Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ugly losses - has JP built the perfect anti Red Sox machine?

Well Friday night was the first gut-check loss of the season - from 6-2 ahead, bases full of Sox, to a 7-6 loss that was angrily predicted in this house the moment Francona picked Seanez to serve up the winning pitch (but for once, I listened to some sage advice). What made this choice by Tito difficult was that it appeared that all the Sox needed to do to win the game was make it through this half inning, before the Jays trotted out their mascot to pitch out the top of the 13th inning... that, and the fact that Foulke clearly struck out Troy Glaus on a pitch at the knees...

On Saturday the Sox lost to the Jays again, despite getting Halliday out of the game after 5 innings - normally a good sign, but our 5th starter was gone 2 innings earlier... never a good sign.

At least today Terry managed his bullpen perfectly - bringing his best reliever - I will return to this point - into a genuinely high leverage situation. What worries me slightly is that if this had been the 8th inning, rather than the 6th, I believe that he would have gone to Timlin, despite increasing evidence that Timlin is now an effective 1 inning guy in bases empty situations only (what do you mean the shot to Glaus on Friday was with the bases empty?).

But Keith Foulke looked the pitcher we need him to be, got the Sox out of that 2 on, 1 out jam, pitched a perfect 1-2-3 7th, before passing the torch to Timlin in the 8th and Papelbon in the 9th - not quite the order we expected in Spring Training.

The Sox have now lost 2 series to the Jays this year, and won only 1 of the 6 series the teams played last year - although they did tie the 2 and 4 game series that the teams played at Fenway in '05. JP is from the same sabermetric orientated as Theo, and it does seem that his team is built on the same principals of pitching and patience as the Boston 9. The Sox saw both of the power arms at the front of the rotation, and a lot of the power arm at the back, while the lineup leads the majors in average and slugging % and is in the top 5 in OBP (though despite all that, only 10th in runs scored) - not necessarily where they will be at the end of the year, but an indication of their potential.

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I made the point that Foulke, as the best reliever, was brought into the highest leverage situation in the 6th inning. I realize I am jumping early (you will join me later), but I do think the team should be seriously considering whether Wells is done, and that Papelbon has his entry point into the rotation, with Foulke moved back where we all pictured him being.

His Game Log displays real progress, and more than that, I think we can all see that he is rebuilding his confidence alongside his location, and the 10 - 15 mph difference between his fastball and changeup. I just think his mechanics, incorporating that hypnotic delay at the back of his motion, look as close to 2004 as thay have since October '04.

If Wells is done, or even mentally done as this article suggets, then DiNardo isn't the option we should be trying out - Papelbon is.

3 threw a strike:

At 9:00 pm, Blogger s1c said...

I agree, I think Foulke is close to his 2004 performances. The Glaus strike not called a strike is also the third time this year that he has been victimized (Willy Mo home run, the Youkilis miss of the foul ball that hit the railing). I think that if he has a couple of more pressure situations that go well we will see him moved back into the closer role and Papelbon stretched out as the 5th starter. Wouldn't that be a rotation to fear in the post season, Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield.

 
At 12:57 am, Blogger Neil H said...

Agree completely - you would have a lot of faith in that rotation in any 7 game series.

I just think that 180+ innings of Papelbon is worth more to the Sox than 70 innings of Papelbon, regardless of how high pressure some of those innings are. I am ok with Papelbon learning the league in the pen, as long as the organization is committed to getting him in the rotation at the right time.

 
At 2:24 am, Blogger Marc C. Santos said...

While I tend to agree that Paps would make a great starter, I also hear an internal voice of dissent:

What's one of the consistent things those damn Yankees had for years?

Dominant closer.

And while Foulke looks better, Papelbon has been amazing in this role.

 

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