Sunday, April 17, 2011


Here's what I saw that worked yesterday:

--Beckett pitched.  He owns 2 of their 3 wins, and is by far the most impressive pitcher on the team.  His success now as compared to the past few years is simple to see: he's not throwing 100% fastballs (of any of the three types he throws) and he's getting his off-speed stuff over very consistently.  Before he dogheadedly threw the #1 all the time, to every hitter, and it didn't move much, so if you're a professional hitter and you're sitting on it, you can hit it.  And they did.  A lot.  Because he's throwing much more off-speed stuff (getting them over for strikes is a big plus), they can't sit dead-red.  Gives them something else to think about, and they're also not so comfortable hitting off of him.  I can see the difference in the confidence on their faces; they don't feel they can hit him as easily as before.  Now that he's getting the off-speed stuff over, they have to look for that.  But if they're looking for that, he can blow his #1 by them, thereby getting even more outs.  I'm tellin' you, it's that simple: If you can throw 93+ and get off-speed stuff over consistently, you can pitch in the major leagues.  (Another improvement is that he's not walking everyone.  Those totals are down because he's not missing with his off-speed stuff, which leads to an avalanche of positive things for him.  Dice-K should learn from this.)

--Varitek caught.  I know that one leads to the other these days, that Beckett wants Varitek catching him, but I still stand by my opinion about how important pitch-selection is.  Varitek knows all the hitters, but he can out-smart them back there, too.  (He also might be a little bit of Jake Taylor back there, too, for those of you who get the reference.)  NESN showed the stat yesterday that Varitek is 2-2 and the staff has an ERA below 3.0 when he catches.  Salty is 0-8 with an ERA over 6.  Granted that Varitek has half the control group that Salty has, but I can see what I see, and he is better back there overall.  He threw someone out yesterday, too.

--Crawford didn't play and Ellsbury didn't lead off.  Crawford will have to come around, and I feel badly about the boos he's getting, but, as he said, they should boo him, he deserves it.  But he can hit .300 and have 200 hits and 50 stolen bases, so he absolutely must come around.  Yesterday was a good mental health day for him, though.  Ellsbury looks more comfortable now batting 7-9, so I would keep him there.  I won't pretend to know what ails him; I haven't understood him for years, since just after he came up late in 2007, had a HOF second half...and then I don't know.  Sox fans don't, either.  A guy at Fenway a few nights ago (when I was there) yelled things at Ellsbury I won't repeat here, but also added the caveat that he hasn't been good for awhile now, that he had that mysterious year last year that people still whisper loudly about, and that he's only popular because women think he's handsome.  The guy wasn't all right, but he wasn't all wrong, either.  With the glut of outfielders the Sox have, I wouldn't be surprised if the brass grows disenchanted with him and trades him late in the year.  Having said that, Ellsbury's upside is only a smidgeon lower than Crawford's, and is therefore way too potentially good to give up on.  But now's the time to walk the walk.

--Jed Lowrie has always been a small favorite of mine, though I am still surprised by his hitting and defense this year, and I'm even more surprised to watch him lead off yesterday and not only go 3 for 5, but also hit scalding drives for his two outs.  I love the old-fashioned gloves hanging out of his back pocket when he hits; he's scrappy looking, weighs about 170, max, and frankly makes it look like you or I could also get a hit up there.  Jeff Frye struck me the same way, that if he can do it, I can do it.  I can't, of course, but that's undoubtedly some of Lowrie's appeal.  He looks like a throwback player, anywhere from the 1880s to the 1920s, and has the name to boot.  He's playing comfortable up there, and I think it's because he knows he's coming back next year and Scutaro isn't.  (Don't be surprised to see Scutaro traded, either.)  The SS phenom is waiting to be the starter late this year or definitely next year, so you can't keep Lowrie and Scutaro.  Lowrie can play short, second and third, and Scutaro can only play short.  Lowrie has also shown that he can hit first or second like Scutaro can.  His versatility makes him just a little more valuable than Scutaro.

--I'm not down on Scutaro, by the way.  He is what he is, which is a singles and doubles hitting, average fielding SS who can lead off or hit lower, bat .275 to .285 at the end of the year, drive in some runs with a good lineup, maybe 80 to 85, max, in a great year, and he comes to play every day.  What's not to like?  Plenty of teams could use him.  The problem for him is that the Sox can't.  Lowrie can do all those things, too, maybe a smidge better since he's younger, and he's also cheaper and has better range and versatility.  He's also never going to be any better than that, and has been that consistently for awhile now, but to the extent that, for him, there's nowhere else for him to go but down.  He's on the downside now, but I'll bet his declining years will be many, as his slow but steady descent will take a few years, too.  Still a valuable player for many teams.

--Yesterday the Sox were still terrible with RISP.  They were 2 for 12, or something like that, and left close to 11 on base again.  That has to stop.

--The umps and fans were dressed like they were watching a game in Siberia.

--Right now, it's Pedroia and Lowrie, Beckett and Lester, and pray for rain.  The core has to step up.  Now.

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