I know what you’re going to say. Yes, I do. Don’t argue with me.
You’re going to say, “Of course you’re going to defend him! He’s one of your stupid Beard Twins. Well, Russell sucks and Berg sucks, too!”
Now I’m going to say that first of all, there’s no need to drag Berg into this. We can discuss him later. Also, I’m thinking of making Jeff Stevens a Beard Step-Brother, but that’s another post for another day.
Most importantly, though, I’m going to say that being one of my boys doesn’t guarantee that I’ll defend them. If they have a bad game, if they totally tank, I”m going to be the first in line to admit it. I won’t be in the line to beat them up over it, though.
But, if I think something needs to be said in their defense, well then, popularity be damned, I’m going to say something.
So, James Russell, Left-Handed Beard Twin, I’ve got your back on this one.
First of all, he doesn’t suck. No, really. He doesn’t. There are actually numbers that suggest he’s pretty good at this pitching thing. His two biggest flaws at the moment are his trouble getting right-handers out and that he’s a flyball pitcher, which tends to translate to home runs. I think once he spit-shines that changeup of his, he’ll have better success against the righties.
As for the flyballs, the easiest way to combat that problem is through strikeouts, which he is capable of. He’s a strike thrower. He’s got the control. Otherwise, he’s just going to have to find some way to keep the ball in the yard and hope his defense has his back. But, hey, if Ted Lilly can find success, so can Russell.
(Yes, I’m comparing Ted Lilly to James Russell. Because they’re both left-handed flyball pitchers with less than dominate fast balls and because comparisons of this type piss people off and I’m nothing if not infuriating.)
So what about his starts? He was terrible, right? He doesn’t belong in the bullpen as a lefty specialist only put in blowout games, right? He sucks, right?
What did I just say about him sucking? Pay attention.
His starts were less than stellar for sure. But you have to look at them in the context presented. You’ve got a reliever that hasn’t been stretched out to 70 pitches since spring training making two emergency starts. He’s limited to 50 and 70 pitches, respectively, which is only going to get you a few innings guaranteed. In a situation such as this, the rest of the team really has to step up. They don’t call them emergency starts because the name is catchy.
It can be argued that this stepping up didn’t happen in Houston. Russell wouldn’t have gone deep into the game, but he probably could have survived into the third had the defense shown up. The errors and missed double plays didn’t help Russell’s cause. True he was hit, but he wasn’t making bad pitches for the most part (though, those two bunts right in a row to start off the game derailed his train before it could really get on the tracks) and he wasn’t being hit hard. Unfortunately, several of those hits found holes. That happens. But, the first inning could have been shorter had a couple of key plays been made. Same for the second. His first start would have still been rough, but not nearly as rough as it was.
As for the three home runs the Padres hit on Wednesday, that happens, too. You don’t want it to happen, but it does. Ask Ted Lilly. Or Tom Gorzelanny. He was the last one that did it at Wrigley. No team wants to be put into a hole that way. (It could be argued, though, that it really wasn’t much of a hole, judging by the offensive fight of this team; they did get those four runs that Russell gave up back later in the game.) But those home runs didn’t come off of bad pitches. The last one had swing and miss written all over it and the guy happened to nail it. That happens. It’s just better when it happens for your team, not against it.
Is James Russell a starter? Well, no. Not in this particular situation. Not with so little preparation. Maybe some day, if he really wants to be and really works at it and eats his Wheaties. But right now, he’s a reliever being used at the beginning of a game and should be judged as such.
But he’s by no means a bad pitcher. He does not suck.
Of course, none of my arguement/opinion will probably be taken too seriously by a majority of his detractors as they already decided last season that he was terrible because his name wasn’t Andrew Cashner.
But that’s okay. He’s got one fan. I have no shame in cheering him on.
And I’ll tell you to his face that he doesn’t suck.