I’d say that headline suffices as an intro. But before we get to the questions, one more thing: Go get ’em, Danny Salazar …
1. HOW WILL JOHN FARRELL UTILIZE HIS DEEP ROSTER?
Not to get melodramatic about it, but we’re going to learn a lot about Farrell as a manager during this postseason.
Think about it: He oversees perhaps the deepest roster in the postseason, which means he’s going to have several opportunities during his first playoff go-round as a manager to play matchups and demonstrate his tactical chops.
If the Red Sox play the Tigers in the ALCS, the strategic showdown between Farrell vs. Jim “Ol’ Unfiltered” Leyland will be fascinating. The Red Sox roster has some role-specific secondary parts — a pinch-runner extraordinaire in Quintin Berry, a big lefty bat off the bench in Mike Carp — and it’s on Farrell to deploy them at the perfect time.
I’m also curious to see how he utilizes the bullpen. The educated hunch here is that rather than crossing his fingers and hoping Ryan Dempster, Brandon Workman, Franklin Morales or another arm rises to the occasion and becomes that bridge to Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara, he’ll instead ask for more from that dynamic duo.
Breslow and Uehara combined for 134 appearances this season. Breslow pitched more than an inning 14 times, and at least two innings five times. Uehara threw more than one inning nine times, but four came from August 13 on. When the Red Sox hold a small lead heading into the late innings, I expect to see Breslow in the seventh, with Uehara coming in for an out or two in the eighth if the moment demands it.
By the way, remember when we were told Uehara wouldn’t be effective on short rest? Check this out: On one day of rest this season, he faced 106 batters in 29 appearances. He allowed 14 hits, walked one, and struck out 43. I don’t care if he’s 38-years-old — you ride him all the way through October, even if it means he’s called upon to get more than three outs per appearance.
2. WILL XANDER BOGAERTS PLAY AT ALL?
I’ve touched on this before — harped on it, some might say — so I’ll keep it brief, at least by my usual standards. I was surprised Bogaerts, the Red Sox’ superstar of the future and at the least, an intriguing part of the present roster, didn’t get more than 34 plate appearances in September.
I understand that the point of bringing him up in late August was more to get him acclimated to the big leagues than to prep him for a significant role this season. But I would have liked to have seen him more. He’s a supremely talented, unaffected kid who mashed lefthanded pitching in Triple A, and while Stephen Drew has been a stabilizing, productive performer at shortstop, he also hit .196 against lefties.
I suspect Bogaerts could do better than that. And for all of the progress Will Middlebrooks showed upon returning from his Pawtucket exile, he fell back into the old bad habits over the regular season’s final weeks. He hit .158 with a walk and 13 strikeouts over the final 10 games, and that dastardly old breaking ball away returned to tormenting him.
Maybe Farrell doesn’t quite trust Bogaerts defensively at shortstop or third base yet. But given some obvious flaws in the incumbents, it would have been beneficial to find out for sure with a little more playing time in September. That he didn’t play much sure seems to me to be an indication he’ll be little more than a bystander in October.
3. CAN BIG PAPI BE MR. OCTOBER AGAIN?
I know, the nickname belongs to shameless egotist Reggie Jackson, who put up this postseason line over the course of his 21-year Hall of Fame career:
But if David Ortiz can’t co-opt it, he at least deserves honorable mention Mr. October status for his career performance during baseball’s most important month:
It’s pretty easy to get lost and lose a half-an-hour when checking out Ortiz’s postseason statistics, particularly by individual series. We all remember his brilliance in 2004, and we have “Faith Rewarded” as documentation in the highly unlikely event that the memories should start to fade.
But do you remember what he did, say, in the three-game sweep of the Angels in the 2007 ALDS? In 13 plate appearances, he went 5 for 7 with 6 walks, 2 homers, and a .714/.846/1.571 slash line. I mean, a 2.418 OPS … that’s good, right?
It should also be noted, however, that Ortiz struggled during the Red Sox’ most recent postseason appearances. In his last 14 postseason games (a stretch that includes the 2008 ALDS and ALCS and the ’09 ALDS), Ortiz was just 9 for 55 (.164) with one homer and five RBIs.
As I noted in today’s playoff predictions gallery, Ortiz had a terrific September, hitting 6 homers with a .992 OPS.
There would be few better developments for the Red Sox this postseason than to have Ortiz continue to mash the ball as he did through the summer and into the fall — and, of course, as he did back in those not-so-long-ago days when he helped exorcise ghosts, dispatch enemies, and set parade plans in motion one ferocious swing at a time.