Guest Post: I like baseball and I don’t like people who are willfully ignorant – Part 3

This is part 3 of a series about Nick Cafardo written by guest poster Tim.  You may also want to read Part 1 and Part 2 .

So, I’m back with another Ask Nick. I took some time off because Nick Cafardo made me want to have part of face surgically removed (THAT’S AN IN-JOKE… kinda). This column, from like a week ago, actually does feature a couple questions that he answers appropriately, so I cut them. They’re boring and I’ve given him credit. But it also features Cafardo’s classic lazy pontificating, failure to answer actual questions and everyone’s favorite game “Let Nick play Team Physician!” where he does even worse than in “Let Nick play GM!” Also, while I normally skip the intro, I do not this time, babycakes.

(As ever,  your key to the world of this post- People bold enough to ask Nick a questions- BOLD. A professional idiot with an Italian last name- ITALIC. A humble guy who thinks he’s much smarter than a professional idiot- NORMAL. I, as ever, also  hat tip Fire Joe Morgan and pray one day I get an email from Ken Tremendous)

Hey, what happened to all of you “stop touting Jose Iglesias” readers?

Miss you guys. Seem a little quiet now. No worries, it’s a long season and I’m sure I’ll hear from you again.

Oh Nick, there are some people who still saying Iglesias is a horrible hitter and that his numbers are the product of some ridiculously lucky and totally unsustainable outcomes. I suppose it’s not your fault you don’t pay attention to things connected with analysis, intelligence, or, you know, thinking.

Drew has played a good shortstop, but Iglesias would have scooped up some balls that Drew can’t get to and created outs.

Drew has played a good shortstop. It was Rey Ordóñez in Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on N64.

Seriously, because if you go to Drew’s fielding stats (as of 6/25/13) on Fangraphs, Drew in 544.1 innings at short has made 27 plays out of his zone (an average of one play ever other game) and Iglesias in 81 innings at short has made 2 (an average of one every five games). Iglesias does have a higher UZR/150 (his is 22.2 versus Drew/s 17.3) but given the number of innings at short, this may be meaningless. The point is, unlike Nick has been implying, Drew hasn’t been a defensive Hack and Iglesias hasn’t really been a defensive wizard who tells balls they shall not pass. But don’t let facts get in the way of Nick trolling his readers.

Drew could become a trade chip. On June 15, he’s eligible to be traded. Doubt the Red sox do anything that drastic this early. But there are a few teams out there who would love either Drew or Iglesias.

Let me quote some Nick Cafardo- “Ask Nick” 2/27/13– “…what a ridiculous strategy for a big market team if that’s the case. You build a team in the offseason so you can trade them? … Drew is cheap insurance. They can flip him if Iggy shows the bat, or keep him if Iggy has none. I suppose so. Again, I can’t believe they would build their team hoping they can flip guys at midseason. Holy crow.”
Holy crow, indeed, Nick.

The Red Sox look like a team with one ace, a very good offense, and four average starting pitchers. I think a lot of teams would kill for this, and it’s not bad for a rebuilding year, but I have a hard time being confident about the playoffs. Do you think this is a valid concern? And if so, what could a team that doesn’t want to shed any prospects really do?
Tyler, Charlottesville, Va.
A valid concern, but nothing to panic about just yet. You want consistency out of Jon Lester and right now he’s not giving you that as the team’s ace going into the season. He certainly got off to an excellent start, but now he’s hitting a bump in the road. The key is to limit the bumpy outings and try to get through them with limited damage. That didn’t happen Tuesday night. At some point, sometime before the trading deadline and depending on how things go for the next month, the Red Sox may be in the market for a starting pitcher.

You got that? At “some point”, “sometime”, “depending”, the Red Sox “may” want a starter.  Professional baseball man Nick Cafardo, folks.

As for Lester, he’s hit a bad spot in June- his HR/9 went from .56 in April and May to 3.38 in June, his BB/9 ballooned to 5.48 from 2.63. His BABIP also went from .277 to .379 in June, so maybe it’s bad luck, though his FIP (usually not affected by luck) went from 3.28 to 8.06. So maybe it’s a blip, maybe it’s more? If you look at his velocity charts there are no red flags. It could just be regression from his insane start or something else. Or as Nick says, an inability to limit the bumpy outings.

Injuries aside, who has been the Red Sox biggest disappointment so far?
Justin, Fairhaven
I would say Will Middlebrooks. I know he’s had injuries, but he hasn’t been the dynamic player he was as a rookie. That’s not to say he won’t be, but I figured him to be a middle-of-the-order hitter with power. He’s flashed the power, but he hasn’t had consistent at-bats even when he was healthy early in the season. Plenty of time though.

I have said this enough, like every time I write about Nick Cafardo but Will Middlebrooks is suffering from what I like to call ‘guy who swings and misses a lot and doesn’t walk syndrome’ (Copyright 2013, me). If Middlebrooks had enough PA’s to qualify for the batting title (he is short by 22 as of 6/25), he’d rank next to Nick Swisher as the 125th (out of 161) most swingin’ and missin’ batter in the majors, with 75.7% contact rate on swings (Dan Uggla is worst at 63.5%, Marco Scutaro the best at 95.5%). Pitchers aren’t even taking advantage of this, as he’s getting 48.3% of his pitches in the zone. His walk rate is a grotesque 4.2%, which would tie him at him 147 with Manny ‘Doubles Machine’ Machado. His K rate is an even grotesquer 27.2%, which would be the thirteenth worst in the big, right behind Ryan Howard and ahead of Rickie Weeks. Except Machado and his bonkers doubles rate, you probably don’t want to be compared to any of those guys in 2013.

Not to belabor this, but I did a little project. Using the stats for every batter from 2009 through 6/25/13 , I looked at every batting-title-qualified player with 100 wRC+ or higher (essentially every league-average or better hitter over this 4.5 year period) to see where Middlebrooks (career MLB BB/KK .17 and 2013 BB/KK .15) stacks up. The worst BB/K ratio in this period was Chris Johnson, at .20 (the best, FYI was Pujols, at 1.17). That means no player who rates as average or better over that period has a BB/K as poor as Middlebrooks. In fact, if you expand the selection to all players, not just the wRC+ 100+, you find only  Miguel Olivo (.16) has a worse BB/K than Middlebrooks and no one else even ties him.  If you go season-by-season, in 2012 no player was below .18. In 2011, Miguel Olivo and Alex Gonzalez were, at .14 and .17 respectively. In 2010, no one. In 2009, no one. Maybe this means nothing. Maybe Middlebrooks is on the verge of reinventing plate discipline. Or maybe he learns plate discipline.  But that’s what they said about Franceour too…  

And just as I finish writing this, Will is headed for AAA.

I know the team is paying Drew a lot of money, but with Iglesias on fire and Middlebrooks coming back, is there a chance he’ll sit and ‘rest’ so the kids can play?
Brent, Sunnyside, NY
I think because of the left side competition that John Farrell has opened up between Drew, Middlebrooks and Iglesias, you’d better “skate your wing” or you might be out of a job. I think we all know who the best shortstop is – Iglesias. He may also be their best third baseman. So he has to play. This stuff about playing three or four times a week is nonsense. He needs to be in there regularly because he saves you runs defensively and he’s hitting. I don’t think you’ll ever see a complete benching of Drew, but his time in the field could decrease if he doesn’t become more consistent offensively.

For the record Iglesias, in 81 innings in 2013 at short, has registered 1 Defensive Run Saved. He has 0 in 176 innings at third this year.  In his career 293.1 innings played defensively, he has 8 Defensive Runs Saved, 7 of which were from his 193.2 innings in 2012. Drew is at 3 DRS  in 2012.  That’s all from Fangraphs. These things can be looked up, Nick. It’s not hard.

Also, “skate your wing”? I’m not a hockey fan, and I assume this is a hockey phrase. When I googled it, and it pops up only 277 times (this Ask Nick is the #3 hit). My favorite is this Italian-English forum where an Italian woman is asking for help, because a native New Yorker moved to Italy and used the phrase and it perplexed her.  There are some great attempts at cracking the code, all of which are entertaining, my favorite being: “An Internet search yielded a number of refernces [sic] to ‘wing skate’ which appeared to be a type of sailing.” Anyway, I think it means do your job.

What position players on the current Red Sox roster could pitch in a pinch?
Rick, Eagan, Minn.
My candidates would be David Ross, Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks. I’m guessing Ross would be the first choice.

This is based on what, exactly? I mean, really, I would like to know. I can’t even come up with a joke for this. Instead, I have to use a cartoon Victorian gentleman. None of these three players have thrown a pitch in the majors. Middlebrooks and Ross pitched a game in the minors in 2009, but neither recorded an out. Would a team have their backup catcher pitch? The Red Sox have used a backup catcher, but only once: the inimitable Dusty Brown who sounds like he should be playing a 60’s soul revue at the Wolf Den (ESTEBAN IS PLAYING THERE JULY 12!) Anyway, I’m guessing the backup catcher would not be the first choice.

Also, I’m guessing a Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe would be unable to ask Manager John Farrell or Pitching Coach Juan Nieves this innocuous question.

If the Phillies make Jonathan Papelbon available, can you see the Red Sox make an aggressive bid for him and what players could the Sox move for Papelbon?
Kyle, Peabody
Not sure if the Red Sox would go after him. They want to monitor Andrew Bailey over the next month to see if he can truly handle the closer role and if he can remain healthy.

Ahem.

The Phillies need to get at least one top positional/pitching prospect. He won’t come cheaply. Probably a three-player package with one top prospect and two pretty good ones, or a current, established player. I’m sure they’d come after Allen Webster, someone who is not far from the big leagues.

I’m sure the Phillies would probably just want to unload the $30 million plus left on his contract through 2015, not counting a 2016 vesting option that kicks in with 55 games finished in 2015 or 100 in 2014-15 (Papsmear’s career includes a 162 game average of 58 Games Finished). I don’t know any team that would ask for propsects in a salary dump.

With the Sox looking for relievers, one who seems to be having a good year in Pawtucket is Ryan Rowland-Smith. He is 3-0 with an ERA of.76 and a 29/9 SO to BB ratio. He is not on the 40-man roster, so what’s the scoop?
Ken, North Kingstown, RI
I know Gary DiSarcina, the Pawtucket manager, is very high on him. One of the biggest issues here is the 40-man roster and Rowland-Smith isn’t on it, so you’d have to designate someone for assignment in order to create a spot. That’s why you’re seeing only 40-man guys getting recalled.

You know who else isn’t on the Red Sox 40-man? Everyone that you could possibly trade for. Now, we could talk about the intricacies of 40-man roster management, which players have options, DFAs, outrighting, blah blah blah. Maybe you could talk about detritus on the 40-man, like Steven Wright, the 28 year old quad-A guy with a 4.76 ERA in Pawtucket this year and the idea of DFA’ing him. But naw, not ol’ Nick.

Why is it that catchers, who see thousands of pitches and motions, are not better hitters?
Dick, Melrose
They take a beating behind the plate. It wears them down. Catchers need to spend so much time on their catching skills, that hitting becomes secondary.

I am tempted to have a snarky comeback and links to the BR page for Piazza and Bench and Berra and Campanella, but you know what? Nick’s actually 100% right. Kudos, Nick.

Would the Red Sox ever bring up Juan Carlos Linares to the major leagues? What are his stats?
Bob, Jacksonville, Fla.
He’s in Double-A Portland, hitting about .240. Never really got the chance to show what he can do. Seems to have good outfield skills and is a decent righthanded hitter, but one of those guys who has slipped through the cracks.

Slipped through the cracks? Or not-that-good 28 year old in AA… who was demoted from AAA this year.

What is your assessment of Mike Napoli so far and is there any help at first base down on the farm?
Dave, Running Springs, Calif.
He’s played the position much better than I thought he would, but he’s certainly not Adrian Gonzalez or Kevin Youkilis. He’s obviously a power threat and a dangerous hitter. He does strike out a lot, but he’s not someone you want to mess with if you’re an opposing pitcher.

He is not someone you want to mess with. You also don’t want to mess with Texas. And you also don’t mess with the Zohan.  And based on Napoli’s wRC+ of 113 you don’t mess with Kelly Johnson or Gregor Blanco either.

Wait, did someone ask about Red Sox first base prospects? No, right? No one asked that, I’m pretty sure.

In a recent article, you said the Sox pitching coach keeps the bullpen ready to go at all times. What does this mean? How does he do this?
Robert, Swanson
Hopefully, the story said the bullpen coach keeps the relievers ready to go. Yes. Dana LeVangie does a nice job. He gets them ready physically by putting together a warmup program of how many fastballs and off-speed pitches the reliever throws before coming in and also goes over the hitters he’s going to face and prepares the reliever. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, except for the fact that relievers respond to him well and value his advice.

Usually, relievers punch the bullpen coach in the groin whenever he suggests how to warm up, so LeVangie is very unique here.

Jon Lester doesn’t seem prone to awkward and bizarre injuries like Clay Buchholz. Do you think weight training to build Buchholz up might eliminate these nagging problems without altering his effectiveness?
David, Aurora, Ohio
I know he’s had some injuries and Lester hasn’t, but I wouldn’t touch a thing with Buchholz. He’s a tall, lean guy. That’s what he is. I think you’d really be messing with success by altering his body shape. He’s not a power pitcher even though he throws 94. He’s a finesse pitcher who relies on the command of five pitches to baffle the hitter. He’s 9-0, the best pitcher in baseball. I hope the conditioning people stay away from him.

You’d never, ever want to alter what a guy does physically. Especially a pitcher who has missed significant time, especially with back issues, in parts of each of the last four seasons (you can discount his 24-day DL trip last year, as that was esophagitis. I also don’t recommend you click on this link to a google image search endoscopic views of esophagitis. I warned you).

Incidentally, 9-0 does not make you the best pitcher in baseball. He’s been terrific, yes, but he also enjoys the 9th best run support in baseball (5.25 runs per game). And let us not forget that Cliff Lee, who ranked 6th in pitcher WAR by Fangraph last year, went 6-9 and didn’t get his first win until July 4. It is a galling fact that morons who believe pitching wins matter actually exist and they are paid to write about baseball (I warn you this link may have one of the most mind-blowing paragraph and worst straw man ever if you value your sanity. You might be better off looking at esophagitis). Not to mention those who even played (I’m sorry, I made myself vomit by linking to that). A 9-0 record for Buccholz means diddly. Adam Wainwright (the actual best pitcher in baseball thus far) has struck out 106 batters and walked 10 in 116.2 innings. He’s given up only four home runs. Voros McCracken (the greatest name in the history of everything) pointed out  https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!msg/rec.sport.baseball.analysis/-fcI-UzLhpY/glpawFj-ULQJ that pitchers control  HRs, Ks and BBs, and not much else. Wainwright is doing a much better job at this than anyone in 2013 (and probably ever). And he’s 10-5. So stuff your wins in a sack, mister.

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Posted on June 27, 2013, in Baseball, Tim. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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