4-4-2011: Separating the real worries from the imaginary
April 4, 2011 5 Comments
Try not to get swept away (pun intended) in the collective madness that is Boston fandom and sports media. I think the Sox got taken in by the sky-high expectations and all the preseason love. When everyone except Hank Steinbrenner picks you to win your division, and people start talking about 100 wins in a division like the AL East before a single pitch is thrown, it doesn’t matter how focused you say you are, it will affect you. In an ironic twist, they experienced a bit of what the Yankees went through every year for so long, and they flunked the test with flying colors.
Baseball has this way of making things look better or worse than they really are. The Sox are very much still contenders, but they are starting from an 0-3 deficit now (so is Tampa Bay, BTW). Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to some real baseball, what do you say, guys?
Things that shouldn’t worry you yet
Jon Lester didn’t strike out a single Ranger in his start.
It’s hard to explain what happened, but it just wasn’t Jon’s day. The fastball velocity was a little lacking, but that’s not unusual at the start of the season. Lester has always been a slow starter, for whatever reason. He’ll get into his usual streak of 5-6 shutdown starts by the beginning of May.
The Sox offense is hitting just .200/.279/.330, and didn’t look like much against Matt Harrison.
True, it was a bad weekend all around, but the basic stats are fine. The Sox walked in 9% of their plate appearances, struck out in 25% of them, and suffered from a .233 BABIP (despite some pretty bad defense by the Rangers). They will rebound, and they will be just fine.
Carl Crawford is slashing .182/.250/.182 with five strikeouts, no runs scored and no stolen bases.
Crawford is an established veteran, but he’s still pretty young and is feeling the weight of his $140 million contract on his shoulders. Carl, we already think you’re worth the money – just play, man. Once he relaxes and just plays his game, he will be fine. He got two hits after batting seventh in game 3, so let’s just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
The rebuilt bullpen has an 8.31 ERA, and even Daniel Bard got shelled.
It’s ridiculous to think that we know anything statistically about this bullpen after just 8.2 innings. The bullpen appears healthy, with Bard’s fastball averaging 96.7 mph and Bobby Jenks at 95.3 mph. My guess is that the back end will be just fine. Dennys Reyes, on the other hand, looked pretty awful and will need to shape up quickly if he expects to be here on May 1.
What should worry you now
Red Sox starters are 0-2 with a 10.57 ERA, worst in MLB.
It’s true, every single start has been terribly underwhelming. Lester was poor, Clay Buchholz was worse, and John Lackey was just plain disgustingly bad. The good news is that things in baseball tend to even out, so the 11 home runs given up over 24 innings can’t continue. Their swinging strike rates were normal, and they were throwing well – they just missed their spots and Texas capitalized on their mistakes.
But I do think that we are experiencing some of the pains of transitioning to an young, relatively inexperienced catcher like Jarrod Salalamacchia. I’d like to see Terry Francona get Jason Varitek in there for one game, maybe to work with Josh Beckett today. Let’s hope that the pitching staff continues to have confidence in the young backstop, or his career in Boston could be over real quick.