Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Painful stretch

Not too long ago we were delighting in the fact that the White Sox were no longer leaders for the Wild Card. Well, they are now, and the Red Sox aren't; in fact, Boston is in 3rd place for the WC, behind the Twins. They're 19 games above .500; worse than they were at the ASB, despite playing four against Kansas City. Hell, ack on May 28, they were 12 games above .500. So in 2 1/2 months they've been only 7 games above .500 - and that's with a 14-1 stretch against the NL East.

I'm not into despairing after a 3-game losing streak. But that's not what we're facing here. Against AL teams, Boston is 49-44. Against AL teams that aren't the Baltimore Orioles, Boston is 41-43. That is...not good.


  1. I am saying that the Sox are in big trouble. It's not panic, it is fairly easy to see.

    Tek's injury did them in...While he wasn't crushing the ball, it is obvious that he was the reason behind the success of the young pitchers.

    Also, and I firmly believe this (this was a comment of mine in another post) the front office sent the message that the future is more important than this team here and now. While the players are going out and performing, one has to believe that they aren't as motivated.

    Perhaps the Sox can dominate the Yankees in the upcoming 5-game series, but the pitching staff is in shambles.

    Recently, Seanez has been very good, but Francona keeps marching Tavarez out there, why? If you're on a somewhat sinking ship, give the hot hand the chance.

    I am not too hopeful about this Sox team. They're pitching is terrible, collectively. And, Earl, to add to your post about their hovering around .500 for a great, long while...look at how many late inning wins they've had, as well. Without some heroics they are in bigger trouble.

  2. While I ma certainly not expecting a repeat, I keep thinking back to 2004 when the Sox played .500 ball for about 2 months until mid August and then went on that incredible hot streak. Every team has ups and downs - the white sox also had a two month stretch last year where they played .500 ball.

    More likely, they are a flawed team like last year. Even if they do make it to OCT (a big if) it does not look like they are poised to make a deep run.

    I hope the situation was presented to the team as "we think you are good enough to win" not "we are giving up."

    The TEK injury will shed some light on a long standing sabremetric question - how much does a catcher influence pitchers ERA. I know it is generally agreed that TEK is awesome as a pitch handler, but most sabremetrics point to there being no such ability.

  3. As was the case last season, I think so much comes down to the construction of the bullpen. It could be argued that the bullpen has been hugely problematic in 3 of the 4 Epstein years. He got Timlin and Foulke (and Arroyo, I suppose); and besides that things just haven't worked out. A lot of bad luck, I know, but you have to wonder if that's a blindspot. (Maybe not for Theo only, but for sabermetrics in general?) Just grasping at straws here.

  4. Generally speaking, I would say that any pen guys that aren't closers or setup men are failed starters or closers. And setup guys tend to become closers sooner or later so guys like Timlin are rare.

    If you look at the names that have come through here there are some that are very good. However, most couldn't perform here but have found success elsewhere.

    And, X, I couldn't agree more with the attempts at sabremetrics to quantify the effect of a catcher on a pitching staff. There can't be a stat as to how many good pitches a catcher calls because even good calls thrown badly look bad, and vice versa. But preparing for a game and knowing other hitters' weaknesses and exploiting them gives your staff a ton of confidence and takes more of the strategy off of them so they can just execute pitches.

  5. Actually, Earl the sabremetricians are very quick to point out that bullpen success/effectiveness does not translate very well from year to year. I'm sure a lot of it is as Matt says, they aren't the best pitchers to start with, plus you are talking about small(er) sample sizes. so I think the answer is that you build depth, which Theo has done, but either by poor planning or poor luck, it has not worked out. Just look at the string of guys that have come through here - this year its Tavarez and Seanez, but ealier in theos reign it was Mendoza, Mantei Willimason, Leskanic, Chad Fox, Sauerbeck, Bobby Howry and these were guys who had some history of success at other stops.

    As for the catcher's ERA, the stats show that who the catcher is has no bearing. Obviously it is too early to tell with TEK and hte papers made a big deal about how much tek was helping Mirabelli prepare a game plan. But then you also have Papelbon throwing something like 18 straight fastballs before giving up the HR - so who really knows. I also don't think it was Lopez's fault that Lester seemingly fell behind every hitter last night.

    I just want them to start winning some freakin games.

  6. Williamson also helped the Sox tremendously...If his arm wasn't always ready to fall off, Theo would have resigned him.

    Seanez and Howry both left Boston and had success.

  7. I get your points, and I feel that there has been a lot of bad luck involved (and yes, Williamson was definitely a success story - I forgot about him), but it's not as simple as you guys say about these pitchers having success elsewhere. Look where they had success: the National League. It's overly simplistic, I know, but it works pretty damn well...

    Embree: doing well for the Pods (3.46 ERA) after sucking for the Sox and Yanks.

    Fox: half a good season for Fla after sucking with BOS; hasn't done much since.

    Seanez: looked great in 2005 for the Padres - pitching in one of the great pitcher's parks in the Worst Division in Baseball History.

    Tavarez: last 3 seasons in the NL Central.

    Mantei: prior to coming here had never pitched for the AL.

    Sauerbeck: ditto. Though was a league-average pitcher for the Indians afterwards. (This year, not so much.)

    Howry: a big exception - was great for the Injuns after struggling with the Sox (though note he's even better with the Cubs!)

    Mendoza: another exception- he just fell apart when the Sox got him. Very unlucky.

    But I think my point stands: when we talk about guys having "success elsewhere", we can't ignore whom they pitched against. Using someone's performance with the Padres (pitcher's park in a pathetically weak-hitting division) tells you little about how they'll do against the AL East.

  8. I think we are all generally in agreement. I agree you have to factor in a bunch of things, such as competition and ballpark. But the stats on reliever consistency (or lack thereof) really relates to all relievers and how the variability in their performance year to year tends to be much greater than amongst starters.

    Guys like Timlin are rare. But guys like JC Romero and Jesse Crain (as just two examples) are what the stats tend to point out.

    Quick question - Willaimson had some success (notably a couple of key saves in the 2003 post season after BHK melted down) but are you guys forgetting that Williamson missed most of the second half of 2004 and also got into a huge spat with Schilling over whether he was really hurt?

  9. That's awesome - I make a list of all the recent Sox relievers who couldn't hack the AL, and somehow I leave off the most infamous example, the BK Broiler.

    Williamson: I mean, I feel he could've really contributed had he not been hurt so much. And you know me - if, off the field, it's Schilling vs. anyone, I generally side with "anyone".

    Like you said, he had 3 key saves in the 2003 postseason (all 3 against the Yankees). What no one seems to remember is that against Oakland he wasn't really used as a closer - he pitched in all 5 games, only coming in for a save situation once...and very nearly blew it by walking the first two guys he faced. But besides that one near-BS, he figured in all the other Sox wins that postseason - two wins and three saves. Not bad.

  10. if, off the field, it's Schilling vs. anyone, I generally side with "anyone"

    Hell, if off the field it is schilling vs. a tree, I would side with the tree - unless it affect his ability to pitch every 5th day.

  11. MANNY!!!!!!!

    24-game hit streak.

  12. I didnt want to jinx beckett, so lets see if it works on the unit, who has a no hitter through 6....

  13. What? Don't mention that Randy Johnson has a NO HITTER going! You might JINX him!

  14. Oh no, you DID jinx him! Bad, bad X!

  15. thats like the 5th time this year - schilling, zambrano, unit and a couple others. i think i even called you once for one of them.

    and when i was at the sox a's a few weeks back the guy i went with noted that i had the uncanny ability to will a ball foul (but not fair) when hit down the line. that is good to know.