August 4, 2006


Lopez's Best Quality Is That He's Not Doug Mirabelli (TIM MARCHMAN, August 4, 2006, NY Sun)

Baseball is a game of narrow, marginal advantages. The difference in performance between an All-Star paid a five-figure salary and a bench player paid a three-figure one can work out to a difference in reaction time measured in thousandths of a second, the sort of difference that allows one player to knock curveballs to the opposite field while the other swingsa right over them. Expressed differently, the difference can be as little as two-tenths of a run per game. [...]

"Heart and soul of the Red Sox" type arguments aside, Varitek hasn't been all that productive this year — batting .247 BA/.334 OBA/.417 SLG, he's been a positive contributor to the Sox offense, but hardly a crucial one. Lopez hasn't been much better, having hit a reasonably similar .268/.316/.412, but he's only caught 21 games.You could take that as a bad thing (if he's hit only that well with minimal defensive responsibilities, how will he hold up under the strain of catching?) or as a good thing (he should be fresher than Varitek would have been over the next month).

Either way, it's pretty much just a wash on offense, which makes it a good thing for the Sox. Moreover, Lopez may not be much behind the plate, but Varitek isn't what he once was either. I hardly dismiss pitch calling and the like, especially with the Sox relying on rookie pitchers like Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester, but this should be a manageable problem.

The key, here, though, is that Lopez isn't replacing Varitek, he's replacing Doug Mirabelli, who's on the roster only because he can catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. Usually a very good hitter for a backup, Mirabelli has been just awful this year, batting .189/.255/.356 for the Sox.He'd likely be better than that if given regular duty for the next month, but you can't blame the Sox for not wanting to find out.

On a prorated basis, the difference in offense between the way Mirabelli has hit this year and the way Lopez has hit isn't enormous — it's around fourtenths of a run per game — but over the course of a month it is pretty big, somewhere in the ballpark of 10 runs. As a rule of thumb, 10 runs equate to a win. [...]

There isn't a lot of value in Javy Lopez right now — but there is a lot of value in not being Doug Mirabelli, enough so that Lopez could be the difference between October baseball and golf for the Red Sox. The difference is small, and maybe enough to add up to gaudy jewelry and a big parade in Boston.

Which is to misapprehend the situation rather drastically, Josh Beckett-S- Red Sox (RotoWorld, Aug. 3 - 10:32 pm et)
Josh Beckett gave up three more homers while allowing seven runs in six innings in a loss to the Indians on Thursday.

Just like every other time he's gotten lit up this year, Beckett missed his spots with a fastball he used way too often. By using his curve and change to better effect, Beckett had his best outing of the season with Doug Mirabelli catching him on July 19. Still, those two haven't been paired in any of Beckett's three outings since. Ken Huckaby got a pity start tonight before losing his roster spot to Javy Lopez, a choice that might have cost the Red Sox the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2006 8:48 AM

The Sox have slipped behind the Yankees in the division and are clinging to a half-game lead over the other Sox in the wild card. Lopez won't hurt or help much.

As Orrin says, Boston's questionable starting pitching (tenth in the AL in ERA) is the real problem. It's hard to believe Mirabelli or Miracle-belli could turn that rotation around. It's basically Schilling and pray for...oh, I can't think of anything that rhymes.

The hitters (third in the league in runs scored per game, behind - guess who - the Yankees and the White Sox) will just have to slug this team to the postseason...if they get there at all, which I doubt.

Posted by: Casey Abell at August 4, 2006 11:47 AM

Oh, I shouldn't badmouth Lester, who was fine until his last couple starts. But really, if Boston makes it to the postseason, it'll be the bats that get them there, not the arms.

Posted by: Casey Abell at August 4, 2006 11:53 AM

The RedSox were lucky the Tribe is breaking in a rookie closer. Two blown ninth innings (one with 2 hit batsmen!). The Sox should have been swept, darn it.

Posted by: Bob at August 4, 2006 12:03 PM

Only the Angels and Mariners have a better four or five than the Sox front three.

Posted by: oj at August 4, 2006 1:33 PM

In fairness to Varitek, it's Beckett's curve which caused his past blister problems. To reduce the risk, they've had him wearing a band-aid when throwing inbetween starts, which doesn't give him a feel for the curve and often leaves him having trouble locating the curve in games. So then he & the catcher turn away from it.

But there's no question that Beckett needs more variety in his pitches. When he mixes it up, he's an excellent pitcher. Hopefully, the reliance on the fastball last night doesn't reflect the return of a blister.

Posted by: pj at August 4, 2006 1:36 PM

Varitek is the problem.

Posted by: oj at August 4, 2006 1:41 PM

Yep, it's the catcher's fault Beckett is terrible.

The reality is he's a fine NL pitcher who can't beat a decent AL lineup. He can't throw a curve or he gets blisters (and soccer players are the sissies?) and he's lost a couple of miles an hour on his fastball since his rookie year.

When he faces a good team in a tough situation everyone knows what he's going to throw. And then he makes it worse by trying to get a little extra on it, and the result is the pitch flattens out and he misses his spot. See that pitch to the Choo-Choo Train last night for an example, and the one that Hafner hit, man, that looked like a bp pitch.

If the Sawx want to have any shot at wining, they need to get Pamplemousse into the rotation. Not sure if he'll be even close to as successful when batters get a 2nd or 3rd look at him in the same game, but he's got to be better than what the Sawx have been throwing out there. And that includes Home-Run Josh.

Hmm, perhaps that's the solution. Pamplemousse to the rotation and Home-Run Josh to close. That's where one-pitch pitchers who can't make it through a lineup the 2nd time belong.

Anyone else notice btw that the Sawx threw just about everyone except Becks from their super off-season onto the trading block. They wanted Lugo to replace Loretta, which can't bode well for young Dusty's future either, they were willing to trade Lowell, desperate to get rid of Coco, etc, etc. Man, what a disaster that off season was. Think they'd like Kelly Shoppach back? I do.

Meanwhile who exactly are the Sawx top3? From where I sit, Mussini and Wang (the most dominant 1-2 punch in the majors this season -- yes incluing the Twinkies ) and any pitcher from your local American Legion team are better than any 3 the Sawx can muster. And I wouldn't count on Schilling in the 2nd half, judging by his last start it'll be very difficult to recreate that 1st half.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 4, 2006 5:37 PM

Not even not terrible but generally good to great, which is why the catcher is to blame when he falls into bad selection cycles.

The pitching for the ChiSox and Yanks is so weak that the Sox staff is more than adequate. That said, the Tigers, Twins (especially if they bring up Garza), and Angels would have to be favored in the playoffs against the Sox.

Posted by: oj at August 4, 2006 6:05 PM

Jim - I'm happy with Wily Mo, the guy who made Coco expendable. I'm happy with the emergence of Kevin Youkilis, who made Lowell expendable. I'm happy with the acquisition of Beckett, who will be an elite pitcher once he improves his changeup - maybe it will take one offseason, maybe two, but he'll do it.

I'd like to have Shoppach and Marte back, but really, the Crisp trade was the only bad one, and you can see why they felt they had to do it.

Posted by: pj at August 4, 2006 7:11 PM

How can a guy leading the league in wins not be considered elite?

Posted by: oj at August 4, 2006 7:15 PM

Elite to me means a guy you expect to shut down opponents in the playoffs. If he's elite:

How did the Sox get him for not much more than the price of Julio Lugo, who will be a free agent in two months?

Why did he give up 6 runs in one inning to a dispirited team last night?

Why does he have an ERA of 5.00, and more like 8 against the better teams?

I think he will be elite soon, but isn't there yet.

Posted by: pj at August 4, 2006 9:39 PM

Pitchers are paid to win games. Who does it better?

Posted by: oj at August 4, 2006 9:44 PM