Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Monthly Recap: Summer Winds of Change

July Record: 15-12
Overall Record: 64-42

I could describe the Red Sox in July by saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” but it might be more accurate to say “the more things change, the more they go back to being what they were two months ago.” Yeah it’s a mouthful, but it really hits the nail on the head. The Sox were floundering in June and were quickly becoming the fair weather pick to fall apart by the end of the season. Now after a pile of injuries and roster changes, we’re almost back to the winning ways of April and May.

So why are the Sox doing better amongst all this chaos? Two reasons: sometimes a winning team just gets complacent and needs a roster shake up and I honestly think we had players playing injured. With these problems a few days off or a well timed DL stint can stimulate the hot streaks team need players to have to carry them into the final months of the season. That’s what happened with this Red Sox team. Guys got hurt, guys took breaks, guys got switched up in the lineup and roster changes were made… all with positive results.

So in light of all this movin and a’ shaken I will break down some of the biggest and best changes that helped to contribute to the reversal of the June misfortunes.

Schilling gets DL’ed: This ended up being a blessing in disguise. Anyone with eyes could tell the Schill was hurting after his last two starts in June. The guy looked like he was 85 years old and was lucky if he could reach his age in velocity. While I’m thankful he broke down early in the season and not before the playoffs, I kinda wish Mr. 38 Pitches would have taken a step back at the first sign of trouble instead of after his second stinker… but whatever. To replace him we called on Kason Gabbard (more on him later) who did quite well and put up a few wins we wouldn’t have earn otherwise. This let Schill rehab unrushed and now he’s ready to comeback with a vengeance. Call it a baseball rope-a-dope.

Francona shakes up the lineup: Drew, Coco and Lugo were disasters at the plate and depending on who you asked, it seemed like a sure bet than one of them wasn’t going to survive the trade deadline. Instead of letting the problem sit and congeal, Francona made a combination of changes. He sat Lugo and Drew for extended periods of time in favor of Cora and Hinske and moved Coco to the back of the lineup. Then Drew got a bunch of starts leading off (which made me think the world was ending) and they all started to turn it around (which CONVINCED me the world was ending).

Coco came back to the land of the living first. His defense has always been top notch, but now his hitting is following suit. In Cleveland, Coco ran off 10 hits in 3 days. Lugo is as hot now as he was cold before. He’s gone from a .190 average to over .220 in under a month and my threats of strangulation have turned to gentle hugs. Now Drew is another story. He gets hot and cold without much rhyme or reason, but I still have a feeling he will turn it up a notch if he can stay healthy… but the clock is ticking (BIG EDIT: As I was writing this I found out that Drew's son has been really really really sick all year and is now having surgery. Could this be why he's been struggling at the plate? I don't blame the guy if his mind has been on more important things. Scary stuff. If anyone has heard anything more about this leave a comment).

Brendan Donnelly gets DL’ed: This looked worse than it ended up being. I thought it was odd the Donnelly would be out as long as he has been for just “forearm soreness” but now that he is getting season ending Tommy John surgery it makes more sense. Donnelly replacement was Delcarmen and he has performed better than anticipated, but I was hoping it wasn’t permanent. Turns out with surgery, this is the end of his season and we had to make due with what we had until…

Kason Gabbard had his stock rise: When he filled in for Schilling I expected some type of performance, but he looked like a #2 starter in his few outings. This showed up on the radar for MANY teams including the Rangers. This is how they were able to get a hold of Eric Gagne. Not that I think we desperately needed more bullpen help, but you can’t deny the talent this trade brings in. Kason is NOT a front line starter. He is 3-4 at BEST and that’s for a weak team like Texas. His place was limited here especially due to…

The Return of Jon Lester: Forget the fact that the Sox are 2-0 in his starts this year and forget that he’s freaking IRON MAN for beating cancer, but let’s focus on the situation that this leaves us rotations wise. What I am talking about is his impact as a 5th man in the rotation. I loved/love Julian Tavarez, but COME ON! The guy is a crazy person. He needs to be in the bullpen as a heavily medicated long reliever. Tavarez will get a few more starts until Schilling returns (August 5th?) but Lester gives us a real shot at winning as he develops his skills and matures into the star he is projected to be. Besides, the dude beat freaking cancer… that’s got to be worth a spot in the rotation.

To put it in farming terms, I consider this tilling of fertile soil. Mix it up, bring the good stuff that was obscured to the top and let things grow. In this case, the win totals. They have 64 wins with 2 full months to play. While 100 wins seems slightly unrealistic, it is quite possible they get 95+. They can do that while playing .500 ball. Not too shabby.