Red Sox want David Ortiz to continue facing lefties even if he can’t hit them

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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said yesterday that he’ll continue to put David Ortiz in the lineup versus left-handed pitchers even though he hasn’t had success against them in years.

Here’s his reasoning:

For David to be successful—and I see his numbers against lefties, believe me, I do—you can’t just sit him because I don’t know if he’d have as much success against righties. I know we believe that. I think there are times where it’ll do him good to maybe give him a break against somebody he struggles with.

The notion that not playing regularly against lefties could hurt Ortiz against righties by making him less effective overall certainly isn’t crazy, but my guess is that the actual data doesn’t support Francona’s hypothesis. Plenty of players are extremely productive in platoon roles every season and left-handed hitters have built entire careers on their ability to mash right-handed pitchers while sitting against southpaws.

Ortiz could be different, I suppose, but Francona wouldn’t know that until he actually tries sitting him against lefties and in the meantime here are Ortiz’s recent numbers against lefties:

YEAR      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
2008     .221     .308     .433     .741
2009     .212     .298     .418     .716
2010     .222     .275     .324     .599

Combined during the past three seasons Ortiz hit .218 with a .291 on-base percentage and .383 slugging percentage off left-handers, which is good for a .674 OPS. To put that lack of production into some context, consider this list of players with a higher career OPS than .674: Aaron Miles, Angel Berroa, Miguel Cairo, Willie Harris, Endy Chavez, Jack Wilson, Luis Rivas, Yuniesky Betancourt, Timo Perez, Geoff Blum, Corey Patterson, Kaz Matsui.

You get the point.

Even if Francona’s theory is correct–and that’s hardly a guarantee–is it worth keeping Ortiz at his best against right-handers if it means filling the designated hitter spot with Aaron Miles-like production against left-handers?

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

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In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.