After losing two of three to the Royals during an emotional weekend, the Boston Red Sox (12-6, leading the AL East by 1.5 games) welcome the Oakland Athletics (12-7, .5 games behind in the AL West) to Fenway Park for a three-game series. (Please note the changes to the usual starting times in Boston – 6:35 on Monday and Tuesday, 4:05 on Wednesday.) The Red Sox have won seven of their last 10 games and have lost two in a row, while the Athletics have gone 5-5 in their last 10 and have lost their last three.
STARTING PITCHERS: A.J. Griffin, Bartolo Colon and Brett Anderson
A.J. Griffin (versus Felix Doubront in the opener) had an impressive rookie season in 2012 but his statistics are screaming “regression to the mean.” In 2012, Griffin posted a pitching line of 3.06 ERA/3.85 FIP/4.02 xFIP (good for a minus line of 77 ERA-/95 FIP-/97 xFIP-). His strikeout rate was a decent 7.00 K/9 and his walk rate was a very good 2.08 BB/9, and his homer-to-fly ball rate of 10.2% was just slightly above average. However, Griffin’s 2012 BABIP was .264, which shows that luck was on his side. SIERA rated Griffin as a pitcher who should have had a 3.94 ERA, which is still good but not nearly as good as the 3.06 actual ERA that he posted. So far in 2013, Griffin is striking out fewer batters (5.85 per nine) and walking more (3.15 per nine), and his BABIP is also lower (.250). Griffin has put up a pitching line of 2.25 ERA/3.43 FIP/4.53 xFIP, which is worrying, as his FIP and especially xFIP shows that his ERA is unsustainable. If Griffin’s BABIP comes anywhere near the league average of .300, his pitching line is going to get ugly fast.
Bartolo Colon (against his skinny doppleganger Alfredo Aceves), if you haven’t noticed, has put up some quality pitching in the past few years. In 2011 for the Yankees, Colon put up a pitching line of 4.00 ERA/3.83 FIP/3.57 xFIP and, in 2012 for the Athletics, put up a line of 3.43 ERA/3.82 FIP/4.17 xFIP, good for 2.8 and 2.4 WAR (respectively). Interestingly, Colon threw 89.9% of his pitches in 2012 as fastballs (34.2% four-seamers, 55.7% two-seamers), with the remainder distributed between sliders and changeups. Colon is continuing that trend in 2013 but with an emphasis on the four-seamer. Colon probably shouldn’t be fooling batters but he is.
Brett Anderson (facing Jon Lester in Wednesday afternoon’s finale) could be a top pitcher in the majors but for his injuries. It’s almost unfair to Anderson to analyze his statistics but that’s what we do here. In his only (relatively) healthy season of 2010, Anderson put up a pitching line of 2.80 ERA/3.21 FIP/3.62 xFIP, good for 2.4 WAR in 19 starts. After he returned from his July 2011 Tommy John surgery, Anderson put up a line of 2.57 ERA/2.72 FIP/3.06 xFIP in 6 starts. However, Anderson has gotten off to a bad start in 2013. His pitching line is 5.95 ERA/4.76 FIP/3.70 xFIP. Most notably, Anderson has walked an unacceptable 5.03 batters per nine innings and has a terrible 23.1% homer-to-fly ball ratio. Anderson needs to find the plate and avoid the fences to regain ace status.
1. Coco Crisp, CF
2. John Jaso, DH
3. Seth Smith, LF
4. Jed Lowrie, SS
5. Brandon Moss, 1B
6. Derek Norris, C
7. Josh Reddick, RF
8. Josh Donaldson, 3B
9. Eric Sogard, 2B
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
Many Athletics have hit well in the last two weeks, including Derek Norris (.368/.536/.579, .474 wOBA, 211 wRC), Coco Crisp (.324/.465/.618, .455 wOBA, 198 wRC), Seth Smith (.417/.488/.528, .440 wOBA, 188 wRC), Josh Donaldson (.318/.375/.545, .396 wOBA, 158 wRC), Brandon Moss (.308/.372/.538, .393 wOBA, 156 wRC), Eric Sogard (.355/.394/.484, .382 wOBA, 148 wRC) and Jed Lowrie (.310/.396/.405, .358 wOBA, 131 wRC). However, John Jaso (.228/.290/.316, .273 wOBA, 73 wRC), Josh Reddick (.103/.212/.138, .176 wOBA, 6 wRC) and Chris Young (.128/.180/.191, .170 wOBA, 2 wRC) haven’t been getting the job done.
In the Oakland bullpen, Jerry Blevins (1.42 ERA/0.82 FIP/2.59 xFIP, .333 BABIP) and Ryan Cook (0.00 ERA/1.60 FIP/3.42 xFIP, .211 BABIP) have pitched well in the last two weeks. Grant Balfour (1.80 ERA/4.63 FIP/3.43 xFIP, .231 BABIP) and Sean Doolittle (2.45 ERA/6.31 FIP/5.81 xFIP, .000 BABIP (wow!)) had decent ERAs in the fortnight but their peripherals are telling another story. Chris Resop (4.76 ERA/4.97 FIP/3.67 xFIP, .350 BABIP) was a bit below average in the last two weeks but got bitten by the BABIP monster.
LF Yoenis Cespedes (left hand strain, placed on the 15-day DL on April 13), SS Hiroyuki Nakajima (strained left hamstring, placed on the 15-day DL on March 30), RHP Fernando Rodriguez (recovery from March 2013 Tommy John surgery, placed on the 60-day DL on March 23), 2B Adam Rosales (strained left intercostal, placed on the 15-day DL on March 26) and 2B Scott Sizemore (torn ACL in left knee, placed on the 15-day DL on April 10, transferred to the 60-day DL on April 22).
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Daniel Nava (.306/.422/.556, .408 wOBA, 158 wRC, 3 homers) and Mike Napoli (.319/.373/.574, .404 wOBA, 156 wRC) continued to lead the Sox at the plate in the last two weeks. Dustin Pedroia (.293/.431/.317, .344 wOBA, 115 wRC) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.219/.265/.563, .351 wOBA, 119 wRC, 3 homers) also hit well, but Salty’s 35.3% K rate and his 5.9% walk rate will catch up to him. Honorable mention goes to David Ortiz (.625/.625/.750, .601 wOBA, 291 wRC) and Mike Carp (.455/.455/.909, .571 wOBA, 271 wRC), who excelled in limited plate appearances. On the other side of the ledger, David Ross (.133/.188/.333, .228 wOBA, 35 wRC), Pedro Ciriaco (.000/.250/.000, .173 wOBA, -4 wRC), Stephen Drew (.100/.206/.133, .170 wOBA, -5 wRC) and Will Middlebrooks (.093/.111/.093, .094 wOBA, -58 wRC) seemed to have disappeared into a black hole.
In the bullpen, Junichi Tazawa (0.00 ERA/0.03 FIP/0.96 xFIP, .182 BABIP) and Alex Wilson (0.00 ERA/3.53 FIP/4.23 xFIP, .300 BABIP) shared the Blutarsky ERA Award in Kojthe last two weeks. Koji Uehara (1.59 ERA/3.39 FIP/3.06 xFIP, .231 BABIP), Clayton Mortensen (1.93 ERA/1.96 FIP/3.46 xFIP, .167 BABIP) and closer Andrew Bailey (2.25 ERA/2.16 FIP/2.28 xFIP, .214 BABIP) also excelled. However, Andrew Miller (6.00 ERA/3.70 FIP/3.70 xFIP, .571 BABIP) is getting killed by walks and the BABIP monster.
One of the surprise squads in 2012, the Athletics are off to an excellent start in 2013. If Anderson can prove to be the ace that he can be, and if they continue hitting well, Oakland will have to be placed in the upper echelon of the American League.