July 13, 2006

Comments On The First Half

We knew Kevin Youkilis could hit (.297/.407/.467) and get on base (he now leads all leadoff men with a .404 OBP) -- which made Terry Francona's insistence on playing a chronically unproductive Millar last year so maddening -- but what has surprised me most has been his glove work. In his first year at first base, Yook has fit right in with the air-tight infield defense. He has also walked 55 times against 68 strikeouts.

Alex Gonzalez's work at shortstop has been nothing short of sensational, and he has provided a bit of punch at the bottom of the order. In late May, he was batting below .200, but he's up to .284/.327/.407.

I had no idea what to expect from Mike Lowell this year. In 2005, he was 147th among 148 qualifying players in OPS and we were forced to take him in the Beckett deal. Lowell has rebounded, hitting .307/.359/.516 and tied for the major league lead with 31 doubles. He's only the 4th Sock since 1960 to hit 30 doubles before the ASB. He is also looking cool, calm and collected at third base.

Trot Nixon has stayed healthy in his free agent year and is hitting as well as ever (.311/.415/.455). His power is down, but he's getting on base more often than at any time in his career.

David Ortiz's .609 slugging percentage is the higher than in any of his other Boston seasons. His batting numbers: .278/.388/.609. Ortiz leads the majors with 31 HR and 87 RBI, putting him on pace to set new Red Sox single-season records in both categories. In 160 games since last year's All-Star break, Ortiz has 57 HR and 160 RBI.

Like Ted Williams before him, Manny Ramirez works his ass off, produces like a motherfucker, and gets dumped on in the media. After a slow start, he's raking at .306/.434/.615 -- the 4th-best OPS (1.094) in the majors. With 24 homers and 65 RBI at the break, Ian Browne of redsox.com tabs Manny for a monster second half and the league's MVP.

Mark Loretta had a solid first half -- .305/.353/.385 -- nothing fancy and nothing horrible. His slugging percentage is low because 85 of his 107 hits have been singles. I'd like to see him dropped in the order (7th?) and have Youkilis and Nixon at the top of the order against right-handers.

When he returns, Wily Mo Pena (.321/.370/.482, 112 AB) will see some time at first base. He also did a decent job in center field in Crisp's absence. Alex Cora (.300/.402/.350) has filled in at second and short and done a terrific job. Since May 22, Cora's hitting .352.

What's wrong with Jason Varitek (.232/.316/.386)? Injury, slump, age? He's been consistently bad all season. How bad? Alex Gonzalez is batting 52 points higher -- and slugging 21 points higher. Francona must ignore the "C" and move Tek's nerf bat way down to 8th in the lineup.

Doug Mirabelli is the current holder of The Ringo Starr Luckiest Man on Earth Award. At .175/.257/.317 since returning to Boston, the Stud Who Hits Bombs may not bat his weight this year. Still, if Varitek continues to slump, he could/should get some starts against lefties even on Wakefield's off-days. Oh, Wakefield's ERA before Mirabelli returned? 3.90. Since his arrival? 4.10.

Coco Crisp got off to a great start in April before getting hurt, and has struggled since coming back to the lineup (41-for-157, .261). When Crisp starts hitting, his ideal spot in the lineup would be #5 or #6.

Ortiz and Manny are #3 and #4 in the AL in Runs Created. Manny is #3 in RC/27 (the number of runs a lineup of nine Mannys would score per 27 outs) -- trailing only Travis Hafner (10.91) and Jim Thome (9.83).
RC RC/27
Ortiz 74.1 8.00
Ramirez 73.9 9.28
Youkilis 63.7 7.29
Lowell 53.8 6.18
Nixon 50.7 7.03
Loretta 47.5 5.01
Gonzalez 32.0 4.58
Varitek 29.3 3.76
Crisp 23.7 4.57
Pena 20.4 6.80
Cora 15.5 5.59
In the spring, Curt Schilling (3.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) wondered if he'd be able to once again pitch at his customary high level. Outside of a five-start bump (6.53 ERA) after that 133-pitch outing in Cleveland, Schilling has established himself as the ace of the staff.

Josh Beckett (4.75, 1.24) is Exhibit A of why W-L records tell you very little about a pitcher's actual performance. He's 11-4, but few of us have been pleased with his work. I haven't seen a lot of his starts, but he still seems intent on trying to blow his fastball by everybody and has shied away from his curve. Varitek gets praise for his handling of the pitching staff; it's high time for him to slap some sense into Beckett.

Paltry run support (up until recently) has depressed Tim Wakefield's W/L record, but he's turned in yet another underrated performance (4.05, 1.24). Bothered by a bad back, Wakefield has still pitched 12 quality starts in 18 outings, second on the staff to Schilling's 14.

Rookie Jon Lester (3.06, 1.55) has looked quite good. While he has dug himself some holes (too many walks), he has also shown a lot of poise and determination in getting out of his jams. Like all the Red Sox young arms, including relievers Manny Delcarmen (3.52, 1.35) and Craig Hansen (4.63, 1.29), he seems to have adapted to the cauldron of Boston exceptionally well.

What can you say about Matt Clement (6.61, 1.76)? He's been hurt, but it sure seems like his problems are also mental. I have no idea what we'll get from Clement in the second half.

Jonathan Papelbon (0.59, 0.72) began the year in the bullpen and was expected to move into the fifth starter spot when needed. Instead, he took over as closer after the third game of the season -- where he has excelled. He has allowed only three runs in 46 innings. His ERA+ is 803!!! I still want him in the starting rotation in 2007.

In his last six outings covering seven innings, Delcarmen has 10 strikeouts and zero walks, a huge improvement. As they improve, and gain Tito's trust, MDC and Hansen are getting more high-leverage innings. Those were innings that had been going to Rudy Seanez (4.86, 1.62) and Julian Tavarez (4.56, 1.42), who despite their sterling performances in Sunday's 19-inning loss, have been putrid.

Thanks to Papelbot and Mike Timlin (2.59, 1.31), the Red Sox bullpen ERA is sixth in the AL.


allan said...

Not as good as I'd like, especially on the picthers, but I'm out of time!

Jack said...


Good write up of the first half performances RS.