Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Terror in a Texas Ballpark

When Larry Luchhino or Ben Cherington need to make a major decision, they have to call Mike Napoli and get approval. Because he owns the Red Sox. He has a higher career slugging percentage against the Red Sox than any other player. Ever. He slugs .725 against the Sox. Nelson Cruz slugged .710, Babe Ruth slugged .683, Frank Robinson .652, and Lou Gehrig .644.

Last night he hit a 2 run homerun, part of a 9 run Ranger onslaught. And the Red Sox fell below .500 for the first time since June 16th.

Giving up 9 runs to the Rangers is bad, but it's not as depressing as the Red Sox offense was. They were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. Crawford didn't get on base, striking out twice. Pedroia got 3 hits, but Adrian Gonzalez got 0 hitting behind him. Ryan Sweeney, the 8th hitter in the lineup, had the best offensive chances. That's not how it's supposed to work.

I don't like Carl Crawford hitting 2nd. I know he's fast. And that's great. But how often will you try stealing bases when your best hitters are coming up? And if those hitters are power hitters, why risk stealing 2nd when you're still able to score from 1st on a double? And anyway, the #2 hitter's main purpose is to get on base. Which Crawford hasn't been great at in his career. His .333 career OBP doesn't justify his hitting in either of the top 2 spots of the lineup.

I'd prefer to see Crawford at the bottom of the order, hitting 7th, 8th, or 9th. Then he can use his speed to help the bottom of the order generate a few extra runs.

Hitting Crawford 2nd pushes everyone back a spot, which also reduces their at-bats. He also strikes out far too often for a top of the lineup kind of guy who doesn't hit for much power.

Dustin Pedroia was designed to be a #2 hitter. He's not an easy out, he's not going to clog the bases, he's a smart hitter, a smart baserunner, his career OBP is .368.

Right now my base lineup would be: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ross, Saltalamacchia, Middlebrooks, Crawford, Aviles, Nava/Sweeney.

Then when Ortiz returns: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Ross, Saltalamacchia, Middlebrooks, Crawford, Aviles. Now that's a lineup. Ellsbury and Pedroia get on base. You have multiple power guys in the middle who can knock runs in. Then some decent power after that to mop up, and a solid back of the lineup that can generate runs and give Ellsbury and Pedroia some RBI opportunities.

Having Crawford bat 2nd means the lineup relies too heavily on a player who never was great at getting on base. And this is also a guy who hasn't yet proven he is nearly as good as he was back in 2010.

This doesn't solve the Red Sox' pitching problems. Guys like Felix Doubront have carried the team while Beckett and Lester have been lying down on the job. And now Doubront is looking more like Felix Doubront.

Fixing this team's pitching is a simple plan, but it's not easy to execute. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester need to pitch better. Easy to say, but will it actually happen? Beckett might go on one of his runs of excellence. He might not. Flip a coin.

But Jon Lester is staring into the abyss right now. His next start could be a turning point in his career, one way or the other.

Beckett and Lester need to do their jobs. Felix Doubront is simply not capable of carrying the load that these guys are supposed to assume responsibility for. Doubront has done well, but he's no Josh Beckett or Jon Lester.

Thankfully, Clay Buchholz is on the mound tonight. The Sox could use another great start from him. He faces 21 year old Martin Perez. Perez has made two Major League starts this year, one was decent, one was horrible. However, he's also a lefty, and the Sox have no experience against him. So Buchholz might need to be brilliant in order for this losing streak to be stopped.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

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