Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ellsbury Shines Again

"Facts are such stubborn things."

Sortable Batting
1Ichiro Suzuki
2Jacoby Ellsbury

Earlier this year I wrote of the possibility that Jacoby Ellsbury could be a part of the American League All-Star team. Is that just a pipe dream or something more.

Ellsbury has already added three more stolen bases tonight to assume the league lead, scored another run to remain in second place hehind Ian Kinsler, and has played outstanding defense at all three outfield positions, including saving Jon Lester's no-hitter with a diving catch.

If you examine his statistics relative to Ichiro, Ellsbury has scored more runs in far fewer plate appearances, and has higher on-base percentage, slugging average, and on-base-slugging percentage than the veteran Seattle All-Star. Consider that Ichiro is only one of two AL rookies to win both the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same year (along with Fred Lynn) and Ellsbury runs along the big dogs.

Will Ellsbury have a chance to be named (or voted in the special fan vote) to the AL stars? Doubtful, with so many Sox already prominently featured on the balloting (Varitek, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, and Ramirez).

It's easy to name some deserving and terrific outfielders 'ahead' of Ellsbury, including Carlos Quentin of the White Sox, Josh Hamilton of Texas, Maglio Ordonez of the Tigers, Manny Ramirez, Jack Cust of Oakland, and Grady Sizemore of the Indians.

Realistically, I'll be surprised if Ellsbury makes the trip to New York in July as an All-Star. But if the AL wants to win the Summer Classic, Ellsbury would be on that team.

Congratulations to Manny being Manny, delivering home run number 500 tonight at Camden Yards before "Fenway South".

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bowden en fuego

Bowden strikes again.

Last 7 starts....

43 innings
21 hits
5 earned runs (ERA barely above 1)
5 walks
40 strikeouts

For crissakes, Theo, AAA?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Road Worriers

After 56 games, the Red Sox are 32-24, 1 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. The Sox have put together an impressive 21-5 home record and a depressing 11-19 road track.

In the AL only the Orioles and the Mariners have worse road records.

The Sox have an overall OPS of .796 and are second in the AL in runs scored, but are averaging only 4.1 runs and an OPS of .745 away from Fenway.

The Sox have an overall ERA of 4.08 and a road ERA of 4.61.

In other words, it's hard to invoke 'ballpark effects' explanations because the Sox hit better and score far more runs per game at home (6 versus 4.1) and at the same time allow fewer runs at home.

How much of the difference is random, how much is sample size related, and how much relates to some mystery 'x' factor? I'm sure the Sox have the statistical teams trying to parse this data and understand it. Clearly in Oakland the Sox faced Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer at peak efficiency. Joe Blanton is pretty good, too and Erik Bedard, when healthy, is among the top starters in the AL. Maybe it's just a matter of 'momentum lasting as long as tomorrow's starting picher'.

We shouldn't confuse ineffectiveness with talent. The Sox have a blend of experience and youth, both with enough ability to overcome this.
I'm not hanging out the panic button, Jobu, or advocating a bat burying ceremony. Heck, if I thought it would do any good, I'd do all three.

Let's give them some good karma, maybe on the heels of the NESN replay of the Lester no-no.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eye-Popping Stats in Double A

You can never have too much pitching, and the Red Sox have another hot Double A prospect in Michael Bowden.

Bowden's numbers in his last six starts are phenomenal.

36 1/3 IP, 18 hits, 5 ER, 3 BB, 35 K

  • In other words, ERA just under 1.25
  • K/BB ratio 11.66/1
  • WHIP ratio of under 0.6
I'm not saying Bowden is ready for the majors, but that he is ready to go to AAA and face more polished hitters as he is simply dominating at the AA level.

The Sox have some terrific prospects at the AAA and AA level
  • Justin Masterson ...(AAA) two strong MLB starts
  • Hunter Jones (AAA)...left-handed relief specialist
  • Bowden...
  • Dustin Richardson...(AA)another starting pitcher prospect
  • Jose Vaquedano... (AA) relief
  • Daniel Bard, (AA) relief...coming fast since regaining his arm slot and control

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Right or Consistent? MLB is Consistent.

God knows baseball isn't perfect. After all, errors exist as a statistic, along with wild pitches, balks, and passed balls. So when umpires make egregious errors, how can we take umbrage?

MLB has become dependent on technology, from Ques-tek for evaluating umpiring accuracy, to every statistical analyses imaginable,to video analysis of pitching, fielding, and hitting. But when it comes to incorporating electronic analysis of live action, MLB suffers paralysis by analysis.

What is the downside of getting home runs, other boundary calls (fair-foul), and fan interference correct? Are we afraid that getting home run calls correct starts the slippery slope to the electronic strike zone?

Yes, in a game where 30 percent hitting success could add millions to your salary, human error will always remain part of the game. But where's the Players' Union when you want them. God forbid, Billy Joe Bobby get stuck with a mere twenty-nine homers when he might have had thirty when his home run gets called foul. But wait, there's a pitcher's ERA to protect at the slugger's expense.

MLB considers 'studying' replay in the Arizona Fall League. Maybe they could study it in some French cave or a thousand leagues under the sea. And what's to study? MLB doesn't need 15 extra umpires, as the video replay could go to a central office, say in Roswell or Exeter, New Hampshire the major alien landing zones.

Yes, umpires have made progress, as they get together to make a collective decision. But they still often get it wrong, as eight eyes aren't always better than two. And fans want the decision to be right. It really is black and white here, getting the call right or adhering to a tradition of error and ignorance. That's an easy choice for MLB.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Colon, Bullpen Pass Sniff Test

Bartolo Colon brought his 146 major league victory experience to the hill the night following Justin Masterson's first big league win. Mixing 95 mile per hour gas with a variety of breaking stuff, Colon had four strikeouts, two walks and allowed six hits, many of the cheap variety in holding the Royals to a pair of runs in five innings.

Craig Hansen, Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, and Mike (Rocky VII) Timlin followed Colon in a contest reminiscent of Spring Training. All except Timlin held KC scoreless, with Timlin surrendering a run in the ninth inning.

The Sox had a variety of offensive heroes including Jacoby Ellsbury with three hits, a leadoff homer, and a stolen base, Jason Varitek with a game tying homer, Dustin Pedroia with three hits, and Julio Lugo with a pair of hits, a run scored and an RBI.

Justin 'Bat' Masterson moved down/up to Pawtucket from Boston/Portland, as he awaits the inevitable health breakdown of the pitching staff.

Julian Tavarez accepted assignment to Pawtucket as well, as the Sox build a Triple A power, at least on the mound.

Bartolo Colon sports a bright red glove...not sure whether that's a leftover from the Angels.

Need something to complain about? After tomorrow's afternoon game, the Sox travel to the Left Coast where East Coast insomniacs delight, and the rest of us go quietly into the night.

The Red Sox have moved up in the AL pitching stats, lowering the team ERA to close to 4.1. The team K/BB ratio is also improving, moving to 1.8o. Important to recognize however is the influence of Papelbon and Beckett, 83 K and 13 BB, with the rest of the team 253/174...1.45, with only three teams, Baltimore, Detroit, and Texas worse.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lester's Quest

"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is." - Yogi

Ray Miller's advice to pitchers included, "work fast, throw strikes, and change speeds." Up until recently, Jon Lester hadn't consistently listened, or at least his arm hadn't.

Early on you sensed something different, more life on the fastball and more movement on the cutter. Sure, Kansas City has offensive challenges and they're not the Yankees, but Lester used both sides of the plate (example DeJesus' grounder to Youkilis in the ninth), changed speeds, and altered hitters' location, working the fastball up and curve ball down to get outs consistently.

First pitch strikes helped, too, making the Royals hit his pitch.

I don't think Lester has overall the repertoire of stuff (yet) of Clay Buchholz. But he's improving his command and his consistency, and he has that left handed 'thing' going for him, more powerful than the Coriolis effect.

Left handedness remains the anomaly that keeps Jesse Orosco pitching until eligible for Social Security, and that uniqueness that keeps the Lee Guettermans and Graehm Lloyds of the world in the game seemingly forever. Steve Howe got enough chances because he was lefthanded and kept getting guys out that being a drug addict got overlooked. Bill Lee couldn't have won 17 games three times with that stuff if he were right handed.

But all that aside, I remember being an intern and resident over twenty-five years ago, watching chemotherapy patients suffer endless indignities because the treatment just wasn't that good for many cancers, and our hope outstripped our performance. But maybe their suffering didn't go in vane, as better treatments helped make dreams come true for some.

Monday, May 19, 2008

No More No No Nanette

The Red Sox welcomed the Royals to Fenway Park, and Jon Lester greeted them with nine strikeout no-hit gem.

Lester, making only his 37th major league start, threw 130 pitches, none more important than the final one, a high tailing fastball that K'd Alberto Callaspo.

Raising his record to 3-2, Lester lowered his ERA to 3.41 and kept the Red Sox in first place, 1.5 games ahead of second place Tampa Bay. Lester mixed a 94 mile per hour fastball with a cutter and sharp-breaking curveball in pitching the first no-hitter by a Red Sox lefty since Mel Parnell in 1956. The victory was his first complete game in the majors.

Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch to end the fourth inning to save the no-hit bid. Ellsbury also stole a pair of bases to begin a new streak after having his 25 consecutive stolen base streak stopped yesterday.

Jason Varitek becomes the first catcher to catch four different no-hitters, which I suspect included Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, and Clay Buchholz.

Offensively Varitek led the way with two hits, two RBI, and his fifth homer.

Ironically, Lester was the pitcher likely to be traded for Johan Santana, whom the Twins ultimately traded to the New York Mets.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Value Line

One reason fans love baseball is our obsession with numbers...the 20 game winner, .300 average, 3000 hits, 714 (Ruth), 755 (Aaron), and even 762 (Bonds). Great players usually achieve statistical greatness.

The Red Sox have enjoyed their share of great players through the years. Entry into Cooperstown doesn't come easily, and surely the enshrinement of Williams, Yaz, Fisk, Eckersley, and someday Clemens merits note. But current management has achieved two championships in four years not only by acquiring and developing WINNERS.

As an example, I offer up last night's second game baserunning by Dustin Pedroia. Early in the game Pedroia had an inconsequential stolen base and scored on a Mike Lowell homer. But in the seventh, Pedroia literally stole second base via hustle after a Bill Hall throwing error trying to force out Jacoby Ellsbury at second. Pedroia then advanced to third on a grounder to shortstop, and scored on a 130 foot pop fly by Youkilis that landed behind a drawn in infield.

The Red Sox lineup has a series of overachievers that have made enough small plays to win. Let's look solely at statistical production over the past few seasons.
  • Posada over Varitek
  • Giambi over Youkilis
  • Cano over Pedroia
  • Jeter over Lugo
  • A-Rod over Lowell
  • Manny over Matsui
  • Ellsbury-Crisp over Cabrera
  • Abreu over Drew
  • Papi over whomever
From a strictly 'talent' level, the Bronx Bombers and their fans have to believe in their superiority. But they don't have the better team at least so far, because they haven't produced the intangibles (and their pitching hasn't been very good either).

Well, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and the season remains young, with much baseball to be played. I'll opine that the Sox haven't played their best baseball yet, and the pitching (globally) can be a lot better, and will have to be with some talented staffs (Cleveland, Oakland, and Toronto in particular) to worry about.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

World Turned Upside Down

The Red Sox host the Brewers for a separate admission doubleheader today, making up last night's rainout.

So far (while I've watched anyway), no Gabe Kapler, but six innings worth of former Red Sox pitcher Jeff Suppan. Suppan, whose biggest Red Sox memory must be getting thrown out in a rundown in the World Series in 2004, lasted six innings and yielded four runs.

J.D. Drew is back in the lineup after spraining his wrist the other day.

The Magic Man Manny Ramirez with Gold Glove form and a high five to boot.

With Youkilis at third, Lugo at short, and Casey at first in Game I, then I'd expect Lowell, Cora, and Youkilis in the infield (with Pedroia) in Game 2. Kevin Cash will be catching Tim Wakefield and will Jacoby Ellsbury or J.D. Drew get the rest for the nightcap?

Aside from David Ortiz's homer, the best part of the game may have been Bob Uecker in the Fox booth during the fourth inning, talking about his playing days.

Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up a pair of unearned runs in 6 2/3 innings, with a home run surrendered after a Youkilis error at third.

Javier Lopez came in and walked Prince Fielder, before Manny Delcarmen came in to stop the Brew Crew for the final out of the 7th and the 8th inning.

With Clay Buchholz going on the DL with his torn fingernail, I presume that we'll see him get a couple of rehab starts, with Bartolo Colon taking his spot in the rotation. None of us will worry about having "too much pitching".

A NESN poll found that 18 percent of fans thought the Sox needed a power bat off the bench, and 82 percent said bullpen help.

  • Papelbon, had a couple of speed bumps, but the Nation isn't worried.
  • Okajima, with a wrist injury and 'inherited runner blues', moved into the Worry Zone.
  • Delcarmen, working his way out of the Confidence Doghouse. Today helped.
  • Javier Lopez, situational lefty.
  • David Aardsma, amazing success with poor control. Moving up the totem pole.
  • Craig Hansen. Trick or treat?
  • Mike Timlin, ERA 9, WHIP 2, K/BB 0.7. Figures lie or liars figure?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bad Karma

The Red Sox invaded Camden Yards and struck for three first inning runs, gradually frittered away. Josh Beckett seemed to have good stuff, but the O's have raked him for five runs including a towering tater to right for their classic Earl Weaveresque three-run homer.

The Sox have limped along without any key hitting as Jeremy Guthrie, last year's victim of the Mother's Day Miracle has mostly owned them. Manny made a bid for 499, but his double landed at the base of the wall.

J.D. Drew sprained his left wrist defensively and was replaced by Jacoby Ellsbury. So much for trading Coco Crisp...we need another outfielder now...with Drew dinged and Brandon Moss recovering from surgery. Is Jeff Bailey another of the immobile outfielders that can hit some that the Sox seem to breed?

The other 'obvious' fact is the broken maple bats that shear off in large shards with the potential for injury. The small-handled missiles will clearly result in an injury, and it's only a matter of time. The players like them, so they won't be banned, but will some alternative safety measure (like safety sheaths) be used. Protection, for bats.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yoyo We Barely Knew Ye

Surprise, surprise. Rather than send the designated Young Guy down to Pawtucket, the Sox DFA'd Julian Tavarez. Tavarez will be remembered for his Spring Training fight and for rolling the ball over to first baseman Kevin Youkilis for an assist.

Tavarez didn't complain a lot, which makes sense when you make a king's ransom and come from humble circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Bartolo Colon watch grows with the recent struggles of some of the starters. You can never have too much pitching, eh?

Manny Ramirez deposited number 498 over the Hefty Bag in right at the HomerDome tonight, but it wasn't enough as Clay Buchholz struggled. We can only hope the Dome disappears ASAP.

News of the day. If the season had ended today, the Tampa Bay Rays would have been the Wild Card. Yikes.

If there's nobody more popular than the backup quarterback, then next in line would be the Next New Thing down in Pawtucket or Portland. Abe Alvarez. Released. Devern Hansack. An afterthought. Justin Masterson and Dustin Richardson...the New Guys in Waiting.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stats You Can Live With?

Click chart to ENLARGE. AL Leaders in Adjusted OPS (I believe this includes stolen bases and is normalized for plate appearances)

You can see that the Red Sox have three players in the top 8, and Drew is at 32. David Ortiz checks in at 42, Pedroia at 44, and Varitek at 46. Lowell wouldn't have enough plate appearances to show up here, and Julio Lugo simply isn't in the top 50.

I'm certainly not claiming that the Sox brass uses this stat to make judgments, rather that it does give you another way to measure productivity.

Jeff Sagarin uses Markov Chain analysis for his ratings, and the Sox have four in the top twenty-one measured this way. For Pete's sake though, don't look at the formulas.

Mothers' Day Message: Five Words

I post this on Mother's Day, so maybe the Nation's moms get a little extra sugar today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sour Dome Cooking

The land of the Homer Hanky and bad ceiling lighting hasn't always treated visitors well. Tonight Daisuke Matsuzaka took his show on the road, and got by with a modicum of walks and seemed to be attacking the hitters more. His seven innings of two run pitching keeps his ERA at a very respectable 2.45.

But it was Doctor Longball tonight, not the stolen base (the Sox came in second in the AL in steals) that juiced the Sox attack, with homers off the bats of Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, and back to back jacks by Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie...probably won't be saying that much.

With Sean Casey and Alex Cora completing rehab at Pawtucket, the Sox have some decisions to make. Presumably Lowrie gets replaced by Cora, but who goes from the bullpen?

The 'chalk' is sending down Hansen, who has options. Hansen has looked a lot better with his command and his slider. The 'choice' is an objective analysis of the tail end of the bullpen...

1) Julian Tavarez...he is the 'middle guy' but sees less time than the Maytag guy
2) Javier Lopez...LOOGY (lefty out of the pen guy)
3) Mike Timlin...old soldier, historically a strikeout pitcher...not getting that part of his game working so far
4) wild card...Julio Lugo complained of headaches after being kneed in the head...if there is a question of the DL for him then that could change the picture.

Good news. Mike Lowell had his average up to .280 intra-game and Lowrie goes back to Pawtucket hitting .310 at the major league level. I'd love to see him develop more range, but he's definitely a major league player. It's great to see the Sox' developing via draft and coaching serious talent. Not to mention Hanley Ramirez who's going to get 70 mill for 6 years.

Bad news. Jonathan Papelbon scuffled a bit recently, but opponents haven't exactly been hitting shots off him either. Tonight he's on in the 9th with a chance at redemption.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Attitude Reflects Leadership?

The Red Sox co-leader in home runs also is second in the league in onbase slugging percentage, behind former Red Sox Eric Hinske. Kevin Youkilis is among the leaders in runs, hits, RBI, on base percentage, batting average, and slugging percentage. He is also the reigning Gold Glove first baseman.

Youkilis has tended to be a "hands hitter" versus a guy who drives the ball. What we're seeing is Youk with the more classic power stroke with more arm extension recently and the front leg extension producing that leverage and power that conventional sluggers manifest.

Josh Beckett has now rounded into form as the staff ace, and lowered his ERA to just over 3.70. His eight strikeouts and no walks tonight exemplify effective pitching...low WHIP, his K/BB ratio, and the few baserunners reducing scoring opportunities. Beckett also has slowed his change to the mid-80s, making it more effective.

Alex Cora and Sean Casey rehab at Pawtucket. Additionally Craig Hansen looked very effective in his one inning of relief. He has been touched up in the second inning of his prior games.

Manny Ramirez got a day off tonight but looked quite into the game.

Among his better qualities is his sustained confidence in his players. Despite Julio Lugo's struggles at short, Franona ran him out there are Lugo got the job done. Alex Cora should be able to spell Lugo if he needs either physical rest or a mental health break. Many observers feel taht Jed Lowrie has the skill to play shortstop in the majors. We haven't seen enough of him to judge his range.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Defense Rests, Sox Lose

The Sox dropped a four hour marathon in Detroit, capped off with two unearned runs scoring in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon with the floodgates opened by Julio Lugo. Earlier, a couple of balls got by Jed Lowrie filling in for Dustin Pedroia. Both were difficult plays, but Lowrie looked to have limited range and it's hard to know whether a better angle on the latter might have kept the ball in the infield.

The Sox got a three run homer from Mike Lowell to tie the game at eight, and the Sox had another three stolen bases, two from Jacoby Ellsbury.

Clay Buchholz didn't have it, surrendering five runs in short duty. It is what it is.

Sox Fandom

What does it mean to be a Sox fan, especially an older fan...a veteran of the slings and arrows of disappointment?

  • First, we experience the Joy of Transformation, the apocalypse of 1967, the disappointment of 1975, the mercurial ride of 1978, the nightmare of 1986, and redemption of 2004 and 2007
  • Ned Martin on the radio.
  • Carlton Fisk's fair pole shot to win Game 6.
  • "The Steal".
  • Bucky $%#ing Dent.
  • "25 guys in 25 cabs."
  • Joe Morgan and "Morgan Magic"
  • Jim Pagliaroni hitting for the cycle. I think I remember that.
  • John "Vaseline ball" Wyatt
  • Bob Montgomery and his trains.
  • Dick "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart.
  • The Gold Dust Twins, Rice and Lynn
  • The other Rooster, number 7, Rick Burleson
  • Reggie Smith throwing out Dave McNally on an attempted sac fly from the 379 mark.
  • Dwight Evans doubling up the Reds robbing Joe Morgan in Game 6.
  • Sitting in the bleachers in Game 1 of the 1975 series with Jim Reinig from South Carolina
  • Fred Lynn's 10 RBI game in Tiger Stadium
  • Nomar adjusting the batting gloves
  • "The Monstah", Dick Radatz, owning Mickey Mantle.
  • Yaz robbing Tom Tresh as Billy Rohr tried to get a no-hitter, and Elston Howard breaking it up.
  • Jose Tartabull throwing out Ken Berry at home at Comiskey Park in 1967.
  • Accepting the Pink Hats as true fans.
  • Wendell 'waive 'em in" Kim at third base coach.
  • Terry Francona's pullover.
  • Matt Young unable to throw to a base.
  • Roger Clemens 20 strikeouts, twice.
  • Jim Rice's 406 total bases in 1978.
  • Dave Henderson's playoff comeback homer against the Angels against Donnie Moore.
  • Luis Tiant. He should be in the Hall of Fame. He wanted the ball when it counted.
  • Derek Lowe with series clinching wins in 2004.
  • Back in the day, before the Monster seats or the Coke bottles.
  • John Kennedy's inside-the-park homer.
  • Local boys, Tony C, Joe Lahoud, Billy C, Manny Delcarmen, Brian Rose.
  • Way-back Wasdin.
  • "The Impossible Dream" record album.
  • Bill 'Spaceman' Lee and the brawl at Yankee Stadium
  • First combined shutout in modern baseball history by pitchers over 40, last night with Wakefield and Timlin.
  • Tommy Harper stealing home.
  • Bryce Florie struck by a line drive, the scariest moment since Tony C's beaning
  • Ted Williams holding court at the All-Star Game.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Poker Face

When we were kids we used to play a poker game called 'Baseball' involving wild cards that were 3s and 9s. Tim Wakefield had that going tonight, pitching eight innings of two-hit baseball, walking none (thank God), and fanning six. Mike Timlin closed it out. Wakefield's effort also recharged the bullpen battery as both Okajima and Papelbon had the night off.

Wakefield lowered his ERA to that 'Baseball' reminder, 3.33, at one point retiring 17 Tigers in a row. And mirabile dictu, the game lasted about 2:25. So it can be done.

Manny Ramirez moved to within three of five hundred on the back end of back-to-back jacks by David Ortiz (7) and his own seventh.

And who leads the Red Sox 'regulars' in hitting? None other than Tim Wakefield's personal catcher, Kevin Cash, whose three hits raised his average to .361.

The Red Sox raised their record to 22-13, third best in the majors behind Arizona and St. Louis. They squared their road record at 8-8 and have recently improved their run differential dramatically.

The Sox have now moved back into first place in runs scored in the AL and better yet, have lowered the team ERA to 3.97 good for fifth place in the AL. Red Sox starters now have a 3.58 ERA for the season, fourth in the AL. The ever-nearby Evil Empire starters are 13th at 4.90, although they will surely improve.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Running Red Sox

Quick note from the "I can't believe it" files.
  • The Red Sox are fifth in the AL in stolen bases with 26.
  • The Red Sox lead the league considerably in stolen base percentage, at 87% with 26 of 30 bads swiped.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is 20 for 20 in steals early in his career.
And on another front, check out the Portland Sea Dogs staff, with a number of pitchers with reasonable WHIP ratios and solid K/BB ratios.

More Matsuzaka Walker Torture

Don Orsillo needs to start burning some of his candles as prayer offerings to stop Daisuke Matsuzaka's mysterious control problems. As the Sox starter pitches into the fourth inning, about 90 pitches and SEVEN walks later, the Sox lead 4-1 after four innings. Cripes, we're going to need a six man rotation, with two starters in the Matsuzaka games. If he didn't have one of the lowest opponent's batting averages, Matsuzaka would need to join the Yankee Youth in the minors.

The Sox have parlayed a pair of 2 run dingers from Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis into the lead, despite the walk fest. Of course, it also explains while after almost an hour and fifty minutes the game heads into the fifth. Greg Maddux has pitched entire games in less time than this.

For unknown reasons, the dirt path from home plate to the mound at Comerica Park annoys me. Frankly, I liked the old Tiger Stadium with its right field overhang and cavernous center field much better.

Let's look at some of the career active leaderboards.

Home Runs Ramirez at 7, Ortiz 29, and Lowell 62
Bases on Balls Ramirez 8, Ortiz at 36, Lowell 73
Career Wins Schilling 6, Wakefield 11, Colon 13
Strikeouts Schilling 3, Wakefield 14, Colon 19

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mossed and More

Brandon Moss goes on the DL with an appendectomy. You can't get this at just any Red Sox site, eh. Patients often present with abdominal pain, anorexia, sometimes fever, and the pain usually localizes to the right lower part of the abdomen.
____________________________________CT scanning has improved the diagnosis of appendicitis.
____________________________________________________A pathological specimen.
They say three to five weeks recovery for the Red Sox outfielder.

People laughed when I said Jacoby Ellsbury can compete for an All-Star berth. Here are the (not updated) Sagarin ratings for offensive production. That was before Ellsbury's two runs scored and two stolen bases today.

Themes of Consciousness

As we examine the Red Sox after one-fifth of the 2008 regular season, what themes, dreams, and schemes exist? We can evaluate them in terms of run creation, run prevention, and miscellaneous. Look, we're not talking State of the Union here.

Run Creation:

The most surprising statistic I've seen lately was that in J.D. Drew's first 163 games with the Red Sox he has 77 RBI and 103 runs scored. Maybe he hasn't exactly produced as advertised, but his production overall approaches acceptable.

Manny Ramirez, even with recent sluggishness still is on pace for 100 runs scored, 30 homers, and 110 RBI. More surprising, even with his well-documented struggles, David Ortiz prorated numbers translate into 95 runs, 25 homers, and 120 RBI.

If we simply look at the sum of runs scored and RBI (a bit misleading as a homerun counts for both), Drew and Ellsbury both account for 35, Pedroia 34, and Youkilis 33.
Mike Lowell cannot be fairly evaluated based on injury, and Jason Varitek's contribution gets slotted for his defense, although we cannot overlook his key homer against the Tribe and his ability to chip in with key hits.

Sean Casey was serviceable as a fill-in at first base, Kevin Cash solid as Varitek's back up, and Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss have both had their moments. Ditto for Jed Lowrie.

All of which brings us to Julio Lugo, who has produced little (17 combined runs and RBI) and fielded poorly (8 errors) but has the odd feel of a talisman. Go figure. Time will tell whether Lowrie can push him for PT.

Run Prevention.

Which Red Sox starter has the worst ERA? Josh Beckett. That's an aberration because of injury and other factors, because Beckett has the best K/BB ratio of the group at 4.1, ahead of Buchholz and 2.4, Matsuzaka 1.7, with Wakefield and Lester both around one. Beckett also has the best WHIP of the group (0.95) while Matsuzaka leads in wins with 4.

Objectively, the starting pitching has rounded into form recently, particularly well documented recently here concerning Buchholz.

Jonathan Papelbon has been the premier closer in baseball with a K/BB ratio of 21 and eight saves to accompany two wins this week. Hideki Okajima hasn't been as effective this year but still has an ERA of 0.79. When he throws strikes David Aardsma has been the next most effective reliever, while the troika of Javier Lopez, Mike Timlin, and Manny Delcarmen haven't met expectations. Timlin had a good second half next year, Delcarmen has the stuff, and Lopez, well, he's the situational lefty, for now.

The Red Sox 19-13 record reflects their ability to win close games, and so far that has occurred because of late game offense and Jonathan Papelbon. Baseball's Pythagorean Theorem suggests that run differential over time reflects record better than current record. The Sox have lived a little bit higher than their overall differential so far. Papelbon is my team MVP so far.

Within the division, Tampa has exceeded projections because of better pitching and defense and a core of very good young players (Crawford, Pena, Longoria, Upton) and the Blue Jays have underachieved despite their formidable rotation led by Halladay, Burnett, and McGowan. The Yankees starting pithcing remains very suspect, with Wang producing, Pettitte and Mussina aging, and Hughes and Kennedy more suspects than prospects thus far. Baltimore will simply disappear.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Boxers or Briefs?

Where's the "Inane Banter" banner when you need it? With the Red Sox recovering from offensive malaise, they hammered out a 12-4 victory over the Rays and last week's Sox slayer James Shields.

It was a full service party with every starter with a base hit, and the DUSTBUSTER's three hits the key. Josh Beckett picked up his third victory, as the Sox reached the 1/5th of the season mark.

The Sox have crept up the ERA board in the AL, headed toward the upper half as the collective ERA moves near 4. The surprise on the board is Clay Buchholz, who is in the top 20 among ERA leaders at 3.71. With the rotation of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Lester, and Buchholz, the Sox have stability for now, with supports on the horizon in Bartolo Colon and Justin Masterson. Three other hopefuls at Portland include Dustin Richardson, Michael Bowden, and Jose Vaquedano as the Sox are deep in pitching prospects.

Why the break in the offensive slumber? The return of Jacoby Ellsbury helps, as Ellsbury has scored three runs since returning to the lineup after tweaking his groin. Despite relatively limited at bats, he's tied for second in runs scored in the AL.

The best team in the AL for the past ten games? The Rays.

Notice anything different about the broadcasts? I haven't heard (yet) Jerry Remy pitching scoresheets, hot dogs, bandanas, tee shirts, websites, All-star galas, and so forth. Maybe ownership put the kibosh on non-NESN-related promos. However, we pack-gate today, as we learned about Don's girlish (my wife's description) pack rat routine, including his pillow, flashlight, and candles. Boxers or briefs?

The Buck Stays Here

Clay Buchholz isn't going anywhere, and the Sox clearly plan on rationing their expenditure of the 23 year-old righthander. Last night Buchholz evened his record at 2-2 and delivered 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball, lowering his ERA to 3.71.

I think Buchholz has the potential to be one of the top starters in the AL because he has three out pitches, including a 93-94 hour fastball that he throws to either side of the plate, a curveball in the Blyleven tradition, and a terrific change. He also seems to have the makeup to be successful in a big market.

In his last three starts (19.3 innings) he has allowed 13 hits, 3 earned runs, fanned 21, walked eight and given the Sox a chance to win each time out. His WHIP ratio is down to 1.32 (I think he can get close to or under 1.1 eventually (7 hits and 3 walks per nine innings) and his K/9 ratio will be around one. When he gets more command, I think his pitch count will FALL as guys are going to have to go up swinging or they'll go down swinging. As I said BEFORE he got to the majors, the pitcher he reminds me of is Jim Palmer. I won't claim that he'll get to the status of Palmer, but that's the kind of stuff he has. Everyone has a gift, but not everyone's gift gets developed.

There's only one person that can keep Buchholz from becoming a top of the rotation stud - Buchholz. If he dedicates himself to becoming the best, listening to guys like Varitek, Schilling, and John Farrell, the sky's the limit for this player. And you don't read me saying that about every pitcher on the Sox. To be a top of the line major league hurler you have to remember the words of Ray Miller, "work fast, change speeds, throw strikes." Hitting is timing and pitching is about disrupting timing, and you need the stuff and the courage to throw it to make hitters miss AND as my college coach reminded me, to make them hit YOUR pitch.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Answers I Wanna Know

  • Have the Red Sox ever won 2 out of 3 games while scoring three runs?
  • Have the Red Sox ever scored 4 runs in five games?
  • Has a three game series at Fenway ever resulted in SEVEN runs combined?
  • Who woulda thought Matt Stairs could play until 40?
  • Does John Gibbons wear asbestos pants for that hot seat?
  • Wouldn't Alex Rios look good in a Red Sox uniform?
  • Has a series featured two better third basemen recently (Rolen, Lowell)?
  • Do you think the Sox miss The Road Runner (Ellsbury) offensively?
  • Doug Who?
  • How about the new centerfield camera view?
  • Between Lester and Buchholz, who's Ginger and who's MaryAnn?
  • Are they growing tomatoes in the bullpen this year?
  • What kind of grass do they use on the field in Fenway?
  • Is anybody more improved than the Cubs? The Rays?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Silent Night

Burnett has silenced the Sox bats tonight, although the Sox have had a lot of "at 'em" balls, like Kevin Youkillis' liners.

Tim Wakefield pitched well-enough to win, but not under these circumstances. Meanwhile Kevin Cash remains fairly productive both catching and at bat (walks).

We're seeing the Sox play hard and pitch well most nights, but the offense continues to show inconsistency, perhaps understandably with Ellsbury and Drew out, Pedroia cooled off, and nothing falling in.

At least the starters have gotten the pen off Death Row and we only have watch FIDDLE RELIEF in mop up roles.

Innovation Nation

NESN viewers get the new True View with the centerfield camera looking right down the barrel at home plate. Umpires won't be relying on the 'parallax' argument as to why viewers can't see the corners. We may not see the 'black' of the plate, but we now have a perfect view of the corners.

Early on A.J. Burnett looks healthy and tough throwing some high heat and low breaking stuff to keep the Sox off balance.

Last night's action showed some unique baseball, with consecutive plays at the plate to end the ballgame.

Don Orsillo reports about rumors about the Sox moving Spring Training to Sarasota after rumors about Fort Myers not coming through with infrastructure improvements. My sources had reported the Sox were contemplating Arizona and the Cactus League.

Jonathan Papelbon
gets a two-win season. Papelbon's career numbers, ERA 1.66, WHIP 0.92, and 213 strikeouts in 173.7 innings. Papelbon leads the AL in games finished with 12.

Meanwhile, even in retirement Roger Clemens keeps on piling up stats.

Don Orsillo gave the Sox a B- April and Jerry Remy a B+. I agree with Remy, that considering the travel, injuries, and relatively tough schedule, the Sox did very well to come out of April in first. And second place may not get you the Wild Card in the AL East anymore, particularly with the improved Rays and Jays.