Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sox' Bloated Corpse Floats Down River Styx

When Shaun Marcum took the mound, I know what you were all thinking: "This guy will probably two-hit us". And you were right. With Shaun's pedigree, it was perfectly reasonable to expect him to put together a 10 strike-out, one walk, two-hit shutout for 8 innings. I mean, up until yesterday he had a sparkling 1.8:1 strikeout to walk ratio, and a dominant ERA of 4.92. He is clearly one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Conversely, you might have been thinking: "This Red Sox team is pretty much done". And you'd also have been right. Right now there are very few storylines worth watching on the field, and for me they all revolve around seeing the young kids perform.

We should never see Gabe Kapler on the field in place of David Murphy - this is a useful time for Murphy's development (Tito loves his veterans, though). One has to assume he will make the team next year as the 4th/5th outfielder, and it would behoove the Sox to do everything in their power to get him comfortable in the bigs. He has looked good defensively, one gaffe aside, and he does have a nice swing. Not much you can say about a guy in 19 ABs, but all his peripherals are in line with a guy who isn't yet overmatched. One early-bird reported that he has tremendous batting practice power, so there's that. Not useful, but nice.

Pedroia has made some adjustments in his swing, holding his hands higher and loading the bat better, and has come alive a little bit at the plate. He continues to have simply awful luck, with a BABIP of just .183, despite a decent line-drive percentage at 22.5% (to give an example, Loretta's LD % is 27.2 but he's hitting 100 points better). His 7% K rate is the best on the team.

McAdam has a good story on the two positional players here. The Pawtucket Times has a heartwarming article on Loretta's helping Pedroia ease into the majors. Again, Loretta shows what a professional and stand-up guy he is. If only his legs weren't made of cement, I'd keep him on this team until he retires.

Another, less happy storyline that has come up in recent weeks revolves around the Red Sox coaches. There has been a lot of message-board speculation around the various coaches recently, mostly focused on the pitching coaches. The media (well, McAdam, with the Worcester G & T commenting also) have recently unearthed some comments pointing at Papa Jack, article here. It appears Papa Jack is not, um, helpful if you aren't hitting well, which, to me, is kind of important. When you are hitting well, one would sort of think the coach's job is pretty much just to say things like "good hit", which even I can probably do fairly well (my Meyers-Briggs test be damned). Personally, I've long thought his "one size fits all" hitting approach was particularly damaging to a guy like Crisp who got here by relying on his natural abilities and "doing his thing", as it were. We'll see; he strikes me as the Lee Trevino of the Red Sox.

The complaints against the pitching coaches stem from the frankly craptacular performances by players who fans felt should have done better. Craig Hansen in particular has looked like a shadow of the kid the Sox signed out of St. Johns, and has been tinkering with his mechanics essentially his entire time as a pro. Beckett has obviously struggled until recently making a couple changes (delivery, more two-seamers) that one could argue should have been made much sooner. And recently Cla Meredith attributed his success to moving away from what the Sox staff had indicated should be his approach. Link to the Olney blog is here (reg. required), but the highlight is:

  • "He decided to bag some of what the Red Sox development staff had tried to encourage him to do. Right-handed submarine pitchers often have trouble against left-handed hitters because the left-handers see the ball longer, and the Red Sox had pushed Meredith to focus on throwing the ball inside to lefties -- to jam them. After being dealt to the Padres, Meredith decided to go with his own approach: Keep the ball away from them, sinking the ball to the outside corner."
Currently the Sox have two heads in Nipper and Wallace, and one would expect in this case too many cooks can spoil the soup, as it were. That said, Wallace's health is a concern, although most folks would probably prefer him as the coach, anecdotally.

Apparently we will learn the day after the season ends who will stay and who will go. The "charges" against Papa Jack are pretty damning, and since he has about 47 hitting DVDs out there I'm sure he'll be all-right, so I'm guessing he's gone. I think I'd like to see some changes just to shake things up and add a little life. This was not an impassioned team this year, and while the White Sox have proven that even passion (or, depending on your perspective, insanity) doesn't win every year, it's kind of nice to have.

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