Tuesday, July 05, 2005

81 DOWN, 81 TO GO

Halfway through the year. My view of the Red Sox is that of happiness tinged with dissapointment. I like where we are, but we could be ALOT better. Last night's loss was a good example of this dissapointment.

We're 46-35. We are 2.5 games ahead of Baltimore, 3 in the loss column. We are 4 ahead of New York, 4.5 ahead of Toronto and 20 ahead of Tampa Bay. New York and Toronto should not be that close. Baltimore shouldn't be that close.

We are on pace for 92 wins and 70 losses. That isn't too great, but right now that is the best pace in the AL East. If the season were to end right now, we'd be the 3rd seed in the AL playoffs, with a record slightly worse than the AL Wild Card leading Twins. With the Twins being in the same division as the White Sox, they'd be forced to play the #2 seeded LA Angels. The Red Sox, on the other hand, would be in position to play the White Sox, perhaps the best team in baseball.

Here are projected numbers and evaluations for Red Sox players:

C - Jason Varitek - .302 BA, 26 HR, 68 RBI
C - Doug Mirabelli - .255 BA, 8 HR, 22 RBI

90 RBI and 34 HR from the catcher's spot isn't bad at all. This area does not need improvement and as long as these guys stay healthy, we'll be fine.

1B - Kevin Millar - .273 BA, 8 HR, 60 RBI
(Olerud has only been with the team for 1/4 of a season so his numbers will be multiplied by three)
1B - John Olerud - .390 BA, 3 HR, 24 RBI

The fact that Millar, the starting first baseman, is on pace for the same amount of home runs as the backup catcher is a telling statistic. Millar has been a major dissapointment this year especially considering the production position he plays. 11 HRs, and 84 RBI from 1st base is not enough.

Kevin Millar is a 450 AB player. That's 2.78 ABs per game. He needs to get time off so he doesn't get exposed. With Boston, however, he had 544 ABs in 2003, 508 last year, and is on pace for 490 this year. It isn't a coincidence that Millar hit .314 and .306 in his last 2 seasons with Florida and has hit .276, .297, and .273 in 2 and a half seasons with Boston in Fenway.

The Red Sox need to give more playing time to John Olerud, at least against some right handed pitching and the guys he hits well against or the guys Millar doesn't hit well against. Francona also needs to remember that Kevin Youkilis is on the team. When Youkilis gets consistent playing time, he hits well. He needs it to be consistent though. A spot start once every 8 games or a pinch hit appearance here and there isn't enough. The Red Sox seriously need to look into a platoon situation at 1st base because Francona's love child, Millar, just isn't cutting it.

2B - Mark Bellhorn - .228 BA, 12 HR, 54 RBI

Bellhorn, a 2nd baseman, and the 9th hitter in the lineup, is on pace for 4 more HRs than Millar and only 6 fewer RBI. For all the crap Bellhorn has taken, he is not the biggest problem on the team. There is no replacement for Bellhorn, at the moment. I think Youkilis should have more appearances at 2nd base just to get his bat in the lineup. Bellhorn has been consistent with his defense though, unlike Renteria. Only 7 errors (1 at SS) and a .984 fielding percentage at 2nd base. Down the road, Dustin Pedroia may be playing 2nd base in late August and September if things go well in Pawtucket. Steroid taker Bret Boone is also out there. Until Pedroia is ready though, Bellhorn will continue to walk and strikeout and build the pitch count. He averages 4.22 pitches per AB.

3B - Bill Mueller - .285 BA, 6 HR, 64 RBI

The production numbers aren't really there for Mueller but he has been doing his job. He's getting on base alot (.384 OBP), fielding his position well, and making the other team's pitchers work through the entire lineup. He's still got those bad knees which is why I'd like to see Youkilis play a few games. In case you can't tell, I think Youkilis should be in the lineup somewhere very often because when given a consistent opportunity to hit, he has hit well.

SS - Edgar Renteria - .273 BA, 12 HR, 60 RBI

Yet another non power hitter on pace to hit more homers than Millar. Renteria has had some bright spots but overrall, he has been a big let down. He's made 13 errors, has grounded into as many double plays, and hasn't gotten on base enough. His OBP is .323 (Bellhorn's is .341). The most telling statistic is that he is on pace to score 90 runs. That's with Manny and Ortiz behind him. In my opinion, we need to find a replacement for Renteria at the #2 spot. I'd take Nixon or Varitek for their hitting of Bellhorn for his OBP over Renteria.

LF - Manny Ramirez - .273 BA, 42 HR, 146 RBI

The average isn't what we're used to seeing from Manny but it has been climbing. The other numbers are very Ramirez-esque. Manny is producing in the middle of the lineup despite the fact that Renteria isn't getting on base. Just imagine Manny's RBI total if Edgar was getting on 4 out of 10 plate appearances. Manny's also been good in the outfield playing the Green Monster well and accounting for 9 outfield assists. He's only on pace to score 102 Runs which tells me the bottom of the order isn't doing a good enough job driving him in.

CF - Johnny Damon - .338 BA, 8 HR, 84 RBI

Without a doubt, Johnny Damon is the ignition to the Red Sox offensive machine. In the midst of a career high 20 game hit streak, Damon has been able to get on base for guys like Ortiz and Manny, and he's also been able to knock in quite a few runs on his own. His average against lefties is about the same as it is against righties. He's on pace for 16 SB which is alot for any Red Sox player. He's been able to play through various injuries. The one knock on Damon, and it isn't a big knock, is that he doesn't play the outfield as well as he could. His arm is weak and he tends to have trouble playing the ball off the wall. He rarely plays the bounce and frequently runs headlong into the wall which sometimes makes for a brilliant catch but other times makes for an extra base for the runner and an injury for Damon.

RF - Trot Nixon - .297 BA, 16 HR, 82 RBI
RF - Jay Payton - .265 BA, 10 HR, 42 RBI

Combined, Nixon and Payton are on pace to put up some really good numbers. 124 RBI is a pretty good addition to the production of Ortiz and Ramirez. Francona has done a good job of giving both players ample playing time and keeping both players fresh.

DH - David Ortiz - .313 BA, 38 HR, 136 RBI

Along with Ramirez and the RF combo, Ortiz is the main producer in the lineup. He can also play first at times which I think is an option Francona should look into more due to Millar's lackluster offensive output.

1B/2B/3B - Kevin Youkilis - .273 BA, 2 HR, 18 RBI

Given more playing time with more consistency, I think Youkilis could be a good guy to have in the lineup. He has demonstrated the capability and willingness to play multiple positions. I think he just wants to play. With Millar, Renteria, and Bellhorn struggling, and Mueller slowed by knee injury, I think Youk should get at least 3 or 4 games a week. We're going to need this guy next year too so he needs ABs at the Major League level in order to be a full-time MLB player and produce in this lineup. He works counts (4.51 pitches per AB) and gets on base (.377 OBP, higher than Renteria and Bellhorn). He's a good guy to have on the team.

SP - Matt Clement - 18-4, 216.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 176 K

Undoubtedly the ace of the staff with Schilling gone. If Curt comes back and is this good, we'll have a pretty nice 1-2 punch. Not as great as last year's but enough to give us a good start to any series.

SP - Tim Wakefield - 14-12, 205.1 IP, 3.94 ERA, 124 K

About what you expect from Wakefield. He's been tearing it up lately though and in any playoff series, he's a good #3 guy to have and can also work out of the pen if need be.

SP - David Wells - 12-8, 168 IP, 5.06 ERA, 94 K

D-Woah has been mediocre this season and very inconsistent. If he can perform consistently, we'll have a pretty good rotation top to bottom. Otherwise, we'll have a pretty poor bottom of the rotation.

SP - Bronson Arroyo - 12-10, 204 IP, 4.15 ERA, 122 K

Arroyo has also been hit or miss. He will most likely move to the pen when Schilling returns and I think he'll do well there. Hitters seem to improve against him as they see his stuff a second time through the lineup. If he's a releiver, he can be very effective the first time through and never have to face guys twice in a game.

SP - Wade Miller - 4-4, 124 IP, 4.94 ERA, 88 K

For a #5 starter, Miller is about what one would expect. He'll go out there and give you 5 or 6 innings allowing 3-5 runs and keep you in the game. If the bullpen weren't so glaringly bad, this would be fine due to our offense. However...

CP - Keith Foulke - 6.23 ERA, 30 Saves, 8 Blown Saves, 78 IP, 16 HR, 1.56 WHIP

Despite Millar, and Renteria struggling, Foulke has been without a doubt, the biggest dissapointment and biggest problem on the team. We've got a great offense, decent starting pitching, but in the 9th inning, the game is in doubt. That shouldn't be the case. He's going back to Boston to get his knee checked out. Hopefully it is just an injury, will heal, and Foulke can go back to saving games so all us Johnny from Burger Kings can cheer him again.

Set-Up - Mike Timlin - 2 Saves, 4 Blown Saves, 1.77 ERA, 30 Holds
Set-Up - Alan Embree - 0 Saves, 4 Blown Saves, 7.97 ERA, 8 Holds

Mike Timlin has been very good while Alan Embree has been very bad. Putrid even. Timlin's ERA is not totally revealing as he has allowed a good number of inherited runners to score. However, he has had a good season but Embree has failed miserably. Timlin has been somewhat overworked due to this inbalance. The Red Sox will probably plug Arroyo into Embree's set-up position but I think we need more help. Weirdly enough, Mike Stanton has a lower ERA this season and he was just released by the Yankees.

Situational Lefty - Mike Myers - 60 Appearances, 2.76 ERA, 32.2 IP, .227 Opponents BA (lefties only), 4 Holds

Myers has done his job very well and has given us the ability to get out tough lefties late in the game in tough situations.

Middle Releif - John Halama - 54 Appearances, 5.71 ERA, 82 IP, 2-2
Middle Releif - Matt Mantei - 68 Appearances, 6.49 ERA, 52.2 IP, 2-0

Nobody in baseball has good middle releif and the Red Sox are no exception. Our middle releif is terrible. Hopefully Arroyo's presence in the bullpen can improve this situation somewhat.

There you have it, the Red Sox are in 1st place halfway through the season but there is much work to be done. The Yankees are looking better and we still can't seem to beat Baltimore head-to-head.