|04.05.11 at 9:53 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — The Red Sox didn’t follow Charlie Sheen’s lead Tuesday night.
While the actor was performing his ‘act’ just a few blocks away — surely drawing more than the announced crowd of 9,025 at Progressive Field (the smallest crowd the Sox have played in front of since 2000) — Terry Francona‘s bunch couldn’t stake claim to such Sheen staples as “Winning” (or even “Tiger Blood.”)
Truth be told, as bad as Sheen might have been in his debut in Detroit, what the Red Sox continued to churn out might be considered more offensive.
The Sox dropped to 0-4 on the season after falling to the Indians, 3-1, in a game where Josh Beckett wasn’t quite good enough, and the team’s offense was far from acceptable.
Here is what went wrong and went right for the Red Sox:
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The lineup, which was supposed to be perhaps the best in team history, has yet to find its way. Against Cleveland’s fourth starter, Josh Tomlin, the Sox managed just three hits over seven innings. Some key cogs in the batting order stayed cold at inopportune times, with Carl Crawford (0-for-4, .133), Kevin Youkilis (0-for-2, .182) and Marco Scutaro (still without a hit for the season) coming up empty.
– J.D. Drew offered a healthy dose of optimism when ripping a double in the right field corner in the second inning in his first at-bat. Unfortunately for the outfielder, who was playing in his second game of the season, the good times came to a screeching halt when he waited far too long to slide when running home on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s single. The result of the baserunning boo-boo (which wasn’t the fault of David Ortiz, who was urging Drew to slide after crossing the plate, himself) was an out.
– Beckett couldn’t make it into the sixth inning against what is considered a far-from-potent Indians lineup. He finished throwing 106 pitches over five frames before giving way to Matt Albers. A 24-pitch fourth inning, along with a 33-pitch fifth didn’t help matters for the righty.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Beckett’s outing, while far from spectacular, wasn’t all that discouraging. He finished his night giving up three runs on five hits over his five innings, striking out four and walking four. His best pitch was clearly the change-up, which dipped down to as low as 85 mph (a level usually not seen with the righty throwing the pitch). The fastball, however, failed to have the giddy-up seen in Houston, sitting at 93 mph.
– Keeping Saltalamacchia in the lineup paid off for Red Sox manager Terry Francona, with the catcher giving the Sox a 1-0 lead in the second inning when he plated Ortiz with an opposite field single on Tomlin’s 0-2 pitch. Saltalamacchia also drew a walk.
|04.05.11 at 6:39 pm ET|
|04.05.11 at 5:42 pm ET|
Most notably, Carl Crawford, who hit seventh after manning the No. 3 spot for the first two games of the seasons, was slotted in the second slot with Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin on the mound.
Francona said he still might be moving Crawford around, whether it’s the No. 2 or 3 spots, or potentially finding himself lower in the order against left-handers. Throughout his career, the outfielder has spent more time in the second spot than any other place in the lineup.
Crawford explained that prior to Tuesday night’s game at Progressive Field that he hit leadoff for most of his minor league career up until he reached Triple A, when the speedster was moved to No. 3.
‘In the big picture I don’t think it matters. But I just thought third the first couple of days, coupling with him being new, I thought he was trying to do too much,’ Francona said regarding Crawford, who did have two hits in the last game of the Sox’ series in Texas.
‘Maybe get him and [Jacoby] Ellsbury back to back and let them get on base and cause some havoc. We may drop him down in the order, at least for a while, against lefties, just to kind of make our batting order look a little better but we’ll see. Again, when guys are hitting and they kind of get into the groove, that won’t matter as much. I just thought he was trying too hard the first couple of days.’
The move also put Dustin Pedroia at No. 3, a position he manned his junior year in college and for seven games in 2010. In the game he hit three home runs ‘ June 24 in Colorado ‘ the second baseman was hitting third.
‘I think he’d hit anywhere,’ Francona said regarding Pedroia. ‘He’s even told me he’d hit first. I don’t think that’s ‘¦ I think he tries too hard. But no, again, our batting order might change a little bit early on, depending on who’s pitching for them, who we have available, how we’re swinging. I don’t think it’s that big a deal. I think that’s what sometimes a day off will do for you.’
|04.05.11 at 4:44 pm ET|
Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz joined The Big Show Tuesday, discussing a number of topics with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley. On the subject of his first start, in which four of the five hits he allowed to the Rangers left the park as solo homers, he noted that he could expect mistakes to be hit hard in Texas.
As for having a new starting catcher, Buchholz preached patience for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He said that the 25-year-old, who has started all three games thus far and is 0-for-10 at the plate, is learning with both the pitchers and Jason Varitek.
“He’s definitely got a person that he can go to in ‘Tek to figure out some of the things that he needs to know as far as what our pitchers do, what our staff does, what the bullpen does,” Buchholz said. “We sat down a couple of times, talked about what I like to do as far as being ahead in the count, throwing strike one and going from there.
“It’s not going to be something that happens overnight. It’s going to be repetition that you have to go through to make it sort of a second nature type of thing. That’s what you’re working for. You want to be on the same page all the time with your catcher, and that’s definitely what we’re trying to do here.”
|04.05.11 at 12:25 pm ET|
What can the pitch type stats tell us about Josh Beckett’s recent decline? Well, let’s see:
* – Average velocity on Beckett’s fastball has declined each of the last three seasons:
2007 – 94.6
2008 – 94.3
2009 – 94.0
2010 – 93.2
* – Usage declined markedly in 2010 (54.3 percent) from 62.0 percent in 2007 and 63.7 percent in 2008.
* – Beckett’s ability to throw his heater for a strike also dropped in 2010, to 52.6 percent. It had been right around 56 percent in each of the previous three seasons.
* – Fewer batters chased fastballs out of the zone in 2010 (23.2 percent) vs. the three prior years (26.5 percent in 2007, 28.8 percent in 2008, 26.9 percent in 2009).
* – Look at these batting averages against Beckett’s fastball:
2007 – .247
2008 – .265
2009 – .260
2010 – .316
* – And the slugging percentages:
2007 – .377 (12th lowest allowed in baseball that year; min. 1000 fastballs)
2008 – .410
2009 – .442
2010 – .550 (7th highest allowed in baseball last year; min. 1000 fastballs)
* – And, finally, “isolated power” allowed (the difference between slugging percentage and batting average):
2007 – .130
2008 – .145
2009 – .182
2010 – .234
* – That ISO allowed by Beckett on fastballs last year was the highest by any Red Sox pitcher since at least 2003 (min. 700 fastballs thrown):
* – In 2010, opponents hit .520 (26-for-50) and slugged .900 (four home runs) when they hit a first-pitch fastball from Beckett. Compare that to a .288 average and .500 slugging on first-pitch fastball over the previous two seasons.
* – Beckett used his curve only 18 percent of the time in 2010, down from 23-25 percent in each of the previous three seasons.
* – Beckett’s batting average and slugging allowed on his curve have fluctuated from season to season (batting average allowed/slugging percentage allowed/ISO power allowed):
2007 – .164/.271/.107
2008 – .232/.424/.192
2009 – .209/.328/.119
2010 – .233/.360/.127
* – Overall, it doesn’t appear that his curve is a big issue due to the small sample, although the stuff/command trends are all negative: strike percentage, swing-and-miss percentage, and out-of-zone chase percentage.
* – Beckett used his changeup 11.5 percent of the time last season, higher than either 2008 or 2009 and close to his 2007 usage (12.1 percent).
* – While his strike percentage was below 40 percent in 2009 and 2010 (after 46 percent in 2007 and 45 percent in 2008), his batting average allowed on changeups was MUCH BETTER over the last two seasons (.200 and .245) vs. the previous two (.341 and .342).
* – His ISO Power allowed on changeups was a problem in 2008, but his 2010 was similar to 2007:
2007 – .174
2008 – .300 (yikes!)
2009 – .053
2010 – .184
* – After throwing the cutter less than five percent of the time from 2007-2009, Beckett went to it 16 percent of the time in 2010.
* – Opponents’ put up a .297 average against the cutter and a .473 slugging percentage.
* – Beckett threw his cutter on 3-2 counts on 13 occasions in 2010 and opponents went just 1-for-7 with one walk and five strikeouts. He tried it 11 times over the previous two years and was much less effective: 4-for-7 with three walks and two strikeouts.
Here’s what I’ll be interested to see when Josh Beckett takes the mound tonight in Cleveland:
* – Fastball Effectiveness – Opponents fighting off Beckett’s heater for singles is one thing. But extra-base hits is the danger signal. Also, can he get ahead using the fastball without getting first pitches ripped like last year?
* – Fastball Velocity – Is it still dropping? We may not get an answer to this tonight as early April velocity isn’t always indicative of mid-season speeds.
* – Cutter/Change/Curve Usage – While his fastball was still Beckett’s favored offering in 2010, he went away from his curve last season in favor of more cutters (by a lot) and changeups. What will his mix look like this year? Especially on “pitches of decision” like 3-and-2, 2-and-2, or 2-and-1.
|04.05.11 at 8:47 am ET|
The Red Sox will be looking to get on the right track Tuesday night when they face the Indians and right-handed pitcher Josh Tomlin. After spending 4 1/2 seasons in the minors, the 26-year-old Tomlin got the call up to Cleveland last July and went 6-4 with a 4.56 ERA in 12 starts down the stretch. He went 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four games this spring.
Tomlin was impressive in his first two starts, as he allowed just seven hits and two runs over 12 1/3 total innings against the Yankees (a win) and Blue Jays (a no-decision). His third start came against the Red Sox. Tomlin held Boston scoreless through three innings before giving up a grand slam to Adrian Beltre in the fourth. He ended up going seven and didn’t give up any more runs, but the grand slam proved to be enough to give the Red Sox the win and Tomlin his first loss.
Only four current Red Sox were in the lineup for that game, though, so there won’t be a whole lot of familiarity Tuesday. Marco Scutaro was the only one in that group to get a hit off Tomlin. J.D. Drew also reached base on a walk.
Josh Beckett will be on the mound for Boston, seeking to turn around his team’s early season pitching woes in addition to rebounding from his own woes last season. Beckett, who missed two months with a lower back strain, struggled mightily even when he was healthy. He went 6-6 in 21 starts and his 5.78 ERA was by far the worst of his career. He wasn’t much better in spring training, going 1-4 with a 5.33 ERA in six starts.
On top of all that, Beckett has always struggled with the Indians. He’s 3-4 with a 5.56 ERA in seven career starts against them. Travis Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo have done the most damage. Hafner is hitting .273 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 25 plate appearances against Beckett, while Choo is hitting .400 with a homer and six RBIs in 12 appearances.
|04.04.11 at 9:57 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — As the Red Sox get ready to take on the Indians in a three-game series at Progressive Field, first-year Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti took a few moments to answer five questions posed by WEEI.com:
WEEI.com: It’s been about 14 months since the Indians announced that they would transition from Mark Shapiro to you as the GM. How did your responsibilities change, if at all, once that announcement was made in 2010, and again when the transition was completed after last season?
Antonetti: I am really fortunate that Mark has always been great about providing me with opportunities to grow and develop. In my time as [Assistant GM], Mark involved me in all areas of our operations so there really isn’t anything I am doing now that I haven’t had some experience with already. The primary difference between this year and last year is the sense of accountability and responsibility that comes with the position.
WEEI.com: A lot of us saw Carlos Santana’s horrible injury last year, which he incurred on a collision with Ryan Kalish at Fenway Park. Given the way his season ended, it must have been immensely satisfying to see him in the lineup and hitting a homer on Opening Day. Does he face any restrictions going forward, and how do you project him long-term?
Antonetti: Thankfully, Carlos has fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered last year. He progressed through a normal spring training and we don’t anticipate any limitations for him going forward.
WEEI.com: How would you evaluate Justin Masterson‘s first full year with you in 2010, and what did you see from him in spring training this year? How about Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price?
Antonetti: We felt Justin pitched very well last year in his first season as starter in the Major Leagues. He continued to improve as the season progressed and we are confident that he will build upon his second-half success this year. Nick and Bryan both made strides in their development last year and have a chance to contribute to our major league pitching staff in the near future.
WEEI.com: On the subject of the Victor Martinez trade ‘ obviously, you guys had a tremendous relationship with Martinez. How difficult is it to face a market reality in which you will at times have to trade franchise cornerstones?
Antonetti: Nearly every team faces the reality that it can’t retain every player it values. Inevitably some players will leave via free agency and some players will be traded prior to reaching that point. In Victor’s case, even though it was a prudent decision for the organization, it was especially painful to trade him rather than allow him to reach free agency because he combines exceptional production on the field with unmatched character, passion, and professionalism. He is a special player and person that had a profound and lasting impact on our organization.
WEEI.com: You have been part of one rebuilding effort in Cleveland that started in 2002 and brought the Indians within a game of the World Series in 2007. Where do you guys feel you are in the current effort to create the nucleus of a contender?
Antonetti: We feel that we are on our way back to becoming a championship caliber team. We have a young, but very talented major league roster bolstered by a strong and deep minor league system. The timing of our success will largely depend upon how quickly this group transitions from a collection of young players with potential to a championship caliber team that consistently produces at the Major league level. We are doing everything we can to try to expedite that process.
|04.04.11 at 11:51 am ET|
ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Monday morning to talk about the Red Sox‘ slow start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Kruk said Sox fans shouldn’t worry too much about the weekend sweep at the hands of the Rangers. “They just ran into a hot Texas team,” he said. “Everything they threw up there got hit and hit hard. The next time they play, [Ian] Kinsler might not be swinging the bat well, and [Nelson] Cruz might not be swinging well, and then you run through them. So, I don’t know. I mean, they scored runs, right? If they’re worried about their starting pitching, then I think that we don’t have a lot to worry about if you’re a Red Sox fan.”
John Lackey has not lived up to the five-year megacontract he signed last offseason. Kruk noted it’s a concern to bring in a pitcher who pitches to contact into such a tough division.
“I thought it was surprising that they gave him that many years,” Kruk said. “The hardest thing in my opinion, to judge, is a guy who pitches on the West Coast. And John Lackey is a good pitcher, but he’s not like Felix Hernandez. He’s not going to throw it 96, 97 by you with all the other repertoire that he has. John Lackey has to pitch to get people out. He has to spot well, he has to locate well. He’s not going to overpower.
“The hardest thing, in my opinion, to judge is, Can that type of pitcher work in the American League East with all this offense that comes flying in there every time Boston plays? ‘¦ I thought it was a concern coming in because he pitched on the West Coast and came here. When they gave him five years, I thought: Golly, man, that seems like an awful lot of years to a lot to give a guy with uncertainty of how he’s going to do in this division.”
Carl Crawford was dropped to the seventh spot in the batting order on Sunday after struggling in the 3 hole in the first two games. “It was a little surprising,” Kruk acknowledged, but he said it’s not a big deal. “The thing with Boston putting him seventh is, What’d they trade him with in the third hole, Adrian Gonzalez? How bad is that, huh?
“They have a lineup that I think 1 through 7, 1 through 8 they can interchange and put them anywhere. Jacoby Ellsbury can hit ninth, he can hit leadoff and be as good as he is in either place. I don’t think it’s a slap on the wrist to Carl Crawford in any way, shape or form. It’s just, Gonzalez was swinging well the first couple of games, why not put him at third, where I personally think he belongs ‘ I’m sure [Terry Francona] doesn’t agree with me. But it’s such an interchangeable lineup that hitting seventh is not like a demotion. ‘¦ It’s not like they put a rookie in there to hit third just to prove a point to him.”
|04.04.11 at 9:07 am ET|
As the Red Sox lick their wounds from the lost weekend in Texas, here are some things I noticed from the Sox series as well as baseball’s opening day:
NOTES FROM MLB’S OPENING DAY: THURSDAY, MARCH 31
* – When Albert Pujols grounded into three double plays on Thursday, it marked the 100th time in “recorded” baseball history that a player has hit into three or more DP’s in one game. The last time that a Red Sox player did it was back in 1986 (Rich Gedman). Billy Conigliaro (1970 and 1971) and the Reds’ Dave Concepcion (1982 and 1986) are the only players that have had two such games. Joe Torre (1975) is the only player ever to ground into FOUR double plays in one game.
* – Thursday’s walk-off home run by Ramon Hernandez was just the fourth walk-off homer by a Reds’ catcher with the team trailing at the time (in other words, a “come from behind walk-off”) since at least 1950. The others were by Johnny Bench (1973), Brad Gulden (1984), and David Ross (2006).
Note this: Since 2003, it was Cincinnati’s 11th come from behind walk-off homer, the most in the majors in that span:
11 – Reds
8 – Red Sox
8 – Nationals/Expos
And this: It was the first come from behind walk-off home run allowed by the Brewers since 2007. The Twins haven’t allowed such a “come from behind” walk-off since 2003, the longest streak in the majors. On the other hand, the Rays have allowed exactly one such homer in each of the last five seasons.
RED SOX NOTES FROM FRIDAY, APRIL 1
* – The Red Sox pitching staff managed only one strikeout on Friday, snapping a streak of 169 consecutive games with two or more whiffs. The last time with just one strikeout? September 27, 2009 against the Yankees. Tampa Bay has the longest active streak in the majors, which is now at 619 (through Sunday).
* – Adrian Gonzalez must have felt like he was right back in San Diego. He drove in three runs on Friday, the 53rd time in his career with three or more RBI in a game, and his teams are now 37-16 in those games, the second lowest winning percentage since 2000 among active players (min. 50 such games):
RED SOX NOTES FROM SATURDAY, APRIL 2
* – After Saturday’s disastrous start, John Lackey now has the highest career ERA at Rangers’ ballpark (min. 75 IP there):
6.78 – John Lackey
6.55 – Todd Van Poppel
6.48 – Rob Bell
6.45 – Robinson Tejeda
* – John Lackey allowed his third career grand slam, it was his first since 2006. Active pitchers who have allowed the most grand slams:
* – The Red Sox allowed nine or more runs in consecutive games just once in 2010 (May 7, lost 10-3 to the Yankees, and May 8, lost 14-3 to the Yankees). Prior to last year, Boston had not allowed 9+ in consecutive games since 2006. For some perspective, the Pirates did it on five different occasions last season alone, and the Yankees have done it at least once in every season since 2004. Tampa Bay last allowed 9+ twice in a row back in June, 2007.
* – Carl Crawford has gone 0-for-4 and 0-for-3 in his first two games this season. The last time he failed to get a hit in consecutive games despite three or more at bats in each was last August 5 and August 8, a streak of 47 such games.
* – Red Sox pitchers allowed nine extra-base hits on Saturday for just the third time since the beginning of last season. Two of those have come against Texas. Overall, the Red Sox have now lost the last 33 times that they’ve allowed 9+ EBH, with their last win coming in 1982 (a 10-8 win over Seattle).
* – Red Sox starters have notched only three strikeouts over two games, the fewest in consecutive games since Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield each recorded only one strikeout in consecutive starts last May 26, 27, and 28.
RED SOX NOTES FROM SUNDAY, APRIL 3
* – The Red Sox allowed three HR in three consecutive games for just the ninth time since 1950. They’ve allowed three or more in four straight twice (1980, 2000) and have never done it in five straight games.
Note this: It was the 12th time since 1950 that Texas (and Washington Senators) have hit three or more HR in three straight games. Only the Reds (13) have had more such streaks in that span.
* – Rangers starter Matt Harrison entered Sunday’s game with a 16-10 career record despite a career ERA of 5.39. Since 1950, Harrison owns the highest career winning percentage by any pitcher with an ERA north of 5.00 (more than 30 starts):
.615 – Matt Harrison (16-10)
.607 – Rocky Coppinger (17-11)
.605 – Jason Simontacchi (26-17)
* – Jonathan Papelbon struck out the side (around lots of other stuff) in the eighth inning, the 19th time in his career that he’s recorded three or more outs in a game and all have come via strikeout. Last season he did it five times, but all of them came on or after August 18.
* – Since getting a hit on September 7, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has gone 0-for-18.
* – Including the last two games of 2010, the Red Sox have reached base via error at least once in each of their last five games, their longest such streak since 2001. The club record streak is nine, set in 1966, and the major league record is 11 straight games, shared by the Senators (1952) and the A’s (1974).
Finally, here’s what I ran into at lunch on Saturday here in North Carolina. These two, ages four and six, were lamenting the fact that the Red Sox were “already” in last place. They couldn’t believe “we lost to the Texas Rangers“.
Hopefully, things will go better for the Red Sox in Cleveland.
|04.03.11 at 8:10 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Texas ‘ Frustration? Yes. Panic? No.
That was the balance that the Red Sox were trying to strike after they suffered their first season-opening three-game sweep since 1996, a season in which they opened with five straight losses en route to a 6-19 start from which they never recovered.
The Sox saw the Rangers swipe their meal money and their dignity over the course of three games in which the Texas lineup slammed 11 homers and outscored the visitors by a 26-11 count. A candid self-assessment by the Sox suggested that it was, quite simply, an awful performance out of the gate.
“I think we’re all frustrated. We got outplayed. It’s not for lack of talent on our team. We got outpitched, we got out-hit, they played better defense than us,” said second baseman Pedroia. “They kicked our ass, that’s it. We better show up and play better on whatever day we play again. We have to play better than we’ve been playing.’
That said, while the Sox were disappointed in their performance, they have not changed their overall self-perception. Mindful that three games represent a handful of sand in a desert of a season, the team still exhibits confidence about its ambitions, namely, to compete for the postseason and then a World Series.
‘What might turn this team around? To win games,” said Adrian Gonzalez. “Still got 159, and I’m fully confident that, come September, we’ll be either in first place or right in the middle of everything.”
Manager Terry Francona said that while the Sox will own up to the idea that they played poorly, they are not at the point where there is a sense of desperation after a few consecutive losses.
‘We’re not very happy with the series. That’s an understatement,’ he said. ‘I think there’s a difference between being aggravated at a series as opposed to sitting around and panic enters. It would have been a lot more fun going on the flight with a win and feeling good about yourself. We didn’t play a very good series.
‘We got outplayed all the way around. They hit better than us, they pitched better than us. Now we have to go regroup and try to get us a win so we feel better about ourselves.’ Read the rest of this entry »
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