Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 3 observations

  • As Happy Gilmore might say (in the as yet unreleased sequel Happy Gilmore 2: Happy Takes the Hill), “somebody learned how to pitch”. Since my last observations, the Red Sox are 5-1 and the starting pitchers have given up a total of 4 runs over those six games. To put that in perspective, in the first 2 turns through the rotation, every pitcher but Josh Beckett gave up at least 4 runs in one start. Since the first game of the Toronto series, the staff ERA has held constant or gone down in every game thanks to a 0.88 Starters ERA over that span (granted the staff ERA was at 6.79 at the time, but now is down to 4.50).
    Rk Gtm Date Opp Rslt ERA
    12 12 Apr 15 TOR L,6-7 6.79
    13 13 Apr 16 TOR W,4-1 6.32
    14 14 Apr 17 TOR W,8-1 5.92
    15 15 Apr 18 TOR W,9-1 5.58
    16 16 Apr 19 OAK L,0-5 5.58
    17 17 Apr 20 OAK W,5-3 5.42
    18 18 Apr 21 LAA W,4-2 5.16
    19 19 Apr 22 LAA W,4-3 4.99
    20 20 Apr 23 LAA W,5-0 4.73
    21 21 Apr 24 LAA W,7-0 4.50
    Provided by View Original Table
    Generated 4/25/2011.
    Maybe it was the weak bats of the AL West (Anaheim and Oakland both rank in the bottom half of the league in runs scored and OBP), but for the most part, all the Red Sox starters looked strong last week, starting with the much-needed-or-else-Red-Sox-Nation-would-mumify-him-in-82.5-million-one-dollar-bills turn around from...
  • John Lackey. With Sloth the only pitcher to get 2 starts between my weekly observations, the Red Sox could have lost the little bit of momentum they had built up at the end of week 2 with their first winning streak of the season. While Sloth took the loss in his first start of the week (6 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 ER), thus ending the win streak, he looked much more like the slightly above average starter that the team pays $15+ million to and a lot less like the 75 year old man that threw to Josh Hamilton when he hit a million home runs (approximately) in the Yankee Stadium derby a couple years ago. Then after the Sox reeled off 4 wins in a row, Sloth decides to come out and pitch like the guy who drew the Game 1 start for the Angels in their first World Series appearance as a rookie (8 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 0 ER). With this mountain of a man now back on the straight and narrow, all we need is another guy who is straight and very narrow to get back on track…
  • Clay Buchholz. Fire Marshall Bill has been pretty bad this year. I’ve discussed his out of the ordinary home run problems, which aren’t so bad yet if you remove his first start fluke, but the more concerning trend is his strike out to walk ratio. The last 2 years, Fire Marshall Bill has had a pretty low 6.5 strikeouts per nine and a sort of high 3.5 walks per nine, for a strike out to walk ratio around 1.85 (league average last year was 6.8, 3.2 and 2.11, respectively). This year his SO/9 is 4.4 and BB/9 is 6.2. So much for Cy Buchholz. A lot of people expected a regression from his sparkling 2.33 ERA because of the below average SO/BB ratio, but not to this level. While I think he’s still got the best stuff on the team, he’s returning to Deer in the Headlights Buchholz (wow 3 nicknames in one paragraph) from 2008-09 that would wet his pants, dry heave and sob uncontrollably every time he put a batter on first. He needs to learn to trust his stuff and take a cue from fellow nibbler…
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka. Another awesome start from Dice K (8 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 0 ER). In his last 2 starts he has allowed 2 hits and 0 ER. The 3 walks were a little high, but when coupled with 9 Ks and 1 hit, we are looking at probably the second best start by any Sox pitcher this season (behind Beckett’s Yankees demolition). I don’t really know what is happening here and I definitely am not expecting it to continue, but he is throwing his fastball much better than I have seen in quite a while and using a good mix of pitches to get hitters out. His walk rate is currently the lowest it’s been since his rookie season and if he can keep that up maybe the city of Boston won’t take to the streets with pitch forks and torches in order to run him out of town. Maybe Curt Young is to thank for finally getting through to him, or maybe it is, as the Boston media wants you to think, due to the healing powers of…
  • Jason Varitek. The Captain was brought back for his 14th season with the Red Sox to serve as a mentor for Jarrod Saltalamacchia (spelled that right without even looking it up!) and be one of the better hitting back up catchers. To this point he has failed on the latter duty, with just 2 hits in 27 at bats, but his former role has morphed from “mentor” to “caddy”. Varitek has started 8 games this year, which includes 3 Josh Beckett starts and 3 Dice K starts. Each pitcher had a rough start to the season, but has seemingly found their way in the last 2 or 3 starts with Varitek behind the dish. Red Sox pitchers have a 2.07 ERA while throwing to Varitek and just a 6.14 ERA while throwing to Salty. Does this mean Tek is the superior game caller and should be catching even more? Or is this just the vagaries of small sample sizes from early season results? Later this week I will look more in depth at personal catchers (as it appears Varitek will now be for Beckett and maybe Dice K) and in doing so will examine the effect of catchers on pitchers’ performance. My guess is that whoever catches this week, we will still see some great results against the likes of…
  • The Baltimore Orioles. The darlings of the first week of the season after starting 6-1 have plummeted back down to the sad and lonely basement of the AL East at 8-12. Their pitchers have given up the second most runs per game in the AL and their young starters besides Zach Britton have been bad. Their offense, which was supposed to be much improved this year with the import of veterans Vladimir Guerrerro, Mark Reynolds and Derek Lee, currently features only two players with an above average OPS (Matt Wieters and Brian Roberts). Whatever good juju that Buck Showalter brought with him at the end of last season has vanished faster than a Bugle Boys t-shirt at Mike Leake’s nearest Macy’s. Come mid-season I would expect to see a massive fire sale from this team of guys like Guerrero, Reynolds, Lee, J.J. Hardy and Jeremy Guthrie and it may be time to give up on Nick Markakis and Roberts and try to build around the young starters and Matt Wieters. At least they have the pieces to trade off for a rebuild, which is more than I can say for the Red Sox other opponents this week…
  • The Seattle Mariners. They have given up just slightly fewer runs per game than the Orioles, but they also have the defending AL Cy Young (Felix Hernandez) and the front runner for AL Rookie of the Year (Michael Pineda). They are just barely staying out of the basement in runs scored thanks to a strong start by Justin Smoak and Ichiro doing Ichiro things, but their offense is complete garbage once again. There are a couple nice pieces in the minors (the team ranked in the middle of the pack on most prospect rankings this year), but they have very little to trade away unless they decide it is time to send Ichiro packing. Chone Figgins has been an epic bust and has a big contract. Milton Bradley makes Ron Artest look like a Jonas brother on horse tranquilizers. Erik Bedard is striking guys out but also giving up home runs like Way Back Jon Wasdin. It just doesn’t seem like this team is well positioned for a quick turn-around. I’d be shocked if the Sox didn’t go at least 4-2 this week…
  • Small (basket)ball: Due to family obligations, I wasn’t able to watch much of either Game 3 or Game 4 in the Celtics-Knicks series, so I will not be doing a full write up of the end of the series. But I will provide a couple quick hits before giving a full preview of what will probably be a Celtics-Heat Conference Semis battle for the ages…What can you say about Playoff Rondo that hasn’t been said already? For all his flaws, Rondo will go down as one of the greatest post season performers of all time. He does stuff that we have never seen and will never see again. If the Celtics are to have any shot at 18, it will come down to Rondo, and though I had my doubts before the playoffs started, I am starting to believe the little guy could do it…What a fun game last Friday night. A great teammate shootout by Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (combined for 70 points!) and some strong defense and rebounding from KG and JO. No starter had a plus/minus lower than +23. I always say that I don’t really think playoff experience means anything, but I do think the playoffs can bring more out of certain players and I think we have 4 of them on our team…Unfortunately, the playoffs have had the opposite effect on the bench. I’ve already written enough about my doubts of Glen Davis and Jeff Green, but this is getting out of hand. These guys cannot keep giving away the leads that the starters build up if we expect to get through to the finals. If they were struggling against other team’s starters I would understand, but to do it against the scrubs of the Knicks? Thankfully Doc will have a week to figure out what to do with these guys. Please do not sign them long term Danny…4 wins down and 12 more to go before we hang number 18. It was a fun series win, but in the immortal words of our injured starting center, Shaquille O’Neal, “We’re focusing on the whole pie, not a slice. A slice is good, but it’s not good enough to get you fat. We’re trying to get fat.

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