Tuesday, August 26, 2003

More time off

I thought this week would allow me to get back into the swing of blogging, but I have continued to be busy and I have had a great deal of blogger's block. So, I am going to take this week off from trying to think of anything to blog about and try to come back strong next week. For those of you anxious to read more baseball stuff, please check out the wonderful links to the right.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

State of the Red Sox Sunday

It's been a long time since I've done one of these, but it's about time for a new one. After two excruciating losses, the Red Sox picked up three very big wins. Boston is now five games behind the Yankees in the AL East and tied with Oakland in the wild card race (both teams are two games behind Seattle).

Starting pitchers

Pedro Martinez has been awesome with a 2.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.15 K/9IP, 2.44 BB/9IP and 0.38 HR/9IP. However, he's still prone to missing time, as his current illness shows once again. Pedro has pitched just 143.2 innings this year and is on pace to make just 28 starts and pitch just 182 innings.

Tim Wakefield has quietly been pretty solid recently. Wakefield had a 2.85 ERA in 41 innings in July (38 strikeouts and 11 walks) and a 4.26 ERA in 25.1 innings in August (22 strikeouts and seven walks). For the season, he now has a 4.18 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 144 strikeouts (8.02 K/9IP), 61 walks (3.40 BB/9IP) and 20 homers allowed (1.11 HR/9IP) in 161.2 innings.

Derek Lowe continues to be all over the map this season and it doesn't seem to depend on whether he's pitching at home or on the road any more. For the season, he has a 4.83 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 87 strikeouts (5.0 K/9IP), 52 walks (2.99 BB/9IP) and 14 homers allowed (0.80 HR/9IP) in 156.2 innings. Lowe's strikeouts are down, his walks are up, his home runs are up and his batting average against is way up. Most people expected Lowe to be good, but not nearly as good as last year. His performance this season, however, has been completely unacceptable for a guy who's supposed to be the team's No. 2 starter.

With most Red Sox fans clamoring for him to be replaced, John Burkett has mostly gotten the job done. Since the beginning of June, Burkett has a 3.07 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 5.84 K/9IP, 2.19 BB/9IP and 0.73 HR/9IP in 86.1 innings. For the season, he has a 4.99 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 5.53 K/9IP, 2.49 BB/9IP and 0.91 HR/9IP in 148 innings. He's been a perfectly fine fifth starter for Boston.

When the Red Sox traded Freddy Sanchez for Jeff Suppan, most Red Sox fans weren't ecstatic about it, but they figured Suppan would at least be better than Ramiro Mendoza. Well, in his first three starts for the Red Sox, Suppan was absolutely awful. In 16.1 innings, he allowed 16 runs on 20 hits (including five home runs) and five walks. So, not only was his start Friday night crucial for the Red Sox, it may have been crucial for him to keep his spot in the rotation. After allowing two runs on six hits and no walks in 6.2 innings, Suppan now has some momentum to take into the stretch run. That's a good thing, because the Red Sox need him to give them a quality start just about every time out.


Everybody knows that the bullpen was a huge weakness at the beginning of the season, and everybody knows that Theo Epstein did a tremendous job of fixing that weakness during the season. Strangely, it's the newcomers to the bullpen who have the most unattractive numbers.

Byung-Hyun Kim was one of the most applauded acquisitions of the season for any team, but he's allowed six runs (five earned) in his last three innings (four appearances). In August, Kim has an ugly 6.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 10 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings. That follows a July in which he was almost unhittable -- 0.96 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 22 strikeouts (10.61 K/9IP) and six walks (2.99 BB/9IP) in 18.2 innings.

After not allowing an earned run in his first 4.2 innings with Boston, Scott Sauerbeck has allowed three earned runs in his last 2.2 innings (four appearances).

Scott Williamson has an ugly 4.66 ERA with Boston. Most of that, however, is because he allowed four earned runs in a third of an inning on August 8 against Baltimore. In his other 9.1 innings, he's allowed just one run on six hits and two walks.

Todd Jones has a 6.14 ERA with Boston. In one stretch at the end of July and beginning of August, he allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in 5.1 innings. Since that stretch ended, he's allowed two runs in 7.2 innings.

Boston's two most effective relievers recently have been two of the guys who were part of the early-season mess.

Mike Timlin has allowed three earned runs in his last 11.1 innings. All three of those runs came in one inning against Seattle on August 15. In the other 10.1 innings, he's allowed just five hits and no walks with 11 strikeouts. Timlin's 3.86 ERA in August is his highest in any month since his 4.42 April ERA. For the season, he has a 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 59 strikeouts (7.38 K/9IP), just five walks (0.63 BB/9IP) and nine homers allowed (1.13 HR/9IP) in 72 innings.

Alan Embree is having a great August with a 1.08 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, seven strikeouts and two walks in 8.1 innings.

Starting lineup

Catcher - Jason Varitek is the best catcher in the American League right now. He's hitting .282/.356/.540 (.895) with 21 home runs and 76 RBI. He's already set a career high in homers and tied his career high in RBI. His SLG and OPS would also be career highs. Jorge Posada is having a better offensive season, but Varitek is generally regarded as a much better defensive catcher, and he's the backbone of the Red Sox.

First base - In addition to recently turning into the Rally Karaoke Guy, Kevin Millar has been well worth all the trouble it took to get him this season. He's hitting .287/.357/.498 (.855) with 21 homers and 79 RBI. Millar ranks third among qualified AL first basemen in OPS.

Second base - Todd Walker has been an absolute dead spot in the lineup recently. He has two hits in two of the last three games, but before that he was 8-for-55 (.145) with two doubles (.182 SLG), three walks (.186 OBP) and eight strikeouts in August. For the season, he's now hitting .272/.320/.397 (.717). He's the only Boston regular without at least 10 homers (he has nine), the only regular with a batting average below .275, the only regular with an OBP below .345, the only regular with a SLG below .420 and the only regular with an OPS below .765. I know that says as much about how good the Boston offense is as it does about how bad Walker's been, but I really hope the trade of Freddy Sanchez doesn't mean that Walker will be back next year. He's not worth it.

Third base - Bill Mueller has been a complete revelation this season. There have been stories that players who have played with him before aren't surprised to see him hitting well, but nobody could have expected him to hit this well. He's hitting .328/.403/.559 (.962) and has set career highs in doubles (38), triples (5), home runs (16) and RBI (64). The Red Sox liked him because of his .370 career OBP, but he's surprised everybody by being the best offensive third baseman in the majors.

Shortstop - Nomar Garciaparra is better than he was last year, but he's not up to the level he was at before his wrist injury. He's hitting .319/.359/.550 (.908) with 33 doubles, 12 triples, 22 home runs, 97 runs, 84 RBI and 15 steals in 20 attemtps (75-percent success rate). He's the second-best shortstop in the majors, and he could certainly win his first MVP award if he has a great September and carries the Red Sox into the playoffs.

Left field - Manny Ramirez is simply an amazing hitter. He's hitting .318/.420/.583 (1.003) with 30 doubles, 31 home runs, 98 runs and 90 RBI. If he keeps his OPS above 1.000, it will be his fifth straight season with an OPS above 1.000. There are three truly special left fielders in baseball right now, but Ramirez is the only one who plays in the AL.

Center field - Johnny Damon said he would have a big second half for the Red Sox, and he's backing that statement up so far. Damon is hitting .319/.394/.464 (.858) since the All-Star break. For the season, he's hitting .276/.347/.421 (.768) with 30 doubles, five triples, 11 homers, 82 runs scored and 23 steals in 28 attempts (82-percent success rate). He's also a pretty solid defensive center fielder, even if he does throw like a girl.

Right field - Trot Nixon is finally playing like everybody thought he would when he was drafted way back when. He's fifth in the AL in OPS and third in the AL in OPS against right-handed pitchers. He's hitting .304/.391/.577 (.968) with 22 doubles, six triples, 24 home runs, 72 runs and 77 RBI. He's one of three Boston players (Ramirez and Mueller) in the top six in the AL in OPS and one of six (Garciaparra, Varitek and Millar) in the top 25 in the AL in OPS.

Designated hitter - David Ortiz would also be in that group of Red Sox players in the top 25 in the AL in OPS if he had played enough to qualify for the batting title. He's hitting .276/.362/.553 (.915) with 34 doubles, 18 home runs and 67 RBI. He's been everything I thought Jeremy Giambi would be for the Red Sox this season.


I've seen all sorts of talking heads recently saying that of the four teams (Boston, Seattle, Oakland and the Yankees) fighting for three playoff spots in the AL, the Red Sox won't make it because they don't have enough starting pitching. As is often the case when talking heads get going, that's just ridiculous.

You want to know why the Red Sox lost four straight games to Texas and Baltimore? Because they scored just eight runs in those four games.

You want to know why the Red Sox lost nine of 13 games recently? Because they averaged just 3.69 runs per game over that stretch.

The Red Sox have scored 5.98 runs per game this season. If they score around six runs per game the rest of the way, their starting pitching will look just fine. If the offense slumps, then of course the starting pitching won't look as good.

The Red Sox are not a perfect team, but no team is this year. The Red Sox have a better chance of reaching the playoffs than Oakland (now that Mark Mulder is probably out for the year) and as good a chance as Seattle has. The Red Sox even still have a definite shot at winning the AL East.

Boston has gotten the best OPS in the AL from their left and right fielders, the second-best OPS in the AL from their designated hitters, shortstops, third basemen and catchers and the fourth-best OPS in the AL from their second basemen. If the offense avoids any more slumps this season, it can certainly carry a less-than-stellar pitching staff into the playoffs.