Having surprisingly taken two of three from the division-leading New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox (51-51, 9.5 games back in the AL East) come back home to host the Detroit Tigers (54-48, 1.5 games back in the AL Central). The Red Sox are 4-6 in their last 10 games, while the Tigers are 6-4 in their last 10.
STARTING PITCHERS Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello
Max Scherzer (versus Clay Buchholz in the opener) should be a top eschelon pitcher but he stands in his own way. If you had a pitcher who threw 10.99 strikeouts per 9 and had a 3.30 K/BB you would be pleased, right? A pitcher whose fastball averages 94 mph? Sounds good to me. But here’s the rest of the story. Scherzer’s pitching line is 4.49 ERA/3.85 FIP/3.43 xFIP, but his SIERA is 3.22. Why is that? Max is hittable. His average against is a pedestrian .258 and he has surrendered 18 homers in 116.1 innings pitched. Upper eschelon pitchers don’t do that.
Justin Verlander (against Josh Beckett – maybe) is the definition of upper eschelon pitcher. Verlander’s 2012 pitching line of 2.60 ERA/3.09 FIP/3.41 xFIP is a touch behind his 2011 line of 2.40 ERA/2.99 FIP/3.12 xFIP but not tremendously so. His strikeouts are down a touch (8.44 versus 8.96) but he still sports an excellent 4.06 K/BB. Interestingly, Verlander is the rare pitcher who is outpitching his SIERA. SIERA says his ERA should be 3.35 but it’s 2.60. Wow.
Rick Porcello (facing Aaron Cook) hasn’t lived up to the expectations people had for him as the 27th pick in the 2007 draft. His pitching line of 4.56 ERA/3.69 FIP/4.02 xFIP indicates that the Tigers’ defense is hurting him a little, and his .343 BABIP shows a bit of bad luck. However, his 5.18 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9 is on him, and he was billed to be better than that. Add to that a terrible .306 batting average against and a 1.51 WHIP and you see a pitcher who is struggling.
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Quintin Berry, LF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Delmon Young, DH
6. Brennan Boesch, RF
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
8. Alex Avila, C
9. Omar Infante, 2B
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
Miguel Cabrera (.283/.377/.652, .431 wOBA, 175 wRC, 5 homers) and Prince Fielder (.341/.472/.439, .395 wOBA, 150 wRC) are the hot hitters for the Tigers, as they should be. However, they don’t have many running mates lately. Those on the cold side are Omar Infante (.143/.182/.143, .151 wOBA, -17 wRC, Puntonian), Alex Avila (.182/.308/.333, .290 wOBA, 78 wRC) and Delmon Young (.245/.296/.327, .275 wOBA, 68 wRC).
In the bullpen, Brayan Villareal (1.36 ERA/2.43 FIP/3.38 xFIP) has had a great season, although not as great as his ERA would indicate. Conversely, closer Octavio Dotel (3.51 ERA/1.78 FIP/2.23 xFIP) hasn’t pitched as poorly as his ERA would indicate. Phil Coke (3.02 ERA/2.85 FIP/3.71 xFIP) and Joaquin Benoit (2.87 ERA/3.64 FIP/3.21 xFIP) have also had good seasons for the Tigers.
RHP Al Alburquerque (recovery from elbow surgery), C Victor Martinez (recovering from left knee surgery) and LHP Daniel Schlereth (left shoulder) are on the 60-day DL. LF Andy Dirks (right Achilles tendinitis) and LHP Drew Smyly (strained ribcage muscle) are on the 15-day DL.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
One step forward, two steps back. Even with the Red Sox taking two of three from the Yankees, I don’t think this is a club that should be buying players. I also won’t join the chorus of people who want to blow up the team. However, some changes must be made. Let’s face it – the Red Sox aren’t going to win the division, and a team really shouldn’t mortgage its future for the one-game chance that the Wild Card has become.
It seems that Josh Beckett is on the market, and I think it’s time he moves on. The Red Sox may not get much for Beckett, even if they eat a lot of salary, and Beckett can veto any deal due to his 10/5 rights, but both parties must see that this is a relationship that has to end.
I would also support a deal for Mike Aviles. Pedro Ciriaco has proven that he can hit major league pitching, and I think he can play shortstop every day for the Red Sox. As one of Fire Brand’s podcasters, Tim Daloisio, said to me on Twitter the other day, ” If there was a market for Marco Scutaro, there would have to be one for Aviles as well, right?”
The one move that the Red Sox shouldn’t make, but is the most probable move, is to fire Bobby Valentine. Apart from the first few weeks of the season when he was trying to figure out bullpen roles, Bobby V has been an excellent in-game manager. He has a knack for sending out the right hitting lineup, and has been astute in timing his pitching moves. Bobby V may not be as beloved as Terry Francona was in the Red Sox locker room but the last I checked, being beloved wasn’t a requirement for being a baseball manager. Finally, firing Valentine, especially if that is the only move made, would prove once and for all that the inmates are in charge of the asylum, which would make the job that much tougher for any manager not named Terry Francona.
But you come here for numbers. Here you go: Adrian Gonzalez (.365/.377/.615, .424 wOBA, 167 wRC) and Pedro Ciriaco (.308/.308/.436, .336 wOBA, 106 wRC) are hitting well in the last two weeks, Mike Aviles (.128/.146/.154, .139 wOBA, -29 wRC) and Daniel Nava (.111/.273/.111, .207 wOBA, 18 wRC) aren’t. Alfredo Aceves (0.00 ERA/3.20 FIP/5.01 xFIP) gets the Blutarsky ERA Award. Mark Melancon (17.36 ERA/7.57 FIP/5.73 xFIP) misses Pawtucket. Jon Lester (13.50 ERA/10.00 FIP/5.18 xFIP) misses the strike zone.
The Tigers are in an unexpected dogfight with the Chicago White Sox for the American League Central crown. If they both play well, there may be a surprise for the loser: one of the Wild Card spots.