Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Am The Walrus

Just found out that the mind-altering substance that resulted in the Beatles coming out with flat-out bizarre songs such as "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," and "I Am The Walrus" was nothing other than Bigelow Green Tea. It has strong narcotic powers, as when you are under the influence of Bigelow Green Tea, you think that pitching Scott Proctor every single day won't blow his arm out and makes you think that Jason Varitek is worth giving a baseball uniform to.

In a world when you're drinking Bigelow Green Tea, it also makes sense to pinch-hit for one of your team's hottest hitters with a guy hitting .197 in the major leagues. In the bottom of the ninth in a one-run game when a win means you've clinched a playoff berth. Francona mustn't be thinking clearly.

Granted, Gonzalez has has a rough last three games. Or maybe Francona wants to play the Monty Burns game and put Homer Simpson in against the lefty despite Darryl Strawberry's nine home runs. It's not that he doesn't like Gonzalez's splits against righties, as they're higher than his splits against lefties. And they are also better than Reddick's splits against, well, major league pitchers. (I've used both jokes before, but that happens when you have a blog for three baseball seasons and the manager still makes the same mistakes.)

But seriously, Josh Reddick? Was Varitek not available due to a contract holdout? Did JD Drew tell Francona to do it after he realized his home run increased the chances that he'd have to play more than nine innings of baseball tonight? Someday, Reddick very well might be a good baseball player. But it doesn't change the fact that he's still only 14 months removed from being in Class A Lancaster. And it also doesn't change that he's not that good...right now.

Francona knew this was a game worth trying to win after Nancy put them within a run with his home run. So he put Papelbon in. It was an important game to win, because all they need is ONE (1) to clinch a freaking playoff spot! The magic number has decreased by two (2) in the last five (5) days. Awesome. It might be a good idea to not limp into the playoffs like this, leaving this in the Angels hands after they throw their AAA lineup in after clinching their division last night.

But Josh Reddick was inserted into the lineup, ending the night of a guy hitting .284 since he got traded to the team. Josh Reddick is averaging worse than 1-5, and was 1-7 in pinch hitting appearances. He struck out with a horrible swing, stepping into the bucket.

Now the Red Sox face Halladay, the Rangers face the Angels' AAA affiliate as the major leaguers rest, and the wild card race very well might come down to the last weekend of the season. If the magic number was three after last Thursday's games, that is unacceptable. Prioritize winning games, Francona. Pinch-hitting a .197 hitter for Alex Gonzalez, even if he was as terrible offensively as everyone said he was as a rationale for bringing in Julio Lugo, is not consistent with efforts to win baseball games.

"Knobby" A Wife Beater

Incompetent MLB umpire Tim Tschida, in defense of his friend Chuck "Knobby" Knoblauch, said it looked like from his angle that Knoblauch did not indeed try to give his wife the PJ Carlesimo treatment. Just as he didn't want to consult with other umpires with better vantage points during the 1999 ALCS, Tschida refused to consult the police report or news articles that allege this crime against the former steroid user.

"From my vantage point, it looked like Knobby missed assaulting his wife by at least eighteen inches," said Tschida. As evidenced in the attached photo, it is clear that Tschida doesn't know the difference between one person laying a hand on another versus one person NOT laying a hand on another.

Keith Olbermann's mom, whom Knoblauch once drilled in the head with an errant throw, had no comment on the matter.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Are Not Walking Through That Door

Things that may keep me awake at night:

-The Red Sox are six games over .500 against Toronto (including tonight) and fourteen games over .500 against Baltimore. They are seven games over .500 against everybody else. They are a .767 baseball team against teams that have over 90 losses, a .544 team against other teams. While beating the stuffing out of bad teams is the key to winning over 162, the Red Sox will need to play well against good teams. With the exception of Detroit, this has not happened much since June.

-They have lost seven straight in New York. If this anticipated ALCS actually does happen, four of these games are in New York. Furthermore, anyone remember when the Red Sox won 1 game out of 3 against the Yankees--at home--and people around here considered it a moral victory? Awesome.

-When I found out that Michael Bowden was pitching tonight after the Red Sox seemed to punt the weekend, I was going to rip Francona. I was going to write about how the Red Sox are completely backing into a playoff spot, and that it's not infeasible to see the Rangers win out, forcing the Red Sox to do something they've done twice in their last eight games: Win.

-When I found out WHY Michael Bowden was pitching tonight, that is even more of a concern. Beckett is hurt. And Lester is hurt. If Paul Byrd is on the playoff roster (despite a good outing last night), I'm just going to skip out on all Red Sox games and turn all my attention toward rooting against the Yankees. The fact that Beckett's back has been barking at him for an extended period of time (this is what Castiglione was saying on the radio tonight) explains what the deal was in late August.

But either way you look at it, this is NOT a good time for those guys to get hurt.

-It has really been a roller coaster with this team. All year. Two weeks ago they were looking invincible, Martinez and Gonzalez were the heroes that led them towards the playoffs, and they had a really good chance to possibly take the division again. Now I'm talking about Bigelow Green Tea again.

-The day the "Varitek Triple Crown" was publicized on this blog, Varitek recorded his second triple crown of the year. I am hoping he gets those 15 at-bats so that the Bronx can win his bet. And good for Joe Girardi for exploiting the Red Sox' fatal weakness this weekend.

-This year has been JD Drew's best in a Red Sox uniform, and arguably the best non-contract year of his career. He makes $14 million a year. That should keep you up at night, too.

-I am supporting Terrell Owens in his beef against a former Patriot.

-A Red Sox fan on the radio tonight compared Forty-Six to Willie Mays. Smartest sports fans in the country.

Yankees Clinch AL East, Homefield

Good job by them. I have definitely come to appreciate regular season successes more recently. Only being happy if the Yankees win it all is too boom or bust and takes away some of the enjoyment of the game. This has been an incredible regular season, and I have enjoyed it as much as I've watched. Just a very fun, likeable, and obviously good team which makes for a nice combination.

That said the real business starts next week. Go Yankees.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inside and Out?

As I told Pat during a voicemail Thursday afternoon, I have traditionally been a big fan of the late lunch break. Going to lunch at 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon is a good way to split up the work day, conducive to not being hungry if you can't eat dinner until 9:30 PM due to running and lifting, and a good way to be able to listen to the Big Show on WEEI. Lately I have just been hungrier earlier, so I have eaten earlier. Today I went back to the late lunch and I almost swerved into oncoming traffic listening to some of this nonsense.

The gentlemen on the radio thought the Red Sox should consider playing Jason Varitek at catcher throughout the playoffs. Now, it was no more than a week ago that this conservative author was rooting for universal health care and higher taxes for the specific purpose that Varitek retired. It was no more than a week ago that I concluded that Varitek, who can't hit, can't run, can't throw, and can't catch, is incapable of playing baseball at any level. But Glenn Ordway, Paul Perrillo, and Fred Smerlas honestly thought having a guy incapable of playing baseball should play the most important games of the calendar year.

The main reasoning: Varitek is a vastly superior game caller who "knows the hitters inside and out." Despite the fact that he gives the other team four defensive outs every game he plays, as well as second base every time someone is on first, and sometimes third and home when a routine ball in the dirt goes through his legs and toward the backstop, Varitek is apparently the only baseball player in the history of major league baseball who has ever "studied" hitters. Victor Martinez doesn't do that. Pitchers never do that. It's only Varitek.

With the obvious counter-argument of "is his superior game-calling [which is suspect at best as far as I'm concerned] really enough to counteract his offensive downfalls" [they did not discuss the defensive liabilities], Ordway said that that this is the case even more during the playoffs, as "every at-bat is magnified." By "magnified," he argued, every at-bat in the playoffs could potentially be the difference between making it to the next round and being eliminated.

Apparently hideous passed balls that allow four runs to score are not magnified.
Apparently being unable to throw out any baserunners is not magnified.
Apparently hitting .103 in the last four weeks is not magnified.
Apparently taking at-bats away from a capable hitter like Mike Lowell is not magnified.

But the importance of calling a good game, something that Victor Martinez apparently sucks at (ask Clay Buchholz how much Victor sucks and how many smirks Victor's given him after Buchholz shakes him off), is magnified.

As Steve Berman once told Eminem, "this album is less than nothing." We all know that I believe JD Drew contributes nothing to the Red Sox--that he's invisible. I also think, on the aggregate, Manny Delcarmen contributes nothing--the goods and bads offset each other. But Varitek is like Steve Berman's assessment of "The Marshall Mathers LP." He contributes less than nothing. Having him on the team does nothing but decrease its chances of winning a championship.

And it's apparently making me switch over permanently to the new sports talk radio station. Michael Felger may be a "d-bag," but he thinks Varitek sucks and Drew sucks. Even traditional Varitek suck-up Tony Massarotti thinks Captain Corky's (yes, that's a Corky Miller reference) tenure of being a useful baseball player is long over. But meanwhile, one of the "Big Show" hosts said the term "Hall of Fame" regarding Varitek, giving me an urge to swerve into oncoming traffic.

By the way, tonight's home plate umpire is a punk kid who wanted to make a name for himself. Another stint in the Eastern League seems to be in order.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rain Men

First, let's get it out of the way. Red Sox did a good job tonight avoiding a sweep by the mighty Kansas City Royals. That's not entirely sarcastic, as former holdout Luke Hochevar pitched well for a while, then hit a fatal rough patch. This inning was started by what actually was a good piece of hitting by Nancy, further proving that he's not incapable, but is just an underachiever. Beckett gave up a lot of hits, but worked out of jams, which is good.

Now it's been two days since Monday night's Wakefield/Delcarmen/Bard meltdown, and I still don't feel too good about it. It was very similar to the one game of his Red Sox career that John Smoltz didn't suck. After a lengthy rain delay, the Red Sox blew a nine-run lead and melted down against an awful team. Not dissimilar to the Monday's game, except the rain delay never happened. It was a miserable night, a night that the fans probably didn't want to watch baseball, and a night that the players didn't want to play baseball. Understandable.

What the Red Sox and manager Terry Francona didn't realize is that they had to play baseball anyway. The Red Sox clearly wanted the game to be called so that they could hit the bars and pick up chicks earlier than anticipated. Meanwhile the Royals and Orioles teams, instead of becoming blase (a Tim McCarver word) and lamenting the fact that they had to play, sucked it up, weren't acting like babies, and played. In both instances, the awful teams mounted a rally against a bullpen that was seemingly in a coma and not anticipating to play that night.

This falls into the hands of the manager. In both cases, it was evident that the manager wanted to let the foot off the gas with a big lead and crappy weather. Also not good. Especially because the weather in the postseason is frequently extremely unpleasant. There's been snow before. Games have been rained out. And yes, Bud Selig, sometimes the clinching game of the World Series might get rain delayed.

The rain game on Monday was further evidence that the Red Sox in general (because one member is beyond all hope) need a serious attitude adjustment. If your team doesn't want to play in the rain, something that could possibly be argued after their performances Monday night and on June 30th, they are lazy and distracted. Maybe in October they can turn things on. But if there happen to be some tarp pulls in between now and October 4th, I'd like to see a dress rehearsal. Games still count, even when it's not 75 degrees and sunny.

Paul Patrick Byrd

First Inning: 5 R, 5 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 straight balls.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Predictive, Not Actual, Statistics

As a kid I had an affinity for sports statistics. I'm not talking school math, where I did what I had to do to get good grades, but wasn't really any good at it and definitely didn't like it. I'm talking at the age of 9 I could tell you exactly what Patrick Ewing and John Starks were doing numbers wise in the '94 playoffs. I just loved the stuff.

As a result I spent a lot of time with stats as I got older and the Internet became prevalent. I wasn't developing anything (obviously) but I was reading about a lot of advanced baseball stats as they came out, or at least before they were commonplace. I loved the concept. I didn't think they were the be-all, end-all, but I thought there was a definite need to balance the new line of (largely sabermetric) thinking with traditional analysis of tools and ability.

The key word there is balance. The numbers, as much as I love them, have gotten out of control.

One of the types of numbers that has gotten most out of control are those that are supposed to be predictive. We have spent a lot of time here talking about run differential/Pythagorean win-loss. That's one example. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is another. As is BABIP/line-drive percentage relative to batting average.

It is key to point out how useful these numbers are, or at least can be. Run differential is very indicative of what a team might actually do win-loss wise. FIP is very indicative of what a pitcher might actually do ERA wise. BABIP/line-drive percentage are every indicative of what a batter may do batting average wise.

But the key words there are "might" and "actual". What these stats predict do not happen 100% of the time. Hence might. And these stats are predictive, not what we actually judge performance by. Hence actual.

However if you look around enough, you'd think that Pythagorean win-loss is actually win-loss. Not, you know, the actual win-loss. This is ridiculous.

It goes back to the fact that these stats only tell us what might happen. The reason it isn't a perfect science is because these aren't perfect stats. Take the Yankees Pythagorean win-loss vs. their actual win-loss. Much is being made of the Yankees being 5 games better than their run differential suggests. Never mind that their +148 run differential is the best in the game, and their 95-56 record is the best in the game. Let's put that aside. The problem with this stat is that it doesn't take anything into account besides runs scored vs. runs allowed. For example, it doesn't factor in Chien-Ming Wang allowing 23 earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched in his first three starts this season. As a team the Yankees allowed 44 runs in those 3 games. That's 16% of their total runs allowed *FOR THE SEASON* in 2% of their total games played. All three games were actual losses, but yet they counted for about 5 wins run differential wise. How does this matter? If the Yankees had allowed a still atrocious 30 runs (10 per game instead of nearly 15 per game) in those three games, their run differential relative to wins would be closer to normal. All three losses would still be blowouts, but the run differential landscape normalizes. This makes absolutely no sense. How many runs the Yankees bullpen gives up in those blowouts has no bearing on strength and ability of the team, which is what people point to when they point to run differential. It's one loss weather they lose by 2, 10, or 18 like they did in those three games. All of those runs given up in those games should not factor into our evaluation of the Yankees 151 games into a season, and that is exactly what run differential does.

While run differential is often very predictive, it does not take things like this into account, and that is why it cannot be cited as absolute authority.

Same thing goes with something like FIP. Fielding independent pitching factors in how much your defense is helping or hurting your ERA. FIP is essentially how you are pitching based on your peripherals. Much like run differential, the thinking is that your ERA will naturally gravitate towards your FIP. While this usually happens, it does not always happen. Take Jonathan Papelbon for example. His ERA is 1.97 but his FIP is 3.08. This means his high WHIP and other such things will eventually catch up to him and he will allow more runs. A lot more actually, as the difference is pronounced. But if you look deeper at the statistics, you see that Papelbon clearly bears down when runners get on base. Why I do not know, and I doubt anyone does besides maybe him. But it appears to be a quality of his. So while his peripherals suggest more runs, he may have an innate ability that FIP does not account for that counteracts that. This is why FIP is merely predictive, not absolute.

It's not a knock on these stats. They are absolutely great statistics. It is just qualifying them as predictive. If they were actual, then we would use them as actual. The season wouldn't be about individual game wins and losses, it would be about total runs scored and total runs against. The amount of runs a pitcher surrenders wouldn't matter, and his peripherals would judge his actual performance. This is clearly not the case. These stats are useful in telling us what will usually happen. But what usually happens will not always happen. Sometimes teams and players are going to have qualities or circumstances that these stats simply cannot take into account. That is why we should not go over the top talking about these stats as if they are more important than the actual stats.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Great Stuff, Great Makeup

The Red Sox blew an 8-2 lead against the Royals tonight. It was pretty miserable. A main part of this implosion was the responsibility of Manny Delcarmen, who has been beyond awful for the last month, as his ERA is now north of twenty in September, following a 5.25, a 4.66, and a 4.00 in August, July, and June. Not a good trend.

We know that Delcarmen is a streaky pitcher, and the team is fortunate that he's the last guy in the bullpen. He would not be a good closer. He would not be a good set-up man, nor a good seventh inning guy. He's not a one-out guy, as he walks guys too often. He's an average middle reliever, a guy who very likely might bounce from team to team for a good fifteen years. And there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not a Manny Delcarmen hater per se. It's frustrating to watch him because he will frequently suck, but you will get that with pretty much every middle reliever in the league.

What was indefensible tonight, though, was Sean Casey. As a member of the Musical Color Commentators crew for NESN tonight, he very literally said that Delcarmen had great stuff, great makeup, and someday very well could be a closer in major league baseball. Here are some things wrong with this statement:

>Delcarmen's stuff is not that good. It is occasionally decent, but this scouting report was debunked about three years ago. Does anyone realize he's not fooling any opposing batters? He surrenders over a hit per inning pitched. That is not good. At all. If he is fooling anything into missing his pitches, it's the strike zone. He seems to miss the strike zone quite a bit, as he averages more than half a walk per inning.
>Delcarmen's "makeup" is not that good. He's smug, as if his job as the last guy in the bullpen is not in jeopardy. No fear of Michael Bowden. No fear of Junichi Tazawa. No fear of Javier Lopez. No internal incentive to, you know, not suck. Would a trip to Pawtucket on the Lou Merloni Express do him good? Probably.
>Someday he could be a closer? First, closers don't suck. There's no closer other than Brad Lidge with a WHIP over one and a half. And what's this "someday" thing? Is Manny Delcarmen 22 years old? No. He's 27. And while he could still run cross-country for Keene State College, it doesn't mean this guy has too much upside.

"The Mayor" should know better than that. Usually when mayors say stupid things, they use fourteen thousand text messages to do it.

Some other illogical content I've heard on NESN this weekend:
>The hype machine has found Victor Martinez. Apparently someone in the Sox' front office told NESN that it's time to start running Varitek out of town, because Victor is apparently now a genius. After a mere seven weeks on the team, he's calling games like a magician. He's gotten to know the pitching staff in just seven weeks! You know what might be a more legitimate reason that Martinez's pitchers haven't been bad? Because it's not hard to call a game.
>I've heard a lot about how important it is that Red Sox pitchers, despite looking like crap and feeling like crap and not being "comfortable" on the mound for their outings against Baltimore, they "battled despite not having their best stuff." Maybe it has something to do with their battling, grittiness, and guts. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they're playing the BALTIMORE ORIOLES.

Sox should sign Jason Bay. Ciao.

New York's Loss Is Boston's Gain

All of the Yankees fans on here know who Peter Abraham is and what the LoHud Yankees blog is. A lot of the Red Sox fans probably do to. If you don't really, you probably have at least heard DV, myself, or someone else on here mention it. We've had it listed under our favorite sites links since this blog's inception.

What many of you probably haven't heard is that Pete is leaving the Journal News and the Yankees beat for the Boston Globe and the Red Sox beat. Pete is from Massachusetts and a lot if not all of his family still lives there. So he's going to be closer to them, and I'm assuming it's a sound career move as well. All of these things are great, because Pete deserves every success that comes his way.

I found Pete's blog in the summer of 2006. I quickly learned that he was one of the first, if not the first, beat writers for a major U.S. professional sport to have a blog. Obviously this practice has taken off since, so he was a bit of a trailblazer. I've been reading him almost every day since, usually a ridiculous amount of times per day. The up to date information he provided was unparalleled, and he's just generally outstanding at what he does. He's easily one of my favorite baseball writers, and one of my favorite sports writers period. And I read a lot - a lot, a lot - of sports papers/sites/blogs. He just gets it, and is one of the best in the business.

To that end, Pete has enhanced my enjoyment of the Yankees immensely for the last three years. And I already really liked following the Yankees. People talk all the time about announcers and writers who enhance their enjoyment of the game or their team, and rightfully so. Pete is a writer, but the way I followed him was exclusively online. And that is probably the case for most people. So he's sort in a new category. Regardless, his blog became a part of my daily following experience of the Yankees. Sports is a diversion for most of us, something that's fun. Pete made it more fun, and that's a great professional compliment in my opinion. That's how it's supposed to be. Most of the Yankee fans I know who follow him feel the same way. He really became a part of following the Yankees, and enhanced the day to day experience of being a fan of the team.

Not only do I want to thank Pete for all his hard work, but I want to let all of the Red Sox fans on here know just how great a reporter they are getting. Don't be surprised if he's quickly one of the best sources of news on the team and one of the most popular writers to read. He knows what he's doing and he really gets what this is all about, which is again that this is supposed to be fun.

No matter how great Pete's reasons are for leaving - and they seem great - this is still weird. We've been following his outstanding work for the Yankees for so long, and now he's going to be covering the Red Sox. That he is leaving right before the stretch run and the playoffs is even weirder. This really is a loss for the Yankees and their fans, and a gain for the Red Sox and their fans. Pete will not be easy to replace.

So I'd like to wish Pete the absolute best of luck in his new gig. He deserves any and all successes that come his way. I also want to urge all of the Sox fans on here to read him. He's likely to enhance your following of the team by not only giving you news and solid analysis, but keeping it fun. And that's what this is supposed to be all about.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Envision Obama

Back before Obama took office and spent like a drunken sailor to jump-start the economy, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said he'd rather retire than get a small contract. He inexplicably got a contract at presumably the lowest he'd ever go because he had no leverage in the deal. Nobody wants a catcher with a big mouth, a false sense of self-worth, and the inability to hit. But anyway, he got the deal, but with the Obama spending, he's inevitably going to be taxed more. This results in less disposable income, which is a lot like making under his retirement threshold. Of course, he's all about the team and the fans and winning and wearing an unnecessary piece of fabric on his uniform. Guy would rather retire than make $4.99 million.

So if someone would tell Varitek that he's actually getting less money than his retirement threshold so that he would stop playing baseball for the Boston Red Sox, I'd greatly appreciate it.

It is now two games in a row that Varitek's inability to catch a ball in the dirt has cost the Red Sox runs. Five runs in two games, and the one run last night was the difference in the game. His inability to throw runners out has cost the team games against Tampa and Texas. And his inability to hit a baseball with a bat has cost the Red Sox games for each of the last four seasons. As Danny Astricky would say, you can't hit, you can't run, you can't throw, you can't catch. Honey, you can't play baseball!

Did anyone watch the "Yard Work" documentary during Friday's rainout? Pieces of plexiglass or plywood keep Wiffle balls from rolling forever behind the plate. So it begs the question: What is a better catcher: Jason Varitek or a piece of plywood? Oh, I'm sorry, a piece of plywood doesn't CALLL A GRATE GAME!!!1

More evidence that Barack Obama is giving us the hope of change behind the plate is that Varitek probably doesn't really want universal health care. I mean, I'm sure that he's pretty pissed off because the cost of the Boston Red Sox' health plan skyrocketed when JD Drew joined the roster in 2007. Imagine how furious he would be if the federal government mandated that he would have to pay for health care for illegal immigrants or people who can't hold down a job that offers health insurance benefits.

In all seriousness, Varitek has to realize how terrible he is. As Felger says, he cannot be the only person in baseball who can put down one or two fingers. As 3rd Flo once said in the infamous Heizman song, "you don't try to be a chef if you ain't got no hands." Similarly, you don't try to be a baseball player if you can't hit, run, throw, or catch.

Barack Obama's inevitable tax hikes will hopefully prompt Varitek to realize he's actually making less than $5 million. And seeing that the ultimate team guy who loves Boston and loves the fans would rather retire than make less than $5 million, maybe he will throw his hands up and quit because of increased taxes.

Now that's change we can believe in.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's A Long Season

One way that baseball differentiates itself from almost every other sport is the way things change over the course of a long season. In basketball or football, if something is a strength it usually stays a strength all year unless there is an injury or some major unforseen event. If a team has two players that are good offensive players, they usually perform consistently as good offensive players. Same thing goes for weaknesses. A bad defense unit usually performs as a bad defensive unit.

This is not so to the same extent in baseball. A good pitching staff at the start of the year can be a bad pitching staff by the end. A struggling offense at the beginning of the year can be a good offense by the end. And it doesn't take injuries or some unforseen event to cause this. It's the nature of a long season, and even more importantly it's just the nature of the game. There is a lot of failure, there is a lot of fatigue, there are a lot of games, there are a lot of underperformances, and there are a lot of mental issues, amongst other things. Players get hot, then cold, the come right back out of it again. This can happen ten times over the course of a season. If players on the same team get hot at the same time, the team looks unbeatable and the fans feel like they may never lose again. If players on the same team get cold at the same time, the team looks like they may never win more than 4 out of 10 again and the fan base is on the ledge.

This has probably been more evident for few groups this year than two that may go a long way to deciding what happens if either or both make the playoffs: the rotations of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

For a large part of this season, the Yankee rotation looked unbeatable. It started sometime in early to mid May and just kept going. They had a bonafide ace in CC Sabathia, a #2 who was pitching like a #1 in AJ Burnett, and a #3 who was pitching like a #2 in Andy Pettitte. Almost lost in the shuffle was that on July 29 New York's young #4 starter Joba Chamberlain was 7-2 with a 3.58. There are only three pitchers in the AL East and 26 in all of baseball that currently have an ERA better than that. Not bad for a #4 starter.

Soon after the Yankees had to start limiting Joba's innings. He hasn't taken well to any of the things they've tried and the results have showed. Then Burnett started into a near freefall. And now Andy Pettitte's shoulder is barking. To what extent we do not know, but that's never good, especially when dealing with a 37 year old pitcher with 2910 innings under his belt in the Major Leagues alone. Suddenly what looked like the surest rotation in baseball has turned into a clear ace and hope for the best.

For a large part of the season, the Boston Red Sox rotation was not very good. It took both Josh Beckett and Jon Lester a long time to figure it out. When they did they both kept it going, and Boston had as strong a 1-2 punch as their was in baseball for quite some time. But only Lester has kept it up, with Beckett allowing 28 earned runs in 6 starts at the most crticial juncture of the regular season. Matsuzaka underperformed the expactations of even those who thought he'd pitch closer to what his 2008 peripherals suggested, completely flopping. Boston's "low risk high reward" investments turned out to be exactly what most people paying attention thought they would be - nothing at all. Two career NL pitchers, one over 30 one over 40, both coming off injury don't just show up and pitch well in the American League East. The Red Sox "low price" were massive overpays for both. Finally, Boston's top pitching prospect Clay Buchholz showed up in mid July, and over his first 8 starts, or nearly 25% of a season, pitched to a 5.02 ERA. It looked like the Red Sox were going to have a tough time going anywhere with a rotation like this.

Then Lester just kept on pitching well, Buchholz strung together four impressive starts, Matsuzaka had an encouraging outing, and Josh Beckett had one semi-decent performance, which is at least enough to be hopeful that maybe he's not completely cooked for this year. Suddenly a rotation that looked like it was going to have to be carried into the playoffs by an improved offense looks like, if everything falls right, one that people wouldn't want to deal with.

The funny thing now is how similar a situation both are in when you look at it. One ace (Sabathia and Lester) and then three potential x-factors and/or three potential liabilities, depending on how it goes (Pettitte, Burnett, Chamberlain, Beckett, Buchholz, and Matsuzaka). All of them have the ability to change a baseball game with their performance, and one person changing games, especially starting pitchers, is what this time of year is all about. I'd say the biggest x-factors/potential liabilities are Pettitte and Beckett. They are both proven winners in September/October (if they get there) play, and have both had stretches of absolute dominance this season letting us know they can still do what they've done before. Each team gets a huge boost if they pitch well, and takes a big hit if they don't.

It will be interesting to watch this play out. The great thing and the frustrating thing about baseball is that we have no idea how it will. Both could have great success, both could struggle mightily, or somewhere inbetween. We've seen most of that already this season from both rotations. However it ends up will impact these teams making the postseason and how far they can go if they get there.

UPDATE: The Yankees won in walk-off fashion tonight, their 14th such win of the season. 14 out of 94 is 14.89%. One walk-off win every week and a half or so on average for the whole season is just ridiculous.

A Good Move And A Bad Move

This is not fair to DV for two reasons. First, he wrote on a more relevant topic below. Second, he wrote about it in a lot more depth. So please read and comment on his post below.

Good: Joe Girardi earned about 5,000 points in my book today. Regardless of who started the fight and whose fault it was, Girardi was literally in the middle of it - and I mean the middle of it - in about two seconds. Without counting on any of the replays, I'd estimate he was in the top three of players or coaches not on the field to get involved. This is the type of passion you want to see from your manager. This is the type of care you want to see. You could tell the only thing he was worried about was doing everything he could to get his players out of their without injury, even if it meant exposing himself in the tussle. Which is exactly what happened. I could not have been more impressed. If you saw him firing around in there, you can also see just how athletic he still is. I would not want to mess with Joe Girardi.

Bad: This was 100% the Yankees fault. Start to finish. They hit Toronto's best player first. Intentional or not, they are going to retaliate. This is baseball and the Yankees should know this. There was also no reason for Posada to elbow Carlson, which is what escalated the whole thing. Posada and the Yankees have to be thinking more here. Entering tonight, the Yankees were 93-52, had the best record in baseball, and had a 7.5 game lead in the AL East. Toronto was 65-79, in 4th place in the AL East 27.5 games out of first place, and already eliminated from the playoffs. The Yankees have more to lose. While it could be added to the "Good" how quickly the Yankees were out there to protect each other, including some of the team's biggest stars (Jeter, Sabathia, and Teixeira were all right in the middle of it), even the slightest injury that results in the situation is a big deal. It's not that an injury to a Toronto player isn't important, it is, just as important as one to the a Yankees player. It's that the Yankees started it and put themselves at risk. You can't do that at this stage in the season. You actually shouldn't do this at any point when it lacks justification the way it did tonight, but you definitely shouldn't be doing it in mid September when the Yankees are in pursuit of the playoffs and if they get there, a championship.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Good Win

I hope someone out there has the nerve to write "I'm not surprised at all that Daisuke Matsuzaka did what he did tonight." Because you're either lying or foolish.

Either way you look at it, the man with no savings left pitched great tonight. He located the ball reasonably well throughout the game. He took that no-hitter into the fifth. And he only walked three guys overall. It's notable to say that there's a slight blip in the radar as he absolutely seemed a lot more figureoutable the third time through the order. This, if memory serves me right, was a problem with the original edition of Matsuzaka (the 2007 edition). But I still contend that the Red Sox have a strong enough bullpen that Matsuzaka only going six or seven shouldn't be that much of a problem.

Ups to the Red Sox for capitalizing on the Angels' mistakes in the sixth, and ups to Gonzalez and Nancy for hitting the ball hard without the (known) use of steroids. But tonight's the night to talk about Matsuzaka...and the Yankees brawl that Pat will be covering briefly.

If you think that this start solves all the Matsuzaka problems and the rotation problems and all that nonsense, you're kidding yourself as much as if you said you saw this coming. He will remain a question mark for the rest of the season, and anything you get from him is a bonus. However, Gammons threw out some kind of ridiculous number about the number of runs given up by Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, and Matsuzaka in their last starts. In the last five starts by those four guys, they have surrendered two (2) runs. Hard to not get excited about that.

And despite my skepticism, I'd much rather have Matsuzaka give me six or seven unpredictable innings than have Paul Byrd give me my weekly kit of hits, home runs, walks, and syringes.

A short afterthought that might end up the main discussion topic tomorrow: I heard Felger bring this up last night--why is Paul Byrd on this team at all if Pedro Martinez was available? We can play the NL card for sure, but we're talking about friggin Byrd here.

Hopefully Pat will throw something up about the brawl tonight so we can have two discussions going again.

Days When I Still Felt Alive, I Couldn't Wait To Get Outside

It was almost definitely less than two months ago when someone asked me who the best manager in the American League was and I said Joe Maddon of the Rays. I said this because he's not bashful at all regarding doing things to win baseball games. Specifically, he was not going to sugarcoat how easy it is to run on Varitek and Penny. He used it to his advantage repeatedly instead of being polite and only doing it five times. That's impressive. And something that many managers won't do.

The man with the emo glasses has done something horribly wrong lately. Their win last night pulled them two games back over .500, and if 2008 hadn't happened, most people would be impressed by the improvement of the Rays. But before last night, they lost eleven in a row, which good teams (like Tampa) don't do. Just a few observations about this that have cast some serious doubt about Maddon.

First, it looked like that team has completely lied down like the Cleveland Indians last week. Widespread apathy. And this is the point where it is up to the manager to re-inspire people. Flip over a buffet table or two, no matter how robust the postgame spread is. Francona likely doesn't do this. And apparently Maddon doesn't either. But this team seems like it's counting down to October 4th. Which is unfathomable.

Second, what the F was he wearing during Game 1 on Sunday? Sunglasses? The emo glasses bring him all the mojo. The sunglasses don't.

Third, we're talking about questionable managerial decisions. Leaving Matt Garza pitch the eighth inning was questionable, and when Garza started to get in trouble, he still remained in the game. It was a no-brainer that he was toast. But he was let out to dry against the freaking B-team.

I've mentioned good work by Francona during the last game I went to at Fenway Park--the game when Youkilis charged the mound. The Red Sox were in a bit of a funk and the season was in peril. So Francona actually seemed to care about inspiring the team and getting some anger going. Before the brawl, he was arguing with the umpires. After the brawl, he argued two more times in the first three innings or so. The third time was a pretty basic play (Nancy was clearly caught stealing) and Francona decided to blow up and get thrown out. Sunday, Maddon was out on the field arguing, and it got pretty heated. At some point, you have to get yourself thrown out. Especially if your team's on the verge of an 11-game losing streak. He didn't. And that communicated to me that he wasn't pissed at what was going on. That's uninspiring.

I still think Maddon is among the best managers in the league. I actually feel the same way about Francona. And while Maddon isn't chiefly responsible for the Rays' collapse, he's shown that he's not some genius with emo glasses. He's just a regular manager with emo glasses.

Monday, September 14, 2009

MNF Game Thread

Doing my best to save the scope of How Youz Doin Baseball tonight. I feel like a lot of our readers will have some things to say about the Patriots game tonight. So that's why I'm creating this post--leave your Patriots comments here and keep the other upcoming post within the scope of baseball.

My observations:
-They're going crazy over Brady tonight, at least on Channel 5 here. They shouldn't be going crazy over him, because in the first 55 minutes of the game, he made his fair share of mistakes and failed to execute to the point where the ball could get to the end zone. And let's not forget the flashback to the Keevan Henry interception. Yes, his last 5 minutes probably made up for that and then some, but he's not the biggest story.
-Brandon Meriwether, who is probably my favorite Patriot because he's a straight-up thug and gangsta (I won't deny a double standard here), is a hell of a player who made a very smart play tonight. While he might not be the smartest guy in terms of linguistics--a claim corroborated by the rampant rumors that he's Hollaman from the infamous 7th Floor song--he's a smart football player.
-Ben Watson exonerated himself with the two TD catches. The dropped ball at the numbers was pretty bad though.
-Hollaman exonerated Adailus Thomas, who made a really boneheaded roughing the passer play.
-As I texted my brother, it looked like for a while (or the while that I got to watch after class) that the Pats' defense had nine guys on the field. This is NOT a pleasant change from the Pete Carroll days when they literally had twelve guys on the field on a regular basis.

Let's give Bandi some ample room here for his Raiders comments as well.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Yankees Roundup

- I was at the Stadium last Tuesday. When Jeter got 3 hits last Sunday, I thought I was lined up. With a double header inbetween on Monday and him only 3 hits from a tie and 4 from the record by himself, I figured I had a great shot to be there to see my favorite athlete break a tremendous record. After all Jeter had played in 31 double headers and gotten a hit in at least one of the games 31 times. He ended up going 0 for Monday and 0 for Tuesday and didn't break it until Friday night. But watching it was almost as good. Just a really special achievement, and if anyone is going to break a record held by someone as honorable as Lou Gehrig, Jeter seems like a good candidate. I've been fortunate to watch his entire career. As he nears and surpasses all of these milestones you realize he really is one of the best to ever lace them up. Congratulations to him

- The Yankees are now 68-1 when they lead after the 6th inning. 68-1. No team has converted a higher percentage of it's save opportunities. Now, you might say this seems obvious. The Yankees have the best closer in baseball in Mariano Rivera, and their set-up man Phil Hughes' ERA as a reliever is the lowest of any pitcher in baseball with at least 40 innings pitched, starter or reliever. But when you consider that Rivera has not recorded a save of more than 4 outs all season, that Hughes didn't become a reliever - let alone the set-up man - until June, and that rarely have they combined for a 3 out save, you realize how many other relievers the Yankees have had to rely on to get those 3 outs. They have so much depth in the bullpen they have been able to ride hot hands and avoid cold ones, which is what most proponents of this "unproven" bullpen were championing from the start. As we near the end of the season it's an understatement to say that "the guys from SWB" have gotten it done, especially since Hughes is a guy from SWB. When you consider the best save percentage mentioned above, that they have the most saves, and that they have the most saves, it speaks to their ability to do the two things you want your bullpen to do more than anything else: hold leads (saves) and keep close games close (wins). They've definitely been one of the best bullpens in the game.

- This lineup's biggest strength is that when they play their A lineup all 9 guys can change the game with one swing. It's on display almost every week. Swisher hits a walk-off homer Tuesday. Posada hits a 3 run go ahead homer in the 8th Wednesday. It's been incredible. They've tied the Major League record for players with 20 home runs with 20 (if Jeter hits 3 more they'll break it with 8), and every player in the A lineup is in double digits. The flip side of this is that their biggest weakness is moving runners along and getting them in. If you told me they lead the majors in leadoff doubles that didn't score I wouldn't blink. If you told me they lead the majors in runners on third with less than 2 outs that didn't score I'd be even less surprised. While the former could really help them if they make the playoffs, the ladder could really hurt them. When you get a leadoff double, a groundball to the right side followed by a sacrafice fly is easier than hitting a home run, no matter how many home runs you can hit.

- Nick Swisher now has a 127 OPS+. He's batting .251/.374/.497. He has 26 home runs, 21 of them coming on the road which leads the American League. His 78 RBI are already 14 more than JD Drew's Red Sox high, and they are similar players in that Swisher walks a lot too (his 88 so far this season is 9 more than Drew's Red Sox high and 15 more than him this season). Swisher is making $5.3 million this season compared to Drew's $14 million. The Yankees got him for Wilson Betemit, who was DFA'd by the White Sox in early June, and Jeff Marquez, who has a 9.85 ERA for the White Sox AAA organization this season before unfortunately getting injured again. Swisher bats 8th in the order when they play the A lineup. Read all of this again. There are people who complained about this deal. This is probably one of the biggest steals of the decade.

- Important start for Joba Chamberlain tomorrow. If the Yankees make the playoffs, the biggest thing they have to worry about (besides health, which everyone has to concern themselves with) is getting AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain on track. AJ Burnett is easy. He's been a streak pitcher is entire career. He started the season on fire, then was bad, then was incredible for a long stretch, and has no been awful for more than a month. You just hope he gets hot and/or elevates his game in a potential October situation. Joba is not so simple. He was cruising this season before the Yankees had to start limiting his innings. He had a 3.58 ERA on August 5th, which is just before they started experimenting with ways to limit his innings. If that had continued to today, he would have the 5th lowest ERA in the AL East. Now he's really struggling. The Yankees have to figure out a way to get him back on track, and pitching well tomorrow against Anaheim in a playoff type game is a good start. No matter if it's 1 inning, 2 innings, 3 innings, 4 innings, a complete game or anything in between, he needs to pitch well. Don't just establish the fastball, use it to finish hitters. Having the good Joba would be a major competitive advantage if they make the playoffs (how many teams have a 4 starter with his ability?), so they need to be as creative with ways to get him going again as they were with ways to limit his innings.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget 9/11/01

It is important to remember, as it is every year, the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Thank you to all those who have given and continue to give for the rest of us. God Bless all who lost their lives that day and this great country.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dr. Andrews Has A Better Opinion

This is a pretty important issue. Perhaps more than anything else in the next eight weeks or so until the conclusion of the 2009 baseball season. But the Red Sox' starting rotation is just the way Jon Bandi likes it: Full of question marks. Let's pretend it's the beginning of the season and devote a paragraph for each candidate.

-Josh Beckett. This is where the title comes in. There's something wrong with Beckett, and I'd put good money on the fact that he's injured. Speculation is stupid, but I'd bet it's something that if he got it diagnosed by someone like Dr. Andrews, he might be out for a while. Like the rest of the season. If this is the case, Josh Beckett thinks an injured Josh Beckett is better for the team than no Josh Beckett at all. And he's probably right. If he's not injured, there's something else wrong, and the rest of this season lies in the lap of John Farrell. He's the Bernanke of this problem: It's his job to fix it.

-Jon Lester. This homeboy is probably the smallest question mark of them all. He misses bats on the reg. His numbers are excellent on the reg. He's a clear second-tier starter in baseball right now. And if the first tier includes guys like Chris Carpenter, you sometimes have to wonder about how much lower the second tier is in the first place. To cast a little bit of doubt, September might be the time when last year's innings increase finally catches up to Lester.

-Clay Buchholz. No longer Triple-A Clay, Buchholz is the Boston Red Sox' third starter. His stuff has been good since his callup to the majors, and he's commanded both his pitching and his demeanor extremely well, pitching impressive outings against the cream of the crop. If the offense showed up against opposing pitchers the way he's shown up against the best lineups in the AL, the Red Sox wouldn't be worrying about the Texas Rangers. Still, there's some polish to be had.

-Daisuke Matsuzaka. Uh-oh. Here comes the part of the rotation that makes you think about rain dancing so that these guys don't see their turn in the playoffs...or the regular season for that matter. I list Matsuzaka first because the way Francona treats his major league rehab starts (that's exactly how I want them worded) is of utmost importance. If Francona throws away one game in the interest of "figuring out if Dice-K is ready," I will absolutely lose it. People are discrediting Matsuzaka's 2008 season at a record pace right now, and you can't really blame them. It's an abomination in which luck manifested itself in an unprecedented way.

-Paul Byrd. He bounced back pretty well Wednesday night, but if you are expecting anything more than a Brad Penny presence and a black bag full of vials and syringes out of this guy, you're nuts. Someone who will last five innings, might give up three runs, might give up thirteen. Things I'd rather see on television than Paul Byrd pitching in October include the following: Ben Affleck talking about the Red Sox, Skip Bayless, Dancing with the Stars, hour-long coverage of one 100-meter track race, What Would Brian Boitano Make, the infamous 2006 Red Sox commercials ("Papelbon is so intense on the mound"), Jon and Kate coverage, Michael Jackson coverage, preseason football, and, by a very narrow margin, Barack Obama.

-Junichi Tazawa. A solid year in Japan for Junichi Tazawa would have enhanced the pockets of the Japanese team that drafted him (through an impressive posting fee), Tazawa himself (with a contract more than $4.5 million over three years), and me (Fenway beer wouldn't have been necessary had his first inning not happened). They say he has the stuff to be a back-of-the rotation starter someday. That someday's not today. He should have stayed in Portland this year.

-Tim Wakefield. Nothing can take the first half away from him. But a bad back and a bad leg can take the continuation of that tour away from him. At the beginning of the season, people are always squeamish about the Red Sox' playoff chances balancing on a healthy Tim Wakefield. Now they very well might be hinging on an injured Tim Wakefield. At least it will be an interesting ride.

In non-baseball news, here is a good article about my dad's new coaching position. It's written by my first-ever boss, who did a great job here.

Sore Glove Hand (Volume 9)

Paul Byrd, despite not being able to get the ball over the plate at many times, pitched reasonably well last night. As I promised Pat, I will have a good image up in this space next time the HGH user/dealer has a bad outing.

Manny Delcarmen had a little bit of bad luck initially last night, but there is absolutely no excuse for him to be walking runs in on four pitches. That is absolutely unforgivable. Are we at the point that Delcarmen is what he is? If so (and I believe this is true), he's the weakest link of the bullpen. And considering the fact that very good teams have had Timlin, Gagne, and Curt Leskanic in that role, I'm feeling okay with Delcarmen filling it.

A well-earned win by the Red Sox last night overall in a spot where this team has given up a few times this year. But at the same time, it's the Baltimore Orioles. As Tony Massarotti said yesterday on the radio, you shouldn't feel good about a team's chances if they lose three out of four to the Chicago White Sox. It was a bad, embarrassing holiday weekend on both sides of the ball. As you saw, I'd rather write about Derek Jeter.

I felt bad for the Priceline Negotiator in the Orioles dugout last night. For some reason NESN was showing him every five seconds. He's had a rough year.

Welcome to life with Clay Buchholz as your #2 starter.

Last night was further proof that tangibles help a baseball team a lot more than intangibles.

Good work on the parts of the Cleveland Indians. Way to lay down and die the last few days. That is pathetic. Embrace the role of the spoiler.

A huge congratulations to J.D. Drew! As he eclipsed the 20-home run mark for the fourth (4th) time in his career, he has given more proof that this year, where he is on pace to crush his previous strikeout career high, is a good step in his development as a young (33) player who might someday reach his potential as a middle-of-the-order hitter. Okay, that was sarcastic. Since his home run, he has grounded out weakly to the right side three times including a 4-6-3 double play.

In his last 20-home run season (2006, the year where he supposedly earned his insane $70 million contract), Drew had 100 RBI (a career high. yup.). This year he has fifty-nine (59). It's like the guy is trying to not drive runners in when at the plate. He walks every 7.6 PAs with runners on base so that Varitek can strike out. He walks every 5.6 PAs with bases empty. Way to be aggressive. But he walks a lot!!!1

My most important topic of the day, however, is: Will Jason Bay walk (as in leave via free agency) and should Jason Bay walk? I happened to read Eric Wilbur on Boston.com last night, and he thinks Bay is gone. I still believe Bay is the best free agent out there, and letting him walk would mean he'd be replaced by Matt Holliday (who is not impressive) or Aubrey Huff (who sucks). After a bunch of failed attempts at cheap free agent steals, I feel like the Red Sox will actually make the investment with Bay. As they should.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

He Does Everything Right

Derek Jeter's been getting a lot of attention lately, between the MVP candidacy, the all-time Yankee lead in hits, and all that stuff. Yesterday Buster Olney wrote about Jeter in a very good article about how he's never done anything wrong. He's never been arrested, never been implicated in any drug scandal, and probably hasn't done anything wrong off the field except for a minor tax evasion thing a few years ago and loving one too many unclean women (at least as rumor has it).

He's also transcended the baseball field throughout his career. He was the star rookie on the first Yankee World Series team in some fifteen years, then became the most crucial part of the Four Rings Club. Even as his team started to struggle in the postseason, he was the guy hitting rockets (Dustin Pedroia's term) in November, making an overrated flip play, and diving unnecessarily into the stands in a game that was extremely important. As Joel Sherman wrote yesterday as well, he's always had the "sneaky, relentless brilliance"--the constant 1-3s or the 2-5's. Certainly against Boston it seemed to be 2-3 or 3-5, with those hits inevitably being in the first inning when Torre and the Yankees always managed to get a 1-0 or 2-0 lead after the first inning.

Jeter should have won the 2006 MVP. And from this side of the Connecticut River, it's taken a while for me to admit that he's the most important baseball player of this era. For both the elite performance and the fact that so many other athletes have fallen as hard as they did--McGwire, Sosa, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry (though it's a little before his time), Wade Boggs, Manny, Arod (who had both taken significant hits before the steroid stuff even happened), Clemens--the list goes on. Pedro Martinez had his prima donna episodes. Jeter's celebrity status was also enough to destroy a lot of others outside of sports--I get a Jon and Kate disaster update every day on comcast.net. But he's handled it all in stride. He's always said the right things. And as Olney writes, he always signs the autographs. He's never held out for an astronomical contract.

The closest comparison is Cal Ripken, but Ripken wasn't in the relentless New York City, nor was he always on the greatest teams. (I'll save the "Ripken is not a Hall of Famer" argument for a future guest column.)

As Olney pointed out, other transcendent baseball players in the history of the game have shown chinks in the armor. Ted Williams had problems with fans, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth had problems with booze, and Joe DiMaggio had problems with nasty divorces. Nobody's been as spotless as Jeter. What Olney omits, however, is that baseball had (and has) Jeter in the time it needed him the most. Imagine if Jeter became commissioner after he retired. Would anyone question his credentials or competency? There's no doubt he'd succeed.

Now I'm not a fan of giving the MVP award to an undeserving player for a "lifetime achievement" award. But Jeter, due to his contributions and metrics this year, deserves consideration yet again. And this guy, who very well might be saving baseball, might be the guy to bend the rules for.

Monday, September 7, 2009

ThE nEW YaNkEe StadIUm iS A JoKe!!!!1!!!!!

Maybe not.

I never cared much about the supposed "home run issue" at the New Yankee Stadium, as evidenced by me not formally addressing it here until well over two months into the season. And that continues to be the case. More home runs? Great, same dimensions for both teams, and usually this ends up favoring the home team. Especially when the home team has the resources to consistently build a team that maximizes any sort of advantage their stadium may provide over 50% of their games. They have the resources to get a lot of lefty power hitters to take advantage of a short right field more than their opponents. And they have the resources to get pitching that is not going to allow as many homers in that direction as the opposition.

Not caring myself I still understood why it was getting a lot of attention. It's the Yankees and it's an expensive brand new stadium. People are going to get all fired up about the prospect of the Yankees having a brand new stadium with serious flaws. This isn't all that different than how non-Yankee fans treat any issue surrounding the team. Something is wrong with the Yankees? Great. Tough to blame them considering their history, payroll, etc.

What really struck me though was how incredibly reactionary and over the top so much of this analysis was. Less than 20 games had been played there and people were going bananas. I can't find the articles, but I'm pretty sure that on TV or online or both Peter Gammons called the Stadium a "joke" and said that pretty much anyone around baseball would tell you that the Stadium is "poorly conceived". Poorly conceived?!?!?!?!?!??! Like, can we get to a sample size situation here? And can we get to word choice a bit more grounded in reality? "Poorly conceived". We're talking about a baseball stadium here, not foreign policy. In the interest of not singling out Mr. Gammons, he wasn't close to the only one. A lot of people were getting in on the negative critiques of the New Yankee Stadium early and often.

Back to sample sizes - which is really the important thing here - I was shocked at how quickly people were to assess. You have to give a place a chance to play. Two, three, four years probably to really get a sense, but at least one season before you start drawing conclusions.

As it turns out that would have been the smart thing to do here (shocking, I know). A few quick statistics. The Yankees have hit 214 home runs this season. 117 at home in 72 games and 97 on the road in 65 games. Hmmmmmmmm. A difference for sure. But not that big a difference considering the Yankees have a lot of left-handed power hitters to take advantage of the short porch in right - a porch that was short in the Old Stadium too, which apparantly was not a big deal. Could it be that big reason for the extra home runs this season are - gasp! - the talent increase of the team hitting them? No, because that's not a story nor a reason to bash the Yankees.

Even better is that the Yankees lead baseball with 787 runs scored. How have they gotten there? By scoring on the road. They are only 4th in baseball with 373 runs scored at home. Colorado and Boston, neither of which have remotely the offense of the Yankees, have scored 22 and 15 more runs at home than the Yankees. At the same time the Yankees are 1st in baseball with 414 runs scored on the road. Only the Angels and Indians are within 75 runs of them. If the home runs are such an issue, why are the Yankees scoring almost the exact same amount of runs on the road (5.75 runs per game) as they are at their alleged hitters park (5.74 runs per game)? Probably not a story and probably not a reason to bash the Yankees.

Perhaps best is that more runs are being scored on average between the Yankees and their opponent in road games this year than there are in home games. Does this mean that every stadium in baseball is "a joke" and "poorly conceived"? That definitely wouldn't be a story and definitely wouldn't be a reason to bash the Yankees. Who needs reasonable analysis when we can get all over the Yankees.

I'm sure the biggest response to this would be "Well, at the time we didn't have all of the information we had now. It was playing like a big hitters park, and nobody could have predicted it normalizing." But this is precisely the point. Most didn't give it a chance. And that works both ways. The sample size still isn't big enough. These last few months of normalcy (playing pretty much just like the Old Stadium) don't necessarily mean anything. Maybe they are the outlier. But we won't know until we give the stadium a chance to play for a bit. True, you can predict very few things in this game. As a result you have to watch things play out and not go over the top based on small sample sizes.

The bigger the sample size gets, the more this stadium looks like the old one, and the more it doesn't look any different than others around the game. This isn't a story and this isn't a reason to bash the Yankees, and again I understand this. But runs per game is what matters, and this Stadium is saving more runs than the Yankees' opponents on average. What's more, stadiums aren't the only things that control what happens. This might seem like an odd concept, but the players actually have significant impact as well. So when the Yankees add more pop to the lineup it makes sense that they would hit more homers no matter where they play. This team was probably going to hit a lot more home runs at the Old Stadium as well. You have to take all of these things into account. And not many were. It's not the conclusions they came to that were necessarily a bad job. It was how quick they were to arrive at them. I know it's the Yankees and people can't wait to jump on them, but this was particularly excessive considering how few games had been played there when the criticisms were coming down. Sample sizes my friends, sample sizes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Good Dentist Can Change Your Life

Paul Byrd, he who was prescribed $25,000 worth of HGH for his fictional thyroid problem by a dentist, had a great outing tonight:
2.1 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 7.46 ERA.

The PawSox struggled mightily against the International League this year. They struggled even harder against the White Sox. Junichi Tazawa (7.56 ERA) has continued to prove that Japan was not a high enough level of competition for him. Good thing the Red Sox bypassed 42 years of an international agreement to get this guy.

Finally, Some Momentum

A very important win for the Red Sox last night, pretty much burying Tampa Bay in the wild card standings. Now the Rays will have to gain more than one game on the Red Sox every five games, which (given the Red Sox' schedule) is extremely unlikely. It looks like a two-team race now with Boston and Texas, and a series win on the road against a good team that always seems to give them problems is finally enough to give me a good feeling about the prediction I made earlier this week.

Because very honestly, winning series against Toronto, Chicago, and teams like that while losing series against Texas, Tampa, and New York inspires no confidence. They should be smoking bad teams.

First, let's take a moment to mourn the Tampa season and diagnose what went wrong. They had two big problems: BJ Upton and the bullpen. Now I don't know what happened to Upton, but he had a season to forget. He has similar numbers in extra-base hits, but he's not hitting as often, he's not walking as often, and he's striking out an a previously-unprecedented rate. Especially in last year's playoffs, this former 2nd-overall pick looked like he was going to live up to potential. Instead, he's been a liability.

Also, last year, the Rays' bullpen was an asset. It was a good year for a lot of those relievers who have a good year every three or four years--and they all coincided at the same time. While Percival was overrated and (I think) unreliable, they had career years out of Chad Bradford, Dan Wheeler, Trever Miller, and Grant Balfour. JP Howell evolved into a terrific setup man. And the only player this year who could replicate that was Howell. Bradford's back and not as good. Balfour is awful. Wheeler is bad. And whenever you have Randy Choate in your bullpen, you're playing with fire.

Moving along to the Red Sox, their offense has been livened by three things: The first is production from the shortstop position. The Lugo/Lowrie/Green triad was hitting under the Mendoza line for about two months, and while Alex Gonzalez will never win a Silver Slugger awred, he is continuing to prove that he does not suck as an offensive player.

The second is Victor Martinez. When Francona realized that he has to play everyday, everything changed. When Jason Varitek sits on the bench and is replaced by a competent major league baseball player, the opposing team needs to make an effort to get the competent major league baseball player out. And they sometimes fail. Who knew!

Perhaps the biggest is the fact that the guy I identified last year as the key to the Red Sox' victory has decided to show up to work for the last three weeks. The enigmatic Nancy Drew has battled through a devastating, debilitating, and perhaps career-threatening groin injury to consistently square the ball up almost every time he's up at the plate. He's not striking out looking as often. And when Nancy hits, the Red Sox win. It's been that way for three years, and unfortunately, Nancy doesn't feel like hitting too often. He has lately, though. It's sad that this is what the guy's capable of, but we see it so rarely.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Terry's Take

Brought to you by Bigelow Green Tea, the green tea of choice of managers who were once half-decent but became too gosh darn loyal and stopped making good baseball decisions, here's Terry Francona's take on what the hell he was thinking Wednesday night.

Q: Terry, how do you feel about losing tonight's game?
A: Well, we're prolly going let Tampa Bay Devil Rays back into the wild card race. We need to make sure Boston Red Sox are ready to play with the backs against the wall in a playoff situation, so we really want those games in late September to be important.

Q: With the bases loaded and one out while down by one run in the eighth after climbing out of a hole that Josh Beckett dug you into, why didn't you pinch hit Mike Lowell for Alex Gonzalez?
A: Wow, that's a lot of prepositions there. Answer is, we really wanted to give Mikey day off today because he has to rest his hip.

Q: But you pinch-hit Lowell in the ninth!
A: Well, that one extra inning is the difference between Mikey being healthy and Mikey not being healthy.

Q: Lowell said himself that he was getting too many days off and the extra days off are not consequential for the health of his hip.
A: Well, see, part of it is that Mikey prolly shouldn't have said that to Boston Globe. It's insubordination from a guy that I'm just really not that loyal to. He's only been with Red Sox since 2006 and he hasn't caught four no-hitters, so Mikey Lowell probably doesn't know what's best for himself.

Q: Varitek complained about playing time despite a .220 batting average last year.
A: Me and Tek prolly go way back. He's caught four no-hitters. And there are probably way too many times we've seen him come through. Mikey Lowell hasn't done anything close to that.

Q: Lowell is hitting .302.
A: But he has a sore hip. And he doesn't have a C on his jersey.

Q: Moving along, after Gonzalez and 46 struck out, leaving two men in scoring position, you let Ramon Ramirez come back into the game. He is a short reliever. Is it good business practice to truck him back out there after he sat for half an hour watching the Red Sox load the bases?
A: Ram-Ram didn't say anything about not liking to pitch doubleheader-type situations, so we were just going try him out to see if he can handle situations like that in playoffs. Daniel Bard warmed up too much last night and Pap pitched last night. I've never heard anything about pitchers losing rhythm after sitting for too long--if anyone's ever been talking about that, I was probably not listening and instead just enjoying Bigelow Green Tea with Joe Torre, who's great at using a bullpen.

Q: What about putting Manny Delcarmen in a one-run game to pitch to Evan Longoria?
A: Manny had to get his work in. We wanted to see if we could trust him in a postseason situation.

Q: All he did was serve up home runs and miss the strike zone. With four closers in Wagner, Saito, Papelbon, and Bard, why was he the one pitching in the close game?
A: Remember, this game wasn't really that crucial for us to win. It would have put Tampa Bay Devil Rays out of wild card race. And we want those games later on in September to mean something so that the Red Sox can stay sharp for the playoffs. We don't want to win Wild Card now. We want to keep two other teams in the race for as long as possible. I mean, look at Paps. He always walks the bases loaded before retiring the side and earning the save. But he always earns the save. We want to be the Paps of the American League Wild Card Race. That's why I prolly didn't really want to win the baseball game today.

Q: Another inexplicable set of managerial decisions tonight, brought to you by Bigelow Green Tea. It is not yet scientifically proven to kill brain cells, but Joe Torre and Terry Francona are inspiring an FDA investigation. Stay tuned for Pocket Money, which is filling the "idiot with overblown Boston accent who tries too hard to be funny" void left by the cancellation of Sox Appeal.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Funky Buttlovin!

Billy Wagner has instantly become my dad's favorite baseball player. All he does is come in, throw the ball as hard as he can, and blow people away. When you contrast that to Okajima tonight (this brings up the "why did Lester only pitch six innings tonight? He seemed to be taking the long rest intervals pretty freaking well" argument, but I won't go there), you get a guy who is throwing smoke versus a guy who is trying to be fancy around the strike zone and just walks guys and gives up hits.

Again, it's only been two innings, he's recovering from his major arm injury like Henry Rowengartner. Maybe the tendons have healed a little bit too tightly.

Two more things about the eighth inning: Papelbon was relieved because the bases were already loaded for him. That's a lot less work that he had to do, even with a two-inning save. Also, Jim Rice just told me that "Oki did his job." Five batters faced, four hits, one walk, zero outs. Jim Rice make it all nice.

Big ups to Forty Patrick Six, who will have to hit about .600 against the minor leaguers to actually hit the .353 he predicted in March, but who also had some big catches and added a nice insurance run in the eighth.

Big ups to Michael Felger, who (as my brother pointed out) sarcastically pointed out that Victor Martinez proved that there's someone else in the world who can put down one or two fingers as well as Jason Varitek can.

B.J. Upton might be the Red Sox' player of the year. If he wasn't the biggest underachiever in the American League this year, the Rays would be a lock for the wild card.

Ups to the gentlemen for putting up a superb banter up in the comments section during the work day today. I'm very sorry I was unable to contribute as it was going on, but I answered all posts.

Ups to Nancy tonight despite tying his 2008 mark for weak ground balls to the right side. It still does not make him a good baseball player. I had not read this until tonight (again, a busy work day for this guy today), but this quote from Amalie Benjamin makes me wonder about her journalistic credentials:

"tantalizing enough to see how a general manager couldn’t resist the temptation."

All they have to do is look at statistics. Have a pleasant Wednesday, folks.