Team wOBA: 352. 2nd in MLB and the AL.
The Red Sox feature a line-up even better than the one run out by Los Angeles. Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay have been among the best hitters in the league, with wOBA’s of .410 and .400 respectively. The depth of their lineup is staggering: Beyond those two, every regular in the lineup with the exception of Alex Gonzalez has a wOBA over .330. Bay leads the team in home runs with thirty-six. David Ortiz is second with ten fewer than Bay. Ortiz had a real tough start to the season, but his power numbers have rebounded as the season has progressed; his slugging percentage has been at least .495 every month since May. Bay, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury are the only threats to run. Ellsbury leads the league with sixty-six swipes, and he’s been thrown out just ten times. Pitch from the stretch this time Andy.
Team UZR: -12.1. 15th in MLB, 7th in the AL.
The Red Sox feature the definition of a league average fielding unit. The good: Dustin Pedroia (10.9 UZR/150) and J.D. Drew (10 UZR/150.) The bad: Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury (each with a -12.7 UZR) and Mike Lowell (-10.1 UZR.) The hoopla over the upgrade to Alex Gonzalez at short stop is slight as Nick Green has shown he can pick it at shortstop as well. Green’s presence does give the club a slick fielding utility infielder. Likewise with Casey Kotchman at first base, the Red Sox can make late game substitutions in the middle infield late in close games.
Team FIP: 4.02. 6th in MLB, 1st in the AL.
Jon Lester has turned himself into a strike out machine, and has taken the mantle of best Boston starter. His K/9 is 9.94, and he’s been a workhorse to boot. Tonight will be his thirty-first start of the year, and if he has any kind of success at all, he should surpass the 200 inning mark.
Daisuke Matsuzaka has made the struggles of Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir look tame. He’s still striking out nearly a batter per inning, but when you walk a hitter every two frames and allow a long ball every five, you’re walking a pretty tight rope. He has been burned this year, and his ERA is a repulsive 6.80 in ten starts. His FIP is not quite that bad, but Red Sox Nation expects better pitching than Daisuke has been able to provide.
Paul Byrd is scheduled to start Sunday. Byrd was once a pretty solid pitcher, but that was a few years ago. Now, he’s basically a replacement level starter, and he’s been one since 2005, the last time he posted a FIP under 4.60. Why Boston cut ties with John Smoltz and Bred Penny in order to hand the ball to Byrd is beyond me.
Boston has the second best bull-pen by FIP, just behind the Chicago White Sox. The combination of Hideki Okajima, Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Daniel Bard, and Jonathon Papelbon have the ability to shut down any lineup in the game. It’s a testament to how well Papelbon has pitched these past few years that critics can call his 3.06 FIP a down year. For whatever reason, his walk rate tripled in 2009 compared to last season. He’s still a bona fide relief ace: he’s just human this year.
For those that think the wild card has ruined the regular season, exhibit A is this series. New York comes to Boston with a commanding, but not insurmountable lead for a weekend series, with Boston’s ace and New York’s young gun on the mound. Instead of a potentially dramatic outcome tonight and the next two days, both teams can rest assured their spot in the playoffs. New York has already clinched, and Boston clinching is an inevitability at this point. Technically Boston could win the division, but the drama over who gets to play the AL Central winner is not really all that enthralling. Still, it’s Yankees- Red Sox, so the entertainment value will be there even if the games don’t matter a whole lot. I’d expect a couple good games, with the Bombers falling tonight and winning twice over the weekend.