Friday, August 13, 2010
The first pre-season game is about as meaningful as the day of training camp preceding it. The opponents aren't really focused on beating you. They haven't studied you, haven't focused on you, haven't devised a gameplan to exploit your weaknesses and avoid your strengths. It's a scrimmage in a Stadium. Not much more.
Julian Edelman was the standout offensive performer. He caught 6 passes for 90 yards. Everyone touts Edelman as a stopgap replacement for Welker. He's not, folks. Welker is one in a trillion. But I would like to see Edelman as a 4th receiver in a bunched up kind of 4 WR formation. Welker on one side, Edelman on the other. They could run some interesting routes that would give Brady two outlets, and really mess with the opposing defense's coverages.
Aaron Hernandez has had an impressive camp, and looked good last night. He's athletic, and knows how to use every ounce of the speed he has. The Pats haven't had reliable tight-end play since the Fauria era.
The running game looked good last night. But Maroney has to do a lot more to convince me that he's worth a roster spot. We've seen him have good games before. It's the consistency. And that's priority #1 with a running game.
The defense contained the vaunted Saints offense, especially when the starters were in there. But as I mentioned above, it's not like the Saints schemed anything to play the Pats. They, like the Patriots, are evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses.
Darius Butler is too undisciplined to be a truly reliable CB.
It's hard to get any accurate assessment from this game, especially on the defensive side. The Patriots defense was statistically good last year, allowing the 5th fewest points in the NFL. But it was a matter of when and how those points were allowed. The Patriots didn't come up with the big stops in pivotal and pressured situations. There are no pivotal or pressured situations in pre-season.
With all the injuries the Sox have endured this season, and with a Wild Card berth just now in grasp, they need all their star players to perform like star players. Jonathan Papelbon failed to do so last night.
John Lackey had a great start, going 8 innings, allowing 3 earned runs, and keeping his pitch count down. You can understand why Francona pulled him after allowing a homerun in the 9th, but it was still one of Lackey's best outings of the season.
Then Papelbon... well, what else can you say except that he blew it.
This was his 6th blown save of the season. That's matching a career high. It was his 5th loss, a new career high. He's allowed 6 homeruns, a new career high. He's allowed 13 doubles, a new career high. His 3.26 ERA is 1.21 higher than his career ERA, and nearly a run higher than his highest season's ERA.
His WHIP is actually the same as it was last year, at 1.15. But he skated around trouble in '09. In 2010, he's been unable to do that.
Now it's silly to replace Papelbon with Bard at this point. Papelbon is still a very good closer. But he's not great, folks. That yokels who'd started to compare him with Mariano Rivera are strictly morons. And most closers don't maintain that near unhittable quality to them. It's unnatural for any pitcher but guys like Rivera to remain that flawless.
I'd say Papelbon is a low Top 10 closer these days. Not a liability, but it's not a guarantee in the 9th anymore. And when his contract comes up, I won't weep if the Sox replace him with a cheaper Top 10 closer.
The Sox face the Rangers tonight in Arlington. Beckett opposes Tommy Hunter (9-1, 3.01 ERA, yikes).
In other news, Kevin Youkilis was at the pre-season Pats game last night, looking very forlorn.