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Posts Tagged ‘Anaheim Ducks’

We have avoided arbitration yet again by locking down one-year deals with Carp, Tazawa, and Jonathan Herrera.

The big baseball news lately is the expansion of instant replay.  Obviously, this has been a hot issue since it became an issue.  Both sides of the debate have been pretty vocal in presenting their opinions, but I think it’s interesting and significant that the instant replay expansion was approved unanimously at the Owners Meeting, after which the Players Association and Umpires Association gave the go-ahead.

Starting this season, in addition to the review of close-call home runs, managers will have one challenge per game.   The manager will be able to communicate with someone monitoring video being the scenes so he can make a decision about whether or not to use a challenge.  As an extension of that, camera angles in all the parks now have to be standardized.

The has to verbalize his challenge to the umpire in a very detailed manner, so the umpire knows which parts of the play are being disputed, and in a timely manner, so the umpire doesn’t call for disciplinary action.  If it’s denied, he’s used it up.  If it’s approved, it’s replaced by another new challenge, but he can’t make more than two challenges.  If he doesn’t use it before the seventh inning, it expires, and after the seventh inning, the umpire can elect to institute a review.  All reviews will be conducted at the Majors media headquarters in New York, where four-umpire crews will be on hand, swapped out by rotation.  Field umps would communicate with them via a headset behind home plate, and their decision would be final.

And, last but not least, now replays can be displayed on jumbotrons inside the park.

So most plays will now be potentially subject to review.  As we all know, sometimes the lack of instant replay has burned us bad, and sometimes it’s helped us out.  But that’s true for any team because it’s been the nature of the game; everything tends to balance in the end.  Now, we’ll have to see whether instant replay balances things from the get-go.  It’s just going to be a huge change.  I mean, this is historic.  Baseball has stayed the same for most of its existence when it comes to instant replay, in part because the technology didn’t exist in the early and middle years.  Everything evolves, but we’re just going to wait and see what happens.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Ducks, 2-5, and Kings, 2-4, but won a close one against the Sharks, one-zip, before losing to the Leafs, 4-3, and besting the Stars, 4-2.  And the Pats, of course, bested the Colts by a healthy score of 43-22.  Onward to Colorado!

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The traditional Rolling Rally victory parade took place yesterday, and what a victory parade it was.  Almost one million people turned up in person to watch the team roll through by land as well as by sea.

But this year’s parade was really special.  The team made a special stop at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to commemorate the tragic events that took place on that occasion.  They placed the World Series trophy on the finish line along with a jersey numbered 617 that said “Boston Strong.” Boston Strong indeed.  This year’s victory was exactly what the city of Boston needed, and to see the players communing with the city in remembering the Marathon tragedy was just a really beautiful thing.

The celebration itself was epic, and it was just awesome.  The glory indeed that has returned to Boston this year.  The glory, glory, glory that is ours after we won the 2013 World Series.  Oh, the glory.  What can I say? It was a victory parade.  We had a victory parade for a reason.  And to see thousands and thousands and thousands of people celebrate that victory really shows what the Red Sox mean to Red Sox Nation.

Technically, the offseason officially began as soon as the World Series ended.  Now that the Rolling Rally has taken place, attention will turn to things like who will come back next year, who’s talking to who, and who will strike what deal when and for how long and how much.  But no matter how much business must be talked this offseason, the epic and awesome and ultimate glory is ours.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Penguins but beat the Ducks and Islanders.

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Aviles is officially our starting shortstop.   We still don’t know who will officially be our fourth and fifth starters; in classic Bobby V.-esque fashion, he has heightened the drama by waiting to announce it this morning.  There are those who have been predicting all Spring Training who it’s going to be, but I’ve learned my lesson that you can’t really predict much of anything when it comes to Bobby V.  So we’ll just have to wait and see.

We lost to the Jays, 6-5, on Sunday.  Bard pitched six innings and gave up five runs on six hits while walking three and striking out five.  Aviles went three for four with two doubles, and Ellsbury and McDonald both tripled.

We shut out the Phillies on Monday, six-zip.  Lester’s seven innings were a thing of beauty.  He allowed just two hits and struck out ten.  Salty, Sweeney, and Papi all singled, and Pedroia and Ross both homered, Pedroia to the opposite field.  Paps experienced for the first time what it’s like to socialize with the team while wearing the opposition’s uniform; he didn’t pitch.

We shut out the Rays on Tuesday, eight-zip.  Beckett threw eighty-four pitches in five innings.  He walked three and struck out five.  Papi doubled, Pedroia tripled, and Ross homered.

We los to the Jays on Thursday, 3-2.  Aceves pitched six innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits.  He walked two and struck out four; fifty-four of his eighty-seven pitches were strikes.  Sweeney hit an RBI double, and Papi homered.  The winning run was scored by Anthony Gose, who, with the game tied at two in the eighth, reached first on a walk and then stole second, third, and home, all in the same inning.  You know what they say: walks will haunt.

We beat the Twins on Friday, 9-7.  Bard pitched six innings, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out seven, which was awesome.  Ross hit two two-run home runs.  Ellsbury fouled a ball off of his right knee in the top of the fifth and left the game in the bottom of the inning but is totally fine.

Yesterday, we tied the Rays at seven.  Ross Ohlendorf started.  Ciriaco, Nava, and Shoppach each doubled.  Ciriaco had a fantastic Spring Training; look for him to be chosen for the final roster spot.

In other news, the B’s beat the Ducks, Bolts, and Isles; we lost to the Caps in a shootout.

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Honestly, nothing really happened during the past two weeks.  After blockbuster deals like Gonzalez and Crawford, what else could possibly have happened? Actually, I would have been very pleased to see some sort of move made regarding the catcher’s position, but with so much power added to the lineup already, I think we can weather Salty’s potential lack of production.  That means he’ll have to pull his weight defensively.  I think he will.  Theo is responsible; he wouldn’t send us out with such an important piece missing from the puzzle.  It looks like it’ll be Salty and Tek this year.  Salty will be the official starter, but playing time will be split more evenly than usual.  Like I said, as long as the defense is good, I can live with the lack of offense under the circumstances.

So, really, we’re all set.  2011 is going to be a happy new year for everyone.  Or at least for Red Sox Nation.  I can’t speak for the rest of the Major League community, but something tells me that everyone else’s baseball years may not be so good.

Okajima signed a one-year deal.  Jenks officially signed a two-year deal worth twelve million dollars.  Gonzalez confirmed that his contract demands won’t be effected by the fact that, when Pujols signs a ridiculously expensive contract that is incredibly huge in every way, his own market value will increase.  Instead, he’ll be approaching negotiations from his position in the current market.  Basically, that means that he and Theo will be negotiating during the season, rather than during free agency.  Good man.

In other news, in the past two weeks, the Ducks shut us out, we crushed the Thrashers, we won back-to-back games with the Panthers and Bolts by a goal each, the Thrashers bested us in a shootout, and we lost to Buffalo in a shootout in a ridiculously high-scoring game.  The final was 6-7.  We scored four goals in the first period alone, and the Sabres scored three.  Then they scored two in the second.  Then we scored two in the third, and they scored one to tie it.  That was one seriously hard-earned point.  We are currently first in our division, two points ahead of the Habs, and we are third in the conference.  Very nice.  Very nice indeed.  The Patriots eventually won a close game with the Packers, 31-27, and served some swift and severe humiliation to the Bills, who suffered an embarrassing 34-3 defeat at the hand of the ever-masterful Tom Brady, who is obviously about to win the Super Bowl yet again.

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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.

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That went horribly.  That went horribly, and October is not the time for “horribly.” Lester took the loss.  He gave up three runs on four hits in six innings with four runs and five strikeouts.  I should mention that those three runs scored courtesy of a Torii Hunter home run.  By the way, Lester threw one hundred pitches.  In only six innings.  In October, one hundred pitches should be getting you through the seventh inning.

But wait, it gets worse.  Ramon Ramirez, Mr. Struggle-in-September, came to the mound and proceeded to pitch to three batters and allow two more runs without recording an out.  Saito and Bard were both solid.  Make no mistake: our bullpen is a huge advantage over any opponent we face.

The lineup did nothing.  We got four hits all night, none of which were for extra bases.  The final score was 5-0.  We need Ellsbury to give us something.

We made three errors.  Gonzalez, Bay, and Lowell, all throwing.  It reminds me of that game in October 2004 when we made more errors than we could count.  (On the bright side, October 2004 was, to make the understatement of the century, a really good October.)

And now let’s talk about the umpire, shall we? Let’s start with first-base umpire CB Bucknor.  As the similarity between his last name and a certain someone else’s during the 1986 World Series doesn’t make me uneasy enough.  Both of these calls involved Howie Kendrick at first.  And you can watch replays of both and see that Howie Kendrick was about as out as you can possibly be.  Question mark number one: with two out in the fourth, Kendrick hit a grounder up the middle, which Gonzalez fielded very schnazzily (it was a sliding catch; very nicely done) and fired to Youk at first.  But the throw was wide, so it pulled Youk off the bag.  So Youk applied the tag, but Bucknor called Kendrick safe.  Question mark number two: in the sixth, Kendrick grounded to Lowell, who fired high to first.  Youk jumped up to catch it but came back down on the bag about four feet before Kendrick got there.  And yet somehow Kendrick was safe? Tito had some words for Bucknor, and rightfully so.  Fortunately, neither of those plays cost us runs, the first one because Lester struck out Jeff Mathis to end the inning and the second because Jacoby Ellsbury made an absolutely spectacular diving catch of Chone Figgins’ fly to end the inning.  But that’s not the point.  I don’t want any more of this going forward.

Speaking of defense, it was awesome.  Everyone was spot-on, which was a sight for sore eyes, given all of our recent health concerns.  JD Drew got in on the action and gunned down Kendry Morales at the plate in the seventh.

Byrd is on the roster, and Delcarmen is off because of, you guessed it, the car accident.  Baldelli is also off, replaced by Brian Anderson and Joey Gathright.  The Billy Wagner trade is finally complete; the Mets picked up Chris Carter and first base prospect Eddie Lora.  Don Orsillo did a fantastic job, as always.

Believe it or not, there are some silver linings to last night’s horror show.  First of all, we shouldn’t worry about Lester.  It’s the first game of the playoffs, we were away, he’s got some nerves.  Secondly, the outcome of last night might play directly into our hands.  To borrow some logic from hockey, Andy Brickley said yesterday on NESN that the Bruins’ bad loss to Washington was a necessity for us to remember who we are and how we play, and it facilitated our running wild all over the Hurricanes.  (Brickley said that before we lost to Anaheim, 6-1, which is eerily similar to our good score against Carolina and last night’s outcome against the Angels, but again, that’s not the point.) So last night, in many important ways, was a wake-up call.  It reminded us that October is not all fun and games.  You can’t just waltz into the playoffs and expect the series win to be handed to you on a silver platter.  You have to earn it the hard way, and sometimes, that means you won’t sweep.  So, okay.  The first game is over, the jitters are gone, we’re comfortable in the Angels’ park now.  The Angels is throwing Jered Weaver tonight, but forget that.  Tonight, Josh Beckett makes his first postseason start of 2009.  He threw a bit the other day and says he feels great.  This is what I was talking about when I said I liked the Thursday schedule.  We lost yesterday, but we’ve got another chance right away to remember who we are.  And there’s no pitcher out there who can make you remember faster in the postseason than Josh Beckett.

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Beckett’s outing was okay.  Not bad, not great.  He allowed two runs in the first and two in the second before settling down to pitch three shutout frames.  He allowed seven hits over those five innings with three walks and five strikeouts, and he threw 98 pitches.  So his runs, hits, and walks were up while his strikeout count was down and his pitch count showed inefficiency.  But I still don’t worry about him.  This whole situation with these last few games is very strange.  We win the Wild Card on someone else’s loss, we give the starters all sorts of rest, and we wait.  I feel like that has to take some sort of toll on the psyche of a competitive workhorse like Beckett.  Not to mention the fact that his timing was out of whack because of the extended rest.  But putting that aside, the reason why I’m thrilled with his performance is his health.  The fact that he settled down and got through it means he’ll be in good shape by the time postseason play begins.

Byrd allowed two runs on three hits in the next three innings, which is why he’s not on the postseason roster.  Richardson did fine.

Aside from Beckett, pitching is so not the point here, though.  The offense is the point, and with a final score of 11-6, there was a lot of it.  But before we talk about that, some words on the lineup.  This is one of the most interesting and creative lineups I’ve seen this season.  Pedroia led off, followed by Bay, followed by V-Mart and Youk, and then Ortiz, Lowrie, Kotchman, Anderson, and Gathright.  Ellsbury got the day off, Lowell has a sore right thumb, and Drew has a left shoulder issue.

So, without further ado.  With a full count, Pedroia led off the ballgame with a home run.  High inside fastball, meet the head of the bat, and the ball clears the Monster completely.  And then came the monumental second inning.

When I say monumental, I mean monumental.  There’s really no other way to describe scoring seven runs in a single frame in the manner in which we scored them.  It all started when Anderson singled in Ortiz, which moved Kotchman to second and Lowrie to third.  Aaron Laffey balked, so Lowrie scored, Anderson moved to second, and Kotchman moved to third.  Pedroia was intentionally walked to load the bases.  Then Bay singled in Kotchman, and everyone moved up to load the bases again.

Then Victor Martinez stepped into the batter’s box.  He worked a three and one count, perfect for hitting.  He hit a ball over center field that looked like it might have just enough to get it out.  And it did.  Into the bullpen.  Four runs with one swing of the bat, and all of a sudden we were leading 8-4 on the back of Victor Martinez’s first-ever Major League career grand slam! Against his former team! And all because Andy Marte couldn’t catch that popup in front of our dugout.  That’s what I call making him pay.

Anderson hit a towering home run to Lansdowne Street in the third to score himself and Kotchman, and Dusty Brown hit a home run of his own in the bottom of the eighth to tack on the final run.  Almost cleared the Monster.  The ball made it into the last row and was barely contained inside the park.  Not bad for a first career long ball.

Gonzalez’s x-rays came back negative.  Baldelli will have an MRI tomorrow.  John Farrell officially requested to be removed from consideration for Cleveland’s managerial position.  Speaking of open managerial positions, JP Ricciardi was fired yesterday.  And Manny Delcarmen, after enduring a car accident yesterday, is fine.  He was driving in the left lane and the driver in the middle lost control and swerved into Delcarmen’s car, which veered to the left and hit the wall.  He was taken to Mass General, but other than a sore back, he’s good to go.

Well, the end is in sight.  This afternoon, we play our last game of the regular season.  I have to say, it’s been one interesting run.  Lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of ins and outs and heres and theres, but we’ve come to a good place, I think.  Buchholz gets the nod against Tomo Ohka, so this’ll be his final tune-up before the playoffs.  But I still can’t believe the regular season is already over.  It seems like Opening Day was rained out just yesterday, doesn’t it? Time flies when you’re having fun though, and the fun continues even after we put this one away.

In other news, the Bruins played an absolutely fantastic game last night.  Last night’s game was everything we wanted Opening Night to be and more.  The final score was 7-2, and it was most definitely a team effort.  It was the first time we had seven different goal scorers since the lockout.  And there were plenty of fights to go around as well.  An all-around well-played game.  Lots of tape-to-tape passing (Patrice Bergeron’s picture is next to the definition of “stick position” in the hockey dictionary), obviously lots of scoring (two of the goals were netted just seconds apart) and fighting (Sean Thornton threw at least ten punches before the referees got involved), and of course lots of saving (I have come to the conclusion that Tim Thomas is an acrobat).  We play next on Thursday in Anaheim.

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