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Playing favorites finally comes back to bite Red Sox manager John Farrell

Oct 24, 2013, 11:44 PM EDT

We’ve been over this before, but…

Jonny Gomes against RHP in 2013: .258/.341/.404 in 151 AB
Jonny Gomes against RHP career: .225/.310/.423 in 1,863 AB

Daniel Nava against RHP in 2013: .322/.411/.484 in 339 AB
Daniel Nava against RHP career: .292/.390/.443 in 657 AB

John Farrell knows these numbers. He played Nava over Gomes against right-handers all year as the Red Sox went about producing the American League’s best record. Yet something changed in October. It’s certainly nothing that Gomes has done in the batter’s box: his 0-for-4 in Thursday’s Game 2 loss left him 5-for-32 with two doubles and two RBI in the postseason.

But Farrell likes Gomes’ presence. He likes Gomes’ beard (who doesn’t?). He likes the way Gomes spies that willing reporter and manages to give a postgame interview every night.

And Farrell rode Gomes as a good-luck charm. Gomes even had Timmy McCarver singling him out as a “winner” tonight. The Red Sox were 7-0 when Gomes had started in the postseason, which is why he was making his fourth straight start tonight.

Hopefully, the spell is broken now, because lo and behold, the Red Sox might have found a match in a World Series for once. They can’t afford to continue starting the inferior player with the Cardinals throwing nothing but right-handers.

Look, here are all of the players to post higher OBPs against right-handed pitchers than Nava this season: Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. Those are pretty well known guys, right? Some might say it’s good company. Not only should Nava be starting against the Cardinals, but he should be hitting second in place of Shane Victorino. But maybe just work on the whole “getting him in the lineup at all” thing first.

  1. sabatimus - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    Uh, I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ASS!

    • drewzducks - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:02 AM

      He’s gonna need a bigger bench ?

  2. apkyletexas - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    @Pouliot – Didn’t you read Dusty Baker’s memo? OBP is overrated. Too many base runners just clogs up the bases.

    Fortunately for Boston, John Farrell did read the memo.

    • tfbuckfutter - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:09 AM

      How is Dusty Baker not the manager for the Phillies?

      Think about it. Match made in heaven.

  3. aceshigh11 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:06 AM

    Tonight is the first World Series game that the Sox have lost since 2004. They swept ’04 and ’07.

    That’s CRAZY. That said, they better wise up and play smarter. They could’ve had this game in the bag and threw it away…not that I’m taking anything away from the brilliant Wacha or the rest of the team, but after the Papi dinger, they could’ve held on with better play.

    • mkd - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:19 AM

      That actually means they haven’t lost a World Series game since 1986.

      • tfbuckfutter - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:57 AM

        27 years old World Series dominance!!!

      • tfbuckfutter - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:01 AM

        Also they have only lost 17 World Series games since 1918.

        Incredible. Almost 100 years and only 17 losses. The Yankees have lost 17 WS games since 1976!

        And since 1918? SIXTY-TWO LOSSES!

      • nbjays - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:02 AM

        lol nice Buck… it’s amazing what you can do when you cherry pick your stats.

        Of course none of this Red Sox World Series dominance is affected in the least by the fact that since 1918, they have won a stunning 21 WS games to their 17 losses, for an amazing .552 win %.

        Those hapless 62-loss Yankees, on the other hand, have an anemic .683 win %, helped only by their shabby 134 wins.

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:20 AM

        Very true…gotta go back four World Series for their last loss.

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:40 AM

        nbjays…I’m sure buck is being sarcastic.

        At least I HOPE he is. Comparing the Red Sox to the Yankees in terms of World Series “dominance” will NEVER end well for the Sox.

      • stex52 - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        Of course he is, aces.

      • nbjays - Oct 26, 2013 at 1:02 AM

        Aces… of course he’s being sarcastic. He’s tfbuckfutter. Sarcasm is what he does. I was just being sarcastic right back.

    • cincinata - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:08 AM

      Hey Ace:
      What was that stupid demo that Ortiz had with some of the 04 Sox before the game? Do you think that may have rubbed the Cards the wrong way? Why celebrate anything until it is over? Was he trying to get under the skin of the birds? Well he may have done just that and it woke them up a little. If the Cardinals take this series, the Sox can thank Big Poopy for the help in losing it.

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:51 AM

        I don’t know anything about that. Any articles on it?

        As far as waking the Cards…the Sox lost the game last night more than the Cards won it.

        I’m not taking anything away from them…great pitching from the Cards, but they hardly crushed the Sox the way the Sox crushed the Cards in Game 1.

        It’ll take more than what happened last night to convince me that the Cards are now on some epic tear.

      • spudchukar - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:44 AM

        Yeah, but the Cards are going home, Peavy was awful in his last start, the Red Birds are familiar with him, and played uncharacteristically poor Baseball in Game #1. So I say we are about where we started. Even up.

  4. tfbuckfutter - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    Let’s also maybe mention how embarrassing Stephen Drew has been with the bat (although I fully recognize he saved a big inning tonight with a pair of amazing plays in the field)….

    Just ONCE can we see Nava/Bogearts/Middlebrooks all in the lineup?

    Just see what happens. Just one time. See how it feels. Maybe you’ll like it.

    • kruegere - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:25 AM

      You mean the 88 OPS+ Will Middlebrooks?

      The dude is a dud.

      Drew is a better hitter and plays excellent D at SS.

      I think you’re suffering from a case of wishful thinking.

      • tfbuckfutter - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:42 AM

        I mean the Middlebrooks who OPSed .805 in the second half.

      • tfbuckfutter - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:51 AM

        Also the Middlebrooks who may have been 4-26 in the playoffs so far over the Stephen Drew who was 3-45 in the DS and CS and 4-52 (exactly the same number of hits in twice as many at bats with half as many extra base hits).

        But to give Drew the benefit of the doubt, I am sure he is probably dealing with a ton of injuries. Most of them genetic.

      • dan1111 - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:51 AM

        I’m with Kruegere here. Out of Drew, Middlebrooks, and Bogaerts, Drew is the best hitter right now. Maybe that will change as Middlebrooks and Bogaerts develop, but Drew has been an above-average hitter at shortstop for years, while playing good defense.

        The fact that Middlebrooks has hit .153 compared to Drew’s .077 does not constitute an argument that they urgently need to get Middlebrooks in the lineup! And their performance in this tiny sample size is useless for predicting what they are going to do for the rest of the series. This decision is correctly being based on Drew’s overall track record, not the last few at-bats.

  5. riverace19 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:10 AM

    Agreed about Nava, he should play at Busch, Gomes is a Fenway gremlin but on the road I’m not sure. Wrong about hitting in the 2 hole though, love the speed at the top. Victorino will be heard from this WS.

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      Victorino certainly gets the hits. One way or another! Wish him all the best.

    • cincinata - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      I agree with what is said here about Gomes. Of course I saw a lot of him in Cinti. He can get an occasional hit when it counts, but usually fails to drive in anyone. If he is up with two outs and men on, look for a big K. Nava should be in Left. About the other guys, I don’t know.

  6. wheels579 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    More condescending “I told you so” criticism from Pouliot. No respect at all for Farrell. Treat every manager who loses a game like a stooge. I’d like to see Matthew explain to Victorino why Nava must be crow-barred into the 2 hole. Not everything is done by the book. You should know that by now, tough guy.

    • cur68 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:27 AM

      In this case the numbers are pretty compelling. Now I too don’t much care for some if Matthews armchair mashing but on this one? Yeah, it’s kinda easy to see that he’s pretty on the ball here. Just why is Jonny Gomes and his lousy OPS playing and the likes of Nava is not? Farrell needs to ‘splain this one.

      • proudlycanadian - Oct 25, 2013 at 5:47 AM

        Matthew did pick the Red Sox to win. He really does want the Red Sox to win and is simply pointing out how Farrell is making it more difficult for that to happen. As a manager, the weasel does have his limitations.

    • dan1111 - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:21 AM

      I agree that some of Pouliot’s second-guessing (such as the recent post on Leyland) has been unfair. But not this one. Hindsight is not needed to realize that starting the much better hitter is a good idea.

      Hitting Nava #2 is a bit more debatable. But that wasn’t the main point of the post.

  7. Jack Marshall - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:42 AM

    I don’t get this move by Farrell at all. It’s voodoo stuff. Nova’s made a couple of baserunning gaffes, but he’s been a terrific hitter against righties all year, and his defense is at least as good as Gomes’. I didn’t think Farrell believed in lucky charms. Where’s Bill James?

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:08 AM

      In his office making impressions of his forehead on the desk.

      • stex52 - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:41 AM

        FTW, FC.

      • paperlions - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        Damn!

        That right there is funny.

        Well done.

  8. dacty4491 - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    I couldn’t help but laugh when Tim Carver said that, though the numbers don’t show it, Johnny Gomes was a winner because he’s been on four teams that have been in the World Series. Also, both managers stuck with their starters for too long. Empirical studies show that you shouldn’t let your starters go through the lineup more than twice. This is especially true in playoff situations.

    • proudlycanadian - Oct 25, 2013 at 6:00 AM

      1) Either Tim McCarver has a strange sense of humor or he is needs to grow a beard.

      2) Farrell is clean shaven yet strangely favors the bearded weak hitting Gomes. Farrell should have ceased shaving months ago.

      3) Nava has difficulty growing a beard, yet he hits better than Gomes. He should use a fake beard in order to get into the lineup.

    • paperlions - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:42 AM

      “Empirical studies show….”, that’s cute. As if all starters are created equal.

      Actually, the difference between a middle of the rotation starter and an front of the rotation starter is the ability to get through the line up more than twice. Lacky and Wacha do not have middle of the rotation stuff. If “empirical studies” showed what you think they show, then sabermetricians would be clamoring for starters to be removed after only 4 or 5 innings (after all, can’t face more than 18 batters), and probably for teams to switch to 4 man rotations since pitchers should be able to pitch more often with those low pitch counts. But no one is even suggesting such a thing, because no study shows such a thing.

      • spudchukar - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:46 AM

        That said, the options you suggest should be considered.

  9. 18thstreet - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    My hunch — and I’ll only say this in an anonymous forum like this one — is that Nava is dealing with some sort of personal issue, and Farrell is covering up for him by talking about Gomes’s intangibles. As Matthew said, Farrell has been using the platoon all year. And even if Farrell didn’t believe in the advantages of using Nava and Gomes at the appropriate times, he’d be hearing it from his bosses in the front office who certainly do, as well. Maybe Nava’s showing a huge case of the nerves. Maybe there’s something going on at home that has him distracted. Maybe he’s hepped up on goofballs. I have no idea.

    If there’s a non-baseball reason for benching Nava, it would make a lot more sense than benching him for a baseball reason.

  10. paperlions - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    Now now now, let’s not be too hasty on this one. I think Gomes deserves at least 4 or 5 more starts to get his bat going before we just decide he can’t hit RHP as well as Nava can. Stay the course John Farrell, you brave man you….stay the course!

    • 18thstreet - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:53 AM

      Wouldn’t “staying the course” have meant using the same thing that he did during the regular season?

      • paperlions - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:56 AM

        No no no….stay THIS course, not that other course. Gomes is a winner, a WINNER! I tell, ya. He NEEDS to be in the lineup. In fact, he should be their leadoff hitter and playing SS.

      • cincinata - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:18 AM

        No, No, that is where you guys are both wrong. As I stated above, I watched Gomes for years here. Gomes is a Weiner. Farrell confused that with Winner. Trust me.

  11. jarathen - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    I normally think fans are too tough on broadcasters, who have to talk at length about a game that doesn’t require that much talking because it’s expected of them. But when McCarver gave solid but unspectacular Jonny Gomes the “winner” tag, I lamented once more that there was no option to hear the game and not the constant chatter.

    In a sport like basketball, it’s been proven that you only need 2 or 3 “winners” to be very good, but in a game like baseball, it means next to nothing. A bare minimum of 9 or 10 (depending on the league) play the game every day, and the rosters are, again at minimum, more than 2 1/2 times that.

    Lots of players seem to attach to the right teams at the right time; Orlando Cabrera had a particular knack for it as well. He was also a solid guy for most of his career. But being a “winner” doesn’t work in baseball. This isn’t The Amazing Race, where you can see what teams persevere and actually HAVE that intangible Will to Win early on and generally do well the entire time. This is a team sport where one guy can have a big impact, sure, but he doesn’t win alone, and rarely even comes close to it.

    • cincinata - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      McCarver had to say something nice about Gomes and try not to insult Farrell’s intelligence.

      • nbjays - Oct 25, 2013 at 9:45 AM

        My favourite McCarver-ism this postseason came in game 1.

        “Adam Wainwright, at 6’7″ tall, is tied for the tallest starting pitcher in World Series history, right behind 6’10” Randy Johnson and 6’8″ Doug Fister.”

        What????

      • spudchukar - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        I thought I heard that too, but wasn’t sure. Maybe he didn’t mean to say “history”, but still WTF.

  12. 07bosox - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    You play the players that got you here…Nava! With the year he’s had and the one World Series at bat, he deserves to be in the lineup throughout the rest of the World Series. He’s been the unsung hero throughout the season, time to let him do his thing in this series.

    Gomes will give you that one hit when you need it but only 10% of the time. Ten percent is not good enough in the World Series. At least, Nava will give you a hit 30% of the time. The kid has earned it over the last two years. Time to get off this playing favorites “feeling” of Farrells’ and get back what got you here…and Gomes ain’t it!

  13. theskinsman - Oct 25, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    I admit being mystified at Farrell picking Gomes over Nava. With the quality of the Cards pitching,I’d argue for the best hitters possible in the lineup.

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