Red Sox June 2004

June 27, 2004

 

So Long A Drought

 

I’m sorry for not posting in such a long time. The play of the Red Sox hasn’t inspired me to write anything.

 

It has been a painful stretch, watching them Red Sox win one, then lose one. The biggest winning streak they’ve had in June is 3 games. The longest losing streak also is 3 games (it was actually 4 but the first game was played on May 31st).

 

I can’t put a finger on what, but something has to change. Could it be an instance where too many guys are playing for a new contract and that has them thinking with a “me first” approach?

 

With Nomar, Pedro, Varitek, Lowe and Ramiro Mendoza all fighting for a new contract (relax, I was kidding about Mendoza), we might be looking at a team not focused.

 

I don’t think anyone can argue that the four mentioned above are all big factors to the team. Are they doing what they should be doing?

 

Varitek
.avg/.obp/.slg games runs hr rbi
2003 .273/.351/.512 142 63 25 85
2004 .281/.390/.450 69 31 9 29

 

Nomar
.avg/.obp/.slg games runs hr rbi
2003 .301/.345/.524 156 120 28 105
2004 .250/.290/.406 16 7 1 9

 

Pedro
era whip w ip h bb k
2003 2.22 1.04 14 186.2 147 47 206
2004 3.73 1.16 8 103.2 93 27 97

 

Lowe
era whip w ip h bb k
2003 4.47 1.42 17 203.1 216 72 110
2004 5.47 1.68 6 82.1 102 36 40

 

Well, they’ve all slipped from last year save perhaps Varitek. While his slugging is lower, his .OBP is much higher.

 

If you consider the 4 above to be key contributors to the 2004 Red Sox cause, then there really isn’t any surprise as to why the Red Sox have been lousy these past two months.

 

Now, I realize that the reason teams do poorly is because the players on that team are doing poorly. I know I haven’t discovered anything here, but when you consider who is playing lousy baseball, you have to think that perhaps all of these outstanding contract issues are effecting the club performance.

 

If so, I imagine Epstein has already commissioned a report from Bill James entitled Unresolved Contracts: A look at superstars playing in their contract years and the impact it has on team performance.

 

In all seriousness, I’m sure that study has been ordered and that Theo will be able to make future decisions based on its content.

 

Anyway, I really think something has to give. Be it a tirade from Terry Francona (“Come on fellas, I’m just frosted at our lousy play. Ahh nutty fudgekins!), a major trade by Epstein (especially one where the Red Sox move a big player to shake things up), or a team meeting call the poor performers out. Or it might be another option all together. I just hope whatever it is, it happens quickly.

 

Notes:

 

It was announced that the Red Sox signed Pedro Astacio to a minor league deal. This is interesting as it is sure to smell like a Dan Duquette styled deal. Astacio is coming off June 2003 surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum.

 

That sounds like serious surgery to me.

 

Astacio was a pretty good pitcher early in his career. Then, he got traded to the Colorado Rockies. His went from 4.14 in 1997 (the year of the trade in which he pitched 153.1 innings in LA and 48.2 in Colorado) to a sloppy 6.23 in 1998.

 

Like any promising pitcher, he went there to die. Mike Hampton is just now recovering from his 2 years in Colorado. Seriously, other than his 1993 season in Seattle in which he threw only 17 innings, Mike Hampton had never posted an ERA at the end of a season higher than 3.83 (1997). In his 2 years on Colorado, he posted a 2001 ERA of 5.41 and a 2002 ERA of 6.15.

 

Dear goodness, why did MLB allow a team back in Colorado? I realize they have every right to have a MLB team and appear to be great fans, but how can this be good for pitchers? Over the past 4 years, the Rockies have posted:

 

2001 ERA – 5.29 (29th)
2002 ERA – 5.20 (28th)
2003 ERA – 5.20 (28th)
2004 ERA – 5.98 (30th)

 

With 2004 being the exception (there’s time yet!), their crappiness is remarkably consistent. Perhaps Rockies GM, Dan O’Dowd, should take note that regardless of his pitching staff, he is probably going to post a 5.20-ish ERA. Interesting…

 

Where were we? Right, Pedro Astacio. Once Astacio left Colorado, he slowly started to improve, until 2003 when doctors found the 2 tears in his shoulder. Probably a result of over-throwing in Colorado

 

I can’t imagine Epstein is counting on Astacio for help this year, but perhaps is trying to garner some good will in hopes that Astacio will re-sign next year and help the 2005 product.

 

Game 2 tonight at Yankee Stadium. Tim Wakefield (4-5, 4.59 ERA) vs. Jon Lieber (5-5, 5.26 ERA). Two pitchers who aren’t pitching well right now.

 

The Red Sox need to find some momentum. Who cares about watching the Yankees? The Red Sox just need to take care of their own house and worry about where they stand at the end of the season. Now get to it, chop, chop.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2004

 

They’re Better Now

 

Since I last posted, Red Sox starters have offered up the following performances:

 

Date Pitcher IP H BB ER K ERA WHIP
6/2 Martinez 5.0 11 2 7 4 12.60 2.60
6/4 Wakefield 6.2 9 4 4 4 5.81 2.10
6/5 Schilling 7.0 6 1 3 3 3.86 1.00
6/6 Lowe 5.0 3 1 2 4 3.60 0.80
6/7 Martinez 8.0 2 1 0 8 0.00 0.38
6/8 Arroyo 5.0 6 2 1 1 1.80 1.60
6/9 Schilling 7.0 6 2 2 8 2.57 1.14

 

Well, if you take out the 6/2 and the 6/4 games, you have a fairly strong run of Red Sox starts, the best being from Martinez on 6/7. It reminded me of the Pedro of 2000.

 

Pedro maintains he prefers pitching in warm weather, well Tuesday night’s game was played in some hot and humid stuff.

 

The biggest development this past week was the return of Nomar Garciaparra Wednesday night. His addition to the line-up extends the heart of the order by one. Ortiz-Ramirez-Garciaparra sounds a whole lot better than Ortiz-Ramirez-Varitek or Ortiz-Ramirez-Millar. You know opposing pitchers think that way too.

 

So far, so good in Nomar’s two games back. He is 2-6 since his return with 1 run and 2 rbi’s. It was good to see him hit that wall ball double in Thursday night’s game. Deep down, I am still nervous that something is wrong with Nomar, above and beyond his Achilles.

 

His September slump and subsequent flop in the playoffs (his ALDS batting average was strong, but it lacked pop and his ALCS performance stunk) worried me that perhaps something was ailing the slugger. I don’t know if it was just me, but he seemed to pop up far too many pitches to the infield.

 

Regardless, he is back and only time will tell if he is capable of some positive run generation (PRG – a new Bill James stat perhaps?).

 

With Nomar back, Scott Williamson a day or two away and Trot Nixon a week or so from returning, the Red Sox have a good opportunity to string together some wins and prove they are worth their high payroll.

 

Trot’s return will especially help as Gabe Kapler just hasn’t gotten it done with the bat. With Trot’s return, I see the following line-up:

 

Damon – cf
Youkilis – 3b
Nomar – ss
Manny – lf
Ortiz – dh
Millar – 1b
Nixon – rf
Varitek – c
Reese/Bellhorn – 2b

 

That is a fairly imposing line-up. Better than the one with Kapler, Crespo and McCarty in it.

 

With interleague play here, I’m fairly interested to see the Red Sox at Pac Bell. The match-up I can’t wait for is Pedro vs. Barry Bonds. I believe Pedro is scheduled to pitch the 6/19 (Saturday) game. From what I can tell, it is Fox’s game of the week, so the Giants and Red Sox will share the national stage. That should be fun.

 

Maybe some real pitching will make Bonds look human…as human as a steroid user can look anyway. That wasn’t fair of me…

 

Posted by Andy at 08:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2004

 

Lowe Down Dirty Shame

 

The Boston papers have already played this one to death, but in case you missed it, Derek Lowe stinks.

 

So far in 2004?

 

51.1 innings
74 hits
25 walks
49 runs
39 earned runs
21 strikeouts
6.84 ERA
1.93 Whip

 

Ugly.

 

In my 2/23/04 piece, I mentioned Lowe’s inconsistency. It is now rearing its ugly head. Is it too much to think that Lowe doesn’t belong in the rotation? A 6.84 ERA just about assures a team of failure. Some might prefer to look at Lowe’s terrible May (8.19 ERA) and say it’s just one month, but his April (4.98) was sub-par too.

 

I’m not sure I care why he is pitching poorly. I just hope that he and Dave Wallace can figure it out soon. If not, let’s hope Terry Francona makes the appropriate decision. I think “hope” is playing too much into this equation.

 

Let’s look at the rest of the rotation:

 

Player IP H BB R ER K ERA WHIP
Pedro 70.2 65 18 32 30 72 3.82 1.17
Schilling 78.0 75 11 26 26 70 3.00 1.10
Wakefield 62.2 57 20 28 25 36 3.59 1.23
Arroyo 45.0 44 12 31 25 33 5.00 1.24

 

Schilling and Wakefield have certainly pitched well. Pedro hasn’t been awful, but he has not been his normal Pedro self. He posted a 3.00 ERA in April, but had a 4.50 in May. What’s been most striking is the amount of hits he’s allowed.

 

Coming into this season, Pedro had only allowed just under .75 hits per inning. This season he is at just under .93 hits/inning. While .93 isn’t terrible (in fact it is still quite good) and the sample size is quite small it is still worth watching.

 

On a side note, Pedro had averaged just .729 hits per inning as a member of the Red Sox coming into this season. But, a big portion of that low number came from his 2000 season when he allowed just .590 hits per inning. Amazing.

 

1998 – .804
1999 – .750
2000 – .590
2001 – .720
2002 – .723
2003 – .787

 

2000 was an anomaly, but one carried out over 217 innings. That’s why many people believe Pedro’s 2000 season was the best by a pitcher ever. His WHIP was the best ever in a season.

 

Oh yeah, he only walked 32 while striking out 284.

 

Back to the rotation. Bronson Arroyo has pitched his share of good games this year, but he has also thrown a few stinkers. In fact, he has thrown just 3 quality starts (at least 6 innings and no more than 3 earned runs) in 7 tries.

 

His performance also bears watching (bares or bears?).

 

Last week I mentioned how much fun I was having watching Kevin Youkilis play. Well that hasn’t changed. I had predicted some tough times for him, but they have yet to arrive. So far, he is hitting .318 with a .446 OBP and a .447 SLG. That’ll keep him in the majors a while.

 

For those that don’t believe OBP plays a big role in a batters value, look at Youkilis who has scored 15 runs in only 13 games. Look at Mark Bellhorn, he of the .247 average but .389 OBP. He has scored 38 runs in 49 games.

 

Now look at Pokey Reese. He is hitting .255 with just a .297 OBP and has scored just 21 runs in 47 games. Dusty Baker and Jack McKeon, are you listening? Ok, I’ll give Mr. McKeon a pass seeing as he just won the World Series.

 

Onto the first left coast trip of the year. All true Red Sox fans are easily identified what with the shadows under their eyes the following morning. The good news is that the Red Sox only play Tuesday and Wednesday with 10pm starts. Then it is on to Kansas City and more reasonable viewing times.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

One Third Done

On the eve of interleague play, the Yankees have reached the conclusion of the first third of the season, a point where it is still too early to sweat the standings, but long enough to see some individual trends and patterns. Clearly, it has been a successful first third of the season for the Yankees; they end it with a 35-20 record, which is the best mark in baseball. This is even more impressive when you consider they were 8-11 after getting swept at home by the Red Sox.

The 2004 edition of the Yankees is currently made up of mediocre starting pitching, an excellent bullpen and a scary lineup. Let’s take a look at each area of the team.

Unlike years past, the Yankees do not roll out a starter who can dominate every day. Mike Mussina got off to a horrible start, but seems to be getting back on track. Kevin Brown was great at the start of the season, but has been roughed up as of late. Javier Vazquez has been dominating, but tends to give up a long ball at the most inopportune times. Jon Lieber has been up and down; his last two starts the down part of his season. Jose Contreras, I don’t want to talk anymore about Jose Contreras. On talent alone, this squad should improve and the Yankees will definitely need better in October.

The reason why the Yankees have not been hurt by their so-so starting pitching is that their bullpen has been lights out. Mariano has converted 23 out of 24 saves and Tom Gordon has given Joe Torre a second closer out of the bullpen. Paul Quantrill has been solid, with a few bumps along the way. The only real problem in the bullpen has been the lefties, White and Heredia have been terrible, but Joe Torre hasn’t needed to use them in crucial situations.

Offensively, the Yankees are a team you can never count out of a game, regardless of the score. A Rod, Sheffield, Matsui, Posada and Giambi are all having monster years. Ruben Sierra has been great when used. Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo have hit enough to cover second. The only real problems in the lineup are Bernie and Jeter. Bernie’s OPS has gone from .601 in April to .789 in May to .868 in June. An OPS over .800 for the season would make the Yankees happy. Jeter seems to have turned things around since the end of May, but he has a lot of hitting to do to get up to his normal career levels.

So, the Yankees head into the next part of the season with a solid foundation and apart from some minor tweaking here and there, no need for a bigger move- though that doesn’t mean one won’t be made in Yankeeland.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

Some Advice to American League Fans

Robert Caro in his fantastic book, Master of the Senate, details how Lyndon Johnson won the 1948 Texas Senate race by waiting until his opponents’ votes had been counted and then went around to the various precincts to “make sure” that he had enough votes to win. Unfortunately, American League voters will not have this luxury and that is why the first round of All Star votes is so troubling.

Yes, in years past you could go out and vote for your favorite players with a clear conscience, but that all changed when the wizards who wanted to bring us Spider Man covered bases decided to make the All Star Game “matter”. Since pride certainly would no longer motivate players, the thought was that the winning league having home field advantage in the World Series might. Sickening? Absolutely, but it is the system we operate under and therefore it behooves Yankee and Red Sox fans (yes, you from the other side of the page) to vote with their heads and not their hearts. So, let’s take a look at the current leaders at each position and some names who should be considered.

Catcher
Pudge Rodriguez has a good lead over both Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. I would say the fans have it right here and any of the three would make a good choice.

First Base
Jason Giambi is the leader here with Carlos Delgado second. More worrisome is the fact that Red Sox fans have put Kevin Millar third. Come on, Red Sox fans, we need to look at the big picture here, if you won’t vote for Giambi, perhaps writing in Paul Konerko or Ken Harvey would be more palatable.

Second Base
Not surprisingly, Alfonso Soriano leads the vote totals, but the guy who we want on the team, Juan Uribe, hasn’t cracked the top 5, probably because he isn’t on the ballot. This may take some work, but get out those pencils and start writing in his name. (Note to Red Sox fans, not to pick on you, but Pokey Reese is second in votes and he isn’t even the best second baseman on your team!)

Shortstop
I am really not trying to single out Red Sox fans, but Nomar is leading all shortstops and he hasn’t played a game yet! Yankee fans have done little to distinguish themselves in this category by putting Derek Jeter second. Look, Jeter and Nomar are the most popular players on their teams, but the American League needs Miguel Tejada or Michael Young at shortstop. Put the partisanship aside and look at the numbers, it isn’t even close.

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez is first and would be a good choice, but Red Sox fans should feel free to vote for Hank Blalock as I imagine voting for A Rod may just be too painful.

Outfield
The leaders are Vlad Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and…Johnny Damon. Ok, I have picked on Red Sox fans enough; let’s just leave it at the fact that hairstyles won’t help the AL in the actual game. Manny and Vlad make a great pair and Carlos Beltran would be a fantastic way to round out the outfield. (And give the AL a true Centerfielder in case anyone is worried about outfield defense.)

I am quite sure that I will receive plenty of angry emails from Red Sox fans. Let me just say, I admire your loyalty, but you will be sorry if Game Seven of the World Series is at Minute Maid Park and not Fenway because the American League did not field the best team possible in the All Star Game.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the performances of Tanyon Sturtze and Bret Prinz in Jose Contreras’s latest train wreck. Yes, Sturtze gave the Yankees 4 1/3 innings of shutout relief, but he gave up five hits and four walks in those innings. I stand by my original statement; he just doesn’t belong on the roster and a better team than the Orioles would have figured out how to score on him Wednesday night.

As for Prinz, he certainly passed his first test with a very impressive seventh inning. He needs to be put out there a few more times before we will know what we have, but it was a good start.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

The Bridge, Part 2

At the conclusion of a successful road trip, the Yankees returned home to almost blow a five run lead in the ninth. They avoided a devastating loss, but again they needed to use Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera in a game they should have put away easily.

Now, the decision to use Quantrill was interesting, he came into the game with a four run lead. Yes, he has traditionally pitched the seventh inning this year, shouldn’t this be the spot to use someone else? After all, the “Big 3” are first, second and third in appearances in the American League this year. Gabe White, Felix Heredia and Tanyon Sturtze have been terrible and the fact that Joe won’t use them with a four run lead speaks volumes.

The problem is, you can’t send the same three guys out night after night and expect them to always click. Part of the reason the Yankees signed Quantrill and Gordon was to reduce Rivera’s workload. While he hasn’t appeared in the eighth inning much this year, he is still being used a ton. Quantrill’s ERA was twice as high in May as it was in April. Clearly, the Yankees need to have a fourth option in the bullpen to give these guys a night off.

The good news this weekend was that Steve Karsay has hit 94mph in a rehab start and his miraculous recovery may put him back in the Bronx by mid-June. However, Karsay cannot be counted on as a fulltime contributor just yet. The Yankees need to look at three different options to provide that fourth arm: Brett Prinz, Scott Proctor and Colter Bean.

Prinz is back in the majors after Kenny Lofton’s latest hamstring problem has landed him on the DL. While this stay is supposedly only temporary, until Giambi comes back Sunday, the Yankees should pitch him as much as possible and try him out in some tough situations, it’s time to find out what he is really worth.

The same can be said of Scott Proctor. Proctor has a powerful fastball and seems the perfect candidate to deliver the big strikeout. His control can be off at times, but I am willing to bet that Mel can help him trust his stuff more and cut down on his walks.

The last candidate is Colter Bean. Bean was actually selected by the Red Sox last winter in the Rule 5 draft, but returned to the Yankees when the Sox didn’t put him on their opening day roster. Bean has been awesome in Columbus striking out 36 in 29 innings while only giving up 17 hits and 3 runs. Those numbers are certainly worthy of a major league tryout.

All of this is a polite way of saying that Tanyon Sturtze stinks. This is not surprising as he has bounced from place to place in his career and has a career ERA of 5.20 in over 600 innings. Trading for Sturtze was a desperate play to get another candidate to start in place of Donovan Osborne. Osborne is gone and Contreras is pitching somewhat effectively, it is time for Sturtze to go. Get one of the other three in there and let’s see what they can do.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com