Tag: Alfredo Aceves

Boston Red Sox: Why the Team Shouldn’t Give Up on Alfredo Aceves Yet

Boston Red Sox right-handed pitcher Alfredo Aceves recently made headlines with a puzzling lackluster performance during a practice drill. Despite concerns that such actions could negatively impact a team newly committed to a positive clubhouse, Boston shouldn’t give up on him yet.

WEEI’s Alex Speier reported that during his first live batting practice pitching of the spring, Aceves had to be prodded multiple times by the coaching staff to throw full-speed, as the drill was intended.

After the practice, the Red Sox refused to directly address the matter. According to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber, manager John Farrell commented, “The one thing I’ll say is he didn‘t go through the drill as intended, and we’ve addressed it.”

CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam tweeted that a source confirmed Aceves was testing his new manager:

In a separate article, Lauber reported that Aceves’ agent arrived at Boston’s camp and met with general manager Ben Cherington the day after the incident. He was assured by Cherington that his client is still valued by the team, but it was made clear that further insubordination would not be tolerated.

Aceves was also considered a distraction towards the end of last season, earning a three-game suspension from an argument with manager Bobby Valentine. He also tussled with teammate Dustin Pedroia in the dugout during a game.

Despite his boorish behavior, Aceves shouldn’t be given up on just yet.

Filling in at closer last year, he disappointed by going just 2-10 with a 5.36 ERA in 69 games. However, his true value may be his production from the 2011 season, when he had a 10-2 record and 2.61 ERA in 55 games.

The Red Sox placed an emphasis this past offseason on remaking their roster into a group of cohesive, team-first guys. In doing so, they also assembled one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball and did not need to bring Aceves back. However, he was signed to a $2.65 million contract, even though he had no guaranteed spot on the team.

Aceves’ greatest value is his versatility and durability. He can pitch in any role, and do so effectively on short rest.

During his career, he has pitched in 37 games on no rest, and has gone 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA, while allowing just a .196 batting average.

WEEI’s Rob Bradford wrote that Aceves was brought back because, “the reward is simply worth the risks.”

Bradford went on to report that Aceves’ 2013 salary isn’t guaranteed (if behavior is an issue) and that Boston does have options on how to handle him.

He still has a minor league option and could be sent to Triple-A if he doesn’t win a roster spot out of spring training.

He could be released or traded, although, it’s unlikely he would bring back much in return given his recent antics.

Finally, he could earn his spot on the team. His rubber arm makes him a candidate to start or come out of the bullpen, so he could either make it on his own merits or by necessity if the team suffers any injuries.

Aceves may have angered many people, including fans, with his display of disrespect, but it’s not a good enough reason to simply get rid of him at this point. The Red Sox hold all of the cards. They can either work to get him in line and take advantage of his talent, or they can determine he is too much of a liability and cut their losses.

Ultimately, it will largely be up to Aceves. Boston is clearly trying to build something after a miserable 93-loss 2012 season, so he can either decide to be part of it, or continue his poor behavior and have the decision made for him.

Statistics via BaseballReference


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Alfredo Aceves Proves He’s a Threat to Red Sox’s Budding Clubhouse Culture

The Boston Red Sox should have a different clubhouse culture in 2013 than they did in 2011 or 2012. They have a new manager and an assortment of new players, and the organization has made establishing a strong clubhouse a primary directive.

Hence the reason the Red Sox should be keeping a very close eye on Alfredo Aceves. While they’re at it, they need to keep him on a short leash.

If you’re just now crawling out from under a rock that you’ve been living under for the last few days, Aceves caused quite the stir at Red Sox camp on Sunday during a live batting practice session. The story, according to Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com, goes that Aceves was lobbing balls to the plate. The drill typically involves pitchers throwing with their usual velocity and effort level. Aceves was showing off neither.

Aceves‘ lobs caught the attention of new manager John Farrell. He checked to see if Aceves was OK and eventually had new pitching coach Juan Nieves go and sort the right-hander out. After he and Nieves spoke on the mound, Aceves started throwing like an actual pitcher.

Farrell didn’t have much to say afterwards.

“The one thing I’ll say about that is, he didn’t go through the drill as intended and we’ve addressed it,” he said.

Aceves didn’t have much to say either. He characterized the throwing session as “the usual,” and he refused to get into what Farrell and Nieves said to him after it was over.

“That stays in the team,” said Aceves.

With no official explanation in place, the door was open for the gallery of whisperers to fill in the blanks.

Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com spoke to a source who said Aceves was “absolutely” testing Farrell. Vague…but it certainly sounds like something Aceves would do. Strange things have been known to happen between his ears.

Boston’s 2012 season saw one mutiny plot against former manager Bobby Valentine and consisted of bad vibes from beginning to end, but Aceves stood alone as the most rotten egg in Boston’s basket by the end of the year. He got himself suspended for three games in August following a confrontation with Valentine, starting a feud with Bobby V that continueqd into September.

There’s a new boss in Boston now, but Aceves is treating him like the old boss. If there was doubt before, that should tell the Red Sox that the feud between Bobby V and Aceves in 2012 is something that can’t be chalked up solely to Valentine’s incompetence. It was as much a product of Aceves‘ obvious issues with authority, if not completely a product of these issues.

Farrell’s own authority was presumably what Aceves was testing during his odd BP session on Sunday. He may not have had it in mind to test whether Farrell had any authority at all, mind you. It’s more likely that he was testing exactly how Boston’s new manager prefers to put his authority into action when he needs to.

It’s possible that Aceves‘ motivations were far less cunning. Maybe he was simply throwing a hissy fit because, as McDonald noted, John Lackey threw in Aceves‘ scheduled time slot on Sunday. Or he may be upset with Boston’s plans to use him as a reliever this year rather than as a starter.

Either way, the Red Sox should be concerned.

The Red Sox are trying to build a strong clubhouse culture around Farrell. To do that, they’re going to need everyone to buy into a team concept, which is something the club didn’t do in 2011 because of indifferent players or in 2012 because of a lightning-rod manager. The Red Sox believe they’ve found the right manager in Farrell, and they took care to pick and choose the right players this winter.

It bodes well for Farrell that he already has relationships in place with core members of the Red Sox from his time as Boston’s pitching coach from 2007 to 2010. Dustin Pedroia said that Farrell is the kind of guy who inspires “instant respect.” David Ortiz referred to him as “my main man.” Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey all know him well from having pitched under him.

If somebody was going to test Farrell’s authority on behalf of the team, it would be one of these guys rather than Aceves. Given his past history with authority figures, it’s more likely that he was testing Farrell on behalf of himself with his own interests in mind.

If so, then Aceves isn’t exactly a team player buying into a team concept. Those are precisely the kinds of players the Red Sox don’t want to have around as they attempt to wash away the memories of 2011 and 2012.

At the very least, Aceves is a threat to become an unwelcome distraction. At worst, he could become a disgruntled player who manages to generate sympathy among his peers, which would compromise Farrell’s control over Boston’s clubhouse. 

If there’s a bright side to this for the Red Sox, it’s that Aceves will only be able to do these things if he is allowed to linger on the team. It’s not a foregone conclusion that he will. It’s not like the Red Sox really need him, after all.

Aceves is one of baseball’s most versatile pitchers, but he’s in no man’s land in relation to the rest of Boston’s pitching staff. The Red Sox have five quality starters lined up in Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront, and Franklin Morales probably has a leg up on Aceves for the sixth starter spot after pitching well in nine starts in 2012.

Aceves doesn’t have a primary role in Boston’s bullpen either. Joel Hanrahan is going to be the team’s closer, and the Red Sox have a solid collection of setup men consisting of right-handers Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa and left-handers Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller. If he returns to form, Daniel Bard will be yet another quality setup man for Farrell to turn to.

The best role for Aceves to occupy as things stand right now is that of a long reliever. That’s probably just fine with the Red Sox, as they know that Aceves can handle a long relief role after he made 13 relief appearances of three innings or longer in 2011 and ultimately finished the year with a 2.61 ERA.

If Aceves doesn’t want the job, the Red Sox don’t have to give it to him. They could just have Morales serve as their long man until he’s needed in the rotation. They could also hand the job over to hard-throwing youngster Rubby De La Rosa, who the Red Sox may want to stretch out in preparation for a future role as a starting pitcher.

With his status on the team somewhat up in the air, Aceves should have felt motivated to come into camp eager to prove himself rather than eager to earn a stink eye from his new manager. Perhaps he felt emboldened by the fact that the Red Sox chose to keep him around and tender him a contract rather than cut him loose after his clashes with Valentine.

If the Red Sox deem that decision to be a mistake, they don’t have to live with it if they don’t want to. Alex Speier of WEEI.com ran through Boston’s options with Aceves, which include trading him, waiving him, optioning him to the minors or just cutting him.

That last option could involve paying Aceves to go away, as the New York Mets did with Jason Bay or the Seattle Mariners with Chone Figgins, but that wouldn’t be a huge hurdle to cross seeing as how Aceves‘ $2.65 million salary is mere pennies for an organization as well off as the Red Sox.

Aceves would have a much better chance of remaining on the Red Sox if there was a disconnect between Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington, but such a disconnect doesn’t exist. McAdam has reported that Cherington told Aceves‘ agent that further incidents will not be tolerated, which can be taken as a clear sign that he has Farrell’s back more than he ever had Valentine’s back (a report claimed there was a rift between the two as early as spring training).

The big picture is clear enough. The Red Sox aren’t going to let Aceves ruin their budding clubhouse culture, and he really doesn’t have the power to do so. If he’s going to be part of the team, he’s going to have to want to be part of the team.

If the Red Sox are looking for a motto for their team-building mission during spring training, they’d do well to borrow one from Ken Kesey: You’re either on the bus or off the bus.

If Aceves doesn’t want to be on the bus, then the Red Sox will make sure he’s off of it.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.


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2013 Boston Red Sox: Is It Time To Give Alfredo Aceves a Chance to Start?

The Boston Red Sox just bolstered their 2013 starting rotation by signing free-agent right-hander Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal. Despite his addition, the team still need more starting pitching depth, but the answer may already be on their roster in the person of Alfredo Aceves.

FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal first reported the Dempster signing via Twitter.



The story was later confirmed in a separate report by ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes.

Dempster joins Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey and possibly Franklin Morales in the rotation this upcoming season. With Lackey and Morales coming off injuries, the team could still use another starter to shore up the rotation. Career .500 pitchers Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson are the best of the remaining free agents and don’t generate much excitement.

A potentially intriguing and cheaper option for the Red Sox would be giving Aceves a chance to win a rotation spot. He may be coming off a rough 2012 season, but there are plenty of reasons why he could flourish in such a role.

Aceves became the Boston closer by default last season after Andrew Bailey was ruled out for half the year because of an injured thumb. Aceves started out strong, posting a 3.57 ERA and 22 saves through July, but bombed the rest of the way with an alarming 8.42 ERA and a highly publicized three-game suspension.

With Bailey back and Mark Melancon having closing experience, Aceves won’t see the end of many games in 2013. The rest of the bullpen looks plenty deep enough to allow him to transition to the rotation. Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and a hopefully rejuvenated Daniel Bard round out the rest of the relief corps.

All but nine of Aceves’ 183 career major league games have come in relief. Despite it being a small sample size, he proved to be a very capable starter, posting a 2-1 record and 4.18 ERA. That ERA is better than what any full-time Red Sox starter had in 2012.

Aceves’s varied arsenal is more typical of a starter than relievers, who often operate with only two or three offerings. FanGraphs.com shows he pitches with a low-90s fastball, changeup, splitter and curveball.

The ability to get out both right-handed and left-handed hitters is a skill required of any successful starter. Aceves has been nearly identically successful against both. For his career he has allowed a .223/.296/.368 slash line to righties and .224/.298/.357 to lefties.

In addition to possessing the repertoire, Aceves has wanted to start for some time. His agent, Tom O’Connell, told WEEI’s Alex Speier last offseason, “You know the kind of competitor he is, so I like his chances of being in the rotation.”

Aceves made just $1.2 million in 2012 and is now arbitration eligible. He will receive a bit of a raise but would provide a relatively low-cost option at the back of the Boston rotation, allowing them to spend their money elsewhere.

It is interesting to see how many fans appear reluctant to forgive Aceves because of his suspension, which was the result of an emotional outburst with then-manager Bobby Valentine. That same outrage seems to be lacking for the other players who supposedly undermined the skipper last season, according to Yahoo!Sports’ Jeff Passan.

Amazingly, Aceves’ fantastic 2011 season in Boston seems largely forgotten. That year he went 10-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 55 games, 10 times pitching on no rest. It’s time to forgive him and see if he can regain his previous success.

New manager John Farrell has already publicly stated he is willing to forgive the competitive pitcher.

ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes reported Farrell comments from a group interview session indicating the strategy he plans to utilize with Aceves involves being honest and defining a clear role.

From my standpoint, the approach taken is to be candid with him, to be consistent with him, both in terms of what we value in guy’s approach, but as best can be communicated to him in his role. That will evolve going forward, but I think the most important thing is for him to understand where he sits with us, how we view him, and what his role is, then he can best prepare for that.

To be fair, Aceves has had little permanence during his time in Boston. He has been a long reliever, a temporary closer and even started a few games. No matter how well he’s pitched, he has never been allowed to settle into one role.

If the Red Sox and their fans are willing to give Aceves another chance, they may reap the benefits.  There are many reasons suggesting he should be given a chance to start, which could allow him to earn his redemption the old fashioned way—through hard work and results.

Statistics via BaseballReference


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Red Sox Manager John Farrell Willing To Forgive Volatile Pitcher Alfredo Aceves

Boston Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves had a miserable 2012 campaign, losing 10 games and posting a 5.36 ERA. The low-point of the season came in late August when he was suspended for three games for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Despite this transgression, it appears new manager John Farrell is willing to give Aceves another chance, which is a good thing because of how much value he can bring to Boston’s pitching staff.

WEEI’s Alex Speier wrote about an interview Farrell did with the WEEI Red Sox Hot Stove Show, and mentioned the skipper had been in contact with Aceves about next year. Farrell explained, “I think the one thing we are going to hold ourselves accountable to is the way we play the game, the way we respect one another in uniform and that we work each night as a unit.”

Aceves’ talent is obvious. In 2011 he went 10-2 in 55 games (four starts) with a 2.61 ERA. His durability was a huge asset, as he threw 114 innings. On two different occasions that season he pitched three or more days in a row, including the final four games of the year as the team fought for a playoff spot.

Most pitchers tire when asked to work in consecutive games, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with Aceves. There have been 37 times during his career he has pitched after appearing in the previous game, and he has excelled in those situations, going 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA.

After injured closer Andrew Bailey started the 2012 season on the disabled list, Aceves was given the ninth inning role. While he had 25 saves, his entire season was an adventure. He gave up a career-high 11 home runs and was constantly working with runners on base.

According to ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes, Aceves was excited to assume the closer role after having been disappointed that he didn’t claim a spot in the starting rotation that spring. His acting out later in the year may have been a result of his fiery competitiveness clashing with his less than optimal results.

It has not been made clear what Aceves’ role will be in 2013. If healthy, Andrew Bailey is certain to be the closer, and while Aceves may prefer to start, his greatest value to the team may be in the bullpen. A lot will be determined by who is picked up during this offseason and what happens during spring training.

Farrell made it clear he’s not simply giving Aceves a clean slate, telling WEEI, “There are going to be some things that are non-negotiable. If certain situations arise, consequences may exist.”

If Aceves can keep his head on straight and embrace whatever assignment the Red Sox give him, he could be one of the most valuable pitchers on the staff. Only time will tell if he decides to behave or will create more drama.

Statistics via BaseballReference

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Alfredo Aceves Suspended 3 Games by Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox‘s busy day continues and that’s thanks to the team suspending reliever Alfredo Aceves.


Update on August 26 at 12:42 a.m. EDT

WEEI.com is reporting exactly why Aceves has been suspended, a fact that has yet to come to light until now.

According to three sources inside Fenway Park, Alfredo Aceves tore off his jersey while making his way from the bullpen back to the clubhouse in the moments after Boston’s 4-3 win over the Royals Friday night. The game was saved by Andrew Bailey one night after Aceves allowed six hits and five runs and blew his third save in five chances.

Per the same report, manager Bobby Valentine believes that Aceves’ suspension might have been a result of the reliever’s negative reaction to being passed over for a save opportunity in favor of Andrew Bailey.

—–End of Update—–


Update on August 25 at 9:25 p.m. EDT

More specifics are coming to light about the cause of Aceves’ suspension, per Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com via Twitter.

Clearly, Aceves is unhappy with something to do with his manager, Bobby Valentine. I’m afraid Ace will have to get in line for that one.

—–End of Update—– 


According to Major League Baseball’s Twitter page, the Sox suspended Aceves for three games for what is being called “conduct detrimental to the team.”

There is no information yet as to just what that conduct was, but it must have been pretty bad considering it’s worthy of a suspension.

A former New York Yankee, Aceves was thrust into the closer’s role this season thanks to the near season-long injury to the Sox’s first choice as closer, Andrew Bailey.

However, Aceves has been dreadful out of the ‘pen, posting a 2-8 record with a 4.60 ERA and 25 saves in 32 chances. Those numbers aren’t exactly what Boston was hoping for to start the season.

In his most recent outing, Aceves was downright awful.

Not only did he blow the save opportunity, Aceves flat out blew up. He allowed five runs on six hits including two homers and one walk. It was just the latest in a disappointing season for the right-hander.

In the meantime, the Red Sox will have only Bailey to go with as closer and their bullpen will be slightly shorter than normal. At this point, it shouldn’t really matter anyway with the Red Sox falling further and further out of contention by the day.

Not to mention the blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers they pulled the trigger on that sent their best hitter out of town, per Mark Saxon of ESPNLos Angeles.com.

As if the Sox needed any more negative press this year, Aceves’ suspension is just another black eye for this organization as they look to end the nightmare 2012 season as soon as possible.

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Boston Red Sox: Alfredo Aceves Has Been Rock Solid During MLB Career

I know Boston Red Sox fans are not entirely thrilled with relief pitcher Alfredo Aceves right now.  This is understandable. Red Sox nation is a proud, passionate bunch that wants winners, not individuals who blow saves against the likes (or dislikes) of the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers.

Looking at Aceves’ overall statistics this season, I could see how Red Sox fans would unleash nearly every expletive known to mankind. An 0-2 record and 4.91 ERA will do that to even the most casual Red Sox fan. This is especially true when both losses this season came before the faithful at Fenway Park.

But looking at the bigger picture, Aceves has been a pretty rock solid pitcher during his five year career in the big leagues.

During his time with both the Yankees and Red Sox, Aceves is 24-5 (82 percent winning percentage) with a 3.12 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.  Aceves has also struck out 195 batters in 265.2 innings. Batters are hitting just .215 against him.

Since joining the Red Sox in 2011, Aceves is 10-4 with a 2.96 ERA, while pitching in varying and at times pressure-packed situations.

While it is true Aceves is no Mariano Rivera by any stretch of the imagination, he has nonetheless been a pivotal part of Boston’s success since joining the team. And while Aceves has a ways to go to perfect his craft, many big league clubs would love to have him.

Even if he does make baseball fans throw things at television sets at times.

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Bobby Valentine’s Latest Bold Move: Sticking to His Guns

To the delight of many Red Sox fans across Red Sox Nation, we heard an announcement in the eighth inning of last night’s meeting against the Minnesota Twins: Daniel Bard was warming up in the bullpen.

As it was stated after the debacle—to put it extremely lightly—on Saturday, Daniel Bard was going to be made temporarily available out of the bullpen. Bard has made it clear: he wants to start, and this move will not involve back-to-back games nor will it push back his next scheduled start against the Chicago White Sox on Friday. “Temporary” appears to be the operative word.

But with one out and a runner on in the bottom of the eighth inning last night, in came our savior to squash any potential go-ahead effort by the Twins. And here came the biggest decision that Bobby Valentine has had to make since the regular season started: who comes in to close it out in the ninth? With Cody Ross’ home run putting the Sox ahead 6-5, and Boston in desperate need of a win—by any means necessary—Bobby Valentine had a bold decision to make: Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves.

It doesn’t seem like a season-altering decision, but think of the implications. If Bard stays in, the decision alone would shake Aceves’ already fragile confidence after giving up five runs without recording an out in Saturday’s game against the Yankees. Aceves is somewhat of a reluctant closer—a closer due to circumstance. If Valentine, so early in the season, were to go to Bard in a must-win, one-run save situation, it would be difficult to go back to Aceves and convince him that he’s the guy. Any trust that exists between the two, Aceves and Valentine, would surely be broken.

And what about Bard?

If he gave up the winning runs, then it would be easy to slide him back into the rotation. But what if he struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth? Then Bard is suddenly the savior of the bullpen. How could Valentine justify moving Bard back into the rotation on Friday—again, Bard’s heavy preference—if he appeared as the symbol of stability and dominance in the chaos that is the Boston Red Sox bullpen?

Valentine made the right move going to Aceves to close out the game; he also was apparently able to lighten the tension after Aceves gave up what would have been a home run in most parks (Valentine may be the right man for the job yet). Sometimes the boldest decision is to stick to your guns and not succumb to the panicked cries for drastic and desperate change. Bobby V. has shown he isn’t afraid to rock the boat or make an unpopular decision—even if that bold decision is to not make a change.

Of course that brings us to the greater issue: the Red Sox pitching staff. Originally, I was a proponent of keeping Bard in the bullpen and sacrificing the role of fifth starter to the hodgepodge of low risk, high-reward veterans like Vicente Padilla or Aaron Cook. If a team has the opportunity to solidify one aspect of the game—be it hitting, fielding, starting pitching or bullpen—it’s probably the best move to eliminate that area of weakness.

Starting the season, the Red Sox’s bullpen had sneaky potential. (Follow me here for a second). The Red Sox had Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard coming back—two proven bullpen arms. Then they trade for Andrew Bailey (dominant when healthy) and Mark Melancon (probably not a closer like he was with the Houston Astros, but someone who could get some meaningful innings). Add to those four, two lefties from the trio of Rich Hill, Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller, and the bullpen is starting to take some meaningful shape. Finish it up with Junichi Tazawa or Chris Carpenter (a young pitcher who has some upside), and I feel comfortable knowing who I have to finish the game.

As usual, things never go as planned.

Andrew Bailey, living up to his reputation of being a health liability, is out until at least the All-Star break. Melancon gets shelled and is now trying to get things figured out at Pawtucket. Morales has shown flashes of dominance but is inconsistent. Rich Hill is still rehabbing, and Andrew Miller needs to prove he can be somewhat consistent with his performance in AAA to make the major league quad. Carpenter was on the disabled list before the season started, and Tazawa has just been called up and has been effective so far (at least something is going right).

That leaves us with Bard and Aceves. Aceves has been thrust into the closer’s role and appears to be still adjusting to it. His four-pitch repertoire seems more suited for the long man, flex guy out of the
bullpen that can come in in the fourth inning and keep the game close until the eighth.

Bard, on the other hand, is tricky to evaluate. Based on pure stuff, he’s a closer. But down the stretch last year, when the Red Sox needed him to be at his best, he crumbled posting a 10.64
in the month of September. Was it fatigue or nerves? So far, he’s looked pretty good as a starter. He held Tampa Bay to one run over 6-plus innings—and only gave up that run because he was left in two batters too long.

So where is Daniel Bard more valuable to this team? Would he provide a stabilizing force in the bullpen? Remember, he has been consistent in his desire to start; who knows the mental impact of being put in the bullpen against his wishes.

Bobby Valentine has a lot of decisions ahead of him regarding the 2012 Boston Red Sox. And while he certainly has made some gaffes with the media, his decision to stay with Aceves as the closer on Monday night was a smart one. In a chaotic environment where everyone was wanting Bobby Valentine to make the sexy choice and turn to Daniel Bard, he stayed consistent, knowing—hoping, maybe—that it would pay off in the long run.

Aceves may not be the answer at closer; Bard may not be best suited for the role of fifth starter. But decisions like these that affect the entire rest of the season and the makeup of the roster shouldn’t be made in moments of desperation.

But they’ll have to be made eventually.

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Alfredo Aceves and the Sox Bullpen: How the Shutdown Stat Could Shake Things Up

Jonathan Papelbon’s departure. Heir-apparent Daniel Bard’s shift to starter. Andrew Bailey’s arrival and subsequent thumb injury. Alfredo Aceves‘ tenuous grasp on the closer role.

Needless to say, the Boston Red Sox haven’t seen this much focus on their bullpen since the Theo think-tank rolled out the concept of closer-by-committee in 2003.

At this point, it’s still early. Things will come out in the wash. Someone—be it Bard, Aceves, Franklin Morales, Vicente Padilla, or Mark Melancon—will fall into the role. But, what is the best way of going about determining who that guy is? 

I know, I know, you’re screaming “performance on the field!” But is there a better way than traditional stats—specifically saves—to determine who is the best man for the job? A better way than the eyeball test?

The guys over at FanGraphs think so, and that method comes in the form of a pair of stats called shutdowns (SD) and meltdowns (MD).

To keep it simple, shutdowns and meltdowns are better ways of measuring a reliever’s success because they gauge the percentage a pitcher has added to, or subtracted from, his team’s chance of winning on a given night. Add to the probability of winning more than six percent, and you get a shutdown. Subtract that number or more, and you have a meltdown.

Pretty easy, right? 

Grantland.com’s Jonah Keri wrote a great piece on the subject following Cleveland‘s closer Chris Perez’s ninth-inning meltdown versus the Blue Jays on Opening Day. He explains the stat as such:

By using 6 percent as the cutoff, you get a stat that runs on a similar scale to saves and holds. Elite closers and setup men will rack up 35-40 (or more) shutdowns and very few meltdowns, just as a dominant closer can earn that many saves, while blowing very few.

With that in mind, we’re able to take a better look at just who’s getting it done in the ‘pen. This is because it’s a universal stat—not one that is applied solely to closers. If Franklin Morales is lights out and deserves to slip into the closer role, Bobby Valentine and company will know it regardless of his number of shutdowns and meltdowns. However, these stats—if they catch on—can take some of the pressure away from save itself.

Clearly, without throwing the numbers at you, the Sox bullpen didn’t fare so well on Opening Day in Detroit in the shutdown category. Fine. But it will be interesting to keep an eye on shutdowns and meltdowns over the first few months of the season, to see if it can bring any more clarity to the situation.

But for now, even though Aceves was named the official closer, he really doesn’t get to carry that belt until he earns it. So Melancon, Padilla and Morales all have it in the back of their minds that they could step in at any moment should Aceves lose it. 

But let’s leave Daniel Bard out of it, shall we? He’s a starter, and he’s in that role because he wants to be.

Here’s the thing: If the Bard-as-starter experiment blows up in the Red Sox face, can they really go and insert him into one of the highest-pressure positions on the team, even if he does hit 100 on the gun on occasion? Probably not.

It seems as if they are committed to starting him, and won’t pull him from that role unless he is an abject failure. At that point, they’d have to work on getting his confidence back—not something they want to do night after night in the ninth inning.

As of now, Ben Cherington better hope Aceves and company can hold down the back end of the bullpen—and keep that shutdown category sky-high.

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No Trades Needed; the Boston Red Sox Just Need to Use Their "Ace"

The Boston Red Sox got some bad news earlier this week, when it was made clear that the return of starting pitcher Clay Buchholz was going to come later rather than sooner.

The Boston starting rotation, seen as a major strength of the team going into the season, has been decimated by the loss of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester and Buchholz for varying lengths of time.

Even Josh Beckett went down for a while earlier this season after becoming ill.

Despite this, the Red Sox have managed to hold their own and even maintain a small lead in the American League Eastern Division over their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees.

Relying on ageless veteran Tim Wakefield and a handful of reclamation projects, the Red Sox are getting just enough people out to win more than two-thirds of their games.

Still, there is a strong call for the team to swing a deal for one of the starting pitchers being peddled by teams that are out of contention.

One of the biggest names available is the Colorado Rockies‘ Ubaldo Jimenez, who can apparently be had by any team willing two trade about three Grade-A prospects. Jimenez has been mediocre this season, but he was a top contender for the Cy Young award in 2010.

The Red Sox could easily get him if they wanted. I’m sure a package including players like Anthony Ranaudo and Ryan Lavarnway could get Jimenez in Boston.

The Yankees could easily get him too, if they were willing to cough up the Rockies’ high asking price.

I can’t help but think—and have done so out loud on this site three times today—that this is one that the Red Sox should just walk away from. If the Yankees want Jimenez in the Bronx, let them have him.

Last year, Jimenez, who was an established starter with an ERA typically in the mid- to high-threes, opened the season white-hot and through mid-June, posted an ERA of 1.15.

Sportswriters, who should have known better, openly speculated on the possibility that he might beat Bob Gibson’s modern record for the lowest ERA in a season, 1.12, set in 1968.

Of course, he came back to earth after that, as soon as his luck, in the form of a .215 BABIP (batting average on balls in play, typically about .300), evened out.

Since then, he’s lost some velocity on his fastball, and over the past 13 months, Jimenez has posted a 12-16 record with an ERA of 4.27 over 242.1 innings. Granted, this is in Coors Field, but he’s also in the weaker league and doesn’t have to face teams with designated hitters in their lineups.

These things tend to cancel each other out, so Jimenez should probably be regarded as a pitcher who would pitch about .500 ball on a good team, with a 4.27 ERA right now.

Now, even at that, a starting pitcher on the Red Sox is going to pile up some wins if he posts a 4.27 ERA. The Red Sox seem to put up numbers that look like football scores a few times each week.

The bigger question is whether or not they actually need him, at any price.

The Red Sox have another option. There is a pitcher on staff who has thrown 198.1 innings over the past four years, moving between starting and relieving roles. He’s been equally effective in each.

His entire major-league career, consisting of 89 games, has been with contending teams in the AL East. In those 198-plus innings, he’s posted a 3.22 ERA, a stellar 37 percent above league average for the environment he’s pitched in.

Does this pitcher have any experience pitching in a pennant race? Check.

In September of 2009, he was a regular member of the Yankee relief corps, where he appeared eight times, pitched 16.2 innings and was 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA. Five of those eight appearances came against the Angels, Red Sox and Rays.

The year before, he came up on Aug. 31, while the Yankees were still on the fringe of a pennant race they would ultimately fall out of. It certainly wasn’t his fault. He made two strong relief appearance and then entered the rotation.

Over 30 innings, he posted a 2.40 ERA (with a solid 1.167 WHIP for those who think that is useful to know), and even that is misleading, because he had one bad outing at the end of the season after the Yankees had been eliminated from the race.

On top of all that, he’s pitched well when he’s had to. His career won-lost record is a remarkable 20-2.

Any Red Sox fans out there knows that I am talking about Alfredo Aceves. So do Yankees fans, although probably to their regret.

Aceves was injured last year after making 10 strong appearances early in the season, and the Bombers cut him loose in the offseason. Theo Epstein promptly grabbed him off the scrap heap on Feb. 8, for a paltry $650,000 salary.

For the Red Sox, he has started four games and also stepped in for a struggling starter early in several other contests, racking up a 6-1 record and a 3.24 ERA with solid supporting numbers.

I don’t know about you, but 3.24 in Fenway Park, in the AL East, sounds a lot more impressive than 4.27 anywhere else.

Theo Epstein needs to hold on to his top prospects and patch up the Red Sox’ starting rotation with the addition of an “Ace,” not a pitcher that the media wrongly perceives as being one.

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Boston Red Sox: Alfredo Aceves, Tim Wakefield Have Been Up to the Task

Amid all of the furor of heightened expectations leading up to the 2011 season, the BIG question that surrounded the Red Sox was how the No. 4 and No. 5 starters would perform. John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka were both coming off rough 2010 campaigns, and while Red Sox Nation had high hopes for a championship season, those aspirations hinged on the back end of the rotation.

Should either of them fail, or be felled by injury, the ballclub knew it would be able to turn to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield…but, in truth, there were almost as many questions about him as there were about Lackey and Matsuzaka. He had a 4-12 record and 5.61 earned run average dating back to the end of the 2009 season.

Many pundits thought you could stick a fork in him. In addition, he had sulked throughout most of the 2010 season, openly challenging the wisdom and decision-making of manager Terry Francona and General Manager Theo Epstein for determining that he should NOT be a part of the regular starting rotation.

Wakefield had appeared to be petulant and selfish, placing his desire to set the club record for wins ahead of the well-being of the ballclub. So when his chances came, he appeared unprepared…and his performance suffered accordingly.

I was among those who was very critical of the knuckleballer for his posturing. I believed his struggles had largely been due to the combination of his age and the physical demands of taking a regular turn in the rotation. I believed then (and still believe) that at this age he is better off in the role he has filled this season, as it controls his workload over the course of a long season and should enable him to remain strong through the end of September.

The difference between last year and this year is that THIS year he seemed much more accepting of his role, and appears to have prepared himself for it—both mentally and physically.

This winter, the front office determined it would retain Wakefield’s services—even as others questioned whether he should remain on the roster—but it also developed a contingency plan in case the kuckleballer’s attitude waned or that he failed to cut the proverbial mustard.

In February, the organization signed former Yankees right-hander Alfredo Aceves. It was a signing I applauded LOUDLY, and I predicted it would prove to be the best “unheralded” signing of the offseason, not just by the Sox but by ANY team in baseball. I still feel that way.

So when both Lackey and Matsuzaka went down almost simultaneously a week ago, Plan B and C were concurrently put in place. Aceves went into the rotation. Wakefield went into the rotation. And the results have been BRILLIANT!

Both pitchers have given the ballclub as much as anyone could have ever expected or hoped for.

Aceves is now 2-0, 2.22, on the season. In his first start of the year, against the Cubs last Saturday night, he left the game with his club ahead 2-1 after five innings…it’s not his fault Matt Albers blew up in the eighth inning en route to a disheartening defeat. On Thursday, in his second start, he allowed one run on five hits and two walks (with six Ks) in six innings. This time the bullpen couldn’t surrender the lead as the Sox pummeled the Tigers, 14-1.

According to my math, he has allowed two runs on eight hits and five walks in 11 innings over those two starts. THAT is more than the club could have expected out of Lackey or Matsuzaka, and it points to the fact that he may have found a permanent place in the rotation, at least in the short term.

While some people are surprised by his success, I am not. He is 16-1, 3.03, in parts of four seasons in the major leagues. He has EARNED a chance to stick in this rotation, even after Dice-K returns.

Not to be outdone, Wakefield has been equally brilliant since joining the rotation on Sunday. He has been solid all season. Aside from a pair of outings in which he allowed a total of 10 earned runs, he has allowed just seven earned runs in his other 11 appearances. In his two starts this week, he registered back-to-back wins for the first time since 2009, allowing just three earned runs in 13.2 IP.

If both pitchers continue to perform anywhere close to their recent levels, it seems to me Aceves gets the first shot to replace the enigmatic Matsuzaka in the rotation. After all, he was signed for that purpose.

I continue to believe Wakefield best serves the ballclub in the swingman role, and that the role will preserve his health and prolong his effectiveness. He obviously doesn’t agree. It will be interesting to see how he responds when or if Aceves gets the nod and he gets placed back in his previous role.

THAT response will tell us a lot about the kind of person he is (sadly, admittedly, I expect him to respond in much the same manner he did last spring, which could serve as a distraction).

In the interim, both pitchers have been spectacular. Plan B and Plan C have (thus far) worked out precisely as the club, and Red Sox Nation, had hoped.

In spite of the club’s 2-10 start to the season, the Red Sox find themselves in first place this morning, and if Aceves and Wakefield keep pitching like this it is possible the team may never surrender its ‘top dog’ status as the summer winds its way to a potentially-glorious October and November.

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