Since last night was one of the rare times where I'm not drinking beer during a Red Sox game, the title of today's post is "Thoughts I Think." I stole this from my talented girlfriend Sadie, who uses this "catch phrase" after she says something...profound about the world. If she ever starts a site where she shares these thoughts with the rest of you then she can have it back.
The Sox lost a rough one yesterday to the struggling Toronto Blue Jays, 9-7. Let's start with some positives though.
- David Ortiz is out of his mind right now. Let's first remember that he is 37 years old and he just came back ten days ago from TWO injured heels. The first couple games back you could kind of tell he wasn't fully right as he wasn't really driving the ball, instead looking to get on base and help the team any way he can. But around his 4th game he started absolutely destroying baseballs and he hasn't stopped. He has hit safely in all 9 games this year. He has had at least 2 hits in 7 of the 9 games, and in the two he didn't he at least hit a double in one and a home run in the other. If RBI are your thing (they are certainly not mine), he already has 15 on the season, placing him 23rd in the AL in just 36 at bats. Travis Hafner has the next fewest at bats in the top 23, with 66. The home run he hit last night was an absolute bomb and if possible I think he actually hit that bases clearing double even harder. Papi shoulda been the hero last night.
- Jon Lester wasn't actually that terrible last night. His pitches looked good and hard. He got some key strikeouts when he needed them. When he missed, he missed low for the most part. Even the home run to Encarnacion was a cutter that he just didn't quite get inside far enough. What really did him in was some bad luck finally catching up with him in the form of allowing runners on base to score (and Salty, but I'll get to him later). I pointed this out to Joe Black yesterday, but I read this sentence somewhere that said "Lester, Lackey and Buchholz, who have struggled at times with men on base, have set career highs this season while stranding (leaving men on base at the end of innings) 81, 86 and 90 percent of their baserunners respectively." Stranding baserunners is generally not a skill as most pitchers basically strand between 70 and 75 percent of baserunners over the course of the season. When you see that someone is setting a career high in something that is not a skill in April, you can expect them to regress towards that average. Last night, Lester regressed, allowing 6 out of 9 baserunners to score for a 33% strand rate.
- Jacoby and Dustin had strong games last night, and though Daniel Nava didn't do much, those three guys are the real reason that Ortiz and Mike Napoli are both in the top 25 in the AL for RBI this year (23rd and 3rd, respectively). RBI is a context based stat and unless you are Justin Upton (12 home runs and 19 RBI) you need runners on base in front of you to accrue RBI. If the Sox had Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks batting 1 and 2, neither Papi nor Napoli would be racking up the RBI like they are because Drew and Big Willie don't get on base enough so far.
- I love it when a platoon comes together! Mike Carp (lefty) started the game in left field with the right handed Brandon Morrow on the mound. In his second at bat he abused a Morrow slider to deep right field for his first home run of the year. Then in the 6th, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought in lefty reliever Aaron Loup so Farrell, recognizing that every at bat was important from here on with a 3 run deficit, countered by bringing in Jonny Gomes (righty) for Carp. Gomes crushed a fastball to deep left center for his first home run of the year. Platoons, when used right, can be a beautiful thing.
- Gibbons horribly mismanaged his bullpen last night despite the victory. First he pulled Morrow after only 96 pitches and 5 innings. I understand pitch counts, but to that point he had already struck out Mike Napoli twice and he was the first batter in the sixth inning. He could have at least sent him out for one more batter.
- Then he brought in a side arming lefty to face the righty Napoli. Also, besides Carp, there were no lefty hitters coming up again until the number 9 hitter, Stephen Drew. Loup was able to get through 7 batters before being pulled after his short stop committed an error to put men on first and third with one out in the 7th and a two run lead.
- So Gibbons then brought in a right handed reliever Steve Delabar to face Pedroia and Ortiz. Delabar at that point had 12 walks in just over 14 innings, so he's not really a great candidate to put into a game with runners on base and less than 2 outs. Shockingly he walked Pedroia and then Ortiz crushed the double.
- Finally, Gibbons brought in a second lefty specialist, the immortal Darren Oliver, in the 8th to face the bottom of the Red Sox order. If he had a second lefty specialist, why didn't he bring him in to face Ortiz with the bases loaded in the 7th inning when it really mattered?
- One other ridiculous move Gibbons made was pinch hitting for Rajai Davis in the 7th inning after he had been on base 3 times in the game and had wreaked havoc on the base paths. Adam Lind, his replacement, struck out.
- I love watching Morrow pitch. He doesn't really know where the ball is going, but he throws it really frigging hard and with a ton of movement. People have been waiting for him to emerge as an ace for years, but he just can't control his amazing stuff. His matchup against Ortiz in the 5th was a thing of beauty. After getting lucky with throwing a high changeup/splitter for a ball on the first pitch, he came back with two filthy splitters down in the zone that Ortiz swung through. Then on the last pitch he threw a 90 MPH slider in the same location but with the opposite break, completely fooling the hottest hitter on the planet. For a baseball geek it was like Princess Leia in a bikini.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I will not mention how beautiful I think your swing is anymore unless you stop throwing the ball to first to pick off runners. You can barely throw to second or the pitcher for that matter, stop snap throwing to first. You have done this a few times this year already and luckily come away unscathed, but finally you were scathed hard last night and you deserved it. Stop it right now. I used to be a lefty catcher and it was always really hard for me to try and throw runners out at third because I would have to catch the pitch then awkwardly pivot my body. It's the same thing with a righty throwing to first. Unless you magically ingested the soul of Ivan Rodriguez, just stop.
- Tough night for Junichi Tazawa. Still have lots of faith in him, but homers for him and Koji Uehara could prove to be a problem this year.
- Joel Hanrahan, sucking my hat (that's what SMH means right? I seriously only know what LOL and BRB mean as far as computer talk goes).
- Finally, Will Middlebrooks needs a rest. Or a hug. Or a sip from Jobu's rum. Poor guy is so lost right now. It's probably the wrist and a lack of plate discipline, but it just looks sad.