Advance Scout: Red Sox, April 9-11

Monday, April 09 2012 @ 01:15 PM EDT

Contributed by: Anders

The Red Sox come to town after being blown out of Detroit, losing all three games by a combined 26-14 margin. I'm not sure which of their three losses was worse - coming back to tie it at 2-2 in the 9th on Friday, the first blown save by Jose Valverde in a year, only to then lose it in the bottom half of the inning? Getting wrecked 10-0 on Saturday? Or blowing leads of 7-5, 9-7, 10-7 and 12-10, finally falling on a two out, two run home run to Alex Avila in the bottom of the 12th. From the opposite end of the spectrum, they were really all quite enjoyable.

Will the Jays be able to keep the beat alive against the suddenly seemingly vulnerable Red Sox? All this, and more (well, not really), on a new episode of Advance Scout.

If you think the Jays have rotation problems you should see the Red Sox. Converted relievers Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront are their 4th and 5th starters, and their second and third starters just got lit up like Christmas trees. Dice-K and John Lackey are on the disabled list, both for a while, which might actually be a plus.

Monday: Daniel Bard vs. Henderson Alvarez Ed note: I flipped Bard and Doubront, it's correct in the chart. The lesson as always: the chart is God.

Daniel Bard hasn't started a real baseball game since high-A ball in 2007, but finds himself in the Red Sox rotation thanks to a bevy of talent and a dearth of other options. In 2011 Bard posted an ERA of 3.33 while striking out more than a batter an inning; he also lowered his walk rate to below 3 for the first time as a major leaguer, and brought his groundball percentage above 50% for the first time to boot. All of these are good things, and resulted in the best FIP and xFIP numbers of his career. He makes his first career start against the Jays, the team he faced in his first career appearance (he gave up a run). As for how long he'll last in the starting rotation is anyone's guess. The notoriously level-headed and long-term thinking Boston media already want Bard moved back to the pen. New manager Bobby Valentine is apparently also in this camp, but has been given firm orders by the new, post-Theo braintrust to keep Bard in the rotation. We'll see how long this lasts. In any case, Bard is likely to succeed wherever he ends up. Bard throws hard , averaging 97 MPH with the fastball as a reliever and apparently sitting 94-96 in spring training. If hitters start catching up to the fastball then they also have to contend with his other plus pitch, a slider he threw about a quarter of the time as a reliever. He also mixed in a change, which I imagine he'll start throwing more of as a starter. For what it's worth Bard got knocked around plenty in spring training, walking 16 in 24.1 innings against 18 Ks. Career Adam Lind is 1 for 6, while Jose Bautista and Yunel Escobar are both 0 for 6. Edwin Encarnacion is the only Jay with any success; he's 2 for 5.

Tuesday: Felix Doubront v. Kyle Drabek

Felix Doubront is another starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter, albeit one who was pitching from the windup more recently. Doubront came through the Red Sox system as a starter before making his big league debut as a spot starter/reliever in 2010, making three starts and nine pen appearances. Doubront was injured for part of 2011, and a result made 16 relatively mediocre starts in AAA before spending September in the Red Sox again, where he pitched 10.1 innings. With the injuries to the Red Sox staff the decision was made to convert him back to starting, and here he is. As a starter Doubront sits from 90-94 as a starter, with a deceptive three-quarters delivery that causes the pitch to apparently tail. His best offering is probably his slightly screwy changeup, which comes in at 79-91. He also throws a fairly inconsistent curveball. Jose Bautista has a home run off him in 3 at bats.

Wednesday: Jon Lester v. Ricky Romero

Stephen Harper will probably not be in attendance for this getaway game as two of the American League East's premiere Lefties face off. I don't know what more to say about Lester at this point. He beat cancer, started the deciding game of a World Series, and threw a no-hitter; he has become one of the best and most consisten pitchers in baseball, throwing four straight years of 190 innings and sub 3.50 ball. 2012 got off to a similar start as he allowed 6 hits and 1 run in 7 innings against the Tigers in that ill-fated Red Sox opener. Lester throws a couple of different fastballs, a four-seamer in the mid-90s, as well as a sinker and a cutter. He'll also throw a change and occasional curveball, relying more on the breaking stuff towards the end of games. He mixes speeds well, as those four pitches can range from anywhere between about 74 and 94 MPH. The fastball, while good, is more of a setup pitch, while he really wrecks hitters with his change up and excellent high-80s cutter. Lifetime JP Arencibia is 4/14 with a homer and 2 walks while Yunel Escobar is 5/16 with 2 walks; after this it gets ugly. Jose Bautista is 8/39, Adam Lind 3/24, and Rajai Davis and Edwin Encarnacion are both 2/14. Did I mention that in 111.2 career innings the Jays are hitting .196/.287/.307 against Lester?

The Lineup

Even with (especially because of?) Carl Crawford being out for a couple more weeks, the Red Sox boast one of the strongest lineups in baseball, with three legitimate MVP candidates hitting at the top of the order.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Alex Gonzalez 1B
David Ortiz DH
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Ryan Sweeney RF
Cody Ross LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Mike Aviles SS

While it appears things drop off after Youk that isn't quite the case. Kelly Shoppach gives the Red Sox a pretty deadly catcher platoon, as he murders left-handers, while Salty has a career .770 OPS against righties. When Carl Crawford returns from injury Sweeney and Ross figure to form a left/right platoon in right. That just leaves Aviles, who basically ended up with the starting job after the Red Sox essentially gave away Marco Scutaro. Jose Iglesias is theoretically the future, but he is an all-glove guy who couldn't hit at double or triple-A.  Speaking of Hot Carl, he had wrist surgery and is about to start action in extended spring training, possible returning as soon as late April. Despite not getting the two-year contract extension he wanted (he signed for $14.575 in arbitration) David Ortiz still managed to win the chocolate bunny award for his Easter Sunday performance... Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are three of the twenty most popular jerseys in baseball for the 2011 calendar year, with Pedroia leading the Red Sox at 7th in baseball. Five bonus points for guessing who's first (no looking). Doc is 5th, for what it's worth.

The Infirmary: Carl Crawford LF, 15-day DL (wrist), Andrew Bailey RP, 60-day DL (thumb), Ryan Kalish OF, 60-day DL (shoulder), John Lackey SP, 60-day DL (TJ Surgery), Daisuke Matsuzaka SP, 60-day DL (right elbow), Andrew Miller SP, 15-day DL (hamstring). Crawford and Miller could be back by the end of the month, Bailey, Kalish and Matsuzka by the All-Star break.

The Chart: All data from Fangraphs, for the 2011 season.