Thursday, July 31, 2008

Varitek the Wise Pitch Caller; Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball Fastball

Ted Williams hated pitchers. Thought they were dumb. As an amateur pitcher: hey! As an everything else, he may have a point.

But somebody has to be smart out there. Crash told Nuke "Don't think, Meat, just throw." If the pitcher's the meat, the catcher's the soul, the ghost in the fleshy machine.

So we leave it to Captain Varitek to steer the ship, (to be the homunculus piloting the meat-craft?). After all, Tek is renowned for his preparation. And we all know how well he handles the pitching staff.

But in the last game before the non-waiver trading deadline, the Sox were humiliated by the Angels 9-2, who swept the Sox for the second time in 2 weeks. And Varitek put down the fingers.

Beckett breezed through 3 scoreless innings. In the 4th, Maicer Izturis lead off. Fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball for a double. Beckett then starts Teixeira with a fastball strike, drops a curve, and then gets the whiff with the fastball. Fine. But then Vlad Guerrero steps up. Fastball, fastball for an RBI single. Then Torri Hunter. Fastball, Fastball for a double, 2nd and 3rd. 1 out. Anderson steps up. Fastball. 2 run single.

John Farrell visits the mound. Kendrick to the plate. Curveball, curveball, curveball, curveball for strike 3. Then Mathews. Curveball, Fastball, fastball, and then Beckett took something off, and got Mathews to tap back to the mound.

I bet John Farrell could hit .215. But that's not his job.

After Beckett tossed a scoreless 5th, and the Sox got 2 back to cut the lead to a single run, Remy calls on Ace Beckett for a "shut-down inning" in the top of the 6th.

Beckett starts Hunter with a curve for a ball, then walks him after 3 straight fastballs. Then 3 more fastballs to Anderson, and the shot hooks around the Pesky Pole for a two run dong faster than you can say Hanley Ramirez.

When Beckett is a two-pitch pitcher, he's hittable. When he's a one-pitch pitcher, he's terrible.

But he's just the meat.

The fastball that Anderson hit for the 2 run single in the 4th was down and away, possibly even out of the strike zone. Perhaps not such a bad pitch. I believe it was at this point that Remy said "you've got to tip your hat to the hitter sometimes." Maybe so. But that particular pitch shouldn't be hittable, and a pitcher- and a catcher- do bear some responsibility for allowing it to be hit.

I have a theory of pitch complements. Basically, every pitch needs a complementary pitch that looks like it but isn't, in order to create doubt and hence delay in the hitter's mind on any given pitch. A fastball down and away, as textbook as it sounds, is worthless without a changeup (or splitter) down and away that that fastball might be, as far as the hitter is concerned.

From Anderson's point of view, he sees the pitch moving down and away. But there's no chance that that pitch is a breaking ball because breaking balls can't start that low, and because Beckett NEVER THREW A CHANGEUP, that leaves a 100% chance that that pitch is a fastball. So Anderson's neural timing mechanism yells 'swing, dummy', and he is able to get out in front and pull a Josh Beckett fastball that is down and away from him, and hook it into rightfield, which should be next to impossible.

If Beckett's been dropping changeups there all night, or at least once in a while, there is no way Anderson leans out and hooks that pitch. Instead, concern about the change either has him take that pitch, or slows him down enough that he tops over it and grounds out to second.

And whose job is it to have Beckett drop some changeups down there? Captain Varibelli, that's who. He's the brains of this operation. The guy whose great catching and pitch selection is what makes his atrocious hitting palatable. Everyone knows Manny isn't the leader. Varitek is. And he hasn't figured out how to lead the staff against the Angels, who have battered the Sox for a 6.26 ERA over these 8 straight Angels victories.

I've said it before- Josh Beckett is only as good as his changeup. In '06, there wasn't enough differential between his 95 mph heat, and his 90 mph changeup. In '07, he got the change down in the mid to high 80's, and was dominant. Now, he's abandoned the change, it seems, in favor of two seamers and an alleged cutter, in the 90-92 range. Not good enough. He needs that third speed, an offspeed pitch down in the zone to complement the low fastball, to get the hitter a) looking low, and b) waiting on a low pitch, both of which then make the high 4 seam fastball that much more difficult to reach.

I don't care if Beckett isn't "feeling" the changeup that day. Meat doesn't feel. Meat's a zombie. Meat throws. Varitek should know better.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yankees Acquire Name and Brand of Ivan Rodriguez, for Kyle Farnssomething

The Yankees today acquired a brand name 36 year old catcher for a relief pitcher, the lowest form of baseball celebrity. Baseball's extras, really, is what they are.

This brand name catcher had an road OPS of .686 last year and .671 this year (with only 7 XB hits) away from his home park , which the Yankees, in related talks, failed to acquire.

The current replaceable Yankee catcher, a man so not famous that he's easily confused with two of his brothers, only had a .581 OPS this year, but Molina- whichever one it is that catches for the Yankees- had nabbed 47.3% of attempted base stealers this year, better than the Great Famous Original Pudge's average of around 34 % over the last 2 years.

The Yanks of course extended their largesse in return for the Famous Catcher in the form of Kyle Farnssomething, who before his most recent outing had held opponents scoreless in his 11 appearances. Farnswhatever had filled up the hole in the bullpen that had been opened by the move to the starting rotation of the Very Famous And Hyped Fat Prospect.

But as the Yankees retain the option of simply playing commercials during the 8th inning, this was deemed not to be a problem.

Curses; Lackey's No-No Foiled by Magic Single

It's not criminal assault to stick an effigy with a pin if voodoo magic doesn't really exist.

But it's still not nice.

Despite betraying an odd view of the cosmos, Sox broadcasters Remy and Orsillo did their best to put a hex on John Lackey's potential no-hitter, which was indeed broken up with 1 out in the 9th inning of an eventual 6-2 Angels victory, their 7th in a row over the ragdoll Red Sox.

Repetitive to the point of ritualistic intonation, Remy and Orsillo uttered the magic word 'no-hitter' before Lackey had yielded a hit, violating the sacred taboo of no-hit superstition: never utter that which is happening in front of you (typically not a problem for Joe Morgan.) NESN even showed a graphic listing the pitchers that had "no-hit" the Sox since 1763. Never daring to speak these words during Sox gems, this was no accident; they were attempting to raise the dead, to cast dark spells, to curse the fortunes of the Angels hurler.

Of course, words don't do that. It's a primitive view of language that conflates meaning and causality; a rock may vibrate slightly in response to the soundwaves emitted by vocal chords, but it will not step aside because those soundwaves encode 'open sesame.' Or, as it's sometimes put, if an opera singer sings "shatter" and the glass breaks, it's the intensity of the sound, not the meaning of the words, that does the trick.

Though this makes Remy and Orsillo's hexing all the more ridiculous, it renders it morally ambiguous. They had malicious intent, but they stuck a doll with a pin. On the one hand, this renders the assault benign. On the other hand, not only are they mean, but they're dumb. I'm not sure which is worse.

Given that I just drank unattended rum and a bat hit the back of my head, I think I've changed my mind. Maybe Jobu made that curveball not quite reach the corner. Maybe the magic words pushed Pedroia's groundball just out of Izturis' range. Maybe the Sox can actually someday beat the Angels.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mannystein's Poker

A poker face is intended to exploit the appearance/reality distinction. Manny Ramirez probably doesn't have much of a poker face.

His two run single in the 4th off Jered Weaver produced a bemused, even condescending grin. After Weaver's cartoonish limb-flailing sideways delivery ejected a fastball, Manny simply swatted it away, sending it back up the middle for the two RBIs, and sending Weaver's assorted limbs after it.

The sequence had a bit of the 3 Stooges to it: Weaver's windup, all appearance and bluster, was an exaggerated windmilling set-up for a why-I-oughta-roundhouse right, only to be met by Manny's short, quick jab to the face. Manny's bat provided the reality principle yet again.

But K-Rod's huge, violent windup is the real deal. When Manny hit a towering bomb with 2 outs in the 9th to cut the Angels lead to 7-5, he began to lift his arms over his head, in his trademark 'there is exactly no shit left in that ball' pose. Manny then thought better of it, and lowered his arms, but his bad poker face left no doubt of his hand. This was only the appearance of victory, not reality. One out later, the Sox had dropped their 6th straight to the Angels.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Logical Fallacy of the Week; Manny vs. Tito

[Editors Note: 'Logical Fallacy of the Week' is the segment where I'm a real dick about language.]

Manny says stuff, Francona says stuff. And in this most recent episode, it turns out Manny was logical and well-spoken, whereas Francona packed fallacies and mal mots like they were his last chaw.

Let's start with Tito. "We've run into bumps in the road ever since I've been here and there have been some before I've been here." I know this is an expression, but doesn't one run onto bumps in the road? One falls into holes, runs into friends or brick walls, but onto bumps. Moving on.

Tito continues: "The result of two of the times has been a World Series ring."

But just because the Sox won the World Series after Manny's - or anyone's- bumpiness, that of course doesn't mean that they won because of or as a result of those bumps. This is our fallacy, known as 'post hoc ergo propter hoc', or 'after this, therefore because of this.'

It's like with Jeter. Just because Jeter couldn't field a routine grounder to his left after I said he couldn't doesn't mean that the result of my saying that was Jeter's not having any range. My yelling doesn't cause Jeter's shitty fielding, and Manny's bumpiness didn't cause the World Series victories.

But maybe I'm picking on the word 'result', and Francona only meant- but didn't say (despite talking at the time)- that the Sox have weathered the storm, and have won the Series despite Manny's bumpiness.

Maybe so. Nonetheless, there are two strikes against Francona on this one because what we need most in this media maelstrom is some clear thinking about causality, and muddled thinking and talking on the subject only exacerbates the problem.

For instance, there's all this talk about Manny being a distraction. Presumably, this is bad because this distraction will somehow result in more losses for the Sox. But does Manny's behavior actually affect the team? Is there any evidence for his whatsoever? Does Youkilis stand up there, stroking his bat, thinking:

"Look for the fastball up. He's gotta come with the cheese. Relax. Relax. Quick bat. Pop the clubhead. Open the hips. Relax. You're thinking too much. Get outta your fuckin' head, Crash [Youkilis calls himself Crash.]... Throw that shit again, meat. Throw that weak ass shit. Now he's gotta try to slip the cheese by me. One and one. You're on top. Now bring me the gas --This son of a bitch throws hard... Manny, Manny, Manny. Who is this Manny? Jesus, get outta the box you idiot, where's your head? Get the leftfielder outta your head."

I hope not. Manny causes beat writers to write lousy articles. But that's about it.

Secondly, the rest of Francona's quote was jibberish, which disturbs me. Tito then spake: "As a team, sometimes you fight through things, sometimes you work through things. It's not always perfect, but how you get to the end is what counts and that's what we're trying to do."

Huh? How you get to the end is what counts? It's not whether you win or lose, but how? Really? How much do they pay Tito? And what's the 'that' in 'that's what we're tying to do'? Is it ''How you get to the end'? That doesn't make sense. 'Get to the end'? If so, is he not contradicting the noise he made 1 second earlier by suggesting it's the end, not the how, that counts?

Contrast Manny. "If the Red Sox are a better team without Manny Ramirez, they should trade me."

Absolutely. Only Tampa Bay Yankee fans would disagree with this.

Manny continued "Enough is enough." That's definitely true. A necessary, tautological truth, even.

Manny said: "I could choose a team that offers me the best conditions or one in the chase for the postseason." Manny clearly lays out his options in the form of an exclusive disjunction.

He even said: "I don't care where I play, I can even play in Iraq if need be. My job is to play baseball," and "I don't want to be a problem and a distraction to the Red Sox in such a critical moment of the season. I want to help the team, even if that means I have to go."

Here, Manny selflessly offers his services to wherever Duty takes him, and nobly understands that his true Love for the Sox means that even if they're better off without him, then that's something he must accept.

Also, Francona said this in response to questions about Manny's possible bad mood: "I'm not sure that matters. I'd take a guy that's hitting .500 that's miserable as opposed to a guy that hands out bouquets to his teammates and is hitting a buck 45."

Really? I could have sworn Francona didn't pinch hit Casey for Varitek...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

On Our Rug, In Our Universe; Yanks Win 10-3

Some people use the word 'philosophical' to mean 'stoic', and 'stoic' to mean 'able to withstand an asskicking'.

And though transitivity implies that I'm getting a degree in being able to withstand an asskicking, which I surely am not (since I can't), I'll temporarily accept the appellation 'philosophical' in regards to how to take today's 10-3 drubbing at the hands of the resurgent M F-ing Yankees (who since the break have won 8 straight, and have posted an .858 team OPS and a team ERA of 1.56.)

Today's game was a real gutshot. Shots like these do have to be suffered. And if you can make it through with your dignity intact, and without vomiting, you earn the glory you achieve later. Champions- teams and their fans- have to be able to take a punch too. (But we know that.)

The long view cosmic scheme of things stoicism is justifiable; The Sox are the defending champs, Ortiz is back, we (yes, we) have the best run differential in the American League at +88, 46 ahead of Tampa and 30 better than the Yanks. This is something to bite down on, you know, to be philosophical.

But this was also the kind of game that makes me check the movie listings and resort to posting homoawkward pictures that have probably circulated the interweb twice over by now.

(photo by Stuart Cahill)

You heard it here third. Lester's the stopper tomorrow.

Red Sox (Indig)nation; Umpire K's Lowell

I hate losing. And I hate the Yankees. And I really hate losing to the Yankees. And yes, the crappy whole is greater than the crappy parts.

I also hate injustice. And I know there are starving people in lands of plenty, and crooks get away with it, but blown strike calls are injustice too. They pervert truth and put a penny on the tracks of destiny.

With one out and the tying run on first in the bottom of the 9th in a 1-0 game and Mike Lowell at the plate, Mariano Rivera and human umpire Marty Foster teamed up to punch out Lowell.

Admittedly, the level-headed-give-peace-a-chance-let-science-have-its-say part of me wasn't a thousand percent sure of this salt-in-the-eye-Mr.-Fuji-tag-team-machination until after the game, because the so called 'My 9' television station in New York- a station, I assure you, of which I own none and which I have no right to prevent others from using- didn't see fit to replay the pitch from any angle other than the crooked one from which they first showed it.

But according to MLB Gameday, it looked like this

See that, pitch number 8? You know, the one that's belt high, oh, 3 or 4 inches off the plate inside? You know, the one that made temperate-tempered Mike Lowell jump up and down and then look like this?

Yeah, they called that strike 3. Lowell, up to that point, had a righteous AB, fouling off tough cutters away. Al Leiter and David Cone astutely pointed out Lowell's ability to turn on the inside pitch, and Rivera pitched him away. That Lowell would get punched out on his strength- the inside fastball- was particularly unjust, and egregious. He was cheated, the natural conclusion of his at-bat interrupted. He was made to look weak precisely where he is strong. That's not justice.

Neither was this.

I'm still bitter. Indignation doesn't expire.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yankees Suck; Metaphysics, not Physics or Subjectivity

Everyone knows the Yankees Suck. Some people think saying it is rude, or stupid, or old hat. But it's true.

Today, another boring article claiming that people shouldn't state what they know to be true oozed from the Globe, and great reaction here and here.

What I enjoy most about the fact that the Yankees Suck is that it is a metaphysical fact, and not a physical fact. You see, as a philosopher, I worry that there are few distinctly philosophical facts that go over and above scientific or physical facts. And this- the Yankees Sucking- is one of them.

That is, obviously the Yankees don't suck in the physical sense; they're good at baseball. (Usually.) No, they suck in the metaphysical sense.

They really do, but we have to be careful about the reduction-to-taste interpretation. For example, in a blog linked to above, Red Sox Chick wrote "'Yankees Suck' is shortened version of 'Good God I hate the Yankees and their obnoxious fans and big-mouthed owner' or some other similar phrase."

But I don't like this interpretation because it changes a statement about the Yankees to a statement about a Sox fan. And that changes everything.

To say beauty is in the eye of the beholder is to remove the beauty from the object, and put it in the subject. When philosophers want to deny that there are moral facts or moral truths in the universe, they attempt to reduce statements like 'torture is wrong'- putatively about a state of affairs in the world- to 'I disapprove of torture' or 'boo torture!', which now only express sentiments of the person making the statement, and leave the rest of the universe alone.

The real problem with this is that it makes feelings arbitrary; if the painting isn't actually beautiful, then the perception of it as beautiful can't be entirely due to the properties of the painting. If torture isn't actually wrong, that you feel it to be wrong comes from you, and not from it, and perhaps it's only because of your faulty wiring or arbitrary upbringing that you feel the way you do.

And as a result, those feelings can't be true. If the wrongness isn't in the torture, then it's not true that torture is wrong, though it may be true that you don't like torture. Instead, the only way to guarantee the truth of the perception of beauty or wrongness is to have that property reside in the object of that perception or feeling.

So I don't prefer to think that the Yankees have only a bunch of physical properties pertaining to their baseball-playing abilities, and I generate, on my own, feelings of antipathy that another observer, observing the same physical properties, wouldn't have if he were from New York or were himself sucky. No, I prefer to think of the Yankees actually sucking, as a metaphysical truth about them, not merely as an expression of my own arbitrary tastes and dispositions

The Yankees actually have the property of suckiness, and if you do hate the Yankees, you have that feeling in addition to the suckiness the Yankees actually have.

The Yankees Suck, in a metaphysical sense, and there are philosophical facts distinct from physical scientific facts.


Duality Cups

Philosophy. Wisdom. Thought. So high-brow.

But high-brow couldn't exist without low-brow to contrast with. It takes two to have a duality, after all.

Hence, the following picture, and comment, from my friend Marc (a fellow philosophy major):

um...what is wrong with this picture? does he have...? are those...? nah...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

King Hippo They Ain't; Sox Drop M's, 4-2

The Mariners' only weakness is their lack of talent. The Sox' weakness is that they aren't perfect.

This was not a game played between equals; while the Mariners struggled to keep up, the Sox sparred.

Though the cliches are true- the games aren't played on paper, these are the teams you're supposed to beat- and there is always joy in any victory, imperfections were visible, the kind that are noticed when victory goes without saying, and a team is really playing against it's idealized self.

Dice-K lamented not going 9- "If I couldn't throw a complete game today I don't know when I'm going to do it." The Sox wore down M's starter R.A. Dickey without even a single strikeout, but left 10 men on base. Papelbon notched the save, but failed to record a strikeout.

These imperfections were hidden by the dim light of the last-place Mariners, but they might appear under the bright lights of the postseason. The '08 Sox aren't yet ready for the big stage; a training montage might still be necessary.

Dice-K has shown better command of the breaking stuff, which is most effective when it catches plenty of the plate and falls off the table, rather than starting on the corners and leaving familiar territory.

But Seattle is last in the league in runs scored and OBP, and 12th in walks. If Dice-K couldn't keep a low pitch count today, I don't know when he could. And even when successful, Dice-K is never entirely in control; a Seattle broadcaster appropriately described him as "effectively wild," as he walked 3 in 7 1/3 shutout innings; his control was intermittent. At times his fastball was spotted at the knees, in the classical style, other times he'd decapitate a righty if only a lefty wasn't up.

Papelbon's jabs are true, but his haymakers haven't made hay lately; though saving consecutive games, he hasn't recorded a strikeout in either. He of the 12.96 K/9 IP in '07 hasn't had a multi-strikeout game in 10 outings, dating back to June 24 in Arizona. As Rob Bradford pointed out a few days ago, Papelbon's getting fewer swings and misses, and far more ground balls this year. That characteristic explosive escalation on his fastball has stalled, and hitters are not just making contact but are even getting on top of the ball.

Championship teams, even in victory, can ill-afford to overlook their imperfections. There are always hungry contenders out there, looking to knock the champs' block off while the champ wrestles Thunderlips for charity and comic relief.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lester Returns Home, Claims Territory, Inhabitants

Jon Lester crowds righthanded hitters. He gets all up in their grills, or their kitchens, or wherever they prepare foodstuffs.

His cutter is relentless, and territorial. Lester lays claim not just to the inside part of the plate, but inside off the plate, even spilling into the righthanders' batters' box. There's nowhere to go. Lester's cutter invades hitters' personal space.

Just watching him makes my studio apartment feel smaller. Lester's a close talker, and he's saying 'broken bat.'

Personal space is about boundaries, and exclusion. If matter is impenetrable, two things can't exist in the same place and time. But Lester's cutter gets in there. And something's got to give. Those maple bats sure look penetrable.

In going 7 1/3 scoreless, Lester was dominant, and efficient. Only 3 three-ball counts, and no walks. A hitter's count implies possession, but tonight hitters had no title, no claim, no land, no property. The batters box provided no sanctuary. Lester owned, moved in, and planted his flag in the righthanders' batter's box.

Lester won his 8th, lowering his ERA to 3.20, good for 7th in the league. The Sox looked at home against a second-division Mariners club, shutting them out 4-0. The Sox' struggles on the road this year are well known. Regaining their imperialistic tendencies- claiming soil foreign to Fenway and annexing exotic batters' boxes- would go a long way towards capturing glory and treasure.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Small Ball Doesn't Work; Sox Swept in Anaheim, 5-3

Losing to the Angels is like losing to a guy who spins his foosball players; you concede they hit the ball, and that they scored more, but you're just not sure how much credit they should get.

Much is made of the Angels' aggressive small ball style, but I don't like it. They swing at everything, and so I don't know that it isn't random when they do hit the ball. They look to me like a team with a lower on-base percentage than batting average.

The Sox are disciplined; patience, which suggests passivity, isn't the right word. The Angels, though talented, are wild and uncontrolled. They are Nuke LaLoosh to the Sox's Crash.

It's obvious that the organizations have different values. The Angels have only 1 player with an OBP above .350 (Chone Figgins at .379), and only 3 qualifiers above .310. Egregiously, they have 7 players with at least 90 AB's below .315 in OBP, including qualifiers Mathews Jr and Anderson, and Jeff Mathis way down at .288.

Compare the Sox, with 8 players above .350 in OBP, including Casey (129 AB's) at.418, and qualifiers Drew .410, Ramirez .396, and Youkilis .382. The Sox have just 3 players with at least 90 AB's below .315 in OBP, and two are catchers.

National media types are inclined to call the Sox a "moneyball team", and Beane is famously cited as saying his shit doesn't work in the playoffs. But the Sox have trounced the Angels, 6 games to 0, over the last two A.L. Division Series (in '04 and '07. You should know this.) It's the Angels' shit that doesn't work in the postseason, because they are the far inferior offensive team- the Sox have outscored the Angels by 74 runs this season- and they're only even in pitching (with the Sox staff ERA at 3.84, the starters 3.77, and the Angels staff at 3.81, the starters 3.74)

The Angels win with pitching, not with small ball. And perhaps with Luck; the Angels' run differential is a mere +33, to the Sox' +87.

The philosopher Dan Dennett talks of "elbow room" for free will in a deterministic universe. Maybe, just maybe, says the ghost of Joe Morgan past, small ball creates some "elbow room" in the deterministic universe of wins as a function of random run distribution (i.e. the expected record based on +/-.)

Maybe. But a team with such a low OBP playing to the score only works with great pitching, and those goddam foosball spinners are f'ing lucky and should learn to play the real way.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Free to Exist You and Me

"David Ortiz can’t just be. He has to be David Ortiz," suggests the Herald's Rob Bradford. I am slightly amused that we sort of know what he means, despite it appearing that he is contrasting David Ortiz with existence, which doesn't really make sense.

It's a bit Platonic, Bradford's statement, encoding, as it does, the difference between mere existence and a higher plane, giving a hint of Plato's contrast of the actual with the Ideal.

For on the one hand, we have David Ortiz, existent. Thing in the universe. Occupant of a portion of space-time. Detectable with the senses. On the other hand, we have David Ortiz, David Ortiz. Great thing. Ideal Designated Hitter. Big Papi. Team Leader. Object of incredulity and awe.

So really, there's no pressure on Big Papi at all. All David Ortiz has to do during the pennant race is not exist, but transcend existence into the realm where his true self -David Ortiz- lies; that is, for Bradford, it's not enough simply that David Ortiz- that thing that answers to the name 'David Ortiz'- exists, but that the David Ortiz that exists also exists as David Ortiz.

What I love best about philosophy is the clarity it affords.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Golden Mean Team; The All-Time Average Red Sox

For Aristotle, virtue lay between two extremes. Take social conduct for example. One extreme is being a kiss-ass, the other extreme is being an asshole. In between lies friendliness.

This is the doctrine of the Golden Mean, the Middle Path, the Warm Porridge.

Towards celebrating Aristotle's idea, and because this year's All-Star break is excessively long, I've compiled the Golden Mean Team: the Most Average Red Sox Team of All Time (well, just going back to 1986, actually.)

These are not your All-Time Great Sox, with Williams in left, Boggs at third and Fisk behind the dish. And these are not the comically poor Sox, with whoever the hell they had in the 1920's, way before this.

No, this is the The Golden Mean Team, the most middling, mediocre, lump of average Red Sox players imaginable by someone with 50th percentile creativity.

So, a bit about method.

OPS+ is OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) adjusted for ballpark and league, with 100 defined as league average. ERA+ is basically the same for ERA, again with 100 defined as league average.

I figured the most average Red Sox team would be composed of players whose seasons were as close to 100 in OPS+ or ERA+ as possible.

I've named a starter for each position, a 5 man starting rotation, and a closer.

In the case of ties- to be expected when dealing with such mediocrity- I went with the player whose career OPS+ or ERA+ was closest to 100.

So now, without making a federal case about it, here are the few, the moderately happy few, whose run of the mill contributions make up the Golden Mean Team, the All-Time (well, since 1986) Average, the Mediocre, the you-win-some-you-lose-some Boston Red Sox.

Position/Name/Year/Season OPS+ or ERA+/ (Career OPS+ or ERA+)

  • C Scott Hatteberg, 1997: 103 (101)
  • 1B Carlos Quintana, 1990: 103 (93)
  • 2B Marty Barrett, 1986: 100 (86)
  • SS John Valentin, 1996: 104 (109)
  • 3B Scott Cooper, 1992: 100 (90)

  • LF Troy Oleary, 1998: 99 (97)
  • CF Carl Everett, 2001: 97 (107)
  • RF Darren Bragg, 1999: 99 (85)
  • DH Dante Bichette, 2001: 103 (106)

The cleanup hitter could hit 9th on this team. And vice versa.

Starting Rotation

  1. John Burkett, 2002: 101 (99)
  2. Hideo Nomo, 2001: 101 (97)
  3. Bruce Hurst, 1987: 103 (104)
  4. Tim Wakefield, 2004: 100 (108)
  5. Mike Boddicker, 1989: 103 (108)


  1. Bob Stanely, 1986: 96 (118)

Somewhat honorable but fairly indifferent mention goes to the entire 2005 Red Sox starting rotation. Without doing any more research, I'm guessing this is the most mediocre starting rotation of all time.

Wakefield at 109, Bronson Arroyo: 100 (106), Matt Clement: 99 (96), David Wells: 102 (108), and Wade Milller: 92 (110)

So there you have it, the Boston Salieris. These guys get awards for attendance. A living room full of participation trophies. They have 2.4 kids. They put the meh in mediocre. Between the ages of 40 and 70 they may experience erectile dysfunction.

I'll stop there. That joke's OPS+ is 100. If that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Kind of Universe is This, Anway?; All-Star Cosmology

I thought perhaps the moral universe might save Dan Uggla.

In an All-Star game, one can be forgiven for thinking the stars might be aligned just so.

Uggla whiffed in the 8th. With runners on first and third in the top of the 10th, he bounced into an inning ending double play. In the bottom of the 10th, he perpetrated two errors, loading the bases with nobody out.

But Cook got out of the jam. So in the top of the 12th, the beleaguered Uggla tread to the plate, bases loaded, one out.

Perhaps the moral universe might have seen fit to reverse Uggla's fortunes. Instead, he got the filthiest jelly legging cartoony curveball I've ever seen, courtesy of Joakim Soria. It was 67 mph of pure you've-got-to-be-shitting-me. Uggla poked at it like he wasn't sure it was dead. Strike 3.

Uggla ended up 0-4 with 3 Ks and 3 errors, an All-Star game record. If it smells like a goat, and chews like a goat...

But I should have known the universe contained pockets of injustice and I'll-be-damned on this night; Tim McCarver, the butcher of Oxford, actually had a good line.

When that adorable and sophisticated Bronx crowd chanted "overrated" at Papelbon in the 8th inning, he responded by overpowering the aforementioned Uggla. McCarver quipped (yes, McCarver actually quipped) that with that K, "Papelbon is saying 'if you think I'm overrated, get a bat.'"

F yeah, McCarver. F yeah.

It was that kind of night. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

On the other hand, a Red Sox player won MVP in the last All-Star game at Yankee stadium. Ortiz is coming back, and the Sox are in first place at the break. So all is right in the universe, after all. Uggla will have to take care of himself.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Logical Fallacy of the Week: Introduction

As I'm sure you're well aware, baseball folks make erroneous statements and draw invalid inferences and derive conclusions from nothingness and arbitrarity. All the time. And as someone in the thinking business, I feel duty-bound to point out such things when I notice them.

So, in what might become an irregular regular feature of Soxlosophy, I've decided to introduce the "logical fallacy of the week," a feature that in all likelihood will not be updated every week.

But it's a better name than "logical fallacy of the unspecified time-unit."

Now, strictly speaking, many errors in reasoning which I'll discuss (and by discuss I mean 'ridicule') are not logical fallacies at all, so the name's inaccurate on both fronts. But "the sloppy informal cognitions and ambiguous and misleading assertions of baseball folks of the unspecified time unit" is actually a worse name than 'Pujols' or 'Asdrubal Cabrera'.

For the trial run, I thought I'd start with a valid syllogism like 'modus ponens'- you know, the one that goes

(All) Yankees suck
A-Rod is a Yankee
therefore, A-Rod sucks

and work up some fallacies from there. But I changed my mind.

For what better place to start on the butchering of thought and language as we know it than with Fox's A-team, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver?

So lets take a trip down memory lane to last week's Fox national broadcast of the Sox vs. the Yankees, and with Tim McCarver in a moment, this is Joe Buck.

Buck has this habit of putting the predicate of the sentence in the place normally reserved for the subject, namely the beginning. So, for instance, last week Buck said "overpowered was Varitek by Veras", and "on deck is Ramirez".

And though one might think such Yoda-speak is cute, the habit of saying everything backwards led to the following vacuous statement, our very first "Logical fallacy of the week."

Buck said of Sox starter Justin Masterson after Masterson left the game, "he can only be the loser if he gets a decision."

Spot the f- up? Well, can Masterson be the loser if he doesn't get a decision? Buck seems to be laboring under the mistaken impression that he's saying something, namely "if Masterson gets a decision, he will be the losing pitcher." But he didn't say that. I had to guess that's what he meant. Because what Buck actually said was equivalent to "in order to be the losing pitcher, Masterson must get a decision." Thank God I watch Fox, or else I might not know that getting a no-decision precludes a pitcher from being the losing pitcher.

Thank you, Joe Buck. Thank you.

And then there's McCarver.

McCarver's analysis following a sacrifice fly was that the ball went "high enough and far enough" to drive in the run.

Apparently, there is a height the ball must reach before the runner can successfuly tag up. I did not know that.

But there's more. In light of A-Rod tying Mickey Mantle's career home run mark of 536, McCarver went on to wax sentimental about the Mick. Near to wiping away a reverential tear, Timmy McC said the Mick was "anything but slow, and anything but weak."

Wait, is McCarver saying Mickey Mantle was a communist? Or that Mickey Mantle was addicted to Robitussin? Apparently, according to McCarver, Mickey Mantle was every single attribute there is except slow and weak. And because 'communist' and 'addicted to Robotissin' are attributes, after all, and they are not the same as 'slow' and 'weak,' it sounds like McC thinks that these, among all others, are things that Mickey Mantle was.

The Mick sure was a lot of things to a lot of people.

But if McCarver meant something else, he should have said something else.

Of course, that probably would have been wrong too.

This is Mel Allen. See you next time-unit for another installment of "logical fallacy of the week." In Baseball.

Friday, July 11, 2008

No Bones; Sox crumple, lose to O's 7-3

Clay Buchholz entered the game with an ERA+ of 78, and he lived up to the billing, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings as the Sox dropped a snoozer to the Orioles, 7-3.

Much has been made of the attempt for Clay to increase his command of the fastball, but tonight that big overhand curveball that makes scouts drool was all seasoning and no meat. He consistently left the curve high and inside on righthanded hitters and away from lefties, which belies an early release point and perhaps some here-you-take-it anxiety.

Perhaps to hide the criminal neglect of his talent, Buchholz flashed his potential like a fake badge, striking out 5 in the 3rd and 4th innings. In the 4th he whiffed Luke Scott on an archetypal changeup, down and away, a pitch that added to the sum total of beauty in the world.

But true baseball beauty comes in patterns and repetition. The mechanical aspect of pitching in command is the discipline to duplicate previous motions; Clay was not pitching so much as his body was throwing, and save that one stretch, was not in control of anything. With 5 walks and 107 pitches in 5 innings, he fought a losing battle.

The game as a whole had no bones; and before the last gasp failed rally in the 9th, the Fenway crowd was unusually silent. Sox hitters uncharacteristically took a rather blase approach to mediocre Orioles starter Brian Burres, who somehow made it into the 7th inning with a low pitch count despite walking 3. Instead of the grinding approach characteristic of the Sox that erodes top starters and pulverizes the middling, the Sox seemed to think that with minimal effort on their part, the bats would hit Burres' underwhelming stuff for them. But sluggish is not slugging, and the Sox failed to capitalize on the Yanks and Tampa losses.