After taking three of four from the Chicago White Sox, the Boston Red Sox (48-45, 9.5 GB) welcome the struggling Toronto Blue Jays (45-47, 12 GB) to Fenway Park for a three-game set. The Blue Jays are 3-7 in their last 10 while the Red Sox are 6-4 in their last 10. Sox fans, if you complain about the injuries in Boston, just look at the Blue Jays. While the Sox have lost many position players to injury this year, the Blue Jays pitching staff has been decimated by long-term injuries. There. Feel better now?
STARTING PITCHERS – Aaron Laffey, Carlos Villanueva and Henderson Alvarez
Aaron Laffey (up against Josh Beckett in the opener) has had a pretty good year ERA-wise but his advanced statistics show him to be average. Sure, Laffey’s ERA is 3.38, which is 17% better than the league average but his FIP is 4.81, 17% worse than the league average. Alright, we’ll call it a draw! Laffey’s xFIP of 4.24 and his SIERA of 4.26 is pretty average. Laffey’s 5.06 BB/9 isn’t impressive but he’s lowered his BB/9 to 2.25, as opposed to 3.54 in 2011 and 4.53 in 2010. Worrying to the Blue Jays, Laffey’s BABIP is an unsustainable .247. OK, so Laffey is average, but with all the pitching injuries the Blue Jays have had, they’ll take average right about now.
Carlos Villanueva (versus Aaron Cook) has pitched fairly well since pressed into serving as a starter. Villanueva hasn’t given up a run in his last two starts. For the season, Villanueva has a 2.68 ERA/3.82 FIP/3.74 xFIP. Villanueva’s 10.19 K/9 is more likely a remnant of his time in the pen but in his last three starts he’s averaged 7 strikeouts per start. More worrying for Villanueva is his 4.83 BB/9. If he could stop giving free passes to first base he could be a very effective pitcher for the Blue Jays going forward.
Henderson Alvarez (facing Jon Lester in Sunday afternoon’s finale) has the tools to succeed but, like many young pitchers, hasn’t put it together yet. On the good side, Alvarez has a 58.4% GB rate, which is excellent for a pitcher without a sinker. However, a .285 BA against, a 1.38 WHIP, a 1.56 K/BB (3.34 K/9, 2.14 BB/9) and 18 homers surrendered in 113.1 innings won’t get the job done. The Blue Jays need Alvarez to step up if they have any hope of salvaging this season.
1. Anthony Gose, RF
2. Brett Lawrie, 3B
3. Colby Rasmus, CF
4. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Yunel Escobar, SS
7. J.P. Arencibia, C
8. Travis Snider, LF
9. Kelly Johnson, 2B
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, the hot hitters for the Blue Jays have been Edwin Encarnacion (.300/.432/.733, .486 wOBA, 213 wRC), Adam Lind (.387/.441/.645, .463 wOBA, 196 wRC) and J.P. Arencibia (.348/.375/.478, .369 wOBA, 133 wRC). The Blue Jay hitters who need a wake-up call are Colby Rasmus (.088/.179/.206, .178 wOBA, 2 wRC), Brett Lawrie (.138/.194/.172, .178 wOBA, 2 wRC) and Yunel Escobar (.172/.194/.276, .202 wOBA, 19 wRC).
In the bullpen, the ageless Darren Oliver (1.30 ERA/2.80 FIP/3.02 xFIP) continues to defy time, while closer Casey Janssen (2.21 ERA/3.03 FIP/2.85 xFIP) is also having a good season. New addition Brandon Lyon (3.25 ERA/3.28 FIP/4.07 xFIP, .330 BABIP) has had a decent season for the Houston Astros, but let’s see how that transfers to the American League. J.A. Happ (4.83 ERA/4.45 FIP/3.94 xFIP), also acquired in today’s mega-trade with the Astros, will initially pitch in the pen.
RHP Kyle Drabek (recovery from June 2012 Tommy John surgery), RHP Jesse Litsch (right shoulder, biceps), LHP Luis Perez (recovery from July 2012 Tommy John surgery) and RHP Sergio Santos (right shoulder) are out for the season. RHP Drew Hutchison (sprained right elbow), RHP Dustin McGowan (right shoulder) and RHP Brandon Morrow (left oblique strain) are on the 60-day DL. RF Jose Bautista (left wrist inflammation) is on the 15-day DL. 3B Brett Lawrie (right calf contusion) is day-to-day but is expected to play in this series.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
David Ortiz (.480/.639/.640, .534 wOBA, 241 wRC) was hitting very well in the last two weeks before hitting the DL with a freak injury to his Achilles. Joining Papi on the Hot List are Adrian Gonzalez (.514/.514/.771, .552 wOBA, 253 wRC – still no walks but when you’re hitting over .500, who cares!), Pedro Ciriaco (.395/.410/.526, .422 wOBA, 165 wRC – hitting so well that Jerry Remy is correctly pronouncing his name) and Cody Ross (.265/.333/.676, .413 wOBA, 158 wRC, 4 homers). Jacoby Ellsbury (.355/.355/.452, .357 wOBA, 120 wRC) and Carl Crawford (.429/.500/.429, .465 wOBA, 194 wRC) are also hitting well on their return to the lineup. However, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.069/.156/.172, .156 wOBA, -17 wRC), Ryan Sweeney (.067/.176/.200, .175 wOBA, -5 wRC), Daniel Nava (.129/.270/.258, .250 wOBA, 47) and Will Middlebrooks (.214/.214/.357, .244 wOBA, 43 wRC) are cold, so cold.
On the mound in the last two weeks, Clay Buchholz (3.14 ERA/1.74 FIP/3.06 xFIP) has found his form from 2010, while Aaron Cook (0.00 ERA/3.06 FIP/4.10 xFIP) continues to defy your fancy Sabermetric stats by refusing to walk or strikeout anyone, as well as refusing to give up any runs. Jon Lester (10.80 ERA/4.38 FIP/4.22 xFIP) and Josh Beckett (7.36 ERA/2.52 FIP/4.24 xFIP) have pitched better than their respective ERAs would indicate, but they need to stop runs from scoring ASAP.
In the bullpen over the last two weeks, Mark Melancon (0.00 ERA/1.26 FIP/1.92 xFIP) and Matt Albers (no, really – 0.00 ERA/3.52 FIP/3.86 xFIP) get the Blutarsky ERA award, sharing it with Aaron Cook (starters need love too). Vicente Padilla (6.00 ERA/1.06 FIP/3.01 xFIP) has been extremely unlucky while Scott Atchison (6.00 ERA/5.40 FIP/3.01 xFIP) is struggling. Andrew Miller (11.57 ERA/5.63 FIP/1.31 xFIP) has the weirdest pitching triple slash line I’ve seen all season.
Credit Alex Anthopoulos for trying to salvage the Blue Jays’ season with a mega-trade with the Houston Astros. However, I fear that it was a trade in vain. Toronto has sustained too many pitching injuries to compete in the AL East.