Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Dollar Doesn't Go So Far

You're complaining about Carl Crawford?

How about this for trivia...who am I?

I pitched for the Red Sox. I have never won 20 games, but 5 of the past 6 years, I have won at least 14 games. I have been an all-star once. I have never won a post-season game. I have never been in the top 10 in the Cy Young Award voting. I will earn 18 MILLION dollars in 2013. Who am I?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

What a difference a week makes. The Sox moved up the toteboard among the Boston sports scene, maybe even pushing the Patriots aside as they arrived in the Windy City.

Some say Crawford isn't 'worth the money'. Anybody been watching the Rays the past few years. Crawford seemed to have 20 stolen bases a year against the Red Sox. A Yankee fan told me today, that Crawford gets "wasted" playing left field in Boston. Last time I checked, the Sox also play eighty-one games not in "America's Most Beloved Ballpark".

If the Yankees elect to go with their non-defensive catcher, Miguel Montero, Ellsbury, Crawford, Pedroia, and maybe others can run at will. We won't be complaining about the Yankees' short porch, when the Sox have Ellsbury, Crawford, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Drew, Lowrie, and Saltalamacchia in the lineup.

What Sox fans won't be saying now:

  • Why are they spending so much money on soccer?
  • Why did ticket prices rise?
  • Why won't they spend money on free agents?
  • Why don't the Sox have a more athletic team?
  • Why do concessions cost so much?
  • Why should I watch the Sox on TV?
  • What is Theo doing?
Nothing guarantees the Sox anything, but you catch a lot more fish with your hook in the water. Right?

We can only hope that the Texarkana connection gets a certain lefthander to the Rangers.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Play (Hard) Ball

This week the Red Sox sent a message to their rivals in New York, we can play your game.

The addition of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the lineup brings a new dimension to the Red Sox lineup, a combination of both speed and power, as well as two Gold Glove caliber defenders. One might make the argument that the Sox are too "left-handed" with the right-handedness coming from:

1) Kevin Youkilis
2) Dustin Pedroia
3) Switch-hitting catchers
4) Mike Cameron in platoon
5) Jed Lowrie/Marco Scutaro at shortstop

Obtaining Russell Martin (via free agency) could take David Ortiz out of the lineup against some lefthanders, creating a lineup against some LHP of:

2B - Pedroia
LF - Crawford
3B - Youkilis
1B - Gonzalez
DH - Martin
RF - Cameron
C - Varitek
SS - Lowrie
CF - Ellsbury

Obviously, there remains a possibility of additional trades.

Play ball.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Yo, Adrian!

We'll see how it turns out, but the Red Sox and Padres apparently have a deal for Adrian Gonzalez.

I'd guess that the Padres get:

  • Casey Kelly
  • Anthony Rizzo
  • Ryan Kalish
  • Luis Exposito
But I certainly don't know. I like Kalish better than Jacoby Ellsbury, because I like outfielders who can throw, but that's just me. 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Brandon Duckworth Era is Here

There is news!

Rumor has it that the Red Sox have signed Brandon Duckworth (Ode to Joy plays). What? Welcome to the Brandon Duckworth era...

Uber-site MLBTraderumors.com reports that Adrian Beltre would PREFER to return to the Red Sox. Let's not confuse preference with dollar signs. This would obviously invalidate my Paul Konerko (White Sox) sneaking in the back door theory.

I see the lack of right-handed power depth as the number one issue to be resolved by the Sox this offseason, closely followed by the bullpen.

The Red Sox resigned Jason Varitek today, presumably as some combination of the Beckett-Lackey binky, and for platoon against left-handing pitching. Could the Red Sox ability to throw out runners stealing actually go down? Maybe signing Carl Crawford could help rectify that?

Maybe Sox fans will get an early Christmas present, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hot Stove Starting to Warm

The hot stove has started to warm up, with Javier Vasquez (Marlins) and Jon Garland (Dodgers) signing, and more rumors coming along.

The "definitive rumor" site is MLB Trade Rumors.

Currently, the Red Sox "prospective" lineup looks something like this.

Lineup (9)
OF - Jacoby Ellsbury
2B - Dustin Pedroia
DH - David Ortiz
1B - Kevin Youkilis
OF - J.D. Drew
3B - Jed Lowrie
C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia
OF - Mike Cameron
SS - Marco Scutaro

Bench (5 to be filled) Varitek (free agent), Darnell McDonald, Eric Patterson, Ryan Kalish

Pitchers (11 to be filled)
Rotation: Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Beckett, Matsuzaka
Bullpen: Papelbon, Bard, Atchison, Doubront (2 to be filled)

The immediate issues without much imagination:
1) Very limited right-handed power (options Adrian Beltre, Paul Konerko, Jason Werth)
2) Bullpen inconsistency (options Kerry Wood, Scott Downs, J.J. Putz, Grant Balfour, Arthur Rhodes)
3) Uncertainty at catcher (no immediate solution)
4) Blockbuster trades (have to acquire power hitters)

Currently the fans seem concerned about the Sox "going cheap", and accumulating/over-rating draft choices. Oh to be a fly on the wall in Theo Epstein's office. Free agents (to an extent) wait for the market to be set, so we'll have to wait. Although most of the issue becomes money, there's also geography, and their role. We have to trust that the Sox "brain trust" is spending as much time try to solve the problems as Sox fans collectively spend thinking about them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We Can Only Hope

If it's true that Derek Jeter sought a 6 year, 150 million dollar contract from the Yankees, then we should wish him well and encourage his masters to pay through the wazoo nose. Giving Jeter megabucks might only shift the Bronx budget away from productive to less-productive assets. Jeter's argument must go something like, "A-Rod gets 30 million and I'm gonna get 15, bleeping chump change. Who's done more for the franchise? Who's the face of the Yankees?"

Last time I checked, contracts weren't like the Oscars "lifetime achievement awards", but compensation for expected production. Well, we can only hope.

God knows that the Sox shortstop dollar black hole has gone through Lugoland and Renteriaville en route to its current occupant...Theo said, "Marco" and got "Polo" in return.

Scutaro (OPS .721) outperformed Jeter (OPS .710) in 2010, and out-homered the Bronx bummer, 11-10. Last I checked, though, Jeter was in the playoffs for like the 15th time (maybe not) and Scutaro was home resting his shoulder.

Never fear though, the Red Sox chances of returning to post-season play are increasing day-by-day, as Major League Baseball ponders expanding its post-season format, adding another best-of-three series for Wild-card wannabes. Will it be called "Deuces wild" or something clever like "Wallet biopsy"? The winner will come out with either its top two or three pitchers AND bullpen spent, so that facing the expanded playoff winner will really BE an advantage.

Faux news? I asked a Red Sox employee recently whether he had any 'misinformation' that fans might appreciate. I commented that you see a lot less of the "worn cap" look popularized by Trot Nixon, Mike Timlin, and others. He reported that Wade Boggs was never as big a 'chicken diet' adherent as alleged, and that Nomar Garciaparra had a lucky t-shirt that looked holier than Swiss cheese by the end of the season. Sure, I've got more, but what you see there and say there, stays there. So now you now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

To Victor Goes the Spoils


It's still early in the off-season, and so far the Red Sox signing a minor league free agent hasn't exactly reassured the Nation. Even the knowledge that the Yankees and Derek Jeter are farther apart than the sun and the moon doesn't help much.

Victor Martinez pockets 50M and four years, because the Tigers give him a chance to win a ring. For crissakes, I'd probably fall over if an athlete ever said he made a great decision for his family and took the money. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. But it's wrong "to seem greedy", but okay to be greedy?

Thus far, the scoreboard shows negative progress at catcher and third base (presuming the imminent departure of Adrian Beltre), and the best news for most fans that J.D. Drew has a contract year to play for. Word has it that David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis are both working out at Fenway, that Dustin Pedroia is on the mend on the left coast.

I'm going to work on the assumption that Jacoby Ellsbury's address is going to be on the west coast next year, meaning that the Red Sox need to find another full-time outfielder to mix and match with the motley combination of Drew, Mike Cameron, Darnell McDonald, and Ryan Kalish.

Of course, the Sox had a glaring weakness in the bullpen, which had Daniel Bard as the most effective member, Jonathan Papelbon as an oft one-pitch closer (that can be cured), and a mystery as to whether the Atchisons, Doubronts, and Okajimas can overachieve to adequacy if not greatness. Other teams like Texas seem to have an endless supply of guys who throw high 90s, while the Sox accumulate draft choices.

"Only fools and children judge jobs part done." There's still plenty of time between now and April for Theo Epstein to retool the lineup and the bullpen. But with the Patriots and Celtics getting the limelight, the Sox can't want to be seen as the lemons on the local sports scene.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Perspectives on Free Agency

Free agency has started, and the goal is to strengthen your team without suffering "The Winner's Curse". Overpaying for players who had exceptional years or who are likely at the downhill crossroads of their career can put a franchise in 'jail' for years. The Red Sox have suffered the consequences of poor judgments on Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo, yet benefited from correct reads on Jason Bay (six homers this season for the Mets).

Money always comes onto or off the payroll. After this year's loss of interest in the injured and underachieving Sox, there's a perception that the Sox "must" be a big player to regain media attention and credibility. Does Sox upper management have its collective eyes on the ball, or are they more concerned with diversifying the empire via NASCAR and soccer?

As far as the numero uno free agent on the market, Cliff Lee, don't expect the Red Sox to be chasing him. They've got Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, as well as numerous prospects. They're far more likely to spend the money on bat, with major holes to fill at catcher, first or third, and a need for an outfield power bat. The other issue is whether Jed Lowrie deserves a shot at the everyday shortstop job, and the implications for Marco Scutaro and Jose Iglesias. Lowrie has filled the Tim Naehring designated injury slot, but hit exceptionally well when healthy.

Sox fans could easily live with bringing Beltre back and Jason Werth in, but the likelihood of signing multiple Boras clients after the Teixeira fiasco seems remote. A trade for Adrian Gonzalez would strip the farm system (e.g. Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and more) and require something in the 22-25 million dollar a year money range to satisfy his contractual expectations. Obtaining a Paul Konerko (first), while moving Youkilis to third still leaves the need for an outfield bat, and neither Carl Crawford or Werth will come cheap.

What the Sox expect from Mike Cameron remains to be seen, but last year's 8 million dollars went down the drain. The Sox failure to develop power hitters is coming back to bite them, and the fans aren't likely to wait for Rizzo or Ryan Lavarnaway.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Can You Stand It? Just sayin'.

I haven't written much lately here, because I've been busy with broadcasting a cable sports show, high school football and volleyball, and maintaining my investment/trading blog. But even I can only resist so long.

The Red Sox handled the departure of pitching coach John Farrell with class and dignity. Farrell added a lot to the organization and the Sox had only praise for the new Jays' skipper.

I don't want to boast too much, but I had my prediction of the Giants winning here. Take my word for it. Seeing former Sox Edgar Renteria, Javier Lopez, and Ramon Ramirez having success makes us ask that unwanted question, "how come we can't get guys like that?"

As for the downside, what is local favorite David Ortiz thinking (in this economy) when he talks about not being comfortable in a contract year? Does he think all Sox fans are drinking Four Loko? Presuming the Sox pick up his option, a very reasonable assumption, he'll pocket 12 million dollars. If he could scrape by on a couple of million, then after taxes he could save over five million dollars and be set for life. I guess it's the 'bonfire of the vanities'. Ortiz continues to be productive, whatever his age, in US or Dominican years.

Tim Wakefield receives the prestigious Roberto Clemente community service award. Will that be the crowning achievement of his long Sox career?

Plenty of questions for the Sox in the off season. One has to be, how do you tell players you have no money after you spend over four hundred million to buy an English soccer franchise. No doubt that will mean LISN, the Liverpool Sports Network.

I had the opportunity to meet Sam Kennedy, Sox COO and Executive Vice President. I'm sure he enjoyed being able to announce another ticket increase for a non-playoff team. Maybe the Sox are pounding the table for expanded playoffs. Let's make it the NBA where 16 teams make it. The Sox can achieve post-season competition annually and declare every year a success. Think I have to throw up in my mouth on that one.

Questions? You betcha.

  • Ginger or Maryann? Papelbon or Bard?
  • Big splash? Ellsbury, Matsuzaka, and Casey Kelly for Adrian Gonzalez?
  • Does Ryan Kalish have an equal or better upside potential to Jacoby?
  • If the Sox aren't serious about V-Mart, then who's it gonna be? Buck, Benji, or Salty?
  • Will Jason Varitek be back as backup catcher?
  • Is Marco Scutaro the healing incumbent or will the productive Jed Lowrie get the shot?
  • Who's in the rebuilt bullpen? 
  • Who's on third? Youkilis after 
  • Beltre's departure? 
So, here's a potential lineup?

LF - Kalish
2B - Pedroia
1B - Gonzalez
DH- Ortiz
3B - Youkilis
RF - Drew
C -  Buck 
CF - Cameron
SS - Lowrie


Just sayin'. Go Giants.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Haven't Got Time for the Pain


I haven't written much about the Red Sox lately, because frankly I haven't got time for the pain.

A lot of factors go into the success or failure of a baseball season, including "relative" performance to statistical norms, managing, luck, consistency, injuries, and even 'acts of God'. I saw a highlight clip of a ball hitting a bird and deflecting past an outfielder for a walkoff hit.  But after yesterday's embarrassing loss to the White Sox, I needed some catharsis.

Perhaps the Red Sox can't change anything about this season, but as for next season, some changes are in order. In no particular ranking:

1) Third base coaching. The best third base coaching occurs when nobody knows the coach's name. We've have Dale "Sveum it ain't so", Wendell "Send 'em in Kim", and Tim "Boo-boo" Bogar. DeMarlo Hale was fantastic but Bogar didn't really cut the mustard. I'm being kind.

2) Bullpen restructuring. Okay, the four walks in a row yesterday sent me over the edge. It was the Sam McDowell, Matt Young, Steve Blass kind of performance that deserves professional help. Papelbon's disgust and lack of empathy after the game deserves a little back room discussion from the manager. Be a good teammate; be a professional. As for Papelbon himself, he had a terrific stretch when he got back to using all his pitches. When he throws nothing but fastballs, it's not working.

3) There's only so much you can do about injuries. It's not bad enough to lose the right side of the infield, catchers for too long, but Marco Scutaro is throwing lollipops to first. How bad is his shoulder, anyway?

4) Statistical variation. Who played "up to expected levels" when adjusted for injury time? Drew, Youkilis, Pedroia, Martinez, and Scutaro all really did what they do. Beltre and Ortiz exceeded expectations, as did Bill Hall. Darnell McDonald excelled as a fourth outfielder. For the minimal time he wasn't sick or injured, Jed Lowrie was decent.

The combined left and centerfield positions were pretty much a disaster of biblical or 'Titanic' proportions.

Obviously, the Sox expected more from Beckett and Lackey, and the bullpen for the second half struggled to put it mildly. The bullpen needs a complete makeover excepting Daniel Bard. Presumably a healthy Beckett and Lackey do better; Lester and Buchholz couldn't do much better.

5) Run prevention. When does that start again?

6) What do they do with Beltre, Ortiz, and V-Mart? With Youkilis out, they became the offensive core. Do we just start all over again? We can't know what the organization is thinking,

7) How do they address the Ellsbury situation? Currently, he's simply damaged goods, and only management knows where his head is at.

8) "Power outage". Is this fair? As tough as it may seem to believe, the Sox are second in runs scored to the Yankees and second in homers to Toronto. Sans Ellsbury, they are last in stolen bases with a mere 47. Somehow, they need to get a power hitter (e.g. Adrian Gonzalez). Casey Kelly, we barely knew ya.

9) The deciders. Is management going to spend the money coming off the payrolls? Lowell's pay is a big lump and what they do with Ortiz and V-Mart is another 20 million dollar decision. Are they done paying for nonproductive shortstops? Can they afford to watch Papelbon ask for Rivera money with declining effectiveness?

10) Papelbon's ERA skyrocket to over 3, along with a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.5, not great for a power closer. I'm not suggesting Daniel Bard has won the job; he's never even auditioned for it. They do have to make a call. At 9.35 million dollars (per ESPN) for Papelbon, that's a big piece of change. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No Mad: Damon...No Way.

Johnny Damon turned down the Hub for the Motor City. Can't you see it now? The Dan Shaughnessy column comparing Boston and Detroit, yada, yada, yada.

Player A has over 400 at bats this season. Player B has 255 at bats. Player A can't throw the ball better than my 22 year old daughter. Player B is a competent outfielder defensively. Player A has simply moved on from the Red Sox and Player B is trying to establish himself as a permanent professional ballplayer.

Player A doesn't want to be in Boston and Player B appreciates the opportunity. Player A is Johnny Damon and Player B is Darnell McDonald.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Seeing Is Believing

Have you been paying attention? Tonight Ryan Kalish played center field for the Sox. His box score (3 0 0 0) does show much of an impact, does it?

Early in the game, Kalish fielded a base hit into the gap and gunned the runner out at second, possibly saving a run. Historically, we've had some weak arms in center (Damon, Crisp, Ellsbury), so this is at least a temporary upgrade. Later, with runners on first and second and no out, he executed a sacrifice bunt perfectly, advancing the runners, who then scored on a Scutaro single.

So, with "nothing" in the box score, Kalish made a significant contribution both offensively and defensively. Seeing is believing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Silver Linings

I'm not on the bandwagon, analytically anyway. But the 2010 season hasn't been all negative. If the season is a marathon not a sprint, then so we ask whether younger blood might help carry the team forward.

Assessing the "youth" by position (ignoring the established 'younger' veterans in Youkilis (1B-3B) and Pedroia (2B), the Sox have (through the system) established more prospects.

C - Saltalamacchia, Exposito, Lavarnaway, Ibarra (Wagner, Brown blocked?)
1B - Rizzo (young power hitter), Anderson (hitting better lately)
Middle infield- Lowrie, Y. Navarro, Iglesias
3B- Middlebrooks
OF- Kalish, Reddick, Lin (defensively)

SP- established 5 starters, 2 very young (Lester, Buchholz), Doubront
RP - Bard, Bowden (what will they do with Papelbon?)
Top prospects- Kelly, Weiland, Fife, Ranaudo

Power-hitting outfielders, especially right-handed, look to be the system 'deficiency'.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dear Theo Epstein

Dear Theo Epstein:

Realistically, the Red Sox aren't buried, but are they dead?

Tampa has 40 games to go, playing over .600 ball. If they continue to 'struggle' and win 20, they finish 94-48. To tie them, the Sox must win 25 of their final 39 to tie.  If Tampa even goes 22-18 (96 wins), then the Sox must go 27-12, in other words, play almost .700 ball down the stretch.
Even if the Sox had their full roster, that's not happening.

If the Sox don't beat Toronto the next two games, then Theo Epstein should think the unthinkable, sell 'em off. If you're not going to make a max effort to re-up Beltre (likely 4 by 60) and Martinez (maybe 4 by 10) and pay Papelbon 10 million (a total of 110 million), then maybe the Sox go into selling mode, in order to retool for 2011.

Among Beltre, Martinez, and Papelbon, you should be able to get useful if not premium pieces, as you're not selling off junk, realizing that what you're not trading is quality but not duration, as you don't have a lot of control.

The 2011 rebuild isn't as bad as it seems.

C - Saltalamacchia and wait for your prospects
1B - Adrian Gonzalez for Ellsbury, Casey Kelly, and another piece.
2B - Pedroia is healthy
3B - Youkilis slides to third base.
SS -  Scutaro for another year, with prospects in the pipeline
LF - Kalish
CF - Cameron, while you wait
RF - Drew, last year of his contract
Extra - McDonald, earned a ticket back with a raise
Extra - Lowrie, with a chance to compete for the shortstop job
DH - ah, there's the rub...do you extend Ortiz


SP: Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey, Matsuzaka
RP: Rebuild: Bard, Atchison, Bowden, Doubront, Richardson...

The bullpen reclamation seems to be an annual issue, and the Papelbon question is a huge overhang, both structurally and financially. The trend is negative, although he's still a young guy.  They could try to move Matsuzaka to the West coast, but are they going to get value for a guy who could win 15 games a year for a couple of years?

The free agent market is a bit thin, with the prime piece Albert Pujols, who isn't going anywhere. Carl Crawford would be an attractive acquisition, and the Sox should have a lot of money coming off the books (Lowell, Varitek, Wakefield, Beltre, Martinez, Hall). Obviously, if they're willing to part with Casey Kelly, then they'd be able to at least enter the Gonzalez sweeps.

Sox fans will miss the classy veterans Mike Lowell and Tim Wakefield, but realistically need to get younger and more athletic.

Developmentally, the Sox are waiting on Anthony Rizzo (1B) who has apparently moved ahead of Lars Anderson, the Navarro-Iglesias battle for shortstop, and it's hard to expect Anthony Ranaudo to be ready before late 2012 at the earliest. Do the Sox have any power-hitting outfielders coming through the system and what's their alternative?

I've done my own surveys, and Sox fans are ready to accept reality and move on. Can you?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Glass is Half Full

How do you classify the 2010 Boston Red Sox campaign to date? Any answer has to be qualified, but how does this differ from any baseball season?

Success and failure in baseball depends on many factors, including the proverbial 'bad bounces', health and injury, as well as over/underproduction by players, coaches, and management.

Management:

Although the franchise has a fiduciary and 'moral' duty to win every year, even Theo Epstein acknowledged 2010 to be a 'bridge' year.

Transactions have to be judged over the long haul. So far, the insertion of numerous fill-ins, ranging from Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, Eric Patterson, and most recently Ryan Kalish has overall exceeded expectations. Adrian Beltre has simply been a revelation. Few Red Sox in their wildest dreams could have anticipated the contribution of Bill Hall, and Marco Scutaro has for the most part stabilized the shortstop position. Acquiring Jarrod Saltalamacchia at lottery ticket prices gives the Sox additional flexibility in the off-season.

Conversely, the bullpen has often been fragmented, Mike Cameron can't be awarded a grade other than incomplete, and aside from April, Jeremy Hermida looked like Tarzan and played like Jane. The free agent gem, John Lackey, has pitched inconsistently and in bad luck at times.

We have to remember the front office's patience with promising arms like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, both of whom would be top of the rotation starters for every team in baseball. Daniel Bard has a trajectory that places him just outside all-star status. Felix Doubront has shown himself to be more a prospect than a suspect. We can only hope that Josh Beckett regains the form and consistency that marked his early career.

Coaching:

How could Terry Francona receive anything except for consideration for AL Manager of the Year? He has worked with an inconsistent lineup, an underachieving bullpen, and simply kept the team either in or at the fringes of competition with two hands tied behind his back.

John Farrell seems next in line to inherit a major league managing job. Numerous Sox pitchers have developed new pitches (e.g. Lester and Buchholz with the cutter) and it's difficult to know how much impact pitching coaches can have on grizzled veterans.

Tim Bogar might be the salt of the earth. I don't know him, but overall the "send 'em in, Tim" approach recalls the Wendell Kim era. DeMarlo Hale excelled at the third base coaching job, and if the season has anything worth saving, maybe he belongs back there.

Over/Under Achievement:

I call this the Mark Belanger category. Belanger played in six ALCS and four World Series, all the while hitting a career .228. Yet in 1969 he hit .287 and he won eight gold gloves. Belanger didn't always hit, but he certainly knew how to help his club win.

Of course, the problem with the over/underachievement and incomplete list is injury. The Sox have had major injuries at every position except short, third, and right field. I have to use the "porn standard", that is, I know it when I see it.

Overachievement
Adrian Beltre
David Ortiz ("Still the One")
Bill Hall
Daniel Nava
Ryan Kalish
Darnell McDonald, a career resurrection
Jason Varitek (didn't expect much coming in)
John Lester
Clay Buchholz
Daniel Bard
Scott Atchison
Felix Doubront

As Expected:
Kevin Youkilis (top 5 offensive player in the AL)
Dustin Pedroia (injury a major factor)
J.D. Drew (average, but not mediocre)
Marco Scutaro
Daisuke Matsuzaka (the enigmatic one)
Dustin Richardson

Underachievement:
Victor Martinez, injury a contribution
Jeremy Hermida
Jacoby Ellsbury, injury his primary 2010 contribution
Mike Cameron
Kevin Cash
Josh Beckett
John Lackey
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon
Hideki Okajima
Manny Delcarmen

Incomplete:
Eric Patterson

How much of these 'categories' reflect "randomness' versus 'trend' is questionable. My sense is that any objective categorization of Jonathan Papelbon's career would show 'negative trend', based on blown saves (maybe random), WHIP ratio (nonrandom), and strikeout to walk ratio (nonrandom). I'd be inclined to assign Beckett and Lackey to randomness. Is Adrian Beltre the Seattle underachiever, the Boston overachiever or someone in between? These are the decisions that management has to wrestle with in planning future contracts, acquisitions, trades, and disposition.

The players who have 'helped' themselves most this season are: Beltre, Hall, Kalish, McDonald, Bard, and Doubront. Nobody can label Lester or Buchholz as surprises, because as Yogi Berra would say, "you can see a lot by just watching".

Overall, with 50 odd games left, the Sox still have a chance for the playoffs. All things considered, the glass is half full...if you're drinking the Kool-Aid.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Following Yes...Deserving More Columns...Not So Sure

"You're never as good as you look when you win...or as bad as you look when you lose." - Earl Weaver

The Red Sox continue to confound and confuse. To their credit, they haven't gone into the tank when they could with major injuries at C (2), 1B, 2B, LF (2), CF, and P(Beckett, Matsuzaka). Conversely, the 'run prevention' strategy hasn't materialized, with continual bad fielding, bad judgement, and inconsistent relief pitching.

Dan Le Batard makes it clear today in the Miami Herald that most journalists simply haven't adequately prepared, and become critical, simply because that's the easy way. 

Now for the gratuitous comments:

Sox fans bemoaned the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury. Who's crying now? Getting your timing back mid-season isn't so easy.

Josh Beckett hasn't had the greatest command today...but throwing some more off-speed pitches could help...although maybe he's concerned about the running game. Fuggedaboutit. Not happening.

The biggest loss from here out is...Kevin Youkilis, one of the top five offensive players in the AL (really).

Morrow has a no-hitter today...if Dustin Pedroia's playing second base for Toronto.

J.D. Drew has the capacity to carry a team for a month...if he gets hot. Right now? Not so much.

If the Sox WERE to lose the next couple of games to the Yankees and struggle, would they become SELLERS...the logical 'bait' would be Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, and maybe Jonathan Papelbon.

Has Felix Doubront moved ahead of Casey Kelly in the prospect ranking? (Hate mail starts now). Kelly's last 8 starts: 43 IP, 53H, 28 ER, 14 BB, 34 K. ERA 5.86. Well, the K/BB ratio is good, but the WHIP isn't. He's probably working on stuff, because the process is as important as the outcome at this point.

This game just has a bad feel to it.

 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Five Swings: Trade Deadline

Lots of factors go into business decisions, ranging from performance to potential to dollars.

1. Kalish and Hermida. Jeremy Hermida gets DFA'd, hardly surprising when the former first round draft choice did nothing to dispel the "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" rap. After a torrid start, Hermida didn't hit and looked worse than that afield. Kalish can run and play defense, and it wouldn't take a lot of production to surpass the former Marlin. Kalish had two hits, a run scored and an RBI in his debut...pretty good story to tell his grandchildren someday.

2. How do you spell relief? The Sox will try to cobble together middle relief with Scott Atchison and some combination of Michael Bowden and Felix Doubront down the stretch. The low budget but low sacrifice approach as they don't mortgage the farm with prospects for suspects.

3. Catch as catch can. Jarrod Saltamacchia developed Steve Blass Disease (a.k.a. the yips) and has been working through it. The Sox certainly didn't overpay, and this gives them options going forward, with a likely backup at worst. If Beltre goes and V-Mart stays, the Sox can try to shuffle Youkilis to third, Martinez to first, and potentially have a Salty dog at catcher while they develop the legions of catching prospects they have.

4. Nomarramon. In 2004 it was Garciaparra going and now it's not Nomar, but Ramon Ramirez. As uncomfortable as it was to watch Ramirez, it must have been as uncomfortable for him. Go West young man, to the Giants. Was Jacoby Ellsbury really on the block?

5. What do you do? David Ortiz's comeback story continues, as he leads the Sox in homers and RBIs and argues for a spot on the 2011 version. Today's walkoff hit for Ortiz was his eighteenth but the Sox remain about 10 lengths behind coming into the back stretch.

It's still not football season.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally

No, I'm not talking about Jim Bouton's sequel to the irreverent Ball Four. And I'm not disparaging the job Terry Francona has done with an injured lineup, a starting rotation only now coming together, and a bullpen solid at the back end and largely sordid at the front end.

The Boston Red Sox 2010, intriguing, playing hard, but crippled by injuries and an untimely West Coast trip that made fans (the ones not on vacation) tune in to bedtime not baseball.

This might be the best starting rotation the Sox have had in my lifetime, with a potential someday Hall of Famer in progress (Jon Lester), two very high end starters (Beckett and Lackey), a guy with absolutely filthy stuff (Buchholz), and the enigmatic but talented foreign important, Matsuzaka.

The excitement on the bases has been a no-show from injury and half the 'soul' of the team (Dustin Pedroia) kills himself to get back on the field, but can't hurry the process. It's a season where the fans have drunk the "devil's Kool-Aid" and wonder whether it's worth coming back for seconds.

Yes, the road trip had its moments, from a three game sweep of the Halos, to a potential 5-4 forceout turned into a 5-4-3 fielder's choice without an out, to a pair of Big Papi homers in a game to an erstwhile perfect game by Jon Lester torpedoed by AAA defense.

The Sox aren't totally boring...the pitching is decent, ninth in ERA, and the defense seventh in fielding percentage. The offense excitement, even without a catcher who could hit for what seemed like forever, and with assorted other absentees, still generates the second most runs in the AL and the highest OPS.

Let's face facts...Sox fans are used to stars, and four-letter words like Cash, Hall, and Nava aren't...although Bill Hall has filled in admirably all over the field. Too bad he couldn't play catcher. Darnell McDonald and Eric Patterson are fine as fill ins, but don't satisfy adrenaline junkies in Baseball's Athens.

Neither the joy of baseball, nor specifically "The Nation" has vanished; it's more like the excitement has behaved like dry ice, with excitement cooling via sublimation. Perhaps only the truest baseball aficionado can enjoy the 'sublime' play of overachieving reserves. If that's the case, then I'm simply not that enamored with a child's game played by too many men who don't seem to care enough and too often hide in the shadows when terms like performance enhancement come up. You'd think that the guys who don't cheat would be begging to be proven clean and bring the playing field level. I guess mostly, we'd think wrong.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Never Let the Facts Cloud Your Beliefs

The unofficial arm of the Boston Red Sox, a.k.a. The American College of Radiology has scientific guidelines on the use of imaging in the diagnosis of rib fractures. Really.

CT scans are remarkably effective in detecting chest trauma. (Click the scan to enlarge and see the rib fractures)
But imaging studies won't necessarily tell us when a 'worker' can return to his 'usual duties'. A construction worker, laborer (doing heavy lifting), or professional athlete subjected to repeated trauma isn't going to respond the same way as a journalist or a doctor.

So what we don't know are 1) the facts (how completely Jacoby Ellsbury has recovered) or 2) the context, as in are there other factors souring the relationship between Ellsbury and management. Throw Scott Boras into the mix, and we get more heat and no light.

So we lack the facts and have too many 'beliefs' based on just about nothing.  So what else is new?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jon Lester: The Big Picture

The Red Sox brass had to celebrate what they'd built, resigning Josh Beckett, acquiring John Lackey, and developing Clay Buchholz, with four out pitches (95 mph heat, 12-6 curve, devastating change, and recently branded cutter).

But the gem of the staff is the 26 year-old lefter from Tacoma. Battling professional hitters must seem easy after enduring cancer chemotherapy. This season Lester leads Sox hurlers with eleven wins, and leads the AL in starts, wins above replacement, and hits allowed per nine innings.

Over the past two and a half seasons, he is 42-17, with 501 strikeouts in 513.2 innings. And he's getting better before our eyes, controlling both sides of the plate, using the cutter against right-handers, and developing another out pitch with his change-up. His adjusted ERA+ (adjusted for ballpark) has been in the top five in the AL for each of the past three seasons. He keeps the ball in the park, fourth in the league in fewest homers allowed.

He has the stuff of a strikeout pitcher and the confidence to pitch to contact. He can keep the running game in check. He has conquered the early career struggles emanating from erratic command. He has won the clinching game of the World Series, thrown a no-hitter, and might start the All-Star game on Tuesday.

He is one of the elite pitchers in baseball and we've had the privilege of watching that evolution.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land

 

Plenty surrounding baseball makes no sense.

  • When hitters batter a pitcher, it is 'expected' that the pitcher can 'retaliate' by brushing them back. At times, the "purpose pitch" causes life-threatening injury, as in Jack Hamilton's beaning of Tony Conigliaro. Batters don't charge the mound when the pitcher dominates...
  • Baseball managers wear uniforms. We don't see Doc Rivers, Bill Belichick, or gawd fawbid Bill Parcells suiting up in their team unis.
  • Pitchers aren't supposed to show up hitters with the fist pump, but the 'home run trot' has become a home run walk for some.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury gets a petulant 'walk off' in Arizona because of injury.
If Ellsbury can't play, the fans understand. You can't swing the lumber with high torque, or dive after flyballs, crash into walls, or break up the double play when you're INJURED. Nobody disputes that Ellsbury has injuries, well documented rib fractures. I remember that we literally had to order an athlete not to play (under penalty of violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Injury)  because of injury. But Kevin Youkilis' questioning of Ellsbury's absence becomes the equivalent of Colonel Nathan Jessep ordering a 'code red' in A Few Good Men.

The Sox have plenty of gamers, Youkilis out there day after day, Dustin Pedroia playing with a sore knee, and Mike Cameron playing with an abdominal hernia. All Youkilis did was state the obvious, that Ellsbury's absence has a strange and foul odor to it. Is it therapy or petulance?

We all want Ellsbury to return as soon as possible, and we look forward to a healthy and productive outfielder. But it's not too much to ask him to remain part of the team during his recovery.  The team fields a strange lineup day after day, and Ellsbury has become a stranger in the strange land.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Thoughts on the All-Star Game and More

Baseball has the only All-Star game that really matters. Why? The Pro Bowl is anticlimactic, the NBA All-Star game is played sans defense, and hockey...well...

So if the All-Star game counts, then why aren't all the best players going? Kevin Youkilis is one of the top five offensive players in the AL, and he has to bite his nails wondering whether the fan-geeks will vote him on (yeah, I did my part over twenty times).

A-Rod gets named as an extra. Does he get a bonus to go? He should be an All-Star every year at his contract rate. If he didn't get named, would he care (if there's no money involved).

Clay Buchholz had a WAG (wives and girlfriends) top twenty nomination, so maybe he doesn't care if he can't play...

What's your favorite All-Star memory? I've got a bunch, Yaz making a miraculous catch to rob a homer, Bo Jackson homering and stealing a base, and the worst was Johnny Callison taking the Monster deep in 1964, which I think was a 'walkoff' homer before such terminology existed.

As for the state of the Sox, how much complaining can we do when they have the 'win today' mantra and a lot of fungible parts playing their roles well for the most part. Eric Patterson hits two homers in a meaningful game? He probably doesn't even dream about that. The Baird-Epstein targeted platoon (Patterson versus selected RHP, McDonald versus right, Nava versus other righthanders) has worked out. The catching solutions haven't been so great but it is what it is.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Deal or No Deal?

Several years ago the Red Sox leapt into the Johan Santana sweepstakes, with Santana ultimately ending up on the New York Mets. If Santana had wound up on the Sox, the Twins would have received Jon Lester and others. What's been the track record in the interim?

First, I wrote that among the great pitchers in contemporary baseball history, few have averaged more than 16 wins during the six year career span contemplated...and second, Santana wound up making a king's ransom, which also decreases your ability to pay other players.

Of course, Lester also pitches in the pitcher-unfriendly AL and the especially unfriendly AL East.

During the past three years, the cancer survivor Lester has earned about 5.17 million dollars, and the Mets ace Santana has earned over ten times as much, nearly 56 million.

Sometimes the deals you don't make turn out the best. And the pitcher most similar (similarity scores) to Johan Santana through age 25? Jon Lester.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Glove Story

The band of misfits currently wearing Red Sox uniforms continue to play good baseball, particularly with the assistance of some not-so-inspired play from the Orioles. 

Still, within the game in a game, I have a few observations. In the first inning, Daniel Nava almost created an Oriole rally with a poor jump on a single, forcing Jon Lester to induce a DP grounder (not a thing of beauty with Kevin Youkilis doing a manatee imitation to make the play on his end). 

In the bottom of the first, Eric Patterson beat out a DP grounder to key the rally. Ortiz (added to three hits) had a walk, and then Youkilis, Drew, and Nava all proceeded to generate doubles, and four runs. In other words, Patterson's speed and hustle kept the inning alive, and ultimately sank Jeremy Guthrie. 

Lester continued his roll, picking up a win to move into double figures, and his K/BB ratio and WHIP ratio establish him as the Sox ace and most-deserving All-Star pitcher. At this point, Lester has achieved status (in my mind anyway) as the best Sox southpaw (eclipsing Bruce Hurst and Bill Lee) in two generations. 

J.D. Drew has gotten onto a streak of his own, and he has the ability to carry a team for a month. 

And as for the title, on David Ortiz's eighth inning double, Julio Lugo shared a laugh with Big Papi behind a glove covering Lugo's face...probably something about blazing speed. I can't speak for most fans, but I enjoy seeing grown men playing a kid's game actually have fun. 

Friday, July 02, 2010

Five Swings: Living on a Prayer

Like Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer", the Red Sox approach the halfway point, battered and the wild card position bolstered by overachievers and a plethora of unheralded reserves. In some ways, this club deserves both more admiration and respect than some others with more talent.

1. The Manager. Terry Francona has prospered without one of his top pitchers (Josh Beckett), without a semblance of a regular outfield, and despite a deplorable start. Francona's ability to keep turmoil 'in house' gets him high marks and the respect of a veteran ballclub.

2. Catcher in the Wry. Who would have thought the Red Sox to have an incredibly productive catching duo with  Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek combining for 16 homers and 54 RBI? Of course, having both on the DL simultaneously is a more surprising development. Strength up the middle rules in all major sports, chess, and checkers. Will the combination of Molina and Cash do the job?

3. Fracture. In the movie 'Fracture', Anthony Hopkins proves a formidable challenge in a murder investigation. In the 2010 baseball season, fractures prove a formidable challenge among the leftfielding duo of Ellsbury and Hermida, the catching pair above, and Dustin Pedroia. Accelerating healing sounds easy enough, but in practice, not so much. None of the Sox' injured have 'pathologic fractures' as far as we know, and presumably none have osteoporosis. The Sox aren't hurt, they're injured and none can particularly play through the pain.

4. Bullpen succession plan. Jonathan Papelbon evolved from a three pitch starter to a one pitch reliever last season, and unfortunately, that wasn't the Rivera cutter or the Sparky Lyle slider. Papelbon remains one of the best closers in the AL, but his struggles raise the question of when Daniel Bard challenges him for the alpha male of the bullpen. Bard has both a better fastball and a better breaking ball than the incumbent, and works on an off-speed pitch to complete his repertoire. Everyone knows that the job of closer is as much 'the head game' as a physical challenge. When Papelbon's demands his expected production, then the ascendancy begins.

5. Ring that Beltre. David Ortiz and the 'Rent-a-Glove' Adrian Beltre have provided far more than expected as the Sox offense leads the majors in runs scored and OPS. Beltre has resuscitated his career playing with high effort day after day, and coupled with Kevin Youkilis gives the Sox a pair of legitimate all-star roster players. When (the last time I checked) we consider that Jason Bay had four homers, thirty-one RBI, and a .787 OPS, for 15 extra large per season, both Ortiz and Beltre seem like bargains. The Sox strength in the minors has been pitching, so acquiring and retaining bats remains a priority.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Five Swings: The One-Der of You

Beat LA! The Dodgers checked into Ye Olde Ballpark to face the tail end of the rotation in newcomer Felix (the Cat) Doubron and Tim Wakefield and the Sox have closed to within one game of a tie for the top of the AL East.

1. Revenge of the Turds. Not really, but his Manholiness delivered a Wakefield butterfly into the departed left field nets. Fortunately, like Manny it was a Solo Shot.

2. Did You Know? Tim McCarver played MLB for about a thousand seasons, but in one unglorious ended one for the Sox (1967), McCarver finished second in the NL MVP race, socking 14 homers and 69 RBI for the Cards.

3. Slugging fools.
The American League OPS leaders. The "run prevention" crew from Beantown has four members, including a trio in the top 12. Yankee third sacker A-Rod, sans steroids checks in at number thirty. The Yankees and the Royals both have a pair in the top seventeen.

4. All-Stars? Distribution requirements aside (at least one from every team, and the mandatory Yankee infield rule), the deserving Sox include Youkilis, Buchholz, Lester, Papelbon, Beltre, and possibly Victor Martinez or David Ortiz on the bubble. I don't see more than two Sox pitchers making it and two position players making it.

5. Inter-net? The Sox 9-2 Interleague record has been the difference along with generally playing better baseball. Today the "run prevention" approach fell down a little with some erratic infield arms (is Scutaro still hurt?), but the combination of solid starting pitching and leading the majors in runs scored produces predictable results. The Sox' ERA was 11th in the AL in April, 7th in May, and has shrunken to 4th in June.  Dramatically the Sox K/BB ratio rocketed from 1.82 in April and 1.73 in May to a much more palatable 2.26 in June.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Five Swings: Where Are We?

How negative can one be when the Red Sox have the third highest winning percentage in baseball and have moved within a pair of games of the leading Rays and Yankees?

1. Rohring Start. Slim lefty Felix Doubront started out strong, but a series of Dodger hits and Sox misses led to three tying runs. Doubront didn't make anyone forget Jim Kaat covering first base, and Mike Cameron did a Lonnie Smith imitation to make matters worse. Okay, so it wasn't a no-hitter into the ninth, but how much of a career did Billy Rohr have? Doubront has shown a live fastball, a willingness to pitch to contact, and an intention to try to control both sides of the plate with the fastball. Curveball? Not so much, so far. He has a rep of holding runners on, but looks to have a slow delivery to the plate.

2. Nava Ho! Daniel Nava came in hitting .444 in a small sample size. He may be getting even more PT, with J.D. Drew limping off after catching a sinking liner. Drew's Naehringesque health status has to worry Sox fans, but it may again open up the Chronicles of Reddick.

3. Catch of the Day. Jason Varitek got the start tonight, very understandable with a rook on the bump. Varitek has been terrific as the backup, and at this point in his career, the money's still good, so it should be 'all good' for the Captain.

4. Boomtown. The Sox had a pair of homers in the first, including an Ortiz blast that threatened the Jordan's Furniture signage. The promotion hasn't started yet, anyway, but just sayin'. J.D. Drew had about a four minute home run trot, because the refs missed the OBVIOUS homer. When a round object hits a flat object flush, it bounces back, whether or not you've even heard of Newtonian physics. The blue crew got it right after a replay. Now if Bud Light could only recognize the 21st perfect game in history...

5. Manny. I'd love to reveal some juicy Manny tale, but in the best interest of baseball, I won't. See Bud, it's not that hard. Ramirez returned as DH, along with Dodger skipper Joe Torre, oft architect of numerous Yankee-Sox battles.

Summary: Doubront shows poise and competitiveness, but his curveball needs a lot of work, at least if this is his 'generic' stuff. I saw highlights with a better one, so maybe it's an outlier....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Good Is Kevin Youkilis?

Sometimes as a fan you have a player in your midst who you simply don't appreciate. Ergo, I ask the question "how good is Kevin Youkilis?"

Despite the Greek god of walks moniker, Youkilis isn't primarily a 'bases on balls' machine, although he does lead the AL in walks. Here are some statistics that might give you pause and some general comments:


  • I'll argue that Youkilis is the Sox best player and one of the top five in the AL. Why?
  • Youkilis has won a Gold Glove, although his fielding isn't his best attribute.
  • He has finished in the top 6 in AL MVP BOTH of the past two seasons.
  • He has been in the top 8 in the AL in "Wins Above Replacement" each of the past three years.
  • Among active players he is eleventh in on base percentage.
  • He has been in the top five in SLUGGING percentage in the AL each of the past three years.
  • He has been in the top four in On Base Slugging percentage (OPS) in each of the past three years.
  • He currently is third in the AL in OPS.
  • He leads the AL in runs scored.
  • In summary, as well as providing above average defense at first, he is among the top five RUN PRODUCERS in the AL. He gets on base, scores, has a high slugging percentage, and is recognized by TPTB as among the elite by virtue of AL MVP results and all-star selections. 
He might be the most underrated player in baseball, as I'd guess that most fans wouldn't view him among the most elite hitters (if asked to name the top five in the AL) around, but he clearly is. In "Moneyball" Billy Beane asked, "if he's such a great hitter, then why doesn't he hit better?" Youkilis does deliver and deserves more credit for what he does game after game, while not giving away at bats. I rest my case. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

40 Percent Solution

The Red Sox have more or less passed the first two-fifths of the annual regular season curriculum, trailing both the Yankees and the Rays by four games (five in the loss column).  Realistically, perhaps they deserve an "incomplete" more than a grade, because they've labored for most of the season without two starting outfielders and their erstwhile ace, Josh Beckett.

Writing about the Sox creates special problems today, as attending my daughters' college graduation this weekend kept me away from the action. Suffice it to say, it was another 'Meatloaf" weekend, as in 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."

The Sox have moved the "plus-minus" rating in the right direction, and the "Run Prevention" strategy seems to be working out better lately as well. They have lowered their team ERA to 4.36 (ninth in the AL) and despite early defensive woes on the left side of the infield, they are now fourth in the AL in both fielding percentage and fewest errors. 

Meanwhile, the "traditional" Sox are second in the AL in runs scored and lead the AL in OPS (.817). Among the regulars, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, and Victor Martinez all have an OPS over .850, and J.D. Drew is not far behind at .819.

The season, which appeared to be on the brink, no longer is, despite the cast of fill-ins and sometimes misfits who fill the diamond settings. 

Needs? Yes, the Sox need a healthy and effective Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia in full health, and the continuing strength at the back end of the game with Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. It seems as though they always need another bat, and overall they have to be disappointed with the production from the outfield, notwithstanding the destructive debuts of Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. Some have mentioned Rick Ankiel while perhaps their best hope comes just from getting healthy.

With the Celtics stealing the headlines, the Sox haven't done half bad...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stonewall or Rock Head

Here's the extremely passionate response from MLB to an email I sent them concerning the Galarraga perfect game.

First paragraph, the commissioners statement (already read).
Second paragraph, "We will not issue further comments as of this moment."

It's a business, a multi-billion dollar business, and I am just one 'customer' with pretty much no impact on the business. If I had some wonderfully scandalous and ethically defective information about a player or a team, I wouldn't release it...naturally, "in the best interests of the game." Heck, baseball looked the other way about its problems virtually until Congressional inquiry (and concern over loss of exemption of anti-trust status?) supervened.

Just ignore the problem and it will go away...until it comes up in the final inning of the World Series?

Monday, June 07, 2010

As Easy as A or B

Pitcher A:


Pitcher B:


Probably the two most important categories are K/BB and WHIP ratio. Looks like Pitcher A has been more effective than Pitcher B. Just sayin'.

Pitcher A: Daisuke Matsuzaka (now with 5 wins)
Pitcher B: John Lackey

Defending the Status Quo?

The question of the use of replay won't seem to go away. The first question that has to be asked is "do you care about getting it right?" If you don't care, and you're a human error is an important, essential part of the game, then the discussion could end. Don and Jerry have had a logically inconsistent discussion about how you can't change, how it's difficult to call sometimes, and then talk about adding a fifth umpire (they could use a central location to reduce costs) and agree that college football seems to make the decisions quickly. It's the 'one-handed economist' argument, that there is no 'on the other hand'.

Meanwhile, back in Cleveland, the Sox have created some opportunities, big Papi beats out a double play grounder (no replay needed), and Josh Reddick seems to have come alive. Reddick has athleticism and a live bat, but will he hit enough?

Didn't J.D. Drew have his ALCS slam against Fausto Carmona? I think so.

Daisuke looks like Fausto Carmona and the latter is doing his Daisuke wildness imitation. Alternate reality, you gotta love it.

The Boston Globe reports that Jacoby Ellsbury is off to California for yet another opinion on broken ribs. He must not be arbitration-eligible? If he can't slide hard into bases or dive in the outfield, then he can't play. That's my opinion, no matter what his diagnosis. The Boof Bonser era begins and Jonathan Papelbon is on bereavement leave. That extends the Joe Nelson experiment or Mike Lowell's Red Sox career for a few days.

The MLB draft is up to choice 12 (the Sox pick 20th) and no surprise, power-hitting phenom Bryce Harper went to the Nats, who could get exciting pretty soon.

Yesterday's game left Sox fans with a sour taste as the Sox flopped to 1-7 in extra frames.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Asterisk Man, Commissioner "He Who Must Never Be Named"

It's a new week, and the world hasn't come apart because baseball commissioner* "He Who Must Never Be Named" refuses to acknowledge what the whole world knows, that Armando Galarraga pitched the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Or should we call it Major Denial League Baseball.

The commissioner's stubbornness casts a blight upon the game, in the same manner that performance-enhancing drugs (wink wink, nod nod) did. Failure to act can be a sign of strength, of commitment, or of principle. But equally, indifference to a wrong has the appearance of weakness and cowardice.

Adherence to tradition isn't anything new, and it took years for replay to penetrate other major sports. But technological advances, and widespread gambling on sports, forced recalcitrant ownership to reevaluate. And don't expect any to retreat from their adoption of 'getting it right'.

Hardcore baseball fans can simply recognize Galarraga's perfect game, in effect, ignoring the political indifference that brings only shame upon the commissioner. Wikipedia can recognize the perfect game, as could "reference" sites like baseball reference.

The asterisk belongs the commissioner of baseball, who had the opportunity to right a blown decision, and blew it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

That Didn't Leave as Much of a Mark as It Could Have

Not many Sox fans would argue that the season so far has been anything approaching success. Yet throw away the angst and include the 6-9 mediocrity against the Yankees and the Rays and the Sox remain in striking distance.

Here's the AL team versus team grid.

The good has come from the outstanding (overall) pitching of Lester and Buchholz at the top of the rotation and the setup-closer combination of Bard and Papelbon. Adrian Beltre has overachieved, David Ortiz has outperformed expectations, and Kevin Youkilis remains one of the top players in the league. Jason Varitek has performed a backup role very effectively. Of the newcomers, Bill Hall has shown versatility and some pop.

Mediocrity has come from the entirety of the outfield, and Victor Martinez has turned his season around recently. John Lackey hasn't found a groove as his command hasn't been there, although most Sox fans probably expect him to rebound. Dustin Pedroia had a tremendous April and has struggled at the plate recently, but continues to excel defensively.

The ugly has reared its head with the injury bug, with the Ellsbury and Cameron duo combining for 13 runs, 5 RBI, no homers, and two stolen bases in a combined 25 games. Josh Beckett's injuries have rendered him either ineffective or absent and he won't be back for a month or more, considering his shutdown.

It's hard to even grade Theo Epstein with so many injuries. The organizational decision NOT to part with either Lester or Buchholz can't go unnoticed, and the disgruntled bus has too many players ensconced, with Lowell (.229/.316/.343/.659) and Wakefield (1-4,, 6.02) drawing a Shakespearean "methinks thou dost protest too much".

Is Terry Francona doing his best managerial job ever, with unhappy veterans, injuries, and too many at bats for guys named McDonald, Hermida, and Reddick?

So even though fans Stones-style can't get no satisfaction, we try and we try and we try.

Friday, June 04, 2010

50 Ways to Lose a Ballgame


Paul Simon had a classic hit 50 ways to leave your lover. The Red Sox have sought to establish 50 ways to lose a ballgame. I won't try to name fifty...this time.

  1. Fear Factor. The Bogar man. "Send him in Tim" Bogar might be the greatest guy in the world, but he's cost the Sox a couple of games already. 
  2. Collateral Damage. The collision between Adrian Beltre and Jacoby Ellsbury cost the Sox their leadoff hitter for the first half of the season. It happens.
  3. Year of Living Dangerously. Will Victor Martinez overcome a slow start?
  4. Pap-per Chase. A pair of Yankee homers in the ninth did Papelbon dirty.
  5. Wild thing. Daisuke Matsuzaka, a.k.a. 'The Nibbler' drives fans to drink. 
  6. "Jeremy." Like Michael Jackson, one wonders what the glove is for. 
  7. "Speed." The Sox mostly don't have it, with Ellsbury sidelined, with good baserunners including Pedroia, Drew, Youkilis, and Beltre. 
  8. The Running Man. Although it's gone better lately, opposing runners have run wild this season on the Sox. 
  9. Outland. Early season struggles at the plate for Drew, Ortiz, and V-Mart. 
  10. Eraser. What Jon Lester would do about his first three outings. 
Seriously, the early season "Misery" didn't result because of one guy, rather collective struggles in all aspects of the game. The Sox have time to recover, have played far better, led by the work of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, and the work (especially) of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon at the back end. "It's About Time."

Thursday, June 03, 2010

"Best Interests of Baseball". Money Talks.

Armando Galarraga lost a perfect game last night, what was the 21st perfect game in major league baseball history. Umpire Jim Joyce called a routine ground out a base hit, as though he were unaware of the historical significance of it all...or just oblivious. Joyce was man enough to acknowledge his mistake, apologizing to the Tiger pitcher after the game.

Commissioner Bud Selig has the power to change the error, using the best interests of baseball clause. What keeps him from doing so? Is it tradition, stupidity, possible testosterone deficiency, or fear of opening  Pandora's Box?

Tradition and racism kept generations of African-Americans out of baseball. The tradition argument falls apart when acknowledging baseball's current use of replay for determination of disputed home runs, introduction of the designated hitter, changing the field dimensions by lowering the mound itself, and other revisions that have occurred in baseball.

Stubbornness is hardly unique to Selig. Baseball protests about its integrity, yet dragged its collective feet for years regarding drug testing, maybe because "chicks dig the long ball" and their money rolled in. Perhaps baseball fears interminable delays about the purity of the grand old pastime. Has anybody watched a Red Sox-Yankees game lately? Often it's like watching the last two minutes on an NBA game...in perpetuity. Some wanted to crucify Joe West for his keen sense of the obvious. Enforcing an "indisputable" standard works for the NFL, and managers could be given a finite number of challenges.

Are more nefarious forces at work? I doubt that, but if this were Yankee Stadium, and a right-hander named Phil Hughes had accomplished what Galarraga achieved, does anybody NOT think that Selig would be falling over himself to make things right?

I will always consider Galarraga's effort a perfect game. In fact, if fans wanted it to be so, they could simply vote with their wallets, targeting a future game day, let's say Sunday, to boycott MLB merchandise. Can you imagine owners calling Selig, demanding that he overturn the decision lest they lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue? Would you like to be a fly on the wall for those (expletive deleted) calls?

Baseball has an empowerment clause about the "best interests". Selig has the power to right the wrong that happened last night. Yet ironically only the fans can make that happen. Money talks...keep your wallet in your pocket, and make Selig squirm and Galarraga the legitimate author of perfection.

Contact information for MLB.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Five Swings: Tired Act

1. Tired Act. The play of the night, maybe play of the year comes as Armando Galarraga of the Tigers gets denied a perfect game on a blown call at first base. Hard to see what the umpire saw, as it seems the quality of umpiring reaches an all-time low. Yes, it's not the World Series, but an epic performance gets trashed by subhuman error. We can point out Jim Joyce (the first base umpire), but the umps are lucky they have replay to bail them out on homers, because they're overruled regularly. Joyce's best shot would be a tearful apology post-game...not happening. And no, I don't have a fantasy team.

2. Curling. The Matsuzaka "ups and downs" lives on as Daisuke allows three tainted runs in the first inning, aided by Jeremy Hermida's defense, only to get the Sox into the 7th inning with a 4-3 lead. If Earl Weaver became a "two pack" a day habit because of Don Stanhouse, then Terry Francona will be "Prilosec" as Matsuzaka gives him an ulcer. A 10-hit, no walk performance isn't the usual medicine from the enigmatic right-hander.

3. David is Goliath. David "Lazarus" Ortiz, drilled his 12th homer of the season to give the Red Sox a comeback lead in the sixth inning.

4. Bard all. Has Daniel Bard put himself into contention for an All-Star berth? Bard has five holds and a save in ten scoreless innings during his last ten appearances coming into tonight. Bard is tied for second in the AL in holds and has a WHIP ratio under 1 (walks and hits per inning pitched).

5. Top ten. Who are the top ten players, regardless of position in the American League? In other words, if you could take ANY ten players, who would they be?

  1. Evan Longoria, 3b, Tampa
  2. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota
  3. Justin Morneau 1b, Minnesota
  4. Robinson Cano, 2b, New York
  5. Kevin Youkilis, 1b, Boston
  6. Jon Lester, P, Boston
  7. Felix Hernandez, P, Seattle
  8. C.C. Sabathia, P, New York
  9. John Danks, P, Chicago
  10. Phil Hughes, P, New York
Yes, you can argue for or against a lot of guys (age, experience, consistency, etc.) but you'd have a great nucleus with the above. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Five Swings: Buck Holds Royals

The Sox faced a "must win" against Zach Greinke and the Royals, and Clay Buchholz nailed down his seventh win before the 578th consecutive Fenway sellout.

1. Fan Friendly. Here's the 'fan's eye view from my seats, as my daughter Julia, home from California had bought tickets to take the old man. Unlike the last time we went together in 2004, there was no profanity, no loudmouthed drunks nearby, and the whole experience (including a win) was much better.

2. Momentum. The saying about "momentum lasting as long as the next day's pitcher" applied in full, as Buchholz made pitches when he had to, and the bullpen and timely defense kept the Royals off the board. From our seats, judging balls and strikes was impossible, but the strike zone seemed small. Okay, so it wasn't a perfect game like Roy Halladay's today, but when was the last time you were at a 1-0 game at Fenway? I expected you wouldn't remember either.

3. First Timer. The family seated behind us brought their son, who seemed to be about nine years old, and it was exciting to see him and think back almost fifty years to my first walk up the ramp to see the green grass and the entire experience. Way to go, young man, enjoying the game and great seats.

4. Dusted. Dustin Pedroia might struggle at the plate, but he made a pair of game saving plays. With runners on first and second, Adrian Beltre fought off a rocket, and Pedroia made a great turn at second off an imperfect throw to preserve the shutout. In the bottom of the ninth with Jason Kendall on third, Pedroia fielded a rocket to his right, flashing backhand leather to save the game late.

5. Pitching up to Boston. Jonathan Papelbon came on to the usual fanfare, and had to face 4-5-6. He jammed Billy Butler to fly out to left, then fanned Jose Guillen (and his eleven homers), and got a fly out to end it. Papelbon managed to get through the ninth 'clean' and hit 95-96 regularly on the gun.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Five Swings: Don't Look Now, Stats and More

After entering the Alternate Reality of the 2010: Lost Season, the Sox overwhelmed the Rays and restored order to chaos. Meanwhile, what do the stats say.

1. Belted. What a difference a day makes for Adrian Beltre, who now sits in the top 20 in OPS in the AL, ahead of...Joe Mauer and A-Rod (sans PEDs). Twelve total bases last night didn't hurt AB.
Maybe A-Rod has too many extra-curriculars in play. Ty Wigginton? But what this shows is how dominant a hitter that Kevin Youkilis has become.

2. Fielding Bible. The Red Sox chased the "run prevention" theme in the off-season, which sounded good, until it didn't work, at least for the first quarter of the season.
Fielding percentage can be a misleading stat, as it doesn't account for other types of defensive misplays, like balls bouncing past you off walls, missing cutoffs, poor range, and so forth. I think Hawk Harrelson had a 1.000 percentage one season, and nobody was handing him a Gold Glove. I'm not really sold on Scutaro defensively, but other than that, the infield's pretty sound. Jeremy Hermida has a lot of Greenwell in him in left defensively, and J.D. Drew is an exceptionally underrated right-fielder defensively.

3. 8 Bawl. Daisuke Matsuzaka did the "who am I" thing tonight with EIGHT walks in less than five innings. Okay, so the umpires in MLB leave a lot to be desired (have they EVER been worse?) but even so, Matsuzaka needed a dog and a cane to find the zone.

4. Presto Chango.
The Sox have moved into the plus category by simply playing better baseball. Tony Mazz had a good piece on the perspective of one-run games. The Yankees play few one-run games because they're croaking teams. So, maybe it's good to have some more bats.

5. Change we can believe in? As a former pitcher (yes, even made it into a Division I college game), I had a lot of interest in finding ways to get batters out. Without overwhelming stuff, pitchers need to rely on alternatives, like deception, control, changing speeds, working the strike zone, controlling the running game, and identifying hitters' weaknesses. I always wondered whether 'multiple' change ups had value. For example, some teach throwing the change by gripping the ball deeper in the hand, others favor the 'circle' change, where the index finger and thumb come together to make a circle, former Sox standout Bob Stanley threw the palm ball, and the knuckler can have value. Why is it that so few 'power pitchers' (e.g. Jonathan Papelbon) have an effective changeup? And, we should note that one of the best, Pedro Martinez, had one of the best changeups. Food for thought.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pitch Count

The Red Sox shutout the Rays tonight 2-0 to consolidate their recent strength. In the past seven outings (per NESN), the Sox have six quality starts, a 1.69 ERA, and 7.1 innings per start.

Jon Lester got his fifth win and lowered his ERA to 3.15 and continues to creep down his WHIP ratio, already in the top 15 in the AL. Lester only lasted six innings between nine strikeouts and five walks, but allowed only a single hit.

The pen pals of Delcarmen, Bard, and Papelbon combined to close out the Rays without a hit the rest of the way. Papelbon notched his eleventh save with a fastball up into the mid 90's, including taking B.J. Upton out with heat upstairs to close out the game.

Papelbon's strikeout to walk ratio has been continually falling through the past years, and we'll see whether that's a durable trend. As noted before, the Sox believe K/BB ratio predicts future ERA better than current ERA itself.

Jacoby Ellsbury continues to have soreness and that gives Darnell McDonald a third life.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ray Ban

Maybe the pressure was off for the Sox with the Celtics and '24' the headliners. In any event, they came into the Trop led by Clay Buchholz who had a quality start (6 innings, one earned run) en route to his sixth win.

Buchholz among the AL ERA leaders, now 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA. Not hard to see why Tampa is in first place...all five starters among the elite.

The Sox outhomered the Rays 2-1, with David Ortiz (9) and Kevin Youkilis going grove yard.

Additionally, the Sox had another errorless game and have crept up to 5th in the AL in fielding percentage, just one component of good overall defense.

Minor Inconvenience. The Sox upper minor league teams struggled, with the PawSox garnering only one hit in a shutout loss, and Portland getting whacked 7-2. Salem was idle.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Five Swings: Surprise, Surprise

The Sox took two of three from the Phillies and have clearly played better baseball lately.

1. Yooook. The Sox fans traveling down the coast got rewarded seeing one of the best hitters in MLB today, no not Chase Utley, but Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis slammed a homer off Phils ace Roy Halladay, whom the Sox have handled about as well as anyone. Youkilis' production brought his OPS to 1.071 and has an other-worldly on-base-percentage of .459.

2. Wake up call. Tim Wakefield left his angst in the clubhouse and delivered eight innings of shutout baseball. Wakefield, who has pitched for the Sox since God's dog was eating Puppy Chow, lowered his ERA to 4.44 and got his first victory of the season.

3. Avatar. Mike Cameron will be bringing his major-league avatar back to the Sox any day now, after a three-hit, walk off homer game today. Darnell McDonald did a very serviceable job in Cameron's injury-absence, although Terry Francona must be feeling better about getting his starters back.

4. Brotherly Love. J.D. Drew absorbed his usual quota of boos from the "bull" Penns, but finished with a pair of hits today, as well as a run scored and RBI. His substitute, Darnell got a cameo before he rides off into the sunset. With the Sox injury situation, he'll likely be back.

5. Next! With Matsuzaka and Wakefield back-to-back, the Sox should be getting Buchholz, Lester, and Lackey against the division-leading Tampans. The Sox have crawled back into the wild-card race thanks to some struggles from the Bronx Bombers. The key? The Sox need to keep the speedy Rays off the bases, and get more runners of their own on. The Sox are fourth in the AL in runs scored, and just flipped the plus-minus switch into the positive column.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Five Swings: State of the Nation

The Sox continue inter-league play facing the Phillies and the Phanatic.




Here's my son, Conor, with the Phanatic at a recent Sunday Night Baseball game

1. Good, Better, Best. The Sox continue to struggle against the better teams in baseball, and Philadelphia certainly qualifies. The Philles are the most "American League" team in the NL with a highly potent lineup, including Monster Masher Ryan Howard and arguably the best offensive second baseman in baseball, Chase Utley (no disrespect to Robinson Cano, an AL MVP candidate.

2. Lackey Struggles. In his last three starts (18 innings), Lackey, a control pitcher, has yielded fifteen earned runs (ERA 7.5) and more worrisome, twenty-three hits and twelve walks, with a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) approaching two. I don't think anyone is worried about Lackey, but he needs to find his release point to get consistent.

3. Ellsbury Do-boy. Jacoby Ellsbury returns after experiencing multiple rib fractures in a collision with Ivan Beltre, another 'consequence' of lineup shifting with Ellsbury going to left. Healing of rib fractures varies substantially (okay, I've only been a doctor for twenty-nine years), but the potential for reinjury (swinging, sliding, diving, collisions with walls) merited plenty of respect.


4. Macho-Matsu Man. Matsu, Matsu-Man, he toys with the strike zone, 'cause he can. Matsuzaka, the enigmatic one, has brought a live fastball to the road appearance tonight, but it's early to be judging results against the potent Philly lineup. Historically, Daisuke's nibbling and "one bad inning" make watching him the baseball equivalent of Chinese water torture.

5. "Win Prevention". The Sox buzzword for 2010 was "run prevention". The numbers don't lie.



The Sox have an ERA about TWO runs higher than Tampa and have allowed the most runs in the American League. You can't sugar coat it or whitewash it, or use anyone euphemism. It is what it is.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grumpy Old Men

The Red Sox rallied from a 5-0 deficit at the new House of Horrors, to split their two game set with the Yankees.

The "bridge" Red Sox, with young veterans like Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester, contends with the older, more often disenchanted, "expendable" Red Sox, the Wakefield, Varitek, Ortiz, and Lowell class...

The 'generational' conflict breaks no unique ground. In business, young turks find ways to push old lions aside, and I've seen (in the military) a figurative coup d'etat where a young Navy Captain managed to displace by politics and title an older statesman physician.

The 'victim' in this Greek tragedy isn't ownership or Theo Epstein, but one Terry Francona, whose legendary 'closed door scrubbing' has kept the family laundry presentable for years, even with the challenges of Hall of Fame bound prima donas surrounding him. But when the 'family' starts throwing mud pies, then the only rational policy becomes sending the axeman out. The Patriots have never lacked the ability to throw a veteran overboard as a matter of example or principle. Football, of course, excels at brutality, while baseball prides itself on more pastoral leadership.

Of course, that is more fiction than fact. Baseball has produced many of the most defective managerial personalities around, ranging from legendary figures like John McGraw and Billy Martin, to lesser known Massholes whom I will leave unnamed.

So, if you want to feel sorry for someone, forget about the Massachusetts city squad, Lowell and Wakefield, and focus on the skipper, Terry Francona.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How Many Times?

How many times have you said, "that's it, I'm not going to watch these guys anymore." Admit it, you've said it, but then like some crack addict, you're back watching NESN, reading Boston Dirt Dogs, and arguing about it at the water cooler.

Is it possible? Can you really give up watching something that you care about but that makes you crazy? I did it for CNBC (Tout TV), the folks trying to sell you that stocks only go up, and that everything is normal, and you can trust Wall Street. Haven't watched them since the end of 2008.

But the Sawx? Can I live without watching Dice-K diddle around the strike zone, Tim "Send 'em in" Bogar at third, Marco (I've got a better arm than he does) Scutaro, and the rest?

Sure, I'd miss Dustin Pedroia's feisty play and Youkilis cursing himself out for a nonproductive at-bat. And I'd miss J.D. Drew's sweet swing, "Sweet Caroline", and "Dirty Water".

I mean, I live by the mantra that there are more old drunks than old doctors, but are there more old drunks than old Red Sox fans, too?

"In Theo We Trust" has gone to the back burner, and the Sox must be looking for a new slogan like, "we're not dead, yet" or "you wouldn't give up on your sick grandma that easily", "the Celtics don't play every night", or "at least we're not the Bruins."

Charlie Brown had a word for it, "aarrgghh".

Monday, May 17, 2010

Swing and A Miss

We approach the quarter pole mark of the baseball season and harsh reality confronts us: the Red Sox, as currently constructed*, are not a contender in the American League East.

*With Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron on the Disabled List.

The Sox haven't shown the ability to compete against 'elite' competition. The Bostons lost a series apiece to Detroit and Minnesota, and have an abysmal 2-8 record against their AL East rivals, bringing their record to 4-12 (.250) against the best competition. Even if the Sox beat up on the rest (now 15-7), they (not we) have to start winning against the big dogs.

Naturally, it hasn't gotten any easier as they head to Yankee Stadium where the Bronx Bombers are pitch-slapping them (again), with the locals putting up a crooked number (5) against Daisuke Matsuzaka in the opening inning. For the Sox, David Ortiz has produced a bright spot, a solo homer...and the Sox have closed the Yankees lead to 6-5.


Almost a quarter of the season done, and the Red Sox are LAST in runs prevented. So much for the run prevention strategy. Cripes, the Sox have allowed almost TWICE as many runs as Tampa Bay. Fortunately, the Sox are fourth in runs scored, or they'd be the Baltimore Orioles.

Should Sox fans toss in the towel, become Revolution devotees, subscribe to the NBA and NFL Channels, or simply grow vegetables in the back yard?

Frankly, we're past the panic button, and the season has a more grim appearance.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Five Swings: Complaint Department

The Sox seek to win their second straight in Detroit, with Jon Lester seeking another quality start.

1. #itch Selection. Jon Lester was more or less rolling along into the sixth and up 1-2 on Brennan Boesch. Lester had fanned Boesch twice and Boesch was late on the fastball. The Lester-Martinez battery sped up his bat with a curveball that got too much plate, leading to a two-run triple. Pitch selection!

2. Hall of Fame. Bill Hall went deep for the second consecutive game, with a very respectable 0PS of almost .800 for a reserve. Good acquisition.

3. Casey at the Mound. The Casey Kelly Watch continues with a marquis minor league matchup against Kyle Drabek. So far, it's Drabek, who's gone seven scoreless innings, while Kelly yielded one earned run in 4 2/3, presumably on a pitch count.

4. Give a guy a break. Dustin Pedroia got thrown out from second trying to score on a single to left by David Ortiz. Tim Bogar hasn't exactly distinguished himself so far, but with two outs and a rookie leftfielder (Casper Wells), maybe Tim deserves a pass on this one. Ortiz with another pair of hits has his average up to .226 and a seven game hit streak. Way to go...

5. Being There. The Sox definitely have played less painful baseball lately, although I'm happy to nitpick where I see fit. Adrian Beltre has been picking it down at third tonight and the defense in general seems better. The Globe said the Sox are the only team without an error from first or second base.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Five Swings: Not Going Anywhere?

The Red Sox finished the homestand 7-3, winning two of the three series but not really gaining much ground.

1. "Get away day" I didn't see the game today, but apparently 2:32 wasn't quick enough for Dale Scott. Rumor has it that the strike zone expanded faster than the Gulf of Mexico oil slick, with David Ortiz looking at a third strike as though he was looking through the wrong end of binoculars...as the pitches were so far outside. Terry Francona got tossed for arguing balls and strikes, and Dale Scott called a "soup's on the table" game. From a Sox fan: I eyeball about 16 strikes called in favor of Toronto pitchers that were balls (though some are close) and maybe 2 inaccurate calls that favored the Red Sox pitchers. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I honestly don't believe Dale Scott was out to get the Sox today. What you do have here, though, is ample evidence of a really poorly called game by the home plate umpire - which in this case, happened to favor the Jays.


2. Bench Jockeys. Help me out here. What's the best bench jockey line you've ever heard? I'm not talking, "did you forget your guide dog" or "where's the white cane blue?" How about, "they paying you for THAT?" Or, "forget about umpiring in the post-season" or maybe "got a plane to catch." I'm old-fashioned and like, "don't make me come out there."

3. 37,198. If you didn't want to sell out a game, wouldn't a 1 PM Thursday game be a good way to do it? Wrong. The paid attendance was 100.7 percent of regular season capacity. The 573rd consecutive sell-out at America's Most Beloved Ballpark didn't end quite as well as fans would have liked with the two run ninth inning rally falling short.

4. Miracles Never Cease. Daisuke Matsuzaka notched a seven-inning zero-walk game last night for his best game in a Sox uniform in many moons. The so-called "power nibbler" continued his mastery of the Jays. The best part of baseball for me is the regular appearance of 'things you don't see". And a walk-free Matsuzaka quality start definitely isn't something on Sox fans' radar.

5. Wakefield of Dreams? Tim Wakefield remains unhappy about his role. You can probably add him to the list of Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and maybe Jeremy Hermida. I doubt that Mike Cameron or Jacoby Ellsbury are thrilled about their seasons either. And if Terry Francona is happy, that would come as quite a surprise, too. Aging, sometimes product players harken back to better days. Younger players look to break into the lineup. According to Mike Reiss, Wakefield's winless in his last nine starts, so maybe the Sox are a little unhappy with his roll as well...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Five Swings: Walk on By

The Red Sox try to consolidate their homestand seeking to get a three game series with the Jays off on the right foot.

1. "Walks will kill you." Brandon Morrow had his own Sam McDowell/Matt Young moment with a plethora of walks that allowed the Red Sox to move the 'bridge year' along. While the Sox were walking around the bases, Casey Kelley surrendered three runs and seven hits in five innings for Portland.

2. Hit parade. The Red Sox offense hasn't been the problem, Jason Bay or no J Bay. The Sox now have three hitters over .300, including Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Beltre.

3. Lackeywanna Blues. John Lackey hasn't been able to stand prosperity, a three-run lead, as the Jays have him on the ropes. Lackey had gotten his ERA sub four, but has now ballooned back up to 4.74. But let's hope he can have a Jack 'moment' (either Jack Morris or Jack McDowell) and pitch well enough to win.

4. Run Win Prevention.
Plan: Run Prevention. Method: pitching and defense. Results: PPP (piss poor performance)

5. TLTL. Too little too late? The Hardball Times shows their projected standings. This is not pretty.