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Over the Monster mailbag: Will the Red Sox acquire an ace?

You ask questions about the Red Sox, I hopefully have some resemblance of an answer.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

We haven't done one of these in a while, so lets jump right in.

I’m starting to get pretty mad, if not downright worried that management hasn’t gone out and acquired an ace. Say what you want about the current rotation, and how they’re "inning eaters" and have "good upside", but the bottom line is: these guys are supporting characters. There’s no way anyone could feel comfortable with Wade Miley making meaningful starts in the month of September. I wish they would just wake up and trade for [Jordan Zimmermann] or [Cole] Hamels. A frontline guy would make the current rotation a lot better, and immediately push the Sox in the direction of division favorites. What do you think they will do?

-- Greg Gisolfi

Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get one thing out of the way first: the Red Sox will likely not sign Max Scherzer. If they aren't going to pay Jon Lester, a pitcher on the wrong side of 30 whose full medicals the team possessed, the team is most definitely not going to be going after a pitcher with both messier mechanics and much steeper contract demands.

These questions all speak to the concern of whether or not a team needs an ace. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal took a nice look at this question. Using history as precedent, Britton found that since 1995, nineteen World Series champions had a pitcher who had pitched like an ace at least once before, 11 had a pitcher who pitched like an ace in the previous year and 12 champions had a pitcher who pitched like an ace that season. For Britton, the definition of an ace was a pitcher with a 130+ whilst qualifying for the ERA title.

By these standards, Clay Buchholz is a pitcher who has pitched to these standards before in his career (187 ERA+ during the 2010 season). Do what you will with that fact.

In regards to the rotation, I thought Ben Cherington did a good job in targeting a place in the market where he was able to get quality arms for cheap. Both Rick Porcello and Wade Miley were underrated in the market and peripheral statistics suggest that they will fit in well at Fenway Park. It's important to remember that Jon Lester wasn't expected to be an ace during the 2013 World Series run and that Madison Bumgarner has never had a season with a 130 ERA+ with enough starts to qualify for the ERA title.

The team clearly has a surplus in the farm system, but the Phillies reportedly are being unreasonable in their demands. Zimmermann would make sense. Chris Sale is practically out of the question given that the White Sox are contenders in the American League Central and the crazy package it would take to get him.

More and more teams have been able to get to the postseason without an "ace" and once you get to the postseason, anything can happen. I think they're going to make another move for a pitcher before the trade deadline (really, really going out on a limb there), but for now, be prepared to see Clay Buchholz and his olive oil, spaghetti hair on the mound on Opening Day.

i’ve read over and over again about the defensive liabilities and how the offense needs to be upgraded for Xander. It looked like to me when he started at SS his bat and glove were really good. When he was moved to 3rd base both defense and offense suffered. When he moved back to SS both improved greatly. Any stats to back me up? I think if he stays at SS, he will have an outstanding year. And if somehow the front office can stop the trend of a new shortstop every year, we should be set for the long term. Any thoughts?

-- Terry4

Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

First, I'm going to let third base coach/fielding guru Brian Butterfield speak on Xander Bogaerts' defense. Here's what he told me for in August.

Bogaerts' early season struggles ultimately helped push the team to sign Drew to play shortstop. Before the decision to sign Drew was made, Butterfield said wholeheartedly that he believed that Bogaerts was trending in the right direction defensively and said that he could stick at the position moving forward. That position for Butterfield has not changed in the three days since Bogaerts' move back to shortstop.

"The biggest thing that we tried to accomplish before he made the move to third was just to get his feet right. Two days of early work or three days of early work, his feet have been right on cue. I'm very pleased with that," Butterfield said. "During the preparation period, sometimes a guy doesn't catch the ball the way he wanted to. The biggest thing that you're trying to accomplish is something from the belt down, and it's there right now. A good start coming back to his old position."

Having seen Bogaerts play at both shortstop and third base for an extended period of time, Butterfield says that Bogaerts looks more comfortable, from a mechanical and footwork standpoint, at shortstop versus third base. Butterfield notes that Bogaerts looked more rigid at third base than he did at shortstop. In what he has seen during batting practice ground balls and during the game, Butterfield says that Bogaerts looks more fluid at his old position, pointing specifically at his ability to approach balls and establish his base throwing the ball more consistently while manning short.

"I've always looked at shortstop as an up-the-funnel, moving-forward-type position. Going from the back of the diamond to the front of the diamond," Butterfield said. "You're going up the funnel to attack the ball while third base is more of a side-to-side, even front-to-back, back-to-front, in order to get the better hops. I call it a zig-zag position at third base. At shortstop, the demands are greater, so you better attack the ball, especially on guys that can run, you better attack the ball and not let it bounce too many times, and get it in the air quickly."

The advanced statistics suggest Bogaerts was a much better defensive shortstop than third baseman. Bogaerts' UZR/150, which calculates runs above average per 150 games, at third base was -29.4. At shortstop, Bogaerts posted a -3.7 UZR/150. Bogaerts' RZR, which calculates "the proportion of balls hit into a fielders' zone that he successfully converted into an out" (Hardball Times), at third base was .560. At shortstop, Bogaerts' RZR was .794. Bogaerts' defense at shortstop, for both the eye and statistic test, was better at shortstop than at third base.

The Red Sox want to give Bogaerts a chance at shortstop: a chance to develop consistency and a routine. The team has bungled around with Bogaerts too much the last couple of years. The shortstop continually told me last year that the moves around the diamond didn't effect his state of mind, but it's not hard to imagine that it could have possible played a role in the 22-year-old's offensive inconsistencies. Bogaerts is the shortstop for the 2015. That is that.

I think that perspective shifted within the organization in the last couple of months of the season. Workman doesn't really have the arsenal to be a consistent starting pitching at the major league level. Given Workman's size, I think that it's likely that the pitcher ends up in the bullpen by season's end, if not out of Spring Training.

If you want to intentionally walk someone, why do you actually have to do the four mile-wide throws?Surely dropping that requirement is the easiest way to speed up the game at no cost?

-- Rostock0

You have a great point, but then I remembered this.

What a damn great baseball player.

Cornell is better than Harvard. Explain why.

-- On To Lansdowne Street

73-61-9, Cornell. End. Of. Story.


My friends at school call me a hipster, something I will deny until I go to the grave (They cite my knit ties, Ray Ban Wayfarers and my record player, blah, blah, blah). If you haven't heard of The Decemberists, it's a shame, because they freaking rule. Their new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World comes out next week and the songs released thus far are sublime.

Watched Foxcatcher on Thursday night: Channing Tatum was the best of the trio of main actors. Thought the story had so much potential, but the way that the script was written, there was not nearly enough backstory done on John du Pont, who clearly had a ton going on that just was not explored enough. Sad story, but the film could've been a lot better than it was, given the true story behind the Schultz brothers and du Pont.

I will not rest until justice is served for the Academy snubbing The Lego Movie for Oscar nominations.