Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Catching up, yet again

As you might be able to tell, I have been busy lately. I have about a half dozen story proposals or so floating out there with various magazines, have been working on home improvements, looking into going back to a staff position somewhere now that my youngest daughter is closing in on two - all of that has taken away from my time here at TAF. There have been a lot of things to comment on that have come and gone in the five days since my last blog post. Here goes...

Overall, I have no vested interest in the NHL finals and little more than that in the NBA finals this year. At least if Carolina had made it to the Stanley Cup round of the post season on the ice, then I would at least have a former New England team to root for, but we have the Penguins and the Red Wings. Eh.

Over on the hardwood...well, let's just say that the entirety of my interest there would be in seeing the Lakers lose. I don't think it's going to happen now that Los Angeles is up 2-0, but I would love to see them lose.

The Lakers are one of those teams that I love to see lose, they're up there with the Yankees, Cowboys, and Raiders. Being a Patriots fan, some might be puzzled that I haven't picked division rivals like the Jets and Dolphins, or even the rival Colts, but there's something different with them.

If the Raiders went 0-16, I would enjoy that, and while I kind of rooted for the Dolphins to match that mark two seasons ago (but only when they were in the 0-13 territory), I much prefer it when the Jets and Dolphins are decent for a couple of reasons - one: better games. Two: I much prefer seeing those teams come close and get knocked out at the hands of the Patriots then to watch them struggled and be eliminated from contention before Halloween.

Speaking of football, I didn't like Peyton Manning's public criticism of the new coaching regime. I don't know if it was more a reflection of the new staff still finding its feet, or a reflection of how spoiled Manning has been due to virtually no coaching defections during his career. In theory, there should be little to no change in how the Colts play the game since the entire coaching staff was there under Tony Dungy, but there's no telling if Pete Metzellars is going to be as good at coaching up line men as Howard Mudd - yes, he did well in the middle of the year taking over for Mudd when Mudd was dealing with health issues, but how does he do starting with a free-agent rookie from scratch like Mudd did with Jeff Saturday? He may be fine, but we just don't really know.

On top of that, the team has new coordinators for pretty much the entire team - offense, defense, and special teams. The play calling will be different. Maybe better, maybe worse.

My guess is that the team shows some growing pains, but they miss the playoffs as a ten or eleven win team, finishing behind the Titans again in their own division.

The Colts enter the season not unlike the Patriots. While the key question for the Colts is "how the is the coaching staff going to perform," the Pats are rolling the dice on the rebuilt knee of their all-pro quarterback. If Brady can play without the knee getting into his head, he should be the same guy they've always had back there. With a very likely revamped and improved Jets defense in week two, the Ravens defense in week four and the Titans and Bucs all in the first seven weeks of the season, fans of the Patriots will find out quickly if Tom Brady is thinking about the knee, or about completing passes.

While the Pats defense was shaky last season, I'm less concerned there based on the moves the team has made, leaving the biggest question on the offensive side of the ball.

Over on the diamond I can't say that homer that David Ortiz had gave me any sort of hope that he's breaking out of that power slump. Big Papi just barely cleared the wall right at the Pesky Pole. In any other ball park that hit is a long single or maybe a double, but certainly not a home run.

Jon Lester's near no-no, however, might be cause for hope. I'm still reserving judgement on the Sox lefty for at least another two starts (he's failed to put together more than two good starts in a row, in spite of leading the team in innings pitched), before I say that he's turned the corner, but things have been encouraging lately.

Through his first eight starts Lester was 4-2 with a 6.51 ERA. He bottomed out in starts five and six, pitching a total of ten innings while giving up 13 earned runs over the two games. It was his worst two game stretch of the year, beating out his first two starts in which he pitched eleven total innings while giving up eleven earned runs.

In the four starts since, Lester has pitched 27.1 innings, gone 3-1 with three quality starts, all the while logging a 2.64 ERA. His next best four game stretch ran from his start on April 19 and ran to May 4. During that stretch he went 2-0, and gave up 10 earned runs over 26 innings for a 3.46 ERA. Like the recent stretch, Lester had three of four quality starts. So, yeah, I'm going with a wait and see approach on the Sox lefty.

While Lester has certainly had his issues this season, and almost all of the pitchers have faltered badly at one time or another, they have all been better than Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has struggled in just about every outing.

For all of Lester's issues, the Left is averaging 6.1 innings per start. Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett are also averaging 6.1 innings per start. Even the oft maligned Brad Penny is pushing 5.2 innings per start, an average that would be higher were it not for two rough starts in his first three of the season in which he pitched for a grand total of 5.2 in those two starts. The Dice-man? Just a shade under 4.2 innings pitched per game. Yes, that includes a one inning/five-earned run fiasco of a start, that without he is averaging 5.1 innings per start and still has the highest ERA of the starters at 5.88.

While Matsuzaka's stats, sans the one terrible start, is only slightly higher than Brad Penny's 5.85 (overall), and slightly lower than Penny's IP per game, it might do better to look at the number of quality starts each of the Sox starters has turned in...

Matsuzaka - 0 for 6_00.0%
Masterson - 2 for 6*_33.3%
Lester - 6 for 12_ 50%
Penny - 6 for 11_54.5%
Wakefield - 7 for 11_63.6%
Beckett - 8 for 11_72.7%

*One note on Masterson's six starts - his first two starts he failed to go a full six innings, both times leaving after only 5.1 innings, but also leaving the game after giving up only one earned run. During Masterson's run of six starts in place of Matsuzaka, Masterson was 2-2 with a 4.59 ERA while averaging just under six innings per start. How long do they go with Matsuzaka in an effort to let him get his feet before they make a switch to Masterson, Buchholz, Bowden or someone else? How much time does their monetary investment in the Dice-man buy him?

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