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With the Chambers of Horror now squarely in their rearview mirror, the Jays return to friendly pastures to take on Boston.

Josh Beckett: Was slapped around in his first tour of the AL East last year. He had a 5.01 ERA and gave up a whopping 36 homers. That's what happens when you take an NL pitcher out of his natural habitat. Guffaw. This year? All he's done is win his first six starts behind a 2.72 ERA. What's going on?! For one thing, his 15% homers-per-fly rate from 2006 is starting to even out, as he's only given up one longball all year. For another, he's throwing more two-seamers than last year and relying more heavily on his curve and change late in the count. He's also using the offspeed stuff for strikeouts more than usual, rather than always reaching for the high heater. That unpredictability is getting him very Halladay-like numbers: a career high in the groundball department and a good strikeout rate. If Vernon Wells plays tonight, he'll bring a 7-15 career line with 4 homers off Beckett with him. Frank Thomas is 2-11 with 4 K's and 0 walks.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: After his brilliant debut outing in KC, his Game Scores have been in a steady decline - 70, 52, 65, 43, 49, 25. His ERA has ballooned to 5.45. He's been hurt by walk spasms: in a fit of lost command reminiscent of his fourth-inning mini-meltdown in Toronto last month, he handed out four free passes to the first five batters he saw in his rematch with Seattle Thursday and gave up a 5-spot in the first inning. He left that start in a 7-7 tie after 5 innings. It's still his hard stuff that gets hit the hardest; when he falls behind in the count, bad things happen. Thus far, he has played as a flyball pitcher, which doesn't promise him huge success unless he can avoid the longball or be at the very top of the strikeout leaderboard all year. Mysteriously, he's allowed a very low slugging percentage despite those flyball tendencies and pitching in Fenway. I'm skeptical about his ability to sustain that. Jason Varitek thinks Daisuke's recent struggles are mental: "He's been off probably his last three outings, for him, in my eyes. He's battling himself right now and his feel and his release. He gets that and he's going to be just fine." Be more aggressive, Daisuke! Two of those outings happened to be against the Yankees. Perhaps a lineup starring Jason Phillips, Royce Clayton and Adam (0-3, 3 K last time) Lind is the cure he needs.

Tim Wakefield: Is only 40.

Hideki Okajima: Looks like a great find by the Red Sox so far. His darting fork/change has been murder upon lefties and righties alike. With Mike Timlin injured, Okajima has worked his way to the top of the Leverage Ladder and is now Jon Papelbon's full-time setup man.

Devern Hansack: His story is amazing. The power righty from Pearl Lagoon was called up in Timlin's absence; he hasn't pitched yet. He's a hard thrower with a nasty slider who has torn up AAA as a starter this year. Given how many of Boston's low-leverage relievers have struggled, it wouldn't surprise me to see Hansack ascend the ladder too, giving Boston the totally improbable front end of Papelbon, Okajima and Hansack.

Alex Cora: Hustling Infield Fan Favorite with a stellar BABIP. The populace apparently wants him to replace second baseman Dustin Pedroia and his low batting average. I haven't heard anything about whether they want him to replace his OBP too. The Sox do want to keep Cora's hot bat in the lineup once in a while, so they gave him a start at short Sunday over...

Julio Lugo: ..., who is in a 11-for-71 funk. He's getting himself in trouble by being too much of a free swinger, according to hitting coach Dave Magadan. "I think he's going through what a lot of players new to a team go through. He's trying to show his new team and the fans that he's more than capable of getting the job done -- which he is -- but a lot of times you try to do it in one at-bat rather than over the course of a series, a week, a month, or a season. I think right now a lot of it is pitch selection, chasing pitches outside of the zone. I have all the confidence in the world he'll get the job done in the leadoff role. He's just going through a period now, he's hit some balls hard that guys have run down." Says Terry Francona, Master of Patience and Understanding: "I'm not going to move him in the order. Give him today off to get his legs back and he'll be fine. I'm not going to say I don't notice it, but overreacting to these things doesn't help."

Manny Ramirez: Sat Sunday and didn't really seem to mind. He's still mired in his traditional early-season relative slump - one trip to Toronto apparently wasn't enough to free him, and his power numbers are still conspicuous by their absence.

Jonathan Papelbon: Has cooled off a bit since his ridiculous start to the year, but he's still only allowed 5 hits in 12.1 innings and blown only one save. He let a 0-2 fastball slip to Travis Buck, resulting in a two-run game-tying homer. What happened? "It was just fastball command. When I don't have fastball command, I have to have a secondary pitch and I didn't have that, either. So you're trying to force things you don't have." How does a great young closer respond to an unwelcome deviation from his usual dominance? Definitely not by beating himself up: "I'll go home and relax, have a couple of beers. You have a certain confidence level that you expect to have every time you go out there." When Papelbon is spotting his fastball, he's nasty. He has allowed a grand total of 0 runs and 2 hits in his other appearances.

The Credit Section: Batted-ball and Leverage Index are available at Fangraphs. K% and BB% are strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances. Everything else, most notably the AL average statistics, is available at The Hardball Times.

Advance Scout: Red Sox, May 8-10 | 14 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Gerry - Tuesday, May 08 2007 @ 06:09 PM EDT (#167517) #
When you look at the offensive numbers they are not very impressive, no one over .300 and more under .250 than over.  But them look at the pitching, great starters, except for Dice-K, and excellent bullpen numbers.  Let's hope Manram and big Papi have a quiet trip to TO.
Sherrystar - Tuesday, May 08 2007 @ 07:57 PM EDT (#167520) #

Wow, 3rd inning and it's game over... Zambrano... what a great signing! How much longer will we have to put up with this (insert expletive)

Keep up the optimism all you optmistic Bauxites! It's just halarious reading some of the "the season's not over" posts here!

Flex - Tuesday, May 08 2007 @ 08:18 PM EDT (#167525) #
Sherrystar, please don't make fun of people's hope. It's easy to mock optimism in the face of misery, but why? This is a hard team to love right now. I admire those who are able to keep the flame burning a bit.
John Northey - Tuesday, May 08 2007 @ 08:19 PM EDT (#167526) #
This is what happens when you have someone (Zambrano) sit on a bench for a month then expect them to get ML hitters out.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  It is one thing for us fans to hope for the best, it is another for JP and Gibbons to.
Sherrystar - Tuesday, May 08 2007 @ 08:47 PM EDT (#167529) #

Flex, I didn't mean to mock people's hope.

I'm just soooo disappointed knowing that the season is slipping away game by game. I look forward to coming home from work and watching my favourite team playing games that actually matter. I know now that won't happen

Here's hoping JP doesn't last until June so that he doesn't screw up another draft! (taking Romero (bust) over Tulowitzski (studd!)!)

Mylegacy - Tuesday, May 08 2007 @ 11:39 PM EDT (#167535) #

Tulowitzki is presently with the Rockies and slaughtering the opposition to the tune of a .259 batting average and the awesome slugging percentage of that's the stud that would turn our season around! Ya sure.

We seem to be lacking juice...however, you can only squeeze so much apple juice from one pip. We need someone to carry us...quickly...before 8 carry us in an oak casket.

As a Ti-Cat fan now I'd be trying to get us going with....Oskee Weewee, Oskee Waawaa, Lets go Ti-Cats, Eat em Raw Raw! Only if i remember ain't exactly doing the Cats any good lately either...sigh.

Magpie - Tuesday, May 08 2007 @ 11:47 PM EDT (#167536) #
With the Chambers of Horror now squarely in their rearview mirror

No! It's everywhere I look!

Zambrano's Game Score tonight? Well, that would be 8.

That, by the way, is two single digit Game Scores in less than one week in May (Doc's Texas disaster being the other.) The Jays' starters posted exactly one such game in each of the last two seasons (Janssen against Florida in 2006, and McGowan against Detroit in 2005.)

This is turning into the Month From Hell, at least.
BigTimeRoyalsFan - Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 12:03 AM EDT (#167538) #
Here's hoping JP doesn't last until June so that he doesn't screw up another draft! (taking Romero (bust) over Tulowitzski (studd!)!)

sherry, it sounds like u wanted that for the 3rd time in 4 years, the jays spend their first round pick on a shortstop. that doesnt say much for jp's success at drafting. so i  imagine even if he wanted to take someone like tulowitzki, he would have been a hard sell. and i hate to do this b/c its obviously all in hindsight, but now that im discussing jps drafting - looking at adams in 02 right before the 3 of swisher kazmir hamels. also, and this is all part of jp's philosophy - in 04 he took purcey out of college instead of someone like hughes out of high school. any one second guessing that decision now?
Magpie - Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 12:33 AM EDT (#167542) #
As a general rule, taking high school pitchers in the first round is a mug's game. (And selected ahead of Adams in that same draft were Chris Gruler, Clint Everts, and Scott Moore.)

But in the specific cases of Kazmir and Hamels - Kazmir slid to the Mets because there were serious concerns about whether anyone could actually sign him. And Hamels had suffered a broken arm (his left!) as a sophomore.

tstaddon - Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 12:41 AM EDT (#167544) #
I was at the game tonight. Depressing almost beyond words. By the 6th inning, more people were interested in the paper airplanes being dropped from the upper decks than the game. I won't say that it's not possible to mount a comeback, but if we continue to look this listless, we'll have trouble catching Tampa Bay. At least that team plays hungry.

What on earth to do? Really. It can't be underlined enough how much this team misses Sparky. Even when the Jays' pitching was atrocious, at least this team could score with him scrapping away at the top. Now? The Fighting Jays these are not.

On the mound, I actually felt bad for Zambrano. He's worked his butt off and done what's asked of him, probably before he was ready to. Can he really be regarded as an 11.00 ERA pitcher? I don't know. But the man should be in AAA trying to find himself, not here. Marcum's last two outings have been longer and more effective. I can think of worse ideas than starting him Sunday against Tampa.  And, really, unless you're going to reassign Zambrano after the game and put Marcum in the rotation, why stretch Shaun and waste 4 other relievers when you have Josh Towers on hand specifically to eat innings? So Shaun, I hope to see you Sunday.

If someone can convince me how all these calls for putting Janssen and his 1K/5IP ratio in the rotation make any rational sense, I'm all ears. I love the kid, but c'mon. You know what that kind of ratio leads to when stretched out. You've met Tomo Ohka, after all. Elsewhere, Frasor's a mess. Either he's hiding an injury or his confidence/location is completely AWOL.  Specific to Frasor and Towers: remind me again why Brad Arnsberg is so special? Because he's AJ's friend? Sigh.

Speaking of AJ: If this level of play keeps up, the Jays would be wise to consider trading him come July. Use the Jason Jennings case as an example. You think Colorado's worse off with Hirsh, Tavares, Bucholz and the $$ than they'd have been with Jennings, even if he was healthy? Forgive the fear-mongering, but AJ exercising his opt-out almost seems a formality at this point. With a year left on his contract pre-opt, one would think a young SP/SS combination could be had. Moseley/Aybar or Saunders/Wood out in Anaheim (to name one example) would certainly tickle my fancy.

Hopefully this post is just the despair talking. Tonight was a rough one. But this ship needs righting -- fast. And, say, isn't LA benching Wilson Betemit in favour of Furcal and LaRoche? Even with erratic fielding, he'd look much sharper at SS than anything we can trot out there now. What a night.
Mylegacy - Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 02:33 AM EDT (#167549) #

Deep breath...

It looks like...with Sparky, Zaun, Ryan, League out and Wells in some kind of medical funk (I'll just ask JP)...the players are giving up...the guys know that without the Spark, the Closer and the Set-up guy there just isn't the depth to compete...pitchers are pitching to not lose and the hitters know from their brief hot(ish) spell earlier that the pen is just going to let it all fall apart.

The first step out of this is for the pen to EARN back some dignity. The second step is for McGowan to step forward. The third step is for at least one other starter to discover at least mediocrity. The forth step is for US FANS to pray to our respective gods that Roy's last start was an aberration. The fifth step is for the offense that remains - (and it's a damn good offense)... to realize the pitchers are now giving them some support. The sixth and final step is for the team to adopt the mental maturity to play the next 4 and a half months with anger, fury and passion. They must believe, "We are better than we have shown, we will do what it takes."

robertdudek - Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 03:06 AM EDT (#167551) #
I think there is a missing step in there somewhere. It's a step a well-run organisation turns to when in a crisis. It seeks reinforcements.

Get some new talent from other organisations. There are players trapped in AAA or on the bench in the majors around MLB that are better than half of the guys on the Jays active roster. Make some moves, bring people in.

Oakland has had just as many injuries as the Jays have - about half of their offense has been on the shelf at some point and we're only 5 weeks in.

Do they sit on their hands? No. They pilfer Chris Snelling (a heck of a ballplayer who hasn't been healthy in 4 years) from Washington. They take a chance on Joe Kennedy and Chad Gaudin for the rotation, trusting that they knew what they were doing when they picked them up.

PaulE-O - Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 09:20 AM EDT (#167559) #
can anyone argue that the season isn't already over?
China fan - Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 02:16 PM EDT (#167601) #

      What do people think about the theory that Gregg Zaun's injury has hurt the pitching staff?  I know, it's a Richard Griffin theory, so that will discredit it in the eyes of many people, but he does seem to have some statistical support.  The team's ERA was 3.99 before Zaun's injury and 6.27 after Zaun's injury.  The theory would be that the pitchers are much more familiar with Zaun and cannot be handled as effectively by Phillips and Fasano.  Any reaction? 

   Here's the link to the story:

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