Monday, April 05, 2010

Five Swings: Game One and More

The Red Sox kicked off the season delivering a veritable "bleep you" from the mouth of a five-year Internet star. The victory is only part of the soap opera that the Red Sox may become.

1. Today the Red Sox announced signing an extension to opening night pitcher Josh Beckett. The right-hander  led the Red Sox in victories last season with seventeen. By signing Beckett, the Sox have locked up their "big three" (Beckett, Lester, Lackey) through 2014, giving them flexibility in both the development and the potential trading of additional pieces down the line.

2. "Make new friends, but keep the old." The newbies, Adrian Beltre (AB), Mike Cameron, and Marco Scutaro combined for 5 for 9 offensively, scoring a pair and driving in three. Beltre also closed out the game with a solid play going to his left to nip Curtis Granderson. How many people asked whether Mike Lowell could have reached that ball?

3. Speaking of Lowell, he clearly garnered the lion's share of applause during pre-game introductions. Look, the Red Sox didn't get AB to play third because they suddenly disliked the popular third baseman. They made an acquisition because they had concerns over Lowell's health, particularly his range. Above is FanGraph's analysis of Lowell, with an apocalyptic drop in UZR (ultimate zone rating) of over 20 points. Here's a review of the issues and alternatives for teams last winter.

4. More "Crime against humanity". Believe it or not, I do work, so I couldn't watch the entire game last night. In 2004, the average MLB game lasted 2 hours and forty-seven minutes. Last night's contest, a prototypical Sox-Yankees struggle, lasted 3 hours and forty-six minutes. Some blame Tony LaRussa for the prolongation of baseball games, with the promulgation of left-right switches and pitching changes. Whether that's fair or not, the Moneyball approach of taking pitches to try to wear out the opposition pitching has become ingrained among several of baseball's elite franchises. Around the turn of the century, the average number of pitches in a major league game was 285. Last night the Sox and Yankees combined for eleven pitchers and 326 pitches.

5. "I'm in favor of it." Tampa Bay Buc Coach John McKay was asked about his football team's execution and replied, "I'm in favor of it." Last night the Yankees executed the double steal with what had to be called a defensive misplay by the Red Sox. With Jeter on first and speedy Gardner on third, the Sox tried the 'cut' play with Marco Scutaro, and the throw from V-Mart would have given him no chance, even if on target. Often, you see the throw faked to second, and if not, ideally the pitcher 'fakes' a cutoff, to try to get the runner to stop. Sometimes the shortstop comes in directly toward the plate and receives the throw directly trying to catch the lead runner. Suffice it to say, the Yankee's execution topped the Sox' on that play.

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