It’s been a few weeks since I’ve talked about the state of the Red Sox. An eventful few weeks at that. The Sox have traded for players and traded them away. They’ve swept and been swept on multiple occassions. They got it handed to them by one division leader only to beat the very next one they faced, albeit not in quite as convincing fashion. So that begs the questions: where are we at? If Aaron Sorkin was writing this blog, he might chime in with “Quo Vadimus” (where are we going… “Sports Night” reference). Well the short answer is “quo” we are “vadimusing” is Texas in an effort to put some distance between us and the second place wildcard Texas Rangers, whom we only lead by half a game.
The long answer is that we are heading to the playoffs, but who knows how far we can go? Honest to God, the pitching staff looks ok. I trust Beckett and Lester every time they touch the ball, and that’s half your starters right there. The other 2 slots (remember, it’s just 4 in the playoffs) will go to some combination of Daisuke, Penny, Tazawa or Wakefield. Daisuke and Wakefield have the experience, but Tazawa has looked more economical with his pitches than Daisuke. So a rotation of Becket, Lester, Wakefield and Tazawa as the 4 man seems reasonable and relatively lethal. It should be enough to get us past either the Tigers or the Angels (assuming they win their respective division races… remember, the Wild Card doesn’t play its first round against a divisional opponent no matter the relative record). The problem is not the pitching, it’s the offense.
Let’s review position by position and see who is producing and who isn’t. Jason Varitek is not producing by any stretch of the imagination. He had a strong start but has since fallen back into the category of “washed up aging catcher” that we all felt he was in last year. Victory Martinez, on the other hand, has been doing pretty well in his few starts for us. He may be the catcher of the future, and I’m excited for it.
I have no complaints whatsoever about Kevin Youkilis or Dustin Pedroia- the Sox are good at first and second. Ditto for Mike Lowell, hurt as he is, at third base. All three players are doing as much as they can possibly be expected to do. The problem is we can’t always have Youk, Lowell and Martinez playing (Pedroia seems to play every day without issue) due to injury, and that always means a gap somewhere (Kotchman is not in Youk or Martinez’s league at first). Meanwhile, I know everyone likes Nick Green, but one walk-off homerun does not save him from months of offensive ineffectiveness and less than ideal defense. He’s just not that good, and the numbers speak for themselves.
In the outfield, we’re a little better off. Ellsbury is hitting well and stealing a ton of bags. He has little power, but you hardly expect that from a leadoff man anyway. Jason Bay is phenomenal when he’s on, but lately he’s been running hot-and-cold and you never know what you’re going to get. He might hit a 3 run blast in one game and strikeout three times in the next (which he did). And J.D. Drew has been a disappointment since he got here except in the playoffs, when his lack of emotion tends to be a positive instead of a negative. Should we get to the playoffs, I think our outfield is set.
And that brings us to the DH. Quite simply, David Ortiz is not very good this year. Every conceivable number is down from previous years. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s remnants of last year’s wrist energy, maybe it’s the steroids issue, maybe some combination of all 3. But he’s hitting worse than Nick Green, and that’s saying something. We can only hope that Playoffs Ortiz returns at crunch time or the heart of lineup will be crippled.
The Sox offense is weaker than it needs to be, with only about half of the positions being filled by decent hitters and tough outs. Come playoff-time, I’m a little scared. The offense needs to pick up, or this will be a short playoff run come October.