Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-8-1

8/1/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Top of the 1st
FOR THE RED SOX IT’S ALL BULL
The goal for GMs and managers of major league baseball teams today is to shorten the game. That doesn’t mean less time for fans who are watching the game; it means to shorten the amount of time that a starting pitcher needs to be on the mound before the call to the bullpen is made.

Because of the paucity and fragility of starters the most valuable commodity after a great closer is an outstanding set-up man coming from the bullpen. But set-up men are like peanuts, once you have one you want another and another and another….

On the cutting edge of this new trend is Theo Epstein, the GM in Boston, and his gang of experts which includes baseball visionary Bill James. Behind them, supporting their efforts, are the money and minds of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino. They are the ones who have enabled this franchise to become the new Yankees; what the Red Sox want, the Red Sox get.

This trading deadline the Sox, and a host of other teams (including the Yankees, Cubs, Indians, Tigers, and Mets), wanted Eric Gagne, the erstwhile closer of the Dodgers and Rangers. They wanted him not because they need a closer, they have one of the most formidable weapons in the game in Jonathan Paplebon, they wanted him not just to prevent their opposition from acquiring him, although that factored into the decision. They wanted him to reinforce what was already one of the best bullpens in baseball (it leads the majors with a 2.74 ERA) and shorten the game maybe to as early as the 5th inning.

Prior to this deal, the Sox had Paplebon to pitch the 9th inning and Hideki Okajima (the best Japanese pitcher on this team) to pitch the 8th inning. How good is Okey? Good enough to make the All-Star team. Of late they have been using the youngster Manny Delcarmen to pitch the 7th inning. He throws 94 to 97 mph. When he’s healthy, they toss the veteran Mike Timlin into the mix. The right-hander has been on the disabled list twice already this season and seems to have a chronically sore shoulder, but has been unscored upon over his last 11 outings, totaling 16 innings.

Now why is all this important? Don’t the Sox have the best starting rotation in the league? Well, it’s not that simple. Two of their starters, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka are innings eaters. Beckett averages about 7 innings a start and although he is 13-5, on June 8, he was 9-0. Matsuzaka averages about 6.6 innings a start, short compared to his efforts in Japan, but the Sox have no idea how he will hold up in terms of effectiveness as the season progresses in the American League. Then there is Tim Wakefield who can give you 6 innings, but his is ERA is over 4.50 and knuckleballers are invariably .500 pitchers. Next up is Jon Lester. Lester has made an admirable recovery from cancer and looks like the pitcher he was last season, which is basically a five to six inning pitcher who is in constant trouble (opponents have hit .289 against him) and has an ERA pushing 4.50.

The last member of the rotation, and maybe the most integral part AND the most important reason why the Sox need a deep bullpen is Curt Schilling. While Schilling seems to be throwing great in the minors during his rehab stint, it remains to be seen how effective he is when it counts. In 15 starts thus far this season in the first three innings, the Senator has given up 15 runs. In the next three innings, he has given up almost double that (27). Only twice has he made it beyond the 7th inning.

Now you see why the Sox wanted Gagne, a pitcher who was 2-0 with 16 saves in 17 chances in 34 games this season. Opponents are hitting just .192 against him and he was scored upon in just five of his 34 games.

“Acquiring a pitcher the caliber of Eric Gagne only makes us stronger,” Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein told reporters. “It helps give us what we hope will be a truly dominant bullpen for the remainder of the year.”

And to get him, the Sox only had to give up spare parts. Kason Gabbard has been 4-0 in seven starts for the Sox this season, but he has always been projected as a number four or five starter. David Murphy, is a former No. 1 pick but he fell behind Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss and Jacoby Ellsbury on the Sox’ outfield depth start and there are a host of centerfielders on the free agent market. Engel Beltre may be the prize in this Cracker Jack box that went to Texas, but he is only 18, hitting .215 with five homers and 13 RBIs for the Gulf Coast Red Sox and who knows what will happen to him as he discovers the world of adulthood.

Then there was the money side of the equation. Gagne’s limited no-trade contract did not include the Red Sox. His contract included a $6 million base ($2 million remaining for the final two months) and incentives for games finished. Gagne won’t be finishing, but the Sox threw some money at the problem to get the deal done for Gagne and his agent, Scott Boras, who is always a factor. “Scott Boras represents Dice-K, J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek and they’re all in Boston,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told reporters. “So, I don’t know whether that pushed him that way or did it come down to just the players that were offered, I don’t know that. We were offering a lot for what probably would amount to 20 innings for the rest of the year.”

“It sounds like Boston was very creative,” the Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said, “but we were told that it was a situation with us, unless he was closing, that he was unwilling to accept.”

So, while the Sox would have loved another hitter, Theo’s track record isn’t as strong in that category lately (Crisp, Wily Mo Pena, J.D. Drew, and Julio Lugo). But they got a huge addition to their bullpen and stopped their competitors from making the acquisition. They got enormous insurance in case anyone goes down (Red Sox reliever Brendan Donnelly will have season-ending surgery on his right elbow) and they said to opponents, “you may only get two opportunities to hit against our starter because we have Delcarmen, Okajima, Gagne, and Paplebon in that order waiting for you.”

“We actually love our bullpen,” Manager Terry Francona told the world regarding Gagne. “I think it just got a lot better.”

Back in the day, when Eric Gagne thrived with the Dodgers, setting the record for most consecutive games saved, the scoreboard flashed “Game Over” when he entered games; with this acquisition, the Red Sox are saying to baseball, “Game On.”

Top of the 2nd
NO SUPER TUESDAY
Barry B*nds is still one homer short of tying Henry Aaron after going 0-2 with two walks as the Giants topped the Dodgers, 3-1. Noah Lowry won for the sixth time in seven starts.

Tom Glavine is still one win short of the 300 after the Mets bullpen blew a 2-1 lead and eventually losing 4-2 as Geoff Jenkins hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the 13th to win it for the Brewers.

Alex Rodriguez is still one homer short of 500 as the Yankees tied a franchise record with eight homers in a 16-3 massacre of the White Sox. Hideki Matsui homered twice to give him 13 homers in July. A-Rod went 0-for-5 and is hitless in 17 at-bats, but according to the New York Post, A-Rod spent the Monday off-day celebrating his 32nd birthday in Miami. He jumped on a private plane with his wife, Cynthia, and eight of their closest friends, and flew down for dinner at South Beach steakhouse Prime 112. Apparently he was on the Billy-Ball diet as he had 10 different desserts.

The last time the Yankees hit eight homers was June 28, 1939 against the Philadelphia Athletics. Joe DiMaggio and Babe Dahlgren hit two each in that contest.

Top of the 3rd
THE MARINERS WERE LACKING
Angels’ right-hander John Lackey pitched his first complete-game shutout of the season, improving to 13-6 while scattering seven hits and three walks as Los Angeles topped Seattle, 8-0. Lackey has pitched 15 straight scoreless innings against Seattle this season.
It’s the first time in 14 years the Angels have seen starters toss back-to-back complete games, with Kelvim Escobar having done the same in a loss on Monday night.

Seattle’s four-game winning streak ended as Jeff Weaver allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings. Weaver (2-10) lost his fourth consecutive start. His younger brother Jared pitches tonight for the Angels.

Top of the 4th
BEAT THE BOSS NIGHT
Jesse Litsch is a former Tampa Bay bat boy, now he’s a Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and he threw 6 2-3 shutout innings past his old bosses to defeat the Devil Rays, 2-0.

Top of the 5th
YANKEES UNVEIL ALL-STAR LOGO
Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees and the City of New York today unveiled the official logo of the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be played on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, during the final season at Yankee Stadium.

The 2008 All-Star Game will be the fourth All-Star Game ever held at Yankee Stadium since its 1923 opening, joining 1939, 1960 and 1977. This will be the eighth time that New York City has hosted the event.

The unveiling took place at an afternoon press conference at Yankee Stadium while other teams were making deals.

To see the logo: http://billy-ball.com/documents/2008AllStarlogo.pdf

Top of the 6th
DARRYL STRAWBERRY FOUNDATION
The Darryl Strawberry Foundation will conduct its First Annual Golf Benefit at the Lawrence Country Club – in Lawrence, Long Island next Monday, August 6, 2007 featuring Darryl Strawberry and his friends Howard Johnson, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Davey Johnson, Kevin Mitchell, Spud Webb and others plus brunch and dinner with a grand auction full of sports memorabilia.

All proceeds from this event go directly to funding the expansion and new construction of educational and living facilities for children and adults with autism.

For more information, http://www.darrylstrawberry.net/golfouting2007.html

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
Take one look at today’s pitchers and then take the over on runs scored.

AL
Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 3:10 pm
(R) Josh Towers (5-7) vs. (R) Jason Hammel (1-1)
Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics, 3:35 pm
(L) Nate Robertson (6-8) vs. (L) Dallas Braden (1-6)
Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox, 7:05 pm
(R) Steve Trachsel (5-7) vs. (R) Julian Tavarez
Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees, 7:05 pm
(L) John Danks (6-7) vs. (L) Andy Pettitte (6-7)
Texas Rangers at Cleveland Indians, 7:05 pm
(L) John Rheinecker (1-0) vs. (R) Paul Byrd (9-4)
Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins, 8:10 pm
(R) Brian Bannister (7-6) vs. (R) Boof Bonser (5-7)
LA Angels of Anaheim at Seattle Mariners, 10:05 pm
(R) Jered Weaver (7-5) vs. (R) Felix Hernandez (7-6)
NL
Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals, 7:05 pm
(R) Bronson Arroyo (4-11) vs. (L) John Lannan (0-0)
St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates, 7:05 pm
(R) Braden Looper (8-8) vs. (R) Tony Armas (0-3)
Colorado Rockies at Florida Marlins, 7:05 pm
(R) Josh Fogg (5-6) vs. (R) Byung-Hyun Kim (5-5)
Houston Astros at Atlanta Braves, 7:35 pm
(L) Wandy Rodriguez (7-9) vs. (R) Buddy Carlyle (5-3)
New York Mets at Milwaukee Brewers, 8:05 pm
(L) Oliver Perez (9-7) vs. (R) Dave Bush (8-8)
Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs, 8:05 pm
(L) Jamie Moyer (9-8) vs. (L) Rich Hill (6-6)
Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres, 10:05 pm
(R) Micah Owings (5-5) vs. (L) David Wells (5-7)
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:10 pm
(R) Tim Lincecum (6-2) vs. (L) Mark Hendrickson (4-5)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Major League Baseball drew 717,478 fans to its 17 games Saturday, making it the most well attended single day in baseball history. The 17 games attracted an average of 42,205 fans per game.

Previously, the highest attendance in a single day occurred on July 3, 1999, when 640,412 fans attended 17 Major League games. On Saturday, July 21st, 639,628 fans turned out for 16 games, which had been the second highest total prior to yesterday.

Top of the 9th
You can check the remaining 2007 key dates for baseball easily on Billy-Ball.com:
http://billy-ball.com/documents/MLB2007Dates.pdf

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.