(Patrick previews the week ahead for the Red Sox each and every week. Start your week off right and read everything you need to know for the games ahead.)
Note: Stats are accurate prior to Sunday’s games. Game times are EST and pitching match-ups are subject to change.
Boston Red Sox
4th in AL East (6 GB)
I would be optimistic but I’m a Boston fan. Now it’s only been about a month of baseball so I am not entirely going to ring the alarms on the Sox’s sub .500 record and near-basement standing. Ask any sports writer or analyst and they will tell you there’s a lot more baseball to be played, Toronto can’t be this good, the Sox have a lot of depth, blah, blah, blah.
Yes the Sox have a lot of depth especially in pitching, and there is certainly a long season ahead for Boston, however in the AL East there’s little room for error and the Sox right now are not looking like a playoff bound club.
Can they win 90+ games this season? Sure. Will that be enough to get into the post-season? That’s what I’m not so sure about. The Yankees and Rays are looking very good right now and I’ve even heard talk of the two teams winning 100 games this season.
Now that’s just ridiculous.
Will the Yankees win 100 games this season? Most likely barring some implosion from one of their highly paid stars. Will the Rays win 100 games? If their young pitching doesn’t hit a snag I think it’s possible, but not probable. Young teams, like young players can easily go through cold streaks as much as hot ones- like the one they are in right now.
Will the Rays beat out the Sox in the AL East? The jury is still out, but the Sox aren’t building a case right now in my eyes. A sweep of Toronto is just what they needed but losing a series to Baltimore shows that there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Adrian Beltre is showing us why he was worth the off-season gamble. Over the last two weeks the third baseman is batting .404 however his 20-homer pop hasn’t come along yet. Beltre displayed above average power skills as recently as 2008 where he belted 25 homers, where a streak of three years of 20+ homers ended. His risk is age and health and we can’t expect a plus .300 average forever. However three things I’ve noticed that I am liking right now are an improved strike-out rate/on-base percentage; an improved contact rate (so we don’t have to call his start entirely lucky); and a higher line-drive rate. We can still see expect some regression in his numbers as the season goes on- the key is if the power can come back as well.
On The Mound…
Daisuke Matsuzaka had his first start of the season this past weekend and it didn’t look good. Seven hits, six earned runs over 4.2 innings with two homers, three walks, and four strike-outs doesn’t really ring confidence. However, I will give him another start or two to get a bigger sample size of data.
What is wrong with Josh Beckett? As a Beckett fantasy baseball owner I took yet another look after his three inning self-destruction against Toronto. Batted ball and base runner numbers show that he maybe experiencing some bad luck however he is giving up more fly balls and line drives, and easy-out ground balls. In terms of pitch selection he is throwing less fastballs and curves, and has been relying on his change-up and cutter more often. Is he struggling to gain command over his bread and butter stuff? A power pitcher like Beckett should be throwing more fastballs and mixing in the breaking stuff to keep batters off balance.
Monday, May 3 vs. Anaheim at 7:10 PM (also on ESPN)
Tuesday, May 4 vs. Anaheim at 7:10PM
Wednesday, May 5 vs. Anaheim at 7:10 PM
Thursday, May 6 vs. Anaheim at 7:10 PM (also on MLBN)
Friday, May 7 vs. New York Yankees at 7:10 PM
Saturday, May 8 vs. New York Yankees at 3:10 PM (on Fox)
Sunday, May 9 vs. New York Yankees at 8:05 PM (also on ESPN)
Anaheim TV: FS-W
New York TV: YES
Angels: Joe Saunders, LHP (1-4, 5.74)
The jig maybe up for Saunders. After a 16-7 season last year and a 17-7 season in 2008, the contact pitcher is finally being exposed for what is he: a non-dominating pitcher that depends on ground-ball outs to succeed. A nine hit, three run outing against the Indians gave him his fourth loss of the season. With a walk rate that has been creeping back up and non-impressive stuff, the key here is to work the counts and knock him out early.
Red Sox: Clay Buchholz, RHP (2-2, 2.19)
Earlier this week our very own John Murphy crowned Buccholz the real ace of the Sox. So far he’s been right, since Clay has been clearly the best pitcher in Boston so far. His one-run, eight inning effort against Toronto this past week is the latest in a series of solid starts this season. His peripheral numbers so fr show that he’s pitching even better than he did in the majors last year.
Angels: Ervin Satana, RHP (1-2, 4.59)
Santana was an ace in the making before his injury shortened 2008 and slow start last year. Today he is still showing signs of recovery that points to a return to his pre-injury form. So far this season he looks to be going from a fly ball pitcher to a ground ball pitcher. He’s still homer prone but don’t let last year’s performance fool you when he goes up against the Sox.
Red Sox: Jon Lester, LHP (1-2, 4.71)
Lester finally got his first win of the season after a 11 K, seven-inning shutout of the Blue Jays. He’s still dealing with control issues but if he can get that taken care of he should be righting the ship soon.
(Nomar Garciaparra Day at Fenway Park)
Angels: Joel Pineiro, RHP (2-3, 5.76)
The one-time Red Sox pitcher, now Angel, had a surprising 2009 going 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. When compared to his previous years, two things stick out to explain this fluke year: a low walk rate and an extremely high ground-ball rate. So far the walk rate is crawling back to the mean but he is still incurring ground balls on almost 60 percent of his hits. In his last outing he gave up 10 runs to the Tigers over 3.1 innings.
Red Sox: John Lackey, RHP (2-1, 4.50)
Lackey continues to provide “ok” starts for the Sox, pitching a seven inning, three run game against Baltimore last week that resulted in a no-decision. He struck out six and walked three.
Angels: Scott Kazmir, LHP (2-1, 5.57)
Kazmir, the Red Sox killer – that’s the rap on this lefty, who was a late season acquisition last year for the Angels. Some speculate the pick-up was solely to give the Angels an edge in post-season play. In his career he is 8-7 against the Sox with a 3.59 ERA and an impressive 9.5 K/9. Last year he was 2-0 and only allowed four runs over 11 innings. Besides the history, he is a power pitcher who’s fast ball has last a tick compared to last year. Across the board his velocity is down but he’s still incurring an extreme amount of fly balls and is still striking out players at a good clip. Will he continue his hot streak against the Sox Thursday?
Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP (0-1, 11.57)
At least Dice-K is barely missing out on the Yankees series. I wouldn’t want to see him on the mound against big Tex.
Yankees: Javier Vazquez, RHP (1-3, 9.78)
Javier had a career year with the Braves last season, and the Yankees saw it as good reason to bring him back for another stint with the club. Many were quick to point out that AL-batting and his prior experience would lead to a let-down season and so far they are right. His skills across the board are currently lower than what he had before his awesome 2009 season and are close to his 2004 numbers with New York. An unusual amount of homers and luck could have others saying he shouldn’t be this bad but he’s fastball is two MPH slower than it usually is and for a power pitcher that has resulted in more hitters getting contact on the ball.
Red Sox: Josh Beckett, RHP (1-0, 7.22)
Already discussed Beckett at length but I will point out he’s a career 9-5 against the Yankees with a 5.51 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. This might get messy.
Yankees: Phil Hughes, RHP (2-0, 2.00)
This isn’t the Phil Hughes of old. Right now Hughes is showing us why he beat out Joba Chamberlain for the final Yankees rotation spot. Back on April 21st he put away the Athletics to the tune of 10 Ks over 7.1 innings. Then he came back around and kept Baltimore to a single run. Sure those are not the toughest of teams but he posses a plus strike-out rate and currently getting batters to fly out. Now a sky high walk rate and other luck numbers show that Hughes maybe getting lots of help- but this is one kid that we should take seriously.
Red Sox: Clay Buchholz, RHP (2-2, 2.19)
Yankees: CC Sabathia, LHP (3-1, 3.12)
Despite giving up 11 hits to Baltimore in his last outing, Sabathia has rebounded from his slow start on Opening Day in Boston. Early into this season he’s throwing his fastball more than ever, which have opposing batters hitting into a higher amount of ground balls.
Red Sox: Jon Lester, LHP (1-2, 4.71)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3rd in AL West (1 GB)
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Torii Hunter, CF
Hideki Matsui, DH
Kendry Morales, 1B
Juan Rivera, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Mike Napoli, C
Brandon Wood, 3B
The Angels were just swept by the Tigers in Detroit but won two out of three against the Indians before.
The only notable injury is catcher Jeff Mathis hitting the DL with a wrist injury. Mike Napoli has taken his place and is still struggling at the plate.
Kendry Morales made a splash last year and continues to mash with three homers in the past two weeks.
Lead-off man Erick Aybar is struggling to hit, with only a .213 average over the past 14 days.
Fernando Rodney played closer in Brian Fuentes wake. Fuentes is back but hasn’t fully taken the role back from Rodney- expect a closer by committee between the two this week. Keep an eye on Kevin Jepsen who’s fanned seven in the last 5.2 innings he’s pitched.
New York Yankees
2nd in AL East (1.5 GB)
Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Johnson, DH
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, C
Marcus Thames, LF
Brett Gardner, CF
The Yankees have been rolling along, winning two out of three in Baltimore and against the White Sox. They host Baltimore before playing the Sox later this week.
Center Fielder Curtis Granderson hits the DL with a groin injury, giving him some time to try and get out of his recent slump.
Brett Gardiner will benefit from increased playing time and has stolen six bases in the past two weeks and hit a fine .357.
Eight is the number for Nick Johnson. In the past two weeks he’s walked eight times but is only hitting .080. Only in the Moneyball era can this guy bat second.
With Mariano Rivera closing the door on games- what else do you need to worry about?
This will be a tough week for the Sox, I can say with confidence that they will win either series- so I’ll go for a 3-4 split and see where they pick up the wins.
How do you think the Sox are going to fare this week? Leave them in the comments or let Patrick know on Twitter: @dmbosstone