Monday, May 30, 2005

Superstitious, Anyone?

"Where's my number three?"
Baseball is a funny game. I've been meaning to break up the string of posts focusing on baseball and today's Sox-Yankees game gave me the perfect excuse.

Now, before you scream, "Not Sox and Yanks!" know that I mean to go in a completely different direction. Something like "Brewer's young pitching staff" or "Don't look now, but Junior Griffey has driven in 24 runs this month." But alas, the best story came from the best rivalry. Coincidence? Probably not.

To read more, click on the "Superstitious, Anyone?" link on the right side of the page.


Adam Hoff said...

The great thing about baseball is that the players really do care about how much pine tar is on their helmet, whether they step over the first baseline and then skip twice before running to the mound, and, of course, what number is on their back. It's the game that features the most quirks, oddities, and superstitions, and all of that rich "character" was on display in New York, where the Red Sox were jump starting their season.

David Wells and Edgar Renteria were two of the key acquisitions during an important offseason for the Red Sox. Coming off their first title in 86 years, Boston's management core of Larry Lucchino (not to be confused with Lucky Luciano, the famous gangster that started "Murder, Inc." - the assassination arm of the maffia) and Theo Epstein knew they faced a very tough winter. Pedro was going to be too expensive and want too many years (although that looks a bit foolish now that he's tossing up a freakish .73 WHIP for the Mets), Lowe was out the door, and Varitek was going to be expensive. They did the best they could to bring in more favorable contracts and still remain in the hunt for a world series title.

The most controversial moves (other than jettisoning Dave "The Steal Heard 'Round the World" Roberts to San Diego for Jay Payton) were the signings of David Wells and Edgar Renteria. With Wells, fans wondered why the Sox were unwilling to pay Pedro for four years yet fork out three years and 21 million to an overweight, 40-year old with a soft spot for the Yanks. With Renteria, there wasn't a real question as to his ability, but many wondered: why him over Orlando Cabrera? Originally, Boston had planned to sign an Omar Vizquel type to hold down the position for a few years until their big time prospect, Hanley Ramirez, was ready to take over. That obviously went out the window.

Needless to say, Theo and Larry have probably been a bit uneasy during the first two months of season. Through the second inning of tonight's game against the Yankees, Wells had given up eight home runs in 33 innings and had spent time on the DL. Not only did he look all of his 40 years, he looked 50. As for Renteria, he came into the series in the Bronx hitting .247 with nine errors (he had 12 all of last season). Wells looked like he couldn't stand to succeed for the rival of his favorite team and Renteria appeared to be shell shocked in the harsh glare of the Northeastern spotlight.

Little did we know, the problem was simply that they were just wearing the wrong uniforms.

Wells had snagged three in honor of Babe Ruth and found that it wasn't working so well in Boston (you think?). Renteria had been forced to wear 16 since his beloved #3 was on the broad (and often drunk) back of Wells. Easy problem to fix. Renteria proposed a swap, Wells wrote down a dollar amount, and presto - all was right with the world.

Now the Sox are piling up runs again and looking like they are finally ready to stop appearing on Queer Eye and the Rob and Amber Wedding Special and start defending their title. Leading the way? Wells beat his old team 7-2 tonight, allowing only six baserunners in eight and a third innings pitched. He had more on his pitches and finally threw like a front-of-the-rotation hurler. As for Renteria, he merely went 10-for-12 in the series with two home runs, four runs scored, and six RBI. He raised his average 48 points to .295 and turned four double plays while playing errorless baseball. Not bad.

You've got to love baseball.

Orioles Fan #1 said...

Great story, but wow, what were the Red Sox thinking? It never really dawned on me that a team with a payroll of over $130 million let Pedro walk to save a grand total of $5 million a year. That is pocket change. It would be more understandable if they had snagged a younger guy, but Wells is old and horrible. Terrible move.

As for Renteria, he's older than Cabrera and doesn't have nearly the same fire as the guy he's replacing. This wasn't so much a horrible move as a needless one.

Finally, trading Dave Roberts was idiotic. He's the sparkplug for a Padres team that is on fire.

Good anecdote about the uniform swap, but to me, it just really showed how bad Boston's offseason was. Brutal.

Anonymous said...

Hey Orioles Fan, you sound like you are sad that the Sox made those moves. Considering that no Pedro and no Roberts equals Baltimore in first place, I would think you'd be more excited.

Adam Hoff said...

I agree that Wells and Renteria are looking like suspect moves right now, but the offseason wasn't that bad. Not only do I believe that Renteria will keep playing better and better and make Sox fans quite happy when it is all said and done, I also don't think the Roberts trade was all that bad. For starters, he asked to be traded so that he could start. I know that management doesn't have to honor that sort of request, but what good does it do to have someone upset in the locker room? Besides, Payton just kills Randy Johnson and lefties in general, which could be big in the postseason. Playoff baseball is all about matchups and having a specialist like that is very helpful. I'm not going to make any excuses for the Wells-for-Pedro swap except to say that nobody saw Pedro throwing gas like this. I thought they should have brought him back, but it was a close call. Still, if those are the three "bad" trades, they did alright.

Not only that, but getting Clement in place of Lowe was a minor coup. Clement is one of the best young pitchers in the game and arguably already the ace of the Red Sox staff. No one is talking about that terrific signing. In addition, they did a terrific job of hanging on to Varitek and getting Wade Miller for basically nothing. Just as they were a year ago, they are deep and explosive. Their chances of defending their World Series title no doubt rest on the health and performance of Curt Schilling, but Sox fans should feel good about their team.

orioles Fan #1 said...

Let me get this straight. Sox lose Cabrera, Pokey, Roberts, Lowe, and Pedro. They gain Renteria, Vasqeuz, Payton, Wells, Clement, and Miller. And you think they came out okay - perhaps even ahead? You can't be serious.

Adam Hoff said...

You forgot Doug Mientkiewicz, although his addition is offset by their recent acquisition of John Olerud. Now if only they could get that ball back.

I can understand why you are so incredulous about my claim that the Sox came out even with their offseason dealings. It's touch and go. Perhaps we should go to the stats. I've consolidated the numbers down to per game averages (9 innings and 4 plate appearances) to get a real look at the impact. (Also, I'm including the losses of Scott Williamson, Byung-Hyung Kim, and Curt Lescanic and adding in Matt Mantei and John Halama - for the sake of accuracy.)

First, pitching:

Lost: 45 wins, 3.69 earned runs, 10.26 walks+hits allowed, and 8.25 strikeouts per nine innings.

Gained: .66 wins, 4.77 earned runs, 11.88 walks+hits allowed, and 6.39 strikeouts per nine.

Obviously, the former Sox get the edge here. In part because Curt Lescanic is pitching in Japan so his stats don't count, but in larger part because Pedro has been simply incredible for the Mets. But the disparity isn't as great as you would expect. As bad as Wells has been and as great as Pedro has been, the current Sox are allowing only about 1.5 more baserunners and about 1 extra run per game. You can expect that gap to narrow over time. And when you consider that they've gained an extra starting pitcher in Miller, they have the luxury to absorb Schilling's loss in the short run, and then pick the four hottest hands out of six pitchers (Schilling, Clement, Arroyo, Miller, Wakefield, and Wells) should they make the playoffs.

Now, hitting (because of the difficulty in determining cause and effect of runs and RBI, we'll measure offense by total bases+walks per 27 plate appearances):

Lost: 11.29 total bases per 27 plate appearances.

Gained: 10.74 total bases per 27 PA's.

Again, the old guys are playing better, but not by much. And when you consider that of all the departed Sox offensive players, Pokey Reese led the way with 244 at bats in Boston uniform, it is not as if these guys had been around very long. In fact, the reason they were able to snag those players for the stretch run was because they were in contract years and thus expendable.

Based on 2005 performances, the players lost are statistically better than the players gained, but it is close. So when you factor in the added flexibility Boston has gained on the field and in the front office, they seem like good moves.

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