Archive for Boston Red Sox
Here’s a question: if the Red Sox are performing poorly enough to miss the playoffs, should Yankee fans root for them to make it? Put another way, given that Boston has been 2007 Mets-level bad in September, are there enough flaws there that Yankees fans should root for Boston to beat out Tampa and Los Angeles and make for an easy target, should they squeak by through to the ALCS? Between the Rays and the Sox, who is the weakest link?
The Red Sox case
Boston has a myriad of problems. One problem is the lack of performance they’ve gotten from the corner outfielder slots. Carl Crawford’s first year of his big contract has been a disaster. J.D. Drew has missed time and his replacements haven’t exactly lit up the league. Drew may be back at some point, but it’s clear that the corner outfield spots for Boston currently represent a problem with no easy fix.
The Sox are also suffering through injuries, although not as many as last year. Youkilis has a back injury, a hip injury and a sports hernia. Despite the rain on Friday, Youkilis did some batting off a tee, and Francona indicated that he “still felt it”, which makes sense since the injury will ultimately require surgery. As a result, Boston Globe writer Pete Abraham reported that it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he’ll return at all this year, perhaps as a pinch-hitter at best. Obviously this is a significant blow to the Red Sox. Youkilis is one of their best hitters, and he’s also one of the most potent right-handed hitters in a lineup dominated by lefties. One of those lefties, Adrian Gonzalez, is also hurting. Gonzalez is dealing with a rotator cuff injury that causes him pain every time he swings the bat. It’s also sapped him of his opposite-field power. If you’re keeping track at home, two of the Sox four best hitters (the other two being Pedroia and Ellsbury) are dealing with serious injuries.
There’s also the wilderness that is their rotation. In addition to not paying his child support, Erik Bedard has – surprise! – injury and durability concerns. Meanwhile, John Lackey is just flat terrible. Weiland, Miller and Wakefield all represent last-resort options, the kind of guys you’d want to kick around for the 25th spot on the playoff roster but not pencil in for a Game 3 or Game 4 start. Aceves has been well above-average, but it appears to be too late to switch him to the rotation. Even the front of the rotation, Lester and Beckett, has lost a bit of its shine. For the second year in a row, Lester’s walks are a little higher than what you’d expect from someone with his talent, and his strikeouts have dipped. Beckett’s injury created a bit of uncertainty around him, and while he did rack up the strikeouts in his last outing against Baltimore, he lost his way late in the game and gave up the lead. New York has rotation questions too, but this doesn’t diminish the fact that Boston’s issues are severe and won’t be remedied until this offseason at the earliest.
The Sox are still a decent team. Pedroia, Ellsbury and Gonzalez are exceptional hitters. Papelbon is having a great year, and if Bard regains his form they could have one of the best late game combos in the playoffs. The nature of the playoffs is wild and unpredictable, and a suddenly hot offense backed by a strong Lester and Beckett and closed with Bard and Papelbon could carry the Sox to the World Series. At the same time, it’d be silly to deny that this team has major issues.
The Rays’ Case
The case for the Rays as the weakest link revolves around their average offense and their iffy bullpen. Calling their offense average is entirely just. Their team wRC+ is 100, which defines average. Their lineup is bolstered by the likes of Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist, but there are still weak spots in that lineup. Parenthetically, one has to wonder how much closer the Rays would be to Boston had Manny Ramirez given them 500 at-bats this season.
Their bullpen is also a point of weakness, described to me by R.J. Anderson as Tampa’s “dirty little secret”. It’s simply not as good as it has been in the past. While Farnsworth had been solid for the Rays thus far, he’s dealing with elbow soreness. Set-up man Joel Peralta has been respectable, but behind him are a slew of guys best utilized in platoon matchup scenarios. Plenty of them have serious control issues, meaning that Maddon’s ability to mix and match in the late innings is compromised a bit.
The Rays are strong in their pitching staff. As frontline tandems go, it’s hard to do better than David Price and James Shields. These two would be absolutely frightening in a short series. The Yankees wouldn’t face them until the ALCS, so they’d get a crack at Niemann and Hellickson too, but the fact remains that Price and Shields are two of the best pitchers in baseball. Finally, there’s the Matt Moore factor. He’s likely headed to the bullpen, and a reprise of David Price’s usage in the 2008 playoffs would make the Rays’ end of game crew very tough, especially if they get Kyle Farnsworth back at full strength. He’s certainly the X factor.
So which team is a more formidable opponent, and for which team should the Yankee fans be rooting to make the playoffs? It’s a matter of preference. Personally, even granting all of Boston’s issues and the fact that they’re an average at best team right now, I’d like them out as soon as possible. Doesn’t the prospect of three games in Boston in October in the ALCS, with the pennant on the line, make you want to reach for a bottle of Pepto? The Rays may be just as good as Boston right now, even better. But as Moshe Mandel said to me the other day, they may be just close enough that it’d be nice to see the Sox complete this collapse and miss the playoffs altogether. No Big Papi heroics and Sweet Caroline for me, thank you very much.
Following a frustrating four-game losing streak (frustrating because they didn’t hit, the one thing they do better than anything else), the Yankees appear to have righted the ship and have won two in a row, the second against the great Felix Hernandez. Aside from various injuries, everything seems to be going pretty well in Yankeeland, but the same can’t be said for their biggest rivals.
The Red Sox, in case you haven’t heard, have lost five games in a row. While that was happening, the Rays won five in a row, so their deficit in the wildcard race dropped from eight games to three in less than a week. Suddenly the upcoming four-game series between these two clubs at Fenway Park this weekend has a whole lotta meaning, even though it was little more than an afterthought a week ago. The Sox have 16 games left, Tampa just 15. There is little in baseball more exciting than a late season comeback, as long as you aren’t the team being comeback’d on.
Boston’s problems are almost entirely pitching related. Their opponents have scored six or more runs eight times in their last ten games, and five or more runs ten times in their last 13 games. Their starting rotation at the moment is Jon Lester, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield, and Kyle Weiland, which is pretty awful outside of Lester. Legitimately Triple-A caliber. Josh Beckett will apparently be back from his ankle sprain sometime this week, so that will definitely help. Clay Buchholz may or may not return this season, but if he does, it sounds like he’ll do so as a reliever. Who really knows what’s up with Erik Bedard? Not I. As Yankees fans, you can’t not enjoy watching this unfold. Oh, and the irony. I thought the Yankees were the team with the pitching problems?
Cool Standings says the Rays have just a 13.2% chance to make the postseason, but that’s up from 0.6% just six days ago. The Red Sox went from a 99.4% chance to make to the postseason to 86.7% during that time. They’re still in good shape, but there are definite reasons for the Fenway faithful to be concerned. This is more than a slump, there are very real issues. The Yankees, meanwhile, now have an 88.0% chance to win the AL East and a 99.4% chance to make the postseason. The only thing we have worry about is health and the number two starter in the ALDS. The Yankees aren’t perfect, but they’re the best team in the AL, hands down.
As a Yankees fan, I’m obligated to loathe the Red Sox. It’s very, very easy to root for the Rays at the moment, because we all want to see a Boston collapse. And frankly, Tampa is a pretty fun team to watch. That said, if the Rays are going to pull off this comeback, the Yankees will be involved. They have seven games left with Tampa, including the final three of the season. These aren’t isolated races, the Rays’ pursuit of the Red Sox will impact the Yankees and their ability to keep Boston at bay in the East. Obviously priority number one for New York is getting into the playoffs, they can’t worry about who is trying to catch who. If they rest players down the stretch, it will be to improve their chances in October, not help the Rays.
In all likelihood, the Red Sox will hold off Tampa and make the postseason. They do have seven games left with the Orioles, after all. Tampa had a huge mountain to climb just to get where they are now, and they still have a long way to go. It’s going to be fun to watch over the next two weeks, and come on, what Yankees fan isn’t enjoying this right now?
The Yankees will be in Fenway Park tonight for their final road series against the Red Sox tonight, and they’ll have their ace on the mound. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last for months, you’re well aware that CC Sabathia has yet to beat Boston this year, a big part of the reason why the Yankees have lost ten of twelve to their biggest rivals. He’s 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Sox but 17-3 with a 2.40 ERA against everyone else.
In his four starts against Boston this year, Sabathia has given up 20 runs in 25 innings. He has given the team length, failing to complete at least six innings just once (his first start on April 10th, when he went 5.2 IP), and his FIP (~3.70) looks a lot better than that ERA, but 20 runs in 25 IP is 20 runs in 25 IP. Here’s the weird thing though: 15 of those 20 runs have been scored in just three innings. Look…
April 10th: one run in 5.2 IP overall
May 14th: two runs in six innings, then a four-run seventh
June 9th: six scoreless innings, then a seven-run seventh
August 6th: five-run third inning, but two runs in five innings otherwise
That June 9th game is particularly annoying. Sabathia cruised through the first six innings on just 82 pitches, allowing just two singles and two walks while striking out five and getting six other outs on the ground. He then gave up six hits to the next eight batters and allowed four runs to score before giving way to David Robertson. Robertson allowed all three of the runners he inherited to score before recording the final out of the inning. How often does that happen? As I said, annoying*.
The three big innings, one in each of his last three starts against Boston, suggest an anomaly more than anything. Sabathia’s never had trouble beating the Red Sox before, going 4-2 with a 3.04 ERA and a ~3.30 FIP in eight starts against them in 2009 and 2010, and it would have been 5-2 had the bullpen not coughed up a four-run lead in the eighth inning of this game last May. The Yankees are 5-3 in those eight starts, and it would be 6-2 if not for that bullpen meltdown. The “can’t beat Boston!” shtick is isolated to 2011.
Sabathia’s been just a little off with his command in his last five starts, giving up 46 hits and eight homers in 36.1 IP. His strikeout (35) and walk (five) totals are still stellar, but he’s been just a bit less awesome than usual. Obviously the Red Sox offense will be a tough matchup with or without his usual command, but hopefully he manages to avoid that one big inning tonight. That’s been the biggest problem for Sabathia against Boston this year, bar none.
* I seem to remember some defensive funny business in another one of the big innings as well, but it’s honestly not worth the effort to confirm.
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
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.
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.
TiqIQ has you covered.
For the second time in three years, the Red Sox have dominated the Yankees in the first half. In 2009 it was 8-0, but this year the Yankees managed to squeak out a win in the first half, going 1-8 against their closest rivals. Last time around the Yankees closed the gap and finished 9-9 against the Sox. They have nine second half games to turn it around again, and it starts with three at Fenway Park this weekend.
What Have the Red Sox Done Lately?
The Red Sox, as anyone who pays attention to Bob Lorenz’s in-game updates knows, just split a four-game series with Cleveland. Before that they took two of three from the White Sox and Royals, leaving them 6-4 in their last ten. It’s hardly a poor mark; only nine teams are at that or better in their last 10. But the Yankees are 8-2 in that span, and have caught the Red Sox in the AL East race. That’s always interesting, because it means one team will leave the series on top. There will be no ties.
Red Sox on Offense
As a team the Red Sox lead the AL in basically every offensive category: BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, wOBA, etc. The Yankees are close behind, but Boston has held the edge since mid- to late-May, and has run with it. Only lately have the Yankees started to make up ground, as their recent play against the White Sox leaves them just eight runs behind the Sox for most in the majors.
There are 19 major leaguers with a wRC+ of 145 or better, and four of them are Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz. Ellsbury is the big surprise there, returning from an injury riddled 2009 to produce numbers the likes of which no one thought him capable. His 18 home runs is just two shy of his entire career combined, his OBP is at its highest level by about 20 points, and he’s still stealing bases along the way. A lot of this is BABIP fueled: his .344 mark is about 20 points higher than his career average. But if you watch him play, it makes sense. The dude is hitting everything on a line.
The media has recently brought up the notion of Adrian Gonzalez for MVP. That works, if your definition of MVP is, best player on a contending team. That’s not to take away from the season Gonzalez has produced. He’s created more runs than any player in the league — except Jose Bautista, of course, and he’s far enough ahead that it’s tough to not consider him the MVP. In any case, Gonzalez has been a dominant force in the middle of the Sox order, dismantling pitchers and spurring scoring frenzies. No doubt you’ll hear that one of the “keys” for the Yankees is to neutralize Gonzalez. Yep. Key to the game: don’t let the other team hit. Got it.
After a somewhat slow start, Pedroia has vaulted himself to the top of almost every offensive number among second basemen. The conversion really happened after April, and in 384 PA since then he’s hit .331/.418/.526. He’s also currently on not only a five-game hit streak, but a five-game multi-hit streak. It’s been that kinda season for Pedroia, who, after fading a bit in the second baseman conversation after an injury plagued 2010, has regained his throne in his return.
The problem with the Sox offense for the Yankees, as it has been for so many years, is that it shows few weaknesses. The above guys are just a small listing of the guys who can do some damage. There’s obviously Ortiz, who has put together a monster contract year. But there’s also Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is hitting .300/.366/.558 since June 1, Carl Crawford, who can still be a pest, Josh Reddick, a rookie on a hot streak, and of course Kevin Youkilis. As with the Yankees lineup, there is no break for the pitcher.
Red Sox on the Mound
Friday: LHP Jon Lester. After years of failing against him, the Yankees have finally broken through against Lester this season — relatively, at least. They’ve faced him twice, scoring seven times in 12 innings while picking up 13 hits. Before that he pretty well dominated them, especially in 2010, when he held them to six runs in 25.1 innings. After a quick trip to the disabled list he’s been back to his old self, allowing just three runs in 13.1 innings. Last time out was particularly good, as he struck out eight while allowing two runs in eight innings. Then again, that was against the White Sox, and we all saw this week how they hit. But don’t let that undersell you on Lester. He’s still one of the best in the game, and he always seems to bring his best when facing the Yankees.
Saturday: RHP John Lackey. Last year began poorly for Lackey, but it got somewhat better as the year progressed. After the All-Star break he had a 3.97 ERA (3.17 FIP) in 15 starts, after having a 4.78 ERA in 18 first-half starts. This year he started off poorly, allowing 15 runs in his first two starts. Things got something better, but they’ve gone up and down since then. He’s even spent some time on the DL with elbow issues. In his last two starts, against Kansas City and Cleveland, he’s allowed nine runs in 12.1 innings, raising his season ERA to 6.23. His peripherals look pretty bad, too, as he has a 4.72 FIP, 4.21 SIERA, and 4.51 xFIP to go along with the inflated ERA.
Sunday: RHP Josh Beckett. There was a time, as recently as last year, when the Yankees simply killed Beckett. Sure, he’d have a dominant start against them here and there, but for the most part the Yanks had as much success against him as they have any other ace-type pitcher. This year, however, he has been nothing but dominant against the Yankees, facing them three times and allowing just two runs in 21 innings, including two starts where he allowed no runs. He’s kept up that dominance, too, allowing zero or one run in a start 11 times out of 21 starts. His 2.20 ERA is behind only Jered Weaver in the AL, though his 3.23 FIP and 3.57 xFIP place him a degree lower.
Bullpen: The Red Sox bullpen ranks fifth in the AL with a 3.53 ERA, though they’re second with a 3.39 FIP. (The Yankees lead in both categories.) Jonathan Papelbon has had a quality bounce-back year, and his peripherals are much stronger than his results. Daniel Bard enjoys another dominant year in set-up, while the Sox have also gotten quality performances out of Matt Albers. The rest have stumbled, to some degree or another, but still represent one of the stronger bullpens in the league.
Recommended Red Sox Reading: Over The Monster.
Part of baseball’s early-season draw is how quickly things shift around. When the Yanks and the Sox first met, the Sox hadn’t yet won a game on the season. By their second meeting in mid-May the Sox had powered back and were 17-20 for the opener. A sweep put them at .500 for the first time on the season. At the same time, the Rays sat atop the division. Since then Boston has continued playing excellent baseball, going 16-6. The Yankees haven’t been too shabby, either, going 13-9. Of course, three of those losses came at the hands of those very Red Sox in what was part of the team’s low point in the season. This time around the Yankees have a two-game advantage in the loss column and could use a few wins to help balance out their 1-5 record against the Sox this season.
What Have the Sox Done Lately?
Since completing the sweep against the Yanks the Sox have gone 13-6. Their last two series have been sweeps at home. They dropped the first series to the White Sox, and then played an exciting, high-scoring series against the A’s in which they won all three. Of course, their pitching staff did surrender 17 runs to the anemic A’s offense, so things might not be rolling along quite smoothly right now. They will, however, send out two of their three best against the Yanks, including Josh Beckett, who is seemingly unhittable when facing the Yanks.
Red Sox on Offense
The Yanks and Sox enter this series with identical team wOBAs; they’re tied atop the league at .344. The Sox have a somewhat different attack, though. They’ve done it more with singles, while the Yanks have walked and homered their way to the league lead in runs per game. It actually makes sense that the Yankees have scored more runs than the Sox despite having the same wOBA, and despite the Sox having played two more games. At a time when power is down across the league, run scoring is heavily coordinated with power numbers. The Red Sox do have plenty of power, with a .165 ISO. But the Yankees lead the league in that category by a large margin.
The Sox have three players with a .380 or higher wOBA, and they’re three guys you might immediately suspect: Adrian Gonzalez (.409), David Ortiz (.427), and Kevin Youkilis (.383). They’re also providing the bulk of the team’s power numbers, as they’re the only ones with ISOs over .200. Jarrod Saltalamacchia does come close at .192, but that’s been the only way he’s provided value; despite the high power numbers, which do skew wOBA higher, he’s at just .316 this year, or exactly league average. The Sox have also received an unexpected contribution from Jacoby Ellsbury, who has shaken off his injury riddled 2010 to produce a .369 wOBA this year. He has stepped in big time for some of the underachievers.
Carl Crawford still leads that pack of underachievers with his .299 wOBA, but it is certainly trending upward. In May he had a .349 wOBA, though he still wasn’t all the way back. He walked in just 2.6 percent of his plate appearances last month, but rode a .352 BABIP to a quality month. So far in June he’s 7 for 17 with two doubles, a homer, and a walk. Dustin Pedroia is angling to take Crawford’s place as the disappointment du jour, with a .321 wOBA on the season. That trended downward in May, as he produced a .309 wOBA. Power has been Pedroia’s bugaboo all year; he had just five extra base hits in May, and has just 12 on the year (.089 ISO).
While Jed Lowrie’s numbers are still good, especially for a shortstop, he dropped precipitously in May. After a .410 wOBA in April he produced a mere .303 mark last month, which included a power outage: just seven of his 24 hits went for extra bases, and none were home runs. He’s gotten off to a poor start in June, too, going 3 for 18 with a double and a walk (though it was intentional). Rounding out the list of disappointments, J.D. Drew has been pretty bad all season, producing a .295 wOBA. He started off OK in April, but hit just .188 with three extra base hits in May. One guy who could take playing time from him, Mike Cameron, has also performed poorly in 2011.
Red Sox on the Mound
Tuesday: LHP Jon Lester. It has been something of a rough start for Lester, who is currently sporting four-year highs in ERA and FIP. When you glance at his peripherals, though, it’s not that surprising. His strikeout rate is down and his home run rate is up, while he’s walking batters at roughly the same clip as last year. He hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh inning since May 3, and has gotten pretty roughed up in that span. In 29 innings during those five starts he has allowed 21 runs, striking out 29 to 16 walks and five homers. Opponents have a .406 OBP against him in those games as well. One of them came against the Yankees, when he gave up four runs, including two homers, though the Yanks pitching staff gave that one back. In his most recent outing against the White Sox he allowed seven runs in 5.2 innings. That’s not to say the Yankees will have an easy time with Lester. It’s just the’s slightly less intimidating than usual.
Wednesday: RHP Tim Wakefield. This was supposed to be Clay Buchholz’s start, but he’s taking more time so that his injured back can heal. In his place is a familiar face for the Yankees. In a way this might be a break. Wakefield has been knocked around the last two seasons, pitching to a 5.11 ERA in 183 innings. He has been a bit better thisyear, but that has come more from hit suppression than from his peripherals. Yet we know that Wakefield can get the Yankees at any time. He’s faced them for just two innings this year, though they were two perfect. In his last three starts he has thrown 19.2 innings and allowed seven runs, which isn’t all that bad. Of course, one of them was against the Cubs, and that skews the numbers just a little bit.
Thursday: RHP Josh Beckett. There was no way the Yankees were getting through a three-game set with the Red Sox without facing Beckett. He has been stellar in general this year, with a league-leading 2.01 ERA and 205 ERA+. He also has a shiny 2.91 FIP to go along with it, mainly because he’s gotten back to what made him successful earlier in his career: suppressing the home run. He’s not striking out as many, and he’s walking a decent number of hitters. But that HR rate is bound to spike at some point, and what better place for that to happen than Yankee Stadium? It seems that Beckett has gone to ludicrous speed when facing the Yanks the last two times, so we’ll see if he can again rise to the occasion. On the other hand, the Yankees have knocking him around plenty since he came to Boston, and it feels as though we’re due for another one.
Bullpen: The Sox bullpen hasn’t been that solid this year, producing a 4.26 ERA, which ranks in the bottom half of the league. Yet their 3.46 FIP ranks towards the top of the league. The back end of the pen has been great, with Dan Bard recovering after a rough stretch and they recently got Bobby Jenks back from injury. Jon Papelbon started the year by lighting the world on fire, but he has given up six runs in his last three outings, which makes him seem more vulnerable. I still don’t buy it. He’s looked mostly lights out, and I’m not as confident now as I was last year that the Yanks can walk off against him if necessary.
Recommended Red Sox Reading: Last time we recommended the excellent Red Sox Beacon blog, run by friends of RAB Patrick Sullivan and Marc Normandin. They have since moved, though, to Over The Monster. Make sure to check them out there.
Things aren’t as bad for the Red Sox now as they were the last time the two teams met. Of course, it was difficult to get any worse for them at that time. Even through their struggles they managed to take two of three. While they’re not out of the woods, it is now the Yankees who are struggling. Perhaps we’ll see a reversal of fortune this weekend. Given the way the Yankees have played lately, it’s tough to see them doing any worse.
What Have the Sox Done Lately?
The Sox haven’t exactly been on fire, but they haven’t struggled too badly either. They did drop their last two to the Blue Jays, but before that they won three straight against the Twins. Of course, they dropped the three before that, but won the three before that. Yeah, they’ve been doing the up again, down again thing, and it has them at 17-20 currently, and 5-5 in their last 10. It’s tough to read too much into that, of course, since they’ll have their three best starters going this weekend, whereas they had Matsuzaka, Lackey, and Wakefield sprinkled throughout those 10 games.
Red Sox on Offense
At all times there must be at least two Red Sox players who absolutely crush the Yankees. These are usually the better players anyway, and they crush other teams. But as with Miguel Cabrera, it seems that they give that little extra and really punish the Yankees. It used to be Ortiz and Manny. Now it’s Pedroia and Youkilis. It’s hard to remember a series from the past few years — in which they both played, of course — where they didn’t scald the ball and make life tough on the Yanks.
It might scare you a bit, then, that Pedroia is on something of a cold streak. He’s hitting just .237/.355/.317 on the season, and that’s just .195/.313/.220 this month. Don’t be lulled, though. As I mentioned on the podcast, to me this makes it appear as though Pedroia is primed for a breakout in the series. We know he’s a good hitter, one of the best hitting second basemen in the league. He’s going badly now, and he’s going to turn it around. Considering how much he’s killed the Yanks, I’m having an easy time envisioning him with a 6 for 12 series with a handful of walks and extra base hits.
Adrian Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, and Youkilis are leading the offense right now, with 22 doubles and 12 homers between them. In fact, Gonzalez has hit four of his seven in the last four games, during which he has gone 10 for 20 with a double in addition to the four homers. Youkilis hasn’t been quite as hot of late, though he’s still getting his singles and walks. Lowrie has slipped from his early season dominance but is still hitting .327/.360/.505 in 114 PA. I’m surprised he’s walked only six times all year, but that’s probably because he was hitting the ball so well earlier in the year. David Ortiz has turned around his recent history of poor starts and his hitting .291/.372/.488 in his first 145 PA, so he’s helping lead the charge, too. The surprising contributor here is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is at .292/.342/.451, which is nice for the Sox, because he helped compensate for Carl Crawford’s early season crawl. For his own part, Crawford has hit .356/.370/.467 since the calendar flipped to May.
The only trailers, really, are J.D. Drew (.242/.364/.364), Pedroia, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.200/.250/.267). Chances are we’re going to see Jason Varitek (.145/.241/.212) in at least one, and perhaps two, of the games this weekend. That’s a gain all around, as he can’t hit and has no arm. The only positive is that it seems he gets better performances out of the pitching staff. How much of that is skill and how much is chance — he does seem to catch the better pitchers, after all — is up for debate. Either way, the Sox have a light-hitting fixture at the bottom of the lineup.
Red Sox on the Mound
Friday, RHP Clay Buchholz. The last time the Yankees faced Buchholz they hit him around pretty well, racking up eight hits and scoring five runs while driving him from the game in the fourth. He’s had some better success in his subsequent starts, and in his last two his line goes: 11.2 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 0 HR. The last start was the most impressive, no runs on two hits and six strikeouts in five innings, but it was shortened by rain. We’ll have to deal with his ultra slow approach, which makes for some bad baseball watching. But that doesn’t seem to affect his results.
One thing to watch with Buchholz is the ground balls. He did a great job in his first two seasons of keeping the ball on the ground, and he’s done a decent job of it this year, too. But his fly ball percentage is up a bit, as his home runs to fly ball ratio. That could play into the Yankees hands. Of course, how many times have I written that before, and how many times has it not come true?
Saturday, RHP Josh Beckett. After looking a bit shaky in his first start Beckett got back on track against the Yankees in his second one. He now has his ERA down below 2.00, and his peripherals go right along with that. The strikeouts are a tick lower than in the past, but just a tick. Everything else, including the low walk and home run rates, are right in line with his best years. The Yankees do have a history of knocking around Beckett, but when he’s on like this we just can’t expect it. That curveball is one of the most devastating pitches in the league, and when his back is strong and he’s throwing it well and often, few opponents stand a chance.
Here’s the thing, though: he’s not going to the curveball as much as he has in the past. In the past two years he’s gone to the changeup a bit more often. Thing is, at least this year it has been just as effective, if not more effective, than his curve.
Sunday, LHP Jon Lester. That’s the name you hope you avoid when the Sox are in town, and the first time through the Yankees did get that lucky. This time they rejiggered the rotation to slot Lester in. He’s coming off a very poor start, in which he walked five, including three in the first inning, against Toronto. Yet he’s not a guy I’m going to bet on having two poor starts in a row. Would you? We could be in for another one of those shutdown Sunday night performances we’ve seen from Lester in the past. This is the one game I’m not looking forward to, not only because Lester has a history of killing the Yankees (3.28 ERA in 74 career innings, including 80 strikeouts), but because Freddy Garcia is going for the Yanks. I love what Sweaty Freddy has done so far, but the Red Sox seem like a team that could knock him around a bit.
Recommended Red Sox Reading: Red Sox Beacon, written by friends of RAB Marc Normandin and Patrick Sullivan.
There’s the story, and there’s the reality. The story, of course, is the Red Sox 0-6 start. What’s even more surprising is that they have scored only 16 runs in those six games. No, things haven’t started clicking for the 2011 Boston Red Sox. But, as Dave Cameron wrote yesterday, that doesn’t change their perceived talent level, nor does it change their projected performance going forward. It merely adjusts the season-long expectations. In other words, they’re no worse than we thought before the season, but their perceived advantage may be gone at this point.
The Yanks head to Fenway for three games this weekend before heading back home. The law of averages suggests that the Sox pick up at least one. Of course, we’ve seen some crazier things happen. But hey, even the Astros have finally won a game. Boston’s first victory can’t be too far off.
What Have They Done Lately?
Well, I just spent most of the first two paragraphs talking about that, right? The Sox opened up with a tough series against the Texas Rangers, and while they didn’t necessarily play their worst baseball, their pitching was probably as bad as could reasonably be imagined. That included Jon Lester getting lit up on Opening Day, following by a 3.2-inning, nine-run performance from John Lackey. The Sox scored five runs in each of those games, which is usually enough to win. Alas, not in this case.
Then on Sunday they got a quality showing from Clay Buchholz — that is, he limited the Rangers to four runs, albeit they were four solo homers. That’s when the offense stopped showing up. Of those 16 runs they’ve scored, only six came in the last four games. That’s not going to get it done, even against the Indians. They’re going to score runs, and that might start this weekend. But to this point they’ve given little indications of a turnaround.
Red Sox On Offense
In theory, of course, the Red Sox have one of the best offenses in the league. Their best four hitters — Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Gonzalez — stack up against anybody’s, and they have a nice collection of quality players around them. No, they’re not going to score 1,000 runs this season; really, they weren’t even at the start of the season, before this slump. But they figure, or at least figured, to give the Yanks a run for their money as the top offense in the league.
One aspect of the lineup that could give the Yankees fits, at least in the first two games, is the Red Sox left-handedness. Five of their starting nine bats from the left side, and another switch hits. Things will change when CC Sabathia takes the mound Sunday evening, but for the first two games there will be plenty of righty vs. lefty plate appearances.
The Sox have also tweaked things heading into this series. Carl Crawford, who in the past has voiced his displeasure with hitting leadoff, will slide into that very spot this afternoon. That puts the team’s best four hitters atop the lineup, which will give any team an advantage.
Red Sox On The Mound
Game 1: John Lackey. After a disappointing first season in Boston, Lackey got off to a terrible start in his sophomore effort. As with the offense, he’s really not this bad. Maybe he’s not the guy who kept his ERAs in the mid 3s in Anaheim, but he’s also not a guy who’s going to get bombed for nine runs in 3.2 innings that often.
One of the biggest things for Lackey in his first game was his inability to induce a ground ball. He’s always been a decent ground ball guy, sitting in the mid-40s for the past few years. But he got just one of the 23 batters he faced last Saturday to hit one on the ground.
Game 2: Clay Buchholz. The good news is that he pitched better than any of his fellow starters the first time through. The bad news is that he got taken deep four times. No men were on base for those incidents. One of his strengths last year was his ability to avoid the long ball altogether, so his first start isn’t very encouraging in that regard. Still, it’s one game and chances are he returns to his normal ground balling self before long.
One thing to watch from Buchholz is his strikeout rate. In the minors always had excellent strikeout numbers, but once he started spending significant time in the bigs that dipped to below average. We’ve seen this before, from one Jon Lester. In his breakout 2008 season his strikeout rate was below average, but for the past two seasons he’s struck out more than a batter per inning. I suspect Buchholz will display a similar trend this year.
Game 3: Josh Beckett. The last time Beckett faced the Yankees he allowed five runs in 6.2 innings. The time before that he allowed seven in 4.2. The time before that he allowed 5, 3 earned, in 5.1 before leaving with a back injury that kept him out for two months. And the time before that they hit him for 5 in 4.2 on Opening Day 2010. No, it has not been a fun time lately for Josh Beckett against the Yankees.
His first game of 2011 looked somewhat like his starts against the Yankees last year. He lasted just five innings and allowed three runs, but 1) it took him 106 pitches to finish 5, and 2) he got lucky on a number of long fly balls that stayed in the park. I doubt the Yankees hitters will be as forgiving as the Indians. This is a pretty big season for Beckett, the first of his four-year extension and the follow-up to his ineffective and injury riddled 2010. A solid start against the Yankees would go a long way.
Bullpen. The Sox helped strengthen the back end of the pen by adding Bobby Jenks, but their other relievers are still questionable at best. They did get better today, though, as they replaced Matt Albers with Al Aceves and Dennys Reyes with Felix Doubront. If their starters look anything like they did the first time through, they might need those guys.
Stop me when this sounds familiar. Big market team invests tons of money into a team, but suffers from key injuries. The three-team nature of the AL East puts them out of the playoffs. Then, the following off-season they make a big splash by spending tons of money. That’s exactly what happened with the 2008 Yankees, and it more or less happened again last off-season with the Red Sox. They added two key players in big money deals (just wait for Adrian Gonzalez’s extension announcement) and appear to have a team just as strong as, if not stronger than, the Yankees in 2011.
Let’s just hope the parallels end there.
As has been the case for nearly a decade, the Red Sox draw great strength from the starting lineup. The only time in the past nine seasons that they’ve finished outside the top four in runs scored was in 2006. They might not be the powerhouse that led the league in runs scored from 2003 through 2005, but they’re going to give the Yankees a run for their money in 2011. Their lineup is just that deep.
While batting Jacoby Ellsbury atop the lineup might not be the best use of the team’s best bats, it makes little difference. It just slides everyone down a spot, meaning last year’s top DH, David Ortiz, hits sixth, and J.D. Drew, who even in a down year had a .341 OBP, seventh. Even at eight and nine they have Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who we know has talent, and Marco Scutaro, who is better than most No. 9 hitters.
Then there’s the heart of their order, the two-through-five that rivals any team in the bigs. It starts with Dustin Pedroia, who, with Chase Utley likely to miss a decent portion of 2011, figures to be one of the top two second basemen in the league. Following him is Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis. I suppose they could flip Youkilis and Gonzalez, but it matters little. That gives the Red Sox two excellent on-base and power guys in back of the speedier Crawford and Pedroia.
The Red Sox bullpen, at least the back end, has become a strength, too. Last year the Sox lost a few games due to Jon Papelbon meltdowns, but that could be just a blip on the radar. He has been one of the league’s elite closers for four years now, and it will take more than one season with a few blown saves to downgrade his status. Last year Dan Bard was the only reliable setup man, but during the off-season the Sox added Bobby Jenks to the mix. The rest of the bullpen is full of question marks, including Matt Albers, but the Sox have a few arms on the farm — Al Aceves and Felix Dubront — who can step in if someone falters.
The bench, too, can be considered a strength, even if Jason Varitek again serves as the backup. Darnell McDonald produced a quality 2010 season and could be of use to the Sox as a fifth outfielder. Ahead of him is Mike Cameron, who would start on most teams and will probably take some at-bats from Drew or Ellsbury against lefties. Jed Lowrie, too, could eventually take over as the starting shortstop. That’s a clear sign of a strong bench: the presence of players who could start for decent teams.
Big Question Marks
This section didn’t appear in Mike’s Orioles preview, because this is something unique to the Red Sox. In rating the Sox, I couldn’t decide whether to put the rotation in strengths or weaknesses. It has strengths for sure, and with a few lucky breaks the entire staff could become a strength. But as it stands they’ve got an ace and a bunch of question marks. It sounds like some other team we’ve come to know.
Jon Lester remains one of the game’s premier pitchers. Last year I picked him to win the AL Cy Young, and he really wasn’t that much worse than the winner, Felix Hernandez. This year Dave Cameron of FanGraphs rode my coattails with the Lester pick, and I don’t think it’s any less likely to happen than last year. If he puts it all together this year — high strikeout, low walk, low homer, and high groundball rates — he could be the pitcher we hate to love.
Behind him, though, the Red Sox have little certainty. Clay Buchholz was the best pitcher behind Lester last year, but he greatly outperformed his peripheral stats. Is he due for a regression, or will he progress similarly to his teammate? Lester, remember, had a below-average strikeout rate in 2008, but experienced a huge jump in 2009. If Buchholz follows his lead he could be in for another excellent season. But if he doesn’t, I would expect his 2011 to look something like Phil Hughes‘s 2010.
Then there are Josh Beckett and John Lackey, who were disappointing for different reasons last season. Beckett pitched poorly and got hurt, and it stands to reason that the two are interrelated. At 31 he’s no sure thing to bounce back, but his track record demonstrates that it is entirely possible. Remember, he had a rough 2006 season when he came to the AL and then came to dominate in 2007. We’re four years removed from that, but it can still happen. It’s just a little less likely this time around.
John Lackey was a disappointment during his first season in Boston, with a reduced strikeout rate and inflated walk rate. Yet he underperformed his peripherals, a 4.40 ERA to a 3.85 FIP. As with Beckett, he’s a bit older and so a recovery isn’t guaranteed. I have a bit less faith in him to recover than Beckett, but that’s mostly a stuff argument — i.e., I think that Beckett’s pure stuff can help him produce another top-flight season, while I’m not as big a believer in Lackey’s stuff.
While the Red Sox are strong up front, they’re a bit week when we move deeper into the roster. That includes the bench, bullpen, lineup, and rotation. Some are a bit weaker than others, but each has a chink in the armor.
In the rotation the Sox have Daisuke Matsuzaka holding down the fifth spot. His track record has been unimpressive during his time in the states. This can even include the 2008 season, when he finished with a 2.90 ERA. his 5.05 per nine walk rate indicates that he got a tad lucky — there is no way he can sustain an 80.6 percent strand rate. The last two years have seen him spend time on the disabled list and in general pitch ineffectively. The Sox have a few pitchers who can come up and take his place, but they’re not exactly high-upside options.
In the bullpen the Sox might be strong in the late innings, but their other options do not inspire. Dan Wheeler has a quality track record, in the AL East to boot, so we might even count him as a strength. I don’t think we can do the same for Matt Albers, Dennys Reyes, or Tim Wakefield. The Sox might get something out of these guys, and as previously mentioned they have a number of arms in AAA who can fill in should these guys falter. That’s what I expect to happen. Even Wakefield, a Red Sox mainstay, could find this is his final year. I don’t imagine the Sox will continue to use him if he’s as ineffective as he was last year.
The starting lineup looks solid at the top, but the last two spots are something of weaknesses. Marco Scutaro is a fine shortstop, but his track record suggests that he’s not any better than he displayed in 2010. Jed Lowrie figures to take his spot at some point during the season, at which point there’s a chance that the lineup spot turns into a strength. Until then it’s a weakness — at least relatively so. Jarrod Saltalamacchia represents the biggest chink in the Red Sox armor. This is not only because he’s completely unproven, but also because they don’t have a strong backup option. In one way it takes guts to put so much faith unto a 26-year-old who hasn’t done a thing at the major league level. In another, more accurate, way, it probably wasn’t the best idea on the part of management.
While the Red Sox have weaknesses and question marks, they’re still among the best teams in the league on paper. That’s no different than last year, of course. The big difference this year centers on health. As a team the Sox are in basically the same position as last year. They merely replaced departing players Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre with Crawford and Gonzalez. Their relative performances should roughly even out, though Crawford and Gonzalez will probably be a bit better overall.
The difference is that they’re starting fresh. Last year they lost Pedroia in June and then Youkilis a bit later in the season. If those two stayed healthy last year’s pennant race would have evolved much differently. If they stay healthy this year the Red Sox will be in a much better position, even if they didn’t make wholesale upgrades. If they all stay healthy this will be a powerhouse of a team. Then again, we can say that about more than one other team in the league. Bad breaks happen. The Red Sox are just hoping that they experience fewer of them this year.
There’s a lot to dislike about the Rafael Soriano signing: the loss of a draft pick, the injury risk, the salary and the fact that Sergio Mitre is still the fifth starter. However, there’s one thing to be very happy about, and that’s how strong the Yankee bullpen figures to be. Last summer at TheYankeeU I spent a fair amount of time using Baseball Prospectus’ Tommy Bennett’s methodology on reliever dominance. Bennett’s jumping off point is trying to understand and evaluate Mariano Rivera; even advanced metrics can’t consistently rate Rivera accurately. This is because he has the relatively unique ability to sustain a consistently low BABIP and prevent home runs. Stats like FIP and xFIP would then prove relatively useless to analyze Rivera. For instance, take a look at Rivera’s Fangraphs page. His ERA has been below his FIP and xFIP virtually every year of his career. Anyone care to predict that this year will be different? Bueller?
So Bennett tried out a different methodology to evaluate reliever skill based on two stats: SIERA and WXRL. He described them in an earlier piece accordingly:
The gist is [SIERA] gives an estimation of a pitcher’s controllable skills (fly ball rate, strikeout rate, ground ball rate, and walk rate) and considers how they interact with one another. Put simply, it’s a way to evaluate the totality of a pitcher’s skills while looking beyond contingent (or luck-based) factors.
WXRL, on the other hand, is a metric based on win expectancy. It simply measures, compared to replacement and adjusted for quality of opposing lineup, how the likelihood of the reliever’s team winning changed from when he entered the game to when he left.
This is simple enough. The next step Bennett took was to calculate a Reliever Score based on the two stats. The methodology sounds complicated but is relatively straightforward. Cue Bennett again:
We’ll take WXRL and SIERA for all pitchers who have pitched solely in relief. For each pitcher, we’ll calculate how many standard deviations they are away from the mean in each category. Then we’ll add them together. For example, a pitcher who was one standard deviation better than the mean in both SIERA and WXRL would get a score of two.
For our purposes I’ve set slightly different parameters. I set the cutoffs at 20 innings for relievers only, used data from the 2010 season, and then pulled out the relievers on Boston and New York. The results for Boston are first. Keep in mind that a higher number with WXRL is better (based on Win Expectancy), and that SIERA is like FIP, so it’s scaled and comparable to ERA.
Daniel Bard registered the highest Reliever Score in the Boston bullpen based on a very high WXRL score in 2010. This is hardly surprising; Bard is an elite pitcher with an incredible arsenal who often found himself in high leverage spots for the Red Sox last season. One interesting aspect to the chart is seeing Bobby Jenks grade out better than Papelbon in SIERA. Boston earned accolades from the stat community for their signing of Jenks, and rightfully so. Jenks’ SIERA score is sending the same message that his FIP sends – that his peripherals were intact and that a bounceback wouldn’t be unexpected. Jenks registers a low WXRL, but that’s not surprising given his poor results in 2010; if his BABIP normalizes and he’s used in high leverage spots this number ought to increase in 2011. All told the most interesting aspect of this chart is that Jenks scores the best among any Boston reliever in K/BB ratio and SIERA. If he is able to recover and have a better 2011 it’ll really help out Boston’s middle relief and make his contract look like a steal.
One area of weakness is the lefty reliever. Doubront appears headed back to AAA this season, leaving only Hideki Okajima coming from the left side. Okajima’s numbers are some of the worst of any reliever on this list. He’s historically tough on lefties (3.50 K/BB ratio, 0.591 OPS against), so he could have greater value in 2011 if used more sparingly. Now to the Yankees:
Here we see the strength and depth of the Yankee bullpen. Simply put, Rivera and Soriano are a two-headed monster. It wouldn’t be a surprise for Soriano’s BABIP and HR/FB ratio to rise in 2011, especially in Yankee Stadium behind the Yankee defense, but he’s always been a strikeout-heavy pitcher equally adept at limiting free passes. It’s also notable how well Joba Chamberlain looks. A lot of fans love the idea of Joba the starter, and for good reason, but Joba the reliever is probably underrated at this point. Much like Bobby Jenks, Joba’s advanced stats and peripherals make him look far better than his ERA would indicate. In fact, as Moshe from TYU noted, he looks very similar to Daniel Bard’s statistical profile, and their respective SIERA numbers back this up:
And yet, the numbers show that Joba was about as good as Bard was last season, and that with a little bit of luck, the perception about him would likely be vastly different. Furthermore, Bard is actually 3 months older than Chamberlain, a fact that would surprise most but suggests that they are on equal footing in terms of development. I do not mean to suggest that Joba was actually better than Bard in 2010, as there is something to be said for ERA and results, such that I would not explain all of Joba’s struggles away using the “luck” factor. But the peripherals clearly tell us that these two pitchers should be regarded similarly, and I would be far from shocked if Joba and Bard put forth extremely similar seasons in 2011.
Alongside Joba in middle-to-late relief is David Robertson, the forgotten cog in the bullpen wheel. Both of these relievers are probably capable of manning the eighth inning, so hopefully they’ll be able to prove themselves in high leverage spots this season. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches, to be frank, and really underscores the fact that the Yankees could extract more value from Joba as a starter than as a reliever. The Yankees also figure have two solid lefties this season. Given the strength of the Soriano, Chamberlain and Robertson, it stands to reason that Feliciano can be used more sparingly than he has been in the past, deployed particularly against lefties. Get ready for long games full of pitching changes and endless unfunny binder jokes.
At great cost the Yankee front office (and ownership!) has assembled a very good bullpen this winter. If they’re able to acquire another starting pitcher and/or persuade Andy Pettitte to return then the staff on the whole figures to be very solid. It’s also pretty safe to say that this bullpen looks better on paper than Boston’s heading into this year, and may in fact be the best in baseball. The Yankees have missed out on a lot this offseason, but the bullpen is very respectable. Hey, it’s the little things.