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: 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 13, 2008 10:43 am
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.)
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 5, 2008 11:53 pm
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.)
Posted on: May 4, 2008 6:07 pm
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.
Posted on: April 25, 2008 10:48 am
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.)
Posted on: April 14, 2008 12:19 am
Edited on: April 14, 2008 12:22 am
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.
Tags: Cleveland Indians, Coco Crisp, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, Frank Thomas, Hideki Okajima, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Giambi, Javier Lopez, Johnny Damon, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Manny Ramirez, Mike Timlin, New York Yankees, Pawtucket Red Sox, Red Sox, Robinson Cano, Toronto Blue Jays