BOSTON, MA - APRIL 20: A view of the outside of Fenway Park during the game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox on April 20, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Today marks the 100 year anniversary of the ball park's opening. The New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox 6-2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The Red Sox have been having a very interesting season, they (like us) have had more than their share of injuries. Add in some club house intrigue and the trade of a long time Boston fan favorite, they have had tons to talk about. And, after trading Ugly, they are a whole bunch less unlikable. Fortunately Bobby Valentine is still there, he make them easy to hate all by himself.
Anyway, I sent off some questions to Marc Normandin, manager of Over the Monster. Here are his answers:
Have to ask, what do you think about the Youkilis trade?
It was a tough situation. If Kevin Youkilis had much in the way of trade value, Boston wouldn't have been looking to move him. But, with his declining health over the last few seasons, struggles since last August, and Will Middlebrooks continuing to hit, it was time to deal him, and sooner than later, in case he ends up hurt once again. Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge (along with slight salary relief) aren't the greatest return for the player that Youkilis has been, but that's the real question: is he that guy anymore, or is he a shadow of his former self at this point? Given the market that popped up around him in the last month, the league seems to think it's the latter. Boston's done a good job of getting stuff out of pitchers like Stewart as of late -- arms with more in the way of stuff than results -- so maybe this is a deal that will look better once their pitching coaches get a hold of him, too.
I've been a huge Middlebrooks proponent for a while now, even before he was putting up the numbers in Double-A last year. That being said, even I'm surprised he hit the ground running this well after such a short time at Triple-A Pawtucket. He seemed to take his time adjusting to each level, and improved bit-by-bit each year, but it's been two-straight seasons with offensive explosions for him now, and that's a great sign given the levels (Double- and Triple-A, as well as the majors).
He's a great defender at third, made even more significant given Youk's lack of range there since his return to the position, and while he doesn't draw a ton of walks, he has tremendous plate coverage, and does a good job of waiting for a pitch he can crush. He's not slugging over .500 accidentally. even if he's unlikely to keep hitting well over .300 forever (both this year and in the future). He might not end up being a serious star player, but he has enough in the way of potential to be an occasional all-star and a key to the Sox present and future.
Could we have a scouting report on the starting pitchers we’ll see?
Felix Doubront has bouts of inefficiency that can run up his pitch counts and knock him out of games by or in the sixth, but he also has great strikeout stuff, and has shown excellent command of it when he's on his game. Even when he struggles a bit, he misses bats, and has been consistent (in the good way) for the Red Sox this year.
Daisuke Matsuzaka has been surprisingly consistent with his command and control, and has induced plenty of swings-and-misses, but he's still suffering from the same problem he always had, in that he gives his opponents one big inning that keeps them in the game and makes his offense work for the win. That's why, despite those impressive peripherals, he has a poor ERA in his three starts back in the bigs.
Jon Lester is throwing tons of strikes as of late, and racking up the strikeouts, but he's also potentially been in the strike zone too much in that stretch, and it's showing in his BABIP and ERA. It's something to watch with him, as far as determining if it's a string of poor luck, or if he's leaving his pitches in hittable spots too often.
Josh Beckett might be back after the Jays' series -- Boston just wanted to rest his shoulder, rather than let him pitch through shoulder inflammation. Carl Crawford is on a rehab assignment, and could be back in the first week of July or soon after, though, that all depends on how his elbow is feeling, and if it's allowing him to throw at full strength. Ellsbury is a few weeks behind that schedule, but he's also throwing and hitting, so he's not that far behind. Bailey has started to throw off of a mound, and a rehab assignment is in his near future, too, so it sounds like around the All-Star break or shortly after for him, depending on how fast his arm strength can build up. He might not be back until the trade deadline, if the going is slow. As for Buchholz, he had intestinal bleeding, supposedly from taking too much Ibuprofen, and is already feeling better. The Sox had to make a DL move to make room, though, so he'll be more than rested and ready by the time that's over with.
Who has been the biggest surprise and disappointment so far this year?
The biggest disappointment has to be Adrian Gonzalez, who just hasn't put things together yet. I still think he will -- not soon enough to save his season line, though -- but in time to help Boston more than hurt them. As for surprise, Doubront could fit the bill, but Daniel Nava has been far more of a revelation, at a time when the Boston outfield would have settled for competence.
Anything else we should know about the Red Sox?
The team has shown off its depth during an injury-riddled campaign, and if they can get a few games more over .500 by the time the cavalry arrives, the second half of the season could be as exciting as last year was those who look a good old-fashioned pennant and Wild Card race.
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