Sunday, February 9, 2014

Few February Musings With a Week To Go for Pitchers and Catchers

* February 15th is the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers for the Red Sox, with the positional payers due a few days later.  But from the Fort reports from Pete Abe of the Globe and others, the place is hopping all ready.  On February 3rd Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley, Jr. ( who has been there since mid-January), Drake Britton, along with kids like Matt Barnes, Alex Hassan, and Blake Swihart were working out.  Later last week players such as Jon Lester, Xander Bogaerts,  and Andrew Miller joined the party.  Xander said it was nice in Fort Myers, but " a little cool compared to Aruba"!!  It is great to see the Champs so anxious to get started to repeat.

* The player I am most interested to see report in Felix Doubront.  Will he be in shape and ready to grab his spot in the rotation?  If he is this could be the year he takes a spot near the front of a strong starting five.  If not I could see a trade in Felix's future.

* Speaking of Xander Bogaerts, the apparent starting shortstop ( as of today), he was born in 1992!

* And on the topic of shortstops and their ages, think about this as the Red Sox still ponder the re-signing of Stephen Drew.  Drew is younger than Daniel Nava, Nava turns 31 this month and Drew in March.  Dustin Pedroia turns 31 in August making him only 5 months younger than Drew.  I am still in the camp of letting Drew go and starting Bogaerts and Middlebrooks on the left side of the infield, but Drew is not the over the hill grizzled vet some people make him out to be.

* Yesterday the Red Sox celebrated Truck Day, as the equipment truck was loaded and headed to Fort Myers.  The three World Series trophies were on display and some tickets were sold.  The load includes some personal affects of the players, sixty cases of sunflower seeds, and 20,400 baseballs.

* 2004 Red Sox World Series hero Curt Schilling announced this week through his current employer, ESPN, that he has been diagnosed with cancer.  Hopefully this part of his announcement ( or non-part) means nothing, but I am in the camp of concerned Schilling did not want to reveal the type of cancer. Some types are much more aggressive than others.  I wish the best for Curt as he fights this battle.

*The 2014 class for the Red Sox Hall of Fame was announced.  Pedro Martinez,  Nomar Garciaparra, Roger Clemens, and radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione.  To me this is a wonderful, deserving class with the obviously somewhat controversial selection of Clemens.  It seems to me the Red Sox knew Roger would be debated by some, and I feel they slipped him in with the other three who are all big time fan favorites.

* Jerry Remy has announced he is returning to the 2014 NESN broadcast booth.  Another somewhat controversial  decision that reportedly NESN left entirely up to Remy.  Look I feel that a man should not lose his employment or livelihood due the actions of another person, even his own son.  But I think it is debatable, if Remy and partner Don Orsillo can go back to the light hearted patter that infused their game telecasts.  My thoughts on this are somewhat colored by the fact I think Remy's prime years as a broadcaster have passed with absolutely nothing to do with this incident.  I liked Jerry a lot more before he became the Rem Dawg conglomerate.

* In other NESN news, they have taken Jenny Dell off the Red Sox games due to her publicly acknowledged relationship with Will Middlebrooks, Sox third sacker.  I sort of get the journalistic conflict argument here.  But c'mon the Sox have a general manager who at one time while employed by the Sox, was married to reporter Wendi Nix.  If Alan Grenspan can run the Fed while married to Andrea Mitchell of NBC News can't Jenny Dell report on 80 year old ladies making their first trip to America's Favorite Ballpark with their Cub Scout  great grandsons while living with Will Middlebrooks??  Several reports have Jamie Erdahl possibly sliding over from the Bruins to the Sox job, but nothing is official yet.

* Say a prayer or two for Don Orsillo as he deals with the above two soap opera like situations.

* In a recent ranking of all the teams in MLB for 2014, David Schoenfield on ESPN.com listed a concern for Boston ( who he has finishing 2 games behind the Rays for second) as needing to rely on Koji, Tazawa, and Breslow as being excellent again.  I disagree and submit while this would be helpful, it is just as likely the Sox bullpen could be carried by Edwin Mujica, Andrew Miller, and one of the young studs coming along ( likely Brandon Workman, if he is not starting).  The Sox have tons of bullpen depth, and apparently are still looking for more, as they have recently attended workouts for Ryan Madson, and are still in play for Joel Hanrahan.  They are also among the favorites to sign Korean star pitcher Suk-Min Yoon.

* One other bullpen note,  in 2013 Koji Uehara, Junich Tazawa, Edwin Mujica, and new Sox reliever Burke Badenhop combined to pitch 269 innings.  The group of four together walked a total of 10 batters ( not counting intentional walks)! This alone will carry the Sox bullpen a long ways.

* One last thing for Red Sox followers to watch as 2014 goes along.  Knowing the Red Sox led all of MLB in runs scored in 2013, I did some research for the Friday morning spot I do on 92.9 The Ticket   ( check it out around 7:20 each Friday).  I wanted to see if leading the league in runs scored was crucial to a successful Sox season.  It helps, but I learned something different.  The key to winning for a team is not runs scored, but run differential.  This is the difference between the runs you scored and the runs your team allows.  It turns out since the Theo-Ben eras began in 2003, the Red Sox have exceeded a +180 in run differential three times.  Those years are:

           Runs Scored   Runs Allowed

2004           949               768               +181


2007           867               657               +210


2013           853               656                +197


I am sure any good Sox fan recognizes those three years.  Every time the Red Sox exceed 180 in run differential they have won the World Series in recent years.  And they have got there in different ways. Last year the Sox did lead in runs scored, but were only sixth in runs allowed.  In '07 the were only fourth in runs scored, but were first in fewest runs allowed.  And the most balanced of the three in 2004 the Sox again led the AL in runs scored and were third in runs allowed.

And in one other note, two times in this era the Red Sox have exceeded +150 in runs differential( but under +180).  In those two seasons, 2003 and 2008, the Red Sox made it both times to Game Seven of the ALCS.  So as 2014 proceeds, watch the run differential column and see if it is heading towards the +180 area  by late in the 2014 season.  If so, expect an excellent shot to repeat as World Champions.

* Think Spring!


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