Thursday, September 30, 2004

Little Things That Kill

Pedro got shelled last night. Bad control, stuff, and attitude. Together at last. People are lighting themselves on fire because his last four starts have stunk. But let's be fair about this. The first of that bunch was a loss, but it was 6 IP, 2 ER against Scott Kazmir. That's nothing to be ashamed of. The most recent Yankee game was 7 IP, 3ER until he got Grady'd. I'll take that in the playoffs. Then, admittedly, he had two real stinkers - one in the Bronx, and the other last night. So he hasn't been spectacular, but he's not really Derek Lowe either. Also, in 2003 he had a dazzling September (33 IP, 3 ER), and looked distinctly out of gas when the playoffs started. Maybe he's trying to avoid that. Am I saying Pedro has been saving his bullets, as he has all season? Not necessarily, but wouldn't it make sense that a guy who tries to reserve his best for the late innings would do the same for late games? Obviously, that is pure conjecture, and I'm not sure I even believe it, but we should see from last year that being good on September 30th means nothing about being good on October 5.

And while we're (really though, you're doing nothing) talking playoffs, I'd like to mention the Sox' approach to the playoffs. On Dan Duquette's weekly interview with the Zone, he reminded listeners that post-season baseball is completely different than the regular 162. He mentioned how Billy Martin used to pull his best players aside before every big series and tell them he'd be riding them hard and often. In a totally sports-related way of course. We saw that sort of thing last season with Grady and Game 7, and we'll see it this year. Trot Nixon will probably be playing everyday, and you'll be likely see Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke in every game of consequence. But Francona has to prepare for this sort of thing. David Ortiz, should the Sox make the World Series, will be asked to play 1st base. He's too valuable a player to sit because of shaky defense, but without the DH he'll need to get in the field. You know the last time he did that? Oh you know, June. That's something he should work on. He ought to get at least one start there before Sunday. Also, playoff games tend to be low-scoring, and therefore involve a lot more bunting and moving runners around. Boston has improved in these departments lately, but don't wait until the 7th inning of game 5 to find out how much. Can Mirabelli can lay own down a killer sacrifice with the game on the line? I'm not really sure, and I bet Tito isn't either. You've got four empty games left, let's try some things out. Hit and run more, call a few extra bunts. Yes these guys are major leaguers, but we've all seen them fail in such situations before, so how about a few game-time reps? The main point here is you can't all of a sudden ask your players to do something different just because it's the playoffs. Duquette is right, the style of play does change, and you need to adapt - but that doesn't mean you have to do it on the fly. Get valuable bench players a chance to shake off some rust, and make sure your starters are ready to play all facets of the game. The Sox have some time here, and they should try to use it wisely.