Thursday, May 19, 2005

Not Quite Ready

Uh, OK, maybe David Wells wasn't quite ready to get back on the mound. At least with people actually trying to hit the ball while he's up there. Luckily I didn't have to experience this first hand, but when I got home from work and checked the boxscore, this is what I saw:
Inn 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
BOS 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 4 0 6 8 0
OAK 4 5 0 0 1 3 0 0 X 13 19 0
And while that looks bad, it wasn't the worst of it. This was:
             IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
David Wells 1.1 9 7 7 0 0 1 49-33 6.75
If there's any good news it's that two-thirds of Wells' pitches were strikes. The bad news: two-thirds of Wells' pitches were strikes. The Red Sox allegedly sent Cla Meredith down to AAA to make room for Wells, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he donned a fat suit, shaved his head, slapped on an Honest Abe goatee and headed to the mound for a typical Cla outing (the fact that he also had to throw left-handed isn't lost on me, but I'll just chalk it up as a minor detail that a little arm-waving can solve quite easily).

So now the Red Sox are 3.5 games behind an Orioles team that seems to play the Kansas City Royals every time I check the paper, are without their self-appointed savior in Curt Schilling, and the other geriatric pitcher is having a rough go of it. To make matters worse, Mark Bellhorn, the guy I like to torment the most for being awful, is actually playing pretty well -- he even hit a home run yesterday. But unlike seasons past, I'm not going to panic, and call this season a lost cause (I mean seriously, the Sox are three days out of first place and the season is only 40 games old); instead I'll offer two quick suggestions on how to turn things around.

Bench Millar. This really isn't a new idea or one that isn't mentioned somewhere every other day. And while I haven't paid my SABR-nerd dues in quite some time, I don't think you need an abacus and the Bill James abstract to figure out that Millar isn't very good. Is he a nice guy? Seems to be. Do players rally around him? That looks to be the case too. But in these terms he sounds much more like a mascot than some guy who should be playing first base and batting fifth (although he did bat 7th yesterday, most of the season he's been batting behind Ortiz). It's still not clear to me why the Sox traded Mientkiewicz. To date he and Millar both suck at hitting, but the difference is Mientkiewicz can actually catch and throw the ball. Here's how the two compare so far:
        G  AB  R  H 2B HR RBI BB  SO  OBP  AVG
MINKY 37 123 16 27 3 6 17 19 22 .329 .220
MILLAR 40 141 13 33 5 2 21 18 20 .341 .234
So let me get this straight. Aside from the fact that both these guys are having horrendous starts to the season, Mientkiewicz has scored more runs and hit more homers than Millar? I think we all agree that the Sox traded for Mientkiewicz last season because he could field; there were no misconceptions about his bat -- he can't hit. But if Millar can't field and he can't hit, and the only reason he's in the dugout is because he makes Manny laugh, then maybe we should make him a coach and try something different. Why did we trade him again?

I know Boston has grand plans for John Olerud, but I wouldn't mind seeing more of Youkilis. Monday night he was playing first and I actually kind of liked that lineup. Youkilis doesn't hit a lot of home runs, but apparently neither does Millar. And on the upside, Youkilis can also field. And if there's some concern about Mueller's knees not being able to hold up over the course of a season, maybe Youkilis can play third and move Mueller to first. Of course that doesn't address the "inability to hit" part of the first base position, but again, it does provide some semblance of defense, which apparently is a pretty big part of the game.

Something else my keen eye has noticed during the first part of the season is that the Red Sox seem to give up more 2-out doubles than any team in the league. And most of these doubles are right down either baseline -- with the first or third basemen so far off the line that they have no chance of making a play. Here's a thought, why not reinstitute the "no doubles" meme when there are two outs and men on base. You know, just move the first and third basemen a step or two close to the line just in case the batter actually happens to hit it there. Instead of watching Millar and Mueller dive for a ball they won't come within 15 feet of sniffing, they might actually be able to make a play (or in Millar's case, knock the ball down and save some runs). Just thinking out loud here.

At this point, it's kind of difficult to complain too much about how the Sox are doing. Their in second place, only 3.5 games out, and it's the middle of May. And to be honest, I'm a lot less concerned with the standings at this point and more concerned with how Boston is actually playing as a team. And so far, they're doing pretty well. I could stand for fewer instances of Millar misplaying ground balls, Bellhorn strikeouts, or Foulke implosions, but who couldn't (and honestly, Bellhorn and Foulke have actually played pretty well the last week or so). Now, bring on Youkilis.