Seattle Mariners (11-15) @ Boston Red Sox (11-13)
Home sweet home…..
After a successful 9 game road trip where the Red Sox went 6-3, they now return home to kick off an 11 game home stand that begins Friday night against the Seattle Mariners.
For the Red Sox, it’s been a good run lately as they were able to complete a four game sweep in LA, their first in over 3 decades. The Baltimore Orioles gave them more trouble than anyone anticipated and the Red Sox dropped 2 of 3. Despite playing well, the Sox still have some issues when it comes to driving in the runs at critical times. The starting pitching has remained solid, despite Clay Buchholz not completely on top of his game. While Dice-K and John Lackey have both given two straight quality starts, I don’t think anyone is completely convinced they’ve rebounded from their miserable starts to the year. This series against the Mariner’s will help with the doubters if they both can continue to roll.
There continues to be the same questions surrounding this Red Sox team. Who will start at shortstop, who will catch and when will Crawford start hitting and when will Adrian Gonzalez hit his second home run. As long as they keep winning, the rest will take care of itself, sooner or later.
This is a Mariner’s team who is fresh off a 3 game sweep of the Detroit Tigers and is playing some great baseball as of late. They have the strong storyline of first baseman Justin Smoak, who recently lost his father. His first game back and Smoak hit a home run. Truly an inspiring and emotional time which is known to pull a team together. Of course Ichiro is being Ichiro this season, getting on base and causing grief for the opposing pitchers and then there is King Felix. Red Sox fans will get a firsthand look at the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner on Sunday when he squares off against Clay Buchholz.
Thank you to Harrison Crow, lead writer for the SoDo Mojo Fansided site for the Mariner’s for his contribution. Harrison provided insight to the M’s starting pitchers, who’s hot and who’s not for Seattle, an injury update and answered 3 questions about the Mariners.
Tale of the Starter’s Tape:
Friday, April 29
Seattle – Jason Vargas (0-2) 5.53 ERA
Vargas so far has started the season with an ERA over five and a half. But don’t be fooled. Vargas has been pretty good this year. Posting a FIP of 3.21 and an xFIP of 3.85. Right now he’s been unlucky with leaving runs on base only 59% of the time while league average 71%.
His fastball has been very ineffective this year as he hasn’t been able to spot it as well. But his slider and change-up has improved not just in usage but also in effectiveness. So expect to see a lot of his wicked slider against a very left handed Red Sox line-up.
Normally a fly ball pitcher he has seen an drop in fly balls and an improvement in ground balls. Vargas is due for regression and this regression is a positive thing for Seattle.
Boston – Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2) 4.09 ERA
Dice-K is coming off two consecutive wins that were two dominant starts. In face he’s only given up 2 hits in his last two starts. His latest was against the Angels when he threw 8 scoreless innings. He’s looked like the Dice-K of old that won 18 games during the 2008 season with complete control of his pitches and getting ahead of almost all batters.
Saturday, April 30
Seattle – Doug Fister (1-3) 3.19 ERA
Fister has been pretty decent this year. The last few years he’s been a contact pitcher. But so far this year he has seen a lot of swing-and-misses with his curveball. I don’t know if this is something new that I missed but he has over two more k’s per 9innings than he did last year.
He ran out a very good ERA early last year but had a good sized disparity between it and his FIP. This year his FIP/xFIP is 3.00/3.95. He pounds the lower half of the strike zone with his two-seamer and induces good many grounders because of that (49%).
Fister has been the subject much inquire among Mariner fans. Is he for real or not? I think Fister is getting better and if that’s the case he could be more than just a serviceable 4/5th starter.
Boston – John Lackey (2-2) 6.35 ERA
Much like Dice-K, Lackey started the year with two awful performances. He was scary to watch and you didn’t know when his next flat pitch would be up and over the plate. But, his last 2 starts have been quite the opposite. He’s pitched 14 innings, allowing 10 hits, fanning 9, while only surrendering 1 earned run. With Buchholz struggling, the Red Sox need Lackey to pitch like he did in the 2009 ALDS when he dominated the Red Sox and possibly pick up 15 wins this season.
Thursday, April 28
Seattle – Felix Hernandez (3-2) 3.32 ERA
It’s good to be King. Felix has struggled a bit in each of his outings and is looking to find his groove. He has seemed to be able to find that groove quiet often in Boston. It’s something about the Boston/New York area that just gets Felix pitching big.
He’s still striking out guys getting plenty of ground balls and keeping the ball in the park. The only problem is guys just keeping getting hits at bad times. He’s leaving runners on base only 60% of the time. Meaning he’s run into some bad luck.
His ERA of 3.32 looks good but looking at his FIP it’s a scary 2.84. Felix is easily one of, if not the best, pitchers in all of baseball.
Boston – Clay Buchholz (1-3) 5.33 ERA
Things appear to be a tad off with Buchholz to start the year. He’s been effective in some outings but even then hasn’t appeared to completely on his game like he was last season. His last start against Baltimore he gave up a career high 12 hits in the game in just over 6.2 innings. He was saddled with the loss in that game and saw his record drop to 1-3 on the year.
Red HOT Sox:
Jacoby Ellsbury – after being moved back to the leadoff spot earlier in the road trip, Ellsbury has found his swing and his stride. He’s fresh off back to back 3 hit games in Baltimore and his average is now .264 which is far better than where it was for most of this early season. He’s riding a 7 game hitting streak as the Sox return home.
Cold as Ice:
Both Red Sox Catchers – yes, both Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are struggling offensively which makes Terry Francona’s decision on who to play that much more difficult. Varitek got back to back starts in the first two games in Baltimore and more playing time hasn’t meant an improvement at the plate. He’s batting .097 on the year, which is just 3 for 31. Salty’ has seen his average jump over .200 but he still struggles to get the big hit when the Sox need it.
Who’s HOT for Seattle:
- We all knew what was coming with Justin Smoak. Pretty much the best hitter on the Mariners team. There was a few concerns coming back from his time away from the team, that he may take a bit of time to find the groove again. 4 - 11 with 2 hrs, 8 RBIs and 2 walks.
- Ichiro is finally finding his grove and is 5-15 in Detroit.
- Miguel Olivo had been cold but hit 7-13, 2 HR (1 assisted by Ryan Raburn) and 3 RBI’s during his time in Detroit.
- Pauley pitched 4 innings in Detroit. Struck out 3, got 4 ground ball outs and surrendered 0 Runs and only 2 hits. He’s pitching above his head and I’ll admit that, but I make no apologies for my love of David Pauley.
Who’s Not for Seattle:
- Jack Cust: Has only hit a few balls hard in the last couple weeks. In his last 10 games he is 7-36 with 0 home runs 3 RBI’s and a walk-to-strike out ratio of 7-15. His ability to the ball in the air has been a serious problem and right now he’s looking to be done. I wish the very best for the guy but I’m kind of grim on his future.
- I’ve been preaching patience with Brendan Ryan (1-11 in Detroit). He’s been the opposite of Jack Cust spraying quiet a few line drives over the last couple of weeks that just have been very unlucky. I hope to see positive regression soon. But then again he could just go the whole season like this, just as he did last year.
- One positive is the amount of pitches he’s seen over the season. Last year he saw 3.71 pitches per plate appereance. This year its up to 4.55 and it’s resulted in nearly doubling his walk percentage.
- Chris Ray has so far given up 10 ER on 13 hits, 2 walks and 2 strike outs in 6.1 Innings pitched. He hasn’t been good this year. But let’s look at the positives. 36% of all runners been left on base, he’s gotten 52% ground balls and yet his BABIP is .444. He may not be a good pitcher but he’s not this bad. When David Ardsma comes back it’s going to be between Ray and Tom Wilhelmsen as to who is headed either to AAA.
- Junichi Tazawa – 60-day DL, torn ulnar collateral ligament – July return
David Aardsma 15-day DL *
Shawn Kelley 60-day DL **
Mauricio Robles 60-day DL **
Adam Moore 60-day DL **
Franklin Gutierrez 15-day DL *
- * Not on Active Roster
- ** Not on 40-Man Roster
Three questions from Bo Sox Injection to SoDo Mojo:
Q: There was a lot of speculation last summer on whether or not the Mariner’s would trade Felix Hernandez come the trade deadline and they didn’t move the Cy Young winner. After the Yankees lost out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes this winter, again there is much speculation that the Yankees will go out and trade for King Felix by July. Is it reasonable to think this is an option for Seattle and if so, what do the Yankees have to offer that the M’s would be interested in?
A: Is it an option? Of course it is. Will Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik listen to offers? Most likely, it would be silly not to. But, the likelihood of Felix actually being traded is so far removed from the realm of possibilities. The return that they would have to, NEED to, have is so huge that few if any teams would be willing to pay it.
Just as an example of what Felix has done so far in his 7-year career. He has already won 74 games, surpassed the 1000k mark and has won a Cy Young. Yet he’s a year and half younger than Clay Buchholz. The guy is beyond epic and the fact that he wants to be in Seattle just puts icing on the cake.
As has become the Lookout Landing Saying “Felix is ours and you can’t have him.”
Q: How has newly hired manager Eric Wedge adjusted to the job as Mariner’s GM and what does he bring to the organization that made him the front runner for the job?
A: I like him for the simple fact that he’s not afraid to rattle the players cages. He really let the guys have it a week ago after a big loss to the Jays and he expects 100% effort from every guy on the ball club. No excuses. Guys have to earn their jobs and have to play to keep them. It just seems like there is a competitive fire with the guys that wasn’t there last year. You can’t see it in a box score but it makes watching the games more exciting and I like that. I attribute that to Wedge and his crew.
Q: Justin Smoak has been touted as the next big bat for the Mariner’s. Now that he has 20 games in at first base and with his numbers impressive, is he the real deal?
A: Short answer he’s real.
Long answer is that while he’s going to be good and he’s going to be worth the Cliff Lee trade. He’s not the second coming of Mark Teixeira and those comps aren’t fair to him. He’s not a good enough fielder and while he has above average raw power I don’t know if he’ll ever have the power or the bat control to be a comparable hitter.
Enough of beating up on the kid. He’s really adapted. After coming over to Seattle last year there was a lot of skepticism as he struggled. But, after spending time down in Tacoma he has come back with a vengeance and has made the adjustments to be big time hitter. He’s going to hit over .270, he’s going to hit 20+ home runs and he’s going to be a middle of the line-up staple for a Seattle Mariner team that is destitute of such things. I can’t wait to see him blossom because he’s still not all there and that as a Mariner fan is exciting.
Three Questions From SoDo Mojo to BoSox Injection:
Q: Does Josh Beckett have everything all worked out?
A: It would appear that Beckett does have his mojo back. His latest start he gave up 2 home runs to Baltimore before being bailed out in the 8th inning and took a no decision on the contest. For most of that game and his last 3 he’s been the Beckett of old as he’s in control of hitters and hasn’t given up that big inning that lingered him most of the year last year. His off speed pitches have been effective and his heat has been spot on the corners when he needs it. After a first rough outing to start the year, the former World Series MVP has gone 29.0 innings, giving up 20 hits, 10 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 32 batters. Beckett is a lot of fun to watch when he’s on and he’s renewed that confidence in Red Sox Nation to a point where everyone once again is curious to see what type of dominance he’ll show in his next start.
Q: What do you make of the lack of top shelf talent in the minor league system? Are you worried about how the minor league system has emptied out?
A: There’s no question that the Red Sox gave up a lot of young, highly skilled prospects in order to get Adrian Gonzalez over the winter. But with Gonzalez now locked up for the next 7 years, one expendable prospect is first baseman Lars Anderson. Anderson has been regarded as a potential big league bat with a lot of pop who can play good defense. He should get looked at by many clubs come June and July. The other promising positions still in Pawtucket is in the outfield. Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava and Josh Reddick all proved they can play in the big leagues last year thanks to an injury plagued season for the Red Sox outfield. The Red Sox also have their shortstop of the future in Jose Iglesias still in AAA which then makes either Jed Lowrie or Marco Scutaro expendable. The promising factor for the Red Sox organization is that they’ll have 4 of the first 48 draft picks this year, thanks in part to Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre signing as free agents with Detroit and Texas respectively. Given the Red Sox track record when it comes to drafting and molding quality talent, I am confident that they’ll replenish their minor league system.
Q: What happens to Ryan Kalish? Does he replace JD Drew as the everyday player in the outfield next year or is he a piece to help the Sox win this year?
A: As it stands right now, JD Drew is the everyday right fielder for the Red Sox. He’s all but come out and said that he’s retiring after this season and even if he decides against hanging ‘em up, he’s in his last year of his contract with Boston. Given Kalish’s talent, it’s a safe bet that Drew won’t be back next year. In terms of this year, I wouldn’t expect to see Kalish up with the Red Sox at any point this year as he recently suffered a sprained left shoulder and partially torn labrum. Kalish is optimistic he can avoid season ending surgery, but even then he’ll miss a tremendous amount of playing time and will need a fair amount of rehab.
Topics: Adrian Gonzalez, AL East, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Carl Crawford, Clay Buchholz, Cleveland Indians, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz, Detroit Tigers, Dustin Pedroia, Fenway Park, Hideki Okajima, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron, New York Yankees, Spring Training, Tampa Bay Rays, Terry Francona, Texas Rangers, Theo Epstein, Tim Wakefield, Toronto Blue Jays, Victor Martinez