Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Thursday, August 24, 2006

PAPELBON TAKES THIRD AND FOURTH

One of the lone bright spots for Red Sox pitching this year has been Jonathan Papelbon. Last night in Anaheim, the rookie notched his 33rd save of the season.

With the save, Papelbon moved into third place on the rookie saves list, and closed to within four saves of the record held by Kaz Sasaki.

Here's a look at the all time single-season rookie saves leaders:

Kaz Sasaki (Seattle) - 37 in 2000
Todd Worrell (St. Louis) - 36 in 1986
Jonathan Papelbon (Boston) 33 in 2006
Billy Koch (Toronto) - 31 in 1999
Kerry Ligtenberg (Atlanta) 30 in 1998

And the outstanding rookie closer also continued to rewrite the Red Sox record book. Papelbon is now tied with Jeff Russell and Bob Stanley for fourth place on the Red Sox single-season saves list.

Next up, with 40 saves each, are Ugueth Urbina (2002) and Jeff Reardon (1991), in 3rd place on the list.

The rookie phenom became the first Sox rookie pitcher to be named to the All Star team since Don Schwall in 1961. Schwall also went on to win the Rookie of the Year award that season. Could Papelbon follow suit? It's possible, but Justin Verlanader, Jered Weaver, and Francisco Liriano will also merit consideration. As it stands, the Louisiana native's 20 successful save opportunities to start this season are an MLB rookie record.

As promised, I will continue to update Papelbon's performances and chart his progress as he moves up the list. He has an outside shot at the team record of 46 saves.

Here's a look at the Red Sox all-time single-season saves leaders:

1. Tom Gordon - 46 saves in 1998

2. Derek Lowe - 42 saves in 2000

T- 3.Ugueth Urbina - 40 saves in 2002
Jeff Reardon - 40 saves 1991

T- 4. Jonathan Papelbon - 33 saves in 2006
Jeff Russell - 33 saves in 1993
Bob Stanley - 33 saves 1n 1983

5. Keith Foulke - 32 saves in 2004

T- 6. Heathcliff Slocumb - 31 saves in 1996
Bill Campbell - 31 saves in 1977

T- 7. Lee Smith - 29 saves in 1988
Dick Radatz - 29 saves in 1964

T- 8. Jeff Reardon - 27 saves in 1992
Ellis Kinder - 27 saves in 1953

T- 9. Lee Smith - 25 saves in 1989
Dick Radatz - 25 saves in 1963

THE PROBLEM IS OBVIOUS

Jon Lester may have earned the win on Wednesday night, but once again, as is often he case, it wasn't easy. Lester went just five innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks. Over the course of those five innings, Lester threw 96 pitches. Say what you will, but economy is not one of his strengths.

Last week, Mike Timlin said the Sox problems aren't the result of team pitching.

"The pitchers know how to pitch, and they've been pitching well all year long," said the veteran reliever. "We've been throwing the ball really well.... we're pitching well, we're holding teams down, and they're doing the same to us. Right now we're not hitting as well as we're pitching."

Oh, really? Well let's take a look at this team that's been "pitching well all year long," and is "throwing the ball really well."

STARTERS:

Curt Schilling 14-5, 3.84
Josh Beckett 13-8, 5.35
Jon Lester 7-2, 4.76
David Wells 2-3, 5.40
Kyle Snyder 3-2, 6.23
Jason Johnson 0-4, 7.36
Tim Wakefield 7-8, 4.14
Matt Clement 5-5, 6.61
David Pauley 0-2, 7.88
Lenny DiNardo 1-2, 7.11

BULLPEN:

Jonathan Papelbon 4-2, 0.98, 3 saves
Mike Timlin 5-3, 3.97, 2 saves
Manny Delcarmen 1-0, 4,24
Julian Tavarez 2-4, 4.86, 1 save
Rudy Seanez 2-1, 4.82
Keith Foulke 2-1, 4.95
Craig Hansen 1-1, 6.60
Jermaine Van Buren 1-0, 11.77
Javier Lopez 0-0, 4.15

The Red Sox have just one starter and two relievers with an ERA under 4, and one of them -- Timlin -- barely makes the cut.

The Sox 4.83 team ERA is 26th out of the 30 Major League teams, and is 11th out of the 16 American League teams. I'd say Timlin's definition of "pitching well" is a very loose one. It might be relative if we we're talking about a college or a minor league team, but it's not respectable for a Big League team.

Meanwhile, the once mighty Sox offense is now batting .280, good enough for sixth in the AL, and they're third in the AL with 692 runs. Sure, the offense has been struggling as of late, but the pitching has been bad all year long. Let's be honest and lay the blame where it belongs.

If we're looking for the reasons for the Sox second half slump, and why they won't be in the playoffs come October, look no further than the rotation that has seen 11 different starters this season, and the array of relievers coming and going all year long. It's been difficult keeping track of just who's in the Boston bullpen from one day to the next.

The entire pitching staff will require some major overhauling to correct these problems before next season. Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt will be the two most attractive and desirable free agent pitchers this offseason, and ownership should open the checkbook and be prepared to write an eight figure contract with lots of zeros on the end.

Trades may be harder to come by as good pitching is at such a premium. But then again, hardly anyone on the Sox roster is untouchable. We could, once again, be looking at a very different Red Sox team next year.

It all begins and ends with pitching, and the Sox grievous deficiencies can no longer be ignored or avoided.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A SEASON LOST

If you're still reeling from the Yankees epic five-game sweep of the Red Sox, you shouldn't be. The writing has been on the wall since the All Star break.

Even before this devastating meltdown against the Bombers, the Red Sox were 16-17 following the Mid-Summer Classic. Yes, the team that so many in Red Sox Nation had such high hopes for were already a game under .500 since July 13 -- and then they proceeded to drop five sraight over the weekend to their arch foes. In fact, the Red Sox were 6-9 in the month of August before the Fenway debacle. This historic shellacking only made a bad situation worse.

The Red Sox suffered their first five-game sweep at Fenway park since September 1943. With that sweep, the Yankees emphatically drove a stake through the heart of the Red Sox and may have put the last nails in the Sox coffin for the 2006 season.

The Sox, who entered the series just 1.5 games behind the Yanks, now find themselves trailing by 6.5 games. People still talk about the first Boston Massacre at the hands of the Yankees back in August of 1978. That ugly event was 28 years ago and it's still etched in the minds of Sox fans everywhere. It's become part of our collective conscience. Think we'll still be talking about this horrific weekend in 2034? Unless the fortunes of these two organizations radically change between now and then, you can bet on it.

The truth is that the Sox playoff hopes were dashed even before the Evil Empire came to town. Since the end of inter-league play on July 2, the Red Sox were 19-21. If the limitations of the 2006 Red Sox weren't evident to even the most optimistic of fans by last Thursday, the events of the last four days should make them abundantly clear.

You cannot realistically expect a team that is 7 games under .500 during July and most of August to be a genuine post-season threat. That's simply unrealistic. Yes, it's nice to dream but then there's always reality, and the Red Sox -- and their fans -- have just been punched in the teeth by it. Welcome back from dreamland. It was nice while it lasted.

Were the Red Sox ever really that good to begin with? Probably not. They were suspect from the beginning just by going into the season with four pitchers who were, or would soon be, 40-somethings. Players that age are ripe for injury, and when they do succumb, they take longer to heal than younger players. Couple that with Matt Clement, who'd undergone a horrible decline in the second half of 2005 and a disastrous playoff appearance, and no one should've been that confident.

The rotation and the bullpen need to be completely overhauled to compete in the American League next year. Let's hope the money saved on Johnny and Pedro will be put to good use. Hello, is Jason Schmidt there?

Will Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, or Many Delcarmen ever become stars? At this point, it's anybody's guess. Red Sox history is replete with "can't miss" kids who never realized all their potential, or all the hype. Aaron Sele was supposed to be a star, as were Scott Cooper and Tim Naehring. None of them will be joining the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

What the future holds for the current crop of "can't miss" kids remains to be seen, but you know that veteran players like Schilling, Wakefield, Timlin, Nixon and Loretta have to be the most disappointed. This could have been the last great hurrah for them. Some won't be back next year, and for the others, 2007 will surely be their last season in Boston. A sad ending indeed.

If this sounds like an obituary, it is -- of sorts. No, the Sox aren't mathematically eliminated yet, and they won't be for some time. But for all intents and purposes, this season was over even before this embarrassing weekend dismantling at the hands of the Pinstripes. Some of us were just maintaining hope in the face of hopelessness. For more than a month-and-a-half, during a critical playoff hunt, this squad has proven that it is not a playoff team. It simply never had the pitching depth. I know, once a team is in the playoffs, anything can happen. But this team won't be there come October. Against .500 plus AL competition, the Sox proved themselves to be entirely mortal, and against their strongest division rivals they were humbled.

So once again in Red Sox Nation, we're left to proclaim, "Wait until next year!"

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

MAKE OR BREAK TIME FOR SOX

The upcoming five-game series against the Yankees could well define the Red Sox season. Undoubtedly, it will be a statement series for both clubs, with each trying to make the point that they are the elite in the East and the team to beat down the stretch. Either could be in first place when it's all said and done and, beyond the standings, the game could have a psychological impact as well. With only two games separating the clubs as they begin their duel, it could hardly be more fascinating.

The Sox are just 6-9 in August and need to turn things around in a hurry. Pitching has been their Achilles heel, and it's time for everyone to step up. Red Sox starters have gone seven innings just four times in the last 24 games (since July 21 in Seattle), and three of those games have been Curt Schilling starts. David Wells had the other.

Both teams have suffered through inconsistent pitching this season, and there will be some interesting match ups at Fenway in the coming days.

Jason Johnson (3-11, 6.26) will have his hands full in the first game of tomorrow's double-header against Chen Mieng Wang (13-8, 3.24). Johnson is still without a win in a Boston uniform and has not won a start since May 28. Advantage: Yankees.

In the second game, rookie Jon Lester (6-2, 4.09) will take on the lackluster Sidney Ponson (4-5, 5.82) who was replaced in the Yankee rotation by Cory Lidle after just two starts in which he posted an ERA of 10.00. Lester has had difficulty pitching beyond the fifth inning in his starts and will be fired up and out to prove himself. Advantage: Red Sox

On Saturday, the struggling Josh Beckett (13-7, 5.02) will take on the unpredictable Randy Johnson (13-9, 4.92). Beckett, who hasn't won since July 24 and hasn't pitched more than six innings in his last five starts, is 1-1 with a 10.80 ERA against the Yankees this year. At this point, who knows what to expect from either pitcher, but it should be an interesting match up nonetheless. Advantage: Toss up

Sunday will provide the marquee match up as Sox ace Curt Schilling (14-5, 3.83) squares off against Yankee ace Mike Mussina (13-5, 3.54), who is 2-0 with a 4.97 ERA against the Red Sox this season. This game could be a pitching duel, and Schilling will be fired up at Fenway in front of the home crowd. Advantage: Slight edge to Schilling

In the final game of the five-game series, David Wells (2-2, 6.06) faces off against the newest Yankee pitcher, Cory Lidle (9-9, 4.64), in what should be another interesting match up. Wells is a proven big game pitcher, and this game has the makings of being a critical contest. Though he's surrendered 8-10 hits in each of his last four starts, Wells has limited the damage on the scoreboard, where it counts. While Lidle is 2-2 with a 6.58 ERA against the Red Sox in his career, Wells is 19-10 with a 3.11 ERA all-time against his former team. Advantage: Wells

The day after the Yankees series concludes, the Sox immediately begin a three-city West Coast swing that will cover nine consecutive games in Anaheim, Seattle and Oakland. Then the Sox return to Fenway, without a day off, to begin a seven game homestand against Toronto and Chicago.

The Sox had better be ready because they are about face an arduous stretch in which they'll play 21 games in just 20 days, an exhausting run that will likely determine their playoff fate.

For the time being, at least, the Sox will remain without the services of Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon and Tim Wakefield, the three seasoned veterans remaining from the club's last five postseason teams, dating back to 1998. The rest of the team will have to find a way to win without them for as long as necessary.

The acquisitions of left-handed hitters Eric Hinske and Carlos Pena may help, but neither appears to be what he once was. However, the Sox don't need additional stars, they need contributors -- players who can deliver key hits in the clutch.

Whether either Hinske or Pena still has that capacity remains to be seen, but right now they're the best the Sox can do in a very thin waiver market.

Hold on tight. This is going to be a crazy ride over the next three weeks, and we're about to find out just what the Red Sox are really made of.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

SOX ACQUIRE HINSKE & PENA

With Trot Nixon not expected to return until at least August 31, which would be exactly one month to the day since he went on the DL, the Red Sox have acquired Eric Hinske from the Blue Jays for a player to be named, likely a low-to-mid level prospect. The 2002 Rookie of the Year can play both corner infield positions as well as the outfield.

This season with Toronto, Hinske was batting .264 with 12 homers and 29 RBI.

The Sox will reportedly pay the roughly $1.4 million still owed Hinske for this season, and are on the hook for half of the $5.6 million due to him next year. Toronto will pick up the other half.

Nixon's continuing right biceps injury forced the team to seek a capable left-handed hitter. Minus Nixon and the switch-hitting Jason Varitek, the Sox have been lacking two potential left-handed bats in their overwhelmingly right-handed lineup. Hinske will become the team's primary left-handed pinch hitter off the bench.

Earlier, the Sox signed lefty first baseman Carlos Pena, the Rangers' # 1 draft pick in 1998 and the Tiger's starting first baseman from 2003-2005. The Haverhill native and Northeastern graduate will report to Pawtucket tomorrow.

After a decline at the plate early last year, Pena was demoted to Triple-A Toledo before being recalled for the final seven weeks of the season. He homered 15 times over 38 games after the recall, ranking among the best totals in the Majors in that span. In the end, Pena totaled 18 home runs and 44 RBI in 79 games. But his .235 average lost the confidence of Tiger management.

Most recently Pena was playing for the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees Triple-A club, where he hit .260 with 19 home runs and 66 RBI.

The acquisitions of Hinske and Pena give the Sox options at first and third, as well as the outfield. and will add depth to a depleted bench.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BECKETT'S NO ACE

Since Josh Beckett signed a three year deal with the Sox, worth a guaranteed $30 million, he's won just two games, and one of them was against the AL doormat Kansas City Royals.

Not exactly what the Red Sox, or their fans, anticipated.

After last night's loss to the Tigers, Beckett is now 0-2, with a stratospheric 7.00 ERA, this month. The 26-year-old righty was only able to get through six innings, in which he gave up five runs. Performances like that are becoming habitual; only once in his last eight starts has Beckett lasted more than six innings. Since the All-Star break, Beckett is just 2-3 and he hasn't won in nearly a month.

The Sox "second ace" is now 13-7, and in those seven losses has an ERA of 12.00 -- yes, you read it right. Overall, Beckett sports a hefty 5.02 ERA this season.

An ERA over five is worrisome, and it's not the stuff of an ace. You can make all the excuses you want about him getting adjusted to the AL, but it's mid-August. Adjustment time is over.

When the Sox traded Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to Florida, it looked as if they were getting a young ace in Becket and some washed up baggage in Mike Lowell. Doesn't look that way anymore, does it?

Beckett has allowed a league-leading 31 homers, and though he's streaking right toward it, Bert Blyleven's MLB record of 50 may remain intact. But this has gotten ugly. Beckett's previous career high had been 16, and he matched that way back on June 5th. And by the way, when Blyleven set his ignominious record back in 1986, hit pitched 271 innings. Beckett may encroach on the record, but he won't even come close to that many innings.

Though Beckett was the first pitcher in either league to win 13 games -- back on July 24 -- he hasn't won since. The truth is, Beckett's record may be a bit inflated from playing on a winning team that has a great offense and defense. He's gotten the benefit of great run support. There may any number of middle-rotation pitchers in the AL who could have won 13 games for the Red Sox to this point.

Beckett's problem is that he's 26-years-old and still lacks maturity. Right now, he's one-dimensional and hitters know it. They sit on his pitches, just waiting for the fastball. Because he's 26, he thinks he has to blow every hitter away with a 97 mile-per-hour heater, and he's playing right into their hands. AL hitters are just feasting on that fastball. Beckett needs to broaden his repertoire and throw a variety of pitches. He needs to show opposing batters more -- he needs to let them see something other than the fastball. At this point, Beckett isn't acting like a crafty pitcher, he's acting like a macho hurler whose ego has gotten in the way while trying to smoke every batter with his power pitch.

Unfortunately, Beckett throws his fastball 71 percent of the time, and when he's behind in the count, he'll throw it 78 percent of the time. Despite the fact that the opposition has a .127 batting average when he throws his curve, he throws it just 16 percent of the time; the changeup 12 percent.

All we can hope is that Beckett will mature and continue to develop over the next three or four years. But that won't help this year in a playoff chase, and it seems kind of weird since he's already won a World Series in Yankee Stadium. The Sox expected him to assume the mantle of number one starter when Schilling retires at the end of next year, but at this point that may be just wishful thinking.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

SOX NEED PENA TO STEP UP

The Red Sox have a host of problems as they head into the stretch drive of the 2006 season. Two of their opening day starters are on the DL, and a designated third just got his first win of the season on Friday night.

The inability of the starters to get past six innings with any regularity has worn out a bullpen full of young and inexperienced relievers, old and tired relievers, and generally ineffective relievers.

All of that has been well-documented. What hasn't been as well recognized is just how much the Red Sox rely on just two players for a disproportionate amount of their offense.

Consider the following:

David Ortiz - 41 HR, 110 RBI
Manny Ramirez - 32 HR, 93 RBI
Pair's Total = 73 HR, 203 RBI
Team Total - 152 HR, 608 RBI

Ortiz and Ramirez, the most potent offensive paring since the the immortal Ruth / Gehrig combo, are responsible for nearly half the team's home runs and a third of its RBI. That's two players from a nine man batting order. Not good.

The next best offensive output has come from Mike Lowell, who has 13 HR and 55 RBI. That's a third of Ortiz's home run total and half of his RBI total. This makes the Red Sox essentially a two-dimensional team. If they're to get into the playoffs, and to advance to the World Series, they'll need to get more offense from other hitters as well.

To that end, there has been a positive development as of late. Some of that much-needed offense could well come from the club's current right fielder Wily Mo Peña, whose recent power surge could be a good omen.

Peña homered, tripled, and doubled today, coming up a single short of the cycle. The blast was Peña's third homer in five games, putting him on pace for a 27 homer campaign if he played the entire season. That's just exactly what the Red Sox have been lacking the last couple of years -- a third power hitter who is vital and dangerous.

Although Peña has played in only 54 games this season, the 24-year-old Dominican is hitting .314 with 9 home runs and 34 RBI. Trot Nixon, on the other hand, has just seven homers and 47 RBI in 92 games. Peña has a .365 on-base percentage and a .550 slugging percentage, resulting in an OPS of .915 -- Nixon's is .822. Surprisingly, the righthanded-hitting strongman is performing better against righthanders (.371, 8 home runs) than lefthanders (.219, 1 HR).

But Peña entered Thursday's game with 54 strikeouts in 169 at-bats (Nixon has struck out 41 times in 310 at-bats), signaling the work that needs to be done in order for him to master the strike zone.

As for the corner infielders, Mike Lowell has bounced back nicely from last year's .236 debacle, but he'll be lucky to total 20 homers this season, and Kevin Youkilis has certainly hit quite well but isn't a true power threat. And though Alex Gonzalez and Alex Cora have hit better than anyone should have expected, the pair of middle infielders won't strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.

The Sox will need to get some power output from someone else.

Nixon was hitting well for most of the season, then came an ugly July and his current injury. But even prior that, the veteran's power drop-off had been disturbing. Considering his injury history -- time on the DL in each of the last three seasons -- it's hard to imagine the Sox bringing him back next year. In fact, the Sox tried to move Nixon before the deadline and could find no takers.

Though the Sox shopped Peña too, it's a good bet he'll get the nod over Nixon next season. And, at present, the Sox will be counting on Pena to deliver on the promise they had for him when they shipped Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati to acquire his services. Consistency at the plate is the main thing they'll be looking for.

At this point, the Sox can only hope Peña will live up to his enormous potential. To be a successful playoff team, they'll truly need it.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

FADING FAST

If the once mighty-looking Red Sox look like a fading team these days, it's for good reason.

Since July 25, when they had a 2 ½ game lead, the Sox have lost 4 ½ games total on the Yankees.

The team that spent so much of the season in first place is just 15-17 since the end of interleague play early last month. The Sox impressive record was built on the back of weak NL teams and the sub-.500 AL teams. After splitting a series with the lowly Indians, losing a series to the basement-dweller D-Rays, and losing to a pathetic KC team tonight, the Red Sox will hardly instill fear in anyone.

The Sox have dropped 6 of their last ten games, and were very fortunate to earn victories in the two games that Mark Loretta and David Ortiz won with game-winning hits last week. If not for those clutch performances, the Sox would be 2-8 in that stretch.

Though we're only a week into August, the Sox have gotten off to a rough start, winning just twice since the month began. One of those was Curt Schilling's victory against Tampa on Friday. Though Schilling was strong against the D-Rays, he's had trouble during this stretch as well, as evidenced by his 6.00 ERA over his last three starts.

In fact, the last Boston starter to record a victory besides Schilling was Josh Beckett, way back on July 24. But Beckett sports a 5.00 ERA and was tagged for 7 runs in his last start against the Indians, which included three more home runs against him. Beckett leads all MLB pitchers with 31 homers allowed.

Right now, as it has been for a while, the Red Sox staff is a mess.

Through six games this month, opposing hitters are batting .316 against Red Sox pitchers -- the third worst opponents batting average in the majors after Arizona and Kansas City. The staff's 4.89 ERA for the month is higher only than Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Kansas City.

Is it any wonder?

Jason Johnson, Kason Gabbard, David Wells, David Pauley, Lenny DiNardo, and Kyle Snyder have combined to give the Red Sox a grand total of three wins from the No. 4-5 slots in the rotation, and two of those belong to Snyder. Go figure.

None of this should be any surprise.

Over the last 15 games, the four starters who have taken turns in the four and five spot are winless in six starts (0-4); none of them have pitched beyond the sixth inning, and their combined ERA is 5.35.

As has been a problem in most of his starts, rookie Jon Lester lasted just five innings again tonight, in which threw 105 pitches, allowing four runs, six hits, three walks and a hit batter. Outings like these have put excessive strain on a bullpen that has not responded.

The Sox pen hasn't been able to bail out the starters with any consistency. They've given up too many hits and runs, and haven't been able to keep the team in games often enough.

There's plenty of blame to go around. Craig Hansen has a 6.75 ERA in seven appearances, and has been scored upon in four of his last five. In 25.2 innings this year, Hansen has given up 30 hits, including 2 homers, and has just 21 Ks. Not good enough.

Manny Delcarmen is 12.60 ERA in six appearances, and was scored upon in four. And since returning from the DL, the once reliable Mike Timlin has been something other than his former self. In his last six appearances he has a 9.53 ERA, and has allowed an alarming 4 home runs in just 5 2/3 innings. Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez.... need I say more? The pen can no longer be trusted.

Next week, the Sox begin an 11-game stretch against the Tigers, Yankees, and Angels -- consecutive series that could end their pennant hopes once and for all.

If they don't turn it around by then, their season could be lost. What a shame that would be.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

ORTIZ THE FASTEST TO 40

Today, David Ortiz hit his 40th home run in just 109 games -- the fastest of any Red Sox player in history. The previous mark had been 127 games, held by Jimmy Foxx in 1938 -- the year he hit his club-record 50 home runs.

Ortiz now appears poised to shatter that mark.

Only three Red Sox players have had three 40-home run seasons; Carl Yastrzemski ('67, '69, '70) Manny Ramirez ('01, '04, '05), and Ortiz. But Big Papi became the first to have three consecutive 40-homer seasons.

Ramirez, with a season total of 31 homers so far, will likely match Ortiz's feat, and become the team's all-time leader in 40-homer seasons.

Ortiz's blast was his 159th career homer with the Sox, just three behind Carlton Fisk and Tony Conigliaro who are tied for 12th place on the club's all-time list.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

PAPELBON TAKES HIS PLACE

After a lengthy stretch -- dating back to July 19th -- in which he hadn't recorded a save, Jonathan Papelbon notched his 30th save in 33 opportunities on Friday night against the Devil Rays.

With the save, Papelbon encroached upon the rookie saves record held by Kaz Sasaki.

Here's a look at the all time single-season rookie saves leaders:

Kaz Sasaki (Seattle) - 37 in 2000
Todd Worrell (St. Louis) - 36 in 1986
Billy Koch (Toronto) - 31 in 1999
Jonathan Papelbon (Boston) 30 in 2006
Kerry Ligtenberg (Atlanta) 30 in 1998

And the outstanding rookie closer also continued to rewrite the Red Sox record book. Papelbon is now in sole possession of seventh place on the Red Sox single-season saves list.

Next up, with 31 saves each, are Heathcliff Slocumb (1996) and Bill Campbell (1977), in 6th place on the list.

The rookie phenom became the first Sox rookie pitcher to be named to the All Star team since Don Schwall in 1961. Schwall also went on to win the Rookie of the Year award that season. Could Papelbon follow suit? I'd bet on it.

As promised, I will continue to update Papelbon's performances and chart his progress as he moves up the list. He has a genuine shot at 50 saves this year, which would be the top performance by any Sox closer in team history. With each successive outing, Papelbon continues to make his case for Rookie of the Year. As it stands, the Louisiana native's 20 successful save opportunities to start this season are an MLB rookie record.

Here's a look at the Red Sox all-time single-season saves leaders:

1. Tom Gordon - 46 saves in 1998

2. Derek Lowe - 42 saves in 2000

T- 3.Ugueth Urbina - 40 saves in 2002
Jeff Reardon - 40 saves 1991

T- 4. Jeff Russell - 33 saves in 1993
Bob Stanley - 33 saves 1n 1983

5. Keith Foulke - 32 saves in 2004

T- 6. Heathcliff Slocumb - 31 saves in 1996
Bill Campbell - 31 saves in 1977

7. Jonathan Papelbon - 30 saves in 2006

T- 8. Lee Smith - 29 saves in 1988
Dick Radatz - 29 saves in 1964

T- 9. Jeff Reardon - 27 saves in 1992
Ellis Kinder - 27 saves in 1953

T- 10. Lee Smith - 25 saves in 1989
Dick Radatz - 25 saves in 1963

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

VARITEK VS. FISK

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek recently became the 106th catcher in major-league history to catch at least 1,000 games. Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk leads all catchers with 2,226. But last month, Varitek passed Fisk and established a new Red Sox record for games caught at 991.

In his years with the Red Sox, Fisk played in a total of 1078 games, including 990 at catcher, seven in the outfield, three at first base, and three at third base. The much-heralded catcher was in a Red Sox uniform from 1969-1980. However, in his first two years with the Sox, 1969 and 1971, Fisk played in a total of just 16 games. So in reality, Fisk played just nine years in Boston.

Similarly, 34-year-old Jason Varitek is playing in his ninth season with the Red Sox. In that time, he's played in a total of 1050 games.

The question is, how does Varitek stack up against the legend, Fisk?

A look at Fisk's numbers with the Red Sox:

3860 At Bats
1097 Hits
627 Runs
162 Home Runs
568 RBI
1856 Total Bases
389 Walks
.356 OBP
.421 SLG
.257 AVG


A look at Varitek's numbers with the Red Sox:

3482 At Bats
939 Hits
473 Runs
130 Home Runs
538 RBI
1575 Total Bases
399 Walks
.349 OBP
.452 SLG
.270 AVG

The numbers for the two players are quite comparable. Fisk, in 378 more at bats than Varitek, has 158 more hits. Varitek, however, has the higher average, slugging percentage, and more walks. But in all other other offensive categories, Fisk has the edge.

After he returns from the DL, Varitek will move closer to Fisk in games played and will have the rest of the season to add to his stats, allowing a truer comparison to be made. But even at that point, Fisk will hold a considerable edge in hits, runs, home runs, and total bases.

The two are close, but based upon the facts; advantage, Fisk.


Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.