January 29, 2011

Theo: "We're More Or Less Set"

Theo Epstein, on the Red Sox's spring training roster: "We're more or less set."

The team might make another depth move -- signing a potential starter to a minor-league contract -- but Epstein says, "right now those guys are looking for major league jobs". And like everyone else, the GM is looking forward to
the return to health of a lot of our most important players. There aren't many position battles per se, but if you look around the diamond, there are players you want to see out there healthy. ... Once we can get all those guys out there at the same time, taking infield together, that will be a pleasant sight.
Adrian Gonzalez, recovering from right shoulder surgery, began throwing a ball about ten days ago. He is expected to be playing games by mid-to-late March.
Example
Yankees GM Brian Cashman: "Am I trying to get fired? Absolutely not. What have I done that's so explosive? What have I done that's so controversial? I did nothing improper or wrong or controversial or explosive."

Yankees president Randy Levine is annoyed at Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg. After Greenberg noted that Texas's extended talks with Cliff Lee gave the Phillies extra time to nab the free agent, Levine replied:
Chuck is delusional. He has been running the Rangers for a few minutes and seems to believe he's mastered what everyone else is thinking. ... I'll be impressed when he demonstrates he can keep the Rangers off [revenue-sharing] welfare.
From 1995-2009, Derek Jeter hit .353 with the bases loaded. Last year, however, he went 1-for-20 (with two walks and one HBP). That .050 batting average is the lowest of any Yankee dating back to at least 1955, the earliest season for which bases-loaded data exists.
Example
Since 1920, ten players have had three games in which they doubled, tripled, and homered -- but could not get a single for the cycle:
Manny Trillo
Babe Ruth
Frank Robinson
Magglio Ordonez
Gregg Jefferies (2 in a 10-game span in 1988)
Brian Giles
Lou Gehrig
Joe Cronin
Ellis Burks
Hank Aaron

January 27, 2011

Red Sox Sought Bautista

The Red Sox made multiple attempts to acquire Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, 30, this winter, according to Ken Rosenthal. However, WEEI's Alex Speier thinks that Boston was more interested "in gauging the full realm of market possibilities ... rather than having built a strategy around Bautista".

It's hard to say where Bautista would have played if Toronto had been more serious about dealing him. He made 113 starts in right field and 45 at third base last season, so one of J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, or David Ortiz would have been left out in the cold.

Peter Gammons tweeted that the Red Sox claimed Bautista on waivers in September 2009, "but Bos ownership wouldn't take $". Since Bautista earned only $2.4 million last year, I assume that means the front office was not keen on inking an extension. According to Speier, however, the Red Sox were not awarded the waiver claim in 2009. (Bautista belted 10 home runs in September 2009 and handily led the major leagues with 54 in 2010.)

Dustin Pedroia, on his left foot:
There have been some surprises. I thought when I had surgery on my foot, in three months I would feel 100 percent, and that wasn't the case. It's been a lot tougher than I thought it was, and what everyone thought it would be. ... It's a weird bone to break without a non-stress fracture. ... Mine is from a ball hitting off it, so it's a little different in terms of the recovery. ... I'm two weeks away from spring training and I'm just now kind of getting ... to where I feel good [and] can play a game.
ESPN's Keith Law ranks the Red Sox's farm system as 11th best in MLB, with three other AL East teams above them: Rays (2nd), Blue Jays (4th), and Yankees (9th). Law puts the Royals at #1.

Brian Cashman has become quite entertaining this winter. He suggested that Derek Jeter find a better deal if he was dissatisfied with the Yankees' offer, thus making negotiations with the team's captain far more thorny than necessary. He was unable to convince Cliff Lee to join the Yankees. He expressed disapproval about signing Rafael Soriano -- at the press conference introducing the relief pitcher! He stated that Jeter might have to switch positions. And he admitted the Red Sox are a better team than the Yankees right now: "[I]f somebody asked me right now, they might be a finished product. We're an unfinished product."

January 24, 2011

More Projected Standings

SG of RLYW looked at the AL East's projected standings now that the Rays have signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez and the Blue Jays traded Vernon Wells for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera:
            W     L     RS   RA   Div     WC   Post
Red Sox    94.9  67.1  834  693  45.5%  16.3%  61.8%
Yankees    90.3  71.7  819  739  25.4%  17.4%  42.8%
Rays       88.1  73.9  736  663  19.8%  15.1%  34.9%
Blue Jays  77.9  84.1  721  738   5.6%   5.6%  11.2%
Orioles    75.5  86.5  732  796   3.8%   4.0%   7.8%
The results from the earlier sims (here) had Boston's lead in the East at approximately nine games. These projections cut that to 4.6 games. Interestingly, the Yankees' chances of making the post-season actually dropped from the earlier projections, from 44.9% to 42.8%.

The Truck heads south in 15 days.

January 22, 2011

The Off-Season Gets More Surreal

First, there is the news that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon will be teammates in Tampa Bay this year.

Then I am driving home from work and I look over at one of the news billboards off the highway:

BLUE JAYS TRADE VERNON WELLS TO LOS ANGELES

Fuck the heck?!?!? I figure I must be hallucinating, so I try to look again before I speed by. Wow. I am pretty sure that's what it says. Now I'm frantically wondering why someone would be stupid enough to take Wells's contract (or is Toronto paying a lot of the freight to simply get rid of him)?

Well, it looks like the Angels are taking Wells AND ALMOST 100% OF HIS CONTRACT and sending catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera to Toronto. Wells is 32 years old, he hit .227/.301/.407 on the road last year, and is due $23 million in 2011, and $21 million in each of 2012, 2013, and 2014.

DownGoesBrown tweet:
Love how the Wells trade includes a Napoli physical, as if Jays would walk away. Doctor: "He has no legs." Jays: "Yeah, we're OK with that."
theflash141, Fangraphs:
It is beyond difficult to be an Angel fan today. Not only is Vernon Wells (.280/.329/.475) essentially the same exact player as Juan Rivera (.280/.328/.461) for $80 million more, but trading Napoli as well gives the worst regular player in the majors, Jeff Mathis, even more at-bats. ... Why are people so f***ing stupid put in charge of multi-million dollar companies? ... So despondent right now. My team is run by absolute idiots.
Hendu for Kutch, SoSH:
I'd never seen a GM wrap up executive of the year 3 months before the season even started, so big kudos to Anthopoulos on this one.
radsoxfan:
The fact that Reagins actually had a negotiation about the money, and settled on only 5 million...good lord. In his head, I wonder how much Anthopoulos was willing to give before walking away from the trade. Conservatively, I think he would have paid $40 million easy. ...

January 21, 2011

Red Sox Withdraw Plan To Move RF Fences

The Boston Red Sox have withdrawn their plan to widen the bullpens in right field, an alteration that would have shortened the distance to the right field fence approximately seven to nine feet.

Because the Massachusetts Historical Commission did not approve the plan, the team would not be eligible for tax credits. But team president Larry Lucchino said that the subsidies were not the main issue.
It was not a specific tax consideration. The danger was more about jeopardizing the historic designation attached to Fenway Park. ... [W]e have alternatives we are going to explore going forward. ... It's not going to happen this year but it may happen down the road.
There was no word on whether the team would consider widening the pens by moving them in the other direction -- into the bleachers and forfeiting a couple of rows of seats.

Lucchino echoed the feeling of a lot of Red Sox fans, when he said he is anxious for the 2011 season to start.
By the end of last season, I think I was as tired as any of our fans or players, just being frustrated and all that. All it took was a few months away from it and a few big offseason acquisitions and all of a sudden, I can't wait to get going.
Tito is pumped, too.

January 20, 2011

Lame Duck Cashman Overruled On Soriano

My title is General Manager, but I consider myself the Director of Spending of the New York Yankees.
Brian Cashman, December 8, 2010

And some days, he isn't even that. Cashman felt the price was too high for free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, but he was overruled and the Yankees signed the 31-year-old right-hander Soriano to a plump 3/35 deal.

At Soriano's press conference, Cashman spoke his mind, saying he "didn't recommend" signing Soriano, adding that it "compromises payroll, flexibility and [the] efficient use of our resources". He understands that New York is a better team with Soriano on the roster, but "allocating closer-type money to an eighth-inning guy" and losing the 31st pick in the June draft wasn't part of his plan. (Check out Lookout Landing for an amusing comic.)

Team president Randy Levine spoke about the front office's "sacred obligation" (cue eye-rolling) to its fans. Business Insider reports that a seven-man bullpen of Rivera, Soriano, Marte, Robertson, Chamberlain, Feliciano, Logan -- will be paid more ($38.5 million) than the entire 2011 Tampa Bay Rays roster ($35.4).

Soriano missed most of 2005 after having Tommy John surgery and has spent time of the disabled list in 2006 and 2008 (twice, missing roughly half the season). Soriano can opt out of the contract at the end of either the first or second season. "One of the greatest things about this contract is if at any given time I don't feel comfortable I can always get out of the contract."

Bill Madden of the Daily News notes that Soriano's "makeup" should be of "great concern" to the Yankees.
Despite his league-leading 45 saves and 1.73 ERA, Soriano was hated by almost everyone in Tampa Bay last year. His periodic hissy-fits over being brought into games in non-save situations, or being asked to pitch more than one inning wore thin on Rays manager Joe Maddon. ... After throwing a tantrum in the bullpen in front of all his fellow relievers [when asked to pitch in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the ALDS trailing by two runs], Soriano trudged into the game and promptly gave up a single to Nelson Cruz and a game-breaking homer to Ian Kinsler.
Bob Klapisch writes that the Yankees' "counterpunch" was a break in the team's "bizarre passivity" this winter, but noted that Boston remains the league's "deepest, most balanced team; they project to a 100-plus-win season[s]". But the Soriano-Fruitbat late-inning combo "might narrow the talent gap between the two rivals". (Of course, there is still the question of how New York will fix the back 2/5 of its rotation.)

Wallace Matthews looooooves the Soriano signing. He proclaims that "no team addressed a key weakness as effectively as the Yankees did with the signing of Soriano ... Just like that, the Yankees go from a wild-card team at best to favorites to win their division."

Of course, this is the Wallace Matthews who devoted an entire column to vehemently complaining about how slow Tim Wakefield works on the mound. ... You might also remember the time Matthews castigated Nolan Ryan for being a soft-tossing junkballer or when he faulted Babe Ruth for his membership in the Temperance and Celibacy Association. This summer, Matthews is expected to continue his campaign against ESPN and Fox, urging them to cease their petty refusals to show Derek Jeter at any times other than during his at-bats or when he is trying to field a batted ball.

January 18, 2011

Ellsbury, Papelbon Settle Before Arbitration

The Red Sox reached agreement on 2011 contracts with Jacoby Ellsbury ($2.4 million) and Jonathan Papelbon ($12 million), before the team and players exchanged salary arbitration figures.

This was the first year Ellsbury was eligible for arbitration. In addition to his salary -- a boost from $496,000 last year -- there are possible bonuses of $50,000 for 600 and 700 plate appearances. (In 2008 and 2009, Ellsbury had 609 and 691 PAs, respectively.)

For Papelbon, it was his third season of eligibility, and he will be a free agent after this season. Bot made $9.35 million last year.

Papelbon is pleased with the work the front office has done this winter.
I'm so excited. The offseason acquisitions we've made have been above and beyond my expectations, for sure. ... If everybody goes out there and stays healthy, we definitely should have a title-contending team this year, for sure. ... I was able to gain tons of valuable information from last year and take it into my offseason this year and use it to better myself. ... [S]tay confident and know that my ability is still there.
Papelbon was in Boston last weekend, attending the wedding of one of Terry Francona's daughters.
It was a long, sit-down dinner, the wedding, really amazing. ... I didn't think he had it in him to put together this good of a wedding. The bride pays for the wedding, and I was thinking Tito might go the cheap way out.

January 17, 2011

Tough Loss

I have been sick and coughing for the past five days (bad cold or flu), my right shoulder is killing me, and I have nothing to write about.

So go check out Chris Jaffe's "15 worst endings ever to regular-season games" over at The Hardball Times, which he wrote after reading Joe Posnanski's list of the worst endings to any sporting event.

Here are two from Jaffe's list:

August 12, 1995: Dodgers 11, Pirates 10 (11)
Pirates - 202 120 000 30 - 10 22  1
Dodgers - 200 002 201 31 - 11 17  2
With runners on second and third in a game tied 10-10, the Pirates struck out opposing pitcher Pedro Astacio for the first out. However, the ball rolled a foot away from catcher Mark Parent. Rather than leap up and get it, he had a nice laborsaving brainstorm: he scooped the ball up with his mask.

That's so simple - why hadn't anyone thought of doing it before? Because the rules say a catcher can't do that. Again, runners could advance one base - game over.
May 18, 1950: Dodgers 9, Cardinals 8
Cardinals - 210 302 000 - 8  8  6
Dodgers   - 000 000 045 - 9 13  2
Worst of all was the game's final three plays. The Cards led 8-5 with the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then third baseman Tommy Glaviano muffed a grounder - run scores and everyone advanced a base. 8-6.

The next batter also hit it to third. For the second straight play, Glaviano pooches it: everyone advances a base and a run scores. 8-7.

Then - you know what's going to happen, right? Yep, grounder to third, Glaviano blows it. In a change of pace, two runs score. St. Louis lost on back-to-back-to-back errors by the same player.
Here is another tough loss:

April 25, 1901
Milwaukee - 025 000 33 0 - 13
Detroit   - 000 210 0110 - 14
That was Detroit's (and Milwaukee's) first American League game. Here's the rest of the Tigers/Brewers series:

April 26, 1901
Milwaukee - 020 200 100 - 5
Detroit   - 001 001 022 - 6
April 27, 1901
Milwaukee - 030 501 000 -  9
Detroit   - 013 300 15x - 13
April 28, 1901
Milwaukee - 211 100 600 - 11
Detroit   - 000 140 034 - 12
Just a brutal start for the Brewers -- blowing late leads of 13-4, 5-2, 9-7, and 11-5 -- who moved to St. Louis the following year and became the Browns. After 1953, the team moved to Baltimore and are now the Orioles. (See also here.)

January 14, 2011

And You May Find Yourself Reading A Specific Red Sox Blog. And I May Ask You, Well, How Did You Get Here?

Tim emailed me a few days ago with a suggestion for a pre-season post.

"It would be neat to learn about how all the commenters on the site originally found it."

So...

January 11, 2011

The DH Was Adopted 38 Years Ago Today

On this date in 1973, the American League voted 8-4 in favour of a three-year experiment using a designated hitter for the pitcher. Initially, it was also called a "designated pinch-hitter" or DPH. (Rule 6.10(b) can be read here.)

In the National League, the proposal was defeated 6-4, with the Phillies and Pirates both abstaining. According to a 2008 article in Baseball Digest, Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter was on a fishing trip and could not be reached by phone, and Pittsburgh's representatives had been instructed to vote with the Phillies. NL president Chub Feeney said, "We like the rules the way they are." (However, as we will see, the NL approved the use of a DH back in 1928.)

The idea of having a substitute batter for the pitcher goes back approximately 120 years. Bill James wrote in his Historical Abstract that it was first discussed in the 1890s, but he did not give a citation. I found a post on a baseball message board claiming that, in the December 19, 1891 issue of The Sporting News, former manager Ted Sullivan suggests that pitchers should not be allowed to bat and Pirates president William Temple (who sponsored the Temple Cup*, sort of a precursor to the World Series) recommended replacing the pitcher in the lineup with another hitter. Someone else thought the pitcher should simply be skipped in the lineup (making an eight-man batting order, I guess). The idea of a designated hitter was also mentioned in The Sporting Life the following month.

* Keith Olbermann recently posted some pictures (and their decidedly erroneous captions) taken during the 1894 Temple Cup.

In 1906, Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack resurrected the DH idea. As the Philadelphia North American reported:
The suggestion, often made, that the pitcher be denied a chance to bat, and a substitute player sent up to hit every time, has been brought to life again, and will come up for consideration when the American and National League Committees on rules get together. This time Connie Mack is credited with having made the suggestion. He argues that a pitcher is usually such a poor hitter that his time at the bat is a farce, and the game would be helped by eliminating him in favor of a better hitter. Against the change there are many strong points to be made. ... It is a cardinal principle of baseball that every member of the team should both field and bat. ... The better remedy would be to teach (the pitcher) how to hit the ball.
Other press accounts called Mack's proposal "wrong theoretically".

In the late 1920s, National League president John Heydler (who was also a former umpire and former sportswriter) made repeated efforts to introduce a 10th-man experiment. The Reach Guide reported that at the winter meetings in December 1928:
Heydler wants to modify the rules so that the manager has the option to select a pinch-hitter before the game and permit him to bat for the pitcher. In other words, a manager could keep a weak-hitting pitcher, or pitchers, from ever batting if he so selects.
The NL approved the idea for the 1929 season, but the American League did not, and the matter was scrapped. (I wonder how much more offense would have been generated in 1930 had the NL -- which batted .303 as a whole! -- gone ahead on its own.)

During the 20th century, various minor and amateur leagues have experimented with a DH. In 1940, the Bushrod Winter League (a California amateur league) tried it out. The Pacific Coast League was set to use a DH in 1961, but the idea was nixed that spring (by an 8-1 vote) by the Professional Baseball Rules Committee.

Four minor leagues -- the International, Eastern, Texas and New York Pennsylvania leagues -- used a DH for the 1969 season. In fact, the American and National leagues tried it out in spring training games that spring, with the AL also using with a designated pinch-runner. On March 26, 1969, however, MLB nixed the idea for the time being.

At the winter meetings in January 1973, AL owners vowed to "exert every effort" to pass three changes for the coming season: interleague play, a designated hitter for the pitcher, and a designated pinch-runner, who could be used several times a game. In January 1973, the AL owners voted for a designated hitter.

Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley:
The average fan comes to the park to see action, home runs. He doesn't come to see a one-, two-, three- or four-hit game. I can't think of anything more boring than to see a pitcher come up, when the average pitcher can't hit my grandmother. ... I pushed the DH for three years. They thought I was nuts, but after continuously harping, I finally woke them up.
After the AL vote, nuclear engineer and computer scientist Arthur V. Peterson ran some simulated seasons for Sports Illustrated and reported what he thought would be the increase in batting. An article in February noted that the DH rule had been adopted with no public debate or any real discussion.

The increase in team scoring was minimal, less than one additional run per game. In the three years before the DH (1970-72), an American League game averaged 7.55 runs. In the first three years of the DH (1973-75), that average increased to 8.43. And attendance rose, as hoped, so the AL made the DH a permanent part of its game.

However, it is not mandatory for an AL manager to use a designated hitter. There have been four games in which a team chose to have its pitcher bat:
October 2, 1974 - Ferguson Jenkins batted for Texas (at Minnesota) (the final game of the season; Fergie went 1-for-2)

September 27, 1975 - Ken Holtzman batted for Oakland (vs California) (the penultimate game of the season)

July 6, 1976 - Ken Brett batted for Chicago (at Boston)

September 23, 1976 - Ken Brett batted for Chicago (vs Minnesota) (The White Sox were shut out in both games)
In September 1980, Baltimore manager Earl Weaver used a pitcher from his bench as his DH in 21 of the season's last 24 games*. It gave Weaver -- who relied extensively on statistics to gain any possible platoon advantage -- the option of making a last-second substitution without burning an actual pinch-hitter in case the opposing starter left the game very early because of injury or ineffectiveness.

* The first time Weaver did this was September 10 in Detroit. He had Steve Stone batting 6th, but Stone wasn't at the park. In fact, he wasn't even in the country. Stone had gone to Toronto ahead of the team because he was starting the next day against the Blue Jays.

Weaver used Stone 12 times, but he also penciled in Jim Palmer (3 games), Mike Flanagan (3), Tippy Martinez (2), and Scott McGregor (1), usually in the 6th spot. After the season, MLB passed a rule closing Weaver's loophole.

The first National League DH? Glenallen Hill of the San Francisco Giants on June 12, 1997. He faced Darren Oliver of the Rangers and fouled out to first.

Some DH quotes:

Pitcher Rick Wise, 1974:
The designated hitter rule is like having someone else take Wilt Chamberlain's free throws.
Rob Neyer, 2003:
I'm starting to wonder if it's time, after 30 years, for the designated hitter to go the way of the Federal League, flannel uniforms, and multi-purpose stadiums. ... [N]obody needs help scoring runs any more ... 30 years is long enough.
Tony LaRussa, New York Times, October 22, 2006:
There's no doubt in my mind that the game of baseball in all its beauty and entirety is the National League game. I would kick the DH out so quick it would make your head spin.
Jim Leyland:
Everyone in the world disagrees with me, including some managers, but I think managing in the American League is much more difficult [because of the designated hitter]. In the National League, my situation is dictated for me. If I'm behind in the game, I've got to pinch hit. I've got to take my pitcher out. In the American League, you have to zero in. You have to know exactly when to take them out of there. In the National League, that's done for you."
Bill James, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, 1986:
One of the complains that baseball traditionalists have about the Designated Hitter Rule is that it drains the game of strategy, eliminating the need to make a series of crucial decisions and allowing a manager to cruise through the last few innings or to concentrate on something else. ... What the DH rule actually does, I suggested [in an earlier Abstract], is eliminate from the game a series of forced, obvious moves, which involve in fact no option on the part of the manager, and thus no strategy. ... The DH rule saves the pinch hitters, and thus in effect makes the roster larger. As such it creates, not eliminates, strategic options for American League managers. ...

I'm not an advocate of the Designated Hitter Rule; I'm only an advocate of seeing the truth and telling the truth. ... Does strategy exist in the act of bunting? If so, the Designated Hitter Rule has reduced strategy. But if strategy exists in the decision about when a bunt should be used, then the DH rule has increased the differences of opinion which exist about that question, and thus increased strategy ... [I]f strategy is an argument, then I would argue that there is more of a difference of opinion, not less, in the American League.

January 10, 2011

Sam Fuld, Stathead

Outfielder Sam Fuld is one of the five players the Rays got from the Cubs in the eight-player deal that also sent Matt Garza to the National League. Seeing Fuld's name gives me the opportunity to post an article that has been sitting around since August 2009!

Sam Fuld was playing whiffle ball when he was three years old and figuring out batting averages and ERAs at age five. Growing up in New Hampshire, a book of baseball stats served, according to his mother, "like a security blanket".

He majored in economics at Stanford and, after reading Moneyball, he applied for an internship at Stats Inc.
I was one of their reporters, which meant that I looked at game video and plotted the "TVL" -- type, velocity and location -- of every pitch. They have this grid where you click on exactly where the ball crosses the plate. Play the tape, pause and repeat. ...

There's so many statistics out there that I thought "There's no stats on foul balls," so I picked a few players and started tracking them, thinking I'd find something. ... There's a U-Haul that takes your stuff from spring training to the minor league sites, and my bag with the notebook of all my [foul ball] stats was stolen.

January 7, 2011

Blyleven's Election "Perhaps The Greatest And Most Tangible Triumph Of Sabermetric Writing"

For the last seven years, Rich Lederer, who runs Baseball Analysts, has been insisting -- and providing readers with a colossal amount of supporting evidence -- that Bert Blyleven belongs in the Hall of Fame.

All of Lederer's hard work paid off on Wednesday, as Blyleven was elected by the BBWAA in his 14th year of eligibility. Fellow BA writer Patrick Sullivan called Lederer's work "perhaps the greatest and most tangible triumph of Sabermetric writing outside of actual front office influence".

Back on December 20, 2010, SI's Jon Heyman wrote a column in which he explained why he would not be voting for Blyleven (again). He also took some potshots at Lederer -- calling him an internet zealot -- though Heyman did not mention him by name. Two days later, Lederer responded, with a devastatingly informative counterpoint that lays bare, as well as anything can, the sharp divide between much of the mainstream sports media and what exists online on personal websites and message boards.
Example
I would like to note that Tim McCarver said something the other day with which I agree 100%. Talking about Rafael Palmeiro and the Hall of Fame, McCarver said:
You can't change the numbers. To me, you are giving the writers too broad a power to be the judge on whether a guy took steroids. I would vote for all the guys who have the numbers. I just don't think they should have the right to determine the moral aspects of a particular issue.
The same article quotes Ross Newhan, who covered baseball for more than 40 years (mostly for the Los Angeles Times), and believed that he and his fellow writers "are custodians of the game's history":
Somebody said we are not the morality police, but yet I think we are. If we aren't, who is?

January 6, 2011

Crawford, Being Told Of Sox Offer: "I Almost Got Into A Wreck On The Freeway"

Carl Crawford, on making his decision between the Angels and Red Sox (December 8):
[My agent] Brian Peters called me, and he said, "All right, if the figures are the same, where do you want to go?" I'm thinking nothing of this call. I'm just driving on the freeway. I said, "Man, to be honest with you, B.P., if everything was the same, I think I'd rather go to Boston." He said, "Really?" That's how he said it. "Really?" I said, "B.P., if you look at it, look at the team they have, look at the situation, the Green Monster, everything is pointing my way. ... I don't think there's a better situation out there. I know it's cold [in April and October], but I think we'll overcome that. ...

And he said, "Well, I'm glad to hear that because that's where you're going." I was like, "Oh really?" and he said, "Yeah, you're going to Boston," and I was like, "Shoot, let's go." ... Then, he told me the dollar amount, and I almost got into a wreck on the freeway.
Crawford said his decision to come to Boston was influenced by Victor Martinez:
I was talking to Victor Martinez at the [2010] All-Star Game. I was like, "How you like Boston?" I didn't know I'd be in Boston. I was just asking him. He was like, "C, man, I don't care if you're tired, you could be feeling as bad as you could possibly feel, but when you run out on that field and those people are screaming, it's like you don't have a pain or nothing in your body. It's like you're a new person."
The Red Sox claimed former Rangers C/DH/1B Max Ramirez off waivers. You probably last heard Ramirez's name when he was part of the proposed December 2009 deal that would have sent Mike Lowell to Texas. Ramirez doesn't project to much more than a backup, but he's free. Matt Fox was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

Boston also signed right-handed relief pitcher Tony Pena Jr. to a minor league contract. Pena, a light-hitting shortstop who switched to pitching in 2009, was with the Giants' AA and AAA teams last year.

If you are interested: Herald columnist Steve Buckley is gay. He notes this fact in the 9th paragraph of his column, admitting that he has "buried the lead". Buckley, who has been writing for the Herald for 15 years, and his editors should know the correct term is "lede".

The Truck leaves in 33 days!

January 5, 2011

Okajima's Fastball, Crawford's Workout, Other Stuff

Rob Bradford (WEEI) has an informative look at Hideki Ojakima's declining success against right-handed batters.

As Ojakima's fastball has lost a bit of velocity, he has become more dependent on it versus RHB -- a very bad combination. In 2010, righties hit .340 and slugged .540 against Okajima. Jeemer seemed to perk up a bit in September, however, and he will likely be used far more situationally this year than in the past.

Bradford also talked to trainer Lee Fiocchi about Carl Crawford's off-season workouts:
We have a 55-yard sand pit that he was training in today and he looked as explosive as anyone on solid ground. He's the type of guy that never gets too far out of game-shape, and I'm talking about ANY game. That's how adaptable he is. ... His blend of athleticism is as pure as anybody in terms of blending speed, strength, agility and power.
Crawford has also been tailoring his swing for Fenway Park, and working on streamlining his sprint to second on steal attempts.

Boston has signed Hector Luna (aka "Out Number Two of the Eighth Inning of Game Four of the 2004 World Series") to a minor-league deal. Luna, who is 30 and has played all seven infield and outfield positions, hit .138 in 27 games with the Marlins last season.

Reliever Taylor Buchholz, claimed off waivers from Toronto but then not offered a contract, has signed with the Mets. ... Jeremy Hermida signed a minor league deal with the Reds. ... The Rockies non-tendered Manny Delcarmen, making him a free agent, and the Rays are interested. After being traded to Colorado, MDC had a 6.48 ERA in nine games, allowing 16 baserunners in 8.1 innings.

Adrian Beltre has signed a 6/96 (!) deal with the Rangers.

Eighteen ESPNers filled out Hall of Fame ballots. News editor Barry Stanton was the only person to not vote for Roberto Alomar and one of four voters that stiffed Bert Blyleven. However, Stanton did cast the only votes for Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, and B.J. Surhoff, so he's got that going for him.

Paul SF noted the recent RYLW 2011 projections and is now going back and seeing how well various AL East projections were for the last few seasons. So far, he has posted about 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Best season by a Canadian-born hitter? Click here.

SI's Joe Sheehan has ten predictions for 2011, including:
The Red Sox will win the World Series. ... The additions [of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford] help spur them to the best record in baseball and a romp through the playoffs, yielding a third World Series championship in eight seasons.

January 4, 2011

Sneeze

Peter Fletcher has kept a record of his sneezes since July 12, 2007.
Each sneeze has its own entry, including the time and date, location, strength and, with very few exceptions, a comment. ...

Once I had been counting sneezes for a short time, I became disturbed when I saw someone sneeze, and then not look closely at their watch or mobile phone and take out and write something illegible in a notebook. Witnessing people sneeze and then not record it has come to feel unsettling and wrong, as if they are losing the sneeze, letting it go to waste. ...
You can observe Fred Ott sneezing way back in 1894. The five-second clip, shot by an employee of Thomas Edison, is apparently the first motion picture to be copyrighted in the United States.

January 3, 2011

Early RLYW CAIRO Sims Look Very Nice

About a week ago, RLYW's SG posted the results of his super-early 2011 projections. He played out the season 10,000 times with his CAIRO v0.3 method, with a dump truck full of caveats:
It's very limited ... [This] shows us how things would look if nothing changed from now until April. Which won't happen. ... [T]hese projections will favor the teams that have essentially completed their 2011 rosters. ... [P]rojection systems are inherently limited. ... Did I mention that it's still too early to do this, and that it shouldn't be taken seriously? ... Did I mention that it's too early for this to be taken too seriously?
I agree with all of that -- and I'll add that injuries to a few key players can also sink a team's chances -- but these looked so good, I'm sharing them anyway!
           W   L   RS   RA   Div    WC    W+/-  RS+/- RA+/-
Red Sox   98  64  856  690  54.6%  15.6%   + 9    38   -54
Yankees   89  73  835  740  23.2%  21.7%   - 6   -24    47
Rays      87  75  707  640  17.9%  18.7%   - 9   -95   - 9
Blue Jays 74  88  693  737   2.6%   5.8%   -11   -62     9
Orioles   70  92  723  813   1.8%   2.9%   + 4   110    28
The columns are average projected wins, losses, runs scored, and runs allowed; % of times winning the division and wild card; change in projected wins, runs scored, and runs allowed versus 2010 totals.

The average of the 10,000 seasons has the Red Sox improving by nine wins, scoring 38 more runs while allowing 54 fewer runs. By comparison, the Yankees project to score 24 fewer runs, allow 47 more, and decline by six games (though they would win the wild card). Boston had the best record in baseball, with Philadelphia (96-66) and St. Louis (90-72) as the only other teams to average more than 90 wins per season.

This is what CAIRO has to say right before the 2010 season began:
           W     L     RS    RA
Yankees   97.7  64.3  881   708
Rays      94.2  67.8  783   655
Red Sox   93.9  68.1  824   685
And actual finish:
           W     L     RS    RA
Rays      96    66    802   649 
Yankees   95    67    859   693 
Red Sox   89    73    818   744

Played For Red Sox & Yankees Only

There have been only 16 major league players whose careers includes games with only the Red Sox and Yankees. Here are the last five:
                 NYY               BOS
Johnny Murphy    1932-46           1947
Elston Howard    1955-67           1967-68
Carlos Rodriguez 1991              1994-95
Ramiro Mendoza   1996-2002, 2005   2003-04
Michael Coleman  2001              1997, 1999

January 2, 2011

The Strain Of Pitching

The strain of pitching nowadays is much greater than it was years ago, and it gets worse every year. I never saw the old timers pitch but I have looked into the records, and I know. Nowadays if a pitcher weakens to the extent of giving a base on balls the manager is right on his toes and if he pitches a few extra balls it is curtains for him. Pitchers don't get knocked out of the box anymore. They don't get a chance.
Dutch Leonard, Red Sox pitcher, quoted by F.C. Lane in "The Base on Balls: Why Should the Records Ignore This Powerful Factor in Brainy Baseball?" (Baseball Magazine, March 1917)

Lane also quoted Hall of Fame infielder Johnny Evers:
I pay no attention to batting averages and no other sensible person pays much attention to them. They tell little of a player's ability. ... Some lumbering bone head who does make a specialty of hitting and nothing else may forge well across the .300 line and everybody says "what a great batter!" The facts of the case are the bone head may have been playing rotten baseball when he got that average and someone else who didn't look to be in his class, might be the better hitter of the two.

Jimmy Sheckard didn't used to hit so very high, according to averages. But if you remember he used to get to first an awful lot of the time. He did this because he made a habit of waiting them out. He didn't try to hit except when he was in a hole and was forced to do so. His whole system of play was based on another policy. He believed that a good share of the time he would be doing his club a better service by trying to wear down the opposing pitcher and get him in the hole all the time than he would be doing by hitting the ball.
Here is a link to an old discussion between Bill James and Joe Posnanski on the value of walks.

January 1, 2011

Okajima Back for 2011

The Globe and Ken Rosenthal are reporting that the Red Sox have signed Hideki Okajima, 35, to a one-year deal for 2011.