Monday, June 30, 2008

Where the Sox Stand Heading Into July

Everybody gets to do a Red Sox midseason report and I want to too! Maybe you are sick of these and maybe you aren't but whatever, I feel like writing one. I'll try and bring some new insights to the fold here but that may be difficult. Regardless, here you go.

(Note that I meant to get this up on Friday, but that didn't work out. I have updated everything to reflect the numbers through Sunday's 3-2 loss at Houston. We are now 84 games in)

Through 84 games...

Record: 50-34 (2nd place in AL East by .5 behind TB and T2nd in AL with LAA, .5 behind TB)

Run Differential: +73 (2nd in AL behind CHW, +85)


Let's play the "If I told you in March" game.

If I told you in March that the Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Papi, Dice-K, and Clay Bucholz would all log time on the DL in the first half of the season, what would you say? A cuss word probably. Well of course they have and the team is still in great shape so there is really no way to consider the first half of the season anything other than a great success.

Some other thoughts:

1) Josh Beckett has now officially rounded into form going 2-1 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 26 Ks in 34 IP in June. I see these numbers maintaining themselves throughout the year and a monster second half awaiting him. Without any other real contenders emerging in the AL Cy Young race except for maybe Roy Halladay, (gasp!) Rich Harden, and (gasp x2) Ervin Santana he may even be able to bring home the award this year. We'll see. As long as he does not have too many more starts lined up against the Orioles, I think he'll be fine.

Speaking of Beckett and the Orioles, this year he is 0-1 with a 5.60 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and .311 BAA against the Orioles in three starts. These are by far his worst numbers against any team that he has gone against this year with the exception of Toronto and his one start against Toronto was his first since coming off the DL in April so that poor outing can certainly be excused. More interesting though is that if you recall, Pedro Martinez in 2003 and 2004 struggled against the Orioles as well. In those two years, he compiled a 2-3 record in 7 starts against them with a 6.75 ERA. I could understand his struggles against the Yankees in those days, but his problems with the Orioles always seemed to dumbfound me. I hope the same does not hold for Beckett because until Baltimore is fielding a better team, I like to believe that every time Josh Beckett takes the mound against the O's, the chances of victory are strong to quite strong.

2) I have absolutely zero faith in Dice-K. Yes, he has had some good and great games this year, but I still feel like it is a crap shoot whenever he takes the hill. The fact that his WHIP (1.39) is currently higher than his K:BB (1.36) tells you all you need to know. Seriously, think about that. As a point of reference, Josh Beckett's WHIP is 1.12 and his K:BB is 5.05.

3) Has anybody else felt like EVERY big hit this year has come from either Lowell or Youk and that Dustin Pedroia has gotten an inordinate amount of "table-setting" singles and doubles? If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, then you are correct! In close and late situations, Pedroia has an outstanding .355 Avg. and a good .885 OPS as well. Youkilis has a solid .290 Avg. and a great 1.062 OPS. But Mike Lowell is the real star here with his ungodly .459 Avg and 1.311 OPS in close and late situations. Wow. No seriously, wow. No seriously!!! That is freakin' insane! If David Ortiz was putting up numbers like that he would probably get the park named after him. Sure the sample size is small (37 ABs) but that number still represents 15% of his total for the year. And .459 is .459 you know? I'll stop now, but please do yourself a favor and ruminate on just how good Mike Lowell has been in those situations.

On the flip side, Manny clocks in with a pedestrian .220 Avg. and .799 OPS in these situations and even more embarrassing is JD Drew's .100 Avg. and .567 OPS. Still the point of this was to prove my first point about Lowell, Youk, and Pedroia and I think their numbers speak fine for themselves.

4) From the "For What It's Worth" department, Craig Hansen made 13 appearances in June and only allowed runs in 2 of them. Granted both of those appearances were out and out debacles - 4 hits and 3 runs (2 earned) in 1 inning on 6/10 against Baltimore and 2 runs on 2 hits plus a walk on 6/18 at Philly, an outing in which he did not retire a batter. I know it's kind of cheap to do, but I'm just saying that if you disregard those two stinkbombs you'll find Hansen only allowing 5 hits over the other 12.1 innings he pitched while striking out 11. The only troubling piece I can find in his body of work for the month - save for the aforementioned shellackings he took - would be the six walks he issued in his good outings. Call me crazy, but I don't like my relief pitchers to average about 5 walks per 9 innings. That just begs for too much trouble. Also, with his stuff as it is, I'd think he would be able to raise his K rate a tick. He's just about at a strikeout per inning now, but I see no reason why he can't improve on that some.

And for the record, the Mike Timlin to Hansen's Alan Embree, Manny Delcarmen actually posted phenomenal numbers in June allowing just 3 runs, 6 hits, and 3 walks - while striking out 16 - in 12 innings of work. Of course all three of those runs came Saturday in a not even remotely shocking outcome so I don't know what to say. Right now, I think I trust Craig Hansen more than Delcarmen even if the numbers don't bear that out but regardless at some point these two need to find consistency. Right now we are looking at Year 4 of the Delcarmen/Hansen Era and you would hope by now that they would have "figured it out" a bit better than they have to date.

And that is that. All things considered I think you have to feel pretty good about where the Sox stand now. Still, they really need Big Papi to come back and come back healthy. That is by no means a given and considering that the Red Sox can probably expect a bit less from Youkilis, Ellsbury, and Drew - and probably about the same from Manny - finding another consistent run producer to take the strain off the team as a whole could be of the utmost importance. Ideally you hope that guy is Papi, but there is really no way that you can bank on that. With all of that being said, I would be shocked if the Sox do not find themselves playing in October for the 5th time since 2003.

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