Friday, April 30, 2004
Dewey's House in French!
It's awesome to see La Chambre Que Dewey A Construite is becoming an international favorite.
What's not cool?
Sure, it's fun to be anti-intellectual when it comes to such cultural pursuits as trivial as baseball, though (DIGRESSION) I've yet to hear why Van Gogh's talent with the paintbrush is more important or better than Honus Wagner's with the bat. It's even fun to blame Michael Lewis' Moneyball for all the ills of today's game. It's most fun to blame Billy Beane.
It doesn't make it true.
Olney is essentially trying to say that there are productive outs, and in doing so, takes a shot at the people who look at baseball through objectivity and concrete evidence (statheads...Which I have been accused of, despite playing more than a decade of organized baseball, most at a high level). Apparently, 'small ball' is important when it comes to winning, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary. And we need something like Productive Out Percentage as a stat (heheheh) to show how teams need to make productive outs to win.
Of course, there is no evidence of any out being productive, save a sacrifice fly, with one out, and a man on third. Doesn't matter. Jim Kaat said that Juan Pierre should have been the MVP of the World Series last year after all.
Nevermind actually. I haven't read Olney's piece yet. I wouldn't want to make a whole argument against someone else's without reading it first. That would be intellectually dishonest of me.
Bronson Arroyo makes his last start as a participant in the Red Sox's starting rotation this evening. He will subsequently resume his long man duties as Byung-Hyun Kim fills the number 5 starter role. Still, last impressions are lasting impressions and it would serve both Arroyo and the Red Sox quite well if he could turn in another solid outing. It won't be easy. These Rangers can hit and they have a young nucleus of offensive firepower unmatched perhaps anywhere else around the Majors. Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Laynce Nix and Gerald Laird are all under the age of 25. Michael Young and Kevin Mench are just 26 and Alfonso Soriano, though older than we thought 3 months ago, is just 29. And in Brian Jordan and Brad Fullmer, the Rangers added two quality roster fillers. The Rangers are currently third in Major League Baseball in OPS.
Texas will send Ryan Drese to the mound to counter Arroyo. Yes, he of the 5.88 career E.R.A. Ryan Drese. "Well what of his 2.87 2004 E.R.A.", you ask? Relax. Drese has made just 3 appearances this year. He contributed some stellar relief work in a 9-4 loss on April 14th against Oakland. The A's pounded teammate R.A. Dickey to the tune of nine earned runs before Drese came in and shut the A's down. In two starts, both against Seattle, Drese sports a 3.97 E.R.A. Not terrible for sure but what is terrible is his 1.68 WHIP he has to show for the two starts. Drese has never been an effective Major League starter and I do not expect that this season he will start to be. I do, on the other hand, expect the heretofore relatively dormant bats of the Red Sox to continue their gradual awakening.
Like Wild Bill Hickok said recently on HBO's original seriesDeadwood, "there's thunder in the distance."
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Buster Olney writes in his piece today...
"But Boston plays the "Moneyball" style -- never bunt, don't take chances on the bases, sit back and let your hitters hack away and do the work regardless of the game situation, regardless of the identity of the opposing pitcher."
He cites a situation during Sunday afternoon's game against the Yankees as an example. What astounds me about people that collect a paycheck writing about sports is that the vast majority of them don't spend close to enough time on actual research.
Just the previous day, Pokey Reese succesfully sacrificed Gabe Kapler to second in the bottom of the ninth against Tom Gordon.
I find that many would be far more open to sabermetric principles if they actually took the time to understand them. Rarely are there black and white rules like, "you never sacrifice bunt".
Of course Buster Olney wouldn't know that. He hasn't read Billy Beane's bestseller, Moneyball.
It's been a really long time since Kevin Millar was a good Major League hitter. Here are his month by month lines starting last July (BA/OBA/SLG):
Apr ('04): .221/.299/.351
Um, Craig Wilson anyone?
Byung-Hyun Kim pitched five scoreless innings today against Tampa Bay, giving up just two hits in the process. On a strict pitch count, manager Terry Francona lifted Kim and Tim Wakefield started the sixth. It is currently 3-0 Sox in the bottom of the seventh inning. Since I am in full temper-enthusiasm-at-all-costs mode I will simply say that Kim's performance looked encouraging for Sox fans.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
While basking in the almost mechanical like precision of the 6-0 blanking of the Triple Rays, I decided to take a peak at the Site Meter for your favorite (top 5) Baseball Blog Named After Dwight Evans.
THe best thing I found? On Google, if you search "Steve Levy"ESPN "asshole", The House That Dewey Built comes up #4 on the list. Don't believe me? Check it here.
So what is better. The fact that someone did a google search for "Steve Levy"ESPN "asshole" and clicked on my humble hyperspace abode, or the fact that I'm 4th on the list?
Wow, this is the most relevant Steve Levy has been in many years. Kudos, Dewey's House visitors.
After last year’s slug-happy cardiac season that featured largely mediocre pitching, I gotta admit it’s awfully nice winning games as systematically and methodically as these Red Sox do. Simply put, on almost every night, the Red Sox will start the better starter, field the better lineup, replace their starting pitcher with better relievers and replace their position players if needed with better role players than their opponent. It’s a simple and simultaneously alarmingly effective means of achieving baseball success.
Tonight Curt Schilling pitched his best game as a Red Sox and Jason Varitek’s 4th inning 2-run home run off Paul Abbott was all the offense the Sox would need. As is their custom, the Sox tacked on an extra four runs and the team went on to a 6-0 win. Bill Mueller and Manny Ramirez each had impressive nights at the dish, both singling and doubling on the evening. It will be interesting to see how much the Boston mediots harp on Manny’s failure to run out a towering double he hit in the fifth inning. On a ball that appeared almost certain to either be foul or a home run, Ramirez stood at home plate only to see the ball land fair and off the green monster. What easily should have been a two-out double was just a single. Of course since the next batter, Varitek, grounded out the matter was inconsequential.
Schilling was lifted after 7 and 1/3 innings. He had eight strikeouts and did not walk a batter. Alan Embree and Lenny Dinardo combined to polish off the Rays, getting the final five outs in succession.
I understand that times will not always be as serene as these. Still, this roster is built to succeed with exceptional regularity and it is difficult to imagine even a hypothetical scenario in which things could go all that awry.
If you polled 1000 Red Sox fans in and around Boston and asked them "of all the Red Sox which one would you just as soon not have on the team", I bet 30% of them would say Kim.
Yup, the guy with the career 141 ERA+, better than Clemens.
Only in Boston.
Anyhoo, Curt Schilling and the Sox face Tampa tonight. While Terry Francona decided to skip Tim Wakefield, Lou Piniella will stick with Paul Abbott. Wakefield will start Sunday in Texas.
As for the Red Sox's injured triumvirate, Kim starts tomorrow for the Sox and yesterday, Nomar took grounders at Fenway and Trot played for the Gulf Coast Sox. Good stuff.
Joe Morgan thinks the Sox are better than the Yanks which is kind of like having a blind guy tell you your haircut looks nice. Not exactly reassuring.
Look for Schill to pitch well tonight - I have a feeling he still may be pissed about last Thursday night's debacle. Not that one of Curt's ilk needs to be angry to succeed against the Rays but you get the point.
Enjoy and I will be back with a recap.
Since I've been cognizant about the Red Sox, there have been very few baseball players as enigmatic as Byung-hyun Kim.
Judging by the various Red Sox Message boards, to say the fandom is mixed on Kim is an understatement. Over the course of the off-season, other than acquisition talk, I would say that Kim was the primary topic of conversation among Sox fans.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why. There have been a series of myths propagated about Kim by the baseball media (Thank you, Tim McCarver), and parroted by fans who either don't know any better, or don't want to know any better. Among these myths are that Kim has emotional problems, Kim can't handle the pressure of pitching in Boston, Kim is a choker, and Bronson Arroyo is better suited to start than Kim. I'll start at the beginning...
Kim has emotional problems
I have an inherent problem with Joe Fan making this kind of exclamation, none of whom actually have met Kim. That’s secondary though. The evidence presented is that he pouts from time to time, he flipped off the fans, and he punched a photographer in Korea.
On the evidence, I doubt these fans have seen Derek Lowe pitch, or remember that Ted Williams flipped off the fans quite a bit, or realize how invasive the Korean tabloid press is. Kim might not be the most mature player on the planet, but I doubt he’s the least. And I think he’s handling himself pretty well considering the culture shock, something that players such as Hideo Nomo mention they still have trouble with.
Kim can’t handle the pressure of pitching in Boston
Putting aside that the 2003 Boston Red Sox do not make the playoffs without Kim, and there not being one iota of evidence that he struggled in Boston, this is one of the most repeated criticism of Kim.
Kim had a 0.00 ERA (13.0 ip) in September, as the Red Sox were making a run for the Wacky Card. Detractors mentioned that it wasn’t against the crème of the AL crop, but if the competition was so easy, why is it that relievers thought of as ‘stable’ didn’t post similar numbers? Alan Embree (9.00), Scott Williamson (8.59), and Mike Timlin (6.00) all pitched worse in less innings. But all can pitch in Boston apparently.
Also, keep in mind that Bronson Arroyo posted a 2.45 ERA in September.
Oh yeah, he pitched for the Korean national team before signing with Arizona. The only way the Korean government would release him from his obligation to enlist in the Korean armed forces was to pitch well in the Asian games. If he screwed up, he was in the Army. That is pressure. Not blowing a game after your manager hung you out to dry as a 22-year-old in the World Series. Which brings us too…
Kim is a choker
Well, his team won the World Series (he was lights out in the NLDS, and the NLCS), he averted the Korean military, stabilized the Red Sox bullpen in 2003, pitched two innings with four strikeouts in Yankees Stadium in 2002, and didn’t allow a run in September.
Why are people harping on blowing two saves in the World Series, at 22-years-old, one on over 60 pitches, and the other on the next day? It can’t be because he got saddled with an impossible situation in a game against New York in July (courtesy of Scott Sauerbeck), because he blew two other saves all year can it? It can’t be because Alan Embree couldn’t get Eurbial Durazo out can it?
Also, people claimed the Red Sox gave Kim a phantom shoulder injury in order to keep him off the postseason roster against the Yankees. “No way he was really hurt,” they said. Of course, he started the season in the DL with a shoulder injury.
Bronson Arroyo is better suited to start than Kim
That’s Arroyo’s ERA right now, and it’s the best mark he’s posted in his career as a starter.
For Pawtucket last year, Arroyo posted a 3.43 ERA. Kim’s ERA as a starter?
3.10 in Boston. 3.38 overall.
In two hitters parks (Arizona and Boston). Kim was better than Arroyo was in a minor league pitcher’s park. And Kim is 2 years younger.
As you can see, if you want to, Byung-hyun Kim is not only a valuable part of this Red Sox team, but is also been a top notch pitcher for his entire career. It’s a shame a good amount of people don’t notice it.
That's right. Tickets for two games, and two rain outs. I missed one of the Baltimore games too.
This time, I made it all the way up from Narragansett, ate some food, imbibed in some beverage, sat and watched the A's 3-run 4th on the Jumbotron in the wet, stood a lot, and began to hate The Weather Channel for telling me there was a 30% chance of rain. Bastards.
Anyway, I'll be attending the double dip on Thursday. It marks the return of Sox pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim, which I will talk about tomorrow.
In case you don't look at who actually writes these things, my seat was not the well-covered section 26 seat Sully had. Mine was the totally exposed section 42 seat in the bleachers. I'm just now dry. Dammit, Weather Channel.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
I will be in section 29 tonight at Fenway to welcome the Sox back from one helluva road trip. The Sox took 2 of 3 from the Jays up at SkyDome and proceeded to stomp the Yankees in three straight at the Stadium. Tonight, they host the Devil Rays as Tim Wakefield takes to the hill for the carmine hose. Wakefield has been rock solid in his last two outings and he may need to have that knuckler working for him again tonight. That’s because Tampa Bay counters with 36 year-old Paul Abbott, a journeyman of sorts who has experienced considerable, albeit uncharacteristic, success here in the early goings of 2004. He comes into tonight with a 2-1 record and a shiny 2.37 ERA.
Ah, the joys of small sample sizes.
Truth is, it’s hard not to root for a guy like Abbott. A model of perseverance, he is now in his 20th season as a professional baseball player despite having pitched just 643 career Major League innings. He spent the better part of his career, when not injured, playing and rehabbing in places like Elizabethton, Kenosha, Portland, Tacoma and Las Vegas clinging to his dream. His career highlight is and probably always will be the fact that the 2001 Seattle Mariners, a team of historical significance, won 22 of Abbott’s 27 starts that season. He even won 10 straight decisions at one point.
His time at the top, if you could ever even call it that, was short-lived however as the injury bug bit him once again in early 2002. He was abysmal all of April until the M’s pulled the plug on his season and subsequently his tenure with the club. He spent 2003 with Arizona and Kansas City’s organizations before landing in Tampa Bay for 2004.
Thus far, he has been healthy and effective.
Seems like the perfect night for a little mean regressing, no?
Monday, April 26, 2004
The Red Sox just completed a three game sweep of the Yanks, sit at 12-6 atop the American League East and pretty soon will add baseball’s best shortstop and a top-5 rightfielder to their lineup, plus a guy with a 1.16 career WHIP to their starting rotation.
Pardon me if I am struggling to temper my enthusiasm.
While the Red Sox play host to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays beginning tomorrow night, the Yankees face off against, in succession, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito – collectively better known as Ghidora. Amazingly, things might get better for the Sox. They have a real opportunity this week - and for the month of May really - to put some distance between themselves and the Yankees. While the Bombers cut and slash their way through a schedule laden with tilts against talented AL West foes (12 of which are on the road), the Sox play a softer combination of AL Central and AL East opponents (Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Kansas City…etc.).
If history has told us anything, it would behoove the Red Sox to take advantage of this time. Recent woes aside, the Yanks still boast a potent lineup. Furthermore, the George Steinbrenner I have grown up disdaining does not sit on his hands when things begin to go awry. Sure the Yanks lack high-level prospects but their willingness to take on a contract of any size puts them in the running for any player. It wouldn’t shock me to see Randy Johnson and Jose Vidro in pinstripes before June 1st.
Still, the Sox are a deeper, better club and lack the glaring holes that the Yanks’ roster sports.
No need to fear these guys but no need to let them up, either.
- Best take I have seen on the weekend series.
- Manny Ramirez's home run was maybe my favorite swing he has ever taken in a Sox uniform, rivaled only by his upper deck shot also at the Stadium off of David Wells last July 4th. What a missile.
- Kevin Millar looks over his head against even above average pitching. If I'm Theo, I start looking for possible alternatives in case Millar's decline continues. I dunno, maybe Craig Wilson? When Jason Bay returns, Wilson may be the odd man out in Pittsburgh.
- Vasquez looked tremendous again yesterday. One mistake.
- Many will contend that the Yankees are simply slumping and that's why the Sox have had their number. But remember, in between their anemic offensive outputs this weekend and last, they hit .277/.354/.436 in Chicago. Not great, but not slumping either. Maybe the Sox pitching has something to do with it?
- When Pokey Reese is at the plate, he reminds me of a movie actor cast as the Red Sox shortstop. Like Omar Epps or Wesley Snipes. His swing is so bad it is literally unbelievable.
- Arroyo was great Saturday but I can't wait to have Kim back.
Back with more early this evening.
This is what I posted on SoSH:
They have a payroll of $185 million this year. Their problem isn't that they have "too many superstars, and not enough heart" or whatever.
There problems are...
*Poor defense...the players the Yankees have thrown money at aren't really known for defensive prowess. The only one that is in the top 1/3 of the league at his position is ARod...and he was moved off of short for the worst defensive player in baseball at that position.
*Back of the rotation...Jose Contreras and John Leiber have turned into Ed Whitson and the Alex Graman/Donovon Osborne two headed monster. There is no depth in the minor league system either.
*End of the bullpen...Proctor, and the loser of the Graman/Osborne-Torre-whimsy-of-the-week. Doesn't lend for much quality flexability.
*Bench...The Red Sox have a weakend bench, due to the injuries to Nomar and Nixon. The Yankees bench right now, is probably only marginally better than the Sox bench. Right now. Meaning that could be a huge Sox advantage when Kapler and Bellhorn/Pokey become bench players rather than de facto starters.
*2nd Baseman...Enrique Wilson/Miguel Cairo. That is their second base tandem. You figure spending so much that they would have tried to find another second baseman.
Is it time to panic? Probably not, but there are some glaring holes that need to be addressed by the Yankees. Chances are, they aren't going to play very good baseball (championship level) until these needs are filled.
Of course, it's fun to talk about this after a sweep, and a 6-1 season series lead. Tomorrow, I'll have a preview of more important things...like the Tampa Bay series.
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Saturday, April 24, 2004
The Yankees have real problems at the back end of their rotation. Jon Lieber comes back soon and I suppose it's not out of the realm of possibility that Jose Contreras could still become an effective starter in 2003, but boy oh boy do they have a couple of question marks in the 4 and 5 spots in their rotation. In fact, the two biggest question marks on either the Sox or the Yanks are the 4 and 5 slots of the Yanks' rotation.
Sure Yanks fans will poo-poo last night's win (it's only April, our hitters are slumping) but with little farm talent, there is a serious problem for the Yanks that may not go away this season. What the hell are the Yanks going to do about the back of the starting staff?
The Red Sox are a vastly better team than the Yanks. It's the first time in about 9 years that I could say that with true conviction.
Friday, April 23, 2004
Nomar Garciaparra has been intensively working out at the Boston Celtics' Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint in Waltham, MA, Dewey's House has learned.
While he has also been lifting weights and exercising in the pool, the focus of his workout sessions has been on his lateral movement.
Our source informed us that Nomar looked "strong" and that he "can't imagine he'd be out of action too much longer."
Sounds good to us.
"New York to the heart, but got love for all
Lie and die in the fire, where I learned to ball
Uptown is the place where I lay my dome
On the streets of the Bronx where my fa-mi-ly roam"
-Lord Tariq nad Peter Gunz
Well no sense in sulking because tonight the Sox hit the Bronx for another important set. Derek Lowe faces Jose Contreras who, according to the New York Times, has been working with Mel Stottlemyre on some delivery alterations.
Forgive me if I am not all that worried.
What I am worried about, on the other hand, is how Derek Lowe will react to the Yankees' ability to wait him out. Lowe will need to counter the Yankees' patient approach by throwing more first pitch strikes and concentrating on working ahead in the count. As always, he will need sound defense behind him.
The Yanks, like the Sox, won two of their last three but lost last night. I am interested to see how the Yankee crowd treats AROD if he continues to struggle this weekend.
I think Lowe, on normal rest and focused after last Sunday's miserable outing, pitches well this evening.
Oh, one more thing. If Jim Caple, some guy named Dan George on si.com and Frank Deford are all using national media carrying on about how the Yanks and Sox are not rivals, isn't it probably a rivalry?
I am not going to say much. Jeff already gave the recap.
What I will say is this: for a franchise that supposedly operates on the cutting edge of modern baseball theory, last night's managerial gaffe was downright inexcusable.
Theo et al selected Terry Francona this off-season after a lengthy interview process. What took place last night, given how 2003 ended, should have been an impossibility. Schilling was barely able to get out of the seventh, the inning ending when Vernon Wells flew out to centerfield on Schilling's 104th pitch. With the bullpen as good as it has been, there was no way he should have come back for the eighth. Tito ignored a bullpen that had not yielded a run in their past 13 1/3 innings of work.
Sure, Keith Foulke was unavailable but the entire bullpen, top to bottom, has been tremendous of late.
Everybody say it with me....
Timlin in the eighth, Williamson in the ninth.
I am a geek.
I read books on analysis of baseball. Generally, I don't really read anything unless it's about politics (I won't bore you, or try to convert you), or baseball. I spend much of my time thinking about baseball (makes classes more interesting), or reading other peoples opinions on baseball, mostly on the internet. I play OOTP baseball, Strat-o-matic baseball, and MVP 2004. I dare say, baseball is a bigger part of my life than just about anything else.
However, I also played a good amount of baseball in my day.
When I pitched, I knew when my stuff was gone. I couldn't bend my back anymore, the ball kinda floated out of my hand. I saw the fielders play on their toes more. The balls jump off the hitters bats. I saw my stuff go. There was never a time I thought I couldn't get the next guy. The athlete brain doesn't recognize the bodies weaknesses.
That's why I had a coach to tell me to stop being an asshole and come out of the game.
After two outs in the seventh, Curt Schilling gave up four straight hits. What was a nicely-paced, well played 3-1 Red Sox lead, turned into a 3-3 tie ball game. No harm done...the Red Sox have had a pretty good offense lately.
Then stuff got bad.
For reasons known only to God, Curt and Terry Francona, Schilling came out to pitch the eighth inning. After all, there was no reason to expect the bullpen could continue its streak of 13 2/3 scoreless innings. Predictably, the inning went poorly for the Red Sox, with the nadir being a grand slam to Chris Gomez. Yes that Chris Gomez, he of 32 years, 12 seasons, 5 teams, 52 home runs and 0 grand slams. Terry Francona left Schilling out on the mound longer than any realistic sensibility would have him out there.
Of course, the complaint in Philadelphia was that Francona let Schilling run the show. So far, we've seen Schilling throw more than 120 pitches twice, and him throw a bitchfit on the mound when pulled against the Yankees. Could Francona not have wanted to annoy his pitcher?
If we see a manager that is like Grady Little with one guy, and like Jimy Williams with the other four, its going to cause a problem with bullpen usage, and the fact it might piss off the other four guys. That might not actually have an affect on the performance of Pedro, Lowe, Wakefield, and Kim, but if they are uncomfortable, it sure doesn't make this World Series title easier to get. Francona needs to realize quickly how to utilize his tools, or there is going to be more losses like this.
By the way, there were 13 men left on base. One of the weird sidestories of the season was been how the Red Sox are leaving a disproportional amount of runners on base. I'm of the thinking that LOB really aren't a big deal because if you leave a lot of guys on base, you have a lot of guys on base. Eventually, with clutch hitting (luck) being what it is, that will translate into runs.
I digress. Given the amount of offense that this team has generated, you can figure out how many runs a team should have scored. The Red Sox, as of this very minute, has generate the offense to score 71 runs. They have actually scored 70. That means, through all those men left on, the Red Sox have only underperformed by 1 run. The offense is running at 98.5% efficiency. Which over the course of the season is something like 7-8 runs. Or less than one win.
Guess what? There is no problem.
Tomorrow the Red Sox start against the Yankees, in New York. The matchups appear to be:
Friday: Lowe @ Contreras
Saturday: Arroyo @ Brown
Sunday: Martinez @ Vasquez (3 days rest: rock) or Osborne (career of suck: hard place)
There will be a better preview ahead, if either me or Sully writes one.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Today is what MLB Audio was made for.
Of course the game I am most interested in is on ESPN, so I'm not really getting my $15 worth right now, but I digress.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been completely dominated by the Florida Marlins over the last two seasons. Really, it defies explanation too, because later the Phyllis (arguably) were better, and this year, on paper, they are also superior. Not only that, but the last two years during spring training, the teams have had a brush up involving some high and tight pitches. Do you know what that makes the Marlins/Phillies?
A pretty bitter rivalry.
In one corner is the upstart franchise with two winning seasons to its credit...And two World Championships.
In the other, is a long standing franchise marked by incompetence, cheapness, and has one World Championship since 1883.
The Marlins are a media darling, have young, fast, exciting players, and young flashy pitchers. The Phillies have a bunch of #2 starters and sluggers who walk and strike out. The Marlins have a diverse roster. The Phillies have finally dug out from the hole of being the last National League team to intergrate. The Marlins have a likeable, old folkesy manager (Jack McKeon). The Phillies have a fiery asshole (Larry Bowa). The Marlins play in a huge, multipurpose football stadium. The Phillies play in a nice, new mallpark.
The teams really couldn't be more different.
"So Jeff," you say. "It sounds like you are really bashing on the Phillies."
I reply: "Perhaps, but I really can't ever root for the Marlins."
The Marlins are run by Jeffrey Loria, who is probably as despicable a human being as you can be in modern baseball and not be named 'Rose'. That, and Juan Pierre pisses me off. Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu are two of my favorite players. And my team hasn't won in over 80 years. You better believe I'm not going to like the team that's won twice since 1996.
By the way, if you see this and get a chance to watch the game, flip it on. Brett Meyers gave up a home run to Mike Redmond. The next pitch was over thrown and came up an in to Alex "Florida" Gonzalez. Todd Pratt was walking out to the mound. Gonzalez said something and Pratt flipped out. Benches clear, Pratt and Gonzalez threw punches that didn't connect, and were bounced from the game. Benches warned. Bowa talks to the umpire, McKeon watches and wishes for oatmeal. Order restored.
It's 4-2 Marlins as pitcher Darren Oliver (yes, I still get nightmares) singles in Redmond.
Gotta love Thursday getaway baseball.
David Pinto gets you up to speed on the matchups.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
What the hell can I say? He smacked two more home runs tonight as the Sox took care of the Blue Jays 4-2 north of the border at SkyDome. You want some fun with small sample sizes? So far in 2003, Doug Mirabelli is hitting .556/.600/1.667 for an OPS of 2.267. While it may be a tad unrealistic to expect a 2000+ OPS from anyone but this guy, it is not unrealistic to expect Mirabelli to produce when penciled in against southpaws. He slugged a phenomenal .577 against lefties from 2001-2003.
For his second straight start, Tim Wakefield looked very much in control all night. He allowed just six hits in 6 2/3 innings and struck out four. If the last two starts are an indication of what is forthcoming from Wakefield in 2004, it is hard to imagine the Sox yielding many runs this year. In their first 14 games in 2003, Sox opponents scored 82 runs. In the first 14 of 2004, the Sox staff has given up just 60 runs.
Wait 'til Trot and Nomar come back and this team starts hitting. I just don't really see how they are gonna lose all that often.
Big Schill tomorrow night.
Jeff’s mention of Ted Lilly got me thinking about one of my favorite Grady managerial mishaps of 2003.
The Red Sox traveled to Oakland for an important three game set that began on August 12th. They would face three lefties in a row, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Ted Lilly - in that order. Because two of their best hitters, Trot Nixon and David Ortiz, were and still remain vulnerable to left-handed pitchers, the Red Sox would have to figure a way to field their optimal lineup each night while being careful not to let Ortiz and Nixon sit too long and subsequently lose form. In other words, they should have each probably played one night and sat the other two.
Now, time for some audience participation. Here are the three pitchers’ respective OPS yielded against both right-handed and left-handed batters from 2001-2003.
vs. righties: .612
vs. lefties: .707
vs. righties: .656
vs. lefties: .658
vs. righties: .790
vs. lefties: .594
How would you allocate playing time to Nixon and Ortiz based on these track records? Me? I probably would have refrained from playing them in the same game, as none of the three match-ups were particularly attractive for either slugger. So I would have started one against Zito – say Trot because Zito actually is a little hittable against lefties and Trot struggles more than Ortiz against them. And then I would have started Ortiz against Mulder in Game 2 as Mulder has an almost non-existant split. Neither would have faced Lilly in Game 3, as he is the toughest of them all on left-handed batters. So what did Grady do? Held them both out of the first two games of the series and started them both in Game 3. They went a combined 0-6 with 4 strikeouts. My favorite side anecdote of this is that Grady lifted Nixon when Ricardo Rincon came on in relief of Chad Bradford. After all, Rincon is tough on lefties.
To the barstool fan, it made perfect sense. Hell you keep Nixon and Ortiz out against big name lefties Zito and Mulder but you let them take their hacks against the mediocrity, Ted Lilly. The problem of course is that Lilly is only a mediocrity, has only been able to sustain a major league career, because of the very existence of left-handed batters, on whom he performs malicious torture rituals. Of the three starters, Lilly was the most difficult match-up for both hitters and yet it was the one game both Nixon and Ortiz started!!
It was baseball malpractice and simultaneously the most barefaced manifestation of the very reason Grady Little no longer manages the Boston Red Sox – his utter neglect for available and essential information.
Major League Baseball, the greatest sport in the world’s most competitive stage, demands management with more sophistication than Grady Little was either willing or able to provide.
For no reason at all, right now I will mention that Wakefield was wearing one of the infamous jackets last ALDS game 3. Lil-ly!
Anyway, Ted Lilly is a fun pitcher because he has some nice rate stats, is still young enough (28) to be more than a 4th starter, and is left handed. Not only has Lilly been one of those 'decent guys that could be very good, but isn't yet' but he has three other characteristics that I like about him...
1. He has a very small head. I'm talking absolutely miniscule. I think I would pay money to see Lilly wear one of David Ortiz's caps.
2. He usually gets abused by Red Sox hitting. Los Soxos Rouge have roped him to the tune of 330/385/585 line. Doing most of the damage is Manny Ramirez and Doug Mirabelli. Surprisingly, the two worst Red Sox at hitting Lilly are the injured Nomar Garciaparra, and the injured, lefty-impotent Trot Nixon.
3. He has been traded a lot. Here is his personal transaction log...
June 4, 1996 - Drafted by the Dodgers 23rd round
July 31, 1998 - Traded to the Expos with Jonathon Tucker, Peter Bergeron, and Wilton Guerrero for Carlos Perez, Mark Grudzielanek, and Hiram Bocachica.
March 17, 2000 - Was the player to be named later to complete a trade with the Yankees. Expos received Hideki Irabu, and traded Jake Westbrook, and Christian Parker.
July 5, 2002 - Traded to the Athletics with Jason Arnold, and John-Ford Griffen for Jeff Weaver. (Other leg, Weaver traded to the A's from Detriot for Jeremy Bonderman, Franklyn German, and Carlos Pena).
November 18, 2003 - Traded to the Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty
Dodgers, Expos, Yankees, Athletics, Blue Jays. Not record-breaking, but he's only 28. Imagine how great this list would be for Bruce Chen.
Anyway, tonight he faces Tim Wakefield, against a Red Sox offense that knocked Roy Halladay around a bit last night.
- That's the blueprint. Pedro for seven, Williamson in the eighth, Foulke in the ninth (how hard is that, Grady?). Solid production through the lineup. That was fun and I imagine the Sox will win a number of games with a similar formula of excellent starting, solid hitting and reliable relief work.
- I would like to extend a hearty "welcome back" to Pedro's knee-buckling breaking ball. What a welcome site.
- Nobody defends Manny Ramirez more than I do. That said, relax Manny.
- I thought the offense was impressive last night, even more so than the box score would indicate. In addition to the nine hits the team belted out off of Toronto's ace, Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn and Manny Ramirez all took Halladay hard and deep with Blue Jay outfielders making nice grabs on the warning track. Nice to see.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
So all of my pals in my fantasy league really enjoyed piling on me after I "wasted" my 6th round draft choice on Cincinnati Reds leftfielder Adam Dunn.
His numbers so far this year?
.395 / .540 / .974
Dunn is an amazing athletic talent, 6' 7'' with rare coordination and athleticism. He also has exceptional pitch recognition ability and a Big Hurt-esque power/patience approach.
I think Dunn, despite his high strikeout rate, is in for a big year.
Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay take the mound tonight at SkyDome as Pedro tries to bounce back from a dismal outing last Thursday against Baltimore. The same two pitchers squared off April 10th at Fenway with the Sox coming out on top on the strength of seven-plus strong innings from Pedro.
Halladay is an excellent pitcher – an innings gobbling horse with a vicious fastball that bears in on the hands of right-handed hitters. Halladay won 22 games last year and pitched a remarkable 266 innings. That said, no way in hell was he the best pitcher in the American League last season.
American League Support-Neutral Wins Above Replacement
- Pedro Martinez: 7.5
- Tim Hudson: 6.6
- Esteban Loaiza: 6.6
- Roy Halladay: 5.7
American League Pitchers VORP
- Esteban Loaiza: 74.7
- Pedro Martinez: 71.9
- Tim Hudson: 69.5
- Roy Halladay: 66.8
When evaluating pitchers’ contributions when the collection of pitchers in question have all pitched varying amounts of innings, it is important to take a look at just how replaceable the differential in innings would be. So consider…
Halladay, 266 ip, 3.25 era
Hudson, 240 ip, 2.70 era
Loaiza, 226.3 ip, 2.90 era
Martinez, 186.7 ip, 2.22 era
So what was the real difference between Halladay and the other three?
- For Hudson, 26 innings of 8.31 ERA pitching
- For Loaiza, 40 innings of 5.18 ERA pitching
- For Martinez, 80 innings of 5.63 ERA pitching
For comparison’s sake and so it is perfectly clear just how replaceable these innings were, the American League average E.R.A. was 4.53 in 2003.
Enjoy tonight’s match-up and let’s all hope Pedro regains his 2003 form.
Monday, April 19, 2004
I've taken two long, extended like breaks from this blogging thing, mostly because of school work. My compade, Sully, takes over some, picking up the ole' slack. And he gets this in the Comment:
You should be paid by a newspaper to write columns. This post was terrific.
BuckBleepinDent | Email | 04.16.04 - 1:15 pm | #,
I say, that's really good. I love having newspaper quality writing on a site that was just my place to bitch about the Red Sox.
However, all is not well in the House of Dewey. I got this e-mail during Sabbatical 2: Jeff Picks Up Another Major:
From : Jarjarjohn11
Sent : Wednesday, March 17, 2004 8:49 PM
To : HouseofDewey@hotmail.com
Subject : fuck you
from every new york yankees fan.
1918 and cowboone up motherfucker
I'm sure Jarjarjohn doesn't speak for every Yankee fan. I will say he is mistaken though, I have never engaged in sexual congress with my mother. It does bear mentioning that his e-mail contains the name of one of the most annoying movie characters of all time. It also bears mentioning that guys like him are the reason many people think the Yankee fans are complete jackasses.
Of course, now is as good a time as any to mention that the Red Sox, down 2 of their 3 most productive hitters, have taken 3 of 4 against the Yankees. Sure it's still April, but when you win in April, the games in September don't mean anything. I'm long of the belief that a Yankee game means no more than a Devil Rays, Blue Jays, or Orioles game, but let face it, the Yankees are the biggest competition this year for the Sox 9. Plus, people like Jarjar are lined up on the Brooklyn Bridge cursing Matsui and ARod. Let them...a few less douchebags in the world.
Taking three our of four without Nomar or Nixon is a tremendous lift for this team. How 'bout a tip of the cap to the bullpen who once again performed marvelously today. Both bullpens were tremendous all weekend.
For the next eight hours or so, I direct my undivided attention to the Boston Bruins, who square off with arch-rival Montreal tonight in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series.
Last Friday, Baseball Prospectus' injury guru, Will Carroll, had this to say regarding Trot Nixon's status;
"Things are looking very good for Trot Nixon. His extended stay in Miami hasn't set back his timetable. After a pair of successful batting practice sessions, Nixon is moving to the Red Sox's Ft. Myers rehab facility. He'll continue his extensive rehab program with Sox trainers, not just for the next weeks, but if he hopes to stay healthy, he'll have to make this part of his daily routine. Nixon could be back in Boston's lineup as early as May 1, but it's more likely that it will be a week to 10 days after that. "
Nixon is on his way back to Ft. Myers now and as long as he has no setbacks he should be back soon.
Anyone that knows me also knows how much I like Nixon and admire his style of play. Because he loses at-bats against lefthanders (as he should), his counting stats lag the some of the game's best. But not his rate stats. His RC27, OPS, EQA and other advanced metrics all stack up to baseball's most productive hitters. In 1,366 plate appearances against righthanders from 2001-2003, Nixon has tortured them to the tune of a .295/.386/.560 line. With a suitable platoon partner (which Gabe Kapler is), Nixon is one of the league's most valuable commodities.
Can't wait to see both Nixon's and Nomar's names back on the lineup card. Only so much McCarty, Crespo, and Reese I can take.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
I recall a number of times over the course of 2002 wondering aloud why teams did not make it more of a point to take pitches against Boston starter Derek Lowe. He throws a devastating sinker, one that appears to be a strike until it is about 25 feet or so away from the plate. Then it dives downward. The dilemma for batters of course is that the velocity of the pitch necessitates that a decision as to whether or not to swing must be made before the ball begins its diving action. The result more often than not is a groundball. The pitch is so effective at inducing batters to swing that Lowe rarely has to throw pitches that would be called strikes by the home plate umpire.
The obvious strategy to combat this would be to simply take more pitches. Say, a strike every at bat until Lowe senses this and begins to groove his first pitches to batters. The Yankees seemed today to be employing at least some variation of the strategy. All day, Lowe struggled to get ahead of batters and when he was not walking them, Yankee hitters were taking advantage of their ability to get ahead of Lowe and hitting balls sharply. I also suspect the Yanks' lefthanded hitters were determined to take Lowe's tailing fastballs to the opposite field. Giambi, Posada, Williams, and Lee all were able to drive balls either up the middle or to left.
Against Lowe, the patient lineup with solid strike zone command will always fare better. The Yankees proved that today.
The Yankees deserve credit for remaining focused and coming into their matchup as well prepared as they were, despite their recent hitting struggles. Lowe is going to have to strategize to combat patient lineups as more and more teams catch on to what the Yankees were able to do today.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Like Gaylord Focker's portfolio Curt Schilling was strong...to quite strong today. Uncharacteristically, he did walk four in 6 and 1/3 but he also struck out eight and was at his best in tight spots. He struck Tony Clark out looking with two men in scoring position and two outs in the 2nd. After a two-out Bernie Williams double in the third Schilling made quick work of Alex Rodriguez, striking him out on three pitches. In the fourth, Schilling was able to get Jorge Posada to bounce into a double play with men on first and third and one out. He cruised in the fifth after a Tony Clark leadoff home run and then an inning later was able to get Clark to bounce out to first with the bases loaded and 2 outs. It wasn't an outing without hiccup and against a Yanks lineup performing as it figures to, he would probably have needed to be better. Still, as April outings go, it was a solid one.
Mark Bellhorn continues to be remarkable. A walk, an HBP, a single and a lineout. He now has an OBP of .500 on the season. The irony is that the casual fan would probably argue that his .233 batting average has been a drain on the lineup when the reality is that after Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz he has probably been Boston's best player.
Manny is hitting, which is always fun. There are few hitters in baseball as dangerous when they are truly locked in and it appears to me that Manny may be on the verge of a serious tear. A signature Manny murder streak would be timely while Trot and Nomar rehab.
For the Yanks, I am sure their fans may be starting to get just a tad uneasy. Well don't. This lineup will hit, Mike Mussina will pitch damn well and more often than not, bad hitters like Doug Mirabelli will not get the better of a great pitcher like Javier Vazquez. Of the three areas of baseball that have plagued the Yanks the last two days - leaky starting pitching, bad hitting and horrendous defense - only the defense is a long-term concern. The Yankees are a phenomenal team that will get the better of the Sox plenty of times this season.
Tomorrow it's Lowe against Contreras.
Things will be more settled today.
No national television, no more wide eyes. Today it will just be baseball and what a pitching matchup it should be.
I wouldn't pay much attention to Mike Mussina's unimpressive numbers this year. He owns the Sox to the tune of a .529 total OPS yielded vs. this current edition of the Sox.
Career numbers vs. Mussina:
Ramirez (64 AB): .188 / .246 / .391
Ortiz (20 AB): .000 / .130 / .000
Damon (66 AB) .242 / .297 / .348
Varitek (36 AB) .056 / .105 / .056
Unless Mussina is seriously off of his game, I expect Boston to struggle a bit offensively today....
....which is just fine because Curt Schilling opposes Mussina today. He lives for this kind of stage. I know that may sound like Tim McCarver nonsense but he really does. He has had this series in mind since the moment Theo sat down to Thanksgiving dinner in Scottsdale last November. He will be prepared and focused and thusly I imagine quite effective.
Sox, 3-1 on the strength of a Schilling complete game.
I wrote this yesterday:
"I give Wakefield a small but real chance of throwing a true gem tonight. With all the hype and adrenaline a knuckleballer may be just the perfect antidote for a juiced up (hehe) Bomber lineup."
Well it's exactly what happened. Whether or not how pumped and jacked the Yankees were had anything to do with Wakefield's effectiveness is unknown but either way, New York was off-balance.
Wakefield's tremendous outing was just one of a handful of storylines to emerge from 2004's first Sox-Yanks game. I said to a pal of mine in the first inning as Doug Mirabelli came to the plate that there may not be a bigger mismatch in all of baseball than Javier Vazquez against Doug Mirabelli. Who knew it would be the veteran backup catcher claiming ownership of the dominant power righthander?
A major theme for the game and one I am afraid for Yankees fans will run throughout the season was the blatant ineptitude of their defense. Giambi kicked a ball in the first that led to a run. Jeter muffed a Mirabelli grounder in the first that led to two more. Also, and this may be nitpicking, Gary Sheffield failed to catch a 310 foot Manny Ramirez lazy flyball that resulted in a mistakenly ruled home run. I think twenty or so Big League rightfielders make that play. I dunno, maybe I am wrong.
I was shocked to see Vazquez make such an eggregious error to Bill Mueller with an 0-2 count in the first. Still, I came away from the game rather impressed with Vazquez. His three consecutive strikeouts of Ramirez, Millar and Burks in the third was truly something beautiful to behold. One of those rare moments watching sports where you and your pal just look at each other with the holy-effin'-shit look and don't even need to say anything more. With any luck or even passable defense, he leaves that game down 3-2 or so. Still, just as BP2K4 stated, Vazquez does not challenge hitters inside with even close to the propensity he ought to. He's simply too talented to allow players like Doug Mirabelli to dive out over the plate and launch an "oppo" home run. Do you think Mueller has the bat speed to get his hands through on an 0-2 Vazquez 2-seamer on the inside half? Me either. Until he decides to more regularly challenge opposing batters inside, the quality of Vazquez's performance will always lag the quality of his stuff.
I am really starting to fall for Mark Bellhorn. Two more walks and another single. It's going to be awfully difficult for Pokey to get more AB's than Bellhorn when Nomar returns because Bellhorn, like Mueller, is the very embodiment of the organizational approach to hitting. He possesses a remarkable ability to lay off balls that miss the strike zone by even the narrowest of margins. I have a feeling the front office may have scored another coup here in Bellhorn.
Manny made a terrible error in the eigth on a high Jason Giambi fly ball with two outs and nobody on. Scott Williamson seemed shaken as a result and Terry Francona called on Alan Embree to get Hideki Matsui with the bases loaded. It was the closest the Yanks came to sustaining any sort of attack. I am just thankful that our worst defensive player plays leftfield and not shortstop.
All in all, it was a solid effort by the Sox. The lineup performed about as ably as you might hope against a hurler of Vazquez's caliber. Tim Wakefield was magnificent and save for Williamson's struggles to get his fourth out of the eigth inning, the relief corps did their jobs as well.
One down, eighteen to go in what is sure to be a wild season series.
Friday, April 16, 2004
Gotta give the Yanks the advantage tonight.
There are a number of things I will be interested to see;
1) How Vazquez deals with the environment. In case he didn't know already, he will not be in Olympic Stadium or Pro Player Field tonight.
2) The Sox are third in Major League Baseball in walks. I love how patient the Sox have been at the plate this year but against Vazquez tonight, I think a more swing-happy approach may be necessary. Vazquez rarely walks batters and is vulnerable to first pitch aggressors, having yielded a .955 OPS on 0-0 counts from 2001-2003.
3) I give Wakefield a small but real chance of throwing a true gem tonight. With all the hype and adrenaline a knuckleballer may be just the perfect antidote for a juiced up (hehe) Bomber lineup. Sheffield may do one of those Bugs Bunny corkscrew swings. That'd be cool.
Fanboy Prediction? Call it 4-3 Sox on a late groundball single between Jeter and AROD off Quantrill.
Usin' my noggin prediction? 6-1 Yanks.
So the Yankees come to town tonight.
I am not particularly interested in reading Shaughnessy shamelessly regurgitating a nonsensical curse. Nor am I all that interested in ignorant “Yankees Suck” or “Nine-Teen-Eight-Teen” chants. For me the greatness of the rivalry, currently at its peak, exists between the white lines. The Red Sox, despite their many postseason failures, have had some of the great teams in the history of baseball. This is obviously also true for the Yankees. What gives these clashes added allure is not all the peripheral hullabaloo but rather the extraordinarily high level of baseball that is played when these two historic franchises are at their best.
Of course the reality is the rivalry has not been much of one at all save for three distinct periods of Major League Baseball history. In the late forties, Ted Williams’ Sox teams battled the Bombers year in and year out. The Sox won the pennant in ’46, the Yanks in ’47. They both won 90+ games in 1948 and most famously in 1949 thanks to David Halberstam’s great book Summer of ’49, the Yanks finished one game ahead of the Sox by virtue of a win on the last day of the season over the Sox. The Yanks would take the pennant again in 1950 but again, both teams won 90 games. From 1946-1950 the Red Sox went 473-298. Over the same stretch, the Yanks went 473-297. Read those last two sentences again. It’s remarkable.
If you wanted to find a specific point in time that fostered the acrimony now surrounding the rivalry, it would be the mid to late 1970’s. From 1975-1978, the Yanks won 380 games and the Sox 374. The characters involved added flair during this period. Carlton Fisk and Thurmon Munson hated each other. The Yanks were managed by Billy Martin who often clashed with superstar slugger Reggie Jackson – once even in the Fenway dugout. The Sox had Luis Tiant and the Spaceman, Bill Lee. Jim Rice was at his peak and Dwight Evans was becoming a star. Carl Yazstremski was still playing at a reasonably high level. The Yanks boasted starters Ron Guidry and Catfish Hunter and had Goose Gossage coming out of their pen. There were numerous and famous brawls between the clubs. The rivalry boiled over in 1978 when, despite a midsummer 14 game lead over the Yanks, the Sox blew it down the stretch and the two played a one game playoff to advance to the League Championship Series. And then, well whatever – Bucky Dent hit a big home run and the Yanks advanced.
The latest chapter has elevated the rivalry to a whole new level. People that I am not even sure ever cared about baseball get involved just to kick and scream (or gloat) either about their team or at the other. At Yankee Stadium last summer, I was ridiculed for wearing a Sox cap until I politely asked one individual to name one member of the 1991 Yanks aside from Don Mattingly. He replied, “Derek Jeter”. Similarly, I imagine there will be quite a few fans in the bleachers this weekend who wouldn’t know Erik Hanson from MMMBop Hanson. And with this new, elevated level of widespread interest has come a pathetic amount of gossipy media coverage, most notably this off-season with the Alex Rodriguez saga. The Sox tried to acquire him and decided the Rangers’ and AROD’s demands were not worth it. The Yanks offered more and thus landed him. That’s it. The Sox were not foiled. It was just another off-season deal just like Bernie Williams, Manny Ramirez, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling before.
The Wild Card has also added drama in that the two can now meet in the League Championship Series. They have done just that twice with the Yanks winnning both times.
So here’s where we stand now. The Yanks have won the division six years in a row and look as strong as ever. The Sox boast arguably their most talented team ever. The third best team in baseball is probably just about 85% as good as either team.
Enjoy the baseball and try to block out the noise.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
And you thought Miguel Tejada's contract screwed the Sox over.
Today, over at Baseball Prospectus, my favorite baseball writer Joe Sheehan has written a piece on on Garret Anderson's contract extension.
Angels owner Arte Moreno extended Anderson at 4 years and $48,000,000, the same amount of money the Red Sox offered star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra at the end of the 2003 season last Fall. Nomar rejected it and with good reason it would turn out. Later in the offseason, the Orioles inked the inferior Miguel Tejada to a 6-year, $72,000,000 deal.
Take a look at this and tell me who is worth more money:
Player A: .303 / .330 / .518
Player B: .305 / .349 / .523
Player A is 31 years, 9 months
Player B is 30 years, 8 months
Player A plays left field
Player B plays shortstop
Not only is Nomar worth more, he is worth a whole lot more.
News of Garret Anderson's contract extension has come and gone with little fanfare here on the east coast. Not for me. I am preparing myself for life without Nomar because in a market that rewards the Garret Andersons of the world with such contracts, Nomar deserves the financial boon coming his way. Sure it's sad but I am happy for Nomar and also happy that the guys running the team I love so much are not dumb enough to dole that kind of dough out just for the sake of it.
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Tremendous start, reliable relief, long ball.
Kevin "the Devil Ray killer" Brown pitched seven strong today, Gordon shut down the Rays in the eighth, and Posada and Giambi have homered.
The Yanks lead 5-1.
Tonight's imminent rainout presents an interesting opportunity for Terry Francona. Provided tonight's game is not re-scheduled as part of a double-header tomorrow, there is no reason the Sox could not go with the following:
thu 4/15 Lowe (O's)
fri 4/16 Wakefield (Yanks)
sat 4/17 Arroyo (Yanks)
sun 4/18 Pedro (Yanks)
mon 4/19 Schilling (Yanks)
tue 4/20 Lowe (Jays)
wed 4/21 Wakefield (Jays)
thu 4/22 Arroyo (Jays)
fri 4/23 Pedro (Yanks)
sat 4/24 Schilling (Yanks)
sun 4/25 Lowe (Yanks)
The obvious reason you do this is that it allows Pedro and Schilling to face the Bombers four of the seven games they play over the next eleven days. The one cause for hesitation is that Pedro and Schilling would have to each go on seven days rest, bringing into play the potential for a little rust to show. Still, it's April and cold outside and extra rest may actually benefit the two aces. Furthermore, the notion that the Wild Card is a lock to go to the 2nd place finisher in the AL East is presumptuous. You play to win the division.
Even if you believe the wild card to be a lock, woulda been nice to play Game Seven at Fenway last year, no?
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
While the likes of Bobby Jones, David McCarty, Mark Malaska, Frank Castillo and Cesar Crespo are enjoying active duty for a team many predict to win north of a hundred games, Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon and Byung-Hyun Kim are all rehabbing smoothly. This being the case, it is worthwhile to examine who belongs and who does not when the hobbled triumvirate returns to their respective roles.
2002 sucked. I graduated from college (God I miss college). The stock market was down 25% or so. Dave Thomas died. And Frank Castillo pitched 163 innings for the Boston Red Sox. The bad news, of course, is that he is back on the 25-man. The good news? He won’t be up for long. As soon as Kim returns, Castillo goes. Arroyo moving to the rotation left an opening in the long-man role. Thus Castillo, pulse and all, was called up to fulfill it.
I think he’s safe. His defensive versatility and speed make him a useful bench player but his apparent lack of hitting ability makes him a useless everyday player. As long as he is used sparingly, I have no problem with Crespo hanging around.
I know I can be hard on players but I do not boo. Major League Baseball players, especially fringe ones, always do their best. There is simply too much personally (financially) at stake for them not to. It is for this reason that I think the Opening Day crowd at Fenway ought to be ashamed. But sheesh, Jones really has gotten off to a rough start. While Castillo will be the first to go when Kim returns, I imagine Nomar’s return will trigger Jones’ Fenway departure.
After turning a corner last year in the Devil Ray organization, Tampa Bay naturally parted ways with him. Malaska’s abilities were on clear display Sunday against Toronto, when he came on to pitch two perfect innings to earn his first win in a Sox uniform. I believe he will stay with the club and carry out LOOGY duties quite capably. If Malaska performs as I think he may, Ramiro Mendoza may never wear a Sox uniform again – which is sad, but fine.
The guy is a big-league ballplayer - don’t get me wrong. But where does he fit with this club? Since he is their most limited bench player, McCarty’s Fenway days are most likely numbered, especially since the whole pitching experiment seems to have gone awry. Still, for his defensive abilities at 1st Base and occasional flash of power he will most likely stick on elsewhere.
So the long-term roster will probably look as such – the one caveat being Mendoza’s possible return:
Friday, April 02, 2004
OK humor me for a second.
Nomar, Jason Schmidt and Byung Hyun Kim are all on my team. I am not hitting the panic button but it sure is a sucky way to start off a year. I have Carlos Guillen to replace Nomar and I have replaced Schmidt and BK with David Wells and Dream Weaver. Ugh.
2004 Boston Red Sox Preview
The 2004 version of the Boston Red Sox is the best team the 103 year-old club has ever fielded. A record setting, punishing 2003 lineup returns virtually in tact while the run-prevention side of the ledger figures to improve dramatically.
It has been refreshing to actually see the team take the field in Fort Myers this spring after an off-season with more drama than any other in the long history of the Boston Red Sox – New York Yankees rivalry. The Bombers’ changes were sweeping. Gone from their American League championship team are Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Nick Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, Karim Garcia, Jeff Nelson, Aaron Boone, and others of lesser import. They added Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, and 2001 National League All-Star Jon Lieber, who returns to their rotation after missing more than a full season nursing an arm injury.
Oh, and they acquired Alex Rodriguez too.
The Red Sox spent much of the winter trying to trade for A-Rod and by Christmas time, it appeared all but a done deal. The Red Sox would send Manny Ramirez to the Texas Rangers, flip Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Williamson to the Chicago White Sox, and receive Rodriguez and White Sox left fielder Magglio Ordonez. It was at once enthralling and, well, sad. It didn’t seem right that the core of Manny, Nomar, and Pedro would part ways without even a World Series appearance to show for their time together. Enter Gene Orza. The Major League Baseball Players Association rep stepped in and would not allow Alex Rodriguez to concede any of his record $252 million contract, a stipulation upon which the deal was contingent.
In early February, 2003 American League Championship Series hero Aaron Boone tore his ACL in a pick-up basket ball game. The New York Yankee 3rd baseman would have to miss all of the 2004 season. On Valentine’s Day, the Yankees found Boone’s replacement. They traded All-Star Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.
Still, A-Rod or no A-Rod, this off-season was a roaring success for the carmine hose. The very definition of mediocrity John Burkett is out and Curt Schilling is in. The dead weight in the bullpen (i.e. Todd Jones) is out, Keith Foulke is in. Lead-footed Todd Walker is out; 2-time Gold Glover Pokey Reese is in. And by adding Mark Bellhorn, a guy that for no apparent reason whatsoever has been cast off time and again, the Red Sox have one of the more interesting platoon situations in Reese and Bellhorn at second base. I will address it when we look specifically at the Sox’ 2nd base situation.
All in all, the season figures to be a riveting one. The Red Sox and Yankees are both considerably better than even baseball’s third best team. The rivalry has never been as intense as it is this year. Still, despite finishing in second place in the AL East for the sixth consecutive year, the Red Sox need not fear the Yankees. They are better than them. Not by much, but the Yankees 4th and 5th starting pitchers, Jose Contreras and Jon Lieber, represent the two biggest question marks on either team.
What follows is a breakdown, player by player, of the 2004 Red Sox and a defense for my initial assertion – that this is indeed the greatest team the Red Sox have ever fielded.
Johnny Damon, CF
The 2000 version of Johnny Damon is not coming back. I thought he might in 2002, clung to the hope in 2003, and am now perfectly comfortable with what he is; an above average offensive centerfielder and an excellent defensive one. Here are Damon’s 2000 and 2003 numbers in BA / OBP / SLG format (from here on out, any numbers displayed in this format will contain these stats).
2000: .327 / .382 / .495
2003: .273 / .345 / .405
He’s just not the same player anymore. Still, there is hope that he will improve upon last year’s totals. Consider this breakdown of his first and second halves last year:
Pre All-Star Game: .260 / .329 / .404
Post All-Star Game: .293 / .369 / .405
He had a considerably better second half and if he can duplicate those numbers for the duration of the 2004 season, he will be a major asset and a suitable table setter for the murderous lineup that follows him. Let’s hope for the .370 OBP version and not the .330 one.
Bill Mueller, 3B
There can be no disputing that the reigning American League batting champion had a career year in 2003. Bill Mueller was tremendous. Having always been an undervalued commodity (he always has reached base at a solid clip), Mueller responded to the faith the Sox brass showed in him by putting up by far his best season. Below are his 2003 statistics, followed by his career numbers (including 2003).
2003: .326 / .398 / .540
Career: .293 / .375 / .422
So the question is, just how much of a fluke was 2003? Surely we can expect some regression to the mean in 2004, but how much? My own opinion, based on Mueller’s ability to hit to all fields, is that cozy Fenway Park and in particular the Green Monster helped his totals greatly. His 2003 home numbers support such an impression. Still, he performed on the road as well. Attributing his spike solely to playing 81 games in Fenway Park would be a mistake. Many prognosticators have Mueller pegged to perform right back at about his career levels. This seems too low to me. I’ll split the difference and call for a year somewhere between his 2003 and the rest of his career. Call it .300 / .385 / .465.
Manny Ramirez, LF
The Red Sox’ best player for two years running now will continue to be as such in 2004, Dan Shaughnessy and Steve Buckley be damned. Sure, Manny Ramirez might (gasp) get together with an opposing player and he may even fail to run out a grounder back to the pitcher (say it ain’t so!). But he will also be one of the six or seven best hitters in baseball.
You will notice that I have listed Ramirez third. This is not by mistake. Early indications out of Fort Myers have Terry Francona switching Ramirez’s and Garciaparra’s spots in the order, something I have been clamoring for since the Sox signed Ramirez. This is a tactical improvement for two reasons. First, it provides Ramirez with better protection than he has ever had in a Sox uniform. A meticulously selective hitter, Manny will benefit from Nomar’s protection far more than Nomar (because of his free-swinging style) ever did from Ramirez. Fearing the prospect of facing Nomar with Manny on base, pitchers will be forced to throw more strikes to Manny – and we all know what Manny does to strikes. The second reason is that it is a far better exploitation of Nomar’s skills. He is a good hitter and rarely walks. Thus, since almost all of his offensive value is derived singularly from his ability to hit, the more men on base in front of him, the better. Nomar is not a table setter; he is up there to hack.
Nomar Garciaparra, SS
Like Damon, the 1999-2000 Nomar is most likely not coming back. What is currently with us, however, is still a tremendously productive middle infielder. He is just no longer the minor deity he once was. Of note is that Nomar’s contract with the Red Sox expires after this season and it sounds as though negotiations for an extension have been icy at best. Frankly, I have no idea what sort of affect this will have on his 2004 performance. I expect another solid year, and hopefully last year’s September and post-season swoon as well as the financial stake of a contract year provide the incentive that pushes Nomar’s production closer to turn of the century levels.
Update: Nomar is out until May at the earliest. Tendonitis in his Achilles will force him to miss at least 30 games or so. While this may be severely detrimental to Boston’s AL East hopes, the positive spin is that the injury may serve to lower Nomar’s asking price.
David Ortiz, DH
While talk of his MVP candidacy in 2003 was foolish, he did have a very good year. After a slow start, he finished tremendously and accounted for some of the biggest and most memorable hits of the year.
In the months leading up to the beginning of the 2004 season, there has been much talk of the “career years” enjoyed by Mueller, Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek, and Ortiz. Well, Ortiz is for real. He is 28 years old, just now entering his prime and consider the following statistics:
2000: .282 / .364 / .446
2001: .234 / .324 / .475
2002: .272 / .339 / .500
2003: .288 / .369 / .592
His slugging increases are practically linear. In my opinion Ortiz, at the very least, has established a new performance standard and may even have some more room for improvement. His ability to hit lefthanders notwithstanding, he is a top-flight slugger in Major League Baseball now.
Kevin Millar, 1B
The embodiment of the captivating and contagious spirit that characterized the 2003 Red Sox, Millar’s visibility far exceeded his performance in 2003. A strong start and his constant exuberance seemed to cloak the fact that starting July1, he hit .238 / .345 / .400. As summer turned to fall and into the postseason, Millar was a drain on the offense and his ineptitude became increasingly painful with each rally he stifled. Although given his age and increasingly fleeting athleticism it would seem that 2003 was the beginning of a very real decline for Millar, I see a considerable rebound in 2004. I think he has another year or two of contributing solid production, even by lofty Major League 1st baseman standards.
Trot Nixon, RF
Trot broke out in 2003. Always a contributor, Nixon became a star. By measure of the most advanced and comprehensive offensive metrics, Trot Nixon was one of the 10 best offensive players in 2003:
RC27: 8.54 (7th in MLB)
Runs Created per 27 outs. RC27 measures how many runs a lineup consisting of only that particular player would score each game.
EQA: .325 (tied 10th in MLB)
Clay Davenport (of Baseball Prospectus) created Equivalent Average. An all-inclusive offensive statistic that is adjusted to mirror the same range as the widely familiar statistic of batting average (average is .260).
OPS: .975 (9th in MLB)
On Base plus Slugging. A flawed but fairly reliable quick and dirty method of measuring a player’s offensive contributions.
Like Ortiz, Nixon’s chief weakness remains his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Still, 500 plate appearances from Trot Nixon make him more valuable than nearly 2/3’s of the league’s right fielders. Given his back problems this spring and the career year he enjoyed in 2003, a significant regression to the mean would not shock me in 2004. Then again, neither would continued improvement.
Update: Nixon will start 2004 on the disabled list. A herniated disc in his back will cause him to miss significant time to start the year, and there is even a chance he could miss the season in its entirety.
Jason Varitek, C
A ridiculous choice by the Boston Baseball Writers Association for team MVP in 2003, Varitek nonetheless enjoyed one hell of a year. Another member of the 2003-career-year-club, a closer look at his past production indicates that his 2003 totals may have been more in line with expectations than some would have you believe.
2001: .293 / .371 / .489
2002: .266 / .332 / .392
2003: .273 / .351 / .512
There is an outlier in there and it is not 2003. His numbers last year were perfectly in line with his 2001 numbers. An elbow injury prematurely ended his 2001 campaign and it appears to me that it took him all of 2002 to become fully healthy again. I expect a similar year from ‘Tek this year, one that will probably be his last in a Red Sox uniform. He will have earned a big contract, but I believe Sox management is too shrewd to commit big bucks to a 34-year-old catcher, especially when one of the organization’s most promising minor-leaguers (Kelly Shoppach) plays Varitek’s position.
Pokey Reese, 2B
The conventional wisdom here is that the Sox are sacrificing a tremendous bat for better defense at second base. Well, it is kind of true. The Red Sox definitely upgraded defensively at second base. But there are two questions that are of particular intrigue to me. First, how good of a hitter was Todd Walker in 2003?
League Average for 2nd Baseman: .271 / .333 / .403
Todd Walker: .290 / .346 / .434
No doubt, he was above average, but the reality is these numbers were a bit inflated. He was second among 2nd baseman with 17 groundouts into double plays and he only stole one base, a skill usually reserved for speedy middle infielders. Here is how he ranked among 2nd basemen according to more reliable metrics:
So he was barely above average and given his altogether unacceptable level of defense, I’d say it was wise of the Red Sox to part ways with him.
The second question I have is how much better of a hitter is Todd Walker than Pokey Reese? Here are their three-year splits:
Walker: .293 / .347 / .439
Reese: .241 / .303 / .338
Three things to keep in mind:
1) A portion of one of Walker’s seasons was spent as a member of the Colorado Rockies and Planet Coors doubtless inflated his numbers.
2) Pokey Reese is a capable base-stealer with a tremendous success rate over the course of his career. Walker is slow.
3) Walker is a constant threat to ground into double plays while Reese almost never does.
These factors narrow their seemingly sizeable gap considerably. It is the organization’s rationale that Pokey Reese will save many more runs with his glove than Todd Walker could have possibly created with his bat. Of note, Reese has fielded tremendously this spring and should boost Derek Lowe’s stock considerably in this, Lowe’s contract year.
Gabe Kapler, OF
My girlfriend’s favorite Red Sox, he has proven to be both a suitable platoon partner for Nixon as well as a nice pinch-hitting option off the bench by virtue of his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Take a look at Nixon and Kapler’s respective three-year splits against southpaws:
Nixon: .221 / .303 / .341
Kapler: .326 / .386 / .446
Trot Nixon is a fabulous player but I think it is time to accept the reality that he cannot hit lefties. It is simply a skill he does not possess. By substituting Kapler for Nixon against lefthanders, it exploits a strength of Kapler’s and avoids a glaring weakness in Nixon’s game. I look forward to a season full of Gabe Kapler at bats against lefties.
Mark Bellhorn, 2B
Speaking of platoons, the one that will most likely take place at second base this year for the Red Sox will operate differently than the one right behind Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn in right field. Bellhorn, a more capable hitter than Pokey Reese will probably see the majority of the action when Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and Tim Wakefield are on the mound. Because all three are strikeout and fly ball pitchers, it is acceptable to play the average fielding second baseman in order to add a bit more pop at the plate. The last time Bellhorn played regularly was 2002 for the Chicago Cubs when he hit at an impressive .258 / .374 / .512 clip. Reese, baseball’s best defensive second baseman, will play behind extreme ground ball inducing starters Derek Lowe and Byung Hyun Kim.
Update: As a result of Garciaparra’s injury, Bellhorn will start the year as the everyday 2nd Baseman. This moves Pokey Reese to shortstop.
Ellis Burks, DH-OF
Remember how I explained the Nixon-Kapler situation? Same deal here, as Burks will most likely see designated hitter duties against lefties. Here, for comparison’s sake, are Burks’ and David Ortiz’s three-year splits against lefties:
Burks: .292 / .384 / .564
Ortiz: .213 / .265 / .413
At $750,000, in Ellis Burks Theo appears to have landed a valuable addition to the 2004 club.
Cesar Crespo, INF-OF
He’s not very good. He will essentially be the Damian Jackson of this year’s club. He hit well this spring though so maybe he will contribute more than I think he can.
Brian Daubach, 1B
A sentimental favorite around here, the overachieving Daubach won fans over with his positive spirit and hard-working nature. After a one-year stint on Chicago’s south side, he returns to the city and baseball team he loves. He can actually play a little bit too and will provide Terry Francona with a viable option against righties, late in the ballgame. Here are Dauber’s numbers against righties; .266 / .359 / .478.
Also of note, he represents a defensive upgrade over Millar and will likely see late-inning first-base duties to protect small leads.
Doug Mirabelli, C
Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher isn’t particularly good at any aspect of the game. Still, when up against a left handed pitcher, he can provide some pop, as evidenced by his ridiculous .577 Slugging Percentage over the last three seasons against southpaws.
Pedro Martinez, SP
On a per inning basis, he’s the best pitcher of all time. His numbers stack up to anybody’s in the history of the game and when you adjust them for the era in which he has pitched, one of unprecedented offensive output, he blows the competition away. The best way to compare pitchers of different eras is a statistic called park-adjusted ERA+. It takes a pitcher’s ERA for a season, divides it into the league’s average ERA for that season, multiplies it by 100, and then adjusts for park effects. After all, pitching in the 60’s was a lot different than pitching in the 90’s and pitching in Dodger Stadium is much different than pitching in Fenway Park. Here is the list of career best ERA+ numbers:
Pedro Martinez: 174
Lefty Grove: 148
Walter Johnson: 146
Dan Quisenberry: 146
Hoyt Wilhelm: 146
Joe Wood: 146
Ed Walsh: 145
You get the picture. No pitcher has ever stood so far above his peers. Well, he’s a Red Sox and in this, his contract year, I fully anticipate another season as the game’s best pitcher.
Curt Schilling, SP
In 2003, despite making just 24 starts, Curt Schilling was the 18th most valuable starting pitcher in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus’ VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). In 2002 he was 3rd and in 2001, the year he shared the World Series MVP with Randy Johnson, he was 2nd. He was the crown jewel of General Manager Theo Epstein’s off-season and has already endeared himself to Red Sox Nation through his frequent posts on the Sons of Sam Horn fan message board. His candid style and propensity to challenge even the very best hitters with blistering fastballs are sure to make Schilling a fan-favorite for as long as he is in the carmine hose.
Derek Lowe, SP
Another player in his contract year, Lowe is a bit of a mystery. After a stellar 2002, he was slowed out of the gate last year by an off-season bout with skin cancer. Further damaging his performance was the very existence of Todd Walker. Well this year he is healthy, the statuesque Walker has been replaced by the best defensive 2nd baseman in baseball and Lowe has every bit of incentive to perform well with his contract expiring at the end of this season. While the fan in me expects big things from Lowe, I’ll play it conservative and call for him to split the difference between last year (4.47 ERA) and 2002 (2.58 ERA).
Tim Wakefield, SP
Sox fans love clamoring about how Wakefield has never become a great pitcher, how the knuckleball makes him too inconsistent, and how he can never beat the good teams. Hopefully some of this noise will die down this year after his stellar performances in the 2003 ALCS. People should focus on what Wakefield is and stop whining over what he is not. For a manager to be able to reliably pencil in 185 innings of performance well above league-average is a tremendous luxury. Expect more of the same this year from Wakefield.
Byung Hyun Kim, SP
In my opinion, he is the most intriguing player on the Red Sox roster. If he can continue to pitch as he has while taking a regular turn in this rotation, the sky is the limit for the 25 year-old Korean. Much is still made of Kim’s failings in the Bronx in 2001 and how he does not have the mental strength to be a good major league pitcher. Flipping off a hostile Fenway crowd in October did not help. Well it’s bunk. Kim’s stellar career ERA and consistently high strikeout rates make him a sleeper Cy Young Award candidate in my opinion. Health problems persist, however.
Bronson Arroyo, SP/RP
He will replace Kim for the first half of April in the rotation and ought to be able to do so formidably. The 2003 International League Pitcher of the Year has had a career rebirth of sorts after a brutal start to his Major League career in Pittsburgh. Expect Arroyo to contribute valuable innings both in the long man role and as a spot starter in 2004. I believe he will replace Lowe in the 2005 rotation.
Keith Foulke, RP
Finally, Theo has found his relief ace. Boston inked Keith Foulke to a three-year contract with an option for a fourth after he turned in one of the best seasons by any reliever last year in an Oakland Athletic uniform. Unlike many closers, Foulke has the ability to pitch more than one inning and will likely see a fair amount of innings not only in straight save situations, but also in other high leverage innings as well. He represents an enormous upgrade and increased stability over the who’s-turn-to-blow-it-today bullpen that began 2003. This front office deserves quite a bit of credit. They determined that they needed to acquire a starting pitcher and a reliever and on both fronts, they netted the best available.
Scott Williamson, RP
Although he pitched poorly down the stretch in 2003 after coming over from Cincinnati, it is hard to believe his wife’s pregnancy complications back in Ohio weren’t a factor. When her situation settled, so did Williamson. He was tremendous in the postseason, yielding just six base runners and one run while accumulating an astounding fourteen strikeouts in eight innings of work. He will be an important contributor for this year’s club. There are murmurings around the organization of the possibility that he will convert to a starting pitcher down the road.
Alan Embree, RP
Had his third straight productive season in 2003 and figures to be an important option for Terry Francona out of Boston’s bullpen. While Embree is a lefty, he is by no means a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY). He is a flamethrower with a sharp breaking pitch who is equally difficult on both left-handed and right-handed batters. This fact was lost on Grady Little, however, as evidenced by his bizarre early hook of Byung Hyun Kim in Game One of the 2003 ALDS in Oakland. Embree proceeded to give up the game-tying base hit to the left-handed batting Erubiel Durazo in the ninth inning.
Mike Timlin, RP
He was downright filthy during the 2003 playoffs. He was untouchable. Nobody really even came all that close to making good contact against him. I would not expect him to sustain that kind of dominance this year but it sure was encouraging. An aging hard-throwing right-hander, one has to wonder how much Timlin has left in the tank. I have my concerns about his effectiveness this season.
Ramiro Mendoza, RP
I have no idea what to expect from him. We could see the highly effective version that used to pitch in the Bronx or we could see the mediocrity that switched to red socks last year. Let’s hope for the former.
LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY)
It appears as though Tim Hamulack will win this spot on the roster. He has demonstrated effectiveness against left-handed hitters this spring.
The Best Sox Team Ever
If this Sox team scores runs like I think it can and prevents them the way they ought to, they will have their best team ever.
Factoring in some regression and the offensive downgrade from Walker’s departure for a team that scored 961 runs last year, I think they ought to score 925.
When I was trying to arrive at a number of runs yielded, I looked at some past Red Sox teams and noticed that the 2002 version yielded just 665 runs. The 2003 Sox gave up 809. Given that the 2002 team featured mediocrities such as John Burkett, Frank Castillo, and Rolando Arrojo all logging a bunch of innings, it is safe to assume that this year’s staff will be considerably better. Call it 630.
By Bill James’ Pythagorean Win formula*, this would give the Red Sox a .683 win percentage and 110 wins.
The best Boston Red Sox team ever.
Edit: Given the rash of injuries to begin the season, a more conservative estimate of runs scored and runs yielded would probably be appropriate. Call it 900 and 650. This projects to a 106-56 record.
* runs scored^2 / (runs scored^2 + runs allowed^2) = win pct.