Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lightning in a Bottle

One of the more popular topics on both sports talk radio stations in Boston this baseball season has been bullpen help. That is, of course, because the Red Sox need some. Big time. Should the Red Sox be going out to other teams and giving up a mid-level prospect - someone like Josh Reddick - for a rental on a middle reliever? Personally, I think no because after they split with arguably the worst team in the AL while their manager and third baseman are getting into fistfights in the dugout, it's pretty safe to say the season is over. Pathetic.

But let's say the Red Sox did sweep this weekend or may some time in the next week get back into semi-contention. Should they go get a bullpen arm? Craig Breslow? The answer is still no. Because we've seen this, both before seasons (Matt Mantei) and during seasons (Gagne, Sauerbeck, et.al.), bullpen acquisitions are completely hit-or-miss. Over the course of two months, a guy can completely get hot or completely get cold.

The fact that Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront, or anyone else currently in AA or AAA can get just as hot or just as cold (and without much of a scouting report!) means that they should take that chance without giving anyone up instead of taking the same chance while giving something up. There are very few situations where you can find a sure thing (see Rick Aguilera, 1995). Otherwise you're just trying to catch lightning in a bottle. And this could come from anywhere.

More thoughts on this bullpen, many of which were inspired by Delcarmen, Delcarmen, and Okajima imploding this weekend, include the following:

If Daniel Bard is to blow six saves and have a 5.50 ERA from here on in (definitely a possibility given his workload), whose fault is it? Is it Francona's, only trusting Bard and Papelbon when it counts? Or is it Theo Epstein's, giving the team no other commodities in that bullpen so that Francona HAS to rely on Bard?

It's gotta be some kind of combination. Bard has pitched in blowout games this season (this is without a stat check). But guys like Delcarmen, Schoeneweis, and now the newly-figured-out Okajima can turn three-run leads into tie games in six minutes. Making Bard necessary anyway.

Plus, there are so many close games with this team that putting in one of the Other Guys is asking for a blown save. Thanks to Francona's overreliance on Bard, this team has only blown 15 saves instead of being on pace for the preseason prediction of 37. To Francona's credit, he's done the best he can with this team and its bullpen. However, you have to worry a lot about how many bullets are left in that barrel this season.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

This is a frustrating/melancholy time for Red Sox fans. I'm not even really angry. The truth is that the team we saw in May and June is the team that management built and envisioned. And that team was one of the finest in the game of baseball. They were a playoff team and a World Series contender. I know that sounds a bit silly in light of recent developments, but it is true. Just look at the record they had during that time.

Unfortunately, this team dealt with a rash of injuries unlike any I've ever known before. For a while, they could weather the storm. But eventually, guys like Eric Patterson, Kevin Cash, Dusty Brown, Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Michael Bowden, Niuman Romero, (and the list grows) simply cannot replace Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Jeremy Hermida, etc, etc. It was just too much for this squad. It would be too much for any team. You can't fault management for not predicting that guys would get injured like this.

But the really unfortunate part of all this is not so much about what might have been, but rather that we could, very soon, find ourselves watching baseball games that have no meaning. And there's really nothing as sad as that as far as being a sports fan is concerned.

Do I have hope that they get hot and rally like they did in June? Of course. And it's entirely possible that it happens. It's not like this team, with healthy pieces returning, can't get right back into the mix. But the probability is that this team won't get hot and won't turn it around. It is getting late around here. And the Sox need to do something fast.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

I just hope they don't trade Beltre. As long as he's on the team and there's a chance he can hit a ball 500 feet from one knee, the games will still be worth watching.

The starting pitching has been adequate enough to keep even the minor leaguers in a lot of the game. Here you have to find at least a bit of fault with management, because I think May and June exceeded their expectations as well. The poorly constructed bullpen has been at fault for the team going south as much, if not more, than the devastated lineup.

Anonymous said...

DV

I wish we could drop f-bombs on this site. Jesus. Watching this team routinely screw up 1st and 3rd and 2nd and 3rd with less than two out situations pisses me off so much.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

I agree with both of you guys here. From Gunn's side, the injuries have simply been too much and the playoffs are basically out of Boston's control at this point. The way I see it, for the Sox to get back into it now would require some poor baseball from Tampa Bay. I'm not keeping my fingers crossed there, but maybe some of the returning guys can put some pressure on with a couple of good stretches.

DV, good point about May and June exceeding expectations. But I think your point about the bullpen was clarified (for those on the fence, and there probably shouldn't have been many) over the weekend when Lester and Dice pitched well enough after seven and six, respectively, to win the game. How many teams in baseball would have gone 0-2 with those starts? But the real problem came on Thursday, when the Sox couldn't hold a five run lead for THREE OUTS. This led to a taxed pen Saturday, when Lester probably could have come out sooner, and more reason for Francona to bring in a third guy instead of trying to close out Seattle with three innings from Bard and Papelbon.

TimC said...

And in response to Gunn's simultaneous comment, how about bunt defense?

Anonymous said...

Tim

The bunt defense has been garbage. It simple things like that, in addition to the injuries that are just adding up to make this a frustrating year.

the gm at work said...

Gentlemen,

The bunt defense will be partially covered in tonight's post. I hope Pat is okay with the fact that I'm burying all his s***. I don't care. This team sucks. When this team sucks and I'm watching them until 2:00 AM because Delcarmen can't hold a f*****g lead, negativity comes from my keyboard.

the gm said...

Not actually at work.