times it is only natural they go hand in hand. From the Busch family’s almost 60 year involvement with the Cardinals, to Coors Field and Miller Park, to a 10-cent beer promotion gone awry, to the current (approximately) $93 beers at Fenway Park, it is impossible to think of one without the other.

In honor of Andrew Miller’s third win on the season*, I am going to take a look at baseball’s booziest players. This won’t be a look at who the best drinkers in baseball history are like Wade Boggs and Mickey Mantle. Instead, I am going to search for players who, like Miller, share a name with what you find on the shelves of your local package stores (liquor stores for you non-New Englanders). These are the Beer League All Stars.

*Quick analysis on Miller thus far: He’s done everything the team has needed in light of all the injuries, but with his high walk rate and low strikeout rate (4 BB, 0 K last night) I would expect him to put up a few bad performances over the next couple months especially if he faces a real good offense.

1. Miller Huggins, 2B and Manager, 1904-29: Since we need someone to run the ship, we will go with the Hall of Fame manager over all the other choices for “Miller” (including Boston’s Andrew). At 5’6”, Miller was known as “Mighty Mite.” He had a pretty solid career as a player with the Reds and Cardinals and took over as player-manager for the Cardinals in 1913. After his playing career ended in 1917 he took over as manager of the New York Yankees. When Huggins took over, the club was just another team in the American League. They had yet to win a championship and were overshadowed by their dominant neighbors the New York Giants and league rivals (and 5 time champion) Boston Red Sox. In 1920 that all changed when the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. In 1923 the team won its first ever World Series and Huggins was at the healm. In 1927, Huggins led what is widely considered to be the greatest baseball team of all time to a second championship. They would win a third a year later. During the ’29 season, tragedy struck as Huggins passed away from an eye infection at the age of 50. Let’s all pour one out for Mighty Mite.

2. Bud Harrelson, SS, 1965-80: Harrelson is a two time All Star who played the majority of his career with the New York Mets. In his career, Harrelson hit a whopping 7 home runs. He has the third fewest home runs for any player in baseball history with at least 5,000 plate appearances and the fewest for any player since the dead ball era. It seems like he would be more aptly known as Bud “Light” Harrelson. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

3. Kevin Bass, RF, 1982-95: Bass was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977. What looked like the perfect beer marriage never came to fruition as he was traded to Houston just before he made his Major League debut.

4. Harmon Killebrew, 1B, 1954-75: The Killer wasn't only killing brews, he was also killing major league pitching. Killebrew ranks 11th on the all time home run list with 573 and he led his league in homers six times.

5. Steve Yeager, C, 1972-86: The favorite of college boys everywhere, Yeager carved out a very long career as a backup catcher. Maybe if he came along after the invention of Red Bull he would have had a better chance of starting.

6. Mike Busch, 3B, 1995-96: The big burly third baseman (6’5”, 241 lbs.) represents the family behind my favorite beer. Busch had a September to remember (copywrite: every car dealership in America) in his first taste of the big leagues in ’95 for the LA Dodgers. On September 10th, Busch entered the game in the seventh inning to pinch hit with his team trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3. It was his 12th plate appearance on the season. With nobody on base, Busch took a Mike Dyer pitch over the fence to tie the game for the Dodgers, which they would go on to win. The win kept the team tied with the Colorado Rockies for first place in the NL West. The Dodgers entered the final game of the season a half game ahead of the Rockies needing a win to clinch the division outright. Busch entered the game in the fifth inning as a defensive replacement for first baseman Eric Karros (I assume as an injury replacement). In the seventh, the game was tied 1-1. With two outs and runners on first and third, Busch stepped to the plate to face San Diego’s Brian Williams. On a 2-0 count, Busch deposited the ball over the wall giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead that would hold up as the game’s final score, clinching the pennant for LA. I’d like to think the team doused him with Busch Heavy and Busch Lite in celebration while Tommy Lasorda grabbed him by the shoulders and looked into his eyes and said, “You’ve done good, kid.”

7. Jack Daniels, LF, 1952: I am honored to say that Mr. Daniels played for my family’s team, the Boston Braves. I knew there was a reason Sadie Sloe Gin felt so connected to me. He also sported the very cool nickname "Sour Mash Jack".

8. Johnny Walker, DH, 1919-21: Johnny follows his buddy Jack in the lineup, but never in taste, class or respectability.

9. Buzz Murphy, CF, 1918-19: Murphy is our only double shot of booze on the list for the state of mind (Buzz) and beer brand (Murphy’s). He was also from Colorado so he was able to tap the Rockies whenever he wanted.

Icehouse Wilson, Joe Rossi, Les Hennessy, Ed Pabst

Chief Bender, SP, 1903-25: The Hall of Famer becomes the anchor of our staff. A Chippewa Indian, Bender may not appreciate being on a list about drinking, but I couldn’t help myself. He is often times credited with inventing the slider.

Homer Bailey, SP, 2007-11: One of the great names in baseball history, Bailey would also land on a list of most oxymoronic names with guys like Grant Balfour and David Riske.

Doc Reisling, SP, 1904-10: Reisling plays a huge role on this team beyond number 3 starter. In addition to going great with chicken and fish, the Doc comes in handy when Chief takes his benders a little too far, Harmon has killed a few too many brews and Murphy gets too buzzed.

Johnny Lush, SP, 1904-10: Talk about a homonym with wildly different meanings. Johnny could either be a full, green rain forest or this guy.

Rod Beck, Closer, 1991-2004: Beer last name? Check. Double entendre first name? Check. Mullet? Check. Handlebar mustache? Check. Lived in an RV outside the baseball stadium? Check. The late Beck serves double duty as bullpen ace and team mascot. RIP dude.

Clarence Beers, RP, 1948: The captain of our team with the all encompassing name pitched a whopping two thirds of an inning for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948. Had he made this appearance just 5 years later, the first year the Busch family owned the Cardinals, I would have fingered this for a cheap opening day promotion. But it appears ol’ Clarence Beers came by this appearance honestly.

Wedo Martini, RP, 1935: A treat for the drunks and the stoners, Martini must have been on both for his brief major league career. In 6 1/3 innings, Martini gave up 13 runs and 11 walks. He has the 12th worst career ERA and BB per 9 innings of any player with at least 5 innings pitched.

Sloppy Thurston, RP, 1923-33: Our mop up guy enters the game to clean up the sloppy mess when a starter has had enough. Although with a name like "Sloppy" I have to wonder if he'd even be able to make his way to the mound.

Lefty O'Doul, LF, 1919-34: Your .02% alcohol content is not welcome here.

So that is the Beer League All Stars. A special thanks to Sexy Boston Sports Head of Spirits Research Joe Black who found about 75% of the names on this list. This Bud's for you!