Red Sox Weekly 8/8/11

By Andy Lindberg

The Red Sox kept control of first place in the American League East after a brutal week facing off against Cleveland for four games and the Yankees for three more.  Boston split the first series with Cleveland, with Jacoby Ellsbury collecting walk-off hits in two consecutive games, the second of which was a home run.  The Sox then took two of three from New York.

There are few hitters in all of baseball hotter than Ellsbury right now.  After his two-walk off performance in the Cleveland series and dropping the first game of the series to the Yankees, Ellsbury exploded on Saturday for six RBI, including a 3-run home run off of CC Sabathia to put the nail in the coffin for New York.  Sabathia is now 0-4 against Boston this year, an impressive statistic considering he is 16-6 with a 2.81 ERA even after the Beantown shelling.  For those of you who are mathematically impaired, like myself, only two of Sabathia’s losses have come from teams not named the Red Sox.  Not bad considering at this point Sabathia is the American League Cy Young front-runner, who is now 6-9 all-time against Boston with a 4.19 ERA in 19 games.

As hot as Ellsbury was, Carl Crawford was out for blood this week, raising his batting average from the mid .240’s all the way up to .260 after hits in seven consecutive at-bats (including a 4-4 performance on Saturday) and collected three more hits in the series finale against New York.  Crawford is hitting the pitches he was missing earlier in the season, either due to not seeing the ball well or pressing too hard at the plate.  Right now, Red Sox fans are seeing the Crawford Boston paid for, and now that he seems more comfortable at the plate, the rest of this season and seasons to follow should result in better numbers from Crawford.

Josh Reddick further impressed critics with a walk-off hit against Phil Hughes of the Yankees on Sunday as well, plating Darnell McDonald for the win after Marco Scutaro jump-started the Boston rally off of Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning, just as ESPN was rolling it’s montage of greatness to Rivera and giving Boston no chance of winning.  Scutaro lead off the ninth with a Green Monster double, and Ellsbury laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, which moved Scutaro to third.  Dustin Pedroia, who was -10 with five strikeouts against Rivera leading into the at-bat, clocked a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Scutaro.  The win put the Red Sox back on top in the East by one game.  This week Boston hits the road for three games in Minnesota, beginning tonight and finishing on the West Coast against Seattle over the weekend.

 

Wake Goes For 200

 

Tonight’s game against Minnesota will see Tim Wakefield log his third attempt at career win number 200.  The game will begin at 7:10 EST.

 

Boston MVP Candidates

One cannot ignore the top three hitters in the Boston lineup.  Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez are all having fantastic years.  Gonzalez still leads the Major Leagues in RBI (91), hits (159), and batting average (.348), but the power numbers are down from what most fans expected.  The point of hitting home runs is to drive in runs, and home run hitters are to do that copiously, so having Gonzalez leading baseball in RBI with only 18 homers is an extremely impressive statistic.  This may be due to the fact that Gonzalez is second in doubles with 34, and has peppered the Green Monster repeatedly in his time at Fenway.

As good as Gonzalez and Pedroia have been, the Red Sox MVP at this juncture has to be Jacoby Ellsbury.  Red Sox fans clearly has no idea what the organization was missing last season when Ellsbury was limited to only 18 games due to injury.  Ellsbury is batting .318 with 19 home runs (his previous season-high was 9 in 2008), 72 RBI and 31 stolen bases.  That’s all from the leadoff guy.  There is no better table-setter in baseball right now.  The most noticeable trend to me is that from day one of this season, Ellsbury has been much better about working the count and making opposing pitchers work hard to get him out as opposed to last year and years past in which 2-pitch groundouts to second base were frequent.  Ellsbury has been the epitome of a difference-maker this season and having him, Pedroia (who is making a great case to reclaim his number 1 AL second baseman status from Robinson Cano), and Gonzalez all bat in the first inning is one of the large reasons Boston is the offensive powerhouse is has become this season.

Daily Noontime – July 25, 2011

The NFL season rests on the shoulders of DeMaurice Smith, as well as the NFLPA.

Good Day to everyone and welcome into yet another wonderful Daily Noontime! Here’s the headlines and news of the day, so enjoy! 

Headlines: 

* Monday should be an important day in the NFL, as the players and owners should officially shake hands, as well as end the lockout.

* Sunday was a special day, as the Boston Red Sox ended their three-game series with the Seattle Mariners with a win, but also, celebrated Tim Wakefield‘s 2,000th strikeout too.

* Sadly, Michael Phelps and Team USA settled for the bronze medal on Sunday at the 400-meter freestyle relay, which isn’t a great feeling, right?

* More news is currently being released on Monday about Lorenzen Wright‘s death, as well as what the Memphis police department didn’t do right.

* The Mariners extended their losing streak to 15-games, but is that something to be proud of, especially as a M’s fan?

* Sunday was an exciting day, as Cooperstown, New York welcomed a few new members to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Games to Watch: 

* Pittsburgh at Atlanta (MLB) – 7:00pm eastern 

* Seattle at New York Yankees (MLB) – 7:05pm eastern 

* Kansas City at Boston (MLB) – 7:10pm eastern 

Video of the Day: 

How awesome is it when you watch Shaquille O’Neal show off his puppetry skills? 

Red Sox Recap 7/24/11

By Andy Lindberg

In the week and a half after the All-Star break and heading into the trade deadline, the Boston Red Sox racked up an impressive 7-2 record and extended their division lead to three games over the New York Yankees.  The Red Sox have been able to win consistently even with Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz on the disabled list.  Lester is due back Monday and will try to continue to improve on Boston’s AL-best 62-37 record.

For the Carl Crawford haters out there, Crawford picked up where he left off since re-joining the Red Sox after the All-Star break.  In his first game back against Baltimore, Crawford had two hits and has picked up the steal rate over the week as well.  This has provided Boston a gigantic boost in the outfield with Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the white-hot Josh Reddick patrolling right field.

Ellsbury seems to have found the power switch without sacrificing the rest of his game in the process.  Ellsbury hit two homers in the series finale against Baltimore and hit a mammoth 449-foot blast to Williamsburg off of Felix Hernandez and the Mariners at Fenway in game one of that series.

Josh Beckett continues to be nearly unhittable, allowing one hit in eight innings against Tampa Bay and beating Seattle after allowing only one run in seven innings.

More importantly, the Red Sox have pushed Tampa Bay back far enough to the point where it is now a two-horse race in the AL East once again.  With the trade deadline approaching at the end of this week, I am hard-pressed to see Boston making any significant moves.  They may acquire some starting pitching depth, but outside of that, a payer like Carlos Beltran isn’t worth the price when low-cost prospects from the farm system like Josh Reddick fill in quite well.  Boston is slowly getting some pieces back together from the DL, and with Alex Rodriguez of New York sidelined until late August, now is the time for the Red Sox to put some considerable distance between themselves and the Yankees.

Tim Wakefield pitched the final game of the series against Seattle and although he gave up seven runs, he earned career win number 199 and struck out his 2000th batter.  With Wakefield being only one win away from 200 for his career, many have be asking the question of whether or not Wakefield is a Hall of Famer.  So I leave it up to the reader to decide.  Look at the poll below and decide.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

The Red Sox weren’t aggressive this past week; they were dominant. Heading into Monday’s off day in the midst of a nine-game win streak, Boston is sitting pretty with the best record in the American League, a record previously scoffed at by the Boston fans in April. For the first time since 1912, the Red Sox have swept the Yankees twice in New York. This past week Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, and Josh Beckett all put up wins against the Yankees. For Beckett, it was his third win in three starts against New York; all three seeing him beat down CC Sabathia. Beckett made one mistake in his Thursday outing, a 3-1 fastball that was a little too far over the plate which was mashed by Curtis Granderson for a two-run homer. However as has been the case this week, Boston exploded for seven runs in the seventh inning against the bombers to put them away.

The weekend Toronto series wasn’t even close. Coming off of a very late game Thursday, Boston entered Friday with many expecting them to lose because of how tired the team must have been.

Clay Buchholz said no.

In his best outing yet, Buchholz mastered the Jays’ offense to the tune of seven innings and one run allowed in a 5-1 Boston win. Buchholz’s back seemed to be better and hopefully it can stay loose the rest of the season. The next two games weren’t even a little close.

On Saturday Boston blasted Toronto 16-4, the most runs Boston has ever scored against the Jays. On Sunday the Red Sox put up a 14-1 victory that saw Jon Lester hit a 9-2 record, good for the most wins in the American League.

As has been the usual the past two weeks, the Boston offense has been outstanding, with the exception of J.D. Drew, who struck out four times on Sunday and is batting a mere .227 on the season.

But Drew’s woes can be overlooked when David Ortiz clearly thinks it’s 2006 again and Adrian Gonzalez keeps mashing. Shoot, even Jason Varitek whacked a three-run blast to right field in Saturday’s drubbing.

Upon trading for Gonzalez, Boston fans knew he was going to be good, but we did not know he would be just this good. If he is pitched away, he takes the ball to the opposite field for power. If pitchers come inside, Gonzalez will rip the ball down the line. There’s no clear way to get him out right now. How he isn’t the leading first base vote getter for the All-Star game right now is stupefying. Fans have once again proven their ineptitude at picking an All-Star squad, and that privilege must be taken away from them, especially because now the All-Star game decided home field in the World Series. The same can be said for Ortiz.  Ortiz is punishing left-handers this year by taking the ball to left field with power. He is catching up to the fastball and laying off of bad pitches he used to chase to start the previous two seasons. Dustin Pedroia is heating up again as well, raising his batting average from .247 to .261 all in this week.

This week Boston heads to Tampa Bay to open that series up on Tuesday, followed by a weekend series at Fenway against big Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Lindberg: Thoughts on the Sox

By Andy Lindberg 

I doubt this past week could have been any soggier in fair New England. For the Red Sox, they escaped the weather woes with only one rainout, which was Tuesday’s game against Baltimore.

Within the dreary doldrums of the foggy, misty Fenway Park, the Red Sox compiled a weekly record of [5-1] to briefly take hold of first place in the division, only to now reside a half a game back of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, a feat many viewed as ludicrous merely two weeks ago.

On Monday night against Baltimore, the night began in less than stellar fashion with Daisuke Matsuzaka getting drilled in the chest on a liner up the middle on the very first pitch of the ballgame by Oriole second baseman Brian Roberts. From there, Matsuzaka never recovered, giving up five earned runs in 4.1 innings while walking seven batters. Shortly thereafter, Matsuzaka was placed on the 15-Day DL.

Down 6-0, the Red Sox stormed back with five runs in the sixth inning to pull within one. In the bottom of the ninth, down 7-6, Boston sent Adrian Gonzalez to the plate with two men on. Tired of Carl Crawford getting all the attention for walk-off hits, Gonzalez added one of his own, ripping an offering from Kevin Gregg off of the Green Monster, and plating both runners for the win.

From there, the Sox could virtually do no wrong. After the rainout, the Red Sox swept up the Detroit Tigers, winning the first game 1-0 behind a Jarrod Saltalamacchia eighth inning double.

The second game saw Boston take a 3-1 lead over Detroit’s ace Justin Verlander, only to see Daniel Bard give it right back on back-to-back bombs. Not feeling the fact that he didn’t get the Monday walk off, Carl Crawford enjoyed his third game-winning hit of the year, a bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to dead center field to win it.

The weekend set saw Boston face-off against the Chicago Cubs for only the second time since 1918 and for the first time in Boston since that date.

The first game went to Boston in a 15-5 dismantling of the Cubbies, despite another start in which Boston’s Jon Lester struggled. Game two went to the Cubs when Boston’s bullpen melted down in the eighth inning. With Boston holding tight to a 3-1 lead, poor defense and shaky pitching by Matt Albers led to eight Chicago runs.  However, in game three, Tim Wakefield thought it was 1995 again and completely shut down Chicago for a 5-1 win. Wakefield is now six wins away from 200 career wins.

It seems as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia is beginning to enjoy showing off what he can provide, as on Sunday he hit his third home run in his last four games. Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez are as hot as they come right now and David Ortiz hit his 300th homer in a Boston uniform.

I was initially concerned when John Lackey and Matsuzaka went on the DL only because I thought it would tax Boston’s bullpen too much. Alfredo Aceves pitched very well on Saturday, but unfortunately, the bullpen did break down like I expected. This could be an issue going forward in terms of that fifth spot in the rotation. Starter by committee is not the best way to go.

Coming up this week Boston travels to Cleveland, a squad that sports the best record in baseball. After that, beginning on Thursday, Boston travels to Detroit to finish the week with a four game trip. Boston seems to be hitting its stride, winning eight of their last nine games, and they will need to pitch far better out of the bullpen to keep the pace with both Tampa Bay and New York.

Daily Noontime – May 23, 2011

Top of the morning to everyone and welcome to a brand new week of the Daily Noontime! Here is today’s headlines and news, so enjoy! 

Headlines: 

* Game 3 between the Bulls and Heat was yet another exciting one, but in the end, Miami beat Chicago. Also, Chris Bosh exploded for 30-points.

* The Vancouver Canucks are indeed one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals, but Sunday’s game also featured a highlight reel flip on the ice from Keith Ballard.

* With no NFL rules or statements in place, players are constantly getting in trouble due to the current lockout, which certainly troubles Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

* According to the most recent report on 60 Minutes, Lance Armstrong apparently encouraged doping toward his teammates and closest friends.

* Steve Nash has helped support his Phoenix Sun’s general manager Rick Welts through a human rights video that is airing in New York these days.

*It was an exciting evening at Fenway Park on Sunday, as Tim Wakefield earned his first official win of the 2011 season.

Games to Watch: 

* Boston at Cleveland (MLB) – 7:00pm eastern

* Tampa Bay at Boston (NHL Playoffs) – 8:00pm eastern

* Seattle at Minnesota (MLB) – 8:10pm eastern

* Dallas at Oklahoma City (NBA Playoffs) – 9:00pm eastern

Video of the Day: 

Some Maryland fans were a tad bit excited after their Men’s Lacrosse team beat Syracuse, 6-5 in OT! 


Lindberg: Thoughts on Lackey and Dice-K

With John Lackey sidelined, what exactly does that mean for the Red Sox?

By Andy Lindberg 

The Red Sox have placed John Lackey on the 15-Day disabled list with what has been designated an “elbow strain.” His stats have been regurgitated through and through since his very poor effort last week against Toronto in which he gave up nine earned runs. Fans have booed him, chastised Theo Epstein for paying for him, and have called for Lackey’s release in some, extreme cases.

I can’t abide that and in this particular case, I give the man a pass. It’s one of those cases where if you cannot, you’re heartless.

Every man, admit it or not, has his personal life at some point affect them and manifest in negative ways at times. There can be no real fault placed on Lackey for feeling the way he does. His velocity has been fine and he’s gotten good break on his off-speed pitches, but mentally, he does not seem to be in the game enough to be effective on any given start. Given his issues, the man needs the time with his family and to himself.

Moving on to the enigma known as Daisuke Matsuzaka, this is a move that should surprise few.  After a string of excellent starts, Matsuzaka regressed to his ball-throwing self and has been placed on the disabled list with what was diagnosed as an elbow sprain. Getting hit square in the chest by a batted ball on the first pitch of the game in his last start against Baltimore, an 8-7 walk off win for Boston, definitely didn’t help his cause.

Dice-K returns to the DL, but similarly to Lackey, what does it mean for the Red Sox?

The frustration continues for Matsuzaka, and we need not delve into the calamity his frustrating outings have caused in the fan base and the organization.

Both hurlers are important cogs in the Boston rotation, and when healthy, both can deliver exceptional outings.

In their absence (of which Matsuzaka’s may be longer than anticipated–it always is) Boston has some fairly serious decisions to make. Fortunately for them, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett have been very good to outstanding so far this year. Tim Wakefield has already slid into Lackey’s spot and is seven wins away from 200 career wins. Felix Doubront was a viable option for the other starting slot, but he has also since nabbed the injury bug. Junichi Tazawa is just starting out after Tommy John surgery a year ago, and it would be irresponsible to throw him into the rotation at this point. Stolmy Pimentel is a very promising hurler, but he is young and needs more experience honing his pitches before he is brought up.

For those of you who are convinced Anthony Ranaudo is the current answer, I do not dignify your requests with a response. Michael Bowden will not start; rather he will provide some much-needed middle-relief in the bullpen.

It is times like these in which the Red Sox stock up on low-risk high-reward journeyman pitches and starters. I don’t anticipate a trade being made this early in the season so the issue will likely be taken care of in-house.

The Death of the 300-Game Winner

Tim Wakefield may not win 300-games, but could he at least reach 200?

By Andy Lindberg 

Baseball, more so than any other American sport, is deeply rooted in history, intertwined within the very fabric of America. Much evidence of that history is the fact that in baseball, they count everything. Statistics in the game have been around since its inception.

Some of the grandest accomplishments in the sport have occurred well before what many of us can remember. Sure, the home run records are falling and will probably continue to fall as players become more and more genetically engineered to hit a baseball. But the pitcher today endures the most change.

In the near future, the Baseball Hall of Fame will feature pitchers with questionable resumes by the sport’s historical standards.

I believe that we will never again see a 300-game winner.

Pitchers today are coddled investments, incapable of going deep enough into a game to garner a win more than 15 times in a year in many cases. Baseball has become a game of relief pitchers, arguably the most value commodity in the game today. A quality start is considered to be six innings while giving up three runs. That is a 4.50 ERA, and according to Nolan Ryan, there is nothing quality about that.

And it’s true there is little quality to such a start. However more and more starters are evaluated on the amount of quality starts they throw as a bridge to the bullpen.

The active leader in wins is 44-year-old Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with 193, and he probably won’t hit 200 career wins. Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay is 20 wins behind Wakefield’s mark at the age of 34. Wakefield is also the active leader for innings pitched in a career, a signal of how deep into games a pitcher goes or has gone in his career. For his career, Wakefield has thrown 3,088.2 innings, good for 117th all time.

The leader?

Cy Young with an absurd 7356. If Wakefield is the active leader with a shade over 3,000 innings, then how can we expect any pitcher currently or in the future to pitch enough to even come close to 200 wins?

Lefty Grove and Early Winn both have 300 career wins, which is a mark that used to signal instant access to the Hall of Fame, much like 3,000 hits or 500 home runs does for a hitter. However, with how today’s game has changed, there will in all likelihood be anyone who ever reaches that mark again, so what is the Hall to do?

Unfortunately, they must lower their standards. With less innings pitched, ERA’s will rise because hurlers won’t throw enough to lower them.  Win totals will drop dramatically. And those very few who are built to throw deep into games will be pulled at the slightest hint of trouble without a chance to pitch themselves to a win.

It’s a sad fact, but starting pitching, one of the greatest aspects of the game of baseball, looks to be on its way out as a position or royalty in the game. These guys used to command games. They set the tone. Creeping on the plate? Have fun with a Nolan Ryan heater under your nose.

Sandy Koufax would split your ribs. Partial fault goes to the umpires who are too quick to warn players in today’s game.

Maybe one day we’ll see a shift back toward the starting pitcher, but it doesn’t look to be anytime soon.

Given the topic, here’s a poll question!

Which of these active pitchers have the best shot at only 200 career wins?  Current ages and win totals are in parenthesis.

*Tim Wakefield (44, 193)

*Roy Halladay (34, 173)

*Livan Hernandez (36, 169)

*Tim Hudson (35, 168)

*Derek Lowe (38, 159)

*Kevin Millwood (36, 159)

*CC Sabathia (30, 159)

Time to Tip Our Caps to an Ace

Wakefield has been solid for the Sox in 2009

Wakefield has been solid for the Sox in 2009

What can’t you say about Tim Wakefield this season? He has been solid, strong, and a pitcher that you can literally mark down a win every time he marches out to the bump. Currently Wakefield is the sole Red Sox leader with 10 wins, but clearly he has been a hero this season.

In April when Dice-K fell apart, Wakefield was there to the rescue. When the Sox took on Cliff Lee and the Cleveland Indians, Wakefield remained focused and shut down the Tribe. How about when those pesky Yankees came to town earlier this month? Wakefield was our man who bailed us out.

All in all, Wakefield who just completed his 382nd start, which ties Roger Clemens’s starts for the Sox has been spectacular this season and clearly an unidentified Ace. It’s true…I mean it! Of course Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are slowly taking form at the right time, but in the end, lets tip our caps to a man who has been sensational all year and will keep this up following the All-Star break, Mr. Tim Wakefield.