July 23, 2017

G100: Red Sox at Angels, 3:30 PM

Red Sox - 
Angels  - 
Rick Porcello / Parker Bridwell
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Bradley, CF
Ramirez, DH
Moreland, 1B
Bogaerts, SS
Leon, C
Holt, 2B
Marrero, 3B
Porcello has pitched at least six innings in 17 consecutive starts (and in 19 of his 20 starts this season). The breakdown of innings of those 17 starts is:
6.0 IP - 8
6.1 IP - 4
6.2 IP - 2
7.0 IP - 2
8.0 IP - 1
Going deep into games and not putting undue pressure on the bullpen is good, but Porcello has a 4.14 ERA in those starts and opponents are hitting .294/.327/.488/.815. The Red Sox are 6-11 in those games.

AL East: Both the Rays and Yankees are 3.5 GB. ... TEX/TB and NYY/SEA.

MLB Should Fire Umpire Phil Cuzzi For His Chronic Incompetence

Boston's David Price faced Kole Calhoun of the Angels in the second inning last night. Phil Cuzzi was the home plate umpire and made those calls, and awarded Calhoun a walk.

I have been watching baseball games for 42 years and that is quite possible the worst called at-bat I have ever seen in my life. How can anyone look at that and still wonder whether MLB needs to start using an electronic strike zone immediately?

Cuzzi has been a major league umpire for more than 20 years. He was actually fired after about a decade in the minor leagues in 1993, but somehow was later recommended to be a National League ump. He has proved time and time again that he is extremely shitty at his job.

According to this Reddit post written by a Giants fan, Cuzzi "is the Mr Magoo of MLB Umpires and has a propensity for temper tantrums". Cuzzi has trouble distinguishing fair from foul balls, is often unable to correctly tell when a batter is safe or out, and he has a problem counting to four. He once awarded a batter first base on a walk after only three balls.

In 2009, Keith Law wrote that Cuzzi is "the worst umpire in the majors. Bad at his job, enjoys confrontations, too quick with the hook." A blown call in 2010 cost the Giants a victory. Cuzzi screwed up another Giants game in 2015 and this Giants website announced its desire for robots:
The pitcher gets paid to be able to place a pitch on the black, right at the knees, and to see an umpire make mistake after mistake - with impunity - and get away with it, defies explanation.
Cuzzi is still pissing players off in 2017.

I wrote about Cuzzi after he had a truly horrible game on September 26, 2010. In the ninth inning, the Yankees took 19 pitches thrown by Jonathan Papelbon and Cuzzi blew the call on eight of them. He got 42% of the pitches wrong!

Here's Brooks Baseball's zone of Calhoun's plate appearance:

As I wrote in that 2010 post:
Give me a process that gets the correct calls as close to 100% of the time as possible. It has been shown time and time again that humans cannot do it. So let's use technology. In track meets, we don't have guys muttering "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand ...", we have sophisticated machines that can tell us, with certainty, the winning time was 28.735 seconds.
Seven years later, MLB remains content to have the umpires - not the players - decide the outcome of games every single night.

July 22, 2017

G99: Angels 7, Red Sox 3

Red Sox - 120 000 000 - 3  6  2
Angels  - 004 021 00x - 7 10  1
The Red Sox staked David Price (5-7-6-3-5, 102) to an early 3-0 lead, but he quickly gave that away.

After JC Ramirez (6-5-3-3-6, 101) walked both Andrew Benintendi and Dustin Pedroia in the first inning, Hanley Ramirez knocked a run-scoring single into right center. In the second, Mookie Betts doubled home a run before scoring on Benintendi's single.

Ben Revere singled to start the bottom of the third. He was forced at second by Yunel Escobar and then Mike Trout walked. Albert Pujols doubled in two runs and Andrelton Simmons cracked a two-run homer.

Price was hit for three straight singles in the fifth that brought in one run and Xander Bogaerts's second error of the game led to another run. Trout knocked in the Angels' final run off Heath Hembree in the sixth.

With two outs in the top of the sixth, Bogaerts doubled and Mitch Moreland walked, but Christian Vazquez lined out to center. The Red Sox were retired in order in the seventh and ninth, and had a leadoff single wiped away on a double play in the eighth.

The Yankees lost to the Mariners 6-5 in 10 innings and the Rays lost to the Rangers 4-3, so both teams remained 3.5 GB.
David Price / JC Ramirez
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ramirez, 1B
Bradley, CF
Bogaerts, SS
Moreland, DH
Vazquez, C
Holt, 3B
These two pitchers faced off on June 24 at Fenway Park. Ramirez (6-4-1-0-5, 95) came out on top that day as the Angels beat Price (6-6-3-1-5, 103) and the Red Sox 6-3.

Price has given up only two earned runs over his last three starts (20 innings, 0.90 ERA). ... Mike Trout is only 3-for-19 (.158) in 22 plate appearances against Price.

AL East: Both the Rays and Yankees are 3.5 GB. ... TEX/TB and NYY/SEA.

July 21, 2017

G98: Red Sox 6, Angels 2

Red Sox - 500 100 000 - 6  9  0
Angels  - 000 000 101 - 2  7  0
The Red Sox exploded for five runs before Chris Sale threw his first pitch. Not that Sale (6-4-0-2-9, 112) needed such generous run support. His six shutout innings meant that the Red Sox easily won the first game of this two-city, west coast swing.

Sale did make a bit of history, however. He reached 200 strikeouts in fewer innings (141.1) than any pitcher in American League history. (Randy Johnson did it in 143 innings in 1995, and Pedro Martinez needed 147 innings in 1999.) Sale is also only the fourth pitcher in major league history to reach 200 strikeouts in 20 or fewer starts.

200 Strikeouts In 20 Or Fewer Starts
Nolan Ryan       1977   Angels        19 starts
Randy Johnson    1999   Diamondbacks  19 starts
Randy Johnson    2000   Diamondbacks  20 starts
Pedro Martinez   2000   Red Sox       20 starts
Randy Johnson    2001   Diamondbacks  19 starts
Chris Sale       2017   Red Sox       20 starts
Boston's five-run first inning was the team's biggest inning since July 2, when they scored eight times in the seventh at Toronto. Mookie Betts doubled and Andrew Benintendi singled him home (and took second on the throw to the plate). Dustin Pedroia grounded out to second, as Benintendi went to third. Mitch Moreland singled to right, scoring Benintendi. Hanley Ramirez singled and the Red Sox had runners at first and third. A wild pitch by Ricky Nolasco scored Moreland and Ramirez advanced to second. Xander Bogaerts singled to right, and Ramirez scored. Jackie Bradley's double scored Bogaerts, but Bradley was tagged out off the bag. Sandy Leon ended the inning with a grounder to shortstop. Singles in the fourth by Bradley, Brock Holt, and Betts made it 6-0.

In the bottom of the first. Jackie Bradley made another stunning catch, this time leaping against the wall in right-center, robbing leadoff batter Yunel Escobar of a hit.

The Angels put runners on second and third in the fifth, as Martin Maldonado singled with one out and Cliff Pennington doubled with two down. Sale stranded both runners by striking out Escobar.

Mike Trout walked in the sixth and Andrelton Simmons singled with two outs. Again, Sale got an inning-ending strikeout, this time getting Kole Calhoun on four pitches. That was Sale's 200th strikeout and his last batter of the night.

Kyle Martin made his second appearance of the year in the seventh and Maldonado hit his first pitch for a home run. Ben Revere drove in Maldonado for a run off Matt Barnes in the ninth.

The Rays lost to the Rangers 4-3 in 10 innings to fall 3.5 GB. The Yankees beat the Mariners 5-1, so they are also 3.5 GB.
Chris Sale / Ricky Nolasco
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Moreland, 1B
Ramirez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Bradley, CF
Leon, C
Holt, 3B
Sale leads the AL in ERA (2.59), WHIP (0.887), innings pitched (135.1), fewest hits/9 (6.4), best K:BB ratio (7.96). He leads MLB in strikeouts (191) and K/9 (12.7). In his last eight starts, he has allowed more than three runs only once. In four of his last six starts, he has allowed one or no runs.

Nolasco has given up 26 home runs this season (an average of 2.2 per nine innings), most in the majors.

The Red Sox are on the road for six games, three in Anaheim and three in Seattle.

AL East: The Rays are 2.5 GB and the Yankees are 3.5 GB. ... TEX/TB and NYY/SEA.

It's Probably A Good Idea To Disbelieve Everything Nick Cafardo Writes

Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe, July 19, 2017:
If the Royals don't pick up the pace, they could make a late decision to trade away players and [Mike] Moustakas could hit home runs at Fenway from the left side because he prefers to hit to the opposite field.
In truth, only one of Moustakas's 25 home runs this season has been hit to the opposite field. I've indicated that home run with a big red arrow.

But perhaps this season is an anomaly. Let's look at 2016, when Moustakas played only 27 games and hit seven home runs.

Okay. What about his 22 home runs in 2015?

Well, I'm beginning to see a pattern. Moustakas is actually a pull hitter, at least when it comes to home runs.

Here is his career spray chart (and location of his 106 career home runs):

Cafardo wrote the exact opposite of what is true. I cannot see any nefarious intent in his ignorance; he simply refuses to do any research or legwork regarding his job. (Maybe someone told him that Moustakas's power is to the opposite field and Cafardo simply put it in his story without thinking about it.) This happens on a near-daily basis in Cafardo's work. And yet he remains employed as the Globe's National Baseball Writer, the paper's top baseball writer.

These charts are not top secret information. They are easily found (in less than one minute) by clicking on Fangraphs' list of players. ... Easily found, that is, if one was inclined to expend even a little effort before writing his column.

July 20, 2017

G97: Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 6

Blue Jays - 104 011 001 - 8 10  1
Red Sox   - 030 000 300 - 6  9  0
After the Red Sox struck for three runs in the second inning, with Mookie Betts's two-run single being the big blow driving Francisco Liriano (1.2-5-3-1-1, 54) from the mound, Boston manager John Farrell sat and watched as Doug Fister (4.1-7-6-4-3, 100) gave the game away in the top of the third.

Handed a two-run lead, Fister faced nine men in the third and walked four of them. He also gave up a pair of two-run singles (to Steve Pearce and Ryan Goins, though Pearce's hit was actually a popup that second baseman Brock Holt lost in the bright afternoon sun) and finished the inning having thrown 38 pitches - putting the Red Sox behind 5-3.

Fister retired the side in the fourth but surrendered a home run to Justin Smoak in the fifth. He was relieved later in the inning.

Dustin Pedroia (3-for-5) belted a three-run homer in the seventh, cutting Toronto's lead to 7-6. (In four career starts as a DH, Pedroia is 8-for-17.)

Sandy Leon walked to start the bottom of the eighth, but he never moved as Mitch Moreland flied to right, Holt struck out, and Betts lined to right. In the bottom of the ninth, now trailing by 8-6, Andrew Benintendi grounded to first, and Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez both struck out.

Kyle Martin made his major league debut, facing the Blue Jays in the seventh. He struck out Pearce on three pitches, got Ezequiel Carrera to ground out to first, walked Goins on four pitches. and retired Darwin Barney on a fly to center.

Fister has a 7.89 ERA in five games, with 27 hits and 15 walks in only 21.2 innings. There's no harm in taking a flyer on a low-cost guy, but Fister clearly cannot help this team. I anxiously await his release.
Francisco Liriano / Doug Fister
Betts, RF
Young, LF
Pedroia, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bradley, CF
Bogaerts, SS
Leon, C
Marrero, 3B
Holt, 2B
Fister (6.75 ERA) makes his fourth start of the season. After today, he will likely head to the bullpen, since Eduardo Rodriguez has rejoined the rotation.

Third base prospect Rafael Devers was promoted to AAA last week. After five games with Pawtucket, the 20-year-old phenom is hitting .421 with a 1.266 OPS.

AL East: The Rays are 3 GB and the Yankees are 4.5 GB. ... NYY/SEA.

July 19, 2017

G96: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 1

Blue Jays - 000 010 000 - 1  5  1
Red Sox   - 040 100 00x - 5  7  1
After Toronto's 3-2-5 double play in the second inning seemed to short-circuit a Red Sox rally, leaving the team with a man on third and two outs, the Red Sox (more than a little help from the Blue Jays) continued batting until they had scored four times. That was more than enough runs for Drew Pomeranz (6.2-3-1-5-3, 116), who turned in yet another solid start, his second-longest of the year, despite tying a season-high with five walks.

Although the Blue Jays were retired in order in only the first inning, it never felt as though they were in any position to come back. The victory increased the Red Sox's lead in the AL East to three games over the Rays, with the third-place Yankees now 4.5 GB.

Chris Young started the second with a double off the Wall, and he went to third on Jackie Bradley's single to right. Bradley stole second before Christian Vazquez grounded to first. Young broke for the plate, but stopped halfway down the line when Justin Smoak gloved the ball and stared him down. Smoak stepped on the bag to retire Vazquez, then fired home and Toronto had Young in a rundown. Young was tagged out by Josh Donaldson, but Bradley advanced to third. Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez (4-6-5-5-2, 79) walked Brock Holt, who promptly stole second. Deven Marrero grounded a single up the middle and both baserunners scored. Mookie Betts reached on Donaldson's fielding error and Andrew Benintendi walked on four pitches, loading the bases. Dustin Pedroia dropped a single into short left field, bringing home Marrero and Betts. Mitch Moreland, the ninth man to bat in the inning, flied to center.

The Red Sox's fifth run was a showcase for Betts' hustle and smarts. With one out in the fourth, Sanchez walked him on four pitches. Benintendi struck out looking, but Betts stole second on strike three. Pedroia tapped a slow grounder towards shortstop. Troy Tulowitzki ran in and tried to barehand the ball on the infield grass. He could not make a play, then watched in shock as Betts gave a split-second glance towards him, barely slowing around third, sprinting home and scoring standing up without a play. (Pedroia was given his third RBI of the night, but FY had nothing to do with Betts scoring!) Boston managed only one baserunner after that, but it didn't matter.

The Blue Jays' #8 and 9 hitters began the third inning with singles off the Wall. Pomeranz struck out Jose Bautista looking and Steve Pearce grounded to Holt at third, who started a double play.

Toronto scored its run in the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Miguel Montero walked with one out. Darwin Barney grounded the ball up the middle. Pedroia tried to glove it behind the bag, but was charged with an error*. Montero went to third and he scored on Bautista's fly out to Betts.

* That play ended a long errorless streak for Pedroia (look up the number of games if you feel like it), but I don't care. We've all seen hits scored as errors and errors scored as hits to know that the idea of an error is utterly arbitrary. It's only a cautious player who never attempts a difficult play who will never make an error. Plus, fielding percentage was completely discredited as a statistic about 140 years ago.

The Blue Jays put one man on base in each of the next four innings, but only one of them advanced as far as second. When Pomeranz walked Montero with two outs in the seventh, Heath Hembree came in and struck out Barney. Hembree gave up a two-out single in the eighth and Ben Taylor (sporting a moustache that must have time-travelled from the 1880s) allowed a two-out single in the ninth.

The Red Sox will wrap up the series with the Blue Jays with a day game tomorrow at 1:30 PM.
Aaron Sanchez / Drew Pomeranz
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Moreland, 1B
Young, DH
Bradley, CF
Vazquez, C
Holt, 3B
Marrero, SS
While Drew Pomeranz has a 2.90 ERA over his last 11 starts, he is also fifth in the majors in most pitches per inning (18.0), so he rarely goes deep in any start. And because the Red Sox have played 58 innings in the last four days, the team has made a couple of roster moves to provide help in the bullpen: Right-handers Ben Taylor and Kyle Martin have been called up, with Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez being sent to Pawtucket. Taylor has a 6.59 ERA in 11 games for Boston this year, while Martin has not yet pitched in the major leagues.

The Red Sox also released Pablo Sandoval this afternoon. Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations: "You're always hoping that player bounces back and is the player you've seen in the past. That was hard. ... It really came down to us feeling that we were not a better club if he was on our club at the major league level."

With a headline like "Frisco Roughriders Dog Can't Quite Get The Hang Of Being A Bat Dog, Remains A Very Good Boy", how can you resist? (And with a huge open field in front of him, how can Brooks not resist ditching work and having a good run?)

AL East: This afternoon, the Yankees lost to the Twins 6-1 and the Rays lost to Oakland, so as the Red Sox begin play, Tampa Bay is 2.5 GB and the Yankees are 4 GB.

July 18, 2017

G95: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4 (15)

Blue Jays - 000 030 000 010 000 - 4 15  0
Red Sox   - 000 101 100 010 001 - 5 13  0

Hanley Ramirez crushed a first-pitch home run with one out in the bottom of the fifteenth (1:09 AM) to send everyone still watching at Fenway Park home happy.

The Red Sox rallied twice, tying the game in the seventh (on Dustin Pedroia's double) and the fourteenth (Mookie Betts's two-out single). Hector Velazquez pitched the final four innings.

J.A. Happ / Brian Johnson
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ramirez, 1B
Young, DH
Bogaerts, SS Bradley, CF
Bradley, CF Leon, C
Leon, C Marrero, SS
Marrero, 3B Holt, 3B
Ryan Hannable, WEEI:
Xander Bogaerts hasn't been right following being hit by a pitch in the right hand while in Tampa before the All-Star break on July 6.

Since being hit, Bogaerts is batting just .154 (4-for-26) ... After being in the original lineup on Tuesday, he was scratched so he could go get a MRI.
The Red Sox have scored only 26 runs in their past 10 games (with a 3-7 record), while batting a meager .195/.275/.283. With runners on second and/or third, they are 7-for-70 (.100) in those games.

Roster Stuff: Brian Johnson and Hector Velasquez were called up from Pawtucket, with Robby Scott and Sam Travis being sent down.

AL East: The Rays are 2 GB and the Yankees are 3.5 GB. ... NYY/MIN and TB/OAK.

Mookie Betts: A Steady Combination Of Power And Speed

An on-screen graphic during last night's Red Sox game stated that Mookie Betts is the only player in Red Sox history to have hit 15+ home runs and 15+ stolen bases in three consecutive seasons.

* Please keep in mind that Mookie Betts has played only three full seasons in the major leagues.

I went to Baseball Reference's always-amazing Play Index to investigate.

Three other Red Sox players have had three or more 15/15 seasons, but they were not consecutive: Jackie Jensen (1954, 1955, 1959), Reggie Smith (1967, 1968, 1972), and Dustin Pedroia (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012).

Carl Yastrzemski is on the list for 1969 and 1970; in 1968, however, he fell short by two stolen bases (23/13). Ellis Burks did it in his first two seasons in the majors (1987 and 1988), but had only 12/21 in 1989. And while Pedroia achieved 15/15 four times in a five-year stretch, he finished with 12/9 in the middle year (2010).

Of course, 15/15 is an arbitrary cutoff. But it does show that Betts possess a consistent combination of power and speed.

If we drop the criteria to 13/13, Betts has some company: Jim Tabor (1939, 1940, 1941) and Yaz (1968, 1969, 1970).

How about upping it to 20/20?
                   YEAR  HR  SB
Jackie Jensen      1954  25  22
JacKie Jensen      1959  28  20
Carl Yastrzemski   1970  40  23
Ellis Burks        1987  20  27
John Valentin      1995  27  20
Nomar Garciaparra  1997  30  22
Jacoby Ellsbury    2011  32  39
Dustin Pedroia     2011  21  26
Mookie Betts       2016  31  26
Oldest: Jensen was 32 in 1959, Yaz was 30. Youngest: Burks was 22, Garciaparra and Betts were 23.