Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is the Red Sox offense under-performing?

One of the things floating about in the currently rarefied air of Red Sox Nation is the notion of the offense improving when "everyone starts hitting." Even the invaluable David Pinto gets into the act this morning: "When Manny and Drew start hitting, I expect the team to get better."

Here's the thing - if you look at what they've done as a team, I really don't think that there's a lot more to expect. I think that they'll score a little more than they have so far, but not a lot. They're on a pace right now to score 877 runs. How many more do people really expect?

And while there are players (Ramirez, Drew) who are going to heat up, there are others (Lowell, Youkilis) who are going to cool down. Let's try this little experiment.

Ramirez, Lowell (2007): .296/.368/.501/.870
Ramirez, Lowell (2006): .300/.386/.538/.924

So maybe you can reasonably expect a little bit more from that tandem. On the other hand, they are both in their mid-30s, now, so between the two, there's really not been a big drop from what can reasonably be projected.

Youkilis, Drew (2007): .302/.397/.462/.859
Youkilis, Drew (2006): .281/.386/.461/.847

Right on line with last year.

Varitek, Pedroia, Lugo (2007): .260/.339/.395/.734

Not enough from Pedroia to make this comparison profitable, but this is an upgrade over last year's catcher/middle-infielder triumvirate, which hit .264/.327/.381/.708. Lugo's been bad so far, but Pedroia's got good numbers, and Varitek's hit better than I expected.

Now, Crisp has been bad in CF, and one can certainly hope for more on that front. Ramirez will improve his numbers, as will Drew, but I think that Lowell and Varitek probably both drop. And while Kevin Youkilis is, I think, establishing a new level of production, and hitting the way some of us always expected him to, he probably can't maintain his current level, certainly not what he's done the past couple of week. All things considered, I still expect them to score 880-900, which is not dramatically more than the pace that they're currently on.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 5/28/2007

Two out of three is a 108 win pace in a 162 games season. The Red Sox have maintained that pace pretty consistently since week 1. I still don't expect them to win 110-112, but the pace that they need to maintain to get to 100 wins drops every week...

  • This cannot continue forever, but for seven consecutive Monday's, Boston has improved its standings relative to the division lead. After one week of play, they were 3-3 and half a game back. After two weeks, they were tied for the division lead. They took the lead in week three, and have improved it every week since.

  • The Red Sox really only needed one of three in New York, while the Yankees needed a sweep. Boston got the one that it needed, but there was still an attitude in NY that, "now they're starting to move." The lead was down to 9 1/2. The last three days have put a signficant damper on that. The Yankees are further behind this morning than they've been all year, further behind than they've been in at least 12 years.

  • I don't know how many teams have had leads of 11 1/2 or more in the division and not gone on to win it. I'm thinking that it's probably not many. Which doesn't mean that this is over. It isn't, and you won't hear me say that it is. (Not this week, anyway.) But something unusual and unexpected has to happen for Boston not to win the East. No other team in that division is going to play well enough to make up its deficit - Boston will have to play much, much worse. Which means injuries.

  • Why am I still focused on the Yankees, when they're behind Baltimore and Toronto? Beyond the fact that they are the Yankees, I still believe them to be the 2nd best team in the division. Baltimore's not going to win 90 games. Toronto's not going to win 90 games. I still think that the Yankees could.

  • That said, this could be the year that they don't. Damon's breaking down, Giambi's breaking down, Abreu's breaking down, Rivera may be breaking down, Mussina's 38, Posada is 35, they don't have a bench. Things have gone badly for them so far, but aside from Wang's and Hughes' hamstring pulls, nothing that isn't at least understandable. The offensive level is a big issue. This was supposed to be an offensive monster, but they're on a pace to score "only" 857 runs, 4th in the AL. That's not going to get it done. They're on a pace to win 71 games (83 if they win at their Pythagorean pace the rest of the way.) I don't think that happens, but...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/28/2007




Los Angeles4.61(8)3.9(3)0.575(3)292231202



New York5.29(4)4.77(9)0.547(6)26222127-5







Tampa Bay4.67(7)6.02(14)0.386(13)192920281

Kansas City4.08(14)5.35(12)0.378(14)193219320

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)


Los Angeles9864



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


Los Angeles9567



Standings for the week









Tampa Bay6.2(2)6.4(12)0.485(8)23230


New York4.5(11)4.83(4)0.467(9)3324-1

Los Angeles5(10)5.5(9)0.457(11)33421



Kansas City4.17(13)7.67(14)0.247(14)15241

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lottery dreams shattered

In 1996-1997, the Boston Celtics were awful. They went into the NBA's draft lottery with their own first round pick and Dallas', with the best odds of getting the number one pick, which everyone knew would be Tim Duncan. The worst case for Boston in that lottery was picking 3rd and 6th.

They picked 3rd and 6th.

In 2006-2007, the Celtics were awful. A young team, their best player, Paul Pierce, missed 35 games, and the Celtics finished with the 2nd-worst record in the NBA, with 2 potential franchise players in the draft. The worst case for Boston would be the 5th pick.

They'll be picking 5th.

Whatever luck this team had left when Len Bias died, and it hasn't been back.

That said, there may be time for discussion about the NBA draft lottery procedure. There may be a legitimate complaint that the current system fails to accomplish the actual purpose of a draft, which is that the worst teams get the first crack at the best players, for purposes of competitive balance. But this morning isn't the time for that discussion, which was taking place during my brief listen to WEEI. There will come a time for that discussion, but this morning, it's just whining, and extremely unappealing. The Celtics will be picking 5th. There will be a very good NBA player, possibly a great NBA player, who will be picked 5th or lower. The Celtics job is to find that player.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 5/21

3-1 against one of the best teams in the AL. 2-1 against one of the best teams in the NL. During a week that featured two rain outs, two double-headers and two starts by minor leaguers because of the Beckett injury. That's another very good week.

  • There's a debate raging in the Boston media (OK, among the nimrod WEEI hosts) about whether the division race is over yet. Of course it's not. Historical examples of teams coming from that far back are just not as rare as we'd like them to be. Everyone remembers 1978. The Red Sox made up a 9 game deficit in 3 weeks in 1988 (passing 5 teams in the process). Just 3 years ago, 2004, the Yankees had a 10 1/2 game lead in the East on August 14 and saw it cut to 2 1/2 three weeks later on September 4. They held on, but everyone thought it was over in early August, and no one thought it was over in early September.

  • Does that mean that I don't think that Boston will win the east? No, it doesn't. Are the Red Sox an excellent bet to win the AL East right now? They sure are. But what if Schilling and Matsuzaka join Beckett on the DL next week? It's never over until it's over (ask the 2004 Yankees about that) and this isn't over, and won't be for a while. The Yankees have got too much talent to continue to flounder this way.

  • Let me clarify that last statement. The Yankees have got too much talent if everyone plays the way they've played in the past. Is this the year that Damon, Giambi and Abreu all get old? Is this the year that Mariano isn't Mariano anymore? Was Cano a fluke - have teams figured something out about how to deal with him? None of those are unreasonable questions. If Boston outscores NY, as they've done thus far, the Red Sox win the division easily, going away. The Yankees figured to be a dominant offensive team - if they're not, all bets are off. If they are, they're competitive, and win 90+.

  • Even if the Yankees win 90+, the Red Sox are, right now, a good bet to win 100+. They've played at a 113-win pace thus far (and it's a legitimate 113-win pace, not a fluky, lucky 113-win pace) and they just need to go 70-49, a 95-win pace, the rest of the way to reach 100. I thought that they were better than a 95 win team before the season started, but that's all that they've got to do to reach 100. I think that the Yankees will win a lot of games, but I don't think that they'll reach 100.

  • Boston is currently on a pace to score 875 runs and allow 588. Those would be outstanding totals.

  • There's been some talk about "what will it look like when Manny starts to hit!" To temper that a little bit, let me suggest that Mike Lowell cannot sustain his current levels. Cora's over his head. Varitek won't maintain a .377 OBP, though it wouldn't surprise me if his SLG finished up slightly higher than his current .415. They can expect more from Manny and Crisp and Lugo, I think. On the whole, the offense has been pretty close to what I expect it to be. I expected around 900 runs, and run-scoring is down across the board. I don't expect a lot more than what we've seen so far.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/21/2007




Los Angeles4.56(6)3.69(3)0.595(3)271827180



New York5.4(3)4.76(9)0.558(6)23191923-4







Kansas City4.07(13)5.04(12)0.403(13)18271728-1

Tampa Bay4.49(9)5.98(14)0.372(14)162718252

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



Los Angeles9765


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

Los Angeles9765




Standings for the week


Los Angeles5.86(2)2.86(2)0.788(1)61610



Kansas City5.14(6)3.71(4)0.645(4)52520




New York4.5(11)4.17(7)0.535(8)3324-1


Tampa Bay5.33(5)6(14)0.446(10)33330





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Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 5/14/2007

Another outstanding week for the Olde Towne Team, putting up a 5-1, while leading the league in runs/game and runs allowed/game.

  • For all the talk about the Yankee offense, how it's the best in the game, far and away better than anyone else's, the Yankees have outscored the Red Sox and Tigers by 2 runs through 36 games. The Boston Red Sox lead the AL in OBP, and are second to Detroit in SLG. Ahead of the Yankees in each of those categories. Boston has the best OPS in the league, the only team over .800. Reports of Boston's offensive demise may have been exaggerated...

  • Last week, I noted that the Red Sox were on pace to score 810 runs, and said that "I'd be willing to bet that they eventually finish with over 870." As of this morning, they're on a pace to score 891 runs.

  • One of the things I love about an 8 game lead on a Monday morning is this - when I sit down next Monday to do the Pythagorean report, I already know that Boston, whatever happens this week, will still be in first place.

  • The Josh Beckett thing is disappointing, but if it was going to happen, this isn't an awful time. They've got the offense starting to warm up, and they've got an 8-game lead. If Beckett has to miss one or two starts, they're well-positioned to survive that.

  • This weekend's Baltimore series ended up being fairly bullpen-dependent. The Orioles' starting pitching was better than Boston's, but the Red Sox bullpen held the Orioles to 4 runs (3 earned) in 12 2/3 IP. The Orioles bullpen, on the other hand, allowed 15 runs (14 earned) in only 8 IP. The Red Sox had more than 3 runners per inning reach base via hit or walk (and a couple more on errors.) Even the Friday night loss featured an effective, grinding offense, one that was just a couple of timely hits (and a couple of good Baltimore defensive plays) from yet another big run-scoring performance. They're really starting to grind and wear down the opposition now. They saw a lot of pitches this week from both the Blue Jay and Oriole pitching staffs.

  • Big series coming up this week, as the Tigers have been just about as hot as Boston for the past couple of weeks, at least record-wise. Their pitching hasn't been anywhere near as good. But they represent better competition than the Sox saw this week. And neither Schilling nor Beckett will face them.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/14/2007




New York5.56(1)4.86(8)0.561(3)20161719-3


Los Angeles4.32(12)3.84(3)0.553(5)211721170








Kansas City3.87(13)5.29(12)0.361(13)14241226-2

Tampa Bay4.35(11)5.97(14)0.359(14)132415222

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



Los Angeles9072


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



Los Angeles9072


Standings for the week




Los Angeles5(7)3.33(1)0.677(3)42420




New York3.71(11)4(4)0.466(7)34340





Kansas City3.83(10)5.5(10)0.341(12)24240

Tampa Bay2.67(13)5.17(8)0.23(13)15150


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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Another sign that it's still early...

I noted on Monday that the Red Sox were on a pace to score 810 runs for the season. After scoring 9 in each of the last two, they're now on a pace to score 850...

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WEEI lies about Schilling

WEEI's The Big Show, primarily Glenn Ordway, hammered Curt Schilling yesterday. They hammered him for apologizing for his Barry Bonds comments, because WEEI is basically an all-steroids, Barry-Bonds-is-the-devil, all-the-time station right now. And they hammered on him for commenting that the 8:30 AM interview with Dennis and Callahan might not be the greatest format for him to be making inflammatory comments. All of which is fine, I suppose, if you're into that sort of thing. But they took a piece of his Tuesday appearance absolutely out of context, and validated the opinions of every athlete who ever hated the media.

Yesterday he mentioned the interview in his apology.
I’d love to tell you I was ambushed, misquoted, misinterpreted, something other than what it was, but I wasn’t. I’m thinking that waking up at 8:30 am to do the weekly interview we do with WEEI is probably not the greatest format and if you heard the interview it’s not hard to realize that I’m usually awake about 30-45 seconds before it begins.

During his Tuesday appearance, Schilling was asked about, and talked about, his blog, and how it enabled him to correct mis-impressions that press coverage created. In the process of doing so, he said:
This blog has allowed me to just about disappear from having to do anything other than my post-game media and this radio show, which is, this is absolute heaven for me.

Ordway played that clip, and hammered Schilling for inconsistency, basically saying that Schilling was talking about the radio appearance being heaven on Tuesday, and then deriding it on Wednesday. The problem is, that was clearly not what he did. Even in the clip that they played on the Big Show, it sounded like they were mis-representing it. If you listen to the whole thing, there's just no question whatsoever about it. He didn't say or imply that the radio show was heaven, but that the blog allowing him not to do any media was heaven. If you listen to the whole thing, there is no other interpretation to put on it.

I didn't listen long, and don't know whether anyone tried to set Ordway straight or not. I suspect not, and I suspect that even if someone had, it wouldn't have worked. But the Big Show is a noise machine, and they generated lots of it yesterday. A little bit goes a long, long way, but that was exceptionally dishonest yesterday afternoon, even for them...

(You can listen to Schilling's Tuesday appearance here. The relevant quote comes about 10:35 in. As I say, if you hear it in context, it really bears only one interpretation, and it isn't the one that Ordway used...)

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Monday, May 07, 2007

News from the Middle East

It's funny 'cause it's true...

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Monday Pythagorean - 5/7/2007

1-1 vs. Oakland. 1-0 vs. Seattle. And 2-1 vs. Minnesota, in the Metrodome where they haven't won a series in 7 years. Any 4-2 week is a good week. Period.

  • It's scary how close that was to a 6-0 week. Tuesday's loss was a win until Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save of they year. Saturday's loss featured Julian Tavarez outpitching Johan Santana, but the Red Sox failing to get a hit in 4-5 different spots that would have given them a lead.

  • The opening at CNNSI this morning talks about Roger Clemens possibly being the guy to "rescue the floundering pinstripers." It's apparently escaped their attention that New York is 5-1 in their last six. They're 5 1/2 games back at the moment, which is 1 game closer to the Red Sox than they were on this date two years ago, another season in which the Yankees won the east. They're only 5 back in the loss column, as opposed to the 7 that they were behind on this date in 2005. The Yankees also have the 3rd-best Pythagorean winning percentage in the AL, and the 2nd best run differential. In other words, reports of their demise are overstated and premature. To say the least.

  • The Red Sox have Toronto and Baltimore this week, the Yankees have Texas and Seattle. It wouldn't be surprising if they were closer than 5 1/2 a week from now. (Yes, those four teams all have similar records right now. Peripherals suggest that the two in the East are significantly better than the two in the West...)

  • And the fact is that Clemens is unlikely to address what has been the Yankees biggest concern. Their biggest problem has not been that starters have been horrible, but that they've pitched short, resulting in over-worked (and horrible) bullpen pitchers. Clemens is unlikely to go more than six innings very often, meaning that there are still a lot of bullpen innings.

  • The Red Sox apparently were willing to spend a lot of money on Clemens, as well. I'd love to have seen him back for the storyline, but I'm skeptical that he has much of an impact on this race.

  • There was talk on the pre-game show yesterday about stranded runners, and once again, people are looking at runners left on base as indicative of an offensive problem. The reason that they're leaving runners on is because they're getting runners on. They're currently 2nd in the AL in OBP, just behind the Yankees. And they've gotten above-expected performance from no one other than backups Alex Cora and Doug Mirabelli, and significantly less than expected from Ramirez, Drew, Lugo and Crisp, and slightly less than expected from Youkilis, Varitek and Pedroia. They're on a pace to score 810 runs - I'd be willing to bet that they eventually finish with over 870.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/7/2007




New York6(1)5.07(10)0.577(3)17121415-3




Los Angeles4.19(11)3.94(4)0.528(7)171517150






Tampa Bay4.68(6)6.13(14)0.379(13)121914172

Kansas City3.88(13)5.25(11)0.365(14)12201022-2

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



Los Angeles8676


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



New York9171


Standings for the week


New York7.17(1)3.67(5)0.773(1)51510






Los Angeles3.43(12)3.57(3)0.481(7)34340





Tampa Bay3.17(13)4.67(9)0.33(12)24331

Kansas City3.71(10)5.57(12)0.323(13)25250


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Quote of the day

Mark Steyn, (in The Corner), responding to the comment from an emeritus professor of family planning at University College, London, that "the greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child."
In those terms, surely the greatest thing everyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to reduce his carbon footprint to zero by killing himself. The United Kingdom's present fertility rate is not three children or even two but 1.6 or 1.7, and the British will be extinct long before the polar bear. And when the self-loathing westerners are gone how many Yemeni imams will want to man the late shift at the local Greenpeace office?

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Quote of the day

Perspective, from Mark Krikorian, in The Corner:
The head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is complaining about Nigerian Anglican bishops coming to Virginia this weekend to formally install the head of the conservative breakaway denomination in this country. Here's what she said: "Such action would violate the ancient customs of the church."

The female head of a church with a practicing homosexual bishop planning to "marry" his lover, a church that could accept into seminary the adulterous homosexual governor of New Jersey, a church that embraces splitting open babies' skulls and vacuuming their brains out, is complaining about violating ancient customs? Wow.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My favorite book

Over in The Corner, John Podhoretz and John Derbyshire and Rick Brookhiser have been discussing the question "what's your favorite book" and asking it of presidential candidates.

My problem with the whole "what's your favorite book" question is that a real reader doesn't have one. If you love to read, you've had a thousand favorite books, because every great book you've read was your favorite while you were reading it. Did I love Les Miserables more than David Copperfield? A Tale of Two Cities more than Prince Caspian? Any Nero Wolfe more than any Brother Cadfael? Summer Lightning or The Code of the Woosters more than Atlas Shrugged or The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant? Witness more than The Grapes of Wrath or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Each of those (and each of 200 others) has been my favorite at one time or another. It's a pointless and un-answerable question...

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