Saturday, April 29, 2006

Reeling and Rocking

Sports is always a bottom line business - record. And despite the generally punchless offense, after 24 games, the Red Sox are 14-10 atop the American League East. They have also played 14 of the 24 games on the road.

Of course, there is 'deeper' thought as well, concerning relative strength or power ratings. The Sox have been outscored 122-113, a trend that might argue that their longer-term performance might underachieve their start.

If we think about a 'mean reversion' approach, we would certainly expect more from Tim Wakefield (and much less from Jonathan Papelbon), and aside from David Ortiz and to an extent Kevin Youkilis, it would be hard to argue that much of the offense hasn't underperformed (how many negatives in that sentence?).

Statistically, where are the Red Sox as a team, looking at 1) runs scored, 2) OPS, 3) WHIP ratio (walks and hits allowed per inning), and K/BB ratio?

Runs scored: 10th
OPS: .761 (left on base not the only problem)

WHIP ratio: 5th
K/BB ratio: 5th (tends to correlate with ERA prospects)

In comparison, the Yankees are 4th in runs scored, and 2nd in OPS, 3rd in WHIP and first in K/BB. In other words, as suggested by a comment earlier, they have better balance and better pitching, yet the statistical opportunity for this to play out hasn't occurred.

Overachieved (pitching)

Underachieved (pitching)
Wells (incomplete)
Riske (incomplete)


Overachieved (hitting)

Crisp (incomplete)

Gonzalez (not much expected)

So before we push the panic button, our first priority should be to expect more 'mean reversion', as in better performance from the bottom half of the pitching staff (reality or hope?) and better hitting from Loretta, Crisp (return), Varitek, and Ramirez.

A parallel with John Henry's observations from last year seems justified. Oftentimes performance rather than petulance cures what ails you.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Who's Hot, Who's Not

Who's Hot

Papelbon - lights out
Ortiz - no contract Orfizzle here
Foulke - having fun again

Who's Not

Man do we need Coco?
Loretta - needs home cooking?
Bard - "methinks thou dost protest too much", not the answer
Wakefield - run support and catching support


Wily Mo is a lot better than you think
Tavarez may be better than I think
Seanez may be worse than I think
Most underutilized player? Alex Cora

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anomalies Were The Rule - Until

Props to Big Dog at Boston Dirt Dogs for the PapelVaughn headline after the mohawk. Awesome, baby!

Back to action, the Sox rolled into Cleveland in a most strange game. First, the Tribe has a scary lineup. Anybody here remember the old days with the Tribe? Joe Azcue, Duke Sims, Rocky Colavito, Sudden Sam McDowell? Colavito used to stretch holding both hands at the ends of the bat, putting the bat behind his head. McDowell was reminiscent of Mitch 'Wild Thing' Williams.

How many anomalies were there? As Oil Can Boyd might say, "that's what happens when you build a ballpark next to the ocean."

1) Curt Schilling really battled after Cleveland had some fantastic hacks at him early.

2) Ortiz homers off lefty specialist (LOOGY - lefthander out of the pen to get one guy) Sauerbeck

3) Manny homers after an intentional walk to Ortiz

4) Two oddball double plays including a pickoff into a double play, and a double play started in the middle infield and culminating in a play at the plate

5) Timlin fanning Grady Sizemore on a hanging slider. In a results-oriented world, it's every bit as good as a perfect one.

Papelbon - I'm still favoring Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel as his theme music...
I did not believe the information
Just had to trust imagination
My heart was going boom boom, boom
Son, he said, grab your things, I’ve come to take you home.

Foulke - clearly regaining form as a setup guy, with command, control, and the change (I hope he's having fun again)

Willie Harris - kinda making Adam Stern look like Mickey Mantle so far. Get well soon, Coco.

Mike Lowell - lots of leather and the stick has been better than advertised

Pitching and defense, pitching and defense, pitching and defense. An 8-6 win that may have been well-pitched. Strength up the middle (as soon as Coco gets back).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Papel-bon Appetit

We suffer the 'football mentality', that every game is the end of the world. How many times have we heard that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have to appreciate that periodic stumbles don't mean the end of the race.

On the other hand, a victory in April counts as much as a victory in September. The baseball gods of fortune smiled on Matt Clement, who continues to leave sliders up, as they kept Greg Zaun's drive in the park to prevent the Jays from beating the Sox again with doctor longball. If there was such a thing as a 'must win' game in April, this felt like it.

As predicted yesterday, the Sox promoted Manny Delcarmen, as the depth of the bullpen has recently faltered. When asked on Sports Radio about the long-term fate of DiNardo, Seanez, Riske, and Wells, 'the Commissioner', Peter Gammons said he wouldn't be surprised if DiNardo was the only one to ultimately survive the season with the Sox.

The Sox offense managed twelve hits against Toronto today, and Clement broke his personal winless streak against the Jays.

The defense continued to excel, a key along with overall solid pitching. No Samson he, Jonathan Papelbon allowed a pair of ninth inning hits before fanning Vernon Wells and inducing a game ending double play. Papelbon's save was his eighth, one short of the rookie record for April, held by the mercurial Mike MacDougal

Miscellaneous Baseball. Why must we hear of 'baseball activities' as in he will return to baseball activities? Baseball activities seems like a silly euphemism for playing baseball, meaning catching, throwing, and hitting. Why do so many of the players have to have the silly goatees and Van Dykes? Big Papi has an original beard, so that's cool. Papelbon lost a bet, and at least he must be wearing a hat most of the time. And as for all the white guys with shaved heads, most of the time it looks bad - like a misshapen cue ball. There are a few exceptions, but generally black guys carry the look off a lot better. Just my opinion.

On to Cleveland.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dead in the Water

A disabled vessel in Navy parlance remains afloat, "dead in the water." After last night's disappointing blowup, the Sox had nothing today, as Lenny DiNardon't got quickly hammered for four runs and the Sox never responded.

Last night's game was disappointing in a number of respects, but perhaps we should reflect on a few positives. Manny Ramirez showed signs of life with a pair of opposite field homers. Minus the eighth inning, Josh Beckett continued to dominate. Keith Foulke pitched well, working out of a jam in the eleventh, and victimized partly by umpiring and partly by Rudy Seanez. Jonathan Papelbon was lights out, and earned his new mohawk hairstyle with ten innings of scoreless relief.

Suffice it to say that most of the pen will have to have a lot shorter inning requirement to get Kevin Youkilis' 'Shear Madness' routine.

Today, as noted by Jerry Remy, Roy Halladay didn't have his best stuff, but it was clearly enough to shut down the Sox. The absence of Coco Crisp is starting to wear on the top of the lineup, and when the pitching isn't sharp, this team isn't going to be able to make up big deficits very often as currently constructed.

Speaking of pitching, let's review the concept of the 'natural corner'. Righthanded pitchers ball normally moves down and in, making the inside corner to a righthanded hitter the most common location. Most righthanders survive by being able to deal with the inner half. Pitchers who can control both halves of the plate (Jim Palmer notoriously and Schilling currently) have the best chance to be successful (excepting guys like Wakefield with a trick pitch).

So far, the NL acquisitions, Seanez and Tavarez haven't shown the ability to consistently control either side of the plate, nor overpowering stuff. I'll predict that any run of success by Manny Delcarmen or Craig Hansen gives them an outstanding chance of being here sooner, rather than later. If anyone can emerge from the remainder to close, that frees Papelbon to start, although clearly he is the stopper at the back end of games.

With just over a tenth of the season gone, it's fair to say the pitching and defense approach has produced agreeable baseball, although offensively the team has suffered the absence of Crisp, Nixon, and not much so far from Jason Varitek.

I don't have a lot of confidence in DiNardo as the fifth starter, and the Sox are going to need another solution. I've always been an advocate of trying to get Wakefield into an every fourth situation (if he's up for it), reducing the need for the fifth starter by about a third. Pitchers, being creatures of habit aren't going to be wild about it, and I know it will never happen. As for David Wells, everything we're reading suggests that you can stick a fork in him, he's done. Let's hope not, because he's an entertainer, and put up double digit wins last season.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kaz of Death

I know the Sox have beaten Scott Kazmir, but probably not in a fair fight. Kazmir left with a lead in the sixth, having largely shut down the Sox for 5 2/3 innings.

There wasn't a lot of good news for the Sox, who left Kevin Youkilis on base in the first after a leadoff double, and it just didn't get much better.

The good news? Willie Harris had a single to prolong the abortive ninth inning rally. Dustin Mohr took Kazmir deep on a solo shot, and Mike Lowell looked strong at third. Tim Wakefield pitched decently, throwing three perfect innings before the deluge. Coming into tonight's action, the Sox lead the majors in wins with 11. Not too shabby.

The bad news. The Sox couldn't keep Jonny Gomes in the yard, as he clubbed two dingers, and the bullpen was atrocious as Julian Tavarez got savaged. Josh Bard allowed a passed ball with a man on third in Tampa's two-run fourth. Rene Russo wasn't back tonight, except on replay, as Jerry and Don exchanged some good-natured ribbing.

Adam Stern went down to Pawtucket and Harris came up. Stern needs to play everyday, so that's a win-win for him and the Sox. If he can become a consistent hitter, he has a chance to become a pretty good player as he showed consistent defensive skill and flair in center.

Minors. Portland lost to Harrisburg 5-3 despite a David Murphy homerun as the Sea Dogs managed only four hits. John Lester pitched four innings allowing two hits, two runs and struck out six as the Pawsox lost 8-3 to Durham. Jeff Bailey hit his fifth homer for Pawtucket.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Don't Walk Away Rene

Rene Russo's appearance in the stands and the booth led some nominal excitement to a game otherwise marked by ennui. In the 'Inane Banter' redux department, Jerry and Don were unable to identify who Rene dated in the eighties from the Dodgers, and Don got some snaps for his office.

Testimony to the interest the game generated were about 77 'honey shots' of Rene during the contest. By the way, Rene was born February 17, 1954, and still looks pretty good...maybe some plastic surgery happening there?

In JV action, the Pawsox shutout Durham, with a homer and three hits from Jeff Bailey, and six shutout innings from Jimmy Serrano and a pair from Manny Delcarmen. Kason Gabbard got hammered as Portland lost 7-3, and Wilmington won behind Andrew Dobies and a homerun by Michael Hall. Dobies lowered his ERA to 1.69.

Kevin Youkilis led off the game for the Sox with a shot over everything, and probably has only about 70 plus more to catch Ricky Henderson as the all-time leadoff homer record. Youkilis' emergence certainly puts the Hee-Seop Choi fantasy crowd into hibernation.

Meanwhile, at Fenway, Curt Schilling went 6 innings allowing a run and six hits, and the Sox put a crooked number (7) on the board in the third to break the game wide open. Dennis Eckersley's pregame analysis of the Rays ("They stink.") didn't light a fire under the visitors. The Rays have a fair amount of offensive talent (Baldelli out), including Crawford, Gomes, Cantu, Hall, and Wigginton but struggle on the hill. Of course, tomorrow it's Red Sox killer and headhunter primo Scott Kazmir, working against Tim Wakefield.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tamped Down

Seven for seven for Jonathan Papelbon with a death struggle to get out of a bases-loaded ninth inning jam to defeat the visiting Rays and move the Sox to 10-4.

Matt Clement started and pitched well, before tiring in the eighth. It seemed like a logical time to go to the bullpen, but nevermind.

Papelbon required over 30 pitches to dispose of Tampa as his mechanics were off, with his front shoulder flying out resulting in some inconsistency. The point was well-made however that several Rays, including Cantu, Gomes, and Travis Lee put on great at-bats.

Stuff you don't see. First, the four outfielders shift against Ortiz, which failed because he put a couple off the Monstah. Second, a walk-off diving catch in centerfield, reminiscent of Fred Lynn.

Kevin Youkilis has certainly earned a place in the lineup with key hitting, and tonight was no exception with an eighth inning gapper of the base of the wall near the 379 market to plate the two go-ahead runs.

Nitwit radio. Today the shut-ins couldn't get enough licks in against Wily Mo Pena. Pena is a young player gaining experience. He appears to have some concept at the plate, as he's not up there blindly hacking at everything. Also, Trot Nixon, in addition to an injury history, is in his contract year, and could easily walk next year, depending on what his family and monetary preferences are.

It's easy to criticize, but the Sox have generally played pretty good ball, and came into the game with a 3.90 E.R.A., pretty respectable in the American League in 2006.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Seattle Slew

In a rare Patriots' Day win, the Sox nipped Seattle on a Loretta walk-off homer to capture the series 3-1.

I didn't see the game, only the replay (dang that medicine thing) so I have few comments:

1) Trot Nixon looked good hitting, and running, so maybe we've got that one licked

2) Kevin Youkilis legging out the infield hit in the 9th was the 2006 equivalent of 'the stolen base'.

3) It didn't take David Ortiz long to get his swing repaired, including a LONG tater into the right field bleachers

4) Lenny DiNardon't Do It wasn't half bad, at least relative to what we saw previously from Boomer. Rudy Seanez looks less and less like the Answer.

5) Did you ever think you'd be saying 'Mark Loretta walkoff homer?'

In minor league action, Pawtucket lost, but Dustin Pedroia played, and went 1 for 5. David Pauley spun a 7 inning shutout for Portland, and Thomas Hottovy had a six inning whitewash for Wilmington. Jacoby Ellsbury had a hit and two stolen bases to run his total to 6.

The Royals invade Fenway tomorrow night with an ERA in the stratosphere. We can only hope they aren't throwing a rookie the Sox haven't seen before. Lessee, Schilling, Wakefield, Beckett, DiNardo, hmm, must be Clement tomorrow. Warm up the bats Red Sox.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Solsbury Hill and Memory Lane

Today while the Sox were beating Seattle, the trivia question asked who were the last two Sox pitchers to begin 3-0 (Schilling and Beckett have now done it)? The answer was Tim Wakefield and Vaughn Eshelman, who was another of the southpaws who never made it with the Sox. Eshelman's career doesn't deserve much of a mention, but you can click and read it.

The best lefthander of the 'real' modern era (1967 on) for the Sox has been, yes you guessed it, Bill Lee Some have come close, including Bruce Hurst and John Tudor I'm sure 'The SpaceMan' still has nightmares over the Leephus he fed Tony Perez in Game 7 of the 75 series. Hurst would have been MVP of the 1986 series if it weren't for...well, anyway. Tudor, the local product, won 21 games for the Cardinals and had his best years for the Cardinals.

How many lefthanders have come and gone? Well, there was the Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater thing, and so many failures from Matt Young, to Bobby Sprowl, Bobby Ojeda (who later won 18 games for the Mets), to literally one-hit wonders (Billy Rohr), Rogelio Moret (nervous breakdown), Jim Burton (ouch), and more recently Casey Fossum. Even Cy Young Award winner and Series MVP Frank Viola couldn't get it done here.

The Sox haven't really managed to beg, borrow, or steal lefthanded pitching. Meanwhile, there's always the nightmares like Jesse Orosco who could probably come in now, collecting Social Security and get out a lefty.

Beckett got it done again. Peter Gammons had picked him as his preseason Cy Young, so maybe 'the Commissioner' does know something. He's certainly backed away from his total defense of Barry Bonds, although the differences between Barry and the rest of the cheaters were 1) he was a better player, 2) he's chasing records, and 3) he's a surly guy on a good day. Meanwhile, Papelbon came in for another 'Solsbury Hill' save, as in you know, "my heart going BOOM-BOOM-BOOM...I've come to take you home."

Do the fans have to give Willy Mo Pena the Bronx cheer every time he makes a play? He hasn't been Ken Griffey out there, but the Sox haven't exactly been overwhelmed with great defensive outfielders over the years. Manny isn't as bad as people think, Damon wasn't great, and aside from the arm it was scary to watch him in the domes. Trot Nixon is a high-effort guy who is an average outfielder. Mike Greenwell was one of the really terrible defensive outfielders of our time, but the Gator had a lot of media friends.

The infield defense has been tremendous, with everyone from Lowell to Youkilis getting it done. Dustin Mohr has filled in about as well as could be expected.

If you want to complain, look at Jeremy Reed, the guy the Sox were so hot after on Seattle. He doesn't look like much of a hitter, and his defense was atrocious this weekend.

The offense wouldn't look quite as terrible if Manny had started hitting. We all know it's not a matter of whether the sun shines, it's just a matter of how hot it's going to get.

The great DiNardo Experiment starts tomorrow in the 'non-rubber' game of the series, as today was the 'rubber game' in my distorted world. It seems as though the Sox always lose on Patriots Day, so I hope that history doesn't repeat or even rhyme.

Who were your favorite players growing up? I loved Yaz and later Dwight Evans, El Tiante, and Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson. Didn't get to see Al Kaline play a lot, but he was a class act all around. Vida Blue was another guy who intrigued me, as well as the great trio of National League hurlers, Koufax, Marichal, and Gibson. It was hard to like Gibson (1.12 ERA in 1968, 22-9 that year, with 24 career homers) who wrecked the Sox. I think in his greatest year (1968), he went 22-9 and LOST seven games 1-0. I also remember that he pitched one game where he went a couple of innings and gave up five earned runs, or his ERA would have been about 1.00 for an entire season.

Maybe that's why I enjoy baseball so much, because I can look back and compare contemporary 'greatness' with my vision of greatness. Sometimes they aren't so far apart, but I agree with the concept that overall the quality of athletes and training improves, creating a narrower standard deviation of play around the improving mean. And that's today's trip down memory lane.


The Sox lost to the Mariners 3-0 Saturday, as Joel Piniero looked like Juan Marichal against the punchless Sox. Highlights? Tim Wakefield allowed 3 runs in pitching a complete game, and Jermaine Van Buren, up from the Pawsox with David Wells headed back to the DL. Just one of those days. The absence of Coco Crisp and Trot Nixon has surfaced, along with Manny being Manny Alexander so far.

Wells trip to the DL comes as no surprise, after during his initial outing he failed to break glass with his fastball. And we wonder why Theo couldn't move him during Spring Training. At least Wells' incentives must be giving him plenty of motivation.

It's back to Beckett today, for the rubber game of the series. So far, it's been "Beckett and Schilling and the rest aren't so thrilling", although Wakefield has been decent. Who gets the number 5 spot in the rotation? DiNardon't?

Papelbon (we hope) is destined to be our number three starter (technically number 4) and we can only hope that Foulke, or somebody else from the committee can step up, with Hansen and Delcarmen with electric stuff and short on experience.

The Pawsox lost to Charlotte 7-4, as Jon Lester got roughed up for a couple of homers and 5 runs in two innings. I guess he still hasn't found his release point. Portland beat Binghamton behind a pair of Alberto Concepcion dingers. Craig Hansen had three strikeouts in relief. Wilmington also won, with strong middle relief from Kyle Jackson. Whoop-de-damn-do...

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Can you draw conclusions about a baseball team ten games into the season? Injuries are part of the game, yet ten games into the season, and absent a couple of regulars for about half (Crisp and Nixon), the Sox have jumped out to a 7-3 starts to lead the AL East.

These aren't necessarily your father's Red Sox, or even YOUR Red Sox offensively, as they're in the middle of the pack in runs production, averaging 5 runs/game. However, they're tied for 5th in the AL in OPS, so maybe better days are ahead offensively. The Sox also check in at 10th in home runs, likely to improve once Manny Ramirez gets off the schneid.

Although the pitching has generally shined (3rd in ERA), we have to wonder whether they can keep it up, 6th in WHIP ratio (walks and hits per inning pitched) and 9th in K/BB which may be a better predictor of future ERA than ERA itself.

The good news comes defensively, where they have allowed only three errors in ten games, and had eight error-free games. They are among the league leaders in double plays at short, second, and first and the double play combination of Gonzalez and Loretta appears to be the best Sox combo I've seen watching this team for 45 years. That's not a knock on the Bressouds, Owens, Riveras, Garciaparras, Lansings, Petrocellis, Griffens, and so on. Just the facts.

Last night Curt Schilling was masterful amidst the raindrops, and Jonathan Papelbon clearly has a presence on the mound reminiscent of the Radatz days, where you felt the opposition was outgunned. Schilling proved economical with his pitches, and Questek didn't seem to inhibit Tim Tschida's vision of the outside corner either. Joe Brinkman doesn't give you that.

Offensively, the Sox put up ten hits against Jamie Moyer and crew, and one shouldn't forget that Moyer is the number 8 active pitcher in career wins and 96 ALL-TIME. Really. He kept both Ortiz and Manny in check, but Alex Gonzalez had three hits to drive in both Sox runs and move above the Mendoza Line up to .239.

Rumors have it the Marlins are continuing their fire sale, looking to unload Dontrelle Willis, and looking for an asking price of Jon Lester and Papelbon. Not happening.

Farm Boys. The Pawsox topped Charlotte 5-4, with Jeff Bailey, Hee-Seop Choi, and Rodney Nye leaving the yard. Portland won 4-3 with Matt Van der Bosch and Zach Borowiak each getting a pair of hits, and Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits (.412), a walk, and a stolen base as he tears up the Carolina League.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Curse of Reid Johnson

Reid Johnson gets back in the lineup last night, and he ruins the Sox for the series. Meanwhile, Ted Lilly, in the same vein as Andy Pettitte, Tom Tresh, and Gates Brown, kills the Sox. Lilly, with his career .494 winning percentage coming into 2006 is Sandy Koufax reincarnate against the Sox with a 10 strikeout, no walk performance.

What could go wrong? Matt Clement could have the 'wild in the strike zone' plague, throwing nothing but meatballs up in the zone, and not even another David Ortiz homerun (4) could rescue him. Clement's E.R.A. balloons to 9 (for non-math types, ERA = earned runs times nine divided by innings pitched).

Julian Tavarez debuted off the suspended list, and made nobody forget, let's say Manny Delcarmen. Gotta cut some of these guys without any recent game action some slack, however.

Highlights? A Keith Foulke 1-2-3 inning deserves a note, and Alex Gonzalez, struggling mightily at the bat, hammered a gapper to the Monstah for a hit. Hits have been few and far between for A-Gone, but with the Golden Glove, he deserves a chance to work it out.

Minor refractions. Matt Ginter was on the long end of a Pawsox shutout. Ginter has kicked around the majors for the last few years, with a great strikeout to walk ratio in the minors, that probably got him a Sox minor league contract (one of their magic formulas). Enrique Wilson had a tater from the shortstop position.

The Portland SeaDogs came up on the short end of a 3-0 defeat. Will the likes of David Murphy, Brandon Moss, and Jeremy West be real prospects or suspects. Murphy came on like gangbusters in the second half last year, but he and Moss have some depth to overcome now with Crisp, Stern, and Pena ahead of them.

Speaking of young outfielders, Jacoby Ellsbury got the night off for Wilmington in the Carolina League, as the Blue Rocks (doesn't that sound vaguely obscene) went down 4-1.

Seattle comes in tomorrow night, including the ageless wonder, Jamie Moyer, whom the Sox traded for Darren Bragg (I think...I didn't look it up, so I'm sure I'll get a thousand corrections). Not exactly Lowe and Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rotten Grapefruit

You win 60, you lose 60, and what happens in those other 40 games makes the difference. Or something like that. Today was one of those 60 games you lose (he writes as they play the bottom of the eighth).

The game was painful from the outset. You didn't have to be Johnny Sain to see that Wells didn't have it. Last year, he often got it up there at 88-89 mph, and may have touched 90 a few times. Tonight is was mostly 80-83, with an occasional 85. Without a trick pitch, a herky-jerky delivery, or pinpoint control and a big zone, can Wells can win if the stuff he has tonight is what's left in his arm?

What a difference a day makes. Quality starts coming with regularity, followed by junk.

You can't say that a guy who's pitched in the majors for 20 years, 'suddenly' lost it. You have a bad day at the office and it doesn't mean you're finished. But professional sports has legions of young, talented, hungry athletes ready to challenge for your spot. And don't think that David Wells and Theo Epstein don't know that.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the field, the defense remained good, and Doctor Longball showed up in the persons of Dustin 'The Wind' Mohr, David Ortiz, and Wily Mo 'Coyote' Pena. Although Youkilis hit the ball well into tonight, he looked totally out of it at the plate, but played a crisp first.

Rudy Seanez didn't look like 'El Busto' tonight.

John McDonald really gets rid of the ball quickly at short. I'm presuming that means he doesn't have much of an arm. I like to watch the shortstops that make it look easy, like Vizquel, or obviously Gonzalez. Nomar and Jeter both make a lot of plays look hard. Gonzalez made an eye-popping play from the hole tonight.

Scanning the minors, I see the Pawsox have Trent Durrington pitching in extra innings, so I guess the pen is gassed. Dustin Pedroia is supposed to be on the shelf for now with a shoulder strain. At least the Sox don't have the need right now. Jacoby Ellsbury had a couple of hits for high A Wilmington, and the Pawsox don't score much. You can check 'em all out at

When you can't watch the players, you can watch their stats. Because baseball is fundamentally a game of run production and run prevention, I like to watch the OPS (on base slugging percentage) of the hitters, and the WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of the pitchers, as well as the K/BB ratios.

Although Abe Alvarez gets guys out in AAA, I just wonder if he has enough fastball to win in The Show. Maybe he's Mark Buehrle 'Lite' or in my wildest dreams Mike Cuellar They used to say of Cuellar, that he threw pitches up like they were rotten grapefruit. Of course, how far can you hit a rotten grapefruit?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


No word on the blister watch, but the Sox and Josh Beckett (2-0), did some more bird-hunting today, plucking the Jays 5-3. Beckett gave up a run in seven innings, followed by a good enough effort by Foulke (vide infra), and a shutdown close from Jonathan 'Money' Papelbon (S4).

Foulke was victimized by Wily Mo Pena's inexperience in right, as the ball tipped off Pena's glove for a two-run homer. Pena was in there because Trot Nixon tweaked a muscle. Legalize steroids! Oh, sorry about that.

The Sox used the offense of a thousand paper cuts to get four runs in the second, and David Ortiz celebrated gazillionaire status by going deep into the rightfield grandstand.

The Sox starting pitching continues to shine, with David Wells hoping to fatten up on the Blue Jay lineup. Maybe not a good choice of words. Wells looks to add onto last year's fifteen victories, so it's no laughing matter.

The Sox played errorless ball for the fifth time in seven games. Kevin Youkilis raised his average to .412 with a pair of hits from the leadoff spot and Adam Stern had a pair of RBI and a stolen base in his understudy role for Coco Crisp. And Mike Lowell, the 9 million dollar throw-in with Josh Beckett had four hits including three doubles.

A home opener victory, 61 degrees, 35,491 or so satisfied customers, and six wins in seven outings. Blistering. Now if we can only keep Tranquility Base operational.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Same style, different day. Not even a broken Coco could upset the Sox clockwork victory, leading to a sweep of the Baltimoreans. The Sox get off to their best start in seven years and head home for Opening Day Tuesday.

Adam Stern filled in more than admirably for Coco Crisp with two runs batted in filling in for Coco Crisp who had injured his glove hand sliding last night.

Another quality start, as Wakefield goes six, allowing one run. Josh Bard had no difficulties behind the plate, and scored a run on a heads up baserunning play.

The Sox beat longtime nemesis Rodrigo Lopez, and Kevin Millar gets the walkoff out for consecutive games.

Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke both looked solid in relief, and although Jonathan Papelbon wasn't as sharp as in the previous games, he got it done, notching his third save and remaining unscored upon.

The most encouraging aspects of the victories are the total team contribution with different players contributing to the victory daily. About the only negative note was a pair of Sox errors, the first leading to an Oriole run.

On the post-game show, they noted that Terry Francona was the 17th Sox skipper to reach 200 victories, and he has achieved it in the second fewest games.

The Sox' zero earned runs allowed drops their ERA to the neighborhood of '4' for the season. In the 'things you never see' category, the Sox' Alex Gonzalez had a key sac bunt with two on, perfectly placed down the third base line, which led to a pair of runs. Small ball can win, too.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


The Sox came into the season with a number of questions, including the health and resilience of Curt Schilling and the need for a closer. Schilling moved to 2-0 with another outstanding performance, and Jonathan Papelbon mowed down the Orioles to earn his second save.

The Sox squandered some run-scoring opportunities, but let's also recognize the difficulty of hitting under adverse conditions.

Schilling allowed 3 hits and an earned run in seven innings, Mike Timlin was solid in the setup role, and Papelbon remained lights out with two balls in the air and a strikeout of fastball-hitting Kevin Millar.

Offensively, the Sox have 5 regulars batting at least .300 and this group continues to work the count.

Defensively, the Sox didn't have to make a lot of tough plays, but they've made only one error in five games, with J.T. Snow also in for defense at the end.

Joe Brinkman was atrociously consistent during the game. He has an exaggerated stance behind the catchers left shoulder, and frankly I don't think he has any idea where the outside corner is. The inside corner seemed extra wide, particularly on Lowell's initial at bat, which torpedoed a Sox scoring threat early. He also could have contributed to Varitek's near injury, inadvertent obstructing him trying to catch a foul popup.

The Sox moved to 4-1, by continuing to play unusually solid baseball, the kind that defeated them last October.

Tomorrow Tim Wakefield seeks his first win, and Josh Bard seeks redemption and continued employment.

Early Triumphs and Concerns

Four games isn't much of a sample size for broad generalizations, but a few points stand out.

  • The double play combination of Gonzalez and Loretta appears to be a large upgrade over any recent middle pair. Gonzalez' starting a tough one from the hole last night served as an eye-opener
  • Trot Nixon. Who would have predicted him to 1) lead the team in RBI after four games and 2) have homered off a southpaw?
  • Mike Lowell has been solid at third.
  • Coco Crisp (.381/.500/.881) appears to be a far cheaper alternative to 'Samson' Damon, with a smaller hat and plenty of cattle
  • Jonathan Papelbon looks to have taken up where he left off last season

On the to be determined side:

  • Keith Foulke's struggles look 'workable' as Terry Francona has decided not to let Foulke's salary interfere with his decisions.
  • The bullpen newcomers, Riske and Seanez will get more rope before scrap, but 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression.'

Worrying about this one:

  • Josh Bard looked pretty helpless behind the plate catching Wakefield's offerings against Texas. Because of the potential for base advancement literally destroying Wakefield's effectiveness, Bard probably doesn't have more than a couple of more chances for redemption.

"Baseball isn't a matter of life and death. It's a lot more important than that." If you can't have fun with it, then join the Commissioner's Office.

Is the Unthinkable Possible?

Dan Shaughnessy ---- Napoleon Dynamite

It does make you think...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Going to the Matt

Despite a furious Baltimore comeback spearheaded by Rudy Seanez, the Red Sox held off the Orioles at Camden Yards, 14-8. the Sox pounded 'Wild Thing 2' Daniel Cabrera for 7 runs, mostly on walks. Cabrera's effort reminded me of what Sparky Anderson used to say about players hitting sixty points higher if they could wear a suit of armor to the plate. Cabrera couldn't have found home plate with a cane, a dog, and GPS.

Matt Clement looked sharp for six innings, shutting down the birds before he weakened in the seventh. Rudy Seanez recalled the John McKay quote about being asked about the execution of his team, "I'm in favor of it." Seanez got reacquainted with the American League, where guys can hit.

On the very positive side, Manny Ramirez swung the bat well with three hits before sitting down in the seventh, and Trot Nixon went yard off lefty Doug Dubose, tying his output against southpaws for 2005. A-Gone and Loretta looked rude and smooth turning two in the middle, and J.T. Snow made a terrific diving stop down the line to spare Seanez from even more damage. Finally Keith Foulke was in control for the ninth in what means much more than mop up for the comebacking reliever.

Overall, it was an ugly game, but a divisional win over an Oriole team that has caused the Sox fits over the year. With Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, and Miggy Tejada, it's hard to imagine many easy wins for the Sox over the Birds this year.

As usual, the key is pitching and Clement was on and Cabrera wasn't. Curt Schilling gets his second start tomorrow, weather permitting.

And now for something completely different

Check out Mike Colucci's "Red Sox Stats Guy." Even classmate Eric Van might be envious.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Standup Guys

Even in Red Sox Nation, enemy agents not only exist, but boast about it. Sometimes. After a hated Yankee win, like their opening day massacre of Oakland, the hated Yankee partisans wax eloquent about their great lineup, about how 'RJ is back'.

After the Sox' loss Tuesday, it was all about 'Wakefield's lost it' and 'Josh Bard couldn't catch a cold.'

Even after a close loss, like Tuesday's Proctorology Job on the Bombers, they noted that 'Moose looked like a kid again'. Translation: Mike Mussina didn't stink up the joint like last year. But after last night's debacle by the bay, starring Jaret 'Mister' Wright, the hated Yankee apologists were nowhere in sight. Heck, it was easier to get Alfonso Soriano into the Nats' outfield than draw the Bummed Bomber Boosters into the open.

I mean, really. Normally, the hated Yankee-NY football Giant crew will be out lambasting the umpires-officials, the weather conditions, or the phase of the moon, but they're already gone Executive Privilege on us.

Sox fans of yesteryear have suffered through a lifetime of disappointment, expunged through the Cardinal Catharsis of 2004. We know how to take a bullet. But there are children in elementary school who have never seen a Bomber championship. Maybe they've doubled the numbers of school nurses in New Yawk, to help the kids adjust to the trauma.

Sure the Bronxers have a most potent lineup, even 'juiced' you might say, enhanced by Johnny 'Samson' Damon, and their pitching staff has as many question marks as the Riddlers suit. Both pitching staffs most important card isn't the 'Ace' but rather their insurance card, with Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano looking as though they belong on the Sandy Alomar Memorial Disabled List.

All we can ask is for a little 'standup guy' action. Take your medicine. We've been there and done that. Or maybe they're just tired from starting the season on the Left Coast.

P.S. To the NESN folks - Maybe you need a warning concerning Josh Beckett, "to our hearing impaired listeners who can read lips, any opinions expressed by Josh Beckett do not reflect the opinions of our announcers or any of our station personnel."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's About the W

There's no closer controversy. Yet. This isn't like the NFL, where if you have two number one quarterbacks, then you don't have any. It's about getting the job done, and ultimately Jonathan Papelbon is a future top-of-the-rotation guy. We all dream of a productive rotation with Beckett, Papelbon, Lester, and some more young guns. Craig Hansen is the closer-in-waiting, not JP.

No kidding. But back to today. Don't read lips, especially if you're faint of heart, as Josh Beckett punches out hitters and does some fist pumping. Beckett has the overpowering heat, a hard sinker, and struggled a bit with less than 12-to-6 action on the breaking ball. Quality start = victory. The QS has a 100% predictive value on the young season.

It's easy to see improved defense (don't forget the 7-5-2 out at the plate), and it's always good to win a series, especially on the road.

Pen Pals. Timlin looked shaky, but maybe shaking off the rust will get him back to where he needs to be. Papelbon was simply spectacular, blowing away the Rangers.

Nixon's the One. The Sox didn't hit much against another first time around starter, but it was enough. Obviously, Papi's going to face the shift, but he's not up

"It's just that simple." My college coach always used to say this. You play good baseball and you have a solid chance of coming out on top. Tonight the Sox simply played good baseball. Refreshing, like a breath of fresh air. Beating the opposition on the road with pitching and defense, just like Mr. Doubleday drew it up.

Hearts not Fluttering

Last night looked more like Texas as usual, as the Rangers pounded Tim Wakefield and the Sox. About the only one who looked happy to see Wake go, was Josh Bard, who looked like he was trying to eat soup with a fork. Maybe Wakefield had a great knuckler, or maybe Bard's going to be looking for a new line of work.

All too often, people dispel the notion of 'quality starts' as having importance. Last night it was the Texans who had the QS, and in the two game series, the QS has a 4-0 record. Academic reseach (really) shows that the QS results in a winning outcome in about 70% of games.

As feared, the Sox saw a new pitcher (Vicente Padilla) from the National League, and didn't do much with him, either. Of course, with some former NLers in the lineup, how new was he.

About the only positive from the debacle, was the opportunity to watch an absolutely terrific Womens Hoop Championship as Maryland squeaked past Duke 78-75 in OT. The Maryland point guard buried a stepback trey over Duke's 6'7" center with six seconds to go to send the game into overtime.

The Yankees kept pace with the Sox dropping a 4-3 decision at Oakland.

Tonight the Sox unveil Peter Gammons' preseason Cy Young pick, Josh Beckett whom we hope has a blistering fastball, and no blisters.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Quality Start

The Red Sox couldn't sign Kevin Millwood during the offseason. So they did the next best thing, beat him like a rented mule, capturing the season opener for the first time since 2000, topping Texas 7-3.

The 'new look' Sox, not just another Soviet-style 5 year plan in the making used a quality start by Curt Schilling (7 IP, 2 ER) and Doctor Longball, with taters from Big Papi and Mike Lowell to earn the win.

Meanwhile, Jon Papelbon looked like Dr. Frankenstein's monster in shutting down the potent Rangers, and Keith Foulke made it interesting, serving up batting practice to Texas, who could only manage a run off the Comeback Player of the Year wannabe.

Coco Crisp showed serious wheels on the basepaths and made a spectacular run-saving catch in the 9th, sparing Foulke further damage to his E.R.A. Meanwhile David Ortiz had 3 hits and 3 RBI in his first repudiation statement concerning last year's MVP balloting.

Hope springs eternal, especially on the first Monday in April, where even the Royals, Rays, and Reds can claim to be in the pennant race.

The Sox continued to lead the majors in defense throwing up a goose-egg of errors today.

Alumni Elsewhere. Meanwhile, for the Dodgers, Nomar got off to a day on the bench with a rib injury and Derek Lowe issued only one walk in 5 innings, but took the loss, allowing 7 earned runs and running his E.R.A. to 12.60. Why should we care? It's simply who we are and what we do.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


On the eve of the Sox inaugural outing of the 2006 campaign, it's time to put up or shut up. ESPN the Magazine picks the Sox 3rd in the AL East, Peter Gammons picks a hated Yankees-Cardinals Series (and Bobby Crosby to be AL MVP), and ESPN online has the Sox winning the wild card.

The website ran multiple seasons (1000) using the Diamond Mind Baseball software program, and came up with some interesting results. The hated Yankees win the AL East 619 times to the Bosox' 283. Combining the Division titles and Wildcard, the Sox project to make the playoffs 522 times.

Adjusting for statistics from Baseball Prospectus, the Sox continue to make the playoffs about 52% of the time. For what it's worth, the Blue Jays project to win the division 84 times and reach the playoff 177 times, and the Tampa D-Rays get shut out, in both the original Diamond Mind simulation. Of course, I don't know how this accounts for injuries, especially with the geezers present on some of the best teams. Obviously, the hated Yankees and the Sox have the capacity to acquire (buy) players to fill gaps. And it doesn't account for the 'Juice Guys', Sheffield and Giambi, or Johnny Damon's Samson-like weakness while shorn.

I consider a good start essential to project a favorable season, but lacking that data, I'll pick the Sox to win the wild card in a tough battle with the White Sox, with the Yankees, Indians, and Athletics winning the divisions. I'm more concerned about the Sox offense than anything else, expecting disappointing production from the infield especially. Of course, ultimately it's about the pitching. Gammons picks Josh Beckett to win the AL Cy Young, and if he produces to that extent, I'd expect the Sox to win at least 92 games.

I'm concerned about Gonzalez' offense, particularly in the offspeed-pitching happy American League. With a couple of seasons under his belt, Terry Francona should handle the headaches, media, and pitching more effectively (Mike Timlin should take consolation there), and the pitching coach is overrated on a geriatric staff.

Let's get it on.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Taking Care of Business

Two more days, two more nights, before the Boys of Summer take the stage, for real. They're a tad short-handed, minus the hot-headed Julian 'Tyson' Tavarez.

I've expounded on my negative theories about Texas trips before, with the abundance of 'Gentlemen's Clubs' in Arlington. Are they an ill-fated attraction for young men with more than Thoughts of Glove, and Bat and Ball? So, any Sox fans in Arlington, I want you to bring your mug shots to Arlington's Finest Clubs and make sure the guys are getting their rest and resting their livers. I'm pretty sure there's data to show that most teams who aren't over .500 for the first ten games of the season don't make the playoffs.

But no reason to be pessimistic, right? The Rangers send Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, and Kameron Loe to counter Schilling, Wakefield, and Beckett. Sometimes the Sox have struggled when they don't have a book on the opposition's newcomers, so let's hope that's history.

Meanwhile, rumors persist that the Sox are about to show David Ortiz the money. If anybody deserves the dough, it's Big Papi, who has embraced the city, delivered in the clutch, and is arguably the club's most popular player.

Do the Sox have question marks? Of course, everyone does. Health is the biggest issue for the rotation, with some baseball geezers in Schilling, Wakefield, and Wells, and concern always for Beckett's shoulder and blisters. My lying eyes have only watched Lowell's bat speed lagging the Spring Training fastballs, and we can only hope that Alex Gonzalez has more in the stick than Luis Rivera and Spike Owen, maybe approaching Eddie Bressoud during his career years. If you don't know these guys, then you're lucky, because you're a heckuva lot younger than I am.

Have a great weekend.