November 12, 2007
I had some problems with my web hosting company so I am a little late with the Sox wrap-up. What can I say? It was a great postseason. 2007 reminded me of 2004 in many ways. In 2004, the Sox were down 3-0 to the Yanks in the ALCS before catching fire and winning eight in a row. This season, they were on the brink against Cleveland before winning seven in a row to close the season. In both cases, the Sox relied of clutch hitting by many different players and had outstanding starting pitching. In 2004, Boston outscored the Yanks and Cardinals by a combined 49-25 over those final eight games. This season, they outscored the Indians and Rockies by a stunning 59-15 margin in the final seven. Although the 2004 team will always have a much more special place in my heart, I think the 2007 team was a far better team. In fact, the Sox will very likely be the favorite to win the 2008 series when Opening Day rolls around.
Josh Beckett's postseason numbers deserve an encore: 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four starts. Beckett struck out 35 batters and walked just two. He gave up just 19 hits in 30 innings. This was one of the greatest postseason pitching performances in baseball history. Let's not forget Curt Schilling who was 3-0 with a solid 3.00 ERA in four starts. Jon Lester had two great appearances spanning 9 1/3 innings. He gave up just a pair of runs on 6 hits. Daisuke of course struggled. Jon Papelbon was as dominant out of the pen as Beckett was from the rotation. Paps was 1-0 with four saves. He gave up no runs and five hits in 10 2/3 innings of playoff work. Hideki Okajima was also outstanding.
Pretty much every Sox batter was stinging the ball by the end of the playoffs. Youkilis, Ortiz, Ellsbury, Lowell and Ramirez all hit .348 or better in the playoffs with JD Drew at a solid .318. Dustin Pedroia hit .283 in the playoffs but .387 during the 7-0 stretch. Varitek and Lugo both hit over .300 in the World Series. Ramirez and Youkilis each hit four playoffs homers. Big Papi added three. Manny (16) and Lowell (15) led the Sox in postseason RBIs. Youk scored 19 runs, one more than Lowell. Maybe the most amazing stat of all: both Ramirez and Ortiz had on base percentages of .508 in the playoffs (Youk was at .475).
The defense was great as well with the exception of the Julio Lugo drop of a pop-up in Game Seven of the ALCS. In that case, the Sox pitched their way out of trouble followed by the offensive explosion. It was just a great team effort.
Since Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, the Sox are 15-3 in the playoffs. The Yanks are 4-13.
Speaking of the Yanks, I think I represent about 98% of Red Sox Nation when I implore the Sox brass to not pursue Alex Rodriguez. Many have argued that the Sox became the Yankees in 2007. I don't agree with that. New York's payroll remains far larger than Boston's and most of the Sox key players were either groomed in the farm system or acquired in trades before they blossomed. The big money guys of 2007 (Drew, Lugo and Daisuke) probably contributed the least to this championship (not that they did not contribute). If the Sox sign A-Rod, I believe they will become Yankees-light. I do not think that Sox management will betray the fans by signing A-Rod.
If all goes well, the Sox will sign Mike Lowell and bring back their entire World Series lineup. I like Coco Crisp but clearly the Sox will try to move him for young prospects, a top-notch middle reliever or a backup catcher who can handle a knuckle ball. The rotation will be Beckett-Schilling- Matsuzaka-Wakefield-Lester with Clay Buchholz probably joining the rotation by midseason. The Okajima-Papelbon setup/closer situation will remain in place but the Sox will need to add to the rest of the bullpen. They could use a lefty specialist and another set-up type guy. If Mike Lowell gets away then the Sox will need to either acquire another third basemen or move Youk to third and pick up a first basemen. Florida's Miguel Cabrera might be available. My preference is to keep Lowell but as long as it is not A-Rod, I'll be happy.
Congratulations to Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedroia. I don't think there is much doubt that Josh Beckett will be receiving the Cy Young award. What a season!
October 20, 2007
Thanks to Josh Beckett, the Red Sox are still playing baseball. The Sox ace is 3-0 in this year's postseason with a 1.17 ERA. He has struck out 26 batters and walked only one. He's given up three runs (one resulted from a fluke double by Sizemore on Thursday) and 13 hits in 23 innings. It's hard to imagine a pitcher being any better over three postseason starts. For all of the bad moves the Sox have made since 2005, they deserve a lot of credit for acquiring Beckett (and Mike Lowell) from the Marlins. I think this is one of those rare trades that worked out very well for both teams. The Sox ended up with a young ace who can win in the postseason and a perfect middle of the lineup guy in Mike Lowell. The Marlins saved some cash and acquired an everyday player in Hanley Ramirez who could win the MVP someday. Anibal Sanchez has also had flashes of brilliance for Florida.
Ahead 3 games to 2, the Indians still have the upper hand in this series but not by much. The Red Sox regained home field advantage and they will be fully confident that they can win the next two and head on to the World Series. I did a little research and found that only eight times since 1986 has a team come back to win three elimination games in a row to win a series. That includes seven games series where a team was down 3-1 and five game series where a team was down 2-0. Of those eight comebacks, the Red Sox have had four. Here's the list:
1986 ALCS: BOSTON defeats California 4-3 1995 ALDS: Seattle defeats New York 3-2 1996 NLDS: Atlanta defeats St. Louis 3-2 1999 ALDS: BOSTON defeats Cleveland 3-2 2001 ALDS: New York defeats Oakland 3-2 2003 ALDS: BOSTON defeats Oakland 3-2 2003 NLCS: Florida defeats Chicago 4-3 2004 ALCS: BOSTON defeats New York 4-3
I really think Curt Schilling will come up with a great effort tonight. He's had a full week off and threw only 85 pitches last Saturday. I don't think last Saturday's failure was because of a tired arm. I think Schilling just had a bad day. Who knows what Carmona will bring tonight. He didn't show me much last week. I wouldn't be shocked to see him knocked around tonight nor would I be surprised if he throws a three-hit shutout. I am much more concerned with Game 7. Daisuke has not looked very good and he does appear to have a tired arm. I'd love to see a rainout on Sunday which would allow Beckett to start on Monday on three days rest but it looks like clear weather in Boston for the next few days. I am sure that Beckett will be available for 2-3 innings if there is a Game 7. Wakefield will be available as well. The downside to that being that Mirabelli would need to replace Varitek. Tek is not hitting but I'd much rather see him at the plate in a tough spot than Doug.
Speaking of Wakefield, he pitched very well the other night. He ran into some bad luck in the fifth. If he doesn't deflect that ball hit by Cabrera, he escapes that inning down just 1-0. If Youkilis had caught the Cabrera popup earlier in the count, Wake would have left the mound down just 2-0. If the Sox win tonight with Schilling and tomorrow with Daisuke, I suspect that Francona will go to Wakefield for Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday then use Schilling on six days rest in Colorado on Saturday.
The Red Sox story is a tale of two lineups. Batters 1-5 are swinging the bats extremely well led by Ortiz (.500 avg, .639 obp, 3 HR in the playoffs) and Ramirez (.440 with 4 HR and 12 RBI). Kevin Youkilis is batting .355 with 3 HR. Mike Lowell has 3 doubles, a homer and 7 RBI in his last six games. Dustin Pedroia is only 5 for 20 (.250) in this series but he could easily be 9 for 20. Unfortunately, the bottom of the lineup has been a disaster. Drew, Lugo, Crisp, varitek and Mirabelli are a combined 15 for 76 in the ALCS (.197) with 1 HR and 4 RBI (all from Jason Varitek). I expect Jacoby Ellsbury to be in the lineup tonight.
A few more things:
October 3, 2007
You cannot pitch much better than Josh Beckett did on Wednesday night at Fenway. The Sox Ace surrendered only four singles (no walks) on his way to a complete game shutout of the Angels. At one point, he retired 19 consecutive Angel batters. Probably the most amazing stat was 83 strikes on 108 pitches. This is exactly why the Red Sox traded for Beckett prior to last season. Given the recent woes of Daisuke, the Red Sox could not afford to lose Game 1, especially at home. Now the Sox need to win just one of the next two games to get back to a Beckett-Lackey matchup in Game 4 in Anaheim. Hopefully, there won't be a Game 4, but if there is, I love Boston's chances.
The Angels are hurting. I mean that literally and figuratively. Vlad Guerrero was relegated to DH because of arm troubles, Gary Matthews Jr will miss the series because of a leg injury and Garrett Anderson is fighting pink eye. The Angel lineup doesn't really scare me to begin with. Anderson's eye problems and the absence of Matthews makes that lineup that much less imposing. Dice-K is coming off a very good outing. Friday will be a great opportunity to continue that success.
Thanks to the extra days off in the new playoff format (I don't like the format but it did help the Sox this year), the Sox were able to keep Tim Wakefield off the first round roster and go with a three-man rotation. The Yankees and Indians, who do not have the extra day off between Games 1 and 2, will apparently use four-man rotations. On one hand, this is good news for the Yanks because they will only see Carmona once. On the other hand, this will force the Yanks to start Mussina against Paul Byrd in Game 4. Of course, New York or Cleveland could come back with Wang or Sabathia on three days rest for Game 4. The ALCS will have an extra day off between Games 4 and 5. This means that a team could use a three-man rotation with all pitchers having the regular four days of rest with the exception of the Game 1 starter going on three days rest in Game 4. This means that the Sox (or Angels) could see Sabathia and Carmona five times combined in a seven game series (all but one start on regular rest). Obviously, if the Indians and Yankees go the full five games, that ceases to be a possibility.
What an amazing week in the National League. If the Mets had won just one more game in the final week, they would have played Philly on Monday to decide the NL East. The loser of that game would have then joined San Diego and Colorado in a two-day, three-team playoff on Tuesday and Wednesday. I shed no tears for the Mets but I would have loved to have seen that four-team/ three day/one game playoff scenario play out. I wonder what Vegas would have offered for an NL Playoff of Arizona-Philly-Chicago-Colorado at the beginning of the season? 9000:1 is my best guess. Those four teams averaged 76 wins in 2006. The D-backs and Rockies were 76-86 and the Cubs were 66-96. As someone pointed out to me today, the NL's top seed Arizona was outscored this season by 20 runs. To put this in contrast, the Red Sox outscored their opponents by 210 runs this season. The Rockies actually have the best runs scored/runs against differential with a +102. The Phils were +71 and the Cubs +62. In the AL, the Yankees were +189, the Indians +107 and Angels +91. The Cardinals were only +19 last season so I am not sure how much that all means.
Now for the awards:
Player of the Week: The final POTW for 2007 goes to David Ortiz who was 11 for 17 in the final week with 3 HR and 5 RBI. Papi actually reached base 16 times in 22 plate appearances in the final homestand.
Player of the Month: There were four good candidates for September. Josh Beckett was huge when the Sox desperately needed it down the stretch. He was 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA in September. He struckout 36 and walked only 6 batters. David Ortiz batted .396 for the month with a .517 on base percentage. He blasted 9 homers and drove in 27. Mike Lowell also had a great month with a .317 average, 4 HR and 26 RBI. Jacoby Ellsbury is the fourth nominee with a .361 average in addition to 17 RBI, 16 runs and 8 steals. For the first time, I am going to give the award two two players: Josh Beckett and David Ortiz. Ortiz numbers are jaw-dropping but Beckett was the MVP for this month.
September 23, 2007
The Red Sox simply can't stand prosperity. When Josh Beckett beat the Yankees a week ago Saturday, it looked like the Sox had wrapped up the division title. Well, five losses in seven days have left the Sox just two ahead of the Yanks with the pesky A's and Twins coming to Fenway over the final six days of the season. The Yankees play lowly Tampa and Baltimore on the road. Meanwhile, Cleveland is one ahead of the Sox in the loss column in the race for the AL's best record. The Sox will be in playoffs but they could be seeded anywhere from 1st to 4th. Even the Sox win the division, there is a chance they will have to start the playoffs in Anaheim. This could mean two trips to Anaheim in about a week. If the playoffs began today, New York would travel to Cleveland and Anaheim would head to Fenway. In the National League, the Cubs would start the playoffs in Arizona with San Diego visiting the Mets. The Phillies are in the mix for both the division title and the Wild Card. Colorado has an outside chance to make the playoffs the a Wild Card.
I don't think there is much doubt that Josh Beckett (20-6, 3.14 ERA) wrapped up the Cy Young on Friday night in Tampa. A-Rod (.311, 52 HR, 147 RBI) is a lock for MVP. The Rookie of the Year Award is still up for grabs. I think it will come down to Dustin Pedroia (.315, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 81 runs) and Kansas City starter Brian Bannister (12-9, 3.61 ERA). I'm predict Bannister by a nose. In the NL, Jake Peavy will win the Cy Young (18-6, 2.36) and Ryan Braun will be the Rookie of the Year (.321, 32 HR, 88 RBI). Braun's stats have come in only 107 games - WOW! The MVP will probably be either David Wright (.321, 30 HR, 105 RBI) or Prince Fielder (.286, 47 HR, 112 RBI). The MVP was Fielder's to lose a month ago but I think the Brewers have cost him the hardware by falling apart in the last two months.
Josh Beckett is the only Sox starter to record a win since September 7th. Josh is 3-0 in that stretch. The rest of the starting staff is 0-6.
With pretty much the entire roster mired in a slump there aren't many Player of the Week candidates this week. Josh Beckett pitched well on Friday to pick up #20, Jacoby Ellsbury was 9 for 24 (.375) this week with four runs scored and Jason Varitek batted .400 (6 for 15) with a pair of homers and 4 RBI.
Player of the Week: Jacoby Ellsbury
September 16, 2007
The Red Sox missed a golden opportunity this week to essentially wrap up the AL East. The Sox outscored their opponents by 13 runs this week but three more one-run losses resulted in a 3-3 week and a 4 1/2 game lead over the Yankees in the race for the division title. Boston's magic number for clinching a playoff spot stands at six. With two weeks left, the Sox are still in good shape as far as the division title goes. If Boston goes 6-6 against Toronto, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Minnesota (four teams with no playoff hopes), the Yankees would need to go 11-2 to tie the Red Sox (and win the division based on the head to head tie-breaker). The Yankees play two series with Baltimore plus Tampa Bay and Toronto, so this scenario is entirely possible. The Sox will be in the playoffs but the division is far from won. The other negative is that the Sox are just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Indians and Angels for the league's best record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Player of the Week: David Ortiz, who batted .450 (9 for 20) with 3 HR and 8 RBI. One of his homers was a walk-off game winner against the Rays on Wednesday. Other candidates were Jacoby Ellsbury (7 for 19), Mike Lowell (10 for 21, 1 HR, 5 RBI) and Josh Beckett.
September 9, 2007
The Red Sox had a pretty solid 5-2 week to maintain a relatively comfortable lead over the Yankees in the AL East race. With three weeks left in the season and the Devil Rays coming to town, 5 1/2 games strikes me as "pretty comfortable". Anything less than three games would be "very uncomfortable" and anything above ten would be "very comfortable" in my humble opinion. With the Yankees coming to Fenway on Friday, we could be moving into one of the latter two categories by this time next week. The Red Sox playoff hopes, however, are in the "very comfortable" range of 9 1/2 games over the Tigers who are second in the Wild Card standings. So, if the Sox go 9-9 the rest of the way, the Yankees would need to go 15-4 to catch the Sox in the AL East. The Tigers would need go 19-0 to match the Sox record. Even if the Sox were to fall apart and go 6-12 over the next two weeks, Detroit would need to go 16-3 to catch them. The bottom line, the Red Sox still need to do some work to wrap up the AL East but realistically there is no chance they will not make the playoffs. Lately, it doesn't feel like the Sox are trying to win a division title as much as they are trying to survive a division title.
Even if the Yanks do not catch the Sox in the AL East, Boston still has a lot to play for. The Red Sox lead the Angels by 2 1/2 games (and the Indians by 3 1/2 games) for the best record in the American League. The team with the best record gets home field advantage in the AL Playoffs. This is huge of course. If you compare games over .500 at home vs the road for the AL contenders, they are as follows: Boston +8, Cleveland +11, Angels +23, New York +21, Detroit -1 and Seattle +19. With the exception of Detroit, those numbers are striking. The Angels have won nearly two-thirds of their home games, but are nearly .500 on the road. The Yankees have similar numbers. The other issue is travel. If the playoffs were to start today, the Indians would begin the playoffs at Fenway while the Yankees would travel to Anaheim. Let's assume that those are the playoff matchups and the Red Sox beat Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. The Sox would head into the ALCS having made one short trip to Cleveland. If the Yankees were to beat the Angels, they would have to do it by making at least one, if not two cross country trips (and three time zones away). If the Angels were to win, they would start the ALCS with a second East Coast trip in about a week. This would be a tremendous advantage for the Sox. So if you are a Sox fan, you should not only root for Boston to finish with the best record in the AL but you should also root for the LA Angels to finish with the second best record in the AL and for the Mariners to miss the Wild Card. Let's say that Cleveland wins the Central and finishes second, LA finishes third and the Yanks take the Wild Card. In that case, the Sox would open the playoffs at Fenway but would then have to travel to Anaheim for games 3, 4 and 5. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Cleveland make short trips within the same time zone. If Seattle takes the Wild Card, then the Sox would definitely have to travel to the West Coast.
Random Stuff: Kevin Youkilis has set an American League record for consecutive errorless games at first base. If he doesn't make an error the rest of the season, he will break Steve Garvey's MLB record of 193 consecutive games. The Red Sox are considering beginning the regular season next year in Tokyo. It sounds like the A's have already accepted and the Sox are considering it. LINK
Once again, the Red Sox youngsters played a big role this week. Jacoby Ellsbury was 10 for 28 this week (.357) with four extra base hits and six runs scored. Dustin Pedroia was 10 for 29 (.345) with five runs scored. Clay Buchholz pitched three innings of scoreless one-hit ball on Thursday to grab a win in relief. John Lester improved to 4-0 with a seven inning, no run, four hit performance on Friday night. Lester is now 11-2 in his career with the Sox with a 4.65 ERA. The ERA does not look great but with a young pitcher it is more important to look at the percentage of good outings. This season, Lester has given the Sox six innings or more and given up two runs or less in four of his eight starts. He gave up four runs in two other starts. Last season, he gave up three runs or less and pitched five innings or more in nine of his 15 starts (and seven of his first eight). Lester's problem has been control. He's walked 3.9 batters per nine innings this season, down from 4.8 last year. As this number declines, so will his ERA.
Some of the veterans chipped in as well. David Ortiz was 9 for 27 (.333) with a pair of homers and 5 RBI. Coco Crisp was 8 for 24 (.333) with 5 RBI and 7 runs scored. Josh Beckett was 2-0 with an ERA of 3.00. He struck out 15 and walked only 2. Jon Papelbon picked up four saves and retired 12 of 13 batters he faced this week, striking out 7.
Player of the Week: Unlike last week, this week's decision was a tough one. Four Sox batted .333 or better. Papelbon was dominant. Lester had the week's best outing but Beckett won twice. My choice is Papelbon with Lester coming in a close second. There have been many weeks this season where Papelbon could have won the POTW award but because closers are expected not to fail and because they pitch so few innings, they sometimes get lost in the shuffle behind a starter who pitches a shutout or a batter who has a big week. So, Papelbon is certainly worthy based on this week's effort but I also figure I owe him one for his conistently great performance this season.
September 3, 2007
It wasn't a great week for the Red Sox (2-4) but Saturday was one of the great nights in recent Red Sox history. Clay Buchholz became just the second pitcher since 1900 to pitch a no-hitter in his second career appearance. Buchholz walked only three and struck out nine. It was a great night for the Red Sox organization. In fact, it was a great weekend. Their top pitching prospect tossed a no-hitter on Saturday and their top position player, Jacoby Ellsbury, homered and made a great diving catch on Sunday. Rookie Dustin Pedroia was 8 for 14 in the Baltimore series and second year man John Lester pitched well and improved to 3-0 on Sunday. The future is indeed bright.
Now the bad news. The Red Sox squandered a golden opportunity to bury the Yankees in the AL East race. A six game lead with four weeks to go put the Sox in a solid position but I am sure that no one in Red Sox Nation is comfortable with this lead. Injuries are also becoming an issue. Tim Wakefield and Manny Ramirez are both having back problems. Gagne and Okajima are banged up. Matsuzaka and Beckett are not injured but have pitched a lot of innings this season. It would be have been nice to have built a 10-12 lead and be able to limit the innings and maximize the days between starts for those guys.
Player of the Week: I didn't have to think much about the POTW this week. Congratulations, Clay Buchholz.
As for the month of August, here are the highs and lows.
Player of the Month for August: Tim Wakefield had a great month but Mike Lowell was just a bit better.
August 26, 2007
The Red Sox offense finally seems to be coming around. Boston scored 46 runs in the four game series in Chicago, by far the most runs they have scored in a four game stretch this season. With the exception of the agonizing one-run, 14 men left on base effort in a 2-1 loss on Wednesday, this was a great offensive week. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for the Sox lineup.
The Red Sox made history on Sunday. The sweep over the White Sox marked the first time since 1922 than an American League team has scored ten runs in each game of a four game series. Since then, only the Colorado Rockies (1996) have accomplished the same feat.
The Red Sox will be ahead by either 7 or 8 games when they square off with the Yanks on Tuesday. New York desperately needs to sweep the Sox. Even if they beat Detroit tomorrow night and take two of three from the Sox, New York will still be 6 games behind with 28 games to go.
Tim Wakefield is absolutely on fire. This week, Wakefield was 2-0 and did not allow a run in 14 innings of work. In the last two weeks, Tim is 3-0 and has not given up a run in 22 innings. He's given up just 9 hits and has 17 strikeouts (and 6 walks) during that time. Wakefield will probably make six more starts this season, so he has an excellent chance to win 20 games for the first time in his career.
Player of the Week: Three players really stood out for the Red Sox this week. David Ortiz who batted .478 with 3 homers and 8 RBIs, Mike Lowell (.500, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 8 runs) and Wakefield. It's hard to go against any of those guys but since I have to choose, I'll go with Wakefield.
August 19, 2007
It was another strange week for the Red Sox. In seven games this week, Boston used seven different starting pitchers. In Friday's double-header, the Sox beat Angel Cy Young candidate John Lackey but lost behind their own Cy Young candidate Josh Beckett. The Sox beat the Devil Rays in a game started by Scott Kazmir on Tuesday but lost the next night to a Devil Ray pitcher with a 1-8 record and a 6.35 ERA coming into the game. The Sox made four great comebacks this week - two resulted in wins, one came up a run short and another was coughed up in the ninth by Eric Gagne. "Infuriating" is the best word I can describe the Red Sox right now.
Eric Gagne gave up just 8 runs in 33 1/3 innings with Texas this season. He's already given up 10 runs in 7 innings with Boston. Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira has hit 7 homers in 17 games with Atlanta. Kevin Youkilis has a .306 career average prior to the All Star break. He is batting .238 in his career after the break.
On the plus side, Dustin Pedroia is batting .349 since May 1st with an on base percentage of .411. Julio Lugo is batting .336 since the break.
On the odd news front, Tim Wakefield has recorded a decision in all 24 of his starts. The last time a pitcher with at least 24 starts had a decision in every game was 1939.
Player of the Week: Not much to think about here. David Ortiz was 8 for 26 (.308) this week with 2 HR, 9 RBI and 7 runs scored. Runner-up was Julio Lugo, who was 9 for 23 with 5 doubles and 5 RBIs.
August 12, 2007
The Red Sox are quite simply a painful team to watch right now. They are getting every bad break and are playing just poorly enough to lose games they should be winning. Meanwhile, the Yanks are playing great baseball and getting one break after another. The Sox need to stop the bleeding now and a three game series at home against Tampa Bay is a good place to start. The Yanks host Baltimore beginning on Monday.
Player of the Week: The candidates this week are: Dustin Pedroia (10 for 26 with a HR and 7 runs scored), JD Drew (11 for 20, 3 RBI, 3 runs), Mike Lowell (9 for 24), Julio Lugo (8 for 24) and Josh Beckett (W, 2 ER in 8 2/3 IP). Well, I am giving this week's award to JD Drew for his .550 average. It seems appropriate that Drew's bat would come alive in what turned out to be the worst week of the season for the Red Sox.
August 5, 2007
The Red Sox finally appear to be playing some consistent baseball again. After racing out to a 36-16 record through the end of May, the Sox were only 20-23 between the beginning of June and July 19th. Since then, however, the Sox are 12-4 and have reached a high water mark of 25 games over .500. The Sox are now on pace to win 99 games. The bad news is that the Yankees will simply not go away. The Bombers are 18-7 since the All Star break. However, it must be noted that 12 of those wins came against Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
Still, the Red Sox are in great shape in the AL East, especially if they can survive the rest of this tough road trip. Here are the remaining schedules for Boston and New York:
BOSTON ------ HOME (25): TB(6), LAA(4), Bal(3), Tor(3), NYY(3), Oak(2), Min(4) AWAY (26): LAA(3), Bal(7), TB(6), CWS(4), NYY(3), Tor(3) NEW YORK -------- HOME (23): Bal(6), Det(4), Bos(3), TB(3), Sea(3), Tor(4) AWAY (28): Tor(6), Cle(3), LAA(3), Det(4), KC(3), Bos(3), TB(3), Bal(3)
The strength of schedule slightly favors the Sox. The Red Sox have two more remaining home games than the Yankees. The Red Sox have 12 more games against the AL road kill (Tampa Bay) while the Yankees have 9 more (6 with Tampa, 3 with Kansas City). The Red Sox have 7 more games against the four top teams in the Central and West (7 with LA) while the Yankees have 17 more (8 with Detroit and 3 each with LA, Cleveland and Seattle). In addition, the Red Sox play 18 of their last 28 games at home. New York only plays 13 of their final 28 at home.
Player of the Week: Daisuke and Josh Beckett both made excellent starts and Jon Papelbon pitched two scoreless innings and notched a pair of saves but this week's award clearly goes to David Ortiz. Big Papi was 11 for 23 (.478) and reached base 16 times this week. He had 3 homers, drove in 7 and scored 9 runs. Amazingly, this is the first time this season that Big Papi has been by Player of the Week. Last season, Ortiz was the Player of the Week seven times and the Player of the Month three times.
Speaking of Player of the Month, here are the candidates for July:
Player of the Month for August: Manny Ramirez
July 29, 2007
The Sox had a solid 5-2 week but it could have been better. They wasted a brilliant performance by Josh Beckett on Wednesday in a 1-0 loss and Dice-K was an inning away from turning the game over to Okajima and maybe Papelbon in Sunday's 5-2 loss. Still, the Sox are 8 games in front of the Yankees with only 57 games left, 12 of which are against the Devil Rays. They are in great shape. In the battle for American League home field advantage (aka. the league's best record), Boston is currently two games ahead of the LA Angels.
The past two Sundays, I have mentioned (and quantified) the Red Sox woes in close games. Since a comeback win in Arizona on June 9th, the Red Sox have played eleven games in which they were trailing by one run or tied entering the seventh inning. Today, the Sox were tied 0-0 heading into the seventh. As you know, Boston lost again, making them 0-11 since June 9th in games where they were tied or down by a run entering the seventh inning. In the prior ten games, Boston has not scored after the sixth inning. The homers today by Ramirez and Youkilis ended that streak at an incredible 37 consecutive scoreless innings. Unfortunately, those two runs did not matter today but would have mattered in most of the ten prior games.
Player of the Week: This week's choice was an easy one. Manny Ramirez takes home the prize for the second time in three weeks. Manny was 11 for 28 (.393) this week with 3 homers and 10 RBIs. He reached base 14 of 31 times this week. The other candidates were Mike Lowell who was 9 for 26 with 3 RBIs and Daisuke Matsuzaka who was 1-1 with an ERA of 1.35 (12 hits, 11 K, 4 BB in 13 1/3 innings). As I said, it was an easy choice.
July 22, 2007
The Red Sox are finally showing some signs of offensive life. Boston scored 29 runs in the final three games of the four-gamer with Chicago. This after scoring just 15 total runs in a 1-4 stretch against Toronto, KC (three games) and Chicago. Hopefully, the Sox reached their low point of the season on Thursday with the two runs and the six walk effort by Matsuzaka. The Sox can't mess around anymore. The Yankees bats are coming alive and their pitching is at least a little better. The next four days will be crucial for the Sox as they play four games in Cleveland while the Yankees travel to Kansas City for four. In fact, the Sox will begin a pretty rough patch in the schedule. Ten of their next 16 games are on the road against Cleveland, Seattle and Anaheim, three of the AL's five best teams (at least record-wise). The good news is that the schedule eases considerably after that. Best of all, the Sox still have 15 games left with Tampa Bay. The Rays looked like a AA team this weekend against the Yankees.
Kason Gabbard is putting up some amazing numbers. In his last four starts, Gabbo is 3-0 while giving up just nine hits and four walks in 28 innings of work. The six earned runs during that time adds up to 1.93 ERA. Gabbard's performance is quite a story because he has not been particularly good at the AAA level. Last season, he was 1-7 with a 5.23 ERA at Pawtucket. This season, he's been much better at AAA (7-2, 3.24 ERA) but I am quite sure that the Sox were not expecting this kind of success. If Gabbard (25 years old) can put together a few more starts like this, it will be worth mentioning his name as part of a potential great young pitching staff along with Beckett (27), Matsuzaka (26), Lester (23), Papelbon (26), Delcarmen (25), Hansen (23), Buchholz (22) and Bowden (20). The pitching talent in this organization is outstanding and the future is bright. Let's just hope the Sox brass is smart enough to hold onto these guys. Lou Gorman or Dan Duquette would trade Clay Buchholz for someone like Reggie Sanders or Kenny Lofton in a heartbeat. I'm confident that this group won't do anything that stupid. Then again, they signed Drew and Lugo for a combined $23 million per year.
As I said, the offense picked it up this weekend. Coco Crisp has been the main catalyst. Coco is batting .387 since June 16th. That includes 17 runs, 22 RBIs and 5 triples. Since dropping to .189, Julio Lugo is batting .457 with 9 runs and 9 RBI (12 games). Manny has 4 HR and 9 RBI since the All Star break and is close to .300 once again. JD Drew is still a disaster.
I wanted to update the stats on the Red Sox anemic performance in close games. Since a comeback win in Arizona on June 9th, the Red Sox have played nine games in which they were trailing by one run or tied entering the seventh inning. In those games, Boston has not scored after the sixth inning. Including extra innings, that's 33 scoreless innings. Here are those games:
Player of the Week: It was easy to settle on the top two candidates for Player of the Week. Kason Gabbard was 2-0 this week with an ERA of 0.56. He struck out 9 batters in 16 innings while giving up only six hits and two walks. Coco was 10 for 27 (.370) with 9 RBIs. Crisp had a great week but I have to go with Gabbard.
July 15, 2007
The Red Sox put up some runs in the first three games of the Toronto series (21 runs) but on Sunday, they reverted back to their pre-All Star break bad habits. With the loss, the Red Sox are now 1-8 in their last nine one-run games. What's worse, the Sox seem to be completely unable to score runs after the sixth inning when they are trailing in close games. Since a comeback win in Arizona on June 9th, the Red Sox have played seven games in which they were trailing by one run or tied entering the seventh inning. In those games, Boston has not scored after the sixth inning. Including extra innings, that's 27 scoreless innings. Unbelievable!! The good news is that the Boston bullpen has been great in close games. They have surrendered only five runs in those 27 innings (only two in the last six games in those situations). Here are those games:
Player of the Week: The candidates are Manny (6 for 16, 1 HR, 7 RBI), Big Papi (8 for 17, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and Julio Lugo (7 for 16, 2 SB). In a close race, the winner is Manny Ramirez. Incredibly, this is the first time all season that I have named either Ramirez or Ortiz Player of the Week. Lowell and Youkilis have each been named three times this season.
July 9, 2007
The Red Sox lead in the AL East dropped from 12 to 10 games this weekend thanks in large part to two more excruciating one-run losses. The Red Sox are 1-6 in their last seven one run games. The Red Sox pitching, with the exception of Matsuzaka's effort yesterday, was very good on Saturday and Sunday but Boston's lack of clutch hitting cost the Red Sox another pair of games.
There have been occasional poor outings but Sox starters and relievers but in general the pitching has been great. Red Sox hitters, on the other hand, have developed an uncanny knack for failing in the clutch. They are putting a lot of runners on base, but driving them home has been a completely different story. The Sox have hit into 82 double plays (the second most in the AL) and have left a ton of runners on base (I haven't found the stats). The Red Sox are 5th in the league in overall batting average, but 8th in the seventh inning or later and 9th with runners in scoring position. I don't think J.D. Drew has had a big hit in a clutch hit this whole season. Come to think of it, I don't recall Big Papi or Manny getting a big hit late in the game in a long time.
Obviously, there is plenty of good news. The Sox have a 10 game lead at the break and with 18 games remaining against either Tampa Bay or Kansas City, Boston would have to completely fold to not win the AL East. Yes, a fold is always possible when you are the Red Sox but I cannot see that happening unless there are several major injuries. If anything, the Red Sox should expand their lead once the offense turns itself around. Ramirez, Ortiz, Drew and Lugo are all neck deep in major slumps. Compare the combined power stats of Ramirez, Ortiz and Drew in 2006 and 2007 at the All Star break.
YEAR HR RBI ------------- 2006 64 202 2007 31 130
This trio is hitting only half as many homeruns are they were at this time last season and they are producing nearly a run per game less. This simply cannot continue. The Sox are also fairly healthy. There are several nagging injuries but only Schilling's arm is cause for great concern. The Red Sox are in a position where they don't need to make many moves prior to the trading deadline. If Schilling gets healthy, the rotation will be fine. With Delcarmen throwing the way he has been of late, the Sox have a pretty good bullpen (Tavarez would join the pen in the playoffs). The offense can only get better. I am sure the Sox would love to make a move for Mark Buehrle but they don't need to unless they believe that Schilling is damaged goods. The Red Sox desperately need a legitimate fourth outfielder. They simply cannot afford to enter the playoffs with the Eric Hinske/Wily Mo combo plate. That is not working out.
Player of the Week: I am not sure that anyone is truly worthy of the award this week. Dice-K had the only great outing by a starter this week but followed it up with a stink bomb on Sunday. Gabbard pitched fairly well (5 ER in 12 innings) but two walks to lead off an inning in Detroit cost him a 2-0 week. Manny Delcarmen had a very good week out of the pen (3 2/3 IP, 1 hit, no runs). The winner, however, is Mike Lowell who was 10 for 26 (.385) this week with 2 homers and 8 RBI. This included a 5-hit game against Tampa Bay.
July 1, 2007
Putrid. That is the best word I can use to describe the Red Sox offense right now. This week, it was very difficult to watch the Red Sox position players. They absolutely stunk. Not only did the offense not produce against some rather mediocre (at best) pitchers but there were inexplicable baserunning blunders (for example, Lugo trying to steal third on Saturday) and silly errors (for example, JD Drew dropping a fairly easy fly ball on Sunday). Yes, the team is 10 1/2 games up in the AL East but the lead should be at least 15 games. It is almost like the Red Sox are trying to hit in double plays and leave runners in scoring position. Here are some of the lines for those mediocre pitchers who have beaten the Sox (or started games in which Boston lost) in the past few weeks:
Team Pitcher IP R ER ERA Prior to Start -------------------------------------------------------- TEX Kameron Loe 6.0 1 1 6.02 SEA Ryan Feierabend 5.0 0 0 8.20 SEA Jeff Weaver 5.2 2 1 8.56 COL Josh Fogg 5.0 2 2 5.06 OAK Lenny DiNardo 6.0 0 0 1.80
The other side of the story is of course the pitching, which has been outstanding. If not for the hurlers, the AL East would be a very different scene right now. In the last 22 games, the Red Sox are 12-10. Of the 12 victories, two were by scores of 1-0 and three were by scores of 2-1. The Sox shutout the opponent in two of the other wins.
All Stars: IN - Ortiz, Lowell, Ramirez, Papelbon and Beckett. OUT - Okajima, Youkilis, Matsuzaka and Pedroia. I don't have a problem with the last three being left off of the team. Okajima is not there for two reasons. Number one, there seems to be an unwritten rule that only starters and closers can be named to the All Star team. Number two, Okajima was hurt by the "one player from every team rule". If not for that rule, Gil Meche would obviously not be there. Nor would Carl Crawford or Michael Young. Okajima is eligible in the All Star Game Final Vote at MLB.com. Here is the AL ROSTER
Player of the Week: Well, it certainly isn't a position player. Plenty of pitchers had good weeks but I am giving this week's award to Tim Wakefield who gave up just one run on Friday to lead the Sox to their only win of the week.
Player of the Month for June: It is hard to find a Red Sox position player who had a great June -- Youkilis (.264), Pedroia (.333), Ortiz (.326, 4 HR, 11 RBI), Ramirez (.322, 3 HR, 12 RBI), Drew (.325, 4 HR, 15 RBI), Lowell (.227), Varitek (.234), Crisp (.330, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 14 runs), Lugo (.089). Yes, that's right - .089. The starters were a mixed bag: Beckett (3-2, 4.46), Matsuzaka (2-2, 1.59), Wakefield (3-3, 6.00), Tavarez (2-1, 3.30), Schilling (1-2, 5.79). That leaves the set-up man Okajima (2-0, 0.68 in 13 1/3 IP) and the closer Papelbon (0-1, 6 saves, 0.84 in 10 2/3 IP). In my estimation it comes down to the two Japanese gents and Papelbon. It's a tough call but my Player of the Month is Hideki Okajima. He and Papelbon were obviously involved in more Red Sox wins than Dice-K. Papelbon was great but Okie was just a bit better.
June 24, 2007
Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. After Curt Schilling's disturbing effort on Monday, the Red Sox pitching staff stepped up and paved the way for four wins in five road games against two of the NL's best teams. Red Sox pitchers gave up just nine runs in those games, six at the expense of Tim Wakefield. Lost in the great starting pitching of Beckett, Matsuzaka and Tavarez was the effort of the bullpen which gave up no runs in 11 2/3 innings in those five games.
The Red Sox continue to struggle at the plate but they have had enough timely hits to win most of the close, low-scoring games. Coco Crisp and JD Drew are slowly getting their act together. Drew is up to .249 after falling to a low point of .222 on the first of June. Drew is batting .327 with four homers since June 8th. I still hate the signing, but at least it is looking like Drew will contribute this season. Coco has moved from .221 to .253 in the past ten days. Coco was 11 for 26 (.423) this week with 3 HR and 5 RBI. Manny is now batting .300 thanks to a .386 June.
Unfortunately, Julio Lugo is having the worst offensive season for a Sox regular since Tony Pena in the mid 1990s. On Saturday, with two men on base and no outs the Sox had Mirabelli, Lugo and Wakefield coming up and I'm thinking to myself that Wakefield is the Red Sox best chance to drive in the run. The Sox of course stranded the runners. If you would like to torture yourself, please take a look at the following numbers for former and current Sox (including Paw Sox) shortstops:
AVG HR RBI Runs --------------------------------------- Edgar Renteria .329 10 36 47 Orlando Cabrera .334 4 44 50 Hanley Ramirez .322 10 25 62 Alex Gonzalez .263 12 35 36 Adam Everett .228 2 15 17 Julio Lugo .193 4 34 32
In the case of Hanley Ramirez, I cannot fault the Sox because they received Josh Beckett in the deal. I only wish they had been able to deal someone else instead of Hanley.
Is anyone else sick and tired of seeing Big Papi whine to home plate umpires? Yes, Ortiz has been the victim of an unusually high number of bad strike calls this season but most of his complaining is happening when the umpires are making the right call. The last thing we need is Big Papi turning in a prima donna.
The presence of Red Sox fans on the road continues to amaze me. Even in San Diego where the team enjoys solid support, it appeared (at least by the noise factor) that there were more Red Sox fans in Petco Park this weekend than Padres fans. By all accounts, they had a playoff atmosphere in San Diego this weekend. Who knows ... this may have been a World Series preview. The Sox are obviously a Series contender and the Padres are a bat or two away from being the frontrunner in the National League.
With the All Star break just two weeks away there are several Red Sox with a chance to go to San Francisco. Obviously, Manny and Big Papi will be voted in as starters by the fans. Josh Beckett will be invited and may start the game. I am sure that either Papelbon or Okajima, if not both, will be invited. Dice-K has an outside shot. Kevin Youkilis certainly deserves to go but I can't imagine that two first basemen from the same team will be invited to San Fran. There has been talk of Youk taking Big Papi's place. Dustin Pedroia can certainly make a case but I will put my money on Placido Polanco being the one backup for Robinson Cano (who doesn't belong there). They might also take BJ Upton as the one Devil Ray or Brian Roberts as the one Oriole (every team must have one representative). Finally, Mike Lowell has earned the right to be A-Rod's backup at third base. He appears to the logical and most deserving candidate. My current prediction: Manny, Papi, Beckett, Papelbon, Okajima, Lowell and Lugo. Obviously, I was kidding about one of those.
There were plenty of Player of the Week candidates this week. I mentioned Coco. Josh Beckett was 2-0 this week with an ERA of 1.29. He gave up just 10 hits in 14 innings. Jon Papelbon retired 9 of the 10 baserunners he faced this week (2 saves). Julian Tavarez pitched 7 shutout innings (3 hits, 1 walk). Hideki Okajima pitched a pair of perfect innings to lower his ERA to 0.98, the best in the AL for anyone who has pitched more than 25 innings. The winner is:
Player of the Week: Coco Crisp
June 17, 2007
The Red Sox picked up a much-needed game on the Yankees this weekend to move back to 8 1/2 games in front in the AL East. Even with the game the Sox picked up on Friday, the Yankees have managed to trim Boston's lead by six games in less than three weeks. As I said a couple of weeks ago, the current stretch of games which includes two West Coast road trips is extremely critical for the Sox. Right now, they are 7-6 (not great, not terrible) with the toughest part looming. The Sox will play Atlanta, San Diego and Seattle on the road over the next ten days. Those three teams are all tough on the road although none of the three is playing great baseball right now. The Yankees are also heading out for a ten day road trip against a much easier list of foes (Colorado, San Francisco and Baltimore). If they Sox can maintain the current 8 1/2 game lead through this stretch, I will be thrilled. Hopefully, by that time the Yankees will have cooled off.
This was an interesting week. Curt Schilling (coming off a one-hitter) and Josh Beckett (9-0 prior to this week) were bashed around in blowout losses to the Rockies. The back end of the rotation, however, was 4-0 including 2-1 and 1-0 victories. Schilling, Matsuzaka and Wakefield continue to be up and down. Obviously, Beckett had been great up until his last start. I would have to say that Julian Tavarez has been the Red Sox second most consistent (and maybe second best) pitcher over the past two months. Tavarez has given up three runs or less in seven of his last nine starts. He has a respectable 4.08 ERA during that time. The Red Sox have won six of those games.
Manny continues to swing a hot bat. He is batting .388 in June (19/49). On the down side, he has just 2 HR and 8 RBI this month (both homers in the past two games). Nobody is hotter than Dustin Pedroia, however. Dustin's 5 for 5 effort on Friday puts him at .352 in June. He is batting .398 since Cinco de Mayo.
Player of Week: I have had some easy choices of late but this week presented me with a tough decision. Dice-K had an outstanding 1-0, three-hit victory over the Giants on Saturday. Tim Wakefield was 2-0 this week, winning the first and last games of the brief homestand. Dustin Pedroia batted .364 including a 5 for 5, 5 RBI game on Friday. Manny batted .316 this week with a couple of homers. Big Papi batted .375 (but only had one RBI this week). Kevin Youkilis batted .333. Hideki Okajima pitched in all three games against the Giants (3 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 runs). Jon Papelbon has two 1-2-3 inning saves in one-run games. The winner by a nose is Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Happy Father's Day to all the Dads.
June 10, 2007
Last Sunday night, the Sox were two innings away from taking two of three from the Yankees and moving 14 1/2 games ahead of New York in the AL East. As you probably know, the Sox let that game slip away and lost four of seven games this week (the first time this season the Sox have had a losing week). Meanwhile, the Yankees won six of seven this week and have moved to within 9 1/2 of Boston in the division race. Last Sunday's game may have been the spark that the Yankees needed.
The good news is that the Sox really haven't played too badly during the recent stretch. The loss last Sunday was keyed by an A-Rod 50-foot dribbler which led to three of New York's runs in the one run Red Sox loss. In Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the A's, all three runs scored only because a routine grounder bounced off first base and trickled into right field. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched very well in both of his starts, but he did not get any offensive support (only a single run combined). In other words, there are no signs that Sox are going into a slide. It's been a case of bad luck and some cold bats. Hopefully, that will change when the return to Fenway this week against two sub-.500 National League teams.
Speaking of the NL, four American League teams scored more than 10 runs today against NL foes. Tampa Bay put up nine runs. The AL is 51-32 against the NL so far this season.
Player of the Week: It was another easy choice this week. Curt's Schilling's line on Thursday speaks for itself:
IP H R ER K/BB --------------------- 9 1 0 0 4/0
June 5, 2007
The Red Sox have now lost four of five games and are in the midst of their first slump of the season. For the first time all year, Red Sox opponents are getting the breaks. The Red Sox have now lost two heartbreakers in a row. Don't let the 10 game AL East bulge fool you; this is a critical point in the 2007 season. The upcoming schedule is brutal. The Sox play 15 of their next 21 games on the road with a six game homestand splitting two long road trips. The road series include Oakland, Arizona, Atlanta, San Diego and Seattle. These teams are a combined 34 games over .500 right now. The next road trip will cover about 7,000 miles in a span of ten days. Schedule-wise, life gets much easier for the Red Sox after the June road trip. However, the Sox play on 18 consecutive days following the All Star break.
The Sox reached the season's one-third mark (54 games) following Sunday's win. Their 37-17 mark through the first third put them on pace for an amazing 111-51 record. Here are some of the more interesting stats through the first third of the season (I am not counting the past two games):
Player of the Week (through June 3rd): This was a very easy choice. Dustin Pedroia was a ridiculous 14 for 23 last week (.609). He also had six doubles and drove in six runs. Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 14 games on Monday night. He is batting .444 since May 3rd.
June 1, 2007
The Red Sox ended the month of May with a loss to Cleveland but nevertheless it was a great month. The Sox were 20-8 in the month of May and extended their lead in the AL East from 3 1/2 games to 10 games.
The Red Sox had a nice offensive month in spite of the stuggles of their last three big offensive acquisitions. Amazingly, none of the Red Sox regulars batted between .225 and .310 in May. Six of these players batted .311 or better (two over .400) while three batted .224 or worse during the month. Here is the breakdown:
The Red Sox pitching was solid in May though not quite as good as it was in April. Team ERA rose from 3.28 in April to 4.07 in May. Josh Beckett was easily the best Sox starter in May. In four starts wrapped around his injury, he was 3-0 with a 2.88 ERA. Julian Tavarez, Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling all had May ERAs of between 3.99 and 4.09. Interestingly, Dice-K had the worst ERA among the starters at 5.22 but had the most wins with a 5-2 record.
In the bullpen, Hideki Okajima continued to shine (1.38 ERA with 3 saves) but it was Kyle Snyder who led the Red Sox with an ERA of just 0.79. JC Romero and Jon Papelbon had mediocre May ERAs of 3.00 and 3.60. Javier Lopez and Brendan Donnelly lost a little of the early magic. Their May ERAs were 4.70 and 5.73, respectively. Joel Piniero seems to be getting worse over time (7.15 in May).
Player of the Month (May): It shows how well the Red Sox are playing that Dustin Pedroia batted .415 and was not the Player of the Month. Mike Lowell, Manny and Josh Beckett may also have won in any other month. Clearly, Kevin Youkilis is Mr. May for 2007.
May 27, 2007
After losing two of three to the Yankees while squandering all kinds of opportunities to score and/or have big innings, the Red Sox are back on a roll. The Sox swept a three game series in Arlington for the first time since 1973 to improve to 34-15 and extend their AL East lead to 11 1/2 games. It's now the Orioles who have bounced into second place overtaking the Jays who overtook the Yankees on Saturday. As has been the case most of this season, the Sox won with clutch pitching, hitting and fielding. For example, on the pitching side, Joel Pineiro's 1 2/3 perfect innings set the stage for the comeback. On the offensive side, Dustin Pedroia fouled off about eight pitches before taking Eric Gagne deep in the ninth inning. This insurance run eventually became the winning run. Defensively, Coco Crisp made yet another spectacular diving catch that saved two runs and kept the Rangers from possibly breaking the game open. When a team is winning, these are the type of things that go right.
What makes the Red Sox run even sweeter is seeing the current state of the Yankees. The "Bombers" were swept by the Yankee-killing LA Angels this weekend. The Yankees problem most of the season has been pitching but this weekend they couldn't hit. After scoring six times on Friday, the Yanks could produce only four runs in the past two games. Since April 24th A-Rod is batting .229 with 10 RBIs. He's driven in runs in just 6 of his last 25 games. Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu are batting .148 and .214 in May, respectively. Damon, Matsui, Jeter and Posada are hitting the ball well and a few guys are pitching well but basically the Yankees are in shambles. The Red Sox could all but bury the Yanks with a sweep next weekend. Of course "all but bury" the Yankees because history has taught me that nothing is certain when it comes to the Sox. Next weekend could also be a springboard for the Yanks, expecially with Roger Clemens expected back and the very tough Indians on the Sox docket this week. In other words, don't let the 11 1/2 game lead fool you, this is a critical week for the Red Sox.
Julian Tavarez went from Cy Young to Matt Young in about ten seconds flat today, but that doesn't erase the outstanding work he's done in his past three outings, all Red Sox wins. Tararez had given up just three earned runs in 17 2/3 innings prior to the sixth inning meltdown today. He only walked one batter today (compared to four in each of his past two starts). With Tavarez pitching the way he has lately, the Red Sox can take their time with John Lester.
It has been a struggle for Manny all season, but he showed signs of returning to form this week. Despite an 0 for 3 today, Manny batted .417 on the road trip (10 for 24) with 5 extra base hits and five RBIs.
Player of the Week: Choosing the Player of the Week the past two weeks has been very difficult. That was not the case this week. Kevin Youkilis is on fire. The Sox first baseman was 12 for 28 this week (.429) with 5 doubles, 4 RBIs and 7 runs scored. Youkilis extended his hitting streak to 19 games on Sunday. What's more, he has at least two hits in each of his last seven games.
May 20, 2007
Even without Josh Beckett, the Red Sox were able to win 5 of 7 this week from the two of the league's top six teams. The wins enabled the Sox to expand their lead in the AL East to 10 1/2 games over the Yankees and Orioles. The Sox and Yankees get together for three this week in Yankee Stadium. The Sox can all but bury the Bombers with a sweep. New York, on the other hand, can get right back into contention with a sweep.
I think the best news of the week was the pitching of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K was 2-0 this week with an ERA of 2.12. Most importantly, Daisuke did not walk a single batter in the 17 innings he worked this week (he had walked 12 in his previous 18 innings).
The other Japanese star, Hideki Okajima gave up some hits this week but was able to extend his scoreless innings streak to 21 2/3. This is remincent of Papelbon last season. Papelbon gave up just one run in his first 34 appearances of the season.
When teams are on runs like the Sox are on right now (28-10 since April 7th), it means that everyone is contributing. On Thursday night it was Eric Hinske who played the role of hero with a face first diving catch and a two-run game-winning homer. I really appreciated the effort, especially considering that I haven't see JD Drew dive for a ball all season.
It was clear a two-man race for Player of the Week honors between Daisuke and Kevin Youkilis. As great as Dice was this week, the award goes to Youkilis who was 11 for 27 (.407) this week with 3 HR and 7 RBI. His hitting streak now stands at 13 (he's also hit in 22 of his last 23 games). This was the most difficult Player of the Week choice I have had to make this season.
May 13, 2007
What a ninth inning for the Red Sox. In case you missed it (and I hope you didn't) the Sox scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Orioles 6-5. The rally started With one out and no one on base when Coco Crisp's popup a few feet in front of the plate bounced out of the catcher's glove for an error. At this point, O's Manager Sam Perlozzo inexplicably removed starter Jeremy Guthrie from the game. Guthrie had given up just three hits and had only thrown 91 pitches at the time. What followed next was an Ortiz double to drive in Crisp followed by a Pena single, both off Danys Baez. Closer Chris Ray then came in and walked Drew and Youkilis (which plated Ortiz) before giving up a two run double to Varitek to make the score 5-4. After an intentional walk to Hinske, it appeared that the Sox had tied the game on an Alex Cora chopper but Kevin Youkilis was called out on a force play at the plate. With two outs, Julio Lugo hit a ground to first but Chris Ray (covering first) dropped Kevin Millar's toss allowing Lugo to reach first safely and allowing Tek and Hinske to score the game tying and winning runs. I am thrilled for the fans who stayed at Fenway for the entire game. The were rewarded in a big way.
I continue to be impressed by the Red Sox never-say-die attitude but what struck me most about the ninth inning was Perlozzo's decision to remove Guthrie. The Orioles had a five run lead, he was dominating the Red Sox and he had only thrown 91 pitches. There wasn't even a hint of trouble at that point. This is the second time this season that an opposing manager has helped the Sox win by removing a starter for no reason. Last month in Toronto, the Sox rallied from 3-1 down in the eighth inning after Jays Manager John Gibbons pulled Roy Halladay after 95 pitches.
The Red Sox have lost a lot of games lately that the should have won, but today was certainly a game that they should have lost. Losing two of three to Balmer coupled with Beckett's injury would have made this a miserable weekend for Boston. This win enabled the Sox to win their seventh consecutive three game series and they are 9-2 following losses this season. That is how you win division titles.
We'll see what happens with Josh Beckett. I can't imagine that he won't miss at least a start or two. What concerns me more is whether this will have an impact on his success once he returns to the rotation. Beckett has a history of blisters and I am guessing that this injury is related somehow. It reminds us of the fragile nature of the Sox pitching staff. The Sox pitching has been great but with two starters over 40, another with a history of injuries, a closer returning from arm troubles and a set up man who is already on the DL for the second time this season it is hard to relax, even with an eight game lead.
How about Mike Lowell? Prior to the start of the season, I would have been thrilled to see Mike Lowell put up the same numbers in 2007 that he put up in 2006 - .284 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs and 47 doubles. As of now, Lowell is batting .313 and is on pace for 32 homers, 135 RBIs and 41 doubles. In Spring Training last year, we all thought Lowell's $9 million salary would be an albatross for the Sox. You could argue that so far this season, Lowell is underpaid.
Of the 13 Red Sox pitchers with more than one appearance this season, nine have ERAs below 3.70. The others are Joel Piniero who just left that club today, Dice-K, Mike Timlin and Julian Tavarez.
Many Red Sox had monster weeks. Kevin Youkilis was 11 for 21 with a HR, 6 RBIs and 4 runs scored. He also made several excellent defensive plays. Jason Varitek continues to amaze me. He was 7 for 19 this week with a HR, 5 RBIs and 7 runs. Big Papi was 10 for 21 with a homer, 7 RBIs, 6 runs and 4 doubles. Manny was only 6 for 22 this week but homered, drove in 6 and scored 6. Alex Cora was 5 for 11. On the pitching side, Hideki Okajima pitched 2 2/3 more scoreless innings (he has now piched 15 1/3 scoreless since his first batter on Opening Day) and Tim Wakefield gave up no runs and three hits while beating the Jays on Thursday. All of those players were worthy of POTW honors but the clear winner was ...
Player of the Week: Mike Lowell, who was 8 for 19 (.421) with 3 HR, 9 RBIs and 5 runs in five games this week. Lowell becomes the first player to be Player of the Week twice this season.
May 7, 2007
All things considered, 4-2 is a good week, but the Red Sox really should have been 6-0 this week. Obviously, the Papelbon blown save on Tuesday was a total surprise. Jon has been dominant this season but clearly he just didn't have it against the A's. Saturday's contest against the Twins was also a game the Red Sox should have won. Boston scored only once while leaving 12 runners on base. Julian Tavarez actually outpitched Johan Santana but the mix of poor clutch hitting and bad luck (plenty of line drive outs) buried the Sox. Now for the good news - the Red Sox have won four of the last five games by a combined six runs so they are winning close games as well. The outstanding work of the bullpen has a lot to do with that. The Sox bullpen ranks second in Major League Baseball in ERA with a mark of 2.21 (the Mets are first). By contrast, the Sox pen ranked 21st last season (4.51) despite Papelbon's miniscule ERA. Sox starters rank third in the AL in ERA with a solid 3.79.
There are a few candidates for Player of the Week. Tim Wakefield gave up no runs on three hits and three walks in a victory on Friday night. Hideki Okajima appeared three times, surrendering just two hits and a walk in 3 1/3 scoreless innings this week (Okajima has now pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings after giving up a homer to the first batter he faced this season). Dustin Pedroia raised his average to .239 after going 6 for 12 this week with 3 doubles. He has reached base 8 times in 11 at bats since Thursday. Wily Mo Pena was 5 for 8 this week. Alex Cora is batting .405 after a 6 for 12 week including 2 RBI and 2 runs.
Player of the Week: Dustin Pedroia, by a nose over Alex Cora.
April 29, 2007
After a terrible start to the week, the Red Sox bounced back to win four of five in a brief road trip to Baltimore and New York. The Red Sox will end the month of April with a nice 6 1/2 game lead over the last place Yankees. Ironically, the injury to Saturday's Yankee starter Jeff Karstens in the first inning probably saved the Yankees from a sweep and may have saved Joe Torre's job, at least for the time being. Karstens (ERA = 14.54) was knocked out of the game after being struck in the leg by a Julio Lugo line drive. When Karstens couldn't continue, Kei Igawa came in and gave up only two hits in six innings to pick up the victory. The brief Yankee momentum was squelched on Sunday. Even a rare three run homer by Doug Mientkiewicz couldn't save the Yanks on Sunday.
Player of the Week: Kevin Youkilis, who batted .400 (10 for 25) and reached base 15 times in six games. He also had a homer, three RBIs and six runs scored.
Player of the Month (April): Josh Beckett, who was 5-0 with 2.48 ERA. He had 28 strikeouts and only 7 walks. Runner-up: Jon Papelbon, who saved eight games in eight chances. He gave up just two hits and no runs in 9 1/3 innings.
April 22, 2007
What a great ten days for the Red Sox. Last weekend, they outscored the Angels 25-3 in a three game Fenway sweep. On Thursday, the Sox rallied from a two run eighth inning deficit to beat the Jays in a game started by Roy Halladay and Julian Tavarez. Boston capped off the 8-1 stretch with a three game sweep of the Yankees. The series included a stretch of four consecutive Red Sox homers. This marked the first time that a Red Sox team has hit four dingers in a row and it's only the fifth time in MLB history that anyone has done it. Too bad Wily Mo couldn't make it five in a row.
Thursday's game might be lost in the Yankee hoopla, but I felt that that game was the most important game of the last week. With Halladay facing Tavarez and the Yankee series on the horizon, it would have been very easy for the Sox to mail one in especially after the Jays took the 3-1 lead. But the Sox battled back with clutch hitting, clutch pitching and great defense. When your seventh starter faces one of the top five starters in the league on the road and you win the game, you know things are going well.
The Red Sox really needed to take advantage of the two Yankee series in April. The Yankee pitching staff is in absolute shambles. The Yanks had a mediocre staff to begin with and the injuries to Wang and Mussina obviously have made things much worse. It looks like Wang could be available for next weekend's series. If no games are rained out this week, it looks like it will be Matsusaka-Wright on Friday, Wakefield-Igawa on Saturday and Tavarez-Wang on Sunday. I wonder if the Yankees are worried about Mariano Rivera. He's looked terrible in consecutive blown saves but he also blew his first two save chances in the 2005 season and went on to save 43 in his next 45 chances and finished with a 1.38 ERA.
Some random notes for this weekend's series:
The Player of the Week candidates are:
Player of the Week: Mike Lowell
April 16, 2007
The Boston bats awoke over the weekend but the starting pitching remained the key for the Red Sox. Since Schilling's horrible season opener the four permanent members of the Sox rotation (I am excluding Tavarez) have made nine solid starts in a row. Here are the totals in those nine for Schilling, Beckett, Dice and Wakefield:
W-L IP ER H K/BB ERA ----------------------------------------- 7-2 60 10 34 44/12 1.50
The bullpen has been a mixed bag. Lopez, Papelbon, Donnelly and Okajima have pitched a combined 14 2/3 innings and given up just five hits and one earned run. Snyder, Piniero, Romero and Timlin on the other hand: 13 1/3 IP, 16 hits, 9 earned runs.
On the offensive side, several Sox had excellent weeks. In the Seattle and Anaheim homestand, Julio Lugo was 8 for 19 (.421), David Ortiz was 7 for 18 (.389) with 2 HR and 8 RBI and Kevin Youkilis was 6 for 15 (.400). Other important notes - Mike Lowell already has six doubles (he had 47 last year) and Big Papi already has 12 RBI.
The rainouts are a negative for the Sox because (a) they are playing well and (b) the rainouts will cost them days off or force double-headers down the road. On the plus side, the rain allowed the Sox to push Julian Tavarez starts back twice. I suspect that Tavarez will face the Yankees on Friday.
Player of the Week: Due to the rainouts, I counted Monday's game against the Angels as part of last week. This made my decision very easy. Josh Beckett gets the honors. He was 2-0 and gave up just two earned runs and eight hits in 15 innings of work. He struck out 13 batters and walked just one in those two starts. Big Papi was the clear runner-up.
Player of the Week: Josh Beckett
April 8, 2007
The first week of the season was a mixed bag for the Red Sox. The best news came on Thursday when Daisuke Matsuzaka dominated the Royals (7 IP, 6 H, 10 K, 1 BB). No one should be overly excited over one game but it was crucial that Daisuke get off to a good start this season and he certainly did. Another guy who desperately needed a good start in Boston and had one is J.D. Drew. The new Sox rightfielder batted .391 this week and reached base 11 times. The only other Sox player who had a good week at the dish was Dustin Pedroia (.312 avg). After a terrible opener, Schilling was solid in his victory on Sunday. Wakefield pitched brilliantly on Friday but was victimized by a fluke base hit and a Pedroia error (the Sox lost 2-0 and neither run was Wake's fault). Beckett labored on Wednesday but only gave up one run. Papelbon was absolutely dominant in two outings (eight batters faced, eight outs, five strikeouts, two saves). I would like to see Papelbon in the starting rotation someday but for right now, I couldn't be happier that he is closing games for the Sox.
Now the bad news ... Julian Tavarez had problems in his first start on Saturday. I have no confidence that this is going to change. Obviously, the Sox will eventually fill that hole but how long can they wait? Joel Pineiro looks every bit as terrible as advertised. He came into the game on Sunday with a two-run lead and immediately walked two batters. Thankfully, Papelbon pulled a Houdini and bailed him out. The bottom of the Sox lineup looks a bit like the bottom of the Bad News Bears lineup. I am happy that Pedroia had a nice week but Crisp doesn't look any better than last season and Varitek is swinging like a rusty gate. I am still confident that Coco can regain his 2005 form (.300 average with 86 runs) but I am afraid that Varitek is deteriorating rapidly. It is unfortunate that the Sox had to part with Josh Bard to get Mirabelli back last season. Bard batted .338 last season and is off to a .319 start this year. The Sox could have used Bard much more often than they can use Mirabelli who is probably the only guy that will be worse at the plate than Varitek this season. By the way, the Sox also lost Cla Meredith in that deal. What a nightmare?
Here is a question that I find myself asking every year: What is wrong with Dan Shaughnessy? The "Curly-haired Girlfriend" is now mocking Curt Schilling for his blog (http://38pitches.com). Even by Shaughnessy standards this is pitiful. In this era, most professional athletes wouldn't walk across the street to spit on one of their fans. My father often tells me stories from Spring Training in the 1960s. Back in those days, regular guys would often hang out with the players. At the very least, the players were accessible and would probably be friendly if you ran into them on the street. Obviously, those days are long gone. That is why it is so refreshing that Curt Schilling has taken in interest in communicating with his fans. It is not exactly on par with my father's experiences in Spring Training, but at least Curt makes the effort and seems to enjoy the interaction with the fans. It is not just the bloody sock that has endeared Curt Schilling to Red Sox Nation. This type of stuff has a lot to do with it. Shaughnessy of course has selfish reasons for mocking Schilling. If more players had blogs, it would be harder for media types like Shaughnessy to get away with printing half-truths and rumors. At the very least, the blog allows the player to publish his side of the story. Hats off to Curt for doing this and I hope we see more of it in the future.
Can anyone tell me why we always have games the first week of the season in places like Cleveland, New York and Chicago? Having games in Northern parks the first week of April is asking for trouble. How does this happen? Maybe the schedule-maker is caught up in the global warming hysteria and thought is was no longer possible to have cold weather the first week in April. These seven AL teams should start the season with at least two home series: Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Minnesota, Toronto and Tampa Bay. All of these teams either play in warm weather climates or in domed stadiums. The National League has seven such teams and would only need to play on series in a cold weather area the first week of the season. Of course I realize that inclement weather can occur in the second week of the season but the odds of snow or extremely cold weather on April 9th or April 13th are lower than they are on April 2nd. Baseball, more than any other sport, relies on statistics. You would think they would use the weather stats to their advantage and avoid some postponements.
Now on to the Player of the Week. I really looked at three candidates this week. Daisuke (1-0, 7 IP, 6 hits, 10 K, 1 BB), J.D. Drew (.391 average and 11 times reaching base) and Jon Papelbon (2 2/3 IP, 2 saves, 0 hits, 5 K, 0 BB). And the winner is ...
Player of the Week: Daisuke Matsuzaka
Players of the Week9/30: David Ortiz (4)
Players of the MonthSeptember: Josh Beckett and David Ortiz