Archive for the ‘Boston Red Sox’ Category

MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

No, not the beards. Well sort of the beard. The complexion of Game Three of the ALCS is, in a nutshell, modern baseball. Mike Napoli represents both sides of the modern baseball dynamic with his performance tonight. One home run (game winning) and two strikeouts – two of Justin Verlander‘s 11 Ks on the night.

Verlander and John Lackey might not be part of the new vanguard of power pitchers, but they are two guys who helped usher it in. Verlander is the prototype power pitcher – he throws in the upper 90s with multiple secondary offerings, many of which touch 90 mph on their own.

John Lackey is the other kind of model for young pitchers. He might not light triple digits like Justin Verlander but he induced 16 swinging strikes out of 97 pitches tonight. He was a dominant starter for long enough that somebody gave him a gigantic pile of money for his trouble (and his ability to throw 200 innings while coaxing swinging strikes by the boatload.) That kind of monetary incentive is a great way to funnel talented young ball players toward the mound, the fruits of which baseball is currently enjoying.

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ortiz grand slam

Clutch isn’t dead. This year, the titans of clutch are Carlos Beltran, perennial postseason superhuman, and David Ortiz, the “inevitable” hero of Game 2 Sunday night in Boston.

By Beltran’s standards, he isn’t even hitting well this postseason. He owns an absurd .340/.448/.740 line in 41 career playoff games and is hitting just .231/.333/.538 in seven games this October. He has, however, had a pair of gigantic games already. In Game 3 of the NLDS, he supplied the game-tying home run off Mark Melancon in the eighth inning and a two-run single in the fifth inning to boot, but the club ended up losing the game in the eighth on a Pedro Alvarez single. Then, in the Cardinals’ Game 1 NLCS victory over Los Anglees, he supplied the walk-off single against Kenley Jansen, part of a 2-for-6, 3 RBI day.

Ortiz, on the other hand, has been above and beyond this year. His home run to tie Game 2 was already his third, and he owns a ridiculous .300/.462/.800 line in six games thus far against a .284/.394/.542 career line in 72 postseason contests. The game-tying grand slam was his first and only hit of the ALCS thus far in seven at-bats, but his timing was impeccable.

As these postseason legends continue to ply their trade, the concept of clutch surges to the forefront again. It’s an October tradition, baseball’s rise of the Great Pumpkin (aside, of course, from Dan Johnson).

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

If you were to, say, create a leaderboard of American League outfielders and, by chance, order it by on-base percentage, your list would feature Mike Trout in the top spot. Obviously. The next player on the list, more than 30 points ahead of the number three qualified outfielder, might surprise you. Because it is Daniel Nava, the increasingly valuable Red Sox outfielder.

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2013 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game

The Futures game is a tidy little treat snuck into the beginning of the All Star break. Buried on Sunday afternoon when there is still real baseball to talk about, this year’s edition of the Futures Game featured many of the top prospects in the game. Like the actual All Star game, the Futures game is a revolving door of mid-game replacements and starting pitchers airing it out in one inning stints.

The big names are known to baseball wonks and prospect watchers but rarely to many fans get to see these players ply their trade. Outside the odd Spring Training cameo, it rare to catch of glimpse of most minor leaguers, let alone so much of the top baseball talent in the world in the same place at the same time.

When all the minor league talent came together last week, it was Xander Bogaerts who stole the show. The Red Sox shortstop prospect built on his great first half by putting his many skills on display for a national audience. It is becoming very apparent to those who follow other teams in the American League: Xander Bogaerts is about to become a major thorn in your side.

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And with that Earth-shaking thunderclap, Vernon Wells‘ OBP dipped below .300. Even though they all knew it was coming, it STILL scared the Yankees Scarier yet: they have to keep playing him.

Tease as we might, the Yankees got all they needed out of Vernon Wells. They stayed above water when all their starters were out. The inevitable regression (at the speed of sound, apparently) won’t surprise anyone, least of all the Yankees front office who saw their best case scenario play out.

Now, if they have to continue relying on him, well that’s a whole ‘nother matter.

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

Way back in 2002, when Jason Giambi was in his first season with the Yankees after signing (for the time) a huge free agent contract, people doubted him. Filling the Super-Big Shoes of Tino Martinez is a bid deal; a core Yankee and close personal friend of Derek Jeter, after all.

Giambi got off to a slow start in New York in that first season. Well, “slow” being a relative term. Giambi was hitting “only” .282/.378/.456 (126 wRC+) at the end of April, which spelled disaster for many scribes following the Yankees. Of course, Giambi ended the season with at .314/.435/.598 (175 wRC+)… but midway through May (and he killed it in May, anyway, with a 206 wRC+) people were grumbling.

Then came the May 17 game against the Twins in New York. In bottom of the 14th inning, late at night with the rain coming down and very few people left in the stands, the Yankees were down 12-9. The bases were loaded as Giambi (already 3-7 on the night) came to the plate. Giambi drilled the first pitch from Mike Trombley over the wall for an extra-innings, come-from-behind, walkoff grand slam. The “Giambi has finally earned his pinstripes” stuff started right away, naturally. I am not sure it took, given that Giambi would be the subject of grumbling over the next few years with injuries, PED stuff, and, of course, the Yankees failure to win a World Series with him on the team. Never mind that he hit .260/.404/.521 with 209 homers with the Yankees (Don Mattingly himself only hit 222 in his own Yankees career, and in about twice as many plate appearances). Whether or not it finally took, at the time of the grand slam, at least, it was hyped as Giambi’s Big True Yankee Moment, one which still has resonance.

Although it was not nearly as dramatic in just about any dimension: expectations, contracts, or game situation, but last night, shortstop Stephen Drew may have become a True Red Sock in somewhat similar fashion with a grand slam. Sure, it happened in the top of the third with the Sox already up 4-0, but it still generated a reaction.

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Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox

As discussed in today’s link dump (and on the podcast), the Red Sox bullpen is in a state of upheaval. Both players to serve as their capital-C Closer this season are hurt, with Andrew Bailey on the disabled list and Joel Hanrahan possibly headed there as well.

Because relievers abhor role uncertainty like nature abhors a vacuum, Sox manager John Farrell told MLB Network radio (via Over the Monster) today that Junichi Tazawa will get the nod as the new man in the ninth inning. Tazawa has sparkling numbers, not just this season but last year also. As Dave Cameron notes in his very interesting post on the impact of Asian pitchers, Tazawa has a 65/8 strikeout to walk ratio since the start of the 2012 season.

Tazawa is a fine choice for closer, though the official Getting Blanked candidate Koji Uehara might be better. Uehara is a much older man, one requiring a little bit more finesse in terms of his usage and rest patterns. Junichi Tazawa is much younger (just 26 compared to Uehara’s 38 years-awesome) and should be able to handle the three-days-in-a-row rigors of closing better than the artfully-deployed Uehara.

As stated previously, the Red Sox bullpen will still be fine – losing two good pitchers hurts any team but having two other good pitchers to rely on cushions the blow quite a bit. To the fantasy waiver wire we go!