Where have you gone, J.D. Drew…a nation turns its sleepy eyes to you

October 1st, 2008 → 10:25 am @

I’ve been a fan Millers Falls statistician Chuck Waseleski — whose telling (and not so telling) bits of arcana have appeared the Globe under the heading “From the maniacal one” for lo these many years. There are a couple of particularly interesting tidbits in today’s end-of-season offering, including the fact that J.D. Drew had the most game-winning RBIs on the Sox this year, with 11.

I’ve always been a fan of Drew’s — he doesn’t get enough credit from the hoi polloi for his defense because he makes it look fairly effortless and he has a gorgeous swing — but even so, this surprised me. The guy, after all, missed almost a third of the season’s games — and of the games he did play in he had two or fewer at-bats in 14, including three games in which he had no official plate appearances. I’m in the school that feels that when you have a bunch of mid-30s players on your roster (Drew turns 33 in December; Lowell turns 35 in February; Tek will turn 37 (!) the first week of the ’09 season) you can’t ascribe injuries to just bad luck. It’s still painful to think of what the Sox would look like going into the playoffs with all of their starters healthy.

Two other things that popped out at me:

* Boston was 29-32 against the AL East in games not started by Jon Lester (this stat actually isn’t among Chuck’s offerings; I got it by doing some super advanced math and subtracting Lester’s 9-2 ALE record from the team’s 38-34 record against other teams in its division).

* 81 percent of Dice-K’s K’s were of the swinging variety. I’m not sure if that makes it more or less surprising that he had so many walks.

OK. Time for a nap in preparation for tonight’s 10:07 game time.

Post Categories: 2008 Playoffs & Chuck Waseleski & Daisuke Matsuzaka & J.D. Drew & Jon Lester

DirecTV, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

March 25th, 2008 → 6:53 am @

I’m visiting my in-laws on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and I wake up at 5:30 to watch the game. I have the coffee all ready to go, my bowl of Cheerios in front of me, and nobody trying to snag the big leather recliner. I fire up the TV, flip through all the 800 other ESPNs, and get to ESPN2…where there is no reception. Not snow, not a blurry screen, not a fuzzy picture…nothing. After 25 minutes I get through to the nice folks at DTV and…they’re aware of the problem, and if it makes me feel any better, it’s happening everywhere in the country, but if I call back in a GODDAMN HOUR OR TWO they might have some more information.

I thought nothing could be worse than Cablevision. This is worse than Cablevision.

Oh, and, MLB Audio is “currently performing maintenance operations,” MLBTV is telling me that the Outer Banks of NC is apparently included in their blackout zone, and Dice-K is trying to remind everyone in Japan that he’s capable of throwing 180 pitches…without making it out of the sixth inning. Sigh.

Post Categories: 2008 Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & DirecTV & Japan

Dice-K: Get screwed by the Sox offense, local press

August 23rd, 2007 → 4:22 pm @

St. PETERSBURG, Fla. — This certainly isn’t what the Red Sox expected when they shelled out $100 million, give or take a nickel, to obtain the services of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

They didn’t expect him to be 13-10, just three games over .500 on a team that is 25 games over. And they didn’t expect him to be 1-3 against the Devil Rays, the worst team in the AL East, especially when the rest of the Boston pitching staff is 8-1 against Tampa Bay.

But this is the 2007 reality of Dice-K, who still has lots of time left on his contract, and who has really pitched a bit better than that 13-10 record indicates.”

Sox leave ’em stranded
By Bill Balou
August 23, 2007
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette

“A bit better”? Let’s go to the tape.

D. Matsuzaka 2007 stats

IP: 170.0, tops on Red Sox, 9th in AL
K’s: 172, tops on Red Sox, 4th in AL (Kazmir, currently third with 176, has started one more game)
K/9: 9.11, tops among Red Sox starters, 3rd on team (trailing Papelbon and Gagne), 4th in AL*
WHIP: 1.16, 2nd among Sox starters, trailing Beckett’s 1.10, 15th in AL*
ERA: 3.76, 2nd among Sox starters, trailing Beckett’s 3.15, 16th in AL*

So on a team with the second best ERA (1st in AL), the 3rd best BAA (1st in AL), and the 5th most strikeouts (2nd in AL), Dice-K is, without a doubt, the team’s 2nd best starter (in addition to being an inning eater). I’d agree that this certainly isn’t what the Sox expected; in fact, I’d guess that they expected he’d end the year with something like 14 wins and an ERA hovering around 4.

Post Categories: 2007 Season & Daisuke Matsuzaka & Sports Reporters

Dice-K’s mediocre Saturday start…and this week’s readings

June 18th, 2007 → 12:16 pm @

Quick thoughts on this weekend’s Giants series, of which I attended games two and three:

* Saturday was most definitely not Dice-K’s best game of the season; it was, however, an illustration of one of my favorite themes: the need to consider process vs. results. At points he had trouble locating his curve; he went to three balls a number of times; and only threw seven frames of zeros because of a gift-wrapped strike zone. The sixth inning, in particular, was a classic example of what we’ve seen when Matsuzaka struggles: with Bonds up third, he walked a batter and gave up a hard single before K-ing Barry. Another hard hit liner by one of the Flying Molina Brothers was, fortunately, aimed directly at short. After that gift, Dice-K hit Nate Schierholtz — who has now amassed a total of 41 big league at bats — loading the bases. He then proceeded to walk in a run in a 1-0 game…or would have, anyway, if home plate umpire Charlie Reliford had had his eyes checked before the game. That’s not to say I didn’t like what I saw…but this game might have been a blowout had the Sox been playing an AL team.

* Terry Francona finally seems to have realized that you never want to pitch Mike Timlin in any game in which the Sox are winning or losing by less than five runs. (I pray I’m right on this one…)

* Manny’s two home runs were great to see, but even better was the authority with which he was swinging the bat. He was back to the showing off perhaps the most beautiful swing in the game. Historically, when he finds that swing, he doesn’t lose it for a while. Ortiz, on the other hand, still looks like he’s swinging from his heels too much, and he’s also beginning to look over anxious. Yesterday’s two ground-rule doubles were great, don’t get me wrong…but they weren’t the kind of majestic drives we’ve come to expect from Papi.
* JDD continues to miss badly on some pitches, but the balls he is hitting, he’s hit squarely and with authority. All season I’ve been a guy who’s preached patience with Drew; you don’t put up the kind of track record he does and suddenly forget how to play ball. Coco looks much more confident at the plate too, and he continues to play good-to-great center field. (Lugo is a whole other story; he looked desperate and confused.)

* Following Murray Chass’s logic, the fact that the Sox gained a game on the Yankees this weekend means they’ll end the season 35 games up. That, of course, won’t happen. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Boston’s lead will stay within the 5-9 game range through September, but it’s also not out of the realm of possibility to think it’s going to get much tighter down the line. Both of these teams are good. New York’s not half as bad as they were playing in May, and Boston’s not the historically great outfit their record indicated. If both teams stay healthy, it’s going to be an interesting — and hopefully fun — summer.


Want to hear me talk about all of this, and more? (And whatever else you want to know?) This is your lucky week: I have a series of readings/signings/q&a’s in Boston this week: tomorrow night (at the Boston Public Library, 6pm), Wednesday lunch hour (12:30, downtown Borders), Thursday night (Winchester’s Bookends, 7 pm), and Friday night (Porter Square Books, 7 pm). Don’t miss out.

Post Categories: Daisuke Matsuzaka & J.D. Drew & Manny Ramirez & Mike Timlin & Oblique references to the Byrds & Yankees

Look, over there! On Deadspin! Or: about last night

April 12th, 2007 → 4:30 pm @

No, I haven’t fallen into a stupor after last night’s King Felix-Dice K match up; I spent the day on the Acela, heading back home (yes, to New York). Also, the brilliant Will Leitch, the man behind Deadspin, asked me to do a write up for him. And anyone who’s ever seen Will knows he’s a hard man to turn down.

So without further ado, here it is. Read all about the flash-bulby brilliance of April 11th, why Manny’s pathetic “on slugging percentage” means he should be jettisoned, and why Felix Hernandez will end the season with an ERA+ of infinity.

Post Categories: Daisuke Matsuzaka & Deadspin & Felix Hernandez

You thought last year’s Mets series was crazy? Wait until Wednesday.

April 5th, 2007 → 4:58 pm @

When my baseball game-watching career is over, I have no doubt that being present when Pedro returned to Boston in a Mets uniform will be one of the highlights (along with that ’99 one hitter at Yankee Stadium. Oh, and the final 8 games of the 2004 season). But as crazy as Fenway was those nights last June — and as crazy as Opening Day in ’05 was — I have a feeling Dice-K’s first start in Red Sox home whites is going to be full-scale, batshit insane.
Again, let’s remember: today’s game was only against the Royals. And, as we all know from Monday, it’s only one game. But, yeah, 7 IPs, 10Ks, 1BB, and a knee-buckling curve that starts off batters with a called strike…I can live with that. (It’s almost, dare I say it…Pedro-esque.) Shoot, even Mr. Covelli L. Crisp got into the action. Nice RBI, Coco!

Post Categories: Daisuke Matsuzaka & Pedro Martinez

All I can say is wow: ol’ Murray impresses once again

March 28th, 2007 → 11:32 am @

He’s taunting me. That’s the only explanation I can possibly come up with.

The “he,” of course, is our old friend Murray Chass. He’s finally moved on from his Ahab-esque obsession with the J.D. Drew signing. (At least Moby Dick was an actual whale; Chass appears to have come up with the object of his obsession in his own muddled mind.) But he has not, to absolutely no one’s surprise, been able to move on from the Red Sox.

To wit:* today’s gem, titled “Boston Got What It Wanted, Or So It Seems.” Give Chass credit for one thing: he is consistent…in his ability to use odd, unnamed sources to prove a point, even when it’s contradicted by both the evidence and any number of people who are willing to be quoted on the record. Today, he writes that the Sox’s main motivation in bidding for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K was that they wanted to keep him from the Yankees. How does he know this? Well, supposedly one of the Henry-Werner-Lucchino trio told “a person who works as a consultant in Major League Baseball that had they been unable to sign Matsuzaka to a contract, they would still have considered the enterprise a success because he wouldn’t be on the Yankees.”

This remarkably thinly sourced item — and to call it sourced at all is generous — is apparently worth a column. Despite the fact that John Henry told Chass this was “malarkey” and “utter nonsense.” So to review: someone who is a “consultant” to MLB told Chass the Sox wanted to keep Dice-K out of New York. Not a consultant to the Red Sox, mind you. Not an MLB official. A “consultant.”

That’s not even the best part of the column. Check this out: “The Red Sox, according to the account that Henry is denying, figured that they would get the negotiating rights to Matsuzaka but would probably be unable to negotiate a deal for him with his agent, Scott Boras, who can be particularly tough to deal with in high-profile bargaining.”

This would seem to be a problematic formulation, and does nothing so much as to refute the entire premise of Chass’s column, because, of course, the Sox did sign Dice-K. How to explain that? According to good ol’ Murray, “[a]s the negotiating progressed, the Red Sox grew intrigued, and they offered more than the $5 million to $6 million a year they had originally planned as their ceiling.”

Wow. This is a player the Red Sox spent years scouting. For most of last season, there were two team employees who followed Dice-K more or less full-time. Never mind all that; Murray’s convinced, on the basis of absolutely nothing, that it was only as the negotiating progressed that the Sox grew “intrigued.”

A couple of weeks ago, Murray got some attention (and not just from me) when he bragged about his insistent ignorance regarding baseball. Now, once again, he’s come up with a column that is contradicted by all the facts and has no real sourcing. And so once again, I’m left wondering: why does the Times print this dreck? And will they ever get sufficiently embarrassed to pull the plug? Past history doesn’t give us much reason to be optimistic. But I’m holding out hope…

(As reader scotthp49 points out, I left out the best part of the article, where Chass points out that Wakefield “had a losing record last season that might have made the difference between the Red Sox making and not making the playoffs.” The Sox finished 11 games behind the Yankees and nine games behind Detroit for the wild card; Wake, who started 23 games, ended the year with a 7-11 record. (It’s worth noting that his peripherals weren’t that out line with the past couple of years…but we know Murray doesn’t much care for “numbers.”) Which means, assuming Wake got the same number of decisions in his starts, he would have had to put up a 15-3 record. (It’s 15 wins and not 16 because one of those losses was to Detroit, meaning if Wake won that game, the Sox would only need to make up 8 games total.) Clearly, the fact that Boston didn’t make the playoffs in 2006 was Wakefield’s fault.)

* Nevermind…

Post Categories: Daisuke Matsuzaka & Murray Chass & New York Times