Archive for January, 2015

The Red Sox Will Be Just Fine Without An Ace

The last-to-first-to-last-again Boston Red Sox have completed yet another overhaul, importingHanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, as well as expecting full seasons from Rusney Castillo andMookie Betts, to reinforce an offense that sputtered to a 27th-overall wRC+ finish in 2014. But that’s nothing compared to the changes in the rotation, in which six of the nine pitchers who started at least 10 games last year are gone.

In place of Jon LesterJohn LackeyJake Peavy,Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Felix Doubront, the Sox head into 2015 with a rotation fronted by Rick PorcelloWade Miley and Justin Masterson, as well as holdovers Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz. For a team that entered the offseason simply needing to find enough arms to field a team for the season, it’s an interesting collection of potentially useful arms.

That said, the idea of “Rick Porcello, Opening Day starter” isn’t exactly going to sell tickets, and that’s the main criticism leveled at Boston this winter: “Where’s the ace?!” Having whiffed on the chance to bring Lester back and so far unable to satisfy Philadelphia’s demands for Cole Hamels, the Red Sox don’t appear to have the guy needed to make a postseason run. Maybe they don’t, but maybe they don’t need to. Here’s why the Red Sox are just fine the way they are — for now, at least. Read the rest of this entry »

How The Phillies Can Maximize a Cole Hamels Trade

After stubbornly trying to hold on to the past long after their glory had faded, the Philadelphia Phillies have finally accepted reality, acknowledging that it’s time to commit to a rebuild and look toward the future. That process officially began when Jimmy Rollins, the best shortstop in team history, was traded to the Dodgers in December. Marlon Byrd soon followed him out the door in a trade to Cincinnati. Ryan HowardCliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon are likely to follow, if the team can find any takers. It’s going to be a long season — or two or three or four, for that matter — in Philadelphia.

Sooner or later, star lefty Cole Hamels is going to be on the move as well. Because Hamels has by far the most value of any of the remaining Phillies, a potential Hamels deal is the most important thing GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has to get right in managing this rebuilding process. He can’t get this wrong, because a misfire here could set the franchise back even further — and potentially cost him his job.

No deal currently seems close, with various reports indicating that the Phillies are being “unrealistic with their expectations,” asking not only for multiple top-level prospects but also for a team to pick up most or all of the $110 million Hamels likely will be due. (Though Hamels is guaranteed only $96 million, it’s widely assumed that he will insist on his 2020 team option to be picked up immediately in exchange for him waiving his no-trade clause, pushing the total value to $110 million.)

The Phillies are a team that is rich in dollars and poor in talent. Major League Baseball has done its best to limit the avenues by which teams can acquire young talent. So why don’t the Phillies make the tough but necessary call to offer not only to eat some of Hamels’ contract, but a big part of it?

Here’s a look at the likely return the Phils will receive in exchange for Hamels and the best next steps for Philadelphia. Read the rest of this entry »

Why The Projections Don’t Like The Angels

Last year, the Los Angeles Angels won 98 games, the third-highest total in the 54-year history of the franchise. They earned it, too, finishing second with a plus-143 run differential and baseball’s highest runs scored per game (4.7). They had — and have — the unquestioned best player in the game in AL MVP Mike Trout, who is headed into his age-23 season, they found a surprising breakout pitching star in Garrett Richards and they built an outstanding bullpen on the fly during the 2014 season.

Despite a disappointing showing while being swept in the ALDS against the Royals, it was a successful year for the Angels, and their main competition, the A’s, followed up their season-ending slide with a series of difficult-to-understand moves that may have set Oakland back. On the surface, the Angels would seem to be poised for another successful run in 2015.

And yet the projections don’t quite see it that way. Steamer, one of the most respected projection systems, has the Angels as only an 84-win team, five games behind the Mariners in the AL West. Have the Angels really done anything to make themselves 14 wins worse than last year? Probably not. But the projections can’t simply be tossed aside as frivolous, either — and here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »