Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “David Robertson”

Red Sox, Yankees, and the Importance of Pitching

Photo via bostonglobe.com

Have the Yankees gotten outstanding performances from throwaways like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells, and Lyle Overbay? Absolutely.

But that doesn’t tell the real story behind their surprising 30-23 start to the season–a season where the shiny toys like Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez have spent most, if not all of their time, collecting dust on the shelf. Hell, even their band-aid third baseman, Kevin Youkilis, has spent quite some time on the disabled list (he’s made just 72 plate appearances).

It’s much more fun to talk about Hafner and Crew, but in reality, it has been the Yankees’ pitching that has stepped up in the absence of so much offensive firepower. C.C. Sabathia has been reasonably good. Hiroki Kuroda who is roughly 100-years old has been stellar as the Yanks’ early season ace, and their bullpen, especially the backend, has been quite effective with David Robertson and the ageless Mariano Rivera serving as the anchors.

Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have hit relatively well in 2013. Heading into the weekend, the Red Sox league Major League Baseball in runs scored at 274. The Yankees? 218. The Twins have plated more runs than the Bronx Bombers, while playing in two less games.

The Yankees, despite lacking the usual amount of thump in their lineup, have been able to win a bunch of games because of their pitching. They are tied for second in the American League with the Tigers in team ERA at 3.66. That’s pretty darn good. And the Red Sox are right there with their rivals. A team ERA of 3.79 in the AL East is nothing to be ashamed of.

These two teams meet this weekend for the first time since Opening Day. The Red Sox in first. The Yankees in second. They’ve won a combined 63 games, and it is due in large part to guys like Sabathia, Kuroda, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz. It’s fitting that all four of them are scheduled to pitch over the next three nights.

It should be fun.

Back Peddling Into Monday

Yeah, that makes me feel better too. When times aren’t going well, whether it is in life or the state of my favorite sports teams, I never hesitate in turning to a photo of Ted Williams. The guy could make stacking wood look magical.

Now let’s get sad.

Boo Bobby Valentine. You have that right. Just understand that it doesn’t make sense. The guy has managed fourteen games in Boston. He has made some questionable decisions for sure (Justin Thomas in Toronto, Grady Little impersonation on Patriots Day with Daniel Bard, and Franklin Morales pitching to Mike Napoli). No argument there. But let’s look at the cards he has been dealt.

The Red Sox astutely decided that Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t worth $50MM. Brass determined that Bard deserved the chance to start. He has cream of the crop stuff, and he really wants to start. I’m okay with that. All of sudden, the Sox lost six very important outs. The eighth and ninth innings now had Help Wanted signs hanging.

Think about this. What would the Yankees do if before the start of the 2012 season, Mariano Rivera decided that his 48-year major league career was over and David Robertson desperately wanted a shot at a spot in the rotation? They would attempt to replace their end-of-the-game arms as best they could.

And that’s what the Red Sox did.

Andrew Bailey stepped into Papelbon’s shoes before injuring his thumb in a freak play at first base in Spring Training. Mark Melancon, a guy who turned out the lights on 20 ballgames for the Astros while posting a cool eight strike outs per nine frames last season, was brought in to secure the set-up role and serve as closer insurance for Bailey. Melancon promptly parlayed a pedestrian spring into a bed-wetting frenzy when the regular season commenced. If you need him, he’s in Rhode Island.

Is Bailey’s career littered with injuries? Absolutely. There is no doubt that I expected Bailey to spend some time on the disabled list this summer. Summer. Not before the season even started. Recently, I’ve heard people bash GM Ben Cherington on the Bailey signing because of his injury laden past. Those individuals would have a stronger leg to stand on if Bailey was on the shelf due to some sort of arm issue. But that’s not the case. Cherington can’t be faulted because Bailey needed thumb surgery.

Was there some concern about Melancon’s ability to pitch effectively in the pressure cooker that is the AL East? Sure. But unless you’re Miss Cleo, there is no way you could have predicted that he would have spent more time watching his pitches travel over the fence than into the catcher’s mitt.

Look, things are not good right now, but if the Red Sox want to put their best foot forward, it begins with Bard going back to the bullpen. Aaron Cook should slot into the rotation. It is the best way to add stability to a bullpen that is without any semblance of an identity.

I’ve abandoned my belief about Bard serving as a starter for the majority of this year. The Red Sox should too.

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