Monday, May 28, 2007


Red Sox 5, Indians 3

What a crazy ending. The Sox were cruising, going into the 9th up 5-2. Papelbon came in from the pen to face the bottom three of the Indians order. This set-up ends in a Red Sox victory 99 times out of 100, but this looked like it might be that 100th time.

Paps walked the first guy on five pitches and the next guy singled on the first pitch sending the first guy to third base. So, the first guy is on third and the second guy is on first. Got it? The next guy, whom was named Josh Barfield by his parents, doubled off the wall in right center scoring one and creating a second and third situation with no outs.

So, thats where we stand. Second and third, no outs, and a two run lead about to vanish into thin air. The Indians were to send up two MVP candidates in the next three hitters to face Papelbon. The first was Grady Sizemore. Paps got him to 1-2, then after a few fouls, he popped up to Lowell at third. One out.

Next up: non-MVP candidate Casey Blake. Blake also took the count to 1-2. Then something weird happened. Papelbon threw a pitch up and in which hit Blake's hand while he was checking his swing. At first the home plate umpire ruled that Blake had been hit by the pitch and should go to first to load the bases. This brought Francona flying out of the dugout like George Brett at the pine tar game. The home plate umpire wisely consulted the first base umpire (Blake is right handed so the first base umpire has the best view) and the first base umpire ruled that Blake had swung.

Heres what I gather about the ruling. If you swing and the ball hits you, its still a strike, so if the ump said Blake swung, then he's out on a strikeout and the ball is dead. If he held up, then he was hit by the pitch and he goes to first. Fortunately for the Red Sox (and Papelbon in particular) the ump said he swung. I saw the replay and it was real close. It could have gone either way. My initial reaction upon seeing it in real time was that he swung, and the first base ump thought so too. Two down.

But, not out of the woods yet. Travis Hafner, MVP candidate number two, was up. Paps started Hafner off with two straight balls out of the zone. I thought he was going to walk him on purpose, but the third pitch was a split and Hafner swung over the top of it. 2-1. HafnerHafner. Strike three, out three, ball game. It was an impressive comeback.

In other news...

*Schilling pitched a great game tonight. The Indians have a terrific offense and Schill held them in check for the night. He gave up one run on six hits in seven innings of work while K'ing 10 and walking none. Good to see ol' Schill back in charge.

*Youkilis had two more hits, including an inside the park homer. The first since My Man Trot had one a few years ago, according to NESN.

*Trot got a warm ovation from the home fans both when he took the field in the first and then when he came up to the plate in the second. He was a classy, if brittle, player, and I always enjoyed his effort and found him easy to root for. I wish him the best of luck in Cleveland, except when they're playing the Red Sox.

*Roger "el Savior" Clemens pitched well in the minors. This should put him on track to face the Sox in Fenway next weekend. You watch though. He won't be there. Not that it would matter anyway.

AL East: Baltimore won, and so did Tampa, who came from behind in the bottom of the ninth to beat Detroit. In news you'll certainly read about in the NY papers tomorrow, the Yankees had a one hour team meeting before getting blown out by the Blue Jays 7-2. Clearly better than just getting blown out. The Red Sox lead Baltimore by 11.5, Toronto by 12.0, and both New York and Tampa by 13.5 games.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox continue their three gamer versus My Man Trot and his new Cleveland pals. Old friend Josh Beckett returns to the Fenway mound. He'll be opposed by Jeremy Sowers.


In still other news, I'm leaving tomorrow to get married this Thursday in Oregon. I live in Philadelphia, so its a trip to get out there. As such, I won't be posting here for a week or so. I should return on June 10th, and resume posting regularly soon after (for those two or three of you who actually read this).

As always, Go Sox!


One thing that sucks about sports radio is the idiotic trade proposals.

Mad Cow [over heavy rock music]: Yooooou're on with the Mad Cow!

Caller: Uh.... hello?

Mad Cow: Yeah, hello. Yooooou're on with the Mad Cow!

Caller: .... hello?

Mad Cow: Speak!

Caller: Oh, hey! This is Bill from the Bronx. I love your show. Its so original. I mean, you take calls from people about sports. Terrific! I mean, how'd you come up with that one?

Mad Cow: Thanks. Whatcha got, Bill?

Caller: Yeah, uh, I think the Yankees offense sucks.

Mad Cow: Yeah.

Caller: ... yeah, so I think they should trade Jason Giambi. He sucks.

Mad Cow: Yeah, he's not hitting. Who should they trade him to?

Caller: ... yeah, uh, the Angels. I think they should trade him to the Angels.

Mad Cow: OK. Who should the Angels give up for Giambi?

Caller: ...uh... how bout Guerrero?

Mad Cow: Great idea. I'll get Cashman on the line. Next caller! Yooooou're on with the Mad Cow!


I don't listen to sports radio much anymore for precisely the reason outlined above. Instead I get most of my sports-related information from blogs. I find that dedicated fans often have much more intelligent insight into the teams they follow.

But sometimes even dedicated fans drop the ball. I mention this because I've been seeing a number of dumb trade proposals on Yankee blogs recently. To their team's credit, Yankee fans aren't used to losing, so its not surprising that they don't know how to deal with it. To that effect, I'd like to point out to all the Yankee fans who are regular FPE readers (all zero of you):

Other teams are not going to just hand over their best players in exchange for over-priced guys who aren't hitting. The ridiculous Bobby Abreu deal seemed to cement the idea in Yankee fans collective minds that other teams are there as a sort of quad-A minor league. Need an all-star outfielder who gets on base? No problem. Just call the Phillies. They'd be happy to oblige you!

I know that deal actually did happen, and I still believe it was one of Brian Cashman's best, even if it isn't working out so well this season. But, deals like that are not the norm. The vast majority of teams will not give you an all-star for almost nothing. Thats because most teams are at least trying to give the appearance of wanting to win.

I'm going to pick on an excellent Yankees blog, Canyon of Heroes, in which the author writes the following:
If they'll [the Angels] take on his [Giambi's] salary, we should make a deal. I propose that we ask for Mike Napoli in return. Napoli would be a very nice backup to Jorge, and is only 25/26 years old. He looks good enough to step in should Jorge get hurt or retire in the not too distant future.

I'm going to skip the 'Posada retiring' comment, and move to the meat of it. As I've detailed here before, Giambi is due $40 Million between now and the end of the 2008 season. This for a guy who can't play the field at all, is frequently injured, and as of this writing is hitting .255/.382/.418 with 6 homers, which is just about average for a DH in the AL. I'm not saying Giambi is without value, but no team is going to give you a 26 year old catcher who is slugging .495 for him AND take on his salary to boot. Its a ridiculous suggestion.

Removing Giambino would make room for Mark Teixeira. If the Rangers are going to shop him, the Yankees should be first in line with a pitching prospect or two. I'd withhold Hughes, Chamberlain, and Betances, but anyone else is fair game. Send 2-3 pitchers of various quality for the young man and get it over with.

I hate that "Giambino" crap. Were I a Yankees fan I might have quit comparing Giambi to Babe Ruth as soon as that whole steroids thing came out. But I digress.

So, after we trade Giambi and his salary for a 26 year old power hitting catcher (and drop forty mill off the books in the process) lets trade a couple mediocre pitching prospects for a 27 year old all-star and gold glove first baseman. Sure, why didn't I think of that? I'm sure after being offered the Yankees fourth and fifth pitching prospects, the Rangers will happily hand over their best player to New York. "Terrific!", they'll say. "No need to give up anything of substance. We're just happy to help."

In an earlier post, Canyon of Heroes suggests obtaining either Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs or Johan Santana of the Twins. Fortunately, the author doesn't bother coming up with specific trade scenarios for these two. Or maybe its unfortunate. It would be interesting to hear who the Yankees would be willing to give up to obtain one of the best pitchers in the game. Melky Cabrera? The Twins are 24-25 and 7.5 games back in their division and 5.0 games back in the Wild Card. Wouldn't it be odd for them to trade their best pitcher to the Yankees, who are 12.5 games back in their division and 2.5 games behind the Twins for the Wild Card?

In all seriousness, if the Yankees really wanted to get rid of Giambi they'd first have to get him to agree to go because he has a no-trade clause in his contract. If he doesn't want to get traded (and why would he?) then he can veto any deal, regardless of how generous the other team is being. Secondly, for any other team to take on Giambi, the Yankees would have to pick up a large portion of his contract. As I said earlier, he can still be a valuable player, but his contract is more than onerous, especially if the Yankees want anything of value in return. Unless you address those two aspects, you're just wasting your time.

If the Yankees want to get either Johan Santana or Carlos Zambrano, the bidding would start with Phil Hughes. Both Zambrano, next season, and Santana, after 2008, will be free agents soon enough, so the idea of trading for either is not a preposterous one. Still, both guys are great, young, and at least right now, inexpensive top of the rotation starters. Any team wanting to obtain either player will have to give up top prospects to do so. To suggest otherwise is simply arrogant.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Red Sox 6, Rangers 5

His Craziness, Julian Tavarez was terrific, I mean Cy Young caliber, for five innings. Then Francona sent him out for the sixth. Four runs later, including what Rangers broadcasters lisped was a 453 foot homer by Teixeira, the Red Sox were down 4-3. But, if there was a reoccurring theme through this series it would be that the Rangers' bullpen... how to put this kindly... is terrible. Tonight, even the 'good' pitchers weren't, uh, good.

The Sox went into the eighth down by a run and having to score off the excellent Okinori Otsuka and Eric Gagne, who sported a 0.00 ERA in nine innings so far this season. No problem. The Sox didn't just score off one of them, they scored off both, with two in the eighth off Otsuka and one in the ninth off Gagne. The one in the ninth was of particular beauty. Dustin Pedroia, who, with apologies to Alex Cora, should be playing every day now, worked a 11 pitch at-bat against Gagne. Pedroia fouled off pitch after pitch and finally, on the twelfth pitch of the at-bat, hit what looked to be a fastball over the wall in right field.

The solo homer was Pedroia's second on the season, and ended up providing the margin of victory for the Sox. Teixeira, who was pretty much unstoppable this game, singled in a run in the ninth, but Okajima got Sammy Sosa to fly out to Coco Crisp to end it.

AL East: The Orioles and Rays won, while the Blue Jays and Yankees lost. The Red Sox maintain their 11.5 game lead over Baltimore. Toronto is 12.0 games back, New York 12.5, and Tampa 13.5.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox return home to face the surging Cleveland Indians, and My Man, Trot Nixon. Curt Schilling tries to not get shelled for Boston, while Cliff Lee attempts the same for Cleveland. I hope and expect the Fenway faithful to show Trot some love.

Yanks Lose (Again) (Again)

The Yankees just got swept by the Angels, losing 4-3. Jeter made the final out with the tying run on third base. The Red Sox are now 12.0 games up on the "Bombers" who are now 21-27 on the year.


I'm sorry for focusing so much on the Yankees here at FPE. I could be forgiven if the Yankees were, you know, good. But since they just keep losing, its hard to consider them a contender, at least at this point in the season.

Still, for that very reason they fascinate me. I've long believed that when trying to win, its just as difficult to lose spectacularly as it is to win spectacularly. Thus, when you see a team not only jump the proverbial tracks, but take out a small town in the process, well, its a sight to see.

In the book Moneyball, A's GM Billy Beane famously said (I'm paraphrasing) you spend the first third of the season figuring out what you have, the second third fixing the team, and the last third sitting back and watching. Thats the plan for a winning team, like the A's.

The plan for a losing team is slightly different. That would be using the middle third of the season before the trade deadline to set your team up for the future. What the traditional plan doesn't involve is making trades to reinforce your team up for the present when they have no shot at the playoffs.

Having not had a losing season in the past million years, however, New York writers don't know that. They are already spreading rumors about the Yankees acquiring Todd Helton and Mark Teixeira. Because what the Yankees, behind the Red Sox by 11.5 games in the division and behind seven teams in the Wild Card race, need is a higher payroll to go along with their losing record.

At least you can understand wanting to get Teixeira, especially with the production the Yankees are getting out of their first base platoon this season. But as a Boras client, you know he's going to test free agency in a year and a half, so unless you absolutely need him this season and/or next, why not wait and just give him a ton of money?

Helton is another issue all together. With his hot start, everyone seems to be back on the Todd Helton bandwagon. And why not? By all accounts, he's a great guy and he's having a good season. But look just a little bit closer at the ever important home/road splits:

Home: .361/.495/.528
Away: .330/.442/.500

Helton is still taking big advantage of Coors Field, but the road split is still excellent, right? Well, yes. But...

If Helton can hit like his road splits in Yankee Stadium (or Angels Stadium, or where ever) then he can be a real asset, even with his contract. But, if he digresses, and the NL-to-AL conversion thinks he would, then he turns into a Bobby Abreu circa first half of 2006 clone, i.e. someone who gets on base but doesn't have much power. Not that there isn't value in that, because there is, but when you factor in age, potential for injury, and contract, Helton has to do more than just get on base.

Helton has had some nagging injuries over the past few years, though they haven't effected his games played too much (he's missed 14.3 games on average over the past three seasons, not counting this one). Those tend to magnify as a player ages.

Add all that to the fact that Helton, 33 years old, has five years left on his contract (counting this season) at $16.6 Million a year through 2010 and $19.1 Million in 2011. He also has a $23 Million club option in 2012 with a $4.6 Million buy out. Add all that up and if one were to acquire Helton now, they'd be on the hook for $81.8 Million for four and a half years of Todd Helton (or $100.2 Million for five years).

What I find especially interesting in all of this is the notion that what the Yankees need is another old super-expensive player to help right their listing ship. Paying Roger Clemens $28M clearly isn't going to be enough. No, they need Helton and his $80M too. And why not throw in Teixeira-plus-new-expensive-long-term-contract while you're at it? What exactly is the thinking here?

I now present "Yankee Strategy Meeting," a play in one act, by mattymatty:

Scene opens in a dark office. The shades are drawn. Two executive types in suits and Yankee caps are sitting opposite each other at a long table.

Faceless Yankees Executive #1 (sipping green tea): What we're doing here is clearly not working. I mean, look at the standings.

Faceless Yankees Executive #2 (looks at standings): Oh my gosh! You're right! What do you think the answer is?

FYE #1: How about we try to trade some of our older and more expensive players and get younger and cheaper?

2: No... no... I can't see that working. I mean, who will Yankee fans come to see?

1: Hmm... maybe you're right... OK. Uh... I know! How about getting older and more expensive?

FYE #2: Excellent idea! [rifles through papers on table] I've got it! We can get Todd Helton! He is 33 years old and is owed $81 Million. How is that?

FYE #1: Perfect!! [they high-five]


If the Yankees are really interested in ending the old, brittle, and expensive cycle they need to take a different tact, not continue to make the same mistake over and over again. Of course, it is more entertaining that way, so don't count this as complaining.

Some quick notes from the comedy hour that is the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES):

*The YES announcers are detailing why Jorge Posada isn't at DH when Wil Nieves is catching. The reasoning is that they don't want to lose the DH and end up having the pitcher hit. Wil Nieves is 2 for 28 on the year. Is a pitcher really going to be much worse?

*YES announcer Ken Singleton wonders if "Melky Cabrera's inconsistency is because of his inconsistent play." Yes he actually said that.

More on the Red Sox later...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thats Ten Point Five, Bitches

Sox Win, 10-6
Ha ha, stupid Yankees. Took them one day to blow all the good they did in taking two of three from the Red Sox. With the Sox win in Texas, the Yankees loss at home to LA puts them just as far out of first (10.5 games) as they were before the Boston series.

Based on the pitching matchups I'm expecting New York to get swept at home vs. LA. I'm hoping at the same time that the Sox can sweep a relling Texas team on the road. We'll see how wrong I am.

Sorry for the lousy recap. Will post more tomorrow.

AL East: Everyone lost, except Boston. The Sox lead NY by 10.5, Toronto by 11.0, Baltimore by 11.5, and Tampa by 13.

Tomorrow (Saturday): The Sox play their second against Texas. Tim Wakefield goes for the win against Vincente Padilla.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


This one wasn't to be from the beginning. Schilling came out throwing batting practice and never did get going, giving up 6 runs and 12 hits in 6 innings. The Red Sox hit Pettitte pretty good (8 hits in 7 innings, including more than a couple hard hit line outs), but managed to scatter their hits around for minimum effect.

A couple quick hit notes before I hit the sack and try to forget this game ever happened:

*Joel Piniero, who's drive and fire I admire, should be on the first train out of Boston. Eight walks and six strikeouts in 17 innings and an ERA of 5.71? There have to be at least three guys in AAA that can exceed that level of suckitude.

*Wily Mo needs to DH, pinch hit, or sit the bench. The guy is incapable of playing the outfield. I say this as someone who considers himself a Pena fan. Wily Mo needs to play everyday for someone, and the Red Sox aren't that team right now. With Jacoby Ellsbury coming up through the ranks, Coco Crisp signed for two more years, and Manny's unmovable contract, theres was no room for Wily Mo. And now especially with the signing of J.D. Drew, theres isn't a place for Pena on the team. I applaud Theo's effort, but ultimately it was a bad trade. Hopefully Pena has some value at the trade deadline.

*Youkilis is on fire. The man can hit anything from anyone. Not all the time, but half the time, and thats more than enough. Theres no reason he shouldn't be hitting second or first (preferably first) in the lineup everyday.

*Manny had two hits, one of them a double off the wall in right center. He also flew out to deep center field. Maybe... maybe... he's coming around.

*Rivera came in and gave up a double down the right field line to Wily Mo. He then struck out the next two guys on highly questionable calls (the one to Lugo might have been a strike, but theres no way the one to Pedroia was. That was what is known in the industry as "a bad call.") Maybe its just me, but Rivera doesn't scare me anymore. He's still a good pitcher, but he's definitely not untouchable. When the Yankees bring him in, I don't feel the game is over.

*It was only one series. We took one from them in their own park, and they only picked up one game in the standings. We're 9.5 games ahead, we're 6-3 against them, and we'll see these pricks again. Good. I can't wait.

AL East: Baltimore beat Toronto and Seattle beat Tampa. The Red Sox hold a 9.5 game lead over New York, a 10.0 game lead over Baltimore, a 10.5 game lead over Toronto, and a 12.0 game lead over Tampa.

Tomorrow (Wednesday): The Red Sox are off on Thursday. They resume their schedule with a three game set in Texas against the Rangers. Daisuke Matsuzaka gets the start on Friday. He is opposed by Brandon McCarthy. Game time at 8:05pm EST.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Evening The Score

We've been hearing about how the Yankees "need" this series, but for the same reason, the Red Sox needed this game. With a 10.5 game lead over NY, the Sox could afford to lose two out of three against NY. And with NY's top three starters against the end of the Sox rotation and the games being played in NY, winning only one of three wouldn't be a terrible thing. Losing two of three means being up 9.5 games, while getting swept means being up 7.5 games. I'm not trying to set low expectations here; that one win is worth two games in the standings.

Francona managed the game tonight like he was thinking exactly that. He managed what was a 7-2 game like it was a 3-2 game. This was a game that he clearly wanted to win, and by bringing in Okajima and Papelbon with a five run lead, he made sure that he did. Still,
you have to wonder about the wisdom of using your two best relievers in the eighth inning of a 7-2 game. Lopez had thrown 18 pitches, so he was probably done for the night if you want him to be available Wednesday. I wouldn't have a problem bringing Kyle Snyder into that situation to see what he can do.

The Sox were able to win the game because they got very effective pitching out of His Craziness, Julian Tavarez. In fact, Tavarez was decidedly better than either Okajima or Papelbon. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen again.

The Sox offense was best represented by Youkilis and Lowell both of whom had two hits. Big Papi continued his mastery over the Yankees with three hits, and Manny and Lowell both hit homers. The Red Sox greeted Mike Mussina rudely with two singles and a monstrous three run shot by Manny Ramirez. Unfortunately, it was Manny's only hit of the game.

A couple quick notes:

* In the bottom of the 8th, A-Hole was on first when Posada grounded into an almost double play (technically speaking). The throw came to Pedroia from Lowell and as A-Hole slid into second he threw his left elbow at Pedroia. This ws clearly done after he finished his slide. To everyone but Michael Kay it was pretty blatant, and even Kay admitted that "A-Rod might have thrown an elbow" at Pedroia. Not cool, A-Hole. Keep your elbows to your last-place self.

* I was making a list of the factual inaccuracies spewed by Michael Kay, but I ran out of room.

AL East: The Sox win tonight over New York returns their lead over the Yankees to 10.5 games. In other AL East-based news, Toronto beat Baltimore and Tampa lost to Seattle. At Close Of Business today, the Red Sox lead Toronto and NY by 10.5 games, the Orioles by 11.0, and Tampa by 12.5 games.

Tomorrow (Wednesday): The Sox finish up their three gamer in New York. The Sox try to take the series by sending Curt Schilling to the mound. He is opposed by Andy Pettitte. Game time 7:05pm.

Taking Stock Of The Sox

You're never as good as you look when you win, or as lousy as you look when you lose. The Red Sox didn't look too good last night in losing to New York. So, bathed in the sobering gloom of a loss, its a good time to take stock of where the Red Sox are this season.

During a baseballprospectus chat yesterday, I wrote in to ask the excellent Nate Silver a question about our Red Sox, and lo and behold, Nate decided to grace me with an answer:
mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): Simple question, but feel free to give as complex an answer as you want: Are the Red Sox this good?

Nate Silver: Guys that are going to cool off: Lowell (a lot); Youkilis (a little, but he's looking like a real power hitter now); Beckett (a little); Wakefield (a lot); Okajima (a lot).

Guys that are going to heat up: Ramirez (a lot), Crisp (maybe), Drew (probably), Matsuzaka (a little).

Right now they're on pace to win 113 games and I don't think they'll sustain that but they haven't been playing that far above their heads; they've had some hot starts but some cold starts too. I think it's probably a 100-102 win team in terms of true talent level.
I agree with Nate that the Sox likely won't win 113 games, though as I've discussed before, they could. As Nate notes, the funny thing about the Sox start is that they've done it without two of their three big offensive forces in Manny and Drew.

Manny's 50th percentile PECOTA guesses he'll hit .300/.404/.574. He's currently hitting .244/.330/.384 which is a slightly better performance than Julio Lugo. Thats under his 10th percentile projection. Manny may not end up with his normal stats this season, because he's digging himself a big hole, but at some point he is going to find himself and start hitting like he can.

Drew is in the same boat as Manny. Here's Drew's 50th percentile PECOTA: .270/.380/.460. Here's what Drew is hitting now: .244/.355/.344. Like Manny, Drew is showing patience at the plate, which is allowing Francona to write him into the lineup each night without completely deep-sixing the Red Sox offense. Last season in LA, Drew was a streaky hitter. Here are his OPS by month last season:

April: .910
May: .834
June: .768
July: .798
Aug: .871
Sept/Oct: 1.145

And for this season:

April: .768
May: .592

Neither are good, but Drew should pick up his production too.

Meanwhile, the offense has been kept afloat by Youkilis and Lowell who have pretended to be Drew and Manny. Youkilis looks to be either having a career year or developing into a legitimate All-Star (judging by Silver's answer above he isn't sure either). Right now he's hitting .342/.428/.528. PECOTA's 90th percentile projection has him hitting .297/.406/.519. His BABIP is .360 right now, even though his line drive percentage has actually fallen off from last year, so he'll probably cool off some.

Mike Lowell's BABIP and LD% are in line with what he did last year. The only thing thats a bit higher is his percent of flyballs which turn into homeruns. But thats only off by 2%, which for this is significant, but not ridiculously so.

So, you'd have to expect both Lowell and Youk to cool off eventually. But you'd also expect Manny and Drew to start hitting at some point.

My only point of contention with Silver's analysis is that he thinks Okajima will cool off "a lot." I don't think the guy is going to go through the season without allowing another earned run, but I think his performance as an excellent relief pitcher is sustainable over the course of the season. According to the Boston Globe (I can't find the link right now, but its been mentioned multiple times), Okajima has learned a new pitch which he didn't throw in Japan previously. Thats the pitch that he's been using to get right handed hitters out with regularity, and I'm not sure, but I'll wager that Silver didn't take that into account.


My day is melting away, so more later on this subject to be sure. In the meantime: lets play FPE Tempts Fate Trivia! Who has the higher ERA? Mike Mussina or Julian Tavarez? Answer after the Tavarez gets smoked tonight!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sox Lose to Yankees, Fall to 9.5 Games Ahead

A couple points about this piece of monkey sheet:

I don't know which is worse: listening to Michael Kay kiss the Yankees collective ass over and over and over for nine innings, or listening to Rick Sutcliffe pull endless streams of stupid crap out of seemingly nowhere.

Whats with all the Yankee "fans" leaving the stadium before the ninth inning? The stadium was empty going into the ninth. You'd never see that at Fenway, especially if the Sox were whipping the Yankees. OK, the Sox were down 6-2, but the way the Yankees have pitched this season I hardly think that lead is safe.

It seemed like the Red Sox couldn't get a call on the corner to go their way all night long. Youkilis was up the bases loaded in the first. With the count 3-1, Wang threw a pitch that was outside by at least a couple inches. Youk starts to go to first. "Strike 2." That was a run the ump took away with his lousy call. It was made worse by the fact that Youk struck out on the next pitch.

Can you tell I'm frustrated by the game? I tried to get most of my anger out by couch punching, but that only takes you so far, ya know? Bring me the head of Johnny Damon!

The Sox had something going against Yankee pitching all night long. They left the bases loaded twice, for example, but just couldn't come up with the big hit. Frustrating. Very F'n Frustrating...

Overall, not a very impressive outing by either team. The Yankees can't field worth a crap, and only managed 6 runs against a very crappy Tim Walkfield and the dregs of the Boston pen. The Red Sox didn't look much better, putting runners on over and over and never driving any of them in.

Imagine how good we'll be when Manny and J.D. Drew actually start pulling their weight. As opposed to now when neither of 'em can hit a beach ball underhanded to them by a toddler.

AL East: Yankees move to 9.5 games out with tonight's win (good job, fellas; I'm sure everyone in NY is so proud). Tampa was off today, while Baltimore and Toronto played in the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, NY, which, inexplicably, doesn't count. Baltimore is now 10.0 games behind Boston, while Toronto is 10.5 back, and Tampa is 11.5 games back.

Tomorrow (Tuesday): The Red Sox play game two in New York. The Red Sox beg for an ass-kicking by sending His Craziness, Julian Tavarez to the mound. The Yankees counter with Mike Mussina, who likes his eggs just so. NO NO! Just so.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Series Wrap-Up: Sox Take 2 of 3 From Braves

The Braves came into Boston at 25-16. They leave at 26-18. Make no mistake about it, the Braves are one of the best teams in the National League, and aside from one hideous start by the AAA-bound Devern Hansack, the Red Sox took them apart. The Sox sent their #3, and two minor leaguers, while Atlanta countered with their #1, #2, and a minor leaguer.

The Sox and Braves each beat up on the other team's sub-par starter. And I mean beat up. The Red Sox dropped 13 on the Braves the night they threw a minor leaguer, and then the Braves turned around and scored 14 on the Red Sox when they threw a minor leaguer.

The rubber game of the series was delayed by rain today, but after about a two hour rain delay the game got going. The Braves threw Tim Hudson, who was 5-1 with a sub-2.00 ERA. The Red Sox countered with Kason Gabbard, who had been throwing well for AAA Pawtucket this season.

Early in the first the Red Sox got to Tim Hudson, loading the bases with two outs. Jason Varitek, who doesn't like loaded bases, cleared them with a triple. Eric Hinske then drove in Varitek with a single, and the Sox had a 4-0 lead. They'd tack on two more, one in the second and one in the fifth on a Kevin Youkilis solo homer around the Pesky Pole in right.

That was all the Red Sox would need. Kason Gabbard pitched very effectively, not giving up a hit until the fourth inning. He struck out seven and only walked one. Francona took him out after giving up two hits to start the sixth. Brendan Donnelly, inexplicably pitching in a day game after pitching the night before, allowed both runners to score, and walked two as well. Francona yanked him with the bases loaded and only one out, and brought in another guy who had pitched last night, Javier Lopez. Lopez got Scott Thorman to ground into a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.

The Braves had rallies going against Okajima and Papelbon in the eighth and ninth, respectively, but only managed one run against Papelbon. Final score: Red Sox 6, Braves 3.


Gabbard not only won the game for the Sox, he made a case for himself as the fill-in starter for Josh Beckett's next turn in five days. Especially so when compared with the other alternative, Hansack, who looked over-matched in his start against Atlanta. [The Red Sox have sent Gabbard back down to AAA and recalled Manny Delcarmen. The Boston Globe reports that that means the Red Sox will skip Josh Beckett's spot this time through the order and allow Josh Beckett back into the rotation on May 29th.]

I was especially impressed with Gabbard's curve, which he used he curve to set up his other pitches. He got Andruw Jones to swing and miss on the curveball a number of times, and stuck Jones out twice for two if his seven. Jones ended up striking out five times on the day.

AL East: The Yankees are playing the Sunday night game at Shea (Yankees are up 4-1 in the 5th). Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa lost. The Red Sox lead Baltimore by 10.5 games, Toronto and New York (for now) by 11.0, and Tampa by 12.0.

The Red Sox are the first team to win 30 games in the majors this year. They have the most wins and the least losses of any team, and they hold the largest lead in any division in baseball.

Tomorrow: The Red Sox visit the Toilet in the Bronx with a chance to put the nail in the Yankees coffin. The Red Sox play three against the Yankees. The pitching match-ups are as follows:

Monday: Tim Wakefield vs. Mike Mussina
Tuesday: Julian Tavarez vs. Chien-Ming Wang
Wednesday: Curt Schilling vs. Andy Pettitte

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Open Letter To The Yankees

Dear Yankees,

Your totally fucked.

Red Sox

J to tha T, J to tha L, and Mexican Food

In the first game of today's doubleheader, Julian Tavarez somehow held the Tigers to one run. The Red Sox managed one more than that, which turned out to be just enough to beat Detroit in the make up from last night's rainout, 2-1. Tavarez threw 7 quality innings and then got shutdown work from the bullpen to preserve the win. Hideki Okajima and Jon Papelbon didn't allow a baserunner in the last two innings, and Manny Ramirez had two hits for the Sox in the win.

In other news, Jon Lester will get the start for AAA Pawtucket versus Ottawa this Saturday. Lester will be held to 50-55 pitches according to the Boston Globe. This will be the start of a 30 day rehab assignment for Lester, though the Globe speculates that he could be back in Boston more quickly than that. My guess is it will depend on how he feels and how he pitches (going out on a limb, huh?). If he feels good and he dominates on the mound, he could make it up to Boston after just two starts. If he feels great, but he doesn't pitch that well, he'll likely remain in Pawtucket for the foreseeable future.

Both the Red Sox and Yankees are playing doubleheaders today. Not sure when the last time was that that happened. [Correction: New York is not playing a doubleheader today. Their only game was during the day. They lost to Chicago, 4-1 to fall 9 games behind the Red Sox.]

I'll have a recap of the days games later night after I return from some fabulous Mexican food.

A Note On The Weather and the Do-Or-Die Yankees

The Sox were rained out today. They'll play a double header Thursday. The first game will begin at 12:35, and the second one at the regularly scheduled time of 7:05.


The Yankees began a tough nine game stretch for them which will see them playing in Chicago, in Shea Stadium against the Mets, and then at home versus the Red Sox. The NY media has been touting this as a make or break trip.

I'm going to keep track of how they do on this "do-or-die" trip with the goal of analyzing it when it ends. So far they're still 8 games out with 7 to go on the trip. Wednesday, they split a double header with the White Sox, losing the first one, but winning the second.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Injuries + Losing = Bad Day

The girl's face just above J.D. Drew says it all. Uh-oh.

Losing the game isn't a surprise. Justin Verlander is an excellent pitcher and judging by his stats he threw one of his best games all season. Its not often you are going to beat a pitcher like Verlander when he is on his game.

Conversely, Tim Wakefield threw his worst game of the year, and that was bound to happen. After Wakefield's excellent outing last time out, his ERA was a Paris Hilton thin 1.79, and as great as Wakefield is, he isn't THAT good. All in all, just one of the 50 guaranteed loses on the season. Not a big deal...

What is a big deal however is the injury bug that seems to be nipping at the heals of the Red Sox. Josh Beckett's finger injury is almost guaranteed to force him to miss his start against the Braves this weekend, and now J.D. Drew is hurt as well. Drew hurt his back while colliding with the Fenway Park wall trying to catch a fly ball. The wall is high enough to reach the lower back and when Drew hit the wall his lower body stopped abruptly, while his upper body kept going at a high rate of speed. Lower Body Stop + Upper Body Not Stop = Owwy.

Fortunately, today on WEEI, Terry Francona said that Drew is feeling better and could even be available to pinch hit today, although Francona also said he would play it safe and start Wily Mo Pena tonight. Hopefully we don't see Drew tonight in any capacity other than sitting his butt on the bench. We need Drew to be healthy, and that means taking care of him a bit. Hopefully this won't be some reoccurring injury for J.D. who has had an unfortunate run with injuries over the course of his career.

With Beckett and Drew now suffering from minor injuries, the Red Sox will have to make due by utilizing their depth. The Sox do have some deep reserves this season, as I wrote about yesterday, so minor injuries to starters shouldn't deep-six the team in the standings.

Wily Mo Pena can handle right field while Drew is out, as long as Drew isn't out a month. As for filling in for Beckett, it seems that the Red Sox will likely call up lefty Kason Gabbard from AAA Pawtucket to take Beckett's start. Gabbard was held to 65 pitches in his latest start at AAA, indicating the Sox may have some plans for him.

Gabbard has been effective this season for Pawtucket. He's thrown 39.1 innings, while giving up 12 runs, 12 walks and striking out 35, for a 2.75 ERA. He has also been up to Boston before, so he won't have the same stage fright that a Bucholtz might experience. Last season during the great injury explosion of '06, Gabbard came up from AA Portland and did a good job, throw ing 25.2 innings for the big club while maintaining a 3.51 ERA.

AL East: The Yankees and White Sox were rained out in Chicago yesterday. They'll play a double-header today to make up the game. Toronto beat Baltimore and Tampa beat Texas, leaving the Red Sox lead over the division at an even 8.0 games. The Yankees are 8.0 games back, Baltimore is 9.0, Toronto is 9.5, and Tampa is 10.0.

Today (Wednesday): The Red Sox play game three of their four game series against Detroit. One of the games worst starters in His Craziness, Julian Tavarez (1-4, 6.60), takes the mound for Boston. He'll be opposed by Mediocre Mike Maroth (3-0, 4.69) for the Tigers. Game time 7:05 PM EST.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Note of Caution and History or How Good Are These Guys?

The Red Sox are playing at a .703 clip. If they play that way the rest of the way, they'll finish with 113 wins. Teams that win 113 games don't have to worry about winning their division or making the playoffs (winning in the playoffs is another matter for another time). If the Red Sox are that good, it won't matter what the Yankees (or Blue Jays, or Tigers) do.

Of course, not many teams win 110 games in the regular season. The record for the most wins in a regular season is owned by the
2001 Mariners who won 116 games. That topped the 1998 Yankees who won 114 games, which topped the 1954 Cleveland Indians who won 111 games.

The only other team team to win 110 games (or more) in a season was the 1906 Chicago Cubs who won 116. A couple teams came close. Two teams won 108 games ('75 Reds and '84 Tigers), and the '95 Indians were on a 112 win pace having won 100 out of 144 when the season ended due to strike.

Are the Red Sox that good? Maybe. To win that many games you have to be healthy, deep, and great at either hitting or pitching while being good-to-great in the other. Lets examine these a little more closely

1. Health

To continue at their present pace the Red Sox must remain healthy, and for the most part they have, although they have already had a few injury concerns. Josh Beckett is likely to miss his next start, and he could be out longer than that according to the Boston Globe. Manny Ramirez' hamstring tightened up in the Amazing Comeback on Sunday night against Baltimore, but he played yesterday and seemed fine. Mike Timlin has had shoulder problems and is out for the foreseeable future.

These are mostly minor issues, unless Beckett is out much longer than expected. So far so good.

2. Depth

While no team has the depth to survive the kind of injuries the Sox had last August,
the Red Sox have the depth to survive some injuries, both on the bench and at the minor league level. If Beckett is out for a month Bucholtz, Lester, Pauly, or Hansack could fill in and likely provide adequate production. If Manny needs to sit for a week, Wily Mo Pena can play left and again provide adequate production.

Alex Cora is hitting like Ted Williams and can fill in at shortstop or second base in case of injury. Eric Hinske can play 1st, 3rd, or either corner outfield spot, and Kevin Youkilis can play both infield corners well. Brandon Moss and the newly promoted Jacoby Ellsbury are raking at AAA and could fill in longer term if needed.

Still, the Red Sox are not injury=proof. If Jason Varitek suffers a serious injury, the team will have to scramble to fill the hole as they simply do not have another starting major league ready catcher anywhere in the system.

3. Be Good at Hitting or Pitching

The Red Sox hitting has been good. They are on pace now to score about 900 runs, which is not amazing but qualifies as very good. For some context, the 2004 team scored 954 runs which led the majors. There is some chance for improvement as well, as J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez, two guys who were counted on to help carry the load offensively have not been hitting of late.

4. Be Great at the Other One

To date, Boston's staff has allowed 126 runs in 36 games. Thats the best in the majors by a good amount. The next lowest is the Mets with 138 in 37 games, then San Diego with 140 in 38 games. Both the Mets and San Diego play in strong pitchers parks and in the noticeably weaker hitting National League. There is no question that adjusted for league and park effects, the Red Sox staff has played as the strongest in both leagues by a long shot.

The Sox staff has been better even than just league best. Over a whole season at this pace, the Sox would give up 551 runs. For context, the 116-win 2001 Mariners allowed 627. only has data back to 2001, but in that six year time frame, the team that gave up the fewest runs is the '03 Dodgers who gave up 556. Of course, they only scored 574 (a run differential of +18 [edited]; the Red Sox are on pace for a run differential of +346). The 2002 Braves gave up 565 and thanks to a decent offense won 100 games. You'll notice that both these teams are NL teams, where its much easier to field a pitching staff with flashy stats.

Sabermetric principals holds that a truer measure of a team than its actual record is its Pythagorean record. This formula takes the number of runs a team scores and allows and distills it into a 'record' based not on actual wins and loses, but on how a team actually played. The whole thing can get extremely complicated as people have built layers upon layers on top of the formula to make it more realistic. I don't have the math ability to get into all that here, but for our purposes the original formula will work just fine. It looks like this:

If you project the Red Sox to play at their current pace through the rest of the season, they would score 897 runs and allow 551 runs. When you put this into the formula above you get a winning percentage of .726 and a record of 118-44 (or if you like decimals, 117.6-44.3).

Plainly put, thats historic. The Red Sox are probably not that good. But maybe they are. Like the answer to many questions, time will tell us soon enough.


I'm not really sure this means anything, but I thought I'd mention it. While the Red Sox have been amazing so far, their opponents have not been. So far, the Red Sox average opponent has had a winning percentage of .492, good for 24th in the league. This means that the average Red Sox opponent so far this season has been a team with an 80-84 record.

I don't think this is an indicator of weakness because the Red Sox have been so dominant. If the Sox were beating these teams 3-2 and 4-3 I'd be less certain that we have a great team on our hands.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sox Brutally Kick All Comers In Nuts! This Week: Detroit!

The Tigers came into the game riding high with the the second best record in the American League (behind guess who). From a few media reports, many are starting to believe that these could be the two best teams in the AL. If you look at their runs scored and runs allowed, both teams entered today having scored 198 runs, but Detroit has allowed 174 while the Red Sox had given up only 125. You can see, despite their close records, there is a pretty large disparity in how these teams have actually played.

That disparity was evident on the field as well, as the surging Red Sox continued their systematic destruction of the American League, taking the first in a four game series with the Tigers at Fenway Park, 7-1. Daisuke Matsuzaka was on his game, striking out five and giving up only six hits in a complete game performance. Matsuzaka's ERA dropped from a grizzly 4.80 to more palatable 4.17.

It would have dropped lower, but Curtis Granderson hit a good low fastball into the right field stands for a solo homer to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. After that it was all Red Sox all the time. Boston answered with one in the third, took the lead with one in the fourth, padded it with one in the fifth, and then blew it open with four in the eighth.

Nate Robertson, one of Detroit's most effective starters this season, held his own through five, but Boston's patient hitters forced him to work for each out. Robertson threw a ton of pitches (115 through five innings) and began to tire noticeably sometime in the third inning. The Sox had runners on against Robertson constantly, and were fouling off pitches left and right. It took Robertson 39 pitches to get through the fourth inning.

Matsuzaka threw a lot of pitches himself, 124 in nine innings. Pitch counts are very important, but the stress a pitcher is under is more important, and pitch counts are not always a proxy for that (though they frequently are). In this case, Matsuzaka was not laboring in any way during any of the last three innings while Robertson was working very hard. This is one instance where the pitcher who threw more pitches worked under less duress than the one who threw less. Thats directly attributable to the quality at-bats the Red Sox had against Robertson and all the Detroit pitchers.

Its very encouraging to see the Sox offense come around like this. To compare them to the team we all thought would be their chief rivals, the Red Sox have now scored 205 runs in 37 games. The overly-vaunted offense of the Yankees has scored 200 runs in 36 games, or about the same amount. The Sox have now given up 126 runs while the Yankees have allowed 175. Suffice it to say, unless things change radically there isn't going to be a miraculous Yankee come back this season.

AL East:
The Orioles lost to Toronto. The Yankees and Rays were off Monday, but that didn't stop them from losing ground. The Red Sox increased their AL East lead over the Yankees by a half game to 8.5 games. They lead the Orioles by 9.0, the Blue Jays by 10.5 and the Rays by 11.0. The Red Sox are now 26-11 for a .703 winning percentage. That is the most wins by any team in both leagues and the best winning percentage in the Major Leagues.

Tomorrow (Tuesday): The Red Sox play game two of the four game set against Detroit. Tim Wakefield (4-3, 1.79) starts for Boston. He's opposed by Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.83). Game time is 7:05 pm EST.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

First Big Come Back Win For Sox! (Happy Mother's Day!)

Damn Red Sox! I just wrote a long post entiteld "Sox Blow it at Home Versus Baltimore" and the the bastards come all the way back from 5-0 in the bottom of the ninth to beat Baltimore on Mother's Day and take the series two games to one.

The Sox looked lethargic against O's starter Jeremie Guthrie who pretty much breezed through eight innings giving up only three hits. Guthrie was a bit on the lucky side as he only struck out two and was the recipient of some solid defensive plays and some ropes hit right at fielders. In any case, Guthrie was very effective and had only thrown about 85 pitches going into the ninth inning.

The first hitter, Julio Lugo grounded out. At this point the game was essentially over. The Red Sox had no energy, no momentum and more importantly no runners on base or runs scored. The next hitter was Coco Crisp. He popped a ball up in between the pitchers mound and home plate. After some confusion over who should catch the ball, the O's catcher Ramon Hernandez took charge and then dropped it. Coco was on first, but it still was essentially moot. Guthrie was still in the game.

Then O's manager Sam Perlozzo interjected himself.

He came out to the mound and although it looked like Guthrie was reassuring him, Perlozzo removed Guthrie and put in Danny Baez. Baez wasted no time giving the Red Sox some hope. David Ortiz crushed his second pitch off the center field wall for a double, scoring Crisp (5-1). Wily Mo Pena, for some reason batting for Manny Ramirez, singled hard through the left side of the infield.

That was all for Baez. In came O's closer Chris Ray, who proceeded to walk the next J.D. Drew to load the bases and Kevin Youkilis to bring in Ortiz (5-2). Jason Varitek then doubled, scoring Pena (5-3) and Drew (5-4), and sending Youkilis to third. With second and third, Perlozzo ordered Ray to walk Eric Hinske to reload the bases. Alex Cora was the next hitter, and all he would have to do to tie the game was hit one to the outfield. Alas, he couldn't, grounding slowly to second base. The ball was hit too weakly to turn a double play.
O's second baseman Brian Roberts' only play was at home. Youkilis was running on contact from third, but Roberts' throw got Youk just in time. The play was really close and it looked like Youkilis may have beaten the throw, but he was called out just he same.

So, bases still loaded now with two outs, and Julio Lugo was up again. Lugo, you may recall, made the first out of the inning eight batters ago. A base hit would tie the game, or possibly win it, while anything less would lose it. Lugo managed something in between, hitting a high bouncer in between Millar at first and Roberts at third. Millar ranged over to his right to get the ball and threw to Ray covering. The play would have been very close as Lugo was right on the base just as Ray was, but the throw was low and a bit behind him and he dropped it. Varitek scored (5-5), but the ball rolled away from Ray and Hinske motored home to score the winning run, 6-5! Red Sox win!

Despite today's amazing comeback win, Josh Beckett was lifted after after four innings with a "finger problem." Then Manny Ramirez was taken out of the game in the 8th with the Sox down 5-0. Its unclear if Terry Francona thought it was an opportunity to give Ramirez an innings worth of rest (no idea why that would be necessary) or if Manny's removal was a sign of something more serious.

AL East: Tampa beat Toronto, and they were the only other AL East team to win. The Yankees lost 2-1 at Seattle, dropping the series there by the same score. As (excruciatingly) detailed above, the Orioles lost to Boston, 6-5. The Red Sox lead the Orioles and Yankees by 8.0 games, and Tampa and Toronto by 10.5 games.

Tomorrow (Monday): The Tigers come to town for the first of a four game set. Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-2, 4.80) gets the start against Nate Robertson (3-2, 3.43)

I've Been AWOL, But The Red Sox Haven't

I've been derelict in my posting here. Mostly because I haven't been watching as many games in the last week, so I don't feel like I can add anything to the discussion.

That said, the Red Sox have been crushing. I recall a period of time, I believe it was August 2004, when the Red Sox were simply beating all comers. The A's has just run off something like 10 straight wins, and then faced the Red Sox in Oakland. The Red Sox just crushed them, winning three straight. You get the sense that, as long as the Sox big four starters stay healthy the Red Sox are going to string together a lot of wins against who ever they face, the Yankees, Indians, Angels, Brewers, or who ever. It doesn't matter. We'll see how long this hot streak goes, or even if this is a 'hot streak.' It may not be a hot streak, it may legitimately be how good this team is.

I recently read a quote on some Yankees blog, I can't recall which, that said in effect, 'if you want to find out how good a team is, compare it to its chief rival. Which players would you take? The team with the most players chosen is the better one.'

The Red Sox are up by 7.0 games on the entire division, so one might reasonably say right now they are their own competition. To that end, I thought I'd take a quick and dirty look at the Sox roster and see who is playing over what was originally and reasonably expected of them before the season started.

I took a look at the OPS of each player on the team and then compared them to what Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system predicted they'd hit this season. The results were not surprising at all. The upshot of it is that, as a team the Red Sox are doing almost exactly what was expected of them. In fact, the starting lineup is just slightly below what they are projected to do.

This makes sense. For every player who might be 'hot' or if you prefer, 'playing over their head' (Mike Lowell), there is one not performing up to expectations (Manny Ramirez). The Red Sox do score some runs, but right now (before Sunday's game) they are averaging just under five and a half runs a game (5.48). Over a full season, that comes out to 888 runs. Not bad, but not a great offense by any stretch (the 2004 team scored in the neighborhood of 950 runs).

While the offense has been effective but not great, the pitching that has been amazing. Three of the four intended starters is bettering his PECOTA projected ERA. The only exception to that is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who's 4.80 ERA hasn't hurt the team much because of some good run support.

The bullpen has been good so far, but Brenden Donnelly, Hideki Okajima, and Jon Papelbon have been especially amazing so far. The others have been more hittable. Romero, Piniero and Snyder have been alternately decent and mediocre.

[As I'm typing this the Red Sox are losing 5-0 and Josh Beckett has left the game with a cut on his pitching hand. Its unclear right now the true extent of the injury, or if there will be any more time missed other than part of today (Sunday's) game.]

As Curt Schilling has said in numerous interviews, the team with the healthiest starting rotation will likely come out ahead in the division. With Beckett's injury, the Sox may be looking at their first spot-start of the year next time his turn comes around in the order. For the Sox to keep winning, they likely just have to remain healthy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sox Hit 4 homers, Josh Wins 7th

The Sox won again tonight. They beat the struggling Blue Jays 9-2 behind four homers (Varitek, Pedroia, Lowell, and Youkilis) and another stellar performance from Josh Beckett. Beckett went 7 innings and gave up one run. The only run scored on Beckett was Alex Rios' solo homer on his first
pitch. After giving up a double to the next batter, Beckett settled down and got out of the inning without further damage. That would be all for Toronto. The next time they scored they closed a eight run gap to a seven run gap.

The Sox offense also took care of business tonight. They lit the very mediocre Victor Zambrano up for 8 runs in under three innings of work.

A little bit more on Beckett here...

Josh Beckett's performance has been lauded this season, and rightly so. He has pitched and won all seven games he's started this season. He has an ERA of 2.51 in 46.2 innings pitched, so he's pitched very well so far. The funny thing is that he could still be 7-0 even if he hadn't pitched so well. Here are his seven starts:
  1. April 4th v. KC: Beckett gives up 1 run in 5 innings. Sox win 7-1.
  2. April 10th v. Seattle: gives up 1 run in 7 innings. Sox win 14-3.
  3. April 16th v. Angels: gives up 1 run in 6 innings. Sox win 7-2.
  4. April 21st v. Yankees: gives up 4 runs in 6.2 innings. Sox win 7-5.
  5. April 26th v. Baltimore: gives up 2 runs in 8 innings. Sox win 5-2.
  6. May 2nd v. Oakland: gives up 3 runs in 7 innings. Sox win 6-4.
  7. May 8th v. Toronto: gives up 1 run in 7 innings. Sox win 9-2.
Total Score: Sox 55, opponents 19
Averages score: Sox 7.86, opponents 2.71

In Beckett's seven starts the Red Sox have scored almost 8 runs per start while Beckett's opponents have only managed just under three. Beckett has been earning his wins, but the Red Sox have been making most of them stress-free affairs. I imagine this will even out a bit as the season goes on. Hopefully Josh can keep it going.

AL East: The Yankees beat the thoroughly rancid Rangers, 8-2. The Orioles beat Tampa. The Red Sox now lead the Yankees by 6.0 games, Baltimore by 7.0 games, Tampa by 7.5 games, and Toronto by 8.5 games. The Blue Jays have lost seven straight.

Today (Wednesday): The Red Sox send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Rogers Dome mound. He'll be opposed by Tomo Ohka. Gametime 7:07 (crazy Canadians!) PM EST.

Did The Red Sox Even Want Roger?

Buried in the last paragraph of the first page of Gordon Edes' column in today's Boston Globe is the following tidbit:
The talent, depth, and health of the Sox' starting rotation is an obvious reason for the team's fast start, and the reason they weren't going to match the Yankees's prorated $28.022 million deal for Clemens. The prorated $18 million they offered Clemens last week was less than the prorated $22 million the Astros gave him last summer. That would suggest the ardor with which the Sox pursued the Rocket had cooled since last year, but was enough -- agent Randy Hendricks text-messaged Yankees general manager Brian Cashman last week that he was in Boston -- that the Yankees had to pay top dollar. [emphasis mine]
After reading that, I asked myself the following questions:
  • Why would the Red Sox offer Clemens less money than he made last year?
  • Why would they propose a drop in pay for Clemens when they know the Yankees are desperate for starting pitching and are likely to throw the sink at Clemens?
When you carry this out to its logical conclusion, there can be only answer. Theo Epstein isn't stupid. OK, he signed Edgar Renteria, but other than that. Epstein is eminently capable of reading a market, and clearly he had to know exactly what Clemens would want to return to Boston. He also knew that the Red Sox, with Lester in the wings, didn't really need Clemens. So, rather than say he wasn't interested, he severely underbid.

But, mattymatty, you say, the Red Sox bid $18Million for Roger's services! How can that possibly be underbidding, let alone severely underbidding? The answer is it is severely underbidding because Epstein and Lucchino and Werner and Henry and anyone with a working brain in their head could have told you that if Clemens made $22 Million (pro-rated) last season, he was going to demand more this season. Yet, despite that bit of obviousness, the Red Sox bid less not more. The Red Sox brain trust couldn't have possibly thought that they would obtain Clemens for less money than he made last season.

Which leads me to the second part of Edes' paragraph. Clemens agent Randy Hendricks text messaged Yankees GM Brian Cashman that he was in Boston. Why would he do that? Well, for obvious reasons, like to let the Yankee know that Boston is in this and if you really want Roger, which they did, then they'd better offer everything they have. This is starting to look a bit orchestrated.

Heres what I think: The Red Sox would have taken Clemens back, but only at their price. Mostly they weren't interested in the services of the soon to be 45 year old. They were interested, however, in the Yankees paying top dollar for Clemens, and the $28Million the Yankees paid Clemens (pro-rated, of course) is the highest amount any player has ever made for a single season's work. Higher than Giambi, higher than Jeter, and yes, higher than A-Rod. All for a guy who doesn't have to be there when he isn't starting. Starting to get the picture now?

Everyone says the Yankees print their own money. But thats not really true in any sense. Remember when Carlos Beltran signed with the Mets? He offered himself to the Yankees at a reduced price at the time, but GM Brian Cashman said no because the team would have taken a huge luxury tax hit in addition to Beltran's salary, and the Yankees couldn't afford it.
Even the Yankees have their price ceiling.

The Yankees just spent their whole wad on Clemens. Maybe he'll come through for them and cap an amazing career by leading them to the World Series. But, more likely, he'll collect a ton of money, whatever the Yankees had in the wings for in-season improvements, and then pitch well, but not amazingly. In doing so, he'll also prevent the Yankees from making other trades to fill other glaring holes in the roster, such as the Bobby Abreu trade last season.

With Clemens now in the fold, and the payroll now well over $200 Million, the team you see here is the team the Yankees will likely have at the end of the season. This is it. This better work. In the meantime, the Red Sox have a 6 game lead and financial room to maneuver. That $18 Million the Red Sox didn't add to the payroll now can be added later, in the form of a Torii Hunter, Andrew Jones, or Roy Oswalt.

[Edited. Earlier I misidentified Gordon Edes as Nick Carfardo. Apologies. The mistake was mine.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Counter Point

After one of these Rivalry Signings, the other team often does something to counter. Yesterday's signing of Roger Clemens by the Yankees has me thinking about how the Red Sox could improve their team. This means identifying the weak links on the team, but the Red Sox are 20-10 and lead the division by 6 games. They have the best record in the AL and are close to the best record in baseball. There aren't too many areas of concern right now to pick on. Short of assembling an all-star team, where are the Red Sox going to get better?

There are a few opportunities to improve the team as I see it. The first thing to point out is that there could be (and likely will be) some injuries. The team is almost completely healthy now, but that could change between now and the trade deadline of July 31st. Any injuries between now and then could force an unforeseen and alternate course of action out of necessity.

But, if the team remains healthy,
you need three things to improve mid-season.
1. An identifiable hole on the team
2. Another team with the right puzzle piece to fill it
3. Valuable players to give in return.

All-star players usually don't come free, unless you're dealing with Pat Gillick. The first step is to identify any holes the Red Sox may have. We'll take it position by position:

Position: Left Field
Current Occupant: Manny Ramirez
Potential to Change: None
Notes: Unless he gets hurt, Manny isn't going anywhere.

Position: Center Field
Current Occupant: Coco Crisp
Potential to Change: Medium
Notes: Crisp is signed to a long term low money deal, similar to the one the Sox signed Bronson Arroyo to before they traded him to Cincinnati. Crisp has shown signs of improved play lately, which could either make the Sox more comfortable with him in center or could serve to drive up his trade value. He may be an acceptable bargaining chip to a smaller market team. Bares watching.

Position: Right Field
Current Occupant: JD Drew
Potential to Change: Barring injury, none.
Notes: The Sox just signed Drew to a long-term deal this past off season. They aren't going to replace him (nor should they).

Position: 3rd Base
Current Occupant: Mike Lowell
Potential to Change: Medium
Notes: Lowell is in the last year of his contract, but the Red Sox love his defense and his leadership. His offense has been pretty good this year too, though his power has dropped a bit. Lowell could easily be the third baseman on a World Championship club.

Position: Shortstop
Current Occupant: Julio Lugo
Potential to Change: None
Notes: Like Drew, Lugo was just signed to a long term contract this off season. The Sox aren't looking to get rid of him.

Position: 2nd Base
Current Occupant: Dustin Pedroia or Alex Cora
Potential to Change: From outside the organization, small.
Notes: The Red Sox have two guys who have hit the crap out of the ball recently. Cora has been on fire all season long and Pedroia has picked it up recently slugging over .600 and getting on base at a better-than-40% clip. Cora isn't a long term solution, but Pedroia is. The fact that the Sox have two guys that could play here means they likely won't be in the market for a 2nd baseman.

Position: 1st base
Current Occupant: Kevin Youkilis
Potential to Change: Low
Notes: I don't say zero because of Youkilis' versatility. The Red Sox could trade for a first baseman and move Youkilis to third base if they wanted to. Youkilis' versatility allows the Sox to use Mike Lowell as a bargaining chip in a trade, even if that is somewhat unlikely.

Position: Catcher
Current Occupant: Jason Varitek (Doug Mirabelli)
Potential to Change: Low
Notes: Varitek hasn't looked good at the plate this season, but he is seen as a vital component to the pitching staff and as the Captain of the team he isn't going to be replaced this season. Mirabelli could be replaced, but the Sox obviously think highly of his ability to catch the knuckleball and besides, upgrading at back up catcher isn't likely going to put the Red Sox over the top.

Position: Starting Pitcher
Current Occupant(s): Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Tavarez
Potential to Change: High
Notes: Baring injury, the top four will stay the same. Tavarez will not be the fifth starter by the all-star break. The Sox have too many young guys, most notably Jon Lester, who would do a better job. The potential to bring someone else in from outside the organization also exists, if the price is right for Boston.

Position: Bullpen
Current Occupant(s): Papelbon, Okajima, Donnelly, Piniero, Snyder, and Timlin
Potential to Change: High
Notes: I say high potential for change because there is always change in a bullpen over 162 games. The guys you start with are very rarely the exact same guys you finish with. Still, the top five up through Snyder have performed admirably so far. Timlin has been more problematic, but the team seems to value his veteran-ness. I love the guy, but right now he's the weak link in this pen.

To sum up, I rated two non-pitching staff positions as Medium: 3rd base and center field. The Sox also have a hole in the back end of their rotation and one in the back end of their pen. Any of the above could be plugged by someone from outside the organization.

Let me take a look at the potential 3rd baseman and center fielders who will be free agents next season or the season after and could be available later in trade.

First, the 3rd basemen and 1st baseman:
1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY - Could be a free agent after the season if he wants to opt out of his current contract, but theres no way the Yankees trade him during the season. He'll be in NY through this season at least.
2. Mike Lowell, BOS - N/A
3. Carlos Delgado, NYM - A free agent after this year, but the Mets are depending on him this season. No way he gets traded.
4. Todd Helton, COL - Signed to a long long-term contract that makes up for its extreme length by being ridiculously expensive. Helton hasn't hit nearly as well on the road in a few years compared to his home numbers, making me think he's a product of Coors Field at this stage in his career. Also, he's been injured a bit recently. If he is healthy he could be an interesting pickup.
5. Richie Sexson, SEA - a free agent to be

Notes: Upgrading at the corners could be particularly difficult for the Red Sox. The best players are playing for the better teams (shocker, I know), so those guys likely won't be available in trade. A guy like Sexson could be, but his contract and production don't fit together, and he would probably be a downgrade over Youkilis at first.

Prediction: I don't see much potential for movement here. Its possible the Sox rekindle their interest in Todd Helton, but its unknown how much of an improvement he would be over Lowell.

Next, Center Fielders
1. Torii Hunter, MIN - a free agent following this season
2. Andruw Jones, ATL - a free agent following this season
3. Carl Crawford, TB - just about to get expensive. He makes $4M this season, $5.5M next, and then $8M and $10M the years following.

Notes: All three are intriguing names. While Tampa and Crawford won't make the playoffs this season, the jury is still out on Minnesota and Atlanta. If either or both of those teams falls out of contention its likely that Hunter and Jones could be dealt.
Hunter is an older player and Crawford is unlikely to be dealt within the division. The price for either would be steep, but the better player by far is Jones. The Red Sox were rumored to have interest in Jones at last year's deadline, and it wouldn't surprise me if they did again this season.

Prediction: The Red Sox will make a push to get Andruw Jones. They have Coco Crisp to give up in trade and they can throw in some minor league pitching at the same time. They have Jacoby Ellsbury in AAA as well, so they could either trade Ellsbury or Crisp. If they could not re-sign Jones they'd have either Ellsbury or Crisp to take over center again next season. (Danger: Pie in the Sky Crap Coming!!) ...or, they could re0-sign Jones and trade Manny this off-season . Then they could install Ellsbury in left and Jones in center. But I'm getting ahead of myself. For 2007, Jones would be a tremendous addition to the Red Sox offense, and
I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Red Sox went after him at the deadline. Can you imagine a 2 through 5 like this:
2. Andruw Jones
3. David Ortiz
4. Manny Ramirez
5. JD Drew
Even the Yankees can't top that.

Starting Pitchers:
1. Roy Oswalt, HOU - Oswalt just signed an expensive extension with Houston this past season which carries him through 2011 (with a team option for 2012). However, Houston is terrible, and they may be looking to rebuild. Its possible that Oswalt could be dealt, though it would likely take a massive amount to get him, and with his contract it seems unlikely.
2. Rich Harden, OAK - Harden has been amazing when he's been healthy. Unfortunately, he's been more unhealthy than amazing. Still, he's young enough and intriguing enough that a team could make a run at him if he proves himself healthy and if the A's fall far enough out of the race. Both are possible, but unlikley.
3. CC Sabathia, CLE - The Indians are tearing it up this season, so its doubtful that they'd trade their best starter.
4. Mark Buerhle, CWS - The White Sox suck this year, and they'll be major sellers at the deadline.
Buerhle has a good reputation, but the thing is that he isn't that good. He'll likely fetch a mint in free agency, but he isn't a strikeout guy, so expect the Sox to have little interest.

Notes: Sabathia and Harden are both studs when healthy, but neither are healthy enough to count on. Both also belong to clubs that are expected to be in the thick of the playoff race at the deadline, making deals all that much more unlikely. Its possible that one or both could be dealt, but it would take the team falling out of the race and a huge package to pry either guy away. Over all, not much to see here.

Relief Pitchers:
1. Joe Nathan, MIN - a free agent after this season
2. Mariano Rivera, NYY -
a free agent after this season, but extremely unlikely to come to Boston, and will not be traded.
Notes: Rivera is out, but Nathan is a possibility if the Twins fall out of the race. I would expect a number of teams to make a run at Nathan at the deadline if Minnesota falters, and I would expect the Red Sox to be one of those teams.

I think the Red Sox are most likely to be able to improve themselves at center field and at the infield corners. There isn't much available at the infield corners, but the options in center field are much more intriguing. Obtaining Andruw Jones would require giving up some quality talent in return, but the emergence of Jacoby Ellsbury in AAA gives the Sox a glut of sorts at center field. Either Ellsbury or Coco Crisp could be expendable in trade, should the Sox decide to attempt a short term rental. Of course, its unlikely the Braves will trade Jones if they are in first place, or close to it by the deadline, but the Braves also know that they probably won't be able to re-sign Jones either. A good package could pick him up.

With all that said, the Red Sox don't need to make a deal. They didn't need Roger Clemens, though it would have been great to have him. While there are parts of the team as currently constituted that are not a strong as others, one of the great strengths of this team is its even talent level. Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox don't have any players starting who shouldn't be starters. Theo has assembled an evenly balanced high quality team.

The other factor I didn't discuss above is if the Red Sox keep running away with the division Theo might not want to give up a good prospect like Ellsbury, or a good young player like Crisp to get 3 months of Andruw Jones. Not a bad problem to have, huh?

Yanks Lose (Again)

Someone wake up Joe Torre! The Yankees signed Roger Clemens!

Since the re-signing of Roger Clemens, the Yankees are 0-1. The Red Sox lead the post-Clemens Yankees by 0.5 games. Apparently even the great Roger Clemens can't prevent the Yankees from losing by playing golf in New Jersey.

The Yankees can sign all the 45 year old Hall of Fame pitchers they want, and they can make all the over-done announcements during the seventh inning stretch they want, but maybe they should, at some point, consider winning a game. Mariano Rivera was hittable again, this time giving up a ninth inning two out homer to Adrian Beltre, who was last good in 2004. The solo homer broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu were unable to do anything with JJ Putz, even with the tying run in Johnny Damon on first. The Yankees lost (again) to the Mariners 3-2.

The Red Sox lead the Yankees by 6 games, Tampa by 6.5, Baltimore by 7.0, and Toronto by 7.5. The Yankees are two games below .500, while the Red Sox are ten games above .500.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

We Win!/We Lose!

Like Curt said, we don't need him. I won't lie and say I didn't want him, but Roger made his choice. Like Red said, Roger could've owned this town. OWNED it, like a returning hero, like Johnny D, and Manny, and Schill won't ever know. But he chose to go back to New York. Not an entirely unsurprising decision when you really think about it. When Roger pitched last for the Red Sox I was in high school. For the three of you reading this who don't actually know me, that was a long time ago. The team had different ownership, completely different players (except for one guy), heck, even the ballpark was different back then. When Roger last pitched for the Yankees it was three years ago. Everything is almost exactly the same, from the Toilet in the Bronx, the raving lunatic in the owners box, and the monotone GM, to the players who Roger knows. In retrospect, it would have been surprising if Clemens had decided to come back to Boston, 5.5 game lead or not.

Roger made his choice, and Roger makes the Yankees better, but lets not let that choice obscure reality. Its the Red Sox, not the Yankees who have the best record in the American League. And its the Red Sox, not the Yankees, who are in first place in the AL East. And its the Red Sox, not the Yankees, who have a winning record. There will certainly be more about Roger this year, how much he makes, how much he costs, and how much he's worth to the Yankees, but for now, lets focus on the fact that the Sox showed again last night why they are the team to beat in the American League.

With great starting pitching, enough offense and a killer back end of the bullpen the Sox took two of three in Minnesota, winning last night's game 4-3. With a few less base running blunders this game wouldn't have been as close either. Thanks to a bit of bone-headedness from Alex Cora (he of the .790 batting average), the Sox lost a run that they score 2,000 times out of 2,001 when Cora was thrown out trying to advance to second just a split second before Dustin Pedroia, who was tagging from 3rd, crossed the plate. Cora's out was the third and Pedroia's run didn't count as the inning had ended. Hopefully Cora won't make that mistake again this year. The Red Sox were fortunate that it ended up not hurting them.

Schilling had it going on through 6, painting corners and keeping the Twins off balance. He got tired and lost it in the seventh after 99 pitches. Fortunately he was saved by the dynamic duo of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, who came on to record 2.1 innings of scoreless ball (though Okajima did allow his first inherited runner to score) to hold the Twins in check and lock down another win.

AL East: The Red Sox and Yankees both won yesterday, while the Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles lost. The Red Sox lead the division by 5.5 over New York, 6.5 over Baltimore and Tampa, and 7.5 over Toronto.

Today (Monday): The Red Sox are off today. They begin a three game series in Toronto tomorrow. Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield will go against Victor Zambrano, Tomo Ohka, and Roy Halladay.


On one of my family trips, my brother and I were playing tennis and a British couple came along and, after talking to us for a few minutes, challenged us (in a nice way) to a game of doubles. Despite the fact that they weren't playing very hard, they crushed us. But losing wasn't the worst part. The worst part was, after every point they drilled past us, after every serve we couldn't return, they called out in their overly-polite accents, "Unlucky!" It was their way of being polite, but it was humiliating.

Last night's game in which the Red Sox lost 2-1 seemed the definition of unlucky. The Sox had a million men on base (I counted) and were only able to bring one of them in. They hit the ball on the screws constantly, and it always went right at one of the Twins fielders. Case in point, David Ortiz's at-bat in the ninth with Kevin Youkilis, the tying run, on first. Ortiz crushed a 3-2 fastball on a line about 390 feet to dead center. Torii Hunter was playing about eight feet from where the ball would have landed and he barely made it there in time. But he did, Manny struck out on a high fastball in a full count. and that was the game.

Despite the specifics, the outcome was somewhat expected. When Johan "Two Cy Young Awards" Santana is pitching against you and you are countering with His Craziness, Julian Tavarez, things tend to get a bit 'unlucky'. However, the Sox probably should have won this game. They had Santana and the myriad of Twins relievers on the ropes the whole game, but just never got it done. Just chalk it up to one of the 50 losses ever team gets every season and move on.

One important point is the Red Sox organization shouldn't get too infatuated with His Craziness, Julian Tavarez. He seems like an interesting guy, and he's been pitching alright recently, and yesterday he did a great job, but he is still not the long-term (meaning this season) answer to the Sox 5th starter role. The fact that he is pitching well buys Jon Lester has some more time to get totally healthy, which is good.

AL East: The Yankees, Orioles and Rays won yesterday while the Sox and Blue Jays lost. The Red Sox lead everyone in the division by 5.5 games except the Blue Jays, whom they lead by 6.5. Milwaukee moved ahead of Boston by a 1/2 game for the best record in baseball.

Today (Sunday): The Red Sox play the rubber match of their three game series with the Twins. The Twins send ex-Oriole, Giant, Oriole, Cardinal, and Yankee Sidney Ponson to the mound. The Red Sox counter with Curt Schilling. Game time 2:10pm EST.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Its the Pitching, Stupid.

Timmy-Timmy Wakefield had it going on tonight. The Sox got it done the old fashion way, with good pitching, beating Minnesota 2-0. Big Papi went deep for his 8th of the year, and JD Drew added a triple in the ninth, and scored on Coco's single. Other than that, it was all Timmy-Timmy all the time.

Tonight marks the second game this season that I didn't get to see even one pitch of. A friend of mine was out at a birthday/graduation party, so, you know, obligations and all. It was fun, and it was even more fun to give the guy at the bar in the Mariano Rivera shirt some crap when I found out that his Yankees lost 15-11. (15?!?)

Its becoming pretty clear what the Yankees achilles heal is this season, and oddly enough it lines up directly with the strength of the Red Sox. The Red Sox can always go out and get a bat at the trade deadline if they need it (though I'm not sure they do), but good luck getting a top of the line pitcher at the deadline or anytime before.

The only guy who might be available is Clemens and do you think he's going to want to play for the Yankees (12-15, last place), the Astros (12-16 0.5 games out of last place), or the Red Sox (19-9, first place)? I know, I know, its early in the season, but its not early for Roger. Its May 5th. If he's going to pitch this season before mid-June he's going to have to make a decision in the next few weeks. Even if Clemens signs with New York, its not like he'll be pitching every day. They have more holes than he can fill... that sounded much dirtier than I intended it to. Anyway... thats a topic for another time.

Tonight, the Red Sox played a good team on the road, only scored two runs, and won anyway. That and a Yankees loss makes it a good night. Maybe one of the best.

AL East: The Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays lost while Baltimore, through some cosmic accident, won. Somewhat conveniently, the Red Sox now lead every team in the division by 6.5 games. With the win, Boston goes to 19-9, the best record in baseball. They have won three games in a row.

Today (Saturday): The Red Sox play game 2 of their 3 game set in Minnesota. Two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana goes for the Twins, while the Red Sox counter with... *gulp*... His Craziness, Julian Tavarez. The carnage begins at 8pm EST.