Crossroads, Contd.

So where are the Red Sox going?

I touched on this in the game thread last night, but the Sox seem to be following a pattern they set in each of the past two seasons, one of which ended quite well. The other ended miserably.

2006:

  • April-May 31-20 (.608)
  • June-July: 32-21 (.604)                     
  • Aug.-Sept.: 22-35 (.386)

2007:

  • April-May: 36-16 (.682)
  • June-July: 28-26 (.519)
  • Aug.-Sept.: 32-24 (.571)

2008:

  • April-May: 34-24 (.586)
  • June-July: 24-19 (.558)

In ’06 and ’07, the Sox shot out of the gate, and they did so again this year, though not quite to the same extent. In 2006, they finished June with a 48-29 record, a .623 winning percentage. In 2007, they finished June with a 49-30 record, good for a .620 percentage. And this year, they were 50-35 through June, for a .588 percentage.

Their problems each season occurred just after that key point. In ’06, the Sox won 12 games in a row ending June 29, then never saw daylight again, going 38-48 the rest of the way as the team was beset first by poor play, then by injuries in an August that was the worst month for a Red Sox club I can remember. In ’07, the Sox actually struggled through June to a sub-.500 record, and barely broke .500 each of the next two months, erasing nearly all of the 10-game lead the club had built in the heady days of April and May. The 2007 club rallied, however, staving off the Yankees with a solid September and carried that momentum into the playoffs.

This year, the Sox haven’t featured as much of the flash as the previous two seasons, but they were in solid shape entering July, and after a brief dip, were in first at the All-Star break. Yet they sit 8-8 for the month after a maddening sweep at the hands of the Angels, the gap between them and the Yankees is closing, and the Rays refuse to die.

So is this team the 2006 club — a great start, seemingly destined for greatness, followed by some struggles and finally a stunning collapse? Or is it more like 2007 — a great start, followed by some struggles, before rallying to keep hold of the division?

My sense is to reserve judgment until the end of the month — when David Ortiz will have returned and Justin Masterson received some appearances out of the bullpen. The effectiveness of those players could mean the difference between ’06 and ’07.

26 comments… add one
  • well, I think the 2008 team is way deeper than the 2006 team. Although, a reliable relief pitcher would be excellent. Ortiz should give a big lift, and lengthen the line-up. Hopefully the move with Masterson will pan out (although he’d be a ROOGY I think)

    dw (sf) July 22, 2008, 12:52 pm
  • “The effectiveness of those players could mean the difference between ’06 and ’07.”
    Except putting Masterson in the pen could be outweighed by putting Buchholz in the rotation. I’m still not sure why they chose as they did. If anything, the guy to switch to the pen was probably Michael Bowden to help restrict his innings. Then Masterson could have remained in the rotation and Buchholz could have stayed in AAA until his mechanics were fully sound or until they really needed him.

    A YF July 22, 2008, 12:58 pm
  • I’ll ponder this question on Monday. Until then, I think they are fine, just playing poorly right now.
    Nice comparisons though, Paul.

    Brad July 22, 2008, 1:10 pm
  • Also, Ortiz changes this team in an unmeasurable amount.

    Brad July 22, 2008, 1:11 pm
  • “Also, Ortiz changes this team in an unmeasurable amount.”
    ya think!!! I can’t wait to hear the ovation for him on Friday. I’ll be able to participate in person on Saturday, too!

    dw (sf) July 22, 2008, 1:23 pm
  • Friday’s order should read:
    Pedroia
    Drew
    Ortiz
    Manny
    Lowell
    Youk
    Variek
    Lowrie
    Ellsbury
    Anything less than something that resembles this is completely unacceptable.

    Brad July 22, 2008, 1:30 pm
  • That would be Varitek. I have no idea who this Variek guy is.

    Brad July 22, 2008, 1:30 pm
  • I agree, although I’m not sure why Pedroia wouldn’t bat lower in the order, he’s an ideal hit and run guy. His BA is great, but his OBP isn’t (relative to his BA) – he puts the ball in play, and doesn’t walk much (or strike out much for that matter).

    dw (sf) July 22, 2008, 1:36 pm
  • Masterson to the ‘pen will definitely help us long run. We’ve got the 2nd-best starting rotation in the majors (behind Oakland) and the 17th-best bullpen. Clay has the much higher ceiling and had a 2.47 ERA at Pawtucket, so he looks like he’s worked out his issues. Buchholz will be a more crucial part of the rotation long-term so this move makes sense. Hopefully he’ll bounce back tomorrow and give a strong outing.
    In any case, it’ll be nice to have a reliable long-man in the bullpen come August/September! Gotta finish strong like last season.

    Atheose July 22, 2008, 1:46 pm
  • I like that lineup Brad. That’s a fearsome 1-6.

    Atheose July 22, 2008, 1:47 pm
  • Ath –
    I’m sending you a bill for a new keyboard. My game day was frozen, thought the game was still tied and then I saw your comment after Tek’s homer. Please pay up promptly.

    soxgirl July 22, 2008, 2:00 pm
  • dw – my reasoning is as follows –
    Ped is hitting the stitches off the ball, so by putting Ellsbury in front of him and he gets on, Ped moves him over. Then Drew, who can continue to take advantage of a great hitter behind him (where he’s flourished), then the obvious powerhouse(s), then a Lowell in front of a clearly hot Youk. This could lead to a lot of Tek up with men in scoring position (or Lowrie), but I think this is the best possible lineup to advance men around the bases right now. All the first six guys are good contact guys, so the hit and run is always in play, and if Jacoby can manage to get on, he has some real talent helping him around the bases.
    Just my opinion.

    Brad July 22, 2008, 2:14 pm
  • Plus moving Jacoby might remind him that it’s possible to take walks in this game.

    Brad July 22, 2008, 2:15 pm
  • “So is this team the 2006 club — a great start, seemingly destined for greatness, followed by some struggles and finally a stunning collapse? Or is it more like 2007?”
    stunning collapse please :)

    IronHorse (yf) July 22, 2008, 2:17 pm
  • I am just going to partially reiterate what I wrote in the pre-season predictions, since I think we are in for more of the same the rest of the way. Offense combined with inconsistency due to youth and age.
    …The bullpen is also a worry. Hideki Okajima will surely regress (how can he not?). Jonathan Papelbon may regress. Mike Timlin is hurt, though that appears to be superficial. Color me worried, at least a little. The saving grace? Offense. I expect a great deal from this team. I expect Kevin Youkilis to be less streaky. I expect David Ortiz to be David Ortiz. I am excited to see Manny Ramirez mash this year, perhaps his last in Boston. I am really looking forward to seeing JD Drew play, making me one of seven Sox fans to hold this sentiment. I expect Jason Varitek to infuriate me. I expect this offense to help this team stay in the mix, but to equivocate I would also not be surprised to see the Sox really struggle at times, to acquire three-game losing streaks at an alarming rate. I am excited to see the young pitchers learn, develop, grow, same with Jacoby Ellsbury. But these guys will have their frustrating moments, guaranteed. Young pitchers just don’t come in and dominate a league, particularly not the AL East. We should expect struggles this season. I can see this team winning 88 games. I can also see this team winning 96 games.

    SF July 22, 2008, 2:17 pm
  • IH:
    I think the “stunning collapse” line isn’t that absurd. Not in the “they lost 12 games to end the season and miss the playoffs” stunning, but rather “wow, have you ever seen a first place team reverse course and suck for such a prolonged period of time” stunning. The second half 2006 team, injuries and all, was like watching an early 80s Ralph Houk-led-team, destined for nowhere. It was a stunning reversal – I remember posting during the big winning streak, I think the Sox swept the Mets that season and looked like world-beaters in the process. It was schizophrenic and, yes, a bit stunning.

    SF July 22, 2008, 2:20 pm
  • Soxgirl, I’ll put a check in the mail ;-)

    Atheose July 22, 2008, 2:22 pm
  • SF – I don’t think IH was mocking you, I thought he was putting in his request for the season.

    rootbeerfloat July 22, 2008, 2:31 pm
  • ah, yes. I read the “please” more like “puh-leeze”!

    SF July 22, 2008, 2:37 pm
  • The second half 2006 team, injuries and all, was like watching an early 80s Ralph Houk-led-team, destined for nowhere.
    Uh-oh – excuses!
    P.s. That 2006 team didn’t see the same injuries the Yankees saw that same year. And this year its a whole other category. But shhhhhh! – no excuses!

    A YF July 22, 2008, 3:03 pm
  • Not to bring up the payroll issue, but a big reason, I think, the Yankees have been able to resurrect their seasons despite unanticipated, devastating injuries each year (Hamstring after hamstring last year, Sheffield and Matsui and Cano at nearly the same time in 2006, Do Pavano, Wright and Brown count as a devastating injuries in 2005?) is that they’ve had the resources in place to replace the lost production. Where would the Yankees have been last year without Pettitte and his $16 million contract? You can make fun of the Clemens situation all you want, but he provided 99 innings of 107 ERA+, something they most certainly wouldn’t have gotten from the likes of Clippard/Desalvo/Igawa. Abreu obviously helped immensely in 2006 (although, with the Sox’s struggles, they didn’t really need him after all). But what else helped is that an old, expensive veteran, Mussina, revived his career, and some other older vets (like Giambi) gave some unexpected exceptional production.
    You just don’t see that with teams who don’t have the innate talent on the roster. There’s a definite diminishing return with spending large amounts of money, as big free agent busts are prevalent throughout the sport, they just happen more frequently on a team that has more big-ticket free agents. But the upside to these big-ticket free agents is that they have the talent to succeed at any time, and more are as likely to come through as those are as likely to be busts. I believe a big reason for the Yankees’ extra-long postseason streak, at least since 2004, is the vast amounts of cash invested in the team. More money invested in the team means a bigger chance the team will succeed.
    Of course, without Cashman’s seemingly innate ability to find good trash-heap help year after year, the Yankees would have gone nowhere in 2005, and would be well on their way this year. It makes you wonder if he really would be happier on a team with actual reasonable financial limits, where these trash-heap pickups would be regarded as ‘genius’ and ‘getting more out of less’ instead of ‘sad desperation’ or incompetence.

    AndrewYF July 22, 2008, 3:37 pm
  • Andrew-
    Just going back to 2006, the Sox also had the resources to acquire Abreu (even as their GM made the stoopid uberteam comment). Indeed, after the season they gave how much to Drew, Lugo, and Dice-K combined?
    Similarly, there’s also Clemens. The Sox were ready to pay him through the winter and in Spring Training. But with the hot start, especially from the rotation, they didn’t have the need like the Yankees did (and even still the Sox made a bid).
    The fact is, the disparity between the two payrolls is that the Yankees are overpaying for homegrown players (Jeter, Mo, Jorge – even Pettitte) that contributed to their championships, while the Sox are underpaying for those same players (Pedroia, Youkilis, Papsy, Beckett – even Papi). As the latter contracts come up for renewal, the Sox payroll will swell accordingly, especially with the otherwise pricey contracts (Drew, Lugo, Lowell).

    A YF July 22, 2008, 3:47 pm
  • One note, Andrew: By all reports, Cashman has been the one pushing financial sense on the Steinbrothers. That was supposedly the angle that got Hal’s agreement on the non-trade for Santana over Hank. It’s also why they seemingly didn’t make a free agent acquisition last winter (or the winter before that) besides keeping their own. Thus they’re in a great position to eliminate about 40% in payroll this off-season. And I highly doubt they’ll replace all of it, even if they get the best free agents out there (Tex, CC, and Sheets).

    A YF July 22, 2008, 3:59 pm
  • RBF had my intent right SF – it was a real “please”, not “puh-leeze”. I hope the Sox take requests…

    IronHorse (yf) July 22, 2008, 4:52 pm
  • I hope the Sox take requests…
    What’s the point in requesting something that is inevitable? Save your ammo.

    SF July 22, 2008, 5:03 pm
  • ‘Anything less than something that resembles this is completely unacceptable’
    I don’t like the lefty, lefty, righty, righty, righty setup of your lineup because it’s too easy to combat with relievers late in a game. I also don’t like Ped leading off (and I suspect you won’t either once he cools down a bit). I also don’t like grouping Tek, Lowrie and Ellsbury together, although I do respect that it must be done. But at least split them up for an inning or two. Also, theoretically Ellsbury should not be as weak leading off as he would be in the nine-hole.
    Ellsbury
    Pedroia
    Ortiz
    Manny
    Lowell
    Drew
    Youk
    Varitek
    Lowrie
    Ignoring hot or cold batters, that is the lineup I would like to see for awhile. Ellsbury has to lead off for another month to see if he can snap out of it before games become vital. Besides, 55% of their remaining games are home where his bat is not a problem.
    Sorry Youk but you’re a human roadblock whose time to supplant Papi, Manny or Lowell has not come yet.

    Dirty Water July 22, 2008, 6:05 pm

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