White Hat Sports Headlines

Monday, March 10, 2008

Grading the Champs

Finally I returned home last night from Fort Myers and the Red Sox Spring Training. I know I’ve been gone for a week and haven’t posted anything in that time. I didn’t want to bring the lap top down with me, for two reasons. 1 sometimes you just need to get away from the computer for a few days and 2 I like to just fly through the check points at airports with nothing but a book.
White Hat Sports put me up in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, right in the lap of luxury. These are the notes from Florida that I can publish on this website. Here are the Red Sox notes:
The team looks like a team that just won the World Series. They definitely have that swagger right now to them; even the younger guys like Pedroia and Youkilis are walking tall. I guess that's a good thing, right?
To make it up to you for no posts for more than a week, here are 1,262 words about the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

Here are some grades for guys:
Pedroia~ A- He looked good, hit some balls very hard and pretty much looked like the player that he was the second half of last season.
Youkilis~ B He looked like he did last year, took alot of walks so he appears to be in mid season form right now
Sean Casey A- He’s definitely looking better than advertised after coming over from Detroit. He went 4-6 in the two games I saw him play and hit for some power as well. I feel a ton more confident with him behind Youkilis at first than I was with Eric Hinske.

Papi and Manny~ A. Both guys looked very good. Manny is definitely looking stronger than he did last season. Even on his easy batting practice swings he was hitting the ball off the backstop of the minor league field next door. Papi is definitely moving alot better; there is a slight limp though when he jogs. Both guys are better conditioned going into this season.

Lowell ~ A- The only reason he has a minus behind his A is because he didn't get many pivotal hits in the games I saw him in. His performance in batting practice was outstanding. He put 3 straight balls into the left field bullpen, each looking like a carbon copy of the one before. Incredible to watch, Lowell should keep up his pace even with his new contract.
Ellsbury~ B He hit a couple of balls hard, had what would be a triple that bounced over for a ground rule double. Made a tremendous catch in centerfield, but also dropped an easier ball on the run two days before that. I think the lesson with him is that he's still young and young guys have lapses. Even Ellsbury.

Varitek~ A- Heading into a contract year and searching for a contract extension from the team he's looked outstanding. He hit some rockets in the two games I saw him in. One game he DH'd one he caught, he looked good as always behind the plate, and when he was at the plate he hit the ball very well. Still appears to have a couple years left in the tank.
Drew~ B+ He was always on base in each game I saw him in. He played in 2 out of the 3 games I saw this past week. He was hitting the ball hard but continuously on the ground. I think there will be improvement from him this season, if only because he is more familiar with the league. He definitely looks more comfortable in his swing and in the field.

The Pitchers
Wakefield~ A- As constant as gravity, this guy could win 17 games again this season. He's got movement on his knuckleball and was striking out the younger guys of the Dodgers, plenty of swings and misses.
Timlin~ B- He gave up a rocket of a home run but besides that looks pretty good and had good downward movement on his ball. If healthy he'll be the stalwart of the bullpen yet again
Delcarmen~ A Looked outstanding in the outing I saw him in. He appears ready to take Timlin's place as the set up man whenever Timlin decides to leave (not soon I hope). Blew his fast ball by hitters and his breaking ball looked improved.
Matsuzaka~ B+ He pitched well looked like his breaking ball was being used more as his out pitch instead of going to his fast ball when he has a batter down in the count. He still seems to let up with two outs though, as he allowed a few hits with two men down in the inning. Needs to close out innings better.

Lester~ B His problem is that he needs to limit his pitches and cut down on his walks. He was fairly wild in the outing I saw him in against the Reds, he got out of jams but eventually you want to see him cut that down. The rest of hit pitches looked crisp and he looks like he has finally 100% after his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He looked great physically.
Okajima~ A I was skeptical going into the spring about how OKAJI was going to do coming into this season. But if his outing a few days ago is any indication there shouldn't be any type of let down this season.
Papelbon! A- The only reason there's a minus here is because of my nervousness which he caused by asking for more money. Made the whole week seem a little uneasy. I guess things are better now, but for a few moments there I was pretty worried.
Colon~ A Only time I saw him was behind the fence in the family picnic area. He looked pretty good, thick as always but not as bad as I first though he would be. Reports are that’s he’s been throwing well and could actually start the season as the 5th starter and that Buchholz might start the season in Pawtucket.

David Aardsma~ A- The bad news for Aardsma is that I had to write his first name on here so you’d know who he was. The good news is that he pitched well this spring while competing for the final bullpen slot of either Kyle Snyder or Javier Lopez. The grade is a little higher than it should be, but I gave him extra credit for signing an autograph for my mom. (On a side note, Scott Hatteburg would be teachers pet for the autographs he signed for my dad.)

Didn’t seem Julio Lugo or Coco Crisp play, both were out with injury. Lugo was supposed to start on Friday but was a late scratch with some continued tenderness in his groin. Crisp is out with a bad back and had a root canal Wednesday, though seemed to be in good spirits. Crisp’s lack of spring play here might keep him in the running in center field if only to show case him for a potential trade, which you can’t do when he doesn’t play. See Ellsbury above.
Lugo’s job appears safe; Jed Lowrie played okay, but definitely could use some more seasoning in the minor leagues. So Lugo’s job appears safe, for this season anyway.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for updates on Josh Beckett’s back spasms and more stories of Bartolo Colon and what I saw Johnny Pesky do to an old woman in front of the Red Sox dugout.

~Sterling Pingree

No comments: