Tag:Craig Hansen
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:43 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-12-08

The Red Sox offense jumped out early but the starting pitching put them in a deficit they would not recover from as they lost three out of four to the Twins. Some thoughts on the game:

Clay Buchholz has a serious problem. He has been the classic “Jekyll and Hyde” example of a young pitcher who has no confidence pitching on the road. Buchholz’s numbers coming into the game were decent for a rookie starter in the A.L., but after tonight’s performance, there is a definite trend, and it is not a good one. While the rookie’s number are sparkling at home, 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA, his road numbers are ghastly, 0-3 with an 8.64 ERA. It is not unusual for a young starter, and all starters for that matter, to find better success at home, but rarely does any pitcher go from near perfect numbers at home to completely unreliable on the road. (And those road numbers include the eight inning, three hit performance in Tampa) Certainly, most players find it easier to perform at home (just ask the Celtics), but Buchholz needs to figure some thing out in his mechanics, because he looks like a completely different pitcher. It seemed like every change-up he threw tonight was above the belt, and since his change-up is his best pitch, he was in for trouble. He had to go to his fastball on more occasions, which was better tonight than in his last outing, but was still not something that he can put away opposing batters with like he can with his change-up. He did feature a good curveball, which he was forced to go to when the change was staying up. Buchholz has good enough secondary pitches, but since his fastball has been proven to be the weakest of his four pitches, he tends to throw the change-up in hitters counts. On most days, what makes him successful is his ability to throw those off-speed pitches for strikes when he gets behind hitters and that keeps them off-balance. But tonight, the Twins saw his change-up was off, and were able to lay off and simply go after his fastball. It will be interesting to see if he makes some adjustment the next time he starts on the road, because the Sox cannot afford this type of disaster every time he pitches away from Fenway.

In what seems like a somewhat unexpected move, Julian Tavarez was designated for assignment to make room for Sean Casey. The Sox made this move for a number of reasons. First, Tavarez has been struggling, but it was more likely do to the fact that he has not been used often. Terry Francona has shown before how he is uncomfortable to have a pitcher in the bullpen who is a “long”-reliever, and that he likely thinks that to have a pitcher who does not pitch well in one inning, back-to-back game type situations is somewhat of a waste. It is true that Tavarez does need at least two or three days to recover after pitching, no matter if he pitches one inning, or four. Simply, the Sox did not have a need for a long reliever. Secondly, the Sox are running out of players with options. Craig Hansen has some left, but the Sox felt like he deserved to be with the club and he had something to prove. Jed Lowrie was already sent down when Alex Cora was activated. Manny Delcarmen likely has a few, but the Sox seem intent on keeping him with the club. And lastly, the Sox have been involved with trade rumors for a few weeks regarding Tavarez, primarily with the Rockies. What has probably happened is that the Sox are close to a trade with some team, but the logistics have to still be worked out. By designating Tavarez, it gives the Sox ten days to trade him, or he can either accept an assignment to the minor leagues, or opt for free agency. The Sox are probably close to a trade, and Tavarez will probably be sent to another club within the next few days. Do not look for the Sox to get much in return, probably a player to be named later. Tavarez’s end in Boston comes as a disappointment to many, as he was one of the best personalities in the clubhouse. He was always willing to do whatever it took to win, and he was very valuable for the Sox last year, making 18 starts until returning to the bullpen when Jon Lester returned. At least Sox fans will have some great memories, like Tavarez petting Manny Ramirez’s head, or bowling a groundball to get a runner out at first base.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game as the Sox begin a brief two game series against the Orioles for the end of this ten game road trip. (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 5, 2008 11:53 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-5-08

The Red Sox won the series opener against the Tigers on the heels of timely hitting and an up-and-down pitching effort.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had one of the most bizarre pitching lines of the season. He only allowed one run on two hits, but his pitch count soared to 109 because of the eight walks he allowed. Usually when a pitcher’s command is as off as his was tonight, the pitcher generally pays for his mistakes. But he got help from his defense and was able to limit the damage as only one of the batters he walked came around to score. It goes without saying that Matsuzaka had very little in the tank for tonight’s game, but it has to be encouraging that he only gave up one run while being so wild. It shows that when his pitches do find their way over the plate, opposing hitters have a tough time making good contact. Matsuzaka has been wild this season, and now leads the A.L. in walks (Jon Lester is tied for second), but there was very clearly something wrong with him. This was the first night since he has been with the Sox that he looked visibly upset on the mound. He was not getting squeezed by the home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, but he was very frustrated with himself, being unable to throw strikes consistently. He was stellar in his last start, although he had skipped the start previous to that because of flu-like symptoms, but whether there was something wrong with him tonight, or because of something he did during the week, tonight was almost brutal to watch.

With Brandon Moss headed to the disabled list because of an appendectomy, the Sox recalled reliever Craig Hansen from triple-A Pawtucket. This is Hansen’s second stint with the Sox this season, as he pitched in the April 23 game against the Angels. Hansen’s health problems and subsequent struggles with the Sox have been well publicized, but he is trying to prove that he has come a long way and that he deserves a permanent spot on the 25 man roster. With the recent struggles of the bullpen, Hansen may in fact be playing for a spot. However, he gave up two runs today in 1 and two thirds innings pitched, which did little to help his cause. But it seems highly questionable the way the Sox have chose to use Hansen in the brief stints he has had with the big league club. Even going back to 2006 (he did not pitch in Boston in 2007), the Sox seemed intent on using him for multiple innings, as they have done for both of his appearances this year. This is similar treatment for what they tried with Manny Delcarmen at the beginning of his appearances last year. He struggled in that role, but performed better when he was coming in at the start of an inning, and pitching just the one inning. It seems that Hansen is a very similar pitcher to Delcarmen, and it is puzzling why they are sending him back out to pitch multiple innings. He recorded the first 1-2-3 inning of the day for Sox pitchers in the sixth, but gave up two runs when they sent him back out for the seventh. With Hansen’s addition, the Sox now have 13 pitchers, and given the deep starts that the Sox starters have been providing, the Sox middle relief is pretty well rested (Julian Tavarez has not pitched since April 24, a span of 11 games). There was no need for the Sox to bring him out to pitch the seventh as his future with the club will be as a one inning set-up man and substitute closer, neither of which will require him to pitch for more than one inning. With Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon both pitching now in consecqutive games, they will likely be unavailable for tomorrow’s game, meaning that the team will have to fill in without them if they have the lead late. With Hansen having thrown 29 pitches, he will also likely be unavailable. Hansen is still a good young prospect, but the Sox have got to use him correctly.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game against the Tigers as the Sox go for five straight wins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 28, 2008 6:42 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2008 6:44 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-26-08

The Red Sox lost to their fourth straight game and second in a row to the Rays. Some thoughts on the game:

Clay Buchholz pitched an absolutely great game. This is the type of start that the Sox dream of from their number five starter. Many people will say that the Sox were looking to get too much out of him by sending him out for the eighth inning, but Buchholz was getting stronger as the night was going on. He made the one bad pitch, the hanging breaking ball to Akinori Iwamura, which accounted for all of the runs that the Rays got. The biggest problem that Buchholz was having up until tonight was his struggles with opposing hitters during their second trip to the plate. Tonight, he handled the Rays much better, changing his speeds and going after hitters the second and third time around completely different than he did earlier. He got into no clear rhythm as the night went on in terms of the way he was attacking hitters, and because all three of his pitches were working, the Rays were simply guessing. Iwamura guessed off-speed during his at-bat in the eight and happened to guess right. Terry Francona was right to send Buchholz back out, as he was breezing through the later innings, and he has pitched better against left-handed batters this year than he has righties anyway. The Sox will be exceptionally pleased with the way he mixed up his pitches and kept the Rays off-balance. Buchholz had only given up one hit through eight innings, and even with the home run, has now given up only two runs to go along with 15 strikeouts over his last two outings, which span 14 innings.

The reason the Sox lost had little to do with Buchholz and Iwamura’s home run. The Sox only managed one run, and have to be concerned with the lack of offensive production. Of the Sox’s five hits tonight, all five were singles, and only one of them left the infield. Because injuries and illnesses have forced the Sox to do quite a bit of shuffling in their lineup, the Sox need to show soon that they can score runs on the road. A problem for the Sox this season has been their lack of offensive production playing away from Fenway Park. This is not unnatural, but four runs over the first two games, especially at a venue like Tropicana Field where they have had good success driving in runs in recent years, is by no means fruitful. The Rays do have a few of the best statistics in the A.L. for their relief pitching, but the Sox will be facing much tougher bullpens as the season plays out.

Speaking of injuries and illnesses, add Sean Casey to that list. Casey injured himself as he was rounding third and scoring a run in yesterday’s game. To replace Casey, the Sox recalled Brandon Moss from triple-A Pawtucket. Because of the surplus of outfielders that the Sox have enjoyed recently, Moss started doing work and taking lessons at first base during this spring training. Still, Moss’s recall may seem slightly puzzling. Mike Lowell is on a rehab assignment, and played in the field for the first time today as the Pawtucket Red Sox took on Buffalo. He is expected to be ready to rejoin the team shortly, which will add another infielder to the Sox bench as Jed Lowrie can return to being a back up rather than a starter. But the Sox have a player at Pawtucket named Chris Carter, who was acquired as the player-to-be-named-later in the deal that sent Wily Mo Pena to the Washington Nationals last season. Carter had very impressive numbers for triple-A Tucson (in the Diamondbacks system) and in his brief stay in Pawtucket last year. Although he seems to be a natural designated hitter, the Sox have placed him at first base since it seems unlikely that the Sox will have an opening at DH for some time. He could have been a likely call-up to replace Casey. Another option would be to go with another pitcher, like the recently demoted Craig Hansen. Hansen is by no means a lights out reliever, but he can pitch for more than one inning at a time and could help out the bullpen, which is looking strained at this point in the season. Though, if the Sox continue to get eight solid innings from the number five starter, that may become moot.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to avoid a sweep and stop this loosing streak. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 25, 2008 10:48 am
 

Red Sox Recap 4-24-08

The Sox lost their second straight to the Angels despite a solid start by Justin Masterson. Some thoughts on the day:

With Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka scratched from their starts this week, the Sox had to again dig into the minor leagues for a starter. Justin Masterson made his major league debut, and surrendered only one run in six solid innings. Masterson is the very highly regarded pitching prospect who was at double-A Portland where he had dazzled with a 0.95 ERA. He was thrown around in trade talks as part of  package for Johan Santana in this past off-season. He is an imposing force on the mound, at 6-6 and 250 pounds, and has been compared to Derek Lowe because of the great movement on his sinking fastball. However, Masterson has better secondary pitches than Lowe, with a change-up that breaks down and away from left-handed batters, and a hard breaking slider. Although some people may not be that impressed with his performance at the double-A level, the recent trend in minor league organizations is to leave the most talented prospects at double-A, while triple-A is where the border-line and more experienced players go (the Sox equivalents of Brandon Moss, Bobby Kielty, Craig Hansen, Jed Lowrie, etc.) Masterson is projected to compete for a starting job once some of the older starters in the Sox rotation retire, and based on what he showed today, the Sox may have a future 20 game winner.

In the early part of the season, when the offense is in full swing and firing on all cylinders, and even though injuries have affected their starting pitcher, the Sox seem to be getting what they expected from their rotation. The trouble spot for the team so far has been the middle relief and the bridge from the starter to Jonathan Papelbon. We saw the entire corp of pitchers who are going to be looked on to fill that role absolutely collapse. Javier Lopez failed to get out his two batters, and Manny Delcarmen also did not record an out, and Okajima got them out of the inning but not before allowing three inherited runners to score. David Aardsma also surrendered a run later in the game, while Julian Tavarez also let a run score, albiet un-earned. As fans, we hold relievers to a higher standard than we do starting pitchers. If one of our starting gives up three runs in six innings pitched, we consider that a very effective start, and certainly enough to give the team a chance to win. But that is one run allowed every two innings, and would be an ERA of 4.50. Relievers enter the game when it counts the most, and even if they do have a good ERA, when they give up runs, the runs prove to be very critical. The Sox can get by with two youngsters in rotation, but they need their middle relievers to step up and deliever some good quality innings. Masterson should have gotten a win today, and in the same sense that come-from-behind wins do a lot to boost morale for a ballclub, games in which the bullpen lost the lead after a solid outing from the starting will do just as much to hurt a club's outlook.

Look for this recap following tomorrow's game as the Sox travel to Tampa Bay to open the weekend series. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 23, 2008 10:20 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-23-08

 The Red Sox' winning streak came to an end on a day where Daisuke Matsuzaka was scratched from his regular start. Some thoughts on the game:

Jon Lester is making the types of improvements that the Sox are looking for as the season progresses. Last week, he attacked the strike zone, and while he gave up 10 hits, he looked much smoother and effective on the mound when it counted (i.e. with runners on base). This week Lester showed a similar philosophy, mixing up his pitches and trying to be more aggressive. He gave up another nine hits, but the Sox will be pleased with this result. Firstly, he was forced into action after just three days rest for the first time that anyone can remember in his professional career. He got the Sox five innings, in which he threw 81 pitches, a good number for Lester, and the Sox were tied when he left. If Lester was on his regular rest, he would have at least started the sixth inning, and may have come back for the seventh. The biggest thing to remember with Lester is that he is 24 years old, and he is the Sox number four starter for a reason. The Sox do not expect seven shut-out innings on every start. The Sox hope Lester rounds into someone who can win 13-15 games, but he is still learning, but obviously doing well enough to be handed the ball on three days rest.

Craig Hansen was called up to the Sox today, and was promptly inserted to replace Lester to begin the sixth inning. Hansen has not pitched in the majors since the 2006 season, when he was kicked around for an ERA of 6.63 in 38 innings pitched. The Sox were once very high on this former first round draft pick, and they had envisioned him becoming what Jonathan Papelbon has now become. They were impressed with his raw ability, and that saw him move through the Red Sox entire farm system in just a year, becoming one of the rare players to play in college and the majors in the same year (from St. John’s Univerity to the Red Sox in 2005). But Hansen was a major disappointment in 2006, and was kept in the big leagues for too long, which probably did not do wonders on his confidence. Recently, there have been several strange medial issues that have plagued Hansen, as it has been discovered that he suffered from sleep apnea and been using a machine while he sleeps. He was also suffering from migraine headaches, which was reportedly due to him grinding his teeth at night. So it is highly likely that Hansen is better than his career 6.59 major league ERA would suggest, but at 23, he may no longer be the red-hot prospect he used to be, but he is definitely more than a lukewarm pitcher who has to become Mike Timlin’s replacement.

J.D. Drew is starting to struggle again as the season moves out of April. In what is becoming almost an exact mirror image of last season, Drew was batting at .375 on April 20 last season, before he headed into an incredibly mediocre stretch that severely dropped his offensive productions. Drew started off hot this season, but had a tough series against the Rangers, while everyone else was padding their statistics, and has again started slowly in the Angels series. He was using the opposite field more before the Rangers series, but he has reverted to trying to pull everything. Drew has been more of a balanced hitter rather than a power hitter in his career, hitting over 30 home runs only once, but for most of the time with the Sox, he has tried to pull a good deal of the pitches thrown to him. Fenway Park is famous for being unfriendly to left-handed pull hitters, (the management of the Sox in the 1940s had the bullpens built in front of the right field stands so that Ted Williams could hit more home runs) and that was the reason why David Ortiz hit 32 of his club record 54 home runs in 2006 on the road away from Fenway. Drew does seem like a stubborn sort of hitter, but unfortunately for him, he is neither Ted Williams nor David Ortiz, and he desperately needs to take advantage of the Green Monster. Drew did have a higher batting average at Fenway last year, but hit seven of his 11 home runs on the road. It is one thing for hitting coach Dave Magadan to tell him to go to the opposite field with pitches that are away and for Drew to actually go out and do it. Even for his own safety, Drew has to improve on last year’s numbers otherwise he will be the next Edgar Renteria, a player with a lot of talent, but someone who “can’t make it” in the Boston market.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s afternoon rubber game against the Angels as the Sox try to take the series. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

 
 
 
 
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