Series Preview: Boston Red Sox


(Photo: Flickr user Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau via Creative Commons license)

Weren’t the Yankees just here? And isn’t this like the tenth series they’re going to play in Fenway this season? Anyway, you all know the story by now. The Yankees are just 2-10 against the Red Sox this year and yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. None of these games are must wins, obviously, but they’re definitely “boy it sure would be wonderful to win this one if they’re serious about going for the division title” games. The Yanks were a Mariano Rivera blown save away from taking two of three from the Sox earlier this month, and I’d happily take my chances in that situation again this time around.

What Have The Red Sox Done Lately?

Well, they haven’t played in a while, since Saturday in fact. The Red Sox scheduled a doubleheader against the Athletics on Saturday to avoid Hurricane Irene on Sunday, plus yesterday was a regularly scheduled off day. They swept the A’s in the doubleheader and won two of three in the series, and before that they won three straight and three of four against the Rangers in Texas. Overall, the Sox are 82-51 with a +163 run differential. Maybe they’ll be flat after the long-ish layoff.

Red Sox On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

As you’ve probably heard, the Red Sox can hit. A lot. They’ve got a .279/.349/.458 batting line (.352 wOBA) as a team, numbers that rank either first or second in all of MLB. They’re even better at Fenway Park, hitting .297/.362/.478 as a team. It all starts with Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the lineup, who’s hitting .312/.369/.521 on the season but a much more human .265/.318/.496 during the last month. Dustin Pedroia is up to .308/.398/.474 on the season and he crushes lefties (.386/.500/.593), but he’s been batting cleanup of late because Kevin Youkilis is on the disabled list with a back problem. Marco Scutaro (.270/.333/.370) has temporarily taken over the two-hole for the time being.

Adrian Gonzalez (.345/.405/.559) might be the best pure hitter in the league, and he recently snapped a lengthy homerless drought (95 plate appearances, still just eight homers in his last 285 PA). He figures to see Boone Logan a few times in the series (.445 wOBA vs RHP, .343 vs LHP). David Ortiz actually leads the Red Sox in OPS (.311/.396/.587) and the last super serious threat in their lineup. Carl Crawford (.251/.285/.388) is terrible, Jed Lowrie hasn’t hit since coming off the DL earlier this month (.242/.279/.306), and the right field platoon of Josh Reddick (.278/.326/.475 vs. RHP) and Darnell McDonald (.215/.295/.468 vs. LHP) is about league average for the position. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has power (.220 ISO), but he’s gotten on base less than 29% of the time over the last two months.

Like the Yankees, Boston doesn’t really have much use for their bench because their regulars are so good. At some point we’ll see Mike Aviles (.321/.339/.358 in limited time since the trade) and Jason Varitek (.234/.310/.432), and there’s a chance Youkilis will be activated at some point during the series (starts rehab today, so he might be back Thursday).

Red Sox On The Mound

Tuesday, RHP John Lackey (vs. CC Sabathia): Lackey’s been pretty terrible this year (5.98 ERA and 4.71 FIP) but he’s pitched slightly better since the All-Star break (4.65 ERA and ~4.40 FIP). His strikeout rate (6.33 K/9) has gotten worse ever single year since 2005, and although his walk rate is solid (2.78 BB/9), his homerun (1.25 HR/9) and ground ball (39.5%) rates aren’t. The Yankees have scored nine runs in eleven innings off Lackey this season, and he works with a pair of low-90 fastballs (two- and four-seamer), a high-70′s curve, and a mid-80′s slider. The lefty bats have to step up in this one, they’ve destroyed him this season.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user ToonariPost via Creative Commons license)

Wednesday, RHP Josh Beckett (vs. Phil Hughes): In most years, a guy with Beckett’s numbers (2.43 ERA and 3.46 FIP) would get some Cy Young love, but he’s thrown about 40 fewer innings than most of the true candidates. He’s shut the Yankees down four times already this year (three runs in 27 IP), but the last two times he faced them he was merely very good and not utterly dominant. It’s all about the curveball for Beckett, if he’s throwing his mid-70′s yakker for strikes on the corners and/or at the knees, he’s as good as it gets. If not, he gets predictable and leans heavily on his mid-90′s heat. Hopefully the fifth time is a charm.

Thursday, LHP Jon Lester (vs. A.J. Burnett): After two straight years of sub-3.20 FIPs and three straight years of sub-3.70 FIPs, Lester is up to a career-worst 3.83 FIP while posting a career-best 3.09 ERA. Go figure. His strikeout rate is down a touch but still excellent (8.44 K/9), and right-handers have really hurt him more this year than ever before. Lester’s a true five-pitch pitcher, throwing a low-90′s four-seamer, a low-90′s two-seamer, a high-80′s cutter, a mid-70′s curveball, and a mid-80′s changeup. He loves to backdoor that curve to righties, it’s got more 11-to-5 break that the usual 12-to-6. He’s pitched well against the Yankees this season but not really great, exactly six innings each time out and either three or four runs allowed (three total starts).

Bullpen: The late game duo of Daniel Bard (2.83 FIP) and Jonathan Papelbon (1.75 FIP) is as good as it gets, but the rest of the cast is a little shaky. Al Aceves (2.15 ERA but 3.80 FIP) is filling the same role he filled with the Yankees in 2009, and Matt Albers (3.33) has been given every opportunity in high-leverage spots but doesn’t seem to want the job (19 baserunners and 13 runs in his last 4.2 IP). Dan Wheeler (3.63 FIP) has been dynamite since coming off the disabled list in May (~2.80 FIP in 34.2 IP), but lefties still pound him (.288/.347/.455 against). Franklin Morales (2.97 FIP) is the only lefty they have out there, but we could see Andrew Miller (3.68 FIP) in relief. Tim Wakefield (5.56 FIP) is another possibility.

Recommended Red Sox Reading: Over The Monster.

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Categories : Series Preview


  1. Chelo says:

    Sweeeeeeep. im calling it. Yankee Sweep.

  2. Jeff says:

    Starting Burnett on Thursday = the definition of insanity

  3. BobK says:

    With rosters expanding, perhaps we’re looking at a “stealth” start on Thursday by Adam Warren? There’s the tiniest part of me that would really like to see the ultimate “Do SOMETHING, Asshat!” moment for AJ Burnett with a September start against the Red Sox by… wait for it… Kei Igawa! Sure, it won’t happen but it’s fun to think about :)

  4. Plank says:

    I just want to go on record as saying this is a big series. Most people may prefer the wild card so the Yankees don’t have to face Verlander twice in a 5 game series, but I think getting the division title is an important accomplishment.

    • gc says:

      I think most people may prefer the Yankees just get into the post-season. Of course a division title would be great, but the world won’t come to an end if they get in as a wild card. As far as the “importance” of a division title is concerned, home field advantage is pretty overrated in baseball. Besides, they don’t fly division title banners at Yankee Stadium. Get in, face who you face, and let the chips fall where they may.

      • Plank says:

        I would rather root for the 2001 Mariners than the 2003 Marlins.

          • Plank says:

            I would rather have the best team as proven by 162 games instead of the best team over 3-7 games.

            The league likes to market the postseason because it’s a huge money maker, but to me I like baseball because it’s every day and the radio broadcast is the same. It’s very zen to me. I don’t want to hear Buck talk about how good baseball used to be while he has obviously limited knowledge of the game.

            Just because my motivation for watching baseball is different from yours doesn’t make my viewpoint asinine.

            • If they gave out trophies for “best team over 162 games”, other people would probably care about it too.

              They don’t, though.

              • Plank says:

                Was I trying to get other people to hold my views? I don’t care if you don’t want to win the division, why do you care if I do want them to?

                I acknowledged others don’t share my views. Should I sit silently on the sidelines so I don’t interrupt your views? I honestly don’t know where you’re coming from. I just said winning the division is important to me and this series goes a big way toward determining that.

                • Read my comment again.

                  Did I say that you were wrong for thinking what you thought or that you were trying to get others to think like you thought? No.

                  You just made your observation, I made mine.

                  • Plank says:

                    You seem to be claiming you are the ambassador for everyone else. You claim other people don’t care about winning the most games. How do you know that? If you claimed you hold that belief and left it at that, that would be much different from what you did.

                    Why not let your opinion stand by itself instead of using “other people agree with me” as an argument?

            • Jorge says:

              I agree with half your point. I’d also much rather treat baseball like a calming experience and not develop a Greg-like foaming at the mouth after every loss. The 2003 Marlins won the damn championship, though, and being the “last team standing” is every bit the accomplishment in itself as how well you mashed over those first 162 games. SF Giants fans had a lot more fun last fall than we did.

              • Plank says:

                I want to win the world series every year also. If the choice were to win the series or not, I would choose to win every time. I just think having the best record is a more difficult accomplishment, is more indicative of actual team skill, and I would choose that outcome to the season than winning the series.

            • gc says:

              To me, it is asinine. Go celebrate the 2001 Seattle Mariners all you want.

              • Plank says:

                Well reasoned.

                • gc says:

                  There’s no reasoning to explain that hasn’t already been explained.

                  • Plank says:

                    You wrote “asinine”

                    I told you my reasoning, showing that my view is in fact not asinine, but thought out. Whether you disagree with me or not, it’s pretty clear from my explanation that it’s not asinine, but well thought out.

                    You wrote “to me it’s asinine. Go celebrate the 2001 Mariners all you want.”

                    What exactly have you explained?

                    • gc says:

                      That winning a division title would be great, but in the end, as long as they get into the post-season, that’s all the really matters. That winning the World Series can only happen if you get into the post-season, and that the supposed benefit of gaining home field advantage is overrated. That’s what I explained. Then others chimed in with their own thoughts on the matter.

                      Yes, your reasoning is “thought out.” I wouldn’t call it WELL thought out, however, as it fails to address the primary question: why do they play those 162 games in the first place? Whether you acknowledge it or not, whether you like it or not, the reality of the situation is that the 2003 Marlins will always be remembered and celebrated as a World Champion. The 2001 Mariners will be remembered as nothing more than a notable footnote. So by all means, celebrate the footnote. I’m not even going to try and stop you. I’ll also continue to think it’s asinine.

      • Tom says:

        “Besides, they don’t fly division title banners at Yankee Stadium.” I seem to recall that Tony Gwynn noticed their absence–with some awe–just before the Yankees/Padres World Series. A useful intimidation tactic: just fly the world’s title flags.

    • Meh.

      It’d be nice to win (as always). That’s about it.

  5. Bartolo's Colon says:

    Burnett as a Yankee in Boston = horrible
    From my calculations, in 6 starts in Boston since becoming a Yankee Burnett has given up 33 ER in 28 IP for a 10.61 ERA with one quality start, although this was one of the last games of the year and J.D. Drew and Lars Anderson were batting 3rd and 4th respectively, so I’m not sure it counts. It is absurd how horrible his starts have been there. He was awesome there as a blue jay, not sure how that works.

    • Tom says:

      I think this may be how it works: AJ has NY-itis. Playing for the Jays was one thing (nobody was paying attention). Playing for the Yankees is another: half of hell is watching! I’m surprised more is not made of this. AJ is by no stretch of the imagination a world-class pitcher. But he’s by no means as lousy as he has been since arriving in NY. He had that one decent year, and then…pfft! kaput! If you add to the mix pitching against the Sox, he falls right off the roof. And bounces.

  6. Frank says:

    If CC doesn’t come up big tonight, this could very well be a sweep for the RS- Hughes and AJ don’t match up well at all against this offense.

    • gc says:

      Tonight, for me, it’s about the offense, not CC. They need to mash Lackey into oblivion tonight.

      • gc says:

        Actually, this whole series to me is about wanting to see the Yankee offense to flex its muscles. They can hit these guys, and I’d like to see them put it together in a big way.

        • Sarah says:

          +1. I figure CC is due for some regression, and hopefully tonight he owns the Sox. But if the offense doesn’t do their job, him owning the Sox won’t matter.

      • Frank says:

        Disagree. CC is the supposed ace for the Yanks and he’s looking at a big(actually a bigger) pay day(assuming he opt’s out). He needs to show he can beat the RS. If he can’t, then the Yanks need to seriously consider letting him walk.

        • gc says:

          Don’t be thick.

        • jsbrendog says:


          wait, you’re serious? uhm…..

        • He needs to show he can beat the RS.

          No he doesn’t. He needs to do two things:

          1. show that he can pitch like an ace in the regular season
          2. show that he can pitch like an ace in the postseason

          So far, he’s 2 for 2. Pay the man.

          • jsbrendog says:

            ::nodding in agreement::

          • Jimmy McNulty says:

            He doesn’t need to show it, he just needs to do it…mainly because I want to win the division. I don’t think a few shitty starts against the Red Sox mean too much yet, sure he beat the Red Sox in past years, but the Red Sox have a better offense this year with more dangerous hitters. So I’d say that a Red Sox line up with Jacoby Ellsbury 2.0, Adrian Gonzalez, and basically 2008 Pedroia is a bit different than the last few line ups that they’ve had. So it isn’t an unthinkable thought that CC can’t take this new line up, but I think it’s way too soon before we jump to any conclusions.

        • Rainbow Connection says:

          I would let him walk b/c he’s fat and getting fatter and older.

      • Cuso says:

        Or as Iron Mike would say “Into Bolivia”

  7. JohnC says:

    Maybe Burnett looks at it as: “What have I got to lose? Everyone expects me to implode. Just go out there and pitch and see what happens?” He is playing with the house’s money

    • CS Yankee says:

      Yeah, 82.5M$ of house money, i believe.

      OK, let’s deduct 16.5M$ for 2009 (as he did his job & we won the WS with his help), which would equate to way more than the Sox have gotten from Lackey so far.

      He is due, like an overdue library book due. This has to be his last start of the season (less needed DH duties) unless he pitches well.

  8. In most years, a guy with Beckett’s numbers (2.43 ERA and 3.46 FIP) would get some Cy Young love, but he’s thrown about 40 fewer innings than most of the true candidates.

    Top 10(+1) AL starters in fWAR, with innings pitched per start:

    1 Verlander:29 starts, 215.2 IP (7.43 IP/S), 2.38/2.84/3.03, 6.2 fWAR
    2 Sabathia: 28 starts, 205.0 IP (7.32 IP/S), 2.99/2.81/3.00, 6.1 fWAR
    3 Weaver: 28 starts, 201.1 IP (7.19 IP/S), 2.28/2.98/3.73, 5.3 fWAR
    4 Haren: 28 starts, 194.2 IP (6.95 IP/S), 3.19/2.92/3.25, 5.3 fWAR
    5 Masterson: 28 starts, 187.1 IP (6.69 IP/S), 2.83/2.87/3.45, 5.1 fWAR
    6 Hernandez: 28 starts, 200.1 IP (7.15 IP/S), 3.37/3.12/3.17, 4.6 fWAR
    7 Wilson: 28 starts, 186.0 IP (6.64 IP/S), 3.29/3.34/3.47, 4.3 fWAR
    8 Price: 28 starts, 190.2 IP (6.80 IP/S), 3.40/3.19/3.20, 4.3 fWAR
    9 Shields: 27 starts, 201.0 IP (7.44 IP/S), 2.96/3.36/3.11, 4.1 fWAR
    10 Fister: 26 starts, 174.2 IP (6.71 IP/S), 3.35/3.24/3.89, 3.8 fWAR
    11 Beckett: 25 starts, 163.0 IP (6.52 IP/S), 2.43/3.46/3.60, 3.6 fWAR


    As of today, my ballot probably goes:
    1. Verlander
    2. CC
    3. Weaver
    4. Shields
    5. Haren

    • jsbrendog says:

      i’m really interested to see if masterson can keep this up going into next year. it’s always nice to see another great pitcher join the party

      • Masterson has becoming their IPK.

        Perhaps what should tell us is that maybe a critical factors in developing young pitchers is having the organizational freedom to not have to win every single game, affording young hurlers enough patience to take their lumps and remain in the rotation until they figure it out.

        • CS Yankee says:

          Agreed, but the Yankees or the BoSox really can’t wait for two or three to develop at a time (or can they?).

          Hughes>>>Joba>>>IPK (or so they must of thought)

          Lester>>>Sign “HoF-type” rotation (DiceBB/Josh/Lackey)>>>Laptops>>>Tim til the Wake(field).

          Different approaches, similar results.

          Both blend top dollar signings and try to get some home talent to prosper. They have with Lester & Clay, Yankees have (to a lesser degree) with Phil & Nova (plus several more near-ready).

          It could happen here…CC, ManBan, Dellin, Phil & SuperNova in 2013. However, it is highly unlikely as history leads them to “buy two, get two from the throw-aways, and develop one”.

        • Jimmy McNulty says:

          Ehhh…it’s a bit different, they also had Lester and Buchholz in tow recently. Lester’s easily a better pitcher than Masterson, this year notwithstanding, and I may still like Buchholz better than Masterson. Buchholz’s problem is mainly health, but he’s been good the past three years when he’s pitched…just his back seems to be an issue for him. So at least they still managed to keep the best one, Lester. On to the meat of your comment:

          Perhaps what should tell us is that maybe a critical factors in developing young pitchers is having the organizational freedom to not have to win every single game, affording young hurlers enough patience to take their lumps and remain in the rotation until they figure it out.

          I don’t think this surprises anyone at all. You got to let kids pitch out of the rotation, which frustrates me the most about what the Yankees did is they’ve used the bullpen as a security blanket almost. Pitchers can start out of the pen, but once they get moved back to the rotation that should be their role, a starter. And for those of you who want to be anal about this, once or twice out of the pen in an emergency isn’t that big of a deal…just that once a starter is moved from the bullpen to the rotation, a starting pitcher should be their primary role. Much like how David Price was started out in the bullpen during the 2008 playoffs and moved to the rotation and given a chance to flourish. Justin Masterson was moved mid season to the rotation and given the chance to start and train and condition himself as a starter. Sure he had a few appearances but he wasn’t Joba’d, nor was he even Hughes’d where they just stuck him in the pen in 2009 while thehy knew that he was going to be needed in the rotation in 2010.

    • CS Yankee says:

      Mine would go as follows;
      1) Verlander
      CC-size gap
      2) CC
      double-wide CC-size gap
      3) Weaver
      parking lot full of empty Captain Crunch boxes gap
      4-5) toss up between Masterson & Haren

  9. Billy Pilgrim says:

    I hope we just win tonight and avoid a sweep. Things would be different if we had Colon, Garcia, or Nova lined up. Instead we have our two worst starters against their two best. Thursday could get really ugly.

    I think if Hughes gets bombed that AJ can still salvage his rotation spot with a good outing on Thursday. I think they’ve hinted at Hughes going down to the pen anyway, but that was before AJ’s last few trainwrecks.

  10. Monteroisdinero says:

    Jeter and the knee contusion. That should limit his range-even more??

  11. Jorge says:

    I’m going to rock out and say the Yanks do a four-game sweep of the three-game series. AJ Burnett will discover unheard-of control over his fastball, bust out with ten changeups, learn a knuckler, and strike out Gonzalez on a El Duque-like Eephus pitch twice.

  12. Monteroisdinero says:

    Series Preview: Grit vs Greet

  13. Javierkei Pavagawa says:

    Thursday I predict that AJ will give up 17 runs in 2/3 of an inning.

    Ayala, Wade, Logan, and Soriano will then combine for 8 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball.

    I predict the Yankees will lose 17-4

    Alternately, if the Yankees just used middle relievers and did not start AJ I predict they would win 4-0.

    I think this is an option.

  14. Javierkei Pavagawa says:

    Given what Granderson, Swisher, and Jeter have done this year is it possible that you can have a couple of bad months and not necessarily be a washed up POS?

    • jsbrendog says:

      see: aj burnett

      a bad year and a half

      it is not really SSS at this point anymore is it?

      • Rainbow Connection says:

        Jeter had a bad year and a half, too.
        AJ should be be able to turn it around and do his ‘once-a-week’ job.

    • Granderson’s moved to a new level of excellence, but he’s also entering his prime (and overhauled his mechanics).

      Swisher’s not really become a demonstrably better player, he’s just putting his uncharacteristically bad 2008 further in the rearview. Swisher is a all-star-ish corner outfielder, which is what he was in Oakland.

      Jeter was all-world, slumped due to age/injury/whatever, and is now on a new hot streak, recapturing part of his old brilliance.

      The closest of those three to Burnett analogously would be Jeter, since Burnett’s cratered production is a new low, is sustained for more than one year, and is happening in his 30s. So, yes, Jeter’s resurgence means perhaps Burnett won’t be an 81 ERA+ pitcher for the rest of his life, he could improve a little and bounce back… but there’s two big problems with that notion:

      1.) Jeter was bouncing back from “all-time-great” to “well above average”. Burnett never had that height to fall from, he was merely “somewhat above average”. It’s highly probable that any bounceback AJ has still wouldn’t even get him back to league average.
      2.) Jeter’s bounceback probably coincided with (unspoken) adjustments to his work ethic/training regimen/approach at the plate to get back to what worked well for him when he was effective. I’m not sure A.J. Burnett has ever had a time when things “worked well for him an he was effective”. A.J.’s always kind of been a “throw some spaghetti at the wall and let’s see if it sticks” kind of pitcher, and that makes it much tougher for him to find the right knobs to tinker with, Mussina/Pettitte-style, to suddenly pitch better in his mid/late 30s with diminished stuff.

  15. Bronx Byte says:

    Cashman should be busy figuring out the 40 man roster and how to get Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell, or David Phelps on the roster so one or 2 of them can pitch Thursday instead of giving a game away by starting Burnett.

  16. Sarah says:

    I’m calling the Gardy Slump to end tonight. It has lasted long enough, he should’ve had a hit last night, and last time at Fenway he hit a HR.

  17. theyankeewarrior says:

    I really wouldn’t be surprised to see AJ go 6IP 1R. He’s just due to not suck in Boston for once. Hughes too.

    But regardless of how well those two are pitching, they have to get a quick hook here. We have plenty of arms in the pen / on their way up from the minors.

    These two should be pulled from the game at the first sign of danger. I’m talking second-inning style. We can come back from just about any early deficit as long as a competent pitcher is on the mound.

  18. UncleArgyle says:

    With AJ Burnett starting the 3rd game, I almost wonder if forfeiting would be a legitimate option. Rest the players, save the bullpen, deny the red sox juicy gate receipts. While I realize theres a non-zero chance the yankees could actually win the game, anyone whos not a total Polly Anna should be prepared for 6 runs in 1.2 innings from Mr Burnett if were lucky.

    (Don’t worry I’m only half kidding about forfeiting thursdays game)

  19. Moskva says:

    I think they should leave AJ in the game no matter what happens for at least 7 innings. You figure he’ll give up anywhere from 20 to 50 runs. This experience should convince him to quit baseball and we might be able to get a big chunk of his contract money back.

  20. Bob Michaels says:

    The Yankees starters flat out stink in this series. Red Sox looking for another sweep

  21. Kenny Powers mullet says:

    Hey Mike I noticed you accidently left off when the Yankees are on the mound. Here are the numbers from a NY post article this morning.

    CC Sabathia starts tonight — he’s 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox. Tomorrow is Phil Hughes, 0-1 in two games (one start) with a 27.00 ERA (seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings). Thursday’s finale features A.J. Burnett, 0-1 in one start with an 11.12 ERA (seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings).

  22. BaseballFan07 says:

    “…and there’s a chance Youkilis will be activated at some point during the series (starts rehab today, so he might be back Thursday).”

    Just wanted to point out – Youkilis isn’t eligible to come off the DL until Friday, according to Pete Abraham.

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