Welcome back to my entire reason for writing for this blog- making fun of Nick Cafardo and his half-assery. The theme of today’s Ask Nick Mailbag is “Nick Cafardo hates the people who ask him questions.”

Just a reminder, Nick Cafardo is a professional writer. He gets paid to write. I do this for fun and I fit it in at 11:30 pm at night before I go to bed. He gets money. I am going to cry for a little before I get into this.

If you’re curious, yes, I have managed to reference Murder She Wrote twice in two tries. But I also reference one of the WWF’s most controversial angles. If only there was a WWF/MSW crossover (It’d have been like this.)

(Reminders- I give a hat tip to FJM (because I love them), I give a hat tip to Fire Brand of the American League (because they were responding to Nick Cafardo’s nonsense for ages before I got a forum to do so) and I give a hate tip to Nick Cafardo for writing this inane claptrap. Yes, a hate tip. I don’t know what it is, but it’s what I give Nick Cafardo. Also, not all questions are listed here; occasionally Nick posts questions that he both a) wants to answer and b) has the ability to answer. Those are boring and beneath me. Haters gonna hate… note to self: don’t use that phrase ever again.)

Questions are in bold, Cafardo’s general nonsense is in Italics, and my Northeastern elitist commentary is unformatted)

With Adrian Gonzalez hitting [.337], Carl Crawford hitting .307 (Punto at .400, as a part-timer), and Beckett being essentially a No. 3 or 4 starter, why is there no reflection on the wisdom of last year’s trade from the Boston baseball writers? Although the team’s hot start is encouraging, it seems to me the Sox would look like a real powerhouse if they still had those guys.

Bud, Atlanta

You can’t be serious, Bud. They unloaded these guys, in part, because they were a bad fit. Poor chemistry guys. They made a lot of money and were bad for team morale. Great trade. They unloaded $265 million and got two excellent pitching prospects in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.

Ah yes. Bad chemistry, we all know you don’t want that.

This really makes my noggin ache considering Bud is asking why Boston writers don’t reflect on the trade. I will answer Bud’s question, even though Bud will never read this (“BUT SOMEONE IS RIGHT?” Tim asked, needily) (also, “needily” is not a word. Unless you’re talking about something that has the quality of a needle. Eh, it’s still not a word.) The answer is “It’s way too early to tell.” As of 4/29/13, Gonzo has had 257 PAs with the Dodgers and Crawford has 100, and Tubby Chinbeard has thrown 73 innings. You can tell very, very little in two months’ worth of stats.


I would like to point out that Cafardo turned on Gonzalez faster than Macho Man turned on Hogan. In December 2009, Cafardo was writing about Gonzalez as if he was a Red Sox player already (seriously, read that. It’s bizarre.) He wouldn’t be a member of the club for another year. And now he mocks someone who thinks Gonzalez should be on the team.

To belabor this point some more, when the deals were made, I thought the Gonzalez trade/sign was a good idea, the Beckett extension was fine, and the Crawford signing not good at all (scads of money for a guy with one outstanding season in eight and half.) And I think LA was insane to take all three of those contracts AND give anything back. I still can’t believe it. And if this is true, Cashman should have pulled that trigger faster than Brian Pillman at Steve Austin. I’m sorry, that Pillman/Austin thing just makes me laugh. And Cafardo makes me cry…

I am a Red Sox fan who is terribly excited about young Allen Webster. Having said that, I wonder if the Red Sox all of a sudden have found themselves with a bit of a bottleneck for starting pitching (what a problem to have). So if everyone stays healthy — and let’s hope they do — aside from spot starts, we might not see Allen or any of the young guys potentially for a while. They say you can’t have too much good pitching, but what will the Red Sox do if that actually is the case?

Tyler, Charlottesville, Va.

They could trade Doubront, Dempster, or Lackey if they had such a problem, providing the trio are pitching well. Don’t think this will happen. No harm in keeping Webster in Triple A for a while.


Um… ok, Doubront is movable, definitely. But Dempster was signed this past winter, makes $13.25m/yr this and next year. Every team had a chance to sign him and the Red Sox did. Lackey is signed through 2015, and even with the clause that makes his 2015 at league minimum, he still makes $15.25m, this year and next. And I quote Cafardo on Lackey, “Talent evaluators and GMs doubt whether Lackey is even a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, whereas Zambrano, if he gets his anger problems under control, could still be a top-of-the-rotation guy.”

I guess maybe they could ask the Dodgers.

Anthony Ranaudo is off to a great start with Portland. Given his injury history, how cautious will the Red Sox organiziation be with him this year?

Marc, Wicomico Church, Va.

He looks pretty healthy. No reason to baby him. Sure he’ll rise to Pawtucket in the not-too-distant future.

I love the moments where someone writes to one of these mailbags and says a name I’ve never heard of. I have this glimmer of hope that Marc has decided to use a suspect’s name from Murder She Wrote to see if he can fool Cafardo. But, no- Anthony Ranaudo does indeed play for Portland.  But Wicomico Church, VA has to be made up, right?

Also, I put the odds of Cafardo having any idea what a AA pitcher has looked like physically at somewhere around 3,720 to 1. Never tell Nick the odds.

I’m a huge Red Sox fan living in Vietnam and see a handful of Sox caps being worn around here. Anyway, the start of this season is a bit of a welcome surprise, with close to solid pitching and patchwork hitting. Power numbers are way down, as we seem to be treading water playing small ball. Do you see this trend continuing throughout the season or do you see some sort of package thrown together to acquire a power bat around the trade deadline?

Bruce, Vietnam

Until I see a downturn in the offense or a significant injury, I don’t envision adding a power bat. Hard to find power hitters, period, in the post-steroid era. If Daniel Nava fades or Jonny Gomes doesn’t show the power they hoped, I could see an attempt to find someone like a Carlos Quentin or Alex Rios.

Wait, Nick- is it actually hard to find power hitters, mid-sentence period, in the post-steroid era or can you find someone like a Carlos Quentin (but which one?) or the Alex Rios?

Dustin Pedroia said this week he’s batting with less power due to a thumb injury after a first base head-first slide against the Yankees. I saw this play. I think it was 10-0 Red Sox at the moment. Can somebody tell Dustin to be aggressive when it’s important? He’s hurting the team playing like this.

Alain, Deux-Montagnes, Quebec

They haven’t needed him to hit for power. He’s hitting very well. Off to a great start. I don’t see where he’s hurting the team in any area. Not sure what your gripe is.

No, Mr. Cafardo, don’t take your anger out on me.  Get back!  Get back!  Mist — Mister Cafardo — NO!  I told you he hates his readers.

Pedroia, as of 4/29 is slugging .394, with 6 extra-base hits in 2013. His isolated power is a robust .064, good for 108 out of 130 qualified ML hitters. Pedroia’s value at the plate so far has derived from the fact that he’s ninth in the majors for OBP of those same 130 qualified hitters. Importantly, there should be small sample size warnings galore especially as slugging, ISO and OBP take the among longest to become reliable metrics. Plus Pedroia has a downright above-average OPS of .831. So I guess Pedroia isn’t hurting the team, and there should be no concern. Wait… what’s my point? Oh yeah, can the attitude, Cafardo.

I noticed that Clay Buchholz pours water on the hip of his jersey pants between innings. He then goes to this spot with his pitching hand before the pitch. Is this legal? Is this common among pitchers?

Kevin, Greensboro, N.C.

Never noticed. If he’s throwing a spitter, it isn’t legal. He often complains about not getting a good grip on the ball, so I’m not sure what he does to ensure that. I know before every game he lathers up his glove with shaving cream and rubs it in.

“Hi, I’m Nick Cafardo. I’m a Red Sox beat writer. You, a fan from North Carolina, noticed something I did not. I will not investigate this at all nor will I ask a player I have daily access to about it. For the sake of making this answer marginally interesting I will say he’s not throwing a spitter, as you so clearly did not imply. He also doesn’t rob 7-11s or fistfight horses. Stop not implying these things.”

My favorite part of the game is defense. Nothing like hitting the cutoff or a crisp 6-4-3. For a long time, fielding stats haven’t been listed. Why so? Most people don’t remember that Nomar was just adequate at short.

Bill, Torrington, Conn.

You’re right. Never been a sexy baseball stat, but significant. You can go on FanGraphs and get the UZR and range factor stuff, which is very interesting.

I’m sorry, what the devil are you two talking about? Bill- “For a long time, fielding stats haven’t been listed. Why so?” Listed where? Nick- “Never been a sexy baseball stat, but significant.” Which stat? That’s not even a sentence. I will say, I’m fairly certain Nick Cafardo does not know what UZR or range factor stuff (RFS) are, so clever deflection. I will say, Nomar’s RFS was not really outstanding, we can all agree on that.

Do you think David Ross should become Ryan Dempster’s personal catcher? I noticed in some of Dempster’s starts prior to Friday night’s that Salty has had some trouble keeping splitters in the dirt in front of him.

Jesse, Knoxville, Tenn.

John Farrell wants to get away from the “personal catcher” stuff. I suppose over time, a relationship will develop where one guy prefers a certain catcher. I think Ross would be the choice for a few of them, but having said that, I think Salty is fine back there. Look around the league, and you see a lot worse than Salty, who has worked really hard to improve. I really have no problem with Salty as a catcher. The throwing could be better.

I have no problem with Salty as a catcher. None whatsoever… he can’t throw. But no problems. Except his throwing.

I’m trying to better understand the nature of Middlebrooks’s slump. He’s always seemed overly aggressive to me, even when he was thriving in the minors and getting on base in the majors last season. I initially thought this approach was catching up to him, since his K/BB rate has risen from 5.4 last year to 8.7 this year, but his average pitches per plate appearance have only dropped from 3.88 to 3.84. Is this slump simply bad luck, as his .163 BABIP might suggest, or does he need to better adopt the Red Sox’ organizational approach of greater discretion at the plate?

Justin, Lexington

I think we’re reading much too much into it. He’s a sophomore player and the scouting reports on him are out there and very precise. They’re pitching to his weaknesses. Now he has to make the next adjustment. Whether that’s protecting the outer half of the plate more, where he’s susceptible, or being more aggressive and perhaps not waiting for so many pitches. He’s got to have the feel for that. I’ve spoken to plenty of scouts who thought he would struggle a bit off the bat this year, but he’ll eventually figure it out. He always does. And it looks as if he’s starting to come out of it based on the last couple of games vs. Houston.

The fact that he’s struggling is, I’m sure, due to better scouting. It’s also likely due to regression to the mean. Middlebrooks got a bit lucky last year, as his BABIP was .335, while the AL average was .293. But the larger point is not that, as our dear Cafardo says, “he’ll eventually figure it out. He always does.” No, the larger point is that Middlebrooks’ K/PA in the minors was 26.3% and his BB/PA was 7.5%; those are below average by most standards. If these are his true rates, his comps are players like Bill Hall or Marcus Thames (or in sportswriter speak “a Bill Hall or a Marcus Thames.” WHY DO THEY DO THAT? Also awful: football announcers saying, “he’s out with a knee.”). The fact that a guy who K’s a lot, BB’s seldom and has power around 4 P/PA is impressive.

I’m glad to see Bard back with the big club and really hope he’s able to succeed. That being said, he doesn’t have the velocity on his fastball that he used to. Do you think his velocity is down due to an actual physical issue or is he intentionally slowing things down trying to regain his command?

Ryan, Rutland, Vt.

He’s going back to the minors. He was called up only because the Red Sox needed to call up a 40-man roster pitcher. He was the one available. They told him in spring training his issues require more of a long-term approach, and that’s exactly right. His velocity is down, his mechanics aren’t consistent from outing to outing or hitter or hitter.

I feel like Nick stops reading each question like 10 words in. He sees Ryan’s email, see’s “Bard back with big club” and starts firing up his typewriter to answer whatever he guesses the question is. Sorry Ryan, you didn’t really want to know about Bard’s velocity, I’m sure.

Do you think the Red Sox will win the World Series?

Ethan, Saint Johns, Fla.

In April?

Yes, Nick. In April. I suppose Ethan could have been asking about World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific, held April 4-15. Or I suppose Nick really is taking out his bad day on some readers.

Now that Jackie Bradley Jr. is not in the major leagues, does the clock start ticking for his Hall of Fame eligibility? I can’t believe the Red Sox didn’t send him to Pawtucket to start the season. Hopefully, his short, overmatched stint in the majors doesn’t hurt his development. Yes, I know he shows maturity, but still. I see Middlebrooks struggling this year. Do the Sox have somebody else who can play third and provide some pop to the offense?

Tom, Middle Haddam, Conn.

Jackie Bradley isn’t that fragile that he would be permanently scarred by three weeks in the majors rather than Pawtucket to start the season. He was the right guy to have on their roster at the start, based on their needs at the time. Once Ortiz came back, it was the right time to ship him back. Looks like he may be back if Victorino’s back injury doesn’t get better.As for Middlebrooks, relax. The team is in first place with the best record in the majors. If he’s struggling, so what? Let him come out of it.

Surely, like the first question about writers re-examining their gut reactions to Sox moves, we would hate to revisit topics. Bradley had 271 PAs above A ball before someone decided he was “the right guy to have on their roster at the start, based on their needs at the time.” Their needs, if I recall, were definitely outfielders, since they surely did not have six OFs on their 40-man roster and surely not seven non-roster invitees to Spring Training, including Ryan Sweeny who surely did not spend all of 2012 with the Boston Major League club. Surely, they HAD to play the 23-year-old prospect and there surely should be no discussion of whether or not it actually makes sense from either a) a baseball point of view or b) a front office point of view. So what, Tom from Middle Haddam? So what?

WIll Bradley be hurt by a crappy 12 games, where his best game was a three walk opening day performance? Probably not. Was there any point at all with him breaking camp with the Red Sox? Most likely not. But whatevs, ya’ll. Cafardo’s cool with it and the Sox are in first, and that’s all that matters. Cafardo and I think they nailed that Asia-Pacific World Series.

I was surprised to see Wright pitch in such awful conditions, where the k-ball was guaranteed to be wild. Does the weather generally play a role in these decisions? Did Farrell at least tell the kid, “You won’t come anywhere near the plate; don’t worry about it”?

Will, Chicago

That was a blowout game and he was the long man. Simple as that. Sure, K-ball is better under controlled conditions (dome) or when there’s no elements (wind, rain). A manager isn’t going to tell any pitcher not to worry about a bad performance. Why would he do that? You’re a professional player. You need to perform no matter what.

As a pretty big baseball fan, it took me a long time to figure out that “K-ball” means knuckleball. I didn’t have to google it- with some brain-thinking, I put all the pieces together. I decided to google it, anyway. The results tell me “k-ball” is the fresh football used at kick-off in the NFL. Let me know when you find that it also means knuckler.

Also, Nick, don’t yell at Will from Chicago. He’s not a professional player.

Is anybody else bothered by Napoli not buttoning up his uniform shirt? I notice a lot of the guys leave the top button unbuttoned, but Napoli doesn’t button the top two, prominently exposing his red undershirt and generally displaying an unprofessional appearance. Guess it will bother me less if the RBIs keep coming, but still.

Brad, Danbury, Conn.

The league has rules on how to wear your uniform. We’ll see if they object to that. But, true, I wouldn’t worry about it if he’s knocking in runs.

But, boy howdy, if he ever stops collecting RBIs, he better wear a tuxedo on the field.

We hear a lot about a “swing tailored for Fenway.” Supposedly Adrian Gonzalez had one, thought it apparently evaporated while he was here. But what exactly is it? Does it differ for LH and RH hitters? How does it differ from a “swing tailored for Petco,” or a “swing tailored for Wrigley?” What is it about such a swing that takes advantage of Fenway?

Dylan, Madison, Wis.

For a lefthanded hitter, an inside-out swing allows the ball to head toward the Monster. For a righthanded hitter, a short, compact pull swing achieves the same purpose.

On a fairly superficial level, Nick answered some of this question. Not all, but some, at least. I give him some credit.

However, if someone actually cared about answering the questions sent to his eponymous mailbag, he could theoretically explain that MLB stadia are all unique in design. He could continue by saying that other sports, like football, hockey, basketball and soccer have standard fields of play and, outside perhaps weather in football, the physical environment doesn’t affect performance. He may go on to say that a “tailor-made swing” is a shorthand for “a batter has tendencies to hit the ball in directions that would take advantage of the idiosyncrasies of a given ballpark.” That writer could provide specific examples based on the question. He could say, for instance, Fenway Park has the smallest leftfield in baseball, because of the Green Monster. As such, any hitter, righty or lefty, that tends to drive the ball towards left will tend to collect more hits, as balls that could be caught in other parks will instead hit the Monster. If he were to look for specific examples, Jim Rice is a great one. Jim Rice a dead-pull righty, used the Green Monster and the relatively short leftfield very effectively; his home OPS+ was 147. Meanwhile, when he played anywhere that was wasn’t Fenway, his OPS+ was 109. In terms of 2012 second basemen, Rice at home was Robinson Cano (OPS+ 150), on the road he was Kyle Seager (OPS+ 109).

Thinking more about Fenway, it’s right field is rather idiosyncratic as well; though the RF foul pole is a very short 302 feet, RF becomes very deep, very fast. As such, left handed dead pull hitters are a pretty rare sight in a Red Sox lineup. That is why Gonzalez looked so well-suited for the Red Sox. I’m not sure why they didn’t lust after a righty power hitter, nor am I sure why Mark Teixeira was so attractive back in the 2008/2009 offseason but Gonzalez did look like he’d work well at Fenway. And for the record, his 2011 was pretty effing good. But it’s more fun to crap on a guy.

Back to Parks, Petco Park, another example suggested by the questioner, is a relatively big ball park that is right next to the ocean; in the evenings, moist, heavy, sea air causes fly balls to die. Unlike Fenway, its outfield is shaped a bit more regular, just big. If you look at the park splits you can see that left-handed hitters are hurt pretty uniformly (LHB hit 166 XBHs vs RHB 199 XBHs.) So, presumably, a swing “tailor-made” for Petco is “right-handed” . Meanwhile, Wrigley favors RHB, though not as much as Petco (198 XBHs for LHBs and 213 for RHB.)

It will be very interesting to see, as time goes by, if the changes in dimensions of Petco make a difference or if it’s just San Diego that kills offense.

One could respond like that, but not Nick. He will answer what he wants, even if it’s not the question at hand, and he’ll scold you for asking it.


Posted on May 6, 2013, in Tim. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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