A Pitchers’ Duel in New York

pitchers' duel

Jon Lester bummed after his poor start on Friday night. Courtesy of theawesomeboston.com

There is a pitchers’ duel brewing in the Bronx. Over the course of the last two games, pitching proved itself to be most important to wins and losses for the Yankees and the Red Sox. Friday night, C.C. Sabathia was simply untouchable. Lester, on the other hand, threw pitches, just not over the plate. It was like watching Stevie Wonder play darts.

Saturday night the opposite happened; Felix Doubront versus Phil Hughes. The Sox went to work on Hughes early and often setting the tone in the third inning with a grand slam by Mike Napoli. The hits just kept on coming for the Sox all night.

The Yankee bullpen is as shallow as a rich, blonde girl walking down Newbury Street. A shallow blonde girl may be hot, but I am not going to have her put together a business plan for me. In the case of the Yankees, I don’t want Giradi and his management staff to organize my 5-man rotation, nor develop a strategy on how best to leverage my bullpen. Neither will be successful in their endeavors.

The Yankees are inconsistent due to lack of a strong pitching strategy, and a reliance on the idea that big salaries = wins. The Mets swept the Yanks because Mets pitching strategy worked better.  Yeesh! You have to take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror if you are losing to the Mets.

One or two pitchers do not a good bullpen make. Admittedly, the Sox’ five-man rotation is a bit shaky right now.  We have a strategy, though. We have depth, grit, a strong farm system waiting in the wings. This is a thinking man’s game, and John Farrell is always thinking of his next move. Is Girardi doing that, because it looks as if he made few decisions in Saturday night’s game because he had nothing upon which to make a decision?  I do not think “should I put the hot dog vendor in or not?” is the type of thinking Yankee fans are looking for.

You cannot throw money at this baseball problem. You also cannot rely solely on the players for wins.

Strategy of a Lineup

strategy of Red Sox line up

J. MERIC/GETTY IMAGES
The Red Sox celebrated after a 9-2 win over the Rays.

How does John Farrell anticipate each game and what is his strategy to win? Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and of course, David Ortiz, are the strongest hitters on the team.  For everyone else, it’s a draw.  Inconsistency lies within the offense when placing Jacoby Ellsbury, Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the lineup.  So what is manager, John Farrell’s take on the situation? It’s quite simple, I think, or maybe not.  After all, Farrell does not want to give the guys the wrong idea.  He had this line up in the beginning, when the Red Sox were on top.  It’s a bad month, yes, but what’s holding them back isn’t their line up necessarily.  They’re in a funk and they need to get out that’s for sure, but psychologically changing the lineup isn’t going to get the job done.

The one thing I don’t want to create in (the clubhouse) is more uncertainty and I think at a time when you could understand if some frustration starts to filter in,” Farrell said. “I want there to be some stability and some continuity to the work we’re doing. That includes (the players) understanding that there’s a lot of belief and trust in them.

Farrell doesn’t want to hold team meetings and give the players the wrong impression or idea to throw them off their game.  He likes his team and he believes in them.  April was a great month. Although May has been rocky the players’ strengths stand true. At the start of every series he will approach an individual if he thinks he needs to, but in reality it’s reinforcing their strengths that motivate them to be on top and do their best.

There may be change as the season progresses if need be, but for now, stability and continuity are the key aspects to focus on, and to keep the team afloat.

Thoughts on Tight Red Sox Games

tight red sox games

Courtesy of quadnews.net

Tight Red Sox games are grueling to watch. This team has us sitting at the edge of our couches, wringing our hands, or biting our fingernails. Only in the ninth inning of Thursday, May 16th’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays could fans exhale, as Will Middlebrooks flipped the switch off the offensive cruise control. This flair for drama seems to be the norm this week, as the Bruins won their game in the same fashion, scoring multiple goals in the third period. Boston fans must watch these games from start to finish.

As for the Red Sox, I am not sure why the offense seems so sluggish and then suddenly wakes up. The team should be swinging better–and perhaps more accurately, doing something with those players the Sox are able to get on base. Leaving runners on base, and then following those who were able to get on base with weak hitting does not lead to success. It leads to easy outs and double play opportunities, which we saw during Friday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins.

Great, we know what we are doing wrong. So, how can we improve the offense? Well, because I am most familiar with it, let’s take a look at tennis strategy. One theory on how to win a tennis match is to keep the ball away from your opponent. The balls that are hit, whether yellow, or white with red stitching, need to be hit just out of reach of the person in the defensive position. This “keep away” strategy is certainly one way to improve; another would be further manipulation of the lineup. Certain players, like Jonny Gomes, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury can get on base. It is just a matter of making sure those players that follow them in the lineup either walk, swing for the fences, or simply hit strategically, just out of reach of the opposing team.

Sure, there are plenty more variables involved, but making a small change here and there is the only way to begin. As John Farrell makes those changes, the fans will just have to continue to white knuckle their way through these games. We must hope for wins, and then exhale.

John Farrell’s No Tolerance Policy Leads to Wins

john farrell

Courtesy of newenglandsportsjournal.com

 

There is no tolerance for poor performance.  We have John Farrell to thank for clubhouse climate change. (Seems he has also had a positive effect on the weather.) Only winning is allowed in Boston. Come hell or tight games, like the one played on Wednesday, Farrell will deliver. We saw the mistakes of managers of the past and asked ourselves, “Why does it seem that [insert manager’s name here] is not making any decisions?” Nope, 2013 is the year of decisions and managerial strategy. There is a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Farrell’s rules are simple: shape up or ship out. You either produce, or it is time for you to go. There are plenty of people waiting in the wings to fill your spot in the lineup, while you work on fielding and at-bats at one of the Red Sox farm affiliates.

For instance, Farrell told reporters on Thursday that the decision to move Alfredo Aceves down to Pawtucket was solely performance based. The same goes for outstanding performances by players in Pawtucket or Portland. Great examples reside in Daniel Bard earning his way back to the mound Thursday night. With all the talent that we have in the minor leagues, so many guys nipping at the major league players’ heels, it creates an atmosphere of excellence and a little bit of fear. Fear is a motivator. I think we have seen this fear take hold of Clay Buchholz. Even when he performs well, we see at press conferences that he wants to do even better. He is not satisfied. That is fear. He hears the feet of those who want his place in the rotation pounding behind him.

Farrell is throwing every bit of talent he has at the game. This is not about playing guys who are highest on the payroll. This is a meritocracy. It seems, as far as pitching, third base, and some of the outfield positions are concerned, he has not come out of Spring Training mode. He changes things up in the middle of games. He moves players like Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes between right and left field, or even first base. Pitching, clearly his bread and butter, is where he makes constant changes.  In the last week alone, we have seen Steven Wright, Allen Webster, and Bard come up and down between the farms and the majors.

No stone will be left unturned when looking for talent. It is exciting for fans to see new players on the field. It is exciting to see Farrell, ever the mad strategist, at work. It is the beginning of a great season. 2013: the year of decisions, zero tolerance for losing, and sky-high expectations.