Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
With the start of the baseball season less than one week away (yes, a week , with Red Sox vs. Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball), it means only thing: it is time to dust off the magic eight-balls, look into the future and predict where the 30 teams will end up at the end of the season.
(I should point out that I won a pool last season in which we made predictions about the 2009 season before its start, and so needless to say, when I use the word "prediction" I am really meaning "cerifiable locks and spoilers" for the 2010 season.
Let's start with the American League East:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, I know the Yankees are defending champs, and they had a great 2009 season. But I am not impressed with the moves that they made to stay atop the best division in baseball. CBSSports.com has the Yankees, Sox, and Rays as the top three teams in baseball heading into Opening Day, and with those other teams, the Yankees needed to do better than Javier Vasquez and Curtis Granderson. Vasquez will disappoint again as he did during his first tour in New York (he's simply an N.L. pitcher) and Granderson has to fill the roles of three outfielders (Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera - also with no Xavier Nady returning). As for the rest of the team, well this year simply makes them one year older. The Sox will indeed have enough offense to back the best all around pitching staff in baseball. The Rays remain essentially the same, but will get more from Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton. The Orioles have good, but raw, young talent (this will be Adam Jones' coming out party), enough to leapfrog the Blue Jays out of last place, who will be the designated whipping-boy of the mighty A.L. East.
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
Traditionally a mediocre division, the Central is shapping up to be... well, mediocre, again . Last year, the Twins made a late run to win the division last season, and they have improved by adding players such as Orlando Hudson, and have enough to overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan. (This only means that the Twins will not have to wait to the last day of the season to win the division with only 85 wins.) The White Sox have gotten better, with a very strong rotation headed by Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy. But their success is not automatic, with Buerhle falling off after his perfect game, and Peavy struggling from injuries recently, and offensively, they will be forced to rely on busts (Alex Rios), aging veterans (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones) and still developing youngsters (Gordon Beckam, Alexei Ramirez) to fill in around Carlos Quentin. Detriot remains a couple of starters away from the playoffs, while Cleveland and Kansas City will compete for "quickest A.L. team to 100 losses."
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics
Possibly the most interesting and exciting division in baseball in 2010. The Mariners stand as one of the most improved teams in all of baseball, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The Lee-Felix Hernandez 1-2 punch is one of the best in baseball. The Rangers also figure to be stronger, with ample pitching and an always impressive offense. But, perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and Rangers is what is absent from the Angels, long the dominant team in this division. They lost depth everywhere, but remain the same fundamental team of the small ball philosophy, which can always prove to be difficult to play against in September. They have a decent lineup, but no power outside of Kendry Morales, and Matsui and Joel Piniero were not the solutions to the holes in the lineup and rotation left by Figgins and John Lackey, and their bullpen also remains an issue. As for Oakland, not all is as bad as it seems. They have serious young pitching depth and a their first real base-stealer/leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in Rajai Davis. They, like the Orioles, are definitely moving in the right direction, but luckily for the Athletics they play in sunny California in the now suddenly wide-open A.L. West, which could start to attract a free-agent bat or two.
A.L. Wild Card:
New York Yankees
Is there any chance that the Wild Card will come out of any division besides the A.L. East in the forseeable future? I really cannot envision a situation where that would come about. Although the Rangers and White Sox may be worthy of post-season play, there is no way that two teams from the Central or West will win more games than either the Sox, Yankees, or Rays. Whoever wins the East should do so with around 100 wins, where the second place team will likely have at least 95, and that is just too many games for anyone else to keep pace.
Red Sox vs. Twins
Mariners vs. Yankees
These teams matchup well with each other, but it comes down to the Red Sox and Yankees having more talent in the bottom half of their roster. The Twins do not have the depth in the rotation to hang with Boston, and the Yankees overpowering style of offense will lead to another ALCS rivalry.
Result: Red Sox, Yankees, both in 4
Red Sox vs. Yankees
The two best teams in the A.L. will feature two of the best rotations in baseball. The Yankees have the advantage on the offensive side, but the Red Sox have the pitching depth. The Yankees would likely have to use CC Sabathia twice in the ALDS, while the Sox can afford to only use their starters once, which means that the Beckett/Lackey/Lester order is preserved for this series. The Sox bullpen is also stronger, as is their bench.
Result: Red Sox in 6
N.L. previews coming soon.
Tags: Adam Jones, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Andruw Jones, B.J. Upton, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Carlos Quentin, Casey Kotchman, Chicago White Sox, Chone Figgins, Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers, Felix Hernandez, Gordon Beckham, Hideki Matsui, Jake Peavy, Javier Vasquez, Joe Nathan, Joel Piniero, John Lackey, Johnny Damon, Kansas City Royals, Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Buerhle, Melky Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Opening Day, Orlando Hudson, Pat Burrell, Paul Konerko, Rajai Davis, Rickey Henderson, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Xavier Nady
Posted on: July 30, 2009 9:52 pm
The baseball world was already aware that Manny Ramirez was at least at one point in his career using performance-enhancing drugs thanks to his positive test at the beginning of this season.
The breaking news today came from a New York Times report that announced that fellow longtime Boston Red Sox David Ortiz was, along with Ramirez, on the list of 103 players that had tested positive for a banned substance during the 2003 season.
You shouldn’t be.
First, take into account the mathematical odds. There are 30 major league teams, each with a 25-man roster. That is 750 players. If we throw in even another five players per team that average significant enough time to be on the roster, that would give us roughly 900 players who were in the majors in 2003.
That means that one out of every nine players is on that list of being caught using PEDs, or about three per team. Some teams, no doubt, will have significantly more players on that list because of the environment in each clubhouse and the notable players that have already been identified as users: Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, San Fransisco Giants, Houston Astros, etc.
Throw the Boston Red Sox into that distinguished mix.
Second, and this is in no way to be interpreted as racially prejudicial or demeaning, there is clearly a seperate PEDs ring in the Dominican Republic. By that I mean that it seems that in the DR, it is much easier for individuals to obtain PEDs of varying nature.
Believe him or not, if anything that Alex Rodriguez said in his press conference addressing his usage was true, it was that he was a young kid who was able to get drugs that he had no idea what they were, except that it would make you stronger.
We have seen a trend that many of the top-level players who are caught using PEDs have a Dominican connection: Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada, Ramirez and now Ortiz, just to name a few.
Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, was that Ortiz was a castaway from the Minnesota Twins – a player deemed too big, too slow and too one dimensional to play in the majors. That expendable piece of the Twins organization went on to hit 41, 47, 54 (franchise record) for the Red Sox during the ’04-06 seasons.
At the time, we did see a large, very strong left-handed hitter that reminded us of Jim Thome every time the ball jumped off of Ortiz’s bat. He was 28 in 2004, the first year he hit 40+ home runs in a season, which is right in the middle of the prime of a hitter’s career.
While we thoroughly enjoyed Ortiz’s best years in Boston, and the two World Series titles that he and Ramirez helped the Sox win, this is by far the biggest moment of Ortiz’s career in Boston.
Bigger than walk-offs against the Angels and Yankees in the 2004 play off series; bigger than the Red Sox single season home run record; bigger than solidifying himself as one of the best clutch hitters and best designated hitters in the history of the game.
David Ortiz replaced Nomar Garciaparra as everyone’s favorite Red Sox player. He was always outgoing, gregarious and accepting of the media. Even through his recent struggles, Ortiz forced a smile on his face. No one outside of New York (and perhaps a few other teams still looking for ball that he has launched over their fences) had a bad thing to say about him.
Posted on: May 26, 2009 6:42 pm
In a big day for Red Sox news, the biggest story is that David Ortiz has finally been dropped in the lineup. Terry Francona released his lineup for tonight’s game against the Minnesota Twins, and it has J.D. Drew in the third spot, with Ortiz taking Drew’s position in the six hole. Ortiz has not been anywhere but the three position in the batting order since May 2005, when he and Manny Ramirez were sometimes swapped as clean-up hitters.
After having a decent series from May 19-21 against the Toronto Blue Jays, picking up three hits including his first home run of the season, he then went 0-for the series against the New York Mets. He was benched yesterday while the Sox faced a tough left-hander in Francisco Liriano. His batting average recently dipped below the Mendoza line and now stands at .195.
Dropping Ortiz down to the six hole seems like a big move, but it is more to maintain the continuity of the rest of the lineup. This way Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay remain largely unaffected, or at least, will not have to move in the lineup. They will benefit from Drew’s higher on-base percentage and better speed.
In other news, Clay Buchholz, pitching for triple-A Pawtucket, took a perfect game into the ninth inning of the PawSox game yesterday against the Louisville Bats. A leadoff single broke up the bid, but Buchholz retired the rest of the hitters in the ninth on his way to a one-hitter. He is now 3-0 with a 1.60 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched for Pawtucket.
Buchholz has been absolutely dominating in the minors this season, and yet he could not seem to get a roster spot in Boston. However, this last performance may have done it. In news related to Buchholz’s performances, the Boston Globe reports that Brad Penny is on the trading block.
The team would be looking to move Penny for two reasons. Firstly, the Sox need to make room for Buchholz. There is no reason for him to stay in the minors. Secondly, the Sox will use Penny as an opportunity to bring in some kind of bat off of the bench. The players whose names that have been thrown around, such as the Washington Nationals’ Nick Johnson, will be too expensive for only a deal involving Penny.
But, the Sox could hope to pick up a player in the same way that they got Mark Kotsay last year, but this player will likely be able to contribute more off of the bench. But, the Sox will be bearing in mind that by the All-Star break, the Sox bench will likely be Kotsay, Rocco Baldelli, Nick Green, Julio Lugo and George Kotteras. That bench is pretty solid and fills the need offensively, so Penny may be exchanged for something else.
Tags: Boston Red Sox, Brad Penny, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, Francisco Liriano, George Kotteras, J.D. Drew, Jason Bay, Julio Lugo, Kevin Youkilis, Louisville Bats, Manny Ramirez, Mark Kotsay, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Nick Green, Nick Johnson, Pawtucket Red Sox, Rocco Baldelli, Terry Francona, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:56 pm
The Red Sox were once again unable to hold an early lead, and unable to push across runs late. Some thoughts on the game:
Josh Beckett had a better start than the line score would indicate. Simply, the Orioles did a much better job hitting. Beckett’s fastball was consistently down in the zone and at its usual 94-96 MPH range. His curveball was breaking sharply and his changeup was used sparingly but there did not seem to be much wrong with it. His delivery was fine, but the Orioles just out-hit him. It is very difficult for a lineup, especially a young lineup like theirs, to overcome a deficit against a great starting pitcher. The Sox went up but three runs in the first, and Beckett had retired the Orioles in order in the first inning, but they did not panic and were patient and were able to bang out some hits and put runs up early. Similarly, the game should not have been as close as it was. Jeremy Guthrie continues to be a nemesis of the Sox (everyone remembers the eight-plus shut-out inning performance last Mother’s Day), but the Orioles committed two errors behind him in the first inning which helped the Sox build a three run lead. The Sox should not be concerned by Beckett’s performance, because sometimes good just is not good enough.
The Red Sox are really suffering from injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury has been held out of the starting lineup for the past few games because of a knee injury, but he was forced to play in right field tonight when J.D. Drew had a nasty landing while attempting a sliding catch. Drew’s wrist completely rolled over, and the Sox reported that he the diagnosis was a sprained wrist. Coco Crisp had to leave the game later because of a stomach flu, and Brad Mills was forced to move Ellsbury over to center field and move Kevin Youkilis to right field. Youkilis was placed in the outfield because the Sox first string emergency outfielder, Julio Lugo, is still suffering from the effects of a slight concussion. Lugo was used in the outfield in 2006 with the Rays and with the Dodgers. Brandon Moss is still on the disabled list because of an appendectomy, so needless to say, the Sox are very thin all of the way around. If Drew has to go on the disabled list, and he may, considering the grim look that trainer Paul Lessard had when he first examined him, and given the fact that Drew is notorious for not playing through pain, then the Sox wil likely have to go to the minor leagues for outfield help, as they would only have one healthy outfielder in Manny Ramirez, and two questionable ones in Ellsbury and Crisp. To add to the swelling list of injured players, the likely replacement for any injured outfielder would be Bobby Kielty, but he was also just added to the disabled list. Moss is scheduled come off of the disabled list soon, so they could wait and hope nothing disastrous happens. Given the Sox long list of injuries and illnesses this season, it is a credit to their depth and overall team strength that they are still in first place.
The Sox offense is doing excellent this year, and their league-leading numbers are proof. However, the Sox are having difficulty of late hitting in pressure situations: late in the game, and with runners on base. The Sox opened the year with timely hitting and created an aura that they felt like they were never out of a game, and that confidence from the offense was carrying over into the other aspects of the team. Of late thought, it has been a different story. The Sox are not having the same explosiveness once the late innings come around. The difference between the Sox and the Orioles tonight was the Orioles’ ability to hit with runners on base and in scoring position. A microcosm of the Sox recent struggles occurred when Ramirez came up to bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Ramirez had a long battle at the plate, before grounding weakly to the pitcher, who was able to start the 1-2-3 double play. When Mike Lowell stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third and two out, he lifted a soft fly ball to the left fielder. The Sox managed a run late in the seventh, but the game tonight was eerily similar to the night before in against the Twins. In both nights, the Sox were able to put up some numbers early in the first inning, but were not able to salvage a mediocre start.
Look for this recap following tomorrow’s series finale against the Orioles. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Posted on: May 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 11:48 pm
The Red Sox got a very well played win against the Twins to even the series. Some thoughts on the game:
Daisuke Matsuzaka had very efficient start, needing only 96 pitches to tie a season high with seven strong innings. He only had one tough inning, when he got the bases loaded and walked home a run in the second. But on the whole, he was being much more efficient and doing an excellent job at finishing hitters when they were down in the count, instead of trying to nit-pick around the strike zone and wait for hitters to chase. Now, the Twins are a much less patient team than he faced last time, when he surrendered a staggering eight walks in five innings to the Tigers, but his stuff was better. He threw several excellent sliders, and he was able to use that pitch to go after right handed batters. His fastball looked much more under control, and he was able to challenge lefties, something he has had some trouble with. The Sox may be concerned with the very high number of walks, and they should be, but Matsuzaka really is pitching much better than he was last year, and much more like the guy the Sox thought they would be getting when they paid over $100 million total for him. The number of walks is a product of better and more patient major league hitters, but his ability to improve and work around runners on base is the reason why he is now 6-0 with a 2.45 ERA. Sox fans may still be reluctant to rely on Matsuzaka as a top of the rotation pitcher because of his struggles last year, but in eight starts this year (about a quarter of the season), he has only allowed more than three runs twice (four against the Yankees on April 13, and three against the Rangers on April 18). Sox fans should not try to be deceived by his numbers; Matsuzaka really has rounded into this type of a pitcher, at home and on the road, and should continue to provide the Sox with quality starts.
Tonight’s win was one of those textbook examples that managers envision at the beginning of the season. Seven very good innings from your starter, a good offensive showing, and lights-out, end of the game relief from the bullpen. The Sox offense had another good night, banging out 12 hits and four solo home runs, and the team average begins to creep back toward the .300 plateau it was at earlier this season. The most encouraging thing about this year’s lineup (a quality that was shared by the 2004 and 2007 lineups, though not to this extent), is that even on a night like tonight, when the leadoff, number three and clean up hitters are all hitless, the offense still generates a lot of hits, and a lot of power. David Ortiz still looks hurt and has not yet hit a consistent stride, but Kevin Youkilis is having a monster May, and is now tied for the league lead in home runs and ranks in the top four in RBIs. Julio Lugo was a late scratch from tonight’s game, and Jed Lowrie, likely to be demoted within the next 48 hours, chipped in with three hits and one of the four home runs. At this point in the season and after 39 games played, we are right at the quarter mark of the season, and there have been enough games played to analyze where the Sox stand. Check back after tomorrow’s game, as I am working on grading the Sox at each category, and they will appear on tomorrow’s recap.
Look for this recap and the Sox report card for the first quarter of the season following tomorrow’s game against the Twins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Posted on: May 10, 2008 12:06 am
The Red Sox had rallied back only to suffer their second ninth inning walk off defeat in three days. Some thoughts on the game:
Jon Lester had a decent start, going five plus while yielding five runs, three earned, and only walking one. He threw an astonishing 57 pitches through the first two innings, and needed only 41 to record the next ten outs. Lester’s struggles have been oddly inconsistent this year. Last year, we saw a pitcher, much like Daisuke Matsuzaka, look great over the first three innings, and then completely fall apart when the hitters came around again. However, when Lester has struggled this year, some games he will have trouble in the first few innings, and others will be more like last year. It may seem troublesome, but the fact that he is not having the same problem hurt him on every start shows some level of improvement. However, he still has not figured out how to retire hitters effectively. He has taken good steps to attack hitters and force them into pitchers’ counts, and has limited the walks, but he has not developed enough confidence in his pitches to attack them with two strikes. Opposing hitters are staying around too long and running the count up. Lester’s bane will continue to be his ineffectiveness with his pitches until he can decide what his “out” pitch, or pitches, are and until then, we will be tantalized by the starts where he does seem to put the whole package together.
No Red Sox fans are allowed to panic because of Jonathan Papelbon’s two blown saves in the past three days. All great closers have one or two weeks during the season where they seem to have lost it (it happens regularly to Mariano Rivera around mid-August), but he will regain his form. One thing that can be cause for alarm is that because the Sox have had few blowout wins this season, and most of their 23 wins have come on the strength of out-bashing the other team or out-finessing the other team with great starting pitching, there have been a lot of save opportunities. After seeing Papelbon falter at the end of the 2006 season, the Sox made it one of their priorities to make sure he was healthy at the end of the 2007 season. Theo Epstein stressed that Papelbon would rarely be used on more than two consecutive days and will always have a day off after throwing more than one inning, or when he has a pitch count that reflects that he had to labor (usually upwards of 20-25). This season, he has appeared in 17 of the Sox 38 games: exactly half. He pitched in 59 games in both of his first two seasons as closer, and it is ludicrous to think that he would continue pitching at this rate because at this pace, he would finish the year with 81 appearances. However, it may be that he is working a bit too much. He has simply been called on more because of the tightness of the games this year and the struggles by much of the other relievers. Look for Terry Francona to ease off Papelbon a bit, and maybe give him the next two games off, so that he can rest his arm and get what little, if any, confidence he has lost.
Sean Casey and Alex Cora both were scheduled to play in their last rehab game with Pawtucket tonight, and come off of the disabled list this weekend. But due to bad weather on the east coast, the game was canceled. Since this series with the Twins goes for four games and wraps up on Monday, the Sox could decide to get them in another game this weekend in Pawtucket, and fly them out to Minnesota to arrive on Sunday, or wait and have them meet up with the Sox when they travel to Baltimore on Tuesday for a two game series. The weather does not look like it will improve Saturday, but it is unlikely that the Sox will bring both of them to Minnesota after such a short rehab. When they do return, Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie will almost certainly be sent back to triple-A.
Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game against the Twins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Posted on: May 9, 2008 11:28 am
One night after Clay Buchholz struggled, Josh Beckett put the Sox starters back on their impressive track with a seven inning, one run and eight strikeout performance. After struggling a bit in his first two outings after missing an extended amount of spring training, Beckett’s last four starts have all gone for at least seven innings, and he has given up just nine runs in 30 innings, a 2.70 ERA with 31 strikeouts. But from Beckett’s starts, which have been comparable to those from last year, the biggest improvement he has made is his ability to distribute his pitches more effectively and go deeper into games. One of the reasons that hurt his Cy Young Award chances last year was the fact that he had pitched in more than 40 fewer innings than winner C.C. Sabathia. However this year, Beckett has averaged seven innings per start while his pitch count is right around 100. Being a strikeout pitcher (averaging about one punch-out per inning), it is exceptionally difficult to be that effective. He made vast improvements last year than from his first year in the A.L., and if he can continue going seven innings in each of his starts, he may find himself in a better position for a Cy Young.
The Sox lineup banged out 13 hits against Tigers’ pitching, but only managed five runs. They left 10 runners on base, and missed out on some good scoring opportunities. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz were stranded in scoring position after they had reached there with none out and Ortiz laced a double into the right field corner. Kevin Youkilis then struck out, Mike Lowell popped out and J.D. Drew also struck out. Considering that they were facing a pitcher who, to that point in his career, had only recorded five outs, they Sox should have gotten something out of that situation. We have seen in this series, from both teams, the shaky situation of bullpen pitching in the majors, and the notion that no lead seems to large to overcome. Last night, Jonathan Papelbon did have his “A” game. But, a simple check-swing mistake ground ball and an error lead to the loss. We saw in the beginning of the series, and also in last night’s game, the Tigers’ bullpen struggle heavily. Since it seems like the game can turn on such small events when the bullpen takes over, it is very important for the Sox to hit when it matters most, and not just boost their statistics.
Although the Sox will never get rid of him, if Youkilis had to find a new team to play for, it would be one of the easiest decisions in his life. Most hitters simply develop a place on the road that they are very comfortable hitting in, and Youkilis has found that place in Detroit. He has only hit 44 home runs in his career, but eight of them have come in Detroit. Youkilis does not have more than two home runs at any other road park. It is especially strange because even though the Tigers have done a lot to make the ballpark more hitter friendly, it is still a difficult place to hit home runs, and it much like a mirror image of Fenway’s dimensions. It is 345 feet down the left field line, and quickly juts out to 370 in the gap. Youkilis, who is not a power hitter and does not drive the ball with considerable force, has found some strange but incredible groove here. These home runs here would make sense if they were at Fenway, because with the power of his swing coming almost entirely from his upper body, it would be easy to lift fly balls over the Green Monster. Youkilis is in the top ten in the A.L. in nearly every offensive category, including batting average, home runs, hits, RBIs, runs scored and walks, and nobody can remember the last time he made an error. (Unlike Julio Lugo, who now has half of the Sox 20 errors on the season – as a team, the Tigers have only made 13).