Nation STATion: Good, bad and ugly of Sox slump

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Nation STATion: Good, bad and ugly of Sox slump

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

So when I told my wife that I was going to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Sox, she said, Good luck finding nine good things to write about.

Yes, I know things are pretty grim right now, but I think I can find one positive note about the Sox for every two that are bad.

So, here are nine pieces of good news, not-so-good news, and really Lackey news, er, I mean lousy news.

Good: Jonathan Papelbon has been good all season long, but in his last 21 appearances he has been brilliant. In 22 innings he has allowed five hits (thats a .070 batting average against) and no runs walking two while striking out 28. I dont know whether he will be back with the Sox next year but I do know that this season has made him more expensive to sign.

Bad: From July 18 to September 1, Dan Wheeler made 15 appearances covering 16.1 innings; he allowed just one run for a 0.99 ERA. However, in his three appearances this month hes pitched 3.2 innings and allowed five runs.

Ugly: After his appearance on August 5, Matt Albers had a 2.15 ERA, since then it has been downright ugly. In 16 appearances Albers has pitched 15.1 innings and allowed 22 runs. Over that time frame he has had a 12.91 ERA and opponents have hit an ugly .361 against him.

Good: What about that Marco Scutaro? At the end of action on August 5, Scutaro was hitting .259. Since that time, Marco has gone 40-115, a .348 pace to bring his average up to .288. Hes hit .375 in September.

Bad: As much as this hurts my man-crush to write this, Dustin Pedroia has had a bad month. Pedey is hitting .217 this month with 15 hits and 14 whiffs. He is the engine that makes this team run. When the Sox win he is hitting .355, when they lose he is hitting .213.

Ugly: Its just ugly how miserable Kevin Youkilis is feeling and looking. Since August 17, Youk has appeared in just 10 games and hit only .167. Its painful looking at him and you get the feeling there wont be a whole lot we can expect from him the rest of the way.

Good: Adrian Gonzalez is having an MVP-caliber season. Hes hitting .333 with 26 homers and 111 RBI and has been stellar all season in the field.

Bad: For the first time this season, Adrian Gonzalez is really slumping. According to the redoubtable Ken Rosenthal, A-Gons shoulder is hurting and its affecting his ability to go to the opposite field. Over the last 19 games Gonzo has gone 14-for-64 and that .219 average has resulted in just three homers and even worse just eight RBI. Not only that, hes struck out 22 times.

Ugly: Gonzo hit nine homers in 29 games in May; since the start of July, in 69 games, he has hit 10. In June, Gonzalez hit .404. In July, he hit .373. In August, he hit .283. So far in September, he is 13-for-52, a .250 average. Thats not the only monthly decline. In May he drove home 31 runs, since then his monthly totals are 25, 19, 13, and this month 8.

Good: Jacoby Ellsbury has truly come into his own this season. His .318 average is his highest for any full season and his 27 homers are more than the career 20 he had entering the season. Entering play yesterday, the Sox were the only team in the AL with the leadoff batters in the lineup hitting over .280 (the number one hitters in the Sox lineup this season were hitting .306). That production is due to Jacoby. With 37 steals, Ellsbury has become the first player in franchise history with over 25 homers and 35 steals in the same season.

Bad: I can live with the fact that the Sox have grounded into 77 double plays with one out and 47 with no one out, that happens when you have so many runners on base. But the Sox pitchers put a lot of runners on as well and the Sox have turned just 108 DPs, the fewest in baseball. That is not a knock on the Sox infielders. In Pedey and Gonzo, they have the best fielding right side of the infield in baseball. However, the ground ball to flay ball ratio for the Sox pitchers is only 0.74 and thats the third worst in the majors. The Sox ground out to air outs ratio is 0.95 also the third worst in baseball. Now all this is not totally ugly because the Sox and the Phillies have the highest percentage of air outs (pup-ups and liners) to the infield with 17. But the groundball rate of being turned into a DP is only 8, tied with the Cubs for the lowest in the majors. The Sox pitchers are simply not helping themselves get out of jams.

Ugly: Juan Pierre of the White Sox was caught stealing yesterday for the 15th time breaking a tie with Jacoby for the most caught stealing in the majors. The being caught stealing is just a reflection of the lack Sox overall team speed. Coming into play yesterday, Boston had a runner on first when a single had been hit 322 times, the Angels 229 times, approximately 100 fewer times. Yet, both the Angels and Boston have been able to advance a runner to third on that single 85 times. Boston has had a runner on first 122 times when a double has been hit. Texas has had a runner on first 84 times when a double has been hit. Yet, they have each scored that runner 47 times. The short wall at Fenway can only claim a portion of the guilt. The fact is that the Sox are a station-to-station base running team and that makes run production even more difficult when batters are slumping.

Good: Josh Beckett has had a great season and when he sprained his ankle his presence was missed all the more. His 2.50 ERA is the best of his career. His WHIP of 0.996 is second in the AL only to Justin Verlanders 0.91. He has been a bulldog on the mound and the Bostons best starter.

Bad: Okay, bad is an exaggeration when it comes to describing Jon Lesters last nine appearances, but he hasnt been as good as the Sox have needed him to be. In those nine games, Lester is 4-4 and the Sox are 4-5. His ERA is a more than decent 3.05, but he also only pitched 55.1 innings, thats just 6 innings an appearance. The problems, in part, are his 27 walks, 50 strikeouts and the 972 pitches hes thrown. Pitching to contact should be a goal for Lester next season.

Ugly: I like to think that the new age of On-Base-Percentage arrived in Boston in 2004, when batters walked 659 times. In 2005, they walked 653 times. In 2006, they walked 672 times. In 2007, Sox batters walked 689 times. In 2008, they walked 646 times. In 2009, they walked 659 times. In 2010, they walked 587 times. This season they have walked a pretty good 544 times. While the Sox lead the majors in OBP at .348, their OBP this month is .331 because since they are not walking as much as usual and their hitters are slumping (.265 this month), they are not getting runners on base. Maybe they should have a team outing and go see Moneyball.

Good: Mike Aviles has proven to be a really great addition. He was picked up to perhaps steal a base or two and it turns out he has played third, short, second, right field and left field and has the hottest bat on the team. Granted that isnt saying much but Aviles is really hitting well, .364 since joining Boston at the trading deadline. Thank you, Theo.

Bad: When you see Josh Reddicks .289 batting average you say, Thats not bad, Bill, what are you talking about? But Im talking about the .233 batting average since August 4 and seven RBI. I cant believe he is actually getting fans to actually miss D.L. Drew.

Ugly: The bench this season has been not particularly a strength this season. Subs in games this year have hit .229. Pinch hitters have hit .153 with two homers and six RBI, obviously not much better than the players they replaced.

Good: Tim Wakefield winning his 200th game and taking the pressure off of Tito to keep him in long enough to get the win.

Bad: This has not been a good season for Tim Wakefield. Yesterday, Wake gave up six runs but only two were earned and his ERA went down from 5.13 to 5.08. Wake has only won once now in his last 10 games (nine starts). Hes pitched 58 innings and given up 44 runs and even though 12 were unearned his ERA is 4.96 and thats not good (also known as bad).

Ugly: The Sox have no one better than Wake to join the rotation. Thank you, Theo.

Good: The Sox still have a two-game lead in the wild card race

Bad: The Sox only have a two-game lead in the wild card race

Ugly: We didnt think there could be a worse month than April when the Sox went 11-15. With 10 games left the Sox are 4-13 this month and would be elated to finish 11-16.

Good: The Sox play the Orioles (62-89) for a four-game set to finish off the home season. The Sox have won 23 of their last 28 at home against the Os and are 8-3 overall against Baltimore this season. In addition, in game one today they face Jeremy Guthrie who is 8-17 and has the most losses in baseball. In the second game they face Brain Matusz who is 107 with a 9.84 ERA.

Bad: The Sox have Kyle Weiland on the mound in the day portion of the todays twinbill. Weiland is still looking for his first major league win and has a 7.58 ERA. In the second game, the Sox are throwing John Lackey out there. Lackey is looking to avoid having the worst ERA of any Boston pitcher with at least 20 starts. Lackey has a 6.19 ERA in 26 starts and is currently slightly worse than Ramon Martinez 6.13 ERA in 27 starts in 2000. Ramon is Pedros brother and I wish that Pedro was on the hill tonight.

Ugly: The Rays resume play at the Stadium tomorrow. I cant believe my ears but is that Red Sox Nation shouting, Lets go Yanks!?

Hang in there, Nation.

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who's on first for Red Sox? It may be not someone you'd expect

Who’s on first? A middle infielder, maybe.

Hanley Ramirez, Josh Rutledge and Mitch Moreland aren't fully healthy. So the 25th man on the Red Sox has become a matter of corner-infield triage.

Rutledge was gearing up to play some first base with Ramirez restricted to DH because of his throwing shoulder. But Rutledge is hurt now too, likely headed to the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday morning in Florida.

Here’s the easiest way to think about who takes Rutledge's place: Who would the Red Sox like to see less against left handed pitching, third baseman Pablo Sandoval or first baseman Mitch Moreland? 

If it’s Sandoval, then you carry Marco Hernandez, who can play third base.

“He’s a very strong candidate,” manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday. “He’s one of a few that are being considered strongly right now.” 

If it’s Moreland, than you carry Steve Selsky, who has a history playing first base.

“He’s a guy we’re having discussions on,” Farrell said. “Any guy in our camp that we feel is going to make us a more complete or balanced roster, Deven Marrero, they’re all in consideration.”

The additional wrench here is that Moreland has the flu. If he's not available at all for a few days to begin the season, then the Sox probably have to carry Hernandez.

Why? Because Brock Holt can play some first base if Moreland is out. But then, you’d need another back-up middle infielder, and Hernandez gives you that. 

Hernandez is also hitting .379 in 58 at-bats this spring entering Wednesday.

Moreland isn’t the only one who has the flu.

"It’s running through our clubhouse," Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida on Wednesday, including the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. "Probably be held out for three days for a quarantine.” (LINK:http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/20170329/with-josh-rutledge-and-mitch-moreland-ailing-first-base-depth-compromised-for-red-sox)

That means the Red Sox won't have Moreland for their exhibitions against the Nationals on Friday and Saturday in Washington D.C. and Annapolis, Md. Moreland could still be ready for the regular season, but would likely be at less than full strength.

Having Ramirez available would sure make things a lot simpler for the Sox.

Both Sandoval at third base and Moreland could use right-handed bats to complement them. Or more specifically, they could use people who can hit left-handed pitching to complement them.

Hernandez is a left-handed hitter who might actually be able to hit lefties. But the Sox haven't used him at first base, and there's no indication they will.

“As we look at the upcoming games, there is the potential for two left-handed starters in Detroit,” Farrell said. “So there’s a number of things being factored right now.”

Early in spring training, Farrell was asked what player had started to catch his eye.

The guy he mentioned was Selsky, an outfielder and first baseman the Red Sox feel fortunate to have picked up off waivers because he still has minor league options remaining.

Now Selsky, who has already technically been cut from major league spring training, has a chance at making the opening day roster. He's 27 and hit .356 in 45 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Chris Young isn't going to have an easy time finding at-bats as it stands now, but the Sox aren't considering moving him to first base.
 

Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win

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Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win

The Boston Red Sox put up six runs in the first inning and coasted to a 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.

Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. led the way for the Red Sox with four and three RBI respectfully. Both outfielders had two-run home runs in the Sox’ big first inning.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright gave up one earned run in four innings, his ERA for the spring is now 0.68.

The Red Sox are back in action again on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m when Rick Porcello makes his final spring training start against the Minnesota Twins.