Kelly’s Demotion was Long Overdue

Joe Kelly got lit up again Wednesday night, allowing seven runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Afterwards, the Red Sox announced that Kelly was being sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he will work on his game and hope to return a better pitcher than the one who posted an 8.46 ERA and 2.24 WHIP over his first six starts. Numbers like that wouldn’t fly on the Braves, let alone a first-place team, and in that sense Kelly’s demotion was long overdue.

While Kelly has dominated for brief stretches as a starter, he’s also had periods where he’s been absolutely terribleKelly's Demotion was Long Overdue. In 79 starts he has a 4.13 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 1.75 K/BB ratio while allowing opponents to bat .266/.340/.401 against him—essentially what Hanley Ramirez is hitting this year. And don’t forget that nearly half of those starts came against weaker competition in the National League, making his numbers look better than they really are.

When Ben Cherington traded for Kelly two summers ago, he thought he was getting a young, hard-throwing hurler on the rise. Instead, it’s been one step forward and two steps back. Kelly’s walk rate nearly doubled immediately after the trade, while his strikeout rate remained shockingly low for someone averaging 95 miles per hour on his heater. The following year he picked himself to win the American League Cy Young award, only to wind up with a 4.82 ERA and 1.44 WHIP after making a midsummer pit stop in Pawtucket.

Rather than build off last year’s strong second half, Kelly reverted to his previous level of awfulness. He was walking nearly a batter per inning and allowing hits at a dizzying rate, looking generally lost on the mound. Last year the Red Sox could afford to let him work through his struggles, as they were out of the race by August. This year they can’t, which is why Kelly’s demotion was long overdue.

Kelly says his problems are mechanical, pointing to an issue with his arm slot. Hopefully he sorts things out and returns to the Sox a much-improved pitcher, as he did last year. But when or if he does, John Farrell shouldn’t be so quick to give him his job back. The Red Sox have seen this movie before, and they know how it ends.

Is Napoli Taking a Nap?

Napoli

Is it two thumbs up or down for Mike Napoli? Courtesy of boston.cbslocal.com

 

Mike Napoli, are you taking a Nap? To add insult to possible injury, we saw you consorting with the enemy’s mascot, Orbit of the Houston Astros while stretching before a game you didn’t play in on Wednesday.  Mike, over the last month your highest numbers fall into the walk column. In July, things were looking good. You were on a bit more solid footing with RBIs, making good contact to get on base, and move your teammates along.

What’s going on pal? The Red Sox are paying you $5 million this year. We went over this earlier this year. You need to rise to the occasion. Jonny Gomes found his way out of his slump. Now it is your turn. I mean you have to feel kind of bad when Stephen Drew is out stroking you at the plate. Come on, bring back the old Nap, we know and love.

You can do this. Against the Royals on Friday night you had a 3 RBIs and scored 1 run during your 3 plate appearances. Then, Saturday and Sunday you went back to your old ways; whiffing during 3 out of 4 plate appearances on Saturday and walking a couple of times on Sunday.  It looked like you were going to turn things around. You don’t need to show us you are a tough guy. Home runs are not that important to today’s baseball. How many times do I need to say this?  I feel like a broken record. Focus on fundamentals, made good contact, and get on base. Please.

I know all too well how hard it is to come out of a slump. I experienced one this summer, too. The difference between you and me, though, is that you can devote all your time to your sport, while I cannot do that until I retire from my day job. Ok, Nap, let’s put some quality time together in the batting cages, during batting practice, and at the plate. If you need some medical attention, talk to the trainer. Shake what your mother gave ya and swing for the fences.

Red Sox Nation wants to believe in Mike Napoli again.

Why Middlebrooks is Slumping

Middlebrooks

When Will Middlebrooks usurped Kevin Youkilis last season, he got off to a hot start.  He put up a .288/.325/.509 (AVG. /OBP/SLG.) slash-line.  This was an upgrade to Youkilis’ .235/.336/.409 line.  Oh how the tables have turned!  So far Middlebooks has mashed six potatoes, but his line sits at .212/.245/.417.  Youkilis, before he got hurt, was at .266/.347/.422.

Last year Middlebrooks struck out 24.5% of the time and his walk rate was a low 4.5% (That’s why his OBP was lower than Youk’s despite hitting fifty points better). With those numbers it would have been difficult to maintain his .288 average this season.  I expected his average to drop, but not in this freeeeee, free fallin’ style.

Why has this happened? Simple— Middlebrooks is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone (O-swing %).  His rate has gone up from 27.1% last year to 30.2 % this year.  If you swing at pitches outside the zone you’re going to have a bad time.

It’s easy to notice this just watching him hit.  I’ve seen him multiple times swing at first pitch breaking balls and whiff.  He puts himself in a hole right away.  Middlebrooks’ lack of discipline is killing him and hurting the Sox lineup.  Middlebrooks has said he is going to swing his way out of the slump, he just needs to keep it to pitches inside the zone.

You can’t knock his toughness though. Middlebrooks separated a rib in his collision with David Ross last Tuesday and had been playing through the pain.  Since last Tuesday’s collision Middlebrooks has collected five hits, four of them doubles.  Perhaps his collision knocked the slump out of him whatever the reason let’s hope he can stay out of it.