March 31, 2007

Predictions And Projections VI

Sports Illustrated:

Regular Season Power Rankings (Top 10):
Red Sox
Blue Jays
AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Devil Rays
Other Divisions: Cleveland, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers
Wild Cards: Red Sox, Atlanta
ALDS: Yankees over Cleveland; Angels over Red Sox
NLDS: Dodgers over Atlanta; Mets over Cardinals
ALCS: Angels over Yankees
NLCS: Dodgers over Mets
WS: Angels over Dodgers

In SI's "Consider This: a modest proposal..." for the Sox, they suggest batting JD Drew second, not Kevin Youkilis:
"Youkilis brings a high OBP and patience to the job, but as a slow righthanded hitter he's a double-play liability. Drew is faster and as a lefthanded batter is more apt to take advantage of a hole created by the opposing team holding Lugo on first base. More simply, Drew's a better hitter than Youkilis. The idea is to get the best players the most at bats. The difference between batting fifth and batting second is more than 50 plate appearances in a full season. If Drew gets those rather than Youkilis, the Red Sox will score more runs."
I like the idea of having Drew #2 -- I proposed a Yook-Drew 1-2 over the winter, if I recall -- but that would mean there's a less potent bat behind Manny. But I'm not going to get too worked up over Francona's batting order, though I do hope that if Varitek struggles again, he gets dropped to 8th.

G38: A Good Deed

Schilling at SoSH:
[G]iven all the hoopla over what's happened with MLB and TV, I will be running a contest starting on Monday, where Shonda and I will pick two people a day to receive the MLB.TV package, on us, for the 2007 season. Contest will run around 2 weeks or so. One entry per day, per family.
Rules will be posted at 38pitches on Monday.

"You Have To Really Screw Up To Make Cable Look Good"

Joe Nocera has a fantastic article in today's New York Times on MLB, DirecTV, In Demand, and the Extra Innings package. It's a "Times Select" article, which means you have to pay to read it , but here's a sizeable chunk of the article (with my bolding):
ESPN today, for instance, charges cable distributors like Comcast around $3 a subscriber each month, while many regional sports networks can charge $2 a month per subscriber. Nonsports networks, even popular ones like CNN or Discovery, can't charge anything close to that.

As a result, sports has become some of the most valuable content on television. The National Football League, for instance, reaps more than $3 billion in annual television fees — an amount that goes up every time it negotiates a new deal.

The various sports leagues have also tried to take advantage of their power as content providers by starting their own networks, like the three-year-old NFL Network, to reap even more rewards, in the form of ad revenue and subscriber fees.

But here's where things get sticky. The cable companies have a lot of power, too. They hate the amount of money they have to pay to sports networks. Comcast, for instance, has broached the idea of putting sports on a special "sports tier" so only sports fans would pay for it. But the sports networks all want to be on the basic tiers, where there are more subscribers and they can make more money.

... What does this have to do with the battle over Extra Innings? Oh, everything.

Major League Baseball is way behind the other sports leagues in developing its own channel — the current plan is for the baseball channel to begin operation in 2009. ... And seeing the difficulties the N.F.L. and N.B.A. have had getting the cable companies to accept their networks, baseball decided, essentially, to shove its baseball channel down cable's throat.

How did it do this? By making the acceptance of the still-to-be-conceived baseball channel a condition for renewing the Extra Innings package.

For DirecTV, this was a wonderful plan. Knowing that cable would gag at the thought of having to take the baseball channel, it readily agreed to make the channel available to 80 percent of its subscribers when it started up in 2009, which will probably be around 15 million homes. It agreed to pay $100 million a year for Extra Innings (though that price depends on its remaining exclusive to DirecTV). And -- get this -— it got a 20 percent equity stake in the baseball channel. So if cable winds up taking the baseball channel, DirecTV will profit. They are smart guys over there at DirecTV.

Once In Demand, which is jointly owned by Comcast, Time Warner and Cox, got wind of what DirecTV was going to do, it raced to Major League Baseball with its own offer: it would ensure that the baseball channel was available to 15 million homes on the day it went live — so long as it could get a renewal of the Extra Innings package. And it would pay a portion of the $100 million rights fee, though it offered different, less onerous, terms than Major League Baseball wanted. Baseball said no. For In Demand to get Extra Innings it would have to make 80 percent of its digital subscribers available to the baseball channel -— not "just" 15 million homes — and it would have to pay the bulk of the $100 million fee. And that is where things stand now -— and where they are likely to remain.

So let's think about what baseball has done here. In the interest of seeing to it that its baseball channel gets a running start on DirecTV, it has infuriated the cable industry, which is now unlikely to ever give it the time of day. It has turned down the opportunity to be guaranteed an astounding 30 million subscribers on Day 1 because it wants to squeeze the cable industry for more.

"They allowed the cable industry, which is probably the most reviled industry this side of used car dealers, to become the victims in this thing," said Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based SportsCorp. "You have to really screw up to make cable look good."

Plus, it has alienated 200,000 of its most passionate customers -— the ones willing to pay $165 a year to see baseball games every night -— taking away from them a fruit they had already tasted. Plus, it has forced those same fans to go to the baseball Web site to see those games -— which, however good the site is, still entails scrunching over a screen and looking at a picture that doesn't compare to say, a flat-screen plasma TV. Plus, it has reminded the world yet again how much sports is just another greedy business -— exactly what its customers don't want to be reminded of. Plus, it's gotten Congress up in arms.

Nice going, fellas. The N.F.L. would never do anything this dumb. Of course, that's one of the big differences between pro football and pro baseball. The football guys actually know how to run their business with some intelligence.

When you talk to baseball officials about this, they sound beleaguered and misunderstood. The baseball channel, Mr. DuPuy told me, was critical to the future of baseball.

"We should be applauded," he said, for making it available in 15 million homes on the day it started. "This is a business judgment," he added, and baseball had a right to make its own business decisions.
The existence of DirecTV's 20% stake in The Baseball Channel is news to me. So if DirecTV's competitors end up carrying TBC, DirecTV will still profit? Nice work. I knew there had to be some shady stuff going on -- the exclusive deal makes no sense from almost every angle -- and this sure seems like some of it.

The deal remains officially unresolved -- and Opening Day is (as I type) about 24 hours away.

Predictions And Projections V

ESPN on the East:

          1st        2nd        3rd
Gammons Bos 92-70 NYY 90-72 Tor 88-74
Stark Bos 96-66 NYY 91-71 Tor 85-77
Crasnick Bos 94-68 NYY 91-71 Tor 84-78
Olney Bos 93-69 NYY 89-73 Tor 84-78
Neyer NYY 94-68 Bos 91-71 Tor 83-79
Kurkjian NYY 94-68 Bos 92-70 Tor 89-73
Phillips NYY 96-66 Tor 88-74 Bos 82-80
Law NYY 94-68 Bos 93-69 Tor 87-75
Caple NYY 95-67 Bos 90-72 Tor 81-81
Karabell NYY 92-70 Bos 90-72 Tor 83-79
SoSHer thisyearisthe: "If Steve Phillips has the Sox at 82-80, that tells me to clear the calendar for October."

Also at ESPN, Dan Patrick and Jim Callis picked the Red Sox to win the World Series (Callis had them defeating the Brewers (!)). Also, the LF in ESPN's All-American League team was "Manny Rodriguez". It has since been changed.

At Yahoo, there is a ton of stuff:

Jeff Passan:
Red Sox    98-64   -
Yankees 92-70 6
Blue Jays 83-79 15
Orioles 71-91 27
Devil Rays 70-92 28
Passan: As much as the Braves like to make of their 14 consecutive division championships, the Yankees are at nine and counting in a far tougher AL East. Making it to double digits won't be easy, not with a Boston rotation that features the dynamic Daisuke Matsuzaka as their No. 3 starter. The Red Sox go equally deep in their lineup, and if their bullpen shores up, they're the best team in baseball.

AL/NLDS: Red Sox over Angels; Cleveland over Yankees; Phillies over Cardinals; Dodgers over Mets
ALCS: Red Sox over Cleveland
NLCS: Dodgers over Phillies
World Series: Red Sox over Dodgers

Tim Brown:
Yankees    98-64   -
Red Sox 96-66 2
Blue Jays 85-77 13
Orioles 73-89 25
Devil Rays 70-92 28
Brown: The last time Alex Rodriguez played in a contract year (2000), he hit 41 home runs, drove in 132 runs, batted .316 and finished third in the AL MVP voting. By chance, future teammate Jason Giambi was the AL MVP that season and future former best friend Derek Jeter finished 10th. I'm just saying(*).

AL/NLDS: Tigers over Red Sox; Angels over Yankees; Dodgers over Phillies; Mets over Astros
ALCS: Tigers over Angels
NLCS: Dodgers over Mets
World Series: Tigers over Dodgers

(*) - Yeah, saying absolutely nothing. Not one thought about the 2007 club, but what happened 7 years ago is considered relevant? Why didn't you mention how Troy O'Leary (2000 LF) will impact Boston's chances this summer?

Predictions And Projections IV


East: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Devil Rays

Divisions: White Sox, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers

Wild Cards: Tigers, Phillies

AL MVP Top 3: Michael Young, Jeter, Mauer

NL MVP Top 3: Pujols, Wright, Howard

AL Cy Young Top 3: Wang, Santana, Halladay

NL Cy Young Top 3: Oswalt, Zito, Schmidt

AL Rookie: Alex Gordon (KC)

NL Rookie: Andy LaRoche (LA)

ALCS: Yankees over White Sox

NLCS: Dodgers over Mets

WS: Yankees over Dodgers

Final Analysis:
[New York's] veteran rotation will be hailed for its experience, but that won't matter much if injuries sabotage the team's chances. ... the lineup is too talented not to lead them back [to the playoffs]. But with the ultimate burden on their creaky rotation, the Yankees could fall short again. ...

On paper, [Boston] looks a good deal stronger [than last year], particularly in the lineup and starting rotation. If the Red Sox can get their bullpen situation straightened out and settle on a closer, they should be back in the mix for a playoff berth. ...

For the Blue Jays to sniff the playoffs in 2007, either the Yankees or Red Sox will need to stumble in a big way.
Street & Smith's:

East: Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Devil Rays

Other Divisions: Tigers, Angels, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers

Wild Cards: Yankees, Mets

WS: Red Sox over Dodgers

MVP: Guerrero, Pujols

CYs: Santana, Zambrano

Rookies: Matsuzaka, Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies)

Power Ratings (1-5):
           Bos  NYY  Tor
Rotation 5 3 3
Bullpen 3 3 2
Infield 3 4 3
Outfield 4 5 3
Catching 3 4 3
Bench 3 3 2
Defense 4 1 3
Management 5 4 3
Several teams are a "2" on defense, but the Yankees are the only team who rated a "1".

Scouts Say:
I'd like them [Red Sox] a lot better if they had a bona fide closer ... Other than that, they're going to pitch -- there's no doubt. ... They're going to need to get some production from some spots that didn't give them much last year, like center field. ... The bullpen is a mix of good young arms and some veterans who can help out those kids. They need somebody to step uo and pitch the ninth, but they should be all right before that.

Wow. You have to feel bad for anybody who has to pitch to [New York's] lineup. ... The pitching? Different story. ... Pavano is always hurt. Mussina and Pettitte are in decline. Igawa, we had him projected as a reliever. And that bullpen. Yikes. ... If they don't want to overwork Rivera, they're going to have to live with some rough times in the late innings.

Predictions And Projections III

The Providence Journal's Steve Krasner's 2007 predictions:
East: Boston, New York, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Baltimore
Other divisions: Cleveland, Oakland, Philadelphia, Cubs, Dodgers
Wild Cards: Yankees, Mets
World Series: Red Sox over Mets
MVP: Ortiz and Soriano
CY: "Roger Clemens, Boston", Zito
Ian Browne,, from a few days ago:
If you would have asked me yesterday who my favorite was to win the American League East, I would have said the Yankees. Today [Papelbon named as closer], I'd say the Red Sox, because they have eliminated what was far and away, their biggest question mark. Then again, the margin is not very big. I predict that the difference in the AL East this year is two games, maximum. It's going to be wild.
From the Boston Globe:
          Sox   NYY   WS
Edes: East WC Red Sox over Dodgers
Benjamin: East 2nd Red Sox over Dodgers
Ryan: East WC Red Sox over Mets
CHB: WC 3rd Tigers over Dodgers
As you can probably tell, the Curly One believes Toronto will top the East. Not even Richard Griffin at the Toronto Star was that bold (or whatever word you want you use); he went with a repeat of last year's standings.

Tavarez Is Happy, Pesky Is Not

Julian Tavarez says getting the job as the #5 starter:
was like a dream come true. I didn't think it was going to happen. ... I was embarrassed last year. It was my first year. I was more embarrassed than hurt, or worried about the money. I was embarrassed to face my teammates. I apologized to Francona so many times. But it's a lot different for me this year. ... I'm very happy they're counting on me.
More from Sexy Lips here.

MLB has decided to strictly enforce its rule about unauthorized people in the dugout during a game. Which means Johnny Pesky will lose his seat on the bench. Theo Epstein admitted: "We've been breaking the rule all along and they told us they were going to strictly enforce it -- heavy fines that progressively get heavier every day he's in the dugout."

Joe Garagiola Jr., senior vice president for baseball operations:
Red Schoendienst is in uniform every night, down on the field, talking to players, hitting infield. But when the game starts, he's sitting upstairs with Walt [Jocketty, the Cardinals GM]. Cardinals fans can say Red Schoendienst is as beloved [as Pesky]. If [Pesky] can be on the bench, why not Schoendienst?
I don't care about this one way or the other, but there is a petition you can sign in favour of letting Pesky stay.

Gordon Edes reports from today's game:
Daisuke Matsuzaka has had control issues, especially with his off-speed pitches, bouncing his slider to [left-handed] hitters. He threw 26 pitches in the first inning ... His velocity has consistently been 93-94.
Dice's line: 4-2-3-4-7, 82. The Sox lead 6-3 after 4 innings. David Ortiz has homered and both JD Drew and Coco Crisp have two hits.

MLB's Civil Rights Game

MLB -- which worked very hard to keep black players out of its ranks for more than 60 years -- will hold the first Civil Rights Game in Memphis today.

St. Louis and Cleveland (for whom Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League, played) will take the field at 5:30. I find it odd that Bud Selig et al. believe a team that proudly wears this

on their hats -- and has it plastered all over its park -- should be part of this event. Naturally, the team won't wear that during this exhibition. They'll wear this instead
which could be seen as an admission that its regular cap might not be in keeping with the whole progressive, open-minded, anti-prejudice vibe MLB would like to project.

Here's the logo the team used from 1946-1950. Doby played in Cleveland from 1947-1955.

The legend that the team was named to honor former player Louis Sockalexis is a myth. About eight years ago, historians announced -- after reading articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer from early 1915 -- that the name was actually chosen by a group of sportswriters.

Amazingly, some people insist that these images are not racist, that they actually honour Native Americans. What about having these on a team's caps and shirts?

March 30, 2007

Friday In Philly

The lineup:
Lugo, SS
Youkilis, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Drew, RF
Lowell, 3B
Varitek, C
Crisp, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ramirez, Pedroia, Drew and Youkilis all hit home runs of Cole Hamels (who allowed only 6 total hits in five innings). Nice. The infield turned three DPs behind groundballer Julian Tavarez (5.2-6-1-0-2, 69). Very nice.

Kyle Synder imploded in the bottom of the 9th, but the Red Sox hung on for a 6-5 win.

Friday Link-O-Rama

Tim Wakefield tried teaching the knuckleball to Daisuke Matsiuzaka: "He's got no chance."

Curt Schilling worked on his splitter Wednesday night, allowing two hits in 4.2 innings and lowering his spring ERA to 1.71. Coco Crisp hit two doubles off Johan Santana.

Theo Epstein talks about the 2007 club:
It's always wait and see with every team in the bullpen. I think we have some veteran talent in the big leagues right now, guys with good makeup, and I think we have the best depth we've had in Triple A in a long time.
The Globe also has stories on several Japanese players, including Masanori Murakami, Takashi Sait, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Hideki Irabu.

Jonathan Papelbon turned his right ankle covering first base on a groundout in the 9th inning. The Herald said he:
briefly winced in pain yesterday when he stepped awkwardly on the edge of the bag after taking the throw from Joe McEwing ... He hobbled for a few steps but insisted on remaining in the game ... Papelbon, who tested the ankle by throwing a couple of warmup pitches, struck out the next two batters, Jonny Gomes and Josh Paul.
I'm all right. I just had a little bit of tingling. I just rolled my ankle. That was it.
Dustin Pedroia will change his uniform number from 64 to 15: "They say I'm going to hear about it [from Millar] because he thinks it should be retired."

Among the superstitions of various Sox: Wily Mo Pena
sniffs the pine tar on the handle of his black, 35-inch model C43 Louisville Slugger [in the on-deck circle]. He starts at the handle and slowly moves toward the barrel. When he gets near the meat of the bat, he opens his mouth and grips the bat as if he's being fitted for a mouthpiece. "I bite it with my teeth and give it a kiss. ... I don't really taste it. I just give it a little grip with my teeth."
Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen are in Pawtucket. ... Jon Lester will begin the season at Greenville (A), making four starts for manager Gabe Kapler.

Red Sox starters have a 2.02 ERA (11 ER in 49 IP) in the last nine spring games. ... Julio Lugo is batting .381 (8-21) in his last seven games. ... Doug Mirabelli is 0-for-his-last-20 and 4-for-34 (.118) overall. ... Kevin Youkilis is hitting .392 with a .508 on-base percentage.

Julian Tavarez starts against the Phillies tonight, with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kyle Snyder pitching on Saturday. The starters will get about three AB in each game.

Buchholz Gets Start Against Tampa

Top pitching prospect Clay Buchholz pitched 4.2 innings against Tampa Bay yesterday, allowing seven hits and two runs (both in the fifth). He did not walk anyone and struck out three. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.

I felt like I threw my fastball really well. When you get swings and misses with the fastball at this level, you probably did something right with it.
John Farrell:
You can see why people are so excited about his potential, largely in part because he was able to get quite a few swings and misses with his fastball. To me, if you’re looking at one thing in one game, when a pitcher can get that, they not only have life in the zone, but with a deceptive delivery, hitters aren’t tracking the ball regularly.
Theo Epstein:
This time of year he pitches in the low 90s. Last year, toward the end of year, he was consistently 92-94 and touched 97. He has a good live fastball, and when he's on, the slider, curve, and change will be double-plusses. ... He's a little raw. He's made only a handful of starts above low A ball. Fastball command is his biggest issue this year. He's an outstanding athlete with a lightning-quick arm and really advanced secondary stuff.
Jonathan Papelbon:
Regardless of stats, I know for sure he collected a lot of information today, just by sitting in the dugout and seeing how players go about their business and learning how to be a professional. For me, I was listening and watching everything and I was learning [in 2005]. I think he did well.
Buchholz will start the year in Portland (AA).


From a transcript of a lengthy Q&A with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima:
Matsuzaka: "I think rather than saying that I was a fan of the [Yankees], I had something for pinstripes as a uniform. Even teams in Japan, whether it was high schools or whatever. When I first joined the Japanese national team, at the time, our uniform had vertical pinstripes, too. From that moment on, I just had a thing for vertical stripes. That being said, I don't really like the Hanshin Tigers.
[bangs head on desk]

Dice also acted out his most vivid memory of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, suddenly slamming his right elbow (!) on the table. Translator Masa Hoshino: "That was Pedro throwing down Zimmer."

March 29, 2007

Predictions And Projections II

The Sporting News

East: New York, Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay.

Other division winners: Twins, Angels, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers.

TSN's AL "Power Poll" Top 5: Twins, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox (Toronto is #9). In the MLB "Power Poll", the Top 10: Twins, Tigers, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, Cardinals, White Sox, Angels, Dodgers.'s Ian Browne writes the Sox preview, offering a pretty basic rundown of the regulars and starters. This bit sounded a little MUMSy: "the somewhat unfocused Ramirez always has been an adventure in left ... Ramirez can be very moody and doesn't show up every day, especially on defense".

And then there's this: "Drew is a classic underachiever ... finds reasons to stay out of the lineup." MUDS, anyone?

Grades (on a 1-10 scale?) of Red Sox and Yankees:
Lugo      7.5     Damon    8.9
Youkilis 7.3 Jeter 9.5
Ortiz 9.8 Abreu 9.0
Ramirez 9.3 Slappy 9.4
Drew 8.5 Giambi 8.8
Lowell 7.8 Matsui 8.8
Crisp 7.8 Cano 9.1
Varitek 8.4 Posada 8.0
Pedroia 6.9 Phillips 6.3

Schilling 9.0 Wang 9.3
Beckett 8.8 Pettitte 8.0
Matsuzaka 8.6 Mussina 8.6
Papelbon 9.2 Igawa 6.5
Wakefield 8.0 Pavano 6.9
Pineiro 7.0 Rivera 9.5
TSN's 7 contributors pick:

AL MVP: Ortiz 2, Mauer 2, Slappy 2, Hafner.

NL MVP: Pujols 5, David Wright, Jose Reyes.

AL Cy: Santana 6, Ervin Santana 1.

NL Cy: Oswalt 2, Carpenter 2, Chris Young 1, Carlos Zambrano 1.

WS: Angels 2, Mets 2, Tigers, Dodgers, Yankees.

Predictions And Projections I


East: New York, Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay.

Other division winners: Tigers, Angels, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers.

Wild Cards: Red Sox and Padres.

World Series: Yankees over Dodgers.

Managers of Year: Joe Torre, Lou Pinella.

MVPs: Ortiz, Jose Reyes (Mets).

RoYs: Delmon Young (Devil Rays), Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies).

Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Carlos Zambrano (Cubs).

Rookie Pitcher: Matsuzaka, Mike Pelfry (Mets).

Lineup Projections:
          AVG  HR  RBI
Lugo .278 7 58
Youkilis .272 15 62
Ortiz .296 48 140
Ramirez .315 41 129
Drew .279 18 70
Lowell .274 22 86
Crisp .289 14 65
Varitek .264 16 71
Pedroia No Info

Cora .229 2 25
Hinske .277 20 76
Pena .279 17 68
Staff Projections:
            W   L   ERA   IP
Schilling 14 7 3.88 196.1
Beckett 15 12 4.30 210.2
Matsuzaka 17 9 3.29 211.0
Papelbon 12 10 3.76 182.2
Wakefield 11 11 4.46 202.0

Timlin 5 6 4.62 22 SV
Those are the only players for whom projections are given (and like all the magazines, Lindy's lists Papelbon as a starter).

Re Dice's 3.29 ERA: I think the only other pitchers with lower projected ERAs are Santana (2.88) and Halladay (2.98). How they get these projections is anyone's guess.

Lindy's notes: Ramirez "plays near the warning track at Fenway; doesn't have to go back". WTF?

To follow: The Sporting News, Street & Smith's and Athlon's.

Matsuzaka, Santana, Koufax, Pedro's Tom Singer thinks about the Cy Young Award, considers Daisuke Matsuzaka -- who has yet to throw even one pitch in an official major league game -- and decides: "The award is his to lose."

Well, that's a bit much, wouldn't you say?

About his predicted runner-up, Johan Santana, Singer writes: "People to whom tales of Sandy Koufax sound like legend are being treated to a reincarnation. ... Santana has gone 55-19 with an ERA nearly two runs below the league's overall number over the past three seasons."

Hyperbole? Singer's right to mention the ERA difference -- many media members simply look at the pitchers' respective ERAs, which is pretty meaningless when comparing pitchers in very different offensive periods. (They used to do that with Pedro's best years, saying he was nearing Koufax territory. With all due respect to Koufax, Pedro's best years mopped the freakin' floor with Koufax.)

Let's look at Koufax's best years and see how Santana's last five seasons match up:

      ERA  LgERA   Diff  ERA+  WHIP
1962 2.54 3.63 -1.09 143 1.036
1963 1.88 3.02 -1.14 161 0.875
1964 1.74 3.25 -1.51 187 0.928
1965 2.04 3.26 -1.22 160 0.855
1966 1.73 3.28 -1.55 190 0.985
       ERA LgERA   Diff  ERA+  WHIP
2002 2.99 4.42 -1.43 148 1.228
2003 3.07 4.62 -1.55 151 1.099
2004 2.61 4.73 -2.12 182 0.921
2005 2.87 4.40 -1.53 153 0.971
2006 2.77 4.47 -1.70 161 0.997
Ranking of ERA+
Koufax  1966 190
Koufax 1964 187
Santana 2004 182
Santana 2006 161
Koufax 1963 161
Koufax 1965 160
Santana 2005 153
Santana 2003 151
Santana 2002 148
Koufax 1962 143
That's much closer than I would have suspected. It looks like Koufax gets the edge, but Santana has had to deal with the DH, and stronger hitters overall.

How do Pedro's ERA+ for his first six Boston years fit into that list?

Ranking of ERA+
Pedro   2000 285
Pedro 1999 245
Pedro 2003 212
Pedro 2002 196
Koufax 1966 190
Pedro 2001 189
Koufax 1964 187
Santana 2004 182
Santana 2006 161
Koufax 1963 161
Pedro 1998 160
Koufax 1965 160
Santana 2005 153
Santana 2003 151
Santana 2002 148
Koufax 1962 143
That 285 is the greatest season of all-time, at least since the mound was moved back to its current distance of 60 feet, 6 inches.

March 28, 2007

A Joyful Sound

My chat with BLBR on the 2007 Red Sox can be heard here.

March 27, 2007

Schilling On Blogging

Talking about the power of the internets with Alex Belth:
There is the potential to change the way people get their news. Fast-forward this to Opening Day. It's a 2 p.m. game, hopefully I'll pitch great and we'll win. Sometime around 7 or 8 o'clock that night I'll sit down -- I'm on the road, I'm by myself -- I'll blog out the game, pitch-by-pitch in some instances, inning-by-inning, I'll go into minutia ... By 9 o'clock that night I'll have a post up. ... Those people will know about things they could never read about [in the newspapers], 12 hours before the newspapers ever come out.
I'm very curious how many players will eventually do something like this. (C.J. Nitkowski has been blogging for a long time. What other players write blogs?) Maybe they won't bang out 3,000 words a day, but they might dictate some thoughts to an assistant, something beyond post-game cliches, that fans can sink their teeth into.

SG quotes a great exchange Schilling had with WEEI's Gerry Callahan about a week ago:
GC: So, it's like you're kinda cutting out the middle man.

CS: What do you mean, "kinda"?
The CHB wrote a beyond-lame parody (no link, you can find it if you're curious) of the Q&A posts that Schilling has been writing, answering questions from fans. Curt responds, umm, curtly:
Putting his inherent "toolness" on display for all the world to see did far more than I could ever hope to do by trying to explain what a dope he is.
Expect to hear and read sarcasm, griping and ridicule from various print journalists who have few skills, no desire to inform, or even a love for baseball. They are fast becoming irrelevant.

P.S. How many families are there in which both the mother and daughter write Red Sox blogs?

The Roster Is Set

The roster is set. Here is the pitching staff:

I would have thought that Lopez (who edged Manny Delcarmen for the final spot) was redundant because of the other lefties, Okajima and Romero. Lopez is out of options, but he should slip through waivers as teams will still have their Opening Day rosters in place.

With a 12-man staff, we'll have a 4-man bench: Mirabelli, Cora, Pena, Hinske.

The D Word

I haven't been keeping track, but is the CHB the first writer to call Matsuzaka a "diva"? (He cleverly [sic] phrased it as a question.)

Terry Francona was exasperated at the many questions about Dice-K's control (5 walks in 5 innings yesterday): "You guys are going to drive me nuts. This is a spring training game in Sarasota. Ease off. Now I know why he didn't want to talk to you guys."

Boston's Ritz-Carlton Boston Common serves a "Dice-K-Tini" in its restaurant/bar: 3 parts vodka, 1 part sake, and 1 part "passion fruit puree," with an ice cube in the form of frozen red dice.

Jonathan Papelbon relieved Matsuzaka yesterday and pitched a perfect sixth, retiring Ken Griffey Jr., Edwin Encarnacion and Scott Hatteberg. Confusion: Encarnacion flew to left in the Globe, but grounded out in the Herald. Judging from the box score, I believe the Globe is correct.

After Pap, Craig Hansen came in and allowed five runs in what has been a horrible spring. In 4 innings, he has allowed 13 baserunners and has a 15.43 ERA.

Julian Tavarez pitched five innings (65 pitches) for Portland yesterday, giving up two hits and an unearned run; he walked two and struck out one. ... Mike Timlin is expected to throw a side session today.

Jon Lester had another rough outing for Pawtucket. In three innings (46 pitches) against Rochester, he allowed three hits, three runs, walked two and struck out one. The PawSox won the game, 9-6.

Big Papi Bio

Reader Kevin F. alerts me to the April issue of Boston magazine. It includes excerpts of a biography written with the Herald's Tony Massarotti. It's due out April 17, according to Amazon (which also informs us that Flo "has a 3282 batting average"!).

As though we didn't have enough reasons to love Pedro Martinez:

After the 2002 season ended, I knew there was a chance I was not going back to Minnesota. I never thought it would happen the way it did. I was released. Not long after that, I was out to dinner at a restaurant in the Dominican named Vesuvio when I ran into Pedro Martinez and his cousin. We started to talk. Pedro made a call to Jack McCormick, the Red Sox's traveling secretary, and I think Jack called Theo Epstein. It didn't take too long for Epstein to call my agent, Fernando Cuza, and before I knew it we had a deal.

What if Pedro hadn't made that phone call, bro? What if I had signed somewhere else? What if I didn't get the chance to play in Boston, where people are as crazy about baseball as they are in the Dominican?
After we won the World Series, the whole city was going crazy. People were yelling out our names everywhere we went and we all felt like heroes. The day we had the parade we took the duck boats through the streets in downtown Boston. When we drove off the road and pulled into the Charles River, I looked at everybody and I was like, "How is this going to float, dude?" It was really cold outside and I don't really like the water, so I put on a life vest. Everybody cracked up.
I've always been surprised that there hasn't been any kind of Pedro bio. There are a couple of short books written for pre-teens and teenagers, but that's it.

March 26, 2007


Herald Blog, this morning:
Manny Ramirez was going to be here but he called in sick last night with the same bug – sore throat, etc. – that has already waylaid other Red Sox this spring.
Do you hit with your throat? No, you don't.

Dear Theo: Suspend this bum for 20 games. It's time to send a message. Gargle with warm salt water ... or else!

I Think He's Ready

                       IP  H ER BB  K  PIT
Wednesday vs Pirates: 5.2 1 1 1 7 92
Monday vs Reds: 5.0 0 0 5 6 104

Daisuke Matsuzaka had some trouble commanding the strike zone -- the high pitch count meant he did not work his scheduled six innings -- but he's allowed only one hit in his last 11.2 innings over three outings.

Matsuzaka will throw about 60 pitches on Saturday in an exhibition in Philadelphia, then it's on to Kansas City (with a cooler full of Asahi).

For most of the spring, the Sox top starters (and the past and future closer) have had excellent control. It is especially good news for Beckett, who walked a career-high 74 batters last year (only four AL pitchers franked more). To date:
             IP   BB    K
Beckett 25.2 4 29
Schilling 16.1 2 9
Wakefield 15.0 1 10
Matsuzaka 17.2 7 19
Papelbon 12.2 3 17
Dice came into his start today with a 2/13 split. Wakefield's ratio is superb, but he has given up 23 hits in those 15 innings.

Turn Up Your Radio

Joe Aiello at Big League Baseball Report invited me to discuss the 2007 Red Sox on his radio show/podcast.

I think the mp3 link will be posted on Wednesday. Meanwhile, here's link to Alex Belth's Yankees preview.

March 25, 2007

Beckett Shines Against Florida

In seven innings against the Marlins Sunday afternoon, Josh Beckett allowed only three singles, three walks and one unearned run; he struck out seven.

Beckett is throwing his breaking stuff more often, and with confidence. That is a very good sign. Of his 92 pitches, 24 were breaking balls.
If you look at my mechanics from last year to this year, I'm a lot slower, particularly out of the windup. I think going slower at the beginning and not rushing through your delivery, it helps me just throw the ball late. ...

A lot of it is just relaxing and throwing my pitch and getting back to the way I used to throw -- not trying to throw hard from the get-go. I'm slowing everything down and I'm throwing hard late.
After Beckett left, Brendan Donnelly pitched a perfect 8th and JC Romero allowed five runs in the 9th. Boston still won, 12-6.

The only roster battle of the spring is for the final spots in the pen. With Mike Timlin on the disabled list, there are now two openings for April 2. places five guys in the running: Kyle Snyder, Manny Delcarmen, Bryan Corey, Javier Lopez and Craig Hansen. There is no way Hansen is in the running; he'll start the year in Pawtucket. I'd say Snyder and MDC (Corey is a slight possibility).

Tito And Papelbon's Usage

Sean McAdam writes that it is:
unknown what restrictions will be placed on Papelbon's usage. How often can he pitch back-to-back games? How available will he be in a day game following a night game? How often can the Sox responsibly ask him to get more than three outs? ... Part of Papelbon's appeal last year was that he could be used in tie games, in extra innings and to work out of jams before the ninth. Should he be unable to duplicate that workload — and all evidence suggests he cannot fully — then the tradeoff [from starter to reliever] is even more complicated.
I understand that the team doesn't want to lay out explicitly how Papelbon will be used -- even their honest assessment could change -- but I'm concerned Terry Francona will not maxmize Papelbon's innings and will use him "by the book" -- strictly as a 9th inning closer.

Let's say Boston has a 4-3 lead in the 8th, and the opposing team has two guys on base, no one out and some big bats coming up. If everyone in the pen is available, who should Francona call? The proper answer would be Papelbon.

We are at the likely turning point of the game. Therefore, Tito should go with his best pitcher. He should not consider saving Papelbon for the 9th inning -- worry about the threat in front of you. In 2004, down 0-3 to the MFY, Francona wisely did not manage with the idea of who to use for a clinching Game 7. He worried only about getting through Game 4, because losing that game meant there would be no Game 7.

If Tito brings in Donnelly or Pineiro or whoever into our imagined jam, and the other team takes the lead, Papelbon's opportunity for a save has gone poof. It's smart baseball (and common sense) to use Pap to get out of the jam, then have the 2nd-best arm begin the 9th inning. (Psst: This is what the "committee" idea was all about. Making the best use of your resources. (Real nutty idea, huh?))

Ideally, Papelbon's save total should be meaningless. The goal should be to make sure he works in the most important late-inning situations. Don't waste him by having him start the 9th with a two-run lead.

Will it happen? Francona:
The hard thing for me is when you commit to a guy in the eighth inning, even with one out or no outs, getting through the eighth isn't always the problem. Say the guy's thrown 20-25 pitches, now you're committed to that guy in the ninth and you're looking at a 40-50 pitch outing. That's almost like a start.
Now you're committed to that guy in the ninth ... No, Tito, No! Jesus! Either Francona is playing dumb (a strong possibility, actually) or I'd better clear a spot on the table beside my TV chair on which to bang my head.

Coco Crisp's left shoulder is much better. He played for the first time since March 14. ... Hideki Okajima could be more than a LOOGY. He has thrown his changeup effectively to both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. ... Matt Clement believes he can pitch this season.

Curt Schilling on his April 2 start: "I don't want to be on a pitch count. I know I'm 40, but I don't think the ace of the staff should be on a pitch count." ... Whatever you say, Grady.

Earlier this week, Manny Ramirez chatted with's Maureen Mullen. Then "he picked up a bat with one hand and gave his interviewer a hug with his other arm, seemingly ending the conversation. He spritzed himself with cologne and headed out to the batting cages."


March 24, 2007

Weekend Update

Nearly one-third of Jonathan Papelbon's relief outings last season (18 of 59) were for more than one inning. That percentage will go way down this year.

Papelbon's initial statement -- "I won't be throwing four days in a row [and] I'm not going to be throwing in the eighth and ninth" changed to "We're going to devise a system of working out, throwing, everything ... Whether I'm going to be throwing in the eighth or ninth, I don't know yet." Terry Francona: "We have spent a significant amount of time on how he will be used."

On Friday, Curt Schilling pitched seven innings, allowing six hits and two runs. He threw only 85 pitches. "I certainly feel I'm far ahead of where I was last year. I feel very good." Schilling apologized to Francona for posting the Papelbon-to-close story on his blog before the team had made an official announcement.

Manny Delcarmen was involved in a minor car accident Thursday night; his vehicle was rear-ended and his back was a little sore. ... On Wednesday, Jon Lester gave up four hits, four runs and two walks in three innings.

As the team's fifth starter, Julian Tavarez will pitch April 7 in Texas. Did you know Sexy Lips had the team's only CG win last year (September 22, 7-1 vs Toronto).

Daisuke Matsuzaka put up a 5.2-1-1-1-7-92 line against the Pirates on Wednesday, retiring 15 of the last 16 hitters. He baffled several hitters by throwing certain pitches in unusual situations. Adam LaRoche: "I've never seen anyone throw that many different pitches, and he throws them all for strikes."

Manny Ramirez chatted with the Herald's Karen Guregian: "Why do people want to know what I think? I'm a private guy. You guys don't need my opinion. Who cares? ... I'm quiet. I like to play the game. I don't like to give opinions."

Ramirez passed up a light workout on Wednesday, asking instead to ride the bus and play against the Pirates. Tito: "He said he was bored." Manny collected an RBI single and two walks in three trips to the plate.

Guregian also talked with Pedro, who said he feels great. Martinez on the gyroball:
I think it's more of a backdoor slider. If that's what they call it in Japan, well, that's what they call it. ... He throws it from the outside, and it burns the corner. People have a tendency to give up on that pitch. If he throws hard, and he uses it, it'll be good. That's the mystery.
The Yankees' top starter, Chien-Ming Wang, will start the season on the disabled list with a right hamstring pull. He will miss the first three weeks of the season. ... Opening Day starter for the MFY? How about Carl Pavano (last major league game, June 27, 2005)?

Globe Needs Its Own Sox Survival Guide

The Globe's website has a Red Sox survival guide for the coming season because "not all New Englanders are diehard Sox fans".

However, the Globe could use its own refresher course in Red Sox history. Page 5 states:
The bitter Yankees-Red Sox rivalry dates back to the prehistoric ages -- or at least to 1918, when Sox pitcher-turned-outfielder Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees.
The Ruth sale was announced in January 1920 -- not in 1918. Indeed, Ruth blasted a major league record 29 home runs -- while becoming the most famous player in the game -- while playing for the Red Sox in 1919.

Why can't the Globe get its facts straight about the sale of the greatest player of all time?

March 23, 2007

"Closing Is In Jonathan's Heart ... I Think He's Finally Happy"

I just got back from dinner and the game today so I couldn't post. I've known for days that this was happening but couldn't say anything. First of all, this move is 100% what Jonathan wants, it has nothing to do with want anyone else wants. We have had many discussions over the last couple of days and I can say closing is in Jonathan's heart, he thrives on the pressure and competition. Chach is completely right on with his shoulder analysis. His shoulder was never injured, his MRi in 2003 was exactly the same as his MRI in 2006, the muscles were tired and couldn't hold his shoulder joint together. Jonathan is comfortable as the closer he wants the game to be on his "shoulders". He has not been able to concentrate, sleep or enjoy playing without thriving in the postition of closer. I have always said if the day comes when you are no longer having fun playing it's time to get out. He loves closing and I'm just glad he doing what he loves.
Jonathan's delivery is exactly the same as last year. I go through every pitch motion by motion when he pitches and I can say watching him today it was the same, now I will say I saw his demeanor in the 8th and 9th, the stare, the look, the confidence. I hadn't seen it thus far in ST. I think he's finally happy.

Jonathan is not concerned at all about his health because he knows what his offseaon strenthening did to help his shoulder, he said he's never felt stronger.
Noblepap is our closer's mom. ... I love the internets.

March 22, 2007

First Canada, Then the World ...

Jere initially saw it in the print edition (Dice is on the cover).

You can vote here. It's pretty cool even to be considered for inclusion in the poll, let alone be option (A). ... SoSH deserves every vote.

ESPN: Papelbon To Close

ESPN reports that Jonathan Papelbon will be the Red Sox closer.

More: Curt Schilling has already blogged:
No it wasn't a rash decision brought about by uncertainty. I can promise you there were many meetings involving many people that occurred before this took place. ...

Since he was hurt last year, like any smart athlete, he has taken the time to get educated on exactly how his shoulder works, and how best to address it and take care of it. The great part about that is that in my experience it's always taken a major surgery to get young pitchers with unhealthy shoulders to see the light, and that's not the case here.
Obviously, his health is the most important thing and from Papelbon's quotes this spring, his shoulder is doing very well. There has also been talk that his development of a third pitch has not been progressing as well as the team hoped.

I still believe that 200 innings of Pap is better than 70, though of course there was no guarantee he'd be able to get near 200 innings this year. And I suppose if they wanted to move him to the rotation for 2008, that would still be a possibility.

There is a lot we don't know about this yet. Was this a serious possible plan all winter/spring? Who is our 5th starter? Is it better to have a closer and a questionable 5th starter or Papelbon in the rotation and a questionable closer? How does Jon Lester fit into this? (This also will likely rekindle the Clemens discussion.)

How good would Papelbon have been in the rotation? Is it wise to take a potential #1 or #2 starter and move him to the bullpen? Team don't usually do that with an ace starter. I would have liked him to get a few starts in April before doing this.

The Red Sox and Papelbon are also talking about strict usage patterns. Pap has mentioned only one inning per outing and probably no more than three games per week. (So we're moving this guy out of the rotation for three (maybe four) high-leverage innings per week? This is where the "Closer/Questionable 5th starter vs. Papelbon/Questionable closer" debate gets sticky.)

Does that mean absolutely NO 4-out saves? What about five outs once a month? Who closes when Pap clearly cannot go? Can Tito stick to this plan, even if it means passing him over and giving the ball to someone else in a nail-biter against the Yankees?

March 21, 2007

Timlin On DL

Mike Timlin will open the season on the disabled list due to the team's cautious approach to bringing him back from a left oblique strain suffered on Feb. 25. ... Timlin is due back no earlier than April 10.
The Herald's Jeff Horrigan writes that "it appears" Julian Tavraez will be the closer, but there is no hint of attribution in his report. It could be simply his opinion. I'd say it's Joel Piniero, who earned a save yesterday against the Twins. Rotoworld says the Sox can now open the season with both Kyle Snyder and Manny Delcarmen.

March 20, 2007

Manny Selling A Grill On Ebay?

Hi, I'm Manny Ramirez. I bought this AMAZING grill for about $4,000 and I used it once... But I never have the time to use it because I am always on the road. I would love to sell it and you will get an autographed ball signed by me =] Enjoy it, Manny Ramirez.
If you recall, when Manny was asked what he was going to do with the ball he hit for his 400th career home run, he said: "I don't know, probably put it on eBay. I could see how much I could get. Probably $200."

We're gonna really miss this guy when he's gone.

March 18, 2007

Observation On Early Contest Entries

I have received 14 submissions in the W-L contest and one thing stands out: the higher the predicted wins, the lower Dice's estimated ERA.

The four readers with the lowest ERA predictions also submitted the four highest win totals. At the other end, the three highest ERAs are from the three readers who (so far) have predicted the fewest Sox wins.

Papelbon: "My Arm Felt Outstanding"

After a couple of relief appearances, Jonathan Papelbon made his first start of the spring on Saturday. His numbers against Cincinnati may not look good -- 3.2-5-2-1-5 and a HBP on 72 pitches -- but he was thrilled with how everything went:
I fell way behind too many hitters. For me, it's going to be important to get that game started on a good foot, establishing that strike zone, getting ahead and pounding that strike zone. ... My body felt outstanding, my arm felt outstanding. Everything physically felt really good, and that's a big, big plus for me. Getting my body into that stamina I need to get. Everything building up to becoming a guy that can go 7-8 innings.
In the same game, Joel Pineiro allowed two hits but no runs in 1.1 innings. ... In a minor league game, Tim Wakefield pitched five scoreless innings (5-2-0-0-4) while Brendan Donnelly allowed five runs in only .2 of an inning.

Jon Lester will probably start the season in Pawtucket. ... Dustin Pedroia was hit by a pitch below the knuckle of his left pinkie finger; x-rays were negative. He missed a month last year when he was hit in a similar spot on his right hand.

Mike Timlin played catch for 10 minutes (tossing from up to 90 feet) on both Friday and Saturday and reported no soreness or stiffness. He won't throw off a mound for another three or four days. Since the team is adamant about not rushing him back, he'll most likely begin the season on the DL.

Hideki Okajima, on the team's St. Patrick's Day jerseys: "The green uniform made me feel like an inchworm." Earlier this spring, when asked about toiling in Daisuke Matsuzaka's shadow: "I don't mind being a hero in the dark."

March 17, 2007

Dice Walks, Scores, Throws 111 Pitches

Daisuke Matsuzaka got one plate appearance against the Dodgers on Friday. The opposing pitcher, catcher and umpire all knew Dice was under strict orders not to swing the bat.

Called strike. Called strike. Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. ... Then Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch and Eric Hinske hit a three-run homer. (The walk would have been more amusing if Matsuzaka had not brought a bat to the plate.)

On the mound, Matsuzaka had a 2-3-1-0-3 line on 34 pitches before the game was rained out with Boston up 5-1. Dice threw 77 more pitches in five simulated innings in the batting cage.

Coco Crisp is batting .179 this spring (5-for-28, with four singles), but he says his left index finger is fine. ... Jon Lester pitched two innings yesterday for Pawtucket. He faced six Rochester batters, allowing one hit, striking out two, and throwing 20 pitches.

Both Fay Vincent and John Dowd say Pete Rose's admission that he bet on the Reds to win every night is not true. When either Mario Soto or Bill Gullickson was on the hill, Rose did not bet. Vincent: "He didn't think they were going to win." ... Cincinnati native Kevin Youkilis offers his thoughts on Rose.

March 16, 2007

Everybody Loves A Contest IV

Predict the Red Sox's final W-L record and win big prizes*!

All you need to do is send me an email with your:
Red Sox W-L record
Matsuzaka's ERA (in case of a tie)
Entries can be sent any time before noon on Sunday, April 1.

* I'm not sure what the prize(s) will be yet.

Rob Bradford Q&A At YF/SF

Anybody who said that the game is being reported the same now as it was a few years ago isn't correct. ... In terms of reacting to the web, I think reporters have become better overall because of the pressure put on by those who don't have credentials. More and more people are analyzing and dissecting the game for public consumption, which wasn't the case until recently. There are more checks and balances than ever before, and in the end that is a good thing ...
Rob does not believe the Sox will pick up Manny Ramirez's option for 2009.

March 14, 2007

Top 9

NESN wants you to vote for your Top 9 Moments in Red Sox History.

As is the case with most of these kinds of polls/surveys, very recent events are overly emphasized. More than one-third of the choices -- 8 of 22 -- are from the last eight years. Only six are before 1967 -- and three of those involve Ted Williams.

Craig Hansen is working on reclaiming his slider. After watching hours of video, pitching coach John Farrell thinks Hansen was positioned too far towards the third-base side of the rubber.
What that caused him to do was really open his front side too early in his delivery, giving the hitter a much longer look at his arm swing, and track the ball. By going to the first-base side, it allows his lead shoulder to stay closed longer, which is a primary goal in his delivery. That's going to allow him to create that shape and depth to the slider.
Matthew Whipps at MVN gives us his Top 10 prospects.

Slappy to NY: Love Me Or Goodbye (Maybe)

Alex Rodriguez, yesterday afternoon, on WFAN:
At some point either New York is going to say, 'I've had enough of this guy, get him the hell out of here,' and we have an option, or New York is going to say, 'Hey you know what, we won a world championship, you had a big year, you're a part of it, we want you back,'. I also want to make sure that from the fans [and] management that I'm wanted here.
Slappy backtracked a few hours later:
Those questions were an absolute dog fight for 15 minutes. I was basically doing the best I could for 15 minutes. They were pretty crazy questions. I felt like I was under the gun. The bottom line is I want to be in New York 100 percent. ... The last thing I'm going to do is run away from New York and say New York is too tough and I'm going to go.
Rodriguez is due $27 million per season from the Yankees in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but he has the option of becoming a free agent after this season.

Slappy should really take a page from The Book of Manny -- and keep his yap closed.

March 12, 2007

Red Sox 7, Yankees 5

Bottom of the 7th. Tie game, 4-4. Runners at 1st and 3rd. None out. David Ortiz at the plate.

Even in the middle of March, Flo gets it done.

After falling behind 1-2, he worked the count full before hitting a long fly ball to right center than brought Julio Lugo in with the go-ahead run. Two more Sox crossed in that inning and Javier Lopez and Craig Hansen shut the door.
Yankees - 300 100 010 - 5 12 1
Red Sox - 020 002 30x - 7 11 0

... Working As An Usher at Fenway?

San Francisco Chronicle:
Most recently, the bullpen-depleted Red Sox were said to have inquired about [Armando] Benitez ...
He hasn't done anything since 2004, blew his share of games even when he was supposedly good, and is owed $7.6 million this season.

If Theo thinks he needs some shitty relievers who have been hurt for two years, I think he can get them cheaper than this.

Dispatching Falsehood And Cowardice

Daisuke Matsuzaka may have allowed four runs yesterday, but baseball columnists are not backing off in their praise. The Globe's Bob Ryan:
Daisuke is the pitching master! His Ultimate Galactic Dragon Gyroball Pitch Power Explosion breaks three feet inside before cutting sharply toward the dugout, where falsehood and cowardice are forced to shrink before it!
Peter Gammons:
Sources say [he] descended into the Underworld to spit in the flaming eye of the Lord of Hell and steal the secret power of the Onikaze, or 'demon-storm' pitch, which tails away nicely from both lefties and righties.
From the man himself:
In the American League East, every team has a very strong batting order, and I'm aware of it. This being a team in our same division that we're going to face many times, I thought I'd take the opportunity to experiment [with the strike zone] a little bit. ... Judging from what I experienced, throwing high fastballs and high sliders can tend to be a little bit dangerous. ... I was hoping I could face a lot of the everyday players. When I saw the lineup card, I was very excited.
Starters Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada and Jay Gibbons went a combined 1-for-8 with three strikeouts. Mora fanned twice:
He's not from this planet. He's coming from somewhere else. He's awesome. Nasty. Fastball is nasty. Breaking pitch, nasty. Splitter, nasty. Everything, good. ... I think I know everything he has now. But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to hit it.
Jason Dubois, on Dice's windup:
You don't see that much in the states. It's funky and it takes some getting used to. If you're not careful, you might drop your hands a little too quick and then you'll hit a lot of fly balls, swing under the ball ...
Matsuzaka faces the Dodgers on Friday.

Jon Lester pitched two innings (37 pitches, 20 strikes) in a simulated game. He'll pitch in a minor league game on Friday.
It's not a matter of patience, it's a matter of what I can and can't do right now. There's no way I can go out there and pitch against big-league hitters right now. ... The goal is to get to four to five innings [per outing] by the end of camp.
Manny Ramirez had two hits and a walk yesterday and has reached base in nine of his last 11 PA -- four hits, four walks, one HBP. He's hitting .364. Does anyone know is that lazy bum going to start trying?

Tonight at 7 PM: Carl Pavano v. Tim Wakefield. ... Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will not make the trip to Fort Myers. Francona plans to start everyone in the regular lineup except Jason Varitek. The first regular season battle is April 20.

March 11, 2007

O's Slap Dice, Drop Sox

Daisuke Matsuzaka got roughed up a bit by Baltimore this afternoon: 4-6-4-0-3.

He allowed two home runs: a solo shot by Jon Knott in the third and a 2-run blast by Jason Dubois in the 4th. Three of the 4 runs were earned (Dice committed a throwing error).

Youkilis, Lowell and Manny each had two hits for the Sox, who lost 5-3. Julian Tavarez faced 11 batters in 2 hitless innings; he walked four. Joel Pineiro threw 2 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits.

Spring Stats

They don't mean much, but here are some numbers (as of this morning):
           PA   AVG   OBP   SLG
Lugo 22 .300 .364 .400
Youkilis 23 .421 .522 .632
Ortiz 20 .263 .300 .474
Ramirez 16 .222 .579 .222
Drew 15 .462 .533 .769
Lowell 20 .105 .150 .263
Varitek 16 .143 .250 .143
Crisp 20 .211 .238 .263
Pedroia 25 .143 .269 .190
(PA = AB + BB)

Drew is hitting (3 singles, 2 doubles, 1 triple), as is Youkilis (4 singles, 4 doubles). Yook and Eric Hinske lead the team with 12 total bases.

Manny is only 2-for-9, but he's also walked 7 times.
             IP  H  R  ER  BB  SO
Schilling 9.1 6 2 2 2 3
Beckett 6.2 7 5 2 1 3
Matsuzaka 3.0 2 0 0 1 3
Wakefield 5.0 7 2 1 1 5
Papelbon 5.0 1 0 0 1 8

Okajima 5.2 5 2 2 2 6
Tavarez 5.2 6 4 3 1 4
Corey 5.0 1 0 0 0 3
Delcarmen 4.2 7 5 5 2 3
Donnelly 4.2 6 5 5 3 6
Lopez 4.2 2 0 0 2 1
Romero 4.2 3 1 0 2 3
Pineiro 4.1 7 5 4 3 1
Synder 4.1 6 2 2 2 5
Hansen 1.0 3 2 2 1 0
Astros' outfielder (and NRI) Hunter Pense is 14-or-19 (.737/.773/1.368)!

Opening Day is 22 days away!

Sheffield Wanted To Play For Sox

Gary Sheffield's first choice of where to play in 2007 was Boston. But rather than let him go as a free agent, the Yankees picked up his option and traded him to Detroit. Sheffield then signed a 2/28 contract extension.
[Boston] was where I wanted to go. I know most of the guys over there. I played with [Terry Francona] in Milwaukee and I thought it was the kind of atmosphere I could thrive in. ... It was something I really wanted. I thought it was the perfect situation for me and the perfect park for me.
I am glad this did not happen. Sheffield's skills are on the wane:
           OBP   SLG  OPS+
2003 ATL .419 .604 167
2004 NYY .393 .534 143
2005 NYY .379 .512 132
2006 NYY .355 .450 112
And he's 38 years old. And although I do not know the man personally, from all I see and read, he's an obnoxious jerk.

Craig Hansen made his spring debut on Friday, pitching one inning and allowing three doubles, one walk and two runs. His next outing will be Monday against the Yankees. Hideki Matsui will get a chance to chat with his former Yomiuri Giants teammate, Hideki Okajima.

While the other starters are up to about 60 pitches per start, Jonathan Papelbon will throw roughly 50 pitches in a simulated game on Monday. Could Paplebon throw 200 innings this season? Francona: "I don't want to say no." ... It would be a huge leap. He pitched only 68.1 innings last year.

Mike Timlin may begin the season on the disabled list, which would give the team a better chance to sort out the other arms in the bullpen.

Manny Ramirez has the 3rd highest Red Sox all-time OPS -- 1.026 -- behind only Ted Williams (1.115) and Jimmie Foxx (1.034). ... Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury could be the first major league player of Navajo descent.

Pupdate: David Ortiz's 2-month-old Yorkshire terrier Mikey is being treated for ringworm.

March 10, 2007

MLB Calculates The Price Of Fan Loyalty

Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports (my emphasis):
Besides being hell bent on infuriating its best fans and having less people watch its games, Major League Baseball would also prefer if you stop calling to complain. ...

"I hope that those fans who have been directing their concerns to us over the last several weeks will now encourage their cable carriers to in fact enlist for this package," [MLB President Bob] DuPuy told the Associated Press. ...

The nearly completed exclusivity would cut the availability of Extra Innings from 82 percent of U.S. households to 16 percent. ...

Last year over half a million people subscribed to Extra Innings and MLB just sold them out for $2 a head, per team per year. So there's the price of fan loyalty, a small Coke at the stadium. ...

MLB is selling its fans out for the price of a utility infielder, which is pretty stupid. Although not as stupid as Selig and DuPuy think you are.

March 9, 2007

MLB Meets With In Demand Re EI

R. Thomas Umstead, Multichannel News:
MLB met Friday with executives from In Demand Networks to try to strike a deal for distribution of MLB's Extra Innings live-game package on cable systems. ...

The catch: Cable and Dish have to [place] the games on the operators' most widely available tier of programming and taking a stake in the league's baseball network when it launches in 2009. ...

While the industry is willing to match DirecTV's price for Extra Innings, it wants to offer the new baseball channel on a premium sports tier rather than part of its basic digital offering. Cable-operator executives close to the negotiations said MLB spurned the industry's guarantee to more than match DirecTV's 15 million-subscriber commitment by the time the network launches.

"Major League Baseball has chosen to cut a de facto exclusive deal -- including conditions for carriage that MLB and DirecTV designed to be impossible for cable and Dish to meet -- with one satellite operator and disenfranchise baseball fans in the 75 million multichannel households who do not subscribe to DirecTV," In Demand CEO Robert Jacobson said in a prepared statement.
In a blog post, Umstead states that the
whole dustup between baseball and cable boils down to the same simple issue that has plagued negotiations between content distributors and cable operators since the first cable lines were rolled out into the home more than two decades ago. Baseball wants to secure distribution on the basic analog tier for its soon-to-be-launched 24-hour channel.

And cable operators said no.

DirecTV purchased a minority interest in the Baseball Channel -- which is expected to offer vintage games, as well as live games -- and will put that network on a tier that reaches all of its 15 million subscribers. Cable has already countered by saying that it would guarantee that the baseball network would be in front of at least 15 million subscribers via $5-per-month sports tiers.

But baseball wants basic carriage from cable. The industry said it would not open an analog slot for The Baseball Channel.

Timlin Shut Down For A Week

Mike Timlin will not be pitching tomorrow.

Terry Francona:
He's going to be [shut down for] one week, no throwing. The tenderness he felt [strained side muscle] ... is in a smaller area, which I think is good. But he still feels it, and we don't want this to turn into a season-long fiasco, where he feels OK, the next week he feels a little worse, and two weeks later he's worse. ...

I'm disappointed it got to this point. The doctors still kind of reassure us that he is getting better. But he felt something ...
Gordon Edes says Timlin -- who turns 41 tomorrow -- had another MRI yesterday.

MLB, DirecTV Finalize Deal

MLB and DirecTV have finalized their seven-year, $700 million agreement, but it will not be exclusive. Not literally, anyway.

Other cable providers can carry the "Extra Innings" package if they
enter into an agreement with MLB based on the terms agreed to by DirecTV, which would include the same rates and carriage requirements.

According to the Associated Press, however, the president of iN Demand, Robert Jacobson, said the agreement would be impossible for his company, calling it a "de facto exclusive deal."
Bud Selig -- displaying those superlative people skills for which he is reknown -- was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying the controversy over the deal is "ridiculous".

Ridiculous. There are thousands of Red Sox fans outside of New England that, for whatever reason, cannot get DirecTV. They will not be able to watch their team this summer. And the commissioner of baseball thinks their concern about that is "ridiculous".

The Times also reported that
a recent counteroffer by In Demand — the cable pay package provider that shared the rights to Extra Innings for the last five seasons — plus one by satellite provider EchoStar, which owns Dish Network, "came too late in the game." ...

According to a company spokesperson, the In Demand offer matched or exceeded DirecTV's offer, including financial terms of the deal as well as distribution of the new Baseball Channel, scheduled to be launched in 2009. Distribution of this channel is believed to be the crux of the issue for MLB.

Robert Jacobson, president and chief executive of In Demand, said the proposed MLB deal "is stunning in its disregard for baseball fans."
We have MLB saying two things: any matching offers must be received by the end of March and a matching offer from early March came in "too late".

Again, I have to ask: What is the REAL reason MLB is turning down more money while limiting the number of fans that can watch games?

Call: 212-931-7800

Just got off the phone with MLB. The person listening to complaints confirmed that other cable companies do indeed have until the end of the month to match DirecTV's offer, but was "unaware" of the LA Times story mentioning the In Demand offer that was rejected as "too late".

Updated: Richard Sandomir's article in the New York Times mentions MLB is giving cable operators and Dish Network until March 31 to match the deal.
Baseball is trying to put [InDemand and Dish] on the defensive, telling them they can choose to be good guys or bad guys depending on their decisions. Baseball wants to shed the image that it was guilty of making Extra Innings less available to its fans, so it is bringing InDemand and Dish back for a final lightning round.

And it wants Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, off its back, and the F.C.C., which is looking into the deal, to go away quickly.

This, quite clearly, is not over.
I believe the deal also has to be approved by the owners, so pressure could be put on them as well.

Schilling Goes Four Innings, 60 Pitches

Curt Schilling threw 60 pitches yesterday, finishing with a 4-2-1-1-2 line against the Twins.

Minnesota scored one run off Schilling in the first inning and won the game 1-0. Devern Hansack followed Schilling with two shutout innings (one walk, two hits). Kevin Youkilis had two of Boston's three hits.

March 8, 2007

Yet Another Red Sox Blog!

Curt Schilling has begun his own blog: 38pitches.
I've done it. I've caved and am actually taking the blog plunge. ...

I've been called everything from outspoken to blowhard to much, much worse. I believe those labels spring out of the fact that I care about the things people ask me as much as any other cause. I've never been a yes/no kind of guy, which probably hasn't been received well by some. I don't know that I'll be changing my style, but I do know that getting ripped for something I say here will be getting ripped for something I actually said -- with the entire contents of my comments included.
This should be a great read.

During 2004 -- Schilling's first season in Boston -- he was a regular commenter on the Sons of Sam Horn message board. Indeed, for the first few months of that season, he offered lengthy posts after each start -- detailing the good and the bad, sometimes pitch by pitch -- often only a few hours after the final out.

Schilling knew that having those posts reappear in print was a risk. He made repeated requests that his comments were for the board only, adding that anyone in the media could ask him in person about his posts -- he wasn't that hard to find -- but they should honor his wish to not use them verbatim.

Can you guess what happened next?

A Boston sportswriter (a hint: his name rhymes with Phony Nazzalotti) helped himself to some of Schilling's comments, using them without permission in one of his columns. ... Shortly thereafter, Curt plugged the plug.

Since word of 38pitches will spread, I'm hopeful that Schilling will resurrect those types of posts for 2007.

Papelbon Goes Three Against Mets

Jonathan Papelbon threw three scoreless innings against the Mets yesterday, allowing one hit and one walk, while striking out four.
I'm getting my routine set, getting comfortable with everything ... seeing hitters a couple of times, sitting in the dugout between innings. ... When you come off a successful season, it's hard to see yourself as something else. It's hard for [teammates and others] to see me doing something different. Hopefully, that will disappear soon.
Sean McAdam believes there are "subtle indications" that the Red Sox may be considering Mike Timlin as the team's closer. He might be right, but he offers absolutely no evidence in his article. McAdam points out that Joel Pineiro has struggled this spring (3.1 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 4 ER) and Timlin is usually better when he begins an inning as opposed to coming in with men already on base. That's it.

Timlin threw a 40-pitch live BP session yesterday and should see action against the Tigers on Saturday.

Curt Schilling on his developing changeup:
I think it's good enough to be my No. 2 pitch on some nights. ... It's a pitch that I strike people out with. ... It's a pitch that brings pitch counts down. You get more contact, get quicker outs if you can command it and throw it in the strike zone.

Gyro Mystery

Gaylord Perry on Daisuke Matsuzaka:
I was watching him on TV when he pitched against Boston College. And I saw some of his appearance against the Marlins. He's got it all figured it out. ... Make 'em think you can throw five or six pitches when you can only throw three or four pitches. That way, you always have everyone guessing. ...

It's all about getting in their heads. Sometimes, the day before a start, I'd put a little bit of Vaseline on my hands and shake hands with the guys on the other team. And when I was on the mound, I wouldn't do anything until the batter was looking at me. Then I'd do my act. ... It sounds to me like Matsuzaka is already getting into guys' heads.
Two Marlins -- Jason Stokes and Jeremy Hermida -- said they saw the gyroball on Tuesday.

He threw four different pitches to me -- a fastball, slider, gyro and curve. [On the gyro] He threw it up and in. I could see it was obviously a ball right away. I'm thinking 'Get out of the way.' It kind of backs up on you.
It looks like a split, but it's slower. It didn't have the same spin as a split. It had its own unique character. It's got a good, hard and downward break but comes out with more speed than a changeup.
Francona: "If they're seeing it, that's probably good." Pitching coach John Farrell said what they saw was Matsuzaka's changeup. Dice said it was a cut fastball.

March 6, 2007

Matsuzaka Faces Marlins: 3-2-0-1-3, 47 pit


Three shutout innings this afternoon, two hits, one walk, three strikeouts. Very good control with all of his pitches, though he hung a couple of breaking balls.

Ramirez (c) grounded out pitcher to first.
Uggla (1-2) singled to center.
Hermida (c) popped out shortstop.
Stokes (fbfbb) struck out swinging.

Borchard (cbbbs) walked.
Olivo (cffb) struck out swinging.
Gall (xx) hit ground rule double to right center, Borchard to third.
Seabol (fcffb) struck out looking.
Reed bunt popped up to first.

Ramirez (bbcbf) lined out to Matsuzaka (who bowed towards Hanley after gloving it!).
Uggla (f) flied out to shallow left.
Hermida (cb) popped out to second.

47 pitches, 31 pitches. Box.

Ian Browne,
According to a scout stationed behind home plate, Matsuzaka's fastball ranged from 91-93 mph. His curve was between 74-77 mph. The slider stayed between 81-82 mph. Matsuzaka's changeup fluctuated between 76-81 mph.
Matsuzaka will face the Orioles on Sunday at City of Palms Park.

After Dice left, Joel Pineiro pitched the 4th, allowing only one walk. In the 5th, Manny Delcarmen allowed a two-run homer to Hanley Ramirez. Florida scored three times in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game at 6-6 -- before Boston scored eight runs in the 10th inning for a 14-6 win.

March 5, 2007

Eight Pitches For Lester

Mike Petraglia,
[Jon Lester] pitched a perfect first inning in a Spring Training B-game at Hammond Stadium against the Minnesota Twins [Monday morning], getting three groundouts, two to shortstop with a groundout to third sandwiched in between. ...

Lester needed just eight pitches to retire Alexi Casilla, Glenn Williams and Mike Redmond. Lester threw eight pitches, six for strikes, to catcher George Kottaras. ...

Six of the pitches were fastballs. There were no fewer than three radar guns on his pitches, with three fastballs clocked at 88 mph, two at 89 mph and one at 90 mph. ...

"Command was great," Lester said. "I went away when I wanted to go away and went in when I wanted to go in. ... I don't think the treatments are a factor right now. I'm still building it back up from the offseason, but I think I'm right about at 85 or 90 percent ..."

March 4, 2007

Curt Strong for 3.1, Sox Top Twins

Curt Schilling pitched 3.1 innings Sunday afternoon, allowing one run (a Michael Cuddyer HR) on two hits with a walk and a strikeout. He threw 48 pitches, and worked on his changeup. Francona:
I thought [the changeup] enhanced his other pitches. He threw a couple every once in a while where it looked like he was trying to force the issue.
Jonathan Papelbon:
I just feel I'm better as a starter. The reason why this team drafted me in '04 was to be a starter. I'm going to take this opportunity and run with it.
There were 225 Japanese journalists in attendance when Daisuke Matsuzaka faced Boston College on Friday night. For his next start -- against the Marlins in Jupiter on Tuesday -- 81 Japanese journalists are expected. The US writers for both teams will also have to be accommodated. The Marlins' press box holds 24. Dice's 1:00 PM start will be televised live in Japan at 3:00 AM.

A good quote from Yoshihisa Miura of the Jiji Press, couresty of the Herald's Michael Silverman:
Matsuzaka said that the strike zone in America is wider by about [the width of] two balls, on the outside corner. Up and down, the strike zone is a little higher here, too, but inside, it is tighter than Japan.