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Nuggetpalooza: John Lackey and ‘effective wildness’

03.07.11 at 8:27 am ET
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During the 2010 season, 48.9 percent of John Lackey’s curveballs were recorded as “in the strike zone,” higher than any season of his since at least 2007. His curveball “in zone” percentage from 2007-2009 was just 43.5 percent. However, his curveball “fish rate” (percentage of the time opposing batters swung at balls outside the zone), was just 31.3 percent in 2010, much lower than the 39.1 percent fish rate over the previous three seasons.

The result? A major league leading 22 walks last year on curveballs outside the strike zone. No other pitcher in the AL had more than nine such walks:

22 – John Lackey, BOS
9 – Gio Gonzalez, OAK
9 – Javier Vazquez, NYY

Let’s break down Lackey’s out of zone curveballs by month (pitches that decided plate appearances only):

April (20) – 2-for-16 (.125) with 7 strikeouts and 4 walks; No other AL pitcher had more than 14 PA’s decided on out of zone curveballs in April.
May (21) – 1-for-14 (.071) with 5 strikeouts and 7 walks;
June (11) – 1-for-9 (.111) with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks;
July (10) – 0-for-8 (.000) with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks;
August (18) – 1-for-12 (.083) with 9 strikeouts and 6 walks;
September (7) – 0-for-6 (.000) with 5 strikeouts and 1 walk;

And here are his monthly ERA’s:

April: 4.50
May: 5.17
June: 3.86
July: 3.67
August: 5.75
September: 3.46

Well how about that? The two months in which Lackey posted his worst ERA’s (May and August) were also the two months where he allowed the most walks on out of zone curveballs. Conversely, his three best ERA months (June, July, and September) correspond to the months where he allowed the FEWEST walks on out of zone curves.

So what happens when Lackey’s curveballs were in the strike zone in 2010?

Well, right-handed batters ripped “in zone” curveballs for a .362 average and .970 OPS, the second highest OPS allowed by any pitcher with at least 100 in zone curveballs last season. Lefties got to Lackey on those pitches as well, putting up an identical .362 average and a .915 OPS.

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Minor Details Ep. 10: Peter Gammons on Red Sox prospects

03.07.11 at 5:52 am ET
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Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN joined Minor Details for the latest episode to discuss the growing importance of player development in baseball and a number of key Red Sox prospects whose springs bear watching. Among the highlights:

–Gammons believes that the cost of acquiring players in free agency, at ages when they are typically entering their decline, suggests that player development and prospects are more valuable than ever.

“The Red Sox couldn’€™t have made the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and would have had to risk five years on Adrian Beltre in his 30s, with his leg problems, or would have had to wait to try to spend $30 million on [Albert] Pujols,” he said. “Having three really good prospects and getting Adrian Gonzalez so they won’€™t have to pay him past the age of 35, I think that’€™s part of it.

The Yankees, who have done a great job with their development system as well, could end up ‘€“ if Oakland doesn’€™t get off to a really good start ‘€“ they could turn around and go and get one of those young left-handed pitchers. I can see Gio Gonzalez, I can see [Brett] Anderson. It’€™s going to cost them three pretty good prospects, really good prospects. But that’€™s better than waiting around for a year and spending a ridiculous amount of money on whoever might be a free-agent pitcher.

“The value to the Yankees of having all those guys is, they’€™re going to have to give up three of them. Okay, they give up, I don’€™t think [Jesus] Montero would probably go, but let’€™s say they give up [Gary Sanchez] and Adam Warren and [Dellin] Betances or one of their young pitchers. If that gets them a guy who’€™s 25, 26 years old who they can hold onto for four years, it’€™s worth the weight in gold.”

–Gammons believes that both shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Ryan Kalish are, without question, projected as lineup regulars for the Sox by 2012. Gammons went on to suggest that comparisons of Kalish and former Sox right fielder Trot Nixon might underestimate how good Kalish can be.

“I have great respect for Trot Nixon, but Ryan Kalish is a totally different athlete. He is a great athlete,” said Gammons. “I see him being a guy, he doesn’€™t swing and miss a lot, who’€™s going to hit somewhere between .280 and .300, hit 25 home runs, he can run. I think he’€™s going to be a really exciting player.”

He also noted that manager Terry Francona had to force himself not to judge other prospects against Kalish, whose approach to the game allowed him to fit in immediately in the Sox clubhouse after his July 31 call-up last year.

–The Red Sox have developed a pair of front-of-the-rotation starters in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, but have not developed a 30-home run hitter under GM Theo Epstein (though it is worth mentioning that Kevin Youkilis developed into one of the elite producers in the game under the current Sox front office after being drafted under former Sox GM Dan Duquette in 2001). Gammons suggested that the Sox are not alone in finding it more challenging to develop middle-of-the-order power hitters than top starters.

“I think it’€™s more difficult to develop power. I remember in the first year of the full drug testing, in 2005, before the draft, Theo said to me, ‘€˜We better be aware that drug testing is going to change the game, and it’€™s going to be a new game over the next five to 10 years.’€™ And they drafted Jacoby Ellsbury. That was the beginning,” said Gammons. “With all their draft choices this year, I’€™d bet they try to find a couple of guys who can hit the ball a long way. But I think it’€™s very difficult. … I think finding power is going to become more and more difficult.”

–Gammons said he feels that Lars Anderson could still develop into a power hitter.

“When I first saw him play in Portland, I thought he was born to play in Fenway Park,” said Gammons. “I think this is a critical year for him. If he goes to Pawtucket, uses left-center, right-center, hits 25 home runs, he’€™ll be on his way to being an important piece. Obviously Adrian Gonzalez is going to be here for six years or so, but Lars could be a DH or he could end up being traded. But I’€™d love to see him get the chance to be a first baseman/DH at Fenway Park, because I think that’€™s a natural place for him.”

To listen to the complete podcast, in which Gammons discusses several other players as well as broader issues related to player development, click here.


Ep. 9: The winding path of Andrew Miller: A look at the unique sets of career choices that the 25-year-old left-hander has run into during his baseball career, and how he ended up signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox.

Ep. 8: Key prospect issues in spring training: Five key spring training storylines of note for Red Sox minor leaguers.

Ep. 7: The Red Sox’€™ Cuban connection: A look at the talent base that has inspired the Sox to spend heavily on players who defected from Cuba, along with the professional and cultural challenges that those players face once in the U.S. Guests are Red Sox minor league outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, minor league hitting coach Alex Ochoa (who spent 2010 helping prospect Jose Iglesias adjust to professional baseball in the U.S.) and agent Edwin Mejia of Athletes Premier, an agency whose stable of clients includes some players from Cuba

Ep. 6: Why the Red Sox draft football stars, with Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye and Red Sox minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs, who was recruited to play football at Auburn and could have taken part in the 2011 BCS title game

Ep. 5: The human side of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, with Padres (and former Red Sox) prospect Anthony Rizzo, Sox scout Laz Gutierrez and Sox farm director Mike Hazen. The episode also includes a discussion with Baseball America’€™s Jim Callis about the state of the Sox farm system following the trade for Adrian Gonzalez

Ep. 4: Evaluating prospects and making blockbusters, with former Diamondbacks GM/Red Sox Assistant GM Josh Byrnes and former Red Sox manager Butch Hobson (who was Jeff Bagwell‘€˜s manager in the Red Sox system when he was traded to the Astros)

Ep. 3: Red Sox catching prospects, with Sox roving catching instructor Chadd Epperson, as well as a conversation with Arizona Fall League manager Mike Sarbaugh about the Sox’€™ prospects in the AFL

Ep. 2: Red Sox trade chips with Keith Law of ESPN.com

Ep. 1: Baseball America’€™s list of the Top 10 Red Sox prospects, with Mike Hazen and Jim Callis

Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, brett anderson, Gio Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez takes major step Sunday

03.06.11 at 1:30 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Adrian Gonzalez continued his progress from offseason shoulder surgery on Sunday morning, taking batting practice on the field for the first time this spring.

“I’ve been feeling good the whole time and it felt good to get out there,” Gonzalez said. “It was really good.”

Gonzalez took 25 swings (give or take, media counts had it at 25 but Gonzalez wasn’t sure) in his five rounds of BP, driving the ball to all parts of the field. In his final five swings, Gonzalez hit three balls over the 330-foot right-field fence. He hit in a group with David Ortiz, Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis, all of whom seemed impressed with the effort.

(Not everyone was overwhelmed. Dustin Pedroia said it was about time Gonzalez showed up. “We traded half our farm system for the guy,” he said jokingly.)

Gonzalez — who took 80 swings in a batting cage on Friday — was more concerned with making sure he was taking quality swings as opposed to hitting the ball out of the park.

‘€œI don’€™t really care about that,” Gonzalez said.”I’€™m just trying to put a good swing on the ball, feel like I’€™m on top of the ball and through it. For me, it’€™s more important how the ball goes to left-center and if I’€™m getting that good backspin or cutting my swing off a little bit. I felt good, but there were some swings where I was coming off it a tad. You still want to be able to work on that, and I’€™ll be able to work on that in the cage and take it on to my swing.’€

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Morning Sox Notes: Doubront feeling good

03.06.11 at 9:48 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla – The Red Sox (some of them, anyway) will travel to Port St. Lucie to play the Mets on Sunday afternoon. Here’s the lineup:

Scutaro, 6

Kalish, 8

Lowrie, 4

Nava, DH

Reddick, 9

Anderson, 3

Middlebrooks, 5

Linares, 7

Exposito, 2

Michael Bowden will get the start for the Sox in place of Jon Lester, who was kept back after being hit with the flu bug. Lester was in the clubhouse at Fort Myers on Sunday morning, however, and said he was feeling better. It is expected that he’ll throw a simulated game when he is fully recovered.

Felix Doubront threw for the first time Saturday since being shut down on February 24 with tightness in his pitching elbow. Though Doubront recognized the need to be patient during the rehabilitation process, he was optimistic on Sunday morning.

“I threw yesterday and it was good, really good.” Doubront said. “Sixty feet, 25 throws. Felt good to throw, pretty good. Loose. I’ve been doing some mound work, you know, so my shoulder felt pretty good too.

“It’s a lot of progress, but I just have to wait and do my throwing program for a couple of weeks. I go 90 [feet], 120, 30, 150 … and then bullpen. Just take it slowly and go little by little. We just want to take and slow and see.”

Sticking to the day after theme, Alfredo Aceves felt no pain in his back or hip — injuries that kept him on the sidelines for most of last year with the Yankees — on Sunday after throwing three innings against the Orioles on Saturday. Aceves allowed one unearned run and a pair of hits in his three innings.

Ex-Sox Brian Daubach expected to be superprospect Bryce Harper’s first manager

03.06.11 at 3:00 am ET
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Brian Daubach scrapped his way to a solid career with the Red Sox. He survived in an industry that handed him nothing, despite having any number of doors shut in his face, whether releases by several teams or his expulsion from the MLB Players’ Association for crossing the lines to play as a replacement player during the 1994-95 strike.

His big league career was radically different from the one that a No. 1 overall pick might follow. And it was for that reason, wrote Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post in this excellent piece, that the Washington Nationals wanted Daubach to be the first minor league manager of their uber-prospect, Bryce Harper.

Harper is the power-hitting prodigy who was taken with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Nationals at age 17. He signed a major league deal, and so he is in major league camp with Washington. But he is expected to start his minor league career with Single-A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League, the team that Daubach was hired to manage in no small part because the Nats considered him a perfect player to help familiarize Harper with a professional setting.

“With all he’s been through,” Nationals farm director Doug Harris said of Daubach in the Washington Post story, “there won’t be too many questions asked that he hasn’t faced. He’s been in some tough places in his career.”

To read the complete story, click here.

Read More: brian daubach, bryce harper, hagerstown suns, washington nationals

Saturday roundup: Red Sox stacking chips in the middle of the diamond

03.06.11 at 2:19 am ET
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It was a dazzling day for the Red Sox middle infield. But no, it wasn’t about Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro, or even Jed Lowrie.

The standout performances were delivered instead by a pair of players who are barely old enough to drink legally in their place of work. Top Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias went 3-for-4, and is now hitting .429 this spring. Oscar Tejeda went 3-for-5, driving in three and collecting his second two-run triple in as many days. Two of the hits — including the triple — came against starter Brad Bergeson in a 4-4 tie between the Orioles and a split-squad Sox ensemble (the other split squad was shelled in an 11-2 loss to the Marlins in Fort Myers).

Both players, at 21 years old, have been turning heads in camp. Iglesias is doing so for the second straight year, as he routinely turns in remarkable plays in the field and has shown a high-contact, line drive-producing approach at the plate. Tejeda, meanwhile, has commanded attention this spring as a player whom one talent evaluator suggested reminded him physically more of Terrell Owens than a second baseman; his bat speed points to a potentially above-average offensive second baseman.

It is, of course, early in the spring, and it would be a mistake to draw sweeping conclusions about the talents of either based on a couple of exhibition games. Moreover, the two players are unlikely to alter significantly their developmental paths no matter what they do this spring. Tejeda, who spent all of last year in Hi-A Salem, is all but certain to open this year at Double-A Portland. Iglesias, meanwhile, will be given more time to develop in the minors.

Even so, the two represent a significant development in the Red Sox organization, insofar as they create the possibility that the Sox will feature unusual middle infield depth, something that gives the team plenty of options.

Dustin Pedroia, of course, is entrenched at second base, and under contract through 2014 (with the Sox holding an option on him for the 2015 season). In coming years, that means that Tejeda will either represent a solid in-house alternative should the 2008 MVP suffer another injury, offer the team a potentially significant trade chip (assuming, of course, that he is able to carry his promising 2010 performance forward) or give the team a player whose athleticism could permit a move to the outfield should the need arise.

As for Iglesias, the Sox have scribbled him in as their starting shortstop come 2012. But, depending on his performance this year, he could position himself to make an impact at some point in the 2011 season as well. The pace of his development this year, then, could influence what kind of flexibility the Sox might have to deal either Jed Lowrie or Marco Scutaro as the season progresses and needs get defined.

Spring performances mean little in their own right. That said, they can hint at the future shape of the team, and early returns suggest that the team could have a set of options with its middle infield depth that few others can claim.

OTHER NOTES Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alfredo aceves, carl crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka, dennys reyes

Daisuke Matsuzaka struggles vs. Marlins

03.05.11 at 4:42 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled Saturday against the Marlins, while Alfredo Aceves was strong against the Orioles on a busy Saturday for the Red Sox.

Matsuzka allowed six hits and seven runs over three innings to Florida. He struck out one, walked two and allowed a two-run homer to DeWayne Wise.

Aceves, meanwhile, allowed just an unearned run against the Orioles in a game the teams would eventually tie, 4-4. The lone run came in his fourth and final inning of work. Oscar Tejeda had his second straight game with a two-run triple (for more on Tejeda, click here).

Read More: alfredo aceves, Daisuke Matsuzaka, oscar tejeda,

Morning Red Sox notes: The flu bug cometh

03.05.11 at 11:05 am ET
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The Red Sox will play a pair of split-squad games on Saturday, with one group remaining in Fort Myers to host the Marlins and another deploying to Sarasota to take on the Orioles. Outfielder J.D. Drew was scheduled to make the trip to Sarasota, but he was instead told to stay at home after getting hit with a flu bug.

A virus is apparently making the proverbial rounds, also having claimed pitcher Jon Lester, whom manager Terry Francona said will probably miss his scheduled Sunday start against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. The team will likely have Lester throw a simulated game when he is healthy enough to do so. Assuming Lester misses his start, Michael Bowden — who was scheduled to pitch in relief on Sunday — would instead get the ball as the starter.

A few other morning notes:

–Infielder Brent Dlugach was examined by Dr. Thomas Gill, who confirmed the initial MRI diagnosis of a dislocated shoulder. That will likely sideline him for much of spring training, but Francona was able to point to another player to offer hope for the 28-year-old.

Darnell McDonald is a good example of that,” Francona told reporters. “He was frustrated last spring [after missing most of the exhibition calendar with a strained oblique], but he did his work and got healthy and went and played real well. We’€™re not going to write guys off because they got hurt. But they have to get healthy or they can’€™t do what they’€™re supposed to do.’€

–Left-hander Felix Doubront will play catch on Saturday, and if all goes well, he will begin a throwing program.

Read More: Brent Dlugach, darnell mcdonald, felix doubront, J.D Drew

Red Sox-Yankees Postgame Notes: Buchholz builds, Iglesias dazzles

03.04.11 at 10:25 pm ET
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Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz had a productive day in his second start of the spring. The 26-year-old allowed one hit and two walks in three shutout innings, striking out a pair of batters while getting five groundball outs.

His command was shaky at times, as he threw just 24 of his 45 pitches for strikes. Even so, he viewed the outing — in which he faced most of the Yankees regulars — as productive.

“I looked at [the lineup], and I was like, ‘€˜Man, another All-Star team.’€™ But it was good going out there and facing guys like this every other time out. It’€™s not fun if you don’€™t have your stuff and are not locating, but it definitely makes you better because this is a time to get better and work on your pitches,” Buchholz told reporters. “I feel like the pitches are there. I’€™ve just got to work on the command of a couple of pitches and try to stay in the rhythm a little bit better.”


–Shortstop Jose Iglesias offered an impressive performance. Most notably, he made a dazzling play up the middle, gloving the ball while diving, hopping back to his feet and gaining enough balance to uncork a strong throw to first to record the out. He also went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. Perhaps as notably, he took a walk, something he did just 17 times in 328 plate appearances in his first pro season.

–A pair of Yankees pitchers turned in impressive performances. Former Red Sox pitcher Bartolo Colon, who last pitched in the majors in 2009, struck out five in three shutout innings. He was followed by 19-year-old left-handed prospect Manny Banuelos, who allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three in two innings.

–Iglesias was one of several Red Sox international prospects to turn in strong performances. Juan Carlos Linares (like Iglesias, from Cuba) went 2-for-2 with a double and RBI, while Oscar Tejeda went 2-for-2 with a two-run triple and RBI single.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, jose iglesias, juan carlos linares, oscar tejeda

Josh Beckett ‘pretty much back to normal’

03.04.11 at 5:01 pm ET
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Josh Beckett, who was scratched from his scheduled spring training start on Thursday after having suffered a mild concussion earlier in the week, threw 40 pitches in a simulated three-inning outing in Fort Myers on Friday.

Beckett told reporters that he “felt good” and mixed in all his pitches while throwing to right- and left-handed minor leaguers. He felt that the 40-pitch workload, coupled with the up-and-down of simulated innings, served as a meaningful buildup of arm strength, and he said that he anticipates making a Grapefruit League start on Tuesday in a split-squad game against the Astros.

For more on Beckett’s simulated outing, click here.

Read More: Josh Beckett,
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