Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is the Deal with this Guy?

Tonight's Stat:  The three hitters in the order after JD Drew tonight were hitting a combined .169 (32-189) so far this season. 

Now, I already had this post half-written before Wednesday's Josh Beckett meltdown.  But I'm trying to figure this out:  What is the source of this guy's inconsistency?  I didn't want to think it, but it might be a mental thing.  I will admit that there are some issues with his structural anatomy - you can probably attribute some of the Florida ineffectiveness, the end of 2008, and part of 2010 to that.

Even in those years, however, Beckett has been Jekyll and Hyde.  Sometimes he has that Blister Curveball going on, and in the same game he's giving up bombs.  Obviously you think about that Friday night in New York last year, when he was unhittable for three innings, then he started throwing at people and getting shelled.  Is Josh Beckett's inconsistency a result of bad focus?

Could be.  The evidence:
-His best season was 2007, the year after he gave up 36 home runs and got absolutely killed by Boston fans such as myself.
-Years after getting contract extensions (2006, 2010), he was abysmal.
-He came to Boston as an injury prone guy who got a lot of blisters.  He shied away from the Blister Curveball that year.
-Similarly, small injuries can derail an entire season for this guy.  Instead of focusing and throwing the ball hard, he may have been throwing at 90-95%.  Hilarity does not ensue.
-His transcendent performances over the course of his career have been in the 2003 and 2007 playoffs, times where you can dial in.  Not to say he's an NBA player, but...
-Games like last night are somewhat common.  He gave up one home run, started jawing at the guy getting the hit, flipped out - and gave up another home run.  This guy can completely unravel on the mound, and this might be a mental thing, perhaps even more than a physical thing.

Felger was pissed at Beckett today after the home run, yell, home run sequence.  But the argument holds water.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Knowing Your Role

A few quick things to say (and I'm saving some more Josh Beckett stuff for a future post).  Don't want to elaborate much more because this is going off of box scores after being in class and then watching hockey all night.  The first quick thing to say is that 46 had a good game tonight.  He was 3-5 with two singles and a double.  Two of those hits were to left field, which means he probably went after an outside pitch and acted as a professional hitter.  This player can do this if he wants to.

The other two at bats, he struck out and hit a pathetic pop-up to third in the ninth.  This is what drives me nuts, and something my dad always harps on.  I have a strong feeling that both of these at-bats is a result of 46's insistence that he's a power hitter.  The player has pop, but while he was hitting home runs earlier this month, he was popping up, striking out, and hitting .170.  If this guy realizes he's a contact hitter who can make things happen with his speed, the better off we all are.  He did it during two at-bats tonight.

Think about this:  The Red Sox' leadoff hitter has twenty-two strikeouts and twenty hits.  While many of these are the result of taking meatballs right over the plate as called third strikes, many of them are 46 trying to be something he's not.  My dad's point is that Milan Lucic of the Bruins is doing the same thing, prancing around on the ice waiting to score goals instead of whacking guys like he used to.  His argument is that Glen Davis of the Celtics does the same thing, thinking he's a shooter.  All three should stick to their game.

Other quick hits:
-Watch the eighth inning on the replay tonight.  Jason Varitek is an elite defensive catcher.  He's also hitting .091.  And yes, May is on Sunday.
-Terry Francona is paying the toll for overusing Daniel Bard last year.  Bigelow Green Tea.
-The guy who should be leading off for the Red Sox hit sixth tonight.  Drew had one hit and two walks.  After the hit, he was succeeded by a strikeout and a double play.  After the first walk, the guy running in front of him (Detective Ortiz) got thrown out, something that wouldn't happen if it were 46 were hitting 9th and running in front of him.  After the second walk (with one out), he was succeeded by a strikeout and a fly out.  I have no beef against Lowrie hitting after the aloof walk machine, but I do have a beef about those walks going to waste in front of Crawford and Varitek (.156 and .091; 0-7 tonight).  But instead their leadoff hitter is a guy built like me but tries to hit home runs.

Enjoy yo night.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It Should Be Interesting...

...to see how long Girardi sticks with Soriano in the 8th inning just because he is "the 8th inning guy" and without regard to any other circumstance such as how poorly Soriano is pitching. It's not like there aren't other options. David Robertson, who has been a key piece of this bullpen since Soriano was in Atlanta, has a 0.00 ERA. As in he hasn't allowed any runs.

I understand the small sample size. We are talking about 10 innings or so for each player. I also understand the need to not lose Soriano's confidence this early in the season. The public fallout from yanking a high profile guy from his role this early in the season in this city can be more detrimental than helpful long-term.

At the same time, at some point you have to consider the short-term. The Yankees are flat out wasting dominant starts, and more importantly are just giving games away. They've saved 8 and blown 5 games already this year. That's a terrible save/blown save ratio. How much more of that can you take without shaking things up, especially when there are clearly alternatives?

I probably would be more in favor of being patient with Soriano if I wasn't so bothered by the general premise. Forget the players involved here, I can't stand the idea of locking guys into innings (besides closer, obviously) and just sticking to it regardless of circumstance. It's okay to have a general formula, or a group of guys that pitch in hold/save situations, but being overly structured in your ways can create problems. You have to be flexible with the bullpen. Ride hot hands and minimize cold ones. When you get to locked in with certain guys in certain spots, you end up absorbing too many cold streaks and underutilizing too many hot ones. That's exactly what is going on right now. Girardi was masterful with managing this exact situation in his first two years. He has slowly regressed. I'm not sure if this is a roster thing or a philosophy thing or just how things are going. But it stinks.

On that point, I also don't like the idea that because a guy is brought in at big money he is given an advantage over a guy who makes less money. Performance should be evaluated evenly across the board based on performance and performance alone. Soriano shouldn't have an edge on Robertson because he makes more money. I fear that isn't the case.

The two catches that kid made back-to-back on Rodriguez and Cano to end the game were absurd. Two spectacular plays. It was just uncanny - and extremely frustrating - to see that happen with the tying run on 2nd and the winning run on 1st for the last two outs of the game. Very rare. Compounded the bullpen issues nicely.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Series Over, Season Over

The best way to wrap up this series is that the Knicks learned a very important lesson. When a superior team opens the door for you, you have to take advantage of it. Because chances are they won’t open it again. Boston is neither as bad as they were in Games 1 and 2 nor as good as they were in games 3 and 4. No team plays to their “average” capability every game, their average is derived from a series of underperformances, middle of the road games, and overperformances. When a team like that has an underperformance – let alone two of them on their home court – you have to capitalize. If you don’t the series is probably over. Because eventually they are going to even that out with an overperformance, a game in which you will probably have no chance because of their superiority. That is exactly what happened in Games 3 and 4. And that is basically the story of this series.

The call of the series, by the way, came from TimC. He said an electric Madison Square Garden could actually help the Celtics, and he could not have been more right. At its peak, it’s the best basketball environment in the world. Nothing compares. The Boston Garden (or whatever it’s 17th name in 10 years is) doesn’t, especially after being exposed to the basketball they have the last four years. The difference in environment between Games 1 and 2 and the beginning of Game 3 night and day. And the Celtics played their best basketball of the series at the beginning of that game. It was the Knicks last real chance to get in, and the Celtics virtually put a stop to it before it started. I think it’s a combination of guys who have played a lot of big games recently and only get up in the biggest spots, having old legs rejuvenated by what was the most electric atmosphere they had played in all year, and the Celtics having the type of guys (specifically Pierce and Allen) who thrive in those kinds of environments. Good call, Timmy.

At the end of the day the Knicks just aren’t as good as the Celtics, and everyone knows that. They had a chance to make it interesting in the first two games, and let that opportunity slip away. Hopefully that is all part of a bigger learning experience that this year was. Because from here on out there are expectations, something they didn’t have this year. That’s what comes with having one of the best 1-2 cores in the game for a full season and being in the biggest basketball market in the world. Still, it was disappointing that they didn’t get a game. No matter what the circumstances, you’d like to see them get one. But without a healthy Amare and Chauncey they were supremely overmatched. It’s done with now, and they just need to get better from this point forward.

Besides, a nice silver lining would be the Celtics having to deal with losing to the Heat (if they get past the Sixers). Just as, if not more painful than losing to the Knicks in the first round given the rivalry they’ve developed with Lebron. Hopefully that happens.

I had a great basketball season as a fan. Far better than I ever could have imagined on both the college and NBA fronts. Now I'm enjoying moving over to baseball full-time.

Neither Will Your Readers (Volume 1)

The fifth and final year of "DV Style Lists" is going to be in honor of John Henry's assertion that he is smarter than you.  But let's cut to the chase:

1.  Bud Selig wants to expand the playoffs to ten teams next year.  As I said in my "27%" post about a month ago, this is a terrible idea.  With playoff basketball and hockey on this weekend, it was hard enough to watch baseball.  Making the regular season just that more meaningless by ensuring that a good team can coast and guarantee entry into the playoffs is disgusting.  It will also put the balance of some good teams' seasons on the shoulders of two starters.  And, considering MLB already works its schedule around "So You Think You Can Dance's" schedule, this will push the playoffs back to mid-November.  Hopefully Bud Selig has plans on moving the Cleveland, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Boston, Chicago, and New York franchises so that this doesn't matter.  You idiot.  Another well-thought-out plan by major league baseball to make a couple extra thousand dollars. 

2.  Red Sox are now 8-1 after starting 2-10.  What makes this the most impressive is that the last bad starting pitching performance was probably Buchholz on Friday, April 15th.  Lackey may have gotten the loss in the A's game they lost, but it was really the bullpen and offense who coughed that one up.  In these nine games, the Red Sox have surrendered sixteen runs, less than two a game.  That's ridiculous.

3.  Good to see Crawford's home run yesterday.  Hopefully that's the first step toward turning this thing around.

4.  All the Varitek (.074) suckups want this guy to play everyday.  It's been well-documented that I am a huge Saltalamacchia fan, but as I wrote last week, he's been bad.  A lot of that ERA disparity has been the product of passed balls and poor defense.  And at .186, he's barely hitting the ball twice as much as Varitek.  It is necessary to keep Saltalamacchia playing, though.  If Varitek plays 3 times a week, his defense will be crap by June as well.  Saltalamacchia has been the starting catcher over the first eighth of the season.  He should still be in there.

5.  Next 10:00 game is August 12th.  Looking forward to being able to stay up for the end of games again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Undefeated

Of course, this is referring to the Boston Red Sox with JD Drew as the leadoff hitter!  This is something I endorsed whole-heartedly in 2011 and in 2010, and started hinting at as far back as 2009.  I got a haircut that ended up too long, mostly because I was arguing with my barber about why JD should be leading off.  And here we are with the Red Sox at 4-11 without JD Drew leading off.

They are 2-0 WITH JD Drew leading off.  Drew has previously stated that he doesn't like to lead off.  However, it can probably be argued that he doesn't really like to play baseball anywhere in the lineup, so whatever.  From here on in I'm going to try to momentarily refrain from my trademark JD bashing and instead provide some analysis here.  But let's look at the two games here.

Points from Monday afternoon:
1.  JD led off the game with a triple.  Cool.  From here, the guys who are prone to hitting the ball and getting RBIs (Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis) have an opportunity to hop up on top 1-0.  This didn't happen, of course, as Pedroia walked instead.  But the bottom line is, Drew got an extra-base hit, something that happens reasonably often.  Leading off with a double (or triple) will force the pitcher to pitch a little more carefully to the #2 hitter, resulting in walks and putting two guys on in front of the mashers.  Drew later scored.
2.  In the second inning, JD walked with two outs.  This brought up Pedroia, who is not only going to be a .300 hitter, give or take, but is also a guy who had 102 doubles in his last two full seasons.  This results in - bingo - runs!  Drew at leadoff results in a greater chance of a two-out rally.  Putting him at the 7th spot in front of Varilamacchia results in a walk being completely wasted.
3.  In the fourth inning, JD hit an infield single.  Consider the remote possibility that the player formerly known at 46 actually gets on base.  He gets a lot of stolen bases.  If 46 singles and steals second, all it takes is a ground ball into the shift to potentially score the one-tool player.

Which brings us to today's game:
1.  JD hit a home run in the seventh inning with one out.  As much as I dislike this player, the fact that he has hit 81 home runs while a member of the Red Sox (along with the nearly 400 weak ground balls to the right side) is not even up for debate.  The guy has pop, especially on Friday nights and/or against the Baltimore Orioles.
2.  Varitek and 46 both went hitless today.  Theo Epstein said it himself the day sabermetrics died to me:  JD does the single most important thing you can do as an offensive player, and that's get on base.  (I might be able to use some quotation fingers here, but I don't feel like looking it up.)  JD gets on base roughly 38-39% of the time.  Putting a guy like this on base in front of the two players who pretty much can't hit (Varilamacchia and 46) would mean that if there are two outs, the inning is over.  If there is one out, the inning is over.  If there are no outs, the leadoff hitter (be it Crawford, Lowrie, Pedroia, or whoever) would have to have fun with two.  Drew at seventh is rally prevention.

Drew at the top of the order, with the risk of sounding like Eric Ortiz, is asking for 3-4 rallies per game that otherwise would not happen.  The Red Sox are undefeated with JD Drew leading off.  They'll probably win an additional 100 games between now and the rest of the season if they kept on doing that.  But this is only becasue JD is only playing 100 more games this year due to sore glove hand, dehydration, vertigo, sore hamstring, sore back, away games in Philadelphia, and general apathy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

There's Only So Much One Player Can Do

Tonight's game was what it was. The Knicks were without two of their three best players, and Carmelo Anthony put up one of the best performances in Knicks playoff history. It wasn't just his line - 42 points on 14-30 shooting, 17 rebounds, 6 assists - it was the circumstances under which he got there. He played 70% of the game 1 on 5. We talk about supporting casts, tonight was one of the worst I can ever remember seeing.

Forget bad games, they were having trouble executing simple basketball plays. Carmelo was ready to do everything tonight. All he needed was for the basketball to be taken care of when it wasn't in his hands, and a few 4 on 2 wide open layups finished while he was being tripled (he made all the right passes tonight without giving it up too much knowing he needed to shoulder the load). He got neither. It was a pathetic performance, and it's shameful that they wasted that kind of performance from Melo and a chance to get the split in Boston. But outside of seeing what Melo is all about when push comes to shove, we probably learned more about Boston tonight than we did about the Knicks. There is no way the Knicks should have been in that game.

It's an opportunity wasted, but you don't expect to win a game on the road against Boston without Amare and Chauncey. The real opportunity was on Sunday night. That was a game the Knicks should have won, and they didn't for two primary reasons.

1. The Knicks have two of the Top 10 scorers in the NBA. Two. They don't need Carmelo to do it every night. Sometimes it can be the Amare show. Especially when Amare is going off and Carmelo is having an off night. That was the case Sunday. The Celtics don't have anyone who can even pretend to guard Amare Stoudemire. He's playing a different game than Kevin Garnett and Glenn Davis, and everyone in the gym knows it. He wasn't just scoring on them, he was seemingly posterizing them every other trip down the court. 28 points on 12-18 shooting. Only problem with that? When a guy has 28 points on 66.7% shooting, he has to take more than 18 shots. Has to.

Again, this is especially true when Carmelo is having an off night. Off nights happen. One of the main reasons the Knicks were in both games was because Pierce and Garnett haven't done much of anything from a total production standpoint. But the Celtics know how to shift the focus to the hot hand(s) and run their offense for them. They don't force it. The Knicks didn't have to force it Sunday, they could have just gone through Amare and let him continue to score at will until the Celtics adjusted. They didn't and this was a big difference in the game.

2. The officials consistently let both teams play for 47 minutes. Lot of contact both ways. I have no problem with that, especially in a playoff game. But if that's the way you've been calling it for 47 minutes you can't suddenly whistle Melo for that offensive foul. I've seen all over the place even Boston fans agree with that. You've got a great game going into the last minute, and two All-Star caliber players going at it. Let them decide it, that's what we want to see as fans anyway. Don't call that, and then let Garnett get away with a blatant trip on the Allen screen. And then let Delonte West come on the floor to chestbump Allen even though play was continuing since the Knicks had not timeouts left (this is indefensible even if they hadn't called the offensive, you can't come on the court and make contact with a player while play is going on). Don't call the Garnett screen, and don't call the Melo offensive. Let the players decide it. The Knicks may still lose this game anyway, but at least let them lose it themselves.

The bottom line is the Knicks were in a position to get both games and they got neither. They've executed their defensive gameplan beautifully. Let Rondo get whatever he wants. Go for 40 on 60% shooting. No problem. Because A. as we saw in Games 1, when you leave him sometimes he still can't do anything so it's a good gamble to take and B. as we saw in Game 2 even when he does go off, all that usually means is Pierce and Allen aren't going off. Rondo making layups and 12 footers doesn't ignite the crowd and the team the way Allen sticking 3's and Pierce making tough step-backs does. When Pierce and Allen go off, they are dangerous. When Rondo and to a lesser extent Garnett go off, they are just going off. Big difference.

But the Knicks have nothing to show for it because the Cetics find ways to win games at the end. Which is fine, as bad as these losses have been it's all part of the learning experience. It's just too bad, because if they had been the ones to find a way to win one, especially tonight, The Garden would have been a madhouse on Friday. Melo would have gotten one of the biggest ovations you can imagine, and if Amare and/or Billups are back, the Celtics would have had a scene to deal with. They still will, but nothing like what it might have been. The Knicks need to win a game just to legitimize themselves in this series.

The one silver lining that Knicks fans can take away from this is that Amare and Carmelo have only played two playoff games in a Knick uniform, and already they've shown us who they are. Nobody can raise any of those questions ever again. They're playing a far deeper, more experienced, and just better team and each player took the team on their back one night. Basketball doesn't have the randomness that baseball does, where you have to do something a lot before we whether someone can do something. In basketball either you can or you can't. They've shown that they can, and they can big.

Monday, April 18, 2011

112-35

This looks a lot less daunting than the 115-35 the Red Sox would have to post after starting 2-10.  After all, they're destined to eclipse the 116-win mark and take their place on Immortality Peak according to NESN.com.  But now all they have to do is put up a winning percentage of .762, and this is thanks to the fact that after two weeks of working on baseball fundamentals (something that most teams take care of instead of golfing in Florida), the Best Team Ever is ready to play baseball.  Cool.

There really isn't even that much to complain about.  Three consecutive good pitching performances, including a redeeming outing by Lebron on a Monday morning.  The fact that he can throw so well and be so effective is further evidence that my theory on his game last Monday (he was grooving them on purpose/he's a headcase) might be more valid than the Gunn's (he's not good enough to pitch in America).

Four things I want to throw out there on the table:

1.  In the interest of fairness, it is necessary to point out that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not getting the job done.  Nobody's rooting for him more than I am, especially seeing I was one of those guys who was hoping the team would trade Clay Buchholz for him back in 2008.  But Friday night was disgusting.  Passed balls.  Stolen bases.  One-hoppers to second base.  One-hoppers to third base.  Sorry - if you had the yips, the team should be paying for a good shrink for you.  Throwing the ball on a line to second and third base are basebally fundamentals.  I have been reading that Saltalamacchia spent more time on the baseball field than on the golf course this spring, working on exactly that.  Improvements are still necessary.  I'm not going to get into the Varitek/pitchers' trust issues with this guy - at least not today.  But part of the reason the pitchers' ERA is so high with this guy (other than calling the high fastballs to Cano) is the fact that stolen bases are givens.

2.  The player formerly known as 46 now thinks he's a power hitter.  While on the surface this might be a good thing (and he absolutely killed his home run on Sunday), there is nothing worse for the Red Sox than this.  He's already been bumped to 9th in the order, probably because he's having trouble getting on base.  But now that he's going to try to drive the ball 450 every time up, his OBP might plummet even more.  Look, pitchers might start pitching more selectively to 46 (or maybe not due to the gaping holes in his swing), resulting in more walks.  But he should be spraying the ball to all fields.  You're a singles hitter, 46.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Unless you do what you're doing.  Also, good eye.

3.  Memo to Kevin Youkilis:  In Philadelphia and Boston, the two league leaders of the fan bases keeping it real, if you play well, you get cheered.  If you suck, you get booed.  If Matsuzaka doesn't want to get booed, he should not suck.  On a related note, in the NBA, if you rape a woman and call a referee an F'ing F, all cities except for Philadelphia and Boston will give you a free pass.

4.  On the shortstop controversy (and maybe Pat can talk about former shortstops in the comments section), as well as Jed Lowrie is playing, I absolutely understand Terry Francona's loyalty to Marco Scutaro.  The guy played with one arm all year last year while other players missed 144 games with sore ribs (front and back).  This loyalty is a hundred times more justified than Francona's loyalty to guys like Timlin and Varitek.  Scutaro deserves at least April.

Friday, April 15, 2011

1123 Games

Time to take the top bar off of How Youz Doin, because CSNNE is reporting that Gonzalez has signed his extension.  Of course, this was done to avoid the luxury tax.  The money John Henry has saved will be reinvested in a marketing agreement with PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens.

Please read my post below.  Worked way too hard on it to avoid a heated discussion today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lebronsuzaka

I mentioned this briefly during the Japanese meltdown on Monday night.  But the more I think about it, the more I believe in it.  Matsuzaka grooved those pitches in the second inning 100% on purpose.  It was like Chan Ho Park versus Cal Ripken in the All-Star Game.

Another similar member of John Henry's portfolio is the marketable commodity known as Lebron James.  Of course, this is because Lebron James, like I'm alleging Matsuzaka did, cares about his own personal vendettas, stubbornness, and being smarter than all the "experts" more than actually winning games.  This is a reference to the player absolutely tanking it in the playoffs against the Celtics.  You can talk about the fact that he still had a triple double (and Pat did), but let's get real here:  Lebron wanted to prove the point of "my supporting cast sucks, so I'm leaving to where I have a better one."  The 2008 Lebron, the one where we all agreed he was awesome, took over games and dropped 40 against Pierce.  The 2010 Lebron, despite being wide open for shots, passed it so that the supporting cast who sucked so badly could F it up.  This was in the face of all the critics saying "Hey Lebron, your supporting cast IS good enough, stop being a baby and play." 

We already know that Matsuzaka and the Red Sox have not been getting along.  The Red Sox like pitch counts, light in-between workouts, and they don't like walking guys.  Matsuzaka likes the Japanese reverence of the battle signified by a 3-2 count, getting a lot of reps in, and not getting pulled.  Like Lebron, we learned on Monday, he thinks he's smarter than everyone else.  Think about this attitude toward putting seven consecutive flat fastballs right down the freaking middle of the plate.

"F you, Curt Young.  F you, Terry Francona.  F you, Boston fans.  You guys all think I should change who I am?  You guys want strikes?  I'll give you strikes.  I'm smarter than you, because with me, you need to nibble the corners.  Watch how right I am.  Watch how smart I am."

How about Happy Gilmore seething on the 18th green of the Waterbury Open after Chubbs Peterson told him to just "tap it in."  Same thing.  "Don't tell me what to do, I'm smarter."  To make it like Monday, or to make it like the Cleveland/Boston playoffs, Happy would have five-putted and lost to Lafferty, Llanos, and Denegri just to prove his point.  But Happy wanted to win, so he just got it done. 

It's civil disobedience.  And that's so beyond unacceptable that I'm done with this guy.  At a tradeshow on Tuesday, I talked to a Cleveland fan who said that the moment she knew he was gone and she'd have to start prepping her kids for it was when he started passing the ball in the playoffs.  Lost on purpose, she said.

But that memorable scene of Lebron walking down the tunnel and ripping his jersey off?  Matsuzaka did just that on Monday.  It's time to move on with this guy.  He's checked out.  He's undermining management more than he ever has.  And he's crossed the line:  intentionally throwing games with the purpose of undermining management.

We've seen it before with the phantom knee/hamstring injuries when Manny Ramirez was unhappy.  The guys on the radio were wondering whether Matsuzaka is such a d-bag that he would do something like this.  Um, yeah?  Here's why:

1.  Insisting on leaving his Japanese team early instead of waiting the free agency period.
2.  After five years, still having the interpreter.
3.  The marketing of the "gyroball" and "national treasure" rubbish.  Doesn't it sound like all the "witness" stuff?  You struck out Karim Garcia and mowed down a bunch of Americans in February - good for you?  Gimme a freaking break.
4.  He's in the Unaccountable Generation.  Did you notice that nothing is ever his fault, ever Lebron's fault, never John Lackey's fault?  How about Josh Hamilton:  He's blaming his broken shoulder on his third base coach?  Really?
5.  Four seasons of workout disobedience, resulting in the hybrid of the American and Japanese ways.
6.  Scott Boras.

In fact, can it be ruled out that Boras DIDN'T advise Matsuzaka to do this?  I mean, Boras almost flew the guy all the way back to Japan if he (Matsuzaka) didn't want what he wanted, where the player would be a pariah because he would have cost the Seibu Lions $51.1 million and split a year later anyway.  Is Matsuzaka the biggest DB in sports?  No.  In baseball?  No.  But let's not pretend he's not a DB and that he's not capable of grooving a game to prove a point, just like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Manny Ramirez, and Lebron James.

Because he would.  And that's what he did on Monday.  Time to trade for some prospects.  How is the Marlins' farm system looking?

It's time to send Lebronsuzaka's talents to South Beach.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mid-Week Roundup

I had a nice, short, clean post lined up for tonight. A little A.J., a little Rodriguez, a little Lackey, and a little Knicks/Celtics. I'm still going to talk about those things, but between lining this post up in my head and actually starting it Joe Girardi did some ridiculous pitching managing so now I'm going to talk about that too. At least it relates to my first planned talking point, Burnett.

We all know about A.J. Burnett's solid performance two years ago, we all know how terrible he was last year, and we all know how important to this year's rotation. His first two starts have been encouraging. Tonight he continued to be impressive, even more so than his first two outings. He allowed no runs on only 4 hits and a walk through 6 innings, while striking out 5. At the end of 6, it was 7-0 Yankees, raining, cold, and because Burnett needed 53 pitches to get through the first few innings before settling down, his pitch count was just shy of 100. There was little reason to bring him out for the 7th under these circumstances (it's a different story on a temperate, clear, July day). Bullpen has been off for two days. And as always with Burnett, you want him to end on a high note. But the way he was cruising it's also totally fine if you do bring him out for the 7th, with the caveat that you have to get him out at the first sign of trouble. In other words, after getting the first out of the 7th, don't let him go double, homer, walk, homer so that not only is his outing partially ruined, but most importantly the Orioles are now back in the game. This makes no sense.

Moving on to Burnett himself, he's 3-0 and has been quality each time out, getting progressively better in each start. He was dominant tonight before the 7th inning thing, which I can't totally blame on him (even though he does need to get those outs if asked, so he's partially on the hook). I'm not getting overly excited, because he was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA after 6 starts last year. But because it went bad after a good start last year doesn't mean it will this year, and you always want to get off to a good start. Further, the difference this year is the changeup. He's not relying on having a great fastball and curveball this year, and if not becoming a one pitch pitcher. He is using a legitimately nasty changeup, perhaps for the first time in his career on a consistent basis. It has good velocity difference from his fastball, late fade, and he gets it down in the zone for a swing and miss but can also throw it for a strike. It's almost ridiculous how nasty the pitch has been given how scarcely he's used it previously. It's really helping to neutralize lefties, and gives him a different look/option from just fastball/curveball if he doesn't want to use one in a certain spot or flat out doesn't have one of those pitches on a given day. Big development, hopefully it continues.

The Yankees are a different lineup with Alex Rodriguez. I know this is an obvious statement given that he's one of the best players in history, but it's always palpable when he's out of the lineup for even one game and then back in the next. The lineup just LOOKS different without him batting cleanup. I'm not really getting at just the production, which again is the obvious part. More so I am just noting that after some up and down years (despite having fantastic production), he's finally found his place with the Yankees. He's their cleanup hitter. Not just because that's where he hits, but because that's who he is for them. This didn't happen recently, probably from 2009 on he became this guy for this team. But he is definitely it now.

Big break for the Red Sox with the rainout tonight. Not just because they look like a team who needs a breather - and they'll get a two day one at that - but because they don't have John Lackey trying to prevent their third sweep in four series this year. In addition, they get to skip Lackey until they get to Oakland, which is a huge ballpark and could help him out.

Knicks/Celtics get started on Sunday. I'm certainly not expecting a series win, just thrilled the Knicks are back in the playoffs and hoping for a good series. The good news for the Knicks is that they have two guys who are candidates for 40 on any given night, and as we see all the time in the playoffs big individual performances can shift series, even when one team is inferior to the other.

The bad news for the Knicks is that they do not matchup great with the Celtics defensively. Pierce crushes the Knicks, so I'm hoping D'Antoni does what he did in the second half the last time they played (before tonight) and puts Fields on Pierce, Billups/Douglas on Allen, and Melo on Rondo. This lets you get your best perimeter defender on Boston's best player (which should be Fields' focus this series), keep Melo off Pierce so he can stay out of foul trouble and focus on offense, and also let Melo play way off Rondo, turn him into a jumpshooter, and use his length to try to bother him. The downside to this is that when Billups is in the game he has to chase Allen around, which is not ideal. But I think it's the best of any option given this lineup. When Douglas is in you lose some offense, but I think the defensive matchup becomes even better under this strategy.

Conversely, I hope Pierce is glued to Melo all series, and that Melo's younger legs wear him down to take something away from him on the offensive end. I'm sure Green will see a lot of time on him, but the more Pierce on Melo the better for the Knicks. Should be fun to watch unfold, good series with some good storylines. Go Knicks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The 151 Game Season

I have to admit to being very surprised at the Red Sox losing the last two nights. Even though they faced two of the better young pitchers in the game, I thought the Sox were going to get rolling off the weekend series win against the Yankees. It just kind of had that feel. By the way, even though the last two nights have mitigated it, a good spot by the Red Sox over the weekend. Winning two of three when they easily could have lost two of three against a good team at home showed some resolve. One person in particular deserves a lot of credit, because without Dustin Pedroia they probably don't win the series. He barely made an out all weekend, and if he gets even one less hit on Friday the Sox might lose that game. Really impressive series from him taking the responsibility on his shoulders to find a way to win.

That series is a bit less important after the last two nights, as the momentum has evaporated. The Sox are now 2-9. It's getting to that tricky point now where you can't just say "if the team went X-Y over Z games in July it wouldn't be as noticeable." Teams like the Sox don't typically go 2-9 ever. Doing it to start the season, without any cushion, makes it even tougher.

Tough, but nowhere near impossible. I've watched two Yankees seasons in the last few years where they have been more games under .500 later in the season. In 2005 the Yankees were 11-19 after 30 games. In 2007 the Yankees were 21-29 after 50 games. Both were season lows in terms of games under .500. The Yankees went on to win 96 games and the division in 2005, 94 and the Wild Card in 2007. If those numbers aren't getting tossed around in Boston already, I'm sure they will be shortly, because those have to be two of the gold standard years for slow starts resulting in very good seasons.

I'm not pointing out those numbers just to make Sox fans feel better (although the can certainly be taken that way). Because the flip side is, those Yankees teams had to go nuts to get to where they ended up. In 2005 the they had to go 13-3 from September 4 to September 23rd to make the playoffs by two games, and it came down to the last weekend. In 2007, we all know about "the stretch". The Yankees were 44-44 on July 13. They went 23-7 from then until August 13, 50-24 from then until the end of the season.

It's not easy to win 13 of 16, 23 of 30, or 50 of 74. It's a grind. For the players. For the coaches. For the organization. For the fans. And the Sox are getting close to putting themselves in that kind of position, if they haven't already. They could win 10 in a row starting tomorrow, and that would allow them to avoid this situation. But more than likely, it'll be two steps forward one step back, with a few mini hot streaks mixed in. That means playing to a really good winning percentage over a longer period of time, like those Yankees teams. As it stands now, the Sox only have to go 93-58 to get to 95 wins. They may not need that many, but given expectations to start the season that's a pretty middle of the road projection. Have to play pretty good baseball to get there.

But that's how you have to think about it, a 151 game season. 93-58 is really good baseball and not easy by any stretch, but it's also not impossible for a team with this talent. They also may not need that much. They only have to go 88-63 to get to 90 wins. Still really good baseball, but that doesn't seem that crazy. Once you're playing well enough to get near 90, all you need is a few extra wins to get you where you need to be to get into the playoffs. What's done is done. They are 2-9. You can't try to get it all back in one game, or even 10 despite the fact that may happen. You have to start winning series, and playing more like they did against the Yankees ever time out. Playing consistent baseball for a long period of time is how you climb back up the ladder. As it stands, however bad the record might look, they are only 5 games out of the division lead and 4 games behind the Yankees. But they need to get started soon before they get in even more trouble.

On an unrelated note, one leftover comment from the weekend. Kevin Youkilis has to have the biggest case of Tim Duncanitis in Major League Baseball. For those not familiar, Tim Duncan has never committed a foul in his 14 year career. Seemingly every time he gets whistled for a foul he looks at the ref asking what he did like the call was wrong. Sunday night, Sabathia threw Youkilis a two strike curveball that went right over the middle of the plate around the thighs. Middle-middle pitch right down broadway. If that wasn't obvious enough, Youkilis also went too far on a check swing. Double strikeout. But he STILL argued! I respect Youk for being such a competitor, always have, no matter how annoying he is. But at some point you just look ridiculous. Major League hitters know what obvious strikes are. We see guys get rung up on an obvious pitch and just walk back to the dugout, acknowledging it was their mistake not the umpires. On the really obvious ones, Youk should consider doing the same. You know, like the ones where it's a called strike and he swings.

On another unrelated note, this is HYD's 1,501 post. 1,500 just seems like a pretty cool, even number to point out. Thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting throughout and at various times for making this site a good place to talk baseball.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Excelling

A screen shot from my computer tonight.


Best Team Ever
  The Rays scored as many runs before Matsuzaka recorded the first out of the second inning as they AVERAGED over three games.  Sample size, yes, sure, but you get my point.

There are so many problems going on with tonight's game, and I don't even know where to start.  I guess with Matsuzaka.  Maybe this guy was making a statement outing tonight.  "Hey Red Sox fans, you don't like how I nibble on the side of the plate?  Fine.  I'll throw some gyroballs right down the middle.  I'll attack the strike zone.  Then you'll see how smart you are."  I don't know what it's going to be with this guy, but something has to change drastically.  A pseudo-injury and Pawtucket stint where he can pitch to guys like Karim Garcia again like he did in Japan?  Who knows.  But this guy may simply not be good enough for the major leagues anymore.

At what point to the Red Sox say enough?  Because tonight was embarrassing.  This is probably his worst outing ever.  I feel just as bad now (while the Rays score run #15) as I did after Thursday's game when I flipped out on this blog.  I'm kinda hoping they can put another five on the board just so they can say they scored as many runs in Game 10 as they did in Games 1-9.  As of right now, they'll have to settle for 43% of their total 2011 runs.  Oh well.

A word from Eric Ortiz's articleDice-K might be the best No. 5 starter ever. The Japanese right-hander is the only pitcher in the rotation who’s never been an All-Star, but this could be the year he ends that streak.  Every Red Sox starting pitcher has something to prove. While the Phillies might be the popular choice as the best rotation in baseball, don’t be surprised if people are singing a different tune come October.


Other problems with this game that I have to spout off on:
-Kevin Youkilis:  The Second Base Cup champion no longer gets the free pass around here.
-Red Sox fans:  Your boy Varitek would not have saved Matsuzaka today.
-I heard on the rumor mill that during the Liverpool soccer game today, they played the Neil Diamond song about the 11-year-old girl.  I hope we get some "What should I do?" Nike commercials next time I go to Fenway.  Go Lebron.

The center fielder formerly known as 46 gets his own paragraph.  People are going to kill Saltalamacchia for a passed ball tonight on a knuckleball that allowed a run to score.  Well, they should instead be killing 46 for committing the three-base-error on a ball he hideously misjudged and couldn't use his one skill to make up for the fact that he can't concentrate.  I am dumbfounded how a guy who's almost as fast as Brett Gardner can miss a ball that's up in the air for that long.  I looked it up.  Despite the fact that he only played 18 games last year due to a dubious rib injury, 46 has played 620 professional baseball games in his career.  This doesn't even count college, high school, Little League, whatever.  How many of those games do you think 46 was playing center field?  Well, probably since anyone realized he was fast.  You'd think by now he'd be okay at judging fly balls.

Well, he can't.

And I will say this myself right now as the biggest Coco Crisp apologist in the world.  Coco Crisp was awful at judging fly balls.  I don't know what it was, but he misjudged them all the freaking time.  And I can't believe it, but...

46 might be worse.  I don't know if it's a matter of him not caring about developing this skill because he figures he can make up for it with his speed or what.  But he very well might be a below-average defender.  You hear that "pound for pound" argument all the time; well, mile per hour for mile per hour, 46 is the worst defender I've ever seen.  Over these ten games, I can already think about four instances where he has taken poor angles on the ball and either had to rely on his speed or straight-up miss the ball.  The situation with that diving play where Remy was furiously covering for him?  That one counts.  By the way, way to go flat-out on that one, 46.  Saw you put your knee down, just like I do while trying unsuccessfully to dive into a pool.  Afraid of breaking your ribs again?  You freaking wimp.  Please go back to Pawtucket until you learn how to play baseball.  Maybe it can be in September, when you can feast on minor league pitching again, you stiff.  Nice garbage time home run tonight.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Good Extension News

Some good news coming in from unconfirmed sources regarding the Red Sox signing one of their keystone players to a long-term contract extension.  No, it's not Adrian Gonzalez, who (by the time most of y'all read this) is only signed through the next 153 games.  But they did sign Clay Buchholz.

This is a topic we debated a little bit back on February 21st here on How Youz Doin Baseball.  The gist of the conversation was that signing him represented a risk, but this is going to be the case no matter who you sign.  The Red Sox only do this kind of pre-emptive buy-out of players' arbitration years if they have a lot of faith in the player.  So far, with Youkilis, Lester, and Pedroia, they've done well in evaluating their own guys.  They've also done well not extending Papelbon in this kind of situation, but, of course, it takes two to agree to an extension.

Buchholz said a few months ago that he was willing to take less money for the "security" of a long-term contract, and we discussed whether the Red Sox would want to assume that risk.  Well, they apparently do.  That's that's awesome. 

After all:  What's the worst that can happen?  He could be John Lackey last year at 60% of the cost.

While the last two starts haven't really reinforced all the faith I've personally had in Buchholz, I still believe that he's not a "sophomore slump" candidate after all the other teams get good scouting reports on him.  That's garbage, because this already happened in 2008.  He pitched half a season in 2009 before the full season last year.  Before last year other teams had 190 innings of data about his career.  If he were to be figured out and need to make adjustments, it would have happened by now.

Not gonna say Josh Beckett's locked in right now, because I've said that before just to see him melt down against the Yankees.  I don't need that guilt in my life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tee Time

If memory serves me right, the Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported on February 12.  If this scouting report was "leaked" to playerseason.com on the same day, you gotta think the other teams in major league baseball, like the Boston Red Sox, would have had an accurate, detailed scouting report on Robinson Cano.

On high pitches, in case you don't want to follow the link, Cano hits (from inside to outside) .238, .421, and .474 on high fastballs.  On high non-fastballs, Cano hits .100, .462, and .333.  So unless the pitch is in his ear, Robinson Cano is pretty good at hitting high pitches.

He hit some high pitches pretty hard today.  The first one prompted my dad to switch the text messages from rated PG to rated R, as he has started using the F-word.  The second one, I was dumbfounded because Saltalamacchia was set up for a high fastball.  That pitch, of course, went about 430 feet.

Did the Red Sox have tee time instead of going over scouting reports for the teams they play 19 times this year?  I'm rooting really hard for Saltalamacchia and Aceves, but this was bad.

Yesterday's win was a very good one.  Papelbon looked the best he's been for at least the length of a Presidential administration.  I don't know if it's a matter of compete level, but whatever he did yesterday, he should continue to do.  As bad as 1-7 is, it's a lot better than 0-8.

The Manny thing is probably something we'll talk about upon the next business day, but I have very little to say about it.  He's obviously out of the Hall of Fame if I were a voter, but that's largely because I'm a steroid Nazi myself.  (The thing that was weird about this is that Lou Merloni said he didn't care whether Manny or anyone were on steroids.  Lou, who said he only took amphetamines, would have had a major league job instead of taking the Pawtucket shuttle sixteen times a season if there weren't so many middle infielders doing roids.)  His legacy to me was not the production or the steroids:  It was Manny Being Manny.  But what an idiot, getting caught three different times.  Don't blame him for retiring - it would be dumb to come back for 50 games and retire after the season.  The Rookie of the Year award will now enter Desmond Jennings's lap a little quicker.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fairness

I'm all about fairness this year.  It's notable to say that AJ Burnett (2-0) has two more wins than the Boston Red Sox (0-6).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sweet Caroline!

Despite a valiant effort by Jon Lester (looks like all you need to do to get a fire lit under this guy in April is either lose your first five or play the Cleveland Indians), the team expected to "surpass the 116-win mark" and "take their place on Immortality Peak" fell to 0-6.  The team's compete level, except for that of Lester, was set to zero once again, and a nice little combination of no hitting, Drew weak ground ball #3, walking a #9 hitter to lead off an inning, and baserunning errors propelled them to 0-6.  I wish Mr. Larson from Happy Gilmore would go to Cleveland and ruin some of these golfers' five irons as a little reminder that they're being paid to win baseball games, and spending more time on the bunkers of Fort Myers Country Club than at City of Palms Park is not conducive to business objectives.

But that doesn't matter.  Who cares that they're 0-6, and who cares that they signed Adrian Gonzalez?  Opening Day at Fenway Park is tomorrow!  Watching the hit quiz show "Pocket Money" on NESN pumped me up for Opening Day at Fenway Park like nothing could except for maybe a rerun of "Sox Appeal," a Liverpool soccer game, or a NASCAR race where Roush Fenway superstar Carl Edwards illegally drills some holes into his car.  Yup, you know where this one's going.  I won't be too happy about this, and NEITHER WILL MY READERS.

But tomorrow, they're going to bring out some B-list celebrity from the 1990s (I'm just hoping it's not my boy Steve Harwell from Smash Mouth) to play terrible music.  They're going to have Ben Affleck in the good seats, and they're going to have martinis and margaritas for sale for the affluent suits and affluent female trust-funders attending the game during business hours.  They'll have jumbo jets, the big American flag, and maybe a five-year-old kid spewing PG-13 rated language like they did last year.  The fans there will cheer everyone except for maybe John Lackey, and then they'll all sing along to the Neil Diamond song with lyrics including "How can I hurt when loving you, warm, touching warm, reaching out, touching me, touching you" about an eleven-year-old girl in the middle of the eighth inning when they'll probably be down by a dozen runs.

That's awesome.  Hope springs eternal at the old ballpark that the ownership group decided to renovate instead of ponying up the dough and building one for people born after 1895.  That's great.

By the way, the cheapskate owners did not sign Adrian Gonzalez today, so there are now 156 games left until the end of his contract.  The Red Sox traded Rey Fuentes, Anthony Rizzo, and Casey Kelly for the last six games and the next 156.

BUT...

They did sign the player in Florida.  So everything's going to be okay.  Now, the Red Sox are a commodity alongside Liverpool, Roush Fenway Racing, NESN Original Entertainment (from which Sox Appeal and Pocket Money are a part of), and the brand of the player in Florida.  Felger and Massarotti almost rioted about this today.  But a subdivision of John Henry's sports portfolio will now be the brand managers for Lebron James, the guy who is responsible for "The Decision," the "what should I do" commercials, a bunch of Muppet commercials, and a brand of habitual losing when it counts because of a general "me-me-me" attitude that has labeled our entire generation in a negative light.

And these guys decided to announce it during this circumstance:
1.  During a Red Sox game
2.  Against Cleveland, the city whom Lebron told to go F themselves.
3.  When the team's 0-5 and the fans are already pissed off
4.  When the Celtics are in flux
5.  When there has not yet been any announcement on whether the team has entered a strategic partnership with a much more relevant athlete, Adrian Gonzalez.
--and they expected it to be taken as an exciting thing!  What planet are these guys from?

Look, I'm taking a marketing class right now on the side of my real job, my blog, and my 120 running miles a week, and one of the goals when you're marketing toward consumers is to communicate in such a way where your corporate values match the values of the consumer.

News flash, Red Sox fans:  Illinois guy John Henry, Pittsburgh guy Larry Lucchino, and New York guy Tom Werner don't really care about the same things (winning) that you care about.  The value of that 2004 World Series championship to them was not anything competitive except for the fact that they won the competition with The Gap when you bought a championship t-shirt.  If they really cared about a competitive baseball team, they would have done a lot of things differently.  The Adrian Gonzalez time bomb that explodes in 156 games because they're cheap and don't like luxury taxes is just the tip of the iceberg.  They don't care about your passion as sports fans from Boston.  If they did, they wouldn't have the gall and audacity to want to capitalize on the brand of one of the most hated people - nevermind athletes - in Boston.

At work, we are taught that most initiatives to change an organization's culture comes from the top down.  Executive buy-in.  I think the commodity of the JWHenry portfolio that happens to be your favorite baseball team kind of realizes that the guy at the top only writes checks and doesn't care too much about this team.  The soccer team and now Lebron freaking James is getting his attention right now.  He's apathetic, so your infective apathy is okay too, JD Drew.  Henry only cares about the bottom line, so it's okay for you to do the same thing, David Ortiz. 

I openly root against Roush Fenway Racing, against Liverpool, and against TV shows like Pocket Money.  I root against all currencies other than the United States dollar.  And this is because these things are poorly aligned with my values.  Other than his one commodity, the Boston Red Sox, which is really just another line of a balance sheet, I think John Henry's holdings suck.  I think what he's done with the Red Sox - both with the cross-promotion of all this other garbage and with the cheaping of the brand explained with the kid saying "screw 'em" and the singing of the Sweet Caroline - is dispicable.  I think his values flat-out suck.

It's time for him to sell the team to someone who cares about winning.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Best Team Ever

Let's take a look at the rule book, specifically rule 2.0, definitions of baseball terms to be used throughout the rest of the rule book:

The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

Rule 2.00 (Force Play) Comment: Confusion regarding this play is removed by remembering that frequently the “force” situation is removed during the play. Example: Man on first, one out, ball hit sharply to first baseman who touches the bag and batter-runner is out. The force is removed at that moment and runner advancing to second must be tagged.
Both of these refreshers on the Major League Baseball rule book would have been helpful to the future 117-win Boston Red Sox during the pivotal sixth inning of tonight's game.  See, in order to not load the bases, you have to throw the ball in the strike zone.  Dennys Reyes should not be on the major league roster on April seventh, period.  When you're the last guy in the bullpen and you embarrass yourself like that, you lose your job.  Seriously, Reyes could have been taken 450 (like Dan Wheeler did) and he would have been relatively off the hook.  But it is completely unacceptable to hit two guys and walk a guy trying to bunt on four pitches.  That's absolutely embarrassing by one of the vital cogs of the MUCH IMPROVED BULLPEN.

Jason Varitek sure knows about "fore play" with the sideline reporters, but apparently "force play" escaped his mind.  Maybe he was pouting about playing time or his pay cut and didn't pay attention to the fact that Youkilis tagged third base and therefore he had to tag a runner between third and home.  This is a team with such a hideous lack of focus that the 0-5 start causes less frustration and more of a feeling of "these freaking jerks deserve it." 

Matsuzaka is off the hook.  So is Adrian Gonzalez, whose homer makes it necessary for me to point out that he's only a member of the Red Sox for the next 157 games.

The fact that I'm the only person who's hammering Francona for being exactly what Claude Julien is - a complacent leader who is not getting his players to focus - is surprising.  I thought that the regional purveyors of truth, Felger and Massarotti, would have been on the Baseball Claude's case today.  Nope.  Their callers were blaming the veterans for not inspiring the new players.  Okay.  I'm all for hammering JD Drew for his half-hearted slide into home plate yesterday or for his effort going after a fly ball in right field (not every night is a Saturday night in Tampa, and not every fly ball is a foul pop-up by Matt Joyce with a runner on third with in a one-run game).  But there's someone else who has to be at blame.  Have another Bigelow Green Tea, you zombie.

This team is 0-5.  They deserve it.  The best they can be when they face the Yankees is 1-5.  They deserve it.  Their center fielder 46, with another called strike three in the late innings tonight, should be in Pawtucket.  News flash:  When you're a mediocre hitter who played eighteen games last year due to a phantom injury, you do not get the corners.

So it's up to April Lester to prevent a sweep at the hands of one of the two worst teams in the American League tomorrow afternoon.  The sycophants in the local media can talk about how they're the Best Team Ever, but this team could start 0-9.

Of course, they would deserve it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Protein Shake Makes His Debut

Girardi could win 100 games, he could win 60 games. No matter what he would still be the most confusing bullpen manager in all of baseball.

The Yankees entered the 8th inning of tonight's game up 4-0. Sabathia had allowed three baserunners over the course of the first seven innings. THREE! My math may be a little shaky, but the Twins are approximately 6-290 at Yankee Stadium over the last few years. 4-0 may as well have been 10-0.

In this situation, Girardi goes to his 8th inning guy. Who pitched the night before. In April, how can your 4-3 8th inning guy also be your 4-0 8th inning guy the very next night? In August of a playoff race, totally understandable. In the 5th game of the season? Prior to tonight, Girardi had warmed Dave Robertson in all four games and pitched him in one. He can't handle a 4-0 game?

According to Girardi, apparently not. Also according to Girardi, despite not being able to handle 4-0 with nobody on base, he CAN handle 4-1 with the bases loaded and two outs. That makes sense. Similarly, Mariano Rivera can't get one out with the bases loaded and two outs outs in the 8th in a 4-1 game, but can get three outs in a 4-4 game in the 9th. This makes sense.

The man does not understand leverage.

Don't get me wrong, the Yankees relievers are not blameless here. Soriano walked three guys in the 8th. But did you really need 32 pitches to figure out he didn't have it, and let it get all the way to the winning run at the plate before pulling him? Because I had it figured out about three batters earlier. Boone Logan was abominable in the 10th. But should it ever have gotten that far with the team being, in what should have been the worst case scenario, three outs away from Mariano with a 4-0 lead?

This is nothing new with Girardi. He is seemingly an excellent manager in all other facets of the game, but he is a horrible bullpen manager. 4-0 lead, against a team that has barely won at Yankee Stadium, that has had 3 baserunners all night, 3 outs away from Mariano (if he's even needed)! There is no defense for botching that situation, I don't care how bad your relievers are. Soriano shouldn't be pitching in a 4-3 game one night and a 4-0 game the next. Not in April. If you can't trust Dave Robertson with a 4 run lead against a team that had 3 baserunners through the first 7 innings, in what serious situation can you trust him? According to Girardi, you can't trust him in that situation but you CAN trust him in a far more high leverage situation. Terrible.

And let's not let the Yankees' offense off the hook. Four runs in the first two innings in each of the last two nights. No runs the final seven innings both nights. Also terrible, and seemingly complacent. Tack runs on.

No More Golf

Looks like another disappointing loss for the Red Sox, this time to a bad Cleveland Indians team.  This team is clearly not ready to play baseball.  All eyes were on Josh Beckett tonight, and he was awful.  The opposite of what John Lackey, Ian Kennedy, and Charlie Sheen say about themselves, he was much worse than what the numbers indicated.  While you can say he worked out of some jams, this guy was helped tremendously by the poor weather in Cleveland.  He should have surrendered at least three monster home runs tonight, bringing up the total to 14 over four games.  Location sucked.  He fooled nobody.  Three runs on 105 pitches over 5 innings is very misleading.  Should have been closer to Lackey's line.  At least this guy would have at least held himself accountable.

But this guy, as well as almost everyone who threw a pitch, is not ready for this season.  These guys were chilling out for a month and a half in Florida.  You'd think they would want to play some games that mean something.  Nope.  It's like the Gold Sox in the early 1960s all over again.  One hour of practice followed by eighteen holes of golf.  NESN themselves is playing right into this by having their closest-to-the-pin competition during their spring training telecasts.  Way to promote this lax, uncaring country-club culture.  That's just such absolute crap, and we've seen the fruits of this rubbish the first four games, as we have seen Texas and now Cleveland teams who are ready for April games when the Red Sox are ready for March games.

I'm not going to put much weight into their spring training numbers, but the fact that they were abominable for ten straight games in March makes you wonder how much they actually were coasting.  Probably a lot.  And they probably still are.  Completely unprepared.  It's like the entire attitude surrounding this team is toxic.  I could make a tasteless joke about how tomorrow night's starter might do, but I'll refrain from doing so.
The one person this should be falling on is Terry Francona.  When he warms up tonight, he should be flipping over buffet tables for his $180 million 0-4 disaster of a team, billed a week ago as the best in franchise history by sycophantic fans and fanboy journalists alike.  Except for this half of How Youz Doin Baseball, everyone's picking them to win the American League East.  If Kevin Kennedy lost his job over his 1996 team with high expectations starting like a bunch of Little Leaguers (3-15; 7-19), Francona deserves at least pressure.  If Claude Julien is getting the heat for his team failing to show up to play, Francona deserves similar heat.  I don't care if he has a Canadian accent or not, everyone's being treated fairly at How Youz Doin.  The GM is all about fairness this year.

One more thing about Francona:  The fact that he has no freaking idea where to hit Carl Crawford is embarrassing on two different fronts.  He couldn't have figured this out during their 30 freaking spring training games?  It's also evidence that this offseason was a haphazard spend-fest 100% because fans were squawking at the ownership group's Liverpool distraction and dispicable "Neither Will Your Readers" comments in the Boston Globe.

Josh Tomlin looked good in career start #13. 

A final observation:  How many times is 46 going to strike out looking on pitches down the middle?  He did it today in one of the most predictable at-bats of all time.  This guy is not a good baseball player; he is not a smart baseball player.  It seems like he'll never learn.  His at-bat in the eighth:  similarly disgusting.  Chases a well-located pitch and hits yet another lazy fly out to left field on a 1-1 count.  What an embarrassment.  I don't care if he's 27 years old and, at least theoretically in the prime of his career.  I don't care if Steve Buckley thinks he's a future Hall of Famer.  This guy should be playing in Pawtucket, no exaggerations stated or implied.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Teixeira, Rodriguez Locked In

The Yankees are off to a fast 3-1 start, which is always nice. It's too early to get excited about anything one way or another, but it's obviously better to hit the ground winning. The Yankees do not have an easy first 10 games, playing 10 times in 11 days against two AL Central contenders at home and then visiting AL favorites Boston for their home opener. I would be very happy with 6-4 over those 10, and the Yankees have put themselves in a position to go .500 the rest of the way and get to that mark. Hopefully they can keep playing good baseball for the rest of the week.

Just as it's early in terms of wins and losses, it's early in terms of any sort of stats. Both Teixeira and Rodriguez have fantastic stats through four games, but that's not what has jumped out at me. What has jumped out at me is the way Teixeira and Rodriguez have looked.

Tex looks like he's in a mid-June Teixeira groove, and it's the beginning of April. He's taking consistently good at bats and making very solid contact. Early in the last two seasons he's looked out of sync, in many cases just missing balls. Not this year. He hasn't been missing, and when he doesn't miss the ball goes a long way very frequently. It's only four games, but getting a good April from him would be a big boost for this team.

Rodriguez has been a step even further thus far. With Tex, he just looks like he usually does from May 1 on in April. With Rodriguez, he looks like he did four years ago. To say he's not missing wouldn't do it justice. He's not hitting the ball hard, he's pulverizing it every at bat. That homer down the left field line tonight looked like it didn't get more than 20 feet off the ground. And it went 10 rows deep. Ball was on a rope, you really can't hit it much harder. Rodriguez is one of those rare guys that when he's on, the ball just comes off his bat different than it does for most other guys. Like Manny in his prime and Pujols now. The ball jumps off their bat, looks different, sounds different. Rodriguez looked like this in Spring Training, and he looks like this now. It seems like every out is a loud out (he's gone to the warning track three times in the last two games). That's when you know he's on fire, when every ball he gets in the air looks like it has a chance to get out.

My reason for pointing this out is that this had to be one of the biggest things the Yankees were hoping for, both Teixeira and Rodriguez bouncing back from having good seasons to having Teixeira and Rodriguez seasons. They were both good last year, but it was really Cano who was "the man". If they both go back to being "the man", the Yankees offense goes from one of the best in the game on paper to an entirely different level in actuality. They can be the most dangerous 1-2 in the game, and when you add in Cano there really isn't another team that has three players that could all be the guy on a lot of other teams. So far, that is what the Yankees are getting and it's been big. It will be even bigger if they keep it up as the season unfolds.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Uphill Battle

Okay, so now, in order for the Red Sox to have their 117-win season predicted by Eric Ortiz of NESN, they will have to go 117-42 the rest of the way.  Looking forward to the .736 winning percentage from here on in.  Look, the silver lining in this series is that JD Drew is in mid-season form, 1) sitting out 67% of the games, 2) walking, and 3) hitting a grounder to first preventing a run from scoring in his first two at-bats. 

I'm not going to flip out too much about getting swept by Texas.  I feel like I've already done that enough in the first four seasons of How Youz Doin Baseball.  We don't get worked up about the first two or three games, right?

Well, Terry Francona tells us not to.  But after two rough games, he immediately moves their new acquisition Carl Crawford to seventh in the order.  Pat was blowing up my phone about this, but this is the knee-jerk kind of reaction that is typically the result of Bigelow Green Tea-related dementia.  Good.  Whatever good stuff Crawford does at the plate can be negated by the black hole that is 8-9 in this order.  BUT A ELFTIE IS ON THE MOUND!!!1

Credit where credit's due:  I will take my hat off to the other Ortiz, David, who decided it was no longer worth his time to conduct the investigation of why his steroid test turned up positive back in 2003.  Hopefully this way, he can be a good hitter full-time instead of being a part-time crappy detective and a part-time crappy hitter.  Two home runs will not get this guy off the hook in my book, but it's a great start.

Not as good as Nelson Cruz or Ian Kinsler, but he's not facing batting practice pitchers who have been on cruise control for a freaking month.  Memo to Jon Lester:  You may be good at chipping a golf ball toward second base, but you have another more important job during spring training.  It's called getting ready for the freaking baseball season.  Less golf, more preparation.  I also know for a fact that Clay Buchholz is a tremendous golfer.  Didn't get a chance to see any of his pitching today (I could drop a Shooter McGavin line here), but the way Dale Arnold sounded on the radio would indicate that there was too much golf.  I'm really more pissed off about all these Kinsler home runs because the cheering was drowning out Elvis Andrus's walkup music (Just a Dream by Nelly).

I was closely examining John Patrick Lackey last night, trying to figure out if he actually had a case for his inevitable "my performance was a lot better than the 3.2 IP, 9 ER line" comments.  A Josh Hamilton RBI single early in the game was the only good pitch that was hit.  The rest were bad.

Awesome bullpen.  Much better than the Yankees.  Untouchable rotation.  Great lineup.  117 wins.  Boy wonder.

Also, if you haven't noticed, check out the top of the blog.  The boy wonder traded the farm system for Adrian Gonzalez, who is now a 159-game rental.  I thought they were going to sign this guy once the season started.  Well, the season started, and this token of Theo Epstein's ineptitude will be hanging over this blog like the Sword of Damacles until an extension is signed.  If an extension is signed.