Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
- What percentage of US marriages end in divorce? 43 percent.
- What percentage of men have been to a strip club? Who knows, but I doubt that the six-foot rule is dissuading the crowd.
Baseball teams employ large numbers of obscenely wealthy young men who spend half their season on the road. Because libraries and museums are closed after night games, I'm sure that baseball players frequent other late night entertainment venues. How is A-Rod different from the rest of them? He got "busted".
We open the morning newspaper to see Lindsay Lohan or other celebrities variously impaired, and professional athletes make attractive targets, too. Charles Barkley reminded us, "I am not a role model." A-Rod seems content with a simple, "no comment."
Red Sox Roundup.
- Whatever became of Wendell 'Send Him In" Kim and Dale "Sveum" old song-and-dance?
- If Jhonny Peralta were dyslexic, would his name look better?
- You never see that category - the Youkilis inside-the-park home run, Julian Tavarez bowling to first, and Casey Blake with a hit-by-pitch while swinging strikeout?
- Will Hideki Okajima ever throw another curve for a strike? Imagine if he could get that going, too?
- Who would've thought Detroit and Cleveland would become a great rivalry?
- Is the Tampa outfielder Dukes a Hazard?
- Don't you hate seeing Hafner come up?
- The Sox ALMOST turned the 5-4-3 triple play the other day
- Does Ryan Garko resemble Keith Foulke?
- Is it true that the Yankees are going to the Commissioner to complain about the umpiring?
- Have you ever seen a bigger differential in hitting ahead and behind in the count? I'm sure we have, I just can't remember.
- Coco Crisp IS throwing better this year...better than Johnny Damon...not hitting better than JD though.
- Old friend Kelly Shoppach gets a start for the Tribe tonight.
Monday, May 28, 2007
- His bases clearing double against Jason Marquis in Game 4 of the 2004 series stands immortalized...a part of the Championship Season
- The ninth inning homer off Clemens in the Sunday Night Baseball game in the Bronx.
- Flipping the ball into the right field stands with two outs, allowing the runner on second to score (gawd forbid Manny ever did that)
I heard a story on the radio one day about rookie Trot hitting a triple in a meaningless late season game at Baltimore, after he fouled out to Ripken earlier on a tough play. Trot supposedly says to Ripken, "Ah'm so nervous, and mah families here watching me." To which Ripken replies, "you should've told me earlier, I could have dropped the popup."
Player A... .278 .366 .475 .841 AB 3420 HR 135 RBI 543
Player B... .303 .368 .463 .831 AB 4623 HR 130 RBI 726
Trot always had a great reputation as an effort guy, and Sox fans have a really warm place in their hearts for him. Player B always struck me as a 'me first' guy, who lived off his reputation. Are their stats 'revealing'? Player B is Mike Greenwell.
Baseball Reference has a wonderful feature called "Similarity scores" where you can see other players who have similar statistical careers. You can therefore see where your player fits, or maybe your client fits if you're an agent.Obviously, we detect a certain irony when J.D. Drew is on the list...as well as studs like Vernon Wells or duds like Marty Cordova.
If you're at America's Most Beloved Ballpark tonight, give Trot a shout out, and then let's root for laundry.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
But with Hank Blalock out and Sammy Sosa a shell of his former self, the Texas Rangers indeed ioccupy the Lone Star state, that lone star being Mark Teixeira. And Teixeira did plenty of damage with four RBI including a titanic home run. But, in a place that has traditionally meant nightmares, the Sox stretched their division lead over the Bombers to an unthinkable 12 1/2 games.
Kevin Youkilis continued his terrific baseball with his seventh consecutive multihit game. Fourth in the AL in average, Youkilis remains 6th in runs scored, 5th in on base percentage, 6th in OPS, 5th in runs created, and 4th in runs created per 27 outs.
Dustin Pedroia affords me yet another session of crow-eating, as his swing-from-the-heels approach delivered a key ninth inning, Bucky %&$*ing Dent-like homer.
And although Julian Tavarez 'blew up' in the 6th, he kept the team in the game, and the Sox and the Rangers' bullpen did the rest.
Postseason odds (using a million computer runs) post the Sox at 95 percent.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Drew's career numbers .284/.391/.504/.895 absolutely dwarf his 2007 numbers. Injury? Pressure? Statistical curiosity?
Who are the Sox' top 5 career hitters and what was their worst season?
Ted Williams, .344, hit .254 in about half a season worth of at bats at age 40
Wade Boggs .338, hit .259 in 1992
Tris Speaker .337, hit .296 in 1919 when on the Indians
Nomar Garciaparra .328 (career .317) hit .283 in a shortened season for him in 2005
Jimmie Foxx .320, hit .226 in 1942 in an at-bat limited season at age 34
So, given this point in the season, and with the comfort of solid overall team play, let's chalk up Drew's start to small sample size and statistical variation.
The Pitching Staff. A week ago, fans celebrated the AL's best or second best staff. Now, with Schilling's struggles, Beckett on the DL, and Daisuke dry heaving, where are we? Hearing about Daisuke's nausea, I couldn't help doing the doctor differential diagnosis, from mundane to disastrous fixable.
- A 'bug'...people do get sick
- Food poisoning...these guys eat out all the time
- Acid-peptic disease/H. pylori...
- Medication toxicity (could the rubber armed righty be using Motrin?)
- Gallstones, not very likely in a young guy
- Hepatitis...too much raw fish
- Everything else...I'll skip the details
Let's just hope that he's feeling better today. If there's any doubt, send him back to Boston for an evaluation.
Stuff you never see. I love baseball oddities, but when was the last time you saw a runner on second tagged out on a ground ball to second base? It had to be Manny.
De-fense. Daisuke was victimized by his own inefficiency in the fourth inning, but Manny's banana route on Teixeira's triple certainly didn't help. Speaking of defense, Sammy Sosa might make Wily Mo Pena look like Roberto Clemente out there.
Management. I ssuspect most Sox fans have grown to appreciate Francona's humor, candor, and perspicacity. He keeps problems in house, and the players seem genuinely happy playing for him. Of course, fat contracts must help. Speaking of fat contracts, Theo Epstein has been riding a winning hand now, and staying under the radar.
Farm Aid. The Sox best news is the well-stocked minor league system, currently loaded with some "power arms" (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden), all of whom seem to have both the talent and the drive to be successful. Peter Gammons writes about the need to be great, and the Sox may have found players with talent and temperament.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Schilling has been a terrific pitcher for a long time, and the Sox have won 7 of his 10 starts. Of all the above numbers, the one that worries me the most is the H/IP ratio, which has recently ballooned. Is Schilling hurt?
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The game had its share of 'events'...
- Mike Lowell hit the fair pole with his 9th home run...two more than Manny
- Hideki Okajima was scored upon for the first time since Opening Day. The Okey-Dokey wasn't finding the zone, and he couldn't throw the curve near the plate
- Coco Crisp beat out an almost certain DP, and stole second, keying the Sox three run rally that put the game into Cigar Mode
- Jonathan Papelbon walked the first two hitters he faced...but got a pair of strikeouts, including Derek Jeter to end the game
- A-Fraud took out Pedroia at second, with a 'slide' which departed from second base. The Bomber fans will salute the Fraud's hard-nosed play. Old-timers will only note that Rodriguez will 'get his', at the time and place of opponent's choosing. Basically, the Fraud slide should have merited an automatic double play call.
J.D. Drew continues to struggle miserably at the plate. Sox fans know this guy can play, but we're already beginning to wonder about a hidden injury, or the 'can't play in Boston' label. Winning does heal a wealth of injuries.
Youk continues to hit, despite the squirrel he wears on his face. Okay, I'm just envious.
Minor League: Roger Clemens gets another start tomorrow night in Trenton. He gets about 10 grand every time he blinks his eyes. Other former Sox, like Ferguson Jenkins, no longer pitch. Jenkins went 22-21 in two years for the Sox, winning 20 games 7 times for other teams. He also hit 6 homers and hit .243 for the Cubs in 1971.
Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits (.267) in a PawSox win tonight.
Outfield prospect Jason Place had a pair of hits to raise his average to .212 at Greenville. Meanwhile, in the pen, Josh Papelbon lowered his ERA to 1.09. Maybe he needs a promotion to the hard-hitting California League.
Five is good when fifth starter Julian Tavarez garners a win in Yankee Stadium. Five stinks when the Celtics grab the 5 pick with the NBA's second worst record.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I can't help but borrow this quote from a Wonkette blogger, "My mother always told me to speak good of the dead. The Yankees are dead. Good."
Despite their inability to win a championship for what seems like an eternity to New Yorkers, the Yankees have a formidable lineup. What does that mean for a playoff berth, at least from a probability standpoint?
Baseball Prospectus has their Monte Carlo simulator including the odds of making the playoffs. While past performance doesn't guarantee future results, the Red Sox check in with a 94 percent chance of making the playoffs, and the Bombers are at 16 percent, just below the Baltimore Orioles and the Seattle Mariners. But as Mark Twain might say, "there are three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies, and statistics." BP reminds us that they run their simulation 1 million times to generate these probabilities.
Amidst the hard to interpret stats available at Baseball Prospectus, one that is intriguing is defensive efficiency, that is the percentage of balls hit in play that are converted into outs. The Sox rank eighth. Toronto, Chicago, Oakland, and New York all rank higher in the AL than the Sox.
Minor League Notes: Jon Lester worked 3 2/3 innings last night in his debut with Pawtucket, throwing 48 pitches, allowing one hit, one walk and no runs. Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits and raised his OPS to .703 at Pawtucket. Ellsbury has also stolen 15 bases in 18 tries between Portland and the Pawsox.
20 year-old Michael Bowden had a 5 inning one-run performance in his debut for Portland. With Lester, Bowden, and Clay Buchholz, the Sox have three top shelf pitching prospects in the high minors, with Buchholz and Bowden checking in at age 22 and 20.
Sox' California League entry Lancaster got bombed to the tune of 30-0 in a Friday night game. Lancaster returned the favor 14-12 last night. According to the 2007 issue of Baseball Prospectus, Lancaster has a very high offensive park rating.
Although tied for the team lead in homers, Greenville Drive outfielder (and former top choice) Jason Place is hitting only .192, with 51 strikeouts and 14 walks in 130 plate appearance.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Thank you for your wonderful insight into the politics of sports and medicine, or rather the use of performance-enhancing drugs...or your use of performance enhancing drugs.
Although publicly you denied being a steroid user, you subsequently testified to the grand jury that you were a drug abuser. Not only did you betray the trust of your admirers and baseball fans by using steroids, you forfeited whatever credibility you had by lying about it.
But you always were a big, rawboned lad. Right? Not exactly.
Yes, we're all envious of your fabulous hand-eye coordination, manliness, and fat bank account. We're just disgusted not by your cheating, do anything, say anything persona but just by your abject lack of judgment to simply remain silent.
I don't know if you ever said you were a role model. Yes, you are, a model of 'how not to be a professional'. But don't worry, no child would ever want to be like you, a Yankee, admired by many, and so articulate - almost statesmanlike.
We know that the pair of homers off Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS had NOTHING to do with steroids, and EVERYTHING to do with you simply being your fabulous self.
In closing, I acknowledge that nothing is cheaper than free advice, but maybe you could get yourself a course in media relations, or a spokesperson, or just a muzzle.
For every ten starts, there will be a distribution of 'stuff' and results according to many factors. Wins and losses come not solely from the physical ability (brawn) but also from the pitching acumen (brains), and of course, run support. The best pitchers have the greatest skew distribution of high-level performance but also can keep the team either in the game or winning with something less.
Think back to your lifetime baseball observational experience. You have Clemens, Martinez, and Maddox who won first of all because they had a high percentage of games with quality stuff. If you're an old-timer like me, you grew up watching Koufax, Marichal, and Gibson with similar qualities. But you also had pitchers like Jack McDowell, Jack Morris, and Dave Stieb who compiled high winning percentages OUT OF PROPORTION to their E.R.A. by pitching 'just well enough" to pick up victories through guile and grit.
I'm not comparing the latter three to either of the former trios, rather using them as examples of pitchers whose craft may have exceeded their raw ability. Making chicken soup out of chicken feathers, creates a formidable legacy.
Schilling may come off as arrogant and abrasive at times, not as the ALF of Major League Baseball, but rather as a genuine person. Regardless of whether you like him or not, you have to respect him. Which is probably just the way he wants it. Few people can go through life without anyone saying a harsh word about them...and few pitchers can do what Schilling did the other evening with his 'messterpiece'.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The Red Sox have never, except perhaps during an eight game stretch in the 2004 playoffs, had starting pitching this consistent. And that can change in a heartbeat, or maybe the tear of Josh Beckett's finger. Last night the Sox needed someone to step up and give the bullpen a breather, and doryoku occurred, Daisuke Matsuzaka delivered a complete game, seen about as often as black swans at Fenway.
The Sox are second in ERA (3.21) in the AL (in a smaller ballpark than Oakland's mausoleum), are fourth in quality starts with 22 (the Angels lead with 25), have the league's lowest OPS against (.648), the second highest K/BB ratio (2.4) which predicts future ERA, and are tied for the fewest blown saves (2).
We haven't yet reached the quarter pole, and the Sox have four starters with four or more wins, and the Sox bullpen has an amazing ERA of 2.34 in an ERA where sluggers still muscle up like, well, they're shooting up.
Sure, things can change, but the Sox also are developing a stable of young, potentially solid starters in the minors, with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholtz, and Michael Bowden (recently promoted to AA) all prospects, not just suspects.
Let's be thankful for what we have.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Among the surprises are the combined 18 stolen bases from Lugo and Crisp, the metamorphosis of Josh Beckett who had embodied the Ray Millerian 'wisdom triad' (throw strikes, change speeds, work fast), and outperformance from the corners (Youkilis and Lowell).
The epistemic solution for the Red Sox hasn't been to spend far more dollars (they have), but the simple reliance on one of baseball's infallible truths: performance fluctuates. Players who struggled via injury or underachievement last year (e.g. Wakefield, Varitek) are playing better. We tend to 'credit' or vilify management or field direction (Francona) for nonlinear achievement inherent in athletic undertaking. That isn't to say that having a Bill Russell or Michael Jordan equivalent makes no difference, but consistency in baseball becomes a rare commodity.
Who can forget the mercurial performances of George Scott, Dwight Evans meteoric second career after Charlie Lau, or Brett Saberhagen's career fluctuations. The late Mark Belanger was a career .228 hitter, but hit .287 in 1969 as the Orioles got to the Series against the Amazin' Mets.
So, amidst our praise and rage at the Red Sox, we need to remember J.P. Morgan's thoughts on stock market price and their corollary (baseball achievement), "it will fluctuate."
Happy Mothers Day!
Saturday, May 12, 2007
This week brought its own revelations or reinforcements of prior beliefs.
- Know yourself. Daisuke Matsuzaka's performance against the Blue Jays gave fans and MORE IMPORTANTLY Matsuzaka, an injection of self-confidence. Matsuzaka made quality pitches in key situations - the running fastball in to Vernon Wells in particular and the cutter down and away. From a technical standpoint, his release point seemed more consistent and he dropped his elbow less frequently, allowing him to keep the ball down.
- If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it is, get surgery. Roy Halladay looked WRONG on Thursday, lacking the fluid delivery characteristic of elite pitchers. From just watching warmups, a casual observer could notice a 'frozen' right side, as his upper body seemed mechanically awkward. Was he protecting his abdominal muscles (from the harbingers of appendicitis) with a flawed motion? I guess that we'll find out next time.
- Ouch! Wily Mo Pena isn't an enigmatic fourth outfielder. He's a defensively-challenged third outfielder who is 'low cost' insurance. He didn't have a play on the Mora double over his head (he wasn't Roy White playing on the warning track) and he simply botched the subsequent looper. You have to ask yourself how athletes with remarkable hand-eye coordination sometimes misplay 'easy' plays. At least it had no Bucknerian consequences.
- Candor in the Wind. Curt Schilling will always get a pass here for his contributions in 2004, and as individuals we have to decide whether we care about Schill's thoughts on Barry Bonds, steroids, NAFTA (if he has any), politics, polygamy, or anything else. I enjoy hearing and reading his opinions, but I'm not going to confuse him with Montaigne, Bertrand Russell, or Steven Hawking. But let's not forget that none of them are EVER going to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Well, Schilling might not be either, but he has a chance.
- Roger Clemens. The word I hear from the 'connected' is that the Clemens immediate family advocated for a circle-closing return to the Hub, but that Roger had other idea$.
- Hazel Mae. I only know what I see, but aren't the backups getting extra time in the lineup these days? Is Hazel letting herself go, or is she shopping at the high-end maternity boutiques these day? You be the judge.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Now we know that you have a lot of mouths to feed, although some of the K clan are playing on the road. But nine million dollars will feed the average family of four, for let's say, five hundred years.
But then it's about respect. The Nobel Prize is worth 10 million kronor these days, but I'd guess that might be more about respect than money. The Cy Young for a young guy like Johan Santana would surely be worth 10 million extra large US, but also worth some respect.
Today the Yankee fans amidst us were crowing about how 'upset' the Red Sox were at not landing Clemens. I had trouble sleeping last night, but it might have been a stiff back. I'm sure John Henry lost a lot of sleep at not landing Clemens...but what is the VORP for Roger (value over replacement player)?
Clemens led the majors in VORP in 2005 and fell to 24th in 2006. That's pretty good, but will he duplicate it in 2007 in another league with more mileage? Richard Thaler did some pretty impressive pitching of his own with 'The Winner's Curse', an expose' about cognitive bias...the point being when competing for an asset, you tend to overpay and get underproduction. But we know that the only curses left now (The Curse of Mrs. X) are on the Yankees.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
The Sox evidently came in a distant second to the Yankees on this bid. Meanwhile, the Yankees inherit the baggage that inevitably comes with a soon-to-be 45 year-old righthander. The hamstring and quad pulls that have limited Clemens in the past loom even more concerning at this age. Of course, the friendship between Andy Pettitte and Clemens (and the formidable run support available in New York) proved irresistable.
As for the lure of 'home' and 'family', Clemens has traded those in the past for the dollars, so why change now? While Red Sox fans would have welcomed their All-Time victory leader (tied with Cy Young) back, I doubt that too many are crying in their collective beer tonight. Even fifth starter Julian Tavarez has looked better recently, while Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are not too far off from being contributors.
The Sox captured two of three from the always tough Twins at the Dome, and the pen continued to be mightier than the sword, led by Papelbon, Okajima, and Donnelly.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Statistics can be a tricky subject. To reach statistical significance for a given event not happening (at the 0.05 level), a ratio of 3/n is sometimes employed. In other words, if something doesn't happen in 100 tries, that would be 3/100 (.03) and would be 'statistically significant at the .05 level' that the event wasn't going to happen. That obviously doesn't mean it couldn't happen, and in baseball it seems that anything can happen.
When the Tigers started the 1984 season (hope I'm right here) 35-5, it seemed inescapable that they were going to win their division. On the other hand, because Josh Beckett starts 6-0, I doubt that any sane Red Sox fan would predict 30 wins, as some New York fans projected for Randy Johnson in his first campaign with the Bombers.
What can we say about the Red Sox at this point? Offensively, it seems fair to say that they are likely to be in the top thirty percent of the AL. They are second in both runs and OPS, and not that many players are having 'career' years. Defensively, I expect them to be in the bottom third of the league, possibly abetted by having a pitching staff that has a K/9 inning ratio of 7 (4th in the league). On the hill, the Sox are second in ERA, and lead the league in opponents batting average (.228). You need skill, health, and luck to maintain these figures, and only time whether the cosmic forces will cooperate.
I've argued the importance of quality starts in the past, and here's the proof. Quality starts tend to result in a team winning about 70 percent of those games. The Fantastics Baseball Blog lists some previous results for both Quality Starts and Disaster Starts. With Johan Santana going tonight, hoping for a Disaster Start doesn't tickle reality. The Quality Starts blog seems to have run aground, but as Youkilis would say, it lacked statistical validity to the point it dried up.
Is it better to have your number five starter going against Johan Santana or your top dog? It's hard to expect the Sox to score a lot of runs against the Twins' ace. On the one hand, "it takes a diamond to cut a diamond", but on the other, is your diamond hard enough?
Friday, May 04, 2007
Jacoby Ellsbury has already had a hit and scored two runs for the PawSox. Ellsbury's had two walks and a hit. I'm not saying he's going to Cooperstown or will ever play in a major league All-Star Game. But he is fun to watch and productive at the minor league level. Let's just hope that he comes with a better nickname than 'Chief' or some similar drivel.
Another Sox pitching farmhand off to a strong start is Michael Bowden of the Lancaster JetHawks. Aside from having a great name, the team is off to a 16-12 start.
Perusing Red Sox records reveals some unexpected facts. Roger Clemens and Cy Young tie for career wins, followed by Tim Wakefield. Wakefield also ranks third in innings pitched, strikeouts, and second in starts on the Sox All-Time list. On the downside, he ranks first in losses, home runs allowed, wild pitches, earned runs allowed, and third in hits allowed and second in walks allowed. Wakefield has won over 20 more games for the Sox than Pedro Martinez. Surprising.
Only the Mets have a better run differential than the Sox this season. Only the (gulp) Brewers have as many wins as the Sox, and the team with the second worst record in the NL is the World Champion Cardinals.
Speaking of the Cardinals, while we mourn the loss of former Sox hurler Josh Hancock, can we learn something from this? Hancock's toxicology report showed a robust alcohol level of .157 which surely contributed to his untimely death. Here are a few sobering statistics. After 10 P.M. one in thirteen drivers is impaired (intoxicated). After 1 A.M. the rate rises to one in seven. In other words, late night driving exposes many innocent drivers and their families to impaired drivers.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
The Sox lost Tuesday night (ancient history in baseball time), 5-4, with a rare bullpen collapse. Or did less obvious contributions, or lack thereof, cost a victory? First, our baseball fanaticism compels us to microanalyze each victory and defeat...the football mentality of 'what if?'. How was last night's game different. J.D. Drew returned to the lineup? Drew has struggled lately, but added an RBI. But Alex Cora returned to second base and had two RBI, and continued his steady, heady, winning play.
Player A .172 .294 .224 .518 (AVE/OBP/SLG/OPS)
Player B .345 .406 .724 1.130
Cora hasn't had many at bats (29), but has scored one more run than Pedroia (player A) and has nine RBI compared with Pedroia's two.
The Sox embody 'Moneyball', so we know that Terry Francona comes to the ballpark with his laptop, and gets greeted by reams of data to sift through looking for fungible realities sortable into runs created and defensed. We also know how Francona appreciates the unvarnished, unassuming contribution of Cora. "He's a baseball player."
At this point, Pedroia remains a 'suspect' as much as 'prospect', a free swinger whose contact credentials in the minors haven't translated into victories, yet. Yes, he snagged a Josh Phelps liner to help preserve a win against the Yankees, but the other Pedroia highlights would fit into a fifteen-second campaign spot.
The Sox need to carry a backup middle infielder, and the question hanging over Theo and company is 'should Pedroia be the guy' or should the Sox afford Pedroia the chance for a makeover?
Meanwhile, the Sox have their own rival for Philip Hughes as Clay Buchholz rampages through AA getting stronger every outing. The 22 year-old righthander threw six perfect innings in his last start, has a chilling 9-1 K/BB ratio (best ERA predictor), and has allowed just 12 hits in 22 innings thus far. With Lester, Buchholz, and others on the horizon, the Sox may have the alchemy of baseball past and future in their cupboard.