A few thoughts from the weekend:
Are you concerned about Josh Beckett? I’m not. I know that he has been getting beat by the long ball (12 in his last 4 starts), but to me it doesn’t look like he’s hurt, the velocity is still there. His two-seam fastball has just flattened out and doesn’t have that good sink that we’ve been accustomed to. There are a few universal truths to pitching:
1. Strike One. Getting ahead of the hitter can change the entire at bat and how you approach it.
2. Leadoff walks. They usually cause stressful innings and more times then not, end up scoring
3. Two-out walks. They almost always come back to bite you.
I’m sure you saying, “What the hell do you know about pitching?” But the reality is is that as a hitter you are well aware of what a pitcher is trying to do and what causes them to get out of their game. Josh, in his last outing, had a little problem with No. 3. On two different occasions, he not only walked one hitter, but two with two outs. It cost him in the second inning as Aaron Hill then stepped up hit a three-run shot. But I don’t think that there should be a concern when it comes to “stuff’. It just goes to show you how fine you have to be to be a great pitcher in this league. Make no mistakes about it, Josh Beckett is a great pitcher in this league.
JD is hot. For most of the year, JD has been silent. We’ve been waiting for him to get hot and carry this team for a month like he’s done in the past. He may not be carrying this team but he’s definitely doing his part. Drew hit .333 with 6 HR’s and 13 RBI’s in the month of August to go along with an OBP of .459. Since being moved down to the eight-hole JD in eight games has hit .333 with three HR’s. Imagine being an opposing pitcher and having to face this lineup with that kind of production from your number No. 8 hitter?
Let me introduce you to the Sox’ No. 3 starter. He has been outstanding in four of his last five starts. He held his own going up against three “aces” in a row. Then he got lit up against a pretty good White Sox lineup, but that’s what happens with a young pitcher in this league. In his last outing, he was as close to unhittable as you can get without throwing a no-hitter.
I can’t say enough about the development of his two-seamer. Last year we saw him struggle locating his four-seamer. When he did throw it for strikes, it got hit hard. Because of that, he started nibbling and missing with it falling behind hitters and getting himself in trouble. Now he looks confident with his fastball and is willing to throw it and rely on its movement to get easy outs. It also opens the outside part of the plate for his slider, which is another pitch we didn’t see much from him last year. Overall, he looks like a more confident pitcher who is starting to catch his stride.
Now this is the way it should have been when this team acquired Victor Martinez. It hasn’t been easy for Tito to rotate everyone around and keep players happy with their roles. But I must say, it has gone smoother than I thought it was going to go. I know that Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, and Jason Varitek get frustrated at times, but it has been working and the offense has woken up from its season long slumber. When you look at the numbers from the month of August, you have a pretty good idea why this team feels pretty good about themselves:
Jacoby Ellsbury: .297-0-11
Dustin Pedroia:. 307-5-13
Victor Martinez: .308-5-19
Kevin Youkilis: .325-4-13
Jason Bay: .289-9-18
JD Drew: .333-6-13
Mike Lowell: .319-5-19
I left David Ortiz out because he struggled early in August dealing with “the list” issues, but recently, he has been on fire, also batting .308 with 7 HR and 16 RBI’s in his last 14 games. Even Alex Gonzalez who was brought here to catch the ball not hit it is batting .296 since coming over to Boston from Cincinnati. When you have a team hitting the way the Sox are, you can make up for the occasional bad outing from any of your starters and still go out and win.
He will be a great addition to an already great bullpen. Remember Saturday night when Oki came in the game to face Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay only to give up a double to Lind and a single to Overbay? In about a week or so, those hitters will be Wagner’s. It’s the perfect scenario to bring in a lefty with power stuff to face two left-handed hitters back to back. I know that the Sox don’t pick guys up with the Yankees in mind, but its a good fit. If and when the Sox play the Yanks in the ALCS, they will have two lefties in the pen to switch Teixeira, Posada, and Cabrera around to hit right-handed, a strategy that will be utilized when playing New York with that short porch in right. The luxury that you have is that both lefties are just as effective against right-handed hitters. Oki has his change up and Wagner has that power slider.
As good as I feel about this team, they still have to go out on the road and play good baseball. Jason Bay said it best while in Texas, “Until we play better on the road, nobody is going to take us serious”. No better place to start than in Tampa where the Sox have lost 13 of their last 15 going back to last year. They have their rotation set up with Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz going in the three games. Winning two out of three will put the Rays even further in the rear view mirror. I’m not sure about you, but I will breath allot easier once the Rays are out of the picture