Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010 in review: Sox vs. Yanks pitching

In the spirit of my previous post comparing the 2010 pitching staffs of the Red Sox and the Rays, what about adding in the New York Yankees?

Let’s jump right in with the rotations:

(click for full-size image).

If CC Sabathia wins the Cy Young this year, it will be a travesty of monumental proportions and plenty of us out here in Fanland will be …displeased. He simply wasn’t the best pitcher in his own division this year, let alone in the league (that honor belongs to Felix Hernandez, despite his team’s offense making a giant sucking sound every time he took the hill). But hey, wins are gaudy, and if your team scores 18 gajillion runs every time you’re up, you’re golden.

No, I am not bitter, TYVM.

The big picture here is that Boston’s rotation, despite sustaining injuries and ineffectiveness at numerous times throughout the season, was about two wins better than New York’s. A.J. Burnett has been a significant drag on their success this year, and is going to be *very* expensive over the next three seasons. Vazquez has been a fairly expensive innings sponge, but Hughes’ effectiveness and cheapness have made up for that.

How about the bullpens?

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posted by Joe at 6:28 am  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A 2010 Retrospective — where did the Sox go wrong?

Hi all — Matt has been kind enough to let me start posting some baseball- and Red Sox-related ruminations here on DW.com, so here’s to hoping it’s worth all our time. This may be the beginning of a Reverse Nate Silver for me (political blogging to baseball talk, rather than the other way around) but who knows.

I’m a lifelong Sox fan — some of my earliest memories are of the ‘86 playoffs, I leapt off the couch and over my dad’s head when Tom Brunansky slid into the corner to make the catch and clinch a playoff berth, and I laughed out loud and really hard in the middle of The Town when one of the characters threw away a joke about Jack Clark rolling over on the Sox. However, I live in the Twin Cities now, and no one else in the theater got the joke, so I looked like kind of a jackass. These things happen.

So where have the 2010 Red Sox gone wrong? As I write this, there are six games remaining in the season, and the Sox’ elimination number stands at one. Conceivably, the Sox could win out and the Yankees could lose the rest….all right, fine, I can admit it: it’s pretty much over, so let’s start in on the post-mortems. Starting with the current division standings:

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posted by Joe at 10:49 am  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More West Coast Injuries

Dice-K worked quickly, threw strikes and kept the ball down. Next up from the west coast, pigs fly. I’m clearly only meant to see either fantastic or awful games from Dice-K. In 2008 I saw him 3-hit the A’s, in 2009 I saw him give up 5 runs in the first inning to the A’s. Last night, he looked possibly better than his 2008 self. He had fewer strike outs, but also threw fewer pitches and didn’t get to a three-ball count until the 4th inning. Tito was very excited to point out that he threw a first pitch strike to 19 of the 24 batters he faced. I did double check, the pitcher on the mound was throwing with his right hand, so there’s no way Lester slipped in and faked everybody out.

It’s a good thing he, Bard and Paps came through, since the Sox need awesome pitching performances to have any chance to win. With the exception of Beltre the bats are still on All-Star break, and according to Tito, Beltre’s hamstring is apparently killing him. Papi is weakly grounding into the shift, Youks is striking out and the outfield band-aids are coming back down to AAAA-earth. But Eric Patterson hit a triple!

The real problem with playing in the Bay Area is that the Sox can’t seem to play a game without losing a player. In San Francisco they lost Pedroia, Buchholz and Martinez on consecutive days. Last night they almost lost Bard. As he was walking through the clubhouse, Bard bumped very gently into Beltre. They both quickly apologized to each other, before Bard took a few more steps towards the kitchen, stopped, and turned back to Beltre. “Dude, I think you broke my ribs.”

If Bard isn’t available tonight, you now all know the real reason.

posted by Matt at 4:33 pm  

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just Act Normal

It’s getting hard to come up with new explanations for the Sox’s injury woes. The latest one I’ve come up with is that Bill Hall keeps drinking Jobu’s rum. Why else would Youks now go down in a heap?

Man, it doesn’t even sound right. You have nine guys on the DL, guys that are every day pretty much players. When is the last time you heard about something like that? We better not talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more people get injured. Just leave it alone and act like it’s normal. –David Ortiz, July 6, 2010

Normal? Normal? That’s like calling Tim Curry a normal woman in Rocky Horror. There is nothing normal about this season. Drew is still healthier than Pedroia, Martinez, and Youkilis. Mike Cameron is less resilient than Rocco Baldelli. There’s a lot of luck involved in a 162 game season. But after finally clawing back to a half game back in the division while sieving players, it’s painful to lose three straight and suddenly fall 1.5 back in the wild card.

Maybe the running on fumes stuff has finally caught up with the Sox. Or maybe this has something to do with it:

Kevin Cash
Gustavo Molina
Eric Patterson
Niuman Romero
Darnell McDonald
Daniel Nava

For a team that is close to the top of almost all offensive catagories, you have six pretty terrible bench players right there…at least two of which need to start every game. Mr. Romero, for example, is a career .255 / .338 / .329 hitter, which may explain why he left the tying run on base in both the 7th and 9th inning. Oh, did I mention that those stats are his career minor league stats?

At this point, I think the Sox have to decide if they want to go for it or close up shop. If it’s the former, then you need actual backup players who can at least provide replacement level MAJOR LEAGUE stats. And if it’s the latter, then make sure people get healthy and trade Beltre for a good prospect. And for fucks sake, stop drinking Jobu’s rum.

posted by Matt at 7:44 am  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All-Star Disabled List

Congratulations to your 2010 All-Disabled-List team! When was the last time you heard of a team getting THREE players elected on the All Star team that are also on the DL? (I can’t even imagine how to look this up, or I would.) Of their six all-stars from the Sox (Lester, Buchholz, Pedroia, Beltre, Ortiz and Martinez) only three are healthy enough to go, and if I get my wish, Lester won’t be attending either.

How bad is it now? Well, let’s look at our catching situation. Victor Martinez goes down with a broken thumb. OK, that’ll hurt, but it’s precisely why we have Tek on the team. Two days later and Tek is hobbling around the putt-putt course and it turns out he’s got a broken foot. Crap. Well, this is why we have a farm system, right? Oh, don’t bother. BOTH of the starting AAA catchers (Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown) are currently on the DL. Instead the Sox end up with a Molina not named Bengie, Yadier or Jose, and have to trade for the privilege of Kevin Cash…who is, without exaggerating, one of the worst hitters of all time.

Buchholz, who only a few days ago looked like he may be able to miss only one start, is now also headed for the DL. Most surprising of all, of the NINE players currently vacationing on the DL, not one of them is named Drew. The Sox have so many players shuffling back and forth between the DL, it’s like a new farm team. Forget the Pawtucket shuttle, the hot new place to be is on the DL Shuttle.

I guess the fact that the Sox are still only 1.5 games back in the East and a half game ahead in the Wild Card is truly a testament not only to the All Stars, but also all of the players who have filled in. No Bill Hall, you don’t count. Swinging at a 3-0 pitch with 2nd and 3rd and two outs makes you worse than Kevin Cash. If the Sox can stay in this same position after the All Star break when hopefully Martinez and Buhholz return with Beckett not far behind, maybe we can just pull this whole thing off. Or maybe I’m just sleep deprived on a flight to China.

Oh, and congrats to Wake for win number 178 in a Sox uniform. Only 15 more to go…

posted by Matt at 12:36 am  

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Unintentional Intentional Walk

Here’s the situation: you, the manager, have first base open, and really don’t want your pitcher facing their batter. Instead of being a man, wiggling your four fingers, and telling your catcher to get up from his crouch to call for the intentional walk, you ask your pitcher to throw four balls that are close enough to the plate that the batter may make a stupid mistake and make an out. Which leads to the following problem: when a pitcher isn’t focused on making a good pitch he often misses and puts one of these “balls” belt-high and over the plate.

If you watched the College World Series last night, this exact play came up. UCLA lost the national championship because in a tie ballgame in the bottom of the 11th inning, a runner on third and one out, the pitcher tried to unintentionally intentionally walk (UIBB) their batter, and left a 2-0 pitch over the plate. See you next year.

Most of you probably saw a different UIBB last night. Big Game James Shields (I love calling pitchers who have lost their last seven starts “Big Game”) was locked in a 0-0 game in the 5th and had two outs, with runners at 2nd and 3rd, and Papi, who is a career .393 hitter against Shields, at the plate. I think I’ll let Big Game describe what happened next:

I told [manager Joe Maddon] I wanted to face Ortiz, but I wasnt going to throw anything over the dish. I was going to try intentionally unintentionally walk him. I was trying to throw a fastball about a foot off the plate, just kind of show him the fastball and I ended up yanking it right down the middle. I dont even know how I did it.

One unintentional intentional “ball” later it’s 3-0 Sox. What happened next for Youk (who is a .107 hitter off Shields)? Called strike, foul, swinging strike.

So the next time you want to walk somebody, just wiggle those four little fingers and let your catcher do the rest. You’re not fooling anybody, certainly not the batters.

posted by Matt at 3:47 pm  

Monday, June 28, 2010

3-2-1 Splash Down!

When Bud Selig saw this year’s interleague play schedule he must have been drooling over two possible matchups: Strasburg vs Greinke and Lester vs Lincecum. Who knows, maybe he was a genius and was looking forward to Edwin Jackson vs. Jeff Niemann, but I kinda doubt it.

If you listened to the usher I stood next to in the first inning then “Lester looked hittable.” If an infield single, two stolen bases and a RBI groundout is defined as “hittable” then sure. But using that scale, Lincecum was batting practice.

Before Lincecum was pinch hit for in the third inning he gave up a splash-down homer to Papi that may have killed a kayaker in the bay on its way down (honestly, it left that bat so high and was gone so fast that I think it entered the stratosphere and was on fire on the way down), and almost gave up a grand slam to Lester. How bad was Lincecum? He gave up a single AND a double to Bill Hall.

Opposite Lincecum, Lester’s performance was spectacular. He was in command the whole game. After the Sox gave him the lead in the 2nd, he just went on cruise control and demolished the Giants hitters. He got them swinging, he got them looking and most importantly he did it for nine innings. There are two defining characteristics of an ace: that he has dominant stuff, and that he can be counted on to stabilize the pitching staff. After Tito looked played the role of a Little League manager on Saturday, trying to make sure that every kid got a chance to pitch, the Sox needed at least seven innings from Lester. I’d say that the complete game proves once and for all that he truly is the ace of this staff.

Even with the Gay Pride Parade a couple of blocks away, all was not fairy tales and rainbows at AT&T Park on Sunday. The media learned that Victor Martinez broke a bone in his thumb after taking a couple of foul tips of the edge of his glove. Please, somebody remind me to tell the Sox players to “have a good game” instead of “break a leg.” First Pedey, then Buchholz and now V-Mart? I think that Bud Selig’s new system for equalizing the playing field of “win a game, lose a player” is going to backfire on him pretty quickly.

Even though there are still 85 games left in the season, the Sox are able to leave San Fran knowing that for the first time since Opening Night they are in the Wild Card lead. Who could have imagined that even a month ago? Maybe I need to watch these guys in person more often.

 
posted by Matt at 10:29 am  

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Who Needs a Starter?

There are a couple of ways to look at yesterday’s game. On the one hand Buchholz pulled up lame in the 2nd inning and the Sox only had one baserunner after that. Considering that it was only a few hours earlier that we learned the true condition of Pedroia’s foot, I was getting pretty sick of the Giants and their hexes. On the other hand, the Sox bullpen put up the best performance I’ve seen since Flanagan/Williamson/Olson for the Orioles on July 13, 1991. (Old joke, how many Orioles does it take to throw a no-hitter? Four).

The Sox pen really put on a show. Eight innings while giving up two runs, and they had to use practically everybody. The only pitcher who didn’t make it to the mound was Fabio Castro, and let’s be honest, how many of you even knew he was on the 25 man roster yesterday? Even Papelbon made it through a scoreless inning. Come to think of it, maybe the Sox should have put Delcarmen at 2nd and Bill Hall on the mound.

But wins on the west coast are hard to come by. So for once, and I mean once, I’ll take the half-full approach. That and the fact that Buchholz may be able to make his next start.

posted by Matt at 8:34 pm  

Friday, June 25, 2010

Enjoying the San Fran Summer Heat

There’s an old Mark Twain quote that says “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” You know what can make it colder though? Watching your best player fall down in a heap after fouling a ball off his left insole. Believe it or not, watching injuries live is worse than from home. At home you get 45 replays with 12 angles to try to piece together what exactly happened and convince yourself that it’s not so bad. Live, you just get your imagination as Pedey writhers in the batter’s box in pain.

So what can make his six week DL stint worse? Try fielding like the keystone cops and leaving 13 men on base. The Sox left the bases loaded in the 6th, 7th and 9th, and left runners at 2nd and 3rd in the 8th. All they needed was a little base hit to warm us up. Instead Old McDonald stranded SIX runners in his last three plate appearances. I know that we shouldn’t have expected much, if any, run support since Wakefield was pitching, but THIRTEEN men in FOUR innings? It takes skill and some hatred from the BABIP gods to strand that many guys. And don’t blame the weather. We were freezing up in the nosebleeds with 50 degree weather, mist and 20mph winds, but I still saw Youks sweating.

So now we get to see how the Sox will respond. Not just to the 13 LOB, but also to needing Bill Hall to play daily. Because having an OF of Nava/Cameron/McDonald isn’t bad enough. Right now I think Hall’s averaging one hit for every error, which is going to make him the next Julio Lugo. (If Lugo was nicknamed H1N1E6 then Hall is going to be H1N1E1E4E5E6E7E8E9. Not terribly catchy.) We are in SF though, think the Sox can borrow Willy Mays until August?

posted by Matt at 11:50 pm  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Father’s Day at Fenway

Note: I know this is a few days late, but Kim and I went on a tour of ballparks right after Sunday’s game so I’m just getting to post this now. Pedroia’s 3 HR laser show last night may have been more interesting though…

Father’s Day requires two things (besides a child or a Dad): brunch and a ballgame. For this Father’s Day, Kim and I decided to treat our dads to both. For some reason, I doubt you care about the brunch.

For my Dad and I, it seemed especially appropriate to combine Father’s Day and baseball, since my Dad taught me to keep score before I could spell my name. We’d already hit up Wrigley for a previous Father’s Day, so there was only one stadium that could trump that experience. What Dad needs a tie when he can look out over the field from the tiny slits inside the Green Monster? Or attempt to get vertigo from the seats above it? (BTW, the Monster seats really don’t give you a great view. The only reason to shell out the money for them is to say you sat on the Monster. And maybe a HR ball…) Inside the Monster we both got to act like 10 year olds. “What’s this? How does this work? Why did Rachel Madow get to sign? How about if we take a picture like this?” We even got to spend an hour doing the most perfect Father’s Day activity, watching the rain cancel early BP. Every dad’s dream.

Sadly, he didn’t enjoy the game as much. Since he’s a Dodger fan, none of the games were good for him. In a nostalgic kind of way, the first inning for the Sox was perfect since it one of the most complicated innings I’ve had to score. Two base hits (neither out of the infield), one error, one intentional walk, TWO wild pitches, a force play at home and only a single run.

Buchholz was impressive in that “wow he looks like crap, but keeps getting outs” kind of way. Two years ago, he probably doesn’t make it out of the third. He had about 30 pitches after one inning, and routinely started off batters 2-0. But he threw just enough strikes (or Matt Kemp hacked at enough balls) to pitch 6 2/3 scoreless. Bard and Paps did the rest. To be honest, the Sox should have been able to pound Kuroda (who was making his first start off the DL), but a win is a win.

So Dad, thanks for the Monster, thanks for teaching me to keep score, and thanks for the Sox wins. Maybe next year I’ll just get you a tie and a Dodger win, but I’m guessing you still liked this better.

posted by Matt at 6:19 pm  
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The daily Red Sox musings of Matt Levine...as read by Jon Miller.