Monday, April 10, 2006

Red Sox, week 1

Week one of the baseball season goes into the books, and the Red Sox are out to their best start in 7 years, taking 5 of 6 on their opening road trip. There have been some great signs, but also some not-so-great signs, and there are some odds and ends worth discussing.

All comments here are made with the full understanding that anything can happen in one week, it's a ridiculously small sample size, and nothing that happened last week should be considered likely to continue JUST BECAUSE it happened last week.

That said, on to the odds and ends and observations:

  • The brightest note of the week, for Red Sox fans, was the performance of Curt Schilling. Schilling's an important piece of the puzzle, and he struggled last year due to injury. He's now 18 months removed from ankle surgery, and there was no reason to think that he wouldn't return to his former excellence if healthy, but until we saw him perform, there were going to be questions. Well, he's now allowed 3 runs in 14 innings over two starts, and looks just like the Schilling we'd hope to see. Two starts doesn't mean much performance-wise, but health-wise, it appears that all systems are go.

  • Beckett was awesome in his first appearance. Struggled early, but never gave in, and was dominant his last three innings. A great sight.

  • As was Papelbon, who's been lights out in his appearances. And there are good signs from Foulke as well, his opening day struggles notwithstanding.

  • After Tuesday's debacle in Texas, there was panic in certain corners over whether Wakefield would be able to succeed with Josh Bard behind the plate. Yesterday proves nothing, but it does, at least temporarily, quiet that reaction a bit.

  • As positive as the pitching/defense has been, the offense is a bit of a concern. If you look at some of the numbers, that sounds strange, but it is. Yes, they're 5th in the AL in runs scored. Yes, they're leading the league in OBP. Both of those numbers, however, are compiled primarily on the strength of one of the worst pitching performances in recent memory, as the Orioles, led by Daniel Cabrera, walked 13 and hit 2 on Friday night. Fortunately for them, they've had some hits at good times, but they're going to need to perform better than they have. They've failed to reach 5 runs scored in 4 of their 6 games so far. The fact that they've won 3 of those 4 is credit to the pitching and defense, but they can't win consistently (nor, for that matter, can any other AL team, not the way the game is played these days) scoring 4 runs or less.

  • This morning, I'm listening to people panicking over Mike Lowell. And my reaction is, "wait a minute - I looked at Lowell just yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised!" Well, this morning, Lowell's hitting .190/.292/.381. You'd be justified in taking him out back and shooting him. But yesterday, he was hitting .236/.350/.471. If a single 0-4 can drop you from "pleasant surprise" to "take him out and shoot him," it's too early to evaluate the numbers.

  • That said, Alex Gonzalez is also producing exactly what you'd expect, i.e., nothing.

  • The offense works if you get runners in front of Ortiz and Ramirez, which you'd expect to see happen. And if Nixon and Varitek hit, and Youkilis extends innings, and Lowell puts up numbers similar to his first 5 games as opposed to his first 6. So far, it isn't working very well. Well enough to go 5-1 with the pitching they got, but not well enough if the pitching slips at all. And I said "if" there, but it should actually be "when" because the pitching will slip, at least some.

  • But, on the whole, if you have to choose between iffy production with wins versus great production without, well, you take the wins. You can't keep getting them without better offense, but for one week, that's a good way to start...



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