April 27, 2015

G20: Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5

Blue Jays - 301 100 000 - 5  6  1
Red Sox   - 200 110 011 - 6 10  0
Mookie Betts's third hit of the game was a groundball single through the drawn-in Toronto infield that scored Xander Bogaerts with the winning run. In the eighth inning, Betts led off with a single and scored the game-tying run. And what began as another disappointing outing by Joe Kelly (6-5-5-3-10, 104) turned into a festive night at Fenway.

The Red Sox began their comeback in the bottom of the fourth, trailing 5-2. With one out, Pablo Sandoval hit a line drive home run into the visitors' bullpen. In the fifth, Betts doubled with two outs and scored when Dustin Pedroia hit a high chopper back to the mound and Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez (5.2-5-4-2-7, 107) threw the ball into the photographers' pit.

Betts got things going in his next at-bat, lining a single off the Wall to begin the eighth inning against Roberto Osuna. Pedroia followed with a hard single to left. With David Ortiz at the plate, a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third - and Toronto elected to intentionally walk Big Papi. Hanley Ramirez smoked a line drive to left that Dalton Pompey made a diving catch on. It went into the books as a sacrifice fly, but Pompey certainly saved what would have been the go-ahead run. After Allen Craig struck out, Daniel Nava lined to third, with Donaldson leaping skyward to snare the ball.

After Koji Uehara pitched a strong ninth inning, striking out two batters, the Red Sox won the game again Miguel Castro. Bogaerts lined a one-out single to left and Ryan Hanigan grounded a first-pitch single to center. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch - and then Betts delivered. ... It was a rough end for Castro as his last four pitches were: single, single, wild pitch, single.

Kelly struck out a career-high ten batters, but he looked horrible during the first four innings. He gave up two singles and a walk to the first three batters of the game. After six pitches, Boston trailed 1-0, and Russell Martin doubled home two more runs later in the inning.

Boston came right back with two of their own against Sanchez. Betts walked, but was thrown out stealing. Pedroia walked and took third on Ortiz's double. After Ramirez whiffed, Sandoval singled home the two baserunners.

Kelly struck out the side in the second. He gave up a solo home run to Devon Travis in the third, and then struck out three more Jays. He walked the first two batters in the fourth and allowed an RBI-single to Kevin Pillar, but Sandoval made a diving catch on Pompey's popped-up bunt and Jose Reyes hit into a double play. Sandoval left the game two innings later with neck soreness, likely a result of his face-first dive on the bunt attempt.

More annoyance from NESN: During the early innings, when it looked like Kelly would have an early night, Don Orsillo was enthralled with Kelly's fastball velocity. Even though he allowed five hits, three walks, and five runs in 4+ innings, Orsillo could not stop marveling every time Kelly hit 98 on the gun. It was like he had absolutely no clue that major league hitters can hit fastballs even at 100 mph and velocity doesn't mean much when you aren't throwing strikes.

Example
Aaron Sanchez / Joe Kelly
Betts, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Sandoval, 3B
Nava, 1B
Holt, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Hanigan, C
The Red Sox have lost seven of their last 11 games and are now 10-9, in third place in the East, 1 GB the Rays and Yankees. The team is batting .213/.303/.356, with a 5.70 ERA, over those 11 games.

Reading

Joon Lee, SB Nation: The Rise Of Mookie Betts

Neil Weinberg, The Hardball Times: The Case for Confronting Sabermetric Skeptics

Grantland: 30 for 30 Shorts: Unhittable: Sidd Finch and the Tibetan Fastball
&
Brian Curtis, Grantland: Could There Ever Be a Sidd Finch 2.0?

Baseball Prospectus has a Red Sox-specific site: BP Boston

April 26, 2015

G19: Orioles 18, Red Sox 7

Red Sox - 000 000 403 -  7  9  1
Orioles - 016 212 60x - 18 20  1
While Wade Miley (2.1-5-7-2-0, 57) and five relievers were being battered, the Red Sox offense was shut down for most of the afternoon by a guy who began the day with a 17.42 ERA (and an AL-worst 20 earned runs allowed).

Boston scored its runs via the long ball. In the seventh, Pablo Sandoval hit a three-run homer and Hanley Ramirez followed with a solo shot. Ramirez cranked a three-run shot in the ninth.

Also: Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4. ... Brock Holt had two singles and two walks.

Example
Wade Miley / Bud Norris
Betts, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Sandoval, 3B
Ramirez, DH
Napoli, 1B
Holt, LF
Craig, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Leon, C
David Ortiz gets the day off, but this is not related to his one-game suspension. ... The Red Sox sent pitcher Matt Barnes back to Pawtucket and called up reliever Health Hembree.

April 25, 2015

G18: Orioles 5, Red Sox 4 (10)

Red Sox - 020 000 001 1 - 4  8  0
Orioles - 200 010 000 2 - 5 11  1
After right fielder Allen Craig had played Adam Jones's leadoff single in the 10th inning into a triple - and Jones had scored on a sac fly - David Lough homered to right-center off Koji Uehara to beat the Red Sox, who had taken a one-run lead in the top half of the inning on a home run by Xander Bogaerts.

After Baltimore scored twice in the first inning off Justin Masterson (7-7-3-1-3, 90), Mike Napoli (3-for-4) hit a high fly off the right field foul pole for a two-run dong in the second. Jimmy Paredes gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead with a solo shot in the fifth.

Red Sox 9th: Dustin Pedroia leads off with a walk off pitcher Zach Britton, immediately putting the potential tying run on base. David Ortiz strikes out. Hanley Ramirez grounds the ball up the middle. Second baseman Rey Navarro grabs it behind the bag and tries to flip it to shortstop Everth Cabrera for a force play, but he tosses it wide of the bag. Runners at 1st and 2nd. Mike Napoli chops a ball over the mound. Britton leaps for it and the ball tips off his glove, and then dies in the grass. Cabrera has no play - and the bases are loaded. Pablo Sandoval, batting righty, hits into what looks like a game-ending double play. Third baseman Manny Machado fields the ball, steps on third for the second out - but then throws wildly to first! Pedroia scores, tying the game at 3-3. Boston has runners at 2nd and 3rd. Allen Craig (.154) strikes out.

Orioles 9th: Matt Barnes is in for his second inning, in relief of Masterson. Cabrera grounds out to Pedroia on the first pitch, FY diving to his left, then shovelling the loose ball to first. Alejandro de Aza grounds out first-to-pitcher. Paredes - 4-for-4 so far - fouls out to Ramirez in left.

Red Sox 10th: Brad Brach pitching for Baltimore. His first pitch to Bogaerts is clubbed to left for a home run! Ryan Hanigan singles to right and Mookie Betts bunts him over to second. Pedroia walks. Lefty Brian Matusz comes in to deal with Ortiz, who grounds the ball to Cabrera, on the right side of the second base bag. He grabs the ball, tags Pedroia with it, then flips it to first for a double play.

Orioles 10th: Koji Uehara pitching. Jones hits a little flare out into short right-center. Craig comes in and dives for it, but the ball skips past him. Betts runs it down, and Jones slides into third with a triple. Chris Davis lifts a routine fly to Ramirez in left and Jones scores the tying run. Lough then homers to right-center to win the game.
Example
Justin Masterson / Wei-Yin Chen
Betts, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Napoli, 1B
Sandoval, 3B
Craig, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Hanigan, C
The Red Sox placed Shane Victorino on the disabled list this afternoon with a sore right hamstring and recalled RHP Matt Barnes from Pawtucket.

Linescore Of The Day: April 24, 2015

Astros    - 000 000 000 23 - 5 11  0
Athletics - 000 000 000 22 - 4  8  1
Could this game feature the most extra-inning runs scored by both teams after no runs were scored in the first nine innings?

Update, from Oakland's Game Notes: "According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first game in Major League history in which teams scored at least two runs in the top of the 10th, bottom of the 10th, top of the 11th and bottom of the 11th."

Pointless: A Pitcher's Career Stats Against A Team

It's a part of every baseball broadcast you have ever heard - and will ever hear.

Before the game begins, or perhaps in the first inning, the announcer will recite each of the starting pitcher's career statistics against the team he is facing. He will tell you these numbers as though they mean something, as though they could shed light on what might occur during the game.

Those numbers can influence how we think during the game. If our pitcher has an 8.50 ERA against Team X, some small part of us might not feel strongly about his chances for success. Likewise, if our pitcher has a 1.15 ERA, we might think we have a very good chance at keeping the other team off the scoreboard.

However, those statistics are utterly worthless and completely meaningless. They are a waste of breath to say and a waste of energy to listen to. The announcer might as well give the starting pitcher's career numbers on the particular day of the week.

I have been wondering for years why announcers always give these career numbers. And I wonder whether they think about the words they send out over the air, and what those words might mean? It doesn't seem like they give much thought to what they are telling us, because if they did, they would immediately stop this practice.

If an announcer (or a fan) believes that a pitcher's career stats against a particular team is of some statistical or predictive value, then he or she is ascribing some measure of talent (or lack thereof) to the actual uniforms themselves. Players come and go, after all. It is the shirts and pants that are the only constant season after season.

Boston's Rick Porcello pitched against the Baltimore Orioles last night, Friday, April 24, 2015.

As Porcello faced his second batter of the first inning, NESN's Don Orsillo said, "Porcello, in his career, 3-6 with a 5.13 Earned Run Average against Baltimore." These statistics covered 10 games from 2009 to 2015, with no more than two starts against Baltimore in any season. During those seven seasons, Porcello pitched for two teams - Detroit and Boston - and so he faced the Orioles in three different ballparks: Comerica Park, Camden Yards, and Fenway Park.

What Orsillo never thought to ask himself was: Is there any predictive value for Friday's outing in mentioning what Porcello did for the Tigers years ago, including one day back in August 2009?

(Orsillo clearly gives little thought to most of what he says. Over the years, he has conditioned himself to describe certain things the exact same way night after night. And because he has these set ways of describing things, he will often use these descriptions even when the action on the field is contradictory to his words. (It's a disease I call Sterlingitis.) Describing an RBI single the exact same way every time is truly anti-baseball, since every play in every game is different to some degree. If Orsillo truly considered the words he said, as well as the rhythm and flow of the game, he wouldn't bludgeon us with inanities like the opposing reliever's walk/strikeout totals from his year in AA ball four years ago, or the exact days he was on the disabled list in 2013, especially while the Red Sox are mounting a late-inning rally.)

A sampling of his starts and some batters faced by Porcello:

August 6, 2009: Luke Scott, Aubrey Huff, Ty Wigginton
October 1, 2010: Jake Fox, Julio Lugo, Robert Andino
April 4, 2011: Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy
June 19, 2013: Taylor Teagarden, Nate McLouth
April 5, 2014: Nelson Cruz, Steve Lombardozzi

Obviously, none of those 13 batters were in Buck Showalter's lineup last night. In fact, even the lineup Porcello faced five days ago, on April 19, was not the same nine guys he faced last night - and so even those two consecutive starts cannot really be compared as equals.

I'd love to ask Orsillo directly: Do you really believe that how Porcello fared against Julio Lugo more than five years ago in any way offers even a modicum of insight into how he might do against the lineup he was facing on April 24, 2015?

I've given up wishing for a broadcast team that understands and shares the progressive attitudes of the Red Sox front office. NESN may now show a batter's on-base percentage when he comes to the plate, but Orsillo still acts like it doesn't exist. It's like he thinks if he cites it, he'll be fined $500  - or be banned from eating dessert in the media cafeteria.

But, honestly, any amount of common sense will never stop baseball announcers from citing these meaningless stats. They have to fill the silence with something. They grew up hearing older announcers do it - and so they do it. It has become part of what an announcer does. It likely isn't any more complicated than that. It certainly doesn't have to make sense.

Listen to the way announcers continue to cite a pitcher's win-loss record. And if a guy's record is 3-7, but his ERA is 2.90, they will invariably point out that his record is "really not indicative of how well he has pitched". And they will say that again and again and again and again and again over the months and seasons, and they will never consider, even one time, that perhaps a won-loss record is actually dependent upon many factors completely out of the pitcher's control and, therefore, is an extremely poor measure of his performance. And perhaps I could explain that to my listeners and then stop using won-loss records as though they are in any way meaningful.

Maybe that will happen. And maybe, as Charlie Brown often said in Peanuts, I'll flap my arms and fly to the moon.

April 24, 2015

G17: Red Sox 7, Orioles 5

Red Sox - 000 040 030 - 7 11  1
Orioles - 000 210 110 - 5 10  2
I need to come up with a name for my favourite kind of Red Sox rallies - because the team had two of them tonight. In both the fifth and eighth innings, the first two Boston batters were retired before the fun began.

In the fifth, Mookie Betts worked a two-out walk off Miguel Gonzalez (6-8-4-1-1, 91). Dustin Pedroia singled to left and David Ortiz homered just over the wall in right-center. Then Hanley Ramirez followed two pitches later with a solo dong to left. Those two taters erased a 2-0 Orioles lead and gave the Red Sox a 4-2 advantage.

Although the Orioles tied the game at 4-4 off Rick Porcello (6-6-4-2-7, 97), Boston once again used a stealth rally (?) to grab the lead for good. After Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter got two outs, Brian Matusz came in from the pen. Matusz faced only one batter, throwing eight pitches and walking Pablo Sandoval. Darren O'Day was next and he faced Allen Craig, pinch-hitting for Daniel Nava. Craig reached first on an error by third baseman Manny Machado. Brock Holt then clubbed a high 1-2 fastball - at the letters or up near the shoulders - to deep right field for a three-run home run. It was his first home run of the season and it raised his average to .424.

Chris Davis hit a solo shot off Junichi Tazawa in the bottom half of the inning and when Delmon Young singled, the Orioles brought the potential tying run to the plate. Tazawa fell behind Rey Navarro 3-0, but came back to get him to fly to Betts in shallow center and end the inning.

In the ninth, Koji Uehara gave up a leadoff single to Caleb Joseph and, after striking out Travis Snider, surrendered another single to Steve Pearce. Although Pearce's hit was nearly into the left field corner, he held at first with a long single. Baltimore had runners at the corners and the potential winning run at the plate. Uehara went to a full count on Machado before getting him to pop out to shortstop. Then he overpowered Jimmy Paredes, striking him out swinging to end the game.

Ortiz and Holt each singled and homered and drove in three runs. ... Betts reached base four times, on two singles, a walk, and an HBP. ... Sandoval singled twice and walked. ... Porcello struck out his first five batters and six of the first seven Orioles he faced.

The Yankees snapped the Mets' 11-game winning streak, winning 6-1. New York and Boston are tied for first in the East at 10-7.
Example
Rick Porcello / Miguel Gonzalez
Betts, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Napoli, 1B
Sandoval, 3B
Nava, RF
Holt, SS
Hanigan, C
Through 16 games, the Boston bats have been cold. The Red Sox are hitting .230 (9th in the AL) with a .325 OBP (7th) and .344 slugging percentage (12th). They lead the AL with 133 men left on base.

With runners at second and/or third, they are batting only .196 (13th) with a .279 OBP (14th) and .331 slugging percentage (13th).

Over their last eight games, Boston is hitting .194/.292/.300.

The Red Sox are in a three-way tie atop the AL East, tied at 9-7 with the Blue Jays and Yankees. The Yankees are hosting the Mets (13-3, the best start in franchise history), who have won 11 consecutive games.

April 23, 2015

G16: Rays 2, Red Sox 1

Red Sox - 010 000 000 - 1  3  0
Rays    - 010 000 001 - 2  6  1
In the ninth inning of a tie game, Rays manager Kevin Cash called on his closer. Red Sox manager John Farrell did not. And Farrell's decision may have cost Boston the game.

After Tampa Bay's Brad Boxberger retired the Red Sox in order in the top of the ninth, Farrell brought in Anthony Varvaro, even though Koji Uehara had been warming up. (Farrell was likely saving Uehara - who had pitched just once in the last five days - for a save situation in extra innings.)

Varvaro allowed a single to leadoff hitter Allan Dykstra. Logan Forsythe flied out to right, but Kevin Kiermaier lined an opposite field single to left and Tampa Bay had the potential winning run (pinch-runner Tim Beckham) at second. That potential was realized when Rene Rivera, batting only .118, ripped a 1-2 pitch past Pablo Sandoval at third and into the left field corner to win the game.

Well, Koji will be well-rested for tomorrow night's game ...

A clean-shaven Clay Buchholz (6-2-1-3-10, 104) pitched very well, allowing both hits in the second inning. Evan Longoria began the inning with a ground-rule double. With one out, Buchholz plunked Dykstra and Forsythe singled home the run. With two men on, Buchholz came back to strike out Kiermaier and Rivera.

Boston had scored in the top of the inning when Sandoval doubled and scored on Daniel Nava's sacrifice fly to center.

With two outs in the top of the seventh, facing Jake Odorizzi (6.2-3-1-3-3, 93) Allen Craig singled and Xander Bogaerts walked. Cash went to his bullpen and Brandon Gomes faced pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez. Gomes fell behind 3-0, battled back to a full count, and got Ramirez looking at strike three. Boston went quietly in the eighth and ninth innings.

The Red Sox went 1-for-23 with RATS in the series.

With the loss, Boston (9-7) is in a three-way tie for first place, with Toronto and New York.
Example
Clay Buchholz / Jake Odorizzi
Betts, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Sandoval, 3B
Napoli, 1B
Nava, RF
Craig, LF
Bogaerts, SS
Leon, C
Through the season's first 15 games, Boston's starting rotation has the worst ERA in MLB (5.71).

Red Sox Assistant GM Mike Hazen:
We believe in this rotation. We believe in this rotation now. We believe in it moving forward. What changes, what updates, what things we need to do as the season unfolds that's to be seen. These guys, for the most part, all have proven records over the course through their careers and moving forward. We think these guys are going to be pretty good. I know things haven't at least from a rotation standpoint got off on the right foot necessarily, but it's early in the season.

Guess The Count #4 - With Bill Welke

Hello again, everybody, and welcome to Guess The Count!, the umpiring game where we give you the pitches and you make the calls. Test your skills as an arbiter against those of a real Major League Baseball umpire.

Today's man behind the plate is Bill Welke and we will be looking at the Red Sox/Rays game from Wednesday, April 22, 2015. So make your guesses and then see how you matched up against our big-time ump. One explanation before we start: There are no tricks. All of the pitches were taken by the batter; he did not swing at any of them.

Ready? Let's begin! Tampa Bay's Nathan Karns rocks and deals ... and it's time for you to ... guess the count!


Next:

Now we have Joe Kelly of the Red Sox on the hill:

Check the comments for how Welke called the pitches. ... How did you do? Do you have what it takes to be a major league umpire? If not, better luck next time!

Finally, we'd like to thank today's sponsor: Acme Robotics!

And that's all for today from ... Guess The Count!

April 22, 2015

G15: Rays 7, Red Sox 5

Red Sox - 003 011 000 - 5  8  0
Rays    - 100 004 20x - 7 12  1
The Red Sox blew a 5-1 lead as Joe Kelly allowed the first five Rays to reach base in the sixth inning. Four of them scored. Edward Mujica allowed two additional runs in the seventh.

Kelly (5-8-5-1-7, 82) was tagged for a solo home run by Steven Souza in the first inning, but then allowed only one batter past first base through the first five innings.

Boston took the lead in the third. With one out, Mookie Betts walked and Dustin Pedroia crushed an inside pitch to deep left for his fourth homer of the season. After David Ortiz grounded out, Hanley Ramirez walked. Mike Napoli lined a single up the middle, the ball glancing off the pitcher's glove on its way into center field. Ramirez - who had taken off on contact - never stopped running, sprinting through third base coach Brian Butterfield's stop sign and sliding in safely. The throw from the outfield was nowhere near the plate.

David Ortiz hit a one-out dong to deep right-center in the fifth. (It was Flo's 469th home run, putting him 32nd on the all-time HR list. The RBI was #1,538, 46th on the RBI list, one ahead of Joe DiMaggio.) Ramirez followed with a single and Napoli hit a ground-rule double to left-center. The rally fizzled when Pablo Sandoval grounded to second with the infield in and Allen Craig, pinch-hitting for Shane Victorino, flied to the edge of the track in left.

In the top of the sixth, Ryan Hanigan doubled and scored on Betts's single. the lead felt comfortable, but Kelly quickly imploded. He couldn't find the strike zone and when he did, the ball was hit hard for singles. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a first-pitch single to right. Longoria smacked a 3-0 pitch to left. Desmond Jennings took two balls and singled to center, loading the bases. Allan Dykstra looked at a ball before singling home a run. Then Kelly walked Logan Forsthye on four pitches, forcing in another run. Craig Breslow came in and gave up a two-run single to Brandon Guyer. Tampa Bay had tied the game and there was still no one out. Breslow got Rene Rivera to pop out to first and he struck out Tim Beckham. Mujica came in and fanned Souza.

With the game tied 5-5, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash employed some progressive bullpen usage. He brought in his closer, Brian Boxberger, to face the middle of Boston's lineup in the seventh. The strategy worked. Boxberger needed 23 pitches, but he struck out Ortiz, Ramirez and Napoli. (Ramirez's at-bat lasted 12 pitches.)

The Rays scored twice against Mujica in the seventh. Cabrera singled and went to third on Longoria's hit. Jennings grounded into a double play, and a run scored. Then Jake Elmore homered to make it 7-5.

In the eighth, Kevin Jepsen struck out Sandoval - who never met a pitch he wouldn't swing at - on a ball in the dirt. Craig reached second on Longoria's two-base throwing error. Xander Bogaerts struck out on three pitches, the last pitch in the dirt. Hanigan lunged at an outside 2-2 offering and grounded weakly to second.

Pedroia singled with one out in the ninth against Steve Geltz, but Ortiz lifted a routine fly to left and Ramirez grounded to second.

Boston turned a 5-3-5 double play in the bottom of the eighth. With Guyer at first, Rivera hit the ball to Sandoval near the third base bag. He threw low across the diamond and Napoli dug the ball out of the dirt before firing back to the Panda. Guyer had been running with the pitch and had kept going. It was a very close play at third but Sandoval got the tag in. Cash challenged both plays, claiming that Napoli had pulled his foot off the bag, but both out calls were upheld.
Example
Joe Kelly / Nate Karns
Betts, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Ortiz, DH
Ramirez, LF
Sandoval, 3B
Napoli, 1B
Victorino, RF
Bogaerts, SS
Hanigan, C
From Elias: This is the first season since at least 1920 that Red Sox baserunners have begun a season 10-for-10 in stolen bases. ('Caught stealing' totals are incomplete prior to 1920.)

Also from Elias: Last night's 1-0 win was the first time in exactly 10 years that the Red Sox won a 1-0 game with the only run being unearned. Boston beat Baltimore 1-0 at Camden Yards on April 21, 2005. ... It was also the third time in franchise history that the Red Sox used at least five pitchers in a 1-0 win. The previous two games went extra innings: eight pitchers in a 10-inning win at Baltimore on October 3, 1999 and six pitchers in a 16-inning win at Tampa Bay on July 17, 2011.

And a non-Sox factoid from Elias: Toronto has scored at least 12 runs in each of Mark Buehrle's three starts this season (12, 12, 13). Only one other pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) received at least 12 runs of support in each of his first three starts of a season. In 2001, the Diamondbacks supported rookie Nick Bierbrodt with 13, 13, and 14 runs.