Having won three of four against the Royals, the Boston Red Sox (62-67, 12.5 games behind in the AL East) head west for their last West Coast trip of the year, starting off against the Los Angeles Angels (66-62, 10 games behind in the AL West). Both teams are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
Jered Weaver (facing Clay Buchholz on Tuesday night’s opener) has taken a small step back or a small step forward, depending on which statistics you believe. Weaver’s ERA is 2.74 (32% better than league average), right in the middle of his past two excellent seasons, but we all know that ERA lies, don’t we? Weaver’s FIP is 3.53, “only” 14% better than average, and his xFIP is 4.06, only 2% better than average. Why is that? It is most likely due to Weaver’s decrease in strikeouts from 9.35/9 in 2012 to 6.87/9 this season. On the good side, Weaver batting average against is .207 (third best in baseball) and his WHIP leads the league at 0.98. Your choice.
C.J. Wilson (versus Zach Stewart) is a strikeout pitcher that is getting in trouble with walks. 141 Ks in 164.1 innings is pretty good, but not when matched with 72 walks. Add that to Wilson’s .233 batting average against and you get a 1.33 WHIP, which is not what the Angels thought they were buying in free agency. Wilson’s pitching triple slash line of 3.83 ERA/3.91 FIP/4.07 xFIP put him slightly above average (5%/4%/2% respectively) in all three categories. The Angels need Wilson to be more of a @str8edgeracer than a slightly above average pitcher.
Zack Greinke (against Jon Lester in Thursday night’s finale) hasn’t pitched well since arriving in LA via trade but a closer look at the numbers show he’s been a bit of a victim of unlucky homers. Greinke’s pitching triple slash line for the Angels is 5.22 ERA/4.68 FIP/4.12 xFIP. As home run/fly ball rates tend to fluctuate from year to year, xFIP tries to correct that by calculating how many homers a pitcher should have given up (as opposed to how many he did give up). Greinke has a terrible 15.8% HR/FB rate for the Angels, yet for the Brewers earlier this year it was 8.2% and in 2009 for the Royals, his HR/FB rate was an excellent 4.5%. Granted, a 4.12 ERA (assuming Greinke’s ERA matched his xFIP) would be exactly league average this year, but it certainly would look better than his current 5.22 ERA (29% worse than league average). Keep the ball down, Zack!
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, the Angels have a lot of hot hitters: Albert Pujols (.370/.393/.815, .503 wOBA, 228 wRC), Howie Kendrick (.341/.383/.591, .420 wOBA, 171 wRC), Mike Trout (.314/.375/.549, .403 wOBA, 159 wRC), Erick Aybar (.333/.347/.542, .378 wOBA, 142 wRC) and Chris Iannetta (.361/.385/.500, .377 wOBA, 141 wRC). However, Mark Trumbo (.224/.255/.286, .230 wOBA, 40 wRC), Kendrys Morales (.250/.283/.364, .282 wOBA, 76 wRC) and Torii Hunter (.265/.333/.286 .293 wOBA, 84 wRC) haven’t hit well in the last two weeks.
The bullpen has been the Achilles heel (sorry for the pun, Sox fans) of the Angels this season. When they can get to him, Ernesto Frieri (2.21 ERA/3.24 FIP/3.30 xFIP) is usually lights out, but his bad 5.09 BB/9 is more than outweighed by his 14.27 K/9 (third in the league when including relievers). Scott Downs (3.08 ERA/3.49 FIP/3.77 xFIP) is also having a good year. However, in respect to our new friends at Halos Daily, I’ll avoid listing the bad parts of the pen in detail, but you can find the ugly numbers here.
RHP Michael Kohn (recovery from April 2012 Tommy John surgery) is out for the season. LF Jeremy Moore (recovery from March 2012 left hip surgery) is on the 60-day DL. CF Peter Bourjos (sore right wrist) is on the 15-day DL. 1B Albert Pujols (left calf inflammation) is day-to-day but is expected to play in this series.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Taking three of four from the lowly Royals was a bit of a tonic for the Red Sox, but it may have been the case of the Sox flattering to deceive. Who cares, they hadn’t won a series in almost four weeks. The hot hitters for the (current) Red Sox in the past two weeks have been Dustin Pedroia (.310/.355/.621, .413 wOBA, 160 wRC), Pedro Ciriaco (.380/.404/.520, .413 wOBA, 160 wRC), Cody Ross (.320/.346/.480, .355 wOBA, 120 wRC), Scott Podsednik (.378/.391/.422, .351 wOBA, 117 wRC) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.310/.344/.431, .341 wOBA, 110 wRC). But the battery of Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.226/.286/.323, .268 wOBA, 60 wRC) and Ryan Lavarnway (.233/.281/.267, .247 wOBA, 46 wRC) continue their best impression of a black hole.
This is current state of the Red Sox starters: in yesterday’s start Daisuke Matsuzaka (0.00 ERA/2.24 FIP/4.55 xFIP) posted a 0.3 fWAR, which leads all Red Sox starters’ in fWAR posted in two freakin’ weeks. Over those two weeks, Jon Lester (2.57 ERA/4.81 FIP/3.79 xFIP) pitched pretty well but the rest of the starters – Aaron Cook (4.96 ERA/4.20 FIP/4.03 xFIP), Clay Buchholz (6.75 ERA/4.67 FIP/4.04 xFIP), Felix Doubront (7.20 ERA/4.09 FIP/2.67 xFIP) and Franklin Morales (7.88 ERA/9.22 FIP/4.56 xFIP) – were a combination of terrible, average or unlucky.
In the bullpen, Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/1.97 FIP/3.35 xFIP) and Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/2.86 FIP/3.54 xFIP) qualified for the Blutarsky ERA Award, while Junichi Tazawa (1.42 ERA/1.67 FIP/2.60 xFIP) – inherited runners aside – and Andrew Bailey (1.69 ERA/2.72 FIP/5.20 xFIP) also pitched well. Clayton Mortensen (5.79 ERA/3.74 FIP/1.27 xFIP) was about as unlucky as you can get. With his 7.36 BB/9 Andrew Miller (9.82 ERA/3.37 FIP/4.57 xFIP) proved that walks are bad, m’mkay? And Alfredo Aceves (11.25 ERA/8.59 FIP/4.30 xFIP) was lucky that it wasn’t Bobby V. slamming the door in his face rather than the other way around.
The Angels are starting to remind me of the Steve Miller Band song “Fly Like An Eagle”. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. The Angels need to make a charge to get back into the AL Wild Card race and aren’t yet making it happen. They’re “only” 4.5 games back of a Wild Card spot but have two teams to leapfrog. I’m starting to wonder if they can get the job done.