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The Red Sox and the Decline of OBP


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#51 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 18 October 2012 - 05:58 PM

Since the end of the 2009 season, the front office has made a series of questionable decisions regarding LF, which helps to show their shift in player preference toward defensive minded, lower on-base skilled players. Bay reportedly rejected their 4 year $60 million deal, which if I am remembering correctly, was at the time considered a low-ball offer. They offered a similarly low deal for Matt Holliday at 5 years and $85 million (he signed a 7 year $120 million deal), and then spent a boatload on John Lackey. Holliday was exactly the kind of player the team used to covet. He had improved with BB% every year he was in the league to get it an elite level, and had posted elite .400+ OBPs in Colorado. He is an average defender, which would have been perfect for the small Fenway LF. Instead of pursuing him harder, they spent money on Mike Cameron to play CF, shifting Ellsbury over to LF.

The theory at the time was that with Cameron and Ellsbury's speed, they would get to everything in the left center, boosting defense and keeping hits to the LF gap to singles. We never got a chance to see that theory in action since Beltre's knee ended Ellsbury's season early. But the move from elite levels of OBP and BB% between Manny and Bay, to average BB% of Ellsbury, and above average OBP was telling, especially when Holliday was on the market for less money than they spent a year later an a decidedly inferior player. By signing Crawford, who historically was basically an Ellsbury clone of middling walk rates and average fueled OBP, they stuck to their speedy LF theory.

What was surprising about Crawford is that his on base skills actually declined from 2011 to 2012. His OBP is about .20 points higher, but it was because he brought up his batting average from bad to average, but managed to walk less. Nava has been a decent replacement option, but he's not a starter and is a backup at best. It is puzzling that even from the fall of 2009 the team was willing to give out big contracts, but managed to give them out to all the wrong players. Holliday was the clear player to get, and had all the right indicators of a player that may not live completely up to a 7 year deal, but would provide at least 5 years of strong value due to elite walk rates that showed no signs of declining.

Red Sox LF OBP & BB% 2002-2012
2002 Manny Ramirez (62 GS) Ricky Henderson (42 GS) Brian Daubach (31 GS) Cliff Floyd (19 GS) Benny Agbayani (7 GS)
PA 267 197 133 82 34
OBP 0.423 0.371 0.391 0.390 0.441
BB% 14.20% 16.20% 12.80% 11.00% 11.80%
2003 Manny Ramirez (126 GS) Kevin Millar (16 GS) Gabe Kapler (9 GS) Jeremy Giambi (6 GS)
PA 557 69 41 26
OBP 0.433 0.348 0.366 0.269
BB% 13.30% 10.10% 9.80% 7.70%
2004 Manny Ramirez (132 GS) Kevin Millar (13 GS) Gabe Kapler (5 GS) Dave McCarty (5 GS) Brian Daubach (5 GS)
PA 582 56 25 21 23
OBP 0.399 0.321 0.280 0.333 0.304
BB% 12.50% 16.10% 8.00% 5% 17.40%
2005 Manny Ramirez (147 GS) Kevin Millar (12 GS) Jay Payton (3 GS)
PA 638 59 21
OBP 0.389 0.356 0.190
BB% 12.20% 10.20% 4.80%
2006 Manny Ramirez (123 GS) Kevin Youkilis (17 GS) Wily Mo Pena (11 GS) Gabe Kapler (4 GS)
PA 534 71 52 26
OBP 0.438 0.408 0.346 0.423
BB% 18.00% 22.50% 3.80% 23.10%
2007 Manny Ramirez (120 GS) Jacoby Ellsbury (15 GS) Eric Hinske (10 GS) Wily Mo Pena (8 GS) Bobby Kielty (5 GS) Brandon Moss (4 GS)
PA 519 71 43 34 26 23
OBP 0.391 0.423 0.419 0.235 0.231 0.391
BB% 12.50% 5.60% 18.60% 14.70% 3.80% 13%
2008 Manny Ramirez (66 GS) Jason Bay (48 GS) Jacoby Ellsbury (36 GS) Brandon Moss (8 GS)
PA 288 211 172 37
OBP 0.378 0.370 0.275 0.459
BB% 10.10% 10.40% 4.60% 13.50%
2009 Jason Bay (150 GS) Josh Reddick (6 GS)
PA 634 35
OBP 0.385 0.229
BB% 14.70% 2.90%
2010 Daniel Nava (44 GS) Bill Hall (42 GS) Jeremy Hermida (41 GS) Ryan Kalish (11 GS) Darnell McDonald (10 GS) Eric Patterson (5 GS) Jacoby Ellsbury (5 GS)
PA 176 144 155 42 51 26 26
OBP 0.352 0.296 0.252 0.310 0.304 0.308 0.308
BB% 10.20% 10.40% 7.70% 7.10% 3.90% 3.80% 0.00%
2011 Carl Crawford (126 GS) Josh Reddick (14 GS) Darnell McDonald (13 GS)
PA 530 63 50
OBP 0.292 0.397 0.260
BB% 4.30% 9.50% 10.00%
2012 Daniel Nava (66 GS) Carl Crawford (30 GS) Scott Podsednik (28 GS) Cody Ross (19 GS) Darnell McDonald (16 GS)
PA 288 124 116 73 65
OBP 0.367 0.309 0.327 0.250 0.349
BB% 12.20% 2.40% 3.40% 2.70% 13.80%


#52 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 18 October 2012 - 06:05 PM

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The steep drop in BB% in 2008 can likely be attributed to Ellsbury's awful 36 games bringing it down more sharply than it otherwise would have if he put up a career norm of 7%. Ellsbury's splits showed that in, albeit SSS, he hit worse when not playing CF.

#53 Super Nomario


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Posted 18 October 2012 - 10:07 PM

What was surprising about Crawford is that his on base skills actually declined from 2011 to 2012. His OBP is about .20 points higher, but it was because he brought up his batting average from bad to average, but managed to walk less.

If his OBP was higher, why do you say his on-base skills declined?

#54 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 18 October 2012 - 10:41 PM

His walk rate declined by half from 4.3% to 2.4%. His OBP was always batting average heavy, and it was way below his career norms in 2011, so it was only natural that it would go up in 2012. His average moved up roughly 30 points, but his OBP roughly 20, without a much higher rate of HBP. Getting a hit is clearly a skill, but his plate discipline was worse in 2012.

I think you are right that they way I wrote it is confusing. Its probably more accurate to say that his plate discipline declined in 2012, despite already being bad in 2011.

#55 Sprowl


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Posted 19 October 2012 - 12:07 AM

Among his many other sins, the malign Valentine got Crawford swinging early too.

Crawford was swinging early and often in 2012, and it worked better for him. He looked more dynamic and slashed better at bat when he was aggressive early in the at-bat. To slash well, he needs to hack. He was always a bad fit for an OBP-driven lineup, and it's still a wonder that Theo couldn't see it.

Now the Red Sox have the worst of both worlds: neither OBP nor Crawford.

#56 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:12 PM

Since Johnny Damon decided to jump ship , center field has been a difficult for the Red Sox to get year-to-year consistency. Damon had elite on base skills, even though he saw a decline in 2005 in both OBP and BB%. He never hit the ball as well again, but his plate discipline rebounded in New York. I cannot really fault the front office for the Damon fiasco. They were slow walked into a 4 year deal, but he made it clear when he left that it wasn't just the money, but the "dismantling" of the Red Sox.

To replace Damon, the front office (Theo? GM Quartet? - Theo came back on Jan 19, and the Crisp trade was Jan. 23). Crisp was considered a rising star, who was elite defensively. He never had the best plate discipline in Cleveland, and his OBP was batting average driven. He broke his finger sliding into 3rd, and when he came back he was pretty disappointing at the plate. His plate discipline improved in 2007 and 2008, but his hitting didn't and he never recovered the power he showed in Cleveland. After watching Ellsbury in 2008, I think it was clear that it was time for Crisp to go. He was traded for Ramon Ramirez (hey, another GM who trades starting position players for relief pitching!)

In 2009, Ellsbury played well in CF, and although he had below average plate discipline, his OBP was above average due to a high average. Ellsbury was moved to LF in 2010 and Cameron was signed to play CF. This was supposed to be the all defense OF. Cameron reminds me of Bellhorn, in that he is either striking out, walking, or hitting home runs. From 1997-2009, Cameron had a BB% below 10% only twice (1998 & 2005). A groin injury ruined his season (and tenure with the Sox), so the team went with a McDonald/Kalish combo for half the season. Although McDonald had good plate discipline, he couldn't hit well, and Kalish couldn't do either well. They returned to Ellsbury in 2011, and he put up an incredible MVP-like season. A shoulder injury derailed this season for him. What is troubling is that his plate discipline got worse. It was already below average, but 5.7% BB% is pretty bad.

It seems like injuries have obscured the development of the center fielders since the departure of Damon. Who knows if Crisp's broken finger caused his power to permanently go away. He improved his plate discipline, but he never came close to the .300 hitter he was at the time of the trade. Ellsbury has been equally as hard to figure out. He improved from 2007-2009, missed 2010, and was huge in 2011. His plate discipline is sub par, and if cannot hit for power, he's only a little bit better than Coco Crisp (better batting average).

Red Sox CF OBP & BB% 2002-2012
2002 Johnny Damon (150 GS) Trot Nixon (8 GS)
PA 695 44
OBP 0.353 0.295
BB% 8.90% 9.10%
2003 Johnny Damon (141 GS) Damian Jackson (12 GS) Gabe Kapler (7 GS)
PA 685 44 29
OBP 0.407 0.302 0.231
BB% 9.80% 4.50% 10.30%
2004 Johnny Damon (145 GS) Gabe Kapler (9 GS) Dave Roberts (6 GS)
PA 695 39 33
OBP 0.384 0.205 0.333
BB% 10.90% 5.10% 9.10%
2005 Johnny Damon (144 GS) Gabe Kapler (9 GS) Jay Payton (7 GS)
PA 682 34 32
OBP 0.367 0.353 0.375
BB% 7.50% 0.00% 12.50%
2006 Coco Crisp (100 GS) Wily Mo Pena (25 GS) Gabe Kapler (11 GS) Dustin Mohr (10 GS) Willie Harris (7 GS) Adam Stern (5 GS)
PA 452 103 44 33 35 20
OBP 0.317 0.379 0.409 0.303 0.257 0.150
BB% 6.90% 7.80% 4.50% 9.10% 11.40% 0.00%
2007 Coco Crisp (137 GS) Jacoby Ellsbury (12 GS) Wily Mo Pena (10 GS)
PA 591 52 39
OBP 0.330 0.327 0.256
BB% 8.50% 7.70% 7.70%
2008 Coco Crisp (98 GS) Jacoby Ellsbury (63 GS)
PA 407 287
OBP 0.346 0.367
BB% 8.60% 8.00%
2009 Jacoby Ellsbury (150 GS) Rocco Baldelli (5 GS)
PA 691 23
OBP 0.356 0.217
BB% 7.10% 4.30%
2010 Darnell McDonald (50 GS) Mike Cameron (43 GS) Ryan Kalish (32 GS) Jacoby Ellsbury (13 GS) Eric Patterson (8 GS) Bill Hall (6 GS)
PA 201 178 127 58 35 20
OBP 0.310 0.331 0.288 0.211 0.324 0.350
BB% 10.00% 7.90% 6.30% 6.90% 8.60% 10.00%
2011 Jacoby Ellsbury (152 GS) Darnell McDonald (6 GS)
PA 721 27
OBP 0.375 0.259
BB% 7.10% 3.70%
2012 Jacoby Ellsbury (71 GS) Marlon Byrd (26 GS) Scott Podsednik (18 GS) Ryan Kalish (16 GS) Ryan Sweeney (15 GS)
PA 318 101 74 65 61
OBP 0.314 0.280 0.391 0.215 0.233
BB% 5.70% 1.00% 1.40% 4.60% 4.90%

Edited by ScubaSteveAvery, 23 October 2012 - 09:00 AM.


#57 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 20 October 2012 - 12:13 PM

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#58 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 20 October 2012 - 01:26 PM

Didn't the shift to defensive minded players kind of start when they passed on Damon, largely because they didn't think he could play CF for that much longer? Obviously moving him to LF wasn't an option with Manny around.

#59 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 21 October 2012 - 06:49 PM

Right field has been one of the more stable positions for the front office's tenure. Nixon was obviously here before they bought the team, and was displaying above average to elite on base skills. By the time his contract came to an end in 2006, he was still showing high OBPs and BB%s, despite the fact that his power was evaporating. They made the right move by moving on and grabbing Drew. I think JD Drew shows the team's commitment to on base skills in 2006 & 2007. JD Drew had incredible strike zone judgement and OBPs and BB%s to show for it. His drop in power in 2007 was only temporary, although his batting skills had diminished by the end of his contract.

Josh Reddick and Kalish were supposed to have a duel for the RF position, but Reddick proved to be too much of a hacker, and Kalish was unfortunately injured in 2011. Reddick broke out this year, and improved his walk rate to boot. Trading him probably will turn out to be a net negative, although I'm not convinced that he would have been a long term option. He strikes out a ton, and doesn't get enough hits to offset his hacking. I'll be interested to see what the team does with Ross this offseason. He provides much needed power, and is average at getting on base. He has a decent eye at the plate (his strikeout rate was too high this year, but it may regress a couple percentage points back to career averages). But he derives so much of his offensive value from playing at Fenway Park and was terrible on the road this year. He's an interesting case, but he's probably a better option than Kalish.

Red Sox RF OBP & BB% 2002-2012
2002 Trot Nixon (137 GS) Brian Daubach (8 GS) Manny Ramirez (6 GS) Cliff Floyd (6 GS)
PA 566 37 27 24
OBP 0.341 0.351 0.667 0.292
BB% 10.60% 10.80% 22.20% 8.30%
2003 Trot Nixon (119 GS) Gabe Kapler (25 GS) Kevin Millar (10 GS) Damian Jackson (6 GS)
PA 502 92 46 22
OBP 0.397 0.380 0.391 0.236
BB% 12.40% 5.40% 10.20% 0.00%
2004 Gabe Kapler (59 GS) Kevin Millar (53 GS) Trot Nixon (36 GS) Dave Roberts (11 GS)
PA 239 221 152 47
OBP 0.328 0.376 0.388 0.348
BB% 4.20% 9.00% 9.80% 11%
2005 Trot Nixon (107 GS) Jay Payton (20 GS) Gabe Kapler (16 GS) Kevin Millar (12 GS)
PA 457 80 60 44
OBP 0.361 0.313 0.254 0.386
BB% 11.20% 5.00% 3.30% 6.80%
2006 Trot Nixon (100 GS) Wily Mo Pena (35 GS) Gabe Kapler (17 GS) Eric Hinske (7 GS)
PA 438 135 71 27
OBP 0.377 0.311 0.282 0.407
BB% 13.00% 5.90% 7.00% 7.40%
2007 JD Drew (123 GS) Wily Mo Pena (23 GS) Eric Hinske (9 GS) Bobby Kielty (6 GS)
PA 525 85 36 33
OBP 0.371 0.341 0.278 0.364
BB% 14.10% 5.90% 8.30% 12.10%
2008 JD Drew (105 GS) Jacoby Ellsbury (30 GS) Mark Kotsay (18 GS) Brandon Moss (8 GS)
PA 444 149 74 36
OBP 0.403 0.340 0.297 0.278
BB% 16.90% 6.00% 9.50% 2.80%
2009 JD Drew (125 GS) Rocco Baldelli (27 GS)
PA 525 103
OBP 0.385 0.330
BB% 14.30% 5.80%
2010 JD Drew (127 GS) Darnell McDonald (20 GS) Josh Reddick (6 GS)
PA 531 95 28
OBP 0.339 0.389 0.179
BB% 10.70% 7.40% 3.60%
2011 JD Drew (65 GS) Josh Reddick (48 GS) Mike Cameron (23 GS) Darnell McDonald (21 GS)
PA 270 192 84 86
OBP 0.322 0.302 0.226 0.314
BB% 11.50% 5.70% 7.10% 10.50%
2012 Cody Ross (90 GS) Ryan Sweeney (35 GS) Adrian Gonzalez (18 GS) Ryan Kalish (8 GS)
PA 374 152 65 30
OBP 0.342 0.322 0.292 0.300
BB% 9.10% 5.30% 6.20% 10.00%


#60 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 21 October 2012 - 06:54 PM

The decline after Drew's great 2008 season, is partly regression, partly age related decline for Drew, and partly because the replacements for Drew were Josh Reddick, Mike Cameron, and Darnell McDonald. This season, other than Ross, the team trotted out a bad combo Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, and Ryan Kalish.


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There also is a league-wide downward trend in BB% starting after 2009. The Sox, even with the above mentioned regression, age-related decline, and poor backups, still managed to follow the league wide trend, so they haven't "lost" any ground to other AL RFers.

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#61 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 21 October 2012 - 06:59 PM

Didn't the shift to defensive minded players kind of start when they passed on Damon, largely because they didn't think he could play CF for that much longer? Obviously moving him to LF wasn't an option with Manny around.


You could make that argument, but I wouldn't be convenced it was team wide, but possibly a positional philosophy adjustment. I think the Sox really did want Damon around, but only for 3 years, and under $13 million a year. I think they probably envisioned about 3 years of CF left in him. They definitely replaced him with a defensive player in Crisp, who hadn't shown good plate discipline before they acquired him.

The idea of defense preventing runs has been with the front office for a long time. I think Theo discussed it when he signed Pokey Reese. But, I'm not sure it was really the organizational focus until after the 2009 season.

#62 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 23 October 2012 - 06:52 AM

This table shows just how dominant David Ortiz has been as the Red Sox DH over the last decade. Even in 2009, when he had his down year, he was still only a tad below the AL average for DH for OBP. His walk rates are inflated by ~2-3% because of intentional walks (which OttoC mentioned a handful of posts back). I was going to take them out for Ortiz, but I wanted consistency across all the data. And to some extent, his high IBB show just how great of a hitter he's been. I did notice offhand that his IBB numbers were elevated in Sox down years of 2006 and 2012.

There really isn't that much stuff here since DH has been the most stable position for the Red Sox during the 2002-2012 period. Ortiz is actually improving from his down 2009 year. Before his injury this year, he was on his third straight year of improvement for OBP. Hopefully he comes back healthy on a 2 year deal. Even if his performance drops, he will be above league average for DHs. Plus, the Sox need his bat in the lineup.

Red Sox DH OBP & BB% 2002-2012
2002 Manny Ramirez (51 G) Carlos Baerga (32 G) Brian Daubach (28 G) Jose Offerman (24 G) Cliff Floyd (19 G)
PA 223 122 119 98 86
OBP 0.457 0.273 0.328 0.316 0.360
BB% 13.00% 2.50% 10.10% 13.30% 3.50%
2003 David Ortiz (74 G) Jeremy Giambi (30 G) Manny Ramirez (26 G) Kevin Millar (19 G)
PA 314 115 120 77
OBP 0.389 0.342 0.392 0.325
BB% 11.10% 19.00% 17.50% 9.10%
2004 David Ortiz (115 G) Manny Ramirez (19 G) Ellis Burks (9 G) Kevin Millar (8 G)
PA 522 80 35 33
OBP 0.393 0.388 0.229 0.364
BB% 11.90% 11.30% 8.60% 12%
2005 David Ortiz (148 G)
PA 666
OBP 0.398
BB% 14.70%
2006 David Ortiz (138 G) Mark Loretta (6 G) Manny Ramirez (5 G)
PA 640 26 22
OBP 0.413 0.231 0.455
BB% 18.00% 3.80% 13.60%
2007 David Ortiz (140 G) Manny Ramirez (11 G)
PA 636 48
OBP 0.451 0.375
BB% 16.70% 12.50%
2008 David Ortiz (109 G) Manny Ramirez (31 G) Sean Casey (13 G)
PA 491 134 29
OBP 0.369 0.448 0.385
BB% 14.30% 17.20% 5.10%
2009 David Ortiz (139 G) Mike Lowell (9 G)
PA 601 36
OBP 0.328 0.417
BB% 11.60% 11.10%
2010 David Ortiz (136 G) Mike Lowell (16 G)
PA 584 63
OBP 0.373 0.317
BB% 13.50% 14.30%
2011 David Ortiz (136 G) Ryan Lavarnway (8 G)
PA 590 30
OBP 0.403 0.367
BB% 12.90% 13.30%
2012 David Ortiz (81 G) Ryan Lavarnway (17 G) Cody Ross (14 G) Jarrod Saltalamacchia (13 G) Pedro Ciriaco (10 G) Mauro Gomez (6 G)
PA 351 65 57 47 37 20
OBP 0.419 0.231 0.281 0.319 0.361 0.450
BB% 14.80% 7.70% 5.30% 12.80% 2.70% 20.00%


#63 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 23 October 2012 - 06:54 AM

Again, not a whole lot to see here, except to marvel at how great David Ortiz has been since 2003. He may have peaked in 2007, but his performance is still above average, and at times elite.

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#64 ScubaSteveAvery


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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:17 AM

After looking at every position, I think 4 in particular stand out as areas where the Sox front office has struggled with on-base skills since 2008. I will say, that although the decline started after the end of the 2007 season, I think some of that can be attributed to natural aging and regression of players. For instance, Ortiz is no longer as good as he was from 2004-2007. But he is still damn good. But his regression shows up in the long term averages. In reality, I think that player evaluation either changed around 2009-2010, or the front office just kept choosing the wrong players, or the long(er) term plans for particular positions didn't pan out because of injuries. I think 4 positions in particular show these possibilities to be the case. The positions I have in mind are catcher, third base, left field, and right field.

Catcher
Starting in 2008, Varitek's contact skills started to decline, and those brought down in OBP. He still posted good walk rates, but it was clear to everyone that he was in decline. The front office traded for Victor Martinez, who had a great OBP, but an average BB%. But, his plate discipline in terms of drawing walks, was a step down. I'm not sure if at the time of the trade the consensus was that Martinez would stick at catcher (maybe somebody can help me out here), but I do remember that it was clear in 2010 that he was ending his days as an everyday catcher. I understand the rational for trading for Saltalamacchia, but he is clearly sub par in on-base skills in already weak competition. He improved his walk rate this year, but just doesn't hit consistently enough. In some ways, it is hard to fault the front office because available catching talent has been awful. And some of their internal options never panned out. In terms of personnel decision making, each replacement for Varitek has been worse in getting on base. That may be a function of the talent available, and a function of waiting until an internal option like Lavarnway is ready. But I don't fault them for not finding a replacement as good as Varitek. However, I think it may be worth it to trade Saltalamacchia this winter, whatever is value, and roll with Lavarnway at catcher. He had very good walk rates in the minors, and although his strikeout rate is really high, I think he could put up a similar season to Saltalamacchia this year, despite a bad 27 games at catcher this year.

Third Base
Mueller was clearly the best, but Lowell proved to rebound nicely. Beltre was one the players that began their shift to preventing runs. He put up a nice OBP, although it was largely driven by a high average, but he struggled to walk. This isn't to diminish his fine offensive season he had, and his amazing defense may have made up for his lack of walks overall. One of things that is interesting to explore is what changes Beltre made to his swing while he was in Boston. The hitting success he began in Boston has continued in Texas, even as his walk rate has declined. Replacing Beltre at third with Youkilis gave the Sox an elite on-base skill player at the position again; however, Youkilis' body couldn't withstand a full year at third. Even this year, he struggled by posting his lowest OBP and walk rates. This doesn't justify his trade, but brings up interesting questions about the original Gonzalez trade that shifted Youkilis to third. Middlebrooks is a good player, but he doesn't walk and barely put up a league average OBP for third basemen. He also didn't flash that awesome defense we heard about him displaying in the minors. He's the kind the player this ownership group would have traded away 10 years ago because they didn't fit their model. If he cannot display better on-base skills next season, then I don't see why he should be a long term option at third.

Left Field
Left field is the most baffling of all of the positions I looked at. I still don't understand why the front office did not aggressively pursue Matt Holliday (then spend $80 million on Lackey), but instead dump a ton of money on Carl Crawford a year later. One of the only explanations I can come up with using publicly available data, is that he fit their new defensive minded focus, and would continue what they were going to try a year earlier with Ellsbury in LF. Crawford's speed was wasted in left, and his swing was not conducive to Fenway's giant right field. He never walked enough prior to joining the Sox, and was coming off a career year. It is one of those moves I'm not sure I'll ever understand. Passing on Holliday, a player who fit their model, to get a player who didn't, and pay more for that player is a clear indication that priorities had shifted in the front office. I do give them credit for trading for Bay somewhat replace Manny's production, and then having the wherewithal to not sign Bay long term. But everything after that - moving Ellsbury to LF, passing on Holliday, signing Crawford - has been questionable.

Right Field
One of the things that struck me about right field is that after the 2006 season when Nixon left, the Sox immediately went and signed JD Drew, who had elite on base skills. The front office showed a clarity of vision and stuck to it despite sniping from the fans and press. I'm not sure if Drew was worth the contract they gave him. He had three good years (using OBP as a standard), and 2 average years. And if you like slugging more, then 2 good years and three average years. Regardless, he was a player who fit their model and they jumped on him when he became available.

Ross is a guy who would not have fit their model in the past. His on-base percentage is slightly below average, and walk rate about league average for RF. It was inevitable that there would be some regression after two elite on-base skilled right fielders. And to be fair, Ryan Kalish was considered the heir apparent, but he was injured all 2011. Despite high strikeout rates in the high minors, Kalish posted good walk rates. In a way, he resembled Mike Cameron. Lots of strikeouts, a decent amount of walks, and decent power. He wasn't great in his 2010 cup of coffee, but showed signs of promise. This offseason provides a unique junction for the front office. Ross' value is derived solely from playing at Fenway. He's great at Fenway. But on the road he's a bad player. Is it worth giving multiple years to a guy who will only be good half the time? Is Kalish ready? I don't know the answers to those questions, and they are worth discussing. Justin Upton could be a long term option, but with him it is a question of availability and cost. And in the minors the Sox have Brentz who will most likely start the year in AAA.

Going forward, it is important to note that it isn't 2003-2004 anymore. I'm not sure if replicating those 2003 & 2004 teams is even possible. And, as 2007 shows, you don't have to to win the World Series. However, I think it is important that they try and fill the many holes in their lineup with players who used to fit a model of good plate discipline and on base skills. This may mean that decent players like Saltalamacchia and Middlebrooks may not fit into the long term plan, but the trends posted at the beginning of this thread speak to some problems the team his having. They haven't made the playoffs in three years (and played awful in the 2009 ALDS), and although 2011 was a bounce back year in terms of performance, it looks to be an outlier in the trend. Even before the injuries and major trades this year, the team would have continued a downward slide, despite a great season from Ortiz. I think the problems are personnel related, and that the team just has different players than they used to. Hopefully the rebuilding process gives them an opportunity to start moving back toward higher on-base players, or at least those with better walk rates.




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