By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

How’s that trade working out? (XIII)

Curt Schilling aligns himself with Media Nation, according to the Boston Globe’s Gordon Edes:

Schilling … all but called the spring training trade of Bronson Arroyo a mistake, and identified starting pitching as the foremost concern heading into the 2007 season.

“We came out of spring training, everybody said, ‘Well, you have extra starting pitching,’ ” Schilling said. “Nobody ever has extra starting pitching. If you have it on Monday, you don’t have it on Sunday. It never fails.”

The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman has the same Schilling quotes, but leaves Arroyo out of it. Maybe Silverman wasn’t sure whether Schilling was referring to Arroyo or this guy.

And look at this. Despite a mid-season slump that had Media Nation’s critics very excited, Arroyo today is 13-9, with an ERA of 3.29. He’s given up just four earned runs in his last 24 innings. You want to add a run to his ERA to adjust for the difference between the National League and the American League? Go ahead. He’d still be the Sox’ second-best starter. And he’s pitched 213 innings; no Sox starter even has 200.

If Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Manny Ramirez, Tim Wakefield, David Wells, Trot Nixon and Jonathan Papelbon (have I missed anyone?) hadn’t gotten hurt or sick, Arroyo’s departure would have mattered big-time. And it still might next year.

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  1. mike_b1

    Dan, the team sank when the hitting sank. I don’t have time to trot out all the data now, but they are as clear as day. Varitek went down and was replaced with automatic outs. A-Gone slumped badly. Youk fell off. Crisp was an out machine all year.Through 146 games, the team has allowed all of 17 more runs this year than last (750, vs. 733, or 0.11/game). The team has scored 752 runs this year, down from 823. That’s half a run a game — that’s huge!The pitching was not the problem.I wish you would wake up on this. You are not providing a good example for your students on how to interpret the data.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Mike — If I can get you Schilling’s phone number, will you call him up and tell him that he doesn’t understand baseball? That would be an interesting conversation.

  3. mike_b1

    Dan, 1) you’re putting words in my mouth. 2) While Schilling is an expert on pitching, I do believe that Schilling may very well not know what’s wrong with the team. And since none of us saw the entire quote, who knows if his next statement was, “But, we sure as hell didn’t hit like we used to, and that was the biggest problem.”Let me put it another way: How often do you think Theo et al asks Schilling for his advice on what to do? “Never” would be the right answer.

  4. Anonymous

    Couldn’t find my original post on this topic [I think it was under How’s that trade working out part III], but Arroyo’s numbers are right in line with what I predicted: 14-10, ERA about 3.50-3.75. No big surprise there. If was was still with the Sox? Probably would have been 12-11 with a 4.30 ERA. The question is: Does having Arroyo go one game over .500 get you into the postseason? I don’t think so.

  5. Stella

    The Red Sox are a yawn. Time to admit that the magic of ’04 was a one off. Now, there’s not much cop. Wait ’til next century.

  6. Stealth

    There’s another side to the equation. Raise your hand if you wanted Willie Harris getting all those starts in CF while Coco was on the DL.The Sox have had to use thirteen starting pitchers this year, and we may soon see the fourteenth. Our top starting pitching prospect has cancer. It wasn’t happening this year.Now, we’ve got a young RF who with a little more patience could become an offensive machine. That looks pretty good to me.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Stealth — There was always a chance that this trade would work out over the long term. But back when it was made, weren’t the Sox trying to do it this year?

  8. Curt Schilling

    Mike, it’s not as often as it should be, but Theo and the other guys upstairs ask for my advice quite a bit. I drew up the plans for the renovation of the .406 club, for instance, and I’ve been leading a weekly seminar on baseball history and American culture at Tufts they often attend.I diagnosed Lester’s cancer, too, and I’m looking into changing the sod at Fenway this season – I think I’ve found a species of grass that will give our outfielders better speed without adding too much bounce to balls that drop in.And I’m testing those new MLB batting helmets over at my lab at MIT, and Shonda and I will be singing the national anthem from space onboard the shuttle next spring. Gotta go – I promised Mitt Romney I’d help him set up his new HD entertainment system.

  9. mike_b1

    Dan, you certainly haven’t addressed why, despite the “loss” of Arroyo, this year’s pitching staff has performed almost identically to last year’s. Nor have you addressed why, since the pitching has been identical yet the hitting has been measurably worse, you think that the problem has been … the pitching.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Mike — Wily Mo Peña has not contributed much, so you can’t really say that he’s helped the offense. Therefore, if the Red Sox had better pitching this year, it might have offset the decline in offensive numbers. You can’t say that “the problem” has been the offense — good pitching can make up for bad hitting, at least to some degree.Besides, 200 innings from Arroyo would have taken a lot of pressure off a few of the other pitchers. ERA aside, this is not a good pitching staff, with the exception of Schilling, Papelbon, and, when he’s healthy, Wakefield. Not even close. (No, I haven’t given up on Beckett. But he’s not there yet.)

  11. Steve

    Yo, Dan. I’m not arguing either side of this one (read: my side lost). 🙂 But I gotta set you straight on the facts: League ERAs are *not* that different, at least for the last two years.Each of the past 2 years, the AL league ERA was lower than the NL’s at the all-star break. Last year I think it ended up AL 4.37, NL 4.22.This year,it’s AL 4.54, NL 4.48 so far.It used to be about a 10% differential – about half a run. No more, though. Why? I don’t know.So Arroyo’s year is even better than you think. Which is even worse for my pro-Pena side.If Pena turns out to be David Ortiz (or even close), then I’ll be right in the end. Hey – it could happen. If he’s Sam Horn, then not so much. (Sorry, Sam.)

  12. Steve

    But just to add a bit more (before Mike gets in) :-): It’s hard to tell how much Arroyo gets a temporary boost by switching leagues to unfamiliar hitters. Pedro’s ERA was one run better last year than his last Red Sox year, then went back up a run this year. But there’s an injury and age factor.Beckett going the other way gained 1.7 earned runs. But remember, Fenway is not your average AL park.Hell, there are a lot of factors. But by all measure, Bronson’s year is really nice, and not out of character for him. Good on him.

  13. Don

    My Tigers are in freefall, but do you hear me complaining? Well, hold on; I feel it coming. . . .

  14. jack sullivan

    dan, i wonder if sometimes you post these items just to gauge how readership is going. on baseball tonight on friday night when the sox-yanks got rained out, buster olney said regardless (there’s no such word as irregardless) of what arroyo has done this year, he would still make the trade for wily mo. the man has a ton of upside and i think olney has far more cred than all of us on this blog save curt schilling, who by the way did a hell of a job on the 406 club.we can’t gauge pena on this season because of his injuries and those of others around him. i think everyone agrees that ortiz is a monster but without manny behind him, he would wilt on the vine. let’s give wily mo a season in the lineup with all parts working and then measure his performance. turn your vaccuum off and let’s see how the trade works out OVERALL, not in the up and down blips we’ve seen so far. if you want to hammer away at a panic trade, how about josh bard and cla meredith for mirabelli? how’s that trade working out for ya?

  15. mike_b1

    When a team gives up an identical number of runs from one season to the next, and scores half a run less a game during that same time, and their W/L record measurably drops, I think you can say there’s a problem with the offense. You can say all you want (and have) that 200 average innings from Arroyo would have “taken pressure” off the rest of the pitching staff, but there is no way to prove that. (Btw, I’m not looking at ERA, I’m looking at runs allowed. Big difference.) On the contrary, it is easy to prove the opposite: that the 200 IP lost were all but made up for by the rest of the staff.Further, whether WMP contributed is less the issue than the clear — crystal clear — point that the pitching w/o Arroyo has been statistically the same as it was with him. And that is because during his time in Boston he was a league-average AL pitcher (actually, last year he was among the worst starters in the league) and thus utterly replaceable. The Red Sox were a team that was built on high OBP, wearing down opposing starters and scoring lots of runs. If the FO made a mistake, it was to try to upgrade the defense at the cost of the offense, which has shown time and again to be the most effective model for the team’s ballpark. In other words, they tried too hard to model the team like last year’s White Sox: great defense/low OBP/high HR hitting team with great pitching. In doing so, he overlooked the huge amount of luck the White Sox had last year. (Using actual RS vs. RA to project their W/L, they won 8 or so more games than they “should” have.) The FO should have stuck with the old model of simply bludgeoning other teams to death. This Red Sox team, despite having very few errors, is among the worst in the AL in converting balls put into play into outs. They are not a good defensive team.And yes, a team could try to improve its pitching in order to make up for substandard hitting. But look around: there were literally only a handful of pitchers who would have made a difference, and none of them were available, either during the offseason or in-season.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Jack — Bard and Meredith for Mirabelli has been a disaster. But I’m not sure it was an obvious disaster at the time it was made, so I’m not sure it’s fair to be too critical.Buster Olney was clearly making a value judgment: Build for the future. Weren’t the Sox trying to win this year? (I mean before all the injuries and illnesses.)

  17. Anonymous

    The Arroyo trade was a disaster not because Bronson may have radically altered the season, but be cause of the backstabbing way it was handled. For that it ranks with “the Babe.” No ballplayer doesn’t know that the Sox are vile management.

  18. mike_b1

    anon 12:47: Just a bizarre comment, especially considering Arroyo has been upfront in acknowledging the team never promised it wouldn’t deal him.

  19. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: You are technically accurate. I don’t mean that as a compliment. Here’s what Arroyo said last spring: “As long as they gave me somewhat of their word that they weren’t planning to trade me right away, I felt comfortable.” Arroyo was clearly led to believe that he had a handshake agreement not to be traded at least until the end of this season.

  20. mike_b1

    The two absurdities were anon’s contentions that 1. Bronson Arroyo = Babe Ruth.and 2. Boston Red Sox = vile management.

  21. mike_b1

    Dan, here’s what Theo said in a piece written by Maureen Mullen for on March 20:Epstein addressed speculation that Arroyo had been given a no-trade assurance, if not a written guarantee, when he re-signed with the team in January, for three years at $12.225 million, including a signing bonus of $750,000.”That simply wasn’t the case,” Epstein said. “Jed Hoyer was the one who finished the contract at the time for the Red Sox with Bronson. He told Bronson at the time that signing such a contract came with no guarantees about being traded. The one thing that he assured Bronson of was at the time there were no active trade discussions with Bronson.”And that was certainly true, but that was several months ago, and things did change as teams inquired about Bronson this spring. But I can assure you all that there was no handshake, there was no gentlemen’s agreement. And I think all our players understand that without an express no-trade clause that we can’t give them any guarantee that they won’t be traded at a certain point.”Now Theo has been consistent on this point from Day One of the trade. Meanwhile, Arroyo’s recollection has shifted from time to time:(From a March 22 AP story) Before agreeing to give the Red Sox a hometown discount, Arroyo said, he told the team’s negotiators that “I’m not signing this deal to end up in Tampa Bay in two weeks. And they said to me, `There’s no deal for you on the table right now and we don’t foresee trading you anytime in the near future.’ Those were the exact words.””In my mind this is pretty soon, but they told me there was no guarantee,” he said.

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