The good, the bad, and the Tek

Early season series against top flight division rivals are always difficult to measure. It's been said time and time again that the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees are likely to play themselves all around .500 against each other by the time this season shakes out and the team that outperforms against the rest of their schedule has the upper hand in the race for the division. That said, it's never easy to swallow being beaten in your own house by a team you'll be battling with all season long.

Given that it was the first three games of the season, a whopping 1.9% of the full slate of regular season games, it's difficult to draw any firm conclusions without being beaten over the head with comments about sample size. But as it is the regular season and no longer the fruitless analysis of in game Spring Training analysis, it is fair to point out a few things that were both good and bad omens, directionally speaking.

One series down, 53 or so left to play.  While Opening Day proved to be everything we could have hoped for to kick off the season, the remainder of the series belonged to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Early season series against top flight division rivals are always difficult to measure.  It’s been said time and time again that the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees are likely to play themselves all around .500 against each other by the time this season shakes out and the team that outperforms against the rest of their schedule has the upper hand in the race for the division.  That said, it’s never easy to swallow being beaten in your own house by a team you’ll be battling with all season long.
Given that it was the first three games of the season, a whopping 1.9% of the full slate of regular season games, it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions without being beaten over the head with comments about sample size.  But as it is the regular season and no longer the fruitless analysis of in game Spring Training analysis, it is fair to point out a few things that were both good and bad omens, directionally speaking.
The Good
What good can possibly come out of a series loss to Tampa Bay at home to open the season?  There were a few performances that I think we can feel good about.
Josh Beckett: Beckett’s Opening Day performance brought everyone back to October of 2007 immediately.  Beyond his ten strikeouts and pinpoint control, the most singular thing that stands out to me about Beckett’s outing was his velocity.  Want proof that Beckett is healthy again and any issues that may have offset him last year are in the past, look no further than the radar gun.
  


graph via Baseball Prospectus Unfiltered
Beckett’s fastball settled easily within the 94-96 range on Opening Day.  With his control and that velocity, he is a dynamic force and a Cy Young candidate.
Kevin Youkilis: Are you kidding me?  He’s only been on base 70% of the time he’s taken the plate so far this season.  Only eight for twelve to start the season?  I expect perfection!  Seriously, Youk’s start validates how far he has come as a hitter over the last few years.  Sure, he’s not Manny behind Big Papi.  At the same time, however, a start like this guarantees that pitchers can’t pitch around Ortiz without taking notice of the person in the on deck circle.
The Bad
Daisuke Matsuzaka: We wondered if Daisuke were an enigma in the offseason as we looked at his component stats and hoped beyond hope that he could pull off another season defying the odds.  In many ways, yesterday was vintage Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The problem is, vintage DiceK, as far as Major League Baseball goes, only harkens back to his rookie season where he gave up 25 home runs instead of the 12 he allowed last season.  It’s only one start, but a sure sign that even Daisuke can’t fight the law of averages too long without getting burnt.
The Youngsters: Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie will be fine this season, but they didn’t look like it this series.  Often times looking over matched, they were a combined 3-24 with nine strikeouts.  
The Tampa Bay Rays: Yes sir, they are for real, again.  I don’t think anyone expected them to fall off a cliff this season, but you could see that lineup being more dangerous than it was a season ago.  Evan Longoria is an offensive force in the middle of that lineup and to think, they did it all without B.J. Upton.  Scary.  At the same time, Matt Garza took down the Sox for a second straight outing, looking every bit as dominant as he did in Game 7 of the ALCS.  If the Rays get that type of pitching from Scott Kazmir and Garza with David Price in the wings, we could be looking at a 95+ win team vs. the low 90 win team I expected to see this year.  Statement made.
The Tek
Sure he only had two hits in twelve at bats, but he hit two home runs and did not strike out once.  I think you have to be encouraged with the way Jason Varitek looked at the plate this series.  I feel confident that he’s made corrections at the plate this offseason that will yield improved results vs. his horrid 2008 campaign.  He may not hit more than .250, but his line won’t be nearly as shallow as it was last year and coming out of the nine hole instead of the seven spot he found himself in much of last year.
So one series is in the books.  Is there anything that you think we can take away from these three games (positive or negative)?

Categories: Daisuke Matsuzaka Jacoby Ellsbury Jason Varitek Josh Beckett Kevin Youkilis Tampa Bay Rays

5 Responses to “The good, the bad, and the Tek” Subscribe

  1. Joe Veno April 10, 2009 at 8:22 AM #

    Negative? Other than the losses it is too early. Beckett, as you mentioned, was a huge positive though.

  2. Gerry April 10, 2009 at 2:41 PM #

    Lots of positives, despite the losses, despite the traditional shakiness of the opening series. Lester pitched two near perfect innings, and then two more good ones, despite the difficult umpiring and strange Rays luck, as in Youk's E, and the bunt. He was clearly tiring, for whatever reason, and i wish he hadn't been left in for the shellacking. With poor performances by aces around the league, this is not a worry.
    MDC looked terrific twice, for one inning apiece. Why stretch him now? If he can be dominant for one inning, use him for that inning until the season settles down. Ramon Ramirez (Rrammi? Rammo? Not RamRam!) looked terrific. What an addition. Papelbon has his stuff. Lopez looked good in two turns. Saito made a mistake he won't make again.
    The hitting. All the walking wounded seem to be finding their way back, lots of extra base hits from JD, Mike, Papi, Baldelli, Tek, as well as Bay. Ellsbury's bat is quiet, but his legs are working well. Everyone's hit. One big win, one big loss, one close one. That's OK.

  3. Evan April 10, 2009 at 2:47 PM #

    Love the Beckett chart.

  4. N April 10, 2009 at 6:02 PM #

    Positives…
    Beckett is back! His ability to pull the rest of the team along with him should not be underestimated.
    Varitek did not look lost at the plate. The sample size is minuscule, but his demeanor is better.
    Ellsbury and Lowrie look better at the plate this year as well. The results aren't there yet, but the hits will come.
    Lowell and Ortiz no longer look like they are one bad twist away from having to shut everything down.
    Youk and Pedroia picked up from where they left off last year. YAY!
    Ramon!
    Negatives
    Lester and Matsuzaka were shaky. Matsuzaka moreso than Lester, but still they were both shaky. Being that they are the team's two biggest early fatigue candidates, my worry level is at about 10%. I would not be surprised if someone, probably Matsuzaka, makes an early trip to the disabled list.

  5. sportscub April 11, 2009 at 10:53 PM #

    can anybody say JASON BAY???????