Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Bottom Line

For all the writing about the big three (professional) sports in the United States, I've really only ever been drawn to two - baseball and football. I will admit, for me, football is king.

I enjoy baseball, and as a Red Sox lifer, I can hold my own with the most knowledgeable of fans. But to me, football is a game in which strategy is much more important. Sure you have your pitching and hitting match-ups, fielding shifts, but if the right fielder takes a few plays off...hell, even a few innings off...during a game in which the pitcher is lighting it up, that player's mini-vacation can go largely unnoticed.

On the grid iron, if a player takes a few plays off, well, it could get the quarterback killed, it could mean a quick six, or it could mean a running back with no room to run. It will not go unnoticed.

No, the bottom line with baseball is it's an exercise in math...statistics. It's a chance for the fans and the press to wrap their minds around numbers in a sports context, in an effort to make those numbers meaningful. We look for trends, eye batting averages, pour over ERA's, and we use these numbers to argue and debate a player's worthiness. We check the pitching match-ups to see what sort of ground our team can make-up on or gain distance on a rival.

The Red Sox, based on April (16-8) and May (20-8), it can be said have experienced a slump in June (13-13, tonight's game determines whether or not the Sox have a winning record this month). In three more games, we hit the halfway mark of the season for Boston, and, based on career numbers, it can be opined that both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are having off seasons as they are both on a pace for only 100 RBI's each.

In light of Baseball's predeliction towards the mathematic, production is gaged often in arcane ways - Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP), On Base Percentage combined with Slugging Percentage (OPS).

I present another way. Something a little less arcane, and maybe a little more accurate in regards to a player's production - Runs Scored and Runs Batted In Per Game, or as I call it; RSBIG. Yes, it does cause for a "production overlap," but it also gives a sense of how much of the scoring the player has been involved in.

This is the (regular) Red Sox line-up based on OPS -

David Ortiz

Kevin Youkilis

Mike Lowell

Manny Ramírez

Dustin Pedroia

Jason Varitek

J.D. Drew

Coco Crisp

Julio Lugo


Based on Batting Average -

Kevin Youkilis


Dustin Pedroia


David Ortiz


Mike Lowell


Manny Ramírez


Jason Varitek


Coco Crisp


J.D. Drew


Julio Lugo


RBI's -

Mike Lowell


David Ortiz


Manny Ramírez


Kevin Youkilis


Julio Lugo


Jason Varitek


J.D. Drew


Dustin Pedroia


Coco Crisp


Runs -

David Ortiz


Kevin Youkilis


J.D. Drew


Coco Crisp


Manny Ramírez


Julio Lugo


Mike Lowell


Dustin Pedroia


Jason Varitek


Now my statistic - RSBIG

David Ortiz......................1.33
Mike Lowell ...................1.19
Kevin Youkilis.................1.19
JD Drew...........................1.10
Manny Ramirez..............1.09
Julio Lugo........................1.08
Jason Varitek.................0.98
Coco Crisp.......................0.88
Dustin Pedroia................0.83

As much as Julio "What Mendoza Line" Lugo has struggled, offensively he has been almost as important this season to the Sox pushing runs across the plate as Manny Ramirez by either getting on base and scoring, or by knocking them in (he only has 9 fewer RBI's and has scored 7 fewer runs, in spite of batting .191 to Ramirez's .290), and in baseball, producing runs is the bottom line.

Friday, June 29, 2007


As a football fan, today was a sad day for me. The NFL announced that NFL Europa, its developmental league ceased operations, playing its final down last weekend with a tilt between the Hamburg Sea Devils and the Frankfurt Galaxy for the NFLE title.

The two teams played in front of a crowd of 48,125.

In spite of the respectable crowd, the NFLE has hemorrhaged money throughout its existence dating back to when it was the World League of American Football (WLAF, or as many called it - the WeLaff). This year the NFL lost $30 million on the league.

I for one, a proud owner of a Barcelona Dragons sweater, will miss the league. I understand that in the end this was a business decision, but I can't but help saying that I am disappointed.

Sure, it wasn't the best football out there. But I thought it was fun to watch.

The league was the subject of a lot of ridicule, but it produced Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme, Adam Vinatieri, Joe Andruzzi, and Marco Rivera...just to name a few. It was a chance for the highly talented, but less polished players to excel, and it created an opportunity for international players such as British-born Sea Devils wide receiver Scott McCready who earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Patriots practice squad in 2001 and Osaka native and Frankfurt Galaxy linebacker Rikiya Ishida.

The league had grown enough in Germany that five of the six teams were based there - the Rhein Fire, Frankfurt Galaxy, Cologne Centurions, Hamburg Sea Devils, and Berlin Thunder.

Now the NFL, while dropping the league, is eying Germany for their international games in coming years. Germany could host games as soon as 2008, say league officials.

I find it ironic, however, that the NFL will hold its first regular season tilt abroad in London, the former home of the NFLE's London Monarchs, defunct now for close to a decade.

Although, with the advent of the Arena Football League, a league whose funding is not dependent on the NFL, it is hard to see the NFL restarting the league, no matter how much I would like to see the league restart. It does beg a question. Is the NFL eying Germany for expansion? There has been talk about Canada and Mexico. Would it be unrealistic to expect four new AFC and four new NFC teams between Europe, Canada, and Mexico over the course of the next decade? I wouldn't be surprised.

In the meantime, I'm going to turn my attention to the JAFA, American football in Japan. Maybe if enough people contact them, we can get the Football Network to cover it

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Odd little glitches

Just a quick note about Blogger.

Evidently, I have 97 posts this year, not including this one. For whatever reason, the first week of the year during which I had two posts does not appear on the links to the right. Don't know why, not going to bother looking into it, but it was nice to find a couple of posts that I didn't even remember.

Coming soon, more questions about the NFL.

Clemens...a year too long?

Throughout his career Roger Clemens has been an impact player. He has averaged just under 15 wins per year over his 24 seasons (including this one) and only 7.5 losses. Only twice in his career has he finished a season with a losing record, both times with Boston.

He has been one of the most dominating pitchers for the better part of the last three decades. Sure, he's had problems coming up big in the post season. But his wins will help you get there.

He has also been implicated by Jose Canseco and Jason Grimsley in baseball's sordid performance enhancing drug use story. When looked at, one can guess where this might even have started if it is indeed true...

In 1993, Clemens, then 30 and about to turn 31, started a three season stretch where he threw for fewer than 200 innings for the first time since 1986 - throwing 191 2/3's, 170 2/3's, and 140 innings respectively, starting 29, 24, and 23 games in each of those seasons.

During that stretch he had garnered a reputation in Boston for coming into spring training fat and out of shape and garnered a reputation as fragile. A long cry from his current reputation as a workout warrior.

Jose Canseco joined Boston in 1995. Clemens pitched 242 2/3's innings in 1996 before moving on to the Blue Jays.

As bad a rap as Dan Duquette gets, the writing was on the wall in 1995, and it wasn't that hard to read. Clemens was on his way out. He spent significant time on the disabled list in all three of those seasons leading up to 1996, and one healthy season after three straight seasons of decline...that was just too much of a gamble for a general manager with some sense.

Somehow at the age of 34, a year after meeting Canseco, Clemens began a career renaissance. Over the course of a ten season period, when other pitchers are on the decline, Clemens went on a tear during which he pitched fewer than 200 innings only twice, and never pitched fewer than 180.

This season, the Rocket has touched down in the middle of the Bronx, and while still early, is sporting a 1-3 record with a 5.32 ERA and with opponents batting .284 against him. Maybe he's trying to do this without the help he may have had in past years due to more stringent testing in MLB, maybe his age finally has caught up with him, maybe its the difference between pitching in the American League as opposed to the National League.

Either way, it's looking more and more like the Savior of the Yankees has hung on for a
year too long. At the end of last year, Clemens walked away from Houston with a 2.30 ERA, and hitters only accounting for a .214 batting average.

If the season keeps going like this, that's a lot of aging during one off season.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

NFL Questions: AFC East

As we approach the NFL preseason, only a month away, each team is faced with major questions - but what is the major question faced by each team? The Angry Fan takes a look, starting with the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills - Can Anthony Thomas emerge as an every down back? Even in his best seasons in Chicago, the A-Train, the knock against Thomas was durability. Last season was the first time in Thomas' career that he played in 16 games, but he started only two. If Thomas is unable to fill the void created by the departure of Willis McGahee via trade, it will be a very long season for JP Losman, or whoever else is under center for the course of the year.

Miami Dolphins - What are they thinking in Miami? It's hard to fathom what is going on in Miami as the Dolphins are beginning to look more and more like the East Coast version of the Raiders. Sure, hiring Cam Cameron seemed like a good idea, but what about their other moves - they draft a glorified return man with ankle problems with their first pick, they trade their leading receiver to the division rival Patriots, they add a linebacker that might face league discipline for an off season assault, and they try to rectify last season's quarterback fiasco by replacing a rehabbing Duante Culpepper, with a fragile Trent Green who never seemed to be the same player when he returned from his concussion last season.

New England Patriots - Can Brady and the receivers gel by the first game of the season? With games against the Jets, Chargers, and Bengals over the first four weeks of the season, the Patriots defense will best be served by having an offense that can run the opposing defenses ragged. If the new receiving corps develops chemistry faster than last year's group, this team could easily head into Indianapolis with an 8-0 record. If it takes them some time to come together, the record could easily be 6-2 with those losses happening during the first four weeks of the season.

New York Jets - Can the Jets build off of last season? First year head coach Eric Mangini worked miracles in getting this team to play as greater than the sum of its parts, but can he work that magic again? The key will be whether or not they can get two straight healthy seasons out of quarterback Chad Pennington. If they can't, then the offense falls on the shoulders of the untested Kellen Clemens.

Monday, June 25, 2007


This time one year ago the Red Sox and Yankees were fighting it out for first place in the AL East. After a rough start, the Bronx Bombers fought their way back with the best line-up that George Steinbrenner's money could buy.

New York surged, and at the right time, peaked to take the AL East (although they peaked to early to win it all).

This year, for a brief period after Roger Clemens made this season's major league debut in pinstripes, the Yankees surged closing to within seven-and-a-half games of the Sox. They played their best baseball of the season, and even began to worry members of Red Sox Nation.

And then something happened, something inevitable.

The Yankees stalled.

A popular choice to win the AL East crown during Spring Training, New York has dropped five of their last six games to the surging Colorado Rockies (38-37) and the previously slumping Giants (32-42), to drop back to half a game under .500 (36-37), into third in the AL East, and 11.5 games behind the Red Sox. It is a season that has gone horribly wrong for the Yankees, and it's not likely to get any better.

The Yankees have a line-up that can tear the cover off the ball,

They have a pitching staff that can make opponents look every bit as good as that.

Red Sox fans know, from decades of experience, that this is not a winning formula. In 1997 the Sox scored 851 runs, 5.25 per game, and finished the season 78-84, 20 games behind the first place Orioles and barely two games ahead of cellar-dwelling Toronto.

The Yankees made their run, and now the team, once again, looks like it is done. What will this do for the morale of that line-up?

Their pitching is what it is, and looks it - old and ineffective. They are the Dirty Dozen, the twelve starters that have combined for 25 of the team's 36 wins, and 26 of the team's 37 losses. Of the 646.2 innings thrown by Yankee pitchers, 236.1 have been by the bullpen (not including the relief stints by starters Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Kei Igawa, and Matt DeSalvo). The only Yankee starters with more than one decision and winning records - Chien-Ming Wang (7-4), Tylar Clippard (3-1), and the man Clemens (1-2) replaced in the rotation, Kei Igawa (2-1).

The Red Sox, on the other hand, have winning records from four of five of their starters, and 39 wins combined from the rotation. Josh Beckett (11-1), Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-5), and Tim Wakefield (7-8), account for more wins (26), than all twelve of the Yankees starters combined.

Maybe Clemens gets better as the season wears on, but I wouldn't count on it. An ERA of around 5.00 is about what I expected of a 44-year old pitcher that had an overall ERA of about 4.00 during his last stint with the Yankees.

The Yankees don't get any younger in that rotation until the return of Phil Hughes in August, the same pitcher that GM Brian Cashman didn't want to bring to the majors in the first place. If the Yankees aren't even in contention for a wild card berth come August, Yankees fans shouldn't expect to see Hughes until next year. In the meantime, they should forget about their memories of 1978, because history isn't about to repeat itself.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Down under in the Nation's capitol

The Baltimore/Washington Eagles extended their unbeaten streak to nine games dating back to last season with Saturday's win over the Boston Demons in the Eastern Australian Football League. The win broke a losing streak to the Demons dating back to 2000 when Baltimore beat Boston twice.

For more photos from the game, click here.

For more on the game, click here.