05 July 2004

Addressing the Red Sox Issue...

I just don't get it. There. I said it.

I don't feel like I ever specifically overrated this team. Instead, even by a conservative pre season estimate, the 2004 Boston Red Sox would be a very very good team- at least, of course, better than last year's very good team. How could they not be? Surely the offense could not explode over the course of the entire season like they did last year. And that was OK- our rotation was replacing John Burkett with Curt Schilling and the revolving door #5 spot with the very promising Byung-Hyun Kim. Furthermore, the bullpen went from liability to what appeared to be one of the best in baseball- a full bore relief ace in Keith Foulke, a bona fide top-tier setup man in Scott Williamson, and solid pitchers like Alan Embree, Mike Timlin and long man Bronson Arroyo.

So what the fuck happened? SERIOUSLY?! There has to be some place to start, so hell, I'll start here- we lead the major leagues in unearned runs allowed. The Boston Red Sox' defense is NOT as bad as its played. Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Pokey Reese, Trot Nixon, Nomar Garciaparra and to some extent Bill Mueller are all at or above average defenders. In other words- none of them are a liability. Add to that very reliable bench defenders like Dave McCarty, Gabe Kapler and Mark Bellhorn, and as the season dawned, there was no reason to believe that the team defense would be bad. It wouldn't be great- but would certainly not cost as many games as it certainly has.


In happier times... Trot HR off Gabe White, Game 6- '03 ALCS



So what happened defensively? I wish I could say, because I honestly don't know. Are Kevin Millar and David Ortiz good defenders? Of course not, but on a given night, only one is playing in the field. Pokey is as good as advertised, Damon (though a few blunders in one game may reflect otherwise) has been his usual self- amazing range and terrible arm. Bellhorn, McCarty, Kapler, Varitek have all been solid. My guess is a combination of a number of factors- injuries knocking out some of our better defenders and giving some dreadful players too much playing time (Cesar Crespo). Second- playing under ability. It isn't too far off to characterize games like Saturday June 26th against Philadelphia (5 UER), 6/29-7/1 (4 E in 3 games) as well under the ability of the team, and while errors DO cause needless runs... they don't often cause this many. 67 errors is bad- worse than this team. It is not unfair to characterize this as a bona fide defensive slump. What that may portend to the players or the manager or the defensive positioning is up for discussion.

The bullpen HAS been very very good. They've had the best bullpen ERA in the AL, and Williamson (when healthy), Foulke, Timlin and Leskanic (in very few appearances) hae all pitched well. Embree started strong, but has had a few terrible outings hurt his overall numbers. He'll have to improve.

In fact, the entire staff is second in the AL at 4.00 team ERA. What most certainly has been the issue of the starting rotation is inconsistency, and this is rooted in a number of issues. Firstly and foremost-ly is Derek Lowe. 5 quality starts out of 15 tries, an ERA over 6, 4.26 K/9IP, 1.17 WHIP, .302 BAA. The list goes on- Lowe has not been bad- he's been terrible, and arguably one of the very worst starting pitchers in baseball. He was smart to hire Scott Boras to extract that blood from the stone that will be the GMs of this offseason, but he was dumb not to resign with the Sox upon their initial offer. He has not only hamstrung the Red Sox, he has nearly demolished his market value.


Derek Lowe has been a huge source of problems for the Sox this year



The strength of the rotation was severely diminished by the curious case of Byung-Hyun Kim, a pitcher it seemed was destined for great things in 2004. Young, talented, and ready to enter his first major league season in a starting rotation, Kim was poised to anchor the 5 spot in the Sox rotation and keep us in games other #5's couldn't.

But he started the season off hurt. And never recovered. His velocity was down, his command gone, and three starts later (one good, two terrible)-- he was back in Pawtucket. He was never declared "injured" (though 5-7 MPH had mysteriously disappeared off his fastball), he began working in 2 inning stretches every other day starting games. Either Epstein was protecting him in order to trade him, or they were easing him back into a relief role. Either way- he soon defected to Korea to correct the "muscle balance" in his legs. He has since returned and is rehabbing in Pawtucket- for what role we do not know.


Have you seen this man?



Then there were the injuries. Losing Trot Nixon, Nomar Garciaparra, Bill Mueller and Byung Hyun Kim for extended periods have time has exposed a number of underqualified players. Thus, our bench has thinned from the less-than-impressive place it was and our team was weakened. Cesar Crespo, Dave McCarty, Gabe Kapler and Bronson Arroyo won't win help you win games on a consistent basis.

Now that three of these players are back, they are struggling to regain form. Trot looked extremely solid and hot out of the gate, but now is sluggish and seemingly susceptible to significant pain in the balky quad. Nomar started disturbingly slow, and though he's picked it up in the last few games, the rift between he and the organization may lead to his being traded. Mueller has been solid in his return but, in fairness, so has his replacement- Kevin Youkilis.

Boston is currently playing 2 games under their Pythagorean standing, the Yankees SIX GAMES OVER. While it may seem dismissive to classify much of the ills of the team to "bad luck," it may have a lot to do with it. One thing is becoming more clear though- it is beginning to be OK to question the credibility of Terry Francona.

My thoughts still tell me that the Boston Red Sox win the Wild Card. The Red Sox are certainly better than the Angels, Twins, White Sox, Rangers, and possibly even the A's. With a well placed trade and some better luck/ play, we should be able to get on some rolls.

But soon. PLEASE. For the love of GOD.


It'll get better, Petey, I promise...


______________________________ |

3 Comments:

I think it's time for D-Lowe to take a leave of absence to get his F-d up head taken care of. I mean, Tim Kester and Jamie Brown would be at least as good as Lowe. He's been horrible. Send him to the 'pen and let him get it figured out. What blows my mind is they are skipping Arroyo's next start, but not Lowe's. Yeah, that makes sense. Arroyo's strung together 4 straight good starts and they are going to put him in the pen and keep Captain Gasoline in there? Jeez...

And Tim, my head says the Red Sox can still win the wild card, but the window is closing. Apart from Derek Lowe's dreadful 5th (and Jimmy Anderson, let's just pretend he doesn't exist for a minute), they played well the last 4 games of that trip. They can definitely do this... I think.

Marty

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/05/2004 5:53 PM  

I think it's time for D-Lowe to take a leave of absence to get his F-d up head taken care of. I mean, Tim Kester and Jamie Brown would be at least as good as Lowe. He's been horrible. Send him to the 'pen and let him get it figured out. What blows my mind is they are skipping Arroyo's next start, but not Lowe's. Yeah, that makes sense. Arroyo's strung together 4 straight good starts and they are going to put him in the pen and keep Captain Gasoline in there? Jeez...

And Tim, my head says the Red Sox can still win the wild card, but the window is closing. Apart from Derek Lowe's dreadful 5th (and Jimmy Anderson, let's just pretend he doesn't exist for a minute), they played well the last 4 games of that trip. They can definitely do this... I think.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/05/2004 5:56 PM  

I think it's time for D-Lowe to take a leave of absence to get his F-d up head taken care of. I mean, Tim Kester and Jamie Brown would be at least as good as Lowe. He's been horrible. Send him to the 'pen and let him get it figured out. What blows my mind is they are skipping Arroyo's next start, but not Lowe's. Yeah, that makes sense. Arroyo's strung together 4 straight good starts and they are going to put him in the pen and keep Captain Gasoline in there? Jeez...

And Tim, my head says the Red Sox can still win the wild card, but the window is closing. Apart from Derek Lowe's dreadful 5th (and Jimmy Anderson, let's just pretend he doesn't exist for a minute), they played well the last 4 games of that trip. They can definitely do this... I think.

Marty

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/05/2004 5:56 PM  

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