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After a tough start in New York, what better way to bounce back than by welcoming the defending champs to town for a weekend series?

Boston is 3-1, good for first in the AL East. They split two "road" games with Oakland in Japan. If not for a Brandon Moss homer off Huston Street, they probably would've been swept. (Brandon Moss is a lefty. Stay tuned for a lengthy rant on Monday about how friends don't let righty friends face Huston Street.) Then they went to the Coliseum for two actual road games, and won them both, allowing a grand total of one run. They're probably just a bit road weary after the whole deal.

Tonight's the home opener, and you have to expect the hitters to be eager to put on a show - especially the newcomers, Stewart, Eckstein and Scutaro. That eagerness might be a bad thing, 'cause the opponent tonight happens to be Tim Wakefield.

And it's not just Wakefield - it's the indoors version, which is supposed to be, like, unhittable, because the lack of natural wind supposedly helps him control his knuckleball better. Wake's career ERA outdoors is 4.42; indoors, in 274 innings, it's 3.58. His WHIP falls from 1.43 to 1.28 in climate-controlled comfort. Does that mean he's substantially better inside? Maybe, but most of those indoor games came against the Twins, Jays and Rays' offenses, and those lineups have tended to be pretty horri-awful in general since 1995, when Wakefield arrived in Boston.

07 96 93 103
06 109 101 89
05 95 88 101
04 87 95 91
03 107 102 95
02 97 103 89
01 96 100 88
00 102 85 85
99 105 80 92
98 104 86 83 111
97 83 93
96 90 97
95 92 98

The average OPS+ of these 40 dome teams is a quite horri-awful 96.2.

Wake's K/BB rises from 1.75 to 1.87 inside, which is consistent with either or both of the conditions being good and the hitters being bad. Adjusting those stats for the standard of competition might be worthwhile.

Anyway, Wakefield is still the same guy. Throws pitches. Not too hard. Mostly knuckleballs. He'll occasionally throw a mid-70s meatball and, once in a blue moon, a curve. Still a flyball pitcher. Still beats the HR/fly and BABIP benchmarks, 'cause have you ever seen anyone hit a knuckleball hard? (I mean other than Aaron Boone.) Relatively quick at-bats, obviously, 'cause who wants to face the flutterball with two strikes? Backwards splits - righties outperform lefties by 7 points of OBP and 36 points of SLG. Frank Thomas has homered six times off Wake in 54 PA; Gregg Zaun is 4-21 with two walks.

Tomorrow, Clay Buchholz returns to the scene of his only major-league loss, and he'll face the same starting pitcher in Jesse Litsch. That was the immortal Russ Adams Grand Slam Game. Buchholz is listed as the #2 prospect in Baseball Prospectus' 2008 annual and touted as being "Better than Joba" on the cover. His minor-league stats are passable, I guess. Apparently, he can dial his fastball up to 97 when he wants to - must be true because it says so here - and if you saw his no-hitter last year you are acutely aware of his nasty mid-70s curveball which makes righties and lefties alike look totally incompetent when it's working. And his changeup, which he throws often to lefties. Fangraphs says he also has a slider.

Buchholz struck out Matt Stairs three times in that game. Buck Coats may start for defensive purposes with Litsch on the mound and at least four lefties in the opposing lineup. I mean, I'd consider it. Plus Buck Coats sounds like Buchholz. How amusing.

Sunday, it's postseason hero and Cy Young runner-up Josh Beckett taking on Roy Halladay. Beckett is currently on the 15-day DL, sidelined with recurring back spasms. According to the Boston Globe, he is almost certain to make his debut this Sunday.

Beckett had the best year of his career in 2007. His defense-independent stats are the best they've ever been, and his luck went from very bad to pretty good:

Beckett career 22.7 8.0 45.1 10.3 .296 72.4 1.23 3.74 6.1
Beckett '06 18.2 9.7 47.3 15.4 .270 69.0 1.29 5.01 6.2
Beckett '07 23.6 4.9 45.1 8.0 .316 75.2 1.14 3.27 6.7

Looks pretty dominant, huh? Voters were right to give C.C. Sabathia the Cy Young, but Beckett had a pretty good claim to being the best pitcher in the league himself. That many strikeouts, with that few walks, in this era, from a starting pitcher, doesn't happen very often. And compared to some of the best seasons by righty starters in the AL in the past five years...

Beckett '07 23.6 4.9 47.3 8.0 .316 75.2 1.14 3.27 6.7
Halladay '03
19.0 3.0 58.4 14.3 .294 71.0 1.07 3.25 7.4
Halladay '05
19.5 3.3 60.9 12.4 .269 81.5 0.96 2.41 7.5

... well okay maybe he's not quite at that level yet. But if last year is an indication of where he stands as a pitcher, he's close, and he turns 28 in May. Here's to many more Doc-Beckett matchups this year. And to Doc staying healthy all year for the first time since 2003.

Beckett is still Beckett. Here's his pitch-f/x chart and a nice breakdown of his pitching style. He has the mid-90s fastball and sinker, the curve, the AJ-style 'change,' and apparently he throws a cutter occasionally. Vernon Wells is 8-25 against him with four homers, pencil him in for a second deck shot tonight; Frank Thomas is 3-17 with zero walks and 6 strikeouts. Rod Barajas is 4-7 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and no strikeouts.

Infirmary: J.D. Drew missed the Japan series and the first game in Oakland with his own back spasms. He returned Wednesday and went 1-5 against Rich Harden and friends with two strikeouts.

Kevin Youkilis played his 194th straight game at first base without committing an error on Wednesday. The gracious Oakland A's allowed him to keep the first-base bag.

Hawks at Fenway Park are very judicious in picking their targets.

Bartolo Colon's return to the bigs is on schedule - he allowed one hit in five innings in Pawtucket yesterday.

Dustin Pedroia on Terry Francona's style of play in cribbage: "He shuffles pretty fast and tries to rig the deck, so I try to slow him down. Youíve got to slow the game down. If the game speeds up on you, youíre going to stink. Iím up, probably 30 or 40 games. Heíll say heís up, but thatís just to tell you guys that heís good. He stinks.Ē

Sean Casey hasn't hit double-digit homers in three years, but he's an aggressive hitter with a good batting eye. He adds diversity to the offense.

Mike Timlin is out with an injured ring finger.

And Coco Crisp has started the last three games; Jacoby Ellsbury has had two starts, one for Crisp in the season opener, and one in Drew's place. Ellsbury hit .224/.291/.347 in spring this year; Crisp only had 12 spring at-bats. Ellsbury was 9-9 stealing bases last year. He's believed to be the first big-leaguer of Navajo descent.

The Credit Section: All offensive stats, pitches per PA for pitchers and league average stats are from the Hardball Times. Pitchers' stats and leverage indices are from Fangraphs. Minor-league stats are from Minor League Splits and First Inning. K% and BB% are strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances; GB% + LD% + FB% = 100. These are 2007 stats.

Advance Scout: Red Sox, April 4-6 | 24 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
FranklyScarlet - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 04:50 PM EDT (#182140) #
Ellsbury gets the start tonight and bats 8th in front of Kevin Cash.

Buck Coats actually looks alot like Buccholz.

Excited to see Marcum's first start of 2008.

Mike Green - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 05:41 PM EDT (#182150) #
Welcome back to the Scout.  Always informative, and with a light touch. 
ChicagoJaysFan - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 05:52 PM EDT (#182153) #
Even including perhaps stellar defense, I fail to see how Cash can get major league at-bats, especially with a team like the Red Sox.

The peak for Johnny Mac's estimated value seems to be an average player when you incorporate his defense, and that's with it being close to gold glove caliber at another premium defensive position.  Since Johnny Mac's career OPS+ of 58 looks Ruthian next to Cash's 26, I can't see Cash being of any value at all.

While looking up Cash's numbers, I noticed that in 2003, he had more than 100 AB's and still put up a negative OPS+ (106 AB's with -2 OPS+ or should that be OPS-?).  I wonder if that's the most AB's in a season with a negative OPS+.  And if anyone knows a way to find these things without searching through baseball-reference for players that immediately come to mind, if you'd share your source, it'd be greatly appreciated (I often think of stupid things like this).
uglyone - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 06:07 PM EDT (#182157) #

Careers against Wiffleballer Wakefield:


  1. Eckstein: 19ab, .596ops
  2. Stairs: 45ab, .864ops
  3. Rios: 30ab, .767ops
  4. Wells: 45ab, .706ops
  5. Thomas: 48ab, .988ops
  6. Overbay: 10ab, .473ops
  7. Hill: 19ab, .718ops
  8. Scutaro:  8ab, 1.000ops
  9. Zaun: 21ab, .451ops
  • Stewart: 54ab, .770ops
  • Barajas: 17ab, .765ops
  • McDonald: 22ab, .625ops
Dave Till - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 07:39 PM EDT (#182163) #
I like seeing the old uniforms again, but I'm wondering: why are they wearing the old road powder blues for the home opener?

scottt - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 07:44 PM EDT (#182164) #
Anyone knows why Kevin Cash is taking over for Doug Mirabelli? It's like Boston is eager to get rid of Mirabelli although he's not certainly not expensive.

Playing inside the dome, I'm hoping for several passed balls.

Some call me Tim - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 08:23 PM EDT (#182166) #
Two things I'm noticing about Marcum tonight:
1.  He's pitching really well.
2.  He reminds me so much of Dave Stieb on the mound in those powder blues!

AWeb - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 08:46 PM EDT (#182167) #
Thoughts for me:

1. Love the powder blues.
2. I had honestly forgotten how fun it can be to see the Jays steal bases. It's been since 2001 (Stewart, Cruz, Mondesi) since they broke 100 steals, and haven't really been close since. They'll probably have to tone it down later in the year when teams adjust, but keep pushing it early.
3. Marcum once again has the great stuff. He's easy to doubt in the memory, but his mix of pitches is just great. I second the Steib resemblance observation.
4. And the Jays lead 3-0!

scottt - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 09:57 PM EDT (#182169) #
Great game.

One passed ball.

Almost got torpedoed by that 3 run homer. That would have sucked since they only have 3 hits.

Eckstein got on base with a 10 pitch walk to start the next inning and Thomas came through with a 2-run double.
I'm starting to like those intangibles.

Tampa Bay is killing the yanks 13-4. 

Jdog - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 10:11 PM EDT (#182171) #

 He's easy to doubt in the memory, but his mix of pitches is just great

You nailed it right here AWeb.  I think a lot of bauxites forget how dominating Marcum can be just because he doesn't have McGowan type 95 mph heat.  The guy is a pure joy for me to watch pitch, always hitting his spots and mixing things up making people look silly swinging up there. He's just as solid a 3rd pitcher as McGowan but doesnt get nearly the love.

Dave Till - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 10:43 PM EDT (#182174) #
Marcum struggled for a bit near the end of last year, but he was back in midsummer form tonight.

When he's on, he doesn't dominate the hitters so much as present them with too many options. When he's throwing four pitches for strikes, the hitters have a 1 in 4 chance of guessing right. Four possible choices, and only three strikes in which to guess. Somebody with a brain less tired than mine could work out the math here, I'm sure.

And he's the Jays' fourth starter. If they all keep this up, this could be a fun year indeed.

Other fun things: Frank Thomas got a real live extra-base hit. David Eckstein worked a walk on approximately 38 pitches. Oh, yeah - and the Jays won. :-)

Alex Obal - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 11:00 PM EDT (#182175) #
If Marcum gets Drew in the 7th, I think he's better than a 50% shot to get the shutout. He was in very, very good form last night.
HollywoodHartman - Friday, April 04 2008 @ 11:24 PM EDT (#182176) #
I just got in. My favourite opener yet, I was in a  very spiritful section (right field 100s) and had a blast. Marcum looked great. The offence looked great. Tallet looked great. I'm getting my pizza... And I'm doin it all again Sunday!
brent - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 12:01 AM EDT (#182179) #
Today's WPA heroes were Thomas and Stairs. The letdowns were Wells (2), Zaun and Rios.
HollywoodHartman - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 12:52 AM EDT (#182183) #
I've been wondering what the (2) means in the WPA winners/losers, can you enlighten me?
Wildrose - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 11:19 AM EDT (#182191) #
I normally don't believe in the small sample size given by career performance  against a particular player, but with a unique player such as Wakefield on the mound it may have some value, as "ugly one" pointed out , Stairs and Thomas had the best prior success against this type of pitcher, and guess who had the big hits last night?
Chuck - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 11:26 AM EDT (#182192) #
Thomas's big hit was off of Delcarmen.
Wildrose - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 11:48 AM EDT (#182195) #
Right as usual Chuck, Stairs did look pretty comfortable against Wakefield all night. It always surprises me that more players don't try the knuckler. Perhaps it's a physical issue, as I believe you need pretty big hands to master the pitch.
scottt - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 12:14 PM EDT (#182197) #
I normally don't believe in the small sample size given by career performance  against a particular player, but with a unique player such as Wakefield on the mound it may have some value, as "ugly one" pointed out , Stairs and Thomas had the best prior success against this type of pitcher, and guess who had the big hits last night?
Don't forget Scutaro. Would be scary if they go with Barajas next time they face Wakefield and he delivers as well.
Mike Green - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 03:06 PM EDT (#182202) #
In case you're wondering, the switch-hitting Crisp hits lefties better than righties (both in 2007 and over his career), so with Crisp, Lugo, Pedroia, Ortiz and Ramirez due up in the 7th, it should be pretty easy to decide to pull Tallet and put in a right-hander to open the 7th. 
Rob - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 03:41 PM EDT (#182204) #
Corey got skunked and if Francona doesn't watch out, he'll soon experience another kind of 15-2. Rios also knows all about the double-run.

Bonus mathematical non-sequitur: Toronto's got a triangular run-scoring series going here--in even-numbered innings!
brent - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 05:32 PM EDT (#182211) #

HollywoodHartman, the bracketed (2) number is keeping track of how many times they have been a leader in clutch or not clutch. Right now, Rios has been clutch three times and not clutch one time. I want to keep track of how many times a player is clutch vs. not clutch over the year. Are some players much more valuable than we think for attaining wins? Tom Tango would say that you want your best hitter up in crucial situations, but will any of the players come up with surprises like usually being at extremes or more in the middle? Since the information is so easily available at the fangraphs site, I am interested in seeing how the players get to their numbers.

Ryeguy - Saturday, April 05 2008 @ 05:54 PM EDT (#182213) #
As a person who can throw a decent knuckler and have small hands, i don't think its the case that you need large hands to master. For me the pitch is all about the proper release and not creating a tumbling spin. Thus it's more similar to having an artists touch than really digging into the ball. I believe having big hands is far more important to pitchers throwing split-finger pitches, and to a lesser extent snapping off a wicked curve. Just my opinion.
Rob - Sunday, April 06 2008 @ 04:07 PM EDT (#182249) #
Showtime indeed.

Vernon Wells is 8-25 against him with four homers, pencil him in for a second deck shot tonight

Well, some scout you are. It was the first deck.
Advance Scout: Red Sox, April 4-6 | 24 comments | Create New Account
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