Monday, June 29, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
But let's be honest, his first start has to be considered a throw away.
Why? There are a whole host of reasons, but the major one to me is that its the first time facing major league hitting after not pitching for a long time and coming off major shoulder surgery for a guy who is 42.
Yes, the Nationals are the worst team in baseball, but that has more to do with a weak pitching starting rotation and pretty awful bullpen. Oh, and by the way, Jordan Zimmerman of the Nationals can deal. He has really good stuff.
Smoltz got knocked around in the first inning after hit a lefty batter on the shin after a wicked bending slider--a pitch to me that looked like it got a whole lot better the more he threw it, and one that will help him keep future batters off because they will never know when he will throw it. Overall, Smoltz improved as he went along by getting more in strike zone focused.
He ended up with 5 Ks in 5 innings with 5 earned runs. He lost, but he settled in and got his slider in more control--and got his fastball hitting the corners.
But most at play here was that thing you read about and hear sports broadcasters talk about so much: Adrenaline.
For the amount that term is used, you think it was a something you wear under your uniform or around your neck. Adrenaline is the biophysical, scientific way of saying an athlete is nervous, trying to be too perfect and is the complete opposite of relaxed.
Adrenaline build up is what you get when you are afraid of failing. Smoltz said as much after the game: "What I feared most was wanting to do so well," he [Smoltz] said later. "It felt different because so many people were rooting for me."
It's not the first time Smoltz has had to deal with nerves as a starter. Remember, this is the guy who went back and forth between a starter's role and closer and dominated in both. The man is a competitor in the best of ways, and something the Red Sox could very well need in a playoff situation.
On calming his nerves before his start, boston.com has this:
On Wednesday, he had spoken about a similar situation that made his nerves
flare. On April 4, 2005, Smoltz made his first start in four years after serving
as the Braves closer. He faced 13 batters. Seven of them scored. Smoltz allowed
six earned runs on six hits and two walks 1 2/3 innings.
Smoltz said he would draw on the experience to help calm his nerves for last
night. In the afternoon, he played cards with Manny Delcarmen and wore a smile
walking through the clubhouse, but jitters seemed to affect him in the first. He
hit the second batter he faced, Nick Johnson, in the shin.
With Matsuzaka on the DL, and looking pretty lost on the hill, having Smoltz able to eat up innings and keep the Red Sox in the game is going to be a great thing to watch going forward.
Is he going to give up runs? Absolutely. But I imagine he is going to keep them at bay better than many pitchers in the league.
Just look at his 21-year career numbers for evidence:
210 Wins, 3.27 ERA, 3016 Ks, 1.17 WHIP, 8 SO/9 innings, .235 BAA
He's going to be good.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
"I'm happy for [Green]," Lugo said. "I'm very happy he's playing well, but that doesn't take away from who I am. I haven't been a shortstop in the big leagues for 10 years because one day I woke up and got two hits. I've been here because I have a history of playing and playing well. That's why I've got 10 years in the big leagues. But I'm very happy for him."
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
- The MRI results, which revealed that Matsuzaka's shoulder looks just as bad now as it did in April. That one surprises me, to be honest: I'm guessing that a lot of the decision making around whether or not to put a guy back on the roster revolves around he's reporting he feels, but I would still think that the team's medical staff would be giving out MRIs like candy if they thought it would tell them anything useful. From the article (which is admittedly short on detail), it sounds instead like Dice-K hasn't had an MRI since he first went on the DL and - concequently - the team could have avoided problems with a little more testing. Either way, if things haven't changed much since, I bet we don't see Matsuzaka again until late August.
- Francona going on the record blaming the World Baseball Classic for the loss of his pitcher. If he's saying it publically, the management and the ownership are saying it privately...and that might mean the end of Bud Selig's promotional party, or at least thelevel of pro participation the first two iterations of the Classic enjoyed. Personally, while I enjoy the concept that the WBC represents, having seen its negative effect on two different Red Sox teams, I'd be happy for a change in the way participation works.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
- Brad Penny has proven himself to be a wildly successful gamble whose value increases with every start. Do the Sox trade him - and if so, to whom, and for what - or do they choose to ride his success to the post-season and possibly beyond?
- John Smoltz, Clay Buchholz, and Dice-K Matsuzaka are competing for a rotation spot. For now, the Sox are opting for a six man unit, but for the sake of their pitchers' rhythms, they'll have to make a decision one way or another before too much times goes by. Who should get the job?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
“That’s where I normally go when I’m swinging the bat good,’’ he said after the Red Sox’ 8-2 win over the Marlins last night.Then, hurriedly, he left.Ortiz now swings a big bat and scurries silently.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
While the Yankees have yet to beat Fenway's Finest in 2009, the thing I loved about last night's 7-0 shutout--as much as seeing Big Papi destroy an A.J. Burnett pitch to deep, straight-away center--was that Josh Beckett freaking dominated a very hot lineup by pitching to contact for outs and going for the throat when he needed it.
Beckett's line for last night:
- 6 Innings
- 93 Pitches
- 59 Strikes
- 8 Ks
- 21 Batter's faced
- 2 BBs
- 1 Hit
- 6 Groundouts, 4 Flyouts
The first few innings saw a good amount of pitching to contact for grounders and pop-outs, but as the game progressed and runs were scored by the Sox, Beckett became more dominant, more overpowering with corner-painting fastball and 12-6 curveball. His curve was hitting both the high, low and outside parts of the plate--and he was mixing it well enough with the fastball in any count that there was little the Yankees could do, but retreat to the dugout.
There's an excellent post from Mazz on what Lester and Beckett have been doing lately with their pitching--along with some keen history. Here's a snippet about just how good Beckett was last night:
Last night, as was the case last week in Detroit, Beckett had no-hit stuff. The
only hit he allowed was an infield single to Robinson Cano in the fourth inning.
Three nights after Lester struck out 10 of the first 18 batters he faced in six
perfect innings, Beckett walked off the Fenway Park mound at the end of the
sixth inning last night having whiffed eight of the final 16 batters he faced
while allowing just three balls out of the infield.
He's now 7-2, with a 3.77 ERA and ranked 6th in the AL in strikeouts with 76.
That was an excellent one hitter against a very tough lineup, Mr. Beckett. Keep it up.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
If you’re fast they’re not throwing you many balls. They don’t want you on the basepaths. As a fast player, as a leadoff guy, they’re not going to pitch around me. It makes it tough to walk. If you go up trying to walk you get down in the count. If the pitch is there you have to be swinging at it. You can’t be taking (good) pitches just to walk.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Really, that's a tribute to what he means to his fans and how delightful it was to watch him play. His career might be over (notice I left the door open; I'm such a sap), but Ortiz has reached the highest level an athlete can reach: unequivocal devotion. Sox fans love him the same way you love an ailing family member. In the end, at his bleakest point, he's brought out the best of an entire fan base. He has inspired dignity and emotion and loyalty. The fans could have sped his demise (and saved a few games) by booing until Francona benched him. They didn't. How often does that happen?We live in a world in which all entertainment is chewed up and spat out. We milk public figures like cows, and when they're out of milk, we tip them over and move on. Quickly. It's not just that we need to see everything "jump the shark" that bothers me. It's also that so many of us are gleeful about pointing out that something or someone we once loved has outlived his usefulness. The demise of Big Papi played out in an old-school way: real devotion, and in the end, people refusing to let go.
Monday, June 01, 2009
After two games of losses in Toronto with little offensive production, the Red Sox beat up on the Blue Jay's pitching in the rubber match on Sunday for a strong 8-2 win--keeping the Sox half a game out of first with a Yankees loss in Cleveland-- a loss by the way that should have been an official win for Carl Pavano (who is easily the comeback player of the year and another source of fun Yankee-ribbing here in NY).
Francona juggled the lineup so that the offense was stacked with righties: Pedroia hit lead-off, the 3-4-5 spots were set by Youk-Bay-Lowell, and Navajo-Jewish-Lawyer Ellsbury and his lefty bat dropped down to the eigth spot-- a strange place to seem him bat fo sho.
In the 4th inning, Pedroia slapped a 3 run homer on a line drive that barely cleared the left-field fence at the Rogers Centre. Additionally, the Sox had nice batting contributions from Lowell, Bay, and even a double by the still struggling David Ortiz.
But the dominant story for this game was Jon Lester and his pounding of the strike zone. After a tough loss last week in Minnesota where Lester pitched well , but gave up a 3 run blast to Justin Morneau--the difference on Sunday was that he was practically unhittable. Lester used the entire zone, going high with his 94 mph heater, cutting his pitches in to righties, throwing his curve up and down and on the corners, and, apparently, used a change up to help keep batters off.
From a Boston.com article on Lester and his pitches:
Jason Varitek said the pitcher threw about 20 change ups in the game,Lester gave up only 3 hits, threw 72 strikes in 115 pitches, and gave up one run in the first inning on a sac fly to Vernon Wells. The only real issue here was that Lester didn't get beyond 6 innings, something you'd expect to find in a game with 12 Ks. But when you start adding up the foul balls and deep counts that the Blue Jays can take a pitcher, it's not surprising to see that line on the box score.
perhaps 10 times as many as he called in Lester's last start against the Jays,
saying, "That's a totally different guy than you've seen before. He just
showed that he had a good one today, had good depth and good arm speed with
The key was that his fastball was zippy and hard to catch up for hitters and he painted his curve ball on the corners, especially to right-handed hitters. When you mix in the use of the change up, what you get is a very good outing. Lester lowered his ERA under 6.00 to 5.65, another very good sign that the young lefty is starting to hit his stride.
Given the lack of consistent offensive production from the Sox on the road, getting and keeping Lester going will be another key element to keeping pace in the AL East. As Joy of Sox points out: "Boston has scored only 4.2 runs per road game, more than two runs fewer than their 6.3 average at home."
Let's hope that improves.
This week: 3 games in Detroit starting Tuesday night, then back to Fenway for a 3 game series against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers (followed by next week's visit by that team from the Bronx to Beantown).