Josh Beckett Cares?
Well, that does it. Josh Beckett proves once again that he hates the Red Sox, doesn’t like being a baseball player, and cares only about taking down the clubhouse from the inside. Oh, I’m sorry. What was that? He hurled seven scoreless innings where he allowed four hits, two walks, and struck out nine? Are you sure? How can someone that doesn’t care pitch so well? Well, that’s probably because the narrative being perpetuated by the reporting media, sports talk radio, and alarmist fanbase was wrong–make that embarrassingly wrong. Personally, I like to think of last night’s start as his “eff you” to Red Sox Nation and the media. He still has it, and you were foolish for doubting him.
Look, guys. Let’s try not to fall into this trap the next time someone decides to stir something up about Beckett. He is who he is. He’s a gruff, unfriendly, defensive man that will never trust the media. Just as many of us believe he should adjust to the media’s constant presence, we also need to do the same with him. If everyone would accept those truths, our baseball lives would be considerably less stressful.
Someday, I’m sure someone will write a book about Beckett talking about his truculent demeaner. If that does come to fruition, and you want to write a sportsbook review discussing your hatred of Beckett on this website, maybe I’ll give you the floor. Until then, we need to support him. He’s ours, and we’re stuck with him whether you like it or not.
Jon Lester‘s Last Start
Jon Lester’s performance on Monday is certainly cause for some celebration. Through his first seven starts, his performance had largely been a mixed bag, noted by flashes of brilliance and periods of spotty control. After allowing only one run on eight hits and no walks to the Mariners, we can start to hope that our ace is finally back on the right track.
Before we celebrate, I’d like to point out a couple of things. One, his performance was against the Mariners…a team that scores 3.58 runs per game and has an overall .287 team OBP (worst in the American League). Two, despite not walking any batters, he managed to only throw first pitch strikes to only 15 of the 34 batters he faced. So how did he pull that off?
During Monday’s start against the Mariners, Lester threw 119 pitches, or an average of 3.50 per plate appearance. Prior to that start, he was averaging 4.20 pitches per plate appearance, a difference of 17%. Essentially, Lester took advantage of a Mariners offense that seems completely incapable of working counts and drawing walks. While he should be commended for exposing his opponent’s weakness, we probably shouldn’t take too much away from this start. His next two starts are against Philadelphia (.307 OBP) and Tampa Bay (.330), both of whom are far more proficient at getting on base. It will be interesting to see if he remains aggressive, or if he reverts back to nibbling on the corners.
Kevin Youkilis Due to Return
According to Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston, Kevin Youkilis will begin his rehab assignment this evening with the PawSox, and could be activated from the disabled list in time for Friday’s game in Philadelphia. Once he is activated, the Red Sox will be forced to deal with the elephant in the room: what will they do with Will Middlebrooks?
In the short-term, the solution is simple. Youkilis will reassume his duties as the Red Sox starting third baseman, and Middlebrooks will be optioned to Pawtucket for additional development. While this is an imperfect situation, I don’t see any other way around it. You can’t bench Youkilis because (1) he’s making $12M this season; (2) his performance, though unspectacular, doesn’t warrant it; and (3) his trade value will become completely non-existent. Doing so would make him a sunk cost.
Furthermore, Middlebrooks needs some additional development in the minors. While he might be flying high right now, his performance is going to regress. His plate discipline is pretty poor, and through 53 plate appearances, he has 15 strikeouts to three walks. Pitchers will discover his weaknesses, and begin to exploit them. I know this is an unpopular position, but Middlebrooks is not the third baseman of the present, but the future. Maybe that future is mid-July, or maybe it’s 2013. Either way, Youk is our guy. In the mean time, we’ll just have until Will gets his turn.
Salty’s OBP Problem
In many ways, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has silenced a lot of his critics. He’s spraying line drives, mashing home runs, and hitting for a pretty decent average. Unfortunately, he’s an out machine, creating them in 74% of his plate appearances. The culprit? He’s not working counts as deeply as he has in the past, and he’s being a lot more aggressive on pitches thrown outside of the strikezone. Until he can figure out how to get on base a little more, I don’t see any reason to bat him outside of the bottom third of the order; especially with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford returning in the near future.
Tales of the Red Sox Bullpen
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about how terrible the Red Sox’s bullpen is, right? They’re awful! They’re horrible! They can’t possibly be a playoff team with the bullpen as it’s currently constructed. Oh, and did I mention they’re also the tenth (tied) most valuable bullpen in baseball according to fWAR? They’re also 18th in ERA (3.86), 19th in FIP (3.90), 18th in strikeout rate (20.2%), and third in walk rate (7.3%). I know these numbers aren’t tremendous, but they’re a far cry from where they were in mid-to-late April.
This may not be a perfect bullpen, but there are a few very usable pieces currently holding down spots, and Mark Melancon, Junichi Tazawa, and Andrew Bailey are waiting in the wings. ‘The worst bullpen ever” might not be that terrible after all.
Tim Wakefield Honored
One last thing. Yesterday, Tim Wakefield was honored in a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park. As someone who saw Timmy pitch countless numbers of times (including my first game at Fenway on August 13th, 1995–his 14th win in 15 decisions), I just wanted to thank him for everything he did for the Red Sox franchise over the years. While I’ll be the first to say that it was definitely time for him to leave, I still miss seeing his knuckleball dance and dart around every five days. Thanks for the memories!