October 2007

The 2007 Boston Red Sox.

     The offseason began a few days ago, and rather than talk about the Yankees like everyone else is, I will give my take on each player that helped the Red Sox achieve greatness this season.  And of course I am doing this for no apparent reason. 

     Dustin Pedroia led off for this Red Sox team (towards the end at least), and what more can one say about the guy?  He plays his heart out, and plays well to go along with that.  Down the stretch and in the playoffs he was the most reliable/established leadoff hitter that we used.  Sure, he was fairly slow for a leadoff man, but he had a .380 OBP and didn’t seem phased by having the bat in his hands before the first pitch is thrown.  He also played a decent second base, although the stats don’t really back it up.  But put it this way, he is a good enough defender to get the job done.  OPS+ 112

     Kevin Youkilis was a pitch taking machine.  He saw 4.27 pitches per AB and finished sixth in that category amongst AL candidates.  He reached base 28 times in the postseason, and did not make an error all season long, postseason included.  Not to mention the best "Revised Zone Rating" among qualifying first baseman.  OPS+ 117

     David Ortiz by seasons end was the best hitter in baseball.  I’m sorry ARod but when you started off kind of slow, against good pitching, Ortiz was mashing and continued mashing throughout the playoffs.  I have never personally seen anything like what Ortiz and Ramirez did during this postseason.  Ortiz was on base 31 times in the postseason.  OPS+ 171

     Manny Ramirez.  I thought he was losing some of his bat speed at times during the year.  But it seemed to reappear in the playoffs.  Reached base an astounding 32 times during the postseason.  Sure, he might be the worst left fielder in baseball defensively.  But he can still swing the bat well, and one more year of him is perfect, because after that he may start a "real" decline.  OPS+ 126

     Mike Lowell.  The thing about Lowell is that he is a great intangibles guy.  And I believe it played a role in helping this team win.  Unfortunately, intangibles cannot be measured.  But statistically, he was good anyway.  Lowell is a better player at Fenway though, and if he went to a team in the offseason that had a larger park, his stats are probably not going to be as good.  But wherever he plays he will bring a good glove and those aforementioned intangibles.  And he was possibly the smartest hitter on the team.  He could drive a fastball over the monster or push a breaking ball in front of the right fielder.  I would rather have Lowell for 3 years at $13 million a year, than ARod at 10 years and $270 million.  And those are really the only options that I know of.  OPS+ 124

     JD Drew was ridiculed and mocked by Red Sox fans everywhere, all year long.  Except on my blog.  I knew he was a better player than this.  And going into the season, knowing he was overpaid I might add, my biggest concern was him getting hurt.  But he stayed mostly healthy, and was an average player.  So no, he was not worth the money.  But he wasn’t a [terrible] player either, as some seem to think.  And with his kryptonite on his back (2 outs RISP/bases loaded) he gave the best moment of the year, for me personally.  That huge grand slam in game six off of "ace" Carmona.  People say that ball kept carrying.  I actually felt as soon as it left the bat, there were going to be runs scored.  And Drew really stepped up in the postseason.  He IS an above average player, when on the field.  But this year was only average.  OPS+ 105

     Jason Varitek.  Some say game calling skills are overrated, and cannot be measured.  And in a sense, they cannot be measured, at least accurately.  But Josh Beckett generally leaves it to Tek.  Jon Lester after game 4 said "I just listened to Tek."  Maybe game calling skills don’t matter as much with Curt Schilling on the mound.  But with young pitchers it is an important skill.  And the Red Sox by seasons end, had three starters that were younger than 27.  And their three best relievers were either young, or new to the league.  And he was [decent] with the bat too.  OPS+ 103

     Coco Crisp was an excellent defensive player this season at an important position.  And there is no doubt in my mind that he can help a team in the future, just not this team necessarily.  Sure, at times he is a liability with the bat, but he isn’t terrible at the plate either.  And I love his energy and heart.  But Ellsbury deserved to start by seasons end.  Of course if Coco wants to be the utility OF then even $3 million isn’t all that bad for the Red Sox front office.  But he will probably be traded.  OPS+ 83

     Julio Lugo.  Over the course of the season, he was a bad hitter.  Started hitting near the end, but still the entire season must be looked at.  But defensively Lugo surprised me.  He made some nice plays in the postseason and was fifth in "Revised Zone Rating" for AL SS’s.  And his bat should get a little better.  But still, he probably will not be any better than average overall.  OPS+ 65

     Jacoby Ellsbury was very entertaining in his short, but important stint.  And he is the CF of the future, and I am happy to say that.  OPS+ 131 (33 regular season games)

     Josh Beckett.  Put it this way…Is there anyone in baseball that [any] of you would rather pitch a big game than Beckett.  Talking about active pitchers of course.  He was awesome, and if Johan did not have so many good years under his belt, I would appoint Beckett to "Best pitcher in baseball."  But it is still a little early for that I think.  ERA+ 145

     Curt Schilling.  Who doesn’t believe in clutch?  I believe in at least some sense of the word.  He didn’t have very good stuff by seasons end, but still performed well.  I almost want him resigned just for the playoffs.  ERA+ 122

     Daisuke Matsuzaka.  My Dad and I were talking about this during his visit.  Both of us agree that he will be better next year than he was this year.  However, my father thinks a little more of him than I.  I think his ceiling is, on average, a number 2 starter.  I don’t think he will be the "ace" we thought he would be.  But that is just my opinion of him.  And the other thing that my Dad and I agreed on was that he was exciting to watch.  Sure he may not have been worth the money [this] year, but he was fun to watch.  One more thing, the Yankees not signing Matsuzaka may not be a bad thing for them, but had they signed Dice-K and we signed Igawa, than we would have finished second.  So the signing meant something right?  They do play in the division and were the biggest threat.  ERA+ 108

     Tim Wakefield was a Cy Young candidate.  Oh wait, no he wasn’t.  But some analysts/announcers mentioned this earlier in the year because of the amount of wins he had.  Here is the thing, Wakefield was good for us because he was our fourth starter.  Statistically he was average.  And when a team’s fourth starter is average then the team probably has a pretty good rotation.  I would resign him if he wants to be next years Taverez.  But even if he is the fifth starter, it is still pretty good.  And Tavarez will be their next year anyway, and I doubt that at this point in Wakefield’s career he will want to be demoted to spot starter/reliever.  ERA+  100

     Julian Tavarez/Jon Lester.  Tavarez was ok at times as a starter.  But the Red Sox just found a way to not be terrible in games he started.  He serves a purpose but is really not all that good. 

     Lester, coming off cancer, was average.  But after having this year under his belt, and winning a big game.  Not to mention another year removed from being treated for cancer.  He will be an above average starter.  Maybe not this year, but definitely in a few years.  And I don’t see him being any worse than average next season.  And seeing him teary eyed after game 4 was pretty emotional for any fan. 

     Manny Delcarmen was a good reliever this season.  This was the guy I thought should have been thrown into the role of closer while Papelbon was in the rotation (during the offseason).  I would rather have had one guy with good stuff try out the role, then three or four journeymen.  But he ended up pitching well in a different role.

     Hideki Okajima was awesome this year.  He fatigued some, and maybe opponents caught up to him a little.  But he was awesome.  And was even better compared to what the Red Sox thought they were going to get out of him.  And an average reliever had to be the most they thought they would be getting. 

     Jonathan Papelbon is the best closer in baseball.  Well, there are a few others that are in the conversation.  But he is great.  Has great stuff.  And it is nice to have someone finish off the game that is capable of doing so.  I mean that "Game Over’ feeling I get when he comes in with the lead cannot be replaced.  And only a few relievers in baseball could probably give me that same feeling.

     Terry Francona.  During the regular season there may have been 5-8 managers that I would rather have.  I question some of Francona’s decisions.  But I do like the Red Sox philosophy in not bunting too much and stealing bases only when they are almost guaranteed.  But come playoff time I have agreed with Francona almost entirely.  And not just because the players seem to come through.  There hasn’t been as much second guessing going on.  He manages well in the postseason.  And while I believe there are better managers in the game, and that he has as much as almost any manager to work with, he almost has to be given an extension.  He has two rings in four years since arriving in Boston. 

     And this team was the [best] team in baseball.  I defended them even when they were playing .500 ball for much of the season, because I truly believed they were the best, or at least that no one was better.  And they won it all, nothing more one can ask for in sports right? 

    

Live Blog for World Series Game 3.

     Top 1st

A great AB by our future leadoff hitter for years to come.  Six pitches and an infield single to start the game.

And Troy Tulowitki unleashes his cannon to first but Pedroia barely beats the throw.  Two on and none out for the greatest hitter in the game, David Ortiz. 

Perfect first pitch strike by Josh Fogg.  Pinpoint location on that one.  Ortiz quickly works the count back into his favor, 2-1.  All four pitches have been kept down in this AB, which is a victory so far for Fogg.  And a nice pitch to get him swinging.  One down. 

I don’t see why everyone is making such a big deal about who to start out of Lowell, Youkilis, and Ortiz.  It is a no brainer for me, unless it would be against a tough lefty.  Ortiz is arguably the best hitter in the game, and would be playing the first base position.  And remember the first base position is an offensive position.  His offense brings more value than that of what he will bring defensively.  I am not saying Ortiz won’t make any significant mistakes there tonight, but the odds are he doesnt cost them the game with his glove.  And he may not make any mistakes over there.  And of course Lowell at third, as he is better defensively there than Youkilis. 

Manny pops out.  Two down. 

In steps Mike Lowell.  The other day in Rob Neyer’s chat he said that he does not like, for entertainment purposes, the aspect of working the pitcher.  He just thinks it isn’t as fun to watch as it was in the 80′s, when offense’s were not so intent on taking so many pitches.  In my opinion, I very much enjoy it when my [own] team is doing it.  And it is incredibly frustrating watching an opposing team to the same to our starting pitcher.  But overall, I like the approach, even from an entertainment standpoint.  However, it is cool when guys like Cano are mixed in, and he aggressively chases after seemingly every pitch thrown.

I attempted this live blog, but am finished now.  It is tough to concentrate on each pitch, as I sometimes like to do.

A Joe Torre article by default.

     Since I have been reading endless critiques of the Joe Torre situation amongst bloggers, etc, I feel I must chime in with my opinion as well.  First of all, some are making the situation out to be worse than it is, as far as next years "success" is concerned.  I am not going to offer any perspective into whether or not I believe the whole situation disrespected that of Joe Torre, because it may have, just simply going to speak on how the team will be affected, etc.   

     One comment that really upset me was this:  "Don’t blame Torre, blame Cashman for all these terrible signings."  Torre has had as much talent to work with as anyone, so he must absorb at least partial blame, right?  Cashman may have focused on offense a little more than he should have, but there was enough overall talent there to win with (And Cashman is to blame in part, as well).  And I think that Cashman and the front office understand that Torre has been a good manager during his tenure with the team, but he hasn’t been the absolute best in the game.  He happened to have the most talent to work with.  How many managers over that twelve year period could have won four+ World Series rings?  More than five I would guess.  But Torre will be going into the Hall of Fame, while other very capable managers will be watching the induction.  Torre is a [good] manager who has had a lot to work with.  A team’s success is dependent somewhat upon what a manager does, no question about that.  But it is an extremely talented team, with a very dependable, and well respected leader (Jeter), that has always had veteran leadership, as long as Torre has been there anyway. 

     And last year, when almost everyone complained about the teams rough start, Torre was a terrible manager.  But then by seasons end, he was a manager of the year candidate?  Then after the early playoff exit, he is being ridiculed as not doing a good enough job?  From what I saw and heard this season in limited observation of Torre, probably between 30 and 35 games watched.  He had serious troubles managing the bullpen.  It was more obvious in the beginning of the season when the team was struggling so much, but was still there by seasons end.  It just wasn’t as obvious at the end of the season, because they were healthier by years end, and had starting pitchers that were not named Jeff Karstens or Matt DeSalvo.  But here is where Cashman does come in.  The Yankees had the seventh lowest ERA in the AL during the first half of the season, they had the eighth lowest during the second half.  Their pitching was never good.  They had some good components; Joba, Rivera, Wang, Pettite.  But overall it was simply mediocre all year long.  And the bullpen was tenth in ERA over the course of the entire year.  Some of that can be deemed as mismanagement of the staff (Torre, Guidry), but some of it is simply on Cashman for signing the wrong guys.  And the depth issue is a huge aspect of this also.  It’s on Cashman for having Pavano and Igawa in the starting rotation when the season began.  There weren’t any other options, right?  That isn’t Torre’s fault.  That is Cashman’s.  They needed a few arms as capable backup plans in case of failure.  And there was failure; Pavano was injured again, and Igawa was ineffective.  And there were a few other injuries to the staff too. 

     I think the point of this is that the Yankees will be winners no matter who manages this team (within reason).  Girardi is good enough to get to the playoffs.  Mattingly will win a minimum of 85 games, even if he turns out to be a disappointment, which among Yankee fans 85 wins would be a disappointment, even if it was a transition year.  And that is fine that it would be considered a disappointment with that payroll, but it must be understood that guys like Joba Chamberlin and Phil Hughes are going to be starting for a full season for the [first] time.  There are going to be failures.  So what if they win 88 games and miss the playoffs, as long as 09′ looks more promising.  They are building around young pitching, and that is exactly what I would do if I were the GM…of any team.  This is the best approach they can take, and it may not result in immediate success, in terms of a World Series ring, but it will in the long term be the right move. 

     The Yankees may have gone about the contract situation the wrong way.  But Torre leaving does not mean they are going to win 67 games next season.  Some free agents need to be resigned; Rivera, Posada, Abreu, possibly ARod.  But only ARod should be resigned long term.  The others, ideally, would be given two years apiece. Let us see how it all plays out.

Buried In Sand…

     If the Cleveland Indians finish off the Red Sox in one of the next three potential series clinching games, then they are/were the best team in the American League this season.  And if the Red Sox were to somehow come back and take three straight then they would be the [best] in the league as well.  Try and argue otherwise.  It isn’t some crapshoot.  Right now it appears that the Indians will be the best…but it is not over. 

The Yankees with a dash of Joseph

     Since I would want nothing more than to be the GM of a Major League Baseball team, I will first start with the New York Yankees.  I will attempt to "fix" a 94 win team, that does have some promise, found mostly in their starting rotation.  And they [will] be a threat next season.  They may be in disarray, seemingly.  But they will address their problems as they have many resources to work with. 

      This would be my first move, and it may sound stupid to some, but it would make the team better.  Part of the move would be this, which would take place even sooner:  Giambi is gone (which isn’t the surprising part).  Whichever team will take him, I do not care.  I would absorb some of his contract, but he is out.  He has been a distraction for a while now, and seems to be on the decline, being a known PED user doesn’t help either.  And if I am the GM, this does matter to me.  Why wouldn’t it? 

     Now back to that controversial move:  Derek Jeter moves to first base.  His range has declined a lot, and it would fit much more comfortably at first.  He has a stong arm which would not matter as much here as it did at short, but having a strong arm at any position on the field is an asset.  He has a good glove and should be able to handle the hot shots down the line, at least well enough.  And his offense is good enough to bring value from any position on the field.  And I am serious about this, I think Jeter needs to move away from the shortstop position, it would make the team better. 

     At second base they have a star in the making:  Robinson Cano.  He brings a great bat, with a little less patience than they would like, but he will probably be able to improve on that.  They are set at this position for many years.

     I would re-sign Abreu in right field.  He is the definition of what the Yankees have in mind when at the plate.  I may even stick him at DH a lot of the time if I couldn’t rid of Damon and make that big free-agent splash below, as he isn’t the most fluent outfielder, even with that short porch where he covers less ground. 

     Joe Dimaggio, Bernie Williams, Melky Cabrera.  The center fielder of the future?  Maybe not, but he could be for at least 08.’  And they could sign Torri Hunter, Andruw Jones, etc.  But Aaron Rowand would be the only one that I would go after, the other ones will be significantly overpaid.  And realistically, I would take a shot at Rowand, as he plays each game as though it is his last.  This would make Cabrera the fourth outfielder again, where he may belong. 

     I would trade Johnny Damon, and keep left fielder Hideki Matsui for another year.  He was still a productive player, even though he struggled at the end of the season.  And in trading Damon, I would absorb some of the contract also.  Damon should have a better year in 08,’ but I don’t think that he would have some great impact that would be missed by the organization.    

     The two positions left, shortstop and third base.  I first evaluate if ARod could make the transition to shortstop once again.  If not, I [may] resign him  and leave him at third.  I probably wouldn’t resign him for that money from where I am sitting, but if I was the GM I would have an idea of how much income he would generate if he makes a push at the home run record, etc.  So logically I probably leave ARod at third.  And sign a filler player, thinking of defense at short.  Maybe Vizquel as he is still good with the glove, but lacks offense.  But it would only be a one year contract. 

     Jorge Posada is definitely resigned.  I mean unless they can find a good, young catcher [this] season to work with the youg pitchers (Hughes, Joba, Kennedy) than what are they going to do?  Posada is resigned. 

     The big free agent signing that I would hopefully make is Adam Dunn.  He could DH for this team and give protection to ARod.  And that short porch in right would make for a nice target.  And I know he strikes out a ton, but he walks a ton too.  He has drawn 100+ walks in four consecutive seasons.  His career average is at .248 but his career OBP sits at an impressive .381.  And he is only 27, so a long term contract, say five years, would not be a big deal at all, especially with the money that I would be working with. 

     The rotation is fairly easy.  Live and die with the good youthful pitching in the organization.  Joba, Hughes, Wang, Kennedy, and unless they have some other young arm who could fill that fifth spot then they might have to stay with Mussina, at least in the beginning.  They could take a chance on Jon Lieber or something, but that may not solve the problem either, although may be a better option than Mussina. 

     The bullpen is going to be the biggest problem, by far.  Joba is going to be in the rotation, which is the right move, but then there is no Joba in the pen.  They almost have to resign Rivera.  And they may have to keep either Farnsworth or Vizcaino, or both.  Put it this way, it will be tough to make this a good bullpen next year.  They may have to take chances on a few players, or work internally with this issue.  Ohlendorf may be in the pen, I do not know, and would know a lot more about the options they have here if I had the information that Cashman has. 

     So hypothetically speaking, this would be my opening day lineup:

     Cabrera

     Jeter

     Abreu

     Rodriguez

     Dunn

     Posada

     Matsui

     Cano

     Vizquel

    

     Or something like that anyway.  I know that Vizquel is an offensive liability, but feel that one [weak] spot in the lineup isn’t all that big of a deal.  And Cabrera may not be a long-term solution, but he isn’t bad either.  He is just about an average offensive player, and moving Jeter up to the leadoff spot, and in turn moving everyone up a spot, would be an option if he struggled a lot.  But he should be around average, and they could help him develop his ability to take a walk if him leading off was a serious consideration.  I would have the most important positions, outside of catcher, focused on the defensive side of the ball, Vizquel and Melky. 

     The one thing I would seriously have to evaluate though, is Melky leading off.  OBP is the key here at the top of the order.  That should be his main focus, and he is only 22, while already being league average in that category.  So it isn’t out of the question to say he could get his OBP up to say .355 I don’t think.  Especially with the added protection of batting first for the entire season.  Or if I truly felt uncomfortable with him here, I could keep Damon around.  But I personally, would prefer to rid of Damon.  Although having him might help some. 

     Anyway, this was just for fun, and am interested in hearing your opinions.   

      

Early Morning Thoughts.

     Is there anyone else that one would want taking the mound in a playoff game than Curt Schilling right now?  Ok, Josh Beckett is one, and there are others.  But Schilling’s stuff just wasn’t what it was, yet he still found a way to shut out the Angels through seven innings.  Like the guy or not, either way he gets it done, with or without your (the readers) admiration in big spots. 

     David Ortiz has reached base in eleven of thirteen plate appearences.  He is truly a remarkable offensive force in this game.  He [does] seem to elevate his game come playoff time.  I don’t want to get into the whole "clutch" argument again, but he has been extraordinary in the playoffs lately. 

     Game 4 between the Yankees and the Indians tonight.  And Paul Byrd takes the mound.  What is better:  Byrd on several days rest or Sabathia on three days rest?  I mean it sets the Indians up for game five, having an advantage I guess (CC to start, Carmona to finish, if needed?).  But the Yankees have a good shot at forcing game 5, and they will gladly accept that. 

Dice K…was decent?

     I wasn’t entirely disappointed with Daisuke Matsuzaka last night.  I know that he did not quite make it five innings and got the quick hook from Francona.  That was partially because it was the playoffs, but also because there were many pitchers awaiting in the pen and everyone was available.  And every one of those pitchers that were used, or could have been used, have a day off today. 

     It wasn’t like they were hitting ropes all over the field.  Chone Figgins had a bloop single that fell in front of Manny, and Cabrera had a routine fly ball that turned out to be a double, as Manny was playing incredibly shallow yet again.  Garret Anderson also added a bloop double that bounced out of Drew’s glove on a nice attempt for a sliding catch.  He also had a borderline pitch on a 3-2 count to Cabrera in the first that was called ball four.  But the TBS version of the "K-Zone" showed it was a strike.  The Angels actually had a very good approach at the plate early against Matsuzaka.  They had never seen him, and they made him throw pitches.  Give credit to them for that.  But when fans watch "Sportscenter" and see Matsuzaka getting pulled just shy of five innings, they will probably think he was terrible.  And he wasn’t. 

     Should I give out my Gold Gloves?  Or should I ignore it because I don’t have enough information?  The voters should just rely on statistics mostly in my opinion on this matter.  I know defensive statistics are not what offensive stats are, but the voters do not have enough of a sample of [every] defender to judge these.  Just a thought, because if Jeter wins another Gold Glove it will make them seem that much more meaningless.  If nothing else, speak to John Dewan before you cast your vote. 

     VORP?  I don’t know how much I like this stat.  What it does is give the offensive value over that of a replacement player.  So if there is a great offensive shortstop, who has the same offensive stats as a first baseman, the shortstop will have the higher VORP.  Which is fine, but it doesn’t take into account defense.  So the shortstop could be awful on defense and switching positions would be best for the team, yet based on this stat his value will be very high regardless.  By the way, it stands for "Value over Replacement Player," to be exact.  And I understand what it is showing.  It is easier to find a first baseman who can hit then that of a shortstop.  Simply because it is harder to play shortstop.  But I would much rather look at "Win Shares" because it does take into account defensive performance.  And a shortstops defensive value will be based on how much he does for the team, rather than just simply being in between the second and third baseman.

    

Nothing Tops the MLB Playoffs.

     Wow…What a great night of baseball!   Sorry to sound generic.  Manny absolutely demolished that baseball.  I will start with the Yankees game though, let my excitement cool down a little.  I may not be as ecstatic as some Red Sox fans, as I felt like they were in control even with the game tied, being at home and all.  Just a feeling though. 

     Fausto Carmona…I believe in you.  Keith Law, I believe, projects you to be a number 2 starter.  And that may be.  Maybe you will not be an ace, but you have awesome stuff, and have now proven it on baseball’s biggest stage (He may be an ace as Keith Law has knowledge, but is not omnipotent).  I have twice watched Carmona pitch nine innings this season, once against the Red Sox earlier in the year, and now against the Yankees.  And both times I was thoroughly impressed.  So the Yankees bats had good reason to struggle tonight.  Melky Cabrera belted a hanging slider, and that was it. 

     What cannot be ignored is the pitcher on the other side though.  Pettite was very good.  Sure he gave up some hits and allowed nine total baserunners in just over six innings (6.1) and Carmona ultimately pitched better against an even better lineup.  But Pettite left with the lead and had not given up a run on the night.  What more can you ask for?  Pettite may not be [great] statistically in the postseason, in relation to say, Bob Gibson, but he has definitely been good.

     Now to the thriller…The other thriller I mean.  Manny, as I mentioned, struck that ball as well as one could.  But remember, there was something else that was dominant tonight.  It was our seemingly inept bullpen down the stretch.  The one that suffered from fatigue, ineffectiveness, and Eric Gagne, who may have been the ineffectiveness that I speak of.  Four and a third innings thrown without a hit and two total walks, both issued by the one guy who can get out of trouble with what seems like relative ease, Papelbon.  Now, I do not condone walks, and obviously his job would have been easier without them, but I would rather him give them up, then anyone else in the pen.   

     Matsuzaka was ok.  Ortiz reached base five times.   But the story was Manny…and that dominant bullpen. 

Playoff Thoughts

     After watching the first two games, I wasn’t overly excited about the third.  It was a great matchup between Webb and Zambrano, I know, but I was simply baseballed out at this point.  So I watched useless reruns of tv shows that are mostly off-air at this point, but kept the Cubs game on "recall."  It was the top of the sixth inning and the bases were loaded against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Brandon Webb.  Zambrano was up at the plate, in a key situation, and he struck out.  So I assumed he was coming back in the game after six innings, but I was unaware of the pitch count.  The next time I tuned back in, the Cubs were on defense again and Zambrano was out of the game.  I just assumed he was spent, or maybe his pitch count was high.  But when I awoke this morning, Buster Olney told me otherwise (in the form of a blog).  The pitch count of Zambrano was apparently only at 85 after six innings, which means he could have thrown at least one more inning, possibly two.  This IS the Cubs best pitcher, and he was pitching well.  He has to be given the chance to go deeper in the ballgame one would think.  It is playoff time.  I believe Zambrano should have gone at least seven, possibly eight.  And this isn’t just hindsight either.  This is the ace of the staff, the guy who has three games on his playoff resume.’  So it isn’t as if he was on the mound for the first time either in this type of atmosphere.    He needed to be given the opportunity to win Game 1.   

     I believe that Ted Lilly will pitch well tonight.  If you may not remember, in my "rather elementary" predictions before the season, I felt that Lilly was going to have a good season.  The new league, and the fact that I had seen him at his best before, led me to think that [this] season he would be solid.  Now, I was wrong about a lot of things too, but Lilly I felt strongly about, if only for a year. 

     Cole Hamels settled in nicely yesterday.  Maybe in the beginning it was that hothead mentality that The Prince of New York always refers to.  Or perhaps it was simply a lack of experience.  Regardless, he started getting hitters out.  After all, his "stuff" was never in question. 

     CC Sabathia, if nothing else, keep the Indians in the game tonight!  I want to see a competitive game between the Yankees and Indians.  A lot of people that seem to be picking the Indians seem to be doing it simply out of spite.  They want the Yankees to lose.  Now I believe that if the Indians two "aces" are dominant then the Indians can win.  But if the Yankees take one, more likely against Carmona one would think, then the Indians are in real trouble.  Then they would be relying on Westbrook’s fickle sinker, and Paul Byrd’s Barry Zito-like fastball in the Bronx.  Unless CC goes on short rest, which would probably be only to avoid elimination, then Byrd is most likely going to be going.   

     More on Josh Beckett.  Twenty-five pitches that didnt go into the box score as strikes.  One of the best performances I have seen at the biggest stage, the playoffs.  I was trying to think of a few others, came up with a few:  Livan Hernandez against the Braves in 97.’  Pedro of course with six no hit innings in 99.’  With the bullpen theme, El Duque coming out of the pen against the Sox in 05,’ just to name a few. 

     This is why I wanted Schilling to go in Game 2:  2.06 ERA, 104K, 22BB, 7-2 record on baseball’s biggest stage.  And he does not walk batters.  Putting certain Angels on base is not a good thing.  And Dice-K seems to like to do this.  But it isn’t Matsuzaka’s next start that bothers me so much.  He has an ERA around 3.10 the first time he has faced a team this season.  But it jumps significantly the next time around.  So Game 3 I am not worried about as much.  It is Game 5, if necessary, that would worry me.  It would be the second time in five days that they would see him, and it would be against a lineup that thrives when they can get guys like Figgins, and Willits on base…for free…without swinging the bat.  I have heard that the reasoning for having Schilling potentially throw only one game in this series was due to health issues, or more importantly, keeping the 40 year old fresh.  Also, having Matsuzaka make his starts at home may not be a bad idea, as Schilling should not be flustered with the road crowd going crazy.  But the Red Sox know things that I do not, and I am pretty certain that they have a little more confidence in Schilling than they do Matsuzaka.  That isn’t to say that they don’t believe in Dice-K though. 

     Based on popular demand, while one person asked anyway, my "Rookie of the Year" awards.  This award goes to the player that would most likely be a dominant pitcher after breaking his arm.  Oops, I got a little confused there, sorry. 

                                                                            AL Rookie of the Year

     Dustin Pedroia-  Subjective?  I believe he was more deserving than anyone else.  Try to argue otherwise.  Dice-K won some games, but wasn’t great.  Willits had an OBP of .391, but in a significantly fewer amount of plate appearences.  Delmon Young’s OPS+ was actually below average at 88, and he was a corner oufielder.  Young isn’t even in the discussion in my opinion, unless having a strong arm singlehandedly propels someone to an award.  Okajima was great, but fatigued at the end of the year.  Iwamura was good for a rookie, but not better than Pedroia, in my opinion anyway.  The race is actually debatable.  The "Try to argue otherwise" saying was just for fun I guess.  The most negative aspect of Pedroia’s season, was that he played at Fenway.  His OPS at home was .912, which is great in respect to his position.  But on the road it was only .729.  Willits was actually much worse away from Anaheim.  The comfort of being at home would mean a little more to any player I would think, but to a rookie it seems it would mean be even more beneficial.  I am not sure of this, but I would think it would be more comforting to be at home, rather than in some large city that they may never have been to before.  Delmon Young, was slightly better on the road, but Willits, Pedroia and Iwamura were all better at home.  Willits and Pedroia were especially better at home though.  I don’t know how much that theory would matter, but Pedroia is a good choice, I do know that. 

                                                                            NL Rookie of the Year

     This one gets a little confusing.  Tulowitzki was awesome with the glove at a premium position, but he was much better hitting at home as well.  And if he put up the same numbers but played in the AL, he would have won a little more easily.  But in the NL he had a player with 34 homers, and an OPS+ of 154 in the discussion, Ryan Braun.  Who was terrible defensively at third, but put up monster numbers on offense.  However, Braun only played in 113 games, while Tulo played in 155.  Braun finished with 22 "Win Shares" and Tulowitki accumulated 25.  Kouzmanoff may be included as well, as he was much better away from the canyon that is Petco.  But I think he sits behind the two discussed above.  And if you love solo home runs and stolen bases than one would include Chris Young also.  But his sub-.300 OBP was a huge downside.  I will go with Tulo.  The great glove and enough offense, and the fact that he played 155 games means a lot.  It isn’t because his team made the playoffs either.  I give him a slight edge over Braun.  But it is very close.   

Hanley Ramirez is good, but not this good.

     Josh Beckett was nothing short of phenomenal tonight.  Nothing more spectacular than dominant postseason performances on the mound, in baseball terms of course.  I mean really, his fastball was dominating.  He weaved it in and out, up and down, side to side, kept it wide.  Beckett’s final line: CG, 4H, 8K, 0BB, repeat zero walks.  And he totaled 108 pitches, 83 were strikes!  And as the announcers kept repeating, he established the strike early in counts.  And by early, I mean on the first pitch.  At one point, after giving up a leadoff hit to Figgins in the first, Beckett retired 19 straight batters.  I was in awe much of the night.  And I know that the Angels were banged up some, but the performance would have been great against the Royals.  And this lineup was better than that of the Royals. 

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