4-12-2010: The Good, the Bad and the Ortiz

After two series in the books, we sit at 3-3, tied for 3rd in the AL East with Tampa Bay. Let’s dig into the numbers a bit to try and gauge the team’s performance so far.

The Good

As a team, the Sox have performed well thus far. The offense has put up 33 runs over 6 games for a 5.50 average, good for 4th in the AL. Of course, in this small a sample, we find the Oakland A’s ahead of us in runs scored, so I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in this figure.┬áThe offense has been led by Dustin Pedroia (.490 wOBA) and Kevin Youkilis (.459 wOBA), balanced by valuable contributions from most of the lineup. Only J.D. Drew (.246 wOBA) and David Ortiz (.178 wOBA) have been below-average regulars (and WAY below average at that). The team BABIP of .313 suggests that some regression may be in order; still, a .289/.352/.498 team batting line is solid, and if we can keep up that level of production all year, we’ll be fine.

The pitching staff has been a bit more uneven, allowing 4.83 runs/game, but we’ve clearly not seen the best of Josh Beckett (4.47 xFIP) and Jon Lester (4.84 xFIP) yet. Sox fans have to be encouraged by John Lackey’s strong debut against the Yankees at Fenway. There’s two big question marks addressed right there. Tim Wakefield also pitched pretty well in his lone start, despite allowing two solo HRs. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and Boof Bonser coming along at Pawtucket, this team looks to be in good shape going forward. John Smoltz thinks that this rotation could be better than that of the Braves back in the 90s.

Perhaps the feature of this team I like best is the bench depth. How many teams do you know that can start three reserves against Zack Greinke and pull out a win? Our Sox did just that, and will continue to fare well even when injuries strike, because of the way this team is built.

The Bad

Since Opening Night, Big Pop-Up has just looked terrible at the dish. His .111 batting average with just one double you already know about, but a 50% K-rate? Are you kidding me? Add that he’s also hit 56% ground balls, which he has no shot of beating out; so those too are automatic outs. Ortiz has kept his plate discipline so far, managing an O-swing% of just 19.6%, but that miniscule 67% contact rate is really worrisome. I think at this point Terry Francona should DH him against RHP only until he shows he can do more. Lowell is a natural platoon partner, and he needs playing time as well. Doing this would leave a quality opposite-hand bat on the bench to pinch-hit with, which is not a bad thing.

I also find it somewhat worrisome that Jacoby Ellsbury has not drawn a single walk atop the order in 30 PA. To get a sense of how poor that walk rate is, if he were to walk once every 30 PA, that would only be about 23-24 walks on the year. I know pitchers are not giving him much to take, but he’s got to do better if he wants to keep batting leadoff.

The much-hyped defense has looked pretty good overall, but there have been some notable gaffes, like Marco Scutaro’s errant throw and the collision of Ellsbury and Adrian Beltre just one night after a near-miss with new teammate Bill Hall.

Much has been made about the bullpen’s early struggles. When Jonathan Papelbon blows his second save opportunity and looks vulnerable doing it, people start to talk about Daniel Bard being the new closer. Really? The same Bard who has a 5.4 BB/9 rate right now? Don’t forget, Paps’ blown save came against the Yankees, and ┬áhis other two outings have been strong and efficient. I don’t see a problem here.

Ramon Ramirez has been demonstrably bad (10.26 xFIP), but Scott Atchison and Manny Delcarmen have been serviceable and Scott Schoeneweis has actually done pretty well (16.2 K/9, 0.93 xFIP) so far. I don’t think there’s a need to hurry to change up this bullpen anytime soon.


3 Responses to 4-12-2010: The Good, the Bad and the Ortiz

  1. TheProfessor says:

    …You are so right about Ortiz , if he does not hit and hit quick we are going to find ourselves 8-10 games out of first. I think the change Saturday was good and look what happened . At least just try and see if someone else can DH … please don’t run Ortiz out there every night until he runs the team into the ground. His record this year ( I know ) speaks for itself … I think something big is going to happen , either something about PED’s will come out, or his real age will surface, or he will explode and make a huge mistake on or off the field. I think he is a ticking time bomb… I just have this feeling in my gut … I hope I am wrong . All that aside I like your site … very cool.

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    Hi, and thanks for reading. It sounds like you are a bit more pessimistic on Ortiz than I am, but I do think that his role needs to be reduced until he proves that he can get it back, as he did towards the end of last year.

    Great to hear you enjoy the site, see you around!

  3. redsoxtalk says:

    How little respect is Ortiz garnering these days? Teams are no longer employing the full shift on him. Speculation is that with his reduced bat speed, they are not worried about him pulling the ball as much.

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