Monday, July 14, 2008

Some Red Sox Awards For Ya'

The All Star Break is here, the Red Sox are in first place, and Papi is due back in less than two weeks. Things are looking pretty good right now. Of course there are some huge qualifiers with the above three statements like the fact that this first half has seemed drastically longer than most thanks to the Japan games, the Sox first place lead is only a tenuous .5 games, and how good Papi will really be upon his return is anybody's guess. Regardless, the break is here and things are about where we would want them to be even if they are not exactly perfect.

With that in mind let's dole out some first half awards for the Sox season and maybe I'll even get wild and dive into MLB later in the week. Now let's stop the heavy-petting and put that KY to use...

The More Things Change.....Award (bad)

Congrats to Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen! For the FOURTH straight year you have both proven yourselves to be maddeningly inconsistent and seemingly incapable of showing marked improvement over a prolonged stretch. Whenever either of you enter a close game I immediately assume the worst, and most of the time my fears are proven justified. It's year four in the big leagues guys, time to shit or get off the pot OK? I don't think I'm alone in my thinking here. Actually, I know I am not.

The More Things Change.....Award (good)

Ho-hum, Tim Wakefield is just cruising along submitting a bunch of good starts, a few great ones, and of course some stinkers here and there, but no matter. Tim Wakefield is what he is and this year - like most any other year - he is quietly proving to be an invaluable part of the rotation and has arguably been the team's best and most consistent starter. Consider that of the starters, he is second to Jon Lester in both innings pitched and ERA (122.1 and 3.60), second to Dice-K in BAA (.217), and second to Josh Beckett in WHIP and strikeouts (1.18 and 82). That's pretty incredible right? He may not be the best at anything, but he is second best at everything important and that is really, really impressive. Consistency counts big time and I think you could argue for Wakefield to be the recipient of the Red Sox first half Cy Young Award.

The Wasn't He Washed Up in 2005 Award

Mike Timlin. Who else could it be? Nothing like a late inning reliever with a 6.31 ERA and .308 BAA.

The So That Explains It (I Hope) Award

BABIP, or Batting Averarge of Balls in Play. Seem like Jonathan Papelbon's invincibility has worn off despite K/BB and K/9 rates right in line with his career? Well, you are not alone. So why has this happened? BABIP. Consider that in 2006 the BABIP on Papelbon was .226 and in 2007 it was .216. This year, it's .302. That's a huge difference obviously, and I'd say yet another reason to think that he will improve in the second half. While his control has improved this year, his K's have gone down a touch which has resulted in more balls put in play obviously, but in all honesty the difference is probably only about an extra two balls put in play per 9 appearances, so that is not too substantial. All in all, I think we will see the Good Ole' Papelbon in the second half, assuming his BABIP goes down closer to the average of his first two years. Is that a fair assumption? I say yes. Cheap hits can't dog him all year, can they?

Oh, and the stats I cited above are as follows:

Control this year vs. last:

roughly 1.5 BB/9 IP and a 7.3:1 K:BB vs. 2.3 BB/9 IP and a 5.6:1 K:BB

K's this year vs. last:

11.3 K/9 vs 13 K/9

The Kind of Amazing Isn't It Award

Did you realize that the foursome of Manny, Youk, JD Drew, and Mike Lowell are ALL on pace for 25+ HR and 100+ RBI? Assuming they all stay at their same pace and Manny and Youk log 155 games and Lowell and Drew log 150, their final numbers would like this:

Manny - .293/31/103
Youk - .314/26/111
JD Drew - .302/31/102
Mike Lowell - .297/25/108

and for good measure...

Dustin Pedroia (158 games) - .314/15/78

The last time the Sox had 4, 100+ RBI guys on their team? I don't know. I went back to 1978 and could not find another time they did that. In fact, since then they have only had 3+ guys twice in 1984 (Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, and Tony Armas) and in 2003 (Manny, Papi, Nomar). Long story short, it's a pretty strong season for lineup balance, even with Papi missing a good chunk of it to date and some more to follow.

The David Ortiz Award AKA The Guy You Most Want Up With the Game on the Line

We've chronicled it before here but Mike Lowell's "Close and Late" line is just insane (in 47 ABs):

14 1B
4 BB
4 2B
3 HR
13 RBI
.440 Avg.
.490 OBP
.723 Slg.
1.213 OPS

And for reference, some other decent Close and Late OPS'

Manny - .970
Youk - .959
Pedroia - .937
Sean Casey - 1.257 (just 16 ABs)
David Ortiz - .749

The Nomar Award AKA Star Player You LEAST Want Up With the Game on the Line

You're having a great year JD Drew, but these numbers (in 39 ABs) are awful:

1 1B
9 BB
2 2B
1 HR
.103 Avg.
.265 OBP
.231 Slg.
.496 OPS

And just for reference, some other Close and Late OPS'

Julio Lugo - .619
Ellsbury - .532
Jason Varitek - .393!!!!! (how is that possible...6/44 with 1 HR)

The Supposedly Minor Offseason Signing That Everybody Thought Would be Huge and Has Ended Up Being Exactly That and Then Some

It's Sean Casey folks AKA The Mayor. All Casey does is get hits and in 126 ABs he's put up a .373/.428/.476 line. Not too bad for your backup first baseman. No offense to Eric Hinske, Dave McCarty, or the great Rico Brogna, but nobody is pining for you guys these days. It should be noted however that Eric Hinske currently has 14 HR and 45 RBI. Don't know where that came from.

The Take Your Time Award

This goes to Julio Lugo and his quad injury. Take your time healing buddy! We'll see what we got with Jed Lowrie. No rush!

I hate to be the Lugo apologist around these parts because I really do think he is worthless but again it should be noted that his .355 OBP is actually pretty good - and better than Jacoby's .340 OBP. What kills Lugo though is his minimal pop AKA his .330 slugging percentage. Still - and not to pick on Jacoby - but Ellsbury is only slugging .375 and his OPS is just 30 points higher than Lugo's at .715 to Lugo's .685. Granted this does not take into account Lugo's poor defense - although it has improved lately - and the scintillating plays made by Ellsbury both on the bases and in the field but I say all this just so people know that Lugo really has not been as awful as advertised. And with all that being said, I am eagerly anticipating the Lowrie/Cora platoon which I pined for just a few weeks ago.

(circa 2003) The "Hey Ortiz, Carlos Quintana Called, He Wants His Stats Back" Award AKA The Eat My Words Award

Heading into the season I dogged Jon Lester every chance I got. He's a nibbler! He can't get through 5 innings in under 100 pitches! He allows too many baserunners! He can't beat good teams!

While he still has a ways to go - his K:BB ratio is still under 2:1 at 82:44 and he allows almost a hit per inning with 122 hits allowed in 125 innings - he does lead the team in both innings pitched and ERA which is great. Furthermore, to go with his no-hitter he has two signature road performances against two great offenses in the Phillies and the Yankees. In those two performances he went 16 innings, did not allow a run, allowed just 11 hits, struck out 13, and walked only three. Very nice. Yes, he does get himself into trouble at times on account of the amount of baserunners he can allow, but all and all it is very tough to criticize the body of work that Jon Lester has put forward in the first half of the season.

And now for the big finish....

MVP - Mike Lowell...those close and late numbers are just too hard to ignore.

CY Young - Tim Wakefield...he does not really have a chink in his statistical armor this year.

Best Surprise (hitter) - Mike Lowell and JD Drew...I really thought Lowell was a contract year special, and who saw JD Drew being the Sox most productive hitter coming?

Best Surprise (pitcher) - Tim Wakefield...I should probably put Lester in here, but Wakefield has been their most consistent starter to date and while I should have learned to expect that from Wake after all his years in Boston, I guess I still don't really appreciate how valuable - and good! - he is.

Biggest Dissappointment (high standards) - Josh Beckett...seriously, way too up and down for me this year. He's had flashes, but has not been able to consistently channel 2007 like we all hoped he would.

Biggest Dissappointment (low standards) - picking on Jason Varitek is too easy and vindictive these days so let's just say that year four of the Delcarmen/Hansen Era being equally as shitty as years one through three has left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Play of the Year - Gotta be Manny's high-five DP in Baltimore. Really, there isn't even a close second.

Game of the Year - Honestly, this one is too close to call. Lester's no-hitter is the easy call here but there have been so many great comebacks as well that I really cannot pinpoint one over the other.

...and that's it.

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