Friday, April 24, 2015

Honestly, What do You Expect?

Because, it sure seems to be a lot.

Maybe we should just all calm down, just a bit.

Or, maybe a whole bunch!

What’s amazing to me as I watch the Sox this year, and read all the twitter reaction, is that people aren’t usually very happy. It’s almost like everyone expects everything to go perfect all the time every time. Why is that? Is it the football mentality that’s taken over the region? People have started to think that every game in baseball is as important as in football? Newsflash, it’s not. In fact, try considering ten games in baseball the same as a football game. That make you feel better?

Or, is it the Bill Belichick “execution” manta that has everyone all confused? Do we think that just because you practice execution, you should execute every chance you get? It doesn’t work like that either.

Because, that’s what I’m hearing. One night, the Sox lose 2-1, and I hear constant complaining about when this great offense is going to show up. Of course, they seem to forget that they scored five runs the night before. Or, after Panda grounds out…when is he going to get a hit? Ignoring the double he got in the previous at bat. Hanley doesn’t hustle! Except, apparently, when he scores from first on a single to the pitcher.

They’re not advancing the runner! Until there’s a groundout, and then it’s They can’t get a hit with RISP! Then they get a hit, and it’s They only scored one!

Do people just enjoy complaining?

Because, otherwise, I have to wonder what they expect. IT’s the way the numbers work. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. At best, about 30% of the time you’re up with runners on, you’ll get a hit. The other 70% is an out, just as you’d expect. Put together a string of 30% and you score lots of runs. Break them out a bit, and you score fewer.  You just have to hope that those times you score fewer are combined with games where the pitching allows fewer. That happened in the first couple weeks. Not so much this last week.

Which is what it comes down to. Some of it is luck. You allowed runs matching up well with your scored runs game by game. You just have to have those comparisons end up with your favor. Which should happen a lot for the Sox this year. Like it already has.

After all, they’re still in first place.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2001 Fleer Platinum

Once again, Fleer is using the Platinum brand to remind us of days gone by. In this case, just in case you missed the reference, they tell you that they’re celebrating a 20th Anniversary. That’s the give-away clue that the design is honoring the 1981 Fleer effort.

And, actually, they do a pretty good job of it.

I like the design. Maybe it’s because it is so much simpler than most anything else Fleer had going on. Maybe it’s the slight campy feel to it. Like a nice comfort food.

Or, maybe, it’s because in its simplicity, it managed to give me everything I look for in a card design. Other companies take note. The color scheme is matched to the Red Sox colors. That’s a nice improvement over the 1981 originals. Pedro’s name is written right there on the bottom, easy to read without any sort of foil coating. Just the name. Imagine. Below that is Pedro’s position. Again, easy to read. The team name is there, with the baseball adding just enough whimsy. All of that information is tucked out of the way on the bottom of the card, allowing plenty of space for the picture. Just like they were doing 20 years before. Wonder why they decided to mess it all up in between.

No idea if the posed action shot is supposed to be homage, or not. But, it’s fine. What’s not fine? Can you guess?

Look at the size of the Fleer logo! It’s almost as big as Pedro’s name. Even though they tried to stick it in the corner, like Baby, it wasn’t having any of that. It forced its way out and right into the way. Thank goodness it was just over blue sky. If it actually covered any of the Pedro image, I might have lost it.

But, even that can’t detract from the overall feel of the card. Some might think that 1981 Fleer isn’t the type of set you keep bringing back. But, in this case Fleer improved upon the design, while keeping true to the original.

Well done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Are Managers these Days?

I was watching the Sox on Sunday when something caught my eye. In the middle of an at-bat, suddenly Pablo Sandoval went running across the diamond and took a fielding position not far from first base. (I was Pablo, so it was hard to miss him.) They were putting on a defensive shift for the batter.

Now, there’s nothing new about shifts, obviously. There’s not even anything new about doing it in the middle of a batter. Joe Maddon, for some reason, is often given credit for shifting his shifts all over the place depending on the count. It wasn’t even all that shocking to send Pablo over instead of just moving Xander Bogaerts over. If I have one guy in charge of covering an entire side of the infield, it wouldn’t take much thought before picking Xander over Panda.

But, it was just something that struck me. There are different ways to shift, and different places to position the fielders to gain the most advantage.

And I doubt John Farrell came up with a single one of them. Nor, for that matter, does Joe Maddon. They’re all the result of intense statistical analysis. Some computer somewhere spit out the fact that 75% of David Ortiz’s ground balls end up in this general area of the field. So, Farrell put a guy there. Which made me wonder…what does Farrell do?

No, this isn’t a knock on Farrell. Just wondering if the game has changed the way managers are used. The numbers are all done by someone else, right? Whether to bring the infield in is just something off a chart. Ahead by one in the seventh or down by three in the third? Pick it off. Like “going for two” in the NFL. Does this mean that every manager these days is just a guy to keep all the players happy?

After the Sox fired one of their managers…I think it was Grady Little after he ignored some of the data the front office supplied…someone wondered if the Sox should just hire Dr. Phil to manage. He could manage the ego, and the computers would take care of the game decisions. Is that what managers have evolved into?

Is Joe Maddon’s greatest asset that he knows when to shift, or that he can get “grown ass” men to dress up in ridiculous costumes for no reason? Do the Red Sox need Farrell’s game decisions, or just someone who can gently tell Pedroia that he’s sitting down for a game because the numbers show he isn’t hitting? When Joe Torre was getting all his Manager of the Year consideration despite managing with the highest payroll in the history of baseball, people said he deserved it because he was able to manage all those egos. Are great tactical managers a waste of resources?

What do the Sox need from John Farrell?

Friday, April 17, 2015

About as Expected

So, here the Sox sit, having completed nine games. Three series. Oh, and they won them all.

Pretty much everything you assumed would happen, right? Things seem to be on the right track as we head into the second weekend of the season.

Did everything go perfectly? Of course not. But, things aren’t going to go perfectly every single time. The goal is to allow the things your perfect at to outshine your imperfections.

Going into the season, there were a couple knowns. The offense would be good. Really good. It would have to make up for a pitching staff that was inconsistent at best, shaky at worst.

Yup. That’s exactly what has happened.

Without actually looking at the numbers, of the nine games I seem to remember, generally, three great start by the starter, three “eh” starts, and three starts that you had to turn away from. But, the Red Sox find themselves at 6-3 because even an offense missing Papi and Panda could score runs against Gio Gonzalez.

And that what the season is going to be for the next 153 games too. Sometimes you won’t need the offense, sometimes you will. Sometimes it will be absolutely crucial. It’s all going to depend on how the numbers fall, and you just hope that they fall the Sox way more often than not.

Like they have so far.

It’s interesting that those three series have also represented a range of competition. Aces, and losers. A presumed basement dwell, and a presumed division champ. And something else in-between. Against the three of them, the Sox have stayed steady.

Which is why they’re on pace for 108 wins.

I know. I just threw that one in there. But, really, as small sample sizes go, these nine games have been a good one. You can’t say “They haven’t faced anybody” because they have. You can’t say, “What happens when they face injuries?” because they’ve faced them. They’ve had key players out of the line-up quite a bit. The rest of the team just keeps plugging along.

So, just like Opening Day, you don’t want to extrapolate out for the whole season. But, just like Opening Day, when the small sample size matched s up with what you expected, you can start to get a level of comfort. Three series have gone pretty much according to plan. Let’s see how the next three go.

The Magic Number is 153

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From the Pedro Binder

2000 UD MVP

Boy there’s a lot going on here. Some of it is good. Some of it, not so good. But there’s a lot.

There’s simply too much.

I love a lot of things about this card. I like the irregular border. I have no idea why it’s not symmetrical, but neither is Fenway Park. So, I suppose I don’t mind it. But I like the idea of adding the visual interest to the border. Especially since it doesn’t encroach onto the picture too badly. I like how the UD MVP logo is tucked into a corner, and bronzed. It makes it a little more obscure that it would be otherwise. I like how the MVP on the bottom is just a ghosted outline. I like the design elements that float over the picture in a non-obstructive way.

But, do I need all of it?

This card looks like it was designed by a committee that couldn’t make any decisions. One person thought the angled cut in of the border was a good idea. They went with it. Another tossed out little foil squiggles. They went with it. Name inside an oval? Sure. Throw it all in there.

So, what could be simple and elegant turned out cluttered and distracting.

Which is too bad because the picture, while nothing special, is at least different. Pedro’s not mid windup getting ready to throw a pitch. He’s just stepped off the mound and is looking a runner back to second. I have to think that this is just a spring training drill. After all, when would a guy be on second with Pedro on the mound? It’s a dead giveaway.  Well, that and the guy in shorts standing in the outfield.

So, sometimes if you need to pick between one good thing and another, “both” is a perfectly acceptable answer.

Sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I'm Not Here to Talk About the Past

(At least today)

And that's good. That means I don't have to talk about whatever it is that happened last night in New York. (If you really need to read about last night, I'm just guessing that it's being covered pretty well on the BYBHub. Just guessing.

I'd much rather talk about today. After all, it's the Home Opener today! It's the last tick mark on the way to baseball season. Today the Red Sox get to play in front of Section 36 wearing their home whites. It's our first chance to see just how Hanley will be able to handle the Wall. Can this Porcello guy pitch in Fenway? Can Shane still cover that massive right field?

All those questions start to be answered this afternoon.

Of course, here at the blog, the home opener is important for another reason.


I have to admit, the long cold winter has been rough on the picture backlog here at Section 36. So, it's exciting to know that a fresh source of submissions is coming soon. Lots of people will be at Red Sox game again, taking pictures. Hopefully they all  be sending them over here to share on the blog. Pictures like these beauties...

Pix in Section 36. People, just like Brian here, will be flooding Section 36 today, and at least 80 more times this year. That's a lot of opportunity to snap a great picture.

Pix with Section 36 I like these submissions a lot since there's quite a bit of variety in them. I also appreciate the extra thought it takes to make sure Section 36 is in the shot. Like this one from Meghan. Here she was celebrating a great trip, and she got Section 36 in the picture, Great job.

Rather be in 36 pix. Now, I certainly can appreciate that not everyone can get to Fenway for one reason, or another. That's why this category came to be. To allow those people to still be part of the fun. Now, if I appreciate the extra effort to take a pic with Section 36 behind you, I'm downright humbled by this category of pics. The fact that people remember to take the time and make up a "I'd Rather be in Section 36" sign is amazing to me. That they remember to bring it with them for a pic is just incredible. Take Christina here. She;s enjoying the sun in Florida, but remember to make a very nice sign. It's decorated, and even included a hashtag. Then she brought it along with her for this great picture. How can you not love that effort?

Then there's people like the wonderful Bernadette. She was vacationing in Mexico and didn't have a sign with her. Understandable. But, she still wanted to express her fondness for the best Section in Fenway. So, she did what she could. I think it worked out fantastically, how about you?

So, as you can see, the baseball season certainly brings new opportunities. For the Red Sox certainly. They can start the home season off on the right foot with a big win today.

For all of you. The home opener brings new opportunities to take some amazing pictures.

For this blog. I can't wait to see what I hope will be a rush of new submissions. I can't wait to share them here, and on the facebook pg, so that everyone can see them.

It's starts today!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Paying Porcello

In addition to the spectacular win on Opening Day, the Sox had more good news for all of us. Right after the game, they announced that they had agreed to a long term deal with Rick Porcello.

What great news!

After all, he’s a good young pitcher. He’s exactly the type of player you lock up while you can.

But, some people apparently weren’t so sure.

One tweet that came out almost immediately was that the 4-83 was more than the Sox first offered Lester. Which, even if that were a reason to be upset with the deal, isn’t quite true.

Yes, the Sox “only” offered Lester 4-70 in that Spring Training offer that has gotten everyone so riled up. But, as I discussed earlier, that offer was really just matching what other pitchers of his caliber received, after adjusting for his age. The AAV of the offer was the same as the likes of Cain, and Hamels, and Bailey. It was just lower total money because Lester was already 30 when the Sox were making the offer.

So, we should do the same with the Porcello deal. Compare it to Lester if you’d like, but adjust it for his age. Compare it to Cain, and Hamels, and Bailey too. But, adjust it for their ages too. Because once you do that, this becomes a monster deal for the Sox. After all, the latter three all signed big contracts in their twenties that carried them into their early thirties. $100 million type contracts. Those that have gotten a few years into it, Cain and Hamels, are starting to regret it. Now that both are older, they just aren’t worth the money anymore. So, if you look at the 5-6 year $100-115 million contract range that they all signed for, the first three or four are worth it, and the other two or three are albatrosses. The idea being that you’ll take the dead weight in order to get those good years. The Sox went another way. They’re only paying for the good years. Sure, they paid a slight premium. But, nothing as huge as adding on the two anchor years at the end. So, yes they offered more money to Porcello than they did with Lester. But, they were getting the better years of Porcello’s career too. (Plus, how do we know the first offer wasn’t 4-70, like Lester’s first offer was?) So, they slightly overpaid for prime years instead of vastly overpaying for decline years. How is that not brilliant?

Some people are pointing to the fact that Porcello hasn’t pitched for the Sox yet. How can they sign him to that money, they’re screaming, when you don’t know how he’ll pitch in Boston? I think it’s funny that these are the same people who have been insisting that the Sox need to trade for Hamels. Or should have signed Shields. Neither of them have pitched in Boston either. So, if you’re going to take a risk on a big contract, shouldn’t you take it on a young pitcher whose career is trending upwards? Isn’t that exactly where you take the risk?

Isn’t this the perfect contract?