Watching the Sox these days is not fun. For one, the lack of depth at starting pitching has caught up with the club – fast. Right now, its basically Beckett and Schilling and pray for a chilling. (Sorry, that’s the best imitation of "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" I could think of.) And even then, as we’ve seen now in two straight starts, Beckett is no guarantee either.
I like TIm Wakefield. I have always said it makes sense to start him. He’s like the stock market – better to keep investing in him on a regular basis because eventually, he’ll get hot and you’ll make more than you lose over time. But this passed ball thing is as much his problem as it is the catcher’s. Yes, Mirabelli eventually got used to it, but most catchers throughout history have struggled with knuckleballs. I remember an otherwise very steady Mike McPharlane have fits with Wakefield. Something has to be done, as the passed balls are coming at really bad times. Criticizing Bard won’t help.
Jonathan Papelbon must be moved into the rotation now. I don’t care how many talk show hosts and pundits contend that "moving him would weaken the bullpen." Its a dumb argument. If a guy can pitch well it makes sense to put him in there as much as possible. The Sox have lost two straight series. Throwing Papelbon out there every fifth day would significantly decrease the likelihood of that happening very often.
The hitting has been fair at best. The Sox rank 17th in the all of MLB in runs scored; 22nd in slugging percentage and just 16th in OPS (combined slugging plus on base percentage). Those are pretty bad numbers for a team that plays in Fenway Park and has a $100 million plus payroll.
The problems at the bottom of the order have drawn much attention. Old friend Bill Mueller (who I pointed out had totals almost identical to Johnny Damon) is off to a great start with the Dodgers – in 22 games he’s got an on base percentage of .435 and a slugging percentage of .493, making his OPS a nifty .928 (27th in the National League). But to lay all the blame at the lower end of the order would be a mistake. Several Sox players haven’t done much. Varitek looks pretty bad – his OPS is just .693 (67th in the league). Loretta has been worse – his OPS is .601 (87th in the league). Gonzalez has been horrific, compiling an OPS of just .540 (93rd in the league). These guys are not all at the bottom of the order, they are spread throughout, so rallies are getting killed throughout the game.
I remain optimistic that with the return of Coco Crisp, the offense eventually will be good enough. And there is always a chance that the team might seek help via trade. Yes, this is a flawed team, certainly no juggernaut. But there is time to do the right things to make it better. Putting Papelbon in the rotation would be a good start.