Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Where was Foulke, Terry? 

David Riske in the 8th inning of a tie ballgame! Are you serious, Terry? The guy has thrown 2 innings all season and hasn't pitched in a pressure situation since about 2004. You barely trust Manny Delcarmen with a 3-run lead, but you're going to let this clown pitch in a tie ballgame? He was literally throwing batting practice fastballs. Even Bengie Molina hit two doubles off of him in a single at-bat!

Shea Hillenbrand (5-8, HR, 3 RBI career vs Foulke) was probably the reason for the managerial blunder. Still, Shea was due to hit third that inning. Molina, the first batter of the inning, was 0-13 lifetime vs Foulke. The next batter, Aaron Hill, is 1-5 lifetime. So, if things went according to plan (and I admit that this is a risky proposition with Foulke), then Hillenbrand should be batting with the bases empty.

Did the situation really call for using a pitcher that returned from the DL on May 23rd, and hasn't pitched a single inning since that very night? C'mon. I could obviously beat this thing into the ground, but I'll digress.

If the bullpen trouble continues, don't be surprised to see Hansen, Lester, and maybe even Big Edgar Martinez in Boston before July. Oh yeah, that Clemens guy? Better keep your fingers crossed on that one too because Matt Clement looks like a total trainwreck out there. And honestly, I feel for him. He seems like a good guy and I don't wish him any ill will, but my God, the kid just can't handle the pressure. Do the Mets still need a starter?

Now that we got that negativity out of the way, let's talk about one of the positives over the past couple of weeks -- Mark Loretta. Did anyone honestly think this guy was going to continue batting below .250?

He consistently has a BABIP in the .335+ range, so it was only a matter of time before his numbers began to rise. I'll admit, I had concerns that his hand injury from 2005 was still causing problems, but he quickly put those fears to bed. Now he's hitting the ball on a line nearly every at-bat and the hits are coming in bunches. With such good contact and low strikeout numbers, this doesn't appear to be a product of luck. Expect Loretta to continue to tear the cover off the ball.

I'll have more tomorrow. Peace.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This blogger returns; Coco soon to follow 

Sorry I haven't been around much lately. Finals have been very hectic, but I'm finally free, so this blog will see daily updates.

Rather than rehash the past couple weeks, I'll just start with a clean slate.

The latest, and probably most predictable, news comes courtesy of Ian Browne's blog on MLB.com. Browne reports:

"For those of you who might be wondering if there is a leadoff controversy in store, considering how great Youkilis has done since Coco has been out, consider the issue to be over.

Terry Francona made it clear today that Coco will lead off when he comes back, which figures to be Monday night in Toronto. Youkilis said he doesn't care at all, and that spots in the order are irrelevant."

I can't say I really agree with the decision, but I'm not surprised in the least. There have been studies done that show that lineup construction has very little bearing on scoring output, but I'm not so sure how much stock I put into them.

Obviously, we want guys with high OBPs in front of Ortiz and Ramirez. If we're going to stick to this rule of thumb, Youkilis and Loretta should be manning the 1 and 2 spots. However, since Francona feels the need to employ a prototypical leadoff hitter at the top of the order, Coco will get the nod.

What can ya do? I'm sure Coco will do just fine up there, and moving Youkilis to the 7 or 8 spot will do wonders for the bottom of the order. What would be interesting is if Terry chose to move Alex Gonzalez into the 8 spot, with Youkilis batting ninth and serving as the double-leadoff hitter that Tony LaRussa has used in the past. This strategy would give the meat of the order more RBI opportunities and would surely prevent Youk from being stranded on base over and over by the putrid A-Gon.

That's all for now. More tomorrow.

P.S. - The Sabermetric stats have been updated through last night's game. I will look over them tomorrow and pull out anything of interest. Take care.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Musings after two in the Bronx 

Obviously, Tuesday night's game was very enjoyable. The Yankees made mistakes and the Sox capitalized on them all. That's what good teams do. The bottom of the order, Dustan Mohr and Alex Gonzalez, had me throwing a fit prior to the game. Sure enough, they went a combined 3-for-5, with 3 RBI and 5 runs scored. Hey, I can't be perfect.

Loretta's bat really seems to be coming around, with 3 hits on Tuesday and 2 more on Wednesday. So much for Ortiz' slump, too, as he's gone 5-8 so far in the series. And speaking of Ortiz, did anyone happen to see Lenn Robbins' follow-up article to The Post's Mike Vaccaro's piece on backing Ortiz off of the plate? Here's a small taste of this absolute abortion of an article:

"Mike Vaccaro rattled Boston slugger David Ortiz, his manager, and teammates with his well-thought-out column yesterday in which he said it's time for the Yankees pitchers to make Big Papi uncomfortable at the plate."

You really can't make this stuff up. Lenn must have been grabbing leftovers from the fridge as Big Papi reached base in each of his first three times at bat, scored twice, and crushed a gap-shot double that knocked the Unit out of the game. Francona and the rest of the club were clearly bewildered as well. Aside from filling out the lineup card, did Tito even need to be at this game? Seriously.

As for Wednesday night's game, things just weren't as peachy. First off, Willie Harris should not be starting games, nevermind games versus the Yankees. He's a pinch-runner and defensive replacement in blowouts. If you're going to keep him in the roster, these are his two roles. He doesn't swing the bat. He's now batting below .100. Need I say more?

Also gotta love how both pitcher/catcher mound conferences led to absolute bombs.

First, Posada decides to trot out and chat up Mussina after Ortiz had already fouled off about five of Moose's curveballs. Obviously, Ortiz is going to be sitting dead-red on the next pitch. Posada returns to the plate and sets up over the inside corner of the plate. My roommate and I immediately look at one another and laugh. Two seconds later, that baseball was sitting in the right field upper deck. Did Mussina and Posada honestly think they were going to get that pitch past Big Papi? Oh yeah, good work Mike Vaccaro. Clearly Ortiz is still feeling the aftershocks of your masterful piece.

Next, in the fifth, Schilling got behind in the count versus Alex Rodriguez. Varitek strolled out to calm Schill down and tried to get him to throw strikes. Sure enough, Schill comes with the fastball and A-Rod serves it over the left field wall.

Moral of the story -- don't throw fastballs following a mound meeting. At this point, you're obviously pressing, and a smart hitter is going to know you're likely to hum a heater over the plate to get back in the groove. You might be able to pull this act with the Alex Gonzalez's of the world, but you're not going to trick Big Papi or A-Rod, so don't even try.

I'm getting tired, so rather than continuing my recap, I'm going to form the rest of this post in the vein of NESN's most recent advertising blunder.

"Willie Harris and Alex Gonzalez in the same lineup? C'mon. Wait, are you serious? You are? Get me a barf bag."

"Throw Wakefield in there, and they're unstoppable!" (This one is just too ridiculous for mockery).

"Randy Johnson? He's so intense on the mound! Oh wait, no he isn't. He looked practically catatonic as he walked off the field on Tuesday."

"Did you see that catch Melky made?! No? Me neither."

"And then you've got Bernie...being Bernie."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A couple first month thoughts 

What to make of Mike Lowell?
After 27 games, I can't help but be incredibly impressed with what Mike Lowell has been able to accomplish this year. His defense has come as advertised, but his bat has been sooo much more productive than expected. When Theo made the trade for Josh Beckett, the Sox were required to take Mike Lowell, the $9 Million alabtross, for the trade to go through.

One month into the season, Mike Lowell is leading the league with 16 doubles. Will he keep up the .350 batting average? Not likely. Will he remain on pace for 95 doubles? Of course not. Mike Lowell may not have the 30+ homerun power he had in years past, but you can be sure that he will play a Gold Glove-caliber base while getting on base at an above-average clip. One question for the pundits out there -- I thought Mike Lowell didn't have any bat speed?

It's also important to note Lowell's split vs RHP and LHP. Coming into this season, Lowell's ability to hit LHP was his only saving grace, but this year he has shown an incredible ability to hit righties. This bodes well for his future prospects. His numbers vs LHP should rise, so if he can continue to hit righties at an above-average clip, the Sox will have themselves a serious threat. We must temper our excitement however, as the season is only one month old. Below are Lowell's RHP/LHP splits.

Who leads off when Coco returns?
In Coco's absence, Kevin Youkilis has done nothing but get on base. Should he remain in the top spot when Coco returns? Personally, I believe he should, but will Tito do this? I find it hard to believe. Youkilis needs to lead off for two important reasons. 1) His OBP is far superior to Coco's, and 2) Crisp's speed is much more valuable further down the lineup than in front of the Ortiz and Ramirez. With the big boppers coming up, it is safer to play station-to-station. If Coco steals seconds, the opposing team is likely to just walk Ortiz or Ramirez with first base now open.

What I'd like to see is Crisp batting in front of Loretta, preferably lower down in the order. With Loretta putting the ball in play 93% of the time, hit-and-runs could be executed to perfection with Crisp. However, vs LHP, this is difficult, because aside from Crisp and a rebounded-Loretta, there really is no one else to bat in the 2-hole. The lineups I'd like to see are to the left.

However, I think there is about a 5% chance these lineups are actually employed by Terry Francona. Look for Crisp in the top spot with Youkilis batting 2nd. It's not the most effective lineup construction, but it'll get the job done, I suppose.

Also note that the 2006 Sox Sabermetric Stats have been updated through Friday night's game.

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