Lunch break on a Friday, so I’ll throw up a few responses to the early Sox season. Its too soon for any real reflection, so these come more in the form of questions.
Are You Nervous About Big Papi?
I am, and not necessarily because of his low starting numbers. I am more concerned about his lashing out at the media following questions on his low starting numbers. That lash out speaks to me–it tells me that the normally easy-going, gregarious, and confident Papi is sensitive. Last year, of course, Papi was one of the best hitters in the league after June first. He was also one of the worst before then. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until June 1st this year.
Is That Josh Reddick I See?
So Cameron looks to be out for at least a week, if not three, and Ellsbury is still a bit dinged up. Bill Hall showed yesterday that center field is really not an option. It looks like the Sox will have to make a roster move with a call-up. Right now, Reddick, who was real hot in Spring Training, is struggling early–hitting only .137 (4 for 29). In my 2010 Sox Season Storylines, I mentioned that Reddick is likely to compete for Drew’s job after 2011, and I’m hoping, despite his slow AAA start, that he gets a chance to swing with the big club for a week or two.
Can Victor Martinez Catch?
I keep reminding myself that its very early. But I also questioned whether Martinez would be able to replace Varitek as the catcher for this staff. The early response seems to be “no”–but, of course, its way too early. Its early. Just keep telling myself that its early. Its early. Don’t compare their CERA from 2009 (which, by the way, is 5.22 vs 3.87)….
One more thing on Martinez–has anyone else noticed that, unlike Tek, he just can’t seem to keep his glove still? I want to start watching other big league catchers more closely to see if, like Martinez, they have difficulty offering an immobile target for pitchers.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with the rotation next week. Dice-K’s rehab starts in Pawtucket went very well (in 11 innings he hasn’t given up a run, walked only one, and struck out 5). I’d love to see the pitch count numbers on those games, given Dice-K’s efficiency problems. While I am a bit concerned to see he’s only struck out 5 in 11 innings against AAA competition, you have to wonder if he won’t get a shot in the rotation and send either Wakefield or Buchholz to the pen.
Well, so much for the lunch break. Enjoy the weekend.
I know Victor Martinez is a great player, and gives us depth at catcher, but I don’t see how this trade made us that much better if everyone stays healthy. Varitek, Lowell, and Youk have an OPS above their career average. LaRoche gave us insurance at first base. Given what Detriot gave up for Washburn (i.e., not much), I would have preferred the extra experienced starter.
Not that one game a sample size makes, but Buchholz isn’t having a great day today. I believe many people undervalue Jason Varitek’s ability to call a game. Few people grant to a catcher the kind of respect an offensive coordinator gets in football. But that’s what they are. Pitchers are quarterbacks. Some study film and come prepared (Tom Brady and Peyton Manning could win with me in the booth), others (say, Brett Favre) need someone to call the plays for them. Otherwise, they would chuck fastballs, err… deep posts… every play err… pitch. Mixed metaphors aside, catchers play an important, if non-quantifiable, role in pitching. And Varitek is the best in the business.
I commented on a post regarding this subject over on Statistician Magician a few weeks back. Here’s what I wrote over there:
Besides looking at the ho-hitters, look at what happened to the Red Sox pitching staff in 2006 when Varitek got hurt. He missed only the month of August that season. The Red Sox were 63 and 41 heading into that month. They went 9-21 in August without Varitek behind the plate. They recovered to go 14-14 after his return.
More pitching numbers from that season: in August without Varitek: BA .314, TB 548, OPS+ 131, and team ERA 5.81. The high’s from any other month: BA .282, TB 419, OPS+ 106, ERA 4.70.
The terrible swan-dive the team took in 2006 during Tek’s injury was why Epstein came to value Varitek to the extent that he does. In fairness, Wakefield was injured for that stretch as well. But that doesn’t explain why Schilling, Beckett, and Lester all had their worst months of the season in August. Lester pitched so poorly they sent him back down to the minors.
What I hope stands out is that, during his absence, the pitching staff stunk it up. Beckett and Schilling, great every other month that season, posted some of their worst totals in a Sox uniform.
I’m sure I’ll come to appreciate Martinez’s bat. I’m not saying I won’t. But I wonder (as I watch Clay struggle today) if sacrificing Varitek’s behind-the-plate magic (at least it sounds like voodoo to many fans of the contemporary statistical school) is worth the slight offensive upgrade Martinez provides.