Keeping the Faith
With rosters expanding on Thursday, baseball's likely playoff contenders are scrambling to make waiver deals for players they want on their rosters for the postseason. Here are a couple moves, rumored and actual, plus a few other notable notes.
Even a broken clock shows the right time twice a day, and even the Kansas City Royals win an occasional ball game. So it isn't a disaster that KC beat the Sox last night in 11 innings. What is of more concern, however, is the overall picture of the last ten games.
After a one-month run during which the team won 71% of their games, Boston is playing at a much less torrid .500 pace over their last 10. Granted, that stretch included a split four-game series with the AL West-leading Angels, but the other three losses came against the Central's dregs, the Tigers and Royals. The net result is a slight narrowing of the division lead over the Yankees, who are now 3.5 games back with 38 games left to play.
Does this not-quite-slump suggest that problems are imminent? Not really, if the rest of the season is any indication. A breakdown of the remaining games, projecting wins based on records so far against the remaining opponents, is as good an indicator as any of what we can expect. For Boston, it looks like this:
|Opponent||. . .||Record
|. . .||Games Left||. . .||Projected
|Kansas City||. . .||.800 (4-1)||. . .||1 away||. . .||1-0|
|Detroit||. . .||.571 (4-3)||. . .||3 home||. . .||2-1||Tampa Bay||. . .||.667 (8-4)||. . .||3 away, 4 home||. . .||5-2|
|Baltimore||. . .||.417 (5-7)||. . .||3 away, 3 home||. . .||2-4|
|Chicago||. . .||.667 (4-2)||. . .||1 home||. . .||1-0|
|Los Angeles||. . .||.571 (4-3)||. . .||3 home||. . .||2-1|
|New York||. . .||.462 (6-7)||. . .||3 away, 4 home||. . .||3-4|
|Toronto||. . .||.273 (3-8)||. . .||3 away, 3 home||. . .||2-4|
|Oakland||. . .||.667 (4-2)||. . .||4 home||. . .||3-1|
That gives them a total of 93 wins at the end of the season. Meanwhile, the Yankees' projection looks this way:
|Opponent||. . .||Record
|. . .||Games Left||. . .||Projected
|Toronto||. . .||.636 (7-4)||. . .||1 home||. . .||1-0|
|Kansas City||. . .||.000 (0-3)||. . .||3 home||. . .||0-3|
|Seattle||. . .||.833 (5-1)||. . .||4 away||. . .||3-1|
|Oakland||. . .||.833 (5-1)||. . .||3 away||. . .||2-1|
|Tampa Bay||. . .||.308 (4-9)||. . .||3 away, 3 home||. . .||2-4|
|Boston||. . .||.538 (7-6)||. . .||4 away, 3 home||. . .||4-3|
|Toronto||. . .||.636 (7-4)||. . .||3 away, 3 home||. . .||4-2|
|Baltimore||. . .||.400 (4-6)||. . .||4 away, 3 home||. . .||3-4|
That gives New York a total of 88 wins at the end of the seasonand places them 5 games behind the Red Sox for the division title.
The projections appear to favor Boston, even without considering the disparity between home and away schedules and Boston's superiority at home. It's especially true when you consider that the Sox have played much more consistently in 2005 (.519 in their worst month, July) than the Yankees have (under .500 in both April and June), indicating that the Sox are less likely to have a major meltdown in the next 5 1/2 weeks.
Nothing is certain, however, and there is some reason for caution. Curt Schilling, only marginally better in August than he was in April before going on the DL, is a question mark as he rejoins the starting rotation tonight. Keith Foulke, a disaster as closer before finally having knee surgery before the All-Star break, is working up to resuming his former role. Manny Ramirez still isn't hitting for average like he has in the past, and while his homer numbers look good, it's generally dangerous to expect homers to carry you through the postseason. The defensive picture has improved with John Olerud's ascension to the starting first baseman's role, but his age and injury history suggests he may not be able to sustain a high level of play for up to another two months.
None of which feels as daunting at this moment as what this team has already been through this year. With guys like Schilling, Foulke, and Wade Miller disabled at one point or another, plus Matt Clement's frightening head injury, the pitching staff has faced its share of adversity. Edgar Renteria, Kevin Millar, and the recently designated Mark Bellhorn have failed to live up to their varying levels of past performance, though Renteria has managed to stabilize his offensive production. And the trade deadline didn't bring the anticipated knight in shining armor, though Tony Graffanino has been a welcome addition and fit right in almost immediately. All things considered, it's pretty amazing that this team is in first place.
The 2005 Red Sox have turned out to be like the 2004 team in one important respect: the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. That's what turns a good team into a potentially great team. We'll see down the stretch whether this team can again realize that potential.
I was so upset by the end of last night's Sox-Tigers game that I posted on a private message board, "Curt Schilling must die." Keep in mind that I am not prone to hysterics and I almost never get personally down on a player, but at the time I just felt as if I had had it with Curt's attempts to be a closer. He's been horrible, I though to myself, and something has to give.
Today, with a cooler head, I decided to look up the numbers and assess the situation a bit more dispassionately. What I found surprised me. For one thing, his ERA out of the bullpen is 5.01not anything to write home about, but far from the 9 or 10 I thought it would be. In fact, with just a few exceptions, Curt has done a pretty good job pitching in relief since he came off the disabled list after the All-Star break. I present for the reader's examination the following numbers:
Frankly, I thought the numbers would be much worse. They sure feel worse. But the fact is that Curt has really had only three horrible games: July 14 against the Yankees, August 12 against Chicago, and last night against Detroit. He's given up a home run in each of two other games, which is clearly a problem. His ERA is lousy for a closer but more than 3 runs better than what he did before going on the DL and more than a run better than Foulke. Overall, the numbers temper my displeasure somewhat.
For the time being, I can abide a hit every few games and the occasional walk. I can even deal with a solo homer now and again with a 3-run lead. Do I want him to be our closer after Labor Day and in the playoffs? Of course not. Would I prefer he not be the closer now? Absolutely. I maintain that Mike Timlin would be a better option, and if Keith Foulke can't come back strong, I would prefer to see Timlin close down the stretch. But last night aside, we could do worse than Curt.
So I have issued a stay of execution for our Mr. Schilling. But do us all a favor Curt: don't push your luck.
I'm not trying to run the big man down, but just trying to temper the
enthusiasm of people for him in the closer role. I personally don't trust
him in the closer's role and would not feel comfortable with him closing in
the post season. As the log below shows, he's got an average stat line, but
has bolstered his saves with 6 easy saves, 3 of them against Kansas City. As
I make it, out of 16 performances, only 4 have actually been worthwhile.
He's failed in 4 outings, had 2 junk outings, picked up 6 easy saves, and
done OK in 4-5 situations where the game was actually close, 2 of those
against one of the worst hitting teams in the AL, one against Tampa Bay, and
one against hard hitting Texas. One of his OK innings only came because he'd
blown the save in the previous inning.
Rating of performances
14/07/05 Yankees: FAIL (lost game)
16/07/05 Yankees: JUNK (down by 3)
18/07/05 Tampa Bay: JUNK (down by 2)
21/07/05 White Sox: FAIL (blown save) & OK (held 1 run lead after)
23/07/05 White Sox: CHEAP SAVE (up by 3, got tying run to plate)
25/07/05 Tampa Bay: FAIL (lost in extras)
26/07/05 Tampa Bay: Ok (holds tie, picks up win in extras)
27/07/05 Tampa Bay: CHEAP SAVE (up by 3)
29/07/05 Minnesota: CHEAP SAVE (up by 3)
31/07/05 Minnesota: OK (1 run save)
02/08/05 Kansas City: CHEAP SAVE (up by 2 vs minor league team)
03/08/05 Kansas City: CHEAP SAVE (up by 3 vs minor league team)
04/08/05 Kansas City: CHEAP SAVE (up by 3 vs minor league team)
07/08/05 Minnesota: OKish (up by 4, 2 outs, but 2 RISP)
09/0/8/05 Texas: OK (holds tie, picks up win)
12/08/05 Chicago: FAIL (up by 4, gives up 3 runs on 2 HR)
18 IP, 17 H, 9 R, 19 K, 5BB, 4 HR, 3-2, 9 SV, 1BS, ERA 4.50
since then he's also given up the Detroit game.
I think you're being misled by some good outings against some crap teams, and with big leads (2 and 3 run saves)
I love Red Sox!
Having received a few e-mails from concerned readers wondering if I'm still alive, I thought I should pop in and make a quick post. I'm not dead, sick, or on vacationjust so busy at work that I'm practically comatose by the time I get home. But that doesn't mean I haven't been keeping up with the gentlemen of Yawkey Way. As a matter of fact, things have settled down just in time for me to go to tonight's and Sunday's games against the White Sox.
Tub o' Lard will start tonight for the Good Guys versus Mark Buehrle, a match-up that would seem to favor the Red Sox until you consider that a couple weeks ago, Buehrle got shelled by the Royals. Tomorrow will pit Tim Wakefield against Jon Garland, who did poorly against the Blue Jays two starts ago. Sunday's Matt Clement versus Orlando Hernandez contest is tough to call, especially considering El Duque's historically good numbers against us. In Boston's favor throughout the series is their offense, which is at or near the top of the American League in a slew of categories. The bottom line is that anything can happen and they still have to go out and play the game.
Some people are calling this series a preview of the ALCS. They shouldn't count their chickens before they're hatched. They White Sox have struggled this season against the Oakland A's, who may very well be Chicago's first round opponent. The Red Sox, by contrast, have a winning record against the AL West this year, except for a split against Seattle. With the Wild Card looking more and more likely to come from the West, those match-ups will be key because the two Sox teams will both have to get through West division teams in order to advance.
Meanwhile, I can't believe Joe Torre and Brian Cashman still have jobs...