Friday, August 14, 2009

State of the Nation: Mid-August

The Red Sox recovered from a disastrous road trip through Tampa and the Bronx, returning to win three of four from Detroit. The Sox face the Rangers tonight, locked in a wild card battle, not to concede the divisional race.

Unfortunately, the road has been Kryptonite for the Sox this season, with the Sox 38-18 at home and 27-31 away from Fenway Park.

Relative to some of the teams they face, particularly Tampa, the Red Sox seem to have less athleticism and more age among the position players. Jason Varitek to put it politely is not in the prime of his career, and the consistent availability and production from J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz certainly have declined. Naturally, Ortiz homers just after I write this sentence.

It's no different for major leaguers than aging physicians (like me). When I recently worked seven days a week for several months, I'm feeling it. Big time. And I'm not doing it out in the heat. When does experience outweigh age-related decline? Bill James spends a lot of time figuring that out with his Win Shares system, which the Sox trend. I'd be shocked if they don't have a Win Shares/dollar calculus going as well.

As well discussed on Sports Radio today, a lack of reliable starting pitching (at times I've called it Lester and Beckett and the heck with it) taxes the bullpen, and produces tremendous inconsistency. Will Tim Wakefield get healthy, and will Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa fill the gaps in the interim?

The loss of Kevin Youkilis to suspension could never come at a good time, as for the most part, he, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury have provided the most consistency, with Jason Bay and Lowell coming to life during the recent homestand. Overall, from a totally objective standpoint, the Sox do not have as good a lineup as either the Yankees, the Rays, or the Angels, and would be the underdog against any of them in a seven game series, despite the 8-4 advantage over the Yankees this season.

Of course, baseball being what it is, anything can happen in a short series. The problem for the Sox remains to get to the playoffs.

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