Fear the Beards
Hah, OK, now that I’ve written this, I’m sure to have put the jinx on the Scruffy Sox. I always do. I’m bad luck.
It won’t be the Red Sox’s scruffy beards that will get them deep into the postseason, though they are cute, sort of. Well, most of the beard are kind of ugly. I think Mike Napoli looks a little bit like Leonidis in “300.” The only one who really has an attractive beard is Shane Victorino, I think.
The Red Sox weren’t supposed to be any good this year; they were supposed to be in a rebuilding year. In fact, this team was built on a bunch of one-year free agent contracts, so next year’s Red Sox won’t look anything like this team, especially considering that Jacoby Ellsbury will likely leave as a free agent. Victorino is the only guy signed for more than 2 years (and he was signed for just three years).
Looking at this year’s team and why they were so much better than last year’s team. Obviously, their pitching was a lot better. The Red Sox really took off when they got Jake Peavy, who went 4-1 down the stretch. Clay Buchholz also had a remarkable year at 12-1 (.923 winning percentage) and Jon Lester bounced back after an awful season to go 15-8. Even Ryan Dempster and John Lackey, who had losing records both had good ERAs.
And the Red Sox weren’t lucky, either. David Ortiz, Ellsbury and Victorino all got hurt at various times of the year. And they lost their No.1 closer, then lost their No. 2 closer and were looking at a total disaster in their bullpen, but they found a diamond in the rough by making Koji Uehera into a closer. He went 4-1 and had an ERA of 1.09 with 21 saves.
But, I think it was a lot of scary balance up and down the lineup. The Red Sox force pitchers to throw a lot of pitches, draw a lot of walks and usually get into other team’s bullpens by the fifth or sixth inning — even if the opposing pitcher is having a good game. And most team’s bullpens are just not that good, and that’s where the Red Sox have been doing a lot of their damage this year.
Here is an interesting and scary statistic about the Scruffy Sox. The Red Sox are not a particularly powerful team — they hit 178 home runs, but they had 8 guys who hit 10 or more home runs and 11 guys who hit 9 or more home runs. 11. There’s only 9 players on the field at a time!
And on top of 11 guys with 9 or more home runs, they had 11 guys with 40 or more RBIs and 7 guys who hit between .294 and .309. Talk about balance. Even back in the steroid days, teams didn’t have 11 guys with 9 or more home runs. And a couple of these guys — Mike Carp and Daniel Nava — were career minor leaguers who never got a chance before to play in the Majors. That’s team baseball.
Look at these remarkable stats. Other than Ortiz, none of these stats are great, but incredibly consistent:
David Ortiz .309 30 103
Daniel Nava .303 12 66
Dustin Pedroia .301 9 84
Jacoby Ellsbury .298 9 53
Michael Carp .296 9 43
Shane Victorino .294 15 61
Jarrod Saltalamacchia .273 14 65
Mike Napoli .259 23 92
Stephen Drew .253 13 67
Johnny Gomes .247 13 52
Will Middlebrooks .227 17 49
300-game winner update
Well, unfortunately, no 300-game candidate came out of the blue to make me look good this year. It looks like Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon might be right. (Remember, I took offence to Kenheiser and Wilbon saying there would NEVER be a 300-game winner again). All the 300-game candidates had bad seasons this year and are making Wilbon and Kornheiser look good and make me look bad.
Here are the candidates:
. 2013 ERA Total wins Age
CC Sabathia 14-13 4.78 205 33
Tim Hudson 8-7 3.97 205 38
Roy Halladay 4-5 6.82 203 36
Mark Beurhle 12-10 4.15 186 35
Justin Verlander 13-12 3.46 137 31
Felix Hernandez 12-10 3.04 110 28
So, out of that group, Sabathia still has a very valid chance of getting to 300. He is still only 33, and if he stays healthy, could pitch another 8 seasons. He would only have to average 12 wins a year over 8 years to get to 300. But, look at Sabathia’s ERA — 4.78. He might be losing his stuff.
Hudson was having a good year and probably would have won 13-14 games, but he broke his ankle, and I think that ends his chances to get to 300. Halladay had his second straight injury-plagued year and might be near the end of his career. Beurhle is too mediocre of a pitcher to get to 300. He hasn’t won more than 13 games since 2008.
Verlander had an off-year for him, but at 31, he is still young enough to do it. He’d have to pitch another 11 injury-free years and average exactly 15 wins a year. The same with Hernandez, he’s still young. But, look at his numbers last year. He went 12-10 and 9 no-decisions and had a very solid ERA of 3.04. Why? Because he was pitching for a terrible team that went 71-91 (and let’s face it, the only reason Seattle won 71 games is because they got to play 19 games against 51-111 Houston). For a lot of teams, he would have won 15-20 games. I said at the beginning of the year, Hernandez will never get anywhere near 300 wins pitching for a bad team like Seattle his whole career.
Todd Helton a Hall of Famer?
Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera all retired this year. What are their chances for the Hall of Fame?
Well, Mariano will get in on his first ballot and might get in unanimously. He was simply the best closer in the history of baseball, and his record of 652 saves might never be broken — you’d have to average 42 saves a year for 16 years to get there (even though we think saves are a vastly overrated stat).
Pettitte is a little tougher. He won 20 games twice, won more than 10 games 16 times, won 256 games and has the all-time record of 19 wins in the postseason. I would say he probably gets in the Hall of Fame except for one thing — his admission of doing HGH. That’s usually a dealbreaker with HOF voters. I think that will hurt him a lot in the balloting.
Now, Helton is someone I’ve heard very little buzz about for the Hall of Fame, but he put together some remarkable numbers over the course of his career. Helton batted .316 for his career, had an outstanding on-base percentage of .414 and OPS of .953. He hit 367 home runs and drove in 1,406 runs, and had 2,519 hits. Six times he hit more than 30 home runs and 8 times he had more than 90 RBIs, and he batted over. 300 12 times. He also won one batting title (.372) and three gold gloves. Add to that 11 times with 37 or more doubles and 592 doubles all time.
Helton is 26th all-time in on-base percentage, 20th all time in OPS and 16th all-time in doubles.
Wow, that is all a pretty darn good argument for the Hall of Fame. But one thing that will hurt him is he played during the steroid era, and that will cost him votes. Just playing during the steroid era will cost players votes (ask Craig Biggio). Plus, he played in Colorado, which has a tendency to inflate statistics. (He did have an embarrassing DUI arrest this year. But, DUIs don’t keep guys out of the HofF.)
Helton won’t get in on the first ballot, but I think short of direct evidence of steroid use, he deserves to go into the Hall of Fame, as does Biggio. You can’t keep guys out purely because of the era in which they played.