Monday Morning Cram Session, 6/26

The Common Man has no idea what Ben Cherington and the Red Sox think they’ve accomplished by trading Kevin Youkilis.  Yes, he’s 33.  Yes, his presence complicates the depth chart somewhat.  And yes, the Red Sox have a younger, healthier, cheaper, and (for now) better option in Will Middlebrooks to play 3B.  But despite the mounting pressure of the media to resolve the situation, the truth of the matter is that the Red Sox didn’t have to make this move.

Financially, the Red Sox still owed him $6.74 million this year, plus a $1 million buyout, but they apparently sent $5.5 million with him to the White Sox, and brought back at least one Major League player in Brent Lillibridge, meaning they only saved themselves less than a million bucks in 2012. That’s essentially a rounding error to the Red Sox.

Roster wise, sure having Youkilis made it a little awkward.  With Middlebrooks supplanting him, Youk was going to have to pick up time subbing at 1B, 3B, and DH.  And that’s certainly not an effecient use of his talents, assuming he actually gets healthy and starts hitting.  But having too many good players isn’t necessarily a problem, especially when your club is as injury prone as the Sox seem to be. One of nice side-benefits of having a player like Youkilis is his ability to provide depth at multiple positions for the club.

And having a player who is providing only a portion of his potential contributions from off of the bench is better than getting zero production from the players replacing him.  Despite his offensive explosion last year (.258/.340/.505 with 13 homers in 216 plate appearances), Brent Lillibridge is a 28 year old career .215/.283/.358 hitter, whose sunk to .175/.232/.190 in 70 plate appearances this year. That’s an OPS+ of 16. Zach Stewart, the other piece acquired for Youk, is 25 on his fourth organization with a 5.92 ERA in 97.1 innings.  There’s a non-miniscule chance that he’ll be a capable back end starter for a couple years.  But that’s about the best you can hope for out of him.  He certainly hasn’t contributed anything of valuable in 2012.

Finally, this deal doesn’t solve a roster crunch for the Sox.  Yes, Youkilis is not a typical utility player, while Lillibridge fits that mold better.  But Youkilis does provide significant positional flexibility, and the Sox already have a utility infielder who can play in the middle of the diamond and who doesn’t really hit much in Nick Punto.  What’s more, the Sox are going to have to create extra room on both their 25 man and 40 man rosters to accommodate the new guys.

And really, in a season that’s already become a circus for the media, is having Kevin Youkilis hanging around really going to add anything appreciable to the distraction?  Simply holding onto him until the Sox actually got offered something of value for the guy with the 126 career OPS+, or using him in whatever role they could craft for him, is absolutely a viable option, and was the best course in this case.

Meanwhile, the White Sox pick up a great buy-low rental for the rest of 2012 and replace the worst position player in their lineup in Brent Morel (.177/.225/.195, 15 OPS+), and all they have to give up are a couple of guys who have contributed less than nothing to the club this year.  And they did it for less than $1 million extra.  What a terrific deal for Kenny Williams.

Pitcher of the Night: Justin Verlander, 9 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 7 K
As usual, Verlander was on point, pitching his 4th complete game of the year against a completely overmatched Pirates team.  Justin has thrown 1797 pitches so far this year, or 112.3 per start.  That’s actually fewer pitches per start than he threw last year though.  And as @CajoleJuiceEsq pointed out last night, it’s been 68 starts (since June 22, 2010, just over two full seasons) since Verlander has been removed from a game before throwing 100 pitches.  That’s not an indictment of Jim Leyland, mind you, but a testiment to how well Verlander pitches.  He almost never really has a disastrous outing, and more often than not you’re right to trust him to power through.

Hitter of the Night: Mike Moustakas, 3-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Moustakas’ big day leaves him hitting .280/.347/.492 with 12 homers.  Last year, he hit .263/.309/.367. Eric Hosmer hit .293/.334/.465, but is down to just .213/.281/.360 in 2012.  Are we sure they didn’t just switch places?

Defensive Play of the Night:  Jason Kipnis

This (MLB says you have to click the link kids, sorry) is a cute little glove-flip to get the DP.  For whatever reason, The Common Man loves the glove- flip as a concept.  It’s so pretty, even if the play itself didn’t require much range on Kipnis’ part.

Game Changer of the Night: Derek Norris

Norris’ first home run is sure a memorable one, as he turns a 2-1 A’s loss into a 4-2 win on one swing. Three games, three strikeouts, and a homer.  Sounds about right.  We’re just missing a couple walks.

Trade Bait of the Night:  Carlos Lee, 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI
The Astros would love to get anything they can for Lee, even presumably eat a ton of his $19 million salary (seriously? $19 mil?  Man, the ’06-’07 offseason was ridiculous). Since coming off the DL, Lee has hit .318/.400/.455 in 6 games.  He’d look good in the midle of Cleveland’s lineup, wouldn’t he?

Injuries of Note:

Matt Capps – Shoulder
Capps apparently pitched hurt for a bunch of last year, and the results were predictable awful. So he came up with a bum shoulder over a week ago and was shut down.  The Twins chose not to put him on the DL, and let him pitch the 8th last night, when he gave up another run and continued to feel pain.  So the club’s going to put him on the DL.  After getting an ineffective inning out of him in a week, now he’s gone for at least another two weeks.  The Twins mismanaging their injured players is not a new thing.

Brandon McCarthy – Shoulder
Poor McCarthy.  He’s pitched so well these last two years. But it really always felt like a matter of time before something serious went wrong again with his arm.  He seems so despondent, and if anyone knows what a serious shoulder injury feels like, it’s McCarthy.

Cliche of the Night:

“Any out you can get, especially the 27th out, is huge.” -Matt Wieters

“We show up every day and we play. We show up and we work. We’re not quitters. We’re going to keep fighting, keep going, keep clawing. That’s all we can do. I always say, I’m getting ready for the next one.” -Matt Garza

Ridiculous non-cliches of the Night:

Dusty Baker speaks only in dualities:  “That was a tough one to lose. It was a tough one for Chapman, too. It’s a tough week and a tough week for Chapman. We’re just glad this week is over and we’ll start a new week tomorrow.”

Lance Lynn’s new strategy:  “They’re just hitting my mistakes, whereas before I was getting away with them. I have to stop making so many mistakes.”

Jim Leyland on what constitutes character: “We had the horse going, and he pitched like the horse is supposed to pitch. Guys that throw it 98-100 [mph], they’re usually more mentally tough than guys that throw it 88.”

Ephemera:

Twins: Scott Diamond, 8 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 3 R, 7 K
Diamond did great work through 7 innings, and had even struck out Joey Votto twice.  But then Votto almost undid Diamond’s hard work, launching a homer to the opposite field in his 8th inning at bat to give the Reds the lead.  Thank goodness for the WillingHammer.

Twins: Jared Burton, 1 IP, 2 BB, Sv
After 194 Major League appearances across six seasons, Burton records his first big league save.

Mets: Ruben Tejada, 2-4, 2 RBI
On the season, Tejada is hitting .305/.362/.400 and making the league minimum. The man he replaced, Jose Reyes, is hitting .268/.346/.377 and making $10 million (and will be making much much more in a couple years. Letting high priced veterans go is sometimes the solution to a problem, not the creation of one.

Rays: David Price, 7 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 R, 8 K
He’s just so damn terrific.  And not very interesting at all, so it’s hard to keep that fact on the front burner.

Phillies: Cole Hamels, 7 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 7 K, 0 R

Phillies: Cliff Lee, 7 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 5 R
Bill Baer retweeted a bunch of mouth breathers’ reactions to Lee’s start. There is a certain breed of Phillies fan that is completely nuts. That breed comprises roughly 96% of the fan base though.  The role reversal of Hamels and Lee, who have gone from priss to ace and savior to loser respectively, is amazing to see.

Marlins: Greg Dobbs, 3-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
Greg Dobbs has had a 9 year Major League career.  Let’s just let that hang out there for a second and contemplate it…  Now…why?

Red Sox: Cody Ross, 2-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Ross has hit .318/.347/.864 in six games since coming off the DL.

Tigers: Quentin Berry, 1-2, HR, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB

Orioles: Jim Johnson, 1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K, Sv
Johnson’s got a 1.10 ERA through 32.2 innings and is a gleaming example of how closers are made, not born.  Johnson started 127 of his 144 minor league games, and blew four of his first 13 chances after being given a trial in the role in 2009.  Since August 14 of last year, Johnson has saved 30 in 31 chances.

Brewers: Mike Fiers, 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R
Where the hell did Mike Fiers come from and who the hell is he?  The 27 year old rookie has a 2.70 ERA and 31 Ks in 33.1 innings.

Diamondbacks: Wade Miley, 8 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 R
Ditto. Miley has seen his strikeout rate leap, and his walks and homers plummet in his second time around the league. He’s 9-3 with a 2.19 ERA in 90.1 innings.

Mariners: Charlie Furbush, 2 IP, 2 K, 0 R
Yes, this is basically just an excuse for The Common Man to type “Furbush.” It looks like he’s found a role though in the bullpen.  He’s got 39 Ks in 31.1 innings, and a 2.01 ERA.

A’s: Brandon Inge, 1-4, 1 R
Ah, this is the Brandon Inge we all expected to go to Oakland. In his last 9 games, he’s hitting .161/.270/.194.

Angels: Ernesto Frieri, 1.1 IP, 1 H, 2 K
22 innings, 38 K, 4 H, 0 runs as an Angel.  The Frieri watch continues.

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