Ask Nick: Was last summer’s megatrade a bad deal after all?

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The Red Sox are heading to Toronto to play the disappointing Blue Jays for three games starting Tuesday.

Seven of the Red Sox’ 18 wins have come in sweeps of the Indians and Astros. They’ve had an outstanding month, losing series only to the Royals and Orioles, two teams over .500.

The Red Sox are 12-1 against sub-.500 teams, which means they’re taking care of business, dominating weaker teams as they should. Every once in a while, there’s that quirky situation where you can’t beat a bad team. No such problem so far.

Looks like Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew are hitting again, which means that even the bottom of the order could be troublesome for the opposition.

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If Toronto plans on turning its season around, it had better start with the Red Sox. The Jays are turning into the Marlins before our eyes: a team with a lot of hype looking so bad. The Jays gave up a lot of talent for established players.

If Sox manager John Farrell was a bit uneasy about the big moves the Jays made after he left, he’s getting the last laugh now.

Here’s this week’s Q&A:

With Adrian Gonzalez hitting [.337], Carl Crawford hitting .307 (Punto at .400, as a part-timer), and Beckett being essentially a No. 3 or 4 starter, why is there no reflection on the wisdom of last year’s trade from the Boston baseball writers? Although the team’s hot start is encouraging, it seems to me the Sox would look like a real powerhouse if they still had those guys.
Bud, Atlanta
You can’t be serious, Bud. They unloaded these guys, in part, because they were a bad fit. Poor chemistry guys. They made a lot of money and were bad for team morale. Great trade. They unloaded $265 million and got two excellent pitching prospects in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.

I am a Red Sox fan who is terribly excited about young Allen Webster. Having said that, I wonder if the Red Sox all of a sudden have found themselves with a bit of a bottleneck for starting pitching (what a problem to have). So if everyone stays healthy — and let’s hope they do — aside from spot starts, we might not see Allen or any of the young guys potentially for a while. They say you can’t have too much good pitching, but what will the Red Sox do if that actually is the case?
Tyler, Charlottesville, Va.
They could trade Doubront, Dempster, or Lackey if they had such a problem, providing the trio are pitching well. Don’t think this will happen. No harm in keeping Webster in Triple A for a while.

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Anthony Ranaudo is off to a great start with Portland. Given his injury history, how cautious will the Red Sox organiziation be with him this year?
Marc, Wicomico Church, Va.

He looks pretty healthy. No reason to baby him. Sure he’ll rise to Pawtucket in the not-too-distant future.

I’m a huge Red Sox fan living in Vietnam and see a handful of Sox caps being worn around here. Anyway, the start of this season is a bit of a welcome surprise, with close to solid pitching and patchwork hitting. Power numbers are way down, as we seem to be treading water playing small ball. Do you see this trend continuing throughout the season or do you see some sort of package thrown together to acquire a power bat around the trade deadline?
Bruce, Vietnam

Until I see a downturn in the offense or a significant injury, I don’t envision adding a power bat. Hard to find power hitters, period, in the post-steroid era. If Daniel Nava fades or Jonny Gomes doesn’t show the power they hoped, I could see an attempt to find someone like a Carlos Quentin or Alex Rios.

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Dustin Pedroia said this week he’s batting with less power due to a thumb injury after a first base head-first slide against the Yankees. I saw this play. I think it was 10-0 Red Sox at the moment. Can somebody tell Dustin to be aggressive when it’s important? He’s hurting the team playing like this.
Alain, Deux-Montagnes, Quebec

They haven’t needed him to hit for power. He’s hitting very well. Off to a great start. I don’t see where he’s hurting the team in any area. Not sure what your gripe is.
I noticed that Clay Buchholz pours water on the hip of his jersey pants between innings. He then goes to this spot with his pitching hand before the pitch. Is this legal? Is this common among pitchers?
Kevin, Greensboro, N.C.
Never noticed. If he’s throwing a spitter, it isn’t legal. He often complains about not getting a good grip on the ball, so I’m not sure what he does to ensure that. I know before every game he lathers up his glove with shaving cream and rubs it in.
My favorite part of the game is defense. Nothing like hitting the cutoff or a crisp 6-4-3. For a long time, fielding stats haven’t been listed. Why so? Most people don’t remember that Nomar was just adequate at short.
Bill, Torrington, Conn.
You’re right. Never been a sexy baseball stat, but significant. You can go on FanGraphs and get the UZR and range factor stuff, which is very interesting.
Do you think David Ross should become Ryan Dempster’s personal catcher? I noticed in some of Dempster’s starts prior to Friday night’s that Salty has had some trouble keeping splitters in the dirt in front of him.
Jesse, Knoxville, Tenn.
John Farrell wants to get away from the “personal catcher” stuff. I suppose over time, a relationship will develop where one guy prefers a certain catcher. I think Ross would be the choice for a few of them, but having said that, I think Salty is fine back there. Look around the league, and you see a lot worse than Salty, who has worked really hard to improve. I really have no problem with Salty as a catcher. The throwing could be better.
I’m trying to better understand the nature of Middlebrooks’s slump. He’s always seemed overly aggressive to me, even when he was thriving in the minors and getting on base in the majors last season. I initially thought this approach was catching up to him, since his K/BB rate has risen from 5.4 last year to 8.7 this year, but his average pitches per plate appearance have only dropped from 3.88 to 3.84. Is this slump simply bad luck, as his .163 BABIP might suggest, or does he need to better adopt the Red Sox’ organizational approach of greater discretion at the plate?
Justin, Lexington
I think we’re reading much too much into it. He’s a sophomore player and the scouting reports on him are out there and very precise. They’re pitching to his weaknesses. Now he has to make the next adjustment. Whether that’s protecting the outer half of the plate more, where he’s susceptible, or being more aggressive and perhaps not waiting for so many pitches. He’s got to have the feel for that. I’ve spoken to plenty of scouts who thought he would struggle a bit off the bat this year, but he’ll eventually figure it out. He always does. And it looks as if he’s starting to come out of it based on the last couple of games vs. Houston.
I’m glad to see Bard back with the big club and really hope he’s able to succeed. That being said, he doesn’t have the velocity on his fastball that he used to. Do you think his velocity is down due to an actual physical issue or is he intentionally slowing things down trying to regain his command?
Ryan, Rutland, Vt.
He’s going back to the minors. He was called up only because the Red Sox needed to call up a 40-man roster pitcher. He was the one available. They told him in spring training his issues require more of a long-term approach, and that’s exactly right. His velocity is down, his mechanics aren’t consistent from outing to outing or hitter or hitter.
I remember watching the 2004 World Series, seeing Julian Tavarez pitch for St. Louis and thinking, “This guy is crazy. I want him on my team.” The Red Sox signed him in 2006 and we know the ups and downs of how that worked out. I remember thinking the same thing when Aceves was on the Yankees. Then Red Sox signed him, and we all know how that’s turning out. My question is not about whether these were good or bad decisions, but who do you think was more nuts?
Jared, Natick
Tough one. I go with Aceves.
Do you think the Red Sox will win the World Series?
Ethan, Saint Johns, Fla.
In April?
What is happening with all the beards players are sporting thus year? In the A’s game, it seemed like two-thirds of the players had beards.
Paul, Portsmouth, N.H.
A’s are big with beards. Don’t know. They want that rugged look, I guess.
Now that Jackie Bradley Jr. is not in the major leagues, does the clock start ticking for his Hall of Fame eligibility? I can’t believe the Red Sox didn’t send him to Pawtucket to start the season. Hopefully, his short, overmatched stint in the majors doesn’t hurt his development. Yes, I know he shows maturity, but still. I see Middlebrooks struggling this year. Do the Sox have somebody else who can play third and provide some pop to the offense?
Tom, Middle Haddam, Conn.
Jackie Bradley isn’t that fragile that he would be permanently scarred by three weeks in the majors rather than Pawtucket to start the season. He was the right guy to have on their roster at the start, based on their needs at the time. Once Ortiz came back, it was the right time to ship him back. Looks like he may be back if Victorino’s back injury doesn’t get better.As for Middlebrooks, relax. The team is in first place with the best record in the majors. If he’s struggling, so what? Let him come out of it.
It’s interesting to watch the Oakland series and all of the ex-Red Sox players like Crisp, Moss, Reddick, and now Lowrie. It seems Billy Beane has found success with tapping the talent the Red Sox don’t want. Do you think Iglesias will end up there, too?
Rick, Rochester, N.Y.
Hope not. He should be Boston’s longtime shortstop.
I was surprised to see Wright pitch in such awful conditions, where the k-ball was guaranteed to be wild. Does the weather generally play a role in these decisions? Did Farrell at least tell the kid, “You won’t come anywhere near the plate; don’t worry about it”?
Will, Chicago
That was a blowout game and he was the long man. Simple as that. Sure, K-ball is better under controlled conditions (dome) or when there’s no elements (wind, rain). A manager isn’t going to tell any pitcher not to worry about a bad performance. Why would he do that? You’re a professional player. You need to perform no matter what.
Is anybody else bothered by Napoli not buttoning up his uniform shirt? I notice a lot of the guys leave the top button unbuttoned, but Napoli doesn’t button the top two, prominently exposing his red undershirt and generally displaying an unprofessional appearance. Guess it will bother me less if the RBIs keep coming, but still.
Brad, Danbury, Conn.
The league has rules on how to wear your uniform. We’ll see if they object to that. But, true, I wouldn’t worry about it if he’s knocking in runs.
We hear a lot about a “swing tailored for Fenway.” Supposedly Adrian Gonzalez had one, thought it apparently evaporated while he was here. But what exactly is it? Does it differ for LH and RH hitters? How does it differ from a “swing tailored for Petco,” or a “swing tailored for Wrigley?” What is it about such a swing that takes advantage of Fenway?
Dylan, Madison, Wis.
For a lefthanded hitter, an inside-out swing allows the ball to head toward the Monster. For a righthanded hitter, a short, compact pull swing achieves the same purpose.