Couple of things before I present the Red Sox First Two Months Report Card (terrible title I know, but better than 'A Report Card for a Little More than a Quarter of the Season but Not Yet A Third')…
Grades are based on expectation heading into 2009. If Jason Bay had the same stats as Jason Varitek he’d probably be looking at a C-/D+, for example.
And all stats are through 5/31…
Jason Bay (A)
Are we up to 98 cents on the dollar in 'The Trade'? Think the Dodgers might return a call from Theo if he was offering Bay for Manny straight up?
I’d imagine Bay would sign sometime before the season is over (of course I don’t know this, but it makes way too much sense for all parties involved for it NOT to happen). Figure, what, five years for $80 million? Even if this fast start is a little flukish (his 2009 slugging percentage is 58 points higher than any other season) his .280-30-100 established level would make that contract pretty manageable.
Kevin Youkilis (A)
1. Is there another player in the American League that you would trade straight up for Youkilis (not in all of baseball—you would have to go with Pujols) for the rest of the season? Maybe Mauer? If there was no baggage attached to A-Rod you’d have to bite, I guess, but I can’t think of anyone else.
2. Who plays Youkilis in the movie version of Moneyball? I can sort of see Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Ramon Ramirez (A)
Anyone else miss Coco and his .399 slugging percentage? Clearly Ellsbury is at the very, very worst a wash with Crisp, so basically Ramirez is house money. It’ll be interesting to see if his level of performance can hold up the entire season, his past would indicate that he might even be better the rest of the way (this has been his worst K/BB ratio of his career). We’ll give him a mulligan for Saturday and leave him at an A.
Dustin Pedroia (A-)
OK, the homers are way down and that is a concern. But he’s on pace to walk nearly 90 times (he walked 97 times in 2007 and 2008 combined), match last season’s total of 213 hits, score 127 runs and steal 24 bases. He’s been every bit as valuable as he was last season, and if he were on another AL team he’d be a perfectly acceptable answer to my previous question about Youkilis (and no, not the Moneyball one. Though I’m starting to think that Philip Seymour Hoffman would be Sofia Coppola-level bad as Youkilis. He’s in his 40s and has done nothing in his career that would lead you to think that he could play an athlete. So the search continues.)
Mike Lowell (B+)
I wrote this guy off after last season. Truth be told I thought Ortiz was a much better bounce-back candidate. He’ll probably slow down some but a .280-20-90 season could easily happen. Is it possible that Mike Lowell has been the best Red Sox player in the Hanley Ramirez trade?
Manny Delcarmen (B)
I’m not so sure I’d make that Nick Johnson trade. For me Delcarmen has been the second-best pitcher on the staff this season (after Ramirez). Sure, he walks too many guys, but he’s always around a K an inning and is really tough to hit (179 hits allowed in 202.1 career innings). I don’t know, I get that Johnson is off to a nice start, but something tells me that Delcarmen may appear in more games over the next three seasons.
Jonathan Papelbon (B)
Decent ERA and is on pace for 45 saves. Papelbon has been fine, a top 10 closer, but…
Through Saturday his K/BB rate was 2.27, which would be by far the worst during his tenure as closer. The flags aren’t red yet, but things just seem a little off.
Combined walks and home runs allowed in 2008 (69.1 innings): 12
Combined walks and home runs allowed in 2009 (22 innings): 15
Hideki Okajima (B)
Maybe should have graded him a little higher. His April wasn’t as bad as the stats would lead you to think (he got roughed up just twice in 12 appearances, which killed his ERA 5.59 for the month). And he didn’t give up a run in May.
Jason Varitek (B)
I think the Pink Hats should maybe slow down just a little with the victory lap on this one. Sure, Varitek has hit 10 homers, but let’s be honest: that is all that he has done offensively. He’s a bad month away from having a .230 average with a .300 OBP at the All-Star Break. But he has been absolutely a positive to this point, and maybe he ends up with 18-20 HRs and a .240 average. Though all I heard and read the entire offseason was that the mere presence of The Captain behind the plate makes the pitchers better. Well, I guess if he were gone Lester would have a 10.00 ERA and Dice-K would need 350 pitches to get through five innings.
(Sorry, just watched Jalen Rose make perhaps the dopiest point in ESPN history. Orlando just finished off the Cavs and Rose was asked if the NBA was disappointed that we wouldn’t get LeBron vs. Kobe. Nope, said Jalen. And why?
“Don’t forget, Dwight Howard led the All-Star voting with nearly three million votes,” Rose said, one eye looking nervously off camera as David Stern applied the duct tape to Ray Jackson and Jimmy King. “He’s a very popular player.”
I don’t know, Jalen, but it’s possible that the reason Howard finished with so many votes was that the Eastern Conference center ballot options were as thin as the lyrical content on any Winger album (though I hold a soft spot for “Headed for a Heartbreak”). Put it this way: Samuel Dalembert finished second in the voting. Lakers in six are the pick here.)
Tim Wakefield (B)
Three weeks ago Wakefield was 4-1 with a 2.92 ERA. Now he’s 6-3 with a 4.55 ERA. And I’m sure he’ll have at least another terrific month and another lousy stretch or two and wind up 15-11 or so with a 4.55 ERA. When you look at his career 15 years from now it’ll fit right in with most of his seasons with Boston. Of course, Wakefield will probably still be pitching at that point.
Jacoby Ellsbury (B-)
This is the highest grade I can give an outfielder with a .377 slugging percentage. If Ellsbury continues to combine zero power with a terrible walk rate (10 in his first 219 plate appearances) he’ll have to hit at least .300 to remain a useful offensive player.
Nick Green (B-)
Tom Watson never won the PGA Championship. Neither did Arnold Palmer. Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors were shut out at the French Open. Bruce Springsteen has never had a No. 1 single (and I am not counting “We are the World”, if only because that would also give Dan Ackroyd and Marlon Jackson a No. 1 single).
And Theo Epstein can’t find a shortstop.
(Probably he would’ve kept Hanley, in his defense.)
Now we know Nick Green isn’t the long-term answer. There is a reason why he’s 30 and nobody had ever heard of him two months ago (and it wasn’t because Barbara Hershey shot him in a hotel room 15 years ago). But maybe he can hit .280 this season?
Takashi Saito (B-)
Similar to Okajima—slow start with a strong May (1.80 ERA, .243 slugging percentage against). Would anyone feel uncomfortable with Saito as the closer for a month if Papelbon were injured?
J.D. Drew (C+)
They don’t, of course, but if salaries were kept private and no one knew that J.D. Drew was the highest-paid player on the Red Sox I suspect everyone would be okay with him, right? He’s not great, clearly he’ll never come close to the massive promise he showed early in his career (that great start in 1998, the 1.027 OPS season as a 25-year-old in 2001). But has he been even close to the disaster many thought he would be here? You’re going to get somewhere in the .280-.290 range with an OPB in the .400 range. He has been brutal the last couple of weeks, though.
Justin Masterson (C+)
I think if Justin Masterson was given a spot in the Red Sox rotation for an entire season he wins 15 games. Of course, I saw “City Slickers II” in the theatre four times, so I’m not sure I have credibility on any issue.
Josh Beckett (C)
An F for April (7.22 ERA) and an A for May (2.38 ERA) gets us to a C for Beckett.
What grade would you give for Beckett’s career with the Red Sox to this point? Here are the numbers (regular season): 53-30, 4.16 ERA, two complete games, no shutouts and a 1.235 WHIP in 642. 1 innings.
Not terrible but a little disappointing. I think those are good numbers for a No. 2 starter, but no one had ideas of Beckett as a No. 2 when they made that trade. If the Sox hadn’t made the postseason in the last three years I think I’d give Beckett a C+, maybe a B minus. But the playoff stuff in 2007 (4-0, 1.20 ERA) moves him to a solid B, I think.
Brad Penny (C)
The idea that Penny is trade bait is sort of true, I guess, but I can’t imagine that they will get anything back of real value. I know he’s pitched okay the last few times out but the whole picture is not promising. A WHIP of 1.60 (after a 1.62 last season) with a 5.63 ERA? Maybe Theo’ll find some Single-A prospect that a team has given up on.
Jon Lester (D+)
The only thing that would really scare you is anything health-related, and there is nothing that would lead you there at this point (he’s third in the AL in strikeouts). I bet he ends the season with around 16 wins, 230 Ks and an ERA around 4.
Rocco Baldelli (D)
I had written a whole thing about Rocco on NESN and WEEI next year before I realized that he’s only 27 years old. How is that possible? I had him pegged for 30 at least.
Javier Lopez (F)
Is there an athlete in any of the four professional sports with less chance of having a movie made about their life? Totally and completely uninspiring?
(Though I’ll admit I could see a remake of “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” with Javier and Jim Corsi.)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (F)
Opponents are hitting .384 vs. Dice-K in 2009. In the last 50 years only three players have hit better than .384 for a season (George Brett, Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn).
I knew he was lucky last season and expected him to take a step back in 2009, but I was thinking maybe 15-10 with a 4.30 ERA. Of course as we all know the rest of the year is gravy after the WBC, so…
David Ortiz (F)
Moving Ortiz from third to sixth in the lineup is the baseball equivalent of moving a sitcom in its eighth season from Tuesday to Friday. Maybe you get a quick pop in the ratings but after a few weeks all you’re left with are a wacky neighbor and a guest appearance from Tim Conway as the clueless boss.
Of the 178 qualified hitters in MLB, Ortiz ranks 174th in slugging, 165th in OBP and 177th in batting average. The only Red Sox numbers in recent years that are even close are the ones produced by Pedroia during his call up in 2006, a 31-game stretch that had most people wondering if this guy was simply overmatched by big-league pitching (another decent comp is actually someone I had forgotten about--J.T. Snow in 2006, but in way fewer plate appearances). Of course what worries you about Ortiz is that there has been really no indication that he’s going to turn this around. Since the third game of the season his peak batting average has been .238. Would it shock anyone if he weren’t back next season, a notion that would have been unthinkable 18 months ago?
Michael Bowden, Chris Carter, Hunter Jones, Jonathan Van Every, Jed Lowrie, Gil Velaquez.
Incomplete But Intriguing
Daniel Bard (who knows what role he might play over the next five months?)
Not Really Incomplete But Also Not Really Intriguing at All
What can be written about Jeff Bailey, George Kottaras and Julio Lugo?
Biggest Story of the First Two Months
I’d like it to be the emergence of Youkilis as a superstar, but it is has to be Ortiz.
Biggest Non-Story of the First Two Months
Anything to do with missing Manny.
Semi-Fearless Predictions for the Next Two Months?
I’ll give you three.
Brad Penny is not traded (A DL stint for Dice-K and some more Wakefield struggles keep him around).
Your AL leading hitter on August 1st? Dustin Pedroia.
John Smoltz after five starts? 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA.