October 23, 2013
The Lineup Card
12 Moves That Helped the Cardinals and Red Sox Win the Pennants
1. The Red Sox Pull Off "The Nick Punto Trade"
None of the players the Sox received contributed meaningfully to the team this year, of course. Loney signed with the Rays in the offseason, DeJesus and Sands were dealt to the Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan trade, and De La Rosa and Webster performed poorly in 41 2/3 MLB innings.
But, as we all know, the Red Sox shed $260 million in payroll in their deal with L.A., including $58.25 million in 2013 alone, according to Cot’s.
That’s a big part of the reason Boston was able to acquire Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, and Ryan Dempster in the offseason, and may have contributed to Dustin Pedroia’s new long-term deal as well.
Perhaps the simplest way to look at it: the four players sent to L.A. registered 5.1 WARP this season. The six players Boston signed accounted for 14.0 WARP.
2. The Red Sox Hire Ben Cherington
3. The Red Sox Trade Away Marginal Pitcher George H. Ruth
The Red Sox got the better end of that deal as Ruth only logged five wins and 31 innings in a Yankee uniform. Clearly, his declining win totals showed that he had lost #TWTW. But it looks like the Sawx may have acted too late. Ruth had only won nine games in his final season in Boston, so he had likely lost #TWTW and was no longer interested in pitching to the score. It may have had an effect on his teammates and those who came after him as well. Ted Williams was a fine hitter, but did not hit to the score, as he was never a World Series champion. Bill Buckner did not know how to field to the score. Additionally, Ruth's apparent penchant for chicken and beer (and in Prohibition America, no less!) suggested a lack of #want and it seemed to set a precedent in the clubhouse that lingered for years. It should be noted that Ruth probably displayed a fair amount of #rig.
Something had to be done. The Red Sox had to make a commitment to excellence and embrace an organization-wide philosophy: The Red Sock Way. And so, on that fateful January day in 1920 that the Red Sox clearly said, "If we are going to make it to the 2013 World Series, we need to get rid of this bum." It took them a while to undo the damage he had done, but echoes of the "Trade Ruth" strategy are still evident. In 2012, the Red Sox executed a similar gigantic salary dump trade that cleared payroll to sign key players Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, and also put on the stage show No, No, Bobby Valentine. They finally got rid of everyone on the team who had ever drank beer or tasted anything like chicken. But most of all, they finally restored #TWTW. Solving a problem can be hard and it may take a while. It might hurt in the short term. And medium term. And come to think of it, I guess the whole "86 years" thing qualifies as the long term. But in the really really long term, they got it right. Trading George H. Ruth is one of those moves that smart organizations make that turn them into contenders. —Russell A. Carleton
4. The Red Sox Extend David Ortiz
He never did get hurt, and 2013 was further proof that the decline after the second championship was the fluke, not the three good years that followed. Ortiz hit .309/.395/.564 in 2013 and hit the grand slam that prevented a down-0-2 return to Detroit in the LCS. This is not to advocate suddenly for big-money deals for aging first base/DH players, but the Red Sox kept this one reasonable, and it certainly answers the question of moves that helped them get to where they’ll be tonight. —Zachary Levine
5. The Red Sox Get Healthy
What prompted the uptick in team health? The team’s medical department has been in constant flux in recent years, with doctors, trainers, and strength coaches being hired and jettisoned at head-spinning speeds. This season, former team internist, Dr. Larry Ronan, was promoted to team medical doctor, which may have given the department some desperately needed stability.
While staff changes probably had a positive impact on player health, a more likely explanation for the team’s medical success is that the Red Sox simply got, for lack of a better term, “luckier.” This is not to say they avoided injuries by any means—staff ace Clay Buchholz only made 16 starts during the regular season. Rather, the type and severity of injuries just happened to break more in the team’s favor. Ortiz, for example, missed a handful of games here and there, as opposed to suffering another season-ending Achilles tear.
These gains in playing time contributed in no small part to the Red Sox’s worst-to-first turnaround in 2013. Granted, free-agent additions like Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli have been invaluable. But as good as they are, it seems hard to believe the Red Sox would be where they are right now with half a season of Ellsbury and Ortiz in a walking boot.
6. The Red Sox Don't Trade Jon Lester
It’s unclear whether the deal was available and the Red Sox turned it down or if things never got past the discussion stage, but either way the Red Sox opted to keep Lester. Sure, having Wil Myers for five more seasons might yet prove more valuable, but for this team right now, they needed Jon Lester. It helped that Lester remembered how to pitch in 2013, putting up a very good if not ace-caliber season. However, outside of June when he lost his mechanics, Lester was the frontline starter the team needed him to be, posting a 3.16 ERA over 185 non-June innings.
He’s been even better in the playoffs, giving up just five runs in 19 1/3 innings. Today, as the Red Sox start off their first World Series since 2007, it’s Lester who will get the ball. It’s cliché, but sometimes the best deals really are the ones you don’t make. —Matthew Kory
7. The Red Sox Sign Stephen Drew
While the Red Sox explored the trade market (they were linked to a few options, most notably Asdrubal Cabrera) they ultimately decided to sign Drew to a one-year, $9.5 million deal. At that price, if he didn’t work out or couldn’t stay healthy, then the Sox could simply move on and try Iglesias anyway.
As it happened, Drew did miss some time with minor injuries. But he also amassed 501 plate appearances, provided better numbers on offense at short than Mike Aviles did in 2012, and gave the team defensive stability on the left side of the infield. He also allowed Boston to stick Iglesias at third base in June when Middlebrooks was struggling, and then gave Boston the flexibility to flip Iglesias to Detroit for some much needed pitching help in Jake Peavy later in the year.
Drew wasn’t a superstar by any stretch, but the 2013 Red Sox constructed a lineup whose goal was to be solid from top to bottom. Drew’s steady play helped to fulfill Boston’s vision. —Mike Gianella
8. The Red Sox Sign Koji Uehara
As is often the case with free-agent relievers, this crop caused several cases of buyer’s remorse. Broxton, Affeldt, Adams, Fujikawa, Burnett, and Myers suffered serious injuries. Soria missed most of the season completing his rehab from an injury he’d already sustained. League was healthy, but horrible. Grilli got hurt and struggled down the stretch, though he earned more than Pittsburgh paid him in the first half alone. The other five—Soriano, Choate, Peralta, Gorzelanny, and, naturally, Mariano Rivera—pitched roughly as well as expected.
Uehara, of course, turned out to be by far the most effective, and one of the winter’s biggest bargains. Nor was his success completely unforeseeable: the righty recorded a 2.35 ERA in 145 games and 145 innings in hitter’s parks from 2010-12, with a 10.8 K:BB ratio that came close to his 11.2 mark in 2013. So why didn’t he make more money? Sam Miller and I asked each other that question on Effectively Wild last December, and we found a few answers: age, a lack of velocity and saves, a history of elbow and shoulder ailments, and a high home-run rate for a late-inning arm. Even so, the Sox were smart to make a short-term move for a guy who’d demonstrated success rather than break the bank on an equally risky and less accomplished arm. No one knew how heavily Boston would come to count on Uehara, who proved to be durable as well as dominant at age 38, but as free-agent relievers go, the control artist was a pretty good gamble. —Ben Lindbergh
9. The Cardinals Put Michael Wacha on the Fast Track
10. The Cardinals Hunt College-Senior Bargains on Draft Day
Now, Carpenter is a darkhorse Most Valuable Player candidate. Craig batted .328 from May 3 through the end of the regular season, which he missed while nursing a foot sprain suffered on September 4, and will return as the designated hitter in the World Series. Adams held down the fort in Craig's absence, helping the Cardinals to secure the senior circuit's top playoff seed, and then to knock off the Pirates and Dodgers for the pennant.
11. The Cardinals Move Utility Man Matt Matt Carpenter to Second Base
As was the case with the Red Sox’ signing of Koji Uehara, there was no way to know that moving Carpenter to second and letting him start would work out this well. In his age-27 season, and his first full one in the majors at any age, Carpenter finished fourth overall with 7.2 WARP. But the process behind the position switch was sound: St. Louis’ scouting suggested that he could handle the position, and his offensive upside was much higher than the team's other options. In light of David Freese’s subpar season and Kolten Wong’s ascension, Carpenter could be on the move again next year; while his bat doesn’t fit the typical corner profile, he'd provide more than enough at the plate to play there. —Ben Lindbergh
12. The Cardinals Extend Yadier Molina