Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Few Concerns

Sadly, not much time to write about stuff, because this could definitely be three separate posts.  But here are the three concerns a Red Sox fan should be thinking about as we enter the summer with the team in first place:

1.  Matsuzaka's elbow.  Okay, we know he hasn't been effective.  He hasn't been that way for a long time.  But let's face it, this guy's going to get Tommy John surgery, and it shouldn't be a surprise for anyone.  Usually as an athlete, if you redline it for a long time, you'll end up paying for your sins.  Some people just get it worse than others.  If you're JD Drew, on the other hand, you don't get career-altering injuries, because you probably don't train that hard.  Matsuzaka did.  And he's paying for it, big time.  The real question here is, is this something the Red Sox anticipated will happen?  You know the all-time lead in pitcher abuse points that this guy developed in Japan.  You gotta think the Red Sox saw it coming.  And did the player see it coming?  Who knows.

2.  Pedroia's foot.  We're talking about the initial injury, the reaggravation last year, two small reaggravations this year, and the numbers this year.  Sorry.  This is an issue, and a big one.  Pedroia might not be 7'5" and play basketball, but he's suffering from the same injury as Yao Ming.  Yao hasn't played much lately.  While it's a different body type and a different sport, it's something that you gotta keep in the back of your mind.  The fact that he keeps reaggravating it is unsettling proof that the architecture of that foot is not strong right now.

3.  Daniel Bard's arm.  Same concept of paying for your sins, but on (hopefully) a smaller scale.  This guy got A LOT of innings last year, and Francona rightfully got a lot of flack for it.  But this season might end up being one to forget for Bard.  Either because he's paying for an inning, or he's a first-round draft pick who is becoming just a middle reliever.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Really Freaking Good

I'm feeling pretty good about watching Red Sox baseball from now until 2018.  Not only because JD Drew will probably keep on feeling that sore hammy until the end of THIS season, but also because we're in good hands at the first base position.  While a lot of players don't really fit the billing that the sycophantic fanboys post for them, Adrian Gonzalez (so far) has done that and maybe exceeded it.

The numbers speak for themselves.  The only one that doesn't look too great is the number of double plays.  He has hit into ten of them already this season, and has had a few games this year where he hit into two.  I guess when a guy's Youkilis Fast, this kind of thing is going to happen.

Everything else has been awesome.  He's hitting .340 through last night's game, and it's not like he's just riding a streak where he's hit .600 for a week a la Jed Lowrie.  He's hit .393 for the last month, but that's prolonged production, not a ten-game hitting streak.  He leads the league in doubles, hits, and RBIs.  I know that Theo Epstein doesn't care about RBIs, but it means he's going up to the plate looking for a hit or looking for a way to move runners along instead of walking.  He's aggressive.  And while that leads to a strikeout every 6.4 at-bats, it also leads to hitting if you have a good swing.

I say "good swing," because he has that sweet swing that they always say JD Drew has - except he is what Drew would be if Drew cared.  He's a smart hitter, and this meets expectations.  He doesn't wait for the perfect pitch, instead going the other way.  The way he swings, though, he can go the other way and still go for extra bases.  With 81 games at the Little League field every year, he could hit 40 home runs, keep on drilling doubles, and maybe set a stadium record for the number of singles hit off the wall.  (One of those guys at Elias Sports Bureau has to have that stat.)  He has the ability to hit the ball down the lines if the pitch is conducive to that.  And unlike a lot of other power hitters, he's not sitting dead red fastballs so he can just hit the ball 450.  He's not a dead-pull hitter, and I think it's unwise for teams to play the shift against him like I believe Cleveland did last night.  He's not a five-tool player, but he has both the contact ability and the power ability.  Incredible.

A lot of this stuff is the kind of stuff you'd write or read BEFORE the guy signs with a team.  Keith Law or Buster Olney said a whole bunch of seemily-hyperbolic garbage that probably reads similar to the previous paragraph.  But that's offseason talk.  You rarely see it during the season, as it's dismissed as hyperbolic bullcrap.  Well, here it is, May 25th and we might actually be saying that Olney, Law, or whoever said it underestimated Adrian Gonzalez.  We might actually be saying that Peter Gammons underestimated him.

He also doesn't seem like a DB.  He didn't get into any contentious contract negotiations like I thought he would.  It wouldn't surprise me if things seven years down the road turned sour, but I hope not.  I'm enjoying what it is today, and what it is today is that Adrian Gonzalez might be the best player in baseball. 

He also just turned 29, which means that he's a mere 16 months and 3 days older than young prospect with a lot of upside, 46, who may someday have Carl Crawford skills and is likely a future Hall of Famer.  All sarcasm aside, it's exciting to think that there are going to be eight more years of this.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rallying Late

At the beginning of the season the Yankees had a very clear pecking order on paper in terms of strengths and weaknesses: their offense was a clear strength, their bullpen was going to be right behind it, and these two things were going to have to carry the rotation, at east until the trade deadline.

Funny how baseball goes. Almost two months into the season, the rotation has been the clear strength, the bullpen has been right behind it, and the offense has lagged. Full disclosure: the macro numbers do not back this up. The Yankees lead the American League in runs scored. "Lagged" is obviously a relative term, in this case relative to expectations.

And as we all know, macro statistics don't always tell the whole story. Watching the Yankees night in and night out is how you arrive at their current pecking order. The offense has great overall numbers, but far too often have let winnable games slip away while getting fat in games that are already well in hand. The rotation does not have such elite overall numbers (albeit very good - 3.97 ERA), but they have given the team a chance to win on an incredibly high percentage of nights. The bullpen ERA is 3.06, 3rd best in the American League, so clearly they have done their job.

All of the talk is that the Yankees are too reliant on home runs. This statement is too broad. Yes, the Yankees are an extremely powerful team in terms of the longball. Their 71 homers leads baseball by a mile, and they are scoring just over half of their runs via the homer.

This part of it is hardly a bad thing. The home run is the single best thing you can do at the plate, and the Yankees do it well almost throughout the entire lineup. It's not so much that they are too reliant on the homer, it's that they aren't good enough at scoring in other ways. If they could still hit the homers, but also be more proficient at manufacturing runs, that's ideal. So it's not the homers that are the issue, it's just that they aren't as good at manufacturing runs. They get plenty of guys on base (5th in MLB in OBP), and can mash the ball (1st in MLB in SLG), but their RISP numbers are dreadful. They are consistently tossing up stinkers like the 2-15 with RISP two nights ago against Toronto. This may even out, and if it does this offense will be even more dangerous. Until it does, it's a big problem for this offense. Maybe their only significant problem, in fact.

And in my opinion this is hampering the Yankees in one key area (besides just scoring runs). They are 2-15 in games where they trail after the 6th inning. This is not the typical Yankee way. They are typically a team that feasts on middle/late relief pitching, a team against which few leads are safe. Hasn't been the case this year. I think this is often because they don't grind at bats, move baserunners, pass the baton, and get the big hit instead always waiting for the big fly. They saw on Sunday against the Mets, in one of their two comeback wins after the 6th this year, how effective the former approach can be. They scored 8 runs in the 7th without hitting any home runs, and without even really hitting any balls that hard.

Of course the home run can be very effective late too. But you can't totally rely on it. Late in games every at bat becomes more magnified, and you have to put pressure on opposing relievers even more by getting guys on base and moving them. The Yankees need to do this more, not just to score more runs and to score more consistently, but also to give themselves more of a chance to rally late in games. All of these things become more important when you consider the possibility that the pitching is performing above their heads and may regress. If that happens the Yankees will need to meet that with an offensive progression. If it doesn't, then the Yankees will just be that much better off.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Legitimate Major League Starter?

Tonight we have an opportunity (while not watching the Bruins) to see a little bit of Justin Masterson.  Last time he was facing the Red Sox, he was struggling as a starter.  He beat the Red Sox, I'm pretty sure, but some of the same issues facing the pitcher when in Boston were following him to a bad Cleveland Indians team.  Bad splits against left-handed hitters and a strange, lower-than-usual delivery that makes the ball a lot easier to see as a lefty than as a righty.  Possibly destined to be a reliever, worse yet a ROOGY.  He was 7-20 from the trade to the end of the 2010 season.  He was taken out of the rotation in September.

He's now 5-2 as a starter and the Indians have the best record in the league.  This is great.  He was not in Portland for long when I was in Portland (he was promoted in like May), but what I gathered from the rest of the staff, the players I interacted with, and pretty much everyone, he seemed like he was the balls.  Not your typical adulterous scumbag that is native to professional sports.  Even when he was traded for Victor Martinez, I was hoping he'd succeed.  And it was a shame to see him struggle the way he did in 2009 and 2010.

Now, to the question I ask in the title:  The answer very well might be yes.  The lefty/righty splits were significant last year, but not THAT significant.  He did have trouble keeping lefties in the yard (a home run every 44 plate appearances) more so than righties (every 90 plate appearances), but he gave up 14 homers all season.  We're not talking about Josh Beckett 2006 (every 24) here.  The batting average splits were .290 versus .263 (Clay Buchholz is .276 versus .248, a 28 point differential compared to Masterson's 27-point differential).  The splits are not the problem.

A second argument in Masterson's favor:  Look at the ERA.  He was on some bad teams, probably a cause of the hideous 7-20 record.  He posted that 7-20 record with a bad, but not horrid 4.66 ERA.  You can go 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA or 9-6 with a 4.69 ERA, or make $16.5 million with a 5.24 ERA (like Lackey, Matsuzaka, and Burnett in 2010).  Not good, but not bad.  And in this case there's room for improvement.  Next argument.

Justin Masterson is 26 years old, one month older than me, one month younger than Pat, and exactly eighteen months and eleven days YOUNGER than young prospect centerfielder 46 who has so much upside and according to Lou Merloni may someday have the same tools as Carl Crawford.  (Crawford is 22 months and 26 days older than 46, for the record).  There are a lot of 26-year-old pitchers who are still trying to get everything together.  Further evidence that Masterson's still getting it together comes from the platoon splits again.  But this is with WALKS.  He walks lefties and doesn't walk righties.  The strike zone is the same no matter who's hitting.  This is the sign of someone still putting it together. 

My conclusion is that Justin Masterson isn't going to be a Hall of Famer, but will be a formidable Major League starter for years and years to come.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Few Quick Thoughts

First post written on the new computer is really not going to have a rhyme or reason.  Oh well.  Here goes.

1.  To prove my love for my readers, specifically my boy Jason who used to read from Wilmington but now reads from halfway across the country, I'll answer last week's question in the post body.  To the best of my memory, which may not be that good because we've written more than 1,500 posts, I rarely whine about the rain and sitting out in the rain.  I don't go to games that often, and I only actually BUY tickets once a year.  I received tickets for last night's game because nobody else at the office wanted to go, and because management heard I won tickets at a road race to a game I cannot attend.  The things I have complained about regarding the rain have been as follows:
a) MLB's scheduling of first-week games in cold-weather cities.  I whine about this because it's completely avoidable, but for some reason MLB wants to make the fans and players suffer so that big matchups like Yankees/Sox and...Tigers/Indians can take place and be potentially snowed out?  That's stupid.
b) Baseball teams, most notably the Red Sox, taking their time to announce rain outs, and opening the gates despite having no intentions to play the games.  I understand that fans (like myself) have trouble grasping the idea of sunk costs, but the team exploiting fan stupidity is not in good taste.  Even more heinous is when they know they're raining out the game, the owner's wife is Twittering it, and they don't announce until 25 minutes later.
c) MLB putting player safety and fan comfort at risk by playing in a monsoon because they don't want to interrupt Fox's prime time TV schedule for the World Series.
d) MLB's crappy "unbalanced schedule" resulting in forcing in games like Wednesday's and Thursday's because there's no other time to make them up.
I sat out in the rain on Wednesday and enjoyed it.  I probably would have enjoyed Game 1 of a doubleheader in September more, even if it meant JDing out of work.

2.  Speaking of the unbalanced schedule, interleague play has now officially killed all tradition it had not yet destroyed.  Let's consider the situation where the Red Sox and Cubs played in the 2018 World Series.  Without interleague play, they could have said "this is the first time these teams have played since 1918."  Now they can say "this is the first time these teams have played since some crummy interleague series in May 2011 when Matt Albers coughed the game up.  Remember that guy?"

3.  No matter how many times it happens, watching bullpen implosions is still frustrating.  Watching poor fundamental baseball from Lowrie, Varitek, and Youkilis is worse.

4.  I like offensive explosions, though.  After the 15-5 game on Friday, I contrasted the 7-game winning streak to the 10-game winning streak the Yankees needed to get to 21-19 in 2005.  I didn't think this team was good enough to string together such a streak.  But they did.  Good for them.

5.  Never fun to see the Marlon Byrd beanball. 

6.  In a few weeks we'll probably have a lot of discussion regarding Daisuke Matsuzaka's elbow and potential Tommy John surgery.  That sucks, even if you're a hater.  But was this inevitable, given his lifetime workload?  I compare it to my surgery last year, except this is a much more serious injury.  I feel like most people who overwork themselves physically end up paying for it.  And you gotta think the Red Sox saw this coming the day they paid the $51.1 million posting fee.

7.  Don't like to advertise it much unless I'm sitting in an airport with my laptop on my lap.  But I'm headed to Vermont this weekend for the Vermont City Marathon.  I'm fit.  So get your popcorn ready.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Half a Game Out

Not sure if this is more of an indictment of the AL East or a celebration of the Red Sox.  Probably the former.  Going 22-10 after going 2-10 is exactly what was necessary.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Necessary Love

As Wednesday's post suggested, I went to Wednesday's sellout game at Fenway Park.  I think the only person happy there that night was JD Drew because he was clearly chilling out in the clubhouse watching hunting on television on DVR.  Even John Henry was pissed because with only 3,000 people actually showing up, less concession revenue.  This rain sucks for being up 20% this year, even though Lebron took care of those Celtics and is now one game up on the Bulls.

The game was Victor Martinez's return to Boston.  He was not acknowledged any more or less than Ryan Raburn, which is sad on so many levels.  It's too bad that the pink hats who go to Red Sox games now don't remember players from seven months ago.  It's too bad that nobody showed up to the game.  And it's too bad that the lack of respect for this guy who did so much the right way continued.

So here's the love.  What value.  At the price of under $12 million, two minor leaguers, and Justin Masterson, you got the following:  A .313 batting average, 73 extra-base hits (compared to 75 strikeouts), a guy who was most likely instrumental in getting Clay Buchholz to where he is today, (we've gone over the Buchholz/Varitek thing before), a reason the team stayed in contention last summer until JD Drew went after the foul ball, a big reason they were reasonably successful in 2009, someone who made Jason Varitek productive in 2010 and prevented Jason Varitek at-bats in 2009.  Varitek hit .134 after the Martinez trade in 2009.

He was also a smart baserunner and wasn't as bad behind the plate as he got the flack for. 

He was also also someone who would probably be a useful piece of the puzzle right now, and then potentially move to DH when David Ortiz leaves Boston (probably for a full-time investigation gig) this year.  He was a great teammate, it seemed.  He seemed to keep Beltre happy.  And he was one of the few Red Sox from the 2009 team that was capable of keeping his mouth shut instead of complaining.

When he left Boston last year because the team insulted him with a 2-year, $20 million contract offer, he didn't sling mud like your beloved Johnny Damon did.  He was nothing but professional, courteous, and productive from the day he showed up to the day he left.

He deserved better.  And while he probably doesn't read How Youz Doin Baseball, here's the voice of one saying thanks, Victor.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Selig Personally F's with DV, Rant Ensues

Note:  I have Red Sox tickets to Wednesday's (tonight's by the time you read it) game.  Upon being asked "what are you doing Wednesday night?" by the Franchise this morning, I started typing the following email (edited for content) to Pat:

Bud Selig is a [expletive] disaster. You think I'm going to rip him for the expanded playoffs that pretty much nullifies the importance of, well, six months of the baseball season. Well, wrong.

I have tickets to Wednesday night's Red Sox/Tigers game. Not sure if you've seen the regional weather forecast, but it goes along the lines of rain today, rain tomorrow, rain Wednesday, rain Thursday, showers Friday. The Red Sox and Tigers are playing six times all season, only two of these games being at Fenway Park. Those two games, of course, would be Wednesday and Thursday. Don't you think there would be some kind of [expletive] contingency plan just in case there's, you know, a two-day rainstorm in May? This [rain for two days straight in May] is not unfathomable; it happens all the time. But no. Only two games, so if my game's rained out on Wednesday, I'm going to have to take a JD [DV for "unnecessary day off] on Thursday to sit out on a roofbox in the [expletive] rain all day, sit through about nine rain delays, and have John Henry, Tom Werner, and Lebron James (up 20% this year; you neanderthals wouldn't understand) bilk me on parking, hot dogs, trash bags disguised as ponchos, and all that.

["Bilk" is a Felger word.  And while I'm at it, I'm going to mention that after I find a place to park and already pay my T fare, Linda Pizzuti will probably Twitter the rainout.  The Red Sox will keep the stadium open for another fifteen minutes, just enough time for another round purchased by Sully from Medford who won't make rent this month because he's buying $8 Narragansetts for himself, his buddy Murph, his buddy Danny, and his brother, also named Sully, then rain it out.  These guys suck just as much as Selig does.  They love Lebron.]

The Tigers are in Boston for a grand total of 40 hours all year because Bud Selig wants to have the Red Sox and Yankees play each other nineteen times and increase margins due to fewer travel costs. Also so that the Chicago Cubs can come to town instead in their interleague sideshow and lessen the importance of the World Series, All-Star Game, and distinction between leagues. That's awesome; why don't you dilute the rivalry the same way you're diluting the playoffs? Well, that's already been done, you [expletive] clown. So you're going to have your fans sit through a monsoon and subject your players to injury because there's no other time to make up these May games. Oh, wait, you did the same thing during the 2009 World Series because you didn't want to mess up FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance" schedule.  Because you're doing that, I'm going to probably either stay home and eat the tickets or I'm going to get sick before my race.

Thanks, Bud. Golden [expletive] age.

Enjoy yo day.

DV

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Not The Losing That Bothers Me

It's the fact that everyone else in baseball gets Pedroia and Youkilis out, and the Yankees can't.

Pedroia is 13/24 (.542) in 6 games against the Yankees this year. That's after taking an 0-4 with a walk last night. So he entered last night's game hitting .650 against the Yankees. He is 24/126 (.190) in 33 games against everyone else. He has 50% of his homers, 50% of his RBI's, and 35% of his runs scored against the Yankees, scoring at least one run in every game. He has five 3 hit games on the season. Four of them are in six games against the Yankees. He has one in the other 33 games.

Youkilis has a .429 OBP against the Yankees. .351 against everyone else. He increased his RBI total by 25% this weekend. Not quite as dramatic a split as Pedroia, but significant nonetheless.

Why is it that everyone else can get these guys out as if they are below replacement level players, but they become Albert Pujols against the Yankees? Some credit has to be given to the players for stepping up in the big games. But a big part of the blame has to be placed on the Yankees. There is no reason for Pedroia to be that much better against them than he is against everybody else. A little bit better? Sure, chalk it up to Pedroia being a gamer and bringing it against the Yankees. That's definitely true. That much better? Check out what everyone else is doing to have him hitting .190 (bold/caps/italics) against them through 20% of the season, and just replicate that. It's very frustrating.

The Yankees are obviously playing terribly right now, dropping 9 of their last 12. The baseball season is up and down, and this is a clear down. I'm not worried about where they are. It's not ideal to have missed the opportunity they were given and looked to be taking advantage of to separate from the rest of the division, but what's done is done. Chances are it was going to be a close race anyway, and now it's that sooner than expected. What I'm concerned about is it getting worse. They need to stop the bleeding now before they dig themselves a hole of their own. It starts by playing better baseball or finding a way to win one game even if you aren't playing better baseball.

On Posada, meh. It wasn't handled well, but Bandi illuminated a lot of my feelings in the comments section yesterday. No matter how much money someone is or isn't making, players are human beings. They feel the emotion of frustration just like everybody else. For someone who cares like Posada, and has been good for as long as Posada has been good, it can't be easy to be hitting .165 because you aren't used to failure and feel like you are letting the team down. After a while, trying to snap out of it, it starts to wear on you. You probably start wondering how you are ever going to snap out of it. Can't be a fun feeling as an athlete. It should have been handled better, but I have no problem with Posada needing a day given the circumstances. Like Bandi said, it's probably the best thing for both he and the team. Otherwise, this has been totally blown out of proportion.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The GM's Five Least Favorite

First and foremost:  Congrats to Pat for finishing law school.  I may have thrown in a couple of sarcastic comments over the last couple of years, but it's still quite an accomplishment.  I appreciate the amount it's kicked his butt, and I am excited for him, as it's going to mean quite a bit to his life after How Youz Doin Baseball. 


For one reason or another, I've watched a lot of Sox/Yankees coverage over the past 24 hours, and the Posada thing is blown out of proportion, even for lovers of controversy like myself.  I'm sure people might want to talk about that today.  They might also want to talk about the series, but I feel like Pat will probably bury this post with a post of his own.  Plus, I'm not going to be able to last until eleven tonight:  I'm in pre-race sleep mode.  But the Red Sox are not "hot" right now.  They won two games.  They played very well on Friday and Saturday, but they are not "hot."  I promise we will discuss Gonzalez this week, too.

But, as promised, here are my musings on my five least favorite Red Sox of all time.  There are many worthy candidates, but a lot of guys had more good than bad (Manny, Ortiz, Nomar, Damon, Papelbon, Vaughn, Clemens).  There were also quite a few who would have started on this list but for one reason or another I came around on them (Curt Leskanic, Bellhorn, Coco Crisp, Lowell, Beckett, Burkett, Julian Tavarez, and even Julio Lugo).  But this is the final list of five.  There was an original list of 21 that I'll put into the comments section.  But here are the bottom six of all time.

6.  Shea Hillenbrand.  This guy was a dickhead, and had a reputation of being a dickhead.  The fans thought he was a lot better than he actually was - and so did he.  Another point that cannot be overlooked is the fact that he had Hillenbrand's Revenge:  He was traded for Byung-Hyun Kim, who was also a finalist on this list.

5.  Tony Clark.  This guy was NOT a dickhead, but he was so hideously, frustratingly bad that it was disgusting.  He also didn't really seem to care about how bad he was.  If John Lackey continues at the same pace, he will take over this spot, because despite actually caring about winning, it would be a similar failure to meet expectations.  Tony Clark was not supposed to be a platoon player.  He was supposed to be good.  He was not supposed to hit .210/3/29.  He was supposed to put up numbers like...OH, THE ONES HE PUT UP WITH THE YANKEES TWO YEARS LATER!  Fact:  In 2005 with Arizona, this guy hit .304/30/87.  Thanks, Tony.

4.  Wil Cordero.  Not the first athlete to beat the crap out of his wife and get arrested; not the last one.  I mean, Ugueth Urbina either set some guys on fire or slashed them with a machete, didn't he?  And he's not on this list.  But Cordero was the first guy I remember getting arrested as a Red Sox.  Disgraced the uniform, and despite being the first guy to hit the Coke bottles, he was a scumbag.  Once the allegations came out that he beat his wife with a telephone, the fans ran him out of town, and rightfully so.

3.  Jacoby Ellsbury.  I no longer refer to 46 by name, and this started in December 2007.  What Alex Rodriguez and his agent did during the 2007 World Series was beyond unforgivable, showing up the team that was about to win the World Series and, really, showing up the sport on its biggest stage.  For his contract.  For attention to his contract.  This pissed off a lot of baseball players, and it seemed like Scott Boras's influence on baseball was fading as many big-name players were firing him.  The first player to hire Boras after this was 46 - a blatant endorsement of the World Series antics.  It showed that 46 cares about one thing.  The fact that his performance in 2008 and 2009 was mediocre at best, the fact that he's bad at judging fly balls and fails to ever use his mind as a baseball player, and the fact that he is a complete pussy regarding his rib injury last year - to the point where he JDed out in Arizona, showed up his team and teammates, and missed 144 games - just add to his dislikability. 

2.  Edgar Renteria.  Similar to 46, he sucked at focusing on anything.  He pouted at the plate, pouted in the field, blamed the groundskeeper, and played perhaps the most distracted year of baseball I have ever seen.  As the Gunn said, he couldn't turn a double play, but he sure knew how to hit into them.  And it wasn't due to lack of talent.  You can see that in his previous numbers and his subsequent numbers.  It was due to a lack of focus.  And that's not okay with me.

1.  JD Drew.  The 1998 draft, asking for 300% of the all-time signing record bonus, and playing independent ball instead of taking it.  The reputation of a guy who dogs it in the outfield, takes a boatload of unnecessary days off, only performs in contract years, and would rather draw a walk than hit a guy in.  Opting out of a gift $55 million contract in an obvious collusion/tampering situation.  Everywhere he went, he underwhelmed and alienated a fan base.  Sure enough, he did the same thing in Boston, plus over 400 weak ground balls to the right side, one home run in the playoffs, performance that's just good enough to not get fired, and a general manager pounding his chest and saying he's smarter than the fans.  If you think a large part of JD isn't hoping the team stays below .500 so that he can retire a few weeks earlier, you're wrong.

Clearing his mind

Gotta feel sorry for this guy, considering his annual salary.  Maybe he can put a bumper sticker on the back of his car.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another Word from Eric Ortiz

I'm sure a lot of you guys are going to want to talk about either your hatred for the team from Florida or your condolences toward the Celtics, but over on the baseball diamond, John Lackey had another great performance.  At least this time he said everything went wrong.

From the infamous Eric Ortiz "Best Team Ever" article:

"Lackey should be better equipped to avoid the one-bad-inning syndrome."

7th inning:  5 runs, 2 hits, 3 walks, all runs scored with two outs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Colter Bean's Not Walking Through That Door

There's something Pat said when the Red Sox started the season that resinated with me a lot.  The 2005 Yankees started the season 11-19.

Eight games under .500.  On May 6, 2005, the Yankees were eight games under .500.  I think the last time Boston was eight games under .500 was on April 17th, when they were 2-10.  This was pretty much an insurmountable hole, pretty late in the season (at least for the sake of argument).  Of course, that team ended up winning the AL East with 95 wins.  So that means they finished the season 84-48.  Playing literally .667 ball (38-19) for the entire months of August and September help, as does a 10-game winning streak propelling them from 11-19 to 21-19..

Despite having read the realistic, uplifting Eric Ortiz article we've referenced so many times this year (if they had lost last night I would have turned on my computer and posted a quote from the article), I don't think the Red Sox are the best team ever.  I do, however, think the 2011 Red Sox are better than the 2005 Yankees.  I see your John Lackey and raise you Carl Pavano.  I see your Daisuke Matsuzaka and raise you Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown.

So as bad as things got for the 2011 Red Sox, and they were bad, we haven't had Colter Bean running out from the bullpen quite yet.  The team is still going to have to play some fantastic baseball later on in the season, as it's May 10th and they have still yet to reach .500.  But there have been glimmers of brilliance.  Largely, the pitching staff has been good, especially the starters.  There have been a couple of disasters, like Lackey on Thursday.  But otherwise they've been pretty good.  Last night was only Papelbon's first blown save, and they ended up winning that game.  Crawford's snapping out of it, Gonzalez is hitting for power, and 46 extended his hitting streak with the help of some more knowing of his role.  Even Saltalamacchia flirted with .200 tonight.  Pedroia still looks like garbage, but he will (and this is not an E. Ortiz-style "could") eventually learn how to play baseball again.  Things will be okay.

All they need to do to get on equal footing with the 2005 Yankees is go 4-2 over the next six.  That would put them at the very same 21-19 record.  Finishing with the goal of 95 wins, from that point, is doable.  All they would have to do from there on in would be playing to their potential.

An extra thought:  Gregg Zaun is filling in for Remy on tonight's telecast on NESN.  Not fun.  Just like all these other replacement Remys, he's trying too hard.  I just want to say that I don't like Gregg Zaun, for two reasons.  The first reason is pretty much already said perfectly in this 2009 article from Baltimore.  The second reason is that he just referred to JD Drew's hitting as "poetry."

Bad Start, Good End To A Road Trip

The Yankees played there worst baseball of the season last week in Detroit, dropping three straight for the first time all season after winning the series opener. Actually, that should really be ammedned to saying they had their worst offensive performacne of the season. The pitching was between good and terrific, and the bats just couldn't get much of anything going at all. Wasting those kind of pitching performances - which really dates back to the previous homestand against the White Sox - made the losses all the more frustrating.

On the flp side it made the series win in Texas all the more satisfying. Coming off a bad series loss, on the road, against the defending American League Champions, getting two out of three is a good job. It shows that this team has a little toughness to them, which is great to see displayed early on. For these reasons it was easily my favorite series win of the season, with only the first series being close because it's always nice to get the first one.

Obviously we have a lot of people who are dissapointed about the result here, but that was a great basketball game last night (followed by one that may have been even better in Thunder/Grizzlies). You have to tip your cap to Miami's Big 3, they severly outplayed Boston's Big 4 in a must win game. Wade was excellent, and Pierce did everything he could to will Boston to a win, but Lebron was the dominant force in that game when it was on the line in the 4th Quarter and OT. Even played through a key turnover to get the biggest defensive stop of the game and go on to control OT. Also have to give Bosh credit where credit is due, he bounced back from all of the criticism from Game 3 and gave Miami a big lift in the second half, badly outplaying Garnett and having his presence felt more than anyone else's on the interior. There were a few plays at the rim that could have swung that game either way, and Bosh had a lot of them. Should be interesting to see if Miami can close this out in Game 5 or if this is going to get really interesting in Game 6. The one thing Boston can really hang on to is that they don't have to do a ton to put some pressure on Miami in this series. They just need to win the next game.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

46's Hitting Streak

This is just a slight expansion of a comment I left from Martha's Vineyard the other day.  Yeah, I was there on business.  But 46, the Red Sox' center fielder whom I longer refer to by name, is now riding a 17-game hitting streak, the longest such streak in the major leagues currently.  Good for him, all sarcasm aside.  The team has gotten hot, slid, and then won two in a row over the course of this streak, but he has pretty much claimed the leadoff spot. 

I'm not going to say "rightfully so," because I still believe that Drew should be leading off for this team, as it maximizes his one skill.  Whatever.  46 has done a serviceable job while reclaiming that job.  He's hit .389 over this span, and while he has only walked five times over the course of this streak, he's gotten on base at such a rate that he hasn't had to.  Walks are fine, but as we have mentioned here many times over the course of the sabermetric euthanasia, walks do not advance runners like hits do.  And 46, as much as I don't like him, has been getting hits lately.

This player had some significant holes in his swing, both during his 18-game vacation last year and dating all the way back to the 2008 and 2009 seasons.  A lot of it is because, as I was saying about two weeks ago, he was trying to do stuff outside the scope of his services.  During many stretches over the course of '08, '09, and this year, he got this idea inside his head that he should be a power hitter.  That's when the holes in his swing develop.  When he tries to play within his skill set, making contact, and driving balls to the opposite field instead of being a jackass and waiting for the perfect pitch, stretches like this hitting streak happen.  And this is absolutely not the first time this has happened with 46.  He's had tears like this before, including during the 2007 season when he hit a misleading .353.

By the way, as much as haters (including myself) want to say that he got all those hits off of minor leaguers, Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte were not minor leaguers.  But he was playing within himself. 

I'm not going to pull up a spray chart because I don't have to.  I can use my eyes.  All this guy is doing right now is going with the pitch delivered to him.  A lot of those pitches become singles to right.  A lot of them turn into doubles off the wall.  A lot of them turn into singles to left, and others turn into doubles down the left field line.  From those singles, especially because the bottom of that order is probably not on base, 46 should be able to get himself into scoring position with his other tool.

That's right, I said "other tool," insinuating that 46 is not a one-tool player, but a two-tool player.

This guy can hit .300-.320 as long as he remembers he's not a power hitter.  46 has zero home runs since this hitting streak started, and mark my words, the minute he gets his first home run, he'll start thinking he's a power hitter again and the streak will end the next night because just by watching the guy play, you know he's got below average to bad baseball instincts, he's not that bright, and he'll go right back into swinging for the fences.

Fact:
Before the hitting streak:  .182, 4 home runs, 14 strikeouts in 59 AB.
During the hitting streak:  .389, 0 home runs, 15 strikeouts in 72 AB.

Also, don't start walking, because your eye sucks, too.  Just keep doing what you're doing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bulldog

John Lackey is a bulldog.  We have heard this, well, for a little over a year now when we've heard about how he's working hard out there and grimaces a lot.  Might not be striking a lot of guys out, but he's working hard.  He cares.  He might not be pretty while doing it, but if you're looking for a guy who can put in a good effort for you, and a guy who would rather stay in the game and throw a couple more pitches, you want John Lackey.  The reason he wants to stay in the game is because he thinks he'll pitch better than the reliever replacing him.

Okay. 

The Red Sox played until 2:45 AM on Wednesday night - and a big shoutout to John, who stayed up for it from the central time zone - and the bullpen pitched something like a hundred and sixty pitches.  There were so many bullpen innings thrown that the Red Sox had to call up two relievers for today's game, placing two people (Wheeler and Jenks) on the DL for the mysterious injury that I like to call "sucking."  Bottom line is, it would be nice to maybe not have the bullpen throw another, I don't know, maybe five innings the following afternoon.  Tim Wakefield may have given up 5-7 runs back about five years ago, but Tim Wakefield would have given you that start that would be able to save that bullpen. 

If you are making $18 million, you are expected to at least pitch well enough to save that bullpen.

Instead, John Lackey pitched better than his numbers would indicate.  The only problem is, the numbers included four innings, so the bullpen could just burn itself even more.  This guy is not a stopper.  He's not a gamer.  He's not a bulldog.  He's a stiff.  Did the Angels score six runs on this guy with two outs in the fourth or something?  It's called pressing down.  If you're a good pitcher, you can get one out.  Freaking Julian Tavarez could get one out.  And Lackey couldn't.  And let's not pretend all those two-out hits were little bloopers either.  Well-placed singles are not mistakes in hitting.

Behind the night that Matsuzaka grooved seven straight right down the middle on purpose to prove a point, this is the second-most embarrassing pitching performance of the entire season.  What, were you tired?  That's a legitimate excuse for the Red Sox lineup, because, you know, they played baseball last night.  You could have taken a nap in the clubhouse.  And you should have.  I mean, it was okay with Ken Griffey Jr. last year, wasn't it?  If you were tired, why wasn't Joel Piniero tired?  If you were tired, why wasn't LA's lineup tired?

Similar to way too many times where his body language has implied he's throwing his teammates or manager under the bus, John Lackey let his bullpen completely out to dry today.  That's embarrassing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thanks, Anaheim

I'll follow up on DV's title last night by talking about these stiffs. Are they kidding me? 16-8 against the rest of baseball, 0-6 against Boston. Meanwhile you have Boston at 6-0 against them and 8-15 against the rest of baseball. Anaheim has basically kept the Red Sox in this season for the time being. They find a way to win even two games and we could be having more fun than we are already having. Win one game! ONE!

What I like about the Yankees so far this season is how steady they have been. Just keeping the wheels turning. Perhaps speaking most to that steadiness is that, prior to tonight, they had lost 9 games. They are 8-1 in the 9 games after losses, and will have a chance to improve upon that number tomorrow night. For a while they were the only team in baseball not to lose back-to-back games, and to be almost 20% into the season and to only have lost two games in a row once, and never more than that, is pretty impressive. That's the kind of stuff you like to see early in the season.

DV asked for the analysis, so I'll provide it:

Curtis Granderson has been nothing shy of incredible. Since he took a few days off to work with Kevin Long last August, Granderson is hitting roughly .267/.348/.583/.931, with 22 homers, 52 RBI, and 44 runs. The 22 homers are the third most in baseball over that span. The batting average and OBP figures are neither good or bad, but they are more than fine when they are supporting that kind of slugging and OPS. To get the latter two numbers from a center fielder is a major competitive advantage (Hey DV, I'm tossing you a wide-open alley-oop here buddy). With the exception of Rodriguez prior to his most recent slide, Granderson has put together the best at bats on the team so far this season. His 12 pitch at bat to work a leadoff walk off Valverde was a big part of them winning the game last night. This from a guy who looked lost and often had very quick at bats for much of last year. I can't remember ever seeing a player have a two-day mini-camp in the middle of a season, change his swing, start to see immediate results and maintain it for three months that season and into the following season. It's a tribute to his ability, athleticism, work-ethic, focus, and commitment. It takes a lot to do what he's done.

My buddies and I decided we'll give Jeter until at least mid-May/early-June. 200+ plate appearances. He's earned that. The last four months of last season certainly weren't pretty, and it hasn't gotten better to start this year. No matter how shaky it might look going forward, you have to give the sample size a chance to get into statistical significance before you can really get going. Especially because it's not like he's a younger guy like Granderson who made a change to his game. You hope he makes changes and adjusts but I have to imagine it isn't as easy at age 36 to do so. Mostly I think you just have to hope he turns it around. If not, there are options, but we're not there yet, especially since the Yankees are winning right now.

This Heat-Celtics series has been outstanding so far. A lot of what you want as a fan who doesn't have a horse in the race. A lot of basketball to go yet, and this has a chance to get really good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thanks, Bernanke

Unfortunately, JD Drew must have been too thrilled with the Osama capture that he was watching too much Fox News.  He found out about quantitative easing and therefore concluded that the $14 million he was being paid to play his 115 games this year was worth less than the $14 million he made in the last few years.

His last 16 at-bats, he's 1-16 with two strikeouts and six weak ground balls to the right side.

On the bright side, beating the tar out of New Francisco Rodriguez like Old Francisco Rodriguez beats the tar out of his father-in-law was pretty awesome, especially considering that Gonzalez got into the action.

I'm as excited as everyone else is about Carl Crawford getting three hits in three at-bats.  It's really nice to see a player care so much about living up to his contract.  I'm not even being sarcastic.  But you could be Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, JD (of course), and even, to a certain extent, Beckett and Lackey.  People have been crushing this guy big time for the last month, but I can't get myself to do that.  In a team that still has a troubling whiner : nonwhiner ratio, I'm not going to crush a guy for pressing.  Only root that he's finally turned that corner.

Not sure what I want to hear about more from Pat:  An analysis of Granderon (8 HR?!?) or an analysis of Jeter.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eric Ortiz, General Manager

Though Julio Lugo for $9 million a year was bad?  Bobby Jenks is starting to look even worse at $6 million for each of the next two years.  In December, when this guy was signed by the Red Sox (and this pissed off the Yankee guys at nomaas.org), I wasn't exactly confident.  I didn't like the idea of Jenks closing in 2012 when Papelbon walks and Bard potentially stays in the setup role.  While I called it an "interesting bullpen move," I cited the fact that this guy was on a precipitous decline and that he was sliding even faster than Papelbon was.

Considering the history of pretty much all closers in the history of baseball since the role started to define itself, signing a guy whose rates have gone in this direction is silly to begin with.

ERA:  2.77, 2.63, 3.71, 4.44
WHIP:  0.89, 1.10, 1.27, 1.36
H/9:  6.2, 7.4, 8.8, 9.2
BB/9:  1.8, 2.5, 2.7, 3.1
Opponents' OPS:  .488, .620, .725, .668
Opponents' BA:  .198, .230, .250, .260

Other than opponents' OPS in 2010, this guy's numbers have gone from great to good to mediocre to bad almost linearly.  A typical Theo Epstein bullpen addition.  Considering the fact that he was at odds with Ozzie Guillen, who questioned his ability to keep twelve-packs of Miller High Life out of his stomach, this was additionally worrisome.  He's reportedly blown up on minor league managers, coaches, and clubbies.  While Jenks has claimed that he has quit drinking, where were Theo Epstein's private investigators on this one?  Only stalking Carl Crawford? 

The real story here is that Theo Epstein, upon making this move, decided to abandon logic and instead go Eric Ortiz on this acquisition.  Let's see what Eric Ortiz wrote about Jenks:

"The weak link in 2010 could be one of the best relief corps in the business...Want heat?  Jenks and Bard throw seeds."

Most important word here:  "Could."  And regarding Jenks throwing "seeds?"  Sure.  But you don't really know where those seeds are going.  Abandoning logic for a "could" situation.

Whatever.  John Henry's happy.  His boy LeBron is blowing out the Celtics at halftime.  Don't get it?  Neither will your readers.