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Ordinarily, I'd beat myself into a frenzy in this introduction and bellow vaguely inspirational platitudes like "IT'S ON!" which, really, shouldn't be necessary given the name of the opponent and range of dates in the header immediately above this sentence. But I won't, because the reality is that it isn't on. Not yet, anyway. Ten games out of first place, the Jays have to serve Boston back to some degree in the second half before anyone in Blue Jay land can make any truly credible claims that it's on.

But the Jays are 2-0 at Fenway this year, and the two Sox who started those games also pitch the first two of this series, and it's only the middle of July, so there is hope.

Tim Wakefield starts tonight. Last time he and his knuckleball faced the Jays, he picked up an 8-0 victory and lowered his ERA to an AL-best 1.79. He's cooled off considerably since then, but his efforts to carry the Sox rotation through April didn't go unnoticed.

Wakefield starts virtually everyone off with a knuckler. Makes sense - opening an at-bat against a big-league hitter with a mid-70s fastball is a bit risky. He tends to throw more fastballs and curveballs as the count gets deeper and hitters' bats get acclimated to waiting so long for the ball to arrive, though the knuckleball is by far the most likely pitch no matter what the count is. Wakefield will throw knucklers in 3-0 counts. His knuckleballing style makes him an inviting target for basestealers, who are (surprisingly) only 343-449 all-time against him.

No current Jays have good career numbers against Wake. Frank Thomas is 9-43 with 6 walks, 4 homers and 14 strikeouts; he's the best bet. Royce Clayton is 12-39 with a homer and only 3 strikeouts.

Wakefield's personal catcher Doug Mirabelli will catch tonight. He's 2-12 in 12 PA against Roy Halladay, but the hits are a homer and a double.

Sinker-slider swingman Julian Tavarez opposes Shaun Marcum on Friday. In April, Tavarez appeared to be keeping a seat warm for a month or so while Jon Lester rehabbed in AAA. But Lester hasn't dominated in the minors, and Tavarez is still here. Fenway Park is a very good place to be Julian Tavarez, a groundballing righty who keeps the ball down and away to everyone and compensates for his style's vulnerability to lefties by working in a change against them once in a while. Alex Rios is 8-12 against Tavarez with a walk.

Saturday's starter is either Daisuke Matsuzaka or Kason Gabbard. I think it's Daisuke - there is no news of any injury. If the Red Sox want to maintain the exact order of pitchers they had before the break, Gabbard will go; if they want to pitch Daisuke as often as possible, they'll start Daisuke.

Daisuke is Daisuke, and he feels right at home in Boston, thank you very much. That's a fascinating article by Gordon Edes that touches on the golfer Daisuke, the family man Daisuke, and much more.

Gabbard is a 25-year-old lefty who was chosen in the 29th round of the 2000 draft. He hit a wall at AA in 2004 and struggled against that level until last year, when he went 9-2 with a 2.57 ERA and earned a promotion to the show. Sox Prospects compares him to Pete Schourek. He has a sinker in the high 80s, and keeps hitters off balance with a four-seamer, changeup and biting mid-70s curveball. The change is supposed to be his best pitch. In an interview with Royal Rooters, Gabbard says he became consistent at the AA level by "maturing a bit... growing up as a man." I like the honesty. How many players tacitly admit that their success is probably due to their age relative to their competition?

Even if Gabbard doesn't start Saturday he may pop up out of the bullpen early in the week, since Boston is only carrying six relievers with hustling fan favorite Jeff Bailey called up to cover for Kevin Youkilis' day-to-day injury. Gabbard is 2-0 with a 4.87 ERA averaging just over 5 innings in his 4 big-league starts this year.

Josh Beckett, in the middle of an age-27 career year, will be Jesse Litsch's opponent Sunday. The outrageous (even when he's injured) Curt Schilling is convinced Beckett is the best pitcher in baseball: "You can make any argument you want. Haren has been phenomenal, and you don't want to take away from anybody, but to me, [Beckett is] the best pitcher in the game right now," he told Jeff Goldberg of the Hartford Courant. There is no indication that the next thing out of Schill's mouth is, "But that's only because I'm on the DL." However, there is no indication that it's anything else.

Beckett is still a hard-throwing righty with a fastball that can get up in the high 90s, a curveball and a change, but his 4.38 K/BB is by far the best of his career, and his 50% groundball rate is also by far the best of his career. He credits his improvement to being less reliant on just throwing the fastball past hitters for strikeouts, and bringing his offspeed stuff to the table more. Especially the changeup. As an AL scout tells the Boston Globe's John Powers, "It's a hard changeup. He'll throw his fastball 95-96 and his change 87-88. Some guys don't throw their fastballs 87-88. The location and sink of the changeup is very good."

Although Beckett has clearly pitched much better this year than last, he's also received a bit of an assist from the homer gods who mercilessly hung 36 gopherballs on him in his first year at Fenway. Beckett's HR-per-fly rate is down from a vicious 15.4 to a too-kind 5.7. When that improved luck is combined with Beckett's newfound groundball tendencies, the result is a 12-homer pace.

Vernon Wells is 8-18 with 4 homers against Beckett. Russ Adams and Alex Rios have also taken him deep; Frank Thomas is 2-14 with 0 walks and 5 strikeouts.

Jonathan Papelbon has only blown one save all year. He has the intimidating closer's pre-pitch routine down ice cold. Before every pitch, he stares blankly at the mound for a couple of seconds. He then proceeds to lean in a bit to wait for the sign, while bestowing upon the hitter the most menacing cold shoulder in major-league baseball. Then he sets and fires. It's really impressive.

In the past month, Papelbon has added a cutter to his arsenal. It's still a work in progress - he left one up to Pudge Rodriguez in extra innings Saturday, and Pudge found enough of it to drop it in right center for a game-winning hit. Live and learn, says Amalie Benjamin. "The cutter's doing what I want it to do. It's just I can't be leaving balls up, especially when guys are in scoring position. It's just a matter of it being up. I keep the pitch down, he's either swinging through it or easy ground ball to the right side. But I left it up, so he was able to find a hole in the outfield."

To the surprise of no one, Hideki Okajima won the final all-star vote over Pat Neshek. Okajima actually has a higher WPA than Papelbon. He credits his success to his forkball-like changeup, which he tried to keep somewhat secret until appearing in the bigs. He says to Dan Shaughnessy: "My biggest weapon was always my curve. Last winter in training I struggled with the curve, so I tried the changeup and it was pretty good. I thought I could use it in major league baseball. I tried to hide the changeup until after the season started and that is the main reason I am getting such good results."

The Boston Globe's editorial staff love Oki's 'civilizing influence' and wish more people could be like him.

25-year-old hometown hero Manny Delcarmen has been summoned from AAA to help out the Red Sox bullpen. He replaces the DL'd Brendan Donnelly. Delcarmen put up a 28.5% strikeout rate in the minors to force Boston's hand. He throws in the mid-90s; his out pitch is a (relatively) very slow curveball in the mid-high-70s.

Coco Crisp has been on a bit of a hot streak since returning from his sprained thumb and might bat near the top of Boston's order. He has also earned plaudits for his defensive contributions this year, according to Gordon Edes. Some Sox folks are pushing his Gold Glove case - ones you wouldn't expect, like Kyle Snyder.

Julio Lugo has been the only hole in this lineup, and I get the feeling Julio Lugo is going to heat up very, very soon.

Kevin Youkilis has been battling a sore quad and hasn't played in almost two weeks. He should return this weekend; where he hits in the lineup is anyone's guess, since Crisp and Dustin Pedroia are streaking.

Buster Olney
exalts Youkilis' unerring intensity. In that article, Youkilis preaches on the value of patience and suggests that, despite his excellent batting eye, he's not particularly good at reading pitchers' minds: "Some guys are good at guessing what's coming," he says. "Kevin Millar, he could say, 'Hey, with a 1-0 count, this guy is going to try to throw me a backdoor slider.' I can't do that."

Boston fans are worried about David Ortiz's sagging power numbers. He's hitting fewer flyballs than usual, and with less power than usual. A large portion of his balls in play are going for hits, which is keeping his OBP up and offsetting the lost power. Ortiz has been battling knee, hamstring and quad issues at various points this year, but hasn't attributed his struggles to nagging injuries. Still, he's pondering knee surgery in the offseason.

And on Saturday, Ortiz was intentionally walked three times by Jim Leyland, who was happier facing one of the greatest righthanded hitters ever, Manny Ramirez. How times have changed.

The Credit Section: All offensive stats, pitches per PA for pitchers and league average stats are from the Hardball Times. Pitchers' stats and leverage indices are from Fangraphs. Minor-league stats are from Minor League Splits. K% and BB% are strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances; GB% + LD% + FB% = 100.

Advance Scout: Red Sox, July 12-15 | 26 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Alex0888 - Thursday, July 12 2007 @ 09:05 PM EDT (#171491) #
So I guess Hill is not on the disabled list, despite what I watched Paul Godfrey say the other day on OTR.

By the way, I thought you meant Matsuzaka had a nickname of Kason Gabbard. Just thought that was a weird nickname for a Japanese pitcher and kind of came out of left field, but then I quickly found out it was another pitcher.

Mike Green - Thursday, July 12 2007 @ 10:52 PM EDT (#171493) #
Y'know, the Sox offence isn't that impressive.  They control the strike zone very well, but there isn't that much power there despite all the name brands.  What is needed is Robin Roberts, not Bob Feller.
ahitisahit - Thursday, July 12 2007 @ 11:06 PM EDT (#171494) #

That was some of the worst umpiring I have seen in quite awhile. The strike zone was very inconsistent, both teams were complaining about it. Boston is terrible to watch, every at bat takes 5 minutes.  Pedroia was down in the count 0-2 in the first inning and managed to see 10 pitches on his way to a walk. That was the pivotal at bat in the inning. Okajima and Papelbon were impressive tonight as well.


jeff mcl - Thursday, July 12 2007 @ 11:52 PM EDT (#171495) #
Maybe he's just posturing, but JP says he's planning to stand pat at the trade deadline:

This line really hit me: "Basically, Toronto's team will remain virtually the same next season."  Maybe I'm just a little bit down on the club after seeing Doc get shellacked yet again tonight, but this is somewhat disconcerting seeing as how this group--which has been pretty much intact for 18 months--will have fallen short twice by the end of this season.  Does anyone else get the feeling that injuries, though they were aplenty, don't fully explain how things went off the rails for this edition of the Toronto Blue Jays?  My patience will be tried if there aren't any significant upgrades this offseason.

timpinder - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 07:52 AM EDT (#171503) #


I think injuries really did hurt the Jays, as did the rotation before McGowan and Marcum stepped in.  I mean, imagine Boston losing Papelbon for the entire year, Beckett for 3 weeks, Matzuzaka for 6 weeks or more, Varitek for 6 weeks, Youkilis for 6 weeks, Lowell for a total of about 3 weeks, Crisp or Drew for the first half of the year, and Okajima for more than half a season at least.  Those are the types of injuries that the Jays had to battle through, and the fact that the Jays have stayed around .500 despite those losses is a testament to how good this team really is, in my opinion.  Now Zambrano and Ohka have been uprgraded to McGowan and Marcum and the injuries are starting to heal.  Furthermore, I expect Wells, Overbay and Johnson to start hitting more like their career norms.   I'm anxious to see what this team can do. 

Johnson-Overbay-Rios-Wells-Thomas-Glaus-Hill-Zaun-McDonald (Lind-Thigpen-Olmedo-Stairs bench)

On paper, that is a contending team in my opinion.  They just haven't played healthy together and I for one am excited to see it happen.  I wouldn't mind if Glaus was traded in the right deal for a young replacement the Jays would control for years, but if this is the team that Ricciardi fielded to start 2008, I'd have no problem with that and I'd be optimistic about their chances to reach the playoffs.

zeppelinkm - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 09:27 AM EDT (#171508) #

What's wrong with Doc?

I'm as big a Doc fan as anyone, for certain, and have always taken the most optimistic approach possible to explain any/all of his poor starts, but I'm starting to get nervous... 

Someone suggested in a thread the otherday that Doc's strke zone is getting pinched. I did see some breaking balls that Doc threw that went for balls and some very similiarly located ones later in the game by some of the bullpen of the Sox and Jays go for strikes. Although I really don't put much stock in this because well, as pretty as my TV is, it just isn't quite the same as the perspective of the guy 2 1/2 feet behind home plate.  Is it possible he's just getting frustrated with close calls not going his way, combined with leaving some pitches up and getting hit hard? He did leave a few balls up yestarday...

But please, someone fix the Doc'. The shiny point for the Jays is that man, and they need him to be himself if they are gonna get anything done.




Barry Bonnell - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 09:28 AM EDT (#171509) #

but if this is the team that Ricciardi fielded to start 2008, I'd have no problem with that and I'd be optimistic about their chances to reach the playoffs.

I wouldn't be too optimistic. Especially with other teams improving themselves in the offseason. It would seem more than likely that Wells and Thomas will get off to slow starts which really hurts the team. Plus Thomas and Glaus will be a year older. The SS position is a black hole and needs to be addressed.

Halladay was injured last year and it seems like he is playing injured this year. Burnett will probably go on the DL at some point. An awful lot is riding on McGowan and Marcum for next year.

 As for moves I would like to see happen today I would like to see someone come up from the farm and given a chance at SS or move Aaron there if that is the plan for next season. Why wait? The season is pretty much over.

 I wouldn't mind seeing Curtis Thigpen get significant playing time at catcher.

AWeb - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 09:53 AM EDT (#171510) #
Halladay had nothing in the first inning yesterday. I missed the first batter, but no one from that point on until Mirabelli swung and missed at a pitch, and he barely counts as a ML hitter at this point. The Sox rarely seemed fooled at all by the curve, which made me think, again, that he's tipping his pitches. I think it's more distressing to think that he might not be tipping his pitches though.

Halladay's delivery looks slightly off to my untrained eyes. It might just be the camera angle in Fenway, but it didn't look like Halladay was getting "on top" of his pitches, he appeared to short-arming them. Again, that's just to my eye, and I didn't watch past the second inning, so maybe he sorted it out later. Until I see performances that make me think otherwise, I will suspect Halladay is either slightly injured, or has adjusted his delivery to avoid injury and in the process reduced his effectiveness.  His ERA against the AL this year is above 5 this year, and now below average overall (ERA+ of 98). Fret fret fret....
Jdog - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 10:07 AM EDT (#171512) #
Halladay is having a Buehrle 2006 year.
Maldoff - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 10:28 AM EDT (#171514) #
The thing I noticed abouy Halladay last night is that he was able to get ahead of hitters, but just couldn't finish them off.  To me, that says that his pitches are either lacking late movement or hitters are just able to pick up his pitches easily.  I don't think it's injury related, as many have suggested.  He'll get it back, but it will take a few mechanical adjustments to do so.
Craig B - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 11:15 AM EDT (#171518) #

The strike zone was very inconsistent, both teams were complaining about it.

Laz Diaz is one of the ten umpires in baseball I like least - right in the Cuzzi/West/Danley group.  I tuned in in the first and saw it was 3-1 Boston, swore a bit, then immediately looked at the screen and said "***, is that Diaz back there?"  Sure enough, it was.

Craig B - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 11:17 AM EDT (#171520) #
Whoops, I don't know how I could have mentioned the axis of umpiring evil without including C.B. Bucknor (even if I'm only picking examples).
sweat - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 01:07 PM EDT (#171521) #
It seemed to me like a good number of big hits last night came on the offspeed stuff.  Maybe Roy needs to throw a few more fastballs.
GregH - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 01:37 PM EDT (#171524) #

I just had an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine at work.  He is 31 and is very fit.  He does recreational weightlifting.

Last year he had his appendix removed.  He said it was well over 3 months before he felt comfortable using his lower abdominal muscles fully.  He indicated there was no real pain after the first few weeks, but that he just didn't feel "right" while exercising or lifting until more than 3 months later.

Clearly pitching and weightlifting are very different activities, but is it possible that Doc is still feeling the aftereffects of the surgery?  That might explain why the Jays think he can continue to pitch, even though, to most observers, he just doesn't seem "right".


MatO - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 01:41 PM EDT (#171525) #
According to the paper Halladay threw only one pitch last night that was a swing-and-a-miss (Mirabelli).  That's four poor starts in a row.
Christopher - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 01:46 PM EDT (#171526) #

Last year he had his appendix removed.  He said it was well over 3 months before he felt comfortable using his lower abdominal muscles fully.  He indicated there was no real pain after the first few weeks, but that he just didn't feel "right" while exercising or lifting until more than 3 months later.

That is interesting.  Still having my appendix, that didn't even cross my mind.  Right now I'm almost hoping that this is what is troubling Roy; I'd hate to think that this is the Roy Halladay will be seeing for the remainder of his contract and beyond.

Smaj - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 01:54 PM EDT (#171528) #

What would Doc bring back in trade value before July 31st????

Clearly declining performance & increasing age.  Ample innings logged; some injury concerns.....I assume he is still considered an impact player in MLB circles, thus demand should be plentiful; many teams in the hunt this year; sell high mentality for JP or is Doc just "off" temporarily???? 

Be interesting to see what market value is for the Doc.

Maldoff - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 02:27 PM EDT (#171529) #

I was shocked (SHOCKED) when Halladay came back as quickly as he did earlier this season.  I had my appendix out last season, and I couldn't do much for at least 4 weeks.  I am also a pitcher (not a good one, though), and it was at least 6 weeks before I was able to get back out on the mound.  Even at that point, it still took a while to get completely back into shape.  It has only been 8 weeks since the surgery for Roy.

AWeb - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 02:39 PM EDT (#171530) #
If we go forward with the hypothesis that Halladay has looked bad due to lingering effects of his surgery, which sounds more than plausible, and that he isn't slowing down his recovery process appreciably by continuing to pitch right now (which I have no way of knowing):

Is Halladay at 80-90% better than the available alternatives? Almost certainly yes.

Does this partially explain why JP said such dumb things (dumb mostly due to being in public) about Burnett and him not be willing to pitch through pain? I say yes, if Halladay is pitching through discomfort after major surgery, a sore arm would seem less important.

Problems : some teams didn't change there rotations after the break, giving each pitcher the extra 3-4 days rest, rather than maximizing the starts from the top of the rotation (Boston seems to have done this). Wouldn't the extra rest make more sense for Halladay if he's still recovering? And if Halladay hurts his shoulder (or elbow, or whatever), only to reveal that he's been putting extra pressure on it because he didn't feel totally right in  his midsection....well, the tar and feathers would have to brought out for the whole lot running the team.

timpinder - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 03:33 PM EDT (#171531) #

Let's not forget that Halladay had a couple of poor starts before the surgery too.  Anyway, I'm hoping this is just 2004 Halladay.  We'll call it a "tired arm" again.  This seems to happen to pitchers every once in a while.  Buehrle and Peavy are recent examples worth noting.

And Smaj,

are you taking crazy pills?

pjfreshphil - Friday, July 13 2007 @ 09:52 PM EDT (#171532) #
Since when is Gustavo Chacin the Red Sox athletic trainer?  Glad he could help Pedroia with his eye.
VBF - Saturday, July 14 2007 @ 10:15 AM EDT (#171536) #
When was the last time the Red Sox had a prospect who didn't become an elite player?


Then around MLB:

-Shoppach (having a solid season with small sample size)

At least they aren't hogging it all to themselves.

Geoff - Saturday, July 14 2007 @ 11:14 AM EDT (#171538) #
I believe the gods have chosen to smite Roy Halladay because of the less-than-market-value deal he signed.

His only redemption at this point may be to act completely selfish and angry on a Barry Bonds-type level. Because baseball just isn't that kind to gracious, unselfish dudes with big hearts. 
ahitisahit - Saturday, July 14 2007 @ 10:56 PM EDT (#171542) #

Youkilis and Pedroia are elite players? I'm not drinking the Youkilis Kool Aid at all. The guy won't finish the season with 90 RBI's playing 1B, Morneau had 74 at the All Star break. He also won't hit 25 HR (and will be very lucky to hit 20). He gets on base and looks at strike 3 more than any player I have ever seen.

Youkilis knows that he's not a 5 tool player, and if his OBP is 50 points lower, he's working at Radio Shack. So his niche is to take walks and get on base.

As for Pedroia, he's doing well, but it's his first full season. Stick him in the Royals lineup and see what happens to him.

Paul D - Sunday, July 15 2007 @ 01:49 AM EDT (#171544) #
I'm not sure why we'd care how many RBIs a player has, but that's a subject for a different day.

Jays call up League, send down De Jong.

scottt - Sunday, July 15 2007 @ 05:14 PM EDT (#171557) #
Litsch over Towers looks like a brilliant move right now.

With the ol'Doc, the Jays would have taken 3 out of 4.
He's on track for a so-so season but could end up winning 20 games regardless.

Advance Scout: Red Sox, July 12-15 | 26 comments | Create New Account
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