Are the Red Sox turning a new leaf, or is this just a minor victory on the long, slow, inexorable march towards the AL East cellar?
After a 10- game losing streak, arguably the darkest period in recent Red Sox memory since the days of Bobby Valentine, Boston has turned it around and won two game in a row against Atlanta. Boston came into Monday stuck in a notorious slump, where both their pitching and hitting failed. They had dropped 10 […]
Welcome back boys and girls. Hope you all enjoyed your nice, relaxing All-Star break (we all know David Ortiz did). The Boston Red Sox’s are one of the few teams back in action tonight, as veteran Tim Wakefield looks to improve on his ugly record against youngster Tommy Hunter and the revamped Texas Rangers.
With all the issues the Red Sox rotation has faced this season, there is nothing better than to see Daisuke Matsuzaka stepping up into at the right time. Throwing a one-hitter in Philadelphia on Saturday, there has been some speculation that Daisuke may be taking that long-awaited leap to respectability.
However, other than two stellar starts sandwiching his New York meltdown, there has been a little to be excited about this year. Daisuke just hasn’t changed at all from years past to indicate that any sustainable change is in the works.
His zone percentage at a career low (46.4 percent), his first-strike percentage largely unchanged (56.6 percent in 2010 v 59.5 percent, career), and his zone contact percentage in line with his career line (84.9 percent, 2010 v 84.2 percent, career), it seems we are dealing with the Daisuke of old again this season.
I was in the Sox clubhouse on Thursday with WEEI.com and one thing stuck out at me — Clay Buchholz playing Plants vs. Zombies on the leather couch on his iPad. Having played Plants vs. Zombies for hours on my friend’s magical device, I can understand the addiction.
Thursday was also the day that David Ortiz railed against the media, Buster Olney of ESPN in particular, for criticizing him after his horrendous start to the year. I was not around for that particular encounter but the fallout has been pretty interesting.
Fact: As a catcher, Victor Martinez makes a good first baseman – and a D.H.
Fact: Jason Varitek, at 38, is on the down side of a once brilliant career.
Fact: Both players’ contracts expire after the 2010 season.
Question: Who will comprise the next generation of Red Sox catchers?
Will it be either Pawtucket catcher Mark Wagner or Dusty Brown, each of whom is on Boston’s 40-man roster?
Or will it be one – or both – of Boston’s very best catcher prospects, Luis Exposito or Tim Federowicz?
As the season settles in, which Red Sox story has your eye?
After John Lackey’s $18.7 million contract, the next three highest paid Sox are J.D. Drew ($14 million), David Ortiz ($13 million) and Mike Lowell ($12.5 million). So far those three hitters have a combined (through Friday) for 22 hits in 121 at-bats with 16 walks and two home runs. That comes out to a baseline average of .181 and a .262 on-base percentage.
On the advanced side of the Hall of Metrics they are averaging a weighted Runs Created plus (wRC+) of 65.666 which is actually a little misleading because Lowell actually has a very decent wRC+ number of 121, albeit in only 20 official at bats this year. The average wRC+ between Ortiz and Drew is 38 (44 for Ortiz, 32 for Drew). Conversely, runs are hard to create when you are not getting on base and the mean between the three players weighted on-base average is .281 again with Lowell skewing the numbers with a .361 wOBA while Ortiz and Drew are at .251 and .233, respectively.
R&R in KC
After winning the home opener, the Sox looked quite sluggish in their encore performances against the Yanks. What they needed was a little R&R against a weak out-of-division opponent — and the KC Royals came to the rescue.
Though the pitching staff managed to make the series interesting — including dropping the first content by virtue of Okajima’s and Bard’s eighth inning bullpen lapses — there were many positives to take away from the road trip to Missouri…
After Sunday’s win – on a day after a thrilling come from behind opening night, a day on which Josh Beckett signed a contract which gives the Red Sox baseball’s best rotation through 2014, and a day during which we were all recovering from Neil Diamond jumping the shark – all anyone on WEEI could talk about was David Ortiz.
As I sit down to write this column, Ortiz has just popped out to center with Kevin Youkilis on second base, in the eighth inning of a 5-4, Yankee-led ballgame. It’s the second game of the season, and the second time Ortiz has come up against a lefty in a key situation. With Mike Lowell on the bench, it’s worth exploring the question of whether to pinch hit for Ortiz or to let him settle in and see what happens.
On a night when the Boston marketing department pulled out all the stops, the players on the field managed to match them every step of the way.
There was no shortage of excitement in this one. From Neil Diamond’s 8th inning appearance to Pedroia’s two-run bomb, this game had everything and more. Even Herb Brooks and Pedro showed up which, early on, seemed to be the only exciting parts of the game.
I, myself, was forced down the street to Buffalo Wild Wings before the game due to a blackout on MLBTV – missing the NESN broadcast – and jotting down game notes on a napkin. Though I try to avoid chain restaurants when watching the Red Sox, it was nice to see the Red Sox Faithful well-represented in Colorado – and just as intolerant as in New England of the crap Yankee fans will try to pull.
Nonetheless, it was a classic, back-and-forth matchup that had plenty of surprises, late heroics, and everything you could want in an Opening Day salvo.
Though cruising through the bottom half of the first inning, Beckett got roughed up early. Noticeably absent was his usual dominating stuff – which should have been an easy holdover from his strong spring. Having difficulty finding the plate and falling behind in the count often, he found himself “Yanked” after just 4.1 IP, walking three while striking out only one. Yielding five earned over his inefficient 94 pitches, the silver lining is that he wasn’t hit as hard as the overall line suggests. Other than two second inning home runs, many of the Yankees’ hits found holes or were just out of the reach of defenders – especially up the middle in the fourth…
And the season begins…
There’s no doubt the bureaucrats “got it right” on this one – pairing the league’s biggest rivals in the 2010 MLB opener. All signs point to a classic, fit with a marquee pitching matchup, palpable hatred on both sides, and the two best teams from the past decade kicking off the new one.
Josh Beckett takes the hill against C.C. Sabathia as the two AL East juggernaughts begin their annual battle for divisional supremacy. Get to your TV at 8:00 pm sharp – or 6 pm if you’re like me in the Mountain Time Zone – and prepare to watch baseball at its finest.
Keys of the Game
Coming off a strong spring, striking out 22 in 19.1 innings while walking just 5, Beckett certainly has the edge over Sabathia, who has looked sluggish in 18.2 IP thus far (15 K, 8 BB). Though spring stats are rarely an indication of long-term success, they are a good indicator of a hurler’s readiness at the season’s onset. If C.C. continues to struggle with his command, he could be in for a long night. Expect Beckett to be sharp as the team gets off to an early lead in the first few innings.
As Buster Olney stated in a recent piece, “the Red Sox may look to replace David Ortiz if he struggles again in the first half like he did last year.”
Certainly, the struggles of Big Papi have a lot to say about the success of the team. Like we profiled earlier, David Ortiz is undeniably on the downswing of his career. In what should be the last year of his contract, Ortiz will likely have difficulty living up to his $12.5 million price tag.
The plan outlined by Olney involves a specific scenario under which Ortiz repeats his 2009 first-half struggles, leading to a trade of Ortiz, acquiring a catcher and moving Victor Martinez to DH.
Quite the series of moves.
The first obstacle to any such move involves Ortiz underperforming to such a degree that he repeats his putrid April and May, in which he hit just one home run in 178 at-bats on his way to a .185/.289/.286 overall line…
Ask anyone about the playoff prospects of the 2010 Red Sox and they are sure to tell you that a large part of them are riding on the bat of a resurgent David Ortiz.
Papi has been one of the biggest cogs in the Red Sox machine for the better part of the past decade. Pushing the team to the brink of a World Series appearance in 2003, he lit worlds on fire bringing the club to two world championships in 2004 and 2007.
Then 2008 struck. Downed by an injury to his left wrist, Papi missed 45 games in June and July recovering from his subsequent surgery. Since then, Ortiz hasn’t the same.
Wrist injuries are death on power hitters. They decrease bat control and bat speed – two of the most important components of power hitting.
But, the wrist is just one development in the evolution of David Ortiz as a hitter. He turned 34 this past November, showing signs of aging in his last few seasons. There were PED allegations. And, it wasn’t long before the injury that Ortiz was struggling at the plate, leading to suspicions that Ortiz has become somewhat of a second-half hitter.
Still, what seems to have happened to Ortiz is that his wrist has combined with some of the drawbacks of aging – suggesting that Ortiz’s bat speed has slowed…
A designated hitter is paid to hit – only to hit. There’s no fielding involved, no strain from the day-to-day grind, and mobility is not much of an issue.
With fielding requirements thrown out the window, there is an endless sea of candidates to fill the role, meaning the batting standards are much higher at the “position”.
Since the National League forces its pitchers to bat during the regular season, NL teams cannot afford to hire an elite hitter to sit on the bench. As a result, the AL has a significant advantage when playing at their home parks.
So, with a struggling DH, will the Red Sox still enjoy their home field advantage should they make the World Series?