Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"na na na na, na na na na, Leader! Leader!"

Still looking for reasons to vote against the Anointed One? Toss this on the pile...

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Bigger, stronger and scarier?

Well, we've got a masterpiece of hyperbole, ignorance, misinformation, fear-mongering and strawmen from Tony Massarotti in his blog for the Globe this morning. Did this run in the paper? I assume so, but I haven't seen one, so I cannot say for sure. In any event, there are numerous tidbits that fall somewhat short of intellectually satisfying.

In the final days of July 2008, the baseball landscape was decisively altered. That was when Mark Teixeira went to Los Angeles. That was when Manny Ramirez left Boston. That was when the Angels and Red Sox all but swapped identities and philosophies.

What were those identities before? What are they now? How did those trades "all but swap" them? There are, of course, no answers to these questions. The Angels added a great hitter, the Red Sox traded a great hitter for a very good one. I don't see how this indicates, in any way, that they have "swapped identities and philosophies," and I don't see Tony clarifying.

So now here we are, on the eve of October, and let there be no doubt: The Los Angeles Angels are the team to beat in the American League.

For the Red Sox, they certainly are. For Minnesota or Chicago, Tampa is the team to beat. For Los Angeles, Boston is the team to beat. At least right now.

They won 100 games this season while finishing with a winning percentage of .585 or better against the AL East, Central, and West; during the second half of the season, the Angels hit more home runs and scored more runs (albeit in two more games) than the Red Sox did.

Did they? Really?

Let's see...

Well, look at that. They did, in fact, outscore the Red Sox after the All Star break. But, as he acknowledged, the Red Sox played fewer games. And did, on a per game basis, outscore the Angels.

And that's not even relevant to his thesis. His thesis was that the two teams "swapped identities" after the trade. So what happened after the Angels acquired Texeira?



Red Sox vs. Angels - stats after July 29

WL%RRAR/GRA/GAVGOBPSLGOPS

Boston34190.6423072385.7924.491.283.367.460.826

LAA34220.6072852605.0894.643.281.344.438.782


Hmmm...

Along the way, the delicate balance of power shifted from the east to the west.

And again I say, "Hmmm..."

If you're anything like me, you'll search long and hard in that data for evidence of this shift in the "delicate balance of power." Since the Texeira and Ramirez trades, the Red Sox have scored more runs than the Angels in fewer games, with fewer runs allowed per game, and posted a better record. They've hit for a better average, and done a better job reaching base and hitting for power.

And again I say, "Hmmm..."

"They're the best team we've faced," one Red Sox official said of the Angels.

Oh, well that settles that. I mean, you never, ever, ever hear a team official say that about an upcoming playoff opponent, so it must be true.

Those words were uttered months ago, before the Angels added a slugger and the Red Sox lost one, a proverbial two-game swing that resulted in a familiar Hollywood script. From "Freaky Friday'' to ""Trading Places" to ""Like Father, Like Son,'' the storyline is generally the same. The principals swap bodies and/or identities, and each gets to experience life on the other side.

This would read a lot less idiotic if there were any evidence that anything of the sort had actually happened. If we go back and (I know, it's not really fair to Tony, because it ruins his whole story) look at the numbers, we'll see that LAA was six games ahead of Boston when Texeira arrived, seven games ahead of Boston when Manny left, and five games ahead of Boston when the season ended.

Really, Tony, a little bit of simple research would have suggested that you might be able to find an angle on this story that isn't, you know, diametrically opposed to the facts.

In this case, the principals might as well have switched uniforms.

Because, well, you know that, um...

I'm sorry, I can't even figure out what this is supposed to mean.

As most every Red Sox follower is certain to point out in the next 24-36 hours, there are more than just five months difference between April and October; the games now are entirely different.

Read "most every Red Sox follower" as "convenient media strawman." And to the extent that anyone is going to be using that whole "entirely different" thing, it's because the media has hammered sports fans with it from time immemorial.

The Angels had home field advantage against the Red Sox in 2004 only to be unceremoniously swept from the first round of the playoffs in three lopsided games.

The last of which was so lopsided that Boston was able to win in only 10 innings.

Last year, the series opened in Boston and the Angels similarly were blown off the field.

Honestly, Tony, there's no sin in reporting facts. Yes, the series were both sweeps. That doesn't mean that some of the games weren't close (tied in the bottom of the 9th qualifies, I think, as a close game) and it doesn't hurt any honest argument to acknowledge that.

In such cases, history is a convenient crutch,

For who? This seems to be suggesting that vast sections of Red Sox nation expect Boston to sweep the Angels again. I haven't followed the media closely, or talked to a large percentage of Red Sox nation, but I haven't heard or seen anyone express such a thought. Is this a real point, or just a strawman to pummel? I suspect (strongly) the latter.

though we all know the truth: Those games mean nothing now.

If we all know that then, who, exactly, are you writing this for?

The Los Angeles lineups encountered by the Sox in 2004 and 2007 were quite different from the one the Sox will encounter now,

The 2007 Angels were 4th in the AL in runs/game. The 2008 Angels were 10th, though if they'd scored at the post-Texeira rate all year, they'd have been...4th.

and not solely because of Teixeira's arrival. Torii Hunter has since joined these Angels, arriving as a free agent in the offseason. Garret Anderson is healthy this year (unlike last) and someone like Jose Guillen has not been suspended (as he was in 2004), which means that Red Sox pitchers are going to have a far more difficult time pitching to the Angels in 2008 than they did in either '04 or '07.

Please, don't rely on history as a factor in this series. Of all people, Boston fans should know better. If the Red Sox win Game 1 and doubts start creeping into the heads of Angels players, it has a great deal more to do with mental toughness (or lack thereof) than it does with anything that took place on the field last year or in '04.

I'd love to see all of this analysis he's referring to that has the Red Sox winning this because they won in 2004 and 2007. There must be a ton of it to justify this tone of benign condescension.

Relative to '04 and '07, Red Sox pitchers are going to have their hands full in this series because the Angels can score in more ways now.

I love that. They can "score in more ways now!" I'm dying to know what those are. I assume he's not talking about home runs, because they could score with home runs before. Sacrifice flies, runners scoring from third on wild pitches, runners scoring from first on triples, runners scoring from second on wild throws into the dugout - they could score in all of those ways before. What are the new ones? Running backward from first to home after balks? Ground rule home runs on Baltimore chops foul balls that bounce into the third base ball girls uniform top? The mind boggles. I'm dying to find out, but Tony doesn't bother to mention it. What do we have beat writers for if they're going to tease us with this stuff and fail to deliver the goods?

Since joining the Angels, Teixeira has batted .358 with 13 home runs, 43 RBIs, 39 runs scored and 32 walks (against just 23 strikeouts) in 54 games; he has slugged .632 and has an OPS of 1.081.

Great hitter hits Great! Film at 11!

During that same period of time, Garret Anderson has been all but reborn, batting .335. (He went 8 for 10 in his first two games with Teixeira in the lineup.)

And what has he done since those two games? .309/.335/.442/.777
And for the season as a whole? .293/.325/.433/.760
Quite a "rebirth."

Meanwhile, Vladimir Guerrero went from batting .284 and slugging .478 (before Teixeira) to hitting .345 and slugging .614 (after Teixeira).

Sigh...

(Before we continue, Tony, I want you to go over to google and search for "post hoc, ergo propter hoc"...

Quick quiz: How many times in has Vladimir Guerrero had a better 45 game stretch (measured by Runs Created) than this current stretch with Mark Texeira "protecting" him?

a. 0 (Tony says we can credit Texeira for Guerrero's performance, and he would lie)
b. 1 (OK, maybe he had a fluke somewhere without protection - he is a great hitter)
c. 10 (Well, that sounds farfetched)
d. 352 (Gotta give one whacko off-the-chart answer, right?)

Now, close your eyes and imagine the Jeopardy music playing...

Ready?

d. 352

That's right. Now, obviously, there's a ton of overlap in those 352 previous stretches. But there's room for almost 8 45 games stretches in 352. So maybe, just maybe possibly, we cannot attribute Guerrero's performance to Texeira. Maybe, just maybe possibly, Guerrero had a better second half than first half and Texeira's addition to the lineup had nothing to do with it.

But then, given where we live, we should hardly be surprised. By now, we should understand the impact a great hitter can have on a lineup.

Some of us do. Yet the media persists in feeding us the protection myth anyway.

In this case, as far as the Red Sox are concerned, the departure of Manny Ramirez now looms larger amid the uncertainty surrounding Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew, each of whom is injured. In last year's division series, as if flipping a switch, Ramirez morphed from a deteriorating Hall of Famer into a force again, going 3 for 8 with two homers (one a game-winner against Francisco Rodriguez that is now somewhere over Canada) and five walks; the ripple effect on the Boston lineup was tremendous. No less an authority than Theo Epstein admitted the Sox were a "different team" when Ramirez (in particular) and David Ortiz were firing on all cylinders, and that explosiveness is something the Sox no longer possess.

Let me get this straight. When you have inner circle hall-of-famers "firing on all cylinders," that makes for "explosiveness?" Who knew? Thank God we have Tony to bring us these insights.

Said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge during the Indians' visit to Fenway Park last week: "For a while there, when you thought about Boston, you though about those two guys in the middle, who were probably one of the great combinations of all-time."

Yes. They were. They aren't here together anymore. Shall we try to muddle through, or are you trying to gently let us know that the Red Sox have no chance?

If all of this is interpreted as some suggestion that the Sox erred in dealing away Ramirez, that is not the point;

This is rather a heartening sentence at this point - it implies that there actually is a point coming.

rather, it just means that the Red Sox are now facing an opponent with more firepower, something that would be true even if Drew and Lowell were fully healthy.

And that, presumably, is it.

So let's look at it. It seems to me that there are two possible meanings.

1) "The Red Sox are now facing an opponent with more firepower" [than that opponent previously had.]
or
2) "The Red Sox are now facing an opponent with more firepower" [than the Red Sox have.]

I find the evidence in support of either proposition somewhat less than compelling. In terms of proposition 1, the Angels with Texeira were on a pace to finish 4th in the AL in runs/game, the same position (4th) in which they finished last year. In terms of proposition 2, the Red Sox scored more runs in fewer games following the trades than the Angels did, with a higher team batting average, OBP and SLG.

In other words, whatever he meant there, he's wrong.

Earlier this month, when the Sox were in Tampa, one player said he was convinced that the Red Sox would not have been preparing for the postseason had Ramirez remained with the club. As is the case with any trade, the Red Sox had to give something to get something.

Whatever. Water under bridge, over dam, spilt milk, etc. Not relevant to a discussion of the relative merits of the Red Sox and Angels.

The Red Sox need to beat the Angels differently now -- with pitching, defense and speed as much as with power.

Words of wisdom: They need pitching to beat them this year. Unlike last year when they allowed 4 runs in the three game series.

They need to avoid big mistakes against the middle of the Los Angeles lineup. They need to keep Angels' tablesetters off the bases. And they need to maximize their scoring opportunities because they don't have the kind of lineup that can be counted on to land the big blow.

I don't get to talk to Theo, but I held a seance with Connie Mack. It turns out that they also need to give 110%, come to play ball, give it all they've got and put a good swing on the ball.

The other guys are bigger, stronger, and scarier now.

Bigger, stronger and scarier than what?

More than anyone, the Red Sox should understand what they are up against.

Because Tony says so.




Please. Piffle. Utter drivel, the bleatings of the media sheeple. And I expect to read essentially the same thing tomorrow at all of the national websites, in the Herald, in the LA Times, etc. There's the media storyline for the week.

Now, will the Red Sox sweep the Angels again? I wouldn't bet on it. Will the Angels sweep the Red Sox? After all, they took 8 of 9 during the regular season. I wouldn't bet on that, either. I wouldn't bet on baseball, period. There's no way of knowing, and I said this last year, and the year before, and I'll say it now, and I'll say it again tomorrow in my playoff preview, a five-game series tells you nothing about the relative merits of the two teams involved. It just doesn't. That's the way that baseball works. There's too much variation in performance on any given day for the results of any given game to mean anything in the broader scope. I don't have any idea who'll win the series, and I'm not going to pretend that I do. But this kind of nonsense is just irritating. I avoid the vast majority of it, but Tony sucked me in and ticked me off today.

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NFL - week 4 wrapup

Week 4 in the NFL...

  • The Patriots didn't play and I saw little football. Consequently, I've got not much to say about this weekend's games.


  • Saw a little bit of the Broncos-Chiefs game. Denver could not stop the running game. And they couldn't move the ball against the Chiefs defense. And another potential 0-16 season goes by the boards. What I cannot be sure of, yet, is whether this makes me feel better about the Patriots week one win against KC, or worse about the Broncos. Or both.


  • OK, the Washington-Dallas game was a good game. And I'm convinced that the Cowboys are not a serious threat to win the Super Bowl. Somewhere along the line, Romo will throw a Favre, Phillips will go for it when he shouldn't or punt when he should go for it, they'll burn timeouts, take a dumb penalty, mismanage the clock, and lose in the playoffs to a team that everyone thinks they should hammer.


  • The Rams fire Scott Linehan. See Titanic - deck chairs, rearranging of. Certainly, there's no good case to be made that he should keep the job, but one hopes that someone has, you know, an actual plan to improve things rather than a sudden inspiration - "Hey, let's fire the coach! That'll make everything better!


  • And the Lions fire Matt Millen. Which is actually a shock. When someone who should have been fired four years ago (and three years ago and two years ago and one year ago) still has his job, you begin to think that there's some invisible reason that he's keeping it, and he'll never lose it.


  • Before Sunday, I would have guessed that Romeo Crennel's job was in greater danger than Marvin Lewis'. I would not guess that today.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    San Diego at Oakland - "Here's a rivalry game. Traditional divisional rivals in the AL West. Pretty good team at the home of pretty bad team. Pretty good team wins handily and covers the spread."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Denver at Kansas City - "Here's a rivalry game. Traditional divisional rivals in the AL West. Pretty good team at the home of pretty bad team. Pretty good team wins handily and covers the spread."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 8-5
    ATS: 8-5-0


  • For the season:
    Winners: 39-21
    ATS: 34-25-1

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2008 Red Sox - Regular season retrospective

It began in the early morning in March in Tokyo against the Athletics, it ended in the rain and fog on a late night in Boston against the Yankees. The 2008 Boston Red Sox won 95 and lost 67, winning the AL Wild Card and preparing to play post-season baseball for the fifth time in six years.

    Odds and ends...
  • Boston finished behind LAA and Tampa with the third best record in the AL. I'd argue that they were actually the best team in the AL from start to finish. Boston's 845 runs scored was second in the AL to Texas, their 694 runs allowed was third behind Tampa and Toronto, and their run differential of 151 was far and away the best in the league, and second only to the Cubs in all of baseball. The Red Sox won as many games as you would project, given their runs scored and allowed, the Rays won five more than you would project given theirs. (The Angels exceeded their Pythagorean projection by a historically noteworthy 12 games.)


  • While every season has its peaks and valleys, in the big picture, the Red Sox were pretty consistent from start to finish. They had one losing month, falling two games under .500 in July. They also had one "pythagorean losing month," but it was only two games, as they were outscored 10-7 while splitting the Tokyo games in March.


  • By May 5th, the projection of Boston's record based on its Pythagorean winning percentage and current record was 92 wins. From that point to the end of the season, that projection had them between 92 and 98 wins.


  • One of the areas of divergence between conventional wisdom and sabremetric inquiry is on the significance of results in one-run games. Conventional wisdom has long been that "good teams find a way to win the close games." What sabremetric inquiry has indicated is that there is little-to-no evidence to support that contention. In fact, it seems to be the opposite - good teams win the blowouts, and records in one run games have little predictive value, nor do they correlate particularly well with overall record or record in other games**. So let's break the Sox record down by run differential:



    2008 Red Sox record by run differential
    DifferentialWL%RRAPyth

    12223.489173174.497

    21210.545108104.517

    31711.607121103.573

    4116.6479070.613

    5103.7697439.764

    653.6255745.606

    765.5456457.553

    863.6677147.680

    9101.000901.000

    10201.000222.988

    1113.2502446.233

    12101.000142.972

    13101.000185.912


    And what we see is a team that was under .500 in one-run games, just over in two run games, and dominant elsewhere. Boston was 34-33 in runs decided by one or two runs, and 61-34 in runs decided by three or more.


  • Their longest winning streak was seven games, from May 17-22 against the Brewers and Royals. They also had a six game streak and a five game streak.


  • Their longest losing streak was five games, which they did twice. From April 23-27 against the Angels and Rays, and from June 28-July 2 against the Astros and Rays.


  • There was concern early about the incredible home/road splits. Many questions were asked about why they couldn't win on the road or lose at home. Much of this was way overblown. There are natural ebbs and flows to a season, and if a couple of them happen to line up with home stands or road trips, you get funny looking splits. On May 25th, they were 21-5 (.808) at home and 10-17 (.370) on the road. The rest of the season, they were 35-20 (.636) at home and 29-25 (.537) on the road. On July 13, they were 8 games under .500 on the road and 25 games over .500 at home. The rest of the way, they were 20-14 (.588) at home and 18-13 (.581) on the road.


  • Before the season began, I predicted the Red Sox to win 98 games and the AL East, ahead of New York, Toronto, Tampa and Baltimore. Obviously, I missed badly on Tampa. I did have them over .500, but they won 15 more games than I predicted. I missed the improvement in their pitching and defense, and, obviously, they significantly overperformed their runs scored/runs allowed statistics. I was off by six games on the Yankees, three on the Red Sox and Blue Jays, and two on the Orioles.


Offense



32 men batted for the Boston Red Sox in 2008, 24 position players and 8 pitchers. As a team, they hit .280/.358/.447/.805, scoring 845 runs. Only Texas scored more in the AL. Their .280 batting average was tied with Minnesota for second in the AL. Their .358 OBP was first in the AL, their .447 SLG was second to the Rangers. They stole 120 bases while being caught only 35 times.



Red Sox team offensive ranks - 2008 AL
StatisticRed SoxAL Rank

R8452

R/G5.222

H15653

2B3532

3B335

HR1736

BB6461

SO106810

AVG.2802

OBP.3581

SLG.4473

OPS+1082

SB1203

CS358

Success rate.7742


The offense was led, not by Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, but by Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, both of whom put up seasons which have them being discussed as MVP candidates. Many of us expected Youkilis to develop some home run power, but I'm not certain if anyone predicted that he'd hit 29 in a year in which the league leader hit only 37. Both players have themselves all over the leaderboards for the AL in 2008.



2008 AL leaderboard ranks - Youkilis & Pedroia
YoukilisAL rankPedroiaAL rank

AVG.3126.3262

OBP.3906

SLG.5693

OPS.9584

Runs 1181

Hits2131

Total Bases30683224

2B437541

RBI1154

OPS+1454

Runs Created12061233

Extra-base hits764737

Times on Base2703


The players who batted for Boston in 2008:



2008 Red Sox Offensive Statistics
PlayerABRuns Hits 2B3BHRRBIBBIBBKSBCSBAOBASPctOPSTBRCRC/25VORPEQRRARP

Dustin Pedroia 653118213542178350152201.326.376.493.869322119.56.362.3110.749.5

Kevin Youkilis 538911684342911562710835.312.390.569.958306113.17.255.8105.542.9

Jacoby Ellsbury 55498155227947412805011.280.336.394.72921878.14.617.774.212.2

J.D. Drew 3687910323419647958041.280.408.519.92719178.06.933.874.832.8

David Ortiz 41674110301238970127410.264.369.507.87721176.45.931.573.120.9

Manny Ramirez 3656610922120685288610.299.398.529.92619372.56.835.968.728

Mike Lowell 4195811527017733826122.274.338.461.79819362.24.817.159.914.6

Coco Crisp 3615510218374135059207.283.344.407.75114752.64.614.250.411

Jason Varitek 4233793200134352312201.220.313.359.67215245.83.3-145.47.6

Jed Lowrie 26034672532463506810.258.339.400.73910436.14.38.135.89.1

Jason Bay 18439541229372225130.293.370.527.8979735.46.515.133.212.7

Julio Lugo 261277013012234051124.268.355.330.6858631.13.66.833.29

Sean Casey 19914641400171732510.322.381.392.7737828.95.18.226.43.7

Alex Cora 152144182091611311.270.371.349.7195321.14.5519.75.9

Kevin Cash 1421132703151815000.225.309.338.6474813.82.9-1.514.41.5

Brandon Moss 7872351211602511.295.337.462.7993612.35.32.611.12

Jeff Bailey 5010141126911700.280.390.460.850238.65.63.18.42.4

Mark Kotsay 8461981012711101.226.286.345.631297.82.9-47.2-3.3

Chris Carter 1856000320500.333.400.333.73362.65.50.62.20.3

Jonathan Van Every 1704010510600.235.278.353.63161.73.2-0.61.4-0.6

George Kottaras 511100000200.200.200.400.6002.42.5-0.20.3-0.2

David Aardsma 100000000100.000.000.000.0000-.1-2.7-0.1-0.1-0.1

Javier Lopez 100000000100.000.000.000.0000-.1-2.7-0.1-0.1-0.1

Bartolo Colon 200000000200.000.000.000.0000-.2-2.7-0.3-0.2-0.1

Daisuke Matsuzaka 200000000200.000.000.000.0000-.2-2.7-0.3-0.2-0.1

Dave Ross 811000000300.125.125.125.2501-.2-.5-1.5-0.1-1

Gilbert Velazquez 801000100000.125.125.125.2501-.2-.7-1.4-0.2-1.1

Tim Wakefield 300000000300.000.000.000.0000-.3-2.7-0.4-0.3-0.2

Joe Thurston 800000000100.000.111.000.1110-.5-1.6-2-0.5-1.7

Jonathan Lester 500000000200.000.000.000.0000-.5-2.6-0.7-0.5-0.4

Justin Masterson 500000000400.000.000.000.0000-.5-2.7-0.7-0.5-0.4

Josh Beckett 600000000300.000.000.000.0000-.6-2.1-1-0.4-0.2


RC - Runs Created - A measurement of raw offensive production created by Bill James
RC/25 - Runs created per 25 outs. What a team with nine of that player would expect to score on average in a game.
VORP - Value Over Replacement Player* - Another sabremetric counting stat, adjusts for position, created by Keith Woolner
EQR - Equivalent Runs - Yet another Sabremetric counting stat, not position adjusted, created by Clay Davenport
RARP - Runs Above Replacement*, Position-adjusted - Based on EQR, comparison against replacement player, position adjusted

  • Pedroia led the team in Runs Created, but Youkilis led in Runs Created/25 outs. Pedroia had more plate appearances and more raw value, Youkilis had more value per plate appearance. They were both better than Ortiz in both raw value and value per plate appearance.


  • It is important to acknowledge that Ortiz got off to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad start, that affected his numbers all year. Through May 2, he was hitting .198/.305/.351/.656, and had created just over 2 runs per 25 outs. From May 3 through the end of the year, he hit .289/.392/.564/.956 and created almost 7.5 runs through 25 outs. He was still a great hitter, but he dug himself such a deep hole during the first month that it doesn't show in the final numbers.


  • Per plate appearance, the second best hitter on the team was J.D. Drew.


  • Jason Bay is not as good a hitter as Manny Ramirez. But he's a very good hitter, and he performed well after coming over.


Pitching



23 different pitchers threw 23629 pitches for the 2008 Red Sox, 10791 strikes and 8940 balls. 11 started games, and 15 pitched in relief. Three of them (Justin Masterson, Clay Buccholz and David Pauley) did both. They faced 6180 batters and allowed 694 runs (645 earned).



Red Sox team pitching ranks - 2008 AL
Red SoxAL Rank

R/G4.283

RA6944

ERA4.014

H/G8.53

BB/G3.49

HR1474

SO11851

CG56

cgSHO24

tmSHO161

SV473

ERA+1142


The staff led the league in strikeouts, and was very good at keeping the ball in the park. They walked far too many batters, however. (Domo arigato, Matsuzaka-san). On the whole, the pitching was, like the offense, very good. Jon Lester blossomed, Matsuzaka looks like an ace on the stat line, even if he can be excruciating to watch. Beckett was dinged up a couple of times, and a little bit inconsistent, but also led the staff in strikeouts and was a valuable pitcher.

The players who pitched for Boston in 2008:



2008 Red Sox Pitching Statistics
NAMEWLSVBSHoldGGSIPIP StartIP ReliefOUTRERERAPAHHRTBBBSOPITCHESBABIPVORP

Jon Lester1660003333210.3210.3063178753.21874202142906615233090.30258.3

Daisuke Matsuzaka1830002929167.7167.7050358542.90716128121979415429040.26250.7

Josh Beckett12100002727174.3174.3052380784.03725173182703417226880.3233.1

Tim Wakefield10110003030181181054389834.13754154252616011727890.24228.2

Justin Masterson6501336988.35434.326531313.163656810112406813850.24526.2

Hideki Okajima3218236406206218618182.6125849676236010330.26121.8

Jonathan Papelbon54415067069.3069.320824182.342735848287710510.30220.5

Javier Lopez20011070059.3059.317818162.432475347927389610.28220.1

Manny Delcarmen12231873074.3074.322328273.2730755586287212750.26219.8

Paul Byrd42000884949014726264.782085889910267200.3116.1

Bartolo Colon42000773939011723173.921734456710275830.3152.2

Michael Bowden100001155015223.6022701213890.3891.3

Mike Timlin4410047049.3049.314832315.6622760910520328190.323-0.2

David Aardsma4202447048.7048.714632305.542284947835499700.346-0.6

Devorn Hansack10000406.706.720534.032660815960.316-0.7

Kyle Snyder00010201.701.754421.18921521270.25-2.9

Bryan Corey0000170606187710.503111116341080.455-3.2

Craig Hansen1322732030.7030.79223195.571462923923255640.287-3.2

Julian Tavarez010009012.7012.7381296.386418020962230.391-3.9

Chris Smith1000012018.3018.35516167.8778186407133040.24-4

Charlie Zink00000114.34.30138816.74251101511840.478-5.1

David Pauley010006212.375.337171611.7167232365112660.447-8.8

Clay Buchholz2900016157675122863576.753579311144417213810.36-13.9



  • Lester was awesome. From April 29 through the end of the season, Lester pitched 178 2/3 innings in 27 starts, going 15-4 with a 2.82 ERA.


  • As frustrating as he can be to watch, because the pace is dreadful and he throws too many pitches and walks too many hitters, Matsuzaka had an excellent year - a lot of starts, a significant number of innings and very few runs allowed.


  • It seemed to me, watching, that both Okajima and Papelbon struggled this year. I remember very few clean innings from either of them. The numbers suggest that they were much better than my perception.


  • This was a learning year for Clay Buccholz. We'll find out next year what he learned.



Highlights and lowlights




  • March 25: In front of almost 45,000 fans in the Tokyo Dome, the Red Sox begin their World Series defense with a win as rookie outfielder Brandon Moss, playing because J.D. Drew had back problems caused by the flight, homers in the ninth to give the Red Sox their first ever run against Oakland closer Huston Street and tie the game. They'd go on to win in the 10th.

  • April 29: Coming off a weak performance against the Angels, Jon Lester throws 8 one-hit innings against the Blue Jays. It's a sign of things to come. From April 29 through the end of the season, Lester pitches 178 2/3 innings in 27 starts, going 15-4 with a 2.82 ERA.

  • May 5: With a 6-3 win over the Tigers, the Red Sox lead in the AL East grows to a season high 3 1/2 games. They'll maintain it for four days, but it turns out to be the high-water mark of the season in terms of the division standings.

  • May 19: Jon Lester no-hits the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

  • May 31: David Ortiz tears the tendon sheath in his wrist in the 9th inning of a win in Baltimore. He will miss almost two full months as a result, but the team keeps rolling, going 26-17 in his absence.

  • July 13: A 2-1 win over the Orioles finishes a 5-1 week in which they made up 5 1/2 games in the division, going from 5 back to a 1/2 game lead in the AL East at the All Star break. It will turn out to be their last day in first place.

  • July 30: With rumors and turmoil swirling around Manny Ramirez, the Sox commit four errors en route to a desultory and dispiriting 9-2 loss to the Angels. After the game, GM Theo Epstein reportedly meets with some of the team's veteran players, who reportedly tell him that Ramirez is a problem and must be removed. It turns out to be Ramirez' last game in a Red Sox uniform, as he is traded at the following day's trading deadline.

  • August 28: After having won the first two games of the series to extend the Yankee deficit to seven games, the Red Sox lose (appropriately, I suppose) their last game in Yankee Stadium, 3-2, with Rivera (appropriately, I suppose) picking up the save.

  • August 30: Top prospect Michael Bowden makes his Major League debut, pitching five innings, allowing two runs and being credited with the win as the Red Sox beat the White Sox 8-2. It is their 18th win in August, the most wins of any month during the 2008 season. They actually lose ground in the division, however, as the Rays go 21-7.

  • September 9: Jason Bay's two run homer in the bottom of the eight gives the Red Sox a one-run lead headed to the ninth, and a chance to move into first place in the AL East. Jon Papelbon gives up a lead-off tying home run to Dan Johnson, in his first plate appearance for the Rays, and then gives up another run for the loss. This will haunt the Red Sox, as the Rays end up winning the East by two games.

  • September 10: The Red Sox tie the Rays at 1 with a run in the third, and then fail to score in each of the next 10 innings. A run in any of those 10 innings would have resulted in a Red Sox win, but they end up losing 4-2 in the 14th. This will haunt the Red Sox, as the Rays end up winning the East by two games.

  • September 15: Boston hits 6 home runs against the Rays in Tampa, and moves into a first place tie with a 13-5 win.

  • September 16: Boston takes a 1-0 lead into the seventh when Josh Beckett makes his one mistake for the night, giving up a tying HR to Carlos Pena. Masterson gives up a run in the ninth and Boston loses 2-1. This will haunt the Red Sox, as the Rays end up winning the East by two games.

  • September 17: With one last chance to do something head-to-head, Tim Wakefield gives up 6 runs in 2 1/3 innings and the Sox get beaten by Tampa 10-3. Lyford congratulates the Rays on winning the East. Rather than leaving town tied in the standings and tied in the season series, Boston leaves down two and with Tampa having won the tie-breaker for the division. This will haunt the Red Sox, as the Rays end up winning the East by two games.

  • September 23: Boston beats the Cleveland Indians and almost certain AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. This eliminates the Yankees and clinches a playoff berth for the Red Sox.

  • September 26: Following a long rain delay, the Red Sox scratch Daisuke Matsuzaka and start David Pauley in his place. Pauley gets hammered and the Red Sox get pounded by the Yankees 19-8. This clinches the AL East for the Rays.


Debuts



Eight players made their Major League debuts for the Red Sox in 2008.

Justin Masterson
Jed Lowrie
Michael Bowden
Chris Carter
George Kottaras
Jonathan Van Every
Gilbert Velazquez
Chris Smith
Charlie Zink

Masterson and Lowrie were key contributors in the second half of the season, and are expected to be key contributors in the playoffs. Michael Bowden did nothing to harm his prospect label in his one spot start. The rest are, or at least were treated as, roster flotsam and jetsam.


Summary



Another successful season. The Red Sox were a very good run-scoring team, a very good run-preventing team, and they have a chance to play post-season baseball again while continuing to integrate younger players into the lineup. They may win the World Series, they may get swept out in the first round, but whatever happens, you have to look at the regular season as another success for the team and the management team.




* - Replacement varies depending on the stat, but the concept is that there are "freely available" players, AAA veterans and the like, who could play at little-to-no marginal cost for a team. The value of a player to a team isn't the raw value he provides, it's the difference between the raw value he provides and the raw value that a freely available player could provide. If there are 50 guys in the minor leagues who could hit .250/.320/.390 while playing an adequate first base, then there's no marginal value from a major league first baseman who hits .250/.320/.390 while playing an adequate first base.


** - I wrote about this at the Projo board in early August, but apparently didn't blog it. Here's the relevant section:
someone decided to look at the "good teams win the close ones" and discovered that it does not appear to be the case. When you look at records, you'll see that team records correlate pretty well from season to season, but record in one-run games does not. And there's very little correlation between record in one-run games and record in other games. I just ran a quick regression on the current Major League records, and what you see is an r^2 of .001, suggesting that record in one-run games predicts or accounts for about 1/10th of 1 percent of a team's record in other games.

And just looking at the standings is pretty revealing. I think that everyone can agree that San Francisco is not a good team. But they're 23-16 in one run games, 27-50 in the rest. Cincinnati's 18-10 in one-run games, 34-57 in the rest. Boston, on the other hand, is only 15-19 in one-run games but 52-32 in the rest.

The proper way to put it is this - there is not, to the best of my knowledge, "proof" that one-run games are not a good measure of a team's actual quality. But there are many things one would expect if it were that do not appear in the available data. The idea that record in one-run games is essentially random, however, seems to match up with the statistical record pretty well.

And it makes sense conceptually, too. If Boston is a much better team than Kansas City, you're virtually certain to be able to see that during the course of a season. You're less likely to see it over the course of a month, as the sample size dwindles, and still less likely over a week, then a series, then a game. Well, if you're playing a one-run game, the difference between the scores is an inning or an at-bat. If anything can happen over the course of a month and it doesn't necessarily even up, then how much more can happen over the course of an at-bat? If Kansas City and Boston play 8-2 games, as they did twice last week, you really expect Boston to win them. If they play a 4-3 game, that's a crapshoot.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Tell me something I didn't know...

Is the mainstream press in the tank for Obama? Is the Pope Catholic?

On the former question, the Instapundit got confirmation from a whistle-blower.
Off the record, every suspicion you have about MSM being in the tank for O is true. We have a team of 4 people going thru dumpsters in Alaska and 4 in arizona. Not a single one looking into Acorn, Ayers or Freddiemae. Editor refuses to publish anything that would jeopardize election for O, and betting you dollars to donuts same is true at NYT, others. People cheer when CNN or NBC run another Palin-mocking but raising any reasonable inquiry into obama is derided or flat out ignored. The fix is in, and its working.

Frankly, the behavior's been so overt that the confirmation's of little interest or value. On par with NASA issuing a confirmation tomorrow that the sun rises in the East.

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Monday Pythagorean 9/29/2008

So the curtain falls on another regular season in Major League Baseball...

  • Well, almost. There's at least one more game, as Chicago and Detroit play a make up game today, the result of which will determine whether Chicago needs to play another game tomorrow, against the Twins. If the White Sox win twice, they win the Central and play at Tampa on Thursday. If they lose either, the Twins win the Central and play at Tampa on Thursday.

  • Red Sox vs. Yankees at Fenway, last day of the regular season, going into extra innings. And I found out the result in the paper this morning. As I lay in bed with the TV on, I began to wonder, "why am I watching David Robertson face Gil Velazquez in a game that means nothing?" When the Red Sox didn't score in the bottom of the ninth, that seemed like way more than enough.

  • Technically, Red Sox games were not irrelevant until yesterday. They hadn't clinched the Wild Card until Tuesday, or lost the chance to win the division until Friday. Realistically, the week was effectively extended spring training.

  • In these reports, I call it "luck." More specifically, what we're talking about is run distribution. Obviously, scoring more runs and allowing fewer is a good thing, and teams that score more runs and allow fewer should win more games than teams that score fewer and allow more. And when two teams have similar run distributions, the team with the lower runs scored/allowed has a higher projected winning percentage. 20 runs is a bigger gap at 60-40 than at 160-140. So how depressing is this outcome for the Toronto Blue Jays? They allowed 61 runs fewer runs than Tampa, while scoring 60 fewer. So they had a higher Pythagorean winning percentage, but Tampa won the East, and the Blue Jays finished in fourth place. The Blue Jays underperformed by 7 games, the Rays overperformed by 5, and Toronto finished 11 games behind Tampa instead of 1 game ahead.

  • I hope to do a regular season wrap-up post this week. Hopefully tomorrow, so I can do a playoff preview on Wednesday.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 9/29/2008
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Boston5.22(2)4.28(3)0.589(1)956795670

Toronto4.41(11)3.77(1)0.572(2)93698676-7

Tampa Bay4.78(9)4.14(2)0.565(3)927097655

Minnesota5.12(3)4.59(8)0.549(4)89738874-1

Chicago4.98(5)4.52(7)0.545(5)88738774-1

Los Angeles4.72(10)4.3(5)0.542(6)88741006212

New York4.87(7)4.49(6)0.537(7)877589732

Cleveland4.97(6)4.7(9)0.526(8)85778181-4

Detroit5.09(4)5.27(12)0.484(9)78837487-4

Oakland4.01(14)4.29(4)0.47(10)76857586-1

Texas5.56(1)5.97(14)0.468(11)768679833

Baltimore4.86(8)5.4(13)0.452(12)73886893-5

Kansas City4.27(12)4.82(10)0.444(13)729075873

Seattle4.14(13)5.01(11)0.414(14)679561101-6




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles10062

Tampa Bay9765

Boston9567

New York8973

Minnesota8874




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles10062

Tampa Bay9765

Boston9567

New York8973

Minnesota8874




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Kansas City5.5(5)2.5(2)0.809(1)51510

Texas7.17(1)4(4)0.744(2)42420

Toronto4.17(13)2.33(1)0.743(3)4233-1

New York6.5(2)4.17(5)0.693(4)42420

Minnesota4.67(9)3.83(3)0.589(5)42420

Tampa Bay5.88(3)4.88(7)0.585(6)53530

Seattle5.71(4)4.86(6)0.574(7)43430

Cleveland5.29(6)5.43(8)0.488(8)34340

Los Angeles4.57(10)5.57(9)0.41(9)34431

Boston4.71(8)5.86(10)0.402(10)34431

Detroit4.29(12)5.86(10)0.361(11)34340

Chicago5(7)7.17(13)0.341(12)2415-1

Oakland4.33(11)7.33(14)0.276(13)2415-1

Baltimore2.57(14)5.86(10)0.181(14)16160

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nice work if you can get it...

Washington leads Dallas by 6, 23-17, with 7 1/2 minutes left in the game. The Redskins have the ball in Cowboy territory, driving.
I tell you, this possession, right here, is - is really a big possession. You know, for Washington as well as Dallas, I mean, you're talking about, if they get points here, all of a sudden, you know, this thing becomes a two possession ball game.
- Fox Analyst Troy Aikman

Man, they cannot possibly be paying him enough, can they?

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Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain's ad people on the ball...

As I post this, the debate has been over for 26 minutes. And here's the McCain ad based on that debate...


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NFL picks, week 4

I'm taking a lot of road teams this week. The thing that strikes me, looking down the list, is not how few of the games look like good games - that's actually fairly common. It's how few look like interesting games. The division matchups are among teams that are bad (Cleveland-Cincinnati) or badly mismatched (Denver-Kansas City, San Diego-Oakland). The upshot is, the picks this week are going to be brief, because I've got little to say about any of these.

Atlanta at Carolina (-7) - Atlanta's already shown more than I expected of them this year. And given Carolina's tendency to play down to inferior opponents, the Falcons might cover this - even an outright win wouldn't be a total shock. But it would be a surprise.

Denver (-10) at Kansas City - Here's a rivalry game. Traditional divisional rivals in the AL West. Pretty good team at the home of pretty bad team. Pretty good team wins handily and covers the spread.

San Francisco at New Orleans (-6) - These two teams used to be division rivals, right? But not really rivals, as the Saints where just a bi-annual effective bye week for the 49ers. So far, San Francisco has played better than New Orleans, but I'm obviously basing this on my pre-season perceptions. If the 49ers win this one, those perceptions will change.

Arizona at N.Y. Jets (-2) - Again, this is obviously not based on the way either team has played so far. I really can't give you a good reason to pick the Jets, so I'll give you the lame ones - home field, Favre's starting to fit in, Arizona's been in hotel rooms for a week rather than at home, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Minnesota (+3) at Tennessee - I generally pick these on Tuesday or Wednesday, and then write the capsules in idle moments during the course of the week. I don't know what I was thinking when I picked the Vikings, but maybe I had a reason.

Green Bay (+1.5) at Tampa Bay - OK, this one should actually be a pretty good game, with two pretty good teams who have played pretty well going head to head.

Houston (+8.5) at Jacksonville - Jaguars win, but don't cover. Why? Because I said so, that's why.

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-4) - It's not often that you see a game this meaningless this early in the season. If the Bengals play the way they played at New York last week, it will be a blowout. They won't. Can Cleveland take advantage? Doubtful

San Diego (-7) at Oakland - See Denver at Kansas City.

Buffalo (-8) at St. Louis - If the Rams lose by 10, it will be a major step forward - their closet game so far is last week's 24 point loss to the Seahawks.

Washington (+11) at Dallas - Here, I think, is one of the good games on the week. Are the Cowboys a better team than the Redskins? Yes, probably. But I expect a tough, hard-fought, divisional rivalry game. Dallas ends up winning late, maybe by a touchdown, maybe by a field goal, but by 10 or fewer points.

Philadelphia (-3) at Chicago - Every year, you can look back at the NFL schedule when the season ends and find a half dozen games which make no sense. How on earth did that happen? Chicago's week one win in Indianapolis will be one of those this year.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-5.5) - Baltimore is 2-0. Thank you, Marvin. Thank you Romeo. This week they are not playing the Browns. This week they are not playing the Bengals. Next week they will not be 3-0.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fourteen down...

one to go...

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain vs. The Times

The McCain campaign went directly at the New York Times the other day. And they're not backing down.

Today the New York Times launched its latest attack on this campaign in its capacity as an Obama advocacy organization. Let us be clear about what this story alleges: The New York Times charges that McCain-Palin 2008 campaign manager Rick Davis was paid by Freddie Mac until last month, contrary to previous reporting, as well as statements by this campaign and by Mr. Davis himself.

In fact, the allegation is demonstrably false. As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006. As has been previously reported, Mr. Davis has seen no income from Davis Manafort since 2006. Zero. Mr. Davis has received no salary or compensation since 2006. Mr. Davis has received no profit or partner distributions from that firm on any basis -- weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual -- since 2006. Again, zero. Neither has Mr. Davis received any equity in the firm based on profits derived since his financial separation from Davis Manafort in 2006.

Further, and missing from the Times' reporting, Mr. Davis has never -- never -- been a lobbyist for either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Mr. Davis has not served as a registered lobbyist since 2005.

Though these facts are a matter of public record, the New York Times, in what can only be explained as a willful disregard of the truth, failed to research this story or present any semblance of a fairminded treatment of the facts closely at hand.
...
The New York Times is trying to fill an ideological niche. It is a business decision, and one made under economic duress, as the New York Times is a failing business. But the paper's reporting on Senator McCain, his campaign, and his staff should be clearly understood by the American people for what it is: a partisan assault aimed at promoting that paper’s preferred candidate, Barack Obama.

Well, obviously that's all true. But there are a couple of points worth considering.

  1. John McCain, as much as any other prominent Republican, has courted the liberal mainstream press over the years. His success in the primaries in 2000, and again this year, is at least partially due to his positive coverage, significantly more positive than any other Republican, in the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. So there is some satisfaction in seeing McCain, who has received glowing coverage when criticizing other Republicans, realizing that maybe the national media (which he has, in the past, laughingly called his "base") isn't his friend after all.

  2. As emotionally satisfying as it is to play whack-a-mole with the Times, is it productive? Honestly, is there anyone reading the times who does not realize that it is essentially a distribution mechanism for DNC memos? And the Times isn't going to change the way they do business. So what's the purpose?

    I think it's this - to put the rest of the media on notice that they cannot maintain credibility by running Times' stories without investigating themselves. The Times, rightly or wrongly (and I don't think I need to articulate which of those I believe is the case) has enormous influence with the rest of the media. If the Times runs a story on Monday morning, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC and FOX will run it Monday night. The Times is considered a valid news source. I think that the McCain campaign's trying to stop that.

    I'm skeptical that it will work, and I think that they've got more important things to do, but if they don't waste a lot of time on it, it's not a horrible idea.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Congratulations 2008 Red Sox

Human beings resist change, and generally acclimate themselves quickly to the situations in which they find themselves. The results of this vary. Sometimes, people will accept bad situations as they are rather than fighting to change them. And sometimes, people will get jaded by good fortune, accepting that the good times are what they should expect, and not getting the enjoyment from them that they probably should.

When I was growing up, the Boston Red Sox made it to the post-season in 1967, 1975, and 1986. About once per decade. Once there, they lost, generally painfully. And we accepted that that was the way that things should be.

Well, things aren't that way anymore, and there's a risk of, as I say, becoming jaded. It is therefore important to remind ourselves, as Red Sox fans, that we need to celebrate the good times. They will not last forever.


So congratulations to the 2008 Boston Red Sox, who have just clinched a playoff berth with their 5-4 win over Cliff Lee and the Cleveland Indians. Boston is going to the playoffs for the second straight year, the fifth time in the last six seasons, and the 7th time in the last 11 years. That's quite an achievement...

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NFL week 3 wrapup

Week 3 in the NFL...

  • That was as ugly an exhibition of football as I've seen in quite some time from the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. The Dolphins played very well, but they're not a great team, and the Patriots looked awful. And Cassell has taken some heat, which is just silly. Not that he and the offense were great, because he wasn't and they weren't. But that was a defensive loss if ever I've seen one. In a span of 6 possessions on Sunday afternoon, the Dolphins scored five touchdowns on drives of 74 yards or more. This wasn't the Patriots offense putting its defense in a bad position - the defense had good field position and didn't even slow down Miami. Just pathetic.


  • One of my favorite reads every week is Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback. But wow, does he write some stupid things (particularly when baseball comes up)...
    Now, with the bye week coming up, the question is whether New England will try to persuade Vinny Testaverde to come out of retirement at 44, or look elsewhere for quarterback help. Cassel looked really bad ...

    Again, did Cassell look great? No. But he certainly wasn't the problem, and the offensive line gave him no help. Without sitting in the coaches room for the film viewing, I don't think that there's any way to know whether he looked "really bad" or OK, because we don't know what he was supposed to do on any given play. We know the results were not great. We also know that he had no time to throw, and never threw the ball downfield. Was that Cassell or was that gameplan, play calling and offensive line?


  • Cassell ran it into the end zone on New England's first drive, but the officials had blown the whistle saying that he was "in the grasp." Hmm. He certainly didn't look as "in the grasp" as Eli Manning did in February, but they let that play continue...


  • Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Miami were not picked to finish the same way (and probably still won't), but they're all 1-2 right now. As are Minnesota, San Diego and Seattle. Any given Sunday...


  • It's going to be a long, painful season in St. Louis. The Rams have been outscored by 87 in just three games. They've allowed 116 points. Tennessee's allowed 29. The Rams have scored 29 points. The Broncos have scored 114. It's going to be a long, painful season in St. Louis.


  • How long will it be before Cleveland moves from Derek Anderson to Brady Quinn?


  • I mentioned on Friday that I generally pick the winner to cover. I went against that four times this week, and was right on three of them. Overall, a very good week. And when I was wrong, I was spectacularly wrong. I picked the Patriots to cover 13, they lost by 25. Only off by 38...


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    Cincinnati at NY Giants - "Obviously, the Giants win the game. But this is the kind of situation where the Bengals rise up and tease, lose close, and talk about how good they are."

    Kansas City at Atlanta - "The idea that Atlanta is nearly a touchdown favorite would be shocking if they were playing USC. Since they're only playing the Chiefs, it's probably reasonable."

    Detroit at San Francisco - "I don't know what to make of the 49ers. They lost badly at home to the Cardinals, and won in Seattle. Since I don't know what to make of San Francisco, I look to the opposition. Ah, the Lions on the road - I know what to do with them."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Miami at New England - "That's a lot of points to give for a team playing the way that I expect New England to play. But it's not a lot to give to a team playing the way I expect Miami to play."

    Cleveland at Baltimore - "The Browns are due for a big effort. They'll get it here."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 11-5
    ATS: 10-6-0


  • For the season:
    Winners: 31-16
    ATS: 26-20-1

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Chicago Machine

Does it seem to be the case that the media is far more interested in the background and associations of the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate than the Democratic Presidential candidate? Yeah, that's a no-brainer. But maybe there just aren't any questionable backgrounds and associations to look at.

Right...

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Monday Pythagorean 9/22/2008

We've got that autumn chill in the air as the season winds down...

  • Last September, the Rays and their fans had to watch as first Boston and then New York clinched playoff berths on their field. This year, they got to do the celebrating themselves, becoming the second AL team to clinch a playoff spot on Saturday night.


  • Their bigger wins, however, were on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Had Boston won either of those two games, the Sox would have left Tampa essentially tied in the division, and tied for the season series. Tampa winning both meant that they had to lose four more games than Boston over the last 11 days of the season not to win the division. It isn't final yet, but I've already congratulated them. Boston has seven games remaining, Tampa eight. The lead is 1 1/2 games, but two in the loss column and effectively three, because both teams are going to make the playoffs and the Rays took the season series, so Tampa wins the division on a tie. For Boston to win the east, Tampa has to go 5-3 while Boston goes 7-0, or 4-4 vs. 6-1, or 3-5 vs. 5-2, or 2-6 vs. 4-3, 1-7 vs. 3-4 or 0-8 vs. 2-5. I don't find any of those scenarios particularly likely. Boston's home vs. Cleveland and New York, Tampa's in Baltimore and Texas.


  • Oh, yes, the Red Sox haven't clinched quite yet. They'll finish ahead of Toronto and Minnesota, and at least tied with the Yankees, but if New York wins out and Boston loses out, the two teams would finish tied for the Wild card at 91-71. (Talk about your unlikely scenarios...) So Boston's magic number is 1 - any Boston win or Yankee loss clinches a playoff spot for the Red Sox.


  • As a baseball fan and a sentimental guy, the fact that the last game ever was played in Yankee Stadium last night should mean something to me. As a Red Sox fan, I'm pretty indifferent.


  • This time next week, we'll be talking playoffs. The most likely scenario has Boston opening at Los Angeles on Tuesday or Wednesday.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 9/22/2008
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Boston5.24(2)4.21(4)0.598(1)93629164-2

Toronto4.42(11)3.82(1)0.566(2)88688373-5

Tampa Bay4.72(10)4.1(2)0.564(3)876792625

Chicago4.98(5)4.41(6)0.555(4)866986690

Los Angeles4.73(9)4.25(5)0.549(5)8570965911

Minnesota5.13(3)4.62(8)0.548(6)85718472-1

New York4.81(8)4.5(7)0.53(7)837385712

Cleveland4.95(7)4.66(9)0.528(8)82737877-4

Detroit5.12(4)5.25(12)0.489(9)75797183-4

Oakland4(14)4.17(3)0.481(10)75807481-1

Baltimore4.96(6)5.38(13)0.463(11)71836787-4

Texas5.5(1)6.04(14)0.457(12)718575814

Kansas City4.22(12)4.91(10)0.431(13)678970863

Seattle4.07(13)5.01(11)0.406(14)63925798-6




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles10062

Tampa Bay9765

Boston9567

Chicago9072

New York8874




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles10062

Tampa Bay9765

Boston9567

Chicago9072

New York8874




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

New York4.43(10)2.29(1)0.77(1)52611

Kansas City5(6)2.71(2)0.754(2)52520

Cleveland7.17(1)4.5(8)0.701(3)42602

Oakland5(6)3.17(3)0.698(4)42511

Tampa Bay6.29(5)5(9)0.603(5)43430

Los Angeles6.33(4)5.67(10)0.551(6)33421

Boston4.5(9)4.33(7)0.517(7)33330

Detroit7(2)7(13)0.5(8)3315-2

Toronto3.33(12)3.5(4)0.478(9)33330

Chicago3.57(11)4.14(6)0.433(10)34340

Baltimore2.67(13)3.67(5)0.358(11)2415-1

Texas6.5(3)9.67(14)0.326(12)24240

Minnesota4.57(8)6.86(12)0.323(13)25250

Seattle2.14(14)5.86(11)0.137(14)1607-1

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Don't believe everything you read. Or see...

Has there been an attempt to smear Sarah Palin? Yes. Has the Obama campaign been involved with spreading lies about her? Read this and decide for yourself. (It's long, and there's some [clearly noted] speculation, but it's good to know that someone's willing to ask the questions that the press won't.)
This suggests that false rumors and outright lies about Sarah Palin and John McCain being spread on the internet are being orchestrated by political partisans and are not an organic grassroots phenomenon led by the left wing fringe.

I'm sure that we're all shocked - SHOCKED! - to find that astroturfing's going on...

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Miami 38, New England 13

There will be, I suspect, several stories in the papers tomorrow in which Matt Cassell's performance and Tom Brady's injury are mentioned in the first paragraph. Those stories will by burying the lede. The big story out of the game can be summarized thusly:


Dolphin's 2nd-7th drives
TimeStarting positionPlaysYardsResults

03:44MIA 26874Touchdown

03:12MIA 21679Touchdown

03:50MIA 23977Touchdown

01:40MIA 2035Punt

06:25MIA 211079Touchdown

03:31MIA 15685Touchdown


Yes, the Patriots offense has not been very good so far. How much of that is Cassell and how much is the offensive line and play calling is not clear to me. But this loss to day is on the defense - entirely. They should be embarassed by that performance.

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To quote Zell Miller, "spitballs?"

Professor Reynolds links to this YouTube video of former community organizer Obama talking "tough." Tough on America's military, that is. It's obvious that he thinks world peace can be achieved if we'll only unilaterally disarm.



I kept waiting for the "I'm John McCain and I approve of this message" tag...

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Red Sox Magic Number - 9/20/2008

I've already conceded the division, despite it still being possible, but it doesn't really matter. The point is to get into the post-season, and that could be clinched as early as today.

With 9 games remaining, the "magic number" for the Red Sox to finish ahead of:

1 - Toronto
2 - New York
2 - Minnesota
12 - Tampa Bay

Boston plays Toronto at 1:05. New York plays at 1:05. But Minnesota plays at 3:55, so if the Red Sox win this afternoon, they may clinch this evening at the conclusion of the Rays-Twins game. And they may step onto the field tomorrow without having clinched yet. They cannot eliminate anyone with a loss, because the team against whom the magic number is one will not have lost.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Coverage of the McCain Raines ad

People are saying that McCain got it wrong because the Post got it wrong. Those people are ignoring the most egregious part of the Obama campaign's "it's a scurrilous lie" response. Whether the Post was right or wrong in its reporting is irrelevant to the truth of the ad. McCain's ad doesn't say that Raines was Obama's adviser - it merely said that the Post said that Raines was Obama's adviser. Which is undeniably true.

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Another good one

McCain's ad people have been busy. And they're coming out of their slump. Of course, as I said, it's a target-rich environment...

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Is America ready for four years of this?

Here's a shock - Time thinks that the Raines ad is racist. Stop me if you've heard this one before...
This is hardly subtle: Sinister images of two black men, followed by one of a vulnerable-looking elderly white woman.

Let me stipulate: Obama's Fannie Mae connections are completely fair game. But this ad doesn't even mention a far more significant tie--that of Jim Johnson, the former Fannie Mae chairman who had to resign as head of Obama's vice presidential search team after it was revealed he got a sweetheart deal on a mortgage from Countrywide Financial. Instead, it relies on a fleeting and tenuous reference in a Washington Post Style section story to suggest that Obama's principal economic adviser is former Fannie Mae Chairman Frank Raines. Why? One reason might be that Johnson is white; Raines is black.

That would be a lot more compelling if there weren't already an ad running featuring Johnson, the white guy, used in exactly the same way. As the Instapundit notes, "maybe there are just too many dubious Obama associations to fit into a single commercial?" Sure looks like it to me.



The scariest part of all of this, of course, is the contemplation of an America where dissent with the President ceases to be the "highest form of Patriotism" and becomes instead a "scurrilous racist attack." It is going to be a long and difficult four years if The Anointed One wins this election...

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Next

Yesterday, it was Franklin Raines. Today, it's Jim Johnson.



Let's face it - despite his protestations of being a "new kind of politician" (or because of them), the Obama campaign presents a target-rich environment for this kind of thing...

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NFL picks, week 3

Kansas City at Atlanta (-5.5) - The idea that Atlanta is nearly a touchdown favorite would be shocking if they were playing USC. Since they're only playing the Chiefs, it's probably reasonable.

Arizona at Washington (-3.5) - It would seem to be inevitable that one year the Cardinals will be good again, even if only accidentally. And they're off to a 2-0 start this year, so could this be the year? I'm thinking, "probably not."

Houston at Tennessee (-5) - New Houston vs. Old Houston. Old Houston playing with older QB. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Given Old Houston's defense, there's an excellent change they cover if they get to 10.

Oakland (+9.5) at Buffalo - Buffalo wins, but not by 10+.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Chicago - I know that they won in Indianapolis. I know that they played tough and lost close at Carolina. I know that they're home this week. I know that I'm not yet buying the Bears as a good team.

Carolina (+3.5) at Minnesota - Apparently Gus Frerotte is still not only alive, but playing in the NFL. Who knew? But everybody knows that it's getting late early in Minnesota.

Cincinnati (+14) at N.Y. Giants - Obviously, the Giants win the game. But this is the kind of situation where the Bengals rise up and tease, lose close, and talk about how good they are.

Miami at New England (-13) - That's a lot of points to give for a team playing the way that I expect New England to play. But it's not a lot to give to a team playing the way I expect Miami to play.

New Orleans (+5.5) at Denver - One of the rules that I tend to follow in making picks is to just pick the winner, and assume that the winner will also cover. I've got a bunch of games this week where I'm breaking that rule, and this is one of them. Broncos win by a field goal.

Detroit at San Francisco (-4.5) - I don't know what to make of the 49ers. They lost badly at home to the Cardinals, and won in Seattle. Since I don't know what to make of San Francisco, I look to the opposition. Ah, the Lions on the road - I know what to do with them.

St. Louis at Seattle (-10) - I don't know who the second worst team in the NFL is, but I know who the worst is.

Cleveland (+2.5) at Baltimore - The Browns are due for a big effort. They'll get it here.

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (-3.5) - This is a balance of power game. The Steelers are a good AFC team, the Eagles are a good NFC team. Has the NFC come back to parity? Pretty close, I think, and the home team wins.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-5.5) - Jacksonville joins Minnesota as preseason powerhouses starting 0-3.

Dallas at Green Bay (+3) - Warning: I strongly suspect that this based more on wishful thinking than analysis. (In other words, I'm picking Green Bay to win outright, and predicting that I'm picking it wrong. So whatever happens, I'll be right! And wrong! I'll be able to say, both, "I told you so," and "I should have known better." I'm telling you, you don't get analysis like this just anywhere...)

N.Y. Jets (+10) at San Diego - Another split pick. The Jets are not good enough to go out to San Diego and win. But they'll keep it relatively close, losing by a touchdown.

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To Tell The Truth

This is instructive.

The McCain camp has run another anti-Obama ad, this one referencing Fannie Mae, former Clinton budget director Franklin Raines, and Barack Obama.



I think it's a pretty good ad, though I think that there's room for harsher ones on the same topic. Obama's initial choice to head his VP search committee was James Johnson, also a recent CEO of Fannie Mae.

What's instructive, however, is the Obama campaign's response.
This is another flat-out lie from a dishonorable campaign that is increasingly incapable of telling the truth. Frank Raines has never advised Senator Obama about anything — ever...
- Obama Spokesman Bill Burton

That has been their first response to everything. That was their response to McCain's sex-ed ad, and the ad was true.

But go back and watch the ad again. The ad does not state that Raines advised Obama. It says that:
Obama has no background in economics.

Who advises him?

The Post says it's Franklin Raines, for "advice on mortgage and housing policy."

Well, guess what? That statement is true.
In the four years since he stepped down as Fannie Mae's chief executive under the shadow of a $6.3 billion accounting scandal, Franklin D. Raines has been quietly constructing a new life for himself. He has shaved eight points off his golf handicap, taken a corner office in Steve Case's D.C. conglomeration of finance, entertainment and health-care companies and more recently, taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.
- On the Outside Now, Watching Fannie Falter, Washington Post, 7/16/08

Whether the Post was right or wrong, the McCain ad is clearly not a lie.

But the Obama campaign's devotion to, and love of, the truth is somewhat ... flexible

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Patriots (but not the football team)

I think that the McCain ad team's been off their game for the past week or so, but this one's pretty good...

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Congratulations, Tampa Bay Rays

Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays on winning the 2008 AL East division championship. They accomplished that with their 10-3 win over the Red Sox in Tampa last night*. In their 11th year of existence, they not only win more than 70 games for the first time, their first finish higher than 4th (and they'd only done that once) is a first place finish. That's quite an accomplishment and a big step to take in one year. Many people expected them to be much better this year, but not many expected this.


* - What's that? The race isn't over? Well, technically, that's true. It's pretty darn close to it, though. The lead in the division is two games, but the effective lead is bigger. For one thing, the lead is three in the loss column, and that was Boston's last opportunity to contribute to any Rays losses. For another, that win last night clinched the season series between the two teams for the Rays. Given that they'll both be in the playoffs, that means that if they finish tied, Tampa wins the East. Right now, Boston has 10 games left, Tampa 12. In order to win the division, the Sox need to lose four fewer than Tampa the rest of the way to win the East. If Boston goes 7-3, Tampa only needs 6-6 to win. The Red Sox haven't mathematically clinched, but they will have in the next few days, and resting players and setting up the pitching are more important than winning the East. So it could still happen, but I think it extremely unlikely. I think Tampa's win last night was the effective clincher.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Magic number - 9/17/2008

Once again, Beckett throws a great game against the Rays, once again, the Sox don't score against Sonnenstine, once again Tampa manages to get the winning run in where Boston doesn't. If they want to win the division, tonight's game is a must-win.

With 11 games remaining, the "magic number" for the Red Sox to finish ahead of:

3 - New York
3 - Toronto
5 - Minnesota
14 - Tampa Bay

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Grading Obama

Brilliant - grading Obama's response to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

I do not expect to read a better blog post this week...

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Uh-oh

Is this the next Obama attack on Sarah Palin?



Could be...

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Magic number - 9/16/2008

Somehow, I got the magic number for clinching the Wild Card wrong yesterday. So, an update...

With 12 games remaining, the "magic number" for the Red Sox to finish ahead of:

4 - New York
4 - Toronto
6 - Minnesota
14 - Tampa Bay

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NFL Week 2 wrapup

Week 2 in the NFL...

  • The Patriots weren't going to go 16-0 again even with Tom Brady at the helm, and it certainly isn't going to happen without him. But what we've seen from Cassel during the first couple of weeks is very reminiscent of what we saw when Brady replaced Bledsoe in 2001. The defense steps up, the offense gets more conservative, and they play defense, ball control and field position. They won a lot of games that way during Brady's first few years, and I expect that they'll win a lot of games that way this year, too.


  • One of the irritants in watching the NFL is the strutting and celebrating as guys cross the goal line. The touchdown dances are annoying, to, but the "styling" as people cross the goal line is a particular nuisance. And last night, we saw the logical extension of that nonsense, as Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson spiked the ball before he got to the end zone. Luckily for the Eagles, the Cowboys chasing him didn't bother to pick the ball up, so they got the ball back at the one and scored on the next play.


  • As a Patriot fan, I've rooted for Romeo Crennel to do well in Cleveland. But the decision to kick a field goal on 4th and 7 from the Pittsburgh 20 with 3:24 left was just painful. If that had made it 10-9, I'd have been OK with it. But it made 10-6, leaving them still needing a touchdown. Were they likely to get closer than the 20 in the last 3 1/2 minutes, given what they'd done so far? No, they weren't, and they didn't. Just a dreadful decision.


  • Look, the Chargers got hosed. There's no question about it. But I think it's fair to say that Denver was luckier than San Diego was unlucky. Yes, Cutler absolutely fumbled, Hochuli screwed up in blowing the whistle, and the Chargers should have just been taking a knee for the last 25 seconds. But San Diego did NOTHING to stop Denver on that last drive. To the extent that the Chargers had the game won, it was due entirely to a Cutler unforced error - the Charger defense had nothing to do with it. And even after that play, they had two chances to win, by keeping the Broncos out of the end zone, first from the 10, then from the 2 1/2. They failed both times.


  • Memo to Minnesota: When playing a team like the Colts, you need to score TOUCHDOWNS, not FIELD GOALS. The Vikings scored five times, taking a 15-0 lead. The Colts tied the score by scoring twice. And won it on a field goal. In a game that was, as Tony Dungy correctly said, "one of those games we probably shouldn't have won."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    NY Giants at St. Louis - (On the 9 point spread) "Given what the Rams have done over the past year-plus, isn't that kind of low?"

    Atlanta at Tampa Bay - "I think Matt Ryan's going to be a good pro QB. He'll discover this week that there's a difference between an NFL defense and the Detroit Lions defense."

    Green Bay at Detroit - "The Lions allowed 34 to the Falcons last week. They're a better team at home, usually, but are they enough better not to lose by a touchdown or more? I don't think so."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Miami at Arizona - "I've been a Chad Pennington detractor for years, but it's because I've focused on his limitations. His arm limits the upside of any offense that he runs. But he's smart, efficient, and much better than anything the Dolphins have had since Marino retired. And once again, Bill Parcells has chosen to come in and rescue a team that had injury and ineffectiveness problems lead to a record that significantly underperformed its talent level. I think Miami actually wins this outright."

    Tennessee at Cincinnati - "Are the Bengals a great team? No. They'll be 8-8 again this year, as they have been basically every year under Marvin Lewis. And this week takes them to 1-1."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 10-5
    ATS: 7-7-1


  • For the season:
    Winners: 20-11
    ATS: 16-14-1

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