Thursday, June 24, 2010

Offensive Masterpiece

Unlike Theo Epstein and Pat, I sometimes like to admit I'm wrong. In March 2010, I wrote the following: "We can complain about how neither Lackey, Lester, and Beckett is not a true 1-A. At least Ubaldo Jimenez is not our ace." I thought you were gonna ask about that.

At age 26, Jimenez, whom Boston has not seen since he was 23, is doing his best Pedro Martinez impression. Pedro cut his ERA in half when he was 25 years old, and his first year in Boston was at 26. Not that I think Jimenez is Pedro, will be Pedro, or will be close to Pedro. But this year he has a no-hitter and thirteen wins. I wondered aloud today whether the Red Sox would get a hit today. Despite the ultimate result, Jimenez was largely brilliant tonight.

I made it a point to pay specific attention to the pitcher tonight after all I had heard. And it was worthwhile. The fastball with the counterintuitive late movement (away from lefties, in on righties), the splitter, and the occasional changeup were baffling. Pedroia looked awful on a few at-bats. Ortiz looked bad. Beltre looked silly. Drew looked healthy sitting on the bench.

But there were the occasional mistakes. There was a hanging curveball to Nava that scored two runs. There was the HBP against Beltre. There was the McDonald home run. Those were all bad pitches. But for the most part, the Red Sox executed against a series of good pitches. We saw some patience (despite the fact that his control is much better than it was earlier in this very season) and we saw some good pitches fouled off. The Red Sox, on many of their singles, just went with pitches where they were thrown and just hoped they could either put enough together or wait for a mistake. Clawing back after Lackey put them into a hole--with Lackey helping and the minor leaguers helping big time--was clearly uplifting.

By the way, a lot of uplifting Red Sox comebacks have been wrecked by bullpen implosions this year. The Monday night in Yankee Stadium and a Friday during the Baltimore sweep come to mind. Blown Save #11 tonight could have been scripted knowing the way this bullpen has wrecked big-time comebacks. Papelbon is not helped by the humidor apparently. Good.

I was also uplifted by the fact that everyone in the dugout was clearly pumped up about the execution of the gameplan against Jimenez. McDonald was mobbed. So was Lackey. For a generally grumpy roster between Lowell, Wakefield, Number Two, and others, it is nice to see NESN pan over and have people looking like they like to play baseball. It was really an uplifting win.

Until Papelbon took the ball.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

Even Orsillo and Remy were enjoying Nava, McDonald, etc. last night. It was a great job by the line-up (and Lackey, who not only settled down after being bad early, but also had two hits) to get back into the game. Unfortunately, this loss was a lot like the loss in Cleveland two weeks ago (that was a blown save by Bard after the bomb by Beltre in the top of the 9th) and the loss to New York back in May (blowing a two run lead after being down six runs earlier). All three games would have been huge comeback wins, the types of wins that really galvanize a team. At this point--and I know this may sound blasphemous to some--Daniel Bard is probably Boston's best reliever. Until Papelbon becomes a free agent and goes elsewhere, Bard will be taking a backseat. But once he steps in, I doubt any Sox fan will be that concerned about the transition.

Also, on Jimenez--he simply looked like a National League guy pitching against an AL line-up. I know he's dominated and done things at an historic rate, but guys Chris Carpenter have also dominated the NL. Sure, Jimenez clearly looked like he has great talent and he got some bad swings, but if Clay Buchholz or John Smoltz had gone out and given up 6ER in 5 2/3's, I seriously doubt you'd be praising their efforts, regardless of how those runs were earned or what kind of pitches they made.

--the Gunn

PF said...

I understand that he probably has the best stuff in all of baseball right now along with strasburg, but what is counterintuitive about a fastball that moves away from lefties and in on righties? That's how every 2-seamer moves. His just happens to be a lot better than most.

jason said...

Speaking of strasburg I havent been too far off on my estimate...!

TimC said...

I don't think it sounds blasphemous at all to suggest Bard is better than Papelbon. Sounds great, actually.

Also, slighlty off-topic, but I want to see if anyone has some thoughts here. I was discussing last night while watching the game, when will teams start to abandon the traditional "closer" role and start bringing in their top reliever whenever they deem it appropriate? By that, I mean when will closer start to see action outside of ninth inning save situations? And, to link it to the post, could the Sox already secretly be doing this with the Bard?

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

I agree with your first paragraph. Good call on the addition of that Cleveland game. Last night was blown save #11. And Pat loves to talk about Chris Carpenter unless there are comparisons to his boy Javier Vazquez.

Pat,

Not many of them move like that. He threw maybe four of them that were like early-90s-video-game quality. There were some games where you could never hit lefties because they pitched sideways and the delivery was so awkward. It was like that. There was some movement that I hadn't seen since the Matsuzaka videos from Japan.

Jason,

Oh GOOD for you.

the gm at work said...

Tim,

Sabermetricians have been talking about that for years, and as you may remember, the Red Sox tried the "bullpen ace" idea when they did the 2003 "closer by committee" experiment.

It didn't work.

jason said...

I think that is partly due to the fact that pitchers like knowing their role in the game, there are a lot of teams where one pitcher knows he is the set up man the other the closer and as the game progresses they can mentally prepare for "their" inning as compared to not being sure as to who will be called upon at what time

Anonymous said...

Boys

I think it's important to note that American John Isner just beat some Frenchman in the longest tennis match in the history of tennis. Now, tennis is no less effeminate than soccer is (and I'll fully admit I played tennis in high school) so we really shouldn't be mentioning it in this space as a sport. But, because it was an epic battle against a Frenchman, I think it's worth noting that Americans have been kicking ass all over this world for as long as we've had a country and that it's entirely fitting that the wimpiest, most whiny country, completely devoid of backbone, would have one of their own play eleven hours of tennis only to lose to an American.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

DV,

2003 does not count, as a team is required to have one good reliever in order to do this.

-TimC