Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat (W4-3) Season 15-12

Tim Wakefield (3-1) combined with Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke to defeat the Tigers 4-3 at Comerica Park as the Sox won the third game of the series.

Kevin Youkilis (The Talisman) plated Jay Payton with the game-winning hit in the 8th inning and Keith Foulke picked up his 6th save.

Edgar Renteria made several outstanding plays snapping out of his defensive funk.

At the one-sixth point in the season, can we make any generalizations? I'm hearing a lot of talk from the baseball fans in my peer group about how the Orioles and the White Sox are flukes. Chicago has had outstanding pitching, and the Orioles have improved with more experienced pitching and Ray Miller, their fine pitching coach ("work fast, throw strikes, change speeds"). The Red Sox have struggled with the O's and we'll see how they match up against the Pale Hose.

Offensively, the Sox two big guns, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz haven't really put together extended hot streaks. Overall, the offense hasn't been consistent and the SLOB factor (Sox left on base) has been painful. Peter Gammons mentioned the other day (on WEEI I think) that the Red Sox probably don't have one player with an OPS equal to last years (? Johnny Damon). Even with this, they're third in the league in runs scored.

Defensively, the Sox have few players who are defensive 'stoppers', including Renteria who has underperformed. The outfield defense has average to below average arms and the speed in center (Damon) carries a below average arm.

The pitching hasn't been consistent, but seems to be getting into a groove, working from the middle, with more productivity from Mantei, good work from Timlin, and Foulke appears to be pulling it together. Wade Miler will be added to the rotation Sunday.

Farm Boys. I'll continue to focus on the Double A 'Dogs' as this remains the major resource in the organization. Tonight the Sea Dogs shut out New Britain 5-0, behind 7 innings from Jon Papelbon (3 hits, 5 walks, 6 Ks) and three hits apiece from Hanley Ramirez (.293) and Dustin Pedroia (.352). The Dogs lead the Eastern League with a 16-7 record (winning less important than development) and four players with high OPS and some pop (Pedroia, Jeremy West, Chris Durbin, Jared Sandberg) along with the best known prospect Ramirez.

Papelbon, Jon Lester, and Cla Meredith lead the staff, although it's hard to imagine Anibel Sanchez not moving up sooner rather than later after dominating at high A Wilmington.

At the AAA level, Abe Alvarez has improved, and Kelly Shoppach has improved both his power and OBP numbers, and it's easy to envision him as marketball as the Sox look for help down the line.

The Future. Billy Beane, Gammons and others describe the season in three phases: 1) evaluation of what you need, 2) acquisition of those needs and 3) competing with the 'corrected' club. The pitching can't be fully judged because of injuries, and GM Theo Epstein and his baseball staff will have to determine whether they can make do, or whether they may have to sacrifice prospects for a frontline starter. I doubt that they will 'rush' the kids. They appear to need first base help desperately, unless Kevin Millar resolves his Jekyl and Hyde first/second half performances.

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