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Farrell was officially named manager on Sunday.  Then, Bogar was fired and Torey Lovullo was hired as our new bench coach.

In terms of moves, nothing big has happened yet, obviously.  Mike Aviles was traded to Toronto for Farrell, so we are in shortstop limbo yet again.  Ben met with Shohei Otani, an eighteen-year-old Japanese phenom who, if acquired, will hopefully pan out exponentially better than Dice-K did.  And last but not least, the brass is negotiating a deal with Ross and with Papi.  The deal with Papi is probably going to be a long one, one that would most likely allow him to retire with us if he chooses to do so at that point.

In other news, the Pats beat the Jets in yet another close one, 29-26.

Reuters Photo

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I don’t know how Dice-K does it.  Most of the time he is just awful.  And then all of a sudden he executes a start like this that’s just awesome, and it makes you think that maybe you shouldn’t write him off juts yet.  Basically it’s so agonizing that he can’t just do this on a regular basis, and you can’t help thinking about what could possibly have gone wrong between Japan and where he is right now.

He pitched seven innings and gave up one run, which wasn’t even earned, on five hits while walking two and striking out six.  He threw 101 pitches, seventy-one of which were strikes, and by his standards that’s extremely efficient.  The lone run scored in the first; he started the game by allowing the first of his walks, which eventually turned into a run on a sac fly thanks en route to a missed catch by Pedroia, which allowed the runner to advance.

Dice-K had plenty of good relief behind him to keep the pitching momentum going.  Mortensen and Padilla combined for the eighth, and Bailey handled the ninth.  I guess this is him giving us a glimpse of what we should expect next season, when we hope he’ll be healthy at the start of it.

Although we only outhit the Royals by one, we outscored them by four.  Ellsbury single-handedly answered their run in the bottom of the first with a solo shot on his fourth pitch, the fourth straight four-seam he saw in that at-bat.  All four pitches were the exact same speed, too: ninety-two miles per hour.  He took the first two for balls, fouled the third, and went yard to right on the last.  And with Ellsbury’s second home run of the year, the game was tied at one.

But not for long.  We took the lead in the third and never looked back.  Podsednik and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, and Ross singled them both in.  Ellsbury and Ross hit back-to-back doubles in the sixth that scored one, and Loney followed it with a second consecutive scoring play, a single that plated Ross.

And that’s a wrap! Literally nobody in the last four spots of the order produced a hit, a run, or an RBI.  Only one, Gomez, managed to reach base all night, and that was because he walked.  Meanwhile, three of the top five, Podsednik, Ellsbury, and Ross, went two for four.  Ross bounced both of his hits off the Monster, and his double just barely missed making it into the seats for a home run.  And with this win, Dice-K becomes one of only four Japanese pitchers to win fifty games.  Not bad for someone who hasn’t seen Major League action in about two months.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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You know that spring is just around the corner when Truck Day has come and gone.  Truck Day was yesterday, so that must mean we don’t have much longer to go.  It’s been a long, cold winter, folks, and we’ve been without baseball for way too long.  There have been some interesting decisions and some interesting non-decisions made this offseason; I don’t know how this season will turn out.  It may be better or worse than we expect.  All I know is that Pitchers and Catchers is coming – in fact, Lester is already down there – and soon we’ll be talking about Spring Training! Finally!

Speaking of Pitchers and Catchers, just so everyone knows what we’re getting into, apparently Bobby V. doesn’t believe in pitch counts.  He says that they’re completely arbitrary and cites his experience in Japan as evidence.  As Dice-K has amply informed everyone who will listen already, in Japan there essentially are no pitch counts.  But this is not Japan, these are not Japan’s players, this is not Japan’s six-man rotation, and this is not Japan’s schedule.  All I’m saying is that if something’s not broken, Bobby V. should not attempt to fix it.  Discarding the legitimacy of pitch counts is not a way to account for the fact that we still need two starters, and he seems to think that moving Bard and Aceves from the bullpen to the bench as starters wouldn’t be a big deal for either.  It probably wouldn’t be a big deal if it were done properly, but I don’t think discarding pitch counts completely constitutes “properly.” At most, Bobby V. should be approaching this issue on a case-by-case basis.  There may be some pitchers who are naturally inclined to throw more, and there may be some pitchers naturally inclined to throw less.  If the pitch count has to be ignored, it should be ignored in a situation where it’s within a pitcher’s natural comfort zone and ability to do so.  Otherwise he runs the risk of running all of our pitchers into the ground because a good pitcher will stay out there and compete for as long as he’s allowed to do so.  I don’t even want to think about all the games we would have lost if Tito didn’t pull people at the right time; I venture to guess that total would be more than the games we would have done by doing the exact same thing.

Speaking of pitchers, Roy Oswalt is still on the market, and we have indeed made it an offer.  The offer itself is acceptable, but someone from his camp has stated that, geographically, he just doesn’t want to be in Boston and would rather play in places like Texas or St. Louis which, as I’m sure is readily recognizable, are warmer and potentially National League and therefore more pitcher-friendly.  As they say, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.  But if you can’t take the cold, don’t even think about coming into the kitchen in the first place.

Last but not least, congratulations to Kevin Youkilis, who apparently is engaged to Tom Brady’s sister, Julie.  Two great Boston sports franchises unite.

In other news, the Super Bowl was obviously a painful disappointment, quite literally in fact.  I can’t believe it.  I just can’t believe it.  During the offseason, this Patriots team was touted as the Patriots team that differed from other Patriots teams in recent years due to its defense.  It’s no secret that, while the Patriots have had a good defense, the defense has been just that: good.  Not great, and certainly not extraordinary like the offense.  This team was supposed to be a step in the right direction of addressing that issue.  When we barely squeaked by the Ravens, we knew the Super Bowl was going to be a close game.  And it was.  I personally just never thought it would be close not in our favor and that we would lose, 21-17.  It was 2008 all over again: the Giants’ defense was better than ours, and it matched evenly against our offense, which meant that they were able to make more plays.  Honestly, I still thought we had a chance even after that last touchdown.  There was less than a minute on the clock, but that would have been enough for a successful drive downfield had we not been put in a position where we had to waste time getting another first down after that string of three unsuccessful attempts, the last of which was a sack.  It was painful to watch, and it forced Brady to have to deliver a Hail Mary that would have won the whole game instantly, right then and there, had it been caught.  And it almost was.  But it wasn’t, and that’s how wins and losses are determined, isn’t it.  And it’s not like it’s all the defense’s fault either.  They did well, given the circumstances, especially on the Giants’ third down.  The offense also made its fair share of small mistakes that added up big time.  It seemed like a million of Brady’s passes were just a little off this way or that way or that this one fumbled or that one should totally have caught it, and that would have given us the points necessary such that the fact that the defense allowed the twenty-one points wouldn’t have mattered.  We all know Wes Welker should have made that catch with his eyes closed – he led the NFL with 122c catches – but obviously it’s ridiculous to attribute an entire loss to only one play.  In the end, we made it to the Super Bowl, we kept it a close game, and Brady set a Super Bowl record for consecutive completions.  We lost, and it was crushing and devastating and, as I said, painful.  But we’ll be back.  If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that we’ll be back for sure.  And the B’s beat the Caps and Predators and dropped a 6-0 shutout to the Sabres.

Boston Globe Staff/Steve Silva

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That’s it! I think he’s got it! I think Dice-K’s previous start really was the turning point we all hoped it would be! Technically, we should wait until his next start to be absolutely sure, but all signs point to goodness.  And the solution to his inconsistency was, more or less, as we suspected it might have been, under our noses all along.  A pitcher fires too many pitches because he’s inefficient, but why is he inefficient? In Dice-K’s case, he was inefficient because he was pitching around batters instead of to batters.  He was being too careful.  That meant that walks were coming back to haunt him, and he left games early.  We know this was his problem because every time he’d get himself into a jam, he’d be able to get himself right out.  So the stuff was there, and quality was never at issue.  During his previous time out, he had something to prove so he pounded the zone and achieved an excellent result.  This time out, he did the same thing.  And voila.

Ironically, I remember that this was a topic of discussion during Dice-K’s first two seasons with us that sort of faded into the background when his injuries and the controversy over his training burst onto the scene.  His inefficiency specifically due to lack of aggression had been discussed, but I guess it took a back seat to everything else that was going on.  It took a completely horrendous display of careful pitching to remind him that batters will hit the ball anyway, so why not just go for it.

Last night marked Dice-K’s 150th career win, and he picked up the game ball for his daughter.  He pitched eight shutout innings, needing 112 pitches to do so.  His pitch count didn’t even reach one hundred until the eighth inning, when he walked one, induced a double play, and got a looking strikeout.  His pitch counts would regularly reach 140 when he played in Japan, so he was ready to get back out there and finish off what he started, but of course Tito sent Bard out, who ironically gave up a home run.

Dice-K gave up four hits and only two walks while striking out five, his first coming in the fifth.  His pitch of choice? The cut fastball, rather than the slider.  He threw the lowest amount of sliders last night since he started throwing them at all, thanks to V-Mart who got into rhythm with him and called for what was working.  His cutter was exceptional.  Front door, back door, you name it, he threw it for a strike.  And not just any strike; a first-pitch strike.  After seeing him throw so many balls, his strike zone last night was a thing of beauty.  He used all parts except the upper and lower right corners; when he did throw a ball, chances are it was around the upper left corner.  Other than that, he used all parts of it.  About sixty-three percent of his pitches were strikes in total.  He stayed ahead of the batters and kept counts low while keeping the pace of the game up.  He varied his speed, mixed his pitches (his two-seam was also thrown well), and maintained good movement on everything.  He did not throw more than nineteen pitches in any inning and needed as few as nine to finish the second.  Mostly he threw between ten and fifteen pitches in a given frame.

In short, he brought it.  He was on his game.  The Dice-K we saw last night is the Dice-K we’ve been waiting for.  And although all evidence points to this Dice-K being the Dice-K we see from now on, I would recommend at least waiting until his next start to see if he’s really found his groove.  I think he has.  He’s a pitcher; he’s tried so many different solutions and knows when one works.  And now that he works well with V-Mart, I think he could really get rolling here.

So the final score was 4-1.  If you ask me, it should have been way more lopsided than that.  We left ten men on base, seven against Carmona.  We had runners on base in every inning Carmona pitched.  Five of our eight hits were for extra bases, but none of them were timed well enough to lock it up completely.  We manufactured all four runs ourselves.  Combined with Dice-K’s stellar performance, it was enough to cause Carmona’s fourth consecutive loss.

Scutaro scored on Youk’s sac fly in the first.  Reddick scored on Papi’s fielder’s choice groundout in the third.  Scutaro scored on V-Mart’s sac fly in the seventh; the bases were loaded with nobody out and that was all he could manage, but it’s still a run and I’ll take it.  As Tito said, if you put up only one run in a frame, but repeatedly, it adds up to a win.  Something similar occurred in the eighth; Beltre led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch, scoring on Hall’s single.  But the rally stopped short when Scutaro grounded out and Pedroia struck out.

Scutaro went three for four with a career-high three doubles, extending his hitting streak to six games.  V-Mart went two for four with a double.  He even caught a theft in the fifth!

Apparently, the pitching staff is taking guitar lessons together just for fun.  That’s some good team bonding right there.  Bonser joined the bullpen yesterday because Paps has been placed on the bereavement/family medical leave list, which means he’ll be out for three games.  I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I offer him and his family condolences and best wishes for a speedy recovery.  Meanwhile, look for Bard in the closer’s role.  In the First-Year Player Draft, we selected second baseman Kolbrin Vitek twentieth overall, outfielder Bryce Brentz thirty-sixth overall, and pitcher Anthony Ranaudo at thirty-ninth overall.  Two big bats and a pitcher on the first day; not bad!

I didn’t think I’d be able to say this anytime soon, but I’m actually looking forward to Dice-K’s next start.  I’m anxious to see whether this turnaround and new pitching style is for real.  If it is, I would recommend that the league watch out because, as we have seen, when Dice-K is on, he’s good.  He’s really good.  So I really hope that the Dice-K we’ve seen in his previous two starts as well as his no-no bid is the Dice-K who’s here to stay.  Meanwhile, we have four starts we need to win, starting tonight with Wakefield at Huff, as Wakefield looks to redeem himself from his last two starts.

AP Photo

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Wow.

I repeat: wow.

My first claim of the day: Victor Martinez should never catch Daisuke Matsuzaka ever again.  Make like Matsuzaka is Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek is Doug Mirabelli, and put Jason Varitek in there every fifth day.  I think that at this point we have more than established the fact that the disparity between Dice-K’s performances with V-Mart behind the dish and with Tek behind the dish is occurring for a reason.  Dice-K’s performances with Tek behind the dish are vastly superior, and when I say vastly I mean vastly.  So that’s the end of it.  That’s your answer right there.

As for the game itself last night, one more time: wow.  That’s the only word I’ve got to describe what I saw last night.  That entire game was absolutely incredible.  I’m not even sure I actually believe what I saw with my own eyes.  That was the best I’ve seen Dice-K pitch, ever.  Really, I was speechless.

To put it simply, Dice-K had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning.  You know you thought he had it in the bag when he somehow grabbed Werth’s would-be line drive in the seventh.  Tek even said that that was the hardest-hit ball caught by a pitcher he’d ever seen, ever.  I’m not really sure how he was able to snare that.  That was pure intuition right there; he just put his glove it in exactly the right position and the ball found it.  You know you thought there was no way it wasn’t going down when Beltre dove to catch Ruiz’s would-be line drive and fired to first in time for the out and the double-up of Ibanez in the eighth.  Because you know that most no-hitters are accompanied by at least one amazing play in the field.

And you saw Lester and Buchholz sitting there and knowing exactly what was going on inside Dice-K”s head.  You saw them sitting with Lackey and Beckett and thinking about what they were thinking when they were that deep into this same thing.

Dice-K was four outs away.  Only for outs away from the mobbing by the teammates; the mad cheering by Red Sox Nation, Philadelphia Chapter; the turning of a corner; and the making of history.  Only for outs away.

But Juan Castro ruined everything and dashed all hopes and convictions when he blooped a single over the reaching glove of Marco Scutaro with only one out left in the eighth inning.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this.  I am convinced that Scutaro could’ve caught that.  Technically, by the rules of baseball, that can’t be considered an error, but I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it counts for the biggest unofficial error of his career.  He had that.  He just needed to time his leap better.  And we know that’s possible because several starters on our roster do it all the time like it’s a walk in the park (pun intended).  He needed to be maybe a foot more to the right and leap a few seconds later.  So, in short, yes, Marco Scutaro wrecked Dice-K’s no-hitter.

It was crushing.  It was absolutely crushing.  Dice-K has had his fair share of struggles, and with the entire country of Japan watching, it would’ve been magical to see him accomplish that feat.  It also would’ve been a great morale booster for the entire team; we’ve seen what no-hitters can do.  They put life in a team that’s just witnessed, like I said, the magic and the history of it all.  Of all the pitchers in Major League Baseball, he needed that no-hitter.  Of all the teams in Major League Baseball, we needed that no-hitter.

Sadly, and that’s the understatement of the century, it was not to be.  Crushing.

But all you can do is move on.  And that’s exactly what Dice-K did, and what impressed me immensely.  We know from personal experience that, after a pitcher gives up a no-no bid, they have the tendency to unravel completely; that’s when the opposing offense attacks and that’s when you might lose everything.  Dice-K ensured that that didn’t happen as simply and easily as getting Gload to fly out to right field.  But that says a lot about his composure on the mound.  If Dice-K can turn it around permanently, he’d have the potential to be an ideal pitcher for the postseason, where every pitch counts and you can’t afford to get skittish after one mistake.

It was kind of strange as no-no bids go because it was low on strikeouts and comparatively high on pitches.  He struck out only five, two looking, with a very even strike zone and threw 112 pitches, which again was more than Lester needed to get through an entire game.  But even during his best starts during stretches of brilliance, he’d pull this Houdini act and use this uncanny ability of his to remain perfectly calm with runners on base and get himself out of all kinds of jams that he’d personally cause.  Yet another fine quality of a postseason pitcher.  So historically we know that he’s not exactly the epitome of efficiency, but we also know from his career in Japan that throwing large amounts of pitches doesn’t scare him.  He doesn’t mind it.  And if it works, it works.

His mix of pitches was exquisite.  He threw mostly four-seams, topping out at ninety-four miles per hour.  He threw his two-seam at ninety-five.  He located his slider and curveball perfectly and mixed in some cutters and changeups at exactly the right moments.  His fastball, slider, and changeup were the best I’d ever seen them.  All of them had movement, and all of them had life.  A no-hitter is all about being crafty and keeping the lineup guessing.  That’s hard to do the third or fourth time around, but he did it, and it’s no small feat, especially against, as I said, an opponent like Philly.

He needed a game low of eight pitches to clear an inning, and used as few twice, in the sixth and seventh.  He needed nineteen pitches to clear the eighth.  There’s been a general trend in his starts of improving as the game goes on.  And yet another reason why he’d pitch well in the postseason.  The whole outing was just a huge begging of the question of, “What if?”

Bard cleaned up the ninth.  Together they one-hit the Phillies through nine.

The final score was 5-0.  Papi scored on Hermida’s sac fly in the fourth, hustling hard to beat the tag by Ruiz at the plate.  Scutaro opened the fifth with a double, and Dice-K bunted him to third.  Ellsbury walked.  Drew singled in Scutaro, Papi doubled in Ellsbury, and Beltre doubled in Drew and Papi.  Drew and Beltre both went two for four.  Ellsbury started in center, which was a sight for sore eyes, and Papi started at first.

Ultimately, we just have to focus on the win.  We set out to win, and we won.  We won our way, with run prevention.  Of course, that’s easier said than done.  But a win is most definitely better than nothing; we need all the wins we can get.  On the other hand, we also need all the magic we can get.  But there are yet many games to be played.  Starting this afternoon with Wake taking on Halladay.

AP Photo

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Finally! The day we’ve all been waiting for! Ladies and gentlemen, Opening Day has finally arrived.  It’s been one long, hard winter, but winter is over, my friends.  Spring Training is done.  It goes down tonight at 8:00PM.  Get ready to welcome the 2010 Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park! Oh, and we’re playing the Yankees.  Basically, this is the greatest baseball day ever in the past half-year or so.

There’s only one minor snag: technically it’s Opening Night, not Opening Day.  I’m not calling it Opening Night.  When ESPN wants its ratings, ESPN gets its ratings.  Who cares about the fact that this is only the most important day in the daily lives of Red Sox Nation and an entire region of the United States, right? Ugh.  ESPN.  That’s all I’m saying.  And the worst part is that we can’t even make a statement by engaging in the TV boycott that so many are suggesting because, let’s face it, we’ve been baseball-starved for way too long and absolutely will not and can not miss Opening Day in Boston against the Yankees.  And don’t think ESPN doesn’t know that.  You just can’t win with them.  It’s infuriating.

Speaking of ESPN, they hired Curt Schilling to do analysis on Baseball Tonight.  Because apparently all former Sox stars must be employed immediately to do analysis on Baseball Tonight.  Hey, at least they have good taste in teams.

The lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Papi, Beltre, Drew, Cameron, Scutaro.  Boom.  Done.  And I have to say, I like it.  If Ellsbury can get going in the lead-off spot, we’re golden.  Can’t go wrong with the one-two-three punch of Pedroia, V-Mart, and Youk.  If Papi has a solid year, the first half of this lineup will be impenetrable.  I really like Beltre separating Papi and Drew; that way, the opposition can’t just throw a lefty in there.  Cameron in eighth; no surprise there.  And I like Scutaro in ninth because he’ll give some punch to the bottom half of the order.  When you have a decent hitter batting last, you lengthen your innings because there’s no guaranteed out at the bottom, and you force a turnover.

The roster is done.  Outfielders: Drew, Cameron, and Ellsbury, with Hermida as the spare man.  Infielders: Youk, Pedroia, Beltre, Scutaro, and Lowell, with Hall as the spare man.  Catchers are V-Mart and Tek, obviously.  We know the rotation is Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wake, and Buchholz.  Beckett’s got the speed, Lester is the model southpaw, Lackey throws the first-pitch strike, Wake has the knuckleball, and Buchholz throws off-speeds like nobody’s business.  (Provided he’s on.)

The bullpen includes Ramon Ramirez, Paps, Bard, Okajima, and Delcarmen, with Schoeneweis and Atchison earning the final two spots.  Hey, if they earn them, they earn them.  And it hasn’t been easy.  Schoeneweis’s wife died last year, and Atchison returned from Japan to get better medical care for his daughter.  Good luck to both of them, and we salute you.

This was the last week of Spring Training, the last week of tune-ups, so any last-minute kinks had to have been worked out by today.  None of our arms disappointed.  Everyone looks primed and ready for actions, if you ask me.  I can’t wait to unleash this rotation on the rest of the league.  We’re talking epic domination this season.

Lester finished up on Wednesday.  One run on three hits in seven innings say he’s good to go.  V-Mart went hard twice, Frandsen (who knew?) blasted a grand slam, and Pedroia went three for five.

Lackey had his final tune-up on Thursday; one run on six hits over five.  That’s kind of a high hit total for Lackey, but one run makes it hard to argue.  Delcarmen struggled; Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless inning.  Scutaro, Tek, and Lowell all had a good day; it was the first time Lowell played in back-to-back games this spring, and he was actually pretty decent.

On Friday, Buchholz allayed concerns with a solid set of six innings; one run on two hits, and that was it.  Paps’s ninth was scoreless; Bard sent down his two batters in quick succession.  Tek smacked a three-run double; Ortiz smacked a double of his own.  Reddick’s Grapefruit League average is now .404.  Really, it’s a shame he’s back in the minors.  That kid’s got Major Leagues written all over him.

Wake pitched himself four shutout frames yesterday.  The only trouble he had was back-to-back singles with one out.  If that’s the only kind of trouble he has all season, I think we’re good.  He finishes Spring Training with a 3.04 ERA.  Surgery? What surgery? Dice-K relieved him for four solid frames.  That’s what I call encouraging.  I would’ve preferred that Dice-K not have walked three batters, but this is no time to be picky.  Youk and Drew went yard.

Hermida’s back in action as of Friday.  Ellsbury rested his throwing shoulder this past week, so I expect some serious firing from left.  Youk fouled a ball off his knee on Wednesday, but he’s fine.  Ortiz was scratched on Thursday with a stiff neck but came back on Friday.  Junichi Tazawa is out for the season; he needs Tommy John surgery.  We’re getting close to a contract extension with Beckett that would keep him here through 2014 for $68 million.

Basically, what it comes down to is the fact that we’re going to win tonight.  At least, we all hope so, and you know how it is in Boston.  You gotta believe.  But seriously, objectively speaking, I think we’re better.  Just take it position by position.  Our rotation is very obviously better.  Our bullpen is clearly better.  Our outfield is clearly better.  Most of our infield is better.  Our catchers are better.  We’re just better.  The great part is that that has nothing to do with keeping the faith; that’s just a verifiable fact.  Which will be proven tonight.  Let’s get this season started right.

Two wins and two losses this week for the Bruins.  We’re seventh in the conference, two behind the Habs and two above the Flyers.  It’s better than being seeded last, but let’s overtake the Habs if we can.

Brian Sullivan

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Isn’t that a convenient theme for the week.

With all this focus on defense, it’s worth explaining four new fielding stats that helped Theo and other proponents of sabermetrics make decisions this offseason.  Baseball is a numbers-heavy game, so anytime new stats come to the fore, it’s pretty exciting stuff.

First we have a fielder’s ultimate zone rating.  It’s a fielder’s number of runs above or below average.  It’s calculated by adding range runs to error runs.  According to Mitchel Lichtman, the statistic’s developer, range runs are “the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity,” and error runs are “the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by the number of errors he makes as compared to an average fielder at that position given the same distribution of balls in play.”

Next is the plus/minus.  This is more straight-forward.  It awards for converting plays that others in the position in question failed to convert and demerits for failing to convert plays that others would’ve made.  Developed by John Dewan, this stat is compiled through extensive research of video footage that maps the location and speed of each ball in play as well as the type of hit that put it into play as well as every other property of a ball in play that you could possibly imagine.

Third is the defensive runs saved.  It’s a complete quantity of runs saved.  Also developed by John Dewan, it’s calculated using plus/minus in conjunction with “double play abilities, outfielder arms, bunt defense by corner infielders, pitcher stolen base defense, catcher stolen base defense and the catcher’s ability to handle pitchers.” Dewan explains it thus in his book The Fielding Bible Volume II, “Let’s say there’s a man on first with one out. The expected runs at that point are .528. The next play is a ground ball to the shortstop. He boots it for an error and we now have men on first and second with one out. The expected runs went from .528 to .919. That’s an increase of .391 (.919 minus .528) runs. The play itself, the error, cost the team .391 runs. We don’t have to follow it through and count the rest of the inning. We know what the value of the ending state is and can use it.”

Fourthly, we’ve got the probabilistic model of range.  This one is my personal favorite of the four.  It’s kind of like the ultimate zone rating but accounts for some additional and very important variables.  This program, developed by David Pinto, calculates “the probability of a ball being turned into an out based on six parameters: direction of hit (a vector), the type of hit (fly, ground, line drive, bunt), how hard the ball was hit (slow, medium, hard), the park, the handedness of the pitcher, the handedness of the batter.” Here’s how it works.  It finds the probability of a ball put in play being converted into an out; this is the number of expected outs.  It divides that by the number of balls put in play; this is the expected defensive efficiency rating.  Compare that to the whole team’s actual defensive efficiency rating, and you’ve got the probabilistic model of range, the idea being that a team has a good defense if it’s actual defensive efficiency rating is better than its expected rating.  I’ll be interested to see how the 2010 Red Sox fare by this metric.

Leaving the world of defensive stats and mathematical innovation to itself for moment, we’re going to take a trip back to your high school hallway.

You’ll never believe the latest news on the Dice-K front.  Apparently, the Boston Globe found out from a Japanese magazine that talked to Dice-K that Dice-K injured his right inner thigh while preparing for last year’s World Baseball Classic.  But he didn’t withdraw from the World Baseball Classic because the rest of him felt fine.  He actually concealed the injury from Team Japan’s trainers.  But the guilt and the physical taxation of his work took their toll, and the rest is history.

Honestly, the whole situation resembles teenage gossip way too closely.  It’s extremely frustrating.  The way I see it, the team shouldn’t have had to find out about an injury that directly affected, its long-term performance from a newspaper that found out from a magazine that found out from the player.  At the bottom of this whole thing is cultural differences.  In Japan, honor is of paramount importance.  So Dice-K felt that his injury was something to hide; he didn’t want to become the center of attention, didn’t want people to worry on his behalf, and didn’t want to make excuses for himself.  But we expect someone like Dice-K to be public about legitimate injuries so he can get help.  Bottom line? Team Japan got a championship, Team Boston got nothing, and Team Dice-K has some work to do.

Theo Epstein deserves a hearty congratulations on never having gone to arbitration with a player.  He signed Okajima to a one-year deal worth a bit less than three million dollars, plus four bonus clauses.  But he’s got four more filings to deal with: Hermida, Ramon Ramirez, Delcarmen, and none other than Jonathan Papelbon, who of course expects a raise.  I think if anyone on that list is going to finally get Theo into an arbitration, it’s going to be Paps.  I mean, he’s still the best closer in the game, but after our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs, I’m not sure that raise is going to be served on a silver platter.

Mark McGwire finally declared his use of steroids and HGH.  Wow.  I could try to field some sarcasm here, but honestly when I read that, I was so bored that I forgot to yawn.  Next thing you know, Barry Bonds is going to admit using, too.  Oh, wait.  But in all seriousness, I think Major League Baseball needed that admission, even though all of us knew it before Tom Davis chaired that interrogation on March 17, 2005.  But I think Michael Cuddyer said it best when he expressed sorrow for the clean guys who couldn’t hold a candle to all the loaded teams that swiped the championship rings from their fingers.  As far as Joe Morgan’s statement on the matter is concerned, it’s just another reason not to watch baseball on ESPN:

[Steroid users] took performance-enhancing drugs to enhance their numbers and make more money.  And they did it and made more money and enhanced their numbers.

Profound.  Although his main point that we should pay more constructive attention to the clean guys of the era who earned their stats than pay all this sensational attention to the juiced guys who didn’t is spot-on.

Equally profound was Bud Selig’s proclamation that changes would come to baseball this season.  Did he say what sort of changes? No.  Apparently that’s not nearly as important as the fact that changes will take place, period.  The postseason schedule is likely to be addressed first.  Mike Scoscia wants less days off, and Joe Torre wants the division series to be best-of-seven.  Fantastic.  The GMs who, between them, want more baseball played in less time after a 162-game season are on the panel that’s essentially the brain behind the changes.  And last but not least, Major League Baseball has pledged one million dollars in aid to Haiti.  That just makes you feel great about being a baseball fan.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Ducks in regulation, beat the Sharks in a shootout, and lost to the Kings in a shootout.  But that’s not even the sad part.  The sad part is that we have fifty-four points, which is good for second place in the Northeast.  That’s two above the Senators and ten below the Sabres.  Guess how many points the Kings have.  Fifty-seven.  I’m sorry to have to say this, but we’re actually playing worse puck than the Los Angeles Kings.  Of course, life doesn’t look much better from a Patriots perspective.  The Ravens absolutely slaughtered us on Sunday, and that’s the end of that.  I don’t really feel a need to dwell on the subject.

Not in HD

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