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Tom Verducci on D&C: High strikeout rate ‘bad news for the Red Sox’ regarding postseason hopes

09.27.13 at 9:08 am ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to talk about news from around Major League Baseball.

Looking at the postseason, Verducci said the Achilles’ heel for the Red Sox might be their strikeout rate.

“What I’ve found in the last few years is strikeouts really matter. Teams that did not strike out play better and win more in the postseason,” he said. “In other words, as we get more and more strikeouts — and this is now the seventh consecutive year in baseball we’ll have more strikeouts per game, which is unbelievable when you think about that. Teams that are winning — the Giants last year, the Cardinals in ’11, the Giants in ’10, the Yankees in ’09 — all of them ranked no worse than ninth in their league in strikeouts.

“And the teams that have finished in the top five in strikeouts have lost nine of 11 series and gone 16-28 in the postseason. That’s bad news for the Red Sox, who are fourth in the league in strikeouts. I just think that teams that are able to avoid that strikeout, who can put the ball in play — and not to say the Red Sox don’t grind out guys; they do — but foul off pitches, get to another pitch, those are the teams that are having success as the strikeout rate is going up.”

The Red Sox are known as a patient hitting team that makes pitchers work, taking a lot of pitches and getting into teams’ bullpens.

“You’re absolutely right, and strikeouts are a consequence of that,” Verducci acknowledged. “No one sees as many pitches, no one sees as many full counts. They’re willing to give pitchers strikes. Now, the one vulnerability I think that approach has is when they face power pitchers that attack the strike zone, they don’t do so well. They’re ninth in the league when they face power pitching, hitting .211 against power pitching.

“When you give pitchers that first strike, that’s fine, because you’re making them throw pitches and a lot of guys don’t have the command. But when you’re giving good pitchers strike one, now you’re more at risk of not getting the job done. That’s why I think a team like the Tigers is probably the worst matchup on paper for the Red Sox because they do have power pitchers that pound the strike zone.”

Added Verducci: “I would give the Tigers a slight edge, because [Justin] Verlander seems to have straightened out his mechanics, but Boston is right there with them.”

The big news around MLB this week was commissioner Bud Selig‘s announcement Thursday that he plans to step down in January 2015.

“The owners, they’ve been dreading this day,” Verducci said. “They kept throwing some more money and years at Bud Selig to keep him around because they don’t want to face the reality of finding somebody else. But I think that’s why Bud came out and said, ‘Listen, I really am gone. Here’s the formal announcement,’ to make sure that the owners get the message that this time, he’s not going to re-sign.”

Speculation is under way about who will be considered to replace Selig. Verducci said the list of candidates is likely to include MLB executive vice president for economics and league affairs Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president for business Tim Brosnan, and MLB Advanced Media CEO Robert Bowman. He mentioned Indians president Mark Shapiro and Tigers president/CEO Dave Dombrowski as dark horses and said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino‘s name will come up but that he’ll be a longshot.

“You must be within baseball to get that job,” he said. “There’s no way they’re going outside to get the next commissioner of baseball. ‘€¦ You’re talking about somebody coming out from business, from television, someone who has not been in Major League Baseball, that’s the ultimate longshot. That’s not happening.”

The Yankees face a number of key decisions this offseason, starting with whether they want to open the vault to pay second baseman Robinson Cano, who reportedly wants $300 million for a long-term deal.

“I think they do sign Cano, although I don’t think it’s as obvious as I once thought,” Verducci said. “I thought he’d be signed by now, and I’ve always believed the closer you get to free agency, the closer you get to him going out the back door and playing in another spot. He will have a very good market. He’s not going to get [$]300 million, but he’ll get close to [$]200 million, if not more.

“Does he want to stay for a team that, let’s face it, right now it’s tough to took at the Yankees and say you could see this thing turning around very quickly the way that you did in ’08, when they missed the playoffs and they spent almost a half-a-billion dollars on three free agents and still had the other pieces in place. Now you don’t have the pieces in place, the free agent market’s not so great, you have nothing coming from the farm system. I don’t think they’re going to turn it around as quickly as they did last time. ‘€¦ It will be interesting to see if they can buy their way back into contention this time around. I think it’s going to be a lot harder.”

Hall of Fame-bound Yankees closer Mariano Rivera made his final appearance in New York on Thursday night.

“He really is as good of a guy as what you’ve heard,” Verducci said. “I don’t know of anybody in any sport who has left the sport with such honest reverence as Mo Rivera.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Bud Selig, Mariano Rivera, Tom Verducci,
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