Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Coming into last night's game, the Kansas City Royals were 39-53. That's .424. They had scored 415 runs in their first 92 games. That's 4.5 a game. They had allowed 453 runs, that's 4.9 a game. But they scored on us - allegedly one of the top teams in baseball - 9 times. And they held us to 3 runs, and 2 of those 3 runs came in garbage time when the winner of the game was no longer in doubt.
This game was lost in the 7th inning. It was 3-1 Royals by then, which is actually a staggering deficit for our offense to overcome anyway. Wakefield hasn't been able to pitch out of the 7th inning since June 12th against Colorado. In his last 9 starts, he's failed to go 7 innings in 8 of them, failed to go 6 innings in 3 of them, and failed to go 5 innings in 1 of them. He's become our second #5 starter alongside Tavarez.
Wake got into a jam when he allowed a double, a single, and a double to open up the 7th. After inducing a groundout, he was pulled for Javier Lopez. I know Javier's ERA is a nice 3.60, but I've always considered ERA to be a horrible stat for a reliever. It doesn't factor in inherited runners scoring, nor does it factor in how many times the pitcher leaves the game in a jam only to be rescued by another pitcher. Lopez has a WHIP of 1.48, which is far too high for him to be considered anywhere near a good reliever.
Just a side not, I'm referring to Lopez's stats on ESPN.com, looking at the splits section. Somehow, he's pitched -1.0 innings in a dome this season. I don't know how one pitches negative innings. I don't know if the mistake will be there, but here's the link.
Lefties have a .286 average against Lopez. Righties are hitting .220. You know things are wrong when one of your lefthanded relievers should be considered only for getting righties out.
Lopez just isn't working out as a situational lefty, or a mid-reliever. He should be kept to pitching in games that are out of reach for one side or the other, or against the bottom of other team's lineups. Just looking at his splits, hitters 6 through 9 in other team's lineups are hitting .179 off him. Hitters 3 through 5 in other teams lineups are hitting .423. He also shouldn't be brought in with runners on base. Opponents are hitting .200 off him when he comes in to start an inning, .231 against him when there are no runners on, and .275 when there are runners on base.
Then there's Joel Pineiro. He only allowed 1 run in the 8th, and the game was already out of reach, but seriously, what purpose does this guy serve? How has Joel Pineiro helped us? 5.06 ERA, 1.66 WHIP. The guy simply isn't helping us to win.
This team obviously has a middle relief problem. We've got Papelbon, Okajima, and Delcarmen at the end of games, and maybe Mike Timlin. But if the starter doesn't go 7, we face troublesome situations. We either wear out guys like Okajima and Papelbon, or we trust guys like Lopez and Pineiro with the ball.
Now the simpletons out there think the best way to solve this problem is to trade for some relievers. I think we can solve it in a better way. We need to trade for a starting pitcher, or two. I know the market out there for starters isn't very deep, and they will cost a lot in trades, but we need help desperately.
Tim Wakefield and Julian Tavarez are both #5 starters at best. Beckett is a #1, Matsuzaka is a #2. Gabbard has shown flashes of brilliance, but he's still only 25 years old and has only pitched into the 7th inning twice in his 5 starts. He seems to be coming along as an MLB pitcher, so maybe he's a #3. Then there's Schilling. God only knows what he will give us when and if he comes back. Let's say he comes back and is healthy, do you really think he's going to be a consistent 7 inning pitcher? Then there's Lester. Sox fans all seem to remember he went 7-2 last year, and we all seem to forget he did it with a 4.76 ERA. Lester has a 3.90 ERA in Pawtucket this year.
If we get another starting pitcher, someone who can be slotted as our #3 guy, we can have Beckett, Matsuzaka, whoever, Schilling, and Gabbard. We can move Wakefield and Tavarez to the pen. Tavarez is a proven reliever, but so is Wakefield. Both pitchers have had difficulty going deep into games this year. Both pitchers get knocked around their 2nd and 3rd times through a lineup. Both guys could fill the gap in between our starting pitching and our end of game relief. This could be our bullpen:
Yes, that's 12 pitchers total. I think we should go with 12 pitchers. I think Wily Mo Pena should be given his outright release today. And it isn't the strikeouts. I don't care that the guy strikes out in 42% of his at-bats. What matters is he's hit a homerun in 3.2% of his ABs. He's gotten a hit in only 21% of his ABs, and gotten on base in 27.9% of his plate appearances. He can't run, he can't field, and he can barely hit. It's time to give up on him. We've got Hinske, Ellsbury, David Murphy down in Pawtucket, and Youkilis can even play the outfield in an emergency. Wily Mo has given us nothing but a few laughs this year as we watched him wave at curveballs like Pedro Cerrano.
Our offense is mediocre. But I don't see many ways it could be improved through external deals. We're not going to get a bat to replace Varitek. Youkilis, Lowell, and Pedroia are fine. In fact, they've been better than fine. We're stuck with Lugo for a long time, and we're still paying Renteria. Remember Orlando Cabrera? God, I wish we could get players like him. We're stuck with Manny and Drew in the outfield. We might be able to get another outfielder to replace Crisp. We're not tied to Coco for tons of money, and we might be able to find someone to hit there. But I still think that the best way for us to improve offensively is for the players we have to hit the way they should be hitting. Lugo has come around recently, but Manny and Ortiz need to produce more.
The Yankees are only 8 games back, folks. And there are still 6 games head-to-head between us. We've got a grueling schedule ahead of us as well. We've got a 4 game series in Cleveland coming up. In a few weeks, yet another West Coast road trip to Seattle and Anaheim. Things might get hairy.