Archive for the 'Baseball' Category

First Trip to Nationals Park

Apr 08, 2008 in Baseball, Nationals, Photos

Redding Pitching

I had a chance to take in a bit of a game at Nationals Park last night. It’s a very impressive stadium and I’m looking forward to getting back later during the summer.

Attendance was fairly sparse, but we chalked it up to the combination of the cold weather and the championship game scheduled for that evening.

Sox Take Opener

Mar 25, 2008 in Baseball, Red Sox, Sports

Opening Day ScoresheetWow, what a way to start the season. The Red Sox won took the opener in come-from-behind style, getting a game tying 9th inning home run from Brandon Moss. Moss had a huge game, going 2-5, driving in a pair, and getting his first career home run off A’s closer Huston Street. Manny Ramirez was the other offensive star of the game, going 2-5 and driving in 4 runs on a pair of doubles.

After a rough start to the game, Daisuke Matsuzaka settled down to pitch 5 innings, setting down the final 7 hitters in order. Hideki Okajima get into the game as well, pitching a scoreless 9th and getting the win after the Sox took the lead in the 10th. Jonathan Papelbon struggled a bit in the 10th, giving up a run on 3 hits and a walk. He was bailed out when Emil Brown tried to take third after doubling. Instead, he was cut down on a nice 9-4-3-5-6-3 play by the Sox (yes, I had to rewind the TiVo to get all of that).

Oh yeah, 2004 hero Keith Foulke made his return to major league baseball during today’s game, pitching a scoreless 8th inning and striking out Manny.

And with that, the 2008 major league baseball season has begun.

Opening Day 2008

Mar 25, 2008 in Baseball, Red Sox, Sports

At this absurdly early hour, it’s time for yet another baseball season. With last weeks’ minor bump in the road averted, the Red Sox and the A’s are kicking off the the season with a two game set at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.

Frankly, the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet and the brain isn’t functioning, so I’ll let the starting lineup for the 2008 Boston Red Sox do most of the talking.

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Kevin Youkilis 1B
David Ortiz DH
Manny Ramirez LF
Mike Lowell 3B
Brandon Moss RF
Jason Varitek C
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Julio Lugo SS

Daisuke Matsuzaka P

After last fall’s heroics, it might seem odd to see Ellsbury at the bottom of the lineup. It sounds like Terry Francona is going to give Ellsbury the opportunity to earn his way to the top of the lineup, just as he did last year with Pedroia. Until that happens, I have to say I like the idea of the two speedsters (Ellsbury and Lugo) running in front of two big OBP guys. This could give the Sox a little more freedom to run without worrying about opening a base for teams can pitch around Ortiz and Ramirez.

The A’s lineup has also been posted.

Update: …and J.D. Drew’s back acts up in the pre-game, so he’s replaced by Moss. Not the most auspicious of beginnings.

Dealing in Vegas

Dec 05, 2007 in Baseball

Will Carroll:

Umm, Vegas anyone? You know, the Bellagio is the site of next year’s Winter Meetings.

As of right now, it seems like any Johan Santana trade is on hold and may not be completed by the end of the GM Meetings in Nashville. As Will points out, next year’s meeting in in Las Vegas.

I give it a 17% chance that The Sands will end up owning an All-Star caliber player after one baseball’s more mediocre GMs uses him as collateral at the roulette table.

Dustin Pedroia: Rookie of the Year

Nov 12, 2007 in Baseball, Red Sox, Sports

From the “News that Should Surprise Nobody Outside of Tampa” department comes word that Dustin Pedroia was named 2007 AL Rookie of the Year. Pedroia took home 24 of 28 first place ballots and placed second on the remaining 4 ballots.

After a slow April, Pedroia showed why the Red Sox front office considered Mark Loretta expendable following the 2006 season. From May through the end of the season, his monthly batting average dropped below .300 only once (.299 in July). It was the month of May where Pedroia’s batting skills really shown — perhaps more impressive than .415 batting average was his bat control. During the month of May, Pedroia swung and missed at a grand total of 4 pitches.1

Not to gush excessively, but the end of his year was also quite impressive in light of the fact that he was playing with a broken hamate bone since at least September 10th.

Beyond the statistics, Pedroia quickly became one of these players who’s generally considered a pain in the ass… unless plays for your favorite team, in which case he’s a gritty ballplayer. From all appearances, his teammates and coaches at least found humor in his attitude towards the game and his play.2

In addition to winning over his teammates, Pedroia’s play and outspoken attitude (and, to some degree, his short stature) won over the fans in Boston. By the end of the year, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody wasn’t preaching patience during his April struggles.

Although the Sox were in the hunt for the World Championship, the fans still managed to get a potential glimpse of the future in September and October, with Pedroia moving down to the 2-hole and another youngster, Jacoby Ellsbury, being installed as the leadoff hitter.3 Provided that Ellsbury’s not included in a blockbuster trade this off-season (the same can also be said for Clay Buchholz — apparently, both the Twins and Marlins would be interested if the Red Sox looked to deal for Johan Santana or Miguel Cabrera, respectively), he would have to be considered one of the front-runners for the 2008 award.4 While I was in Tampa, a friend and I were discussing the possibility that we could be watching what could become the Sox 1-2 combination for the next 10 years. It was a very tantalizing possibility.

  1. Eric Van’s data goes covers from May 3rd to June 2nd. Using the publicly available play-by-play data, I was able to see that he didn’t play on the 2nd and swung the bat 5 times on the 1st, resulting in 2 foul balls, a line out, and 2 ground outs. []
  2. How do you tell the difference between a player like Pedroia and an all around schmuck? Well, if you knee your trainer in the groin, you’re probably a schmuck. []
  3. During the World Series, I was hoping Ellsbury would take home the MVP. Not that I have a problem with Mike Lowell winning the award, but I thought it would’ve been pretty cool to see somebody win World Series MVP before being eligible to win the ROY award. []
  4. Back-to-back ROY award winners would be impressive, but it wouldn’t come close to the Dodgers run in the early 90s — Dodgers’ rookies claimed the award 5 years running, from 1992-96. []

Weekend in Tampa

Sep 25, 2007 in Baseball, My World, Red Sox, Sports

Becket WarmingLike so many others1, I ventured down to Tampa for the weekend to take see the Red Sox play at Tropicana Field. One of my old friends moved to the Tampa area a few months back and figured an end-of-year series was a good excuse to bring a bunch of friends down to Florida for a few days.

Game-wise, the trip went pretty well. We got to see the Sox victories on Friday and Saturday. Josh Beckett pitched well and Daisuke Matsuzaka seemed to pitch better than he has in the recent past. Were Javier Lopez actually an effective LOOGY, Daisuke would’ve come away with the victory. Of course, Lopez’ failure (giving up a 3-run homer to Carlos Pena) set up the Sox dramatic ninth-inning victory with homers from Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo.

Those homers, combined with the Royals knocking off the Tigers, clinched a playoff berth for Sox, making them the first team to clinch a spot. To be completely honest, I want the Sox to take the division. To be in first place since April and lose it in the last weekend of the season would basically suck. That said, winning the World Series is the main goal. I get why the Sox have been giving injured players extra time and I get why they’ve been trying to straighten out Eric Gagne, but it doesn’t make it any more bearable when they were dropping game to the Blue Jays last week. That said, winning the World Series is the most important thing. Just as winning the World Series as the wild card would wipe out any of the disappointment of losing the division, watching the Yankees win the World Series as the wild card would wipe out any appreciation of winning the division.

Post-Game CelebrationTropicana Field… Hmm… I’d watch another Red Sox game there. We’ll probably repeat this trip next September, or whenever the Sox make their final trip of the year to Tampa. I guess the best way to describe my impressions of watching a game there is this — I wouldn’t trade seats at Fenway to see the Sox play in Tampa, but I’d certainly go in addition to having seats at Fenway.

It’s not a great place to watch a ball game, but there’s other stuff to check out. I’m not usually the type of person to do these things during a ball game (I’d rather watch the game), but the whole Tampa experience has enough of a minor league feel that I somehow took the whole experience less seriously than I took the games I saw at Fenway and Camden Yards this year.

When I say “minor league,” I’m talking more about the stadium atmosphere than the actual Devil Rays. Many of the between-inning and concourse-level activities seemed more like something I’d see at a Sea Dogs game than at a Sox game.

Of all the ideas, College Nights on Friday didn’t work so well. $1 beer in the Party Deck might seem like a good idea when the stadium’s half-full, but it doesn’t work so well when the stadium’s near capacity. The guys sitting in the back of our section clearly had no interest in baseball and were only at the game to drink lots of cheap beer and try to start something with any Red Sox fan they could find. They must’ve mouthed off to every Sox fan within 5 rows of their seats. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that we saw the first sign of stadium security.

Guys, I know you don’t have a lot to do most nights, but you know you’re going to have near sell-outs for the 16-18 games when the Sox and Yankees are in town. A little show of force for those nights (particularly in the $1 beer section) might be a good idea.

Mike Greenwell at Ferg'sGames aside, the highlight of the trip might’ve been meeting Mike Greenwell and Sam Horn at Ferg’s on Saturday. Horn’s probably better known at this point, between the name connection with Sons of Sam Horn and his appearances on NESN, but meeting Greenwell was the big thing for our group of 20-something guys.

When you meet somebody you grew up watching, there’s always a possibility of a let-down. That definitely wasn’t the case with Greenwell. He hung around our table for about 10 minutes, had a drink, talked with fans, and signed autographs. He was a very down-to-earth guy. He surprised us, though, when he said that Saturday would be the first time he would see the Sox play in person since he retired after the 1996 season. He told us that Horn finally convinced him to make the 2 hour trip to Tampa to catch a game.

Later, we were discussing amongst ourselves where Greenwell was sitting. We figured he and Horn were probably in a luxury box or in high end seats. However, we could easily see Greenwell sitting out in the bleachers and talking NASCAR with anybody in the vicinity. He just seems like that kind of guy.

Grr… When I first posted this, I forgot to mention the one thing every Red Sox fan should make sure to check out while at Tropicana — the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame. When the Williams museum wasn’t able to sustain itself as a stand-alone entity, the Devil Rays made room for the museum within Tropicana Field. The museum features a huge collection of Williams memorabilia and displays for each of the hall’s inductees. I’ve always felt like this belonged at Fenway when the stand-alone museum was forced to close, but I appreciate the fact that the Devil Rays were willing to host the exhibits. Anybody who is a fan of baseball and baseball’s history should make the trip.

If you’ve made it this far, some photos from the trip are up at Flickr.

  1. Seriously, I think think this article is just a template; ie, insert home team name here, insert disgruntled player name here. I saw the same article when the Sox were in Baltimore. []

Missing PITCHf/x Data

Sep 02, 2007 in Baseball, PITCHf/x, Red Sox, Sports

If you’ve paid attention to my links recently, you might have noticed my fascination with PITCHf/x. I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few pitches from Buchholz‘ no-hitter last night. I checked Buchholz’ pitch log only to find that none of the advanced data was available for his pitches. A little more digging showed that the information was missing for a few games.

I emailed Dan Fox over at Baseball Prospectus to see if he’d run across this before. I was curious if this was a systemic problem, an issue specific to the Fenway installation, or just something that’s popped up in August. Unfortunately, this seems to happen fairly frequently. It appears that the system is occasionally turned off, causing certain pitches or whole games to be missed.

So, would whoever is unplugging the PITCHf/x system to charge their iPod please stop?

Red Sox Photos

Aug 28, 2007 in Photos, Red Sox, Sports

I went to a pair of Red Sox games while I was visiting my folks last weekend — the Friday afternoon and Saturday night games against the Angels. I thought the Friday game would be a decent opportunity to snap some photos, but my SLR locked up while I was shooting the pregame warmups. I pulled two interesting shots off my SD800 IS, but I think I had some decent ones of Clay Buchholz warming up on film before that camera spit the bit.

Buchholz Warming Up

Here’s the main reason I brought my camera — Clay Buchholz big league debut. The Sox have been grooming him as their next stud pitcher and I was thrilled when I saw the schedule would line up so I’d get to see him.

Speier Juggling

This one just amused me. Justin Speier was entertaining fans and bullpen-mates with some mid game juggling. Afterwards, he tossed the balls out to a few fans, including a very excited young boy.

I didn’t bother with the camera for the nightcap, but my friend Dave brought his and posted a few pictures, including the old-timers gathered for Tony Conigliaro Night.