Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wild Chowds

Today in New York, the Yankees continued the landslide with their third straight win over Boston, this one a 5-0 squash where CC Sabathia dominated. Combine the shutout today with Friday's shutdown, and the visitors haven't scored in 24 innings in a bandbox park against a pitching staff that's fairly pedestrian (18th in ERA in MLB, 8th in the AL, and even while they've been better recently, it's still just a 4.41 mark in the past 30 days). The bigger issue is how the Sox offense (16th in OPS in the last 30 days) might actually be the better part of the team right now, given how the rotation falls to shaky very quickly after Josh Beckett and John Lester; despite a tolerable start today from Clay Bucholz, no one is intimidated by a back end that includes him, Paul Byrd and Brad Penny. If the Bostons can't stop the sweep in tonight's game (Lester vs. the suddenly surging Andy Pettite), there's fairly little chance, outside of a string of injuries, for the AL East division to be in jeopardy, not with a 6.5 game lead with 52 games lef tin the season.

The bigger question, to my eyes, is whether Boston can really be expected to hold off Texas and Tampa for the wildcard, who are a game and 1.5 games behind as I write this. From a pure talent perspective, Tampa looks set; they've got the best offense, an increasing amount of health, and the recent rise in fortunes for David Price has made the team downright dangerous. With Texas having rotation issues (Vincente Padilla was DFA'd today) and having to rely on talented but wet behind the ears ars like Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland, they've got the looks of a team that isn't really ready to do this.

But Texas has one significant advantage, and that is that when Tampa and Boston are butting heads with each other, the Yankees and the still-competent Jays and Orioles (don't forget that the former still has Roy Halladay, and the latter have an improving offense and some intriguing young prospects), the Rangers will be facing a left-for-dead A's team, a Mariners team that's been better than expected but still don't seem for real, and an Angels club that's got a quietly awful bullpen. That might not be as big of an edge as you might think, given how the Mariners are actually still harboring playoff hopes of their own, but it's not inconsiderable.

As for the Sox, it's never wise to make season-long determinations based on the events of just a few games, and it's impossible to look good when you haven't scored for a couple of dozen innings... but, Lord, Boston looks bad right now, with a bottom of the order that looks particularly helpless (today, that was JD Drew, hitting .244. Casey Kotchman, hitting .111, and Nick Green at .232). They've been living off their rotation and bullpen all year, but the former is likely to compromise the latter, especially with their need to use the whip down the stretch. I like the Rays' chances here, but I picked them to win the division in April, mostly because I thought Price was going to be a lot better than 5-4 with a 4.91 ERA at this point in the year.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule