Ask Nick Cafardo: Don’t expect an answer.

Hey everyone! I’m back with another Ask Nick. The last Ask Nick was boring. Nothing worth my time to compose a thousand words in response to his banal and vapid thousand words. Also, don’t make the mistake of watching A Thousand Words. It’s awful. Like today’s Ask Nick!

There are some ellipses to indicate where I’ve skipped over bits that I’ve deemed either too boring (likely) or actually reasonably well answered (less likely, but it actually does happen…).  Today’s Nick features him spurning Rene from Lawrence in favor of an identical suggestion from Josh from Brooklyn as well misunderstand randomness and a very public love affair with Jake Peavy.

Your key to this world of Cafardification is: Bold = question from a reader, Italic = what passes for a response in the dark world of Nick Cafardo’s brain and Unformatted = some smart alec who doesn’t really care for Nick Cafardo.

… Try to work out a package for starter Jake Peavy and reliever Jesse Crain, solving both a rotation issue and a bullpen problem.

Obviously, you have to see if Crain is healthy. He could start pitching again as soon as this weekend and the Red Sox will have scouts watching both pitchers. Peavy is ideal because he’s got that bulldog mentality and can handle postseason.

Jake Peavy, career postseason ERA- 12.10, WHIP- 2.379. Now, that covers 9.2 IP, and that really means almost nothing. But he is 178 Bulldog Mentalities Above Replacement, and that means everything.

The biggest positive is that both pitchers have worked with Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, who speaks highly of both of them. Matt Thornton has already come over from the White Sox per Nieves’s recommendation. For a pitcher to be able to have familiarity with a pitching coach when you change teams, I think is huge.

Thorton’s comfort with Nieves has really been huge so far, as he jumped into being just as crappy as the rest of the Red Sox bullpen.

Yes, you have to give up someone you don’t want to lose to make a deal like this happen, but you have to do it. This is Boston’s chance to win the AL East and really, to win it all. You don’t have this chance very often so when it’s there and you have the chips in your farm system to obtain veteran talent, I think you need to go for it.

This isn’t the time to hold back. The one advantage Boston has over Tampa Bay is the resources to make something big happen, to acquire players that can make an impact. If you have that advantage and don’t use it because of being afraid to trade prospects, that could backfire.

Here’s this week’s mailbag:

With the bullpen crumbling due to injury and with the uncertainty in the starting rotation, it seems the Sox have no choice but to part with some young talent. They don’t have young arms to spare, so they’ll have to deal from areas of depth like the left side of the infield. If the Sox could get Matt Thornton for Brandon Jacobs, what impact arms could they expect to get in return for Will Middlebrooks, Iglesias, and Jackie Bradley?
Peter, South Hamilton
Don’t think they’ll deal Bradley (for Ellsbury protection) or Iglesias (their future SS). I think Middlebrooks could be in play, but not one of the guys other teams are knocking the door down for at the moment. I agree, if they want a good veteran starter they have to give up somebody they don’t want to give up. That’s all there is to it. When you have a chance to win like they do this year, I think you have to go for it.

A win-now mentality is justifiable, since the Red Sox are atop the AL East but given their recent pitching woes and the Rays’ surge of late, it is perhaps a tenuous hold. But here’s the thing- Middlebrooks’ value is probably lower now than it has ever been. He’s not exactly tearing up AAA (.270/.326/.467 in 132 PAs). Meanwhile, Iglesias has never been more valuable, as his superficial numbers look good despite his outrageous (and declining) BABIP of .393 (take a look at his season graphs http://www.fangraphs.com/graphs.aspx?playerid=10231&position=3B/SS&page=1&type=mini and find me one positive trend). Also, he had a huge hit with Willie Nelson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi2AX14eRbk. I understand optimism- you have a prospect that does not hit and suddenly in the bigs it looks like he’s hitting like crazy cakes. But this is when I think you sell high on Iglesias, not sell low on Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks will likely never be as valuable as he was last season, but he’s bound to be more valuable than he is now.

If you were to make one trade right now who would you go for? If it was me, I would trade for outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
Rene, Lawrence
That’s a good one Rene, but right now I’d trade for a starting pitcher (Peavy) and a reliever (Jesse Crain).

Yea, Rene. Good one. Plus, does Giancarlo have a bulldog mentality?

If Clay Buchholz isn’t sure of himself he won’t be able to “let it go.” The Sox need to get another top of the line starter like Jake Peavy or, better, Cliff Lee. Does Cliff Lee put them in the playoffs?
Dick, Yarmouth Port
I agree they need another starting pitcher. Peavy seems to be target No. 1 for the moment because of his familiarity with Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, who had him in Chicago. Peavy seems like the veteran presence they need. I know he’s injury prone, but he could be a factor and you’d also have him next season.

Did Jake Peavy sponsor this mailbag? Does Nick want to comment about Cliff Lee at all? I’m pretty sure Cliff Lee is at least as good as Jake Peavy [checks files], oh yeah, he’s actually better.

And Peavy has made 30 starts just once since an arbitrary cut off of 2008 (he did in 2007, but that was six years ago. Also, 2007 was six years ago!), while the most Cliffly pitcher around  (yes, I know, I’m clever) has only missed once in that span (28 starts in 2010). He also missed it in 2007, which again, SIX YEARS AGO. Anyway, Peavy is a decent gamble, he could be the best pitcher available now that Garza is out, but since this is idle speculation anyway, I’d say at least TALK  about Lee. You know, like your reader asked.

Who is the man who always sits behind home plate and has a yellow head set on. I think he is talking to someone or broadcasting.
Marilyn, Sharon
That’s Jeremy Kapstein, senior adviser for the Red Sox.

I must give Nick credit for answering the question. I’m sure Marilyn has no interesting in knowing what Mr. Kapstein is doing with the yellow headset on, behind homeplate every game. If she wanted to know she should have asked.

Jose Iglesias has been touted for his defensive skills, but I think Stephen Drew has a much more accurate and stronger arm. Flashing the leather is only good if you can complete the play to get the out, wouldn’t you agree? I’m sure John Farrell and he coaching staff recognize this. Is Iglesias working on improving his throwing?
Denise, Sedley, Va.
Iglesias has a much stronger arm than Drew. Lazy on his throws might be accurate. He can throw the ball off balance with accuracy which few SS l can do.

How do you know Nick? What are you judging his ability to throw the ball of balance with accuracy and how are you comparing it to other shortstops? For that matter, how are we judging arm strength? Is Nick arm wrestling these guys? And then telling them to throw a ball at a target while tripping them? Because this seems like Nick Cafardo’s opinion more than anything else. And we know what that is worth. (I’m  Johnny Clever, over here today.)

The whole issue with Buchholz is kind of puzzling. Everyone on the blogs is ripping him. I am not one to judge what someone feels for pain but I do believe he doesn’t help himself with saying he is not going out to pitch until he is 100% especially after the teams clears him to pitch. This seems like a reoccurring theme with the Red Sox and physical issues. They should have sent him to Dr. Andrews right after initial diagnosis if that’s the peace of mind he needs. Your take on the situation?
Frank, Middleboro
Second opinions are up to the player, not the team. The Red Sox have the best MGH orthopedists. It’s not a Mickey Mouse operation. It’s all about individual pain tolerance. Buchholz doesn’t feel comfortable pitching right now. What can you do? We’ve gone through this with Ellsbury taking forever to return from injuries. Everyone’s different I guess.

My main criticism here is that this is all subjective. If Buccholz isn’t comfortable pitching, what can you do? Are you saying he’s lying? He should pitch hurt? I get fans complaining about a player that never seems to come back from injury, but where is a measured response from the professional baseball writer “Everyone’s different I guess” sounds an awful lot like he thinks Buccholz and Ellsbury are babies.

I constantly see Jose Iglesias taking the first pitch, and it is always right down the middle of the plate, as opposing teams have probably seen the same thing I have. Wouldn’t he be better off if he started to swing at some of those pitches rather than start off the count 0-1?
Joe, Rehoboth, Del.
Yes! It’s always good to change patterns. Hitters are so pig-headed sometimes.

Those pig-headed hitters.  The guys at Fangraphs looked at this as a league wide phenomenon. They concluded that there wasn’t much of a clear conclusion.  The fellas at Baseball-Reference actually tried to parse out how often Boggs, who was famous for taking the first pitch. They used their pitch-by-pitch data from after 1988, and they basically discovered that he very rarely put the first pitch in play (323 PAs), and ended up in 3418 1-0 counts versus 2905 0-1. Meaning even if he took 2905 first pitch strikes, he still saw more first pitch balls than not. And this is Wade Boggs, everyone knew he was likely to take the first pitch, and pitchers still couldn’t throw him a strike more often than not. They also looked at Tony Gwynn, who had a similar career, and found he put the ball in play thrice as often (1009 PAs) but the 1-0 to 0-1 ratio is very similar, as was Don Mattingly.

We don’t really know what Iglesias’ true talent level is. We have ideas from his minor league numbers, and they’re not promising. But professional ballplayers have been playing baseball for ages, and we know that plate discipline isn’t easily improved. Most probably have an approach that has serve them for decades and those kind of habits are tough to break. Sort of like sportswriters and lazy opining in place of empirical analysis.

Incidentally, first strike swing percentage still seems to be tough to track down (retrosheet doesn’t publish the play by play results until after the season is over. But, using the same numbers as the Boggs study, Iglesias (through June 26) has 18 PAs in 223 ending on the first pitch and he’s had 0-1 counts in 123 PAs. So he’s had at least 37% of his PAs with a first pitch take. And if all 0-1 counts came on a first pitch take, then its 92% of the time. The interesting thing is that, unlike Boggs, Gwynn and Mattingly, Iglesias (when the ball hasn’t been put in play) finds himself behind in the count three and a half times more often than ahead. What does that mean? I have no idea.

Is Ben Cherington a better GM than Theo Epstein? It sure looks that way based on the last 12 months.
Alan, Tucson, Ariz.
Theo won two championships.

Theo also snuck out of Fenway in a Gorilla suit before he sulked off to Costa Rica for a few months. Top that Ben.

Or perhaps a team that is still more than half Epstein-acquired players doesn’t actually offer us a good chance to properly assess Cherington quite yet.

What do you think about the Sox continuing their run of going against the grain and instead of going after starting pitching like everyone else they go Giancarlo Stanton with a package of Bogaerts, Ranaudo, and either Webster or De La Rosa?
Josh, Brooklyn
Not bad at all. To obtain a talent likle Stanton, sure you’d have to give up someone like Bogaerts to get it done in a package similar to what you mentioned. He would be worth it, I think. The Red Sox feel Bogaerts will be a special hitter in the majors.

Rene had that idea like five questions ago. Where’s your  “Jake Peavy is the handsome baseball player that the Red Sox should be going after,” now Nick?

Between Mike Napoli’s alarming drop of power at the plate since late May, I’m wondering if we will see Napoli in Boston in 2014, let alone as the regular first baseman come September. Would Will Middlebrooks move to 1B?
Mike, Hendersonville, Tenn.
Napoli is a streaky hitter. He’s turning on the power again now. As for 2014, I question whether he’ll be resigned. A lot depends on how well Middlebrooks finishes things off at Pawtucket and if he comes up here again shortly and hits. If Napoli drives in 100 runs, they’ll probably offer another one-year deal.

This calls to mind one of my all-time favorites XKCDs http://xkcd.com/904/- Mike Napoli (like all baseball players) has certain baseball talents. He has played (up to June 25) 819 games. We have an idea of how good of player he is- his career OBP is .355 (his 2013 is .349), his career SLG is .503 (his 2013 is .477). His season is pretty much in the parameters of his career (in fact, only his outstanding 2011 wasn’t). Is he actually streaky? How do you measure that? (You can’t, it’s an illusion and Amos Tversky and Thomas Gilovich demonstrated it.)

What I know for sure is that a) driving in 100 runs is largely unrelated to any skill he has, b) he has never driven in 100 in his career and c) if he ends the season with 100 RBI and THAT’S what causes the Red Sox to try and re-sign him, the answer to Alan from Tuscon is “Theo is a much better GM than Cherington”

Is there an “amount of games played” incentive in Napoli’s restructured contract? It seems like he gets a day off once a week and I was curious if you think there’s anything behind it from the Sox perspective. He’s stayed healthy and is on pace for only about 140 games. I understand he has a shaky medical history and they want to keep him fresh but it’s not like he’s catching.
Wade, Brighton
He gets $8 million in bonuses if he’s on the active roster for 165 days. So far, so good. He’ll likely earn $13 million this season.

Hi, folks. My name is Nick Cafardo. I have a periodic column on boston.com called “Ask Nick”. You can send in emails with questions and I, a professional sports writer who apparently doesn’t even warrant a Wikipedia entry, will answer something. Not necessarily the question you posted. Like say, if you wanted to know if there is a floor to the number of games a player would need to hit some contractual bonus and if the team is purposely sitting him once a week to avoid it. But I willl answer something. Maybe I’ll answer “What’s your favorite kind of dog?” or “Which cut of Bladerunner do you prefer?” That’s what we call “Ask Nick!”

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Posted on July 29, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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