Get ready for it, Boston fans. After last night's down/up/down tilt with the Yankees that ended with Boston losing 11-9 on two two-run blasts in the bottom of the ninth, all hell should be breaking loose on the Intertubes today. And most of it will focus on Jonathan Papelbon and Theo Epstein.
I'm not saying people don't have a right to be pissed. The Sox caught Hughes on an off-day and survived another Daisuke Inning From Hell, only to watch the win slip from their hands. Hell, I'm pissed off about it too. But the over-reaction to it will be epic because the loss happened in the Bronx.
What was most disappointing, to me, was Daisuke. After a great outing against the Jays, he reverted to getting the one-inning yips. It's not easy allowing five runs in the first inning, but somehow he did it. And I think we really have to discuss where he goes from here on out. Especially after Wakefield looked awesome in relief, allowing only one hit over 2.1 innings. Can the Sox afford to keep an uneven Daisuke out on the mound when Wakefield has been pitching well over the last 10 days? It's not that I don't think Daisuke can pitch. He most definitely can; in his first two years (2007-08), Daisuke had the fourth highest win total (33 wins) of any pitcher in the majors over that span. More than Jake Peavy, Cole Hamels or Johan Santana. But after the World Baseball Classic, Daisuke got totally derailed and it is clear he hasn't recovered from that. With Boston needing every win it can get (we're two weeks from June 1), putting Daisuke on the mound right now is flirting with an automatic "L" almost every time.
As to Paps and Epstein, let's take them in reverse. People will call today bitching about Epstein's "run prevention" plan and how it was a crock because the Sox are losing and he needs to make a trade or get fired or something because THESOXAREINFOURTHPLACEANDLOSINGTOTHEYANKEESOHMYGODITSTHEAPOCALYPSE!!!!
I'm not thrilled with Boston's play so far either (although against the Yanks, they are two wins ahead of where the Yankees were last year). Still, the problem is not Theo's idea of run prevention, That was the right plan, especially since Boston's offense is trucking right along. The problem is that the pitching just hasn't been there, and no one can say that Theo didn't address pitching in the off-season. The pitching staff simply hasn't held up its end of the deal. Hell, even their defense has improved to be among the middle of the pack in the AL. But Boston's team ERA is dead-last in the AL. The Sox are one of three teams in the AL without a complete game to their name. Their 18 quality starts are second-worst in the AL. Boston's seven blown saves are second-worst in the AL. And it doesn't help that the two of the best teams in every category happen to be the Yankees and the Rays.
As for Paps, people will forget that he didn't allow a single earned run in his last seven starts. Or that this was just his first blown save of the year. All they will see is that he got rocked by the Yanks. Again. And the truth is, he isn't good against the Yankees historically. It also won't help that Daniel Bard pitched a solid eighth inning. And so the talk will begin of making Bard the closer.
Forget that Paps has been, overall, having a season more akin to those early in his career. Forget that his home run rate and blown save numbers aren't any worse relative to last year (although it's hard to see that based on last night). It's just plainly obvious that he must be traded NOW!!!!
No. Now, it's not that I haven't talked about trading Papelbon before. I made the suggestion that if Theo wanted to do so, now would be the best time because his value would be highest. But you cannot do something that big in a blind panic. You would have to be 110% sure that Bard could handle the closer's role. I don't think we're at that point yet.
So my answer to all this is a very un-explosive "Don't change anything." But really, what is there to change? Do you think the Sox could trade for a better starting pitcher than what they have now? I suppose they could shoot the moon for Cliff Lee in Seattle, but who do you get rid of? Remember that Daisuke has a no-trade clause and Boston already has one starter in the bullpen. What has to happen is simple: Boston's pitchers have to pitch to their level. Once that happens, the ship will right itself. But right now it's a perfect storm of too many pitchers having sub-par seasons, the anti-Tampa staff if you will. As long as that continues, Boston will struggle.
Tonight it's Beckett and Sabathia. If Beckett ever wants to get going this season, this would be one hell of a game to pick.