April 30, 2011

G26: Mariners 2, Red Sox 0

Mariners - 001 001 000 - 2  8  0
Red Sox  - 000 000 000 - 0  7  1
Boston failed to capitalize on several scoring chances, leaving 11 men on base in the first seven innings, including four at third base. The Red Sox finished the evening 0-for-11 with runners at second and/or third.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but David Ortiz struck out and J.D. Drew flew out to center.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the third with a double (he also walked twice), but no one could advance him even to third. Jed Lowrie doubled with two outs in the fourth, and Carl Crawford flied to right. Five of Boston's seven hits were doubles.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, on a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and walks by Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. Adrian Gonzalez lined into a double play; replays showed that umpire crew chief Gerry Davis blew the call at second base, as Ellsbury got back to the bag in time. Yook ended the inning with a foul pop to first.

Drew doubled with one out in the sixth and took third on a fly out, but was stranded. With two outs in the seventh, Gonzalez walked and Yook doubled, but Ortiz flied out to left. Saltalamacchia singled to begin the bottom of the ninth, only to have Ellsbury ground into a 4-6-3 double play and Pedroia fly out to right.Doug Fister / John Lackey

I have the day off, and am right now outside reading The Pale King, with the dogs enjoying the sun and slowly-drying grass, and I have nothing baseball-related to put in this spot. ... Just win the damn game.
Example
AL East: Angels/Rays at 1 PM; Blue Jays/Yankees at 4 PM; Orioles/White Sox at 7 PM.

Peter Abraham: Psst! Carl Crawford Is A $142 Million Left Fielder. Really. Now Don't Make Me Tell You Again.

The Red Sox agreed this winter to pay Carl Crawford a lot of money over the next seven years. And as Crawford begins the 2011 season poorly, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe seems a bit too obsessed with the size of Crawford's contract:

February 18, 2011:
[Cameron] got on the telephone and tried to sell Crawford on Boston. ... Cameron's pitch, along with $142 million from the team, helped Crawford decide.
March 30, 2011:
Carl Crawford seems to be pressing a bit. That he has hit .208 in spring training is no big deal. But he seems to be attacking every ball with the intent of proving he's worth $142 million instead of just playing.
April 4, 2011:
Crawford seemed to be carrying the expectations of his $142 million contract with him to the plate.
April 6, 2011:
Their frustration is personified by $142 million left fielder Carl Crawford, who has two hits in 15 at-bats and has yet to score a run as a member of the Red Sox.
April 16, 2011:
Carl Crawford, their $142 million left fielder, was 0 for 5. He is down to .137 and looks desperately in need of a day off.
April 17, 2011:
The $142 million left fielder watched the Sox’ 4-1 win over the Blue Jays from the bench.
April 17, 2011:
[H]e looks lost at the plate right now, unable to get the ball out of the infield today and inexplicably bunting right at the pitcher. It's hard to feel sorry for a guy making that kind of money.
April 21, 2011:
Middle of the 6th: Red Sox 2, Angels 0
... The Red Sox then had $142 million left fielder Carl Crawford bunt ...
April 30, 2011:
The $142 million left fielder was on the bench for the second time in 13 games last night ...
He's just gotta have "$142 million left fielder" on AutoCorrect, right?

But, of course, it's not only Abraham. A sampling:

Dan Shaughnessy, Globe, April 1, 2011:
... and woe is the $142 million free agent who is slow out of the gate.
Nick Cafardo, Globe, April 2, 2011:
Carl Crawford, $142 million man, No. 3 hitter in the Boston lineup, left fielder extraordinaire, one of the fastest men in baseball — and, oh yeah, 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and five runners left on base yesterday in his Boston debut ...
Dan Shaughnessy, Globe, April 4, 2011:
Carl Crawford, your new free agent left fielder ... We could make a point about the notion of paying a guy $142 million to bat seventh, but we don't want to make things awkward.
Tyler Kepner, New York Times, April 6, 2011:
Crawford, the Red Sox' new $142 million left fielder, flipped aimlessly through a magazine ...
Bob Hohler, Globe, April 8, 2011:
... and the new $142 million left fielder, Carl Crawford, batting .174 and scoring one run in six games.
Brian MacPherson, Providence Journal, April 11, 2001:
Carl Crawford wasn't so lucky. The $142 million left fielder went hitless in five at-bats, and his batting average sank to .132.
Michael Vega, Globe, April 13, 2011:
"Yes, it's a lit­tle shocking," said Carl Crawford, the $142 million left field­er and leadoff hitter ...
Michael Vega, Globe, April 16, 2011:
No one seemed more frustrated than Crawford, who has yet to live up to the billing when he was signed to a seven-year, $142 million contract in December.
Nick Cafardo, Globe, April 17, 2011:
It's hard to evaluate the signings this early ... But was eight years, $142 million too much for Crawford?
Scott Lauber, Boston Herald, April 20, 2011:
On Tuesday, Crawford's longtime hitting instructor in Houston told the Herald that the Red Sox' $142 million left fielder was rushing his stride and his swing ...
Dan Shaughnessy, Globe, April 24, 2011:
He's certainly the first $142 million No. 8 hitter in baseball history ...
Nick Cafardo, Globe, April 24, 2011:
Can you blame a guy for taking $142 million from the Red Sox?
Nick Cafardo, Globe, April 28, 2011:
While Crawford's struggles continue, Boston's other wealthy acquisition, Adrian Gonzalez, is really cranking.

Matsuzaka Thinks He Knows What's Wrong; Jenks Does Not

Daisuke Matsuzaka said he started feeling stiffness in his elbow as soon as the game began. And after Ichiro Suzuki singled on a 3-1 pitch to start the fifth inning, Jason Varitek immediately signaled to the bench:
Dice just didn't look right. The ball wasn't coming out (smoothly). His velocity dropped quite a bit.
According to the Pitch f/x data at MLB's Gameday, here are the number of two- and four-seam fastballs and their speeds through Dice's 4+ innings:
              86   87   88   89   90   91   92   93
1st inning                              6   12    1
2nd inning                    1    4    3    1
3rd inning                    2    2    1    1
4th inning               2    3    3    1
5th inning     1    2    1
Matsuzaka believed he could keep pitching, but Terry Francona said no.
We watched him in between innings and it looked like he was stretching out his arm in between innings, so we were keeping an eye on him. ... When somebody says they're feeling stiffness ... it's awful hard to leave a guy in a game. He didn't put up a fight.
Dice:
I left all the judgment up to Tito. ... I understand that Tito's always concerned about players' condition. To that extent, I am sorry about making him concerned about my elbow.
Matsuzaka said after the game that he is not worried because "I have an idea what's going on with my elbow."

Like the rest of us, Bobby Jenks is frustrated about his recent performances:
I don't even know what to say right now. ... I feel terrific, all my stuff is there. ... Obviously something's not clicking. Something's off. ... It seems like every time I go out there, something's finding a hole or flaring in there. I know they're good hitters, but the way I'm feeling right now, it shouldn't be happening.
It might sound like Jenks has been taking Excuses 101 from Professor Lackey, but he's right. Batted balls are finding holes. Jenks's BABIP is a high (and unlucky) .444, which is far higher than anyone else on the entire staff.
I know it's going to take some work to get these fans back on my side, but once I turn this around, I'll get them back. ... I've got some work obviously numbers-wise, but when we win this (expletive), we're going to look back and not remember April.
Much to everyone's surprise and delight, David Ortiz is crushing left-handing pitching so far:
         PA   AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS   BABIP
vs RHP   62  .226  .323  .358   .681    .234
vs LHP   36  .379  .500  .517  1.017    .400
Flo:
I never agreed with people saying I can't hit lefties. I haven't been as patient as I know I can be against them. ... But people want to talk about that, so let me figure this out right here because I know I can hit them. ... Before, lefties would come in to get you out. They would challenge you ... They don't do that anymore. They throw a lot of (expletive). I face a lot of lefties that don't get me. I get myself out. Now, I try not to chase bad pitches.
Francona agreed:
He's swinging at strikes, not chasing balls, taking his walks and staying through the middle. ... He's not expanding his zone.
Jacoby Ellsbury, in the seven games since being moved back to leadoff on April 22: 13-for-32, .406/.424/.563/.987.

Adrian Gonzalez
Last  5 games: 11-for-22 - .500/.500/.727/1.227
Last 12 games: 20-for-54 - .370/.382/.519/ .901

April 29, 2011

G25: Mariners 5, Red Sox 4

Mariners - 200 010 200 - 5  7  0
Red Sox  - 012 100 000 - 4  8  2
Matsuzaka (4-3-3-4-4, 82) was taken out of the game one batter into the fifth inning in what was later called a precautionary move because of right elbow stiffness. While facing Ichiro Suzuki, Dice's fastball dropped to about 85 and Jason Varitek was quick to call out Terry Francona and trainer Mike Reinold.

In the seventh, with Boston up 4-3, Bobby Jenks allowed a single to Ichiro and a double to Chone Figgins. Jenks struck out Milton Bradley, but the tying run scored on Miguel Olivo's grounder to second. After Jenks walked Justin Smoak, he gave up an RBI double to Jack Cust.

In Jenks's last six outings, covering 4.1 innings, he has given up nine runs and 12 hits. His ERA over that period (18.69) looks almost as bad as the dead rodent he has chosen to glue to his chin, but Francona's irregular usage patterns have not done him any favours. Jenks pitched in three straight games out west (throwing 60 pitches on April 20-21-22), then sat on his ass for a week before working tonight.

Jed Lowrie nearly tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but his fly ball to deep center was pushed back by the wind and caught by Michael Saunders. If it had been hit a little bit further towards right field, it might have landed in the bullpen.

Mike Cameron hit two solo home runs, one down the right field line and one over the Wall. Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz had RBI singles in the third. Adrian Gonzalez is looking better and better at the plate. He singled in his first two trips, then grounded out to first (Smoak ranged far to his right to rob AG of a hit) and lined out to right.
Example
Jason Vargas / Daisuke Matsuzaka

Matsuzaka makes his third start since his awful outing on April 11 against the Rays. In two starts against the Blue Jays and Angels, Dice has pitched 15 shutout innings, allowing only two hits and four walks. Here are the number of batters faced in each inning of those starts:
0418 vs TOR - 443 333 3
0423 at LAA - 353 434 33
The Mariners are in last place in the AL West, 11-15 and 4.5 GB the Rangers. They have the worst team batting average in the American League (.235)*, the second-worst slugging percentage (.344), and are 9th in on-base percentage (.314). However, they are second in walks (101), one fewer than the league-leading Red Sox. Seattle has allowed 4.54 runs per game, 9th in the AL; Boston is 8th with 4.42.

* Did you know the Padres are batting .208 as a team? Only one of their regulars is batting over .238. In the last seven games, San Diego is hitting .174/.237/.248/.485. It's like an entire team of Saltalamacchias (.191/.255/.234/.489).

AL East: Blue Jays/Yankees and Angels/Rays at 7 PM; Orioles/White Sox at 8 PM.

NESN, Intent On Cramming Extra Commercials In Between Innings, Misses Pitches Throughout Red Sox-Orioles Game

Red Sox fans watching last night's 6-2 win over the Orioles missed eight pitches and one play in the field because NESN was intent on showing as many commercials in between innings as it can get away with. Showing the baseball game was a secondary concern.

Several seasons ago, this was a huge problem for the network. Game after game, NESN would come back late from commercials four, five, six times. I remember one game in which the broadcast returned and Manny Ramirez was rounding second base, having hit the first pitch of the inning over the Wall. A mistake like this should be taken seriously, but it's clear NESN does not care. (Remember this bizarre stuff last September?) The network gambles that the first pitch of an inning will be taken by the batter or maybe fouled off, so "nothing happened" and it can get some extra advertising revenue. And if NESN misses something exciting, it can always show a replay. Besides, where else are you going to watch the Red Sox?

I was watching last night's game via the Extra Innings package and it was unclear whether the missed-pitch problem was NESN or Rogers Cable (I was getting Canadian commercials, not the ads NESN was showing, and Rogers is also no stranger to giving fans the finger, often running full-screen commercials between pitches or between batters).

I watched the beginning of each half-inning of the NESN broadcast archived at MLB.com. It was easy to tell when NESN was not on the air, because Don Orsillo was not saying anything. Why should he call the action if NESN was showing a commercial? Orsillo began speaking only after getting the signal from the production truck that the game could now be seen by NESN's viewers.

Here is what viewers missed:

Bottom of 1st - Ball 1 to Brian Roberts.

Top of 2nd - J.D. Drew's first-pitch fly ball to center field. NESN is back as Adam Jones is catching the fly ball.

Bottom of 2nd - Ball 1 to Matt Weiters. NESN returns as Jon Lester gets the sign for his second pitch.

Top of 3rd - Called strike to Marco Scutaro. NESN returns after Weiters has thrown the ball back to Brad Bergesen.

Bottom of 3rd - Called strike to Robert Andino. NESN is back as Jarrod Saltalamacchia throws the ball back to Lester. (This is the 5th consecutive half-inning NESN has missed a pitch.)

Top of 4th - No pitches missed!

Bottom of 4th - Ball 1 to Derrek Lee. NESN returns after Salty has thrown the ball back to Lester.

Top/Bottom of 5th - No pitches missed because NESN needed to inform us that a bank sponsors both halves of the fifth inning.

Top of 6th - No pitches missed, though Bergesen is releasing his first pitch to Dustin Pedroia as NESN returns.

Bottom of 6th - No pitches missed.

Top of 7th - Called strike to Carl Crawford and a lengthy shot of the Orioles dugout are missed, though NESN is back in time to show us Crawford's double.

Bottom of 7th - No pitches missed, though Lester is already in his windup for his first pitch.

Top of 8th - No pitches missed at the start of inning, but after a pitching change, NESN misses ball 1 to David Ortiz and comes back as Mike Gonzalez is about to throw pitch #2. (I missed ball 2 as well, though it looks like that may have been Rogers's fault.)

Bottom of 8th - No pitches missed.

Top/Bottom of 9th - No pitches missed.

There is something wrong when noting that NESN showed the entire inning seems out of the ordinary. (And even for the half-innings when the result of the first pitch was seen, NESN often cut in right as the pitcher was letting go of the ball, which I would argue is not actually showing the entire game.)

In its mission statement, NESN states that it is
intently focused on delivering Boston Red Sox ... programming and promotion of unparalleled breadth and quality. ... We are committed to understanding our customers' needs and exceeding their expectations. ... [We] strive to continually improve our performance.
It seems simple to me. If NESN is broadcasting a Red Sox game, it should show the entire game. And as a fan, I want the option of seeing the entire game.

If you agree, why not give NESN a call or send an email?
NESN
480 Arsenal Street, Building #1
Watertown, MA 02472
Phone: 617-536-9233
FAX: 617-536-7814
Email: sports@nesn.com
I believe viewer complaints were at least partially responsible for NESN telling Jerry Remy a few years ago to stop hyping his website and various money-making schemes during games and to putting a halt to the bizarre banter between Remy and Orsillo after every promo during a few games last September.

April 28, 2011

G24: Red Sox 6, Orioles 2

Red Sox - 101 000 130 - 6 13  0
Orioles - 100 001 000 - 2  4  0
Jacoby Ellsbury's two-run single in the eighth inning boosted Boston's lead from 4-2 to 6-2, giving the team some breathing room over the last two innings.

It was Ellsbury's third hit of the night - he doubled and scored in the first and singled and scored in the third. Ellsbury collected three hits in last night's game, as well. In his last five games (all as the leadoff hitter), LBJ is 11-for-24 (.458), with four doubles and six runs scored.

Ellsbury was knocked in both times by Adrian Gonzalez, who also had three hits, including two doubles to the opposite field. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz had two hits, and Carl Crawford hustled his way to a double in the seventh.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia flew out to deep left-center with the bases loaded to end the sixth, but when he batted with the sacks full in the eighth, he (after fouling off three 2-2 pitches) lined an RBI single to center. That put Boston up 4-2, and two outs later, Ellsbury padded the lead.

Lester (8-4-2-3-5, 108) began his night by allowing a walk and two singles. But after that, it was vintage Sid. After the second single, he retired ten in a row. After issuing two two-out walks in the fourth, he dismissed 10 of the next 11 Birds, the one blemish being Vlad Guerrero's solo home run. Lester allowed a leadoff double in the eighth, but stranded him there by getting the next three hitters. Jonathan Papelbon worked a quick and easy ninth.
Example
Jon Lester / Brad Bergesen

Two losses at Camden Yards have dropped the Red Sox (10-13) back into the AL East basement, 4 GB New York. Boston is hoping to avoid a sweep, and hoping this afternoon's rain in Baltimore clears up by evening.

FWIW: Lester is 13-0 in 16 starts against men dressed in Baltimore Orioles uniforms. That unbeaten streak goes back to August 2006, when Lester faced Jay Gibbons and Kevin Millar, among others. What Lester remembers about pitching to those guys -- or to Tike Redman and Freddie Bynum in late 2007 -- is unlikely to help him tonight. Still, 13-0 sure looks impressive. [Sox vs Bergesen; Birds vs Lester]

Note: The April 13 game against the Rays, which was postponed, has been re-scheduled as the first game of a day/night doubleheader on Tuesday, August 16. ... On July 25, 1956 -- 20,000 days ago -- Roberto Clemente hit the only inside-the-park, walk-off grand slam in baseball history, giving the Pirates a 9-8 win over the Cubs.

AL East: Blue Jays/Rangers at 2 PM; White Sox/Yankees at 7 PM; and Rays/Twins at 8 PM.

Ortiz Terrified After Hearing About Red Sox Bats Coming Alive

If the bats are suddenly alive, we better get out of here before they start swinging really hard at us. I don't want to be hit with wood. I hope that, if they come alive, they swing and miss like I do. ...

The way we treat the bats, they will probably be mad at us. My job is to hit the bat against the ball sometimes. The bats might be extra mad at me. But I didn't mean to hurt any bats. I'm sorry, bats. Please don't kill me. I never wanted the bats to be in pain. ...

Maybe balls don't like to be thrown really fast. Or hit far away into stands filled with people they don't know. And I hate having to catch balls, so I think, wouldn't a mitt hate that, too? And hats — would you want someone putting their head inside of you?
Example

April 27, 2011

G23: Orioles 5, Red Sox 4

Red Sox - 000 000 040 - 4 10  0
Orioles - 000 310 01x - 5 10  0
The Red Sox erased Baltimore's 4-0 lead in a span of four batters, against a trio of Orioles relievers. But Daniel Bard (seemingly in an eye-blink) allowed three consecutive singles in the bottom of the inning, and the Orioles won the second game of the series 5-4.

Jacoby Ellsbury singled to right off Jeremy Accardo (on an 0-2 pitch) to start the top of the eighth inning and Dustin Pedroia walked. Lefty Clay Rapada came in and Adrian Gonzalez smacked his full-count pitch to left for an RBI single. Buck Showalter then called on Koji Uehara, who promptly surrendered a three-run home run to Kevin Youkilis.

After that game-tying rally, Boston's prospects seemed bright, so the Baltimore eighth was pure annoyance and frustration. Nick Markakis grounded a hard single into right and took second when Derrek Lee lined a hit to left. Bard's first pitch to Vlad Guerrero got away from Jason Varitek for a passed ball and the runners advanced to second and third.

Bard's next pitch was in the dirt and Vlad swung and missed, but the ball again got by Varitek. Markaskis raced home, and Varitek shovelled the ball to Bard, who was covering the plate. It didn't look like Bard had a shot at a tag, but his left foot was perfectly placed to block Markakis's left hand from reaching the dish, and Bard was able to tag him out!

Lee took third on that play, and there was still only one out, but it felt like Boston had dodged a big bullet. Then Vlad lined the next pitch into center field and Lee trotted home with the go-ahead run.

Facing Kevin Gregg in the ninth, Marco Scutaro (hitting for Varitek) flied out to right, Ellsbury popped to third, and Pedroia grounded to third. Nine pitches, and the game was over.

Beckett (6-7-4-0-4, 92) allowed three runs in a span of only seven pitches in the fourth. Lee doubled, and Luke Scott and Adam Jones hit back-to-back home runs. (Lee's double was actually a very catchable pop fly to short right center. Pedroia seemed ready and able to grab it, but he peeled away at the very last second and the ball dropped closest to Ellsbury.) Two singles, a wild pitch, and a sac fly scored another Oriole run in the fifth inning.

In addition to Yook's dong, the other bright spots for the Sox were: Ellsbury's double and two singles, two hits each from Gonzalez and David Ortiz, and a single and two walks from J.D. Drew.
Example
Josh Beckett / Jeremy Guthrie

Beckett has made four starts this season, and his last three have been excellent; he has allowed only three runs in 23 innings (1.17 ERA), with five walks and 24 strikeouts. Opposing batters are hitting .107/.173/.173.

After bottoming out with a .156 average and .229 OBP on April 10, Jacoby Ellsbury has hit .267/.340/.533 in 50 plate appearances. ... Jason Varitek gets the nod behind the plate tonight. After starting only three of Boston's first 12 games, he has started seven of the last 11 games.

The Red Sox hit Guthrie very well. Among David Ortiz's 10 hits against Guthire are five doubles and three home runs.

AL East: White Sox/Yankees at 7 PM; Blue Jays/Rangers and Rays/Twins at 8 PM.

April 26, 2011

G22: Orioles 4, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 000 100 000 - 1  6  0
Orioles - 011 010 10x - 4 12  1
Boston could get nothing going against Britton (6-5-1-2-2, 94) and two relievers, while the Orioles chipped away at Buchholz (6.2-12-4-2-5, 104), getting at least one runner on base in every inning and scoring three of their four runs on sacrifice flies.

Buchholz set a career-high for hits allowed. He had allowed 10 hits to the Tigers on May 7, 2008 (I was at that game!), and given up nine hits on four other occasions, including twice to the Yankees last season.

Dustin Pedroia singled to start the fourth. He took second on Adrian Gonzalez's grounder, stole third, and scored on Kevin Youkilis's fly ball. With two outs in the fifth, Jason Varitek singled, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled, and Pedroia walked, loading the bases. Gonzalez grounded to second.

Gonzalez doubled to open the eighth, but he was stranded there as Yook popped to first and David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie struck out.

The White Sox edged the Yankees 3-2, so Boston remains 3 GB.
Example
Clay Buchholz / Zach Britton

Britton, a 23-year-old left-hander, made his major league debut on April 3. This is his fifth start.

After beginning the season 6-1, the Orioles have lost 11 of their last 13 games. Baltimore has scored more than three runs in only four of those 13 games and they have a team OBP of .287, only .001 better than AL-worst Tampa Bay.

The Yankees were shut out last night, so Boston is 3 GB.

AL East: White Sox/Yankees at 7 PM; Blue Jays/Rangers and Rays/Twins at 8 PM.

Diego

Meet Diego, the latest member of our family! He is about two years old and was living at Toronto Animal Services for one month. Laura and I began looking at adoptable dogs about three weeks ago, but after noticing some of the ones we liked were not listed a few days later -- they had been placed in a home -- I stopped looking. I had no intentions of getting hooked on a dog only to find it was long gone by adoption day.

While Laura was in New York last week, she was checking the site and had her eye on Diego.
When she returned, we decided he was the one. There is no way to put a dog "on hold", so we hoped that he would not be snapped up before we could get there. ... And we got him!
Diego is playful, curious, and very happy. Tala hasn't missed a beat. She and Diego got along great at the shelter, and they have been wrestling and romping both in and out of the house since we got home.
(Laura's post about Diego is here.)

Red Sox Starters Are Pitching Like It's 1918

Over the last nine games, Red Sox starters have an ERA of 0.88.
                         IP  H  R ER BB  K  BF  PIT  Game
0416 vs Tor  Beckett    7.0  3  1  1  2  9  26  101  Win 4-1
0417 vs Tor  Lester     6.0  6  1  1  3  5  25  110  Win 8-1
0418 vs Tor  Matsuzaka  7.0  1  0  0  1  3  23   89  Win 9-1
0419 at Oak  Lackey     6.0  4  1  1  1  3  23   93  Loss 0-5
0420 at Oak  Buchholz   5.1  6  1  1  4  2  26  102  Win 5-3
0421 at LAA  Beckett    8.0  3  2  2  2  5  28  125  Win 4-2 (11)
0422 at LAA  Lester     6.0  4  0  0  2  8  23  111  Win 4-3
0423 at LAA  Matsuzaka  8.0  1  0  0  3  9  28  115  Win 5-0
0424 at LAA  Lackey     8.0  6  0  0  1  6  32  108  Win 7-0
                       61.1 34  6  6 19 50 - 0.88 ERA - 0.86 WHIP
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the lowest ERA for Red Sox starters over any nine-game span since July 1918 (0.84).

I have box scores for the entire 1918 season (of course), so here are the games, all of which were played at Fenway Park:
                             IP  H  R BB  K  Game
0715 vs White Sox  Carl Mays  9  5  1  2  3  Won 3-1
0716 vs Browns     Sam Jones  9  4  1  3  1  Won 2-1
0717 vs Browns     Joe Bush   9  7  0  3  4  Won 7-0 
                   Babe Ruth  5  4  0  1  2  Won 4-0 (rain-shortened)
0718 vs Browns     Lore Bader 6 10  5  4  1  Lost 3-6
0719 vs Tigers     Carl Mays  9  3  0  1  2  Won 5-0
0720 vs Tigers     Sam Jones  9  5  1  1  1  Won 5-1
0722 vs Tigers     Joe Bush  10  5  0  2  6  Won 1-0 (10)
                   Carl Mays  9  4  0  1  ?  Won 3-0
In 75 innings, the starters allowed nine runs (seven earned) for an ERA of 0.84. The two unearned runs likely came in Bader's game.

By the way, earlier in the month:
July 8: Boston beat Cleveland 1-0 (10) and lost 3-4
July 9: Boston beat Cleveland 1-0 (12)
July 10: Boston beat Cleveland 2-0 (5, rain)
July 11: Boston beat Chicago 4-0
In 2011, the starters have these stats for the nine-game run:

                        IP   H  R ER BB   K    ERA
             Matsuzaka 15.0  2  0  0  4  12   0.00
             Beckett   15.0  6  3  3  4  14   1.80
             Lackey    14.0 10  1  1  2   9   0.64
             Lester    12.0 10  1  1  5  13   0.75
             Buchholz   5.1  6  1  1  4   2   1.69

                 Games 1-12   Games 13-21 
Starters ERA         6.71         0.88
Opp AVG              .281         .159
Opp AVG w/RATS       .317         .030
Team W-L Record      2-10          8-1
That .030 average? On April 16 - the day the streak began - Josh Beckett allowed a single to Travis Snider with a man on second. Since then, opponents are 0-for-32 with runners at third and/or second.

In a SoSH thread entitled The Turnaround of the Starting Pitchers - A Historical Perspective, BroodsSexton asks: "Is there anything that comes close in terms of variation in a team's performance over a similar time frame? It's not just the incredible suck that the Sox displayed to start the season, or the dominance of the last ten games. It's the juxtaposition that is so amazing to me."

I cannot answer his question, but I'm equally stunned that everything was going wrong for the starters until April 16 and then, as if someone flicked a switch, suddenly they began pitching like a quintet of aces.

April 25, 2011

Book Review: Marty Dobrow's "Knocking On Heaven's Door"

For most people, the words "minor league baseball" conjure up a bucolic scene of a warm, summer evening, a small crowd gathered around a green diamond, sipping cold beer, enjoying an intimate game, with between-innings silliness from costumed mascots and various contests and promos.

None of that is inaccurate, but it is, at best, only half of the story.

Marty Dobrow's Knocking On Heaven's Door peels back the Field of Dreams veneer, and shows us the other side of life in the bushes. That world is "charming but ruthless". There are the hours-long overnight bus rides (which many teams rely on to avoid the cost of a stay at a hotel), starvation wages, and shitty food. There is tremendous pressure to succeed, but a player's career path is also completely out of his control; a trade, demotion, or an outright release could be one bad game away. Relationships with girlfriends or wives are strained and family crisises unravel thousands of miles away. Players are advised to not form friendships with teammates, as a season-ending injury to one player might be the long-awaited break someone else desperately needs to keep his own dream alive.

I first heard about this book when Dobrow took questions at SoSH last December. His answers and general comments were fascinating and I wanted to read this book immediately. I received a copy from the University of Massachusetts Press -- and it lived up to everything I expected.

Knocking On Heaven's Door is a detailed, engrossing, entertaining, and supremely illuminating look at the lives of six minor leaguers during the 2005 season. Three of the six players -- Brad Baker, Manny Delcarmen, and Charlie Zink -- were drafted by the Red Sox.

The accounts of how each player was drafted are presented in perfect detail. It's a huge moment for everyone; more than one parent says it's the best day of his or her life. It is the first step towards playing in the major leagues, but that is not quite true. It's merely the opportunity to begin the arduous journey.

There are roughly 7,000 players in the minor leagues -- every one of them a can't-miss superstar in his community -- and 90% of them will never experience even one inning in the major leagues. As Dobrow bluntly states: "No one grows up dreaming of being a minor league player." But that is the road that must be taken, and its trials must be endured to reach the Show. And so 2005 begins with the six players at various points in their careers.

Manny Delcarmen grew up in Boston and is beginning his fifth season in the Red Sox's farm system. His father signed with the Phillies as a 17-year-old shortstop, but never rose above A ball. Manny is talented, but he is also stubborn and prone to frustration, having once gone AWOL from his team.

Charlie Zink's parents work as guards at Folsom State Prison. His mother's Japanese parents had been sent to an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Zink -- "unabashedly, perhaps dangerously, fond of beer and gambling and the female form" -- attended the Savannah College of Art & Design and tried out for the Red Sox on a whim in 2002. His success with the knuckleball is accompanied by nagging suspicions that he is somehow cheating his way through the minors, relying on some gimmick.

Doug Clark has a biology degree and works as a substitute teacher in the off-season. For most of his professional career, he was a left fielder in the Giants organization, an understudy of sorts to Barry Bonds. He has spent three years in Korea and many winters playing ball in Mexico.

Randy Ruiz was raised by his grandmother in a small apartment in the Bronx. Ruiz is well-travelled: he has attended six colleges, been part of nine different organizations, spent one year in Japan, and was once traded "for no compensation." Ruiz was a Rookie of the Year in AAA at age 30 and an MVP the following season. But a 31-year-old player in AAA is ancient. He often sleeps with his bat.

Brad Baker grew up in Leyden, Massachusetts, a rural town with no streetlights just south of the Vermont border. Red Sox scouts watched every pitch he threw during his senior year in high school, and selected him in the first (sandwich) round of the 1999 draft. His father dreams of his son being part of the Red Sox team that finally wins a World Series.

Matt Torra, a first-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2005, is the only college player among the half-dozen in this book. His career will decidedly not go according to plan.

The players are connected both by their common dream of reaching the major leagues and by the fact that they all are (or were) represented by DiaMMond Management, which is run by the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Lisa Masteralexis. (Lisa is one of the few female agents in pro ball). Jim grew up outside of Boston rooting passionately for the Red Sox, while Lisa was raised as a Yankee fan in western Massachusetts. Their first date was a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park. Along with Steve McKelvey (who once had the job of whisking the 1986 World Series trophy out of the Red Sox' clubhouse late in Game 6), the agents are in a parallel position to the players they represent. They have been working for years in pursuit of their own dream; in 2005, their management company is more part- than full-time and "marginally profitable".

Dobrow also introduces us to people on the periphery of the game, like Cynthia Keur, a 44-year-old single mother in Selah, Washington. She and her son (and various pets) are a host family for several Yakima Bears (Short-A) players. She rarely misses a game (traveling with a camper for road trips), taking hundreds of pictures each night that she then uses to create personalized photo albums for each player at the end of the season.

It's tough to talk about the players without divulging what happens to each of them during the 2005 season. To date, four of the six players have played in the major leagues. Delcarmen debuted with the Red Sox in July 2005, spent parts of six years in Boston, and helped them win the 2007 World Series. Zink had a memorable debut with the Red Sox in 2008; it remains his only big league appearance.

I enjoyed reading two other minor league baseball books last year -- Dick Hayhurt's The Bullpen Gospels and Matt McCarthy's Odd Man Out" -- but because Dobrow includes the perspectives of each player's family and friends, as well as the deliberations inside the front office of the various big league teams, Knocking on Heaven's Door tops them both.

1924: KKK Asks Cincinnati Reds For "Klan Day"

Deadspin has posted a 1924 letter from the Ku Klux Klan to August Herrmann, the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, requesting that the team designate July 20 as "Klan Day" at Redland Field.
From the three-page letter:
At the request of Imperial Officials of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan I am writing you to inquire whether your club will extend to our organization the priviledge of designating Sunday, July 20th, as Klan Day at Redland Field. ...

I am sure that I need not remind you that this request comes from one of the city's fastest growing organizations ... I believe that I am safe in saying that the combine membership of our organization in the above mentioned Klaverns [local Klan groups] exceeds 100,000. The greater majority of this number may be counted as loyal Red fans ...

Our plan for the day if the priveledge is granted would be to present a special boquet to each of the managers of the two teams and a bouquet to each of the members of the two teamns, thus making no distinction and discriminating against no individual. ...
The Reds declined the proposal.

According to Wikipedia, there were three distinct organizations calling themselves the Klu Klux Klan. The second group (1915-1944) "was a formal fraternal organization, with a national and state structure. At its peak in the mid-1920s, the organization claimed to include about 15% of the nation's eligible population, approximately 4–5 million men."

April 24, 2011

G21: Red Sox 7, Angels 0

Red Sox - 300 012 100 - 7 11  0
Angels  - 000 000 000 - 0  6  0
Boston swept its first four-game series in Anaheim in nearly 31 years as John Lackey (8-6-0-1-6, 108) continued the Red Sox's starters' remarkable run of dominance. Only four Angels runners travelled beyond first base.

In the last nine games, Boston starters have a microscopic 0.88 ERA (six earned runs in 61.1 innings).

The Red Sox have won five straight games and eight of their last nine games since April 15, outscoring their opponents 46-16, and improving their record from 2-10 to 10-11.

In those eight wins, Boston has allowed 1, 1, 1, 3, 2, 3, 0, and 0 runs.

Five of the first six Red Sox batters reached base in the first inning. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled and scored on Adrian Gonzalez's one-out double. Kevin Youkilis walked, David Ortiz singled in Gonzalez, and Mike Cameron's fielder's choice brought Yook home. Carl Crawford hit a two-run homer in the sixth.

Gonzalez went 3-for-5, and Ellsbury, Crawford, and Marco Scutaro each had two hits. AG and Crawford drove in two runs apiece, and Scutaro scored twice.

After enjoying a day off tomorrow, the Red Sox play three games at Camden Yards before heading home for 11 games against the Mariners (3), Angels (4), and Twins (4).
Example
John Lackey / Matt Palmer

Boston wakes up this morning tied for third place in the AL East.
Yankees   11   6   .647   ---
Rays      10  11   .476   3.0
Red Sox    9  11   .450   3.5
Blue Jays  9  11   .450   3.5
Orioles    8  11   .421   4.0
It's the highest in the standings the Red Sox have been this year.

Boston is 7-1 over the last eight games, and the starting pitchers have a 1.01 ERA. Lackey's one outing in that stretch was last Tuesday in Oakland; he allowed one run and four hits in six innings.

Lackey's ERA for the season is 9.82 (14.2 innings) and opponents are batting .323 against him, with a .677 slugging percentage (nearly 100 points worse than any other starter). Lackey has given up an extra-base hit to one out of every five batters he had faced this year.

(Fact) Check, Please:
Tom Singer, MLB.com: "Is it too late for Red Sox Nation to revive that "100 or Bust!" chant, a reference to winning in triple figures, which the Red Sox have never done?
Except for 1912, 1915, and 1946, yes, they've never done it.

AL East: Rays/Blue Jays at 1 PM and Yankees/Orioles at 1:30 PM.

Matsuzaka Is Third Pitcher In Red Sox History To Have Two Straight Starts of 7+ Innings And Only 1 Hit Allowed

Updated with 2 quotes

Only three pitchers in Red Sox history have had back-to-back outings of at least seven innings with only one hit allowed.

Howard Ehmke, 1923
                           IP  H  R  BB  K  BF  PIT  Game
September 7 at Athletics:   9  0  0   1  1  28       Won 4-0
September 11 at Yankees:    9  1  0   1  5  29       Won 3-0
Pedro Martinez, 2002
                           IP  H  R  BB  K  BF  PIT  Game
April 19 at Royals:         8  1  0   0  6  26   92  Won 4-0
April 25 at Orioles:        7  1  0   1 10  24  103  Won 7-0 
Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2011
                           IP  H  R  BB  K  BF  PIT  Game
April 18 vs Blue Jays:      7  1  0   1  3  23   89  Won 9-1
April 23 at Angels:         8  1  0   3  9  28  115  Won 5-0
In addition to pitching a no-hitter, Ehmke went 2-for-4. In the second game, he went 3-for-4, getting half of Boston's six hits.

(Vicente Padilla was the last major league pitcher to have two consecutive starts of 7+ innings and one hit allowed: May 5 and 10, 2009.)
Example
It's time to revisit a couple of quotes:

Peter Abraham, Globe, April 12:
Trading [Daisuke Matsuzaka] would not be easy. ... But it has to be done.

[T]here's not a shred of evidence to suggest Matsuzaka will be a reliable pitcher in the AL East any time soon. ... The Red Sox would be a better team with somebody else in the rotation. ...

[A]t this point putting him in a game is counterproductive to winning. ... [I]t's just not working for anybody.
Chad Finn, Globe, April 12:
Last night's masterpiece [2-8-7-2-2 vs the Rays] was Daisuke Matsuzaka's 100th start for the Red Sox. ... I'd just as soon he not make start No. 101 for the Red Sox. Not just three days from now. Not three months from now. Not three years from now. ...

He has to go. ... I don't come to this conclusion easily. I try to avoid opining in lockstep with the sports radio conventional wisdom of the day. The panic button is usually well out of my reach. ...

[H]ere's the dirty truth about Dice-K: He's not just maddening or inconsistent. He's plain lousy ... He's just terrible, and any cure for this prolonged terribleness seems unfathomable ...

April 23, 2011

G20: Red Sox 5, Angels 0

Red Sox - 011 021 000 - 5 11  0
Angels  - 000 000 000 - 0  2  0
After allowing only one hit to the Blue Jays in seven innings last Monday, Matsuzaka (8-1-0-3-9, 115) showed similar dominance over the Angels. The new economical Dice has faced only three or four batters in 14 of his last 15 innings; he has retired the side in order in 10 of the 15 innings.

The Red Sox have won four straight games and seven of their last eight -- the starting pitchers have a 1.01 ERA in those eight games -- and are now tied for third place in the AL East.

The lone hit was a second-inning infield single by Alberto Callaspo, who lined the ball right back at Matsuzaka's head. Dice got his glove up in time and deflected the ball to Jed Lowrie at shortstop. Lowrie tried to make a play at first base (and it was fairly close), but Callaspo beat it out.

Carl Crawford and Jason Varitek hit back-to-back doubles in the sixth inning. For Varitek, it was only his second hit of the season (he's now 2-for-27). Crawford also singled in the second, driving in Boston's first run against Santana (7-9-5-1-9, 104). Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run opposite-field dong, Lowrie had two hits, and Jacoby Ellsbury singled twice, stole two bases, and scored two runs.
Example
Daisuke Matsuzaka / Ervin Santana

Last Friday night, the Red Sox rallied with a three-run eighth inning against the Blue Jays, but lost 7-6, dropping their record to a dismal 2-10. For the week since then, here are the records of the AL East teams:
Red Sox 6 1 (outscored opponents 34-16) Yankees 3 1 Rays 4 3 Orioles 2 4 Blue Jays 2 4
Boston picked up 1.5 games in the standings and is now 3.5 GB the Yankees. All four of the non-first place teams in the division are within one game of each other, so there should be a fair amount of shifting around in the next week. After the Angels series, the Red Sox head to Baltimore.

AL East: Rays/Blue Jays at 1 PM and Yankees/Orioles at 7 PM.

April 22, 2011

G19: Red Sox 4, Angels 3

Red Sox - 001 201 000 - 4  5  0
Angels  - 000 000 120 - 3  9  2
Lester (6-4-0-2-8, 111) escaped jams in the second and third innings, and outdueled Haren (6-5-4-3-6, 109). Boston has won six of its last seven games, and is 3.5 GB the Yankees (and only one game out of second place).

Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-bagger with one out in the third and, with two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled him home. With two outs in the fourth, Haren walked Jed Lowrie and allowed a double to J.D. Drew. Both runners scored when center fielder Peter Bourjos dropped and kicked Carl Crawford's routine pop fly to short right-center.

In the sixth, Lowrie doubled to left and kept running to third when Vernon Wells bobbled the ball on the warning track. Drew quickly knocked Lowrie in with a single, the only one of Boston's five hits that was not a double.

Matt Albers allowed a two-out run in the seventh and Bobby Jenks started the eighth by giving up a double to Howie Kendrick and an RBI single to Bobby Abreu. Abreu took second on a wild pitch and then advanced two bases on a passed ball (Salty had absolutely no idea where it went), crossing the plate unmolested, cutting the Sox's lead to 4-3. Jenks walked Albertio Callaspo, but then recorded the third out.

Hank Conger singled with one out in the ninth against Jonathan Papelbon, but the Boston closer retired Bourjos on an 0-2 fly to right and struck out Kendrick on three pitches.
Example
Jon Lester / Dan Haren

Boston Starters
Games  1-12 - 6.71 ERA
Games 13-18 - 1.37 ERA
Haren has walked only two batters in 31 innings, while striking out 27 (1.16 ERA, 0.645 WHIP). Righties are batting .179 against him and lefties are at .155; on-base percentages for both groups are also below .200. He and Jered Weaver (who pitched on Wednesday and will miss this series) are dominating the AL Pitchers leaderboard so far this year.

Happy 52nd birthday to Terry Francona!

Two other April 22 anniversaries: 1876 - In the first National League game ever played, the Boston Red Caps beat the Philadelphia Athletics 6-5. ... 1914 - Babe Ruth, age 19, plays his first professional game, pitching a 6-0 for the Baltimore Orioles over the Buffalo Bisons.

AL East: Yankees/Orioles and Rays/Blue Jays at 7 PM.

Selig Working Towards Expanding Playoffs In 2012

Bud Selig said this week that major league baseball is "moving inexorably" towards adding two additional playoff teams, beginning with the 2012 post-season.

One possibility is to have two wild-card teams in each league play each other (either one winner-take-all game or a best-of-three series) for the right to advance to the Division Series. I believe there has been talk of having the Division Series be expanded to a best-of-seven format.
Example
Yesterday, Peter Gammons said that "one of the worst things that's happened" to the Red Sox this month is that Jacoby Ellsbury has hit four home runs. Not that Old Hickory is anti-home run, but he thought that Ellsbury had perhaps changed his game plan, opting to swing for taters rather than getting on base any way he can.

Paul at YFSF, while bearing in mind the small data samples, looked at what Ellsbury has done at the plate since the season began:
Ellsbury is actually being more selective than he ever has ... unquestionably seeing more balls and better hitter's counts ... not swinging at pitches out of the zone as much ... laying off the first pitch ... swinging more often at the strikes that he sees. Yet he's making contact less often.

It's easy to look at these latter numbers and say Ellsbury is hacking more often in hopes of getting the big home run. But that theory doesn't fit the more selective Ellsbury we see from the [previous data] ...
Paul says Ellsbury's swing could be a bit wonky at the moment, so he's fanning more often or hitting more fly balls.
Or it could simply be pointing to a slump, where Ellsbury is correctly identifying the pitches to swing at, but he's just missing or getting unlucky on the ones he does hit (.162 BABIP says hello).
Example
John Lackey is at it again. After Lackey beat the Yankees on April 8, he admitted that he "didn't pitch very well" -- 5 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs -- but he also said this:
I thought every ball they hit was down the line and for extra bases. If I keep those in the middle they're singles and no runs.
Then, after his most recent start, Lackey was asked if he could have gone another inning or was his pitch count of 93 near his limit, he said, "I don't know. I just work here."

Two SoSH comments: "I've never seen a player take less responsibility for their performance." and "Does he try to be as unlikeable as possible?"

Affidavit Regarding Possibly Crooked 1918 World Series Released

The suggestion that the Chicago Cubs may have thrown the 1918 World Series to the Boston Red Sox is back in the news. I was the first writer to extensively examine that possibility, in my 2001 book, Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox.

(Sean Deveney's book, The Original Curse: Did The Cubs Throw The 1918 World Series To Babe Ruth's Red Sox And Incite The Black Sox Scandal?, was published in 2010.)

A 1920 court deposition from White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte -- one of the eight Chicago players banned from professional baseball by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds -- was recently posted on the Chicago History Museum's website. (I thought the affidavit had been released when its existence came to light three years ago, but I guess I was mistaken.)
EDWARD VICTOR CICOTTE being first duly sworn upon oath deposes and says:

I am making this statement of my own free will and accord without any promise of award of any kind or description.

The way it started, we were going east on the train. The ball players were talking about somebody trying to fix the National League ball players or something like that in the World's Series of 1918. Well anyway there was some talk about them offering $10,000 or something to throw the Cubs in the Boston Series. There was talk that somebody offered this player $10,000 or anyway the bunch of players were offered $10,000 to throw this series. This was on the train going over. Somebody made a crack about getting money, if we got into the series, to throw the series. The boys on the Club got a talking over there in New York about the fellows getting too much money and such stuff as that and said that they would go ahead and go through with it if they got this money.

We never held any secret meeting but we would meet one or two at a time and we all agreed that for a piece of money we would throw the World Series. I was supposed to get $10,000. Some man came to the Warner and left this money in my room. $10,000. That was supposed to be mine. There was no agreement with anybody but just simply an

***

It is clear that several White Sox players were absolutely certain that players on the 1918 Cubs were offered money to intentionally lose the World Series. It sounds like it was mentioned in fairly casual conversation. However, Cicotte does not name any of those players -- though I would assume he or his White Sox teammates knew who they were, since they knew of the offer -- and he does not say if the money was accepted or if the Cubs did, in fact, lose on purpose.

As I wrote in 2008,
I could not offer definitive proof [in my book] that the series had been tainted, but it was obvious that there was no shortage of financial incentive for players on both teams. Additionally, the Cubs mystified many sportswriters with their mistakes in the field, at the plate and on the bases.
After 93 years, definitive proof regarding the crookedness of the 1918 World Series is unlikely -- though this Cicotte affidavit was discovered only four years ago, so who knows?

Youkilis's Shin Is Merely Sore; X-Rays Negative

Kevin Youkilis fouled a pitch off his left shin in the first inning last night and played only one half-inning in the field before being taken out of the game. X-rays on his shin were negative and he will be re-evaluated today.

For the time being (or the Angels series, at a minimum), Francona is using a tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek behind the plate. Varitek caught Josh Beckett and will get Daisuke Matsuzaka on Saturday, while Salty will catch Jon Lester tonight and John Lackey on Sunday. Because Tito was talking only about the LAA series, he did not mention Clay Buchholz, but Salty has caught three of his four starts.

Saltalamacchia has not looked sharp behind the dish, and is slugging .222 at the plate, with an on-base percentage of .256. But Salty is swinging a big stick compared to Varitek, who is 1-for-23 (.043) in nine games, and has yet to drive in a run, despite a total of 26 men on base for his at-bats.

Varitek:
Oh, I'm freaking locked in. ... It can't get much worse. I don't mean that in a funny way. It can't. I've never hit this bad. I need to use my eyes a little better.
Beckett threw 125 pitches last night, one fewer than his career-high set on May 20, 2004, with the Marlins. It was the highest pitch count for a Red Sox starter in 456 games, since Jon Lester (130) pitched his no-hitter on May 19, 2008. Beckett's previous high for Boston was 121 (in only 5.2 innings), on August 19, 2006.
It's nice to have confidence in your pitches. That's something that I definitely have right now. I'm throwing three or four pitches, all of them for strikes when I need them for strikes and for balls when I need them for balls. ... I felt like I made pitches when I needed to, except for one. And the one pitch that Torii hit [game-tying home run in the eighth] actually wasn't the worst pitch I threw that inning.
Dustin Pedroia reached base five times (three singles, two walks) and was the middle man on the 9-4-5 play that gunned down a bone-headed Erick Aybar, who tried to stretch a leadoff double into a triple in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth. Mike Scioscia said he did not mind the aggressiveness.
I'm good with his effort on going to third base. But rounding second, it looked like he hesitated a little bit and looked back to see the ball, and that ended up being the difference and was what cost him. That's what was unfortunate, but the play was as close as you could get.
Pedroia:
Three chances with a runner on third is better than two. I know the rule is never make the first out at third, but the guy's got great speed and it took a perfect play to get him. That's why in spring training ... I don't ever go 50 percent in those drills. It's going to come down to three or four games a year that if we make a good throw we win. Tonight was one of those games, so practice pays off.
Beckett:
They always talk about how exciting a triple is, but it's pretty exciting when you see someone get thrown out at third as well.
The Red Sox drew 11 walks, were 2-for-18 with runners at second and/or third, and left 15 men on base. Adrian Gonzalez: "It doesn't matter how many you strand as long as you win."

Matt Albers was activated from the disabled list before last night's game. Alfredo Aceves was optioned to Pawtucket. ... PawSox outfielder Ryan Kalish injured/jammed his left shoulder last night on a diving catch. Kalish was taken to a hospital and later has his arm in a sling. PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler: "It didn't look real serious, but you never know."

April 21, 2011

G18: Red Sox 4, Angels 2 (11)

Red Sox - 000 002 000 02 - 4  8  0
Angels  - 000 000 200 00 - 2  4  0
Beckett (8-3-2-2-5, 125) turned in his third straight superb start -- a 1.08 ERA in those 23 innings -- and 11th inning RBI from Adrian Gonzalez and Jed Lowrie gave the Red Sox a win in their first extra-inning game of the season.

Jacoby Ellsbury's two-run single gave Boston a lead in the sixth. Beckett allowed his first hit in the sixth inning and Torii Hunter blasted a two-run dong in the seventh to tie the game.

Boston wasted several scoring chances throughout the game:

1st: 1st/2nd, 1 out - Kevin Youkilis 6U-3/DP
2nd: Man on 3rd, 1 out - Carl Crawford 3U, Jason Varitek K
3rd: 1st/2nd, 2 outs - Marco Scutaro F8
4th: 1st/2nd, 2 outs - Ellsbury F7
7th: 1st/2nd, 0 outs - Gonzalez P5, Scutaro K, David Ortiz K
8th: Bases loaded, 1 out - J.D. Drew K, Dustin Pedroia P4

Erick Aybar doubled to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and he foolishly tried for a triple (despite slowing himself down before he got to second base by turning his head twice to look out at Drew fielding the ball in the corner) and was thrown out Drew-to-Pedroia-to-Lowrie. That was the last Angels base runner until there was one out in the 11th. Peter Bourjos bunted for a hit and took second on a wild pitch, but Jonathan Papelbon retired the next two hitters for the save.

Youkilis fouled a ball off his shin in the first inning; in the bottom of the second, Lowrie moved to third and Scutaro took over at shortstop.

Boston improved to 7-11 and is now 4 GB the Yankees (and only 1.5 games out of second place).
Example
Josh Beckett / Tyler Chatwood

Chatwood, a 21-year-old rookie right-hander, is making his third career start. In his previous starts, he has allowed nine hits and six walks in 12 innings (3.75 ERA). BP2011 says he has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve.

In Beckett's last two starts (15 innings against the Yankees and Blue Jays), he has allowed only five hits, three walks and one run, while striking out 19.

Peter Gammons, WEEI:
I think one of the things that's killed [the Red Sox] is that Jacoby Ellsbury has forgotten what his job is in baseball, which is to get on base and run. His four home runs, to me, are one of the worst things that's happened to this team early in the season, because I think it's encouraged him to get wider and wider with his swing. ... They need him to get on base 37 percent of the time or 38 percent of the time. I think he's kind of gotten away from that. ... The guy who's supposed to hit leadoff isn't getting on base.
Among the 10 Red Sox players with more than 25 plate appearances this year, Ellsbury's .262 OBP ranks 8th. (His batting average is 9th and his slugging, even with a team-leading four home runs, is 6th. He is also second on the team in strikeouts.)
Example
KHAZAD, commenting at Joe Posnanski's blog:
I like to look at the season as a series of 18 game innings. As a team, you would like to win each inning. If you do you are definitely in the playoff hunt*. ... I also like it because there are arbitrary beginning and ending dates. You cannot start it just after a losing streak and carry it to the beginning of the next one just to make the team look better.
* - This is true. Winning an 18-game "inning" by the smallest margin would be a 10-8 record, which is a 90-win pace for the season.

After tonight's game, we will have completed the first "inning" of the 2011 season.

AL East: White Sox/Rays at 6:30 PM and Twins/Orioles at 7 PM. Yankees off.

Bard Relieving Buchholz With Bases Loaded

Daniel Bard got out of Clay Buchholz's bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth yesterday and joked afterwards that "he owes me a dinner".

Buchholz: "I think he's done it four times now in my career, coming in with the bases loaded, less than two outs."

Someone should tell Clay that Bard actually had never done that before yesterday, so he should hold off on that dinner (or tell Bard he can order only soup).

Bard has come into six bases-loaded situations in his career (all of them in 2010):
April 23 vs Orioles: 6th inning, in relief of Jon Lester, 2 outs: F8

May 8 vs Yankees: 8th inning, in relief of Scott Schoeneweis (Buchholz started), 2 outs: 2-run single, BB, 2-run single, F9

June 5 at Orioles: 7th inning, in relief of Lester, 1 out: F8, PF5

August 9 at Yankees: 7th inning, in relief of Lester, 1 out: K, K

August 12 at Blue Jays: 9th inning, in relief of Jonathan Papelbon (John Lackey started), 2 outs: F8 (game-losing sac fly)

October 3 vs Yankees: 9th inning, in relief of Rich Hill (Lackey started), 2 outs: 4-3.
Before yesterday, Bard had relieved Buchholz seven times, but only five times with runners on base:
2009
July 17 at Blue Jays: 6th inning, 1st/2nd, 2 outs: K
September 18 at Orioles: Started 7th inning

2010
May 14 at Tigers: 7th, 1st/2nd, 1 out: HBP, K, 5-3
May 19 vs Twins: 9th, Man on 1st, 0 outs: 4-3, 3U/run scored, BB, 1B, 4-3
June 20 vs Dodgers: 7th, 1st/3rd, 2 outs: FC6-4
August 6 at Yankees: 8th, Man on 2nd, 1 out: L8, P3
August 22 vs Blue Jays: Started 7th inning
In fact, before yesterday, Buchholz had never -- in 65 major league starts and two relief appearances -- left a game with the bases loaded.
Example
Terry Francona:
Remember last week ... I said the best way for us to play good baseball is to go through our rotation a couple of times and get solid starts, consistent starts, and give ourselves a chance?
In the most recent time through the rotation, the starters had a 1.15 ERA:
            IP  H  R  BB  K
Beckett    7.0  3  1   2  9
Lester     6.0  6  1   3  5
Matsuzaka  7.0  1  0   1  3
Lackey     6.0  4  1   1  3
Buchholz   5.1  6  1   4  2
And Boston won four of those five games.

April 20, 2011

G17: Red Sox 5, Athletics 3

Red Sox   - 010 102 100 - 5 10  0
Athletics - 100 000 011 - 3 12  1
Terry Francona was in Playoff Assassin mode after Buchholz (5.1-6-1-4-2, 102) loaded the bases in the sixth, giving up a leadoff double and getting squeezed on two one-out walks. Boston was up 4-1, the tying runs were on base, it was raining, and Daniel Bard was coming in to put out the fire.

Bard dispensed with Cliff Pennington on three pitches, striking him out on a 96 mph fastball. Coco Crisp, who had hit a home run on Buchholz's first pitch of the game, lined Bard's 1-0 offering down the left field line. It likely would have cleared the bases and tied the game, but it landed approximately two inches foul. (And NESN quickly cued up the clip of David Murphy's Opening Day pinch-hit two-run double off Bard that landed right on the left field chalk line and scored two runs, dealing the death blow to the Sox that afternoon.) Crisp popped out to shortstop on the next pitch.

Francona:
That was the game right there. You guys have heard me talk about it time and time again that the game can be won in the sixth or seventh. For me, that was it. He came in and stopped it.
Jonathan Papelbon worked out of two separate jams to earn the save. In the eighth, Bobby Jenks had allowed a walk and three consecutive singles; Oakland had cut Boston's lead to 5-2 and still had the bases loaded with two outs. Papelbon promptly struck out David DeJesus, getting him swinging on a splitter after four straight fastballs.

Hideki Matsui singled to began the bottom of the ninth and, one out later, Papelbon hit Mark Ellis. Landon Powell followed with a drive to the right-center field gap. Shemp slipped on the wet grass rounding third and fell down, but he was still able to score easily. Jacoby Ellsbury held Connor to a single and Oakland -- now trailing by two runs -- had runners at first and third, with only one out.

Papelbon got two swinging strikes on pinch-hitter Josh Willingham before retiring him on a pop-up to Adrian Gonzalez in front of the mound. Pennington was next and he popped a 0-1 pitch to Marco Scutaro at shortstop, and the Red Sox won their first road game of the season.

Oakland left 15 men on base, including nine in the last four innings.

Carl Crawford drove in Boston's first run, scoring Kevin Youkilis with a line drive single to left. Youkilis homered to start the fourth, Jed Lowrie hit a two-run dong in the sixth, and J.D. Drew cranked a homer in the seventh.
Example
Clay Buchholz / Gio Gonzalez

Gonzalez has given up only one run in 19 innings (0.47 ERA). However, he has allowed 12 hits and handed out 12 walks for a 1.263 WHIP and a FIP* of 4.17. Plus, he has a very low .216 BABIP. What this means is that Mr. Gonzalez's good luck cannot, and will not, last.

* Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher is specifically responsible for and shows how well he pitched regardless of how his fielders did. Look at it as you would ERA.

The Red Sox are 0-7 on the road this season and have not scored in their last 20 road innings.
0406 at Cle - 020 000 200 - Lost 4-8
0407 at Cle - 000 000 000 - Lost 0-1
0419 at Oak - 000 000 000 - Lost 0-5
Boston has scored only 16 runs in those seven road games.

AL East: White Sox/Rays at 6:30 PM; and Twins/Orioles and Yankees/Blue Jays at 7 PM.

Red Sox Announce Plans For Fenway's 100th Anniversary


Ninety-nine years ago today, the Red Sox beat the New York Highlanders 7-6, in 11 innings, in the first major league baseball game played at Fenway Park. This morning, the team announced some of its plans to celebrate the park's 100th anniversary, including the launching of a website -- Fenway Park 100.
Boston Globe, April 21, 1912:
Boston's beautiful new ball park in the Fenway was yesterday opened before a crowd of 24,000 spectators.

There was no time wasted in childish parades. Mayor Fitzgerald dignified the occasion by tossing out the new ball and the Speed Boys and Highlanders were soon at it, starting the game at 1:10 and closing the entertainment at 4:20, when Tristram Speaker, the Texas sharpshooter, with two down in the 11th inning and Steve Yerkes, on third, smashed the ball too fast for the shortstop to handle and the winning run came over the plate, making the score 7 to 6, and the immense crowd leaving for home for a cold supper, but wreathed in smiles to see the Speed Boys come from behind and by dint of staying prowess land the victory.

The day was ideal. The bright sun brought out the bright colors of the flags and bunting that decorated the big grandstand, and gave the new uniforms of the players a natty look. Before the game started, the crowd broke into the outfield and remained behind the ropes, forcing the teams to make ground rules, all hits going for two bases.

This ruling was a big disadvantage to the home team, for the Highland laddies never hit for more than a single, while three of Boston's hits went into the crowd, whereas with a clear field they would have gone for three-base drives and possibly home runs, and would have landed the home team a winner before the ninth inning.

While the grounds were in fair condition, there were spots where the earth was soft and lumpy, and this caused fumbling that would never have occurred on a dry field. . . .

The game was full of interest, the crowd holding its seats to the end, figuring that the Red Sox would eventually nose out the Broadway swells. . . .

The park was crowded with veteran ball players and fans, and everyone praised the new park, which is a model in every way.
New York - 302 000 010 00 - 6  7  2
Boston   - 100 301 010 01 - 7 14  7
The Red Sox had played an exhibition game (in a snowstorm) against Harvard University on April 11. The game against the Highlanders was delayed for two days by rain.

Varitek Getting More Playing Time

In an interview with WEEI before yesterday's game, Terry Francona said Jason Varitek would be getting more playing time as Jarrod Saltalamacchia continues to "earn [his] stripes".
I think sometimes a catcher can put down the same signs, but depending on who it is, the pitcher throws with a little more commitment. ... It's always going to be hard for the next guy to come in to compare themselves, the way the game's being run, with Tek. That's been Tek's strength for so long. ... We've obviously tried to get him in there a little bit more ... I've got to be a little bit careful about running him out there too much. He has gotten a lot of wear and tear. We don't want to reach for too much and get him hurt. Then we're really in a bind.
Saltalamacchia started eight of the season's first nine games, but since April 9, Francona has been alternating between the two catchers every game. Boston is 3-2 when Varitek starts and 2-9 when Salty gets the nod.

Red Sox pitchers have a 2.40 ERA throwing to Varitek (45 innings) and a 7.14 ERA with Saltalamacchia (92 innings). Neither man is hitting worth a damn.
         PA   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS   OPS+
Salty    39  .194  .256  .222  .479    34
Varitek  19  .063  .167  .063  .229   -33
As you might expect, Boston's catchers' hitting stats (.154/.228/.173) are the worst in MLB.
Example
From last night's recap:
In the eighth, David Ortiz singled and Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-ran. Anderson fell behind Mike Cameron 3-0, but battled back to strike him out on a check swing; Ellsbury was running on the full count pitch and beat Kurt Suzuki's throw, but was called out because Cameron stepped in front of Suzuki as the catcher was throwing to second base.
After the game, crew chief Tim Welke told reporters that there had been no interference on Cameron's part, and Ellsbury was tagged out sliding into second, completing a double play.

Replays showed that Ellsbury was safe, so second base ump Andy Fletcher blew that call. And the entire crew failed to provide any coherent explanation for the play, as Cameron, Ellsbury, and Francona were unclear after the game what the actual call had been.

Francona:
I'd like to get a little more of a clarification because Jacoby came back because he said it was interference, but I guess when [acting manager DeMarlo Hale*] went out, [the umpire] said no interference, they called him out at second. It was confusing because I never saw a call made at second.
* Hale was managing because Tito had been ejected in the fourth inning when the umpires failed to call a balk on Anderson, and ruled Dustin Pedroia had been picked off.

John Lackey, on why he was pulled after six innings and 93 pitches: "I don't know. I just work here."

5,000

This is Joy of Sox post #5,000.

Post #1 was on August 26, 2003 -- 2,795 days ago. If things continue at the same rate (1.79 posts/day), look for post #10,000 on Friday, December 14, 2018.

Thanks to everyone who takes time out of his/her day to read JoS.

April 19, 2011

G16: Athletics 5, Red Sox 0

Red Sox   - 000 000 000 - 0  5  1
Athletics - 100 000 04x - 5  8  1
Lackey (6-4-1-1-3, 93) pitched very well, but Anderson (8-4-0-1-8, 109) completely shut down the Red Sox. Hideki Okajima, in his 2011 debut, gave up three runs in the eighth (and allowed an inherited runner to score) as Oakland padded its lead.

Boston had only two base runners in the first seven innings; Adrian Gonzalez singled with two outs in the first and he reached first on Anderson's throwing error in the seventh.

In the eighth, David Ortiz singled and Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-ran. Anderson fell behind Mike Cameron 3-0, but battled back to strike him out on a check swing; Ellsbury was running on the full count pitch and beat Kurt Suzuki's throw, but was called out because Cameron stepped in front of Suzuki as the catcher was throwing to second base. With two outs and no one on, Carl Crawford beat out an infield single and Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined a hit to left, but Anderson struck out Darnell McDonald on three pitches to end the threat.

Down by five with one out in the ninth, Dustin Pedroia walked and Gonzalez singled. But Youkilis flied to left and Ellsbury popped to shortstop.

Jed Lowrie went 0-for-4, snapping his seven-game hitting streak.
Example
John Lackey / Brett Anderson

After three consecutive (nearly) stress-free wins over the Blue Jays -- 4-1, 8-1, 9-1 -- the Red Sox are in Oakland for the start of a nine-game road trip that will include stops in Anaheim and Baltimore.

Lefty Anderson has a 2.29 ERA in three starts (19.2 innings), but he can't actually be much good, because his record is 0-1. ... Lackey has been more successful, as he is 1-1. Pay no attention to his 15.58 ERA and .395 opponents batting average; Lackey "pitches to the score" and "knows how to win".

The Red Sox are 0-6 on the road this year, the only major league team with no road victories. They are also 0-3 in one-run games, one of only two teams with no one-run wins (the Orioles are 0-1).

Gordon Edes shares "an absolutely terrifying stat" about Lackey:
He has given up at least six extra-base hits in each of his first two starts, and if that happens again Tuesday night, he will be only the second pitcher in 90 years to do that three times in a row. Danny Graves did it in 2003, and he went 1-13.
Graves (who went 4-15, not 1-13, in 2003*):
0525 vs FLA: 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs (and 4 singles)
0531 vs FLA: 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run (and 3 singles)
0605 vs NYY: 5 doubles, 1 home run (and 2 singles)

Lackey:
0402 vs TEX: 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs (and 3 singles)
0408 vs NYY: 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run (and 1 single)

* In comments, Jere notes that Graves went 1-13 from May 25 to the end of the season.
Example
AL East: White Sox/Rays at 6:30 PM; and Twins/Orioles and Yankees/Blue Jays at 7 PM.
Example
THT's Chris Jaffe lists the greatest games by Hall of Famers since 1950, according to WPA. In George Brett's game of May 28, 1979, he almost hit for the cycle in extra innings (single in the 10th, double in the 14th, game-winning home run in the 16th)! Brett did hit for the cycle in the game, however; he had a triple back in the third inning.

Bill Petti, Beyond the Box Score, on the Yankees:
When you look at how they've scored their runs and combine that with how their pitchers have performed it's hard to step back and say objectively that this team is among the elite teams in baseball.