Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pauley Cotillion

David Pauley's coming out party plays to mixed reviews. Sinker or not, he's leaving a lot of balls up in the zone, but did get three DPs, although it should have been 1-2-3 not 1-6-3.

From the stretch, Pauley reminds me of Derek Lowe, but without as much sink, at least tonight. He does have enough giddyap on the heater (88-91) to earn respect for it. He doesn't look like Brian Rose either though, who never had an out pitch. Rose, a high school phenom, never had the stuff to win. As I understand it, he had a personality-stuff disparity, although I have never met the man.

I would like to see more consistency in his delivery. The best pitchers tend to have a compact delivery with power focused from the leg kick and back leg drive. Pauley often seems to throw across his body, not as much as a Mark Gubicza did, but enough to cause him to lose control. His arm slot on the curveball seems more vertical than that on his fastball.

It appears that Pauley could get people out with the change or the outside fastball. He will not be able to win with two pitches, and the best curve he threw (to Zaun), somehow got missed by the umpire, who probably got surprised.

He has been very fortunate, in that some 'mistake' fastballs to Alfonzo and Glaus got popped up instead of driven out.

It's only one game, and it's not as though we can know whether this is his 'A' game (I doubt it) or his worst (also unlikely). He has shown reasonable poise considering the gravity of the situation.

The scouting report is that he gets stronger as the game progresses, and it will be interesting to see if he goes five and out, or whether he can make it into the sixth.

Preliminary grades:

Poise: A
Control: B-
Fastball: B
Change: B
Curveball: D

Stat Freaks Can't Know This

The ESPN (and other) site statistical info is terrific. Here are some samplers of truly incredible stuff.

Top 4 in Slugging - AL
Dye (huh)
Swisher (Moneyball guy)
Rios (this guy's killing us)

Least likely guy in the top 10 in runs scored?
9) Orlando Cabrera (40)
10) Brad Wilkerson (39)

Running Game
Crawford 20 of 23 SB
Posednik 18 of 25 (leads league in caught stealing)
Brian Roberts honorable mention, 9 thefts, not caught

On base percentage
12 ALers have .400 or higher OPS including 3 Sox (Manny at 3, Youk at 5, Nixon at 11)

Most RBI by an unknown?
Jose Lopez of Seattle checks in at numero 10, with 40!

And the Sabermetric winners are...?
The top 5 in runs created are Thome, Swisher, Hafner, Wells, and Sizemore

Number one in BB/K in the AL? A shocker.
Trot Nixon 1.73

Wily Mo Pena to have wrist surgery, so I'm going to have to find a new underdog to root for. I'd be leaning towards Manny Delcarmen, but I'm afraid he's on the Pawtucket Shuttle. Alex Cora may have to do, but it's hard to get a fan club from the pine.

David Pauley gets the nod tonight? Why? Obviously where you come up in the rotation counts, but I think that there are a pair of stats that are more predictive than others for success - K/BB ratio and WHIP.

Of the minor league starters with at least 30 innings, the WHIP leaders are: with their K/BB ratios

Alvarez 1.15 (soft tosser) 21/15 (too low)
Deschennes 1.22 (reliever prospect) 27/14
Ginter 1.23 (too many hits, very few walks) 35/7
Lester 1.38 (best long-term prospect) 40/20

Seibel 0.89 (coming off surgery?) 31/11
Smith 1.09 34/12
Gabbard 1.17 (lefty) 47/20
Pauley 1.18 (tonight's abusee) 47/17

The Red Sox get plenty of criticism for not throwing the pups into the fray from time to time (see Hanley Ramirez). Pitchers may be a different story, as it's much harder for a position player to come in and totally put the whammy on your chances than a pitcher. Lord knows the Bobby Sprowl story, and the Boston Massacre of almost 30 years ago.

The Globe describes Pauley as a 'fringe fifth starter'...which doesn't make him materially different from the other fifth starters in the league. If you were a 'mainstream' fifth starter, you wouldn't be the fifth starter.

Let's hope the Sox are hiring a full-time sports psychologist to work with the team, to reinforce positive vibes for the well, to fix the unwell, and to try to get the rest to stop reading the papers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just Got Beat

We shouldn't try to read too much into a game (or two), but on the other hand we shouldn't ignore reality either. If pitching and defense win games, then lack of pitching surely compromise that chance.

As far as available, reliable pitchers, the Sox are down to Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Papelbon, and Foulke.

In the inconsistent at best category live Clement, Tavarez, and Seanez.

In the unknown commodity category we have Pauley (starting tomorrow), Delcarmen, and VanBuren.

In the don't inspire confidence, 'Help Me Rhonda' club is David Riske, who has better stuff than results so far.

In the 'oh, oh, old and health challenged locker are David Wells and Mike Timlin.

In the 'can't break glass' rubric live Abe Alvarez and Lenny DiNardo.

And finally, in the PawSox Promise dumper are Jon Lester and Craig Hansen.

As a Sox fan, I want to see guys who can get people out through overpowering stuff, command, and 'discomfort'. I don't want guys digging in like they're contractors. I want a little fear in their minds.

A little healthy wildness is a useful attribute...I don't mean throwing at people, just not entirely sure where it's going, and with something on it. Sure, I'd like Bob Gibson, but he's not walking in that door.

Remy was right tonight about the impact of losing Timlin creating confusion and uncertainty. And don't blame Francona. He can only throw out there whoever he has rested.

This is what I envision for the near future:

1) Schlling
2) Beckett
3) Wakefield
4) Wells
5) Tryout camp...with Pauley, Hansen, and Lester in that order getting the chances.

6) Papelbon (it's not broken, so don't fix it)
7) Foulke (another option to try as a starter)
8) Tavarez
9) Seanez
10) Van Buren
11) Delcarmen (has potential to be a lot more valuable than some)
12) Riske (a couple more stinkers and we're looking at Riske as permanent mopup or worse.

Clement to DL

The other option is to try Wakefield every fourth day and work the rotation around him (that's the desperation strategy).

Clemens isn't coming either, so just fuggedaboutit.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Modern-Day Manager

The Red Sox have enjoyed success for a number of years, thanks to key players, a big payroll, and the willingness and ability of management to identify key players and to trade for and/or sign them. However, another component to success is the contemporary manager.

The argument in many sports centers around the 'players' manager' or the 'disciplinarian'. Inevitably, a teams' success wanes (or doesn't happen) and a paradigm shift results, the change from Column A (players' manager) to Column B (tough guy). The Red Sox developed an organizational tectonic shift, to 'Moneyball', and needed a manager who could bridge the gap between tradition and change.

Tradition includes the 'in your face' tough guy attitude with 'I know a player when I see him', while change understands the needs of the contemporary player and the relevance of statistics to player acquisition and development, matchups, and strategy. It soulds simple, especially to fans who often embrace baseball sophistry instead of sophistication.

In the 'blame your predecessor' category, we have Grady Little, a baseball old school lifer, who clung to his beliefs versus organizational philosophy. Enter Francona, who understands the advantages (and limitations) of the modern approach, and adheres to the dynamic of process and outcome explored in Moubassin's More Than You Know.

Yesterday's game exemplified Sophie's Choice, selecting among the alternatives of winning today versus sacrifice to win over the long pull. With our collective football mentality, we worship the 'Win Today' attitude, but often ignore the potential disaster inherent in that. The top of the bullpen (Papelbon, Timlin, Foulke) was either gassed or hurt (Timlin to the DL), and the Sox had some nicks on the field as well (Ramirez). Francona bit the proverbial bullet, and chose process over outcome, knowing the risks and benefits. The outcome pales in comparison with the process.

Fortunately, the Sox enjoyed a substantial lead headed into the fateful ninth inning, where the bullpen and defense imploded (key passed ball) but Fenway's short left field giveth and taketh away as Willie Harris gunned down Joey Galbraith to end the game.

Francona has the pelt (World Series title), the temperament (the guy can find the silver lining), and the experience (had the beatdown in Philly) to expect (.596 winning percentage in Boston coming into 2006) loyalty and respect if not adulation from Hub fans. Yes, he sometimes makes us crazy leaving pitchers out there (but who's the long man?), but he is genuine and knows that tomorrow is another day. He never publicly humiliates a player or throws them under the bus.

For all the Philistines out there, I say kudos to Francona; Red Sox Nation is lucky to have him.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Quarter Pole All-Star Team

There's plenty of subjectivity in selecting or voting for All-Stars. Aside from productivity, choices occur (or don't) because of reputation, injury, and even bonuses. Let's do our homework and try to pick the legitimate All-Stars that will represent the AL. It only makes sense to select by team, although some teams (Kansas City) probably don't deserve a selectee. There is no DH this year. One player will be voted in by the fans.

AL West (4)
Texas-- Blalock (3B)
Anaheim-- Guerrero (OF)
Oakland-- Swisher (OF)
Seattle-- Ichiro (OF)

AL Central (7)
Chicago-- Thome (1B)
Detroit-- Shelton (1B), Ordonez (OF)
Cleveland-- Hafner (1B), Blake (OF)
Minnesota-- Mauer (C)
Kansas City-- Grudzielanek (2B)

AL East (9)
Boston-- Ramirez (OF), Lowell (3B)
New York-- Jeter (SS), Giambi (1B), Posada (C)
Toronto-- Rios (OF), Wells (OF)
Tampa Bay-- Gomes (OF)
Baltimore-- Tejada (SS)

Toughest inclusion: Grudzielanek...KC is just downright terrible. As it is, you probably have to ask a shortstop to play out of position at second base. Both Lopez of Seattle and Iguchi of the White Sox are much better players than Grudzielanek.
Toughest omissions: Glaus (Tor), Konerko (Chi), Ortiz (Bos), Rodriguez (NY)

Let's look at the numbers (OBA, SLG, OPS)
Glaus .363/.593/.958
Konerko .380/.587/.967
Ortiz .360/.560/.920 (clutch player, leads league in RBI, currently .316/.476/.792 in May)
A-Rod .395/.544/.939 vs Lowell 3.75/.580/.955)
Youkilis .437/.494/.921
Chavez .373/.561/.934

F. Rodriguez
T. Jones
B.J. Ryan
S. Shields

Toughest omissions: need some relievers.

A lot can happen between now and the All-Star break, but this is how I'd try to look at it if I had a role in selecting (and couldn't be labelled a homer). I know that I won't make any friends on the Sox with these picks, but I think they're fairly objective.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Not Exactly a Quarterback Controversy

Curt Schilling gets the topic sentence tonight, with his eighth victory, tieing him for the Major League lead, and his 200th career victory. Congratulations.

Once again the Sox played error-free baseball, and

Last night's abusee, Keith Foulke, came out tonight to attempt to bridge to Jonathan Papelbon. 1-2-3. And Kevin Youkilis is likely to be displaced as the leadoff man with Coco Crisp's return imminent. Admittedly Youkilis hasn't earned the status of, let's say, Michael Bishop, but he's become pretty entrenched at the top of the order.

Youkilis played left tonight, with Manny getting a day off, and Snow in May at first. Coming into tonight, Youkilis was 14th in the AL in batting (.317), 6th in on base percentage (.421), and 21st in on OPS (.928). He raised his numbers to .321, .440, and .940 tonight. Sometimes you have to wonder whether there are other prospects buried in the minors who could produce at the major league level.

It's three consecutive appearances for Papelbon, who threw only 5 pitches last night. Seems like he needs a guaranteed day off tomorrow. Let's hope that the Sox don't need a lot of pitches from him tonight. They didn't. It was yet another Solsbury Hill close. BOOM-BOOM-BOOM, as Papelbon picked up his 18th save. His career ERA is 1.68. Not many innings, of course.

A lot of us consider Dick Radatz the best reliever the Sox ever had, although his star burnt out quickly. I think that Radatz averaged 25 saves, with different rules. Right for once.

Craig Hansen pitched four scoreless innings tonight for Pawtucket (four walks a negative), and Barry Hertzler got promoted from Portland and picked up the win with three scoreless, one-hit innings. Hertzler had a 1.05 ERA at Portland.

Edgar Martinez surrendered a two-run ninth inning homer to interrupt his solid pitching for the SeaDogs in their loss.

Jacoby Ellsbury continues to play well for Wilmington as an outfielder on the rise.

Some more roster shuffling in the offing with Crisp's return soon. Wily Mo Pena was off again with a sore wrist, so will that mean a trip to the DL for the Coyote? Or does it mean that J.T. Snow's days are numbered. Willie Harris has the designated 'Dave Roberts'.

Kevin Youkilis expanded his Rotisserie value with an appearance in left field tonight. Maybe he needs another shot at second if Loretta gets a day off soon.

Meanwhile, the Bombers exacted their revenge 15-4, as the Chiefs, er Royals, defense held them to five field goals. Detroit wins again, and at 35-14 has the best record in MLB. The Tigers have pretty good pitching with Rogers, Bonderman, Robertson, Maroth, and Verlander, and a very big, pitcher friendly ballpark. With an ERA 0.86 runs less than everyone else in the AL. However, their K/BB ratio is only sixth at 1.98, so they may be due to come back to the pack. I don't know how K/BB ratios normalize for ballparks concerning statistical correlation for ERA. On the other hand, the Tigers have yielded on 44 homers, tied for second best in the AL.

Paid for the Privilege

A Sox fan behind the dugout and Keith Foulke had an apparent verbal confrontation after the reliever's departure.

I haven't been to a Red Sox game for over a year. I'm sure that I've been to hundreds over the years, and verbal abuse has traditionally been a part of the Fenway experience. Sort of like Durgin Park, except meaner and with poorer quality food. Except usually it's the fans who suffer. At least in the past, the Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation shrank to only three seats of separation from the nearest patron "in the bag."

Do you feel superior by 'trashing' a professional who hasn't performed up to his best? (Why blog then?) What have you done for me lately? (Anybody else think Foulke should have been the World Series 2004 MVP?) Is it your right to heckle because you ponied up 75 bucks? (Nobody can hear you in the bleachers anyway.) Did you just forget your medicine? (Lordy, it's so expensive, I can understand that.) Are you the best in the city at your profession and never had a bad day? (Guess we can leave that one out.)

Yes, Keith Foulke may not be Mr. Lovable, with his 'Johnny from Burger King' act, and he isn't at the peak of his career. He's had a rough go of it lately, and I'm perfectly willing to cut him beaucoup slack. And I don't want to hear about overpaid professional athletes. Do you offer to payback your salary if you have a bad day? Did you impress your significant other with your macho display? But to what end does vilifying mediocrity at the ballpark serve you or your peers? (Again I guess that wouldn't apply to blogging or Larry Lucchino, but I digress.)

Did you know that between 10 P.M. and 1 A.M. one out of every thirteen drivers is intoxicated? God forbid we hear the statistics for Red Sox fans. Of course, at 7 bucks a beer (or whatever they charge), the Sox are making public drunkeness pricier if not more difficult.

Now I don't know if the 'plaintiff' (boorish heckler) was intoxicated, or even paid for his ticket. (Does free advice or criticism have a higher place in the hierarchy of free speech?) Maybe he's proud of himself for putting Foulke in his place. Somehow I think Foulke knows a good outing from something less. And we know that baseball isn't even Foulke's favorite sport.

We Bostonians pride ourselves on our sophistication and savoir faire. We have some of the finest educational institutions in the world, and along with global warming the compassion warming has occurred in the Hub, at least relative to the seventies. I'm for taking boorish behavior out of the ballpark and putting it back online where it belongs. Amnesty for Johnny Damon, humanity for Keith Foulke, and maybe even for the rest of the mercenaries in the bullpen if they can get a few outs...

Let's leave the heartless slaughter of ballplayers where it belongs, to the sportswriters.

Thanks, Tim.

Here's the corrected link.

click on ABC40's NCAA Highlights a few paragraphs down. Great clip.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Coming and Going?

In an inauspicious development, the Sox faced Sox-killer Scott Kazmir, winner of the second most games in the majors since the All-Star break of last season. Kazmir, whom the D-Rays got for Victor Zambrano in the heist of the century, has caused the Sox immense problems. But not tonight. The Sox knocked him out in the sixth, following a bases-clearing double by David Ortiz and a two-run Monstah Mash by Mike Lowell in the sixth.

Unfortunately for the Sox, the Yin of David Wells return, 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball, was met by the Yang, a liner off of his right knee, called a 'deep contusion' (that's medical for a bone bruise). Julian Tavarez relieved and continues to improve his effectiveness, as most of the hits he yielded were the 'seeing-eye' variety.

Unfortunately, the Sox had to bring in 'The Mask' Jonathan Papelbon to finish, but he did, lowering his E.R.A. to 0.36.

Dustan (The Wind) Mohr heads back to Pawtucket, Coco Crisp is on rehab in Florida and headed to AAA, and Abe Alvarez got lit up in his return to the PawSox. David Murphy was promoted to AAA today and promptly homered.

Baseball has an affinity for body parts. You have 'rabbit eared' umpires, hitters with 'good eyes', and hitters with quick wrists. You have pitchers with big 'legs' who throw 'chin music'. Tonight was the first night I've seen a catcher with painted fingernails.

To be effective pitchers and hitters have to keep the front shoulder in.

You hit with quick hands and a 'quiet' head.

The good double play combos rely on fancy footwork, and of course have soft hands.

Why Can't We Get Players Like This?

Go to this site and click on the ABC40's NCAA highlights for a terrific clip.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Baseball and Football

George Carlin has a wonderful routine comparing baseball and football. Football is played in a stadium, War Memorial Stadium, and baseball is played in the park, the baseball park. And so on. Are there statistical analogies? I mean everyone knows Aaron had 755 homers and Ruth (and Bonds) 714, but who knows how many TDs Jerry Rice caught?

In a football game, I generally expect an average team to score 7 points for every 100 yards of offense from scrimmage. That’s rough, but ballpark. For a baseball team, I expect a run for about every 3 men on base. So if you have a WHIP ratio (walks and hits/inning) of 1, then you’ll probably have an E.R.A. of around 3. If a team gets 6 hits and no walks, I wouldn’t expect much more than 2 runs.

Which brings us to the Sox? There are some exceptions, such as Tim Wakefield. Wakefield has a WHIP ratio of 1.35 and an E.R.A. of 4.57. What’s the missing link? Homers, as he's yielded 7 so far.

The D-Rays invaded Fenway tonight. The Rays have good athleticism (Crawford, Gathright, Lugo, Hollins) and some power (Gomes, Wiggington, Hall, and so on). After the dreaded Kazmir sweating us, their pitching isn’t very consistent.

The Sox had that missing link between men on base and runs scored tonight, left on base. Left on base is the football equivalent of the turnover.

Beckett wasn’t economical in pitches, which meant only six innings for him. Foulke was fine, and Timlin rusty, not having pitched in 5 days. It was a worry from the outset, as Timlin was ‘high in the zone’ and the Rays jumped all over him. Fortunately, Francona found the map to the mound tonight, getting Timlin in favor of Papelbon, seeking his sixteenth save. Four outs later, the Sox win 4-1.

I’ll post his secret shortly (below)...Jonathan Papelbon is 'The Mask'.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In Game Blog - Rubber Game - Sox - New York

Every sport has 'special' games, departures from the monolithic normality of the endless seasons. Tonight you can only expect Rod Serling to emerge from the Twilight Zone.

Only a few days ago, Manny Ramirez had 8 homers and not many hit with customary authority. Now he's at eleven, with one reminiscent of a pair of Larry Hisle shots I saw from the bleachers when Hisle was with the Brewers.

Matt Clement is the baseball equivalent of a trailer park to a hurricane, a baseball magnet. Clement seemed in control until he got hit by a line drive, and then the edge came off the slider and the Bombers put up a crooked number (4).

Meanwhile, Kevin ("not enough power") drilled his fifth homer of the year against RJ. Regardless of the outcome, Johnson, at age 43 is not the man he used to be. But he has a better haircut.

Manny Ramirez showed us the enthusiasm of a dog riding in a car with his head out the window as he rumbled in from second on a single, nearly flattening Demarlo Hale. Manny looks very happy right now. I can't speak for everyone, but I enjoy seeing ballplayers who actually seem to enjoy playing a child's game.

Who can't marvel at A-Gone at shortstop? He nearly turns over a miraculous double play and then, even though he fanned, took Johnson to 11 pitches in a third inning at bat.

Sheffield just menaces the Sox at the plate. He doesn't get cheated on any swing. I'd pitch him least that way you don't get hit with a shot through the box.

Matt Clement has 81 pitches in the fourth inning. The whole subject of pitch counts fascinates me. I remember a game in high school where I had a shutout, giving up 6 hits, 6 walks, and 9 strikeouts. How many pitches do you have to throw to do that. At least 21 batters for outs, 12 reached base. Probably an average of at least 5 pitches on the strikeouts, 5.5 on the walks, and lets presume 3.5 for the others (6 hits, 12 non-strikeouts). That's 9 x 6 plus 5.5 x 6 plus 18 x 3.5. That's 150.

Which reminds me of something attributed to an aging Lefty Grove who was told he wasn't throwing as hard. He replied, "I'm throwing as hard as ever, it just doesn't go as fast."

How about those Tigers? Who would've thought Mike Maroth would become Mike Maroth?

Big Papi doesn't look that comfortable against RJ. I hope he proves me wrong. Unfortunately, no.

DiNardo on the DL. There is a God.

VanBuren up. He's our "Jermaine" Man.

Jacoby Ellsbury with two more stolen bases tonight (11). Also hitting .321. How do you know when he's ready for Portland.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Old Man Rivera Keeps Rolling Along

Just one of those days, as the Bombers had too much for the Sox tonight. Mariano Rivera had his cutter running in on lefthanders tonight and shut down the Sox late game rally.

A-Rod had an insurance homer earlier, one which he somehow 'lost' off the bat, thinking he popped it up. Amazing.

Jerry Remy was spot on with the commentary, particularly concerning Scott Proctor's lack of control, which cost him. Manny Ramirez gave his a Proctorology visit with a long tater into Conig's Corner.

Remarkably, the Sox came into the game with just 14 errors in 42 games. Was it 40 something errors that Butch Hobson made in 1978, playing with bone chips in his elbow. Butch Hobson? You haven't heard that name in awhile.

Johnny (BeGone) Damon led off the game with his 17th career game leadoff homer.

Good call by Demarlo Hale on the first run, a single to left by Mirabelli. Although Nixon got to third about the time Bernie Williams got the ball, Williams barely reached cutoff man A-Rod. I bet that with ten minutes of warmup that I can still throw better than Bernie. I bet that my daughter can throw better than he can (with five minutes of warmup).

Jonathan Papelbon came through with another Solsbury Hill inning, "BOOM-BOOM-BOOM, son, I've come to take you home."

And in Pawtucket, Jon Lester, apparently still on a pitch count, allowed one run, with three Ks and four BB in five innings against Louisville.

Jacoby Ellsbury had a pair of hits, including a homer, and his 9th steal of the year at Wilmington (High A), and appears to be on the fast track. With limited offense at Portland, the SeaDogs could use him, if the brass thinks he's dominating in the Carolina League.

I haven't seen much Craig Hansen statistics lately at I hope he's progressing.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Geared Up

Got enough Sox gear? Need to be Ben Wrightman?

Todd and the folks at Fenway Faithful Tees have some new

Since all too many of us show our colors, here's yet another chance to do so.

Big Schill Delivers a Big Chill

People talk about Schilling's legendary game plan, and tonight he evidenced it. In addition to prohibiting the Bombers a base on balls, Schilling masterfully used both sides of the plate, and worked the fastball up and the splitter down. Hitters like to get ahead and look for their pitch in a certain zone (righthanders generally middle in/knees to the waist). Schilling simply forbade them the opportunity.

Meanwhile, the Big Dogs, Ortiz and Ramirez each delivered three RBI, and the visitors outfield defense wasn't the greatest either, as they failed to come up with some tough chances.

Alex Cora had a nice game filling in at shortstop; Cora just does the little things that help you win.

About the only downer was Keith Foulke coming in to do a B.K. Kim imitation against the Pinstripes. He refused them even a Pyrrhic victory, but allowing them some ego reinforcement during a ninth inning in which A-Rod and Posada both left the yard.

Other good news was that Coco Crisp was back doing 'baseball activities', running and taking hitting practice before heading out soon to a destination to be named later for rehab.

Willie Mo Pena had the night off nursing a hand injury.

On balance, Francona's decision to sacrifice Lenny DiNardo to the Phillies yesterday paid off, as victory delayed was not victory denied.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

De Nada, DiNardo

Sox fans haven't had a lot to complain about, but the fifth starter position surely qualifies. Let's go to the statistics.

Lenny DiNardo

IP 25 H 40 R 21 HR 4 K 15 BB 12 WHIP 2.05 Opp. Ave .367

Astonishingly high WHIP
Extremely low K.BB ratio (predicts ERA)
Astronomical Opponents average

I'm sure that Lenny DiNardo is a wonderful guy. But let's face it, he's not in a slump, he defines it right now. Success for the soft-tossing, crafty pitcher means incredible control and command, with the ability to disrupt hitters' timing. If DiNardo had no options, I'd simply argue for putting him into the 'long man' role, until he either proves serviceable or just designate him for assignment.

Abe Alvarez gave me a little more hope, as he seemed 'sneaky', but a pair of homers by lefties Howard and Abreu wasn't confidence inspiring. When you max out on the gun at 84, you better be throwing it over a gum-wrapper strike zone, as Satchel Paige could.

A terrific road trip overall at 4-2, and lessons confirmed for Terry Francona: DiNardon't Do It.

Time for some home cooking, and the Bombers.

Balancing Act

One quarter of the regular season completed, and the Sox have the third best record in the AL and lead the AL East. Could you realistically ask for more, especially with your putative fifth starter (Wells) hurt and only five games of action from Coco Crisp?

Balance has been the key, with improving offense, superb defense leading the majors in the fewest errors, and generally good pitching, with improvement recently in the depth of the bullpen.

Five starters are hitting over .300 (Youkilis, Nixon, Ramirez, Lowell, and Pena) and Loretta and Varitek have both been coming on solidly. Throw in David Ortiz with 14 homers and his presence in the lineup, the run generation will likely improve.

Coming into today the Sox are in the upper half in offense (runs scored), and fifth in OPS, so they are likely to improve.

The starters are seventh in ERA at 4.83 while the pen, led by Papelbon and Timlin are at 3.57. The bullpen K/BB ratio is an outstanding 2.74.

The obvious pleasant surprises are Lowell, Youkilis, and Pena. On the mound, Papelbon has exceeded everyone's wildest dreams, and Wakefield is likely to continue to improve with Mirabelli and a few runs scored.

The best sign has been the change in runs scored to runs allowed, now at 217-186, versus recent negative territory. The record was outperforming because of Papelbon, allowing a lot of close game victories. The other good news has been a winning record in 1 run games (6-4) and the 23-17 road to home split so far. AND the ESPN relative power index has the Sox in first at .540, so nothing to whine about there.

If the best we can find to criticize are A-Gone's hitting and Lenny DiNardo's performance, we're fortunate. Pitching and defense, foreigners residing in the Hub.

Need something to worry about? Time to sign up Beckett to an extension?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What Does Gary Peters Have to Do With It?

Gary Peters ( was a pretty good lefthander who pitched mostly for the White Sox and parts of three seasons for the Bosox. I remember Peters mostly for two contributions, hitting and his thoughts on 'wildness'. Although Peters won 19 games for the Pale hose one season and twenty the next, he was an excellent hitting pitcher (a .222 career average and 19 homers) and he described the 'worst kind of wildness'.

The 'worst kind of wildness' is wildness in the strike zone. Peters was struggling at the time, from throwing too many strikes, in too many hittable places. Red Sox' righthander Jin Ho Cho, a career two game winner, couldn't help but throw strikes, which meant too many hits of which brings us to the case of Curt Schilling, a potential Hall of Famer, and Sox legend 'Curtesy' of the Bloody Sock. Although Schilling's calling cards have been an overpowering fastball and diving splitter, he's best known as a master of command and control . He is frequently among the leaders in fewest walks per nine innings, testifying to his control. Unfortunately for us, he's been victimized recently by the gopher ball, 'wild in the strike zone'. He'll get it together.

Last night's loss doesn't fall on the feet of Willie Harris. It took an entire game lacking offense and a Big Papi two-run homer to set up the fiasco. Still, a successful steal reduces the number of hits needed to plate the tying run from two to one, so for me, it's acceptable risk.

Now for the bad news, Interleague Play, which until last year has generally disagreed with the Sox. First up, the Phillies, with less than auto-Mattic Clement and Lenny DiNardon't put him in going. Of course, there is the Beckett-Howard rematch to look forward to.

As the Sox approach the quarter pole (40 games), they lead the AL East by half a game, which isn't too bad considering that the Coco Crisp trade hasn't even started to work yet, and the rotation could use a little tuning.Offensively, the Sox are seventh in runs scored, and sixth in OPS. Defensively, they're night and day improved, especially in the infield. Wily Mo sometimes gets the Opposite George jump on the ball, but has been more than acceptable in center. On the mound, the Sox are fifth in ERA, 4th in WHIP, and third in K/BB so they have reasonable (and improving) balance.All-in-all a most acceptable start.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Team Effort

Where's Rick Pitino when you need him? Just when we need some negativity to keep our aspirations in check, the Sox settle down to pluck the Baltimoreans at Camden, 6-5.

Most underappreciated Red Sox player currently? Mike Timlin, with a Gibsonesque E.R.A., still going strong after all these years. Papelbon, with another Solsbury Hill save, BOOM-BOOM-BOOM, I've come to take you home.

The Sox with another solid defensive effort, led by Alex Gonzalez, who can play short for me any day, even challenging the Mendoza Line.

Doctor Longball was in the house early, with taters by Manny and Nixon, although unfortunately Curt Schilling gave up three of his own. Is this pitch count hangover from the 133-pitch effort a few weeks ago? Baseball science argues that 'pitcher abuse' occurs as escalating pitch counts by each additional ten over one hundred. Of course, some of those 'abused' pitchers (the Yankees prime culprits) have kept on going.

Contributions from virtually everyone in the lineup, with an expected finding of four Sox regulars in the top 25 of OPS for players with at least 75 at bats, with Lowell, Manny, and Papi all in the top 20, and WILY MO at 25. Coyote beautiful.

Meanwhile, David Pauley had six shutout innings for the SeaDogs, as he is trying to emerge as a starting contender for the future. Edgar Martinez had 2.1 scoreless for the Dogs as well, lowering his ERA to 1.40.

Tomorrow it's Wakefield against Bedard, as fortunately a road trip spared the Sox from Rainout City.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Sometimes it feels as though slumps are contagious, but it also seems that streaks are infectious. The Sox went bat-happy tonight, with thirteen hits, and three homers (Wily Mo Pena, Jason Varitek, and Mike Lowell) to take the opener at Baltimore 11-1.

The Sox now have five regulars hitting over .300, including Youkilis, Ramirez, Nixon, Lowell, and the surprising Pena. For all the pish posh from all the baseball geniuses on Nitwit Radio, there are the warm facts about the Coyote (Wily Mo), a solid centerfield, and a .904 OPS (on-base slugging percentage). His part-time statistics translate to a projected 22 homer 94 RBI season, not too shabby for a guy who's taken merciless criticism.

Meanwhile, Josh Beckett outfought some blisters to overpower the Orioles with a two-hitter through seven quality innings, after allowing a Miggy Tejada line drive homer just clearing the fence in the first.

Rhetorically many games a year does the manager decide? And how do we determine whether to credit or vilify the skipper for wins or losses? Since we somehow feel that criticism is our birthright, so be it, but I'll guess that the manager has far less impact on the winning percentage than the fifth starter. If fifth starters get thirty or so starts, then a swing of three games (from 15-15) brings us to either 12-18 or 18-12 in those games. So rather than wail on the manager because Lenny DiNardo, is, Lenny DiNardo, let's collectively focus on getting those extra wins out of the five spot.

My point is, that efforts directed to get the manager better talent, rather than more decision analysis (around the fifth starter) would likely yield more Ws.

Meanwhile the PawSox swept a pair from Scranton Wilkes-Barre, and most important, Craig Hansen fired four shutout innings, with four Ks and no free passes. David Riske got lit up for 3 hits and 2 runs in just over an inning...
Is it too soon to be talking about Red Sox players making the All-Star team? Yeah, probably. If the vote and selection were today, though, you'd get strong arguments for Ortiz (The Man), Papelbon, and Schilling. Manny would probably get the popular vote, too, although obviously he's not breaking out yet.
As for the most underrated guys category, Chris Shelton of the Tigers has tailed off (some), and Alex Rios, Jonny Gomes, Nick Swisher, and Casey Blake all appear to be having breakout seasons. And how many in the Nation can even name their teams?
In the AL, the Sox and the Blue Jays both have the best records at 7-3 over the past ten games. The Blue Jays have hung in there well, even without A.J. Burnett.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Whether Map

Maybe we need to come up with an 'All Weather Team', and the ability to cope with the foul stuff. I'll do my best, while we wait for our collective yards, basements, and streets to dry out. I don't know about the rest of the Nation, but we're none too dry here in Melrose.

C - Phil Roof, as in we need a roof over our heads

C - Johnny Bench, a good feature to have in the rain

C/1B - Muddy Ruel, a dead ball era guy who toiled for 19 seasons

1B - active player, J.T. Snow...and imagine if all this rain (over 10" in some places in Massachusetts) were snow

2B - Rex Hudler (wasn't he called 'Hurricane' at one time?)

3B - Brooks Robinson, the Vacuum Cleaner

3B - Pete Rose, April showers bring May flowers, Rose also played 1B, 2B, OF, and a variety of betting strategies

3B - Wade Boggs, double credit for the wading and the resultant bog

SS - Hubie Brooks (and you thought he was a basketball guy)

OF - Tim Raines

OF - Curt Flood, challenged the Reserve Clause

OF - Roy (Stormy) Weatherly; great imagination these baseball guys

P - David Weathers
P - Hideo 'Tornado' Nomo
P - Jim 'Mudcat' Grant
P - 'Sandy' Koufax - now it's drying compound, once it was sand
P - Storm Davis
P - Matt (in)Clement weather...only fitting that Clement kicked this off
P - Chuck Rainey (a forgettable righthander)
P - Tom House (we got a Roof, we need a House)

Manager - Mike Hargrove - the "Human Rain Delay" - Hargrove made Nomar Garciaparra's machinations a twitch

Hard to know when there'll be baseball again. Happy Mothers' Day to any of our readers celebrating the special day today. Remember, "motherhood is the only job that comes with no vacation."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Today and Tomorrow

Although like most Red Sox games, it wasn't pretty, it was a 'W'. Thirteen was lucky as Jonathan Papelbon was the answer today, delivering a four out save including inducing the 'Juice Guy', Jason Giambi, to pop up to end the game. The Sox went well behind enemy lines emerging from New York with a pair of wins.

Mark Loretta has forged a major offensive turnaround this week, raising his average from .220 to .280 in a week, and 'The Talisman', Wily Mo Pena had a hit and a pair of walks before giving way to Willie Harris who chipped in with a hit and speed to score a run. Mariano Rivera couldn't finish off Youkilis, who singled in an insurance run in the ninth.

Not lost in the effort were a pair of key strikeouts by Mike Timlin in relief to preserve the 4-3 lead, as he punched out Giambi and A-Rod.

In addition to a pair of homerun-robbing thefts by Bubba Crosby (off Lowell) and Damon (off Mirabelli), the Sox flasthed the leather as well, with Kevin Youkilis making a number of terrific plays, and Varitek digging out a Papelbon splitter on strike 3 and throwing out Cairo at first.

Meanwhile, the future, lefthander Jon Lester, worked five innings for the Pawsox, yielding an earned run and collecting his second straight win. He fanned six and walked none, as he preps to become a piece of the puzzle after the break.

34 games into the season, one would have to pick Papelbon as the team MVP, as he seems to relish the chance to close and finish off the opposition. I'm still lobbying for Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill as Papelbon's theme song, "My heart going boom boom boom...Son, he said, grab your things I've come to take you home".

David Ortiz comes in a close second for being 'Big Papi', and in third a horse race between comebacking Curt Schilling and the nine million dollar 'throw-in' Mike Lowell.

Throw It in and Duck

Homers flew out of The House That Ruth Built, but unfortunately the Bombers won the homerun derby and the game. Curt Schilling could take pride in some engineering feats, on the initiation side of taters from A-Rod, Posada, and 'Juice Guy' Jason Giambi.

Giambi has lost that 'Twiggy' build variously attributed to parasites, steroid withdrawal, and anorexia nervosa. Kinda makes you wonder what the BALCO boy has cooked up lately.

Last night's action was just one giant downer, less Lowell's double down streak broken (with a homer), and four Big Papi hits, including legging out an infield hit to rightcenter.

Melky Cabrera, the locals' replacement rightfielder reminds you of whom? I can't put my finger on it yet, but I'm thinking about it.

Tonight Tim Wakefield tries to recapture the magic against Chacon for the hated Yankees. Meanwhile, Kevin Youkilis continues to look solid at first base, and maybe Francona will rethink sitting 'Talisman' Wily Mo Pena, who belongs out there every day, for now anyway.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bronx Cheer

The Red Sox invaded 'The House That Ruth Built' to take on the more mercenary menagerie with Josh Beckett facing Randy Johnson. Beckett got better defense and run support, while Johnson was victimized by A-Rod and Melky Cabrera whose key errors led to 5 Sox unearned runs and a quick 7-2 lead.

Doctor Longball showed up first in the person of Jason Giambi (looking pretty buff absent steroids -what's up, BALCO boy?) although later A-Gone, the Sox shortstop showed some pop driving an Aaron Small offering deep into the leftfield bleachers.

The local faithful seemed none too happy, ushering RJ off to a chorus of boos, and howling mercilessly at Cabrera after his drop of Manny Ramirez's windblow pop to right. Evidently the fans must have been disappointed at the cancellation of 'Battery Night', as they lost the opportunity to pelt the opposition, or the home team with the souvenirs.

Things you never see. J.T. Snow and Willie Harris both had ninth inning singles for the Sox. This last occurred just before the last ivory-billed woodpecker sighting.

Mark Loretta hit a 3-0 Randy Johnson 'cripple' for a two run double sparking the Red Sox second rally. Lip readers undoubtedly were treated to a string of RJ expletives after the Sox lit up the lanky lefty.

Rudy Seanez comes in to face the locals with a 14-3 lead into the last of the ninth. Matsui promptly took him to the track only to fall short. With time running out, it's doubtful that the New Yawkers can come up with two touchdowns against the stingy Sox defense.

The Saga of Wily Mo. Wily Mo's legend grows as the Sox talisman played all three outfield positions and made a sterling running grab of a Jeter smash into the gap in the eighth inning. This occurred following a ridiculous 'purpose pitch' by Foulke after Nixon was unintentionally hit by Ron Villone in the eighth. At this point in his evolution, Foulke needs to get outs, not revenge.

Wily Mo picked up two more hits, neither of which went 90 feet, on infield tappers. When you're hot, you're hot.

Banter from the Booth. In addition to their gratitude for diminished cab competition, Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy shared their insight into NYC transportation. Earlier, they showed their devotion to Derek Jeter, the second best shortstop on the locals.

Reign delay. The PawSox and the SeaDogs both got rained out, another development day postponed by Mother Nature.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's Only A Game

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep
What do you feel when you look in the mirror
Are you proud

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why
---Dear Mr. President, Pink

It's the battle of the Bronx, the continuation of the ancient rivalry between Boston and New York. It's the mercenary spirit versus a reasonable facsimile. It's A-Rod versus Big Papi, Johnny Damon versus Wily Mo Pena, Johnson and Mussina against Beckett and Schilling. It's only a game.

For a few days, Boston and New York partisans will forget about homelessness and poverty, about underemployment and inflation. They will not contemplate war or peace. Still, it's only a game.

56,000 screaming beasts will implore their boys to deliver them from the Red Sox. Endless screenshots will show George Steinbrenner, stonefaced or smiling, his checkbook emptied to try to regain baseball's Holy Grail. The cameras will show Joe Torre and discuss his conquest of prostate cancer, and Terry Francona and his recovery from knee surgery. There will be talk of the past Bomber championships and the one crushing defeat/magnificent victory of 2004. Though it's only a game.

Fans will walk past panhandlers and step over disabled veterans to find their seats they paid a king's ransom for. They'll argue about who was better, RJ or Curt, and whether Mattingly will make it into the Hall some day. They'll talk about the old stadium and it's short porch, and Ruth and Mantle and Maris, and Ford. They'll gripe about three dollar gas and pay four dollars for a 20 ounce water. They'll curse Sheffield's injured wrist, and ignore thousands of dead and wounded GIs. It's only a game.

I'll watch with interest the subplots in the Bronx. Barring something unforeseen, one team will depart with the AL East lead, the other remaining in hot pursuit. Maybe Jeter will make a diving catch into the seats, or Manny will steal a homerun souvenir from some contemporary Jeffrey Maier. Maybe Giambi or Ortiz will hit a tape measure homer, or Johnny Damon will steal home. I'll be happier if the Sox win, but understand they played hard. It's still only a game.

P.S. Ozzie Guillen protested about fans not understanding about players taking what they can get because it's about supporting their families. According to Ozzie pulled down over 23 MILLION dollars during his playing career, and I'm sure he's taking home a decent paycheck now. Nomar didn't get the biggest contract ever while he was in Boston, but has still taken home over 53 MILLION dollars coming into 2006. I don't begrudge the players getting what they can get. But please spare me the tears when I have to listen to these guys worrying about feeding their families.

"Passing" Judgment

How do you assess the effectiveness of a pitcher? Obviously, there's the eyeball test about what kind of stuff he has, the ability to control his pitches, velocity and movement of the fastball (four-seam, sinker, cutter), the sharpness of the breaking stuff, and the deception of changing speeds and hiding the ball.

I spoke of quantitative measures, too, like K to BB ratio. High strikeout pitchers invariably have the ability to generate swings and misses. As I watch DiNardo today (dismayed by four consecutive passes in the first), I can't help but lack confidence in his ability to get swings and misses and his need to be razor sharp to get people out. I appreciate his willingness not to 'give in' (Orioles announcer Jim Palmer never surrendered a grand slam), but at some point you have to throw strikes. As the pitching coaches say at the mound, "throw strikes, Babe Ruth is dead."

DiNardo just pulled a Matt Young on a tapper to the mound, and almost sealed his trip back to Pawtucket with an errant throw into right field.

The Red Sox haven't had a plethora of successful lefty starters in my forty plus years of Sox-watching. Bill Lee had better 'stuff' than DiNardo, and Bruce Hurst probably was the best overall lefty they've had. For the most part, they've had a lot of finesse lefties, as oposed to power lefthanders that are hard to come by.

Ultimately, I ask myself, "what is his OUT PITCH?" Jamie Moyer has the slow curve and enough guile to get hitters out with smarts. The Sox had a local product, Brian Rose, who had enough ability to get to the majors, but lacked the pitch to get people out in crunch time. Does DiNardo have enough pitching duende to compensate for his lack of stuff? Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time. The only differences between DiNardo and Abe Alvarez right now are a crooked cap and a bus ticket.

Death by a 1,000 Paper Cuts

Last night for the most part the Sox played small ball, a series of singles culminating in a quick 5-0 lead. Absent catalyst Brian Roberts, the Orioles lacked their usual spark, and the Sox put an uncharacteristic hurt on a lefthanded pitcher, the mercurial Erik Bedard. When Bedard is on, he can be tough, but for the most part he couldn't get people out inside.

Tim Wakefield's comfort zone with Doug Mirabelli shows, and one wonders whether this keeps Mirabelli around for years.

Today, it's DiNardon't against the Birds, so we have to hope the Meatloaf Principle doesn't come true, "two out of three ain't bad."

As for the upcoming Yankee series, you'd have to expect Beckett going Tuesday, Schilling Wednesday, and Wakefield on Thursday.

Kudos to Francona for tweaking the lineup, getting Lowell and Pena up, and Nixon down. Nixon had a pair of hits against the lefthander.

Stat Guy. Going into last night's action, the Sox were sixth in the AL in ERA, fifth in WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), and fourth in strikeout to walk ratio (an important predictor of ERA). Now that's what I'm talking about. The starters were 7th in ERA, sixth in WHIP, and 7th in K/BB ratio.

The Sox have four players in the top 25 in OPS (on base percentage plus slugging, Ortiz (15), Lowell (17), Ramirez (20), and Youkilis (25). In the 'Sabermetric' analysis of Runs Created (RC) per 27 innings, they have four in the top 20, Youkilis (14), Ramirez (16), Ortiz (17), and Lowell (20).

Around the league. The Tigers have played good ball thanks to their pitching staff. Last year they were among the leaders early in the year in quality starts, and I'd guess that they're up there again. Lefty Mike Maroth is a poor man's Jamie Moyer, and one has to wonder whether
Mark Buehrle has become a future top 100 winning pitchers of all-time for the White Sox.

What's my tangential point? It's that I still wonder what Abe Alvarez is, presuming that I already know what DiNardo is. Clearly Moyer, like Frank Tanana in his latter years and Mike Cuellar years ago, could get people out without a lot of giddyup on the fastball. I expect DiNardo will show today that he's not the answer.

And what's the deal with the Angels? They were supposed to contend along with Oakland in the AL West, and look pretty dead so far.

Price versus value. As they say on Wall Street, "price is what you pay, and value is what you get." Remember when Nomar Garciaparra turned down the big bucks (wanting Jeter money), and the local argument was how much 'better' Garciaparra was than Tejada. Let's look at the three year stats (average, on base percentage, slugging, and OPS) and 2006

Tejada (3 year) .298./.348/.507/.855 (2006) .380/.413/.589/1.002
Jeter (3 year) .307/.377/.458/.835 (2006) .358/.466/.560/1.026
Nomar (3 year) .299/.346/.498/.844 (2006) .306/.386/.571/.957

Of course, even that's deceptive, as Nomar missed a lot of time during those years and this year (averaging 400 at bats)...not to mention that his road games (away from Fenway or Wrigley) numbers during the 3 year period are .268/.315/.436/.751. Alex Gonzalez' three-year splits (total) are .249/.299/.413/.712. So Nomar's road action is not too far above Alex Gonzalez, and as we have seen through the years, compared with Gonzalez or Cabrera, Nomar was mediocre not average in the field.

Was Nomar deserving of 'Tejada or Jeter money'. In retrospect no. The mixture of injury, aging, and self-absorption limiting his production. However, we should remember the great years he had for the Sox to put his entire career in context. Is Garciaparra a Hall-of-Famer? Statistically, the totality of his career is excellent, and his post-season production superior. He has better numbers than Don Mattingly, who was supposed to hit from a corner position. Of course, Mattingly's on the outside looking in. How does Nomar stack up in the popularity poll with the writers? As they say on Wall Street, 'sentiment is everything.' Nomar might do well to cultivate a little sportswriter favor (a.k.a. butt-smooching) if Cooperstown is important to him.

Minor concerns. Meanwhile, Jon Lester seems to pitch better each outing in Pawtucket. The Sox have the luxury of giving him more time to figure it out, refining his secondary pitches so that he might be useful in the second half. Lester had five innings of shutout ball last night. And the pregame show suggested that they're considering all options for Craig Hansen as well, about stretching him out.

If Edgar Martinez, the hard-throwing righthander at Portland (1-0, 1.84, WHIP 0.75, 18K and 2 BB in 14.2 innings) makes the big club, does the former backstop become the emergency catcher? David Pauley and Tommy Hottovy also appear to have been pitching well lately.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

"Facts are such stubborn things."

---------- AVE OBP SLG OPS

Player A .311 .411 .467 .878
Player B .317 .362 .540 .902

Player C -- K/BB -- 15/6 WHIP-- 1.94 E.R.A.-- 9.58 HR --4

I'll come back to this.

After 29 games, we have a pretty good idea what this team is concerning pitching and defense (overall improved, bullpen inconsistent in the middle), and they're showing signs offensively of more production.

What does seem mildly mysterious is the lineup. Youkilis has been almost a revelation in the leadoff spot, although the 'Greek God of Walks' is also the Prince of Strikeouts. He'll do better. I'd have a low threshold to move Loretta down and Nixon into the 2 spot, although you can argue about the wisdom of back-to-back lefties with Nixon and Ortiz. Based on production, Loretta and Varitek both deserve fewer at bats and Wily Mo and Lowell more.

1B Youkilis
CF Pena
DH Ortiz
LF Ramirez
RF Nixon
3B Lowell
C Varitek
2B Loretta
SS Gonzalez (or Cora)

Maybe somebody should remind Tito that Papelbon can't pitch every day. That's just the fact, Jack.

As for Player A and Player B above, those are Nixon and Pena. Pena has been a lot more productive than anticipated, and deserves a lot more credit than he receives. Yesterday, people were calling Nitwit Radio saying he needs minor league at-bats. I'm sorry, but I think he deserves to play every day, and ultimately he's making Trot Nixon expendable, although Trot is a great character guy.

Pitcher C would be Seanez, whose propensity for the long ball and his disastrous WHIP ratio make him a real candidate to be released (the Braves can have him back). The other immediate 'fungible' player on the team is J.T. Snow, who doesn't seem to have much of a role. Hee-Seop Choi has a better stick and is nearby in Pawtucket. Willie Harris is the designated 'Dave Roberts'. No stick but can really run.

The longer term issues are whether Cora gets more time at short, and what the rotation becomes when Coco Crisp gets back in the lineup. Ultimately, playing time belongs to producers, not salary. As they say, "money can't play."

I don't expect anything from Wells, Synvisc injections or not.

And Ortiz is a wonder.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pen Running Dry?

Last night the bullpen couldn't hold the lead, and tonight a 7-1 lead in the seventh looks shaky at best.

Following a solid performance by Matt Clement and a serviceable one from Keith Foulke, Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez have taken yet another beating. They've seen the Caddyshack gopher as much as Denny McLain in his heyday, as tonight it was Glaus and Hinske who took them out of the yard.

The top of the lineup had a breakout tonight with a homer from Kevin Youkilis and a pair of hits from Mark Loretta, who has been mired in a miserable slump.

Pleasant surprises have obviously been Mike Lowell, who continues to hit solidly and Wily ("Coyote") Mo Pena, who is hitting over .300 and playing pretty good defense in center.

Last night Jonathan Papelbon proved that he and his splitter were only human, and his efforts to reproduce Eckersley's 1990 season suffered a setback. In the 1989 to 1990 campaigns Eckersley walked 7 hitters in 131 innings and had a microscopic ERA of 0.61 in 1990.

Meanwhile, Pawtucket hopeful Craig Hansen got roughed up last night as well, as the Nation awaits.

Tonight Papelbon featured the heater instead of the cooler, coming in to fan Adams before Frank Catalanotto reached him (against the splitter) to set the table for Vernon Wells, whom Papelbon induced to hit a weak tapper back to the box to finish.

The Sox reconstruction of the bullpen unfortunately resembles the 'Big Dig', with money being poured down the drain and leaks springing up everywhere.

All of which gets us back to the crux of the problem recently, players simply underperforming expectations. The good news, if you adhere to the John Henry philosophy (I do) is that improved achievement is likely to follow.

Monday, May 01, 2006

First Blood

Playoff atmosphere. Damon demonized. Mirabelli returns, climbing out of a police cruiser in uniform to catch Wakefield.

Sox draw first blood symbolically, with Ortiz the architect with an RBI single and a smash against the wind into the Sox bullpen.

Wakefield battled Wang to a draw, and the Sox bullpen with Timlin and Papelbon outpaced the hated Yankees, with Mike Myers serving as double agent.

After the debacle in Tampa, the Sox rebounded with home cooking, warm bats, and cold weather, more typical of April than May.

Holding the potent New York lineup to just four hits was quite an achievement, especially after the Bombers put up a three-spot in the fourth.

Big plays. Aside from the Ortiz tater, the basestealing threat of Willie (Dave Roberts redux) Harris distracted Aaron Small enough to cause a Youkilis hit batsman. Loretta responded with a run-scoring single (once a game winning hit) before Ortiz put a Killebrewvian backspin shot into Papelbon's waiting glove.

Alex Cora was in the midst of two rallies, one with a bunt single and another drawing a walk. Cora also played solid shortstop to contribute mightily to the win. Inevitably, Cora is bound to encroach on Alex Gonzalez p.t. if Alex can't get a little more going with the stick.

Rude Awakening. The weekend in West Florida was capped negatively by yet another Scott Kazmir conquest of the Sox, and another Rudy Seanez failure out of the pen. On the depth chart, Seanez has to be close to the bottom rung, with consistent ineffectiveness. Craig Hansen can't get enough experience soon enough to help out. Timlin and Papelbon can't carry the entire load indefinitely.

Jon Lester (5 innings, 3 hits, two ER, 4 K) is obviously having more success with each appearance at Pawtucket as we can only hope that his maturity accelerates enough to move up after the break. We've all heard how the Sox are rationing his pitch count.

Kason Gabbard through six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts in a Portland 5-0 win.

Andrew Dobies continues to pitch well at Wilmington, now allowing 19 hits in 28 innings, with an ERA of 2.25 and 15 strikeouts and 9 walks. The Sox put a premium on K/BB ratio as a measure of command and effectiveness. I like to look at H/IP ratio as a measure of 'dominance'. The best pitchers of all-time have low H/IP ratios.