Monday, June 28, 2010

Here's to You, Daniel Bard

Don and I were talking Sox earlier today, and after commiserating on the poor state of the team in the past few days - a shifting cast of characters in the outfield, an infield now rife with injuries, and a bullpen when key guys like Ramirez, Okajima, and Papelbon have stopped performing - we finally found a bright spot: Daniel Bard. As it turns out, not only has Bard felt like a rock this year, but the numbers show he's pitched like one, too, with that stellar ERA+ of 217 front and center.

But digging a little deeper, you see an interesting contrast that stands out when you compare season totals: Bard has increased his control, but at the expense of strikeouts. WHIP, hits per nine, walks per nine, strikeout to walk ratio; they've all improved (and Bard is about ten innings shy of his 2009 totals, so this is a great time to compare), but strikeouts per nine (and total strikeouts, of course) are down. Presumably Bard has taken something off of his fastball to improve his control, but what I find so interesting about this change is how obvious it seems. One seemingly minor adjustment has ripples across a whole group of performance numbers...and even better, all of those ripples are positive. So here's to you, Daniel Bard: thanks for being such a rock.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ugh: Who Will Be the Next Major Injury to this Red Sox Team?

Resiliency is about to get ludicrously challenged.

Friday: Pedroia fouls a Jonathan Sanchez pitch off a bone of his foot and lands on the 15-day DL. Despite whatever positive spin you might be hearing, Lil' Shit is on crutches and cannot put pressure on his left foot. Don't expect him back until mid-August. Maybe even September. By then, Sox could very much be out of the playoff picture. Sox brass are going to rightfully baby this injury.

Saturday: Clay Buchholz comes up gimpy running from first to second base a few minutes after he hit a single. Initial reports on him are that it's not too bad, but expect a start or two skipped.

So, along with Navajo Jewish Lawyer (Ellsbury), Josh Beckett, Jeremy Hermida, a day-to-day Mike Cameron, a gimpy JD Drew, and now Mike Lowell (who went on the DL this week to make room for Daisuke coming off the DL), Pedroia's injury is the worst kind of blow to a team in the playoff hunt. As Bill Hall told reporters over the weekend, Pedroia is the second captain on this team for the offense. He is a leader and motivational player who leads by example, and a very tough replacement for the 2-hole, though he did hit in the 3 hole on Thursday in Colorado where he had a HUGE game going 5 for 5 with 3 home runs.

Pedroia, who saw NESN broadcaster Don Orsillo in the clubhouse in LA on Friday, was overheard in front of reporters saying to Orsillo "“How many times did you say ‘laser show’ last night? You should start calling it the ‘rocket blasting show.’ ’’

All you can do is hope there are some teams with talented veterans looking to unload some salary at the trade deadline. The Sox quickly dealt for a cheap option and picked up Eric Patterson from the Oakland A's. Patterson can play second and the outfield, so he gives them some defensive versatility. The big question mark is whether he can hit. His career stats point to a streaky hitter. For the time being, Bill Hall, Patterson and Angel Sanchez--who the team called up from Pawtucket as well--will be jumbled around.

I hope JD Drew can get back in there soon and get his bat going. Beltre, Ortiz, Youk and Martinez have been playing well, but it's going to take a full team effort. That means you too bullpen.

[Image by Lucky + 13 via Flickr cc 3.0]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

There Are No Words for This

This was auctioned off in 2004 for charity, so we're way late to the game, but who cares? This is so unbelievably awesome. If you want to see close ups and a ton of angles of Fenway Park in Lego splendor, check out the full range of thumbnails here. Thanks to my brother-in-law for finding this at Uniwatch.

You Got Your Offense In My Defense! Sox Bats Defy 'Bridge Year' BS

The Red Sox are leading THE MAJORS or are right behind the leader in plethora of offensive categories  right now. Yeh, you heard me right: The entire major league.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the numbahs:
  • #1 in Hits with 689 (Number 2? The Kansas City Royals; I know, it's totally crazy)
  • #1 in Doubles with 174
  • #1 in RBI with 373
  • #1 in Runs with 390
  • #1 in Total Bases with 1158
  • #2 in Average at .278 (Number 1? The Kansas City Royals at .279)
  • #2 in Home runs with 93 (Number 1 is still the Blue Jays)
  • #2 in On-Base Percentage at .353 (A tie with the Braves of Hotlanta; That team from the Bronx leads at .359)
  • #3 in Walks with 277 (behind that team from the Bronx and the Braves of Hotlanta)
The team who plays on Yawkey Way are middle of the pack in one category: Strike Outs. They currently rank 17th which is fairly decent. At the bottom of that list are the Chicago White Sox and, once again, the Kansas City Royals.

If only the Royals had a few more decent starters... Speaking of Kansas City, they could be a team the Red Sox try to bargain with for a trade. Gordon Edes of ESPN started dropping some names recently and he mentioned Scot Podsednik as a target for Theo. He hits, he steals bases and he runs the bases well... I have some other ideas on potential targets, but more on that later.

Despite all this offense, the Red Sox have to be on the market for an impact outfielder with the injuries to Ellsbury, Cameron, Hermida and now, Drew. Drew is supposed to play tonight in Colorado, but I will not be surprised if Tito gives him more time off to let that hamstring calm down. Luckily, he did not land on the DL, but you'd be foolish to rule that out with Stephen's older, richer brother.

While the team-offensive numbers have been solid, the overall offensive contributions from outfielders are tenuous aside from Drew. Sure, there have been great rookie moments from McDonald and Nava, and some nice lefty at bats from Hermida (who is hurt), but let's be clear: We cannot expect these triple-a guys (and an inconsistent Bill Hall, who is really a back-up infielder) to go the rest of the season. In an effort to reach the playoffs, the Red Sox need another Ellsbury-type player who can get on base consistently, be a real base-stealing threat and generally be a nuisance to pitchers.

Looking at the outfield, Edes recently examined the offensive state of these players:
Relying on patchwork combinations that have featured McDonald, Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall, with a cameo appearance by rookie Josh Reddick and now the latest import from Pawtucket, Nava, the Sox outfield collectively ranks next to last in the league in hitting (.257), 12th in OBP (.329), seventh in slugging (.421) and fifth in home runs (22).

And now I digress on Mike Cameron... I was doing a little research on contracts and still cannot believe Theo gave him over $7 million dollars. Yeh, he can play the outfield, but you had to know his age was a bit of a liability. Considering the abdominal injury and his lack of everyday status at present, perhaps now is the time to package him up with someone from the minor leagues and let him and his lousy batting average, lack of power and ZERO stolen bases go elsewhere.

[Image by therob006 via Flickr CC 3.0]

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hey, Look at That! Sox Are 2 Games Back (Oh, And Manny's Back)

We're midway through June in the year of our Lord 2010 and the Boston Redsox are 2 games behind the 2 best teams in baseball. By winning percentage as of today (.588), the team that plays in Fenway is the third best team in all of baseball. Woo hoo! Give us a bronze medal!

We got plenty of problems with the pitching staff and injuries, but I guess there is one interesting thing to say about how this team has been resiliently playing: Thank you, all-knowing, all-giving Jah, for interleague play! The Sox have been beating the crap out of teams like the Phillies and Diamondbacks with a strange combination of a banged up outfield, some grit and toughness from the bullpen, and a lineup that never gives up. Things are oddly clicking, and it's got to have Yankee and Rays fans sweating in their Underoos.

Seems like every other day someone is landing on the DL or getting a coritsone shot or having a hurt back and neck... So to be the third best team in all of baseball must feel really freaking good considering.

I'm mightily impressed by the bounce back and mental toughness of Lester, Buchholz, Scutaro, Beltre, Martinez and Ortiz. These 6 guys have been doing a tremendous job of being good when it matters. There have been many contributions, so not entirely fair to single them out, but for different reasons, these 6 gentleman stick out to me.

Lester is dominating. Buchholz is giving the team a chance to win just about every outing. Scutaro is getting on base consistently and scoring. Beltre is hitting the cover off the ball (and incidentally is the second hardest swinger I have ever seen next to Gary Sheffield). Martinez is a patient, methodical hitter who is not afraid to put pressure on the defense by getting on base and taking walks. And Ortiz is back to Big Papi status knocking balls to the deepest part of Fenway for home runs, but also going opposite field and hitting singles and doubles with regularity.

I shouldn't be gushing in mid-June, but I can't help it. A month ago we thought there was no chance in Hades this team was playoff bound, but with solid, consistent play, this team is showing it deserves a real shot.

Two things to note: First, Manny is back in Fenway, and while he will be booed in his at bats, I think he deserves to be applauded for the championships he was part of for Boston. Yeh, he's a flakey-bakey nutjob (and the way he left was downright retahded), but he's also one of the greatest and feared hitters ever to play the game.

Secondly, the Sox have called up triple-A prospect Felix Doubront for a start against the Dodgers tonight. This lefty has been pitching really well for Pawtucket , so I'm excited to see what he can do against the likes of Manny, Kemp, Ethier and the rest of a decent swinging, first-place NL team. Doubront moved from Portland to Pawtucket this year and in 12 starts for both teams is 6-1 with a combined ERA of 2.11.

[Image by Eric Kilby via Flickr cc 3.0]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fear the Boof!

It's the eighth inning. You're down by three runs to an Indians team whose pitching staff boasts an ERA+ of 87, the worst (by a mere two points!) in the American League. Who do you bring in to keep the game close while waiting for your offense to wake up? Might it be...The Boof?

Not that the Sox had much choice: Bonser was out of rehab assignment time and had to be activated, Papelbon is out on bereavement leave, Bard is pitching so much he's risking having his arm file for divorce, and MDC had an aching back that didn't resolve itself until a side session yesterday. Clearly, things were a bit tight in the pitching department, and Boof fills a potential role, despite having not recorded an out since late September of 2008. So, out he went, and the bases filled with Indians, and pretty soon afterward the game was very much out of reach. I'll give Bonser the benefit of the doubt and say that he needed the live fire exercise (and maybe a few other kinds of exercise) to get back into fighting trim. I'll also say - to borrow a phrase my friend Alan - that Boof Bonser is the Towelie of major league baseball. See, they even look a bit alike: