After getting swept by the Angels, the Boston Red Sox (62-70, 14 games back in the AL East) travel north on their final West Coast trip of the season to take on the Oakland Athletics (73-57, 4 games back in the AL West). The Athletics are 8-2 in their last 10 and have won 6 in a row. The Red Sox are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have lost 3 in a row. The Athletics have a 77.0% chance of making the playoffs while the Red Sox have a 0.1% chance of making the post-season. So you’re telling me there’s a chance. Yeah!
Brandon McCarthy (versus Aaron Cook in the opener) has put together a pretty decent season but a closer look at the numbers shows that he’s just been average. McCarthy’s ERA of 3.12 (21% better than league average) looks pretty nice but his advanced pitching triple slash line statistics (3.73 FIP – 7% better than league average, 4.18 xFIP – 1% worse than league average) tell a bit of a different story. McCarthy has a nifty 3.00 K/BB, which is right where a pitcher wants to be, but that number is comprised of a nice 2.05 BB/9 with an average 6.15 K/9. While McCarthy’s batting average against is an uninspiring .256 at least those hits don’t usually leave the park – his homer to fly ball ratio is a very nice 8.1%, surrendering only 9 homers in 101 innings, but park factors probably come into play with that.
Brett Anderson (facing Felix Doubront) is back from recovering from Tommy John surgery and he is back in a big way. Small sample size alert, but Anderson has pitched 7 innings in each of his two starts, surrendering only one run total with 11 strikeouts against 2 walks and six hits. Most encouraging, Anderson is throwing his two-seamer at a 91.3 mph average, which is only 0.1 mph slower than in 2010 (his last healthy season), and his 92.0 mph four-seamer is only 0.7 mph slower than 2010. Anderson is announcing his presence with authority. If Anderson stays hot, Oakland might hold on for the Wild Card and could be a tough out in the playoffs.
Tommy Milone (against Daisuke Matsuzaka in Sunday afternoon’s finale) is basically Brandon McCarthy with less of a variance in his pitching triple slash line. Milone’s 3.73 ERA isn’t as sexy as McCarthy’s but the rest of his slash line (3.92 FIP, 4.00 xFIP) compares pretty well with McCarthy. Milone has a 3.77 K/BB which, like McCarthy’s, consists of a very low BB/9 (1.75) with an average K/9. And to top it all off, Milone has the exact same batting average against (.256) as McCarthy. The only real difference between the two pitchers is that Milone has been susceptible to the long ball this season, giving up 20 dingers in 159.1 innings pitched. I bet Tommy calls Brandon in the morning to see what he is wearing so he can wear the same thing.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks the Athletics (as you might expect from a team making a playoff run – remember what that looks like?) has many hitters who are heating up: Josh Donaldson (.360/.429/.600, .438 wOBA, 185 wRC), Coco Crisp (.308/.345/.635, .419 wOBA, 172 wRC), Josh Reddick (.348/.375/.543, .383 wOBA, 147 wRC), Yoenis Cespedes (.308/.345/.500, .364 wOBA, 134 wRC), Brandon Moss (.292/.346/.542, .360 wOBA, 131 wRC), Chris Carter (.289/.320/.533, .354 wOBA, 127 wRC) and Seth Smith (.300/.353/.500, .351 wOBA, 125 wRC). Derek Norris (.188/.278/.250, .245 wOBA, 52 wRC), Cliff Pennington (.207/.250/.345, .272 wOBA, 71 wRC) and Stephen Drew (.219/.333/.281, .289 wOBA, 83 wRC) haven’t hit so well in the last 14 days, but at least Drew is getting on base via the walk. Billy Beane has always liked that.
In the bullpen, the current Athletics relievers have ERAs that are just sick. Sean Doolittle (3.23 ERA/0.95 FIP/2.58 xFIP) has the highest ERA of the group, and has pitched much better than his ERA indicates. Ryan Cook (2.40 ERA/3.32 FIP/3.82 xFIP), Grant Balfour (2.54 ERA/3.45 FIP/4.05 xFIP), Evan Scribner (2.95 ERA/3.24 FIP/3.81 xFIP), Jerry Blevins (2.67 ERA/4.10 FIP/4.26 xFIP), Pat Neshek (1.08 ERA/3.46 FIP/3.66 xFIP) and Travis Blackley (1.83 ERA/3.81 FIP/3.91 xFIP) all have a lower ERA than Doolittle. Granted, their advanced statistics aren’t matching up with their ERA, which could indicate that they can’t sustain this level of success, but so far they have been preventing runs from scoring, which is their job.
LHP Dallas Braden (recovery from August 2012 left shoulder surgery), RHP Andrew Carignan (recovery from June 2012 Tommy John surgery), RHP Joey Devine (recovery from April 2012 Tommy John surgery) and 2B Scott Sizemore (recovery from March 2012 knee (ACL) surgery) are out for the season. RHP A.J. Griffin (strained right shoulder), 3B Brandon Inge (sprained right shoulder), LHP Jordan Norberto (left shoulder tendinitis) and RHP Eric Sogard (strained back, high left ankle sprain) are on the 15-day DL.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
James Loney hit a homer. That was the highlight of the series against the Angels. Let’s move on.
The hot hitters in the last two weeks for the Red Sox have been James Loney (.412/.444/.588, .445 wOBA, 182 wRC), Nick Punto (.333/.429/.500, .438 wOBA, 177 wRC – really? – ok, he was 2 for 6, but it’s the first time he’s been on this side of the ledger all year, got to give him credit), Mauro Gomez (.364/.462/.545, .436 wOBA, 175 wRC), Dustin Pedroia (.291/.350/.564, .382 wOBA, 138 wRC), Pedro Ciriaco (.352/.364/.463, .371 wOBA, 131 wRC) and Mike Aviles (.333/.341/.538, .365 wOBA, 127 wRC). Ryan Lavarnway (.229/.300/.286, .263 wOBA, 57 wRC) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.233/.294/.433, .310 wOBA, 89 wRC) are still cold, but Salty chipped in with 2 homers. And Jose Iglesias (.000/.000/.000, .000 wOBA, -100 wRC) can get a hit any day now, m’mkay?
As for the starters, who saw Daisuke Matsuzaka’s (0.00 ERA/2.25 FIP/4.55 xFIP) start coming? Seven innings, not nibbling at the corners, and pitching at a brisk pace? Who are you and what have you done with Daisuke? Jon Lester (3.68 ERA/4.42 FIP/4.31 xFIP) took a small step back in his start against the Angels. Felix Doubront (7.20 ERA/4.10 FIP/2.68 xFIP) was pretty unlucky with homers (25% HR/FB) and ERA, as a 12.60/3.60 K/BB should yield better results. And I don’t want to talk about any more starters. I can’t take it.
In the pen, Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/2.87 FIP/3.55 xFIP) and Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/2.10 FIP/3.57 xFIP) again share the Blutarsky ERA Award. Junichi Tazawa (2.16 ERA/1.90 FIP/2.61 xFIP) and Andrew Bailey (1.80 ERA/2.50 FIP/5.14 xFIP) are also pitching very well, although Bailey has to watch out for those fly balls (32% GB rate). And that’s all I want to say about the bullpen.
The Oakland Athletics are getting hot at the right time. With the return of Brett Anderson they’ve added an ace to their starters. They are hitting well and the bullpen is getting the job done. This is a very good team.