Christian Vazquez becoming Red Sox unicorn

Every championship team has that moment–the one you put your finger and proclaim as the moment of destiny as you reek of champagne from the previous night’s celebration. Sometime’s these moments are disguised as hustle plays or locker room speeches yet they almost always come during times of despair. With this past weekend’s antics vs Toronto, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, or as my friends in Puerto Rico call him “Chrithian Vathqueth”, has now delivered two of these moments for his ball club.

Despite splitting time with Sandy Leon all year, Vazquez had made the most of his opportunities in the second half especially late in games. The first of his unlikely heroics came on August 1st in an absurd game in which Boston’s thoroughbreds gave up 10 runs to the Cleveland Indians. Following a rare shelling of Chris Sale and an even rarer blown save by Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox found themselves down one heading into the bottom of the ninth. Vazquez would launch a two out, three run bomb to left center for a win which was as perplexing as his clutchness. In game number 108 of the season, it was only Vazquez’s third home run.

The dramatic win over Cleveland propelled the Sox to six straight victories and a four game lead in the AL East. Their streak wouldn’t last long however as the most recent Red Sox skid put the Yankees back in the rear view mirror.

After a disastrous ‘Players Week’ in which the Sox were outscored 38-10, the AL East lead was back to 2.5 and in real danger of shrinking again as Boston found themselves down late to Toronto on Monday night. Trailing 3-2 in the 7th, Vazquez hit just his fourth homer of the year and subsequently snapped the entire Boston offense out of their slump. They would go onto score two more runs in the inning which would prove the difference in their 6-5 win. That momentum carried over into last nights victory as they blanked the Blue Jays 3-0 en route to a four game lead in the division.

Neither of these games was life and death for the Red Sox but they were win or loss. In times of turmoil come postseason it will be these plays that give fans and players alike hope that things can change with one swing. While I still maintain this team lacks a feeling of destiny that the teams of 2004, 2007, and 2013 exuded, they do have a guy that just might write his own. Bueno, Vathqueth. Muy Bueno.

 

Red Sox suck at baserunning, metrics disagree

As I firmly plant my flag in the “Red Sox suck at baserunning” section, I realize it’s not exactly the hottest take out right. With that said there are some conflicting schools of measurements that leave a possibility that the Red sox are more aggressive than they are incompetent.

Outs on Bases is a simple statistic used to track the total number of outs made while making a baserunning play. This does not include pickoffs, caught stealing, or force plays. Let’s check in to see how the Red Sox rank in this category:

Total OOB: 67 (Last) (Next closest: Houston, 55)

Outs made at 1B: 8 ( T-25th)

Outs made at 2B: 18 (T-Last)

Outs made at 3B: 16 (Last)

Outs made at home: 25 (Last)

These numbers alone, combined with just an old-fashioned eye test, can probably tell you the Red Sox have thrown away plenty of runs already this season. Or have they?

FanGraphs created a metric, known as BsR, which serves as the baserunning component for a player’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Put together, BsR is designed to capture a player or team’s total value on the bases based on risk, reward, and the odds of future runs being created or negated. Here is the formula for BsR courtesy of FanGraphs:

BsR = wSB + UBR + wGDP

wSB is Weighted Stolen Base Runs which estimates the number of runs above or below average a player contributes to his team by stealing bases and being thrown out trying to steal. You can read more about wSB specifically at the link provided, but the calculation is as follows:

wSB = SB * runSB + CS * runCS – lgwSB * (1B + BB + HBP – IBB)

League stolen base runs (lgwSB) is:

lgwSB = (SB * runSB + CS * runCS) / (1B + BB + HBP – IBB)

As with all linear weights-based metrics, the runs values are estimates. In this case, the run value of a stolen base is set at .2 runs for all seasons. The run value of a caught stealing changes from year to year to reflect the changing value of runs and outs over the season.

runCS = 2 x RunsPerOut + 0.075

Runs Per Out is simply runs scored in the season divided by outs in the season. The seasonal constants for wSB can be found alongside the wOBA constants here.

Calculating Ultimate Base Running (UBR) is more difficult in practice, but it is theoretically quite easy to understand. UBR essentially takes the run expectancy of the advancement (or lack thereof) and credits that to the base runner depending the frequency with which the average runner advances in the same situation. For more specific detail about the types of plays it considers, check out the UBR Primer.

The same goes for wGDP. All you’re doing is taking the extra outs a player costs his team (or saves) by hitting into more double plays (or fewer) than average given his opportunities.

BsR is simply wSB, UBR, and wGDP added together with no further adjustments.

If you’re still with us, the BsR grading scale is set as such:

Excellent: 8+

Great: 6

Above Average: 2

Average: 0

Below Average: -2

Poor: -4

Awful: -6

The Red Sox are currently average according to BsR, sitting at 0.5 (14th in MLB). Their positive rating may be thanks to the increased double steals and hit and run situations manager John Farrell has green-lit this year in an effort to manufacture runs. Remember this stat is taking into account both the runs you create and the ones you lose.

At this point a year ago the Red Sox were one of the elite baserunning teams in the league with a rating of +10.5, good enough for 5th among MLB teams.

Their youth might be factoring into their increased baserunning blunders, as rookie Andrew Benintendi leads all players with 10 total OOB made.

This past week only added to the frustration for Red Sox faithful as Brock Holt was caught stealing on a 2-0 breaking ball to Jackie Bradley Jr with one out in the 9th to pretty much seal a Yankees win. Rafael Devers was picked off at first to stunt a two-out rally in Sunday’s game and Hanley Ramirez can’t keep his helmet on. The list goes on and on.

Sabermetrics has changed the foundation of baseball over the past decade and as the Red Sox are showing, the traditional laws of baserunning may be the next to go.

Rafael Devers might have ruined Aroldis Chapman’s life

Aroldis Chapman was starting to look like the $86 million closer the Yankees had hoped for. That is until 20-year-old Rafael Devers stepped in last Sunday night and became the first left-hander to take Chapman yard since 2011.

Before that game-tying home run, Chapman had started to turn his 2017 season around. He had given up only one run in his previous 10 outings and his fastball was full of life again. He struck out Hanley Ramirez on three pitches all clocked at 102 MPH or better and had Rafael Devers down two strikes early. The Red Sox would go on to win 3-2 in extra innings and Chapman seemingly lost his invincibility along with the game.

In his 3 innings pitched since that at bat he has given up 4 hits, 4 runs, 2 BB, hit a batter, and another home run to a rookie in Met’s Amed Rosario.

The 102.8 MPH fastball to Devers was the fastest pitch recorded ever given up for a home run in the velocity era. The audacity of Devers to take Chapman’s best stuff oppo-taco in his first career at-bat against the man might have just been enough to strip what was left of his confidence.

Eduardo Nunez is the new Mike Lowell

Mike Lowell had been all but left for dead in Miami. At 31 years old in 2005, Lowell’s average dipped down to .236 and he failed to reach double digit home runs for the first time in his career. He was finished. And then he found the Green Monster.

Eduardo Nunez was far from finished when the Red Sox traded for him earlier this month, but he was quickly becoming a forgotten entity. He was coming off his first All Star game appearance in 2016, hit just south of .300 with the Minnesota Twins through 91 games before being shipped off to a disaster of a San Francisco Giants team. Fresh into his 30’s like Lowell, he was stranded on a sinking ship and was going down with them

Nunez hit only eight home runs in 484 at bats with the Giants. He hit four in his first 42 at bats in Boston. In his career, he had hit a home run every 56.7 plate appearances, now that clips sits at once every 20 PA.

nunez spray chart Continue reading “Eduardo Nunez is the new Mike Lowell”

The Red Sox are searching for an eighth inning guy they already have

Dennis Eckersley’s proclamation on last night’s broadcast that Brandon Workman deserves the setup role for the Boston Red Sox has my head in a pretzel today.

This is the same Brandon Workman who had an ERA over 6 with the Lowell Spinners last year, yet after only 16 games this year we are supposed to believe he’s the guy for the eighth inning job. This is after trading for two elite setup men last year (Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg) only for them to spend all of 2017 on the DL. This is also after trader Dave Dombrowski gave it one more shot earlier this month and acquired Addison Reed from the Mets. Now, after 4 1/3 innings from Reed and a couple balls on the Mass Pike, John Farrell has grown alligator arms late in ball games.

All of this brings me to the question: Has everyone forgot about Joe Kelly?

Kelly, who until he was placed on the DL following a July 9th appearance, had not given up a run since April 30th and hadn’t given up a home run since September 16 of 2016. Kelly’s ERA had dipped down to 1.04 before a rib injury sidelined him for a month and has now given up four earned runs in his last three outings.

Despite the recent skid, Kelly was knocking on a very elite door prior to the injury. At one point he even held the lowest ERA in the majors since the 2016 All Star break (minimum 40 games). His 1.17 ERA from then till June 15th had him well ahead of next closest reliever Andrew Miller (1.57).

Barnes, Kelly, Hembree, Scott(?), Abad (oh no), Kelly, Barnes, Reed, do it yourself Kimbrel, now Workman. Stop tinkering and go with what works. Come playoff time, only one thing among relievers is a proven commodity: Velocity. Let Joe Kelly empty the tank and deal with the consequences.