Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The New Evil Empire

The Sox host the Bombers Sunday as the Yankees defend their championship, their first since the Red Sox rattled off a pair.

While the Red Sox rotation has achieved much renown, the Yankees aren't exactly chopped liver, countering with C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez, and Phil Hughes.

Here's a comparison with some key statistics, the least reproducible of which is win-loss record, so dependent on run support and bullpen support. One argument says that the Red Sox may have the slight edge at the top of the rotation and the Yankees at the bottom. Obviously, Javier Vazquez's numbers come from the NL, so they won't be as good in the AL.

The Yankees have studs at almost every position, with likely Hall-of-Famers at both hot corners in A-Rod and Teixeira, and shortstop Derek Jeter. Robinson Cano has great tools and put up big numbers including 25 homers, .320/.352/.520 compared to Pedroia's .296/.371/.447. Jorge Posada has a chance to be a Hall-of-Fame player as well as he is on the cusp of Cooperstown statistically. Curtis Granderson had 30 homers and 20 stolen bases in spacious Comerica Park, Brett Gardner had 26 stolen bases in limited duty last year, and Nick Swisher had 29 dingers and an .869 OPS for a championship team.

Last year the Yankees put up 915 runs, 244 home runs and led the league with an .836 OPS. To put that in perspective, only three current Sox, Youkilis, Drew, and Victor Martinez topped the Yankees' team average.

The Yankees' pitching was fourth overall in ERA and fifth in bullpen ERA. Maybe Mariano Rivera will start his decline...maybe we need to have him checked for bionic parts.

So the Sox have a formidable task. If the Yankees merely play to their career norms, they're going to be uber-tough. The Sox will have to play the Yankees extremely tough head-to-head if they're going to have a chance to win the division, and we shouldn't take the Rays 2009 performance as likely to be repeated.

Monday, March 29, 2010

AL East Competitors: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles had a rotation with four twenty game winners in one season. But that was about a million years ago. You have a better chance to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex in your back yard than an Oriole 20 game winner this season.

Which is not to say that the Orioles have no hope. They've improved and winning 70 games would be a monumental task for them. 

They have a few decent sticks, with Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold in the outfield, Luke Scott at DH, and Brian Roberts at second. Roberts can't swipe fifty bags anymore, but he's more than competent. Newcomers Garrett Atkins and second time around Miggy Tejada could be an improvement over Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora, but that's not saying much. Cesar Izturis at short is limited offensively. The big hope for the Orioles is that second year catcher Matt Wieters will start showing some of the offensive potential that yielded an 852 OPS in September. Adam Jones won a Gold Glove and Nick Markakis has one of the best outfield arms around.

If that's not enough in the Last Man Standing AL East, then it's about the starting rotation. Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie at the top of the rotation in the imposing AL East simply isn't THAT imposing. If you think that the cost of mediocrity has gone up, consider Millwood at 15 million extra large. For Guthrie, the victim of the Mothers' Day Massacre a few years back at Fenway, at least he doesn't have to carry the burden of being number one. After that, it's the Kiddie Korps with solid prospects in Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, and Brad Bergeson. Bergeson got hurt in a Spring Training commercial, but Matusz and Tillman could be the Real Deal, eventually. Only Matusz and Bergesen had K/BB ratios over 2 of the holdovers...and Millwood had a K/BB ratio of 1.73 in Texas. Mike Gonzalez has closer credentials, but after that it's basically the No-Name defense. 

Casey All That?

Uber-prospect Casey Kelly gets some trial by fire tomorrow against the Rays. Tampa has a very potent line up (discussed yesterday) and the appearance will give the brass a chance to see the 20 year-old against Grade A competition.

The Sox still have some decisions to make, the biggest being how to fill out the bullpen. The candidates for a couple of spots include some greybeards, ranging from southpaws Embree and Schoeneweis to righthanders Nelson and Atchison. You wonder sometime how they make these decisions, and needless to say, they don't always work out.

Mike Lowell gets some showcasing tonight at third base as the Sox try to cut their losses with the third baseman coming off hand surgery, hip woes, and knee pain. Lowell's first at bat resulted in a ringing single to right. Unfortunately, Jason Varitek followed with a swing where his bat seems to drag through the hitting zone. At this point, Varitek's contribution will probably be some combination of action against LHP and helping Victor Martinez complete his transition to handling most of the staff.

So far tonight, Josh Beckett looks to have good stuff but has been what I'd call "wild in the zone", leaving a couple of pitches where he'd probably rather not.

Place holder? I'm anything but an expert on the Sox minor league prospects, but I read regularly. What of Jason Place, the toolsy centerfielder who will probably start the season at Portland. Like many young players, he needs to improve his plate discipline and contact, which is hardly unique.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You Know It Don't Come Easy: Tampa Bay Rays

Maybe it's time to start thinking about the competition. And there is plenty. While even those afflicted with the luck of Rip Van Winkle recognize the Yankees, fewer may hold Tampa Bay in anything approaching equally high regard. Last season's "mean reversion" and bullpen breakdown relegated Tampa to mediocrity, but I'm not sure that Sox fans can rely on that happening in 2010.

The Rays' initials TBA (to be announced?) sums up where they are. At the catching position, Dioner Navarro's performance fell off the cliff, which probably won't recur. What Ray had at least 30 homers and 100 RBI for the past three seasons? That would be Northeastern's Carlos Pena. His OPS exceeded even that of what could be baseball's best young player, Evan Longoria. And yet, at the middle infield positions the Rays have Jason Bartlett, Red Sox killer, and the underappreciated Ben Zobrist who finished 7th in the AL in OPS while cranking 27 homers from second base AND supplying excellent glove work. Admittedly, Bartlett's offense came at the expense of less spectacular defense.

The outfield has potential, with Carl Crawford in a contract year, winner of the Fielding Bible Gold Glove award in left, the enigmatic B.J. Upton, and some kind of Matt Joyce platoon in right. Pat Burrell is better than he showed last year, although not the man he used to be.

Still, for the Rays, it will be about the pitching. Scott Kazmir is gone, but they still have Big Game James Shield and Sox nemesis Matt Garza at the top of the rotation, the heralded David Price next, the 'monster' Jeff Niemann and rookie Wade Davis. These guys are inexperienced, but not chopped liver. Rafael Soriano comes over as a closer, and the rest of the bullpen, such as Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell aren't as bad as they were last year.

If there is a surprise in the AL this year, it may not be the Seattle Mariners, but the potential of the Rays to compete a lot deeper and longer than many pundits expect.

One Week to Go

As the baseball season approaches, what critical questions must we ask?

  • Do the Red Sox sign Josh Beckett to an extension before the season starts?
  • If calling a game is so difficult, then why aren't there multimillion dollar pitching coaches getting paid to do it?
  • Can it really be true that Jason Varitek hit .134 in 28 games started after the acquisition of V-Mart? Or that the Captain threw out 13 percent of runners last season (MLB average 25 percent)? Or that Varitek had a three-year minus rating in "The Fielding Bible"?
  • How much power does Bill James have in the Sox organization? After all, he really IS part of the sabermetric brain trust.
  • Has Adrian Beltre converted to the true believers (in wearing a cup) after last season's injury? That's a sore subject...
  • Name the three players who won Rookie of the Year and the MVP the next season? Cal Ripken, Ryan Howard, and yup...Dustin Pedroia.
  • Does Scott Schoeneweis or Alan Embree really have the inside track ahead of Scott Atchison or Joe "Vulcan changeup" Nelson?
  • Will Terry Francona have any wardrobe malfunctions this season?
  • Do you know how many 'states' there are in baseball? Not locations, but conditions, for example, none out, none on base is one state, with an average run production of 0.521 for that state.
  • Did you know? Kevin Youkilis finished 21st, 4th, and 2nd in regular season OPS the last three years in the AL.
  • Did you know? A-Rod's falling three year OPS...1.067, .967, .933. Why would that be? The Boston Globe reports today that many Hall of Famers want a hard-line stance against users of PEDs.
  • What's the over-under on homers for Marco Scutaro? Ten?
  • Baseball Prospectus projects AB (Adrian Beltre) to hit sixteen homers this season. I'm inclined to think he breaks twenty. 
  • Why did Jacoby Ellsbury's defense decline from 2008 to 2009, with accusations of bad jumps, bad routes, and bad breaks on the ball? 
  • Can Mike Cameron have as good a year as James Cameron?
  • J.D. Drew still has two years left on his deal. Will Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish be ready by then?
  • Can Jon Lester keep up the strikeout pace, with 5 double digit K games in his last 22? Are we watching the evolution into one of the elite pitchers in baseball?
  • Can Clay Buchholz turn potential into consistency?
  • Can Tim Wakefield stay healthy?
  • Do you need a player to watch outside of the Red Sox? Try Max Scherzer of the Snakes. 9.5 K per nine innings and a K/BB ratio of 2.8. He may be the next Zach Greinke.
The key players for the Red Sox this year? Might be Big Papi and AB. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Similarity Scores Lineup: Boston Red Sox has a great feature called similarity scores, where it finds 'similar players' in baseball history to a chosen player. So let's propose a 'hypothetical' similarity lineup with the Sox player and a similarity 'shadow.

C Victor Martinez   Joe Mauer (really)
1B Kevin Youkilis  Adrian Gonzalez (yeah)
2B Dustin Pedroia  Aaron Hill
SS Marco Scutaro  Pokey Reese
3B Adrian Beltre  Mike Lowell (meet the new boss, same as the old boss)
LF Jacoby Ellsbury  Denard Span (and the Twins wanted Ells)
CF Mike Cameron  Tom Brunansky (end of the season catch fame)
RF J.D. Drew Carl Everett (not in temperament)
DH David Ortiz  Mo Vaughn (who woulda thought)
P  Josh Beckett  John Lackey (number 1 on sim score!)
P Jon Lester  Daisuke Matsuzaka (doesn't look Japanese)
P Jon Lackey  A.J. Burnett (is what it is)
P Jonathan Papelbon  Takashi Saito (why can't we get players like that)

The point? Sometimes our "endowment bias" sees players differently than they 'are'. For example, most everyone would agree that Albert Pujols is one of the top players in the game. Who is on his similarity score list?
This is a little bit of apples and oranges, because above is the list by age. The higher the number, the more similar the player. For example, Reggie Smith had Fred Lynn (959) as his number one sim, one of the closest I've ever seen. Roger Clemens number one is Randy Johnson at 850. Luis Tiant has Catfish Hunter (an easy Hall of Famer) at 942 and HoFer Jim Bunning at 931, although Tiant hasn't gotten within a sniff of the HOF.

More on Schoeneweis: What a country!

The Red Sox acquired Scott Schoeneweis as a possible second LOOGY (lefty out of the bullpen guy). Schoeneweis has enjoyed some success at Fenway Park, but whether the sample size suffices to predict future success merits discussion.

First, the Red Sox brain trust believes that strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) predicts future ERA better than even prior ERA. This makes some sense as it usually reflects the intersection of power and command. Trends in K/BB often have great meaning. For example in 2008 Jon Lester had a 3.21 ERA with 152 K, 66 BB in 210 innings. Last season Lester had a 3.41 ERA with 225 K, 64 BB in 203 innings. So what? Look inside the numbers...before the All-Star game he had a 3.87 ERA and after 2.82. In other words, the K/BB ratio predicted future improvement. The fact that Lester allowed only 7 homers after the break and 13 before also may have played a role.

Let's look at Schoeneweis*. In the past three seasons (139 innings), Schoeneweis has 89 K, 64 BB (a ratio less than 1.5) and allowed 21 homers including 6 last year in 24 innings. And for that production, including three saves and three wins, he has earned 10.8 million dollars. What a country! The Sox hired him to be a potential "situational lefty". Somehow, I'm not thinking he's Billy Wagner, or Sparky Lyle, or even Jesse Orosco. Let's hope that he can overcome family tragedy and regain success.

* from

Friday, March 26, 2010

Countdown to Opening Night

The Red Sox did a bunch on the way to Opening Night showdown with the Bombers, adding reserve infielder Kevin Frandsen and "Sporty Spice" Scott Schoeneweis. Frandsen, looking at the data, looks to be the classic "good field, no-hit" infielder. Schoeneweis, who has an awful strikeout to walk ratio that the Sox seem to prize when good, and a similarity score to Mike Kekich, the infamous wife swapping pitcher. On the seismic scale, this would probably rate just above a hiccup.

The Red Sox announced their opening rotation, with the Beckett, Lester, Lackey troika, to be follow by the venerable Wakefield, then back to Beckett and then Buchholz. I presume the Yankees will counter early with Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte.

The Frandsen acquisition may not bode well for Tug Hulett, although who can say?

How much do spring stats mean? Not a lot for Brian Shouse. The bullpen battle continues to shape up, with the locks:

  • Papelbon
  • Okajima
  • Bard
  • Ramirez
the likely:
  • Delcarmen
and the bubble:

  • Joe Nelson
  • Scott Atchison
  • Embree
  • Schoeneweis
  • Bonser (DL?)
I'll probably be doing a little extra research this weekend for a Preseason Special that my fellow coach and pal Ralph Labella and I will be doing on local cable TV. So keep your Sox on...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Final Questions

As Spring Training winds down, there aren't so many questions, but we can examine them, such as they are.

  • Who gets the final bullpen spot?
  • Who gets the final position player spot?
  • Is David Ortiz back?
  • How long will Daisuke Matsuzaka need to catch up?
  • Will the Josh Beckett extension get done prior to the conclusion of Spring Training?
  • The most important question is whether Ryan Westmoreland can resume a normal that Sox fans extend their prayers to the young man.
Final bullpen spot. Organizations and managers always want to have that second option against left-handers. Presumably that gives Alan Embree a left leg up on the competition. Is that 'fair' to Scott Atchison? Fairness doesn't have a lot to do with MLB roster decisions. 

Final position player spot. The 'hidden agenda' there is the fate of Mike Lowell. Will Lowell accept a diminished role and contribute to a harmonious clubhouse?

Papi Tao. A rejuvenated Ortiz would go a long way toward compensating for the gone Bay, begone saga. Red Sox Nation will be rooting for Ortiz, whom some say is in great shape.

Rising Son. While Matsuzaka was a non-factor last season, he did win 18 games in 2008, although it wasn't always pretty. Tim Wakefield's strong start in Florida has rendered Daisuke's series of injuries less critical early. We know that you can't have too much pitching, as injuries always come along. 

Josh Beckett. Sox fans would love a core of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey, with some bright prospects closer in the rearview mirror than they appear. If I could grant any wish besides health to Beckett, it would be a little less mustard on his change up.

I know that we shouldn't draw too many conclusions from a Spring Training game...but are we seeing climate change or is it hurricane season already?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

War on Old Statistics

If we look at what the Red Sox did in the offseason, it gives an easy understanding of what problems existed.

First, the Red Sox were third in runs scored (the ultimate offensive stat) and second in OPS. Admittedly, losing Jason Bay has to be made up somewhere, but they could theoretically get more offense at catcher, second, short, and DH, so offensively it could be more of a wash. 

The Red Sox were seventh in ERA and eleventh in ERA after the All-star break (4.70) and eighth (4.64) on the road. It didn't feel as though it was quite that pitiful, but that's why stats are so revealing.

Teams are placing greater emphasis on defense, particularly the Red Sox. This excerpt: "For Boston last year at third base, for example, Mike Lowell, who was unable to move well because of injury, cost them 20 runs, and now they have Adrian Beltre, and he added about 20 runs," Dewan explains. "Right there, the Red Sox have added four wins. Plus they've added three wins at short with Marco Scutaro and a couple more in the outfield with Mike Cameron. It's a huge improvement."

The Sox were ninth in MLB in fielding percentage, but that doesn't tell the whole tale, as their defensive inefficiency proved most costly on the road where they finished 39-42. Their performance in one-run games was unspectacular (22-17), but only half a game worse than the Yankees. In 2008, Tampa relievers were 31-17, ERA 3.55 with 52 saves. Last year Tampa was 26-23, 3.98 with 41 saves which may have been the second biggest reason the Rays finished eleven games behind the Sox. 

The latest darling of baseball statistics is "Wins Above Replacement" (WAR)...astonishingly, they had Mike Lowell at -10 last year because of his injury-limiting range. The top 500 position players in MLB by WAR are here. The top active player (21) is A-Rod. 

David Ortiz has 27.4 career WAR, just below the top 500 (27.7). One of my all-time Sox favorites, Dwight Evans had 61.7, in the top 100 at 96. Kevin Youkilis has 21.1, Dustin Pedroia has 14 so far, Mike Cameron 46.6, J.D. Drew 44.2, Jacoby Ellsbury 6.8, Jason Varitek 22.6 (0.2 each of the past two years), Victor Martinez 22.3, Josh Beckett 23.7 and Jonathan Papelpon 14.7.

For comparison, Roger Clemens is second on the all-time pitching WAR list (128) and Pedro Martinez was 23rd at 75.9. My boyhood idols Bob Gibson (85.6) and Jim Palmer (63.5) were 15th and 39th. 

"Now That's What I'm Talking About"

New marketing campaign.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Should We Care About Spring Training?

How much should we care about Spring Training? I've never been to Spring Training (at least since I was a college player), although my son went to Arizona for Spring Training this year and had a great time.

I can think of plenty that I'd like to see at Fort Myers...

  • The word is that Victor Martinez is working hard on his footwork and shifting, the precurson to effective throwing. The Varitek-Martinez combination was beyond futile at catching runners last season.
  • Casey Kelly. Let's hope for a man-child to help lead us to the Promised Land.
  • David Ortiz. May he find the Fountain of Youth.
  • The double-play combination of Pedroia and Scutaro...not to dismiss Jed Lowrie, but he seems star-crossed by illness and injury, and the looming Jose Iglesias.
  • The Jason Place and Lars Anderson. Prospects or suspects.
  • Everyone raves at the defense of AB (Adrian Beltre). Chicks dig the long ball...does the ball jump off his bat?
  • The outfield defense of Ellsbury, Cameron, and Drew should be spectacular. 
  • Does Jonathan Papelbon seriously plan to bring back his full arsenal of pitches? A one-pitch closer hardly ever works, unless you have the Rivera cutter. with a predictions forum

I went to school with EV but obviously lack even a shred of his mathematical insight. This probably has the relevance of the Pirsigian view of quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cold Sweat

I really don't spend so much thinking about the Red Sox, but last night I woke up in a sweat over a nightmare that the Sox had traded Clay Buchholz for a 32 year-old right-hander Dan Versant from the Padres. I don't think any such guy even exists, and I couldn't imagine why the Sox would be trading Buchholz for some (imaginary) guy nobody ever heard of.

Speak of the devil, Buchholz pitched four scoreless innings against some minor leaguers today. Better than getting lit up.

The 'obvious' question is whether the Sox have enough offense to complement what is expected to be a solid 'run prevention' team. likes the Sox' chances of winning the Series in 2010.

Monday, March 15, 2010

AL East Predictions 2010

I won't even pretend for a second to be an objective observer of Major League Baseball. Yes, I root for laundry...and that means the Red Sox whites. I don't have anything against kelly green Sox hats, the 'pink hats', or even the silly hats with the red socks on them. But I digress.

What are others saying and projecting for the AL East in 2010?

Shockingly, Baseball Prospectus projects the Red Sox to win the division, with the World Champion Yankees third, and scoring only 845 runs. I doubt the Yankees will be third, and I'd sure like the 'over' on the 845 runs.

Cappers Picks Blog picks the Yankees first and the Sox second, and gives very long odds on either the Orioles or the Blue Jays. Very long.

Doc's Sports Service ranks the Red Sox and Yankees on par, projecting the over-under for each team at 94.5 wins. Half a win? Anyway, they make note of the Yankees' dramatic outperformance of the Pythagorean relationship (square of runs scored and runs allowed relationship) with the Yankees a herculean plus eight outperformance (call that Mariano Rivera).

A different Baseball Prospectus projection (PECOTA) picked the Yankees to outpoint the Sox in the AL East.

Dodger Sims has the Yankees winning the AL East by a full eleven games and also seems to disrespect the widespread belief that the Mariners have improved substantially.

It's a bit early to be wagering big money before all the information is in. Injuries and the unexpected can change the landscape dramatically. I've always favored Tom Tippett's DIAMOND MIND BASEBALL as far as MLB Simulation games, but I'm not sure how the game has changed in the past couple of years. What say ye, fans?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reign Delay

The Yankees' spending spree last season (almost half a billion dollars) on the triumvirate of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira bought them a World Series.

The Red Sox haven't gone the cheap route trying to compensate, going long with John Lackey and deep in negotiations with Josh Beckett. The Boston Globe today suggested that they are a dark horse in the Joe Mauer sweepstakes if he doesn't sign with the Twins. Frankly, he belongs with the Twins.

ESPN Boston had a terrific article with Mike Andrews about his website, and the strength of the Sox farm system. Andrews had the general consensus on Casey Kelly, and plenty of good information about the depth the Sox have accumulated at multiple levels.

The Sox continued their battle for the Polk County championship today with a win over the Twins, although Twins' starter Kevin Slowey shut them down early.

The Sox reassigned numerous players to the minor league camp, including shortstop in waiting Jose Iglesias.

What's the Opening Day lineup likely to be? Here's some speculation.

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (LF)
  • Dustin Pedroia (2B)
  • Victor Martinez (C)
  • Kevin Youkilis (1B)
  • David Ortiz (DH)
  • J.D. Drew (RF)
  • Mike Cameron (CF)
  • Marco Scutaro (SS)
  • Adrian Beltre (3B)
  • Josh Beckett (P)
Of course, we can argue about Markov Chain analysis, and I suspect the Red Sox do ascribe to this type of formula, easily explaining why J.D. Drew should be a productive leadoff hitter, and Jacoby Ellsbury might work out in the six hole. The big question mark in the lineup now is neither Cameron or Beltre, but perhaps David Ortiz. Older players dropoff can occur relatively abruptly and with little warning. Is another glacial start in order for Big Papi? Let's hope not. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who's In?

Spring training provides plenty of opportunities for players to prepare for the annual marathon, although pitchers need the longest preparation.

Based on any logic, who's in and who's on the bubble?

Catchers (2)
Victor Martinez
Jason Varitek

DH (1)
David Ortiz

Infielders (6)
Kevin Youkilis
Dustin Pedroia
Marco Scutaro
Adrian Beltre
Mike Lowell*
Bill Hall

Outfielders (4)
Mike Cameron
J.D. Drew
Jacoby Ellsbury
Jeremy Hermida

Starters (6)
Josh Beckett
Jon Lester
John Lackey
Clay Buchholz
Tim Wakefield
Daisuke Matsuzaka

Bullpen (6)
Jonathan Papelbon
Hideki Okajima
Daniel Bard
Ramon Martinez
Manny Delcarmen
Boof Bonser

Obviously Mike Lowell's eventual destination determines another roster spot. The inevitable hamstring pull for an outfielder (e.g. Drew/Cameron) means the Pawtaxi Sox have a big role. A significant trade before the season can always happen, but probably isn't happening.

On the bubble...likely to be part of the roster during the season
Tug Hulett (or is it Wholett?)
Jed Lowrie (wrist slapped)
Josh Reddick (will have to fight off the Ryan Kalish momentum)
Dustin Richardson (if you're lefthanded, there's always an extra life for you)
Michael Bowden (trying to remake himself with a new delivery)
Junichi Tazawa (still young and adapting to a different culture)

Thought for the day: Dustin Pedroia led the AL in runs for the past two seasons and has 60 points on the Hall of Fame monitor after just three seasons. That's ridiculous! And to think, I thought he couldn't go to his right...ask Clay Buchholz and Miguel Tejada about that...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time to Get Back into It

Where does one begin when discussing baseball? Oddly enough, perhaps the Jim Bouton opus magnum, Ball Four is the starting point. Bouton's work exposed the clubhouse and its denizens as frequently immature men playing a boys' game. He concludes however, with the observation that you spend your life with a grip on the ball, when really it's the other way around.

And so it is with being a fan, locked in a grip of men whom you know intimately but really not so well. Those whom we thought we knew well, sometimes turned out to be mere mortals, losing easy temptation to alcohol, hard medicine, and soft women.

But  spring brings renewal, and so the Red Sox launch this decade with a new emphasis on the skill set of run prevention, rather than their 'atavistic' approach of the three run homer.

We expect the trio of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey to put up fifty wins...and the best 'raw stuff' on the staff might belong to the youngster of the group, Clay Buchholz, with the potential for three plus pitches.

The defense has strength at every position except one, where Victor Martinez' offense outweighs his defensive prowess. What is this likely to mean?

Tom Tippett's Diamond Mind has a relatively proven track record of forecasting season results. One early projection has the Red Sox finishing second in the AL East. This occurs with the Sox allowing more runs than the Yankees and the Mariners.

Random thoughts.

  • I expect the Red Sox to have a more potent offense this season than last, with more Martinez, and more production from short, second, and DH to compensate for the loss of Jason Bay.
  • Boo Bay? Why? Because he made a business decision that was best for his family?
  • I can understand Mike Lowell's frustration, but from a business decision, he made out well.
  • Will Jonathan Papelbon be a multipitch pitcher or something else?
  • I still marvel at how Hideki Okajima gets people out with what seems like underwhelming stuff.
  • Will Beltre's defense be as advertised?
  • Don't go away mad; just go away...I don't have a problem with Nomar, or Dan Shaughnessy's critique of the lovefest.
  • Would Jeremy's fans be Hermida's Hermits?