Friday, October 29, 2004
I Don't Want To Title This Thing "What Now?" Because it Is so Played Out but Really That's What This Entry Seeks to Answer...
I don’t think I am as articulate as Ed Cossette or Bob Ryan or Bill Simmons so I am not going to try and put into perspective what this all means. They have all done so wonderfully. Instead, I will try and figure out some tangible ways this season will affect the culture of the Red Sox going forward.
A central mainstream media theme amidst the Red Sox championship coverage has been to ask “what now”? While I think the suggestion that somehow we New Englanders have lost our collective identity is just mind-numbingly inane, I do not think that to simply ask “what now?” is so out of line. And so I have been giving some thought to what this all means for the Red Sox front office, for the current team and for fans.
Red Sox Front Office
I believe the World Series will have two effects on the Red Sox front office. First, there will be some personnel leaving. I think the two prime candidates are Josh Byrnes and Larry Lucchino. While this is blatant speculation on my part, I have to think that there will be some GM offers out there for Theo Epstein’s right-hand man. As far as Lucchino is concerned, he is not one to stay in one place and having achieved what he set ou tto do here, I think there is a possibility he will seek out other challenges.
The second effect will have a permanent and lasting impact on the way the Red Sox conduct their roster construction process. There is no longer the need to match the Yankees blow-for-blow in the free agent market or to win any sort of P.R. war. Now, the Red Sox will simply be able to conduct their affairs as they see fit. Maniacal obsession with another team can lead to knee-jerk decision-making. The Red Sox no longer have to worry about the Yanks beyond the fact that they represent competition. The Sox can simply try and field as good a team as they can. This can only be a good thing.
The Current Red Sox
It’s hard to say what the World Series title will do for the players that otherwise it would not have. Certainly many of these players will experience a new and likely permanent level of celebrity that they probably could not have fathomed. But I really do not think that Theo’s decision making process will be affected. There will be no contracts offered simply to reward an individual for his work. If the Sox believe a contract will make sense throughout the life of the deal, they will make the offer accordingly.
Maybe folks can lighten up a bit. Don’t kill the manager for a particular decision. Don’t call for your second baseman’s job after a five game slump. Don’t label players unfairly. Manny’s dumb, Lowe’s a head-case, Pedro withers, yadda yadda yadda…just put an end to all of it. The chief byproduct for which I hope is that baseball becomes more of the focus. No more curse crap, no more waiting for the other shoe to drop, no more nonsense from the press about how Boston “choking” was a matter of when and not if. I would much rather talk about whether or not Bellhorn creates enough runs to justify playing over Pokey (he does) than I would discussing whether or not Pedro was tough enough to beat the Yankees. The peripheral storylines have vanished and baseball will become the focus. I hope.
The Red Sox are just another baseball team now, only they have deep pockets and a supremely competent front office. We might have to get used to this.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
So the Boston Red Sox are World Champions.
Let that shit sink in for a second.
Derek Lowe won his third and final series-clincher of 2004 as the Boston Red Sox dusted the St. Louis Cardinals for a 4-0 World Serious victory. The Series was never a contest.
I have absolutely nothing to add. I do not want to be melodramatic since after all, it’s only been 24 years for me. And there will be plenty of places to get your no-more-curse fill. But I wonder how my grandfather might be taking this in down in Florida. He was born in 1930, endured Pesky holding onto the ball for too long, Boudreau’s Indians ruining a city’s hopes, Lonborg running out of gas, Bill Lee’s hanging curve to Tony Perez (or was it an eephus for crissakes), Bucky mofracky Dent, Buckner, Stanley and Gedman and perhaps worst of all, Aaron Boone. That’s a whole lotta heartache, stuff that, unless you experienced it yourself, you would not, hell could not, understand. As illogical as it may be, perfectly rational and intelligent individuals began to wonder if it would ever happen. It’s only human nature. Well it did.
I will have more to add when my head is, um, clearer. Like a Manny home run, the celebration went deep last night. But what I am so happy about, as a Boston guy that went to college in Philadelphia with a bunch of New Yorkers, is that I can stick my chest out now. If you ask me whom I root for and I tell you the Boston Red Sox, you will no longer chuckle or make a wise-ass remark.
Don’t pity me. I’m a Boston Red Sox fan.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
What a perfect night. Now, in addition to laying claim to the very best peak of any pitcher in the rich history of Major League Baseball, Pedro Martinez has now notched his signature World Series performance. The guy has caught a raw deal at times over the years here and I have always had the sense that there were not many around Red Sox Nation that amply appreciated what we had every fifth day or so for the last seven years. Those people probably ought to consider this, this, this, this and this. He was as dominant as any pitcher ever – and that’s before environment adjustment. When one adjusts for environment, I just don’t see any way one wouldn’t have to conclude that he had the very best peak of any pitcher ever. Even though I have little doubt that Pedro Martinez has some very good years remaining, he could retire tomorrow and I am not sure that it would be hyperbolic to call him the greatest pitcher that ever lived. I am not sure I believe it and in fact I don’t think I do but there is certainly a case there. Regardless, I was ecstatic and at times emotionally overwhelmed to see Pedro pitch as he did. It was a remarkable and appropriate way for my favorite Boston athlete of all time to pitch on the biggest stage in the biggest game of his life. And if that was in fact the end (pardon me…lump in my throat), thanks for everything, Pedro. I will never, ever forget you.
As for the game itself, it sort of went as expected. Let’s face it. Pedro on seven days rest pitching for a contract, his legacy and a World Series title was a pretty good bet. And Jeff Suppan, as was noted yesterday, represented a juicy match-up for Sox batters. With two outs and nobody on in the top of the first, Manny Ramirez, on the fifth consecutive fastball he saw from Suppan, blasted a solo home run well into the Busch Stadium left field stands. I am not sure if Dave Duncan implemented that strategy or if the gritty Mike Matheny thought that was the best plan of attack or if Suppan himself wanted to tackle Manny in such a fashion but I will say here with full confidence that Jeff Suppan will never beat Manny Ramirez by throwing five consecutive fastballs. Never. The Cardinals threatened in the bottom half of the first but ironically in light of Game One’s events, Manny Ramirez bailed the Sox out by becoming the only player in World Series history to homer and throw out a runner at the plate in the same inning. With the bases loaded and just one out in the bottom of the first, Larry Walker tested Manny’s arm on a shallow pop fly to left off the bat of Jim Edmonds and paid for it. St. Louis would threaten again in the third. The Cards put men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out but failed to push a run across. The key play came on a Larry Walker ground ball when, with Boston’s infield playing back so as to concede the run, Jeff Suppan, who had reached by virtue of an infield single and was on 3rd base, froze in the middle of the base line. Boston recorded the out at first and nailed Suppan scurrying back to 3rd base for a double play. Albert Pujols grounded out to end the threat and Pedro Martinez would not allow another base runner.
Displaying its lineup depth, something St. Louis cannot boast, the Sox tacked on one in the fourth on Bill Mueller and Trot Nixon’s back-to-back doubles and another two in the fifth on RBI singles by Ramirez and Mueller. It was a memorable game for Bill Mueller, who was playing in a World Series at the very ballpark he used to visit to root on his beloved Cardinals. I have been saying that I did not think it possible for St. Louis to hold Boston to less than five runs. But the Sox failed to reach that mark because Tony LaRussa wisely turned the game over to his pen early and then his relief arms performed tremendously. Four-and-one-third scoreless innings against this Sox offense, clicking as it is, is nothing to sneeze at.
Now the Red Sox stand on the brink of winning their first World Series title in 86 years. I am overcome with anticipation, giddy at the mere prospect and totally disinterested in delving further into the topic. St. Louis has to beat Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield at home to turn this thing right back into a Series. Sound impossible to you?
Didn’t think so.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
1) After consecutive games of favorable home plate umpiring, the Sox are getting rooked tonight. Pedro has not received a close call yet while Bellhorn, Cabrera and Manny have all had questionnable at best calls on them.
2) Was Manny's first inning the best in Sox Series history? A solo job and an outfield assist at home plate.
Shit. Three things I guess because Jeff Suppan just got an infield hit. Bill Mueller is 100%, absolutely, proactively killing the Sox with his defense.
Edit: With Julian Tavarez on in the ninth, let me just say that since I made this post, the plate umpiring has become worse, and largely to Boston's benefit.
Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox head out to Busch Stadium for Game 3 of the World Series tonight where former Sox bust Jeff Suppan will be greeting them. Sure Suppan has pitched some nice games this postseason but he has done so against a rather pedestrian lineup in the Los Angeles Dodgers and a better lineup in the Houston Astros, albeit one with serious holes. Pedro Martinez will represent Suppan's only break tonight, as he will bat ninth in the National League Park. For Suppan however, there will be no Brad Ausmus, no Brent Mayne, no Jose Vizcaino.
Jeff Suppan is another St. Louis righthander that relies heavily upon the batted ball being converted into an out. I found this interesting. It's a compilation of individual pitchers' numbers against Boston sorted by innings pitched. Look up and down it and there literally is not one on there who has even somewhat contained the Sox that is not either a lefty or at least a 7 K/9 righty. As I said yesterday, St. Louis is going to have to start hitting if they want to hang around this series because I just don't see any way this Sox offense lets up.
The lineups are a wash (and I am not even sure that's true but for discussion's sake...) but Boston is trotting out the guy with the 10th best K/BB ratio in Major League Baseball and the 7th best K/9. St. Louis counters with the guy that ranks 60th and 63rd in those respective categories.
Plus, and don't underestimate this, I firmly believe that a World Series title without a vintage contribution from Pedro will not sit as well with the future hall-of-famer. The knocks on Pedro are that he has not come up big in his biggest games (selective memory, for sure) and that he has not won a World Series title. Well he can take care of both of those things tonight and absolutely cement his status as one of the very best pitchers ever to take to a mound. My biggest hope is that he goes right at the mediocre sect of the Cards lineup. How infuriating was it watching him nibble and repeatedly throw off-speed stuff to the bottom third of the Yankees' lineup? It's ok if you don't strike Mike Matheny out and in fact, a couple of two-pitch ground outs will be more beneficial. If Pedro forgets about the strikeout to the non 2-5 Cards hitters, he will be around in the 7th or 8th.
The Red Sox have a big edge tonight but that guarantees them nothing. Still, I am more than pleased to place my trust in the greatest pitcher I have ever seen.
One more time with feeling, Petey.
Monday, October 25, 2004
I forget when exactly the exchange took place but Jeff and I went back and forth in the comments section here about the job Theo did in this past off-season. I was largely complimentary, noting that Foulke and Schilling were major scores and that the Red Sox mediocrity to that point (I think it was about mid-June or so) could largely be attributed to injury and general misfortune. Jeff disagreed, noting that anybody could have known that Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling would be major contributors. Acquiring them were no-brainers. Jeff contended that the mark of a good GM was his ability to get the little things done - fill out the roster. See at that point, defense at first base and right field were a joke, Kevin Millar wasn't hitting, Dave McCarty was playing a prominent role, Gabe Kapler was playing WAY too much and it even appeared for a time as though Andy Dominique may have to be heavily relied upon. But as the trade deadline approached and the injuries started to heal, Theo knew he was a deal or two away from being a better club. Theo pulled off the Nomar deal, a move that I contended made little baseball sense but did so without considering two factors. First, I think the Sox brass made the determination that Cabrera had a real shot at reverting to 2003 offensive form. After all, he had hit in 9 of his last 10 games as an Expo in late July. Second, the Sox obviously had more insight into the severity of Nomar's injury and figured Cabrera's defense would far exceed the offensive downgrade from Nomar that he represented. Furthermore, Theo patched up the first base defense problem by netting Doug Mientkiewicz in the deal as well. And finally, the Sox also acquired speedster Dave Roberts from the Los Angeles Dodgers. I note this today because the Red Sox, throughout this postseason, have received contributions up and down the roster. Boston's six runs last night were driven in by Jason Varitek, Mark Bellhorn and Orlando Cabrera. The Red Sox won the ALCS without a win from Pedro Martinez or an RBI from Manny Ramirez. This is relevant today because of how much dead weight even the very best teams have been carrying. But there is no room on the Red Sox roster for Ruben Sierra. Nor was there in fact room for Tony Womack. There is no room for a Tony Clark, or Mike Matheny, or Bubba Crosby, or So Taguchi, or Roger Cedeno. If you are on this roster, you offer something.
So there's the macro story of these playoffs if you ask me. As far as last night's game went, what can you say? It was another fantastic effort from Curt Schilling that highlighted the evening. Now, he might be done and that's just fine. The suture procedure simply cannot be replicated over and over again. And you know what? Whether the Sox win or lose, he's done his job. A part of me would almost encourage him to call it a 2004. I don't really know why I feel this way but I just sorta think his work here is done for this season. Go on and fix yourself up so we can do this again next year.
As I said, the woodwork was taken care of by Varitek, Bellhorn and Cabrera. Varitek jumped all over a 1-2 Matt Morris offering in the first, tripling to the deepest portion of Fenway's outfield, plating both Manny and David Ortiz who had both earned two-out walks. The Red Sox would score two more in the 4th on a Mark Bellhorn double to straight-away centerfield and two in the sixth as well when Orlando Cabrera hit a two-out wall-ball single to notch the last two runs the Sox would tally.
I think the Red Sox are just a brutal matchup for St. Louis' pitching. Their four starters in this series are all guys with average stuff that rely on good control and getting guys to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone. The Red Sox just will not budge. They have seen 356 pitches in two games, or 22.25 an inning.
Meanwhile, the Sox have been able to contain St. Louis' batters, or at least inasmuch as the Sox hurlers have scattered their hits allowed and not let the Cards get them in bunches. It's a light lineup outside of 2-5 and when Rolen and Edmonds are contributing nothing as they have in Games 1 and 2, it's tough for that lineup to do much of anything.
Tomorrow night, another good-but-not-great-by-any-stretch righthander takes the hill for the Cardinals in Jeff Suppan. Pedro Martinez will oppose him. There is still a long way to go at this point and we all know that more than anybody. But the Sox are half way there with six shots to win two games. What a weekend.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Jumbled, but thoughts nonetheless...
* Damon doubles to lead off the game and to really get the offense cranking, Cabrera squares to bunt. Can you imagine Bill James' angst watching that?
* I can't believe LaRussa didn't DH John Mabry. Just an awful error in judgment. I think LaRussa, just like plenty of others have, over-emphasized the import of left-field defense at Fenway. The notion that Fenway is a difficult place to play left field is one of the damn wackiest myths I have ever heard floating around. There is about 60% as much ground to cover as there is at the average park. So Larussa went with the .291/.337/.419 guy (So Taguchi) ahead of the .296/.363/.504 guy. Thanks, T. If I knew where you and your Redbirds were bunking up here in town, I'd send you a fruit basket or something.
* Buck's Matheny-Varitek comparison was priceless. I mean, they're both white, seem tough, likeable and all that but let's be serious. Varitek is a borderline star and Matheny sucks. About that, let there be no confusion...
* I was surprised at Wakefield's inclination to go to his fastball. I don't have an opinion on the matter but I was just surprised.
* It was cool to see Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo come in and pitch effectively, bridging the starter - high-leverage reliever gap for their clubs. Both clubs will rely heavily on these two next year.
All in all it was a sloppy affair. Yeah the Sox had too many walks and errors and still won. But St. Louis almost won without getting anything from their 3-5 punishers. And the Sox were lucky with respect to the umpiring. Keith Foulke's bases loaded strikeout with two outs in the eighth was probably the biggest out of the night - and total crap I might add. It was a good 10 inches off the plate.
Friday, October 22, 2004
For the third time, the Boston Red Sox will square off against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. And for their fifth consecutive World Series appearance, the Sox find themselves confronted not with a Cinderella story or a team that slipped by with a fortunate LCS victory. Instead they are faced with another 100+ win juggernaut. Boston's five World Series opponents since 1946 have averaged 104 wins.
This St. Louis team won 105 games and features a punishing lineup, solid starting pitching and a reliable bullpen. The two teams' lineups are just about even while Boston appears to have the slight edge with respect to the hurlers.
St. Louis Hitting
League OPS: .768
League OPS: 792
St. Louis Pitching
League ERA: 4.18
League ERA: 4.87
It is important to note that St. Louis will probably not be hurt much by the DH rule. They will be able to start John Mabry, a veteran role player that has hit just about as well as Kevin Millar has this year. This comparison is apt because Millar, just as Mabry will when the Series shifts back to St. Louis, sits for the Sox as David Ortiz will play 1B when the DH is eliminated.
Boston's lineup is more balanced than St. Louis' but you could take your pick of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen or Jim Edmonds, suit any one of them up for the Sox and any of the three would immediately become Boston's best player. Conversely, you could take any of Damon, Bellhorn, Nixon, Varitek, Millar, or Mueller, put any of them on the Cards and they all would be better than anybody not batting in the 2-5 slots for St. Louis.
On the pitching side, Boston's starters, especially with Chris Carpenter out, are considerably better than St. Louis'. The Game One matchup of Woody Williams and Tim Wakefield may be something of a mismatch but with St. Louis' inexperience against Wake's knuckler and Bronson Arroyo ready and able at the first sign of trouble, I am still confident. St. Louis' starters in this series combined for a VORP of 103.3 this season. Boston's, and remember they have replaced Arroyo with Lowe, have combined for a 122 VORP. That tally includes Derek Lowe's -11.5 figure. Anybody think Lowe looked like an eleven-runs-below-replacement-level pitcher Wednesday night? The Sox have considerably better starters with Curt Schilling's injury looming as the only factor that could potentially narrow the gap.
In the bullpen, I think they are pretty equal, although St. Louis is more able to go long should a starter run into trouble. Kiko Calero, Ray King and Julian Tavarez do a better job of turning it over to their relief ace than do Alan Embree, Mike Timlin and Curt Leskanic/Ramiro Mendoza. I think most would agree Keith Foulke is a better relief ace than Jason Isringhausen, albeit not by a whole lot.
From a tactical standpoint, I think the fact that the length of the ALCS games necessitated creative bench involvement for the Sox will serve Terry Francona well in the Series. Also, I think the emergence of Derek Lowe and the move of Bronson Arroyo to the bullpen will allow Francona to be more inclined to pinch hit for a pitcher in a big spot in St. Louis. Arroyo can bridge the gap until the Sox can turn it over to their more trusted guns later in a ballgame. If Francona manages his personnel as well as he did in the ALCS, it will go a long way to securing a Boston title. Across the diamond, Tony LaRussa is perhaps the most notorious micromanager in the history of baseball. He bunts, steals, hits-and-runs and works lefty-lefty and vice versa matchups. There is a real philosophy rift between the two clubs. Save Francona's Game 4 brainfarts, the Sox generally play station to station with a real premium on outs. Sporting a .360 team OBP, it would be crazy to play any other way. But alas St. Louis does play it that other way. I thought Brenneman and Lyons were going to have to excuse themselves last night they were gushing so badly over St. Louis' ability to play "small-ball". But make no mistake. St. Louis wins because of these three guys:
It will be a fascinating matchup between two supremely talented clubs with major differences in their views on both how that club ought to be assembled and how that club ought to go about trying to win ball games. I don't care to make a prediction but I will say the Red Sox certainly have no reason to fear St. Louis. They are every bit as good and perhaps a bit better.
For superb Cardinals coverage, check out Brian Gunn's Redbird Nation.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
When I was asked last night to predict the score, I said Sox 9, Yanks 6. My thinking was that the Red Sox would have little difficulty putting up big numbers on the Yankees' Junior Varsity pitching squad and that, simply because the Bombers' studs had hit something of a cold streak, the Sox's second line of hurlers may have just a bit more success. But wouldn't you know it, Derek Lowe, Derek Lowe for crissakes, turned in the start of his life. I sincerely hope that Lowe's performance will not be lost in last night's story. For me, and dedicated Sox fans everywhere, Lowe has doubtless and permanently etched himself into our collective catologue of wonderful Sox memories. Between the crotch-chop 2003 relief appearance in Oakland or the best start of his entire 2004 season coming in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Yankee Stadium's mound, any fan worth his salt will recognize what Lowe has contributed. Bear in mind that last night's performance took place on the very same mound where, on September 18, he had betrayed his organization's confidence by laying as big an egg as you possibly could. Well here here Ol' Boy, you are redeemed and then some.
Yesterday I wrote,
"And please, mainstream media, shut the Christ up about Bellhorn. If I can make a little comparison to equity markets, consider ballplayers like stocks. You need to look at their fundamentals (numbers over the long haul) in order to determine whether or not they are worth purchasing (or should be playing for you). Because just as it is nearly impossible to time the market on a short-term basis, you never know when a Bellhorn or Damon might breakout."
Well Johnny broke out all right. And Bellhorn wasn't so bad either. Combined, the two of them at the top of Boston's order batted .444/.545/1.444 in the biggest game of either of their lives. And it wasn't because of heart or any sort of lofty personal characteristic the hyperbole-prone will try and ascribe. It was because they happen to be talented individuals that New York was not going to be able to silence forever. If you chanted "Pokey" after Bellhorn's misplay in Game 4, hang your head and if you even allowed something resembling a "boo" directed toward Johnny Damon, Christ, then I sure hope that wasn't you I saw trying to make out with bartender last night. You don't deserve to celebrate like that.
I know it will be one of the main storylines but people have to try and resist the Yankees-as-chokers crap. Baseball is weird. These two teams were evenly matched and yet Mariano Rivera had the ball in his hand with three outs to go in order to close out a sweep. So if the Yankees could get that close to winning four consecutive games against Boston and if you accept the premise that the two teams are just about evenly matched, wouldn't it stand to reason then that it was certainly possible the Red Sox could turn around and win four straight against the Yankees? No team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit but some team was going to some day. This New York Yankees team, time and again, displayed courage and an unwillingness to give up all year long. They routinely won after trailing, they routinely won in dramatic fashion. Don't mold recent events just to fit your storyline.
And so now we look forward. Fortunately, Jim Edmonds hit a game-winning home run in the 12th yesterday to force a Game 7 and so both Houston and St. Louis will be in all-hands-on-deck mode just to advance.
I said last night that the end of Game 7 represented the very happiest moment of my life. I don't think I take that back. I am not married (though I have been dating one helluva gal for 4 years or so now) and I haven't really had one of those landmark life events that allegedly accounts for one's happiest individual moments. So I'll stand by it.
I have to be at work in 6 hours...
But rest assured there will be a post.
For now, just as folks dear to me did, I want to say congrats to everybody that cares so deeply about this stuff. It's weird that baseball can do this to you but this, literally, is the happiest moment of my life. Sheesh.
Thank you to Jeff for creating this place. Over the last few months it really has become special.
I will disect the game tomrrow. For now, let me just say what makes this special is what a great team the Sox defeated. I made a silly, obnoxious comment about two months ago about how much better the Sox were than New York. Larry Mahnken, appropriately, exposed me. What an awful remark, reaking of hubris, I made. The Sox may or may not be better than the Yanks. It's just an absolute honor to get passed a quality, class organization.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Curt Schilling summed it up best for me when he said, "I am just so proud to be a part of this team." Well I am damn proud to have the privilige to root for this team. Can we, once and for all, place a moratorium on any commentary that makes it seem anything but fantastic to be a Boston Red Sox fan? No more curse references, no more self-pity. Enough.
Last night, Curt Schilling was absolutely heroic, in a Homeric way. It's hard to ignore the Achilles comparison, what with the ankle and all, but I thought it was more of an Odysseus type of performance. Polytropos. Resourceful, tough, versatile, wily. In baseball terms, as Terry Francona said in his postgame news conference, "he pitched his ass off".
And please, mainstream media, shut the Christ up about Bellhorn. If I can make a little comparison to equity markets, consider ballplayers like stocks. You need to look at their fundamentals (numbers over the long haul) in order to determine whether or not they are worth purchasing (or should be playing for you). Because just as it is nearly impossible to time the market on a short-term basis, you never know when a Bellhorn or Damon might breakout. They are both very good players. You don't sit a second baseman that hits at a .264/.373/.444 clip with a 39.1 VORP. Ever.
I can't think of much else to say...Good for the umps...Interesting how there is no outrage over the Yankee fans...I really dislike Alex Rodriguez...Italian subs taste good...Derek Lowe...Is it 8 yet?
Just win a ballgame.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
So it may have been a bit presumptuous of me to think I would be able to collect thoughts at this point...I think I will cut a corner and go bullet points. I'll try and go chronologically.
* In the bottom of the first inning, after the first six batters in Boston's lineup took the first pitch, why did Trot Nixon swing at Mike Mussina's first offering? I was thrilled because it appeared Boston was going to wait Mussina out and make him throw a lot of pitches, a strategy that could have easily led to Tanyon Sturtze time an inning or two earlier than they saw him. New York's pen, like Boston's, was gassed and both starters needed to throw until they lost effectiveness. But there was Nixon, with the bases loaded and one out, swinging at the first pitch after four straight batters had reached base. He grounded out feebly to Tony Clark, who recorded the fielder's choice by throwing home.
* By the same token, I was hoping that Pedro would try and go right at hitters - compromise his K numbers in the hopes of a 7-pitch inning here or there. Maybe it's too much to ask of Pedro to deviate from his typical approach but I did not get the feeling he altered his strategy in order to be able to go a bit longer. I would have liked to see him try. How many off-speed pitches did Sierra, Clark and Cairo see anyway?
* I have never - literally never - seen a baserunner score from first on a ball that an outfielder was able to field in front of himself. I am sorry but that was pathetic. Jeter executed an awfully nice piece of hiiting, don't get me wrong. He had been awful all night and seemed to know he was a bit overmatched but managed to just kind of stick his bat out on a Pedro slider and guided it down the right field line. Not hit very hard, Nixon was easily able to come up and play the ball in front of him but he really loafed after it and even misjudged the riccochet a bit. The hesitation and misjudgment were enough to allow Miguel Cairo to score all the way from first.
* I now just want to state the obvious before I get to the laundry list of Francona gaffes. What a friggin' game. I have stated here before that what makes this rivalry so great is that it is baseball at its peak. With all due respect to the National League Championship Series participants, and they are both due a great deal of respect, Boston and New York are baseball's best teams and it was on display last night. For all of the talk about each team's lineup, how about the pitching last night? The Red Sox got EIGHT SHUTOUT INNINGS from their tattered bullpen. Read that last sentence again. These are talented teams in every respect of the game (ok, maybe not fielding) and the teams can engage in the most explosive of slugfests or nerve-racking pitching duels on any given day.
* OK - about Francona. Where to begin...
1) In the eighth, after Ortiz homered, Millar walked. Down a run, Francona quickly sent Dave Roberts out to pinch-run for him. This was a good decision because there was a more-than-suitable replacement for Millar in the visitor's half in Doug Mientkiewicz. Trot Nixon then singled, sending Roberts to third and Torre came out and pulled Tom Gordon in favor of Mariano Rivera. This is where Francona made his biggest error of the night. You have to ask yourself at that point if you are the manager, "what are the odds of us scoring the runner from first with Varitek, Mueller and Bellhorn coming up against one of the very best relief pitchers of all time on the mound"? I would submit that the vast likelihood was that they score the tying run and strand the second runner, even with no outs and even if Carl Lewis is your pinch-runner. So in a game that had great potential to go long, and I said this at the time, Francona replaced a very good hitter with a very bad hitter. Gabe Kapler had two at-bats that should have been Nixon's.
2) In the ninth, Johnny Damon led off the inning with an infield single. With Orlando Cabrera due up and the American League's top 2 slugging percentage leaders to follow him, I think it is sufficient to say that outs were a valuable resource at that point. Francona sent Damon, who was caught stealing. Just an awful evaluation of the risk/reward logistics. Damon scores on just about any extra base hit from either Ramirez or Ortiz and given that they had a combined 178 of them on the season, the right play was not to risk the out, see what you can get out of Cabrera (who had two hits on the night) and let the great hitters try and bat Damon around.
3) Eleventh inning...Why, in game 170, do you deviate from company policy? Why was Bellhorn trying to bunt? And after he singled, the obvious problem of giving up an out smacking Francona square in the lips, why did he bunt Damon?
4) As long as I live, I will never believe he sent David Ortiz. Just unbelievable.
Some will credit Francona for his handling of the bullpen. That's crap. He had no-brainer decisions all night because all hands were on deck. He had to go with what he had and that was it.
* Schilling tonight. Just go and win a ballgame.
I am really shitting on my own parade here, but I don't see how the Red Sox can win the next two games.
I am only watching, and I'm exhusted beyond all belief. I mean, these last two games killed me. Absolutely killed me.
Of course now that its time to go back to New York, I have to say that although I don't think the Red Sox will win this series, I doubt they will go quitely into that good night.
What a fantastic last two games.
Monday, October 18, 2004
I just arrived home after an unbelievable Sox win only to see Jeff Kent DROP A BOMB to give the 'Stros a huge win of their own. I'll have more tomorrow morning when I can actually organize thoughts.
After a record-setting beat-down at the hands of the Yanks on Saturday night, the Red Sox came back to win in dramatic fashion last night as they tied the game against Mariano Rivera in the 9th and then later won it against Paul Quantrill in the 12th. In Fenway Park's history, there had been two walk-off home runs in the postseason prior to 2004: Carlton Fisk's World Series home run in 1975 and Trot Nixon's Division Series home run last season. David Ortiz has doubled that output this season alone.
I thought Bronson Arroyo's start Saturday night was just terribly disappointing. He had been pitching reliably for a good 3 months and for him to turn in the sort of performance he did exemplifies just how exasperating playoff baseball can be. Like Curt Schilling in Game 1, Bronson Arroyo's worst game of the year came in his biggest start of the year. The Red Sox lost 19-8 so I don't want to be misinterpreted here and I am not going to say Terry Francona lost the Sox that game because he did not. But Francona just has to know his personnel better than he demonstrated on Saturday night. The Red Sox have a bullpen with a bunch of guys that come in and can give you a good inning or two - guys with explosive stuff but not built for any sort of role that would have them going for three, four innings at a time. The one individual in their bullpen with significant starting experience and who has the arm to take the ball for an extended outing is Ramiro Mendoza. So when Francona pulled Arroyo after two inning in favor of Mendoza, I was thrilled. I thought Mendoza was the guy that could give Boston a chance and bridge the gap until Francona could turn the ball over to Embree, Foulke et al. Twenty pitches later, he was out of the game. The two guys that subsequently entered the game before they eventually did turn it over to Embree, Curtis Leskanic and Tim Wakefield, gave up a combined eight runs on seven hits in just under four innings of work. I would have liked to have seen what Mendoza could have done.
Last night, the story of the game was Derek Lowe. The guy that has pitched terribly all season long took the ball last night with the season on the line and turned in one of his very best outings of the year. As far as I am concerned, Lowe's performance offsets just how frustrating Lieber's Game 2 performance was. Two hurlers of seemingly bygone glory have each given their respective clubs gutsy efforts. Lieber defeated the great Pedro while Lowe was able to tame a Yankee lineup that mercilessly hammered Sox pitching a night earlier. The comeback reinforced for me why nobody should wage character warfare on any of these Sox. They have proven themselves a resilient lot all year long and last night they extended their season by tallying a run against the best postseason reliever of all time.
So let's take a look at where we are. The Red Sox have to win three consecutive games now, not four. What has already take place is irrelevant. The guy with the 3rd best win % in the history of baseball takes the hill today. If the Red Sox win that game, they will travel back down to the Bronx trailing by the same exact deficit they trailed by last season in which they led Game 7 by three runs with five outs remaining. If you think Pedro Martinez can win at home and you think Curt Schilling can bounce back and win a game in the Bronx and you think the Sox can muster another win against Kevin Brown then you think the Sox have a chance.
Keep the faith.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Today, in his Prospectus Today piece, Joe Sheehan simply stated what I have not been able to say. My failure to articulate this simple point has unfortunately painted me as out-of-touch and perhaps even in denial. But Sheehan said... "As an analyst, it can be frustrating.
As a fan, it's the reason we watch."
Now, I don't consider myself to have the expertise to call myself an analyst but I do fancy myself savvy enough to understand general sabermetric principles to the point where I may have something to offer the casual or traditional fan. Trying to figure out why Jon Lieber was able to utterly shut down Boston's league-leading offensive attack in such a crucial game is excruciating. At the same time, from an unbiased perspective, it is fascinating. So please, readership, do not think of me as some number-crunching geek who can't appreciate the drama baseball, and particularly postseason baseball, has to offer. It's just that, as I understand the game, the Sox are better and so when they do not perform as they can, I am both mystified and frustrated.
Looking forward to the weekend...
Jon Lieber and John Olerud beat the Red Sox last night. Jon Lieber and John Olerud. It's funny but around some of the Yankee blogs I enjoy reading, I have taken criticism for postulating that Boston is better than New York, despite their lower regular season win total. Folks drew contrary conclusions based upon Tuesday night's meeting and I can only imagine how open-and-shut the case will be now that the Yanks have taken a 2-0 lead. But keep in mind how, not arbitrary, but fluctuable these games really are. The Red Sox are down 2-0 right now because Curt Schilling's ankle flared up (you think 7 would have been enough for a healthy Schill?), Jon Lieber pitched the game of his life and uber-mediocrity John Olerud homered off of Pedro Martinez.
And none of this is to take away anything from what the Yanks have accomplished. They have been the better team for two consecutive nights now and are in total command of this series. The Sox must now win four of the next five games to take the Series.
I am shocked at how terrible Boston's offense was last night. The whole team appeared as though they were swinging under water, or at the very least swinging 85-ounce bats. Trot Nixon, the guy Roger Clemens could not get a fastball by to save his life last year, now inside-outs Jon Lieber fastballs 275 feet the opposite way. Johnny Damon is a nightmare. Mark Bellhorn is super-patient until there is a full count - then it's swing at anything time. Manny and Ortiz have been fine - I guess - but Kevin Millar is hitting like it's April again. It's maddening that such an offensive juggernaut can fail to show up for 15 out of the season's 18 most crucial innings.
Pedro looked to me like a 16 year old who has just discovered he has a good arm. Seemingly out of the blue, Pedro has been able to once again summon the wicked stuff that allowed him to have the greatest peak of any pitcher in baseball history. It's just that the command doesn't match the stuff. Still, 3 runs ought to do the trick with the Sox offense against Jon Lieber. But it didn't.
That's about all I got for today. I do want to say however that there was no improvement whatsoever in the home plate umpiring. There have been two distinct strike zones - the wide one in the top half of the inning and the narrow one specially designed for the bottom half. It sucks, takes away from the games and should be addressed. And for the record, as much as the zone has hurt the Sox this time around, I believe a generous zone helped them against Anaheim.
I will have a forward looking note of optimism when I can muster one. I am pretty down right now that such a great team has not been able to put anything resembling its best foot forward.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
The Red Sox did not have a base-runner until the seventh inning and received by far the worst outing of Curt Schilling's time as a Red Sox and still had the tying run on third base in the top of the eighth inning. It was a loss, a big loss for sure but not one without a silver lining for Sox fans.
The Yankees' supporting stars were Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield and Mariano Rivera. Matsui had 5 RBI, Sheffield was on base 4 times and scored 4 runs and Rivera cooled off a ferocious Red Sox rally by recording the final 4 outs of the game. In a moving scene, Rivera appeared in the Yanks' bullpen in the fifth inning after flying in from Panama and all of his teammates welcomed him warmly while the fans in the bleachers chanted "MA-RI-A-NO".
But unquestionnably the night's biggest star for the Yanks was Mike Mussina, who was downright untouchable for six innings. He was literally perfect and aside from a line drive right at Bernie Williams in the first off of Mark Bellhorn's bat, the Red Sox didn't even make any good contact. The Sox did get to Mussina in the seventh but by then, the damage was done. The Yanks had staked their ace to an 8-0 lead.
The Red Sox would mount a charge over the seventh and the eighth, keyed by a two-run home run by Jason Varitek and a two-run triple by David Ortiz that was about a foot from tying the game. That the Red Sox were able to put together the rally, after being dormant for much of the game, spoke not necessarily of their resolve and character as many will say, but rather of their sheer ability to put crooked numbers up quickly. The Red Sox pounded a theretofore brilliant Mussina, the new and improved Tanyon Sturtze and MLB's best reliever, Tom Gordon - all pitchers the Yanks will be relying heavily upon all series. This was not the mop-up squad the Sox did their damage against.
There were three subtle matters that I thought tipped the balance in this game. I am never, okay rarely, one to criticize umpiring but I genuinely felt Moose's strike zone last night was a good 3-5 inches wider on each side of the plate. Curt Schilling, who was awful - don't get me wrong, repeatedly had balls called against him on pitches on or just outside the corners. Curtis Leskanic threw a breaking ball that, to this minute, I have absolutely no idea where the umpire could have even thought the ball missed. Meanwhile, Moose repeatedly worked the corners without fear. In back to back 3-2 called third strikes to Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn in the third, Mussina got calls that not one Red Sox pitcher got all night. That's two outs instead of two baserunners with the Sox heart of the lineup coming up. Big difference. The home plate umpiring wasn't anywhere close to solely accounting for the result last night. But it was bad, unfairly bad, and it did affect the game's outcome.
Another factor in determining the game's outcome was Manny Ramirez's awful play on both Hideki Matsui's first inning, um, double and Bernie Williams' eighth inning triple. For Matsui's, Ramirez has to be able to be more decisive. A balls-out effort with a bit of a dive catches that ball in the air if you ask me but I understand if you want to play it cautiously to keep the ball in front of you. What I absolutely fail to comprehend is a half-assed effort followed by some bizarre lunging backhand dance-step that looked like something out of a P-Diddy video. The play not only allowed Sheffield to score the game's first run but also Matsui to reach second base. He would score on Bernie Williams' ensuing ground ball through the middle. On Williams' eighth inning shot, Ramirez just failed to get back on the ball quickly enough. If he reads it right off the bat, Ramirez catches that eye-high with the ball in front of him.
The final matter was Tito's pitching pattern. If he was trying to win the game, it was indefensible. If he was trying to get various pitchers some work because the game was out of hand, given Boston's offense, it was also indefensible. Curtis Leskanic's stuff looked unhittable and yet he threw just 22 pitches. Ramiro Mendoza too looked good and yet he only stayed in the game for 17 pitches. Tim Wakefield pitched the sixth and promptly yielded two runs, no problem if it's mop-up time but a big problem if yours is the kind of offense that can get you back in a ballgame quickly. So I don't know what Francona was thinking. Either he stupidly implemented a wrongheaded strategy to win the game or he appallingly thought the game to be out of hand.
Nonetheless, as I said earlier, the Sox almost won a game in which they saw the best the Yanks' bats and arms had to offer while they were about as bad as they could be for 3 innings on the pitching side and 6 on the offensive side. Tonight, the Sox will be able to "Trot" (wink) out a lefthanded laden lineup against Jon Lieber, a guy who has always struggled to get lefties out. In 2003, they hit Lieber to the tune of an .881 OPS. The Sox will counter with a guy named Pedro Martinez.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Because Curt Schilling's season-long numbers have been far better than Mike Mussina's, I am not sure the typical tidbits formula will do. So here's one tidbit that I think will be a helluva lot more instructive. Mike Mussina has a 2.14 ERA since September 1st and whatever advantage the Sox have over the Yanks tonight is probably decidedly less significant than the talking heads would have you know.
If I don't lose my mind completely before Johnny Damon steps into the box in the top half of the first tonight, it will be a minor miracle.
I returned late last night from a weekend in Manhattan with one of my best pals from high school and a whole slew of my college friends as well. I like to think of myself as "above the fray" but I do have a story to tell. At Brother Jimmy's in the Upper East Side on Sunday night, wearing my Sox cap and minding my business, I was confronted by a fellow in a "1918" cap. Utterly disinterested in talking, you know, baseball, this individual thought it fun to simply repeatedly point to his cap and remind me that the "the Bombiz always win". So you'll forgive me for cracking a smile when I read this Curt Schilling excerpt...
""I'm not sure I can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 people from New York shut up..."
Now, I don't want to delve any furhter into this topic because I am sure there are plenty of New Yorkers residing up here with similar stories of buffoonery. Besides, I hate that this rivalry has been hijacked by the peripheral, extraneous crap that is constantly shoved down our throats by FOX and the like. The rivalry is not about ignorant bar room exchanges. Nor is it about Aaron Boone. It's not about Babe Ruth and it is most certainly not about any sort of curse. Sure, those are all little tidbits, instructive from a sociological standpoint in that they are all a small part of how we got to where we now are. But really the rivalry is about the phenomenal baseball that tends to take place when these two teams have at it. This rivalry is about what goes down between the white lines, not outside of them. Unless a certain manager is sitting in the dugout, outside the lines, doing nothing when the whole world knows he should be doing, um, something. But I digress. I suppose I will just harken back to something I wrote back in April here and we will leave it at that. I can't wait to watch the best baseball at the best ballparks during the best time of the year. "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."
Back with some starting pitching "tidbits" later on.
Monday, October 11, 2004
Isn't this kinda what we've been waiting for?
Tomorrow starts the third ever American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The New Yorkers have taken the last two 4-1 in 1999, and again last year. I would tell you the game count, but I blacked out sometime in October and didn't really come to until mid-November.
I do know it had something to do with Aaron Boone, as Fox showed the celebration 3,093 times already this season, including during a Mets/Phillies game.
There is no Aaron Boone this year, replaced by some fellow who used to play with Washington Senators II. Also gone from this drama is Todd Walker, Nomar Garciaparra, John Burkett, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and David Wells. For you humor buffs out there, Don Zimmer will also be absent, unfortunately.
This year, for the first time since 1999, the Red Sox won the season series, 11-8. They swept a plucky Angels team (plucky is a nice way to say the team won despite not having a whole lot of talent. The Twins were also plucky), and are coming into the series scoring 9, 8, and 8 runs in their three games. Sox have a healthy amount of momentum.
The Yankees also have momentum, beating a plucky Twins team (see above) three straight after losing to Minnesota Wunderkind Johan Santana (of course the Twins were Washington Sentors I. I need to think of a way to get the Expos mentioned in this post). The Yankees had a little bit less success scoring runs, posting tallies of 0, 7, 8, and 6 runs.
In terms of tactical acumen, the Red Sox haven't successfully sacrificed yet, and are 3/3 in stolen base attempts (all Johnny Damon), and has issued one intentional walk (to Vlad Guerrero). The Yankees have bunted twice, been successful in four of six stolen base tries. They haven't been sufficiently frightened by a hitter to put him on the bases yet.
Johnny Damon 467/500/533
Mark Bellhorn 091/375/091
Manny Ramirez 385/375/769
David Ortiz 545/688/1000
Trot Nixon 250/400/250
Kevin Millar 300/364/600
Jason Varitek 167/333/417
Orlando Cabrera 154/267/231
Bill Mueller 333/385/333
Derek Jeter 316/350/526
Alex Rodriguez 421/476/737
Gary Sheffield 222/333/444
Hideki Matsui 412/476/647
Bernie Williams 278/316/500
Jorge Posada 222/222/222
Ruben Sierra 167/286/417
John Olerud 214/313/357
Miguel Cairo 214/313/286
AS it looks right now, the pitching matchups look to be:
Schilling vs. Mussina
Martinez vs. Lieber
Arroyo vs. Brown
Wakefield vs. Somebody
Schilling vs. Mussina
Martinez vs. Lieber
Arroyo vs. Brown
As for my take:
I have a bias for the Red Sox. I try to look past that bias when I look at players and teams, simply because there is no real point to reading someone just rant and rave about how I love my Sawx.
That said, the Red Sox have been really running at full speed since the second week in August. The only time they really slipped up is that last trip to the Bronx. I say it doesn't matter. The Red Sox have the better offense, and the better starting pitching. They just beat up on a team that has a very good bullpen.
This year, I say I don't black out in October. Sox take the Yankees in 6.
Let's get it started...
Friday, October 08, 2004
VORP: 24.7 (85th)
ERA: 4.03 (36th)
K: 142 (40th)
WHIP: 1.22 (18th)
OPS Against: .714 (30th)
There really are no Angels that have enough at-bats against Bronson to lend any sort of real insight into how they match up.
VORP: 53.2 (14th)
ERA: 3.93 (30th)
K: 191 (10th)
WHIP: 1.29 (28th)
OPS Against: .701 (26th)
Sox Hitters Escobar Owns:
Kevin Millar: .125/.222/.125 (18 PA's)
Johnny Damon: .150/.227/.175 (44 PA's)
David Ortiz: .133/.235/.133 (17 PA's)
Sox that Have Had Success Against Escobar:
Trot Nixon: .383/.484/.583 (31 PA's)
Bill Mueller: .417/.417/.667 (12 PA's)
An anxious, enthusiastic, optimistic and thunderstick-free crowd will be on hand to welcome home the Sox after a wildly successful two games in the OC. Bronson Arroyo has earned this opportunity and I think he will pitch well. But better than one of the truly underrated starters in baseball? We'll see.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Nothing but positives from last night's game and a great manifestation of both the teams' respective offensive philosophies and abilities and why Boston's is the far greater offense. While the Angels aggressively tried to sacrifice bunt and steal all night, they rarely succeeded in doing so. With respect to sacrificing, typical analysis discusess the merits of giving up an out to advance a runner (there aren't many) without even factoring in that simply calling for a sacrifice does not in itself guarantee its success. Anaheim had a runner thrown out stealing and badly botched two sacrifice attempts - once in a tie game in the fifth as Chone Figgins popped his bunt up to Bill Mueller. While the Angels hit some singles and tried to manufacture some runs, the Red Sox were patient, opportunistic and powerful at the plate. The Red Sox hit to the tune of a .333/.442/.472 line while Anaheim hit just .219/.265/.219.
Pedro was very good. I thought he had his best fastball of the season, consistently throwing 94-95 MPH, and I even thought that he wasn't using it enough from the outset. Whether he was fooling around with low and away sliders to Glaus or throwing David Eckstein breaking balls, it just didn't make sense to me given how foolish he made the likes of Garret Anderson and Chone Figgins look with the heater. Nonetheless, it was as good as Pedro has looked this year, just sub-vintage. Hey, it's tough letting go.
This game for me accentuated every difference between the Red Sox and the Angels. With respect to offensive ability, the Angels were exposed as a singles machine that struggles to work the walk. Meanwhile the Red Sox hit, walked and slugged their way to eight runs. On the starting pitching front, their 2nd best starter faced Boston's and it was no contest. Colon deserves credit for battling and wiggling out of some dicey situations but his 7 hits, 3 walks and 3 strikeouts in 6 innings were probably not quite what Mike Scioscia had in mind. And finally the bullpens were a great reminder of why the talking heads, and I guess myself if you look at my preview, need to dig a little deeper. Francisco Rodriguez, as dominant as he is, if he faced the Sox all year and say, Mike Timlin faced the Angels all year, would probably end up looking similar on the stat sheet. The point is that pitching does not take place in a vacuum and that you have to face, you know, hitters of varying abilities. When looking at this short series, it is instructive to note that while Anaheim's bullpen is doubtless better than Boston's, it is probably only better than the Sox's bullpen by a similar margin as the Sox's lineup is greater than Anaheim's. So aren't we talking about a wash?
This thing's not over yet. The Angels still haven't sent their best starter to the hill. But last night was a clear manifestation of the Red Sox's superiority.
What an inning. Mueller leads off with a hit and is promptly pinch run for. I agree with the move because Youkilis is not much of a downgrade. This is not Luis Rivas for Justin Morneau. Damon grounds into a FC but steals second. After Bellhorn works a walk, Bengie Molina fails to block a slightly errant K-Rod wild pitch and both runners advance. Manny flies a ball deep enough to score Damon from third. Man is K-Rod tough.
Timlin just struck out Vlad. I am watching the remainder in bed. Be back in the morning with my thoughts on the game's result.
An absolutely enormous home run by Varitek. Impressive though the quickness with which he applies his shin pads may be, turns out the home run just did a little more for me.
Inexcusable miscommunication between Manny and Cabrera followed by a sharp single by Eckstein on a good Martinez breaking ball. Figgins popped a bunt up and Pedro hit Erstad to load the bases. With the thundersticks-a-smackin', Vlad laced a single into right-centerfield that plated two runs. Anderson roped a ball right at Millar who caught it and stepped on first to double up Vlad.
Sets the Halos down in order, finishing his night off with a strikeout of Chone Figgins and a point to the heavens. I have my concerns about turning it over to Timlin a night after he pitched two meaningless innings. Foulke for two with tomorrow's off day? We'll see.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Millar, Damon, Bellhorn, Cabrera...all hitting balls hard with nothing to show for it. Hold the line, Petey.
That's two outs Mike Scioscia has handed Pedro.
'Tek throws out DaVanon.
Edit: That's three thanks to Fig's bunt pop up.
- Pedro has his good fastball tonight. Wouldn't mind seeing him go to it a little more.
- DaVanon hits a bleeder to Cabrera's right after a Troy Glaus walk. Damn. First and second, nobody out.
- McPherson sticks out his bat and loops one into left. Troy Glaus scores. Anaheim still hasn't hit a ball hard tonight.
- We can all be grateful they are still playing smallball in Anaheim. Molina botches the sacrifice and Pedro makes the 1-5 putout.
- Please Pedro, go after the Ecksteins of the world. 2 and 0.
- After an Eckstein flyout, Pedro sets Fig down on a high fastball. I get to call Fig "Fig" because Ryan used to call Fig "Fig" when Ryan was calling games for the Carolina Mudcats and Fig played for them.
This is getting tedious...if I have what I think is something worth sharing, I will. But I need to set the laptop aside for a minute.
Shannon Stewart hit a 12th inning home run for Minnesota by the way. The Twins lead 6-5.
- Two Out rally...Mueller and Damon hit back to back singles. Let's go Bellhorn.
- Bases loaded again, Manny. Do your thing, pal.
- Ugh...two feet. Ok...it's 2 and 2 now. Colon doesn't wanna go 3-2. Ball 4. Atta Baby, Manny! You know what, yeah, Meals' zone has been tight but not one pitch has proven to be a bad call according to K-Zone. Of course Berman's wise-ass laugh on any ball within a foot of the zone doesn't help. Scioscia's gonna snap.
- I don't even believe what I just saw. Bases loaded, Bellhorn picked off by Molina up with Ortiz up. He's our boy and all here at Dewey's House but WTF?????
Pedro gave up on Vlad on a 3-2 pitch and walked him with two outs and nobody on. I am sure he knows he owns Garret Anderson...
...Um, yup I guess he does.
- It appears as though there may have been a bonfire at 2nd base before the game. If I can make out the action through the smoke, I will report it.
- Berman tells me the 0-2 pitch dropped in front of Vlad - single by Damon. By the way, Berman said he expected a 7-6 kinda game. Quick, go bet the under.
- Oppo single by Bellhorn. Incidentally, how fat is Colon? It really is remarkable. Johanna's almost asleep.
- Manny's down 0-2. Not sure I can take this close-up of Colon all night. What a slob! Manny fights off a 1-2 pitch that Vlad cannot get to. Vlad really looks terrible moving around right now. Sutcliffe just told us the Angels have to play better to win. Strike 3 with a nasty inside fastball.
- David Ortiz and his .356 OPS vs. Colon steps in. He walks on a bunch of close pitches.
- What a crap at-bat by Nixon with the bases loaded and less than one out. Two outs, Millar coming up.
- Thundersticks absolutely blow. Millar lays off a brutal 2-2 slider. 3-2, two outs bases loaded and Chris Berman is beside himself. Millar hits Ball 4 to David Eckstein for 6-3 putout. Eckstein managed the toss without a cutoff man.
On the couch with my roommates Mike and Ryan and my girlfriend Johanna (a still inconsolable Cubs fan). First time live blogging and as long as Blogger cooperates, should be fun.
The Yanks and Twins are tied in the eighth inning after the Twins scored two runs in the top half of the inning. I think it is pretty clear the Yanks have the advantage the rest of the way as Ron Gardenhire thought it would be a good idea to replace his team's best hitter and gain what was a marginal (at best) short term advantage. He pinch ran for Justin Morneau, who was representing the go-ahead run on first base with Mariano Rivera on the mound. It's the type of move that always tends to rear its head at a crucial spot later in a ballgame. We'll see if it does.
First pitch in thirteen minutes.
VORP: 51.2 (16th in MLB)
ERA: 3.90 (29th)
K: 227 (6th)
WHIP: 1.17 (12th)
OPS Against: .698 (25th)
Bengie Molina: .125/.125/.125 (16 PA)
Garret Anderson: .212/.235/.273 (34 PA)
Halos that Have Had Success vs. Pedro...
Vladimir Guerrero: .273/.400/.636 (14 PA)
Jeff DeVanon: .250/.308/.583 (13 PA)
Vorp: 22.2 (103rd)
K: 158 (26th)
WHIP: 1.37 (48th)
OPS Against: .794 (69th)
Bill Mueller: .091/.083/.364 (11 PA)
David Ortiz: .125/.200/.156 (35 PA)
Sox that Have Had Success vs. Colon...
Manny Ramirez: .350/.409/.700 (22 PA)
Kevin Millar: .261/.370/.652 (27 PA)
Edit: For what it's worth, Doug Mientkiewicz has an .887 career OPS in 35 plate appearences against Colon. While it may seem ludicrous to sit an MVP candidate, given Ortiz's struggles against Colon, it would be both bold and defensible to DH Millar, sit Ortiz and give Minky the start at first. Just sayin'...
I don't really have any time today but I think I am going to live-blog the game tonight. Schilling was good enough and the Sox offense was both good and lucky (thanks, Chone). As 9-3 playoff victories go, I frankly thought it was uninspiring.
Edit: Gordon Edes is one skilled writer...this passage from today's Globe is just remarkable...
It might be as illusory as a smog-free horizon here. It might be wishful thinking. It might be a refusal to acknowledge that even the most accomplished performers in our midst are obliged by the passage of time to cede some of their greatness, sometimes almost imperceptibly, at other times so painfully obvious it hurts, no one more than the artist himself.
But when Pedro Martinez takes the ball tonight against the Anaheim Angels, taking with him to the mound an amalgam of smoldering anger, barely concealed hurt, and wounded pride, it is eminently possible -- no, make that a strong likelihood -- that he will deliver one of the signature games of his career...
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
I am quite confident that the Red Sox are better than the Anaheim Angels. I am also quite confident that a five game series is not a great way to determine which of two baseball teams is superior. Therefore, I am a wreck right now.
No matter what happens, it's been a hell of a ride. Good luck, Curt. Good luck, Manny.
3,000 miles away, we'll be pullin' like hell for you guys!
Monday, October 04, 2004
The Sox square off with the Halos tomorrow afternoon in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. I think the Angels are a great draw for the Sox. Despite appearing to have superior arms, I don’t necessarily think the Sox have an enormous advantage in the pitching department, especially with Pedro not quite himself of late. Whatever advantage the Red Sox have in the starting pitching department is pretty close to negated by Anaheim’s advantage in the bullpen. Where the Red Sox do have a significant advantage is on the offensive side of the ledger and more specifically, they take more walks and hit for more power than Anaheim. Consider…
Furthermore, Red Sox pitchers pound the strike zone a wee bit better than Anaheim’s do and therefore have an even more significant advantage in the battle not to make outs. The two teams’ batting average allowed numbers, like their offensive batting average numbers, are similar but the Red Sox allow fewer runners on by the walk.
Batting Average Against
On-Base Percentage Against
In short, the Red Sox ought to have more base runners than the Angels all series long. This bodes especially well for the Sox when you consider that they have hit with significantly more power than Anaheim.
Their hitters have hit with more power and done so while consistently having more men standing out on the base paths than Anaheim all season long. Accordingly, the Sox scored 949 runs this year while Anaheim plated just 836. Don’t get me wrong, the Angels can definitely hit. Al l through the lineup, they have fantastic hand-eye coordination and utilize an aggressive, pressing style of base running and when hot, can score with the best of them. But as anyone that has played baseball knows, the hot stick can come and go. There are hot streaks and cold streaks, good days and bad days. The team that relies on batting average runs the grave risk of going anemic at the drop of a hat. The good, consistent offense gets men on base by way of the walk and can take advantage of a long ball or two when the team is having a light hitting day, series, week or even month.
The Angels have closed well here in September but I think the mainstream media may be going just a bit crazy for these guys. After all, didn’t Oakland kinda hand them the spot? And hasn’t Vlad been playing at an unsustainable level? They’re a nice team that does a lot of things well. They play their asses off and are lead by a genuinely likeable manager in Mike Scioscia. Anything can happen in a five game series but let’s be honest – the Sox are considerably better than Anaheim. Looking at it game by game…
Game One: Curt Schilling vs. Jarrod Washburn
The Red Sox have a decided advantage in this game. I am not sure what else needs to be said.
Game Two: Pedro Martinez vs. Bartolo Colon
Let’s give Anaheim and Bartolo the benefit of the doubt with Pedro pitching as he has been and call this one a wash. But remember, Pedro is pitching to the Angels while Colon is pitching to the Red Sox. Colon, prone to the occasional control lapse (71 BB in 2004), may be vulnerable to a patient Sox offense, which has to get it done early if they hope to win. If Anaheim has a lead after 6 or so and the Sox are staring down Shields, K-Rod and co., it could be over. I give just a slight edge to the Sox here.
Game Three: Kelvim Escobar vs. Bronson Arroyo
Here’s a game the Sox easily could lose. Escobar has quietly put a hell of a season together and could easily turn a lead over to the Halos’ lights-out pen. Edge to the Angels here.
Game Four: John Lackey vs. Tim Wakefield
Lackey has been very good in September but man, elite teams feast on this guy. Especially with Trot Nixon back, Lackey is exactly the kind of pitcher the Red Sox bludgeon – tall, hard throwing righty with under whelming stuff. As inconsistent as Tim Wakefield has been, I think this is as far as the Angels get. Advantage, Boston
Game Five: Curt Schilling vs. Jarrod Washburn / Bartolo Colon
If the series goes this long, the Angels will counter Boston’s Schilling with either Jarrod Washburn or Colon on three days rest. Um, yes please. Advantage Sox.
Prediction: Sox in 4
Friday, October 01, 2004
In order for the Red Sox to match up with the Minnesota Twins in the first round of postseason play, the Twinkies will have to take three straight this weekend. While it is a possibility that Minnesota will sweep the Cleveland Indians this weekend, I would say that is more than unlikely. There are two reasons for this. First, the only thing they would stand to gain from beating the Indians three straight is that their Division Series opponent would be the Red Sox and not the Yankees, something many (including the Twins I suspect) would consider to be disadvantageous. Therefore, resting regulars will take precedence over going all-out to win. Second, even if they believed they would gain something from sweeping the series, the pitching match-ups are not all that beneficial to them. It would be unlikely that the Twins would sweep Cleveland under normal circumstances much less the current ones in which Minnesota does not stand to gain a whole lot by winning. And so since the AL West winner will have definitely won 2 of 3 by Sunday evening, Minnesota will likely end up with the worst record of the three division winners and therefore will have earned a playoff date with the team sporting the AL’s best record, the New York Yankees. So whom should Red Sox fans be rooting for this weekend out in Oakland? Let’s take a look.
There are three factors in play here. First, who is the better team? Second, who is playing better of late? Third, which team stands to be hurt less by the fact that they will be going all-out to win this weekend? .
Who is the better team?
Tough question and I am inclined to cop out here and say it’s a dead heat. Anaheim leads considerably in run differential but it appears as though Oakland has been somewhat unlucky this year. If there is one reason I am inclined to lean Oakland’s way, it is that they are getting dismal performances from their big three of late, something I would submit is likely to, at the very least, subside and I would also note the possibly the three revert back to dominance. So with a gun to my head if you were to ask me which team has more talent, I would reply Oakland…but that’s not necessarily the most important factor…
Who is playing better of late?
Without question, Anaheim. Vlad Guerrero has been doing mean, nasty things to AL West pitching for a couple of weeks now and has all but solidified the AL MVP Award. Troy Glaus is also healthy now and though not quite himself, he is making solid contributions from the DH spot. His replacement at 3rd, rookie and uber-prospect Dallas McPherson has filled in ably at the hot corner, slugging at a .528 clip this September. However, Anaheim has lost two major offensive contributors for the rest of the season – Adam Kennedy to injury and Jose Guillen to a team-levied suspension. Vlad’s current other-worldy (or Bonds-esque, take your pick) play of late, due to injuries and silly behavior, may not be a luxury for Anaheim but instead its offensive lifeline. On the other side of the ledger, Anaheim has been throwing the ball very well of late. The Angels’ biggest strength, its bullpen, continues to dominate while its starting pitching has improved significantly, top to bottom. John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar have had excellent months. Bartolo Colon is liable to spin a gem at any time and Ramon Ortiz has chipped in with valuable innings. Aaron Sele, on the other hand, has been a disaster in September. The Angels, though offensively a one-man gang of late, are a pretty balanced club and despite recent turmoil and adversity, seem to be peeking.
Which team stands to be hurt less by the fact that they will be going all out to win this weekend?
I think Oakland. Their best starting pitcher of late, Rich Harden, is not pitching this weekend and the A’s would essentially be able to line up their big three right behind their newly appointed Ace in the Division Series. Meanwhile, Anaheim would lose Bartolo Colon for Game One, going with John Lackey, whom the Red Sox crushed last time they faced him, instead. Furthermore, if Anaheim needs to stretch their bullpen this weekend, this would hamper what is otherwise a major team strength.
I know mine probably will not be the popular position but I would rather play Anaheim come next Tuesday. I think their starting pitching is ripe for the shelling and Vladimir Guerrero, their only exceptional hitter at the moment, will not be able to sustain his current level of play. I know Oakland has been shaky of late but I cannot get myself to say that I would rather face Harden, Hudson, Zito and Mulder than Lackey, Colon, Escobar and Washburn. Either way, it should be a riveting finish to an awesome season out west this weekend.