Monthly Archives: April 2013

Catch the Lucky Star!

Monday. A new week starts. The Red Sox are 18-7, in first place in the American League East, and have the best record in baseball. John Lackey threw six innings of one run, five hit baseball. You read that right, John Lackey pitched and won a baseball game. He last won a game for the Red Sox on September 25, 2011. That seems like quite a few buckets of KYC fried chicken ago.

To temper things a bit, let’s remember that Lackey’s outing was against the Astros, MLB’s attempt to see what happens when you allow a AAA team to join the American League West. Lackey was not masterful, but was good enough. From my vantage point, he looked like a new man. Much thinner in physical appearance, less whiny, and pretty darn efficient after a rocky first inning. My wife, who is learning all the names of the players on the Red Sox and trying to absorb as much of my baseball nonsense as she can, commented, all on her own, at the beginning of the fifth inning that Lackey had only thrown 68 pitches. That was pretty good, right? Yep, I replied, pretty damn good. It was even more surprising given that he needed 27 pitches to get out of a first inning jam.

The Astros, fortunately, let Lackey off the hook after scoring what would turn out to be their only run. After the first, they swung early. A second inning lead of single by Lackey was all he allowed until the fifth. He got the next thirteen Astros in order. Those Astros batters saw this many pitches: 1, 4, 2, 2, 2, 4, 1, 5, 2, 2, 8, 2, 2.

“Working the count” and “Getting into the bullpen” certainly were not mentioned in Bo Porter’s pre-game speech to his team. Rumor has it that he gathered the whole team together in the dugout after that first inning run and said:

” Boys, our payroll is only 22 million. Many think it is 26 million but they are wrong. We had to give the Pirates 4.5 million to take Wandy Rodriguez off our hands so it really is only 21 or 22 million. Can you imagine, we are paying on average less then a million dollars a player! Isn’t that sweet? How many other teams are trying to win with so little? Not many. Well, not any really. Even the Marlins are spending more then us. It’s us against the world, boys!

On top of our cheap payroll, we want to make you guys even tougher. That means new travel plans. It will be just like your minor league days. Guess what is coming back? Grueling, hard, boring, cramped bus rides! Hard times build character. In 2020 we think our team will be too tough to lose. We won’t need high priced players. We’ll have character guys, tough guys. Our motto: Character wins championships!

That character building gets ramped up today!

Tonight we travel by Lucky Star bus to NYC! It’s only $20 per player! Right after the game we leave Boston for NYC on the Lucky Star! It will be a fun. Yep, tons of fun. I won’t make you all dress up like Joe Maddon does, but yes, indeed, this will still be an experience you’ll have for the rest of your lives. There is one catch. The last bus out of Boston is at 6:00 pm, so we need to be out of Fenway no later then 5:00. That makes things kinda tight. But, I know we can do it. All our stuff is packed and ready to go. All we need is for you guys to speed things up a bit. So, bottom line, swing early and often. None of this working the count stuff like I saw in the first inning. I want more of what Fernando did to end that first inning. Swing at the first pitch. That’s the ticket.

Go get ’em boys!”

That had to have been the speech. No other explanation.

Ironically, when the Astros face the Yankees tonight, it will be Lucas Harrell versus Andy Pettitte. Houston, you remember Andy Pettite, don’t you? He played for you guys from 2004-2006. You paid him $5,500,000 in 2004, $8,500,000 in 2005, and $16,428,416 in 2006. That’s a lot compared to now, right? Do these numbers look weird to you?

Astro’s Opening Day Payrolls:

2004 – 75,397,000

2005 – 76,779,000

2006 – 92,551,503

*USA Today Salaries Database

Ha, that seems funny doesn’t it? That was a dream right?

One day the Astro fan base will wake up from the nightmare they are living now. It may be a while though.

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Sox bash Astros into submission

The Davids (Ross (2) and Ortiz (1)) cranked out three homers and Will Middlebrooks added another to lead the Sox to a 7-3 win over the hapless Astros. This was Ross’ eleventh two homer game in his career. I was surprised to find that Ross ranks 21st among catchers in multi-homer games. To put this in perspective, Jason Varitek also had 11 such games but did it in 5,839 plate appearances.  Ross did it in exactly 2,000 plate appearances. Only twice in his eleven year career has Ross had more then 200 plate appearances in a season. Perhaps, he should get more playing time. Just to round things out, the top three multi homer catchers are:

  1. Mike Piazza (35 in 7,745 PA)
  2. Gary Carter (27 in 9,019 PA)
  3. Carlton Fisk (23 in 9,853 PA)

If Ross had as many plate appearances as Carlton Fisk and had multi homer games on a similar pace as his first 2,000 plate appearances, he’d have about 48 multi homer games. Wow. When he plays, he cranks.

The Sox are now 16-7, which is tied for the fourth best start ever over the team’s first twenty-three games. The top 3 starts:

  1. 1946 Red Sox 20-3
  2. 1904 Red Sox 18-5
  3. 1998 and 1940 Red Sox 17-6

What a difference a year makes. Last year’s team started 11-12.

Buchholz keeps on winning.

How long can he go?

Clay Buchholz won again last night to stretch his season opening winning streak to 5 games. He still has a ways to go to top Roger Clemens’ Red Sox record of 14 straight wins to start the 1986 season. The top 9 consecutive win streaks to start the season for the Red Sox are:

  • Roger Clemens   14     1986
  • Roger Moret        10     1973
  • Josh Beckett         9      2007
  • Sonny Siebert       9      1971
  • Dave Ferriss         9      1946
  • Dice K                    8     2008
  • Dave Ferris           8      1945
  • Lefty Grove           8      1938
  • Babe Ruth             8       1917

Buchholz has a ways to go to break into this group. His next few starts, if he starts every fifth day, will be @ Blue Jays (4/30), @ Rangers 5/5, Blue Jays 5/10, @ Rays 5/15, @ White Sox 5/20. Buchholz, over his career, is about a half run better at home (3.45 ERA) then on the road (4.07 ERA). With most of his next few starts on the road, I imagine it will be hard for him to break into the 8 win group.

This got me thinking. What’s the story with Dave “Boo” Ferriss. It turns out his star was bright, but short.

The Sox signed him in June 1942. He played in their Class B Piedmont League in Greensboro, NC and then returned to college. I guess you could do that back in the day.

While in his final year at Mississippi State, he was drafted into the Army and served in Texas for the duration of the war. He left the service early because of asthma, something he suffered with for most of his life. He made his debut with the Sox on April 29, 1945 against the Philadelphia Athletics winning 2-0 throwing a complete game five hit shutout. His next start was just as impressive. He tossed another complete game shutout, stretching his scoreless inning streak to 18. He finally gave up a run in the fifth inning of his third start. Despite giving up two runs, he still notched the win. At that the time, his 22 1/3 scoreless innings pitched to start a career was a record.

He finished the 1945 season 21-10 with a 2.96 ERA. In 1946, he won his first 9 starts and ended the season with a 25-6 record with a 3.25 ERA. He won game three of the 1946 World Series, tossing a six hit shutout. He started game seven and left in the fifth with the Sox trailing 3-1. The Sox would tie it up in the eighth and take Ferriss off the hook only to see Enos Slaughter in the bottom of the eighth do his crazy mad dash from first to home to give the Cardinals the lead and eventually the win.

Ferriss suffered a shoulder injury in the middle of the 1947 season and was never the same, out of baseball by 1950. He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2002.

Ask Nick?

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about Will Middlebrooks and his attitude toward taking a walk, or rather his disinclination toward taking a walk.

In the ask Nick Cafardo section of the Boston Globe a question about Middlebrooks came up:

What’s up with Will Middlebrooks? He looks awful at bat — very uncomfortable. And his contact is very weak. I don’t know how to square what I’ve been seeing the past week with the multiple home run game earlier. What do you think?

Tom, Middlebury, Vt.

This question was asked prior to Middlebrooks’s three-run homer Monday, but he’s a guy in his second year and pitchers are definitely not giving him much to hit after a good rookie season. All players have to make major adjustments as they go along to remain good hitters, and Middlebrooks is going through his growing pains.

Really? This is the best Cafardo could do? Pitchers aren’t giving him anything to hit and he is going through growing pains? That is such a cop out. Cafardo, who is supposed to know a lot about baseball, couldn’t call a spade a spade? He couldn’t say “Middlebrooks’ needs to learn to develop a more discerning eye and stop swinging at pitches that aren’t strikes. Until he learns to take a walk, pitcher’s aren’t going to give him much good to hit. He might occasionally get a mistake pitch like his three run homer yesterday, but for the most part he will continue to struggle until he learns the strike zone. ”

Now, that might upset Middlebrooks and Cafardo might not get the juicy inside tidbits (sarcasm here) he’d like that make up some of the silly reporting we get about the team. It is this type of “reporting” that diminishes the Globe as a news outlet. Dumbing down your paper won’t lead to more advertising revenue, it just leads to a dumber paper, which is where the Globe finds itself these days. Shame on the Globe for publishing such stupidity. This is not to say the Globe doesn’t do any good reporting. I find its Spotlight series really good, but its sports reporting and some of the other drivel it puts on the front page are not really worthy of being published.

I hardly ever read this ask Nick drivel so after stumbling upon this, I had to see if there was anything worthwhile. My conclusion was “not much.”  Other ask Nick’s are nearly as stupid.

Can you tell us more about the strike zone that appears on the screen on NESN with each pitch? Is it customized for each batter or is it a one-size-fits-all template? That could explain some of the frequent differences between the display and the umpire’s call.

Larry, Wakefield

Umpires tell me that the “Amica strike zone” isn’t accurate. There are pitches that land outside the zone that look to be balls, but umpires call strikes on pitches that cross the plate as strikes. 

Nick asks some umpires and they say it isn’t accurate? That is reporting? How about actually finding out what the Amica strike zone is and how it compares to QuesTech, the technology used by MLB? A quick google search shows me there is not much on the QuesTech system or the Amica strike zone. Seems like this might actually be something worth reporting on rather then just saying “Umpires say Amica strike zone is not accurate.”

Why didn’t Carp start the game the other day? Why didn’t he hit for Gomes with the bases loaded? Farrell is a little better than Francona in putting his team in the best position to win at each crucial decision, and he certainly knows how to handle the pitching staff (exception: leaving Aceves in too long).

Larry, Encinitas, Calif.

Good question. I thought the same thing. I think Farrell wanted to avoid them bringing in the lefty if I can recall the situation correctly.

Come on. Cafardo is a beat reporter for the Red Sox, but didn’t bother to ask the manager about this even though he wondered about it? He just figured he’d make some guess about why Farrell didn’t bring in Carp to pinch hit? This is pathetic.

I could go on with other examples from this one ask Nick, but you get the point. The bar on baseball reporting has gotten pretty low. Shame on the Globe for filling space with such nonsense.

Will Middlebrooks wants to hit, not walk …

The Sox lost 13-0 last night in a rain drenched shellacking. I didn’t go. I couldn’t bring myself, after sitting through the cold the night before, to sit through three hours of drenching rain. I’m glad I didn’t. Watching Alfredo Aceves on a warm day is torture enough. Watching him while wet and cold would have sent me over the edge, not to mention what his four walks and two balks would have done to my mental health. Last night’s game is past. I’ve forgotten it.

This morning, I stumbled on this piece by Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald about Will Middlebrooks. Will, it seems, has no love for taking a walk. That is a bit surprising given what I thought I knew about the Red Sox philosophy about getting on base. Here is Will talking about his plate approach:

“I’m not there to walk. I’m not there to take pitches. If it’s close, I’m going to try to hit into the lights. That’s my job. I’ve never been a guy to walk,’’ said Middlebrooks, who has 20 home runs, 94 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 93 career games. “I’ve always been a guy with strikeouts, and that comes along with hitting for power I think. It’s not for everyone, of course, but for the most part, guys who hit for power, they’re not trying to poke the ball through a hole.

“Obviously, certain situations will dictate when I should do that, but for the most part, I’m trying to hit doubles and homers. I’m not going to sugarcoat that for you. I’m trying to hit homers. I’m trying to hit the ball hard.’’

I wonder if Will expects to have a long career?

I did a little digging on third basemen with low on base percentages. There were 85 players since 1901 to play third base, have fewer then 1000 ABs, and have an on base percentage below .300. Here are just a few you might recognize:

  • Aurelio Rodriguez
  • Dean Palmer
  • Mike Moustakas
  • Charlie Hayes
  • Butch Hobson
  • Matt Williams
  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Scott Coolbaugh
  • Phil Hiatt

Not a very comforting list for someone who hopes to have a long and distinguished career. If we expand the criteria to third basemen with a career on base percentage below .320, more then 100 HRs and more then 500 games played (players that most likely lasted at least four years in the majors) we get a list of 25 players:

Rk Player HR OBP G
1 Matt Williams 378 .317 1866
2 Gary Gaetti 360 .308 2507
3 Tim Wallach 260 .316 2212
4 Larry Parrish 256 .318 1891
5 Tony Batista 221 .299 1309
6 Clete Boyer 162 .299 1725
7 Ken McMullen 156 .316 1583
8 Ed Sprague 152 .318 1203
9 Brandon Inge 151 .303 1483
10 Charlie Hayes 144 .316 1547
11 Pedro Feliz 140 .288 1302
12 Joe Crede 140 .304 888
13 Terry Pendleton 140 .316 1893
14 Steve Buechele 137 .316 1334
15 Jim Presley 135 .290 959
16 Mike Pagliarulo 134 .306 1246
17 Frank Malzone 133 .315 1441
18 Aurelio Rodriguez 124 .275 2017
19 David Bell 123 .320 1403
20 Kelly Gruber 117 .307 939
21 Gene Freese 115 .305 1115
22 Jim Morrison 112 .305 1089
23 Max Alvis 111 .302 1014
24 Jack Howell 108 .318 941
25 Randy Jackson 103 .320 955
Generated 4/24/2013.
Unless he changes his ways, I don’t see Middlebrooks as much more then a Tony Batista or Butch Hobson. If he raised his on base percentage to over .340 (but less then .360) he could turn into:
Rk Player HR OBP G
1 Aramis Ramirez 342 .344 1836
2 Troy Glaus 320 .358 1537
3 Ron Cey 316 .354 2073
4 Ken Boyer 282 .349 2034
5 Todd Zeile 253 .346 2158
6 Eric Chavez 250 .342 1505
7 Sal Bando 242 .352 2019
8 Ken Caminiti 239 .347 1760
9 Howard Johnson 228 .340 1531
10 Mike Lowell 223 .342 1601
11 Bob Horner 218 .340 1020
12 Richie Hebner 203 .352 1908
13 Buddy Bell 201 .341 2405
14 Willie Jones 190 .343 1691
15 Bob Bailey 189 .347 1931
16 Melvin Mora 171 .350 1556
17 Jim Ray Hart 170 .345 1125
18 Edwin Encarnacion 162 .343 958
19 Ryan Zimmerman 154 .353 1005
20 Carney Lansford 151 .343 1862
21 Edgardo Alfonzo 146 .357 1506
22 Fernando Tatis 113 .344 949
23 Dave Hollins 112 .358 983
24 Freddie Lindstrom 103 .351 1439
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/24/2013.

Unfortunately, I don’t see him heading in this direction. I expect we’ll see a lot of hot and cold stretches from Middlebrooks, with more cold then hot. I didn’t expect to see Butch Hobson again, but I guess I was wrong.

The streak ends …

You probably think I am talking about the Sox seven game win streak. Nope. I am talking about my win streak at home Sox games. Until the first game of the Sox-Royals double header, I had been to five other games with my best friend, Marc. We were 5-0 until yesterday afternoon. The Sox beat the Orioles on April 8th, swept the Rays on April 13, 14 and 15 and then beat the Royals on April 20 (the first home game after the Marathon bombing). We were feeling good and pushed our luck with another male bonding game yesterday, April 21. Ervin Santana and a crew of Royals’ relievers though had other things in mind and ended our streak with a 4-2 victory in the front end of a day night double header. Marc and I were disappointed but knew it couldn’t last forever. It was weird  to walk home after a loss.

Observations from the Rays Series:

  • Apart from Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce, the Rays lineup is pathetic and will struggle to score runs. I don’t know why a pitcher would give Longoria anything decent to hit.
  • Jake McGee came in for a relief appearance on Aprll 15 and threw 27 straight fastballs; not one registerd slower then 97 on the stadium radar gun. The guy brings the heat. I don’t think anyone at the plate was thinking “Maybe he’ll throw his slider.” Talk about not messing around.  Here comes the fast ball. I dare you to hit it.
  • The Sox outfield defense is pretty special when JBJ, Ellsbury and Victorino are out there. When JBJ gets sent back down we will see more of Nava and Gomes. Nava isn’t bad, but Gomes is scary out there.
  • JBJ has a good idea of the strike zone. His problem is that he just can’t hit pitches in the strike zone. He needs some AAA work, particularly learning how to hit good breaking stuff.
  • Middlebrooks’ three home run game does not signal a coming out party. He looks overwhelmed at the plate. Swinging at too many pitches low and out of the strike zone.
  • Watching a no-no in person is a blast. After the second inning, I thought that Buchholz had amazing stuff and the day could be a special one for him. It was … until the 8th when Elliot Johnson broke up the no-no bid with a broken bat single. It was a disappointing end. After the game, Marc said he thought the same thing about Clay’s stuff early on. It is weird how you can see when someone is really on.
  • Why are there so many baseball fans who know nothing about the game? During Buchholz’s no hit bid, one guy behind us in the fourth inning said to his girlfriend, “Hey, Buchholz is throwing a no hitter.” Doesn’t he know that’s forbidden? Butthead.
  • Further on the topic of stupid fans, the same girlfriend said to her boyfriend in the first inning “Where is the Green Monster thing?” Seriously? Uh, look to your left moron.

I’m not going to talk about the Marathon bombing. Enough ink and television time has been spent on the topic. I will say that the term “television journalist” is an oxymoron.

I’m just relieved the whole thing is over. I know it may never be over for the victims, but at least we don’t have to spend much more time thinking about the deeply flawed bombers and if they will do any more damage. There will be other crazies, but these particular crazies are done.

Go Get Giancarlo Stanton!

I will do a write up on the Sox three game series with the Rays over the weekend a bit later and possibly an entry on what happened at the Boston Marathon (after all I am a baseball fan and a long distance runner; I’ve run Boston twice). Marc, my lifelong friend, left just this morning after spending the last four days in Boston, catching the Sox-Rays series with me. I would not have been a good host if I spent a couple of hours each day blogging, thus no entries the last couple of days. I do, though, have a lot to say about the series so something will be forthcoming. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on what the Sox need going forward this year.

While I love Daniel Nava and JBJ, if I were the Sox GM, I would trade for Giancarlo Stanton tomorrow. Nava, while a great story, is not the future left fielder for the Sox. JBJ might well be the future Sox center fielder, but it is clear he is not ready to play in the majors and that he needs some AAA at bats and seasoning. He is not hitting, but the one thing that really stuck in my craw this long holiday weekend was a throw JBJ made on Monday. In the ninth, the Sox were up by one. Desmond Jennings led of the inning with a single and then stole second. Zobrist lined a fading shot to left that JBJ could not catch but managed to keep in front of him. He recovered the ball, got up swiftly but then threw wildly to home, missing the cutoff man. Jennings scored easily and Zobrist ended up on second because of JBJ’s decision to throw home. A good major league outfielder would not have made that mistake. The odds of JBJ getting the speedy Jennings at home were about zero and by not hitting the cutoff of man, the Rays had the go ahead run on second. Fortunately, Bailey escaped the rest of the inning with two strikeouts and a pop out. JBJ needs to play at the AAA level.

This leads me to Giancarlo (formerly known as Mike) Stanton. The Sox have a ton of prospects available to package in a deal to acquire the twenty-three year old Stanton (yes, he is only 23). In Stanton’s first three years in the majors, in just under 1500 ABs, he hit 93 home runs with a slash line of 268/350/546. He is the ONLY player in major league history under the age of 23 with fewer then 1500 ABs to hit more then 90 HRs. If you expand this criteria to 1750 ABs with an age limit of 25 the list grows to 13:

Rk Player HR AB Age G
1 Mark McGwire 117 1650 22-25 467
2 Ralph Kiner 114 1622 23-25 452
3 Willie McCovey 108 1573 21-25 502
4 Mark Teixeira 107 1718 23-25 453
5 Ryan Braun 103 1697 23-25 422
6 Babe Ruth 103 1568 19-25 533
7 Chuck Klein 94 1517 23-25 369
8 Giancarlo Stanton 93 1354 20-23 382
9 Jim Thome 93 1647 20-25 500
10 Dean Palmer 93 1689 20-25 490
11 Mike Schmidt 93 1531 22-25 465
12 Bill Melton 91 1722 22-25 482
13 Fred McGriff 90 1387 22-25 425
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2013.

The only guy close to Stanton in ABs and HRs is the Crime Dog – Fred McGriff – and he was two years older then Stanton when he hit 90 HRs in 1387 ABs. Stanton is a once in a lifetime talent. The Sox should do whatever they can to acquire him. The Marlins call Ben and mention the following: Rubby De La Rosa? Ben should say, “I can move him.” Allen Webster? “Him too.” Matt Barnes? “Sure.” Xander Bogaerts? “If I must, okay.” Ryan Lavarnway? “You got it.” Ben’s answer should be yes to whomever the Marlins mention.

These pretend trades you usually here are most often ridiculous. I will, however, suggest an offer that I think the Marlins would have a hard time refusing.

Bradley, Bogaerts and either Barnes or Webster for Stanton. You have to go big to get a stick like Stanton and this would be big. If Sox could avoid including Bogaerts they should but if the Marlins are stuck on Bogaerts then the Sox should include him. Heck, if the Marlins want all four, the Sox should do it.

The Sox would then have to live with Iglesias as their once and future SS. I’m good with that. He could be our Mark Belanger and Stanton’s offense would more then make up for the difference between Iglesias and whatever SS bat they could come up with. After watching Iglesias play so far this season, he is ready defensively. For 2013 the Sox would be set, but then for 2014 they would need to spend money and sign Ellsbury to a long term deal. They might balk at that, but having Stanton on your team would make that possible. Heck, they rid themselves of Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett, they are playing with house money. Additionally, Stanton is cost controlled through 2017 so the money the Sox save there is shifted to Ellsbury. This gives you a lineup like this for the rest of the year:

Ellsbury
Vitorino
Pedroia
Stanton
Ortiz
Napoli
Salty
Gomes/Nava
Middlebrooks
Drew

Not bad. In 2014 you just put Iglesias in for Drew and keep on mashing with Stanton.