Sunday, April 7, 2013

Headed Home at 4-2 and We Got Some Answers

Let me start off by clearly stating that we here at RSM fully understand that the baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint.  One week does not make or break a season.  With that being said starting off on the right foot is better than the alternative (0-6 anybody?).  So after taking 2 of 3 from the defending AL east champs and the 2013 AL east paper champions the Red Sox have answered a few early season question marks.  All that's left to do now is maintain this .667 winning percentage for the next 156 games (wink, wink)

Before the Toronto series we broke down a few of the questions that were already answered and some that still needed to be answered here.  We'll follow the same, what's real and what's a mirage format here.  Keep in mind that the key to any baseball season is how a team responds to challenges that come up during the course of the season, because they are bound to come up on nearly a daily basis (hello John Lackey injury).

Real:
  1. Jon Lester backed up a decent performance on opening day with an outstanding performance today.  Tomorrow is Clay Buchholz turn for the home opener.  We are still confident that Lester and Buchholz will thrive under Juan Nieves and John Farrell
  2. The Red Sox have still not committed an error on the season.  The defense seems to be a strong suit.  The question is will that continue to be an emphasis or will Jose Iglesias and Jackie Bradley Jr. be sent down by the end of April.  (JBJr is already starting to show signs of being overmatched) 
  3. The Red Sox continue to be aggressive on the basepaths.  I love the way they are rounding bases hard.  That will put them into a position to take advantage of any defensive miscues by the opponent.  
  4. The team chemistry is very real and getting more real by the game.  Never was that more apparent then when Koji Uehera came off the field on Friday night.  I'll let Obnoxious Boston Fan break it down for you
  5. The back end of the bullpen has been outstanding so far.  The long guys, Alfredo Aceves and Clayton Mortensen have shown some cracks.  If Lackey goes on the DL and Aceves goes into the rotation it will be interesting to see who gets called into the bullpen.  Will it be Daniel Bard or Alex Wilson
  6. This coaching staff got the last laugh in Toronto this weekend but stay tuned...
  7. It is true that they miss Big Papi, but the idea that the line up doesn't have any pop without him got blown out of the water in Toronto today.  Will Middlebrooks hit 3 homers, Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava and Jacoby Ellsbury all homered as well.  The Red Sox also had numerous other flyballs to the warning track.  Plenty of pop today! 
  8. A 4-2 start isn't going to put an end to 1+ year of poor baseball. This team still has a lot to prove and plenty of motivation. 
  9. Jonny Gomes didn't play a lot this weekend, but the Millar comparison is a good one (that loud noise you hear is me patting myself on the back).  Gomes drew a pinch hit 8th inning walk on Friday night that lead to the go ahead run a la Kevin Millar in 2004 ALCS (minus the pinch hit part).  The real highlight of his weekend though was highlighted above by OBF (here it is again in case you missed it). The look on his face as Uehera came into the dugout was priceless.  He's going to do wonders for the Sox clubhouse just like Kevin Millar did. 
Let's see if any of our questions got answered over the weekend: I'll put a * next to any that I would move into the category above. 

  1. The number 3-5 starters still are a question mark.  Maybe even more so with the Lackey injury.  Even if it is not as serious as it looked they will be conservative with him because of his injury history.  My guess is he'll be out 4 weeks minimum probably more like 6-8 when you factor in rehab time.  Doubront was decent, but he needs to prove that he can get deeper into games. 
  2. * After scoring 13 runs today there's not much to complain about with the offense.  I just need to accept that some nights the opposing pitcher is going to get the better of us, but this team is going to score plenty of runs.  
  3. Offensive consistency is one area that will take longer to get an answer on obviously.  That's why the Red Sox may be on to something with run prevention and that's where Iglesias and JBJr come in.  Will this team lose its mojo if these guys are sent down?? (see what I did there...new question) 
  4. * Here's the original statement "Will Middlebrooks needs to prove that he is a #5 hitter not a #7 hitter" I'll pause while you laugh your ass off.  After a 3 homer game, nearly a four homer game, and shaking off an 0-8 start. This question has been answered. 
  5. * Jacoby Ellsbury continued to get on base and also showed a little pop this weekend.  His evidence may not be as strong as Middlebrooks, but he's no longer a question mark in my book. 
  6. I'm going to hold off on moving these guys into the real category, but Napoli went deep again today and Victorino continues to impress as well.  Very encouraging. 
  7. and 8. These may be the two most interesting questions surrounding the Sox right now.  Due to weather Stephen Drew hasn't got enough at bats with the Sea Dogs yet to be ready for the big leagues so he won't be up until Wednesday at the earliest.  I say good, the Boston fans deserve to see Iglesias at least for a couple of games, if not longer, with the way he is playing right now. The question I ask you Red Sox fans is should Iglesias be the full-time SS in 2013? As for JBJr I think it's becoming more obvious by the day that he is over matched at the plate in the big leagues (for now, not forever).  So when Big Papi is due to come off the DL which could be as early as April 17th, according to Pete Abraham, I think it will be obvious that JBJr should be sent down.  But this is not an indictment of the decision to keep him to start the year.  With Ortiz out he was one of the best 25 players to start the season and Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre called for a good defensive left fielder. JBJr has helped the Sox get off to a 4-2 start so it has been a successful decision.  He also has a solid OBP despite hitting under .200 through 6 games.  Perhaps he would benefit from just having a day off or perhaps he just isn't ready for the big leagues on a permanent basis.  That's OK too.  The Red Sox like their prospects to have to go through adversity.  I'm not sure that JBJr would have gotten that adversity in AA or AAA.  So the last part of his development may be for him to go back to AAA and rebuild his confidence and work his way back to the big leagues for good.  What are your thoughts on JBJr? Should he stay up as a part of a run prevention/defensive approach or should the proven big leaguers take over when Big Papi gets back from the DL? 
The Red Sox are returning home at 4-2 and optimism may be at a 19 month high.  One thing is for certain this team is going to be much easier to root for than the Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford Red Sox.  The fast start that they've gotten off to puts them in a position to have a good season.  Here is a look at Deacon's keys to a fast start. Now that the Red Sox have gotten off to a fast start take a look and see how well we did at predicting the factors for a fast start.   

As always leave your thoughts in the comments section. 

15 comments:

  1. Ont thing that is fact is the Red Sox have gotten out of the gate much better than the previous two seasons. And now 17 out of the next 20 at Fenway. Last year the Sox did not play that well at home, so this challenge also needs to be met right away.

    As far as Jackie goes, he did not look that good at the plate in Toronto. But before we chalk him up as overmatched, I am anxious to see what the rush of playing in front of the home fans do for his game. That being said, JBJr is probably the leading candidate to go when Papi returns. Although I do not see what Mike Carp's role on this team would be.

    I still think that for a majority of the season there is real value in having the three center fielders ( Ellsbury, Victorino, and Bradley, Jr.) patrolling the entire outfield.

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    1. Good point about the home games and the poor performance at home last year. Just one more motivating factor for this team with something to prove.

      JBJr can certainly save his spot on this team with a strong week to 10 days before Papi comes back, but as I said above I just have a gut feeling that it won't happen. I hope I am wrong. I was really surprised that Farrell didn't give him a day off over the weekend. I think more than anything this kid must be mentally drained and I'm sure his first week in the big leagues has been a whirlwind. Having your family there to see your first big league games is an amazing feeling I'm sure, but it also must be very tiring, not to mention that this kid has been in the eye of a media storm since early March. He just needs a little break and he could get hot.

      With that being said I also think he deserves to start the home opener, but I would sit him for the 2nd home game and left Gomes play left field at Fenway which is much less spacious than Yankee Stadium and the Rogers Centre. I think part of the plan by Cherington, Farrell and Co. was to play JBJr for the first 6 games for defensive reasons. One thing that hasn't been mentioned much is the play of Daniel Nava early in the season. If JBJr does get sent down than Nava and Gomes could split LF. Nava's defense has improved over the years and he played very well at first base today also.

      I can't argue with the point about three center fielders in the outfield. Although IF JBJr gets sent down and the outfield defense falls a part he will only be a short drive away from Boston.

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  2. Another positive note to the 4-2 start. The games won by the Red Sox have been started by CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Josh Johnson, and R.A. Dickey.

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  3. Unsolicited Non sequitur NL West Report

    After going to the whole Rockies-Padres series this weekend I would like to amend my previous statement. I think the Rockies are way worse than their 5-1 record (that was a pretty nice schedule to start with). I still think they'll finish 4th. BUT ... they are WAY better than the Padres. Holy crap that is a bad team. They're second baseman is 5'4" (they list him as 5'8", but I'm calling shenanigans). I am now going to have to force myself to watch Marlins and Astros games just so I can answer the question "Can there really be a baseball team worse than that?"

    It is going to be dark days between 4/15 when the free Extra Innings ends and 6/6 when we get back to NESN.

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    1. Marlins, Padres, Astros and Yankees...let the fight for the worst team in baseball begin.


      Sorry I just had to sneak that dig at the Yankees in there. Obviously those other 3 teams each have a chance to be historically bad. Unfortunately for the Astros they got put in one of the best divisions in baseball.

      Keep the NL west reports coming while you still can and then come home and join the NESN warriors.

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  4. Jackie Bradley did not have a good series at the plate against the Jays. I agree that he looked overmatched. But it is still only six games and he does still provide outstanding defense in left field (the dive he attempted that turned into a double notwithstanding). It's really hard to judge a hitter based on only six games, as these batting averages will tell you:
    Asdrubal Cabrera - .083
    Edwin Encarnacion - .087
    Paul Konerko - .100
    Yoenis Cespedes - .120
    Robinson Cano - .130

    The Jays were pounding Bradley inside, mostly with off-speed stuff and he couldn't touch it. Let's see if he adjusts during the home opening series. He will get the day off that Barry is asking for to mentally rest (as will the rest of the team) on Tuesday. I think until Big Papi comes back on April 15, Bradley should start every game in LF. I'd like to see him get the full 12 games at the plate and in LF and then take a look and see where he stands. If he is still overmatched at the plate, then send him down. But if he has come around, then we have a different argument on our hands. It's still so early that if he goes 3 for 4 in today's home opener, he'll suddenly be hitting .250.

    The other part of the argument is that once Big Papi comes back, if JBJr is still starting in LF, then Jonny Gomes (and Nava for that matter) will have a hard time ever getting into the lineup short of pinch-hitting. Is the downgrade from JBJr to Gomes defensively worth the potential upgrade at the plate, as well as keeping Gomes happy as a key clubhouse/camaraderie guy? Bradley's series at the plate Monday-Thursday will go a long ways towards determining the answer.

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    1. I, too, was in the start JBJr every game while he is here. But, apparently John Farrell is not because Nava is in left today with Gomes at DH and Bradley, Jr. on the bench to start the home opener.

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    2. I think two days off is just what this kid needs and he'll be ready to go on Wednesday. JBJr's defense is not as important in Fenway as it is in some road parks. Smart move by Farrell.

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    3. Did I say smart move by Farrell? I meant BRILLIANT move by Farrell. 3 run homer by Nava is the difference right now. 3-0 Sox in the top of the 9th. Check that Hanrahan just gave up a solo bomb to Adam Jones. 3-1 in the 9th with 1 out.

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  5. The John Lackey news seems to be encouraging. They're talking about him missing 1 or 2 starts. They are waiting to decide whether to DL him or not. I think a stint on the DL will be helpful for the rest of the pitching staff and ensure that he gets enough rest time.

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  6. 0-0 after 4 innings and Wei-Yei Chen continues his mastery of the Red Sox since last year. Have the Red Sox always struggled against soft throwing lefties or has it just been for the 34 years that I've been alive?

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    1. Daniel Nava says take that you soft throwing Korean! That blast might have broken windshields on the Mass Pike. 3-0 Sox!

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  7. BTW we are now being followed by Bill Green of Bill Green's Maine on twitter. I thought that was pretty cool! I also thought we were being followed by Will Middlebrooks for a moment and I nearly crapped myself but then I realized that it was his fan page.

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  8. J.J. Hardy on 2nd with 2 outs. 3-1 Sox with tying run at the plate...

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  9. Mainer Ryan Flaherty pops out to end the game and the Sox win 3-1. Joel "Heart Attack" Hanrahan lives up to his name giving up a solo home run and a double.

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