Monday, March 22, 2010

Joe Mauer Deal

So, the Twins finally got done the Joe Mauer deal. It is going for 8 years and 184 million. I think that that is more than reasonable for him actually. They DID spend a ton of money on him, but he is the hometown kid and the PR backlash would have been HUGE if they had let him go (to say nothing if they had let him go to Boston or New York). This was a great move by them all in all.

So, the question remains though, how will he last through this contract? How long will he catch? Will he make up the value on it? Again, pointing alone to the PR nightmare they would have had if he had left, it almost seems like they have already made their money back. But, looking at it in baseball terms, the best I can come up with is... eh.... maybe? I hope so for their sake. His closest comparables through age 26 are Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. Dickey was excellent through his age 32 season. Given today's advanced medical abilities and the DH (ie less stress on the body), I think we could say he would have added on a couple years to that age 32. That bodes well all in all for Mauer. Next comp is Yogi. Yogi was solid through his age 36 season, but he wasn't all that great. Again, it could be worse that Berra. Two hall of famers to start off with. Next comparable? Uh-oh, Jason Kendall. Kendall basically tanked after his age 26 season and has been mediocre to poor since then. Bad news there. Next up is Mickey Cochrane. Another HOF'r and nice career. Like Dickey, he went through age 32.

So, in my completely unscientific look at this through statistical comparison done by someone else.... yeah, it doesn't look too bad. Morneau is signed through 2013 to play first, so Mauer has to stay behind the plate until the end of his age 30 season at least. That doesn't look like it should be too much of an issue. He could move to 1B at that time. And before then, he can DH some as well as catch. I think that he will age well with this contract, injuries notwithstanding. Of course, you can't predict those. But, as I said, I think the Twins have already won on this deal.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Founders Backwoods Bastard

Going with a Founders Backwoods Bastard tonight. I had a Goose Island Sophie earlier tonight and next time I have one, I may review that one. But, for tonight, the Backwoods Bastard it is!

So, this pours with very little head. Even with a heavy pour, I had one finger of head that faded within a couple of minutes or so. As it pours it just LOOKS heavy. It pours a dark amber, almost brown. Mahogany is probably a better description for it.

Smell is almost entirely bourbon and vanilla. Fantastic smell coming off of this one. Just great. I love bourbon so this just is great for me. The base of the beer is a 10% ABV scotch ale. Obviously aging it in bourbon barrels imparts the strong flavors. Did I mention that it smells awesome?

Lacing left is pretty strong. I usually don't see that on a scotch ale. Flavor is very mellow all in all, very easy to drink. Dangerously easy to drink considering the strength of it as well. There actually is a bit of bitterness which surprised me as I drank it. That actually works nicely with it as it just adds a slightly different element to the beer. Alcohol is very well hidden on that, but you can tell it is there in the background. That again works well. That seems to be the theme with this one. Lots of elements working together in harmony, with none being too powerful. The driving force on this beer is still the bourbon though. As that is what I believe the brewers were aiming for, then I salute them.

As it warms up, sweetness comes out more and more. I think that if it gets too warm, that sweetness may end up being a problem, but for now, it is doing nicely. It makes this beer one that probably shouldn't be kept too long. With the abv that is dangerous, but oh so worth it in my opinion.

I give this beer a five out of five stars. I absolutely love it. It is one of my favorites.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Ok, so I had a Flying Dog Raging Bitch tonight. This is a Belgian Style IPA with an 8.3% ABV. I opened this tonight and poured it into a pint glass. There were about 2 fingers of head on the beer. The head stayed a while and when it faded it left some nice lacing.

Sidebar -> I don't know why the lacing needs to stay or not on beer. Doesn't seem to me like it has any practical purpose. Whatever. Back to the review.

First hit on this was hops (which is to be expected on an IPA). My problem is that this is supposed to be a Belgian style IPA. I get nothing belgian out of this beer. It is just a basic American style IPA. And to me, it doesn't balance well. Maybe THAT is the Belgian yeast. Not sure. All I know is that I am not all that happy with this beer. The hop presence is very apparent and I am not a big hop head at all, so that may be some of my underlying prejudice. Oh, who am I kidding. Yes, that is a big part of this. But, even beyond that, it just isn't doing much for me. Beer Advocate gives this an A- for some reason. I couldn't disagree more. Oh well. Flying Dog missed on this one I think.

I will give this a 2 out 5 on my grading list.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Analyzing the Red Sox, 2010 Preview, Part IV

Ok, so we have looked at all the aspects of the Red Sox team. So, let's put it all toghether. First off, the defense will be phenomenal in my opinion. It is saying something with Scutaro may be your worst defensive player (catcher aside). Next, starting pitching is as deep as anyones with quality all through it. That will be really really good. Bullpen is probably a slight step down from last season, but still pretty good. And if Papelbon is back to normal, the bullpen has the chance to be even better. Offense, well, it could be about what it was last year. Maybe a BIT worse. A full year of V-Mart will help a ton though. No Bay will hurt a lot in the same way however.

So, what will come of it? Will the Sox catch the Yanks? I doubt it. That team has too much firepower. The only way that could happen is if the Yanks get old all around the diamond quickly. Now, that isn't really a jest either as they have some definite age on that team. What will happen to them if Mo shits the bed and father time finally catches up to them? Bad news then. What if Pettite gets hit at the same time. What if *gasp* Jeter suddenly shows his age. It isn't likely, but it is possible with that team. I don't think it will happen though. So, I think the Sox finish behind the Yanks. Now, what about the Rays? Hmmm.... good question. They should give the Sox a good battle. I think the Sox match up better than they have in the past with them though, head to head. Fewer baserunners means fewer chances to steal. That is what killed the Red Sox the past two seasons. I think now, the Sox have the upper hand on the Rays. This will most likely lead to a wild card birth. I don't see anyone in the AL that can challenge the AL East in that regard. So, figure on the Wild Card and possibly another date with the Yanks in the ALCS. Another classic battle. And I think that the Sox can beat them. I imagine it will be a loss to them however. No matter what, it should be a great season to watch.

I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Analyzing the Red Sox, 2010 Preview, Part III

Ok, here is Part III of my Red Sox 2010 Preview, position by position. Today, we are going to look at the pitching staff. Time to get this going.

SP1 - Jon Lester

So, yes, I put Lester at the #1 starter spot. Not Beckett. Lester. Lester, unbeknownst to the general public of Red Sox nation, made HUGE strides last season. His ERA though wasn't nearly as pretty as the season before so no one really noticed it (or at least didn't notice it as much). A big fear going into last season that Lester was going to experience the Verducci affect. What that means is that a pitcher who pitches many more innings than he had previously is ripe for an injury the next season. Lester overcame that and actually was much better. The main reason was strikeouts. Lester improved his K/9 from 6.50 to 9.96!!! That is a HUGE jump. Thus, his strikeouts went from 152 to 225! His walk rate stayed the same in this as well. And he still pitched over 200 innings. With all of these increases, the reason his ERA didn't get much better was that his BABIP jumped up nearly 25 points, especially early in the year. With the improved defense of the Red Sox, I expect that BABIP to drop back down to about the .300 level if not even lower. If that does happen, we could see a Cy Young season out of Lester. Will he keep his K rate at 9.96? I am not sure. That was a really big jump. But, even if it drops a bit to say 8.5 or so, that is still fantastic. He doesn't give up many homeruns, induces groundballs, and gets strikeouts. That is a recipe for awesome! Projections don't like him as much as I do though. They are projecting Lester at around a 3.65 ERA with 175 K's in 190 IP or so. I think he will be over the 200 IP mark again and his K's should approach that as well. I also believe his ERA will end up in the low 3.00's, maybe even lower. He will really benefit from this fantastic defense behind him. He truly will be the ace of the staff.

SP2 - Josh Beckett

Beckett had a strong season last year aside from about a three to four week stretch in August. I expect the same from him this year in his walk season. Maybe the Sox will re-sign him before the season starts. Seems like there has been a push from both sides to do that lately. It would be best if that happened, for both teams. Beckett is made for Boston and he thrives in this kind of place. His durability issues that he had with the Marlins are, for the most part, in the past now. He is a horse. Projections are showing him in the 3.75 area for ERA. That is reasonable, but again, like with Lester, I think he can do better. His BABIP was about where it should be last year at .302. I think he can hold or better that with the defense behind him. If Beckett follows the pattern he has mostly built in Boston of having a high percentage of ground balls, then this is likely to happen. His problem last year was his HR/FB%, which jumped up to 12.8%, second highest of his career (behind only the awful 2006 season). If that drops to his career average around 10%, then Beckett could be in for a very nice year indeed. Possibly low 3.00's ERA for him as well, lots of K's, lots of IP's. Ok, maybe looking at this, there is an argument to make Lester the SP1. That is fine. I will stick with what I have though.

SP3 - John Lackey

The parade of J's continues. Lackey figures to be a great #3 pitcher for this team. While he may not be a true ace, he is definitely a great pitcher. The projections are showing him to be in the upper 3.00's for ERA. I think that that is about where he will finish to be honest. He has had solid BABIPs the past few seasons, so there isn't too much luck involved there. Basically, Lackey will be a super solid starter for this team. The only question is his health. He has been injured parts of the last two seasons. However, before that, he had been a true workhorse. He doesn't NEED to be that in Boston, but it would be great if he was. His K rate has been a bit lower the past few seasons, settling into the low 7's range. That will work. There really isn't anything flashy about Lackey. He is what he is and what he is a very good pitcher. There really isn't much more I can say about him.

SP4 - Daisuke Matsuzaka

Now begins the frustration. Daisuke is penciled into the rotation in the #4 spot in the order. However, it is looking more and more likely that he will start the year on the DL. That is sounding more and more like 2009 and that is not what is wanted by anyone. 2009 was a lost season for Daisuke. He needs to get healthy and get out on the mound. When he gets there, who knows what will happen though. He nibbles to no end. He does not give in and challenge hitters. With the defense behind him, that will be a mistake. But, in all honesty, I don't believe he will change. When he is on the mound, it will be another "hurts to watch" game. I will probably take those games to catch up on beer news or something. It just pains me to watch his games. Strangely enough though, Daisuke, in addition to walking guys last season, gave up a ton of HR's and base hits. The basehits should drop significantly this season. The HR's, well, he needs to make sure that that goes down. Daisuke is a flyball pitcher and if he gives up homeruns at 12% of flyballs, that is bad news indeed. He has to get the ball on the ground more. Again, I don't expect that to really happen. It is going to be another painful year watching him (if he ever gets in the game). But, in the end, he will show decent numbers. I expect him to finish in the low 4.00's in ERA with double digit wins and a collective reaching for the rolaids by Red Sox Nation.

SP5 - Clay Buchholz

I have Clay here instead of Wakefield as I believe in the end, Clay will be in the rotation all season somehow. He just has too much talent not to be. Clay has turned into a ground ball machine on the mound and I think that that is the best thing he could ever have done. Last season, he had a 53.8 GB%. That is ridiculous and exactly the sort of thing that more pitchers need to do. He K rate of 6.65, while not great, is good enough with that amount of groundballs. Clay has the potential on this team to be simply fantastic. Projections are all over the board for him. The average out at about 4.20 ERA with a 1.38 WHIP. I think he can do better than that for sure. If he stays healthy, I could see IP in the range of 180 or so. That wouldn't be bad as he pitched over 190 between minors and majors last season. I also feel like he can have an ERA under 4.00 with all those ground balls. Maybe wishful thinking, but if he does that, everyone in New England will be jumping for joy.


Right now, here are the people projected in there: Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, Daniel Bard, and Manny Delcarmen. There is also Boof Bonser, Michael Bowden, and Tim Wakefield to fit in there in the last spot. I imagine Bowden goes down to AAA to start the season and gets his head back on straight again. Bonser starts as the long man in the pen. Wakefield I imagine goes to the rotation for Daisuke, at least for the beginning. Maybe Wake ends up starting most of the year and gives the team a real good problem to have. The rest of the pen is alright, but not as good as last year. Oki and Bard are very solid set up men for Paps (who I expect to be very good this year). RaRamo seems to be hit or miss most of the time, but he should end up being solid. MDC.... jeez, I don't know. He also needs to get his head on straight. If not, then it may be time to move him to another team. Overall, the pen is good, but not great. Losing Wagner and Saito hurts. It really does. But, the emergence of Bard (and hopefully the continued advancement) has really solidified things there. Oki will do his thing and hopefully not drop off too much. I don't expect him to be as good as he has been, and should continue his gradual drop off. But, that drop off isn't enough that he won't be solid still. And if something happens, the Sox will find someone to plug in there, either through the minors or trade.

That ends part III of the Red Sox Preview. I will wrap it all up in Part IV next time out.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Analyzing the Red Sox, 2010 Preview, Part II

Ok, here is Part II of my Red Sox 2010 Preview, position by position. Today, we are going to look at the outfield, DH, and bench. So, let's get it going.

LF - Jacoby Ellsbury

So, Ellsbury moved from center to right this year to supposedly give him less wear and tear on his body. Yeah, probably this is more likely in that Ellsbury just had a very poor year defensively in center last year. Now, this is generally assumed to be correct. UZR shows him as being poor in center, but excellent in left (albeit in a very small sample size). I am of the belief that instincts can come to you better the more you play if you work at it. So, I think Ells would have been much better this year defensively. However, Cameron IS a great defensive center fielder already. Can't really complain about that in truth. But make no mistake, this was done more for defensive purposes than anything else. Anyways, his defense should definitely be a nice step up from Jason Bay, who really has no defensive instincts whatsoever. So, that won't be an issue. Offensively, projections have him hitting about where he was last year, maybe a shade higher. It comes down to about a .360/.415/.775 line or so. I like the uptick on his OBP and tend to agree with that. I also think he may just have a slight bump in his SLG from that .415 number. Just natural increase as he gets older. BABIP looks fine for him. He generally has a high BABIP which makes sense with his speed. I don't see that changing too much. So, maybe more of a .360/.425/.785 line is where I am pegging him. That would be an extremely good lead off hitter when you add in his speed. It should be a solid year for him. And maybe, just maybe, he really breaks out and goes nuts. I can see that happening (but am not predicting it as I don't like to do that).

CF - Mike Cameron

Lots of variation among the projections Mike Cameron. Bill James and Marcel have him in the .760 OPS area, while CHONE thinks he is going to age and age hard. I tend to believe that he will end up more lilke the former projections. I see a .325/.430/.755 line from Cameron this year. Lots of K's, a few walks, some homeruns. But, the guy IS 37 years old. You can't ignore that. Oh while we are talking about projections, the "Fans" projection on fangraphs has him showing at .336/.461/.797. That is funny. I don't see that happening. I would LOVE for it to happen, but I find it unlikely. Anyway, the offense isn't what bought a two-year deal for Cameron. That would be his defense. Why that gets a two-year deal for a 37-year-old is beyond me, but hey, they can afford it. He will make his money with that glove and I will be happy about that.

RF - JD Drew

Oh, the man that radio talk shows love to hate and internet web sites love to love. Drew had a really, really good year last year. I mean, seriously good year. Look really close at the numbers. A .392/.522/.914 line is fantastic for a right fielder with really good defense and baserunning. He played in 137 games as well which is good enough for me as well. He is what he is and what he is a good baseball player. So, how will he do this year? That is the question. Projections, much like Cameron are across the board. None are bad, but all are varying degrees of good. It averages out to a .375/.465/.840 line. If Drew stays healthy for the majority of the season (that would be 130 games or so), then this is a good line to me. I think he could hit better than this in fact. He has the ability. When he has been healthy he has almost always been better than that actually. Therefore, I think he will be in the range of a .380/.480/.860 line. Probably a few less RBI than last year. Probably a few less HRs. Basically we will get another quality JD Drew season. Can you ask for anything more?

DH - David Ortiz

Now comes the real challenge of the lineup. Papi had an awful first two months last year as has been very well documented. We all know it. The question remains, will he have that same issue this year? Will it last all year? Is he done? These are the questions that the Red Sox season really hinge upon. If Papi is good and hitting strong (and he doesn't need to be Herculean as he was in the past), then this Sox team should make some serious noise. If he doesn't, then playoffs are a real long shot in this tough division. Projections show Papi at about .365/.490/.855. If those numbers actualize, then watch out American League. That will be the start to a really strong season for this Red Sox team. I tend to think he will hit this with a bit more platooning (Mike Lowell, can you hear me now?). Give him more time off against lefties and put in a nice righty who can kill lefties (Yup, still paging Mike Lowell) and this will be a ridiculous position. I think that that is what will end up happening in truth. I do not think Papi is done. But, I know he isn't superman anymore. He is an aging power hitter who will have one more nice year.


Ok, the bench should be interesting. Bill Hall, Jason Varitek, Jeremy Hermida, and Mike Lowell comprise the bench for now. This could all change if Lowell is traded. At that point, maybe someone is signed off of free agency? I can't imagine that they will call someone up from the minors. I believe the intent is to put Lowrie at Pawtucket to start the year where he can play full time. But, anyway, back to the talk of the projected bench (as I do not think that they will end up trading Lowell right away if at all). This is a very solid bench. It is a bit of a problem that Hermida isn't a right handed bat, but he is definitely a decent to potentially very good hitter. If anyone gets hurt, he is more than capable of handling the full time role. Hall is a great back-up for all around, especially if he can handle shortstop. That really is the question. He hasn't played there in three years or so, but if he can play that position, the Sox are good. Hall also is the guy who hit 30 HR's three seasons ago. He has potential to hit the ball VERY well. Varitek, as I outlined a bit in the catcher position, should get some decent time behind the plate. I expect maybe 60 starts for him there. That will keep him fresh and his bat should stay in play nicely. Lowell, well, if he is on this team, it is a good thing in my opinion. He may not be too happy, but I cannot imagine he would make too big of a stink about it. That just doesn't seem like him. I hope it isn't. If it is, well, then that IS a problem. But, for now, it has to be hoped that he can handle 300 ABs or so this year because I think that that is about where he will finish between filling in at 3B, 1B, DH, and pinch-hitting. So, all in all a pretty nice bench. One of the strongest the team has had in a while in truth. Not much speed, but during the regular season, a bat is preferred over the speed. That can be found towards the end of the season (see Dave Roberts).

Ok, that finishes up part II of the preview. Part III will include the pitching staff, starters as well as bullpen.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Analyzing the Red Sox, 2010 Preview, Part I

Ok, it’s springtime (at least in theory, meteorological theory of course) and with that comes the start of baseball season. Spring training games have just begun and most teams have a pretty good idea of what their team is looking at heading into the start of the season. The Red Sox have their lineup pretty good to go. There are some changes that could be made, specifically to the bench (see Lowell, Mike). So, I figured I would go position by position to see where the Sox stand and how they look for this year. Maybe give some rough estimations of where I think they will finish statistically as well. Here is part 1, the infield.

So here goes:

C – Victor Martinez

Ok, I am expecting probably 100 games behind the dish from V-Mart with some time at 1B and DH scattered in there as well. Figure maybe 130-140 games total. That is pretty decent all in all for a catcher, especially if Tito wants to keep him nice and rested as the season goes along. Projections are showing him to be about a .365/.455/.820 guy all in all (that would be OBP/SLG/OPS for those of you who aren’t as stat minded as me). As a catcher’s numbers, those are great. But, do not believe that V-Mart is the next coming of Johnny Bench. Do not expect huge power numbers from him. That has never been his game. But, he could easily knock in 100 or more hitting third on this team where I imagine he will be slotted. I think he will be around the projection numbers with about 20 HRs and 100 RBI. I’m not going out on a limb with that I know, but I think it will work out that way. Varitek will actually put up nice numbers as well backing him up and facing mainly lefties. I can see him going .350/.450/.800 in limited duty. That would make for a very nice catching situation offensively. Defensively…. well, let’s not get into opponents stealing. That is scary.

1B – Kevin Youkilis

Projections are a bit scattered on him with the usually conservative MARCEL showing a much higher value than Bill James projection. Surprising. They are averaging out at about .390/.495/.895 for him. I see him possibly being a bit down from there, maybe a .380/.490/.870 season for him, 25 HRs, 100 RBI or so. It will be a strong season from the cleanup hitter all in all. I think he has peaked. I truly do. I think a few more really solid seasons though isn’t unreasonable. But he is on the wrong side of 30 now, so it makes sense and he doesn’t exactly have a skill set that looks to age too greatly. He is what he is and what he is, is valued nicely with a solid contract, great defense at third, and versatility to play third as well. V-Mart will have some time at 1B, maybe Lowell too. But, Youk should be there most of the time and that is what you want.

2B – Dustin Pedroia

If you looked quickly at his numbers from ’09 as compared to ’08, you would have thought that Pedroia really slid down after his MVP ’08. In truth, there is a LOT to like from last season. For one thing, his BB rate shot up over 50% from the season before. I don’t expect that to hold, but I think there was definite improvement there. Add to that he was very unlucky last year as opposed to years prior, with his BABIP taking a dive from the .330 range to under .300. I would expect him to have that BABIP jump back up to at least the .315-.320 range. That will boost his batting average up as well, and with the increase in walks, his OBP also. His ISO should remain about the same (a bit north of .150) which means with the increase in batting average, his SLG% will go up as well. This all adds up to a nicer looking season than last year. Projections have Pedroia at .835 OPS. I think he can do better than that and get closer to an .850 with a nice .385 OBP. Hopefully he returns to his super successful stealing ways of ’08 as well, because 20 for 28 (that he had last year) just isn’t that great of a percentage. Strong defense as always though and no Polanco to steal a gold glove, means it could be Pedroia’s to lose.

3B – Adrian Beltre

There is no possible way Beltre can hit as bad as he did last year right? He isn’t THAT bad now, is he? Well, I don’t think so. Projections feel the same way. They are looking at him to be about a .320/.430/.750 or so, maybe a bit higher. This would come with a bit less than 20 HRs. Call me optimistic, but I think he can and will do better than this (come on fantasy pick, don’t fail me now). I think he will like Fenway a lot this year. Maybe he can hit 40 2Bs while playing for the Sox. If that is the case, we could see a definite upward trend in that SLG%. Add a few more HRs (also I think possible), and we may see something along the lines of a .325/.475/.800 line from Beltre. I think that that is very reasonable actually. He had a .784 OPS in Seattle two seasons ago, and Fenway is a MUCH better hitting field than Safeco. So, I think he will surprise people to say the least. We all KNOW his defense is going to be good. He could be another gold glover at the hot corner. Yeah, this infield defense is going to be something special to watch I think.

SS – Marco Scutaro

So, is Marco the stopgap at short until Iglesias learns to hit? I hope so. I think he can be. I wouldn’t look for him to match last season’s career year, but I think he can be solid. Almost all of the projections have him rating out with similar OPS, although CHONE goes higher on the OBP than MARCEL and Bill James (while they go a bit higher on the SLG). It is averaging out at about a .350/.380/.730 line. Not unreasonable in truth. I think that that actually could be a really good number. With a solid OBP like that, he will have some great value at the bottom of the lineup. His defense is again solid appearing. Not great. But, it should be at least decent. With the other guys around him, that is all that the Sox need. And for the deal that they got him for, this was a very nice signing in my opinion.

I will follow with the outfield, DH, and bench on the next post.