March 31, 2014

G1: Orioles 2, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 100 000 - 1  9  0
Orioles - 010 000 10x - 2  6  0
Nelson Cruz lined Jon Lester's first pitch of the seventh inning - and the lefty's 93rd of the afternoon - into the left field seats, snapping a 1-1 tie. And although the Red Sox put two runners on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, they dropped the season's first game. (Cruz also walked and scored the Orioles' first run.)

Mike Napoli walked to begin the Boston eighth inning against Evan Meek. Napoli took second on Mike Carp's groundout to first and then was pulled for pinch-runner Jackie Bradley. Grady Sizemore - who singled in the second and homered to right in the fourth in his first major league game since September 2011 - struck out. Xander Bogaerts walked. Reliever Brian Matusz got ahead of A.J. Pierzynski 0-2 and got the Red Sox catcher to ground back to the mound.

Tommy Hunter, newly anointed closer for the Orioles, began the ninth inning by plunking Will Middlebrooks with a 1-1 pitch. After Daniel Nava popped to third (ending an 0-for-5 day at the top of the lineup), Dustin Pedroia lined a single to center. With the potential tying run at second, David Ortiz flied to left and Bradley was called out on strikes.

Boston left 12 men on base and was 0-for-10 with RATS.

Despite the score looking like a pitchers' duel, Lester (7-6-2-1-8, 104) and Chris Tillman (5-7-1-1-4, 104) spent a lot of time working out of the stretch. In the 12 half-innings pitched by the starters, there was only one 1-2-3 inning (Lester's fifth).

Boston pushed Tillman around a bit in the second, as Carp and Sizemore led off with singles. But Bogaerts flied to deep left, Pierzynski flied to deep center, and Middlebrooks was caught looking. With two outs in the third, Ortiz singled and Napoli doubled, but Carp ended the threat by striking out.

Lester got ahead of Cruz 0-2 to start the Baltimore second, but ended up walking him on eight pitches. Cruz took third on Matt Wieters's flare over shortstop, and scored on an unusual 4-3-6 double play. After that, Lester did not allow an Orioles runner past first base until Cruz's dong to kick off the seventh. Cruz improved his career average against Lester to .458 (11-for-24).

Pedroia's two singles meant that FY has hit in his first eight consecutive Opening Day games, something no Red Sox player has done for at least 100 years.

The Red Sox are off tomorrow. John Lackey gets the start on Wednesday night.
Jon Lester / Chris Tillman
Nava, LF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Napoli, 1B
Carp, LF
Sizemore, CF
Bogaerts, SS
Pierzynski, C
Middlebrooks, 3B
Consecutive Red Sox Opening Day Starts
Pedro Martinez     7  (1998-2004)
Roger Clemens      7  (1988-1994)
Dennis Eckersley   5  (1979-1983)
Cy Young           5  (1904-1908)
Jon Lester         4  (2011-2014)
Six tied with 3, including Babe Ruth
Dustin Pedroia has hit safely in all seven of his career openers (2007-13): .393, 11-for-28. In the last 100 years, no Red Sox player has hit safely in his first eight career Opening Day games. (Which seems to indicate that it has been done before, but the Red Sox Game Notes give no additional information.)

Will Middlebrooks is getting used to wearing contact lenses on the field. ... Shane Victorino had an MRI on his right hamstring yesterday and has been placed on the disabled list; Jackie Bradley, Jr. was called up. ... The 2004 Red Sox also began the season in Baltimore. They lost their first game, 7-2.

A journey of 162+ games begins with a single pitch...


2014 W-L Contest Entries

Entries in the 2014 W-L contest.
                 W-L        XB OPS
Laura K        103-59        .700
Tim L           98-64        .794
Paul R          96-66        .796
Dan C           96-66        .777
Bryan C         95-67        .781
James           95-67        .773
John Q          95-67        .742
Rick F          94-68        .940
Sean M          94-68        .900
Matthew K       94-68        .831
Jeff R          94-68        .809
Tom D           94-68        .797
Patrick K       94-68        .781
Ian R           94-68        .745
David F         94-68        .743
Rich G          94-68        .721
Franco B        93-69        .9369
Hillel G        93-69        .862
Brett H         93-69        .850
Philip H        93-69        .844
Chuck C         93-69        .7777
Jeffrey C       93-69        .684
Jeffrey M       92-70        .840
Jacob L         92-70        .799 
Mike K          92-70        .780
Nick R          92-70        .729
Kathryn L       92-70        .702
M Berry         91-71        .751
Brad R          90-72        .865
Timothy C       90-72        .828
Brian G         90-72        .790
Jeffrey Am      90-72        .750
Ron W           89-73        .898
Drew B          89-73        .845
Tim R           89-73        .791
Jeffrey Ab      89-73        .773
Andrew B        89-73        .721
Paul H          88-74        .888
Alan C          88-74        .699

Jared T         82-80        .799
My entry: 93-69, .800.

March 30, 2014

ESPN: 30 of 44 Experts Pick NL To Win World Series

ESPN's 44 experts have posted their picks:

AL East
Rays        25
Red Sox     14
Yankees      3
Orioles      2
Blue Jays    0
AL Pennant
Tigers      16
Rays        15
Red Sox      5
Rangers      2
Yankees      2
Orioles      1
A's          1
Cleveland    1
Royals       1
World Series
Nationals   12
Dodgers     11
Cardinals    7
Rays         6
Tigers       5
Red Sox      2
Cleveland    1
Picking Red Sox to win AL Pennant: Bill Baer, Marty Bernoski, Mark Simon, Joe McDonald, Peter Pascarelli

Picking Red Sox to win World Series: Joe McDonald, Peter Pascarelli

Trout       29
Cabrera      6
Longoria     2
Beltre       2
Pedroia      1
Davis        1
Hosmer       1
AL Cy Young
Darvish     21
Price        5
Verlander    5
Hernandez    3
Lester       2
Sanchez      2
Masterson    1
Sale         1
Moore        1
Cobb         1
AL Rookie
Masahiro Tanaka   14
Xander Bogaerts   13
Jose Abreu        11
Yordano Ventura    2
Francisco Lindor   1
Taijuan Walker     1

Umpires Call 1 Out Of Every 7 Non-Swinging Pitches Incorrectly

Brayden King, New York Times:
After analyzing more than 700,000 pitches thrown during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, we found that umpires frequently made errors behind the plate — about 14 percent of non-swinging pitches were called erroneously.

Some of those errors occurred in fairly predictable ways. We found, for example, that umpires tended to favor the home team by expanding the strike zone, calling a strike when the pitch was actually a ball 13.3 percent of the time for home team pitchers versus 12.7 percent of the time for visitors.

Other errors were more surprising. Contrary to the expectation (or hope) that umpires would be more accurate in important situations, we found that they were, in fact, more likely to make mistakes when the game was on the line. For example, our analyses suggest that umpires were 13 percent more likely to miss an actual strike in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game than in the top of the first inning, on the first pitch.

We also found that the pitch count had an influence over the umpire's perception of a pitch. When the count was 3-0, and another ball would end the at-bat, the umpires mistakenly called a strike 18.6 percent of the time, compared with a 14.7 percent error rate when the count was 0-0. But when the count was 0-2, with another strike yielding a strikeout, the umpires expanded the strike zone only 7.3 percent of the time, half the error rate for 0-0. The umpires, in other words, appeared biased against ending an at-bat. ...

Baseball insiders have long suspected what our research confirms: that umpires tend to make errors in ways that favor players who have established themselves at the top of the game's status hierarchy. ...

Technologically, Major League Baseball is in a position, thanks to its high-speed camera system, to enforce a completely accurate, uniform strike zone. The question is whether we, as fans, want our games to be fair and just, or whether we are compelled to watch the game because it mimics the real world, warts and all.
Robots! Now!

More Predictions: Fangraphs, SB Nation, Schoenfield, NY Times


AL Division Winners
East: Boston (16), Tampa Bay (12), Baltimore (2), New York (1), Toronto (0)
Central: Detroit (21), Cleveland (8), Kansas City (2), Minnesota (0), Chicago (0)
West: Oakland (19), Anaheim (8), Texas (4), Seattle (0), Houston (0)

Number of Fangraphs authors who voted for each team to make the postseason, either through the division or the wild card:
Boston:     29 of 31
Oakland:    26
Detroit:    26
Tampa Bay:  24
Anaheim:    12
Cleveland:  11
Texas:       8
New York:    8
Kansas City: 6
Baltimore:   4
Seattle:     1
Toronto:     0
Minnesota:   0
Chicago:     0
Houston:     0
The National League predictions are here.
SB Nation:

AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

AL MVP: Mike Trout
AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish
AL Rookie: Jose Dariel Abreu
AL WC: A's over Red Sox
ALCS: Rays over A's
NLCS: Cardinals over Dodgers
World Series: Cardinals over Rays
David Schoenfield, ESPN:

AL East
Rays       93-69 
Red Sox    91-71 
Orioles    84-78
Yankees    84-78
Blue Jays  78-84
AL MVP: Mike Trout (Pedroia 5th)
AL Cy Young: David Price
AL Rookie: Masahiro Tanaka (Bogaerts 2nd)

World Series: Rays over Dodgers in 7.

Tyler Kepner, New York Times:

AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

MVP: Mike Trout
Cy Young: Chris Sale
Rookie: Masahiro Tanaka
ALCS: Orioles over Rays
World Series: Cardinals over Orioles

March 29, 2014

The Bullpen - And Roster - Is Set

The Opening Day bullpen:
Koji Uehara
Junichi Tazawa
Andrew Miller
Edward Mujica
Burke Badenhop
Chris Capuano
Brandon Workman
(Craig Breslow and Steven Wright begin the season on the disabled list.)

The rest of the roster:
SP: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz

DH: David Ortiz

C: A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross

INF: Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, Jonathan Herrera

OF: Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp
Fun Fact: Bogaerts is the youngest Red Sox Opening Day shortstop (21 years, 181 days) since Everett Scott (21 years, 146 days) in 1914.

The Red Sox finish their spring training schedule today with a game against the Twins. They are off tomorrow and begin the season on Monday afternoon in Baltimore.

2014 W-L Contest Reminder

Opening Day is only two days away, so here's a reminder to enter this year's Red Sox W-L Contest.

Correctly guess Boston's 2014 regular season record and win a few prizes, including a copy of Don't Let Us Win Tonight, autographed by both authors.

Contest entries must be emailed to me and include the following two items:

1. Predicted 2014 W-L record
2. Tiebreaker: Xander Bogaerts's OPS (OBP+SLG)

W-L guesses must be exact. Tiebreaker winner will be the closest guess, either over or under.

Slightly Extended Deadline: Monday, March 31, 9:00 AM.

March 28, 2014

Tigers' Miguel Cabrera Signs 8/248 Extension

Good lord.
Add in the remaining two seasons on Cabrera's current deal with the eight-year extension, and it qualifies for the largest contract in baseball history, reportedly $292 million for the next 10 seasons. The deal includes vesting options for 2024 and '25 at $30 million each, which would be triggered if Cabrera finishes in the top 10 in American League MVP Award voting the previous seasons.
It is hard to truly fathom how mind-numbingly horrible that deal is for the Tigers. Cabrera turns 31 on April 18.


And on the heels of that comes news that Anaheim's Mike Trout has signed a 6/145 deal, buying out three years of arbitration and three years of free agency. And Trout will be only 29 when that deal runs out.

Sizemore Is Center Fielder, Bradley Optioned To Pawtucket

Grady Sizemore was named the Red Sox's Opening Day center fielder - and Jackie Bradley, Jr. was optioned to Pawtucket.

Sizemore was a pleasant surprise in camp this spring, hitting .333 and looking sharp in the outfield. John Farrell said that when the season begins, Sizemore would bat either fifth or sixth, not in the leadoff spot.

After going through what I've gone through (seven surgeries since 2009), all the negative things that have happened, it's a long time since I've had positive news, a long time since I've been able to play, to feel this good in this setting, to look forward to coming to the ballpark ...
Bradley batted only .158 and struck out a team-high 17 times.
Back to work. Back to work. ... It's humbling. I've always known that, though. I don't really get too caught up in the highs, I don't get too caught up in the lows. I try to stay in the happy medium.
Farrell says Daniel Nava will be the team's primary leadoff man. ... In an announcement that took no one by surprise, Jon Lester was named the Opening Day starter. It's Lester's fourth straight OD start.

ESPN Picks Red Sox To Win AL East

ESPN's MLB Preview is here.

AL East
Red Sox    90-72  ---
Rays       89-73    1
Yankees    85-77    5
Orioles    82-80    8
Blue Jays  77-85   13
On the Red Sox:
Buster Olney @Buster_ESPN: Turning the page on Boston's 2013 championship and refocusing for 2014 seems completely reflexive for the Red Sox players, given that a strength of Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli et al is to focus on each pitch in each at-bat in each game. They're ready for the next challenge.

David Schoenfield @dschoenfield: The Red Sox led the majors in runs scored in 2013, scoring 57 more runs than the Tigers, but you have to wonder if they will have that caliber of attack again. They must replace Jacoby Ellsbury's offense in center field, whether from Jackie Bradley Jr. or Grady Sizemore, who hasn't played a full season since 2008, and hope that 38-year-old David Ortiz can have another big season and that rookie Xander Bogaerts lives up to the hype. In the rotation, Clay Buchholz was stellar when on the mound and John Lackey had his best season in years. Can they be that effective again? Closer Koji Uehara had one of the most dominant relief seasons ever but has never had completely healthy back-to-back seasons in the majors. Still, Boston's depth in the lineup, bullpen and rotation makes it a solid favorite to return to the postseason.
AL Central: Tigers by 8 over Royals
AL West: A's and Rangers tied, 2 ahead of Angels
NL East: Nationals by 5 over Atlanta
NL Central: Cardinals by 7 over Pirates
NL West: Dodgers by 9 over Giants

ESPN is posting its individual predictions on Sunday.

SI 2014: Red Sox (92 Wins) Behind Rays (95)

Sports Illustrated's 2014 Baseball Issue is out:

AL East
Rays       95-67  ---
Red Sox    92-70    3
Yankees    82-80   13
Orioles    78-84   17
Blue Jays  73-89   22

AL Central: Tigers by 4 over Royals
AL West: A's by 4 over Rangers
NL East: Nationals by 12 over Atlanta
NL Central: Cardinals by 5 over Reds
NL West: Dodgers by 7 over Giants

MVPs: Mike Trout; Bryce Harper
Cy Youngs: Yu Darvish; Clayton Kershaw
Rookies: Xander Bogaerts; Billy Hamilton

AL WC: Red Sox over Rangers
ALDS: Rays over Red Sox; A's over Tigers
ALCS: A's over Rays
World Series: Nationals over A's

SI says the Red Sox are baseball's 6th-best team, 3rd-best in the AL.

March 24, 2014

Utica Observer-Dispatch: "Relive The Baseball Party Of A Generation"

Don't Let Us Win Tonight has received its first review!

Don Laible of the Utica Observer-Dispatch spoke with both Bill and me and posted his story today:
What makes Don't Let Us Win Tonight so captivating is how meticulously Wood and Nowlin walk readers through the divisional series, league championship series, the Series, and of course, the celebration. The playmakers and those associated with the Red Sox are telling the story. ...

Think of a SportsCenter program, loaded from commercial break to commercial break with quotes and game updates from the divisional series to the World Series four-game sweep of St. Louis, now you know what you're getting with Don't Let Us Win Tonight. ...

You're invited to relive the baseball party of a generation, all over again, in the pages of Don't Let Us Win Tonight.

Ortiz Agrees To Extension For 2015, Club Options For 2016-17

David Ortiz has very likely signed the final contract of his remarkable career.

John Farrell:
It looks like he's going to finish his career with the Red Sox. It's amazing to me that he performs at the level he does. He's critical to our offense nightly. ... You walk by and he's got a group around him. When he speaks, people listen. He's had so much success and a set of experiences that players look for him as a sounding board and to gain confidence. He walks in and all eyes go to him.
John Henry:
It is difficult to describe David's contributions to our city both on the field and off the field, and we are so proud to have this ambassador of our game with us as he continues on this road to Cooperstown.
Gordon Edes posted the details on the contract extension:
2015: $16 million

2016: A $10m club option vests at:
425 PAs: $11m
475 PAs: $12m
525 PAs: $13m
550 PAs: $14m
575 PAs: $15m
600 PAs: $16m

2017: Straight club option (no vest) at $10m that escalates at the same levels as 2016.

March 20, 2014

Possible Game Thread? Yankees at Red Sox, 7 PM

If anyone is watching tonight's Red Sox-Yankees game and wants to thread, come back here at 7 PM.

Tony Blengino of Fangraphs calls the Red Sox the "most interesting" AL contender:
The major league club is talented throughout, with young talent sprinkled around a core of proven but ever-motivated veterans. ... When the inevitable roadblocks present themselves after the season begins, their combination of minor league strength and financial power and flexibility should still give them the ability to be squarely in the conversation for the AL pennant. They aren't going away anytime soon.
Eno Sarris tells some incredibly uncomfortable stories about finding his way as an interviewer in a major league clubhouse. ... Tom Ruane of Retrosheet recaps some of the highlights from the 1914-1919 seasons. ... Joe Posnanski examines the myth of Louis Sockalexis and the naming of Cleveland's baseball team.

Former pitcher Jack McDowell plays the guitar - and likes R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck:
When I really started getting into guitar seriously and learning song structure, the early R.E.M. records were a great basis because there wasn't a lot of overdubbing - it was just one guitar part and him playing the song. You could really tune in on what he was doing, His arpeggio style filled out the songs, and that was really how I learned a lot of what I do. ... If I had to rank [their albums], I would go "Lifes Rich Pageant," "Murmur," and then the rest.
Same here. With "Fables of the Reconstruction", "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" and "Reckoning" (or "Chronic Town") rounding out the Top 5.

March 17, 2014

So ... Spring Training

The Red Sox are in spring training - ready to defend their third World Series title in 10 years - and I have posted next to nothing about it.

While I've read random articles about what is going on in the last month, I have not been following all that closely. (Here is a look at the likely roster.)

What this lack of interest means for the regular season, if anything, I have no idea. I'm pretty sure that once the games begin, I'll be back in the blogging groove (such as it is).

Xander says Opening Day is two weeks away!

March 15, 2014

Keri, On Red Sox: "Moneyball ... But With Money"

Jonah Keri, Grantland:
If almost everything went wrong for Boston in 2012, then almost everything went right in 2013. The Red Sox can hope physical therapy turns this team into baseball's version of the Steve Nash–Grant Hill Phoenix Suns, who enjoyed extraordinary team health despite carrying multiple injury-prone players. They can hope the bench keeps producing, the next generation of young power pitchers clicks, and the position prospects fulfill their potential. But it’s no sure thing.

What is a sure thing, however, is that even if Boston fails to repeat this year, the franchise is in good hands. Instead of settling for a stars-and-scrubs roster, this team is putting thought into every little detail that goes into building a winner. The Red Sox are winning with money, and with Moneyball.
Joel Sherman, Post:
In the here and now, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Derek Jeter are red-flag injury risks and Kelly Johnson is a neophyte third baseman. There is arguably no greater risk-reward infield in the whole sport than the Yankees'. They can have a high-production unit or a high-wire disaster.

No matter the result, the Yankees are looking at a renovation for next season. ... [But] the Yankees simply have no answers coming.

March 12, 2014

"Call The Count": A Horrible Idea

At the Red Sox spring training game yesterday, the public address man announced each pitch as either a ball or a strike, and then announced the updated count. After. Every. Pitch. Could the team have come up with a worse idea than "Call The Count"?

The Globe reported that team president Larry Lucchino first raised the idea more than a year ago.

Charles Steinberg, executive vice president of the Red Sox:
It's an idea that people have been debating about at Fenway Park for more than a year. We figured, instead of continuing to debate about it in the abstract, let's use our spring training testing ground to put it into practice. ... The premise of the idea is the count is so germane to the outcome of the at-bat, and there's a greater emphasis on that right now by fans than there used to be. The unintended benefit that we saw today is that in our iPhone world, where your eyes are focusing on e-mails and texts, hearing the pitch and the count keep you posted and maybe your eyes go back up to the game when you hear it's a full count. The worry we had going into it was whether an announcer would be intrusive into the ambiance that you like to have.
Anyone at the ball park who is curious about the count only has to look at one of several scoreboards around the park. Or, you know, simply pay attention to the game. Perhaps reading and sending emails and texts can wait until the half-inning is over. If not, then perhaps you don't really care all that deeply about the progress of the game.

John Lackey, who made his first appearance of the spring in the game, was not distracted by the additional noise, but added:
That's a bad idea.
John Farrell:
Certainly different in the atmosphere of the ballpark. Other than that, I really don't have any comment.
Torey Lovullo:
I'm very traditional and it was a little bit different from what we're used to.
Peter Abraham, Globe:
People can decide what they care about and if they care about the count, they can turn their heads an inch and look at the scoreboard. Games are too noisy as it is. We need fewer distractions at the ballpark, not more.
Michael Silverman, Herald:
It was fair to say that players, who did not want to speak publicly about it, did not consider the experiment a success.
The Red Sox should be cutting out distractions and unnecessary noise from games, not adding to the irritating cacophony. Stop the commercials between innings. Stop the excessive music (which, to cite only one example, has completely ruined the joy of watching batting practice). Pare the intrusions down to the absolutely essential. We come to the park to watch the game. Let us focus on the game.

March 10, 2014

Everyone Loves A Contest #15

With Opening Day exactly three weeks away (March 31), it's time for this year's Red Sox W-L Contest!

Correctly guess Boston's 2014 regular season record and win a copy of Don't Let Us Win Tonight, autographed by both authors. (Of course, you should be buying a copy of the book this spring, so I'll come up with a second prize, too.)

Contest entries must be emailed to me and include the following two items:

1. Predicted 2014 W-L record
2. Tiebreaker: Xander Bogaerts's OPS (OBP+SLG)

W-L guesses must be exact. Tiebreaker winner will be the closest guess, either over or under.

Deadline: Sunday, March 30, 11:59 PM.

March 8, 2014

Henry To Marlins: Drop Dead

Red Sox President John Henry responded this afternoon to the Marlins' spring training lineup 'outrage':

March 4, 2014

Grantland: Red Sox Now In The "Post-Nonsense Era"

Charles Pierce, Grantland:
If the 2004 championship was the end to 86 years of frustration, heartbreak, and noxious self-regard, and the 2007 championship was a validation of the new era, the 2013 championship was a nice little semi-fluky lagniappe that laid to rest forever all the cosmic talk of cosmic curses ...

What is left is pure normality. That will be the lasting legacy of the 2013 champions: Boston was a well-constructed baseball team ... unburdened by history. It did not have the deadweight of decades hanging around its neck. It was as loose as the 2004 team was and, when it had to be, it was as coldly efficient as the 2007 bunch. ...

[2013] was the first Red Sox championship of the Post-Nonsense Era.

March 3, 2014

"Don't Let Us Win Tonight" - Back Cover

At least one person received her copy of Don't Let Us Win Tonight this afternoon!

For everyone else, here's the book's back cover: