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Tampa and Boston: A Plague on Both Their Houses

Make no mistake: the Red Sox are a battered team. The injuries just keep piling on, to the point that you could field a pretty good team with the talent we have sitting on the DL. Beckett, Drew, Ellsbury, Hermida, now Pedroia and Martinez are all in various stages of rehab / hospice. The season almost ended entirely when Clay Buchholz hurt himself running the bases; thankfully, his injury doesn't look too severe. Overall, things are not looking good for Boston heading into the All Star break.

The Red Sox have the top offense in the American league because they field excellent or above-average players around the field, including at more defensive positions like 2nd base, catcher and shortstop. With the chaos in the outfield and Martinez and Pedroia injured, the Sox are likely to lose this advantage. This is especially worrisome because the offense has carried the team, as our pitching ranks 10th in the AL for runs allowed, despite superb work from Lester and Buchholz. Our defense has been quite good: 4th in MLB by UZR, but the loss of Drew and Pedroia, not to mention all the time Bill "Butcher" Hall is getting in the field, could potentially change that. [Click Continue Reading for more.]

About the only playoff competitor looking worse is the Tampa Bay Rays. Since May 24, they are 12-19, a stretch that began with a 3-game sweep in Boston, and has seen them fall to 3rd place in the division race. Strikingly, they are 5-10 against the National League, dropping two series to the mighty Florida Marlins (and their $55 million payroll).

The Rays' June swoon can be attributed to slightly worse pitching (4.36 ERA in June vs. 3.22 in May) and weak offense. This was very predictable, as the team was enjoying unsustainably strong starting pitching performances (iirc, 4 starters with sub 3-ERAs at one point), and an extremely lucky offense. Rays batters still are fairly lucky: they are 4th in runs scored despite being 10th in BA, 8th in slugging and 6th in OBP.

Tampa is still positioned to compete, and they have the tools to make a big trade at the deadline, as is Boston. Theo should act first, preferably now, to bolster the team. The best way to improve things would not be to seek an impact bat, but to improve the starting rotation. Cliff Lee as a rental would certainly do that, but we don't necessarily need an ace so much as a decent #2 or #3 starter. Roy Oswalt, if he's available might be cheaper, and there are plenty of other posssibilities. Another name in the pen might help, as would replacement-level players to man the field until VMart and Pedroia return. But a good starter would improve the team more, ultimately allowing Tito to move Wake to the pen, and depend less on the unreliable Lackey and Matsuzaka.