Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Boston Late Night

From the May issue of Boston magazine, Boston Late Night. With Aerosmith's Joe Perry and others, including Ben Beverage...

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday pythagorean - 4/12/2014

Another downer of a week, with a couple of good games sandwiched between extremely bad ones, a 3-4 record, and more missed opportunities to beat their division competition and get back to .500...
  • Division competition? 0-1 vs. Baltimore, 1-2 vs. New York. Yeah, 2-1 vs. Toronto, but if they end up anywhere near Toronto in the standings when it's all said and done, it will have been a serious disappointment of a season.

  • On April 2, the 0-1 Red Sox beat Baltimore 6-2 to move to .500. On April 5, they lost to Milwaukee to fall below .500 at 2-3. Since then, they have had six opportunities to get back to .500 (two of them this week alone). They are 0-6, and have been outscored 39-19.
    • April 6, 2-3 - Milwaukee 4, Boston 0
    • April 8, 3-4 - Texas 10, Boston 7
    • April 10, 4-5 - NY Yankees 4, Boston 1
    • April 12, 5-6 - NY Yankees 7, Boston 4
    • April 21, 9-10 - Baltimore 7, Boston 6
    • April 27, 12-13 - Toronto 7, Boston 1

  • They did win the first game in Toronto, only the second time this season that they've won the opening game of a series. After winning the second, the had an opportunity, for the first time this year, to sweep a team. Toronto 7, Boston 1.

  • I still think that it's possible that we'll look back at Thursday's 14-5 drubbing at the hands of the Yankees, with five errors, five unearned runs and a one-inning five-walk mop-up performance from utility OF/1B Mike Carp, as the low point of the season, the bottoming out point. That possibility seemed stronger before losing 7-1 in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

  • Clay Buchholz had an interesting week. Of the first seven hitters he faced, he allowed no hits, one walk and no runs over 2 innings. Of the last 25, he allowed 3 hits (2 1B, 1 2B), 2 walks and no runs over 6 2/3 innings. But in between those two stretches, he faced 13 batters, giving up 10 hits (9 1B and a 2B), one walk, and nine runs over 2/3 of an inning.

  • Will Middlebrooks is certainly going to hit for more power than Brock Holt. He has not yet convinced me that he's going to demonstrate enough plate discipline to be a better all-around offensive performer.

  • Putting Middlebrooks and Pierzynski back-to-back in the lineup seems to just be offering up a quick easy inning to the opposing pitcher, their back-to-back home runs on Saturday notwithstanding.

  • Nice to see Shane Victorino back. It'll be even better when he get enough at-bats to become effective at the plate again.

  • It seems as though a Sizemore-Bradley-Victorino outfield is going to catch a lot of balls that a Gomes-Sizemore-Nava outfield would see drop.

  • So, one night after the Red Sox get burned by the utterly idiotic interpretation of the "transfer" rule, when Dustin Pedroia dropped an attempted double-play out of his throwing hand, thus losing the out that should already have been recorded at 2nd, Major League Baseball has become convinced of the idiocy, and reverted to the previous interpretation. Better late than never. (And while the Red Sox got hurt by it against the Yankees, they had benefited from it against the Orioles in a game they ended up winning.)

  • In seven games this week, the Red Sox committed 8 errors that led to 11 unearned runs. Their ERA for the week was 4.93 - their RA/9 was 6.53.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Continued decent-to-good performances from Dustin Pedroia (.310/.412/.414/.826, 4.61 runs created, 5.24 RC/25 outs) and A.J. Pierzynski (.333/.381/.611/.992, 4.24 runs created, 8.16 RC/25 outs) and David Ortiz (.250/.480/.625/1.105, 5.35 runs created, 10.29 RC/25 outs) helped raise the offense performance this week, but the player of the week is Mike Napoli (.375/.444/.750/1.194, 6.76 runs created, 10.56 RC/25 outs), who looks even better this year than he did last.

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - I want to start by praising Jake Peavy, whose 7 IP, one run start on Friday got them off to a great start in the Toronto series. But the pitcher of the week this week was John Lackey, who threw 8 innings of one-run ball against the Yankees, allowing no walks and striking out 11.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/28/2014
LA Angels5.42(3)4.21(4)0.613(2)1591113-4
Kansas City3.79(13)3.63(2)0.521(3)121212120
Chicago Sox5.5(2)5.31(15)0.516(6)131313130
Tampa Bay4.2(10)4.4(6)0.479(9)12131114-1
NY Yankees4.28(9)4.6(10)0.467(11)121315103

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
NY Yankees9765

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
LA Angels9666
Kansas City8478

Standings for the week
LA Angels5.5(3)2.83(1)0.771(1)5133-2
Kansas City4.43(13)3.14(2)0.652(2)5234-2
Chicago Sox5.29(6)4.57(6)0.566(5)43430
NY Yankees5.33(5)5.17(8)0.515(7)33421
Tampa Bay5(9)6(11)0.417(12)3324-1

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Red pill economics"

Kevin Williamson
For the conservative, people are an asset — in the coldest economic terms, a potentially productive unit of labor. For the progressive, people are a liability — a mouth to be fed, a problem in need of a solution. Understanding that difference of perspective renders understandable the sometimes wildly different views that conservatives and progressives have about things like employment policy. For the conservative, the value of a job is what the worker produces; for the progressive, the value of a job is what the worker is paid. Politicians on both sides frequently talk about jobs as though they were economic products rather than contributors to economic output, as though they were ends rather than means. The phrase “there aren’t enough jobs” is almost completely meaningless, but it is a common refrain.


Mr. Carrillo’s middle-school-quality prose must be read to be appreciated...but his thinking is positively elementary. It does, however, almost perfectly sum up the symbolism-over-literal-substance progressive worldview: “You need dollars to eat,” he writes, “and unless you steal the dollars, you generally have to earn them.”

But you do not need dollars to eat. You need food to eat. Experiment: Spend six months locked in room with nothing other than a very large pile of dollars; measure subsequent weight loss.
It's long, but well worth reading. Excellent, from start to finish...

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Pythagorean - 4/21/2014

In the end, the record is what counts, so despite the fact that they continue to struggle offensively, and played some ugly ball, a 4-2 record makes for a successful week...
  • It's tough to overstate how much the offense has struggled. They were 12th in the AL in runs scored per game this week, at four runs/game, but even that overstates the offense. One of the games went fourteen innings. In that game, they scored two of their week's runs against a utility infielder. They were aided significantly by a bad rule interpretation and poor opposition's defense, as they managed to score 33 runs while their component offense suggests that they created only 28.

  • The cortisone shot to Pedroia's wrist seems to have helped.

  • The Ryan Roberts era did not last long, ending with a .105/.227/.105/.333 line, 2 hits in 19 at-bats. And Brock Holt (.400/.455/.600/1.055, 2.71 runs created, 11.31 RC/25 outs) wasted no time in making it look like a good decision.

  • That game on Wednesday had exactly one redeeming feature - the Red Sox won. But wow, was that the ugliest 5 hours and 17 minutes of the season thus far. Yeah, the Red Sox won. Yeah, they scored six runs. But it's actually an excellent illustration of how badly they've struggled offensively. It took them fourteen innings to score the six runs. They scored the final two against a utility infielder after the White Sox had burned through their bullpen. They were limited to four runs over thirteen innnings against Chicago's pitchers, despite the fact that those pitchers walked a better per inning over that stretch.

  • It does not seem to make sense for Boston to be playing a night game before the 11AM Patriots' Day start, the only morning MLB game played during the season.

  • I have avoided as much of the bombing-related coverage as has been humanly possible for someone living in Massachusetts and following the Red Sox for the past year. But I watched the pregame on Sunday night, because the bagpipe band on the field was the one that my son plays with and the solo pipe that started the Highland Cathedral is his teacher. And I came away with two thoughts. One is that it was a lovely and moving ceremony, and the Highland Cathedral is a lovely piece. The other is this - the Red Sox have got to start making it about 2014 and baseball. There seems to have been, thus far, a tremendous amout of time and energy expended on things that are ancillary and in the past. They can't keep focusing on other stuff before the games and expect to start the games well. And they haven't.

  • Boston has been outscored in each of the first five innings. They've both scored and allowed 8 in the sixth. The first inning for which the Red Sox have outscored their opposition is the 7th.

  • The baseball season is divided into series between two teams, sometimes two and sometimes four, but usually three. The easiest way to make the playoffs is to just keep winning series. The easiest way to win series is to win the first game. The Red Sox have played six series so far. They have lost the first game of the series five times.

  • Let's be honest - the interpretation of the "control/possession/transfer" rule that baseball is currently using with the replay is idiotic. The Red Sox benefited tremendously in the seventh inning of Sunday night's game when Brock Holt was called safe at second as SS Ryan Flaherty caught the ball to force him, but then muffed it when pulling it out of his glove to make the throw to first. Clearly out at every point in the history of baseball, but now, all of a sudden, they've decided that control of the ball isn't good enough anymore - it has to be voluntarily released, not dropped on the throw attempt. As a Red Sox fan, I'm thrilled with the way the inning played out, as the "error" directly led to the tying runs scoring, but as a baseball fan, I'm just appalled at the idiocy.

  • Does Victorino come back this week? When he does, how do they make a roster spot for him? Does Bradley go down? Nava's struggling and has an option - do they send him down? Do they trade Carp? My guess would be Bradley, but I could see them giving Nava some AAA at-bats to try to get himself put back together. There are a lot of people that want them to get rid of Carp, but I don't see any way that happens - he's too much of an asset, a good pinch-hitter who can play the OF or 1B, and they can keep either of the other two in the organization with Victorino in Boston.

  • Quite a week for Mike Napoli, who dislocated a finger sliding into second on Tuesday and then took a ball off the knee on Sunday. The finger only cost him one game, and he ended up taking his base after the HBP, but that knee has got to be pretty tender this morning.

  • It should be noted that, despite the slow start, the Red Sox are 9-10, and tied for third in the AL East, just two games behind the Yankees, who have just joined the Rays in losing one of their starters for the year to Tommy John surgery. (Ok, I guess the surgery isn't definite for Nova yes, but if the reports of a torn ulnar collateral ligament are true, you know it's coming.) In other words, they still look like the favorites in the east.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Dustin Pedroia (.318/.423/.455/.878, 4.30 runs created, 6.72 RC/25 outs) returned and had a good week. The fact is, it's a good-but-not-great week that usually isn't good enough to win Player of the Week honors, and the fact that it does is one more indicator of how weak the offense has been.

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - On the night after emptying the bullpen as the Red Sox beat a utility infielder in the 14th inning of (hopefully) the worst Major Leaugue baseball game of the season, Jon Lester struck out 9 White Sox in 8 innings while walking none in a 4-1 Boston win. In the process, Lester dropped his ERA for the season to 2.17 and upped his K/BB ratio to 7.25. Whether or not Lester is really an "ace" is something that's much debated, but he's been dominant in the early going of the 2014 season.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/21/2014
LA Angels5.39(3)4.67(11)0.565(2)108810-2
Tampa Bay3.95(10)3.89(4)0.506(6)109910-1
Chicago Sox5.58(1)5.58(15)0.5(7)109910-1
Kansas City3.53(14)3.82(3)0.463(12)89981
NY Yankees3.95(10)4.42(9)0.448(14)9101182

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
NY Yankees9468
Kansas City8676

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
LA Angels8973

Standings for the week
Kansas City4.67(7)3.17(2)0.67(3)42511
LA Angels5(5)5(10)0.5(7)3324-1
Tampa Bay5.17(3)5.17(14)0.5(7)3324-1
Chicago Sox4.33(9)5(10)0.435(11)3324-1
NY Yankees4.33(9)5(10)0.435(11)33421

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Washington Post's Milbank plays race card. Again...

The Daily Caller: WaPo's Milbank suggests GOP toned down Sebelius attacks due to race:
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank suggested Thursday night that the GOP didn’t go after outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with the same zeal as Attorney General Eric Holder because — unlike Holder — Sebelius is white.

Milbank made the insinuation during an interview on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation with Al Sharpton,” after the Reverend ran a segment alleging that Republican opposition to Holder, including his contempt citation, is race-based.

“Well, here’s an interesting thought experiment,” Milbank said. “So let’s compare Holder to Kathleen Sebelius, who has presided over Obamacare – which is the thing that has most antagonized the right and Republicans over all these years. You’re not seeing calls for her impeachment. You’re not seeing the same level of personal vitriol.”

“So I think that why, again, it’s fair to ask the question and let every individual say why it is they have that particular antipathy towards this attorney general, towards this president,” Milbank said, “and why not, say, towards Kathleen Sebelius, who they’re obviously much more at odds with.”

Old TRUTH:  The Republicans were unreasonably tough on Sibelius because they are sexists and she's a woman.
New TRUTH:  The Republicans went easy on Sibelius because they are racists and she's white.

The left has two suits in its deck.  Apparently, for this hand, the Race Card is now trumps, as opposed to the WarOnWomen card.

So when the Republicans were lambasting Sibelius all fall during the disastrous Affordable Care Act roll-out, trumps were WarOnWomen, and they were beating up on her because she was a woman (and you can't hit the girl, because that makes you a sexist [as does saying that you can't hit the girl, which makes for a really interesting and difficult to follow set of moral standards]) but now, in retrospect, they were going easy on her because she's white.

Yeah, that's all perfectly sensible and coherent...

Oh, and Dana, if you're capable of understanding it, here's a significant difference between Holder and Sibelius, totally unrelated to either race or gender:  Holder has presided over a corrupt, politicized Department of Justice, while Sibelius presided over a grossly mismanaged government program rollout.  Malfeasance and corruption, which have led to cries for Holder's impeachment, are different from gross incompetence, which led to cries for Sibelius' resignation. 

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Steyn: The slow death of free speech

Mark Steyn, brilliant as always:
But I don’t really think that many people these days are genuinely interested in ‘striking the balance’; they’ve drawn the line and they’re increasingly unashamed about which side of it they stand. What all the above stories have in common, whether nominally about Israel, gay marriage, climate change, Islam, or even freedom of the press, is that one side has cheerfully swapped that apocryphal Voltaire quote about disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it for the pithier Ring Lardner line: ‘“Shut up,” he explained.’

A generation ago, progressive opinion at least felt obliged to pay lip service to the Voltaire shtick. These days, nobody’s asking you to defend yourself to the death: a mildly supportive retweet would do. But even that’s further than most of those in the academy, the arts, the media are prepared to go. As Erin Ching, a student at 60-grand-a-year Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, put it in her college newspaper the other day: ‘What really bothered me is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.’ Yeah, who needs that? There speaks the voice of a generation: celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity.

Read it all...

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Monday, April 14, 2014

"Dustin Pedroia wrist injury not serious"

According to a just-posted story in The Boston Globe, the Red Sox may have dodged a bullet:
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia does not have a serious injury to his left wrist, according to a baseball source.

Further tests are being done in Boston today, but Pedroia should be fine, based on the preliminary results.
I'd love a little more detail, and obviously, if there are still tests to be done, this isn't graven in stone, but it's a positive story, and that means that there's hope...

UPDATE:  This updated story from ESPN.com actually makes me less optimistic than I was earlier.
Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia does not have a fracture in his left wrist, a development a baseball source called "great news" on Monday afternoon.

Another source told ESPNBoston.com earlier Monday that things looked good so far but that further tests were scheduled.
I wasn't worried about a fracture.  I'm far more worried about tendon/ligament damage, or split tendon sheath.  And if the "good news" is that all they've done is take an X-ray and see no fracture, well, we're a long way from out of the woods...

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Monday Pythagorean - 4/14/2014

Another four-loss week extends the poor start to the season out to 13 games...
  • As frustrating as it's been thus far, and as many concerning signs as we've seen, it's not like they've already dug themselves a huge hole. They're only two games out, and Tampa and New York both have injury issues, too. There are no indications that any non-Boston team is going to run away and hide in the East, so they've got time to get themselves squared away.

  • The pitching was very good in five of the seven games this week. And very bad in the other two, with Doubront getting knocked out in the third on Tuesday and Lackey giving up five HR on Saturday. Despite five well-pitched games, they only won three, as they lost 3-2 on Sunday night (with the winning run scoring on the disputed [but correctly] overturned double-play-that-wasn't, and losing 4-1 on Thursday when Buchholz was pretty good but had no support from the offense, and little from the defense.

  • The offense, on the other hand was bad. Again. They've had a couple of productive games thus far, but not many. They've done a decent job reaching base, but have hit for very little power. They've only hit 11 HR, 10th in the AL, they're the only AL team without a triple so far, and they've only hit 19 doubles, which is 11th best in the AL.

  • That doubles performance is very out of character for a team that plays in Fenway Park. Six of the best nine doubles seasons in the past 10 years have been Boston's. Over that span, there have been 300 team-seasons, and all 10 of Boston's are in the top 29 for doubles. They've averaged nearly 40 more per year than second place Cleveland. In other words, they are extremely unlikely to finish the season 11th in the AL for doubles. Of course, if they do, they're going to finish under .500, 15 games out.

  • They have had a dreadful time stringing innings together. They lead all of baseball with 17 GIDP. And even when they get an inning put together, they cannot seem to get the hit that makes a difference. They're hitting .204/.281/.311/.591 with runners in scoring position, and .200/.321/.289/.610 with RISP and two outs. If "clutch" is a real attribute, they have not demonstrated it thus far.

  • They have scored many of their runs on HR. Two of their three wins this were the direct result of late-game three-run homers, from Ortiz (in the 8th inning against Texas, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead) and Sizemore (in the 6th inning aginst New York, turning a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead). In other words, as bad as it was, it could very easily have been worse.

  • If I had to bet, I would put big money on it that they'll win a game on a Saturday or a Sunday during the 2014 season. But through two weeks, they're 5-4 in games played during the week and 0-for-the-weekends.

  • Another thing that they have not done well is get off to a good start in a game. Theoretically, you build a lineup to get your best hitters up the most often, which results in always having most of your best hitters bat in the first. Through 13 games, the Red Sox have hit .178/.245/.178/.423 in the first inning, with 12 strike outs and only three walks. They have yet to score a run in the first inning.

  • Injuries. It was a little bit scary that Uehara was unable to pitch on Friday night, but what we've heard since suggests that it was nothing serious and he shouldn't miss much time. Victorino is apparently getting close to coming back, which is a good thing, despite the fact that Bradley has played fairly well. The dynamic duo of Ryan Roberts and Jonathan Herrera (a combined .200/.314/.200/.514, 1.19 runs created, 1.10 RC/25 outs) are making me long for the return of Will Middlebrooks.

  • But the potential for a lost season for Pedroia is concerning. Am I jumping the gun there? Let me just say that the history of any kind of wrist problems for hitters makes me fear the worst. [See Garciaparra, Nomar and Ortiz, David, et.al.] We all expected a healed Pedroia, who fought through a torn ligament in his hand for the entire season last year, to be back and productive. But he's been playing with a bad wrist for a week, has been dreadful, and is apparently unable to continue playing through it. How can you not be concerned? One of the questions that's been floating around the organization in recent weeks is, what are they going to do with 21 year-old 2B phenom Mookie Betts, who tore up AA last year and is making a joke of it right now? I am now wondering if he isn't going to spend the summer playing 2B for Boston.

  • Hopefully there's no structural problem with Pedroia's wrist, and he'll be back shortly.

  • Hey, I hear Stephen Drew is still available. Maybe Boston would be a good landing spot for him...

  • The bullpen continues to be a strength of this team. Without Uehara available, Mujica pitched a perfect ninth for the save in Yankee Stadium. Capuano, Breslow (returned from the DL), Tazawa and Mujica combined on 9 2/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Workman (sent down to start in Pawtucket to make room on the roster for Breslow) gave them four strong innings against Texas to hold that game within reach after Doubront got shelled, and saved the bullpen for another day in the process.

  • I am not convinced that Breslow makes the 25-man roster stronger than Workman does, but I understand why they'd make that move. As is, they have both on the 40 man, and they're definitely stronger on the 40-man roster with Breslow in Boston and Workman in Pawtucket than they would be with Workman in Boston and Breslow in Toronto or Baltimore or New York.

  • Ok, Conspiracy Theory time. What we've seen thus far from the instant replay system suggests that
    a) MLB does not really want a replay system but
    b) felt compelled into instituting one so
    c) they instituted a bad (one managerial challenge) system and
    d) implemented it badly so as to kill it.

    Ok, maybe not. But it sure does not seem to have made anything better. I wrote last week about the instance in which a runner came off the bag while being tagged and it never got looked at. This week, a runner came off the bag, it got looked at, there's clear and convincing evidence - hell, there's proof - that the runner was being tagged while not touching the base, and he was called safe anyway. And MLB acknowledged it, saying that the conclusive images "were not immediately available." Why not? How is that both YES and NESN had all of the video information necessary (and what were Remy and Orsillo looking at anyway?) and MLB did not? Things have got to get better, because what we've seen so far is not acceptable.

  • I assume that Farrell was just venting frustration with the replay system last night. Yes, it cost the Red Sox a run, but the overturn was the correct call. Maybe. If. Ok, it might have been the right call. But one of the problems that gets introduced when you add the high speed cameras and super-slow motion replays is this - when does the first baseman have the ball for purposes of recording an out? When it passes the outer edge? When it makes contact? Or when the first baseman actually closes the glove? That last is what was being said on the ESPN broadcast, in which case the runner was clearly safe. Either of the other two, it's not conclusive, and Farrell's got a legitimate complaint. (Farrell's complaint that you can't actually see Cervelli's foot hit the bag because of Napoli's leg is both true and irrelevant. It's quite clear from the fact that his foot stops going down exactly where he hits the bag, and that was clearly before Napoli had squeezed the ball.)

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - As bad as the offense was, there were some good performances this week. Jonny Gomes (.300/.462/.600/1.062, 2.79 runs created, 9.96 RC/25 outs) was very productive but in only three games, 10 AB. Grady Sizemore (.429/.429/.667/1.095, 4.88 runs created, 9.39 RC/25 outs) had an excellent week offensively. (If you hit .429, walks are not necessary.) But, credit where it's due, and we all know that I was a fan of Saltalamacchia and didn't like the switch, the player of the week is A.J. Pierzynski (.474/.500/.632/1.132, 4.83 runs created, 10.97 RC/25 outs).

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Jon Lester was very good again. John Lackey had one excellent start and one bad one. Doubront had one dreadful and one pretty good. Buchholz was significantly better in his second start than in his first. The bullpen was good but other than maybe Workman's one run in four relief innings against Texas, no one stands out. So the pitcher of the week is Jake Peavey, who struck out 8 Rangers while allowing only one run in 6 2/3 innings in the best all-around game the Red Sox played this week.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/14/2014
LA Angels5.58(2)4.5(9)0.597(3)7566-1
Chicago Sox6.15(1)5.85(15)0.523(5)76760
Tampa Bay3.38(13)3.31(3)0.511(8)76760
NY Yankees3.77(10)4.15(7)0.456(10)67761
Kansas City2.91(15)4.18(8)0.34(14)47470

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Chicago Sox8775

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
LA Angels9666
Chicago Sox8577

Standings for the week
LA Angels6.5(2)3.17(4)0.789(2)5142-1
Chicago Sox6.57(1)6.43(15)0.51(6)43430
NY Yankees4.14(8)4.57(12)0.455(10)34431
Kansas City2.67(12)4.5(10)0.277(13)24240
Tampa Bay2.17(15)4(6)0.246(15)15332

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday Pythagorean - 4/7/2014

Week one goes into the books as somewhat less than a complete success...
  • With the sweep at the hands of the less-than-spectacular Milwaukee Brewers, Boston starts the season 0-3 at Fenway for the first time since 1984's 0-4 start.

  • The easiest thing to do in sports fandom and commentary is to over-react to a small sample size, either good or bad. To look at a team after one game or one week and make pronouncements about the way that it's structured or the "character" of its players, to treat six games (3.7% of the season) as a clear example of what the whole season will be.

  • I am trying to avoid small sample overreaction, but some people aren't. In possibly the stupidest discussion I have ever heard, Gerry Callahan expressed the opinion this morning that the Red Sox problem is their plate discipline, that they're losing because they aren't swinging at first pitches enough. I suffered through about 10 minutes of it before I'd had more than enough.

  • Callahan's thesis has several parts, including a) the Red Sox won't ever swing at a first pitch, so everyone just grooves the first pitch and b) they would rather take a walk than hit the ball. And, therefore, they would be much more successful if they would go up to the plate hacking. So, just out of curiosity, I looked at the last couple of games to try to tease out some of the numbers.

    Saturday: First pitch swing - .125/.125/.125 (1 single in 8 at-bats)
    First pitch ball - .182/.182/.182 (2 singles in 11 at-bats)
    First pitch strike looking - .353/.353/.471 (6 hits (2 2B) in 17 at-bats)

    Sunday First pitch swing - .000/.000/.000 (0-for-11)
    First pitch ball - .300/.461/.615 (3 walks, 2 2B, HR in 13 PA)
    First pitch strike looking - .222/.222/.222 (4 1B in 18 at-bats)

    Total: First pitch swing - .052/.052/.052 (1 single in 19 at-bats)
    First pitch ball - .238/.333/.381 (2 1B, 2 2B, HR, 3 BB in 24 PA)
    First pitch strike looking - (.286/.286/.343 8 1B, 2 2B, 35 at-bats)

    So, it is not true that they never swing at the first pitch. They did it 19 times over the weekend, and hit a cumulative .052/.052/.052, with one hit in 19 at-bats. They had one infield single from the six at-bats when they put the ball in place on the first pitch. When swinging at the first pitch and missing or fouling it off, they were 0-13. They were 0-11 on Sunday when swinging at the first pitch.

    When taking the first pitch, they hit .267/.305/.393. They hit better with first pitch balls than first pitch strikes, but they hit much better when taking the first pitch than they did when swinging at it.

    They hit .052/.052/.052 when swinging at the first pitch. They hit .267/.305/.393 when taking the first pitch. And Callahan thinks that the problem was they did too much of the latter, and wants them to do more of the former.

    That really sounds like a recipe for success, huh?

  • One of the interesting discussions during the World Series took place after game 5, when John Farrell was castigated in the sabremetric community, at least some parts of it, for letting Jon Lester hit in the 7th inning, rather than pulling him out. There were several people who identified that as the single worst managerial move of the post-season. And part of the rationale for that criticism is based on a data suggesting that the third time through the lineup, starting pitchers produce significantly worse results, to the extent that there is virtually never a time when there isn’t a reliever more likely to be successful. So as Lester took the mound for the seventh, I was looking at the box score, and thinking, “hmm, he’s four batters into the third time through. I wonder if this is a mistake.” And 10 seconds later, Nelson Cruz drove his first pitch of the inning into the left-field bleachers for the game winning run. [Note – this is not me second-guessing the manager because a) I thought it before the pitch was thrown and b) I wouldn’t have done it differently.]

  • I was a Saltalamacchia fan and thought they should have tendered him. Nothing that's happened thus far has changed that opinion. In four plate appearances on Friday afternoon, Mike Napoli saw 27 pitches. In 16 plate appearances over five games on the season, Pierzynski has seen 38. Four of his 16 plate appearances have been one-pitch outs. That's what he is, but, at least in theory, he'll hit for an acceptable average, with a little power. We'll have to wait and see, but I've got little patience for him. If, two months into the season, it looks like he's done, I hope they'll be quick to pull the plug and turn to Vazquez. If I've got to put up with a catcher making automatic outs, I'd rather it be a young one with promise and potential to get better.

  • In Saturday night's game, the Red Sox pitching staff struck out 18, including, for the first time in team history, three-plus strikeouts from five different pitchers. They lost in eleven innings anyway.

  • The bullpen looked like a strength coming into the season, and it looks like a strength today. For the most part, they've pitched very well in relief, with five of the seven relievers not yet having allowed a run. The exception to the general bullpen competence is, of course, Edward Mujica, whose ninth-inning (bad-call aided) meltdown during the home opener pretty much eliminated any chance of extending their home-opener winning streak.

  • And here's the part where I take MLB to task for the replay system. I am, and long have been, a propent of using instant replay, but am not, and never have been, a fan of the "manager's challenge" system.

    I've written that
    ...baseball people continue to support the current system, a system in which n-6 (where n is the number of people in the world) people know that a runner being called out is safe or that a runner being called safe is out, and the 6 who don't know are allowed to determine the outcome anyway. Even more frustrating is the belief that some kind of replay usage would require long periods of time or limited manager challenges. Why on earth doesn't MLB just place another umpire somewhere where he can see all the replays, and let him correct the obviously wrong calls?
    The position that I do not understand is the one espoused by Jayson Stark, who wants to "give each manager one challenge a night to use however he wants to use it -- except for ball/strike calls." Why get the manager involved at all? If the call is wrong, and it's correctable by replay, why wait until the manager gets a look at it and then challenges before letting a guy with video screens tell the ump that he got it wrong? Why add that extra step? Doesn't that just increase those delays that you're concerned about? In fact, if the players and umpires both know that correctable bad calls will be immediately corrected by a replay official, then the repeated long arguments over blown calls go away.

    And what if that had been Joyce's second blown call of the game, and Leyland had challenged the first one in the sixth inning? We'd be in exactly the same situation today, except that baseball would be even more of a laughing stock. We'd be looking at an obviously blown call that cost a player an official perfect game despite the fact that you'd implemented rules to specifically overrule bad blown calls, only you weren't able to use it because the manager had already used his challenge!

    In fact, this is a relatively simple problem. Somewhere in the league offices in New York, there are already all of the video feeds from all of the games. Set up 16 multiple monitor viewing stations, put an umpire or two in front of each, and give them the equipment to communicate with the head umpire on the field and the authority to correct the obviously blown calls. All of them. If it isn't obvious, play continues. If it is, you take the base-runner off the field or put him back on. If the NHL can do that - and it can - then why not baseball?

    So we've got two instances of the problem this weekend in Boston. The second one, I'm going to mostly blame John Farrell's "challenge or not" guy, because as soon as we saw a single replay of Bradley crossing first base yesterday, it was obvious that there was no way it was going to get overturned, and Farrell went ahead and challenged anyway. So if something egregious had subsequently occurred, they'd have had no way to challenge it. It was a bad, wasted challenge.

    But the second instance occurred in the ninth inning meltdown on Friday, and that's MLB's fault. There's nothing that Farrell can do after the seventh inning - MLB has to make the decision to review, and they didn't. Well, whoever was responsible for reviewing that screwed up. To review - with Khris Davis on second and no outs, the batter bunted the ball. Mujica fielded it and threw to third. Davis reached the bag just before Middlebrooks applied the tag to his backside, but, with the tag still in place, Davis's foot came off the bag. Runner out, so there's a runner at first with one out in a tie game. Except that he was called safe, and this awesome new system that Major League Baseball has implemented to get the calls right is not used.

    If you're not going to use it there, not even going to look at a pivotal play that the umpire's pretty clearly screwed up, what's the point?

  • Just so there's no misunderstanding here, I am not exonerating Mujica for his execrable performance. He was dreadful, horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad. But if the out call is made at third, there's no telling what happens next. Pitching with the go-ahead run at third and no outs is very different from pitching with a runner at first and one out.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - There actually were several good performances this week, including Ortiz and Napoli, David Ross and Dustin Pedroia. But the strongest was clearly the current front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year, Xander Bogaerts (.381/.480/.476/.956, 4.97 runs created, 9.56 RC/25 outs).

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - I know that if you look at the lines, you see that Jon Lester is 0-2. But he's also pitched the best, and most, of the starters, and been victimized by poor defense and worse run support. The Red Sox have scored 1 run in total in his two starts.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/7/2014
Tampa Bay4.43(6)2.71(1)0.71(2)5243-1
Chicago Sox5.67(2)5.17(12)0.542(5)33330
NY Yankees3.33(9)3.67(5)0.457(7)33330
Kansas City3.2(13)3.8(6)0.422(9)23230
LA Angels4.67(5)5.83(14)0.399(10)24240

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9369
Chicago Sox8181

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay11448
Chicago Sox8874

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay5.14(5)3.71(6)0.645(5)52520
Kansas City3.43(10)3.57(5)0.481(7)34431
LA Angels3.57(9)5(11)0.351(11)25250
Chicago Sox2.71(11)4.57(9)0.278(12)25250
NY Yankees2.17(13)3.83(7)0.26(13)24331

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2014 Pythagorean posts

One of the things that I like to do during the baseball season is compile a weekly report of the AL standings, looking at runs scored and allowed, to see who's better than their records and who's worse.

For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean report is based on a Bill James discovery regarding the relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and winning percentage. It intuitively makes sense that a teams record will be related to how many runs they score and how many they allow. What James discovered was that, for almost all teams, the winning percentage is very close to a ratio of the square of the runs scored to the sum of the squares of the runs scored and runs allowed. Which was dubbed the "Pythagorean" theorum of baseball.

The report consists of, for each team, their runs/game, runs allowed/game and Pythagorean project winning percentage, along with their rank among the teams in the league for each of those categories. The Pythagorean winning percentage is calculated as (r ^ 1.83) / ( (r ^ 1.83) + (ra ^ 1.83) ). (1.83 has been determined to be a slightly more accurate exponent with the current offensive levels than 2.) Using the Pythagorean winning percentage, the expected wins total is calculated and compared to the actual win total. Finally, any difference is expressed as "luck", with negative numbers representing underperforming teams.

Finally, there's a linear projection of final records, based on current winning percentage, and based on Pythagorean winning percentage.

Week one coming up any minute now...

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Game 1 - Boston at Baltimore

Game 1 – 3/31/2014
Baltimore 2, Boston 1

So the title defense starts out in the wrong direction, with one starting outfielder (World Series hero Shane Victorino) headed to the DL in the morning and a one-run loss to a division rival in the afternoon. On the whole, though, there were as many positives as negatives, as the Red Sox outplayed the Orioles. The Red Sox hit (.250/.325/.389/.714) and created 4.8 runs, while the Orioles hit (.214/.241/.321/.563) and created 1.33. Jon Lester threw 104 pitches through strong innings, while Boston knocked Chris Tillman out of the game after five having thrown that same 104. Each team hit one solo home run, while the Red Sox had more hits (9 vs. 6), 2B (2 vs 0), BB (3 vs. 1) and HBP (1 vs. 0). But Baltimore’s timing was better, as one of its hits came with a runner on 3rd and none of Boston’s did. Those things happen. While a win would have been a better result, and there are bound to be some negative reactions (“see – they got SO lucky last year!”), there’s nothing for Red Sox fans to be disappointed about with game one.

Other than, you know, the result.

So, a couple of points…
  • One of the interesting discussions during the World Series took place after game 5, when John Farrell was castigated for letting Jon Lester hit in the 7th inning, rather than pulling him out. There were several people who identified that as the single worst managerial move of the post-season. And part of the rationale for that criticism is based on a data suggesting that the third time through the lineup, starting pitchers produce significantly worse results, to the extent that there is virtually never a time when there isn’t a reliever more likely to be successful. So as Lester took the mound for the seventh, I was looking at the box score, and thinking, “hmm, he’s four batters into the third time through. I wonder if this is a mistake.” And 10 seconds later, Nelson Cruz drove his first pitch of the inning into the left-field bleachers for the game winning run. [Note – this is not me second-guessing the manager because a) I thought it before the pitch was thrown and b) I wouldn’t have done it differently.] 
  • The Grady Sizemore experiment pays dividends on day one, as he went 2-4 and accounted for the Red Sox lone run with a solo home run in the 4th. That, on top of his spring training performance, would suggest that he’s still capable of being a good Major League baseball player, when he can stay healthy. Only time will tell whether he can. 
  •  I did have one second-guess – actually, let’s call it a disagreement – with Farrell. I would have started Bradley in right and left Carp on the bench. That would not necessarily have made any different to the outcome.
  • At one point during the radio broadcast, one of the announcers (I think it was Lou Merloni, but it might have been Castiglione) praised Will Middlebrooks for being “willing to take strike two.” At which point I said, “I’ll be more impressed when he’s willing to take ball four.”


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