September 22, 2004
Fall is Here
The last time I posted, the Red Sox had just taken game 1 of the Red Sox vs. Yankees series in the Bronx. Things were looking fairly good. The Boston nine was 2 ½ back and in good control of the wild card race.
Then Boston crapped the bed 3 straight times. The last of which, Monday night vs. Baltimore, I had the honor to witness in person. It was such a crappily played game (on a beautiful night I might add) that my brother and I walked out of the park after the botched run down of Melvin Mora.
Totally humiliating. Tim Wakefield couldn’t get ME out and the defense was horrendous.
What gives? Why did 3 straight starting pitchers, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield give it up? I don’t know. All I can say is that let’s hope they are getting the bad stuff out of their systems.
But, lest we forget that Curt Schilling pitches for Boston. He put together his best performance of the year Tuesday night, thus grabbing the label as Boston’s stopper and ace, right from the slowly moving arm of Pedro Martinez.
It is tough to argue that Schilling is not the # 1 in this rotation.
Check out these stats. They are the stats for the various Red Sox starters over the last 11 games:
Starters W L GS ERA BR/9 IP H ER BB SO Avg
Arroyo 1 0 2 1.38 6.9 13.0 8 2 1 9 .170
Lowe 0 2 2 9.00 14.6 8.0 9 8 4 7 .281
Martinez 0 2 2 8.18 16.4 11.0 11 10 8 14 .244
Schilling 1 0 2 2.37 8.3 15.2 11 4 3 20 .162
Wakefield 0 1 2 10.61 19.3 9.1 11 11 8 9 .289
You have 3 guys you have been terrible and 2 guys who have been great.
The key is, the Red Sox as a whole haven’t played well since they left Oakland 2 weeks ago. But through it all, the team and its fans have been able to rely on one guys, Curt Schilling. Ok, Bronson Arroyo too. This is an important part of the season, time for leaders to step-up.
Let’s hope Pedro, Lowe and Wakefield figure things out soon.
Why else have the Red Sox been stinking it up Over the past 10 games (not including Tuesday’s game), here are some key performers:
Line-up Avg OBP SLG
Damon,Johnny .278 .350 .472
Bellhorn,Mark .194 .265 .452
Ramirez,Manny .161 .250 .323
Ortiz,David .273 .314 .485
Millar,Kevin .313 .371 .625
Varitek,Jason .083 .214 .125
Cabrera,Orlando .250 .300 .286
Nixon,Trot .500 .529 .875
Mueller,Bill .083 .083 .083
Other than Kevin Millar and Trot Nixon, everyone is playing below his season averages. Look at Varitek…yuck. Look at Mueller…wretch. Look at Manny and Bellhorn. Mercy.
So, things have stopped clicking. The formerly well oiled machine is now running like a mid-80’s Detroit auto. No offense intended, I drove a 1980 Oldsmobile Regency Ninety-Eight and consider it my favorite car…when it worked.
Well, just a few games left and one big series this weekend vs. the Bombers. The wild-card is really the only hope for Boston. They are in good position, but need to right the recently listing ship.
September 18, 2004
A Good Start
I have to say, a Red Sox vs. Yankees game is guaranteed to produce some amazing things. There is just no such thing as a boring match-up between these two.
Last night was a perfect example. The game wasn’t 10 minutes old when Manny Ramirez hit what appeared to be a foul ball down the left field line. Somehow, the third base umpire called it fair, good for a home run.
Replays clearly showed it to be foul, but man, it did cause the heart rates of all watching to jump. The umps had a meeting and eventually made the correct call, foul ball. Things like this happen all of the time in these games.
My memory is horrible, but off the top, here is what has happened in the Red Sox vs. Yankees match-ups so far this year:
· The fight in July
· Derek Jeter flying head first into the seats
· Nomar’s inability to play due to injury
· Manny’s great catch on Miguel Cairo (Cairo didn’t find out it was an out until crossing home).
· The foul/fair ball controversy mentioned above
Like I said, my memory is fuzzy in general, but there are certainly many more things I could have listed. To put this in perspective, think about the Red Sox games vs. the Kansas City Royals over the past 5 years. Nothing, NOTHING interesting has happened in one of them. I know it is because usually nothing was on the line, but just by chance something interesting should have happened.
Great baseball game last night. Johnny Damon came out and gave the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead. Both Bronson Arroyo and Orlando Hernandez pitched well until the rains came. When play resumed, Arroyo stayed on and El Duque hit the other showers.
Tanyon Sturtze, the perennial Red Sox whipping boy, actually stepped up and shut down the good guys for almost 4 innings. A very impressive outing considering how poorly he has pitched against the Red Sox over the years. A Worcester native, good for him.
Tom “Flash” Gordon also did a great job.
On the other side, Alan Embree and Mike Timlin did a great job too. Both Embree and Timlin are carrying ERA’s over 4 right now. With relievers, one bad outing can spike your ERA, so I’m not too worried about it, but I’d prefer the 2003 version of each guy (each had a lower ERA and WHIP last year). But, by the end of this season, each might improve and get below last year’s numbers.
Then there is Mariano Rivera. To suggest something is wrong with him is absurd. His ERA is still mini and he has 49 saves. He is fine. I will say he hasn’t pitched well against the Red Sox this year. Is it a mental thing or just bad luck? In 8 games in 2004 vs. the Red Sox, Rivera has gone 0-2 with 2 saves posting a 4.66 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.
The fact is, Rivera is still a good pitcher, but has performed a bit worse than his overall numbers against the Red Sox. He is 8-4 with 25 saves in 55 games lifetime vs. the Red Sox. His ERA is 2.89 and his WHIP 1.19.
Yes, all are above his career totals, but lets face it, the Red Sox have had a better than average team during his career. They spend $100m+ each year on players that hit the ball well, so this is to be expected.
In his career, he is 1-1 with 25 saves in 38 games, with a 1.94 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP vs. the Kansas City Royals, a historically terrible team (during Rivera’s career anyway) , so he does average it out against the bad teams. Sorry to pick on KC twice, but what can you do?
My point in all of this is that when you put an all-star pitcher on the mound against all-star hitters, something has to give. Sometimes Rivera wins, sometimes he doesn’t. As a Red Sox fan, I’m not patting myself on the back based on last night. With the players the Red Sox have, they should beat Rivera now and again, they’ve spent far too much not to.
On to Manny’s catch last night. Wow. He has made a handful of crazy-good catches this year. Yes, he can still be a meathead, but so what. He is hitting the crud out of the ball and turning in an above average fielding effort this year.
Poor Cairo, he ran all around the bases thinking it was a home run only to find out it was an out. I know the feeling. It was summer 2002. I was in Chicago for a wedding. There I was at the plate and I hit a deep, deep drive to left. I was running so hard around the bases, I lost track of the ball. But, no worries, I had hit that puppy so hard, it was surely a home run. I raced around the bases and crossed home plate with my arms in the air. “I’m a stud!” I thought to myself.
Only then did I see my teammates laughing at me…the ball had been caught on what turned out to be a fairly routine play…in shallow left. I sat on the bench silently weeping. Sniffles…..
So rain threatens Saturday’s match-up, so either they’ll delay today’s game as long as possible, or schedule a doubleheader for Sunday.
Regardless, I can’t wait to see what crazy thing happens today and/or tomorrow.
By the way, I poked fun at Kevin Millar’s girth a while back. As I look at him of late, his belly seems to have slimmed down a bit. Perhaps it jumped ship and joined forces with Curt Schilling’s belly. Either way, I think my criticism of Millar was wrong. Sorry KM.
September 04, 2004
Sorry to have been silent during the best run of the year for the Red Sox. No excuse.
Everything is working well at this point. The starters are pitching 7-8 innings per start, the batters keep hitting the ball out of the park and when they can’t, seem able to generate a run playing small ball (to be discussed more later on) and the fielding has been solid.
So what’s the reason?
Many point to the July trade deadline and the swapping of Nomar Garciaparra for Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera (plus a few other exchanges) as the start of all of this, but if you look at the first 2 weeks of August (through 8/15), the Red Sox went 8-6. Not bad, but hardly a hot streak.
Since 8/16 however, they’ve gone 17-2.
Why is everything coming together? Well, if you look at the early part of the season, the Red Sox were still playing decent ball, they just weren’t winning at the rate you’d expect.
At the same time, the New York Yankees were winning at a much higher rate than you’d expect. Please note this isn’t an article devoted to “catching the Yankees.” The Red Sox should just worry about getting to the dance, but the point here is that the Red Sox and Yankees, up until mid-August, had been going in opposite directions even though the amount of runs scored and runs allowed would indicate they should have swapped records.
Bill James came up with (I believe he developed it) the Pythagorean theorem for baseball win/loss records. Basically, based on the number of runs scored and runs allowed by a team, they should have a certain winning %. Each year, there are teams that have won or lost many more games than you’d expect based on their run differential. Here is the formula:
runs scored * runs scored
(runs scored * runs scored + runs allowed * runs allowed)
To date (through 9/5), the Red Sox and Yankees have scored and allowed the following:
RS RA Diff W L
Boston 779 631 148 81 54
New York 741 680 61 84 52
The Red Sox have scored 38 more runs and allowed 49 few runs than the Yankees, yet they trail the Yankees by 2.5 games.
Wow, that is striking.
Applying James’ Pythagorean Theorum, you’d find the following win expectations:
RS RA Diff W L W% PT W/L % PT W PT L +/-
Boston 779 631 148 81 54 .600 .604 82 49 -1
New York 741 680 61 84 52 .618 .543 74 58 10
The Red Sox should be at 82 wins (they are at 81) and the Yankees should be at 74 (they are at 84).
So if the Pythagorean Theorum were to hold up exactly, the Red Sox should hold an 8.5 game lead on the Yankees. But, as I mentioned, each season finds a few teams way above or below their expected win/loss totals.
At the same time, allowing for a big enough sample size, teams and players tend to play to their average. So while the Red Sox severely under produced through August 15, they are finally winning to their expected total. 3 weeks ago, they were nowhere close.
Derek Jeter’s early season slump is a good parallel. He hit .172 in April and .261 in May. Well below his normal production. In June, he snapped out of it and hit .396. For the year, he stands at .275 with a .337 obp and a .440 slg. Still below his normal numbers, but much better than April and May.
The Yankees too are settling into their expected win total, although they have quite a few losses to go to get there.
The whole point of this is that regardless of what we all think the Red Sox are doing to create their recent success, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. They were generating enough runs and allowing few enough runs to be a really good team. It just didn’t work out that way up until August 15.
Ok, with Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo all pitching well of late and the line-up taking pitches, fouling off pitches and slugging home runs, things are just fine. Add to that the great defense of Mientkiewicz at first and the rest of the team, things are really fine.
It is amazing to see Mientkiewicz play. Remember last year when people were touting Kevin Millar as the most improved first baseman (defensively) last year? Well, even at the top of his game, Millar is mediocre compared to Mientkiewicz. It is fun to watch.
As for playing some small ball, Jerry Remy during sports final last night on CBS 4 hinted that he believed Terry Francona had heard it from upstairs that he should be bunting, running and playing for the single run more often.
Who knows if that is true, but I will say it makes sense that if you have your players practice things like bunting, hit and runs and other small ball techniques, it will be an option in the postseason rather than a moth-balled technique that no player can perform due to a lack of practice.
While there is no way to point to one event or philosophical change as the catalyst to the recent winning ways, it is safe to say this winning was a long time coming.