Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Mercurial Rising (W5-1) GB 3

The old saw about 'momentum lasting only as long as the next day's starting pitcher' proved true, as the Sox stuffed the Birds from Baltimore 5-1, to even their four game series at one apiece.

Wade Miller pitched seven strong innings to capture his second win of the season and he lowered his ERA to 4.85. Mike Timlin and Mike Myers came in to close out the final 6 O's.

Edgar Renteria, David Ortiz, and Mark Bellhorn each had two hits, and John Olerud, replacing Johnny Damon in the lineup offensively (multiple switches defensively) delivered a key double to left-center. Damon ran into the bullpen projection in right center chasing an extra-base hit and the extent of his injury is not known, although he had four stitches above the right eye.

The Sox chased hard throwing righthander Daniel Cabrera with four runs in the fifth although Cabrera lasted into the sixth.

Sox fans were treated to an inning of premier closer B.J. Ryan in a non-save situation. Ryan has a 1.33 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 27 innings. I believe that he's a free agent after the season.

Sea escape. The Sea Dogs rallied for two runs in the 12th to defeat New Hampshire 3-1. Stefan Bailie had a homer and three singles pushed across some insurance. Marc Deschenes (3-0, 1.42) got the win in relief.

Papelbon's the 'One'

Tonight Jon Papelbon allowed one run, one hit, and one walk at AA for Portland as they visited New Hampshire. Portland and NH are tied 1-1 in the 12th.

Papelbon (3-2) lowered his ERA to 2.10, with 32 hits, 15 walks and 48 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings. The best correlation with ERA at the major league level is strikeout to walk ratio, higher than previous ERA.

At least so far, the Sox have had the luxury of not rushing minor leaguers before they were ready, and Portland has several starters who have been pitching well including Papelbon, LHP Jon Lester (2-1, 3.44), and David Pauley (2-1, 3.08).

Also noteworthy is Brandon Moss' recent offensive surge, entering tonight at .255/.333/.404, and delivering a homer tonight. Moss has been on an 8 for 18 tear, with 5 runs scored, two homers, and 6 RBI in the past 5 games as he adjusts to AA pitching.

Keep up with the Sox' minor league clubs at their web sites or at www.minorleaguebaseball.com

Lacrosse (Off Topic)

If you're here, you love sports. Here's an incredible story and an incredible play that is one of THE most electrifying sports plays I have ever seen. See the play, then read the story.

The play: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~sportpub/goldstein_goal.mov

The story: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=2069239

Must Read for Statheads


David Gassko uses a multidimension tool to rank GMs in MLB, including maximizing home field advantage, payroll efficiency, and midseason acquisitions.

Master Theo grades out high in the Piolian School of Team Management.

Old Irish Expression

My mother used to have an expression, "let's you and him fight," the implication that there's nothing better than seeing a little set-to, as a bystander, of course.

Today at www.bostondirtdogs.com I have a column that brings out that spirit in people. There's nothing wrong with actually showing some respect to someone who's filling an entertainment niche, with as he might put it, 'funny pictures and two-bit headlines'. Does that deserve any credit in this town? Everybody has to judge for themselves.

Boston has the reputation for being a great sports town. No doubt that sports radio and a lot of talented print journalists (Chris Snow being the latest terrific addition) advance that agenda. Everyone doesn't have to agree about everything; the truth has a way of playing itself out over the long pull.

I'm an avid sports talk show listener, but I take everything in perspective; ergo the joke about doctors, just people doing a tough job, not visitors from Olympus. The 1000 or so players in MLB are the best at what they do, even though they strike out, throw to the wrong base, and even forget how many outs there are. As fans we expect maximum effort and concentration; that doesn't guarantee winning or even excellence.

Pancho and Lefty

Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
And your breath's as hard as kerosene.

You weren't your mama's only boy
But her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye
And sank into your dreams.

Poncho was a bandit, boys
His horse was fast as polished steel
He wore his gun outside his pants
For all the honest world to feel.

Poncho met his match you know
On the deserts down in Mexico
And nobody heard his dyin' words
Ah, but that's how the story goes.

All the Federals say
Could've had him any day
Only let him slip away
Out of kindness I suppose.

Lefty he can't sing the blues
All night long like he used to
The dust that Poncho bit down south
Ended up in Lefty's mouth.

-- Poncho and Lefty by Emmylou Harris

Statistical analysis and commentary from Conor Sen

One interesting statistic at the 50-game mark is the struggles of playoff contenders vs left-handed pitching. In 2004, here were the records of
playoff contenders vs LHP:

NYY: 36-11
BOS: 31-21
MIN: 30-22
ANA: 33-16
OAK: 27-15
TEX: 30-21
Tot: 187-106 (.638)

No problems at all. Now look at 2005:

BAL: 7-7
TOR: 6-6
BOS: 7-5
NYY: 7-8
CHW: 9-5
MIN: 8-5
TEX: 3-6
LAA: 7-8
Tot: 54-50 (.519)
vs RHP: 180-117 (.606)

Maybe this is another case of statistics lying, but there appears to be
something here. Because of this, teams that appear to be patsies may in
fact give contenders more trouble than their fans expect. Below is a
breakdown of AL teams featuring LHP starters with ERAs under 5:

BAL: 2 (Bedard, Chen)
BOS: 0 (a doughnut, the preferred food of a guy who could end up here)
CLE: 2 (Lee, Sabathia)
CWS: 1 (Buehrle)
DET: 2 (Robertson, Maroth -- plus Ledezma with a 6.75 ERA)
LAA: 1 (Washburn)
MIN: 1 (Santana)
NYY: 1 (Johnson)
OAK: 1 (Zito)
TBD: 2 (Kazmir, Hendrickson)
TEX: 1 (Rogers)
TOR: 1 (Chacin)

It's tough enough that teams have to deal with unequal scheduling due to
unbalanced division and interleague play, but if this RHP/LHP disparity
holds up, playoff spots may be determined by how much LHP a team faces due to rotation schedules. Ironically, the D-Rays, Indians and Tigers, who may all finish below .500, could give the Big Four in the AL East just as much trouble as they do when they play each other -- just ask the O's (1-5 vs Detroit) and Yanks (2-4 vs Tampa).

Monday, May 30, 2005

Cosmic Connection Needed

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

-- Peter, Paul, and Mary Where Have All the Flowers Gone

Maybe yesterday's tribute to Warren Spahn inspired David Wells in some cosmic connection. Probably not. Nonetheless, devoted baseball fans won't stop at the possibility of unknown forces, superstition, or magic to support their team. Whether Jobu's blessing in Major League, Glenn Close's backing in The Natural, or Wade Boggs' chicken fetish, baseball devotees do what they do.

Comparisons of baseball from one hundred years ago to today present terrific obstacles. The dead ball era had different fields and equipment and pitchers stayed in games as a matter of pride. Relief pitching was an anathema not an integral part of the game. But Christy Matthewson stood as the righthanded pitcher at the apex of his game and perhaps the zenith of righthanded pitching, period.

Matthewson won 373 games and had 79 shutouts. He won thirty games three years running, and twenty games twelve consecutive seasons. His career ERA in 17 seasons was 2.13, in an ERA when the league ERA was 2.88. He also batted .214 in almost 1700 at bats. He led the league in ERA five times, in wins four times, and was second in wins five times.

Remarkably, he also pitched in four World Series, winning three games in the 1905 World Series against the Athletics in just six days, each by a shutout! Although he was only 5-5 in the Series for his career, in 101.7 post-season innings he had an astonishing ERA of 0.97.

Maybe a little Matthewson can wear off on Bronson Arroyo tonight. Happy Memorial Day.


The psychology of being a fan affects our perception of 'our team' and 'our players'. We all have biases, and 'ownership bias' alters our valuation of players. All players have strengths and weaknesses, and intangibles including toughness and leadership.

One enigmatic player who has overachieved but continues to struggle with injuries is Christopher Trotman (Trot) Nixon. Nixon had a dual pedigree in football and baseball and came up slowly through the system, delayed by a fractured transverse process (a small bone off a vertebral body). He had a breakout season in 2003 and was beset by injury limiting his playing time in 2004, and continues to work around an unspecified knee injury.

A look at his three-year statistics (2002-2005) on www.sports.espn.go.com reveals a lot. For the period he is hitting .366/.518/.884 with a .946 OPS against RHP and only .641 in 227 at bats against LHP. His home/road OPS splits are even .888/.881. He is a devastating hitter ahead in the count with OPS 1.094 on the first pitch, 1.291 at 1-0 and 1.042 at 2-0. He has also been a second half hitter, with OPS .862 before and .910 after the break.

Currently, he's at .316/.416/.529/.945, 5th in the league in OBP and 6th in the league in OPS.

I sometimes wonder about the possibility of converting Nixon to a first baseman, as his range (objectively his range factor) has steadily diminished and he has adequate corner power. Whether anyone in the organization has thought about this isn't clear.

Idle speculation. Longer-term, with Edgar Renteria at shortstop and Hanley Ramirez their top prospect at shortstop, this creates an outfield opportunity, and Ramirez has the athletic tools that could produce a superior outfielder. Johnny Damon's future with the club seems up in the air, and if Nixon could play first, that could create two openings in the outfield.

Neither Brandon Moss nor David Murphy seem close looking at their double A numbers (http://www.seadogs.com/stats.html), and the Sox organization have been believers that minor league numbers are a harbinger of Major League production. Whether Chip Ambres (.326/.416/.553/13 SB) is considered a legitimate prospect or a AAAA player is unknown.

Nixon's production facing RHP makes him a force in the Sox lineup, and he also fits in well with the organizational philosophy of patience at the plate, as he is among the league leaders in pitches seen per at bat. His struggles against LHP and his leg injuries have reduced his defensive effectiveness, despite constant all-out effort that fans and teammates appreciate.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Strange Days (W7-2)

The Red Sox, a.k.a. Road Warriors completed yet another road trip cuffing the Yankees 7-2 in the rubber game of the series in the Bronx. The victory brought the Sox back to second place, three games behind the Orioles and half a game ahead of the Bronx Bombers.

On the surface, David Wells played the underdog to Mike Mussina's favorite, and the Sox got off to a fast start with a David Ortiz upper deck two-run shot in the first.

The Yankees battled back early, with rockets by Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield tying the score in the first.

However the Sox continued to pound away, with Edgar Renteria (four hits) slamming his fourth homer of the season, followed by Ortiz's second, a monster shot into the centerfield bleachers.

Meanwhile, Wells regained control of the strike zone (no longer wild IN the zone) and mixed up a variety of speeds on his curveball to battle the Yankees. Wells lasted into the ninth allowing just the two runs in the first before yielding to Keith Foulke with one out in the ninth. Foulke looked sharp in dispatching two Yankee hitters to end it.

Johnny Damon had two hits, Manny Ramirez three, and Ortiz added four to support a fourteen hit attack.

Game notes. It wasn't particularly a clean game in the field, with Wells throwing wildly to first on a chopper, as he failed to take the 'crow hop' pitchers are taught when throwing to bases. Millar didn't help by stretching off his left foot on a throw to his right. Bernie Williams made it look tough in centerfield, as he customarily breaks back and loses a step on incoming plays. Meanwhile, A-Rod got charged with one error but made two as the official scorer must be a relative.

The Orioles come into Fenway Monday as the Sox begin a well-deserved homestand. After 49 games, the Sox are 27-22, 14-16 on the road and 13-6 at home. The Sox are 13-14 against the AL East, the Yankees 10-16, Baltimore 16-6 and Toronto 15-10.

Minor advance. The Pawsox blanked Durham 8-0 behind 5 scoreless innings from Lenny DiNardo, as the Sox continue to look for middle relief candidates.

Portland split a pair with Norwich, pounding out 6 homers to win the opener 12-3 and dropping the nightcap 6-3. Dustin Pedroia (7) had two homers, while Chad Durbin, Jeff Bailey, Jared Sandberg, and Brandon Moss also went yard.

Wilmington beat Myrtle Beach 3-2 as Anibal Sanchez went five innings but had control trouble, walking 5.

Sunday Afternoon Tea

If there's one ingredient the Red Sox have lacked in the modern (post 1966) winning era, lefthanded pitching stands out. Yes, Bill Lee did win seventeen games three years running with his constant Perils of Pauline pitching and Leephus, but the Sox haven't had lefthanded dominance.

From the right side, they've had Luis Tiant, Dennis Eckersley, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and a season of Curt Schilling. While the great Martinez won 20 games twice for the Sox, Tiant won twenty three times, with equal style if less dominance.

All of which brings me back to left-handed pitching and one of Boston's epic pitchers, Warren Spahn. Roger Kahn profiles Spahn and others in his baseball masterpiece The Head Game. Spahn isn't a baseball memory for me, but his accomplishments stagger the imagination. His creative pitching intelligence produced 363 victories and THIRTEEN twenty game winning seasons. He and Johnny Sain led the 1948 Boston Braves to the pennant pitching almost half the games. Spahn also fired two no-hitters, his first at age 39.

Spahn also missed three seasons to World War II service, receiving distinction for valor in combat. He won 23 games at age 42 in 1963 and led the National League in complete games that year with 22, more than Koufax, Marichal, and Drysdale. He had 382 complete games in 665 starts and 63 shutouts. Last season there were 148 complete games 4856 starts during the regular season.

Tonight David Wells goes back into the lions den, this time not wearing pinstripes but facing them. We can only hope that he has similar to success at an advanced baseball age to the legendary left. Wells certainly won't be the Sox answer to the Diogenesian search for portsided (not portly) greatness, but we hope a trip to the House that Ruth built will inspire him to more than mediocrity.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

It Was the Best of Times, It Was Straight Jacket Time (W17-1)

Nothing, but nothing, encapsulates the mercurial reality of Red Sox Nation better than less than 24 hours in the Bronx.

Last night it was deja vu all over again with baserunning blunders turning 5 hits in an inning into one run. After a Varitek rocket off Randy Johnson and a potential rally snuffed out by two runners thrown out at the plate (forget about Jerry Remy's absolution of Dale Sveum), the Yankees answered back with Dr. Longball off Tim Wakefield and Alan Embree to win 6-3. Robinson (Crusoe) Cano took Wake into the bleachers in right, and then Sheffield launched an Embree toss into the stratosphere for a three-run blast. The Space Shuttle received an 'incoming' alert on the 'juice guy's' shot.

After last night's follies, Red Sox fans everywhere sought shelter in cheap beer and straight jackets, in preparation for today's action.

Predictably unpredictable, the Sox came out swinging, bashing out 27 hits, including at least two for everyone in the starting lineup. Edgar Renteria had a grand slam and raised his average to .281, Trot Nixon and Jay Payton had dingers, and Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon had 4 hits apiece. Damon had 7 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, Matt Clement (6-0, 3.06) allowed 5 hits and had 7 strikeouts in 6 innings, regularly escaping trouble while blanking the Yankees.

Kelly Shoppach got his first major league appearance (I think), a hit by pitch.

The Sox are 4 1/2 games out, tied for third, 1/2 game behind the Yankees. In the wild card race, the Sox are 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota and 2 games behind the West leaders. Let's face the music gang, a playoff appearance in 2005 will likely require an AL East title, as unusual improvement by the Orioles and the Jays have altered the competitive landscape.

The 'Moneyball'strategy that earned Billy Beane his reputation has been adopted wholeheartedly by the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Dodgers, and ironically, the copycats have outperformed the original. Not surprising for the Sox and Dodgers, working with far more capital. The A's, beset by injuries, and the losses of Beane's trades of Hudson and Mulder, now have the second worst record in the AL, are last in runs scored and last in OPS (.660), and 11th in pitching, just ahead of your Boston Red Sox.

Minor doings. Hanley Ramirez (.304//.360/.452) had three hits last night in a lost to Norwich. Ramirez also has 12 steals in 37 games. He is second on the Sea Dogs in hitting to Dustin Pedroia (.327/.402/.510) who has 5 homers. Meanwhile, Jose Vaquedano lowered his ERA to 2.36 in the pitching-rich Carolina League (High A), as Wilmington lost 1-0.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Drug Testing for Professional Athletes

I have no idea what percentage of readers have ever experienced random drug testing, particularly in its more humiliating forms. Having served for ten years in the Navy, I can speak from experience, having been subjected to at least 15 (passed without studying...)...

Who speaks from a legal standard for the testing? Also, testing mistakes do occur (false positives), aside from clerical errors, or administrative errors (samples mixed up). The system isn't foolproof, although generally of high quality.

Congress has taken it upon themselves to demand testing. Were I Donald Fehr (a scary thought) I wouldn't be able to say what he must really think, "Our union supports drug-free professional sports and remains committed to the highest standards of quality and ethics in society. Nothing is more important than the preservation of liberty and clarity of thought among our elected officials. We agree to a two-year ban for a positive test, and lifetime ban for two positives...providing the Congress, the Cabinet, and the President and the Vice President of the United States and their staff agree to the same policy and consequences, i.e. random testing under direct observation."

That will never happen.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Prozac Nation.

"If a cow can't eat it, then you shouldn't play baseball on it."

The Sox have owned the Blue Jays the past few years, but the Jays are taking it to the locals again, courtesy of Wade Miller's first blow up and yet another episode of 'Power Outage'. The Big Dogs just haven't gotten off the porch.

Tuesday's disheartening walkoff loss, led to yesterday's dope-slapping as Bronson Arroyo couldn't recover his pre-suspension form, and today's outing hasn't gotten any better.

As mentioned a few days ago, my son put forth a strong argument why the Wild Card will go to the Central Division this season, as the AL East teams kill each other off, with much improved Baltimore and Toronto making 95 wins for a second place team very unlikely.

The Sox had better get in gear pretty quickly, facing the Yankees and Orioles, or they could be running uphill for quite awhile.

Farming for dollars. Portland is getting rained out for the third night in a row, so the Sox best prospect are literally hanging out to dry, and Wilmington got three excellent relief innings from Kyle Bono to win last night in High A.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Whiny (L9-6) Season 25-19

Yes, I will whine about tonight's disheartening loss, another painful exercise in mediocre but not average pitching. David Wells had the 'one bad inning' exercise going, but the bullpen again earns the slings and arrows of the Nation. Reid Johnson smashed two homers off Sox relievers, Mike Timlin in the seventh and a walkoff three-run shot off Alan Embree in the ninth to give Toronto the victory.

I've been beating the dead horse about the bullpen for weeks, and also recognize that Terry Francona can only throw what's out there. Timlin has been outstanding overall and Embree inconsistent, but if the Sox are going to challenge, they need a more dominant and consistent relief corps.

My son's statistical analysis shows the White Sox to have a major leg up on grabbing one slot and obviously the AL West runnerup grabs the second. Minnesota, absent the in-division competition existing in the AL East has the advantage for the Wild Card. That means the Red Sox will have to outfight the Orioles (Yes, Matilda) and the Yankees for the final spot.

Farm land. The PawSox beat Norfolk 3-2, with a combined effort from 5 pitchers, including 4 strikeouts in two innings from Scott Cassidy. Cla Meredith took a blown save for Pawtucket.

Portland was rained out yet again.

Wilmington lost to Frederick 2-1 in the Carolina League, with Luis Mendoza taking the loss despite yielding 1 earned run in 7 innings.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Quality Time (W5-2) Season 25-18

Well, I didn't get to see the game today, although I was in Kenmore Square, more precisely up the street at graduation at Boston University. There was a Red Sox connection, however, as BU bestowed an honorary Doctor of Letters degree upon Red Sox principal owner John Henry.

Meanwhile, Matt Clement (5-0, 3.34) dispatched the Atlanta Braves with a complete game 4 hitter, the best of quality starts, and Manny Ramirez pounded out three hits and a homer to raise his average to .242 on a blustery Boston day.

The Sox top three pitchers (Clement, Wakefield, and Arroyo) are tied with a number of others for number 6 in quality starts at six. Believe it or not, Kenny Rogers leads the AL with 8. I've noted before that the statistic that tends to correlate best with ERA is K/BB ratio. This inherently makes sense, as strikeouts and few walks both limit baserunners and strikeout pitchers can often keep runners in scoring position out.

The Twins with Brad Radke, Johan Santana, and Carlos Silva incredibly are 1 through 3 in the AL in K/BB ratio (all over 9 - incomprehensible), while Arroyo checks in as the Sox leader at number 24 with 2.38. From a team perspective, the Sox are at 4 in K/BB (2.28), 5th as starters and 11th as relievers.

The Sox remain second in runs scored, behind the Yankees, and second in OPS trailing the Orioles.

Defensively, the Sox are 19th in runs allowed, 20th in stolen bases allowed (0.6 per game), and 19th in double plays turned per game (0.8).

Why all this attention to statistics? Baseball lends itself to intensive statistical analysis. Winning percentage tends to focus around the Baseball Pythagorean Theorem (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=342). Obviously the game is about scoring and preventing runs, and imbalances in offense or run prevention (pitching and defense) require correction if optimization can occur.

The Red Sox organization believes in the quantitative method, and are advantaged relative to organizations with similar philosophies but fewer dollars. Presuming the goal is to diagnose your team in the first two months, repair it in the second, and compete down the stretch in the third, GM Theo Epstein and his baseball staff are well on their way to trying to repair the team going forward.

Offense. It's amazing that the team has been as productive as it has with below expected performance from the entire infield, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz. Varitek, Damon, and Nixon have all overachieved, but the latter two can be diminished with lefthanded pitching. Ramirez and Ortiz should get hot, and how long Francona and the front office will go with Millar remains to be seen. Perhaps Renteria will be more productive the second or third time around.

Pitching. Absent both Schilling and Wells for most of the season, the starting pitching has been better than adequate. Clement and Arroyo have both been solid if not consistently outstanding. Clement's confidence seems to be growing, and Wade Miller adds a solid third starter. Tim Wakefield started out hot and has cooled off. Getting Schilling or Wells back and pitching effectively would make for a solid group. The bullpen remains the principal Achilles heel for the club. We can only hope that 'good pitchers will pitch good baseball'. A more reliable long man would be welcome, and its easy to envision a callup for Jon Papelbon in July if nothing changes (in his or the bullpen's performance).

Defense. Varitek remains a rock behind the plate, and in limited action, Youkilis looks adequate at first. Bellhorn plays a more steady second than appreciated, and Miller has been steady at third. Thus far, Renteria has been a disappointment in the field as well as at the plate, but both fans and management will be patient. In the outfield, Damon has range but no arm and struggles on balls hit directly over his head (notoriously difficult to play). Ramirez is better in Fenway than on the road, and Nixon limps after everything; playing hard but hurt can come back to haunt both on the road and spacious Fenway.

Farm land. Portland dropped two to Bowie today, scoring only one run in two games. David Pauley worked five shutout innings in the first, and Papelbon (3-2, 2.27) took the loss in the second, with control issues (3 walks in 5 2/3 innings.

Statistical Update AL Pennant Chase

From the redoubtable Conor Sen and his magical computer:

"If history is any indication, the White Sox have already locked up aplayoff spot. Here are the 11 teams that have won at least 31 of theirfirst 43 games in the 162-game era:

1970 Reds (won 102 games)
1974 Dodgers (won 102 games)
1976 Phillies (won 101 games)
1977 Dodgers (won 98 games)
1984 Tigers (won 104 games)
1986 Mets (won 108 games)
1988 Mets (won 100 games)
1990 Reds (won 91 games)
1998 Braves (won 106 games)
1998 Yankees (won 114 games)
2001 Mariners (won 116 games)

Four of the eleven won the World Series, seven of the eleven made theWorld Series, and ALL made their respective League Championship Series.It's pretty incredible that Minnesota, Baltimore, Boston, and New Yorkcould be playing for two playoff spots, but that appears to be the case.

With Toronto poised for an 80-90 win season, creating a four-headedmonster in the AL East, Minnesota is in the driver's seat to grab the wildcard. If Baltimore's starting pitching holds up we could be looking atthe first postseason without the Red Sox and Yankees since 1993."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Special Pain

Losing exerts regular pain, but losing on a damp, cold, rainy night inflicts a special pain. Dan Shaughnessy's article suggesting we lose the Sox-Braves 'natural rivalry' struck a chord long before this game.

It started off with enough promise, Trot Nixon making a couple of terrific plays, one faintly reminiscent of the 1975 Dwight Evans Game 6 game saving grab off Joe Morgan (okay, so the drama is about 3 percent of that). However, the Sox made the Braves rookie pitcher look like the second coming of Catfish Hunter.

Worse still, the infield defense reminds us that the remake of the Bad News Bears soon will be upon us.

Occasional panoramic stadium views reveal the extent of the addiction known as Red Sox Nation. On an evening fit mostly for otters and waterfowl, the faithful mostly remain entrenched in their seats.

The Sox started their traditional tease here in the seventh pushing across a couple of runs, only to have a Furcal 6-3 doubleplay erase the threat. The tone of the game threatens the third touchdown loss in a week.

Meanwhile, the New Millenium Miracle Mets dominated the Mets and Randy Johnson at Shea, with the immortal Miguel Cairo taking RJ deep into the bleachers AFTER the Mets pitcher had scored from second on a sacrifice bunt, not seen since Tom Berenger in Major League. Not to get technical, but the replay showed he was clearly out.

The Mets (23-20) have a better record than the Yankees (22-21) at this point. Although we have to expect RJ to come around, a 4-3, 3.94 record at this point surprises even the most pessimistic Yankee fans. The 60 hits and 55 strikeouts in 64 innings (less than 8 per nine innings) merely astonishes. Wonder if the NY media will be looking for blood in the water?

Right and Wrong

I wrote this piece over at www.uwritesports.com on July 25th, 2004, just 6 days before the Nomar trade. I was dead wrong discounting the solution but Master Theo and the Stat Pilots saw the problem and enacted the solution.

Keywords: Boston Red Sox, baseball, baseball statistics, infield defense

Anyone Can Criticize. True. Analyzing problems pales in comparison with developing solutions. Assisting Robo-organization in breaking down stats and facts can’t come easily. But that doesn’t mean we won’t try.

The big picture shows the Sox having the third most wins in the American League, but under the hood we see Boston with the second greatest disparity in home versus road victories, second only to the A’s. The Sox have virtually identical runs scored versus runs allowed record versus the Yankees, yet trail by 8 ½ games at about the 5/8ths pole. The Sox are 7-10 in one run games compared to the Yankees 17-10, and rank among Detroit, Montreal, Kansas City, and Arizona in close game futility.

First, examine the pitching staff. Homers per game and WHIP ratio are basically flat home versus away. Mysteriously, the road ERA is about one-third of a run higher. Both Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe in particular have pitched much better at home.

Maybe it’s something about the offense. Why, yes that’s the ticket. The Sox score over 6 runs a game at home, and about 4.7 per game on the road. The team batting average is almost fifty points higher at home (.302) and the OPS is one hundred ten points higher. Millar, Varitek, Mueller, and Bellhorn have proven far less robust away from the Monstah.

As for defense, we’re talking shock and aw. The Sox rank twelfth in AL fielding percentage, and as everyone from Block Island to Bangor knows, lead the universe in unearned runs allowed. If home official scorers weren’t protecting certain infielders, the results would only be worse. Bosox first basemen have the league’s worst fielding percentage. Kevin Millar couldn’t fare worse with skates. Even with ‘error protection’ scoring, the Red Sox are close to the bottom in shortstop fielding percentage. AND it’s not because of Nomar’s great range factor, as the Sox are close to the bottom there, too. The outfielders have a pitiful fourteen assists, as with the arm weakness out there, everyone runs on them. Of course, because the outfield is last in zone rating and in range factor, they probably don’t catch enough balls to actually give them the chance to gun runners down. The Sox are also last (.21) in caught stealing percentage (only partially a Wakefield effect) and eleventh in turning double plays.

Of course, According to Mark Twain “there are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies, and statistics.” After all, the A’s lead the AL in fielding percentage, and Seattle, Toronto, and Tampa aren’t far behind. Who wants to be like the Devil Dogs?

Summarizing the Sox pitching is about equal home and away and the offense outperforms dramatically at home. The defensive drag on the team (inability to hold runners, unearned runs, inability to reach balls in the outfield) may contribute to the inability to win close games and win on the road, where scores are lower and the margin for error non-existent.

Okay, so what’s the solution, short of Draconian measures like summary execution? The overall winning percentage of teams relates to the number of runs scored in their ballpark, the fewer the better. Proven. Bandboxes and altitude guarantee happy crowds and no championships. Satisfying Fenway’s station to station mentality creates home tigers and road kittens.

Player accountability would comprise a great start, as in ‘play better,’ that is, catch routine ground balls and flyballs and throw the ball to the base. Realistically, wholesale team restructuring can’t and won’t happen at this point in the season. Superior offensively, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez can’t both be DH. Long-term, the Sox need more outfield athleticism, and far more consistency defensively from both shortstop and first base. I don’t know whether Theo and ownership have the will or the means to make a paradigm shift. Eighty-five years of frustration won’t end easily.

The point is that the front office isn't taking the underperformance lying down. I'm sure they've identified the bullpen as the problem and are working to solve it. There could be some help coming late season if the Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester duo keep coming on. Player accountability regarding infield offensive production can't hurt either.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Mueller Time, Miller Time (W4-3) Season 24-17

Wade Miller made his third start for the Sox against 'natural rival' Atlanta, and the Sox held on to be the Braves 4-3. Miller proved a bit more parsimonious with his pitches, delivering 106 and a quality start with one run allowed in 6 1/3 innings. Mike Timlin pitched 1 2/3 innings of solid relief, and Keith Foulke held on by the skin of his teeth to get the save, allowing two runs in the ninth.

Johnny Damon led off the game with a booming triple to the triangle, scoring on an Edgar Renteria groundout. Renteria later left the bases full twice. Jason Varitek hammered his 9th homer just left and above Conig's Corner, and Bill Mueller had his inaugural homer of the campaign off the Pesky Pole to give the Sox a 4-0 lead off Tim Hudson.

The Sox squandered numerous opportunities with the left on base struggle, but kicked off the brief homestand with a victory.

Focusing on the positive, Varitek continues to hit, Mueller appears to be swinging the bat better with a homer and a double, and Miller's start was solid. The heart of the order struggled with Manny, Ortiz, and Nixon not on their game.

Baseball Anomaly. Julio Franco (46 years old going on 50) DHed tonight for the Braves. Franco is in his 21st season, including 7 seasons with over 400 at bats and a .300 average. He entered the season with a career .300 average and 2457 hits. He scored 100 runs once (1991), and has never had 100 RBI in a season. Last year he hit .309 in 320 at-bats at age 45. He shouldn't make the Hall-of-Fame but has had a career marked by remarkable staying power...with 7 different teams.

Farm action. Despite seven innings with two earned runs from Chris Narveson, the PawSox lost in 11 to Indy, 8-6. Roberto Petagine had two hits including a triple.

Portland lost to Bowie 4-1, although Jon Lester (3.38) worked 7 innings allowing 4 hits, a run, and had eight strikeouts. Uber-prospect Hanley Ramirez (.290) had two hits and his 11th stolen base in the loss.

Wilmington got rained out.

Baseball Slang. "Home run in an elevator shaft" refers to a towering pop to the catcher.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Incentive clause or insanity clause?

I don't have anything against David Wells, but if his incentives trigger with 11-20 and 21-30 starts, they aren't getting done in Portland or Pawtucket. Every time he gets out to the hill, he's that much closer to another (ka-ching) pardon-the-expression 'fat payday'.

This isn't discovering the wheel, it's reality. AND we are in the business of reality, right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Quarter Pole-Axed (L13-6) Season 23-17

After forty games the Sox are on pace to win 93 games, it just doesn't feel that way. Perhaps after 85 years in the desert, receiving a drink makes you thirstier.

David Wells returned to face 'Goliath' as the A's hammered him for 9 hits and 7 runs in an inning and two-thirds. There were no tickets available at the Oakland bat rack. We used to call that 'ouch my E.R.A." and Wells ballooned to 6.75 as Oakland pounded out thirteen runs and nineteen hits against Wells, Jeremi 'Going, Going' Gonzales, and 'Long' John Halama. The Sox got Eric-slapped by Eric Byrnes (four hits) and Eric Chavez four RBI as they lost their second consecutive series.

The Sox answered too little too late with a four-run eighth, after Jason Varitek (8) and Mark Bellhorn (2) had homered earlier.

Minor Details. At Portland, the Sea Dogs moved to 22-13 with a 1-0 shutout against Erie. Chris Smith led the talent-laden Dogs with seven innings of scoreless ball to lower his ERA in two appearances to 0.71. Dustin Pedroia had the game winning RBI playing shortstop with his tenth double.

John Papelbon lowered his ERA to 1.93 last night with 6 innings of two-hit ball, getting no decision. Papelbon and sidekick Jon Lester have combined for a 4-2 record in 80 innings, yielding only 64 hits, with 22 walks and 77 strikeouts. Help is coming.

Denny Tomori got a start for Pawtucket, but the PawSox lost 3-1 against Indianapolis. Chip Ambres had two doubles and a walk, raising his average to .382 for the PawSox. If Trot Nixon can't go, Ambres surely seems to be beating on the outfield door.

Anibal Sanchez (2.09) is 4-1 at Wilmington with 43 innings pitched 31 hits allowed (less than 7 per nine innings) with 64 strikeouts and only 6 walks. Teammate Jose Vaquedano is 2-0, with 28 hits allowed in 33 innings, ERA of 2.41 and 33 strikeouts with 7 walks.

Sox clearinghouse.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It could be a lot worse

Prior to 1967 (most of those reading probably have no recollection of those dark days), the Red Sox held far less fascination for both fans and media. Mostly they were amusing losers, held back in part by racism (Willie Mays wasn't good enough to play for Boston?), and by mediocre pitching.

After the miracle 9th place to pennant turnaround in the Impossible Dream season, the Sox have generally been competitive, although not always on any championship cusp.

Although the Sox don't have the All-Star power of let's say the Yankees, they have a number of All-Star players, and even the reserves have more talent than that on a lot of Sox teams. Which brings me to my point...what is the worst lineup that one could field with some former Red Sox luminaries (career stats only, please). I can't guarantee the All-Futility team, but I'll give it a try, and no cheating. Average, on base percentage, slugging percentage.

C - Marc Sullivan .186/.236/.258 (it's who you know that counts)

1B - Norm Siebern .272/.369/.423 (had some good years with KC, but his Red Sox tenure was a stinker, especially for a corner position)

2B - Doug Griffin .245/.299/.299 (he could hit Nolan Ryan though, but unfortunately Ryan knew that and beaned him)

SS - Luis Rivera .233/.291/.333 (mediocre defensively, too)

3B - Joe Foy .248/.351/.372 (played on the '67 team, though)

OF - Gary Geiger .246/.337/.394 (better than I remember)

OF - Rick Miller .267/.346/.350 (15 years in the majors!)

OF - Jose Tartabull .263/.301/.320 (2 homers in 9 seasons, threw out Ken Berry at home in the 1967 season in a walkoff outfield assist

U- John Kennedy .225/.281/.323 (inside-the-park homer at Fenway)

U - Steve Lyons .252/.302/.340 (best known for pulling his pants down after a slide, and getting thrown out at third to end a game as I vaguely recall; became a credible network announcer)

P - Win Remmerswall 5.50/65 hits in 56 innings- (why couldn't we get Blyleven instead)

P - Matt Young 4.40, career 55-95; (had an eight inning no-hitter, that didn't count, and couldn't throw to bases in some form of 'Steve Blass disease')

Anybody remember these guys? Worse?

So when we whine and kvetch, remember the 'good old days'.


"History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." - Mark Twain

Let's not get too highbrow here, after all, this is just a hangout for diehard Red Sox baseball fans, literally from all over the world (believe it or not)...

Last night on the Left Coast gave us another episode reminiscent of Last House on the Left in vintage horror story genre. To set the stage, the Sox have loaded the bases with no out, with Bellhorn, Damon, and Renteria coming up against the right-handed twenty-first century version of Mike Cuellar, Kirk Saarloos. Saarloos is tossing up rotten grapefruit, and you know how tough it is to hit rotten grapefruit. Anyway two strikeouts and a harmless pop out later, the game isn't 5-0 or a reasonable facsimile, it's the A's on the comeback trail.

Meanwhile, last season we watched mediocre defense nearly sink the ship before Jedi Master Theo righted the defense with the acquisitions of the O.C. and dear departed horsehider Dougie Defense. Last night, Johnny Damon got turned around like a young Randall Gay and Trot Nixon, hobbling like a wounded deer couldn't track down (not even close) some A's shots off 'Then Came' Bronson Arroyo, and Michael Myers turned in some nightmarish work of his own as the Sox continued to struggle in Oakland, losing 6-4.

Frankly, the A's who hadn't won since the Celtics were still playing, or something like that, profited from Red Sox charity.

The Sox now sport a 22-16 record as they approach the quarter pole (40 games) of the season. The Sox haven't had their ace (Curt Schilling) and frankly the infield production (5 homers) has been nothing short of an abomination. The Sox woes in previous seasons of struggle have been 1) losing close games), leaving men on base, and the failed Closer by Committee (relief pitching). It may seem worse, but they are 7-6 in one run games, they are second in men LOB (they are also first in men on base), and they are twelfth in relief ERA (5.18), last in AL relief OPS by a country mile (.839 versus .770), and 11th in relief K/BB (1.66) with the Angels the best at 2.58.

Bottom line: the love of money is not the root of all evil, it is horrible relief pitching. I'm not saying the Red Sox relief corps is terrible, but their performance has been. History bears repeating.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Rainy Days and Mondays (L5-4) Season 22-15

Rainy days and Mondays get me down.

The roof came on, the Sox came off the track, beaten among other things by Miguel Olivo with three hits, a home run, and an infield single scoring a run from second, as the Sox lost at Seattle 5-4. From an 0-27 streak to 'man of the match', so it goes for Olivo.

Tim Wakefield took the loss, not pitching so effectively as courageously.

In the 'Manny doesn't care' department, he ripped the cover off the ball, including a three-run dinger (his 4ooth) and narrowly missed tying the game with a shot to right center that the redoubtable Ichiro tracked down.

Ichiro (as noted by Jerry Remy) is worth watching every day, and one has to wonder whether he will someday be enshrined at Cooperstown.

The infield, after showing some signs of life, went 1 for 15 and continues to drag the offense down.

Editorial comment. It has become fashionable to criticize the critics (of anyone and anything) as lacking credibility because they 'never played the game'. Certainly, only an elite few achieve the status of playing major league baseball. Those who do occasionally commit the mental errors of Little Leaguers (forgetting how many outs there are, failing to back up bases, missed signs, etc). They also (so we hear) occasionally stay out to late and don't always take care of themselves in the way that might affect optimum performance (alcohol). The critics might call this unprofessional baseball.

It's hard to imagine mere mortals understanding rocket science like the 'double switch', crossover step, cutoff man, 'cutter', 'circle change', indicators and signs, hitting behind the runner, bat speed, arm 'angle', baserunning speed versus acumen, take-out slide, inside-out swing, and the ethos of 'playing the game'. It's throwing the 90 mile-an-hour fastball, fielding the hot corner, and identifying and reacting to the round ball with the round bat in 0.4 seconds that we can't perform, not our ability to understand the problem.

Fans and critics alike demand mental and physical effort, and find it difficult to tolerate less than maximal effort. Players argue that fans don't appreciate the grind of the 162 game season, travel, night games, time away from family, living in hotel rooms, injuries, et cetera. Maybe we do; this explains why hitting .300 makes you an All-Star, the best pitchers seldom have career winning percentages of .600, and why fans pony up their hard-earned money to watch their idols.

You don't hear many fans criticizing the Variteks, Nixons, or Ortizes of the world, because they always feel they're getting 100% from these players. In fact, the critics generally are criticizing outcome measurements, rather than effort, the former being far more random than generally accepted. As long as fans are expending the emotional resources and dollars to idolize their heroes, the players will have to accept the criticism. No different from most professions, except we don't have the million dollar paychecks, the television cameras and the paparazzi. Right? Vive la difference.

Whoa Nelly? Statistical Information from Conor's Corner

Keywords: Red Sox, Orioles, White Sox, Yankees, statistics

My son, Conor, is exceptionally gifted with respect to mathematics and has degrees in both computer science and economics. He also loves baseball and growing up in Maryland, he is naturally an Orioles fan first, a Yankee hater second, and he tolerates the Red Sox (previously not much of a threat).

Here is an email he sent to me today...

I made my first foray into the world of baseball statistical extremism. Not content to read the articles where people write about how April records translate into full-year records, I wrote a perl script that grabbed the day by day standings for all teams in the 162-game era from www.baseball-reference.com. I then allowed it to input partial season records and had it spit back the year-end records of those teams sorted into buckets.

Here are the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, and White Sox through Saturday's games (note that only records where teams ended upplaying at least 160 games are counted, which throws out strike seasons).

Orioles (ie, distributions of teams that win 21-23 of their first 35 games):
<65 wins: 0
66-70 wins: 1
71-75 wins: 3
76-80 wins: 12
81-85 wins: 27
86-90 wins: 36
91-95 wins: 32
>95 wins: 36
Sample size: 147 teams

Red Sox (20-22 wins in their first 35):
<65 wins: 0
66-70 wins: 3
71-75 wins: 9
76-80 wins: 21
81-85 wins: 34
86-90 wins: 46
91-95 wins: 41
<95 wins: 41
Sample size: 195 teams

Yankees (17-19 wins in their first 37):
<65 wins: 7
66-70 wins: 28
71-75 wins: 45
76-80 wins: 64
81-85 wins: 55
86-90 wins: 61
91-95 wins: 42
> 95 wins: 17
Sample size: 319 teams

White Sox (26-28 wins in their first 36):
< 65 wins: 0
66-70 wins: 0
71-75 wins: 0
76-80 wins: 0
81-85 wins: 3
86-90 wins: 1
91-95 wins: 3
> 95 wins: 11
Sample size: 18 teams

The Yankees are still up against long odds if they expect to win more than 95 games, which only about 5% of teams have done given their current standing after 37 games.

A) Yes, he is employed
B) Yes, he has coauthored a book How Markets Really Work
C) No, I do not fully understand the wagering implications of this
D) No, I cannot assess the validity of the programming, data importation, and statistics

Five Words

(originally published at www.uwritesports.com)

by Ron Sen, May 2003 (author's note, Mom passed on in January 2004)

May brings us Mother’s Day, which means thinking about Mom. Moms are special, as the sideline reporters catch the ‘Hi, Mom’ and nouveau riche athletes buy mom the dream house she never had. Even if Dad were teaching the fundamentals, everybody knows Mom was the law.

From the time a boy or girl is old enough to crawl, Mom is usually the one who rolls them the first ball. With time and practice, the little one starts to enjoy their first game with the rolling ball, the precursor to chasing some other ball on the diamond, the court, or the field. Mom probably signs them up for T-Ball and Little League, and does more than her share of driving to and from practice. Moms even earn the special moniker of ‘Soccer Moms’, a ‘focus group’ for political parties, a constituency of van-driving, referee-baiting power.

Mom always tried to make a game of everything, Spelling Bee or Math Rounds during washing the dishes before there were dishwashers, and Scrabble or cribbage to sharpen a young mind. She introduced me to medicine, too, with a book called ‘The Great Physicians’ at age 12, where I learned of Galen, and Vesalius, whose grave-robbing exploits revealed the circulatory system, and the wonders of Morton and Pasteur.

Sometimes mothers become the catcher, or the goalie, or the batting practice pitcher. I remember how Mom’s sister was the athlete, who could play ‘catch’ with ambidextrous ease. Still Mom was the one who got dinner out early, and never complained as we wolfed it down to get to practice or games on time. Mom was always my biggest fan.

Mom would make sure the uniforms were clean, and that we had spikes, or cleats, or sneakers, even when money was tight, which it always seemed to be. There was never any question about hustling on the field or on the court; it was very obvious that Mom and Dad hustled to make ends meet. When progress merited it, there were a couple of years where the ‘rents’ scraped up the dough for me to go to Sam Jones’ basketball camp. I still can’t understand how Sam could put four quarters on the back of his hand, turn it over, and catch them individually, as though he were a machine.

Mom and Dad would make the traveling appearances to watch a game when they could, ‘night games’ mostly, because they worked, and there was only one car anyway. They’d sit on hard bleachers in cold weather to watch their son pitch or hit, or try to field. They never could make it to any soccer games, but tried to go to every basketball game, even when I didn’t really want them there. They came to the “Tech Tourney” games in the Garden, and were rewarded with a photo of their son kissing the Division I North trophy along with his smiling teammates. They came to Wakefield, Winchester, and Waltham in sweltering heat to watch the Inter-City League games, and even after Dad had passed, Mom still came to watch her ‘little boy’ try not to embarrass himself as a forty-year old in the Wakefield Twi-League of twenty-somethings. She smiled a lot, even though she started to feel the pain of advancing age, just like her son the pitcher.

Mom wasn’t perfect. A meticulous housekeeper, she was a neat-freak nightmare beyond any teenager’s belief. She was a domestic tyrant. If displeased, she unleashed a stream of undeleted expletives which let you know where she stood. Those times made it easy for a son to find comfort at the ballpark, the gym, or the library, safe with teammates and books. She never had a lot of friends, and her outbursts kept those at a distance. Her Irish temper had a volatile and short fuse, and too often she sought refuge at the end of a bottle. But through it all there was a constant, a devotion to her children and their success in making it in a hostile world.

Mom no longer has the inquisitive and sometimes scolding eyes; she sees her world with an indescribable emptiness and often vacant expression. Her face is kinder now, exposed to a brave new world. Her mind and body dwindle, ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer. Her biggest comfort comes from the further mind-numbing effects of pain medication in the nursing home, not from the visits of caring friends and family. Nobody should have to live as she does, and she deserves five words which she hears but cannot remember. So, if you can, tell your Mom “I love you” and “thank you”, while she still knows you care and she knows your name.

Nixon's the One

Wade Miller got his second start for the Red Sox and paid the price for a prolific pitch count, weakening in the sixth inning to allow consecutive 'taters' to Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez to give the Mariners a 3-1 lead. Earlier, Manny Ramirez had cranked career homer 399 to tie the game at 1.

In the top of the seventh, after J.J. Putz, doing his best Goose Gossage imitation had fanned Manny with high gas, Trot Nixon launched an 0-1 97 mph fastball into the rightcenterfield bleachers for his eighth career grand slam.

At the time of publication/exhaustion, the Sox lead the Ms 6-3 headed to the bottom of the eighth.

Meanwhile, the 'hated Yankees' won their seventh game in a row, hammering the A's 15-6, moving to within a game of the Tony Mazzarotti Fortune .500 line (they make a fortune a play .500). The Orioles remain on top in the AL East at 23-13, beating the White Sox 9-6. B.J. Ryan got his tenth save and has 32 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings since taking over the closer job this season for Jorge Julio.

Farming for dollars. The PawSox got scratched again by the Mud Hens, losing a 12-11 decision as DiNardo and Malaska got abused for 12 runs in 4 1/3 innings. Kelly Shoppach had HR number 9 and Chip Ambres (.372) had a hit and 2 walks.

Portland was rained out.

Wilmington beat Salem 4-2, behind 7 innings of one-run ball from Luis Mendoza (3-0, 2.84). Wilmington is lead by Anibal Sanchez (3-1), with 55 strikeouts and six walks in 37 innings, a 2.19 ERA.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Throw Deep (L14-7) Season 21-14

The Red Sox weren't able to pull out the victory last night, failing to execute the two-minute drill properly, winding up losers by a touchdown to the Seahawks, er, Mariners at Safeco Field.

Jeremi Gonzalez mediocre effort led to more bullpen carnage under the direction of John Halama and Cla Meredith. On the bright side, Keith Foulke kept the humiliation to a minimum.

Johnny Damon had two hits to keep his streak alive.

Asked to comment about the game, Yogi Berra would have offered up, Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.

Statistical ramblings. Despite the 'sense' that the Sox aren't knocking the cover off the ball, they are tied with the Yankees for first in the AL in runs, second, in OPS (.813), first in combined doubles and triples (which correlates best with runs scored), first in OBP and second in Slugging, behind the Orioles.

They are third in wins, 9th in WHIP, 6th in K/BB ratio, 8th in ERA and 12 in opponents OPS. They are third in K/BB ratio as starters and third in ERA as starters. They are 12th in K/BB as relievers and 13th in ERA as relievers.

It's pretty obvious that Master Theo will be scouring the waiver wire and the minors for relief pitching, the area that Peter Gammons reports has suffered most in the steroid clampdown era. Alternatively, if and when Schilling and Wells return, the issue will be how to strengthen the bullpen, a solution that can't include Bronson Arroyo.

Make New Friends

Pitcher ----- IP -- ER -- W -- L

Martinez - 56 -- 21 -- 4 -- 1

Lowe ------ 52 -- 17 -- 2 -- 4

Total ------ 108 -- 38 -- 6 -- 5 -- ERA 3.17

Salaries $17,875,000

Clement --- 50 -- 17 -- 4 -- 0

Wells ------ 29 --- 16 -- 2 -- 3

Total ------ 79 ---- 33 -- 6 -- 3 --- ERA 3.76

Salaries $10,575,000

Friday, May 13, 2005

Oh the Pain.

Going, going Gonzalez working tonight, as Sexson and Ibanez go back-to-back jacks. Of course, both Tom Petty and the Sox 'won't back down' as Mark Bellhorn (1) and Trot Nixon (5) go yard for the locals. Nixon has two hits and is up to .311 and Johnny Damon keeps his hitting streak alive at 18.

The Sox have cranked out six runs and eight hits in five innings, but Gonzalez is getting beaten like a rented mule, as Francona finds the map to the mound.

Adrian Beltre greets Halama with a gravity-defying blast to left. Halama can only admire his portion of the engineering feat.

Well, it's late and like Foulke, I'm having trouble finishing.

Like Snow? Melrose's Chris Snow updates us on life on the farm in today's Boston Globe, and the progress happening at both Pawtucket and Portland. The Sea Dogs managed only three hits tonight, including a homer by Jared Sandberg, losing 3-2 to Bowie.

Meanwhile, the Mud Hens didn't lay an egg, thrashing the PawSox 13-4. Chip Ambres had two more hits, raising his average to .374.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Another Walkoff O.D. for A's (W6-5) Season 21-13

We talk a lot about Manny being Manny, but today's victory expressed vintage Red Sox from the grapes of baseball.

The Red Sox sent Matt Clement to the mound against the remaining A's ace from the big three, Barry Zito. Fortunately, for the Sox, Zito wasn't particularly on his game (like all working stiffs, I didn't actually see the game)...and Clement was, allowing only one run in seven innings.

Keith Foulke came on in the ninth for a 'garbage time' save with a 4-1 lead, that was promptly squandered, keyed by a two-run shot by Sox nemesis Eric Byrnes, as the A's assumed a 5-4 lead.

Octavio Dotel, no slouch despite last night's effort came on for the A's to try to save it (at least until Houston Street is named the New closer)...Dotel came into the season with 709 strikeouts in 585 major league innings, including 122 in 85 innings last season.

David Ortiz greeted O.D. with a walk, and Millar got under some heat with a fly to left. Jason Varitek then authored his third hit of the day, reaching the once cheap seats about two rows deep about 20 feet down from the pole. Victoire!

Foulke got the win, but once again appeared very rusty.

Notebook. Johnny Damon continued his torrid hitting extending his MLB leading streak to 17 games. The Sox reached their high water mark, eight games over .500 and kept pace with the O's who defeated the Twinkies and Johan Santana 7-4. Varitek raised his average to .343 and Damon checks in at .383.

Farm Land. Portland remained the Top Dogs in the Eastern League with a 6-5 win over New Hampshire. Kason Gabbard had a 5 2/3 inning, 2 run start, and the relief crew struggled to win it. Hanley Ramirez had two hits and two runs scored raising his average to .304 and Dustin Pedroia had a hit and two walks. Jeremy West had three hits and a homer to raise his average to .336 and Brandon Moss (.214) who has struggled had a hit and two runs scored.

The PawSox won 3-2 as Abe Alvarez pitched six innings of two run ball, not figuring in the decision. Alvarez kept the ball in the park, which is going to be a challenge for a Moyeresque portsider. Chip Ambres had a hit and a walk and remains at .369. The PawSox climbed to 15-17 and remain 3 games back in the IL North.

For once, it seems that the Sox have some viable prospects in the upper minors, with Ramirez, Pedroia, West, and pitchers Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester at Portland, and Kelly Shoppach and Ambres at Pawtucket with Abe Alvarez (the next Bruce Chen?) a lefty suspect.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pulling Teeth (W3-2) Season 20-13

The Sox entered the second quintile of the regular season, throwing ace Bronson Arroyo against the A's and won with a spectacular finish, a walk-off homerun by Kevin Millar.

Arroyo, undefeated since last August, had trouble finding the plate early, and made a questionable fielding play in the seventh allowing Bobby Kielty who had led off with a double to score on a chopper back to the mound. Arroyo couldn't hold the runner before throwing to Millar, who inadvertently also missed first base.

Arroyo surrendered one earned run in 6 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.91 before yielding to Alan Embree and Matt Mantei.

Hard-throwing righthander Octavio Dotel came in for the A's in the ninth, leading off by fanning Manny Ramirez with inside heat. David Ortiz then walked on a 3-2 pitch. Millar, a 'dead red' hitter, sat on an inside fastball and drilled a rising line drive into the Monster seats, clearing the wall by several feet.

Notes. Johnny Damon (.387) had three hits to continue his torrid pace. Manny Ramirez was back in the lineup after the previous night's beaning, but continues to struggle. Ramirez' OPS, normally a lusty 1.000 or more, was .913 going into the game. Mark Bellhorn continues to struggle, hitting only .228 with 28% of his at bats resulting in strikeouts. Kevin Youkilis has an identical percentage of 20.7% of his at bats yielding both strikeouts and walks.

Considering the major losses of Curt Schilling, David Wells, and various nicks throughout the lineup, the Sox 19-13 record through 32 games has been impressive. The Yankees meanwhile, are getting improved pitching, and trying to figure out how to get Jason Giambi (.195) back above the Mendoza line, considering some minor league time, that Giambi must approve.

Down on the Farm. Jon Papelbon (3-1) lowered his ERA to 2.02 at Portland, working 6 innings with 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, and 1 run, defeating New Hampshire 6-1. Hanley Ramirez had another triple and Stefan Bailie a homer and two RBI.

Chris Narveson got lit up for a touchdown at Scranton and the PawSox are trailing 13-3. Chip Ambres, coming in at .360/.435/.653 had another two hits as he campaigns for a callup in the event of injury or illness.

Knock, Knock (W13-5) Season 19-13

Very little to write about last night's game, which lacked a certain, how do you say, drama.

Danny Haren was terrible, and Tim Wakefield muddled through with the 5% solution (6 IP, 3 runs, the 5% quality start) to get his fourth win at the 20% mark of the season.

Kevin Millar hit his first, and the infield's third homer of the season, and Trot Nixon also went deep. Manny Ramirez took a slider off the coconut and had to leave the game.

Cla Meredith got his second action and again had trouble finding the strike zone, although I thought he got squeezed by the home plate umpire. If Ques-tec is giving out grades lately, there must be some pretty low passes.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Who's Your Daddy?

I've been following the Red Sox for about 43 years, so I can't say Ted Williams was my favorite player or nobody turned the double play like Bobby Doerr. So, I'll have to settle for players whom I found had a special achievement over the years. They might be great players, or just fascinating for some reason or another.

Catcher - Jim Pagliaroni; I may be hallucinating this, but somethow I think I recall listening to a game in which Pagliaroni, anything but fleet-footed, hit for the cycle.

First base - Dick Stuart, Doctor Strangeglove. Stuart hit 42 homers in 1963 and had 29 errors at first base. He was meant to be a DH. He led the AL in extra base hits in 1963, so he had to be a pretty good hitter.

Second base - Dalton Jones; Jones was one of those lefties with the sweet swing that you knew was going to be a great hitter. Only it never turned out that way, as he never had 100 hits in a season. Making matters worse was that he didn't have great range or a great glove. Still he had a key hit in the sixth inning rally that propelled the 1967 Sox into the Series.

Shortstop - Spike Owen was one of Roger Clemens contemporaries at the University of Texas. He was a solid defensive shortstop who couldn't hit (.269 his best year, career .246). Somehow Joe Morgan pinch hit Owen for Jim Rice, which may have been what I remember him best for.

Third base - Wade Boggs has to be the man. 3000 hits. Margo Adams. Chicken every day. Does Wade still eat chicken every day. The best two-strike hitter I've ever seen.

Left Field - The memories of Yaz are overwhelming. 1967, the last Triple Crown Year. Losing the batting title to Alex Johnson in 1970 by less than a point when Johnson sits out at bats knowing he's clinched it. Yeah, he popped out against Gossage to end 1978, but he made so many memorable plays in left (the All-Star catch in RFK, the Rohr one-hitter catch, throwing out guys at the plate in Fenway). He hit at least ten homers in 22 different seasons, and hit .369 in the post-season with an OPS of 1.047.

Center Field - Jose Tartabull was a speed guy with a weak arm. Yet, somehow in 1967, he summoned up a two-out throw from center to nail Ken Berry of the White Sox to allow the Sox to save a game.

Right Field - Joe Lahoud was anything but a great hitter, ending his career with a .223 average and 65 homers. But on June 11, 1969 Lahoud smacked three homers for the Sox. Have a day.

Pitcher - not even close. Bill Lee, the Spaceman. Won seventeen games three times from 1973 to 1975, and won 16 for Montreal. Got hurt in a brawl at Yankee Stadium (part of the mystique of the Sox forever) and dubbed manager Don Zimmer, 'The Gerbil'. Lee's signature pitch, 'the Leephus' also allowed Tony Perez to smash a critical homer against the Sox in the 1975 Series.

Honorable mention:
C- Bob Tillman, beaning John Wyatt with a throw to second
1B - Nick Esasky, lost forever after experiencing vertigo
2B - Marty Barrett, with an unforgettable 1986 post-season
SS - Luis Aparicio, tripping around third in 1972, unable to score, the Sox miss the playoffs by 1/2 a game
3B - Juan Beniquez played 17 years in the majors and hit .291 in the 1975 AL pennant season. I remember him most as an option in the computer simulation games of the World Series, another option versus Rico Petrocelli.
LF - Manny Ramirez displaying his American flag after earning citizenship.
CF - Gary Geiger; I don't remember him as being that productive, but from 1961 to 1963 he averaged 17 homers a season.
RF - Tom Brunansky for his season saving catch down in the right field corner.
P - Rogelio Moret, the rail-thin lefthander who developed catatonia during the season, but had 14-3 and 13-2 seasons.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Hold the Phone? (L6-4) Season 18-13 GB 2 1/2

As a colleague reminded me about business the other day, "some days you're gonna be the windshield and some days you're gonna be the bug."

The Sox entered Game 2 with free agent acquisition Wade Miller making his first start, a solid one with five innings pitched, two runs allowed, and six strikeouts. John Halama followed, and when he ran into some trouble in the seventh, Terry Francona opted to call for the rookie, Cla Meredith.

There are a couple of philosophies at work, first, throw the kid into the fire, and second, let him break in without maximum pressure. The 21 year-old sidearmer had trouble finding the zone with two walks, and then Richie Sexson took him into the right field grandstand to give Seattle a four-run lead.

The Sox rallied back with two in the eighth, spurred on by David Ortiz's third RBI of the game, sending reliever Ron Villone to the showers, or maybe to a psychiatric facility after he contested the call on Ortiz's chalk scraper to left.

Eddie Guardado closed out the Sox 1-2-3 in the ninth.

Sox Notes. Thirty-one games into the season, the combined homerun production of the Red Sox infield (1B, 2B, SS, and 3B) is two (Edgar Renteria). The 'Dead Ball Era' lives again. Manny Ramirez continues to struggle, with his average falling to .250.

John Henry will be a commencement speaker at the Boston University graduation in two weeks.

Just my opinion. If you need to play Mark Bellhorn at shortstop because of injuries, then you need to acquire a better defensive shortstop as a filler until Ramon Vasquez is well enough to play.

Farmhouse Talk. Portland won again, with Manny Delcarmen getting the win in relief. Uber-prospect Hanley Ramirez had two hits including a triple (6) and lefthanded hopeful Jon Lester worked 6 2/3 innings of one-run eight strikeout magic to spark the Sea Dogs.

The PawSox beat Syracuse 10-8 with five runs in the eighth inning and Denny Tomori got his first save. The PawSox are 13-16, tied for last, yet also are only three games out of first in the International League North.

Looking Back: Through the Numbers

All of us have our favorite players, guys we 'grew up with' or whose performance somehow seemed larger than life. One of the problems with the qualitative approach is that it may not be valid. In Michael Lewis' Moneyball, Billy Beane asks rhetorically, 'if the guy is such a good hitter, then why doesn't he hit better?"

Which brings us to our 'quick look' at a couple of former Red Sox players, whom I'll identify as player A and player B.

Games R HR RBI OPS HOF Standards HOF Monitor
------------------------- Ave HOF 50 ----- Ave HOF 100

A--1987--1123--314--1092--855 ----- 35 --- 63

B--1969--1063--306--1111--844 ----- 33 --- 83

Player A was Reggie Smith, who played eight seasons with the Sox before having a very successful NL career with the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants. Smith had as good an arm as I can remember. I saw him throw out Dave McNally trying to score on a sacrifice fly. Smith caught the ball just in front of the 379 mark. In 1977 he had an OPS of 1.003. He also won a Gold Glove and played in four World Series.

Player B was Fred Lynn, he of the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year in 1975, winning four Gold Gloves. Lynn was somewhat plagued by injuries, but had an OPS of 1.060 in 1979, and was considered among the best centerfielders defensively of his era.

The use of 'similarity scores' helps us to compare what players in fact did have similar careers, giving us a more objective picture of what they accomplished. Although I don't expect either of these players will make it to the Hall of Fame, both had excellent careers and compare favorably with some of today's stars.

Jeremi (W6-3) Season 18-12

At home, drawing pictures of mountain tops
With him on top lemin yellow sun, arms raised in a v
And the dead lay in pools of maroon below
Daddy didn’t give attention
Oh, to the fact that mommy didn’t care
King jeremy the wicked...oh, ruled his world...
--Jeremy, Pearl Jam

Seattle fell victim to King Jeremi, who celebrated the 157th consecutive Fenway sellout with his first Red Sox victory. Gonzalez showed a live fastball and fewer mistakes, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing two runs to garner the victory.

The Sox trotted out a parade of relievers including Mike Myers, Matt Mantei, Mike Timlin, and Keith Foulke (save) to capture the series, headed into Game 2 at 5:00.

Here are the details on Olise (Cla) Meredith and the confirmation that Blaine Neal was designated for assignment.



The latest on the Anibal Sanchez watch http://sports.mainetoday.com/seadogs/thomas/050508thomas.shtml

Fate That Cruel Wind Doth Blow

The Sox got off to a fast start against the Mariners on a very raw and windy May Sunday. The Sox and M's square off in a day-night doubleheader. Jeremi Gonzalez is working game one.

Kevin Millar (he of the homerless drought) smacked a double off the Monster against gale force winds to clear the bases and give the Sox an early 3-1 league against Joel Piniero.

The Sox and Sea Dogs both were rained out yesterday, and the Celtics were in the deep freeze while eliminated by the Pacers.

Cla Meredith (called up to Pawtucket only Friday) was summoned to Boston today; I didn't hear who was sent down (or released) but I have to presume it was Blaine Neal who has shown good stuff and poor command. Wade Miller goes in Game 2, and I presume that means Lenny Dinardo is not long for the roster.

Statheads delight. Click-through to http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/teams/aleast/ to get a great overview of AL East trends and the numbers behind them. We have to remember that this is the 'analysis' portion of the season where GM Theo Epstein and his baseball staff determine where the team needs improvement in preparation for the 'acquisition' phase.

Down on the Farm. Wilmington right-hander Anibal Sanchez worked 5 innings yesterday with a no-decision, yielding two hits and striking out four. One has to suspect he's ticketed for Portland soon after overmatching Carolina League opposition. Sanchez has 48 strikeouts, 3 walks and 23 hits allowed (WHIP ratio about .85) in 31 innings. Scott White (.281/.379/.427) has been their most productive hitter in what looks to be a pitcher's league. http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/stats/stats.jsp?did=milb&lid=122&t=l_pit&adsc=SO

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Over at www.baseball-reference.com you can find a lot of fun facts. For example, among retired players, the highest ranking hitters in MVP 'shares' who are not in the Hall of Fame are:

1) Pete Rose (at number 17) 3.68 shares
2) Dave Parker (tie 25) 3.19 shares
3) Jim Rice (tie 28) 3.15 shares

This squares somewhat with Bill James' argument that Parker is the best right fielder not in the Hall-of-Fame.

The MVP Shares top 10 all-time:
Barry Bonds (7 time MVP)
Stan Musial
Ted Williams (2 time MVP and left off the ballot vindictively once)
Willie Mays
Mickey Mantle
Hank Aaron
Lou Gehrig
Joe DiMaggio
Mike Schmidt
Frank Robinson

The highest non-Barry Bonds active player? Frank Thomas at number 11.

Babe Ruth? Evidently they didn't have the MVP at that time.

Roger Clemens is number one among pitchers, active or not.

It's All Geek to Me

Over at The Hardball Times, Studes presents a fascinating review of Schell's Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters. I am an enormous fan statistically of the use of standard deviations for comparisons, in conjunction with the concept of 'mean reversion'.

The bad news for 'mean reversion' fans is that exceeding expected performance is often followed by 'normal performance'. Mark Belanger, who earned eight Gold Gloves at shortstop, hit .287 in 1969. A career .228 hitter, he hit .218 the following year. He played in four World Series and six ALCS, which reinforces (for me anyway) the importance of shortstop as primarily a DEFENSIVE position. I think that watching Orlando Cabrera for three months also vividly demonstrated the same point, with due respect to Nomar.


AutoMatt (W7-2) Season 17-12 (GB 3)

"Baseball is like church, many attend, but few understand." - Wes Westrum

Keywords: Boston Red Sox, baseball statistics, statheads, OPS, Boston Dirt Dogs

The Sox, who have played the fewest games of any team at home, won their fourth in a row behind Matt Clement (4-0), downing Seattle and old friend Jamie Moyer. Clement worked seven strong innings allowing jut one run, with yet another quality start.

"Good pitching always stops good hitting, and vice versa." - Yogi Berra

The Sox pounded out ten hits en route to the victory, which denied Moyer his 131st victory in a Mariner uniform which would have tied him with Randy Johnson. Traded in 1996, Moyer came into the season at 192-145 for his career, including two twenty game seasons with Seattle. He won two games in the ALDS against Cleveland in 2001, has been in the top 4 in winning percentage four times, and his 'similarity scores' equate with such luminaries as Dave Stewart, Orel Hershiser, Frank Viola, Rick Sutcliffe, and David Wells. He is 8th among active players with 196 wins. In other words, the Sox beat an outstanding pitcher.

Despite the fact that only three regulars in the lineup are hitting .300 and the Sox OPS is less than .800, the team is still second in runs scored in the American League, although first in on base percentage at .360.

On the hill, the Sox are 4th in starters ERA (4.08) and sixth overall (4.12). The White Sox league the lead in ERA at 2.94.

Red Sox memories for the 'old timers' out there. A few games always stand out in your sports 'corporate memory', for better or worse. Maybe we've moved into the 'better' category.

Game 1, 1975 World Series. El Tiante and an undermanned Sox team, minus Jim Rice, stop the Big Red Machine 5-4 at Fenway Park.

Game 6, 1975 World Series. So many memories. Fisk's homer, Carbo's homer, Evans' phenomenal catch against Joe Morgan, Denny Doyle being thrown out at home by George Foster.

Billy Rohr's 1-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 1967, no-hitter into the ninth, saved by Yaz's miraculous over-the-shoulder, diving catch of a Tom Tresh bomb in cavernous left field.

The pennant winning 1967 game won by Gentleman Jim Lonborg. My dad always called him 'Lumbago'. Lonborg started the rally with a bunt single starting the sixth, Yaz singled with the bases loaded to tie the score, and everything fell into place. The Sox won a lot of converts that season, the season that remade the franchise, going from 9th to first.

Sitting in the bleachers as a young guy, I remember two 'old timers' describing Sixto Lezcano (Brewers outfielder) as 'the young punk', which I thought a term of respect for a worthy opponent. Lezcano peaked out with an OPS of .987 (2nd) with 28 homers and he had at least ten outfield assists seven times. So he was a pretty good player that the kids out there never heard of. I wonder where he is now. You gotta love the Internet.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Growing Up Celtic Green

Okay, okay, not everyone here is even a Red Sox fan, let alone a basketball or a Celtic fan. Growing up in suburban Boston, I was spoiled, and didn't know it. There were Russell and the Jones', Cousy, Satch Sanders, Heinsohn, Havlicek, and Cowens. Later on, Bird, Parish and McHale blessed Boston with the Auerbachian Brinks job that was Parish and McHale for Joe Barry Carroll.

Sixteen titles, a dynasty of Biblical proportions, with perennial playoff contential were all we knew.

The times they have changed. Sometimes the Celtics make the playoffs, and few seasons since 1986 have they made anything approaching a title run. Cocaine killed Len Bias before he got on the parquet and Reggie Lewis' death remains something of a mystery even today. In the talent depleted Eastern Conference of 2005 they won the third seed, courtesy of 'Ron-amok' Artest along with miscellaneous Indiana suspensions and injuries.

Danny Ainge has clearly assembled a higher talent level through a hodgepodge of trades (Ricky Davis a legitimate talent, Antoine Walker a mercurial one, and Gary Payton a wizened star) and drafts. Manchild Al Jefferson and a pair of high energy rookie guards, Delonte West and Tony Allen have made the team fun to watch, although not a championship contender as of now.

Hardest to understand is the inconsistency and petulance that Paul Pierce has become. Pierce has the capacity to be the best all-around offensive player the Celtics have ever had, rivalling the skills of Larry Bird.

Pierce has an astonishing catalog of moves from the wing, rebounds well for his size, and his court vision is pretty solid. He can block shots and anticipate defensively. For all his developed skills, honed on the hardscrabble courts of Los Angeles, he lacked what he needed most, playoff focus for forty-eight minutes.

Pierce took a hard and predictable foul in the final seconds of regulation, and retaliated with a technical foul-inducing forearm shiver to his defender. This sent 'automatic' Reggie Miller to the line to tie the game, and earned Pierce a disqualification.

The Celtics battled valiantly in overtime, undermanned with a weary Payton, a green Jefferson, and the redoubtable Walker and Davis edging out a 92-89 victory.

The grass wasn't greener in younger days, and the league didn't have the same dilution that expansion always brings. But the Celtics always showed poise and professionalism; they need to summon it again from within their basketball souls.

The Mark of Arroyo (W2-1) Season 16-12

The latest matinee idol in Boston, Bronson Arroyo, spun a three-hitter over eight innings, and Keith Foulke nailed down the victory with his seventh save as the Sox tamed the Tigers 2-1 in Detroit.

Arroyo fanned eight, allowing only two walks in extending his unbeaten streak to nine, dating back to August 2004.

Trot Nixon had four hits coming off his suspension, raising his average to .324, doubled in by David Ortiz in the ninth. Old friend Ugie Urbina suffered the loss for the Tigers.

Edgar Renteria injured his index finger while trying to bunt. If the extent of his injury were unclear, it would present an intriguing dilemma for the Sox in finding a replacement for the intermediate term (above and beyond Ramon Vazquez).

Who am I kidding? I didn't see a second of the game, so I can't really comment about it beyond reading the box. Arroyo had a no-no going into the seventh when Carlos Guillen put one in the seats in right.

Sox talk. Melrose's own Chris Snow had a pair of articles in The Globe today, and is doing a great job as a Sox beat writer.

Great coverage of the minor league teams at
http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=t_ibp&did=milb&cid=546. Don't forget to check out another excellent site http://www.soxprospects.com/ which regularly updates who's climbing the ladder to the Show.

Four and Oh for Arroyo

ARROYO, a record cut to be proud of. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat (W4-3) Season 15-12

Tim Wakefield (3-1) combined with Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke to defeat the Tigers 4-3 at Comerica Park as the Sox won the third game of the series.

Kevin Youkilis (The Talisman) plated Jay Payton with the game-winning hit in the 8th inning and Keith Foulke picked up his 6th save.

Edgar Renteria made several outstanding plays snapping out of his defensive funk.

At the one-sixth point in the season, can we make any generalizations? I'm hearing a lot of talk from the baseball fans in my peer group about how the Orioles and the White Sox are flukes. Chicago has had outstanding pitching, and the Orioles have improved with more experienced pitching and Ray Miller, their fine pitching coach ("work fast, throw strikes, change speeds"). The Red Sox have struggled with the O's and we'll see how they match up against the Pale Hose.

Offensively, the Sox two big guns, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz haven't really put together extended hot streaks. Overall, the offense hasn't been consistent and the SLOB factor (Sox left on base) has been painful. Peter Gammons mentioned the other day (on WEEI I think) that the Red Sox probably don't have one player with an OPS equal to last years (? Johnny Damon). Even with this, they're third in the league in runs scored.

Defensively, the Sox have few players who are defensive 'stoppers', including Renteria who has underperformed. The outfield defense has average to below average arms and the speed in center (Damon) carries a below average arm.

The pitching hasn't been consistent, but seems to be getting into a groove, working from the middle, with more productivity from Mantei, good work from Timlin, and Foulke appears to be pulling it together. Wade Miler will be added to the rotation Sunday.

Farm Boys. I'll continue to focus on the Double A 'Dogs' as this remains the major resource in the organization. Tonight the Sea Dogs shut out New Britain 5-0, behind 7 innings from Jon Papelbon (3 hits, 5 walks, 6 Ks) and three hits apiece from Hanley Ramirez (.293) and Dustin Pedroia (.352). The Dogs lead the Eastern League with a 16-7 record (winning less important than development) and four players with high OPS and some pop (Pedroia, Jeremy West, Chris Durbin, Jared Sandberg) along with the best known prospect Ramirez.

Papelbon, Jon Lester, and Cla Meredith lead the staff, although it's hard to imagine Anibel Sanchez not moving up sooner rather than later after dominating at high A Wilmington.

At the AAA level, Abe Alvarez has improved, and Kelly Shoppach has improved both his power and OBP numbers, and it's easy to envision him as marketball as the Sox look for help down the line.

The Future. Billy Beane, Gammons and others describe the season in three phases: 1) evaluation of what you need, 2) acquisition of those needs and 3) competing with the 'corrected' club. The pitching can't be fully judged because of injuries, and GM Theo Epstein and his baseball staff will have to determine whether they can make do, or whether they may have to sacrifice prospects for a frontline starter. I doubt that they will 'rush' the kids. They appear to need first base help desperately, unless Kevin Millar resolves his Jekyl and Hyde first/second half performances.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

"Familiarity breeds contempt." - Aesop

How many times have we heard that Boston has the 'most sophisticated fans in baseball?' Arguably, we sometimes overestimate our familiarity with the 'inner game', strategy, matchups, and day-to-day milieu confronting management daily.

We wonder why 'our' manager sits out a player (injury or illness, bad matchup, or home problems). Players were notorious for wanting to avoid certain pitchers throwing smoke and control problems. We also have 'ownership bias' about our favorite players, overvaluing their ability or contribution potential.

Years ago a local sportscaster (I'll omit his name) told me that although Jim Rice wasn't a great interview, he respected his work ethic (particularly his efforts to improve his defense) and willingness to give interviews after poor performances or 'a tough loss'. In other words, he was a 'standup guy'. On the other hand, other players work the media, making writers' jobs easier, and appear to get a pass on performance.

We measure baseball excellence in different terms than we measure mathematicians, meteorologists, and economists. Mathematics and physical science have high predictive accuracy, medicine and meterorology are closer to ninety percent, while economics and politics lag badly. Baseball clubs winning sixty percent of their games lead the pack, three hits in ten trips might get you to the All-Star game, and fifteen to twenty wins in thirty starts might get you the contract a sheik would envy.

Baseball also affords us spectators a 'clean' look at individual achievement. Especially on television, it's tough for us to know how effective an individual might be playing in a football game because of the interdependence of individual performance on team play. Fielding a groundball or facing breaking stuff bares a baseball player's athletic soul for us to judge. David Ortiz's 2005 playoff run earned him a lifetime of indulgences, whereas Torrezian deliveries in 1978 merited him sports fans' eternal damnation.

Hard to believe, but we know only a fraction of the game, just as a good cook isn't the same as a gourmet chef. Playing stickball or 'five hundred' as a kid doesn't make us qualified to scout prospects or know whether a player has the psychological profile to deal with both success and failure, and to adjust to maintain the former.

Every player in the major leagues was the best player on his team for most of his formative years. Steve Lyons, whose numbers were pretty mediocre, boasted about having had a successful career because he earned the right to fail by outperforming others in baseball's pyramid.

We're always going to rip the manager's handling of the bullpen, bemoan baserunning, and pitch selection. Let's hope that we can't fault either the effort or the focus. We can see the difference.