Perfect Storm

Being from the North Shore of Boston, I think I can legitimately compare the Red Sox past week with the Perfect Storm made famous by, the storm itself (eventually), then the book, then the movie about a crew out of Gloucester (or ‘Glawstah’ as it is properbly pronounced).

The storm was basically a confluence of circumstances perfectly timed and aligned to create a catastrophic or "perfect" storm.

Leading up to the 2-game set in Tampa Bay, the Red Sox were beset by injury and ineffectiveness.  These kinds of things happen all of the time to good teams and bad, but for the Red Sox, it couldn’t have come at a worse moment as they faced their 2 biggest opponents on foreign turf, for 6 straight games.

In addition, John Smoltz, once thought of as a decent enough gamble, was putting the finishing touches on the worst string of starts in his professional (and probably amateur, little league, video game) baseball career.

While I saw only 2 of the games, the bookends, I followed the middle 4 fairly closely on-line.  It just felt like the Red Sox had no chance.  The energy had been sucked out of the team and the fan-base.  I had no expectations of the Red Sox winning a single game in New York.  It just didn’t seem possible.  Everything was going wrong.

Regardless, of why or how, the Red Sox returned home yesterday and promptly regained a game on the Yankees.  Jason Bay hit a home run (someone told him he was allowed to hit home runs), the offense got the opponent starter out of the game after 4 innings and 104 pitches and even Brad Penny put up a quality start.

I hope this is the point where Boston can eventually look back and say, ‘wow, those 6 games in Tampa and New York sure were tough, but we quickly re-established our footing.’  There’s too much talent for this team to just fold up and go away.

As for tonight, Junichi Tazawa makes his starting debut tonight.  He has come up very quickly thus far posting:  2.57 ERA in 98 IP for Portland and 2.38 ERA in 11.1 IP at Pawtucket.  But the Tigers are a good team and after making his debut in the 15th inning Friday night against the Yankees in the New Yankee Stadium, it’ll be interesting to see how Tazawa performs.

Good News

Ian Kennedy threw 25 pitches off a real mound today.  He is going to throw again on Friday.

I wrote about Kennedy last week and I still wonder if he could possibly help the Yankees in 2009.  Time is a bit tight, but if he could start making rehab starts at the end of next week (around August 20th) you would have to think it’s a possibility. 

We should also hear some news about Brett Gardner today, he is getting an x-ray on his thumb which will determine when he will be back.   

Less Than A Week To Go

One deadline that is very real comes up next Monday at 11:59pm- the deadline to sign draft picks. 

The Yankees have some work to do.  As of this morning they have not signed their 1st, 2nd, 5th and 10th round picks plus quite a few of the picks from later rounds.  After last year’s disaster with Gerrit Cole going to UCLA and some of the other high picks failing to sign, the Yankees need to get their top two guys to ink deals. 

The problem is both picks have committed to major collge programs which means they have leverage.  Slade Heathcott, their #1 pick, can go to LSU.  J.R. Murphy, their second rounder, has committed to Miami.  The Yankees certainly have the money to make it worth their while to skip college, the question is will they?   

Alex Rios

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times is reporting that the Blue Jays have wisely let Alex Rios go to the White Sox in a waiver claim.  You have to wonder why Kenny Williams took this gamble. The Rios contract runs through 2014 and Rios has an OPS below the league average. 

 

Last Chance?

Sergio MItre is 1-0 with a 7.50 ERA.  He has given up 32 hits in 18 innings, which could be a function of bad luck, his batting average of balls in play is .423, that’s ridiculously high.  Of more concern is the fact that he has only pitched 18 innings in four starts, that is a big burden on a bullpen. 

One very strange stat about Mitre is that he gets tougher the more pitches he throws.  Consider this.

Pitches 1-25, he allows opponents to put up a line of .471/.500/.559

Pitches 26-50 that drops to .350/.440/.350

Pitches 51-75 it drops further to .240/.296/.340

It jumps again after pitch 75, but he has only faced 9 hitters so it is an exrtremely small sample.   

His career numbers do not show that pattern and it’s occurance makes me wonder if he is warming up effectively?  Maybe he needs to throw more in the bullpen before the game?  He is a sinkerballer, so maybe he is going to the mound too fresh and the ball isn’t sinking?

Whatever the reason, the Yankees are probably giving him this start and this start only to fix it.  Gaudin is on the active roster and his lack of control makes him an unlikely candidate for the bullpen.  If Mitre doesn’t impress tonight I think he won’t be a Yankee much longer.   

 

A Statement

Somehow I don’t think anyone will wake up tomorrow concerned about the fact that the Red Sox hold an 8-4 season series lead over the Yankees. 

You can’t ask for much more from a team than what the Yankees showed this weekend.  They delivered a message to their biggest rival and built a 6-1/2 game lead in the division in the process.  If you want to find fault, I can think of two things.

1- Joba was terrible on Thursday.  The Yankees need to figure out why.

2- Girardi didn’t use Hughes with a 1-0 lead tonight.  Someone in the press needs to figure that out.

I tweeted this stat earlier, but it is worth repeating.  Since A-Rod came off the DL the Yankees are 56-27.  I am not saying that is all because of A-Rod, but he deserves a lot of credit.  I wrote about this three months ago.  It’s too early to write the final chapter, but A-Rod’s 2009 is shaping up to be something worth talking about. 

UPDATE: Very interesting excahnge between Girardi and Pete Abe in the press conference.  Pete asked him why Hughes wasn’t available and Girardi answered that he pitched the last two nights and he is thinking about his "career" and not "one game".  He went on to say that he hates to use any pitcher three nights in a row.

One of the things you have to give Girardi credit for as manager is the way he has developed bullpen arms.  Hard to argue with him here because Hughes’ career is much more important than a 4-1/2 versus 6-1/2 game lead. 

Lester

No game this early in a season is a do or die but tonight’s game is a big one to be sure.  Jon Lester takes the ball, but the current concern is a complete collapse of the offense.  Clay Buchholz wasn’t great Saturday, but he could have pitched a 1 -run complete came and it wouldn’t have mattered.  No one is hitting.

No one is hitting!

Adding to the trouble is the fact that when I checked into yesterday’s game via my cell phone, I saw a Red Sox pitcher I’d never heard of pitching.  Honestly, just who the hell is Enrique Gonzalez?  I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but where did he come from?  Why is he even on the team?

Oh yeah, and why is Kevin Youkilis playing left field?  Why is Nick Green playing the outfield?  Why are the Red Sox putting claims in on Christian Guzman?

Why?  Because of injuries and because the Red Sox did a terrible job in getting ready for the 2009 season.  I’m not suggesting it was a deliberate ploy or laziness, but whatever it was, they made a series of disasterous decisions.  Hind sight being what it is, I’m not saying I saw any of this coming and in fact endorsed many of the moves, but man, what a craptacular off-season it was.

Examples:  John Smoltz – gone, Brad Penny – 5.20 ERA, Tim Wakefield – hurt, Daisuke Matsuzaka – terrible and hurt, Clay Buchholz – ineffective, Nick Green – to quote coach Green, "he is who we thought he was," Jed Lowrie – hurt in 2008 and in 2009 and remains so, Jason Bay – disappearing act, JD Drew – see coach Green, Mike Lowell – hurt and slow, David Ortiz – bad.

Of course no one could have predicted all of this to happen, but relying on Julio Lugo (bad player) and Jed Lowrie (coming of an injury) to be the ones to man the SS position was a mistake.  Mike Lowell was coming off hip surgery and at no time did the Red Sox do anything to create depth except rely on Kevin Youkilis’s versitility. JD is a colossal waste of money and he, along with Lugo, should go down as 2 of the biggest blunders Theo Epstein has made.

Bay’s drop-off, Matsuzaka’s disaster of a season and Ortiz being this bad have all be surprises to me and the fact that neither Penny nor Smoltz have been even ok, is a surprise too.

So here we are, Sunday evening and the Red Sox looking to avoid a sweep.  Things aren’t all that bad, the Red Sox do hold a 1 game lead on the wild-card and eventually things change and teams turn it back on.  But certainly this isn’t fun and I’m not sure what kind of toll it will take on this team.

Oh, and I’m back from slow motion world (island off of Maine) and yes blmeanie, the lobster was great.

Six Innings

If I am Joe Girardi, that is what I ask Andy Pettitte to give me tonight.  Six innings and then let the bullpen take care of things. 

I will be interested to see how Girardi manages tonight’s game.  I hope he goes all out and uses everything he has to win it.  Yes, there are still 52 games to be played, but this is a biggie.  If the Yankees win they have a 6-1/2 game lead.  Over Boston’s final 52 games, they would have to play .125 better than the Yankees.  So, Yankees go and play .600 baseball the rest of the way and Boston has to play .725 baseball.  A 4-1/2 game lead is still pretty nice (It would require the Red Sox to play .087 better than New York for example .587 to .500) but a 6-1/2 game lead is much, much tougher to overcome.

Neither number is impossible to overcome.  After all, the 1964 Phillies blew a 6-1/2 game lead with 12 games to play, but a win tonight would put the Yankees in a very comfortable position.   

A Trivia Question For The Ages?

Judging from reports, Josh Towers is going to be DFA’ed tomorrow to make room for Chad Gaudin.  Now if you look at the Yankees’ roster tonight, you will notice that Towers doesn’t have a number assigned to him. Now he had to have a number today, but what was it? 

I bet YankeeNumbers.com figures it out, but just in case does anyone know?

UPDATE: Eric at YankeesNumbers.com got the info, Towers wore #28.  

And Now?

Will it be 4-1/2 or 6-1/2?  That is the question for the Yankees as they head into Sunday’s game with the Red Sox. 

Saturday’s game was obviously great because the Yankees won, but it was also great because of how they won. Sabathia was brilliant, pitching 7-2/3.  That allowed a tired bullpen to rest and therefore they will enter tomorrow with the backend of the pen rested and ready.

Tomorrow night is going to be tough.  Lester is one of the best pitchers in the AL.  But, the Yankees have shown this weekend that they are not messing around.   Sunday is a chance for the Yankees to really knock the Red Sox on their heels, will they do it?