The Boston Red Sox (29-31), having been swept over the weekend by the Washington Nationals, take the show on the road for a three-game skein against the Miami Marlins (31-29). The Marlins are on a cold streak, having lost their last six games in a row. And the Red Sox are also on a cold streak, having lost six of their last seven. Wait, don’t walk away! These are good teams! Really!
Josh Johnson (facing Josh Beckett in Monday’s opener) is no longer untouchable but he has been unlucky in 2012. Johnson’s fastball, which averaged 94.7 MPH just two seasons ago, now averages 93 MPH. Also notable is that this season, Johnson has thrown fewer two-seam fastballs this year (5.7% vs. 14.5% last year) and more curveballs (11.4% in 2012, 8.2% in 2011) and changeups (12.1% in 2012, 8.7% in 2011). Johnson’s BABIP is a frightfully unlucky .370, and his ERA of 4.56 is over a run and a half higher than his FIP (2.91), and a run higher than his xFIP (3.43) and SIERA (3.53). If Johnson can improve on a solid but unspectacular 2.68 K/BB ratio, he could be in for a rebound in the second half.
Mark Buehrle (against Clay Buchholz on Tuesday) has always confused me. How is he a consistently good pitcher? His K/BB ratio has never been that high (although it is over 3 this season – 3.25 – for the first time in his career). He doesn’t strike out many, but he also doesn’t walk too many. His fastball isn’t fast (mid-80s in his career, averaging 83.0 this year). His FIP is never way too far away from his ERA to be statistically significant. His SIERA is always in the mid 4s. Location, pitch selection and pace – that’s Buehrle’s game and it plays well.
Ricky Nolasco (versus Felix Doubront in Wednesday’s finale) is on a worrying downward trajectory. His fastball is getting slower, down to an 89.7MPH average this season. His FIP (4.25) and SIERA (4.34) are over 4 for the first time in his career. He’s striking out too few batters (a career low of 5.45 per nine) and walking too many (2.66 per nine, his highest since 2007). These aren’t good signs for Nolasco.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, Jose Reyes (.320/.382/.480, .379 wOBA, 138 wRC), Hanley Ramirez (.310/.400/.667, .428 wOBA, 170 wRC) and Giancarlo Stanton (.302/.400/.605, .432 wOBA, 173 wRC) have hit very well, while Justin Ruggiano (.444/.524/1.000, .571 wOBA, 267 wRC) and Donovan Solano (.455/.500/.636, .487 wOBA, 211 wRC) have also hit well in limited action. On the cold side in the last two weeks are Omar Infante (.196/.196/.255, .195 wOBA, 13 wRC), Chris Coghlan (.179/.286/.179, .225 wOBA, 33 wRC) and John Buck (.167/.286/.200, .222 wOBA, 31 wRC). In the bullpen, Randy Choate (0.49 ERA/2.67 FIP/3.37 xFIP) and Steve Cishek (2.10 ERA/3.28 FIP/4.01 xFIP) are having excellent seasons, while Heath Bell (6.35 ERA/4.24 FIP/5.25 xFIP, .346 BABIP) is pitching slightly better than his terrible traditional statistics would indicate, although still not that great for a free agent signing.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
One step forward, two steps back. They’ve lost six of their last seven games, and this weekend’s sweep at the hands of the rising Washington Nationals showed the difference between a young and exciting team and an older and stagnant one. In the last two weeks, David Ortiz (.319/.418/.681, .452 wOBA, 187 wRC), Daniel Nava (.311/.404/.489, .393 wOBA, 147 wRC) and Ryan Sweeney (.294/.368/.382, .334 wOBA, 106 wRC) are hitting well while Dustin Pedroia (.148/.226/.148, .181 wOBA, 0 wRC) and Kevin Youkilis (.195/.283/.341, .279 wOBA, 68 wRC) need to get it going. Clay Buchholz (1.06 ERA/4.11 FIP/4.10 xFIP) has pitched well in the last two weeks but Felix Doubront (5.51 ERA/5.44 FIP/2.86 xFIP) took a step backward. Daisuke Matsuzaka had an encouraging start on Saturday, striking out eight and walking one while giving up 5 hits, but was undone by a bad fourth inning (and wouldn’t you know it, the number 4 is considered unlucky in Japanese culture as the word for four (shi) is also the word for death). In the pen, Franklin Morales (1.13 ERA/3.68 FIP/4.02 xFIP) and Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/3.05 FIP/4.96 xFIP) pitched very well in the last two weeks while Alfredo Aceves (5.63 ERA/3.30 FIP/2.75 xFIP) had a bad, if unlucky, fortnight.
With some better pitching performances, the Marlins may put a scare into the Washington Nationals and challenge for the NL East crown. In the meantime, maybe Papi can put a few dents into the Home Run Sculpture in center field in the brand new Marlins Park.