Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Red Sox Comeback

Well, in about another 15 minutes it'll be official, and the Red Sox will be down 3 games to 1 in the ALCS. I certainly haven't lost hope (see ALCS, 2004), but it's a dire situation. These Indians are good, and they've absolutely outplayed us.

Still, before things get into the whole inevitable finger-pointing situation that happens during each playoff series where the favored team ends up on the verge of elimination, let me make a couple points.

1. Terry Francona was absolutely right to start Tim Wakefield tonight. Wakefield had a great season (17 wins), he's the perfect sort of pitcher to put into a game when you're struggling in a playoff series because he's a knuckleballer and he throws hitters off their game, he was rested and starting him means that Josh Beckett is going tomorrow on a fully-rested arm.

In fact, let's review the possible situations:

A. If Beckett pitches on three days rest and wins, bravo, you're a genius, the series is tied, you get to start Schilling in Game 5 and Dice-K in Game 6, and then Beckett in Game 7. Great choice.
B. If Wakefield pitches and wins, the series is tied and the next pitcher you face is a fully-rested Beckett, who is nearly unhittable, and the game is in Boston. All of a sudden, the series swings back completely into the Red Sox's favor.
C. If Beckett pitches on three days rest and loses, the series is essentially over. Now you've got a very shaky Schilling going up against odds-on Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia in a deciding game. Ouch.
D. If Wakefield pitches and loses, you get to go into the next game knowing you've got Beckett to fall back on, and so there's still hope.

We end up with Option D, unfortunately, but it's better than Option C. And Option B was better than Option A, so either way, Francona made the right choice. Plus, the statistics on starters going on three days rest are pretty horrific (I don't have them here, and I'm not looking them up). It's a big sign that says "we don't think we can win this game our way. We're desperate now." Three games in, when you're only down one game, you don't want to be holding that sign.

2. Outside of Beckett, none of our starters can make it past the third inning. That's not winning baseball, no matter how good your relievers are.
3. Of course, no one is hitting in any runs early in the game, which means that when Cleveland finally does break through (and always in the fifth inning), it's always disastrous for us. The energy just disappears. When Blake homered off Wakefield in the fifth, it was like the game was over right there, and yet we were only down one run. Part of the problem with being a knuckleballer is that big homers tend to happen - when you throw the ball at 65 MPH, it only takes one bad pitch for everything to turn around. But since we had no runs to back up Wake... it was a crusher for us.
4. And, of course, a good half the team isn't hitting at all. Ortiz, Ramirez, and Lowell have done - almost literally - all the hitting. Pedroia, Varitek, and Lugo are all well below the Mendoza line, and Drew asn't exactly been earning his salary. Meanwhile, Ortiz has an OPS of 1.8 this postseason. Ramirez's is 1.6. That's outrageous.

I'll be there in front of the tv for the next game, cheering an clapping (I really do clap, even when it's just me alone in front of the tv), but I'm worried about this team. We succeded all season even though half the team wasn't hitting. The pitching slacks off, and suddenly all that hitting trouble comes back to bite us. Sigh.

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At October 17, 2007 8:16 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

What do you think about Youk hitting 1st, then Ellsbury, then Ortiz and Ramirez? Drop Drew and/or Crisp.

And will you agree we need Jeter?

At October 17, 2007 8:53 PM, Blogger Wyman said...

We need somebody else at short. The whole "Lugo's defense makes up for his lack of offense" theory is wearing thin. You're allowed one, maybe two of those, and we already have Varitek and Crisp, plus Pedroia hitting sometimes, plus Drew as an inscrutable wild card who only hits when he plays against his little brother and in September. In the offseason, I vote to replace Lugo with a star-quality shortstop, start Ellsbury over either Drew or Crisp, and then deal whichever one of them that is (preferably Drew) for a great middle reliever.

I also agree that Youk should hit first again... once we go through the order once, the pitcher only needs to wake up for four batters in a row, and then he can go to sleep for Drew/V-tek/Crisp/Lugo/Pedroia. How bad a lineup is that?

At October 17, 2007 9:41 PM, Anonymous Mr. King said...

First, because you are in a different time zone, your post was prior to midnight (the game got over after 11:30 EDT). Second, give the Sox pitchers some credit for consistency. The last three got pulled after 4 2/3 innings. Quite a record. Third, the problem with putting Ellsbury in the lineup on Thursday is he is a lefty as is Sabathia. Not a great time for that move. But expect Drew to sit in favor of Keilty again.

In regard to the pitching, the odd thing is that Matsuzaka and Wakefield actually pitched pretty well. Wakefield would have been out of the 5th if Youkilis hadn't chosen that very moment to make his first error in 1 1/2 seasons (oops, sorry, they didn't charge him with an error - what a joke - he dropped the ball for crying out loud). The batter winds up hitting a ball back up the middle that no one could field and the inning went from bad to worse.

Like you I'll be back in front of the tube tomorrow hoping against hope that they can replicate 2004 (forget 2004, what about 1999 when the Sox trailed the Indians 2-0 in the divisional series and took 3 straight).

And I agree that starting Wakefield last night was the right thing to do. And, quite simply, they have to generate an offense that produces up and down the batting order or they aren't going anywhere.

At October 17, 2007 10:32 PM, Blogger Wyman said...

I agree, I thought Wake and Dice-K were both solid, they just had no run support to fall back on. At the time I thought Youk's drop was a good thing 'cause the runner didn't get home, but I could've dealt with a 2-0 lead after that inning much better than a 7-0 lead.

And, man, this lineup better start hitting.


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