No children, it’s still not appropriate to dust off “Francoma”, but clearly, the man at the end of the duggie has developed some worrisome tendencies in late innings. Tito has so little faith in the bullpen this year that he truly seems to only trust one guy, The Bard. Without options on his “go-to” list, he has been grasping/flailing at important junctures. Remember when he reversed the roles of Bard and Okie a while back? The key manifestation of this lack of confidence has been his “one batter too many” approach to his starters. Today was as good (or bad, depending on the amount of hand-wringing you do) example.
Sure, bringing out Clay-Bee for the 9th with only 98 pitches thrown is supportable, but to not short-leash him, Dice-K style, has head-scratcher written all over it. The minute that first batter got on base, it was hook time. Instead, one batter too many comes to the plate to face Clay. He promptly walks, and eventually scores when Pap threw a first pitch cookie to Miggy C. There goes the dub and the save.
Ladies and Gentleman, let’s hear it for Tito “One Batter Too Many” Francona [Insert respectfully mild derision here].
And while we are on the subject of the 9th. You have to look at how Pap pitches these days and ask yourself if this guy - legendary river dancer that he is - warrants a multi-year big buck deal. Billy Bean has it right, over-valuing closers is one of the easiest mistakes for a GM to make. Bard has closer stuff, is one of the true bargains on a salary cap busting payroll, and is the ONLY guy in the pen who has performed beyond or even at expectation this year. The Sox overpaid nostalgically for Lowell. We don’t see them making that mistake again the near future.
There are a lot of reasons why Pap isn’t the dude he was in his prime. For us, one of the big ones seems to be his unwillingness to pitch backwards to keep hitters guessing. He is a first-pitch-fast-ball-for-strike dude and every batter in the MLB knows it. If Pap threw 98+, he could get away with that kind of transparency. If he could hit the corners or throw cheese with movement, also okay. Mr Glower doesn’t do that. His fastballs have been mostly lasers and more in the meat than on the fringe of the zone. When you are facing one of the best fast ball hitters in the game, with dudes on the bags, the potential for ugliness pings the meter.
All this being writ, the B’s won a big one today and there are reasons to be cheerful; The live starting five are throwing no jive, Jelly is due back vs. the CleeTown frowns, and tha lil’ gangsta hisself returns to the two bag in about 10 days (Knock furiously on wood, won’t you?). Will it be enough to make up for the pen woes? Nope, but there are waiver deals and Bowden to considered, and many games left to play against the Rays and Stanks.
Yours in baseball,
Dante & Todd