Sox face off against the Vanimal

The Sox return home after a 2-4 road trip to Toronto and Texas. After scoring 17 runs in the first two games against Toronto, the Sox struggled, scoring only 7 runs in the final four games.

With the Twins come to town wrapping up a ten game road trip. This is Minnesota’s only trip to Beantown and the Sox return the favor, traveling to Minneapolis for three games starting on May 17. That, however, will be the end of the Sox/Twins meetings for the year.

The pitching match ups for the four game series are scheduled to be:

  1. Buchholz v. Vance Worley
  2. Dempster v. Scott Diamond
  3. Doubront v. Pedro Hernandez
  4. Lackey v. Kevin Correia

The Twins stand at 13-14, four and half games out of first in the Central. They’ve lost the first two series of their trip, dropping the first two of three against both the Tigers and the Indians.

The Sox pitching is slightly better then the Twins:

Red Sox – 3.62 ERA, 1.305 WHIP, 2.53 SO/BB

Twins – 3.98 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, 2.48 SO/BB

Their hitting is noticeably better. They get on base at a better clip (.344 to .319) and have more power (.440 SLG to .363 SLG; 33 HR to 20 HR) and score more runs per game (4.90 to 4.11). On paper, the Sox would appear to be the better team. And, a position by position analysis tilts toward the Sox.

  • 1B Morneau v. Napoli – Sox
  • 2B Dozier v. Pedroia – Sox
  • SS Florimon v. Drew – Sox
  • 3B Plouffe v. Middlebrooks – Even
  • C – Mauer v. Salty – Twins
  • LF – Willingham v. Nava – Even
  • CF – Hicks v. Ellsbury – Sox
  • RF – Parmelee v. Victorino – Sox slightly

Overall, the Sox seem like a stronger team position by position.

The Twins will put Vance “Vanimal” Worley on the mound in game one of the series. Worley has faced off against the Sox once before. He tossed 7 innings of 5 hit one run ball in Philadelphia on June 29, 2011. Despite that effort, this looks like a good match up for the Sox.

So far this year, the Vanimal is 0-4 with a 7.22 ERA. The Twins jettisoned Ben Revere for Worley in the off season and Worley went from an after thought in the Phillies rotation (I expect the Phillies wish they had him for depth now), to one of the top guys in a mediocre Twins rotation. He’s only 25 but his average fastball velocity has fallen from 91 to 90 to a middling 89 this year. So far in 2013, Worley has been mainly a fastball/cutter guy. He throws those two pitches 90% of the time.

His record, though, may have been influenced a bit by some bad luck this year. His batting average on balls in play is .396; his historical average is .319.

Here are the guys with the highest batting average on balls in play with five or more starts in 2013 (league average is usually about .300);

  • Wade Davis .402
  • Felix Doubront .397
  • Vance Worley .396
  • Brandon McCarthy .393
  • Jarrod Parker .382
  • Wade LeBlanc .376

With the exception of Davis, all these guys have ERAs north of 5.50. They are not fooling people. Doubront, our own headache, is, in my mind, more like Davis then the rest of this group. These are not horrible pitchers, just pitchers who probably are suffering through a bad stretch. I expect all will regress toward the good in the future.

Worley is a hard figure though. His K% has gone down the last two years and has plummeted even more this year. On the good side, his walk rate has gone down during that same time stretch and his ground ball ratio is moving up. All good things. He has given up four home runs this year, but three of those came in his last outing in Detroit. In that outing he lasted 4 2/3 giving up a two run bomb to Miguel Cabrera in the first, a solo shot to Alex Avila in the second, and another two run dinger to Prince Fielder in the fifth. He was pulled after a double to Victor Martinez and escaped further damage when Anthony Swarzak induced a single to right field (sarcasm) which allowed Chris Parmelee to show off his arm and nail Martinez at the plate.

Really, though, none of the above tells us much other then Worley faced a tough Tigers team, couldn’t get their big bats out, and has not been striking out nearly enough people to escape getting hit hard on occasion. If he’s not careful with the Sox, he will suffer the same fate.

A couple quick tidbits:

  • David Ortiz has a 25 game hit streak spanning back to last season.
  • Justin Morneau loves Fenway. In 25 career games he is 36-96 (.375) with 10 doubles, 4 homers and 11 RBI. Morneau also likes to see Buchholz. He is 7-14 against Buchholz, all singles.
  • The Twins bullpen is tough. They are second best in the majors with a 2.56 ERA.
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