Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Pythagorean, 7/13/2009

And into the All Star break we go, with a 5-2 week leading to a 3 game lead over the Yankees, and 6 1/2 over the Rays.

  • So we hit the break with the Red Sox having both the best record and the best run differential in the AL. They're three up on the Yankees in the East and 5 1/2 up on Texas for the Wild Card. They're a long way from locking up a playoff spot, but for those of who thought they were the best team in the league before the season began, nothing that's happened so far has altered that.

  • The Red Sox are currently 54-34, 20 games over .500. When you get to 20 games over .500, that means that .500 ball the rest of the way results in 91 wins. To win the AL East, I suspect that 30 games over .500, 96 wins, is necessary. The Red Sox are obviouly on pace, both by record and by run differential, to exceed that.

  • Earlier in the year, I said that they needed Jed Lowrie back. I said that they had gotten more than they had any right to expect from Nick Green, and hoped that people would recognize that. I wanted him replaced before he turned back into a pumpkin. Well, Cinderella - your coach isn't waiting anymore. In his last 51 games, since May 4, he's hitting .240/.310/.370/.680. That happens to good hitters, of course (though not usually in stretches quite that long), but it also happens to bad hitters. That's a lot closer to realistic Nick Green expectations than what he did the first month.

  • The Red Sox have more road games left than home games (36 vs. 38) while the Yankees have more home than road (39 vs. 35). But. The Red Sox played their last game west of the central time zone on May 17. The Yankees played their first game in the pacific time zone on July 10, and still have two more trips to the west coast. Advantage: Boston.

  • The Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report has the Red Sox with a 52% chance of winning the East and 30% chance of winning the Wild Card, for an 82% chance of making the post-season. This is second in MLB only to the Dodgers, a good team playing in a lousy division.

  • I commented on this yesterday, but I wanted to note it again - I love the decision to start Buchholz on Friday night. I think that it shows foresight and imagination, while using the organizational depth efficiently. For many teams, a move like this wouldn't make sense, but a) Buchholz has been dominant at AAA and certainly looks ready to throw an effective start and b) they've got roster moves that they have to make (Lowell, Lowrie) anyway. This means that all of the starters go into the All Star break knowing exactly when their next starts are, and when they need to throw to prep. There's no preparation uncertainty pending the appearance or non-appearance of Beckett and/or Wakefield on Tuesday night. It would be a stretch to call it brilliant, but it is unconventional, and I love the move, regardless of how it ends up working out.

  • The big stories of the "first half":
    • The Big Man - Cries for his dismissal abounded as he began the year .185/.284/.287/.570 with 1 HR in his first 178 at-bats. Then Papi returned, as he's hit .278/.368/.617/.986 with 1 HR every 10.45 at-bats since June 1.

    • The Rivals - The Yankees had the first game won until Jason Bay took Mariano deep in the bottom of the ninth. They had the second one won when they took a 6-0 lead over Beckett with Burnett on the mound, until Burnett melted down. They had a couple more that they lost late. Why are the Red Sox three games up on the Yankees? Because they're eight games up on the Yankees head-to-head - against the rest of baseball, New York's five games ahead of Boston. If Boston were 6-2 against New York rather than 8-0, they'd be a game down instead of three games up.

    • The Adventures of Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Land of the Rising Sun - Matsuzaka, who finished 4th in the AL Cy Young balloting a year ago with 18 wins and a 159 ERA+, is 1-5 in 8 starts, with an ERA over 8. The team has been surprisingly (and refreshingly) forthright in blaming the World Baseball Classic, which prevented his having a normal spring training, and left him unprepared for the start of the regular season.

    • A Pair of Aces - The two Aces of the Sox staff started slowly, but since May 1, Beckett and Lester are a combined 16-5 with a 2.71 ERA in 26 starts, while striking out 177 in 176 1/3 innings.

    • There's a Hole in the World - Many teams have struggles with their fifth starters - the Sox have had problems with their third. From May 1 through July 6, more than two months, the pitchers in that slot (Masterson, Matsuzaka, Smoltz) went 1-8 with a 6.59 ERA.

    • The Best Bullpen in Baseball - The 'pen has been mostly outstanding. They've had a couple of significant meltdowns, losing a couple of games that should not have been lost, but they've won a bunch of games that shouldn't necessarily have been won, too. Justin Masterson is struggling, and they need to get that straightened out, but they've got a bunch of pitchers in the bullpen who can miss bats, and if they haven't been quite as dominant as advertised, that's more a result of the advertising than the performance.

    • The Crusty Vet - Though in my opinion undeserved, Wakefield makes his first All Star team at age 42. There's no question that he was very good early and has been pretty good again lately. The long bad-to-mediocre stretch somehow escaped people's attention.

    • Three Musketeers - Pedrioa, Youkilis and Bay were expected to be key offensive contributors, and all of them have been. Youkilis and Pedroia got the big money, and it obviously hasn't affected them (negatively) as it seems to affect some.

    • The Other Crusty Vets - Question marks, coming off of injury and just plain decrepitude, Lowell and Varitek have met or exceeded expectations.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week: In basketball, they used to call Vinnie Johnson "the microwave," because he'd get so hot so quickly. I'm thinking that works for Dustin Pedroia just as well. When he's cold, he gets very cold. But when he's hot, he's scorching hot. The hot Pedroia is back, as he hit a ridiculous .462/.500/.885/1.385 with a home run and six (6!) doubles for the week, despite missing a game to be with his pregnant wife at the hospital.

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week: No-brainer. Jon Lester was spectacular in his one start with 8 innings of 4-hit shutout ball, and Daniel Bard struck out 8 in 4 1/3 innings while allowing 1 hit, no walks and no earned runs (because of an error and a bloop double, he ended up giving up 2 unearned runs). But Josh Beckett started two games and threw 15 2/3 innings while allowing only 9 hits and 2 runs to earn the honors for the week.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/13/2009



Tampa Bay5.35(3)4.49(4)0.579(2)52374841-4

New York5.63(1)4.94(11)0.559(3)493951372




Los Angeles5.36(2)4.99(12)0.533(7)464049373







Kansas City3.93(14)4.82(10)0.408(14)365237511

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

New York9468

Los Angeles9270



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

New York9270

Tampa Bay9072

Los Angeles8973


Standings for the week






Los Angeles7.33(1)6.33(10)0.567(5)33421

Tampa Bay4.5(7)4.33(7)0.517(6)33421



New York6.29(3)6.43(11)0.49(9)34340




Kansas City3.86(13)6(9)0.308(13)25250


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