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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Are the Sox making enough contact? 

After watching about a month of Red Sox baseball, I've become curious as to whether the lineup, as a whole, was putting the ball in play enough. I've decided to take a look at the Contact Rates for the Sox lineup. Contact Rate measures a batter's ability to get wood on the ball and hit it into the field of play. Those batters with the best contact skill will have levels of 90% or better, while the hackers will have levels of 75% or less.

Below are the Contact Rates for the 2006 Red Sox:




I figured the best way to get a feel for this would be to compare the 2005 and 2006 Contact Rates for each player. Below are the 2005 Contact Rates for the current lineup:



Surprisingly, the results aren't quite what I had expected. What shocked me most was how Mike Lowell actually had an 88% contact rate in 2005. Clearly, last season, he was putting the bat on the ball, but his power had completely dissipated.

Nixon and Varitek, the usual #5 hitters vs righties and lefties, respectively, are consistently getting wood on the ball. Considering the superb contact rate of Mark Loretta, the lineup should be hit its stride once Manny (and Ortiz to a lesser extent) hit their groove.

Right now, the lineup is really troubled by having to employ Alex Gonzalez, and one of Dustan Mohr, Wily Mo Pena, and Willie Harris on a nightly basis. The Sox, as a whole, are putting the ball in play a meager 79% of the time.

Tomorrow, I will take a closer look at the Isolated Power of the Sox lineup.

Catching up on the Cleveland series 

On Wednesday night, the Sox, aided by a Manny Ramirez tie-breaking home run in the 8th inning, toppled the Cleveland Indians by a score of 8-6. Curt Schilling, pitched 6.2 innings, allowing 5 runs, but pitched better than his statline would indicate.

What was most surprising was that he came out to pitch the 7th inning, after it appeared that he was most definitely tiring. Schilling finished with 133 pitches thrown, 89 for strikes. Schilling passed Hall of Famer Jim Bunning for 15th on the strikeout list with 2,863.

Papelbon received the save with a 10-pitch ninth inning.

Despite the victory, the Sox looked particularly terrible running the bases. In the third inning, Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook caught Ramirez off second base. As he stepped off the mound and ran towards Manny, Jason Varitek attempted to advance to second base, but the Indians overthrew on the rundown and tagged him out at second before throwing back to third to catch Ramirez. Francona later joked, "Manny tooketh away, but he gaveth a lot more late."

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On Thursday night, the Sox didn't fare as well as they had the previous evening. The lost by a score of 7-1, with Victor Martinez' 3-run homer off of Tim Wakefield in the first proving to be the difference in the ballgame.

Josh Bard allowed four passed balls on the evening, bringing his season total to 10.

"I missed them, it's that simple," said Bard. "I don't know what else to say. I just didn't catch them."

Cliff Lee, the Indians starter, was tough as nails, allowing just one run on four hits in 6 strong innings. He was particularly feisty against David Ortiz, whom he strikeout twice. Although Ortiz has looked strong against lefties this season, he appeared completely overmatched by Lee.

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Tonight, Josh Beckett squares off against Paul Byrd. Many of the Sox have fared rather well against Byrd in the past. Ortiz, Lowell, and Varitek have all previously gone deep vs Byrd.

Byrd's first month as an Indian has been a struggle, with control problems leading to big innings. What's most troubling is that Byrd has been beaten up by some of the lesser offenses in the American League. His latest outing against the Royals on Saturday was the roughest yet, in which he gave up seven runs on six hits with two walks in just three innings of work.

After the most frustrating loss of the season, in which Josh Beckett squandered most of a 6-2 lead to the Blue Jays, you can be that he can't wait to get back on the hill. Although it wasn't solely his fault, Beckett placed all the blame for that defeat on his shoulders. It goes without saying that Beckett has been very strong for Boston thus far, going at least seven innings in every start. This is his first career start against the Indians.



Sunday, April 23, 2006

Red Sox @ Indians Series Preview 

Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians - April 24-April 27 - Jacobs Field

Last season vs Cleveland:
Mon. June 20 @ Cleve W 10-9
Tue. June 21 @ Cleve W 9-2
Wed. June 22 @ Cleve W 5-4

Mon. June 27 Boston L 7-0
Tue. June 28 Boston L 12-8
Wed. June 29 Boston W 5-2


Cleveland Indians' Major League Rank:
Runs Scored: 113 (1st)
Batting AVG: .310 (2nd)
On-Base %: .371 (2nd)
Total Hits: 203 (1st)
Doubles: 43 (2nd)
So, yeah, it's quite obvious the Cleveland Indians can hit. Currently, their three hottest hitters are:

Travis Hafner (.343 AVG, .463 OBP, .731 SLG, 1.194 OPS)
Victor Martinez (.378 AVG, .420 OBP, .635 SLG, 1.055 OPS)
Casey Blake (.397 AVG, .464 OBP, .603 SLG, 1.081 OPS)

Below are the the full team batting stats, along with a few traditional sabermetric stats:



Rather than posting the rest of the series breakdown, visit my Red Sox @ Indians Series Preview on the Sons of Sam Horn. Feel free to comment or add any info you feel is appropriate for this upcoming series.

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