Red Sox Mailbag: Statistical Oddities, Theo Epstein’s Future and Love for Alfredo Aceves


Red Sox Mailbag: Statistical Oddities, Theo Epstein's Future and Love for Alfredo Aceves As the Red Sox attempt to figure out a way, any way, to beat the Rangers, we offer up the latest edition of the Red Sox mailbag. Unfortunately, there are no answers on how to win in Arlington.

1. Tony, I am going to the game on Sunday against Oakland. Who do you expect to pitch for that game?
— Matt Poirier

A nice softball question to start things off. Erik Bedard is lined up to make that start for Boston. It looks as though Brandon McCarthy will be on the mound for Oakland. Have fun!

2. Tony, with the way the Red Sox are handling Jacoby Ellsbury's injury from Friday night, is it a direct result of what happened last year and they want to seek as many opinions just to get it right this time?
— Matthew Wilson

I don't think there is a direct correlation. As much as the offense has suffered of late, the Red Sox are not in any situation to get desperate with injured players. They can give Ellsbury and David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew the time they need to get right, just to make sure everyone is healthy when the games mean a whole lot more. I think that's all this was. Ellsbury gave indications he was ready to go Monday but there was a tough lefty on the mound, so Terry Francona is expected to bring him back Tuesday. We shouldn't read too much into the situation.

3. The Red Sox traded Triple-A catcher Michael McKenry to the Pirates in June for a player to be named later, and traded Mike Cameron to the Marlins in July for a player to be named later. Have they received either player to be named later yet?
— Neal

Not yet, but I heard Andrew McCutchen and Mike Stanton are likely headed this way. I kid. In actuality, the teams have six months to finish those transactions and the return will probably be a minor leaguer from an agreed-to list, or cash.

4. Hi Tony, I’m a Red Sox fan in "enemy" territory. Ha ha. I heard a report that the Chicago Cubs may go after Theo Epstein for their next GM. What are your thoughts on that idea? What would you say is the possibility?
— Eric

With an aging, but iconic ballpark that is undergoing massive renovations and a rabid fan base, the Cubs are hoping to undergo a transformation similar to the one the Red Sox had under Epstein and the current ownership. Epstein is reportedly under contract through 2012, has a strong working relationship with the owners and Terry Francona and has a young family growing up in his hometown. I wouldn't count on any moves to Chicago, even though the Cubs would probably love to lure him away.

5. Tony, a couple weeks ago I was watching the Baseball Show. A fan had asked Lou Merloni that if the Red Sox were contacted by Seattle’s GM about trading Felix Hernandez for Jacoby Ellsbury and one or two prospects, Lou said he would do it in a heartbeat. I, for one, would NOT trade Ellsbury, not with the monster season he is having. Yet, the Sox still have him for two more years before he hits free agency. I just hope Theo can sign him to a long-term deal like J.D. Drew — Jacoby right now is well worth $14 million a year. When was the last time an outfielder threw out an arm? Looking at all the pitchers over the last year to have Tommy John surgery, what is your take on this?
— Dan

I can't speak for the great Lou Merloni, but perhaps the discussion centered on the fact that the rotation is not at its strongest point right now. Hernandez is one of those unique talents that can lead a rotation for years to come. He would not come cheap, however. On top of getting rid of Ellsbury and prospects, the Sox would owe him nearly $60 million for the next three years. With plenty of cash already tied up in the rotation, I'm not so sure that's a road the organization wants to go down.

6. At the beginning of the season I saw the Red Sox starting rotation as one of their biggest strengths. Now, as I look towards the playoffs I am reminded of the old Boston Braves pitching mantra (Spahn and Sain and pray for rain), except substitute Beckett and Lester. Is that how you see it?
— George Wibberly

That is one of my father's favorite refrains, so thanks for the reminder. Personally, I think we tend to overrate starting pitching in the postseason, just a tad. That may sound like a crazy statement, but just know that one bad outing by your ace and all those best-laid plans can go in the toilet. You still need to hit the ball, catch the ball and put forth a bullpen that can slam the door.

Teams have won it all with thin staffs before, and others with loaded rotations have fallen short. There are no guarantees. Saying that, the absence of Clay Buchholz could loom incredibly large. Just be happy you have a Beckett and a Lester. Not every contender can boast two frontline guys like that. One, perhaps, but not two.

Beckett and Lester and you soon will fester. No good?

7. I was watching the game last night. One Kansas City batter had a lower on-base percentage than batting average? How could that happen?
— David

I’m not exactly sure which player that was, but that can happen with batters who have a small number of plate appearances. Sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies count as a plate appearance without reaching base, so if you have several of those and no walks or hit by pitches, you could see this scenario play out. Imagine having five hits in 10 at-bats, with no walks and two sac bunts. You’re batting .500, but your OBP is .417.

The Royals lead the AL in both sac bunts and sac flies.

8. I think the sox have it all this season just a few kinks help me haha if yu think Im wrong
— Deborah

These are my readers, before the editing process begins.

9. Hi, I had trouble finding "Tony’s Mailbag" due to all the "Best Memory" articles on the NESN website. Use those muscles and let NESN know they need to create a separate section on the mobile site for these "memory" articles. They are not headlines. By the way, who do you think will be MVP in both leagues this year?
— Brenda Lyman

Duly noted, Brenda, and thanks for mentioning my biceps. They’re huge these days. If I had a vote today, my AL MVP is Jose Bautista, just narrowly over Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Jacoby Ellsbury's in there somewhere and has a chance to climb that ladder. It’s a close race though.

For the NL, I like Ryan Braun over teammate Prince Fielder. If you’re going the route of a non-contender, such as I did with Bautista, Matt Kemp is a pretty good option.

10. Hey Tony. Have there been any updates on Daisuke Matsuzaka lately?
— Danielle

He is working out in Fort Myers at the player development complex and still hopes to be in the mix for a rotation spot next season.

11. What are the chances that the Red Sox put Alfredo Aceves in the rotation next year rather than his hybrid position?
— Kevin

A lot can change between now and March, so it’s tough to tell. One factor in that decision-making process lies in whether Tim Wakefield is with the team next year or not. If Wakefield retires, Aceves could come into camp as that "No. 6 starter," which as we know will always see his fair share of opportunities to be in the rotation. For now, he’s an incredibly important component for a team that continues to rank 11th in the AL in terms of innings per start (6.02).

12. I heard that a Mets executive said that the Red Sox were among the three teams most likely to go after Jose Reyes in free agency. Do think the Sox will try for Reyes or another big free agent with all the money coming off the books?
— Dave "The Burger" Lindberg

When asked about Reyes as a trade option in July, I repeatedly said it was not a possibility. I'm not so sure that remains the case if he is a free agent. The shortstop position will once again be in a state of flux heading into 2012. Marco Scutaro could return (he has a $3 million option if the team does not exercise its own, or he could take a buyout and become a free agent), Jed Lowrie is still under team control and Jose Iglesias remains a highly rated prospect. However, if Iglesias is still not ready and the market is somewhat favorable to the teams, perhaps the Red Sox get in on Reyes.

Thing is, the market may be very favorable for Reyes, despite his injury issues. There just aren't a ton of elite shortstops out there. Also, remember that the Red Sox will see a massive spike in Adrian Gonzalez's contract as well as Carl Crawford's in 2012. Lester, Pedroia and Buchholz all get raises as well. And some of the guys coming off the books (Ortiz, Papelbon) may be re-signed. There just might not be as much money laying around as people think.

13. Everyone loves talking about the unsung hero, right? To me, no one is fulfilling that role better than Alfredo Aceves. Is there anyone else that you can think of?
— Jackson

If I had to choose one other guy to put in that category, it’s the captain. There is no way to quantify what Jason Varitek's presence has meant to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but I can guarantee it has been immense. And if you classify Saltalamacchia's development as one of the real bright spots for this team, then you have to include Varitek as an unsung hero, even if he's already had a rather starry career.

14. Do MLB rules allow a pitcher currently in the game to be the designated hitter as well?
— Jimmy Zezuski

Nope. The pitcher can slide into the designated hitter’s spot in the order if the DH is replaced by someone who then takes a position, but at that point you have lost the DH.  It’s the pitcher and eight position players, just like the NL. For instance, if Darnell McDonald runs for Ortiz and then slides into left field, the pitcher hits in Ortiz's spot. McDonald would hit in the spot of the former left fielder.

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