On July 31st, I published a diary entry named "Now is the time to try and pull away". Here's the first paragraph of that diary:
After the Devil Rays took the series with us 2-1, the season began to look very ugly. After being swept by the Kansas City Royals, a team that is nowadays only mentioned as a joke or as a possible trading partner and never as any kind of threat, the season looks abysmal. We are three games back in the division, two games back in the wild card race. That's certainly not impossible to make up in over a month and a half. But does anyone who saw last night's game feel that this team is likely to do it?
I'm not really sure about what is causing this sudden case of severe all-around craptasticness. Could it be the absense of Tek behind the plate? I don't know. We're 2-7 since tek went down, which seems to indicate it. His bat had not been anywhere near hot this year though, so that can't account for too much. Tek has an OPS of .743 on the year, Belli has .633 and Javy a lousy .556. Yes, there's a difference there. Not a 2-7 difference, though. Where we miss Tek most thus seems to be behind the plate. We have given up 51 runs in the past nine games. That's a team ERA of 5.66 in that span, more than a full run higher than our team ERA of 4.61. That's really very bad. So either our pitchers have just plain sucked on their own over the past nine games, or Javy/Belli catching them has had an impact. You decide.
Tek going down has not been the only reason for this misery, though. As i said in a comment to Randy's article yesterday, the bats have been quiet lately too. It's usually fun watching this offense play, because you know that sooner or later something's gonna happen. Not now. When the Royals were playing smallball trying to get a run and the lead in the fifth inning yesterday, I was scared to death. It didn't feel like any kind of certainty that we would score another run from there on out. It usually does, especially against a guy with an 8+ ERA...
Here's an outline of the current silence of the bats, pre-allstar compared to post-allstar. Lowell's OPS is down from .875 to .603. A HUGE dropoff. Youk's OPS is down from .874 to .748. Alex Cora is down from .752 to .572 when we've needed him most since Lowell's been semi-hurt. Coco has not improved on his just plain bad .711 OPS before the allstar game. Post-allstar he has an even worse .696. Loretta's dropoff is rather insignificant, from .738 to .718.
The performance dropoffs are so many, and in some cases so significant, that the fact that Manny (1.126), Papi (1.116) and Peña (.925) have been tremendously good doesn't much matter. They can't do it all and until the bats of Lowell, Youk and Coco wake up from their coma's, we're screwed unless our pitching staff goes bananas and starts throwing complete game shutouts, which doesn't seem all that likely to happen.
When I went to bed after watching the game yesterday, I was sad about the entire situation. Now that I've had some time to ponder it, I'm more pissed off than anything else. This needs to change, and it needs to change soon. Right now, I'm not all that comforted by the talk about how friggin super awesome this team is going to be in 2008. We have a team that's good enough to be in the playoffs this year. Maybe not good enough to win it all without a sizeable amount of luck, but good enough to go to the show. We've been hit hard by injuries, but there's also been several cases of players underperforming. Coco, Beckett, Post-allstar Lowell - I'm talking to you. Wake up and wake up now, we're approaching September and we desperately need you.
Since this season kinda feels like the 2004 season before the brawl game, here's to hoping A-Rod gets plunked in the upcoming series with the Yankees and that pandemonium erupts.
That, or we might be dead in the water.