Having lost two of three to the lowly Royals, the Boston Red Sox (12-18) return to Fenway Park to start a six-game homestand against the first place Cleveland Indians (17-15). First place? Somebody get Harry Doyle some more Jack Daniels.
Derek Lowe (versus Josh Beckett in Thrusday’s opener) seems to have been reborn, and it has come by throwing fewer sliders. In 2011, Lower threw 24.9% sliders, with resulted in a 5.05 ERA (however, note that Lowe’s 2011 BABIP was .327 and his FIP was 3.70, so some luck was at play). However, in 2012, Lowe has reduced his slider percentage to 11.9%, and his ERA has dropped to 2.39 (but note that his FIP is 4.06). Worrying for Lowe is his terrible 0.83 K/BB and concomitant 1.49 WHIP but he is also stranding baserunners at a 82.7% clip.
The bloom is off the rose for Ubaldo Jimenez (against Clay Buchholz on Friday). He has become an average pitcher for the Indians after being a star for the Rockies. Jiminez’s fastball velocity, averaging 96 MPH in Colorado, is down to 92 MPH this season. He has a 5.05 K/9 and a terrible 6.31 BB/9 and a 1.60 WHIP in 2012. Although Jimenez’s ERA is a respectable 4.04, his BABIP is .245 and his FIP is 5.75, so he is pitching worse than his results show. Basically, Colorado sold their stock in pets.com just before internet stocks crashed.
Josh Tomlin (opposing Felix Doubront on Saturday night) is an intriguing pitcher. His fastball is sort of slow (89 MPH average) and flat, as is his cutter. However, Tomlin has a killer curve and knows how to hit the edges of the zone. In 2010 and 2011, Tomlin had a .274 and .253 BABIP, so it seemed he was due for a regression. However, although his ERA hasn’t really improved yet in 2012, he is striking out 7.01 batters per 9 innings, only walking 1.82 batters per 9, and has an impressive 3.21 FIP. It wouldn’t surprise me if Tomlin improved as the season goes on.
Justin Masterson (facing Daniel Bard in Sunday’s finale) had a stellar 2011 but is coming back to the pack in 2012. Most notably, Masterson’s walk rate has increased from a good 2.71 in 2011 to an ugly 5.31 in 2012. Masterson has also given up four homers in 2012 after giving up only 11 in all of 2011. Masterson’s velocity is down across the board (about 2 MPH for his fastball, sinker and slider), and he has reduced his fastball percentage from 44.8% in 2011 to 18.8% in 2012. These are troubling signs for Masterson.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
Asdrubal Cabrera has become the star of the Indians. So far in 2012 Cabrera is hitting .337/.420/.531 with a .407 wOBA and 164 wRC. Also off to good starts are Carlos Santana (.265/.397/.431), Jason Kipnis (.265/.341/.470) and the healthy Travis Hafner (.265/.400/.456). However, Aaron Cunningham (.227/.320/.273), Michael Brantley (.233/.282/.319) and Shin-Soo Choo (.236/.358/.326) could be doing better.
In the bullpen, Nick Hagadone (0.96 ERA and a 1.66 FIP, with a very lucky .136 BABIP), Joe Smith (2.93 ERA, 3.99 FIP) and Vinnie Pestano (2.08 ERA, 2.95 FIP) are pitching very well. Dan Wheeler is pitching terribly (5.59 ERA, 6.78 FIP and a .250 BABIP), and it seems that Tony Sipp has been incredibly unlucky (8.00 ERA, 2.06 FIP, .414 BABIP).
RHP Carlos Carrasco is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is out for the season. CF Grady Sizemore (lower back, right knee injuries) is on the 60-day DL and could possibly return in June. LHP Rafael Perez (strained left lat) is on the 15-day DL, and his return is not yet scheduled. 3B Jack Hannahan (groin) is day to day but is expected to play in the Red Sox series.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
That I am pounding Sam Adams Imperial Whites should tell you all you need to know. Over the last week the bullpen (with the exception of Franklin Morales) pitched pretty well (no, Darnell McDonald is not a member of the bullpen). However, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront had poor starts. On the hitting side, Dustin Pedroia (.360/.515/.600, .473 wOBA, 204 wRC) and Adrian Gonzalez (.367/.387/.467, .373 wOBA, 135 wRC) got hot, but nobody was hotter than Will Middlebrooks (.304/.304/.826, .477 wOBA, 207 wRC, 3 homers, 9 RBI). Unfortunately, David Ortiz (.240/.345/.440, .321 wOBA, 98 wRC) came back to Earth, and Mike Aviles (.219/.265/.313, .235 wOBA, a lousy 39 wRC) became a black hole at the top of the lineup. As Emily Litella said, “It’s always something.”
The Indians are hitting and walking their way to a certain level of success. If Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez recover their success, Grady Sizemore gets healthy and Travis Hafner stays healthy, the Indians might be able to hang in there in the American League Central.