Boston Red Sox
- Great Game–Blowout Edition: September 6th, vs. the Yankees in New York. In the biggest shutout rout the Bosox have ever had in Yankee Stadium, Tim Wakefield and two relievers scatter four hits in shutting out the Bombers 11-0 to pull within 1.5 games of the AL East lead. That it happened on the Yankees’ home turf, and against ex-BoSox and future Hall-of-Famer Roger Clemens (who allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings), and immediately following a patented George Steinbrenner tirade made it all the sweeter. Every starter except DH David Ortiz had at least one hit, and three players, Kevin Millar, Nomar Garciaparra, and Todd Walker, homered.
- The Controversy (Or, Why Put Up With Manny?: A Microstudy): Red Sox team hitting with and without Manny Ramirez in the lineup:
AVG OBP SLG RC/27 IN .292 .362 .496 6.84 OUT .277 .354 .487 6.44
- Great Game–Nail Biter Edition: September 3rd, vs the White Sox in Chicago. This was a game where no team ever had more than a 1-run lead. The Red Sox scored first, The White Sox tied it up in the 3rd, and the Bosox never finished an inning with the lead until the 10th. Both starting pitchers, Derek Lowe and Mark Buehrle, made it into the 7th, but neither dominated. Both teams had 4 extra base hits. Boston stranded 8 runners, Chicago stranded 10. But this game belonged to David Ortiz, who, on two consecutive plate appearences, gave the Red Sox the lead with a home run. In the top of 8th, he put the Bosox up 4-3 slamming a 0-1 pitch from Scott Sullivan to right center with Manny Ramirez on 1st, though Jose Valentin‘s home run made it even in the bottom of the inning. Ortiz’s next time up, he crushed a 2-2 pitch out to left center off of Tom Gordon to give the Bosox a 5-4 lead. This time, Byung-Hyun Kim made the lead stand up with a 1-2-3 inning.
- Control Problems:
Scott Sauerbeck BB/9IP SO/BB Career 5.7 1.63 2003, before trade 5.6 1.28 2003, after trade 9.3 0.92
- Hot Hand: David Ortiz. Though he’s still 20 games shy of his career high, Ortiz has already set career marks in runs scored (69), doubles (36), triples (2), home runs (25), and RBI (85). His batting average/on base percentage/ slugging averages of .288/.369/.589 would also be career highs if the season ended now. His .589 SLG ranks 2nd in the AL, and 8th in the majors among players with at least 400 plate appearances, behind only Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Javy Lopez, Jim Edmonds, Todd Helton, Gary Sheffield, and Alex Rodriguez.
- Upcoming Schedule: The Red Sox have what should be a very easy schedule the rest of the way, facing only one team, the White Sox, with a record over .500. They face Baltimore and Tampa Bay seven times a piece (one four-game series at home, and one three-game series away, each), a three game series at home versus the Indians, and three in Chicago vs. the White Sox. Unfortunately for Boston fans, the Yankees face an almost identical schedule, swapping the series vs. the Indians for three against the Tigers, and the Red Sox actually have a losing record vs. the Orioles so far this year (5-7), so it might be hard to make up the three-game difference in the standings to win the AL East.
On the brighter side, they’re 1.5 games up on the Mariners for the wildcard, who still have six games vs. Oakland, and six vs. Anaheim, both of whom have better winning percentages than anyone the Bosox have to play that often, and even the M’s worst upcoming opponent, Texas, has a better record that the D-Rays, and almost the same as the Orioles. So the road to the wild card should be a relatively smooth one, and indeed the Baseball Prospectus Postseason Odds Reports has the Red Sox with almost twice the probability of making the post-season as the Mariners.
- Evaluate This: The theory of naming longtime Reds farmhand Dave Miley as interim manager was to give him every chance to claim the job he’s worked so hard to earn while staying on the happy side of Bud’s minority hiring process. Surely, the Reds will interview and give due consideration to some other candidates–judging them not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their credentials–but Miley is both well-qualified and the sympathetic choice.
Still, the test run that Miley is getting is hardly with the team the next Reds manager will be expected to helm. On a team without its entire starting outfield or anything resembling a major league pitching staff, what is there to be told about Miley’s 14-22 record? Miley’s .389 winning percentage is only slightly below the .402 percentage that got Boone a pink slip, but the talent level isn’t even in the same vicinity. In fact, Miley is being asked to audition for his dream job–the Reds major league manager–with much the same talent he worked with in his years at lower levels. Instead of writing in names like Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, or Scott Williamson, Miley is penciling in the same names he wrote in when he was skipper of the Louisville Bats.
On Monday, Miley wrote in the names of just two players that were in Cincy for the opening of the GAP in April, while writing in the names of three players that begain the season at Triple-A Louisville…or lower! Miley deserves the position based on his 14 years of managing in the Reds organization, not his recent work for the so-called big club.
- Finders Keepers: There are always the interesting human interest stories about the man who finds a priceless copy of the Declaration of Independence or a lost Jackson Pollack painting at a garage sale. After their own version of a three day sales at Crazy Eddie’s, the Reds are left with several players who could best be described as ‘replacement level talent.’ While not much is expected of Tim Hummel or Eric Valent, is there a gem hidden in the vein of coal? D’Angelo Jimenez (13.9 VORP) has been everything the White Sox think they got from Roberto Alomar (3.9 VORP), putting up numbers that could fade Felipe Lopez into the same sort of position Jiminez found himself in–lots of talent and perceived personality problems.
On the mound, Aaron Harang has been a great return on a short-term outfielder, putting up a 1.9 VORP against the 2.3 that Jose Guillen has put up in Oakland. Add in the intangibles of ‘major league experience’ and ‘testing players in the fire’ and the last two months of the Reds 2003 season aren’t a complete waste. It’s just that most fans didn’t expect to see a Triple-A team move up the Ohio to Cincinnati.
- Mo! Mo! Mo!: Your obligatory Wily Mo Pena update: finally freed from his spot on the bench by the firing of Bob Boone and an effective letter-writing campaign by Amnesty International, Pena has seen the light of day in the last few weeks. Judged by his numbers alone, Pena’s season is even more of a waste than expected, but given that this is a player that by rights, if not by contractual terms, should have been at Triple-A, the season has shown that given the right situation, Pena’s talent and potential remain intact.
San Diego Padres
- Boys of September: The Padres are 28.5 games out, but they aren’t playing that way. The team has won five of six series since being swept by the Fish on August 15-17, and they’ve dealt blows to the playoff hopes of Montreal, Arizona, and Houston during that stretch.
Despite the team giving up 11 runs three times over those 17 games, the Padres have been doing it with pitching. Even with those blowouts in the equation, Padres pitching has held opponents to just over four runs a game, which is a number you can win with when Brian Giles falls in your lap.
Looking ahead, the most important players to the Padres’ chances to make some noise in 2004 right now are pitchers Jake Peavy, Adam Eaton, and Brian Lawrence. Whether the Padres make a splash in the free-agent pitching market this offseason or not, by virtue of comprising 60% of the rotation, all three of those pitchers will be critical parts of whatever success the team has next year. Lawrence, Eaton, and Peavy are all young and have solid records, but none of them is a sure thing.
How have they been doing over the last month? Since August 1:
Pitcher Age IP H R HR BB K ERA Peavy 22 42.1 26 12 7 20 42 2.55 Eaton 25 35.2 36 17 6 11 26 4.28 Lawrence 27 39 33 9 0 8 19 2.07
Every team can find something to get excited about next year by screwing around with selective data sets in this fashion, but again, considering these pitchers’ histories and their likely increasing comfort level with Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley (they’ve been working with him since mid-May, but prior to that, Balsley saw these guys before in Double-A Mobile). According to Kevin Towers, Balsley will be back in 2004, and the Union-Tribune notes in the same article that the staff ERA has gone from 5.64 under previous pitching coach Greg Booker to 4.67 under Balsley.
We’ve been looking for big things from these three pitchers for a couple of years now, but at the risk of extending the trend, let’s do it again: Free Agent-Lawrence-Peavy-Eaton-Kevin Jarvis or similar scrub looks like it’ll be a competitive rotation in 2004.
- Lineup Changes: The team called up shortstop prospect Khalil Greene on September 3, and he’ll be the starter at short down the stretch. Greene looks like he’ll handle the position defensively–he hasn’t been blessed with great range, but that’s something San Diego fans have gotten used to since Tony Fernandez left town, and he’s displayed good hands, arm, and positioning in a Padres uniform.
It’s tough to tell if Greene’s going to hit enough to be useful in 2004. He took strides this season, but he still only managed a .237 Major League Equivalent Average with the Portland Beavers in his Triple-A tuneup, and the Padres have incumbent Ramon Vazquez, whose 11.5 Runs Above Replacement in 2003 place him 16th in the majors despite missing a large chunk of the season.
The long-term plan for these two now that Mark Loretta has second base stitched up is for Greene to take over the starting shortstop job and for Vazquez to slide into a utility position. Whether that makes sense in the team’s inaugural season in Petco Park is something Greene can help answer with a big September.
- Hell’s Bells: Trevor Hoffman is back, and it looks like he never left–he’s still got the wicked change, the 86 mile an hour “fastball”, and the glower from the mound Padres fans have become intimately familiar with. In many ways, he’s eerily similar to current closer Rod Beck, plus some hair and minus about 75 pounds.
The Padres are being careful with Hoffman, and he’s pitched in two carefully-planned single innings thus far. He’ll continue to rehab on the job for the rest of the season, and then the Padres get to decide what to do with him in 2004. Beck and Hoffman are a couple of excellent building blocks for a bullpen, so here’s hoping they’re both wearing Padres uniforms next year.
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