After being swept but the lowly and injured Blue Jays, the Boston Red Sox (48-48, 9.5 games back in the AL East) go to Arlington, Texas for a three-game skein against the Texas Rangers (56-38, 5 games ahead in the AL West). The Red Sox are 5-5 in their last 10, while the Rangers are 6-4 in their last 10 games.
Scott Feldman (facing Felix Doubront in Monday night’s opener) is regressing big time. in 2011, Feldman’s 3.94 ERA/3.99 FIP/3.72 xFIP line, a .214 batting average against and 62.1% ground ball rate was hidden by a quite unsustainable .239 BABIP. And sure enough, in 2012 Feldman has posted a 5.89 ERA/4.47 FIP/4.36 xFIP line, a career-low 38.4% GB rate, a .279 batting average against and a .308 BABIP. Feldman is allowing 45.6% of hitters who reach base to score in 2012. Get ready to hit, Red Sox!
Colby Lewis (versus Clay Buchholz) is having a very good season that is belied by his 6-6 record. Posting a 3.43 ERA/3.85 FIP/3.86 xFIP, Lewis has 93 strikeouts against only 14 walks (for a stunning 6.64 K/BB). The only good thing for the Red Sox is that Lewis’s ground ball rate is 33.0% and he has surrendered 16 homers in 105 innings. Texas heat and a fly ball pitcher could mean homers for the Sox.
Derek Holland (against Josh Beckett in the finale) had been a slightly above average pitcher in 2011 but he is slightly below average in 2012. in 2011, Holland posted a 3.95 ERA/3.94 FIP/3.76 xFIP line (8% better than average in ERA and FIP, and 7% better than average in xFIP), with a 3.6 fWAR. In 2012, Holland has registered a 4.84 ERA/4.61 FIP/4.39 xFIP (13% worse than average in ERA, 6% worse in FIP, and 7% worse in xFIP), while getting only 0.9 fWAR. Again, homers are getting Holland into trouble. While Holland surrendered 22 homers in 198 innings in 2011, he has given up 14 homers in 87.1 innings in 2012. Harry Caray would not be pleased.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, the hot hitters for the Rangers have been Craig Gentry (.450/.476/.600, .441 wOBA, 178 wRC), Elvis Andrus (.323/.371/.484, .366 wOBA, 126 wRC) and Mike Napoli (.286/.400/.571, .425 wOBA, 167 wRC), while the cold hitters have been Josh Hamilton (.156/.176/.250, .169 wOBA, -9 wRC) and David Murphy (.143/.250/.143, .175 wOBA, -5 wRC).
In the Rangers bullpen this year, Joe Nathan has regained his pre-injury form, posting a 2.11 ERA/1.81 FIP/2.36 xFIP with, 46/5 K/BB, 19 saves and only one blown save. Robbie Ross (1.10 ERA/3.21 FIP/3.52 xFIP) is riding his luck with a .239 BABIP but he has an excellent 65.7% GB rate. On the downside, Tanner Scheppers (6.75 ERA/5.45 FIP/3.91 xFIP) has the rookie blues but his xFIP is promising, and Michael Kirkman (3.68 ERA/5.45 FIP/4.99 xFIP, .125 BABIP) has been luckier than Ross.
RHP Neftali Feliz (sprained ligament in right elbow) is on the 60-day DL. RHP Mark Lowe (strained ribcage muscle), 1B Mitch Moreland (left hamstring strain) and RHP Koji Uehara (strained right lat muscle) are on the 15-day DL. LHP Michael Kirkman (mild left quad strain), RHP Colby Lewis (right forearm tightness) and RHP Roy Oswalt (lower back tightness) are day-to-day.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Let’s start with the positives from the last two weeks. Adrian Gonzalez (.438/.438/.719, .495 wOBA, 215 wRC) has found his power stroke, registering a .281 ISO with three homers. Cody Ross (.303/.333/.667, .411 wOBA, 158 wRC, 3 homers) came up with key homers, and Jacoby Ellsbury (.350/.350/.500, .371 wOBA, 131 wRC) and Carl Crawford (.318/.375/.318, .347 wOBA, 113) have impressed on their return from injury.
Now for the negatives. Ryan Sweeney (.091/.286/.182, .237 wOBA, 38 wRC) and Daniel Nava (.048/.259/.190, .230 wOBA, 33 wRC) are hitting as if their jobs in Boston were not in jeopardy. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.125/.192/.250, .199 wOBA, 12 wRC) is ice cold at the plate, Will Middlebrooks (.222/.222/.333, .238 wOBA, 39 wRC) needs to make adjustments, and Nick Punto (.167/.167/.167, .147 wOBA, -24 wRC) is a black hole whenever he gets into the lineup.
As for the starters, Felix Doubront (1.50 ERA/3.90 FIP/5.85 xFIP) was pretty lucky in his last start. With a 3.00 K/9 and a 4.50 BB/9, he should have done worse but got the win. Aaron Cook (2.03 ERA/5.09 FIP/4.13 xFIP) pitched pretty well but got victimized by the long ball for the first time this year. Clay Buchholz (3.14 ERA/1.74 FIP/3.07 xFIP) is also rounding into top form. Josh Beckett (5.25 ERA/2.23 FIP/3.58 xFIP, .429 BABIP) should be getting better results than he is, but Red Sox fans are getting kind of sick of the should. And then there’s Jon Lester (19.13 ERA/12.69 FIP/6.58 xFIP). Whether it’s confidence, injury, or bad luck (.407 BABIP), something is wrong with Lester. One thing is certain: if Lester and Beckett don’t turn it around quickly, this Red Sox season is lost.
In the bullpen, Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/0.40 FIP/0.89 xFIP, 12.00 K/9, 0.00 BB/9), Matt Albers (0.00 ERA/4.27 FIP/5.15 xFIP, 10.80 K/9, 10.80 BB/9) and Alfredo Aceves (0.00 ERA/4.27 FIP/6.03 xFIP, 5.40 K/9, 7.20 BB/9) take the Blutarsky ERA award, but Albers and Aceves had horrible peripherals. Junichi Tazawa (2.00 ERA/1.40 FIP/2.38 xFIP, 9.00 K/9, 1.00 BB/9) pitched very well, while Mark Melancon (9.64 ERA/3.49 FIP/4.12 xFIP, 3.86 K/9, 3.86 BB/9) took a step backward.
The Rangers again lead the AL West but they are being pushed hard by the Angels and the surprising Athletics. The Rangers pitching is suddenly vulnerable but they have enough prospects to make a move for starting pitching if needed. But as always, Pee Wee Herman knows best.