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A few things on my mind

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  October 26, 2011 07:20 AM

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Catching up for lost time on a number of issues now that the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have finally turned the page …

  • Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington ended up in roughly the same place, but they arrived there on very different paths. So while the message from Fenway Park yesterday sounded eerily similar to the one under Epstein – same vocabulary, same speech patterns – there is one significant difference between the last two full-time general managers of the Red Sox.

    Simply put, Epstein was groomed in the front office from the very beginning, then exposed to traditional baseball methods (read: scouting) to fill out his development. Cherington was groomed in the traditional baseball world as a scout, then exposed to the front office. How that all manifests itself remains to be seen, but we shouldn’t necessarily assume they are the same.

    As any chef will tell you, after all, the order of ingredients can be very important.

  • Of all the dialogue that came from Chicago and Boston yesterday, among the most interesting came when Cherington was asked about the Red Sox’ failures in free agency. Cherington made reference to the Red Sox’ belief in using both “objective” and “subjective” analysis – an obvious reference to sabermetrics and scouting. He then stressed that the Red Sox must “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” in employing that philosophy, which cannot help but make one wonder.

    Have the Sox been getting a little lazy with how they have scouted free agents in recent years? Have they relied more on the data than the scouting? Or have they relied more on the scouting than the data? Whatever the truth, Cherington’s comment suggests the Sox have not been as comprehensive in their analysis as they should have been.

    And wouldn’t that be proof of the complacency that has seemingly set in at Fenway Park over the last few years?

  • In his career against the Pittsburgh Steelers, including both regular season and playoffs, Tom Brady is 6-1, with the only loss coming at Pittsburgh on Oct. 31, 2004, the game that ended New England’s record regular-season winning streak. Brady has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,008 yards (an average of 287 per game) with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions.

    In his last two games against the Steelers – including last year’s 39-26 win at Heinz Field - Brady is 62 for 87 (71.3 percent) for 749 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions and no sacks.

    Here’s another way of looking at it: since the start of the 2001 season, his first year as a starter, Brady has a quarterback rating of 104.8 in all games against the Steelers. During that same period, the rest of the league has a quarterback rating of just 74.3 against Pittsburgh.

    For a superb Pittsburgh defense that is annually among the best in football, Tom Brady is Kryptonite.

  • Did the math -- at his current pace, Tyler Seguin is on pace for 92 points, a number that would have placed him fifth in the league last year. The Bruins have not had a player finish in the top five in scoring since 2002-03, when Joe Thornton (101 points) finished third behind Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund.

    Just sayin’.

  • If I’m the Red Sox, here’s one of the things I try to do this winter: I try to get Aramis Ramirez to play third base, then part ways with David Ortiz and make Kevin Youkilis my designated hitter and backup corner infielder. Youkilis has missed 128 games over the last three years, so this is a way to protect him some (while providing the flexibility to sit Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez without much of a defensive drop-off) and improve the full-time defense at third base.

    On top of it all, with Ramirez replacing Ortiz, it helps solve the problem of the Red Sox being a little too lefthanded.

    But I only do it if Ramirez can be secured at a reasonable cost.

  • Dennis Seidenberg is a minus-4 through the first eight games of the regular season. Is anyone else worried about this? Seidenberg logged a preposterous amount of ice time last spring (an average of 27:38 per game, one second less than Zdeno Chara) and was arguably the Bruins’ second most valuable player in the postseason behind Tim Thomas.

    That smells like a Stanley Cup hangover, no?

  • The insightful Kerry Byrne of “Cold Hard Football Facts” reminds us that in the entire history of the NFL, no statistic has been a better barometer of postseason success than defensive passer rating, which effectively measures defensive efficiency against the pass. For example: the Green Bay Packers last season held opposing quarterbacks to a 67.2 rating, best in the league; the Packers won the Super Bowl. A year prior, the Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints held opposing quarterbacks to a 68.6 rating, third best in the league.

    So how does this relate to the Patriots? During the seven-year period from 2001 to 2007, the Patriots ranked second overall in the NFL in defensive passer rating at 72.5; the Pats won three Super Bowls and participated in a fourth. Since that time, the Pats have dropped to 20th in defensive passer rating and have not won a playoff game.

    This year, among the 32 NFL teams, New England currently ranks 25th.

  • During his press conference yesterday, Cherington admitted that the bulk of talent in the Red Sox minor league system is at the Double-A level or below, which means the Red Sox probably won’t be getting much help from their system from anyone other than Ryan Kalish in 2012. This means Cherington likely must find starting pitching from outside the organization if the Red Sox are to address their greatest on-field problems.

    So what should Cherington do? More than anything else, the Sox need durability, which means they should look into signing someone like lefthander Mark Buehrle as a free agent. Beyond that – and only if the Sox can get huge return – Cherington must consider moving Jacoby Ellsbury (who will be a free agent in November 2013) for a legitimate ace. No one is suggesting that the Red Sox need to blow up their roster, but reliable starting pitching will be tough to find this winter, which means the Sox must consider trading for it, particularly if they decide to cut ties with Josh Beckett. Ellsbury is one of the few assets the Sox possess with major value.

  • All of this brings us to John Lackey, who is now effectively out for next year amid the news that he will need Tommy John surgery. For all of the criticism and questions concerning the Carl Crawford signing, the Lackey acquisition is equally as puzzling. Prior to signing Lackey, the Red Sox were extremely cautious with free agents in their 30s, let alone 31-year-old with a history of elbow problems.

    The point? The fact that Lackey needs Tommy John surgery was predictable enough then that the Red Sox argued for protective language in the contract. Nonetheless, they guaranteed him $82.5 million over five years, the biggest contract they have ever granted a pitcher, including Pedro Martinez.

    The point? Thanks to John Henry’s recent admissions, we at least know some of the story about the internal discussions on Crawford. But what’s the real story on the Lackey signing? Who wanted him and who didn’t? Lackey defies Sox philosophy just as surely as Crawford does, which cannot help but make one wonder about the real reasons he was brought to Boston.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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