Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tim Wakefield Just 12 Wins From Surpassing Roger Clemens & Cy Young

With his win tonight, Tim Wakefield is just 11 wins behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young on the Red Sox' all time wins list.

Wakefield now has 181 wins in 17 seasons with the Red Sox, while Clemens and Young are tied at 192 wins apiece.

Young achieved the total in just eight seasons, while Clemens did it in 13.

Tonight, Wakefield pitched seven strong innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs, while walking two and striking out two.

Over his last two starts, Wakefield has gone 13.2 innings, allowing nine hits, two walks and three earned runs.

With Wakefield pitching so effectively, the Red Sox may feel inclined to keep him in Daisuke Matsuzaka's spot in the rotation.

Although Alfredo Aceves has been excellent over two recent spot starts (11 innings, 8 hits, 2 ER), he is much better suited to the bullpen than Wakefield.

If Wakefield were to get 20 more starts from now until season's end (a reasonable expectation), given the Red Sox potent offense, he would have a credible chance to win 12 games.

Viewed from another perspective, Wakefield has four months to get 12 more wins and become the winningest pitcher in team history.

The knuckleballer also needs just 31 more Ks to become only the second pitcher in Red Sox history to record 2,000 strikeouts. Roger Clemens is the Sox all-time leader with 2,590 punch outs.

The 2,000 strikeout plateau seems well within Wakefield's reach. If he averages just 3.1 Ks over his next 10 starts, he'll reach that milestone.

The 12 wins will be a greater challenge. But while such an achievement once seemed improbable, it also seems to now be within Wakefield's grasp.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jon Lester: Winner, Strikeout Machine

With his win against the Yankees last Saturday, Jon Lester improved his career record to 66-26, giving him a .7173 career win percentage. That surpassed former Yankee Spud Chandler (.7171) for the highest in baseball’s modern era among pitchers with 50 decisions.

Though he had a bit of a rough start last night, allowing a career-high 12 hits, two walks and five earned runs, Lester kept on winning, improving to 6-1 this season.

However, there are a few concerns. Lester has allowed 14 earned runs over his last 16 1/3 innings, his worst three-game stretch in more than a year.

Despite those recent struggles, Lester hasn't lost since April 12. And though his ERA has been rising, it's still a respectable 3.68.

However, one thing Lester continues to do with great consistency is strike out opposing hitters.

On May 3, Lester struck out at least 10 batters (11) for the 15th time in his career, the most ever among Red Sox lefthanders.

Only Pedro Martinez (72), Roger Clemens (68) and Smoky Joe Wood (18) had more double-digit strikeout games than Lester.

And last night, Lester struck out five more batters, giving him 775 in his career. In the process, Lester passed Dutch Leonard (771) for second place all-time among Red Sox lefthanders.

Earlier this season, Lester passed the great Lefty Grove (743) on that list as well.

The 27-year-old Lester has entered some elite company in team history. The only lefty who struck out more batters in his Red Sox career was Bruce Hurst, who fanned 1,043 hitters from 1980 to 1988.

Before this season is over, Lester will almost certainly have entered the Red Sox Top 10 in strikeouts.

Lester fanned 225 batters in each of the last two seasons, joining Smoky Joe Wood and Cy Young, each of whom struck out at least 200 in two different seasons.

Over 10 starts this season. Lester has fanned 63 batters. Should he reach 200 again this year, he would become just the third Sox pitcher to accomplish the feat.

In Red Sox history, only two pitchers have reached the 200 K mark in more than two seasons; Roger Clemens (8 years) and Pedro Martinez (6 years).

The Red Sox are quite fortunate to have a big, lefthanded power-pitcher just entering his prime.

Over parts of six season, Lester has already joined an elite list of Red Sox pitchers and begun etching his name in the club record book.

It's safe to say that Jon Lester is on his way to becoming the greatest lefty in Red Sox history, and within just a couple of years the statistics will clearly bear this out.

Should he remain healthy, Lester will likely become one of the five greatest pitchers in club history, righties included.

Most importantly, Lester is a winner who gives the Red Sox the likelihood of victory every time he takes the mound.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lackey Is Lacking

What's wrong with John Lackey? Is it personal issues, or is Lackey just not cut out for the glare of Boston and the heat of the AL East?

In his last outing, Lackey allowed 14 base-runners and 9 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. If a pitcher puts that many guys on base, it's likely he'll give up at least six runs every time.

The right-hander has allowed a combined 17 runs in his last two starts, a 10 2/3-inning span during which he's struck out just two batters.

Lackey has made six starts this season; just two of them were quality starts. He is the rotation's equivalent of JD Drew; an overpaid under-achiever.

This is Lackey's line in 2011:

Starts: 7
Record: 2-5
ERA: 8.01
Innings: 39.1 (avg. 5.6 per start)
BB/K: 18/19
WHIP: 1.81

If Lackey were to pitch 23 consecutive scoreless innings (which isn't going to happen), he'd bring his ERA to 5 or under.

He's in such a deep hole, it's hard to envision how he gets out of it. And his mental issues only compound whatever technical/mechanical issues he is facing.

Lackey revealed in spring training that his wife, Krista, was battling breast cancer.

After his recent, horrendous outing, Lackey told the media, "Everything (bleeps) in my life right now to be honest with you."

The guy sounds utterly confused, even lost.

"I don't know what the hell happened tonight," he said after the game. "I threw the ball way better than last start. I don't know."

Of his season, Lackey said, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I don't know."

He's right. This really isn't a surprise at all.

Lackey's decline is not new or sudden; it's been going on for years. Since leading the AL with a 3.01 ERA in 2007, Lackey's ERA has gone up each successive year: 3.75, 3.83, 4.40, and 8.01 this season.

The size of his five-year, $82 million contract only adds to the pressure and the expectations. The fans feel that they are paying Lackey's salary through ticket sales, concessions and the like. Regular Joe's who are making forty grand a year expect a guy like Lackey to earn his pay, just as they do.

Though he's never been a power pitcher, Lackey's fastball has lost some zip in the middle innings, something that hasn't gone unnoticed.

"I think his stuff has been inconsistent," general manager Theo Epstein said of Lackey. "His velocity has been there more early in games. He hasn't necessarily held the velocity through the middle and late innings as much as he has in the past."

Epstein said that Red Sox coaches are analyzing everything ("stuff, command, movement, mechanical issues") in attempt to help Lackey and straighten him out.

Lackey was skipped in the rotation early this season and he didn't like it one bit. But apparently it motivated him in a way that his huge contract doesn't, because he responded quite well in his next start in Oakland.

Perhaps the Red Sox will give Lackey a mental health break, a family/personal issues break, or whatever they want to call it. It won't hurt the team. In fact, at this point it could only help. Let's face it, Tim Wakefield or Felix Dubront couldn't possibly be any worse.

Hopefully whatever Lackey's issues are, they will soon be resolved for the better. It's assumed this all has to do with his wife's health. But that is merely an assumption. Who knows what else is going on with Lackey? After all, he did say, "Everything in my life sucks right now." That's very opaque and it sounds like an awful lot is going on.

Even if Lackey's issues are soon resolved, we will eventually return to the fact that he is a 10-year veteran with a lifetime ERA just under 4. And, as noted, that ERA has been steadily climbing for five straight years.

Lackey is way past the developmental stage. This is who he is, What you see is what you get.

Lackey has never won 20 games or struck out 200 batters in a season. Additionally, he made 30 starts and pitched 200 innings just once in the previous three seasons.

The Red Sox knew all of this when they signed him.

And if performance wasn't enough, Lackey has a bad habit of showing up his teammates on the mound with his facial contortions and body language when things don't go his way — which is often. Every ball that gets through the infield or finds its way into the gap seems to be someone else's fault in his mind.

You have to wonder; how long before he loses his teammates?

Get used to it Red Sox fans; there are more than 3 1/2 years remaining on that five-year, $82.5 million contract.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Red Sox Continue To Dance: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox this season.

The Red Sox continue to confound us all. We're now 20 percent through this season, and the Red Sox are 14-18 and in last place in the AL East.

Yes, there have been signs of hope. But every time the Sox seem to take one step forward, they take two steps back. Amazingly, the Sox have yet to get to .500 this season. That's just pathetic.

Over a recent 17-game stretch, the Sox went 12-5 and were still a game under .500. And now they've gone backward from there.

This team's problems are numerous, including its anemic offense.

The Red Sox have scored more than six runs in just eight of 32 games. The offense, which was expected to be a strength of this team, simply isn't delivering.

Amongst American League teams, the Red Sox are 10th in home runs, 9th in runs, 8th in batting, 8th in slugging, 8th in total bases and have the fourth most strike outs.

It looks like a case of false advertising. This lineup was supposed to rake.

Only two Red Sox are batting at least .300 — Jed Lowrie and Adrian Gonzalez. Nine Red Sox are hitting .237 or under. That's simply stunning.

Kevin Youkilis leads the club with five homers. Only one Sox' player has at least 10 doubles (Gonzalez). Only one player (Gonzalez) has as many as 18 RBI.

With the offense misfiring to that degree, the pitching has to be almost perfect. But it isn't.

Amongst AL teams, Red Sox pitchers are 12th in wins, 11th in ERA, 11th in innings and have allowed the 5th most runs, 5th most homers and the 4th most walks.

There are problems aplenty.

Clay Buchholz has regressed and possesses a 4.81 ERA and 2-3 record. In six starts, Buchholz has lasted just 33.2 innings and is not making quality starts. Over those 33.2 innings, Buchholz has allowed a whopping 60 base-runners.

Though he has had some terrific performances and sports a respectable 4.33 ERA, Daisuke Matsuzaka has lasted just 26 innings over his five starts. Dice-K has allowed 37 base-runners in 27 innings (one in relief).

John Lackey has made six starts. Three of them have been lights out. However, in the other three he's given up more than six runs. In other words, at this point, Lackey only gives the Red Sox a quality start half the time. At $17 million per season, this is a guy who is paid like an ace and who was supposed to be the No. 2 starter this year.

There are leaks all over this ship, folks. The worry here is that this we'll still have these concerns at mid-season and that the Sox will be lucky to be a .500 ball club by that time.

Yes, there have been some bright spots.

David Ortiz has gotten off to a hot start with 4 homers, 16 RBI and a .284/..378/.450 line.

Adrian Gonzalez has been as good as advertised, as the preceding numbers attest. And there's every reason to believe that his power numbers will climb as the season progresses.

Jed Lowrie has been a great surprise, leading the Red Sox in both batting and slugging. His defense, however, leaves something to be desired.

Jon Lester looks like a beast, improving to 4-1 in his last start and lowering his ERA to 2.33. In that game, Lester struck out at least 10 batters (11) for the 15th time in his career. Given that he's traditionally been a slow starter, you have to wonder just how good he'll be this year.

Josh Beckett has returned to form, and is once again the dominant pitcher we've seen in the past. The assorted ailments that plagued him over the past year-and-a-half seem to be behind him now. The big righty sports an impressive 2.35 ERA and has allowed just 34 base-runners in 38.1 innings.

But that's it; those are the few signs of life. After that, it's a pretty big falloff. The most polite way to describe this team is 'disappointing'.

For well over a month, everyone in baseball — not just Red Sox fans — has been waiting for this team to turn it around and play up to its potential. The question now is, how much longer will we have to wait?

The concern is that we could be waiting until it's too late.

Want one ray of hope? As lackluster as they've been, the Sox entered today just five games out of first place and just five games separate all five AL East teams.

As I wrote recently, if the Red Sox ever find a way to put it all together and be the club they should be, the Yankees may come to regret the fact that they didn't bury the Red Sox at this point, leaving them far in the rearview mirror.