This is not meant to suggest that if the Red Sox made the same exact moves that the San Francisco Giants made this summer that Boston would be two games away from winning the World Series. There are way too many other factors involved to suggest such a scenario.
However, it’s rather interesting to see the Giants, who endured many of the same issues that the Red Sox had this season before seemingly plugging every single leak, on the cusp of greatness.
In that areas that saw the Sox stand pat this summer, the Giants were among the most aggressive teams in baseball. And several of the imports they brought in were instrumental first in getting them to the playoffs, and now in pushing them to the brink of their first World Series title since 1954.
Take yourself back to mid-May. The Giants, like the Red Sox, had an outfield in shambles. Left fielder Mark DeRosa, one of the team’s big free agents signings, was out for the year following wrist surgery. He hit .194 in 26 games. Veteran center fielder Aaron Rowand hit the DL in April with facial injuries and never seemed to be the same player when he returned, posting career lows in average (.230) and OPS (.659) in 105 games.
Does this sound familiar? Again, take yourself back to mid-May, when Boston was also dealing with injuries and ineffectiveness among its outfield ranks, notably in center and left field. Again, the nature of the injuries and the players who suffered them were different, but it must be noted that San Francisco was proactive in rectifying the situation.
Pat Burrell, who had fizzled in Tampa Bay, was brought in just before Memorial Day. The Giants’ outfield posted a collective .690 OPS in May, but with Burrell in the fold that number jumped to .841 in June and .900 in July and before it settled at a solid .813 in August. The Red Sox’ outfield saw its OPS plummet from .807 in June to .774 in July to .640 in August.
Added into the San Francisco mix down the stretch were Jose Guillen and Cody Ross, who combined to hit .274 with six homers and 22 RBIs as the Giants rallied to reach the playoffs. Ross, of course, has been a postseason hero, slugging four homers in the first two rounds. Both were picked up on the waiver wire and may have been claimed to block other teams, but at least their presence helped a sometimes ordinary offense.
It didn’t stop there. As San Fran remained within shouting distance of a playoff spot by successfully patching one hole, it turned its attention to another — the bullpen. Boston knows all about the difficulty in fixing things out there after several fruitless efforts to do so in 2010. Meanwhile, the Giants’ efforts to do the same were a ringing success, with some of it even coming at the expense of the Red Sox.
San Francisco actually boasted a pretty solid bullpen all year, but in an NL race loaded with quality relievers (the team the Giants were chasing, San Diego, may have had the best) general manager Brian Sabean looked for more help. He received former Baltimore closer Chris Ray in a July 1 deal that sent catcher Bengie Molina to Texas and then acquired Red Sox reliever Ramon Ramirez and former Red Sox reliever Javier Lopez in two separate trades at the July 31 deadline.
That trio combined to go 6-0 with two saves and a 2.06 ERA while in the Bay City. Only Lopez has been a factor in the postseason, but their efforts helped the Giants sail down the stretch. The bullpen was 12-3 with a 2.37 ERA after the Lopez and Ramirez trades and San Francisco went 52-31 over its final 83 games to turn a 6 1/2-game deficit in the NL West into a two-game division triumph.
The Red Sox? Internal imports such as Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden were part of a unit that was filled with inexperience and struggled to maintain consistency. Boston’s bullpen was 5-8 with a 3.97 mark from Aug. 1 on, when the club went 30-28. General manager Theo Epstein admitted once the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline came and went without relief help that it was a “disappointing feeling to come away empty-handed.”
And for those of you who breathed a sigh of relief when Ramirez was shipped across the country, just remember that he had a 2.86 ERA over his last 23 games with Boston. Perhaps San Fran saw something that could help, then went and got it.
One cannot say the same thing about the Red Sox. There were so many other factors at play, but perhaps that’s one small reason why they’re at home while the Giants are still playing.
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