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.

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