Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Keeping It Close

DV is right when he talks about the importance of the Red Sox treading water during this period. I think 12-15 is what he said the goal should be. I'm not sure where that's at overall, but it's taken a hit recently as Boston is 2-5 coming out of the break. Not the start to the second half they were looking for, but those 7 games are over now. If they want to stay in the mix for a playoff spot, they need to put a stop to it right here and keep it close.

Just before the All-Star Break, I was thinking about how tough this division is and how close the top three teams are in talent. I remember thinking that the team (or two teams, if the Wild Card comes out of the East) that comes out on top will be the team that relies on its experience the best, both within games and from game to game. And I mean experience in the broadest sense of the term. Not getting too high or too low. Never giving away an at bat or an inning on the mound. Not getting caught up in the standings and focusing on what you can control, which is winning on the days that you have a game. It sounds simple, but that is the type of stuff that separates teams when the talent levels between teams is close. In terms of experience, the Yankees and Red Sox should have a leg up on the Rays, although after 2008 they aren't as far behind as you might think. Still, the Yankees and Sox have players that have been tested over the long season and in pressure spots repeatedly. This matters.

Of course there is health. But health and experience go hand in hand. Part of what experience brings is an ability to navigate injuries as a team. It's not the only thing that helps a team get through injuries. A depth of talent does too. In addition to their experience, that's what helped the Yankees get through their major injury bug back in April and May. However, even the ultra-deep teams like the Yankees have their breaking point too, where injuries would be too substantial for talent and experience to make up for it. For a slightly less deep team like the Red Sox, this is even more true.

The Red Sox are not at that breaking point. Yes, they have lost some key players. Yes, they have lost role players who would help offset the loss of those key players. It would be one thing if they were not going to get healthy, but they have guys coming back, and soon. So it isn't about making the playoffs with the current roster, it's about keeping it close until your regular roster, or something close to it, gets back so that you can make a move. Just like DV has been talking about.

The reason I bring it up now is that it has become slightly more pressing. They haven't played good baseball coming out of the break, and the season isn't getting any younger. But they have enough talent and enough experience to put a stop to it right here, and keep the division and wild card close. And while you'd love to catch lightning in a bottle with one of the replacement players - and that can really help - it really falls on the guys with the talent and with the experience. The core players. Both those producing, and perhaps more importantly, those who are not. DV talked about Lackey as a key, and he's perhaps the best example but he's not the only one. Getting those guys to step up is where the biggest impact can be realized in terms of playing better baseball and keeping the team right in the mix until they can get healthy.

3 comments:

the gm at work said...

So the players are starting to come back. Red Sox have Buchholz, Lowrie, Beckett, and Hermida coming back either yesterday or this weekend. I don't know - is this supposed to excite me? The Red Sox' backup shortstop and backup outfielder are coming back?

Bottom line is, Adrian Beltre can't do it alone. And that's what's seemed like has been going on. JD has hit .260, recorded five (5) extra-base hits (two of which were heroically recorded after he was sidelined with a sore neck), and struck out every 3.8 at-bats in July. Youkilis has been solid but has yet to go on a tear when the team needed him. Cash is hitting .100. And the fact that Wakefield is leaving no doubt that he shouldn't be pitching meaningful innings also doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

PF

The Sox are in trouble. Few teams, regardless of how deep they may be, can handle the types of injuries this team has had. The fact that they are even in the race at all is an accomplishment in and of itself. But when you have your all-star catcher, all-star second basemen, and two all-star or former all-star starters out of the rotation, in addition to having your starting and back up left fielder out, as well as your back-up catcher, eventually you just can't keep up. And that's where the Sox are right now. The easy thing to say is that they aren't playing great baseball. That's true. But right now, this team, with who they're sending out every night, is playing as well as it can. But if you're line-up is half Triple-A players, you're going to get Triple-A production. Last time I checked, there weren't too many minor league teams that would be successful at the major league level.

DV

JD Drew is always where you don't need him. If everyone else sucks, he sucks. If everyone else is great, he's great. There's no in between, no pick-me-ups. I realize I'm not citing any statistics right now, but I'm bitter, so I'm not going to do so.
As for Beltre, he's the man. Honestly, nobody thought he was going to be as good as he's been. Unfortunately, we also know that it will be highly unlikely he'll return. And if he does, it will be at a contract that will be prohibitively high and take him into his mid/late 30's, which I don't think any Sox fan would be too excited about.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Let's just say that I am going overseas for the last week of the baseball season, and I feel like I will not be missing much.

I think the loss of Martinez is the most underrated loss. Sure, Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava are playing in the outfield, but the fact that Cash is catching is largely ignored. We're hearing a lot about 46, about Beckett, and about Hermida. We're hearing more about Varitek than about Martinez. But the loss of Martinez's bat has been devastating.

On Drew, his apologists will use the home run in 2007 and the month of June 2008 as a counter-argument forever. He's done virtually nothing since the hamstring injury.

If Beltre hits 640 at-bats, the player option goes up to $10 million. It would be a reasonably risky proposition for Beltre to turn down the $10 million option, especially if another year in Boston in his prime could further enhance his market value after 2011 in a presumably-better economy.