Saturday, May 24, 2003

Around the Majors

Since I've already written about the Red Sox four times this week, I'm not going to do a "State of the Red Sox Saturday." Instead, I'm going to look at every game that was played last night and make an observation or two. I'll start, of course, with the Red Sox.

CLE/BOS - I know it's not even Memorial Day yet, but it's good to see the Red Sox alone in first place. It was also nice to see Nomar Garciaparra pick up two hits to extend his hitting streak to 23 games and get his batting average above .300 (.303) for the first time since April 19th. It was even nicer to see Derek Lowe throw a complete game four-hitter. If Lowe can keep pitching this well at home and become at least average on the road, the Red Sox will be happy with that.

TOR/NYY - So far, the Blue Jays look like geniuses for moving Kelvim Escobar to the rotation. Since he lost his job as the closer, he's pitched 15 innings and allowed just two runs on six hits with 17 strikeouts. The one warning sign? He's walked 11 batters, something to keep an eye on.

PHI/MON - Kevin Millwood battled on the mound, allowing just two runs in seven innings despite giving up three doubles, three singles and three walks. He also battled at the plate, drawing his first two walks of the year. Actually, he didn't even have to battle as the two walks took just nine pitches combined. I can't think of anything more frustrating for a manager than to watch his pitcher walk the other pitcher on four or five pitches. Just throw him strikes and let him ground out!

STL/PIT - Albert Pujols' streak of games with a home run ended at four, but the Cardinals probably don't mind. Pujols went 5-for-6 with two doubles, two runs and two RBI. He singled and either scored a run or drove in a run in the eighth, ninth and tenth innings as St. Louis scored eight runs in those three innings to stun the Pirates.

FLA/CIN - It must be nice to be a pitcher when you're batting in the first inning with nobody out. That's what happened for Tommy Phelps yesterday, as Florida's first eight batters all reached base (four walks, three singles and a double) and five of them scored. Also, Cincinnati's streak of consecutive games with a home run ended at 16.

NYM/ATL - Jeromy Burnitz hit a grand slam in his first game back from injury. Armando Benitez has yet to allow a run in May and has converted his last nine save opportunities. The Mets have won five of their last six games and are inching closer to .500.

DET/CWS - Mike Maroth finally picked up his first win of the season, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts in seven innings. Detroit still has three pitchers on pace to lose at least 20 games (Jeremy Bonderman and Adam Bernero are the other two) and at least one of them will do it.

LA/MIL - What do you do when your uber-closer has pitched six games in seven days and you need a save? If you're the Dodgers, you just let Guillermo Mota pitch three shutout innings. Los Angeles has three relief pitchers with at least 15 innings pitched who have a lower ERA than Eric Gagne's 1.80 mark. Mota has a 0.94 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.

BAL/TEX - Don't look now, but another Texas hitter is starting to get a little hot. Mark Teixeira is 4-for-10 with a double, triple, homer, three walks, four runs and six RBI in his last three games to raise his OPS to .758. That's scary because the first five hitters in the Rangers' lineup already each have at least nine homers and 30 RBI.

CHC/HOU - If you just looked at his line, you'd think Mark Prior got hammered yesterday. Well, instead of the six runs he gave up in the first, he should have allowed zero. The first batter reached on an error. After the second batter singled and both runners moved up on a passed ball, Prior got a popup and a ground ball. Should have been, at worst, two outs with an unearned run in, right? No, the popup was the first out, but the third baseman decided to go home with the groundball and did not get the runner at the plate. The inning should have been over, but the Cubs made an error and a poor decision compounded by a poor throw. Prior then allowed a walk, a single and a homer -- six runs, five earned, none deserved.

KC/OAK - Oakland is going to start telling it's relievers they don't have to come to the park when Mark Mulder pitches. Mulder threw another complete game last night, his fifth of the season. He's pitched at least eight innings in each of his last six starts. Even more impressive is that he's yet to throw more than 113 pitches in a game and he's averaging 102 pitches per start. Is it any surprise that of the top seven pitchers in the AL in innings pitched, three of them are A's? Mulder leads the majors with 77 innings pitched.

SF/COL - Is Larry Walker struggling? Well, he hasn't gotten a hit in six games and his batting average is down to .243, so he must be, right? Not so fast. Walker did go 0-for-1 last night, but he also drew four walks. He now has 31 walks on the season and a .398 OBP. With seven doubles, five triples and four homers, Walker also has a .450 SLG for a decent .848 OPS. That's probably just average when you play half your games in Coor Field, but Walker's not slumping nearly as badly as it looks.

TB/ANA - Just when he goes hitless in three games and I'm about to write that his numbers will be below average before we know it, Rocco Baldelli goes 4-for-5 with a home run. The kid is batting a ridiculous .433 when he puts the ball in play and he's on pace for 224 hits, 65 extra-base hits and 103 RBI as a 21-year-old rookie. I obviously don't think he'll come close to those numbers, but that he's still on pace for them near the end of May is impressive.

MIN/SEA - Quick, why do the Mariners have the best record in the AL? Because they're second in the league in ERA, right? Wrong. The Mariners are in first place because they have great pitching AND great hitting. Seattle is fifth in the AL in runs and the top six hitters in the Mariners' lineup all have an OBP of at least .367. Randy Winn, the number seven hitter, had an OBP around .360 until his recent 2-for-12 skid. Seattle's .358 team OBP is third in the AL, just two points behind Toronto (Toronto, the Yankees, Seattle and Boston are all clumped together at the top and 11 points clear of everybody else). Oakland's is 30 points worse and 10th in the league.

SD/ARI - Ramon Vazquez drew another walk last night and now has 27 this season (on pace for 91). His opposite number, both in the batting order and on the field, was Tony Womack, who has two walks and is on pace to draw seven this year. Last year, Vazquez drew 45 walks and Womack drew 46. What was the difference? Vazquez played 128 games and was a promising, young hitter who could help the Padres in the leadoff spot for years to come. Womack played 153 games and was an over-the-hill veteran whose terrible offense is absolutely killing the Diamondbacks this season.

Well, that's all 15 games. Since I'm not sure if I'll be able to make any posts tomorrow (I have a wedding to go to), I may as well take a look at the other sports while I'm here.

I watched Annika Sorenstam's front nine yesterday and I was more nervous for each of her shots than I usually am for an important Red Sox game. I really wanted her to make the cut. The best part, though, was that "Mike and the Mad Dog" were on the YES Network and they were watching Annika play while doing their radio show. But the feed they were watching was a little behind the one I was watching, so I could watch Annika's shot and then flip the channel and watch their reaction to Annika's shot. It was very cool because Mike really wanted her to make the cut and Chris (Mad Dog) really wanted her not to.

So, the Stanley Cup Finals are set, with Anaheim playing New Jersey. I picked New Jersey to win it all, but I'd like to see the Mighty Ducks finish their Cinderella Story. One thing should be certain about this series -- there won't be many goals.

In the NBA, we're a few days away from a San Antonio/New Jersey finals matchup (just what I predicted, I'd like to point out). Detroit may not get swept, but there's no way the Pistons come back to win this. And the Mavericks have shown more than anybody thought they had, but they cannot win even one more game without Dirk Nowitzki, especially if Tim Duncan continues his streak of games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. Duncan had 34 points, 24 rebounds, six assists and six blocks yesterday.

The Nets/Spurs series should be interesting, because Duncan will obviously be the best inside player and Jason Kidd will obviously be the best perimeter player. The question is how much do Kenyon Martin and Tony Parker give up in their matchups and which team can better recover from that gap in talent. I picked the Spurs at the beginning of the playoffs, so I'll stick with them now.

By the way, don't bother feeling sorry for the Detroit Pistons. Detroit just got the number two pick in the draft in exchange for a player they traded away six years ago. One of the big Detroit fans I work with said that he's more happy with getting that pick than he is upset that the Pistons are about to be eliminated. If Darko Milicic is as good as everybody says he is, then the Pistons could be the class of the Eastern Conference for several years. Actually, if Kidd stays in New Jersey, the Nets and Pistons could help the East reduce the gap between the two conferences.

Before I let you go, I'll make one more prediction. Michael Andretti will finally win his first Indy 500 tomorrow before he retires and Sarah Fisher will finish in the top 10.

Friday, May 23, 2003

More Gagne

After I made my post about Eric Gagne and the other relievers yesterday, Robert Tagorda emailed me to say that, as a Dodgers fan, he is indeed enjoying what Gagne is doing. In fact, that morning he had made a post on his blog, Priorities and Frivolities, comparing Gagne and John Smoltz. I think he's dead on about Gagne having been much more dominant and valuable than Smoltz thus far.

In fact, after I made my post, Gagne pitched another perfect inning to record his 18th save of the season. With tonight's victory, the Dodgers have won eight straight games. In six of those games in a row, with an off day in between the third and the fourth, Gagne picked up the save. In those six games in seven days, Gagne pitched six innings, allowed one hit, walked none and struck out 14. He faced 19 batters and struck out 14 of them. He threw 86 pitches, 58 (67.4%) for strikes.

If Colorado can hang on and beat the Giants, then Los Angeles will only be 1.5 games behind San Francisco. They're getting some good luck, but the Dodgers are also a dangerous team that I think will hang around all season.

By the way, Shawn Green's home run in the seventh inning tonight was the first homer for the Dodgers since Jolbert Cabrera hit a solo shot in the sixth inning last Saturday in a 4-1 win over Florida. Strangely, in three of the four games in which the Dodgers did not homer, Los Angeles did hit a triple.

Not related to the Dodgers, but still related to my post yesterday, Brendan Donnelly gave up his first earned run of the season last night after I made my post. He gave up one run on two hits with two strikeouts in 1.2 innings. He now has a 0.36 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP.

The Amazing Pujols

If is seems like Albert Pujols is hitting a home run every night, it's because he is. Pujols has homered in four straight games and five of his last six games. He now has 14 homers and has raised his OPS by 105 points, which is pretty impressive considering he has an OPS of 1.000 before the home run binge. I'm pretty sure everybody knows that Pujols is a great hitter, but I'm not sure everybody knows how great. So, I'm going to take a tour through his career.

The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Pujols in the 13th round of the 1999 draft and he did not play in the minors that year. In 2000, he hit .324 with a .389 OBP and a .565 SLG with 17 homers and 84 RBI in 102 games for Class A Peoria. He made the Midwest League All-Star team and was named both the Midwest League MVP and Prospect of the Year. He then hit .284/.341/.481 in 21 games for Class A Potomac and was named to the Class A All-Star team by Baseball America.

He finished the 2000 season with three games for Class AAA Memphis, but instead of returning to Memphis in 2001, he stayed with St. Louis. It obviously turned out to be a good idea as he hit .329/.403/.610 with 37 homers and 130 RBI. He won the Rookie of the Year award with one of the best seasons ever by a rookie. He tied for the seventh-most games played (161), second-most doubles (47) and fourth-most homers ever by a rookie and had the fifth-most RBI, fifth-most runs created (143), third-highest SLG and third-highest OPS (1.013) ever by a rookie.

He also made the All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger Award for third base and finished fourth in the NL MVP voting. In the NL, he ranked sixth in batting average, seventh in SLG, eighth in OPS, fourth in games played, fifth in hits (194), seventh in total bases (360), fifth in doubles, fifth in RBI, ninth in OPS+ (158), sixth in extra-base hits (88) and 10th in times on base (272).

Clearly, he had had a superb season, but the question was whether or not he would be able to follow it up with another great season. Well, as most of you probably know, he was almost as good last year as the year before, hitting .314/.394/.561 with 34 homers and 127 RBI. He had the same number of at-bats (590), but drew three more walks (72 to 69) and struck out 24 fewer times (69 to 93).

He finished second in the NL MVP voting and was in the top 10 in the NL in several categories yet again. He ranked seventh in batting average, ninth in SLG, 10th in OPS (.955), second in runs scored (118), fourth in hits (185), fourth in total bases (331), eighth in doubles (40), 10th in homers, second in RBI, seventh in OPS+ (155), seventh in extra-base hits (76) and 10th in times on base (266). So, while his final numbers weren't quite as good, his league rankings were about the same across the board.

This year, Pujols is hitting .340/.411/.694 with 14 homers and 36 RBI. He's ranked fifth in the NL in batting average, third in homers, seventh in RBI, third in runs, ninth in OBP, first in SLG and second in OPS. He's on pace for 50 home runs, 130 RBI and 137 runs.

According to, the most similar batter by age to Pujols is Joe DiMaggio. The most similar through age 22 are DiMaggio, Vlad Guerrero, Joe Medwick, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Hal Trosky, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Bob Horner and Joe Kelley. That's seven Hall-of-Famers and one of the best active players in baseball, not bad company.

Of course, most people don't believe that Pujols is only 23 years old. However, even if he's 25 instead, it doesn't change the fact that he's putting together one of the best three-year stretches to start a career of all time. Pujols posted OPS+'s of 158 and 155 his first two seasons and would probably have an OPS+ between 200 and 220 if he stays around this pace this season. For comparison, here are the OPS+'s for Ted Williams' first three seasons: 160, 162, 235. Obviously I'm not saying Pujols is as good a hitter as Williams was, but to even be able to be mentioned in the same neighborhood is impressive.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Vinny Vinny Bang Bang

Vinny Castilla is not a good hitter and he never has been. But he hit at least 32 homers for five straight seasons earlier in his career, you might say. I repeat, Vinny Castilla is not a good hitter and he never has been.

Castilla came up with the Braves in 1991 and played 21 games for Atlanta in 1991 and 1992 with very poor results (albeit in very small samples). His minor league numbers those years and in 1990 were not good either, however. Castilla posted a .737 OPS in 93 games in Class A, a .699 OPS in 112 games in Class AA and a .662 OPS in 218 games at Class AAA (note: 24 of his games in AAA came after 1992, but removing them would not greatly affect his AAA OPS). That is not good at all.

Nonetheless, Colorado selected him in the expansion draft and let him play 105 games in 1993. With the 357 plate appearances he received, he posted a .687 OPS. That would be terrible anywhere, but in Colorado it worked out to a OPS+ of 69. For comparison, the terrible-hitting Rey Sanchez has a career OPS+ of 70.

After that terrible first season in Colorado, Castilla played just 52 games the next year and posted an .857 OPS, which gave him a 108 OPS+.

Then came the meat of Castilla's career. Four straight seasons in which he batted over .300 with at least 32 homers and 90 RBI that made everybody think he was a good hitter. He made the All-Star team in the first and last seasons (1995 and 1998) of this stretch and he probably didn't really deserve it in either year.

In 1995, Castilla played 139 games and hit .309 with 32 homers and 90 RBI. He had a .347 OBP and a .564 SLG for an OPS+ of 113. For comparison, Trot Nixon posted a 114 OPS+ last year.

In 1996, Castilla hit .304 with 40 home runs and 113 RBI. However, his .343 OBP and .548 SLG gave him just a 108 OPS+. For comparison, Timo Perez posted a 106 OPS+ last year.

In 1997, Castilla hit .304 with 40 home runs and 113 RBI (no, that's not a typo, he had those exact same stats two years in a row). However, his .356 OBP and .547 SLG gave him an OPS+ of 114. Once again, look at what Nixon did last year if you want a reference point.

In 1998, Castilla had his monster year, hitting .319 with 46 homers and 144 RBI. Surely that was a great season, right? Well, his .362 OBP and .589 SLG did give him a 128 OPS+, which is the same OPS+ Luis Gonzalez had last year. However, his .362 OBP was slightly lower than the average OBP for the league adjusted to Coors Field (.363).

In fact, Castilla has never had an above average OBP in his career. After his career year (which was not nearly as impressive as it looked), Castilla hit .275 with 33 home runs and 102 RBI. His .331 OBP and .478 SLG gave him an OPS+ of 82, which is well below average.

Castilla then left Colorado via trade and posted a .562 OPS in 85 games with Tampa Bay. I don't think I need to say anything else for you to realize about how terrible that is.

Castilla had a .591 OPS in 24 games for Tampa Bay in 2001 before being dumped and then picked up by Houston. In 122 games for the Astros, Castilla had an .812 OPS, hitting .270 with 23 homers and 82 RBI. That worked out to a 102 OPS+, which is pretty much average.

Last year, Castilla returned to Atlanta and posted a .616 OPS in 143 games, hitting .232 with 12 home runs and 61 RBI. His OPS+ of 61 would be awful for a slick-fielding shortstop, nevermind an aging third baseman.

Why am I picking on Vinny Castilla, you might ask. Well, over the last four games, he's 10-for-16 with five home runs and has raised his OPS from .674 to .838. He's hitting .290/.341/.497 with eight homers and 24 RBI. Yesterday, David Pinto at Baseball Musings made a post about the improved Atlanta offense. He mentions that even Castilla's OBP is 60 points higher than last year (it's now 73 points higher than last year) and he doubts that it will stay that way. Well, just 10 days ago, before he started his eight-game hitting streak, Castilla's OBP was .299 (31 points higher than last year) and his SLG was actually a point lower than last year (.347 to .348).

Castilla's current numbers are not a case of a player remembering how to be a good hitter. They're a case of a bad hitter having a good week of games. Check back in a month or so and Castilla's OPS will once again be south of .750.

Last man standing

Awhile ago, I noticed that there were six relievers who had pitched at least 10 innings and had yet to allow a run. They were: Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, Brendan Donnelly, LaTroy Hawkins, Joe Nathan and Buddy Groom. I said it would be interesting to see who would be the last one to allow a run.

Well, they've all allowed a run now, and Donnelly's the winner because he went the longest without allowing a run and because he still has a 0.00 ERA since the run he did allow was unearned.

Donnelly has allowed 12 hits and seven walks with 23 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. He has a 0.80 WHIP, 8.75 K/IP and 3.29 K/BB.

Gagne has allowed 11 hits and five walks with 43 strikeouts in 24 innings. He has 17 saves and a 1.88 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 16.13 K/9IP and 8.6 K/BB.

Smoltz has allowed 22 hits and four walks with 29 strikeouts in 25 innings. He has 18 saves (with one blown save) and a 1.08 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.44 K/9IP and 7.25 K/BB.

Hawkins has allowed 11 hits and three walks with 24 strikeouts in 21 innings. He has a 1.29 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 10.29 K/9IP and 8.0 K/BB.

Nathan has allowed 21 hits and eight walks with 27 strikeouts in 28 innings. He has a 2.57 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8.68 K/9IP and 3.38 K/BB.

Groom has allowed 16 hits and three walks with 10 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. He has a 6.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.14 K/9IP and 3.33 K/BB. Since I made that post, he's allowed 11 earned runs in 4.2 innings.

Anyway, the pitcher I really want to discuss is Gagne. If you're like me, you looked at his 0.67 WHIP and incredible strikeout rates and asked how on earth he has a 1.88 ERA. Well, it's because he gave up four runs in one appearance.

On May 12th against Atlanta, Gagne came into a tie ballgame in the ninth inning. He gave up a single to the first batter and the second batter bunted him over to second. Gagne walked the next batter and then gave up a run-scoring single. His night was over after he gave up a two-run double, but his replacement allowed that runner to score.

Gagne has made 23 appearances and in 13 of them he's pitched at least one inning without allowing a baserunner. In his last three appearances, he's struck out the side (twice in order). He's on pace to pitch 85 innings and allow 39 hits and 18 walks with 151 strikeouts and 60 saves.

If he can manage to do that, I guarantee his ERA will not be nearly as high as 1.88 and he will be a legitamite Cy Young candidate. You want some idea of how ridiculous it would be if Gagne struck out 151 batters in 85 innings? Well, last year, Tim Hudson ranked ninth in the American League with 152 strikeouts. He pitched 238.1 innings.

You Los Angeles fans better enjoy what Gagne is doing, because he is currently having success the likes of which you rarely see in the major leagues.

I'm upset

What am I upset about?

Well, it's not that the Red Sox lost the rubber game of the series last night to fall back into second place. After all, the two teams play another three-game set in less than a week and then play 13 more games against each other after that.

It's also not that Roger Clemens, who won his 299th career game last night, has said that he wants to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. Do I think Clemens should go in with a Red Sox cap? Yes, he won 192 games for the Red Sox and holds most of the team's pitching records. He won three Cy Youngs and an MVP with Boston and twice struck out 20 batters in a game while wearing a Red Sox uniform. But Clemens isn't even in my top 10 list of all-time favorite Red Sox players (and maybe not even my top 20), so it wouldn't make me upset if he went in as a Yankee. The only reason I'd really like to see Clemens go in the Hall with Boston is that it would piss off Steinbrenner, and when he's pissed off it makes me smile.

So why am I upset? I'm upset because, although I got to watch more than half the game last night, I did not get to hear Curt Gowdy call any of it. Since I live in upstate New York, I get the YES Network. That's a good thing when the Red Sox play the Yankees and the game isn't on ESPN. But when the game is on ESPN, it gets blacked out here and I have to watch the game on YES.

So, instead of getting to listen to Curt Gowdy (for whom I gladly would have put up with the duo of Chris Berman and Joe Morgan), I had to listen to Michael Kay and Jim Kaat. Oh well, at least they're better than John Sterling and Charlie Steiner. One thousand times better, in fact.

If you also missed out on Gowdy last night, head over to Bambino's Curse and read what Edward Cosette has to say about the "Cowboy at the mike."

Of course, there were some things last night that I was not upset about. Despite the loss, the Red Sox played well.

Tim Wakefield made arguably his best start of the season, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts over seven innings. From what I saw, Wakefield had excellent control of the knuckleball and there were only a couple occasions where it didn't move much. Hopefully he can build on this start and give the Red Sox quality starts on a consistent basis.

Nomar Garciaparra hit a home run in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 22 games. I've considered putting a "Streak Watch" in the column on the right, but if I did that and then the streak ended I would be very upset with myself.

Todd Walker went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .320 and his OBP to .366. Walker has a 10-game hitting streak and is batting .375 with a .407 OBP and a .500 SLG in the month of May.

The last thing I'm happy about is that the Red Sox could have won last night, but the Yankees made some excellent defensive plays and at least one potential extra-base hit for the Red Sox went just foul. I'm always more upset immediately after a close loss, but then I accept it and move on. When the Red Sox get bombed, I worry about it until that starter pitches again sometimes.

So, the Red Sox lost the series, but I'm not unhappy with the way the series went. Now Boston gets an off-day before three games against the Cleveland Indians, who look like they're on a hot streak just because they've played three straight games against Detroit. Then, the Red Sox have the chance to really piss Clemens off. If he doesn't get his 300th win on Memorial Day in Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox, which is probably his ideal situation for getting it, then his next start would be in Detroit. Anybody think he wouldn't beat Detroit and win number 300 in front of a small road crowd? Me neither, and it would make me chuckle at least a little bit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

What a drubbing

What the Milwaukee Brewers did to the San Diego Padres today was pretty impressive. Obviously the big story is Geoff Jenkins hitting three home runs. However, to truly appreciate how badly the Padres got beat, you have to realize that Jenkins had one fewer home run than the Padres had baserunners.

While Jenkins was peppering the outfield stands, Wayne Franklin was throwing a complete game shutout, allowing two hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He needed to throw just 104 pitches and faced just three batters over the minimum as the Brewers got one double play.

Jenkins is a good hitter who just has trouble staying healthy. He's hitting .282 with a .344 OBP and a .558 SLG with 11 homers and 34 RBI in 39 games. He struggled a lot with injuries the past two years, but in 2000 he hit .303/.360/.588 with 34 homers and 94 RBI in 135 games and in 1999 he hit .313/.371/.564 with 21 homers and 82 RBI in 135 games. So, while we might not have expected him to ever hit three homers in a game, we knew he could hit the ball some.

Franklin, on the other hand, has shown no indication that he's capable of throwing a complete game shutout. Before today's start, he had a 6.62 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in 50.1 innings with 34 strikeouts (6.08 per nine innings) and 28 walks (1.21 strikeouts per walk). He'd made two quality starts this year and in both he allowed two runs in six innings. His most recent start was one of those quality starts, and he needed 118 pitches to get through the six innings (19.7 per inning). Today, he needed just 11.6 pitches per inning.

Franklin did post a 3.32 ERA in 273.1 innings at Triple-A with a 1.27 WHIP, 7.54 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.39 strikeouts per walk. He also somehow pitched 24 innings for the Brewers last year with a 2.63 ERA despite posting a 1.38 WHIP and recording the same number of walks and strikeouts (17).

Can Franklin be a decent major league pitcher this season? Maybe, he has made two nice starts in a row and he was at least decent at Triple-A. But in his three starts prior to these two, he allowed 17 runs (15 earned) on 19 hits and 10 walks with 12 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. So I guess I wouldn't bet on it. And I also wouldn't bet on Jenkins staying healthy enough to play the 137 games he's on pace for.

Nothing to worry about

I usually try to avoid writing about the Red Sox too much during the week, but this is the first Red Sox/Yankees series of the season and I feel like writing about yesterday's game. I'll probably make a post tomorrow about tonight's game too. Hopefully I'll be able to watch at least part of it (my girlfriend invited friends over for dinner tonight).

Anyway, I don't know what the reason is, but I feel much more relaxed about the Red Sox this season. When Boston lost Monday night, I didn't get mad at all. When I heard that Pedro Martinez wasn't starting, I was more worried about his long-term health (and my chances of seeing him pitch in person in a week and a half) than I was was about the Red Sox losing last night's game. And at no point in last night's game did I feel like the Red Sox wouldn't win. It's a nice feeling.

The game was very fun, moreso because the Red Sox won, and I wanted to go through it and discuss a few things.

Alfonso Soriano led the game off with his 13th home run of the season. He now has 73 career homers. With 18 walks on the season, he has 71 career walks. I wrote earlier this year that it would be interesting to see how late in his career he can go while still having more career homers than walks. I think there will be several lead changes between the career totals of his homers and walks over the next month or so, but by the end of the season he will probably have more career walks than homers and it will probably stay that way his whole career.

The next batter of the game was Derek Jeter, who singled and then stole his first base of the season. I was curious how Jeter's injury would affect his basestealing, and this doesn't tell us very much. After another two or three weeks, we'll probably know if Jeter has significantly cut back in an attempt to stay healthy.

Jeff Weaver was all over the place yesterday. Besides allowing seven hits, he also issued four walks and hit a batter. Weaver's WHIP is now 1.60 and, after allowing five runs in five innings, he has a 5.15 ERA. Funny how the Yankees thought they had too many starting pitchers, but really they have an ineffective fifth starter and nobody good enough to replace him.

Johnny Damon led the bottom of the first off with a double. Apparently, he was just waiting for the Yankees to come to town before he started really hitting. In the last two games, Damon is 5-for-10 with two doubles and two triples. Damon's OPS is up to .787, but that may not be as good as his .776 career OPS.

What am I talking about? Well, for his career, Damon has a .347 OBP and a .429 SLG. This year, Damon has a .333 OBP and a .454 SLG. There has been a lot of talk recently that OBP is the much more important part of OPS and that a better formula for OPS would be x*OBP + SLG. The argument is over what the x should be. I've seen suggestions for 1.4, 1.56, 1.8, 2 and 3.

If you use 1.4 or 1.56, then Damon's been slightly better this year than for his career -- five points better (920 to 915) using 1.4 and three points better (973 to 970) using 1.56. If you use 2.0, then he's been three points better (1.123 to 1.120) for his career than he has been this year. Whatever you think is right, it's clear that Damon's been a different type of player this season.

Last year, Damon had 178 hits and 69 extra-base hits. This year, he's on pace to have 16 fewer hits (162) but 10 more extra-base hits (79). I don't know if he's consciously trying to hit for more power and thus having less success getting on base or not, but if he can only do one thing or the other well, I'd rather have him getting on base.

After hitting his double, Damon moved to second on a fly ball and scored on a sacrifice fly from Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar later hit two doubles in the game to extend his hitting streak to 21 games, but he's still only hitting .298 with a .329 OBP and a .534 SLG. Of course, before the hitting streak Nomar was hitting .248 with a .762 OPS. One worrisome stat is that Nomar has only drawn nine walks, which puts him on pace for 32 in 158 games. Nomar's always been a free swinger, but during his two best seasons he was able to combine a great batting average with a decent amount of walks to post great OBPs. The way he's going, he'll have to hit near .400 to have a .400 OBP.

After Nomar's sac fly, Weaver hit Manny Ramirez in the left elbow. Manny went 0-for-2 with two walks (one intentional) and one hit-by-pitch to drop his average to .306 but raise his OBP to .394. Is Manny showing a lot of patience to have an OBP almost 90 points higher than his batting average? Well, not really. So far, Manny's been hit by four pitches and he's been intentionally walked nine times. He's on pace for career highs of 14 hit-by-pitches and 32 intentional walks.

The Yankees added a run in the second, but the Red Sox rallied with a run in the third and two in the fourth. So, Bruce Chen left after four innings, having allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Not a great performance, but it certainly could have been worse. Since joining the Red Sox, Chen has a 3.68 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP with nine strikeouts and one walk in 7.1 innings. Obviously he hasn't pitched enough for us to learn anything meaningful, but he could end up being a steal. I know Boston's his seventh major league team, but he's still just 25 years old and he was once thought of as the next great Braves starter. If things work out, he could give the Red Sox another fireballing lefty in the rotation next year or the year after.

Replacing Chen in the fifth was Ramiro Mendoza, pitching for the good guys in one of these games for the first time in his career. Mendoza quickly gave up four straight singles and the Yankees scored three runs to take a 6-4 lead. This was the fifth time this season that Mendoza has allowed at least three runs in an appearance (including twice when he didn't get a single out), but he was actually on a hot streak before the final game of the Anaheim series, having thrown 8.1 shutout innings over four appearances. Mendoza was always the Yankees reliever I hated the most, but my Yankees friends never trusted him. Now I know why. He can be lights-out effective, but he can also be devastatingly ineffective. Unfortunately, he's been the latter more than the former this year.

Fortunately, the Red Sox offense let us take our mind off the pitching. Weaver ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing the first three batters to reach with one run scoring. That knocked Weaver out of the game and brought in Jose Contreras. Contreras actually helped Weaver out, getting a double play and a strikeout to end the inning. Then came the seventh.

Walk. Double. Intentional walk. Two-run double. Sacrifice fly. Walk. And Contreras was done. Sterling Hitchcock came in and allowed both runners to score thanks to a sacrifice fly, a walk and a single.

I love what Contreras' major league stats look like: 6 G, 6.1 IP, 13 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 9 BB, 8 K, 3.47 WHIP, .448 BAA, 15.63 ERA. I think I saw a story about Steinbrenner breaking some furniture. Quick, everybody spread the rumor and maybe Michael Kay will talk about it on the air.

So, the Red Sox led 10-6 after that and the only other thing I want to talk about is Brandon Lyon, who struck out the side in order in the ninth to earn the save. Lyon now has a 3.22 ERA with a 1.34 WHIP with 18 strikeouts, seven walks and 23 hits in 22.1 innings. Why do I mention those unspectacular-looking numbers? Because batter's are hitting .311 against Lyon when they put the ball in play, and that's probably largely due to luck. Assuming it evens out and Lyon is a better-than-average reliever this year, I'd like to thank the Blue Jays for not thinking to see what he could do in the bullpen after he failed as a starter.

Okay, I'm done talking about that game. I'm excited about tonight's game, just because I like being able to look at the standings and see the Red Sox alone at the top even if it's early. Hopefully, a certain former Red Sox pitcher will not get any closer to a certain pitching milestone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Shoddy reporting

It's just a tabloid and it's writing for a New York audience so I guess I shouldn't get too upset, but the New York Post really got me worked up with this story: Fossum Gives Sox No Chance. The headline and the first two paragraphs are what really upset me, and I'll talk about the two paragraphs first.

I know other Red Sox blog writers have mentioned this before, but nobody seems to realize it in the mainstream media. On the off chance that the New York papers are reading my blog, I'd like to say one more time: The Red Sox were never, ever even remotely interested in trading for Bartolo Colon. Got that? Never. The Montreal pitcher the Red Sox wanted was Javier Vazquez, because he's more talented, younger and under contract for an extra year. What did the Expos want in return for Vazquez? To be sure, they wanted Casey Fossum. But they also wanted Shea Hillenbrand and Freddy Sanchez.

For some reason, though, everybody always says the Red Sox don't have Colon because they wouldn't give up Fossum. Even if it were true that the Red Sox could have had Colon for Hillenbrand and Fossum, it would have been the worst kind of short-sightedness had they made the trade. I'm all for trading Hillenbrand for pitching, but you do not trade a talented, 25-year-old left-handed starter who makes $215,000 and is under your control through 2006 for an overrated, obese pitcher making $4.5 million in the final year of his contract.

So, this New York Post story gets that entirely wrong. Now for the headline. It's funny, because I was going to make a post titled, "Gutsy performance" about how Fossum kept alive Boston's shot at making a comeback. He did give up five runs in the first inning, but even the Post concedes he was not getting hit hard.

Alfonso Soriano led the game off with a ground-ball single past the third baseman. Derek Jeter then hit a foul popup a little bit past first base, except the ball landed pretty much on the line and then bounced into the stands that jut out toward the field for a ground-rule double.

The Red Sox then put the shift on for Jason Giambi, who hit a ground ball right to the spot where Todd Walker would have been standing for any other hitter. That made it 2-0 New York. After Bernie Williams flied out, Hideki Matsui blooped a single into right field and Jorge Posada walked to load the bases.

Then, the Yankees finally hit the ball hard as Raul Mondesi cranked a triple off the wall in left center. 5-0 Yankees and it looked like Fossum might not escape the first inning. But he did, getting a ground ball to third on which Mondesi could not score and, after a walk, striking out Soriano to end the inning.

We'll actually never know if the Red Sox could have gotten right back into the game in the bottom of the first. Johnny Damon led off the inning with a double. After Walker grounded out, Nomar Garciaparra singled to extend his hitting streak to 20 games (I wrote yesterday that this would be his third hitting streak of at least 20 games, but it's actually his fourth). With runners on first and third, Manny Ramirez hit a double-play ball to second, except that Soriano tried to tag Garciaparra and then throw to first. Garciaparra eluded the tag and appeared to stay in the baseline and Soriano's throw to first was wild, so there should have been runners on first and second with a run in and one out. Except the umpire called Garciaparra out, so there was a runner on first and two outs.

The next batter struck out and the inning was over. Who knows how many runs Boston could have scored had Nomar been ruled safe? So the Yankees had a 5-1 lead, but the Red Sox have made a habit of coming from behind to win so it was important for Fossum to get over his first-inning struggles and keep things within reason.

He did exactly that. Over the next five innings, Fossum allowed zero runs on one hit with zero walks and three strikeouts. He threw 39 pitches in the first inning and averaged just 13.8 pitches per inning after that.

What really gave the Sox no chance? David Wells and the fact that while the Red Sox were getting hits, they were often with two outs and not with runners in scoring position. Let's take a look, shall we?

In the second inning, the first two batters flied out before the Red Sox got a single. A wild pitch moved the runner to second with two outs, but the Red Sox could not bring him home.

In the fourth inning, the first two batters struck out and lined out before the Red Sox got a single. The next batter grounded out to end the inning.

In the fifth inning, the first two batters struck out and grounded out before Damon tripled. A walk put runners on the corner with two outs, but Nomar grounded out to end the inning.

In the sixth inning, the first two batters grounded out and lined out before the Red Sox got two singles. With runners on first and second and two outs, a ground out ended the inning.

In the seventh inning, the first two batters popped out and grounded out before Walker and Nomar singled. With runners on first and second and two outs, a fly out ended the inning.

For the game, the Red Sox went 5-for-22 with less than two outs. They went 5-for-6 with two outs and the bases empty and they went 0-for-5 with a walk with runners in scoring position and two outs. That, my friends, is not a recipe for scoring runs.

The Red Sox did score single runs off the Yankees bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings, but the Yankees also scored two runs off the Boston bullpen.

In yesterday's post, I said the following:

"I think both pitchers will give their team a chance to win, and luck and the bullpens will probably play a large factor in the game."

Regardless of what the New York Post thinks, Fossum did give the Red Sox a chance to win and while the bullpens didn't play a big role, luck certainly did. If one or two of those balls the Yankees hit in the first inning go a few feet to a different direction, New York probably doesn't score five runs. And if the umpire calls Nomar safe in the first inning, the Red Sox may have scored at least a couple more runs.

Normally, I'd be upset by a loss like last night's, but with a certain pitcher taking the mound tonight things seem like they'll be okay. However, I won't be responsible for any angry yelling I do should the Red Sox lose tonight.

Shameless plug

Since my real job in journalism has helped keep me from blogging a lot the past few days, I thought I'd let all of you see what I was up to. I covered a high school track and field meet on Saturday and a high school golf tournament yesterday. Here are the stories:

Golf story

Track and field story

I actually wrote two stories for the Track and Field meet because we have two editions that go to different areas, but they only put the later edition on the web, so that's the only one you can read. Anyway, that's pretty much what I do at the newspaper during high school playoffs time. It's tough to really get into high school sports most of the time, but I like to think I do a good job with the material I'm given. Hopefully all of this will eventually lead to a full-time job as a sports reporter (and even more eventually, as a sports columnist).

Cove of Youth?

Scanning through the box scores, I noticed that Benito Santiago was batting cleanup last night for the Giants. Looking further, I see that he's been in the four-hole in each of the last three games he's played. I know that where players bat in the lineup is not as important as which players are in the lineup, but I think San Francisco is the one team where batting order is especially important. The reason, of course, is Barry Bonds. He's such a good hitter that he affects all of the hitters around him, so it makes a difference who is around him (or so my theory goes).

Anyway, there are two reasons I think it's a good idea to have Santiago bat cleanup, at least for now. One, he's on a hot streak. He went 2-for-4 with a home run yesterday and has two hits in each of his last four games. He's now 11-for-26 with a 1.021 OPS in his last seven games. Two, it allows Bonds to bat third, which means he's guaranteed to come to the plate in the first inning and if he hit third the whole year, he would get at least a few extra plate appearances. Any time you can get more plate appearances for the best hitter in baseball, that's a good thing.

Speaking of Santiago and Bonds, should we be checking McCovey Cove for rejuvenative properties?

Last year, at age 37 (wink, wink), Santiago hit .278 with a .315 OBP and a .450 SLG with 16 homers and 74 RBI. I assumed he would come back to earth this year because, before last year, he hadn't posted an OPS above .720 in more than 15 games since 1996.

Well, so far he's at it again at age 38 (yeah, right). He's batting .320 with a .378 OBP and a .508 SLG with six home runs. Not only is he on pace for 22 homers and 88 RBI, he's also on pace for 41 walks. The 88 RBI would be a career high, 22 homers would be his most since he hit 30 for Philadelphia in 1996 and would be just the second time he's hit more than 20, and 41 walks would be his most since drawing 49 in 1996 and would be just the second time he's drawn more than 40.

So, exhibit number one in the case for checking the cove is a catcher who says he's 38, but is probably older who is on pace to have consecutive seasons with at least a .765 OPS while playing at least 120 games in each season. What's so impressive about that? Santiago has never had consecutive seasons in which he played at least 120 games and had an OPS above .665 in each season.

Exhibit number two is obviously Bonds. The last two years, at ages 36 and 37, Bonds had two of the best offensive seasons of any player in history, regardless of that player's age.

In 2001, Bonds hit .328 with a .515 OBP and an .863 SLG with 73 home runs, 177 walks and 93 strikeouts while stealing 13 bases in 16 attempts. Last year, he hit .370 with a .582 OBP and a .799 SLG with 46 homers, 198 walks and 47 strikeouts while stealing nine bases in 11 attempts (by the way, those nine steals snapped Bonds' streak of 16 straight seasons with more than 10 stolen bases).

This year, Bonds is disappointing the good people of San Francisco with a 1.106 OPS. He's hitting .288 with a .488 OBP and a .619 SLG with 11 home runs and four steals (without being caught). He's on pace for 41 homers, 151 walks, 66 strikeouts and 15 steals. Also, he's reached base at least twice in 28 of the 37 games he's played in this season.

Lastly, in 2000 (the first year of PacBell park and thus Bonds' first chance to use the cove), Bonds had a 1.128 OPS. That was his first season with an OPS above 1.080 since he had a 1.135 OPS in 1993 and his 49 homers in 2000 were a career high.

Still not convinced? Well, I've got one more piece of evidence.

Andres Galarraga, who turns 42 in less than a month, is hitting .352 with a .407 OBP and a .574 SLG with three home runs in 54 at-bats. Last year, Galarraga hit .260 with a .344 OBP and a .394 SLG with nine homers in 292 at-bats.

In 2001, Galarraga posted a .785 OPS, but was better in his 49 games with San Francisco (and access to the cove). In those games, he hit .288 with a .351 OBP and a .513 SLG with seven homers in 156 at-bats.

So, there you have it. All those people like hanging out in McCovey Cove because it's a sort of Fountain of Youth, not because they want to catch home run balls.

Monday, May 19, 2003

State of the Red Sox Monday

As the saying goes, better late than never. Actually, one nice consequence of me being unable to write this over the weekend is that I get to write it after a Red Sox win instead of a Red Sox loss. And I get to say the following: Boston is 27-16 and tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East (although the Red Sox are only one game ahead of Oakland in the still-meaningless wild card race). The biggest series of the season starts tonight in Fenway Park. The Red Sox and Yankees have each just completed three-game sets against Texas and Anaheim. Both teams lost two out of three to the Angels, but the Red Sox swept the Rangers while the Yankees were swept by the Rangers. So, with first place in the AL East through 46 games at stake over the next three days, I thought I'd compare Boston and New York position by position in this post.

Starting Rotation

On the whole, New York's starting five are better than Boston's starting five. But this is just a three-game series, so I'm going to look at each day's pitching matchup.

Monday - Casey Fossum against David Wells. Fossum is 4-1 with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He's striking out 7.29 batters per nine innings and averaging 2.0 strikeouts per walk. If you take out the start in which he was ejected in the first inning, then he has three nice starts in a row. Over those three starts, he's allowed four runs on 14 hits and seven walks with 11 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. I'd like to see more strikeouts and fewer walks, but he's been getting the job done recently.

Wells is 5-1 with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. He's striking out 4.9 batters per nine innings and averaging 16.5 strikeouts per walk (33 K's to just two walks). He's allowed about a hit per inning, but he's walked so few batters that his WHIP is still excellent. Wells is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, having allowed five runs on 11 hits with two strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

The Red Sox juggled their rotation a little bit just so that Fossum could start this game instead of John Burkett. Let's hope it pays off. I think both pitchers will give their team a chance to win, and luck and the bullpens will probably play a large factor in the game.

Tuesday - Pedro Martinez against Jeff Weaver. Pedro is 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. He's striking out 9.25 batters per nine innings and averaging 3.65 strikeouts per walk. He also should be rested for his start, having thrown fewer than 85 pitches in each of his last two starts (83 on May 9th because he was ineffective and 84 on May 15th because Boston had a big lead). Pedro has made one terrible start, one bad start and seven better-than-quality starts. He has faced the Yankees more than any other team in his career, going 8-7 with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 139 regular season innings.

Weaver is 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. He's striking out 5.98 batters per nine innings (about what he's done for his career) and averaging 2.19 strikeouts per walk (a little lower than his career number). I thought Weaver would flourish in the Yankees rotation this year. He improved in each of his four seasons with Detroit before getting traded to New York, where he seemed to struggle with the pressure early. He rebounded with a very nice August and September splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation and seemed ready to accept a full-time spot in the rotation this year. So far, however, he's been disappointing and it wouldn't surprise me to see him lose his job if he continues to struggle and Jose Contreras starts throwing well.

This game seems like a no contest, but nothing's ever set in stone when these teams play. Pedro's record against the Yankees shows that New York pitchers tend to bring their best stuff to the mound when they're going against Pedro. Tomorrow night's start may very well end up being Weaver's best of the season. Hopefully, however, he'll get bombed and the Red Sox can cruise to a win.

Wednesday - Tim Wakefield against Roger Clemens. What could have been the biggest game in Fenway since October 16, 1999 is now just another trip back to Boston for the Rocket. It'll definitely be an exciting atmosphere, but nothing like it would have been had he been going for number 300. For those of you who don't remember the specifics, October 16, 1999 was when Pedro threw seven scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts and the Red Sox beat Clemens and the Yankees 13-1 in Game 3 of the ALCS (I guess you could say the games in Fenway on the two following days were more important, but this is the one I remember and immediately after this game is the last time I really felt that the Red Sox could be on their way to the World Series).

Anyway, Wakefield is 4-1 with a 4.59 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. He's striking out 7.59 batters per nine innings and averaging 2.05 strikeouts per walk. Wakefield has allowed exactly four runs in each of his last three starts and in four of his last five starts, but he's only been tagged with one loss. He's allowing more walks, more hits and more homers than last year, which pretty much explains why he's allowing more runs.

Clemens is 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He's striking out 9.21 batters per nine innings and averaging 3.16 strikeouts per walk. He may be getting older, but "Cy Old" can still bring it. I don't know if he was excited about the prospect of getting his 300th win at Fenway, but it looks like he was trying way too hard in his last start. You see the five runs allowed in five innings and think he just got hit hard, but look closer and you see that he walked five batters and struck out 10 (both season highs). It looks like he was trying to strike everybody out (the fact that New York's offense has been struggling may have had something to do with that as well).

If the teams split the first two games of the series, this one will be wild even without Clemens going for 300. And you know Clemens will be pumped up, but will it help him or hurt him? Should be fun to watch.


Both teams bullpen struggles have been well-documented this year. After a disastrous start to the season, the Red Sox bullpen had been better until the series against Anaheim. Basically there are only two words that need to be said about the difference between these bullpens:

Mariano Rivera

He's the only pitcher in either bullpen that makes a team feel like it can't score anymore runs when he comes into the game. I still feel like the Red Sox bullpen is going to be fine this year, but Rivera's the reason I would take New York's bullpen if I had to pick one.

Starting Lineup

Catcher - This is probably a tossup. Jorge Posada's hitting a little better than Jason Varitek, but Varitek is a better defensive catcher. I also like Doug Mirabelli better as a backup than John Flaherty, although neither one of them is hitting right now.

First Base - Before the season, it looked like the Yankees would easily have the better first baseman. However, Jason Giambi has yet to snap out of his slump, and now he's having problems with his eyes. He's only batting .203/.333/.373, although he does have eight home runs (over a quarter of his 31 hits). Meanwhile, Kevin Millar got off to an extremely fast start. He's cooled down quite a bit, but his .833 OPS is much better than Giambi's. He's batting .292/.359/.474 with five homers, 15 walks and 29 strikeouts.

Second Base - Alfonso Soriano is the best second baseman in baseball, so he obviously wins this battle. He's cooled down a little, but he's still batting .311/.380/.563 with 12 homers (and 32 RBI from the leadoff hole) and nine steals. He's even starting to show more patience at the plate with 16 walks (six of which are intentional). Todd Walker has given the Red Sox much more offense at second base than they got last year, and he's not as bad on defense as advertised (he's probably a better defensive player than Soriano). He's batting .313/.356/.423, which is pretty close to his career numbers.

Third Base - Robin Ventura is having another quietly good season, batting .289/.349/.500 with seven homers. It may not last though, as his OPS fell by 118 points after the All-Star break last year and his age (35) makes him a good candidate to wear down as the season progresses. Meanwhile, Shea Hillenbrand has predictably declined from his hot start. He's now hitting .298/.339/.437 with just two homers and seven walks. He does have 32 RBI, but he's hurting the team on offense right now, especially when he plays first base. What makes it even more frustrating is that Boston's other third baseman, Bill Mueller is batting .363/.431/.647 with three homers and 13 walks. Mueller was supposed to provide a better OBP than Hillenbrand, but not as much power. Well, so far he's been better at both as well as being a better defensive third baseman.

Shortstop - Nomar Garciaparra has now hit in 19 straight games. If he gets a hit tonight, he'll have the third 20-game hit streak of his career. For the season, he's batting .290/.325/.525 with eight homers. The Yankees have been without their star shortstop for most of the season, but at this point there's not much question outside of New York that Garciaparra's better than . Jeter's only played in seven games, so there's not much point in looking at his stats.

Left Field - This one's a no contest in Boston's favor.
Manny Ramirez hasn't even gotten hot yet and he's still hitting .319/.399/.503 with six homers. For New York, Hideki Matsui is hitting just .268/.316/.385 with three homers. He's been a bust so far, but he hussles and looks good so the New Yorkers seem to like him.

Center Field - Bernie Williams is just doing what he always does: hit around .300 (.309), get on base around 40-percent of the time (.423 OBP) and hit for decent power (.494 SLG). He's had an OPS above .900 the last seven years and probably will this year too. After reversing his trends last year, Johnny Damon is back to struggling in the first half of the year. He's batting just .244/.324/.415. He is showing patience (19 walks), power (5 homers) and speed (10 steals), but his average is 41 points below his career mark.

Right Field - This is the feel-good position for both teams. Trot Nixon is finally playing as well as the Red Sox hoped he would, batting .316/.397/.491. For the Yankees, Raul Mondesi is on pace for a 30-30 season with eight homers and eight steals. He's batting .318/.400/.580 and the Red Sox fans who hated him last year love him this year.

Designated Hitter - The Yankees were winning this position easily, but now Nick Johnson is out 4-6 weeks. Johnson was showing what made him a great prospect, hitting .308/.455/.517 with five homers and 33 walks. His replacements are Bubba Tramell and Todd Zeile, who obviously aren't nearly as good. Jeremy Giambi and David Ortiz have been splitting most of the time at DH, and both are starting to snap out of their early-season slumps. Giambi is now hitting .205/.356/.466 with five homers and 15 walks in 24 games (a good bit better than his brother) and Ortiz is hitting .247/.337/.376 and showing signs of improvement (6-for-13 in the last four games).


Boston's bench is much deeper than New York's and the Red Sox are more versatile than the Yankees. For any given game, the Red Sox bench will have three good hitters (Ortiz, Giambi or Millar plus Hillenbrand, Mueller or Walker plus Varitek or Mirabelli) and one pinch-runner who can provide good defense at a number of positions (Damian Jackson). With Johnson out, the Yankees bench is Flaherty, Zeile or Trammell, Enrique Wilson and Charles Gipson. Not a great collection of players.


In the long run, this series probably doesn't mean very much, but it sure feels important right now. The Yankees have a better starting rotation that the Red Sox, but I think Boston has a better lineup and bench and the bullpens are pretty much a wash. Injuries and trades (and luck) will probably play a large part in which team wins the AL East, although I still think both teams will ultimately make the playoffs.

Another Apology

I was in a hurry to leave this afternoon, so I didn't check to make sure everything was okay with this post. Apparently I forgot to publish it and I apologize for the additional, and unecessary, delay.