Friday, September 30, 2005

I'm excited

Whilst Neil H seems a lil bit nervous, I am extremely excited about this series and the baseball I am about to start watching in an hour or so. I have even subscribed to NASN so I can watch the games on the big widescreen downstairs. Whilst I have been a bit nervy recently these are the times you have to just enjoy the battle.

Sometimes in sport you are so desperate to see your team win that you forget to actually enjoy the specticle. Tonight I will soon move downstairs to watch Around The Horn and PTI and then settle down to watch Wang and Wells going at it. I want the Yanks to win and play great baseball and I'm probably be over the moon with any Yankee victory but I want to enjoy the evening, not just enjoy the result.

So here's to a good entertaining match and series and a Yankee victory ;)

Just three more...Or four...Or possibly five

Ok then boys and girls, this season comes down to this:

Yankees win the AL East and go to the postseason if:

They win two or three games v the Sox this weekend or
They win one game coupled with the Indians failing to win more than one game against the ChiSox.

Yankees and Red Sox will play a play-off game on Monday at Yankee Stadium if:

Boston win two from three and the Indians win two or three games against the ChiSox.

There will be a Tuesday play-off game if:

Boston and Cleveland both win two games this weekend causing a three-way tie between the Yanks, Sox and Indians. The Tuesday game would pit the loser of Monday's play-off game at Yankee Stadium either at Jacobs Field if it's the Yankees or at Fenway if it is the Red Sox.

The Yankees are out of it all if:

They get swept and the Indians win two or more games against the Indians.

The Yankees and Indians will play a play-off game at Jabobs Field on Monday if:

The Sox sweep the Yanks and the Indians win just one game against the ChiSox.

The Red Sox and Indians will play a one-off play-off game on Monday at Fenway if:

Both teams lose this weekend's series 2-1.

I'll get confused if:

Any of this actually happens.

All in all boys and girls basically if the Yanks win at least one game this weekend in Boston they will at worst have a play-off game. They win two then they are in the party, they get swept and they need a lot of help from the ChiSox.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Just three more... or four

Well it is advantage Yankees, and for anyone to disagree is just silly - the Sox need to sweep the Empire to be guaranteed a post season spot... the Yankees just don't lose three games in a row... I know, I know they did that once, but...

It really is stunningly poised - with each team capable of delivering a true knockout punch... or with the right combination of events in Boston and Cleveland... a disappointing whimper...

So my checklist for the weekend's viewing...
  • fingernails... check
  • mute button... tomorrow night's game will only be available to me on UPN9... check
  • plentiful supply of Sam Adams and 21 year old Scotch... check
  • open IM window to taunt / be taunted by Neil M... check
  • fresh underwear... check
  • front row tickets for Saturday's matchup... check
Yep, I will be there in person on Saturday, front row, right beside the Sox dugout - I really would have preferred a Curt v Randy matchup for the sheer drama, and we need to remember that Tuesday's doubler header could still come back to bite us a second time, with Wake pitching on short rest, but it really should be something, particularly if the Sox do manage to tie things up tomorrow night, and, all things considered, Fenway is not a bad place to spend a fall afternoon in New England.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Grind It boys

The Yanks played tight baseball last night and beat the Birds 2-1 at Camden Yards. A-Rod hit his 47th shot of the year putting him in sole possession of 1st place for Home Runs by a right handed batter in a single season for the Yankees. An inning later Derek Jeter singled home Jorge Posada from 3rd, which would turn out to be the game winning hit.

I didn't see the game, I was fast asleep knowing I had an early start today but waking up to a Yanks win and defeats for both the Red Sox and the Indians is always pleasant. The Yanks magic number now stands at four as they look to take the AL East pennant. The Sox suffered a bad case of Lillyitis as once again for some unknown reason the former Yankee dealt in Fenway to make his record 3-0 in five starts against the Boston club this season.

The Indians lost a very tight one at home to the Devil Rays, somehow Seth McClung got the win and didn't give up a run, were the Indians all fast asleep in the batters box? So the Yanks have a game lead on both the Sox in the East and the Indians and the Sox in the Wildcard standings.

It could all change tonight though but hopefully Aaron Small will keep up his amazing record and the Yanks can go into Beantown full of confidence.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Yankees Middle Relief: Gotta sack em all

Once upon a time Pokemon was a popular game, once upon a time the Yankees had some middle relief. Today neither is true and last night the Yankees hit but the pitchers didn't pitch and a big loss was the outcome.

Mike Mussina had nothing, Al Leiter was slightly better, Scott Proctor wasn't, Felix Rodriguez was awful, whoever came in next was just as bad and so on. Not a good night to be a fan of the Bombers but losses for Boston, Cleveland and the south side of Chicago meant that the Yankees lost no ground, but did pour out all the tripe we have in the 'pen.

But we've got to look forward, five games to go and everything is to play for. You just have to hope Moose genuinely sucked and wasn't pitching with an injury otherwise Sunday's game could be devastating for Yankee fans. Chacon goes tonight with Aaron Small backing him up tomorrow as the Yankees look to go into this huge series with the Sox at worst, level pegging.

Five games to go, straw poll anyone, whose going to represent the AL East, AL Central and AL Wildcard in the postseason, answers if you please, via the comments screen.

Some play-off form

Well a great night for the four main play-off contenders in the Central and East...

Excellent, the White Sox have lost... go Indians... erm... no

Excellent, the Red Sox have lost... go Yankees... erm... no

Both the East teams missed a big chance tonight - they could have picked up games on the Indians in the Wild Card and on the White Sox in the AL 'best record/home field' standings.

As soon as last night's game was rained out I thought the Yankees had gained an advantage - as has been commented on in quite a few blogs today, over 50% of double headers end in splits, and given the Sox have had trouble with the Jays all year, I didn't like our chances of picking up the two. However at 5-2 ahead, the Sox should have taken both and opened up a potentially huge one game advantage with just five remaining, instead, we were treated to some "interesting" managerial decisions, with Terry keen to give every pitcher that one hitter more.

One encouraging thing was his decision to bring in Hansen - remember just five days ago we were treated to the "we will not bring in Hansen in high pressure, high leverage situations, that just wouldn't be fair" speech... I guess tonight's situation wasn't considered high pressure because... It would be hard to describe Hansen's performance as encouraging but... it was - he showed off more pitches to at least make hitter's think that they can't automatically sit on fastball, even if many of these pitches struggled to find the zone.

It will be interesting to see how both teams respond to tonight's losses - at least the Red Sox had one positive today, and picked up half a game on the Yankees. Tonight's pitching from the Yankees has been appalling - 8 pitchers have combined to give up 17 runs to a clearly dispirited Baltimore team that has counted off another 24 hours from their countdown clock. Neil M won't believe me, but Michael Kay has just stated that Alan Embree was the Yankees most effective pitcher tonight... that is never a good sign.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bye bye Bernie?

So yesterday was the first time I witnessed a great Yankee possibly wave goodbye to the stadium. I was watching in 2001 when Paul O’Neill played his final game but considering I’d only seen my first ever game 48 hours previously, I didn’t understand was a legend in Pinstripes he was.

Go forward four years and Bernie Williams played the last regular season game at THTRB under his current contract. He may well return next year at a vastly reduced salary but that is yet to be determined. The guitar playing Puerto Rican has been the Center Fielder for the Yankees throughout their dynasty run of four World Championships in five years and has set many records along the way.

He has the most Home Runs, RBI’s and Hits in postseason play in the history of the game. Four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger award, five time All-Star and a batting champion from the all conquering 1998 season. His place in the all time Yankee greats is secure and with one more hit he’ll tie Joe Di Maggio on the hit list in Pinstripes.

We all hope he’s back in October for some bonus baseball and one more chance to show our thanks to #51. He received several standing ovations last night and took a curtain call in the bottom of the eighth inning. Deep down I think that Bernie would prefer a part-time role with the Yankees than a full-time role somewhere else where postseason play is unlikely. He has earned enough money in his career for that to be an overriding concern; a one-year $1m deal to return to pinstripes would not shock me as he wants to be remembered as a Yankee.

Bernie has been a fine player and servant to the game and to the Bombers, but he will probably fall short of Cooperstown recognition. He’ll have some support amongst writers but I can’t see him making it, but he’ll bounce about on the form for many years I am sure.

So all in all I just want to say thank you to Bernie Williams. A fine ambassador to the game and a true Yankee. I can only hope that if this is his last season in Pinstripes then it’ll end under the glare of a World Series, which is what a man of his stature deserves.

7 More

This type of late season closeness is a new thing for me - in my baseball life the Sox have never won the AL East, and in truth, there has never even been a close race in the East involving the Sox in my ten years.

Given how tight the East and the Wild Card race are (the Oakland A's have just lost to the Rangers and are now 4 back with 7 to play, while the Indians loss today to the Royals today puts them 3 back in the loss column of the White Sox) people are beginning to consider just how many play-off scenarios exist - presumably keeps this story in storage and just changes the team names as required. It does raise the interesting question - if your team were dragged into the three team Wild Card scenario, what would you want them to do? Given the Red Sox's home record this year, I guess the temptation would be to play the extra game with the home advantage reward... but that guarantees using an extra starter... thankfully, that scenario is unlikely this year, and I doubt Theo is phoning me to ask my opinion before he plays the home advantage card...

The Sox win today was the most relaxing win in a few days - always ahead, good situational hitting, Renteria looking better at the plate, Damon getting his first big hit in quite a while... and David Ortiz seeing 1 strike in the first 12 pitches that were thrown toward home plate while he was there - and that strike was so 'taken' that Ortiz could as well have been catching up on some bills that needed paying.

Back in my 100 game review I projected this Sox team out to 93 wins and concluded by saying that if 93 wins was enough to win the East it would get us to the play-offs, but wouldn't win the wild-card. I can stand by that, but add the rider, 93 wins isn't winning the AL East - if the Sox go 2-5 over the next 7 games, I am willing to guess that none of us will be using post-season tickets in Boston in 2005!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A long week ahead

Well play-off baseball is in full swing - 3:44 for a nine inning game that means "nothing" to the Orioles... The two AL East teams are all tied up again, with a 162 game season now boiled down to 8 games - could we not just have stayed at home for the last five months and just played these eight?

The Yankees lost behind baseball magnet Jaret Wright - what did Jaret do to annoy the baseball gods (beyond the obvious...)? In the last month he has been hit by a comebacker on the collarbone, the elbow by a broken bat, and again today by another comebacker, this time on his upper pitching arm. Today may be the final straw - after he was pulled in the second (attributed to bad pitching rather than injury) Aaron Small came in and pitched 6 2/3 strong innings - it will be interesting to see who pitches on Thursday, and if nothing else, Small has shown that he is the Yankee long guy in the playoffs, which takes pressure off Sturtz and the rest of the Yankee bullpen. Assuming, of course, that the Yankee bullpen is needed beyond October 2nd.

The Red Sox won behind a strange performance from Matt Clement - 0 ER over 6IP - but it isn't very relaxing to watch a guy walk 6 guys - 3 in the 2nd, 3 in the 4th. Craig Hansen was introduced to the brutal reality of the majors tonight - one K, one high chopped single off home plate, one slider deposited into the left field bleachers, and his major league ERA soared above 10 - which of course means he is now a bona-fide member of the Sox bullpen! Given Francona had said he didn't want to bring Hansen into a situation to fail, you have to hope that Tito is brave enough to run Hansen out there again soon - the guy has a very live fastball, and our bullpen needs all the help it can get.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Lets get it on! (again)

Well boys and girls in a ten game sprint. Yankees win more than the Red Sox they are going to the party. They win the same amount and they go to the party. The Sox win one more than the Yanks and we go to a play-off (if the Wildcard comes from the Central, if not then the winner of the season series will take the East and the higher seed in the play-offs, current record is 9-7 Yanks) and if the Sox win two or more games than the Yankees then the Fenway lot will be those looking forward to cold crisp October nights of baseball, simple eh?

On August 21st this race was over, well according to Neil H anyways, ‘The Yankees are a 540 team, they will pretty much win 54% of their games rest of the way in - teams tend not to change their character 120 games into the season.’ I replied, ‘The Yanks throughout the season have never had a settled rotation, we seem to be edging towards it. We aren't firing on all cylinders that is for sure but I don't think we are that far behind the Red Sox.’ It ended up with, ‘So suddenly Randy will become real Randy, Mussina will be solid, Chacon will keep up his Cy Young impression, Al Leiter will be steady etc, etc, etc - no one is saying that you are that far behind, it is only one game every ten days you need to make up, but there is nothing in the record to suggest that you are about to be a good team - not saying the Sox are either, but we have the advantage.’

Well I think that advantage has swung. Neil H said the season would be well over by the final three game set at Fenway but I think he may of changed his mind since he said that just one small month ago. Randy when he hasn’t been tossed has been great, Mussina looked superb last night and Wang went very well in his last start. Those three are slated to pitch for the good guys in that final series but Neil H will contest their last starts as they were against a poor hitting Orioles line-up.

Chacon is keeping up his Cy Young impression and Al Leiter, well until the 8th last night he’d been doing a job for the Yankees. The Yankees have overnight become a very good team, when bit part players are stepping up then you know things are going right, it isn’t as though the Sox have sucked down the stretch, they haven’t, the Yanks are just playing great ball just like the Tribe.

We have ten short rounds and the last three will be giant, for once it isn’t just about pride, it is about October. The wildcard looks set to come out of the AL Central for the first time so one of the two ball clubs will probably miss out on the party, now no-one saw that coming.

Remember you can add 3,079 Miles... to your My Yahoo or any other RSS feed program to take up to date on our thoughts down the stretch.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The season isn't finished... is it?

Well apparently, according to every website in the whole wide world, if the season finished today, the Red Sox would miss the playoffs - I love that argument, particularly as it is only flawed in one tiny, small, insignificant, minor way.

The season isn't finished.

And to cap it all off, the owners of the 'Biggest Choke in Sports History' (TM) have to come into town to close out the season... so if the Yankees arrive less than three games up, we aren't supposed to think that any Yankees fan, with the Yankees getting the 1918 treatment that we put up with for ... oh a few years... from Fox ("So Joe, no team in baseball history had lost a Series from 3-0 up, why don't we have a little highlight reel from the 2004 ALCS"), will be just a little nervous?

I would rather be ahead at this stage of the season, but as my wicked little mind sees Yankee fans in NY getting excited (and more gallingly, people that put themselves in the serious blogger category putting out articles that claim they knew this was coming, despite posts less than ten days ago saying the season was toast), the thought of crushing the spirit out of NY baseball for the second year in a row...

But just in case, could someone guarantee that the White Sox never win another game this season?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First place baby

So I went to bed last night the fan of a first placed team. My fellow blogger went to bed as a fan of a team for whom if the playoffs started today, his team would be on the outside looking in. It is all starting to get mighty tight at the top.

Another good outing by a Yankee starter, this time Randy Johnson threw eight innings of one-run ball and Matt Lawton’s two-run shot was all the offense that the Yanks would need. Mariano looked less than sharp allowing two base runners in the ninth before saving yet another game for the Pinstripes.

The Sox failed to bust the game open when they had the bases juiced last night in the seventh and I said to Neil that this may come back to haunt them, it did. Timlin came in and got singled all over the shop with a two RBI triple sandwiched in between. Another game the Sox should have won and coupled with the Indians win leaves them a game out of the Wildcard as well as a half game back of the Yanks in the East.

Mike Mussina goes for the Yanks tonight as the Sox have their final off day. A Yankee defeat and the records are identical and if that happens, the final ten days will be like one hell of a heavyweight title fight, but who’ll land the knock out punch?

Idiots in 2004, Idiots in 2005

As Neil M has just kindly reminded me, I said a few weeks ago... never blog angry...

I am reading Bill Simmons book "Now I Can Die in Peace" at the moment, and I have just finished reading the chapter/column that was emails Bill received following the Game 7 loss in 2003 - and it really struck me just how much that night hurt, and how I have never really allowed myself to get over that loss - despite the World Series last year, the pain of that October night still sits in a 'special' place in my heart / head. It is that pain that makes this Sox fan know he will never be happy with just one world championship.

Tonight, I fear, the Red Sox have just stuck a fork in the 2005 season - it is the type of loss that you need to bounce back from quickly to make sure it doesn't fester, and so... the Sox have their first off day in a month to sit and think about how unbelievably bad this bullpen has been all year. It is hard to put all the blame on Francona, it is not as if he has a single lights out option in the bullpen, but why wait until there are two men on in the 8th to relieve Wakefield? Wake had pitched reasonably all night, but it was clear in the 7th that he was tiring / losing sharpness - but Francona stuck with him - presumably to rest that pen for ... for what Terry? So when Wake started struggling again in the 8th, the bullpen had to get ready in a real hurry.

He brought in Timlin... (and more to the point, Timlin was the only guy warmed up) why Terry? the last time you brought in Timlin in a non-traditional save situation... that worked out well didn't it... Timlin has pitched appallingly this year when he inherits runners, something his traditional numbers do not reflect (NESN has just shown a graphic that reveals Timlin has allowed 56% of inherited runners to score this season... should I just have done a post with that as the subject line, the topic and the conclusion?). Again, in a critical situation, Terry left him in to give up 5 runs... when he gave up 2 runs Terry, you still thought he was the best option? The Rays weren't getting lucky, Timlin was missing his spots by a wide margin... and yet... Terry sticks with him - that didn't have anything to do with the fact that you had no-one else warming up in time did it?

And thanks NESN, I really wanted an interview with Gomes to tell me about the game ...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The magic number is... 9 days

Well the first time I wrote this post, the Yankees hadn't finished off the Orioles - but in the time it has taken me to re-write the post (the first Blogger failure of my blogging career) the Yanks have finished off the Birds, if in rather unconvincing fashion. If I hadn't been doing my second night of Indians / White Sox watching, I might have understood why Joe didn't trust Embree to continue in the 9th - still four runs ahead, and you bring in the closer? There must have been something that I missed.

The Sox showed tonight that good things can happen if your starter goes more than 3 innings - well ok, the 21 hit attack didn't do much harm either, unless you are a Tampa Bay Devil Ray's pitcher that is.

If one of the positive's last night was Craig Hansen's debut, then an additional positive tonight was Hanley Ramirez's first appearance in the field, and his first AB in the majors. Sadly that first trip counted for nothing with home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, who rang up Hanley on a ball 4 that he had clearly checked his swing on - it was a definite "c'mon guys, you are 15-2 up, and he ain't winning the batting title" call. At least it saved Ramirez from the Youkilis treatment - which, despite all that was to follow, still remains one of my 2004 regular season highlights.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The good things about tonight...

It was a nice night in the Stadium - for all I complain about the place, the top deck, only a few rows up, right behind home plate, is a nice place to watch a game, a fantastic perspective, while still close enough to home plate to take in the small things.

The good things:
  • Craig Hansen pitched a 1-2-3 inning in his major league debut, just three months after the draft.
  • David Ortiz just carries this team.
  • I didn't have to watch the HR pose that Neil mentions - one of the 'joys' of living in suburban NY is that you need to time that trip to Harlem 125th Street just right.
  • I don't feel quite this blue, but it is close...
When your starters' pitching line for the last two nights reads -

Clement 1.1IP 8H 7ER
Wells 2.2IP 10H 4ER

how many of those games do you think your team will win?

And we are tied up... the loss column!

The Sox lose thanks to a huge error by Renteria in the 8th allowing the 8th run to score. Ortiz would Homer in the 9th but you can't score two runs with no-one on base. Manny would swing and miss at a high splitter to end the game and make my night.

It is 3:50 in the morning here and I'm going to bed (but I have the Redskins and Cowboys on). I live in the UK and have US sport on left, right and centre, its just not normal!

The Bubba-Bino!

Neil H is at Yankee Stadium with his Father-in-Law tonight and boy is he probably cursing under his breath as he leaves THTRB. A walk-off Home Run deep into the RCF bleachers by none other than Bubba Crosby sealed a 3-2 win for the Yankees. Best part of it all though was he gave that HR pose and he knew he had all of it for his 1st shot in the bigs this year.

A great performance by Wang in which all the out were recorded via the ground ball or the strikeout. He himself started eight 1-3 putouts and showed again why he could be a starter not just in the postseason this time around but a starter for the franchise for years to come.

The Orioles scored two early but the Yanks came back on RBI's from A-Rod and Sheffield. Melvin Mora failed to run out a fair ball which I thought was a really poor show. Mo shut down the Birds 1-2-3 and with it gets the Win.

As it stands down in Tampa Bay Olerud has just struck out to start a strike em out, throw em out inning ending double play in the 8th with the Rays up 7-6. It is 4-4 on the south side between the ChiSox and the Indians. Three very close games tonight, how will they all end up?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Another 2... losses

Well one in the Yankee loss column is as good as a win in the magic number reduction stakes - though for some reason I don't think it very 'magic' when that number is 13... with 13 games to go.

The Sox and Yanks both lost - in very different ways, and in ways that might yet have playoff implications. The Yankees lost their first game of the road trip, with both Wright and Giambi leaving the game with injuries. The loss of Giambi would surely be more significant - his contributions have certainly made him the Yankees post All Star break MVP - and there are those out there making arguments that he should be considered for the MVP award. Equally there are those out there making statements to suggest that Giambi is back on the juice - sadly, this is Giambi's burden to carry for the rest of his career.

The Sox lost in a blow out - Clement's last two outings have been interesting - 6 runs conceded to the Jays, and 7 today in just 1.1 innings to the Athletics. The Sox really need him to step up in the next two weeks, two starts, one against the Orioles and one against the Jays, and as with every game in the next two weeks, these starts are critical. The pluses from today - 2 scoreless innings from Keith Foulke (and two absolutely clean innings, on the back of his best bullpen session of the year... is there hope for Keith?), and some unscheduled time off for a large number of the 'first' nine. Here is a question for you - if you are one of the starting nine in a game like today, where Terry is pinch hitting for Ortiz with Kelly Shoppach... and you are still in the game... what do you think?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A SS analysis - a rebuttal

It is fair to say that Neil and I disagree with how we fundamentally look at baseball - if I see a statistic that disagrees with my 'view' of a player, I think there is a high likelihood that I am wrong. If Neil M sees a statistic that disagrees with his view of a player, then Neil believes the statistic is wrong.

I understand why people feel the way Neil does, and I don't seem to be able to get him, or any other observer that I have tried to convince, to understand why I think his baseball world view is wrong. There is a very popular quote (attributed variously to Twain, Disraeli and Courtney) that states something along the lines that 'there are three types of lie - lies, damn lies and statistics' that has caught the general public's imagination and seems to underpin a very general dislike of statistics - it doesn't seem to matter that the quote is in itself, a lie - well white lies have to count as a category in themselves?

The 'observer's' view is that what they see with their eye is a more reliable source than that measured by a statistic - they don't buy into my theory that a statistic is simply a factual measurement of what his eye sees. If Eckstein's fielding percentage is .980, and Neil had watched him field 980 of 1,000 total chances, then his eyes and the statistic would have come to the same conclusion. Would the statistic support the conclusion that Eckstein is the best SS in baseball - well no - a statistic is always objective, the opinion formed from the statistic, or formed in defining the statistic in the first place is subjective, and put on the statistic by the observer.

Neil doesn't believe that Eckstein is the best SS in baseball, but chooses to interpret a limited fielding statistic to prove that [all] statistics are invalid - clearly, all I think that it tells me, is that of the chances reached by Eckstein, he had the highest % converted into outs - it doesn't tell me whether he is getting to all the chances that a SS should be getting, nor does it tell me about potential double plays that have gotten away because of his (perceived) weak arm, it doesn't tell me anything about how the official scorer has chosen to interpret certain plays, or numerous other scenarios that should be taken into account in such a discussion.

Are my eyes useless in helping with the debate - no they aren't, but they are limited to what they see. To say that Tejada is the best SS in baseball based on only on my eyes, I have to have seen him play quite a few times - and again, how many times is a suitable measure? is one observation by a scout, better than 10 times by a fan - as well as every other SS in baseball that I think he is better than. How do I do that? I can subscribe to MLB Extra Innings and give up on life, or I can watch SportsCenter and see how he looks in highlights clips night after night, or I can watch him and just state... he is a fantastic SS. And that is fine for observing current players - how do we compare players across era's - was Honus Wagner really any good?

To me there is another simpler way - we can look at the statistics, we can put more value on the statistics that we think are useful, and discount the ones that we don't, we can take years of data into account rather than the however many games we see - and we can also take into account that which we see with our eyes - we just can't let our personal experience outweigh all the other evidence. If I see Derek Jeter make an outstanding catch, diving into the stands to create an out at a critical spot in a non-critical game... he has to be a great SS doesn't he? Well he might be, but that evidence isn't enough. What about that game in April v Kansas City, what about that game in September v the White Sox... neither of which I saw because there was something better on Channel 206?

Statistics aren't all seeing - there are simply too many variables to take into account that we cannot reasonably measure - how hard was the wind blowing, how bright was the sun, how hard was the field etc, etc - but equally our eyes and brains don't take all these things into account either - to dismiss statistics on the basis that they aren't perfect... well neither am I!

Who the Eck? - A SS analysis

The other day I dissed the defensive skills of Edgar Renteria and to be fair I didn’t know much about his D apart from he’d had a poor year. I said he was a ‘below average defensive SS’ and Neil wondered why I had that impression, so I decided to do some research and do a stat based update compared to my usual ‘I’ll go with what I see’ type musings.

So I asked Neil H to name an average SS, he said Jeter. Jeter before this year has a .974 Fielding Percentage. I asked Neil to elaborate, ‘below average range left to right, above average range backward, above average arm’, said the NY based writer. So overall he’s your average SS.

I asked him for another and he went with sophomore Bobby Crosby over in Oakland. With only two years behind him he records a .973 Fielding Percentage. Neil continued, ‘I’ve not seen much, but what I have, above average range, average arm’

Next up I asked about Miguel Tejada, ‘above everage range, above average arm’ but he only comes in with a .970 Fielding Percentage. So far he has the worst FP, despite the highest praise. Orlando Cabrera comes in at .977 and ‘above average range, average arm’ according to Neil H’s scouting.

We have two final players left to show you, I asked about David Eckstein, ‘below average range, way below average arm’ replies Neil H. He’ll be stunned to read that he has the best Fielding Percentage at SS amongst all the players at .980 and Renteria at .969 even before his poor 2005 season brings up the rear. Neil says about Renteria, ‘above average arm, above average range, way below average brain.’ So his brain puts him to the bottom of the list.

This is an update only using one basic stat and I know there are many other equasions like the home turf, who is at 1st saving errant balls etc, but I am just trying to show that sometimes stats can be misleading and the human eye is more valuable than the number crunching.

We’ll end with a quick A-Rod v Jeter SS analysis, .974 for DJ and .977 for A-Rod and I think we can all agree that the latter is by far the superior SS although the stats show only a 3 in 1000 chances differential.

Just for fun Nomar also comes in at a career .969 SS.

Numbers eh…?

Eckstein .980
Cabrera .977
A-Rod .977
Jeter .974
Crosby .973
Tejada .970
Garciaparra .969
Renteria .969

Yanks ride D to big win

The other day whilst discussing the MVP debate, Neil H said that defense was an over rated stat. Well on Saturday night the Yankees rode superb defense and an excellent outing from Shawn Chacon to reel off their fifth win out of five on this current road trip.

Catches by Matsui and Sierra, fine plays by Jeter and Cano and a game ending Around the Horn double play started by A-Rod were enough to see off the Blue Jays. Considering how lacklustre the Yankees D has been all year long it was nice to see such a well played baseball game, and these Yanks are starting finally to look like a team that wants to be in the postseason.

Bernie Williams drove in the only run of the ball game whilst Jorge Posada again showed that his bat is warming up going 3 for 4. With the Red Sox still 1.5 game up (1 in the L column) they are still the favourites to take the East and they too have been finding ways to win close ones.

Even though its been hard to watch I think you have to admit the quality of baseball has been slowly improving from the two ball clubs. I also agree with his thoughts that the ChiSox are playing themselves out of the postseason and the Indians series is going to be quite something.

Still another game off the schedule and another two gritty wins, there are a few twists and turns to be had yet…

Another 2 wins

Well both the Yankees and the Sox showed that they can win the low scoring games today.

The Yankees, playing in the Rogers Centre, knocked off their 6th game in a row, with A-Rod ending the game on a fine defensive stop at 3rd base, starting the round the horn double play. Given how far he had to dive, I am still struggling to understand how SheAAA didn't beat out that ball. Chacon continues to do amazing things for the Yankees rotation - I can't believe he was picked up to do much more than provide reasonable innings at a point when the Yankee rotation appeared to be losing a pitcher every other day.

The Sox won another tight game against the A's - Manny drove in both runs for the Sox, with the go ahead home run clearing the light tower and the confines of friendly Fenway. The Sox defense helped out, turning two key double plays, but, in the 8th, allowing Kendall to advance to third on a poor effort by Renteria, aided by no infielder backing up the throw - given how tight the game was, the tone of this post would have been very different had that allowed the tying run to score.

Tonight's win helps the Sox and really hinders Oakland's play-off chances. Given the inconsistency of the two A's, it really does appear that the race for three play-off spots is down to four teams, with the once sure thing White Sox dragging themselves into a real fight. The series between Chicago and Cleveland (@ Chicago) starting Monday is sure to be compelling viewing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Keeps getting stranger...

Well another two wins...

I know that Neil stopped watching the Yankees, with the striped ones 11-3 ahead, and the fateful words... "that has to be safe..." the last shared words on our IM chat. Well it was, but I am guessing that there would have been a few flutters along the way.

And then the Sox win with a glorious... walk off hit by pitcher - the second hit batter of the inning - and presumably not what Ken Macha brought in Yabu to do? The key hit in the 10th for the Sox was Graffanino's double to right field... key hit... only hit! Damon ground out, moving Graff to 3rd, then the A's hit Renteria with a 5 man infield (with Ginter replacing Payton in what could be generously described as shallow LF ;-)), and intentionally walked Ortiz ahead of the walk off.

So the lead stays at 1.5, with another game off each teams schedules.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Two very different ways to win...

We saw two very different games down in the Trop over the past couple of nights, but the good guys came out on top on both occasions. The blow-out win on Tuesday was launched by a three run blast by Jason Giambi in the first but when an opposition manager gives his starter the hook without getting an out; you know that it is going to be your day.

Jared Wright pitched ok and got the W but when your team puts up 17 runs, you’d have to put in a pretty poor performance to not go away with one. Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams all had good nights and Gary Sheffield returned to the line-up and could hardly move due to his tight thigh muscle but having his bat available was worth the hassle.

Last night the Yanks won a close one with all six runs coming on two-out hits including a pair of 2 RBI singles with the bases loaded for Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter. Wang looked lacklustre but battled through and despite the bp having fun and games in the 7th, the win was preserved as Posada cut down Lugo trying to steal 2nd with two out in the 9th.

The Yanks only had two extra base hits on Tuesday despite putting up 17 runs, this shows that the Yanks can play small ball and don’t have to rely on the long ball. Matsui is starting to look good and with Giambi moving up to the #3 spot, this line-up is starting to look a bit scary.

The question is though can they all get hot at the same time down the stretch? I sure hope so…

Another 2 wins

Both teams won tonight - the Sox on the back of another MVP performance from Ortiz (come on Neil, give it up already...), and the Yankees on the back of another abysmal Rays pitching performance... who says this Sox fan can't be objective? (though did you see the way that A-Rod popped out in the 8th with the bases loaded, with the chance to blow open the game... I am just saying...)

The Yankees finish off their season series against the Rays tomorrow, and can get that season score back to 8-11 with the sweep, while the Sox face the Oakland Athletics in a very short homestand. Once these four games are over for the Sox, the two teams schedules are exclusively AL East match-ups, and those last three just get closer and closer.

For all that non Sox or Yankee fans bitch about the attention these teams garner, they sure do know how to generate tension. If it does get down to those last three games...

Strange things....

Well I have never seen that before...

Graffanino hits a 2 run HR to get the Sox back in front, and with Kapler running hard (it wasn't a no doubter) he touched 2nd base then seemed to twist his ankle on his next step and fell to the Rogers Centre turf in obvious pain.

If the ball had hit the wall, there was no way he would have made it back to the bag, he could barely move.

However, as it was a HR we were treated to the longest HR trot of my baseball lifetime - after a delay to determine whether Kapler could round the bases, he was pinch ran for by Machado (and if you have Gabe Kapler in your fantasy team... no one can have have Kapler in their fantasy team?... pretty bad luck), then followed home by Graffanino - must have taken 3 or 4 minutes!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A-Rod, the 2005 MVP case

Well Neil H has spoken and spoken well. I as you know am a less stat impassioned person, more of a gut feeling kind of guy. First off, you simply cannot say that A-Rod is better in the clutch than Ortiz, you have to concede that point. Big Papi has carried my fantasy team all season and his stats do seem to indicate that he is better when it really matters, but doesn't it always matter? A run is a run is a run, doesn't matter if it is in the bottom of the 9th or top of the 1st, they all count the same.

A-Rod beats out in the basic stats of BA, HR, OBP and Slugging%, which are the only stats he can control, runs and RBI are determined by the rest of the team. A-Rod has also been hitting clean-up most of the season behind first Gary Sheffield and recently Jason Giambi, so he gets less chances to knock in runs.

They both carry similar fantasy numbers but I do argue Neil H's point over defense. A-Rod is playing Gold Glove third base and has gone what, 64 straight games without an error on the hot corner, whilst Big Papi sits in the air-conditioned dugout talking and drinking water. Whilst Juan Gone and Jason Giambi weren't awesome fielders, they were competent, and obviously having seen a lot of Giambi, I can tell you that whilst he has a very poor throwing arm, apart from that he plays a decent first base, and isn't a butcher there, which David Ortiz is everytime they let him out.

In 2003 A-Rod put up terrific numbers for last placed Texas and won a Gold Glove, this in my opinion helped him to win the MVP over my boy Jorge, who carried the Yankees in August with the bat and led his team into October baseball.

Overall my main point is pretty darn simple, when two guys are matched so evenly offensively then the defense has to come into play, A-Rod has a chance at a Gold Glove (it is him or Chavez) whilst Ortiz has no chance of even getting a sponsor for his glove it is that bad!

David Ortiz, the 2005 MVP argument

David Ortiz is a non-statistician's dream player - who needs statistics when you can switch on Baseball Tonight and watch yet another game winning hit from the ever-smiling Big Pappi?

But for this to be a worthwhile look at the race, we need to look at all the numbers, look at these relative to other candidates (and I will quote Ortiz next to A-Rod and Vlad as these seem to be the consensus picks at this stage), and look at the importance of that big black mark against Pappi's candidacy... his lack of defensive input.

If we look first at the basic numbers;




























These numbers are pretty even between A-Rod and Ortiz, I will trade you the BA for the RBI (well I wouldn't but...) - A-Rod's BA lead is a reflection of his personal skill and Ortiz's lead in RBI could be (note the careful use of the word "could") down to the greater number of opportunities afforded to him.

If we look at some more 'interpretive' stats (and look here for definitions);




























The difference in Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position is enormous between our AL East candidates - one view of A-Rod is that he puts up his biggest numbers when it just doesn't matter - to me, that 75 point difference is enormous - and does add weight to that A-Fraud view.

The Clutch statistic is an attempt by the guys at the Hardball Times to quantify performance in the does it / doesn't it exist world of 'clutch'. While Ortiz has a significant lead over A-Rod, neither is close to being their team leader (a small sigh of relief from Yankee fans), and there are clearly other definitions of clutch that could be used.

Runs Created and Runs Created per Game are pretty even between the guys, all three are in the top ten perfomers in the AL, though again A-Rod and Ortiz are not team leaders (damn that pesky Sheffield / Ramirez duo).

The final two columns are Win Shares and Hitting Win Shares - the latter to strip out the contribution of the non Ortiz's candidates defensive contribution - again these players are all close - with A-Rod having a slight edge. As you will see, A-Rod's defensive WS amount to 2.3 Win Shares - less than 1 game over the course of the season to date - is that really enough to deny someone the MVP award? If you read my earlier post about the W VP, you will see the names Juan Gonzalez and Jason Giambi - neither player is on that list because of their defensive excellence - I think the various articles that are being written that mention Ortiz's lack of everyday playing position are looking for reasons not to give the award to him - I agree that there is a strong case for another candidate, but to cite Ortiz's DH status, to me, isn't valid.

There are still 20 games to go in the 2005 season - perhaps one of the players has such a strong end to the season that this debate seems silly. In itself though, that is one of the weaknesses of the award system. Writers vote on the award in very large part based on what they remember - not what they look up, analyze and consider.

When I look at the Sox this season, if Ortiz hadn't performed at the level he has this year, would the Sox be where they are? Manny has had a good year, but a down year by his standards - without Ortiz, the Sox are nowhere this season. A night after watching Ortiz hit another game winning HR, he is my vote for AL MVP 2005.

Neil - over to you!

Sox season so far - the 140 game edition

Well the season really is reaching the crunch stage, and a 12-8 record over the last 20 games has helped the Sox maintain their Division lead in the 3 - 4 game range - enough to make the Sox favorites, but not enough to stop that last three game set at Fenway fade into "who cares" irrelevance.

The one thing to watch in the next 20 games - the Sox's record against the Blue Jays. Quietly lost in the glee over the Yankees poor performance against the Devil Rays this year, has been our own equally poor record against the Jays - last night's win "improved" our record to 4-8, with 6 games (2 in Toronto, 4 at Fenway) still to be played. If the Sox don't do a lot to even that series, those last three games could be as tense, if not more so, than last year's climax.

Game 143 at the Rogers Centre

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Well stadium #20 finishes off the AL East - and Toronto, with the roof open is a fine place to watch a game, particularly with the CN Tower (or La Tour Nationale Du Canada for any French readers) looming over your right shoulder.

The announced attendance was 24,000+, but the presence in town of U2, combined with the Toronto Film Festival made the Centre (and for American readers, the pesky Canadians want to spell Centre the British way, not a simple, and repeated spelling error on my behalf) seem very empty - particularly by the time that free baseball started.

Last night's game was a frustrating Red Sox experience - again making Ted Lilly seem Cy Young worthy, but taking a patient approach to at least get him out of the game earlier than in previous appearances. Ortiz's first shot was huge, Manny's 2 run bomb was monstrous (Jays fans around me were discussing whether they had seen longer to CF) and Ortiz's second shot was long and sweet... but...

Arroyo struggled all night - not much damage, but a couple of key (and one 'lucky') double plays had really helped. The bullpen was as rested as it has been in a long time - the Sox starter's recent run has given us more hope for the post-season, but it hasn't given the post September expanded pen much work to do. So... I think Francona should have taken Bronson out after 6 to give our pen the work, and to give them a clean start - three innings work with a 5 run lead... instead, they were always working behind, and when Timlin started ball, ball I remarked in downbeat fashion... this is going to be ugly... Papelbon's 3 innings were very impressive, and if he could become a reliable set up man that could get us through the 7th / 8th, the Sox could be in a much healthier position.

The W VP Award?

It is that time of year when journalist's start their... X is MVP stories so that we won't be surprised by the eventual voting.

Looking at the last nine years...





Juan Gonzalez

Texas Rangers


Ken Griffey

Seattle Mariners


Juan Gonzalez

Texas Rangers


Ivan Rodriguez

Texas Rangers


Jason Giambi

Oakland Athletics


Ichiro Suzuki

Seattle Mariners


Miguel Tejada

Oakland Athletics


Alex Rodriguez

Texas Rangers


Vlad Guerrero

Anaheim Angels

Anyone see a slight pattern... if Vlad makes it out of bed for the next 20 days he has to be the favorite!

So is this the year that the West's grip is broken - I will post about David Ortiz's chances, while Neil M will post about the Yankee's strongest candidate since... well Gary Sheffield last year.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Fucking pathetic and ugly.

Middle of the 4th and I'm effing pissed and having to listen to that twit McCarver doesn't help my mood one effing jot.

This update was brought to you by an unhappy Yankee fan.