Generation Gap: A Boston Fan’s Psyche

lester.jpg

Since 2001 there has been a steady shift in the mentality of a Boston fan. Well, the young ones, anyway. It really took off in 2004 after the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

I watch most games with my Dad, he’s been a fan his entire life and he’s the reason I love the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins as much as I do. But as fans go, we are very different. 

Lets look situation-ally first: Red Sox game, no score, bases loaded, one out, and Papi’s up.

My first thoughts: “grand slam, runs will score on a double, sac fly would score at least one, so would a single or a walk”. These are the first things that float trough my mind. 

My Dad, on the other hand, is the pre-2001 vintage. His first thoughts: “Here comes the double play! They leave more men on base than anybody.”

We all know about Red Sox fans in the pre-2004 era. If one thing goes wrong they curl up in a ball, and get ready for the “inevitable”. And lets face it, a lot has gone wrong in his 50+ years of following Boston teams. The Patriots were awful for a long time, the Celtics were good in the early days, but then turned into a joke in the 90s, the Bruins have been up and down, and the Sox…well, we’ll just say they had some heart-wrenching losses in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. 

If you consider what he’s seen, its understandable that he is, as I call him, a “Negative Nancy”. But I’ve noticed a similar issue with many of the older Boston fans. In April they were ready to throw in the towel, despite the fact that a baseball season had just started. 

Why does this happen?

I’ve decided its all about heartbreak. I have been following Boston sports since I was old enough to understand. Lets assume the age of understanding is about five, so that’s 1991.

So in 19 years, I have seen the Patriots go to five Super-bowls, win three, lose one they had no chance in, and only one heartbreaking loss that still haunts me. I cannot, and will not look at footage from that day.

I have seen the Red Sox win two World Series, and make it to the playoffs almost a dozen times. I only have one heartbreak: 2003. 

The Celtics were a joke in the 90s, and most of the 21st century, until the creation of the Big Three. Now they are pushing for banner 18. Last year was tough, but without Garnett, I did not expect too much. 

So in my experience, the heartbreaks are much rarer, and the teams have played better. How many other cities can say their NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL teams have all been to the playoffs in the past three years? Not many. Three, to be exact: Boston, NY/NJ, and Arizona. And if we were not grouping the New York/New Jersey teams together, there would only be two. 

If you look at it like that, it’s pretty darn amazing, especially since Boston has two championships in that span. But I look at things optimistically. I have a saying in my house, and I have applied it to every sport I watch. I don’t give up until the buzzer sounds or the last out is made. I refuse to admit defeat until the clock runs out, sometimes a little irrationally, but I have seen some terrific comebacks in my time. 

That’s what separates the young fans from the old. The young fans feel the losses, and remember all the heartbreaks, but they also remember the joys, the triumphs, and some pretty amazing plays. 

The older generation, the “Negative Nancys” have not recovered from the heartbreaks. They vividly remember ’67, ’75, ’86, and all the other close-but-no-cigar moments. To them this whole winning thing is new and they aren’t sure how long it will last, so they steel themselves against the inevitable. 

So while the older generation is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, the younger generation is living in the moment. The older generation expects every walk allowed by a Sox pitcher to score, and expected the Bruins to go down after being up 3-0. 

After watching game five of the Celtics-Orlando series, my dad said “They’re done, just like the Bruins.” A sentiment echoed by his friends, and the older fans I know. The young were more hopeful. Going home for game six, we knew the Celtics would win. 

Does that mean the younger generation has more faith than our fathers, and grandfathers? No. Less pessimism? Definitely.  

I gloated for a few days about how optimism always wins in the end. And who knows, maybe the next generation of Boston fans will be another batch of “Negative Nancys.” Maybe they will be irrational optimists, or maybe they’ll just be normal. That would be a switch, wouldn’t it?

Duet or Ménage À Trois? An AL East Prediction

trios.jpg

Last year the Yankees (ug) took home the ring, the year before, the Rays lost to the Phillies in the World Series, and three years ago, the Red Sox won. Needless to say the AL East is looking to have a repeat appearance this year, but who?

 

The Red Sox made some moves to shore up defense, the Yankees lost a few bats, and the Rays and Orioles reloaded with young prospects and solid trades. So who is going to win? 

 

If the Yankees could get consistent starts from their three-four-five guys, they could win the division. Is that likely? No.

The Red Sox lost a big bat in Jason Bay but added John Lackey, who could be a number one starter but is starting number three, behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. He’ll be followed by the seemingly ageless Wakefield, Dick-K, and the young, talented Clay Buchholz. Now, Dice-Ki is injured and we’re not really sure how Buchholz is going to do, but if they all bounce back, the Sox could go for a six man rotation. 

Not likely, but it could happen.

The Rays, as always, are the Dark Horse. They have iffy pitching and young guys just starting their careers, but they are faster th
an the Yankees and Red Sox and very talented. Of course that youth does lend itself to inconsistency, especially playing in Boston and New York where the fans can be pretty hostile. Taking that all into consideration, do they win over 90 games? 

Eh. Maybe. 

The Orioles are better. Not great, but certainly much better than last year. And Toronto…well, we’ll go ahead and label this a rebuilding year for them. They traded away Doc Halladay, it’s to be expected.

 

So with opening day just hours away ( hallelujah!), what else would we do but make predictions on what is going to happen six months from now? Bear in mind I am not using any sort of scientific formulas, stats, or anything on these predictions, which is contrary to the typical baseball fan’s thinking. (Admit it, we love stats!) 

I’m doing something new this year, I’m going with my gut. I’ve watched these guys all spring, and this is what I came up with it. 

First, my final division standings:

 

  1. Red Sox
  2. Rays*
  3. Yankees
  4. Orioles
  5. Blue Jays
Call me a homer, but I really like this Red Sox team. They are a little faster, their defense is better, and the addition of John Lackey is a huge boost to the pitching staff. The bullpen is good, and Daniel Bard is waiting in the wings, so if Jonathan Papelbon struggles with closing, he can be replaced. I don’t see that happening, but I’m sure that, and his last game are in his mind, getting his competitive juices flowing. 
Plus, who wants to face a weekend where your pitchers are Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey? Yikes. And you’ve got Jacoby Ellsbury who is stellar and still not done developing. Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia are great at the plate, and if Papi returns to form…double yikes. 
If they all stay healthy and the pitchers stay on their form, there’s no reason this team can’t win the division.
Now to explain the asterisk on the Rays.
Like I said, the Rays are the Dark Horse. Even Longoria is a beast, and they have a few young guys like B.J. Upton who are due for a breakout year. A few good trades and young talent means this Rays team is a lot like the one that went to the World Series in 2008. 
I just get a feeling about this team. But here’s a caveat. I think the Rays will get off to a big start, but if they start to falter around the All-Star break, I’m going to put them out of the playoffs. I just think that if they get too far behind or see themselves slipping, they might fold under the pressure. So that’s why I put the Rays as the Wild card*. 
So on to Steinbrinner and his evil Minions.
Let’s start with the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia is a beast. There’s no denying that, but after him gets a little…iffy. A.J. Burnett doesn’t like throwing to Jorge Posada, but Jose Molina is gone, so he has no choice. Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez are good innings eaters, but Pettitte’s age makes him a question mark. 
And yes, Mark Teixeira, Jeter, A-Rod, they can all hit, but the Yankees bench isn’t exactly deep this year. The losses of Judas (I mean Johnny) Damon and Matsui hurts them in terms of power. The Yankees look good this year, but repeating is very difficult, and in a division this tough? Eh.
I have them (maybe) not making the playoffs. But that’s dependent on the Rays. 
My prediction for the Yanks is third/ Wild card. They played like a team on a mission last year and I just don’t get that feeling from them now. 
Now for the other teams in the AL East. 
The Orioles really did a lot this year, and while they probably won’t make the playoffs, they will make life hard on everyone else in the East. They have a young staff that in a few years could really give the rest of the AL east headaches in a few years, and we could see flashes of that this season. My prediction, they finish in fourth place.
The Blue Jays…they won’t do much this year. They couldn’t make it to the playoffs when they had the one-two punch of Halladay and Burnett. They’ve got some good players, but it’s not enough to compete in a division that has the Yankees and Red Sox. 
We’ll start to see things heat up in this division around the All-Star break, that’s when the good teams will separate from the bad and the ugly. Then we’ll know if we have a Red Sox-Yankees duet or a Red-Sox-Rays-Yankees Ménage À Trois.

Seroids, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Loathe The List

David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez join Sosa, A-Rod, and Bonds as players named on the now infamous list.

But let’s be clear about this list (that’s not even supposed to
exist). It was a voluntary testing program to learn how wide-spread
performance enhancing drug (PED) use was in major league baseball. We
don’t know how wide spread, we don’t know if there were other lists,
but it is important to remember that at the time, many of the PEDs that
players tested positive for WERE NOT banned.

Another thing about the list: It is not a guide to who used
steroids in the majors. Some of the players on the ever-blessed list
tested positive for items that you can buy at a drug store and weren’t
banned by major league baseball until 2005.

So, before we judge anybody–and I’m including my least favorite player in all of baseball Alex Rodriguez in this–we have to know what they took, for how long, and why.

To automatically judge based on a name on a list…did we learn
nothing from Joe McCarthy? His “list” of card-carrying communists was a
farce. This list is a little more serious, but it doesn’t discriminate
between a legit ‘roid user and someone who used something that wasn’t banned at the time to get over an injury.

Quite frankly I’m sick and tired of hearing about steroids in
baseball. The only people who really care about perpetuating this
nonsense is the media. The fans, the players, and everyone else would
just like to move on. The media won’t let us.

I’d like to see whoever is leaking these names step forward and
claim responsibility. That @%*hole should be in jail. No one seems to
have compunctions that the way we’re getting information about this
list is ILLEGAL. 

Doesn’t anyone wonder why, if David Ortiz was juicing in 2003, his
post-season batting average was below the Mendoza line? Anybody else
wonder if Ortiz’s bat heated up by getting a different batting coach
and having Manny Ramirez hitting behind him? Is that so terribly
illogical that a 27-year-old baseball player could discover his swing
after going to a new club?

Gee. What a novel idea.

Barry Bonds got huge. He was quite literally a Giant. That is not
natural. Ortiz had a seemingly natural progression and hey…he’s in
the middle of what looks like a natural digression.

Here’s an analogy for you. For those of you who prefer things to be politically correct, stop reading now or skip ahead. It’s an analogy to
make a point, nothing more. For those of you still reading, answer
these questions: Do you respect Thomas Jefferson? George Washington?
James Madison? Do you think they were great men?

They were all slave owners. When they lived, slavery was a common
practice, it was not illegal. Yes, it sucked. Yes, it was wrong. And no
one is denying that it was a terrible thing and it’s sad that America
was formed with that institution still in place.

So does that change your opinion of the founding fathers? Should
they go into the history books with an asterisk because slavery was
outlawed almost one-hundred years later? Are they no longer great men?

No.

It’s the same with these players. Habitual juicers…I have more of
an issue with them, but if they weren’t breaking the rules, they don’t
deserve to be punished. Period.

We don’t call for discrediting of men who had questionable practices before it was illegal, why should we do it now?

It’s certainly something to think about. It’s not a black and white
issue, and it’s not something to be judged without all sides of the
story.

Do your research. The media will not tell you all the facts and you
can’t trust the TV. You have to look for yourself. How many people know
what that list is and why none of the names are supposed to be
released? How many people know that the players weren’t doing anything
against the rules at the time of the test?

As fans, we have a responsibility to look into the stories we are
fed every day. We have a responsibility to read and learn and make our
own decisions. As for me, I’m behind Papi 100%. I’m betting it comes
out that he was not a habitual juicer, and he might be one of the ones
who used something over the counter he didn’t even know was a PED, or
didn’t know it’d be banned later. 

The Boston Red Six?

On Friday, the Boston Red Sox
take on the Toronto Blue Jays to kick off the second half of the
season. On the hill for the Red Sox will be Clay Buchholz.

Many will remember Buchholz from his no-hitter in September 2007.
Others remember how bad his 2008 season was, as he was shipped off to
the minors.

In 2009, Buchholz has been dominating while playing for Triple-A
Pawtucket. But with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Brad
Penny, and Dice-K, there was no room on the rotation.

When Dice-K went down, John Smoltz stepped up. So what do you do with the sixth man on the pitching roster?

If you’re Terry Francona, you should put him in the rotation. Does this mean that the Red Sox could have a six-man rotation?

It’s possible. If Buchholz proves that he has what it takes to pitch
at the major league level again, it will be difficult to take him out
of the rotation.

Early in the season, there was talk by the fans/media about Tim
Wakefield eventually landing in the bullpen, but he’s tied for the lead
league in wins (with Josh Beckett).

How about John Smoltz? If he’s locating his pitches, he’s great, which means he will stay on the roster.

How about Penny? There was the thought he might be traded, but
that’s not going to happen anymore. Lester and Beckett are certainly
not going anywhere. Maybe if Dice-K goes to rehab, they can throw him
in the ‘pen.

Then you look towards August and September. By then, Dice-K will hopefully be back in good form, leaving the Red Sox with seven quality starters. That is if everyone stays healthy.

As usual, the Red Sox have approached the season with their eyes on
October. Slipping in April and May and late-slump before the All-Star
break mean absolutely nothing at this point.

A few days rest will do the bullpen some good, and they should
bounce back from the issues they’ve had the past two weeks or so. Bay
and Youkilis are seemingly heating up again, and Papi seems to be
rejuvenated.

Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have improved their starts lately. They
seem to be the aces we expected at the beginning of the year.

Smoltz is looking good. Penny is looking good. Clay Buchholz can only add to the rotation.

As far as Wakefield is concerned, his first ever All-Star game
should only serve to motivate and inspire him to keep pitching well.

Would this six man rotation work for the Red Sox? It cuts down on
the number of starts, and thus, the number of possible wins. On the
other hand, would the extra rest make the starters more likely to win?

We might actually get to see the answer to that question.

The Red Sox don’t care if Josh Beckett only has the opportunity to win 15 more games instead of 20, and he doesn’t either.

No one will care if this method helps win a World Series. In fact,
if that happens, six-man rotations might become the new rule in
baseball.

Or maybe not.

The big question facing the Red Sox in the second half is a good
one; what do we do with our extra pitching? They basically have great
bargaining chips that won’t hurt the team if they go.

This would not be a bad move on the Red Sox part. This could put
them in prime position to make a great run in October, whether they use
five or six pitchers in their rotation.

Mismanaged: Joe Maddon and the All-Star Game

Kevin Youkilis was a few thousand votes away from being the starter
at first base for the American League. Jason Bay led the outfield in
votes, Boston had the most players selected to the All–Star roster by the fans.

So how exactly is it that the five Red Sox that went to the All–Star
game had a total of three at–bats, one inning pitched, and four innings
in the field?

Tampa Bay, who did not have anyone selected to start, ended up with
three players playing a total of nine innings with five at–bats.

That couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Joe Maddon, the
manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, was manging the AL All–Stars and the Red
Sox are 6.5 games ahead of the Rays in the AL East standings, right?

I don’t think so.

Last year’s epic 15–inning affair, managed by Terry Francona, seemed
much more evenly distributed. The starters got one, maybe two times up
to the plate, and everyone that could get into the game got playing
time.

The game being 15 innings long might have had something to do with
it, but the point stands. Terry Francona gave every single All–Star
their chance to shine, whether they were a Ray, a Yankee, or an
Athletic. It didn’t matter; these guys were there to be exhibited, so
everyone should get their shot on the field and at the plate.

The AL won. Congratulations. Whatever.

This year’s game was a huge disappointment. It was boring, the
changes were hard to keep up with because certain players were
replaced, while others moved all around the field to make sure they
weren’t replaced.

I can’t complain too much about the pitching; that was handled fine,
with the exception of Wakefield. His selection was one of the feel–good
stories of this All–Star Game and he doesn’t even get to pitch?

Come on! He’s 42 and was selected to his first ever All–Star team.
Fun fact: there are only two pitchers in the American league with 11
wins. Both made the All–Star roster, neither made it into the game.
Beckett didn’t play because he just pitched, so that was
understandable, but not putting Tim Wakefield in the game?

Maybe I didn’t enjoy the game as much because the Red Sox were being
pulled away from the spotlight as fast as possible by Maddon. Maybe it
was because there were no homers and a lot of cheap hits that are just
too ordinary.

I have to wonder; had Dustin Pedroia played, would he have stayed in
the game as long as non–starter Carl Crawford or Mark Teixeira?

Judging from last night, I’d say no.

I’m beginning to wonder if the only reason Beckett and Wakefield
made the team was that Maddon couldn’t find a legitimate reason to
exclude them from the roster. His bias would have been too obvious had
he left the two 11–game winners off the roster in favor of guys in
different uniforms with 10 wins or less.

Honestly, this game doesn’t mean much to me personally, but the
pride people take in playing in this game deserves more respect than
that. It deserves more than a manager playing favorites.

I get that having the pitcher batting makes things difficult, but to
not even put Kevin Youkilis, arguably one of the best defensive first
basemen in the league, on the field for even one inning is beyond
disrespectful to his talent and to the fans.

At the end of the game, I switched sides. I started rooting for the
National League, because there was no one left on the field for the
American League that I gave a rat’s you–know–what for.

I might have been more inclined to stick with my league of choice had I felt it was managed correctly.

But last night, I would have gladly traded home field advantage if it meant that Joe Maddon would lose that game.

Red Sox and Yankees: Rivals Go Head-To-Head For The First Time in 2009

DSC_0019.JPG

The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry
is the best in baseball, and possibly the best in professional sports.
I was raised to hate the Yankees, I mean, really, really hate them. I have a friend who was raised the same way, only opposite. She was raised to hate the Red Sox.

Why?

Who cares? It’s fun! It is certainly not a friendly rivalry, but it
is fun to have a “bad guy” to unite against. Its a showdown of good
versus evil, the Red Sox Nation vs. the Evil Empire, minor tweaks vs.
major, multi-million dollar overhaul.

A rivalry, yes, but most definitely a fun one.

Of course, with this rivalry, things can (and do) tend to go too
far. With Joba Chamberlain on the mound tonight, things might get a
little interesting. 

joba.JPG

If you recall from the previous two seasons, there is some bad blood
between Chamberlain and Youkilis. Why? Who knows. Fact of the matter
is, Joba’s thrown at Youkilis four times. Four. 

So far, no brawls, but it is getting a little ridiculous. Buzzing a
player inside is one thing, its acceptable, its part of the game, but
throwing at hitters, at their heads, is unacceptable. When Josh Beckett
did it earlier this season, it was an accident and everyone knew it.
When Joba did it last season, it was no accident.

If he does it again, judging by the reactions last time, there will most likely be a brawl or an ejection, or both.

Tonight, Chamberlain, who went 4.2 innings with six hits, five
earned runs, five walks and four strikeouts in his last start, will
square off against Red Sox southpaw Jon Lester. Lester looked much
better in his start against Baltimore going 7 innings with only four
hits, zero earned runs, and nine strike-outs.

While Youkilis’s consecutive on-base streak was snapped Wednesday
night, he is still making American League pitchers look bad, hitting
.429 with an OBP of .522.

In other good news, the Red Sox starters are all now hitting above .200, with Lowell, Youkilis, and Green hitting above .310.

The Yankees and Red Sox kick off their three game series at Fenway
tonight at 7:10 PM, with Chamberlain taking the mound against Lester.

Saturday’s game will be at 4:10 PM on Fox with A.J. Burnett squaring
off against Josh Beckett, who’s original start was pushed back a day
due to his suspension.

Finally, Andy Pettite will face off with Justin Masterson in the Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN at 8 PM.

Marathon Morning: Red Sox Sweep The Orioles With A Twelve Run Rout

3__1240247754_8853.jpg

Its a good morning when you have a
baseball game at 11 and you have nothing to do. Its even better when
you get to see a young guy pull off a show-stopping performance on Patriots Day of all days. All while thousands of people ran in the 113th Boston Marathon.

Justin
Masterson, usually the long reliever/all around lights
out pitcher from the bull pen, got his first start of 2009. In 5
innings he struck out 3, walked 2, and allowed 1 earned run on 4 hits. Not a bad outing, considering he did all that
on just 84 pitches. And thanks to the Red Sox very strong bull pen,
that one run was the only one allowed all game.

The bats got going in the first, when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double. A single from Dustin Pedroia scored the speedy Ellsbury, and a ground out from Baldelli brought in Dustin, putting the Sox up by two.

In the second, Jason Varitek continued with his seemingly rejuvenated
swing (its only a few weeks into the season, but I remain optimistic)
and launched a solo shot into the monster seats, where fans were
alternating between watching the game, and watching the marathon
runners make their way through Kenmore Square.

The Orioles scored in the third, and it remained close until the bottom of the sixth. Another RBI single for Pedroia and a triple from David Ortiz made it 6-1, Red Sox.

The bull pen held the Orioles to a scoreless top half of the seventh,
and then the Red Sox really got started. The Orioles faced 12 Red Sox
batters, Mike Lowell had an RBI double and an RBI single in the inning.
Also with RBI singles in the seventh were Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Youkilis.

The
best part of today? With the exception of Ortiz, who’s average is up to
.196, the rest of the team is now hitting above .220. Pedroia got
moving, so did Ellsbury, and Ortiz had a good day with two hits, two
RBI, and a run scored.

Lefty pitcher Hunter Jones made his major league debut, and pitched a scoreless 9th for the Red Sox, while Rocco Baldelli left the game in the fourth with a mild hamstring strain, and Orioles third-basemen Ryan Freel left the game in the third after being hit by a pick-off attempt from Masterson. He went to the hospital as a precaution, but there is no news yet on when he will return to the Orioles line up.

The
Sox now have a five game winning streak, are back over .500, and have
now won their 66th Patriot’s Day game, which started with a 21-gun
salute from the Minutemen, and ended with a 12-run salute from the Red
Sox.

“Wake”ing Up The Red Sox

AACY001.jpg

Wednesday, Tim Wakefield flirted with a perfect game, and might have restored the Red Sox confidence in themselves.

I feel like we need the Hitchiker’s Guide to Baseball with a big sign on the back that says “Don’t Panic” and we really shouldn’t. We’ve got, what, 152 games left or something like that?

It feels as though these first two weeks of baseball, the Red Sox have been trying to start a car. Sometimes the ignition
turns over, but it doesn’t last long. Maybe Wake’s start is the jump
they need to really get moving. It does not help, of course, that they
had to face first the Rays, and then the emotionally charged and always
difficult LA Angels.

Looking at the stats for the first two weeks of the season give me hope, however. They have allowed the second fewest runs in the AL East, the Rays have allowed two fewer, but the Red Sox are one of the three teams with more runs allowed than runs scored. So there is your problem. Well, Dice-K and Lowrie being injured doesn’t help either, but truly, the issue is offense.

The Red Sox have just 35 RBIs so far this year. That’s 27th in the league. Their on-base percentage is ranked considerably higher. Which leads me to one issue: they can’t hit with runners on. While more of the team has moved above .200, Varitek (who’s right at .200), Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Ortiz are all still below the .200 mark. Dustin is a traditionally slow starter, so his engine should start going soon, Papi had his first extra-base hit of the season, so maybe that will kick him into gear, and Ellsbury seems to be coming back, he’s hit much better in the A’s series than the others.

Maybe
Wake’s brush with history will rejuvinate the entire team. Right now,
Youkilis and Bay are on fire. Youk’s hitting .472 and Bay is hitting
.345, both with two homers. Varitek’s average might be a little low,
but of his five hits, two are doubles, and two are home runs. He’s
hitting for much more power than last year and is tied with the lowest
number of strike-outs on the team.

I’m
an eternal optimist. So maybe all of this is nothing, and they’re going
to continue to be below .500 for the first time in years, but somehow,
I doubt it. Maybe Tek is going to have another bad year, but what I’ve
seen so far says otherwise. Maybe Bay won’t hit 30 homers, but I think
he will. And maybe Kevin Youkilis will slump after the All-Star break,
but I have faith.

The
Sox return home tonight to take on the Orioles at 7:10. Penny takes on
Guthrie, who has looked pretty good in his two starts for the birds.
The Orioles are a game back of the AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays. Raise
your hand if you saw that one coming. If Penny can locate tonight, and
the bats can get moving, I think the Sox turn it around and get back above .500.

CC Sabathia: Its Not His Fault

Yesterday the Yankees trotted out their 140-million dollar ace to
wow the lowly likes of the Baltimore Orioles. CC Sabathia, the reason
the Brewers were in the playoffs last year, the work-horse who has
thrown more innings in the past two years than anyone, Goliath himself, had one really bad day.

But it wasn’t his fault.

It was windy, so the pitches weren’t going where he wanted.

The crushing weight of being the Yankee’s ace was way too tough, he’s not used to it yet.

No,
that’s not it. Those are excuses. The truth it the strike zone was the
size of a postage stamp. That’s why he didn’t have any strikeouts, if
he pitched in the minuscule zone, the Orioles would hit it. So he had no choice but to walk five batters.

Again,
that’s an excuse. It’s because there were too many Orioles fans at
Camden Yards. The usually Empire-filled stadium was full of too many
people rooting for the home team and that really threw him off.

No,
that sounds like another excuse. Here’s the real reason that Sabathia
had such a difficult time and didn’t get a single strike-out all game:
he doesn’t do well in April. If you look at his starts last April, he
was terrible.

Yes. He is not good in April. That’s why he
allowed 8 hits and six earned runs in just over four innings for an ERA
of 12.46. That is the answer. You see, it wasn’t Sabathia’s fault, it’s
April’s fault. April is just not his month, but don’t worry Yanks, come
May 1st, I’m sure he’ll do better.

While I respect
CC for all that he’s been able to do the past two years, now that he’s
a Yankee, he’s in the firing zone, so no mercy, and I look forward to a
great competitive year in the AL East.

Red Sox Spring Training Analysis (Part 3)

This is the third and final stats-drive spring training analysis, mostly
because spring training is now over. If you haven’t read the first two
articles, check them out:
Part 1 and Part 2.

Today we’re going to look at J.D. Drew and Jason Bay, then take a quick look at the Red Sox pitching staff. 

We’ll
start with the oft-injured J.D. Drew. I think he’s going to have a
great year, because he’s under no pressure to carry the team like he
did last June. He’ll bat 5th, in between Youkilis and Bay, which is a
great place for him. J.D. Drew has come up with some of the most clutch
hits in the history of baseball, no pitcher is going to walk Youkilis
to get to Drew, and similarly, no pitcher would willingly walk Drew to
get to Bay.

Drew’s back will be the
main concern this season, but with capable back-ups, Francona will have
an easy time giving Drew the rest he needs. Think about it, when Drew
came back from his back issues for the playoffs, he hit some seriously
clutch hits and helped the Red Sox reach game 7 of the ALCS.

In
2007, Drew hit .321 with 13 hits, 1 home run, and 7 RBI in spring
training, then hit .270 with 126 hits, 11 homers, and 64 RBI. Of
course, Drew’s biggest contribution in 2007 was the 14 million dollar
two out Grand Slam in the ALCS , which we all remember fondly as the
day Boston fans officially forgave J.D. Drew. 

In
2008, Drew’s Spring Training posted frighteningly similar numbers: .321
average, 9 hits, 1 home run, and 5 RBI. for the 2008 season, where he
was absolutely on fire the month of June and then kind of…fizzled,
Drew hit .280 with 103 hits, 19 dingers, and 64 RBI.

I’m
beginning to wonder if a good spring is bad for Drew’s regular season,
which fills me with hope, because his 2009 spring training numbers are
down. He hit .265 with 9 hits and 1 RBI. 

So
what’s the projection for Drew this season? It’s difficult to say,
honestly, because we never know how many at-bats he’ll get or how much
his back will bother him.

My
projection is he’ll hit somewhere in the .270-.290 range with maybe 15
home runs, it could go higher if he is rested when he starts slumping.

Next we’ll look at Jason Bay.

Jason had a monster season last year, coming off an injury-dampened 2007. How will he look in his first full year as a Red Sox?

In
2008 spring training, Bay hit .231 with 9 hits and 5 RBI. He hit .286
with 165 hits, 31 homers, and 101 RBI during the regular season.

This spring, including his brief stint at the World Baseball Classic, Bay hit .285 with 12 hits, 4 home runs, and 11 RBI.

So
what’s the projection for 2009? Can Jason Bay replace Manny’s bat in
the line-up? No. But he can get pretty close. I’d look for Bay to have
another 30+ home run season, and bat around .280-.300. That could be
overly optimistic, but I have faith in him

.

The pitching staff
might be the strength of this Red Sox team, despite a talented line-up.
With three aces, four if Smoltz or Penny come back with a good bit of
their past form, and one of the best bull pens in the league, the Sox
are looking to make another run at the post-season.

In
this I’m going to look at the (current) starting five: Beckett, Lester,
Dice-K, Wakefield, and Penny. Then, in honor of the stellar ‘pen, we’ll
look at Papelbon to close things out.

Beckett is slated to
start opening day at Fenway against the Rays, so what should we expect
from him? Will he be good but not great like last year, or lights out
like he was in 2007? I’m banking on 2007, since he was never really
healthy in 2008.

My projection for
the 2009 season is that Beckett will be on form again, pitch about 200
innings, with 70-75 earned runs, 40-45 walks, and 185-190 strikeouts.
I’d look for him to post an ERA around 3.15-3.25.

Next
we have Jon Lester, who emerged as one of the game’s elite southpaws
last season, and should continue to build on that in 2009.

The
only concern facing Lester this year is the number of innings he threw
last year. He pitched 210 innings, and was clearly gassed by game 7 of
the ALCS.

While
I don’t expect him to pitch that many innings again, I project he will
throw about 190-200, with 70-75 earned runs, 60 walks, and 155-160
strike outs. I’d look for him to post an ERA of about 3.18-3.28.

Then
we have Daisuke Matsuzaka, the heart attack-inducing MVP of the World
Baseball Classic. Dice-K has looked good this spring, at the WBC and
with the Sox. While you should never count on him to eat innings, or
have a low number of walks, he’s just looking to have a break-out year.
I’d look for him to go about 176 innings, with 73 earned runs, 85-90
free passes, and 165-170 strike-outs. I’d look for him to post an ERA
around 3.45-3.65, but don’t discount him, it’s just as likely for that
ERA to settle out around 2.90-3.10.

Then
we have Tim Wakefield, the longest tenured Red Sox, and still pitching
strong. That’s mostly due to the fact he’s a knuckleballer, and thus
the pitching motion doesn’t wear on his shoulder like the normal
pitching motion.

So
will Wake look good again this year? Sure. He’s consistent. He should
eat about 186 innings, with 90-95 earned runs, 65-70 walks, and 115
strike outs. He should post an ERA of 3.85-4.00, but this won’t matter
as much if he can get the run support.

Tim Wakefield is going to give up two or three runs a game. His season record depends on how much run-support he gets.

Brad
Penny is the newest addition to the pitching staff, and like many of
the Red Sox additions, he’s coming off of an injury. Assuming he
recovers and gets back to some of his form, I’d look for Penny to go
between 170-190 innings, 75-80 earned runs, and post an ERA of
3.20-3.50. I have a wide range here because I’m not sure how Penny will
perform. It’s a sort of waiting game with him.

And now we’ll close this series off with one of the game’s elite closers, Jonathan Papelbon.

Paps
has posted great stats the past three years, with more than 30 saves in
2006, 2007, and 2008. I wouldn’t look for that to change at all. Last
year, Papelbon had 41 saves, I’d look for him to have between 40-45
saves this season and post an ERA of 2.60-2.80.

Papelbon
is the capstone of a stellar bull pen, and should have fewer four,
five, and six out saves this year because the road from the starter to
Papelbon is paved with pitchers like Takashi Saito, Justin Masterson,
lefty-specialist Javier Lopez, and many others.

With
that, I end my stats freak predictions. What’s my prediction for the
season? I think the Red Sox win the AL East, but it’s a tough road with
the Yankees and the Rays, so I think we’re in for a very exciting season.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.