Drew Back on Track, A Thing or Two About Numbers, What is Fixable?

MLB: Red Sox vs Orioles MAY 02

Drew Back on Track

No Sox hitter in the past two weeks has been hotter than J.D. Drew. In Boston’s last ten games, he’s batted 17-for-36 with three homers. The eight Ks are a bit unfortunate, but nothing concerning.

Not including last night, his first strike percentage is down to 63.4 from 72.7, his BABIP is up to .329 from .194.

What is particularly exciting about Drew’s performance is the type of contact he’s making. Besides it being hard and consistent, he’s been doing an excellent job of sending the ball the other way on two strikes.

According to MLB.com’s Fenway Park hit chart, Drew has four opposite field singles this season to go along with two doubles. In 2009, he had all of five singles (seven depending on how narrowly or widely you define the left field) and five doubles (up to nine for the width of left field).

In particular, Drew has been serving these opposite field singles with two strikes. Keeping his hands back and serving outside pitches into right field means he’s timing the ball much better than he had been. Lots of hitters in slumps will get ahead of the pitch and roll the ball over to the pull side.

The pieces are falling into place for Drew — and the team needs every hand they can get.

A Thing or Two About Numbers

There’s just something about attaching mathematics to analysis that makes it seem indisputable — as if the Word of God were attached to it.

But that’s not necessarily so.

There’s only so much that can be measured and there’s a limit to the precision that can be attached to such measurements.

But you already knew that. There’s always room for error.

Clay Buchholz nibbles with his fastball on two strikes and has underperformed his strikeout peripherals for two seasons now.

Josh Beckett doesn’t have the peripherals of most true strikeout pitchers, but makes the most of his two-strike opportunities.

Jon Lester should walk more batters with how often he misses the zone, but consistently outperforms it by setting batters up to chase his curve and cutter.

Whatever the case may be, there’s only so much that can be done with statistics. Nevertheless, here’s what the numbers say about our pitchers, their strikeout and walk rates, and their expected ERA.

And, as much gravity as these numbers hold, take them with a grain of salt. Some guys are just better than their stats say.

Josh Beckett

Beckett’s not hitting the zone as much this year as he usually does, while also being a bit more hittable.

The result? Strikeouts are down, walks are up, and the ERA has taken a hit.

In ’09, Beckett was expected to post a 7.42 K/9, a 2.71 BB/9 and a 3.74 ERA. The results weren’t too far off, though Beckett was better than expected in walks and strikeouts. With an 8.43 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9, he posted a 3.86 ERA.

For 2010, things should get a lot better. Even if his K/9 languishes around 6.52 where we’d expect it, his walks should decrease into the low 2’s (2.22 BB/9) while that ERA comes under control to 3.84. The 7.46 ERA is certainly wearing on Sox fans — and a .365 BABIP and 56.9 strand percentage will do that to you.

Jon Lester

Lester outperformed his peripherals last season, as well as the season before. In 2008, if we were blind to his name, we would have expected a 3.98 ERA. In 2009, a 3.87 ERA with an 8.09 K/9 and 4.02 BB/9. In short, he’s been far better than his numbers would say — mostly because of his better than expected strikeouts and walk rates.

For 2010, it seems to be the same story. His indicators point to a 3.83 ERA with a 7.28 K/9 and 4.22 BB/9. Some guys just don’t fall in line. Lester and that filthy cutter of his might be one of them.

John Lackey

Lackey has been somewhat of a disappointment this season — though his raw results have been among the best on the beleaguered staff, it’s a bit of a mystery whether this can continue. A 5.11 K/9 and 3.41 BB/9 likely won’t sustain a 3.89 ERA.


Actual ERA: 3.83

Actual K/9: 7.09

Actual BB/9: 2.40

Expected ERA: 4.03

Expected K/9: 6.68

Expected BB/9: 2.64

For 2010, things are a bit different. He’s missing the zone, has been more hittable, and his velocity was a bit down until recently.

Nevertheless, he hasn’t been too far off from what we’d expect. His K/9 looks center around 5.66, his BB/9 at 3.30, and his ERA at 4.49. In short, not bad for a number three starter on most teams, but a number that doesn’t quite cut it for the Red Sox.

He’ll have to miss more bats if he wants to reclaim his former glory.

Daisuke Matsuzaka

There’s not a lot to be said about Daisuke’s 2010 performance. A 9.90 ERA, 6.30 K/9, and 5.40 BB/9 doesn’t justify a $20 million per year price tag, but not many people were expecting too much after 2009’s debacle.

With just 10 innings to judge, there’s not much to go on. However, for what he’s done so far, he’d be expected to post a 6.35 K/9, 3.36 BB/9, and 4.36 ERA. The drop is walks is mostly due to a high contact rate, while a 4.36 ERA would certainly be welcome from Matsuzaka.

As for his 2008 season, his last full active year, his expected rates were an 8.19 K/9, a 4.10 BB/9, and a 4.32 ERA. This compared to an 8.27 K/9, 5.05 BB/9, and 2.90 ERA.

A low 4’s ERA from the Dice would be more than acceptable from a back-end starter — and can be expected from here on out.

Clay Buchholz

It’s hard to say what else can be done with Buchholz other than continued work with the coaches and sticking to a plan with each hitter. He’ll continue to be just a step away from being one of the best pitchers in the AL until he can figure out how to consistently put away hitters with two strikes.

His April 22 start against Texas (10 K, 1 BB) was just a preview. His most recent start against New York (3 K, 5 BB) was a reminder.

Some guys never match their peripherals. Freddy Garcia is a prime example of a pitcher who should strike out a batter per inning, but settles around seven per nine. He made up for it with a low walk rate.

Buchholz can be one of the best. He has some of the best stuff in the American League and is in a low pressure slot in the rotation where he should be able to develop unimpeded.

However, he’s well past prospect status, isn’t “young” anymore, and has had plenty of time to figure it out. That said, some guys just take a while. Randy Johnson didn’t hit his stride until he was 30. Buchholz is worth waiting for.

With his current plate discipline indicators, what is expected:

K/9: 9.057 BB/9: 3.811

ERA: 3.52

With his current walk and strikeout rates (6.37 K/9, 4.33 BB/9), what is expected:

ERA: 4.31

What is Fixable — Victor Martinez

This seems to be the greatest fear of Red Sox fans these days. What is fixable and what isn’t? Most of the pieces seem to be falling into place. Adrian Beltre’s started hitting for some power, even if the defense is inconsistent over at the hot corner. It should come around.

The rest of the lineup is doing fairly well.  Jeremy Hermida and Darnell McDonald have been more than adequate fill-ins for Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, who should be returning soon.

Victor Martinez is a curious case, as there isn’t one thing that jumps out as being beyond repair.  He’s a 31 year-old catcher coming off a big rebound year that saw him hit 23 home runs and an .861 OPS. Martinez is making good, consistent contact, walking a decent amount, and not striking out.

The only factors missing from his performance are a drop in BABIP and a dip in his HR/FB rate.

Seeing as there doesn’t seem to be a hidden injury, Martinez just seems to be in an extended slump. It’s too bad there have been so many of these to start the season as it just contributes to the lack of patience Boston has for Martinez.

However, he’s not performing too far out of line with his past performance levels. If his BABIP weren’t an issue, his 2010 performance would be right about in line with his 2006 season

If, on top of his BABIP, one additional home run were tossed on top of his three on the season, he’d be on pace to duplicate his 2005 performance, where he batted .305/.378/.475 with 20 homers.

V-Mart should be coming around soon. Just give it a little more time.

The real question is whether the club will dig too far a hole before they can climb out.