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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Torre’

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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We celebrated the fifth anniversary of our complete and total decimation of the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS on Tuesday.  Just thinking about that 10-3 final score gives me goosebumps.  That was the greatest day in the history of New England for all of a week before we won it all.  World champions.  I said this at the time, and I say it every year, because it’s true: it never gets old.  No matter how many wins anyone else may be able to rack up, none of them will ever measure up to 2004.  Ever.  And no defeat will ever be as painful as the one the Yankees experienced.  There’s a reason why it’s called the greatest comeback in the history of baseball.  And I wouldn’t have wanted to get to the big stage any other way.

Meanwhile, Tim Bogar and Brad Mills interviewed for the Astros’ managerial job.  That’s not something I want to hear.  Mills has been our bench coach for the past six seasons, and he’s done a great job.  Obviously I’m rooting for his success, but I just hope that success is achieved in Boston, not in Houston.

And supposedly we’re chasing Adrian Gonzalez via trade.  This could get very interesting, very quickly.  At twenty-seven years of age, he hit forty home runs, batted in ninety-nine RBIs this year, led the Major Leagues in walks, and finished the season with a .407 on-base percentage.  But wait; the plot thickens.  One of our assistant GMs, Jed Hoyer, is about to become the Padres’ GM.  (This leaves Ben Cherington as our only assistant GM.  The decision is likely to be announced in the next few days.  Bud Selig doesn’t want clubs making such major announcements during the World Series, so it’ll happen beforehand, especially since Hoyer will need to get his personnel in place and prepare for the GMs meeting starting on November 9.) So if one of them lands the job, our options become wide-open, and the road to the trade just got re-paved.  The important question here is who is on the block.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Mike Lowell and prospects; Youk would then move to third permanently while Gonzalez plays first.  But I don’t know if the Padres would bite.  I think it’s safe to say Youk won’t be going anywhere; he’s too good at the plate and in the field.  And I don’t think Pedroia even enters into this discussion.  So I think Lowell, prospects, and bench players are up for grabs.

Speaking of Pedroia, check this out.  During his MVP season, he swung at the first pitch fifteen percent of the time.  This past year, that stat was down to seven percent.  Furthermore, during his MVP season he hit .306 with eight doubles and two dingers on the first pitch.  This past year, he hit .167 with four hits, period.  And if you don’t consider his one-pitch at-bats, his numbers from the two season are almost exactly the same.  But there’s a trade-off.  With more patience came twenty-four more walks and a comparable on-base percentage despite the thirty-point drop in average.  And while we’re on the subject of examining the season via stats, the only Red Sox catcher since 1954 who’s had a better average in September than Victor Martinez is Carlton Fisk.  Just to give you an idea of how ridiculously awesome V-Mart is.  Youk has had the highest OPS in the American League since 2008.  (It’s .960, a full ten points higher than A-Rod’s.  I’m just sayin’.) Jacoby Ellsbury is one of only six since 1915 to bat over .300 with forty-five extra-base hits and seventy steals; the other five are Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson, Willie Wilson, Tim Raines, and Kenny Lofton.  David Ortiz hit more home runs than anyone in the AL since June 6, but only six of those were hit with runners in scoring position and struggled immensely against lefties.  In three of his past four seasons, Jason Bay has experienced a slump starting sometime in June and ending sometime in July that lasts for about a month.

Saito cleared waivers on Monday, but mutual interest in his return has been expressed.  Why not? He finished the year with a 2.43 ERA, the eighth-lowest in the Majors for a reliever with forty-plus appearances.  Wakefield had surgery at Mass General on Wednesday to repair a herniated disk in his back.  The surgery was successful, he’ll begin rehab immediately, and expect him to be pitching before Spring Training.

In other news, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt fired his wife, Jamie, from her position as CEO of the organization.  Ouch.  Now she’s amassing an army of investors in an effort to possibly buy out her husband.  Ouch times two.  This could potentially ruin the team; when the organization’s top officials are preoccupied with marriage and ownership disputes, it’s harder to focus on free agency, harder to allocate funds to the right players, and therefore harder to be good.  Not that I’m complaining; Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez blew it this year and I’m looking forward to the Dodgers dropping down in the standings.

That’s a wrap for this week.  Not too much goes on until the stove gets hot, but this is when Theo gets his winter game plan together.  If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that he’ll be making some serious moves.  After a postseason finish like ours, that’s really the only thing you can do.

The Pats crushed the Titans last weekend.  Seriously.  The final score was 59-0.  It was ridiculous.  The Bruins, on the other hand, could do better.  We lost to Phoenix, shut out Dallas, lost a shootout to the Flyers, and won a shootout to the Senators.  We traded Chuck Kobasew to the Wild for right winger Craig Weller, still in the AHL; rights to forward Alex Fallstrom, a freshman at Harvard; and a second-round draft pick in 2011.  So it could be a while before we see a return on this move, but it freed cap space in preparation for next offseason, when Tuukka Rask, Blake Wheeler, and Marc Savard all hit the free agent market.  And make no mistake: Peter Chiarelli was sending a message.  If you underperform, you’re gone, because we can use the financial flexibility of a trade to make us more competitive than you’re making us right now.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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Walt Whitman had it right.  The captain is the man.  No question.  So if you there’s one guy you want to make sure you resign, it’s your captain.  And finally, after Scott Boras’s epically epic fail, I’m pleased to report that the deal is done.  Finished.  In the bag.  Signed, sealed, delivered.  Jason Varitek is coming back to Boston, the only Major League team he’s ever played for.  He signed a one-year, $5 million deal at the deadline, with an option for 2010 worth $5 million if Boston activates it, $3 million if Tek does, or $5 million if Tek activates it and meets incentives.  So the deal is as low as $8 million and as high as $10 million.  A very reasonable offer, if you ask me, especially considering that Tek’s offense is nonexistent these days.  But even if we’d had the opportunity to sign an offensively prolific catcher, I still would’ve liked to see Tek return somehow, in some role.  It’s true that, for some reason, the catcher’s position is notorious for aging quickly, but there’s just no way we would’ve been able to let Tek walk.  His role is too important to the team, especially with all these new arms coming in.  It seems obvious, but as Jon Lester said, there is a reason why he wears the “C.” We’ve weathered his low batting average in the past, and we can do it again, and with all the new pitchers we’ve signed, he’ll definitely be a big asset in ’09.

I still can’t get over the whole process, though.  I’ll tell you something: Scott Boras is thoroughly embarrassed right now.  Scott Boras committed a major error, and part of it had to do with the fact that this year’s market was exceptionally unkind to veterans.  Being a free agent in an economy like this is not pleasant, especially if you’re past your prime.  And if you’re an agent, you’d do well to recognize that.  Otherwise your client will go over your head and broker a deal without you.  Let it be stated here that Boras has been beaten at his own game.  Wow, that felt great to say.

Mike Lowell is officially ineligible to represent Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic because he’s still in rehab from right hip surgery.  At least we know his recovery is progressing, and we can be happy about the fact that he’s being responsible.  I just hope his offense comes back, because his numbers were sweet in ’07.  (Can we say World Series MVP?) It looks like Kevin Millar has some decisions to make; the Orioles aren’t bringing him back in ’09.  Unfortunate but sooner or later everbody’s time comes, I guess.  And he does have a ring.  Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez is still unemployed.  Larry Lucchino has publicly stated that we will absolutely not be resigning him.  I was a Manny fan, and I miss his bat in the lineup just as much as the next guy, and we owe him a whole lot, but really, from a team’s standpoint, who would want to sign him after last season’s debacle.  It was just ugly.  There’s no doubt that he’s headed to the Hall of Fame, and there’s no doubt that he’s one of the greatest sluggers of his era.  But those aren’t really incentives to sign a dude when you can never be sure if he’ll play on any given day.

And last but not least, Joe Torre’s new book is coming out.  The Yankees Years.  And in the book, he writes that in 2002 it finally hit him that the Yankees aren’t an unselfish team.  More power to him for finally realizing that, but he could’ve just asked us.  But it gets better.  Who takes a verbal beating in the book but A-Rod.  Shocker.  It’s about time.  Torre writes that A-Rod wanted to be the center of attention, that he was routinely focused on himself, that he was overly concerned with appearances, and that his presence put a strain on the clubhouse.  I’m just glad someone within the Yankees organization is finally grasping what the rest of the baseball world knew for years.  And I feel compelled to mention that A-Rod brought zero pennants to New York.  That’s all I have to say about it.

In other news, the Bruins defeated the Rangers yesterday, 1-0.  The Bruins are now 24-0-2 when leading.  Tuukka Rask was in goal for his first NHL start this season and recorded his first career NHL shutout.  35 saves, and you should have seen some of them.  Outstanding peformance.  My friends, the future of Boston goaltending is bright.  Not to mention the fact that Phil Kessel and Andrew Ference are both back, and watching them you’d think they never missed a beat.  I have to say, we’re looking really good down the stretch.

Reuters Photo

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What a strange position we’re in.  It’s the last call for a lot of things.  The last call for us to take the division from the Tampa Bay Rays.  The last call for Dice-K as a starter in the regular season.  The last call for a series with the Yankees.  The last call for baseball in the regular season, period.  Every season has to end sometime, but it’s not often you have a season that ends so strangely.  For the first time in a very long time, possibly for the first time ever, we’re about to play a season-ending series with the New York Yankees that technically doesn’t matter.  This is definitely the end of an era; the sun has finally set on New York.  I said it before and I’ll say it again.  The World Series isn’t going anywhere.   All we have to do is get there and take it.

In his last outing of the regular season, Jon Lester did what he’s done all season long: pitch beautifully.  Six innings of two-hit one-run ball.  Actually it was almost another no-hitter.  He hadn’t given up a hit through five, but Josh Barfield played the spoiler in the sixth.  Lester finishes the season 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA.  That’s just masterful.  And let’s not forget that one of those 16 was a complete game in the Bronx and another was the no-hitter against the Royals.  To see him come through the farms and after everything he’s been through to see him pitch like that is just amazing.  Definitely hats off to Jon Lester for giving us wins and hopes.

Masterson, Okajima, and Papelbon combined for three hitless innings.  Seems like Okajima has finally found his old form and Papelbon is back.  It really was a great game for the pitchers; our staff retired the last eleven batters in a row.

The offense was great.  Youkilis batted in two, finished the night two for three with a walk, and hit a solo homer in the seventh.  Kotsay, Varitek, Pedroia, and Lowrie, who went two for four, also recorded RBIs.  Ellsbury turned it on from the lead-off spot and went two for four with two runs.  The final score was 6-1, we out-hit them 4-1, and we were error-free.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

With this win and the Rays’ loss, we can still win the division.  The Rays’ magic number holds at one, so if we finish the season 3-0 and they finish the season 0-3 we’ve got it.  A tie won’t do it.  We can do our part.  The Yankees are horrible, their spirits are crushed, and they’re going nowhere in October so it’s not exactly a challenging opponent.  Besides, we’ve been hot.  We’ve won five of our last six at Fenway.

In other news, Patriot Troy Brown is retiring.  We’ll miss him, that’s for sure.  The Yankees organization has omitted Joe Torre completely from their tribute.  That’s just a low blow.  It’s just like the Yankees to pull something like that.  The man gives them so many quality years of service and all they can say is, “See ya.” It’s just sad.  The irony is that Joe Torre is the one going to October; he and the Dodgers just clinched a playoff spot.

Jim Davis/Boston Globe Staff

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The name “Jon Lester” has become synonymous with excellence.  I don’t really know what else to say.  What else can you say when you’ve got a pitcher who goes from World Series Game 4 to no-hitter to stifling the competition start after start after start? If Lester was looking for a dominating performance to erase the memory of his loss, he got it.  No question about it.  Three runs on seven hits over about seven innings pitched with a walk and six strikeouts.  He improves to 11-4 on the season.  At this point I’d say it’s just scary how good he’s become in such a short time.  Ever since the no-hitter he’s taken himself to a whole new level.  But what’s even more impressive is that he continues to sustain that level.

Mike Timlin relieved him in the eighth and allowed his usual runs; two this time.  And that was it for the Rangers, who lost, 4-8.  Lopez and Masterson took care of the rest.  As for the offense, it was on.  Two RBIs each for Youk, Lowrie, and Bay, and one for Casey.  This is why I don’t mind so much that Lowell is on the fifteen-day DL.  He was playing through some pain, and he was slumping.  So this will also be a kind of mental break for Lowell, and hopefully he’ll come back refreshed and ready to hit ’em out.  It kind of reminds me of around this time last season, when Manny had that oblique problem and luckily took his time on the DL, because when he came back he was firing on all cylinders.  Besides, Youk at third and Casey at first is a world-class substitution defensively speaking for the usual third and first combination.

And speaking of Youk, he’s batting clean-up very nicely these days.  Yesterday he went three for four.  Bay has hit safely in all but one of his games in a Red Sox uniform, yesterday going two for three with a steal, and Lowrie and Pedroia continue to be on fire.  A funny thing: Tek was caught stealing.  I wasn’t even aware that that would be a consideration for him.  Additionally his batting average just keeps dropping.  He has to do something.  He’s an integral part of this team, but he needs to give us something offensively, especially now.

Last night’s game was error-free, folks.  I hope Lowrie stays in the lineup for the rest of the season, and I don’t care who knows it.  (Ahem, Lugo, ahem.)

And in the usual drama that surrounds Manny Ramirez, rather than cut his hair he’s actually woven colored threads into them.  Joe Torre is apparently a little wary of a trim now, because he wouldn’t want a haircut to affect is offensive performance.  I’ll state this for Joe Torre’s benefit: Manny is not Samson.  If he cuts his hair, he’ll live.

AP Photo

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