Tagged: Boston Red Sox

Will Middlebrooks Quietly Shining for Red Sox


Although you won’t see his name near the top of any AL Rookie of the Year lists, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks is putting together a season that should have more folks taking notice. Since being called up to the majors in early May, Middlebrooks been one of the most consistent hitters in the Boston offense despite having his place in the lineup shifted time and again by manager Bobby Valentine. The constant juggling hasn’t seemed to affect Middlebrooks at the plate, as his average has hovered around .300 for much of the season. It currently rests at .299 after career game 64. Pair that average with 13 home runs, 47 RBI and an OPS of .855 and you have the makings of a pretty good rookie season.

In fact, take a look at another first year player’s numbers through 64 games and it’s easy to see why Middlebrooks should be getting a little bit more attention:

BA: .281  HR: 8  RBI: 25  OPS: .817

The numbers above belong to National League Rookie of the Year favorite Bryce Harper. Granted, Harper bats higher up in the lineup than where most of Middlebrooks’ at-bats have come from, so it’s logical that his RBI totals would be lower, but the rest of the numbers more than speak for themselves. Harper does possess superior speed and he walks more than Middlebrooks, but both players struck out at nearly identical rates through 64 games, Harper with 55, Middlebrooks with 61. This is not to say that heralded top prospect Harper shouldn’t be getting his due or that Middlebrooks will turn into a superstar, but the gap between the two players, at the plate at least, is a lot smaller than some might think.

For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com.

Fantasy Baseball Injury Report: July 12, 2012


Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports


Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses the injuries and set return dates of seven players who could have an impact on your fantasy team in the second half of the season.


Carl Crawford, LF, Red Sox

Crawford has not played this season due to left wrist surgery in March and a partial UCL tear in his elbow in April. In 2011, he had a .255 average with 11 home runs and 56 RBI. Crawford is set to return to the Red Sox lineup on Monday against the White Sox.


Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox

Ellsbury played in just seven games before being sidelined by a separated shoulder in mid-April. In 2011, he had an incredible season with a .321 batting average, 32 home runs and 105 RBI. Ellsbury should return Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays.


Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays

Morrow had a great start to the season. In 13 starts, he had a 3.01 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 67 strikeouts. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 13 due to a strained left oblique. The Blue Jays are hoping that he will return to the rotation this month.


Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies

Halladay has been sidelined since May 28 with a strained right lat. In 11 starts this season, he had a 3.98 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 56 strikeouts. He is set to return to the mound Tuesday against the Dodgers.


Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins

Stanton had surgery on July 8 to remove loose bodies from his right knee. This is a big loss for the Marlins, as he was hitting .284 with 19 home runs and 50 RBI. Stanton likely won’t return until late August.


Matt Kemp, RF, Dodgers

Kemp had an incredible start to the season, hitting .355 with 12 home runs and 28 RBI in just 36 games. However, he has battled a hamstring injury and was placed on the disabled list on May 31. He is set to return Friday against the San Diego Padres.


Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Tulowitzki recently had surgery on his left groin muscle. He was batting .287 this season with eight home runs and 27 RBI. He likely won’t return to the Rockies’ lineup until mid-August.


For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.

Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Baseball with MSG’s Tina Cervasio

Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw goes one-on-one with MSG Network Sports Journalist Tina Cervacio. The topics range from Tina’s fantasy team, the Boston Red Sox, Brian Wilson, and some top fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups. For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com for access to the Front Office product. For Knicks and Red Bulls news and insight follow Tina on Twitter at @MSGTina.

Lackey’s Lacking Season

By R.J. Anderson //

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Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox shocked the baseball world when they signed free agent starter John Lackey last offseason. Lackey’s first season in Beantown is categorized as a failure because of a relatively high ERA as he topped 4.00 for the first time since 2004. The perception and ERA seem to stem from a shoddy first half while his second half looked like typical Lackey:

First Half: 18 GS, 113 IP, 4.78 ERA, 1.48 SO/BB
Second Half: 15 GS, 102 IP, 3.97 ERA, 3.38 SO/BB

Taking either half as an indication of Lackey’s true talent would be a mistake. The narrative may suggest Lackey felt more comfortable in Boston over the second half or grew accustomed to the division, but more likely is that he benefitted from a weaker schedule. After making seven starts versus playoff teams in the first half, Lackey made three starts against them the rest of the way. That’s not to say Lackey’s performances did improve in a vacuum, they did, just that they may have been aided by the schedule makers.

One anecdotal aspect which may carry truth in Lackey feeling better about his curveball later in the season. Perhaps this is just another case of creating a story after the results, but Lackey’s hammer is his finest secondary pitch, so it would make sense if he struggled without a great feel for the pitch.

Heading forward, Lackey will continue to pitch in an offensive friendly environment against some of the best teams in baseball — and that’s just the division schedule. Still, most fielding independent metrics had Lackey outpitching his ERA last season. Usually, the peripherals will win out, so don’t be surprised if Lackey has a positively Lackey season once again in 2011.

Adrian Beltre, Texas Ranger

by Eno Sarris // 

Look at the career statistics for Adrian Beltre, and you might be surprised to see how much money he’s made. After going to Texas and signing his newest five-year, $80 million contract (with a $16 million vesting option), Beltre will have earned close to $200 million (at least) by the time his career ends. And yet right now, his career batting average is a mere .275 and he’s averaged about 23 home runs per full year.

The truth is, he’s probably been worth the money (if not high fantasy picks most seasons) for two reasons: his glove and the offense-suppressing ballparks that have made his numbers look worse than they’d be most elsewhere. R.J. Anderson will take a look at the value of Beltre’s excellent glove later this week. For now, let’s take a look at Beltre and his relationship to his home parks over his career.

AdrianBeltre-300x243.jpgBeltre didn’t like hitting in Safeco field. He’s a right-handed pull hitter and the park factor for home runs by a right-hander in that park is just 84 (100 is average). That kept him to a .253/.307/.409 line in 363 games in Seattle – 1406 at-bats that helped suppress his overall value in fantasy leagues. That modest work came after 489 games and a .253/.316/.423 line in spacious Dodger Stadium (which had a 92 park factor for right-handed home runs last year).

What happens to his overall numbers when you take out those 3076 at-bats? Away from Safeco and Dodger Stadium, Beltre has hit .293 with 26 home runs per 600 at-bats. And, as he showed with his .325 batting average and 28 home runs in Fenway, Beltre can be even better if given an extra boost by his home park.

Fenway had a 95 park factor for right-handed home runs – and a 130 park factor for right-handed doubles. That helped Beltre put together his second-best batting average and clear his previous high in doubles by eight in a great year for the Red Sox. His new stadium in Arlington has a 105 park factor for right-handed home runs (105 for doubles), and Beltre will surely enjoy calling such a park home.

The .331 batting average on balls in play in 2010, in the face of his career .294 BABIP, probably means that his batting average will fall in 2011. His new park won’t allow him to pepper the Green Monster with doubles any more. But while the batting average falls, the power might surge. A home park that is 10% friendlier for home runs will help his case.

Bill James projects a .283 batting average and 24 home runs for Beltre in 2011. Up the home run total since his new home stadium is now determined, and that looks about right. Take Beltre in the early rounds of your draft (especially given the position scarcity at third base) and profit off owners that put too much credence in his overall career numbers.

How the Adrian Gonzalez Trade Shakes Up the Rankings

By Eriq Gardner //

Quick brain tease — Now that Adrian Gonzalez has been traded to the Boston Red Sox, how does his prospective value in fantasy leagues compare to Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Mark Teixeira?
A week ago, Gonzalez would clearly be somewhat behind those players in the rankings. Now? It’s not so clear. And the ambiguousness could make a major impact on fantasy baseball, influencing not only Gonzalez’s stock, but also valuations on Troy Tulowitzki, Robinson Cano, and pretty much all superstars heading into the 2011 season.
But first, let’s take a quick look at Gonzo himself.
For the past several seasons, Gonzalez has been one of the most consistent players in baseball — a 30-plus HR slugger with the ability to hit for average and get on base. If he’s never ranked in the top 5 among 1B, it’s largely because of environmental context, playing in the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors with teammates who struggle to get on base and knock him in. Despite the handicaps, Gonzalez has averaged around 100 RBI and 100 runs scored for the past four seasons.
During that time, Gonzalez has 90 homers in road games — more than anybody else in the game. Only Albert Pujols during that time had a better road OPS. 
Gonzalez is not just moving away from a pitcher-friendly ballpark; he’s moving to a home stadium that will be kind to his talents. According to Baseball-Reference, he’ll be moving away from a ballpark in Petco that depresses production by left-handers by 10% and moving to a ballpark in Fenway Park that boosts production by left-handers by 6%. The parks factor difference between the two stadiums was enough to cut his HR total by roughly six homers per season. Adjusting his batting average to the new environment also yields shockingly great results — his .298 average in San Diego would have translated to a .323 average in Boston.
Gonzalez will also be playing in a superior lineup in Boston. Last season, he led the NL with the highest batting average (.407) with runners in scoring position. One has got to figure that the move to Boston will boost his RBI totals. Dan Syzmborski, who runs ZiPS projections at Baseball Think Factory, recently credited Gonzalez with an extra 14 RBI in his forecast for the upcoming season, which may be a conservative assessment.
In sum, it’s easy to imagine, assuming good health, that Gonzalez could be good for 35-plus HR, 115 RBI (or more), and a .300-plus AVG. That certainly puts him in the same ballpark of value as Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto.
Many people still prefer those latter two, but for what legitimate reasons? Gonzalez’s off-season shoulder surgery? The fact that he hasn’t yet shown he can handle Boston fans and media? Perhaps, but almost everyone around baseball thinks that Gonzalez is a hard worker who won’t fold under pressure, and he recently passed a physical that was a prerequisite to the transaction.
Regardless of where exactly he ranks, it’s clear there’s more depth at the top-end of the 1B pool, and basic economics state that more supply translates to falling prices.
Let’s take an example.

Pretend we’re in the middle of the first round and an owner has the choice between Votto and Tulowitzki. A week ago, the consensus would be for Votto. Now? Does a drafter choose Votto when his competition can take the roughly equal Gonzo a few picks later? Does choosing Votto make sense when other 1B like Teixeira and Ryan Howard may now be available in the 2nd round, as a result of being pushed down in the rankings? Tulo’s edge over other shortstops should be given more credit given the increased strength and depth at first base.

In other words, we’ve just seen a major shakeup in talent scarcity. And it’s not just at the 1B position either. 
The fact that Gonzalez will be manning 1B means that Kevin Youkilis will be playing 3B — which is a big boost to a position that’s been suffering in recent years. Now, all those considering Alex Rodriguez at the end of the 1st round will have to consider the possibility of getting Youkilis a couple of rounds later. We’ll speculate that someone like Robinson Cano may begin to look more appealing at the end of the 1st round with drafters seeing more options at 1B and 3B and looking to fill out the rest of their lineup first.
In short, the move by Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego to Boston is a big rock thrown into an unsettled pond. It’s going to take several months to really measure the impact of this move on fantasy baseball valuations heading into 2011.

What is John Lackey Lacking?

by Eno Sarris // 

With a career strikeout rate of about 7 per 9 innings, a career groundball rate of 43.6%, and only one season with an xFIP (a stat that runs along the same scale as ERA but strips out ballpark effects, bullpen support, batted-ball luck and other factors) under 3.88, John Lackey has lacked some of the traits that might point to a staff ace.

LackeyGrab.jpgThis year, the results have been worse. His xFIP has jumped to 4.51, the worst mark of his career. His strikeout rate (6.05 per nine) is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season eight years ago, and he’s walking more batters too (3.24 per 9 IP, vs. 2.70 career BB/9). The BABIP against (.328) is a little high, suggesting some bad luck, but that doesn’t explain the whole problem, as you can see from the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools charts above.

Matthew Carruth wrote an interesting piece about Lackey on FanGraphs and pointed out an interesting quirk about his year. The money quote:

Lackey’s strikeout to walk rate versus righties was 3.0 in 2008, was
2.9 last year and is at 2.9 this season. Versus a lefty it has slipped
from 3.6 in 2008 and 3.1 in 2009 all the way to 1.3 in 2010. John Lackey
isn’t facing significantly more lefties this season than he did in the
past, but perhaps he should be given his collapse against them this

Does this explain it all? After opening up the question on Twitter, I thought it was worth a little bit more exploration. One follower suggested the AL East and its competition level was mostly to blame. But that theory was handled by Carruth when he noted that Lackey faced batters with OPS figures of .755 and .766 the last two years – and .737 this year.

Another belief was that the parks in the AL East are much more conducive to offense than those in the AL West. According to StatCorner, the average park factor for home runs by left-handed batters in the AL West is 100 and for RHB it’s 92. In the AL East, those numbers are 104 and 108 respectively. Before we call it a day, though, it’s worth noting that Lackey has been pitching more often in Boston this year, so a comparison of Boston (83/95) to Anaheim (93/98) is more germane.

Another argument holds that Lackey’s giving up more doubles than usual due to the Green Monster. The park factor for doubles in Fenway is a sky-high 150 for left-handed batters (compared to 100 in Anaheim), so this seems plausible. Using this tool, you can even plot Lackey’s balls in play this year. Comparing his balls in play in Fenway to those in Anaheim does show this tendency. The light blue balls are singles and the dark blue dots are doubles. See the clusters out in left field? (Click on the picture for full size.)

Yes, it certainly looks like Lackey is giving up more doubles against left-handed batters, and that he is struggling against opposite-handed batters. We may have a chicken-and-egg situation with the balls in play versus lefties and his strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties: Is he struggling to locate, or has he altered his approach against lefties after the Green Monster was rattled a few times?

We also have a battle of sample sizes at play here. Lackey’s career xFIP (expected FIP, with normalized
home run rates) against lefties is 4.13 in 852.2 innings. That’s a much
bigger sample size than his 4.82 xFIP in 92.1 innings this year. So have his skills legitimately eroded, or is this a fluke of small(er) sample size?

These questions are all difficult to answer definitively. Either way, even the most ardent Lackey-haters will have to admit that not every single one of his starts comes in Fenway, and that a pitcher who has had success against lefties in the past will probably find some way to adjust to his new surroundings. Still, fantasy managers in standard mixed leagues could do well to adjust their own Lackey strategy by avoiding lefty-heavy lineups in Fenway, just in case.

For more on John Lackey and other struggling starters, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Jonathan Papelbon: Buy, Sell or Hold?

By Tommy Rancel //

Despite being one of the majors’ hottest teams, the Boston Red Sox have some concerns. With Josh Beckett and Jacoby Ellsbury already on the shelf, Boston recently lost former American League MVP Dustin Pedroia and star catcher Victor Martinez to the disabled list. In addition to those players, Clay Buchholz is also nursing an injury.

There is plenty to worry about in Boston with that group of players. But any potential concerns about the performance of closer Jonathan Papelbon are premature.


Anytime a player struggles in a major media market his troubles become magnified. In two straight appearances in Colorado last week, the 29-year-old right-hander allowed five runs on six hits, yielded two three home runs, and blew two straight saves.

The Red Sox closer currently owns a 3.82 ERA in 31 appearances. Papelbon hasn’t posted an ERA over 2.65 in any of his previous five seasons. Outside of the expanded ERA, Papelbon is striking out fewer batters (7.64 strikeouts per nine innings) and walking more batters (3.31 walks per nine innings) than he ever has in a full season. To complete the trifecta, he is allowing home runs to leave the ballpark at a rate more than double his career level.


It might seem like it’s time to explore moving Papelbon off your fantasy team. But that’s probably a bad move, especially while he’s at his lowest perceived value. Besides, a number of advanced metrics suggest he will rebound quite favorably.

As mentioned Papelbon’s K/9 has fallen from a career mark of 10.17 per 9 IP to 7.64 in 2010. This is odd for a few reasons. His velocity of 94.6 mph on his fastball is nearly identical to his 94.5 mph career number. In addition to the velocity, Papelbon is still getting a lot of swinging strikeouts. His swinging strike percentage of 11.5% is actually higher than his 11.0% from a season ago.

Papelbon is also getting hitters to chase out of the zone (35.6% O-Swing) more than he has in previous seasons (30.4% O-Swing career). He’s throwing more first-pitch strikes (67.2%) which means he is not falling behind hitters. All signs point to Papelbon’s strikeout rate increasing, if his core skills remain steady.

Papelbon’s biggest problem has been the long ball. He has surrendered more home runs this season (6) than in any other season in his career, and we haven’t even reached the All-Star break. We mentioned that his HR/9 of 1.64 was more than twice his career number (0.73). A big reason for that is his elevated home run-to-flyball rate of 12.2%. For his career, 7.1% of the flyballs hit against him have left the yard. In four of his five previous seasons, he maintained a HR/FB% of 7.5% or less.

More likely than not, Papelbon’s problems are related to pitch location issues. We may also be seeing some outliers due to small sample sizes. With the potential for positive regression in terms of strikeouts, and a correction in the disproportionate rate of home runs allowed, Papelbon should maintain plenty of value. If you own him, remain patient. If you don’t, this may be a good time to trade for Papelbon at a discount.

For more on Jonathan Papelbon and other Boston Red Sox, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools

Is Darnell McDonald the New Garrett Jones?

By R.J. Anderson //

The Baltimore Orioles selected Darnell McDonald with the 26th pick of the 1997 amateur draft. With just over 200 career big league at-bats, after sharing a class with All-Stars like Lance Berkman, Troy Glaus, Jayson Werth, and teammate J.D. Drew it’s easy to call McDonald’s career a bust. But for right now, McDonald has done his part to inspire the downtrodden Red Sox nation.

Now 31 years old, McDonald is hitting .246/.328/.456 with below-average defense in center but also some huge late-game heroics. The projected starter in center field, Mike Cameron, began a rehab assignment on Monday, and left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will return at some point in the near future too. McDonald’s power figures to keep him around longer than Jonathan Van Every, but just because McDonald could stick on the Sox’s roster for an additional few weeks, does that mean he should stick on your roster?

In a word: No.

It’s easy to get caught up in McDonald’s triumphant debut with Boston and buy into his power as legitimate. The sample size is still incredibly small, even smaller than McDonald’s stint in Cincinnati last year, in which he hit .267/.306/.400. Even in the minors, McDonald never showed the ability to consistently hit for a slugging percentage over .450. His career Triple-A slash line – which is representative of more than 3,700 plate appearances over a good stretch of his statistical prime – is only .278/.337/.423.

This all seems rather obvious. After all, McDonald is probably out of a roster spot by June and career journeymen are pretty fungible in the fantasy world. However, after the success of Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee or even players like Jack Cust, it’s important to analyze and evaluate each player under their own circumstances, since career minor leaguers can occasionally grow into viable big league fantasy commodities.

McDonald’s story is a nice one of potential redemption and persistence. But he’s just not somebody who will continue to help your mixed league fantasy team no matter how much longer he’ll stick in the majors. In a deep American League-only league, he’s worth holding for a little while longer. Otherwise, you can safely let him pass.

For more on Darnell McDonald and the Boston Red Sox, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits

Adrian Beltre, Batting Title?!

By R.J. Anderson //

Nobody could blame Adrian Beltre if he wanted to distance himself from the 2009 season as much as possible. Not only did he endure a horrendous offensive season in which he posted a .683 OPS, he also suffered an injury to a certain male region that should never be used in the same sentence as the term “ruptured”. Nonetheless, Beltre became eligible for free agency and joined the Boston Red Sox. A stronger supporting cast figured to help his counting stats, while a far friendlier ballpark for hitters figured to boost his overall offensive production.

Thus far, Beltre is hitting .343 AVG/.375 OBP/.467 SLG. Previously, Beltre posted a batting average above .300 exactly once in his 12-season career. Meanwhile, his career Isolated Slugging (ISO, slugging average minus batting average) is .182, much higher than this season’s .124.

Beltre’s .386 BABIP is certainly the highest of his career, and miles away from his .292 career mark. Of Beltre’s 36 hits, only nine have been of the extra base variety. Putting up 75% singles looks more like a Nick Punto season, not the kind of numbers you expect from a player who hit at least 25 home runs each season from 2006 through 2008, with 252 career homers.

What gives? Beltre’s 4% HR/FB ratio is a career low, even worse than his 5.6% in 2009. This seems unlikely to continue to be the case. In past seasons at Safeco Field – a park that strongly curbs extra-base hits by right-handed batters – Beltre was still able to launch more than 10% of his fly balls over the wall. A move to Fenway Park – an extra-base hit paradise for righties who can get the ball up in the air and deep – Beltre should not see his power disappear.


As it stands, Beltre is second among third baseman in hits and second in batting average, behind division rival Evan Longoria. The season is a month old and odds are Beltre is going to finish with a higher batting average than originally expected. But there’s little reason to believe Beltre’s skill set has completely morphed from hulking slugger to Ichiro Suzuki clone. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

For more on Adrian Beltre, check out Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools. 

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