Quick Thoughts on Red Sox Game #1

The good news is that for the first time since 2010 the Red Sox started 1-0.  The better news is that for the first time since 2010 that the Red Sox will not be swept in the first series of the season.  The new look Red Sox offense put a ton of pressure on Yankees ace CC Sabathia and Jon Lester got his first opening day victory in three tries for the Red Sox.  Here are some quick, very premature thoughts on the first game of the season.

  • Lester was sharp in all but 1 inning

    Lester was sharp in all but 1 inning

    Jon Lester looked sharp in all but 1 inning but that 1 inning is a killer.  Last year the guy would just lose himself at times and that is what led to his downfall.  It happened again in the 4th inning but luckily he got it back in the 5th to finish out the start and get the win.  Lester needs to eliminate that problem inning because the bottom line is he’s piling up too many damn pitches early in the game.  He can’t rely on the bullpen all season long to clean up his messes.

  • All that being said above the Red Sox bullpen did a hell of a job cleaning up his mess.  It was an interesting strategy by Farrell to use virtually everyone but it worked out today.  Andrew Miller showed how maddening he can be by walking the first two and striking out the next two.  Bailey and Hanrahan both had some extra juice on their fastballs today, they may have been saving that stuff for the regular season.  If the guys in the back end pitch like they did today this team will be tough to beat with a lead late in games.
  • Jonny Gomes celebrate his hustle run in the 7th

    Jonny Gomes celebrate his hustle run in the 9th

    The Red Sox offense did work without Napoli or Middlebrooks doing anything.  Crazy as it sounds I’m not rushing Papi back because Jonny Gomes is a gamer.  That was a great hustle play to score on Ellsbury’s infield single in the 9th.

  • It was nice to see the Red Sox get back to basics overall.  There was no half-assing on the base paths.  Iglesias did what he had to do to get on base with a bunt single and two infield hits.  Bradley walked 3 times, which is as many times as Crawford walked ALL SEASON last year.  They worked Sabathia early and drove up the pitch count and he only lasted 5 innings.  This is the kind of thing that you saw night in and night out during the Francona years and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come this season.
  • I can’t believe I saw Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk 3 times in the same baseball game.  I’ll wait and see if it was just an aberration or if he has finally learned how to take pitches.
  • Jackass

    Jackass

    It was a great start for the Red Sox no doubt but there is one thing that can’t be denied – the Yankees lineup sucks.  Every time they started a rally they’d have a scrub like Lyle Overbay or Jayson Nix come up (or is it Lance Nix?  I’m not even sure which one it was.)  Guys like Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, even Ichiro, these guys haven’t been any good in years and they are relying on them in key spots.  You could see that Youk strike out against Bailey in the 7th coming from a mile away.  Like we haven’t had that scouting report on him for a decade.  And he’s their clean-up hitter right now.

  • Joba Chamberlain looks like a jackass with his porn stache.
  • The thing that I hate about opening day is they play the first game and you are all pumped up for baseball to be back and then they don’t play again for another day and a half.  We’ll see if the Red Sox can make it 2 for 2 Wednesday night in the Bronx.

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Keep ‘Em Or Trade ‘Em – Red Sox Pitchers And Catchers Edition

Let’s get right to it…

Beckett will likely not be on his way out of town

SP Josh Beckett – I’ll get this one out of the way early.  Josh Beckett is not going anywhere.  For starters he is on the DL.  Then there is the fact that he is still owed upwards of $40 million over the next 3 seasons.  Thirdly he’s got 10/5 no-trade rights that gives him the right to refuse any trade.  That is probably the most important factor because surprisingly Beckett still likes pitching in Boston.  Maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe he likes the bar scene, maybe all of the hate keeps him motivated.  Who knows?  What I do know is that many people close to the veteran right-hander think that he’s none too anxious to waive his no-trade.  Due to the contract the return would be nothing special anyway and let’s face it, Beckett has been one of the most consistent starters for the Sox this season.  Of his 12 starts 8 have been quality starts.  Only Jon Lester has more quality starts, with 9 in 15 starts.  Beckett will probably play out his contract here so people should probably get used to him sticking around for a while.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP Jon Lester – This is similar to people saying that they should trade Pedroia.  I don’t really see the point…you don’t dump a guy after a poor 1/2 season.  He’s by far the most durable starter for the Sox over the past 2-3 years so I see little sense in giving him up when you have a lack of starting pitching depth.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP Clay Buchholz – I could copy and paste the above in this spot.  Like Lester he’s only 28 and signed to a team-friendly deal.  He had a bit of trouble coming back from his back injury from last season but he seems to have put that behind him.  He’s missing his scheduled start today because of the flu but that shouldn’t keep him out too long.

Verdict – Keep Him

Doubront’s been a work horse in his rookie season

SP Felix Doubront – He’s 24 and is 8-3 on June 23rd of his rookie year.  Next question.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka – The Red Sox have spent roughly $98 million on Daisuke since they acquired him before the 2007 season.  Might as well see this thing through and pay him the $5 million remaining.  I’m not sure he’s got much value anyway since it’s up in the air whether or not he is committed to continue playing in the U.S. after his contract expires at the end of the season.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP/RP Franklin Morales – Morales has seemed to curb the control issues that have plagued him for most of his career.  He’s made 2 good starts in place of Josh Beckett.  He’s probably the Sox most versatile pitcher since Aceves is currently the closer.

Verdict – Keep Him

SP/RP Daniel Bard – This one of tempting.  Part of me says that he’ll eventually put it together but part of me says that he never will and you might as well try to get a maximum return for him while you can.  When I see Bard I see visions of his college teammate Andrew Miller.  Miller has been traded twice already and had to fight for a roster spot on the Sox this season.  He finally found his spot as a reliever but only after two major league teams had already wasted time waiting for him to realize his potential.  If there is a Matt Garza type of player out there and Bard can be the centerpiece of a trade I don’t think he’s the type of guy that you walk away from the table to keep.  His arm and head are too much of a question mark to consider him a sure thing.

Verdict – Trade Him if you can make him the centerpiece of a potential blockbuster

Padilla could be the odd man out if they get Bailey and Bard back in the back end of the bullpen

The Bullpen – As the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  The Sox bullpen has been exceptional since the beginning of May.  Andrew Bailey will have a place when he comes back and so will Bard if he’s not moved.  Miller is the late inning lefty.  Bailey, Aceves, Bard, and Melancon will take up in the back end.  Scott Atchison has excelled in his very specific role.  Clayton Mortensen, Junichi Tazawa, and even Mark Prior are waiting in the wings.  Two guys who could be moved are Matt Albers and Vicente Padilla.  When the back end is healthy they would prove to be redundant and everyone always needs bullpen help.

Verdict – Keep Bailey, Aceves, Melancon, Miller, Atchison, and Mortsensen.  Trade Padilla and Albers for value.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Saltalamacchia just turned 27 and looks to be headed to Kansas City as one of the American League All-Star catchers.  The Sox should honestly be thinking of a contract extension for Salty rather than a trade.  He’s a keeper.

Verdict – Keep Him

Shoppach fits good in the backup C role for now

C Kelly Shoppach – He may have some value but I’d keep him.  The Sox need a backup catcher and Ryan Lavarnway is still developing and wouldn’t be best served to come up to the big leagues to get 1-2 starts a week.  There probably isn’t a better secondary catcher available than Shoppach so I’d keep him for the rest of the year and let the young catchers in the minors continue to develop down there.

Verdict – Keep Him

So there you have it.  Bard is our best piece and like I said teams are always looking for relievers so we might be able to steal something of value for an Albers or Padilla.  Beckett is going nowhere so it’s best if Red Sox Nation dropped that notion.  There is no point in doing a fire sale since a lot of these guys are still young and could be valuable in the future.  There’s no need to sell off players like Lester and Buchholz at this point.

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Red Sox Finally Climb Out Of Last Place

If someone told you at the beginning of the season that the Red Sox would be situated in last place in the American League East division from opening day until June 2nd you would have probably gone into full-blown panic mode.  The truth of the matter is that despite being in last place for two full months the Red Sox climbed up into 4th place last night and now stand only 2 games behind the 1st place Orioles and Rays.  They are only .5 game behind the Yankees at this point for 3rd place as well.  Such is life in the American League East this year.  No one team is much greater than the rest and once the Red Sox bounced back from a horrid start and the Orioles came back down to earth a bit the division has been bunched up together for the past few weeks and it will probably stay that way for much of the remainder of the year.

Things are looking up for Bobby V.’s Red Sox

One thing that’s for sure at this point is that it’s time for Red Sox Nation to give the devil its due.  Bobby Valentine has done a phenomenal job these past few weeks to get the Red Sox back into the AL East race.  He had a rocky start and he certainly heard it from the fans but after settling in Bobby V. has really found his groove.  He has had to maneuver around a minefield of injuries, many significant, and has done an excellent job.  He had what amounted to a patchwork bullpen at the beginning of the season after the injury to Andrew Bailey and ineffectiveness of Mark Melancon and has done an excellent job maintaining with what he has back there.  He’s worked well with the starting pitchers.  For the better part of the last month Bobby Valentine has seemed to push all of the right buttons and it’s time he gets his due.

Andrew Miller has become a key component in the Red Sox bullpen

The bullpen was a mess in the early going but Valentine and Ben Cherington never stopped trying to fit the right pieces in.  They weren’t afraid to admit a mistake when they sent Mark Melancon, who they traded two players for to become the primary set -up man, to AAA Pawtucket to get himself right.  They added Andrew Miller who has the big frame and arm but not the mentality to be a starter into the pen and he is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in his new role.  He stuck with Alfredo Aceves and Vicente Padilla even though they struggled in the early-going and they have become more reliable.  He has gotten used to the roles that he wants the pitchers to have and it’s worked out for the better.  He’s used Scott Atchison in a bridge role and he has responded with an early 0.89 ERA.  He uses Matt Albers primarily against righties late in games and Albers has a 1.32 ERA against them thus far.  Conversely he’s used Rich Hill as a lefty specialist and Hill has a 1.13 ERA against left-handed hitters for the season.  Whatever Bobby V. seems to do with the pen works these days and that’s a far cry from where we were at the beginning of the year.

Valentine has stuck with Nava who’s paid dividends

The injuries and spare parts in the lineup actually tailors more to Bobby V.’s managing style.  Valentine is not the type of manager to keep the lineup the same every night so it’s no surprise that he is mixing and matching with guys like Mike Aviles, Ryan Sweeney, and Daniel Nava.  Instead of replacing Jacoby Ellsbury with a permanent lead off hitter in his absence Valentine has done lead off man by committee which is probably a good idea since there is not a guy on the roster currently with extensive lead off experience with the exception of 36-year old Scott Posednik.  He’s shown faith in guys that have produced like a Daniel Nava.  Francona was a great manager but he tended to stick with the veteran players even if a younger guy was out-producing him.  Nava has been great, Will Middlebrooks has wrestled away a spot in the every day lineup and Mike Aviles has shown why neither Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie are missed in the Red Sox order.  No matter where they are in the lineup it seems like another role player or two is producing every game.

The Sox have been hot since Ortiz’ players-only meeting

Lastly the biggest improvement of the team from the start of the year comes in the chemistry department.  I’m not sure if they had to hit rock bottom to come up from the problems of last season but the Josh Beckett golf outing/David Ortiz meeting seems to have become the turning point in team chemistry.  The players seem looser now than they have for a long time.  Sure winning cures these types of things but they have seemed to have gotten over that hump and have come together as a team.  Whatever happened to team chemistry I hope it keeps up because these guys are playing like a team and winning games.

It’s amazing to think that this team was all bit written off a mere few weeks ago.  Now the starters are pitching better including Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard who both went through brutal stretches.  The bullpen is winning games.  The lineup, whatever it is for any given game, is producing.  Eventually guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross, Carl Crawford, and Andrew Bailey will be back.  There is still a long way to go and anything can happen but you can’t deny that there’s life in this team now.  You couldn’t say that about them a month ago.

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2012 Red Sox Preview: The 5th Starter

The Red Sox start spring training with no clear #4 or #5 starter.  Daniel Bard will be given every opportunity to earn the #4 starter role and Daisuke Matsuzaka might be the longer term solution for that last spot but he still needs a few months to get healthy.  That leaves a cast of 6 or 7 guys to vie for the #5 spot out of camp.  The Sox brought 4 veterans into camp on minor league deals and 2 more guys from last year’s squad will get a chance to win the job.  Alfredo Aceves also has a shot but I think his versatility will make it hard for Bobby Valentine and co. to take him out of the bullpen where he’s been so valuable.  Here is a look at the 6 guys vying for that final rotation spot.

Carlos Silva, 32 years old, 10th major league season

2010 stats (he didn’t pitch in 2011) and career highs in parentheses

Games Started: 21 (33, 2004 & 2007)
Innings Pitched: 113 (203, 2004)
Win-Loss Record: 10-6 (14-8, 2004)
ERA: 4.22 (3.44, 2005)
WHIP: 1.274 (1.173, 2005)
Batting Average Against: .273 (.273, 2010)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 6.4 (6.4, 2010)
Walks/9 Innings: 1.9 (0.4, 2005)

2012 Outlook

Silva may have the most past success of any of the guys going for the 5th spot but he didn’t pitch in the majors at all in 2011.  He spent the first few months of the season in the Yankees minor league season but was released in June.  He’s not really a power pitcher.  He pitches to contact and his career .302 batting average against might not play well in the AL East.  Still he is an innings eater.  He has good control as evidenced by his 1.7 BB/9 rate.  He’d certainly be a guy, if healthy, that could go a solid 6 or 7 innings and really save the bullpen, something that the Sox had trouble with last year.  His biggest issue is the fact that he is not very versatile and has little value to the Sox if he’s not a starter.  The fact that he’ll be rusty coming off of a dormant second half of last season may put him in a tough position to make the team.

Padilla hopes to join Josh Beckett and co. in the Sox rotation

Vicente Padilla, 34 years old, 15th major league season

Games Started: 0 (33, 2006)
Innings Pitched: 8.2 (208.2, 2003)
Win-Loss Record: 0-0 (15-10, 2006)
ERA: 4.15 (3.28, 2002)
WHIP: 1.385 (1.084, 2010)
Batting Average Against: .226 (.226, 2010 & 2011)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 9.3 (9.3, 2011)
Walks/9 Innings: 5.2 (2.3, 2002 & 2010)

2012 Outlook

Padilla is a power arm so he could be a candidate to come out of the bullpen if he doesn’t start.  He could be an attractive candidate for the initial 5th starter’s role if Bobby V. is comfortable with Dice-K’s rehab and can use Padilla to start for a few months and then transition him to the bullpen.  He could also be used in the bullpen out of the gate and as insurance if one of the other guys outperforms him in spring training.  Last year was a good primer for him as he made all 9 of his appearances out of the bullpen.  It was a good news/bad news situation.  He struck out a lot of guys but he also walked a lot of guys.  There are a couple red flags on Padilla.  The first is that he has said all along that he wants to start and might not be happy with a bullpen role.  Before last year he was a full-time starter since 2001.  The other thing is that he has had attitude problems in the past and his Red Sox career didn’t start well when a warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to pay child support.  Ben Cherington went to great lengths to improve the clubhouse atmosphere and Padilla might not be the best fit, particularly if he wants to make a big stink about not starting should he lose out on the rotation slot.

Aaron Cook, 33 years old, 11th major league season

Games Started: 17 (32, 2006 & 2008)
Innings Pitched: 97 (212.2, 2006)
Win-Loss Record: 3-10 (16-9, 2008)
ERA: 6.03 (3.67, 2005)
WHIP: 1.691 (1.337, 2007)
Batting Average Against: .326 (.279, 2007)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 4.5 (4.5, 2011)
Walks/9 Innings: 3.4 (1.7, 2005)

2012 Outlook

Cook was downright awful last season.  It was his worst season in the pros.  2010 wasn’t all that much better.  Before that he was a rock in the Rockies’ rotation for a good 5-6 year stretch.  Getting out of the thin air in Colorado could possibly do Cook some good.  He is not a strikeout guy, he pitches to contact.  He’s lived off of his sinker for his career and, as Sox fans know from watching a guy like Derek Lowe, if his sinker is on he could be very effective for long stretches.  The last two seasons obviously set off big red flags and you wonder if Cook has anything left in the tank.  If the Sox staff could get him right and he could find his sinker again, he could be a sleeper for the final spot.  A lot of his success might hinge on how Kevin Youkilis and Mike Aviles look on the left side of the infield.  Cook could be helpful but he needs to get himself right somehow because if he pitches like he did the last two years in spring training he’s not going to make it to Fenway.

Ross Ohlendorf, 29 years old, 6th major league season

Games Started: 9 (29, 2009)
Innings Pitched: 38.2 (176.2, 2009)
Win-Loss Record: 1-3 (11-10, 2009)
ERA: 8.15 (3.92, 2009)
WHIP: 1.940 (1.234, 2009)
Batting Average Against: .364 (.255, 2009)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 6.3 (7.0, 2008)
Walks/9 Innings: 3.5 (2.7, 2009)

2012 Outlook

The reasons that Ohlendorf was so attractive for the Red Sox to sign to a minor league deal this off season are probably the reasons that Ohlendorf is the underdog to win the 5th starter’s spot.  Ohlendorf has an option left, meaning he can be called up and sent back down 1 more time.  He also is under team control until the end of next season.  Ohlendorf is in a good position to come into camp and just start to buy into the team’s organizational philosophy and try to find himself in AAA for a while.  Like Cook he was horrible last season but he is still young and there is potential there.  Ohlendorf seems to be more of a long term project and he could prove to be a valuable piece that can be stashed in Pawtucket for at least this season.

Andrew Miller looks to jump into the Sox rotation this year

Andrew Miller, 26 years old, 6th major league season

Games Started: 12 (20, 2008)
Innings Pitched: 65 (107.1, 2008)
Win-Loss Record: 6-3 (6-3, 2011)
ERA: 5.54 (4.84, 2009)
WHIP: 1.815 (1.600, 2009)
Batting Average Against: .302 (.273, 2009)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 6.9 (7.9, 2007)
Walks/9 Innings: 5.7 (4.7, 2008)

2012 Outlook

Andrew Miller is one of those maddening pitchers to watch.  If he could improve his control and cut down his walks he could legitimately be a top of the end rotation guy.  The problem is throughout his career he has yet to figure it out.  His walk/9 rate has been above 4 1/2 throughout his entire career which is horrible.  When he hits his spots he is very tough to hit.  New pitching coach Bob McClure has talked about how he has seen flaws in his footwork and is trying to fix that during spring training.  If Miller could get himself right he could be a huge asset to the Sox rotation.  It would be interesting to see Miller and Daniel Bard, who were the aces of the staff when they were together at North Carolina, pitching together in the Red Sox rotation.

Felix Doubront will try to put his injury issues behind him this season

Felix Doubront, 24 years old, 3rd major league season

Games Started: 0 (3, 2010)
Innings Pitched: 10.1 (25, 2010)
Win-Loss Record: 0-0 (2-2, 2010)
ERA: 6.10 (4.32, 2010)
WHIP: 1.953 (1.480, 2010)
Batting Average Against: .316 (.270, 2010)
Strikeouts/9 Innings: 5.2 (8.3, 2010)
Walks/9 Innings: 7.0 (3.6, 2010)

2012 Outlook

Doubront is another high-ceiling guy.  He was injured coming into camp each of the past two seasons and didn’t come in at optimal shape.  He missed a lot of time last season in the minors with shoulder problems.  If he’s healthy he may finally be able to emerge as a starting option for the Sox’ big league club.  Doubront has great stuff and, like Miller, if he can harness that stuff and keep the ball near the plate he can be very effective.  His control is not as bad as Miller’s and his shoulder played a factor last season.  He’s a guy that can strike people out and it’s always good to have another tough lefty in the rotation along with Jon Lester.  We’ve already heard good things with the Sox brass regarding Doubront for his work in camp and he’ll have every opportunity to win the job this spring.

By the end of spring training I see both big young lefties being the last two standing.  Experience is one thing but when you talk about pure stuff Miller and Doubront are the best of the bunch.  Also neither of these guys have any options left so they would need to put them through waivers if they wanted to send them to the minors.  I think both Miller and Doubront make the squad and Padilla has an outside shot at making the team as a reliever too.  I’ll check back with a progress report on all of these guys towards the end of the spring.  Next week I’ll preview some of the mainstays such as David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.

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