Game 54, Where Are You?

I’ve been out of town for the last couple days, and only saw the highlights of the 3-2 win on SportsDesk, so I won’t try to fake it and post a postmortem on tonight’s game, except to say those Tigers might not be  so grrrrreeeaaat after all! Sorry, just had to.

At the end of this series with Detroit, the Sox will have played 54 games, or exacly one-third of the season. Taking a page from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which did a similar feature about the Rangers Friday, I’ll list a Five Best/Worst things to come from the first third of the year. After Game 54, I’ll post some completely meaningless but fun projections — much easier when all you have to do is multiply by three.

Feel free to post your own best/worst thoughts.

Five Best Things About the 2006 Sox Thus Far

  1. Jonathan Papelbon. 20 for 20. 0.33 ERA. 26 Ks in 28 IP, including a ridiculous ninth against NY at Fenway in which he blew away the top of the Yankees’ lineup. And he can tie his shoes without hurting himself. Big plus!
  2. Curt Schilling/Josh Beckett. At the beginning of the season, the talk was all about the health of Schilling and the endurace of Beckett. It’s still early, but thus far, who expected these results (8-2, 3.86) from Curt? How about 7-2, 4.46 from Beckett? Beckett has had a couple lousy starts, but he brings the potential for a no-hitter to the mound with every start. We haven’t had that on the mound since Pedro circa 2001.
  3. Kevin Youkilis. So the Red Sox replaced Johnny Damon with someone who gets on base more consistently with roughly the same power. Coco Crisp? Nope. How about Youk, who led all leadoff men in baseball with his .420-plus OBP, batted better than .315 in the position and now has 6 HR. Crisp, who has a 10-game hting streak dating to Opening Day, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a beat in returning to his old spots.
  4. The new hitters. Mike Lowell was a huge question mark. Mark Loretta was coming off a wrist injury. Wily Mo Pena swung too hard at too many bad pitches. Yet they’ve combined to hit .318 with a .362 OBP. Lowell is fighting Albert Pujols for the MLB lead in extra-base hits. Loretta was the AL’s best hitter for the month of May. And Pena came through with big hits before being sidelined with his own wrist injury.
  5. The young relievers. Given the chance to work consistently, Manny Delcarmen and offseason acquisition Jermaine Van Buren of late have become the long anchors of a mediocrity- and injury-plagued bullpen, holding offenses at bay while giving the Sox time to get back into games.

Five Worst Things About the 2006 Sox Thus Far

  1. Matt Clement/David Wells. From spring training starting-pitching depth, the Red Sox have gone to a three-man pitching staff. Unless the team plays in the National League, our No. 4 starter seems incapable of beating it. We all know about Wells’ tremendously bad luck. I’ll disagree with SF: Pauley was acceptable in his first start above AA ball, in which he admittedly got himself in trouble but threw the pitches that got him out of that trouble (until the fifth). I wasn’t expecting any more from him. But two starts from him is still one start too many. Clearly we need another, top-line starter after Wakefield.
  2. Injuries, damn injuries. Wells, then Crisp, then Riske, then Nixon, then Wells again, then Clement (kinda), then Wells again, then Timlin, then Pena. That’s enough, thank you, baseball gods.
  3. Coco Crisp injury. With one ill-advised steal attempt — and an even iller-advised slide — Coco Crisp was out about half the total time Johnny Damon missed in all four years with the Sox. His absence left a hole in our lineup that left some days with a Bard/Harris/Gonzalez finale to our batting order.
  4. Terry. Yes, he’s better than Dusty Baker, but I’m pretty sure my mom would be better than Dusty Baker. This has been a frustratingly inconsistent year from Tito. For every great Papelbon-over-Foulke decision, there’s three or four more that cost us runs or scoring opportunities (133, pulling Wakefield and Tavarez three batters late in the same game, waiting a week to start Pena over Harris, not pinch-hitting for Mohr with Trot on the bench, hitting Tek fifth time and again).
  5. Jason Varitek. I don’t know what’s wrong. But I hope it gets fixed soon.

Overall, the Sox have weathered some storms: Injuries, an AL-East-heavy schedule, offensive power outages, the lack of consistency from the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. But they’re right where we thought they’d be: In first place, the Yankees nipping at their heels. The Sox are now 2-2 on this road trip. How they do the next six games likely will give us an idea how the rest of the season will turn out.

33 comments… add one
  • I would only be happy about Youk and Lowell if I were a RS fan, which, thank the good lord, I am not. Since when are we celebrating 4ish ERAs from “aces” as a good part of the season?? And give the league a chance to get to know Papelbon. He has been lights out, no question, but the kid throws 95 and pitches to three batters a game. Anyway, if he’s so good is having him as a closer the best allocation of that resource?
    As for being in first with the Yankees nipping at your heels, give me a break. According to the Fenway scoreboard calculus, a half game back is a tie, and the Yankees belong on top. We just took two of three in Fenway with no lineup and Jaret Wright pitched one of those games. The RS are lucky to be a half game ahead according to the run differentials of both teams.
    On the bright side, you sure look purty in those rose colored glasses!

    tom yf June 3, 2006, 9:07 am
  • This whole “Paps has to go through the league again” is such a cliche. As I mentioned in an earlier thread, the Sox have played the Jays 11 times, the Rays 9 times, the Orioles 9 times, the Rangers 6 times, and after next week the Yankees 11 times. These teams have all seen him enough to make a reasonable judgment about his abilities. And to say that Papelbon’s performance isn’t reason for celebration is just absurd. He wasn’t even the closer, publicly, on opening day. So Paul is right on the cite that as a huge component of the first third of the year.
    Now, Papelbon will not end the year with 60 saves and a 0.33 ERA, we can be sure of that. But that’s because it’s simply unlikely that he will post the greatest relief pitching season in the history of baseball in his rookie year, but not because of “familiarity”. He isn’t a starter, though, and the theory of “familiarity” applies better to them than to relievers. See Chien-Ming Wang for a good example of that.

    SF June 3, 2006, 9:53 am
  • Tom, as long as you’re contemplating what could have been in the Fens, why not assume that the results may have been different if the Sox did not have Willie Harris or Dustin Morh in the lineup every day? Or maybe if Coco was playing things would have been different? Obviously, the rose colored glasses come in a pinstripe edition.
    Oh, Jared Wright has been the second best Yankee pitcher last month, so using his start as a crutch really doesn’t fly either.

    Brad June 3, 2006, 10:27 am
  • How can you only be happy with Youk and Lowell if you are a Sox fan. One this statement truly does not make any sense, for Lowell leads the league in doubles, top 10 in the AL in BA, and has been playing gold glove material at third base. Youkilis has been everything we want him to be and has been a tremendous leadoff man. Ranking top five in the league in OBP, what more do you want. Oh, how about he switched positions this year, and has been looking like he played there his whole life.
    If this 1/2 game up is ‘truly’ a tie, then secondly they would go to head to head, which again would put the Red Sox on top. How on earth do the Yankees belong on top?

    NeffSox June 3, 2006, 12:26 pm
  • Man, tom, that’s a lousy attitude you’re packing there. That half-game too much for you to bear? At least wait unitl October to be bitter. ;)
    No, the Fenway calculus (which was later corrected, by the way–and is also a really stupid thing to get your knickers in a twist over) only applies when the Yankees are ahead by percentage points, not 1/2 games.
    Just…enjoy taking stock of your own team. I know I don’t bother commenting about yours since they’re going to be there in the race no matter how many devastating injuries they seem to get (and can we all agree both teams have had too many?).

    Devine June 3, 2006, 12:36 pm
  • The biggest need I think both teams are looking for is a consistent starting rotation. With the exception of Schilling (3.86 era) and Mussina (2.42 era) the others are not looking so good at times. Granted a number of starters on both of the teams are not getting the offensive support that they should. Boston has played a heave East schedule and is 23-14 in the division. NY has been 13-8 in the east and has had a few more games in the central and has gone 9-4 there. The majority of those games were against KC. The best thing both teams can say at this point is that they are a few games better than they are with the injuries that have occurred and we have allowed Toronto just enough hope to squash that crap in the second half.

    Rob June 3, 2006, 12:43 pm
  • Also rememebr that the Sox this year are not displaying the offensive teams they have the last few. They are playing more on the pitching and defense thing. Personally I would rather they smash someone 15-3 everynight so I sleep better.

    Rob June 3, 2006, 12:45 pm
  • That dig about shoe-tying was just mean. And uncalled for. Typical of SFs!

    Anonymous June 3, 2006, 12:47 pm
  • For how many years did we hear Buckner, 1918, Babe?

    Rob June 3, 2006, 12:49 pm
  • //Typical of SFs!//
    if i were empress of the universe, i would institute legislation so that this line of argument from some YFs would be absolutely off-limits. the people who say this kind of thing amaze me with their sense of entitlement to generalize. just stop it.

    beth June 3, 2006, 12:55 pm
  • I am not justifying that people poke fun at Mo because he hurt his back. I am not justifying B, B and 1918. I do say however that people should not comment on either if they can not here the come back.

    Rob June 3, 2006, 1:02 pm
  • Attack Gerbil’s take on the Best and worst for New York
    1. Melky Cabrera.
    2. Melky Cabrera.
    3. Melk… wait, stop.
    Sheesh. Don’t know where that came from. Like many Yankee fans, I’ve such a serious man-crush on Melky Cabrera. How embarrassing. Let me look that list over.
    Okay, trying again:
    1. Mike Mussina. If Joe is smart, he will have Mussina packed in bubble wrap and transported under armed guard every time he steps off the diamond to ensure his well-being. The thought of him getting hurt is just too horrbile to contemplate.
    2. Derek Jeter. The captain is off to the best offensive start in his career and is on pace to have career numbers every major offensive category except home runs. He’s also stealing bases at a clip not seen since 98. He’s co-MVP of the team with Moose right now.
    3. Jason Giambi. His OBP is second only to Bonds and his OPS compares very favorably to any slugger not named Pujols.
    4. Melky Cabrera/Robinson Cano. After his unfortunate debut in Fenway, Cabrera has shown himself to be a decent fielder with a good arm. No deep-ball power shown to speak of, but his plate discipline belies his experience. Last 10 games: 40 at bats, 13 hits, 6 walks, 1 strikeout. Cano is having a solid second season. Hear, hear for the Yankee youth movement.
    5. Álex Rodríguez A stomach virus took ARod out of the lineup for the first time this year. He played every game last season. His detractors will have you believe that he is an egomaniacal, overpaid, non-clutch, cancer that disappears exactly when a team needs him most, and then to support their case, they will come up with some drill-down stat off of BP like “Well, he only hits .153 against righties at night on grass away from home with two outs and runners in scoring position under a harvest moon!” The truth is he is going about his business having another MVP caliber season. His fielding has been rough at times this year, but taken as a whole, what a remarkable player. Whoever has an axe to grind with him for taking the money offered to him by the Rangers is an ass.
    1. Injury bug. Shawn Chacon, Carl Pavano, Octavio Dotel, Tanyon Sturtze, Bubba Crosby, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield. That’s a lot of talent made unavailable. The Hideki injury is the one that really gets to me because he has as much love and respect for the game as anyone in all of baseball.
    2. Middle Relief. Scott Erickson is simply terrible. Farns looks lost much of the time, and if Mo puts his back out again flossing or setting the table, is any lead safe? I have this feeling that Small is just about done with the majors. Dotel/Sturtze are on the DL. Villone’s a bright spot, and I pick on Myers too much for how good his numbers are, but I think Proctor’s arm is going to fall off my mid-August as Joe will have no faith in anyone else. Let’s hope Rasner continues to flourish.
    3. Terrence Long. Torre likes his attitude, his dedication. Okay, make him a coach. He may be a great guy, but his playing days are over. Start any outfielder in the Yankees minor league system in front of him.
    4. Kelly Stinnett. This probably should read “depth at position 2”, since Stinnett really hasn’t played all that much. However, on his best day, he’s average defensively. He&rsuqo;s the worst catcher offensively compared to any starting catcher in the major leagues. Posada has his “torn hamstring tendon”, whatever the hell that is, and he is playing through it, for now. All I know about hamstrings is they hurt like hell when you injure one and they can be a long time in recovery, let alone when you have to do 120 or so deep knee bends wearing armor every night. Maybe Stinnett will improve with more time at the plate. I doubt it.
    5. Johnny Damon He hasn’t played so badly for it to be fair for me to put him on the “worst” list, but it is my list and I had a hard time coming up with a good number 5. Anway, strikeouts are up. OBP is down. He has a broken toe. I am concerned.

    attackgerbil June 3, 2006, 1:39 pm
  • Aw come on Brad, if we are going to argue that Jaret Wright is good/bad, I didn’t expect that you would be arguing good! Let me clear: Papelbon has been amazing, reason for excitement, celebration, etc. I should have said that. But SF, the fact that the RS have played all of these teams does not mean that Papelbon has appeared in all of those games, and when he does appear, it’s not for much time usually (which is a good thing for him and you). But there is something to the familiarty thing that is not cliche. Look at the Sox’ successes against Mo compared to the rest of the league. My hope is that it doesn’t take the Yankees 10 years to catch up to Papelbon!
    And the Fenway calculus thing was a joke, Devine–I don’t wear knickers, anyway. Stick to John Waters movies. ;-)

    tom yf June 3, 2006, 1:39 pm
  • Beth and Rob have alreadysaid it, but I’m going to echo them. Maybe the shoe-tying remark was a bit snide, but I can think of numerous times when Yankees fans have said worse to me. Both sides should stay away from offensive remarks (although I didn’t think Paul was being rude, but that’s just me), but that’s the name of the game, and if you’re going to ignore it on one side, you can’t get righteous when someone else does it.

    Laura June 3, 2006, 1:44 pm
  • I thought Paul’s shoe-tie joke was funny. It’s such an absurd injury you have to laugh.

    attackgerbil June 3, 2006, 1:50 pm
  • Some numbers regarding Papelbon’s appearances, just for added information:
    Toronto: 6 appearances for 7 innings
    Yankees: 4 appearances for 4.1 innings
    Orioles: 4 appearances for 4 innings
    Tampa: 5 appearances for 5.2 innings

    SF June 3, 2006, 1:51 pm
  • Attack, good list for the Yanks. The only thing I take issue with is your choice of Damon instead of Randy. His 5 ERA and overall awfulness has been mighty disappointing.

    Nick-YF June 3, 2006, 2:01 pm
  • I apologize. The complaint about shoe-tying was me, my name didn’t show for some reason. I know it was a joke, so was my reply, but I guess it didn’t come through all that well. Sowwy.

    yankeemonkey June 3, 2006, 2:02 pm
  • Correction on Stinnett. He is not as bad offensively as the tandem of Yadier Molina and Gary Bennett in St. Louis.

    attackgerbil June 3, 2006, 2:04 pm
  • Tom, all I was saying is that you tried to use Jared Wright’s start as some sort of fallback excuse or crutch for the Yankees, and to be honest (and I’m giving credit where it’s due), the guy has been better than Johnson, Chacon, Wang, and Small in his last four or five starts.
    Trust me when I say this, I adore the idea of the Red Sox facing Jared Wright in an important late season game, but of late, he’s been the most consistent starter on the Yankees minus Mussina.

    Brad June 3, 2006, 2:04 pm
  • Nick, you know I almost did put Randy as number five, and probably should have because Johnny has been having a decent enough season.
    I chose not to because he had such a good start last outing and I feel like I have been picking on him so much already this year. I’m not superstitious, but I felt the need to send some positive vibes his way so that he will pitch well this afternoon against the O’s.

    attackgerbil June 3, 2006, 2:10 pm
  • Tom, I agree Schill’s and Beckett’s ERAs are less than acelike (although still far below the league average), overall, they’ve performed like aces far more than they haven’t. It’s the 2 or 3 atrocious starts that make the ERA seem worse than it is. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone can argue that the Sox wouldn’t be in first place without them.
    The Fenway scoreboard does indeed have spots for half-games.
    And I just don’t understand how you can use the familiarity line with Papelbon. He’s been lights-out against every team he’s faced except one (the loss), and he’s faced the AL East multiple times (as SF has shown). He’s been great. He’ll be great all year.

    Paul SF June 3, 2006, 2:23 pm
  • Great job on the listing Gerbil, though I would agree that, after the injuries, RJ has been the #2 worst. Also, I think there are a few additional players you could add to your injury list (ie, Damon), and I’d say Dotel doesn’t really belong there, because they knew he was damaged goods and not likely to be with the club immediately from the start. Along the same lines, Paul’s listing of Wells (about 4 times!) in the Sox injury column only accentuates how rough the Yanks have had it by comparison.

    YF June 3, 2006, 3:19 pm
  • I enjoyed the comment about “if Papelbon is so good, is having him close games the best allocation of that resource”, well I put to all the YFs who may have agreed with/snickered about that comment: Why the heck is Mo still closing games after all these years? If he’s that good, he should be your #2 starter this year(after Moose, of course), wouldn’t that be a better “allocation of that resource”? Ridiculous line of thinking, absolutely absurd.

    Quo June 3, 2006, 3:23 pm
  • Um, Quo, isn’t the difference that Mo began life as a starter, wasn’t cut out for it, and ended up as a reliever. All the hype about Papelbon is that he is starter-quality, but was put in the pen to cover for Foulke’s crappiness.
    Given that he’s been labeled as a future starter, I think it’s legitimate that, at a time when SFs are discussing the big hole that is your #4 & #5 spots in the rotation, it’s worth questioning whether or not he’d be better of starting.
    and for the record, I have to say I agree with the familiarity argument. I’m sorry, SF, but 4 IP against the Yanks doesn’t mean that they’ve seen him enough to figure him out! I have a hard time believing that he’ll be this good all year – not just because of familiarity, but also other issues, such as fatigue and pressure later in the season. He is a rookie, after all.

    Sam June 3, 2006, 4:12 pm
  • Oh, and AG – agree with your yankees good/bad, except…MELKY!!

    Sam June 3, 2006, 4:14 pm
  • Quo: Mo got converted into a reliever IIRC, did he not? I don’t know that Papelbon should be starting or closing, but he’s young and many thought he’d end up in the starting rotation. Unfortunately (for him maybe), he pitched too damned well as a closer.
    Also, AG, Rasner is hurt too. He just got DLed for his shoulder. Yay!!

    RichYF June 3, 2006, 4:17 pm
  • Sam, the goalposts keep moving w/r/t Papelbon. First it’s “they haven’t seen him multiple times”, then it’s “four times isn’t enough”. I mean, what is there to criticize about Papelbon? OF COURSE he’s not going to be flawless for the entire season. But the point was that Paul’s inclusion of JP as one of his first third’s top 5 Sox stories was derided, and completely unfairly. It wasn’t that Papelbon is the best pitcher ever, or the greatest closer ever. It was just that he’s a top Sox story. So tell us, how is JP NOT one of the stories of the year for the Sox, perhaps one of the stories of the year in the entire AL?

    SF June 3, 2006, 4:26 pm
  • Another thing –
    I think it’s reasonable to at discuss where Papelbon’s value is most great, in the bullpen or in the rotation. But I also believe that debate might end pretty quickly, since there’s A) no way to know how he’d do stretched out over 5-6-7 innings and 2 or 3 times through an order (in that case, familiarity can go a long way) and B) vast evidence that he’s just phenomenal as a closer. I have asked the question before — where should Paps’ talents be used — but I believe we have a pretty good answer at this point.
    It’s most important to look at the difference between Papelbon as a closer and whoever the Sox would replace him with, versus the value that he would bring in replacing whoever makes the Sox’ 5th starts (or 4th starts, if you push Clement down to 5). I believe that we’d see a huge dropoff from Papelbon to Foulke/whoever closes, based on how ineffective the rest of the Sox’ pen has been at times this year, but less of one in the bottom of the rotation.
    Pure speculation, of course.

    SF June 3, 2006, 4:33 pm
  • SF – I wasn’t criticizing putting JP as one of the good things to come out of this season so far for the Sox. I was just saying that in baseball terms, him pitching 4 innings vs the Yanks is hardly them having seem him enough.
    As for whether he’s better off in the rotation – I’m inclined to agree with you, though I’d love to see what the Baseball Prospectus guys would say about the value of a quality fourth starter vs a quality closer…

    Sam June 3, 2006, 4:47 pm
  • Considering how well Papelbon’s done (direct roles in 20 Red Sox wins), it’s rdiculous to say his role right now might not be the best allocation of resources. He has pitched in more games than he would have as a starter at this point, and while he might have given us an extra five wins as a starter (over Wells/DiNardo/Pauley), I’d bet we’d lose more than that with someone else as the closer. Now if he’s the closer next year, we’re short on starters and Craiig Hansen’s just doing setup work, you’ll have an argument. Right now, Paps is plugging a huge hole, one just as big as (if not bigger than) missing our 5th starter.
    Also, Sam, why is it YFs are bending over backwards to avoid acknowledging that Papelbon is simply the best closer in baseball thus far in 2006? Is it that annoying sense of entitlement that makes you grasp onto the memory of years past and insist that Papelbon isn’t all that great, we’ll get to him, he hasn’t really faced us enough yet, etc, just so you can keep calling Rivera the best closer? I agree that Paps isn’t going to maintain a 0.33 ERA all year, and I agree he isn’t going to save 60 games — but do you honestly think it’s going to be because of “familiarity” or “pressure.” How about the pressure of pitching during a pennant race and in the playoffs having been a major leaguer for less than a month? Papelbon’s done that. How about closing against the Yankees in Fenway and the Stadium? He’s done that too. Papelbon can take the pressure. That’s a joke argument. Fatigue and the law of averages are much more realistic reasons why Papelbon will return to earth, but at this point, that still looks like 45-50 saves and ERA of 1+. In other words, a ROY award and the honor — this year at least — of being MLB’s best closer. Sorry, Mariano.
    The Yankees have a collected 16 at bats against Papelbon. They have one hit. If the solution really is to face Papelbon more, then I presume Yankee fans will be eagerly awaiting seeing him come out of the bullpen in the upcoming series. I know I will.

    Paul A. June 3, 2006, 4:47 pm
  • Hey, Mariano’s been at it for like 10 years. Anything he does now is really more like a bonus, considering how long an average closer lasts.
    Paps has been awesome, no doubt about it, and I have no problem acknowledging that. But pitching in the heat of a pennant race? A bit early for that, ain’t it?
    It’s unfair to compare him to Mo on basis of # of saves – Sox have obviously played a lot more close games than the Yankees have, or Rivera would’ve had a few more than 11 saves.
    I don’t know how successful the Sox were in their first ~20 ABs against Rivera. I doubt they were all that great. However, you can’t deny that part of Sox’ success against him has been because of how much they’ve seen him over the years. If it takes 10 years for Papelbon to start faltering against Yankees, hats off to him. I will obviously hope that it doesn’t take that long.
    In conclusion, Papelbon is unreal right now, but I still wouldn’t trade Mariano for him. I also wouldn’t put him in the rotation because a big part of his success is probably only having to face 3-4 batters a game.

    yankeemonkey June 3, 2006, 5:00 pm
  • Paul A., this Yankee fan would agree that Papelbon is the best closer in baseball right now. The best, without reservation.
    I said so yesterday. The ROY is his to lose at this point. The Cy will be tough to win; he basically will have to match Gagne’s season from a few years ago and have average second halves from Mussina, Contreras, and Halladay.
    It’s just not sensible for anyone to think he can maintain his current pace. However, I’ve seen about 14 of his appearances, and if he has a flaw right now, I can’t see it and I would think that barring injury, he will have a season that will compare favorably among any performance you would choose over the past few years.
    The only reservation I would have is that it’s easy to become enamored with an extremely talented rookie that gets off to a fabulous start and start lauding him with superlatives normally reserved for players that maintain a level of play over a period of years. Seattle fans did that to Felix Hernandez. I’m not accusing any Sox fans in particular of doing that, nor am I saying that Papelbon is bound for a precipitous fall. I love great pitching, and he’s the best at what he does right now. I hope he keeps it up. I also hope the Yankees score enough runs before the eighth so they don’t have to try to figure him out.

    attackgerbil June 3, 2006, 5:20 pm

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