Losing Ugly: Sox-Tigers Game I Postmortem

Not much new ground was broken in tonight’s poor effort, but I am going to trod on that old path anyways.  Despite the optimism felt in RSN over the weekend (can’t say that I was as giddy about one laugher and two ugly wins over a crappy Orioles squad as everyone else), the game tonight distilled some of the traits that are not good enough about a quite good Red Sox squad, traits which do not give me high hopes for a post-season run, if the team makes the post-season at all.

  1. Josh Beckett puts the Sox in a five run hole, three behind before they even come to the plate.  Beckett is a latter-day Nuke Laloosh, a million dollar arm and a ten-cent head.  Nothing but gas after gas, with hints of an absolutely mean curveball that he has either no confidence in, no ability to locate, or too much stubbornness to throw in a tight situation.  He’d rather try to blow guys away than finesse his way through a lineup.  Something has to change in the off-season.
  2. Terry Francona employs the greedy, slow hook that has gotten him into much trouble with me this season, leaving Rudy Seanez in the game about two batters too long in the eighth inning after he had done yeoman’s work with a scoreless 7th.  Instead of leaving with the Sox two runs behind, it ends up a being a four run deficit.  Once again, the weak bullpen forces the offense to work harder, to climb steep hills under difficult circumstances. 
  3. Bad decisions under pressure: DeMarlo Hale, who has done a really wonderful job as the third base coach this year (and who doesn’t deserve the crap that will be thrown his way over at SoSH, I am guessing), inexplicably sent Manny Ramirez on a single in the bottom of the eighth with one out, after the Sox had cut the lead to three and put up 4 straight hits against the ferociously impressive Joel Zumaya.  Instead of the bases loaded and 1 out, a pitcher starting to ravel, the rally was squashed, a pitcher re-energized. 

I commented earlier that a four game loss-column deficit with only 40+ games to play is a significant one, and we can see the reason why tonight.  The Yankees slump, the Sox cut the lead to two, and tonight 50% of the gains made over a four game span are handed right back. It could very well be that all the Yankees have to do next weekend is win two games, for their visit to be considered useful.  And that’s a terrible position for the Sox to be in. That pendulum that Paul referred to isn’t swinging back the other way for me — it didn’t really ever reverse course, despite the sweep of the Orioles.  The Sox are good.  Just not good enough.

30 comments… add one
  • BOSOX are on the Down Elevator.
    very said

    Anonymous August 14, 2006, 11:38 pm
  • Just to be devil’s advocate a moment, Beckett’s problem tonight was not pitch selection but command. He threw plenty of off-speed stuff tonight, but he couldn’t get anything over for strikes with consistency. The fastball kept sailing away, the curve kept dropping in the dirt, and the changeup was either in the dirt or sailing away.
    This is the pitch sequence from the first inning, as best I can tell:
    Granderson: 1) FB Middle Away (Triple to RF)
    Monroe: 1) Curve Middle Down (Strike)
    2) Curve Down Away (Ball 1 in the dirt)
    3) Curve Down Away (Ball 2 in the dirt)
    4) Curve Down In (Strike)
    5) Curve Down Away (Ball 3 in the dirt)
    6) FB Up Away (Ball 4)
    Young: 1) Changeup Down Away (Single to RF + error)
    Ordonez: 1) FB Middle Away (Strike)
    2) Curve Down Away (Ball 1 in the dirt)
    3) Curve Middle Down (Foul)
    4) FB Down Away (Ball 2)
    5) Curve Middle Down (Ball 3 + Wild Pitch)
    6) FB Middle Away (Groundout to 2B)
    Guillen: 1) FB Down In (Foul)
    2) FB Middle Away (Foul)
    3) Curve Down Away (Ball 1)
    4) Curve Down Away (Ball 2)
    5) FB Down In (Grounded to Pitcher)
    Casey: 1) FB Middle Away (Strike)
    2) FB Up In (Flyout to LF)
    He isn’t going out there and chucking fastballs ad nauseum as you claim–it probably just looks that way because he throws so hard. He IS mixing his pitches, but tonight he just couldn’t command any of them.

    Bow Bow August 15, 2006, 12:49 am
  • But that pitch selection shows two pitches only: curveballs and fastballs. His changeup is non-existent. So when his curve isn’t working, and it doesn’t really appear to be working all that well this year, that makes him a one-pitch pitcher. He needs to learn something in the offseason. My comment stands.
    I also neglected to mention Craig Breslow as a silver lining, but that’s because I tend not to focus on nice two inning mop jobs.

    SF August 15, 2006, 6:23 am
  • just wanted to lay claim to the Bull Durham reference comparing Beckett to Nuke back on JULY 8th……

    TonyC.25 August 15, 2006, 6:46 am
  • I didn’t see him pitch in nl but is it possible that this is simply what he is as a pitcher?

    Yankeemonkey August 15, 2006, 8:39 am
  • I find that hard to believe (that that’s all Beckett is as a pitcher). I have to believe that the Sox front office a. is smart enough not to spend millions to extend a pitcher who has just one good pitch and b. knows the deficiencies of the NL and expected a regression this year. We’ve seen Beckett throw near-nohitters this year using more than just his fastball. The problem is that he relies on it too much. Hopefully he’s learning, and he’ll learn even more this off-season. We need him to be the pitcher he can be next year, otherwise 2007 won’t be much better than 2006 — for him and the team.
    Still, it’s frustrating — so frustrating — when you can’t beat the Tigers with your No. 2 pitcher on the mound, a great two innings from the guy making his 2006 debut and four runs of support (could have, should have been five or more). Bleck.
    Still wondering why Rudy Seanez was the pitcher of choice when we’re down by just two runs.

    Paul SF August 15, 2006, 10:39 am
  • I don’t know Paul, I think YM could be on to something. Look at Pavano or even Burnett. Not to mention Javy Vazquez. I think there could be something to pitchers being very good in the NL East being…not so much in the AL East. Pavano’s figures in the NL are very similar to Beckett’s aren’t they?
    I know SFs have more faith in their front office than just about any fanbase in the country, but they might have got it just a wee bit wrong with Beckett. I mean, even with his current record, he’s still good enough to be a No 3 or 4, just not a staff ace in this division.

    Sam August 15, 2006, 11:35 am
  • Update: Pavano’s numbers are *slightly* worse than Beckett’s, except in K/9 where the latter is much better. But then again, Pavano’s % of groundballs is much higher, so I’m still comfortable saying they had similar NL records. And for the record, AJ’s numbers match up quite well with the other two…
    I think the real moral here is to be very, very leery of recruiting NL pitchers to pitch in the AL Beast.

    Sam August 15, 2006, 11:40 am
  • I’m thinking that it is going to require this year, and an offseason of preparation for Beckett to really show up. It’s very true the difference between the two divisions, and with most players, it takes the year to become adjusted to it. If he shows up late this year, or early next year and still has the same problems, then I’d be inclined to think he was overrated, but for now, I think he deserves the learning curve that most every other player gets. Plus, the guy just turned 26, so I’m sure over the next few years his flashes of brilliance will be more frequent than this, his first year against this division.
    On another note, I think Beckett would be one of the few who greatly benefit from taking back the inside of the plate. Hard throwers like himself, who have some trouble with the breaking ball have always demanded the inside and gave the hitter much less comfort in the box. Clemens, Ryan, Petey, and others all kept the option of inside pitching open to the batter, and Beckett has not shown any inclination to come inside this year, on purpose anyhow. He has to take back that part of the plate, or even a few inches off the plate to be successful for the rest of this year.

    Brad August 15, 2006, 12:15 pm
  • Can someone explain to me why the hell Belli was not catching last night??? Seems like as bad as Beckett can be, he might be just a bit better with Belli back there than with Harvery Lopez, who, by the way, could not cath well in a kickball game. My God does he suck.

    Manny's Mission August 15, 2006, 2:39 pm
  • Can someone explain to me why the hell Belli was not catching last night??? Seems like as bad as Beckett can be, he might be just a bit better with Belli back there than with Harvery Lopez, who, by the way, could not cath well in a kickball game. My God does he suck.

    Manny's Mission August 15, 2006, 2:42 pm
  • The problem in comparing Beckett to Pavano is that Beckett has been consistently good despite and throughout his injury problems. Injuries alone kept him from putting up the ridiculous numbers he could have for the past three years. Pavano had one good season in the NL, iIrc. That’s a big difference.

    Paul SF August 15, 2006, 3:41 pm
  • I agree, Paul. And, as soon as I saw the lineup last night I was thinking the same thing about Lopez catching. With Mirabelli on a nice little home run streak, why take him out of the lineup when you know you need him? Made no sense to me either.

    Brad August 15, 2006, 3:48 pm
  • Paul – if you look at k/9s k/BB, GB/FB and so on, they have similar numbers. In fact, since Pavano’s had the longer career, you could make the case that he’s more consistent than Beckett!

    Sam August 15, 2006, 4:05 pm
  • Sorry about the formatting. Beckett shows slightly better, it’s true, but I don’t think these numbers would necessarily be better if he wasn’t hurt. They are averages, after all. Point is, if Pavano was a complete failure in the AL East with these numbers (and he is/was) then expecting Beckett to blossom into an ace *may* be too much.
    Beckett
    G/F K/9 B/9 BAA OBP SLG OPS HR ERA
    0.82 9.45 2.57 .232 .307 .389 .693 13 4.10
    1.33 9.63 2.71 .246 .319 .352 .668 9 3.04
    1.25 8.73 2.82 .235 .305 .390 .691 16 3.79
    1.25 8.36 2.86 .234 .303 .369 .669 14 3.38
    1.15 7.44 2.52 .258 .327 .477 .803 31 5.02
    Pavano
    G/F K/9 B/9 BAA OBP SLG OPS HR ERA
    1.49 6.09 2.04 .313 .372 .478 .848 19 5.16
    1.10 5.96 2.71 .265 .311 .416 .724 19 4.30
    1.43 5.63 2.84 .253 .302 .377 .676 16 3.00
    1.60 5.04 3.11 .315 .354 .513 .864 17 4.77

    Sam August 15, 2006, 4:20 pm
  • Sigh. Sorry about this – top line is 2002, and for Beckett 2006 is bottom line, while for Carl it’s 2005.

    Sam August 15, 2006, 4:27 pm
  • Of course, we’ve never seen Pavano really pitch to AL batters on a consistent basis, much less having faced NY twice, Toronto three times, Cleveland twice, and so on in his intro season to the league. Like I said, it’s going to take this year for him to be what he is. It’s too early to judge him as a pitcher based on his first six months in the AL East.

    Brad August 15, 2006, 4:44 pm
  • Make that Texas Twice, Toronto four times (in four weeks no less).
    All good hitting offenses, and let’s face it the Toronto team that was playing earlier is not the same threat as the one that showed up in NY earlier this month.

    Brad August 15, 2006, 4:47 pm
  • expecting Beckett to blossom into an ace
    I’d clarify that statement a little further, Sam, simply by adding “this year”. In that case, the expectations were clearly too high. But in the long term, I don’t think it’s too much to think that Beckett, at the age of 26, with coaching and AL experience, with his abilities, could be a #2+ starter.

    SF August 15, 2006, 5:14 pm
  • You’re right SF – there’s always the chance he could become one; I shouldn’t pretend to know the future. I guess I’d just say that it’s not the slam dunk (given the context of the division in which he racked up his numbers) some people made it out to be, especially after his hot start.
    Of course, I have heard the theory that he’s not pitching at his best because he’s trying to protect his fingers from getting blistered…

    Sam August 15, 2006, 5:27 pm
  • “Look at Pavano or even Burnett. Not to mention Javy Vazquez. I think there could be something to pitchers being very good in the NL East being…not so much in the AL East”
    Just one thing to add: don’t forget that Beckett, Pavano and Burnett pitched in Pro Player Stadium – a severe pitcher’s park. Perhaps that made all three seem like better pitchers than they really are. Beckett’s 31 hr given up this year bears this out.

    Bernie51 August 15, 2006, 5:29 pm
  • I would also think that Beckett has pitched more innings this year than in previous seasons (due to stints on the DL). Is his arm fatigued? He may be tipping his pitches and to expect Nipper to catch the problem may not be working.

    Rob August 15, 2006, 5:30 pm
  • It’s again difficult to say that Pavano “was/is a failure in the AL East” when he really hasn’t had much opportunity to pitch there. His injuries are what made him the failure, not his pitching…

    Paul SF August 15, 2006, 5:33 pm
  • Looking at those numbers, Sam, I think you mischaracterize them to say Beckett’s are “slightly” better. Beckett’s 2005 numbers are similar to pavano’s 2004 — the only good season pavano had. Beckett’s other seasons are FAR better (3+ K/9, 20+ BAA, 80+ OPS difference).

    Paul SF August 15, 2006, 5:41 pm
  • Wow, missed the caps on both of Pavano’s “P’s”… My bad.

    Paul SF August 15, 2006, 5:43 pm
  • Beckett’s career high in innings pitched was last year: 178.7. From 2003 – 2005 he averaged 159.1. He is fast approaching what is for him, uncharted territory.
    “Beckett’s 2005 numbers are similar to pavano’s 2004”
    Except that Pavano pitched43.6 more innings in ’04. Pavano 18-2 222.3 ip; Beckett ’05 15-3 178.7 innings.
    Pavano’s ’03 wasn’t a bad year: 12-13, 201.0
    innings, 4.30 era. Except for ’05 Beckett has basically been a .500 pitcher

    Bernie51 August 15, 2006, 6:04 pm
  • Saying a pitcher is a “.500 pitcher” and using that to say whether he’s good or bad is equally misleading because when a pitcher plays for a poor team, he is not going to win as many games (a la Dontrelle Willis, or Roger Clemens the last two years).
    Pavano probably had a better year than Beckett when comparing best years, but only because Beckett’s injuries limited his value — his peripherals are still better, which proves my whole point. You can’t say “Look what’s happened to Pavano in the AL East. The same will happen to Beckett.” 1. Because Pavano has been injured and had no real chance to play in the AL East, and 2. Because Beckett far outshines Pavano in every heads-up comparison year by year. Even when comparing the pitchers’ best seasons, Beckett’s peripherals are better.

    Paul SF August 15, 2006, 7:19 pm
  • More Pavano vs. Beckett
    seasons starts whip oba
    Pavano 9 166 1.35 .331
    Beckett 5 128 1.24 .308
    Seasons with at least 20 starts:
    Pavano 3
    Beckett 5
    Seasons with at least 140 ip:
    Pavano 2
    Beckett 4
    Sorry, they are not comparable. Pavano had 2 decent seasons and broke down. Before that he was a marginal MLB pitcher. Beckett has been knocking on the door of greatness his entire career. I think the reason people have always been high on him is because he has filthy stuff, and doesn’t crumble under pressure. Beckett is showing himself to be slow maturing as a pitcher. Some of this has to be attributed to playing in the NL East in a pitchers park. You want a better comparison? Curt Schilling. Awesome stuff, slow to mature.
    Beckett also doesn’t seem to pitch out of the stretch well. He definitely needs another pitch or two, a slider and an effective change up. Based on his last couple of starts, he also needs Jason Varitek.

    Tom sf August 15, 2006, 7:20 pm
  • “Saying a pitcher is a “.500 pitcher” and using that to say whether he’s good or bad is equally misleading because when a pitcher plays for a poor team, he is not going to win as many games”
    I agree that W-L is not one of the most important indicators of a pitcher’s effectiveness; however the Marlins of ’03 – ’04 were not a poor team, and Beckett’s combined record was 18-17 – again in the NL, in a pitcher’s park. This to me is not “knocking on the door of greatness”. Without a doubt, Beckett is superior to Pavano; however I just don’t buy all the hype. Plenty of pitchers with superior stuff never got it together in the big leagues.

    Bernie51 August 16, 2006, 11:25 am
  • Why do we keep hearing how Tek’s absense is to blame for the suckage of the pitching staff? I recall Beckett getting shelled with Tek back there, and the other pitchers struggling as well. Varitek’s presence or absence is not the main problem nor the cure.

    Yankeemonkey August 16, 2006, 4:58 pm

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