A Taste of October in Early August

The next week will be a trial by fire for this Red Sox team as they face the Rays and Yankees six times. With the exception of Wakefield, the Red Sox find themselves at full strength. I will be paying close attention to the pitching match-ups the next six days, since, if you remember, I was most concerned about our lack of a legitimate 3rd starter heading into the trade deadline. Wakefield might be one of the best fourth starters of all-time (no exaggeration) given his consistent ability to deliver 6+ innings. You can plug him in near the end of the rotation and know that your bullpen will actually get some rest. That is invaluable over a 162 game season. But what you can’t count on him for is giving you quality innings. That isn’t too valuable in the hyper-shortened post season. Wakefield’s post season ERA with the Red Sox sits just south of 8.00. Let’s not forget that the most important start of Wake’s post-season career is the one he didn’t make.

Thus the question: will a legitimate third starter emerge on this team? I am hoping the quasi-playoff atmosphere of the next week will give some indication. Buchholz is probably the favorite–but his first-strike-percentage has been up and down. I think this is the key for him (as it is for any pitcher, but especially for the young Buchholz who acknowledges some psychological misgivings on the mound): throw those strikes. Anywho, here’s the Sox pitching match-ups for the next week.

Red Sox vs. Rays

  • Lester vs. Garza: I expect a great match-up, these guys are probably even. I’ll say pick’em odds on this one. Lester’s ERA is inflated due to a few early poor starts. Garza has been nothing short of electric against the Sox (he reminds me of Dave Stewart–a pitcher who plays his best against the best).
  • Penny vs. Price: These guys both struggle, so, while I’m close to another pick’em, I’ll give Tampa Bay and Price a small advantage. Price has a tendency to overthrow his fastball and loses control. Penny has a tendency to leave fastballs (a bit, um, underthrown) over the heart of the plate. The Rays all-or-nothing, strike-out-or-homer strategy means Penny is just the guy they like to see; Price’s control struggles make him an ideal target for the Red Sox’s general plate discipline. As if you can’t tell, I am suggesting you bet the over on this one.

Red Sox vs. Yankees

  • Smoltz vs. Chamberlain: I read an interesting Sabermetric evaluation of Smoltz’s number the other day, suggesting that his FIP numbers (fielding independent pitching) were right on his career averages. In other words, that he has been the victim of statistical improbability rather than poor performance and that, in turn, Red Sox fans have room for optimism. To that I say “bunk.” Guys get old and leave pitches in bad places (funny thing: a commentator left such a remark on the forums, suggesting that the statistical evidence might fail to account for contextual factors, and the gallery near booed him from the stage. I like it when empiricist utterly disregard rhetorical factors. I makes me feel like my job really matters). Yankees and Chamberlain
  • Beckett and Burnett: In the battle of ex-Marlins, I am going with “big” brother. Red Sox and Beckett
  • Buchholz and Sabathia: Duh. Yankees and Sabathia
  • Lester and Pettitte: While Pettitte has been solid this season, Lester’s June and July have been fantastic (8 QS in 10 GS). Lester and the Red Sox

Again, an interesting week. I think the Sox will be satisfied if they come out of the road trip 3-3. To do that, they really need to split the series with the Rays. Here’s hoping Lester brings some of his magic tonight.

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5 comments

  1. raysfanboy

    Price is better at home than on the road. And he’ll have the taste of closing out Game 7 last year still in his salivating mouth (or maybe he washed that out by now). This Rays/Red Sox series is going to be fun. I’ve been looking forward to this all day!
    http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

  2. santosis

    Yeah, I just commented over at your place. This is a great series. Price has electric stuff, but, as I mentioned on the 4th, he reminds me of a young Scott Kazmir. I know he isn’t young, but he lacks the polish to be pitching in the majors right now. He clearly needed (as does/did Buchholz) time in the minors to develop his slider’s location and off-speed arm action. He can learn at the major league level, but its much harder. The risk is that he will over-rely on his fastball and never really develop those other pitches (hence the Kazmir analogy). Penny might have had electric stuff once upon a time, but those days are long gone. Now he generally gives 4 good innings, and then attempts to survive the fifth and the sixth. And, as I said in the post, the flaws of both these pitchers play right into the opposing offenses’ strengths. I give the advantage to the Rays because it is easier for Price to have an “on night” with his control than for Penny to suddenly find a fountain of youth.

  3. raysfanboy

    This wouldn’t be popular around here, but I think that Price needs more minors time. Of course, we are at a critical point in the season. So he won’t be going anywhere. But he needs more time to hone his pitches and gain more maturity.

    2-0. Two dingers the difference. For a pitching duel, it sure is going slowly.
    http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

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