Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sox season so far - April

Well April ends on a down note after a fast start - a 3-6 road trip to close out the first 25 games.

Here is how things stand at close of AL East play on April 30;



























On the back of a (in game) predictable loss today, the Sox fall behind the Yanks by percentage points.

How are the Sox doing?

Team Hitting:
































I think we had steeled ourselves for the offense to be slightly off from 2005, but perhaps not quite this off. In 23 games last April (25 this year) the Sox had scored 130 runs - that is over a run a game more.

There have been successes - Youkilis has been all that we should have hoped for (a .299 / .416 / .820 line) having been promoted to lead off, Mike Lowell has not been the offensive hole that he could have been (.318 / .371 / .882), while David Ortiz has contributed 10HR, 20RBI and a .278 / .391 / 1.030 line.

Equally we have gotten less than we would have expected out of Varitek, and a lot less than we had hoped for out of Loretta, while Manny's power numbers are so far off usual, you have to expect his recent revival to continue, while sadly, our hopes for Coco Crisp have been derailed by a hand injury that has already cost us 20 games.

It just seems that we have gotten used to a team that brings runners home, that punishes weak starters, that patiently gets to the bullpen... and we are not seeing that with the same consistency that we have been accustomed to - in 2005, the Sox had failed to score more than 3 runs in 8 games by this point in the season - this year... 10 - really not a big difference, it just seems that way I guess.

In an earler post I mentioned that the Sox media were getting a little excited about the Sox record in low scoring games - declaring the Sox better prepared to win these games. Since then (April 9th) the Sox have gone 2-6 in games when they score 3 or less - as I said then, I will say now... teams that score 3 runs or less don't win many games.

Team Pitching:




























In the same way that we expected the hitting to be slightly off, we expected the pitching staff to be better... and if you had asked before this road trip started, we all would have agreed that, in the main, it has been a lot better than expected.

Those early low scoring wins helped that perception early, but the major question marks coming into the season were Schilling and Foulke - Schilling has been as good as we have ever seen him in a Red Sox shirt, while Foulke, after a shaky first game, has been so good that large sections of the blogging community (ok, it's just me) are campaigning to have him restored to the closer's role so that Papelbon can give us 180 innings rather than 60.

Given that we can't ignore this last road trip, our pitching is best described as ok - and that is not necessarily a criticism - at this stage last year our pitching looked even better, but the question marks that did exist hadn't really fully worked there way out - indeed in that post I remarked how Schilling was a sure thing to improve from his early numbers...

I really do think we need to look at moving Papelbon into the rotation, but our staff shouldn't have many spells like this where ok pitching only receives ok run support on a consistent basis.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So what can we expect from Moose?

Mike Mussina is no spring chicken but he has been the best story for the Bombers so far this season. We all know that the Yankees hitters will hit, Jeter, Cano, Giambi, Sheffield and A-Rod are all above .300, the first four are all hitting at near enough a .350 clip as makes no difference and Jeter is at .391 only behind Miguel Tejada in the AL who is just flat out storching at the moment.

However pitching was always going to be the question mark, the Yankees needed Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina to dominate and hope one or two of Wang, Chacon, Pavano, Wright and Small could step up and do a job. Well whilst Randy had that rough outing in Toronto, and boy was it rough, he has done well but it is Stanford grad Mike Mussina who is the ace of this staff in all but name.

Five starts, five 'quality starts' a 3-1 record with a 2.45 ERA, leading the AL with 31 strikeouts and a WHIP of exactly 1.00. This is the Mike Mussina of old, changing speeds, using that vicious knucklecurve to keep the hitters off balance therefore allowing him to blow the 90-91 MPH fastball past opposition hitters.

We all know that Mussina is a great pitcher, he is a borderline Hall of Famer who has stuttered with elbow problems in the last two campaigns. With two near perfect games behind him, going 19 outs through a perfect game in the playoffs at the Stadium against the Sox, he clearly has the makeup and the arm of a great pitcher.

Sadly age has caught up with him but what we do know if he is a vastly intelligent man, heck anyone who graduates in three years from Stanford is a pretty clever dude, but with a fine arm and arguably an even finer brain, Mussina had it in him to still be a great pitcher and produce for the Yankees.

Knowing that there is little to no chance that the Yankees are going to trigger their $17m option on him next season, Moose is effectively in a contract year. If he produces this year he could very well get a two or even a three year deal somewhere at pretty decent pay, if he really impresses then he may well even return to the Yankees.

Jaret Wright's contract has a 2007 option and that option is a club option due to the pitcher spending more than 75 days on the DL with a shoulder related option, it is therefore very unlikely the Yankees will keep him, increasing the chances that the club would want Mussina back if healthy and he impresses this season. Also Carl Pavano may be dealt elsewhere as the Yankees must surely be getting a little bit annoyed with his time on the DL.

All this leads to Mike Mussina knowing that one great year could provide him with another $30m over the next three years and although he is a multi-millionaire already and money must not be the greatest motivation, it is of some motivation surely. The greater motivation must be the chance to get a WS ring and punch his ticket to Cooperstown.

His elbow looks fine, his mind looks focused, his knucklecurve is filthy and Mike Mussina looks like the ace of this staff. I see no reason not to believe that Mussina is ready for a huge year, I just hope that it is my brain talking and not just my blind faith.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gathering an army - true Patriots required

OK - I can't be the only Sox fan in shock right now...

I am watching ESPN's Sunday night game... the Washinton Expo's make a pitching change in the 7th inning... and they start playing Sweet Caroline... complete with crowd (!) participation at the appropriate points...

Was I being daft thinking this was only a Boston thing - is Neil Diamond, after year's of rebuffing the Sox, going to appear at RFK to sing live...?

I think we need to raise an army of Patriots to invade the PA box at RFK to show him who is boss - who is with me?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ugly losses - has JP built the perfect anti Red Sox machine?

Well Friday night was the first gut-check loss of the season - from 6-2 ahead, bases full of Sox, to a 7-6 loss that was angrily predicted in this house the moment Francona picked Seanez to serve up the winning pitch (but for once, I listened to some sage advice). What made this choice by Tito difficult was that it appeared that all the Sox needed to do to win the game was make it through this half inning, before the Jays trotted out their mascot to pitch out the top of the 13th inning... that, and the fact that Foulke clearly struck out Troy Glaus on a pitch at the knees...

On Saturday the Sox lost to the Jays again, despite getting Halliday out of the game after 5 innings - normally a good sign, but our 5th starter was gone 2 innings earlier... never a good sign.

At least today Terry managed his bullpen perfectly - bringing his best reliever - I will return to this point - into a genuinely high leverage situation. What worries me slightly is that if this had been the 8th inning, rather than the 6th, I believe that he would have gone to Timlin, despite increasing evidence that Timlin is now an effective 1 inning guy in bases empty situations only (what do you mean the shot to Glaus on Friday was with the bases empty?).

But Keith Foulke looked the pitcher we need him to be, got the Sox out of that 2 on, 1 out jam, pitched a perfect 1-2-3 7th, before passing the torch to Timlin in the 8th and Papelbon in the 9th - not quite the order we expected in Spring Training.

The Sox have now lost 2 series to the Jays this year, and won only 1 of the 6 series the teams played last year - although they did tie the 2 and 4 game series that the teams played at Fenway in '05. JP is from the same sabermetric orientated as Theo, and it does seem that his team is built on the same principals of pitching and patience as the Boston 9. The Sox saw both of the power arms at the front of the rotation, and a lot of the power arm at the back, while the lineup leads the majors in average and slugging % and is in the top 5 in OBP (though despite all that, only 10th in runs scored) - not necessarily where they will be at the end of the year, but an indication of their potential.


I made the point that Foulke, as the best reliever, was brought into the highest leverage situation in the 6th inning. I realize I am jumping early (you will join me later), but I do think the team should be seriously considering whether Wells is done, and that Papelbon has his entry point into the rotation, with Foulke moved back where we all pictured him being.

His Game Log displays real progress, and more than that, I think we can all see that he is rebuilding his confidence alongside his location, and the 10 - 15 mph difference between his fastball and changeup. I just think his mechanics, incorporating that hypnotic delay at the back of his motion, look as close to 2004 as thay have since October '04.

If Wells is done, or even mentally done as this article suggets, then DiNardo isn't the option we should be trying out - Papelbon is.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Yanks split a short set in Canada

Randy Johnson had nothing, Mike Mussina had everything. I know who I want on the mound in a big game and it isn't Randy. Last nights 10-5 loss was really poor considering we'd stung Chacin for four early runs only for Randy Johnson to give it all back and more before the end of the second inning.

Aren't Yankee fans happy Randy has his own personal catcher? If that is how he works with Stinnett, he'd probably of given up 17 if it was Jorge behind the plate. They worked well together in Oakland on the opening night for the Yankees but haven't worked together since. Whilst I know Jorge needs his days off, at this stage of the season where the Yanks have two off days in a week, they don't need to be sitting Jorge.

Is Randy injured? If he isn't then I am worried, seriously worried.

However Mussina worked this afternoon and went 7.1 giving up one run on seven hits and giving up no free passes, he struck out a season high seven batters. Mussina has pitched well all season and looks healthy. Whilst he can't rear it back and blow pitches past hitters, he can still pitch smart and if he can go seven and give up two or three each outing then that is enough to give our offense a chance to win the game.

Today's win was our first win where we didn't blow out the opposition, it makes a nice change to win a game without ending it with our reserves in as we've already won the game several innings earlier. A good game of baseball, enjoyable to watch and one that kept us interested until late, not what we've gotten used to so far this 2006 season.

Off Topic: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal

I know this is primarily a baseball blog and it mostly focuses on the Yanks and the Sox but it does also give me the opportunity to write on other sporting issues should I so desire. This Duke case has really got to me and I have tried to surpress my feelings but I need to vent so here goes...

Two young men were arrested yesterday on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping, pretty serious charges if there ever were any. You all know the story, a stripper who was hired has claimed she was raped by three white men at a party thrown by Duke lacrosse players where she was hired to strip and dance.

The stripper is black and the men she is accusing are white, it is a subject that will tear a community right down the middle. It is one problem that whilst we have racism in the UK, it isn't at the forefront of issues as it seems to be in the States. So rich white men and a poor black girl, both sides will have very strong views on the other without looking at the evidence, they've already made up there minds.

Now I am just a regular smoe but I have been called for jury duty, I was foreman in a serious sexual assault case so I have a slight insight into how the judge will direct a jury and to how a jury reacts to certain information. As a jury, you look at the charges and rape and sexual assault as the two charges you most don't want to see, even above murder, and when you see the charge sheet, you already look negatively towards the accused, rightly or wrongly, that is what you do.

However as the case starts the jury will try the accused fairly, and only what comes out in court will be taken into the deliberation. We know certain things about this case, firstly that no DNA evidence links any of the accused to having any type of consentual or non consentual sexual relations with the accuser, to have sex with someone and leave absolutely no DNA on the other person is nigh on impossible, this already leads to the defence having a great starting point.

The DA Mike Nifong has already correctly stated that 75-80% of rape convictions have been gained without any DNA evidence, however how many of those cases have involved the police doing DNA tests and not being able to link the accused to the accuser? Try somewhere between few and none.

Is this case politically motivated? Quite possibly, the DA is up for election and doesn't want to alienate his voters so if he didn't indite someone on these charges then his career wasn't going to go forward. He stated very early in this case that he believed there was a crime committed and this has pretty much backed him into a corner. I heard a local black bishop on FOX News earlier stating that he was disgusted that it took so long for charges to be brought, I doubt he has much of an insight compared to the next person, i.e. regular smoes like me, but because of his colour and the colour of his accuser, he is convinced that a crime was committed and that it was these people.

Now, whilst I concede that most people (men and women) regardless of colour would believe a woman over a man in these circumstances, believing someone and convicting them beyond reasonable doubt are two entirely different things. If it comes down to one person's word against another then no jury will convict, they would not be able to tell which parties version of event was the most accurate beyond reasonable doubt, that just couldn't happen.

Also the DA is confident he'll charge a third member of the squad soon but wants to wait until they get more accurate identification, well there is only one person who can identify him and if she still isn't sure then this delay does not help the DA's office one bit. All the lacrosse players pictures have been up and around Durham since this alledged event took place and if she still hasn't decided who the third attacker was then why would she be able to accurately state who it was tomorrow or the next day?

Tonk K on PTI stated last night that we know one thing, the team with the higher priced lawyers usually win, and that maybe so but even your average person looking in with absolutely no bias can see gaping holes in the prosecutions case, no DNA despite tests, several alibis for the accused, the accuser having been found guilty of a serious crime which harms her credibility, the accuser as yet being unsure over the third member of the gang that she alledges attacked her, which leaves her ID of the first two open to question. If the defence can show the jury that the accuser cannot be sure of any of the gang then they will be forced to return a not guilty verdict as in cases where ID is vital, any question of it being accurate has to lead to a not guilty verdict.

I, like everyone except the accuser knows without doubt what happened that night. If there was an attack then those people would of course know to. This case is set to rumble and tear apart a community whatever happens and considering what we know and the fact the players will have the higher priced team, then the chances of conviction in this case currently stands between zero and ziltch.

Some may not like what I've wrote and say I've written it because of my colour, but in all honesty the situation in my book is more about how the strength of a woman's word will near enough always lead to charges being filed, but the strength of one person's word is not enough for a conviction, whether the person is black, white, man or woman or child. I hope that there is more evidence but if there isn't, I'll be dismayed that charges have been filed as mud sticks, and these guys lives whether proven innocent or guilty will never be the same again.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

One run wins

5-0 this year, against 1-2 this time last year in 1 run games - I know which one we will settle for (if we had a choice).

There really is nothing worse (in baseball) than watching a tight, close game on Yahoo... then switching to to see if they have quicker updates... then then Yahoo... - none of our employers can really have minded, can they?


The point has been made elsewhere but our lineup on Saturday really was thin - it has frustrated me in the past that Toto seems to take joy in resting all of his players on the same day - and given that Varitek was off on Saturday anyway, could he not have done one Saturday, one Sunday, one today? and that situation wasn't helped by the additional absences of Nixon and Crisp, but I am sure that Loretta and Lowell and Varitek will feel the benefit of that day off in September... At least Terry thinks so:

“I wrestle with that a lot,” said Francona of when to rest regulars, especially with Nixon and center fielder Coco Crisp injured.

“I just come to the conclusion that 162 games is a long time, and if I try to do something I’m not supposed to do, it will end up catching up with us.

“I just think that if you do things against what you think is right you are going to end up causing more problems. You might win one game and lose 10 down the road.”

Boston Herald
I don't think I am disputing the sentiment, but all on the same day, this early in the season?


Am watching the Mets on ESPN and Pedro has just left after 6 2/3 innings, 8K and 3 ER, and a man on first... to a standing ovation... with Pedro leaving the field, both arms above his head soccer style... I guess standards are lower in New York than in Boston?

But if Randolph knew that Pedro was on such a short leash, why on earth did he let him bat in the 6th, with a man on in a 4-3 game?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

An idea - how to tackle the steroid era

I have just finished reading Game of Shadows - the study of the BALCO investigation that culminated in jail time for Victor Conte, the 'brains' behind BALCO, and Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds personal trainer. Without providing pictures, vials and a full transcript of the grand jury testimony, I am not sure what else Fainaru-Wada and Williams could do to provide evidence that Bonds was a sustained steroid abuser.

In truth though... so what? Baseball can gather all the evidence it likes in the Mitchell investigation, it can gather the pitcures, the syringes, but then what? While any player that did use steroids (without a prescription) prior to 2003 was breaking the law, he wasn't breaking any baseball 'rules', and I struggle to believe that the player's association would stand by and allow the Commissioner's office to ban a player under the best interests clause if evidence of steroid abuse is collected - regardless of how strong the evidence was.

So I have an idea - and I would welcome any thoughts that you might have on why this wouldn't work - that meets the need of all interested parties, and meets the criteria of 'fair' that has to underpin any investigation that baseball completes.

MLB needs to declare a steroid amnesty...

It needs to declare that baseball ignored the steroid issue, because it thought, wrongly, that the integrity of the game could be maintained while players did these things, that the owners were as much to blame as the players...

It needs to declare that any player who admits to drug use in the amnesty period, who provides full detail of the steroids that were used, and during which period, will receive no punishment from baseball - indeed will receive full PR support from MLB, that no team will be able to void a contract because of the admission or seek retrospective compensation, the player will have no statistics altered and will remain fully eligible for the Hall of Fame...

... and that any player who does not admit to drug use will be eligible for investigation by MLB and trial before a public, independent tribunal - if the player is found guilty by that tribunal then they will be banned from baseball for life, that the player's current team will be allowed to seek compensation, that all statistics the player has gathered will be stricken from the record, or specifically recorded in a 'drug cheat' category to publicize the punishment and that they will be permanantly ineligible for the Hall of Fame...

It needs to declare that the use of any performance enhancing drug in the game going forward will not be tolerated, not just those that are currently on the banned substance list, and that the only thing it will ask of the players union in the next labor agreement is permission to store samples for 5 years, to be retested once a year for the 5 years for any new substances that have been discovered that year - and to encourage the player's agreement, it should consider significantly increasing the minimum salary, or some other financial benefit that will reward players that play by the agreed rules / increase the risk for those that don't.

For MLB / baseball the amnesty will give as much closure as it possibly can - while the issue will linger as evidence is presented and 'tried' in the independent tribunal - that period could be limited to allow the game and players the certainty they would want. And MLB can argue that the solution is fair - players will have a choice, and will know the consequences either way... but MLB will have to own up, and take the public beating that will follow, that it allowed steroids to infiltrate the game with its knowledge.

For the drug taking players it allows a clean start - while it may take a brave player to own up, it will leave the threat of life-long 'punishment' if they don't own up... but the player will always have to live with the public record of their cheating.

For the non drug taking players it allows them a clean legacy from the steroid era - and it also allows them the possibility to talk players they knew were using steroids into using the amnesty... or leaves open the (highly unlikely) possibility of them using the independent tribunal for players they cannot persuade...

For those fans who really don't care about how statistics are achieved it would not require the 'false' striking of statistics from the game. For those fans who do care about how the statistics are achieved there would be easy identification, and for them the discounting of those players achievements...

All sides give up something in this solution, all sides gain something from this solution... thoughts?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yanks fight back, top KC

I was caught off guard by the early start yesterday so I missed the first three innings. It was an ugly performance by the Yankees in all honesty as Wang struggled and Sturtze sucked but a five spot in the bottom of the 8th topped off by a Derek Jeter three run shot gave the Bombers their 9th straight win on their home opener, tying an American League record.

Behind a three run shot in the 1st by Jason Giambi and an awful performance by Joe Mays, the Yanks looked like cruising to a victory until Wang started to struggle as the pesky KC hitters kept finding holes. Bernie being picked off at second on an Infield Fly summed up the home side's performance over the first eight innings until they stepped it up and somehow clawed their way back to victory.

Mariano didn't exactly slam the door, giving up a hit and hitting Mike Sweeney on a tailing fastball but he recorded the save, his first of the season with Scott Proctor throwing a perfect 8th for the win.

It was a strange game for me, I never really seemed to get into it. I was floating between making dinner and doing other stuff on the home opener whilst my fellow blogger was at Fenway watching Josh Beckett pitch well and get me a win in my fantasy league, oh and Papelbon got me a save as well, bonus.

I wish I was in the Bronx *grumbles*

Pictures from Opening Day at Fenway

I was lucky enough to be sitting in the new seats in the Home Plate Pavillion Club today - not a bad way to spend your first Opening Day at Fenway.

Some views of the day:

After a 4 hour drive there (accident) and a four hour drive back (rush hour traffic) I am pretty shattered - but the Sox won, with some very good pitching (and one awful piece of fielding) and I will post more tomorrow.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A nice start, but...

In today's Boston Globe Nick Cafardo states that:
"While it's obviously too soon to tell whether this is a team built to win close, low-scoring games, after going 3-22 last season when scoring two or fewer runs, the early trend is encouraging."
He really should have concentrated on the "too soon" bit...




































Anyone want to take the bet that the Sox might regress to the mean a little bit as the season progresses? Teams that score 2 runs or fewer, don't tend to win the game they are playing - in 2004* for example, the MLB season consisted of 2,428 games - one of the teams scored 2 or fewer runs in 1,275 of those games (52.5%)... the winning percentage of those teams? .115...

What is impressive, is that since the Theo regime was established, the Sox have cut down the number of instances where they are scoring 2 or fewer runs - again using the 2004 data (2005 data doesn't seem to be available yet), the Sox led the league in fewest games for a team scoring 2 runs or less - not surprising given that the team led the league in runs scored - the then Montreal Expos 'led' the league with 65 such games in '04... winning 9 of them... ouch!

It is encouraging to see the Sox win two, 2-1 games so early in the season, but let's hope that we don't spend much more time talking about an offense that generates 2 runs a game.

* The underlying information was collated at Retrosheet.

Small ball? My big fat hairy yellow butt

Well in all honesty my butt isn't yellow, nor is it big, hairy, well one out of three isn't bad but before the season we all read and heard about how the Yankees were going to be a small ball team. Well five games into the season and I have to say that sounds like a load of old codswallop.

Ervin Santana yet again stifled the Bombers last night but when you look at the score and see both Yankee runs came off solo home runs then it doesn't exactly scream small ball, it doesn't even scream money ball, it just screams shoddy.

A 97 pitch complete game by Randy Johnson was wasted as the Yanks, who many experts thought could score 1,000 runs this year again failed to plate enough, and after that excellent first day performance against the A's, it is ten runs in four games, and let's be honest, that isn't going to win us many games this season.

I wrote on a forum yesterday that the Yankees have some intelligent hitter, it's just they all have concussion at the moment. Everyone seems to be swinging for the fences and hitting that five run homer with nobody on base. Not good in any way, shape or form.

At least tonight we get to see a game at a reasonable hour, 1-5 would be a disaster, where as 2-4 would just be awful.

Game 4 at Miller Park

Well my first game of the season was at Miller Park, Milwaukee to see the National League leading Brewers - which was a slightly surreal experience given the number of Red Sox fans in attendance, presumably to watch Boston College in the Frozen Four this weekend.

But the number of Sox fans made it more interesting for the Yankee fan sitting next to me as the row of Red Sox fans behind us spent most of the first 3 innings talking about 2004... I think I have said it before, but sitting in a stadium and watching how the Sox are doing on the out of town scoreboard can be an uncomfortable thing - unless they are racking up runs faster than a basketball team - to the extent that the Milwaukee scoreboard gave up when the Sox started adding more runs in the 8th...

Miller Park is a stunning piece of arhcitecture - the roofline as you approach on the 1-94 is spectacular, and watching a game here is as good as it gets in the new stadiums - seats behind home plate, for the opening week homestand, were still available for purchase a week ago at $38... which was another topic of conversation for the Sox fans behind us. One of the things on sale at the Brewers store are bricks from the old County Stadium - not sure how I would have got on at airport security this morning explaining a brick in my bag? The sausage race is as good as advertised, particularly when the Brat is winning by five yards approaching the finishing line and decides to showboat -superb!

It is nice that the Brewers are doing well - I have a soft spot for them, they were the Sox's opponent in my first Fenway game - particularly without Ben Sheets at the front of their rotation, but it is difficult (sweepeing statements are allowed here right?) to see this team as a contender on last night's evidence. Yesterday was my second trip to Milwaukee and I have yet to see the roof open - so another trip is required to get the true experience.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Interesting... very interesting

OK, so I started writing this post as a before and after - I was going to comment on the game before and after Foulke's appearance in the 9th in Texas... except the bottom of the 9th has started and Keith is still sitting in the bullpen.

I can only imagine the zoo that will be the Boston postgame press conference after this move by Tito - regardless of the outcome - but my bet is that Francona will say that Foulke is his closer, but he is working his way back, and they want to give him the best possible chance to succeed when he is back in the role full time. And having watched an incredibly impressive inning by Papelbon, the real zoo probably starts when Tito doesn't bring in Papelbon in a save situation.

There were a number of highlights tonight - Crisp (again - his speed on his triple was just amazing to watch), the Sveum-esque work by the Rangers 3rd base coach in the 8th... but the real highlight for me tonight was Beckett's work - you just have to love how competitive this guy is - pumping his fist in the 4th as he got the K after a 9 pitch at bat, finishing much more strongly than he started - can't wait to see him live in his home debut next week. He gave up a quite a few hits, but he just pounds the strike zone, which will lead to contact, and hits, but he is never willing to give in.

Our hitting is still in early season form - the only guy that looks really ugly at this stage is Manny, who appears to want to defy the laws of physics on balls on the outside corner, but lets not worry after 3 games...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Leiter returns to the Bronx

Don't worry boys and girls, The Boss hasn't ordered Cash to go out and get Leiter back for his veteran leadership following Tuesday's loss in Oakland.

Just a few weeks after throwing his final pitch, the 40 year-old left hander has joined the YES network as a game analyst but will also see time in the studio doing pre and post game coverage.

This addition to the YES team seems to really up the ante as already Michael Kay, Ken Singleton, Bobby Murcer, Jim Kaat, Paul O'Neill and David Justice signed up. Murcer and Justice will split time in the studio with Leiter.

Whilst most other clubs have one or two guys who do the games day in and day out, the Yankees have seven, that is just typical Yankees, trying to be bigger and better than everyone else, just have Kitty, Bobby and Ken and I'd be a very happy man.

Moose sharp, A-Frod blunt, Yanks lose

Sometimes it is very good to blog after I've had a kip following the game the night before. I still get quite annoyed that I stayed up 'til just gone six local time only to see Scott Proctor enter a tie game in the bottom of the 9th, at least I knew then that I wouldn't have to stay up for extras but I'm not going to be blaming him for our loss today.

My number one blame goes to...

The man my colleague dubbed A-Frod (Yes I did spell that right, it saves a letter and considering he expects to type it a lot this season it might saves a good 5000 taps on his keyboard)

I read Bill Simmons ESPN opening day diary and here are the excerpts from 7:45 and 7:49:

7:45 -- Sheffield strikes out on a 3-2 pitch (bringing Zito's pitch count to an even 300). ... And if you don't think we're in "Cheap Grand Slam" territory for A-Rod right now, you obviously don't know the man very well. Is there any way I can wager on this?

7:49 -- Here's Kay: "Driven deep to left field, going back, Payton, looking up ... see ya! A grand slam for Alex Rodriguez, the 430th home run of his career! And the Yankees have a 7-0 lead!"
(You couldn't make this stuff up.)

I wanted to argue and protect the Yankees 3B but two days into the season and it is already true, in important situations this guy isn't producing. In the 1st he struck out swinging with runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out, in the 6th he struck out swinging with RISP yet again but then come the 9th, tie game, runners on 1st and 2nd and he meekly grounds out to Short.

Moose looked sharp giving up three runs over seven innings and in all honesty, if we get that type of production start in, start out, then we should be delighted. Myers and Farnsworth made their Yankee debuts and held on to the tie going into the 9th before a lead off walk by Proctor came back to haunt him.

So neither the Sox nor the Yankees are going 162-0 this season, poo.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Slam a lam a ding dong

If you had Barry Zito starting for you yesterday in your fantasy team then you are already regretting that pick on the Athletics alleged Ace. The 2002 Cy Young Award winner as the tannoy announced loudly before the game what you might call nothing last night as he was chased after 1 1/3 by the patient New York Yankees.

As much as I'd like to wax lyrical about how great the Yankees were, a lot of it was down to Zito who just wasn't hitting his spots. By the time A-Rod strode to the plate in the second, the bases were loaded, three runs had already scored and Zito had retired four batters but had also given up four walks let alone the hits.

Neil H was about 45 seconds ahead of me due to being on a delay and as A-Rod is standing in the box the other blog writer types in 'Oh dear...' in Yahoo Messenger, I knew it was either a Double play or a Grand Slam and a few secs later A-Rod is trotting around the bases and Randy Johnson was staked to a seven run lead.

Randy would go on to throw 106 pitches, give up five hits, one run (a long HR to the Big Hurt in his Athletics debut) and go seven innings in what can be described as an excellent start for the big left hander. Matsui also went deep blasting a three run shot to left on his way for a 4/4 day where he reached base all six times.

The only Yankee starter not to be given a hit was Jorge Posada who was hit twice and drew a walk so his OBP for the night was still .500. The second HBP was on an 0-2 count where Halsey threw up and in and plunked Posada on the shoulder, not a pretty pitch when you are already down a zillion runs.

All in all a very good day for the Yanks, but tonight's match up of Harden v Mussina will tell us a lot more about how this season will develop for both ballclubs.


The A's pitchers threw 208 pitches on the night. Johnny Damon snapped a 0/12 skid on Opening Day with his RBI single in the 2nd. Derek Jeter's hit means I'm 2/2 in Beat the Streak (I had Thome on Sunday). The Yankees are on course to slug 2430 runs during the regular season, I think that might just drop as the days and weeks continue. Lastly I just picked up Mark Prior off waivers in a fantasy league and I had 10th priority, one question, 'how?'

The perfect season - 1 down, 161 to go

Well Opening Day may be the most exciting of the year, but not when you are stuck in the office, in meetings and have that horrible wait while Yahoo Sports opens up the MLB page and the score appears...

Thankfully when I escaped the meeting at 4.30 ET, the Sox were 6-2 ahead, and on the way to their first opening day win since 2000, and the dream of the 162-0 season remains... at least for another day - lets just hope that we don't repeat 2000 in all it's glory - an opening day win followed by 4 straight losses and an 85 win season... yugh

While I have the full MLB Extra Innings package, it doesn't let me see the replay of the game on NESN at night, so my only sight of the game so far has been on ESPN - Schill looked great, Ortiz looked Ortizesque - but my highlight... Coco Crisp running the bases... man he just flies - even my wife said - "wow, look at him running!". Sadly though ESPN didn't think it worthwhile to show Lowell's HR - and if he hits, this offense just takes on a whole other threat level - nor did they show Foulke struggle - from the game track he seemed to be getting hit hard.


Now watching the Yankees game - and again with local broadcasting rules on Opening Day, I get the cheery YES crew rather than ESPN - I really do love the inane drivel that spouts from Michael Kay... his introduction of Damon in the pre-game was worthy of poet laureate status. We are in the 2nd inning and the announcers have drooled over the lineup about 30 times... the Yanks are 3-0 up and it has nothing to do with the lineup, and everything to do with a horrific performance from Zito.

Another over / under prediction - number of media outlets that say this is evidence that the Yankees will score more than 1,000 runs... 1,000 - although if they face pitching like this all year, count me in that bandwagon!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rain Rain go away...

The forecast tells me that I might set my alarm for 3AM and wake up only to find the game is in a rain delay or it has been postponed. Not exactly what I had in mind for the start of the summer sport. However I suppose its not unusual as the cricket season always seems to start in the rain and the football season seems to start in glorious 30 degrees conditions.

I see there was a rain delay last night and the boy I went down and got in the 8th round of a fantasy draft (Jim Thome) went deep to leave me sitting atop of that league, sadly that might not last but that is my first fantasy reference of the season.

If the Yankees do play tonight then they are expecting to lineup as following after Joe Torre spoke to the media yesterday:

Damon CF
Jeter SS
Sheffield RF
A-Rod 3B
Giambi 1B
Matsui LF
Posada C
Williams DH
Cano 2B

I have to say that surprises me as I had Sheffield and Giambi flip flopping. Torre says that the lineup will basically be the same day in, day out and in the same order.

So will we get to see these guys hit later on today? I sure hope so otherwise I'm going to be tired and grumpy at work tomorrow...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The 2006 predictions post

If you have a look here, here, here or here you will see how well / badly we did at this last year. In common with the rest of the sane world, neither of us had the White Sox going all the way, though we did get close with some interesting picks in the over / under picks.

So this year...

Neil M

Neil H


David Ortiz

Eric Chavez


Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols

AL Cy Young

Roy Halliday

Johan Santana

NL Cy Young

Jake Peavy

Roy Oswalt


Kenji Johjima

Jon Papelbon


Prince Fielder

Jeremy Hermida

MLB Highest BA


Michael Young

MLB Most Home Runs

Mark Teixeira

Derek Lee


Mark Teixeira

David Ortiz

MLB Lowest ERA

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

MLB Most Wins

Randy Johnson

Johan Santana

MLB Most Saves

Mariano Rivera

Huston Street

Will Barry Bonds get suspended this season by Bud citing his 'Best Interests of the game' clause?



Will we see a Perfect Game?



Will we see a no hitter?



Will we see anybody hit for the cycle?



Will Jeff Bagwell see a pitch in the bigs in 2006?



Will the Rocket throw another pitch in the bigs?



Will the A's trade Zito before the deadline?



Who will have the worst record in 06?



Who will be the first manager fired?

Dusty Baker

Clint Hurdle

Will the Yankees exercise Sheffield’s option?



Who wins more games for the Red Sox in ’06 –

Schilling or Beckett?



And finally –

WS pick?

NY Yankees

Chicago White Sox

The Official 3,079 Miles... 2006 Boston Red Sox Preview

Boston Red Sox
2005 Record: 95-67; Position 1st

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - INF JT Snow, INF Mark Loretta, INF Alex Gonzalez, INF Mike Lowell, OF Coco Crisp, OF Wily Mo Pena, SP Josh Beckett, RP David Riske, RP Rudy Seanez, RP Julian Tavarez
Minus - C Doug Mirabelli, INF Kevin Millar, INF Edgar Renteria, INF Bill Mueller, OF Johnny Damon, SP Bronson Arroyo

That is a lot of turnover for a team that were tied for the AL East last year - and really does signal the end of the 2004 team, with only 9 of the 25 remaining following Arroyo's trade to the Reds. And while it is sad that so much of that special team (reinforced by watching my Red Sox WS DVD last night) is gone, it really reinforces the belief that the 2004 team was a win it all, win it now group.

Like Neil M with his aging, over-priced gang in the Bronx, I think this team has the potential to win it all, but it also has a significant number of question marks that mean I will not be overly surprised (disappointed, but not surprised) to be sitting here in October dissecting a 3rd place finish.

What would need to go wrong for that to happen? Well, in order, the key issues would be the health / effectiveness of Schilling and Foulke, Beckett's ability to pitch 200 innings, the form of Mike Lowell at the hot corner and... possibly most importantly - how will the revamped bullpen perform?

Well the team won 95 games in 2005 with effectively no useful contribution from either of Schill or Foulke - so anything from them will be a bonus. The signs seem to be that both have looked ok in Spring Training - Foulke gave up his first runs of Spring against the Phillies yesterday, and Schill has had good peripherals, but not so great results, pitching mostly against minor league teams. Beckett has well documented blister issues - which I am not concerned about - and less well documented shoulder issues that apparently led the Sox to consider pulling out of the deal - that I am concerned about, mostly because of its' ability to affect his contribution to our 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons. If one of the three isn't effective (or won't be in the longer term rather than a spot start), the Sox do have Papelbon in the pen, and depending on his progress, Lester in the minors.

Lowell is more of a concern - his decline last year was precipitous, but a reasonable Spring has me thinking he could be at least serviceable. And here is a strength of the 2006 Sox, if he is terrible, the Sox can move Youkilis back to 3rd and play Choi at 1b, or trade for a 1b /3b using the chips they have.

The thing that stood between the Sox and winning (outright) the AL East last year was our pen - looking at the pen at the start of the season, it looked good (though it is hard not to gulp with the benefit of hindsight) on paper - Embree, Timlin, Myers, Mantei, Neal, Halama, Foulke - but on the field - yugh. And we never really caught up. This year the Sox go with DiNardo, Riske, Seanez, Tavarez (when he isn't punching Devil Rays), Timlin, Papelbon and Foulke - much, much better on paper, with reasonable depth at Pawtucket. But building bullpens is a real crap-shoot, and we will just need to wait and see how they do on the field (and again, let's hope that spring training isn't a true indicator, because it hasn't been pretty at times).

So after all that - I genuinely believe that the Sox will win the AL East in 2006 - I think that some of the risks set out above can happen, and they will still win the East as they have the depth to cope with Schilling or Foulke or Beckett not performing to plan - if all three are ineffective, ok, problem time, but if any team lost the equivalent players, they would struggle just as much.

This team will continue to score runs at a very high pace, and has the resources, and chips, to make mid season moves as required. The Youkilis / Snow combo can only be as bad as Miller / Olerud, with significant upside, Loretta can be as bad as 2005, and be better than the combo that the Sox ran out there last year. Gonzalez may well be an offensive downgrade on Renteria, but will help defensively, while Lowell has upside, and the ability to be replaced at short notice if all goes wrong. Crisp will be a great replacement for Damon in CF, and having seen him in a few spring starts, looks to have a speed that will help us in the field and on the base paths - we will never set him free to run at will, but first to third, and scoring from first will show off that speed.

I managed to score tickets for the new seats in the Home Plate Pavillion Club for (my first) opening day, which should be Beckett's home debut, and I can't wait to see how the 2006 season plays out.

2006 Projection: 98-64; Position - 1st
Red Sox blog link - The Joy of Sox

The Official 3,079 Miles... 2006 Yankee Preview

New York Yankees
2005 Record: 95-67
Position: 1st

Major Off Season Moves:

In: Johnny Damon CF, Octavio Dotel RP, Mike Myers RP, Ron Villone RP, Kyle Farnsworth RP
Out: Kevin Brown SP, Tom Gordon RP, Ruben Sierra OF

So here we are again, another six months of late nights, another six months of arguments with Neil H on whether A-Rod is A-Fraud and/or a punk, another six months of Torre soothing egos, another six months of questions surrounding steroids, another six months of the Sandman doing what he does best, another six months of fun n frolics, gonna be good isn't it?

Last year the Yankees won the East due to the fancy 10-9 record against the Red Sox. Last year the Yankees had some huge questions mark going into the year, this year the questions are different but they are just as big. A-Rod and Giambi both proved they are back, Womack is gone and I doubt there is much worrying Yankee fans about Cano and the addition of Damon at the top of the lineup moves Jeter back to the position where he hit during the World Championship run.

However, then we go to the rotation, which is both old and injury prone. Randy Johnson is going to the Hall but is getting on a bit. If healthy he'll be fantastic, if not then I worry. I think Mussina has awesome stuff but I worry about his mental make up more than his elbow as he has good enough stuff to not need to paint the corners. When Moose is on it just works, when he isn't he over thinks and that is when he has trouble. Wang is slated as the #3 and I like his stuff and with Pavano and Small on the DL, Chacon and Wright will complete the rotation. That isn't enough to strike fear into the opposition.

In the 'pen the Yankees have upgraded but can anyone show me a Yankee fan who is convinced by Kyle Farnsworth? He has the stuff but his make up isn't one that fills me with confidence. Flash was always good in the regular season although his October #'s weren't exactly good, weren't exactly decent either. Dotel is a great addition when he comes back from his Tommy John hopefully in May, and Villone and Myers can both do a job. The guy at the back end of the 'pen is still the same, the great Mariano Rivera, I have absolutely zero worries on that front.

The Yankees top to bottom have a potent lineup that could score 1000 runs, Damon, Jeter, Giambi, A-Rod, Sheffield, Matsui is as good as anyone around the league. Posada is still above average for a catcher although he is dropping off. As for the DH spot, I have a funny feeling Bernie may do better now he doesn't have to worry about or play the field anymore. Our #9 hitter is Robinson Cano, can't argue with that.

This Yankees team will go as far as their starters will take them.

2006 Projection: 97-65
Position: 1st
Yankees Link Blog -
Bronx Banter

Saturday, April 01, 2006

2006 Season Preview - AL East, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays
2005 Record: 80-82; Position 3rd

Major Off-season Moves:
Add - C Bengie Molina, INF Lyle Overbay, INF Troy Glaus, SP AJ Burnett, RP BJ Ryan
Minus - INF Frank Menechino, INF Orlando Hudson, INF Corey Koskie, RP Miguel Batista

Well the Jays spent a lot of money this off-season - headline grabbing five year deals for two pitchers - AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan - as well as a trade for the big bat of Troy Glaus, and the late signing of Bengie Molina (and lets not forget, another $40m to extend Halladay). Given the noise they made in an off-season when the Red Sox and Yankees were (relatively) quiet with their checkbooks, the media have annointed the Jays as the team to break the Sox / Yanks logjam atop the AL East - are they correct?

Molina had a decent year in '05 - the best of his career so far - but at least one author on this site belives that it was his career year, writing an unfavorable comparison to Posada in this post when rumors surfaced that the Yankees were interested. Much of his value is tied up in his BA, and in his catcher intangibles, and while the Jays got a relative bargain when Molina priced himself out of the market (read the Mets), he doesn't appear to be that significant an upgrade over Greg Zaun.

The Jays traded for Glaus in December - giving up one of the best defensive 2b in the league in the trade, Orlando Hudson, as well as last years closer Miguel Batista. Glaus comes with a big contract - the main reason the D'Backs traded him away in the first place - and the Jays made his three years and $32.75m even more expensive by adding on a full no-trade and a $11.25m player option for 2009. So 4 years at an average of $11m - a lot of money for a guy that hit .258 / .363 / .522 - though the OBP and slugging numbers were good for 6th and 7th respectively in the league last year for regular 3b.

AJ has a career 49-50 record, but the Jays are paying $11m per for the next five years for his 3,73 career ERA and his 753 k's in 853 innings - in his two healthiest seasons, AJ posted 401k's in 413 IP with a sub 3.40 ERA. But he is two years removed from TJ surgery and posted an 80 inning jump in his workload last year - that type of jump can often lead to injury issues in the next year... oh yeh, AJ went on to the 15 day DL this week, following elbow pain in one of his spring traing starts, attributed to the breakdown of scar tissue... ok. I really do like AJ, but he is an injury risk - $55m is a lot of money for a guy that won't even make it to opening day introductions.

BJ Ryan has saved 42 of his 59 career save opportunities - but last year in his 70 IP, he struck out 100 hitters, and has struck out 285 hitters in his last 207 innings - a number that would have led the majors by 50 if he hadn;t taken 3 years to pitch that number of innings. I do think that BJ has the stuff to be an excellent closer, but to pay in excess of $9m per year for five years for a guy with 42 career saves seems... excessive?

The Jays spent a lot of money on these four, and I do think they will help the Jays produce more wins in 2006, but I still don't see them breaking up the Sox / Yankees one / two. However, it could all work out for the Jays - the Sox and Yankees both have significant question marks, and if they have health issues, the Jays could take advantage if - and it is just as big an if as the Sox and Yankees - they themselves stay healthy.

Over at Baseball Prospectus,Will Carroll produces health reports on each team which comments on the risk of injury for each player on the roster (using a traffic lights system) and every single member of the starting rotation appears red (BP subscription required for the health reports) not a great sign - that health issue is something to watch with the Jays all year long.

2006 Projection: 87-75; Position - 3rd
Blue Jays blog link - Batter's Box