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Tag:Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
 

The End All for 2010 MLB Predictions

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

Comments:
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.

A.L. Central
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals

Comments:
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."

A.L. West
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics

Comments:
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.

ALDS Matchups:
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

ALCS Matchup

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.
Posted on: May 20, 2009 6:13 pm
 

Red Sox First Quarter Report Card

Tonight is the 40th game of the season for the Red Sox, which means they have now completed one quarter of the 2009 season and here’s one look at how Boston has stacked up:

Offense:

Offensively, the Red Sox have been solid in most areas, despite injuries and slumps to significant players. However, after one quarter, the Sox find themselves fifth in the A.L. in batting average, first in on-base percentage, fourth in OPS, fifth in home runs and fourth in runs scored. These are all good numbers and averages, but unfortunately for the Sox, the are often trailing in these categories to the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and in some of the statistics, the New York Yankees (needless to say, the A.L. East is a stacked division). Individually, the Sox are getting huge contributions from the people that we would most expect, with Jason Bay (second in the league in home runs, RBIs; third in OBP) leading the way. Mike Lowell has been much better than anticipated, not only ranking 12th in the A.L. in RBIs, but also playing in all but one of the Sox games, surprising after undergoing surgery in the off-season. Kevin Youkilis was the best hitter in baseball through the first 25 games of the season (leading the A.L. in BA, OBP, OPS) before landing on the disabled list with an oblique strain. While he has just returned to the Sox, it will be interesting to see if he continues being productive, as oblique injuries are some of the toughest to gauge and return from. Predictably, the Sox are getting sub-par performances from some players. Jason Varitek has showed some good power with five home runs, but his other numbers reflect last year’s offensive debacle. J.D. Drew is now in his third year of not producing his value, but a juggle of the lineup may increase his statistics. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are stalwarts at the top of the lineup, both hitting over .300 and setting the table for the offense. On the other side of things, the Sox bench and bit-players Rocco Baldelli, Jed Lowrie (before going on the disabled list), George Kotteras and Jeff Bailey (filling in for Youkilis) have all struggled offensivly. And that brings us to David Ortiz. Ortiz, as we all know, was benched for the Sox entire series with the Seattle Mariners because of his abysmal start to the season. Although now playing again, the Sox will have to make changes if Ortiz continues to struggle, and that means bumping him down in the lineup. The most likely scenario is switching him with Drew, who has done very well in his career in the no. 3 hole in the lineup. If the struggles continue, the Sox will need help from outside the organization because the bench is not getting the job done.

Grade: B     - The Sox offense has won them games early on, but will need Youkilis and Bay to remain productive to pick up the slack for other hitters.

Starting Rotation:

The starting pitching for the Sox has been, well, terrible in relation to pre-season expectations. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox top three starters, all have ERAs well above five. Matsuzaka went on the disabled list with “shoulder fatigue” which was more likely an excuse to simply get him properly rested and ready for the start of the season which was interrupted by the World Baseball Classic. Beckett has pitched better than Lester has thus far, but both are struggling with command issues and leaving too many pitches up in the zone. Lester has already given up 10 home runs (he gave up 14 all of last year). If the top three in the rotation have been bad, then the Sox number five starter has been even worse. Brad Penny was thought of as a low-risk, high reward signing for the Sox when he came to Boston on a one-year contract. He has been knocked around in almost all of his starts and despite a 3-1 record, his ERA is an unsightly 6.69. With Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz ranking 1 and 2 in the International League in ERA, the time may come very soon when Penny finds out what a “low-risk” contract is all about. Tim Wakefield has been excellent all season, and the one starter that has really pulled his weight. He tossed back-to-back complete games earlier this season, one of which was a no-hitter for seven innings. He leads the rotation in ERA and in innings pitched. Justin Masterson has filled in well for the injured Matsuzaka, but inconsistent; in four of his six starts he has yielded two runs or less, while he has given up six in each of the other two starts.

Grade: C-        - The Sox have their top three starters are performing well below average, one starter performing well, and one performing badly. Change will come to the rotation if some of these starters continue to struggle.

Relief Pitching:

The Sox bullpen was tabbed in spring training as one of the best in the majors, and they have certainly lived up to expectations. The overall bullpen ERA is second best in the A.L., and are getting key contributions from talented young arms. Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez have appeared in 37 games entering tonight, and both have ERAs under 1.00 and 26 holds between them. Hideki Okajima (2.89 ERA and 12 holds) and newly acquired Takashi Saito (3.86 ERA and 16 holds) have both been dependable in the late innings. The Sox’s bullpen overall ERA (3.01) is somewhat skewered by Javier Lopez, who is no longer with the team after being designated for assignment and now pitching for Pawtucket, and Hunter Jones, who was brought up as a long reliever to eat up innings after Masterson went to the rotation. Jones figures to be sent down now that Matsuzaka has returned and Masterson will be back in the bullpen. Uber-prospect Daniel Bard has been called up recently after Lopez’s demotion and will also contribute solid innings. Bard was the closer for Pawtucket, and posted a 1.12 ERA and six saves in 16 innings pitched while racking up a remarkable 29 strikeouts (16.3 strikeouts per nine-inning). Meanwhile, Jonathan Papelbon has closed the door with the same results as we are used to, leading the A.L. with 11 saves, but has had to labor significantly more through some of his appearances. Papelbon changed his deliver slightly so as to incorporate an off-speed pitch to compliment his fastball and splitter, but the result has been some wildness as he has already walked two more batters this season than he did all of last season. But again, the results have been fine, as he is always able to get himself out of seemingly any jam.

Grade: A        - The Sox bullpen has been nothing short of outstanding, and with Bard and Masterson replacing Lopez and Jones, it will only continue to be one of the stronger aspects of this ball club.

Defense:
Defense has been a bit of a concern for the Sox thus far, as they rank 11th in the A.L. in overall team fielding percentage. But, most of the problems are coming from the shortstop position. With Lowrie out for a couple of months, and Lugo also hurting, the job fell to Nick Green for much of the month of April. Green is a natural second basement, and it has shown in his defense as he has racked up an A.L. leading eight errors. Since his return, Lugo has been little better, if not worse, recording four errors in only 12 starts at the position. Mike Lowell has played better than his numbers will indicate, and has made several higlight reel plays at the hot corner. Bailey has played above average defense in the place of Youkilis. The outfield has been excellent, with Drew committing the only error among them, and Ellsbury will once again be a serious contender for a Gold Glove. George Kotteras does have six passed balls, but has done an excellent job handling Wakefield all season.

Grade: B         - The defense has been solid at times, but shortstop, like catcher and centerfield, is a critical position defensively and that the Sox have a huge hole there is a problem that likely won’t be addressed until Lowrie’s return.

Bench:
Due to injuries, the Sox bench has become at times the Sox starting lineup. There was not many other options that Bailey at first, and despite his .190 average, he does provide a source of power at the bottom of the lineup. Green is a good hitter, and will be a solid backup later in the season to several positions, including in the outfield. Rocco Baldelli has had to play probably more than was expected, and struggling subbing as the designated hitter, but he is much better suited to play occasionally and in the outfield. Kotteras is having his struggles offensively, but the time has long been since the Sox looked for offense from the catcher position.

Grade: C+       - The bench has had to play more than they should at this point, but Green and Baldelli will provide offense off the bench later in the season, and the return of Mark Kotsay will also bolster the Sox’s depth.

Overall Grade: B+
The Sox find themselves a few games back of the Toronto Blue Jays, but ahead of both the Yankees and Rays. The Sox desperately need better performances from their starting rotation, but otherwise find themselves at the level of production they expected. The rash of injuries to begin the season seems to be clearing up, and it is essential to keep the players healthy and within their roles on the club.

Posted on: April 9, 2009 5:33 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 4-9-09

Last season, I put together a recap following each Red Sox game. This season, I’ll take a look at the Sox games and post a recap at the conclusion of each Boston series.

The brightest spot of the early season for the Sox was Josh Beckett and his opening day start. Beckett racked up 10 strikeouts in seven innings while allowing only one run on two hits. Beckett had an average season last year, compiling a 12-10 record with a 4.03 ERA while averaging almost exactly a strikeout per inning pitched. But, by the standard of the 20-win campaign he had in 2007, he fell far short of expectations. He does look poised to return to his 2007 form, and we have to remember that Beckett started last season injured. He was held out almost entirely from spring training, which is vital for starting pitchers. A good indication of where Beckett is this season in comparison to last season is his reliance on only two pitches. He had to go to his change-up last season and a two-seam fastball, which is not Beckett’s game. He is effective if he can go through a start using his fastball and curveball 65-70 percent of the time. He threw very few change-ups on Tuesday.

Today’s starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, got off to a less desirable start of the season. Although putting up solid raw numbers with an 18-3 record and a 2.90 ERA, he finished a distant fourth in Cy Young voting and received no first place votes. This was due mostly to his relative inconsistency on the mound, which led to a very high number of walks (94 in 164 IP). The high walk total combined with the fact that Matsuzaka is a strikeout pitcher led to high pitch totals and short outings (He average a little under 5 and 2/3 IP per start). Although he has very good stuff, it seems that this is simply the type of pitcher Matsuzaka is. He will nibble at the corners, rely on his breaking pitches, and only go after hitters when he must. Today, however, the Sox would have gladly taken last season’s version of the Japanese import. Matsuzaka was leaving a lot of pitches up in the zone, and the Rays hitters had many aggressive swings off of him. No pitch seemed to be working, and he gave up home runs to Evan Longoria (slider), Matt Joyce (fastball) and Shawn Riggans (slider). Walks were not an issue, but Matsuzaka’s pitches were very flat and up in the zone. Although he had significant work in winning his second consecutivce World Baseball Classic MVP award, Matsuzaka looked today like a starter who was not quite ready for the regular season.

The bullpen has lived up to its billing through the first series. Tabbed by some as the best in baseball, the Sox have finally put together a clear path for the middle innings to get to Jonathan Papelbon. New addition Ramon Ramirez was effective today and will play an integral part of getting to the ninth.

A few things about the offense:
-Kevin Youkilis has gotten off to a red-hot start. He had record eight hits in his first 11 at-bats this season, and he continues his recent string of productive Aprils. Although there are question marks with David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Jason Vartiek in the lineup, Youkilis is the most pivotal member of the big part of the lineup. Depending on his production, it will affect how teams pitch to Ortiz and other members of the lineup.

-Speaking of Varitek, I hate to be the bearer of unwanted news, but I am hearing a lot of talk about Varitek having a good solid comeback year in which he puts up numbers such as a .250 BA, 15 home runs and 70 RBIs. GM Theo Epstein made a great move bringing back Varitek this off-season, he did not re-sign him because of his offense. Varitek’s numbers will be startlingly similar to his numbers from the 2008 campaign, which were .220-13-43. If the Sox had wanted more offense from their catcher, they would have kept Josh Bard. It is a great sign that he has two home runs in the first three games, and both left-handed, but any offense from the catcher’s position is gravy.

The A.L. East is by far the toughest division in baseball this season, with some speculating that the top three teams in all of baseball are in that division. No one is writing off the Rays, but it seems that most have them finishing third behind the Red Sox and Yankees. The Rays however should not finish lower than second. They have the same team as they do last year, and have added a big bat in Pat Burrell. David Price is waiting in the wings, and he will be called up sooner rather than later, ala Longoria last season.

Check back after the series finale Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (All recaps will be posted here .)
Keep the Faith.

(P.S. I am also in the market for a new avatar, as mine was also a casualty of the wonderful new restrictions set forth by cbssports, so if anyone has ideas, I’d appreciate them.)

Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:56 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-13-08

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.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:43 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-12-08

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.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 4, 2008 6:07 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-4-08

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

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

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

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

Posted on: May 3, 2008 10:54 pm
 

Red Sox Recap 5-3-08

The Sox got their second consecutive eight innings performance from their starter and an impressive offense attack. Some thoughts on the game:

Josh Beckett had a very good start tonight, allowing four runs in eight innings. He struggled a bit in the early innings, having some command issues and yielding a two run home run in the second. But, after yielding another run in the fourth, he seemed to gain better control of his fastball and settled down. He threw only 100 pitches over the eight innings, and was trying to mix more changeups in along with his fastball and curveball. Very few pitchers can get by on just two pitches, and as good as Beckett is, he does need a third pitch, even if he uses it rarely. A power pitcher like Beckett would likely try to feature a two-seam sinking fastball as a third pitch to use to mix up hitters and try to get a groundball in tight situations. His third pitch, though, is the changeup. However, for a pitcher who throws 95-97 MPH on his straight fastball and drops his curveball in at 77-79 MPH, Beckett’s changeup should come across the plate in the low 80s, but Beckett’s whistles past at 90-91. He does seem to have good control over it, and he always keeps it down, but he has to be very careful with this pitch. Because it is coming in as fast as most people’s fastball, it probably looks more like a fastball than a changeup. If hitters are late on his fastball, they may be able to time his changeup well. He has to keep that pitch down if he wants it to be effective, but it still may not be the best third pitch option for Beckett. For the record, though, all of the four runs Beckett gave up came off of his fastball.

It was mentioned in the recap yesterday that the lineup would hit their stride again when Jacoby Ellsbury came back, and, at least for two games, they have. (The Sox improved to 13-2 when Ellsbury scores a run). This is not to do any patting on the back, but it was brought up in an interview with Terry Francona that he was not entirely happy with his rookie outfielder. Francona is the stereotypical “players”-manager, and will likely never call a player out in public and likes to care of those kind of situations in-house, as he should. But he did express some discontent about the way that some of the players on the Sox were treating injuries, though he was explicit that he was not singling out Ellsbury. However, his comments included him saying that there “is a fine line” between players who are injured and who can play, and that “We can’t wait for guys to be 100 percent.” Perhaps the most accusatory words from Francona was when he described that minor league managers and staff are more protective of players and their injuries and when they experience pain. He went on to say that he thought Ellsbury would be able to play back on Tuesday, but when it became evident that he could not, the manager was surprised that Ellsbury did not come by on the off-day on Monday to receive treatment. Francona said that it gave his staff a chance to talk to Ellsbury about how to handle these kind of situations. But also in Francona’s words there was likely a reference to J.D. Drew, who had missed the past few games because of a quadriceps injury. Drew has been notorious about refusing to play when hurt, but Francona also went out of his way to mention that Coco Crisp had been hampered by a sore knee, although he went out and has been playing in place of Ellsbury, and that Crisp is a good example of a player who is willing to play through pain. It is likely that Ellsbury’s problem was more of a misunderstanding, but Drew’s issues come as little surprise.

Speaking of injured players, there have been several updates over the past few days. Bartolo Colon is going to pitch two innings in an extended spring training game on Monday. The Sox seem to feel that Colon, who has been traveling with the Sox, has not lost much because he would be in triple-A Pawtucket if it were not for paperwork issues. May 1 has come and gone, and Colon has not decided to leave the Sox and declare free agency, as the out clause in his contract says he can. The Sox signed Colon because they did not plan on Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz pitching as well as they have this season. As both have performed well, Colon will have to either wait for someone to get injured, or really hit a wall. Of the 309 games that Colon has pitched in the majors, 306 were starts, so he has no value as a reliever. If he continues to pitch well at Pawtucket, and no Red Sox starter needs replacement by mid-June, it is unlikely that Colon will stay at Pawtucket.

On other injured news, Brandon Moss underwent emergency surgery tonight to have his appendix removed. He will likely be out at least until the beginning of next week. Curt Schilling was also reported to be close to begin a throwing program, being able to start within the next 10 days. Even though it is true that no team can have enough starting pitching, the way that the Sox starters’ are going, there really is no room for either Schilling or Colon. It would be nice to have an option like Schilling, and Colon for that matter, if one of the starters gets hurt, but if they do not, it would be a bad descision to take out one of the young starters simply because Schilling is healthy. Schilling will not be as effective as Buchholz and Lester have been this season thus far.

Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to return to the Rays the favor of being swept. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

Posted on: May 3, 2008 1:19 am
 

Red Sox Recap 5-2-08

The Sox finally put together some offense to go with another solid start. Some thoughts on the game:

Clay Buchholz continued his streak of impressive starts, recording six strikeouts over five plus innings. Over his last three starts, he now has allowed only three runs in the past 19 and one third innings and also has 21 strikeouts over that time. He has lowered his ERA to a very respectable 3.71. It may be the nature of Red Sox fans to worry about their players constantly, but it does seem like, until recently, most of the media outlets were still unsure of whether or not Buchholz would hold up in his first big league season. But, looking at his numbers, he has only had one bad start, on April 16 when he gave up seven runs to the Yankees and failed to get out of the third inning. Although his command is still somewhat of an issue, the four he gave up today was a season high, and his strikeout to walk ratio is better than three-to-one. Buchholz looks considerably more confindent in his past three starts than he did earlier in year. He is mixing up his pitches much more effectively, and while his change-up is probably his best pitch, he recorded a lot of strikeouts to left-handed batters with a good curveball. He has the ability to locate his curveball, which is a deadly weapon against lefties. His fastball still needs work, but he has shown much improvement even from the start of the season.

It was very gratifying to see the Sox get another good start and the offense come through as well and provide some run support. It is not just a mere coincidence that Jacoby Ellsbury made his return to the lineup today, reaching base on three occasions, including two walks. It seems that Ellsbury gives the rest of the lineup more confidence, and Dustin Pedroia, who had been slumping heavily (2 for his last 26) during the time Ellsbury was out, looks as if he has less pressure on himself to get on base and get the offense moving. Pedroia is an excellent number two hitter and is at his best when Ellsbury is batting in front of him. He is great at making contact and, with the speed of Ellsbury, it is a great hit and run combination. David Ortiz’s average actually was a notch over .200 for a short time during the game before he grounded out in his last at-bat. It may seem like small comfort, but Ortiz is swinging the bat much better and his hits are beating the shift for once.

Look for this recap following tomorrow’s game against the Rays. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Keep the Faith.

 
 
 
 
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