Monday, April 18, 2016

Sox 6-4 After 10 Games in 2016

Well, now it's 6-5 after 11 games, the early afternoon of the Patriots Day game. Here's what it looks like to me so far:

--Hanley Ramirez has shockingly impressed. Not only is he much better at first base than anyone could have (or should have) expected, but he's also got a much better attitude. He has hustled and gestured more so far this year than he did all of last year.

--He's hitting over .300, but his OPS is about .850. That should improve as we go.

--If the Sox go 6-4 every 10 games, they'll finish 97-65, which will be plenty to win the division.

--If the bullpen and/or starting rotation doesn't implode first.

--Like it just did, now, on 4.18.16. Patriot's Day, no less.

--I haven't seen anyone throw as many balls with 2 strikes on the batter as Kimbrel does. He gets paid for situations like today, and he K'ed 2, but only after he struck out the first guy, walked the next two, and allowed a base hit. He allowed all 3 runners to score, and gave up one of his own.

--That's not going to get it done, though the Sox can't expect to win 1-0, either.

--Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel are overworked. They need Carson Smith back, fast.

--The Christian Vasquez thing, about him being much better with the pitchers, might be a tad over-rated.

--But he's the best they've got on stealing strikes.

--Can you remember the last time Sox tickets were available this easily? Season-ticket packages, too.

--But when you finish last 3 of the previous 4 years, that'll happen, even with a ring thrown in.

--If the Sox are near .500 a month from now, Farrell will be shown the door.

--And Carl Willis, too.

--I'm 0-1 at Fenway so far this year. Wish me luck tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sox 8 Blue Jays 7: 4.8.16

Photo: The Brockstar, just after his grand slam, courtesy of the Boston Herald at this link.

A few quick things about this very exciting game:

--In his post-game comments, Joe Kelly said that this was a game Boston would not have won last year. He's right about that, and just three games into this year.

--In one game, we see the two most glaring problems for both teams: Boston--starting pitching; Toronto--relievers. Both may hit themselves into the postseason.

--Boston needs to bring the Freudian couch to the mound for Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly. I mean that in the kindest way. They can maybe push it aside between pitches like other guys throw aside the resin bag.

--Buchholz has a defeated posture and attitude on the mound I just don't like. And when he was asked about the cause of his most recent performance, the first thing out of his mouth was "Twelve-minute rain delay." That tells you all you need to know about Clay Buchholz. And it explains why his performances are either shutouts or shellackings.

--And Joe Kelly has a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on the mound that must be addressed fast.

--It's one thing to pitch badly. But these two come very suddenly unglued. Which is even worse. Just ask Kevin Pillar. Or Josh Donaldson, for that matter.

--Whoever's the sports psychologist for these guys needs to be fired.

--Travis Shaw points out that the Brockstar is on a pace to hit over 60 homers this year. He's right, and that's why you don't look at a hitter's stats until a month into the season.

--Speaking of stats: I mentioned last time that the LOB stat needs to go on the NESN telecasts. Now I say that the OPS stat needs to go, too.  OPS is a useful stat for maybe four or five batters currently on Boston's 25-man roster: Ortiz, Ramirez, and maybe Shaw, Young and Pedroia--who reaches the outer fringe of OPS's usefulness. Technically, it's not Betts' or Pedroia's (or Holt's) job to slug, though they do that more often than your typical one-two guys will. But really their job is to get on base, not slug the runners in. Showing their OPS every at-bat, and those of the 7-9 guys as well, is wasting eye-strain. That's NESN trying to appease the stat-geeks and fantasy-leaguers, but even those fans know that LOB and OPS are essentially useless stats for most players on most occasions. The sport is polluted enough with numbers (and I'm a stat-aware guy myself), so let's dispense with them when we can.

--Let's watch when Boston has 7-10 straight games of leaving 10 or more guys on. I'll bet NESN will toss the LOB stat then.

--And I'd be okay with the OPS stat being replaced with the OB% stat, even every at-bat. Then Alex Speier can annoyingly but just occasionally remind us of the OPS of only the aforementioned players, when relevant.

--I see now that has OPS in their box scores, too. Enough, I say.

--One last point (for now) about Buchholz and Kelly: Because they implode so suddenly, they can't be used as relievers, either, if later in their careers it's determined they can't be starters. This makes both essentially useless pitchers when they're like this, especially Kelly, who has closer-like stuff.

--The starters can't put their offense in this position as often as it looks like they will. The batters will literally get tired, and they'll sputter in the second half, just like overused relievers do.

--Toronto's carpet is a travesty.

--The last two home-plate umpires have been egregiously bad. Whoever the supervisor of umpires is now, he needs to talk to these guys. Have umpires across the leagues been this bad? John Hirschbeck's strike zone was (mostly) consistently a foot off the outside, and Fagan's zone was simply all over the place, inconsistently.

--Rarely do you allow 7 runs in 3 innings and not get the loss. In fact, Buchholz didn't get the L for his implosion, either. Tazawa did.

--Speaking of Tazawa, after the Sox brass said they would be more careful with using him this year, he's appeared in 3 of the team's first 3 games. But the relief was set in place last night once they had the lead after 6 innings. Both wins ended with Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel. But...

--100-loss teams this year: San Diego Padres; Milwaukee Brewers; Phillies. Maybe Atlanta, Minnesota and the Angels, too. They'll at least lose 90.

--Baseball rules aside, Noe Ramirez deserved the win last night, not Matt Barnes. Noe's two sanity-replacing innings saved the game.

--Note to Buchholz and Kelly: Henry Owens got the win in Pawtucket's opener, tossing six shutout innings and striking out 8. (I have his autograph, so I especially need him to do well.) You saw how The Overweight Panda lost his job? Look over your shoulders, guys.

--Guerin Austin has grown on me. I wonder if she's that naturally effervescent or if it's just for TV.

--I know I'm naive just asking that, but I usually like to earn my cynicism.

--Or did you not see Jenny Dell rip that overweight fan a new one when he stumbled in front of her during her segment a few years ago? But Jenny Dell always came across as someone who would rip you a new one--which, of course, was part of her allure. She'd kick your ass for ya, and that was OK.

--Considering how he's played the last few years, I wonder if she's been kicking Middlebrook's butt?

--Austin's a Miss Nebraska, after trying for the 2nd time, for those who care about such things. There's no truth to the rumor that she shucked corn (or juggled them) for her talent portion. (Sorry.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Red Sox 2016 Opening Day 4.5.16

Photo: from This could've been Price about to pitch during today's game, but it wasn't. Game time temperature was 34 degrees in Cleveland.

The game worked exactly as the Sox would've drawn up: the starting pitcher goes 6 or 7 innings, then you finish up with an inning each from your best relievers--Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel. That's what happened in this 6-2 win.

With a little bit of help from a truly terrible day behind the plate from John Hirschbeck, who had a strike zone that extended a good couple of inches (or about a foot for Napoli and Bogaerts) to the outside, the Sox best pitchers--the three relievers and David Price, their $30+ million per year ace--pitched well and made this look easy.

A few notes:

--the Sox were patient with Corey Kluber, who walked more batters and who gave up more hits than usual. He allowed 9 hits and 2 walks in 5 1/3 innings, and went to a lot of three-ball counts. He threw 96 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings.

--Price gave up 5 hits and 2 walks in his 6 innings, and struck out 10. He had great pace out there, and was helped out considerably by the wider strike zone. He saw that the pitch 2 inches on the outside of the zone was going to be a strike, and he kept throwing it to that exact spot.

--Napoli, especially in his last at-bat, was a victim of this. He had very good at-bats, especially the first K and his walk, and he deserved better. It was good to see him take pitches and field well, as usual. He can still play, even if not over the course of a full season. And nice sunglasses!

--Bogaerts, Betts and Bradley had very good at-bats. Shaw did, too, even though he struck out three times. Actually, twice, because that last strike three was in another time zone. The young core did well.

--Shaw's K came with the bases loaded, and that could have been haunting had things turned out differently. But they didn't.

--My guess is that Swihart missed a sign, but Bradley could have, too. But Swihart wasn't running on his own with just a two-run lead at the time.

--The next time Hanley Ramirez stands and admires one of his shots, like David Ortiz did after his last Opening Day homerun, it had better go out. His single that should have been a double should earn him a fine from the team. And not by a kangaroo court.

--Having said that, it was good to see him playing with fire, though it's a good thing that throw to third was off-line. Had he been out, as he should have been, I wouldn't be as forgiving. But it was good to see that intensity, and again when he clapped as he scored after Holt's bloop fell in. We didn't see him playing with that fire last year.

--Kudos also to him for coming to camp in much better shape, and with a much better attitude, than Sandroval did. They are noticeable opposites this year, though they were very similar last year.

--And, in all honesty, he's been better at first than I thought he'd be.

--I don't like the LOB column on NESN's graphic this year. Looks bad. I know some channels have had that for awhile now, but that's new to NESN. Needs to go.

--Let's not get carried away. Last year's Opening Day: a shutout for Buchholz, and Pedroia hit two home runs. And look how that turned out.