May 28, 2016

G49: Blue Jays 10, Red Sox 9

Red Sox   - 000 142 101 -  9 15  2
Blue Jays - 003 001 042 - 10 13  2
David Ortiz cranked his 13th home run of the season off Gavin Floyd with one out in the top of the ninth, giving the Red Sox a 9-8 lead. But Craig Kimbrel, in his second inning of relief, could not close it out.

Kimbrel, who had come in with one out in the eighth and allowed the tying run to score, faced the heart of Toronto's lineup in the home half of the ninth. He got two quick outs, though, as Edwin Encarnacion popped to shortstop and Michael Saunders struck out swinging. But Justin Smoak singled to center. On an 0-2 pitch to Russell Martin, pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera stole second and went to third on Christian Vazquez's throwing error. Martin doubled to left-center, bringing the Jays even again at 9-9. Kimbrel threw a wild pitch that moved Martin to third. And on an 0-2 pitch, Travis grounded to third. Travis Shaw's throw to first was not caught by Hanley Ramirez and the winning run crossed the plate for the Jays.

Rick Porcello (6.2-7-4-1-5, 106) had a rough third inning, but he kept the Jays off the board as his teammates rallied against Marcus Stroman (5.1-11-7-1-5, 93).

The Blue Jays cut the lead to 8-7 against Tommy Layne and Junichi Tazawa (mostly Taz, who was on the mound when three runs scored). Kimbrel came in with only one out in the eighth. With the tying run at third, Kimbrel struck out Kevin Pillar, but Jose Bautista singled to right - and the game was knotted at 8-8.

Xander Bogaerts had three hits, including a home run (his hitting streak is now 21 games) and scored three runs; he also stole a base. ... Hanley Ramirez drove in three runs with two hits and a walk. ... Travis Shaw singled and homered and drove in two runs. ... Dustin Pedroia had two doubles.

In addition to his home run, Ortiz also doubled, and now has 1,142 extra-base hits in his (regular season) career. That is 13th on the All-Time list. Just ahead of him is Carl Yastrzemski (1,157).

Rick Porcello / Marcus Stroman
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bradley, CF
Shaw, 3B
Young, LF
Vazquez, C

May 27, 2016

G48: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

Red Sox   - 010 100 210 - 5  7  0
Blue Jays - 101 210 02x - 7 11  1
Josh Donaldson was a one-man wrecking crew on Friday night at Skydome. The Toronto third baseman went 4-for-5, with two home runs, a single, and a double. He knocked in five runs.

Whenever the Red Sox battled back, Donaldson was just around the corner and he had a response.
1st inning: Solo home run gives Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
3rd inning: Double scores one run, breaking 1-1 tie.
4th inning: Single scores one run, breaking 2-2 tie.
6th inning: Strikes out, but Blue Jays up 5-2, so no need for a hit.
8th inning: Two-run homer breaks 5-5 tie.
Joe Kelly: 4.2-9-5-3-8, 94. ... Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 20 games. ... The Orioles won, so Boston is now only 1 GA in the East.

Joe Kelly / Aaron Sanchez

Boston (29-18) is still 2 GA in the East.

Farrell: Buchholz Moved To The Bullpen

Before Friday's night game at Skydome, Red Sox manager John Farrell announced that Clay Buchholz - struggling with a 6.35 ERA through 10 starts this season - is headed to the bullpen.

Eduardo Rodriguez will take Buchholz's place in the rotation, and is scheduled to start against the Orioles in Baltimore on Tuesday night.

Buchholz has pitched only twice out of the pen in his 10-year career, once in 2007 (three scoreless innings in his third major league appearance) and once in 2008 (one inning in a blowout).

Report: Robots, Other Advances Will Cost Humans 5.1 Million Jobs By 2020

Look out, umpires!

ARS Technica, January 18, 2016:
Are the robots coming to take our jobs? Advances in any tech that aids in automation always come with questions about the jobs they take versus the jobs they create, but the World Economic Forum warned in a report published on Monday that advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and other modern technologies are currently likely to lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs worldwide by the year 2020.
For example:
Tim Welke called the runner out.

That's right. He called him out.
NESN's Steve Lyons would tell you the runner deserved it.
Human element forever, yo!

May 26, 2016

G47: Rockies 8, Red Sox 2

Rockies - 000 240 101 - 8 12  0
Red Sox - 200 000 000 - 2  6  1
Tonight was a tale of two games. The first game - the fun game - lasted three innings. David Ortiz hit a two-run homer and Clay Buchholz retired all nine Colorado batters he faced, on only 29 pitches.

Then the fourth inning began, and everything went to shit. Charlie Blackmon stroked an opposite-field single to left. Two outs later, Carlos Gonzalez nailed a low curveball over the fence in right-center - and the game was tied at 2-2. Gerardo Parra singled to open the fifth and Trevor Story homered into the Monster seats. Daniel Descalso then chopped a single over the mound and Dustin Garneau followed with a home run to left. Boos rained down on Buchholz and the Red Sox.
1st time through lineup: 0 baserunners (9 outs)
2nd time through lineup: 3 singles, 3 home runs, 6 runs (3 outs)
Buchholz (5-7-6-0-2, 82) has now allowed 10 home runs with men on base this season, by far the most in the majors. His ERA has ballooned to 6.35 and with Eduardo Rodriguez possibly returning to the rotation next week, Clay's spot in the rotation is in jeopardy.

After the opening frame, the Red Sox could do little with Jon Gray (7.1-5-2-3-6, 95). Ortiz led off the fourth with a double (#606, tying him with Paul Waner for 11th all-time), but was stranded at third. Christian Vazquez singled to start the fifth and went to third on Dustin Pedroia's single, but Pedroia tried for a double and was easily thrown out. That killed the momentum of that potential rally.

Jackie Bradley - moved to the leadoff spot tonight as Mookie Betts had the night off - had two good swings in his first three at-bats, flying to the warning track in right-center in the first inning and the warning track in dead center in the fifth. But he was 0-for-4 as the bottom of the ninth began - with his 29-game hitting streak seemingly over. However, with two outs, Chris Young doubled to left and Blake Swihart walked. Betts pinch-hit for Vazquez and Bradley came out on deck. It was not to be, though, as Betts squibbed an 0-1 pitch to first and Mark Reynolds made the easy play to the bag, ending the game and Bradley's streak.

Back in the first inning, Xander Bogaerts had extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a single. He was on base when Ortiz clubbed his 12th homer of the year.

Jon Gray / Clay Buchholz
Bradley, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Shaw, 3B
Young, RF
Swihart, LF
Vazquez, C
Buchholz (5.92 ERA in nine starts) takes the hill as the Red Sox go for the three-game sweep of the Rockies.

Boston leads the AL East by two games. ... Boston has scored 6+ runs and 11+ hits in 12 of their last 14 home games.

It's fun looking at the various offensive categories in the American League:
Batting Average: Bradley #1, Bogaerts #2, Ortiz #5
On-base Percentage: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2, Bogaerts #4
Slugging Percentage: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2
OPS: Ortiz #1, Bradley #2
Runs Scored: Betts #1, Bogaerts #5, Pedroia #7
Hits: Bogaerts #1, Betts #4, Bradley #6
Total Bases: Ortiz #3, Betts #5, Bradley #6, Bogaerts #9
Doubles: Ortiz #1, Bogaerts/Shaw #4, Bradley #10
Triples: Bradley #1, Betts #4, Shaw #8
Home Runs: Ortiz #6
Extra-Base Hits: Ortiz #1, Shaw/Bradley #5, Betts #7
Times On Base: Bogaerts #2, Ortiz #6
Runs Batted In: Ortiz #1, Betts #3, Bradley #4, Shaw #8
Runs Created: Ortiz #1, Bradley #3, Bogaerts #6
Who would have thought that at the end of May, Ortiz and Jackie Bradley would be 1-2 in OPS - that they would be, in fact, the only two American League hitters over 1.000?

May 25, 2016

G46: Red Sox 10, Rockies 3

Rockies - 010 100 010 -  3 10  0
Red Sox - 000 430 03x - 10 13  0
Baseball's most potent offense - 264 total runs, 5.87 runs per game - had another typical night. The hits and runs came in big bunches. Boston has collected 10+ hits in 30 of its 46 games this season. The team's batting average for May is .317, approximately 30-35 points higher than any other team.

After a quiet three innings, the Red Sox offense exploded in the fourth. Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games when he blasted a solo home run over everything in left. That cut Colorado's lead to 2-1. David Ortiz walked and was forced at second by Hanley Ramirez. Jackie Bradley lined a single to left (29 games!). Travis Shaw tied the game with a single and after Bradley was forced at the plate, Blake Swihart tripled in two more runs.

In the fifth, Dustin Pedroia doubled and was replaced by Marco Hernandez (as a precautionary measure due to his hamstring); Hernandez ended up going 2-for-2 for the rest of the game. Bogaerts whiffed and Ortiz was walked intentionally. Ramirez then walked to load the bases. A fielder's choice by Bradley brought in one run and Shaw's double scored two more.

Swihart's second triple of the night scored two runs in the eighth.

Steven Wright's (7-7-3-2-7, 117) knuckleball was acting devilish early in the game. After Wright fanned the first two hitters in the first inning, Ryan Hanigan committed a passed ball on a third strikeout, giving Wright the chance to record four Ks, but the baserunner was thrown out trying to steal.

In the second, Carlos Gonzalez singled. He went to second on a passed ball, third on a wild pitch, and scored on a groundout. He singled again in the fourth, advanced to second on a passed ball, and ended up scoring on a wild pitch. The night's final tally was four passed balls for Hanigan and three wild pitches for Wright. To my eye, all seven could have been passed balls.

Chad Bettis / Steven Wright
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Bradley, CF
Shaw, 3B
Hanigan, C
Swihart, LF
A few factoids from Elias:
Jackie Bradley [is] the 44th player to get halfway to Joe DiMaggio's record hitting streak since the Yankee Clipper hit safely in 56 games in a row in 1941. Another notable, and under-the-radar streak came to an end for Boston. Besides Bradley, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts also collected hits on Tuesday, although Hanley Ramirez did not. That quartet had hits in each of Boston's previous 12 games at Fenway Park, which was the longest streak of four different players getting hits in their teams' home games in modern major-league history. Previously, the longest streak like that was 11 games, by four Indians players in 1932 (Earl Averill, Ed Morgan, Dick Porter and Joe Vosmik).

David Price improved to 7-1 in 10 games with Boston on Tuesday. The only other left-hander who won seven of his first 10 games for the Red Sox was Jesse Tannehill, who did so in the team's fourth year of existence, 1904. Tannehill was 7-3 through 10 games for Boston, which won the American League that year.

The Cubs are now 30-14, which is the fewest losses they've had at the time of their 30th win since 1918, when they started 30-12.

The Brewers won in Atlanta on Tuesday, 2-1, to drop the Braves to 2-18 at home this season. Atlanta is the third team in major league history to lose at least 18 of its first 20 home decisions in a season, joining the 1906 Red Sox (2-18) and the 1913 Yankees (2-18).

NESN's Lyons: "Sometimes You're Supposed To Lose" On Blown Calls

In the bottom of the fourth inning last night, NESN announced in its nightly poll question: "Should The Strike Zone Be Automated?"

It is probably no surprise that the three announcers in the booth - Dave O'Brien, Jerry Remy, and Steve Lyons - all said No. And it is perhaps not a surprise that most people who bothered to vote were against automation (No: 69%. Yes: 31%). But what surprised me was the low level of discussion after the question was posed. After stating his objection, Steve Lyons quickly changed the subject, stating What Is Wrong With Baseball Today. None of what he said had anything to do with the strike zone and calling balls and strikes. Sadly, the discussion moved away from strike zone automation into something else entirely.

During the back and forth, Lyons proved beyond any doubt that he is one of the dumbest and most ignorant announcers working in major league baseball. He very clearly states that replay "never" gets any call right (?!??) and then implies that some teams are simply supposed to lose on blown calls because the game is not perfect. I guess losing games because the umpire refuses to enforce some of the rules or decides that he doesn't like you somehow builds character.

O'Brien: [Asks the question] I guess like tennis.

Remy: I say no.

O'Brien: You were shaking your head as soon as I showed you the question.

Remy: Yeah. No. I don't want to argue with a computer.

O'Brien: What do you think, Steve?

Lyons: I hate the idea. Why are we changing everything about this great game? We need to tell the computer geeks to go home.

O'Brien: Oh, I think you're overdoing it with "changing everything". We're not changing everything in the game, although I really agree with you on this.

Lyons: We have replay now, which slows down the game, and they never get it right.

O'Brien: I like replay. I don't like it slowing the game down, but I like replay and the fact that it's actually working, I think.

Lyons: You can't take anybody out at second base. You can't do anything at home plate anymore. Every catcher loves the contact. Every second baseman wants the danger of that possibility of him getting taken out.

O'Brien: Buster Posey didn't like the contact,

Lyons: That's why they changed the rule, though. One star player gets hurt, and you change all the rules the way the game is played. It's been played that way for 100 years.

Remy: I'll let you guys fight it out.

O'Brien: I don't like the idea of automated umpiring, though. Because I love the arguments, you know?

Lyons: Yeah.

Remy: I like the fact that umpires, you know, I mean we complain a lot about it, but they have their own strike zone and you gotta know that as a player. You got to know that as a pitcher, as a hitter. And you know, we always talk about consistency with the umpires, as long as they are consistent, it's fine.

O'Brien: Yes, everyone talks about consistency and maybe that would be the way to solve that, but part of the personality of the game is the strike zone of every individual umpire.

[Long discussion about collision plays at second base; see first comment for transcript]

O'Brien: It's still 90 feet between the bases. Sixty feet, six inches. The game is still played the same way it's been played for 100 years. I know you don't like some of the rule changes. You can always change them back.

Lyons: But they won't. They're making too many changes. Remember, what was it three years ago, when they said replay was only going to be involved in fair and foul, and home runs.

O'Brien: I also remember about a decade ago, everyone was calling balks like crazy. We thought the game was changing because of that. Guess what? They stopped doing it after a while. I mean, I think baseball usually returns to its senses. I think that's one of the beautiful things about the game.

Remy: I agree with you, Dave. I think they experiment with things and if they don't work out, you know, you've got to change them. And I do think that rule at second base will modify.

O'Brien: I agree.

[Second digression; see second comment for transcript]

Lyons: Just to finish the thought on the umpires, too, and with the replay and stuff. I understand replay is here and I think it really shows some of the flaws in umpiring, because they miss some calls and they have to be overturned. But I also think that these guys, these umpires, are the best in the world at what they do. They have a tremendously difficult job and I still think they get most of it right. And when they don't, well, sometimes you're supposed to lose. I just don't think this game is supposed to be perfect.

O'Brien: I'll take you back to Ron Kulpa, though, in Yankee Stadium.

Lyons: Yeah?

O'Brien: That was an egregious strike zone and obviously stole a chance for the Red Sox. I don't know how many Red Sox fans would feel about that the same way you do if the Red Sox lose the division by a game.

My Comments:

1. Major league baseball has been played for longer than 100 years. That takes us back only to 1916. The National League was 40+ years old by then. (Three of the Red Sox's championships happened more than 100 years ago.)

2. O'Brien mentions the season with all the balks being "about a decade ago". That was 1988 - 28 years ago! Nearly three decades!!

3. Lyons said: "It's been played that way for 100 years." ... That has been the defense of every heinous activity throughout human history. But we've always done it this way. I'm not comparing anything in baseball to an evil like slavery, but the goal of a sport (or country) should be to improve, to move towards greater justice, not simply stick with something out of habit.

4. Consistency with umpires. That will never happen with humans. If consistency is really want you want, automation is the only way to go. Even looking at one umpire - he will have a different zone game to game, inning to inning, batter to batter, even pitch to pitch. We've all seen thousands of examples of this. We see it just about every night in every game.

5. Why is a consistently wrong strike zone a good thing? An umpire refuses to call the game according to the rule book and as long as he keeps makes the same mistakes all night long, that's a good thing?

6. What if the first base umpire had his own "personal zone" around the bag and made his safe/out calls not according to whether the runner beat the throw to the bag but due to some other amorphous "personal" decision? We've been so indoctrinated about "personal strike zones" of home plate umpires that we don't see how bizarre the entire concept is.

7. O'Brien mentioned tennis as soon as he asked the question. They should have come back to that. Has the sport of tennis died? Have millions of fans turned away from tennis because calls on the lines are more accurate? Baseball will be a stronger sport when fans know that games and pennants and championships will be decided solely by the players on the field, and not be influenced by the emotions and personal whims of the men in blue.

May 24, 2016

Remy And Lyons Recall Their Own Hitting Streaks

After Jackie Bradley doubled in the second inning on Tuesday night and extended his hitting streak to 28 games, Jerry Remy and Steve Lyons, the two former players in NESN's booth, talked about their own hitting streaks.

Remy thought his best hitting streak was 18 games. ... It was actually 19 games: July 28 to August 15, 1978, with the Red Sox. The only other thing Remy said was that he played the pop-disco hit "Boogie Oogie Oogie" every day during the streak for good luck. The song was released themonth his streak began and became a huge hit that summer. (Lyons correctly named A Taste Of Honey as the band. "That's my era," he explained when O'Brien expressed surprise at his immediate recall.) ... Remy also had a 16-game streak in 1981.

Lyons said (with authority) that his personal best was 12 games and after getting a hit in the 12th game, he was inexplicably benched the following day. ... Lyons's best hitting streak was only 11 games, from May 11-25, 1986 (also with the Red Sox). Contrary to his memory, Lyons actually did play on May 26, going 0-for-4. It was only after his streak ended that he was benched. He did not play on May 27, but returned to the Red Sox lineup on May 28.

(Interestingly, Lyons had two games during the streak in which he played in the field as a late-inning sub, but never came to bat, so the streak remained intact.)

G45: Red Sox 8, Rockies 3

Rockies - 011 000 100 - 3  6  1
Red Sox - 220 300 01x - 8 12  0
There was almost nothing to complain about in Tuesday's easy win over Colorado.

David Price (7-5-3-1-6, 108) turned in another solid start, lowering his ERA to 5.34. David Ortiz singled, doubled, and drove in four runs. Xander Bogaerts - who began the day leading the AL with a .346 average - singled, doubled, walked, and scored twice. Dustin Pedroia had three singles, a walk, and two runs scored. Christian Vazquez collected his first career triple. And Jackie Bradley hit the first pitch in his first at-bat off the top of the scoreboard in left field for an opposite field double, extending his hitting streak to 28 games. (By the way, Bogaerts has a 17-game streak.)

The only down points: Hanley Ramirez was hit on the right foot by a pitch in the fourth inning and had to leave the game, though x-rays were negative. The Red Sox failed to hit a home run, ending their consecutive game streak with an HR at a franchise record 22 games. And NESN went with a three-man booth, which subjected Red Sox fans to the colossal idiocy that is Steve Lyons. (Lyons may not be the dumbest announcer in baseball, but he's certainly in the IQ-lowering discussion.)

After Price struck out two Rockies in the top of the first, the Red Sox went right to work, as has been their habit this season. Betts was robbed of a hit by a great play in the shortstop hole by Trevor Story (who was less spectacular at the plate, going 0-for-4, with four strikeouts). Pedroia singled off the first baseman's glove and Bogaerts cracked a 2-0 pitch to the wall in left for a double. Ortiz's hard single to left-center scored both FY and XB.

Bradley doubled to start the second and scored on Vazquez's one-out triple to the triangle. Betts brought Vaz in with a sacrifice line out to center. Pedroia and Bogaerts followed with singles, but Ortiz tapped back to the mound. With one out in the fourth, Pedroia and Bogaerts were both walked by Jorge De La Rosa (who started the game with a 10.18 ERA and an opponents' average of .330 and put up an ugly 3.1-9-7-3-1, 69 line). Ortiz again brought both runners home with a double into the right field corner.

After Ramirez was hit on the foot, JDLR was pulled. And the Red Sox offense pretty much shut down after he departed. They went in order in the fifth and sixth and managed only a leadoff walk in the seventh. Facing Chad Qualls in the eighth, Betts singled. He raced to third when Pedroia's bloop fly ball fell safely in short right, then scored when Carlos Gonzalez's throw from the outfield skipped by Nolan Arenado at third.

The trio of Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Ortiz went 7-for-12 (on base in 10 of 15 PA thanks to three walks), scored five runs and drove in four. ... For the 29th time in 45 games, the Red Sox had 10+ hits. The 29 games is tops in MLB. ... The Orioles lost, so the Red Sox (28-17) are alone in first place.
Jorge De La Rosa / David Price
Betts, RF
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, 1B
Young, LF
Bradley, CF
Rutledge, 3B
Vazquez, C

Cafardo Likes The Proposed BBI Rule Change, Except When He Doesn't

MLB is considering changing the intentional walk rule to allow a manager to simply indicate he wants to walk an opposing batter, without having his pitcher throw four pitches out of the strike zone.

Is this a good idea? The Globe's Nick Cafardo can't make up his mind.

October 5, 2014:
We'll be watching the Arizona Fall League intently in October and November because it will be the testing ground for new rules regarding the pace of games. There are easy ones, such as the no-pitch intentional walk, in which the manager holds up four fingers and the umpire awards the batter first base. That will save a couple of minutes. Of course, this takes away the potential of an errant pitch, etc., but those are few and far between. ... These all seem like reasonable changes.
May 23, 2016:
I don't like changing the ... intentional walk procedure. ... On intentional walks, pitchers will just signal to have the walk and will not need to throw the ball. Well, this now eliminates the possibility of a wild pitch, which we've seen, not frequently, but enough to keep it in place. And you’re saving how much time? ... [W]hy do it?

May 23, 2016

Another Infinite Jest Reading Group: "Poor Yoricks' Summer"

In June 2009, Matthew Baldwin organized "Infinite Summer", an online group reading of Infinite Jest, the acclaimed novel by the late David Foster Wallace. I did not take part in IS, but the project inspired me a few months later to gather some of the Joy of Sox crowd and try an off-season read of the book. I called it "Infinite Winter" - and it (sadly) fizzled out at about page 400 (of 1,078). (A different and much more successful online reading experience entitled Infinite Winter wrapped up about one month ago.)

Now Philip Miletic, as part of his dissertation at the University of Waterloo, is organizing "Poor Yoricks' Summer", yet another online reading of Infinite Jest.
[Y]ou are all invited to join Poor Yoricks' Summer, an Infinite Jest reading group that is led by Canadians, from the West coast to the East coast (you will meet the guides in the first week of June). First time readers are more than welcome, as are second and third and fourth (and so on) time readers. ... This is not only a time to read a really big book together; it's also a time to share with others your thoughts and feelings about one of those really big books you like or have been hearing so much about. ...

You can use the hashtag #infsum (I prefer to continue the excellent conversations on #infsum rather than trying to jumpstart a new one). And we're over at twitter at @poor_summer.
Led by Canadians! How can I resist?

Miletic's reading schedule will be modelled on Infinite Winter, which covered approximately 75 pages per week. That is really a breakneck speed for this detailed novel, but I understand the need to move things along. You can't have the experience last a year or more and expect people to stick with it. Like the hosts of the previous reads, Miletic will have a group of "guides" posting their thoughts and observations.