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.


Anonymous said...


I think the Sox are garbage right now and I'm often one to get overly fired up about things, but I woke up this morning and was thinking about the 2005 Yankees. I remember them being 11-19 (because school hadn't ended yet) and hoping that they would drop four of the next five, because if they didn't, I knew too well that they were going to take off. And they did. Your numbers about the 2007 Yankees only reinforce that.

Now, I'm not saying that the 2011 Sox are as talented or have as much resolve as those Yankee teams. What I am saying is that talented teams can make up a lot of ground if they're given a lot of ground. And the Sox certainly have plenty of time and I believe they DO have the talent. I just hope they start showing it in game 12 and not wait till Game 31 or 51 like those Yankee teams.

Also, congratulations on all those posts. I know that I'm not the only person who really enjoys checking in here every day.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

gunn -

it's funny that you remember wanting the yankees to drop 4 of their next 5 at 11-19 for fear that they would take off. they won 10 in a row and went 16-2 over their next 18 to go from 11-19 to 27-21. they ended up giving a lot of that back (they were 39-39 on july 1 before taking off for good), but your point still stands.

until the sox get it going, pretty much everything is going to be a double-edged sword. on the one hand, there is a lot of time left, the sox have a lot of talent, and they are only 5 games back of both the division and wild card, which is nothing in the big scheme of things (this is really the most important point on the positive side). on the other hand, they have the worst record in baseball, have dug themselves a hole early in the season, and are going to have to either play really good baseball for a long time or lights out baseball for a short time to get to the total wins that they want to.

neither is right or wrong, it just is what it is. speaking from experience, the two-sided nature of it can be exhausting as a fan. like i said in the post, it's a grind. every game can start to feel bigger than it is. you feel like you can never 2 or 3 in a row (even though you can, the 2007 yankees lost 3 in a row twice after that july 13 date where they took off). at the same time you feel great when you rattle off 5 or 6 in a row. but then you don't like it when you win a bunch in a row or 8 of 10 and the teams in front of you are winning too, so you don't pick up much ground. it's a rollercoaster.

from my vantage point, one of two groups needs to step up for the sox: the back of the rotation or the bottom of the lineup. they are not strong in either spot between lackey/matsuzaka and lowrie/salty/ellsbury. they need to get better production from one of these groups to get going.

that's one thing the 2005 and 2007 yankees didn't have to worry about. they had shaky starting pitching at various points, but they had 1-9 offenses. both years this really helped them get back in it. despite their struggles, they still lead the majors in runs in 2007 (by 76 runs) and finished second to boston in 2005 (by 26 runs). the sox need to find the one area they can lean on to cover up other problem areas.

another thing those yankees teams didn't have to deal with is a division this tough. the rays were still absolute pushovers both years, in 2007 both the rays and orioles fell short of 70 wins, and in 2005 no team in the division besides new york and boston finished over .500. it used to just be new york and boston back then, and now there's a new dimension.

it should be interesting to watch. i'll tell you one thing, i've been saying to people that the yankees better take advantage of this and build a division lead themselves, because they will be kicking themselves if they don't.

John said...

I know people toss out the number of 100 wins because thats what a lot of people thought the Sox could win this season. But in reality the number of wins the Sox need at the end of the year is just a guess, and constantly varying. I understand that the Sox dug themselves a huge hole, and are going to have to do everything you guys have lined out for them to make the playoffs/win the division. The most important number is 5 games back like you guys point out. If we won the division at 81-81 I'd be a little embarassed, but in the end the ultimate regular season goal has been achieved. From there it becomes, how have you played lately and can you put it all together for a solid month of play.

Patrick said...

plus, charlie sheen thinks you guys are going to get back in it, so you have that going for you. i agree with what he had to say. good to see he really knows the game and what an absurd hitters park fenway is.

"I'd tell everybody to shut up, that they'll bounce back. It's a long season and there's a ton of talent there and a really bitchin' hitter's park they play in. Relax."