After taking two of three in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox (45-44, 3-7 in their last 10) return to Fenway Park to host a four-game set against the Chicago White Sox (49-39, 7-3 in their last 10). The White Sox lead the AL Central by 3.5 games while the Red Sox are 9.5 games behind the Yankees, and are tied for last in the AL East. Le sigh. Tonight marks the first return of Kevin Youkilis to Fenway after being traded to the White Sox on June 24th. Le cry. Oh yeah, and Carl Crawford makes his 2012 Red Sox debut tonight.
Dylan Axelrod (against Aaron Cook in Monday night’s opener) has pitched far below average in his rookie year. With a 6.16 ERA/5.97 FIP/4.86 xFIP, 4.41 SIERA, it’s not hard to come to that conclusion. Axelrod’s peripherals of 6.46 K/9, 3.23 BB/9, .274 BA against, 1.47 WHIP, and 7 homers surrendered in 30.1 innings pitched do not impress. Add all this to the fact that Axelrod will be pitching on two days’ rest to give Gavin Floyd an extra day to recover from tendinitis, and the Red Sox should be licking their lips.
Philip Humber (facing Jon Lester) may have been perfect on April 21st, but he has been far from perfect otherwise. Humber owns a 6.01 ERA/5.03 FIP/4.56 xFIP and a 4.32 SIERA. Humber has always seemed to me to be on the verge of being a very good pitcher but just gets himself in trouble unnecessarily, and the numbers bear that out. Although he has an 8.42 K/9 Humber’s 4.14 BB/9, .258 BA against, 1.49 WHIP, 33.2% GB rate and 66.1% LOB rate show that he can pitch better than he does. And we all saw him do it on April 21.
TBA (versus Felix Doubront) sort of sucks.
TBA (against Franklin Morales in Thursday night’s finale) sucks more than the other TBA.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, Kevin Youkilis (.343/.478/.629, .454 wOBA, 188 wRC), Alex Rios (.417/.462/.833, .526 wOBA, 238 wRC), Alexei Ramirez (.410/.410/.538, .402 wOBA, 153 wRC), A.J. Pierzynski (.360/.467/.680, .470 wOBA, 199 wRC) and Dayan Viciedo (.410/.410/.538, .402 wOBA, 153 wRC) are the hot hitters for the South Siders. However, the cold hitters for the White Sox have been Alejandro De Aza (.158/.238/.316, .249 wOBA, 48 wRC), Gordon Beckham (.241/.333/.345, .304 wOBA, 86 wRC) and Paul Konerko (.222/.300/.222, .246 wOBA, 46 wRC). As always, Adam Dunn’s batting average is low but he walks and hits bombs (.214/.353/.571, .382 wOBA, 139 wRC, 3 home runs)
In the bullpen, Jesse Crain (2.38 ERA/2.93 FIP/3.14 xFIP) and Matt Thornton (2.82 ERA/2.72 FIP/3.11 xFIP) are having very good seasons, while Addison Reed (4.09 ERA/2.73 FIP/4.19 xFIP, 3.45 SIERA) is getting the job done despite enigmatic statistics. Hector Santiago (3.98 ERA/5.68 FIP/4.79 xFIP) is getting away with pitching badly (9.66 K/9, 4.55 BB/9, 29.9 % GB rate) due to an 89.9 % LOB rate.
RHP Brian Bruney (left hip inflammation), RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder tightness), LHP John Danks (left shoulder strain), RHP Philip Humber (right elbow strain, will start on Tuesday) and 3B Brent Morel (lumbar back strain) are on the 15-day DL. RHP Gavin Floyd (right forearm tendinitis) is day-to-day.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
In the last fortnight, David Ortiz (.438/.591/.656, .518 wOBA, 231 wRC) remained red-hot, joined by Pedro Ciriaco (.417/.440/.500, .440 wOBA, 177 wRC) and Adrian Gonzalez (.419/.419/.516, .406 wOBA, 154 wRC, still no walks, still no homers). Jacoby Ellsbury (.419/.419/.516, .406 wOBA, 154 wRC) and Will Middlebrooks (.333/.333/.667, .422 wOBA, 165 wRC) have impressed upon their respective returns from injury. The cold hitters for the Red Sox in the last two weeks were Cody Ross (.071/.229/.179, .202 wOBA, 14 wRC), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.121/.216/.303, .233 wOBA, 36 wRC), Ryan Sweeney (.083/.154/.250, .175 wOBA, -4 wRC) and Daniel Nava (.158/.273/.289, .258 wOBA, 53 wRC).
On the bump, Josh Beckett (7.36 ERA/2.52 FIP/4.24 xFIP, 9.82 K/BB, 3.27 BB/9) and Jon Lester (4.09 ERA/2.61 FIP/3.02 xFIP, 12.27 K/9, 2.45 BB/9) pitched much better than their ERA would indicate, and Clay Buchholz (5.68 ERA/1.48 FIP/2.64 xFIP, 11.37 K/9, 1.42 BB/9) had a nice return from the DL despite the loss. However, the Magic Fairy may have flown away from Franklin Morales (6.48 ERA/9.78 FIP/6.35 xFIP, 7.56 K/9, 5.40 BB/9).
In the bullpen, Mark Melancon (0.00 ERA/0.98 FIP/2.12 xFIP) and Matt Albers (0.00 ERA/4.15 FIP/4.95 xFIP) qualify for the Blutarsky ERA Award, although Albers’s peripherals (9.82 K/9, 9.82 BB/9, .167 BABIP) are turrible, just turrible (/Charles Barkley). Vicente Padilla (5.40 ERA/0.96 FIP/2.28 xFIP, .600 (!) BABIP) has been extremely unlucky, While Alfredo Aceves‘s peripherals (3.86 ERA/7.13 FIP/7.48 xFIP, 5.79 K/9, 7.71 BB/9) are positively Albersian.
If the White Sox can get their starting pitching healthy, they have a great shot to stave off the rising Tigers and the surprising Indians. If they don’t? Well, Red Sox fans have seen where good hitting and bad starting pitching will get you. Le basement.