How To Fix the Sox, Before Ben Commits Bloody Valentine’s Day Massacre


Bobby Valentine will take the fall for the team’s performance, likely fired by GM Ben, just before the All-Star break, but it was Ben who handed Bobby a lousy poker hand to play; instead of three aces, he was dealt:  one ace, a 3 and three 4s in his starting rotation.  So, what’s the deal?

He may be “Blabby” Valentine, some think he is a jackass, but he knows the game of baseball and the Blame tail should be pinned on the butt end of the donkeys on the mound. Also pin a tail on the Ben and the Brain Truss in the corner offices at Yawkey Way, who performed pretzel-twist contortion trades to free up salary money to pay for a solid rotation starter, but failed to create enough loose change and left the team, at least, one starter of a full rotation.

What’s the deal?  It’s the pitching, stupid.

If we define an “ace,” as a starter that you can rely on to stop a losing streak and toss 200 innings and rack up 5, or more, Ws than Ls in a season, we conclude that the Sox might have ONE in the current rotation.

Among all MLB teams, with the usual exceptions of OBP #10, and SBs #28, the Sox offense ranks high in major categories: BA #3, #4 in Rs, RBIs and SLG, and #8 in HRs.  They are #3 in Fielding PCT with .988.

But, the Sox 5.31 staff ERA is #29 in MLB ahead of the Twins at 5.70.

"AL East: Baltimore 2.99, Toronto 3.76, Tampa 3.81 and New York 4.33"

BA against is 25th at .273. The pen falls around 12th converting 11 Opps into 7 SVs.

We will suggest a fix for the mess shortly, but, first, since this is New England and the Red Sox, let’s wallow in the details.

[We stipulate that, for now, John Lester, 1-2, 4.62, 1.35,   albeit with a poor 25/17 K/W ratio, would qualify as an ace on nearly all current MLB teams.]

Erstwhile Texas Aggie Frat Boy, Josh Beckett, is 2-3 with a 4.45 ERA and his good, but declining 2.67  K/W ratio is undermined by his awful 1.9 HR/9 average; strikeouts are thrilling, but, if you are surrendering almost 2 HRs per game, you are no ace, and he is on his way to becoming a Joker.

Adding to his “poor me, they won’t let me drink beer during games” attitude is his fragile physical condition from blisters to lower back strain, stiff lat muscles, and his

"Little Jack Horner Syndrome; symptoms: thumb stuck up bum with head, but no plum."

In May, 2010 Beckett injured himself before the start of May 10th’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays by taking practice swings.

If we apply the term “consistent” to Beckett, he is not an ace; since his best season [20070, when he went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA, from 16-11, 5.01 ERA in 2006, he dropped to 12-10, 4.03 ERA in 2008.  He was up again in 2009 at 17-6, 3.86 ERA, but he has yet to win more than 13 games since that season.

Beckett has fallen from potential ace to a #3 in a good MLB rotation.

Clay Buchholz has a 3-1 record in six starts, but his ERA is 9.09 and has allowed no fewer than five earned runs in any of them, and he’s allowed 47 hits and 19 walks in 32.2 innings.

He knows that something is wrong , but he is not sure what it is.

“I’ve been upset with myself for the past six weeks,” he said. “It’s just frustrating to go out there and make some good pitches and still get hit. It’s not easy. I have to keep telling myself it’s not that easy. It looks easy for some guys but sometimes you have to go through some struggles to get where you want to be. I think that’s where I’m at right now. Just gotta find a way through it.”  The 2010 Buchholz has yet to return and has barely performed well enough to rank as a #4 starter.

Bard has yet to prove that he is anything more than a capable 8th inning set-up guy.  His gas tank seems to top out at three innings; against the A’s he started with three scoreless innings  to begin, but then sagged and gave up one run in the 4th inning and three more in the 6th,  before being yanked. Bard allowed four earned runs, eight hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings. Known for his over-powering heat, Bard struck out just one batter and needed 101 pitches to get just one out into the 6th inning, which left him with a 4.38 ERA.  Give him a #4 starter rating.

With all the dramatic angst about the starters and closers, Felix Doubront may become the hidden gem of the rotation. While his BA against is .271 and his ERA of 5.29 and  1.55 WHIP are not impressive, he has over a 2-1 K-W ration of  32/15 and is 2 and 1.  Given his .571 W% and Lackey’s 28 starts [2011], Doubront may render a 16-12 record.  Recognizing his high ceiling [#2?], we will conservatively award him a #4 slot.

When the fragile Andrew Bailey went DL and Melancon could not cut the closer role, Valentine was forced [by the Brain Truss] to continue the Bard Experiment and push Aceves from the 7th inning slot to the closer role.  With a healthy Bailey as closer and Bard in the set-up role, Valentine was inclined to let Aceves have the odd start and stay in the 7th frame slot.

"“So, what are you going do about it—That’s what I’d like to know.”[Paul Simon, “Gumboots,” Graceland album.]"

First, trade for a quality #3 slot LHP.

As we suggested in our post on January 5th, Wandy Fulton Rodriguez.
2012 Contract Status: Signed thru 2013, 3 yrs/$34M (11-13) & 14 team option (details) [*]

Let’s look at the chart:

2005-2011: 73-75 .493 4.07 206 [G] 1176 [IP]
162 Game Avg: 12-13 .493 4.07 35 [G] 198 [IP]
2.38 Ks to every W. W/9 3.2, K/9 7.7
WHIP: 1.346

Considering this was on a terrible Houston team and I rest my case.

Q: What does Houston need?
A: Everything!

Remove aging Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, and starting SS, Jed Lowrie from the 40-man roster and you are left with a AA roster, who would regularly lose to the Portland Sea Dogs.

So, which of those Doggies do we have to cough up to grab the “Magic” Wandy?

4 for 1 deal:          Wandy Rodriguez, LHP for:

Lars Anderson, 1b Oscar Tejeda, 2b, Kolbrin Vitek, 3b

Stolmy Pimentel, RHP

Add these players to Jed Lowrie and the Astros have a complete “former Sox prospects” infield and a potential starter.  [NOTE:  To make the deal work, you could allow Houston a  substitute for one of the above for Blake Swihart, Rank: 12 Sox Prospect, Greenville Drive (A), ETA: 2015, C, Age: 20, Bats: S, Throws:: R, 6′ 1″, 175, Drafted: 2011, 1st (26).]

As we noted in a recent post:

White Sox GM Kenny Williams is dangling lefty John Danks and righty Gavin Floyd, but says it would take “at least two A-level prospects and a third that’s a notch below.”

Williams won’t admit it, but his minor league prospect cupboard is bare; in the latest organizational review coming from Baseball Prospectus, the White Sox were placed 30th out of a possible 30. And the comment from Kevin Goldstein to go with the placement — “It really is that bad.”

With his GM job in a tenuous status, Williams will be willing to wheel and deal to try to improve his sorry Sox.  While it is not a “blockbuster” type of trade, the Red Sox could target Gavin Floyd and LHP Matt Thornton [think bullpen] and offer Youkilis and Lars Anderson.

With Morel, Lillibridge and Escobar on their hot corner depth chart, Youkilis would be an offensive upgrade for Chicago and he could also move into the DH, where K-Kings Dunn and Viciedo fill that hole.

With aging Konerko,  Dunn “Struck Out”, UT Lillibridge and “Iron Glove” Viciedo at 1b, adding Lars Anderson a solid, mobile defender and lefty hitter to the mix, as a replacement for Konerko could be attractive to Chicago.

In sum, the White Sox get a veteran hitter at DH with Youkilis, who could also spot start at 3b and 1b and a next generation lefty First baseman in Anderson and the Red Sox get a rotation starter and another solid LHP for the pen.

If needed, Boston could add young [20] catching prospect Blake Swihart [Sox #12 prospect MLB] to the deal, as Williams has two aging catchers and no prospects in sight. Or, any other prospects that Houston did not select in the Wandy deal.

If BOTH deals were made, the new Sox rotation would be:

  1. Lester
  2. Rodriguez
  3. Beckett
  4. Floyd
  5. Doubront

With Floyd and Rodriguez in the rotation, the Sox can reshuffle the 7-8-9-inning pitching assignments: Bard becomes the closer, Melancon is his set-up guy, and Aceves is the 7th inning bridge from starters who make it through six innings.  Send Buchholz back to AAA to find another pitch, or get some movement on his fastball.

If ONE deal was made, the new Sox rotation would be:

  1. Lester
  2. Rodriguez OR Floyd
  3. Beckett
  4. Doubront
  5. Buchholz

With Floyd OR Rodriguez in the rotation, the Sox can reshuffle the 7-8-9-inning pitching assignments: Bard becomes the closer, Melancon is his set-up guy, and Aceves is the 7th inning bridge from starters who make it through six innings.

We recommended, recently, that the Sox plant Middlebrooks at 3b and leave him there.  Yes, Youk will be attractive to some AL team that thinks they are just one bat away from the playoffs, but, he needs to be showcased at DH against LHPs to for the Sox to get fair trade value for him.

Finally, Brain Truss at Fenway, neither Salty nor Shopvac is the future catcher for your team.  As a switch-hitter with some power, Saltalamacchia will be a useful backup catcher, PH and DH.

Ryan Lavarnway‘s limited MLB sample [39 ABs]  shows .294 vs. LHPs and .278 vs. LHP starters.  His four-year BA in the minors was .284 [splits not available].  Although Lavarnway had only 39 ABs, his .294 BA is consistent with his .284 in four years in the minors.  Kelly Shoppach‘s career BA is career .224 hitter.  Lavarnway is a better hitter vs. LHPs than Shoppach: .294/.274 and would give the Sox a 42-point advantage over Salty.

You might get the impression from the media that Shoppach is a better defensive catcher than Lavarnway. Really?

Fld %    C/S%

"Lavarnway            .993       32%  [4-year minor league stats]Saltalamacchia           .992       31%  [MLB career stats]Shoppach                      .991       28%  [MLB career stats]"

With Lavarnway continuing to hit for average and power* and his improved defensive skills and Shoppach’s  weak career stats, .224 and 28% of runners thrown out, it is past time to promote Lavarnway to the majors with Salty in the backup catcher slot.


While GM Ben may relish the idea of firing “Lucchino’s Lad,” Valentine The Verbose at mid-season, blaming an intelligent baseball manager for the failure of the 2012 Sox to make the playoffs will be cold comfort, when Cherington discovers that, after the manager, the GM is the next sacrificial lamb in the chain of command.

Ben, there is still time to save your career as  Pit Boss at the Fenway Casino; reshuffle the deck and give Valentine a better hand to play.


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