Monday, September 29, 2008

Beckett's Impact on the ALDS

Well, the Red Sox' 2008 season has a clear theme. Reliable starting players get injured and the Sox rely on minor league call-ups, bench players, and trade acquisitions to step up, contribute, and keep winning. The injuries did have a toll, but they just kept bouncing back (unlike our lovable rivals from the Big Apple). That theme will have to continue through the playoffs if the Sox want a shot at back to back World Championships.

While Terry Francona was carefully manipulating his game lineup to do his best to minimize the risk of a last minute injury to a key player, the injury demon attacked Tito from the rear in the safe confines of the bullpen. Josh Beckett experienced a pull in his side on about the 40th pitch of his bullpen session on Sunday. The injury appears to be a fairly mild oblique strain, and that is enough to knock a pitcher out. After all the radio debates on who should be the Sox' #1 pitcher, and who should be the #4, the situation has forced Terry's hand. Beckett will not start until Game 3 in Boston on Sunday the 5th. That is a full week after the injury happened. If it is indeed a mild strain, that may just be enough time. But, Beckett will not only need to be much improved physically, he'll also need to have solid mental confidence that he can let it loose without worry. That is the real trick. If he is tentative, he'll get eaten alive.

Which brings us to an interesting question. How devastating is the move of Beckett to the #3 spot against the Angels? In the end, it might possibly be a good move. We think of Beckett in terms of what he did last year. Based on that, we practically want him pitching in every single post season game! But, if we get rational for a minute, we have to admit that he is NOT pitching like he did last year, especially in the second half. that doesn't mean he won't have a good playoff run, it just is something we have to admit. Second, Beckett has faced the Angels twice this year, with poor results both times. Overall, he is 0-2 with a 7.43 ERA in those starts, a 4-2 loss on the road when he gave up 4 runs in the 7th inning, and a 9-2 loss in Fenway when he gave up 7 earned runs in just 5 1/3 innings.

Maybe this year's Beckett is not cut out to beat the Angels. Many fans have argued that Jon Lester is currently our best pitcher, and Dice-K is right up there with him. Oh, and the 4th starter? We should not need one, based on the current plan. Lester will open the series in Anaheim on Wednesday, and then will be ready to pitch in game 4 in Boston on Monday the 6th. Dice-K will pitch game 2 on Friday in Anaheim and will be ready to start game 5, also in Anaheim, on Wednesday the 8th. Beckett gets the hump game - right in the middle.

So, this series, unlike last year, rests not on Beckett's shoulders, but on Lester's and Matsuzaka's. The injury theme also plays out with the position players. Mike Lowell may not be able to play in game 1 of the series, and if he plays at all, he certainly won't be 100%. JD Drew appears ready to play, but a herniated disc in his back will surely keep him from being 100% either. With Manny Ramirez slugging for Joe Torre these days, and Lowell and Drew either out or not 100%, the Sox are packing much less punch than they had planned.

Especially against the Angels, the Sox may need to put a little more emphasis on small ball. If Drew can't go, having both Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp out there will not only create a solid outfield, but also put some speed on the bases. Get these guys on, run aggressively, and hopefully have men in scoring position when the big guns, like Dustin Pedroia, come up to bat.

So, we have what we have to deal with. We still have good starting pitching to throw at the Angels, a rested bullpen, and some pretty serious players who have proven all year they are ready to step up and contribute. On Wednesday, the battle begins. This year, the Angels think they can finally get past Boston, but the Red Sox are out to make them work for it.

More great stuff coming up, including a look at an interesting Fenway Park character - a Rational Sox Fan exclusive.


Suldog said...

Do you have any stats concerning Wake vs. the Angels? I have the feeling that he was pretty good against them in the past, but no stats to back up that assertion are handy.

Rooster said...

This year, Wake pitched once against the Angels, losing 5-3. Wake pitched well, leaving the game in the 8th inning with the score tied 3-3 and a man on second. Delcarmen came in and coughed up the final 2 runs.

From 2005-1007, Wake had 4 starts against the Angels, going 2-2 with a 5.55 ERA. The two losses were both in Anaheim. His worst ERA in any ballpark over those 3 years was in Anaheim, a whopping 12.96 in 2 starts.

So, he has fared well against them in Fenway (going 2-0 and giving up only 3 earned runs in 16 innings), but had gotten beat up on the West Coast.

Anonymous said...

Could you be talking about Kazoo Man?!

Rooster said...

Now, let's not spoil the surprise.