Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things to Ponder While Not Playing Madden

1) You may have noticed that it has been a bit quiet around RBB lately. Well I can only speak for myself here, but there really is just not a lot to talk about. With that said, I plow on...

2) The Red Sox trudge on right now with three good starting pitchers. That is the good news. The bad news is that the rest of their rotation is filled out by Clay Bucholz who is bringing back memories of Jeff Suppan the way he has been getting shelled lately and ???? in place of Wakefield. While I endorse the idea of ???? being filled by AAA knuckleballer Charlie Zink, we really have zero idea how things will play out with him. Call it a hunch on my part but I think he'll do okay. If he can give six innings a start and only allow three runs or so then I say mission accomplished. If he somehow manages to channel Tim Wakefield's 1992 rookie campaign with the Pirates (8-1 over 13 starts with a 2.15 ERA and 1.21 WHIP) then awesome. I'm not saying that that should be expected, but a guy can dream right?

3) With the pitching staff in the state it currently finds itself, for the first time all year I think I can say that the Sox are actually missing Curt Schilling. Not once have I thought that all year, but now it would be pretty nice to rely on him instead of Clay Bucholz wouldn't it? I really, really like Clay but it just isn't working out for him right now and I don't know how much longer he can get the ball every fifth day. I'm not saying "cut the bum" and I'm not saying "trade the bum", I'm saying put the guy in the bullpen along with Justin Masterson where he can potentially the help the team more now and maybe rebuild some confidence for down the road. Clay Bucholz to the bullpen not withstanding, the real fun of having Schill on board right now would be the possibility of a Bartolo return and the Red Sox featuring the fattest back-end of the rotation in recorded history.

4) Manny v. Bay Update

Manny Ramirez on the Dodgers:

19/40 (.475), .543 OBP, 3 doubles, 4 HR, 13 RBI in 10 games

Team is 5-5

Jason Bay on the Red Sox:

14/43 (.326), .383 OBP, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 8 RBI in 10 games

Team is 7-3

Isn't this playing out pretty much exactly how we expected? Bay is doing pretty good, but not great. Manny is destroying the ball in LA. And the Red Sox have won seven of their ten games. Call me crazy but I think the last nugget is the most important.

5) Let's not go burying the Rays just yet on account of them losing their best player in Evan Longoria for three weeks and their third best player in Carl Crawford for most likely the season. Their front three in the rotation of Scott Kazmir/James Shield/Matt Garza are still excellent and they should be able to keep the team reasonably afloat for the - supposed - three weeks that Longoria will miss. I say supposed because the diagnosis of "fractured wrist" does not really seem like a three week injury to me. It seems like a lot more. I could be wrong though.

6) Yeah, Lester kind of sucked against the White Sox on Friday but he has earned a mulligan for that one on account of how steady he has been all year. But the real story is the fact that you HAVE to feel a lot better right now than you did a few weeks ago about the Sox front three after Beckett and Dice-K's dominating performances over the weekend. I at least kind of always felt like Beckett would right himself but I was always a little less than certain on Dice-K. Well since his first post-DL start against St. Louis when he got bombed he has given up just six earned runs in seven starts - throwing out his stinker against the Angels. Very nice. I know it's easy to cherry-pick and toss out the one bad outing but the whole team played so poorly in both of those Angels series which also came while the Manny situation was reaching it's apex that I am choosing to give everyone a pass there.

7) In reading a Jayson Stark MVP chat on espn.com on Monday, he brought up something that had never really crossed my mind; Kevin Youkilis as an MVP candidate. While he did not say that Youkilis was a front-runner for the award, he did mention that he should be in the conversation. If you are wondering, the debate was between Carlos Quentin of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers.

Having never thought about Youkilis as an MVP I had not really given consideration to his merits. So I did some digging and learned that currently he is in the top 10 in the AL in OBP, SLG, RBI, AVG, and is tied for 14th in homers. He should be able to crack the HR top ten however because two of the guys ahead of him - Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria - will be easy marks to pass for obvious reasons and if he can pass those two who are 1 HR and 2 HR ahead of him respectively, he'll crack that list. Long story short, Kevin Youkilis will probably finish the year in the top ten in the league in all three triple crown categories. Pretty good and I will admit a TON more than I anticipated.

Now, before going on a whole Youkilis for MVP mission, consider that Carlos Quentin has far more HR and RBI than Youklis (32 to 20 and 90 to 76 respectively), a higher OPS (.947 to .934), and has scored more runs for whatever that is worth (82 to 70). Youkilis has Quentin in doubles (29 to 21), triples (4 to 1) and batting average (.315 to .284). So yes, Kevin Youkilis is having a great season and definitely the Red Sox MVP to date (with Pedroia and JD Drew not too far behind) but no he is not the AL's. Still, a top 5 finish for Youk - which seems likely and possible - is still a great season for the guy and he deserves I think more recognition than he is receiving.

8) The whole Jed Lowrie Experience is working out pretty well huh? Right now it seems that the only rational next step to take with Julio Lugo is to employ him as an extremely expensive backup and then let him take over Alex Cora's role next year. What impresses me most about Lowrie is how he seems to rise to the occasion time and again. Right now he has 24 RBI in 114 AB. Say what you will about RBI - they are too team dependant, not sustainable, etc - but the clip that Lowrie is playing at right now would work itself out to 114 RBI over 550 ABs or roughly a full season. It's not like he is really playing over his head either as a .281/.344/.421/.765 line seems about right and what we would expect. Again, the RBI pace is probably not sustainable but if you are asking me if Jed Lowrie is on the short list of Sox right now that I would want up in a big spot, my answer is a strong and confident, "YES".

9) Call me crazy, but I would really enjoy a third act of Employee Number 8 in Boston. Couldn't he handle the PJ Brown role? He always seemed to enjoy passing so he couldn't be any worse of a ball-hog than Sam Cassell. And finally, wouldn't it just be fitting? Come on folks, let's get a groundswell going for the return of Antoine. If they stick him towards the end of the bench, pay him the veteran's minimum, and institute a strict "no shooting threes" rule I think it would work out okay. I'm not going to lie, I would LOVE IT if this could happen.

10) Paul Byrd eh....why not? Like most junk-ballers, he can either be on or off, without much middle-ground. With the state of their rotation as it is today I see this as a low risk proposition. It could work out okay or it could blow up in their face with Byrd getting shelled a few times, but regardless I am sure they are not giving up much and this certainly addresses a need for them at the moment.

It's kind of ironic that Paul Byrd is winding up on the Sox seeing as the SF Chronicle broke a huge story about him receiving HGH the day of Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS. The timing there could not have been worse. I'm not saying the distraction brought upon his team via this story was the reason Cleveland lost to the Sox last year, but it sure didn't help. Anyway, he's our HGH user now.

11) And finally, my wife started a new job a few weeks ago. The only reason I say this is because one of her co-workers is Big Z, Zydrunas Ilgaskus' sister. Apparently she is very tall (no surprise) and beautiful (big surprise). Beyond the fact that I think this is kind of funny and the odds of me one day meeting Big Z and hanging with his entourage have now slightly increased, I really say this because armed with this piece of information I decided to look up how much money he has made in his NBA career. I knew it was a lot but I was floored when I saw the true details. Big Z has made about $102M. Or about $17M more than Paul Pierce has made in his career. $102 M for Big Z. Crazy right? It really does pay to be an NBA seven-footer with an above average skill-set.

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