Tick. Tick. Tick.

Let’s assume that over a 40-game period or so, a starting lineup had the following numbers (BA/OBP/SLG):

  1. .296/.393/.478
  2. .312/.393/.451
  3. .326/.438/.560
  4. .318/.426/.515
  5. .252/.380/.348
  6. .277/.309/.447
  7. .272/.344/.430
  8. .313/.363/.485
  9. .197/.272/.279

Not bad. Pretty darn good, in fact.

Let’s further assume that your six principal starters over that period posted these numbers (ERA/WHIP/BAA):

  1. 4.13/1.32/.375
  2. 2.72/1.21/.283
  3. 5.79/1.41/.414
  4. 6.26/1.46/.390
  5. 4.87/1.62/.421
  6. 3.33/1.15/.205

Obviously, these are the numbers of the Red Sox’ starting nine and starting six since June 1. That doesn’t look like a first-place team to me.

Like always — like in 2006, 2002, 2001, 2000, etc., etc., etc. — the
Boston Red Sox have somehow managed to not have enough starting
pitching to sustain a season-long hold on first place. With the
exception of Daisuke Matsuzaka (No. 2) and Kason Gabbard (No. 6, and
benefiting from a small sample size), the trio of Josh Beckett (1), Tim
Wakefield (4) and Julian Tavarez (5, not including tonight’s disaster) have not gotten the job done.
Since June 1, Matsuzaka — not Beckett — has been the ace of the staff.

Add to that the fact that the offense, too, is struggling. Although
individually, the numbers look solid, and their rate stats have not
changed much (.278/.360/.446 before June 1; .273/.355/.432 after), the
Sox have driven in 100 fewer runs in 400 fewer at-bats. Instead of
driving in .150 runs per at-bat, they’re driving in .125 — a .025
difference that translates to 75 runs (or more than seven lost wins)
over the course of a season.

I firmly believe that these numbers have to improve. Nine of the last
11 Sox losses have been by one run. Considering these are the same
players and the same manager who won an inordinate number of one-run
games early in the season, luck has to turn around. Josh Beckett is not
a 4-ERA pitcher. Curt Schilling will likely (hopefully) force Tavarez
out of the rotation and solidify the front end while Gabbard fortifies
the back. The lineup looks pretty good, and perhaps a solidification of the pitching will allow the hitters to relax a little more and get their clutchiness back.

But I also firmly belive this club needs a shot in the arm — or, more
accurately, a shot in the arms. They need another starter — a real
one, not Javier Vasquez or Jose Contreras. Is Oswalt available? I hope so because the Sox need to acquire him, or someone of his caliber, and if it costs Buchholz and Ellsbury with additional prospects, I might just pull that trigger. This team is too good otherwise to let languish, as happened at the deadline last year (and rightfully so, I’ll add. That was an entirely different situation).

We’ve 12 days and change left. Theo Epstein has less than two weeks to make this team play like a division leader again.

16 comments… add one
  • good analysis as always, Paul, but I’d disagree with your assessment of what the Sox should be looking for. I think a starter such as Vazquez would be useful. It’s not so much the absence of a #1 or #2 that is hurting the staff. It’s the absence of a solid innings-eater after Beckett and Matsuzaka. Vazquez has been very good this season. He pitches in a division that’s not favorable to pitchers. And he can be had for much less than an Oswalt.

    Nick-YF July 18, 2007, 11:30 pm
  • This season, Vazquez is in-between Justin Verlander and Jeremy Guthrie in Fielding Independent Pitching. Slightly lower LD% than Beckett (though with less GBs as well). Just behind Matsuzaka and ahead of Kazmir/Bonderman in Ks per Game. (all thanks to THT)
    Stress-free environment (since when have the White Sox been relevant?)? Slight luck due to a BABIP of .269 this season? He has been pretty good over the last season’s worth of starts, with a 4.12 ERA, 212 Ks in 216 IP, all this on a not ridiculously lucky .281 BABIP. 1.15 WHIP over the same span of time. (B-R.com) Will be 31 in a week and is due $11.5M per through 2010.
    If they think he can handle the heat of a pennant race, I might pull the trigger on a Vazquez deal. And as Nick mentions, can be had for less than Oswalt. Moss and Lowrie would suit their needs well (their needs being: anything but 1B, 3B, DH, and closer). Bowden could probably go rather than Buchholz. Not sure if they’d have any interest in Murphy (I wouldn’t, but you never know). Either way, played right, we could get him til 2010 on reasonable terms without giving up Ellsbury or Buchholz.

    QuoSF July 18, 2007, 11:35 pm
  • Have I missed something? When was it assumed that Oswalt is someone that is available. Didn’t he just sign an extension last season at a price that is now below market value for a top notch pitcher such as himself? Why would the Astros trade him even if in trouble this season?

    sam YF July 19, 2007, 12:10 am
  • He probably isn’t really available Sam. He was quoted as saying something to the effect of being willing to be moved if it would be best for the Astros’ future. Whatever the hell that means, but I believe he has a NTC. I would guess he doesn’t get moved for anything but an overwhelming package.

    QuoSF July 19, 2007, 12:13 am
  • I don’t think the Astros would trade Oswalt for Buchholz and Ellsbury. They probably wouldn’t even trade him for Hughes, Chamberlain, and Melky.
    The fact is that Oswalt is one of the best bargains in the majors at this point. You don’t trade aces for unproven prospects, unless you’re the Marlins.

    AndrewYF July 19, 2007, 12:26 am
  • Looking at the Astros, I wouldn’t be surprised. Neither Texas team has a reputation for sterling acumen when it comes to building up a club and collecting talent. The Astros do a better job than the Rangers though.
    Anyway, good points both, Nick and Quo. I have this mental image of Vasquez from his NY days that probably continues to color my perception of him. You’re right that a solid 4/5 like Vasquez would certainly help things, particularly considering Wakefield and Tavarez are the pictures of instability.

    Paul SF July 19, 2007, 12:31 am
  • Anyway, good points both, Nick and Quo. I have this mental image of Vasquez from his NY days that probably continues to color my perception of him.
    I’m with you on this Paul. I’d like Vazquez, but maybe irrationally believe that he’s able to flourish because he’s not really under any pressure in Chicago. They’re not even an “on the outside looking in, but semi-unrealistically hopeful” team in that division, like the Twins might be. They’re maybe a half step ahead of the Royals, which after this series, doesn’t bode well. One wonders whether the Vazquez-Matsuzaka matchup tomorrow night could serve as somewhat of an audition.
    Also re: Oswalt. If the Astros did move him, they’d probably require, in addition to a top-tier pitching prospect (Hughes, Buchholz, Chamberlain), a top middle infield prospect and/or a top catching prospect, which neither of our teams have at the upper levels. It’s not only unrealistic to see him being moved, neither the Yankees or the Sox are a good fit. With Hunter Pence, they have absolutely no need for a CF prospect at this point (and just to needle YFs, Melky doesn’t really count as one anyway, does he?)

    QuoSF July 19, 2007, 3:00 am
  • Unfortunately you’re right, Paul. I lived in Arlington in the late 80’s and early 90’s and had season tickets to the Rangers, and at the time their only decent pitcher was Nolan Ryan. Since then they’ve consistently had horrible pitching, and it seems like Cy Young calibre pitchers who played for them–Kevin Millwood, Chris Young–do better when they leave. I guess it really IS a hitters park.
    Getting Oswalt is a pipe dream–after losing Pettitte and Clemens there’s no way the Astros are going to dump him, especially at how little he’s costing them. There’s a lot of talk about snagging Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins though…

    Atheose - SF July 19, 2007, 7:20 am
  • Can we now stop with the “but it was against “? Yes, our teams _should_ win against lesser teams, but let’s not discount them.
    Also, the wins count the same anyhow. It’s still an easy schedule for the Sox and Yanks (until August gets here..)

    Lar July 19, 2007, 8:50 am
  • Oh ya, and also of note – Seattle is actually only 2 games worse than the Sox and 5 gamse better than the Yanks. Go figure.

    Lar July 19, 2007, 9:02 am
  • I know SF is in full on panic mode here, but, honestly, that lead is still large, and those numbers shouldn’t be too disconcerting. The Sox pitching staff has allowed far fewer runs than any other team save Oakland. Far fewer. Those since June stats can be a bit deceiving. Beckett’s line is hurt by 1 or 2 bad starts (it happens). He and Matsuzaka have been consistently excellent. That leaves 3 slots. Wake is Wake for 1. The fifth can be filled by rotation or reasonable acquisition. Schilling is the big question, as far as I’m concerned. The Sox look like they need a tweek, as most teams do mid-season, not an overhaul. I certainly wouldn’t write them off.
    On the other hand, an August Yankee rotation of Wang, Pettitte, Clemens, Moose, and Hughes is going to be awfully tough. The next month is going to be interesting. If the Yanks close the gap to a few games, then I’d say the Sox are going to be in trouble. But if they just tread water through this “easy” part of their schedule, they’re done

    YF July 19, 2007, 9:08 am
  • The Boston Herald today is truly in panic mode, and seems intent on perpetuating the myths that 1. The Sox offense is the cause of the trouble, 2. J.D. Drew sucks, and 3. The Sox need another bat in their lineup.
    Looking that those post-June 1 numbers, I’d like to see them actually defend those assertions.

    Paul SF July 19, 2007, 10:17 am
  • Does anyone know if Beckett has been throwing fewer curveballs since his finger problem? He returned from the DL on May 29.
    I haven’t been able to listen to many sox games recently. Just curious.

    Andrews July 19, 2007, 12:33 pm
  • Obviously I’m rooting for the Yanks, but I also don’t think it’s panic mode quite yet. I mean, 7 is out of the “random hotness” range where they can just get temporary hot and lucky..
    Though there is obviously still a lot of season to be played, now more so..

    Lar July 19, 2007, 1:09 pm
  • I understand why it’s thought that I am panicking, but I am not. I am truly, honestly, and sincerely concerned that the Sox as currently made up are not good enough to win it all, maybe not even the division. This is something I have been saying for several weeks now (I am sure desturbd1, Paul, Quo, Devine, Brad, etc. will attest to this, as my concerns have been well-aired in the game threads), it’s not something I came to last night. So it’s not panic, though I understand how it can be seen as that.
    I feel like I need to defend myself a little here; I’ve seen 95% of the Sox’ games this year, and I am not in love. I didn’t pick them to win the division before the season started, remember, and though they are clearly a good team, I am not sure that, without a healthy Schilling or a viable third starter, they can accomplish great things come September/October (I hope October). I sincerely hope I am wrong.

    SF July 19, 2007, 5:25 pm
  • SF, you’re ALWAYS right! :)

    Andrews July 19, 2007, 5:28 pm

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