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Boxscore Breakdown: Another Runner Out At Home

07.21.10 at 10:44 am ET
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I guess the bright side of last night’s loss was that the Red Sox are now one day closer to getting healthy and they didn’t lose any ground to New York or Tampa Bay. I guess.

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* – David Ortiz was thrown out at home trying to score from first base on a double by Kevin Youkilis in the first inning last night. Since the start of the 2009 season, Ortiz has been on first when a double was hit 17 times and last night was the first time that he has been sent home.

His “Try%” (percentage of the time sent home from first on a double) is the lowest in the majors in that span (min. 10 opportunities since 2009):

5.9% – David Ortiz (1-17)
6.7% – Bengie Molina (1-15)
8.3% – Mike Lowell (1-12)

It was the 3rd time this season that the Sox have had a runner thrown out at home trying to score from first on a double, tied with four others for the most in the majors.

It should be noted that they’ve had the most opportunities (91) and the most successful tries (30), although in the AL only Seattle (34%) has a lower “Try%” than Boston’s 36%.

Since the start of the 2007 season, Boston has had 14 runners thrown out attempting to score from 1st on a double, the most in the majors:

14 – Boston Red Sox
13 – Florida Marlins
11 – Seven teams tied

Tampa Bay has had only 3 such runners thrown out in the last 3 1/2 seasons, the fewest in the majors.

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* – Despite Ortiz getting nailed last night, the Red Sox continue to be more aggressive about trying to take the extra base in 2010 than in recent years.

A runner has an opportunity to take an extra base when he’s on first on a single (taking third) or a double (scoring) or when he’s on second (scoring) when a single is hit.

During the five seasons from 2004 through 2008, the Red Sox’ “Try%” was the lowest in the majors every year (between 33% and 36% each year). In 2009, they tried to advance on 37% of their opportunities (3rd lowest).

But so far in 2010, they are trying to advance 41% of the time and 10 teams have a “Try%” lower than the Red Sox.

When you consider that Fenway Park, specifically the proximity of the “Green Monster” in left field, negatively affects their “Try%” every season, their 41% mark in 2010 really stands out.

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* – Last night in Oakland, the Red Sox collected 12 hits with 8 of them coming before the end of the 3rd inning. It was the 16th time this season that Boston has banged out more hits in the first three innings than they’ve gotten the rest of the game, 3rd most in the AL behind the Angels (19) and Rangers (18).

Fortunately, the Red Sox have gone 11-5 in those games, the 2nd best such record in the AL, trailing only the Yankees (9-4) and just ahead of the Angels (12-7).

In 2009, the Sox offense had 32 such games and managed only a 16-16 record. Only Baltimore (33) and Texas (33) had more such games in the AL while the best records in those games belonged to the Yankees (15-4) and the Angels (15-8).

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* – It was the 7th time this season that Boston has not had an RBI after the 2nd inning and the Sox are now 2-5 in those games. It’s the 2nd lowest number of such games in the majors this season (the Yankees have 6). Speaking of the Yankees, did you know that they are 0-26 in those games since the start of the 2008 season, the only team in the majors without such a win.

(Note: I have to use RBI for this stat because my database cannot account for runs scored on errors, passed balls, wild pitches, stolen bases, or balks.)

Lucchino on D&C: Luxury tax not a worry

07.21.10 at 10:01 am ET
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Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino talked to the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, and with the trade deadline fast approaching, one of the biggest topics of conversation was the Red Sox off-the-field plans as they gear up for the final stretch. Lucchino was quick to dismiss any notion that the team will not pursue top trade targets despite recent reports that it has gone above the luxury-tax threshold.

“We are at the bottom end of the tax threshold. We’re not at the highest tax rate. We’re at the lowest tax rate,” Lucchino said. “But [the idea that we’d spend less] is just not true. I’m telling you. I know what our financial plans are, and that is not true. We have money set aside to acquire talent if we can find it, but having said that this is not a promise or a prediction that a trade will happen. We’re not going to do something just to keep our record alive by making deals on July 31.”

Lucchino was also quick to back the Red Sox training and medical staff, which has come under fire given the team’s recent run of injuries and especially after Jacoby Ellsbury expressed that he was misdiagnosed.

“We have a world-class medical staff. That’s not to say that they are perfect in all situations and can foresee the future in all situations. We are extremely proud of the medical staff we have from Mass General and our orthopedists, our internalists, our specialists. We are proud of them, and they do a fine, professional job so let’s dispense with that. We made a change when we got here a year or two into our ownership, and that’s one of the desirable ones.”

What follows are some more highlights from the interview. To hear the interview in its entirety, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Will the news about you guys being above the luxury tax affect how the moves you’€™ll make before July 31?

We are at the bottom end of the tax threshold. We’re not at the highest tax rate. We’re at the lowest tax rate. But that’€™s just not true. I’m telling you. I know what our financial plans are, and that is not true. We have money set aside to acquire talent if we can find it, but having said that this is not a promise or a prediction that a trade will happen. We’re not going to do something just to keep our record alive by making deals on July 31.  It’€™s got to be a deal that makes sense. Theo [Epstein] parts with prospects less willingly than he would part with his first-born. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: George Steinbrenner, Larry Lucchino, Trade deadline,

Merloni/Red Sox noontime chat

07.21.10 at 9:38 am ET
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Join WEEI’s Lou Merloni in talking all things Red Sox in a live chat, starting at noon Wednesday. To participate click below:

Lou Merloni Red Sox chat

The Red Sox’ injury survival guide

07.20.10 at 6:11 pm ET
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The Red Sox offense has been anemic in the second half. In five games, the Sox have managed two runs on three separate occasions, three runs once and four runs once. What had been the most prolific offense in the majors in the first half has sputtered, no great surprise given that the list of players on the disabled list features what seems like a complete team.

Yet while the absence of offense certainly makes the Sox’ playoff ambitions more challenging, it does not rule out completely the possibility of winning. Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Athletics offered a case in point. Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Sox bullpen turned in a dominant performance, allowing the Sox to win, 2-1.

The Sox have now won six games this year in which they have scored two or fewer runs, tied (with the Twins and Mariners) for the most such victories in the American League. That is all the more impressive given that they have had just 23 games in which they’ve scored two or fewer runs, tied for the sixth fewest in baseball. The Red Sox have a .261 winning percentage in games when they score fewer than three runs, the top mark in the AL.

So, while the Sox find themselves at a point of the season in which they are struggling to score runs, they can take solace that they do a better job of winning low scoring games than any of their American League competitors.

Rk Tm Year #Matching ‘–¾ W L
1 SEA 2010 43 6 37 Ind. Games
2 BAL 2010 39 1 38 Ind. Games
3 HOU 2010 39 3 36 Ind. Games
4 PIT 2010 38 8 30 Ind. Games
5 CHC 2010 37 3 34 Ind. Games
6 STL 2010 30 4 26 Ind. Games
7 SFG 2010 30 4 26 Ind. Games
8 OAK 2010 29 2 27 Ind. Games
9 WSN 2010 29 3 26 Ind. Games
10 LAA 2010 29 3 26 Ind. Games
11 ARI 2010 29 4 25 Ind. Games
12 PHI 2010 29 7 22 Ind. Games
13 CLE 2010 27 2 25 Ind. Games
14 SDP 2010 27 9 18 Ind. Games
15 MIL 2010 26 2 24 Ind. Games
16 CHW 2010 26 5 21 Ind. Games
17 FLA 2010 26 7 19 Ind. Games
18 KCR 2010 25 2 23 Ind. Games
19 MIN 2010 25 6 19 Ind. Games
20 LAD 2010 25 6 19 Ind. Games
21 NYM 2010 24 3 21 Ind. Games
22 COL 2010 24 7 17 Ind. Games
23 TBR 2010 23 2 21 Ind. Games
24 ATL 2010 23 2 21 Ind. Games
25 BOS 2010 23 6 17 Ind. Games
26 DET 2010 21 1 20 Ind. Games
27 CIN 2010 20 2 18 Ind. Games
28 TOR 2010 18 1 17 Ind. Games
29 TEX 2010 18 3 15 Ind. Games
30 NYY 2010 14 3 11 Ind. Games
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/20/2010.

Molina returns to Pawtucket

07.20.10 at 5:28 pm ET
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Catcher Gustavo Molina, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Sunday, has cleared waivers and will return to Triple A Pawtucket with the PawSox in the midst of a four-game series with the Toledo Mud Hens.

Molina, 28, went 1-for-7 in the four games he appeared in for the Red Sox. He was called up on June 29 due to the injuries of catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek, but with the team carrying three catchers on Sunday (Dusty Brown, Kevin Cash), a backstop was expendable when the team called up pitcher Michael Bowden.

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Gammons: Rockies rejected offer of Lowrie for Iannetta

07.20.10 at 3:42 pm ET
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According to a tweet from Peter Gammons, the Rockies are not actively looking to move catcher Chris Iannetta. In fact, tweets Gammons, they rejected a proposed swap from the Red Sox of infielder Jed Lowrie for the catcher.

One reason as to why the Rockies may be leaning towards keeping the 27-year-old is that he could potentially play first base if incumbent Todd Helton, who has battled back and hamstring issues this season, doesn’t last in his return from the disabled list.

A native of Providence, R.I., Iannetta has a career batting average of .240 but an on-base percentage of .358. He has played in only 27 games this season and has spent time at the Triple A level. He has seven homers in 106 plate appearances this season, playing in 27 games and hitting at a .220 clip.

Lowrie, 26, has been rehabbing after missing the first half of the season with mononucleosis. The 45th overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, Lowrie has has hit .235 with a .313 OBP in 113 games in the majors.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, chris iannetta, Jed Lowrie,

Boxscore Breakdown: Late Monday Road Win!

07.20.10 at 10:05 am ET
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The Red Sox began their critical, 10 game, road trip on the right foot last night in Oakland. Here are a few things I noticed from the boxscore:

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* – Daisuke Matsuzaka has allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in 21 of 27 road starts since the start of the 2008 season (78%). That’s the 4th best percentage by an AL pitcher in that span (min. 25 road starts):

86.0% – Felix Hernandez
83.3% – Cliff Lee
78.1% – Roy Halladay
77.8% – Daisuke Matsuzaka
77.3% – Zack Grienke

That’s some pretty impressive company!

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* – Coming into last night, the Red Sox’ team ERA in Oakland since 2005 was 4.81, 2nd highest among AL teams in that span (Cleveland, 5.86).

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* – Monday’s game was Boston’s 31st one-run game this season, tied with Minnesota and Toronto for the 2nd most such games in the AL (Kansas City has played 32). The Sox are now 16-15 in those games. Last year, Boston played only 39 one-run games (22-17), the 4th fewest in the AL.

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* – The Red Sox had allowed 2+ earned runs in 15 straight games prior to Monday night (June 27 in SF). It was their longest such streak of the season and tied for the 2nd longest such streak by any AL East team this year (Baltimore, 28).

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* – Boston managed only 8 hits, their 6th straight game with 8 or fewer. Their longest such streak since 2000 is 7 games (done 3 times, last in 2006). It was also their 6th straight scoring 4 runs or fewer which is also one short of their longest such streak since 2000 (done 5 times, last time was July, 2009).

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* – Adrian Beltre had his 10th game of the season with 3 or more hits last night and the Sox are 9-1 in those games. Among the 16 players with 10 or more such games, only David Wright’s team (the Mets) have won more often as they are 10-1 when Wright gets 3+ hits. It should be noted that Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria has 9 such games and the Rays have won all 9.

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* – Sox reliever Daniel Bard got the final out in the 8th inning after falling behind 3-0. Going into Monday’s game, Red Sox pitchers had fallen behind 3-0 on 158 batters and retired only 33 of them, allowing a major league worst 1.609 OPS. Bard himself has now fallen behind 3-0 on 20 batters and retired 2 of them (17 walks, 1 hit allowed).

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* – Boston extended their streak with 2+ extra-base hits to 21 games last night, the longest current streak in the majors and four short of the longest of the 2010 season (Cincinnati, 25). The Red Sox have had only two such streaks of 30+ games since 1920: a 33-gamer in 1997 and a 40-gamer in 1998. The all-time longest streak with 2+ EBH is 49 games, by the 1937 Yankees.

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* – The Red Sox have now won 21 of the last 25 games in which David Ortiz has driven in a run, but 3 of those losses have come since June 30.

Red Sox vs. A’s matchups, 7/20

07.20.10 at 10:01 am ET
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Monday night’s 2-1 win at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum certainly can qualify as one of the biggest wins of the season for the Sox, considering the importance of this 10-game West Coast road trip. With the Sox knowing they cannot afford to lose many more series in the second half if they want to hang with Tampa Bay and New York, beating Oakland could prove to be the perfect cure for a group plagued by injuries.

Tim Wakefield (3-8, 5.65 ERA) takes the ball Tuesday night, hoping to forget about his last two starts and prove he is capable of staying in the rotation for the remainder of the season. With Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz returning from the disabled list this week, the veteran knuckleballer could use a strong outing to solidify himself in the rotation, although it is unlikely he will stay put after Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s impressive outing on Monday. Wakefield has struggled of late, having gone only two innings his last outing against Texas — the shortest outing of the season for him — giving up eight hits and six runs en route to a 7-2 loss. The month of July has not been kind to Wakefield. So far this month he has pitched only 15 2/3 innings, giving up 14 earned runs to total a hefty 8.04 ERA.

The Athletics have a few hitters with some success against Wakefield in the past. Jack Cust, in 25 plate appearances, has an impressive .455 average to go along with three doubles and three RBI. Kurt Suzuki has a .400 average in 16 plate appearances to go with a double and two home runs.

Toeing the rubber for the A’s will be 26-year-old Dallas Braden. Since throwing the 19th perfect game in MLB history on May 9, Braden (4-7, 3.83 ERA) has struggled. That historic outing against Tampa Bay was his last win, as he has lost five decisions since. He does have an impressive numbers at home, compiling a 3-4 record and a 3.15 ERA. With Braden coming off the disabled list and having not pitched since June 22, it will be interesting to see how many pitches the A’s will afford the young left-hander. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dallas Braden, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield,

Beltre contemplates (sort of) the future

07.20.10 at 6:40 am ET
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Adrian Beltre authored yet another huge performance in his remarkable season with the Red Sox. The third baseman delivered one of his most crucial hits of the year, blasting a solo homer to deep left-center in the top of the fourth inning to provide the Sox with the margin of victory in their 2-1 win over the Athletics.

That was part of a three-hit night (Beltre’€™s team-leading 10th such game of the 2010 season) that improved the third baseman’€™s average to .333 with a .924 OPS, 15 homers and 58 RBI this year. The performance offered a reminder about how fortunate the Sox are that Beltre came to Boston this year.

The A’€™s, after all, were one of the teams that was most aggressive in its pursuit of the 31-year-old this offseason. Oakland made a multi-year offer to the third baseman, hoping to capitalize on his injury-induced struggles of 2009 to take advantage of a buy-low opportunity.

Beltre declined, instead taking a one-year, $9 million deal with the Sox that included a $5 million player option for 2011 (a cosmetic option whose primary purpose was to diminish the luxury tax hit of his contract).

Now, of course, he is positioned to cash in on his tremendous season with what will be ‘€“ barring a major injury ‘€“ more lucrative multi-year deals this coming winter. He is currently leading all big league third basemen in average (.333), slugging (.550) and OPS (.921). Yet Beltre insists that he has given little thought to what he will seek in his next contract.

‘€œI don’€™t think about stuff like that. Too early. I don’€™t see ahead. I don’€™t see behind. I’€™m not really thinking about that now,’€ Beltre said at the All-Star Game last week. ‘€œI took a chance to come here, one year instead of a multi-year contract, to have a chance to put a ring on my finger. That’€™s what I’€™m concentrating on this year. After that, whether we do or we don’€™t, I’€™ll make the decision then with my family, depending on the options we have.’€

Beltre’€™s uncertainty about his next contract goes beyond the marketplace. The third baseman acknowledges that he is uncertain how much longer he wants to remain in the game, even as some surprising milestones come into view.

Beltre now has 265 career homers, putting him just behind Brooks Robinson (268) for No. 19 in baseball history among third baseman. (For the full list, click here.) Beltre’€™s relative youth suggests a reasonable possibility that he could join the very short list (Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones and Darrell Evans) of third basemen to hit 400 or more homers in their careers. With 1,813 career hits, he would even appear to have at least a remote chance of 3,000 career knocks.

But the idea of a place in baseball annals serves as little motivation for Beltre when considering how long he wants to play.

‘€œI don’€™t play for goals. I don’€™t play for numbers. I don’€™t care about numbers,’€ said Beltre, who has remained on the field despite a painful left hamstring injury. ‘€œThis game takes a lot out of you. I’€™m a family man. Thank God, I’€™m financially OK. When this game starts getting tougher and you start realizing that you need more time with the kids, to see them growing up, you might hang it up sooner. Who knows?

‘€œIt’€™s not easy to say I’€™m going home, and then you go home and miss the game. It’€™s a tough call. For now I’€™m OK, but I don’€™t know for how long I’€™m going to play.’€

For the Sox and Beltre alike, the future is a less pressing consideration than the fact of the third baseman’s ongoing presence in the lineup. And on Monday, he offered a reminder of how fortunate the Sox are by giving a glimpse in Oakland of what could have been for the A’s.

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How much is too much for the Red Sox?

07.19.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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The last quarter century of franchise history offers little promise for the Red Sox.

After 92 games, the Sox own a 52-40 record. That is their worst mark at this stage of the year since 2005, but even so, it is better than the record that the Sox featured at this stage of the season in both 2005 (50-42) and 2004 (51-41), two years in which the club reached the playoffs, one of which ended with a World Series title.

Injuries aside (and obviously, that is a big element of the 2010 Red Sox to set aside), the problem facing the Sox is not so much their performance to this stage of the season as it is their competition. Even a healthy team would find it challenging to erase the deficits that now confront the Sox.

The idea that the Sox can overcome their 6 1/2 game deficit to the Yankees in the American League East or the three games by which they trail the Rays in the wild card is not unrealistic, but it is unlikely, at least based on a review of franchise history of the last couple decades.

During their current run of playoff appearances in six of the last seven years, the Sox have spent most of their time leading the pack rather than trying to catch it. In their playoff seasons, the largest deficit that the team has overcome after the 92-game marker of the season has been two games, a deficit by which the Sox trailed the A’s in August 2003.

Indeed, the last time that the Sox were able to surmount a pennant race deficit of at least three games took place in 1988. That year, the firing of manager John McNamara after 85 games and his replacement by Joe Morgan resulted in immediate results. Still, though the Sox won the first seven games under Morgan, they were still five games back in the division through 92 games. They kept winning, went up by six games and then ultimately held on to win the division by a single game.

Of course, the Morgan Magic Sox were able to reach the playoffs in no small part because they were playing in a division of mediocrity. That year, Boston claimed the American League East with a mark of 89-73.

This year’s Sox have been playing better baseball to this point of the year than their 1988 predecessors. As things stand, the Sox are on pace to win 92 games. Moreover, it is somewhat misleading to suggest that the recent playoff teams highlight the difficulty of the Sox’ task. Instead, the teams that have made the postseason a standard element of the season under GM Theo Epstein have been so good that they have almost never faced second-half deficits of more than a couple games.

And there are recent examples of other clubs that have overcome significant deficits in the final 70 games of the year to reach the postseason. The 2009 Twins, for instance, wiped out a seven-game deficit in September (thanks in no small part to a Motor City meltdown by the Tigers). The 2008 Phillies benefited from a September collapse by the Mets in climbing out of a 3 1/2 game hole in the season’s final weeks. The 2007 Colorado Rockies wiped out a 4 1/2 game hole in the final couple weeks of their season to claim the wild card.

All the same, it is fair to suggest that it is unusual for a club to climb out of such holes. Indeed, the examples of the last few years all featured relatively mediocre clubs or races in which 90 wins were enough to claim a playoff victory. This year, the Sox face a somewhat more imposing challenge given how much they trail the front-runners by and the quality of their competition.

That does not rule out the possibility of a comeback for the Sox, particularly if the club can return to full health in the relatively near future. The Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report gives the Sox a 33 percent chance of a coveted October spot.

All the same, a team that will look for any piece of promise it can get amidst a particularly gloomy stretch of the season might consider raiding a warehouse for 22-year-old Morgan Magic T-shirts.

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