Monday, August 29, 2016

Buy Low, Sell High

A neighbor of mine was relaying a story to me recently about his family discussion on stocks. Seems he had a stock that was performing particularly well, and was discussing selling it with his wife. The problem, of course, was deciding when to sell it. Do you sell it now, and risk it going even higher tomorrow? Do you wait, and risk the value dropping through the floor? When should that cut off point be? It was then that his pre-teen daughter, who was overhearing the conversation, suggested they should probably just sell it when the value reached its highest point.

Brilliant. Buy low, sell high.

Of course, that’s what everyone aims to do when they buy and sell stocks. Or, anything else for that matter. You want to buy something at the moment it’s the cheapest that it will ever be, and sell it when its value is the highest it will ever be. The problem is…you don’t really know when those points will be until they’ve passed. Even with all the number out there analyzing the economy, predicting the future it still hard.

So, what in the name of Tris Speaker does a stock discussion have to do with the Red Sox?

Well, it reminds me a bit of the sixth inning of last night’s game, and the grief that people keep giving John Farrell.

The Red Sox lost the game against the Royals yesterday due to one bad inning. OK, one horrible inning. A collection of Red Sox pitchers gave up eight runs in the sixth inning, during a game the Sox would go on to lose 10-4. Another case of Farrell mismanaging his pitching staff again, some would say. He doesn’t know how to deal with a bullpen.

Why doesn’t he bring in the good pitchers instead of the bad ones?

Same reason I don’t always buy low and sell high.

How does Farrell know which pitcher is the good one, until he puts him in the game to see how he throws? I’m going to take a wild guess and assume he wasn’t in the dugout thinking “I think this is a good time for Barnes to give up five runs, so I’m going to bring him in.” Giving up the lead isn’t a strategy Farrell was using that backfired. The pitchers just couldn’t get anyone out. 

So, I’m not going to sit there and complain about leaving EdRo in the game for four batters leading off an inning. After all, he got the fourth guy out. When do you take him out, after giving up two baserunners? If that’s your criteria, then you’re going to burn through your bullpen pretty quickly. You could argue he should have been removed after loading the bases. But, Farrell bought low, as it turns out, because EdRo got the next guy out. 

Barnes then came in. Shall we assume Farrell didn’t expect him to start out single-triple? Would he have put him in if that was the case? Certainly not. So, at this point you have a guy at third and one out. The damage has been done. Might as well ride it out a bit. Then it becomes first and third. That might be a good time for a switch. But, it all happened so fast. Was Ross even ready? Was he prepared mentally to enter the game? A grounder back to the pitcher doesn’t result in an out, and Barnes it out, Ross is in.

Again, did Farrell assume Ross would give up two straight singles? Does that suggest that perhaps he wasn’t actually ready to come in, mentally? Because he settled down to end with two grounders.

So, which moves were actually the mismanaged ones? The ones where the pitchers didn’t perform? The ones where Farrell didn’t predict the future? Why do we expect him to know everything that’s going to happen?

If he could do that, he would have bought Disney at $16.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Well, That’s Over

Right off the bat, let’s be honest. For the last month or so, everyone was holding out praise until after the road trip of death. Sure, the Sox may have been playing well at home. Sure, they were hanging in there. But, the road trip was looming. Eleven games in eleven days in four cities. That was going to crush them. That would separate the men from the boys. The pretenders from the contenders. We weren’t even supposed to talk about the prospects of this team until after The Trip. It was all moot until we knew what was going to happen there.

So, wouldn’t you say that finishing the trip with a 7-4 record, and a tie for first place in the East is a good thing?

Oh, sure. The trip ended on a sour note. It would have been nice to have won that Tampa Series. Sure, when the Sox got to Tampa visions of a 9-2 trip were dancing in everyone’s heads. But, the reality is that those last two games are masking a pretty darn good trip.

Honestly, I can’t get too upset about the last two losses anyway. I’d say that the last game of a road trip, resting David Ortiz, and having just lost your starting left fielder the night before, is a pretty decent scenario for conceding a loss. Even if it is to the Rays. If you include the Day game loss following a night game in another city as another conceded loss…the Sox actually went 7-2 in games they could have won.

So I, for one, am pretty excited about things. The Sox took care of business against three playoff contending teams on the road. They’ve set themselves up nicely as they start a weeklong home stand, and a strong run to the end of the season.

Because the best part about finishing that long road trip is finishing it. Earlier in the month the Sox had a remaining schedule stacked with road games against good teams. Right now, the Sox have 16 games at home and 19 on the road. And half of those road games are against sub-.500 teams. The remaining schedule just switched from a major problem to a benefit. 

Because the Sox were able to take care of business on this last trip.

Now they just need to keep rolling.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Red Sox Magic Number Drops to 39!

That’s right. The Red Sox keep on winning. This extensive road trip that was supposed to show exactly what they’re made of is apparently saying that they’re made of playoff contenders!

No, I don’t plan on jumping up and down because the guy that’s supposed to be the Sox ace dominated a terrible team. But, on the whole they’re showing that they can compete with just about anyone in any situation. Last night’s game is one of those trap situations. First game in a new city after playing somewhere else the day before. Your ace is on the mound. The other team is terrible, after three series against playoff caliber teams. If that doesn’t spell “loss of concentration”, I don’t know what does. There are plenty of teams that would have just gone through the motions, and lost that game 2-1. 

Maybe that’s the kind of game that their youth helps with. Aside from the physical aspect, where Mookie Betts can recover from a road trip better than David Ortiz. But, maybe there’s that part were they don’t know any better? They don’t know they’re supposed to lose focus. Xander Bogaerts doesn’t know that after struggling for much of the trip, he should just pack it in and cower in the corner. Instead, he hits a home run to hopefully get out of the slump. 

Because of all that, the Sox find themselves in first place this morning. They have their destiny in their hands, as people seem to love pointing out. If they just win the rest of their games, they don’t need any help from anyone.

They’ve also managed to do it while getting that road trip out of the way. When the month started, you looked at the schedule and saw the vast majority of games on the road, and most of those against good teams. But, now that tilt is much closer to half and half. And there are still 16 games left against the Rays and Yankees. The line-up is finding itself again. The rotation isn’t something I worry about anymore. Things are definitely looking up.

And, they’re already on the top.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Lesson to be Learned

This should serve as a reminder to all the kids out there. You can perform much better if you get a good night's sleep.

Because, that's the only thing that's been able to stop the Red Sox as they've made their way through a torturous road trip. They've pounded two playoff type teams in their parks, just the way they're supposed to. Or, at least hoped to.

Going back to the zombie game, I'm not sure how much of that gets hung on the plane ride. Sure, the bullpen hasn't been as effective as we'd all like. (Which is why Papelbon wouldn't be a bad idea.) But, generally, Ziegler has been good. So, it't odder when he falls apart. Plus, I can see how the lack of sleep would affect a bench guy more than a starter. I know that when I'm over tired coffee can get me going. But, once I sit down for a second, my body just shuts down. I wonder if six innings sitting in the bullpen does the same thing.

But, let's be honest. After five tough games on the road, there was bound to be a stinker. I prefer to say that it took a flukey rally against a team working on zero sleep for the second place team in the Central to beat the Sox at home. 

And after that glitch, the Sox recovered. They didn't spiral. They came back out the next day and smothered the Tigers in a convincing win. They followed that with Pomeranz turning in another top outing. The rain was an annoying factor, as it cut short what was shaping up to be a great outing. But, the bullpen was able to hold on. After all, they had their rest. That gives them four wins in five games of the trip. There are some people who thought the Sox wouldn't get four wins the entire trip.

But, good teams do that. They can beat other good teams. Sure, they won't do it every time and that's frustrating. But more often than not, the good team comes out of top.

And the Red Sox are a good team.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why Not Papelbon?

Red Sox twitter has been filled with a couple topics lately. One is that the Nationals cut ties with nutzo closer Jonathan Papelbon. The general consensus seems to be that the Red Sox need to stay far far away from him. He's a crazy loon who has no place on this team.

The other topic has been the Red Sox bullpen. They have been struggling. It seems that at least one of them struggles in every game. Even when one of them pitches really well (Ziegler) it's to save the game from the implosion of another. Last night's win almost wasn't thanks to the bullpen coughing up the lead that Mookie gave the team. People aren't confident that Kimbrel can have a clean inning. They have no faith in Abad. Tazawa is so exhausted that he even looks tired in the dugout. They're all lamenting that the Sox only made one addition at the trade deadline, and he doesn't seem to be helping.

Get where I'm going with this?

So, the Sox bullpen is terrible. It's their fatal flaw. It could ruin their chances at going deep into the playoffs.

But, they shouldn't take a look at an available bullpen arm?

What's the harm in poking around? What's the harm in having a discussion. If things work out, what's the harm in giving him a try?

Assume things work out the way the Sox would want. Papelbon is willing to sign with a team, and not be the closer. He's not looking for big money because it's just a "prove it" contract for a couple months.

What would be the problem with giving him a try?

Would he be a problem in the clubhouse? He wasn't when he was here last time. Seems to me he fit in pretty well, on a World Championship team. Sure, all his boys are gone from those years. But, think Ortiz or Pedroia would let him get away with too much crap? Or David Price? And, if he does...cut him. Nothing lost except a little cash. He knows it, and you know it. 

Afraid he'd cost you a game? He might. He might go all Gagne and blow up outside the closer role. But, Abad's going to do that anyway, from what I hear. If Tazawa keeps on his current pace, he'll blow three. If Papelbon can't pitch? Cut him.

But, What if he's good? Heck, what if he's adequate? What if he can take even a third of the innings that Tazawa would have to take otherwise? Or Barnes? What if he can hold a few three run leads in the seventh inning?

Because, couldn't he be good? Back in his comfort zone? Back with Farrell? Back in Boston? If it could work anywhere, wouldn't it be Boston?

Isn't it worth a shot?

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Right Mindset

I've heard that some teams have practiced celebrating winning a championship. Get everyone in the dugout, and practice running out into a pig pile. 


It's not because they need to figure out the logistics of the dash from the dugout, or want to make sure everyone can do it without tripping. It's because they want everyone to get in the proper mindset. Personally, I think it's a bit overboard. But, they want the team to think like a champion. Imagine themselves doing it. Get it in their heads that this could actually happen to them. That actually makes a little sense, even if it goes to far.

So, if pretending to accomplish something is helpful, how great would it be to actually do it? That has to be better. Right? That's exactly what the Red Sox have accomplished over the last few days. They had been struggling is a few areas. The offense was hit or miss (pun intended). Their bullpen was blowing games left and right. Their starters were starting, but not exactly finishing. They were in a spiral. 

Then they weren't.

The last four games saw the Sox actually be successful at things that had troubled them the week before. And they didn't even have to pretend. They did it.

Their offense came alive. They saw very clearly that they could score runs. Lots of runs. Off a good pitcher. They saw that the starters could work deep enough to get the win. (Even Clay's short outing was due more to his spot start than his performance.) They saw that the bullpen could hold a lead. Even more important, they saw that one guy struggling does not always lead to a tailspin. If one guy walks the bases loaded, the next guy can strike out the side. It can happen. It can happen against bad teams. And, today, it happened against a first place club.

Because that was really the one piece missing. Sure, they can beat up on the doormats of the National League in Fenway. But, they have a lot of tough games coming up. Tough road games. Can they do it in those games too? 

Yes. Yes they can.

They went into Cleveland on a one game stopgap, and took down the division leaders. Their starter went deep. Their hitters hit home runs off a guy who gives up a lot of them. Their bullpen closed it out.

The Red Sox can do it. We all just saw them do it. They can keep doing it.

They didn't even have to practice it beforehand. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

My Positive ARod Story

As Alex Rodiguez plays in his final game with the Yankees (we assume) I thought it was a good time to tell about a positive experience I had with ARod.

I know. Amazed I actually have one of those.

About 20 years ago, I went to a Red Sox vs. Mariners game at Fenway. Actually, looking at the ticket stub it’s almost exactly 20 years ago. A coworker of mine bought the tickets, so we were sitting in Section 9. We were sitting there before the game, and it was raining. Hard. They were actually telling people that there were thunderstorms in the area and they should take cover under the grandstand. We must have been under the roof, because we were sitting in our seats. (Or, I suppose, we might have been young and stupid enough to sit in the rain.) As we sat there, we noticed a crowd was forming just to the left of the visitor’s dugout. Someone was signing autographs in the rain.

Alex Rodriguez.

My coworker was a big ARod fan. And, why wouldn’t he be? ARod was having a monster year, and should have ended up winning the MVP. So, we discussed whether or not we should go over and try for an autograph. As you know, section 9 is out right field, so it would be quite a distance to walk over there. Not that we weren’t up for the walk. But, really, how long would a guy be out there signing? In the rain?

We decided that we might as well give it a shot and made our way over. Amazingly ARod was still out there when we got there and added ourselves to the scrum. Eventually ARod made his way to me, and I was able to acquire this.

Yup. He signed it upside down. Makes sense, I suppose. The ironic part is that ARod did stop signing not long after we got there, so my coworker was not able to get an autograph. Naturally, I framed up mine nicely and kept it in the office where he could see it at all times.

You may wonder why this game isn’t included in my ARod Live list. Well, did I mention the rain? After sitting in it for long enough, we gave up and went home. Of course, my coworker tried to insist that he needed my ticket stub in order to get a refund for the ticket after the game was rained out. I assured him that I was willing to eat the cost and keep my stub. As it turned out, the rain did eventually stop and they got the game in after all. 

I always thought it was incredibly nice of ARod to be out there. It was raining. Nobody else was out there doing anything. But there he was signing autographs in a visiting park. It wasn’t for Mariners fans, it was for Red Sox fans, and he was still out there.

Have to give him credit for that. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ichiro Suzuki Live

You may have heard. It was in all the papers. Ichiro notched the 3,000th hit of his major league career yesterday. I remember when Ichiro first came into the league, and his rookie cards were hot items. I remember thinking that people buying his cards were crazy. Sure, he was a great player. Sure he’d have some good years. But, he was 27 already. Not only is that old to start a career, but his game is based almost entirely on speed. If he lost a step or two, it would really show when he stopped beating out infield hits. His career was limited. He wouldn’t have enough time left to have a Hall of Fame type career. He may hit almost 300 hits a year for a while, but he doesn’t have the time left to reach a career milestone like 2,500 hits. Certainly not 3,000.

Yeah, I’m an idiot.

That was my first though upon hearing the news. My second? A question.

How many of those 3,000 hits did I see in person? I knew I had seen Ichiro play live. I must have seen a bunch of those hits. So, I grabbed the scorebooks again to find the answer:

Yup. Two. Ichiro had 2 hits with me in the stadium, and 2,998 without me. Apparently I’m not a lucky charm of any sort. In fact, of the three games I saw him play, he only got a hit in one of them. 

The thing that I think is even more significant than the two hits, though, is the last entry. April 10 of 2007, Ichiro was 0-3 with three strikeouts. How often could that have happened in his career? Josh Beckett apparently knew something that other people did not. Or, Beckett was just THAT good in 2007.

Beyond that, the small sample size makes most of the other numbers meaningless. I don’t see Ichiro getting 189 walks in a season. Nor do I see him batting .286. 

But, that doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that I got to see a great player do what he does best. 


How did Ichiro perform when you were in the park?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Hello? Is This On?

Hi there! Miss me? I  know, it's been weirdly quiet over here this last week or so. Basically, I was out of town for a bit, and didn't dare schedule posts over the trade deadline. I knew once I did, the Sox would package Betts and bradley in a trade and everything i said would look ridiculous. (Almost as ridiculous as packaging Betts and Bradley in any trade that didn't return Harper and Scherzer.) Things were odd enough with all the west coast games as it was. You did't need me spouting off on things that didn't happen.

So, what did happen? A mixed bag really. Lots of wins, some losses. The division and the wild card standings are so packed that the Sox can go from leading both to being out of the playoffs practically overnight. Various injuries have caused the Sox to be without their usual line-up for quite a while now. So, things are really jumbled. 

Which is good, in a way. The Sox went (and are going through) a stretch where they don't have Pedroia, Ortiz, and Hanley in the line-up at one time. But, they sit merely 2 games out of the division lead, and have the second wild card by half a game. Imagine what will happen when everyone is, you know, actually playing.

Same goes for the rest of the team. The Sox just got Kimbrel back from the DL, but Koji is still there. So, the bullpen isn't full strength yet. Even so, they were able to throw five scoreless innings the other night to help the team get a win. Once again, the Sox are holding their own without being at fill strength.

Imagine how much fun these last two months will be once they get rolling.

2 games will be nothing!

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