Tonight’s the All-Star game, but my mind is still on the Red Sox. After suffering through a 17-17 stretch dating to June 1, it’s become obvious that while the Sox are a talented team, they aren’t without their drawbacks. So how to best improve the team? Believe it or not, there’s nothing major to improve, and that includes shortstop.Look, Lugo has been historically bad — but nonetheless, he showed signs of coming around and I just have to believe there is no way he can continue that performance in the second half. His total statistics are wrecked for the year, but if he can have a strong second half, that will mean a lot. I don’t think that there’s a lot we could — or should — do. Can David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez suffer this power outage all year long? I say no.
Another “underperformer” getting a lot of flak is J.D. Drew. Well, to that I say that’s a lot of hooey. He’s running the bases well, fielding well, and he’s holding his own in his first year in the American League. A lot of National League hitters seem to struggle when they head to the AL. For example, Edgar Renteria. Remember him? He stated earlier this year it would have taken him two full years in the American League to perform up to his offensive capability and as much as I love Orlando Cabrera, he hasn’t been a true offensive presence in the AL until this year.
J.D. Drew? He’s actually doing well. Among AL rightfielders, he ranks second to last in batting average at .254. Only Jermaine Dye is worse at .216 and Nick Swisher places ahead of Drew at .263. However, Drew ranks fourth behind Magglio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero and Swisher in OBP … but that’s misleading due to batting average. In terms of isolated eye, Drew ranks only behind Swisher. He’s been a walking machine still – he’s just not nabbing all those hits. They will come in due time. May not be this year, but certainly in the years future. I’m perfectly okay with his batting average remaining as is, but I certainly would like to see his slugging percentage rise from the anemic .391 (second to last — Abreu ranks last with a .373 percentage) to at least Michael Cuddyer (.443) levels. We’ll see.
We can’t, nor do I think we should, do anything about Lugo and Drew. Rather, we should refine what we have. For one, this bullpen really worries me. Not in the fact that I think it will implode, but in the fact that we have very, very hard decisions ahead of us. Joel Pineiro and Brendan Donnelly are on the disabled list, and Curt Schilling’s new ETA to return is August 1 … and yet, what’s wrong with this bullpen? The emergence of Manny Delcarmen has really eased my mind about this bullpen, and Mike Timlin is somehow rediscovering his old magic. He now has a very tantalizing 4.38 ERA abound … which makes me think …
What happens? There’s no room for Pineiro and Donnelly now, nevermind calling up Craig Breslow (please: do it in September. Please, and then give him a spot in next year’s pen). What do we do? Send down Manny Delcarmen? That’s a very hard and difficult decision to do. Let’s assume we do that, with the intention of bringing him back in September. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s something we’ll have to get along with. Who gets junked for the second reliever, though? Mike Timlin is occupying that previously vacated spot.
The way I see it, we have a few options here, and only one is a viable option to me.
Option One (viable): Delay bringing back Joel Pineiro as long as possible … and then designate him for assignment. Sorry, Joel. He showed signs of being a solid relief pitcher, but I think there’s no question The Trampoline has leap-frogged Pineiro in the pecking order. Then the second spot is created by optioning Kason Gabbard to the minor leagues for Brendan Donnelly and starting Kyle Snyder.
Option Two (sadly the most likely): Option Manny Delcarmen to the minors for Donnelly/Pineiro and then does it matter how the second spot is opened up? We already lost by optioning Delcarmen.
Option Three (not happening): Option Javier Lopez to the minors for one of the relievers. Then do any combination of DFA’ing Pineiro, sending Delcarmen or Gabbard down to get the second reliever up. The reason this won’t happen is because Lopez has really come into his own as a lefty reliever, and I think it’s important to have a lefty reliever.
I really don’t see any other feasible options other than the first option in terms of moving only pitchers, unless…
We do something long overdue.
Trade Wily Mo Pena and go to 12 pitchers.
Look, I wanted Pena to succeed. I thought he could succeed Manny in left, and I saw a lot of strides in him last year to think he could fulfill his potential.
But he’s just not working out. He’s been a disaster at the plate, and Tito is showing less and less reluctance to use him: so much that David Murphy and Jacoby Ellsbury gained playing time over Pena for only two or three days! If Pena can’t fill in as an injury replacement for only two or three days, that says a lot. Trade Pena for someone who can help the Red Sox later if needed — have it be a prospect close to the majors. Just deal him, he’s not working out. Does it handicap our bench? Sure, it does. It removes a legitimate power threat and depth in the outfield, but Eric Hinske isn’t getting much playing time, anyways. That time can go to Hinske, and as for that power threat: it’s hard to deliver on that power when pitchers throw breaking balls and Wily Mo Pena attempts to power Cape Cod with his whiffing.
In short, I don’t think that we should freak out and do anything drastic. This is the team that, despite the 17-17 stretch, is still the best in the American League. Sure, we’re coughing on the offensive side, but our pitching is keeping us afloat, and there’s no way that this lack of clutch trend can continue. There’s no way Lugo can continue being abysmal and that Manny and Ortiz can have a lack of power. There’s just no way. Can minor tweaks be made? Absolutely, and I just gave an array of options for those tweaks.
However, the most important tweak in my mind is to not option Manny Delcarmen to Triple-A.
Oh, and by the way, that 17-17 stretch we’re in? It’s better than the June 1 to All Star Break stretch we suffered in 2004, when we went 16-18.