ALDS Preview: Boston Red Sox

The October legacy of Josh Beckett

Beckett’s streak of usual post-season dominance came to an abrupt halt last October when he posted a 8.79 ERA and 8.99 FIP. That Beckett was coming off an injury, much like this Beckett, who missed a start last week due to a stiff back. He did make a start on Saturday night and should be good to go for game two. Whether the back injury flares up during the series again or not is anyone’s guess, but it did seem to affect his velocity during his last few starts:

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Of course the more entertaining storyline surrounding Beckett will be fulfilled if the Red Sox and Yankees met up in the American League Championship Series. As you undoubtedly recall, Beckett embarked on his first great post-season during 2003, posting a 2.11 ERA and 2.66 FIP with the Marlins as they shocked the juggernaut Yankees in the World Series. Beckett was pretty good in 2007 with the Red Sox too as he posted a 1.2 ERA and 1.64 FIP.

The match-ups game

Terry Francona must be giddy with Billy Wagner’s performance since joining the Sox. In 13.2 innings Wagner struck out 22 batters and walked 7. Combine Wagner with Daniel Bard, Takashi Saito, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, the as-of-lately struggling Manny Delcarmen, and of course Jonathan Papelbon, and the Red Sox have about as good as bullpen as you’ll find.

The Angels’ plethora of switch-hitters makes for a tough opposition for all teams, but especially those who play splits-game when it comes to bullpen management. For the Sox this shouldn’t be as big of an issue as they have a nice assortment of arms who can retire batters from either side. Below is a chart with three-year OPS against figures for the projected pen. Only Bard (who has a smaller sample size than anyone else included) and Ramirez have heavy platoon splits, the rest have shown an affinity for retiring both hands at either an above average or nearly equal rate.

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The high-leverage ground game

Jacoby Ellsbury stole 70 bases on 82 tries this season so should expect to see him running during situations of all leverages, but keep an awfully close eye on him during the tense moments. On the season he was 12/13 in situations with 1.5+ LI and 29/32 for his career. Mike Scioscia may want to rent a Molina brother for this series.



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Joe R
Guest
Joe R

It seems like the running game on both ends of the spectrum is getting a lot of undue attention. With some good reason, too. Martinez and his career 24% throw out rate vs. Napoli and his career 23%, and both teams feature running threats (I can’t think Mathis gets much more playing time then late innings with a lead).

It does get annoying though to listen to dramatic Boston media types who seem to think a Chone Figgins steal is as damaging as a Kendry Morales HR.

Carson Cistulli
Editor
Member

Joe, in re Mathis: I’ll probably write something about this as a preview to Game One, but Mathis has actually caught something like Lackey’s last 16 starts. I agree that Napoli makes sense; Scioscia might not see it that way.

Of course, even then, Mathis only has a 26% CS% over the last two years, so it’s not like he’s a great improvement.

JoeR43
Member
JoeR43

I guess it’s true that it’s more important to keep the pitcher comfortable and let him pitch to “his guy” in the postseason. And according to FRAA, which is the best I have to go on at my disposal, Mathis is a better defensive catcher than Napoli by a decent margin (+4 runs / 100 games for Mathis, -7 runs / 100 games for Napoli). And obviously there’s the potential for selection bias in CS%, in how if you have a reputation as a tough guy to run on, only good runners will go on you, making you seem worse than you really are (I have no idea if this is the case, though)

But it’s still a hard sell to me that you have to sit one of Guerrero, Rivera, Abreu, or Napoli so Mathis can eat up PA’s. If Lackey insists on having Mathis, then I’d start him and pull him with Lackey. He’s a good defensive player, but giving any more PA’s to a .596 OPS guy than you have to is borderline criminal.

alskor
Guest
alskor

Yeah… I have serious doubts about those defensive numbers, but let’s say for the sake of argument it is +-11 runs… Napoli way more than makes up the difference with his bat…

stolenbases
Guest
stolenbases

It is so frustrating as an Angels fan to see Mathis taking away plate appearances from Napoli. It’s also frustrating to see Scioscia continue to give up outs by having the hitter bunt the runner over to get him in scoring position.

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