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Tag:Coco Crisp
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:56 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-13-08

The Red Sox were once again unable to hold an early lead, and unable to push across runs late. Some thoughts on the game:

Josh Beckett had a better start than the line score would indicate. Simply, the Orioles did a much better job hitting. Beckett’s fastball was consistently down in the zone and at its usual 94-96 MPH range. His curveball was breaking sharply and his changeup was used sparingly but there did not seem to be much wrong with it. His delivery was fine, but the Orioles just out-hit him. It is very difficult for a lineup, especially a young lineup like theirs, to overcome a deficit against a great starting pitcher. The Sox went up but three runs in the first, and Beckett had retired the Orioles in order in the first inning, but they did not panic and were patient and were able to bang out some hits and put runs up early. Similarly, the game should not have been as close as it was. Jeremy Guthrie continues to be a nemesis of the Sox (everyone remembers the eight-plus shut-out inning performance last Mother’s Day), but the Orioles committed two errors behind him in the first inning which helped the Sox build a three run lead. The Sox should not be concerned by Beckett’s performance, because sometimes good just is not good enough.

The Red Sox are really suffering from injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury has been held out of the starting lineup for the past few games because of a knee injury, but he was forced to play in right field tonight when J.D. Drew had a nasty landing while attempting a sliding catch. Drew’s wrist completely rolled over, and the Sox reported that he the diagnosis was a sprained wrist. Coco Crisp had to leave the game later because of a stomach flu, and Brad Mills was forced to move Ellsbury over to center field and move Kevin Youkilis to right field. Youkilis was placed in the outfield because the Sox first string emergency outfielder, Julio Lugo, is still suffering from the effects of a slight concussion. Lugo was used in the outfield in 2006 with the Rays and with the Dodgers. Brandon Moss is still on the disabled list because of an appendectomy, so needless to say, the Sox are very thin all of the way around. If Drew has to go on the disabled list, and he may, considering the grim look that trainer Paul Lessard had when he first examined him, and given the fact that Drew is notorious for not playing through pain, then the Sox wil likely have to go to the minor leagues for outfield help, as they would only have one healthy outfielder in Manny Ramirez, and two questionable ones in Ellsbury and Crisp. To add to the swelling list of injured players, the likely replacement for any injured outfielder would be Bobby Kielty, but he was also just added to the disabled list. Moss is scheduled come off of the disabled list soon, so they could wait and hope nothing disastrous happens. Given the Sox long list of injuries and illnesses this season, it is a credit to their depth and overall team strength that they are still in first place.

The Sox offense is doing excellent this year, and their league-leading numbers are proof. However, the Sox are having difficulty of late hitting in pressure situations: late in the game, and with runners on base. The Sox opened the year with timely hitting and created an aura that they felt like they were never out of a game, and that confidence from the offense was carrying over into the other aspects of the team. Of late thought, it has been a different story. The Sox are not having the same explosiveness once the late innings come around. The difference between the Sox and the Orioles tonight was the Orioles’ ability to hit with runners on base and in scoring position. A microcosm of the Sox recent struggles occurred when Ramirez came up to bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Ramirez had a long battle at the plate, before grounding weakly to the pitcher, who was able to start the 1-2-3 double play. When Mike Lowell stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third and two out, he lifted a soft fly ball to the left fielder. The Sox managed a run late in the seventh, but the game tonight was eerily similar to the night before in against the Twins. In both nights, the Sox were able to put up some numbers early in the first inning, but were not able to salvage a mediocre start.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s series finale against the Orioles. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 11, 2008 11:52 pm
 

Red Sox Recap and 1st Quarter Report Card

As promised, here is the Red Sox first quarter report card for this season after 40 games.

Starting Pitching: A-
The Red Sox starting pitching has been better than anticipated, with the younger pitchers delivering better performances than was predicted. Josh Beckett missed a few starts, but has rounded into All-Star form and seems poised for another run for the Cy Young Award. Daisuke Matsuzaka has made a lot of improvements from his first year in the majors and has jumped out to a 6-0, but, leading the league in walks, he has still been shaky at times. But together, they look to be as dominant as any 1-2 punch in the A.L. Tim Wakefield has had a typical season thus far, and at 41 years old, that is all the Red Sox had hoped for. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have both flashed the signs that they are ready to be front end of the rotation starters, but also showed that they are in their first full season in the majors. There is no question about their stuff, but if the Sox want to go deep into the playoffs, they need more consistency from the back end of the rotation.

Relief Pitching: C
And this may be generous. The Sox have had very few arms in the bullpen where they feel secure that they can hold the lead. Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon have been very good for most of the season, although they are likely being overused due to the lack of any other relievers stepping up and getting outs. Manny Delcarmen was supposed to help with the late innings, but he has struggled heavily and has fallen from Terry Francona’s repertoire for tight contests. David Aardsma has been a pleasant surprise, but has struggled with his command. Javier Lopez has also performed well, albeit in very limited duty as a primarily left-handed specialist. A rotation of Craig Hansen and Bryan Corey (who the Sox traded to the Padres today) has shown that neither was ready for major league duty to this point. Mike Timlin started the year on the disabled list and has shown that he has in fact pitched in more games in the history of the major league with the expectation of about a dozen players. Julian Tavarez has been used very sparingly in long relief and has struggled because of his lack of work. The starters have produced a good number of seven inning starts, but that will not always be the case. Someone needs to fill in the middle innings and pitch when Okajima and Papelbon cannot, and those pitchers have not yet distinguished themselves.

Offense: A
The Red Sox have had the best offense in the majors through the first quarter of the season. Their team batting average is above .290 and they have a very good balance of power, run production and speed. Jacoby Ellsbury is doing everything that a leadoff hitter must do, which is get on base and score runs, and Dustin Pedroia leads the league in hits. David Ortiz was the only player to start slow, but he has gotten his swing back. Manny Ramirez should have been the player of the month, and Kevin Youkilis capped the first quarter by having a ridiculous week that vaulted him into the top ten in virtually every offensive category. J.D. Drew has played better so far, and Mike Lowell has come back well from the disabled list. Jason Varitek is, as he should be, focusing on the pitching staff, and the Sox have never looked for much production from him anyway. Julio Lugo has played better at times, but still continues to undercut expectations. If Ellsbury and Pedroia can continue to set the table, the Sox will have an excellent year offensively.

Bench: A
The bench players have been one of the strengths of the team this year. Coco Crisp has been sharing time with Ellsbury in center, and has played with good intensity and has hit over .300. Sean Casey filled in exceptionally when Lowell was on the disabled list, and his replacement, Jed Lowrie, also showed that he was capable of playing on the major league level. Brandon Moss did nothing wrong during his time, and should be able looking for another call-up before the year is over. Even Kevin Cash has performed very well, both in his first year handling Wakefield’s knuckleball, but also at the plate, batting near .400. It is a very comforting luxury for Francona to be able to look to his bench whenever he needs and still feel confident, and also in the young call-ups in the chance of injuries.

Defense: B+
The Sox defense has been good, expect for one man, and that would be Julio Lugo. The Sox have 21 errors, and Lugo has 11 of them. He just seems very reluctant fielding grounders. Most of Lugo’s errors before this season were due to his throws over to first, but this year’s errors have been fielding balls hit to him. Other than Lugo, the rest of the infield’s defense has been good, and Youkilis has been perfect as usual. In the outfield, there have been few mistakes. Ellsbury and Crisp provide Gold-Glove caliber defense and the ability to cover a lot of ground. Drew plays right field well, and Ramirez’s defense in left is sometimes convoluted but for the most part satisfactory. Without Lugo’s errors, the Sox would have a much more respectable overall fielding percentage near the league lead.

Overall: A-
They do have the best record in the A.L., and are likely the best team in the majors right now. They get a minus next to that A because the Diamondbacks have a better record, and because their relievers have struggled so much. They have good enough offense and starting pitching to get them through a seven game playoff series right now, but that could change come October. If they can add another reliever at the trading deadline, it would go great lengths to help the Sox out, but we saw that backfire last year. Considering the injuries, the illnesses and beginning the year in Japan, the Sox are sitting in a pretty good spot right now.

I am putting this report card on my blog, which I do with every recap, and you can access at the last link at the bottom of the recap. Feel free to respond to this report card here, or go to my blog.

Concerning tonight’s game, the Sox received their worst start of the year. Tim Wakefield did not make it out of the third inning. While he normally does well in indoor stadiums, he struggled mightly in the Metrodome. His knuckleballs were frequently left up in the zone, and the control of his fastball was off all night. Wakefield threw an astonishing amount of fastballs, or as Joe Morgan aptly called them “straightballs” because, at 74 MPH, they are hardly blistering. One of the home runs he gave up was on one such fastball that was nicely grooved, belt high. But, Wakefield looked like he was laboring from the first inning, and in this case, the knuckleball just did not flutter in the Sox favor.

Look for this recap following the series finale against the Twins as the Sox go for the split. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link to my blog.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 9, 2008 10:53 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-7-08

The Red Sox rallied back against a struggling Tigers’ bullpen only to have their bullpen falter and loose the game in the ninth. Some thoughts on the game:

After three great starts where it looked like he was turning out to be a solid reliable starter, Clay Buchholz took a big step back today. He got battered around for ten hits and five runs in just four innings. He was attacking the strike-zone, and even though the Tigers’ lineup has been the benchmark for futility this season, they do have a lot of fire power, so while he only walked one and threw 51 of 82 pitches for strikes, they were able to get solid contact off of him. Buchholz has not the issues with walks (only 15 in 38 innings this year) that some of the other Sox starters have had, but there is one difference between the starts where he looks like the kid who threw a no hitter last year, and the Red Sox version of the YankeesIan Kennedy and Phil Hughes. When Buchholz succeeds, it is because he is effective with his fastball, and his fastball is off, he struggles. His fastball is by no means his best pitch (in fact, it is probably his fourth best, after his change-up, curveball and slider), and is not overpowering (hovers in the low 90s), but no pitcher can be effective if he cannot locate his fastball at least to give hitters a different look. If he does not locate his fastball, they will wait on the breaking pitches and take their shots in hitters’ counts. A lot of the damage that opposing hitters do against Buchholz is off of his fastball, but his command will improve as he becomes more comfortable and begins to know hitters strengths and weaknesses. It was a little surprising to see him not come out to start the fifth inning, because even though he was struggling, he had only thrown 82 pitches, and Julian Tavarez had not pitched in several weeks, and it showed. Also, Buchholz seems to be developing a troublesome habit of pitching well at home, but being much worse away from Fenway. The Sox are hopeful that he will even out as the season wears on, but he needs to show that he can beat contending big league teams away from Fenway.

Cbssports.com baseball writer Scott Miller wrote a good article today about the Sox decisions with Jacoby Ellsbury and the playing time he has received. Miller’s main point was that even though Coco Crisp could start on most teams, Ellsbury brings an edge to the Sox lineup that precious few players are able to do. The Red Sox have not started Ellsbury every day for a few reasons. The first is that they have another starting center-fielder with a decent bat and an outstanding glove. Crisp is not going to be on the Red Sox lineup after come August. But, in order for the Sox to get a good return for Crisp's value, which is better than most Sox fans would think, Crisp has to play. He is not driving up his value by sitting on the bench. Crisp knows that his days in Boston are numbered, and that if he is traded, it will likely not be temporary, and Crisp wants to land a long-term extension. Crisp, much like Manny Ramirez, seems to be playing with a little more intensity with the prospect of such a deal all but assured. Another reason that Crisp is playing more may be to keep him at least marginally satisfied, because he is probably better than any other team's number four outfielder (the Tiger's Brandon Inge would give him the biggest competition). Red Sox fans saw how valuable Dave Roberts was to the 2004 World Series win, and Crisp is simply a better Dave Roberts. He is just as fast, a smart base-runner, a better center fielder and a better hitter who can do the little things like bunting and moving runners up. Crisp is also a switch hitter, which gives Terry Francona a great option off of the bench late in the game. Also, if the Sox have both Ellsbury and J.D. Drew as two of their starting outfielders, they are both left-handed batters, and when the opposing starter is a southpaw, it could create problems. So Crisp has a lot of value, but Ellsbury's value is simply better. There are several teams, like San Diego for example, who are in need of some offense and a center fielder. But Crisp needs to play if the Sox hope to get a good deal from him because, as other teams will notice, the Sox would like to deal him away simply to give them an excuse to play Ellsbury more. There is no question that Ellsbury's plusses out stripe Crisp's. The Sox are as astonishing 15-2 when Ellsbury scores a run. For those who follow my recaps after each Sox game, it was clear to see that the Sox offense was struggling, and getting shutout by guys like James Shields, at precisely the same time that Ellsbury was out. The rest of the Sox lineup clearly feels the most comfortable when he is at the top of the list and they like the consistency that he brings. Before an 0-5 the other night, he had some incredibly statistic where for every game that he had had at least one at-bat, he reached base in 50 of 51 of those games, dating back from his debut last year. He is the first player the Sox have had in several decades who get on base, and come around to score, without a hit having been recorded. Also Ellsbury, with two stolen bases tonight, now has successfully stolen 22 straight bases to begin his major league career. The major league record was set by Tim Raines, who stole his first 27 bases to begin his career before being caught.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game as the Sox close out the four game series in Detroit. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.
Posted on: May 7, 2008 12:12 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2008 12:14 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-6-08

The Red Sox won their fifth straight game behind an excellent start by Tim Wakefield. Some thoughts on the game:

Tim Wakefield delivered his best start of the year thus far, throwing strikes early and often, and dominated the Tigers’ stagnant offense. The Tigers took an approach to Wakefield that the Rangers took earlier this year, as they swung early in the count and did not wait for Wakefield to throw too many pitches. In the game against the Rangers, Wakefield gave up eight hits and five runs, but the Tigers were much less effective making contact. Tonight was the only other night, besides the Rangers game, that he did not yield a walk. Even though his delivery does not change with runners on base, almost anyone can steal a base against him, and with the occasional passed ball, a runner on first who reached on a walk can easily come around to score without the opposing team recording a hit. Wakefield settled in and worked fast as he normally does, and retired at one point 16 straight Tigers. Wakefield lowered his ERA to 3.33, and now Josh Beckett (4.19 ERA) is the only starter with an ERA above 4.00. With the back end of the bullpen a little taxed, Wakefield’s eight innings were that much more helpful. It also allowed for a rare occurrence, as both pitchers for the Sox tonight were both over 41 years old, since Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless ninth for the Sox fourth shut-out this season.

Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz went back-to-back in the seventh inning to provide most of the offense. Ramirez has been in a mini-slump, entering the game with just 5 hits in his last 32 at-bats. But, more importantly, he broke out of a bad power slump, as his home run was his first since April 20. A lot of players tend to be pressing when they get close to a milestone, and with Ramirez on the edge of one of the most historic milestones in all of baseball, he has been racking up the strikeouts with alarming frequency. Alex Rodriguez went through a similar funk last year as he approached 500 home runs, but after a week or so, the great players tend to get back in their groove. Ramirez had an excellent batting practice session today, and the home run capped a very good offensive night. It is very encouraging to see Ortiz drive the ball with explosive force, and his home run was likely between 440 and 450 feet. He has been given a few days off over the past few weeks, and he has responded well going 11-25 (.440) with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI over his last six games. Since he really seems to be having trouble with his knee, look for him to be given more frequent off days, especially after Sean Casey comes back off of the disabled list, which he is eligible to do on Friday. Also, Ramirez and Ortiz have now hit home runs in the same game an astonishing 45 times in their career with the Red Sox, and seeing as they have only played together for a little over five seasons, that number is even more impressive. Not only are they the “gold standard,” as ESPN commentator Joe Morgan refers to them, for productive 3-4 hitters in the game today, but they may be the best of all time.

The Sox entered the Tigers series with a very surprising statistic: they had had as many home runs as they did stolen bases (26). The Sox also recorded two stolen bases in one game recently, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the only time such an event has occurred for the Sox for at least the last 50 years. With Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp, and Julio Lugo, the Sox may have more speed now than they ever have, and we would have to go back to the 1910s-1920s with Sox teams that included Hall of Famers like Tris Speaker. If he starts to play more regularly, Ellsbury may break Tommy Harper’s club record of 54 steals. But, if not this year, then the Sox may as well already begin penciling in Ellsbury’s name.

There was a poll on today's recap about where Ramirez and Ortiz stand in history in terms of 3-4 combinations. 
I'll throw some other combos out there to keep in mind:

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to make it three straight against the Tigers. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)

Obviously, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

Willie Mays and Willie McCovey

Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. (although Maris did not sustain the numbers that Mantle did)

Mickey Cochrane and Al Simmons

Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews (hold the record for most times two players for the same team hit a home run in the same game, 75)

Fred Lynn and Jim Rice

These are just a few, to get the juices flowing...(no pun intended)

Posted on: May 3, 2008 10:54 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-3-08

The Sox got their second consecutive eight innings performance from their starter and an impressive offense attack. Some thoughts on the game:

Josh Beckett had a very good start tonight, allowing four runs in eight innings. He struggled a bit in the early innings, having some command issues and yielding a two run home run in the second. But, after yielding another run in the fourth, he seemed to gain better control of his fastball and settled down. He threw only 100 pitches over the eight innings, and was trying to mix more changeups in along with his fastball and curveball. Very few pitchers can get by on just two pitches, and as good as Beckett is, he does need a third pitch, even if he uses it rarely. A power pitcher like Beckett would likely try to feature a two-seam sinking fastball as a third pitch to use to mix up hitters and try to get a groundball in tight situations. His third pitch, though, is the changeup. However, for a pitcher who throws 95-97 MPH on his straight fastball and drops his curveball in at 77-79 MPH, Beckett’s changeup should come across the plate in the low 80s, but Beckett’s whistles past at 90-91. He does seem to have good control over it, and he always keeps it down, but he has to be very careful with this pitch. Because it is coming in as fast as most people’s fastball, it probably looks more like a fastball than a changeup. If hitters are late on his fastball, they may be able to time his changeup well. He has to keep that pitch down if he wants it to be effective, but it still may not be the best third pitch option for Beckett. For the record, though, all of the four runs Beckett gave up came off of his fastball.

It was mentioned in the recap yesterday that the lineup would hit their stride again when Jacoby Ellsbury came back, and, at least for two games, they have. (The Sox improved to 13-2 when Ellsbury scores a run). This is not to do any patting on the back, but it was brought up in an interview with Terry Francona that he was not entirely happy with his rookie outfielder. Francona is the stereotypical “players”-manager, and will likely never call a player out in public and likes to care of those kind of situations in-house, as he should. But he did express some discontent about the way that some of the players on the Sox were treating injuries, though he was explicit that he was not singling out Ellsbury. However, his comments included him saying that there “is a fine line” between players who are injured and who can play, and that “We can’t wait for guys to be 100 percent.” Perhaps the most accusatory words from Francona was when he described that minor league managers and staff are more protective of players and their injuries and when they experience pain. He went on to say that he thought Ellsbury would be able to play back on Tuesday, but when it became evident that he could not, the manager was surprised that Ellsbury did not come by on the off-day on Monday to receive treatment. Francona said that it gave his staff a chance to talk to Ellsbury about how to handle these kind of situations. But also in Francona’s words there was likely a reference to J.D. Drew, who had missed the past few games because of a quadriceps injury. Drew has been notorious about refusing to play when hurt, but Francona also went out of his way to mention that Coco Crisp had been hampered by a sore knee, although he went out and has been playing in place of Ellsbury, and that Crisp is a good example of a player who is willing to play through pain. It is likely that Ellsbury’s problem was more of a misunderstanding, but Drew’s issues come as little surprise.

Speaking of injured players, there have been several updates over the past few days. Bartolo Colon is going to pitch two innings in an extended spring training game on Monday. The Sox seem to feel that Colon, who has been traveling with the Sox, has not lost much because he would be in triple-A Pawtucket if it were not for paperwork issues. May 1 has come and gone, and Colon has not decided to leave the Sox and declare free agency, as the out clause in his contract says he can. The Sox signed Colon because they did not plan on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz pitching as well as they have this season. As both have performed well, Colon will have to either wait for someone to get injured, or really hit a wall. Of the 309 games that Colon has pitched in the majors, 306 were starts, so he has no value as a reliever. If he continues to pitch well at Pawtucket, and no Red Sox starter needs replacement by mid-June, it is unlikely that Colon will stay at Pawtucket.

On other injured news, Brandon Moss underwent emergency surgery tonight to have his appendix removed. He will likely be out at least until the beginning of next week. Curt Schilling was also reported to be close to begin a throwing program, being able to start within the next 10 days. Even though it is true that no team can have enough starting pitching, the way that the Sox starters’ are going, there really is no room for either Schilling or Colon. It would be nice to have an option like Schilling, and Colon for that matter, if one of the starters gets hurt, but if they do not, it would be a bad descision to take out one of the young starters simply because Schilling is healthy. Schilling will not be as effective as Buchholz and Lester have been this season thus far.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to return to the Rays the favor of being swept. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 1, 2008 10:57 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2008 10:46 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-1-08

The Red Sox were blanked by A.J. Burnett and the Blue Jays avoided a sweep. Some thoughts on the game:

Tim Wakefield delivered a good start, limiting the Blue Jays to only three runs over seven innings. He continued a streak of now five consective starts by Red Sox pitchers that have gone for at least seven innings. However, a knuckleballer rarely throws a shut-out because there are so many minute things that can happen with the pitch that results in the opposing offense capitalizing on a hanging pitch, or one that bounces in the dirt with a runner on third. The Sox will be very happy with Wakefield’s effort, because three runs in seven innings should be plenty to give the Sox a chance to win. As it were, the offense failed to produce again, and Wakefield’s good start proved fruitless. Wakefield had better control than he did in his last start in Tampa, the last start where a starter did not go seven innigs, where his knuckleball was dancing all over the place. He did yield four walks, and oddly missed with the rare fastballs that he did throw, especially in the 3-0 counts, but he limited the damage, and got some help from his defense. Although Wakefield is a reliable starter, it is nearly impossible for him to take the intensity and confidence that the rest of the starters have built up and for him to shut out a team for eight innings. Over a season, Wakefield’s numbers will certainly hold up, especially against other teams’ number three or four starters, but it is difficult for him to extend the feeling of dominance that the other starters definitely were beginning to feel. The starters know the offense is struggling, and they have picked up their intensity.

Speaking of the offense struggling, the Sox achieved a rarity tonight: they won the series, two games to one, but got outscored 4-3. The Sox have now only managed four runs over their last five games, and have been shut-out twice. With Wakefield on the mound, the Sox lineup always looks a bit difference, and with J.D. Drew injured and Julio Lugo given the night off, the lineup was obviously not at full strength. It has been said before in this recap that the Sox will fail to sustain a consistent offensive attack when their lead-off batter remains questionable. Jacoby Ellsbury has been out for the last four games, and both of the shut-outs. Neither Coco Crisp nor Dustin Pedroia serves as good lead-off hitters, Crisp because he does not make enough contact and strike-outs too often, and Pedroia because he does not walk a great deal and has average speed at best. Ellsbury serves as the prototypical lead-off hitter, and the Sox desperately need his bat back in the lineup. He was heating up and making solid contact before he went down, and his on-base percentage has been high all season. He should likely be ready to start playing soon, and the Sox offense will likely hit his stride again when he does.

Incredibly odd though it may seem to say, the Sox welcome the first place Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow, and in addition to seeing some of the starters that helped them sweep the Sox for the first time during their last series, Rays’ ace Scott Kazmir will also make his season debut this weekend. Kazmir is far and away the best pitcher on the staff, and lead the A.L. in strikeouts last year, and always pitches the Sox hard. His return will force the Rays to decide who he is going to replace, a decision that the Sox will also have to face soon. Today is May 1, and technically the out clause in Bartolo Colon’s contract allows him to become a free agent if they do not promote him to the major league club. Perhaps his pending return to the majors has spurred the members of the Sox rotation, at least the two younger pitchers, to up their intensity level. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein have implied that they feel that it is unlikely that Colon will enforce that out clause, and will stay in the Sox organization. Colon will likely throw a simulated side session this weekend of about 45-60 pitches, and if he performs well, he will go back to triple-A Pawtucket and begin making starts again. If he continues to be healthy, it should take him about three starts to get back up to regular form and strength. The Sox will have to decide what to do with him by the end of May, and if he pitches more games like he did in his first start in Pawtucket, he may in fact enforce that rule if he is not brought up to the majors club.

These are some thoughts that came in response to this recap:

As far as Mike Lowell's expectations are concerned, they were never quite high to begin with. He is getting up there in age, and any hope that he was going to near the .324-21-120 that he churned out last year. As we are seeing with Manny Ramirez, players somehow seem to play better when there is a contract on the line. Lowell produced, and got his contract. Realistically, the Sox were looking for Lowell this year to simply provide some protection for Ramirez in the number five hole in the lineup. However, going on the disabled list has severely dampened that hope. Lowell is certainly not washed up, but will likely produce numbers more similar to what he was able to do during his first year with the Sox. In 2006, he batted .284 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs, and if he produces those numbers, or at least close to, then the Sox will be happy. But run production from someone who is not a power hitter is difficult when the guys in front of you are not producing. Lowell's numbers swelled last year because David Ortiz finished the year batting .332. It is the reason why even though Ramirez has a much higher batting average this year, Ortiz has more RBIs. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are getting on bas for Ortiz, but because Ortiz's batting average is struggling, Ramirez does not come up with many runners on base. But Lowell will earn his keep by the end of the year.

Someone who will not earn his keep is J.D. Drew, and it has little to do with him. Red Sox fans will never be impressed or satisfied with Drew because they feel that he does not produce enough to warrant the amount of money the Sox are paying for him. Drew's $14 million salary is second on the team only to Ramirez's, but Drew is simply no where near as good as Ramirez. We all know that Drew has been plagued by injuries, and his tenure here has been no different, but if you pan out Drew's career statistics over a 162 game season (his career high for games played in one season is 146), his numbers still only average out to 25 home runs and 85 RBIs, and that would be if he played nearly twenty games more in one season than his career high. The fact is that Drew did not force the Sox to sign him and give him $14 million. Theo Epstein wanted to have Drew play right field, and he paid him a lot of money for it. Drew will be a victim of his own good fortune: he is being paid $14 million, but there is no way that he can produce like it. If the fans want to boo, direct it at Epstein, and not Drew.

All in all, though, the Sox offense will not be the bane of this team. The only team in the majors that has playoff-caliber pitching but no offense is the San Diego Padres, and the Sox certainly have a better lineup than the Friars. They will likely lead the league in all of the important categories by the end of the year: on-base percentage, runs scored, average pitches per at-bat, etc. They are struggling heavily, but all teams are allowed a rough stretch.

The Sox welcome the Rays back to Fenway tomorrow, and will see if Clay Buchholz can continue his recent hot streak. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 18, 2008 10:42 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-18-08

The Sox had their third straight offensive display tonight, beating the Rangers in the first of a four game series. Some thoughts on the game:

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched well enough to earn the win tonight, allowing only one run on a sacrifice fly until the sixth inning, when he was touched by Hank Blalock for a two run home run. However, it was the same script for most of the season for Matsuzaka, only this time, it play was set against a weak offensive team. He was highly inefficient, throwing 81 pitches over the first four innings, after throwing 116 in his previous start, in which he went five innings. He walked only two, which does give him 17 in 29 and 1/3 innings pitched, but he was still trying to aim his fastball and had a lot of 2-2 and 3-2 counts. The Sox were lucky that Josh Beckett was lights out the night before, so the bullpen was not taxed, but in a game where the Sox score nine runs when he is still in the game, he has to be more aggressive so that his 100th pitch is in the eighth inning, and not the sixth. As evidenced by the .182 opponents batting average against Matsuzaka, his stuff is good enough, and part of the maturing process, which we saw Beckett go through, is beginning to pitch to contact and let the quality of his pitches do all of the work. Once he does that, he can take the 100 plus pitches that he throws every outing and stretch that into seven strong innings. But Beckett is a special pitcher, and Matsuzaka, or anyone else for that matter, cannot be held to those standards.

Jacoby Ellsbury has now started the last three games in center field, with Coco Crisp nursing a minor injury. In those three starts, the Sox have scored nine runs, seven runs, and then eleven runs tonight. Although he is only hitting .229, he has a .438 on base percentage, with 11 walks on the young season. Ellsbury is showing very good discipline at the plate, and he is not chasing pitches that he knows he cannot hit. He also has 12 runs scored, and both his walks and runs scored ranks him among the league leaders. The on-base percentage statistic is more important for a lead off batter than any other player. As was mentioned in earlier recaps, whether it is Ellsbury or Crisp, the Sox offense will produce more when there is consistency at the top of the lineup. With Ellsbury getting on base so much, it is providing a lot of help for the hitters behind him, because pitchers have to approach them differently. Throw in the fact that Ellsbury has yet to even come close to getting thrown out trying to steal a base, and has likely been told by Terry Francona to steal every time that he can, Ellsbury very quickly turns a walk into a “double” as Jerry Remy would say.

David Ortiz had four very productive at-bats, as he collected two hits and drove in more runs tonight that he had all season. One thing that has always worked for Ortiz is his ability to push pitches to the opposite field, and he did that tonight, on the home run and also on a line out to the left fielder. Although Fenway Park is an unfriendly hitters’ park for a left-handed, power and pull hitter like Ortiz, it can go a long way to help a hitter break out of a slump. It may only seem like one game, but Ortiz has looked much sharper since his day off.

Theo Epstein and Terry Francona must smile every time they look at a box score where there are four hitters that came up through their own farm system and went a combined 5 for 13 with four walks, six runs scored, four RBIs and a home run. Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and we can now throw in Jed Lowrie, give the Sox a very talented core of young players who seem to be able to produce immediately. With his immediate success, albeit brief, it will make fans ponder why Lowrie was not given the shortstop position in the same fashion that the second baseman’s job was simply given to Pedroia last year. Even if he struggled last year, it is impossible to think that he would have done worse than Julio Lugo, and the Sox won the World Series with him. This may seem like a case of Monday-morning-quarterbacking, but what would lead the Sox to believe that Lowrie will be any different from Pedroia.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 14, 2008 12:19 am
Edited on: April 14, 2008 12:22 am
 

Red Sox Recap 4-13-08

The Red Sox got enough where it counted and won the series against the Yankees, two games to one. Some thoughts from the game:

Daisuke Matsuzaka reverted to the 2007 version that we knew of, as opposed to the much improved version we had seen in the last two starts. Matsuzaka had been pitching very effectively, spotting his off-speed pitches and being aggressive with his fastball. However, tonight, we saw much of what agonized Sox fans last year, a pitcher with explosive stuff, but instead of going after hitters, he nit-picked on the corners and tried to get hitters to help him out. The Yankees, however, are just as patient as the Sox, and that led to six walks given up by Matsuzaka, which ran his pitch count to 116 through five innings. He had a significantly higher ERA at home last year, and also posted an ERA over 6 against the Yankees last year, which are two areas that he has to pick up. He can pitch shutout ball away from Fenway for the entire season, but if he can get it done at home and against the Yankees, he is in for some rough times in Boston.

Mike Timlin made another appearance tonight, and had another disaster. Much in the way that Manny Delcarmen had his troubles against Frank Thomas in the Toronto series, Timlin has now surrendered both home runs that Jason Giambi has hit this season. He gave up three hits and did not record any outs, and was saved by Javier Lopez from giving up any more runs as Lopez induced Johnny Damon to ground into a double play. He has now given up three runs, including the two homers to Giambi, while only recording one out, which results in an astronomical 81.00 ERA. Conventional wisdom would say that he was rushed back too quickly, having only made two appearances during a rehab assignment in Pawtucket. But, it may be that, at 42 and one of only thirteen pitchers with over 1,000 appearances in the history of major league baseball, he just does not have much left in the tank. Eventually, if his woes continue, he may be headed back to the disabled list.

Speaking of the bullpen, Lopez pitched the most effective, and his most important inning, of the short season thus far. This was exactly the reason why Lopez was held while the Sox had to go through roster issues. Lopez, criticized because although he is on the team as a lefty specialist, the numbers have shown him to be more effective against righties, will always play an important role against the Yankees. The Yankees employ five lefties and two switch hitters, and Lopez was brought in to retire Johnny Damon, who grounded into a double play, and Robinson Cano. Lopez is the classic example of a pitcher who will always have a job in the big leagues simple because he is a left-handed pitcher who has a deceptive delivery. But, if he does what he did tonight, there will be no complaints from the Sox. It is also very encouraging that on a night, as expected, where Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima are unavailable, the rest of the bullpen can at least hold on and get the important outs. Other than Timlin, Delcarmen, who finished the game, along with performances by Lopez and David Aardsma, all had great outings, and at this point of the season, that will be a big advantage over other teams, like the Yankees and Tigers, as we have seen.

As was anticipated, David Ortiz was given the night off, albeit the rubber game of the first series of the season against the rival Yankees. The Sox next scheduled day off is not until April 28, which, beginning on April 8, would have been a stretch of 20 straight games. Manny Ramirez was in the lineup as the designated hitter, and with the still hot J.D. Drew was moved up to the number three spot, Jacoby Ellsbury replaced Ramirez in left and picked up a hit and an RBI. There is no question that the Sox looked much more consistent on offense tonight because there was finally some consistency at the top of the lineup. Since coming back from Japan, the Sox have won back-to-back games twice this season, and Ellsbury has started all of those games. It may not be that Ellsbury is that much better than Coco Crisp, who has a higher batting average this year than Ellsbury, but it is clear that the offense will respond more when the lead-off man can start getting into a routine.

Look for this recap as the Sox open a bizarre two game series with the Indians, their only trip to Cleveland this year. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

 
 
 
 
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