December 13, 2014

Red Sox's Rotation Will Cause A Lot Of Ground Balls

Do The Red Sox Have A Ground Ball Fetish?
Paul Swydan, Fangraphs, December 12, 2014
The Red Sox have tried to erase the painful feelings of their botched Jon Lester negotiations by completing a flurry of pitcher transactions. While that's unlikely to fool people who still just want Lester back, the pitchers acquired (or reportedly acquired) — Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson — all have one thing in common in that they generate a lot of ground balls. Before that, they acquired Joe Kelly, who also generates a great deal of ground balls. Are ground balls the hip new thing on Yawkey Way?
Also: The Ground Game: Searching For Market Inefficiencies (SoSH, December 12, 2014)

December 11, 2014

Red Sox Sign Justin Masterson

ESPN:
The Boston Red Sox reached an agreement Thursday with free-agent pitcher Justin Masterson, sources told ESPN's Buster Olney.

The 28-year-old right-hander had a difficult 2014 campaign, struggling with a knee injury that landed him on the disabled list with the Cleveland Indians and later in the season was relegated to the bullpen by the St. Louis Cardinals, who acquired him in a trade-deadline move.
And somewhere Joe Castiglione is smiling and thinking to himself, "Cookies!"

Red Sox Trade Cespedes To Tigers For Rick Porcello

The Red Sox have acquired Rick Porcello from the Tigers in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson, and Gabe Speier.

Porcello, who turns 26 two days after Christmas, had his best season last year, with a 3.43 ERA in 31 starts.

Current rotation: Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, and ???.

Also, check out Joon Lee's comprehensive look at Miley.

December 10, 2014

Red Sox Acquire LHP Wade Miley From Arizona

The Red Sox have agreed in principle to a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for left-handed starter Wade Miley, with Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and a minor leaguer going to Arizona.

In four seasons, Miley has compiled a 103 ERA+. He has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, with 194.2 innings in 2012.

Jon Lester Signs With Cubs

Ian Browne, MLB.com:
The Red Sox were in the Jon Lester sweepstakes until the very end, but they finished second to the Cubs.

The lefty agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract Tuesday that will reunite him with Theo Epstein in Chicago, MLB.com has confirmed.

Boston's last offer to Lester was for six years at $135 million, according to a source. ...

With Lester now off the table, the Red Sox could pursue one of the other two premier pitching free agents on the market -- right-handers Max Scherzer and James Shields.

However, Scherzer's final price tag could wind up higher than Lester's. ...

Red Sox owner John Henry had flown to Lester's Atlanta home twice in recent weeks to meet with him.
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston:
General manager Ben Cherington's pledge to rebuild the starting rotation just became exponentially more difficult as the Red Sox were outbid by former Larry Lucchino protege Theo Epstein for the services of Lester, whom they had clearly and repeatedly identified as their top pitching target this winter. ...

Shadowing whatever moves Cherington makes will be the perception that the Sox badly mishandled negotiations with Lester, an integral part of two World Series champions and a homegrown talent who ranked very high among the team's all-time best left-handers. ...

No Sox officials responded to requests for comment Tuesday night, but soon enough they will be called into account. They will be hard-pressed to prove that they can build a pitching staff without Lester that will be as good as one they could have had with him.

December 8, 2014

Lester Expected To Make Decision Tonight Or Tomorrow

Buster Olney, ESPN:
The Jon Lester talks have entered the final turn, with an expectation that a choice will be made no earlier than Monday night and no later than Tuesday, according to sources involved in the negotiations.

Lester has drawn interest from the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was reported that the Red Sox made Lester an offer of 6/130.

November 29, 2014

Eppur Si Muove

Jameson Parker, Addicting Info:
The reason ESPN reporter Keith Law got suspended last week was stupid: He defended the theory of evolution on Twitter, kindly and calmly, to his co-worker, creationist Curt Schilling, and ESPN punished him for it. ...

After word got out that ESPN suspended a reporter because he defended the theory of evolution on Twitter, the sports network went into damage control mode and pretended that they suspended him for a completely separate reason. They didn't know what that reason was, but promised it was definitely not about making their creationist employee look like a neanderthal. ...

Well, Keith is back and his very first tweet makes it abundantly clear that he was indeed suspended over evolution.


"And yet it moves" — the famous words, written in Italian, of astronomer Galileo Galilei, who was dragged in front of the Catholic church and banished to a life of house arrest for suggesting that the Earth moves around the Sun. After his sentencing, Galileo was said to have stomped the ground and looked up at the sky, uttering the words, "And yet it moves," in defiance of what religious officials had forced him to accept under threat of violence.

[Law's] experience still illustrates that science and rational thought are not always welcome in our society. ...

There is a vein of anti-intellectualism that runs throughout our society, and it insulates itself from criticism by punishing those who dare mention facts, figures, science, or data. ...

Fortunately, there is a silver lining. No matter how much these science deniers wish it wasn't the case, the truth is still out there. The Earth still moves.

November 27, 2014

Don't Let Us Win Tonight: Thanksgiving Outtake

In the early drafts of Don't Let Us Win Tonight, the quote from Curt Schilling talking about his November 2003 Thanksgiving meetings with Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer was part of the off-season prologue in the front part of the book - and was much longer. It was eventually shortened and moved to before Game 1 of the 2004 ALCS.

On the two-year anniversary of those important meetings in Arizona - essential steps towards what happened 11 months later - I'm posting the longer quote:

Curt Schilling:
When I found out about the Diamondbacks wanting to trade me, there were only two places I had interest in going: Philadelphia and New York. I found out through the grapevine that Ruben Amaro, Sr., had no interest in bringing me back to Philly, so I figured if I was going to leave Arizona, it would be for New York and New York only. We were actually doing a charity event at my house in Arizona for the SHADE Foundation and Mr. Colangelo and Joe Garagiola, Jr., were both at the house. Sometime that day, I heard that Tito was interviewing in Boston. During the night, there was some small talk with Joe and I said, "Listen, I heard that Tito was interviewing in Boston. If that actually happens, I would probably be interested in the Red Sox as well." He left and went to talk to Mr. Colangelo and came back about ten minutes later and said, "Actually, we have a deal in principle with the Red Sox already. They're going to fly out and they'll be here on Wednesday to talk to you." I was like, ". . . OK." This was Monday or Tuesday; Thanksgiving was Thursday. It happened that fast. I told Shonda, "They're not kidding. Boston's a legitimate possibility." Then the whirlwind started.

Off the top of my head, I had pitched in Fenway before. After I'd become established I came there in interleague play one time. I don't remember the game. I threw like eight innings and gave up seven or eight runs one night and ended up getting the win. I remember the park feeling incredibly small. Being a fly-ball pitcher, that's generally not a good mix.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer came to the house the night before the meeting and dropped off a note from Bill James, with a statistical breakdown on how I would have fared in Fenway given my spray charts and hitting charts from the year before. And Fenway was actually better than Bank One. That was the first time that I realized that Bank One truly was a hitter's park. That was clearly part of the sales pitch.

We started off the discussions and it was Larry Lucchino, Jed, and Theo. That was Wednesday. We talked and made some overtures about potential salary and things like that. There was concern about salary and the fact that they weren't going to be able to pay me more than Pedro. I didn't care about that. I was going to be paid well no matter what. Larry actually made the first offer. I remember him pushing over a document and it said "Plan A" on it, or something like that. I looked at the numbers for about five seconds and I said, "Oh, that's nice. Can I see Plan B?"

Theo kind of chuckled and Larry looked at me like, "We really don't have . . ." and it was kind of awkward. We broke for a little while and we came back and they made another offer and it was not even remotely do-able. We talked, and kept talking, and talked into the evening. I remember calling Joe Garagiola that evening and saying, "I don't think this is going to work and I don't want you to be pissed if I end up coming back there to Arizona." He said, "If the worst case is that you're our #2 next year, I can deal with that." He was very cool. It made it very easy for me. He was awesome about it.

In the background, at the same time, I got a call from a person locally who was well-connected with the Yankees and that person informed me that Brian [Cashman] was going to be calling me in the near future and that they were interested. Very interested. I ended up having a couple of conversations along those lines, in which I was told if I let a certain window run out, I could basically fill out a blank check. Which was obviously interesting. That was a nice fallback, if it didn't work out with the Red Sox.

The problem was that at this point, I had sat with Theo and Jed long enough to really like both of them, and so I started to kind of want to go to Boston. Wednesday night, we were disappointed. My wife and I were talking and we really didn't think that this was going to work because they were nowhere near the number that we needed to be at.

Larry left. We talked to Theo and Jed that night and found out that they had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, so we invited them over. They were adamantly trying to say "no" [to decline the invitation] and I said, "These contract discussions are completely off if you guys don't show up." So they came over. Jed was really sick that day and we spent most of the day watching football, talking. Not about baseball. Just talking. I really liked both of them and I could see that from an analytical standpoint Theo and I were birds of a feather. He believed in the things I believed in to be a good pitcher. We believed in data and stats the same way. There was a lot of common ground. We talked through the night. We parted ways on Thursday and felt this was not going to happen. That's when I talked to Joe [Garagiola] and said I don't see this as a possibility.

But then, as I understand it, Theo made a call to John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] and spoke to them about it. I think that I had given them a ballpark number that I was going to need. The big number for them was the AAV – the average annual value of the contract. They needed it to be under X and in my mind – given where I sat in the marketplace – I was already taking an under-market contract. Which was fine, again, but I wasn't going to take too under-market, just because I knew that I was going to have a lot of bearing on the free-agency that winter, on players that were out in the market. I had a number in mind, but they weren't anywhere near it.

Theo went home and got Mr. Henry to change his mind and then came back and asked if they could talk. At the same time, I was talking to the other party and we were setting up a potential Saturday get-together as soon as the Red Sox window of opportunity ran out.

They came back over and put an offer on the table and the one thing about Theo and Jed – I think from both ends – when it was Theo and Jed and I – there was no . . . we weren't negotiating to get to a better number. I told them, "This is my number. I'm not trying to milk any of this or any of that. This is my number. If this number isn't OK, then I understand, but it's just not going to happen." They came back and worked around it and that was when I asked about the incentives and the clause with the World Series bonus. I guess by the end of the day, I knew that was why they were there. They weren't there to trade for me to pitch and come in and help the team. They were there to trade for me to come in and help the team win a World Series.

It was a real unique moment, I think. They were sitting in the living room and – people think this was orchestrated, but it wasn't – we were in the room where my World Series trophy was sitting. It was actually sitting in the background between Larry and Theo, and I said, "Listen, I know for a fact that from a financial perspective, you guys can go wherever you need to go. I guess what you have to figure out is what kind of value you place on that" – and I pointed to the World Series trophy. "You're bringing me there to win one of those. And I've done it against the team you can't get past. I know there's some value there. You guys are going to have to decide if it's worth it." And ultimately they did.