Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Red Sox are Simply Not Contenders

On a night when Jim Rice was honored for his greatness and hard work, the Sox simply fell apart in spectacular fashion. Our short term memories may not let us remember, but there is much blame to be thrown around for this loss and it all comes out of the bullpen. Ramirez, Okajima and Pabelbon could not get through innings unscathed. Surely Pabelbon's 9th seems to ring as the worse, but Ramirez and Okajima have blame on their hands by even making it a close game. And Nick Green, don't think I've forgotten about your 0-4 and 2 error performance.

Ultimately it is never one player's fault, baseball has a knack of equaling itself out over 9 innings and certainly over six months. The fact is that this team has a lot of great parts, but is simply not a good machine working together. This, I think, has been apparent from the beginning when we referred to them as "boring" or "workman like". At the time, because they were feasting on bad, beat up and not settled teams it all seemed find and dandy.

It's nearly August and we have a very good team in Boston, but it's not a team that can contend for a World Series. Period.

Injuries are hitting the pitching staff hard. Some of the elder players are worn down (no surprise). Jason Bay left his bat in the first half. And it seems as if nobody wants to step up and become the team clown to help loosen this clubhouse up a bit, which is a critical ingredient they lost with Kotsay leaving. A few more losses like last night and we may see another Boston Massacre like in '06.

Is a Halladay trade the answer? I'm on the record as wanting to be rid of Bucholz from the beginning of the season, I think he has a bright future ahead of him, but that is all upside. You know what you get with Halladay. Either way, if the Sox want to win a World Series in '09, they have to do something dramatic before close of MLB business on Friday.

Agree? Disagree?


Tim Walker said...

Restraining myself from digging through the numbers, I'll say this: the *personnel* the Sox have right now make them contenders.

(Contenders = "can get to the playoffs". Once you're there, you're in contention.)

Adding a Victor Martinez, much less a Roy Halladay, would be welcome. Regardless, the current players have to play better.

Aaron_Strout said...

Kyle - trust me when I say that NOBODY shares your frustration over last night's debacle more than me. If I wasn't staying at my folks house with my wife in the room and my daughters and mother upstairs, the stream of f-notes would have been heard across the bay from Nahant during the Red Sox horrific meltdown last night. With that said, I'm going to side with Tim on this one...

1) We still have arguably one of the best rotations in the league with JUST Beckett, Lester, Smoltz and Penny. Not because Smoltz and Penny have been lights out but because Lester and Beckett have.
2) Our hitting is coming around. Other than Nick Green last night, everyone -- including Mr. .001 for July, JD Drew -- are starting to get hits. A few more HRs wouldn't hurt. That's where Martinez could really help.
3) The bullpen is still THE best in the league. However, I will concede to you that I think that Papelbon is sloppy this season. I don't know if he's not hungry or if it's a matter of feeling underappreciated but he's the one piece of the puzzle right now that really makes me nervous.

With all this said, I would love to get Halladay -- especially if it's only going to take Bucholtz and Bowden. I wouldn't mind Martinez either.

Great post btw...

Kyle said...

If "contention" means making the playoffs then I will agree with you Tim. But I do not think they have the "team" to win a World Series, even if they all play better.

The starting rotation isn't really that great once you get past Beckett and Lester. And certainly with the Smoltz experiment failing, Buckholz shaky and Wakefield hurt things are rocky. Add onto that the fact that Beckett still needs to get his annual blister issue and I smell September trouble.

I'm really not trying to be negative, I like this team, I'm just looking at them in a pragmatic sense as a whole.

Plus, someone needed to start something on this blog!


Bryan Person said...

I watched bits and pieces of last night's meltdown, too (while also reading to Amani). The bullpen blowup began just after Don Orsillo finished saying that the relief corps hadn't allowed a run since the All-Star break. Thanks, Don.

I think it's easy to overreact when the team isn't playing very well (horrible roadtrip and now 3-2 on this homestand). I know I do.

Beckett and Lester are a formidable 1-2 punch, and if the Sox should actually land Halladay, that's a dominant Top 3. On balance, the bullpen has been solid.

It's the offense that really worries me. As Bill Simmons said on a recent podcast, outside of Pedroia and Youk, everyone's suspect.

So I'm kind of on the fence right now. I think we should revisit the discussion after the trading deadline :)

Tim Walker said...

I think the pitching could lay the smack dowm during a playoff series, even without Hallyday. Beckett + Lester + Penny is WAY above average, and the bullpen is the best and deepest in the league, last night's meltdown notwithstanding.

Youkilis has cooled -- too much for my taste -- from his Ted Williams-like start. Ortiz hasn't come back to his level, and I'm afraid he never will. But this lineup, as currently constructed, has good bats all over the place -- they're just not hitting.

One more thing: the team is currently on pace to win 94 or 95 games. The average number of regular-season wins for World Series winners this decade is . . . 93.

I wish they were playing better. I would love to add Martinez and/or Hallyday and/or a midcareer Willie Mays to the roster. The Yankees are going to be tough down the stretch and in the ALCS, and the Phillies or Dodgers don't look like any picnic in the World Series.

But the Red Sox are good enough, right now, to win the World Series.

Jim Storer said...

I was at the game last night and I want to add one more "player" to the list of suspects... the crowd.

They seem complacent. The wave started during a crucial stretch in the 8th... wtf? After the meltdown in the 9th, 40% of them headed for the exits. My friend Andy looked at me and asked "where'd everyone go?" We're a fat and happy bunch, drunk with our two World Series in the last five years.

Re: the players. I'm not ready to push the panic button yet. Last night was painful, but one instance does not establish a trend. Papelbon (and the rest of the bullpen) usually bounce back from outings like this. I agree with Aaron that the starting rotation is still the best in the league. I'd love to Halladay pitch for the hometown team and think it still might happen.

Note: Wakefield is fine, imho. He has a phantom "injury" that cropped up just in time for the Red Sox brass to make room to showcase Buchholtz ahead of the trade deadline.

As for the offense, I (like Tim) am going to restrain myself from digging into the #'s. Suffice it to say I like the guys we send up to bat. Droughts/slumps happen to everyone and this team will bounce back. Even in last night's disaster, we put up 8 runs and that's going to win most games.

This one hurt, but not as much as the Boston Massacre (Yankees double -header sweep in 2006)... I was there for those games too.

Thanks for teeing this up Kyle. Good food for thought.

KFFBOS said...

Also, just for the record, I had actually written most of this post during the Rangers series, so it wasn't some ill-conceived reaction to one bad game. I can call the Whiner line for that if needed ;)

Tim, in a short series I agree with you, although I think the Angels would put up a fight in the ALDS. But in a 7 game series against the Yankees I don't see it happening (w/o Halladay or another big bat).

Also, the average games won stat is interesting, but just ask the '04 Cardinals (105 wins and a WS loss) and '06 Cardinals (83 wins and a WS win) if regular season wins count for anything in the WS.

Some more numbers, just for kicks:

Since 1994, the start of the wild card, the average wild card team from the AL has 91.8 wins, but removing '94 it is a more realistic 94 wins. Of those teams only two have won the WS, the Angels (99 wins) and Red Sox (98 wins) and only one other WC made it to the WS, the Tigers (95 wins). So now we have an average number of wins to be a Wild Card team to make it to the World Series at 97 wins.

Only one team has won six wild cards, our Boston Red Sox, with an average regular season win total of 95.

Tim Walker said...

Kyle -- Your point about regular-season wins actually reinforces my point, doesn't it? You want to build the best team you can, and you want to make the playoffs. Once you're there, anything can happen.

Re the Yankees: to date, the Yanks are almost exactly as much better putting runs on the board as the Sox are at keeping them off the board. Yes, please get an impact hitter if possible -- especially if we can assume we'll get nothing special from Ortiz or Lowell. But the Sox are there with the Yanks.

Also, I think you're limiting your wild card sample size too much. A 91-win N.L. wild card team beat a 101-win A.L. division winner in 2003 (led, I might add, by a certain foulmouthed pitcher from Texas).

My bigger point: Once you're in the playoffs, who cares how many games you won or what your route was? There are just way too many variables to accurately predict what will happen based on the small and erratic sample size of past playoffs.