Red Sox October 2004

October 27, 2004

 

At Last

 

Amazing.

 

I don’t think I’ll fully appreciate this until days, months down the road. I jumped up and down a bit when Foulke tossed the ball to Mientkiewicz, but didn’t get the rush of joy and happiness I fully expected. Why? I think it is because my mind is trying to flush itself of 32 years of negative thoughts and results.

 

Still, even less than an hour after the game, I am getting little spells of joy and waves of bliss. The Red Sox won the World Series!!! The Red Sox won the World Series!!!

 

Not only that, no one can say anything anymore to the Red Sox and their fans. 1918 means nothing now. The Curse of the Bambino means nothing now. Boy, that is a relief.

 

I mentioned to a friend of mine after the game that now Red Sox fans can start yelling “2000!” to the Yankees next year.

 

Let’s hope tomorrow/later today we aren’t reading about senseless violence in Boston and beyond.

 

Be happy Red Sox fans. This is as good as it gets. 2004 World Series Champions!!!

 

Posted by Andy at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

Up 3-0 in the World Series?

 

The Boston Red Sox being up 3-0 in the World Series is probably the oddest feeling I’ve had, short of the full body massage I got when I was in…..wait, that isn’t right.

 

Seriously though, it is, as Butch Sterns said immediately after the game, “uncharted territory.”

 

This whole postseason, I’ve constantly felt that impending doom is right around the corner. In fact, I was talking with my brother the other day that the ALCS felt like the opening of Monty Pythons Flying Circus. The opening has the various animation and theme music (The Liberty Bell March) that reaches a peak and all of a sudden, a giant foot comes squashing down. Listen to the “pblblblbpt” at the end.

 

Well, even now, I still feel disaster is ready to rear its ugly head. It isn’t my fault, after all, the Boston Red Sox just proved it is possible to overcome a 0-3 deficit. Regardless, should the Red Sox pull this off, I hope I have a chance before the final out is made to really soak this in. To really let myself get carried away.

 

But because the worst of all bad things that could happen to Red Sox fans is most certainly around the corner, I fear I’ll remain ultra-guarded until the final out is recorded…should it be recorded.

 

Despite all of that, kudos to Pedro Martinez. What a start. 7 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks. Wow. I really had lost a bit of confidence in the man, but he proved me wrong, even it was just for one start, perhaps his last start for the Red Sox.

 

Trot Nixon also delivered a timely hit. I’ve said all along, Nixon really needs to contribute to make this team a winner.

 

Game 4 tonight, Derek Lowe vs. Jason Marquis. Lowe is coming off a great game 7 outing in the ALCS. Marquis is coming off a relief appearance in game 2 of the World Series.

 

Stay focused boys. This one isn’t over.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2004

 

Game 3 in St Louis

 

The Red Sox took games 1 and 2 in somewhat craptacular style. They hit the ball well, but committed 8 errors in the 2 games combined. It was ugly in the field and, fortunately, ugly for the St. Louis pitchers.

 

First off, my experience with game 1 was as bad as I had feared. Deep in the Adirondacks, stuck in a valley, no TV in the house, just the radio and dueling banjos playing nonstop. The good news was that many AM stations were carrying the game, the bad news is it sounded like a wise-assed intern at the radio various stations was turning on and off the transmitter throughout the broadcast. “Broadcast on, broadcast off….”

 

AM 990, 1050 and 1090 turned out to be the 3 channels we used to get the game. I think 1050 is ESPN radio out of Manhattan!

 

Anyway, the Monday off-day could not have come sooner. All of Boston has been severely sleep deprived. Those in business, take note. If you are involved in any business deals, law cases, investments, you name it with people from Boston, now is the time to pull the wool over a Bostonian’s eyes. We are just too tired to catch you.

 

Ok, game 3 will feature Pedro Martinez vs. Jeff Suppan. On paper this looks uneven, but figuring Martinez has now pitched close to 237 innings this year, posted his worst ERA ever in the regular season and Jeff Suppan had been the Cardinals go-to starter in the playoffs and you have a close match, perhaps one tilted in the Cardinals favor.

 

Game 4 will feature Derek “I just increased my future worth ten-fold” Lowe for
Boston and Jason Marquis for St. Louis.

 

Playing in the Cardinals home park is going to be tough. The fans in St. Louis are some of the best and know how to make noise. Additionally, the idea of David Ortiz playing 1b is not appealing. Perhaps Terry Francona will have Pokey Reese play 2b for a game just to help tighten the team D.

 

Some keys to games 3 and 4. Trot Nixon has to show up. He has .205/.255/.295 numbers so far in the 2004 playoffs. If he can’t pick it up, look for Kevin Millar to get a start.

 

Check out the 2004 batting stat totals through game 2 of the World Series. It is pretty similar to the regular season totals.

 

NAME G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Johnny Damon 12 61 11 16 2 0 2 8 3 11 5 1 .262 .297 .393 .690
Manny Ramirez 12 52 7 18 3 0 1 9 7 9 0 0 .346 .410 .462 .871
Orlando Cabrera 12 50 8 15 3 0 0 11 7 7 1 0 .300 .390 .360 .750
Bill Mueller 12 48 9 15 2 0 0 2 6 2 0 0 .313 .400 .354 .754
David Ortiz 12 48 12 20 2 1 5 19 12 10 0 1 .417 .533 .813 1.346
Jason Varitek 12 45 9 12 1 1 3 11 4 12 0 0 .267 .346 .533 .879
Trot Nixon 11 44 5 9 1 0 1 5 3 7 0 0 .205 .255 .295 .551
Mark Bellhorn 12 43 8 9 3 0 3 8 12 15 0 0 .209 .382 .488 .870
Kevin Millar 12 40 8 10 4 0 1 6 8 6 0 0 .250 .388 .425 .813
Playoff Totals 12 431 77 124 21 2 16 79 62 79 6 2 .287 .376 .450 .825
Reg. Season 162 .282 .360 .472 .832

 

Considering Mark Bellhorn and Johnny Damon are on the incline, that leaves only Trot really as struggling.

 

There is so much to say about the various individual efforts to date, but in the interests of remaining within expectations, let’s not talk about them today. There’s time for that next week.

 

Let’s hope Boston can stayed focused, go into St. Louis and take 2. Easier said than done as there is a reason St. Louis won the most games in the majors this year (105). Additionally, when Larry Walker (1.444 OPS in WS), Albert Pujols (1.270), Scott Rolen (.000) and Jim Edmonds (.347) all turn it on at once, watch out. They are arguably the 4 toughest 2-5 hitters in baseball. So far, only Walker and Pujols have shown up. That means Rolen and Edmonds are due.

 

Ok, that’s all I have. I’m very nervous, worried and borderline freaked out. Things are going to be very tough over the next 3 nights. St. Louis is very good and will be difficult to beat. Not good having to play 3 in a row there.

 

Talk with you soon. Oxygen……

 

Posted by Andy at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2004

 

The St. Louis Cardinals

 

First off, I will be away until late Sunday, unable to update this site. That’s too bad…for me anyway. Secondly, I’ll be in the middle of nowhere for game 1. Seriously, I’ll be in a valley, deep in the Adirondacks of all places with little hope of catching a radio or tv signal. Lake Placid bars here I come!

I was wrong about the rotation. Tim Wakefield will be pitching game 1 on 4 days rest.

It should be a great series. Here’s to hoping, win or lose, Boston and Massachusetts residents behave themselves lest we have another tragedy. It just isn’t worth it if someone gets hurt or dies.

Lastly, a reader of the site, Uri, gave me a well deserved slap on the wrist for my essentially giving up on the Red Sox after game 3 of the ALCS. He never, NEVER gave up even against all odds. So, I promised him I’d drag myself through the mud if the Red Sox came back and won. Here it goes:

Andy (that’s me) is a big fat DOOFUS!!!

I’m so happy I got to do that.

Anyway, let’s get this puppy started, I can’t wait.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

 

Shocker

 

I admit it, I was wrong. I fully gave up on these guys after Saturday’s slaughter. While I’m certain I was not alone, I still feel a bit foolish. Perhaps it is part of being an avid Red Sox fan, something in me kept imagining just how the New York Yankees would come back, be it in the 4th inning or with 2 down in the 9th.

 

The Yankees are such a good team with such amazing leadership (Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, I’m talking about you), it just seemed a given they’d figure out a way to pull this one out.

 

Well, I was wrong and I’m very happy about that.

 

Give Derek Lowe the bulk of the credit, he pitched 6 innings of 1 hit, 1 walk baseball. Amazing considering his status on the pitching staff. Scott Boros is wetting his pants with excitement right now (his own pants, now Lowe’s…not that I know of anyway.).

 

I suppose Johnny Damon deserves equal billing after hitting 2 dingers and driving in 60% of the runs in game 7.

 

We could go on and on about who played well and who was MVP, but regardless, the Boston Red Sox are heading to their first World Series in 18 years. They await an opponent (Houston or St. Louis) but certainly don’t mind as they can all use the rest.

 

Speaking of rest, Boston and I’m sure New England has been dragging the past few days. Dark circles under the eyes are the norm of late. It’ll be nice to get a few good days of productivity at work and sleep at home.

 

I believe the Red Sox will have 2 off days. That means Curt Schilling will have had 3 days rest, Tim Wakefield 3 days, Pedro Martinez, 2 days, Derek Lowe 2 days and Bronson Arroyo 3 days.

 

It’ll mean someone has to come back on short rest, but given it’s the World Series, I’m sure no one will mind a great deal. At least the bullpen will be fresh and ready to go.

 

So, let’s see who wins tonight, Houston or St. Louis, and then buckle up for what is sure to be an interesting ride.

 

Lastly a salute to the dude on the other side of this website, Peter. I had the benefit of reading his 10/21 post prior to posting mine. It goes without saying that each city has its own collection of yahoo fans, those that guarantee wins, chant obscene chants and show a legitimate disdain for their opposing fans.

 

But it needs to be said that there is another kind of baseball fan, one that can appreciate the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s the reason this site is up in the first place, to acknowledge good baseball, even it is being played by the opposition. My whole point here is that Peter is a class act as are most Yankee fans (and Red Sox fans too). That’s what baseball is all about, isn’t it?

 

Posted by Andy at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2004

 

A First

 

I’ll be brief as it is late and I am exhausted from this series.

 

The Red Sox are the first team to force a game 7 after starting a series 0-3 (as if Fox didn’t make that abundantly clear). Give all the credit to Curt Schilling. He went out there and pitched a gem, hurt or not. For those doubting the severity of his ankle woes, fine, but you have to admit that his outing tonight was good for a perfectly healthy pitcher too.

 

Game 7 looks to be Kevin Brown vs. Derek Lowe. Lowe, the starter relegated to mop-up duty early in the playoffs, is now starting game 7 for the Red Sox. A big start indeed.

 

Back at it again Wednesday night. Have you had enough? I hope not.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2004

 

Am I a Bad Person?

 

I basically threw in the towel 2 nights ago. The Red Sox were down 0-3 and had looked pretty horrible getting to that point. Am I a bad person? Can you blame me? Well some of you did. I got assailed via email. Probably deservedly so. I was frustrated, but really had written these fellas off. Was that smart?

 

David Ortiz just delivered his 2nd walk-off hit in 2 nights and 3rd of the postseason. Wow. He has been über-clutch.

 

So now the Red Sox head back to New York for game 6, down 2-3. As a friend of mine pointed out last night, the Red Sox were down 2-3 in 2003 too.

 

From all I can tell, Curt Schilling is going to try and give it a go tomorrow night in New York. Starting game 6 and providing 7-8 quality innings would be a tremendous boost for Boston. Consider this, Boston trotted out the following tonight:

 

Martinez – 111 pitches
Timlin – 20 pitches
Foulke – 22 pitches
Arroyo – 17 pitches
Myers – 4 pitches
Embree – 9 pitches
Wakefield – 38 pitches

 

No big deal, right….wait, check out Sunday night’s pitchers:

 

Lowe – 88 pitches
Timlin – 37 pitches
Foulke – 50 pitches
Embree – 30 pitches
Myers – 4 pitches
Leskanic – 13 pitches

 

That means in game 6, the bullpen will most likely be hoping to avoid using Timlin, Foulke, Embree and Wakefield. That leaves them with Mendoza, Myers and Leskanic. Hmmm, that is unsettling.

 

But, given every game is possibly Boston’s last and given the character of these guys (despite what Gary Sheffield says….talk about character), Timlin, Foulke, Embree and Wakefield will probably make themselves available for game 6.

 

Cheers to two fun, if not exhausting games in the ALCS. What happened to a 9 inning, 2 hour and 30 minute victory…for Boston? My spastic colon can’t take anymore of this.

 

By the way, it’s also time for a few of the Boston bats to get it together. Ortiz can’t win these things alone. I’m talking about Johnny Damon, Mark Bellhorn, Kevin Millar, Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek and Bill Mueller. Or 2/3 of the Boston line-up. Come on, pick it up now!!!

 

Posted by Andy at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2004

 

A Total Embarrassment

 

As a Red Sox fan, I’m trying to figure out how I feel.

Past history certainly has prepared me for the outcome that surely awaits the Red Sox (down 0-3 as of this writing). That’s not feeling sorry for myself, it is the truth. But the Red Sox have a way of always topping the previous defeat. Or is it that any defeat seems worse than the last because it is so fresh?

I don’t know.

I do know that the Red Sox put on an embarrassing display last night. They have nothing to be happy about. Not the coaches, the pitchers and not the line-up. No one performed well. Sure they mustered 8 runs of the Yankees staff, but I wouldn’t pat myself on the back considering the total inability Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez to get men out on their own. Instead, the Red Sox ran themselves into important outs. Manny Ramirez at third and Bill Mueller at home.

Where does this leave the 2004 Red Sox? It leaves them preparing for a meaningless game 4 Sunday and it leaves Red Sox management preparing for the upcoming player transactions and important deadlines.

They’ve left me with no option but to start talking about the 2005 Red Sox. So, here it goes.

How’s signed for 2005 (club options and 3 yr or less players included):

$20m – Manny Ramirez
$12m – Curt Schilling
$8.5m – Johnny Damon
$6.5m – Trot Nixon
$4.875m – David Ortiz
$7m – Keith Foulke
$4.35m – Tim Wakefield
$6m – Byung-Hyun Kim
$3.75m – Doug Mientkiewicz
$3m – Alan Embree
$3.5m – Kevin Millar
$2.7m – Mike Timlin
$3m – Bill Mueller
$300k – Kevin Youkilis
$86.370m – Total

Who is a free agent or arbitration eligible?

Pedro J Martinez
Jason Varitek
Orlando Cabrera
Derek Lowe
Ramiro Mendoza
Scott Williamson
Pokey Reese
David Roberts
Doug Mirabelli
Gabe Kapler
Ellis Burks
Mark Bellhorn
Bronson Arroyo – Arb.
David McCarty
Terry Adams
Curt Leskanic

There are a few others that made minor contributions, but who cares.

Basically Theo Epstein needs the following assuming he doesn’t re-sign his free agents:

Starter – #2
Starter – #3, 4 or 5
Catcher
Shortstop
Second
Some bullpen arms
Some utility pieces

That’s a ton of work to do and he doesn’t have much to spend for it and doesn’t have much to pick from.

Theo has about $40m to play with to sign 11 players to fill out the 25-man-roster, assumign they land in the same area payroll-wise. In reality, teams usually have more than 25 players to juggle, so it probably means $40m to sign 13-15 players.

As for who is available via free agency this year, the pickings are slim. For starting pitchers you have Carl Pavano, Matt Morris and Matt Clemente. All are just fine, but have uncertain histories. Regardless, they will all probably be signed by the Yankees anyway because the Yankees staff is so terrible….said with tongue firmly in cheek.

So the Red Sox season is basically over and they have a ton of work to do and little to work with as far as talent. Another brutal ending to what was a promising season.

Oh well.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2004

 

What Just Happened?

 

Hmmm, that wasn’t supposed to happen. I don’t think I expected the Red Sox to be down 0-2, I really didn’t.

 

I didn’t expect Curt Schilling to pitch like butt and I didn’t expect Jon Lieber to throw a 3-hitter over 7 innings. Well, it happened and the Red Sox have to deal with it and so do I. Sniffles.

 

Game 3 will be back at Fenway Park with Bronson “I don’t mind if you call me Charles” Bronson facing Kevin Brown. The only positive I can think of here is that in a best-of-seven series, home field advantage means you get to play 4 games at home. If each home team wins its respective games, the team with home field advantage wins the series.

 

So the Red Sox simply need to do what the Yankees have done and win their home games. The challenge comes in games 6 and 7 back in the Bronx. The Red Sox have to take one of those. Simple, right?

 

I’m trying to get my hands around what happened Tuesday and Wednesday. The fact Schilling was hurt in game 1 and now appears likely out for the season is about the worst thing that could have happened. Really, if given the choice of losing Schilling or Manny Ramirez for the playoffs, I think 90% would have preferred losing Manny. No offense to Manny, but great starting pitching wins games.

 

Add to that the fact Boston batters popped out about 50% of the time against Lieber, a ground-ball pitcher. So odd. I can’t figure it out. I can’t say it is unfair, because many teams go through adversity, but wow, what a time to go through adversity.

 

Let’s hope being back in Boston helps this team rally and string together 4 wins. The hard part to handle is that Boston has to win 4 of the next 5 (or 4) to advance to the World Series….against New York no less. Not an easy task.

 

Here’s to hoping a Red Sox player will tell his teammates “Jump on my back and let’s win 8 more games.” I don’t know who that player is and I don’t care, I just want someone, anyone to go out there and drag his teammates along kicking and screaming, if necessary, to a playoff level of play. Otherwise, we’ll be talking about the 2005 Boston Red Sox far too early. I don’t like the idea of that this early in the year.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2004

 

Sweet Sweep. Rematch on Deck.

 

David Ortiz took care of bid-ness Friday putting the Boston Red Sox back in the ALCS. The New York Yankees took care of the Minnesota Twins Saturday setting up a rematch of last years ALCS series.

 

The Red Sox have had plenty of time to rest, so their rotation will be perfectly set: Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez (son of the Yankees), Bronson Arroyo and Tim Wakefield.

 

The Yankees should be able to set their ideal rotation too. By winning their ALDS in 4 games, Mike Mussina will be ready to go this coming Tuesday to face Schilling. The only question is who will Joe Torre actually want to follow Mussina. In the ALDS, it went Mussina, Jon Lieber, Kevin Brown and lastly Javier Vazquez.

 

What if Orlando Hernandez is ready to go by Wednesday (game 2), will he take Lieber’s spot? Too many rotation questions that will work themselves out in the coming days.

 

I have to assume most observers think Boston’s rotation is better than New York’s. Perhaps they are a more known quantity (quality) this season, but the fact remains New York has some stud arms in their rotation each of whom is capable of a shutout.

 

Here is a quick look at the expected starters:

 

Player Career 2004
Record IP ERA WHIP Record IP ERA WHIP Age
Schilling 184-123 2812.2 3.32 1.11 21-6 226.2 3.26 1.06 37
Martinez 182-76 2296.0 2.71 1.03 16-9 217.0 3.90 1.17 32
Arroyo 19-23 383.0 4.63 1.39 10-9 178.2 4.03 1.22 27 Avg. Age
Wakefield 128-111 2066.2 4.29 1.37 12-10 188.1 4.87 1.38 38 33.5
622-421 .596%
Player Career 2004
Record IP ERA WHIP Record IP ERA WHIP Age
Mussina 211-119 2833.1 3.59 1.17 12-9 164.2 4.59 1.32 35
Brown 207-137 3183.0 3.20 1.21 10-6 132.0 4.09 1.27 39
Vazquez 78-78 1427.1 4.26 1.28 14-10 198.0 4.91 1.29 28
Lieber 100-91 1687.0 4.20 1.27 14-8 176.2 4.33 1.32 34 Avg. Age
El Duque 61-40 876.1 3.96 1.24 8-2 84.2 3.30 1.29 34 34
596-425 .584% (not including El Duque)

 

Let’s assume for a moment that Lieber is the 4th starter for the Yankees and not El Duque (I have seen no word from the Yankees camp that El Duque is over his “dead-arm” issues).

 

Each team has a veteran all-star/possible Hall of Fame pitcher going in games 1 and 2, followed by a young, up and comer. In all fairness, Vazquez is the better pitcher than Arroyo, but in 2004, Arroyo would have to be given the nod. Vazquez started out very well, then posted, 6.61, 7.43 and 6.29 ERA’s in July, August and September respectively. There was no clear reason given as to why he struggled so badly.

 

Arroyo on the other hand posted 2.83, 4.01 and 4.24 ERA’s over the same respective months. His season record doesn’t show it, but he did have the better season (as evidenced by the lower 2004 ERA).

 

Regardless, they are both good pitchers.

 

Lastly there is Wakefield and Lieber. Both veterans that have similar career winning % and ERA’s. So overall, they appear to be quite evenly matched up. But, when you take 2004 performance, the Red Sox had the better staff.

 

That’s where the bullpens comes in. Boston’s relief corps were good in 2004, so were the Yankees. But the Yankees had extreme’s. Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera were amazing, while Paul Quantrill and the others (I counted at least 6 with at least 20 relief appearances) all posted ERA’s of 4.72 or higher.

 

This basically says the Red Sox batters have to get to the Yankees starters early and often in order to force Torre to bring in one of the lesser relief arms to bridge the gap from the starters to Gordon/Rivera. If the Red Sox let the Yankee starters off the hook and allow them 6 or 7 innings, then it’ll be tough to win many games.

 

The Red Sox bullpen is a bit more defined and its depth not as reluctantly utilized. Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Mike Myers, Curt Leskanic and Derek Lowe might all see action. Of those, Terry Francona has confidence in Foulke, Timlin, Embree and Myers. Only Foulke had a great statistical season, but the other 3 had good enough seasons to be considered reliable relievers.

 

So the Yankees will have a different challenge, they will need to get to whoever they can, but won’t get to face some potential cream puffs relievers, but won’t necessary be faced with getting shut down in the later innings.

 

As if things are so cut and dried. The key is that in the playoffs, Torre won’t have a problem trotting out Gordon for 2 innings (maybe 3) and Rivera for 2 innings.

 

So unless the Red Sox can batter the starters in consecutive games, it’ll be an uphill climb.

 

As for the bats, both teams hit very well in the regular season. It’s close to an even match-up.

 

Using 2004 performances, here is how I see the line-up comparison:

 

Catcher: Jason Varitek vs. Jorge Posada
Nod – Even

 

First Base: Kevin Millar vs. John Olerud
Nod – Red Sox (although with Olerud’s good defense, this is close)

 

Second Base: Mark Bellhorn vs. Miguel Cairo
Nod – Even

 

Third Base: Bill Mueller vs. Alex Rodriguez
Nod – Yankees

 

Shortstop: Orlando Cabrera vs. Derek Jeter
Nod – Yankees

 

Leftfield: Manny Ramirez vs. Hideki Matsui
Nod – Red Sox

 

Centerfield: Johnny Damon vs. Bernie Williams
Nod – Red Sox

 

Right field: Trot Nixon vs. Gary Sheffield
Nod – Yankees

 

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz vs. Ruben Sierra
Nod – Red Sox

 

That’s 4 for the Red Sox, 3 for the Yankees and 2 splits. While I think Bellhorn is probably the better player at second I also realize my analysis could be biased, so I consider this an even match-up.

 

So here we find ourselves, the Yankees in their 6th ALCS in 7 years and the Red Sox their 3rd in 6 years. The Yankees have a decided edge in experience. Rivera, Williams, Jeter, Posada, El Duque and Joe Torre have all been part of the recent Yankee dynasty, but amazingly, from what I can tell, Rivera, Williams, Jeter Posada and El Duque are the only ones that have won a World Series as a members of the Yankees.

 

I guess I assumed it was more. Either way, here’s hoping the Red Sox can beat the New York Yankees and then find success in the World Series.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2004

 

Anaheim Angels

 

It took a while, but the Boston Red Sox finally learned who they’d play in the ALDS. The opponent, the Anaheim Angels.

 

I’m not particularly happy about this match-up, I’d have preferred the Oakland A’s being that Boston had success against them last year in the playoffs, this year during the regular season and the “Big Three” has been scuffling.

 

Let’s take a look at the 2004 regular season match-up against Anaheim. The Red Sox went 5-4 against them. The pitching staff really struggled against them, posting a 6.08 ERA. That’s one seriously ugly number. Of greatest concern, the Red Sox 4 schedule ALDS starters did the following:

 

NAME G GS W L Sv Hld IP H ER HR BB SO K/9 WHIP ERA
C. Schilling 2 2 2 0 0 0 15.2 12 4 1 0 11 6.3 0.77 2.30
P. Martinez 2 2 1 0 0 0 11 16 9 2 6 12 9.8 2.00 7.36
B. Arroyo 2 2 0 1 0 0 8.1 14 9 0 6 7 7.6 2.40 9.72
Tim Wakefield 1 1 0 1 0 0 4 8 5 2 1 4 9 2.25 11.25
Totals 7 7 3 2 0 0 38.3 50 27 5 13 34 7.99 1.64 6.34

 

Man, 7 starts, 38 innings and some ugly stuff. Yes, I know, the sample size is small, but wow. Let’s hope the law of averages applies here to everyone but Curt Schilling. The other 3 have been so bad, they are due for a good game.

 

So how did Boston win the season series against Anaheim, it must have been the offense. Yup, it was the offense. Here is the projected 9 for Boston in game one and how they did during the regular season against Anaheim:

 

NAME POS G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Johnny Damon cf 9 35 9 13 3 0 2 22 3 4 3 1 0 .371 .436 .629 1.064
Mark Bellhorn 2b 9 31 7 10 5 0 0 15 2 7 5 0 0 .323 .447 .484 .931
Manny Ramirez lf 7 25 6 8 2 0 3 19 8 4 7 0 0 .320 .400 .760 1.160
David Ortiz dh 8 30 5 9 2 1 2 19 9 5 9 0 0 .300 .378 .633 1.012
Kevin Millar 1b 8 27 4 7 1 0 2 14 6 1 6 0 0 .259 .276 .519 .794
Jason Varitek c 8 31 3 11 3 0 0 14 2 3 6 1 0 .355 .429 .452 .880
Orlando Cabrera ss 3 13 4 5 2 1 0 9 2 2 4 0 0 .385 .467 .692 1.159
Trot Nixon rf 4 14 1 5 1 0 0 6 0 1 1 0 0 .357 .400 .429 .829
Bill Mueller 3b 6 22 3 6 2 0 1 11 4 2 7 0 0 .273 .320 .500 .820
Totals 62 228 42 74 21 2 10 129 36 29 48 2 0 .325 .401 .566 .967

 

The starting 9 as a total have close to a 1.000 OPS. That is good. Again, a small sample size indeed.

 

The good news is that Anaheim pitchers posted a 5.67 ERA in 2004 against Boston and hit just slightly less well that Boston batters did. So, perhaps both teams failed to put their best foot forward during the regular season.

 

Here are the expected match-ups and times, lifted straight from ESPN:

 

Tuesday, Oct. 5
Boston (Schilling 21-6) at Anaheim (Washburn 11-8), 4:09 p.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday, Oct. 6
Boston (Martinez 16-9) at Anaheim (Colon 8-12), 10:09 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday, Oct. 8
Anaheim (Escobar 11-12) at Boston (Arroyo 10-9 or Wakefield 12-10), 4:09 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday, Oct. 9
Anaheim or Minnesota at Boston, if necessary
Sunday, Oct. 10
Boston at Anaheim or Minnesota, if necessary
The one thing here is that this absolutely stinks for Boston TV viewers. Game 1 at 4pm and game 2 at 10pm?!? That is bad news for Boston fans. That basically means all you managers out there, expect a large portion of your employee base to have to leave early for a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday and a total lack of production on Thursday…should anyone make it into the office. You’ll know which people watched the late Wednesday game immediately.

 

I can honestly say I wouldn’t be surprised at any outcome for Boston this 2004 playoffs. They might get swept by Anaheim or they might go all the way. There is no one team I’d consider the favorite in the American League. Each playoff team has its problems. I suppose St. Louis might be the favorite in the National League, they did win 9 more games than any other NL team in 2004.

 

Here are some hopes for the ALDS. I’m hoping Pedro has figured things out and is going to pitch lights out, I’m hoping Tim Wakefield’s last start was an indication of things to come and I’m hoping the Angels pitchers performing against Boston like the did during the regular season against Boston.

 

Jared Washburn had a 6.10 ERA in 10.1 innings, Bartolo Colon had a 5.52 ERA in 14.2 innings and Kelvim Escobar had a 4.50 ERA in 6 innings. Then again, Brendan Donnelly had a 0.00 ERA in 3.1 innings, Francisco Rodriguez had a 0.00 ERA in 5.1 innings and Kevin Gregg (who?) had a 0.00 ERA in 6.1 innings over 3 games. Yikes, their bullpen seemed to do well, especially their set-up men. The good news is that Troy Percival had a 9.00 ERA in 2 innings.

 

All this stuff mean squat as come playoffs, as something special seems to happen. That which made you successful during the regular season, seems to lose relevance. Just look at the Oakland A’s the past few years.

 

The playoffs produce special things. Does it matter that Terry Francona has never managed a playoff game, or that Orlando Cabrera has never played in a playoff game. Does that really mean anything? Does experience play a big role, or does an innate trait take over, something that can’t be learned?

 

Does a career .300 hitter hit .300 in the playoffs, or does he fail while the career back-up wins the ALCS MVP? That’s what makes baseball so wonderful. Anything can and does happen.

 

Anyway, here’s what we’ve all waited 162 games for, the playoffs.

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

Red Sox September 2007

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.

 

No?

 

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.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

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.

 

Posted by Andy at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2004

 

Expected Wins

 

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.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

Red Sox August 2004

August 12, 2004

 

Hot Topics: Dale Sveum

 

I’d like to review a few recent hot topics:

 

Dale Sveum – In today’s 6-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Red Sox had 2 runners thrown out at home plate. In both cases, Rocco Baldelli was behind the outfield throw.

 

After the game today, instead of focusing on the great shutout thrown by Pedro Martinez, Red Sox fans and WEEI host Pete Sheppard called for Dale Sveum’s head. It wasn’t all Sveum talk, but it was more than half of the first hour.

 

Sveum is the Red Sox thirdbase coach. Sveum is a fairly young coach and given that he was playing in the majors up until 1999, he couldn’t possibly have that much experience as a coach. He must have shown Terry Francona and Red Sox brass something during the off season.

 

Is Sheppard right? You judge.

 

Here is a list of Sveum’s failures at home plate this season (on plays from the outfield. I also assumed in each case the runner didn’t ignore a stop sign b/c I just don’t know).

 

8/12/04 – Millar at home. Assist R. Baldelli. Red Sox win 6-0.
8/12/04 – Varitek at home. Assist R. Baldelli. Red Sox win 6-0.
8/8/04 – Cabrera at home. Assist C. Monroe. Red Sox win 11-9.
8/6/04 – Mientkiewicz at home. Assist R. White. Red Sox lose 3-4.
8/4/04 – Roberts at home. Assist R. Baldelli. Red Sox lose 4-5.
8/2/04 – Ramirez at home. Assist C. Crawford. Red Sox win 6-3.
7/4/04 – Mueller at home. Assist C. Thomas. Red Sox lose 4-10.
7/3/04 – Ramirez at home. Assist A. Jones. Red Sox win 6-1.
6/4/04 – Bellhorn at home. Assist M. Stairs. Red Sox lose 2-5.
5/12/04 – Ramirez at home. Assist M. Lawton. Red Sox lose 4-6.

 

It is interesting to note that 6 of the 10 outs at home (on throws from the outfield) have occurred in the past 10 days and Rocco Baldelli had 3 assists himself.

 

Is Sheppard right? I have no idea. In fact, I don’t even know if anyone has ever decided to record thirdbase coaches success/failure rates before. I had to go through each Red Sox game this year to come up with the data above.

 

No where on the world wide web did I find a stat source that compiled this crap. I’m not saying it is meaningless, but instead an unknown. Bill James, can you help us out here?

 

It might be possible the average team has 20 runners thrown out at home each year and that Sveum is well under that pace. Maybe the average team only has 10 and Sveum has already reach that. I don’t know and I bet Pete Sheppard doesn’t know either.

 

Additionally, you’d expect a high scoring offense like the Red Sox to be in a position to have more runners trying to score than a low powered offense. More times heading toward home is of course going to lead to more outs at home.

 

Sheppard went as far to say that Dave Roberts being thrown out at home on 8/5 “lost the game for the Red Sox.”

 

What?

 

They weren’t exactly winning the game when that out occurred, where they Pete?

 

BOSTON 9TH
-Top of the 9th inning
-K Millar singled to left.
-D Roberts ran for K Millar.
-D Roberts to second on passed ball by T Hall.
-D Mientkiewicz singled to center, D Roberts thrown out at home. D Mientkiewicz to second advancing on throw.
-B Mueller grounded out to second, D Mientkiewicz to third.
-G Kapler hit by pitch.
-J Damon popped out to first.

 

Above is the Red Sox ninth inning play-by-play for the 8/4 game.

 

Even had Sveum held Roberts, the infield probably would have been in and Mueller’s subsequent grounder to second would have either led to Roberts staying on third and Mueller getting thrown out at first or Roberts being thrown out at home if he’d run (with Mueller reaching first and Mientkiewicz reaching third)

 

Then Kapler gets hit by a pitch. The situation would have been bases loaded and one down.

 

Damon’s pop out to first would have made it 2 outs and then the big question is what would the next guy have (Youkilis) done? Sheppard suggested he’d have won the game for them….or at least tied it with the Red Sox winning later.

 

My point here is that this is a typical knee-jerk reaction. Look at the big picture and then judge. Additionally, until anyone has stats or historical performance for this sort of thing, zip it!

 

Now that I’ve said that, watch Epstein fire Sveum tomorrow…..

 

Nomar – I wish this whole Nomar debacle would just go away. He is gone. Let’s take the high road here and wish him luck, congratulate him on a wonderful career with the Red Sox and lastly welcome the 2 new guys and focus on winning.

 

Both Nomar and Red Sox management have looked pretty foolish in this mess. Let’s not forget the Boston media too. They will do anything to keep this garbage alive. I sometimes wonder why we seem to be the only town in America to let this sort of thing happen.

 

Millar – Wow has he been hitting the stuffing out of the ball. Since the all-star break (through 8/11) he has gone .395/.457/.691.

 

He’s also shot off his mouth a bit too. Last week he openly questioned Terry Francona’s line-up inconsistency. If I were Francona, I’d have A.) fined him as heavily as I could under current laws/rules, B.) told him to shut-up from now own or have his ass married to the bench.

 

Francona is the one guy that stuck with Millar through his positively horrid first half. Millar had 25 RBI in his first 81 games to go along with 5 home runs. That isn’t first baseman/DH production. In fact, Millar’s slump could be traced back to last year. His 2003 second half yielded .251/.331/.421 with 11 HRs and 35 RBI.

 

So the fact that Francona stuck with him despite much rumbling from fans only to have Millar sell Francona down the river is pathetic. If Millar is the leader he’d like you to think he is, he should show more respect for his manager and get in better shape. That would show leadership.

 

Ok, that probably goes too far on my part. Millar did apologize, but man, what was he thinking? He still could be in much better shape though. Tubby.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

Red Sox July 2004

July 31, 2004

 

So Long Nomar

 

So long Nomar.

 

It finally happened. Even though the 4:00pm trade deadline, for non-waiver trades, came and went this past Saturday and no news of any significant Red Sox trades were hitting the wire, one almost felt as though something must have happened, but someone just forgot to tell us.

 

In fact, I was looking at the MLB.com website up until 4:10pm and then listed to the radio beyond that and heard nothing. It wasn’t until the co-author (Peter) on this site called me to tell me the news:

 

Nomar to the Chicago Cubs, from the Red Sox
Cash and Matt Murton to the Chicago Cubs, from the Red Sox
Doug Mientkiewicz to the Red Sox, from the Minnesota Twins
Orlando Cabrera to the Red Sox, from the Montreal Expos

 

It was actually a 4 team trade, but those are the only moves that involved the Red Sox.

 

Nomar is a great shortstop. He is as talented as any shortstop that has ever played the game (yes, even Honus Wagner and ARod). I am thrilled to have been able to see him play in Boston for the past 10 seasons. I enjoyed watching his patented throw from deep in the hole and I was amazed seeing his 3 home run game in person. There are obviously many more things, but I haven’t got all day.

 

I wish him nothing but the best from here on out. Good luck Nomar.

 

Ok, now that that is out of my system, it’s time to break this deal down.

 

Orlando Cabrera: Cabrera is in his 8th major league season. He is eligible for free agency after earning $6mm this season. Cabrera has been primarily been used as a shortstop during his career.

 

He is an above average fielder:

 

Fld % Range
Career* .976 4.45
League Avg* .969 4.36
* through 2003

 

Not that you are interested, but Nomar posted a .969 fielding % and a 4.41 range through 2003 compared to league averages of .973 and 4.38 respectively.

 

So Cabrera is better than Nomar with the glove. Offensively, they aren’t even close, although Cabrera isn’t that bad.

 

AB R HR RBI SB BB .Avg .Obp .Slg Ops
Cabrera 3288 407 66 381 93 233 .267 .315 .405 .720
Nomar 3968 709 178 690 84 279 .323 .370 .553 .923

 

Ok, Nomar is in another world offensively. It wasn’t until I did up this table that I realized how much better Nomar is as a batter.

 

But, take a look at the past 3 years (2001-2003) for each hitter:

 

AB R HR RBI SB BB .Avg .Obp .Slg Ops
Cabrera 1815 223 38 232 68 143 .279 .331 .424 .755
Nomar 1376 234 56 233 24 87 .305 .349 .523 .872

 

That closes that gap a little bit. But still, Nomar’s loss will be felt most at the plate.

 

Overall, I have to assume Theo Epstein felt losing Nomar this off season without getting anything in return was too great a risk. Yes, if the Red Sox had offered him arbitration and he signed elsewhere, they would have gotten that other team’s top pick and a sandwich pick, but there also remained the possibility Nomar would accept arbitration and be rewarded a salary far higher than the Red Sox were willing to pay.

 

By trading Nomar now, they get something in return and lose a player in Nomar that just didn’t appear to be having any fun playing in Boston.

 

Doug Mientkiewicz – Mientkiewicz is a slick fielding first baseman earning $2.8mm this year. He is under contract through 2005 ($3.75mm) with an option for 2006 ($3.75mm, I’m not sure if it is a player, team or a mutual option). Mientkiewicz is in his 7th season.

 

Mientkiewicz won the gold glove at first in 2001. That is 1 more gold glove than Kevin Millar, David Ortiz and David McCarty combined (no offense to the good gloved McCarty). He is a good at getting on base, but lacks the power you usually see in first basemen.

 

I expect he’ll play against righties and be the designated defensive glove at first in late innings. This might mean the end for David McCarty’s tenure here in Boston.

 

Because I did it for Nomar and Cabrera, here are Mientkiewicz’s career stats:

 

AB R HR RBI SB BB .Avg .Obp .Slg Ops
M’kiewicz 1863 239 38 241 9 262 .279 .371 .415 .786

 

I suppose Epstein had Mientkiewicz included in the deal because he just isn’t convinced Kevin Millar is back to his old self, despite his recent turnaround (.380/.437/.658 in July). Without the ability to hit, Kevin Millar is just another borderline first baseman.

 

The thing that bothers me most about this trade is the fact the Red Sox had to give up Matt Murton and cash (presumably to even out the deal financially). I would think Nomar alone would have been enough to get Cabrera and Mientkienwicz. But that is just me. I guess this means I’m not overly thrilled with this trade overall. I’m not saying I am mad that the Red Sox traded Nomar, I’m just not happy with the value they got back versus what they gave up.

 

I know many will knock Epstein for not getting another starting pitcher, but one would have to assume that he tried, but the Cubs just didn’t want to part with Matt Clement or any one of their other talented pitchers.

 

The Red Sox line-up certainly isn’t what it was prior to this trade. But close watching fans know that the Red Sox weren’t lacking runs, they were lacking defense. This trade certainly helps them defensively, especially at first base.

 

Additionally, I would suggest not dwelling on the loss of Nomar. He is gone and there’s nothing we can do about it. Focus on the team as it is now constituted.

 

There was one more move for the Red Sox. They traded early season acquisition Henri Stanley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dave Roberts. Roberts is fast and can play all 3 outfield positions (although CF and LF are his specialties based on his recent experience).

 

I mentioned Roberts’ speed. This year he has 33 steals and only 1 caught stealing. He’ll make an excellent pinch runner and utility outfielder. I’m not sure his arrival will mean he has taken over for the recently done-for-the-year Trot Nixon, but he’ll compliment the other options from which Terry Francona has to choose.

 

It remains to be seen how this trade will help/hurt the Red Sox. At the very worst, they are a better defensive team with less run production. At the best, Cabrera, Mientkiewicz and Roberts will click and send this team into an August and September hot streak.

 

Some quick reviews of various Red Sox fans sites and I have the feeling most people thing the primary trade stinks. I must say I was surprised Matt Clement wasn’t involved, but that’s the way things go. I’m not sure this trade stinks, but I do think the Red Sox could/should have gotten more.

 

My faith in this team and management isn’t shaken however. For those that turn on Epstein for this one forever are too quick to react. After all, how many other bad moves does he have under his belt?

 

Posted by Andy at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004

 

What is Going On Here?

 

To me, this season feels like the 2001 season. The Red Sox were in the thick of it back in 2001 until the 2nd half when things absolutely fell apart. Jimy Williams got canned and Joe Kerrigan took over. I remember learning about the Williams firing while driving up to Maine. I thought “boy, this could be the kick in the seat the team needs!”

 

Boy was I (and Dan Duquette) wrong.

 

So what is wrong with this squad? Is it Terry Francona? Management/ownership? The players?

 

During spring training this year, a gentleman, whose hobby is baseball prognostication, emailed me. His publication was called the Baseball Bulletin. His focus was specifically forecasting how the AL East would wind up in 2004.

 

His pre-season write-up had the following outcome in the AL East:

 

New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Devil Rays

 

The first one wasn’t a big surprise, but picks 2-4 were. His reasoning for having Toronto and Baltimore in the 2-3 spots were more a result of the failings of Boston, not because Toronto and Baltimore were anything special.

 

His feeling for Boston was that the choice of Terry “Franconia” to manage the Red Sox was the beginning of the end. His Red Sox brief was devoid of any explanation as to why “Franconia” was the wrong choice. So, I won’t talk about this guy any further except to say could he might be right (even without explanation).

 

I don’t know.

 

Here is a hunch. Name a few managers that run a tight ship:

 

Joe Torre
Buck Showalter
Tony LaRussa
Lou Pinella

 

What I mean by a tight ship is one where players are NOT free to come and go as they please. The are expected to do things a certain way. No exceptions.

 

Well with the Red Sox players seem to do whatever they feel like doing. Some examples are Pedro Martinez leaving early for the All-Star break, Manny not properly communication his hamstring problems and David Ortiz pulling a nutty the other day.

 

Beyond that, it is just a sense that there isn’t enough unity in achieving the ultimate goal. I’m not saying that not all Red Sox players want to win a World Series, but I don’t think they can collectively get there if they aren’t working in unison.

 

Not to say a collection of independently minded players can’t win the World Series, I just don’t think they can contend year after year.

 

So, there’s my totally unsubstantiated theory of the week.

 

By the way, if I had to put the current 40-man roster into 2 groups, group A being players that play the game the right way and respect the concept of team focus and group B being players that are either more in it for themselves or just aren’t good at being focused on team success, I’d be here a long time. So instead of that, I’ll give some prime examples of guys how belong in either group A or B:

 

Group A Group B
Kapler Manny
Varitek Kim
Wakefield

 


I probably have no business conducting this exercise, but so what.

 

Notes:

 

The Red Sox pulled off a major trade in acquiring Ricky Gutiérrez today. This move says to me: “With Pokey Reese going down, we figured trading outside the organization was a far better move than recalling Cesar Crespo.”

 

Ok, so it isn’t major, but it does give the Red Sox some depth in the infield. They need it considering with Nomar getting a night off, Bellhorn is playing shortstop and Mueller second.

 

In Wednesday night’s game, Manny Ramirez pulled one of the biggest bonehead plays I’ve seen before. On a deep ball to center, Johnny Damon failed to make the catch. Manny thought it a good idea to act as a cutoff man thus turning what should have been a throw from Damon to the cutoff man to the catcher into a play of Damon-Manny-Bellhorn-Varitek.

 

Each of the throws were of the pathetic nature by the way. Damon’s was his usual I’m really a righty throw, Manny’s was from his knees and Bellhorn’s spiked off the pitchers mound.

 

This team needs to wake up.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2004

 

Start of the 2nd Half

 

So the Red Sox went 48-38 in the 1st half. Not much point in rehashing the ugly details other than to say I believe everyone thinks they can do better. Well, not everyone, but most folks.

 

Now onto the 2nd half and the approach of the non-waiver trade deadline. As a way of capturing the spirit of the trade deadline, I’ve come up with a few titles:

 

Trade-O-Rama
Trippedy-Trade-Time
Tantamountatudenal-Trade-Triumphantness (courtesy of Don King)

 

While I haven’t settled on a favorite, I think it is safe to say Randy Johnson is the headline trade bait. If you don’t believe me, just check out the poll on our home page.

 

What does Johnson bring to the table? How about these career figures through 2003:

 

230 wins
114 loses
3.10 era
1.18 whip
3122.1 ip
2435 hits
1258 walks
3871 strikeouts(he got his 4000th recently)
57 pants pooped in while facing him.

 

Just ask John Kruk if you don’t believe that last one. Sasky city.

 

While it is true he has been a dominant pitcher since 1993, Johnson is now 40 years old (he’ll turn 41 in September). Should his age play a part in the decision making of any team interested in acquiring him? So far in 2004, Johnson has pitched 129.1 innings with a 2.99 era, 0.90 whip (WOW) and 145 k’s. Those numbers are a vast improvement over his injury filled 2003 season which produced his worst era since 1989.

 

It would appear age hasn’t slowed him down too much. To support that, one only has to look as far as Bill James in Lawrence, KS. James has written in the past that power pitchers last longer than finesse pitchers (knuckleball pitchers not included…after all, there isn’t much finesse in a knuckleball). Using Roger Clemens, Johnson and Nolan Ryan as examples, James might just be right.

 

Personally, I think Johnson would be a great addition to the Red Sox…assuming it is the right price. What I mean by that is Johnson is getting paid $16mm in 2004 and another $16mm in 2005. So the team that trades for him is on the hook for about $8mm this year and $16mm next year. $24mm is a hefty price to pay a soon-to-be 41 year old to pitched for a year and a half.

 

My detractors, and there is a never ending supply, would say “who cares about the money?” Well…I do. I can’t help but worry about next year. Sure if the Red Sox won the World Series this year I wouldn’t mind Johnson pitching from a wheelchair next year, but the fact is, there are quite a few good teams in the majors this year and it isn’t a lock the Red Sox will win the World Series (I could have said that many times the past few….decades after all. Don’t blame me for my down to earth approach).

 

All I’m saying is let’s not mortgage the future to get Johnson today.

 

The odd thing is that the Red Sox would probably have one of the better packages to offer Arizona. Kevin Youkilis did well during his call-up (he was sent down today to make room for Ramiro Mendoza) and Kelly Shoppach, despite his struggles with the bat, would be two top prospects for Arizona.

 

Let’s let this stuff play out. There seem to be a never ending supply of rumors and rumor squashing articles out there. Here is a sampling:

 

Chicago Tribune – 7/15(registration required-free)
Boston Herald – Tony Massarotti 7/15
New York Times – 7/15(registration required-free)
Providence Journal – Art Martone(all-star Art) 7/15(registration required-free)
New York “Gephardt VP” Post – George King 7/15

 

So there you have it.

 

A quick observations. How can anyone think that Pokey Reese is a better option at shortstop than Nomar Garciaparra? Now I’m not trying to pick on anyone, but I’ve heard some fairly well educated people say Pokey is better than Nomar overall.

 

To use a phrase a high school English teacher actually said to me “I think you are dumb for thinking that.”

 

Why? Here’s why!

 

Career Batting through 2003:

 

PA* Avg Obp Slg Runs HRs RBI SB
Pokey 3103 .251 .310 .357 334 41 242 138
Nomar 4291 .323 .370 .555 685 173 669 82
*Plate Appearances

 

Career Fielding through 2003:

 

SS fld % Range Errors Games
Pokey .964 3.84 32 222
Nomar .969 4.41 130 919

 

The fact is, Pokey made his fielding reputation at second base. He won his two gold gloves there, not at shortstop.

 

So far in 2004 with the glove:

 

SS fld % Range Errors Games
Pokey .977 4.86 326 62
Nomar .944 3.63 5 25

 

I will give the nod to Pokey in 2004 defensively, but given the sample size, it doesn’t convince me one bit that Pokey is the better answer at short.

 

Nomar is by far the best option at shortstop. Stop debating it. Stop! I mean it!

 

Posted by Andy at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)

Red Sox June 2004

June 27, 2004

 

So Long A Drought

 

I’m sorry for not posting in such a long time. The play of the Red Sox hasn’t inspired me to write anything.

 

It has been a painful stretch, watching them Red Sox win one, then lose one. The biggest winning streak they’ve had in June is 3 games. The longest losing streak also is 3 games (it was actually 4 but the first game was played on May 31st).

 

I can’t put a finger on what, but something has to change. Could it be an instance where too many guys are playing for a new contract and that has them thinking with a “me first” approach?

 

With Nomar, Pedro, Varitek, Lowe and Ramiro Mendoza all fighting for a new contract (relax, I was kidding about Mendoza), we might be looking at a team not focused.

 

I don’t think anyone can argue that the four mentioned above are all big factors to the team. Are they doing what they should be doing?

 

Varitek
.avg/.obp/.slg games runs hr rbi
2003 .273/.351/.512 142 63 25 85
2004 .281/.390/.450 69 31 9 29

 

Nomar
.avg/.obp/.slg games runs hr rbi
2003 .301/.345/.524 156 120 28 105
2004 .250/.290/.406 16 7 1 9

 

Pedro
era whip w ip h bb k
2003 2.22 1.04 14 186.2 147 47 206
2004 3.73 1.16 8 103.2 93 27 97

 

Lowe
era whip w ip h bb k
2003 4.47 1.42 17 203.1 216 72 110
2004 5.47 1.68 6 82.1 102 36 40

 

Well, they’ve all slipped from last year save perhaps Varitek. While his slugging is lower, his .OBP is much higher.

 

If you consider the 4 above to be key contributors to the 2004 Red Sox cause, then there really isn’t any surprise as to why the Red Sox have been lousy these past two months.

 

Now, I realize that the reason teams do poorly is because the players on that team are doing poorly. I know I haven’t discovered anything here, but when you consider who is playing lousy baseball, you have to think that perhaps all of these outstanding contract issues are effecting the club performance.

 

If so, I imagine Epstein has already commissioned a report from Bill James entitled Unresolved Contracts: A look at superstars playing in their contract years and the impact it has on team performance.

 

In all seriousness, I’m sure that study has been ordered and that Theo will be able to make future decisions based on its content.

 

Anyway, I really think something has to give. Be it a tirade from Terry Francona (“Come on fellas, I’m just frosted at our lousy play. Ahh nutty fudgekins!), a major trade by Epstein (especially one where the Red Sox move a big player to shake things up), or a team meeting call the poor performers out. Or it might be another option all together. I just hope whatever it is, it happens quickly.

 

Notes:

 

It was announced that the Red Sox signed Pedro Astacio to a minor league deal. This is interesting as it is sure to smell like a Dan Duquette styled deal. Astacio is coming off June 2003 surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum.

 

That sounds like serious surgery to me.

 

Astacio was a pretty good pitcher early in his career. Then, he got traded to the Colorado Rockies. His went from 4.14 in 1997 (the year of the trade in which he pitched 153.1 innings in LA and 48.2 in Colorado) to a sloppy 6.23 in 1998.

 

Like any promising pitcher, he went there to die. Mike Hampton is just now recovering from his 2 years in Colorado. Seriously, other than his 1993 season in Seattle in which he threw only 17 innings, Mike Hampton had never posted an ERA at the end of a season higher than 3.83 (1997). In his 2 years on Colorado, he posted a 2001 ERA of 5.41 and a 2002 ERA of 6.15.

 

Dear goodness, why did MLB allow a team back in Colorado? I realize they have every right to have a MLB team and appear to be great fans, but how can this be good for pitchers? Over the past 4 years, the Rockies have posted:

 

2001 ERA – 5.29 (29th)
2002 ERA – 5.20 (28th)
2003 ERA – 5.20 (28th)
2004 ERA – 5.98 (30th)

 

With 2004 being the exception (there’s time yet!), their crappiness is remarkably consistent. Perhaps Rockies GM, Dan O’Dowd, should take note that regardless of his pitching staff, he is probably going to post a 5.20-ish ERA. Interesting…

 

Where were we? Right, Pedro Astacio. Once Astacio left Colorado, he slowly started to improve, until 2003 when doctors found the 2 tears in his shoulder. Probably a result of over-throwing in Colorado

 

I can’t imagine Epstein is counting on Astacio for help this year, but perhaps is trying to garner some good will in hopes that Astacio will re-sign next year and help the 2005 product.

 

Game 2 tonight at Yankee Stadium. Tim Wakefield (4-5, 4.59 ERA) vs. Jon Lieber (5-5, 5.26 ERA). Two pitchers who aren’t pitching well right now.

 

The Red Sox need to find some momentum. Who cares about watching the Yankees? The Red Sox just need to take care of their own house and worry about where they stand at the end of the season. Now get to it, chop, chop.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2004

 

They’re Better Now

 

Since I last posted, Red Sox starters have offered up the following performances:

 

Date Pitcher IP H BB ER K ERA WHIP
6/2 Martinez 5.0 11 2 7 4 12.60 2.60
6/4 Wakefield 6.2 9 4 4 4 5.81 2.10
6/5 Schilling 7.0 6 1 3 3 3.86 1.00
6/6 Lowe 5.0 3 1 2 4 3.60 0.80
6/7 Martinez 8.0 2 1 0 8 0.00 0.38
6/8 Arroyo 5.0 6 2 1 1 1.80 1.60
6/9 Schilling 7.0 6 2 2 8 2.57 1.14

 

Well, if you take out the 6/2 and the 6/4 games, you have a fairly strong run of Red Sox starts, the best being from Martinez on 6/7. It reminded me of the Pedro of 2000.

 

Pedro maintains he prefers pitching in warm weather, well Tuesday night’s game was played in some hot and humid stuff.

 

The biggest development this past week was the return of Nomar Garciaparra Wednesday night. His addition to the line-up extends the heart of the order by one. Ortiz-Ramirez-Garciaparra sounds a whole lot better than Ortiz-Ramirez-Varitek or Ortiz-Ramirez-Millar. You know opposing pitchers think that way too.

 

So far, so good in Nomar’s two games back. He is 2-6 since his return with 1 run and 2 rbi’s. It was good to see him hit that wall ball double in Thursday night’s game. Deep down, I am still nervous that something is wrong with Nomar, above and beyond his Achilles.

 

His September slump and subsequent flop in the playoffs (his ALDS batting average was strong, but it lacked pop and his ALCS performance stunk) worried me that perhaps something was ailing the slugger. I don’t know if it was just me, but he seemed to pop up far too many pitches to the infield.

 

Regardless, he is back and only time will tell if he is capable of some positive run generation (PRG – a new Bill James stat perhaps?).

 

With Nomar back, Scott Williamson a day or two away and Trot Nixon a week or so from returning, the Red Sox have a good opportunity to string together some wins and prove they are worth their high payroll.

 

Trot’s return will especially help as Gabe Kapler just hasn’t gotten it done with the bat. With Trot’s return, I see the following line-up:

 

Damon – cf
Youkilis – 3b
Nomar – ss
Manny – lf
Ortiz – dh
Millar – 1b
Nixon – rf
Varitek – c
Reese/Bellhorn – 2b

 

That is a fairly imposing line-up. Better than the one with Kapler, Crespo and McCarty in it.

 

With interleague play here, I’m fairly interested to see the Red Sox at Pac Bell. The match-up I can’t wait for is Pedro vs. Barry Bonds. I believe Pedro is scheduled to pitch the 6/19 (Saturday) game. From what I can tell, it is Fox’s game of the week, so the Giants and Red Sox will share the national stage. That should be fun.

 

Maybe some real pitching will make Bonds look human…as human as a steroid user can look anyway. That wasn’t fair of me…

 

Posted by Andy at 08:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2004

 

Lowe Down Dirty Shame

 

The Boston papers have already played this one to death, but in case you missed it, Derek Lowe stinks.

 

So far in 2004?

 

51.1 innings
74 hits
25 walks
49 runs
39 earned runs
21 strikeouts
6.84 ERA
1.93 Whip

 

Ugly.

 

In my 2/23/04 piece, I mentioned Lowe’s inconsistency. It is now rearing its ugly head. Is it too much to think that Lowe doesn’t belong in the rotation? A 6.84 ERA just about assures a team of failure. Some might prefer to look at Lowe’s terrible May (8.19 ERA) and say it’s just one month, but his April (4.98) was sub-par too.

 

I’m not sure I care why he is pitching poorly. I just hope that he and Dave Wallace can figure it out soon. If not, let’s hope Terry Francona makes the appropriate decision. I think “hope” is playing too much into this equation.

 

Let’s look at the rest of the rotation:

 

Player IP H BB R ER K ERA WHIP
Pedro 70.2 65 18 32 30 72 3.82 1.17
Schilling 78.0 75 11 26 26 70 3.00 1.10
Wakefield 62.2 57 20 28 25 36 3.59 1.23
Arroyo 45.0 44 12 31 25 33 5.00 1.24

 

Schilling and Wakefield have certainly pitched well. Pedro hasn’t been awful, but he has not been his normal Pedro self. He posted a 3.00 ERA in April, but had a 4.50 in May. What’s been most striking is the amount of hits he’s allowed.

 

Coming into this season, Pedro had only allowed just under .75 hits per inning. This season he is at just under .93 hits/inning. While .93 isn’t terrible (in fact it is still quite good) and the sample size is quite small it is still worth watching.

 

On a side note, Pedro had averaged just .729 hits per inning as a member of the Red Sox coming into this season. But, a big portion of that low number came from his 2000 season when he allowed just .590 hits per inning. Amazing.

 

1998 – .804
1999 – .750
2000 – .590
2001 – .720
2002 – .723
2003 – .787

 

2000 was an anomaly, but one carried out over 217 innings. That’s why many people believe Pedro’s 2000 season was the best by a pitcher ever. His WHIP was the best ever in a season.

 

Oh yeah, he only walked 32 while striking out 284.

 

Back to the rotation. Bronson Arroyo has pitched his share of good games this year, but he has also thrown a few stinkers. In fact, he has thrown just 3 quality starts (at least 6 innings and no more than 3 earned runs) in 7 tries.

 

His performance also bears watching (bares or bears?).

 

Last week I mentioned how much fun I was having watching Kevin Youkilis play. Well that hasn’t changed. I had predicted some tough times for him, but they have yet to arrive. So far, he is hitting .318 with a .446 OBP and a .447 SLG. That’ll keep him in the majors a while.

 

For those that don’t believe OBP plays a big role in a batters value, look at Youkilis who has scored 15 runs in only 13 games. Look at Mark Bellhorn, he of the .247 average but .389 OBP. He has scored 38 runs in 49 games.

 

Now look at Pokey Reese. He is hitting .255 with just a .297 OBP and has scored just 21 runs in 47 games. Dusty Baker and Jack McKeon, are you listening? Ok, I’ll give Mr. McKeon a pass seeing as he just won the World Series.

 

Onto the first left coast trip of the year. All true Red Sox fans are easily identified what with the shadows under their eyes the following morning. The good news is that the Red Sox only play Tuesday and Wednesday with 10pm starts. Then it is on to Kansas City and more reasonable viewing times.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

One Third Done

On the eve of interleague play, the Yankees have reached the conclusion of the first third of the season, a point where it is still too early to sweat the standings, but long enough to see some individual trends and patterns. Clearly, it has been a successful first third of the season for the Yankees; they end it with a 35-20 record, which is the best mark in baseball. This is even more impressive when you consider they were 8-11 after getting swept at home by the Red Sox.

The 2004 edition of the Yankees is currently made up of mediocre starting pitching, an excellent bullpen and a scary lineup. Let’s take a look at each area of the team.

Unlike years past, the Yankees do not roll out a starter who can dominate every day. Mike Mussina got off to a horrible start, but seems to be getting back on track. Kevin Brown was great at the start of the season, but has been roughed up as of late. Javier Vazquez has been dominating, but tends to give up a long ball at the most inopportune times. Jon Lieber has been up and down; his last two starts the down part of his season. Jose Contreras, I don’t want to talk anymore about Jose Contreras. On talent alone, this squad should improve and the Yankees will definitely need better in October.

The reason why the Yankees have not been hurt by their so-so starting pitching is that their bullpen has been lights out. Mariano has converted 23 out of 24 saves and Tom Gordon has given Joe Torre a second closer out of the bullpen. Paul Quantrill has been solid, with a few bumps along the way. The only real problem in the bullpen has been the lefties, White and Heredia have been terrible, but Joe Torre hasn’t needed to use them in crucial situations.

Offensively, the Yankees are a team you can never count out of a game, regardless of the score. A Rod, Sheffield, Matsui, Posada and Giambi are all having monster years. Ruben Sierra has been great when used. Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo have hit enough to cover second. The only real problems in the lineup are Bernie and Jeter. Bernie’s OPS has gone from .601 in April to .789 in May to .868 in June. An OPS over .800 for the season would make the Yankees happy. Jeter seems to have turned things around since the end of May, but he has a lot of hitting to do to get up to his normal career levels.

So, the Yankees head into the next part of the season with a solid foundation and apart from some minor tweaking here and there, no need for a bigger move- though that doesn’t mean one won’t be made in Yankeeland.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

Some Advice to American League Fans

Robert Caro in his fantastic book, Master of the Senate, details how Lyndon Johnson won the 1948 Texas Senate race by waiting until his opponents’ votes had been counted and then went around to the various precincts to “make sure” that he had enough votes to win. Unfortunately, American League voters will not have this luxury and that is why the first round of All Star votes is so troubling.

Yes, in years past you could go out and vote for your favorite players with a clear conscience, but that all changed when the wizards who wanted to bring us Spider Man covered bases decided to make the All Star Game “matter”. Since pride certainly would no longer motivate players, the thought was that the winning league having home field advantage in the World Series might. Sickening? Absolutely, but it is the system we operate under and therefore it behooves Yankee and Red Sox fans (yes, you from the other side of the page) to vote with their heads and not their hearts. So, let’s take a look at the current leaders at each position and some names who should be considered.

Catcher
Pudge Rodriguez has a good lead over both Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. I would say the fans have it right here and any of the three would make a good choice.

First Base
Jason Giambi is the leader here with Carlos Delgado second. More worrisome is the fact that Red Sox fans have put Kevin Millar third. Come on, Red Sox fans, we need to look at the big picture here, if you won’t vote for Giambi, perhaps writing in Paul Konerko or Ken Harvey would be more palatable.

Second Base
Not surprisingly, Alfonso Soriano leads the vote totals, but the guy who we want on the team, Juan Uribe, hasn’t cracked the top 5, probably because he isn’t on the ballot. This may take some work, but get out those pencils and start writing in his name. (Note to Red Sox fans, not to pick on you, but Pokey Reese is second in votes and he isn’t even the best second baseman on your team!)

Shortstop
I am really not trying to single out Red Sox fans, but Nomar is leading all shortstops and he hasn’t played a game yet! Yankee fans have done little to distinguish themselves in this category by putting Derek Jeter second. Look, Jeter and Nomar are the most popular players on their teams, but the American League needs Miguel Tejada or Michael Young at shortstop. Put the partisanship aside and look at the numbers, it isn’t even close.

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez is first and would be a good choice, but Red Sox fans should feel free to vote for Hank Blalock as I imagine voting for A Rod may just be too painful.

Outfield
The leaders are Vlad Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and…Johnny Damon. Ok, I have picked on Red Sox fans enough; let’s just leave it at the fact that hairstyles won’t help the AL in the actual game. Manny and Vlad make a great pair and Carlos Beltran would be a fantastic way to round out the outfield. (And give the AL a true Centerfielder in case anyone is worried about outfield defense.)

I am quite sure that I will receive plenty of angry emails from Red Sox fans. Let me just say, I admire your loyalty, but you will be sorry if Game Seven of the World Series is at Minute Maid Park and not Fenway because the American League did not field the best team possible in the All Star Game.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the performances of Tanyon Sturtze and Bret Prinz in Jose Contreras’s latest train wreck. Yes, Sturtze gave the Yankees 4 1/3 innings of shutout relief, but he gave up five hits and four walks in those innings. I stand by my original statement; he just doesn’t belong on the roster and a better team than the Orioles would have figured out how to score on him Wednesday night.

As for Prinz, he certainly passed his first test with a very impressive seventh inning. He needs to be put out there a few more times before we will know what we have, but it was a good start.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

The Bridge, Part 2

At the conclusion of a successful road trip, the Yankees returned home to almost blow a five run lead in the ninth. They avoided a devastating loss, but again they needed to use Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera in a game they should have put away easily.

Now, the decision to use Quantrill was interesting, he came into the game with a four run lead. Yes, he has traditionally pitched the seventh inning this year, shouldn’t this be the spot to use someone else? After all, the “Big 3” are first, second and third in appearances in the American League this year. Gabe White, Felix Heredia and Tanyon Sturtze have been terrible and the fact that Joe won’t use them with a four run lead speaks volumes.

The problem is, you can’t send the same three guys out night after night and expect them to always click. Part of the reason the Yankees signed Quantrill and Gordon was to reduce Rivera’s workload. While he hasn’t appeared in the eighth inning much this year, he is still being used a ton. Quantrill’s ERA was twice as high in May as it was in April. Clearly, the Yankees need to have a fourth option in the bullpen to give these guys a night off.

The good news this weekend was that Steve Karsay has hit 94mph in a rehab start and his miraculous recovery may put him back in the Bronx by mid-June. However, Karsay cannot be counted on as a fulltime contributor just yet. The Yankees need to look at three different options to provide that fourth arm: Brett Prinz, Scott Proctor and Colter Bean.

Prinz is back in the majors after Kenny Lofton’s latest hamstring problem has landed him on the DL. While this stay is supposedly only temporary, until Giambi comes back Sunday, the Yankees should pitch him as much as possible and try him out in some tough situations, it’s time to find out what he is really worth.

The same can be said of Scott Proctor. Proctor has a powerful fastball and seems the perfect candidate to deliver the big strikeout. His control can be off at times, but I am willing to bet that Mel can help him trust his stuff more and cut down on his walks.

The last candidate is Colter Bean. Bean was actually selected by the Red Sox last winter in the Rule 5 draft, but returned to the Yankees when the Sox didn’t put him on their opening day roster. Bean has been awesome in Columbus striking out 36 in 29 innings while only giving up 17 hits and 3 runs. Those numbers are certainly worthy of a major league tryout.

All of this is a polite way of saying that Tanyon Sturtze stinks. This is not surprising as he has bounced from place to place in his career and has a career ERA of 5.20 in over 600 innings. Trading for Sturtze was a desperate play to get another candidate to start in place of Donovan Osborne. Osborne is gone and Contreras is pitching somewhat effectively, it is time for Sturtze to go. Get one of the other three in there and let’s see what they can do.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

What’s Wrong With Jeter

As requested, today’s column will take on the much written about subject of Derek Jeter’s missing bat. The multitude of theories as to the reasons he is hitting below .200 can be broken down to these:

1- He has suddenly gotten old
2- His approach is hurting him
3- He is hurt
4- He has a psychological problem with sharing the same infield with A Rod

Let’s take a look at each one.

Jeter is 29 years old; about to turn 30, he has been in the majors for the past nine years and played over 1200 games. These are substantial amounts, but nothing that should have him worn out already. The fact is players of Jeter’s caliber do not suddenly flame out at thirty. A couple of years past thirty and they certainly do, but the clock has not struck midnight for Derek yet.

As to his approach, it is hard to think that something that got him 1500 hits and a career average of .317 before this season has suddenly turned against him. However, he is on pace to strike out 135 times and walk only 45. This may be more a factor of his pressing at the plate and not a sign of a flaw in his swing that pitcher’s have suddenly found and started to exploit. Jeter has always been a free swinger and it is hard to put too much emphasis on projections only one-quarter of the way through the season.

Injury is the most common reason given for his struggles. He must be hurt and not saying anything is the way the story goes. This is the hardest argument to believe as in watching Jeter it is hard to see any difference in his game. Last year, after he came back from his shoulder injury, you could see he wasn’t as aggressive on the basepaths or in the field. This year, your eye tells you something different. Furthermore, the statistical evidence doesn’t backup the injury hypothesis. Jeter is on pace to have one of his best defensive seasons ever. His current range factor is 4.8, an improvement of a point from last season. Yes, the Yankees are turning more double plays, and this helps increase his range factor, but the rate of increase in double plays is not as high as the rate of increase in his assists and putouts. For those of you who don’t like Range Factor as a measure of defense, his current Zone Rating (a percentage of balls fielded by a player in his defensive area) is .895, almost .40 points higher than the best mark of his career. I find it very hard to believe that he would be able to play that level of defense with an injury.

And that brings us to the last argument and the hardest one to prove, that A Rod’s presence is somehow affecting Derek’s offensive performance. It is hard to believe that someone who has consistently performed at such a high level and in high-pressure situations would have a problem with any new teammate, but I suspect that Derek may be pressing a little because of A Rod. Let’s face it, almost everyone (me included) said that A Rod should be the shortstop and Derek should change his position, not the other way around. I don’t care how accomplished a person you are, any type of criticism like that would cause you to want to prove people wrong. I suspect Derek has been trying to prove to the world that he is a great shortstop. As we have seen with almost all the new players coming to the Yankees in recent years, pressing like that doesn’t work well. (See Giambi in 2002, A Rod at the start of 2004 and Sheffield to date) Hitting in the majors is hard enough without having to lug any extra pressures to the plate.

Am I right? Only time will tell, if Derek starts hitting again and no other explanation is given, then I would say I am. If he continues to perform poorly in 2004 then perhaps he is suffering from a mysterious injury or something that I haven’t thought of in this column.

Peter’s columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday and he can be reached at peter@yankeesredsox.com

Red Sox May 2004

May 23, 2004

 

Back to Their Winning Ways

 

The Red Sox swept the Blue Jays this weekend. Good stuff. Now on to some tougher competition. The Oakland A’s come to town on Tuesday, followed by the Seattle Mariners.

 

Hold on a moment. Oakland is good (24-18 through 5/22) but Seattle is terrible (14-28 through 5/22). What happened to Seattle?

 

More on that in a moment.

 

Coming into the Blue Jays series, the Red Sox were 9-11 for the month of May. With the sweep, they are 12-11. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they’ve had a very easy schedule in May. They’ve faced the Rangers (4 games), the Royals (3 games), the Blue Jays (7 games), the Indians, (7 games) and the Devil Rays (3 games).

 

Those teams through 5/22 had a combined record of 85-121. Yikes, that is some terrible competition. Take out the 25-17 Rangers and the rest of them were a combined 60-104. Brutal.

 

So the fact the Red Sox have only gone 12-11 goes to show A.) How bad they have been playing and B.) How lucky they are to have had such an easy schedule in May.

 

Imagine if they’d been playing the Angels, the Yankees and the Twins instead? Hopefully this drought ended with this weekend’s series and they are back to playing some good baseball.

 

Back to Seattle. What is wrong with these guys? Well for starters, they’ve only hit 28 home runs. That is last in the league. Their #s look like this: .258/.323/.368. That works out to an 691 OPS. Ugly. Compare that to the league leading offense of the Texas Rangers who have hit 60 home runs and have posted .289/.350/.491. Those are 2003 Red Sox-esque.

 

Couple the Mariners lousy offense with an average pitching staff and you’ve got trouble. Oh yeah, they are also very old.

 

P – Player – Year of Birth
C – Dan Wilson – 1969
1b – John Olerud – 1968
2b – Bret Boone – 1969
3b – Scott Spiezio – 1972
ss – Rich Aurelia – 1971
lf – Raul Ibanez – 1972
cf – Randy Winn – 1974
rf – Ichiro – 1973
dh – Edgar Martinez – 1663…wait, 1963

 

So it’s not like it is a bunch of young guys struggling, it is a bunch of old, veteran guys struggling.

 

I bet they’ll figure it out soon enough and might end up at .500 by the end of the season.

 

Notes:

 

David Ortiz signed a 2 year extension for $12.5m with a team option. That’s good news. That leaves Pedro, Lowe, Varitek and Nomar as the remaining star free-agents to be. Here is my prediction (my 5/23 prediction):

 

Nomar – Gone
Varitek – Gone
D-Lowe – Stays
Pedro – Stays

 

Interesting eh? I think that betting goes against coventional wisdom around here. My take is that Nomar just hates the attention he gets here. As for Varitek, he is 32 and, I’ve said it before, catchers rarely have much to contribute past the age of 32. Bill James has published something to this extent and I’m sure Theo Epstein knows about it.

 

Why give a Scott Boros client (Varitek) the $8-10m per season when you have a potential replacement not too far away in the form of Kelly Shoppach. Even if Shoppach isn’t ready in 2005, you could go with a combo of Doug Mirabelli and Andy Dominique or they can sign another catcher as a one year fill in for 2005 until Shoppach is ready.

 

I just can’t see them meeting Boras’ asking price.

 

Lowe stays because unless he fixes his mechanics, no one will give him what he wants anyway. I suppose the only risk in this guess is that perhaps the Red Sox won’t want him either…at any price.

 

As for Pedro, if he was so willing to encourage David Ortiz to stay with the Red Sox, that means he wants to stay here too. I have no idea how well he’ll play this year, but I just can’t see the Red Sox letting him walk, especially if Curt Schilling would be upset and there aren’t many other top line starters going into the market at the end of this year. At least none as good as Pedro.

 

Of course, this isn’t my final answer.

 

There was a rumor floating around that the Red Sox would package Byung-Hyun Kim and Johnny Damon to Seattle for Freddy Garcia and then send Garcia to the Royals for Carlos Beltran.

 

If they were able to make that, that’d be the best move in the history of baseball. Well one of them anyway. Damon is getting paid $8m this year and is due for $8.5m next year. Kim is getting $4m and $6m respectively. Beltran is in the midst of his walk year getting paid $9m. Wow, the Red Sox would be unloading $12m in salary this year, their starting CF, who from all accounts hasn’t done what we’d hoped, and their former 5th starter who is now in AAA for an All-Star CF with 30/30 potential.

 

Wishful thinking. They might still get Beltran, but they’ll have to give up some cheap talent, not expensive talent.

 

Scott Williamson was placed on the DL with mild elbow tendonitis. Good that they caught this now rather than have him deal with it in August. By the way, is anyone else worried that Alan Embree will also get shut down sometime this summer? He is getting used at an high rate and has struggled with elbow/shoulder soreness each of the last 2 seasons. Let’s hope Terry Francona knows this.

 

Lastly, Kevin Youkilis was called up this week to play 3rd while Bill Mueller’s knee gets better. While I would have liked to have seen him play a full 2004 in AAA, it is nice to finally get to see him operate.

 

He does have great command of the strike zone. Not only that, he seems really good at laying off teaser pitches, that is pitches that ultimately break out of the strike zone.

 

But, the fact remains he has only played a few games and is sure to struggle a bit. Let’s hope Mueller gets back soon (and plays better than he has to date) and Youkilis keeps his training up at Pawtucket.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

 

The Jamesian Way

 

I think a good portion of baseball fans could learn a thing or two from reading Peter’s (the Yankee fan on this site) commentary on Bill James and James’ idea of bullpen use.

 

As we all know, the Red Sox 2003 bullpen was horrendous in the first few months. Until B-H Kim showed up, they really didn’t have a closer. Forget about Kim’s struggles later in the season and his 2/3 of an inning in the postseason, there is no doubt he helped the bullpen overall.

 

In April and May, 2003, the media needed to point the finger at someone or something so as to place blame for the scuffling bullpen. Well Bill James, Theo Epstein and their unorthodox beliefs took the heat.

 

How many times did you read something like, “The Red Sox bullpen-by-committee approach failed them again last night.”? The idea being that the Red Sox didn’t need a closer, rather any pitcher could get the last 3 outs of a game.

 

The fact is, Bill James and ultimately Theo Epstein, believes(ed) no such thing. James’ strategy is that each bullpen had a pitcher one can point to as the “closer.” More often than not, the closer is the best pitcher in the bullpen. James goes on to ask, why is it that the best pitcher in the bullpen will only be used to get the last 3-6 outs (usually 3) of a game? Even if those outs don’t represent a particularly difficult situation.

 

Just how tough is it to get 3 outs and therefore the save when your team has a 3 run lead? It really isn’t that tough. Most members of the bullpen can probably get those 3 outs, more often than not.

 

Imagine this scenario: Red Sox winning 6-5 in the sixth inning. Tim Wakefield, the starting pitcher, just doesn’t seem to have a harness on his knuckleball (or his 70 mph fastball for that matter). The opponent has two on and no one out. Grady Lit….er…Terry Francona comes out and relieves Wakefield. Who should he bring in?

 

Well, it is quite possible that the rest of this half of the sixth inning is the most crucial part of the game. If the reliever that Francona summons struggles, there goes the lead and perhaps a chance to win.

 

So, the manager can go with one of his 3 or 4 middle relievers, his set-up man(or men) or his closer. Well I don’t know about you, but since this represents probably the most important spot in the game, I’d bring in my 2nd or 3rd worst bullpen arm (one of my 3 or 4 middle relievers). Right?

 

If you agree, that means you are playing traditional baseball. The rule being you don’t summon your best bullpen arm a/k/a the closer, because it isn’t the 8th or 9th inning.

 

James, on the other hand, would have summoned the “closer” because he is the best arm available at what has presented itself as the biggest potential turning point in the game.

 

My point in talking about all of this is that the Boston media, for the large part, got the strategy the Red Sox were trying to employ wrong.

 

So what about those that say the 2004 Red Sox bullpen is far better than the 2003 version? They are right, that’s because they have a healthy Scott Williamson, a healthy Alan Embree, a great “closer” in Keith Foulke and a handful of other bullpen arms that are pitching well.

 

Basically, the Red Sox have 3 current or former “closers” in their bullpen in Foulke, Williamson and Timlin (4 if you count the recently demoted Kim). They were all, at one time, considered the best arm in their respective bullpen.

 

That’s why the 2004 bullpen is so good, it is because it is loaded with talent. Tons of talent. The key is that James’ figured it was best to use your best guy when he is needed most, be it the 6th or 9th inning.

 

Regardless of what James thinks, Terry Francona has gone back to traditional bullpen management, rightly or wrongly. Foulke has only closed games or worked in tie ballgames, best I can tell with my limited research.

 

It is hard to argue with success, but at the same time, all of the arms in the pen, especially the ones I mentioned by name, have all pitched as well, if not better, than you’d expect given their career stats.

 

Did any of that make sense? If so, great. If not, ask Bill James to explain it. That’s probably your best option as I probably didn’t do his theory justice. By the way, James doesn’t just come up with theories and go from there. He always, ALWAYS, has stats to back him up. I just can’t seem to find any online.

 

Here’s what I did find though:

 

www.billjames.com – A site that deals with nothing to do with the baseball Bill James. In fact, this James appears to be a Brit (I couldn’t verify this, but he just looks British. Is that wrong of me?) who is a consultant/e-business entrepreneur/generalist in all things vague. I really couldn’t figure out what he does or what he is trying to sell/offer.

 

www.billjames.org – Wow, Bill James is a politician? This Bill James is a Republican, serving, for his third two-year team, on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. Don’t forget he represents District 6 (the Pineville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Arboretum areas….derrrrr). Wow, this guy is….is….really, really boring.

 

Well I guess the baseball Bill James doesn’t have his own site, so you’ll have to contact him through his employer, the Boston Red Sox.

 

Notes:

 

The Red Sox just lost their 2nd in a row. Cripes, I hate it when they lose to crappy teams.

 

Posted by Andy at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

 

Wind Bag

 

I have not the energy nor the interest to deal with Pedro’s most recent comments except to say that I really can’t relate to the situation he is in. If I were making $17.5m per season and in the last year of my contract, perhaps I’d have something useful to say, but since I don’t, it just looks like two very rich men with a dispute.

 

As for baseball related stuff, boy did Pedro look bad on Saturday. He just isn’t the same as when he threw 95 mph. That is a fairly obvious statement, but one that needs to be said.

 

I heard someone on WEEI today say that “when Pedro has all of his pitches working and has pin point control, he is a great pitcher.” Well, thanks for that special insight genius. I think if I had 3-4 pitches working and pin point control, I’d be a good pitcher too.

 

My point here is that in order for Pedro to be dominant, he has to have everything working for him. In years past (circa 2000), he didn’t need great control or all of his pitches working. He could rely on his 96-97 mph heat to tip the scales. Without that special weapon though, he has to be firing on all cylinders to be dominant.

 

Take that for what it is worth. I just think Red Sox management is wise to tread lightly with Pedro and his contract status.

 

Speaking of contracts and the Red Sox, let’s take a look at next year’s free agent pool. I found a site, one whose accuracy I haven’t verified, that lists the potential FAs for the 2004-2005 off season.

 

Baseball Roster Central keeps tabs on FAs for this year and beyond. Fairly neat.

 

Of interest, the biggest free agent pitchers (starters) available this coming off season are:

 

Pedro Martinez
Derek Lowe
Freddy Garcia
Matt Clement
Roger Clemens
Odalis Perez
Al Leiter
Kevin Millwood
Kris Benson
Woody Williams
David Wells

 

While not all of the guys above are stars, they certainly have won a few games between them.

 

It is interesting to note that should the Red Sox lose Pedro and Lowe to free agency, they will have a tough time replacing them with equal or better quality. What twosome is better than Pedro and Lowe?

 

Millwood/Clement?
Williams/Perez?

 

It is because of this potential dramatic drop-off in pitching after this year for the Red Sox that I bet either Lowe or Pedro will still be in a Red Sox uniform in 2005 or Theo Epstein will engineer a trade for a major arm. With two of Oakland’s big three scheduled to be free agents after next season, perhaps Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder will come to Boston.

 

Wow, I’m way ahead of myself. It’s barely May and I’m already looking at next year. I can’t help it though. Baseball transactions and finances provide some of the most interesting drama for me. Sniffles.

 

Speaking of drama (or anti-drama), the Red Sox are hitting just .221/.337/.349 with runners in scoring position through May 2. That is horrible. The only good news is that their opponents are hitting only .200/.302/.315 with runners in scoring position.

 

With Nomar Garciaparra, Trot Nixon and Ellis Burks all hurt, I don’t see things changing anytime soon. Add to that the recent slump of Manny Ramirez. Manny went 2-11 with 6 K’s vs. the Texas Rangers this past weekend. Manny and David Ortiz were carrying the offense (Ortiz went 2-11 with 4 K’s against Texas). With them cooling off, someone has to pick it up. Pick it up!!!

 

 

 

Posted by Andy at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)