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Lose the gut, keep the Belli:Was Loretta worth it?


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#1 redsoxjamie


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 07:49 PM

First, a few ground rules/assumptions:

(1) This is NOT a “bash the moves of the front office/defend the moves of the front office” post, and I don’t intend to make it that kind of thread. I’m merely trying to start an interesting, thoughtful discussion on the effects of a particular move that was made this offseason, and with the recent death of the mega-thread, I thought that this discussion was worthy of its own thread.
(2) Yes, I am aware that it is very early in the season. However, I do not think it is too early to take what we’ve seen so far this season and decide how (if at all) it affects what we might expect for the rest of this season.
(3) For the purposes of this argument, I am assuming that, instead of trading for Loretta, the Red Sox would have just kept Mirabelli and Graffanino, and Graff would have been the everyday 2nd baseman. However, alternative theories are highly encouraged.

My basic premise is this: I like Loretta very much as a player. He is a solid contributor offensively and defensively, seems like a great clubhouse guy, and has been a good addition to the club. However, the “upgrade” from Graffanino to Loretta costs us a backup catcher who did a solid job, and I’m wondering if it was worth it. The way I see it is this:

Offensive Differential: Mirabelli vs. Bard

-I really don’t see this as a huge deal, considering that this is a position that entails about 35 starts/150 AB a year. Mirabelli has a career OPS of .753, Bard’s is .657 in 504 AB. You can make the case that Mirabelli would have been more valuable as a pinch hitter in certain situations, but Tito never really used him that way in any sort of significant capacity. The stat geeks can help me out with the analysis here, but the offensive difference between the two MAY amount to one game a year, if that.

Offensive/Defensive Differential: Loretta vs. Graffanino

-Offensively: Loretta has a career OPS of .773 (.716 this year). Graffanino’s career OPS is .728 (.412 this year). However, Tony had a good year last year in Boston, posting an .812 OPS in 50+ games (his OPS with Kansas City last year was .770). Loretta did not have a good year last year offensively, posting a .707 OPS in what is an admittedly very pitcher-friendly park.

-Defensively: Loretta posts a career .987 career fielding % as a 2nd baseman, and an .831 ZR. Graffanino posts a career .980 fielding % and an .828 ZR. Admittedly, these are not the greatest stats to use, but I don’t have the access and/or familiarity with defensive stats to post them here (so I’d appreciate any help in that department). However, looking at these two statistics, Graffanino and Loretta look pretty similar. Based on nothing but my observation, the two seem to both be pretty solid defensive 2nd baseman, and there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between the two. If anybody has any evidence to the contrary, I would really like to see it.

Defensive differential: Bard v. Mirabelli

-This, IMO, is the real wildcard. I am relatively confident that, with time and practice, Bard will grow more accustomed to catching the knuckleball, and the rate of passed balls will go down. The question is this: how long will it take, and how much, if at all, will it affect Wakefield’s performance and confidence on the mound? It’s worth noting that with 16 wins in 2005, Wakefield was arguably our most valuable starter last year. If having Bard behind the plate instead of Mirabelli makes Wakefield a less valuable starter, that is certainly something that should be taken in to consideration in evaluating the trade.

Assuming that Bard and Mirabelli would contribute about equally offensively, and assuming that Loretta and Graffanino would contribute about equally defensively, presumably we sacrificed Mirabelli’s defensive value at catcher for Loretta’s offensive value at 2B. So let’s say that X is the offensive value that we gained by swapping Graffanino for Loretta, and Y is the defensive value that we lost by swapping Mirabelli for Bard. Is X really greater than Y? In other words, is the upgrade to Loretta worth the Bard passed balls and Wake’s discomfort on the mound?

I am admittedly not qualified to make a solid statistical case one way or the other. Someone can probably provide solid numbers as to the offensive differential at both positions, and maybe eve nas to the defensive differential between Loretta and Graf. But the comfort of Wakefield, and how much he will or will not be affected by Bard this season, is a real wild card, and I'm really not sure that whatever upgrade we got at 2B was worth it.

Edited by redsoxjamie, 20 April 2006 - 07:51 PM.


#2 dnramo

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 08:15 PM

Yes, it was worth it. Loretta over Graffanino is a bigger upgrade than Mirabelli over a glove taped to a wooden stick.

#3 satyadaimoku


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 08:16 PM

Offensive/Defensive Differential:  Loretta vs. Graffanino

-Offensively:  Loretta has a career OPS of .773 (.716 this year).  Graffanino’s career OPS is .728 (.412 this year).  However, Tony had a good year last year in Boston, posting an .812 OPS in 50+ games (his OPS with Kansas City last year was .770).  Loretta did not have a good year last year offensively, posting a .707 OPS in what is an admittedly very pitcher-friendly park.

-Defensively:  Loretta posts a career .987 career fielding % as a 2nd baseman, and an .831 ZR.  Graffanino posts a career .980 fielding % and an .828 ZR.  Admittedly, these are not the greatest stats to use, but I don’t have the access and/or familiarity with defensive stats to post them here (so I’d appreciate any help in that department).  However, looking at these two statistics, Graffanino and Loretta look pretty similar.  Based on nothing but my observation, the two seem to both be pretty solid defensive 2nd baseman, and there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between the two.  If anybody has any evidence to the contrary, I would really like to see it.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


50 games is a very small sample size. Tony Graffinino had 379 at bats last year, and it was a career high and the first time he had ever had more than 300 at bats. IOW, he has never been a full time regular for a full season. This year, he is the backup second baseman to the immortal Mark Gruzilanik (sp?). His 2005 performance with the Red Sox is significantly better than any other time in his history.

I'm not certain how good Tony G is defensively, but I'm confident that, by reputation, numbers and observation Loretta is excellent. Loretta is only one year removed from being one of the most valuable players in the national league (he finished 9th in MVP voting in 2004).

I could imagine Tony G being an average second baseman, and I could imagine him being below average or terrible as a full time starter. I cannot imagine a scenerio in which he finishes in the top 10 in MVP voting. With Loretta, I'm reasonably certain he will be at least average, and he also has some potential to be excellent. It's a big upgrade, and IMO easily worth any backup catcher (although I do miss the 'Belli).

#4 bowiac


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 08:28 PM

I'm not certain how good Tony G is defensively, but I'm confident that, by reputation, numbers and observation Loretta is excellent.  Loretta is only one year removed from being one of the most valuable players in the national league (he finished 9th in MVP voting in 2004). 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


By the numbers, UZR at least, Loretta is a pretty mediocre defensive player, while Tony G was top notch.

The defensive difference is real and significant, at least as far as UZR goes.

#5 Worst Trade Evah


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 08:36 PM

I don't think UZR takes into account double plays though, which Bill James has elsewhere identified as a very significant component of defense. RSJ's question is a fair one, especially when the money is factored in -- yes, maybe 1-2 million isn't much to the Sox, but it could be another high-level prospect. Anyway, I don't know that Loretta is better at turning the dp than Graf, or how much it would be worth if he were.

#6 KBarbz50

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 08:50 PM

Altough Bard's passed balls have been well documented, the fact of the matter is Wakefield has had 3 good starts in 4 performances so far. With any kind of run, support, Wakefield could be 3-1. So, I really don't think that Wakefield has been terribly affected by Bard's performance so far. In short, I don't think the Sox really miss Mirabelli all that much, and in my opinion, Loretta is a much better player than Graffanino. I liked the deal when it was made, and I like it even more now.

#7 The Allented Mr Ripley


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 08:59 PM

Tangential to the argument at hand is some numbers I've thrown together quickly comparing Mirabelli's learning curve while catching Wakefield to that of Bard's.

When the Sox traded for Mirabelli in 2001, Hatteberg was Wakefield's personal catcher. Mirabelli caught only three starts by Wakefield that year, and the PBs per start are below*:

Date / PB
6/29/2001 2
8/17/2001 1
8/22/2001 0

For about half of 2002, Wakefield was a reliever. Mirabelli became his personal catcher once Wake re-joined the rotation. PBs per start below*:

Date / PB
4/14/2002 2
7/02/2002 0
7/23/2002 5
8/06/2002 0
8/11/2002 0
8/17/2002 0
8/24/2002 0
9/01/2002 0
9/06/2002 1
9/12/2002 3
9/17/2002 0
9/23/2002 1
9/28/2002 0

Josh Bard's numbers so far this year*:

Date / PB
4/04/2006 3
4/09/2006 0
4/15/2006 2
4/20/2006 1

There's not a whole lot of difference between the two catchers at the beginning of their eras as caddies for Wakefield. In Mirabelli's first six starts as Wakefield's catcher, he had 10 passed balls. Bard has 6 through 4 starts so far. It's one thing to say that there's a learning curve for any catcher who isn't Mirabelli, and that that learning curve could have been avoided by keeping Doug around. This is true. But it's another thing to say that Bard can't ever catch the knuckler based on what he's shown us so far (an argument that RSJ isn't making, but one that many have put forth), because he's really no different than Mirabelli in that regard. At least so far.

Unless you think Wakefield is going to retire before Mirabelli, the Sox were going to have to break in a new catcher for him at some point. Why not now, when they were able to get Loretta in return? To me it's much ado about nothing.

*Theoretically some of these PBs could have come while a reliever was pitching in place of Wakefield, so this is sort of a quick-and-dirty study. I've also left out relief appearances that Wake had in 2001 or 2002 in which Mirabelli may have been the catcher (that's a lot of box scores to pore over), figuring it's likely a minimal number.

Edited by The Allented Mr Ripley, 20 April 2006 - 09:05 PM.


#8 reggiecleveland


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 09:16 PM

Doug M's problem when he first caught Wake are not the issue. The issue is that Bard is worse at present than Belli would have been.

#9 Soxfan in Fla


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 09:27 PM

No contest.

Loretta is a great clubhouse guy, gets 185+ hits every year, is a stellar 2nd baseman and finally gives us stability at that position. While he might have some issues with Timmy's caddy, Loretta for a backup catcher was, is and always will be an absolute steal for the Sox.

IMO, Loretta is one of the best #2 hitters in the league and that will set the tables nicely all season long for Tizzle, Manny, Lowell, Tek, Nixon, etc.

#10 The Allented Mr Ripley


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 09:43 PM

Doug M's problem when he first caught Wake are not the issue. The issue is that Bard is worse at present than Belli would have been.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


A point that I addressed in my post. What are the Sox supposed to do, hope that Mirabelli's career outlasts Wakefield's so that this issue would never come up? And hope that his offense continued to make him worth keeping (which already wasn't happening), or that once he reached free agency again he wouldn't want to take one last shot at being a starter somewhere else? If it didn't happen this year, it was going to happen at some point. That the Sox were able to get Loretta made the switch worth doing now. If Bard is racking up 3-4 PBs per game in July and Wakefield is clearly suffering for it, then we can worry.

Edited by The Allented Mr Ripley, 20 April 2006 - 10:11 PM.


#11 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 20 April 2006 - 10:04 PM

It's also worth it to state that Loretta was, bar none, the best 2nd baseman in baseball in 2004 while playing in Petco for half his games. He dropped off last year a bit because he played with a thumb ligament injury that eventually DL'd him for much of the season. Graffanino had a flukey career year on the wrong side of age 30. I'm willing to take Loretta, and would've given up Mirabelli + Delcarmen to get him.

#12 bowiac


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 12:06 AM

I don't think UZR takes into account double plays though, which Bill James has elsewhere identified as a very significant component of defense. RSJ's question is a fair one, especially when the money is factored in -- yes, maybe 1-2 million isn't much to the Sox, but it could be another high-level prospect. Anyway, I don't know that Loretta is better at turning the dp than Graf, or how much it would be worth if he were.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Why do you say UZR doesn't take into account double plays?

#13 dnramo

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 01:04 AM

Why do you say UZR doesn't take into account double plays?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Graffanino hasn't played 80 games at 2B since 1998. I wouldn't take any UZR results for him seriously. He wasn't a realistic option to start 150 games for the Sox this season.

#14 NortheasternPJ


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 07:26 AM

In his 2 years in SD where he was fully healthy and playing on a regular basis he posted lines of .314 AVG/.814 OPS and .335AVG/.886 OPS. Even hurt last year he put up a line of .280/.707.

Graffanino has never played more than 105 games and that was in 1998. He's averaging just 76 games a year. I don't think it's even possible to make a comparison between the two. Graf has never shown he can perform on a regular basis, which isn't 100% his fault but there's usually a reason a guy can't crack the starting lineup in 10 years.

Trading a backup who plays 50-60 games a year for a player who should play 150 and post better numbers is a move that you do every time. If Mirabelli puts up a career year this year, it was still the right move.

#15 Pumpsie


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 07:29 AM

I love having Mark Loretta on this team. The guy will pay, and is paying, great dividends. Improving the second base position for 162 games is worth a LOT more than having a temporary catcher issue once every five games early in the season.

Wake says that he's really comfortable with Bard behind the plate and Bard's just beginning and will get better. Wake pitched great yesterday but Bard's only passed ball happened at the worst possible moment and so its importance is exaggerated. You have to be relaxed to catch the knuckler well, and Bard probably was a bit too tense with the runner on third in a close game. That's something which should get better with time and experience.

Absolutely worth it. Not even close. Surprised anyone would think there's an argument here.

#16 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 07:37 AM

If we're going to engage in hand-wringing over Bard after 16 games of the season, then it's very fair to point out that Graffanino is currently hitting 118/118/294. Both mean very little as the sample sizes are so small.

Rip's point is right on: Bard's learning curve in catching Wake is extremely similar to Mirabelli's when he started catching Wake.

#17 86spike


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 07:44 AM

I've made this point before, but I think it bears repeating:

Mirabelli was one of the Idiots.

The Idiots were dismantled last winter.

(not to say this had anything more than a tiny impact on why Mirabelli was on the block - getting a solid starting 2Bman for your backup catcher is a no-brainer - but Mirabelli was a loud blowhard type who reportedly went too far sometimes and bothered his teammates. I distinctly remember a story of him mocking someone's speech impediment and having no one in the club house laugh because the guy was disabled... SMnookin confirmed this here. I suspect he wasn't one of Tito's favorite guys.)

#18 Paul M


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 07:45 AM

Mirabelli to Bard isn't worth more than a win, since the back-up catcher for Boston just doesn't play that much.

Loretta over Graffanino might be as much as three wins.

And Wakefield pitched well enough to win his last two starts.

#19 Lose Remerswaal


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 07:50 AM

There's also the repeated comments by the media covering the Sox (yes, they have their own agendas), stating consistently that Dougie's presence in the clubhouse is not at all missed, and that it was time for him to move on.

This was brought up in spring training, and again when the rumored trades to reaquire Mirabelli were circulating after Bard's first game.

And I've seen no comments by any players that they miss having Dougie around.

Edited by Lose Remerswaal, 21 April 2006 - 07:50 AM.


#20 jacklamabe65


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 08:13 AM

To add to Lose's thoughts, Belli's inexcusable behavior to WBZ's longtime interviewer, Jon Miller, left the team with no option but to get rid of him.

#21 Paradigm


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 08:15 AM

I don't think that we'd have this chat if Bard's one passed ball last night hadn't come at such an inopportune time. He's improving at catching the knuckler, even if he looks like a complete turdwipe at the plate. Don't forget how dismal Dougie's 2005 season was; he simply joined on the "I'm going to have a career/huge year and help win a World Series in 2004" bandwagon with Mark Bellhorn and Kevin Millar.

I question whether Bard can ever succeed catching the knuckler if he's always peering over his shoulder, checking to see if Theo is on the phone with Kevin Towers re-inquiring about Mirbaelli. "Hey, yeah, well you've got Piazza now, why don't you just ship him over for a PTBNL..."

Give the kid more starts before writing him off.

#22 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 08:17 AM

To add to Lose's thoughts, Belli's inexcusable behavior to WBZ's longtime interviewer, Jon Miller, left the team with no option but to get rid of him.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Care to expand on this, if possible? First I've heard of any such thing.

#23 EricM80

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 08:18 AM

To add to Lose's thoughts, Belli's inexcusable behavior to WBZ's longtime interviewer, Jon Miller, left the team with no option but to get rid of him.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Forgive me if this is common knowledge, but what happened here?

#24 Worst Trade Evah


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 09:14 AM

Why do you say UZR doesn't take into account double plays?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Because that was my understanding of UZR's methodology. Does it?

#25 Kowlooner


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 09:30 AM

Care to expand on this, if possible? First I've heard of any such thing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I believe Doug was making fun of Miller's disability in front of him.

#26 Lose Remerswaal


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 10:45 AM

Some of the Mirabelli stuff:

Gordon Edes from his blog

Yep, a Google newsgroup from a foreign country is the only source I could find. Take it for what it's worth

#27 Tony C


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:22 AM

agreed that Loretta over 'belli is a no brainer, having nothing to do about whether or not 'belli is a bad, bad, bad man (only in Boston does it always come down to that sort of personality assassination).

but in re the back-up catcher, i don't really understand why they make the back-up the personal catcher to the most difficult pitcher to catch. why not make the back-up guy the personal catcher to, say, Matt Clement (or whomever) rather than Wake? the current system puts the Sox in a bad position in the playoffs when you don't necessarily want a Bard starting 1 or even 2 games out of 5 or 2 or possibly 3 out of 7. it makes sense to systematize Varitek's days off with the personal catcher match-up, but obviously in the play-offs you want to minimize the games started by the back-up. But under the current system Varitek then all of a sudden has to start catching the knuckler at precisely the time you don't want him to be having a learning experience. If he was just replacing Clement's caddy, there wouldn't be that sort of an issue.

#28 Buffalo Head

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:23 AM

So much for "Don't worry. Give it time."

Couldn't even get to May before pushing a panic button.

#29 86spike


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:30 AM

I hate Wakefield having a personal catcher.

I hated it with the heat of the sun in the past whenever Wakefield went agaisnt a RHP and Belli would put up an 0-for-4... but at least now Bard is a switch hitter, so that problem might not be as pronounced.

#30 The Big Red Kahuna

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:39 AM

I hate Wakefield having a personal catcher.

I hated it with the heat of the sun in the past whenever Wakefield went agaisnt a RHP and Belli would put up an 0-for-4... but at least now Bard is a switch hitter, so that problem might not be as pronounced.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You want your starter catching 150+ games a year, because that is what you are implying? That doesn't seem too rationale for a team with aspirations of playing well into October...

#31 Arock78

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:43 AM

You want your starter catching 150+ games a year, because that is what you are implying?  That doesn't seem too rationale for a team with aspirations of playing well into October...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Wake not having a personal catcher doesn't equal Tek catching 150+ games.

#32 satyadaimoku


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 01:27 PM

why not make the back-up guy the personal catcher to, say, Matt Clement (or whomever) rather than Wake?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I believe the theory is that catching the knuckler is so difficult that it is better for one catcher to make it his full time defensive goal to learn how to do it. It's just too much to ask Varitek to figure out the knuckler and all the splitters and cutters thrown by other pitchers and the pitch selection for each starting and relief pitcher and study video and advance scouting reports on each opposing player. Bard doesn't have to worry about that; his only defensive goal is to learn this one, extremely difficult task. In the long run, Bard's ability to catch the knuckler will make up for his offensive weakness relative to Varitek. At least, so goes the theory.

Presumably, this is equally true during the playoffs. That is, once Bard learns how to catch the knuckler, his superior defense makes him the better player during Wake's starts in October, just like in August. However, this doesn't work in the plausible scenerio where Wakefield ends up in the bullpen during the playoffs. But I think we'll deal with that hurdle when we come to it.

#33 502 to Right


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 01:52 PM

It's also worth it to state that Loretta was, bar none, the best 2nd baseman in baseball in 2004 while playing in Petco for half his games. He dropped off last year a bit because he played with a thumb ligament injury that eventually DL'd him for much of the season.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Keep in mind, though, that Loretta's numbers last season were nearly identical before and after the injury. That said, he still put up a .360 OBP for the season playing half his games at Petco so for that reason alone he's way more valuable than Graffanino offensively. If Loretta's power numbers rebound, that's even more reason to want him over Graf.

As for the catchers, Bard will get more comfortable with the knuckler so don't count me in the "we need Mirabelli back" crowd.

I live in San Diego and Padres fans hate the Loretta/Mirabelli trade. Hate it. They would take Loretta back in a heartbeat.



Edit - I double checked Loretta's numbers from 2005. His slugging % was .344 before the injury and .348 after, so he actually had more power post injury. However, his OBP was .388 before and .342 after.

Edited by 502 to Right, 21 April 2006 - 01:58 PM.


#34 Timmeh49

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 02:15 PM

I believe the theory is that catching the knuckler is so difficult that it is better for one catcher to make it his full time defensive goal to learn how to do it.  It's just too much to ask Varitek to figure out the knuckler and all the splitters and cutters thrown by other pitchers and the pitch selection for each starting and relief pitcher and study video and advance scouting reports on each opposing player.  Bard doesn't have to worry about that; his only defensive goal is to learn this one, extremely difficult task.  In the long run, Bard's ability to catch the knuckler will make up for his offensive weakness relative to Varitek.  At least, so goes the theory.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well, I'd like to see some evidence that supports the theory. And the question to ask is "Does the strategy produce more wins over the course of a season?" Not how much "easier" it makes Bard's or Varitek's or Francona's job.

IMO, the whole "personal catcher" idea is stupid. The first pitcher I remember having a personal catcher was Steve Carlton (Tim McCarver was his catcher) in the mid-70's. Were there personal catchers before this? Did any other knuckleball pitchers ever have a personal catcher? Generally speaking, I hate any sort of "strategy" that only relieves the manager from from making a decision (like the modern use of closers).

FWIW, I took a look at the game logs from Wakefield's 1992 season, in which he went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA: In 13 starts, Mike LaValliere caught him 6 times, Don Slaught 6 times, and Tom Prince once (late September game). Wakefield started and won 2 playoff games that fall, both with Slaught catching.

Also, FWIW, in 1995, Mike Macfarlane started as catcher in 26 of Wakefield's 27 starts that year.

#35 jose melendez


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 02:40 PM

The biggest argument for Wake having a personal catcher is that the amount of diving after a knuckler a catcher must do puts an additional burden on the body.

I have no idea if it could be caluculated, probably not, but I suspect 100 pitches from a knuckleballer is 15-20% more burdensome on a catchers body than 100 pitches from a fastball/curve/change pitcher.

I think any decent catcher that catches Wake a dozen time, would get okay at handling the pitch, but I'd rather have Tek for 130 games never catching Wake than 120 catching him half the time.

#36 Vermonter At Large


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:28 PM

Well, I'd like to see some evidence that supports the theory.  And the question to ask is "Does the strategy produce more wins over the course of a season?"  Not how much "easier" it makes Bard's or Varitek's or Francona's job.

IMO, the whole "personal catcher" idea is stupid.  The first pitcher I remember having a personal catcher was Steve Carlton (Tim McCarver was his catcher) in the mid-70's.  Were there personal catchers before this?  Did any other knuckleball pitchers ever have a personal catcher?  Generally speaking, I hate any sort of "strategy" that only relieves the manager from from making a decision (like the modern use of closers).


<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


So you completely discount the notion that the relationship between a pitcher and catcher have any bearing on how well the pitcher pitches? I agree that there is an elitist element to the concept of personal catchers (using Johnson and Carlton as examples), but if certain pitchers match up better with certain catchers, I think that managers should do their best to match them up. Jerry Narron of the Reds, for example, has been using David Ross as the personal catcher for both Bronson Arroyo and Eric Milton so far this season, with good results so far. So

Very, very few catchers through history have been able to catch 150+ games per season without completely breaking down, so platoons of some sort have always been the rule, and personal catching has been the primary manifestion of that rule for as long as professional baseball has been around. This has the preferred method (as opposed to other sorts of platoons, such as lefty-righty) precisely because the relationship between a pitcher and his catcher are important.

Edited by Vermonter At Large, 21 April 2006 - 03:29 PM.


#37 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:44 PM

My understanding is that Tek doesn't catch weak primarily for mental reasons. Catching the knuckler is stressful physically and mentally, and involves even more preparation. Taking that one responsibility out of Tek's hands gives the backup a vital role while allowing Tek to focus on the other pitchers. It's worked pretty well, frankly. Bard isn't nearly as bad as many are making him out to be. Guys like Kapler, Belli, Roberts- I think we overrate them a tad because of '04. Which is fine by me...and I hope we soon feel that way about Bard, Gonzalez, Pena, etc.

#38 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:51 PM

The only other argument that I can see against Wake having Bard as his personal catcher is the very real possibility of Bard getting injured and Tek being forced to catch him. Now, if Tek did some BP sessions with Wake during the season to get comfortable with the knuckler this could help offset the numerous passed balls that Tek allowed the last times he was forced into catching Wake.
When Kniekro pitched for the Braves I don't remember him having a personal catcher. The regular catcher, Bruce Benedict IIRC, used a much larger glove to help him.

#39 Timmeh49

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Posted 24 April 2006 - 12:06 PM

Well, I'd like to see some evidence that supports the theory.  And the question to ask is "Does the strategy produce more wins over the course of a season?"  Not how much "easier" it makes Bard's or Varitek's or Francona's job.

IMO, the whole "personal catcher" idea is stupid.  The first pitcher I remember having a personal catcher was Steve Carlton (Tim McCarver was his catcher) in the mid-70's.  Were there personal catchers before this?  Did any other knuckleball pitchers ever have a personal catcher?  Generally speaking, I hate any sort of "strategy" that only relieves the manager from from making a decision (like the modern use of closers).

So you completely discount the notion that the relationship between a pitcher and catcher have any bearing on how well the pitcher pitches?

No, I don't discount it. I just want to see some evidence that it matters more than other factors a manager might consider when filling out a lineup card.

Very, very few catchers through history have been able to catch 150+ games per season without completely breaking down, so platoons of some sort have always been the rule, and personal catching has been the primary manifestion of that rule for as long as professional baseball has been around.  This has the preferred method (as opposed to other sorts of platoons, such as lefty-righty) precisely because the relationship between a pitcher and his catcher are important.

"Personal catcher" has been the primary manifestation of a way to give catchers a rest for as long as pro baseball has been around? Can you show me some data? Because in my post, I quoted some Wakefield data from the 1992 Pirates, and they didn't seem to use the personal catcher concept.

Look, I know catchers can't catch 150+ games per year. It's probably better to keep them around 120-130. Also, I realize that a manager must always juggle short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals, and something that is best in the short term is not always best in the long term, and vice-versa.

But I don't see that assigning a personal catcher is always going to be the best solution. What about if Bard has a history of poor success against a particular pitcher that is opposing the Sox on a night when Wakefield is pitching? Or if Varitek has a history of outstanding performance against a particular opposing pitcher? Are these less important? I'm not saying they aren't less important, I'm saying I'd like to see some data.

Of course, I doubt I'll see any data. There's probably not enough available on personal catchers to draw any meaningful conclusions.

But the "personal catcher" concept just doesn't pass the smell test with me. For example, all I hear from the Sox management and pitchers is how prepared Varitek is and what a great game he calls and what a great defender he is. And yet, Varitek is allowed not to get anywhere near Wakefield.

You mention that the pitcher/catcher relationship is important, and I suppose I could agree. However, from 2001-2005, Mirabelli was Wake's personal catcher... And now that 'Belli is gone, it's Bard. How could management have made a judgement that quickly about whether or not Wake and Bard would click? The conclusion I draw is either (i) Sox don't want 'Tek to catch Wake, because Wake's performance would suffer, or (ii) Tito doesn't want to have to make a decision about when Bard should start (and when 'Tek should get an off-day).

Another "smell test"... What would the reaction be in the sox clubhouse/front office (and on this board) if David Wells said that he wanted Josh Bard as his personal catcher? It would be "shut up, you fat f*ck, you pitch to whomever is behind the plate". As it should be.

...if certain pitchers match up better with certain catchers, I think that managers should do their best to match them up.  Jerry Narron of the Reds, for example, has been using David Ross as the personal catcher for both Bronson Arroyo and Eric Milton so far this season, with good results so far.

How would Jerry Narron know that Bronson Arroyo matches up well with David Ross, when Arroyo never pitched to Ross before this season? Did they all get together for a speed-dating session with Dr. Phil on Match.com?

#40 redsoxjamie


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 07:23 PM

2 comments in response to what has been posted here:

(1) I have no problem with Wakfield having a personal catcher. Tek needs days off. They might as well come regularly. Catching the knuckler is difficult. It makes sense to have a "specialist" doing it.

(2) I agree with those in this thread that say Loretta is better than Graffanino. Yeah, he is. The question is, how MUCH better? How many more wins? And how many wins are we losing with Bard behind the plate?

#41 Cuzittt


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 08:09 PM

(2)  I agree with those in this thread that say Loretta is better than Graffanino.  Yeah, he is.  The question is, how MUCH better?  How many more wins?  And how many wins are we losing with Bard behind the plate?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Simply speaking, we haven't lost a single game because Bard has been behind the plate. We have lost a bunch of Wakefield games because our offense goes away.

Until the Sox start scoring runs with Wakefield on the mound, Bard is just a painful non-issue.

-Brandon

#42 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 08:17 PM

I agree with Brandon; the Indians scored 3 runs in the first inning as follows:

- G. Sizemore walked
- G. Sizemore stole second
- J. Michaels singled to shortstop
- J. Peralta homered to deep left, J. Michaels and G. Sizemore scored
- T. Hafner grounded out to second
- V. Martinez grounded out to shortstop
- E. Perez lined out to center

No passed balls there, and the Sox haven't done anything to make that first inning irrelevant. Wakefield gave up 3 earned runs tonight; that's enough, so far, to cause the Sox to lose the game.

I am hardly surprised this thread got bumped again, but if the Sox don't give Wake the slightest bit of run support then they're going to lose this game even if Bard had no passed balls. The passed ball issue is obscuring the lack of offense issue.

Edited by Smiling Joe Hesketh, 26 April 2006 - 08:20 PM.


#43 irinmike

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 08:58 PM

Bard as a backup catcher is marginal at best. However as far as Loretta goes, I sure hope they put him in the eight hole in the lineup when Crisp returns. Youkilis has earned the two hole on offense with his production leading off in Crisp's absence.

#44 TheoShmeo


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 09:06 PM

While I agree that Bard has not cost them a game yet, and I agree that Loretta should be a very good second basemen for the Sox, I think that Bard is more than a small problem. He is letting balls get by him at an alarming rate, and isn't just a matter of time before a ball gets away from him in a close game and costs them a game? It sounds good and level headed to stress patience, but I don't think it makes one an alarmist or a reactionary to observe that Bard is having a lot of trouble with Wake's knuckler or to believe that the same may eventually cause Wake to pitch less effectively (if it hasn't already). And yes, I know, what Bard does or doesn't do wont matter much if the Sox continue to give Wake virtually no run support.

#45 The Allented Mr Ripley


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 09:20 PM

He is letting balls get by him at an alarming rate, and isn't just a matter of time before a ball gets away from him in a close game and costs them a game? It sounds good and level headed to stress patience, but I don't think it makes one an alarmist or a reactionary to observe that Bard is having a lot of trouble with Wake's knuckler


I'm repeating myself, but:

Mirabelli's first 6 games catching Wakefield - 10 PBs
Bard's first 5 games catching Wakefield - 10 PBs

Bard has a higher PB-per-game rate, obviously, but the numbers are similar. And because Mirabelli has been anointed a Jedi Knight by the fandom when it comes to catching the knuckler, it's more than a little cogent to point out his troubles when he first started. Let's see how Bard is doing in a few months.

#46 PedroSpecialK


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 09:24 PM

Why is this all assumed to be a product of the Mirabelli for Loretta trade? For me, it's more a product of the trade that actually brought Bard here (a trade which I very much dislike). We sent away a catcher with more knuckleball experience catching Zink in Kelly Shoppach and we got back a much worse catcher who can't play defense or hit. At least in Shoppach we had a known defensive quantity with some offensive upside. Throw in Riske for Mota and you've got the makings of a trade that could end up being one of the most lopsided in Sox history, especially if Crisp remains a .300/.350/.450 hitter and Marte goes on to become the player his minor league numbers indicate he'll be. In my opinion, it would have been wiser to give up a prospect like Dave Pauley as opposed to obliging to the catcher swap, both for offensive and defensive purposes.

#47 TheoShmeo


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 09:36 PM

I'm repeating myself, but:

Mirabelli's first 6 games catching Wakefield - 10 PBs
Bard's first 5 games catching Wakefield - 10 PBs

Bard has a higher PB-per-game rate, obviously, but the numbers are similar. And because Mirabelli has been anointed a Jedi Knight by the fandom when it comes to catching the knuckler, it's more than a little cogent to point out his troubles when he first started. Let's see how Bard is doing in a few months.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It's true, Bard's start looks like Belli's on the numbers. And maybe, with time, Bard will be able to catch Wake as well as Belli. But that doesn't change the fact that Belli being back there this year would not have required ANY adjustment period. Jedi catcher or not, there wouldn't have been nearly as many passed balls thus far with Doug back there. Now the fact that the Sox haven't hit for Wake makes this all a little academic, but the question this thread begain with -- was the upside of Loretta worth the adjustment period, at a minimum, for Bard -- is still legitimate, even if most of us would answer "yes".

Edit addition: And the fact that Mirabelli made the adjustment and was able to catch Wake after a period of time doesn't mean that Bard will, too. So, in essence, the trade resulted in at least two risks as the cost of upgrading to Loretta: (1) that the passed balls that would inevtiably come during the adjustment period wouldn't cost the Red Sox (and that seems to have been answered in the affirmative) and (2) that Bard would make the same adjustment that Mirabelli did (we don't know yet). It seems possible that Bard will get beaten down by this experience and not make the positive adjustment that Mirabelli did. And we shall see (unless they make a pre-emptive move).

Edited by TheoShmeo, 26 April 2006 - 09:44 PM.


#48 RedOctober3829


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Posted 26 April 2006 - 09:39 PM

Give Bard some time. We need to be patient with him because it takes quite an adjustment from catching traditional pitchers to the knuckler. Even Mirabelli admitted it took him two years to feel comfortable behind the plate with Wakefield. Hindsight is always 20/20, but Bard and 'Belli are a wash offensively with Belli providing more power but Bard hits for a better average. I agree if this continues to get worse that they should consider other options, but for right now he hasn't cost us games directly because of passed balls. What is more concerning is the lack of offense for Wakes and also against LHP in general. They had better hit Wang(potentially of course) on Monday for Wakefield or they will be in big trouble.

#49 Crazy Puppy

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 07:47 AM

The Globe has a story this morning discussing some possible options, including Corky Miller, who was signed as a minor league free agent last week and has been playing in Pawtucket. Miller caught knuckleballer Jared Fernandez while with the Reds' organization.

The Sox have made no decisions, but they may likely be leaning toward a change after catcher Josh Bard was charged with four passed balls in last night's 7-1 loss to the Indians.

If not Miller, the Sox could turn to Ken Huckaby, who prepared for the assignment by showing up at Wakefield's home in Melbourne, Fla., this winter to work with the knuckleballer. Huckaby, who was hindered by a knee injury in spring training and lost out to Bard for the job of Jason Varitek's backup, opened the season in Pawtucket and last week went on the seven-day disabled list when he was struck in the throwing hand by a bat, but he's eligible to come off the DL tomorrow.

Link

#50 bmacfarlane


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Posted 27 April 2006 - 08:13 AM

When Tek had trouble catching Wake RSN collectively thought "poor Tek, he's not accustomed to catching the knuckler" but with Bard it seems the attitude is different. Bard will get there, the question is how will it effect Wake because his body language looked terrible following the last pb.