Wednesday, April 26, 2006

133 - Too Many Too Early

Even if the Red Sox weren't already short one starting pitcher... even if Curt Schilling "felt great"... even if he "really didn't have to work hard until the sixth" inning... even if an impressive (and extremely rare) 5th April win for Schilling was at stake, a 40 year old pitcher should NEVER throw 133 pitches this early in the year. Especially when he is a number 1 or 2 pitcher that relies on power pitching. There is just way to much at risk. Any pitch can be the straw that breaks the camels back. There's no arguing the fact that you get more injury prone as you get more fatigued. Now, someone like Tim Wakefield who throws a knuckle ball, might be able to get away with it from time to time, but I still wouldn't recommend it often.

The only time that you do it without question is simple. It's the playoffs of course (or trying to make the playoffs). A pitcher being rested doesn't mean squat if it means going home for the season. For the very same reason, you have to keep them healthy now so you can consider playoff implications. It's clear, that this team will fare better in the playoffs with a healthy Curt Schilling than without. One game in April will not cost you the playoffs unless it costs you an ace.

Does it seem like the Sox got lucky here? So far, yes. A couple days and we'll see. Lets hope Curt and Francona were right.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Offense and Drama Return to Fenway

On Patriot's Day, the new look Sox looked a lot like the Sox of the last few seasons. I can't say I was overly impressed with the pitching but DiNardo was a serviceable fill in. As was the case a lot last year (well, the last couple for that matter), they teased us the whole way to pull out the win in dramatic fashion, the bats being the story rather than the pitching and defense.

Unlike the first 3 games of the series, the Sox offense showed a glimpse of what it should/could be. After hitting only .210 for the previous 3, the Sox hit for a .333 average overall, went 3 for 9 with one walk from the top 2 and 7/12 and 3 RBI from 3-5. Anything after that is a bonus on most major league teams. Here, we're not used to worrying about the bottom half of the order, but we won't get the 1-9 production like we have in previous years. There are still some good bats down there in Lowell (hopefully) and Tek or Nixon depending on that night's lineup. The one thing we will be missing overall is the consistency of a guy like Bill Mueller in the 7 or 8 spot. Maybe Youkilis will be that guy once Crisp gets back.

My question... Will they be a more consistent offensive force that will score 3 or 4 plus runs a game or will we live or die based on arms and defense? All the pieces look to be in place to make this team something we haven't seen in a long, long time. A well blended hybrid that can win either type of game.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bats Absent from Weekend Series

Thanks to excellent pitching and one bad call the Sox were able to get out of the weekend with 2 wins and one loss but we will need the bats to liven up to stay ahead in the A.L. East.

I'm not always a stats geek but this weekends box scores do more to show the futility at the plate than anything else I could say so lets take a look. Hopefully I've calculated everything correctly.

First lets look at the teams overall batting average for the 3 games. From Friday to Sunday, the Sox went 20 for 95 with 12 walks and 28 Ks for a .210 average. Slightly better than the leadoff batters who went 1 for 10 with 3 walks and 4 Ks for a .100 average. Did it get any better when combining the leadoff hitter with the #2 hitter? Nope. .095, 2/21, 1 walk, 5 Ks. The good news is that didn't really matter since the 3-5 hitters might not have driven them in anyway. They were a combined 5/33, .151 avg, 3 walks and 9 Ks and only 1 RBI. Varitek hit one in also but I think it was scored an un-earned run. Sorry it was a busy weekend, I didn't catch it.

The surprising part, the majority of RBIs came from our weak link in the line-up. Gonzalez had 3.

Although we all expected a drop off in offensive production this year it hasn't necessarily come from where we expected so the silver lining to this story is this drop should be temporary and this offense will pick things back up. Especially once the outfield injury situation plays out.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Loss #2

The Sox drop to 6-2 after a horrible performance from David Wells. The hopes that he would step up after his bad outing in Pawtucket were dashed in the first inning and he never got it completely together. He said it best himself... "Batting practice tonight, really"

6 homers total. Three each team. The problem is, Toronto also had 8 more base runners than the Sox and they were able to take advantage of that.

The balls that did stay in play were handled incredibly well by the Sox middle infield. Besides his futility at the plate, I'm becoming a very big Alex Gonzalez fan. If he even gets close to his .244 career batting average I'll be ok with his lack of offense. He's probably the quickest shortstop we've had in a long time.

On to first base... Youkilis has really made the transition well. He had a few really nice picks out of the dirt. We definitely don't need to worry about his D over there. Now all we need is a little more consistency at the plate since he's not the prototypical power guy at the corner. His strength will be grinding away at pitchers and running up their pitch counts. Even though he is known for his patience, he may actually have to take an early swing every now and then to prevent pitchers from dropping in easy, called first and second strikes like they did last night.

With his home run in the 6th, Wily Mo is only one behind Bronson Arroyo. I wonder how long it will take him to catch up. What I found more encouraging than his HR was his 2 strike hit earlier in the game. It was simply a good piece of hitting unlike the wild flailing strikeouts from the night before.

Now we just need to hope that last night's performance by Wells was just an aberration not a sign that he's not ready after a short, lazy, "trade me" preseason.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sox Do the Right Thing

The Red Sox have agreed on a four year extension with David Ortiz. He is now under contract through 2010 with a team option for 2011.

We don't need to discuss why this is right and why they needed to keep him.

Congratulations to both Ortiz and the Red Sox!

Crisp Out

According to Red Sox medical director Dr. Thomas Gill, "Coco has a non-displaced fracture at the base of his left index finger." He will be placed in a splint and re-evalutaed after 10 days.

Looks like he'll be on the DL for the home opener.

Weekend Wrap Up

Kevin Millar of the Orioles may think they are going to "shock the world this year and play great baseball", but they couldn't shock the Sox. The Sox wrapped up a weekend sweep against the O's outscoring them 20-10 with 8 of those O's runs coming during mop-up time on Friday night.

The only downside to this weekend was the injury to Coco Crisp. Hopefully the early reports of the broken knuckle aren't true. On the flip side, the team shouldn't be horrified with Adam Stern filling in until Coco is healthy.

So far the pitching is living up to expectations. Even with the 8 late runs on Friday night the Sox's ERA was still only 3.00 over the 27 innings with 27 hits, 19 Ks and only 6 walks. Most importantly, Schilling looks great and we got 2 scoreless innings from Timlin, Foulke and Paplebon each.

Despite the 3 errors, the defense looks to be as good as advertised. Gonzo has already shown some flashy D which has grabbed Varitek's attention. In a recent globe article he was quoted saying "I'm just anticipating ground balls because I just want to watch him play them."

On the lighter side of the A.L. East... Boston, 1st place 5-1; New York, tied for last 2-4. Yeah, I know it's only 6 games into the season but shouldn't we take the time to enjoy all the little things no matter how trivial or temporary?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Francona Shows Some Guts

On the surface, there is absolutely no second guessing Francona's move in the 9th. Go with the hot arm. I highly doubt that anyone disagrees. Especially since the results were perfect.

What I like is this goes against what many think is one of his weaknesses as a manager. The "players' manager" rep. has taken a hit. We all know what's been said or at least implied... He caters to the players feelings too much, sometimes at the expense of results.

What we all witnessed last night was a manager in control of his team. He (according to all reports) had already discussed this with Foulke before the game. I believe it.

''This is by no means an indictment of Foulke. I think he's going to be brilliant. This," said Francona. '' is something we had talked about. I would not do something like that without talking to the player. I think Foulke is ready right now to be the guy we need."

OK, this is a players' manager type statement but it still shows that he has complete control and is not afraid to run the team as he sees fit. He also did it right. Even if a player, Foulke in this case, doesn't like the decision he can't possibly have a problem with how it was handled.

Something to think about... What is "the guy they need him to be?" Do they need him to be a guy that puts his pride aside, works hard, doesn't cause any clubhouse negativity even though he has lost his job(temporarily or not)? Do they need him to be another set-up guy? Do they need him to return to his role as a closer? Do they need him to get good enough to justify his salary to another team at the trade deadline? I doubt that one but hey, you never know.

At $7.75 mil, not being used in the role he is being paid for has to be a tough pill to swallow. I would love to know what was going through his mind when the camera showed him looking back at Pap warming up to close. Afterwards, he said all the right things. I hope he means it.

What Francona needs to do is give Foulke the chance to succeed. Since he's not at his best, give him more chances with a couple run cushion. Just look at opening day. That worked out just fine. They still got the win. His performance left us all with questions but at least he wasn't crucified. If he loses even one game then all bets will be off. One of our ugly sides as far as I'm concerned. Although sitting during a critical situation may sting a little, it is a far better situation than throwing him into the fire where things can get confrontational a la the whole "Johnny from Burger King" episode. He is someone this team needs. He's a talented pitcher and he will help the team more and more as his location, pitch selection and effectiveness improves.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hmmm....

It's an unfortunate sight for the second game of the year. Not an uncommon one when Wakefield pitches. By now, we all know that when Wake pitches, we never know what's going to happen. His line 3.2 IP, 7 Runs on 7 HIts, 3 walks and 3 Ks. I'm a very big Wakefield fan and I'm sure that he will have more than his share of quality starts. He will be on more than he's off and he'll have those few incredible starts that make you feel like a dingbat for ever doubting him. The unfortunate nature of his knuckle-ball is that when you are off against an offense like Texas is it gets ugly.

Fortunately I fell asleep on the couch somewhere around 10:00 and missed the rest of the game so I can't comment on some of the relief pitchers except for DiNardo. For some reason, I've never been real impressed with him. I haven't had the luxury of seeing him in Pawtucket so maybe the Sox management knows something I don't. We'll see. Maybe the only reason he is here until Wells comes back is because of the lack of a lefty in the pen. He did only give up 1 run over 2.1 innings but I just wasn't blown away by his performance.

Can you take some positives out of a 10-4 loss? I'm going to try.

• Another game like this one out of Crisp and we can say he's off to an excellent start (I just don't want to jinx him yet). 3 for 5, a stolen base and 2 more runs.

• Youkilis and Wily Mo break the ice with a double each.

• It's obvious that Padilla was afraid of Papi. He really pitched around him for the 2 walks. Once Manny hits his stride.... more runs, more runs and more runs.

TONIGHT

Not much to say on this except we get to see Beckett for the first time in a real game. Hopefully they can jump on the board early and leave Texas 2-1.

-Later

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist

Clemens visits the Sox on opening day...

His comments were published. I don't necessarily believe the routine. No, I don't think he's posturing himself to be in the middle of a bidding war. That may end up a convenient side effect. Nor do I believe he is ready to retire. He may think he is but I doubt it.

Lets not kid ourselves. He is going to wait until the All Star Break, see which team is positioned the best and come riding in on his white horse to lead the charge into the post season. What a story! Will the Sox need him by then? Lets hope not because that would mean at least one starting pitcher has been ineffective or injured. Of course, if someone gets traded or steps aside then... Welcome Back Roger!

Please don't misinterpret some early parts of this as negative. I've let that go a long time ago. I'd bet a lot of the "Nation" has too. Yeah, I know, he was part of the bad guys, but he ended up there. He was allowed to leave to Toronto first. Big deal. I think we all know that there are very few teams, and we are on that list, that can afford the higher paid players. So the Yankees are just a part of life. An unfortunate one, but one just the same.

This will continue to be a nice little sub-plot until he actually decides what he will do. Hopefully he doesn't finish his career as a Yankee. Anything but that. If it's with us, and we get another championship, It'd be a nice ending don't you think?

It sure would make seeing his display at the hall much, much better.

Opening Day

I started this blog on another site and am moving over hear. Here's my 4/3/06 entry

Ok, I know what you're saying... Another Red Sox blog? Yup. "Why?" you ask? Simple. Like most other members of the Red Sox Nation (non-official. I wouldn't pay $10 to qualify myself), I have opinions about our team. Are they the most informed? Probably not. I don't travel with the team. I haven't been a sports reporter. I can't quote stats for every player from every year although I may use them sometimes. What I hope to do is show my angle on the state of the team, game and whatever else catches my mind.

OPENING DAY!

Like most baseball fans, opening day is an exciting day for me. Especially in the Northeast. Besides kicking off the baseball season it also signals the end of winter. Forget about the official start of spring. I don't even know what date that is because it always still feels like winter to me. Opening Day brings hope. It brings hope of another exciting year of baseball. It brings the hope of warmer weather and the hope of enjoying walking out one of the many runways to see the grass, the monster, the cramped seats, and of course the hot dogs and beer. Worse case, I can still watch the TV, open up all the windows of my apartment pick up some hot dogs on the way home. Not as good as Fenway of course but the Coney Islands (or Gaggers as some of us like to call them) down here in Fall River are a pretty good substitute.

THE EXODUS OF THE IDIOTS - Is it really the end of an era?

So much has been said about this during this off season. I look at this a couple different ways. First, it's disappointing to see the players that won it all go. They were solid baseball players (at the very least). They were entertaining. And most of all, they made history. We'll never forget the Yankees series. We'll never forget watching the final out of the '04 World Series. The best part of all of this, and what Red Sox fans all over should be grateful for is the fact that this group finally took away the angst and doom and gloom away that accompanied watching the Sox. Especially towards the end of the season. I don't think they got a free pass last year as much as it was mentioned in the media. Maybe a little, but I just think that people were happy and could finally enjoy the game for what it was. 'Till the playoffs of course. Nothing fun about that.

Second, it's a relief of sorts. The routine was getting tired. I can appreciate chemistry. I can understand marketing. I can understand ultimate stardom that comes with a championship in these parts. BUT, if I had to endure one more season of bad, cliche, catch phrases I think I would go insane. Unfortunately we have Kevin Millar to blame for a lot of them (but hey, I won't resort to bashing him. That's been done enough.) What's my point? PLEASE, PLEASE , PLEASE no more! No more idiots. No more "anyone being anyone" Manny being Manny, Terry being Terry, Curt being Curt, and now... Julian being Julian! Thats a lame excuse that allows some hugely paid people to act without withstanding criticism. Please stop. I'll even go as far to ask for the ceasing of some overused baseball cliches like the "boys of summer" and after this off season, no more of the "hot stove heating up". Phew... ok,I feel much better now. Rant over. The one that can stay... "Dirt Dogs". No, that's not a blatant plug to the site even though I do enjoy it. I like the concept. I like the ideal. I love the work ethic that qualifies a guy as such.

THIS YEAR

So far, I'm ok with it. I'm interested to see how the new infield will work. I'm glad that Youkilis is off of the Pawtucket shuttle. I'm interested to see how the left side will hit. I'm looking forward to Coco Crisp becoming the center fielder rather than Johnny Damon's replacement. Most of all it will be very interesting to watch a team that is supposedly shifting towards the magic formula of pitching and defense. I'm not completely convinced of that. Even with the slight offensive downgrade, I think we will see more than enough runs from this lineup. It probably won't be 1-9 like the last couple years but we should see at least a solid 1-7. How much an effect it will have is still up in the air (to me at least).

Now just a few short hours away from now we'll get to see one of 2005's major question marks take the mound in Curt Schilling. We can hope for a quality start to Timlin to Foulke, to the Sox's first victory of '06.

Welcome to '06... PLAY BALL!