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Tag:Mike Timlin
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 7, 2008 12:12 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2008 12:14 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-6-08

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

Willie Mays and Willie McCovey

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

Mickey Cochrane and Al Simmons

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

Fred Lynn and Jim Rice

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

Posted on: May 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 23, 2008 10:20 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-23-08

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: April 16, 2008 11:39 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-16-08

The Red Sox lost a marathon full of poor pitching to the Yankees, the first of a two game series. Some thoughts on the game:

After such a long game where the offenses dictated the game, it is almost difficult to remember who the starting pitcher was. Clay Buchholz had his worst start of his professional career, allowing seven runs in three plus innings. Buchholz never had it from the start, allowing back-to-back home runs to Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez in the first. Buchholz’s worst problem this season, and it was manifested very clearly against the Yankees tonight, was the ineffectiveness of his fastball. His fastball is regularly 90-91 MPH and will occasionally top out at 92. But most of the damage that the Yankees did against Buchholz was against his fastball. The two home runs in the first were on fastballs, as was Derek Jeter’s and Chad Moeller’s lined shots that drove in runs. Buchholz has above average off-speed stuff, and there is no question that his change-up and curveball are his best pitches. But he needs to work on locating his fastball better, because in the low 90s and straight as an arrow, the hitters can simply lay off of the off-speed stuff and wait to connect on the fastball.

Kevin Youkilis fouled a ball off of his toe, but remained in the game for a few innings, and even took his next at-bat. But he did get it tapped, and was wearing a toe guard on it when he came up to the plate. He was replaced after that at-bat by Jed Lowrie. Youkilis was favoring his left foot very heavily when he was walking back to the dugout after he looked very uncomfortable striking out. It looks as though this will not turn out to be serious for Youkilis, but it is going to leave a serious amount of discomfort on his left foot. It will be the type of injury that a player can play through, as Johnny Damon did a few years ago, and Youkilis is the type of player to grind it out, especially as the Sox are now short on infielders.

Speaking of injured infielders, in a not-so-surprising move, the Sox placed utility back-up infielder Alex Cora on the 15 day disabled list. The move comes after the Sox had already called up rookie Jed Lowrie, a middle infielder from Pawtucket, to fill the spot of Mike Lowell, on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. Cora is a good guy to have on any ball club. He has a very high baseball IQ, and will definitely be a coach when he decides to retire. He is a great help to Boston's young infielders and always has a positive influence on the team. And he is a very sound fielding infielder and a left-handed bat off of the bench. Before the Sox signed Julio Lugo two off-seasons ago, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein had both voiced that they would be satisfied if no replacement was found and Cora was the opening day shortstop. That may seem like it is stretching it a bit, but it is always good to have a guy like Cora on the bench, especially when Lugo is struggling, which unfortunately seems to be most of the time.

Mike Timlin was ineffective for the third time in four appearances this season. He gave up four runs in one inning, with Jason Giambi once again paying his respects to Timlin. In fact, if Giambi’s three at-bats against Timlin are removed from his stats this year, then his numbers of .139 BA, two home runs and six RBIs, drop to .111-0-6. As was said in the recap from Monday, when Julian Tavarez came in and limited the damage, the job of Timlin and Tavarez is to come in and stop the bleeding while keeping these types of games close when the Sox are behind. Tonight, neither came anywhere close to doing that, both totaling eight runs allowed. Truth be told, Tavarez still looked burnt out from his two and two-third innings effort on Monday. However, with David Aardsma looking increasingly sharp and reliable, it is going to be up to Tavarez and Timlin to hold their weight over this stretch of 20 consecutive games.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox try to earn a split of this two games series with the Yankees. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 16, 2008 11:38 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-16-08

The Red Sox lost a marathon full of poor pitching to the Yankees, the first of a two game series. Some thoughts on the game:

After such a long game where the offenses dictated the game, it is almost difficult to remember who the starting pitcher was. Clay Buchholz had his worst start of his professional career, allowing seven runs in three plus innings. Buchholz never had it from the start, allowing back-to-back home runs to Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez in the first. Buchholz’s worst problem this season, and it was manifested very clearly against the Yankees tonight, was the ineffectiveness of his fastball. His fastball is regularly 90-91 MPH and will occasionally top out at 92. But most of the damage that the Yankees did against Buchholz was against his fastball. The two home runs in the first were on fastballs, as was Derek Jeter and Chad Moeller’s lined shots that drove in runs. Buchholz has above average off-speed stuff, and there is no question that his change-up and curveball are his best pitches. But he needs to work on locating his fastball better, because in the low 90s and straight as an arrow, the hitters can simply lay off of the off-speed stuff and wait to connect on the fastball.

Kevin Youkilis fouled a ball off of his toe, but remained in the game for a few innings, and even took his next at-bat. But he did get it tapped, and was wearing a toe guard on it when he came up to the plate. He was replaced after that at-bat by Jed Lowrie. Youkilis was favoring his left foot very heavily when he was walking back to the dugout after he looked very uncomfortable striking out. It looks as though this will not turn out to be serious for Youkilis, but it is going to leave a serious amount of discomfort on his left foot. It will be the type of injury that a player can play through, as Johnny Damon did a few years ago, and Youkilis is the type of player to grind it out, especially as the Sox are now short on infielders.

Speaking of injured infielders, in a not-so-surprising move, the Sox placed utility back-up infielder Alex Cora on the 15 day disabled list. The move comes after the Sox had already called up the rookie Lowrie, a middle infielder from Pawtucket, to fill the spot of Mike Lowell, on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. Cora is a good guy to have on any ball club. He has a very high baseball IQ, and will definitely be a coach when he decides to retire. He is a great help to Boston's young infielders and always has a positive influence on the team. And he is a very sound fielding infielder and a left-handed bat off of the bench. Before the Sox signed Julio Lugo two off-seasons ago, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein had both voiced that they would be satisfied if no replacement was found and Cora was the opening day shortstop. That may seem like it is stretching it a bit, but it is always good to have a guy like Cora on the bench, especially when Lugo is struggling, which unfortunately seems to be most of the time.

Mike Timlin was ineffective for the third time in four appearances this season. He gave up four runs in one inning, with Jason Giambi once again paying his respects to Timlin. In fact, if Giambi’s three at-bats against Timlin are removed from his stats this year, then his numbers of .139 BA, two home runs and six RBIs, drop to .111-0-6. As was said in the recap from Monday, when Julian Tavarez came in and limited the damage, the job of Timlin and Tavarez is to come in and stop the bleeding while keeping these types of games close when the Sox are behind. Tonight, neither came anywhere close to doing that, both totaling eight runs allowed. Truth be told, Tavarez still looked burnt out from his two and two-third innings effort on Monday. However, with David Aardsma looking increasingly sharp and reliable, it is going to be up to Tavarez and Timlin to hold their weight over this stretch of 20 consecutive games.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox try to earn a split of this two games series with the Yankees. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: April 14, 2008 11:16 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-14-08

The Red Sox pulled off an improbable comeback win to the first game of a two game series against the Indians. Some thoughts on the game:

Jon Lester’s night began very promising, having not allowed a hit through the first three innings. However, when he did begin to give up hits, he started to pay for the walks he gave up. Although this is now his third season in the big leagues, it is first to start the season with the major league club. Lester still shows a lot of issues prevalent among young starters, but it is almost getting to the point that Lester should be beyond these issues. He did hold the Indians hitless over the first three innings, so he clearly has the stuff to compete. But, Lester has always shown issues on the mound once he has gone through the line-up once. He seems to get extremely timid on the mound, and starts to labor by throwing too many pitches off of the plate and trying to get hitters to bite on balls that are out of the strike zone. This is a situation where Jason Varitek needs to take some time aside and rework Lester’s game plan. Lester needs to focus back on the basics: first pitch strikes and changing speeds during the second time through the lineup. Otherwise Lester’s fastball, while effective and has good movement, is not enough on its own, and he will continue to aim rather than pitch.

Since Lester’s struggles will provide the Sox with big problems, let’s take sometime to analyze a few more of his trouble spots. Lester has shown a strange reluctance while facing left-handed hitters, which is saying something considering his reputation for nit-picking against most hitters. He rarely throws inside against any lefties. If it is Travis Hafner, it is understandable, but he has to pound his fastball inside against left-handed batters and then go away with his cut-fastball, probably his best pitch. But, he is in the habit of throwing straight fastballs on the outside corner, which lefties rarely chase, especially with less than two strikes. Here’s where the issue of changing speed comes into play, and seeing as Lester’s change-up is at 87 MPH, when his straight fastball might touch 93 on occasion, there are clear issues here, and Lester needs a greater disparage of speed between the pitches.

Not meaning to overlook the most exciting part of the game, the Sox picked up a very impressive come from behind win. Manny Ramirez is clearly locked in at this early point in the season, which we have not been saying about David Ortiz, who picked up two hits, though of much lesser fanfare. For others who have been struggling, Mike Timlin worked an inning of effective relief, and was credited with the win when the Sox came back in the ninth. The performance, in which Timlin did not surrender a hit and recorded a strikeout, lowers his ERA from an absurd 81.00 to a still ghastly 20.25. But, all jesting aside, Timlin needs to have performances like this, because this will be his primary job: keep closes games close. If Timlin implodes like he had done in his only two appearances this year, the Sox may not have come back. Also good notes from the bullpen, the performance of Julian Tavarez should not be overlooked. He came in with the bases loaded and got two strikeouts, and wound up with four in total in two and two-thirds innings. There is a reason that the Sox resigned Tavarez this past off-season, and it was for Tavarez to be able to warm up quickly, come in, stop the damage, and eat up good innings. Needless to say, he is a very valuable player on the team, and the Sox made the right decision to hold onto him.

Watching the Sox come back against Indians closer Joe Borowski, and then Jonathan Papelbon close the game out for the Sox, simply made fans scratch their heads. No disrespect to Borowski, who led the A.L. in saves last year, but he is a junk ball pitcher, at best. The fastball he threw to Ramirez was clocked at a less than mediocre 82 MPH. Some pitchers can be effective without an overpowering fastball (Greg Maddux is going to win over 350 games as such), but a closer can not hope to use off-speed pitches to step up a fastball in the low 80s. Then, in stark contrast, Papelbon absolutely overmatched the Indians in the ninth, save a good swing by Hafner. Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera had no hope to even make contact with Papelbon’s fastball. It is also worth pointing out that because of the reputation of Papelbon’s stuff, he does not have to throw his splitter and yet hitters still have to anticipate it, which is why even above average hitters are always late on his fastball. If Borowski is going to continue to be relied on, the Indians may find themselves in trouble in September.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game when the Sox rap up this short trip to Cleveland. (To view previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

 
 
 
 
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