Sunday, July 6, 2008

APNDR's Slightly-More-Than-Halfway Report on the Sox of Red (Pt. II)

You've seen the good.... now it's time for the bad and the ugly.

2008 First Half LVP: Craig "I Am A Pile Of Shit Wearing A Hat" Hansen

Here's some numbers for you:

#1 -- 20 appearances, 18.2 IP, 26 H, 14 R, 9 BB, 22 K, 70 ERA+
#2 -- 25 appearances, 24.2 IP, 23 H, 20 R, 17 BB, 21K, 73 ERA+
#3 -- 22 appearances, 21.3 IP, 24 H, 15 R, 16 BB, 20 K, 68 ERA+
#4 -- 25 appearances, 22.2 IP, 29 H, 18 R, 11 BB, 13 K, 63 ERA+

Without names, you'd look at these numbers and say, "I want these pitchers WAAAAAAAAAY the hell away from my pitching staff", wouldn't you? Of course you would, because you're not brain damaged. (Well, most of you aren't, at least.) But wait -- one of these guys is the closer of the future!!!!!! He's just around the corner from being dominant!!!! ORLY.

If you're sharp and good with numbers, you'll know that #2 is Captain Feces himself, Craig Hansen, destined to go down as the worst #1 draft pick in recent Red Sox history. Now I have the utmost respect for Mrs. Ankiel, who has a bright and curious mind to go along with her perky knockers and shakeable moneymaker. But I could not disagree with someone more than I disagree with her on Craig Hansen. Hansen is, at this point, a lost cause. He's had three opportunities over four years to prove that he has the physical ability and the psychological makeup to compete at a major league level, and he has shown NEITHER. He is afraid to throw strikes, and especially afraid to throw strikes that aren't right down the middle of the plate. When he isn't constantly missing the catcher's set-up spot, he's displaying his uncanny knack for determining exactly where the power zone of a particular hitter lies, then throwing a 90 MPH fastball right at that spot. While he throws a couple of pitches, he seems unable to fully command any of them. So I've seen all I want to see from Hansen. The best thing for the Sox to do is to continue to talk up his potential, then move him -- as quickly as possible -- to some other team that buys into their sales pitch. Hansen may yet become a passable major league pitcher -- he is a big kid with a strong arm, and that counts for something -- but it will likely take 4-5 years of toiling away in meaningless games for Kansas City or Tampa or Texas before he does so. This team does not have the luxury to run him out there for three years and watch him give up runs at a Gagne-esque clip. Yep, #1 is the Crappy Canuck himself, in his 2007 stint with the Sox. #3 is ALSO Gagne; it's his numbers with the Brewers this year. Finally, #4 is this year's poster child for terrible pitching, Mike Timlin.

So there you go. I've heard Gagne described by the fans as the worst pitcher ever to pitch for the team, or as a complete black hole on the mound. I can't disagree. But wake up and smell the fucking coffee, people: Craig Hansen is EVERY BIT AS BAD as Gagne is/was. And he has been that bad consistently during his entire time in the major leagues. Meanwhile, Justin Masterson will need a role soon once his stint in the rotation ends with the return of Colon and/or Buchholz. You know what the big difference between Masterson and Hansen is? Masterson gets major league hitters out.

"But Pimp," you say, "what about that St. Louis appearance?" To which I say, (a) even a broken clock is right twice a day, and (b) Matt Young threw a no-hitter once.

Midseason LVP (Offense): Jason Varitek

Yeah, I really do hate to put the Captain here. But unfortunately, there's no way to gloss this over: Jason Varitek has been declining at the plate over the last couple of years, and has declined precipitously in this first half of the season. In the past couple of weeks, Varitek's limp bat has begun to cost the team runs -- and even games. I think we're still at a point where Varitek's defensive contributions (including his pitch-calling) more than outweigh the negatives from his offense... but this is a contract year, don't forget. I'd love to have Varitek back next year, and I'm sure the team would love to have him back, too. But his performance this year raises serious, serious questions about whether it is wise to deploy the amount of money that Scott Boras, his agent, will surely demand for a catcher who can't hit a lick.

Midseason LVP (Defense): You-Know-Whogo.

Well... his defense has actually improved in the last couple of weeks. Admittedly, that's because Alex Cora has been getting a lot more playing time.... but hey, accentuate the positive, right?

I actually feel somewhat bad for Lugo. He's been hitting decently this year, although you'd like to see him hit better with runners on base. The defense, though... not good. Still, if Lugo didn't have the inexplicably huge contract, and was playing for, say, the veteran minimum, I don't think people would be complaining about him quite so much. But you put that contract into the mix, and then add the fact that the team jettisoned fan-favorites Orlando Cabrera and Alex Gonzalez for no apparent reason to sign TWO highly-paid busts, and poor Julio doesn't stand a chance.

But hey, it could be worse. He could be hitting .204 like he was last year....

Most Worrying Thing in the First Half: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays

The Rays are a VERY REAL threat to the Red Sox' playoff chances this year. Period. This disturbance in the Force has been brewing for years. I just didn't think it would fall into place this quickly. But the Rays are a highly talented team with all the elements needed to go deep into a pennant race. This is not a team that's riding some abnormally great performances to an early lead (something the Orioles seem to do about every other year), nor is it a team that relies on one or two great players, injuries to whom could torpedo their chances. In fact, the Rays are succeeding despite injuries to and sub-par performances from players expected to make more significant contributions (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, etc.) That should be scaring you. They've got the most talented 1-2-3 starting pitching lineup in the AL; three guys who can and have beaten any of the other playoff contending teams. And their bullpen -- the one facet of the team that absolutely killed them over the past three years -- has been dramatically improved, so the efforts of those starting pitchers are no longer being wasted.

Now what we don't know yet is whether (a) the Rays can win consistently, or at least consistently enough, on the road to sustain a pennant drive, or (b) they'll get the healthy dose of luck you always need to win a pennant. But the pieces are all there, and I would not be surprised at all if the Rays finish the year on top of the AL East.

Honorable Worrying Thing Mention: the Sox bullpen, which has had a tremendously difficult time bridging the gap between the starters and Papelbon. Someone has to step up, or this season could go down the tubes fast.

The Pimp's Final Midseason Thoughts

Things could be worse. It's hard to complain with the team's performance so far -- within striking distance of first place, on pace to qualify for the playoffs, relative stability at every position other than middle relief. The team has weathered the injury to David Ortiz well, and Ortiz's return will only strengthen an already strong team. But if those bullpen woes aren't addressed soon, we could be in for a long rest of the summer.


futuremrsrickankiel said...

I'd be angry at you for this, but park-adjusted ERA+ just turns me on so damn much.

Rocco said...

"...bright and curious mind to go along with her perky knockers and shakeable moneymaker."

Solid use of adjectives.