Friday, March 27, 2015

It's My Fantasy

Today's the day I'm sure many of you have been waiting for. It's the day I pretend you care about my fantasy baseball team!

Now, why would you care, exactly? I'm not really sure. But, it's baseball talk while we're still more than a week from Opening Day. So, that has to be a good thing. Right?

Just to set you up, I'm in a ten team league. 5x5 with pretty big rosters. For the first time, this year, we have 2 keepers held over from last year. They replaced the draft pick in the round they were originally taken. I had the third overall pick in a wraparound draft. Got it? Ready to see the team? Think I got any Red Sox?

C  Yadier Molina
1B Mike Napoli
2B Dustin Pedroia
3B Pablo Sandoval
SS Hanley Ramirez
CI Ryan Zimmerman
MI Xander Bogaerts
OF Mike Trout
OF Ben Revere
OF Mark Trumbo
OF Leonys Martin
U David Ortiz
U Jean Segura
U Khris Davis

SP Stephen Strasburg
SP Adam Wainwright
SP Alex Wood
RP Santiago Casilla
RP Addison Reed
P  Jon Lester
P Rick Porcello
P Matt Shoemaker

B Christian Vazquez C
B Shane Victorino OF
B Joe Kelly P
B Wade Miley P
B Clay Buchholz P

So, there you have it. What do you think?

What do I think? I goofed a bit, but I think OK otherwise. After all,  I got twelve Red Sox! Mike Trout was one of my keepers, so I used my first round pick on him. Jon Lester was the other keeper, but I only had to use my thirteenth round pick on him. So, I thought that was a good use of the keeper. (It would have been even better if it meant he was my thirteenth Red Sox, but that's another story.) And, before we go any further, I know I have too much of the Red Sox rotation. Kelly, Miley, and Buchholz were literally my last three picks. I knew I was just picking bench guys, and knew I wanted pitchers. For some reason, I completely forgot about getting more relief pitchers. Nine starters are going to use up all my innings by the ASG, and not leave any for the top guys. So, I'll probably drop one or two of them and get a couple quality set-up guys who don't pitch as much, but have great numbers when they do.

Which ones should I drop?

Otherwise, I like the balance. I like the Sox players, obviously. I love that Hanley still counts as a SS. He should also be OF eligible in just a matter of time. I may start Vazquez over Molina, just for fun. Especially with the unpredictability in catcher's days off, I like starting a Red Sox catcher so I should know when they'll be.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Winning with Aces

There has been a lot of discussion this off-season about aces. Specifically, about the Red Sox lacking one. You need one if you’re going to compete, they say. Especially in the playoffs, you need that true ace to lead the way. Which, admittedly, is a valid point. It sure is handy if you have a true ace. If you can count those games as automatic wins, it makes it easier on your other starters. So, I wondered. How many Cy Young winners were also World Champions? How many pitchers added the award to their mantle the same year they added a ring to their finger? Well, the last time that happened was Randy Johnson with the Diamondbacks. In 2001. Before that? Greg Maddux with the 1995 Braves. Those are the only two that I could come up with since the strike. So, it’s never happened with an AL team since then.


I then looked at World Series winners who even had a former Cy Young winner on the team. The problem with that is teams like the Giants and Red Sox the last three years who had pitchers like Peavy, Lincecum, and Zito on the team. They weren’t exactly pitching like an ace as they won their rings. Best I could tell, the last former Cy Young winner to lead his team to a ring was Sabathia with the 2009 Yankees. But, that might be up for debate.

What does that mean? Not a ton, obviously. After all, just because a player didn’t win the Cy Young Award, it doesn’t mean they weren’t a damn fine pitcher. Heck, Josh Beckett probably should have won the award in 2007 on his way to a ring. But, it does mean that in 18 of the last 20 years, the World Series Champion didn’t have the best pitcher in the league.

I’m also not suggesting that adding the Cy Young winner to any of the teams that won would have been a bad thing. All things being equal, replacing Jake Peavy with Clayton Kershaw last year would not have made the Giants any worse. (OK. Maybe Kershaw is a bad example.) But, I think it speaks to the balance that you need to have in a roster. After all, even with a true ace, you need 24 other guys as well. If you can’t get quality guys in those spots, it doesn’t matter how good the ace is. (See 1999-00 Pedro Martinez.)

Because, even with an ace, a couple things can happen. He can actually lose the games he pitches. Sometimes even an MVP like Kershaw gets lit up in a game, and the team loses. Then that win you were counting on goes away, and the rest of your scrubs have a much taller order. Or, the specifics of the playoffs come into play. Take Pedro in 1999. He won every game he pitched in the ALCS. But, because he needed to pitch game five of the ALDS, he only appeared in one ALCS game. The rest of the rotation couldn’t get him to a second start.

So, one way around that is to add more aces. After all, even Johnson had Schilling in 2001. And, the Braves #2 and #3 starters in 1995 weren’t exactly John Wasdin. Then you’re not relying on the single ace. You have multiple aces to fall back on.

But, then again, didn’t the Tigers just have a rotation with the three previous Cy Young winners in it? Didn’t they lose to an aceless Orioles team?

Or, you go the other way. I’ve laid it out here before. I always wondered if it was a better move to concede a game against Pedro in the playoffs. Throw a bullpen guy against him, and save your ace to win game two. Which is almost like what the Sox are looking at. Throw game one, but compete in all the others. Instead of winning the battle of the aces, win the battle of the #4.

That might just work as well as any other plan.

The Cy Young plan doesn’t work.

Monday, March 23, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2002 SPx

Yeah. I know.

Somebody has to like these cards.

I feel like I have to apologize every time one of these come up. I know that card designs don’t need to appeal to 100% of the collecting world. If they did, they’d only need to make one set and we’d all gobble it up. But, that’s not possible. So companies have to throw out some variety. Some people will like some. Some will like others. Some may like them all.

I’m not one of those.

This is the kind of card that makes me wonder what collecting is all about. What am I collecting, exactly? Am I after anything that somebody slapped a picture of Pedro on that meets some approximate dimensions? If that’s the case, this seems to fit the bill.

There’s a picture of Pedro stuck on there. Although, the cropping (or is it shading?) eliminates any of the background. Honestly, I can’t even tell if the little background I can see is part of the actual picture, or not. But, I see the big SPX logo splashed in the back. I see it again in the corner. The design doesn’t seem especially imaginative, or interesting. It’s just sort of there. Again, I know there are limits to what you can do with a piece of cardboard design-wise. If the card companies know that, you wonder why they keep pumping out so many every year. You think they’d save some to have later.

But, here we are. A card with Pedro on it. It’s now in the binder.

Color me underwhelmed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kevin Youkilis Live

When I wished Kevin Youkilis a happy 36th birthday a few days ago, I admitted that I was never a big fan of his. It’s not like I disliked hem or anything. He just never really did anything for me. I don’t really know why. I was wondering if he didn’t perform very well when I was at Fenway. That might have been enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Looks like it’s time to dive into the scorecards again.

Looking them over, it appears that I saw Youk play in 30 games at Fenway. (Again, at least I scored 30 games Youk played in.) How did he do?

In 103 AB, Youk batted .437 with 7 HR and 30 RBI. Wow. Doesn’t look like he performed that poorly.

In fact, if you project those totals over a 660 AB season, he would have hit 45 HR, and driven in 179 runs. Damn. He walked a lot too. During those 30 games, his OBP was 0.521. Add that to his 0.748 SLG, and he had an OPS in games I attended of 1.268.

Yeah, those are MVP type numbers.

I saw Youk over a pretty good cross section too. From once in 2005, to twice in 2012.You’d expect that, after all, for a position player. I probably saw him most of the time I went to the park.

Clearly, it wasn’t his performance while I was there that didn’t draw me to Youkilis. I guess it’s still a mystery. After all, with that performance during games I attended, I should be idolizing the guy. Huh.

How did Youk do in games you attended?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Spring!

Yup. No matter what the world looks like outside your window, today is the official first day of spring! Of course, this day means different things to different people. It might be the day they start looking for flowers to begin poking through the snow. Or, the day they wear all their pastel colored clothes. Here at Section 36, the first day of spring means that we’re one day closer to the start of real baseball! Of course, the Sox have been having Spring Training for a bit now. But, every day brings us one day closer to the real season.

Spring also means a lot more baseball has been showing up on social media. If you look through Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook, you’ll see people posting baseball pictures everywhere. Naturally, the recent ones show people at Spring Training games. But, lots of people have been taking Fenway tours while getting ready for the season. Not to mention that thanks to things like “throwback Thursdays” or “flashback Fridays” or even simple “latergrams” there have also been plenty of pictures of people enjoying Fenway and its best section. Some people have even been gracious enough to share them with me! If you regularly check out the “Pix with 36” page, you’re aware of the rush of new and amazing photos over the last week or so. For those of you who haven’t learned to check out that page all the time, I thought I’d share the newest crop with you. Maybe this will convince you to check out that page more often. Or, maybe, to send in some pics of your own! As it happens, these pictures have also all made their way to the Facebook pg. Another great reason to make sure you “like” Section 36!

We’ll start with Samantha. This is a great pic of her with Section 36 while she was serving a Miss NH. She had the good sense to make sure Section 36 was in the shot as she sang God Bless America. Presently, you can find her by looking for a Pretty Sporty Girl.

Next we have Melissa. She was tossed a ball during batting practice. Of course, the best way to celebrate that is to pose for a picture with the ball, and Section 36.

Next we have Nicole. I like how this pic pairs a Sox fan and a Cub fan into one great image. Obviously, they both knew Section 36 was very important to get into the shot.

Here we have Hanna who definitely went above and beyond (literally) normal effort to make sure she got a pic with Section 36. I’ve asked if this is the best selfie with Section 36 ever. What do you think?

Hannah was one of the people I mentioned taking advantage of a Fenway tour in order to get ready for the season. If you take a tour of Fenway, but don’t take your picture with Section 36, you’re doing it wrong.

Finally, Vanessa provided an obvious throwback. Once again, a perfect shot posing with the best section in Fenway.

So, while those are some of the most recent submissions, they’re certainly not all of them. That’s why you should remember to check out the Pix with 36 page often. And, even more pics are posted to the Section 36 facebook pg. So, make sure you’re tuned into Section 36 no matter where you go.

It’s an internet sensation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2005 Topps Opening Day

Since I bought my first blaster of 2015 Topps Opening Day this afternoon, this seemed like a good card to look at today. Of course, any review of Opening Day cards has to start with the base set. Many years, including 2005 (and 2015, for that matter) the only difference between the base and the Opening Day is an extra logo. Sometimes they use different pictures too. I don’t know if that was the case for this card, or not. But, since I haven’t talked about the regular 2005 Topps card yet, let’s jump right into it.

I bet you know my big problem with the design. Why do I need to turn my head in order to read Pedro’s name? How annoying is that? But, that’s not even the worst part. The Red Sox name? It’s turned the complete opposite way? So, in order to get all the information, I need to twist my wrist this way and that. I’ll get carpal tunnel by the time I’m done flipping through a team set. Sure, the team name is also right there on the bottom of the card. But, if I’m supposed to get my information from there, why is the team name on the side at all? To take up space? Likewise, Pedro’s last name it sitting in big letter at the top of the card. But, it’s just a last name. Again, that’s obviously not enough, or they wouldn’t have put the name on the side too.

I like the rest of the card. The crisscrossing stripes add something subtle to the design. You might not even notice that the bands cross unless you really look at it. But, it just seems more pleasing that way.

The photo is a standard shot of Pedro ready to fire away. I love the look of concentration.

I also love the big photo. It could be bigger if Topps didn’t put all the information on the card twice. But, it’s still a significant portion of the card.

Overall, it’s a design that works for me.

Glad they got to use it twice.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What if Hanley had Stayed?

Whenever people are discussing trading prospects, I always come down on the side of doing it. (Within reason, of course.) I figure if you can trade potential talent for actual talent, why wouldn’t you do it? To help my case, I usually fall back on two examples.

The first is the Pedro Martinez trade. In that move, the Sox gave up Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. They were both highly touted pitching prospects. Pavano was probably the best the Sox had. But, they gave them up to acquire Pedro. And it worked. Even though both Pavano and Armas went on to have decent major league careers, nobody could possibly argue that the Sox didn’t make the right decision in grabbing Pedro.

The other example I use is the Josh Beckett deal. In this case the deal was, basically, Beckett for Hanley Ramirez. This is probably the most extreme case I can think of. Hanley was a rare talent. People knew he was going to be good. And, as it turns out, they were absolutely right. You could argue that he ended up being every bit of the player they expected him to be. A perennial MVP candidate. Even in that case…do the Sox win the championship in 2007 without Beckett? I don’t think so. So, even in the case where the prospect the Sox traded away lived up to everything he was hyped to be, trading him away was the right move.

Or, was it?

Watching Hanley back in Town this spring has made me wonder. Watching him with David Ortiz makes me know he would have fit in here. (Imagine the Ortiz-Ramirez-Ramirez trio both on and off the field) But, should the Sox have kept him after all? It’s an interesting question in that there aren’t a lot of “ifs” that you need to take into account. Basically the Sox had a revolving door at short since he left, so it’s not like “If they kept Hanley, they wouldn’t have had this guy at short.” So, did Hanley do better than the stiffs the Sox replaced him with?

Of course.

Since he was traded, Hanley has had a (b-r) WAR of 36.4. Those stiffs? 14.5. So, clearly, Hanley would have been the better choice at short…by a factor of two. But, of course, the Sox added someone when they got rid of Hanley. Josh Beckett contributed a bit to the Sox, as I mentioned. During his time with the Sox, he put up a 22.6 WAR of his own. So, Beckett and the stiffs combined to 37.1. (Yes, I know Mike Lowell was part of the deal. But, his success was such a surprise, I find it hard to use him as part of the argument…even though it helps my case. I’m also not including Alvarez or Sanchez even though I probably should. The fill in pieces are too random to be used in an argument.)

So, the trade worked. 37.1 to 36.4. There you go.

I will add in one “what if” into the comparison, though. At the time of the trade, John Henry said he was against it. He’d rather have kept the prospects and just signed AJ Burnett in the offseason. In that case, he would just be spending money. (A similar argument is being used against a potential Cole Hamels deal. Why trade prospects AND spend money if you can just sign a guy this off-season, and just spend money.) So, what if the Sox had done that? AJ Burnett, since the trade has a 12.7 WAR. So, Hanley plus AJ is 49.1, while Beckett and the stiffs were 37.1. About a game less per season. So, IF the Sox had done that, it might have worked out better.

Of course, that includes a big if, in that they actually signed AJ. And that he stayed with them. (It also ignores the fact that nothing was preventing them from signing both Beckett and AJ.)

I also have to look at 2007. Beckett had a 6.4 WAR that year (and Julio Lugo added in 0.6 of his own). Hanley and Burnett combined to a 6.7. So, you could argue that the Sox would have finished with the same record with either pair. But, do the Sox win the ALCS with Burnett as the ace instead of Beckett?

Hard to say that they do. But, who knows? Maybe Hanley’s bat would have made Burnett’s pitching enough. Maybe not. Does it matter?

If the best case you can make against trading a prospect is that maybe they might have been a little better if everything else worked out to plan…is that really a case in your favor?

Should Hanley have stayed?