Saturday, April 20, 2013

Red Hot Red Sox

by Hal Bent

The Boston Red Sox have stormed out the gate so far this spring (as of 4/20 at 10:00AM) with an impressive 11-4 start built largely upon the backs of impressive starting pitching through the first 15 games of the young season.  Thinking that the Red Sox start is attributable to good pitching and then seeing the results in front of you on your computer screen are staggering.  Other than an injured John Lackey (who was pitching probably his best game ever in a Boston uniform) all starters have gone at least 5 innings in each start without giving up more than 3 runs. More impressive than that, the starters have averaged more than a strikeout per inning, with 98 punch-outs in the first 89 innings pitched (9.9 strikeouts per game, a fantastic rate).  Also impressive, these games were against the AL East (other than the three last games versus Cleveland), all strong teams. Check the chart below:

04/01/2013Jon LesterAt NYA10010005522027002
04/03/2013Clay BuchholzAt NYA10010007611124000
04/04/2013Ryan DempsterAt NYA10001005533148000
04/05/2013Felix DoubrontAt TOR10000005933106001
04/06/2013John LackeyAt TOR10001004 1/3522118000
04/07/2013Jon LesterAt TOR10010007500006100
04/08/2013Clay BuchholzVs. BAL10010007300048000
04/10/2013Ryan DempsterVs. BAL10000005331127001
04/11/2013Alfredo AcevesVs. BAL10000005622134000
04/13/2013Jon LesterVs. TBA10000007511015001
04/14/2013Clay BuchholzVs. TBA100100082000411000
04/15/2013Ryan DempsterVs. TBA100000072111210001
04/16/2013Felix DoubrontAt CLE10010005422047000
04/17/2013Alfredo AcevesAt CLE10010005733232000
04/18/2013Jon LesterAt CLE10010007422015000
Totals15 Games1500820089 1/371252393398106
ERAWin Pct.K per 9BB per 9HR per 9K/BB

Statistics courtesy of my friends at:

Of course, this Red Sox team was built around depth in the bullpen.  The pitching has been lights-out (for the most part) with the bullpen looking extremely tough even with closer Joel Hanrahan on the disabled list. With Andrew Bailey moving to closer and long-reliever Alfredo Aceves moving into the rotation, the Red Sox pitching staff has barely missed a beat.

Check out these stats from the mighty Boston bullpen compared to their surprisingly effective starting pitchers:


With these type of statistics, this is the real reason for the Red Sox coming out and having an impressive April in 2013. 

The Red Sox are already surprising most observers who put them down as unble to compete until the infusion of youth would arrive in the majors in 2015 or so.  Instead, an offense full of grinders and dirt dogs like Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Johnny Gomes, and with the return of David Ortiz and a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, this team suddenly looks built (if they remain healthy) to grind out enough wins to remain in contention in the American League East this season and put   the nightmare of 2012 and Bobby Valentine in the past.

Boston Strong

by Hal Bent

In light of what happened in Boston on Marathon Monday, and yesterday in Watertown, MA and around Boston, MA with the unprecedented lock-down of the city. In this situation, sports can seem far from a priority in our minds. Stepping into the first person for a moment, the greater Boston area has for almost 40 years been my home. Like everyone else, I spent Monday glued to Twitter, the television news outlets, news sites on the Internet and was just simply shocked by what took place just one block away from where I had worked in Boston for almost ten years.

I spent that day thinking about how I had annually taken a break from work each afternoon of the third Monday in April in Boston to go outside the office, walk across the street, and stand and applaud the many runners crossing the finish line far after the winners on television. I never wanted to see the professional runners winning the race, it was important to see the people who trained on our streets and sidewalks, pushing themselves to run 26.2 grueling miles to raise money for charity, or to prove to themselves that they can do whatever they set their minds to, or simply to cross the finish line because it is there.

Whatever their reasons, I was standing and applauding at the same approximate time in the same approximate place where the first explosive device detonated and hurt so many innocent people for almost ten years. How lucky I feel that I was no longer in the city for Patriots Day, that I was no longer at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where I was for so many years without incident. Due to circumstances in my life, instead of standing at the finish line as I had for so many years to acknowledge achievement, I was safely away from the city, with my family with me, watching on television and not working that day. 

There are still no answers as I write this, no delusional reason given with one of the suspects dead and another--after being on the run and having escaped police for almost a day--in custody to point our collective fingers at and now wait impatiently for answers to us WHY so much pain was deliberately delivered on a day and event that is entirely about community, togetherness, and accomplishment.  What drives people to hurt strangers in such a manner?  To drop a bag of explosives next to a family with children watching their father complete the Boston Marathon?  No politics, religion, dogma, creed, or philosophy is worth pursuing that causes so much pain for so many.

Because of this tragedy, there are so many families torn asunder, their losses hurting them, the spectators with their horrible pain and wounds suffered by the hundreds and now in the hospitals with these horrific physical wounds. Beyond that, there are so many emotional wounds, so much bewilderment and anger, frustration and fear, confusion and sadness that so many people, not just in Boston but around the world, trying to wrap their heads around this tragedy. Part of dealing with this is simply escape, and for so long that has been part of the need to write, to think about sports to distract from tragedy, as sports played such a huge role after other tragedies. So thank you for indulging me in these thoughts prior to moving on to my escape with thoughts on the Boston Sports scene.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sunday Morning Sports Spectacular: Red Sox Ready to Knuckle Down

by Hal Bent,

A quiet Sunday morning allows me time to take one last look at my fantasy baseball teams for the last day for the week for head-to-head match-ups, another 20 articles to read off my twitter feed (you can follow me: @halbent01), and wondering how I made it through February and March without baseball.  It's April: No longer the cruelest month (Sorry, T.S. Eliot) but it brings baseball, the Red Sox, the Final Four, the NFL Draft, NBA basketball and NHL hockey streaking towards the playoffs, and more and more baseball (thank you, MLB Network!). 

Listening to the Sox game on the radio (And no, no one will top the Red Sox announcers of my youth: Ken Coleman and Jon Miller; yes, the Sunday Night ESPN baseball Jon Miller.  What a great pair.) I was excited to listen to Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey, yes--John Lackey--throwing a beautiful game and missing bats like it was 2007.  Then, disaster as he left the game clutching his arm.  Fortunately, news came back indicating that it was not as serious as feared, but was still an issue with the biceps of the throwing arm, with MRI to follow and give more official news and timetable. It seemed like the elbow at first, so just not being the elbow is great news. Lackey had his fastball thrumming up to the plate in the mid-nineties and mixing his pitches and striking out eight. 

On top of that, the Red Sox could not get their bats in gear against lefty J.A. Happ and an impressive Toronto bullpen.  The Red Sox were swinging and missing, not getting on base, and all-around not getting it done on offense.  The standings now show the AL East in a 3-way tie at 3-2 between Boston, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay, with the Blue Jays right behind at 2-3.  The offensive offense and weak pitching New York Yankees are getting comfortable in the cellar at 1-4 and should get quite comfortable there as they gear up to get a look at some prospects in the second half of the season.  

Sunday afternoon at the Rogers Centre in Toronto looks like a dandy, with Red Sox ace lefty Jon Lester matching-up against National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and his devious knuckleball. Watching Dickey pitch is always a treat (even if I will be likely be folding laundry while watching the game), and Lester is poised for a bounce-back season and a return to the number one pitcher he has the potential to be (As in, he'd better: I drafted him in all three fantasy baseball leagues based upon his strong spring and past success). 

The Red Sox bats need to wake-up this afternoon and take the series against their newest bitter rivals.  The venom in Toronto for current Red Sox and former Blue Jays Manager John Farrell is electrifying.  For teams that face each other so often, there was none of the rivalry with Toronto that existed with other teams: The historical Yankees-Red Sox rivalry needs no mention; Baltimore hates the Red Sox, especially with the team winning last year with former Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette and brash Buck Showalter in the dugout; Tampa has had enmity with Boston since they entered the league as an expansion team (remember Pedro Martinez tossing beanballs in the dome?) and with all their success, the rivalry is legitimate.

The entire American League East Division is mad-house of mutual loathing and strong teams.  This year is lining up to be a classic, a 15 round slug-fest, a 1967 grouping of equally matched squads going full tilt at each other all season long.  Signs point to a fun season, and the fun is going strong right now as the Red Sox get ready to finish the opening road trip and head home to Fenway for the home opener. One week in, and this season looks like a winner. New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

The New England Patriots may have tipped their hand with their first two 2019 NFL Draft picks. Choosing a bigger, more aggressive outside-...