March 14, 2008

SUBSTANCE OVER FLASH:

Sox Tend To Hedge Their Bets Better Than Yankees (TIM MARCHMAN, March 14, 2008, NY Sun)

The seemingly minor move actually points up why the Red Sox have the edge in the American League East right now. This has less to do with talent than philosophy. Boston does have some peculiar quirks, like their absolute insistence on punting 150 at bats every year on a reserve catcher who can't hit. These quirks generally, though, make sense within a larger framework. Mirabelli caught with Boston for so long not because he couldn't hit, but because he could catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. Cash will make the team, because the team is sure he can do so as well. Prioritizing knuckleball-catching in a reserve to the point where you'll tolerate pitcher-level hitting makes a certain kind of sense. By contrast, the Yankees' quirks, such as prioritizing glove work at first to the point where they've gone years without a first baseman who can hit, tend to make less sense. Their quirks are more like organizational neuroses. [...]

The Yankees tend to make big, risky bets, like the decision to bank this year on rookie pitchers. It fits the structure of the team, which has always focused on running out the best star talent available and filling the gaps around the edges as needed. The top-level talent in the Bronx is, and has been for several years, a bit better than that in Boston. Problems come in at the edges, when the team ends up relying at times on the likes of Wil Nieves and Aaron Small.

Conversely, Boston tends to hedge its bets. Beckett, felled by a sore back, is expected to skip at least the Red Sox's upcoming trip to Japan, where they'll open the season. (Spending a day in a plane is good for no back, let alone a strained one.) Schilling will open the year on the 60-day disabled list and could conceivably miss the year. Still, even with both their World Series MVPs down, the team presents a credible rotation.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who with improved consistency could win a Cy Young in his second year in America, is a perfectly respectable top starter. Wakefield, as usual, will be good for innings and the odd unhittable stretch. And while he's a potential disaster in the making, Bartolo Colon could also be one of the year's great bargains, and he is certainly worth taking a risk on as a reclamation project. Past those two, the Sox have lefty Jon Lester, 24, who might do a plausible Andy Pettitte impression for a few years if he can cut his walk rate by 10%, and Clay Buchholz, 23, who has a breaking pitch every bit as cartoonish as Joba Chamberlain's, a fastball as good, and a major league no-hitter under his belt. Assuming minimal competence on Colon's part, this rotation doesn't stack up all that unfavorably to the Yankees'.


One would though like to see the Sox use one of their fungibles--Coco, Jacoby, or a pitcher--to acquire a premiere young catcher. As desperate as Texas is for pitching and the Cubs for a centerfielder you'd think they could pry away one (or more) of the Rangers good young backstops.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2008 7:34 AM
Comments

I read that Buchholz is currently in the company of a young women who graces the pages of Penthouse magazine (which I didn't know was still around).

Posted by: pchuck at March 14, 2008 8:46 AM
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