Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Through the Beer Goggles: Home Opening Day

As the Don Draper of the new millennium, my job provides me with a lot of perks. I travel to exotic locations (Baltimore is beautiful this time of year), get free booze at work whenever I please (we have a fridge full of Bud Light), and have a sexy secretary/account manager (he just happens to be 6'3", 250 lbs. and a he). To top it off, I got to take one of my clients to Red Sox Home Opening Day. After getting a good lube on (AKA pre-gaming) at a pre-game reception in the stadium, I took my seat in the Right Field Grandstand and here is what I saw.

  • I can't believe in 2013, those Grandstand seats exist as is. For the fortunate uninitiated, the Grandstand seats at Fenway have remained unchanged, or at least seem like it, since the park opened in 1912. They are made of petrified wood. The middle bar on the seat back protrudes about 1 inch from the rest of the seat, just enough to let you know it's there. I assume this is to promote people to get out of their seats and cheer? They are approximately 12 inches wide; great for the slender modern man of the 1910's, but not so much for the good ol' Obese of America of the 2010's. They also face anywhere but home plate.
  • Last post I mentioned how the game opened by panning the New York crowd to see the celebrities on hand and made a crack about the lack of typical star power in New York. Today, the same was done in Boston and the only celebrity shown was Mike O'Malley. Sorry New York, I take back what I said. Couldn't we at least have had Dennis Leary or one of Marky Mark's cousins?
  • Clay Buchholz took the ball today and was pretty good. Here are some thoughts about his performance.
    • When Clay is on his stuff is a thing of beauty. He has so much movement on every one of his pitches and when they stay down in the zone he is virtually unhittable. Aside from a couple deep fly outs early in the game, there were not a lot of hard hit balls given up by Buch.
    • Speaking of stuff, the best pitch of the day was the changeup he threw Steven Pearce in the 5th inning to strike him out. After throwing two 93 MPH fastballs, one for a swinging strike and one for a foul, Clay pulled the string on the third pitch, almost literally. Using the same release point and arm speed, he was able to throw the pitch identically to the two fastballs, only as the ball reached the plate it basically stopped and Pearce swung over it. A 15 MPH difference in your fastball and changeup is incredible and should generate a lot of goofy swings from batters. This is a big reason why Josh Beckett became so ineffective towards the end of his Boston run when his fastball started coming in at 90 and his changeup remained 84. There was just not enough change to fool anyone.
    • Buch was definitely not perfect as he gave up 4 walks on the day. Two were to the apparently-now-scary Chris Davis in his first two appearances, so maybe he was just being a little overly cautious.
    • We were also treated to some 2010 Clay in the first inning when Nate McClouth reached base to lead off the game. Clay fired over to first approximately 73 times before the inning ended. Apparently he did an Ancestry.com profile for McClouth the night before and found that he was a distant relative of Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Usain Bolt and the Flash. His control of the threat was just such a pleasure to watch! (You all can sense sarcasm through a blog post right? Good? Ok)
  • Wei-Yin Chen stymied the Boston offense for the first 6 innings. When the team was assembled this offseason, Chen is exactly the type of lefty pitcher the team was supposed to destroy. We all had visions of Napoli, Victorino, Gomes and Middlebrooks blasting moonshots over the Monster, but that group went a combined 1 for 9 with 2 strikeouts and a double play in the first 6.
  • Victorino had the 1 hit in that group, but was erased trying to steal with no outs, a 0-0 score and the middle of the order coming up. Pedroia follwed that up with a walk, so if Victorino had just stayed put it would have been 1st and 2nd with no outs and Napoli coming to the plate. I get that Farrell wants to be aggressive on the bases and he was trying to start a little something here, but there were a lot of reasons for him not to send the runner here.
    • The Sox had 6 right handed batters (Pedey, Napoli, Middlebrooks, Nava, Gomes, Ross) all capable of hitting home runs to break open the scoring. Instead of playing for 1 run, Farrell should have trusted his offense and played for a big inning.
    • Though the game stayed scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, they had only played 3 and a half innings to that point. It is way too early to tell if this will be a close, low scoring game so you should not play as if it will be.
    • The few Sox baserunners were wary of Chen's pick off move all day. Every time he lifted his right leg they were dancing back to the base so this indicates to me that he has a good pick-off move. You should only steal against a lefty with a good pick-off move if you are 100% sure you will be safe.
    • Matt Weiters was 4th in all of baseball last year at throwing out base stealers. Good pick-off move and a great catcher is not a recipe for success.
  • Offensive star of the day: Daniel Nava. Who else? The only guy besides Mike Napoli to record an extra base hit provided the fireworks (and the winning runs) in the bottom of the seventh with a shot to left field off Chen. Nava also reached base (walk, single) in his previous two appearances, but was stranded each time. His homer broke a 0-0 tie and continued a special start to the season for a guy who wasn't even guaranteed a roster spot this year. Before the game I was a little sad that Nava got the start over Jackie Bradley Jr. because I wanted to see the rookie in action, but John Farrell clearly made the right call.
  • Can we all come to an agreement now that JBJ probably did not need to be on the Opening Day roster this year? I really like the kid and am excited for him to be a part of this team, but can't we now accept that 11 days in 2013 is not worth potentially missing a full year in 2019? Some facts to consider:
    • JBJ is currently hitting .143, with a .333 OBP and .190 SLG.
    • Aside from a great play in the first game, a game in which they won by 6 runs, the Sox have not needed a gold glover to play left field.
    • In the 4 wins that JBJ has played in, the Sox have won by a combined 24 runs. Even if JBJ had hit well in all those games, he would not have been irreplaceable.
    • The guy who JBJ has basically taken playing time from is Daniel Nava, who has a 1.672 OPS and did win the game for the Sox yesterday.
    • Though he seems like a great kid, smart and probably a future leader, he appears to be a quiet wall flower in the dugout right now. He's not exactly invigorating the players and a team with Gomes, Victorino, Pedroia, etc. doesn't need a rookie to do that anyway.
    • If the Sox waited 11 days to call him up and delay his service time, JBJ would be making his debut this Friday. See how quick 11 days is?
    • My point with JBJ is not that he is a worse player than Nava or that he is not ready to play in the big leagues or that he is or won't be an important part of this team. My point is that at this point in their careers, there is not a lot of difference between the two and over the course of 11 days Nava was just as likely to make a splash as JBJ was. After 8 days I think it is pretty clear that is true.
    • Of course, after saying all that I now predict JBJ will have walk-off homers in each of the next two games.
  • Joel Hanrahan showed mortality again giving up a leadoff homer to Adam Jones in the ninth inning and allowed the tying run to come to the plate after a two out double from J.J. Hardy. When Hanrahan was given the closer job over Andrew Bailey, part of the reason cited was that he pitches better in save opportunities because he focuses more. As a "stat" guy I call bullshit here, but a guy who comes out to a Slipknot song, maybe Hanrahan is one of those nut jobs who really does need added pressure to hone his abilities. I kind of doubt it, but that's a much less scary explanation for his shakiness.
    • Speaking of Hanrahan's entrance music, when he exited the bullpen the P.A. blasted the first three notes of "Shipping Up to Boston", Papelbon's old song and the crowd went crazy. The song shut off and he went all the way to the mound in silence before Slipknot started. Papelbon hasn't been on the team since 2011, so I'm curious how this happened. Do they just have a button that says "Closer" and they forgot to update it? Aceves must have had a song last year that would have forced them to update the "Closer" song button, right? Or did they simply have a button labeled "Asshole" for him?
  • $5 beers are a blessing and a curse. Those were some looooooong beer lines yesterday. Fenway really needs to go back to having beer men in the stands.
  • 5-2 and it feels so good.

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