Posted on: January 2, 2010 5:17 pm
The Baseball America Prospect rankings were released last week, a list coveted by fans and media, but otherwise superfluous for the organizations themselves, who have their own rankings and plans for their players.
The Red Sox minor league system has some gems, but the conclusions that BA came to should be slightly disturbing. The list of the top ten prospects, as I say, seems strong, with names that we have heard regularly, such as Casey Kelly, the shortstop-turned-pitcher, and Jose Iglesias, the first round pick and shortstop of the future.
Ryan Westmoreland, an outfielder from Rhode Island, is listed as the best prospect in the system, the best hitter for average as well as the best athlete.
What should come as disturbing are what BA projects for the Sox offensive power hopes in the near future. Lars Anderson, last year’s top prospect, has long been touted as a power hitting first baseman, someone who can take the reigns at first while Kevin Youkilis moves to third. Unexpectedly, Anderson was listed as the Sox best power-hitting prospect.
Wait a minute. Lars Anderson?? The same Lars Anderson who dropped four spots from last year’s rankings? The same Lars Anderson who mustered a whopping nine home runs in 512 plate appearances last season at double-A Portland?
Can’t be. That can’t be the best in the Sox minor league system.
Believe it. The Sox are in serious offensive trouble. Their organizational depth is astronomically weighted against the power-hitting side of the game. As if this was not apparent through the raw rankings of the prospects, let’s take a look at what BA projects Boston’s 2012 lineup to look like.
The pitching situation is relatively constant with Casey Kelly the only new name in the rotation who is not there now. Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia and Youkilis remain the Sox’s catcher, second and third basemen respectively, and Jacoby Ellsbury stays in center field.
Now to the unnerving bit. First baseman: Lars Anderson (9). Shortstop: Jose Iglesias (11-NCAA). Outfield: Reymond Fuentes (1) and Ryan Westmoreland (7). Designated Hitter: Josh Reddick (15).
The parenthetical numbers represent the number of home runs that each player achieved last season, with all but Iglesias’ occurring in the Sox farm system. If we combine those numbers to the totals achieved last year by the holdovers (Martinez, Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ellsbury), we get an astounding 116 home runs.
116 home runs. That would have put the Sox squarely in 29th place last season, ahead of only the New York Mets, who had an absolutely horrible rash of injuries that affectively removed the top half of their lineup at some point during the season.
So while Kelly and Junichi Tazawa are the only two pitchers listed in BA’s top ten Sox prospects, their farm system is not currently in a position to provide them with a 30 home run hitter. It is very much weighted toward the Ellsbury-esque model of player – fast, athletic and a contact hitter.
What does this mean for the next few seasons? Well, firstly we must take everything that Theo Epstein says about acquiring a power hitter.
Yes, I am talking about Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez will command a top-flight package, one that would involve at least two of the names on that list of best prospects. But the fact is that the Red Sox are offensively solid for the next few years, with the exception of a big-time bat.
Even though Epstein has said many things about the Sox with respect to how they will deal with their farm system, the only player who is likely a true “untouchable” is Kelly. Kelly was listed as having the best fastball, curveball, changeup and overall control, despite only spending half of his first profession year as a pitcher. Past him, anyone is a possibility.
Given the affordable price tag ($4.75 million in ’10), his outstanding offensive prowess (106 home runs over the past three seasons) as well as his defense (back-to-back Gold Gloves in ’08-09), a package that would bring in Gonzalez would have to be of the caliber of Westmoreland, Lars Anderson and Alex Wilson (0.50 ERA in 13 starts for single-A Lowell Spinners in ’09). The package would also probably include a major league player or upper level minor leaguer who can contribute immediately, such as a Fernando Cabrera (Pawtucket closer last season) or a Manny Delcarmen.
For the Sox, there is no such thing as overpaying for a player such as Gonzalez.
Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Wilson, Baseball America, Boston Red Sox, Casey Kelly, Dustin Pedroia, Fernando Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Iglesias, Josh Reddick, Junichi Tazawa, Kevin Youkilis, Lars Anderson, Lowell Spinners, Manny Delcarmen, Portland Sea Dogs, Reymond Fuentes, Ryan Westmoreland, Victor Martinez
Posted on: December 30, 2009 12:42 pm
Jason Bay agreed in principle to a four year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets on Tuesday, officially ending his season-and-a-half stint with the Boston Red Sox. While GM Theo Epstein never explicitly stated that the Sox were out of the bidding war with Bay, the writing was on the wall. Epstein signed veteran outfielder Mike Cameron to a two-year deal, and used the money that would have gone to a long-term deal with Bay to sign right-hander John Lackey.
The Bay signing has wide-ranging implications for several clubs, but the actual move should raise some perplexing questions. Of the free agent hitters available at the beginning of this off-season, Bay was second best behind Matt Holliday. Bay wanted to stay in Boston and the Red Sox hoped to keep him. But Bay insisted on the prospect of a fifth year of any type of contract, and the Sox remained resolute against it. When the Mets came calling with a similar four-year deal to what the Sox were offering plus a vested option for a fifth, Bay accepted the deal that he had been looking for.
But once the Sox had signed Cameron and Lackey, they were effectively out of the discussions for Bay. The Sox are less than $10 million away from the luxury tax limit for the 2010 season, and re-signing Bay would have put them over that limit. The St. Louis Cardinals have focused solely on re-signing Holliday, thus removing one potential buyer for Bay. The Angels, Mariners and Yankees also went after other players and dropped out from the Bay sweepstakes as well.
In the end, it appears as though the Mets were bidding against themselves. Due to a rash of injuries last season that sidelined seemingly the better half of their lineup for extended amounts of time, the Mets were in desperate need of a power-hitting outfielder, and it showed in the negotiations with Bay.
One of the biggest snag-ups about Bay was his defense, which often went unnoticed in the strange dimensions of Fenway Park. With no designated hitter in the N.L., Bay will have to play the outfield until he is 35 or 36, a prospect that deterred the Sox, especially for $16 million a year. Bay also displayed an unfortunate inability to connect on off-speed pitches and was prone to very cold slumps.
The Mets’ new CitiField is quickly becoming known as a right-handed hitters nightmare. Just ask David Wright: his home run total dropped from 33 in 2008 (the last year in Shea Stadium) to 10 at the new CitiField. Bay has spent most of his career in the N.L., so there should not be a terrible layover while he tries to become acclimated with new ballparks and pitchers, but the Mets would be foolish to expect a home run total in the high 30s from Bay.
But at least the Mets got their man. For the Red Sox, the search is on for some spark in the middle of the lineup. They remain the number one buyers for third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is an excellent fielder with some offensive upside. But if Beltre is the answer, that means that Cameron and Florida Marlins cast-off Jeremy Hermida will patrol left field for the ’10 campaign. Combined with speedy Jacoby Ellsbury and the mediocre J.D. Drew, the Sox may field an outfield that has a legitimate shot to account for less than 30 home runs.
Other names are possibilities, such as ex-Yankee Xavier Nady, who would be a decent option in the outfield, but injuries limited him to only seven games in 2009. If the Sox were unwilling to go after Bay, they will definitely stay clear of Holliday, which means that any other move would have to come via a trade. And if the Sox were unwilling to unload the farm system to acquire Roy Halladay, then the same can likely be said for the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez.
Tags: Adrian Beltre, Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, CitiField, David Wright, Fenway Park, Florida Marlins, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay, Jeremy Hermida, John Lackey, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Matt Holliday, Mike Cameron, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Roy Halladay, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Theo Epstein, Xavier Nady
Posted on: May 20, 2009 6:13 pm
Tonight is the 40th game of the season for the Red Sox, which means they have now completed one quarter of the 2009 season and here’s one look at how Boston has stacked up:
Offensively, the Red Sox have been solid in most areas, despite injuries and slumps to significant players. However, after one quarter, the Sox find themselves fifth in the A.L. in batting average, first in on-base percentage, fourth in OPS, fifth in home runs and fourth in runs scored. These are all good numbers and averages, but unfortunately for the Sox, the are often trailing in these categories to the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and in some of the statistics, the New York Yankees (needless to say, the A.L. East is a stacked division). Individually, the Sox are getting huge contributions from the people that we would most expect, with Jason Bay (second in the league in home runs, RBIs; third in OBP) leading the way. Mike Lowell has been much better than anticipated, not only ranking 12th in the A.L. in RBIs, but also playing in all but one of the Sox games, surprising after undergoing surgery in the off-season. Kevin Youkilis was the best hitter in baseball through the first 25 games of the season (leading the A.L. in BA, OBP, OPS) before landing on the disabled list with an oblique strain. While he has just returned to the Sox, it will be interesting to see if he continues being productive, as oblique injuries are some of the toughest to gauge and return from. Predictably, the Sox are getting sub-par performances from some players. Jason Varitek has showed some good power with five home runs, but his other numbers reflect last year’s offensive debacle. J.D. Drew is now in his third year of not producing his value, but a juggle of the lineup may increase his statistics. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are stalwarts at the top of the lineup, both hitting over .300 and setting the table for the offense. On the other side of things, the Sox bench and bit-players Rocco Baldelli, Jed Lowrie (before going on the disabled list), George Kotteras and Jeff Bailey (filling in for Youkilis) have all struggled offensivly. And that brings us to David Ortiz. Ortiz, as we all know, was benched for the Sox entire series with the Seattle Mariners because of his abysmal start to the season. Although now playing again, the Sox will have to make changes if Ortiz continues to struggle, and that means bumping him down in the lineup. The most likely scenario is switching him with Drew, who has done very well in his career in the no. 3 hole in the lineup. If the struggles continue, the Sox will need help from outside the organization because the bench is not getting the job done.
Grade: B - The Sox offense has won them games early on, but will need Youkilis and Bay to remain productive to pick up the slack for other hitters.
The starting pitching for the Sox has been, well, terrible in relation to pre-season expectations. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox top three starters, all have ERAs well above five. Matsuzaka went on the disabled list with “shoulder fatigue” which was more likely an excuse to simply get him properly rested and ready for the start of the season which was interrupted by the World Baseball Classic. Beckett has pitched better than Lester has thus far, but both are struggling with command issues and leaving too many pitches up in the zone. Lester has already given up 10 home runs (he gave up 14 all of last year). If the top three in the rotation have been bad, then the Sox number five starter has been even worse. Brad Penny was thought of as a low-risk, high reward signing for the Sox when he came to Boston on a one-year contract. He has been knocked around in almost all of his starts and despite a 3-1 record, his ERA is an unsightly 6.69. With Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz ranking 1 and 2 in the International League in ERA, the time may come very soon when Penny finds out what a “low-risk” contract is all about. Tim Wakefield has been excellent all season, and the one starter that has really pulled his weight. He tossed back-to-back complete games earlier this season, one of which was a no-hitter for seven innings. He leads the rotation in ERA and in innings pitched. Justin Masterson has filled in well for the injured Matsuzaka, but inconsistent; in four of his six starts he has yielded two runs or less, while he has given up six in each of the other two starts.
Grade: C- - The Sox have their top three starters are performing well below average, one starter performing well, and one performing badly. Change will come to the rotation if some of these starters continue to struggle.
The Sox bullpen was tabbed in spring training as one of the best in the majors, and they have certainly lived up to expectations. The overall bullpen ERA is second best in the A.L., and are getting key contributions from talented young arms. Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez have appeared in 37 games entering tonight, and both have ERAs under 1.00 and 26 holds between them. Hideki Okajima (2.89 ERA and 12 holds) and newly acquired Takashi Saito (3.86 ERA and 16 holds) have both been dependable in the late innings. The Sox’s bullpen overall ERA (3.01) is somewhat skewered by Javier Lopez, who is no longer with the team after being designated for assignment and now pitching for Pawtucket, and Hunter Jones, who was brought up as a long reliever to eat up innings after Masterson went to the rotation. Jones figures to be sent down now that Matsuzaka has returned and Masterson will be back in the bullpen. Uber-prospect Daniel Bard has been called up recently after Lopez’s demotion and will also contribute solid innings. Bard was the closer for Pawtucket, and posted a 1.12 ERA and six saves in 16 innings pitched while racking up a remarkable 29 strikeouts (16.3 strikeouts per nine-inning). Meanwhile, Jonathan Papelbon has closed the door with the same results as we are used to, leading the A.L. with 11 saves, but has had to labor significantly more through some of his appearances. Papelbon changed his deliver slightly so as to incorporate an off-speed pitch to compliment his fastball and splitter, but the result has been some wildness as he has already walked two more batters this season than he did all of last season. But again, the results have been fine, as he is always able to get himself out of seemingly any jam.
Grade: A - The Sox bullpen has been nothing short of outstanding, and with Bard and Masterson replacing Lopez and Jones, it will only continue to be one of the stronger aspects of this ball club.
Defense has been a bit of a concern for the Sox thus far, as they rank 11th in the A.L. in overall team fielding percentage. But, most of the problems are coming from the shortstop position. With Lowrie out for a couple of months, and Lugo also hurting, the job fell to Nick Green for much of the month of April. Green is a natural second basement, and it has shown in his defense as he has racked up an A.L. leading eight errors. Since his return, Lugo has been little better, if not worse, recording four errors in only 12 starts at the position. Mike Lowell has played better than his numbers will indicate, and has made several higlight reel plays at the hot corner. Bailey has played above average defense in the place of Youkilis. The outfield has been excellent, with Drew committing the only error among them, and Ellsbury will once again be a serious contender for a Gold Glove. George Kotteras does have six passed balls, but has done an excellent job handling Wakefield all season.
Grade: B - The defense has been solid at times, but shortstop, like catcher and centerfield, is a critical position defensively and that the Sox have a huge hole there is a problem that likely won’t be addressed until Lowrie’s return.
Due to injuries, the Sox bench has become at times the Sox starting lineup. There was not many other options that Bailey at first, and despite his .190 average, he does provide a source of power at the bottom of the lineup. Green is a good hitter, and will be a solid backup later in the season to several positions, including in the outfield. Rocco Baldelli has had to play probably more than was expected, and struggling subbing as the designated hitter, but he is much better suited to play occasionally and in the outfield. Kotteras is having his struggles offensively, but the time has long been since the Sox looked for offense from the catcher position.
Grade: C+ - The bench has had to play more than they should at this point, but Green and Baldelli will provide offense off the bench later in the season, and the return of Mark Kotsay will also bolster the Sox’s depth.
Overall Grade: B+
The Sox find themselves a few games back of the Toronto Blue Jays, but ahead of both the Yankees and Rays. The Sox desperately need better performances from their starting rotation, but otherwise find themselves at the level of production they expected. The rash of injuries to begin the season seems to be clearing up, and it is essential to keep the players healthy and within their roles on the club.
Tags: Boston Red Sox, Brad Penny, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, George Kotteras, Hideki Okajima, Hunter Jones, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay, Jason Varitek, Javier Lopez, Jed Lowrie, Jeff Bailey, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, Julio Lugo, Justin Masterson, Kevin Youkilis, Manny Delcarmen, Mark Kotsay, Michael Bowden, Mike Lowell, New York Yankees, Nick Green, Ramon Ramirez, Rocco Baldelli, Takashi Saito, Tampa Bay Rays, Tim Wakefield, Toronto Blue Jays
Posted on: May 16, 2009 2:28 pm
Everyone is well aware of the season long struggles of Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, whose numbers, .208-0-15, would be cause for grumblings even for a player such as Jason Varitek, who also struggled heavily last season.
Manager Terry Francona benched Ortiz for Friday's series opener versus the Seattle Mariners, and said that Ortiz could sit for more than just the one game. The benching follows Thursday's afternoon extra inning affair against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in which Ortiz went 0-7 which three strikeouts while tying Trot Nixon for the franchise record with 12 runners left on base.
For the Sox game against the Mariners, J.D. Drew was moved upinto the number three spot in place of Ortiz. Francona always try to alternate batters in his lineup, left-right-left-right, as much as possible, and with the lefty Drew, Francona was able to keep his alternating batting order.
Last season, when Ortiz was on the disabled list for a wrist injury, Drew filled in predominantly in the number three hole. Everyone remembers the scorching month of June that Drew put up, with the line of stats: .337/.462/.848 for a 1.310 OPS, 12 home runs, 21 extra base hits, 21 base on balls and 27 RBIs.
All of those numbers came from hitting in the number three hole, and when Ortiz returned, Drew went back into his customary role in the bottom half of the lineup, and had what we have come to know as typical J.D. Drew Red Sox numbers: a high on-base percentage, few extra base hits, and untimely hits.
In the number three hole for the first time this season last night, Drew went 3-5 with a double, run scored and an RBI.
It may seem as though this is looking into too small a sample, but this is not just a coincidence.
The Red Sox line-up is in rough shape these days anyway, because of injuries to Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. In the place of Ortiz last night, Rocco Baldelli got the start as the designated hitter and batted fifth. If we sub Ortiz back in that lineup, and put Youkilis in (due back from the disabled list in about a week) we'll get:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
6. Jason Bay
7. Mike Lowell
8. Jason Varitek
9. Julio Lugo
Per Francona's alternating hitters rule, the line-up in that respect remains unchanged, with the only two hitters from the same side of the plate in a row is Bay and Lowell.
This line-up does several things. First, (and most obviously) it takes advantage of Drew's prowess in the number three hole and allows his RBI opportunities with Ellsbury (who is, by the way, batting .307 on the year while trailing only Carl Crawford for the major league lead in stolen bases) and Pedroia so often on base.
Second, Ortiz will still be thought of as somewhat of a threat to opposing pitchers, as evidenced by the 20 walks he has drawn. Bay will provide protection for him, so pitchers cannot simply throw around him. The rest of the line-up remains unchanged.
The only problem with this is that Francona is a player's manager. He has said that he has a great deal of loyalty to Ortiz and is not going to give up on him only six weeks into the season. But, if Ortiz continues to struggle and Drew continues to be hot in the three spot, the change must happen for the Sox to really get the most out of their offense.
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:56 pm
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.)
Posted on: May 11, 2008 11:52 pm
As promised, here is the Red Sox first quarter report card for this season after 40 games.
Starting Pitching: A-
Relief Pitching: C
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.
Tags: Boston Red Sox, Brandon Moss, Bryan Corey, Clay Buchholz, Coco Crisp, Craig Hansen, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Aardsma, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Hideki Okajima, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, Javier Lopez, Jed Lowrie, Joe Morgan, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, Julian Tavarez, Julio Lugo, Kevin Cash, Kevin Youkilis, Manny Delcarmen, Manny Ramirez, Metrodome, Mike Lowell, Mike Timlin, Sean Casey, Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield
Posted on: May 9, 2008 10:53 am
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 Yankees’ Ian 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
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.
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.
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)
Tags: Al Simmons, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Boston Red Sox, Coco Crisp, David Ortiz, Detroit Tigers, Eddie Matthews, Fred Lynn, Hank Aaron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jim Rice, Josh Beckett, Julio Lugo, Lou Gehrig, Manny Ramirez, Mickey Cochrane, Mickey Mantle, Mike Timlin, Roger Maris, Sean Casey, Texas Rangers, Tim Wakefield, Tommy Harper, Tris Speaker, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey