Weekend World Series Blog
Here's a pretty comrehensive summary of Terry Francona's dilemma by Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe. Because there is no Designated Hitter in Fall Classic contests being played in National League parks, Francona has to sit one of his regulars.
The debate in Boston has become binary; it's either Papi or Youk who will sit (and I guess Francona agrees). Two options that should be on the table but apparently were not have barely been discussed.
First, Youkilis could move over to third base and replace Mike Lowell. Sure, Lowell has a great glove and has had a fantastic season. He has even had a great post-season. But Kevin Youkilis is hitting .396/.491/.750 in the second season and while placing too much stock on a small sample would be short-sighted, so too is ignoring as hot a hand as Youk's.
Here's the option I would have liked to have seen considered. Why not displace the weakest link of this Sox attack, centerfield? Coco Crisp has been a disaster and Jacoby Ellsbury has offered little relief. Both are phenomenal defenders, however, and with Daisuke Matsuzaka hurling tonight (a slight fly-ball pitcher) in Coors's spacious outfield, Francona is opting for defense. A Manny/Drew/Youkils left-to-right outfield would be about as bad as it gets defensively but the offensive upgrade of a scorching hot Youkilis over a freezing cold banjo-hitting centerfield duo would probably be justified. And remember, Youkilis played just about all of September 2006 in left field for Boston and held up just fine.
I rank the who-to-sit options thusly:
We'll see if there is any impact tonight.
- Patrick Sullivan, 10/27/2007, 11:26 AM EDT
Using sOPS+, which is defined here, the following table breaks down how well (or poorly) Boston and Colorado hitters do in all of the various pitch counts.
1st Pitch 111 130
1-0 Count 106 109
2-0 Count 106 110
3-0 Count 145 66
0-1 Count 94 104
1-1 Count 132 90
2-1 Count 108 146
3-1 Count 105 106
0-2 Count 93 129
1-2 Count 124 90
2-2 Count 100 100
Full Count 112 119
After 1-0 111 103
After 2-0 111 105
After 3-0 109 92
After 0-1 114 109
After 1-1 120 106
After 2-1 118 120
After 3-1 105 108
After 0-2 112 114
After 1-2 113 104
After 2-2 109 112
Three Balls 110 109
Two Strikes 116 110
As shown, the Red Sox are below average when it comes to hitting in 0-1 and 0-2 counts. They hit well on the first pitch and when ahead in the count. Colorado, which is a bit more of a free-swinging club, has had lots of success on the first pitch (.391/.401/.633 with 50 2B and 37 HR in 764 plate appearances).
I don't know if Josh Fogg can throw first and second pitch strikes past Red Sox hitters. Diasuke Matsuzaka, on the other hand, might be a good fit if he can keep the Rockies guessing all night with his assortment of pitches. It says here that the matchup favors Boston with or without Youkilis in the lineup.
- Rich Lederer, 10/27, 11:45 AM PT
As it turns out, Dice-K hasn't been effective when the batter has put the ball in the play on the first pitch. Opponents are hitting .350/.388/.675 with a 134 OPS+ in such situations. Fogg also hasn't had success when hitters have put the first pitch in play (146 OPS+). The Colorado righthander has gotten ripped the second time through the lineup (142 OPS+), which basically equates to pitch numbers 26-75 (OPS+ over 150).
Unless the umpire has a big strike zone, I see the Red Sox knocking Fogg out of the game before the fifth inning is completed. Whether Matsuzaka can make it through five will depend on if he can keep his breaking stuff and pitch count down. Either way, look for both bullpens to get a lot of work tonight.
- Rich Lederer, 10/27, 5:05 PM PT
Ladies and gentlemen, Rich Lederer!
- Patrick Sullivan, 10/27, 10:34 PM EDT
By the way, when it comes to watching baseball games on TV, I'm sure glad that I live on the west coast. It's absolutely ridiculous when a nine-inning game lasts 4 hours and 19 minutes and ends a few minutes before the clock strikes 1 a.m. on the east coast. Quoting my brother, "Didn't baseball games used to be shorter than football games?"
- Rich Lederer, 10/27, 9:59 PM PT
Much was made of Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia becoming the first pair of rookies to bat 1-2 in a World Series game and the only rookies to combine for seven hits in a Fall Classic contest. But I don't recall hearing or reading anything about the fact that these two youngsters were Pac-10 Players of the Year – Pedroia in 2003 and Ellsbury in 2005.
Pedroia played college ball at Arizona State and was the Pac-10 conference's co-POY (along with Stanford's Ryan Garko, who was a catcher back then). The Boston second baseman was a shortstop with ASU and, in fact, was named National Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 by Collegiate Baseball.
Ellsbury went to Oregon State and was the conference's co-POY (with Arizona's Trevor Crowe). An outstanding defensive center fielder in college and in the professional ranks, Ellsbury is fleet of foot and promises to be a .300 hitter with 30 to 40 stolen bases per year. Ellsbury and Pedroia are also known for their strike-zone judgment and makeup.
Boston has another Pac-10 Player of the Year – Jed Lowrie, who won the award in 2004 – in its ranks. (Interestingly, Pedroia, who was named POY the previous year as a sophomore, finished second behind Lowrie in his junior season.) A second baseman at Stanford, Lowrie has played mostly at shortstop in the minors. He may not have the quickness and range to handle that position in the majors, but there is little doubt that the switch-hitter can produce offensively at the highest level. Lowrie had a combined line of .298/.393/.503 (with 68 XBH, 77 BB and 91 SO) at AA and AAA this season.
Kudos to the Red Sox for drafting, signing, and developing these Pac-10 Players of the Year.
- Rich Lederer, 10/28, 9:10 AM PT