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Tag:Javier Lopez
Posted on: July 31, 2009 5:11 pm
 

Recapping the Sox' Deadline Deals

The Boston Red Sox were one of the busier teams leading into today’s 4pm trading deadline.

The major deal was the Sox acquiring Cleveland Indians All-Star catcher Victor Martinez, and the minor deal was swapping first basemen to get Casey Kotchman from the Atlanta Braves.

Martinez is the biggest offensive pickup of the 2009 trading deadline. Martinez had a injury plagued 2008 season that lead to mediocre numbers, but he has picked it up again in 2009 and reestablished himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the game.

A switch-hitter, he gives the Sox excellent versatility in the line-up and on the field. While not official, it is expected that he will play predominantly at catcher and designated hitter. He is a better left-handed hitter, and that will allow the Sox to rotate Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek in the line-up against lefties.

The Sox gave up RHP Justin Masterson, who had been splitting the year in the bullpen and rotation, and minor league pitchers Nick Hadagone and Bryan Price.

Masterson was a solid cog of the Red Sox team, but often found himself as the odd man out. The Indians will probably utilize him as a starter, which is where most scouts see him headed, but the Sox were never in the position to give him a chance to develop in that respect.

Hadagone was the biggest chip the Sox gave up. A left-hander in class-A Greenville, Hadagone underwent Timmy John surgery and recently returned from the disabled list and was very impressive. Price is a right-handed pitcher also in Greenville.

The other trade, while it possesses less excitement, was much more peculiar. The Sox obtained Kotchman, traded as the major component of the deal that brought Mark Teixeira to the Angels, for recently acquired Adam LaRoche.

It is odd not because LaRoche only spent a few days with the Sox, or that the Sox traded him because of the surplus of first basemen the Sox possess after getting Martinez. It is strange that the Sox would trade him, an everyday player, for another left-handed first basemen used to playing everyday.

Terry Francona is going to have to do an incredible job of juggling the line-up to make sure everyone gets enough at-bats to be happy. Kevin Youkilis has to play everyday, an one would expect that Martinez is also going to be in the line-up everyday.
 
This means that somehow Francona has to rotate them so that Varitek, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz get playing time. Lowell’s time figures to be cut the most, as Youkilis will likely play most of him games at third base for the rest of the season.

Given Martinez’s poorer numbers against lefties, and Lowell and Varitek’s success, they will be playing against left-handers. But while Varitek has been described as a walking ice-pack and Lowell is coming off of hip surgery, they can’t be thrilled at the prospect of their playing time being reduced.
Kotchman has likely drawn the shortest straw. His playing time will be significantly reduced as virtually every other player in this rotation can play multiple positions, where Kotchman is relegated to first only.

Back up catcher George Kotteras will return to triple-A Pawtucket. He is the personal catcher for knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield, who is on the disabled list. He won’t be activated for a few weeks, at which time the Sox will have to decide who should catch him.
   
To replace Masterson, the Sox have several immediate choices to pick from. Southpaw Javier Lopez was optioned down at the beginning of the season because of terrible struggles, but he has turned his season down in the minors. The Pawtucket Red Sox’ closer Fernando Cabrera is mowing down hitters with an ERA under two while being perfect in save chances. Lefty Hunter Jones and righty Michael Bowden have already pitched out of the bullpen this season for the Sox, and they also have Japanese prospect Junichi Tazawa.

Until Wakefield comes back from the DL, one of those triple-A relievers figures to replace the gap in the bullpen.

Heading into tonight’s game against Baltimore, the Sox are a significantly upgraded team both offensively and defensively. The only problem will be getting a group of good players fair playing time, which any manager will tell you is a good problem to have.

Posted on: May 22, 2009 11:18 am
 

Smoltz: Starter or Reliever?

John Smoltz is a baseball anomaly.

Everyone is well aware of the career that Smoltz had during his 20 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He compiled 210 victories during his tenure in Atlanta while also racking up 154 saves. While these numbers are very impressive, and no one denies the inevitability of Smoltz’s induction into the Hall of Fame, there have been others who have made the switch from starter to reliever as their career ages.

Red Sox fans are well aware of one such pitcher. Dennis Eckersley spent six and a half seasons in the late 70s and early 80s as the Red Sox top-of-the-rotation starter, and recorded a 20-win season in 1978. He later returned to Boston in his final year in baseball in 1998 after spending the last decade establishing himself as one of the best closers in baseball. Eckersley finished with 197 victories and 309 saves, with career bests of 20 and 51, respectively. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

But, through his work with the Red Sox television network NESN, Eckersley will speak to the uniqueness of John Smoltz. Why?

While Smoltz is not the only player to have great success in being both a starter and then a converted reliever, but he is the only player to have great success in making the conversion back to the starting rotation after spending time as a reliever.

From his rookie season in 1988 to 1999, Smoltz compiled very impressive numbers like a 157-113 record with a 3.35 ERA in 356 starts, and no appearances out of the bullpen. But after undergoing Tommy John surgery following the 1999 season, he missed the entire 2000 campaign, and returned in ’01 coming out of the bullpen. In 2002, his first full season as a closer, he recorded 55 saves, breaking the then National League record of 53. In slightly more than three seasons as a closer, Smoltz racked up 154 saves and a 2.65 ERA.

So far to this point, Smoltz’s career almost mirrors Eckersley. But following the ’04 season, the Braves need for pitcher fell more to the rotation than it did in the bullpen. So Smoltz returned as a starter, and in the following 2006 season, at the age of 39 no less, Smoltz lead the N.L. with 16 wins at 35 starts.

Shoulder injuries forced Smoltz to the disabled list last season and eventually to season-ending shoulder surgery. But in the three full seasons after his return from the bullpen, Smoltz put together a 44-24 record, for a .647 winning percentage, with a 3.22 ERA. Although a significantly smaller sample, the numbers after his return are better than his numbers during his original stint as a starter (.647 winning percentage to .581).

After the Sox signed the just-turned 42 year-old Smoltz to a one-year, $5.5 million contract, the discussion of what role he would play as a member of a new team for the first time in his career was somewhat mooted by the fact that he was still rehabbing from the surgery and he was not going to be ready for Opening Day.

Well, Smoltz took a big step to returning to the big leagues after tossing three scoreless innings for the Red Sox single-A affiliate in Greenville. Smoltz three 29 pitches, and reported that while he was throwing about 85%, he touched 92 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball. Smoltz’s target date during spring training was to return to the team in early June, and it certainly seems as though that was a good estimate.

Now that his return seems eminent, we have to wonder what role Smoltz will be contributing in this season. Certianly the bullpen, leading the A.L. in ERA, does not need help. They are already bolstered by prospect flame-thrower Daniel Bard, who replaces Javier Lopez. Also Justin Masterson returns to the pen now that Daisuke Matsuzaka is back from the disabled list tonight against the New York Mets.

So the place that most needs Smoltz’s help and experience is the starting rotation, as the Sox’s starters ERA is last in the majors. Tim Wakefield is the only starter among the opening day rotation that has pitched well, and some, like Brad Penny, have been very poor at times. But, the question then becomes, whom does he replace?

Penny is likely the first starter to be given the axe because he was a gamble, by the admission of the Red Sox front office. Wakefield is pitching well, so he will remain. As for the other three, Josh Beckett, John Lester and Matsuzaka, they are all tied to long-term contracts and supposed to be the Sox’s front of the rotation for many seasons.

So while Penny is a likely candidate to be replaced, it may be possible that if Beckett or Lester do not show signs of improvement, and Lester certainly showed some last night, then one of them might find themselves on the disabled list ala Matsuzaka. The Sox, and certain other teams like the Yankees, are getting a reputation for placing players on the disabled list with mystery injuries so that they are not embarrassed by sending them down to the minors to work things out. So, if things don’t improve for Beckett or Lester, they may come down with an “injury,” paving the way for Smoltz to contribute.

So, what do you all think, is Smoltz a starter or reliever in 2009? (If you are thinking about a “both” option, bear in mind that he is 42, and that arm is not a durable as that of the 23 year old Masterson, who can flip flop back and forth easily.)

Posted on: May 20, 2009 6:13 pm
 

Red Sox First Quarter Report Card

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:

Offense:

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.

Starting Rotation:

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.

Relief Pitching:

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:
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.

Bench:
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.

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 4, 2008 6:07 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-4-08

The Red Sox completed the sweep of the Rays at Fenway. Some thoughts on the game:

Jon Lester delivered another impressive starting performance, and kept the Rays at bay while the offense steadily put up enough runs to come away with the win. With Lester’s performance, he lowers his ERA to 3.94. Josh Beckett now has the highest ERA among the Sox starters at 4.19. The Sox five starters’ combined ERA is a very impressive 3.69 (77 runs in 187.2 innings). Lester has played a much bigger role in the starting rotation than was anticipated in spring training. He has the most innings pitched among all of the starters and has recently been pitching very well late into the games. Over his last three games, he has only allowed two runs over 20 innings pitched for a sparkling 0.90 ERA. He did allow three walks today, and his season strikeout-to-walks ratio is a little over 1 to 1. (By contrast, Beckett’s strikeout to walk ratio is 4.25 strikeouts per walk.) But if he only continues to give up four hits and one run and work deep into games, the Sox can live with the walks.

If the starting pitching is going full steam in the right direction, then the bullpen has run out of gas. With today included, the Sox relievers have given up 57 runs in 103.1 innings, which results in a 4.96 ERA. Manny Delcarmen struggled again, giving up one run while he was in the game, and was charged again when Hideki Okajima allowed an inherited runner to score. With Delcarmens’ 7.29 ERA, he is coming dangerously close to challenging Mike Timlin for the highest ERA among the relievers. Recently, Terry Francona pulled Delcarmen from the game after only facing a few batters, much as he did today, and Delcarmen threw a water jug back onto the field once he got back to the dugout. The bullpen has, and will continue to get, good performances from Jonathan Papelbon and Okajima, no surprises there, and David Aardsma has done a good job as the seventh inning man. Javier Lopez’s work has been sporadic, but on the whole, a good effort. The rest of the bullpen has been completely unreliable, and those three or four guys that are performing well cannot pitch every time the Sox have the lead, and leave the other four arms in the bullpen to mop-up duty. Delcarmen was supposed to be the reliever who filled in for Papelbon when he had pitched in back-to-back games, but Francona would have no confidence putting Delcarmen in with the lead in the ninth inning.

Look for this recap following the Sox opening game of the series with the Tigers. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 26, 2008 10:30 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-25-08

The Red Sox lost their first extra inning game of the season, and now have lost a season long three straight games. Some thoughts on today’s game:

Kevin Cash had a lot trouble handling Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball tonight. Wakefield had a good start, but did get into trouble by giving up too many walks. In his last start, the Rangers were taking the philosophy of simply swinging early and often against Wakefield, and while they did put up some runs against him, he was able to cover eight innings. Tonight was much different for Wakefield, who has an excellent record pitching in the Tropicana Field, seemed to have more control issues than usual. Cash looked reminiscent of Josh Bard’s attempts to field Wakefield knuckleball, as even when the pitches were strikes, the balls were still bouncing out of Cash’s glove. It was the first time that Cash has caught Wakefield indoors, where Wakefield says that he is more comfortable and he gets more movement on his pitches, and Cash was probably having trouble picking up the knuckleball in the lights on the top of the dome. It is generally accepted that when a knuckleball is dancing so much that even the catcher cannot handle the strikes, it is that much more effective, but that was not the case tonight. In addition to Cash’s struggles, Wakefield had poor command all night, often looking as if he lost the grip on his pitches. He also reverted to throwing more fastballs than is wise.

The early season ineffectiveness of the relief corps and the short starts delivered by the starters has heavily taxed the Sox bullpen. Javier Lopez, though he recorded a big out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the night to send the game into extra innings, is very much over worked. Mike Timlin was seen going back and forth from the Sox clubhouse to the bullpen, and he may not be completely healthy. Through in the fact that the Sox’s two best starters, and two pitchers most likely to eat up innings, were missed in their last two starts, the Sox bullpen desperately needs a respite. The Sox have a strange mix of pitchers in their bullpen, being compiled of either stars, or aging veterans, or younger and inexperienced pitchers who seem on the verge of always being out of a job. However, this bullpen will find success if the starters can string together multiple starts of seven innings or better, so that pitchers that could use a day off do not even have to start to warm up. Also, the Sox have seemed very reluctant to use Julian Tavarez. True, he may be the least effective one-inning man the Sox have, although Timlin is trying hard to take that away from him, but a well-rested Julian Tavarez is certainly more effective than an overworked David Aardsma. Tavarez is the Sox long-relief man, and the only one they have in the bullpen, but if the starter only goes five innings, and especially if the game is tied or they are losing, the first man out of the bullpen should be Tavarez. He believes that he has a rubber arm and can pitch as often as the Sox need him to, but while the Sox struggle to find their rhythm as a complete pitching staff, Tavarez may be more effective in one inning duties rather than long relief work.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to end this recent skid. (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 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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