Monday, September 06, 2010

Haven't Got Time for the Pain

I haven't written much about the Red Sox lately, because frankly I haven't got time for the pain.

A lot of factors go into the success or failure of a baseball season, including "relative" performance to statistical norms, managing, luck, consistency, injuries, and even 'acts of God'. I saw a highlight clip of a ball hitting a bird and deflecting past an outfielder for a walkoff hit.  But after yesterday's embarrassing loss to the White Sox, I needed some catharsis.

Perhaps the Red Sox can't change anything about this season, but as for next season, some changes are in order. In no particular ranking:

1) Third base coaching. The best third base coaching occurs when nobody knows the coach's name. We've have Dale "Sveum it ain't so", Wendell "Send 'em in Kim", and Tim "Boo-boo" Bogar. DeMarlo Hale was fantastic but Bogar didn't really cut the mustard. I'm being kind.

2) Bullpen restructuring. Okay, the four walks in a row yesterday sent me over the edge. It was the Sam McDowell, Matt Young, Steve Blass kind of performance that deserves professional help. Papelbon's disgust and lack of empathy after the game deserves a little back room discussion from the manager. Be a good teammate; be a professional. As for Papelbon himself, he had a terrific stretch when he got back to using all his pitches. When he throws nothing but fastballs, it's not working.

3) There's only so much you can do about injuries. It's not bad enough to lose the right side of the infield, catchers for too long, but Marco Scutaro is throwing lollipops to first. How bad is his shoulder, anyway?

4) Statistical variation. Who played "up to expected levels" when adjusted for injury time? Drew, Youkilis, Pedroia, Martinez, and Scutaro all really did what they do. Beltre and Ortiz exceeded expectations, as did Bill Hall. Darnell McDonald excelled as a fourth outfielder. For the minimal time he wasn't sick or injured, Jed Lowrie was decent.

The combined left and centerfield positions were pretty much a disaster of biblical or 'Titanic' proportions.

Obviously, the Sox expected more from Beckett and Lackey, and the bullpen for the second half struggled to put it mildly. The bullpen needs a complete makeover excepting Daniel Bard. Presumably a healthy Beckett and Lackey do better; Lester and Buchholz couldn't do much better.

5) Run prevention. When does that start again?

6) What do they do with Beltre, Ortiz, and V-Mart? With Youkilis out, they became the offensive core. Do we just start all over again? We can't know what the organization is thinking,

7) How do they address the Ellsbury situation? Currently, he's simply damaged goods, and only management knows where his head is at.

8) "Power outage". Is this fair? As tough as it may seem to believe, the Sox are second in runs scored to the Yankees and second in homers to Toronto. Sans Ellsbury, they are last in stolen bases with a mere 47. Somehow, they need to get a power hitter (e.g. Adrian Gonzalez). Casey Kelly, we barely knew ya.

9) The deciders. Is management going to spend the money coming off the payrolls? Lowell's pay is a big lump and what they do with Ortiz and V-Mart is another 20 million dollar decision. Are they done paying for nonproductive shortstops? Can they afford to watch Papelbon ask for Rivera money with declining effectiveness?

10) Papelbon's ERA skyrocket to over 3, along with a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.5, not great for a power closer. I'm not suggesting Daniel Bard has won the job; he's never even auditioned for it. They do have to make a call. At 9.35 million dollars (per ESPN) for Papelbon, that's a big piece of change.