After losing two of three to the Texas Rangers, the Boston Red Sox (55-57, 10 games back in the AL East) start a 10-game roadtrip with a 4-game skein against the Cleveland Indians (51-60, 9.5 games back in the AL Central). The Red Sox are 4-6 in their last 10 games while the Indians are 1-9 in their last 10. Ouch. The Tribe won their last game but had lost the previous 11 games in a row. That would have made Harry Doyle bathe in Jack Daniels.
STARTING PITCHERS Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Seddon, Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber
Ubaldo Jimenez (versus Felix Doubront in Thursday’s opener) is underperforming by any measure. His 5.29 ERA is 31% worse than the average pitcher in MLB, his FIP 5.28 is 29% worse, and his xFIP of 5.17 is 25% worse. From being third in the NL Cy Young voting in 2010 to anywhere between 25 and 31 percent worse than average in 2012. There either has to be an injury that Jimenez is hiding, or he received some horrible coaching advice. His fastball, which once averaged 96 mph, now averages 92.5. He’s also throwing his once devastating two-seamer with much less frequency (37.9% in 2010, 14.4% this year). I miss the old Ubaldo and I know Cleveland fans would love to see that guy.
Chris Seddon (facing Clay Buchholz) is a AAAA pitcher, nothing more. Every time Seddon has had a little success at AAA he gets called up to the majors, puts up terrible numbers, then gets sent back to AAA. Fastball, two-seamer, slider, change. Tops out at about 90. Not much more to say about him. If the Red Sox can’t hit Chris Seddon, they can all start eating fried chicken and drinking beer right on the bench, for all I care. The rest of the season won’t matter.
Zach McAllister (against Franklin Morales) is actually having a pretty good season, and I’ll bet you didn’t know that. McAllister has a pitching triple slash line of 3.60 ERA/3.75 FIP/3.91 xFIP, which many of us would like some of the Red Sox pitchers to have. McAllister has a K rate of 8.36 per 9 and a walk rate of 2.57 per 9 (3.25 K/BB). I like that. McAllister’s batting average against of .255 is a touch high, which elevates his WHIP to 1.31. Miss a few more bats and the Indians could have something in McAllister.
Corey Kluber (against TBA) is Chris Seddon with a better fastball. Kluber has put up some gaudy strikeout numbers in the minors but that has come with higher walk rates than one would want. Young pitchers, always trying to do everything themselves. In five games in the majors, that approach hasn’t worked. Kluber’s fastball averages 93.5 MPH and he mixes a hard sinker to go with his slider, curveball and changeup. It seems that Kluber has the tools but hasn’t learned how to utilize them against major leaguers.
1. Jason Kipnis, 2B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
4. Carlos Santana, C
5. Michael Brantley, CF
6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
7. Shelley Duncan, DH
8. Jack Hannahan, 3B
9. Ezequiel Carrera, LF
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the past two weeks, Travis Hafner (.333/.368/.667, .437 wOBA, 181 wRC) hit well before hurting his back. Michael Brantley (.304/.340/.413, .330 wOBA, 108 wRC) and Carlos Santana (.255/.364/.638, .418 wOBA, 168, 5 homers) also hit well, as did Ezequiel Carrera (.381/.381/.714, .446 wOBA, 187 wRC) in limited playing time. However, Jason Kipnis (.122/.240/.146, .203 wOBA, 20 wRC) and Casey Kotchman (.167/.265/.200, .222 wOBA, 33 wRC) were ice cold.
In the Indians’ bullpen, Vinnie Pestano (1.26 ERA/2.52 FIP/3.42 xFIP) is having an excellent year but his 3.42 xFIP and his .228 BABIP probably means that his success is unsustainable. Chris Perez (3.98 ERA/2.59 FIP/3.33 xFIP) is 29-33 in save chances this season but has blown two in a row. The rest of the current Indians bullpen are varying degrees of average.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (recovery from September 2011 Tommy John surgery) is out for the season. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (fractured right ulna bone), LHP Rafael Perez (strained left lat muscle) and CF Grady Sizemore (lower back, right knee) are on the 60-day DL. DH Travis Hafner (back stiffness) is on the 15-day DL.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
The 2012 Red Sox are so frustrating. When they pitched well they couldn’t hit. Now the hitting is coming into form and they can’t pitch. 2011 was a train wreck but that only lasted for one horrible month. This team gets into fender benders every couple of days.
In the past two weeks, Adrian Gonzalez (.460/.509/.720, .514 wOBA, 228 wRC) continued his scorching post-All Star form, and he is joined by Cody Ross (.362/.392/.532, .393 wOBA, 145 wRC) and Carl Crawford (.327/.346/.694, .433 wOBA, 172 wRC). However, Jacoby Ellsbury (.208/.278/.313, .270 wOBA, 61 wRC), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.219/.306/.313, .266 wOBA, 58 wRC) and Ryan Kalish (.158/.273/.211, .231 wOBA, 34 wRC) need to get a few ground balls with eyes.
As for the starters, first the good news. Clay Buchholz (1.20 ERA/3.61 FIP/3.83 xFIP) and Franklin Morales (1.50 ERA/3.25 FIP/4.23 xFIP) had excellent fortnights while Jon Lester (4.79 ERA/3.27 FIP/3.09 xFIP) seems to have shaken off his bad form of two weeks ago. Now for the bad news. Aaron Cook (7.47 ERA/6.97 FIP/4.50 xFIP) needs another live chicken to sacrifice. And Josh Beckett (10.57 ERA/9.47 FIP/7.08 xFIP) has made Aaron Cook look good.
In the bullpen, nobody gets the Blutarsky ERA Award. That is a first for this season. Craig Breslow (2.45 ERA/2.81 FIP/5.22 xFIP) has pitched very well since coming from the Diamondbacks, as has Junichi Tazawa (2.08 ERA/3.77 FIP/2.13 xFIP). Mark Melancon (7.94 ERA/5.73 FIP/4.21 xFIP), Andrew Miller (5.79 ERA/5.87 FIP/4.03 xFIP) and closer Alfredo Aceves (6.75 ERA/5.71 FIP/4.67 xFIP) are just not getting the job done. Whither Daniel Bard? Andrew Bailey? El Guapo?
With their recent 11-game losing streak, the Indians have played themselves out of playoff contention. I’m starting to wonder if that wouldn’t be more pleasing than rooting for a .500 team.