Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dead in the Water

A disabled vessel in Navy parlance remains afloat, "dead in the water." After last night's disappointing blowup, the Sox had nothing today, as Lenny DiNardon't got quickly hammered for four runs and the Sox never responded.

Last night's game was disappointing in a number of respects, but perhaps we should reflect on a few positives. Manny Ramirez showed signs of life with a pair of opposite field homers. Minus the eighth inning, Josh Beckett continued to dominate. Keith Foulke pitched well, working out of a jam in the eleventh, and victimized partly by umpiring and partly by Rudy Seanez. Jonathan Papelbon was lights out, and earned his new mohawk hairstyle with ten innings of scoreless relief.

Suffice it to say that most of the pen will have to have a lot shorter inning requirement to get Kevin Youkilis' 'Shear Madness' routine.

Today, as noted by Jerry Remy, Roy Halladay didn't have his best stuff, but it was clearly enough to shut down the Sox. The absence of Coco Crisp is starting to wear on the top of the lineup, and when the pitching isn't sharp, this team isn't going to be able to make up big deficits very often as currently constructed.

Speaking of pitching, let's review the concept of the 'natural corner'. Righthanded pitchers ball normally moves down and in, making the inside corner to a righthanded hitter the most common location. Most righthanders survive by being able to deal with the inner half. Pitchers who can control both halves of the plate (Jim Palmer notoriously and Schilling currently) have the best chance to be successful (excepting guys like Wakefield with a trick pitch).

So far, the NL acquisitions, Seanez and Tavarez haven't shown the ability to consistently control either side of the plate, nor overpowering stuff. I'll predict that any run of success by Manny Delcarmen or Craig Hansen gives them an outstanding chance of being here sooner, rather than later. If anyone can emerge from the remainder to close, that frees Papelbon to start, although clearly he is the stopper at the back end of games.

With just over a tenth of the season gone, it's fair to say the pitching and defense approach has produced agreeable baseball, although offensively the team has suffered the absence of Crisp, Nixon, and not much so far from Jason Varitek.

I don't have a lot of confidence in DiNardo as the fifth starter, and the Sox are going to need another solution. I've always been an advocate of trying to get Wakefield into an every fourth situation (if he's up for it), reducing the need for the fifth starter by about a third. Pitchers, being creatures of habit aren't going to be wild about it, and I know it will never happen. As for David Wells, everything we're reading suggests that you can stick a fork in him, he's done. Let's hope not, because he's an entertainer, and put up double digit wins last season.

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