Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Where to Begin?
So much has happened since my last post. It’s difficult to know where to start. We’ll go topic by topic.

Sox Trump Yanks

The game one loss with Pedro on the mound had me worried. With Burkett going in game 2 and his miserable track record against the Yanks, I was beginning to wonder if winning 1 out of 3 wouldn’t be bad. Who would have thunk that Burkett would shutout the Yanks for 6, the new and improved pen would cough it up and we’d win anyway thanks to a Jeremey Giambi STEAL(??!!) and a David Ortiz wall single on an 0-2 pitch?
Game 3 just poured more drama on with the stirring comeback thanks to Tek’s monster blast and Damon’s follow-through.
So the season series with the Yanks is now 7-6 Bad Guys, which is basically the difference in the division right now. I found it hilarious that Georgie felt the need to fire off a press release declaring that the Red Sox “hadn’t won anything yet”. Gee, thanks George. I never would have known that without your timely statement. I can just picture him in his office just storming back and forth muttering to himself “Those damn Red Sox, how DARE they upstage us. We’re the Yankees for God’s sake. This is our divine right! I’ll show them who’s won anything yet!!”
LOL, if you ask me (and even if you didn’t), this is a sure sign that Georgie is incredibly insecure. All those Championships, all those times the Yanks made the Red Sox eat dirt, and he gets his panties in a wad over losing one hard-fought, coin-flip of a regular season series. He should be the most secure man in baseball, and yet he can’t even handle one little setback. Says a lot about him, really.

Sox get Williamson
This one surprised me. I knew Theo was out to improve the staff, but I never thought we’d add a second closer. And if we did, I figured that would mean Kim goes back to the rotation. Instead, we’re going to go with the Anaheim Angels super-stocked bullpen theory. We have one ace, our other starters are OK, but our bullpen will smother you. It may not be a bad idea. Our offense is so good, that if we can aim to hold other teams to 4 runs, we should win most games. All we have to do is get 6 and 3 from our starters (6 IP, 3 R). The bullpen will do the rest. We have enough speed and ability throughout the order that we don’t have to rely on homers to score, too.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Theo had one more rabbit to pull out, but I’m more than willing to go to war with this team (OK, I know I’m not playing, I’m just a fan, just deal with the analogy).

Litmus Test
As many others have pointed out, these next few weeks will be the litmus test for our heroes. Two weeks of A’s and Mariners followed by 2 series with the Yankees. If we play .500 or a little better, I think we emerge in great shape to either win the division or at least make the wild card. This Sox team has made me believe like no other Sox team has. Not even the 1986 team (which, Game 6 aside, was a pretty damn good team, aside from the bullpen).

You Want OPS, I’ll Give You OPS
These numbers are amazing:
Ramirez 1.015
Nixon .988
Mueller .987
Garciaparra .932
Varitek .927
Ortiz .900
Millar .868

That’s SIX regulars with OPS of .900 or above and a 7th in the mid .800’s who’s slump brought him under the .900 level he was at before. And Damon’s OPS is rising. Walker could be back over .800 if gets back on track.
Three of the top 4 in the AL in OPS are Red Sox (Ramirez #2, Nixon #3, Mueller #4).
Two others are in the Top 15 (Nomar #13, Varitek #15). That’s 5 of the Top 15.
Five of the Top 10 in SLG are Red Sox.
Four of the Top 9 in AVG are Red Sox.
This team amazes me.

Friday, July 25, 2003

A Formula Loss

Well, it was a damn entertaining game tonight, fitting of 2 of the best teams in the AL. But the Sox followed their early season formula for losing games. Get lead, blow lead, fight back to tie, give lead back immediately, lose game after falling just short of fighting back again. For a while, they had broken out of that pattern. Leave it to the Yankees to resurrect it.

Although Kim gave the lead back, it's hard to fault him. He gives up a scratch hit to Enrique "Freaking" Wilson. Stolen base, jam job ground out, sac fly, run scored. No solid hits, yet a run scores. It's enough to make you want to put your head through the cement driveway. Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Don't Look Now, The Bullpen Rocks

I never thought I'd be able to say this 6 weeks ago, but the Red Sox have what appears to be on of the top bullpens in the AL. It's been an amazing transformation. Let's look at the pen as currently constructed:

C. Fossum 4 4 5.65 65.1 66 55 27 1.42 1 0
C. Fox 1 2 2.45 14.2 12 15 14 1.77 3 0
T. Jones(BOS) 2 0 3.00 9.0 6 10 4 1.11 0 0
A. Embree 3 1 3.79 38.0 29 29 13 1.11 0 8
S. Sauerbeck 3 4 4.05 40.0 30 32 25 1.38 0 16
M. Timlin 3 3 3.15 54.1 53 43 5 1.07 2 9
B. Kim(BOS) 3 2 3.25 44.1 43 36 11 1.22 5 0

I cheated a bit and only put Todd Jones' Boston numbers up there. Granted his Rockies' numbers were horrendous. But he has looked quite good since arriving in Boston (in only 9 IP, I know). You've got 3 lefites, 4 righties. Only Fossum has a 5+ ERA, and a lot of the damage was incurred as a starter while his arm was hurting. Everyone else is below 4, except Sauerbeck, who's barely over.

A few numbers stand out as sore spots. Fox has a nice ERA but terrible control. A WHIP of 1.77 will get you pummeled one of these days. Sauerbeck also has control issues of sorts, but he kills lefties, so it's not a big issue, IMHO. Kim is arubber armed closer who can go many days in a row. Timlin has pinpoint control. He gives up a few homers, but with such a low WHIP, most of those will be solo shots. The price of throwing strikes (ask Curt Schilling).

The last piece would be a Top 3 starter, but I just don't see that happening. So we'll have to dance with what we've got. Hey, the Angels won with a rotation that wasn't any better. You need a deep, effective pen to back up that kind of rotation, and we seem to have that now. Plus we score a hell of a lot more runs than they did.

I like the Lyon deal. We got him for fish heads and rice and turned him into a very effective lefty reliever. One the Yankees coveted (even better). Lyon was a Godsend and gave us what we desperately needed, but he was struggling lately, and I just don't see him being much more than a good set-up guy. Now, he has potential to be an effective starter someday, and you hate to give that up, but again, we got him for nothing and the AL is ripe for the plucking this year. I'd rather trade Lyon than one of our system jewels.

BTW, nice win tonight. Trot pummels Rays pitching. Damon's homer was damn high up there. Five wins in a row and counting. God I love playing the Tigers and Rays.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Big Sox Win

Tonight's win was both dramatic and huge. Shades of summer swoons past were raising their ugly heads after losing 2 straight to Toronto and trailing 4-3 with 2 out in the 9th. I sat watching and not quite believing what I was seeing from this team. The Halladay game, I could understand. He's having a crazy good year. But the rest of the Toronto staff, and the bullpen in particular, is dreadful. How could we be getting shut down by these stiffs? At Fenway no less?

The Nomar walked (see Nomar, walks can be valuable, too). Then Nomar stole 2nd. The clear, CLEAR interference by Manny didn't hurt, though I think Nomar would have had it stolen anyway. Then Manny gets Nomar home. Then we go to extra. In the first half of the year, the script to follow would be the bullpen promptly giving back the lead. Not this new, improved bullpen. We got 4 1/3 scoreless innings from the pen tonight, continuing their strong resurgance. Kim makes all the difference in the world. And he has a rubber arm and can pitch day after day after day....

The offense is clearly struggling, despite tonight's win. I'd suggest demoting Walker to 8th or 9th in the order. He isn't hitting anything, nor is he drawing walks. I'd install Mueller in the #2 hole with his great OBP and tons o' doubles. That might help spur Walker back on track. You'd think with Nomar hitting behind him that Walker would be seeing tons of hittable fastballs. Maybe the skeptics are right. Maybe there is no such thing as protection in a lineup (although I don't believe that).

Still waiting for Theo's big move. I can't say i have any sage advice as to what he should do other than give up as little as possible for as much as possible. Suppan seems like a decent option as long as we're not giving up any top shelf talent to get him. He's having a nice year, but this is still Jeff Suppan. I never liked the Odalis Perez for Nixon rumors. Perez has talent, but he's having a subpar year in a pitcher's park and Nixon is having a great year (when not facing lefties). Who plays RF if you trade Nixon? Kapler? Not every day I'd hope. Millar? Talk about weakening yourself defensively. I love Millar, but not in RF.

Fact is, there are no big name studs to acquire this year (unless the White Sox throw the towel in). I'd make a move for some depth like Suppan or take a shot at a guy with talent like Benson, provided we're not mortgaging the future to do it. I think if we agree to pay Benson's salary, we might be able to get by with "B" level prospects. That seems to be the way things work these days.

Great win tonight. I'm breathing much easier. This team is just too good and too resilient to suffer the same fate as Sox teams of the past. I really believe that.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

All Star Break Thoughts

I think we really lost a chance at some major momentum by dropping the last game of the Tigers series. Comerica may be a pitchers' park, but to get shutout by the worst team in baseball was surprising, to say the least. Still, winning 5 of 6 to pull within 2 games of New York isn't too shabby. I still believe the Yanks can be taken this year. Ever year, Georgie Porgie creeps a little further back into the picture, a few more questionable moves are made (Sierra, Mondesi, Contreras) and the Yanks deteriorate just a little more. True, a few key signings have propped them up (Mussina, Giambi), but this is not the same type of team that rolled to four World Series titles.

It was nice to see Nomar go 3 for 4 today. I have never seen Nomar look more clueless at the plate than he has looked on this roadtrip. He's been in slumps before, but this has been horrendous. He swung at a pitch last night that bounced in front of home plate en route to a 3 pitch strikeout. He's always been a free swinger, but he usually gets his bat on the ball when he does.

The blown save last night notwithstanding, the bullpen looks really good right now. With Kim as a solid closer and Lyon, Embree, Timlin, Jones and (soon) Fossum, that has the makings of a great pen. Hopefully, we can find another starter and move Mendoza back into the long role. I'm feeling more and more confident about the pitching staff, and the lineup is (to put it mildly) potent and deep. Defense could be better, but it's adequate. We've got solid defenders at CF, RF, SS, C, and 3b. Those are all the most important spots (except 2b). And we've got 2 good defensive replacements in Kapler and Jackson. Well, 3 if you count Sanchez, but I think he's heading back to Pawtucket where he can actually PLAY once Giambi is brought back up. There's no point in wasting Freddy on the bench right now.

All in all, I'm quite pleased with our first half results. First in the Wild Card, 2 games back, and the team seems to be just rounding into its best form of the year. I don't forsee any .500 second halves this time around.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Random Musings

Jason Vartiek was jobbed. He didn't just deserve to make the All Star team, he deserved to start. Now, Posada is excellent and is a more household name, so I was fine with him winning the fan vote. You can't help what the sheeple do. But Ramon Hernandez??? He's decent, but c'mon. That's just lame. Varitek is the best hitting catcher in the AL this season by every measure and is a damn fine defensive catcher and handler of pitchers. I've voted for him at MLB.com and I hope you will, too.

I never got around to picking my NL All Star Team and now it's kind of anti-climatic. Oh well. Dontrelle Willis got jobbed, too.

What can you say about the pen last night? Great job. Even Todd Jones chipping in 2 scoreless IP. Winning against Halladay was huge because the possibility of a sweep now hangs in the air. The rest of Toronto's pitchers are ordinary to downright stinky.

The offense is in the first real slump of the year. Given that they've faced Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay in succession, I think you have to give them a pass. Nomar, though, has stunk the whole road trip. I'm starting to worry that he's becoming a classic Red Sox Fenway hitter. The difference this year is startling. Nomar's home OPS is a phenomenal 1.154. On the road it's a rather anemic .731. He's not even close to being the same hitter away from Fenway.
The good news is that from 2000-2002, his OPS is .950 at home and .938 on the road, which is negligible. So, this isn't something I'd exprect to continue. It's probably a very bizzare aberration that I really hope abates sometime soon. I think it's a HUGE reason for the Sox sub-.500 road record.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Homer Happy

Well, that was one hell of a show the Sox put on this weekend, until they ran into Andy Pettitte anyway. They put a first class ass-whuppin' on two of my least favorite pitchers and people, Wells and Clemens.

I'm really starting to like David Ortiz, and this was before he hit 4 bombs in two days against the Yankees. He works the count and has a .390 OBP. He's not bad against lefties so far (.520 SLG against lefties). He hits a ton of doubles and seems to be good for 20-25 HR a year.
We really seem the have the right lefty-righty mix this year. Nomar, Manny, Millar from the right; Damon, Walker, Ortiz, Nixon from the left with Vartiek and Mueller switching. Throw in Kapler off the bench, and it's a balanced mix. I've never seen a Red Sox team that can hit like this one. The mid-90's Indians were probably just as potent. I haven't checked the numbers, though.

It's unfortunate that we ran into a buzz-saw in Andy Pettitte today. You just have to tip your cap. He had it all working today, and he always own the Red Sox. YES said he has the third highest win percentage against the Sox in Yankees history. I'm not surprised.
I like our chances tomorrow in the Martinez-Mussina matchup. Mussina is 8-6 with a 2.45 ERA over the last 3 years against us. Pretty tough, but I think Pedro comes to play tommorrow.

Friday, July 04, 2003

One Man's All Star Team

These are my selections for the 2003 All Star Game. I am naming complete rosters, including startes, but I am not taking into consideration one rep from each team. That is a stupid rule that needs to go away.

American League

Starters are in bold

Catcher- Jason Vartiek (BOS) , Jorge Posada (NYY)
Most are picking Posada, both fans and pundits, but Varitek's OPS is 27 points higher (.919-.892) and almost everyone would agree that Varitek is a better defensive catcher. Posada does have the edge in OBP, but I'd still go with Jason this year.

First Base-Carlos Delgado (TOR), Mike Sweeney (KC), Kevin Millar (BOS).

Delgado is a no-brainer. Sweeney is #2 in OPS and is also a no-brainer. Millar is a surprise but with a .310 AVG and a .919 OPS, he has a strong case. Giambi actually has a better OPS despite his horrific start, but given Millar's consistency over the first half, I give him the nod. Interstingly, 1b is not as deep a field as we've seen in the past.

Second Base-Bret Boone (SEA), Alfonso Soriano (NYY)

Boone leads in every major offensive category except SB and runs, and he's not far off in runs, despite the fact that Soriano hits leadoff and Boone hits #4. Boone is also miles better with the glove.

Shortstop-Nomar Garciaparra (BOS), Alex Rodriguez (TEX)

This is a surpsise, but Nomar leads A-Rod in every major offensive category except HR. Despite this, Nomar has a higher SLG and OPS. Nomar leads the AL in runs and is #1 or #2 in hits and is #1 in 3B by far. A-Rod is better with the glove, but Nomar's no slouch. Amazingly, no one else really deserves to go this year after 5 went last year. The 3rd highest OPS at SS this year is....Angel Berroa of KC. Tejada has had a rough first half, Jeter missed a month and hasn't hit much since returning. Who would've thunk that the NL would be deeper at SS this year?

Third Base- Hank Blalock (TEX), Cory Koskie (MIN), Bill Mueller (BOS)

Blalock is easy with his .941 OPS, which leads all at the position. Mueller is #2, but I almost left him off given his recent struggles. Koskie is having a solid year. A good argument can be made for Troy Glaus as well. I'm disappointed in what Eric Chavez has done so far.

Outfield- Melvin Mora (BAL), Manny Ramirez (BOS), Garrett Anderson (ANA), Vernon Wells (TOR), Milton Bradley (CLE), Carlos Beltran (KC)

Mora is having a phenomenal, and puzzling year. When could he hit like this. I smell Darrin Erstad Part II (great year that is a complete aberration from rest of career). Manny is #2 in OPS and is an offensive wrecking machine. I love Anderson's consistency and I picked him over Wells in a close shave to start because RBI don't mean as much to me as other factors. Wells is still having an awesome year by any standards, though. Bradley has been the lone bright spot in a dismal Indians lineup. Beltran does everything well.

DH- Frank Thomas (CWS)

I thought I'd pick Edgar Martinez, but amazingly, Frank leads Edgar in every major category except batting average. Batting average isn't enough. Go Big Hurt!

Pitching Staff- Esteban Loaiza (CWS), Roy Halladay (TOR), Mark Mulder (OAK), Barry Zito (OAK), Gil Meche (SEA), Mike Mussina (NYY), Jamie Moyer (SEA), Brendan Donnelly (ANA), Mike MacDougal (KC), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Keith Foulke (OAK)

Loaiza is the big surprise this year, but he deserves the start, despite Halladay's big run of wins. I'd pitch those 2 guys the first 4 IP. I hate to leave Tim Hudson off given his 2.97 ERA, but despite how silly the win stat can be, it's tough to name a starter with 6 wins. Sorry. Same goes for Pedro (and Pedro's injury didn't help.) The starters' numbers speak for themselves. Joel Piniero, David Wells, Roger Clemens and C.C. Sabathia all had good cases too, but there's only so much room. I'm not a huge reliever guy, so there's only 4 on the team. Donnelly has just been sick. Screw saves, this guy is the best reliever in the AL. Rivera's been his usual self since rounding back into shape off of missing April. Foulke and MacDougal have been ace closers for contending teams.

Well, that's my team. This took a while. I'll do the NL another time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Sox Win, Bullpen Comes Through!

It's only been two games and we've already seen the shift of Kim to the bullpen pay dividends. Kim pitched 2 scoreless innings last night and picks up the save tonight. The pen gave up no earned runs last night and only one harmless one tonight. (Egads that was a rocket off of Baldelli's bat. He's got such potential.)

We've been playing some serious Earl Weaver ball lately. Lots of homers. Not that there's anything wrong with that. This team has a great OBP and decent speed, so I'm not worried that we're going to be slapped with the "can't manufacture runs" tag, not that I think that tag means all that much anyway.

I was thinking tonight after Millar's home run that he is what made Shea so expendable. I think without Millar, we'd be very thin on right handed hitting outside of Nomar and Manny. But Millar made Shea completely unnecessary. And Shea can't even pray to do the things Millar is doing. Millar has a .381 OBP and .555 SLG. Shea has never approached those numbers, and given his age and continued lack of plate discipline, it's unlikely he will.

Sox Sign Todd Jones

OK, on the surface it doesn't seem bad. His ERA is 8.24, but he ptiched for the Rockies and he has a pretty nice pedigree. Deep deeper and you see his road ERA was 8.10 in 16 2/3 IP. Yick. It's a small sample size, but it doesn't look promising. we've sent down Almonte, so it looks as though we're going to see what, if anything, Jones has left in the tank. Hopefully he's limited to mop-up duty.

Odds and Ends

A stat shown by NESN said that Damon is #1 in the AL with 21 RBI after the 7th inning. I can't believe that. I can't remember ANY big hits by Damon this year. He's the last guy in the whole line-up I want up there late in the game. Those have to be garbage time RBI's.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

What a Way to Lose

Great comeback squandered. The funny thing is it wasn't the bullpen's fault. Talk about your freak errors. Lyon had Baldelli picked off. I'm not sure how to feel about this one tonight. Any loss to Tampa is a bad one. We had a chance to gain on the Yanks and put more distance on the Jays. You just can't squander the ones against the Devil Rays of the world.

Marlins 20 Braves 1

Ouch! Guess the Marlins had some pent up frustration after the beatings they took at Fenway this weekend. Granted, they had their comeback game, but the gave up a TON of runs in three games. Time to give as good as they got. You gotta wonder if the Braves let their pitching get too weak. Hampton is still a shadow of his former self. The bullpen is weak except for Smoltz. Maddux has lost his magic. Who's your ace? Russ Ortiz? He's a good pitcher, but he's no ace. And note that Furcal and Giles have stopped getting on base, which means the Braves aren't scoring anymore. It will be interesting to see which Furcal and Giles show up in the second half (and if Javy Lopez can continue to hit like Mike Piazza of the early 90's.)

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