Monday, July 31, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 7/31/2006, and trading thoughts

A lackluster week for the Olde Towne Team. They took the first two in Oakland, guaranteeing at least a .500 trip, then played a getaway game in which it seemed they were really eager to get away.

  • They had their best three starters go against LAnaheim at home over the weekend, and none of them were great. Schilling was bad, particularly in the 3rd last night, when he gave up 3 rockets out of the ballpark. Beckett and Lester were OK, but the bullpen struggled every time they were called, giving up a total of 8 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, in addition to allowing both of Lester's inherited runners to score. Manny Delcarmen was bad. Craig Hansen gave up a bad HR to Curtis Pride. Mike Timlin gave up a run in his inning. Javier Lopez allowed an inherited runner to score. Jermaine Van Buren was awful. Tavarez only gave up 1 run in 3 1/3, but also allowed 3 inherited runners to score. Seanez was fine, but only mopping up. Papelbon was Papelbon, but only got into one game, because they were behind badly late in the other two. All in all, an ugly weekend for the pitching staff. I know that the Angels have been hot, but this was not an impressive weekend.

  • The Yankees have acquired Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle from the Phillies in exchange for the various colored beads left over from the Manhattan Island negotiations. This makes the Yankees better. Abreu replaces a hole in the lineup and, even though his HR swing has disappeared over the last year, he reaches base at a prodigious rate. I don't think much of Lidle, but he isn't replacing a real pitcher - he's replacing Chacon and Ponson. Upgrade. Given that the Red Sox and Yankees are tied in the loss column with [Boston - 59, New York - 60] games left, I think that the Yankees have to be objectively considered the favorites to win the East.

  • There were reports that Boston was in the Abreu discussions, though possibly only to jack up the price for the Yankees. One wonders whether the trade news today might read differently had Nixon hurt himself swinging Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday night...

  • For all the certainty that they Wild Card was coming from the central, the Red Sox and Yankees have the 2nd and 3rd best records in the AL this morning.

  • If you look at the American League right now (and look carefully at those rate lists), what you see is 4 teams in a race for 2 spots. The Tigers are going to win the Central. Someone's going to win the West. But Boston, New York, Chicago and Minnesota, all of whom are better than anyone in the AL West, or anyone (other than possibly the Mets) in the NL are in competition for two spots, the AL East and the AL wild card. Two of the best Six teams in baseball are going to miss the post-season this year, just because of the way they're bunched into two divisions in the same league.

  • There were many who thought, coming into the year, that Toronto was likely to finish ahead of Boston, New York, or both. I wasn't one of them. As of this morning, the Blue Jays are 7 behind both Boston and New York in the loss column. No way, absolutely no way, do the Blue Jays win the East. How can I say that so confidently? Toronto has played .543 baseball so far. If they significantly jack up their winning percentage and place .650 ball the rest of the way, they'll go 37-20 and win 94 games. Boston, which has played .602 ball so far, would have to finish 32-27 (.542) to win 94 games. New York (.598) would have to finish 33-27 (.550) to win 94 games. One or two of those things might happen - no way do all three. So Toronto's on the outside looking in, as far as the East goes.

  • The Blue Jays are also 5 and 6 in the loss column behind Minnesota and Chicago, respectively, in the Wild Card race, even if they do catch one of the east teams ahead of them. In other words, Toronto should rationally be a seller today, or at least looking to 2007 - they're not going to the play-offs in 2006. Their role in 2006 is almost certainly as a spoiler, and nothing else. Now, having done that, I check out the BaseballProspectus playoff odds, which indicates that, simulating the rest of the season 1,000,000 times, Toronto has about a 10% chance of making the play-offs. About right, I'd say - maybe a little high...

  • Big start for David Wells tonight. A successful return would be a help to a Red Sox pitching staff that's been scuffling for the past week.

  • The more I look at that Yankees/Phillies trade, the more I wonder whether Philadelphia GM Pat Gillick isn't harboring some sore of pathological grudge against Theo Epstein or Larry Lucchino. What are the Yankees two big needs? An offensive outfielder and a mediocre 5th starter. What is the Yankees weakness? Not much in terms of high-value minor league prospects. Solution? Get Philadelphia to give you the a) best available offensive outfielder and b) a mediocre Major League starting pitcher while receiving...nothing. I'd be willing to bet that Abreu and Lidle provide more Major League value over the next 60 games than the 4 minor leaguers which Philadelphia received back will in their entire baseball careers. The Yankees got exactly what they needed and gave up almost exactly nothing. This trade is, from a Red Sox point of view, an absolute killer. I said up above that the Yankees have to be considered the favorites to win the East. I mean big favorites. Possibly prohibitive favorites.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/31/2006




New York5.59(2)4.8(6)0.569(3)584461413





Los Angeles4.92(9)4.71(5)0.52(8)545054500





Tampa Bay4.44(14)5.42(12)0.41(13)436243620

Kansas City4.57(12)5.89(14)0.385(14)40643767-3

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)


New York9765



Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)


New York9567



Standings for the week


Los Angeles8.33(1)5(3)0.718(1)42420



New York6.17(3)5.67(7)0.539(4)33512







Kansas City5.33(9)6(9)0.446(11)33330

Tampa Bay6.17(3)7(14)0.442(12)3324-1



Technorati tags: Pythagorean, deadline, RedSox, Yankees, Abreu, MLB, BlueJays, Boston

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cindy Sheehan - property owner, Crawford, Texas

Cindy Sheehan, the sock puppet for the anti-war left, has purchased, through a third-party who lied to the seller, 5 acres in Crawford, Texas, to be in a position to criticize President Bush during his vacation. Again. And some of the comments make it clear, again, just how divorced from reality Ms. Sheehan is.
"I am very sad it came to this point where we had to buy a permanent home," said Sheehan. "I thought President Bush would have resigned by now."

A fairly typical member of the "reality-based community..."

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Silly season

We have officially entered the silly season.

There are two days left until the Major League Baseball trading deadline. Or, at least, the deadline for trades not involving waiver claims. And the names are flying fast and furious, regardless of whether or not the proposed deals make any sense at all.

Michael Silverman's column in the Herald this morning contains the following "news":
the Red Sox are making two-thirds of their starting outfield - center fielder Coco Crisp and right fielder Trot Nixon - available to other teams...Backup outfielder Wily Mo Pena is also believed to be on the list of players the Red Sox are making available. Included among the starters the Sox might be interested in acquiring are Philadelphia’s Jon Lieber and Cory Lidle, Washington’s Livan Hernandez and Baltimore’s Rodrigo Lopez.

Do I believe that the Red Sox would trade Crisp or Pena or Nixon in the right trade? Yes. Are any of the name's mentioned in the article likely to combine in some fashion to make the right trade? I don't see how. I, personally, wouldn't trade Nixon OR Crisp OR Pena for Lidle OR Lieber OR Hernandez OR Lopez straight up.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quote of the day

The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.
— A.A. Milne (courtesy of The Patriot Post)

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 7/24/2006

So, they come off the all-star break with a bad weekend, the lead disappears, and everyone panics. One 5-2 week later, the lead is back to 2 1/2, and the panic seems...premature.

Losing Wakefield to the DL for a month is a bad thing. Getting Wells back, as may happen this week or next, would be a good thing, if he's ready.

They got very acceptable performances from Gabbard and Snyder in Seattle, but lost 2-3 because of poor hitting (Saturday), bad bullpen work (Sunday) and bad defense (both days). C'est la vie, but those two games were wasted opportunities. You get 5+ innings and 2 runs from Kason Gabbard making his Major League debut, it's a shame to lose that game.

Was anyone else thinking of game 2 of the 2005 season when Varitek homered off of Putz in the top of the 9th? April 5, 2005, the Red Sox trail the Yankees by one until Varitek homers off of Rivera in the top of the 9th to tie it. First batter in the bottom of the 9th homers to end the game. I was thinking about that after Varitek's home run in the 9th to tie it. I was expecting what happened to happen - I don't know why, but that's exactly what I was thinking of, and I just saw it coming.

For all the talk about how we know the Wild Card isn't coming out of the East, the Red Sox and White Sox are tied, with the Yankees only 2 1/2 back...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/24/2006




New York5.55(2)4.75(6)0.571(3)554156401






Los Angeles4.71(11)4.69(4)0.502(9)494950481




Tampa Bay4.33(14)5.32(12)0.407(13)405941581

Kansas City4.52(12)5.89(14)0.381(14)37613464-3

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



New York9567


Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)



New York9468


Standings for the week





Kansas City3.57(13)3(1)0.579(4)4325-2



Los Angeles5(6)5.29(10)0.475(7)34431






Tampa Bay5.57(4)7.14(14)0.388(13)3425-1

New York4(11)5.43(11)0.364(14)34340

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"If I was President..."

Just in case anyone's wondering whether John Kerry has become acquainted with reality recently, he issued a statement yesterday making it clear that he has not.
If I was president, this wouldn't have happened.
- John Kerry, speaking on the current violence in the middle east

It boggles the mind...

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 7/17/2006

Welcome to Red Sox nation, where losing 3 of 4 to anyone at any time is time to panic.

Give. Me. A. Break.

It happens to everyone. It happens to have happened to the Red Sox this weekend. They didn't pitch well, they didn't hit at all, and, as a result, they lost 3 of 4 to a good Oakland team. Life, I assure you, goes on...

Now, to be fair, my perspective isn't influenced by having sat through the games. I was at Karate Camp this weekend, and saw almost none of the baseball after Thursday night. But, just as they weren't as good as they looked during the 12 game win streak, they're not as bad as they looked this weekend.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/17/2006



New York5.67(2)4.7(5)0.586(2)523753361








Los Angeles4.69(11)4.65(4)0.504(10)464546450



Tampa Bay4.24(14)5.18(12)0.409(13)385439531

Kansas City4.59(12)6.11(14)0.372(14)34573259-2

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



New York9666


Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)


New York9666



Standings for the week


Los Angeles6.67(4)2.33(1)0.872(1)30300

New York8.67(1)4(5)0.805(2)21301







Kansas City5.5(5)7(12)0.391(9)2213-1





Tampa Bay2.33(14)6.67(11)0.128(14)03030

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Friday, July 14, 2006

AP's breathless cheerleading...

So, there's another AP-Ipsos poll. And it says, now, in July, 4 months before the election, that the Democrats are leading on the generic congressional ballot question. The AP, being the fine news organization that it is, is, of course, covering this hot news story. In a calm, fair and balanced manner. As their analysis shows.
With less than four months to the midterm elections, the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that Americans by an almost 3-to-1 margin hold the GOP-controlled Congress in low regard and profess a desire to see Democrats wrest control after a dozen years of Republican rule.

Now, maybe, just possibly, they did ask people whether they wanted "to see Democrats wrest control" of the congress. But the poll itself is apparently not yet publicly available, and I'm extremely skeptical. I do believe that they asked fewer than 800 registered voters, and the Democrats led on the generic congressional ballot question. An unbiased news organization would recognize that that fact doesn't come close to justifying the prose with which they began their report.

Let's touch base, briefly, with reality. The Democrats holding a lead in the generic congressional ballot question 4 months before an election is neither unprecedented nor indicative of a likely Democratic takeover of congress. In July of 2004, before the Democratic convention, the Democrats held a 9-10 point lead in the generic congressional ballot question. In November of 2004, in an election that was surely successfully "nationalized," the Republicans won 52% of the two-party vote, and 53% of the seats in the House Of Representatives. In September of 2002, the Democrats still led the Republicans by 5 points on the generic congressional ballot test, 46-41. Results? Republicans take 53% of the congressional vote and 52% of the seats. The Democrats led by 7 points in July of 2000 - the Republicans held the congress. In late August of 1998, the AP found the Democrats up by 6 in a poll of likely voters - the Republicans held the congress.

And veteran political analyst Charlie Cook, less than 2 months before those 2002 mid-term elections, was saying:
It is too early to say for sure that there is atmospheric movement in favor of Democrats, but the argument that such a movement is taking place is getting more and more convincing.

Sound familiar? The fact is, we get wishful thinking like this masquerading as analysis every year, because the generic congressional ballot question virtually always favors Democrats. This may or may not be the year that the Democrats regain control of the House and/or the Senate, but this AP piece isn't providing any particularly compelling evidence in that direction, and it certainly doesn't justify the opening paragraph.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Yankees add Ponson

According to ESPN, the Yankees have signed Sidney Ponson, who was recently cut by St. Louis to make room in their rotation for Jeff Weaver.

My initial reaction is to scoff. Or chortle. This does not bode ill for Boston. But then I stop and think about how I scoffed and chortled at the additions of Chacon and Small last year. Maybe those same aliens are available again to possess big Sid.

But I suspect not...

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TDF - Stage 11 - Discovery disappointed at Pla de Beret

I've never seen the 1972 Robert Redford movie, The Candidate, but its last line is legendary. In the film, Redford plays a young lawyer, recruited to run for the US Senate against an unbeatable incumbent. Except that he turns out not to be unbeatable, and Redford wins. As the movie ends, he's looking at his advisors and wondering, "What do we do now?"

If Johan Bruyneel and the Discovery Channel cycling team hadn't had that conversation yet, they're having it tonight. We were told repeatedly that they had a virtual embarassment of riches, that the only reason they hadn't chosen a leader was because there were so many viable options. Was Hincapie going to succeed his good buddy Lance? Or would it be Paolo Savoldelli who'd fight for the Maillot Jaune? Possibly, it could be Jose Azevedo or Yaroslav Popovych. But today, with those long climbs, we'd certainly see the strength of Discovery. Yes, no one had a great time trial, but today we'd see it happen.

What we saw was Hincapie get dropped on the climb to the Col de Postillon. What we saw was a lead group reach the base of the 5th and final climb of the day with only one Discovery Channel rider attached, and we saw him get dropped fairly early on that climb. There was devastation on the climb to the Pla de Beret, and no one was more devastated than Discovery.

There are teams in the race with sprinters, working to capture sprint points and the green jersey. Discovery isn't one of them. There are teams in the race with climbers, working to capture the polka-dot jersey. Discovery isn't one of them. Discovery is there to win yellow. And that's not going to happen. The team that looked like a machine in support of Armstrong the last couple of years could not do anything today, on an inhumanly brutal mountain stage. Azevedo was the highest placed Discovery rider, 4' 10" behind the stage winners. Popovych finished 6' 25" down. George Hincapie, who spent a day in yellow earlier, who had legitimate aspirations of winning the tour, even after a somewhat disappointing time trial last week, lost 21 minutes, 23 seconds, and any hope of getting back into contention.

So what are they doing for the next 12 days? Presumably, they've got to start hunting for stage wins, because that's all that's available to them. Their highest place GC rider is Azevedo, who, absent Landis crashing, isn't going to make up 7' 27", never mind pass the 16 men between them. In other words, their goal coming in is gone. They've got to find something else to work on, because they aren't going to be able to get what they came for.

The real question is, how much strength and focus and energy are they going to bring to the rest of the race? They're all exhausted tonight, and the exhaustion is compounded significantly, I would think, by the disappointment of finding themselves in their current situation. It'll be very interesting to see how they respond to it...

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Making the right call...

Like baseball managers and umpires, judges tend to get talked about when they screw up. There's a lot of heat generated whenever the Supreme Court screws something up, whenever a judge passes an absurdly lenient sentence, whenever something "wrong" is legal or "right" is illegal. But, on the whole, like baseball managers and umpires, the judiciary probably does a better job than they get credit for. Today, we've got another example of good judgement from the judiciary branch.

About a month ago, the FBI raided the Capitol Hill office of US Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) in the midst of a corruption probe. When this happened, the leaders of Congress for both parties went up in arms about "separation of powers." And the President himself offered a sort of backhanded reprimand to the Justice Department. And there was a lot of hysterical and ridiculous fulminating like this in various corners of the web.

But allegations of executive abuse and overstep are nonsense. The tri-une nature of the Federal Government is supposed to allow for checks and balances. A member of the legislative branch was allegedly using his office to hide evidence of corruption. The Executive branch went to the Judicial branch and got a search warrant. Nothing abusive about that whatsoever. The only way you can consider that an abuse of power is if you subscribe to the theory that the legislative branch, and the individual members, are uncheckable by the other branches, that their space is sovereign and not subject to the laws of the nation. That's clearly nonsense.

And it is recognized as such by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan. Who, in rejecting requests from lawmakers that the material seized in the raid be returned, said:
the lawmakers' "sweeping" theory of legislative privilege "would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime."

Amen. Sing it, brother...

Update: The Baseball Crank has read the decision, and pulled some more excerpts. It is common-sense obvious, a no-brainer.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

WEEI, Manny's Knee and the All Star Game

I listened, off and on, yesterday morning to WEEI's Sunday morning "baseball show" with Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald, Sean Macadam of the Providence Journal and WEEI nighttime host Mike Adams. Adams is very popular with some segments of the population for reasons that don't entirely escape me, though his appeal does. I understand that some people find him amusing. Hell, he clearly finds himself amusing. I'm not sure I've ever listened to anyone who's more entertained by the sound of his own voice, and whether what he's saying has any relation to reality or not seems to interest him not a whit - if he can amuse himself saying something, it will be said. And, of course, Buckley is another who absolutely swoons at the sound of his own voice. Occasionally, Macadam gets a word in, which is generally more intelligible and intelligent than what surrounds it, but on the whole, it really is pretty much of a mess, generating far more heat than light.

As I say, while doing errands, I listened off and on. The topic of the day, with the general WEEI philosophy of extreme attention to irrelevant details, was Manny Ramirez' sore knee, and failure to appear at the All Star game. Let us just say that Manny's injury was treated as a phantom, an excuse for taking 3 days off, and Adams and Buckley, and most of the callers, took great umbrage. Now, just speaking for myself, I couldn't possibly care less. Whether Manny is there has no impact on my watching the game tomorrow, nor, I suspect, anyone else's. In terms of "competitive" issues, it's tough to see how Magglio Ordonez going in place of Manny Ramirez is more damaging to the AL than Mark Redman going instead of Francisco Liriano. For example.

And the callers! My lord, one after another, echoing the hosts back at them! What scintillating radio! Had I been in the car for more than about 5 minutes at a time, I'd no doubt have changed it away. The funniest call comes when the guy says, in the last 15 minutes of the show, "I haven't been listening all morning, so I hope no one else has made these points," and he then proceeds to echo the same thing that Buckley, Adams and 80% of the callers have been saying for 3 hours.

But the big thing that got on my nerves is the assumption that there's nothing wrong with his knee, nothing at all, and that this is a recently made up "injury" simply to get him out of the game. Buckley, in particular, flat-out stated that there was nothing wrong with his knee. Which is what the Fox broadcasters had been saying the previous day (from Will Carroll's Under The Knife report at
The top vote getter is taking a disproportionate amount of heat for missing the game, even getting openly questioned on yesterday’s Fox telecast. Tim McCarver said the worst thing about his knee injury was “remembering which leg to limp with.”

But if the local guys - Buckley - are saying it, then why wouldn't the national guys? McCarver doesn't know anything about the Red Sox. He parachutes in, asks a couple of local guys what's going on, and speaks on TV as if he knows something. People completely ignore the fact that Manny missed time due to that knee at least as long as 6 weeks ago. (Here's a note from USA Today on May 29: "Manny Ramirez, who missed two games with a sore back and knee, is in left field for Monday night's game in Toronto.") And, it seems to me, that there was talk of Manny's knee being sore even earlier than that, but I can't find it.

Anyway, back to Will Carroll:
It’s easy to say that Ramirez is faking an injury, but almost as easy to actually check on the injury. Ramirez is suffering from a small tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee. It’s an injury he can play with, but one that can “grind,” a bone-on-bone situation that is unpredictable and painful. The decision was made a while ago by the Red Sox to keep Manny on the field as much as possible.

I know that's Will Carroll's "gig," his job, to keep track of injury information on all Major League players. But if Will can find out that Manny's got a tear in his right meniscus, how can Steve Buckley go on the Red Sox flagship station and claim that he's not injured?

And if anyone were to point it out to Steve, would we expect an apology? No, what we'd get is something to the effect of "at this point in the season, everyone's got owie's - if he can play for Boston, he could go to Pittsburgh." Which is, I suppose, technically true. The question is, is it a big deal? I don't think so...

Update: I was sure that there were earlier reports of knee problems with Manny. Here's Will Carroll again, Under The Knife on May 11.
Manny Ramirez left Tuesday’s game early, ostensibly to rest a sore knee. The knee has bothered him for a while, swelling slightly and becoming painful when he stands too long. You’ll often see Ramirez moving around in the outfield, or even finding a place to sit down when possible. It’s nothing to worry about, even in the short term, since it isn't affecting other parts of his game. Pulling him from a blowout is just smart resource management on the part of Terry Francona.

With Johnny Damon, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, almost anyone else, we'd be getting regular paeans to his "toughness," to "playing through the pain," to being a "gamer." Not Manny - no, he's a malingerer for taking the All Star Break off...

Update2: I just found Steve's Sunday column - in it, he said, and I quote, "Is he hurt a little? Sure. But it’s July. Everybody has aches and pains."

Nothing - NOTHING - if not predictable...

Technorati tags: Manny Ramirez, Steve Buckley, WEEI, All Star Game

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Monday Pythagorean 7/10/06

The All Star break arrives, and not a moment too soon for the Red Sox. Today would have been a tough day for the team to take the field following the 19 inning grinder in Chicago yesterday. All in all, a productive weekend, though it could have been much better (and much shorter!) had Papelbon retired Jermaine Dye in the 9th inning. The trip to Tampa was ... less productive.

But the break finds the Red Sox 3 up on the Yankees, 5 ahead of Toronto (6 in the loss column).

  • We had a long discussion before the season started about how good this team was or wasn't. There were people (I'll name no names - you know who you are) that felt this had the potential to be an 80-85 win team unless everything went right. To quote myself, "I don't assume that everything will be perfect and they'll win 95. I assume that some things will go better than expected, some will go worse, and they'll win 95-100. It's a very talented group.". Right now, the Red Sox are on a pace to win 100 games despite:

    • Foulke hurt

    • Seanez/Tavarez ineffective

    • Wells/Clement/DiNardo all hurt

    • Crisp injured for 6 weeks, bad for another 6

  • I've seen a lot of criticism of Francona, mostly from the people who always feel the need to criticize Francona, for the fact that Boston didn't appeal Jermaine Dye's failure to re-touch 3rd in the 11th inning of Sunday's game. I think it's hogwash. I still don't understand why Dye was there, and it doesn't surprise me in the least that, with all of the people on the field and all of the movement taking place there, no one realized that he'd performed the unbelievably stupid act of actually rounding 3rd there. I don't remember ever seeing a baserunner do that on a fly ball like that before, and still don't understand what he was doing.

  • The Red Sox, for the week, were 5th in runs/game and 7th in runs allowed/game. Because of yesterday's 19 innings, that's a little misleading. It makes the offense look better, and the pitching look worse, than they should. They played the equivalent of more than 2 entire games yesterday.

  • Coming out of the break, the Red Sox, who are currently 27-10 at home, will get 44 of their last 76 games in Fenway, with only 32 left on the road. New York has 38 left at home and on the road. The Blue Jays have got 35 at home and 39 on the road. From a home/road split point of view, significant advantage Boston...

  • Fun with the Baseball Musings Day By Day Database: Since the 2005 All Star game, David Ortiz leads Major League Baseball with 57 HR. Manny Ramirez is tied with Ryan Howard for 4th, with Giambi and Pujols in between. Of players with 400+ plate appearances, Manny's 5th in OBP at .428. And he's 2nd in SLG at .631, behind Pujols. Because Ortiz has had a half dozen really dramatic hits, I think people are forgetting how good a hitter Manny Ramirez is. The list of players that you could make a strong case for performing better over the past year than Manny Ramirez has two names on it, Albert Pujols and Travis Hafner. That's it.

  • Josh Beckett (18, T-3rd) and Curt Schilling (17, T-9th) are both in the top 10 in wins since last year's All Star Game. They each have a 4.17 ERA, tied for 41st. Red Sox outfielders can expect to continue to have sore necks, as Wakefield (36, T-2nd), Beckett (35, 4th) and Schilling (28, T-18th) are all high on the list of HR allowed since the last All Star break ended.

  • How has the game changed in just the last 20 years? In 1986, there were 14 pitchers with double-digit complete games. There were 37 with 6 or more. Since last year's All Star break, Dontrelle Willis and Aaron Harang lead the Majors. They're tied with ... 5. Tim Wakefield is tied with 3 other pitchers for 2nd, with 4.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/10/2006




New York5.57(4)4.72(5)0.575(3)493750361







Los Angeles4.63(11)4.73(6)0.49(10)434543450



Tampa Bay4.3(14)5.13(12)0.42(13)375239502

Kansas City4.55(12)6.07(14)0.371(14)32553156-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



New York9468


Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)



New York9468


Standings for the week





Kansas City6.43(2)4.86(6)0.625(5)43430



Tampa Bay4.14(10)4.43(4)0.47(8)34431

New York5(7)5.43(10)0.462(9)34431






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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Approaching the All Star Break

And we now know that Boston will have sole possession of the lead in the AL East when it arrives, as they're 3 up with 2 to go. The Blue Jays, who have now lost 3 straight, the last two to Kansas City, are now 7 down in the loss column and looking like less of a threat every day...

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A couple of idle thoughts...

Discussing the North Korean situation with a friend, and the fact that we've been dealing with North Korea for 50+ years now, I decided that it's time for a couple of new bumper stickers.

Old Bumper Sticker: "Give Peace a Chance"
New Bumper Sticker: "Give War A Chance"

Old Bumper Sticker: "War Never Solves Anything"
New Bumper Sticker: "War: It Works Every Time It's Tried"

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Friday, July 07, 2006

At least 2 of them understand free speech

Fantastic point this morning, from The Baseball Crank:
You know, if you compare the roll call votes, only two Senators voted against the flag burning amendment and voted against the free-speech-suppressing McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" bill: Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Robert Bennett. If you are looking for an example of Senators truly and consistently committed to free speech even when it's not popular, that's the whole list right there.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Red Sox - halfway through

The unofficial halfway point of the baseball season follows Sunday's games, as the regular baseball schedule shuts down for 3 days and the All Stars gather in Pittsburgh. The actual halfway point for the Red Sox was reached with the end of Tuesday's game in Tampa, so it's time to take a look at where things stand.

The Division

The Red Sox have been the best team in the AL East through 81 games.

AL East, through 7/4/2006


NY Yankees46350.568426-1720-184473920.5603843



Tampa Bay37470.4414.520-1717-303664320.4254434

The Red Sox have a 4 game lead over the Yankees and Blue Jays. The Orioles and Devil Rays are not division contenders this year. The lead is 4 in the loss column over New York and 5 over Toronto.
  • For much of the first half, the Red Sox had the 2nd or 3rd best Pythagorean in the division. That's no longer true. They've scored more runs and allowed fewer than any other team in the AL East.

  • No other East team has played fewer home games (Tampa has also played 37). Only the Devil Rays have played more on the road. They've been dominant at Fenway (27-10) and have 7 more games left at home than on the road.

The Pace

  • They're on a pace to finish 100-62. If they were to actually do that, it would be the first 100 win season for Boston since they won 104 in 1946. They're also 4 games ahead of where they were last year, when they also played game 81 on the 4th of July.

  • They've scored 900+ runs in each of the last 3 seasons, the only AL team to reach 900 runs scored in that stretch. They're on a pace, this morning, to score 902. There was a lot of concern in the off-season that the offense had been significantly degraded. They're on a pace to score 8 fewer runs than they did last year. They've actually outscored the 2005 team by 2 through 81, 451-449.

  • It was thought that the pitching/defense had been improved in the offseason. And it has. They're on a pace to allow 778 runs, 27 fewer than last year. The 2005 team allowed 403 through 81, this year they've allowed 389.

The Batters

Red Sox, 2006 - Through 81 games

Manny Ramirez 2668323640.3120.4430.6281.071

David Ortiz 3048327520.2730.380.5890.969

Trot Nixon 244816430.3320.4370.4880.925

Kevin Youkilis 2969110500.3070.4130.4860.899

Mike Lowell 293889240.30.3570.4980.855

Mark Loretta 3271023190.3120.3540.3940.748

Jason Varitek 238588310.2440.3280.3950.723

Coco Crisp 161433120.2670.3180.3730.691

Alex Gonzalez 227605140.2640.3090.3790.688

Important reserves

Wily Mo Pena 112364100.3210.370.4820.852

Alex Cora 91270100.2970.390.3520.742

Doug Mirabelli 558140.1450.2170.2550.472

Spare parts

Gabe Kapler 2710200.370.370.631

Josh Bard 185030.2780.3810.3330.714

Dustan Mohr 407230.1750.2330.350.583

J.T. Snow 449080.2050.340.2050.545

Willie Harris 447040.1590.2550.2050.46

Adam Stern 203000.

There's actually a pretty sharp, bright dividing line on that list of regulars. Ramirez-Lowell have all been good-to-great, both overall and against expectations. Loretta's been mediocre. Varitek-Gonzalez have been bad.

  • Manny started slowly again. Not to worry - he's been awesome. He's well above his already awesome career averages, and on a pace for 46 HR, which would be a new career high. He's also been one of their most consistent performers, and has played almost every day. Manny Ramirez is in the middle of an MVP-caliber season.

  • David Ortiz has, again, had some very dramatic hits. He has also, again, gotten all of the credit for "clutchness" even when his hits haven't been the most clutch. They trail Philadelphia in the bottom of the 12th with 2 out and Kevin Youkilis drives in the tying run. Loretta walks, Ortiz singles, the team wins, and the paeans to St. David the Clutch rise again. But his wasn't the big clutch hit - Youkilis' was. If Youkilis makes an out, they lose. If Ortiz makes an out, they keep playing. David's been very good so far, though not as good as last year, and nowhere near as good as Manny. People think so because he's had 4 very dramatic late-inning hits.

  • Nixon - excellent. While we'd love to see a few more HR, the OBP is outstanding, as is the consistent production.

  • Youkilis has done what many of us expected him to do. Start every day, hit .300, draw walks, hit some doubles, draw walks, hit some HR and grind on pitchers. His defense has been sure-handed and smooth, better than many people expected. Kevin Youkilis is a very valuable Major League player, and should be for the next 10 years.

  • Mike Lowell has come back from a dismal 2005 and done everything that the Red Sox could have expected from him, and more. The defense has been as good as advertised, the offense has been much more than people expected.

  • The rest of the starting lineup has not been good. Loretta's hitting .312 and going to the All Star game. But it's an empty .312, not much in the way of patience or power. The .354 OBP is not bad, but not what I'd like to see.

  • Varitek's struggling. Coco Crisp has a little bit of an excuse in that he missed 6 weeks with a broken finger, but he's been an enormous disappointment, at least at the plate. Alex Gonzalez has been, with the exception of two hot weeks, abysmal. For 2 weeks in June, he was excellent offensively, and the team, not coincidentally, had their longest winning streak in years.

  • Wily Mo Pena was a more than adequate fill-in for Crisp before he got hurt. Alex Cora continues to demonstrate that there's no reason to think that Alex Gonzalez should be the everyday shortstop. And Mirabelli's been dreadful. Horrible. Awful. Almost inconceivably bad. I hated the Bard for Mirabelli trade, but didn't think that there was any way that Doug would be this bad.

  • Gabe Kapler's come back and done an outstanding job. His biggest contribution has been keeping Willie Harris off the field during key moments. Stern may have a future, but is clearly not ready yet. Snow was signed to do a job that, as it turned out, didn't need doing.

The Pitchers

Red Sox pitching through 7/4/2006

Jonathan Lester 530026.3324992172739.233.08

Curt Schilling 181030121.331194949181410928.093.63

Tim Wakefield 17680110.6799554811377566.13.9

Josh Beckett 17104010490585323348867.624.59

Kyle Snyder 11005433206010.85.4

Matt Clement 1255065.337750488384365.926.61

Lenny Dinardo 712025.334021204121515.337.11

David Pauley 302016311414161025.627.88

David Wells 20108.33158841101.088.64

Jason Johnson 1010465502224.511.25


Jonathan Papelbon 37212541.672222174219.070.43

Mike Timlin 3140128.3330108181705.42.54

David Riske 80109.6784423524.663.72

Manuel Delcarmen 1910019.6723119171707.784.12

Javier Lopez 90006.3333314314.264.26

Rudy Seanez 302003134201751436110.454.94

Craig Hansen 71006.6784411516.755.4

Julian Tavarez 3412139.334426247182645.955.49

Keith Foulke 2921032352020642316.475.62

Jermaine Van Buren 710010.3381/9/190010012403.488.71

Abe Alvarez 1000351/3/190042220612

Mike Holtz 30001.6731/2/19003042110.816.2

  • Curt Schilling has been very good. He's been the Curt Schilling that we didn't get to see last year because of the ankle injury. Jon Lester has been very successful, but he's put too many runners on base to continue to succeed. Josh Beckett's been dominating at times, but has had real trouble keeping the ball in the park. Wakefield has been, for the most part, the good Wakefield.

  • Beyond those 4, the starting's been iffy. Wells came back, got shelled, started to look better, got hit and left again. Clement had a couple of good performances, a few bad ones, and went out with an injury. David Pauley pitched well in 1 of his 3 startes, Kyle Snyder gave them one good start and didn't get another chance, and Jason Johnson gave them one bad start, and apparently will get another chance. Lenny DiNardo had a couple of pretty good starts, a couple of pretty bad starts, and one that was so-so. Then he got hurt (and that may have caused one of the bad starts.)

  • On the whole, the starting pitching has been OK. Pretty good, at times, struggling at others, but good enough. They've had to dig a little deeper than one suspects that they expected to. I don't think anyone is surprised by Wells being injured, but it was not a given that he'd only make 2 starts. Clement pitched worse than expected then got hurt. The first option to replace on them had become firmly entrenched in the bullpen. The next option made a few starts and got hurt. After the first 3 starters, they've had bad luck, but it still, on the whole, hasn't been too bad.

  • The bullpen has been could-have-been-a-disaster-ous, with disaster being prevented by the presence of young Mr. Papelbon. Papelbon has simply been the best pitcher in baseball for the first half of the year, and when the Red Sox have led late, they've won. The gap between the starter and Papelbon has been filled inconsistently. Foulke had a very effective stretch, then got hurt, ineffective and disabled. Timlin was effective, then disabled, then inconsistent. Seanez was bad, then good, then bad again. Tavarez has been disappointing. Delcarmen and Hansen have both shown signs of having the potential for being effective, but neither has been consistently effective yet. It's been iffy to go to the 'pen. But because of Papelbon, they've actually been pretty effective at protecting leads.

The Defense

People have raved about the Red Sox defense, with good reason. They've committed far and away the fewest errors in baseball. They recently came off a Major League record streak of 17 consecutive errorless games. Alex Gonzalez has set a new Red Sox record for consecutive errorless games by a SS. They have basically handled everything that they've gotten to, and there have been more than a few spectacular plays along the way.

All that said, it's not clear that the defense has been great. It has unquesionably been sure-handed, and it has sure looked good. I don't know whether it's been good or great. According to the Baseball Prospectus defensive efficiency ratings, the Red Sox are currently 7th in the AL. According to my calculations of Batting Average on Balls In Play, the Red Sox are currently ... 7th in the AL. That means that, when a batter puts a ball in play in the park, there are 6 AL teams that have been more likely to turn that batted ball into an out than the Red Sox, and 7 teams less likely.

Now, I'm willing to concede that some of that might be the ballpark. The left field wall at Fenway Park takes balls that would be HR (which wouldn't count as a hit for BABiP purposes) and turns them into singles (which do.) It also takes balls that would be outs in other parks and turns them into double and singles.

In any event, I'm not certain that the defense is, or has been, as good as people are thinking. But there's no doubt that it's been sure-handed, and it is certainly good enough.

Looking forward

There are more home games than road games remaining. That's a good thing. They haven't been to the west coast yet, so they still have that to look forward to. They've got games left with Chicago, who's tough, and Kansas City, who is not. They still have a bunch of head-to-head with New York and Toronto.

It is likely that the winner of the East is the only team from the East that goes to the play-off this year. The Red Sox are best positioned to be that team. It is by no means a foregone conclusion, and there's a lot of work left to do, but the Red Sox looked, before the season started, to be the best team in the east, and they still look that way today. I said back in March, in a pre-season "dialectic", that
I don't assume that everything will be perfect and they'll win 95. I assume that some things will go better than expected, some will go worse, and they'll win 95-100. It's a very talented group...Rosy scenario, for a team with this talent level, is 1998 Yankees or 2001 Seattle Mariners, 114-116 wins. I'm not predicting that. Just that the expected scenario for this team, with this talent level, is somewhere in the mid-to-high 90s in wins, with another playoff appearance.

I think that sums it up pretty well...

Update: This morning, Chris Lynch is looking at the first half, too, with more of a global MLB view.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

America - happy 175th!!


My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim's pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love.
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture fills
Like that above. My country, sweet land of liberty

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song.
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our father's God to, Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

- Samuel Francis Smith

We sang that in church Sunday morning. It was appropriate. It was two days shy of the 175th anniversary of its first presentation, July 4th, 1831. And that debut took place exactly where we sang it on Sunday, as it was first performed at Park Street Church by the sunday school...

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Lying with facts

Whilst wandering around the web today, I stumbled across this post from Tree Hugger talking about global warming. I just want to address 1 little part of it.
Facts: Every year since 1917 has been warmer than 1917.

That's the kind of thing you say when you're trying to make a case for something that isn't true. Or if you want to make a case for something that may be true, but the evidence is ambiguous. It's an attempt to make a fact sound suspicious and/or meaningful. Let's assume that it is, in fact, true, and try to look at what it means. Another way of putting that would be this - "the coldest year of the last 90 was 1917." That's all it means.

And the real fact is this - one of those 90 years has, by definition, to be the coldest in the data set. Whether the globe is getting warmer or colder, take any 90 year stretch, and one will be the coldest. Take any stretch of any number of years, and one will be the coldest. So you look at the last 100, 200 years, figure out which one was the coldest and set the data set to start from there. Is 1917 the coldest year of the last 90? Apparently. Of the last 100? 150? 200? I don't know. For all we know, it was the coldest of the last 500, and the 90 year range was cherry-picked so it could be expressed in exactly the way it was expressed, cherry-picked and presented to seem meaningful.

So, in the last 90, the coldest year was 1917. Period. That fact has no probative value whatsoever in determining whether the planet is warming, and leading off with that kind of a fact almost defeats the argument before it even gets started. You look at that and wonder "where's the real evidence, and why is the argument starting with this sleight of hand?"

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Monday Pythagorean 7/3/06

The Red Sox and Twins each went 16-2 in interleague play to match the 2002 A's for the best single-season interleague record. The Red Sox have been on a tremendous role, taking 1 from Philadelphia and 3 from the Mets this week to complete a 9-0 homestand. And following a slight bump when they lost the first game in Florida, they came back with two more wins.

  • The Yankees went 4-2 and lost 1 1/2 to the AL East leader on the week.

  • The Blue Jays remain 5 back, 6 in the loss column. They've gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and lost ground.

  • The Red Sox are 2 games away from the halfway point of their season.

  • 4 in Tampa Bay, 3 in Chicago leading into the All Star break. Boston's already played 42 road games vs. only 37 at home. Since they finish the "first half" with 7 more on the road, they'll come out of the break with 44 of their last 76 at home, where they're current sporting a 27-10 record. And they'll go into the All Star break with Schilling and Beckett pitching 4 of their 7 games on the week. They've got an excellent opportunity to increase their lead over the Yankees this week.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/3/2006




New York5.62(3)4.66(6)0.585(3)463346330








Los Angeles4.49(11)4.89(9)0.462(11)374437440


Tampa Bay4.32(14)5.2(12)0.416(13)344835471

Kansas City4.39(13)6.18(14)0.349(14)28522753-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



New York9468


Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)



New York9567


Standings for the week








New York5.33(9)4.17(4)0.611(7)42420


Tampa Bay4.67(11)4.67(7)0.5(9)3324-1


Kansas City6.33(6)7(14)0.454(11)33330

Los Angeles4.17(12)5(10)0.417(12)33330



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Tour de France, stage 1

Hey, big congratulations are in order for George Hincapie, who will wear the maillot jaune for the second stage. He picked up a 2-second time bonus on an intermediate sprint shortly before the end of the first stage that allowed him to pass Thor Hushovd, the sprinter who had beaten him by less than a second in the prologue time trial. Because of that, Hincapie, who has spent the last 7 grueling tours as one of Lance Armstrong's key domestiques, takes the overall lead of the Tour de France and the yellow jersey that goes with that, the first yellow jersey of his cycling career. Even if the lead doesn't last, he's got a yellow jersey of his own now, that he gets to keep forever...

Technorati tags: Hincapie, Tour de France, Tour, Maillot Jaune

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Today's global warming piece

Excellent piece yesterday at the Wall Street Journal website by Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. The topic was global warming, and, more specifically, the repeated allegations that there's "consensus" in the scientific community.

Mr. Lindzen takes exception to the claims of Al Gore and the eco-alarmists that there's unanimity in the scientific community on a specific point - that human activity is responsible for global warming, and that it needs to be addressed now before we reach an environmental apocalypse.
Is there really a scientific community that is debating all these issues and then somehow agreeing in unison? Far from such a thing being over, it has never been clear to me what this "debate" actually is in the first place.

The media rarely help, of course. [emphasis mine - LB] When Newsweek featured global warming in a 1988 issue, it was claimed that all scientists agreed. Periodically thereafter it was revealed that although there had been lingering doubts beforehand, now all scientists did indeed agree. Even Mr. Gore qualified his statement on ABC only a few minutes after he made it, clarifying things in an important way. When Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted Mr. Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr. Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists "don't have any models that give them a high level of confidence" one way or the other and went on to claim--in his defense--that scientists "don't know...They just don't know."

So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the "consensus." Yet their research is forced, whether the evidence supports it or not, into Mr. Gore's preferred global-warming template--namely, shrill alarmism.

So, the environmental alarmists keep telling us that there's no debate. The media is relentless in conveying the impression that global warming exists, is caused by human behavior, human behavior needs to be changed, and that the scientific community is entirely monolithic in maintaining those positions. The first of those points is likely, the 2nd and 3rd are speculation at best, and the last is poppycock.

There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system. Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected. Given that we do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change, this task is currently impossible. Nevertheless there has been a persistent effort to suggest otherwise, and with surprising impact.

It's another really good piece on the topic, from yet another knowledgeable scientist who's not a member of Al Gore's "consensus..."

Technorati tags: Global Warming, Al Gore, Lindzen, Wall Street Journal

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