FanDuel - WFBC

October 11, 2009

Angels Sweep Red Sox, Head to ALCS: Dave Henderson's first pitch mojo wasn't enough. Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had never allowed a run in 26 postseason innings, blew a ninth-inning save Sunday as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim came back and won 7-6, completing a 3-0 sweep of their series.

posted by rcade to baseball at 06:38 PM - 26 comments

Sox lose it with poor hitting, then Papelbon implodes......beautiful!

posted by dyams at 08:27 PM on October 11

That was a bizarre and dissatisfying ending- the Sox lost the first two from not hitting, but this last one they- well really Papelbon- choked away in the last moment. This is more like the Sox from 1919-2003 than what we've seen recently, having an 0-2 count with 2 outs in the top of the 9th and then letting the congo line get started. Papelbon let two runs score (but charged to Wagner) with poor pitching in the 8th, and then struggles with two outs in the 9th.

The truth is Papelbon had been having issues all year, either through tinkering with his mechanics but he moved to an almost purely fastball pitcher and was never really dominating in terms of a strike-out laden 1-2-3 pitcher. But even given that, to give up 3 runs with two outs boggles the mind- as does Francona not been quicker with the hook when men started reaching base in a must-win game! In those situations, the first walk issued should bring a hook, period. I should think the cardinal rule in postseason baseball when it comes to bullpens is "Always have a spare bullet in the next chamber". Oki came in and got a quick 3rd out but the damage was done, and if he wasn't in earlier because Francona either had misplaced faith in a struggling Papelbon or because he wasn't ready, that's downright negligible in an elimination game.

The past few years, it'd usually be the Red Sox with that kind of late inning magic, but between the Sox and Twins (who haven't lost *yet* as I'm typing this but are down 4-1 after the Yankees tacked on two in the 9th, and missed an opportunity to tie it in the 8th with one of the worst baserunning choices I've ever seen by Nick Punto) we saw two teams play simply abysmal baseball. Normally rock-solid Youkilis was botching routine plays and giving away outs, and the whole lineup was just smothered in weak sauce. The Sox had every opportunity to win Game 3, and if they had maybe the gremlin creeps into the Angel's heads when they start thinking "Shit, we can't let this go back to Anaheim for game 5", but like the come-from-behind and fall-short of last year's ALCS, the Sox didn't quite have the streak at the right time.

It really underscores that link from the other day, how the playoffs are a crapshoot. If it had started a week earlier, the outcomes of the series might have been wildly different but the Sox bats went cold. In this case, I think the marginally better team lost, but I'm at a loss as to how the Sox could have done anything differently in terms of team construction: they just got cold in a short series and couldn't get warmed up in time.

posted by hincandenza at 10:39 PM on October 11

The curse is broken. Donnie Moore, R.I.P.

Angels-Yankees. On paper, this should be NY all the way. However, the Angels have never been scared of the Yankees and have done well against them the last few years. Yankees in 7, but I'm rooting for the Halos.

posted by eccsport78 at 01:02 AM on October 12

The Red Sox are simply an average to below average team on the road. Losing the first two away gave them no room for error, and so what happened today isn't just a blip on the radar, it's the end. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the Sox had managed to win today. I wouldn't have been shocked to see the Angels start to clinch, but we'll never know.

The Red Sox are a flawed team. Ortiz, Tek, Lowell, short stop, all question marks. They no longer have the big 1- 2 of Ortiz in his prime and Manny to cover the flaws. The pitching, while decent, wasn't good enough to cover the flaws either.

In the off season the red sox decided to stay out of signing big free agents while the Yankees spent 3 billion dollars on free agents (that might be hyperbole, but not by much). It didn't work out. It'll be interesting to see the response from the front office.

Interesting take on the walk to Hunter in the ninth.

posted by justgary at 02:43 AM on October 12

It is somehow fitting that the Sox would go out because Papelbon finally gets burned. All season he's been wacky with control - walking guys, loading bases, almost always getting out of his self-created jams. Not this time. Sox have gotten soft - there was none of the fire that won in the playoffs before.

posted by kokaku at 10:14 AM on October 12

Let's not forget that the Sox were straight beaten by a team that pitched better, ran better, and hit better over the three games. I get the feeling around these east coast parts, that this team was criminally overlooked. They're good and a Figgins, Morales, Hunter, Guererro core are going to be very tough to beat.

But all this pales in comparison to the Nick Aadenhart mojo. I think they beat the Yankees.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:35 AM on October 12

Great read, justgary—thanks for the link.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 12:17 PM on October 12

there was none of the fire that won in the playoffs before.

Come on. This has nothing to do with fire, or intensity, or anything else other than lack of hitting. As you said Papelbon has been iffy all season. Ortiz isn't Ortiz... the reason this red sox team isn't as good as 2004, 2007 are pretty clear. They've sucked on the road all season, this was more of the same.

I think they beat the Yankees.

Yeah, the angels are very good. I think the Yankees should be favored, but I wouldn't be shocked at all if the angels pulled it out.

posted by justgary at 03:41 PM on October 12

Wait 'til next year! (Anonymous Red Sox fan in October, 1919, 1920.....2003)

Boston had many deficiencies in hitting this year when facing above average pitching. Their approach all season seemed to be "bombs away", typified by big, aggressive swings resulting in either strikeouts, long fly ball outs, or home runs. This approach works in Fenway because of the proximity of the left field wall. On the road, unless the opposing pitcher is barely of the 4th or 5th starter quality, it does not work. I've watched hitters all season use short swings and put balls in play for bloop singles, line drives to the opposite field, or seeing-eye ground balls. These things add up. While Boston batters try to run up the pitch count, frequently getting themselves behind in the count, they seem unable to shorten up on the swing and maintain better bat control. By throwing first pitch strikes and maintaining decent control, the Angels pitchers were able to put Boston's batters into unfavorable situations throughout the series. Even though other teams have also adopted this strategy against Boston, I really don't see any change coming as long as the present management and coaching staff is in place.

posted by Howard_T at 04:13 PM on October 12

Even though other teams have also adopted this strategy against Boston, I really don't see any change coming as long as the present management and coaching staff is in place.

Hmm, I'll disagree Howard. I love the present management and coaching staff. I agree with their strategy. I mean, those theories have been good for 2 WS rings over the past 6 years, and the team was one game away from the WS last year. Those results are hard to argue with.

But you have to have the players to make it work. I just don't think the current roster has those players.

posted by justgary at 04:35 PM on October 12

I really don't see any change coming as long as the present management and coaching staff is in place.

I'm with gary on this, I don't really get why the Sox underwhelming performance is an indictment of the management philosophy. Moreover, if driving up pitch counts instead of swinging away is a flawed concept, tell it to the Yankees. This was a hard team to like all season and they ground out 95 wins against bad teams for the most part. They had a run early in the year and a run late in the year where they looked world-class, but for the most part they were a "mediocre" 95 win team. I can't remember a series against a good opponent where they looked good after the last of the sweeps of the Yankees.

posted by yerfatma at 04:52 PM on October 12

I think there's a slight identity crisis going on in Boston; they've now got strong ties to several players (Ortiz, Lowell, Schilling until this year, Beckett, Wakefield, Varitek) who got them not one but two prized championships after such a long drought. It's hard to cut ties with the core of a winning team but the reality is, these players have all underperformed or been hurt since their last championship. As a result, the team's not as good as they once were.

It's sad, but cutting ties with all except maybe for Beckett would really help them out a lot. The new blood (Bay, Martinez, Youkilis, Pedroia, Lester, Buchholz, Papelbon and most of the bullpen) are a great nucleus if they could simply clear out the dead weight and replace them with productive players.

It should've been obvious to management that Ortiz and Lowell weren't going to hit as well this year as the past and that Varitek was a bottom feeding catcher now. Maybe this is a reality check.

posted by dfleming at 06:52 PM on October 12

Well, to their credit Varitez didn't factor into this series because he never came to bat. If they'd done that earlier on, they'd have won 100+ games. And I'd argue that Papelbon might be one of the dead weights to let go this off-season, along with Bay- both might ask for bigger contracts than really they are worth, since closers are overvalued and Bay is on the decline with a DH/power skill set that doesn't age well.

But overall the pro-Sox-management view is vindicated. As evidenced in that John Henry/Theo Epstein thread a couple of days earlier, the Sox philosophy is about building long term winners. The strategy of the Sox has brought them WS in 4 years, and got within a game of it last year. They put up 95 wins year after year, get to the playoffs consistently, and sometimes they're just out quickly, sometimes they make the CS, and sometimes they win it all.

Yeah, they went 3 and out, and looked bad doing it- and the Rockies got eliminated tonight after being up 2 going to the 9th at home. It happens, that's the playoffs: if the playoffs were fair, then the 2001 World Champions would be the Seattle Mariners.

Working pitch counts is part of what makes them good- the Angels didn't really "figure them out", they just got cold at the wrong time. The bats started to look lively in Game 3, and had they won I'd have not been surprised to see them put up double digits in Game 4. Again, that's how baseball is: the worst team in the league can beat the best team 3 of 5 or 4 of 7 every now and then; when they're two solid, 95-100 win teams, anyone can take it and all t takes is a couple of bad series from key players and you're toast.

Sure Ortiz and Lowell were shadows of themselves, and it'll be sad when they have to deal Ortiz when he doesn't choose to retire, but that lineup was good enough to score heavily- they just all hit a cold streak. Catch them in a different week and the Sox could rattle off 11 straight against anyone. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Martinez, Youk, Drew, and Bay make a hell of a lineup, and even a weakened Ortiz and Lowell can hold their own. The SS and when he plays the C are the only real weak spots. And when it's on, that rotation is second to none: Lester, Beckett, a maturing Buchholz, and if he figures his shit out Dice-K can be hell of a 1-4. The Sox were well constructed, very very talented, had their flaws, but all in all could have easily gone 3-0, 4-0, and 4-0 as go out in 3.


All that said, disappointing for the Sox fans, and I know anti-Sox bandwagoneers were crowing about the loss, but 2010 doesn't have to be dramatic in a '98 or '02 Marlins fashion: just cut loose the people who are past their best days, and keep developing the right kind of talent and players. They'll be back in the playoffs, and every so often win it all.

posted by hincandenza at 12:39 AM on October 13

It should've been obvious to management that Ortiz and Lowell weren't going to hit as well this year as the past and that Varitek was a bottom feeding catcher now. Maybe this is a reality check.

I'm sure they were well aware of the dangers, but you're ignoring contracts. It's going to be difficult to trade an aging DH that's breaking down and a 3rd baseman with a gimpy hip. Theo has said that 2010 will be the last go for this core of players. So I expect the team to look very similar next year, but vastly different in 2011.

Bay is on the decline

His OPS of .921 was his best since 2006, above his career average, and good for ninth in the league. His Home run and RBI totals were the best of his career (36, 119). He hasn't shown any decline. And even if you're correct, who are you going to replace him with that will do better?

The bats started to look lively in Game 3

Eh, they were still out hit 11-7. They made good use of their hits, but only impressive in relation to how bad they hit the first two games.

Again, that's how baseball is: the worst team in the league can beat the best team 3 of 5 or 4 of 7 every now and then; when they're two solid, 95-100 win teams, anyone can take it and all t takes is a couple of bad series from key players and you're toast.

That's all true, but I don't think that's the whole story here. I agree with yerfatma, this was a most unimpressive 95 win team. Being swept by the royals at the end of the season said a lot. And for what it's worth, Theo disagrees with you:

Was this randomness of a short series?
No, that sounds like a crutch. I think we got outplayed in this series. We didn't play our best baseball. We didn't play all that well, all things told, over these last three games. And they certainly did. They deserve it. They outplayed us fair and square and deserve to move on. You have to be a really good and play really well to win in the playoffs. We didn't play well in this series.

Are there things that concerned in this series that you will respond to, or would that be an overreaction?
Maybe some nuances, but nothing new. Only things that were reflected earlier in the season as well if you look at the larger sample as well. But, no, I think you can't make decisions based on any three games. I don't think anything that occurred in this series came completely out of the blue, either. There were times we struggled hitting on the road this series. This year, there were times we struggled hitting on the road. There were certain things that went down during this series that were foreshadowed during the regular season as well. That said, I think we were a good team capable of winning the World Series, and had we played better, we'd still be playing right now. Link

I saw the majority of Red Sox games this season, and I think it would be difficult for anyone that did not to see the same "foreshadowed" problems Theo saw. But I think they did the best they could to solve them (martinez).

posted by justgary at 10:08 AM on October 13

And even if you're correct, who are you going to replace him with that will do better?

Matt Holliday. I know that sounds dumb on the face of it and I would have laughed at such a response until about a month ago, but look at the chart at the bottom of this article. Bay's more similar to Manny than Red Sox fans would like: his bat hides a terrible defensive player who costs almost as many runs as he produces. With the logjam of DH types the Sox already have under contract, signing Bay at age 31 doesn't make a ton of sense. I think Theo's song and dance about how the Bay negotiations have been strange because neither side is asking too much and yet they haven't agreed is a bit of a dodge. I don't think the Sox intend to offer Bay a long-term deal.

Holliday would be a good solution, Abreu (is he a FA?) would be a decent stopgap. I don't know if J.J. Reddick is ready to play in the majors yet. I also think if they could move Ellsbury to a team while he still might be overvalued, that would be great. Ellsbury is a fast runner, an overrated defender and a mediocre hitter. The Red Sox should be able to afford better in center.

posted by yerfatma at 10:57 AM on October 13

they've now got strong ties to several players (Ortiz, Lowell, Schilling until this year, Beckett, Wakefield, Varitek) who got them not one but two prized championships after such a long drought.

Beckett and Lowell had nothing to do with the first Championship.

posted by jerseygirl at 12:05 PM on October 13

You live!

posted by yerfatma at 02:50 PM on October 13

Gary, Fatty, running up the pitch count is all well and good, but once you are down 2 strikes, you have to do something better than swing for the fences. The Angels were for the most part able to stay out of the 3-0 and 3-1 counts, and thus denied the Boston batters the chance to look for the fast ball in the middle. What I advocate is going to a more compact swing when down in the count. Years ago the theory was to choke up on the bat when down in the count, and attempt to put the ball in play someplace. Has the game changed so much that this no longer works? I think it has more to do with players ascribing to the theories that "chicks dig the long ball" and "singles hitters drive Chevrolets and home run hitters drive Cadillacs". By that I don't mean that the Boston batters put their statistics ahead of the series win, but that these hitters have been coached for most of their careers to go long.

posted by Howard_T at 04:58 PM on October 13

You know, for just a minute there, I thought I heard Tom Waits...

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:19 PM on October 13

Matt Holliday. I know that sounds dumb on the face of it and I would have laughed at such a response until about a month ago, but look at the chart at the bottom of this article.

Yeh, he's the real deal, as long as he can keep from getting hit in the nuts by a fly ball.

(yeah I had to)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:47 PM on October 13

Indeed, alive. Pulse and everything.

posted by jerseygirl at 09:00 PM on October 13

Instead of saying "Candyman" three times, just make an incorrect statement about the Sawx, and jersey rises from the dead to wreak havoc on the nonbelievers...

posted by The_Black_Hand at 07:37 AM on October 14

I blame it on wedding planning. After this is over, I am never making a decision ever again. Facebook status? Permanently indecisive.

posted by jerseygirl at 11:01 AM on October 14

I blame it on wedding planning.

Do what my wife and I did...don't invite anybody. It makes the whole thing a lot easier, and a lot cheaper.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 12:43 PM on October 14

it's either invite people or deal with the guilt and whining. My god! The guilt!

posted by jerseygirl at 01:14 PM on October 14

Matt Holliday.

Yeah, he's the one guy that always pops up, and on SoSH there's a thread right now pushing for it. And yes, his defense is bad, though he certainly had company this year. I just don't think switching Holliday for Bay next year, or this year, changes all that much. I still think they go out in the first round. Now, Bay at DH and Holliday in left would be different, but I don't see that happening. And I also wouldn't be surprised to see Bay go elsewhere.

Years ago the theory was to choke up on the bat when down in the count, and attempt to put the ball in play someplace. Has the game changed so much that this no longer works?

I think having to choke up means your bats too big. Yes, I think that's part of the past. Bats use to be bigger and heavier. Bats are much lighter today. Ty Cobb used a 42 oz bat, Mark McGwire 33 oz. You hear about choking up in little league ball because players aren't strong enough to control the bat. Major league players generally don't have that problem. It's the same with catching a ball with two hands. Another cliche that really has no place in the majors. One hand is fine.

I don't get that swinging for the fences was a problem. I think the lineup was simply filled with too many mediocre hitters, and the good ones went cold at the wrong time.

posted by justgary at 11:38 PM on October 14

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