Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another opening of another show

Another opening, another show
In Philly, Boston, and any number of minor league cities
A chance for teammates to say hello!
Another opening of another show.

There are so many things I could write about Friday's game.  I'm going to try to limit myself to 3 -- the batter, the pitcher and the play.

Jacoby Ellsbury -- 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration

I must confess that I'm not overly impressed with Ellbsury.  Whenever I see him the following quote goes through my head:
"Rickey Henderson would have been the best lead-off hitter ever without the stolen bases.  Vince Coleman wasn't worth a damn with them."
I wish I could attribute the quote -- I don't remember who said it.  It wasn't me.  What made Henderson so good?  It probably wasn't lead-off homers, although Henderson's power was amazing.  It may have been  that career .401 OBP.  Just unbelievable.  To be sure, there are about 50 guys with better career OBPs, but they mostly had last names like "Ruth," "Williams," "Mantle" and "Ramirez..." guys you would rather walk than let hit.  Henderson?  Well, let's just note that nobody scored more runs than Rickey.  It didn't matter how he got on base...

So how does Jacoby do?  .340 career OBP.  Better than Coleman's pathetic .324, but hardly the stuff dreams are made of.  But given that the lead-off hitters job is to get on base, let's see how Ellsbury did last night...
  • 1st at-bat -- safe on error, scored
  • 2nd at-bat -- double, scored
  • 3rd at-bat -- single
  • 4th at-bat -- walk
  • 5th at-bat -- nobody's perfect
Not too shabby.  But that wasn't the best part for me.  The best part was his patience at the plate.  Ellsbury took 7 pitches in his first at bat and 6 in his next.  In addition to eating up 4 at bats worth of pitches in his first 2 trips to the plate, he gave himself the chance to see a pitch that he could hit.  He gave himself a chance to walk (which he eventually did) and he did some damage.  If he can keep that up all season, he's going to start looking less like Coleman and more like.. well, I'll settle for "Ellsbury."

Jonathan Lester -- [Don't forget to think of a good quote]

After 3 innings, I noticed a funny thing about Lester's performance.  It consisted of 9 weak grounders on the infield plus 2 home runs.  What's more, his pitch count was low.  I noticed something else, which bothered me, but at that moment, I boldly predicted that Lester would go 7 innings, letting up 3 runs.  Things didn't quite work out that way.

The third thing that I noticed was that Lester didn't strike anyone out in the first 3 innings.  He didn't really come close.  He was pretty wild on a number of batters, including the two that took him deep early on.  So, I'm left scratching my head.  Did using pitch count lead me astray?  Or was it just bad luck?

It seemed like bad luck, but opening day is hardly the day to fine tune one's models...

A-Gone -- The play's the thing

In the top of the first, I saw a play so remarkable, that I knew I would be writing about it.  The Sox started off great.  Ellsbury fought his way on base, Youk doubled him in and Adrian Gonzales -- who has been living up to the hype so far -- knocked Youk in.  The stage was set for a big inning whose repercussions last deep into the game, if not into the next (via eating up relief time).  But then a funny thing happened.  Gonzales tried to stretch his single and was thrown out at second.

I don't fault the logic of Gonzales or the first base coach.  I may have made the same call and -- hey -- it's just the first inning of the first game.  But instead of making the starter throw another 4-12 pitches, maybe even letting up another run, the Sox called it an inning and took the field.

How might things have played out differently?  Would Lester have pitched better with a bigger lead?  Would Wilson have been able to steam roll the bottom of the line-up at the end of the first inning?  Who knows.  But it was a momentous play and was worth noting.

I'm not a big fan of risking an out for the extra base.  I don't like sacrifices.  I don't like stolen bases.  I don't like stretches.  I recognize the value, but the cost is big.

Another pain where the ulcers grow...



  1. I've seen teams that run aggressively, and it Tends to give them an advantage. They put pressure on the whole other team. 'Stretching' often gets an extra base without costing you a Sac, or the risk of trying to steal a base.

    That said, I think that Gonzales tried for a stretch at exactly the wrong time. Had he made it, there would still be two out, but the pitcher would have the more appetizing option of risking a walk, while trying to get out of the inning farther down the batting order.

    The argument in favor of getting to second is that another single gives you a three-run lead. But, as you mentioned, this was also a good moment to make the pitcher pitch, and let him get into more trouble.

  2. I didn't see the game live, but in the highlight at least, it looked like he wasn't so much trying for a double as trying to draw the throw, and get an automatic score on the runner coming home. If they don't cut off and throw for Gonazlez, then there's a chance Youkilis--no burner, he--is out at home. If they do throw home, you get second base for free with two outs, for a baserunner who has no chance of stealing second.

    Of course, it's Ortiz up next, who's not exactly the most likely singles hitter, but let's not overthink this....