FanDuel - WFBC

April 07, 2011

Boston Red Sox off to worst start since World War II: This might not be such a big deal but it comes after an off-season where the team owners came in third in the league for payroll ($160 million). Some of that hefty payroll is heading into prize free agents Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford's pockets. These two additions led many to anoint the Sox as favorites to win 100 games and/or the World Series. So are they feeling the pressure? Are their high paid pitchers too fat and happy? Or maybe they just need a boost from good old Fenway Park where they have their first home game of the season on Friday against old pals: the New York Yankees.

posted by jeremias to baseball at 06:46 PM - 29 comments

I'm a Red Sox fan. I'm not too concerned yet, because baseball is such a habitual game and opening with 8 consecutive road games seems a bit jarring.

If we get swept in this home series? That's when I'll start to worry.

posted by feloniousmonk at 07:06 PM on April 07

It's actually kind of stunning how bad of a start the offense is off to; Ellsbury, Crawford, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Salty and Scutaro are all hitting below .230. JD Drew is hitting .231.

As good as everyone saw the Red Sox being this year, there are a couple of glaring issues with the offense:

- Ellsbury hasn't looked the same since his injury.
- Pedroia, for all his grit, is not a #3 hitter...he's never broken 85 RBIs in a season. He and Crawford should really swap spots.
- J.D. Drew is definitely on the decline; I'd aim to replace him down the stretch, as he doesn't hit enough anymore to be a threat.
- Saltalamacchia is in season 5, and still doesn't look like he can handle big-league pitching. I sincerely think, at best, he's a .250-10-50 kind of guy, and even that right now isn't looking likely.
- Scutaro is scrappy, but not productive.

If you add those issues to the question of which Lackey/Beckett/Matsuzaka show up this year, you've got some really core problems that will likely get better, but they're certainly not the invincible machine they were made out to be.

posted by dfleming at 08:32 PM on April 07

I have to imagine they're going to be fine. There is just way too much talent there to not make the playoffs.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:37 PM on April 07

I have to imagine they're going to be fine. There is just way too much talent there to not make the playoffs.

That's what they said about the 08 Tigers after they lost their first 6 games.

posted by Mobley at 10:32 PM on April 07

They turn it around this weekend versus the Yankees, this losing streak will be forgotten real quick.

posted by dyams at 10:34 PM on April 07

There is just way too much talent there to not make the playoffs.

Sounds eerily familiar to what was said about my Cowboys before they fired the coach and the season was over in a blink of an eye.

posted by BornIcon at 08:12 AM on April 08

I can't get too fired up about it one way or the other (except when Varitek pulled the Olé move on the play at the plate on Wednesday night-- that had me screaming). They will be fine. I think the pressure is causing them to press: Pedroia and Gonzalez have been swinging at everything, which is not like either of them. And Gonzo's probably going to have to get used to seeing a shift more often than he did in the NL.

That said,

- Ellsbury hasn't looked the same since his injury.

This is patently untrue. He tore up Spring Training. Sure it's only spring, but it puts the lie to this claim

- Pedroia, for all his grit, is not a #3 hitter...he's never broken 85 RBIs in a season. He and Crawford should really swap spots.

I have no idea what this means: he's never been a #3 hitter before, so his chances of racking up a meaningless stat have been limited ergo he can't be a #3 hitter? People make way too big a deal of lineups to being with, but to apply the conventional wisdom of what a 2/3/4/5/6 hitter looks like to a lineup with 4 guys capable of 900 OPS is a waste of time.

- J.D. Drew is definitely on the decline; I'd aim to replace him down the stretch, as he doesn't hit enough anymore to be a threat.

Can't argue with that. Of course, he's already a platoon player with Cameron playing against lefties.

- Saltalamacchia is in season 5, and still doesn't look like he can handle big-league pitching. I sincerely think, at best, he's a .250-10-50 kind of guy, and even that right now isn't looking likely.

I would definitely take those numbers from him at this point.

- Scutaro is scrappy, but not productive.

I have no idea what that means, but it's hardly important with Jed Lowrie (he of the 900+ OPS last year in limited time) on the bench behind him.

I'm more worried about the pitching. The offense will back into 800 runs without trying.

posted by yerfatma at 09:38 AM on April 08

I'm more worried about the pitching. The offense will back into 800 runs without trying.

That's it in a nutshell. For all the talk about the dominating staff the Red Sox have, I just don't know if they will be consistent (or, obviously, healthy) the entire season. Lester is a great talent, but beyond him, I don't think Beckett or Dice-K are going to have fantastic years. Lackey doesn't seem to be the same pitcher he was with the Angels. And the bullpen? They are day-to-day: Stellar one day, smacked around the next.

With that being said, though, it seems the team definitely needs to be a dominating offensive team to make up for a staff that will be great certain games, but far from it the next. I fully expect they will turn it around and have a very good year, make the playoffs, then who knows. If they fail to win the World Series, it won't be because they started the year 0-6. They haven't even played a home game yet.

posted by dyams at 09:57 AM on April 08

Sometimes I wish that baseball's first 40 games were played in secret, so people wouldn't get so worked up over tiny sample sizes.

Actually—maybe just the press coverage of those first 40 games should be published in secret.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:02 AM on April 08

Well, they have only faced two teams so far, so yeah, there's no trend to speak of. That being said, Lester is the lone bright spot in the starting rotation. After you're done with the starters...to be honest, it only gets worse. It's hard to see them winning a lot of games if that problem isn't resolved.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:57 AM on April 08

Tiny sample sizes for sure, but it is interesting to note that over that last 100 years no team that started 0-6 has ever won the World Series or even their division/pennant. Flipping it around though, of the teams that started 6-0, five of them were world series champs and five won their division/pennant. Food for thought is all.

(On preview, for some reason this hyperlink won't work, here it is in full:)

http://www.baseball-reference.com/games/streaks.cgi?games=6&year=ALL&SHOW=TOT&includes=start_year&game_start=10&game_end=135&teams=AL&orderby=losses&submit=Find+Streaks

posted by jeremias at 12:07 PM on April 08

After you're done with the starters...to be honest, it only gets worse. It's hard to see them winning a lot of games if that problem isn't resolved.

You mean the bullpen?

posted by yerfatma at 01:14 PM on April 08

One half-inning in, the Red Sox are on pace to lose each Yankees game by a score of 18-0. Time to blow it up and rebuild?

posted by DrJohnEvans at 02:22 PM on April 08

You mean the bullpen?

Yes. What did you think I meant?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:40 PM on April 08

I was confused by the fact the Red Sox bullpen, even considering the fact Papelbon has lost 3-4 mph and most of his control, still features Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler. If that's a below-average bullpen, you've been watching too many All Star games.

posted by yerfatma at 04:36 PM on April 08

Ellsbury hasn't looked the same since his injury.

He was injured last year, looked great in spring training, and has played in 6 games so far this year. So far in his career I have no problem with the idea he's been more potential than anything else, but it has nothing to do with his injury.

Ellsbury hasn't looked the same since his injury.

Eh, what yerfatma said. Lineup orders and RBI's are over-rated. Pedroia is a good player, and regardless, Crawford has never been an rbi machine, so that doesn't make much sense.

The offense has been a problem during these 6 games, that's it; nothing more. As yerfatma said, they will score, just like last year. Pointing out a weakness here or there doesn't change the fact that the majority of teams would gladly trade offenses with the red sox.

The long term problem for boston is starting pitching. That was not a secret before the season. Perhaps it will work out, but there's also the chance that Lackey, Dice-K, and Beckett are are middle of the staff starters at best. If that's the case it becomes more critical that Lester and clay buchultz have strong seasons.

Look, 0-6 sucks. 0-7 would suck more. If the starting pitching stabilizes they'll be fine. If it doesn't, they won't.

Sounds eerily familiar to what was said about my Cowboys before they fired the coach and the season was over in a blink of an eye.

Almost all comparisons of football and baseball are worthless unless pointing out the differences. The Red Sox could be out of first by 10 games at the all-star break and still make the playoffs. As for the cowboys, they've just been potential, winning nothing. The Red Sox aren't in that category.

Lester is the lone bright spot in the starting rotation.

But they Yankees have their own questions. Burnett has pitched well, but he's a question at number 2, and phil hughes looks cooked at #3.

After you're done with the starters...to be honest, it only gets worse.

I couldn't disagree more. Yep, they've had some implosions so far, and Bard looks like he's trying to find himself, but the bullpen has also shown signs of brilliance and has the potential to be special.

posted by justgary at 04:38 PM on April 08

As for the cowboys, they've just been potential, winning nothing. The Red Sox aren't in that category.

Point taken, but the Red Sox are four years removed from their World Series win. Given the turnover of the roster since then, I think there's a lot of as-yet-unrealized potential there too.

Listening to today's game as I post. Don't want to jinx them, but it looks good after 7.

posted by rcade at 04:46 PM on April 08

Alright, I'll bite, seeing as I've watched every Red Sox inning so far.

This is patently untrue. He tore up Spring Training. Sure it's only spring, but it puts the lie to this claim

Without the obvious "half the pitchers are AAA or worse" argument, the biggest thing I see about Ellsbury (and the sample is small from last year and this year) is that he's swinging at some truly awful pitches right now. It's like he's unable to read what the pitch is at this point.

He's still got the speed, and I do think at some point, he's going to return to being a dynamic stud at the top of the lineup, but he's not there right now.

People make way too big a deal of lineups to being with, but to apply the conventional wisdom of what a 2/3/4/5/6 hitter looks like to a lineup with 4 guys capable of 900 OPS is a waste of time.

What does capable mean?

In Pedroia's MVP season, he was 869, and Crawford last year was 851, his max ever. Both sat in good lineups, so the amount of "help from who is behind them" isn't going to be substantial. Both are sub-30, granted, but couple that with Ortiz being 35 years old and it's going to take a lot of kismet for 4 guys in this lineup to be 900 OPS guys...even assuming the whole group stays healthy.

Lester is a great talent, but beyond him, I don't think Beckett or Dice-K are going to have fantastic years. Lackey doesn't seem to be the same pitcher he was with the Angels. And the bullpen? They are day-to-day: Stellar one day, smacked around the next.

You seem to have ignored Clay "17 W,sub 2.40 ERA, all-star and 6th in Cy Young last year" Bucholz.

posted by dfleming at 05:05 PM on April 08

Given the turnover of the roster since then, I think there's a lot of as-yet-unrealized potential there too.

You've got world series winners in all three outfield positions, at second and third, several pitchers. I don't see any comparison with the cowboys. Then again, it's just a silly comparison anyway. The only similarity between the two teams is that they're over covered and fans either love them or hate them.

posted by justgary at 05:24 PM on April 08

but the bullpen has also shown signs of brilliance and has the potential to be special.

Case in point: today.

posted by justgary at 05:32 PM on April 08

Like I said earlier, a win (such as todays) over the Yankees in their home opener will probably be a huge step towards turning around their poor start.

posted by dyams at 05:57 PM on April 08

What does capable mean? In Pedroia's MVP season, he was 869, and Crawford last year was 851

You caught me.

Youk Papi Gonzalez

Of course, JD Drew has only been above 900 4x in his career, so maybe you can cut me some slack on Pedroia. Especially since I left out that they have average or plus defenders* at every defensive position other than catcher (I have no idea what kind of defense Salty provides).

* assumes you're ok with Ellsbury in center, I understand if you're not.

posted by yerfatma at 06:14 PM on April 08

You seem to have ignored Clay "17 W,sub 2.40 ERA, all-star and 6th in Cy Young last year" Bucholz.

Unhappily, I would say Buchholz is a question mark, given his luck last year (based on BABIP/ FIP).

posted by yerfatma at 06:18 PM on April 08

Whoops, no, of course I was right: Jed Lowrie had an OPS of 907 last year. So 5, not 4.

posted by yerfatma at 06:36 PM on April 08

Isn't Bucholz's BABIP a testament to that plus defence at all positions?

FIP, I've read some about but admittedly super don't understand how it works; I understand the equation, I just don't super understand how simply removing the parts of the game that require other players is predictive. I mean, other than the walks, Bucholz would have a low FIP, no?

posted by dfleming at 07:26 PM on April 08

Also, I think my point about Scutaro is just frustration that there's a better option on the bench not playing than actual science.

posted by dfleming at 07:26 PM on April 08

Isn't Bucholz's BABIP a testament to that plus defence at all positions?

Theoretically. I'd love it to be true, but I'm not sure anyone's found much of a correlation there: if it were, all of the Sox pitchers would experience it. Plus I'm not sure about the defensive trade-off of Beltre/ Youk/ Gonzalez.

posted by yerfatma at 09:42 AM on April 09

Carl Crawford keeps earning that massive salary.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 11:42 PM on April 10

Eh, not sure 9 games means much. He's been hitting the ball hard lately and I'm pretty sure he won't end the season with a .161 BABIP.

posted by justgary at 07:07 PM on April 11

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