April 24, 2017

A Bowling Challenge For Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts has bowled at least four perfect games.

But has he ever bowled a perfect game in less than 86 seconds?

April 23, 2017

G19: Red Sox 6, Orioles 2

Red Sox - 400 011 000 - 6 14  0
Orioles - 000 000 011 - 2  6  1
Now that is the way you start a ball game!

Xander Bogaerts (ball, called strike) singled to right. Andrew Benintendi (ball, foul) singled to right. Mookie Betts homered to left. Hanley Ramírez homered to left. ... Orioles starter Kevin Gausman had thrown only eight pitches - and Boston led 4-0.

Benintendi finished the afternoon 5-for-5. Betts had two hits and two walks, Bogaerts had two hits, two runs scored, and a walk. Mitch Moreland also had two hits, including a home run in the fifth.

Eduardo Rodriguez (6-1-0-5-7, 108) retired the first nine Orioles and did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. He had some trouble with his control, walking three batters in the sixth.

Matt Barnes threw a 90 mph pitch at behind Manny Machado's head in the eighth inning and was ejected. At first, it was ruled that Machado was struck in the helmet, but after manager John Farrell complained, they ruled (correctly) that the ball had hit his bat. (Pedroia was seen talking from the dugout to Machado, apparently describing that Barnes's headhunting was "bullshit".)

Fernando Abad was unable to finish the ninth inning (Baltimore scored one run and had two men on), so Craig Kimbrel was asked to get the final out. He did.

Also, Dustin Pedroia reported swelling in both his left ankle and left knee and Farrell said Pedroia will have an MRI tomorrow in Boston "just to rule anything out".
Eduardo Rodriguez / Kevin Gausman
Bogaerts, SS
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Sandoval, 3B
Hernandez, 2B
Rodriguez has allowed seven runs in his two starts (10.1 innings). Boston starters not named Chris Sale have a combined ERA of 5.97.

As far as the hitters go, the Red Sox are 3-for-26 (.115) with runners on second and/or third over the last four games.

Also re Steven Wright: When he hurt his right shoulder pinch-running last August 7, he had a 3.01 ERA and had allowed eight home runs in 146.2 innings. Since the injury, his ERA is 8.46 and he has given up 11 homers in only 27.2 innings. Wright claims his shoulder is "back to 100 percent", but he also said:
I just don't feel like [the knuckleballs] have the violence that they used to have last year. ... It's just a matter of getting everything back, the muscle memory back, and getting back to where I was before the injury. ... I'm trying to get back to who I was before the injury.

April 22, 2017

G18: Orioles 4, Red Sox 2

Red Sox - 002 000 000 - 2  6  0
Orioles - 000 400 00x - 4 10  0
In his previous start against the Orioles, Steven Wright threw 34 pitches and allowed eight runs. On Saturday night, he was marginally better: he upped his pitch count to 58 and gave up only four runs (3.2-9-4-0-0, 54)!

The Red Sox actually held a lead in this game, thanks to a two-run homer by Jackie Bradley (who also singled and walked).

But Wright, who gave up a single in each of the first three innings, faltered with one out in the fourth. Chris Davis doubled to right. On the next pitch, Trey Mancini homered to left-center. Jonathan Schoop fell behind 0-2 before homering to left. Wright got the second out, but three more hits - Caleb Joseph's double, Craig Gentry's infield single, and Adam Jones's single to right - made it 4-2 and ended his night.

Boston put runners on first and second with one out in the fifth, but could do nothing. In the sixth, the Red Sox had a man on second with one out and then men on first and second with two outs, and again came up empty against Jayson Aquino (6-6-2-3-2, 99). They went in order in the seventh and eighth. Marco Hernandez was hit by a pitch with two outs in the ninth, but Xander Bogaerts hit a soft liner to second to drop Boston's record to 10-8 (3 GB).
Steven Wright / Jason Aquino
Bogaerts, SS
Bradley, CF
Betts, RF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Young, LF
Leon, C
Sandoval, 3B
Hernandez, 2B
Dustin Pedroia is not in tonight's lineup.

Rob Bradford reports Pedroia "was getting treatment on his surgically-repaired knee" after last night's loss. ESPN's Scott Lauber has a bit more:
While several Boston Red Sox players and even manager John Farrell seethed late Friday night over a hard, high slide into second base by Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado, Pedroia walked through the clubhouse gingerly but without a limp or a noticeable scrape on the back of his left calf. ...

[D]on't think for a second that the Red Sox will excuse what they perceive to be a foul by Machado. ...

Pedroia claimed he saw the replay only once and on the center-field video screen as he struggled to get to his feet ... Farrell, meanwhile, described the slide as "extremely late." Asked if he thought it was dirty, he repeated, "It was a late slide." ...

"I don't know if [Machado] tried to mean any harm at all, but he definitely went past the bag," Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly said. ...

Said shortstop Xander Bogaerts: "It was a hard slide. He passed the base, if you're asking me, and he injured the leader of our team."
Two starts ago (April 12), Wright was rocked by the Orioles for eight runs in only 1.1 innings.

NESN: Dave O'Brien, Camden Yards, And Park Factors

As Hanley Ramirez batted in the top of the fourth inning last night (April 21), NESN's Dave O'Brien said:
He has nine home runs against the Orioles in his career. It's the most he has against any American League team. From Day 1, since the moment they finished it, [Camden Yards has] has been one of the premier hitters' parks in baseball.
Camden Yards, which opened 25 years ago this month, certainly has a solid reputation as a hitters' park, both in scoring runs and when it comes to hitting home runs. But I wondered (naturally!) whether what O'Brien was saying was actually true.

ESPN has Park Factors going back to 2001. This is how Camden Yards ranked among the 30 major league teams in frequency of hits, runs scored, and home runs.
MLB Rank    Hits   Runs    HRs
2001        23rd   24th   24th
2002        18th   15th    8th
2003        18th   21st   14th
2004        10th    7th   12th
2005        24th   27th   15th
2006         7th   17th    8th
2007         4th    6th    3rd
2008         7th   10th    1st
2009         3rd   11th    5th
2010         3rd    5th    5th
2011        15th   12th    8th
2012         4th    5th    5th
2013        18th   10th    4th
2014        17th   22nd   20th
2015         3rd    3rd    2nd
2016        18th   19th   18th
2017        17th   20th   26th
Camden Yards has been below-average when it comes to both hits and runs in eight of the last 16 full seasons (2001-2016).

Fangraphs' Park Factors are different from those at ESPN. Fangraphs calculates 100 as league average (similar to ERA+ and OPS+). For example, a Park Factor of 105 regarding doubles would mean that doubles are hit in that park 5% more than in a league-average park.
        Runs    2Bs    HRs
1992     101     96    104
1993     101     96    104
1994     101     96    104
1995     101     95    105
1996      99     94    103
1997      98     93    102
1998      97     91    101
1999      97     91    101
2000      96     91    101
2001      96     91    101
2002      97     93    102
2003      97     95    101
2004      98     95    103
2005      99     97    103
2006     101     97    106
2007     100     97    107
2008     102     98    110
2009     102    100    109
2010     103    101    110
2011     103    100    110
2012     102    100    107
2013     103     99    108
2014     102     99    108
2015     102     99    108
2016     102     99    108
According to Fangraphs, Camden Yards has never been a good park for doubles, though it has always been above-average for home runs.

Finally, Baseball Reference also calculates 100 as league average and offers a "batting" number and a "pitching" number.
         BAT     PIT
1992      99      98
1993     105     104
1994     108     107
1995     103     102
1996      95      94
1997     102     100
1998      95      94
1999      95      97
2000      95      96
2001      94      95
2002      96      97
2003      96      97
2004     105     104
2005      94      95
2006      98      99
2007     104     105
2008     101     102
2009      99     100
2010     102     104
2011      96      97
2012     109     109
2013     103     103
2014      92      96
2015     109     109
2016     101     101

April 21, 2017

G17: Orioles 2, Red Sox 0

Red Sox - 000 000 000 - 0  6  1
Orioles - 001 010 00x - 2  6  1
The Red Sox had numerous runners on base against Dylan Bundy (7-6-0-1-3, 108), but could not bring them around. Boston hit into three double plays in the first three innings and finished the game 0-for-9 with RATS. ... Oh, and Dustin Pedroia may be injured.

Drew Pomeranz (5.1-5-2-2-4, 102) did not pitch all that badly. With one out in the third, Craig Gentry doubled into the left field corner, went to third on a passed ball, and scored on Adam Jones's single up the middle. (Speaking of Gentry, he was Baltimore's leadoff hitter, with a .105 on-base percentage. It's only 19 PA, but still.) Manny Machado homered to deep left in the fifth.

The Red Sox's futility:

T1: Pedroia singled to start the game and Andrew Benintendi GIDP. Mookie Betts reached on an E6 and stole second, but Mitch Moreland struck out.

T2: Singles by Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley put men at first and third with no outs. Pablo Sandoval struck out and Christian Vazquez GIDP.

T3: Marco Hernandez looped a single to right. Pedroia popped up. The Orioles' infield became confused and the ball dropped, but Hernandez was forced at second. Benintendi GIDP.

T6: Hernandez singled and Pedroia walked. Bundy retired Benintendi (fly to right), Betts (pop to second), and Moreland (pop to third).

T8: Vazquez singled. Donnie Hart relieved Bundy. Pinch-hitter Chris Young walked. Pedroia flied to deep left. Vazquez tagged and (in a daring move) went to third. Benintendi struck out looking. Mychal Givens relieved Hart. Betts popped to second.

The bottom of the eighth was eventful. After Joe Kelly gave up a hard single to left to Machado, Mark Trumbo grounded to shortstop. Bogaerts stepped to his right and zipped a throw to Pedroia at second. It was close and Machado was called out. However, Machado slid over the bag and his right spike went into Pedroia's left calf. As Pedroia was helped off the field (he was moving very slowly), John Farrell asked the umpires to review the play to determine whether Machado's slide was legal. The umpires seemed to not want to do this.

Hernandez had started at short and, after Young pinch-hit, Bogaerts took over in this half-inning. With Brock Holt on the DL, Sandoval moved to second and Steve Selsky took over at third. Now the umpires were reviewing the play, but it turned out they were responding to Baltimore's challenge of the out call on the force play. That call was upheld, but NESN's replays seemed to indicate that Machado was safe (which would mean the umpires blew the call twice). During one showing of the replay, Jerry Remy said he wasn't sure the Orioles had recorded the force, but he never brought it up again. Farrell remained pissed off as he brought in Fernando Abad to pitch.

Chris Davis lined a pitch to right. Betts ran towards the line and made a very nice diving catch. Dave O'Brien gushed a bit too much about the play, saying that Mookie had "caught it out of the air". (Of course, all fly balls that are ruled outs are caught "out of the air". If they hit the ground, then they are hits.) During the break before the top of the ninth, third base coach Brian Butterfield was ejected by third base umpire Alan Porter. Presumably, Butterfield was talking about Machado's slide, but he was standing in the coach's box, quite a distance from Porter, and not making any gestures. Fans likely had no idea anything was going on until Porter walked over and thumbed him out of the game. Remy quite rightly called the ejection "weak" and "ridiculous".

Also re NESN: Tonight's poll question was: "Do you think there should be ties in major league baseball?" Why would NESN ask this? Is there talk about MLB doing something to the rules that would result in tie games? As far as I know, this is not an issue at all. NESN might as well as if viewers think batters should recite the alphabet before stepping into the batters' box. It makes no sense. ... As it turned out, 8% of voters thought tie games should be an option - so MLB should eliminate the possibility of extra innings? - which was exactly 8% more than I expected.
Drew Pomeranz / Dylan Bundy
Pedroia, 2B
Benintendi, LF
Betts, RF
Moreland, 1B
Ramirez, DH
Bradley, CF
Sandoval, 3B
Vazquez, C
Hernandez, SS
Jackie Bradley likely will be activated from the disabled list. He's been out since April 9 (right knee sprain).

Mookie Betts, in 10 games at Camden Yards last season: .514/.609/1.162, 8 HR, 15 RBI. ... Betts is hitting .529 (9-for-17) over his last four games, .500 (13-for-26) in his last six.

There will always be only one Pedro, but ...

First Four Starts With Red Sox
Pedro Martinez (1998): 32.0 innings, 3 runs, 7 walks, 44 strikeouts, 0.84 ERA, 0.719 WHIP
Chris Sale (2017):     29.2 innings, 3 runs, 6 walks, 42 strikeouts, 0.91 ERA, 0.738 WHIP
Note: In his fifth start, Martinez allowed 4 runs in 5.1 innings and his ERA rose to 1.69.

Sandy Leon, on catching Sale yesterday: "It's the best game I've ever caught. He was throwing every pitch in every count. He likes to attack."

If you are interested, here's John Farrell's explaination for pulling Sale: "After kind of a long inning after we get a challenge review, we score that run late in the inning, felt it was time to turn it over to a guy that was fresh and powerful." (Farrell also said that if the game had remained scoreless, he might still have gone with Kimbrel in the ninth.)

April 20, 2017

G16: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1 (10)

Red Sox   - 000 000 001 3 - 4  7  0
Blue Jays - 000 000 001 0 - 1  5  0
John Farrell is an idiot.

The Red Sox manager has made his share of strange in-game decisions over the years, but I don't think I have been as pissed at one of his blunders as I was this afternoon. It does not matter what his reasoning will be for pulling Chris Sale after eight dominating, scoreless innings. The move made absolutely zero sense. But Farrell slavishly followed the "accepted wisdom" that states if you have a lead in the ninth inning, you must bring in your closer. And so, apparently giving no thought to the context of the situation, Farrell robotically called for Craig Kimbrel. Sale had been utterly dominating and Kimbrel had not pitched since Monday. (In the game thread, I wrote: "Sale should get the 9th, at 102 [pitches]. Kimbrel worries me with a few days off.")

The game had been scoreless until Mitch Moreland doubled off Jays closer Roberto Osuna with two outs in the top of the ninth. Xander Bogaerts then lined a single to the opposite field, giving Boston a 1-0 lead. Kimbrel had begun warming earlier in the inning and despite Sale's amazing performance - 8-4-0-1-13, 102 - Kimbrel faced Toronto's 3-4-5 hitters in the bottom of the ninth. Kendrys Morales looked at a low fastball for ball 1, then crushed an off-speed pitch deep to dead center for a game-tying home run. Kimbrel got the next three hitters, striking out two of them, but ...

John Farrell is a goddamn idiot.

Jason Grilli retired Pablo Sandoval on a fly to deep center in the top of the tenth, but Sandy Leon worked a seven-pitch walk. Brock Holt (who saw 18 pitches in his first two at-bats) drilled a first-pitch single to right. Marco Hernandez pinch-ran for Leon at second. Dustin Pedroia fouled out to third, but Andrew Benintendi walked on five pitches, loading the bases for Mookie Betts. (To that point, Betts had walked and struck out twice, but he was 3-for-6 against Grilli and 9-for-25 (.360) with the bases loaded.) Grilli's 2-0 pitch came inside, right into Betts's zone - and Mookie smoked it down the left field line. It was Betts's 100th career double, and all three runners scored easily. Kimbrel pitched the tenth, as well, and he struck out the side - giving him both the blown save and the "win". Boston improved to 10-6.

Before all the late-inning drama, I was going to lead this post by saying what a joy it is to watch Sale pitch. He works fast - he retired the Blue Jays in the first inning in only 2:24, the length of a commercial break! - and he throws strikes - of his 31 pitches through three innings, only three were balls. He is utterly calm and shows no emotion on the mound. Even after he struck out Jose Bautista for the fourth time, ending the eighth inning with a man on first, his mouth remained a thin, straight line. He simply stands on the mound and methodically mows down the opposition.

Toronto barely managed a threat against Sale, whose ERA dropped to 0.91. With a man on first and one out in the third, Sale struck out both Kevin Pillar and Bautista. With runners on second and third and two outs in the fourth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia took strike three. A baserunner in the sixth was erased on a double play and Pillar, who had singled with two down in the eighth, was stranded where he stood.

Marco Estrada (6-3-0-2-7, 106) was nearly as dominating as Sale. He left a man at second in the first and fanned Betts to end the third after Pedroia and Benintendi had singled. Betts walked in the sixth and stole both second and third; Toronto was in a shift on the right side of the infield against Moreland, so Betts simply jogged to third, and Estrada could do nothing but step off the mound and watch him go.

For the first time in their history, the Blue Jays (now 3-12) have lost their first five series. ... Boston now heads to Baltimore for three games against the Orioles. It's an AL East Showdown!
Chris Sale / Marco Estrada
Pedroia, 2B
Benintendi, CF
Betts, RF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Sandoval, 3B
Leon, C
Holt, LF
In Sale's three starts, the Red Sox have scored a grand total of three runs.

From MLB.com's preview: "Through three starts, Sale owns a 1.25 ERA and has held opponents to a .149 batting average. ... In his last outing, Sale generated 21 swinging strikes, a total he matched or exceeded in only three starts last year."

April 19, 2017

G15: Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 0

Red Sox   - 000 000 000 - 0  6  2
Blue Jays - 030 000 00x - 3  6  1
Rick Porcello (7-6-3-1-5, 110) made his best start of the young season, but two errors in the second inning proved very costly as the Red Sox's four-game winning streak came to an end. Boston had no luck at all against Francisco Liriano (5.1-4-0-1-6, 91) and three Toronto relievers.

Troy Tulowitzki began the bottom of the second with a routine grounder to third base. Pablo Sandoval's throw from near the line sailed over Mitch Moreland's head at first base. Then Moreland tried to backhand Russell Martin's hard grounder down the first base line, but it skipped past him into right field. So instead of two outs and the bases empty, Porcello had to deal with men at second and third and no outs. Porcello fanned Justin Smoak, but Darwin Barney singled to center to bring home two runs. After Devon Travis lined out to right, singled by Kevin Pillar and Ezequiel Carrera scored Barney with the third run. All three runs were unearned.

Porcello walked the leadoff man in the third, then retired the next nine batters. A leadoff single in the sixth never advanced past first. Pillar singled with one out in the seventh (his third hit of the night) and stole both second and third, but was stranded when Jose Bautista struck out (and heard more than a few boos from his hometown fans as his average dropped to .118). (Bautista came into the game with a .421 average against Porcello (16-for-38), but went 0-for-4.)

Nothing happened for the Red Sox batters until the fifth. Liriano walked Xander Bogaerts, who was forced at second by Chris Young (the relay to first was wild). Sandoval singled to right, moving Young to second, but Sandy Leon grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts singled with one out in the following inning. Joe Biagini relieved Liriano and got Hanley Ramirez to hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Biagini then retired the Red Sox in order in the seventh.

Sandoval singled off Jason Grilli to open the eighth. Leon struck out and Dustin Pedroia grounded out to first. Pedroia lined the ball off Grilli and the ball caromed to Smoak near first base. Smoak raced to the bag and beat Pedroia, who slowed himself down by diving headfirst into the base. (If he had kept running hard through the bag, like players are supposed to do, perhaps he would have beaten it out.) Benintendi walked, but Betts grounded out to short.

Facing Roberto Osuna in the ninth, Moreland singled with one out. Bogaerts struck out on three pitches and Young forced Moreland at second for the final out.

Betts's streak of regular-season plate appearances ended at 129 when he struck out swinging in the fourth inning. ... In the first relief appearance of his major league career, Eduardo Rodriguez retired the Blue Jays in order in the eighth, striking out Kendrys Morales and Russell Martin.

Baseball announcers can often produce some strangely constructed sentences. In the ninth inning, when Ramirez swung and missed at a pitch that was well outside, NESN's Jerry Remy agreed that the pitch was "not in a location good".

Chris Sale will get the ball tomorrow. The game begins at 12:30 PM.
Rick Porcello / Francisco Liriano
Pedroia, 2B
Benintendi, CF
Betts, RF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Young, LF
Sandoval, 3B
Leon, C
Through three starts, Porcello has a 7.56 ERA. He was roughed up by the Rays last Friday (4.1 innings, four home runs, eight runs).

AL East
           W   L    PCT    GB   RS   RA  DIFF
Orioles    8   4   .667   ---   56   52   + 4
Red Sox    9   5   .643   ---   65   62   + 3
Yankees    9   5   .643   ---   68   48   +20
Rays       7   8   .467   2.5   64   64     0
Blue Jays  2  11   .154   6.5   41   62   -21
I forgot to include this in last night's recap. When home plate umpire Laz Diaz blew two of the seven ball/strike calls in the top of the first, I decided to see how many pitches he called correctly. While NESN's strike zone graphic is not completely accurate, that's what I used. And if even a portion of the dot touched the border of the strike zone, I regarded that as a strike. Diaz called 167 of 190 ball/strike pitches correctly (87.9%). He was wrong 12% of the time. (That's actually better than I expected.) (Here is Brooks' data.)