Billy Beane has been quoted saying that the first two months show you what you have, the next two are spent acquiring what you need and the final two is the playoff push (if applicable). Dan Duquette, a man before his time (remember Mike Gimbel?), also subscribed to this theory.
So, May is almost gone and the Red Sox sit at 32-24. What could the Red Sox stand to improve? Let’s take a quick travel through the roster (all statistics not including last night’s godforsaken West Coast game that causes me to rip my hair out because it’s too late for me to watch)…
The Red Sox are on pace to win roughly 93-94 games, which may be enough in this tough AL East to capture the crown, so at least on the face of things, we’re going good.
Jason Varitek is enjoying a nice little contract season at .268/.350/.472 and his legend is growing exponentially. Kevin Cash has found the magic of Wonderboy (no, seriously, this is plausible) and is at .314/.368/.392. Catching’s fine.
First base has Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuk at .306/.359/.509 and in the process of making himself an elite first baseman, not just an above average one. Sean Casey is a great backup to have. He can hit, field and keep the harmony in the clubhouse with the best of them.
D-Ped seems to be having himself a little sophomore slump, but .289/.331/.399 isn’t quiiiite enough to start writing the epitaph just yet. I’d give him time. Julio Lugo is redefining suckitude in the field but again, he did well last year and Mike Lowell was in the same boat last year when it came to errors, so I’m willing to cut Lugo some slack, there. His bat looks alive again at .285/.353/.331. No power, but .285 is nice. Until you read this. Still, nothing much we can really do at this point.
Alex Cora hasn’t really played much but he and Jed Lowrie have proved to be excellent backups with absolutely no concerns on the offensive or defensive side of the issue. Mike Lowell is also playing solid. His average has taken a dip to .268 (and the requisite OBP dip to .315) but his .478 slugging keeps him on track.
Also playing well is fourth outfielder Jacoby Crisp — er, Coco Ellsbury — er, Jacoco Crisbury. I give up. Anyways, Coco Crisp is hitting .277/.311/.429 and has the reputation of a pure defensive whiz while Jacoby is at .278/.380/.399 and is called the best defensive center fielder in the game by Beane.
Manny is slumping but just hit homer No. 499 and has a .292/.376/.505 line. There are worse lines out there. J.D. Drew is being his usual below the radar self and checks in at .282/.379/.409 with solid defense and speed.
Big Papi slumped at the beginning of the year as we all know, but I’m not having too much of an issue with his current .253/.358/.480 line with 12 homers. He’s on pace to match his HR and RBI totals from last year.
The pitching. Starting pitching is doing quite well, actually. Cumulative, Boston starters have a 4.03 ERA which is good for seventh in the American League (CLE, OAK, CHW, TOR, LAA, TB). Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka have been relevations. It may not show up in the stats just yet, but Tim Wakefield is nothing but consistent and Josh Beckett still has his I will rip you apart glare. Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Bartolo Colon all have done stupendous in filling out the No. 5 role.
Now, here’s the part you are all fully aware of… the bullpen. Ranked 11th in the AL only ahead of LAA, CLE and TEX with a 4.33 ERA, we need to start exploring some other options to help shore up the ‘pen. Let’s walk through the pen, closer first.
I feel silly for even saying this, but despite his 14 saves, Papelbon isn’t quite the same. He’s got a scintillating 2.25 ERA but that’s 0.44 points above his career average. Yes, I’m saying that to illustrate how good he is. A 2.25 ERA is, of course, fine. It’s just a little odd to see it come from Paps. Hideki Okajami, inherited runner woes aside, has a sparkling 0.82 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 6/19 BB/K in 22 innings. Nothing to worry about with the two-headed monster.
David Aardsma, despite walking people as much as he strikes them out, (okay, not quite: 18 walks to 21 whiffs) is contributing, period. He has a 2.96 ERA and has been placed in situations where he can succeed. He has the most relief innings of any reliever on staff. Manny Delcarmen, a.k.a. The Trampoline, has a high 5.14 ERA and has struggled in his first full season with high expectations placed on him. He’s shown signs of emerging from that struggle, but he can’t be looked upon as a sure thing.
Javier Lopez has consistently put up solid numbers this season and last and does a rather good job stranding inherited runners. He’s not exactly a problem, despite Red Sox Nation having a curious aversion to him. Mike Timlin, on the other hand…
He gave us five great years. There’s no denying that. He’s a personal favorite of mine. He’s emblematic, in my opinion, of the last five years of Red Sox success. But he has a 6.89 ERA. A 1.66 WHIP. It’s time for a phantom injury to put him on the disabled list.
Craig Hansen, similarly, hasn’t seen any success despite some clear improvement in his pitch movement. The sole reason for this is his five walks in 10 innings. He needs to firm up his control, and the only way for him to do it may be at the major league level, so we may have to bite the bullet with him. However, it is possible we could option him to Triple-A.
We have two relievers that are not getting the job done, and it’s showing. Running through the Triple-A options as a reliever quickly:

  • Charlie Zink is experiencing success with a 2.59 ERA in 11 starts. 27-years old, he may deserve a shot, but it’s his first success at the Triple-A level.
  • David Pauley is similarly doing well, but he’s a starter.
  • Devern Hansack is struggling with a 5.55 ERA. That may be because he needs to be at the major league level… or he’s lost what he had the last few years.
  • Chris Smith… now he’s impressive. He was called up earlier but didn’t pitch. He has a 1.36 ERA in four starts and eight relief appearances. He is definitely a viable option.
  • Jon Switzer and Eric Hull, two former major leagues for the Devil Rays and Dodgers, respectively, aren’t lighting the world on fire but are handling themselves capably. Switzer is a lefty.
  • Lee Gronkiewicz has a 0.79 ERA, but he’s pitched a rather low 11.1 IP on the year, so it’s too early to bank on him,

If we were to promote internally, Chris Smith looks to be the logical choice. However, I don’t expect the Sox to make any rash moves. That being said, the current pattern of Timlin and Hansen are not encouraging, and we may just be seeing Chris Smith and a new reliever acquired in July on the roster in August. After all, the next two months are spent acquiring what you need, and the answer is clear in this case.
What do you think? Does the bullpen need to be fixed? How can we do it?

Listen to this week’s episode of the Fireside Chats podcast featuring Tim Daloisio and Paul Testa.