Monday, June 23, 2008

2008 Season Preview

From the Archive: March 12, 2008

In case anyone doubts my expertise, feast your eyes on the words describing the following representative anecdote.

I was flipping through the channels the other day, and came across a scrambled baseball game. For a brief instant, (as opposed to a lengthy one), the pitcher was visible only from the knees down. He then delivered a pitch to the plate.

'That’s Andy Pettitte!', I said.

'and Pettitte throws low, ball one', said the announcer.

Yes, that's right. I recognized Andy Pettitte just from how his calves look when he pitches. (No Clemens ass jokes please. well, ok, maybe three.)

Granted, I’m a bit of a specialist. More general knowledge, such as how to make money or where relevant body parts are, well, that eludes me.

Be that as it may, nonetheless, and regardless, per your request, here's my four cents (two cents with inflation, of course.)

The Sox rotation is in an enviable position. 4 starters at or below the age of 27. I feel good now, and for the long haul (assuming we can get some migrant workers to make such a long haul.)

Now I’m no doctor, nor do I go to them or do what they advise, but Beckett's back spasms don't seem like that big of a deal. He’s just coming into his prime years, and if last year was any indication, well, that'll be pretty sweet. His command of the two seamer and sinking fastball improved dramatically, he was able to take a couple of mph off his changeup, thereby increasing the differential, and it’s now a more effective pitch. He cut his homeruns in half last year. And, then, of course, was the playoffs. Where he owned like the landed gentry.

Some theorized that Dice-k will have an analogous development to Beckett, presumably on the supposition that Japan is quadruple-A like the National League, and that it takes such a bus league star a year to adjust to the show, where they hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, where the women have long legs and brains, and where even the players' wives are on roids.

However, his last spring start was more of the same- though big k's, far too high pitch counts for anybody's good, unless he gets paid by the pitch, which I don't think he does, except when he does commercials, unless I’m equivocating. But Dice K did have quite a debut last year- 200 IP and as many K's. Good stuff. I think he'll be ok. No reason to think he'll get worse, at least.

I very quickly became a Lester fan at the end of last year, after being quite doubtful for a while. (It was his last minute negative campaigning, and his ability to answer a phone that did the trick, methinks.) First I thought he was Casey Fossum, now he might be Andy Pettitte. (They have such similar calves, after all.) The key for Lester is fastball command. (I hope this isn't a McCarver esque truism, though I fear it be so.) He could probably benefit by taking an mph or two off, and going for movement, especially down in the zone. Even if he did, he'd still be throwing 90, 91, with some sink, and then he could amp it up to 92-94 with the four seamer up in the zone. Not many lefties throw hard enough to get away with that. And offset that with a Pettitte or Al Leiter type cutter in on righties, as he's started to do more successfully, particularly as he did in the last postseasons appearances, and that's an algorithm for victory. He was quite sharp the other day- and remember, before Papelbon emerged as a closer, Lester was the more highly tauted as a starter. He could really turn into a very good pitcher.

I want to love Bucholtz- his stuff is Mussina esque- big palmball like change, with huge separation from his fastball, great overhand curve. (Why am I comparing all these guys to Yankees? its eerie. I mean, I was even just about to say that Justin Mastersons's neck is as sweaty and appealing to disease-ridden flies as Joba Chamberlain's.) But he's a small guy, and clearly has durability issues, so hopefully he can figure out how to throw his fastball at less than maximum effort, like, say, Mussina does. I read this spring that his mechanics are out of whack, (whereas mine were in whack, at least, before I whacked them off...) which can happen if a guy is using too much effort, throwing too hard. But if we can treat him as a 5th starter, skipping a turn now and then, not expecting too much, and he gives us 25, 27 starts this year, he could be a real asset.

I think Colon has a chance to be good. (He has to be- for such a blob looking guy named colon, well, if his pitching starts to stink...) But (I wonder if parentheses tip off a joke (or if parentheses embedded within other parentheses do))... but his stats for the last few years are respectable; his defense independent stats- k, bb, hr- for the last two years are as good, if not better, as is the case of k's/ip, then they were in previous years. I’m not a doctor, but I do like Scrubs, so I'm going to say if he's healthy, he's not yet over the hill. Early reports on him are optimistic, though last I heard about his velocity it was barely up to 90. But he's never been a big strikeout guy, despite his reputation, and has a pretty heavy two seamer, so he can probably live there.

And Wake is Wake. Although this may prove false, if business isn't business anymore, or, more generally speaking, it no longer is what it is.

And who knows about Schilling? I think we were lucky to get 3 wins out of him in the playoffs last year. We got 2 championships out of that shithead. And I’m no doctor, nor do I believe their precious science, but he's a long shot. I don't think we can count on him coming back. But if so, he's a plus. A plus size, a 3 plus 3 more ERA. I kid, I kid. I have to, because the fucker is anti-choice.

At least, I think he is.

As I often say, comedy over truth, or more modestly, attempting comedy over looking something up. I do it with my students all the time.

I’m not entirely excited about the prospect of Julian Tavarez making starts, in the case of injury, but he wasn't always awful last year, and he gave some decent innings, and even though 4 runs in 6 innings is a 6.00 era, (and though I didn't major in math or miracles), that kind of performance keeps a team with a strong offense in the game, with a chance to win. And I do think Kyle Snyder actually has some potential as a spot starter. Anyone with a 47 mph John Burkett curveball and who's been called a poor man's Bronson Arroyo has got to get people excited.

So, uh, I think that's it for this installment of 'analysis of local baseball men do battle on the field of play'.

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