May 31, 2010

Happy 38th Birthday, Dave Roberts!

Large Father Has Monster May

The Red Sox went 18-11 in May (.621), far better than their 11-12 (.478) record in April.

They began the month in fourth place, 6 GB Tampa Bay. The Rays went 17-12 in May, so Boston gained one game in the standings. The Red Sox are still in fourth place.

David Ortiz:
        PA   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS
April 63 .143 .238 .286 .524
May 92 .363 .424 .788 1.211
You gonna bench me now, mo#@erfu%$er?

Flo hit 10 home runs and had 27 RBI in May. Ortiz's last .350-10-25 (or better) month was in June 2004 (.365-10-31). Before that, the last Sox hitter to do it was Nomar Garciaparra, in May 1999 (.355-10-33).

Ortiz has come close a few other times:
September 2005 - .321-11-30
July 2006 - .339-14-35
September 2007 - .396- 9-27
Ortiz last hit 10 home runs in a month in August 2006. He has hit seven dongs in his last 15 games.
People start talking trash too early, man. ... I feel good. It's not over yet.
Kevin Youkilis hit .329/.521/.683/1.204 in May, with 31 walks. For the season, he is second in the AL in OBP, 3rd in OPS, 2nd in Runs Created, 1st in runs scored, 1st in walks, 2nd in times on base.

Other May stats:
                AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Adrian Beltre .333 .364 .568 .932
Jason Varitek .250 .351 .563 .914
J.D. Drew .324 .381 .471 .851
Not so good:
                  AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Dustin Pedroia .213 .325 .333 .659
Darnell McDonald .244 .263 .321 .583
Jeremy Hermida .189 .228 .270 .498
Red Sox pitchers had a May ERA of 4.29 ERA (4.61 in April).

May ERAs: Jon Lester -- 1.84 in 44 innings, Clay Buchholz -- 3.08 in 38 innings.

May 30, 2010

Yoshida Makes US Debut

Eri Yoshida started and pitched three innings last night for the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League, becoming the first woman to play professional baseball in the United States in 10 years.

Ivan Ochoa, an infielder with the Giants in 2008, led off the game by bunting for a single -- earning a round of boos from the crowd. Yoshida, 18, was unfazed, needing only five pitches to get a pop-up and a double play grounder. (You can watch the first inning here; the entire game might be available.)

Yoshida got two quick outs in the second, before hitting a batter and allowing a home run (on a fastball). With two outs in the third, she gave up three hits and two runs. She rated her performance -- 3-5-4-1-0, 47 -- as a 2 on a scale from 1-10.

In her only at-bat, she knocked a 1-1 pitch into right field for an RBI single.

Former Dodgers outfielder Mike Marshall managed Yoshida in the Arizona Winter League and is the current president and general manager of the Outlaws.
There's going to be a draft here in a couple weeks and there's probably only a handful of 18-year-old high school kids who are going to get drafted who could come here and play. Men. Look at the rosters. You have Double-A, Triple-A, big-league guys. This isn't affiliated rookie ball; this isn't affiliated A-ball. This is way up there. These are 25- to 35-year-old men she's playing against.
It will be interesting to see how Yoshida progresses against former major leaguers and other professionals, or players in the low minors if a team takes a chance on her. At this point, every game will be a significant challenge. If she's pitching in 2015, she'll still be only 23.

G52: Red Sox 8, Royals 1

Royals  - 010 000 000 - 1  5  0
Red Sox - 001 033 01x - 8 10 0
While the bottom three in the Boston lineup went 6-for-11 and scored seven runs, Lester (7-4-1-4-5, 105) kept the Royals in check.

Jason Varitek singled, hit a solo home run, and scored twice; Bill Hall singled twice and scored two runs; and Mike Cameron doubled twice, walked, scored three times and drove in two.

Marco Scutaro had two doubles and a single and drove in two runs. David Ortiz hit a two-run dong to dead center. He also had a sac fly.

Lester walked three of the first 11 batters, including the leadoff man in both of the first two innings, but settled down after that. He retired 11 of 12 batters (and 15 of 18) at one point, as the bats teed off on Kansas City reliever Brad Thompson.

Out of Town: The White Sox beat the Rays 8-5. Justin Masterson shut out the Yankees for six innings, but New York rallied and beat Cleveland 7-3. The Blue Jays completed a sweep of the Orioles 6-1.

So everyone gains a game on Tampa: New York 3.5, Toronto 4.5, Boston 5.5.
Example
Bruce Chen / Jon Lester
Scutaro, SS
McDonald, LF
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Drew, RF
Varitek, C
Hall, 2B
Cameron, CF
AL East:
Spiders/Yankees, 1 PM
Orioles/Blue Jays, 1 PM
White Sox/Rays, 1:30 PM

May 29, 2010

Halladay Pitches Perfect Game

Roy Halladay: 9-0-0-0-11, 115.

The Phillies beat the Marlins 1-0. It is the 20th perfect game in major league history and the second one this month. Dallas Braden retired 27 consecutive Rays on May 9.

It is the first time there have been two perfect games in the same season since 1880 (June 12 and 17).

G51: Red Sox 1, Royals 0

Royals  - 000 000 000 - 0  5  3
Red Sox - 010 000 00x - 1 5 0
Buchholz (7-4-0-4-4, 108) lowered his ERA to 2.73 and Mike Lowell's grounder to second brought in the night's only run.

Adrian Beltre began the second inning with a line single to right and J.D. Drew hit an opposite field double off the Wall. Lowell's grounder brought Beltre home. ... David Ortiz lined a double off the wall in dead center in the fifth.

Daniel Bard allowed a leadoff double to Jason Kendall in the eighth, but pitched out of trouble. After a bunt moved Kendall to third, Bard struck out Mike Aviles (who was primed to swing at anything) and Dustin Pedroia made a great backhanded snag of David DeJesus's hot grounder. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth on 12 pitches.

And Greinke (6-5-1-3-3, 144) once again got the shaft from his mates.

Rays won 8-5, Yankees lost 13-11, Blue Jays won 5-2. ... MFY 4.5, TOR 5.5, BOS 6.5.
Example
Zach Greinke / Clay Buchholz
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Martinez, C
Beltre, 3B
Drew, RF
Lowell, 1B
Hermida, LF
Cameron, CF
Just like in 2009, the Royals offense has ground to a halt whenever Greinke is on the hill. Here are five of his 10 starts this season:
0405 vs Det - 6 innings, 2 runs allowed - N/D
0421 at Tor - 7 innings, 2 runs allowed - N/D
0427 vs Sea - 7 innings, 0 runs allowed - N/D
0502 at Tam - 8 innings, 1 run allowed - Loss
0518 at Bal - 7 innings, 2 runs allowed - N/D
Six earned runs allowed. An ERA of 1.54. And a losing record.

Greinke made 33 starts last season. In 12 of them, his teammates scored 0, 1 or 2 runs, leaving him with a 3-5 record and a 1.47 ERA. In Greinke's nine no-decisions in 2009, he had a 2.35 ERA.

And because I thought of this guy while I was typing all this, here are two quotes:
Wins and losses are how you measure pitchers.
Joe Morgan, Baseball For Dummies, p. 289

ERA is like a batting average. It's a personal thing. ... [W]ins are better.
Joe Morgan, ESPN chat, June 26, 2007
Greinke was hit hard in his last start: 8 runs allowed in 3.1 innings against the Rockies.

Greinke faced the Red Sox on April 10 of this year, allowing four runs in 6.1 innings. He has pitched at Fenway Park only once -- 1.2 innings of relief on July 17, 2007.

AL East:
Spiders/Yankees, 1 PM
Orioles/Blue Jays, 1 PM
White Sox/Rays, 7 PM

Matsuzaka's Soreness Is News To Francona And Farrell

Daisuke Matsuzaka said he had "lower-body soreness" on Thursday during his dismal outing against the Royals.
Mechanically, my lower body wasn't cooperating with me ... [and] I had to rely too much on my upper body ... The velocity was there, but there was no movement or bite to my pitches, not to mention any command.
The soreness was news to both John Farrell ("That's the first that we had heard about it") and Terry Francona ("That was the first I'd heard of that). What happened to the Matsuzaka who vowed to keep the team informed of any soreness, injuries, body issues?

Tim Wakefield could not hold early 3-0 and 5-2 leads and was "disgusted" with his performance. So it's unanimous. The nine runs was the most Wake has allowed in a game as a member of the Red Sox.

Josh Beckett threw about 25 pitches in a side session. Francona:
If there's any hesitancy, we're going to be cautious with him. I think we need to be. ... We're going to keep a close eye on it. ... It depends on how he feels. If we force this, it's going to be wrong.
One SoSHer noted the difference in how Francona talked about Beckett's recovery and how he has discussed Ellsbury's injury.

Bill Hall says he was almost drafted as a pitcher.
I hadn't pitched since high school. ... If I ever got the chance, I always wanted to just to see if I still had it. ... I threw hard, around 95, in high school. They wouldn't let me turn it loose or throw a curveball.
Since May 15, when he may have banged his knee on a play at the plate in Detroit, Dustin Pedroia has hit only .163 and slugged .204. He has a mere five hits in his last nine games.
There's nothing wrong with my knee. ... I don't make excuses if I get injured or something. ... I can guarantee you that I won't end the year hitting .260 or whatever the (expletive) I'm hitting now. ... I don't guarantee a lot, but that's for damn sure.
Also: Some in-depth talk about Clay Buchholz's slider.

May 28, 2010

G50: Royals 12, Red Sox 5

Royals  - 002 700 120 - 12 20  0
Red Sox - 302 000 000 - 5 10 1
Here is everything you need to know about tonight's game:
Bill Hall pitched the only 1-2-3 inning for the Red Sox.
Wakefield was dismal: 3.2-12-9-3-1, 88. Fifteen baserunners and only 11 outs.

The Royals tied a club record against the Red Sox with 20 hits. The first time was on August 2, 1987, in a 13-5 Royals win. (The Royal team record is 26 hits, against the Tigers on September 9, 2004. It was the first game of a doubleheader in Detroit, and Kansas City won 26-5. The Tigers won the nightcap 8-0.)

One bright spot: Victor Martinez doubled and homered in his first two trips to the plate, driving in four runs.

AL East: The White Sox beat the Rays 5-2, the Yankees beat Cleveland 8-2, and the Blue Jays shut out the Orioles 5-0. And so we are back in fourth, 6.5 GB, with New York 3.5 and Toronto 5.5.
Example
Kyle Davies / Tim Wakefield
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 1B
Martinez, C
Drew, RF
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Cameron, CF
Jacoby Ellsbury is back on the DL. See below.

And:
Spiders/Yankees, 7 PM
White Sox/Rays, 7 PM
Orioles/Blue Jays, 7 PM

The Mets finished a three-game "perfect" sweep of the Phillies: 8-0, 5-0, 3-0! Philadelphia has scored only three runs in its last five games. Runs scored in last nine games: 1, 1, 5, 5, 0, 3, 0, 0, 0.

Massarotti Questioning Ellsbury's Desire To Play

UPDATE: Ellsbury has been placed back on the disabled list.
Example
Terry Francona said yesterday that Jacoby Ellsbury was
really tender. He's been examined, we've looked at the pictures, all the medical people are trying to look at everything. We've got to get to the bottom of this; we're not at the bottom of it.
Ellsbury was scheduled to see another specialist today. Peter Abraham writes that Ellsbury
seems to have gotten worse in the last 36 hours.

It might be time to put him on the shelf again. Terrry Francona has made it very clear that the team is putting the onus on Ellsbury to decide when he's ready.

Globe colleague Tony Massarotti wonders whether Ellsbury wants to play and how much of this is being directed by agent Scott Boras. Those are legitimate questions.
That last point is debatable. What is not in question is whether Mazz's column is a steamy pile of poo.
Two months into the regular season, Jacoby Ellsbury has played in nine games. Ellsbury says he is hurting. The Red Sox seem to wonder. And there is an indisputable disconnect between the team and its flashy center fielder.

Just wondering: ... Is it Ellsbury – or DLsbury?

In case you missed it – and many did – here's what Ellsbury told Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com following Wednesday's game against Tampa Bay, yet another affair in which Ellsbury was absent from the lineup.

"I think they downplay it because they misdiagnosed it," Ellsbury said of the rib injury that has kept him out for the large majority of this season. "They said you treat it all the same way. Remember that comment? How do you treat a bruise the same as a break?"

According to the Globe's Nick Cafardo this morning, sources in the Red Sox organization contend that Ellsbury now regrets making that remark. Regardless, Ellsbury has not disputed actually making them, offering an unfiltered glimpse into his soul and into the wedge currently driven between him and the team.
Massarotti wants us to know that he does not dispute the fact that Ellsbury has "bruised ribs or hairline fractures". No! Not at all.

He's just sayin'

-- that in 2008, Ellsbury's rookie season, he "missed small chunks of time with various assorted ailments"

and

-- that in the minors, he was supposedly a player who "required a great deal of, well, maintenance"

and

-- there are people, including some people in Red Sox management, who "believe that Boras discourages his players from taking the field at something less than 100 percent because it would affect their performance on the field and, therefore, leverage in negotiations"

What about Ellsbury's statement that he expects to deal with some discomfort in his ribs for the rest of this season? Massarotti says that is "an alibi if he plays poorly".

The bullshit column ends with a question: "Does he want to play or doesn't he?"

Theo Epstein is on record (many times) as saying he would rather players stay off the field and get completely healthy rather than come back too early and risk further injury and additional missed time.

It did seem odd that the Sox were first thinking that Ellsbury would miss only a day or three, then a week, then the disabled list. But that isn't what Mazz is focusing on.

Is trying to transform Ellsbury into "Drew Jr." the mediots' latest project?

May 27, 2010

G49: Royals 4, Red Sox 3

Royals  - 000 031 000 - 4  4  0
Red Sox - 000 111 000 - 3 9 0
Matsuzaka: 4.2-2-3-8-1, 112. Yeah, 8 walks.

Dice worked out of a bases loaded/no out jam in the top of the fourth -- which was pretty remarkable as the first two outs were soft line drives to Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia -- and Adrian Beltre knocked in Youkilis in the bottom half and Boston led 1-0.

But then Matsuzaka totally lost it in the fifth, throwing 42 pitches and walking five batters, including one with the bases loaded.

After Bannister (6-9-3-0-4, 104) left, the KC pen shut down the Sox. Rob Tejada, Blake Wood, and Joakim Soria each pitched a 1-2-3 inning.

J.D. Drew had three singles, Bill Hall homered in the fifth, and Jason Varitek had an RBI double. Manny Delcarmen pitched two innings, retiring six batters on 21 pitches.

The Rays beat the White Sox 5-1 and the Twins beat the Yankees 8-2, so Tampa leads New York by 4.5 and Boston and Toronto are both 6.5 GB.
Example
Brian Bannister / Daisuke Matsuzaka
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 1B
Drew, RF
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Varitek, C
Hall, CF
Example
White Sox/Rays at 7
Yankees/Twins at 8

Canadian Citizenship Test

Update: Laura's report.

Laura and I take it in roughly two hours!

I don't think we get the actual results today. We need to answer only 12 out of the 20 questions correctly to pass, so we should have a very good idea how we did.

Afterwards, we are going to have a celebratory pint or two at The Brogue, the pub we randomly pulled off the highway and had lunch at on our first drive into Toronto back in April 2004. The first place we rented up here was a five-minute walk from that pub.

In Crucial 23-Game Stretch, Red Sox Played .700 Ball

We know we're good. We started out real slow and everyone kind of panicked. ... I don't panic. I just drink more Red Bull.
Dustin Pedroia

On the morning of May 3, the Red Sox woke up with an 11-14 record, a distant seven games out of first place. They had just been swept in a three-game series by the lowly Orioles and the schedule for the rest of the month ahead was daunting: 23 games against most of the best teams in the American League, as well as three games with the 2008 World Champs and winners of the last two National League pennants -- Angels (4), Yankees (3), Blue Jays (3), Tigers (3), Yankees (2), Twins (2), Phillies (3), and Rays (3).

It wasn't much of an exaggeration to say the Red Sox's playoff hopes hung in the balance and the team could be effectively buried by May 27.

Boston went 16-7 in those games (.696, a 113-win pace), scoring an average of six runs per game. After scoring two runs or fewer in 10 of their first 25 games, they scored two runs or fewer in only four of the next 23.

The one real problem with the team -- its pitching -- has improved tremendously, holding opponents to no more than three runs in 13 of the 23 games. In the last eight games, the Red Sox played only first-place teams (Yankees, Twins, Phillies) and allowed a mere 16 runs. The club's overall ERA has dropped from 4.99 to 4.48 in the last week.

The Red Sox play the Royals (4), Orioles (3), Rays (3), and Blue Jays (3) -- and then there is the All-Star Break. [Note: Ignore this paragraph! Jeez. WTF?!]

Adrian Beltre has a .372 OBP. "I'm probably more patient than I have been in a long time. That's usually not me. I'm watching the other guys we have and it has been good for me."

David Ortiz has a 1.230 OPS in May (76 PAs, .368/.421/.809). Amazingly, his season OPS+ of 137 is second on the team only to Kevin Youkilis (180), who has gone .361/.552/.764/1.316 this month.

Since Tampa Bay's four-game sweep at Fenway Park in April, the Red Sox are 23-12, 0.5 GA of the Rays 22-12.

Matt Garza, on the Red Sox: "They came in with their hair on fire and played that way."

J.D. Drew Is A First Pitch Hacker

Back on May 1, I posted about Dave O'Brien's obsession with J.D. Drew not swinging at pitches. During the Red Sox's April 30 game, O'Brien announced, at various points:
I don't know if it's good or bad, but how many big leaguers see five pitches and never take the bat off their shoulder? And he might see six and not take it off. ...

Took six pitches ... his last time up, and now the first two pitches here in for strikes, he has not offered at them. ...

[H]e has taken 10 consecutive pitches. ... What will make J.D. swing the bat? ... That's 12 straight pitches he's looked at. ... That's 14 straight pitches he's looked at. I don't know, I may be alone, but I find that remarkable.
O'Brien found it so remarkable that he was completely oblivious to Darnell McDonald not swinging at 17 consecutive pitches -- in the same game!

I have been amazed that O'Brien thought it was remarkable for a batter to not swing at five straight pitches. (And I have been beating the hell out of this dead horse in game threads. Not sure when I'll stop.) How many times has O'Brien seen a batter get ahead 3-0, take a strike, and then walk? Probably hundreds. That's 5 pitches. It's not rare.

And that night, in addition to McDonald's 17 and Drew's 14, Victor Martinez took 10 straight and David Ortiz looked at 6 in a row.

It happens all the time. In Tuesday's 2-0 win over Tampa Bay, Jason Bartlett had streaks of 11 and 6 (he swung at only 1 of the first 18 pitches he saw), and three other players took five straight pitches. Last night, Dustin Pedroia had two separate streaks of 7, Kevin Youkilis looked at 8, Ortiz looked at 7, and Marco Scutaro took 6.

Thinking about the perception of Drew "never taking the bat off his shoulder", I poked around at Baseball Reference earlier this week. I use B-Ref a lot, but I'm still finding neat pages that I never knew existed. A lot of stuff "doesn't appear in the box score", but if it happens on the field, it will show up at B-Ref.

Here is some of what I found:

Drew has swung at only 37% of the pitches he has seen this year, 8th lowest in the American League. Only seven AL players swing less often than Drew -- but two of them are his teammates! Yep, Youkilis and Scutaro -- both at 34% -- are in the top 5. And Martinez is close behind Drew at #15 (38%). So Drew's low swing % is roughly middle of the pack in the context of Boston's lineup.

People get annoyed at Drew taking so many strikes. What percentage of his strikes are called and where does he rank? He has the 10th highest percentage in the AL, 37%. But, again, among those nine players above him are Scutaro (3rd, 43%) and Youkilis (9th, 39%), with Martinez at #11, 36%.

Don Orsillo has said several times this year that Drew is striking out looking more often. Is this true? We know that in 2010, Drew is swinging at the lowest percentage of strikes in his career (though that may change once the season is complete). He is putting only 26% of the strikes he sees into play, also the lowest rate of his career.

36% of Drew's strikeouts are looking, which is 15th highest in the AL. Scuatro leads the league at 74% -- way out in front of Bobby Abreu (55%) and Mark Teixeira (54%). Drew's 36% is the third-highest rate of his career. The other two seasons were with the Dodgers, 43% in 2005 and 39% in 2006.

In fact, while he has been in Boston, Drew's percentage of called strikeouts is steadily increasing (28%, 31%, 33%, 36%). Orsillo's observations are correct, though I'm assuming that is a coincidence, since he has, to my knowledge, never given any actual percentages during a broadcast. For Drew's career, 31% of his strikeouts are looking. The MLB average is 27%.

While it's no surprise that Vladimir Guerrero swings at the most first pitches (50%), and the most pitches overall (61%), I was shocked to see that Drew swings at the first pitch more than anyone else on the Red Sox (26%; Adrian Beltre is #2 at 24%). He's a hacker!

If Dave O'Brien is truly fascinated by players who simply stand in the batters box (and is not harbouring some sort of irrational dislike for Drew), he should be far more intrigued by Scutaro and Youkilis.

I mentioned 3-0 counts at the beginning of the post. Over his career, Drew has been in 409 3-0 counts. He has swung at the next pitch only four times. Since the start of the 2002 season, he has swung only once in 310 opportunities.

Also: As a team, the Red Sox swing at only 19% of first pitches, 29th among the 30 MLB teams, with the Angels at 18%. The Red Sox also swing at the fewest pitches (41%) of any team in baseball, although they also see the most pitches per plate appearance of any team.

(When I first drafted this post, I had this trivia question: Which AL player has the highest percentage of his PAs end with an extra base hit? The answer at that time is now #2. Hint: He is not a Boston player, but he plays in our division.)

May 26, 2010

G48: Red Sox 11, Rays 3

Red Sox - 013 020 005 - 11 13  0
Rays - 010 100 001 - 3 10 0
Boston's first three-game sweep in Tampa Bay since 2001* moves the Red Sox from 8.5 GB to 5.5 GB in three days. They are now in third place, two games behind the Yankees.

* Boston swept two consecutive three-game series at the Trop in 2001: April 17-19 and June 19-21. The following season, Boston swept two four-game series (May 3-6 and September 9-12, 2002), so the "first three-game sweep" tidbit is a bit of a trick.

Adrian Beltre went 4-for-5, with a single, triple, two long home runs to left, and tied a career high with 6 RBI. It was the 19th four-hit game of Beltre's career, but his first with a triple and two dongs. His other game with 6 RBI was July 27, 2000 in Colorado. (Alex Cora followed Beltre in the Dodgers order that day and had 5 RBI! And Eric Gagne started for LA!)

David Ortiz hit a two-run bomb in the fifth and Darnell McDonald had a two-run double in the ninth.

Lackey (6.1-8-2-4-1, 115) was the very definition of "winning ugly", allowing at least two base runners in each of his first five innings, thanks to seven hits and four walks up to that point. ... Garza (5-5-6-5-3, 103) also struggled -- 75 pitches in the first three innings -- and the Red Sox were able to hit three dongs to make his mistakes translate into runs.

Back in April, when Tampa swept a four-game series in Boston for the first time ever, I checked how many four-game series the Rays had played at Fenway by going through Tampa's schedules at B-Ref year by year. Soon after I did that, though, I realized there was a far easier way. I should have looked at this page, which lists every game the two teams have played. Boston is now 131-80 (.618) against the (Devil) Rays.

The Yankees resumed their suspended game and beat the Twins 1-0, then won the regularly scheduled game 3-2. The Jays lost to the Angels 6-5.

New York is 3.5 GB, Boston is 5.5 GB and Toronto is 6 GB.
Example
John Lackey / Matt Garza
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Varitek, C
Cameron, CF
McDonald, RF
Short-staffed tonight, as Martinez, Ellsbury, and Drew will not be in the starting lineup.

The Red Sox finally have a chance to move into third place with a win and a Blue Jays loss. (Blue Jays/Angels and Yankees/Twins at 7 PM. The Yankees and Twins will resume their suspended game at 5 PM.)

Lackey's last three starts: 18 innings, 23 hits, 12 walks, 13 strikeouts, 7.50 ERA, .922 opponents OPS. ... Walk totals in last four starts: 2, 3, 4, 5.

Looking at Lackey's 2010 splits, we see that he is at his worst the second time through the lineup, innings 2-4, and pitches 26-75. Part of that can be chalked up to a very high BABIP. ... Also, with 2 outs in an inning, batters against Lackey are hitting .323/.429/.523 (which is much better than they do with 0 or 1 out).
Example
This Date in Baseball History:

1959: Pittsburgh's Harvey Haddix pitches 12 perfect innings against Milwaukee before losing the game in the 13th. Joe Adcock hits a three-run home run off Haddix, but he "passes" Hank Aaron on the bases (actually, Aaron left the field), so he gets credit for a double and the final score is 1-0.

1976: Ken Brett of the White Sox has a no-hitter against the Angels with two outs in the ninth inning when Jerry Remy hits a slow roller down the third base line. Jorge Orta lets the ball roll and it is ruled a hit. Brett allowed another hit in the 10th and finally won the game 1-0 in 11 innings.

1993: Cleveland's Carlos Martinez hits a fly ball that bounces off the head of Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco and over the fence for a home run.

Start Me Up

A week of starts:
                      IP  H  R BB  K
0519 vs Min Buchholz 8 5 2 1 7
0520 vs Min Lester 9 6 2 0 9
0521 at Phi Lackey 5 6 4 5 3
0522 at Phi Matsuzaka 8 1 0 4 5
0523 at Phi Wakefield 8 5 0 2 1
0524 at Tam Buchholz 6 6 1 1 8
0525 at Tam Lester 6 1 0 5 9
Two one-hitters in the last four days (historic) -- against the two teams with the best winning percentages in MLB. The starters have allowed one earned run over their last 28 innings.

Last 30 games:
Rays       21   9
Red Sox 19 11
Blue Jays 17 13
Yankees 15 15
Orioles 12 18
Jacoby Ellsbury felt discomfort on his left side before last night's game and had a CT scan and some X-rays. Terry Francona: "He got a little nervous. ... Is it related [to his fractured ribs]? It's hard to imagine it's not. It was in a different area, a little bit over to the side."

The Red Sox kept Darnell McDonald on the roster and instead DFA'd Scott Atchison. ... Victor Martinez is surprised at how well his toe is healing -- he was able to wear a sneaker and take BP -- though he will likely not play tonight. ... Josh Beckett played long-toss, threw a little bit from a mound, and may have a bullpen session on Friday.

In Minnesota: "Let's go, squirrel!"

Rays Announcers (and Players) Whine About Davidson's Calls; Were Their Complaints Legitimate?

The Tampa TV announcers -- Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy (and before him, Joe Magraine) -- have been known for years to whine incessantly when calls go against the (Devil) Rays. It's quite unseemly, but in a business in which Hawk Harrelson has secure employment, standards of professionalism are obviously non-existent.

It doesn't matter if, after a replay is shown, the umpire turns out to have made the correct call. Those initial impressions of bias are enough -- and once the Rays broadcasters lock onto a perceived slight or three, they will yap about it all. night. long. And pick up where they left off the following day. (A quick search turned up only this one post in July 2006; maybe my other rants were in comments.)

In 2009, when Kennedy took over for Migraine and began immediately whining in tandem with Staats -- the Red Sox began the season against the Rays and played them again at the end of April -- I figured the behaviour had to have been written into his employment agreement. In addition to crying that the umpires have it in for the Rays, Staats and Kennedy also imply that the AL umps are afraid of angering the big-shot teams like the Red Sox or Yankees.

I was burdened with the Rays feed on Tuesday night, and I learned that even though the Rays have the best record in baseball, Staats and Kennedy still see the team as under chronic persecution. Bob Davidson was behind the plate and the whining began in the booth when Carl Crawford was called out on strikes in the third inning.

The useless Fox Trax (like NESN's equally pointless Amica zone; it's a friggin' insurance commercial, not a valid pitch tracking system!) had all of Lester's "questionable" pitches well outside. Thanks to the great f/x data at Brooks Baseball, however, we can take a more accurate look at Lester's pitches and see how Davidson did. (The view is from the umpire's position.)

[Update: Note: See comment re the construction of these zones. Something on the line may actually be outside. So that gives TB a little more reason to be annoyed. It does not change the unprofessional tantrums thrown by the announcers, however (which was the original reason for the post, though the finished post may not reflect that).]

Crawford in 3rd: Turns away from an inside 2-2 pitch and is rung up. It's the 7th pitch of the AB -- high and inside, but within the strike zone.Aybar in 4th: The 2nd and 4th pitches are called strikes. They seem outside, but Davidson made the correct calls. Aybar singles to left.Pena in 4th: The 5th pitch is obviously ball 3. One angle shows it is over the plate, which it is, so Rays TV begrudgingly says that Tampa got a call "this time". That's surprising, since they usually clam up and pretend not to notice. The pitch was high, well out of the strike zone, and not a gift call after all.Kapler in 5th: Called out on strikes on Lester's 2-2 pitch. FSN's overhead camera seems to show the ball travelling over the opposite batters box's chalkline closest to the plate. Kennedy: "That's one heck of a terrible call, Davidson." F/x shows it is borderline and could have been called either way.Bartlett in 5th: Lester seems to have struck Bartlett out (and ended the inning) with a 2-2 pitch (#5). Davidson calls it a ball -- though this one is also borderline -- and Lester ends up walking Bartlett. There are crickets in the Tampa TV booth.Crawford in 5th: Here comes the fun! Lester's first pitch is away and called a strike. Crawford flips out. (He has a reason this time.) He and Davidson are screaming at each other. Crawford gets tossed as Maddon rushes out to the plate and after maybe 5-7 seconds of his yelling, he's tossed as well. Then Maddon and Davidson are going at it, standing so close their noses are nearly touching, each tossing off more f-bombs than I can count.Crawford:
He was like, "That's a good pitch". And I'm thinking to myself, "If the plate is in the other batter's box, that's a good pitch." ... [Davidson] didn't want to back down. I definitely wasn't going to lose a trash-talking contest. It just went from there.
Crew chief Tim Tschida:
Carl gradually started moving closer to the umpire. And Bob's line was, "Now you're coming into my space here, back off." And when he said, "Back off," [Crawford] actually moved closer. That's why Carl was ejected from the game. ... Joe's immediate response was, "You're calling stuff off the plate on our guys". And he's arguing balls and strikes. When a manager leaves his position in the dugout to argue a ball-strike decision, it's [an] immediate [ejection].
Longoria in 6th: Lester's 2-0 is called a strike. The overhead camera has this one coming in over the chalk line as well. That may be a distortion -- the slightly off to the side center field camera certainly can distort pitches -- because it's borderline here.Upton in 9th: Papelbon's 2nd pitch is called a strike. Seems like another outside call for Boston. Is it a gift? Nope. Upton waves at the next one (SASAHE!) and the Red Sox win.Here is Davidson's calls with lefties batting.And with righties batting.Here is Davidson's zone against everyone. Green = balls and red = strikes.The give and take of getting/not getting calls is about equal, except for Boston getting nine strikes called that were outside the zone to Tampa's right-handed hitters. So Tampa Bay definitely had something to gripe about. However, I'm not sure which batters those nine calls were made on, because they were not the ones that got the Rays' announcers so worked up.

(I was going to add some of the more whiny quotes from TV, but it's too late. Maybe in the morning.)

May 25, 2010

G47: Red Sox 2, Rays 0

Red Sox - 002 000 000 - 2  4  0
Rays - 000 000 000 - 0 1 0
Lester (6-1-0-5-9, 111) allowed at least one base runner in five of his six innings, but only two Rays got further than first base against him.

After two quick outs in the third, J.D. Drew singled to right and Kevin Youkilis walked. They both scored on David Ortiz's first-pitch double to the wall in left-center. The other two Boston hits came within the first five pitches of the game, as Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia began the first inning with hard singles off Small Game (8-4-2-2-5, 107).

The pen was solid yet again. Manny Delcarmen and Daniel Bard each pitched perfect innings. Jonathan Papelbon allowed a one-out walk in the ninth, but got Carlos Pena on a weak grounder and struck out B.J. Upton.

The Rays has serious issues with several strike calls for Lester from umpire Bob Davidson. Things boiled over in the bottom of the fifth, when Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon were both ejected within a span of maybe 15 seconds.

I was stuck with the Rays TV feed and Dewayne Staats and (I think) Kevin Kennedy starting whining about Davidson's calls in the fourth. More coming in a separate post.

The Yankees/Twins game was suspended after five innings (0-0) because of rain. The game will be completed on Wednesday. The Angels are leading the Jays 7-2 in the 6th.
Example
Jon Lester / James Shields
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Drew, RF
Youkilis, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Varitek, C
Cameron, CF
To make room on the roster for Mike Cameron (who has been out since April 18), Darnell McDonald (.263/.320/.400 in 31 games) was designated for assignment.

Last Six Starts:
         ERA    IP   H  BB   K   AVG   OBP   SLG
Shields 2.49 43.1 45 6 48 .262 .285 .372
Lester 1.65 43.2 24 14 49 .164 .244 .267
In that time, Lester has lowered his ERA from 8.44 to 3.47.

Lester is 4th in the AL in strikeouts and K/9. Shields in 2nd in strikeouts and 3rd in K/9. Shields has the best K/BB ratio in MLB, but he has also allowed nine dongs, one shy of the most in the AL, and he's tied for 2nd in most hits allowed.

Pitching has carried the Rays so far this season -- their team ERA+ is 146! (Phil Hughes is 8th in the AL at 149) -- and the hitting has been only a bit above average. Tampa has hit .249/.322/.383 in May and is scoring 4.4 runs a game, way down from their April average of 6.3.

Remember Jed Lowrie? Turns out he's still alive.

That Peter Abraham guy has some good ideas: "I think people doing the wave should be escorted from the stadium."
Example
Here is something I did not expect to type on May 25: "The Blue Jays have won more games than the Yankees."

Kevin Kernan, Post:
It's time for the World Series champions to step up and play like champions. Since last Sunday, they've lost six of eight and have looked sloppy. Going back to April 23, the Yankees are 15-14.

How scary is that? That is the exact same record as the Mets over that span. Is this the beginning of the end for the aging Yankees or just a rough patch?

Joe Girardi's club needs to turn it on ... It's time for the World Series champions to wake up and realize 2010 is a new season.
Tonight:
Yankees/Twins, 8 PM
Blue Jays/Angels, 10 PM

May 24, 2010

G46: Red Sox 6, Rays 1

Red Sox - 013 200 000 - 6 12  0
Rays - 000 100 000 - 1 6 0
Buchholz (6-6-1-1-8, 108) was very sharp after a rough beginning. With one out in the first, he allowed three consecutive singles to load the bases, then got John Jaso to GIDP. With runners on second and third with one out in the second, HH struck out Reid Brignac and Jason Bartlett.

The only blemishes after that were Carlos Pena's solo home run and Bartlett's fifth inning double. Hideki Okajima (7-8) and Daniel Bard (9) retired all nine batters they faced.

David Ortiz kicked off the second with a home run down the right field line. The Sox got three singles and three walks and batted around against Davis in the third and took a 4-0 lead. Kevin Youkilis greeted reliever Lance Cormier with a two-run dong in the fourth.

Dustin Pedroia snapped out of his slump with three hits; Adrian Beltre also had three hits. Victor Martinez took a foul ball off his big left toe in the second inning and left the game for a pinch-runner in the third. X-rays were negative.
Example
Clay Buchholz / Wade Davis
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Martinez, C
Youkilis, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Drew, RF
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Scutaro, SS
First of three games in Tampa.

The Rays swept four games from the Red Sox at Fenway Park in mid-April, outscoring Boston 24-9. Tampa has gone 22-9 since then, with the Red Sox close behind at 20-12.

In this supposed make-or-break stretch against the Yankees, Twins, and Rays -- the three teams with the top winning percentages in the AL -- the Sox are 5-2. Boston has also won 13 of its last 20 games.

The Yankees are 5-10 since May 9 and have dropped from 0.5 GB to 6 GB in the standings. Knocking Tampa off the top of the hill may be a pipe dream, but 2.5 GB in the WC with 117 games to go? I think that's surmountable.

Peter Abraham has some recent hitting streaks:
Victor Martinez 11-for-last-21 (.524)
Adrian Beltre 12-for-last-31 (.387)
David Ortiz 20-for-last-57 (.351)
Kevin Youkilis .397/.571/.810 over last 63 AB
&
Dustin Pedroia 4-for-last-39 (.103) and
0-for-last-20
Mike Lowell 0-for-last-10
The Yankees are off tonight and the Blue Jays are visiting the Angels.

May 23, 2010

The Calmest Man In The Clubhouse

" Let go once in a while, you're a loose lily floating down an amber river. Ahhh. ... When you're feeling under pressure, do something different. Roll up your sleeves, or eat an orange."

Terry Francona:
We're supposed to be good, and it's hard to be good. There are times when it wears on you, especially in this town. ... I like coming to work. It's a hard thing to explain, but I like it and it's hard. There are times when it feels almost overwhelming ...

I want there to be an atmosphere where they want to show up every day and do the right thing. We can have rules out the [expletive], but if they want to do the right thing, we'll be a better team. It's about consistency. If they win the other night or if they don't, they don't need to come in here and see me either bouncing off the walls or dragging my tail. It doesn't work. It's got to be the same every day.

I know there's a segment of our fan base that wants to see Billy Martin come out and scream. That doesn't help. My job is to not make life more difficult for our players. I just think that whenever there's a big urge in me to lose it, that's probably the time for me not to lose it. The guys are losing their poise anyway. So I've got to rein myself in, because that's just the way our team works better.
Example
On Saturday, as reporters were talking with David Ortiz about his upcoming debut at first base that night, Dustin Pedroia walked by:
I'll be taking everything in the air, and on the ground. He's just going to stand there. I'll take everything. I'm playing second base and first base tonight.
Example
Kevin Youkilis has 35 walks -- tied with Justin Morneau for the MLB lead. That puts Yook on pace for 126 BB, which would obliterate his career high of 91, set in 2006. And while it would be the most walks by a Red Sox player in 40 years, it would barely crack the team's single-season Top 10:
 1. Ted Williams     162   1949
2. Ted Williams 162 1947
3. Ted Williams 156 1946
4. Ted Williams 147 1941
5. Ted Williams 145 1942
6. Ted Williams 144 1951
7. Ted Williams 136 1954
8. Carl Yastrzemski 128 1970
9. Ted Williams 126 1948
10. Kevin Youkilis 126 2010
Jesus, did that Ted guy ever bother to take the bat off his shoulders?

G45: Red Sox 8, Phillies 3

Red Sox  - 010 204 001 - 8 10  0
Phillies - 000 000 003 - 3 8 2
Wakefield: 8.0-5-1-2-1, 112
Halladay: 5.2-8-7-2-1, 99
Career Red Sox Win #176 for Wakefield. 17 more to go!

Halladay was the victim of poor fielding in the early innings. In the second, Shane Victorino leapt at the wall in right center and had Kevin Youkilis's fly ball land in and then fall out of his glove. It was scored a triple. J.D. Drew's grounder to first gave Boston a 1-0 lead.

In the fourth, the Sox loaded the bases with one out and Adrian Beltre hit a routine grounder to Greg Dobbs at third. What should have been an inning-ending double play ended up rolling under Dobbs's glove, between his legs, and into left field. Two runs scored.

Halladay's control slipped in the sixth. He left several pitches up in the strike zone and the Red Sox pounced on just about all of them. Yook crushed a hanging curve* for a dong to start the inning (4-0). Drew doubled, Beltre singled, Marco Scutaro singled (5-0), and Jacoby Ellsbury singled (7-0).

* Youkilis saw 26 pitches in his first four PA (4-6-8-8). He flew out on the first pitch in the 9th.

Ellsbury's grounder up the middle was gloved by Phillies shortstop Juan Castro, who then whirled and fired the ball to third base, thinking he might catch Scutaro off-guard getting back to the base. Scutaro, however, had not stopped running from second, and he was halfway home already. Dobbs took the throw, but could do nothing. The score was 7-0 and Halladay was on his way to the showers.

Wakefield allowed only one runner past second base (Chase Utley's triple in the sixth). Only six of Wakefield's 24 outs were on the ground; the Phillies had six infield or foul pop-ups. With Wakefield at 102 pitches, Ramon Ramirez was told to finish it up. Ram2 allowed back-to-back doubles right away (8-1) and, with two outs, gave up a two-run home run to pinch-hitter Ross Gload (8-3).

The win put Red Sox at 24-21, three games over .500 for the first time this year. The Rays beat the Astros 10-6, so Boston remains 8.5 GB. The Blue Jays beat the Diamondbacks 12-4 and the Mets held off the Yankees 6-4. New York is 6 GB and Toronto is 7 GB.
Example
Tim Wakefield / Roy Halladay
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Martinez, C
Youkilis, 1B
Drew, RF
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Scutaro, SS
Wakefield, P
Mr. Halladay seems to be thriving in the National League*. Nine starts, 1.64 ERA, lowest BB/9 in the league. Four of the nine starts have been complete games (he has more CG than every one of the other 29 MLB teams). And he has been at his best when runners are on base:
           AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Empty .291 .305 .391 .696
Men On .181 .232 .241 .473
RATS .138 .219 .231 .450
* Though he's no Ubaldo Jimenez!

Peter Abraham notes that Halladay has thrown 118+ pitches in each of his last four starts, including 132 against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Looking at pitches thrown in the first nine starts of a season, 2010 tops Halladay's career (1,006 in 70.1 innings). Maybe he'll be tired today.

Also:
Rays / Astros, 2 PM
Blue Jays / Diamondbacks, 4 PM
Yankees / Mets, 8 PM
TBR  ---
NYY 5.0
TOR 7.0
BOS 8.5
BAL 17.5
Example
On this date in 1901, the White Sox chose to intentionally walk Philadelphia's Nap Lajoie (who would finish the year with a .426 batting average) with the bases loaded. It has happened six times in MLB history.

May 22, 2010

G44: Red Sox 5, Phillies 0

Red Sox  - 000 140 000 - 5  9  0
Phillies - 000 000 000 - 0 1 0
Matsuzaka was four outs away from a no-hitter when Juan Castro lifted a little flair into short field. Marco Scutaro could not grab it and it fell for a single. Dice: 8-1-0-4-5, 112.

The hit came right after Adrian Beltre made a phenominal diving catch to his left at third, then got up and fired a bullet to first, doubling off Carlos Ruiz, who had walked. (Matsuzaka snared a smoking liner off the bat of Jayson Werth to end the seventh inning.)

The Sox put the game away with three two-out hits in the fifth -- J.D. Drew's RBI single, David Ortiz's RBI double, and Beltre's 2-RBI double.

Daniel Bard pitched the ninth, getting the Phillies to hit three ground balls to Dustin Pedroia.

The Rays won and the Yankees (now 5 GB) and Blue Jays (now 7 GB) lost. The Red Sox remain 8.5 GB.
Example
Daisuke Matsuzaka / Kyle Kendrick
Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Drew, RF
Ortiz, 1B
Beltre, 3B
Hermida, LF
Varitek, C
Scutaro, SS
Matsuzaka, P
Jacoby Ellsbury returns to the lineup for the first time since April 11. To make room on the roster, Jonathan Van Every (who is out of options), was designated for assignment and will be exposed to waivers.

Kevin Youkilis has reached base in 21 straight games, but David Ortiz gets the start at first base.

Matsuzaka complained about Victor Martinez's pitch-calling after his last start (PA: "That did not sit well in the clubhouse"), so we'll see how Dice does with Jason Varitek today.

May 22, 1957: The Red Sox set an American League record by hitting four home runs in the sixth inning. Gene Mauch, Ted Williams, Dick Gernert, and Frank Malzone go deep off Cleveland's Cal McLish within a span of 16 pitches. (Williams had helped set the AL record in 1940, with Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, and Jim Tabor.)

May 22, 1977: The Red Sox and Brewers tie a major-league record when they combine for 11 home runs (Lynn (2), Hobson, Evans, Scott, and Yaz for Boston). Evans's blast clears the new upper section of the CF wall, about 20 feet to the right of the flag pole. Boomer's tater is a grand slam. Boston wins 14-10. It's the first game of a doubleheader; the Sox get only two hits in the nightcap and are shutout 6-0.

Also:
Rays at Astros, 7 PM
Yankees at Mets, 7 PM
Blue Jays at Diamondbacks, 8 PM

With Ortiz, It Cannot End Well

David Ortiz's bat has come alive in May. We often use months as arbitrary markers, but Ortiz actually started hitting right on May 1:
April .143/.238/.286/ .524
May .352/.390/.759/1.149
His slash stats for the year are .245/.311/.518, which gives him a 116 OPS+ - the third-highest mark on the Red Sox. His batting average on balls in play has skyrocketed from .206 in April to .387 in May. Overall, it is .292. It was .262 last year and .270 in 2008.

Maybe Ortiz is not yet toast. Still, he turns 35 in November and it is far from certain that the Red Sox will grab his $12.5 million option for 2011.

Two days ago, Ortiz criticized the media for declaring him dead and buried.
It's not the fans. It's not the fans that come out with that. It's the media. It's the media that's the one that thinks they've got everything figured out. You've got guys sitting down out there that have never played the game ever before, talking about how they think I'm supposed to leave, that you are done, that you can't hit any more, that you can do this or you can do that. You never hit before in your life ever. You know nothing about that. ... I'm going to be done when I've decided that I'm done, not when the media says that I'm done. I'm nobody to tell you when you're going to be done. I don't know anything about your job.
He's right, to a point, though the ability to hit a major league fastball is much more of an age-dependent skill than writing a magazine article. You can do only the latter at a top professional level when you are 65 years old, for example.

Howard Bryant has a must-read article on Ortiz at ESPN.
For the first time in the eight years in Boston that turned Ortiz into a star, doubt and mortality consume him. It is mortality ... that Ortiz is painfully discovering happens to be the real price of the ticket, the actual cost of a professional athlete's golden youth. On a particularly dark day in May, Ortiz stares not only into his eventual career abyss ("I'm 34 years old, and people treat me like I'm 80," he says) ...
In April, Ortiz told Bryant:
Do you understand that this is killing me? Do you know when I'm going good I cannot sleep because I'm trying to remember everything that I did right so I can repeat it the next day and the next? And that's when I'm going good. When I'm going bad, it's even worse because everybody looks to me to be the guy who comes through for this ballclub. It's like I never sleep anymore.
On Thursday, Ortiz said Terry Francona lacked confidence in him earlier in the year, such as when he pinch-hit for Ortiz on April 27 at Toronto: "I was mad. I was mad. I was totally, absolutely mad. ... You have to believe in your players. Period. You chose to have me on your roster since day one. You've got to ride with me."

Bryant reports that
according to sources within the organization, [Ortiz] left the ballpark during [that] game in Toronto after Red Sox manager Terry Francona called him back for a pinch hitter, the day those sources say that Ortiz temporarily ignored Francona's order and kept walking to the plate. (Francona had no comment when asked about the incident.)
It must be crushing for an athlete to realize that the end of the line is near. After decades of identifying yourself as X, suddenly you are not X. And it's never pretty to see an athlete struggle to do the things that once seemed second nature -- especially with someone as beloved and important to Red Sox history as Ortiz.

Red Sox fans bemoan the drama that surrounded various star players as their time in Boston ended -- Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and Pedro Martinez, to name three that left for more lucrative free agent offers.

Why does there always have to be so much drama? I have wondered that myself, but I also have been thinking that there is almost no way Ortiz's time in Boston can come to end without getting ugly. The only exception would be if he chooses to retire while he is still a good hitter. And that seems very unlikely. Baseball players in good health do not retire after productive seasons.

Francona met with Ortiz privately before Friday night's game. Afterwards, he insisted that Ortiz did not leave Skydome early on April 27:
Somebody is reporting something that's not true. ...

My job is to believe in our players. Not one, but 25, and try to do that as consistently as I can. ... Just like I ask the players: Try to do your job the best you can. It doesn't mean you're perfect, but try to do the best you can ...

I think with any time you're in my position, you have to tell people things sometimes they don't want to hear. ... We've sat and talked and he hasn't always liked what I've told him. I think he knows that I care about him, and every player is supposed to feel that way. That's the idea.
It's too early to say what the Red Sox will do this winter. Three weeks ago, I figured the team would decline Ortiz's option no matter what he did for the rest of the year. If he keeps hitting like he has this month, who knows? His return is also dependent on things beyond his actual on-field performance, like the progress of various minor leaguers and possible trades/signings.

What I do know is that the odds are very slim that the Ortiz/Boston relationship ends as smoothly as I would like. A rough break-up seems almost inevitable.

Dear MLBTV: I've Paid You. Why Won't You Show The Entire Game?

Why is it so difficult for MLB to show baseball games on MLBTV?

It seems simple enough to me. MLB has access to and makes available on its website the home and away broadcasts of every game. Fans who have paid subscriptions can log in and choose which game(s) they want to watch. In theory, it's similar to turning on your television, picking a certain channel, and watching a show. You expect the station to be competent enough to broadcast the entire program.

But it's never that easy with MLB, is it?

I was watching the NESN broadcast of Friday night's Red Sox/Phillies game. I wanted to watch the entire game -- after all, that's what I paid for (and what MLB promised me in its advertising) -- but I did not see 14 pitches of the game. I missed three entire at-bats.

Here is what MLB was unable to show me:
first 5 pitches of the bottom of the 1st (which included Rollins' ground out to first)

first 5 pitches of the top of the 3rd (McDonald's entire at-bat/single)

first 3 pitches of the bottom of the 5th (including Utley's 1-3 ground out)
I am also counting as missed the first pitch to Youkilis in the top of the 7th, which was joined in progress already halfway to the plate. There were also several instances when the broadcast came back on a fraction of a second before the pitcher began his windup for his first pitch of the half-inning.

The first inning snafu happened because MLB was rerunning the commercial for Yahoo! it had just finished showing. The other times there was only the "in a commercial break" screen; nothing was being shown. There was no reason for any delay. MLB simply could not get its act together and turn the game back on when the next half-inning began.

How can MLB be so incompetent? Because most fans have no other choice. It is MLBTV or nothing. And from looking at the Feedback Forum at MLB.com, the inability to show games is a huge problem for MLB.

Long-time readers will remember my previous issues with MLB, but my problem with the Red Sox game last night is small potatoes to what "n1ghtfox" experienced last Friday, May 14:
Instead of watching MY Atlanta Braves make a comeback and score 4 runs on 2 HR's to tie the game in the bottom of the 7th, I have been watching the Commercial Break screen for the last 20-30 minutes. This is ridiculous and unacceptable. ...

I know that it is in the commercial loop and not my connection being frozen because the commercial screen has the seams of the baseball moving, which doesn't happen when it is frozen...

I am sick and tired of these kinds of issues. Going to commercials the second the ball hits the glove for the 3rd out in an inning. Coming back to the game with 1 out and a 1-1 count on the second batter ... missing actual game time is absolutely unacceptable as a customer who PAYS to see the games ...

Who is responsible for clicking the button to change from game to commercial and back? Why are they so inept at their job? Is it laziness? Do they just not care? Is this acceptable to whoever is in charge?

I want some answers!
Two days later, an MLB moderator answered [sic]:
Try retrieving the broadcast from our media center ... If you experience a long commercial break, please jump to the next inning using the DVR functionality. I apologize for the inconvenience.
n1ghtfox:
If you are referring to watching the game AFTER it's over so as not to miss any innings, I hope you realize how ridiculous of a suggestion that is ...
AnjaKJ:
Not to mention that most of the time, the missing footage isn't added to the archived games anyway - the huge break will still be there ...
I'll be calling MLB -- 1-866-800-1275 -- in the morning to tell them about my problem. I also started a thread in MLB's Feedback Forum. As I noted, there is no other way for most fans to see these games, so MLB doesn't have to do anything about it. It knows we have no choice. I expect nothing productive from my thread, but at least it shows another person is sick of MLB treating its paying customers like shit.

May 21, 2010

G43: Phillies 5, Red Sox 1

Red Sox  - 100 000 000 - 1 4 0
Phillies - 000 221 00x - 5 9 0
Victor Martinez hit a solo home run in the first, but Boston managed next to nothing after that off Hamels (7-3-1-1-8, 116). The Red Sox did not get a runner past second base until they were down to their last out in the ninth. With the bases loaded against J.C. Romero, pinch-hitter David Ortiz flew out to Shane Victorino on the warning track in center.

Lackey (5-6-4-5-3, 107) never settled into a groove. He walked two and allowed a double in the first three innings, throwing 55 pitches. Ryan Howard homered to start the fourth and a double from Jayson Werth and Victorino's single gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead. Werth's two-run dong in the fifth made it 4-1 and Howard added an RBI single in the sixth.

The Rays lost to the Astros 2-1. The Yankees beat the Mets 2-1; Mariano Rivera allowed a run in the ninth on back-to-back two-out doubles, the fifth run he's allowed in his last three appearances (2.1 innings).

The Diamondbacks have a 7-3 lead over the Blue Jays in the 7th.
Example
John Lackey / Cole Hamels
Scutaro, SS
Pedroia, 2B
Martinez, C
Youkilis, 1B
Drew, RF
Beltre, 3B
Hall, LF
McDonald, CF
Lackey, P
The Phillies are 25-15 (and 12-5 in May) and are 4 GA of the Marlins in the NL East. Hamels had a 5.28 ERA in five April starts, but has done better in May: 3 starts, 2.75.

In terms of aggregate weighted 2010-to-date winning percentage of opponents, which AL team has the toughest interleague schedule? The Red Sox. The Rays and Yankees are 10th and 11th, respectively. Since I already think interleague games should be abolished, this just pisses me off.

Also:
Yankees at Mets, 7 PM
Rays at Astros, 8 PM
Blue Jays at Diamondbacks, 9:30 PM
Example
May 21 in Baseball History

1904: Boston Americans shortstop Bill O'Neill makes six errors in a game against the Browns, including three in the first inning on the first three balls hit to him. He blames snakes.

1957: Boston baseball writers reaffirm their ban on women in the press box and refuse to allow Doris O'Donnell, a Cleveland feature writer traveling with the Spiders, to sit in the Fenway Park press area.

Comeback

Reds    - 080 010 000 -  9 13  4
Atlanta - 001 020 007 - 10 10 1
When the Reds took the field for the bottom of the ninth with a 9-3 lead, they had a 99.8% chance of winning.

Two Atlanta singles to start the inning barely made a dent: 98.7%. Six batters later, when pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad stepped into the box, the Reds still led 9-6, but Atlanta had the bases loaded with one out. Cincinnati's chances were 81.5%.Looking at data from 1977-2006 (excluding 1999) at the Win Expectancy Finder, the situation at the start of the bottom of the ninth - home team down by six runs - has happened 1993 times.
Games:      1993
Home won: 3
Expectancy: 0.002
The situation when Conrad stepped into the box - home team down by three, bases loaded, one out - has happened 132 times.
Games:      132
Home won: 15
Expectancy: 0.114
Conrad:
I went up there with the wrong helmet on. I was on deck getting ready to face [left-hander Arthur] Rhodes and I ran in and had to change my shin guard and got my other bat but forgot to change my helmet. So I had to move past that pretty quick to get focused for that at-bat. I was just [hoping to] get something up in the air, try to keep the ball off the ground, try to stay out of the double play. ... I was rounding first, and from my angle, it looked like he brought it back. I put my hands on my helmet, like, "No way he brought that back. At least we got the sac fly." Then the fans went crazy and they kept running around the bases. So I started sprinting to get to home plate as fast as I could. Talk about a change of emotion. Going from he caught it to winning the game with a walk-off is pretty cool.
It was only the 23rd time in history that a walk-off grand slam overcame a three-run deficit. Conrad is the second pinch-hitter to do it.

Fangraphs post/comments.

Ellsbury "Probably" Returns On Saturday

Peter Abraham, Globe:
Terry Francona said after the game tonight that Jacoby Ellsbury will join the Red Sox in Philadelphia and "probably" be activated on Saturday. ...

Mike Cameron will play for Class AA Portland again tomorrow and then he re-evaluated.

May 20, 2010

Sleeping At Fenway

After the team's flight from New York, the Red Sox arrived at Fenway Park at about 5 AM on Wednesday. Terry Francona was due back at the park at noon for that night's game and thought about simply sleeping at the park.
I've done it. I don't like doing it. Nights during the summer when we've had a real late night and a day game the next day, I know that if I do that, it'll get me a couple of hours.
Francona decided to go home. He told the Globe's Peter Abraham that when he does sleep at the park, the only other signs of life are assistant equipment manager Pookie Jackson and some mice.
That's just what you want to see at 4 the morning, some little varmint that looks like Pedroia scampering through your office.

G42: Red Sox 6, Twins 2

Twins   - 000 000 011 - 2  6  0
Red Sox - 013 011 00x - 6 8 1
Lester: 9-6-2-0-9, 103.

Kevin Youkilis hit a three-run home run to the back wall in dead center to put the game on ice in the third. Yook also drove in a run in the fifth inning. Adrian Beltre homered in the second and doubled and scored in the sixth.

Lester -- in his 100th career start -- was at the top of his game, allowing only one runner to second base in the first seven innings. His strikeouts of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the seventh, both looking, were devastating. His economical pitch count: 9-12-10 9-10-8 14-12-19 = 103.

Tampa Bay (30-11) beat the Yankees 8-6 to extend its lead in the East to 5 games. Boston is now only 3.5 games out of second place -- or the Yankees are 3.5 games out of fourth place.
Example
Francisco Liriano / Jon Lester
McDonald, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Martinez, C
Youkilis, 1B
Lowell, DH
Beltre, 3B
Drew, RF
Hall, LF
Sanchez, SS
Since April 18, when his ERA was 8.44, Lester has made five starts: 1.82 ERA in 34.2 innings. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last four outings.

Liriano has gone at least six innings in all seven of his 2010 starts; he had a 23-inning scoreless streak in April. He lost to the Yankees (6-9-3-0-7, 101) last time out.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron batted 1-2 in Portland's lineup this afternoon. Ellsbury went 3-for-4, with a double, stolen base, and a run, while Cameron was 1-for-4 with an RBI double (he knocked in LBJ) and a run. The Sea Dogs lost 6-2. ... Lefty Felix Doubront was promoted to Pawtucket.
Example
Red Sox/Yankees - Battle of the Back-Up Catchers

Top RBI per plate appearance among catchers (min. 20 PA):
0.219 - Ryan Hanigan, Reds
0.213 - Jason Varitek, Red Sox
0.210 - Francisco Cervelli, Yankees
0.197 - John Jaso, Rays
          PA   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   BABIP
Varitek 47 .317 .404 .805 1.209 .304
Cervelli 81 .373 .442 .493 .934 .417
The Cactus has thrown out only 19% of SB attempts (3 of 16), but Cervelli (who I guess will not be a back-up for the next 3-4 weeks) is worse: 1 of 13, 8%.

The Cabin Returns

Kevin Millar has joined NESN as a studio analyst. He will make his debut on May 27.

I assume this surprises no one.

It looks like he will be working for NESN at the same time he is playing for the St. Paul Saints.

Wild Card Race

Tampa Bay is 29-11*, with a comfortable lead over the Yankees (4 GA), Blue Jays (5 GA), and Red Sox (8.5 GA).

* It's the best record through 40 games since the 2002 Red Sox. They actually got to 40-17, before finishing out the year 53-52.

If the Rays stumble and play .500 ball for the rest of the season, they will finish with 90 wins. If they continue at their current pace, they will win 117 games -- a new MLB record.

The Dodgers have the 12th best winning percentage in MLB, at .550. If the Rays play at .550 for the rest of the year, they'll finish with 96 wins. The Red Sox would have to go 76-45 (.628, 102-win pace) to top them.)

I'm ready (almost) to accept that the Red Sox are not going to win the East*. I detest the wild card, but it looks like it's the only hope we have of playing any games after October 3.

* Though if a team can come from 14 GB in mid-July ... hmmm ... but that would involve the Rays hiring the Gerbil, which is probably not going to happen ...)

So ...

Wild Card Standings (with 121 games to go!)
Yankees   25  15  .625  --
Blue Jays 25 17 .595 1.0
Tigers 23 17 .575 2.0
Red Sox 21 20 .512 4.5
A's 20 21 .488 5.5
Things are not well in New York.

Jorge Posada (the team leader in OPS+) has a right foot fracture and will miss about a month. Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson are on the disabled list, Marcus Thames sprained his left ankle last night, Nick Swisher is out with a strained left biceps, and Mark Teixeira has a lower slugging percentage than Darnell McDonald.

Derek Jeter is 8-for-48 (.167) over his last 11 games and is batting .190/.264/.228 in May. Since April 20, he's hitting .220. His .699 OPS for the season is only slightly better than Bill Hall's.

And New York's 1-2 punch in the bullpen has faltered lately: Mariano Rivera has allowed 4 runs over his last 9 batters and Joba Chamberlain has allowed 7 runs to his last 12 batters.

After tonight's game against the Rays, the Yankees hit the road to play the Mets and Twins before coming home for games against Cleveland and the Orioles.