Saturday, May 21, 2011

Long Time, No See

Things have been going so well that I didn't want to blog for awhile, for fear of breaking the flow.  But I'm now reasonably convinced they can continue their winning ways, without superstition, so here it goes:

--It's not the RISP that matters, but the pitching.  While no team can win any playoffs with RISP stats as bad as the Sox's have been, the fact remains that lousy RISP stats won't sink you overall.  But pitching will.  The Sox started off 2-10 because their starters were the worst in the majors at the time, and their relievers weren't much better.  Then the starters came around, became the best in the majors, and now the Sox are 1/2 out of first.  It's not brain surgery: Get good pitching, especially from your starters, and the wins will come.

--And you don't have to be Bill James to say that they're winning more because they're hitting and pitching better.  Sometimes baseball can be whittled down to "Well, duh."

--The Sox's RISP stats still aren't great, even with last night's inflated score.  For now it doesn't matter.  Notice that even while the Sox have been winning, the boxscore shows that they're still showing RISP numbers like 2-11 and 3-12.  A few days ago they won by one run and still left 14 or 15 on base.  That needs to change in the playoffs, but they can get by with that for now.

--Give the Sox credit for addressing the problems fast and giving the players a reality check at the same time.  Or, it's a good thing that Dice-K and Lackey got hurt when they did, if you know what I'm sayin'.

--Ditto for Wheeler and Jenks.  Gentlemen, this is your wake-up call.  Or, it's a coincidence that Dice-K, Lackey, Wheeler and Jenks all go on the DL at about the same time, and the Sox go 22-10.

--I'm old enough to remember when the Sox would trudge out the same ineffective pitchers time and time again, just because of their hefty (for the time) salaries.  Those days are long gone.  Let's remember how lucky (or spoiled) we are that our local team has the finances to shrug its shoulders when multi-year contracts and millions of dollars don't work out.  The Sox have no financial problem with Dice-K, Wheeler or Jenks, all of whom are still signed for a few years for many millions.  Most MLB teams cannot afford this attitude.

--I could say the same for Cameron and Drew too, by the way.

--A Sox announcer recently said that the Sox consider Dice-K a huge bust, a mistake.  He wasn't, guys.  He might be now, but he helped the Sox get to, and win, many World Series and playoff games since 2007.  Same with Okie-Dokie.  Or, name a middle reliever since 2005 to make the All-star game in his first year with an ERA hovering around 1.00.  It's one thing for the average fan to have a short memory, quite another for the serious fan and industry professional to do the same. 

--And Drew somehow fits in with this mindset, too.  The night before last he made a play in right that most do not make.  It involved nothing more than getting a great jump on the ball, but he makes it look effortless out there most of the time.  He glides.  It's arguable about whether he was worth the post-Trot money, but let the record show that after he signed that contract, players have stumbled over themselves to play here.  That wasn't always the case.

--I'm reminded of the Steve Avery example, back in the day.  Near the end of the (lousy) season, both for Avery and for the team, he was due to make a scheduled start and the Sox brass wanted to start someone else in that meaningless game.  Why?  Because that one more start would kick in an incentive worth lots of coin, and Avery wasn't coming back anyway.  The manager at the time (Grady Little?) had to convince the brass to let him start, and the reason he gave was that future free agents wouldn't sign because they'd think the brass was cheap.  They would've been right--it was.  Avery pitched at least 7 shutout innings that day, if I remember right.  And Duquette, who didn't own the purse strings but always acted like he did, said something snarky about the Sox paying him a lot more if he'd always pitched like that.

--The point being that the Sox don't think twice about that kind of thing anymore.  Their customer relations and employee relations post-Duquette are among the best in baseball.  They treat their players well financially--with the caveat being that they'll hit the DL if they're not performing.  The players don't seem to have a problem with that.

--It's an ironic statement that no ownership in my baseball fandom has been as business-focused as these Sox, and yet the players love playing here, and the brass is great to them.  The Yawkeys and the Duquettes were also very business-focused, but in a worse way, and the players either hated them, or didn't come to Boston to play to begin with.  Or, do you think Crawford would've come to Boston in the 80s or 90s?  Even for $120+ million?

--The Sox have to be wondering what they can get now for Lars Anderson.  Answer: Not much.  Ditto for Michael Bowden, who seems to have self-destructed his career after that game last year, when he gave up 10 or so runs in about 3 seconds.  He should've turned out better.  At a quick glance, I see that his fastball is straight, and gets hit, and he can't get his off-speed stuff over.  That's a bad combination.

--The Oliver Stone in me thinks the Sox disabled Scutaro so they could look at Iglesias and Sutton.  And don't think it's escaped their attention--or Scutaro's--that they have played much better in his absence.  I suspect that Drew has more value, and Scutaro less value, than is visible by the naked eye (or boxscore).  I think Drew saves a fraction of a run per game in the field and Scutaro maybe costs them a fraction of a run.  I have no evidence to support this--and I'm not Bill James enough to look at their range stats, or whatever is the equivalent these days--but I've been watching games since 1984 or so, and I think I see what I think I see, if you know what I mean.

--Put another way, the Sox are a numbers organization, and they keep putting Drew in right despite his very average (or below-average) hitting stats for his position, and they're not in a hurry to get Scutaro off the DL.  Which is to say that they already knew what I've just realized in the last few days, and they've already acted upon it.  That's why they get paid the big bucks--and let's not forget that Bill James still works for them.  I suspect that Bill James has more weight about Drew's playing time than does Drew's contract.  Or Drew.

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