- Amazing Game: The BoSox have been in many amazing games this postseason, but only one will continue to be dissected decades from now. With Grady Little taking his seat in the Pantheon of Shame, the story to watch this winter will be whether he’s employed by Boston or not.
How unlikely, though, was the Red Sox collapse? How often does a team blow a three-run lead with 7 1/3 innings in the books? We looked at all regular season games from 1972-2003, and compiled some results:
- Visitors have three-run lead with one out in the 8th inning, 1972-2003: 6281-445 W-L (.934 winning percentage)
- Visitors have three-run lead with one out in the 8th inning, starter still in game, 1972-2003: 1849-114 (.942)
- Visitors lead 5-2 with 1 out in 8th inning, 1972-2003: 1380-99 (.933)
- Visitors lead 5-2 with 1 out in 8th inning, starter still in game, 1972-2003: 411-29 (.934)
Surprisingly, during the regular season, teams in the game situation the Red Sox faced still managed to blow the game about one time in 15–more often that it might have seemed on the night of October 16.
- Looking Backward To Look Forward: With their season officially over, one of big questions looming for the Red Sox heading into 2004 is how close their offense can come to repeating. Few expect to match the historically prolific production of 2003 (setting all-time records in slugging percentage and extra base hits, among other feats), but how far out of line were the individual players from what we might expect? BP’s PECOTA system can help us answer the question. PECOTA produces a range of forecasts for each player, based on how likely they are to produce at a certain level. By looking at where each player’s season ranked against their PECOTA distribution, we can see how extreme the team’s performance was:
PECOTA P Name EqA Percent (Percentile & EqA Range) C Jason Varitek .293 > 90% 1B Kevin Millar .283 44% (40-50%: .279-.289) 2B Todd Walker .265 63% (60-75%: .262-.275) 3B Bill Mueller .317 > 90% SS Nomar Garciaparra .296 27% (25-40%: .295-.303) LF Manny Ramirez .341 57% (50-60%: .333-.345) CF Johnny Damon .270 29% (25-40%: .266-.280) RF Trot Nixon .325 > 90% DH David Ortiz .316 > 90%
(Note: PECOTA percentiles are given for 10, 25, 40, 50, 60, 75, and 90%. Where a player’s EqA fell between two of these points, the exact percentiles were linearly interpolated, which, while not strictly accurate, is good enough for our purposes here.)
Four of the nine players starting by the end of the season exceeded the 90th percentile of what PECOTA expected of them this year. Almost half the starting lineup were playingout of their mind, in PECOTA’s eyes. If these players collectively give back even half the unexpected gain seen this year, the offense will take a significant hit. Two other starters, Manny Ramirez and Todd Walker, were well above the 50th percentile.
Only three starters were below the median projection, and one of them, Kevin Millar, was within spitting distance of doing so, despite playing setting a career high for playing time. Nomar Garciaparra‘s season at a 27th percentile looks poor, and is the low among the starters. However, Nomar’s previous consistency made the ranges of his PECOTA forecast unusually narrow; just eight EqA between his 25% and 40% levels. Johnny Damon split the EqA difference between his 2001 and 2002 season almost exactly in half, and while PECOTA expected a bit better, his season can’t be considered a disappointment.
The 2003 Red Sox were a team with no significant down seasons among the starting lineup, and four out of nine having career or fluke years. While the offense will still be a strength in 2004, it can not be expected to carry the team the way it did in 2003, and Theo Epstein should give some careful consideration to who may be at the peak of their trade value (or more accurately, the peak of their gap between their perceived value and actual value).
Who Will Lead Us?: Job One in Cincinnati is replacing Jim Bowden on a permanent basis. The short list that reportedly went 75 deep has been whittled down to three top candidates. In order, these are:
- Montreal GM Omar Minaya
- Texas Asst. GM Dan O’Brien
- Minnesota Asst. GM Wayne Krivsky
Minaya, being the only GM on the list, is the current leader according to the local media. At age 44, Minaya would escape Montreal for warmer, more baseball-friendly climes. His time in Montreal is difficult to judge due to financial constraints and the refusal of MLB to allow him to complete some of the trades he negotiated. His round trade of Bartolo Colon is looked at as failure, but he filled a team adequately, giving Frank Robinson room to work some magic. Minaya’s background in scouting along with a stint as Assistant GM with the Mets gives him a complete resume, but that resume may have a pricetag attached that Carl Lindner won’t like. Seattle and the Mets are both interested in Minaya, which could leave the Reds taking the usual cheap leftovers they put on the field.
Dan O’Brien, like Minaya, comes from a Ranger organization that has served as something of a training ground. O’Brien’s father was a GM, also with Texas, and he has a background that includes scouting, contract negotiation, and player development. Sources from the Reds indicate that O’Brien’s reputation suffers somewhat by being overshadowed by Grady Fuson in the past two years, but O’Brien is perhaps more thoroughly qualified than the other candidates. People unfailingly use words like “honest” and “integrity” when describing O’Brien, the former Rhodes scholar is also among the smarter front office types in the game. Making it this far in the process indicates he’s been personable enough so far with John Allen and Carl Lindner. Note to GM Wannabes: O’Brien attended Rollins College in Florida, the alma mater of Jim Bowden and Dan O’Dowd.
The final candidate–surprise!–also has a pedigree that includes a stint with Texas. Once the Rangers scouting director, Wayne Krivsky is now responsible for contract negotiations for the prospect-laden, small-market Twins. He also does a great deal of major league scouting and his 27 years of experience lead this pack of candidates. The oldest in the group at 49, Krivsky understands the Twins system of player development and the tight budget the franchise has operated under while becoming successful. It’s this more than anything that has him in contention for the position since it’s the Twins, more than anyone else, that the Reds hope to emulate.
Sources in Cincinnati and Montreal indicate that the job has been or will be offered–it’s a bit unclear–to Minaya, but at a price well below what former GM Bowden made and certainly below what the Mariners or Mets could afford. Some even raise the possibility that the paucity of options might lead Minaya to simply stay in Montreal… or Monterrey… or wherever the soon-to-be-announced split schedule sends the prodigal PQ’s. The Newark Star-Ledger is currently reporting that Minaya has accepted the position of President of the Mets, sharing power over baseball operations with current interim GM Jim Duquette.
The Reds will almost assuredly end up with the last empty chair in the annual front office musical chairs game. Luckily, their remaining choices are pretty solid, but neither has an easy road ahead. One trait the next Reds GM will need is masochism
- Happy Trails: Padres catcher Gary Bennett was apparently shocked to find himself lumped in with Joe Roa and Luther Hackman as players the Padres have no interest in for 2004. San Diego outrighted all three after the season ended.
We’ve talked about the Padres’ numerous options–none of them named Brad Ausmus, hopefully–all year, but with Bennett’s departure and Jonah Keri’s Q&A with Padres GM Kevin Towers, we’ve got some additional information to work with. In Part I of the interview, Towers mentions that he’s looking at trading for a catcher for 2004.
I’ll say that we’re looking at two or three guys on other clubs, two AL guys, one NL guy. All three play for three of the eight playoff clubs.
Here are our guesses as to who Towers is referring to:
- A.J. Pierzynski, Twins, .312/.360/.464, .098 MLVr, 30.7 VORP in 2003
As a 26-year-old coming off a season when he raised his career average above .300, you’d think Pierzynski wouldn’t be available, but the Twins are in cost-cutting mode, which puts Pierzynski in play. It also helps that the Twins have Joe Mauer, who might be the best prospect in the game right now. Mauer batted a combined .338 with doubles power and patience for Double-A Fort Myers and Single-A New Britain this year.
As a temp, the Twins also have Matt LeCroy, who should prove perfectly adequate until Mauer is ready, and there are a ton of short-term backup options–like Bennett–available to them. On their end of the deal, the Twins wouldn’t be interested in Xavier Nady, but the Padres could offer some reasonable minor-league pitching properties.
- Ramon Hernandez, Athletics, .273/.331/.458, .088 MLVr, 30.3 VORP
Hernandez is a tougher one, but the Yankees certainly aren’t going to be moving Jorge Posada and you’d think the same was true of the Red Sox and Jason Varitek. With Oakland, it’s always easy to chalk a rumor like this up to salary. Hernandez is signed for $3.5 million for 2004, and the A’s might be looking to go with Adam Melhuse, sign a veteran caddy, and spend the remainder somewhere else on the diamond. He’s only 27 and is coming off his best season with the bat, so it’s reasonable to hope that he has another season of improvement in him.
Since they are without the Twins’ value pack of outfield prospects, the A’s might be willing to take Nady in exchange for Hernandez.
- Ramon Castro, Marlins, .283/.333/.604, .321 MLVr, 6.9 VORP
This is the easy one, since the Padres have been interested in Castro all year and almost traded for him at the deadline. With Ivan Rodriguez‘ productive regular season and postseason heroics, there’s a very good chance he’s back in Florida next year, which gives the Marlins some freedom to explore moving Castro. One thing is clear: he won’t come as cheaply as he would have at the deadline, when Rondell White was the other player in the rumored deal–the Marlins will be have significant leverage in any Castro deal, and should exploit his affordability and youth. Castro’s extracurricular problems may counteract that to some degree, but they certainly don’t make him a more desirable player.
Any of these guys, as well as eminently-available Jason Kendall, would be a large upgrade over the sucking hole the Padres ran out behind the plate in 2003, so you’ve got to like their chances to improve their catching situation markedly before next season begins.
- A.J. Pierzynski, Twins, .312/.360/.464, .098 MLVr, 30.7 VORP in 2003