Talkin Sox with Dan

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Archive for the tag “R.A. Dickey”

Road Tripping

Photo via cbssports.com

After a 13-0 win, starting the season 4-2, and doing it against the Yankees and Blue Jays, it is tough to complain about the Red Sox. A team that desperately needed a positive start to the season, the Sox have certainly answered the call. I’ll be at the home opener on Monday, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch this team in-person.

After six games, here are some of my initial observations.

Jon Lester looks good. His outing against the Yankees was nothing write home about, but it certainly wasn’t a poor start. He minimized the damage when he got in trouble and gave his team a chance to win the game. The Red Sox offense staked Lester to a lead on Sunday, and he never let the Jays believe they were in the game. Lester is my MVP of the road trip. Here’s why: 12 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 13 K. Two wins.

— He went 0-5 in the season opener, but Mike Napoli has started to heat up. More importantly, he’s been showing off some of his impressive power. His hip condition seemingly has not affected his play. Nap will head to Fenway with two home runs on the season.

Shane Victorino has proven me wrong. I know that Spring Training (and World Baseball Classic) stats don’t matter, but Victorino was especially bad this spring. Since the start of the regular season? It’s be a 180 for the right fielder. After Sunday, Victorino has collected eight hits on the young season. He’s not slugging, but he’s contributing night in and night out.

Will Middlebrooks has to potential to be legitimate source of power for this team. It’s easy to say that after witnessing him go bridge three times on Sunday, but it was his opposite field home run off of R.A. Dickey that really impressed. He’s a strong kid.

— Don’t let Sunday’s power surge fool you, the Red Sox need David Ortiz back. I actually like the lineup from top to the bottom, but the middle of the order lacks the muscle of traditional Sox lineups. When Ortiz is ready to come back, he will not only help instill some pop in the middle of the order, but his presence will help balance things out as everyone will be able to move down a spot.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s torrid spring has not spilled over into the regular season. He’s been good defensively is getting on-base, so it’s not like this experiment has been a failure. There’s been some chatter about sending him down to Pawtucket. This is what I wanted to avoid when the JBJ debate was at its peak. I don’t see why you’d want to treat a prospect like a yo-yo. When he is ready, bring him up. And when you bring him up, understand that struggles and slumps are unavoidable. Nevertheless, it’s likely he will be in Pawtucket at some point this season.

— So far this season, the Red Sox have won games started by C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Josh Johnson, and Dickey. It’s nice to do well against good pitching. They’ll get Wei-Yin Chen tomorrow at Fenway Park.

Spring Training Notes

Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com

The offseason can be fun, but it sure is nice to have baseball back in our lives. Real life, reach out and touch it baseball. That’s not to say that Spring Training doesn’t get tedious, for both fans and players. But for now, let’s be happy that we can turn on our televisions tonight and watch live baseball. It’s hard not to smile.

— Lost in the fray a bit this spring has been newly acquired starting pitcher Ryan Dempster. Relative to players like Zack Greinke, R.A. Dickey, and James Shields, all guys who changed uniforms over the winter, Dempster is not sexy. The 15-year veteran is certainly not on the front-nine of his career. The righty does not boast a big fastball that is designed to blow opposing batters away. As a guy who will play the majority of the 2013 season at age 36, Dempster sort of is what he is–roughly 200 innings, 4.00 ERA. But that may prove to be exactly what the Red Sox need. I’m excited to watch him pitch in meaningful games.

— I have been extremely cautious when it comes to David Ortiz and his Achilles injury. When he strained it (over seven months ago), the reports indicated that it was only going to be a few days. As we all know, that quickly changed. Ortiz must be himself this season if the Red Sox hope to contend. When you start hearing that the left handed slugger will be ready for Opening Day, it doesn’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Opening Day!? How about Spring Training games!? Let’s set games in March as a goal before we talk April!

Lately, however, the news has been sort of, kind of encouraging. Doctors have told him that his Achilles is good to go. At this point, it’s fair to say that Ortiz needs the peace of mind of knowing that the injury is completely healed. Has the progress been slow? Absolutely. But maybe that will be the key in preventing re-injury during the season. For the first time in a long time, I’m confident that Ortiz will be 100 percent on April 1.

— Spring Training, as I mentioned, can be dull. The writers can get a bit bored from time to time too. And that is perfectly fine. But Jackie Bradley Jr. is not breaking camp with the Boston Red Sox. It ain’t happenin’. Look, the kid’s good. He’s a mature, well-rounded hard working player. Bradley knows how to get on-base and plays stellar defense. There is nothing not to like about the left handed hitting, right handed throwing outfielder. In fact, I would go as far to say that I believe he’s ready to make a legitimate impact on the major league level. So why not give him the nod at the end of Spring Training? It’s simple: I don’t see the benefit of starting Bradley’s service-time clock when he will only serve a part-time player. Jonny Gomes, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Shane Victorino make up your outfield. Barring injury, count on Bradley playing in Rhode Island, not Boston.

Handing Out Hardware

With the playoffs well underway, it is a good time to look back on the season that was and pick a few winners. I’m going to select the manager of the year, top reliever, rookie of the year, Cy Young, and MVP. Expect a short blurb explaining my choice following each selection. Both leagues. Boom.

Manager of the Year

American League — Buck Showalter. This is really a no-brainer for me. Showalter took a team that I typically like to make fun of, given their usual display of inept pitching, to the playoffs. The Fighting Showalters topped 90 wins and possess a brilliant bullpen — both of which are direct reflections on the manager.

National League — Davey Johnson. The Washington Nationals had the best regular season regular in the bigs. Read that again.

Top Reliever

American League — Fernando Rodney. He didn’t lead AL circuit in saves. Jim Johnson took that. Rodney, however, was spectacular. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run off of the Tampa Bay closer in May in way in what was supposed to be one of 12 different jumping off points for the Red Sox. It was a blip on the radar for Rodney was downright dominant. His .60 ERA was the best by any reliever who tossed more than 50 frames. Cy Young votes are in order.

National League — Craig Kimbrel. You could make a good case for Aroldis Chapman, but Kimbrel is my guy here. He allowed seven earned runs all season, led the NL in saves, and is about as reliable as it gets.

Rookie of the Year

American League — Mike Trout. And I refuse to get into why.

National League — Bryce Harper. It might seem like I’m copping out, but I’m not. It was a tough choice. Todd Frazier is a guy I like a lot–kid’s a good player. And he looks like a true big leaguer. But Harper is the real deal, the total package. He was two bags away from a 20-20 season and scored 98 runs. His promotion was not a sure thing, but his arrival has been. Get your proverbial popcorn ready.

Cy Young

American League — David Price. If you lead the league in wins (20) and ERA (2.56), you’re probably going to get my vote. If you’re putting up those numbers while conducting business in the AL East, you’re definitely getting my vote.

National League — R.A. Dickey. I will be perfectly honest here — my gut reaction is to look for a guy who isn’t Dickey, who isn’t throwing a knuckleball consistently. It’s probably that same train of thought that led Tony La Russa to start Matt Cain in the All-Star game. Let’s not make the same poor decision. Dickey was the best pitcher in the Senior Circuit in 2012. A sub-3 ERA, 230 punch-outs, and 20 wins does the trick for me. Long live the knuck.

MVP

American League — Mike Trout. If Ted Williams can win the Triple Crown and not win the MVP, then so can Miguel Cabrera. There is no clear-cut choice here. There are no wrong answers. No one is an idiot for choosing Cabrera over Trout. If you believe Trout is the Most Valuable Player, that does not mean you’ve turned your back on traditional baseball statistics. It’s funny how a MVP race can turn into a New School vs. Old School statistical holy war. Let’s please not make it that–it takes away from what these two super special players have done in 2012.

I love Cabrera. I really do. He is like Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting. Hunting finds organic chemistry to be easy, second nature. He doesn’t have to try to learn advanced mathematics–he just gets it. Cabrera is a pure, natural hitter. Some people were just put on this planet to hit. It is power and precision at its finest. All of that said, Trout is still my choice.

Trout’s defensive prowess in center field was second to none. When he wasn’t scaling fences, he was running down balls that were gappers off of the bat. His combination of speed and power is truly remarkable. He scored 129 runs and stole 49 bases. His OBP was .399. Trout’s impact on the Angels was tangible when he was recalled. His fingerprint was on nearly every game he played in. He was the Most Valuable Player of the American League.

National League — Ryan Braun. He’s not going to win the MVP. And it’s because of his positive drug test from this time last year. It’s 2012, not 2011, and Braun hit nine more home runs than he did yesteryear when he won the MVP. He stole 30 bases and got on base at a .391 clip. It wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that Braun had a better year than he did in his MVP campaign in 2011. Buster Posey is absolutely excellent, but I dare you to remove the stigma of Braun’s positive test from last year and vote for someone else. I’m not sure you can.

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