Category Archives: Daniel Bard

Deal or No Deal?

Last time I checked in with you, the Sox had just been hit with a wave of injuries. It was series of random events seemingly in the outer six-sigma realm that decimated the team.

Well, nothing has changed.

Still fighting the injury bug that seems determined to slaughter everyone, this team is reaching a depressing level. That sinking realization has set in that the playoffs are a long shot. Even if the Red Sox pull off a Colorado Rockies-esque run (circa 2007), there is little to no chance to make a real deep October run.

The news here, however, is not the disappointing flameout of a potential World Series caliber roster, but more so the trade of Manny Delcarmen.  Delcarmen was traded for 21 year old pitching prospect Chris Balcom-Miller (CBM from here on out), and I like the move. Now, I have never seen CBM pitch, but I still like it. While Delcarmen had his good times here, he was not improving. If CBM can contribute anything in the next few years, the Sox have won in this deal.

This move also gives us an insight into the mind of GM Theo Epstein. Theo has made several big deadline/waiver moves in the last few years, all with the intent of a playoff push. This isn’t that move. This is different. This is a calculated assessment of exactly what I said above, that the injured 2010 Red Sox can’t accomplish the major goal of the season, a World Series ring. We all knew that this year was referred to as a “bridge year” with the short term contracts of a few players bridging the gap to some younger talent and the end of a few big money contracts. Between David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Jeremy Hermida, Jason Varitek, and Julio Lugo (the Sox paid Lugo $10 mil of his contract in 2010) the Red Sox have a whopping $60 million coming off of contracts. Now, there are obviously priorities to some of that money (like a catcher, more on the importance of signing Martinez later), but this move signals that Epstein knows what is going to happen in the next two years. He knows this team is set to revamp, reset, and make a new run.

CBM may be a part of this new era. Probably not in 2011 due to his age and level, but it’s not out of the question for 2012/2013. Epstein has gotten value in the trading market, recognizing that there is a lost value in this season. By taking a realistic view of the situation, the Red Sox have made a move that has the potential to help down the road at a relatively low cost or risk, and that’s why I like it. Tryouts for the 2011 bullpen begin now.

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Filed under Adrian Beltre, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Colorado, Contracts, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, General Baseball, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Lester, Mike Lowell, Papelbon, Playoffs, Red Sox, Rockies, Sox, Sports, Trades, Uncategorized, Victor Martinez, World Series

A bit of a bug going around

The injury bug has bitten the Red Sox. Not once, not twice, but over and over again in a relentless attack designed to destroy any hope at a post season berth. It started in the outfield, little things here and there until it manifested in broken ribs for Jeremy Hermida and Jacoby Ellsbury. Mike Cameron was one of the first with the so called injury illness, going on the DL at the end of April. As an upside to this whole mess, his early season departure has him returning as the virus spreads to the rest of the team. His return couldn’t have come sooner as JD Drew has missed some games as well.

While the infectious, highly contagious injury bug was successfully confined to the outfield for a while, it has managed to make its way elsewhere. Josh Beckett caught it first, and may have gotten it while in training camp as his early season performance was less than stellar. Let us not forget Daisuke Matsuzaka who started the season on the DL as well. The infection spread to another starting pitcher as it tried to take out Clay Buchholz, who appears he might be resistant to this particular strain of the injury bug. With a few off days this week, Clay may be able to make his next start. We can only hope this is not too serious. The infield is the most recent sighting of the virus, as the broken bone strain has returned to hit both Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez. Mike Lowell is out with hip problems to top it all off. Please let the hemorrhaging stop…

While this week was the worst of it, with three guys going down in three days, there are several things that have not only kept the Red Sox afloat, but have gotten them surging to a 17-7 record in June after a scorching hot May.

  • Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. These guys have been spectacular. Both of them had never seen playing time in the major leagues, yet have come through time and again. McDonald has 5 HR and 20 RBI, all of which seem to have come in important games. Nava is batting close to .300 and manager Terry Francona has enough faith in him that Nava hit second in the absence of Pedroia on Sunday. These two guys will continue to be relied on in the coming months, and while nobody expects production like the guys they are replacing, they have been fantastic thus far.
  • Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. These guys have been stellar. Both times that an injury caused a starter to either miss a start or leave in the 2nd inning, the bull pen was taxed big time. These two came out the next day and pitched an 8-inning and 9-inning win respectively. Stepping up and eating the innings is one thing, doing it while you pitch well and get the win is even better.
  • The Pen. There are some ugly ERA’s in the bullpen at the moment, but it seems like they have saved some wins that should not have been wins. On Sunday the Red Sox used 8 pitchers for 9 innings. If I had only heard that stat for any team in the majors I would have told you they lost. Not this team, the Sox pulled out a 4-2 win. Despite a few blown Papelbon saves lately and some relatively high ERA’s, the bullpen has kept us in the important games and given us some wins that the Sox might have not otherwise deserved.

While that is all and good for what has happened, it may not directly translate to what the next month will look like. The injuries in the last few days drastically change the landscape. There are a few very important points that need to happen going forward for the Red Sox to stay afloat and maintain a factor in the 2010 playoff hunt.

  • No more injuries. Impossible to predict, and just as impossible to plan for. The Red Sox have proven their depth both in position players and pitching. The depth only goes so far, and at some point one of these injuries is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey and JD Drew. These guys need to perform big. Drew is going to be relied on much more to be an offensive force. The loss of Pedroia and Martinez will hurt this lineup, and Drew has the ability to singlehandedly carry the team for a while. Let us hope that he turns it on. Completely independent of Buchholz’s status, the lack of offensive production is going to mean tighter games. Matsuzaka and Lackey can hide many of the team’s current injuries if they go out and throw 2-3 consecutive games with two runs or less.
  • Josh Beckett. For the same reasons that Daisuke and Lackey need to perform, Beckett is going to be missed more than ever. I am predicting an all-star break return for Beckett, even though nothing is official. If he returns to form and pitches some great games he could help keep the Sox in the mix.

More than anything else, these guys need to come back, and healthy. For now, the Red Sox just need to stay relevant. A deep World Series run will not be possible without Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Beckett, and Martinez, but before that a playoff berth is required. Now we wait, and hope for the best. The 2010 Red Sox have proven to be a strong and resilient team, but their biggest challenge awaits them and will test every part of the team over the next six weeks or so.

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Filed under Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Dustin Pedroia, General Baseball, Mike Lowell, MLB, Papelbon, Playoffs, Red Sox, Sox, Sports

Boston’s hot streak not to be Tampared with

On April 19th, the Red Sox were a horrid 4-9. They were just fresh off of a 4 game set with the Tampa Bay Rays where they couldn’t win a coin toss let alone a game. The Sox were banished to 4th place for more than a month, if only because the Baltimore Orioles somehow had only won two games to that point. The Rays were off to a torrid start, holding “best in the majors” honors, which they still hold today. The Yankees are the Yankees, who have kept pace with the Rays to some extent. The Toronto Blue Jays have amassed an offense that nobody saw coming, mashing 79 home runs, 14 more than their closest counterpart. They have scored the most runs in the majors, had the most RBI, and have the highest slugging percentage to go with it.

With the best division in baseball crushing the competition, including the Sox themselves, the Sox found themselves in a huge hole with massive obstacles to overcome. David Ortiz couldn’t hit and seemingly nobody could pitch, as several starter’s ERA were well over 5 for several starts. The ESPN power rankings had the Sox at 17th, behind teams like the Nationals. The team just wasn’t right, and was in a funk.

Funk out. This team is playing like they can. Since April 19th, the Sox are 23-12. They have overcome the powerhouse offense that is the Jays to take 3rd place. They have been on multiple mini hot-streaks where they win seven of nine games. The offense has been superb considering all the off season talk about how weak the hitting was. There is one team that is second behind the league leading Blue Jays in HR, RBI, Runs and SLG, and it’s not the powerhouse offense in New York. It’s the “sad pathetic offense that will struggle because they lost Jason Bay.”

After a very shaky start, John Lester has his ERA down to a nasty 3.15, and that’s not even best on the staff. Clay Buchholz has shown that he has arrived, and deserves to be in this rotation. Pitching very well into the 8th inning of several games thus far, Buchholz has a team leading 6 wins. Even Daisuke appears to be coming around, taking a no hitter into the 8th against a potent Phillies offense.

Ten days ago, we looked at the Red Sox as they headed to Yankee Stadium. As one of the toughest road stretches of the season, the Sox had to play two in NY, two in Minnesota, three in Philadelphia, and three in Tampa. All of those teams, except the second place Yankees, lead their respective divisions. (Note:  With the second best winning percentage in the majors, the Yankees would be first in any other division.) After a massive comeback, and subsequent rare blown save, the Sox could have taken both games in NY, but was only able to grab one. Since that blown save they have won eight of nine against those elite teams, including the most recent sweep of the MLB’s best Tampa Bay Rays.

The Sox may be 5.5 games back in the division, but counting them out or underestimating them as a threat would be a large mistake for any major league team. Spread the word, the Red Sox are coming.

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Filed under Adrian Beltre, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, ESPN, General Baseball, Kevin Youkilis, MLB, Papelbon, Philadelphia, Phillies, Playoffs, Red Sox, Sox, Sports, Uncategorized, World Series, Yankees

Lackey Lacking Nothing

For the 2nd time in three games, I had the privilege of going to Fenway Park (Right Field Box, Section 1, Row D, Seat 3.) It was another great game in a completely different way than Monday was. I was able to get down to Fenway much earlier, and enjoy some pre-game excitement. After wandering around a little, we made it to Jerry Remy’s. The baseball gods smiled on me from above as they opened up a seat right at the window in front. It was pretty fun, being able to watch the street action and bar at the same time.

I made it to the park just in time for Nomar’s ceremony. I found it interesting that it meant more to me to see Brian Daubach, Lou Merloni, and Trot Nixon. I was very excited when Trot came out, as was the rest of Fenway judging by the ovation. It was nice to see him (Nomar) honored, and they did a good job at keeping it short and sweet. I expected a long drawn out event, but it was over quickly and they got on with the game in a reasonable fashion. On top of that all, Nomar’s first pitch was classic. That is something I will not forget, as he made it so unique to him and what I remember from his days playing for us.

It was a very quick game, especially since I had just been calibrated to the near four hour slugfest that was Monday night. This game had a brisk pace to it, as Lackey was moving through hitters very efficiently. Lackey certainly deserved a win for this one only allowing 2 hits and 2 walks over 7 innings of work. Lackey just dominated his old team, and made them look silly on quite a few swings. Lackey got his ERA under 4 in this outing (3.89) which is very nice to see after some of the big ERA’s we saw early this year. Lester was able to accomplish this in his last start as well.

Dustin Pedroia had his typical scrappy fantastic defense, and David Ortiz hit a home run, keeping me from calling for his benching for just a little longer. Beltre also had a HR, his second of the season, both of which were at my games this week! Bard and Papelbon were forceful in their slamming of the door, always nice to see.

I was awfully surprised to see Pinero come out for the 6th, as the Sox did a great job of getting his pitch count way up. For 8 hits and 3 walks, he did a good job (or the Red Sox did a poor job) in only allowing 2 runs.

The Red Sox are back to a .500 record, and look to have gained some momentum going into the Yankee series this weekend. ERA’s are sinking, and the offense has picked up a little. This team still has a lot of work to do but I do feel like they are coming together. Before that ugly sweep in Baltimore the Sox were in a 7 of 9 run. Now they have won 3 in a row. There is talent and promise on this team and there is no reason to think they can’t do something big in 2010.

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Filed under Adrian Beltre, Angels, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, General Baseball, MLB, Playoffs, Red Sox, Save, Sox, Sports, Uncategorized

There’s a Bull in the Pen

Sunday was a difficult day for me as a fan. I watched a 1-0 deficit as the offense seemed stagnant. I saw a 4-1 lead slip away after a great effort from Wakefield. I died a little inside as the same bullpen loaded the bases in the 10th inning with nobody out, and then went on to let up singles to the next two batters, allowing all 3 runners to score without recording an out. I was given a ray of hope as the Orioles trotted out their closer for his 3rd straight inning, and the rally materialized only to be stomped on right before it was finished.

In all that, I saw something that makes me truly happy, Daniel Bard. I’ve been a Bard fan for a while, and am certainly happy that he is being trusted with our most important non-closer outs. I’m not quite on the “replace Papelbon with Bard” bandwagon yet, but I can absolutely see how down the road this may be a solution. I mainly say this because in what many view as an “off year” for Papelbon last year, he was 38/41 in save opportunities, only three blown, with a 1.85 ERA. I’ll also note that this is tied for the second lowest ERA of his career, the first being his Rookie season as closer, posting a 0.92 ERA. I’m of the mindset to keep Papelbon until he can no longer do the job, because having BOTH Bard and Papelbon only hurts the other team.

Back to Bard though. In the top of the 9th inning, Bard faced 3 batters, and struck them all out. This is always impressive, especially with the 100 MPH fastball lighting up the radar gun. That isn’t what impressed me on this particular day though. With 1 out, Bard faced Adam Jones. With a 1-1 count, Bard threw back to back nasty curveballs for the strike out. (MLB gameday called them sliders, but they sure looked like curves to me.) I was quite happy with this. Bard can throw heat past anyone, and still has strikeout pitches! This will take him a long way in terms of being unpredictable, as hitters can’t simply go to the plate and assume fastball 90% of the time as it seems they do with Papelbon.

He is another Red Sox farm system product that I expect to be part of this regime for many years to come.  With Papelbon not eligible for free agency until 2011, the back end of the bullpen is sure to be solid for the next two years.

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Edit: Bard does it again last night in the first game of the Blue Jays series. He retires all 3 men he faced, allowing one inherited runner to score on a sac fly. I noticed the curve I spoke of did in fact look like much more of a slider. I don’t know if it looked different than the previous game, but the pitch is a slider with some drop to it. If you think about a 12-6 curve, this is a 1:30-7:30 slider. Extra nasty. Papelbon seems to be throwing both the split and slider more as well.

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