April 5, 2004

Orioles 7, Red Sox 2. Hmmm. Not exactly what I had in mind. In the bottom of the second inning, Pedro Martinez had gone through the Baltimore lineup once and this was the result: The Orioles led 3-0, they had runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out and Bronson Arroyo was getting loose in the bullpen. I was as pissed as I was worried. ... But then Martinez settled down. He struck out the next two batters and escaped further damage. Over the next four frames, he allowed just 3 baserunners and only one of those reached second.
Batters  Out  H   R  BB   K  Pit

1- 9 3 5 3 0 0 30
10-18 9 1 0 0 3 35
19-26 6 1 1 1 2 27
On a 43 degree night with a 24 mph wind, it was a decent outing. Pedro's velocity was down -- the same gun that had Fat Sidney at 94-96 had Martinez consistently at 88-89. According to me, Martinez didn't top 90 mph until his 29th pitch of the game (I don't think he topped 91 at all). The cold weather also made it next to impossible for him to throw his curveball. Naturally, some writers are stirring the worry pot (warning: the 2nd one is Shaughnessy); an actual Globe headline: "Damon won't panic over a rough start." ... My take? The Red Sox will lose at least 50 games this season. This was the first one.

The biggest reason for the loss? 14 men on base. Here's where they were stranded:
1st:  1B

3rd: 1B 2B
4th: 2B 3B
5th: 1B 2B
6th: 1B 2B
7th: 1B
8th: 1B 3B
9th: 1B 2B
(By the way, could Jon Miller and Joe Morgan have praised the Orioles any more than they did? You'd think Tejada was the second coming of Honus Wagner (or maybe just the Second Coming) and anyone who didn't pick Baltimore to clinch the division by August 1 was an total idiot. ... While discussing the off-season, Miller informed the national audience -- twice -- that Tito's Predecessor had "resigned." The first time, Morgan actually followed up with a fact (!) -- "he didn't get an extension" -- but then slipped back into the inanity for which he's so widely known -- "then I guess he decided it was time to go." ... Yeah, getting your ass dumped by the side of the road might cause a person to stop hanging around his former place of employment. Yeesh.)

Art Martone on Pedro's performance: "You look at the line in the box score, and it's pretty good. ... There was a time, not long ago, when a 6-7-3-2-1-5 was unworthy of Pedro Martinez. ... It was cause for alarm. A 6-7-3-2-1-5 meant he was injured, because if he was healthy he just didn't do that. ... What we're looking at these days, more likely than not, is the emergence of a new Pedro Martinez. ... What is emerging is a pitcher of less power, less dominance, whose pitching skills are such that he can still win -- or keep his team in -- most games."

Art mixes progressive stats, humor and the pulse of the Nation better than any other Red Sox writer. And although it's not easy to offer a reasoned perspective right after an event has occurred, but I think he's jumping the gun here. Pedro Martinez was insanely brilliant in 1999 and 2000. The odds are very good no one reading this sentence will see anything like it again. It is wildly unfair to compare the 2004 Pedro (or any pitcher) to those performances. No one can consistently put up 8-3-0-0-1-14 lines year after year after year. Look at some numbers Art cites:

1999-2000: 41-10, 1.90 over 58 starts
2002-2003: 34-8, 2.24 over 59 starts

They aren't the best stats to evaluate a pitcher with, but those are basically identical. And during the last two seasons, lots of media people (and fans) were claiming that Pedro's arm was dead or dying. (His ERA+ was better in 2003 than it was in either 2001 or 2002.) ... In this high-offense era, Pedro hasn't posted an ERA over 2.89 since 1996. Pedro's ERA compared to his league:
      Pedro   League

1997 1.90 4.21
1998 2.89 4.61
1999 2.07 5.07
2000 1.74 4.97
2001 2.39 4.53
2002 2.26 4.42
2003 2.22 4.71
That is unprecedented in baseball history. ... Martinez can no longer throw 97 all night long. And while I admit I miss his overpowering performances, where seasoned vets looked like clueless high schoolers, deep down I don't care. All I want is an ace-like performance and so far, Martinez has shown zero evidence that he is incapable of that.

A small bit on Martinez contract status from Tony Massarotti: "According to clubhouse sources, the Sox approached Martinez this spring about the possibility of a contract that could be voided in the event he is injured, a proposal that was not received kindly by the Martinez camp. ... [T]he mere idea of such a tenuous offer may have set negotiations off to a very poor start." ... In Sunday's Newsday, Ken Davidoff wrote that the team's offer was "about two years at $25.5 million."

Terry Francona got to the ballpark quite early Sunday. "On the day he made his debut as Red Sox manager, Francona found himself managing even before he'd opened his eyes. 'When I woke up this morning, I was right in the middle of an inning,' he said. 'That usually doesn't happen until the season starts.' Was he winning or losing in his dream? He doesn't remember. All he knows, there was a lot going on."

Mike Timlin also had a shaky performance last night. In 2003, he walked only six batters unintentionally in 83.2 innings. He started the 7th with a strikeout, then walked Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora. Three consecutive hits brought three more Orioles home. ... Bill Mueller is 15-for-22 (.682) at Camden Yards. ... Steve Silva of BDD: "Following the Red Sox isn't a yearly thing. It's almost hour to hour. There's no offseason, no downtime."

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