Let us also get the game proper out of the way. Josh Beckett didn't pitch a bad game last night. He went the full eight on the road, gave up four runs on seven hits and struck out seven. He threw 65% of his pitches for strikes and walked just one batter. It wasn't his best outing, but it was enough that Boston should have been able to win.
Instead, the lineup decided to make Tommy Hunter look like Nolan Ryan. For six innings Hunter allowed just four hits and one run. Then, to put the icing on the cake, Boston let Texas' average bullpen shut them down. All in all, it was yet another pathetic display. But not a surprising one.
Would you care to guess Boston's team batting average for July? A measly .227 thus far. Their team OPS for July? A mediocre .725. And check out these numbers:
That would be the team batting average and OPS for April, May and June. Anyone notice something about these numbers? If you were the first one to say "They're declining month by month" you get a gold star and may help clean the erasers after class. Boston's batting has been horrid. The only people excused from this are Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Lowell, who have had ups and downs but are still swinging a decent stick.
This, people, is Boston's problem. It is not their pitching. It is not their defense. Boston's problem is their hitting and it must be addressed now. Not in nine days. Now.
The quick tumble from first place has also resulted in Boston fans - at least in New England (excluding Fairfield County, CT) - losing their collective minds. Talk radio is on fire with people wanting to give away the farm for Halladay or concocting crazy scenarios where Boston trades for Hanley Ramirez. Everyone is focusing on shortstop and the mound while neither is the issue.
You want an issue? Try this one: the leadoff position for 2009 has a batting average of .253 and a pathetic .303 OBP. That OBP is the worst for any slot in the lineup. Here's another: with the bases loaded the Sox are batting .266 with a .662 OPS. Against right-handed pitching the Sox are hitting just .221 since the end of June. The problems with the Sox all stem from their batting.
Now, to some extent this will right itself. The team has collectively gone cold and that will not persist through the end of the year. But the Sox do need someone who can bat leadoff, or another stick that will allow a better batter on the team to bat leadoff. So, who will it be?
Let's cross one name off right now. People...Hanley Ramirez is not coming back to Boston. Florida has zero reason to trade him away. He's signed to reasonable money for the next three years. Why would they trade away a dynamic player like that? Answer: they wouldn't. So enough with the Ramirez talk.
Also, Jack Wilson is not the answer at shortstop. Look at his numbers; he's no better than Nick Green at the plate. And he got pulled from the lineup last night with a bad hammy. What scares me is that it could be cover for a trade and that Theo would be making said trade. Theo, you got the better of Pittsburgh last year. Don't return the favor with a trade that doesn't improve on what you already have.
So...where should the Sox look? A few names:
Update: Continue reading the names if you like, but as of 12:40, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the Red Sox have traded for Adam LaRoche. LaRoche is hitting just .247 with a .770 OPS. However, he is in a very weak lineup and LaRoche is doing very well against right-handed pitching (.832 OPS). That is a weak spot for the Sox. There is no word on what the Sox gave up in return, but it won't be much. LaRoche is a free agent at the end of the year.
Personally, I think this is a stop-gap measure. LaRoche can't hit first and the Sox will still have to address this problem in the off-season. Theo needed to think bigger here.
So if you are the Padres, don't you want to make a deal where you know you'd get some quality young players back? And it would be a good deal; think Teixeira being traded to Atlanta by the Rangers. If there is a player worth breaking the bank for, Gonzalez is it. If Theo offered San Diego a package of Bowden, Lowrie, Delcarmen, Lars Anderson and Ryan Kalish...that's a major league shortstop, a major-league ready pitcher, a major-league reliever with closer potential and two of Boston's top eight prospects. Maybe you'd need to change a name or two, but Boston has the talent and the depth to make that deal.
Fielder is signed through next year and is receiving $11M in 2010. He is arbitration-eligible for one more year after that. But considering how contentious the first go-around was, how much more he'll get after 2010 and how much of the Brewers' payroll that would represent...I'd wager the Brewers would deal for the right package.
I think if you offered a package somewhat similar to one for Gonzalez ( Anderson, Kalish, Aaron Bates with Delcarmen and Penny?) you'd have a shot. Remember, the Brewers are in the hunt for the playoffs. Dangling Penny as part of a package works here as opposed to San Diego. That would give the Padres a guy to play first now (Bates) and one for the future (Anderson). Of course, the drawback is that Fielder is a huge part of the Brewers' offense. Milwaukee would have to stumble to increase the chances of this one taking off.
Of course, all of the above scenarios also would require two other things: Youk moving to third and Lowell not being on the field. The first is easy because Youk is great at third. The second sucks but this is business. It also makes Lowell possible trade bait as well.
I suppose there are some other options here. If you included Lowrie in a package, could you trade for J.J. Hardy from the Brewers? But the downside is that his numbers aren't any better than Nick Green's so that's a lateral move at best. I'd love to get an outfielder...but who are you replacing? Drew? That damned contract of his is a millstone around Boston's neck for two more seasons. Ellsbury is too young and too talented, and Bay isn't going anywhere. The simple truth is that the only position where the Sox can noticeably upgrade their batting is first base because Youk can play third.* The only third basemen I can think of that would bring a solid bat that may be traded are Mark Teahen and Ryan Zimmerman. But they aren't as good as Gonzalez, Fielder or Johnson.
Bottom line, though, is that Boston needs a bat and needs it ASAP.
As for tonight, the unfortunate news that Tim Wakefield is on the DL has necessitated the return of Clay Buchholz to the mound. He'll face off against Vincent Padilla, a mediocre pitcher I am sure Boston will make look like a Cy Young Award winner. Clay, just to play it safe you may want to pitch a no-hitter. No pressure.
* Yes, there is one other position that could be upgraded. But the only catcher worth trading for would be Victor Martinez. Would the Indians give him up? And how much would they want? I think dealing for Gonzalez would be cheaper.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Cold Bats, Hot Fans
Lets get it right out of the way...the Yankees are in first in the AL East again. In the immortal words of Rasheed Wallace, "Whoop-de-damn-do." Start bragging about when you actually win something in the 21st Century, fellas. With the Sox, Yanks and Rays among the best teams in baseball, I wouldn't be surprised to see all three teams hold the top slot at some point as we head into the second half. In the East, uneasy is the head that wears the crown.