Don’t Look Now …

  • … but the Red Sox seem to be sneaking Jamesian bullpen philosophies back into their gameplan. For the second straight appearance, Jonathan Papelbon was used in the eighth, in a situation where he might not have been used in the ninth, which is exactly what happened after the Sox exploed for six runs. If ever there were a pitcher with the stuff and the mindset to test the "most important outs" theory, it’s Papelbon.
  • … but those bullpen numbers are a bit more even now. Sox: 24 IP, 18 H, 7 BB, 9 ER, 1.04/3.38. Yanks: 39.1 IP, 24 H, 18 BB, 11 ER, 1.07/2.52. Also of note, the Sox’ pen has yet to blow a starter’s lead. There’s a long way to go, but the feared/hoped for (depending on your perspective) multiple-choke meltdown in the opening weeks has yet to occur.
  • … but this format got old pretty fast.
  • As was mentioned in the game comments, when are Bob Ryan and Gerry Callahan going to write their apologies to J.D. Drew for criticizing and demeaning him without ever seeing him play? Not only has he hit the ball literally every single game, but there seems to be some passion and *gasp* grit there, too. Gritty Drew. Drewty. Drew Grit. I’ll stop now.
  • Also mentioned in the Sox gamer, Julio Lugo has looked just fine to me. Who would be upset to see a .324/.395/.442 line from your leadoff man at the end of the season? His two steals in nine games project to 36 over the course of the season. Just sayin’.
  • With 14-run and 10-run explosions sandwiching the King Felix start, can we officially consider the Sox offense healed? Well, maybe not until Manny is slugging higher than .226.
  • Even if the Sox are still struggling on offense, they aren’t doing as badly as this: .212/.282/.315 for a dismal .597 OPS and 28 runs scored in nine games (3.11 per game). "What team is that?" you might ask. Well, it’s not any one team. It’s the offensive line of the Red Sox’ opponents, who have scored more than three runs exactly twice.
23 comments… add one
  • Francona did a really nice job with the bullpen last night. He let Wake try to get through the eighth, but pulled him when the leadoff guy got on. He brought in Donnelly quickly, but pulled him when it was clear he didn’t have it. He used Paps in a high leverage situation, just as his value dictates. Really well done.
    Meanwhile, Paul sticks to the good news. The bad news is that Coco Crisp looks to be turning into a lost cause, sadly. He’s missing straight fastballs, leaving the bat on his shoulder almost deliberately at certain moments. He can still track them in center, so he’s not devoid of value, but his offensive contribution is troubling, to say the least. We’re rooting for him, and refuse to boo: every interview we see with him shows him to be a caring, intelligent, affable guy, and we hope he turns it around, for his own sake and for the sake of the team. But right now it doesn’t look good.

    SF April 14, 2007, 7:48 am
  • …i’m sorry if it sounds like i’m trying to take some of the fun out of the the positive stuff we’ve seen so far…certainly we should enjoy the games and learn something about our teams from the performances this early in the season, otherwise we might as well go do something else until late august, then start following the sport…but, having said that, it is awfully early to begin drawing too many conclusions, good or bad…
    …i’ve been one of the biggest coco detractors on this site…last year i said you guys would be disappointed with him…but, has he really had enough opportunities in a handful of games this year to suggest that he “…looks to be turning into a lost cause, sadly….”?
    “…refuse to boo…” uh, you mean unlike those nasty hateful yankee fans? [nice dig]…
    …i just saw the term “high leverage” used in an article by andrew johnson on AOL…he also used the term “ace reliever” as opposed to closer…i’m not going to disagree with the notion that a bases loaded jam in an earlier inning of a close game could be more important than 3 non-jam outs in the 9th inning…the part i’m scratching my head over is how does a manager predict that scenario in order to get the most “leverage”?…paul, i don’t want to put words in your mouth, but your opening comment seems to suggest that tito took a calculated risk that he wouldn’t need pap in the 9th…luckily the sox piled on 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th, so he looks like a genius…but the flaw in this concept is if tito had “needed” pap in the 9th would he have run him out there again?…maybe i just don’t understand or appreciate the whole saber-james way of thinking, but this latest theory seems to contradict the theory that starters are more valuable than closers [aka ace relievers] and papelbon’s move to the rotation was the right move when it was made…typically the rationale is that a starter can eat up a lot more innings, which is certainly important, but may not be the whole story…my take is that a starter might pitch 200 innings in 30 or so games, while an ace reliever might pitch only 80 innings, but have a chance to impact more than twice the number of games than the starter [papelbon pitched 68 innings in 59 games with 35 saves last year…damn good line considering he missed that time at the end of the season]…anyway, i’m rambling now…i know there’s any number of strategies usually dictated by the personnel you have, so if it sounds like a have a problem with it, i really don’t…it’s a gamble, but so is saving your closer until the 9th when it may not matter any more…it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out…
    …i agree with your conclusions about drew and lugo…but before you declare the sox offense back on track i’d think you’d want to see more production from ortiz…

    dc April 14, 2007, 9:18 am
  • and papelbon’s move to the rotation was the right move when it was made…typically the rationale is that a starter can eat up a lot more innings
    dc: I’d buy the argument under certain circumstances. If the Sox starters were struggling to get out of the fourth or fifth, but as it stands now, that’s not the case. Papelbon’s arm is not the concern to me now. As we all know, he spent the entire off season preparing to be a starter, so a two inning (and it wasn’t even that) save is needed, he has the endurance to do it. Maybe not on consecutive days, as that is very taxing, but to date, that hasn’t been the case at all. On another note, he has been able to get out of the eigth on less than six pitches on both occasions he’s come in then. If his total line is 20 pitches, it’s not a big dea. If his line were to the tune of forty of forty five, I’d start to worry, but if he can’t handle a 20 inning outing, he may as well hand in his papers.
    Tito using him in those situations was exactly the right thing to do. If Donnelly blew it, what good is Papelbon on the bench? We would lambaste Tito for leaving him there when he could have gotten the outs. It’s a two edged sword that he’s dealing with, but to date, he’s come up roses in his decisions.

    Brad April 14, 2007, 10:24 am
  • edit:
    a twenty pitch outing. Sorry, in a hurry. I can’t think of anyone capable of a twenty inning outing, although Halladay could probably do it!

    Brad April 14, 2007, 10:26 am
  • I think if Papelbon had needed more than six pitches to get out of the eighth-inning jam. Say, he uses 12, then maybe we see Timlin or Snyder in the ninth in the true save situation but one that is actually easier to handle (bases empty, two-run lead) than the one Papelbon saw in the eighth (man on base, two-run lead). Of course, he only needed six pitches, and coming back out to get three more outs would not have been overly taxing in this particular case. Incidentally, is it just me or does Papelbon’s stuff look even MORE dominating than it did last season?
    As for Coco, I don’t know. It’s very early to break out the pictures of burnt bread. I’m more inclined to give weight to good performances from established players (like Lugo and Drew) this early in the season than bad performances (Ortiz, Manny, Crisp). The reason is that hitting in early April is probably the hardest thing to do on the diamond. The denser cold air helps pitchers by breaking pitches more and killing fly balls, as well as making it more painful to even hit the ball. The wind currents at many parks are opposite what they will be in the summer. It’s also hard to fault Crisp when Youkilis, Pedroia and Ramirez have all gone long stretches already with 0-fers (or low-fers) this season.
    Crisp does look unnervingly lost up there — but it’s worth remembering that he essentially went a full season without swinging the bat properly. I’m willing to give him more than two weeks to figure that out. Thankfully, the Sox’ reserve of potential center fielders has to be one of the deepest in the game — Wily Mo Pena, David Murphy and Jcoby Ellsbury? That could be a fine outfield by itself.

    Paul SF April 14, 2007, 10:41 am
  • on his blog recently, Schilling said it was tougher to pitch in cold weather FWIW. I really think it’s hard to come to any concrete conclusions about people’s performance’s (good or bad) from eight games. It’s a cliche but small sample size is a small sample size…
    That said, A-Rod is going to hit 85 homers this year!

    Nick-YF April 14, 2007, 10:48 am
  • I think it’s hard to do ANYthing in cold weather (except sleep in), paritucularly in baseball. But the actual air molecules work toward the pitcher’s advantage in colder air, and it seems like the overall coldness does, too. Though I don’t doubt it’s unpleasant for everyone.

    Paul SF April 14, 2007, 10:55 am
  • dc:
    You’re a touch paranoid. I was referring to the boos that came from Sox fans last night and which were referred to in the game thread. But I do understand why you thought what you did.
    As for continuing to give Crisp a chance, I am all for it. But what is a good amount of time before Wily Mo ends up compromised as a player too? I am not interested in prematurely pulling Coco (see my above comment), but I think it’s a reasonable concern: how do we know when Wily Mo has been held back to the point of atrophy?

    SF April 14, 2007, 10:57 am
  • Come on, I don’t buy the cold weather argument as a blanket explanation. Sure it’s cost Manny a couple of possible homers, but you can’t apply it to Coco with any kind of equivalence. He’s not hitting the ball on the nose and losing hits to the weather. He looks lost up there. That has nothing to do with the weather.

    SF April 14, 2007, 10:58 am
  • DC, “calculated risk” is probably fair. Let me add this — I, for one, thought that James’ so-called ‘committee’ concept in 2003 was workable, but that the Sox didn’t have the right arms to pull it off. It will be interesting to see if this bears out more often during the season. …
    Staying on the bullpen theme, I think it’s also interesting that Tito seems to be unwilling to waste a good start. Look at the Yankees box from last night. After Igawa provided a solid start, the rest of the pen (except Farnsworth) did the job until Bruney, who got in trouble in the 11th. Torre left him in there, not using Mo. I wonder if we have a different philosophy between the two managers regarding the importance of early games, or if its just an odd conicidence. Consider Paps’ 5-out save against Texas, too, but also that Pettitte has had a relief appearance.
    … Given that Paps got out of the eight with 6 pitches, he probably would have been out in the ninth if needed. (If MLB ever redefines what qualifies as a save, what Paps did last night should be part of the definition.) Tito said after the Texas game that Paps wouldn’t have pitched the 9th if the Sox had padded the lead, or if he had thrown 15 or more pitches to get out of the 8th…
    Don’t dump on Paul’s optimism too much. He’s looking for a few things to get excited about, and I think he’s pointed out some early trends that are very positive should they bear out over the long haul. Will they? Well, game 10 is today. …

    I'm Bill McNeal April 14, 2007, 11:00 am
  • Coco, I thought, looks like he’s pressing. he knows the pressure is on. You can see it in his face when he’s at the plate.
    And I, too, heard the boo birds on Covelli in the 8th. We all know that the type of NY fans who boo Rodriguez are the same type of Boston fans who boo Covelli. (Anyone want to call that a dig at Yankee fans?)

    I'm Bill McNeal April 14, 2007, 11:05 am
  • I don’t think the weather is the sole contributing factor to Crisp’s struggles; it’s just one of the reasons why I’m hesitant to pronounce death so early in the season (which I know you’re not doing, SF; I think we agree his performance is a concern, at any rate).

    Paul SF April 14, 2007, 11:18 am
  • Good data at the link below showing the win expectancy throughout the course of last night’s game. Papelbon came in when the WE was at it’s lowest point in the final three innings, which is exactly what is meant by inserting him in a high leverage situation.
    http://www.fangraphs.com/plays.aspx?date=2007-04-13&team=Red%20Sox&dh=0

    SF April 14, 2007, 11:23 am
  • Joe Torre laughs at your “high leverage” situations.

    Joe Torre April 14, 2007, 11:49 am
  • I agree with The A’s Fans chanting Yankees suck. As a Yankees Fan I believed that Yankees will not make the playoffs . How can Yankees lose to Mediocre A’s who’s struggled to score runs ? The Yankees blowing three-run lead. Thanks to Kyle Farnsworth.

    Nr-Yf April 14, 2007, 12:48 pm
  • Jeez, get off the ledge, will ya, Nr-Yf? It’s 9 games into the season!

    yankeemonkey April 14, 2007, 1:02 pm
  • That’s it! I’m jumping! It’s too much to take!

    Anonymous April 14, 2007, 1:28 pm
  • >>>The bad news is that Coco Crisp looks to be turning into a lost cause, sadly.<<< I really would like to see Wily Mo get more playing time, via either a platoon with Crisp or even a straight up replacement. WMP became something of a running joke early in the season, due to several fielding flubs and a bunch of strikeouts. But his hitting line was actually damned impressive for a rookie; he seemed to hit better the more frequently he played; and he also seemed to handle his opportunities to play center and even left better than right (though I admit these are mainly anecdotal observations; statheads might be able to prove me wrong). I also think, line-up-wise, that having someone like Wily Mo behind either Drew or Lowell in the batting order helps all the other hitters. While WMP will K a fair amount, he also is always a threat to launch a serious bomb out of the park. So with runners on, having him in the lineup means that Manny and Drew are going to have to be pitched to more often.

    Hudson April 14, 2007, 1:45 pm
  • MLB now includes “X W-L” in its expanded standings (maybe its been there for a while and I didn’t notice) and has the Sox at an expected record of 6-3 instead of the actual 5-4, fwiw.

    Hudson April 14, 2007, 2:00 pm
  • WMP wasn’t a rookie last year.

    TJ April 14, 2007, 2:16 pm
  • Anybody who’s calling for WMP to get more playing time right now is going to be doing the exact opposite after he strikes out on an outside curveball for the 82nd time with the bases juiced and 1 out, especially when he’s butchering balls in the outfield the entire time.
    The same people will be saying things like “why is Crisp riding the pine when we haven’t gotten a chance to see what he’s capable of when healthy?”
    But the grass is always greener, right?
    WMP is NEVER going to see another fastball until he proves he can lay off outside curveballs and not take hanging sliders for strikes. He hasn’t done that yet, and I have doubts he ever will. Coco will get things ironed out, but at this point, it’s not looking like WMP’s discipline is going to change.

    Steve April 14, 2007, 7:56 pm
  • i’d be interested in tyrel’s opinion on giving wmp more playing time…

    dc April 14, 2007, 9:54 pm
  • Clearly WMP is not going to improve. I mean, he’s an elderly 24, and it’s not like he can learn to handle breaking balls better or improve his defense. It’s not like the Red Sox can afford to take a chance on someone who hasn’t mastered every aspect of the game – like a first-baseman cast off by the Twins who doesn’t field well or try to hit singles rather than home runs.

    Andrew F April 15, 2007, 2:46 pm

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