Sox can expect good old days with Crawford

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Sox can expect good old days with Crawford

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Before the Red Sox gave Carl Crawford a seven-year, 142 million deal, they made sure to do their homework.

The club had special assistant Allard Baird trail Crawford over the second half of the 2010 season, hoping to gain some insight. While Baird was providing more traditional scouting reports, the Sox also had consultant Bill James, the preeminent sabermatrician, provide some detailed statistical analysis.

Recognizing that a long-term deal would be necessary to land Crawford, the Red Sox wanted to know what James could uncover about how well players who base their games on speed age as they get into their mid-30s.

(Crawford's seven-year deal will have him playing out the final year of his contract with the Sox at 36.)

James has written extensively about the topic before. Without disclosing the specific details of his study on Crawford, which looked into athletic players and their late-in-career productivity, he described highlights of his past research on the subject.

"As players age," James relayed in an e-mail, "their hitting skills decline and their speed decreases, which creates a kind of pincer movement that ultimately snaps careers. The number one thing that drives players out of the game is the loss of hitting skill, but the number two thing is the loss of speed.

"As players slow down they become less able to play the key defensive positions -- center, right, shortstop -- and get pushed toward the positions for slower players, which are also the positions for big hitters. THE thing that drives them out of the game is not the loss in hitting ability in absolute terms. There are dozens of 37-year-old first basemen who could still hit enough to play -- if they could play the outfield. When their speed drops below a certain level, they're no longer able to play the outfield at a decent level, no longer able to hit enough to be a cleanup hitter, and they're gone.

"Well, visualize speed on a zero-to-ten scale, and assume that you're forced out of the game as soon as your speed drops below the level '3' or '4'. If one player starts out at '9' and the other one starts at '5', which one drops below '4' first? Of course (it would be the player who starts at '5')."

Looking at speed-based players from 1980 to the present, James found that a number of them -- including Gary Redus, Gary Pettis, Eric Young and Eddie Milner -- were out of the game at a relatively early age, their value having dissipated, at least in part, because they couldn't run as well as they once did.

But James also came up with a list of such players who had other strengths, as well -- on-base ability and extra-base power, specifically -- and found that those players aged particularly well.

"Rickey Henderson hit .315 with 37 stolen bases at the age of 40," James wrote. "Paul Molitor had 225 hits at the age of 39, hit .300 again at age 40. Craig Biggio hit 21 homers at the age of 40. Barry Bonds, as we know . . . well, let's not reference Bonds. Brett Butler played 105 games and hit .283 at the age of 40. Even Ron Gant, although you wouldn't think of him as aging well, hit .262 with 18 homers at the age of 37. Kirk Gibson hit 23 homers at the age of 37. Ken Griffey (Senior) played 106 games at the age of 39, and hit .300 as a part-time player at the age of 40. Kenny Lofton hit .296 and played 136 games at the age of 40. Larry Walker hit .298 at age 36, .289 at age 37, with power, although his wheels were gone."

Crawford appears to be the kind of player who fits into the latter group as he approaches his 30s.

For one thing, he recorded a career-best .495 slugging percentage in 2010. Correspondingly, he also posted career highs in homers (19), RBI (90) and had his second-highest total bases figure (297, just shy of his career-best 302 in 2005). Also, his on-base percentages in each of the last two seasons -- .364 in 2009, .356 in 2010 -- were higher than any in the first seven years of his career.

Moreover, Crawford won his first Gold Glove in 2010. While Gold Globe voting is highly subjective and, at times, seemingly hopelessly ill-informed (see: Jeter, Derek, and Palmeiro, Rafael) and not based on advanced defensive metrics, there's little evidence to suggest that, as he approaches 30, Crawford is slipping as an outfielder. For instance, Crawford's range factor per nine innings was 2.30 for 2010; his career range factor, meanwhile, sits at a nearly identical 2.31.

The tentative plan is for Crawford to hit third in the Red Sox lineup, which means his stolen-base total will continue to fall some while his run production skills could improve -- especially given the ballpark and the quality of the lineup.

"Nothing is 100, of course; all groups of players have washouts," James wrote. "Speed players age better, as a group, than any other group of players except what could be called the Adrian GonzalezDavid OrtizTed WilliamsJim Thome group -- the guys who are such tremendous hitters that even when they're not the same, they're plenty good enough.

"If you hit like those guys do, you're not forced out of the game until your speed reaches a very, very low level, like '1' on a 10-point scale. If you don't hit THAT much, like normal human beings don't, then you're forced out of the game when your speed reached '4' or '5'. The question of 'How fast does the player run?' is very closely related to the question of 'How long is his leash?' "

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Saturday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups - Ortiz returns

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Saturday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups - Ortiz returns

David Ortiz is back in the starting lineup after a night off and Chris Young is in left field for the Red Sox in the second game of their three-game weekend series in Toronto.

The Blue Jays won the opener 7-5 behind two home runs from Josh Donaldson. Rick Porcello (7-2, 3.47 ERA) is on the mound for the Red Sox, opposed by the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman (5-1, 3.89).

The lineups: 

RED SOX 
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Rick Porcello RHP

BLUE JAYS
Jose Bautista RF
Josh Donaldson 3B
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Michael Saunders LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Russell Martin C
Devon Travis 2B
Darwin Barney SS
Kevin Pillar CF
---
Marcus Stroman LHP 

Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

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Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “He had quality stuff, but the story of this one is not being able to contain (Josh) Donaldson. Big night for him . . . I though Joe had quality stuff . . . [He] wasn’t as sharp with the overall location as he was the first time out for us.” John Farrell on Joe Kelly’s second start since his return from the disabled list.

 

* “He’s such a good player and does it in critical moments.” Farrell on Josh Donaldson after his two-homerun, 4-5 performance for Toronto.

 

* “He throws hard and has a lot of sink on his ball. Not much you can do with it. Just try to put it in play and see what happens.” Xander Bogaerts on facing Toronto’s start Aaron Sanchez.

 

* “Bottom line is the results. I think there’s been a strong precedent set with that,” Farrell before the game on moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen to make room for Eduardo Rodriguez.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Following Friday night’s performance, Josh Donaldson is now 12-20 in his career against Joe Kelly with a double, two home runs and nine RBIs.

 

* The Red Sox’ five runs brings their season total to 38 on the road, averaging 3.8 per game through ten road games. At home, Boston has averaged 7.8 runs through 18 games.

 

* Despite a rough start, Joe Kelly still didn’t record a loss. He hasn’t been on the wrong side of a decision since 7/22/15.

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his streak to 20 games in his second at-bat against Aaron Sanchez. Boston’s shortstop now has the longest active streak in the league.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Josh Donaldson

Toronto’s third baseman dominated not only Joe Kelly, but Koji Uehara, launching two balls over the fence in a 4-5 day.

 

2) Aaron Sanchez

Although he got tired late, Toronto’s starter only had three earned runs through 6.2 innings against one of the most potent offenses in the league.

 

3) Xander Bogaerts

After teammate Jackie Bradley, Jr. saw his streak die Thursday night, Bogaerts squeaked one up the middle, bringing his streak to 20 games, against a starter who’s caused problems for him before.

First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

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First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

First impressions of Red Sox 7-5 loss to Toronto:

 

Joe Kelly still has to prove he can be trusted to start for the Red Sox.

With the demotion of Clay Buchholz to the bullpen after Kelly’s lockdown start in his return from the DL, Kelly went back to his old ways.

After mixing pitches well in his first outing, Kelly threw 94 pitches -- 70 fastballs -- in 4.2 innings. In his previous start, he threw 66 fastballs over 104 pitches.

That approach won’t fly, especially if his fastball command is as subpar as it was against Toronto.

The Blue Jays’ batters seemed very comfortable in the box, despite Kelly throwing as hard as he does with so much movement. That can’t become the norm for opposing hitters.

 

The Red Sox offense can handle any starting pitcher -- but they can’t do it alone.

After Jon Gray shut down Boston in the final game of the Colorado series, Red Sox hitters faced a familiar foe that had already had success against them earlier in the year in Aaron Sanchez.

Despite using his curveball much more than his start earlier in the season, Boston’s hitters made adjustments. He did hold them down for much of the early going, but Red Sox hitters still scraped out four runs in his seven innings.

But the pitching staff didn’t hold up it’s end, essentially letting Josh Donaldson beat Boston by himself.

 

Xander Bogaerts made sure Sanchez didn’t ruin the streak.

Now hitting safely through 20 games, Bogaerts extended his streak against the starter who had him baffled when they faced off earlier in the year. The biggest difference from their last matchups was Bogaerts put good swings in against Sanchez mistakes -- and he didn’t appear off-balance after every swing.

 

Matt Barnes will not be Carson Smith’s replacement in 2016.

Despite his upper 90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, Barnes still can’t put together dominant appearances. His lack of command -- with a straight fastball -- is the big reason. Boston will have to look elsewhere -- internally or from another organization -- to give the bullpen another reliable set-up man given Koji Uehara’s age and durability.

 

The baseball gods are on Boston’s side -- for now.

As if Jose Bautista sitting out after appealing an earlier suspension wasn’t enough, the Red Sox scored their first run without a hit. Then the red Sox tied the game in the eighth on an error, after Dustin Pedroia had reach on a double that landed because Michael Saunders and Kevin Pillar had a communication breakdown.