After taking three of four from the Detroit Tigers, the Boston Red Sox (26-25) take off to the Great White North for a weekend set with the Toronto Blue Jays (27-24). The Blue Jays seem to be doing their annual “We look better than we are” routine, but will they flounder as in years past, or can they get hot at the right time? Will they make a key trade before the trading deadline? Or will they give it all up and become secretaries who worship at the altar of Kelly Gruber?
STARTING PITCHERS – Henderson Alvarez, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison
Henderson Alvarez (against Clay Buchholz in the opener) Alvarez was never a pure strikeout pitcher but is putting together a season that Carlos Silva would be proud of. Alvarez just isn’t striking anybody out: he has 19 strikeouts in 65.2 innings pitched. Put that together with a 1.19 K/BB, a 5.50 FIP (versus a 3.56 ERA), a 4.57 xFIP (11 homers surrendered), a .252 BABIP, a 4.58 SIERA and a terrible 6.02 tERA, you have a pitcher who is not pitching well but is getting away with it. How? It has to be his 56.9% ground ball rate and good defense (as his FIP is almost 2 runs higher than his ERA). The wheels are going to come off of the Alvarez bus any day now.
Kyle Drabek (versus Felix Doubront) has improved a little from a disappointing 2011 but not enough to be called a decent pitcher. Drabek is striking out one batter more per nine in 2011 (from 5.83 to 6.83) and his ERA has come down from 6.05 in 2011 to 4.55 so far in 2012, and his ground ball rate is an excellent 56.4%. That’s the good news. As for the bad news, Drabek’s FIP is a terrible 5.69, his tERA is 5.66, his K/BB rate is 1.14, and to top it all off, his BABIP is a lucky .256. These are not good signs going forward for Drabek.
Drew Hutchison (facing Daniel Bard in the finale) is a statistical enigma. For every statistic you can find to say that Hutchison is pitching better than he looks, you can find one to say he should be pitching worse. Hutchison’s ERA is 4.84 but his FIP is 4.22, his SIERA is 4.01 and his xFIP is 3.94. Paired with a slightly unlucky BABIP of .307, these are good signs. However, his WHIP is 1.43, he’s given up more hits than innings pitched (47 in 44.2 innings) and his tERA is a horrible 5.91. It will be interesting to see which way Hutchison goes.
1. Kelly Johnson, 2B
2. Yunel Escobar, SS
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
5. Colby Rasmus, CF
6. J.P. Arencibia, C
7. Brett Lawrie, 3B
8. David Cooper, 1B
9. Rajai Davis, LF
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
Colby Rasmus has been on fire in the last two weeks, hitting .333/.391/.714, .473 wOBA and a 206 wRC, with three homers and seven RBI. Also hot is the ageless Omar Vizquel, hitting .389/.421/.389, .375 wOBA, 138 wRC in his last eight appearances. Also of note, Tim Kurkjian, I mean J.P. Arencibia has hit four homers in the past two weeks despite a .234 average and a .250 OBP. On the cold side are Kelly Johnson (.235/.308/.441, .317 wOBA, 99 wRC) and Yunel Escobar (.255/.314/.362, .300 wOBA, 86 wRC).
In the bullpen, Darren Oliver (1.53 ERA/2.86 FIP/3.09 xFIP) and Luis Perez (2.45 ERA/3.89 FIP/4.03 xFIP) have pitched well, perhaps due to BABIPs on the lucky side (.267 for Oliver, .246 for Perez), while Francisco Cordero has been colder than a winter in Moose Jaw (6.10 ERA/5.21 FIP/4.20 xFIP, but an unlucky .354 BABIP).
2B Kelly Johnson was day-today with a sore right hamstring but is expected to play in the Red Sox series. RHP Brandon Morrow is day to day with a right shin contusion. LF Ben Francisco (left hamstring tear) and RHP Sergio Santos (right shoulder inflammation) are on the 15-day DL. RHP Alan Farina (recovery from Tommy John surgery), RHP Jesse Litsch (right shoulder infection), and RHP Dustin McGowan (right shoulder infection) are on the 60-day DL.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued his torrid hitting going .314/.368/.771, .475 wOBA, 203 wRC with five homers and 8 RBI in the last fortnight. Also hitting very well in the last two weeks are Will Middlebrooks (.405/.421/.622, .436 wOBA, 176 wRC) and Scott Podsednik (.444/.444/.722, .527 wOBA, 239 wRC). Although David Ortiz‘s batting average in the last two weeks was only .234, he did hit four homers. Having a bad fortnight were Daniel Nava (.209/.321/.349, .298 wOBA, 80 wRC), Mike Aviles (.255/.250/.455, .302 wOBA, 83 wRC) and Adrian Gonzalez (.250/.245/.442, .289 wOBA, 75 wRC).
On the mound, great fornights from Josh Beckett (2.91 ERA/2.43 FIP/3.67 xFIP) and Felix Doubront (3.00 ERA/4.53 FIP/2.23 xFIP) were offset by bad stretches from Jon Lester (8.10 ERA/5.37 FIP/3.44 xFIP), Clay Buchholz (5.11 ERA/4.00 FIP/3.87 xFIP) and Daniel Bard (5.17 ERA/8.07 FIP/5.93 xFIP). In the bullpen, Scott Atchison (0.00 ERA/1.90 FIP/2.97 xFIP) continues to astound but Franklin Morales (5.40 ERA/11.43 FIP/5.33 xFIP) hit a rough patch.
The Toronto Blue Jays are around .500. Again. They look like they could get better or get worse. Again. Perhaps the Blue Jays should try a radical uniform redesign and play softball instead.