Archive for the ‘Boston Red Sox’ category

World Series Excitement

October 29, 2018

You know who was really excited about this year’s Dodgers-Red Sox World Series, aside from Dodgers and Red Sox fans?  Fox Sports.

If it was up to the network broadcasting the World Series, at least every other World Series would feature the Red Sox or Yankees playing the Dodgers or the Mets playing the Angels or Red Sox, with the Giants, the Cubs, the Phillies, the Astros and maybe the Cardinals, Nationals, Rangers and Braves making the Series just often enough to keep MLB fans from getting too bored.

Obviously, teams from across the country playing in the largest markets make for the highest World Series television rantings.  In fact, the top viewership for the last ten years was 2016, when the Cubs made the World Series for the first time since 1945 and won for the first time since 1908.  The viewership in 2004, when the Red Sox won for the first time since 1918, was even better.  However, none of the BoSox’ three subsequent World Series have drawn as well.

The 1986 World Series between the Mets and Red Sox was the most viewed Series since 1984, and viewership has tumbled steadily since the late 1980’s early 1990’s to the present decade.

My proposed solution to declining World Series viewership?  It’s the same as my solution to a number of MLB’s structural problems — expansion.  You have to grow the pie and get MLB in more markets if you want to increase World Series, play-off and regular season major network viewership.

However, while attendance was good for MLB’s top 12 teams this year, it was way, way down compared to recent seasons for the bottom eight teams.  MLB is going to be reluctant to expand if most of the current small-market teams are drawing poorly.

It might also be time for MLB teams to consider building bigger ballparks so that there are fewer home runs and more singles, doubles and triples.  However, history has shown that fans (in terms of overall attendance) prefer more offense over less offense.

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World Series Indifference

October 29, 2018

The 2018 World Series is now officially in the books, and I have to admit that I found it hard to get excited about this one, even aside from the fact that it turned out to be pretty one-sided.  As a Giants’ fan, I can’t root for the Dodgers as a team, and as a non-Red Sox fan, I find it hard to root for a team that spends as much money as they do and has enjoyed as much recent success even before this year’s World Series.  Also, with the spate of racist, terrorist attacks this week, baseball seems trivial (although it is precisely because the World is sometimes an awful place that we need distractions and entertainments like baseball).

When I can’t root for the teams, I root for individual players.  However, I can’t say I’m a particularly big fan of many players on either team.  I like Kenta Maeda, because he’s a small right-hander and I sung his praises as a potential major leaguer for years before he signed with the Dodgers.  I like late-bloomer Justin Turner, although I don’t enjoy looking at that ugly, bushy, bright orange hipster beard of his — I don’t like Craig Kimbrel‘s beard either.  I’m eagerly waiting for both the don’t-shave-until-season’s-over baseball trend and the larger hipster trend to finally run their respective courses.

I root for Clayton Kershaw to pitch well in the World Series, so long as it can’t hurt a team I care about, because he’s such a good pitcher, but I root for David Price and Chris Sale for the same reason.  But if they don’t pitch well, my attitude is f@#$-’em, because you got to get it done when it counts the most.

The Red Sox and Dodgers have plenty of bright young stars, but since I don’t root for either team, I haven’t developed any particular fondness for most of them. They’re fun to watch, but that’s about it.

I was also a bit disgusted to see chronic steroids cheat Alex Rodriguez getting paid big money to provide commentary at the end of the games.  I can see why Fox hired Rodriguez — he’s a big name, he knows plenty about MLB baseball, he’s good looking (and relatively light skinned), and he’s reasonably well spoken.  It still rankles me, though, the way that Barry Bonds got black-balled by MLB for being an obstreperous black man, while arguably bigger steroids cheats like AFraud and somewhat less obstreperous white men like Mark McGwire are able to continue drawing big paychecks from the game.

In a just world, Bonds will get into the Hall of Fame before either Rodriguez or McGwire, but I wouldn’t count on it.  See racist, terrorist attacks above.

It must have given Red Sox fans pleasure to watch somebody’s else Manny being Manny for a change.  Machado went 4-for-22 with no extra base hits in the Series, which will probably cost him more this off-season than failing to run out the ball hit off the wall, although it really shouldn’t.  Even great players can have bad World Series.  Mickey Mantle went 3-for-25 with a lone double in the 1962 World Series, but hit 18 home runs in the nine other World Series in which he played regularly.

At the end of the day, though, I still expect Machado to get his $300M+ free agent deal this off-season.  You can’t under-perform in the World Series if you don’t get there in the first place, and Machado improves any team’s chances of making it there.

Manny Being Manny

October 27, 2018

World Series Game 3.  The Dodgers down by two games but up a run in the middle innings.  With two outs, Manny Machado smokes a ball toward the left-field wall.  He hit it so good, he sits there and admires it.  It hits low off the wall, and Manny barely has time to make the turn around first base.  Sigh.

The next batter made out, so the forfeited base probably didn’t matter.  Still, Machado has too much MLB experience and has heard too many times about his sometimes lackadaisical effort not to run that ball out hard from the box.

If the Dodgers go on to lose this World Series, I hope this memory sticks in teams’ minds and it costs Machado at least $10M or $20M on the still ginormous contract he’s going to get this off-season.  Really a bush move from a guy who fully expects a major league team to give him a $325M+ contract a few weeks from now.

It would really be nice if there were still consequences for stupid, self-absorbed behavior.

The Current Pitcher Most Likely to Win 300 Games

October 6, 2018

Starting in 2009 and every couple of years thereafter, I have written a piece handicapping the likelihood of any currently active pitcher winning 300 games in his major league career.  The last such post from about two years ago is here.

In my original post, I listed the average number of career wins the last four 300 game winners (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson) had at the end of their age 30 through age 40 seasons:

Average: 137 (30); 152 (31); 165 (32); 181 (33); 201 (34); 219 (35); 235 (36); 250 (37); 268 (38); 279 (39); 295 (40).

This is the age of the last four 300-game winners in the season in which each won their 300th game: Maddux 38, Clemens 40, Glavine 41 and Johnson 45.  In short,  and as you probably already knew, you have to be really good for a really long time to win 300 games.

When I first started writing these posts over a decade ago, I thought we’d certainly see another 300 game winner in my life time.  About five years later, I changed my opinion almost completely.  I now think it less likely than not that any current pitcher will win 300 games, but at least it could still happen, as I explain below.

Here are the current pitchers  I think are most likely to win 300 based on their current ages (during the 2018 season) and career win totals:

CC Sabathia (37) 246

Justin Verlander (35) 204

Zack Greinke (34) 187

Felix Hernandez (32) 168

John Lester (34) 177

Clayton Kershaw (30) 153

Max Scherzer (33) 159

David Price (32) 143

Rick Porcello (29) 135

Madison Bumgarner (28) 110

It’s worth noting that the list of pitcher contains the same 10 as two years ago, which I think is a good sign in terms of one of them reaching 300 wins.

I like Justin Verlander’s and Max Scherzer’s chances of winning 300 the best.  Both are coming off of terrific seasons at advanced ages at which they still had extremely high strikeout rates.  These are the kinds of pitchers who end up pitching into their early 40’s and thus have the chance to eventually win 300 games.

The 12 pitchers to win 300 games after the end of World War II all pitched into their 40’s as follows:

Phil Neikro 48 (in his last MLB season)

Nolan Ryan 46

Randy Johnson 45

Roger Clemens, Gaylord Perry, Warren Spahn  44

Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, Early Wynn 43

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine 42

Tom Seaver 41

With the exception of knuckleballer Phil Neikro, there is a pretty obvious connection between an ace’s strikeout rate in his respective era and how long he’ll be able to compete at the major league level.  That certainly suggests that Verlander and Scherzer could pitch well into their 40’s.

Verlander has averaged 15.7 wins per season in his first 13 full major league seasons.  If he can average 15.7 wins for his remaining seasons through age 42, he would win another 109 or 110 games, which would put him comfortably over 300 career wins.

Scherzer has average 15.9 wins per season in his first 10 full major league seasons.  If he can average 15.9 wins for his remaining seasons through age 42, he would win another 143 games, which would just get him over 300.

Thus, if either can avoid major injury and wants to keep pitching as long as it takes for a shot at winning 300 games, it could certainly be done, particularly when you take into account that MLB teams would be willing to carry them for an extra season or two at the end if either pitcher has a realistic shot at winning 300 game.

CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw have all won a lot of games at their respective ages, but none of the three seems like a good bet to still be pitching at 40, let alone 42 or 43.  Sabathia is likely coming back for another season with the Yankees in 2019, but it’s hard to imagine his big body holding up for as long as it would take for him to win 300.  King Felix’s arm may be shot — we’ll have a better idea a year from now.  Clayton Kershaw is undeniably great, but back problems don’t improve with age.

What all current aces need to improve their chances at winning 250 or 300 games is another round of expansion, which I think could easily add two wins per year to a top starter’s career wins total.

Today’s Tie-Breakers

October 1, 2018

I really like the fact that two tie-breaking games were played today, if only because it means that the National League wild card loser will have to lose two consecutive games before being sent home.

The Brewers have already beaten the Cubs, and it looks all but certain that the Dodgers will beat the Rocks.  On paper, the Cubs looked like a better team than the Brewers, but one-and-done match-ups are more about whose starting pitcher has a better game.

Presumably, the NL wild card game will be played in Chicago, which certainly favors the Cubbies.  However, as the Cubs just learned, anything is possible in a one-game series.  The Cubs and Dodgers look like the only two NL teams with any realistic shot of winning the World Series, but the Cubs could be going home if they lose to the Rockies on Wednesday.

Certainly, the Astros and Red Sox look like the class of the American League, but anything can happen in a short series, and all the teams but the A’s have recent post-season experience.  As for the A’s, they really played great in the second half and made the trades they needed at the trade deadline to make themselves a great team.

The 2018 A’s remind me of the powerhouse A’s teams of the early 1970’s, at least in terms of their everyday players.  They hit for power, many of them will take walks, they by and large play good defense.  Except at catcher, they don’t have many holes in their line-up.

Obviously, the A’s starting pitching is not as good as that of the early 1970’s A’s, but their bullpen has been strong enough to get them to the play-offs.  We’ll see what happens.

How Much Are the Boston Red Sox Willing to Take Advantage of the 10-Day DL for Chris Sale?

August 25, 2018

I and a lot of other people are wondering whether the BoSox put Chris Sale on the Disabled List for the second time since Sale’s July 27th start not because his arm was hurting, but because they want to rest Sale’s arm for the post-season.

Sale has a history of getting tired in August and particularly September that carried into the 2017 Division Series against the Astros.  It would certainly make sense to skip as many starts, up to every other one, to keep Sale’s arm fresh for October while still keeping him sharp.  There isn’t any doubt that the Red Sox will make the post-season and will need Sale to pitch like he does in June (2.54 career ERA) and July (2.40 career ERA).

So what happens if the Red Sox stick Sale back on the DL every one or two starts the rest of the way?  It might be the best way of keeping Sale fresh, but it will be obvious to everyone else that the Red Sox are taking advantage of the 10-Day DL.

I don’t see teams wanting to go back to a 15-Day DL.  Every team benefits too much from shorter disabled list minimums, particularly where the players themselves are such extreme investments that you don’t want them trying to play through pain unless the pennant or the post-season are on the line.

If other teams feel that using the DL solely to rest a player for the post-season instead of actual injury is wrong, I could see the possibility of teams agreeing to move back to a 12-game minimum for the DL. Still, it seems unlikely that a majority of teams would agree to jettison the benefits they have received from the flexibility of a 10-day DL.

Not to mention that the Players Association would hate any change in the 10-day minimum.  Teams using the DL more is obviously good for the players collectively because it means more players earning major league salaries and service time while a veteran on a guaranteed contract “rehabilitates.”

Injury Bug Bites San Francisco Giants

August 3, 2018

The San Francisco Giants’ decision not to be sellers at the trade deadline looks more like a mistake this week with the announcement that Johnny Cueto will need (and has now had) Tommy John elbow surgery and Pablo Sandoval will need surgery to repair a torn hamstring.

However, the reason for the Giants’ decision not to trade away veteran talent is actually fairly obvious.  The Giants currently have MLB’s fourth highest per game attendance in spite of being in a virtual tie for the 17th best record in the majors.  If the fans are still filling the stadium, only fools would make the team weaker in the short term, as long as there is at least some reasonable possibility of making the post-season.

Management’s prime job is to put cans in the seats, not to win ball games.  Management tries to win ball games precisely because winning is the proven best method for putting cans in the seats.  The fans will tell management when it’s time to rebuild by no longer paying to put their cans in the seats.  One can argue that at least Giants’ management had the good sense not to trade anyway any prospects in a season where the odds of making the post-season are now well less than 50-50.

As for the injuries to Cueto and Sandoval, they are disappointing but not surprising.  Cueto has a lot of miles on his arm, and blown elbow tendons are the scourge of the current game.  Can anyone really be surprised that a man of Pablo’s size and age (32 in less than 10 days) might blow out a hamstring at this very moment?

Sandoval’s relatively productive play was one of the feel good Giants’ stories of 2018, but at least the odds are now good that if the surgery is successful, the Giants will bring Pablo in 2019 for another major league minimum salary contract, what with the Red Sox still on the hook for $18+ million in 2019.

I can’t help but feel that the whole Pablo Sandoval saga of recent years hasn’t been an incredible stroke of foresight and good luck for the Giants.  The Red Sox gave Sandoval the big, high risk contract which anyone thinking with his or her head rather than heart had to know was probably not going to go well.  Now, the Giants have Pablo back for the major league minimum, where somehow not surprisingly Pablo has recaptured just enough of the old magic to be a real bargain.

If the Giants start to fall out of contention in the next two weeks, a waiver deal is certainly possible for Andrew McCutchen and at least possible for Tony Watson.  I’m doubtful anyone would claim McCutchen, because he’d still be owed at least a full $2M even if he’s traded at the end of August.  It might also be possible to slip Watson through waivers since he’ll still be owed $6M for his age 34 and 35 seasons in 2018-2019.  Of course, if the right team claims either one of them, deals might still be worked out.