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Thursday, June 24, 2004

AN EVENING OF MINOR LEAGUE BALL

A few nights ago, a couple of buddies and I went to watch the Lowell Spinners at the Vermont Expos. It was a horrible night for baseball – drizzle, a rain delay, and too many hungry mosquitoes. On the flip side, we watched some decent ball for $6, got a beer and a sausage (better than anywhere around Fenway) for $7 and a fifty-cent program (I can’t recall the last time I purchased something that is still in my possession that only cost fidie-cent.) It is certainly a bargain and the promos involving children really make this a fun evening for a fam. For the classic family of four, it is probably a better value and entertainment product than a crappy movie produced by the media moguls at the corporate owned multiplex (I really didn’t mean to jump on the soap box). As an added bonus, the crowd was treated to a couple of celebrities in attendance: the Logger and Martin St. Louis.

Now back to the game, the Spinners only had two prospects in the lineup: ninth round pick, Van Der Bosch leading off as the DH and starting pitcher, Swindle, taken in the fourteenth round.

In Van Der Bosch’s first appearance, he hit a double the opposite way on a low liner down the third base line early in the count. VD-B’s second and third at-bats were very unimpressive. Both were uneventful hits to the short stop early in the count for easy put outs. In all three at-bats, VD-B did not work himself into hitter’s counts and it appeared that he could not get around on the pitcher’s fastball. He is not a prototypical Red Sox hitter, at least in these three at-bats.

On the mound, Swindle is a southpaw with a side-arm delivery. The first thing that came to mind was future LOOGY. He dominated the three lefties in the Expos lineup. The trio went 1-for-5 with a single and three strikeouts.

Swindle kept all hitters off-balance with his changeup that consistently got batters out on their front foot. The changeup was his out pitch this evening. Perhaps, Swindle’s changeup was particularly good or no one in the Expos’ lineup had a clue, but a side-arm guy’s out pitch is usually a breaking ball/slider not a change up. It would be interesting to watch him in another outing to get a look at a breaking ball.

Swindle threw 50 pitches; 38 for strikes with five Ks, no walks or dingers. He is certainly a Red Sox type of pitcher that “pounds the strike zone.” Swindle was ON this night.

Of course, one night or one season is not a good barometer for determining a minor leaguer’s prospects in the Show. But it sure is interesting to watch and follow kids at the start of their pro careers that one day made determine the fate of a Nation; Red Sox Nation that is.

News and Notes

· Last night was a prime example of the risk inherent with groundball pitchers like DLowe, they can pitch well and balls still find holes that lead to runs.

· What’s in the water down in Tampa? I’ll be finding out shortly - going there this weekend - but the Rays should not convince themselves that they are contenders yet. The other Florida team, the Marlins, would make a good trading partner with the Rays. The Marlins could use an outfielder, short stop and a catcher. The Marlins are unlikely be able to deal for a catcher but Jose Cruz and Julio Lugo would be nice in Miami. The pair is only keeping the positions warm for B.J. Upton and Delmon Young. The Rays could use the number of pitching prospects in the Marlins system.

· Jason Grimsley was traded to the O’s for Denny Bautista, even though the Rays over took them in the standings. It looks like the two-headed GM monster is not giving up. As Rany and Rob on the Royals states In exchange for four months of a second-tier wormkiller in the bullpen – Grimsley has never had an ERA below 3 in his career – we get a Grade B pitching prospect…. Allard won’t get the credit he deserves for turning one of his lemons into a pretty sweet lemonade… If Allard makes out this well when trading the rest of the touchables, a return to respectability might come sooner than I thought possible. The trade gets even more shocking. Jason Stark of ESPN.com reports that they signed him to a one-year extension before announcing the deal.

· If the reports were true regarding the crap Jose Contreras’ family was dealing with, then I am glad they are out of harms way. Hopefully, Contreras reuniting with his family will be an even bigger distraction.

· Kevin Brown (strained lower back) definitely will not pitch this weekend, as Torre found out his starter probably won't conduct a bullpen session until Friday. Initially, he believed Brown would possibly toss yesterday and tomorrow.Brown may be on track to face the Sox in next week’s series.

· Leskanic is certainly a better option in the pen than baked mAlaskan but he should not be used in high leverage/close games. His walk rate throughout his career has been close to terrible. The Sox need another southpaw in the pen like Buddy Groom, B.J. Ryan (my favorite), or Mike Myers.

· If the Royals still think all offers are insufficient, Baird contends the club is willing to gamble on getting compensatory draft picks when Beltran signs with another team after the season…The gamble centers on whether Beltran signs before the Dec. 7 deadline for a team to offer arbitration to its own players who become free agents. Since the Royals don't plan to offer arbitration, they won't get any draft picks if Beltran signs after the deadline. – The "gamble" should not be when Beltran signs with another club because the Royals should offer him arbitration regardless. Beltran will not accept the Royals offer because he will loose out on millions by not signing a large multi-year deal. Baird should have no fear in Beltran busting his budget by accepting arbitration. The “gamble” is Baird and his staff’s ability to make the right picks or investments (the average first round bonus is around $1.75 million) with multiple first round selections. The above scenario is going to be academic anyway. Beltran will be traded; Baird’s statement is just to increase his leverage.

· A scout’s take on Dioner Navarro, the likely centerpiece of any big MFY trade: There's sure a lot of hype on that guy, but I still have a lot of reservations," said one scout. "Physically, he's got the tools. No question about that. But he doesn't do a lot of things instinctively that I like to see in a catcher. If the mental makeup connects with the physical tools, they've got a good player. But to be honest, the more I've seen him, the less I like him."

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

THE LAST PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

I do not have the patience for puzzles. I say just cut the freaking pieces and make them fit. A baseball club is like a puzzle with 25 large pieces, 15 or so medium to small pieces and 100 other minor parts. The Sox club does not need another outfield piece to complete the puzzle. Even though Carlos Beltran is one of my favorite players, he is not necessary for the Sox.

Since Beltran will not sign a long-term deal this season, then it is a three month acquisition for $5.5125 million ($4.5 million salary plus 22.5% luxury tax) and prospects. The financials of the deal are fairly simple: very little increase in revenue - $5.5125 million short-term expense, in addition to the probable loss of future payroll flexibility by trading player(s) that will likely make less than 500K their first three seasons. Unless Beltran is the player that gets the Sox to the World Series (as we know, winning the pennant has a lot to do with luck), the Sox balance sheet will suffer in 2004 and be not as bright over the next three seasons.

On the field, Beltran will likely take time away from Kevin Millar - Ortiz will play first, Manny will DH and Damon will shift to left. Below is both Beltran and Millar’s mean Nate Silver/Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projection for 2004 and by their current 2004 levels (AVG/OBP/SLG):

Beltran – 292/365/505 and 280/371/529
Millar – 291/359/495 and 270/350/403

Other than the transplant cowboy’s slugging percentage, PECOTA is very close. Thus in average and OBP Beltran has not been and will likely not be significantly better than Millar through the remainder of this season.

The future co-host of the Worst Damn Sports Show’s projected slugging percentage is similar to Beltran’s but to date Millar is 92 points below his projection. The probability of KFC boy slugging at this low level is less than 10%, according to PECOTA. Since Millar’s averages are fairly similar, the difference in Isolated Power (SLG-BA) is significant. Millar’s Extra Base Hits per at-bat is 9% in 2004 and last season it was 10%. The difference is that Millar is hitting a larger percentage of double instead of homers so far this season when compared to 2003. Since Millar has not had a significant drop in XBH/AB, he could just be experiencing some bad luck with hits turning into doubles when those boys were dingers last season.

With the gloves, the Sox would be better off. Damon in left instead of Manny is a huge upgrade. A below average leftfielder is being replaced by an above average, due to the weak arm, centerfielder. Millar is slightly better than Ortiz at first but that is really splitting hairs.

In summary, Beltran will provide better defense and a slightly better and less risky bat. Those pluses are not worth over $5 million, Kevin Youkilis and/or any highly regarded minor leaguers. Beltran does not significantly increase the Sox chance of making the post-season. Ben Sheets, Brad Penny, or Randy Johnson, all currently not available, are a different story.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

BUSY LIKE A BEE OR BEAVER

I like beaver better. Anyway, no time to write or a Q&A preview on the Twins and Philly so here a few good links on the subject – Gleeman, Twins Geek, and Phillies Blog.

If the day goes well, I’ll be posting later this evening. Peace.

Monday, June 21, 2004

QUESTIONS FOR THE SOX…

• What's Wake's problem? Is he hurt? Wake has given up 22 runs in 16 innings to date in June.

Francona said before the game. "[Manny] He'll be available to pinch hit and help us win, so we're trying to pick our spots and use good judgment." – Why was McCarty pinch hitting instead of Manny yesterday in the eighth?

• Why was Millar playing in right field? SBC/PAC Bell could be the toughest right field in the Majors.

• Why didn't the Sox relievers make Fonzie beat them to the big part of the park? It is 420 with the wind blowing in to right. They should have pitched him away.

• Why “Press Your Luck” with Fonzie? Foulke should have pitched; the Sox got whammied.

News and Notes on…

Dodgers-MFY…

• I hate Jack Nicolas - MFY and Loser Lakers fan. I am boycotting his movies. I have no respect for bandwagon fans.

• I would have loved to live in NYC during the 1950's. Three MLB clubs just a subway ride away.

• Memo to Buddy Boy, move the Dodgers back to Brooklyn and place the Expos in L.A.

• It's Lima Time...is always a fun time.

and MFY…

Asked if Cano had been switched for a showcase, a Yankee official would not be specific but said, "Somebody wanted to see him play third, yes. You can read into that." – Both the Royals and Mariners are looking for a young player to man the hot corner but neither club should desire a middle infielder playing third. Cano has 117 extra base hits (27 homers) in 1366 at-bats none of which are higher than AA. If he fills out and gains twenty plus pounds, Cano could develop the power associated with a traditional third baseman. If not, he is likely to top out as a Joe Randa, Bill Mueller, Polanco type of player. Cano should not be on Baird and Balvasi wish list.

"Real Red Sox fans are sick and tired of this obsession with the Yankees," says Steve Silva, webmaster of the site www.bostondirtdogs.com. "Yankees Hater is just a rip-off of Yankees suck. It's cheap and low-rent and makes us look like idiots." – We do need to be educated on the MFY just like the Sox’s other competition for the four playoff spots.

As well as…

“And see, my editor wanted to me to remove that”Wilbur, if you have an editor, it’s not a blog.

Joe Sheenan “…by trading Koch, the Sox have freed up enough money to add Carlos Beltran without changing the payroll by more than a million bucks or so.” – Koch to the Marlins kills my notion of Kim and Bellie for Penny.

• It is nice to have Junior back. I still have your Upper Deck rookie card.

• In a recent chat on ESPN.com,

Dunsel: How many ABs against a particular pitcher is statistically sufficient to rely on for purposes of matchups?

Rob Neyer: I've never seen anything like a good answer to this question, but I do know that 10 or 20 at-bats -- sample sizes commonly cited by broadcasters -- aren't nearly enough to tell us anything. What would make more sense is to cite how batters fare against specific types of pitchers. We'll get there, someday...


This is certainly one of my pet peeves with broadcasts. They should only make note of pitcher-hitter stats when they have seen each other at least 25 times or if a player dominates the other like 0-15 with 12 K’s or 10-12 with seven homers.

Friday, June 18, 2004

EVERYONE NEEDS TO TAKE A FEW DEEP BREATHS

Even though the Sox won yesterday, they are in a mini-slump and are five games back of the MFY in the loss column but we should not be lining up at the Tobin and Zakim. Here’s why:

• The Rockies are a bad club and a terrible team on the road but at home they are close to a 500 ballclub. It was not a terrible series.

• The MFY are undefeated 6-0 versus Baltimore. The Sox are 2-4 versus the O’s. The difference in records against Baltimore accounts for four of the five game deficit. If the Sox were a game back, we would not feel like the sky was falling. The Old Town Team needs to play better against the O’s.

• The Sox are starting to get healthy and the MFY are hurting. Nomar, Trot and Williamson are back and should be rounding into form soon. Kim and Mueller are progressing ahead of schedule. On the other hand, Mussina has struggled most of the season and will miss a start, Brown is on the DL, Rivera is not 100%, Contreras is a head-case, the other 50 year-old Cuban is on the DL, and Karsay had another setback.

• Pedro and DLowe appear to be back. Danny O'Rocky will be all over the sinkerballer this winter.

• “And on the mound for the Yankees, Tanyon Sturtze.”

• Unfortunately, Baseball Prospectus’ EQR and AEQR standings don’t count. They have the Sox slightly ahead of the MFY. The standings are, though, a better indicator of past performance and a baseline for future expectations.

• And let's not forget, they play again tonight and a little under 100 more to go.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

HOW DO YOU SPELL RELIEF? F-O-U-L-K-E

It is very difficult to measure the performance of relief pitchers using conventional stats like ERA. Baseball Prospectus uses a rating called Adjusted Runs Prevented (ARP). A reliever's ARP is the number of runs that he prevented over an average pitcher, given the bases/outs situation when he entered and left each game, adjusted for league and park (read the article linked to fully understand the concept).

The Sox pen rates fifth among A.L. teams in ARP (pre-mile high games). A lower ranking than I expected mostly due to the poor and limited work of J. Brown, the bad Bobby Jones, and the rookie Martinez. Baked mAlaskan also contributed but has thrown 15.3 innings. The foursome's ARP totals -12 in 35.6 innings of work. Combined with Rule V pick, DiNardo, the Sox long relievers have thrown 56.3 or nearly 32% of the Sox total relief innings for an ARP total of -12.6. The primary issue is not the players’ ineffectiveness; it is the need for Tito to use these long men. The numerous extra inning games, inconsistency from the rotation and injuries to Kim, Mendoza, and Williamson forced Tito into giving the ball to journey men or rookies.

Now that the bad news is out to the way. We can focus on the good and very good. First the good, Williamson, Embree and Timlin have been solid with each of them having an ARP above four in 74.3 innings of work. Williamson’s return from the DL should provide Embree and Timlin with a few more days off keeping them fresh for the rest of the season. When healthy, Willie can be a dominate reliever like the very good, Keith Foulke. For the most part, Foulke has been used well as an old school ace reliever. He has pitched multiple innings with the lead, down by one or two runs and in the classic one inning save situation. Foulke has been in 29 games, thrown 33.3 innings with an ARP of 11.7. He has been, in one word, awesome.

Tito needs to continue to use Foulke in various close and late situations regardless of Willie’s return (last night was a good sign). If the arms stay healthy and continue to be used efficiently, the Sox should have a dominate pen for the remainder of the season.

News, Notes, Trade Rumors and a Question

The Red Sox scouted Jennings' start in Chicago on May 8 and have questions surrounding their fifth starter.

It would be very surprising if the Sox acquired a pitcher who averaged more than four walks per nine. Theo wants pitchers that pound the strike zone first and foremost.

Dale Jensen, a D-Back owner, said that "Randy is a Diamondback, and he’s going to end up a Diamondback as far as I’m concerned," Jensen said. "That’s a sentiment shared by everybody."

Jensen and company do not want to turn off their fan base by trading the future HOFer.

• Michael Silverman brings the cheese to go with Nomar’s whine.

``Everyone assumes I'm someone different, or I'm trying to do something different, but people have been assuming what I'm like for so long now,'' he said, ``so apparently what I've done over the past eight years obviously means nothing. What counts is the end of last year or the offseason. Apparently eight years don't count, but I think they count - they count somewhere.''

It is justified. Nomar should not be judged on a weeks worth of at-bats. He is looking better every time in the box. As for his defense, Nomar has been overrated as a fielder. He plays an average to slightly above average short stop. It is only highlighted now after two months of Pokey.

• The Marlins are desperately looking for assistance in the pen.

According to sources, Florida is talking to Kansas City about right-handers Jason Grimsley and Rudy Seanez, who was promoted from Class AAA on Tuesday…Two high-ranking team officials said any possible deal likely will not be made until after the All-Star break. The team already has inquired about Red Sox right-hander Byung Hyun Kim and Reds right-hander John Riedling…Affordability will be a key factor in any trade because the Marlins will not assume the contract of a big-name player, the official said.

BK, Bellies and cash for Penny

• When is the last time Schilling walked two guys in the same inning? Please someone help me out with this one and post it in comments. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

A DAY AT THE PARK, ANYONE?

If anyone is interested in attending a Portland Sea Dogs game on Saturday, July 24 with me and other readers, please email me by the end of the week.

ROLLER COASTER RIDE

The Sox have used six starters this season but really only five. BK had only three starts and threw eleven innings. BK’s performance has been terrible. Now onto the other five, the three defense independent stats are listed and addressed when evaluating performance. Team defense will be evaluated at a later date.

Pitcher (IN, GS, R/9, K/9, BB/9, HR/9) – Stats pre-Mile High

Curt Schilling – (92 / 13 / 3 / 7.9 / 1.4 / .6) – As expected Schil has been solid to dominate in every outing but one in Toronto. He has been the Sox most consistent and quality starter. Hopefully, the ankle issue will not slow him down.

Pedro Martinez – (90 / 14 / 4 / 8.8 / 2.3 / 1) – Pedro’s only real performance issue has been the uncharacteristic number of homers allowed. Until recently, he was giving up tall jacks at an alarming rate. Not sure why, but don’t really care now. It seems like the real Petey is here to stay!

Derek Lowe – (63 / 12 / 7.4 / 4.2 / 4.3 / .6) – Lowe’s struggles have been well documented but the primary cause, his mental state, is incorrect. It was his and Pedro’s mechanics that was…out of kilter in the beginning of their deliveries, getting themselves over the rubber and eventually allowing their left legs to drift not to the plate but toward the first-base on deck circle. "I was giving hitters a free look," says Lowe. "I can't believe how such a simple thing can get messed up," says Lowe. "But it happens. The important thing is to keep us in games the rest of the season." Lowe’s poor mechanics is also the reason for his loss of control. But now Lowe knows what the problem is and “knowing is half the battle.”

Tim Wakefield – (74 / 11 / 5.2 / 5 / 3.4 / .73) – After a very good April, Wake’s been struggling. Unlike other bouts of ineffectiveness, the reason may be a lack of stuff and not control or the long-ball. Wake’s K-rate is at its lowest ever as a member of the Sox. The last time, he was under seven strikeouts per nine was in 2000. Wake averaged 1.75 dingers over nine and R/9 over six that season. It doesn’t take a math geek to know that the extra homer is the difference in Wake’s current R/9 and his 2000 mark. With a knuckleballer that stat could jump at anytime, Wake needs to pickup his game.

Bronson Arroyo – (55 / 9 / 6.4 / 6.3 / 2.6 / 1.1) – Arroyo peripheral numbers are right where PECOTA pegged him. He has probably gotten a little unlucky in the R/9 category, but after his solid performance against the MFY in the playoffs (3.1 innings giving up 1 run), RSN expected an under four ERA and 10-12 wins. We had unrealistic expectations based on a wicked small sample size. RSN forgot Arroyo was claimed off of waivers from the powerhouse club in Steel Town. Above league average pitchers usually are not found on the tree belt. Arroyo is a #5 starter and a good one, just not a #3.

If Schilling is healthy and Petey and DLowe have worked out the kinks in their mechanics, the rotation will be fine. The Sox won’t be tempted to sell the farm for a Kris Benson or Freddy Garcia. If Wake or Kim do not step it up (I am very confident Wake be cash $ soon), then it should not be much of an issue finding a back of the rotation starter.

Reading Between Theo's Lines

The ones that actually help you win are the ones where you actually acquire an impact player. Trading prospects we really like that have a bright future and are really going to help us for a spare part or two probably isn't the way to go.

Beltran is certainly an "impact player” for some clubs but not for the Sox with their potential log jam in the outfield/DH/1B positions. Randy Johnson is a different story.

What I want is a steady supply of talent to the big league level every year, two or three players, and I want better organizational depth. I think we've made great strides in those areas that by two years from now with our college draft we're going to be right where we should be.

If the minor league system continues to progress, the Sox may take a few chances on high schoolers next year.

"If it were not for the mess surrounding the Brandon Lyon trade, we probably wouldn't have done it," he said. "Part of that deal was the resolution of the Lyon matter. In the end, it hasn't hurt us yet because Freddy came down with a pretty severe foot injury and hasn't been able to play at all this year. That's the one I'd like back."

Thanks, Dr. Morgan and your contract runs through...

If Schilling should go down and pitching is too expensive on the market, said Epstein, "We won't be afraid to take a talented kid out of Double A if he has the right makeup where he won't be affected by pitching in the big leagues."

Bringing up Chris Smith or Abe Alvarez would likely be the last option for a number of reasons: 1) it would likely require a roster move since neither player is on the Sox 40-man roster, 2) BK or Mendoza could be ready by next Saturday against Philly when a fifth starter would be needed, 3) One of the long relievers (DiNardo, Malaska, Brown, etc.) could go four or five innings in a start if the pen conditions were right.

Theo may be trying to hype-up these two AA arms rather than preparing RSN for a youngster pitching in the first inning (Lester hitting the DL reduced Theo’s chip count at the trading table). Smith and Alvarez are not big, tall, flame throwers that most clubs are interested in when making deals.

Other news and notes

Gammons hits the nail right on the head with this tidbit from his chat: Catching the Yankees is an unfortunate obsession of New Englanders, fed by ownership playing to paranoia.

It is in poor taste that the Sox are marketed with the MFY so much. The team, the Fenway experience and the game itself should be enough.

Will Carroll notes that The Yanks expect that Mussina and Brown (strained back) will only miss one start. The back strain that Mariano Rivera started feeling earlier in the week kept him out of Sunday's game. The Yanks will turn to Tom Gordon if they feel Rivera needs more rest, but at this point, team sources feel he won't need a DL stint.

The health status of the MFY starters and Jose Contreras doing his best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impression will only increase the price for pitching. An update, Brown was put on the DL with a strained back. He will miss at least two starts. On a personal note, I had a strained shoulder. I am out of the money again.

• Two questions for Tito: Why pitch to Helton when Wilson and Walker are on the DL and why put men in motion - you have not all season for good reason - and take a chance giving away outs when your club is playing in the greatest hitter's park ever? Are you k$%*ing kidding me?

Monday, June 14, 2004

I had some tech issues yesterday did not allow me to post. Below is Monday and today's commentary.

SUMMER SUNDAYS

I have always loved Sundays for various reasons. Now I like the day because, in some circles, it is socially acceptable to wake up late and sit around all day watching sports on T.V. Finally, something I do is okay with the majority of my peers. As you probably guessed by now, that was my day in a nut shell yesterday, even on a rare fair weather day in Vermont (hey, I got outside - the windows were open).

For some reason, WPIX (me thinks) out of NYC is part of my cable package which carries some weekend Mets games. Usually, I care very little about the Mets but they were playing the Royals on Sunday. Yes, the Royals. I have grown fond the club over the past year or so although I am not really sure why. It could be the underdog run they made last season, the Tony Pena and Cumbie Sox connection, the work of Neyer/James/RanyJ, or the great coverage of the club by Bob Dutton and the rest of the journalists from the K.C. Star. It is probably D) all of the above. And yesterday’s game was extremely interesting because the phenomenon and savior of my fantasy team, Zach Greinke, was on the mound.

It is my first time seeing Greinke. The 20 year-old was cash $ the first time through the Mets starting nine. He changed speeds, location, varying his fastball from 84 to 94 mph and throwing everything for strikes. Greinke was as good as advertised. After the third inning, Greinke lost command of his fastball. He had difficulty getting first pitch strikes and it hurt him. Grienke was not hit hard, beside Piazza's homer, but he was not effective giving up five earned. Since he does not consistently have an overpowering fastball, right now, Greinke will have trouble getting hitters out when he falls behind in the count like most pitchers. But the Kid appears to be the real deal though; he just needs time and his health.

News and Notes about Baseball and my NYC to Boston Holiday

• I need to get restaurant recommendations before my next trip to the City although the Times Square Grill is pretty darn good or I was really freaking hungry.

• The Daily Show is taped in a residential 'hood in a very plain window-less brick building. None of the glitz of Letterman. When Stewart jokes about his show being low budget on basic cable, it really is not a joke; it is true.

• How cool is it that the studio audience was given free Stewarts root beer while waiting in line.

Jon Stewart does not use the teleprompter during his guest Q&A. He is brilliant.

• Jennifer Love Hewitt is gorgeous. She could beat out Anna for the most beautiful woman I have seen in person.

• Jon Stewart is a Mets fan. His father was from Brooklyn so he was raised to hate the MFY as well. I knew he was a good man.

• I saw Sandy Koufax on Saturday at Fenway.

Comcast is offering free MLB.TV for high speed internet customers. Of course, Adelphia is not.

• The Long Beach State DirtBags. I could not make this stuff up.

• Joe Morgan made some good points last night (Gagne’s usage, reason for the variance between Sox starters’ unearned runs, Manny’s OBP "is most impressive"). Have aliens taken over the body of the HOFer?

• It is premature to say that Petey is back, but we are getting closer. He needs velocity on his fastball for his change up to be effective. A 10 to 12 mph difference (90 to 78) between the heater and change is necessary for him to dominate on most nights. When he consistently throws the heater in the 90’s for strikes, the man is back.

• After Tek’s near base running error last night and evidence provided by Hench’s Hardball, I am not confident with the coaches at first and third.

Yesterday the manager said he might consider preparing Youkilis and Mark Bellhorn to play first. "If they can play third, they can play first," Francona said.Millar needs to get out of this funk. He has to adjust and not always try to pull everything. Bellhorn should be taking flyballs as well. Trot needs a better platoon partner than Kapler.

• It is nearly certain that Nixon will be activated on Wednesday but who gets sent down is in question. The Providence Journal gets it right: If tomorrow's starter -- Bronson Arroyo -- can't take the Sox reasonably deep into the game, however, the Sox may have no choice but to stay with 12 pitchers for the rest of the series and return a position player to Triple A. It is time to say farewell to Chicken Cesar.

ROCKIE MOUNTAIN HIGH

Denver and San Fran are two cities I want to spend some quality time in. Regrettably, I was unable to secure near face-value tickets for the Giants game (I can’t take any more time to jet off to Denver) so I will be tuning into NESN like most of RSN.

The cities’ MLB parks were a major reason for my desire to try to head west with the Sox. They are both so extreme.

The Rockies and Giants both play in parks that dramatically factor into the play of the game. The park in Denver is the best hitter’s domain of all-time and the place on the Bay is built for pitchers. The other major issue facing the Sox this week is Barry Bonds or the Greatest Baseball Player Ever.

The Rockies suck but they are average at home. They knock the cover off the ball in Denver to a tune of 306/384/543 and so do their opponents at a rate of 316/390/525. Get ready for some late nights.

I have not watched any games played in Denver, but what I have been told is that breaking balls don’t move and flyballs just continue to carry and carry. If this is true, pitchers with good command of their heat and change up that are thrown down in the zone could go five. Of course, strikeout pitchers can do well too. Unfortunately, Arroyo doesn’t fit into either category. The first game could be a tough one that may end Chicken Cesars face time on my television. Schilling and Lowe can be okay a Mile High. More importantly, Schilling’s ankle and Lowe’s head need to make it out of Denver in good shape.

The Giants play in a park that only one southpaw, Bonds, hits them out to right-center and the pitchers play the opposition that way. The Sox LHB should be advised to go the other way to left if possible. The Sox are also in line to face the Giants top two starters – Jason Schmidt and Jerome Williams. Schmidt is the real deal. A strikeout pitcher (9.71 K/9) with good control (25 BB over 76 innings) pitching in a stingy home run park is not good news for Sox hitters. Williams is less dominating; his main asset is his control. He features a low 90’s fastball and a slider. The pen is not impressive. If the Sox can make Schmidt and Williams work up high pitch counts early, necessitating Alou to go to the pen, it could prove to be huge in the series.

The other issue is what to do with the Mr. Bonds. It is simple. Tito put up four fingers in almost any situation. Only two other players are having and have a recent track record of above average ability at the plate. The two hitters are Marquis Grissom and Mike Tucker (don’t laugh) and Alou isn’t using them as his bread for a Bonds sandwich (stop laughing). Edgardo Alfonzo is hitting behind Bonds. Fonzie is hitting 266/333/353 this season and 259/334/391 last year. At 30, the Fonzie from NYC did not make to the Bay. Basically, the Sox should not fear a hitter who is SLGing less than 400. WALK BONDS AT VERY OPPORTUNITY.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

AFTER THE BREAK...

I have been basically without the net for three days - a day in NYC and two in Boston (notes on my trip tomorrow) - but today I am back on-line.

Gordon Edes on Tek's future prospects from the mouth of Scott Boras,

Of course, not all of those numbers were generated at the same age as Varitek is now, so Boras took 11 catchers who had four seasons of 800-plus innings and their performances after age 31. The group included Ausmus, Boone, Rick Dempsey, Fisk, Lance Parrish, Tony Pena, Benito Santiago, Terry Steinbach, Jim Sundberg, Ernie Whitt, and Dan Wilson. In every case, Boras showed that the catcher in question was effective either offensively or defensively.

And for catchers with durability and production after the age of 31, Boras cited five: Fisk, Parrish, Santiago, Steinbach, and Whitt.


Boras' conclusion is contary to my own because only Dan Wilson is a comparable that was a part of both analysis. (Wilson's career OPS is 700.)

After checking out Tek's PECOTA card on Baseball Prospectus for an expanded comparables list, Boone, Parrish, Whitt and Fisk all had one season similar to the Sox catcher. But none with a score that was "substantially comparable" or > 50; not one above a score of 40.

At the conclusion of the 2004 season, Tek's numbers could be more in line with names listed by his agent but at this time Boras' analysis is permature.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

GUEST POSTER

Jim Caple recently had an article on Jim Bouton’s desire to have a ball club in Pittsfield, Mass. – the birthplace of baseball – at Wahconah Park. A buddy of mine who also happens to be a big baseball fan (Sox season ticket holder) and until recently a life-long resident of the Pittsfield area weighs in on Bouton’s development.

I don't like Bouton but I do applaud him for trying to bring baseball back to Pittsfield. I think something fishy was going on between Bouton and the newly elected mayor Ruberto. Apparently, the 1780s baseball ordinance was found a year ago but not made public until last month, after Ruberto won the election and after Bouton gained control of Wahconah Park. Probably just another of my conspiracy theories, but it still seems a little strange to me...whatever.

Needless to say, I will not be coughing up $10G's to buy stock in Wahconah Park and Bouton's Indy League team. Call me greedy, but we don't need an Indy team. I want MLB affiliation back, which would probably come with a new stadium, or at least a modernized one. The reason why the Cubs left 15(?) years ago and why the Mets left 5 years ago was because they were moving to cities with new stadiums. It probably also had something to do with the economy and GE moving out of town. The Mets now play in the brand new KeySpan Park on Coney Island. We also had the Astros for a season before they moved to a new stadium in the Hudson Valley. I don't think a new stadium will solve the cities problems and I don’t even think a we need a new stadium; an updated Wahconah Park will be sufficient. But there’s so many problems with it though...for one, its right near the Housatonic River and the field gets flooded all the time. Also, the parking lot is a mess and it’s not in a very safe section of town. Not to mention sun delays...yeah, it’s cute in all, and the delays are infrequent but if you're sitting behind the plate, you are still staring into the sun for 30 minutes every night. It gets pretty annoying, pretty quick.

As for an Indy League team...well as a fan, I don't want to go to Wahconah Park to watch "a bunch of has-beens and a couple of never-will-bes". I want to go see guys trying to play their way to the majors. When I was a kid, there was always something special about going to Wahconah Park and getting these guys autographs after the game, hoping someday they would be in the major leagues...and a lot of them were. Palmerio, Grace, Maddux, Girardi, Daubach, and Alfonzo all played seasons in Wahconah Park when I was growing up. I even went just a few years ago to see the Astros take on the Jamestown Jammers (Braves) to see Wilson Betemit...this guy could do it all...hit, run, field and throw. It was exciting to see these guys playing in my hometown, where the biggest thing since minor league ball left has been the Friday Night Mice Races at Pepe's, which ironically is located right next to the Park. And then there was Brian House...a guy that, in 88 for the Cubs, was among the Eastern League batting leaders, and then impregnated a Pittsfield woman, stayed in Pittsfield and now he can be seen playing guitar for a local reggae band only in Pittsfield.

I appreciate what Bouton is trying to do and all but I don't think it will work until there’s MLB association again. It just won’t draw consistent crowds. The game that they are televising on ESPN Classic on July 4th weekend is only bringing in a big crowd because its tradition for everyone to take their kids to the ball game on 7/4 for the fireworks display after the game. I guarantee if there wasn't a game being played, 5000 people would still show up for the fireworks.

Now we aren't talking Newark Bears with guys you've heard of before (Rickey, Canseco, etc)...we're talking about no-namers. The only guy anyone in Pittsfield could relate to on last years team (Northern League) was Varitek's brother...and 1) He wasn't that good and 2) I can’t even remember his name. And there’s very little to no chance that these guys will be in MLB. I love watching baseball, but watching these guys is just not that appealing. It’s like going down to the Softball Complex and watching some Men's League games except at the complex the admission is free, beverages are cheaper and you don't have to worry about extra innings.

I guess I've just been spoiled for too long and I want a minor league team. But if it comes down to Indy League or nothing, I'll take the Indy League...for now. But when the park is updated, I want Bouton to push for a minor league team, something that he has yet to even mention as an option.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

NEW AND NOTES:

Alan Embree, who appeared in 27 of the first 56 games, has not pitched in a week . . .

Embree could be hurting but we don’t know. We can look back to determine whether over the past week’s games presented a situation that Embree would usually be brought into the game – late in a close game with a few LHB due. Embree’s last appearance was on June 1st in a loss to Anaheim. He pitched one inning and threw 23 pitches making him unlikely available the following day. The next possible chance for Embree was on June 4. The Sox trailed the entire game. Embree should not have and did not pitch in that game. On June 5th, Embree could have pitched the eighth instead of Timlin, but with Graffanino, Beltran, Sweeney, and Harvey due Timlin was the better match up. The following day, Timlin got through three innings throwing only 27 pitches. He was rolling; plus the only LHB in the lineup was Stairs. A classic Embree situation - seventh or eighth inning with a couple of LHB due up did not present itself over the past week. Plus, he was warming up last night. Embree not appearing in a week should not be news.

• A couple of takes on the Sox first draft pick, Dustin Pedroia, who will hopefully sign early and play in Burlington on Monday, June 21st so I get to watch him in action.

The Red Sox' preference for statistics over tools showed through with their first pick, Arizona State's Dustin Pedroia. One of best players in college baseball over the last three years, Pedroia isn't physically imposing at 5-foot-9 but is gifted defensively and hit better than .380 for his career with the Sun Devils. - John Manuel of Baseball America

Pedroia is an excellent catch this far down. He's an excellent all-around player, hitting for power and playing a flashy but consistent shortstop. The main concern about him is durability, as he's a bit on the small side. – Boyd Nation for Baseball Prospectus

It should not come to anyone’s surprise that Theo picked a David Eckstein clone. He wanted the Padres to claim Eckstein, after DD preferred upcoming Kill Bill Vol. III co-star – Izzy Alcantara, but Kevin Towers did not follow through on Theo’s advice - Eckstein was claimed by Anaheim - and the rest, as they say, is history.

"Just like the presidential-election maps – red and blue Connecticut divides over baseball. The Southwest is squarely for the pin-stripe Yankees. Color the north and east red, for the Sox."

This is no surprise but should CT continue to be a part of New England? I vote no.

• In a question regarding intentionally walking Bonds next week, Tom Werner discusses the lack of execution against Vlad last week by the Sox pitchers.

I asked Theo about your question, and he informed me that we have intentionally walked a number of hitters this year, and that we will use it in the future when appropriate. I watched the games in Anaheim, and sometimes you have to hope that the pitcher executes the game plan as dictated by the manager and the catcher-- which didn't happen.

At least the game plan was correct.

Gordon Edes in a chat about the Dr. Morgan,

I've heard some private grumbling from at least one Sox official that Nixon's back injury was not detected before he signed his multiyear deal, but I don't think Dr. Morgan should be bashed for the Nomar injury…As far as Nixon goes, I simplky don't possess the knowledge and/or information that would suggest a misdiagnosis there. Dr Morgan has a stromng reputation, the players went to management asking that he be retained when they were contemplating a change, and I think there has to be something much more substantive before we can be sitting back and accusing him of misdiagnoses.

A mainstream media member finally reports on Morgan, kind of, it is hidden in a online chat.

Movie houses are charging $5 to watch the Sox in High Def. El Guapo’s Ghost will charge $2.

• Has Millar always not worn batting gloves?

• As much as it is a pleasure to watch Pokey make plays in the field, boring Bellhorn should see the bulk of the time at second.

• David Brooks of the Boston Red Sox/New York Times used Burlington, Vermont as an example of the typical coastal/blue state/liberal city on the Daily Show last night. Burlington is anything but a typical city in a blue state. It is a college town. FYI Mr. Brooks, we don’t shop at Ben & Jerry’s; it is mostly the tourists and we have an appreciation for our fellow citizens in the heartland/red states, in part, because 20 miles outside of Burlington are farming communities. Brooks have you spent more than a day up here shopping on Church Street, dining at NECI, having desert at B&J’s, and then capping off the night with a walk along Lake Champlain? Oh, you probably gave a talk at Middlebury – another college town.

• If you have not already done so and you enjoy El Guapo’s Ghost, then please sign up for bloglet. Bloglet will send you a convenient email when El Guapo’s Ghost has been updated. When you sign up, you will also receive notices about upcoming El Guapo’s Ghost outings and events, the reselling at face value of Red Sox tickets and other news.

I GOT A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP LAST NIGHT

No worries. Pedro like Calgon took them all away with his performance last night. Of course this is not healthy,

…mental health professionals will advise against living vicariously through a baseball team, especially one as metaphorically bipolar as the our own Boston Red Sox, pegging your daily mood to the ups and downs of the team is a prescription for disaster.

As Comic Book Guy would say, “I saw a Pedro Martinez in near mint condition last night.” Petey threw almost all nasty curveballs in the first inning or two, and then featured the heater clocked consistently around 93 mph (I am gushing right now) while mixing in his other pitches. On most pitches, Tek barely had to move the glove. All signs are pointing to a restful summer evening this Sunday.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY of the SOX OFFENSE

The Good

• The Sox rank first in runs scored with 304, although they rank second in OBP and fourth in SLG. The club is averaging 5.4 runs per game.
• Manny is not a man; he is a hitting machine.
• V-Tek's Isolated OBP (OBP-AVG) is a career high of 112. A 400 OBP from V-Tek who may be hitting ninth in July would be speculator.
• After Damon's public - everything this guy does now seems to be on the front pages of the Globe - preseason statement that he will be more aggressive at the plate, he is earning a walk once every 13 plate appearances. He has not had as high of BB/PA rate since 1999 when he hit 307/379/477.
• Youkilis, Mirabelli and McCarty all have OBP > 360 and SLG > 450. These three hot streaks have alleviated the loss of Nomar, Nixon and Mueller.

The Bad

• The three headed out machine comprised of Reese, Crespo and Kapler have accumulated 363 or about 15 % of the Sox plate appearances.
• Kevin Millar has four homers in 195 at-bats and is SLGing 395.

and The Ugly

• The Sox rank first in both walks and strikeouts. Walks are productive but both outcomes are not entertaining for the fans of the offense.
• Mark Bellhorn is a big reason for the Sox lead in BB and K's with 45 and 63, respectfully. Bellhorn is a boring, but an effective player. Your my boy, Bell!
• Chicken Cesar Crespo's 173/173/227 with 19 K's in only 75 at-bats is so ugly Tito can't even get Wally to hang with him.
• The injuries to Nomar, Trot, Ferris Bueller Mueller and Burks have been painful.

Monday, June 07, 2004

BRAD PENNY, STARTING PITCHER, TRADED TO THE RED SOX?

Jack McKeon and Brad Penny:

"If my pitcher can't get the good hitters out, then there's only one way he's going to learn how to become a good pitcher. If you're going to pitch in the big leagues, you ought to be able to get Piazza out...Told of McKeon's comments, Penny said, "I've been getting good hitters out all year.''

Without any inside information, Penny for Kim and Mirabelli could be a possibility, once the Marlins are sold on A.J. Burnett’s health and effectiveness. It was reported this past weekend in the Sun-Sentinel that the Marlins were interested in Mirabelli and Kim. The Sox would likely send $1.1 million or the salary difference (Penny makes $3.725 million) plus most of Kim’s $6 million salary for next season for the deal to happen.

The Marlins get a low cost veteran catcher that they feel the club needs in Dougie and taking on at virtually no cost a high ceiling pitcher while giving up a perceived problem at a position with a surplus. Tommy Phelps, a southpaw control artist, fits in nicely as the fifth starter to contrast the Marlins power arms - Burnett, Willis, Beckett and Pavano. Penny would be a prime candidate to be dealt or non-tendered after this season if he stays with the Marlins. He stands to receive a large payday as a super/fifth-year arbitration eligible player over the winter. Beckett and Burnett will also be looking for significant raises. Penny is the likely odd man out so the Marlins maybe looking to deal him now to help this year’s club. Pavano could be moved instead, but the Marlins would loose the possibility of draft pick compensation by trading Pavano; it is not an issue with Penny.

The Sox would get a pitcher “who control and pound the strike zone.” Penny has averaged 2.5 walks per nine over the last couple of seasons; one walk below the league average. Penny’s K and HR rates are at the league average. The Sox would control Penny in 2005 reducing the need to acquire two starters over the winter. At 26, he is beginning to get over the hump as a high injury risk player. Penny is turning into a workhorse. He would be a stabilizing force for the staff. It would allow Arroyo to move back to the pen. Arroyo would serve as the long-man who can also dominate righties with his breaking ball. Andy Dominque becomes the backup catcher with V-Tek playing more like a regular starting catcher as Tito was going to implement before the season began. This would be a great move for the Sox.

News and notes:

Steven Goldman of Baseball Prospectus had some very interesting observations that I wanted to share. It's been a staple of early-season baseball talk that last year's bullpen revolution admitted defeat when Keith Foulke was signed. Note to the establishment: Foulke IS the revolution. On most teams, the closer, ostensibly the best pitcher in the pen, will pitch fewer innings than the weaker set-up and middle men. This is not so in Boston, where Foulke leads his team in relief innings. None of this namby-pamby "saving the pitcher" stuff (apologies to Will Carroll, who means it in an entirely more constructive way); the Sox cut right to the chase. Last year the idea was right but the staff was wrong. Foulke is the one who will bring the force back into balance. Viva la revolución! P.S, The only rationale for playing Pokey Reese is that Derek Lowe needs the glove help, but Lowe is beyond rescue. Pokey can do a lot of things in the field, but he can't stop Lowe from throwing ball four.

Goldman on Freddy on the block, It seems as if the world will beat a path to their door to bid for Freddy Garcia's services, but (1) while not entirely a mirage, Garcia has been a vastly more effective pitcher in the soggy confines of whatever corporate stadium the Mariners are playing in this week (why even bother to keep them straight?). While his road ERA is still a healthy 4.15, his strikeouts per nine drops from 8.74 to 4.67 and, (2) who the hell wants to bet the outcome of their season on Freddy Garcia?

Mussina looked like his old self yesterday but I would not pronounce him back just yet. As for the others…

Isn’t time for Kevin Brown to make his annual visit to the DL? I’ve got shoulder stiffness. Lieber and Javy have been hit or miss and I’ve got more control after 10 beers and a couple of shots than Jose Contreras on the mound.

Ben Jacobs of Hardball Times sums up my take on Petey. Well, it's been seven weeks now, and while Pedro's fastball has gotten better, his walks are up slightly from last year and up significantly from the previous two seasons. Also, he's already allowed 10 homers in 75.2 innings after allowing 20 in 385 innings the last two years. I'm officially worried.

HEADING BACK EAST

Ugly wins still count. Hopefully, the Sox start playing better on Tuesday because the Padres and Dodgers are tough. The Rockies and Giants at home are not creampuffs either but those clubs will be addressed next week. (I didn’t setup any NL team Q&A’s for the first installment of inter-league play. El Guapo’s Ghost has been busy. The first part of the Red Sox assessment should be posted tomorrow.)

The Padres and Dodgers come to town this week to start inter-league play. The clubs share the top spot in the NL West. L.A. has a run differential of 23 runs and S.D.’s is 16. Both clubs are, basically, meeting their Pythagorean Projection.

Each team is averaging 4.5 runs per game ranking 11th and 12th in the NL. S.D. is ranked 4th with a 341 OBP and L.A. is 7th at 335. Despite playing in a pitcher’s park, L.A. ranks 5th with in SLG at 428 while S.D. is 15th at 387. The Padres home ballpark’s spacious outfield, most notably 385 to right-center, has a lot to do with their deflated SLG. The Padres road SLG is 427 versus 342 at home. Don’t let the numbers fool you; the Padres have a strong lineup top to bottom with no automatic outs. Brian Giles is the man for the Padres and one of the most underrated hitters in the game. (The Giles for Rincon deal should be compared to the Bagwell-Anderson deal as one of the most lopsided deals of all-time.)

On the other hand, the Dodgers are being carried by the reemergence of Paul LoDuca (363/405/487) and Adrian Beltre (307/335/561) both of whom will be free agents after this season. Milton Bradley is hitting as expected (hopefully, his suspension will kick in over the weekend), but Shawn Green is struggling (228/329/391) and Juan Encarnacion has performed even worse than SABR folks projected. The saving grace of the Dodgers is that Izturis, Alex Cora and Dave Roberts all have OBPs above 350. Unfortunately for Dodger fans, Roberts is the only one likely to end the season with an OBP of 350.

The Sox are scheduled to face David “Fat Ass” Wells tomorrow, Joey Lawerence, and former Sox property, Dennis Tankersley in the finally. Wells is just coming off the DL, which could explain his poor peripheral numbers over 50 innings – 16 strikeouts, seven walks, and six tall jacks. If Wells doesn’t have command of his curveball and Tito doesn’t write in the B-team, Wells might not make it pass the fifth inning. Lawerence is becoming the typical #2 on a contending club – 200+ innings with a low 4 ERA – not “must see T.V.” but a vital component to a winning team. The Tank will be making his third start of the season and only the 13 of his career so who knows. The Sox will need to put runs up early because the pen, unlike the NBA playoffs, has been fantastic. Hoffman is healthy and back to his old self. Otsuka has dominated as the primary setup guy by K-ing 34 while walking nine in 28.1 innings. Former MFYs Witasick and Osuna are averaging a strikeout per innings and Rob “I just know who to get outs” Beck is back from the DL.

As good as S.D.’s pen is L.A.’s maybe better because of Montreal native, Eric Gagne. He is just sick. Let’s hope he doesn’t get into a game this weekend. The pitchers leading to Gagne - Dreifort, Mota, etc. – all have their faults so Jim Tracy’s usage is important. As it stands now, the Sox should get Jeff Weaver, Odalis Perez and a starter to be named later. Perez requested to be pushed back to face the Sox. Perez is putting up peripheral numbers similar to his last two seasons. O.P. will be a tough assignment for the Sox LHB and RHB should try to take him to right. Weaver’s numbers compare to his good days in Detroit. Without watching Weaver, it is difficult to make any kind of assessment of his performance (Q&A is handy here).

These series should be interesting. I’ll be at Fenway on Saturday. Over the winter, I was planning on making it to San Fran next weekend, but tickets were impossible. Denver during the week is a tough. It is always fun to watch the Sox in a new/N.L. park. MLB schedulers take note – the Sox in Arizona and San Diego next year would be a great vacation.

Friday, June 04, 2004

RANTING and RAVING

• Matrix and Matrix Reload were awesome. The movies blew my mind. After them, I need to watch something boring before heading off to bed to bring me down. They were so intense. Matrix Revolution was awful - gigantic disappointment like B-Kim.

• B-Kim needs to make a decision soon. Either Kim is going to play for the Sox and rehab with the club or he is going to play in Korea. A decision has to be made for the Sox to go forward. Here is hoping that he goes the way of Sasaki and the Sox have an additional $2.5 million to spend this season and $6 million next.

• I am adding a tip jar on my desk to offset all of the freaking tipping that society feels is appropriate. I thought only wait staff and bartenders pay included tips.

• I thought Lowe would struggle but not to this degree. Pedro has never experienced this level of gopheritis. We should not forget that Arroyo was slated for long relief and was a waiver pickup – temper expectations.

• No talking on public transit in the morning. It is an unwritten rule that has not been communicated well go figure.

• No one should question Nomar’s desire. Mark Prior with a similar injury is making his return basically at the same point in the season. RSN should be questioning Kim and Mendonza’s desire.

• Brad Thomas is rehabbing for Pawtucket too and will get a look at some point this season.

• Over the weekend, I plan on finishing my assessment of the Sox first third of the season.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

HEADING NORTH

A few years ago, a purchase was made for 20 Montreal Expos ticket certificates – a partial season ticket plan. It was wicked cheap $120 CAD or $75 USD at the time for general admission tickets – trading up is not much of an issue – so it was a great deal. Plus, I got an invite to a special fan day that included two VIP tickets, Q&A with Frank Robinson, pitching instruction from Javy Vazquez and base running with Guerrero - Wilton not Vlad. To make a long story short, I was able to see Vlad play more than most Sox fans.

Even more so than Nomar, Vlad swings at everything and usually makes good contact so the Sox plan for Vlad was peculiar. Vlad crushes the ball to the tune of 389/473/769 (2001-2003) with the count 0-0. Other than Vlad’s first at-bat, Pedro threw a curveball way out the strikezone for a swinging strike then made a mistake - a hanging curveball middle-in that was deposited in the leftfield bleachers; Sox pitchers had a terrible game blowing strategy against the MVP candidate - they threw him first pitch strikes. Here are Vlad’s next plate appearances:

2nd at-bat – on the first pitch, Vlad hits a double
3rd at-bat – on the first pitch, Vlad hits a sac fly
4th at-bat – first pitch ball, second foul, third pitch Vlad hits a homer.
5th at-bat – on the first pitch, Vlad hits a single.

The Sox should not have thrown Vlad a first pitch strike or a strike anytime the count is even or the pitcher is ahead. They did not have to give into him with Jose Guillen and the no names that follow. Vlad has one weakness at the plate, over aggressiveness, and the Sox exploited it only twice getting burned both times a few pitches later. Even the best plans do not always work out as they were drawn up.

Other news and notes

• Johnny Damon does not need to be platooned. Damon’s 1-for-16 against Washburn is not statistically significant. Damon has no lefty-righty spilt. Over the last three seasons, he hit 280/337/414 against LHP and 268/343/399 versus RHP in 1875 at-bats. Damon should have been in the lineup with an off day today.

• Finally, the Pokey-Bellhorn debate gets some mainstream media attention. Eric Van on…Bellhorn ranks fourth. "But he's still 48.9 runs better than Pokey Reese . . . The conclusion is inescapable: Mark Bellhorn is at least 30 runs better at the plate than Pokey Reese [per 162 games], quite possibly 50 runs better."

Given what fellow 40-year-olds Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson are still doing, does Saberhagen, whose career was short-circuited by a bad shoulder, sometimes wish he were still competing? "Absolutely not," he said. Sabes, my apologizes for roughing up your shoulder at Tin Roof.

"He might be back," Francona said. "I kind of forgot to ask." That gives you some idea of how important Kim is to the current scheme of things. Tito later on in the interview, “Don’t ever mention his name in my presence again! He is dead to me.”

• John Sickels on Youk: In the long run, he should be able to provide a good batting average and excellent OBP for several years. He is a good example of how an intelligent skill approach can make a player valuable despite mediocre physical tools.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

THE RIGHT DECISION

I decided a few days ago that I would only stay up and watch one of the games being played in the O.C. Running around looking for steamers yesterday and with Pedro “I am not a fastball pitcher any longer” scheduled to throw junk on Wednesay made the decision an easy one.

From what I have seen and read, I finally made a good decision. It appears like the Sox played lackadaisically and it is apparent now that Tito needs a refresher course on optimal bullpen usage and the sacredness of outs (a.k.a. thou shall not sacrifice bunt).

Other new and notes:

• On the Ben Aflac Trivia Question, You won't be able to spout off erroneous statements on the air, acting as some self-appointed mouthpiece of a Nation you've lost touch with. You'll help reestablish Red Sox Nation as a legion of rabid, passionate, but most importantly intelligent and classy fans.

• Many clubs not owned by a media company will likely be creating their own cable sports channels, as the Mets appear to be setting themselves up for, in the near future. The Mets paid $54 million last week to buy out the remainder of their contract with Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports Net New York, exercising their right to terminate the deal after the 2005 season. This type of vertical integration is beneficial to the club on many levels but will likely mean an increase in our cable rates. It is time for a la carte cable pricing. We should only pay for the stations we watch.

• My complaining about the weather has been substantiated. The book by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander says that Burlington has the fifth worst climate in the nation.

• Rob Neyer’s column is becoming pay-per-view. All-Baseball.com has a short Q&A with Neyer and an interesting take on the development.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

ERA needs to go the way of BA

On-base percentage (OBP) is beginning to make its way into the mainstream as a more important statistic than batting average (BA) here in Red Sox Nation. BA is still important just not to the extent that we once believed. ERA should be looked at in a similar manner for a starting pitcher (it should not be included for a reliever but that is another subject).

OBP is an old time statistic. It is not a new wave number like DIPS, GPA, IsoPo, and the like, which likely makes it easier for most media and fans to understand and accept. Starting pitchers need a stat like OBP to lessen the emphasis put on Earned Run Average (ERA).

ERA measures the average number of “earned” runs a pitcher gave up over nine innings. Since preventing runs is the pitcher’s main objective, ERA has become the preferred metric for evaluating a pitcher. Unfortunately, ERA has two major flaws when evaluating a starting pitcher: 1) the Official Scorer decides when an error should be charged to a fielder thereby eliminating the pitcher’s responsibility / being charged with an earned run, and 2) the pitcher is fully responsible for any runners left on base even after his departure from the game; the relief pitcher is not held accountable for any runners on base that precluded his entrance.

For example, the box score of last week’s A’s ass kicking of the Sox had Arroyo giving up nine runs, but six earned in three and one-third. The first inning is standard so moving along to the second.

Below is the espn.com game log for the top of the second.

OAKLAND 2ND
-Top of the 2nd inning
-B Crosby struck out swinging.
-M Scutaro safe at first on error by shortstop P Reese.
-M Kotsay flied out to right.
-E Byrnes doubled to left, M Scutaro scored.
-E Chavez homered to left, E Byrnes scored.
-J Dye struck out swinging.

3 runs, 2 hits, 1 error


Pokey Reese makes an error leading to a runner on first. Reese’s error pardons Arroyo of three runs. The logic beyond the three runs being unearned is that Kotsay’s fly out would have been the third out ending the inning. Byrnes and Chavez would not have come up with ducks on the pond. Staying in that dream world, Byrnes leads off the third. If he and Chavez do the same damage in the third as they did in the real second, the pair would produce two runs instead of three. The logic relieving Arroyo of responsibility is not consistent. Arroyo should have been charged with two runs in the second instead of none.

The other problem with ERA is evident in the fourth inning.

OAKLAND 4TH
-Top of the 4th inning
-B Crosby doubled to left center.
-M Scutaro doubled to deep center, B Crosby scored.
-M Kotsay grounded out to first, M Scutaro to third.
-E Byrnes doubled to left, M Scutaro scored.
-J Brown relieved B Arroyo.
-E Chavez walked.
-J Dye hit a ground rule double to deep center, E Byrnes scored, E Chavez to third.
-S Hatteberg homered to right, E Chavez and J Dye scored.
-E Durazo singled to center.
-A Melhuse flied out to left.
-B Crosby flied out to center.

6 runs, 6 hits, 0 errors


Brown relieves Arroyo with Byrnes on second with one out. Brown walks Chavez, and then Dye hits a double scoring both runners. Arroyo is charged with the run scored by Byrnes and Brown’s ERA will increase due to Chavez crossing the plate. Even though Brown served up the hit that drove in Byrnes, Arroyo and Brown are hit with an earned run apiece. Well that is not fair. Brown had more impact on Byrnes scoring than Arroyo. They should not be charged with the same number of runs. The number of outs and the inherited runner(s) location should be factored in when determining accountability. ERA does no such calculation.

It is likely that some new statistic accounts for ERA’s faults but most people are not receptive to new ideas and change. Hence, runs per nine innings (RA/9) should be posted along with ERA when a pitcher enters the game. It is simple; the public is familiar with it and RA/9 will help alleviate one of ERA’s flaws. RA/9 will account for all runs a pitcher gives up regardless of the number of errors committed. Over the past two years, a number of the best starting pitchers have a RA/9 of more than .5 runs over their ERA. Over 200 innings, the .5 translates into 10 runs; it is significant. Like OBP, RA/9 does not tell the entire story about a player’s performance but it is better than ERA. Baby steps in the right direction are…well, better than nothing.

Monday, May 31, 2004

YOUK, YOUK, YOUK

Most scouts have never been high on Youkilis and after his poor performance in RI last season, STAT/SABR evaluators were down on the GGofBB as well. Baseball Prospectus wrote the following:

In AAA, he was fed a steady stream of high fastballs that he usually took for strikes, resulting in a lot of pitcher's counts and weakly batted balls...A career resembling Ken Oberkfell's or Dave Magadan's, with less defense...

Hopefully, Youk's 317/442/488 line is starting to end the questions regarding his ability to hit at the MLB level. Chicken Cesar Crespo (thanks Steve) has witnessed a change to Youk's approach at the plate.

"He is much more aggressive. He knows he's going to get good pitches up here, and he's not taking the way he used to. He's able to wait for mistakes and then capitalize on them. And he hits fastballs, curveballs, and changeups."

Youk has until the All-Star break to convince scouts that he is ready to play everyday in the Show. A stat line of 280/380/450 would make him a valuable commodity for the Sox. If Mueller can return to form, the Sox will likely pick up his $2.1 million 2005 option at the conclusion of the season creating a log jam at the hot corner this season and next. Youk's salary makes him the most valuable trading chip in the organization. Youk is the likely centerpiece of a blockbuster deal, if one emerges, in July.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Q&A with RICHARD CECCARELLI

Richard Ceccarelli is my first interviewee who solely writes a blog. Pearly Gates focuses on the Anaheim Angels from the O.C. The self proclaimed “all knowing one”;) was kind enough to answer a few questions on the Sox upcoming opponent. (Yes, I jumped over the Mariners because they are going nowhere. If you are interested in the M’s, check out the excellent blog, U.S.S. Mariner.)

El Guapo's Ghost: After the winter addition of Vlad to anchor a lineup with sluggers - Glaus, Anderson, Salmon - and OBP guys - Eckstein and Kennedy, most thought that the Angles would have no difficulty putting runs on the board. Unfortunately, the three hold over sluggers are on the DL and the OBP guys have not performed up to expectations so how have the Angles continued to be one of the top run producing teams in the A.L. and will it continue? Why are the Angels still scoring runs?

Richard Ceccarelli: It is a puzzler. Going into the season the offence was built around average and power- this is not a team that's going to take a lot of walks. Three major power threats have been removed due to injury (Glaus, Anderson, and Salmon) but two names do remain- Vladimir Guererro and Jose Guillen. The pair have carried the Angels offence this season, sporting OPSs of 1.000 and .904 respectively. Those numbers are actually even better in the month of May as the injuries have piled up; Guerrero has been at 1.030 and Guillen is at 1.125 this month. Of course two men can't do it alone. A few role-players have stepped up- Jeff DaVanon, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman have all been productive. The Molina brothers have also added a much-needed shot of power. And as much as I hate to say it, Mike Scioscia's "small-ball mentality" has also contributed. The team is third in the AL with 36 steals and near the top in sacrifice hits. I never condone giving up outs, but I suppose it is acceptable when your lineup features names like Shane Halter and Alfredo Amezaga.

Can they keep it up? Sadly, no. There's no way that Guillen can keep on his torrid pace, and guys like Figgins and Kotchman have already shown signs of coming back to earth. This lineup needs reinforcements- and quick. Unfortunately they seem to be a long way off.

EGG: A part of the above question is answered by the hot starts of Figgins and DaVanon, but which has been the bigger surprise?

RC: That's a very hard question to answer, as both have been very impressive. I would give the nod to DaVanon who has very quietly become a walking-machine. He's leading the club in walks (with 16 as of 5/26) despite only playing in 35 games. He also leads the club in OBP at .406. Along with his terrific eye he brings a fair amount of pop and excellent speed. I'm convinced that Jeff is the best 4th outfielder in baseball today.

EGG: Anaheim's team pitching stats were unexpectedly impressive. As of 5/25/04, they ranked fifth in runs and homers, sixth in free passes and second in strikeouts. The pen has been excellent. Shields, K-Rod, Gregg have a combine for 105K to only 27BB while giving up only two dingers in 88 innings. Even though the relief ace, Troy Percival, has twelve saves, he seems to be struggling with only nine strikeouts in sixteen innings and issuing ten walks. What is the problem with Percival?

RC: I don't agree that the pitching staff has been unexpectedly impressive- especially the bullpen. Francisco Rodriguez was one of the top-5 relievers in baseball last season and Scot Shields was also very impressive as both a reliever and starter (2.85 ERA in 148.1 IP). This is one of the top-5 bullpens in baseball right now, and that's with set-up man of the year Brendan Donnelly on the DL.

As for Percival, it finally appears that age and injuries have caught up with him. His velocity is down 2-3 mph. That hasn't been the biggest problem however- he was always better when he took a little off his fastball. His struggles appear to stem from his control. He looks to be overthrowing in an attempt to get his velocity back, and the ball is sailing on him. I don't think he's quite done though. Last season he suffered a hip injury that some feared would end his career. He returned from that injury with a new wind-up that supposedly limits the stress on his hip, and was quite effective with it. It was similar to his stretch-delivery of past seasons, and it reined his fastball back a bit, resulting in pinpoint control. He abandoned it this spring, going back to his old, high leg-kick wind-up. In my opinion he needs to return to last year's delivery.

EGG: The back four of the rotation are pitching to expectations, but Colon has had problems. From Colon's stats, it appears that the long ball has been his biggest issue but reports have stated that his loss of velocity is the reason for his ineffectiveness. What is the problem?

RC: I haven't seen a loss in velocity for Colon. He's still in that mid-90's range with the occasional heater reaching 98. His problem has been plain and simple- control. His control has been nothing short of atrocious this season. That may not show up in his walk totals, but anyone who has watched him can see it. He has consistently missed up-and-over the plate, which explains his high HR totals. The wildness appears to be due to inconsistent mechanics. He reportedly entered spring training nearly 30 pounds over-weight, (a condition which is as much to blame on poor work ethic as a nagging back injury) and that has contributed to the problem. I'm not too worried about Bartolo- this is his M.O. He always starts strong, goes into a short early-summer tailspin, and always finishes the season with solid numbers. Also, the Angels have a fine pitching coach in Bud Black who should be able to get him straightened out.

Other notes

• One of the things I miss about living in Boston: Really. Standing on a corner, not in Winslow Arizona, but in Brighton Massachusetts this morning, the famed "57" bus comes by, and on the electronic bus number sign, in between flashes of "57," the old Garden-style flashing bulbs said "GO" then "RED" then "SOX"... It's May 27th. Buckle up.

• El Guapo’s Ghost would like to thank all of the new visitors that stopped by over the past couple of days. A traffic spike on Wednesday of over 200 and Thursday greater than 400 got us to exceed our goal of 10,000 visitors before June. Please continue; we post original content daily...well…mostly original and almost daily.

• Have a good holiday. In the next week or so, topics addressed will be: ERA is a poor stat, Sox draft strategy, and Sox grades over the first third of the season.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Thank you!

Thanks to you, readers of El Guapo’s Ghost, we have been able to secure a sponsor (they would have been online earlier but El Guapo’s Ghost has been experiencing technical difficulties). Their financial support will allow for subsidized outings, t-shirts and other stuff in the works. Please visit and patronize them as they are supporting us.

BTW, other sponsors will be coming online shortly. They will all be of the links variety which is not obtrusive. In general, I hate most ads. This morning I was watching VH1 (yes, I am a little too old for MTV). First off, I am surprised that they still show videos; I was unaware of that. As long-time readers are aware, I am making an effort to become more knowledgeable in areas other than baseball, general pro-sports and politics/current events, in order to converse longer than two minutes with most members of the opposite sex. There doesn’t seem to be any women that want to explore how Mark Bellhorn can hit 225 with an OBP of 400. If you know where they are located, please let me know. Sh%t. I am rambling on again. “Back on to the lecture at hand,” in the middle of Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” video, up popped an ad about the singer’s concert DVD. Well that just ruined my morning…because that type of advertising is going to be more a more prominent with more channels to flip to during a commercial break and the invention and better marketing of TiVo and other DVRs. This really pisses me off!

Your input is needed

Recent content has not been of the essay variety – mostly notes/rumblings and Q&A. Notes are done because the necessary time to flush out a topic is not available or the topic does not warrant an in-depth post. The greater number of Q&As have been posted of late as a means of introducing a Sox upcoming opponent. For good reason, we focus on the MFY but some of the teams out West are almost as important. In the future, more essays will be posted. Please leave a comment on your preferred post type. I’ll do my best to accommodate going forward. Thanks.

Just one; it ain’t askin’ too much

If you enjoy checking out El Guapo’s Ghost, then please pass on our URL to your family, friends, and acquaintances that you think might like it as well. Sox chat rooms would be a good spot too. Also, do not forget to signup with bloglet. A larger audience will translate into more support for us here at El Guapo’s Ghost.

News and Notes

Sports Retort summarizes the last night’s game well but Redman getting squeezed on the ball four call to Damon allowed the flood gates to open. And thanks go out to Bobby Crosby for the three run error.

Boston.com/The Boston Globe/The New York Times Company/The Boston Red Sox have acquired Boston Dirt Dogs web site. It will be incorporated into Boston.com’s sports section in a couple of weeks. Congratulations go out to the Big Dog and company whose reputation has come under fire with the mainstream media folks of lately. This news should totally validate their media credentials. Hopefully, the arrangement will not constrain content too much.

• Welcome to the family – Andy. "I got shivers," Francona said, of the fans standing and chanting, "Andy, Andy." "That was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen." Dominique, 28, who labored more than seven years in the minors before he made the bigs, said, "It was way unexpected and really appreciated, probably the best moment of my life."

• Jason Stark of espn.com is reporting that “Randy Johnson is going no where,” but Cherry Garica from Seattle not Vermont and Kris Benson are available.

Jim Caple offers another reason to dislike the pitcher in Texas whose retirement plans are similar to George “Lean Mean Fat Reducing Machine” Foreman. Oh, and by the way -- according to Tom Verducci's nice Sports Illustrated cover story on Clemens, the Rocket has four Hummers. Four Hummers? He's singlehandedly driving up oil prices worldwide.

Thank you - Red Sox!

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