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Red Sox vs. Yankees Match-Ups, 6/11 – Can Sabathia Win 300?

06.11.09 at 3:36 pm ET
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Finally, in the third series of the year between the Red Sox and Yankees, CC Sabathia will make his debut in ‘€œThe Rivalry.’€ He’€™s had his fair share of big games against the Sox before ‘€“ most notably, when he lost a pair of games to Boston in the 2007 ALCS. But the scrutiny that will attend him here, now, will be immense, particularly after fellow Yankees free-agent signee A.J. Burnett and Chien-Ming Wang both got lit up in the first two games of this series, leaving after just 2.2 innings each.

The Yankees need Sabathia to step up, need him to absorb innings, and, one would likely say, need him to win. Of course, winning is a peculiar talent exhibited by the mountain of a moundsman.

Sabathia (5-3, 3.56 ERA) is still just 28 years old (he turns 29 on July 21). He has 122 wins in his career. And he is now with an organization that gives him an excellent likelihood of claiming lots of wins on an annual basis, so long as he remains healthy.

His 122 wins (and counting) through his age 28 season put him on a short list. He has the eighth highest wins total for a player of that age in the last 40 years. And so, amidst the talk that Randy Johnson might be the last 300-game winner, it is worth taking a moment to consider whether Sabathia might make a run at the milestone.

Certainly, he is close to or ahead of most of the recent members of the 300 wins club through age 28. Johnson had just 49 wins at that age. Roger Clemens had 134, Greg Maddux 131 ‘€“ marks that Sabathia will likely near by the end of the year if he remains healthy. Tom Glavine had just 108 wins by Sabathia’€™s age.

So, what does Sabathia think of the milestone?

‘€œIt would be awesome to do. It would definitely be a blessing to play that long and pitch that good,’€ said Sabathia. ‘€œThree-hundred wins is unbelievable, though. I’€™d much rather focus on trying to win championships and trying to win some rings. If that comes, it comes. But it’€™s so far down the road that it’€™s something you can’€™t let yourself think about.’€

That said, Sabathia is signed to a seven-year contract right now. And he has no intention of walking away from the game when he concludes it at the age of 35. The left-hander, who won the Cy Young award in 2007, would embrace the possibility of pitching into his 40s.

‘€œYou play this game as long as you want. It’€™s a privilege,’€ said Sabathia. ‘€œIf I’€™m healthy enough, I’€™ll play until my arm falls off.’€

Here is how Sabathia has fared against the team against whom he will target career win No. 123 tonight.

RED SOX VS. SABATHIA

Rocco Baldelli (19 career at-bats against Sabathia): .211 average/ .286 OBP/ .316 slugging, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
David Ortiz (18): .278/ .286/ .316, homer, walk
Julio Lugo (18): .222/ .300/ .444, homer, 2 walks
Mark Kotsay (14): .286/ .333/ .357, walk
Jason Varitek (10): .100/ .250/ .400, homer, walk
Mike Lowell (7): 2-for-7
Kevin Youkilis (7): 3-for-7
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-3, 3 strikeouts
Nick Green (3): 0-for-3, 2 strikeouts
Jason Bay (3): 0-for-3
Dustin Pedroia (3): 0-for-3

YANKEES VS. BRAD PENNY

Sabathia will oppose Boston’€™s Brad Penny, whose every start seems like an audition for scouts of other clubs. He is clearly a moveable piece for the Sox, given the imminence of John Smoltz‘€™ return and the depth provided in the minors by Clay Buchholz and Mike Bowden. Moreover, his stuff appears to be getting better as the season progresses. How that will translate into his first outing as a member of the Sox against the Yankees tonight remains to be seen. Here’€™s his history against the current New Yorkers:

Xavier Nady (10 career at-bats against Penny): .400 average/ .455 OBP/ .700 slugging, walk
Mark Texeira (6): 0-for-6, 3 strikeouts
Jose Molina (5): .1-for-5, homer
Angel Berroa (4): 1-for-4
Derek Jeter (3): 1-for-3
Alex Rodriguez (2): 0-for-2, walk
Johnny Damon (2): 0-for-2, walk
Jorge Posada (1 PA): walk

D.J. Bean contributed to this post.

Read More: Brad Penny, C.C. Sabathia,

Sox and Yanks vs. “aces”: Quantity over quality?

06.11.09 at 2:17 pm ET
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Despite being 0-7 against the Red Sox thus far, Joe Girardi should have the utmost confidence in tonight’s matchup: his ace, CC Sabathia, against a has-been ace in Brad Penny. Sabathia currently stands at 5-3 with a 3.56 earned run average while Penny is 5-2 with an ERA of 5.85. Looking a bit deeper into the numbers, maybe the Sox shouldn’t be too worried.

In light of the Red Sox not being scheduled to face Cole Hamels in Philadelphia this weekend, I took a deeper look into exactly how many “number one” starters the Red Sox have faced over the course of the season. I use quotes because, as is evident by the following lists, not every “number one” starter is an ideal “ace.”

Obviously, what truly makes a pitcher an ace is an age-old argument. For the sake of this entry, here’s what I’m going on:

An ace should:

1. Be the team’s Opening Day starter.
2. Lead his team in wins.
3. Be a legitimate Cy Young candidate in any given year in recent memory. Has-beens don’t count.
4. Have an ERA under 4 (A pretty lenient benchmark).

Now, the tertiary factor can be more opinion-oriented than the other three, but luckily neither team has really faced any fringe-guys and I wasn’t very generous with the has-beens. Sorry Dontrelle, a pitcher with your name may have been the Cy Young runner-up in ’05, but we’re not letting you anywhere near this list.

If a pitcher meets three of the four criteria, they are, in one man’s opinion, the team’s “ace” this season (young starters have a bit of an advantage. If either team had faced Zack Greinke, he would be considered an ace because of the near certainty that he will receive Cy Young votes this season if he stays healthy):

Here is the list of “number one” starters that each team has faced.

[Format= Pitcher (multiple times faced)- team's result vs. pitcher. Pitcher's current stats (sub-4.00 ERA in bold), criteria met.]

Number 1 starters faced by Red Sox:

James Shields (ACE, 2)

2-0

5-5, 3.36 ERA

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Jeremy Guthrie

W

4-6, 5.52

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Jered Weaver (ACE, 2)

1-1

6-2, 2.31

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Kevin Slowey

L

8-2, 4.21

Leads team in wins

Kevin Millwood (ACE)

L

5-4, 2.96

Received Cy Young votes in ’05, Tied for team lead in wins

Johan Santana (ACE)

L

8-3, 2.39

Received Cy Young votes every year since ’03 (2x winner), Opening Day starter, Leads team in wins

Season record vs. no. 1 starters*: 4-4
*Scott Baker is excluded because he only meets the criteria of being Opening Day starter

Season record vs. aces: 3-3

Number 1 starters faced by Yankees:

Gil Meche

L

3-5, 3.70

Opening Day starter, Zack Greinke (8-2, 1.55 ERA) is team’s ace.

Cliff Lee (2)

1-1

3-6, 3.17

2008 AL Cy Young, Carl Pavano (6-5) leads team in wins

Justin Verlander (ACE)

L

7-2, 3.02

Received Cy Young votes in ’06 and ’07, Leads team in wins

Jered Weaver (ACE)

W

6-2, 2.31

Opening Day starter, Tied for team lead in wins

Josh Beckett (ACE, 2)

0-2

7-2, 3.77

2007 AL Cy Young runner-up, Opening Day starter, Tim Wakefield (8-3) leads team in wins

Jeremy Guthrie (2)

2-0

4-6, 5.52

Tied for team lead in wins

Roy Halladay (ACE)

L

10-1, 2.52

Finished top three in AL Cy Young voting four of last 6 seasons (2003 winner), Opening Day starter, Leads team in wins

Kevin Slowey

W/10

8-2, 4.21

Leads team in wins

Cole Hamels

L/11

4-2, 4.62

Received Cy Young votes in ‘€™07, Tied for team lead in wins

Kevin Millwood (ACE)

L

5-4, 2.96

Received Cy Young votes in ’05, Tied for team lead in wins

Season record vs. no. 1 starters: 5-8

Season record vs. aces: 1-5

All in all, the Yankees have faced more number one starters (ten) than the Sox (six), and while each team has faced four aces apiece, the numbers are on Boston’s side. Heading into tonight’s game, the Red Sox are 4-2 against Sabathia and famously beat him up twice in the 2007 ALCS. All eyes will be on the lefty tonight to see if Sabathia can be the ace he’s being paid to be.

Read More: Aces, Brad Penny, C.C. Sabathia,

Magadan: Ortiz Looking ‘Hitter-ish’

06.11.09 at 1:11 pm ET
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The moment was almost uncomfortable, not for what happened, but for what followed.

Mike Lowell had just launched a homer to lead off the third inning. But the ovation for Lowell was not as enthusiastic or sustained as the one when David Ortiz followed by jumping on a 93 mph fastball from Chien-Ming Wang, and hammering it to the Triangle in centerfield at Fenway Park. The ball died short of the fence, traveling about 400 to 410 feet for a loud out. Yet the Red Sox fans, in a show of support for the Sox’ D.H., offered a rousing ovation for the simple act of a hard-hit ball.

The fact that there would be such a response to a well-struck ball underscores how deep Ortiz’ struggles have been to start this year. Nonetheless, the indications are now increasingly frequent that Ortiz is moving beyond his season-opening futility.

Through the first 10 days of June, Ortiz is hitting .269 with an .883 OPS and two homers. He’s also had several ringing outs. The difference — to Ortiz, and to those in the Red Sox dugout — is obvious.

“He’€™s looking like he’€™s got some confidence. He’€™s consistently hitting the ball hard. His outs tonight were loud outs,” hitting coach Dave Magadan said after last night’s 6-5 Red Sox win over the Yankees. “He’€™s getting his pitch and he’€™s exploding on it. He took (two walks).

“He’€™s just looking very hitter-ish up there,” said Magadan. “He’€™s got a little bit of a swagger going. Hopefully sooner than later he’€™s going to start becoming his old self.”

Perhaps the most pronounced difference for Ortiz is that, when he misses, it seems that he’s missing by millimeters rather than feet. In recent days, his expressions of frustration have most typically occurred when he’s just missed (fouling off or hitting high pop-ups) a pitch that he was anticipating and whose arrival he had timed well. His balance on those swings has remained intact. That is a stark contrast to the uncertainty that he seemed to be offering in the batter’s box just a couple weeks ago, when he would be unable to pull the trigger on hittable pitches, or when he’d seem to misread badly what was being thrown to the plate.

“When you’€™re not  swinging the bat the way you want to swing it, you become a little unsure of the strike zone,” said Magadan. “What he’€™s looked like over the last week, he’€™s aggressive in his strike zone and he’€™s confident that he’€™s going to do some damage.”

Read More: Dave Magadan, David Ortiz,

Red Sox draft picks: Rounds 21-30

06.11.09 at 12:48 pm ET
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The Sox continued to pound pitching in their next 10 picks. Here’s the break down for rounds 21-30:

4 college pitchers

4 high school position players

2 high school pitchers

This stretch of the draft also featured the Sox’ first New England picks of the draft. The breakdown:

Round 21: Randall Fant, left-handed pitcher, Texas HS (TX), 18 years old

Another tall pitcher – the seventh straight pick by the Sox of a pitcher who is at least 6-foot-3. Fant has a commitment to go to school in Arkansas.

Round 22: Jordan Flasher, right-handed pitcher, George Mason University, 21 years old

Flasher is a year removed from Tommy John surgery. According to insidenova.com, he showed diminished velocity in his return to the hill this year. Even so, according to the story, the Sox were aggressive in their pursuit of him, and Flasher — the all-time saves leader for George Mason — suggested that he and the Sox have agreed to the basics of an agreement.

Round 23: Christopher Court, right-handed pitcher, Stephen F. Austin State University, 22 years old

Court is relatively new to pitching, having only been converted from catching after leaving high school. He pitched in relief for the Lumberjacks, holding left-handed hitters to a miniscule .133 average in his 28 appearances. (Profile here.)

Round 24: Daniel Kemp, shortstop, Daniel Kemp, Tantasqua Regional HS (MA), 17 years old

Kemp hit .472 with six homers and 14 steals. According to the Worcester Telegram, he had a particularly impressive workout in front of Sox G.M. Theo Epstein and the rest of the Sox brass at Fenway Park last week.

Round 25: Austin House, right-handed pitcher, La Cueva HS (NM), 18 years old

House’s La Cueva High School team was eliminated from their state tournament by the Carlsbad Cavemen.

Round 26: Miles Head, third baseman, Whitewater HS (GA), 18 years old

Head was a power-hitting prep player, slamming 14 homers this year in his Georgia high school league. Head also played some catcher in high school. He was a finalist in the Home Run Derby of the Perfect Game Showcase. He has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Georgia.

Round 27: Reed Gragnani, shortstop, Mills E Godwin HS (VA), 18 years old

Gragnani has a commitment to play at the University of Virginia. He fell due to signabililty concerns, and told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that it would take a “pretty significant” bonus to convince him not to go to college. Gragnani will likely be a summer-follow, but he told the Times-Dispatch after getting selected that he believed the Red Sox might be willing to meet his asking price.

The Yankees and the Red Sox were the only ones who could match the figure I wanted,” Bragnani told the paper. “They know what it’s going to take to sign me. There’s a chance I could get what I want. [Boston] is such a big-market team. We’ll see.”

Round 28: Eric Curtis, right-handed pitcher, Miami Dade CC South, 19 years old

Curtis, who also caught in college, was a transfer to Miami Dade from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Round 29: Cody Stubbs, first baseman, Tuscola HS (NC), 18 years old

The power-hitting Stubbs has a commitment to play college ball at Tennessee, and told the Asheville Citizen-Times that he was up in the air about whether he might start his pro career.

Round 30: Jeremiah Bayer, right-handed pitcher, Trinity College, 23 years old

The Massachusetts native and former walk-on at the University of Vermont counts Rudy as his favorite film and professes a great enthusiasm for eating chicken parm. (Profile here.) He was also named the Division III pitcher of the year after going 12-1 with a 0.85 ERA.

Read More: mlb draft,

Red Sox Draft Rounds 11-20: Tall, Taller, Tallest

06.11.09 at 6:15 am ET
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Apparently, the Red Sox have had enough of the Dustin Pedroias of the world. Or at least it seemed that way for the team’s second 10 picks of the 2009 draft, when the Sox selected a bunch of players who could form a pretty formidable basketball team.

After leaning towards prep position prospects with four of their first 10 picks of the draft, the Sox veered towards collegiate players and pitchers with picks 11-20. The demographic breakdown was:

4 college pitchers

3 college position players (1 catcher)

2 high school pitchers

1 high school position player

There was a common theme. Namely, the players taken were very, very tall. In fact, from picks 15-20, the Sox selected six straight pitchers (including Daniel Bard’s brother, Luke), each of whom is listed at 6-foot-3 or taller.

Here’s the breakdown:

11th round: Jason Thompson – Shortstop, Germantown (TN) HS, 18 years old

The slender (180 pounds) switch-hitting shortstop was an Aflac All-American player last summer, and is described as a five-tool talent with across-the-board skills that project well. He has a commitment to the University of Louisville, and told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that he’s undecided about whether to go to college or turn pro.

12th round: Michael Thomas – Catcher, Southern University A&M, 20 years old

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Thomas is an absolutely colossal target behind the plate. He suffered a broken hand earlier this year. Reports suggest that he is a very good defensive catcher with a rocket arm.

13th round: Christopher McGuinness – 1st baseman, The Citadel, 21 years old

McGuinness exhibited power and patience at The Citadel, hitting 15 homers as a junior while leading the country with 65 walks and forging a .520 OBP (12th in Division 1 ball).

14th round: William Holmes – Outfielder, Chaffey College, 21 years old

If you can read the tiny print detailing the statistics from the Foothill Athletic Conference, you can see that Holmes was a power-hitter with a good average (.379), OBP (.453) and slugging mark (.662) to go along with his nine homers. Insofar as the Chaffey College website describes him as an outfielder and DH, and he had but one steal in two attempts this year, one presumes that he is not the most athletic player selected by the Sox this year.

15th round: Michael Bugary – Left-handed pitcher, UC-Berkeley, 21 years old (6-foot-4)

Thus begins the run on mound giants. Injured for most of the past two years, Bugary returned to the mound for Berkeley and struck out a whopping 82 batters in 66 innings, perhaps because no one knew where the ball was going: Bugary also walked 51. (For his college profile, click here.)

16th round: Luke Bard – Right-handed pitcher, Charlotte Christian School (NC), 18 years old (6-foot-3)

You might have heard of Luke’s brother, Daniel, currently a reliever for the Sox who delivered his first big-league pitches of 100 mph on Tuesday. Here’s Daniel’s scouting report on his brother, who would likely require a considerable bonus to skip college and turn pro:

“(The Sox) really liked him. I talked to (amateur scouting director Jason McLeod) about him a couple times this spring. They said they saw him three or four times and that they really liked him,” said Daniel Bard. “He’s pretty similar (to where Dan Bard was when graduating high school). Velocity-wise, he’s pretty similar. He’s a little bit shorter, like an inch shorter. He’s really athletic. He’s a football player, a quarterback, so he’s a little beefier than me at the same age.”

Luke Bard — who was playing golf when he learned that he’d been drafted — has a scholarship offer from Georgia Tech, and as of now, the younger Bard anticipates fulfilling it.

“He’s not going to sign for 16th round money,” said Daniel Bard. “It depends on how much they like him and how much they think he’s worth. Then he’d have to decide. (Signing) probably wouldn’t happen until later in the summer.”

Regardless of what happens, the big brother expressed a note of pleasure.

“It’s really cool,” said Daniel Bard. “Regardless of what happens, whether he signs or not, it’s still pretty cool.”

17th round: Kraig Sitton – Left-handed pitcher, Oregon State University, 21 years old (6-foot-3)

In two years at Jacoby Ellsbury’s alma mater, the draft-eligible sophomore (Sitton was red-shirted as a freshman) has struck out more than a batter an inning while forging a 3.97 ERA, mostly in relief. According to The Oregonian, after dropping due to signability issues, Sitton is leaning towards returning to OSU.

18th round: Reynolds “Renny” Parthemore – Right-handed pitcher, Cedar Cliff High School (PA), 18 years old (6-foot-5)

He’s tall, athletic (he’s lettered in hoops, soccer, football as well as baseball) and throws pretty hard, with a low-90s fastball. He has signed a letter of intent to pitch at Penn State. Somehow, Parthemore seemed to strike a complimentary note when he suggested that the Sox handle high school pitchers like “fresh meat” in an interview with the Patriot-News.

19th round: Thomas Ebert - Right-handed pitcher, Florida International University, 21 years old (6-foot-6)

Ebert had an 84-18 strikeout to walk ratio while pitching for Mike Lowell’s alma mater this year.

20th round: Alexander Hassan – Right-handed pitcher, Duke University, 21 years old (6-foot-3)

Hassan, a native of Milton, Mass., is tied for the Blue Devils‘ career saves record. He played both outfield and pitched in college, but the Sox drafted him as a pitcher. The junior struck out 34 in 26.1 innings while holding opponents to a .228 average in 2009.

Read More: mlb draft,

Tough Tex

06.11.09 at 12:45 am ET
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‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’ were the words that President Theodore Roosevelt made famous and lived by.

After watching Mark Teixeira on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, there’ s no doubting he carries a big stick but his words following the seventh straight loss to the Red Sox this season spoke volumes about the kind of leader he could become.

“We just have to pick it up,” Teixeira said. “We can’t just throw out gloves out there and expect to win. I’m not saying anyone’s thinking that but it shows. We have to go out there and play well because a team like the Red Sox aren’t going to go out there and give us any wins.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Mark Teixeira, Red Sox, Yankees,

Papelbon, Sox Close It Out

06.10.09 at 10:34 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon, whom manager Terry Francona said was suffering from a terrible bout of food poisoning that nearly sent him to the hospital and had him falling asleep in the bullpen dugout on Tuesday, was summoned for the ninth inning to preserve a one-run lead. The Red Sox closer gave up a one-out walk to Alex Rodriguez, and pinch runner Ramiro Pena stole second with one out. But Papelbon struck out Robinson Cano and then retired Jorge Posada on a warning-track fly ball that fell just short of the Wall as the Red Sox put away a 6-5 win over the Yankees.

Tim Wakefield (8-3) takes the win in a game when both Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell hit their 10th homers of the year.

Okajima sprints away from trouble

06.10.09 at 10:13 pm ET
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Hideki Okajima‘s scoreless innings streak may have ended at 16.1 on Sunday, when he gave up a homer to Nelson Cruz, but his run of mastery remains uninterrupted. Okajima proved enormous against the Yankees tonight, striking out Hideki Matsui after coming in with a runner on first and two outs in the top of the seventh, and then after putting a runner on second with one out in the eighth, striking out both Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon to preserve the Red Sox‘ one-run lead.

On Sunday, manager Terry Francona said that the key to Okajima’s remarkable run has been nothing more than command. His high-80s fastball still stands no more than a 50-50 chance of breaking a window pane, but he locates the pitch so precisely that he owns the complete trust of his manager.

Before the year, it seemed as if Okajima might get pushed down the totem pole in the bullpen thanks to the emergence of Justin Masterson and the signing of free-agent Takashi Saito. Instead, he has once again – at least for now – re-established himself as the key (and often final) piece of the bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon.

On top of it all, his running speed to and from the mound seems to have increased greatly thanks to his participation in the Honolulu Marathon this offseason. Okajima never breaks stride either on his run from the bullpen to the infield grass, or from the mound to the dugout. He may have the best on-field running pace of any pitcher since Craig Lefferts. In case you forgot, Okajima was thrilled to have run his 26.2 miles in six-plus hours, but has no ambitions of running the Boston Marathon.

Read More: Hideki Okajima, marathon,

Ramon Ramirez gets tagged

06.10.09 at 9:45 pm ET
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For the most part, Red Sox right-hander Ramon Ramirez has been overpowering this year. He had held opposing hitters to a .151 average this year, and left-handers had just a .116 average against him.

But on Wednesday, he turned in his worst outing of the year. After giving up just one homer in his first 28.1 innings this year, he was taken deep back-to-back by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira to open the seventh inning. He came back to strike out a pair before allowing a hard-hit Jorge Posada single that ended his night. Ramirez was bailed out by Hideki Okajima, who came on with two outs and struck out Hideki Matsui to end the inning.

For Ramirez, the outing matched his worst of the year — a May 30 effort in which he also allowed three hits and two runs while recording just two outs. The Sox are now clinging to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh.

Read More: Hideki Okajima, ramon ramirez,

Quality, thy name is Wakefield

06.10.09 at 9:32 pm ET
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The standards for a quality start are hardly unreasonable: at least 6 innings pitched, no more than 3 runs. By definiton, the quality start is one in which the pitcher has a 4.50 ERA or better while logging a sufficient number of innings to give his team a fightin’ chance to win.

Tim Wakefield entered today with a 7-3 record (the Sox are 8-3 in his starts entering tonight) and 4.50 ERA. Tonight against the Yankees, he left that number unaltered, going six innings and allowing three runs on eight hits. He has now produced quality starts in eight of his 12 outings this year, second on the Sox only to the nine quality starts turned in by Josh Beckett.

Quite simply, Wakefield has given the Sox everything that they could have hoped for in the vast majority of his outings, including tonight, when he handed his bullpen a 6-3 lead after six innings.

Read More: Josh Beckett, quality start, Tim Wakefield,
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