Monthly Archives: September 2007

Beckett for Cy Young

Josh Beckett just pitched himself a Cy Young award.

Beckett just became the first 20 game winner of 2007, and as ESPN keeps pointing out, the first since 2005. I think the “first 20 game winner since 2005” statement is being
overplayed. It was only one year, last year, that there wasn’t a 20
game winner, and Wang had 19. I don’t know it just seems less
important to me.

Despite that, I think he just pitched himself into a Cy Young award.
With the 20 game thing, he is going to get more votes, especially if
nobody else makes it, which is a real possibility. Carmona, Wang, Sabathia, and Peavy all sit at 18, and there aren’t many days left here.

Beckett’s ERA is down to 3.14 after only allowing only the
1 run yesterday. Carmona leads the AL with 3.03, and that’s not that far ahead of
Beckett. Sabathia is sitting at a 3.19, just behind Beckett. Sabathia
has that great number of quality starts and 7,8,9 inning stints, but I
don’t think that’s enough to take it from Beckett. Carmona has the best chance of beating Beckett for the Cy Young, but after a 1-10 record and a 5.42 ERA in 2006, I’m throwing his name into the ring for comeback player of the year.

This was also a BIG win for Beckett and the Red Sox. On a night when Wang failed to get his 19th win, killing his chance at 20 wins, Beckett came through big. The Sox stopped a losing streak and pulled back to 2.5 games up. If the Sox hold on to win the division, this will be looked at as a win that helped make it happen.

Josh Beckett is my AL Cy Young award winner.

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Sox Prove They’ve Got It

Another chapter in the Sox-Yankees rivalry has just been written. A fantastic September series between the two teams saw all that this rivalry has to offer. In a year where these two teams could meet in the ALCS again, we saw it all. Okajima/Papelbon blow a 7-2 lead and the Yankees have a come from behind thriller. Josh Beckett beat Chin Ming Wang for sole possession of the wins lead, leaving him as one of the frontrunners in the AL Cy Young race. Boston’s bats came alive in a 10-1 rout. Schilling and Clemens matched off in a spectacular pitchers duel. Derek Jeter continues to show the world he can get it done with a 3-run homer that would win it for the Yankees. Rookie Joba Chamberlin’s scoreless streak ends at the hands of Mike Lowell. The Sox score off of Marino Rivera in the Bottom of the 9th, load the bases, and get David Ortiz to the plate with 2 out, only to have him pop out to end it.

I mean this is the kind of epic storyline that makes this rivalry so fantastic. The Yankees took 2/3 from the Red Sox. That may make it seem like the Yankees are a better team, but here’s what I saw this weekend that makes me think the Red Sox still have the edge over the Yankees in a 7 game series.

Starting Pitching

The Red Sox had 3 superb outings. I use the term superb, not because they were Cy Young performances, but because they were against the Yankees.

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 5.2 innings of 2 run ball. He got into jams, and he worked himself out. He had 7 K’s in his short outing, most (if not all) were on his fastball, the same pitch that was getting him knocked around for that 12.bad ERA and the streak of bad outings. Daisuke used his off speed stuff much better against these Yankees, and it made his fastball better. Daisuke will be on 6 days rest for his next few starts because of off days, so look for his pitch efficiency to get better and any signs of fatigue to fade. This guy is still the #3 starter.

Josh Beckett. Need I say more? This guy is the Ace of the staff this year, and should start Game 1 in any series. He stifled the Yanks for 5 baserunners over 7 innings with 7 K’s. One of those baserunners was his only hiccup of the game, a Jeter home run in the first inning.

Curt Schilling pitched very well. For a guy whose heat is cooling off, Schilling is becoming a more masterful pitcher with his other pitches. He kept the Yankees to 1 run into the 8th inning. Yeah so he gave up a 3 run shot to Jeter in the 8th. He’s DEREK JETER! He is going to do that now and then. Great show by Schilling and I’m not afraid to have this guy start Game 2 in a playoff series.

If you look at the Yankees, we tagged 2 of their starters very well. Clemens was the only guy we couldn’t get a few off of, but he only went 6 innings. That was the longest performance by any Yankee starter. Burn out your pen like that in a playoff series and you won’t be getting the save in a game 6 or 7.  Advantage Red Sox.

Bullpen

Congratulations to the Yankees for beating Okajima/Papelbon to overcome a 7-2 game. A rare feat. Don’t get your hopes up though because this won’t be the norm. You won that specific game, but at least 90% of the time, that game is a Sox win and you can’t count on winning the game against these guys.

Oki will get more rest as we close out the season, they won’t burn him out. Papelbon will be more ferocious next time you see him, feeding off the adrenaline you have so kindly provided him with. Don’t look now, but even Gagne held you to two scoreless innings in this series. Fill out that pen with Timlin, Delcarmen, and a possible Buchholz addition to the postseason roster, I’ll take a 1-0 lead any day.

 Defense

That’s it. This defense deserves some credit. Most of the year, they have been riding under the radar. Not many errors, not much in the way of spetacular. Just kind of there.

I’m changing that. These guys are fantastic. You can’t even count the number of times Dustin Pedroia has robbed guys of hits. Mike Lowell is making great plays all over the place, even if the guy is still safe (stole a double from Jeter by snagging one over the line. Kept Jeter to an infield single.) Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury have made some excellent outfield catches and their speed only works to their advantage. JD Drew and Manny aren’t even bad defensively either! Drew has speed and Manny always seems to wow you when you think he can’t play defense. Lugo has speed and Youk has his errorless streak. Crisp, Pedroia, and Youk all could be in gold glove discussions. These guys are GOOD! They are second in the league in defense for a reason and I think it’s about time they earned some credit. Defense was a huge part of the ’04 club and it should not be overlooked in this years run.

Offense

Okay, so the Red Sox aren’t #1 here. They aren’t going to score 10 runs every game, but certainly can. The Sox batters did what they did best this weekend. They grinded out at bats, they made the pitchers work, and they got themselves in situations where they could win. If you can’t create these situations you have nothing but the home-run to save you.

It took the Yankees Derek Jeter to win last night. There was no other offensive hero. Jeter hit the home run off Beckett the day before. Jeter is a hugely talented All-Star and will continue to do this.

The Red Sox don’t need too. Every one of our guys can put together a situation. A walk, a hit by pitch, a stolen base, a bloop single. Any of these things are huge because this team has so many tools. Think about the 9th last night. Julio Lugo gets a double with 2 out off of proven closer Mariano Rivera to get the Sox within one. ROOKIES Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia reach base with a hit by pitch and a walk. Those aren’t the David Ortiz’s, Derek Jeter’s, or Alex Rodriguez’s of the world. They fill out the team and they do it well. All of these guys can make things happen, and last night, almost did.

I’m not telling you the Yankees can’t win. On any given day, any given team can win. A lesser team can beat a better team, even in a 7 game playoff series. That’s what we saw this weekend, the lesser team (though not by much) coming through for some wins. I am telling you though, that the Red Sox are the better team. They have the tools, the weapons, and the ability to make it happen. They have more ways to win, and will do so well into the playoffs.

-Kevin Cole

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2007’s Best Playoff Races

I love September baseball. In recent years, it’s come down to the wire. Every game matters. I expect 2007 to be no different, giving fans a reason to watch right up until playoffs start. Here is a rundown of all 8 playoff races, in order of how good I think each race will be.

#1 NL Wild Card – Fantastic Race

Current Standings
San Diego —
Philadelphia 2.5 GB
Colorado 3.5 GB
Los Angeles (Dodgers) 3.5 GB

As it has been the last 2 years, the NL Wild Card will be the last playoff spot won. Yes I know wildcards are usually last, but once again, this may be a last-game-of-the-season type race. I personally will be rooting for the Phillies, but it is going to take a lot to take a lot to get San Diego off their roost. I’m declaring the Braves, Cubs, and Cardinals out of this race as they are not only 5 or more games behind, but have too many teams to leapfrog.

#2 NL Central – Good Race

Current Standings
Milwaukee —
Chicago 1.0 GB
St. Louis 4.0 GB

The best part about this race is that it’s a win or go home race. None of these teams have a high enough winning percentage to be considered in the wild card race. These guys will be scrapping for playoff glory. I’d like to see Milwaukee win this, just because they deserve the playoffs. They have been so bad in recent years I love to see a team like this get a shot. I also wouldn’t mind the Cubs there. If my Red Sox or Phillies aren’t winning a world series, I wouldn’t mind seeing a curse be broken.

#3 NL West – It is in fact, a race.

Current Standings
Arizona —
San Diego 2.5 GB

I think its great that the Diamondbacks have surfaced here. After their championship in ’01, they died off a little and weren’t really a threatening team. They are BACK, with or without Randy Johnson. They will win this race, but San Diego will be right there the whole way.

#4 AL Wild Card – Could be a race?

Current Standings
Yankees —
Tigers 4.0 GB

It pains me to say it, but I think the Yankees will be in the 2007 playoff picture. They have been far to hot to just go and miss it. The better the Red Sox do this weekend, the closer the Tigers can get to making this a race. Come on Detroit, you know you want it. Sorry Seattle, you buried yourselves and filled in your own grave on top of yourselves. At 6.5 out, I’m declaring you done.

#5 AL East – Talk to me on Monday.

Current Standings
Boston —
New York (Yankees) 5 GB

Just because I’ve ranked this at #5 doesn’t change my prediction that the Yankees will not win this. I still stand buy that. There is one and only one reason that the AL East even finished at #5, and that is this weekend’s head to head series.

Pettitte Vs. Matsuzaka
Wang Vs. Beckett
Clemens Vs. Schilling

Wow. Can you say playoff baseball? In a series where Roger Clemens makes his first return to Fenway Park since 2003, the Yankees COULD make this a playoff race. I say the Sox take 2 of 3 over this series, and then it will no longer be a race. If the Yankees sweep by some chance, this race could jump up to #2 or #3.

#6 AL Central – Possibility of a race, not likely.

Current Standings
Cleveland —
Detroit 6.5 GB

Only in a world where the Indians collapse and Detroit plays super hot is there any chance that the Indians blow this one. This is not really a race, but is more of a race than #7 and #8 because Detroit is only 6.5 out and is a good team.

#7 NL East – Race? What’s a Race?

New York (Mets) —
Phillies 6.0 GB

I think the Mets had this division won at the all star break. They are the best team there, and no matter how the Phillies do the Mets have this one won.

#8 AL West – Hahaha you are STILL falling.

Los Angeles (Angels) —
Seattle 9.5 GB

If you were to ask me what the biggest collapse of a team was this year, I’m going to point you right here. The Mariners had it going, and completely blew it. You guys were my hope for keeping the Yanks out of October. Thanks a lot. See you in the playoffs Angels, and good luck with home field Advantage.

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No Save for You!

A few days ago (September 6), Jayson Stark wrote in his Rumblings and Grumblings on ESPN.com about changing the save stat.

I completely agree with him about the “flawedness” of the save, and also think something needs to be done about it.

 First of all, I don’t think they will every change the criteria for the save. As stated by Stark, by doing that you completely ruin 40 years worth of statistical data, and make it completely impossible to compare closers from that era to future eras.  It just won’t happen, it’s like approaching MLB and saying, “Hey we are going to re-define batting average as hits/total plate appearances.” (Average is currently computed by hits/at bats. Walks, sacrifice bunts, sac flies, hit by pitches, etc. are all not counted in At Bats but would be in total plate appearances. This would drastically lower batting averages by all players.)

However, Stark (rather, the unnamed AL Executive whom he interviewed) does propose another idea which I rather like; the Stop.

“To earn a stop, a reliever would have to enter with the tying run either on base or at the plate at any point in the game — and then:

A. Retire at least one hitter.

B. Leave with the lead intact.

C. Get his team through the inning without any baserunner he was responsible for scoring.

So if, for instance, Carlos Marmol strikes out Prince Fielder with two on and two outs in the eighth inning of a 5-3 game, he gets a stop. But if Ryan Dempster then enters and gets through the ninth, he wouldn’t earn a stop even though he would get a save. ” – From the Stark Article.

This is a fantastic idea. This is a statistic that any reliever can earn. This is a statistic that shows the value of a guy who can come into the game with runners on and get out of the inning. This statistic puts some value on a middle reliever. It puts closers and 8th inning guys on the same page.

Better yet, the save still exists. Managers can still be a save slave, and GM’s can continue to overpay for them. You can still compare any save leader to Mariano Rivera. You can still compare any starter turned closer or vice versa to John Smoltz.

But what about the Hold? We already have a statistic for measuring the effectiveness of a middle reliever. Holds, in my opinion, have been a hugely underrated statistic. In fact, every year in my fantasy league, I go out of my way to add holds to format of the league. Valuable guys like Scott Linebrink, Scott Shields, or Hideki Okajima would never find their ways on to most fantasy teams otherwise. Now, the previous two may not have had fantastic years in ’07, but in years prior have been textbook examples of the guys I’m talking about.

The beauty of the stop is, it combines the value of a hold with the value of a save, and gets rid of the junky ways you can earn them.

Let’s see the Stop in 2008.

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Prediction Update II

On August 6th, I wrote Why the Yankees can not win the Division.  On that day, I mapped out the remainder of the season, and did a realistic estimate to show why I believed the Yankees would not finish within 4 games of the divisoin. Well here we are, exactly 1 month later, and my prediction is EXACTLY on. (I did get some series wrong, but the wrong series have ballanced out, and the over all predicted record is exact.)

Before I go further, I will say that being exactly on isn’t what I was hoping for. Exactly on has the Yankees finishing the season 4 games back. My predicitons were made with the intent of over-estimating wins for the Yankees and under-estimating wins for the Sox in almost a “worst case scenario” type thing.

Anyway, here are the estimated and actual results for the last month. Plus’s are in the Red Sox favor, Minuses in the Yankees.

Red Sox: (TEAM    PREDICTED      ACTUAL    NET)

ANA    1-2   1-2
BAL     2-1   1-2     (-1)
TB       2-1   2-1
ANA    2-2   2-2
TB       2-1   2-1
CWS    2-2   4-0    (+2)
NYY    1-2   0-3    (-1)
BAL     2-1   2-1
TOR    2-1   2-1

So of a predicted 16-13, the Red Sox went exactly 16-13.

NYY:

TOR   2-1   2-1
CLE    1-2   3-0   (-2)
BAL    2-1   1-2   (+1)
DET    2-2   3-1   (-1) 
LAA    1-2   1-2
DET    2-2   1-3   (+1)
BOS    2-1    3-0  (-1)
TB      3-0    1-2   (+2)
SEA    2-1    2-1 

So of the predicted 17-12, the Yankees went exactly 17-12.

 For the remainder of the seasons prediction, see the original article linked above. I will continue to provide updates to the prediction, as I stand my my statement that “The Yankees will not finish within 4 games of the Red Sox”

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Buchholz: More than a No-Hitter – Key to making World Series

So at this point everyone in the Baseball universe knows that 3 days ago, September 1st, Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second major league start for the Boston Red Sox. This was the 17th no hitter in Sox history, and the first ever by a rookie.

 This kid may be exactly what the Red Sox needed. Many cynical fans have been saying the Red Sox have looked flat since the All Star Break. Some believe that they don’t have the excitement, the flare, and that extra element it takes to get into the playoffs, and win a World Series.

Here’s what I know:

At the all star break, the Red Sox were the best team in the majors with a 53-34 (.609) record and a 9.5 game lead. The Red Sox have gone 30-21 (.588) since the All Star Break. Only 2 teams have done better than that. The “amazingly hot Yankees” have gone 33-19 (.634) in a certainly impressive clip, they have only gained 2.5 games in the standings. The Diamondbacks went 29-20 (.591) which is only marginally (.003) better than the Sox.

Our meager .588 since the All Star break has Sox fans all over whining about our offence. News flash: only 2 teams in the majors even HAVE a season winning percentage over that. The Red Sox 83-55 (.601) and the Angels 81-56 (.591).

Here’s what I believe:

Okay, yes, the Red Sox are not as smokin hot as they were in April and May. I’ll admit that, but anyone who thought that the Red Sox would keep up their .700 ball and continue to put up months with single digit losses doesn’t really know their baseball. The Sox wound up with a 14 1/2 lead early in the season. It’s hard to keep the intensity up and not “coast” through the season. They may have done some coasting, but as I have shown above, they did not play poor baseball.

So the playoffs are around the corner and those same complainers are wondering how we are going to survive. Well like every single play off run ever, the hottest team at the time will win. The Sox have not been the hottest team. In fact they did blow some games that should have been wins, and if a few of those went un-blown we would be looking at a 100 win team this year. (They will be close, but I doubt they will make it. They need to go 17-7. Doable, not likely.)

What would it take to get this .600 ball club fired up to roll through the playoffs to a world series win? Anyone remember 2004?

 A-Rod Varitek

 What a great day that was.

That was looked at as the “turning point” for the Red Sox. On a day that wound up being a come from behind victory, that fight sent the Sox on a torrid pace that got them the wild card spot.

What will be this years igniter? What will spark this team into the World Series?

How about a no hitter by a rookie in his second major league start? Think about it. They had just lost 3 in a row to the Yankees. All of a sudden, everyone is totally enthralled with this game at Fenway. Every player knows what’s going on and is intently watching every pitch this guy makes. Players make spectacular plays to preserve it. The game ends with almost 40,000 fans screaming as loud as they can, a mob on the field and the team is now on a cloud.

Don’t look now, but that team has won 3 in a row. I believe that this kid, and his no hitter, will give/has given the Red Sox the fire they need down the stretch.

What will happen to Buchholz as the season progresses? Well I don’t expect him to be in the rotation. Reports are saying that he’s pitched a lot this year and the organization doesn’t want to burn him out. Devern Hansack and he will likely be used for spot starts to give the rotation some rest, and to align it for the playoffs.

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