Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sox season so far - the 40 game edition

Well another 20 games have passed, and a quarter of the season is as good as done. The Sox are sitting in second place, 3.5 games behind... yep, still those Baltimore Orioles.

While the 6 game stretch on the west coat finished a disappointing 2-4, the Sox really aren't in that bad a state - there has been a lot of noise, and the team clearly has issues, but we are early enough in the season for these to be corrected. We are still missing the presence of Curt at the front of the rotation, but Arroyo has exceeded expectations (though he is really just continuing to evidence the progress that he made last year - perhaps expectations were too low to begin with?), Clement and Wakefield have been largely as expected (that is sometimes good, sometimes not so good), while Miller, in an admittedly small sample, has certainly shown signs that he can be a very effective starter - though like most Sox fans I guess, I have fingers and toes crossed, and I am knocking on a very large piece of wood, as I make that statement. Wells reappeared from the DL last night and clearly wasn't very impressive in that first start back, but (and this is the pain of being in the UK, I can't see these events as they happen), it did appear to be single, after single, after single that hurt him.

On the hitting front, the outfield have been very strong - despite a surface glance 'concern' about Manny's batting average (I read an article the other day that stated if Manny had had one more hit a week he would have been sitting at .300, and given his other numbers no one would have been expressing any concern - sorry I can't find the link) - with Damon outperforming any reasonable expectations, and Nixon hitting well despite being used in a platoon role.

The infield has been more concerning - apart from Varitek, the infield has not really produced the way we might have hoped / expected, but the numbers are not so far off as to give cause for extreme concern.

The decision to retain Kevin Millar over Doug Mientkiewicz was based on the belief that Millar's hitting value would be greater than Doug's hitting and defensive value - but given the similarities in their hitting lines at this stage... Kevin can't be overly proud of his .326 slugging percentage - of the 51 players listed as 1b on the MLB stats page Millar sits 43rd, with only Pena from Detroit and Thome of the Phillies below him as regular first basemen - and Jim Thome was hampered by injury before he went on the DL. Clearly the Sox have recognized that 1b is a concern, with John Olerud in a minor league rehab stint as he works his way toward Boston - but I would hope that Millar's hitting picks up such that Olerud is not our 1b answer in the second half, or that the Sox make a trade for that answer.

The next 20 games include home series against the Braves, Orioles and Angels and road trips to Toronto, New York and St. Louis - I think that we may have a better picture of where the Sox stand at the end of those 20 games.

Over those same 20 games the Yankees, having rebounded strongly against what would have been the cream of the AL West not that long ago, face road series against the Mets, Royals, Twins and Brewers as well as a 6 game homestand against the Tigers and Sox. Given the weakness of that schedule (apart from the Sox, he adds before Neil makes a comment), we can probably expect to see the Yankees make further progress up the AL East before I make the next of these posts.

This weekends Yankees / Mets set may be as interesting as the Sox series over the Memorial Day weekend - the Mets clearly believe that they are a greatly improved team, even if the standings support the view that they are nothing more than a .500 team despite the winter contract extravagance. It really will be interesting to see Pedro pitch against the Yanks in something other than red sox - though given his cortisone shot, I may be revealing my overly cynical nature when I suggest that I won't be the most surprised Sox fan on this side of the pond, if his next start is pushed beyond Sunday.

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