Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Welcome to Boston, KC Royals!

Realistically, a couple wins against Kansas City shouldn't do too much to erase the memory of the Sox being outplayed on nearly every level for 3 of the 4 Oakland games, but it's hard to bitch after Lester and Papelbon combine for a one-hitter. Sure, the Sox bats remained meek, allowing Brandon Duckworth his best outing of the season by far, but I'm content to focus on the positives. It's a win, a great outing by the productively wild Lester, and I saw neither Seanez nor The Jeep. If I were to write a movie script about the game I would entitle it "The Night Without An Anti-Christ". It would be a feel-good comedy, and Jon Lester would be played by Brandon Routh, still wearing the Superman costume.

Right now, we all know where the Sox are. Hanging onto first place in the AL East by a fingernail, down to three starters, and scuffling at the plate. If they were my college rugby team, the clubhouse would have a prominently displayed giant handwritten sign that reads "Sack Up". The sign would most likely have little pieces of hurl on it, but the message would be undiluted.

The short story is these guys simply have to tough it out. There are no deadline deals in today's MLB. There are nearly 20 teams out there with a shot at the playoffs, and the teams who are out of it will be charging a king's ransom for an impact player. Carlos Zambrano is not walking through that door, people.

However, shockingly, there is still a chance Fatty McFatFat will be back in the rotation soon. He is scheduled to throw a simulated game tomorrow, barring a setback in his kitchen tonight, and I can't believe I'm writing this, but his chubby ass might indeed be the cavalry if he can approximate his numbers from last year. With Wake suffering from back problems, and Snyder and Johnson suffering from being Snyder and Johnson, Wells will be warmly welcomed back to the fold. Clement, not so much.

Meantime, the team has to continue to find ways to win. We can hope the Oakland debacle will serve as a reminder of the cost of sloppy, uninspired baseball, especially in light of the rematch next week. Until then we've got to get through some tough games against Texas and Seattle. My assumption is that the return of cartoonish utility man Wily Mo Pena Super Genius will prove to be just the tonic the team needs to catch fire again.

Minor League Notes

Like his fellow first-round pick David Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be adjusting to the rarified air of his promotion without issue. Thus far Ellsbury is hitting .400 with 4 SBs in his first 25 ABs.

Murphy himself has improved in every offensive category since his promotion to AAA Pawtucket, and seems determined to shake his projection as a fourth outfielder (although Chip Ambres says "hi"). Thus far in Pawtucket he has an OPS of over .900, but more importantly has cut his K/BB rate way down, walking 24 times to 34 Ks, versus 11/29 in AA.

Favored son Dustin Pedroia has fully recovered from his injury and after a slow start to the season is now htting above.300 and has an OBP of .384. The power is not great, as one might expect from a guy of his size, but he continues to impress with his batting eye, and has walked 35 times to just 24 strikeouts.

Interestingly the only comparable K/BB rate on the team belongs to Alex Machado who has walked 35 times to 27 Ks. When we talk about a lack of power, however, Machado's name comes up pretty quickly, as his SLG is .337.

The other name down in Pawtucket is the little discussed Jeff Bailey. Bailey is a pretty non-defensive 1B/DH, but he can hit. He strikes out 25% of the time, but given his .514 SLG and .383 OBP, it's perfectly acceptable. In fact, his numbers compare quite favorably to Roberto Petagine's 2005 AAA numbers, but he has the misfortune of being blocked by crowd favorite Youks instead of fat miscreant Millar. Essentially he's a back-up bat, and nothing more, but he's a good back-up bat.

The rookies are starting to flatten out down in Lowell and the GCL, I'll take a look at them again in a week or so. Also, there are a couple of possible signees still under construction (notably Giardino and Kalish), so hopefully something will work out there. I'll post as soon as I find anything out.

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