50-37: Swept away in Tampa Bay (again)

Yeah, I know finishing out a five-game losing streak by getting swept by 1st place Tampa Bay isn’t exactly encouraging. But my purpose here is to give the Nation some perspective.

Losing is losing, of course, but we’ve lost the last 5 games by a grand total of 7 runs. That’s almost a ridiculous string of bad luck. I know it’s not fun watching Julio Lugo ground out AGAIN to kill a rally, or Craig Hansen get roughed up again, but it’s not like we’re getting blown out here. And we’re still 16-13 since June 1. Without David Ortiz. Something tells me that once he returns, we won’t be losing quite as many one-run affairs.

I also know that all the talk is about the Rays as the new divisional champ. They’ve apparently had the toughest schedule among the top 3 AL East teams so far, and have the easiest road ahead. Still I say, don’t believe the hype. Tampa should be at 48 Pythagorean wins, according to their run differential, while Boston should be at 50.5; that means they are about 4 wins luckier than they have a right to be. I see a number of shortcomings with this Tampa team. They are still inexperienced, and that won’t help down the stretch. Scott Kazmir has a history of injury, and they don’t have great rotational depth. If the rotation stumbles, their relatively thin bullpen will be exposed. Their closer, Troy Percival, has had trouble saying healthy, and had a 5.40 ERA in June, walking 7 men in 6 2/3 IP. They have Dan Wheeler, but Al Reyes, their other setup man, is having arm trouble. Their outfield still has a weak link, with Gabe Gross providing defense, but not much stick. With Carlos Pena scuffling at, they lack that one big impact bat in the middle of their order.

Let’s take a look at our June and see what went right for the Sox:

Boston outhit and outscored Tampa Bay (without Big Papi).
J.D. Drew just received AL Player of the Month honors for his .337/.462/.848, 12 HR, 27 RBI performance. Not enough recognition went to Dustin Pedroia (.356/.407/.545, 11 XBH and 21 RS) and Mike Lowell (.351/.425/.608, 6 HR and 25 RBI), who also put up brilliant months in June.

The team did surprisingly well in Papi’s absence, scoring 138 runs while hitting .279/.358/.473. The Rays put up just about as many runs with 134 (in one less game), but did it with a .266/.349/.457 line, suggesting that there was some luck involved there.

Boston has more rotational depth.
This one is very simple. If a starter (or two starters) goes down, Boston can weather that much better than the upstart Rays. Which top 7 would you rather have?

Red Sox: Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Bartolo Colon, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson.

Rays: Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Jeff Neimann

Boston has a better and deeper bullpen.
Despite the inconsistencies here and there, the Red Sox do have better arms in their bullpen, most notably at (ahem) closer. There is no shutdown setup man thus far, but we do have at least 3-4 candidates who could emerge this season. Furthermore, the Red Sox are well-stocked to make a move at the deadline to make the relief corps even better. If Masterson joins this group, watch out.

I think Tampa actually gets the advantage for defense, because of the putrid play of Lugo at short, but other than that, I have trouble seeing how they are a better team than us. I still think they are a 3rd place team in this division. So let the Tampa fans enjoy their week in first place; it’s a new feeling for them. It’s all hype, as far as I’m concerned.


3 Responses to 50-37: Swept away in Tampa Bay (again)

  1. Pat says:

    More kudos to Drew, who in a way had the most clutch month of his career. He stepped up immediately after Ortiz went down with injury. He lead the way, and kept our confidence up.

    I will be nice to see some good outings from our bullpen again. Everything else is running smoothly.

    Also, it was wonderful to see a great outing by Daisuke. A rough first inning hurt his pitch count, but after that he was flawless.

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    Almost as if on cue, the Sox were dominating last night in Yankee Stadium. See? Told you the losing wouldn’t continue for long.

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