It’s only May 8th, but the Boston Red Sox are 7.5 games back on the
division leading Tampa Bay Rays, and 6.0 games back on the wild card
leading New York Yankees. With a record of 15-15 (and potentially 15-16 if
the rain slows down today and the Yanks hold on to win), and having only been
above .500 for two days in the first month and a bit, it’s pretty obvious to everyone in
the AL East that if the Sox want to compete, something drastic has to happen – and it
has to happen soon, or I might just start watching Major League Soccer instead.
You can argue that the Red Sox are starting to put it together. Having swept the
Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers with strong bats and strong
pitching. J.D. Drew, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Beltre seem
to be coming together at the plate. Even David Ortiz has been smacking a
couple out of the park in the last week. Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester,
and John Lackey have seemingly started to come together. Daisuke
Matsuzaka is back from the DL and has shown signs of strength and weakness,
and even Josh Beckett had a great start to his game against the Yankees
last night, at least until he fell apart. There are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.
Then again, they were swept by the Rays at home over a four game series. They
were even swept by the Baltimore Orioles in Fenway South, and are 2-4
against a team that has been amongst the worst in baseball not just this year, but for
a long …. long time – a team the Sox have beaten 15-17 times per season almost
every year in recent history.
Offense isn’t necessarily a problem. During the off-season, talk was about a
dominant pitching staff and defense, with a relatively weak offense. So far, it’s been
the other way around. The offense has given it’s fans an average of about 5 runs a
game. In the mean time, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.68, with 13 un-earned
runs crossing the plate. Furthermore, The Red Sox are 1-5 in 6 games they sent to
But why is everyone in Red Sox Nation worried about the future outcome of this
season? Yes, the Rays are 22-7. The Yankees are 20-8. The Blue Jays are 18-13,
2.5 ahead of Boston for third place in the division. But look on the bright side – it’s
only May 8th. Jacoby Ellsbury is injured, as is Mike Cameron. The
lineup is being shuffled continually. The pitching staff needs to find their groove. It
will happen. Eventually everything will come together and they’ll start to win again.
Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are all proven aces. Buchholz and Dice-K are strong,
strong pitchers. Beltre will find his niche at the hot corner. Ellsbury will come back
and start causing hell at the top of the lineup. The 2010 Boston Red Sox are better
than the 85-win team they appear to be at the moment.
Let’s put this season in perspective. This time last year, the Yankees were 14-15,
4.5 games back of the leading Red Sox. But starting on the 13th of May, they won 9
in a row, ultimately ending with a 103-59 season and a World Series ring. Similarly,
the Red Sox started the 2009 season with a record of 2-6, and then went on a
13-game winning streak for a final record of 95-67 and a Wild Card championship. It
can still come together. There’s still time, but this is what needs to happen:
- Stop losing against the Yankees and Rays – In 8 games against these
two teams, they’re 1-7 … all at Fenway, where they seemingly can’t lose against
any other team as long as they show up for the game.
- Start Pitching Like You Mean It – The aces on the mound will come
together and start throwing 7+ innings per game. They’re too good for it to not
happen. Buchholz and Dice-K will add a good compliment to the three J’s, and
the bullpen will come back together, especially when Bonser comes back to put a
cap on his great spring.
- Improve Defense – Beltre has 7 errors so far this season (only 14 for
him through all of last season), so he needs to improve if we have a chance of
winning. But he’s not the only problem. Martinez needs to improve his throw to
second to intimidate potential thieves (although the pitchers need to help). The
offense needs to get healthy once again and do their thing.
- Get Back Ellsbury – Jacoby is well-known as one of the best lead-off
hitters in the game. Guaranteed to steal bases, walk, and hit at a .300+ clip, he’s
essential to a good Sox team (not that Scutaro isn’t doing a great job in his
absence). Darnell McDonald, Jonathan Van Every, Bill
Hall, and Jeremy Hermida are doing a good job in the absence of
Ellsbury and Cameron, but you just can’t replace those two players in any
Do that, and we’ll be fine. Besides, the Yanks will fall, right? 🙂 Burnett can’t go two
seasons without an injury, and Vasquez will be a beautiful Yanks disappointment this
At least one can hope, right?
Just thought I should share this with everyone.
I was on my way to Fenway today to catch the game, and as I was walking down the
street, a car pulled up beside me. I took a quick look, noticing the New York license
plates, the Yankees bumper stickers, and the Yankees hat adorning the balding
head of the driver. As he stopped, he rolled down the window, clearly noticing my
Beckett jersey, Red Sox ballcap, and associated face paint, and asked, “Hello Miss.
You must be able to tell me how I would be able to find my way towards Fenway?”
I gave him my, “Are you serious? What Sox fan in the world doesn’t know the
general location of Fenway within Boston” look, forced a fake smile, and cordially
replied, “Of course I do!”
After giving him my directions, he drove away abruptly, without so much as a tip of
the hat or a plea of thanks. In a situation like that, I typically would have been angry.
However, I retained the last laugh. Little did he know that my directions, instead of
sending him to Fenway, sent him in the general direction of the Bennington St.
waste depository :). I figured he would be more comfortable at home than inside the
confines of the enemy.
Welcome to Boston, jerk. Next time bring a map.
PS: I apologize about my hiatus … it’s been a busy couple months what with moving
and dealing with school and all that jazz. You know, life getting in the way and all.
But now that the season’s started and there’s things worth talking about, I’ll hopefully
be around more often, at the very least giving a weekly update … but hopefully more
often. Do keep reading :).
Time to roll out the red carpet, hang a giant American flag over the Monster, and
throw some heaters at A-Rod! That’s right, spring training’s on the way – Truck Day
is this Friday – and that can only mean that I can practically smell April 4th on the
horizon. Who will get the start? Beckett? Lester? Lackey? Dice-K?! Who cares?!
As long as it’s against the Yankees and we start off Sabathia’s season on a bad
note, that’s all that matters to me. I’ve been itching for a Fenway Frank ever since
the Winter Classic passed, and my ear needs to hear the ring of Sweet
Caroline and Dirty Water once again. It’s been too long without the sweet
surrender of Fenway Park in my life.
There’s a lot of questions to ask this season. Will the improved pitching and defense
make up for our lack of offense last year? Will Cameron be able to give the
offensive numbers we so desperately need? When Will Lowell be traded? Will
Beltre make up for Lowell’s absence? Will Ortiz come back into form? Does the
bullpen have what it takes to close out games? Will Scutaro falter? Will Martinez
and Beckett re-sign? Will Crawford, Mauer, or A-Gonz. be coming our way in July?
Maybe Webb or Lee will walk onto our mound. Will Manny hit one into the sacrificial
parking lot behind the Monster once again? Will we be able to beat Halladay in a
Phillies uniform? Can we rock Lincecum and his crazy mop in his home park? Will
we split yet another season series with the Yankees?
Will we win the World Series? … Will we even make the playoffs?
Only time will tell. However, one thing I know for sure is that I’m winning my
family-wide fantasy league this year. Call me cocky, but there’s no way I’m going
down this year. My family finished our offline draft via Skype earlier today, and I’m
pretty confident of my lineup, barring injuries or the like. I think the Canadian
weather has gotten to the parentals, because they clearly have no idea how to scout
a team properly. My brother was even sly enough to steal my beloved Joshie away
from me, but no matter. Anyway, here’s what I managed to scrounge together:
C – Mike Napoli (LAA)
1B – Adrian Gonzalez (SD)
2B – Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
SS – Stephen Drew (ARI)
3B – Evan Longoria (TB)
OF – Carl Crawford (TB)
OF – Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)
OF – Jayson Werth (PHI)
DH – Adam Dunn (WAS)
SP – Jon Lester (BOS)
SP – Matt Cain (SF)
SP – Cliff Lee (SEA)
SP – Adam Wainwright (STL)
SP – Brandon Webb (ARI)
RP – Daniel Bard (BOS)
RP – Mike Gonzalez (BAL)
RP – Billy Wagner (ATL)
CL – Joe Nathan (MIN)
Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
Brandon Phillips (CIN)
Chone Figgins (SEA)
Chris Coghlan (FLA)
Geonvanny Soto (CHC)
James Loney (LAD)
Justin Upton (ARI)
Let’s get this party started!
(I apologize ahead of time for the poor analogies and cliche sayings. Bear
with me, I’m crazy.)
Let’s consider for a minute that Major League Baseball is just one big game of
high-stakes winner-take-all Texas Holdem’ poker. Now, consider the AL East as a
hand, with each team as a different player at the table. Who wins the hand?
Arguably, you can look at the Red Sox as having a pair of aces in the hole. There’s
not much doubt in the baseball world that Jon Lester is arguably one of the
best young southpaws around, and we all know how baffling Josh Beckett‘s
stuff can be when you’re looking at it from the plate.
Here’s the problem. The Yankees have a pair of kings, and they picked up two more
Kings on the flop (C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira,
Curtis Granderson). Okay, so Sabathia is an ace and Burnett is more like a
Queen, but just bear with me once again for the sake of the metaphor.
Not wanting to fold their hand, the Red Sox are desperately hoping for running aces
to take home the pot. Could you consider John Lackey and Daisuke
Matsuzaka as aces? Can we run the table for quads of our own? Can the
powerful Yankee hand be beaten?
Exit metaphor. Enter reality.
An article from The Hardball Times sparked my curiosity
regarding the subject. In the article, Kevin Dame looks at Beckett’s 2009
season visually. In his figure, he uses red to represent a quality start (minimum 6 IP,
maximum 3 ER), and blue to represent a non-quality start. Also, he marks the
amount of IP to the side, with the amount of ER per inning. Partial innings are
rounded down for sake of clarity (click on the image for the full size version):
Looking at the graphic, you can see that Beckett produced 21 quality starts in 2009,
as opposed to just 11 poor starts. However, the part of the graphic that perhaps
says more than the red / blue comparison is the IP and ER / Inning. in no start last
year did Beckett fail to make it into the fifth. Furthermore, he seems to be able to
prevent the big inning from ever happening against him. The problem? When things
go bad, the pain is chronic. Instead of giving up one big inning, he tends to give up
1+ run per inning multiple times throughout the course of a poor outing. Although,
even when this occurs, he seems to manage to keep his head on his shoulders and
pitch through it, taking one for the team. In my opinion, that’s what defines an ace
more than anything else, and thus Beckett gets my vote.
This article intrigued me to investigate further. Because of this, I was compelled to
make my own visuals for the rest of the Red Sox starting pitching staff in question
here. First, take a look at Lester:
Looking at Lester’s graphic, he produced more quality starts over the course of the
season than Beckett did. 23 to be exact (with a rain-shortened game holding him
from a potential 24th), with just 9 that were less than stellar. Once again, looking at
the IP and Runs per Inning shows a very glaring problem that Lester needs to solve.
Unlike Beckett who can seemingly get out of an inning, when things go bad for Lester
– they go really, really bad. Instead of preventing the big inning, he seems to
succumb to it. The 4’s, 5’s, and a 6 jump off the page, far too often. However, with
that having been said, when he’s hot he streaks, and he seemingly doesn’t give up
any runs at all. When he has a bad day, it’s a rarity, and aside from the beginning of
the season, they don’t occur in groups. If the season started in May, he’d have been
the hands-down ace of the staff last year. The best stat I see here is that, as a
southpaw, he should have problems in Fenway with the Monster looming, but
somehow he thrives at home. He gives up more runs on the road then he does at
Fenway. To sum all that up, I’d be happy to see him on the mound in any must-win
game, especially in front of the hometown crowd. That makes two aces.
Next is John Lackey:
Lots to look at here. First, Lackey was injured until May. Second, his first start of the
season isn’t included, as he was ejected after two pitches, and his last start of the
regular season isn’t included, as he was pulled after 2 innings to keep him fresh for
the post-season. Finally, the last three starts in the figure are from the postseason
against big teams from the AL East (for all you nay-sayers about his ability to pitch in
a division that lives and breathes baseball instead of just treating it as a casual
past-time). 18 quality starts to 10 otherwise. Perhaps the first couple poor starts
could be due to him getting into his groove after coming back from an injury. Who
knows. The biggest thing here is that he’s a work horse. He averaged between 6
and 7 IP per game last season, and pitched 1 CG (although he pitched a full 9
innings on three different occasions only to see it go to extras twice). Like Lester,
when he’s on, runs are hard to find, but when he’s not, they’ll come in bunches.
Expect the best of Beckett and of Lester in one package, but also the flaws of both.
Like Beckett, he’s not going to give in early on in a game – if he’s on the mound,
expect him to be there for the long-haul. It’s unknown how well he’ll do in Fenway,
but with a near no-hitter in his history there, the expansive right field, and an
upgraded Sox defense, you can expect him to be a third ace on the team’s staff,
provided he can stay healthy in 2010.
I don’t know anyone who screams “inconsistency” more than Dice-K. Note that I used
2008’s stats as opposed to his 2009 stats, as it shows his performance over the
course of a full season without significant injuries that could possibly dictate the
quality of his performance. No significant hot streaks, no significant cold streaks.
More often than not, he had a less than stellar start, but his record for the year was
18-3, and 3-0 in the post-season (seen as the last three games on the figure).
Anyone who follows his career knows that he doesn’t give in to hitters. This means
he issues a lot of walks, gets a lot of K’s, and deals with a lot of base runners and
high pitch counts, but somehow gives up very few runs. a good percent of the time,
he won’t last past the 5th or 6th inning, but he very rarely leaves while behind in the
game. With an average run support per game between 5 and 6, you can imagine
that that would equal a lot of wins, provided you have a bullpen that can clean up the
second half of the game, which the Red Sox have been able to do in the past.
Daisuke can be an ace, but he needs to be able to last deeper into games (aka
learning to pitch to contact). If the Red Sox training program has finally sunken in he
should be healthy, and if he has learnt the AL and can learn to pitch to contact, he
can turn the majority of his lackluster starts into quality outings. Long story short, I
would take any of the three men before him in a game to end a losing streak or a big
game in the post-season, but I wouldn’t be afraid to give Dice-K the ball if I had to.
Expect him to be the wild card of the staff in 2010 – either a luck-driven winner like in
2008 (which, aside from looking deeper into run support and other assorted stats,
looks like a fluke year), or just another pitcher in the rotation, like in 2007 (although
he still won 15 games as a rookie), and 2009.
Close down the rotation with either Clay Buchholz, who can be good or bad
as history has shown, or Tim Wakefield, who can be healthy or damaged
goods, as history has shown, and you’ve got a formidable rotation. Add in the
potential starters in the minors, such as Junichi Tazawa and Michael
Bowden, and you have a solid back-up if the going gets tough. The market
might even see Cliff Lee and/or Brandon Webb up for grabs if the
Mariners or Diamondbacks aren’t looking like potential playoff contenders at the
trade deadline, potentially making the Red Sox rotationn even more potent, should
they go after someone.
To make a long story short, the Red Sox may or may not have the cards to beat the
Yankees, but when you’re staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, the best thing you
can do is stick the barrel of yours in the face of your enemy and fire away.
I love the Red Sox with a fiery passion that will never cease. However, I despise the
Red Sox organization like an ice cream man driving around town honking his horn
when all the ice cream’s gone. The most recent issue? Random ticket drawing. I’ve
never agreed with the idea of putting tickets for high-demand games or seats up for
random drawing, but it’s really starting to get ridiculous.
I can respect the fact that the Red Sox are so highly adored to the point that a game
at Fenway is quite possibly the hardest ticket to get in all of professional sports
(aside from special events such as the playoffs and all-star games), but should that
give the team’s upper management the right to put high-demand games to the luck
of the draw?
We’re talking about a capacity of 37,400 (at night), and 36,984 (give or take, during
the day). That’s fewer seats than any other major league baseball stadium. With the
lowest seating capacity and (quite possibly) the largest fan base in the game, there’s
bound to be a demand for every game played at home, and there is. With a record
sellout streak getting bigger and bigger by the game, there’s no fear from the
management perspective of striking out monetarily. So, why have a random draw for
9, or in this case, 12 games a year? It’s pure lunacy.
Personally, I have access to season tickets, so it’s not a huge problem for yours
truly. However, for the last two years, my family has tried to pick up tickets for
Sox/Yankees games at Fenway (Monster seats or otherwise), only to find out they
had to see the rivalry at Yankee Stadium, where their money was happily accepted.
I’ve got a pair of tickets on the line saying they’ll be sitting on their couches back
home in Toronto when Manny stares the Monster in the eye once again. Anyone
want to take me up on that offer? … No? Didn’t think so.
What’s going to happen in 2011? Random drawings for Sox/Rays games? Random
drawings for all inter-league matches? Random drawings for all AL East opponents?
How far are they going to go with this system in the future?
I understand that part of the reasoning behind this ploy is to help avoid long lineups
and thousands of people at the ticket booths rejected and sent home 5 seconds
after the tickets go on sale, but isn’t that just the way the world works? Aside from
the Michael Jackson funeral service, I can’t recall any other event outside of sports
where tickets were subject to this kind of system, so why do we have to suffer? Even
if we’re talking of sports, I’ve never seen tickets for an original six match go into a
giant spinning barrel. I’ve never seen Lakers tickets subject to this. NHL and NBA
tickets are much harder to come by in big markets (say for the LA Lakers, or Toronto
Maple Leafs), where the fan base is just as large as the Fenway Faithful, with only an
eighth of the seats Fenway contains to provide for that fan base.
Now, we’re dealing with the Twins considering this approach for the Target Field
opener. What’s next? Is democracy going to fall this summer? Is the apocalypse
coming? Did the Mayans screw up and estimate the end of the world two years
late? With all due respect to Twins fans, is that necessary? Why is Twins
management doing this? Did the Red Sox brass get to them and say, “Hey guys,
we’re going to be there for your opener, and we’re bringing our fans … but they
don’t know how to buy tickets properly, so you’re going to have to provide a random
draw … it’s the only way they know.”, or do they just realize that if they sell the
tickets normally, there will be more Red Sox fans in the stands than Twins fans?
What I’m saying here is quite simple. Why not, as an organization, try to make a
profit off of those games? Instead of randomizing a draw and making all your die
hard fans hope reluctantly for the best, why not just raise your ticket prices for those
games? Personally, I’d rather deal with even a 10% hike in ticket prices for those
games than having to hope for Lady Luck to be on my side. It may not work for
events like the WBC, but it works for the all of the All-Star Games in major league
sports, and it certainly works in the playoffs. If you have fans, they’ll come to the
ballpark, even in a recession, and even with higher ticket prices. But these random
draws are getting ridiculous. Tickets should be first come, first serve, regardless of
the size of your venue, or the event you happen to be holding. I thought that’s how
Capitalism and fairness worked.
Is Jason Bay healthy? As you all probably know by now, it was reported
recently that back in June, Bay had agreed upon a deal with the Red Sox, but the
deal was later nixed due to medical reasons related to his knees. Jason Bay, on the
other hand, insisted he was perfectly fine.
This leaves me to wonder – if there was something that the Red Sox doctors noticed,
why did the Mets doctors give him a clean bill of health? Maybe the 2009 Mets
season can shed some light on the situation:
- Carlos Delgado – Hip Soreness – Out May 11-15, Season Ending Hip
- Jose Reyes – Right Calf Injury – Out May 14-18, May 22-25, Season
Ending Hamstring Tear
- Ramon Martinez – Fractured Pinkie Finger – Out June 3-Season
- J.J. Putz – Bone Spurs in Throwing Elbow – Out June 5, Season Ending
- Fernando Martinez – Knee Inflamation – Out July 4-8, Season Ending
- Oliver Perez – Tendinitis – June 12-July 7, August 26-31, Season Ending
- Alex Cora – (Starts season with thumb injuries) – Torn Ligament in Thumb
– Out May 18-June 3, August 15, Season Ending Surgery on both thumbs
- Fernando Nieve – Injured Quad – Out July 19-Season
- Johan Santana – (Elbow concern in Spring Training) – Out August 20,
Season Ending Elbow Surgery
- Jonathon Niese – Torn Hamstring – Out August 6-Season
- John Maine – Shoulder Weakness – Out June 12-September 12
- Angel Pagan – Throwing Elbow – Out Spring Training-May 9, Right Groin
Strain – Out June 1-July 10
- Carlos Beltran – Bone Bruise In Knee – Out June 22-September 6
- Gary Sheffield – Sore Hamstring – Out July 18-August 1, August 6-9,
August 25-September 15 (Pinch Hitting Occasionally)
- Brian Schneider – Back / Calf Strain – Out April 16-May 29
- Tim Redding – Shoulder Weakness – Out Spring Training-May 17
- Ryan Church – Pulled Hamstring – Out May 23-June 6
That list doesn’t include injuries such as David Wright‘s injury from being hit
by a Matt Cain fastball, or minor day-to-day injuries.
Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t trust the Mets’ medical staff.
If you don’t agree with me, or feel that maybe the Mets’ doctors and management
should be given a little more credit, the precedent doesn’t look good for you. If you
recall, this same situation once happened with a player going from the Red Sox to
the Mets via free agency. Any guesses as to who I’m referring to?
After the 2004 season, The Red Sox decided to wave goodbye to Pedro
Martinez, allowing him to sign a $53MM deal with the Mets. Why did Sox
management allow him to get away? They felt that after the 2005 season, Pedro’s
skills would start to decrease and he would fall from his alter. In 2005, Pedro went
15-8 over 31 starts with a 2.82 ERA, with an appearance at the All-Star Game. After
that, a freak injury against the Marlins in 2006. A recovery, then late in the same
season, season ending rotator cuff surgery. Flirtation with retirement in the
offseason. A surprising return in September 2007. An injury plagued, 5-6 2008. No
serious suitors as a free agent in the following offseason. A late entrance into 2009
with the Phillies, followed closely by a miserable Game 6 in the World Series. Hardly
an arm worth $53MM.
Looks to me like the Mets’ medical team consists of the kind of people that could
miss a knee injury in the making.
I’ve got my money on a Jason Bay knee injury before 2012. How about you?
Epstein’s To Do List for this off-season:
- Deepen Rotation – DONE
- Increase Outfield Defense – DONE
- Improve Bullpen – Incomplete
- Increase Infield Defense – Incomplete? Maybe Not
Okay, so he solved the first issue on the list with John Lackey. The second
issue on the list was rectified with Mike Cameron, effectively replacing Jason
Bay’s defensive prowess, and then some. The third point may not have a
solution. After losing Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, it’s hard to
imagine a bullpen as strong as it was late in 2009. But, Epstein went after low risk
players like Boof Bonser, and by extending the rotation, perhaps one of the
6 starters could find time in the bullpen. As for the final issue on Epstein’s mind, he
solved half the problem with the signing of Marco Scutaro. Now, just as we
were thinking that maybe we had to hope for Mike Lowell‘s health, it appears
that perhaps our infield picture is coming into focus, as reports are stating that the
Sox are close to bringing Adrian Beltre to town on a one year contract worth
about $9-10MM with a possible option for 2011.
I like this deal. It means we don’t have to rely on Lowell, but we keep a strong
defense and strong bat that Lowell used to provide. We keep a strong defense at
third without losing any power. Furthermore, Beltre comes relatively cheap, and with
just a one year contract, could open the door for Adrian Gonzalez when the
Padres become a little more desperate to trade him (say, next off-season, perhaps?)
Now we just need to figure out the bullpen.