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   1. tfbg9 Posted: May 09, 2010 at 03:47 PM (#3527343)
But this is several pitchers over multiple years.


Or a few pitchers over a couple of years?
Or like, 5 guys, over 2 years?
Or slow start, slow start, injured, sort of stunk and quit team, retired to the broadcast booth?


C'mon.
   2. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 09, 2010 at 04:02 PM (#3527347)
Darren - I tend to the optimistic but in this case you've hit on something I've been thinking about for a couple of weeks now, is John Farrell a good pitching coach?

As you point out some high profile guys have left town and succeeded and Beckett and Lester have both been starting slow the last couple of years. Maybe that isn't Farrell's fault but do we give him credit for making sure the problems don't linger for the full season or do we criticize him for the slow starts to begin with?

I will disagree with you on two guys though. I think Matsuzaka is just a guy coming off an injury, I would say that's the bigger cause. Lackey I think has pitched well despite the low K rate. He started last year with a low K rate then picked it up.

The fact is though that whatever you think of the defensive changes they made this off-season, this team was 3rd in runs allowed last year and with basically the same staff back they are dead last right now. Whether that is Farrell's fault or just the pitchers not doing the job the fact is that THIS, not Ortiz, not the offense, not Beltre or Scutaro, is what has caused the slow start.
   3. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: May 09, 2010 at 04:24 PM (#3527352)
Are people really blaming Scutaro? He's hitting about like his career averages, isn't he?
   4. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 09, 2010 at 04:33 PM (#3527356)
I have a number of friends who I would describe as "traditional passionate fans" who are throwing a blanket over the new guys. When I've chimed in with your argument (which is true) I've gotten "well he's not Gonzalez, he was the best defensive shortstop the Sox have ever had" or some variant of that.
   5. ekogan Posted: May 09, 2010 at 05:04 PM (#3527370)
is John Farrell a good pitching coach?

Schilling said that Farrell was the best pitching coach he ever saw.
Now, Schilling is prone to hyperbole when praising teammates, but he wouldn't have said it if Farrell wasn't very good.
The Sox hired Francona partially based on Schilling's recommendation and that worked out alright.
   6. ekogan Posted: May 09, 2010 at 05:11 PM (#3527373)
I'd like to quote SOSH poster bob burda, who wrote a very good post:
I'm going to go back to the design of the '66 to '83 Orioles, because I still think this is the template from which the Sox try to work, especially now.

In '83 Bill James wrote a piece on SF, comparing the way F.Robby ran that team with Weaver's Orioles. James said that the Orioles under Weaver always established a rotation in the spring and stayed with it, and they would wait for their starting pitchers to round into form as the weather got warmer. They would invariably start "cold," lose to lousy teams and play at or near .500 - and then the pitching would lock in and they'd be off to another division title. They teased the Sox a lot this way back then. The Sox would lead in May, and then the Orioles would get hot in June and bury them ('71, '73, and '74 come to mind - and everybody thought it was happening again in '75 but the Sox held them off - you can maybe add '79 to this list). After '71, most of those Oriole teams were good for 90-95 wins a year (sometimes more, rarely less) - and that usually was enough.

I think when you build around good pitching and more specifically, a good starting staff, this is the way it goes. You can see the Sox getting good later on, with the pitching rounding into form - and then nobody wanting to play them. The problem, as pointed out by others, is the MFYs and Rays look stronger than 90-95 wins. The Orioles confronted this problem in '78 - winning 90 games and finishing FOURTH. So the timing for the "old Orioles strategy" is bad for this particular year - but you can see the Yanks aging/declining in future years (nobody lasts forever, and late 30's guys decline - in all cases), and the Rays' talent base probably is not sustainable because of its cost....and the Sox will still have that pitching.

There is still the possibility that the pitching is not what it's supposed to be - that Lackey and Beckett turn into Barry Zito Lite, Clay regresses, Lester has an off year, Dice-K never gets it back, Papelbon continues to walk 7 per 9 innings etc - making the Sox an 80 win club or worse. I think it is more likely that the weather gets hot, the pitching comes around and they win 85-90 games - which ain't gonna do it - but would be more entertaining than this.

They will only be in a race if disaster strikes the clubs ahead of them. My comfort there is that the MFYs are more likely to be the club to implode than the Rays, because the MFYs count on so many players who are long in the tooth.
   7. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: May 09, 2010 at 05:25 PM (#3527384)
#6, I think that is an astonishingly stupid post. It's predicated on the idea that the Red Sox are built around starting pitching, much more so than the Yanks or Rays. But they're not; Lester is no better than Sabathia, Beckett no better than Burnett, Lackey only marginally better than Vazquez (one would hope), and so on and so forth. I don't see how the Red Sox are a particularly pitching-centered team.

EDIT: What's more, the "starting out cold and then getting hot in June" model fits the mid-2000's Yankees teams to a T, except those teams were all offense and no pitching/defense. And plenty of pitching/defense teams have started out hot and stayed hot- see the great Braves dynasty teams. And I don't know if this guy says it explicitly, but he implies that a pitching-heavy team maxes out at about 90-95 games, but that's obviously nonsense; see those same Braves teams.

The Red Sox are going to "get hot" and "round into form", probably, not because the pitchers will pitch better as it gets warmer, but because they're a true-talent 90-95 win team. Some teams start slow, other start fast. This year its the Red Sox turn to start slow: next year, probably someone else. These things happen, and they have nothing to do with the construction of the team. The above post is wishful erudite fanboyism at its worst.
   8. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: May 09, 2010 at 05:32 PM (#3527390)
There is still the possibility that the pitching is not what it's supposed to be - that Lackey and Beckett turn into Barry Zito Lite, Clay regresses, Lester has an off year, Dice-K never gets it back, Papelbon continues to walk 7 per 9 innings etc - making the Sox an 80 win club or worse. I think it is more likely that the weather gets hot, the pitching comes around and they win 85-90 games - which ain't gonna do it - but would be more entertaining than this.

But what if Lester rebounds to his past "one of the Top 5 Starters in the AL" form; Lackey's value reflects in part his career 5.40 ERA in Fenway Park; Beckett levels off his decline but still doesn't revert to his past performance; Buchholz alternates between brilliance and blowouts; Dice-K remains a head case; and Wakefield wakes up one day and discovers he's really 43 years old? Some variant of that doesn't seem all that unlikely.

IOW you've got an above average but hardly world class staff, a starting lineup with more than a few holes, and a defense that's considerably less than advertised in the Winter promotional propaganda. What do you see as this team's maximum range of wins? And since all of those Yankees' starters except Pettitte aren't really all that old (and since several of their key starting position players are way underperforming), how far can you see them falling?

I'll let people who've been watching the Rays more closely answer for them, but from the few times I've seen them play, their performance doesn't look like it's based on luck and flypaper, either.

None of this is to say that the Red Sox aren't capable of rebounding to their recent form. But from a percentages standpoint I don't see the odds as being in their favor.
   9. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: May 09, 2010 at 05:44 PM (#3527399)
a defense that's considerably less than advertised in the Winter promotional propaganda.

Huh? The defense has been quite good, I think, other than the errors being more than you'd like.
   10. Dr. Vaux Posted: May 09, 2010 at 05:55 PM (#3527411)
The Braves used to start slow a lot.
   11. Blackadder Posted: May 09, 2010 at 06:19 PM (#3527434)
The Rays are hitting only only 257/338/416 and yet are scoring 5.80 runs per game. Super-crude RC gives them 30 runs less than they have actually scored. At the opposite extreme, the Royals are not that much worse at 274/330/413 but are only scoring 4.13 runs per game.
   12. tfbg9 Posted: May 09, 2010 at 06:20 PM (#3527437)
I've heard it said that power pitchers tend to start off slow and get stronger as the season goes on.

The Sox are 6-7 overdogs tonight, which means the guys who are paid to get these things right still think
they're a strong team.
   13. OlePerfesser Posted: May 09, 2010 at 06:57 PM (#3527490)
We need to revive an ol' mantra: "It's the variance, stupid."

Pitching is volatile as hell - sometimes due to luck, sometimes due to injury - and then there's defense. So while Beckett has had poor starts this year and last, he also had a bad finish last year, and his two worst months in '08 were July and August - and his best was Sept. It's one reason that big-money bets on arms are very risky.

This does not mean we should not ask whether Farrell's rep as a genius is, um, exaggerated. Maybe someone energetic can crunch some numbers as to whether Sox pitchers have been experiencing greater performance variance under Farrell, or more persistent downs before they go back up.

It's also not stupid (much less "astonishingly" so, as 'zop accuses) to suggest that a rotation might slowly improve over the course of a season. I've listened to Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan as O's color men for years now, and that's something they've argued; IIRC, they also like the old 4-man rotation for similar reasons, involving developing a better feel for your stuff with more regular work. It may not bear up under close statistical scrutiny, but the theory should be accorded some level of respect; it may be applicable to some pitchers and not others, too.
   14. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: May 09, 2010 at 07:11 PM (#3527511)
It's also not stupid (much less "astonishingly" so, as 'zop accuses) to suggest that a rotation might slowly improve over the course of a season.

It's stupid because its exactly what statistical analysis stands against: the use of untestable aphorisms to prove whatever point you want to make. The original post isn't that egregious, I guess, because it was made by a guy to a fanboy message board that doesn't necessarily focus on statistics. Citing it as "very good" and copying it verbatim to this message board is moronic.

The issue is not that rotations never improve over a season- of course, sometimes they do. It's not that power pitchers start off slowly- perhaps they do, and its certainly provable that pitchers have a little less velocity in April than they do in the height of summer.

Rather, THIS APPLIES TO ALL TEAMS EQUALLY. The Red Sox don't have a disproportionate number of power pitchers on their staff; the Yankees starters also are a tick below their midsummer velocities. In fact, based on peripherals the Yankees and Red Sox staffs aren't too far apart; the difference is that the Yanks are 3rd in MLB in defensive efficiency at ~270 and the Red Sox are at ~300. (Obviously, some of that difference is Fenway.)

The Red Sox are a strong team and will get better, but not because of some mindless assertion that pitching-heavy teams start off slowly. Hell, the Red Sox aren't even pitching-heavy (in fact, they have a top 5 offense so far this season!). They've just played shitty in the first 30 games and gotten a little unlucky. It happens.
   15. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: May 09, 2010 at 07:22 PM (#3527518)
zop is right on here. That post is complete wishcasting.

I think Darren poses an interesting question, but I'm not sure how we'd evaluate it over such a small sample, as post #1 points out. I do hope they are questions the FO is asking themselves, however.
   16. tfbg9 Posted: May 09, 2010 at 08:01 PM (#3527580)
Are the Red Sox Properly Preparing Starting Pitchers?


Well, properly prepared or not, those Yankees sure seem to be feasting on them! Hah! Hah hah hah!!!
   17. tfbg9 Posted: May 09, 2010 at 08:03 PM (#3527587)
I'm not sure how we'd evaluate it over such a small sample


Which more or less makes me feel the question is utterly useless, YMMV.
   18. Darren Posted: May 09, 2010 at 08:19 PM (#3527607)
2008: Beckett, Buc, and Lester all started off slowly.

Not much in 2007.

(I've left Wakefield out of this, not even checking him, because he's a special case.)
   19. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: May 09, 2010 at 09:53 PM (#3527673)
The Rays are hitting only only 257/338/416 and yet are scoring 5.80 runs per game. Super-crude RC gives them 30 runs less than they have actually scored. At the opposite extreme, the Royals are not that much worse at 274/330/413 but are only scoring 4.13 runs per game.

By BaseRuns and wOBA runs, the Rays have still scored more than 20 runs more than expected. The key is they have a team OPS over .900 with RISP.
   20. Hugh Jorgan Posted: May 09, 2010 at 11:53 PM (#3527784)
None of this is to say that the Red Sox aren't capable of rebounding to their recent form. But from a percentages standpoint I don't see the odds as being in their favor.

You know St. Neck I have a feeling that though you are most diplomatic where the pants-pissing Sox posts are concerned, you post these things whilst rubbing your hands together laughing maniacally like one of those mad professors.

Hey kudos to you mate, to the victors go the spoils.
   21. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: May 10, 2010 at 01:33 AM (#3527943)
None of this is to say that the Red Sox aren't capable of rebounding to their recent form. But from a percentages standpoint I don't see the odds as being in their favor.

You know St. Neck I have a feeling that though you are most diplomatic where the pants-pissing Sox posts are concerned, you post these things whilst rubbing your hands together laughing maniacally like one of those mad professors.

Hey kudos to you mate, to the victors go the spoils.


Well, it's all unraveling tonight, so what do I know? Me and my big mouth....
   22. OlePerfesser Posted: May 10, 2010 at 01:53 AM (#3527979)
Who are you trying to impress, 'zop, with characterizations like "astonishingly stupid," "moronic," and "mindless"? I guess it is impressive, in a certain way. The basic hypothesis about rotations rounding into shape was taken seriously enough by Bill James to write about it. It's legit to debate the merits of the hypothesis and any extensions. It'd be nice if Thinking Fans did so without insulting each other.
   23. tfbg9 Posted: May 10, 2010 at 12:58 PM (#3528139)
It'd be nice if Thinking Fans did so without insulting each other.


That's this kid's mo, Ole P..., a classic haughty rich boy arrogance routine, covering-up the underlay of massive self-doubt.

/Joyce Brothers imitation
   24. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 10, 2010 at 01:48 PM (#3528164)
This hardly rises to the level of any serious analysis but I figure it is a place to start. Using Pinto's Day by Day Database I looked at the ERA of pitchers who made at least one start in April then compared it to their ERA from May 1 on;

2007;

Red Sox - 1 out 5 improved after May 1st
Rest of Baseball - 60 out of 157 (38%) improved after May 1st

2008;

Red Sox - 2 out of 7 improved after May 1st
Rest of Baseball - 64 out of 160 (40%) improved after May 1st

2009;

Red Sox - 4 out of 6 improved after May 1st
Rest of Baseball - 75 out of 152 (49%) improved after May 1st
   25. AWAChampion Posted: May 11, 2010 at 03:03 PM (#3529225)
If I could just get through one day without a Joyce Brothers reference...
   26. tfbg9 Posted: May 11, 2010 at 09:33 PM (#3529750)
If I could just get through one day without a Joyce Brothers reference...


...and if I could get through one day without hearing an Elton John song.
   27. JB H Posted: May 13, 2010 at 09:25 AM (#3531290)
Who really knows, but it seems like the Sox ability to manage pitchers is the single best thing they do as an organization. Nobody ever gets hurt! Except for the occasional back and oblique strains. Daisuke doesn't count since he apparently won't do what he's told.

They've earned unquestioning faith from me about pitchers
   28. ptodd Posted: May 15, 2010 at 09:51 PM (#3533722)
Well, Junichi Tazawa just had TJ Surgery. Seems they tinkered with him a bit and had him pitch from the wind up instead of his usual stretch position, and had him throw 30% more innings over 2008. Can't do both. And knock on wood, both Beckett (shoulder) and Lackey (elbow) are injury risks. Beckett signed an extension at below market value as insurance (and Red Sox have insured the contract), and Lackey had to accept an injury clause, just in case.

The Red Sox understand the season is a marathon. Better the pitchers start off slow and be healthy come September/October. The problem this year is that the offense also started slow. The offense is back to speed it looks like, see how it holds up against some better pitching though, and the pitching should be fine if everyone is healthy. If Lester, Lackey, Beckett, and ClayB are healthy and pitch as well as expected, the Red Sox will have one of the top rotations in baseball. The 100 million Daisuke (only 1/2 of it his) is the # 5 guy in this rotation.
   29. Darren Posted: May 16, 2010 at 04:53 PM (#3534093)
That's interesting about Tazawa. They do seem to love to tinker with mechanics. IIRC, they did the same with Buchholz right before he fell apart completely and did so with Papelbon. Others too IIRC.

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