After Sunday’s contest at Fenway park, I knew that writing a well-reasoned recap for the series as a whole would be difficult. After all, getting swept at home against a team that’s projected to be under .500 this year in the first week of the season does not inspire much confidence, and invites the Dan Shaughnessys of the world to slam the panic button until the damn things breaks. Instead, I’ll quickly talk about the ugly, the bad, and the good, to end things on a positive note.
I could talk about the strikezone, but pictures certainly do it more justice, so I’ll leave it at that.
Here’s Sunday’s strikezone maps courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:
Yeah, it was all over the place. Moving right along..
I would have put this in the “bad” column, but Nava was making a lot of solid contact on Sunday. After doing a lot of flying out the first two games, Nava hit line drives all over the field on Sunday. Unfortunately, the first two he hit found their way into the gloves of Mark Reynolds and Yovani Gallardo. Nava was finally rewarded in his 3rd at bat with a line drive double down the first base line, but was stranded at second to end the inning. He also has yet to draw a walk, but it’s still early and I’m confident in Nava’s ability to see pitches. After the series, Nava’s BABIP stands at .111, so I’m also confident that we’ll see some of those sharp line drives start falling for hits in the near future, though I doubt Farrell will keep him so high up in the lineup.
Corner Outfielder Defense
This weekend saw some pretty ugly play from both Nava and Jonny Gomes, manning the corner outfield positions. While Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. held their own in center field all weekend, Gomes and Nava confirmed a lot of concerns about how the outfield defense might hold up without Victorino in right field. Nava’s error in Sunday’s game served as a perfect example of this, as did Mike Carp’s misplays on multiple wall balls which only added to the meltdown that was Clay Buchholz’ outing (more on that below). Hopefully with Victorino off the DL in a week this problem will resolve itself, but until then we may just be getting more of the same from the combination of Gomes, Carp, and Nava.
The weekend saw Mike Carp dealing with some issues, Will Middlebrooks was placed on the DL, and David Ortiz appeared to limp after his final at bat of Sunday’s outing. None of this bodes well, but it is certainly not the end of the world. Middlebrooks will do his time on the 15 day DL and be back in 2+ weeks, and Mike Carp’s issues can likely be attributed to the cold weather. Ortiz might be the most troubling, but as of now there hasn’t been much word on an injury, if any.
Clay Buchholz did not look good Saturday night. Quite the opposite of good in fact, as the Brewers tagged him for more hits than he’s ever given up in a start with 13 for 6 earned runs. Most concerning was his fastball velocity, sitting around 89-90 mph all night long. At his best last season, Buchholz’ fastball would sit around 93-94 mph, and when mixed in with his nasty breaking stuff made him one of the most effective pitchers in baseball. Saturday, however, the Brewers capitalized on the lost velocity and hit just about every pitch left up in the zone. While some of this can be attributed to BABIP luck for the Brewers, they were making a lot of solid contact that cannot be ignored. I’m optimistic that Buchholz will settle down for his next start after shaking off the rust Saturday though, provided some of that fastball velocity comes back and he can locate his pitches as well as he did in 2013.
Pierzynski was one of the more questionable signings of the offseason, but possesses the upside of being a clubhouse guy with decent enough defensive skills and a slightly above average bat. So far this season though, he has grounded into more double plays than he has actual hits. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal wrote an interesting article about how Pierzynski rarely sees pitches or walks because of how often he makes contact, but until I see that contact generate actual results, I’m skeptical. If Pierzynski keeps up his current pace for a few more weeks, we’ll probably see the Sox call up Christian Vasquez from AAA.
Some worried that Bogaerts might be slow out of the gate this season, but thus far he’s been anything but slow, with a first week slash line of .412/.524/.529. He’s been an extremely productive member of the lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved into the 1, 2, or 3 slots for the upcoming series against the Rangers. Time will tell if this pace can continue, and while it probably won’t, it’s an encouraging sign of things to come from the young shortstop.
The Bullpen on Saturday
Even though it eventually gave up the win, the bullpen was excellent on Saturday. Chris Capuano, Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara combined for 5.2 IP, 0 R, 13K, 1BB. When Buchholz was not up to the task, the bullpen delivered. This was probably the most encouraging thing to happen all weekend until Jon Lester’s outing on Sunday.
He may have received the John Lackey treatment in the third game of the series by receiving no run support, but Lester still tossed 7.1+ innings of 3 run ball. Along with his first start of the season against the Orioles, Lester has thrown 14.1 innings for 5 earned runs, which is about as good as you can hope from one of your best starters. The most encouraging part of this is that we may be seeing Lester at his most consistent. Coming off of his worst starts in 2013 (June), Lester has frequently been good for 7 innings of 2-3 run ball, which only adds to the case for extending him.
It’s hard finding positives in a weekend like this one, but there were definitely positives to be found. Plenty of baseball left to play this year, and the Sox will look to turn it around against the Rangers on Monday with John Lackey on the hill.