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Entries in Boston Red Sox (105)


Bill Chuck's Nine to Know: Report from Fenway

Photo by Bill Chuck
September 11 at Fenway Park
Photo by Bill Chuck


Last night at Fenway where the Red Sox were hosting the Yankees, after a moving 9/11 ceremony, I expected to see a game between a motivated team against an opponent playing out the season, And that's exactly what I saw. However, I was shocked to find that the inspired team was the near-comatose Red Sox as they faced a Yankee squad that looked sloppy in every aspect of the game won by Jacoby Ellsbury on a 9th inning walkoff single, 4-3.

Here's Nine to Know:

1. Each team had 12 at bats with runners in scoring position - the Sox were 5-12, the Yankees were 1-12.

2. The Yankees blew leads of 1-0 and 3-2, the Red Sox blew a 2-1 lead when Derek Jeter hit a two-run double.

3. Red Sox starter Jon Lester pitched 5.1 innings throwing 102 pitches walking seven and allowing three runs. Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched 6.1 innings throwing 94 pitches and allowing three runs including a Dustin Pedroia homer.

Lester was all over the place last night:

Lester has been hit at a .275 pace this season, .276 against righties and .271 against lefties:

4. Andrew Bailey picked up his first win as a Red Sox, David Robertson took the loss and dropped to 1-7. Robertson continued his not-2011 season as he failed in his attempt to pitch two innings of relief (he went 1.1).

5. For the third time in a week the Yankees fell into a first-place tie with the Orioles who crushed the Rays, 9-2.

6. Lester struck out five giving the lefty 150 for the season and 1044 for his career, the most for any lefty in Red Sox history. Here's your top nine:

1 Jon Lester 1044 2006 2012 85 45 .654 1138.0 3.76
2 Bruce Hurst 1043 1980 1988 88 73 .547 1459.0 4.23
3 Dutch Leonard 771 1913 1918 90 64 .584 1361.1 2.13
4 Lefty Grove 743 1934 1941 105 62 .629 1539.2 3.34
5 Mel Parnell 732 1947 1956 123 75 .621 1752.2 3.50
6 Bill Lee 578 1969 1978 94 68 .580 1503.1 3.64
7 Ray Collins 511 1909 1915 84 62 .575 1336.0 2.51
8 Mickey McDermott 499 1948 1953 48 34 .585 773.2 3.80
9 Babe Ruth 483 1914 1919 89 46 .659 1190.1 2.19
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/12/2012.

7. Jacoby Ellsbury celebrated turning 29 by picking up four hits, just the third time a Red Sox birthday-boy celebrated with this many hits since 1918:

1 Jacoby Ellsbury 2012-09-11 NYY W 4-3 5 4 2
2 Carl Yastrzemski 1976-08-22 OAK L 6-7 5 4 1
3 Carl Yastrzemski 1961-08-22 WSA W 3-2 5 4 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used Generated 9/12/2012.

8. Alex Rodriguez went 0-4 with three strikeouts and was 0-2 with runners in scoring position. This season, A-Rod is hitting .221 with runners in scoring position and RISP/w 2 outs he's hitting .156 with four RBI.

A-Rod's hitting with RISP:

9. Jon Lester started and finished his September 11th start with a record of 9-11.


Ellsbury's Pull Power Disappears

Of all the disappointments during the 2012 season that now leave the Red Sox fighting to avoid the bottom rung of the AL East standings for the first time in two decades, few sting more than Jacoby Ellsbury's total lack of punch at the plate.

No one expected Ellsbury to replicate his production from last year, when he hit 32 home runs and slugged .552. But Ellsbury, who missed three months this season due to a dislocated right shoulder suffered while running the bases, has been a banjo hitter even by the modest power standards he set earlier in his career. He's slugging just .354 in 253 plate appearances, compared to .405 from 2007-2010.

Ellsbury did nearly all of his damage last season on middle-in pitches. He was especially fond of low-and-in offerings:

Ellsbury's slugging percentage by pitch location in 2011

Inside pitches get pulled far more than middle or away pitches, and Ellsbury was an elite pull hitter in 2011. Check out his hit chart on pulled pitches:

Ellsbury's hit chart on pulled pitches in 2011


Twenty-six of Ellsbury's homers came on pitches hit to the right side. And with a .928 slugging percentage to the pull side, he trailed just Curtis Granderson, Matt Joyce, Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce and Josh Hamilton among lefty batters.  

This year, though? Ellsbury's heat map on middle-in pitches looks like Boston in January:

Ellsbury's slugging percentage by pitch location in 2012

Brr. Ellsbury's barrage of extra-base hits to the pull side has been replaced by ground balls (62% of pulled pitches put in play, 50% last year) and weakly hit flies:

Ellsbury's hit chart on pulled pitches in 2012

Ellsbury is slugging .349 on pulled pitches this season, or less than half of the MLB average for lefty hitters (.708).  Part of the problem could be that he's trying to pull pitches that he should take to the middle or opposite field. Forty-six percent of the pitches that Ellsbury has pulled have been thrown on the outside corner, versus 29% last season. A lineup that has lost David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks to injury and parted with Adrian Gonzalez to purge Beckett Bucks and Crawford Cash off the payroll needs Ellsbury to find middle ground between his monstrous 2011 and meek 2012.


Beckett Lacking High Heat in 2012

Josh Beckett may be on the block, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. But the chances of a Beckett deal actually happening seem slim: The 32-year-old righty can block a trade thanks to his 10-and-5 rights, and he's owed roughly $37.3 million between now and the end of the 2014 season. Plus, the 51-51 Sox still have some some chance at playing postseason baseball (about 17 percent, per Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds).

Any club considering Beckett would also have to gauge the likelihood of "Josh Beckett, Power Pitcher" making a return. With his fastball velocity down, Beckett's whiff rate on high high heat has been more than cut in half.

Beckett averaged 93 MPH with his fastball and topped out at 96 MPH in 2011. Armed with quality velocity and the ability to reach back for mid-90s gas when necessary, Beckett elevated his fastball often. Check out his fastball location last season:



Beckett threw 47 percent of his fastballs high in the zone in 2011, the seventh-highest clip among MLB starters and well above the 36 percent average. Batters missed 23.1 percent of the time they swung at Beckett's high heat, comfortably above the 20 percent average for starters.

So at 93 MPH and with 96 MPH in his back pocket, Beckett climbed the ladder with his fastball and got plenty of whiffs. This season, however, Beckett is averaging just 91.6 MPH and hasn't cracked 94 MPH on the gun. When Beckett tries to blow a high fastball past the batter, he's failing. Look at the contrast in his contact rate on high fastballs over the past two years:

2011 contact rate on high fastballs


2012 contact rate on high fastballs


Opponents have come up empty just 11.5 percent of the time that have swung at a high fastball from Beckett this season. That puts him in the same territory as Paul Maholm and Henderson Alvarez -- not exactly high-K company. Perhaps realizing he can't beat hitters upstairs, Beckett has stopped trying to do it as much. Here's his fastball location this year. Just 35.8 percent of his fastballs have been thrown high in 2012:



With hitters connecting more on Beckett's lower-octane high fastballs and Beckett responding by living lower in the zone, his overall miss rate with the pitch has dipped from a Strasburgian 17.2 percent in 2011 to a Maholm-esque 12.1 percent in 2012 (14.8 percent average for starters). Beckett's pedestrian fastball is a big reason why the Sox are potentially shopping him. It's also why teams aren't lining up to buy.