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Nuggetpalooza: Some Baseball Nuggets

02.25.11 at 12:13 pm ET
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Emptying out the old notebook with some odds and ends, just in case there aren’t any more good quotes from Pedroia today:

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* – THE HITTERS YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO RETIRE – Over the last four years, players that ended the season with 200+ plate appearances and an OPS under .700 batted over 133,000 times in total.  Here are the pitchers that faced at least 100 such “light hitters” and allowed the lowest OPS over that span:

.290 – Neftali Feliz: .086 average (8-for-93) with 0 HR
.294 – Mariano Rivera: .110 average (15-for-136) with 0 HR
.375 – Carlos Marmol: .095 average (21-for-220) with 0 HR
.386 – Rafael Soriano: .145 average (22-for-152) with 0 HR

Who has been the best Red Sox pitcher at retiring these below average hitters over the last four seasons?

.519 – Jonathan Papelbon: .182 average, 4 HR (185 PA)
.560 – Daisuke Matsuzaka: .196 average, 9 HR (531 PA)
.564 – Clay Buchholz: .216 average, 2 HR (314 PA)
.599 – John Lackey: .228 average, 8 HR (614 PA)
.616 – Josh Beckett: .228 average, 8 HR (583 PA)
.636 – Jon Lester: .236 average, 10 HR (563 PA)

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* – WHO KEEPS POWER HITTERS FROM HITTING WITH POWER? – In 2010, Washington’s Livan Hernandez faced 110 batters that ended the season with 25 or more home runs and never allowed a homer. Here are the best and worst HR/PA rates against 25+ home run hitters last year (min. 100 such batters faced):

.000 – Livan Hernandez, WSN (0-of-110)
.006 – David Price, TB (1-of-163)
.008 – Josh Johnson, FLA (1-of-119)
.010 – Carlos Zambrano, CHC (1-of-104)

Here are the worst rates (same minimums):

.096 – Ian Kennedy, ARZ (11-of-114)
.096 – Kevin Millwood, BAL (13-of-136)
.091 – Josh Beckett, BOS (10-of-110)
.091 – AJ Burnett, NYY (10-of-110)

How about the best such rates over the last four seasons (min. 200 such batters faced)?

.020 – Ubaldo Jimenez (9-of-451)
.020 – Josh Johnson (7-of-349)
.022 – Chad Billingsley (12-of-534)
.024 – Aaron Laffey (5-of-206)
.024 – Tim Wakefield (8-of-328)

And the worst since the start of 2007:

.097 – Armando Gallaraga (23-of-238)
.089 – Adam Eaton (23-of-257)
.084 – David Bush (37-of-442)
.083 – Todd Wellemeyer (29-of-348)

Here’s the current Red Sox staff’s figures from 2007-2010:

.024 – Tim Wakefield (5-of-206)
.026 – Bobby Jenks (2-of-78)
.035 – Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-of-313)
.045 – Jon Lester (19-of-419)
.047 – Hideki Okajima (7-of-148)
.049 – Jonathan Papelbon (8-of-164)
.049 – Daniel Bard (5-of-102)
.057 – Josh Beckett (26-of-457)
.067 – John Lackey (28-of-451)

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* – YOU REALLY WANT TO RUN PAPS OUT OF TOWN?: Ever wonder which pitchers get results in REALLY TIGHT situations? Say, in the 7th inning or later, ahead by one or score tied, with two outs and runners in scoring position?  Here are the pitchers that have performed the best (i.e. lowest OPS allowed) in those spots over the last four seasons (min. 40 such batters faced):

.391 – Rafael Betancourt (6-for-45 with 0 HR, 13 strikeouts and 6 walks)
.418 – Jonathan Papelbon (7-for-55 with 0 HR, 21 strikeouts and 10 walks)
.455 – Ryan Franklin (4-for-44 with 1 HR, 8 strikeouts and 9 walks)
.469 – Kerry Wood (3-for-29 with 0 HR, 13 strikeouts and 10 walks)

Note this: Papelbon’s strikeout percentage (31.8 percent) ranks third, behind Jonathan Broxton (35.1 percent) and Heath Bell (32.1 percent).

And this: Papelbon’s OPS allowed with the game on the line, by year:

2007: .476 (1-for-7)
2008: .481 (3-for-14)
2009: .471 (2-for-18)
2010: .273 (1-for-16)

And the worst performers (same minimums):

1.175 – Octavio Dotel (9-for-32, 3 HR)
0.944 – Matt Capps (16-for-50, 3 HR)
0.875 – Kevin Gregg (13-for-53, 2 HR and 17 walks)
0.870 – Brian Fuentes (10-for-34, 1 HR)

I should give an honorable mention here to Kyle Farnsworth, who has only faced 14 batters with the “game on the line” over the last four seasons but has managed to allow a 1.896 OPS in those spots (7-for-11 with 3 walks and 2 HR). Actually, if there was an award for this, it should probably be NAMED after Farnsworth.

Another shout to new Red Sox’ Dan Wheeler, who has allowed a less-than-stellar .945 OPS to 35 “game on the line” batters since 2007, allowing them to go 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer. Silver lining? He held them to 0-for-2 last season.

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Have a great weekend!

Dustin Pedroia: ‘We’re going to kick BC’s (gluteus maximus)’

02.25.11 at 9:12 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clearly one Red Sox player is ready to start playing again.

“We’re going to kick BC’s (butt),” said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, exuding a healthy dose of fake intensity. (Note to Pedroia: It will be tough to top the 24-0 Sox win over Boston College in 2008.)

All kidding aside, the game is of some importance to Pedroia, who hasn’t seen real action since last Aug. 18.

“My biggest thing is to get out there and just get in the flow of the game and make sure I’€™m healthy and feel good. And just see pitches,” he said. “Just like any normal game the first game I’€™m out there. Just see pitches, get used to everything and that’€™s it. I just can’€™t wait. It’€™s going to be fun.’€

The enthusiasm regarding leaving the team’s minor-league training facility and heading two miles down Edison Ave. for real games at City of Palms Park wasn’t reserved just for Pedroia. The players were in particularly good moods as they ventured into a day which included a short workout and subsequent charity golf tournament.

After Friday, after all, real games begin, starting with the traditional doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern.

The lineups for the two games are as follows …

Against BC: Marco Scutaro SS, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Kevin Youkilis 1B, Darnell McDonald LF, Ryan Kalish CF, Lars Anderson 1B, Josh Reddick RF, Ryan Lavarnway C, and Stolmy Pimentel gets the start on the mound.

In the night-cap vs. the Huskies the batting order will be: Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Jed Lowrie SS, Mike Cameron DH, Daniel Nava LF, Luis Exposito C, Hector Luna 1B, Yamaico Navarro 3B, Omar Linares RF, Larry Sutton C. Getting the start will be Kyle Weiland.

Notable inactive: Carl Crawford, who will make his Red Sox debut Sunday night against the Twins.

Lenny DiNardo confident he is on the right path with the Red Sox

02.24.11 at 10:29 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The participants in the Red Sox‘ major league camp are long gone. It is now late afternoon, and the bus load of minor-leaguers have been dropped off at the Sox’ minor-league training facility two miles down the road from City of Palms Park.

Mingling among the group is Lenny DiNardo.

The lefty pitcher has not only accepted a minor-league deal with the Red Sox heading into the 2011 season, but he is making his return to the organization without an invitation to major-league camp. Thus, the image of DiNardo doing wind sprints with players 10 years his junior.

It is a road the 31-year-old is willing to take thanks in part to the confidence he feels after struggling through an injury-plagued ’10 season in the Oakland minor-league system. The last time DiNardo was in the major leagues was ’09 with the Royals, and until this month he hadn’t worn a Red Sox cap since ’06.

But now — three seasons removed from his best big-league campaign, in which he went 8-10 with a 4.11 EA in 20 starts with the A’s — DiNardo is confident that he can find a spot with the Red Sox sometime in the near future, perhaps as a lefty reliever. The first step was to prove his health while working out with the minor leaguers. (He had bone spurs removed from his left elbow midway through the ’10 season.) Step two will be potentially pitching in relief in the Sox’ first Grapefruit League game, Sunday night against Minnesota.

After that is when DiNardo hopes some real momentum is gathered, and the days of proving himself among the organization’s young guns are firmly in the rear-view mirror.

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Will Kevin Youkilis be cleaning up for the 2011 Red Sox? That’s a definite maybe

02.24.11 at 4:43 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — No, Red Sox manager Terry Francona didn’t announce his Opening Day lineup for April 1 in Texas on Thursday.

Nor did he announce who will be the first Red Sox pitcher of the 2011 regular season against the defending American League champions.

But in raving about Kevin Youkilis, Francona did provide perhaps a clue as to which way he might be leaning as it pertains to the middle of the order.

“He’s really taken it to another level,” Francona said. “I don’t know if I could sit here and tell you that in 2004, that spring training, that we’d see him be our clean-up hitter, and be thrilled.”

The Red Sox were certainly thrilled when Youkilis, who has batted in every spot in the order since breaking in during the 2004 season, embraced the cleanup role in 2008 and broke out with 29 homers and 115 RBIs. He followed that up in ’09 by belted 27 homers and driving in 94 runs. Then, in his injury-shortened season last year, he still batted .307 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs in 102 games.

He has been the cleanup hitter in 242 of his 730 career starts, accounting for almost exactly one-third of his starts.

Francona acknowledged that if Youkilis does this year what he did last year as the club’s cleanup hitter, he’ll have no problem letting him do so again in 2011.

“He never gives an at-bat away, ever,” Francona said. “He grinds out every at-bat, which not only leads to him being a productive hitter but how many times have you seen Youk have a long at-bat and the next guy come up and gets a pitch to handle because the [pitcher] is just frustrated. That happens repeatedly.

“He just never gives an at-bat away. He grinds and he grinds and he grinds and he swings at strikes, plus he’s a really good hitter. It’s a combination of a lot of things that makes him, in my opinion, one of the premier hitters in the league.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis, MLB

How Hideki Okajima found his way in Australia

02.24.11 at 1:49 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hideki Okajima knew he needed a change, so the 35-year-old took action.

A few days ago, Okajima told Japanese reporters that he thought he had found something while working out in Australia in the offseason that could potentially change his fortunes around. What was it?

“It’s coming along well but you never know until you face live batters,” he said. “But up until this point it’s going well.

“I started pitching against batters in January. I tried it out then and it seemed to be working well so it really felt like something I could use when I came over here.”

In other words, he’s not going to get specific (yet).

But after talking in vague terms in regard to his new weapon, Okajima did get specific regarding how he fine-tuned his new approach. For the inaugural time in his professional career, the reliever brought in a professional hitter to face him during his Australian workouts.

“This was the first time I brought along a player from the independent league in Japan, so he’s a professional player who also played at the university level. He’s a very good batter, so that’s different than previous years when I only faced amateur players,” Okajima explained. “I was able to face a batter at the level where I could figure things out, so that was different this year.”

The reason for Okajima’s alteration was more than just looking for a higher caliber of hitter. He understood that perhaps his biggest problem throughout 2010 was an inability to get right-handed hitters out. Righties hit .340 against the southpaws, despite allowing just a .238 clip in Sept.

“Japanese batters, righties, are good at hitting the inside pitching,” he explained. “That was an area I had to work on, so that was an area I was able to test things out and see what could happen in the major leagues.”

Red Sox notes Thursday: Felix Doubront shut down for 10 days, Jon Lester and John Lackey get their orders

02.24.11 at 1:38 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Better safe than sorry is the approach the Red Sox are taking with lefty prospect Felix Doubront.

He will be shut down as a precaution over the next two weeks as he rests his throwing elbow. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said the 23 year-old Venezeulan pitcher complained of tightness in his elbow, causing the team to take the safe approach.

“Doubront has exhibited a little bit of a tight elbow, which he has had in the past,” Francona said. “We’re going to take a little bit of a cautious approach and shut him down for probably 10 days to two weeks so you won’t see him out there for the near future.”

Doubront, an amateur free agent signing in 2005, made his big league debut for the Red Sox in 2010, going 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 12 appearances, including three starts. Francona said the team examined his elbow and determined there was nothing seriously wrong.

“He was examined and everything structually is fine but he’s had this before and we’d rather not go three or four days and have him throw and nurse it through,” Francona said. “He’s too young, potentially too good. We’d rather take more of a cautious approach.”

Francona said slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez took 36 swings off a tee on Thursday morning after taking Wednesday off.

“He’ll do the same thing again [Friday],” Francona said Thursday morning. “He’s building up volume as he goes. It’ll probably be 2-3 day increments and he did real well, tolerated everything.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Adrian Gonzalez goes 3-for-4 for Red Sox

02.24.11 at 9:17 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — In his third day of testing the surgically repaired labrum in his right shoulder, Adrian Gonzalez hit off a batting tee for approximately 10 minutes on Thursday.

With trainer Mike Reinold looking on, he increased his load up to 35 swings just before 8 a.m. after starting out with 20 on Monday and 30 on Tuesday. Gonzalez took Wednesday off in what Red Sox manager Terry Francona termed was a “re-gen” day to let it rest and see how it responded after two straight days.

Hitting coach Dave Magadan, who observed his swings earlier in the week, was busy watching Jarrod Saltalamacchia also hit off a tee, a sign the Red Sox aren’t overly concerned about Gonzalez’s mechanics or his work load.

Gonzalez told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford he felt comfortable and reassured with his first swing on Monday and has made progress ever since.

Francona, who said he has been very impressed with Gonzalez’s work ethic, has not placed a specific timetable on his return to live batting practice or participation in spring training games.

Gonzalez first felt pain in his right shoulder last May with the Padres and managed to play through the pain and finished with 160 games played, a .298 average with 31 homers and 101 RBIs.

Read More: 2011 Spring Training, adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, Dave Magadan
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