Monday Pythagorean, 8/26/2013
"Go west, young man!"
- Horace Greeley, responding to Ben Cherington's question as to how the Red Sox could best right their ship...
"When the only tool you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
- Me, wondering whether Greeley ever had anything else to say...
- Quite a week for the Sox on the left coast, as they go 4-2 and still underperform their Pythagorean, scoring 33 runs while allowing only 9.
- Ok, the Rays are actually still ahead in the loss column. How can Boston be in first? Well, they've still played four more games than Tampa. Which means that the Rays have four extra days with games out of the next 35, nearly an extra game per week. And they've got to win all four of them in order to maintain that loss column advantage.
- The first of those comes today, as the Rays have a six-game homestand turned into two three game homestands with a makeup trip to Kansas City for an afternoon game today before hosting the Angels tomorrow night in Tampa. That's about a 2500-mile, 5 flight-hours 1-game 1-day road trip.
- (Go Royals!)
- Here's another way that the schedule advantage skews heavily towards Boston - of Tampa's remaining 34 games, 20 of them are on the road (31-30) and only 14 are at home (43-24). Of Boston's 30 remaining games, only 12 are on the road (37-32) and 18 are at home (40-23). Tampa has been only one game better than .500 on the road, and 59% of their remaining games are road games. 60% of Boston's remaining games are at Fenway.
- Ok, I'll admit it - I was not upset when Middlebrooks grounded into a double-play to end the first inning of Sunday night's game. I would have preferred a grand slam, of course, but I'm glad that he didn't hit a sacrifice fly, or score a run on a ground ball out. Pedroia was out by a mile at first base, but called safe in one of the most clearly blown umpiring calls in recent memory, and I wanted to Boston to beat LA without having to listen to whining from Dodger (or Rays) fans about it. The double-play essentially removed the umpiring mistake from the game - they still would have scored exactly one run without it and Middlebrooks still would have been the third out, so there was no advantage derived. The 8-1 butt-kicking was entirely earned.
- National League parks, National League lineups? The Red Sox have had 10 starts this year in which a pitcher went 8+ innings. Four of them were this week. And there might have been a fifth, as pulling Lester with one out in the 8th of a dominant performance on Saturday was one of the questionable managerial moves of the week.
- Not only did they score 5 1/2 runs per game in those big NL ball parks to go 4-2, they did it with no offensive contributrion from David Ortiz, as Big Papi was 0-11 (four strikeouts, no walks) on the week.
- The re-emergence of Mike Napoli (.455/.500/.818/1.318, 3.34 runs created, 11.93 RC/25 outs) helped make up for the Papi-less-ness...
- Dustin Pedroia (.435/.440/.696/1.136, 5.62 runs created, 8.79 RC/25 outs) is hitting again. That's always a good thing.
- I questioned the pulling of Lester on Saturday. I also questioned the double-switch in the sixth inning in SF on Tuesday night. I would have tried to get another inning out of Peavey, rather than pulling him with two outs in the sixth.
- NL people love it when that happens. I hate it, and it's a big part of the reason that I prefer the DH. Pitching and hitting are disparate enough skills that there's no reason to expect one who's good at one to be good at the other, and pitching is important enough that a pitcher's offensive skills are irrelevant. I don't want to see them in the lineup, and I don't want to see them pulled because they're going to be hitting in the next inning.
- Middlebrooks watch: Don't tell me about the 4-for-19 this week - tell me about the three walks, and the 100 point gap between his OBP and his batting average. The hits will come, the power will come. But will he do enough in his other plate appearances? It's all about the plate discipline, for Middlebrooks more than some others. He's not got a quick enough bat to be a good bad-ball hitter. He's got to hit strikes, and lay off balls. Some guys can get away with swinging at pitches and still be productive; we've seen enough now to know that he's not one of them. So this (.211/.304/.368/.673, 1.56 runs created, 2.16 RC/25 outs) is a decent week as far as I'm concerned. Not that it was good - it wasn't. But no one's good every week. Baseball is, by it's very nature, hit-or-miss. No one succeeds in every plate appearance, or exactly one-of-three or anything else. Everyone's hot and cold, and, at the end, we add up the hots and the colds and see who contributed the most. If he's drawing walks during the cold streak, I'm optimistic.
- What a difference a year makes. This is from last August 27:
- Congratulations to Xander Bogaerts, who made his Major League debut, collected his first Major League hit and collected his first Major League RBI this week.
- Red Sox Player of the Week - Was it familiarity with the ball parks and opposition? The best performance of the week came from the player with the most time in the NL, Shane Victorino (.391/.462/.783/1.244, 7.33 runs created, 12.21 RC/25 outs), as the top of the lineup produced much of the offense.
- Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Sometimes, this is tough. Not this week. Though Peavey tried to make it tough last night. Despite excellent starts from Lackey, Peavey and Doubront, and excellent "penmanship" from Uehara, this is a no-brainer, as Jon Lester allowed one run in 15 2/3 outstanding innings pitched against the Giants and Dodgers, giving up only one run on nine hits and six walks while striking out nine en route to two big wins.
The collapse that began in September of 2011 has continued. And it's shocking to contemplate. At the end of play on August 31, 2011, the Boston Red Sox had an 83-52 record, the best record in the American league by 1 1/2 games over the New York Yankees and 7 games over the Texas Rangers. Since then, under two different managers, they've gone 68-87. Despite outscoring their opposition, they've been 19 games under .500 over a period encompassing nearly a full season. They've underperformed their Pythagorean winning percentage by almost 10 full games, playing .439 ball against a .501 projected record. They've scored 5.02 runs/game while allowing 5.00 runs/game. If it sounds, from that, as if the offense has been better than the pitching, well, that's true. But it's also misleading. In over 25% of their games (40), they've failed to score 3 runs. The result of all of this is that they were 15-23 in games decided by one run, 13-21 in games decided by 2 runs, and 15-10 in games decided by 7 runs or more.Of course, the big story that week was The Trade.
On the whole, I'm happier with this year's report.