Nationals

Red Sox look for innings in Dempster

Red Sox look for innings in Dempster

BOSTON (AP) The Boston Red Sox have the reliable starter they sought in Ryan Dempster.

He's pitched at least 200 innings in four of the past five seasons, impressive to general manager Ben Cherington but not so special to Dempster.

``That's your responsibility as a starting pitcher in the big leagues,'' Dempster said Wednesday at a news conference after his $26.5 million, two-year deal was finalized. ``The norm used to be 300 and somehow we worked it down to like 200. Even 180 seems to suffice.''

He said he works hard to stay in shape ``so that I can take on that workload.''

Boston had just one starter reach the 200-mark this year, with Jon Lester pitching 205 1-3 innings.

``It's important,'' Cherington said. ``Ryan's got a history of being very effective and a really good pitcher. The consistency he's shown in taking the ball every fifth day was important to us. I think as a team when you start having to fill in for guys, if we don't have a reliable rotation and you start filling in with guys from down below or guys from the bullpen or whatever, it's not so much that move but you've inevitably weakened another area of your team.''

Dempster gets $13.25 million a year and would earn an additional $250,000 each season for pitching 190 innings.

``We went into this offseason wanting to add a proven starter to the rotation, someone that has a history of success, reliability and someone who we thought would embrace coming to Boston and everything that comes with pitching and playing in Boston, on and off the field,'' Cherington said. ``We think Ryan is the perfect fit for that.''

The 35-year-old right-hander adds experience to a rotation that underachieved this year as the Red Sox went 69-93 and finished last in the AL East in their only season under manager Bobby Valentine. He was fired and replaced by John Farrell.

``Obviously there's a lot of room to go up,'' Dempster said. ``Ben and the organization have done an incredible job of adding a lot of really good players and good baseball guys. So we're just going to go into spring training and work as hard as we can and go out there every day and leave it all on the field and play as hard as we can to get the best out of each other.''

Lester and Clay Buchholz had disappointing years and John Lackey returns after missing the season following elbow-ligament replacement surgery. Left-hander Felix Doubront was in the rotation for most of the season.

Dempster reached the major leagues in 1998 with the Florida Marlins and has a 124-124 record with a 4.33 ERA. A Canadian, he said he is undecided about playing in the World Baseball Classic.

But he is confident the Red Sox can reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

``That's why we play,'' he said. ``The money and things like that in baseball are great. But I came here because I believe this team has a chance of winning as much as anybody else. I've always believed that should be your mentality going into any season. Because it's proven day in, day out every team's going to win 50 games, every team's going to lose 50 games. It's what you do with the other 62 that matter.''

He went 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA this year. After starting 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in his ninth season with the Chicago Cubs, he was traded to the Texas Rangers and went 7-3 with a 5.03 ERA. That was his first stint in the American League.

``It's going to be a little bit different not being able to hit,'' he joked. ``They're going to miss my bat in the lineup, but we'll get through that.''

Quick Links

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

usatsi_10801156.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

capture_reirden.png
USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE: