5-10-2010: Brief thoughts about catchers

Victor Martinez is doing a better job holding runners, with only(!) 13 successful steals in the 18 games since that 9 steal debacle on April 20th against Texas. In those 18 games, we’ve caught 8 runners overall using a variety of pitchouts and pick-offs. But my feeling is that something still needs to be done to address the catching issue late in games. The last thing we want to be worrying about in the late innings of a close playoff game is one of our relievers walking a leadoff man, only to have him steal second and reach scoring position. With that in mind, I’ve been musing on possible solutions:

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2009 ALDS Game 1: Offense, defense flounder 0-5

Anytime you get shut out in the playoffs, it isn’t good. The Angels got their first playoff shutout ever last night on the strength of a 7.1 inning, 4-hit start by John Lackey. The 6-6 horse came out looking good, and it wasn’t until the 6th inning until we got a chance to do something against him. When he allowed a two-out single to Dustin Pedroia and walked Victor Martinez on four pitches, I was sure that he was falling apart; give him credit, he came back and got Kevin Youkilis to end the threat.

UPDATE: Credit home plate umpire Joe West, rather. That was clearly a walk. I was actually getting from my car to my TV during that at-bat, and I just reviewed the GameDay data.

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2008 Offseason: The Texas catchers

Much has been made of the catching surplus of the Texas Rangers this offseason, and they have announced that they are open to dealing one of them this offseason in return for a package centered around a top-of-the-rotation pitching prospect. This is quite understandable, given the lack of catching talent around the League and the Rangers’ constant lack of pitching. In the context of the Red Sox, we are likely talking about dealing one of Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden. Let’s take a closer look at these trade candidates to see what we have here:

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15-7: Ellsbury, Pedroia lead in comeback win against the Halos, 7-6

On the first warm night in Fenway, David Pauley was called in to make an emergency start for Josh Beckett, who was pulled for “neck stiffness”. There isn’t much detail about how serious the injury is, but it is being said that Beckett has the flu bug that’s been going around. On a night when the Sox offense generated 7 runs on 16 hits and a walk, he was good enough that the Sox pulled it out yet again for their 6th straight win, 7-6.

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ALDS Game 2: Bullpen, Ramirez come up huge

Bottom of the ninth, deadlocked at 3-3. After surprisingly shaky starts by both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kelvim Escobar, the Angels got their first look at the Boston bullpen in this series. Both pens pitched well, keeping each other hitless going into the ninth. Despite some unfavorable calls by the home plate umpire, Jonathan Papelbon makes it through 1 1/3 unscathed, bringing us to the bottom of the ninth.

Props to Julio Lugo, who managed to pull an outside pitch between short and third for a single to lead it off, and Dustin Pedroia on successfully moving him over on a hit and run. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Scioscia brings on Francisco Rodriguez. After Kevin Youkilis struck out, they walked David Ortiz, and you just knew it was gonna happen. Second pitch, Manny Ramirez absolutely crushes a belt-high inside fastball over the Monster, over Landsdowne St, over everything. He throws his hands up as he starts walking to first base; it is a thing of beauty. Good thing we saved all the walk-offs for the playoffs.

Key play of the game: Unknown boy literally grabs a foul ball out of Jeff Mathis‘ catcher’s mitt, extending Manny’s at-bat and allowing the tying run to score in the fifth. He instantly becomes a hero and a lifelong friend of Stephen King, who is sitting right behind him.

You might say that winning like that is “cheap”, but this is the playoffs, and that is what home field advantage should be about, Bartman notwithstanding. I was also not real proud that Vladimir Guerrero had to leave the game after getting smacked in the back by a Manny Delcarmen fastball. He throws 96+ mph. Ouch.

What to say about Dice-K? He totally sucked tonight. I am still a believer in him, but when he’s bad, he’s pretty darn bad. Meanwhile, the hero in the shadow, Hideki Okajima, flashed some wonderful changeups in working out of the seventh and the eighth innings. He looks okey-doke to me.

Going into Los Angeles with a 2-0 lead is the best possible scenario for us. The Angels have been the toughest team in the majors at home this season, but with Curt Schilling on the mound next and more injuries to deal with, something tells me they might just fold.

Oh, and did I mention that the Yankees lost with Joba the Hut on the mound? I believe that’s 0-2 for them.