Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Temptation Eyes

First, a tribute to Red Sox pitcher past.

The outstanding performance of Jon Lester last night gives us a chance to take a preliminary look at the 'young guns' on the Red Sox and the Bombers. The Red Sox offer Buchholz and Lester, while the Gothams give baseball Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.

Pitcher .... IP H ER K BB ERA

Buchholz...28.2 26 13 27 10 4.08

Lester..... 39.2 38 19 23 22 4.31

Red Sox....68.3 64 32 50 32 4.21

Hughes..... 22 34 22 13 13 9.00

Kennedy... 19 23 18 17 15 8.53

Yankees ... 41 57 40 30 28 8.78

The Red Sox complete their April schedule tonight against the Blue Jays and their offense remains stuck in neutral, while Daisuke Matsuzaka returns from the flu. Daisuke's trying to shed the POWER NIBBLER image, throwing what seems to be more fastballs.

Run Production. Even with their recent struggles, the Red Sox are tied for second in runs scored behind Detroit, second in OPS (.780), and tied for first in OBP at .356. The Sox are sixth in stolen bases, which has to be a first.

Run Prevention. The Red Sox check in at eleven in ERA, one notch above the Yankees. They are fourth in opponents batting average and they are ninth in both WHIP (1.41) and K/BB (1.71). The improvement in the latter two statistics may offer more hope for future performance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Good News, Bad News

The Sox returned from an off day to face the Toronto Blue Jays, who earlier swept them at Toronto.

First, some words on marketing. Jordan's a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, extends the Monster Sweep another week. If the Sox keep playing this way, they can give away furniture if the Sox make the post-season. Second, Double D's isn't losing a lot of money on free iced coffee and tea, with the Sox on a losing tear. At least Paps isn't getting his ass slapped as much.

It seems like most of the outs tonight have been ground outs to David Eckstein, he of the Brad Pennington arm from shortstop. To paraphrase an old movie, the summer of 6 to 3.

"Babe Ruth is dead." The classic advice offered to pitchers nibbling the zone must have struck a chord with Jon Lester, who has thrown his stuff with something on it tonight, with hitters feeling some bees in the bats. Jerry Remy insightfully offers that Lester isn't working at his usual snail's pace.

Meanwhile, Roy Halladay looks like he needs a long distance phone call. The Sox haven't even had a whimper since the Rays stifled them this weekend. Yes, sweep and Tampa go together, but didn't they get the memo that they are the sweepee not the sweeper?

The only offense in the game so far must be the capacity crowd snickering over Roger Clemency's latest fiasco. As one online poster wrote, "Roger, NOW you know how Barry Bonds feels." Kinda gives new meaning to the term, "pitching rubber".

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nut 'n Honey

The latest sordid or tawdry l'affaire Clemens pretty much boggles the mind. I suppose that nobody except for Roger Clemens and Mindy McCready know exactly what happened. Is this another tale of smoke without fire and sizzle without steak? You gotta think this ones got legs.

Coming into today, we 'knew' two things about Roger Clemens:
  • His professional pitching resume' marked him for virtually unanimous first ballot Hall of Fame status (nobody actually gets unanimous induction, for what it's worth)
  • Among professional athletes, Roger was considered among the ultimate 'family' guys
Before today, the steroid cloud hanging over Clemens challenged the former.

After today, and lacking more than hearsay, we have to wonder about the latter.

If testosterone-charged (if not supplemented) athletes were disqualified from their collective Halls of Fame because of their sexual escapades, we could probably relocate them to a White House closet. Well, maybe that's not a good example.

Under the absolute best of circumstances, we have to wonder about any shreds of judgment available to the well-traveled right-hander. How would you feel about a twenty year-old man hanging around with your fifteen year old daughter? How would you feel about your twenty-eight year old husband consorting with a fifteen year old girl? What's going on? "Nut 'n Honey." Whether they were playing tiddly winks, Barbie and Ken, or 'House' it sure doesn't pass the sniff test.

What's this got to do with baseball? After all, are professional athletes role models? Well, while we like to look upon public figures as heroes, often they struggle with the dark side that exists in all humankind. When it reveals itself, perhaps we over-indulge ourselves in schadenfreude.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Maryann Versus Ginger

Click charts to ENLARGE.

Have we come to the wrong blog, rehashing seventies television? No, it's the rhetorical question comparing Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. Who's who?

Here's the tale of the tape, early season style.

The game gets broken down statistically into runs created and runs prevented. How do you prevent runs? I believe that lower WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and higher K/BB tell a lot. Note that wins and losses don't necessarily tell the tale.

  • WHIP, Buchholz 1.50, Lester 1.77 edge Buchholz
  • K/BB, Buchholz 2.3, Lester 0.8

First, these represent incredibly small sample sizes. Second, Lester has the World Series victory pelt on his horse.

But success relates to quality pitches, the ability to get outs.

  • Lester has the intangible edge of lefthandedness.
  • I'll argue Buchholz's offspeed pitches make his fastball better.
  • Buchholz already has a quality offspeed pitch.
  • Buchholz has the potential to have a curveball in the class of Bert Blyleven

It's far too soon to prognosticate careers, but put me in Buchholz's corner, hoping that both can be top of the rotation guys.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Revolving Door Policy

The Sox turned a wildly successful debut by Justin Masterson into dreck, as the bullpen allowed 5 walks and six runs in three innings to lose the rubber game to the Halos.

Masterson threw 95 pitches and left with a two run lead before a parade of inefficiency turned Shinola into squat.

The bullpen continues to meander through pitching purgatory, with strength at the end, and very little reliable performances coming earlier. The Sox brain trust must do some serious soul-searching as they seek someone, anyone to get some outs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wild in the Zone

Fans often visualize wildness as inability to throw strikes. Certainly that tends to be conventional wisdom, but not the worst kind of wildness. Dice-K and Jon Lester tend to struggle with Type A wildness.

But the most dangerous and difficult wildness is what I'll call Type B wildness, that is WILDNESS IN THE STRIKE ZONE. And that is what afflicts Mike Timlin these days. Even at age 42, Timlin has good velocity and good movement. But so far, he has frequented the middle of the strike zone, where Ted Williams]' Science of Hitting dogma flourishes.

How do you cure Type B wildness? It just has to work its way out.

The Sox six game win streak went by the boards with another missed start from the starter (Matsuzaka) and the first time the Sox haven't scored at least five runs in well over a week. Hurry back, JV.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Force Majeure Downs Angels

In economic/legal terms, they call it FORCE MAJEURE. Tonight, the Sox had too much Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Jonathan Papelbon, stretching their record to 15-7 against the LA Angels of Anaheim.

Answering yesterday's criticism, Ellsbury had his first two homerun game, had a key leadoff bunt in the eighth, and scored on a double into the leftfield corner by four-hit DUSTBUSTER, who raised his average to .364.

Yes, I'm drinking the Jacoby-Aid as Ellsbury assumes the league lead in runs scored, and his uber-night brings his stats to .308/.448/.529/.977.

Not overlooked tonight, Kevin Youkilis drilled a two-run game-tying homer in the fifth, as the eighth ranked (ESPN) Sox picked up their major league leading 15th victory. Jonathan Papelbon racked up his eighth April save with a one-two-three blowdown of Gary Matthews and Vlad Guerriero on strikeouts and Garrett Anderson on a soft fly to Manny to finish.

Now the bad news. Josh Beckett was out with a stiff neck, and the Angels cuffed around David Pauley. Pauley will be headed back down to Pawtucket tomorrow and the Sox may bring up a third catcher with Jason Varitek recovering from illness.

Remarkably, the Sox had yet another come-from-behind win rallying from a 5-1 deficit. The bullpen also added 4 2/3 innings of one run pitching to hold the Angels down while the offense connected.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Duende Dude

It matters little whether we talk basketball, baseball, football, checkers, or chess...strength up the middle remains a precursor for success. I have no interest in reputation over production. And I do not believe in enshrining unproven players in the pantheon of greatness.

But I do believe not only in Platonic but Aristotlean truth. The simple truth reveals itself day by day, that [[Jacoby Ellsbury]] can compete with the best in the American League for an All-Star outfield berth.

At 24 Ellsbury has the raw athletic tools with an incomplete skill set for greatness. Yet even an embryonic Ellsbury produces. Despite an early season platoon in Boston's outfield, Ellsbury is second in the AL in runs scored (16), second in stolen bases (8), and his .444 on base percentage would be among the league leaders if he had sufficient plate appearances. Even with training wheels technique on the bases, Ellsbury is on pace to steal nearly 70 bases, something unheard of in station-to-station baseball Boston. And he hasn't been caught stealing yet in sixteen major league tries.

He hasn't proven that he can hit left handed pitching, hasn't hit for power yet, and time will tell whether he can handle the hard stuff inside that left handers must to succeed in The Show. What he has proven is the ability to perform under big market bright lights, which many players, young or old cannot.

I'm not claiming that Ellsbury deserves your All-Star vote, yet. But he deserves your attention, an exciting force that alters the Red Sox' stodgy tradition of plodding sluggers. In the parlance of George Frazier, he has not only the talent, but duende.

The Sox are Made for Walking

The Red Sox completed their sweep over Texas, and one has to wonder whether Ron Washington's job is on the line. The Sox pounded out ten walks and another double figure hit game en route to the Patriots' Day rout.

While the Bombers argue over the Joba roles, the Sox got a pair of solid performances from their youth against the Rangers. Jon Lester went six plus and today Clay Buchholz tossed six shutout innings before turning the lead over to the pen.

For those just arriving from another galaxy, Hank Steinbrenner can't keep his mouth out of the news, demanding Joba Chamberlain go into the pinstripe rotation, not surprising with the early season shakiness of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. In 30.3 innings the Yankee uber-arms have combined for 31 earned runs, 23 strikeouts and 23 walks, a pitiful 1 K/BB ratio.

Conversely, Lester and Buchholz in 47.3 innings have allowed 26 earned runs, and a not so nifty 33 and 25 K/BB ratio.

The Red Sox (with three games more played) have forged a lead in runs scored, OPS, OBP, SLG, and total bases.

Jacoby Ellsbury's two stolen bases (8) make him second in the AL, one behind the Twins' Carlos Gomez. Ellsbury is second (16) in the AL in runs scored, but lacks enough appearances to be in the top five in OBP, where he is at .444.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Let's Hear It for the Boy

The Red Sox hibernated for about six innings before arousing to send yellow roses to Texas. And once again, the Sox relied on youth to carry the day, although not without considerable assistance from some graybeards, too.



DUSTBUSTER, Dustin Pedroia off the bench with an extra base hit to plate David Ortiz with the tying run in the eighth inning.

Jacoby Ellsbury, with a pair of hits, a pair of stolen bases, and more playing of THE PEST.

Jed Lowrie, with another two hits, two runs scored, and an RBI double.

Big Papi, a pair of hits, a pair of RBI, and an Olympic sprint from first on the tying run.

Jonathan Papelbon with a seven pitch save and more free iced coffee and iced tea at Double D's.

Julio Lugo...with enough versatility to play shortstop and left, while the Sox move the youngsters around. Lugo also keyed a double steal...the Runnin' Red Sox.

Sean Casey, with another lengthy professional at-bat against Texas southpaw C.J. Wilson. I thought the 2-2 pitch was a strike, but when you're not around the zone, you don't get the calls.

Tim Wakefield, spared the bullpen additional angst with eight innings of work, yet only 86 pitches.


Manny. Manny beefed about a called third strike in the first inning. You could read the umpire saying, "not another word", after which Manny yapped and got tossed. Maybe Manny didn't want the day off tomorrow against Kason Gabbard.

The difference for the evolution of the Red Sox has clearly been a willingness to give the kids a chance to succeed, and they're making the most of it. I am not saying that Lowrie is ready to play every day, but he's already shown value and versatility. With one of the top organizations in the minors now, the Sox can try to conserve payroll some places to afford it elsewhere. Justin Masterson has dominated in Double A and surely will be headed down to Pawtucket soon.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Inside the Numbers

Baseball more than any other sport allows us the opportunity to review, sort, and interpret the numbers. So let's get at it.


The Red Sox are 13th (4.84) in the AL in ERA, one of the most important 'run prevention' numbers. But why? The Sox are second in batting average against (.242) and last in walks allowed at 84. Although they are ninth in K/BB ratio, it is with a very poor 1.56 ratio, far below the league-leading Twins at 2.59. This is a very disturbing trend.

The bullpen has a collective ERA of 5.43, also among the worst in the AL.


Even with a struggling David Ortiz and injured Mike Lowell, the Sox lead the league in runs scored (93), admittedly having played more games than second place Chicago. The Sox also lead the league in OPS (.806) and OBP (.363), the latter one point ahead of another 'Moneyball' team, Toronto.

Individual achievement?

All of us would like to see a more mature pitcher in Jon Lester. But he has won a World Series game, and has a .750 career winning percentage with a very small sample size. His WHIP ratio of 1.57 is a lot higher than the Sox want to see, and his 60/43 strikeout to walk ratio clearly needs improvement.
But he is 24 years old, did miss a substantial amount of time with serious illness, and above all, he is left-handed.
.G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+

13 40 4 13 2 0 0 3 2 0 2 7 .325 .349 .375 93

16 35 12 8 0 1 1 6 4 0 11 4 .229 .429 .371 115

The two lines above show production for two current Sox players. One-ninth of the way through the season, Player B is on track to score 100 runs in 'platoon' duty. You've probably guessed that the first line belongs to Coco Crisp and the latter to Jacoby Ellsbury, whom I dub 'The Pest', because he is a major distraction for Sox opponents.

Blowback: Its Time Has Come

The National League, sans DH, still requires pitchers to take some accountability for their actions. Unmitigated headhunting exposes the initiator to risk, the opportunity for the other team to take out its frustrations via simple retribution. Of course, the Junior Circuit ringmasters has its disciplinary clowns to administer suspensions (after lengthy appeals) but nothing approaching the instant wild west justice available to the Senior Circuit.

This week Manny Ramirez blasted two titanic round-trippers off aging Yankee hanger-on Mike Mussina. Every team (with money) has them, guys who can't and shouldn't walk away from a big payday. After Moose's departure, Kyle Farnsworth came in and fired high cheese right behind Manny's shoulders. Ramirez wasn't injured, both benches received warnings, and civility prevailed, for now.

Maybe Farnsworth lacks the gray matter to remember Kirby Puckett or Tony Conigliaro, players whose careers suffered greatly after head injuries wrought not necessarily through retribution or anger, but just because. Because a hard round sphere traveling over 90 miles an hour hit them in the soul of their baseball humanity.

If Farnsworth had critically injured Ramirez through the vicissitudes of baseball fortune, what was to be his penalty? A five game suspension, twenty-five, fifty? Burn in hell? Well, we shall never know.

But imaging this rule came into place. Following the purpose pitch ("the purpose being to separate the head from the shoulders"), the game is immediately halted and the offending pitcher sent up to bat, with a helmet and bat only. The opponents are given one pitch, with impunity, to seek baseball's perversion of justice. No suspensions, no fines, no warnings, no shoulda, coulda, woulda. Just the heroic Kyle Farnsworths of the world against the not-so-random 90 mile per hour fastball.

Don't worry Kyle, it will never happen. Throwing at an unprotected human being with intent or even possibility of injury is just wrong. But evidently you never learned that.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Who'd Have Thunk It?

The Sox return to the friendly confines of Fenway, and immediately start assaulting the baseball. Big Papi goes yard and gets the silent treatment, and later the DUSTBUSTER (Pedroia) jacks one into the Monster Seats.

Daisuke continues to struggle with pitch economy, pulled after over 100 pitches in the sixth inning. In the early frames, he seemed to have the changeup going, and later not so much.

Jed Lowrie continues to try to worm his way into the lineup with a pair of solid hits and an RBI, and The Pest (I want to think of him as our Mickey Rivers Version 2.01) finds his way on base and works counts in the annoying Red Sox fashion.

David Aardsma seemed to have worked his way up the pecking order in the bullpen, only to revert to Lost in Space control problems after getting two quick outs in the eighth. Of course, Red Sox killer Frank Catalanotto has a chance to do the deed once again.

Early season observations:
  • As much as we talk about the Yankees uncertainty re: youthful starters (Hughes and Kennedy not looking like Drysdale and Marichal), the Red Sox youth haven't reminded anybody of Koufax and Palmer, either
  • Jason Varitek remains the Sox most indispensable player
  • Sean Casey is a pretty good player.
  • Pedroia might just hit .300 again.
  • Depth. Nice.
  • The "Greek god of Walks" might just be the Jewish god of OBP.
  • Manny had to hit that 495 foot homer with his own power. Could Mussina be a homerun derby pitcher for Manny?
  • Bullpen inconsistency, thy name is Boston.
  • The Sox are 5th in fielding despite six errors from Julio Lugo? Wow.
  • Sean Casey defines 'lumbering' on the bases.
  • NESN "Helicopter Talk" already. It could be a long season in the booth.
  • Where are all the RemDawg pitches for scoresheets, hot dogs, headbands, tee shirts, and so on? What's next, "REMDAWG OIL?"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

They Call This Baseball

Another four hour plus marathon nears its conclusion on that Heartbreak Hill known as Yankee Stadium.

If greatness means building a legacy, then destroying the beauty and rhythm of baseball with an abomination must also deserve note.

Tonight's action has just poisoned the well of goodwill baseball tries to project. Tim McClelland's delayed calls antics wears thin, although he was relatively consistent. I don't expect my Yankee fan friends to be whining about the calls either, as they did when Phil Hughes couldn't find the plate at Fenway.

Sure, a call could have gotten Buchholz out of the fourth, but it wasn't as though he were Walter Johnson out there, although compared to Julian Tavarez maybe he was.

I've buried Mike Timlin numerous times, only to have him pull the Phoenix act, and admittedly he allowed some bleeders during his 'Hammer Time' in the eighth.

And what was that last night with retaliation against the Sox for Delcarmen hitting Garko to DRIVE IN THE TYING RUN. Only a moron wouldn't know that the Sox weren't throwing at him. But here's the message. I suspect that Wedge told the pitcher (was it Jensen Lewis?) not to give Manny anything to hit. So Lewis pulled a Drysdale and plunked him. Sorry, that's crap.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pipp Squeak?

Jed Lowrie made his MLB debut tonight at third base, and had his first RBI on a ground out, and drove in the tying and go ahead runs in the seventh as the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead.

The Sox-Tribe rivalry has become reminiscent of the Sox-Yankees, without the four and a half hour games.

Ugh. Javier Lopez on in relief. Sure, he is left-handed and that allows the Jesse Oroscos and Graehm Lloyds of the world lengthy careers.

Kevin Cash did a great job handling Wakefield, and even threw out a runner (one of four). Cash doesn't have much of a stick, but that's acceptable.

NESN had a broadcasting coup, capturing Francona beefing about the lack of even a NEIGHBORHOOD PLAY at second base, and then the umpire admonishing Cabrera (we imagine) about keeping it real at second.

Jacoby Ellsbury gave J.D. Drew a night off, and once again the rookie responded with HOT WHEELS, a hit and a walk, leading to two runs scored. He has to be in there.

Meanwhile, the DUSTBUSTER, Dustin Pedroia keeps on grinding, now at .300.
Pedroia and Wakefield also picked a snoozing Franklin Gutierrez off second, preventing a run.

All in all, a very entertaining ballgame, even considering I need to get some sleep.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Man-Rams One Over Ex-Mates

Tonight's game didn't exactly feel as though it had the Robert Duvallian smell of victory. Jon Lester struggled again, competing for the Bartolo Colon sweepstakes.

Mike Timlin had a clean 8th, and Jonathan Papelbon rolled over the locals in the ninth with a pair of Ks before Travis Hafner flied out to the track in center to end it.

Will the real Sox bullpen please stand up? We may have to get used to the consistency of inconsistency, although tonight brought a pleasant change.

Manny closes in on 500 homers, Papelbon his 100th save, and David Ortiz got 2/3rds as many hits as he had in the first thirteen games. Maybe the resurrection of his shirt from the Yankee infrastructure was the key.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Japanese Walker Torture

Red Sox-Yankee games have become an ordeal not only for the players but for the fans, individual stages akin to the Tour de France. Tonight's game is in the 6th inning as we approach almost three hours of game time.

Both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yankee pitchers need a dog and a cane to find the strike zone. Matsuzaka walked six in his five innings. And David Aardsma has come on to walk two of the first three hitters he faced. Aardsma escaped further trouble by the skin of his teeth.

For the season, the Sox came in with a K/BB ratio well under two. As I've written before, K/BB ratio strongly correlates inversely to run prevention (as measured by E.R.A.).

If the Sox pitchers can't throw strikes, this is going to be a very long season. To make matters worse, the bullpen has neither Okajima nor Papelbon tonight.

The Yankees excavated the mythical Sox jersey from their new playground, worried about a new curse. They have enough of a curse to overcome, placed upon them prior to the Diamondbacks World series by the family of a fired Yankee employee.

Yankee reserve shortstop Alberto Gonzalez has looked terrific defensively and adequate offensively. He looks to be far superior to Derek Jeter in the field, although I'm sure that Jeter isn't sweating out his job.

We've heard a thousand times tonight how Derek Jeter isn't playing, but the Sox are missing both Mike Lowell and David Ortiz has a mental health day today.

For the season, the Sox are 7th in OPS and 9th in runs scored in the AL, although admittedly it's very early and nobody expects David Ortiz to be below the Dean Chance line, far below the Mendoza line.

Unfortunately for the working stiffs (including me), bedtime rapidly approaches, while the game is likely to last another couple of hours.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do You Have a Life? Red Sox Nation Tests That.

I can pretend that yesterday never happened, as I was attending a charity auction and never saw one pitch of the game. Of course, that didn't keep me from dropping some coin on a framed picture of the Greatest Comeback Ever, a celebratory photo of the 2004 Championship.

Today was better, but fell just short of 'perfect' with the two-hour plus rain delay and Fox's abomination of missing the final out of the game.

Josh Beckett gets his first victory of the season, and the 'you never see this' play was Kevin Youkilis the middle man on a 4-5-3 double play against the shift against Jason Giambi.

Sean Casey also turned a Mientkiewicz-like play on a shot down the first base line that prevented a run. He's definitely growing on Sox fans.

Papelbon survived warming up three times to fan A-Rod on three pitches with two on in the eighth, and set down the side in the ninth. Manny Delcarmen also came up big coming in with a runner in scoring position in the seventh with two out and registered a strikeout.

Mike Mussina has become Al Nipper, tossing a variety of rotten grapefruit up to the plate. He'll probably still win double digits if he stays healthy thanks to massive run support. But it won't be easy as he's a shell of what he used to be. Derek Jeter is still out, but his replacement looked like a Gold Glover in the field.

Sox fans will get to see the Phil Hughes experience tomorrow night.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Marketing Gone Wild

The promotions gang must be working overtime at Red Sox productions. But fear not, we've got stuff that can top anything they can 'do.

  • Furniture Wars...the Sox will give away 100 fully furnished homes. Get your entries in early. The first 100 entrants to get their entries in, in the "Sox Sweep" contest, with the Sox capturing all 19 regular games against the New York Yankees. Jordan's Furniture eat your hearts out.
  • 'Do Raffle. For your raffle entry of a mere five dollars apiece, win a trip to Manny Ramirez' barber, with Manny of course.
  • Bowling for Dollars. For only 100 dollars win an all-expenses trip to Wollaston for a bowl-a-thon with Julian 'Roll it to First' Tavarez. This concept narrowly edged out "Candlepins for Cash", a trip with reserve catcher Kevin Cash, but was scrapped for copyright issues. Act now, while Julian is still part of the team.
  • Go Green Initiative. Own your official Red Sox solar panels, as the Sox 'Go Green', installing solar panels to warm the future 'domed' stadium planned for 2525.
  • "Tar and Francona" night. The Red Sox provide the tar, you bring the feathers, as this All-Star Break special features Terry Francona look alikes, available for tarring and feathering as the Sox show highlights of tonight's game with the Tigers.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

If yesterday were close to perfection for Opening Day, then today approached hell for Opening Night.

Once again the Baseball gods have not smiled on the Sox' staff ability to throw strikes. Walks, quite simply, are killing us. Jon Lester's pair of free passes opened the door to a four run fourth, giving the Tigers what appears to be the permanent lead. Brian Corey issued a free pass to open the 8th, and the Tigers converted the opportunity into a pair of runs.

The Sox trail 7-2 opening the bottom of the ninth.

The Sox issued EIGHT walks against a mere two strikeouts tonight. Abominable.

Julio Lugo, Manny Ramirez, and Sean Casey all had a pair of hits, and Lugo did not make an error, turning in a spectacular play from the hole.

David Ortiz continues to struggle, with a strikeout, pop out, fly out, and ground out.

Portland stats: At least a couple of unnamed prospects are throwing strikes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

HIghlights from Today's Activities

Some of the greats from Boston sports showed up today at Fenway...
  • Bill Russell, who revolutionized defense
  • Bobby Orr, who revolutionized offensive defense

You have to wonder how Russell, who won championships nearly annually, feels at the Sox ubercelebration of their second modern title.

As for the ballgame, the Tigers seemed out of sync, with (horrors) an error by Placido Domingo, er Polanco, as Manny stretched a triangle shot into a triple.

Daisuke pitched very well until the nibbles got his pitch count in the sixth.

It's good to see what looks like total harmony among Theo and the Trio. As they say, "victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan."

It was good to see Manny Delcarmen get back into the groove in his relief spot.

Kevin Youkilis hit the ball where they ain't...bringing his average to .400 (it's eight games)...

Johnny Pesky seems forever young at heart.

Terry Francona received a wonderful ovation, but not as much as Bill Buckner. All is forgiven, two championships later.

Oh yeah, the Sox won the home opener in a shutout...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Community Auditions

Here's the way it works so far on Red Sox auditions. Host Terry Francona has this reality show to run, and he's got too many contestants for The Show right now.

He's got too many centerfielders, and everyone in baseball knows it, so they're waiting to pick up one on the cheap. Like housing, it's a buyer's market.

He's got too many bullpen bodies, but not enough getting people out right now. It's far too early to be thinking about what's happening down on the farm, but the "Launching Pad" for MLB wannabes is Double AA, and the early mound returns are favorable.

Emcee Francona is putting guys out there with their feet to the fire, and in the VERY EARLY going, it hasn't been pretty once you get past the back end of the pen.

So please let's be patient, because the tryouts are still underway. And a few teams will be plucking some serviceable relievers from the Sox.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Walks Will Kill You

I don't have a reference, but I think I remember reading that leadoff walks score about sixty percent of the time. There's where the old K/BB ratio rears its ugly head.

Last night, it was David Aardsma, triggering the Jays' seventh inning rally. The Sox staff is back at it today, now with Kyle Snyder walking a pair to open the sixth.

Starters: 4 counting now

Beckett (coming back tomorrow)
Buchholz (on the Bubble)
Colon (in waiting)



Likely rotation resolution:




I've been a Snyder guy but I'm off the bandwagon. Lopez's primary utility is being a southpaw, and Aardsma is another suspect. Corey isn't helping his cause much today, getting mercilessly beaten like a rented mule. He's taking one for the team here.

Of all the sins of relief pitching, failure to throw strikes has to rank near the top.

Friday, April 04, 2008

That's Gonna Leave a Marcum

Tim Wakefield battled Shawn Marcum for five innings, but the Blue Jays erupted for three runs while they batted for what seemed like a week. Wakefield surrendered a homer, a pair of walks, and Jacoby Ellsbury failed to reel in a long drive to the track, losing a snow cone when he banged into the centerfield wall.

Meanwhile Marcum has stymied the Sox with great location, a tailing fastball, and terrific changeup. Marcum has willingly thrown the change at any point in the count, reminding us of the venerable Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller's dictum, "work fast, throw strikes, and change speeds."

Kevin Cash had the Sox only hit so far, a double into the left centerfield gap in the third. Behind the plate, Cash has been decent on a night where Wakefield had a good knuckler.

The Sox need some Instant Karma if they're gonna turn this around.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Colon Answer

Not quite on the big stage , Bartolo Colon breezed through 5 innings blanking Indianapolis in the PawSox 3-0 shutout.

Colon allowed only one hit and one walk while fanning five.

Waiting in the wings or maybe wading in the chicken wings, Boston get ready for the Colon Answer.

Champions Again

NESN has gone into all Sox all the time it seems, with another airing of 'Champions Again', the 2007 season recap. Yeah, I'm watching again, the Mothers' Day Miracle, the Pedroia slump and redemption, Lester's comeback, the Youikilis inside-the-park job, and even the Kason Gabbard shutout.

But I digress, as I wanted to look at the man-to-man competition between C.C Sabathia and Josh Beckett for Cy Young. I'll pick some statistics that one might argue show effectiveness, with admittedly no correction for park or division effects. The postseason doesn't count.

  • Innings pitched
  • WHIP ratio
  • Wins
  • K/9 innings
  • ERA
  • K/BB ratio
6 categories

Sabathia - 241 innings, 1.14 WHIP, 19 wins, 3.21 ERA, 7.81K/9, 5.65 K/BB
Beckett - 201 innings, 1.14 WHIP, 20 wins 3.27 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 4.85 K/BB

Pretty close matchup, with Beckett having an extra win, more K/9 but Sabathia with the edge principally in innings pitched and K/BB ratio, which actually predicts future ERA with more accuracy than ERA itself.

But this is a new season, with Tim Wakefield pitching tomorrow night at Rogers Centre and Beckett with a Sunday debut.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"Quality Starts" is Job Won

Before the Sox returned to US soil, the lament was on. "Daisuke's overrated. You can't expect much from Lester and Buchholz...a pair of question marks."

What a difference a couple of days makes. Okay, so Oakland isn't exactly the 1927 Yankees, and the Sox haven't exactly been beating up on the Oakland pitching either. But back-to-back quality starts from Matsuzaka and Lester have to get the faithful in a better mood, at least for the time being, while the Sox head out of the country again, to Toronto.

Will Toronto be able to make it a three team race with Halladay, Burnett, Magowan, and Marcum? You can easily make the argument for the Jays having the best front four in the AL East anyway. Of course, time wounds all heels, and every team's pitching staff is at the mercy of that closely integrated team of four, suprapinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis.

Speaking of shouldering the load, after looking severely bat-lagged in Japan, Jason Varitek had 1 and a half homers in Oakland, and David 'Papi' Ortiz got his inaugural shot today. The Sox also looked crisp in turning over several twin-killings, with Dustin Pedroia showing why he was ROY with quick turns in the middle.

Manny Delcarmen looked to be the setup guy of the future, or at least plan 1B, with another dominant inning today. Again, it's Oakland.

Yes, the football mentality (every game is life or death) doesn't suit us well, but that's why the Sox have Terry Francona, to put it all into perspective. The best news for fans is more economical pitching by both Matsuzaka and Lester, who stand to be two and three in the rotation now. Bartolo Colon stands waiting in the wings if injury or ineffectiveness plagues the bottom of the rotation...and I'm urging patience with Buchholz, who is the real deal.

Stats as of this morning at

Oh yeah, break up the Royals...