Friday, April 29, 2005

Player updates

Here's an article about Jeremy West from last Sunday's paper. He's a good hitter. So far on the year, he's at 333/403/464-1-6 on the young season. West's power will likely pick up a little bit as the year goes along, but he doesn't hit prodigious amounts of doubles, so I don't think he's likely to turn into a 25-30 HR guy at any point. So far this year he's walked a little more frequently than he has in the past.

Chris Durbin appears to have picked up where he left off when he went on the DL. His line is now 373/467/686-3-11 in 13 games. This performance wasn't expected - he hit 279/344/417-7-44 in 125 games at Sarasota last season. He showed good power at Baylor, but has yet to do the same in the pros. He looks good at the plate, though, so maybe he's taking a step forward in his development.

After last night's start, Jon Papelbon now has a 2.78 ERA, a WHIP just under 1.00, and a 24/2 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 IP this year. Impressive. Cla Meredith picked up the win in the 10th inning. He has now allowed 7 base runners (4H, 2BB, 1HBP) vs. 10 K's and no runs allowed in 12 1/3 IP this year. Also impressive.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sea Dogs release two

Official Website of the Portland Sea Dogs - News

The Sea Dogs released Mike O'Keefe and Tally Haines today (actually, we should give the Red Sox credit for releasing them). O'Keefe was released to make room for Chris Durbin as he came off the DL. Actually, I guess he makes room for Jeff Bailey, who took Durbin's roster spot a week ago.

O'Keefe is a first base/corner OF-type with a good eye and decent power. He came off a slow start last year to hit 248/340/430-19-68 in 133 games for the Sea Dogs last season, and was off to another slow start this season. The move doesn't surprise me too much, given that he's 27 and now in his 4th year in AA. He wasn't going to make it to Boston and was serving a bench role for the Sea Dogs. Both Bailey and Fulse are younger and have skills that O'Keefe doesn't posess (catching and speed, respectively). I think he'll find a place to catch on, because he does have a decent bat.

(An aside here - apparently when a guy gets dropped from a roster, he gets "disappeared". I can't find this year's stats for these guys at either the Sea Dogs, minorleaguebaseball, or Baseball America web sites. Hey, we need this information, people!!!).

Haines was pitching well, with an 0.87 ERA in 10.1 IP, but he's another "non-prospect", now 28 years old and in his 6th year at either AA or AAA ball. He's put up some decent numbers, but you really have to dominate as a minor league reliever to really get a shot in the majors. Also, waiting until the 14th inning to give up a game winning homer might not be the best career move. He'll get a job somewhere, too, I imagine, but time is running short for both of these guys.

I'm not entirely sure what happened to Haines' roster spot. The report says he was released to make room for Jon Lester - but Lester was only moved to make room for rehabbing Wade Miller. He's been with the Sea Dogs all year (not that you could tell - his stats aren't on the frigging web sites, either!). The Sea Dogs have been carrying 8 relievers this year, which seems like a little much, but I can't figure out where the other player move could be.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Maine's Mark Rogers

Is discussed in this entry at John Sickels' blog (discussing HS pitchers drafted in the first round last year).
Rogers may have the best pure arm strength of any '04 high school draftee, but
he comes from a cold-weather state and is quite raw in many respects. The early
numbers reflect this clearly. There is a significant risk that Rogers could
bust, although his ceiling his very high if he does pan out.

Some of the people who have commented on the site aren't real high on Rogers as a prospect. I'm going to give him a little more time before I make any judgement. We're talking nine innings here, folks!

Sunday, April 24, 2005


So what's the best thing for a guy trying to recover from an illness? How about 14 innings in 40-degree weather? That was the scenario Friday night, after I bagged out of the game on Thursday evening. It was a close game that the Dogs ultimately lost on Edgar Gonzalez' shot over the left field wall in the top of the 14th, the only black mark on 9 innings of solid relief by the Portland bullpen. The Harrisburg bullpen was just a little bit better, throwing nine shutout innings of their own.

Scorers Notes:
  • This was my first time seeing knuckleballer Charlie Zink. He was OK after two real good starts. This was nice to see, after all of the troubles he had in Portland last spring. Zink walked three and struck out six, and didn't allow the Senators to make a lot of solid contact. The only complaint - Zink gets real slow with runners on base.
  • Alberto Concepcion had a tough night at the plate, going 1-6 with 5 K's.
  • Senators reliever Chris Schroder threw three perfect innings with six strikeouts to lead the Harrisburg bullpen. The Senators staff struck out 20 Sea Dogs on a tough night to hit. (Portland struck out 16 Senators).
  • 4 hours and 16 minutes is a long time to sit when you're sick. It's also a long time to sit if you're a parent who has promised post-game fireworks to your kid. By the 11th inning, these kids were being sustained by Sea Dogs Biscuits (ice cream) in the 40-degree weather, and were just wild with the sugar. Lots of fun, I'm sure. They appeared to set off the fireworks about as fast as humanly possible - the sky was filled with sparkles for about 5 minutes at about 10:30 Friday. Short and sweet - unlike the game itself.

Mother nature proved that she had a bit of compassion. I was scheduled to work both weekend games, but they were washed out (Saturday's after I arrived at the ballpark). Though I always like to watch the games, keeping score sheets in the rain is difficult, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to it. Because this was Harrisburg's only trip to Portland this summer, the games will apparently have to be made up in Harrisburg when the Dogs are out there this summer.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wade Miller to rehab in Portland

Red Sox pitcher Wade Miller will make his third rehab start this Saturday in Portland. One of the fun things about going to minor league games is that you occasionally get to see a big leaguer come through. I know that many people are very interested in Miller's rehab, because we know he can be a real asset to the Red Sox. I'm lucky enough to be going to that game (weather permitting), so I'll report back then.

(Yucko - just look at that forecast. Keeping score in the rain is no fun.)

Harrisburg Senators Prospects

Harrisburg is 8-6 on the young season, but if you were to go by John Sickels' list, you wouldn't attribute that to a lot of great young talent on the team. Sickels begins his review with, "There is not much you can say about this farm system; it is obviously quite weak." Only five guys rate better than a "C" rating in the entire Nationals system, and none of those five are in Harrisburg.

The top (Harrisburg) guy on Sickels' list is RHP Darrell Rasner, coming in at #7 for the system. "Darrell Rasner has a good sinker, but his numbers even in the low minors are not that impressive, and it remains to be seen (at least for me) if he will develop into a useful pitcher. " So far on the young season, Rasner is 1-2 with a 5.02 ERA, 7/3 K/BB ratio, and nearly 2.00 WHIP in 14.1 IP. It looks like he's on tap to pitch on Saturday, so I'll get a chance to see him pitch (weather and health permitting). has his full stats prior to this year, and he seems to have decent K/BB ratios, although the ERA and WHIP don't really jump out at you. He hasn't given up a lot of homers either, as you would expect to be the case for a sinkerballer. (As an aside - did you notice the ad on this page? Pretty subtle, IMO).

Danny Rueckel (#12) is returning to Harrisburg for the second season, though he did have a cuppa with Edmonton last season. He's a relief pitcher who has worked only six innings this year, allowing two unearned runs and striking out 5. His K rate wasn't that impressive in Harrisburg, but it has been in other stops and maybe it will come around this year. Relievers don't typically make great "prospects" unless they really show the power strikeout numbers. I'm guessing that I'll see him this weekend, too, as I'm supposed to go to all of the games (though I am bagging tonight's game due to my illness).

Brandon Watson (#18: 267/323/283-0-1 in 14 games) rounds out the list. He looks to be a speed guy. He has very little power and steals 20+ bases/year (with a so-so success rate). The walk rates look a little low (IsoD ~ .040 throughout his minor league career), which is anoher red flag - he's not doing you any good if he's not getting on base, and he's depending solely on batting average to get there. Watson is returning to AA after spending last season at AAA Edmonton, where he played full time and hit 293/332/348-2-41 with 22 steals in 139 games.

And that's it. The lineup has been led by old-for-this league guys like Edgar Gonzalez and Melvin Nieves, while the pitching staff features journeymen like Rich Rundles (former Red Sox farmhand) and Kip Bouknight. Maybe their early season success is related to a weak schedule rather than great play on their part. I'll have more to report over the next few days.

The Magic of Blogging

It's amazing the things that can happen when you put your thoughts out on the web. Occasionally somebody stumbles across them and you make a connection. Such was the case this week when a fellow named Jim Baumer found a post deep in the archives of the Sea Blog. Last summer (before work and stuff put this thing into hibernation), I attended the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and I wrote a post about it. Jim is writing a book about town team baseball in Maine, and he stumbled across my blog. We've exchanged a couple of e-mails, and he seems like a pretty nice guy, so I thought that I would link to his blog and put in a plug for his book ("When Towns Had Teams"), for which he is currently seeking a publisher. He has interviewed my father-in-law and lots of other guys in researching this book, which sounds like a true labor of love.

While this blog really centers on professional baseball, I love baseball of all stripes and there is always room in the Sea Blog for amateur ball. So this summer, I'm going to try to make a point to catch some local action with a Twilight League game or two, and I encourage you to do so as well.

Chokees Product

I don't normally go this route, but as a service to Sox fans (and Yankee haters) everywhere, here is where you can get the latest in Chokees wear. That's right, you can commemorate the greatest choke in baseball history with a unique label to wear on a hat or a tee shirt. Get yours today!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Back in the Win Column

The Sea Dogs improved to 11-1 on the season with a 5-4 win over the Binghamton Mets, avenging their only loss of the season. The weather was colder than I expected - a little cooler than Monday night - but all in all not bad for April baseball in Portland.

Scorers Notes:
  • My first look at Jon Lester, and he was pretty good. Not as impressive as Papelbon, as the control wasn't quite as sharp and the fastball isn't quite as fast, but he's still very highly regarded. I had a hard time figuring out what he was throwing, because the radar readings were funky for the second night in a row. According to his profile at, he's got a cutter, a change and a curve. The cutter must be the mid-80's pitch that I thought was a slider. Lester walked three last night after only allowing one free pass in his first two games, but he gave up only two hits and struck out 6, so the K:BB ratio remains a fine 19:4 in 13 IP this year. Lester built up a pretty good pitch count (93 in 5 innings), largely due to an inability to rear back and fire it past the hitters early in the count. I counted 29 foul balls vs. 9 swinging strikes last night. Still, of his six K's, only one was a called strike three.
  • The Mets guy was less impressive. Highly touted Yusmiero Petit (the link is a feature at failed to show what the fuss is about last night. The book on Petit is that he's a soft-tosser who gets guys out with a deceptive delivery. I can see that, but he didn't really deceive a lot of people last night. On the plus side, he did induce a lot of "soft" contact on his pitches, and he struck out Pedroia and Ramirez, both looking, back to back. On the minus side, he also allowed some "very hard" contact, particularly to Jeremy West (two doubles), Mike O'Keefe (a deep home run), and David Murphy (a two-run double). Petit has been on a strict pitch count this season, and he was lifted after 66 pitches / 3 2/3 IP last night.
  • Actually, the guy in relief was more impressive. Eric Junge, who has major league experience (2-0, 2.21 ERA in 20 1/3 IP with the 2002-03 Phillies), went 4.1 and pretty much shut down the Portland bats (after allowing a run scoring double to Alberto Concepcion on his first pitch, that is). Google turned up little on Junge - I'm not sure why a 2.21 ERA doesn't get you another chance at the bigs (maybe an injury), or at least at AAA, but he's still only 28, so maybe he'll get another chance. From what I read about the Mets bullpen, he might get a chance sooner than you would think.
  • Speaking of relief, I had mixed emotions about the end of the game for the Sea Dogs. On the one hand, I was looking forward to seeing Cla Meredith pitch for the first time. Apparently he has nasty stuff. Instead, manager Todd Claus chose to stick with the hot hand, going with Marc Deschesnes for 2.1 IP of relief. Deschesnes was terrific, retiring all seven batters that he faced on 27 pitches, striking out four. It's a bullpen approach that I like to see, I just was selfishly hoping to see Meredith take the mound. (Not that there won't be more opportunities - I'm scheduled for four more games this week. Yikes!!)
  • There were two other players that I mentioned earlier as being on John Sickels' top 20 list for the Mets - Wayne Lydon and Aarom Baldiris. Lydon rated a "C", and I guess that's because he has speed. He stole 65 bases for Binghamton last year. Unfortunately, that's about all I see from him. A switch hitter, he's pure slap from the left side (think Ichiro! without any pop), although he does take a decent cut batting right handed. He is pesky, fouling off a lot of pitches, but doesn't seem to be in a rush to take a pitch (although he does have a decent walk rate). I'd say he's a marginal prospect at best. Baldiris looks to be the better prospect. He hits the ball with some authority and is able to work the count pretty well. He looked a little shaky in the field on Monday (he DH'd Tuesday), but I'd guess that it's his bat that the Mets are looking at.
  • This was also my first time seeing the Zooperstars, a touring entertainment troupe. A lot of the schtick is predictable, but it's good fun. My favorite was Harry Canary. You'll have two more chances to catch the Zooperstars this season - July 14 and August 15, so check 'em out if you can get some tickets!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It had to happen eventually

The Sea Dogs lost their first game of the year, 3-1 to the Binghamton Mets last night. The pitching was good enough, but the bats just didn't come through in a timely fashion, as all those guys that I touted yesterday fell to the "Curse of the Sea Blog", going a combined 3-15 with three walks. Additionally, starting LF Chris Durbin pulled up lame when he was held up rounding third base in the bottom of the third and had to be replaced. His injury didn't appear to be all that serious.

Scorer's notes:
  • Pedroia had the best night of the top five, going 1-2 and drawing two walks. I don't have my score sheets with me at the moment, but he made the pitchers work, seeing at least 5 pitches in every plate appearance.
  • Ramirez, on the other hand, didn't do much, with a weak strikeout, a popup, and even a pulled ground ball. Hanley doesn't pull a lot of pitches usually.
  • Both starters (Jon Papelbon and Ken Chenard) featured low-90's fastballs that were complemented with curve balls. Most of the relievers had the same repertoire, too. This is the first time that I've seen Papelbon pitch, and he wasn't quite what I expected - I thought we'd get mid-90's heat, but he topped out at 92 (from what I can tell - the gun operator seemed to be a little off all night). Instead of merely blowing people away, Papelbon sets them up with a good curve and gets them out with excellent location. When the other guys got ahold of his pitches, they hit them well (two HR), but he did strike out 9 in 5.2 IP, with only five hits allowed and no walks. In fact, Papelbon (Little Papi?) hasn't walked anybody, vs. 18 K's, in 16.2 IP this season, which is very impressive.
  • Both starters were victimized by a tough twilight sky. Portland's only run came across when Murphy and Durbin hit doubles that Norwich outfielders couldn't locate coming off the bat. Murphy was also a victim when he lost a Mike Jacobs fly ball that fell in behind him for a double. In fact, Murphy was so lost that the ball was ultimately fielded by RF Brandon Moss, who showed great hustle in helping out his teammate, despite being hit to straightaway center field.
  • I'm saving my commentary on the Binghamton prospects until after I see them again tonight, but it's pretty clear why Aarom Baldiris is rated higher than Wayne Lydon after watching them once. Yusmeiro Petit, who is reputedly the best player on the team, pitches tonight against Jon Lester, so it could be another low-scoring affair.
  • This was the first game that I scored (BIS-style) with my good buddy Dave. We had some fun and took some goofy pictures of our tricky scoring styles to send into the BIS website.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bingamton Mets Players to Watch

Binghamton has four players on Sickels' top 20 list of Mets prospects, including #1 guy Yousmeiro Petit, a right handed pitcher (B+ rating). It looks like Petit is working up his pitch count so far, as he's only thrown 9 IP in two starts, albeit impresive ones (5H, 9K, 0BB and 0 runs). It looks like we'll see him tomorrow night. We'll miss the other pitcher on the list - Brian Bannister, #10 (C+), who has been great thus far: 16.1 IP, 8 H, 23:4 K:BB, 0.00 ERA in winning all three of his starts.

Sickels says this about Petit:

Statheads love Yusmeiro Petit, while traditionalists still can't
figure out why he is getting anyone out. I give him a B+, but in the big picture
I think he's in the middle rank of that category. On my overall Top 50 pitching
list, he ranks at 21 going into spring training, certainly promising but not as
sure thing just yet. I understand the doubts of the traditionalists, but the
numbers can't be ignored at this point, even if some statheads are a bit too

The two position players, 2B Aarom Baldiris (#7, B-) and OF Wayne Lydon (#19, C) are both off to slow starts, especially Lydon (176/243/206-0-2; Baldiris is at 289/372/342-0-2). I'll keep an eye on those two over the next couple of days.

Dogs 10-0 - Who's to blame?

While I don't believe for a second that the Sea Dogs are going to go undefeated for the season, the team's 10-0 start carries one undeniable message: these guys are good. Portland is a balanced team this year: good hitting, good starting pitching, good fielding, good bullpen. Jon Papelbon, Kason Gabbard and Charlie Zink have each provided two good starts, and while Jon Lester hasn't had the great results yet, his 13:1 K:BB ratio over 8 innings pitched is very impressive.

Most impressive, however, is the offense, particularly the top 5 in the order (BA/OBP/SLG-HR-RBI-anything else:

Durbin: 351/429/649-2-7 9 runs
Pedroia: 412/512/618-1-9 7BB, 1(!)K
Ramirez: 381/447/643-0-9 5 triples
Sandberg: 359/432/769-4-11, EL Player of the week
West: 441/500/618-1-3

Ramirez and Sandberg lead the team with 11 runs scored each.

Sample size caveats obviously apply. These guys have been crushing the ball thus far, enabling the team to overcome whatever the opposition throws at them, which hasn't been much yet. None of them, obviously, is likely to hit .350 for the season, but I would say that Pedroia, Ramirez, West and Sandberg (if he stays) are all good bets to hit at least .320 with OBP's approaching .400. When they start to come back to earth, perhaps guys like Moss (219/243/375) and Murphy (226/273/258) will start to pick up the pace. This will be a formidable offense all season long, with a lot of "make something happens" guys at the top of the order.

I can't emphasize it enough - go see the Sea Dogs this year. You won't regret doing so!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005 - fast starters

Sickels has posted some notable fast starters from the first week of the season. Included is our own Dustin Pedroia. "Stathead favorite is off to a fine start in Double-A.". Congratulations, Dustin.

Sea Blog takes a short vacation

The Sea Blog takes a brief hiatus as I head to Florida for my nephew's wedding. The Dogs are 5-0 as I write this, as Charlie Zink pitched a nice game on Monday to go knuckle-to-knuckle with Wakefield's gem against the Yankees. I was scheduled to work last night's game (Tuesday), but it was snowed out. April in Maine, Baby! I was looking forward to seeing Papelbon pitch, but selfishly speaking this really worked out well for me, as it would have been tough to get the input done before I left (I would have had to do it when I got home last night). Thanks to Dave, the #1 Friend of the Sea Blog, for offering to help with the game setup, but it wasn't necessary.

While I'm out, if anybody wants to comment on any Sea Dogs action, feel free to use the "comments" section on this post.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Dogs Improve to 4-0

The Portland Sea Dogs established a new franchise record for consecutive wins to start the season, completing a four-game sweep over the Norwich Navigators with an 8-0 victory on Sunday afternoon. Kason Gabbard capitalized on a five run fourth inning and pitched seven shutout innings to earn the victory. The Sea Dogs had two rallies in the game, but there weren't a lot of deep counts and the game was completed in a crisp 2 hours under a brilliant April sunshine. I didn't think that April baseball in Portland could get any better than Saturday's game, but Sunday's temps topped 60 and short sleeves were in order for most of the afternoon.

Game Notes:
  • Fred Lewis, who earned a B- from Sickels and ranked as the #7 prospect in the Giants's system, failed to impress today. On top of a sun-hindered dropped fly ball that led to Portland's 5 unearned runs in the second inning, Lewis showed a poor approach at the plate all afternoon. Lewis led off the game by grounding out on the first pitch, and followed that up with two out in the 6th with a terrible first-pitch bunt back to the mound. This certainly isn't the type of approach we're used to seeing from the Red Sox and Sea Dogs these days.
  • Gabbard was efficient (75 pitches over 7 innings), and was only tested in the 7th. It was a much nicer performance than I came to expect from him last season (a pleasant surprise!). Gabbard, however, still doesn't miss any bats - he didn't record a K and I only counted six swings-and-misses during the whole game.
  • Billy Sadler is another Navigator on Sickels' list. He throws in the low 90's, but was no mystery for the Sea Dogs. He allowed a three-run rally in the 8th to round out Portland's scoring.
  • Little Dustin Pedroia, who (as mentioned earlier) swings very hard, took a Chris Begg offering over the wall in left center during the 2d inning rally. This brought a big hand from the crowd, appreciative that such a little guy could hit the ball so far. It wasn't quite the blast that Chris Durbin hit of the scoreboard yesterday, but impressive nonetheless.
  • Hanley Ramirez had another good game, going 2-4 (and hitting the ball hard the opposite way three times), and making several nice plays in the field. He looks better than he was last year, which is saying a lot. I expect big things from him this season, and I'll be shocked if he isn't in Rhode Island come August.
  • Jared Sandberg made two errors for the second game in a row. He was a decent third baseman when he was in the majors, but he's looking shaky thus far this season. As long as he continues to swing a big bat, all will likely be forgiven.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Saturday at Hadlock

It was a bright, sunny Saturday at Hadlock Field as the Portland Sea Dogs extended their record to 3-0 on this young season with a 7-4 victory over the Norwich Navigators. One thing appears certain at this point - the Sea Dogs are a better team than the Gators this year. The temps were in the mid 50's and their was nary a cloud in the sky. It was a nearly perfect day for baseball, though the field appears to be in kind of rough shape thus far.

I was pleased to find out the top Giants prospect Merken Valdez would be toeing the rubber for the Norwich Nine. He indeed looked very impressive at times, wowing the crowd with his upper - 90's fastball (topping out at 99 on one pitch), but he also struggled with his command at times. Valdez didn't allow a lot of solid contact, and ran into trouble in the 3rd when a lot of softly-hit grounders went for errors or infield hits. He stuck out six and only walked two , but he was erratic, also hitting a batter and working from behind a lot as he piled up 80+ pitches in four innings pitched. Dogs starter David Pauley (#18 and a C+ prospect according to Sickels) looked OK. He's a junky sinker/curveball guy whose fastball tops out at about 90. Norwich batters didn't look all that comfortable against him, constantly pounding the ball into the ground and only taking advantage when Jared Sandberg made a couple of fielding miscues in the third inning. By my tally, 13 of 15 balls put into play against Pauley were ground balls - impressive!

Some other notes:
  • David Murphy looks real good in CF. He plays shallow and tracks down balls like Freddy Lynn, and has a rifle of an arm. If he can continue to progress at the plate, he'll be a good, Mark Kotsay-type major leaguer.
  • Navigators CF Fred Lewis had some fun, blocking Slugger the Sea Dog's circuit around the bases during Slugger's daily race against a little kid. Lewis' interference was just enough to turn the tide in favor of Slugger's five-year-old opponent.
  • The ushers in the box seats are real nice, and try to make sure the younger kids are having a good time. It's nice to see.
  • Kristin Chisholm of Scarborough sang the national anthem, one of the best that I've ever heard at Hadlock.
  • Dustin Pedroia swings hard for a little guy, but ultimately is a scrapper who gets on base a lot and makes things happen.
  • Losing pitcher James Garcia throws nothing but junk. He had the Sea Dogs fooled the first time through the order in relief, but they figured him out the second time, as Chris Durbin hit a rocket off the scoreboard in CF and Jared Sandberg scraped the top of the LF wall.
  • Hanley Ramirez caught up to one of Valdez' upper-90's offerings, hitting a bullet to right-center that resulted in a run-scoring triple. Ramirez himself scored when the relay throw went into the stands.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Norwich has Prospects, too

Norwich Navigators :: Roster

The Norwich Navigators have a few prospects who make John Sickels' top 20 prospects list for the Giants. Chief among them is RHP Merkin Valdez (see link), walked 15 and struck out 31 in 41.2 IP with the 2004 Navigators (1-4, 4.32), one of three stops for him last year. Other pitchers on Sickels' list are Alfredo Simon, who got the opening night start, Billy Sadler and Brian Burres (see links on roster page shown above), along with OF Fred Lewis, who hit 301/424/451-8-57 with 33 steals and a lot of walks for the single A San Jose Giants last season. You can check out all of their 2004 stats by checking out Baseball America. I'll keep an eye out for these guys over the weekend.

Prospect Profiles has a couple of stories about the top prospects playing in Portland. This story is about 2B Dustin Pedroia, part of the exciting double-play combo that also includes Hanley Ramirez. And this one talks about all the hot shots in the starting rotation. And if you go to, there are Portland players all over the place.

I'm not sure what the rotation looks like just yet, but you can bet that I'll get a Kason Gabbard game this weekend - I saw him a lot last year!

Opening Day for the Sea Dogs!

It was damp and you could see your breath. That could mean only one thing - opening for the Sea Dogs! There is a lot of excitement surrounding this team because a lot of Boston's top prospects are here, and it was nice to get a win (4-2 over the Norwich Navigators) on opening day. Hard throwing John Papelbon got the start and pitched six strong innings, striking out 7 against zero walks and giving up two solo home runs. It was a good indication of what is likely to come from Papelbon: he put up a 12-7 record with a 2.64 ERA and 153/44 K/BB ratio in 129.2 innings at Sarasota last year. Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia promise to excite at the top of the lineup, but the big bat last night was provided by Jared Sandberg, who hit 2 homers and knocked in all four of Portland's runs last night. Of course, Sandberg has almost 200 major league games on his resume (well, it's Tampa Bay, but the opposition was major league quality), so he's playing far below his established level and, at age 27, isn't really a AA "Prospect" in the truest sense of the word. Still, as long as he's in Portland, he'll be a good complement to the young guns in the lineup and make for exciting evenings at Hadlock.

I'm scheduled to go to a lot of April games, the first two this weekend against the Navigators. The weather looks nice, and it will be a great time! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Hardball Times Red Sox Preview

The Hardball Times has five questions about each team. Here is the Red Sox version. They actually discuss most of the major themes from the Joe's SeaBlog preview over the last couple of days: offense gets a boost from Nixon and Renteria, offsetting a decline from Damon and Varitek; Wells, Clement and Miller don't equate to a dropoff from the 2004 versions of Martinez and Lowe. These guys are supposed to know what they are talking about, so I feel ratified, if nothing else.

You might be interested in the Yankees Preview as well. Larry Mahnken isn't all that optimistic despite New York's $200 million payroll:
Big money doesn’t guarantee success, and the Yankees are perhaps getting less for their money than any team in baseball history. There is clearly a lot of upside to this Yankees team; if everyone repeats their 2004 season in 2005, they’ll win the AL East in a walk, no matter how well things go for the Red Sox. But there’s a lot of risk there, too, perhaps more than any other team in baseball, and far more than a team with a $200 million payroll should ever have.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Boy this is ugly

So the Sox look to lose game one to the Yankees. And they look to lose it in an ugly fashion. But hey, it's only one game, and the Unit is supposed to be unbeatable in pinstripes, so who really cares? It matters not, even when you consider that I just predicted 103 wins for the Red Sox. There is a long way to go!

Red Sox Preview, Part 2 - the pitchers

I’m going to take a somewhat different tack with the pitching, because other web sites have convinced me that trying to project pitching performance is a losing proposition. Instead, we’ll just do a high-level analytical comparison. People talk about what big losses Pedro and Lowe are going to be, but I think that we’ll see that the guys stepping in can be expected to produce at the same level or better than those two did in 2004. Where appropriate, the line that the Sox got from that spot in the rotation last year is included.


Curt Schilling
32 GS, 226.7 IP, 21-6, 3.26 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 44 RSAA 2004

See The Hardball Times for discussion of FIP (“Fielding Independent Pitching” – it adjusts for how often balls in play become hits vs. the league average) and RSAA (“Runs Saved Above Average” – another way of comparing pitchers performance against the league averages).

Schilling was worth about 4 ½ wins compared to an average pitcher last season, which was a little better than he has done in recent years. You can see in comparing ERA to FIP that Schilling’s performance was about what you’d expect given his BB, K and HR rates. Expect more of the same from Curt this season. He’s still a power pitcher with good control. However, given the fact that he’s going to miss a little time with his ankle injury (cutting down on his IP) and that he’s another year older, I’d look for a drop to about 30 RSAA, or a loss of 1.5 games in the standings this year.

David Wells
31 GS , 195.7 IP, 12-8, 3.73 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 14 RSAA for the 2004 Padres
(Pedro Martinez 33 GS, 217 IP, 16-9, 3.90 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 24 RSAA in 2004)

Here we can see the benefit of the FIP and RSAA stats, which are league adjusted. David Wells is old and has a bad back, but he’s made just as many starts as Martinez did over the last three years. Pedro had an off year last year, but was still about 1 win better than Wells was, despite Boomer’s lower ERA (Petco was a strong pitchers park last year, as we mentioned when discussing Jay Payton). Now, I fully expect Pedro to be a lot better in 2005 than he was last year, but the decline in the Sox’ rotation between 2004 – 2005 shouldn’t be too severe.

Matt Clement
30 GS, 181.0 IP, 9-13, 3.68 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 14 RSAA for the 2004 Cubs
(Derek Lowe 33 GS, 182.7 IP, 14.-12, 5.42 ERA, 4.50 FIP, -33 RSAA in 2004)

Matt Clement had a losing record last year, but he pitched very well. Derek Lowe was huge in the playoffs, but he just plain reeked during the regular season. Lowe is a sinkerball pitcher whose ball doesn’t sink quite like it used to, leading to a bunch of line drives. His walk rate is increasing every year even as the K rate drops. Clement’s walk rate was a little worse than Lowe’s (3.8 BB/9 IP vs. 3.5 for Derek), but the K rate was much better (9.4/9 IP vs. 5.2 for Lowe). According to RSAA, Clement was about 5 wins better than Lowe was last year (+47 in RSAA), and I expect that to be the case again this year.

Tim Wakefield
30 GS, 188.3 IP, 12-10, 4.87ERA, 5.31 FIP, 13 RSAA 2004

Knuckleball pitchers are known to have their ups and downs, and 2004 turned into a down year for Wakefield, as he posted his worst season since 2000. Wakefield doesn’t eat innings like he once did, but if he pitches with some consistency this year, he should stay in the rotation and provide some league-average innings, winning about 14 games. I’d say for the team he’ll be about 1 W better than last year.

Bronson Arroyo
29 GS, 178.7 IP, 10-9, 4.03 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 3 RSAA 2004

Arroyo finally showed some of the promise that has been expected of him for several years during his breakthrough 2004 season. After BK Kim came down with an injury, Arroyo stepped in a pitched very well, exhibiting good control of his curveball and coming through with an impressive 3:1 K/BB ratio. Only 28 this year, Arroyo could still be improving, and I’ll go ahead and predict another 1 W increase from this spot.

If any of the above falter, the wild card to this rotation is Wade Miller
15 GS, 88.7 IP, 7-7, 3.35 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 12 RSAA for the 2004 Astros.

Miller starts the season on the DL with a frayed rotator cuff. Like Pedro Martinez, Miller has chosen to forego surgery and pitch through the injury, focusing on strengthening the shoulder instead. It’s worked OK for Pedro for the last couple of years, and here’s hoping that it works for Miller as well. Miller could be ready sometime in May, and if he’s anything close to the form he showed before the injury, he’ll be a great addition to the rotation. Miller’s walk rate was up a bit last year, but in general he’s a good power pitcher who can rack up the wins with even a modicum of run support.

Looking at these guys collectively, I think that the Sox’ rotation will improve by about five wins compared to last year’s group if they stay reasonably healthy. There is definitely reason for optimism with this group, as well as with the bullpen.


We’ll start with the closer, and the key to the pen

Keith Foulke:
72 G, 82.0 IP, 5-3, 32 SV, 2.18 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 25 RSAA

A lot of people look at Foulke’s 7 blown saves and think he wasn’t all that great last year. However, Keith Foulke did what he always does, threw a lot of innings with an ERA in the low-2.00’s and a WHIP below 1.00. We saw how dominant he can be in the post season. I expect more of the same this year.

The Rest
Mike Timlin: 76.3 IP, 4.13 ERA, 8 RSAA
Alan Embree: 52.3 IP, 4.13 ERA, 2 RSAA
Matt Mantei: 10.7 IP, 11.81 ERA, -9 RSAA 2004 DBacks (Williamson 28.7, 1.26, 10 RSAA)
John Halama 118.7 IP, 4.70 ERA, -2 RSAA 2004 Drays (Mendoza 30.7, 3.52, 5 RSAA)
Mike Myers 42.7 IP, 4.64 ERA, 1 RSAA (includes Seattle)
Blaine Neal 42.0 IP, 4.07 ERA, 2 RSAA 2004 Padres (Leskanic 27.7 IP, 3.58 ERA, 5 RSAA Boston)

So you’re looking at Mantei, Halama and Neal vs. Williamson, Mendoza and Leskanic and thinking “oh no!” Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Halama gives the Sox a good durable long arm out of the pen, and a guy much more suited to the occasional spot start than Mendoza was. Mantei pitched very little because of injuries, but if healthy he is ever bit as capable of dominating like Williamson did, evidenced by his 2.62 ERA in 55 IP in 2003 and career 374 K’s in 296 IP’s coming into this year. Neal is much younger than Leskanic, who (it should be noted) had a 5.19 ERA including his time in KC - so he wasn't without some risk this season. Mike Myers is in for a full season to take some of the LOOGY load off of Embree. Again, if everyone is healthy, this is a more well-rounded pen than last year’s issue, and there should be less chance of Timlin and Embree wearing down toward the end of the season.

So let’s go with no real change in production from the bullpen, which was actually pretty good last season. Overall, then, the pitching staff should be about five wins better than last year. The defense will be about the same, maybe a little improved with a full season of Renteria at SS, but not what I would consider the strength of this club.

Put it all together and you’ve got about a five-win improvement from last year’s 98 win, World Champion team. That translates to 103 wins in 2005, which I truly believe is realistic, and enough to overtake the Yankees for Boston’s first division championship since 1995. Big whoop, I know, the key is the Series and they got that done last year, but it’s still something to shoot for.

Prospects look good for a prospect

Prospects look good for a prospect

OK, I said below that I wasn't going to link to the mainstream media, but the above is a story about Sea Dogs OF David Murphy, who was hot stuff when he was drafted in the first round in 2003 but has struggled with his performance and injuries since then. According to the article, he looks back on track now, and I'm looking forward to seeing him play.

Also, this article discusses the entire roster, highlighting a lot of the top prospects that we can expect to see in Hadlock this summer. It's worth a look-see.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Red Sox Preview, Part 1 - the hitters

This is part one of my two-part Red Sox 2005 preview. Here I’m going to look at the lineup using some projections that I developed. It’s a rather simplistic projection system that I call the Monkee system, because a) it’s easy enough that a monkey could do it, b) I like that fact that TangoTiger named his “monkey” projection system (Marcel, after the monkey featured in Friends, and c) the Monkees were fun but not to be taken too seriously, like my projection system. At the end I’ll make some conclusions about the overall production we can expect from the 2005 Red Sox.

Catcher: Jason Varitek
536 PA 296/390/482 18HR 84RC 2004
527 PA 282/364/473 19HR 77RC 2005

Varitek has been remarkably consistent over the last three years in terms of playing time, and his production has been very similar in 2003-04. The past two years were the best of ‘Tek’s career, and at his age it may be optimistic to assume that he’ll continue in that vein. However, it’s a lot easier to do that than to predict exactly when he will become an “old” catcher and fall off the cliff with his offense. Varitek has greatly improved his walk rate over the last couple of years, a skill that should stay with him even as he loses bat speed. Beyond the offense, however, ‘Tek remains a rock in the lineup. Named captain for 2005, he’s the leader of this team and always the most prepared player on the field. I expect a slight dropoff in offense, maybe at the cost of about one win to the team.

I don’t plan to spend a lot of time discussing the backups, but Doug Mirabelli gets a start every five days, and his playing time has also been remarkably consistent over the last three years. Mirabelli was also a bit over his head with the bat last year, generating 30 RC in 182 PAs (about 6.7 RC/27 outs). I’d expect less average and power, resulting in about 23 RC in 175 Pas. Overall I expect the catcher’s bats to regress to the tune of about 1.5 wins this season.

First Base: Kevin Millar
588 PA 297/383/474 18HR 88RC 2004
577 PA 291/367/480 20HR 87RC 2005

Wow, Millar’s numbers were really close to Varitek’s last season. This projection may be a tad optimistic, as the formula includes Millar’s 2002 season with Florida, which was much better than either of his Boston seasons, and Millar is also in his mid-30’s now. However, the fact remains that he still has good bat speed, and his second half numbers (319/408/566, 13 HR after the All Star break) are certainly encouraging, very much in line with his performance with the Marlins (after compensating for park differences). What we’re really doing is splitting the difference in projecting status quo – I could see .310 with 25 HRs as easily as .270 with 15 HRs. Millar will continue to get most of the PAs at first base, with David McCarty serving as the late-inning defensive replacement.

Second Base: Mark Bellhorn
620 PA 264/373/444 17HR 85RC 2004
497 PA 254/368/429 14HR 65RC 2005 “Mickey Dolenz
640 PA 254/368/429 18HR 83RC 2005 “Joe’s Sea Blog”

Here’s a challenge – predict Mark Bellhorn’s 2005 performance. At first it seems difficult. His last three years have been played for three different teams (Cubs, Rockies, Red Sox), in three different (albeit all hitter-friendly) ballparks. (OK, everybody gives Wrigley credit for being hitter-friendly, but in reality it scored slightly under 100 during Bellhorn’s time there, so it’s really kind of neutral these days). Add into the equation the fact that Dusty Baker grew quickly disenchanted with Marky Mark’s “take and take” approach and quickly relegated him to the bench, then exiled him to Colorado where Bellhorn couldn’t get anything started. The result, using the Monkee, is a projection showing decreased playing time this year, and worse rate stats than Bellhorn has posted in two of the last three years.

I’m going to go ahead with Mickey’s rate stats – Mickey was always well-intentioned, I thought - because you really can’t ignore the fact that Bellhorn sucked in ’03. Heck, they’re pretty good for a second baseman anyway. I did, however, take the liberty of bumping up the PA’s above even last year, because despite the fact that Bellhorn will be hitting down in the order this year, Pokey Reese is no longer around and the 2B job clearly belongs to Bellhorn.

Oh, yeah. If he does get that many plate appearances, Bellhorn will likely break his own Red Sox strikeout record. Get over it.

Third Base: Bill Mueller
460 PA 283/363/446 12HR 64RC 2004
500 PA 297/374/475 13HR 77RC 2005 “Peter Tork

That projection is just silly, so I’ve named it Peter Tork, who I always thought was the Silly Monkee. There’s a heavy emphasis on Mueller’s 2003 batting championship year, which was an extreme outlier for his career, especially the slugging percentage, and is extremely unlikely to be repeated. I think Mueller will bat in the 290s, but his OBP and SLG will probably be closer to what he put up last season – maybe even a little lower when it comes to the power numbers. Mueller’s a great guy to have in the lineup, and an .800 OPS would be nothing for him to be ashamed of. Billy Muell’s been kind of injury prone over the years (and in fact has been dinged up this spring), so I think the playing time estimate is pretty good. He will be backed up by Kevin Youkilis, who is likely to put up similar numbers to Mueller’s, or possibly Ramon Vazqez, whose skill set makes him better suited to the middle infield (i.e. – he can’t hit). I see 3B overall as being fairly level with last year’s output.

Shortstop: Edgar Renteria
685 PA 272/309/411 14HR 81RC 2004 (Pokey, Nomar, Orlando)
642 PA 305/354/435 11HR 91RC 2005 (Renteria projection).

Here’s another one where the projection is likely to be a bit on the plus side, because Renteria had a huge year in 2003. Still, I think that 2004 was kind of low for him, which brings this down a bit, too. I’d be surprised to see quite so high a BA from Renteria (who was the best shortstop in Sea Dogs history, by the way, at least maybe until Hanley Ramirez came along), but I think he’ll benefit from Fenway. Worst case scenario is that he puts up the numbers that Boston’s three shortstops accumulated last season, though I would be shocked if his OBP were anywhere near as low as .309. Intuitively, I’d guess something along the lines of 290/340/430 from Renteria and 85-90 RC, so about a half a win improvement at this position.

Left Field: Manny Ramirez
663 PA 308/397/613 43HR 137RC 2004
638 PA 321/416/609 39HR 136RC 2005 “Davy Jones

Manny is pretty consistent, and I would expect more of the same in 2005. 2004 was actually a bit of a down year for him, especially in terms of BA and OBP. The Monkee dings him a bit in playing time due to his injury in 2002. If Manny stays healthy, he’ll likely create a few more runs than last year, but that’s really picking nits, isn’t it?

I threw Davy Jones’ name on Manny’s projection, because Davy was always the pretty Monkee, and boy, is that projection pretty!

Center Field: Johnny Damon
702 PA 304/380/477 20HR 112RC 2004
698 PA 290/362/466 16HR 100RC 2005

Whew! Finally somebody who is projected to do worse than last year. I was beginning to worry about my projection method. (Actually, I am right to worry, given how much thought went into the system.) Damon hit like he did in his last couple of seasons in Kansas City last season, which is what the Sox were expecting when they inked him to a four-year deal following the 2001 season. He was (and is) unquestionably one of the best leadoff men in baseball, combining patience at the plate (BB/K > 1.0, one BB every 10 PAs, 4.13 pitches/PA) with some pop and good baserunning skills (career 83% base stealer). Damon is still young (31 this year), but on the wrong side of the peak curve, which means that he’s not likely to improve upon last year. Still, the projection is for 100 runs created, or about a one-win drop from last season, which would be pretty darn good.

Right Field: Trot Nixon
697 PA 271/324/413 15HR 83RC 2004 (Nixon/Kaplar/Roberts/Minky)
375 PA 291/372/527 17HR 64RC 2005 “Mike Nesmith
500 PA 291/372/527 23HR 85RC 2005 Joe’s SeaBlog projection

Mike Nesmith always seemed like the pessimistic Monkee, and I think the Monkee projection here is kind of pessimistic in terms of playing time. While it’s true that Nixon missed a ton of time last year and is a pretty high injury risk, he did collect 500+ plate appearances in the four seasons prior to 2004, which should count for something. Because Trot is entering the season healthy, I’m optimistic that he’ll reach 500 plate appearances. It’s clear from the above that 500 PA’s from Trot Nixon is likely to equal the output of the entire cast of RF candidates from last year (Nixon himself included). (Doug Mientkiewicz is included there, too, because Millar saw some time in RF with Minky at first base.)

However, this leaves quite a few unclaimed plate appearances from this position. Replacing Gabe Kaplar as the super backup outfielder for the Red Sox this year is Jay Payton, acquired from the Padres in the Dave Roberts trade. Payton’s playing time won’t likely come totally at the expense of Trot Nixon, but this seems like the most appropriate place to fill in the gap, so here we go.

Right Field: Jay Payton
200 PA 287/340/451 6HR 27 RC 2005 Joe’s SeaBlog projection

I’m not sure how good a projection these numbers are, but I’m running with them – over the last three years (the time frame used by the Monkee system), Payton played about half of his games for the Rockies and the other half for the Mets and Padres. So half of his totals come from a great hitter’s park and the other half from great pitchers parks. Given that the Monkee puts the most emphasis on the season spent in Petco, I’m guessing that the Coors effect is properly mitigated. So I’m projecting that Peyton will put up an OPS in the neighborhood of .800, which would be better than any of the non-Trot guys included in the 2004 numbers. As a result, I’m looking at a nearly 30-run improvement from RF, or about three wins over the course of the season.

DH: David Ortiz
669 PA 301/380/603 41 HR 133 RC 2004
573 PA 292/370/582 33 HR 108 RC 2005

Big Papi is a big part of the Sox’ lineup. He and Manny combine to provide incredible power in the heart of the order. The Monkee is predicting a drop in playing time this year because he wasn’t in the lineup full time in either 2002 with the Twins or his first year with the Red Sox (not until June or so anyway). Rest assured that if Ortiz is health all season long, he’ll get about 100 more PA than this projection, but I’m going to hedge my bets and call it about a two-win decline from last year.

Adding it all up, what do we get?
Dropoffs at catcher (1.5 wins), center field (1 win) and DH (2 wins)
Status quo at first, second, and third base and left field.
Improvement at shortstop (1 win) and right field (3 wins)

So, overall I’m guessing that the lineup is about as good as last year’s squad that led the AL in BA/OBP/SLG and runs scored. It’s not a young lineup, but there aren’t a lot of “old” guys, either. Most of the guys have been remarkably consistent in playing time over the last few years, so I think that the injury risk isn't that great. I thought, entering this exercise, that the Red Sox were going to be about as good 'this year as last, and the Monkees seem to agree with me. It also appears that Theo (In Theo we trust!) has done a remarkable job of gathering together guys with highly predictable performance, taking a lot of the risk out of assembling the team. The guy impresses me more every year.

Coming up next – the pitching.

Rivals In Exile

This is an occasional feature from Hardball Times that discusses the Red Sox vs. the Yankees. There's nothing all that groundbreaking in the article, except maybe that both the Red Sox fan and the Yankee fan are picking the Sox to win the division, but it's worth a read. As is most everything at THT.

If Anybody can see this . . .

I just want to give you an update on the happenings here at the Sea Blog. As you can tell (if you've checked us out in the last couple of days), Joe is back on the job in updating the blog. I've made many promises that I have not kept in recent months, so take all this with a grain of salt, but here is the plan for the 2005 baseball season.

1) Occasional (maybe even weekly) "column"-style entries that will primarily follow some sort of statistical analysis of the performance of the Sea Dogs or Red Sox, or anything else that may catch my eye. This is starting out with my pre-season position-by-position analysis of the 2005 Red Sox, currently in prodution. That article will most likely be split into two parts (offense and pitching), which will hopefully both be posted by Sunday night. But I can't promise that the pitching one will be done by then.

2) "Scorer's Notes" entries from my BIS scorekeeping gig at the Sea Dogs games. This was really the original concept for this blog, but the original scorekeeping gig failed to materialize, and the BIS job has me going to only 1-2 games per homestand, so I'm not sure that's enough to carry the blog.

2a) If Portland's opposition has a nifty prospect or two, I may take some time to highlight those players.

3) Links to, and sometimes commentary on, various web articles on the Red Sox and/or their minor league system. You see evidence of this below. I'll most likely avoid the "mainstream media", and instead focus on some of my favorite sites, like Baseball Prospectus, the Hardball Times, and

4) Discussion about whatever else comes to mind.

I welcome your comments and suggestions, and I promise to try to keep my promises of keeping this blog alive!

Preseason Predictions

Maybe I'll flesh this out a little bit later, but here are my quick 'n' dirty 2005 predictions, as originally posted to the STATLG-L list:

AL East – Boston. Mr. Pythagorus would have us believe that the Red Sox were quite a lot better than the Yankees last season, and I think that the 2005 Sox (if the injury gods are on their side) are (at worst) equal to last year’s team. The Yanks are a force to contend with, but what are the odds that Johnson, Brown, Pavano and Wright all stay healthy this year? Not good enough that I’d be willing to bet on it.

AL Central – Minnesota. I like the Tribe, but I don’t believe they have the pitching this year. Minnesota’s minor league machine keeps putting the parts in place. And they have the best pitcher in the league, too.

AL West – Angels. I think that the A’s will surprise a lot of casual observers and give ‘em a run for their money, though.

AL Wild Card – Yankees.

NL East – Atlanta. This one’s wide open, but the Braves will find a way, once again. (The "way" will be pitching, in case you are wondering)

NL Central – St. Louis. The lineup is solid, and the pitching should be good enough. I expect a solid comeback from Mulder this year.

NL West – San Diego. Process of elimination: The D-Backs certainly haven’t improved by 40 games. The Rockies are the Rockies. The Ancients are missing the key to any of their success for the start of the season (though I’d be shocked if he was out until midseason). The Dodgers are starting Derek Lowe on opening day. The Padres have good pitching and a decent lineup. I think that’ll be enough.

NL Wild Card – Cubbies. Pitching and enough hitting. I agree with Mike that Nomar will have a big year. If Wood and Prior are back early enough, they’ll hold off Houston. This one is wide open, though.

World Series – Boston over Atlanta. None of the NL teams impress me all that much, so I’m predicting that the Braves will make a "late-dynasty" surprise appearance in the Show.