Down on the Farm – I

The Red Sox 2006 draft was widely considered a great draft. Of course only time will tell if the player selected will provide some stank in Boston. Here are some updates on how the 2006 draft class is fairly thus far in 2007. Let’s focus on the positional players.

 

Greenville Drive – A

 

Lars Anderson (2006, 18th round) – .262/.339/.398 – The tall and powerful Anderson has not shown the power I’d like to see at this point. The season is early and I’m not too concerned.

 

Jonathan Still (2006, 4th round) – .286/.383/.514 – The NC State catcher has put together a nice start to his season, but struggled badly at Single-A Lowell in 2006.

 

Jason Place (2006, 1st round) – .175/.243/.361 – The 1st round pick has struggled badly after posting solid numbers in the Gulf Coast League in 2006.

 

Lancaster JetHawks – A

 

Aaron Bates – The rather large 1b has been cranking it in 2007: .288/.430/.604.

 

Zach Daeges (2006, 6th round) – .349/.425/.532 – Daeges has hit for average so far in 2007, but with limited power.

 

Nice W for the Red Sox Tuesday night. Josh Beckett has looked great so far and certainly appears to be a difference pitcher.

 

Wednesday features a Japanese showdown in Toronto. Daisuke Matsuzaka (Red Sox present) goes against Tomo Ohka (Red Sox past).

Balance of Power – Clemens a Yankee

Roger Clemens is a Yankee.

 

He apparently announced it live at the Yankees game today.

 

Wow, it is clear the Yankees emptied their vault to get him onboard. It has been reported he was going to get a prorated $20m to sign with whomever, but b/c his announcement came far earlier than expected, I have to assume the Yankees said, "here’s a blank cheque."

 

This is a major boost for New York and yet another reason to not count them out.

 

UPDATE: ESPN is reporting that Clemens will be paid $4.5m a month. Assuming he is ready June 1, he’ll make $18m to pitch for 4 months. That’s a pro-rated salary of $27m, compared with his $22m in 2006.

 

Clemens will work his way back into pitching shape via stops at the various levels of the Yankees minor leagues.

 

Red Sox fans, should we be worried? I think so, a least a little bit. Let’s say Roger debuts on June 1st, he has the potential to impact the rotation for 2/3 of the season. In addition, the mere mention of his signing has to inject the Yankees with confidence.

 

Some facts and figures on Clemens in 2006:

 

19 starts, 113.1 innings, 89 H, 29 BB, 102 K’s, 7-6 record, 2.30 ERA.
That works out to 5.98 innings per start. That is good news for Boston. The Yankees have had to abuse their bullpen already and adding Clemens won’t help if he cannot give them more than 6 a start. Then again, his vitals are solid enough that Joe Torre can trot in his mop-up guy after Clemens is done assuming they have a big enough lead.

 

Clemens did all those great things against the NL. While I think talk radio makes it seem like the NL is Little League baseball compared to the AL, I will say there is a difference. The 9th hitter in the NL is a lay-up vs a far more competitive at bat in the AL, so I think that will inflate Roger’s numbers a bit. Add to it he will be pitching in the AL East, a tough place to make a living as a pitcher.

 

Regardless of all the above analysis and statistics, Clemens joining the Yankees is a coup and probably not good news for Boston. Hopefully the addition of Jon Lester in a few weeks will prove a similar boost to the Red Sox.

Kid Gloves

Terry Francona, or team doctors, opted not to let Jonathan Papelbon close Thursday’s game. With the Red Sox up 8-7 in the top of the 9th, Francona instead used Brendan Donnelly (walk), then J.C. Romero (induced double play, ground out to 3rd).

 

What concerns me is that Francona gave Papelbon 2 nights off after having thrown 35 pitches Tuesday night. This sets interesting precedent as if 1 night off isn’t enough, surely Francona can’t change that philosophy with Papelbon as the season progresses. After all, wasn’t the theory as to why Papelbon had the slight shoulder dislocation last year the result of over-use? If the Red Sox are worried about that happening again, certainly they can’t think increasing his workload as the season progresses is a good thing.

 

I guess we’ll have to live with the idea of Papelbon not being available for 2 nights after a high-pitch outing.

 

In addition, I would not have allowed Romero to pitch to Richie Sexson. Coming into the game, Romero had allowed righties to hit .471 against him! 8 hits in 3 innings. Righties hit .382 against him in 2006. Seriously Terry!

 

Lastly, Daisuke Matsuzaka did not have his A, B or C game tonight. He was terrible in fact, allowing 5 hits and 5 walks, 7 earned runs while only striking out 1 in 5 innings. Matsuzaka’s ERA now stands at 5.45. Seattle isn’t generally considered a good hitting team, so this was not a good night for Matsuzaka, but somehow, he did keep the Red Sox in the game, mostly thanks to the opposition.

 

His command of his breaking/offspeed stuff was abysmal and his velocity on his fastball, his best pitch Thursday, was in the low 90’s. I’m not too concerned as all pitchers are allowed an off-night, but it wasn’t a good outing. His home/road splits are night and day, so perhaps a few road games will be good for Matsuzaka.

 

Oh, did I mention the Red Sox won? Jim Rice said it best in the NESN post-game show when he said "the Red Sox stole this game." There was lousy defense (Lugo x 2) and lousy starting pitching, generally not a good combo.

 

Francona in his post-game press conference said he overrode Papelbon’s desire to pitch Thursday night and said it was because it is such a long season he wanted to be cautious. Fair enough Terry, fair enough.

 

Notes: Mike Timlin is down and out with shoulder tendonitis and Devern Hansack is back with Boston. Hansack has pitched well at Pawtucket: 28.2 IP, 30 H, 6 BB, 34 K, 3.77 ERA. You know the Red Sox brass is fired up with his K/9 and thus he is now with Boston.

 

Timlin has been a great player, but clearly hasn’t brought much to the table since mid-season 2006. I don’t know if he is done, but he isn’t helping right now.

 

Boston flies to Minnesota tonight to face the Twins over the weekend.

 

Fri, May 4 8:10 pm Wakefield (2-3, 2.59) vs. C. Silva (2-1, 3.10)
Sat, May 5 7:10 pm Tavárez (1-2, 7.58) vs. J. Santana (3-2, 3.60)
Sun, May 6 2:10 pm Schilling (3-1, 3.15) vs. S. Ponson (2-3, 6.67)

 

2b Dilemma

With Dustin Pedroia struggling with the bat and Alex Cora hot, hot, hot, there have been cries from the Red Sox fanbase to sit Pedroia and start Cora.

 

My take is that Alex Cora is a utility guy for a reason. He just so happens to be a fundementally sound hitter, but not overly loaded with talent with the bat. He can bunt, move runners along, but he lacks in an important catagory…the ability to hit well. His career average of .245 and obp of .311 and slg of .349 prove that out.

 

Don’t get me wrong, he is great in his role and an important asset for Boston, but he is not meant to hit everyday.

 

Pedroia on the other hand is a prospect and has hit for average and good obp at every level. Now he is at the majors and is struggling. I think it a bit premature to give up on him so soon though. Give him everyday play as long as A.) he doesn’t become a defensive liability and/or B.) his presence in the line-up doesn’t sink the team’s run scoring ability.

 

As someone pointed out today on the radio, the top AL prospect in baseball is Kansas City Royals 3b Alex Gordon, and he is hitting .167 with a .314 obp. So even the best struggle.

 

Further Examples:

 

Derek Jeter – .250/.294/.375 in 1995
Mike Schmidt – .206/.325/.294 in 1972
Joe Morgan – .240/.367/.320 in 1963 and
Joe Morgan – .189/.302/.189 in 1964
A-Rod – .204/.241/.204 in 1994 and
A-Rod – .232/.264/.408 in 1995

 

The players above are Hall of Famers or on their way to the Hall. Imagine if their managers had decided they weren’t good players and buried them on the bench for good? Before you pounce, I’m not suggesting Pedroia is going to be a Hall of Famer, but I don’t think he is destined to be as bad as his average reflects at the moment.

 

What do you think?

Series Win

I’ll take 2 of 3 in the Bronx. The Yankees are wounded and the Red Sox have taken advantage by taking 5 of 6 thus far in 2007. The Yankees will rebound and have proven they can make up 10 games in about 2 weeks time, so it was really important for Boston to kick them when they were (and are) down.

 

Hats off to Julian Tavarez, he didn’t pitch a gem, but he pitched 5 solid innings and kept Boston in the game. The bullpen, especially Hideki Okajima did a great job holding the win.

 

It was also nice to see 3 home runs from Boston. Alex Cora certainly has played well, but if you look at his career stats, there is no reason to believe he is taking over fulltime at second. Dustin Pedroia will get his at bats and deservedly so.

 

With the Red Sox playing well, it is tough for me to criticize Terry Francona. I initially had worried about Eric Hinske starting for J.D. Drew until NESN pointed out Drew was mired in a 1-21 slump and he does after all have a history of injuries.

 

Coco Crisp had a nice triple in the 3rd and appears to have recovered from his early season slump. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come. Crisp also displayed a nice arm (I know, I sound drunk…which I am…bombed in fact…barely consciouxceeoey……………..whoops, fell asleep on the period) on a ball hit to the gap. His throw was low and hard, rather than his normal cream-puff offerings.

 

I’m happy Francona has limited his use of Joel Pineiro and J.C Romero. Oh wait, he has used them a ton! Pineiro has a good ERA so far, but has allowed 1.66 runners per inning and Romero is at 2.05 runners per inning! I suppose he has to do so as you can’t trot Brendan Donnelly, Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon out every game.

 

The bullpen has been solid, but I wonder how it would perform if the starters weren’t so solid.

 

Off-day Monday and then they host Oakland for 3.

 

Lastly, RIP former Red Sox Josh Hancock. Sad news.

What Gives?

Today’s game was set-up nicely. The Yankees were sending out Jeff Karstens who was making his 8th career start. To make things even better, Karstens had to leave after 2 batters (I’m not celebrating Karsten’s injury by any means, just saying him having to leave the game put the Yankees’ already troubled pitching staff in a more troubled situation).

 

Kei Igawa took over and this after he had just been banished to mop-up duty by Joe Torre days earlier. Things looked great!

 

But Tim Wakefield walked 6 and the offense took the day off. This was a major disappointment. The Red Sox offense has been Jekyl and Hydeing it all year. Only their solid pitching and their occassion hitting has delivered the best record in baseball.

 

All the credit should go to Kei Igawa. He gave a glimps today why the Yankees bid $26m for his rights. Granted this is the first time he has impressed and for that price, much more will be expected from him.

 

So Saturday proved a major let-down and Sunday the match-up is tough. Julian Tavarez goes against Chien-Ming Wang.

 

Some good news, Jon Lester pitched 5 innings of 3 hit, no walk, shutout ball Friday night in a AAA match-up in Buffalo. Lester only threw 84 pitches, so I bet he’ll need at least one, maybe 2 more starts at Pawtucket before Boston brings him up.

 

Even better news was that Lester was told by doctors he is still cancer free.

 

Sunday, Tavarez (0-2, 8.36 ERA) vs. Wang (0-1, 5.68 ERA). 1:05pm start on NESN (no more Joe Buck and Tim McCarver).

 

Sockgate Concluded

I wrote earlier today about the comments Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne made about the 2004 Curt Schilling bloody sock. Well, things have been settled. Because I am far too lazy to get the quotes, etc, here is what happened.

6 months after the conclusion of the 2004 season, Thorne and Mirabelli had a conversation. At the end of the conversation as both parties were walking away, Thorne asked Mirabelli about the sock and Mirabelli said it had generated much publicity. Thorne took that to mean it was faked and just a PR stunt. He was wrong.

End of story.

I find this too bad b/c Thorne is a good guy and was basically drilled today on WEEI by Pete Sheppard. Sheppard said he was smug when making the original comments Wednesday night and was so confident that the bloody sock was faked, that Jim Palmer was "gutless" in not offer a counter opinion. That makes a ton of sense Sheppard.

Heaven forbid a guy, Palmer in this case, keep his mouth shut if he had no knowledge of the details of the situation. Palmer, gutless? Of course, Sheppard, with guts (lots and lots based on this photo) does have to fill 4 hours a day and probably grabbed onto this line of thinking without much, well, thought.

At the end of the day, it was a misunderstanding and in my opinion Gary Thorne meant no harm. I probably figured he had gotten his information from, if not the horse’s mouth, well, the horse trainer’s mouth.

Reader Blmeanie had this to say "Gary Thorne is the all-time best neutral hockey play by play announcer ever. I have never heard a negative thing about him either." Check out Blmeanie’s blog btw.

Of greater concern is the status of the Red Sox offense. Spotty at best with the core in a funk right now. In addition, what was supposed to be a 1 or 2 day injury has now become a 5 day injury to Coco Crisp.

In a slump: Pena, Pedroia, Manny, Lugo, Varitek…check that, Wily Mo Pena just hit a grand slam. Hmmm, maybe I should write about player slumps more often. That is a good thing for Pena, he was due.

5-2 Red Sox in the 8th…more later.

Thorne-y Issue

Today’s Boston Globe (and susequently ESPN) ran a piece today on Curt Schilling and famous bloody sock of 2004.

 

Here is the quick and dirty: Last night during the broadcast Baltimore Orioles play-by-play guy Gary Thorne said that he had learned from Doug Mirabelli that what was thought to be blood on Schilling’s sock was actually paint, applied for "PR" purposes.

 

That is the skinny. Needless to say that didn’t go over well with Mirabelli who denied making such a claim and it also riled up both Terry Francona and Curt Schilling.

 

This is facsinating stuff. First off, Thorne, a former ESPN guy, said he actually talked with Mirabelli and Mirabelli told him it was just paint, for effect. Mirabelli responds by saying he doesn’t even know Thorne and that the mere mention of it not being blood is absurd.

 

Where do we go with this? It’s a he said, she said situation. As of this post, I haven’t read any further comments from Thorne (comments by him after Mirabelli, Schilling and Francona responded that is ), so that might clear up some of this issue.

 

My take? It was blood. Unless all current and former Red Sox that were part of the 2004 World Championship team got together and orchestraded this legend, I find Thorne’s comments baffling. First off, based on the Boston Globe account, Thorne is well liked and respected. I’ve never heard any bit of controversy tied to his name prior to this, so I’m not ready to label him a liar, but at the same time, where did he come up with this?

 

It’s almost as if Thorne expected it to be a throw-away comment that wouldn’t get pick up by the press. Of course it was going to get pounced on by the media and here we find ourselves. Thorne had nothing to gain from making the claim (except for temporary, uncomfortable heat from the media), while most observers and anyone close to the bloody sock situation says it was definitely blood, including current Oriole Kevin Millar.

 

Sock-Gate has started a 2nd time. Of course there are those that think it was a sham from day 1, the story has mostly settled down until last night.

 

What do you think, was it blood or paint?

 

Power Outage

Monday night’s game featured a disappearing act by the 1-5 hitters who collectively went 2-23 with 1 bb. The bottom 4 starters went 6-12 with 3 bb.

 

I know the Red Sox players are all professionals as Tim Wakefield suggested after the game, and don’t allow for let-downs, but it appeared the Red Sox offense, defense and pitching let out a collective sigh of relief having the Yankees temporarily in the rearview mirror. In other words, it was a letdown.

 

Coco Crisp has missed the last 2 games after starting to turn things around (8 for his last 20). He is expected back tonight and should provide better defense than we saw from the always willing Wily Mo Pena in center.

 

Tonight: Roy Halliday (2-0, 2.37 ERA) vs. Julian Tavarez (0-1, 6.75 ERA), not a favorable match-up. 7:05pm start at Fenway.

 

Solid Weekend

Anytime you can sweep the Yankees, you have to be happy. But understand the Yankees are limping right now. They are missing just about their entire rotation and some key positional players.

 

Enjoy this, but don’t expect Yankee Stadium this weekend to be a cake-walk, nor can you expect some of the mid-season match-ups to go this well.

 

A few notes on Sunday’s game: I generally don’t have too much to criticize about how Terry Francona manages, but I thought he made a mistake bringing in Hideki Okajima in the 8th. Okajima got the save in Friday’s game, pitched well Saturday and then was brought in for a 3rd consecutive appearance Sunday and struggled. With the amount of arms available, Francona would have been better suited to J.C. Romero. Romero, as previously discussed, cannot seem to get out righties, but he is good against lefties. I believe Okajima was brought in to face Jason Giambi, a lefty. So why not rest Okajima and let Romero do this thing against Giambi, then Cano and then bring in Brendan Donnelly?

 

It turned out to be harmless, but if your starters are working into the 7th each night (so far), don’t lean too heavily on one guy, mix it up a bit.

 

A good example is the Yankees pen right now. Normally a solid group, but because their starting pitching is a mess, Joe Torre is absolutely abusing the pen. Consider this:

 

17 games played:

 

Proctor – 12 games – 114 game pace
Vizcaino – 11 games – 105 game pace
Myers – 10 games – 95 game pace
Bruney – 9 games – 86 game pace
Henn – 9 games – 86 game pace
Farnsworth – 8 games – 76 game pace

 

Obviously that can’t continue. If they Yankees don’t figure things out soon (see Peter’s post), there will be long term trouble in the pen. These guys will have dead-arm or worse by August.

 

This of course bodes well for Boston, but it is important that Francona not wear out the bullpen in a similar fashion, especially when there are so many options (none great perhaps, but options nonetheless). It is a marathon after all.

 

Tonight: Toronto at Boston: 7:05pm start. Old friend Tomo Ohka (0-2, 7.02 ERA) vs. Tim Wakefield (2-1, 1.35 ERA)