Monday, June 27, 2016

It’s OK to Blame Injuries for a While

Saw someone on twitter today complaining about how bad the bench was at the moment. They couldn’t believe just how bad it was. I’ve seen similar comments lately as John Farrell has done his best sending pinch hitter after pinch hitter to the plate trying to score some runs. People just can’t believe how bad the bench is. 

Why not, exactly?

Let’s look at the Sox, from Spring Training to now. Their starting third baseman went down for the season with an injury in the first week or so. The back-up third baseman is currently hurt. The utility guy who was oddly starting in left is hurt. The fourth outfielder is hurt. The catcher you converted to help out in left field is hurt. So that’s, what, four roster spots that are injured and one of the replacements for the spot is also injured. Five positions that should have a better player in them that don’t. How much organizational depth do we expect the Sox to have in order to have a fourth option at third base that’s above average? Or a fourth outfielder? Or fifth? 

If the Sox are storing Mike Trout on the bench in Pawtucket just in case five people are hurt ahead of him, I’d have to seriously question their organizational judgment. Which is why you’re left with the Red Sox calling up Mike Miller to fill an emergency hole, like they did today.

So, I can’t get too tweaked out if the Sox suddenly find themselves with some holes for a little bit. As long as the holes aren’t so bad and so long that they destroy you, it’s worth it to hold the fort for a bit.

It’s the “little bit” part that gets tricky. The so-called “collapse” in 2011 was mostly because “a little bit” became “a really long time.” So Theo’s desire to keep all of his precious prospects and weather the storm hurt them. Too many important games in September were started by people who had no business being in the majors, let alone playing in games with playoff implications. The “coast and hope” plan coasted too far. By a game.

So, the injuries to players like Panda and Carson Smith need to be addressed somehow. In this way, I think the success in the early part of the year covered for them a little bit. It was easier to try and get by when Travis Shaw was playing out of his shoes. But, once he remembered he was Travis Shaw, and definitely when he was hurt, the need for a suitable replacement became clear.

What to do? The obvious answer is to go find someone. But, who are you going to find? Not a lot of people out there shopping all-star left fielders on the cheap at this point in time. Maybe you can try to pick up a mediocre player. But, is that a big improvement? Is that worth making a deal at all?

Which leaves the “go for it” option. You’ve got some really good prospects? What can you get for them? What’s the deal for another Carson Smith? What’s the deal for a star outfielder?

Because if you don’t do that, you’re left with waiting and hoping.

I know this post doesn’t have a lot of answers. I don’t have any. But, I can see why the Red Sox don’t have any either. Sometimes losing doesn’t mean somebody screwed up. Sometimes players can’t just play better to compensate for another player’s injury. Sometimes you have to take one on the chin for a bit until Holt is ready to play. Or Chris Young. 

Sometimes treading water is the best option. But we can’t be confused by a lack of depth. We can’t be dismayed by the lack of talent. We can’t scream that Dombrowski needed to get better players. He had them. They’re just on the DL. Sometimes that’s the only answer.


You just have to hope it doesn’t become 2011.

Friday, June 24, 2016

They Needed That!

What a difference a few innings can make, eh?

I wonder sometimes how much players think about momentum and things along those lines. Are they more selfish than that? Is David Ortiz only worried about his performance contributing to the team win, or does he wonder about the mental stability of the bullpen? You sometimes hear of squabbles when one side isn’t pulling its weight. But, on a winning club, I wonder how much time is spent worrying about everyone else.

So I wonder if players realize that the team needed that win. Individual players definitely needed that win. But, it also meant a lot to the team as a whole.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to exaggerate the importance of a game in late June. Or, maybe I am. How would I know? But if you’re looking for a sign of a team breaking out of a slump, yesterday’s victory would be a great place to start.

They battled back. Sure, I’ve said before that I’m not really sure what that term means. I don’t think baseball is the sort of sport where “trying extra hard” does a lot for you. Unlike, say, football where that extra push towards the quarterback may be the difference between reaching him or not. I don’t think trying extra hard to hit a curveball does much for you. So, maybe the battling part is overstated. But, they came back. And, this was the exact sort of game you’d almost forgive them for not coming back. The last game of a long depressing home stand. You know they really just wanted to hop on that plane and get the heck out of Dodge. So, you’d almost expect them to just go through the motions at the end. Especially when they went behind. Just pack it in and start fresh in Texas. But, they didn’t do that. They kept scoring, and worked as long as it took to score as many as they needed. 

They reminded themselves that they can score. That is important. They can score lots of runs. They can score lots of runs when they need them. They can score a run with the bases loaded. They can score a run without them loaded. It’s just good to see it happen in front of your face. It’s good to not have to think of James Shields getting the better of you for so long. It’s easier to get that thought out of your mind on that long plane ride. The last thing you remember was a big hit and a big run.

It was important to remember that Craig Kimbrel can pitch whenever you need him. Oh, don’t worry. I’m with you in being completely amazed he was in the game after loading the bases in the tenth inning with nobody out. Especially since it was his second inning of work after having worked in, what, every game of the home stand? But, he got out of it. (Noticed how I said “he got out of it” instead of “The White Sox choked”?) He got the pop up to hold the runners, and then took care of the next two with the strikeout. Just what he needed just when he needed it. Both for the team, and for himself. Now we’ll just have to hope he remembers it the next time he pitches…which may have to be after the All-Star break at this rate.

Will any of this carry over to Texas? Only time will tell. But, at the very least it lets them start fresh. If they don’t get a hit in the first inning, or two, they don’t have to wonder if they’ll ever get a hit. They don’t need to react like Twitter does to every failure. After all, they’re starting the game tonight knowing that the last person who came to the plate for them got a hit, and drove in a run. The last pitcher on the mound for them retired the last three batters he faced, all with the bases loaded. The last thing they did was a good thing.

And David Price is on the mound to try and keep it going. 


They need that too!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why Didn’t They Score?

Because nobody crossed home plate.

I know. Sorry.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you this, but the Red Sox came painfully close to winning the game last night. But, instead they painfully lost the game in extra innings. How close did they get? In the bottom of the ninth, they had the bases loaded with nobody out in a tie game. That’s a pretty good opportunity. Alas, they did not score. Since then different people have been blaming different members of the Red Sox for this obvious failure. I’m tempted to blame Dustin Pedroia. Other people who look for reasons to blame John Farrell tend to blame him. Some people choose to find still others. But, where you put the blame really depends on what your expectations are.

To start off with, maybe we should stop saying they left the bases loaded. Maybe we should realize that they loaded them in the first place. In the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, the Red Sox had a .500 OBP. That’s generally not something to get depressed over. So, half the people who came to the plate did their jobs. Nothing they did could be considered a failure.

From there, we need to look at the bases being loaded. Obviously, that’s a pretty good situation there. I’d much rather have them loaded than not. But, people seem to think that not scoring in that situation is an epic collapse on the part of the Red Sox. I even saw a figure stating that 89% of the time a team has the bases loaded with nobody out, they score at least one run. But, you have to remember, those numbers include EVERY time a team has them loaded with nobody out. What if it’s the first inning? In those situations, I bet the defense would gladly give up a run in exchange for a double play. So, the infield would be playing back and conceding the run. In fact, I bet that in every situation other than the home team having them loaded in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, the other team would trade the double play for a run. So, that’s not really a fair comparison, because this was the only time the defense tries to stop them. In fact, the White Sox pulled in one of their outfielders, to make extra sure that a ground ball would be able to get the guy out at home. (Which is exactly how it played out.) 

Some people are up in arms because all the Sox needed from the first two batters with the bases loaded was a fly ball. And that, of course, is true. But, again, it’s not like the White Sox were encouraging them to hit a fly ball. They knew that they brought in the extra infielder. They were clearly looking for a ground ball. Which, again, is exactly what they got. My guess is that they weren’t throwing a lot of curve balls up in the zone. The pitches were down doing their best to keep it in the infield. So, yes, the Sox could have really used a fly all from one of the first two batters. Should they have expected one? I’m not so sure.

As for Farrell, not really sure what he could have done differently. He had the bases loaded with nobody out. Travis Shaw was due up, and Dustin Pedroia was on his bench. Neither one is a particularly good option. But, I think I might have gone with Pedroia there as well. The only question comes if it’s better to let Shaw bat, and save Pedroia to hit for Hernandez later in the inning. This may have been a move that Farrell made to make it better for him, as opposed to better for the team. Can you imagine the outrage if he lets Shaw hit, only to have him ground into a 1-2-3 double play? Or, Shaw strikes out and Vazquez grounds into the double play, leaving Pedroia on the bench? I don’t think you can hit for Vazquez, since he was 2-3 on the night. Maybe in that case I would have, but that’s a tough call too. But, boy, Pedroia needed to get to the plate at some point that inning, or it would have gotten really ugly. As it is Farrell is taking all kinds of heat. Imagine how bad it would be if some people weren’t noticing that Pedroia struck out in a key spot?

In the end, it was a tough inning. But, I have a hard time calling it an epic collapse. Or, a symbol of some pathetic offense. Would it have been better if Pedroia had driven the ball to the outfield instead of striking out? Of course. Anything would have been better than striking out. Even a check swing dribbler has a chance of driving in the run. I just can’t bring myself to stomp my feet or bang my chest because two specific batters (Pedroia and Vazquez) didn’t hit the ball in the outfield when that was the one thing the White Sox were trying to prevent. Six guys came to the plate in the ninth inning. Half of them did exactly what you wanted them to do, and reached base. The other half didn’t. I can’t get all that worked up about the details.


Although it’s still Pedroia’s fault.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Kailee Dunn Visits Section 36!

Section 36 is lucky enough to have another visitor! Kailee Dunn is many things. She's an enormous baseball fan, especially of her beloved Mariners. She's a Fenway Ambassador. She's a former Miss Washington. So, with the Mariners coming into town this weekend, I thought it was the perfect time for Kailee to visit and answer some questions for the blog covering all those topics, and then some. Thankfully she agreed. So let's see what happens when Kailee Dunn visits Section 36! 

If you can’t sit in Section 36 to watch the Red Sox, where do you (or where would you) like to sit?
If you have the opportunity, sit on the monster! There is quite simply nothing else like it in Major League Baseball. However, one of the things I love most about Fenway is that there isn't really a bad seat. On a beautiful day, I wouldn't mind sitting on the Pavilion level on the third base side. You get an excellent overview of the field and monster with the added bonus of the Boston skyline.
What do you usually eat/drink when you’re at a baseball game?
I swear I have the World's biggest sweet tooth, so for me I am all about the fried dough and ice cream. At Fenway, there is something called the fried dough sundae, which is fried dough with a scoop of ice cream on top of it. I haven't tried it yet, but I assure you it will be my favorite thing in the park.
Which Mariner should I pay the most attention to when they come to Fenway?
Everyone knows the big names like Felix, Cano and Cruz, but I think there are some underdog players that really step up to plate. Literally. My buddy Shawn O'Malley plays for the Mariners and think he's definitely one to watch. I grew up watching he and my brother play baseball together and it's really incredible to see how far he has come and how he is able to stay calm, cool and collected under pressure.
Which Mariner would Sox fans adore if he was wearing a Boston uniform?
I’m a little new to the Sox v. Yankee rivalry so correct me if I am wrong, but I am sure the Sox would love to see Cano in a Sox jersey. I mean who wouldn’t love have another league leader in home runs on their team? But for now, I think we will keep him in Seattle.
Is there a feature of Safeco Field that would work well in Fenway Park?
On a rainy day, I sure do miss our roof.
In the year since handing over your crown, what do you miss most about being Miss Washington? 
I miss the children that I was able to work with. I loved nothing more than going into a school and speaking to kids or visiting the kiddos in the hospital. I feel like the point in me doing so was to help make their day better, when really it made my day immensely better.
You’ve recently become a Fenway Ambassador. What’s the best part of that job?
I’m basically in the business of making people happy, so my goal is to make everyone who I encounter at the field feel very special. I love that we have the ability to make someone’s first visit to Fenway even more remarkable.
How do you see the Red Sox finishing in 2016?
Really anything is possible and everyone has a reason to feel hopeful at this point in the season. As long as we can sustain our hitting and step up our pitching we will be golden!
It’s second and goal from the one yard line. Do you run or pass?
I feel like this is an obvious answer, kind of like if you deflate footballs you should be suspended for 4 games, right? 

***

Definitely have to agree with Kailee on at least a couple of those. I love the Safeco roof, and how it's really just a roof. I imagine that it doesn't give the enclosed feeling of a true dome. I also have to agree that the fried dough sundae sounds amazing. Going to have to check that out myself. As for Cano, I think that by jilting the Yankees to go to Seattle, he's managed to wash the pinstripes off himself in my eyes. I think I could handle seeing him on the Sox. What do you think?

I want to give Kailee a huge thank you for visiting. It's always humbling when people take the time and effort, especially when they do a great a job like Kailee did. If you'd like to see more of what she has to say, follow Kailee on Twitter and Instagram. You should also check out her blog: It's a Double Play. (Told you she was a baseball fan!) I'd especially recommend her Super Bowl Post.

Once again, thanks to Kailee! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bunting

Many people have a problem when it comes to making a decision. They don't want to make one. They prefer everything is laid out for them. Cut and dry. Black and white. That's why fad diets are so popular. People don't want to think about nutrition. They don't want to compare fats or calories. They just want to know they can't eat any of this, but all they want of that. It's easy. 

It happens in baseball too. One run lead in the ninth inning? Bring in the closer. The manager doesn't need to think. How is the current pitcher doing? Does the closer perform well against the expected batters? Could he use one more day of rest? It's a non-decision. The closer comes in. 

People want to apply the same sensibility to bunting. There are apparently two choices. NEVER EVER BUNT! and Move the runner over when you can! Of course, decisions are never that easy. I admit, that I personally am very close to the never bunt side. It seems crazy to me to give up an out if you don't have to. I've said many times, the mantra for the defense always is "If they're going to give you an out make sure you take it." So, if the defense is giddy over the fact that they're getting a free out, why should the offense be so eager to give them away. 

But, I do see times when the bunt has merit. For starters, I'm generally OK with a batter trying to bunt for a base hit. Especially David Ortiz. I think he should bunt at least once a game. I'm OK if Hanley wants to try to drop one in. I'm even OK when Xander tries it. What weird to me is that I seem put off when a speedster tries it with men on base. I feel like they're being a bit selfish. Trying for the base whiteout knowing that if they're thrown out the sacrifice will bail them out. Seems selfish. So, I guess Xander was close.

Even the sacrifice has its moments. It all depends on the situation. I usually think it's pretty foolish to bunt a guy over to third base. After all, he's already in scoring position. Why not just take three chances to try and get a hit? But, if it's later in the game, the infield will probably play in with a guy at third. If the hitters coming up are struggling, or the bottom of the order, giving them some extra real estate to try and sneak a grounder through might not be a bad idea. There are lots of factors involved. And a lot to think about.

Managers can't just use a cheat sheet.

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