After being swept at the hands of the Orioles, the Boston Red Sox (69-90, 23 games behind in the AL East) jump on the Acela Express to New York City for their final series of the season against the New York Yankees (92-67, tied for first in the AL East and in the AL Wild Card race). The Yankees, who won their last game, have clinched a spot in the playoffs. The Red Sox, who lost their last five games in a row, clinched their worst record since 1966. If results fall right, the Red Sox could finish the season in a tie for last place in the entire American League. Yay, draft position!
STARTING PITCHERS: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda
CC Sabathia (versus Clay Buchholz) has had another excellent year but not as excellent as in previous years. In 2011, Sabathia posted a 3.00 ERA/2.88 FIP/3.02 xFIP triple slash line but in 2012 he rated out at 3.42 ERA/3.35 FIP/3.19 xFIP. The difference wasn’t due to strikeouts or walks, as Sabathia increased his strikeout rate slightly (8.91 in 2012 vs. 8.72 in 2011) and decreased his walk rate (2.02 in 2012 to 2.31 in 2011) The difference between the two years can likely be attributed to home runs. In 2011 Sabathia surrendered 17 homers in 237.1 innings pitched but in 2011 he has surrendered 21 homers in 192 innings. Of note, Sabathia is still a hard thrower but his fastball is at a career low velocity of 92.4 mph in 2012.
Ivan Nova (against Jon Lester) has had a disaster of a season – or has he? In 2011, Nova racked up a 3.70 ERA/4.01 FIP/4.16 xFIP pitching triple slash line with 5.33 K/9, 3.10 BB/9, 8.4% HR/FB (13 homers in 165.1 IP, 0/71 HR/9), an excellent 52.7% GB rate and, notably, a .283 BABIP. Looking at those numbers, I would have called the 2011 version of Nova as slightly lucky and due for a slight regression. In 2012, Nova posted a 5.02 ERA/4.61 FIP/3.93 xFIP triple slash line, 8.08 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 16.6 % HR/FB (28 homers in 170.1 innings pitched, 1.48 HR/9), a still very good 45.2% ground ball rate and, most notably a .331 BABIP. If you focus on strikeouts and walks, Nova improved greatly over 2011. Nova’s ground ball rate declined but is still very good. But take a look at Nova’s xFIP versus his ERA – it’s 1.09 lower. This tells us that Nova has pitched much better than his ERA would indicate and should have given up many fewer homers than he did. His BABIP is also very unlucky. Going forward, Nova is again due for some regression, this time to the good side.
Hiroki Kuroda (facing Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Red Sox season finale on Wednesday night) is a pitcher the Red Sox could be looking at in 2013 (if he is again looking for a one-year deal). Kuroda’s triple slash line for 2012 is 3.34 ERA/3.91 FIP/3.68 xFIP, which is slightly worse than his 3.07 ERA/3.78 FIP/3.56 xFIP line for the Dodgers in 2011 (but this could also be attributed to the switch to the hitter-friendly American League). However, Kuroda’s fWAR rose from 2.2 in 2011 to 3.6 in 2012. Although Kuroda has given up 25 homers in 2012 (and it’s not the short porch in the Bronx to blame – 12 homers at home, 13 on the road), his ground ball rate was a career-best 52.4%. The Red Sox could do worse than offer him the same 1 year, $10 mil deal that he got this year as John Lackey insurance.
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Nick Swisher, 1B
6. Curtis Granderson, CF
7. Raul Ibanez, LF
8. Russell Martin, C
9. Eric Chavez, DH
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, the regular Yankee starters who hit well were Raul Ibanez (.364/.400/.727, .474 wOBA, 205 wRC), Eric Chavez (.286/.423/.714, .470 wOBA, 202 wRC), Ichiro Suzuki (.439/.450/.632, .468 wOBA, 201 wRC), Nick Swisher (.354/.466/.625, .464 wOBA, 198 wRC) and Robinson Cano (.375/.410/.482, .385 wOBA, 144 wRC). The Yankee hitters who lagged behind were Derek Jeter (.264/.339/.283, .285 wOBA, 75 wRC), Curtis Granderson (.130/.232/.283, .231 wOBA, 38 wRC) and Alex Rodriguez (.200/.298/.200, .232 wOBA, 38 wRC).
Show me a good team and I’ll show you a good bullpen, and the Yankees are no exception. Led by closer Rafael Soriano (2.19 ERA/3.15 FIP/3.73 xFIP), the Yankees bullpen is pretty good, but not quite as good as the bullpen the Red Sox saw in Baltimore this past weekend. Also pitching well for the Yankees is elite set-up man (remember when the Red Sox had one of those?) David Robertson (2.72 ERA/2.55 FIP/2.74 xFIP), Clay Rapada (2.84 ERA/3.26 FIP/3.74 xFIP), David Phelps (2.76 ERA/4.10 FIP/3.82 xFIP) and old friend Derek Lowe (3.32 ERA/3.80 FIP/3.75 xFIP).
3B Jayson Nix (sore left hip flexor), RHP Michael Pineda (right anterior labral tear) and RHP Mariano Rivera (torn right ACL) are out for the season, but Nix may return for the playoffs. LHP Cesar Cabral (stress fracture in left elbow), LHP Pedro Feliciano (recovery from September 2011 shoulder surgery) and RHP Brad Meyers (right shoulder strain) are on the 60-day DL and are not expected to return until 2013. 1B Mark Teixeira (irritation of Grade 1 left calf strain) is day-to-day but may return for this series.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
The Red Sox may have checked out for the season but I haven’t. In the last edition of The Advanced Scout, I told you that my criteria for a hot hitter was a wRC of over 125, and that only one hitter broke that barrier (but I gave another credit for coming close). In this two week stretch, not one Red Sox hitter was even “close enough for rock and roll” to 125 wRC to call any one of them a hot hitter. So I won’t. Concomitantly, the list of cold Red Sox hitters is quite long: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.120/.290/.280, .268 wOBA, 60 wRC), Dustin Pedroia (.205/.275/.273, .254 wOBA, 50 wRC), Jose Iglesias (.172/.250/.310, .251 wOBA, 48 wRC), Danny Valencia (.188/.188/.375, .238 wOBA, 39 wRC), Mauro Gomez (.208/.240/.292, .232 wOBA, 35 wRC), Cody Ross (.196/.224/.326, .231 wOBA, 34 wRC), James Loney (.174/.286/.174, .224 wOBA, 29 wRC), Mike Aviles (.250/.308/.250. .218 wOBA, 25 wRC), Pedro Ciriaco (.244/.277/.289, .215 wOBA, 23 wRC) and Ryan Lavarnway (.190/.209/.262, .206 wOBA, 17 wRC).
As for the starters, Felix Doubront (3.15 ERA/3.16 FIP/3.10 xFIP) and Clay Buchholz (2.77 ERA/3.64 FIP/4.34 xFIP) pitched very well. In the bullpen, Rich Hill (0.00 ERA/-1.89 FIP/0.31 xFIP), Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/1.44 FIP/2.42 xFIP), Scott Atchison (0.00 ERA/2.11 FIP/2.84 xFIP), Pedro Beato (0.00 ERA/1.39 FIP/2.65 xFIP) and Andrew Miller (0.00 ERA/13.61 FIP/15.81 xFIP, you lucky dog, you!) share the final Blutarsky ERA Award of the year. Junichi Tazawa (1.69 ERA/1.23 FIP/2.06 xFIP) and Mark Melancon (2.08 ERA/-0.36 FIP/-0.36 xFIP) also pitched very well out of the pen.
The Red Sox can’t keep the Yankees out of the playoffs anymore, but they could put them into the Wild Card game. Let’s hope they have enough pride to try to do that.
On a personal note, I want you to know what a pleasure it was to bring you The Advanced Scout this season. I hope you had 1/100th the fun reading it as I had writing it, because that would have meant you had quite the quantity of fun. See you next season.