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Bruins in the Olympics

  February 7, 2014 10:10 PM

Appearing in his third Olympics, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was allowed to leave early for Sochi where he was the flag-bearer of his native Slovakia during the Opening Ceremonies.

Following the conclusion of the Bruins game with the Ottawa Senators early Saturday evening, Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, David Krejci, Tukka Rask and coach Claude Julien will head to Sochi, Russia to join captain Zdeno Chara for the 2014 Olympic Hockey Tournament. Chara, the captain of the Slovakia National Team was granted a two-game leave from the B’s so he could serve as flag-bearer for his native country during the Opening Ceremonies. This will be Chara’s third Olympics, all while playing for the Bruins, breaking a tie with Per-Johan Axelsson for most Olympics as a Bruin.

There has been at least one Boston representative at every Winter Olympics since the NHL began sending its players to the Games in 1998 at Nagano, Japan. That year the only Boston player at the games was Raymond Bourque who came up short of a medal for the disappointing Canadian squad who were favored at the start but lost a chance at a medal by dropping games against the Czech Republic and Finland. Since, Bruins have brought home a total of six medals—two gold, three silver and a bronze.

Here’s how the Bruins have fared while representing their home nations in the Olympics:

2010 Vancouver, Canada

  • Patrice Bergeron, Canada 1 assist, -2rating, GOLD

  • Zdeno Chara, Slovakia 3 assists, 6 PIM, 0 rating

  • Miroslav Satan, Slovakia 1 goal, 1 assist, -2 rating

  • David Krejci, Czech Republic, 2 goals, 1 assist, +2 rating

  • Marco Sturm, Germany 1 assist, -2 rating

  • Tim Thomas, USA, .857 sv. pct., SILVER

2006 Torino, Italy

  • PJ Axelsson, Sweden 3 goals, 3 assists GOLD

  • Zdeno Chara, Slovakia 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 PIM, +6 rating

  • Milan Jurcina, Slovakia 1 assist, -2 rating

2002 Salt Lake City

  • P.J. Axelsson , Sweden, -1 rating

  • Mikko Eloranta Finland, 2 goals

  • Bill Guerin, USA 4 goals, +2 rating SILVER

  • Brian Rolston, USA 3 assists, +3 rating SILVER

  • Sergei Samsonov, Russia, 1 goal, 2 assists, BRONZE

  • Jozef Stumpel , Slovakia 2 goals, 1 assist, +2 rating

1998 Nagano, Japan

  • Ray Bourque, Canada 1 goal, 2 assists, +8 rating

Billion with a 'B'

  February 7, 2014 03:39 PM

grant.jpgWill Jerami Grant and the top-ranked Syracuse Orange win someone a billion dollars on April 7?

What would you do with a billion dollars? Unlikely as it may seem, in March you'll have the opportunity to enter a bracket that will potentially win you roughly the GDP of the Solomon Islands as part of the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, backed by Berkshire Hathaway patriarch Warren Buffett. All you have to do is correctly predict the outcome of every game in the upcoming NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, something that has never been achieved. Given the 9.2-quintillion-to-one odds, the chances of seeing a winner are beyond infinitesimal, but since this is a stats blog, I wanted to see if there was any way to use the numbers to get an advantage when chasing the billion dollar brass ring.

To help with this I tracked down one of the sharper statistical minds on the North Shore, Salem’s Bowen Kerins, a world-class mathlete who writes textbooks for a living, and has been enlisted by various game show producers to match question difficulty with odds of winning different value prizes. He’s also a world champion pinball player
Here’s his advice on how to win your billion:

Stats Driven: What was your initial reaction to hearing about the billion-dollar challenge issued by Warren Buffett? Are you going to give it a try?

Bowen Kerins: My first reaction was that they must be very, very certain that no one will win. My second reaction was to wonder if it was possible to sign up with every possible bracket. It isn't.

SD: What makes it so difficult to pick a perfect bracket? What's the best you've ever done?

BK: To get a perfect bracket, you must predict every single upset, and know just how far each Cinderella team lasts. Who could predict VCU-Butler as a Final Four matchup in 2011, or the deep runs of Florida Gulf Coast and Wichita State in 2013? To be perfect you have to guess the outcome of 63 basketball games before any of them are played.

I retired from bracket building after successfully predicting #3 Stanford vs #8 URI in the 1998 Midwest final. It was never going to get better than that ... and even then I might have hit 47 or 48 out of 63 games.

In 2013, there were over eight million entries in ESPN's Tournament Challenge, and the winner of that contest got 51 out of 63. Several companies in 2013 offered prizes for brackets with only one or even four errors, and none of those prizes were even close to being paid.

SD: Is there such a thing as a sound approach this challenge? Or are the random "throwing darts-at-your-bracket" and "picking-the-teams-with-the-better-uniforms" methods just as likely to be successful?

BK: It is possible to do better than chance alone, but surprisingly not much better. The big problem is that some game, and there's no way to tell which, is a major upset. In 2013 there was Florida Gulf Coast beating Georgetown in a 15-vs-2 matchup: only 1 out of every 50 brackets picked FGCU.

Nate Silver of 538 did a pre-tournament analysis, and one big conclusion is that traditional underdogs are much more likely to win their games than they're usually given credit for. He gave Florida Gulf Coast a one-in-10 chance of beating Georgetown. Is that enough to pick them? Not really, but it says more than one out of every 50 brackets should have picked them.

In the end, it's nearly impossible to even escape the first round perfectly. No ESPN player did, and based on the overall bracket picks, the chance of surviving the Round of 64 is 1 in 2.8 billion. That's only slightly better than flipping coins: the probability of calling 32 straight coin flips correctly is 1 in 4.3 billion.

So my short advice for the billion-dollar bracket battle: mark all the 1s over the 16s, then flip a coin for every other game. Doing this, you'll be more likely than the average ESPN bracket builder to hit the entire tournament completely perfectly, because you'll be immune to almost any bracket-busting upsets.

And don't just make a bracket with no upsets: even though this is more likely to happen than you would think, a mob of people are all going to mark their brackets this way. Imagine getting the perfect bracket and still losing the contest.

Unfortunately, none of this advice is truly helpful: the perfect bracket is not going to happen. You are about 100 times more likely to hit the jackpot playing Powerball twice in a row than you are to hit a perfect bracket. Everyone in the world could learn how to pick a bracket skillfully, then submit 100 million brackets each, and there would still be less than a 50% chance that one of those 700 quadrillion brackets would hit perfectly.

SD: What's your Final Four right now?

BK: It's hard not to see Syracuse and Arizona going all the way, they've looked very solid. Wichita State is undefeated, their strength of schedule is almost the same as Syracuse's, and their team has deep tournament experience... so they'll lose to whoever is #2 in that region, maybe Michigan State. My fourth pick is Wisconsin: they are stronger than their record indicates and started the season on a huge roll.

All I know for sure is, that will not be the actual Final Four.

Sizing up Sizemore

  February 4, 2014 01:23 PM

The Red Sox are taking a calculated risk that Grady Sizemore, not long ago considered baseball's premiere outfielder, can provide some punch at a fraction of what it would've cost to retain Jacoby Ellsbury.

The not-so-Super Bowl is behind us so it's time for the 2014 baseball season to get rolling in Fort Myers for the Red Sox. Some major parts of their 2013 title team (Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew) are missing but Boston looks to become baseball’s first repeat champions since the 1999-2000 Yankees, and the first Red Sox team to repeat since the days of Babe Ruth, Harry Hooper and Everett Scott in 1915-16.

General Manager Ben Cherington did well reloading his squad with solid replacement parts (A.J. Pierzynski, Burke Badenhop, Edward Mujica, Jonathan Herrera), and the most impactful of those moves could also be the most economical. Last month Cherington inked one-time Cleveland Indians star Grady Sizemore to a one-year major league contract for $750,000, with hopes of him competing with Jackie Bradley Jr. for time in centerfield. Since 2009, Sizemore, 31, has been battling a cornucopia of injuries to his groin, back, and legs that resulted in a total of seven surgeries including microfracture procedure to each knee, that caused him to miss all of 2012 (with Cleveland) and 2013 (out of baseball). Now under the watchful eye of the Red Sox medical and training staffs Sizemore is reportedly healthy again and feels ready to help fill the void left by Jacoby Ellsbury’s $153 million departure to the Bronx.

A three-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and 2008 Silver Slugger recipient, Sizemore hasn’t appeared in a big league game since 2011, but in 2008, his last full season, he was one of the premier players in the game placing eighth among all major league batters (and third in the AL) with 5.9 offensive Wins Above Replacement (oWAR). Using similarity scores developed by Red Sox stats guru Bill James the explanation of which is shown here, you can see how talented that Sizemore was in his prime. with numbers that compared most favorably to the output of Hall of Famer Duke Snider over his first two seasons, and drawing close comparisons to Barry Bonds in his age 25 and 26 seasons. Having taken the past two seasons off, Sizemore allowed his body to recover to the point that there’s a chance that he could once again flash some of the same skills that allowed him to become one of three players in baseball history (with Bobby Bonds and Darryl Strawberry) to reach 20 home runs and 20 steals in four of his first five seasons.

Look at his contemporaries and you’ll see Sizemore’s potential. Among those who’ll be in their age 31 season are a Who’s Who of today's elite hitters, including Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Shin-Soo Choo, David Wright, and the list goes on. Arguably, from 2005-08 Sizemore was the most valuable of the bunch, with his 24.1 oWAR ranking third among everyone over that span behind only the two undisputed best offensive weapons, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols. He and Alfonso Soriano were the only players in the game to top 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases in the same timeframe. To further illustrate how outstanding Sizemore was, over the past four seasons, only three players—Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Andrew McCutchen—have exceeded a WAR of 24.

It's clear that Sizemore's development was stunted and his career sent flying off the rails by myriad ailments, but given how skilled he was, plus his fresh legs from a cautious approach to recover,y and a perfect opportunity staring him in the face with the Red Sox, there’s a chance that he could return to being a solid big league regular, if not an All Star star level talent. All at 1/28th the 2014 cost of Jacoby Ellsbury.

Here are the WAR leaders from Sizemore's prime, illustrating some of the company he kept and hopes to join again, this time for the Red Sox.


Celtics success by NBA Commissioner

  February 3, 2014 01:44 PM

David Stern Adam Silver.jpg
The hope for Celtics fans is that their team fares better under Silver (left) than it did under Stern.

On Saturday the most powerful commissioner in professional sports history, David Stern, handed over the reins of the league to his right hand man of the past two decades, Adam Silver, ushering in a new era. Compare the league today to the one Stern took over from Larry O’Brien, and you’ll see just how far he took a once-failing business model and transformed it into the worldwide powerhouse that it is today.

To illustrate just how the league has prospered under Stern, consider these facts culled from this article. The average value of one of the 23 teams he inherited in 1984 was $17.4 million for a total of $400 million. The least valuable franchise, the Milwaukee Bucks, is valued in 2014 at $405 million by itself, with three teams, the Knicks, Lakers and Bulls all worth more than a billion dollars, bolstered by personalities like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and a global marketing initiative that not only made the aforementioned players some of the most recognizable athletes on the planet, they became some of the most recognizable people on Earth.

There’s absolutely no disputing the fact that David Stern was a godsend for the NBA as a whole, but strictly from Boston’s point of view, the Celtics franchise was actually on the decline during the most of Stern’s 30 years. In fact, they averaged just one title per decade and won games at a lower rate under Stern (.545) than any of his predecessors, and suffered through 12 of the 19 losing seasons in franchise history under Stern. Here’s Boston’s record by Commissioner, crediting each with a full season during their transition years.

Celtic frost

  January 30, 2014 03:54 PM

Rondo.jpg Celtics captain Rajon Rondo has yet to experience victory since returning from his year-long absence.
Having seen the Celtics cough up games at an alarming rate since the start of the new year, it should come as little surprise that this was one of the worst months in the long history of the storied franchise. Since ending 2013 at 13-16, the C's have won a Shamrock-shaming two of the 17 games they've played, seemingly finding a new way to snatch defeat our of the jaws of victory on a nightly basis. It's no solace, but the C's aren't even having the worst January in the league. That dubious distinction belongs to the Milwaukee Bucks who've won only once in 14 January games. How bad has this month been compared to other rough monthly stretches for the Green? These are the worst months in franchise history:

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning XV

  January 14, 2014 02:49 PM

Two of the greatest passers in NFL history square off for a 15th time on Sunday, however much of what they've done in the rivalry is ancient history.

The AFC Championship Game to be played on Sunday in Denver is being widely billed as Brady-Manning XV, and the illustrious careers of the two greatest quarterbacks of this generation are being diced and sliced into easily digestible, yet for these purposes, largely unenlightening morsels. The last I checked, very little that Manning did in Indianapolis applies to his post-neck surgery tenure in Denver, and Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark aren’t going to be wearing a snorting horse on their helmets Sunday. On the Patriots side, the numbers that Tom Brady put up over the years against the older of the throwing Manning brothers were aided greatly by the presence of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and a bevy of former Pats who are much more likely to appear on sports call-in shows than on a gridiron these days.

While one day we’ll dissect the mountains of career numbers these men will have topped off to place them accordingly on the list of alltime greatest signalcallers. That will give their complete bodies of work the retrospective they deserve in terms of Hall of Fame, and more importantly barroom arguments with people from other generations. However for the here and now, its all about this season, this game, this championship waiting to be won.

You may bill it as the greatest individual rivalry in the sport with each man trying to cement their legacies, but since they won't be on the field at the same time, it really is a case of the NFL’s single-season passing leader looking to validate all of the numbers, and for an old Super-Bowl-tested warhorse a chance to close out a season in which seemingly everything was stacked against him. Both wil play against defenses decimated by injuries and both have the same goal as every NFL player of the modern age, the Lombardi Trophy.

So here’s how Manning, the odds-on favorite to win NFL-MVP honors, stacks up against Brady, the never-say-die, field general extraordinaire, based solely on their 2013 seasons. The numbers greatly favor Manning but that's all part of the 2013 script. In November during "Manning-Brady XIV" at Gillette Stadium both men orchestrated phenomenal halves of football, yet it was Manning's lowest output of the season. We can only hope for a similarly thrilling show this time around. But also keep in mind they are simply the leaders of their teams. They’ll also be the first to tell you that individuals don’t win championships.


Tale of the Tape: Patriots at Broncos AFC Championship Game

  January 14, 2014 12:43 PM

johnfox.jpg This Sunday in Denver, Broncos head coach John Fox seeks to avenge two of the most stinging defeats of his career—both of which came against Bill Belichick.

In Sunday's AFC Championship game history will be made between two old rivals. We're not talking about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who'll be trying to outscore each other for the 15th time. No, this game marks the first time in NFL history that two coaches who squared off in the Super Bowl will be facing each other in a conference championship game. A decade ago John Fox and Bill Belichick were running opposing sidelines in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Staduim in Houston for New England's 32–29 win over Fox's Carolina Panthers. Adam Vinateri's second Super Bowl game-winning field goal in three seasons gave Belichick his second of three titles and denied Fox one of his own. Not before or since have two Super Bowl opposing head coaches met with the prize being a trip back to the biggest show in sports, until now.

Sunday at Denver's Mile High Stadium will be THE game everyone wanted to see since the preseason. The top two seeds in the AFC square off to punch their ticket to East Rutherford, NJ to represent the conference in Super Bowl XLVIII. These teams met in Foxboro on November 24, in a game that saw the Broncos score 24 unanswered points before halftime, after which the Patriots returned the favor with 31 straight points of their own.

New England held Peyton Manning to season-lows with 150 passing yards and 70.4 rating in that game but Knowshown Moreno set a Gillette Stadium record with 224 rushing yards, the second-most yards ever against the Pats after O.J. Simpson's 250 yards at Schaefer Stadium in 1973. However a special teams turnover on a punt return with time running down in overtime gave the Pats a thrilling 34-31 win and sent the Broncos to the second of their three losses on the season.

Fox's bunch recovered from the worst collapse in team history and went onto win four of their last five games, clinch home field advantage and smash multiple NFL records for offense, including most touchdowns (76), most touchdown passes (55), most passing yards per game (348.3) and most total points scored in a season (606) while placing second to the 1950 Los Angeles Rams in points per game (38.8 to 37.9). One of the reason the Broncos and Peyton Manning in particular were able to put up such gaudy numbers was the work of an offensive line that allowed No. 18 to be sacked just 20 times the entire season, the fewest in the league since Peyton and his brother Eli of the Giants were each brought down 16 times in 2010.

Defensively the Broncos will be dealing again with injury issues, missing five of their original starters on defense, including Chris Harris, the starting left cornerback who was placed on IR this week after suffering a torn ACL against San Diego. That further weakens a secondary that allowed 272.5 passing yards per game this season while placing in the bottom half of defenses in passing touchdowns allowed (29), big passing plays (37) and total touchdowns (44).

While this is the 15th meeting between Manning and Brady, its the seventh between Fox and Belichick, with the latter holding a 5–1 edge including the big one in 2004. Denver has the team to beat in the AFC. The question is, can they beat this generation's greatest tactician?

Here's how the AFC's 20013-14 heavyweights compared during the regular season.


The Pats (and others') stats for the NFL Divisional Playoffs

  January 9, 2014 01:56 PM

BelichickBradySBCarolina.jpgAlthough it's been nearly a decade since they celebrated one, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have their sights on a fourth Super Bowl victory together in 2014.

Consider these curious stats about this weekend's slate of games and beyond:

  • According to NFL Media Relations, since the NFL moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, No. 1 seeds in the NFC are 19-4 (.826) in the Divisional Playoffs. In the AFC, the No. 1 seed has compiled a 13-10 (.565) record. However since 2007 the NFC No. 1 seed is just 2–4 while the AFC top dog is just 3–3.
  • Also if it seems like the Patriots always get a first-round bye, you’re onto something. Since the 12-team playoff system began in 1990, New England has made the playoffs 14 times and have been afforded a first-week bye an NFL-high nine times, to best the Steelers and 49ers (eight byes since 1990) by one.
  • Tom Brady needs just three touchdown tosses to surpass Brett Favre (44) and tie Joe Montana for the most in NFL Postseason history at 45. Of his current crop of receivers, Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman (two each) have accounted for four of Brady’s 42 scoring throws.
  • Brady is already the NFL’s alltime postseason leader in passing yards but likely needs to outlast Peyton Manning in these playoffs to keep the distinction. Manning trails Brady by 270 yards with both men ready for their first action of 2014.
  • Manning hasn’t won an outdoor postseason game since his Colts defeated the Ravens 15-6 on January 13, 2007 in Baltimore. Here’s the difference a roof makes:
    Indoors: 10 games, 6 wins, 4 losses, 321.9 yards per game, 21 TDs, 8 INTs, 66.7% completions
    Outdoors: 10 games, 3 wins, 7 losses, 247.0 yards per game, 11 TDs, 13 INTs, 59.7% completions
  • Carolina’s Cam Newton will be making his first career playoff appearance at home against the Niners. He is the only quarterback left standing in these playoffs who has never won a playoff game. The signalcaller with the longest drought of playoff wins? Manning whose last postseason victory was a 30-17 home win against the Jets in the 2009-10 AFC Championship Game on January 24, 2010. In all, 18 different quarterbacks—including Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and T.J. Yates—have led their teams to playoff wins since Manning’s last.
  • Brady will surely be looking for these matchups: Colts defensive backs Antoine Bethea and Vontae Davis were thrown at a combined 129 times during the regular season and allowed a combined 14 touchdowns, a rate of a touchdown for every 9.2 throws, easily the worst of any teammates remaining in the playoffs.
  • Three Super Bowl winning quarterbacks—Brady, Manning and Drew Brees—remain while only two Super Bowl-winning coaches—Bill Belichick and Sean Payton still have a chance at a title. Belichick and Denver’s John Fox (Panthers 2003-04) are the only elite eight coaches who have tasted defeat in the Super Bowl.
  • A win against the Colts would put Belichick into a tie with former Colts and Dolphins legend Don Shula, with 19 career playoff victories as a head coach. That’s second only to the 20 Tom Landry won with the Dallas Cowboys. (Since one of his wins came with Cleveland, Belichick needs three to tie Landry for most playoff wins for a single team)
  • All eight of the teams still alive in the playoffs have reached their respective Conference title games in the past decade, with the Chargers having the longest wait since the 2004-05 season. The Patriots and 49ers are the only remaining members of the NFL’s 2012-13 Final Four.
  • Three of the remaining teams—the Panthers, Chargers and Seahawks—have never won the Super Bowl. Among the other five, the Patriots are in the middle in terms of most recent championship, with their 2004-05 title coming more recently than the 49ers (1994-95) and Broncos (1998-99) but not as recently as the Colts (2006-07) and Saints (2009-10).

Mass. appeal

  January 8, 2014 06:48 PM

Glavine.jpgBefore they chose Tom Glavine to be part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2014, it had been 60 years since the baseball writers elected a player born in the Bay State.

The Baseball Writers Association of America named its Hall of Fame Class of 2014 on Wednesday, and while Red Sox greats Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling and Boston-born former Red Sox farmhand Jeff Bagwell missed the cut, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Concord, Mass.-born and Billerica-raised Tom Glavine will all be immortalized in the national pastime’s shrine at Cooperstown, NY.

Maddux, a 355 game winner was given overwhelming support, earning mentions on 555 of the 571 votes cast, but his 97.2% of the vote fell just shy of the record held by fellow righthanded hurler Tom Seaver, who was selected on 98.8 percent of the ballots in 1992.

Thomas, the strapping White Sox, A’s and Blue Jays slugger who hit 521 home runs to tie with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for 18th on the alltime list and once was college teammates at Auburn with Bo Jackson. He becomes the first player who was primarily a designated hitter to be enshrined.

Then there’s the local kid, Glavine, who was originally drafted on June 4, 1984 by the Atlanta Braves, five days before he was taken by the Los Angeles Kings as the 69th overall pick of the 1984 NHL entry Draft. Glavine, a promising center, was actually selected before more members of the Hockey Hall of Fame ( Luc Robitaille the 171st pick, also by the Kings and Brett Hull, the 117th by the Calgary Flames)., than the baseball Hall of Fame (Glavine and Maddux are the first members of the 1984 MLB Draft to go into the Hall).

In all, Glavine becomes the ninth Massachusetts-born player to be elected to the Hall, and the first since Cambridge’s Joe Kelley was picked by the Veterans Committee in 1971. The BBWAA hadn’t selected a Bay State native in 60 years, the last being Springfield’s Rabbit Maranville whose career ended in 1935. The two other Massachusetts players picked by the writers, catcher Mickey Cochrane and third baseman Pie Traynor, both completed their playing days in 1937, making Glavine the first local Hall of Famer of the post-World War II era.

You have to include all of New England to find another local Hall of Famer who played after the war—former Red Sox and White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, a UNH product born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, raised in Charlestown, New Hampshire, and enshrined in Cooperstown in 2000. Pudge however is the only Hall of Famer born any of the northern New England states. .

Hall of Famer, Birthplace, Elected-Inducted, Elected By

Jack Chesbro, North Adams, 1946-47, OTC
Tommy McCarthy, Boston, 1946-47, OTC
Mickey Cochrane, Bridgewater, 1947, BBWAA
Pie Traynor, Framingham, 1948, BBWAA
Rabbit Maranville, Springfield,1954, BBWAA
John Clarkson, Cambridge,1963, VC
Tim Keefe, Cambridge, 1964, VC
Joe Kelley, Cambridge, 1971, VC
Tom Glavine, Concord, 2014, BBWAA

Rhode Island
Nap Lajoie, Woonsocket, 1937-39, BBWAA
Hugh Duffy, Cranston, 1945, OTC
Gabby Hartnett, Woonsocket, 1955, BBWAA

Jim O’Rourke, Bridgeport, 1945, OTC

Carlton Fisk, Bellows Falls, 2000, BBWAA

Maine, New Hampshire

BBWAA = Baseball Writers Association of America
OTC = Old Timers Committee
VC = Veterans Committee

Tale of the tape: Colts at Patriots AFC Divisional Playoffs

  January 7, 2014 01:05 PM

brady luck.jpg
Two of the league's most dynamic passers, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck have the knack for not beating themselves.

Fresh off of their stunning and historic comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Colts travel to Foxboro on Saturday to take on the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. While facing the Patriots in January at Gillette is a daunting task (road teams have won just three of 13 postseason games played there), the Colts have been one of the more successful road teams of 2013, posting a 5–3 mark away from Lucas Oil Stadium, making them one of three AFC teams to boast a winning road record (Denver and Kansas City were 6-2).

The Colts also had great success against better teams this season, boasting a 5-2 record against 2013 playoff participants, including impressive victories over the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks. The Patriots were 2-2 against 2013 postseason teams, with wins over Denver and New Orleans.

Comparing the stats of the two squads you see that despite such disparate postseason experience, they're eerily similar in many ways. One category where they're diametrically opposed to each other was in average margin of losses. New England's four losses came by an average of 4.5 points, with no losses of more than one score. On the otherhand, when the Colts lost, they lost big, placing 30th among the league's 32 teams with an average margin of defeat of over three scores at 17.4 points per loss.

Bill Belichick's teams have prided themselves on not beating themselves, and that's one of the main reasons why the Pats' head man is so impressed by Chuck Pagano's team. Despite a rash of turnovers against Kansas City last weekend, the Colts turned the ball over the fewest times in the league during the regular season with 14 giveaways (10 interceptions, four lost fumbles). At the heart of Indy's ball security is former UConn star Donald Brown who has yet to lose a fumble in 649 regular season and playoff offensive touches. Indy also committed the fewest number of penalties in the league and were penalized the fewest yards, categories the Pats finished second and third in respectively.

Here's a tale of the tape between the two teams. Given these stats, you shouldn't be surprised if the game is considerably closer than the current nine-point spread the Patriots are currently favored by.


The title mayor

  January 6, 2014 05:00 PM

Mayor Menino .jpg
David Ortiz's Red Sox won three of Boston's eight championships during Thomas Menino's mayoral tenure.

On Monday morning at Boston College’s Conte Forum Marty Walsh was sworn in as the 54th mayor of the City of Boston. He took the reins from Thomas Menino who headed up the city’s government since 1993. Not only did Boston undergo dramatic changes as a city during Mayor Menino’s 20 years in office (can you say “The Big Dig”?), but the city's pro sports teams enjoyed a period of unprecedented success. During Menino’s tenure all four of Boston’s major professional sports teams (taking the liberty of giving him credit for Foxboro’s Patriots) won titles, totaling a mayoral-high eight rings. For the purists who only count titles won by the teams that play within the city limits, Menino is the only man to preside over championships by the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics (Kevin White, Celtics and Bruins—and James Curley, Braves and Bruins—are the only other men to be in office for as many as two different Boston teams’ titles)

Here’s a list of Boston mayors who presided over the 36 championships in (and around) their city.

Addendum to 2013 Boston Sports Stats Heroes

  December 30, 2013 02:35 PM

Stephen Gostkowski's torrent of points against Buffalo vaulted his 2013 into first place on the franchise's single-season scoring list while helping the Patriots clinch a first-round playoff bye.

On Friday morning my listing of Boston’s 2013 Sports Stats Heroes was rolled out with only a few days left in the year. However, you have to give credit where credit is due so I wanted to take this opportunity to commend three Patriots—one who was on the original list and two who deserve to be mentioned—for their Week 17 performances that put them into the record books.

edelman.jpgFirst let’s recognize Julian Edelman, who originally came in at number 13 on the list. Dubbed “Minitron” by Tom Brady, Edelman closed out the regular season by grabbing nine passes against the Bills in the rain at Foxboro to raise his 2013 total to 105, thus becoming the Patriots most prolific single-season pass catcher not named Wes Welker. Edelman finished fourth in the NFL in receptions, trailing only Washington’s Pierre Garcon (113), Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (110) and Andre Johnson (109) of the Houston Texans. His catch total was a whopping 152% increase over his previous four-year career output of 69 receptions, while he increased his receiving yardage total by 148% (1,056 as compared to 714 previous yards).

capp.JPGSetting a significant franchise record on the season’s last day was kicker Stephen Gostkowski whose 14 points against the Bills gave him 158 for the season and enabled him to leapfrog 1964 AFL Player of the Year Gino Cappelletti’s franchise scoring record of 155 points set for the Boston Patriots. Gostkowski’s big day also saw his 2013 season surpass his two previous season highs (153 in 2012 and 148 in 2008) as well as Cappelletti’s 1961 when he scored 147 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info), Cappelletti’s scoring mark was the second-most enduring for an NFL team, trailing only Paul Hornung’s Green Bay record of 176 points set in 1960.

Finally, New England enters the playoffs with a better handle on the backfield situation, following a yeoman’s effort by LeGarrette Blount whose 334 all purpose yards not only obliterated the New England record of 273 yards set by Larry Garron in 1962, it also was the most in the NFL since Adrian Peterson had 361 yards against the Bears as a rookie in 2007, seventh-most since the AFL-NFL merger (Denver’s Glyn Milburn set the standard with 404 yards against the Seahawks in 1995). Blount’s 189 rushing yards place fifth alltime in a game for the Patriots, were the most of the Belichick era, most for a New England runner since Robert Edwards had 196 against the Rams in 1998. Blount also set the home record for rushing yards at Gillette Stadium, which places him second only to Denver’s Knowshown Moreno who had 224 earlier this season.

Boston's sports stats heroes of 2013

  December 27, 2013 08:38 AM

Few Boston stars shined brighter in 2013 than Bruins netminder, Tuukka Rask.

Four major professional teams, four playoff appearances, two trips to the finals, one championship, a Heisman Trophy contender and a city that despite being attacked, rallied around their own and their teams during a year that no New Englander will ever forget.
We looked back at an amazing year in Boston sports, highlighting those stats stood out the most.

Here are mine . Tell us yours.

Center of attention

  December 16, 2013 03:56 PM

Buried behind Dwight Howard on Kevin McHale's bench in Houston, Omer Asik of Turkey could provide the Celtics with the paint presence currently missing.

Peruse the NBA’s list of the top rebounders and it’ll take a while to find the first Celtic. The league’s 17th-ranked team in rebounding differential (-0.4 per game, coincidentally tied with Doc Rivers’s Clippers) is led on the glass by Jared Sullinger whose 7.0 boards ranks just 41st in the league individually. That leaves the second-year man looking up on the list at the likes of well-traveled small forward Rudy Gay, now of the Kings and never known as a big rebounder, and Shawn Marion, who was a) a member of the Phoenix Suns when Sullinger was seven years old and b) lists among his former teammates the mayor of Gay’s new city (Kevin Johnson of Sacramento). So it should come as little surprise that there are reports swirling that the Celtics are one of a few teams involved in talks to acquire center Omer Asik, who started all 82 games for the Rockets last season but is currently mismatched in Houston’s front court with Dwight Howard.

Known mainly to hardcore basketball aficionados and fantasy players, Asik, 27, was signed surprisingly prior to last season by Houston to a three-year, $25-million contract in a deal that was widely looked upon as designed so that his old team, the Bulls, had little chance of matching it. Even more surprisingly, even now, was the fact that in his first season as a starter and third NBA campaign overall, the native of Turkey led the entire league in total rebounds (956) while placing fifth in average at 11.7 per contest, numbers the Celtics haven’t seen since the days of Robert Parish (996 total rebounds, 12.5 rpg in 1988-89) and met only by a few in franchise history.

Rebounding isn’t Asik’s only skill, evidenced by a career shooting percentage of .533 and a 10.1 points per game average last season for a team that featured gunners like James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons. In fact, last season Asik was one of only seven NBA players to average 10 points and 10 rebounds while shooting over 50% from the floor, and one of two (with Dwight Howard) when the bar is raised to at least 11 rebounds and 52.5%.

The Celtics are currently in first place in the Atlantic Division and tied for fourth-place in an incredibly lackluster Eastern Conference However Danny Ainge has described his team’s roster as a work in progress, and adding a talent like Asik, to a roster that already includes Sullinger, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley—even at the cost of someone like Jeff Green or Brandon Bass—would be a big step in Ainge’s ultimate goal of creating a winning nucleus.

Celtics with seasons of at least 950 rebounds and 11.0 rebounds per game in a single season

  1. Bill Russell (12 times)

  2. Dave Cowens (7 times)

  3. Paul Silas (3 times)

  4. Robert Parish (once)

Celtics who shot .500 while averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds in a season

  1. Robert Parish (8 times)

  2. Larry Bird (3 times)

  3. Kermit Washington (half season)

  4. Al Jefferson (once)

Improbable wins have become the norm for the Patriots

  December 9, 2013 02:14 PM

Danny Amendola's game winning grab with under a minute left gave the Patriots yet another improbable comeback for the 10th win of their season.

The Patriots other-worldly come-from-behind victory over the Browns marked the team’s 10th win of the season extending Bill Belichick’s streak of double-digit totals during the regular season to 11, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the second-most in NFL history.

There’s little doubt however that this has been the most trying of those 11 seasons for the Pats franchise, weakened yet again on Sunday by the season-ending torn ACL and MCL suffered by tight end Rob Gronkowski, who as we pointed out last week is a complete game-changer when it comes to the New England attack. However now without Gronk for the rest of the year, Tom Brady will have to overcome mounting odds to somehow lead the Pats into and through the playoffs. If there’s one thing we have learned about these Patriots, it’s don’t bet against them, even when it seems like there’s no hope.

Using win probabilities calculated by the website advancednflstats.com, we looked at each game the Patriots have played this season and identified the degree of difficulty of each of their comebacks. The latest game against the Browns was a doozy, given the need for two touchdowns, a recovered onside kick and a fortuitous pass interference call in the game’s waning moments, yet it wasn’t the only game that saw the Pats’ opponents have a 99% chance of winning. The other was against New Orleans in week 6 trailing the Saints 27-23, but Brady overcame the odds, hitting Kenbrell Thompkins with a 17-yard scoring pass with just 10 seconds remaining.

Of those 10 wins, four (all occurring in the last five games played at Gillette Stadium) have come after New England’s probability of winning dipped to five percent or below—in the second half. The only outlier was the Steelers squashing when Pittsburgh’s biggest advantage came on their first drive.

Given these probabilities, arguments can be made that the Pats record could realistically have fallen anywhere between 12-1 (adding a 90% win Prob. at the Jets and 82% at the Panthers) and 4-9 (losses coming in those four plus Week 1 at Buffalo and Week 13 at Houston), given slightly different circumstances. But like the plays that landed Auburn in the BCS title game (miracle 73-yard tipped touchdown pass against Georgia and 100-yard-plus missed field goal return against Alabama), the Pats have proven that sometimes you also have to be lucky to be good.

Here’s a look at the highs and lows in win probabilities for the Patriots in each game this season, culled from the pages of AdvancedNFLStats.com.


Running away

  December 5, 2013 03:49 PM

Jacoby Ellsbury stole 241 bases for Boston including this straight steal of home in 2009 against his new team.

The initial sting of Jacoby Ellsbury’s defection to the Yankees has worn off and the Red Sox have moved onto other business, including the pursuit of a possible replacement for their starting centerfielder of the past six seasons. One of the most common sentiments heard by Sox loyalists, especially on social media, is that although Ellsbury was a good player when on the field, the Yankees grossly overpaid for someone who saw more than his fair share of time on the DL, spending weeks and months on the sidelines in 2010, 2012 and again in 2013.

However for as much as he was injured as the Red Sox centerfielder, and for as fluky as 2011 season, when he placed second in the AL MVP race after hitting 32 home runs was, Ellsbury’s speed—specifically his ability to steal bases—is what made him one of the most valuable offensive players for the Red Sox and in all of baseball over the past half dozen seasons.

Using Fan Graph’s weighted stolen base runs metric we’re able to compare Ellsbury’s value in terms of runs produced by stolen bases to other speedsters. It should come as little surprise to those who followed his exploits on the bases, that even with the missed time, Ellsbury has been responsible for more runs as a result of stolen bases than anyone in the game.

This was true in 2013 when, despite missing most of September with a fractured foot, he led all players with a wSB rating of 8.3, which means that he was responsible for roughly eight more runs than the average baserunner due to stolen bases. He was a full 3.1 runs better than the next-highest on the list, Alex Rios of the White Sox and Rangers and a full 5.7 runs better than the next-highest Red Sox player on the list, Shane Victorino, who came in at 2.6.

Over the course of his big league career Ellsbury is baseball’s leader as well. Starting in 2008 when he took over as Boston’s regular in centerfield, Ellsbury’s 25.0 wSB is the highest in the majors, even while docking him for all of the games he missed over that span. His rating is again significantly higher than the next player, Rajai Davis (23.3), whose value is primarily as a baserunner (often as a pinch runner.) In fact when it comes to pure speed, Davis has Ellsbury beaten as determine by speed score which factors in all baserunning, ranking third (7.9 over that time) over Ellsbury’s 17th-ranked 7.5. (As an aside, Ellsbury’s new outfield mate, Brett Gardner, placed first in speed score at 8.2, while Victorino was ninth at 7.6).

Spending $153-million over seven years for an outfielder in his 30s was probably a bit much for the Yankees, but no matter who the Red Sox brain trust gets to replace him, Ellsbury’s defection will be felt on the scoreboard.

Here are the weighted stolen base runs leaders during Ellsbury's stint as a Red Sox regular. (source: Fangraphs.com)

So Long Salty

  December 3, 2013 11:46 AM

By reportedly signing A.J. Pierzynski the Red Sox have all but guaranteed that Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the team's primary catcher for the past three seasons, will be playing elsewhere in 2014. Nearly nine years older than Saltalamacchia, Pierzynski a former member of the Twins, Giants, White Sox and Rangers, will be 37 years old at the start of what will be his 17th big league season.

Pierzynski ranked just ahead of Saltalamacchia in home runs (5th and 6th) and RBIs (4th and 5th) among American League catchers last season and had virtually the same batting average (.272 for Pierzynski to .273 for Salty), but a comparison of the two over the past two seasons gives a little more insight into why the Red Sox might have made this move, despite the dramatic difference in age.

Since the start of 2012 Saltalamacchia has higher slugging and on base percentages than Pierzynski, but when it comes to clutch situations Pierzynski has been much more productive, with a higher slash line across the board than Saltalamacchia with runners in scoring position while nearly doubling Salty's slugging percentage with RISP and two outs. Saltalamacchia was also a victim of strikeouts a staggering 278 times which means that he struck out in a full third of his at bats. Pierzynski is the complete opposite, owning a career at bat-to-strikeout ratio of 8.1, which ranks in the top 20 among active batters. In fact Saltalamacchia struck out nearly as many times in 2013 (139) as Pierzynski did in 2012 and 2013 combined (154)—and those were Pierzynski's two highest strikeout totals of his career.

Behind the plate Pierzynski is among the better defensive catchers in the AL, having thrown out 33% of the runners who tried stealing against him last season, compared to just 23% for Saltalamacchia. He has also committed just two errors last year compared to Saltalamacchia's six.

With catching prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez moving up through the Red sox system, Ben Cherington didn't want to give a long term deal to a catcher who had questions defensively and at the plate and with that in mind, the Sox couldn't have done much better than they did, signing a top-notch backstop who still has some gas in the tank.

Here's how some key stats compare over the past two seasons for Saltalamacchia and Pierzynski.


The Gronk Effect

  December 2, 2013 11:30 AM

With the Patriots trailing the Texans 10-0 in the first quarter of yesterday’s game, Tom Brady drove his team down the field on a six-play, 55-yard drive, ending in a 23-yard touchdown connection to his favorite receiver, Rob Gronkowski. The catch, a third-down, diving, fingertip grab just inches above the Reliant Stadium turf and then his subsequent roll into the end zone showed the incredible athleticism of the 6’6”, 265 pound All Pro whose return has been the shot in the arm that a previously languishing offense has needed. Then in the third quarter the Texans were so concerned about Gronkowski’s presence in the end zone that they allowed Shane Vereen to catch a ball in the flat and score virtually unscathed, further illustrating just how important his presence on the field is for the team’s outlook.

The Pats have now played six games with Gronkowski after enduring the first six games of the season without their star tight end. The missing piece to the offense has been obvious and the difference in performance since his return has been dramatic.

In the six games he was sidelined while recovering from back and multiple forearm surgeries, New England’s offense ranked 22nd in the NFL (behind division rivals Buffalo and Miami) by averaging just 20.8 points per game. Tom Brady’s completion percentage over that span was 56.9% ranking New England 26th. The team averaged 246.7 gross passing yards per game to place 20th and yards per completion was 28th in the league at 10.9. Brady ranked 17th in passer rating at 79.5

In the six games playing with Gronkowski, the turnaround has been startling. Only the Broncos have scored more points per game (33.2 to 32.8), the team’s 297.8 passing yards per game ranks fourth in the NFL, Brady has completed 64.7% of his throws, ranking fifth and yards per completion have increased by a full point to 11.9 to rank 13th.

On October 20 against the Jets, Gronkowski’s first game of the year, Brady threw to Gronkowski 17 times, which through yesterday’s games ranked first among targets for all NFL tight ends in a game this season, tied for eighth among all receivers and is just two shy of the aggregate total of targets thrown to all of the other New England tight ends through all 12 games. Despite playing just half of the team’s games, Gronkowski has nearly caught up to Julian Edelman for the team lead in receiving yardage (711 to 560), is in a four-way tie for the most touchdown catches (4) and has caught 27 of the 39 balls thrown to him over the past four games (69.2%).

The score in Houston also marked the fourth consecutive game in which Gronkowski has reached the end zone, tying Jimmy Graham of the Saints for the longest TD-scoring streak for a tight end this season and putting him two shy of his career-high streak of six set in November and December 2011. Despite Gronkowski missing half of the season, only Graham has more 100-yard receiving games among tight ends (six to three) only San Francisco’s Vernon Davis is averaging more yards per catch (16.8 to 15.1) and by averaging 93.3 receiving yards per contest, Gronkowski is ahead of second-pace Graham by 7.3 yards. He also places fourth among all receivers in first downs (29) since making his return, trailing only Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall.

Krug is blasting past the past

  November 26, 2013 04:01 PM

Torey Krug's sharpshooting has him in a tie for the NHL league in goals among defensemen and has him on pace to challenge rookie records.

The Bruins pulled out an overtime win last night against the Penguins when defenseman Torey Krug wound up and unleashed a slap-shot past Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury for a 4-3 final score. The goal was the seventh of the season for Krug who burst on the scene during last season’s playoffs when he became the first defenseman in NHL history to score four goals in his first five postseason contests. This year he hasn’t only been one of the league’s top scoring rookie defensemen, he’s tied for the league lead in goals among all d-men while ranking third among all rookie skaters.

The Bruins are no strangers to high-scoring defensemen as perhaps the best of them all, Bobby Orr, sported the black and gold, which is what makes the following statement all the more incredible. Krug has an excellent chance to be the top goal scoring rookie defenseman in Boston history. Currently the list of most goals during the equivalent of a Calder Trophy eligible season among freshman B’s backliners includes the Raymond Bourque (17), Greg Hawgood (16), Orr (13), Woody Dumart (13) and Eddie Shore (12). Krug’s seven goals have come in just 24 games, giving him more than two-thirds of the season to continue his assault on the net as well as the record books. Krug already has as many goals in less than two months as any Bruins defensive member of the NHL’s All Rookie teams (Glen Wesley scored seven goals in 79 games during 1987-88, Kyle McLaren had five in 74 1995-96 games and Nick Boynton four in 80 2001-02 games).

The alltime single-season NHL goals record is also within shouting distance of Krug who has 16 more tallies to go to reach the 23 scored by Rangers (by way of Boston College) Hall of Famer Brian Leetch in 1988-89. In fact, Krug’s current rate of 0.29 goals per game is just slightly behind Leetch’s pace of 0.34 which sets the standard during the expansion era (also at 0.29, only Hawgood and Colorado’s Barry Beck are in the same neighborhood among those in the post World War II era).

Pats backfield in motion

  November 25, 2013 02:20 PM

Stevan Ridley's spate of fumbles have left the Pats little option but to turn to Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden.

The Patriots historic come-from-behind victory over the Broncos at a frigid Gillette Stadium muted what was a din of outrage aimed at Stevan Ridley by seemingly the entire football community on social media during the first few minutes of what was shaping up to be a rough night in New England. After Ridley’s first-drive fumble was scooped up by Denver’s Von Miller and taken 60 yards for Denver’s first score. he wouldn’t see the ball again yet the Pats would fumble twice more in the first quarter, one by Tom Brady and the other by LeGarrette Blount, accounting for nearly as many lost fumbles (three) that they had the entire season to that point (five). In fact, Ridley (4), Blount (2) and Brady (2) account for all eight of the Patriots lost fumbles this season, a stat that ties them for sixth-most in the NFL (yet still half of the NFL-leading16 coughed up by the Broncos).

Ridley’s problems holding onto the ball have reached epidemic proportions, with him losing the ball in three successive games.Yet despite being benched for most of the Denver and Buffalo games and missing the Bengals game altogether, Ridley still ranks 17th among all NFL runners in rushing (576 yards), is tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns (7) and is 20th in first downs (29). Roll back the starting line to the beginning of 2012 and Ridley moves up to 11th in yards (1,839), third in touchdowns (19) and fifth in first downs (111). However he’s also first in among NFL running backs during that span with six lost fumbles and his 1.36 fumbles per 100 touches ranks as the most among all running backs with more than 310 touches, second to Willis McGahee (1.62) among those with more than 205 touches and 12th out of everyone with as many as 100 touches over the past two seasons (Blount ranks eighth at 1.61).

The most painful part of the Ridley situation is that his fumbles have been costly, and the damage has come quickly. Two of his four lost this season have resulted in long defensive returns for touchdowns (74 vs. Buffalo and 60 last night) while a third saw the Steelers offense celebrating in the end zone less than two minutes after the ball hit the turf. A common thread between those three however is that the Pats ultimately won the game. Although the fourth of those resulted in just a field goal, it was the most costly, killing a long New England drive at the Carolina 13, resulting in a likely six-to10 point swing, completely changing the complex of the eventual 24-20 loss.

Perhaps the social media pundits were right and Ridley should fall to the bottom of the depth chart. With him shackled to the bench, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden (zero fumbles on 260 combined career offensive touches) picked up the slack in the backfield combining for 160 yards on 32 flawless touches and were reminiscent of recent backfield committees fielded by Bill Belichick. They may not provide the pure running style of Ridley, but with a full complement of receivers back in full swing for Tom Brady, and a lack of turnovers, like Sunday night, they should give the Pats enough to win.

Here are the running backs who have fumbled with the highest frequency since the start of 2012 (minimum 100 offensive touches).


Mr. Monday Night

  November 12, 2013 05:26 PM

The last time he played on Monday Night, Brady threw four touchdown passes in a 42-14 win over the Texans.

Following a Sunday off the Patriots are back at work getting ready for their Monday Night opponent, the surprising Carolina Panthers, fresh off of an impressive 10-9 win against the defending NFC Champion 49ers in San Francisco. The 2013 Panthers have become much more than the Cam Newton Show of the past couple of seasons, coupling a strong defense, led by Boston College’s Luke Kuechly, with an offense that has produced 30 or more points in five of the past seven games. With the New England defense decimated by injuries, especially in the front seven, the burden to win will fall more on Tom Brady & Co. more than it has at any point of the past few years. For Tom Teriffic, there’s no better time to start than on a Monday Night. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The game in Charlotte will be the Brady’s 18th Monday appearance of his career, tying him with Danny White and Phil Simms for 10th alltime among quarterbacks, moving ahead of Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb (17) yet still 20 behind the front-running duo of Brett Favre and Dan Marino (38 apiece).
  • The Patriots are 13-4 in Brady’s previous Monday Night games, a .765 winning percentage that places him behind only Billy Kilmer (.800) and Kenny Stabler (.781) among all QBs with at least 10 Monday appearances.
  • The Pats’ signal caller enters the game just four yards behind Manning for fifth alltime in Monday Night yards (4,715 to 4,719). He trails fourth-place John Elway by 297 yards, a number Brady has topped for just the second time all season in the last game against Pittsburgh but has attained in six of his previous MNF games.
  • Brady is fourth alltime in Monday touchdown tosses with 41 and with his first against Carolina will tie Steve Young for third alltime behind only Marino (74) and Favre (69). He's thrown for at least two scores in 13 of his 17 games and for at least three TD in nine (both trailing only Favre and Marino).
  • Brady is one of just six quarterbacks with a MNF passer rating over 100.0, ranking fourth at 102.2. The only passers with at least 100 attempts above him: The NFL’s overall leader Steve Young (104.0), Jeff Garcia (103.5) and Stan Humphries (103.2).
  • In five MNF games since the start of the 2010 season the Patriots are 5-0 and are averaging a staggering 40 points per game, with a low of 34 points scored against the Chiefs on Nov. 21, 2011 in a 31-point win.
  • Earlier that season on Sept 12, 2011 Brady set a MNF record against the Dolphins by throwing for 517 yards in a 38-24 win, shattering Joe Montana’s old mark by 59 yards.

Sox Satisfaction

  October 31, 2013 02:39 PM

Shane Victorino's three-run double in the third inning of Game 6 was the decisive blow of a thrilling World Series.

This morning Red Sox Nation was basking in the glory of what was the most thrilling and satisfying World Series their team has played since at least the Warren G. Harding Administration. The latest iteration of the Olde Towne Team set a new standard for excitement, nail biting, and a sense of a job-well-done, taking the Series in six games against the formidable Cardinals.

Unlike the straight-set victories in 2004 over St. Louis and Colorado in 2007, this World Series was a struggle, and with that added element, makes this all the more gratifying for those fans who faithfully endured the team’s rapid descent in September 2011 and brief bottoming-out in 2012.

Arguments can be made from outside the Hub for the 1975 Series being better, as it’s widely regarded as the best ever, but despite Carlton Fisk’s body english Cincinnati prevailed. You can also say that the 1912 Series when the Sox trailed by a the Giants 2–1 in the 10th inning of the deciding GAME 8, only to score two in the bottom of the inning on a run-scoring single by Tris Speaker and the only sacrifice fly to ever end a World Series, swatted by Larry Gardner. But nobody’s around to argue for that one.

The path taken to this title was an obstacle course like few (if any) others, winding through many of the game’s greatest arms with Cy Young Award winners and candidates at every turn. That quality showed in the numbers, as those starting pitchers Boston faced in the postseason had a collective record during the regular season of 160–82 (.661) and a combined ERA of 3.34, 1.20 WHIP, 3.23 strikeouts per walk and 8.28 strikeouts per nine innings.

That pitching held the Sox to just a .227 average, the lowest in a postseason for a champion since the 1988 Orel Hershisher-led Dodgers also his .227. But like those Dodgers (remember Kirk Gibson?) whenever the Red Sox needed a big hit, they got it. From David Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS to Shane Victorino’s bases-clearing double in the World Series clincher, Sox hitting came through when it mattered most.

In the history of the World Series there had been just five bases-clearing doubles, and since 1985 only Anaheim’s Garret Anderson in 2002 had managed one. The Red Sox became the first team in history with two such hits in Fall Classic history, and both of those hits, Mike Napoli’s in the first inning of Game 1 and Victorino’s in the third inning of Game 6 set the tone of this championship. Each of those hits transformed a 0-0 game early, to a decided Boston advantage.

During the Series Boston scored in 14 of the 52 innings they came to bat, accounting for multiple runs in eight of those. By contrast the Cardinals, despite out-hitting Boston for the series .224 to .211, scored in just 10 of their 54 times at bat, scoring more than one run in an inning just three times. Like during the regular season, there was a different hero every night.

While the team is likely to undergo wholesale changes during the winter, it’s too soon to worry about the business of the game. For right now its time to savor the taste of victory, enjoy the parade on Saturday and be thankful for being able to experience a team and a title that was, from the outset, hard fought and won by doing everything the right way.

World Series Game 6: Michael Wacha vs. John Lackey

  October 29, 2013 05:07 PM

Since everything else he's done has been golden this World Sereis, perhaps Big Papi should go to bat with a baby in his arms.

Who exactly wrote this script?

When we find out who's responsible for coming up with the storylines for the Red Sox 2013 season, please someone have a talk with them, explaining that what they've put on paper is just not that credible. Let's see: they want you to believe that a team coming off of a mammoth collapse late in 2011 and a last-place finish in 2012 where a once-beloved group was widely booed and came to be derided by its rabid hometown faithful is one-game away from winning the World Series? That same group of parts with very little star power that was dismissed by the entire baseball community at the beginning of the year as having second-division talent under a rookie manager is on the brink of achieving something that escaped other Sox teams for eight decades?

If all of that isn't far-fetched enough we're supposed to believe that in the 2013 World Series, the team is nearly singlehandedly powered offensively by a larger-than-life, father-figure, stereotypically named “Big Papi” of all things. He’s someone who was in no way a lock to return to Boston this season, especially after he suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury midway through the 2012 disaster. Through Game 5, this Papi fella is reportedly hitting .733, which would be more than 100-points higher than anyone who's participated in a five-game Series of more. He's also supposed to have the highest career World Series batting average (.465) and on-base percentage (.556) of anyone in the history of the Fall Classic. Not only is he hitting so well, the rest of the embellished story has the remainder of the squad batting a mere .151 with the team's regular first baseman, shortstop, catcher and left fielder accounting for a combined three hits, (one of which was, of course the melodramatic variety— a game-winning three-run home run by Jonny Gomes in Game 4).

Then there's the pitching staff. Jon Lester, a question mark the past few years has become a latter-day Whitey Ford, seizing the title of staff ace and stopper by throwing 15 ⅓ innings of one-run ball in the Series, lowering his postseason ERA in 2013 to 1.56 in five starts, four of which were wins and the one loss was on an opposition one-hitter. (Who’s coming up with this stuff?). His 0.43 lifetime ERA in the World Series is now the second best in World Series history among those with at least 20 innings, trailing only Jack Billingham and his 0.36.

Now take at the supposed bullpen where the staff’s elder statesman, Koji Uehara has become a cross between Greg Maddux and Mariano Rivera. He rescued what was shaping up to be the worst closer situation in the game during the regular season and has become the best there is, bar none. He has struck out 15 batters in 12 ⅔ postseason innings, over which he’s allowed just seven hits and one run, in the ALDS to Tampa Bay’s backup catcher Jose Lobaton. He also has tied the record for most saves in a single postseason with seven.

Finally, in what could be the crowning game of the series, the team’s formerly sad-sack, hard-luck, big bust of a contract hurler who missed all of last season and was widely regarded by the team’s most vocal supporters as a symbol of the failure of 2011, John Lackey has a chance to recapture the glory he experienced 11 years ago as a rookie, to win the final game of the World Series. Making the story even more far fetched is the man he’s facing, Michael Wacha, is a rookie who was beaten by the Triple A affiliates of the Cubs, Astros, Mets and Mariners, who has been the best pitcher in the game since September. And he beat Lackey beat him in Game 2.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, but come on. Let’s find the writer and have them inject some reality into this wild narrative of a ride because who will ever believe it? Just wait until Friday to do it.

World Series Game 5: Jon Lester vs. Adam Wainwright

  October 28, 2013 01:19 PM

Tonight is the last game the Red Sox will have to choose between Mike Napoli (above) and David Ortiz, which is just part of a significant and historical home field advantage at Fenway.

We’ve said it all along. The Cardinals and Red Sox are throwing haymakers at each other and neither team is flinching. There’s the feeling between these two teams that if they were to square off 50 times the final tally would likely be 25 apiece. However over the next three games someone will be crowned champions starting with tonight’s rematch between Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright that will put one team on the brink of a championship.

This series has made history at every glance. From the overturned blown call at second in Game 1, to the first play in World Series history to see a pitcher and catcher both charged with errors, to an obstruction call ending a game and another final out being recorded on a rookie getting picked off at first base, the 2013 Fall Classic has been just that, a classic. However, no matter how unique the individual games are, we can learn something from history so we delved back a bit in the annals of baseball's finals to see how teams fare going forward when a Series is tied at two and reduced to a straight best-of-three set.

In the 44 years since the playoff system began in 1969, there have been 43 World Series played (sans 1994’s washout due to the strike), and 16 of those were tied at two games entering Game 5 (37.2%). It last happened in 2011 when the Cardinals and Texas Rangers found themselves knotted up and proceeded to see the home team win each of the remaining contests. In fact since 2001 three of the four World Series that were tied 2–2 ended with the home team sweeping the remaining games. While that doesn’t bode well for Lester and the Red Sox tonight, the chance to celebrate a World Series championship on the field at Fenway Park for the first time since September 11, 1918 are pretty solid.

In the remaining games after the 2–2 tie, home teams have an overall record of 34–9 which translates into a .791 winning percentage, a figure that would open the eyes of even the most hardened skeptic and probably more than pique the interest of those inclined to enjoy their sports dealings through Las Vegas.

Since 1982 home field advantage actually skyrockets to 24-4 overall (.857) in individual games while the team with overall home field advantage in the Series having won nine of the 10 titles. The only outlier was 2003 when then-Marlins ace, Josh Beckett, put in a superhuman effort, shutting out the Yankees on five hits in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. In seven of those 10 Series, the road team never won another game.

And how's this for a strange twist. In a series that is so close, it may be the home field advantage that finally puts the Red Sox over the top. And how did they get that advantage? On the strength of the American League’s 3-0 win on July 16 at New York’s CitiField over the National League in the All Star Game. Why is that ironic? Well, the MVP of that contest who didn't get a save but could very well have contributed to the Red Sox championship was none other than longtime Boston nemesis, alltime saves leader and newly retired Mariano Rivera. Perhaps the Sox will fete him again at a victory parade, as they did in September.

World Series Game 4: Clay Buchholz vs. Lance Lynn

  October 27, 2013 06:58 PM

Clay Buchholz has been one of baseball's best starters on the road his season but faces one of the game's best while pitching at home, Lance Lynn.

Location, location, location. Just like in real estate, location in baseball is of the utmost importance, especially for a pitcher. Normally when location is discussed in relation to moundsmen we’re talking about command in and around the strike zone, and the ability to keep batters from squaring up with a round bat on a round ball. However with tonight’s combatants, location, as in home and away have made a big difference in their performance. And both are in their comfort zones.

You’d figure that in Game 4 of the World Series with both teams having enough time to set their rotations exactly the wanted them that someone could catch a break. But for the Red Sox the string of spectacular starters rolls on as they are challenged in what could be the most important game of the Series by Lance Lynn. Many AL-only followers may not be aware of Lynn’s exploits and given that there were three other pitchers lined up by Mike Matheny before him in the World Series, Lynn can’t be that good, right? Well, he is, especially at the site of tonight’s game.

Clay Buchholz enters the most important start of his career with health and stamina questions swirling around him and with Felix Doubront (and possibly Ryan Dempster) at the ready at the first signs of trouble. However, when healthy, he’s also been the best road pitcher in baseball this season.

Here’s a quick look at which numbers favor each:

  • Overall the past two seasons only 2013 AL Cy Young Award favorite Max Scherzer (37) and 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey (34) have won more games than Lynn’s 33.
  • Lynn’s career winning percentage, including the postseason, is .650 which ranks him behind only Roy Halladay (.658), Jered Weaver (.653) and Matt Moore (.652) among all pitchers with at least 50 career starts.
  • He’s been tremendous at Busch Stadium, posting an 18-7 mark with a 3.02 ERA at home, with only Scherzer and his teammate Adam Wainwright having accounted for more home victories.
  • Of the 75 pitchers who made more than 25 home starts the past two seasons, Lynn is the only one to allow fewer than 10 home runs (9).
  • Lynn’s home and away splits are stunning, with him allowing an average of two earned runs per nine innings fewer at home (3.07) than on the road (5.06).
  • Buchholz on the other hand throughout the regular and post seasons has better on the road (1.76 ERA, .201 batting average against) than he is at the friendly confines of Boston (2.55, .220).
  • Among those with at least five starts away from home only Milwaukee's Tyler Thornburg (1.06) and Houston's Jared Cosart (1.23) had a lower ERA on the road this year than Buchholz.
  • He has not been charged with a loss on the road in over a year, last being saddled with an “L” by the Yankees in his final start of 2012, a string of six straight wins.
  • The Red Sox are 7-1 in his 2013 road starts, including the playoffs.
  • In five career starts against the NL, Buchholz is a perfect 4–0, allowing fewer hits (25) than innings he pitched 26 ⅔, with an ERA (3.08) more than half a run less than against all AL opponents (3.62)
  • The current Cardinals have faced Buchholz a grand total of zero times in their major league careers.

World Series Game 3: Jake Peavy vs. Joe Kelly

  October 25, 2013 04:38 PM

Reliever Craig Breslow has been outstanding on the mound all postseason, but his throwing error in the seventh inning of Game 2 was terribly costly.

The first two games of the 2013 World Series have both turned dramatically on fielding miscues, magnifying the importance of defense when every play can determine whether a season was successful or not. It was 27 years ago today that Red Sox Nation was forever stung by that realization in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when a Mookie Wilson grounder down the first base line that scooted through Boston first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs and into infamy.

The Cardinals have been involved in a similarly sloppy start to a Series before as well. In 2006 they and the Detroit Tigers each committed at least one error in each of the first two games, totalling seven, the same number that the Sox and Cards have entering tomorrow night’s Game 3. In that set Detroit made at least one miscue in every game, which wasn’t even the last time that happened. The Rays and Phillies each made at least one error in each of the first four games of the 2008 Series, with the Phills completing the set in Game 5. And when the Red Sox appeared in the first World Series (as the Boston Americans) they and the Pittsburgh Pirates combined for a record 33 mistakes in the eight game set.

The errors committed in this Series thus far, while not Buckneresque, due to the timing and game situations, but have been no less impactful.

First there was Pete Kozma’s failure to catch a relay throw (you can’t assume a double play, but with David Ortiz running, we’ll do just that here) in Game 1 that led to a Mike Napoli base-clearing double. Kozma later committed another error which accounted for another run, giving Boston four gift runs (although only three are officially unearned) while forcing Adam Wainwright to throw 95 pitches just to get 15 outs.

Then in Game 2 it was Boston’s turn for defensive lapses. As soon as Craig Breslow relieved starter John Lackey in the top of the seventh with men on first and second, and Daniel Descalso at bat Kozma, running for David Freese, and Jon Jay pulled off a double steal when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was unable to get the ball out of his glove. After Descalso walked Matt Carpenter hit a fly ball to Jonny Gomes in medium depth left field (who’s been stellar defensively thus far in the postseason). Kozma tagged and ran home, only to be beaten by the throw, however the ball bounded off of Salty’s glove for the run. Breslow, backing up the play, then airmailed his throw to third into the stands, allowing Jay to score. According to the Elias Sports Bureau that was the first play in World Series history in which a pitcher and catcher were each charged an error.

That leads us to Game 3’s starters. For the Cardinals Joe Kelly, in just his second season, has pitched in two and a half times as many postseason games as his much more experienced counterpart, Jake Peavy, and with considerably more success. In 10 games, including three playoff starts, over 24 innings, Kelly is 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA. Peavy on the other hand is 0–3 with an unsightly 10.31 ERA in 18 innings. Much of the damage was done by the Cardinals in the NLDS while he was with the Padres. Against St. Louis, Peavy has allowed 13 earned runs in 9 ⅔ innings.

So how does how does defense factor into this matchup? For the season, including the playoffs, Kelly was charged with six unearned runs, second-most on the Cardinals behind Jake Westbrooks’s nine. However Kelly’s defense has failed him all too often as of late, accounting for five of those six unearned tallies since September 12, including one against the Pirates in the NLDS. Prior to the NLCS when they were clean, the Cardinals had made seven error in Kelly’s last five starts.

The Red Sox however have committed just two errors total in Peavy’s dozen starts since coming over in a trade from the White Sox (curiously for defensive wizard Jose Iglesias), and all 29 of the runs he allowed were earned.

In the regular season these two teams were among the best in baseball defensively ranking fifth (Cardinals) and ninth (Red Sox) in team fielding percentage. They allowed the seventh (St. Louis) and eighth (Boston) fewest unearned runs, and yet under the bright lights of baseball’s biggest stage, simple lapses on defense have cost them each dearly. The team that can make the fewest mistakes from here on out, will be the one enjoying a parade sometime next week.

World Series Game 2: Michael Wacha vs. John Lackey

  October 24, 2013 01:41 PM

Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha's streak of dominance this fall began with a near no-hitter against the Nationals in his final start of the regular season.

It had been over two weeks since the Red Sox won a game by more than three runs, so their 8–1 laugher in Game 1 over the surprisingly overmatched Cardinals were a breath of fresh air for a blustery wind-chilled Fenway faithful. Boston struck early and often, taking a 3–0 lead on a Mike Napoli three-run double in the first, matching the team’s entire opening inning run output for the postseason. Napoli’s at bat was a gift wrapped with shiny paper and a ribbon by St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma who simply didn’t catch the relay throw from second baseman Matt Carpenter on a sure double play grounder by David Ortiz (although second base umpire Dana DeMuth insisted he did catch it before being overturned by the rest of his crew). That was the first of two errors for the normally sure-handed, often spectacular infielder who had never made more than one miscue in any of his 150 big league contests.

Perhaps the biggest moment of Game 1 that will have a great impact on the remainder of the series is the availability of rightfielder and team postseason MVP Carlos Beltran, whose spectacularly nonchalant theft of a potential David Ortiz grand slam resulted in him having to exit the game with severely bruised ribs. Listed as day-to-day, Beltran is among the alltime postseason leaders in a wide array of offensive categories despite making his World Series debut last night. Any prolonged absence would change the Series outlook completely.

Now the Cardinals have to regroup after an uncharacteristically embarrassing game in which they lost their best clutch hitter and with—get this—a rookie on the mound. But all is not going to be a cakewalk for the Red Sox tonight. Here’s why:

St. Louis’s starter is no ordinary rookie. Since joining the rotation as a regular at the beginning of September, Michael Wacha has been one of baseball’s premiere starters. Most observers began to take note of his potential on September 24 when he lost a no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth inning. Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman beat out a slow grounder to shortstop for an infield single, costing Wacha a chance at history, but also sparking a streak of four straight lights-out games that have helped immensely in propelling the Cardinals to the National League title.

In his next start after the near no-no, Wacha made his postseason debut in the NLDS against the Pirates where he once again allowed just one hit, an eighth-inning, solo home run by third baseman Pedro Alvarez on a 3-1 count, which also accounted for the only run he gave up against Pittsburgh over 7 ⅓ innings. Then he blanked the Dodgers in back-to-back starts, pitching 13 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball.

To this point in the postseason the 22-year old from Texas A&M has allowed just 12 baserunners in 21 innings. To put that into into perspective, consider this: His 3.43 hits per nine innings is the best of all starting pitchers this postseason, nearly half a hit better than second place Justin Verlander, who as the Red Sox know firsthand is one of the games best big game starters. You may wonder, “Where that might rank on the alltime list for a single season?” Examining every starting pitcher who threw at least 10 innings in a single postseason, Wacha currently ranks third, trailing only Mike Mussina (3.41 for the 1997 Orioles) and Don Larsen (0.84 in 1956, aided greatly by his perfect game against the Dodgers).

Wacha’s 0.43 ERA also places him among the giants (and Giants) of the game. Of those who’ve made a minimum of three starts in a single postseason Matt Cain (2010 Giants), Christy Mathewson (1905 Giants), Wait Hoyt (1921 Yankees) and Kenny Rogers (2006 Tigers) went their entire postseason without allowing an earned run. Then among those who allowed runs, only megastars Sandy Koufax (0.38 in 1965) and Verlander (0.39 this season) were better.


World Series Game 1: Adam Wainwright vs. Jon Lester

  October 22, 2013 07:30 AM

Former National Leaguer Jonny Gomes is one of the few Red Sox hitters with big league experience against Adam Wainwright.

Even in this age of interleague play and free agency there are still some combinations of teams and players that somehow don't come together. Despite their history of World Series appearances, the Red Sox and Cardinals are relative strangers. The two storied franchises haven't met in the regular season since a three-game set at Fenway Park in 2008 and haven't clashed in St. Louis since 2005.

For the most part St. Louis batters don't know Jon Lester and likewise he doesn't know them. Of those likely to comprise the 25-man roster, only three players
have faced Lester—Yadier Molina (0 for 3), Carlos Beltran (1 for 1 with 2 walks) and Matt Holliday (2 for 3 in the regular season while with Oakland). Holliday was also part of the 2007 Rockies squad that faced Lester in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, but the right handed slugger failed to get a ball off the infield as the Red Sox closed out the Series sweep.

For the second consecutive game, the Sox will have to go figure out a league wins champion. Veteran righty Adam Wainwright won 19 games to tie Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the NL lead in 2013. He's won at least 19 games in three of his last four active seasons, having missed 2011 recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. Despite that idle campaign, his 72 wins since the start of 2009 trails Lester by just one . And Lester's 73 rank fourth among all pitchers the majors.

You may retort that wins have become a sullied stat to many in the baseball stats community, so consider this instead: Wainwright finished fourth among senior circuit hurlers with a WAR of 6.2. That means the Cardinals were 6.2 wins better with him on the bump than with a replacement level thrower. His 6.26 strikeouts per walk was second-best in the majors behind only the über-efficient Cliff Lee's 6.94 while his 2.94 ERA was seventh in the NL. And those numbers all come with Wainwright eating the most innings (241 2/3 for any NL pitcher since 2010.

Yet like Lester, Wainwright has never faced his next opponent in a game that mattered, but he does have significant familiarity with some of Boston's NL-refugees. Shane Victorino has gone up against Wainwright 23 times to the tune of .227/.261/.409, with one home run and three RBIs. That's the good news for Red Sox Nation. The other Sox who have experience against Wainwright—Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, David Ross and Mike Carp (we'll skip Ryan Dempster's 0 for 4 although there's an infinitesimal chance he could see an at bat at Busch Stadium)— have a combined 6 for 43 (.140) with two home runs, two doubles and four walks.

Wainwright is also one of 20 pitchers since 2009 to make at least a half dozen postseason starts. Only Justin Verlander (who the Red Sox narrowly escaped having to face in an ALDS Game 7 thanks to Victorino's series-winning grand slam), has a lower WHIP (0.89 to 0.91) while only Doug Fister (2.06), Matt Cain (2.10), Colby Lewis (2.34), Verlander (2.51) and Cliff Lee (2.52) have a lower ERA than Wainwright's 2.54—and that includes one game in which he gave up six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Nationals (a game the Cardinals eventually won). In his six other starts Wainwright has allowed as many as two runs once, and pitched fewer than seven innings also just once.

Thus far this postseason the Sox have faced and defeated the past two AL Cy Young Award recipients, the presumptive 2013 winner, the AL ERA champion and a lefty who crushed them in the regular season and finished with a 17-4 record. Wainwright fits right in.

World Series Tale of the Tape

  October 21, 2013 01:38 PM

The first pitch hasn't been thrown but the 2013 World Series is already one for the record books. In the playoffs the Cardinals needed one more game to dispatch of the Pirates and Dodgers than the Red Sox did to get past the Rays and Tigers, but during the 162 games from April through September each won 97 games, the most in their respective leagues.

The last teams with their leagues' top winning percentage to meet for baseball's crown was 1999 when the Yankees vanquished the Braves in four straight games. However not only did Boston and St. Louis reign with the best records in their respective fiefdoms in 2013, this marks just the third time in baseball history— and the first since the advent of baseball's playoff system in 1969—that teams are meeting with identical regular season resumes. The first was in 1949 when the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers each were 97-57 when they squared off in the Fall Classic. Nine years later the AL representative remained the Yankees, but the opponent was the Milwaukee Braves, each earning a shot at the title by going 92–62.

In both of those instances the AL team won, but ancient history has as much bearing on 2013 as Harry Breechen's three wins over the Red Sox in the '46 Series (or Bob Gibson's three wins over Boston in '67 for that matter). However what does offer some insight is how evenly matched these teams appear on paper. The raw numbers may be skewed a bit due to the NL's insistence on still having pitchers bat (which is why MLB Rank isn't used here), but the respective league ranks show that the Sox and Cards both have solid starting pitching, a sometimes troubled bullpen, and very good offenses.

Both franchises have experienced near total turnover since the last time they met in the regular season in 2008 for three games at Fenway Park, and only David Ortiz and Yadier Molina remain on the active rosters of each since the 2004 World Series. So with no head-to-head experiences of note to judge them by, a peek at the regular season success against their 12 common opponents for the 2013 season sheds some light. Along with home field advantage, the scale tilts ever-so-slightly in Boston's favor.

Here's a look at how the teams that we'll be paying so much attention to in the coming days stack up against each other.


ALCS Game 6: Max Scherzer vs. Clay Buchholz

  October 18, 2013 03:33 PM

He was brilliant in Game 2, so how is it possible that facing Max Scherzer just a week later gives the Red Sox the edge needed to advance to the World Series?

One game.

That’s all that stands between the Red Sox and the franchise’s 12th trip to the World Series. We now know that the Cardinals, behind another stellar pitching performance from rookie Michael Wacha, punched their ticket to the Fall Classic as 9–0 winners over the Dodgers last night at home, and now await the winner of a tightly contested and very entertaining ALCS.

On the mound for the hometown team on Saturday night will be Clay Buchholz, who based on his lights-out regular season campaign is exactly the man you would’ve chosen to take the ball for a playoff series clincher had you been asked prior to his 5 ⅔ inning, five-run disappointment in Game 2. However the Sox offense made up for his subpar outing winning in heroic fashion on David Ortiz’s dramatic and historic grand slam
(coincidenatlly, it's Papi’s only extra-base hit—and one of his two hits overall—in the series thus far).

Facing Buchholz again, this time with Detroit’s playoff life in the balance, is Max Scherzer, the majors’ only 20-game winner (21) this season and the same man that gave up a mere one earned run and four baserunners in seven strong innings last Sunday. Based on his regular season, you’d think that Scherzer is the pitcher everyone in Detroit would want on the hill facing elimination. That sentiment should be magnified given that he also pitched great in Game 2 before being pulled with a 5-1 lead having thrown 108 pitches, and needing just six outs from his bullpen. Unfortunately for him, five relievers managed just three outs in under two frames interlaced with the runners for Big Papi’s power play and punctuated with Jarrod Saltlamacchia’s walk-off single.

However given his history with the Tigers on the brink, perhaps Scherzer is who Red Sox Nation wants out there too.

In each of the past two seasons Scherzer has been the starting pitcher in the game that sent the Tigers home for the winter. In 2011, he was overwhelmed by the Rangers to the tune of six earned runs in just 2 ⅓ innings of a 15–5 Texas rout in the deciding Game 6 of the ALCS. Last year with Detroit’s Sunday softball-caliber offense overmatched by Giants pitching in Games 1 through 3 of the World Series, Scherzer surrendered three earned runs over 6 ⅓ innings which wasn’t good enough to prevent the Giants from completing the sweep.

He also failed to clinch the 2012 ALDS for the Tigers in a start against the A’s in Oakland, losing Game 4, thus setting the stage for Justin Verlander’s complete-game shutout in the win-or-go-home Game 5.

Scherzer hasn’t been that great in pressure relief efforts either. He came in for Doug Fister in the deciding Game 5 of the 2011 ALDS and yielded a harmless single to Jorge Posada in his first inning of work. However he was pulled after 1 ⅓ innings after letting Derek Jeter reach base with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Joaquin Benoit would load the bases before walking in Jeter with the earned run, charged to Scherzer, that put New York within one of Detroit. But that was all the Yankees could muster and the Tigers advanced.

Then there’s the latest game in which the pressure of the entire season was on Scherzer’s shoulders. Ten days ago the Tigers were on the brink of elimination in Oakland’s O.co Coliseum and Fister was pulled after five innings of a 3-3 tie. Scherzer came in and promptly surrendered the lead on a Stephen Vogt single, a sacrifice bunt by Eric Sogard and an RBI single by Coco Crisp. Score: 4-3 A’s. Luckily for him Oakland's Sean Doolittle was just a little worse, unable to hold the lead in the bottom of the sixth, on a leadoff home run by Victor Martinez, followed up by a double to Jhonny Peralta. A few batters later Austin Jackson singled in Peralta with the go-ahead run, making Scherzer the pitcher of record on the positive side.

Drama ensued in the seventh when Scherzer loaded the bases with no outs on two walks sandwiched around a Yoenis Cespedes double. But this time, given the opportunity to wiggle out of the jam himself by manager Jim Leyland, he miraculously escaped unscathed and unscored upon, blowing away both Josh Reddick and Vogt on swinging strikeouts before getting pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo to line out to Jackson in center on a 3-2 pitch. For his efforts, shaky as they were, Scherzer was awarded the win.

With the Red Sox ahead by a game and with the Fenway faithful in full support, Buchholz has some breathing room tonight. On the road and on the precipice of elimination, Scherzer doesn’t. If history is any indication, that level of security could be enough to send the Red Sox onto the next series. With Justin Verlander waiting in the wings for Game 7, the bearded ones better hope it is.

ALCS Game 5: Jon Lester vs. Anibal Sanchez

  October 17, 2013 02:17 PM

Daniel Nava's ninth inning single broke up the Tigers combined no-hitter started by Anibal Sanchez in Game 1.

Here we go again. Four games in the ALCS are history and despite all of the great pitching, some incredible clutch hitting by the Red Sox and a sloppy Game 4, absolutely nothing has been decided. Entering Game 5, a rematch of the epic Game 1 matchup between Anibal Sanchez and Jon Lester, the teams are reduced to playing a best-of-three series with the Red Sox still holding home field advantage.

Pitching should once again be at the forefront during this go-around. Prognosticating the results of these nail-biters that can change on the slightest bobble ous on the pitching and how rare tonight's starters really are and how this series could be one for the record books. Sit back and soak it in.

  • Near no-hitters have been almost commonplace for Sanchez throughout his career. Since he came into the league he has pitched four one-hitters to go along with a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks in 2006. In addition, just like in Game 1 in Boston, he’s had one more outing in which he allowed just one hit, but over only seven innings against the Nationals a few weeks before his no-no in ‘06. The only other during Post World War I baseball history with as many low-hit complete games in his first 175 career starts was Bob Feller who also had four one-hitters and a no-hit game in 1938, ‘39 and ‘40.
  • Walks—and their accompanying high pitch count—ultimately cost Sanchez a chance to join Roy Halladay and Don Larsen in the record books as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in the postseason. Sanchez became just the fifth pitcher in postseason history to pitch at least six innings in a start while walking six yet allowing no runs to score. The last to achieve that was Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez who issued six free passes to the Rangers over eight shutout innings in the 1999 ALDS. That was actually the second time it happened at Fenway Park with the Red Sox the recipients of six bases on balls. The first was by Mets starter Ron Darling in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series who pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a half-dozen walks. Others on the list include Pittsburgh’s Bruce Kison against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 1974 NLCS, Bill Hallihan of the 1931 Cardinals who walked seven in blanking Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx and the Philadelphia A’s in Game 2 of the World Series. Honorable mention to Cubs starter Ed Reulbach who gave up an unearned run to the White Sox in a 7-1 complete game win in Game 2 of the 1906 Windy City Series.
  • Sanchez also became the fifth starter in postseason history to pitch at least two innings with no hits allowed yet get the hook before allowing a hit. Two are the aforementioned Larsen and Halladay who completed their no-hitters. The others were Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar who walked nine Oakland A’s in 4 ⅔ innings of a 2-1 loss in the 1974 ALCS, and Seattle’s Paul Abbott who saw eight Yankees reach via ball four in Game 4 of the 2001 ALCS. Both Cuellar and Abbott lost their games however.
  • In the other dugout, Jon Lester is exactly who the Red Sox want on the hill coming off of a tough result. This season he had a record of 9-1 following a Red Sox loss, rightfully earning him stopper status. He pitched three times with first place on the line and came out with wins in each. His performance in Game 1 was masterful as well, and his hard luck was unprecedented in franchise history. Red Sox starters who pitch at least six innings while allowing just one run (earned or unearned) are 33–1 with four no decisions in postseason play. Guess who that one loss is? In those games the team is 36–2, with the only other blemish coming in Game 1 of the 1990 ALCS when Roger Clemens departed after six scoreless innings, only to watch the A’s throttle the Sox bullpen for nine runs.
  • Among postseason pitchers with at least 10 appearances, eight starts and 50 innings pitched, Lester ranks seventh alltime with a 2.41 ERA. During the playoff era, starting in 1969 when the League Championship Series were introduced, only Curt Schilling (2.23) and Ken Holtzman (2.30) have been better in the playoffs than Lester.
  • f it seems like batters are striking out at an alarming rate, they are. These teams have combined to fan once every 3.54 plate appearances, which beats the old ALCS standard of one K every 4.39 PAs set by the Orioles and Indians in the 1997. The only playoff round to K's at a greater rate was the 2012 World Series when these Tigers and the Giants whiffed once every 3.49 trips to the plate.
  • The Red Sox have struck out 53 times already through four games. They are just 10 strikeouts off of the record for most times striking out in an LCS, set by the 2007 Indians. The postseason series record is 70 set by the 2001 Diamondbacks against the Yankees (who struck out 63 times the same series). With Boston having struck out at least 10 times in every game this series and five consecutive games overall, those records all seem almost a lock.

ALCS Game 4: Jake Peavy vs. Doug Fister

  October 16, 2013 10:16 AM

Shane Victorino has been on base four of the five times he's faced tonight's Detroit starter, Doug Fister.

Baseball is often a cruel game. Through three games the Tigers starting staff is flirting with history, having allowed just two earned runs in their first 21 innings of work this ALCS, a 0.86 earned run average. However all the Tigers have to show for it is a 2-1 deficit in the series, after squandering the home field advantage they earned on Anibal Sanchez’s six-inning, no-hit effort in Game 1 at Fenway Park. Here are some notes about this series so far and what to look for in Game 4.

  • The best team in terms of ERA by starting pitchers in a League Championship Series—a playoff round introduced in 1969—is none other than the 2012 Tigers who, behind the familiar starting rotation of Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verander and tonight’s starter Doug Fister, held the Yankees to two earned runs in 27 ⅓ innings (0.66 ERA) in last October’s four-game sweep.
  • You have to go back to the 1991 NLCS between the Braves and Pirates to find a series that featured at least two 1-0 games—and that had three. (Curiously Braves lefty Steve Avery won two 1-0 games including one against Pirates southpaw Zane Smith who was both on the winning and losing end).
  • Chances are the Red Sox will not win a 1-0 game tonight. Their starter, Jake Peavy is currently on a streak of 47 consecutive starts (including the Game 4 clincher against the Rays in the ALDS) in which he’s allowed at least one earned run. That’s the second longest active streak in the majors surpassed only by the 61 straight scathed starts by Ramon Ortiz which began in 2005 and has spanned seven big league teams, a stint in Japan, 94 minor league starts and a potentially career-ending elbow injury.
  • Recently Doug Fister’s appearances against the Sox have been of the all-or-nothing variety. He started twice against the Red Sox during the 2013 regular season. In the first on June 21 in Detroit he allowed 11 hits and six earned runs over 3 ⅓ innings in a loss. Then on September 2 in Boston he was lights-out, shutting down Boston’s batters over seven innings of four-hit, no run ball. That game was the only one of the seven regular season meetings in which a Tigers starter did not allow the Sox a run.
  • Fister also allowed the Sox six earned runs in his last start against them in 2012, but in his first start of that season was holding Boston scoreless over 3 ⅔ innings in his first meeting of 2012 before he had to leave after suffering a left costochondral strain which sent him to the disabled list. Overall Fister is 2-4 against Boston in eight career starts with a 4.36 ERA and 1.57 WHIP.
  • Peavy last faced the Tigers on July 25, in what would turn out to be his last appearance for Chicago before the trade to Boston. He got the victory but allowed four earned runs. Among the four hits he allowed in seven innings were home runs by Brayan Peña, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter in the 7-4 decision.
  • These Tigers know Peavy. He made six starts against them for the White Sox during the 2012 season. Only four pitchers (Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Sale, Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie) started more against Detroit the past two seasons. But on the ominous sidde, Peavy has allowed more earned runs (28) and home runs (11) to the Tigers over that span than anyone (although Sale, his former ChiSox teammate is the only one to fan more Tigers, 58 to 45).
  • Torii Hunter is a career .438/.471/.813 hitter against the veteran righthander while Miguel Cabrera has three home runs and nine RBIs in 49 plate appearances. On the other end of the spectrum, Alex Avila is batting just .190 in his career against Peavy, but is one of seven current Tigers to take him deep at least once in his career.
  • By contrast, only two Red Sox—Shane Victorino who is 4 for 5 and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (5 for 11)—have hit home runs off of the ground-ball inducing Fister. Tuesday night’s hero, Mike Napoli, has but two walks and two singles in 16 career meetings with Fister and David Ortiz has just two extra base hits in 22 tries (.350 SLG.)

ALCS Game 3: John Lackey vs. Justin Verlander

  October 15, 2013 06:55 AM

Dustin Pedroia swing.jpg
Dustin Pedroia has struggled mightily against Detroit's Game 3 starter, Justin Verlander, batting a mere .056 against him in 19 meetings.

Brace yourself.

The euphoria that swept through New England following the Red Sox implausible come-from-behind victory on Sunday night completely overshadowed the dominance of the Tigers starting duo of Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer over the Red Sox. The two combined to pitch 13 innings, allowing just two hits and one run while striking out a staggering 25 Sox batters. Yet with all of that success Detroit starters had in Games 1 & 2, Jim Leyland gets to trot out the AL’s hottest pitcher, Justin Verlander, for Game 3 at Comerica Park.

Since he walked onto the Target Field mound in Minneapolis to face the Twins on September 23, Verlander has been unscored upon, a span of four appearances. In those 27 innings, he’s given up just 15 hits and six walks for a tidy 0.78 baserunners per nine innings. His 43 strikeouts in those starts equates to 14.33 per nine innings. In his last two outings, both against the A’s in the ALDS, Verlander has been even closer to perfect, pitching 15 innings with six hits and two walks allowed and a 1-0 record. However in light of all of that incredible pitching there’s the good news for the Red Sox: the Tigers are but 1-3 in those games.

If anyone can understand the feeling of pitching well yet coming up empty it’s John Farrell’s choice to take the ball in Game 3, John Lackey. In six of his 29 regular season starts (20.6%) the Red Sox failed to push a single run across home plate. Lackey won just 11 of 24 decisions despite amassing 19 quality starts. Only Cole Hamels and Chris Sale lost more quality starts than Lackey in 2013. However as of late, his fortune has changed. The big Texan has surrendered at least four earned runs in four of his last five starts, but is 3-0 over that span.

Verlander had his run in with quality starts as well during the regular season too. The Tigers lost 11 games in which the fireballing righty pitched at least six innings and allowed three runs or less, the most in the American League. Personally he was 5-2 when allowing two-or-fewer runs over seven or more innings. That’s somewhat startling when you notice that the combined efforts of Verlander’s rotation-mates, Sanchez, Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello produced a record of 32-2 in the same situation.

Fittingly, both of Lackey’s games against Detroit while wearing the red “B” resulted in quality starts— three runs allowed in seven innings on June 20 & two runs allowed in 7 ⅓ innings on September 2—and the Red Sox were 0-2. It wasn’t always that way. The Angels won seven of Lackey’s first eight career starts against the Tigers but fortunes have gone south for him since. He hasn’t pitched in a winning effort against Detroit since 2007 when the Tigers lineup featured Gary Sheffield, Pudge Rodriguez and Sean Casey.

Through his career against Boston, Verlander has had mixed success, surrendering a high of five earned runs in three of his 11 starts, matching the number of times he allowed none. In this season’s only game vs. the Sox, Greg Colbrunn’s hitters made Verlander work hard, forcing him to throw 112 pitches in just five innings. While Detroit won that game 7-5, the strategy of making him beat you with strikes should get the Sox back where they want to be—in Detroit’s bullpen.

ALCS Game 2: Max Scherzer vs. Clay Buchholz

  October 13, 2013 02:06 PM

Jacoby Ellsbury's ability to reach base against Max Scherzer and the Tigers inability to throw out base-stealers could be the edge the Red Sox need.

The ancient baseball adage says “great pitching beats great hitting” and there was no better example of that than Game 1 of the ALCS where the mighty Tigers were lucky to eke out the lone run of the game while the powerful and usually timely Red Sox barely scratched the hits column. And that was with Anibal Sanchez and Jon Lester on the hill. Tonight’s Game 2 pits the two best pitchers, on paper, that the AL’s top two teams had to offer in 2013.

One of the favorites for the AL Cy Young Award this season, Tigers starter Max Scherzer was 21-3 this season with an ERA of 2.90, allowing 6.4 hits per nine innings while placing second in the big leagues in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.1. He also ranked seventh among all AL players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), at 6.7, meaning he was personally responsible for nearly seven more wins than a replacement-level starting pitcher would’ve provided.

However, one of Scherzer’s three losses came at Fenway Park in September when in seven innings he allowed but two earned runs on a two-out, two-run Will Middlebrooks yet was out-pitched by Lester and the Sox pen. In fact he’s just 1-2 lifetime at Fenway, including losses there in each of his last two starts.

Three of the Red Sox have been especially troublesome for Scherzer throughout his career. David Ortiz has gone deep thrice against him and is batting a robust .467 with a 1.689 OPS against him, the fourth best OPS among all players who’ve faced him at least 10 times. Jacoby Ellsbury has reached base eight of the 12 times he’s faced Scherzer, and with the Tigers catchers permitting a major-league-high 86.5% of opposing base stealers to make it safely, it’s a situation to keep an eye on. Despite being 0 for 3 against Scherzer this season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, will be back behind the dish after yielding to David Ross in Game 1. He has touched up Scherzer for five hits, including a home run in in 12 career meetings.


ALCS Game 1 by the numbers

  October 13, 2013 07:55 AM


Shane Victorino was one of three Red Sox with a strikeout hat-trick and one of the many hitters unhappy with umpire Joe West's generous strike zone.

Game 1 of the ALCS was epic in the truest sense of the word. Not only was it a pitchers duel between two of the AL's top starters, the nearly four-hour contest featured a slew of strikeouts, a near no-hitter and the extension of an alltime record that will be harder and harder to top.

Here are some of the more curious numbers that came out of an October classic:

  • 17 Red Sox struck out by Tigers pitchers Anibal Sanchez, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit. That’s just two fewer than the postseason record of 19 in a game set on October 17, 1999 by eight mets pitchers against Braves hitters at Shea Stadium.
  • 4 Red Sox struck out in the first inning, the first quartet of teammates to strikeout in a postseason inning since Cubs starter Orval Overall punched out Detroit's Charley O'Leary, Ty Cobb, Claude Rossman (who reached base via a wild pitch), and Germany Schaefer in the first inning of Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
  • 3 Nine inning postseason games that saw one team strike out at least 17 times. That Braves-Mets game lasted 15 innings. The only other teams to fan 17 in a regulation-length contest were the ‘98 Astros—who were K’d 16 times against Padres starter Kevin Brown and once versus Trevor Hoffman in Game 1 of the 1998 NLDS— and the ‘68 Tigers who were steamrolled by Bob Gibson for 17 strikeouts in Game 1 of the Fall Classic.
  • 3 games in which Red Sox starters pitched at least six innings and allowed just one run and were saddled with a loss: Mickey Harris pitched seven innings of one-run ball against but lost to the Cardinals in the ‘46 World Series; Bret Saberhagen allowed one run in six innings in a 9-2 loss to the Yankees in the 1999 ALCS. Jon Lester gave up the only run of the game in 6 ⅓ innings against the Tigers in last night’s loss.
  • 3 ALCS games that ended as one-hitters: Last nights 1-0 Tigers win joined the Yankees 5-0 Yankees win over the Mariners behind a complete game one hitter by Roger Clemens on October 14, 2000. Then there was the oddest of them all, when the A’s beat the Orioles 2-1 on only one hit but nine walks against Baltimore pitchers Mike Cuellar and Ross Grimsley on October 9, 1974.

ALCS tale of the tape: Tigers vs. Red Sox

  October 11, 2013 08:03 AM

The Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox were among the best in baseball all season, but both came from dramatically different angles. With All Stars all over the field, the Tigers were one of the favorites to take home the AL Crown since the start, and proved that they were by taking out the Oakland A's in five games. The Red Sox rise from worst to first was an achievement of epic proportions, and it took four games to vanquish the rival Rays in the ALDS. Now these two stacked squads face off for the right to represent the American League against the winner of the Dodgers-Cardinals series.

Here's how they stacked up statistically during the regular season.


ALCS Game 1: Anibal Sanchez vs. Jon Lester

  October 11, 2013 07:46 AM

The Red Sox will face Sanchez in a Tigers uniform for the first time on Saturday, and only the second time ever.

There’s no doubt that the starting staff for the Detroit Tigers is stacked and often times intimidating. A look down the rotation shows the modern mound’s version of Murders Row, starting with the best pitcher in the AL over the past five seasons, Justin Verlander, who proved this assertion by flirting with a postseason no-hitter in the clincher against the Oakland A’s on Thursday night in Oakland. On paper, the best starter in the AL this season was Max Scherzer who was the lone 20-game winner in all of baseball (he won 21 for good measure) while being the lone regular starter to allow fewer than one batter to reach base per inning (0.97 whip). For good measure there’s also Doug Fister, an intimidating 6’8” mountain of a man who was among the league leaders with 3.6 strikeouts for every walk he issued. But the Red Sox first assignment in the series to determine who’ll get a chance to play for the ultimate goal, the World Series trophy, Anibal Sanchez, could be the toughest matchup of all.

Familiarity is one of the most overlooked aspects when many look at matchups. A quick glance at statistics, especially in a playoff series, can be misleading. The difference in batting .400 versus .200 is just one great defensive play if there’s only a five at-bat sample size. But when there’s a significant number of at bats judgements are easier to make.

Take Jon Lester for example. We know that entering Saturday’s game with the Tigers, he’s likely going to have troubles against right fielder Torii Hunter, a veteran he’s faced 32 times and allowed to reach base in 15 of those appearances. Although he’s faced Miguel Cabrera just 24 times, it’s safe to say that the 2012 Triple Crown winner and 2013 leader in every slashline category (.348 BA/.442 OBP/.636 SLG./1.078 OPS) knows what to expect when he faces the Sox lefty, having touched him up for 10 hits and five walks in their 24 meetings. In fact, among all of the Tigers who’ve faced Lester at least 10 times, Prince Fielder has had the least success, but even he’s batting .267 against the southpaw (4 for 13).

However when it comes to Sanchez, the AL’s ERA leader (2.57) in 2013, the Red Sox don’t have familiarity at all. Since joining the Tigers midway through 2012, Sanchez has made 41 starts, not one of those came against Boston (which a decent case could be made in a the-chicken-or-the-egg way, is a contributing factor to why he was the AL ERA leader in the first place).

In his career which spans eight seasons, mainly with the Marlins, he’s gotten the call just once against Boston, a seven-run outburst in 2006, Sanchez’s rookie year, by a lineup that included Coco Crisp, Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon and Doug Mirabelli. In fact, only one Red Sox player from that lineup, David Ortiz—a source of a lot of the damage that July day who blasted two home runs and drove in four while playing first base in the interleague game at Miami— remains with the team, and he was. However that was a long time ago.

Big Papi is one of just five current Sox batters—Jonny Gomes (1 for 5), Shane Victorino (10 hits, four walks, one HR in 47 PAs), Stephen Drew (5 hits, 1 walk, 23 PA’s) and David Ross (2 hits, 1 walk, 1 home run in 12 PA’s) —with any live experience against Sanchez. With the possible exception of a random spring training meeting in Jupiter or Fort Myers or long forgotten at bats in the minors, Red Sox core veterans Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia know Sanchez only from videos, scouting reports and word of mouth.

The Red Sox first ALCS opponent is a mystery, and so is how they'll respond against him.

ALDS Game 4: Jake Peavy vs. Jeremy Hellickson

  October 8, 2013 01:11 PM

Saltalamacchia and Ortiz have thrived against Game 4 starter Jeremy Hellickson; Napoli (center) has not.

Rays catcher Jose Lobaton touched up Koji Uehara for a long, ninth-inning, walk-off home run on Monday night setting up a Game 4 showdown between Boston’s Jake Peavy and Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson.

Despite starting 305 major league games over his 12-seasons, Peavy will be making just his third postseason start. The first two, both for the Padres against the Cardinals didn’t turn out that well as we talked about here right after he was acquired from the White Sox in a three-way trade that landed Jose Iglesias in Detroit. Of the 24 active pitchers with 300 or more major league starts to their credit, only Aaron Harang (0) and Peavy’s teammate Ryan Dempster (1), have fewer postseason starts than Peavy whose résumé includes 132 career wins and the 2007 NL Cy Young Award.

Although Peavy has pitched just once against the Rays since 2010, a no decision this September 12 in which he gave up three earned runs in six innings, many of the Rays hitters have experience against him. Red-hot recently, James Loney has faced Peavy 32 times with some success, posting a .323/.344/.677 slash line with two home runs, five doubles and five RBIs against him. Loney is one of six Rays—with Ryan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and Delmon Young—to have gone deep on Peavy at least once in their careers.

On the other side of the field Jeremy Hellickson is a somewhat surprising choice to start a postseason game (over rookie Chris Archer) given that in the last two months of the season he was among the worst starters in the major leagues. From July 31 on only Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke had a higher ERA (7.25) than Hellickson’s 7.15, among pitchers who made at least 10 starts during that span. Although it was largely a procedural roster shuffle, Hellickson was actually optioned to the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State league on August 27 and not recalled until Sept. 3.

Despite that rough stretch, Hellickson has pitched well against Boston this season, allowing just 18 base runners in 18⅓ innings, for a 0.98 to go along with a 3.44 ERA in three starts—one of which was that Sept. 12 Rays win in which he was paired with Peavy.

Even with that success however, a pair of Red Sox have thrived when facing him. David Ortiz has reached base at a .516 clip with three home runs in his career against the tall righthander which matches the home run production of Jarrod Saltalamacchia against him as well, accounting for slugging percentages of .875 and .800 respectively. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mike Napoli has had major trouble against Hellickson, managing just two singles and six strikeouts in 14 career plate appearances against him.

12 facts about no. 12's streak

  October 7, 2013 12:07 PM

Brady had cause to celebrate 38 times with Gronkowski during his 52-game touchdown streak

On Sunday Tom Brady fell two games short of Drew Brees’ alltime NFL record of 54 regular season games with at least one touchdown pass when he was shut out against the Bengals at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium. Here are 12 curious facts about No. 12’s streak.

  1. Brady’s 52 straight games came over the 52 games the Pats played over that span but Brees’ record includes the one game he sat out to rest for the playoffs on the final day of the 2009 season (Jan 3, 2010) against the Panthers. Coincidentally, that was the last day that Brady had failed to throw a TD pass during the regular season, a 34-27 loss in Houston.
  2. Curiously, Brees set the mark on October 7, 2012, exactly 364 days prior to Brady’s streak being broken.
  3. During the streak the Patriots won 43 games while losing just nine, an .827 winning percentage, easily the best in the NFL over that span. The Packers were second at 37-14 (.725)
  4. Brady’s 116 touchdowns during the streak ranks third in the NFL. Only Drew Brees (134) and Aaron Rodgers (121) threw more.
  5. Also during that time 103 players other than Brady threw touchdown passes, including four by punters, one by a kicker (David Akers), three by running backs and seven by wide receivers.
  6. Only one touchdown pass was thrown by another Pats player during the streak, that a 42-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to Brandon Tate against the Dolphins in the final game of the 2010 season. Tate had two TD catches from Brady during the streak.
  7. A total of 16 different receivers caught those 116 touchdown tosses from Brady during the streak. Rob Gronkowski was on the receiving end of the most with 38 while Wes Welker was second at 22.
  8. If you count postseason games, the streak actually ended at 35 on January 22, 2012, in a 23-20 win over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.
  9. Instead of throwing for a score in that game, Brady ran in a 1-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown which accounted for the game’s deciding points that sent the Pats to the Super Bowl.
  10. That game also ended his pursuit of Brett Favre’s alltime record of 20 consecutive playoff games with a touchdown pass. Like the pursuit of Brees, Brady fell two games shy of Favre’s record with 18.
  11. Eight of Brady’s 14 career rushing touchdowns came during the streak. Only the much more fleet-footed Cam Newton (23), Michael Vick (13), Tim Tebow (12) and Aaron Rodgers (9) and his slow-footed equal, Mark Sanchez (9), had more.
  12. Brady still shares the mark of 13 straight games with multiple touchdown passes, matching the record set by Peyton Manning and since also matched by Aaron Rodgers. He’s also tops on the list when it comes to games with at least three TDs with 10.

ALDS Game 3: Clay Buchholz vs. Alex Cobb

  October 6, 2013 02:35 PM

Clay Buchholz and his Game 3 opponent are among the rarest of playoff pairings.

The Red Sox faced the best pitchers Joe Maddon had to offer in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS, passing the tough test against nemeses Mike Moore and David Price with flying colors. Now the series shifts inside to Tropicana Field in otherwise lovely St. Petersburg, Fla. where the Sox have gone against Game 3 starter, Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA), three times already in 2013 with much success. In 16 innings against him, Sox hitters have touched up the young righthander for 10 earned runs, 17 hits and eight walks. Cobb will be celebrating his 26th birthday by squaring off with Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA), who faced the Rays twice this season, once in April at Fenway and again in September at the Trop. He has a personal 13-inning scoreless streak against the Rays, allowing just five hits and five walks in two victories.

On the surface Monday’s game looks like a solid matchup between two of the better pitchers in the AL East. However a closer look into the numbers actually makes this an unlikely pairing for the ages. Since the start of the World Series era in 1903, there have been very few starting pairings to enter a postseason contest with a combined personal winning percentage as high as the .852 compiled by Buchholz (.923) and Cobb (.786). And by few we mean only one other higher.

Amazing as that may seem, never before have two AL starting pitchers met in a postseason game with a better combined record than Boston’s oft-injured veteran righthander, and Tampa Bay’s newly post-seasoned youngster who was lights out in the win-or-go-home contest in the AL Wild Card game against the Tribe in Cleveland.

You don’t have to look too far back to find the only instance of two playoff starters with a better combined record. That distinction is held by the starters Kyle Lohse of the Cardinals and Kris Medlen of the Braves who got the call in the 2012 NL Wild Card game. Those two had an aggregate record of 26-4 during the regular season, a winning clip of .867. But a look deep into the baseball annals finds nobody else to beat them. In fact these have been only five previous instances (including Lohse and Medlen’s) where both of the starters in a playoff game had a winning percentage as good as Cobb’s .786 (minimum 10 regular season decisions).

  • 2012 NL Wild Card Game: Kyle Lohse, Cardinals (16-3, .842) vs. Kris Medlen, Braves (10-1). (Total: 26-4, .867)
  • 1986 AL Championship Series Game 7: Roger Clemens, Red Sox (24-4, .857) vs. John Candelaria, Angels (10-2, .833) (Total: 34-6, .850)
  • 2001 AL Championship Series Game 4: Roger Clemens, Yankees (20-3, .870) vs. Paul Abbott, Mariners (17-4, .810). (Total: 37-7, .841)
  • 1910 World Series Game 4: King Cole, Cubs (20-4, .833) vs. Chief Bender, Athletics (23-5, .821). (Total: 43-9 .827)
  • 1953 World Series Game 2: Eddie Lopat, Yankees (16-4, .800) vs. Preacher Roe, Dodgers (11-3, .786). (Total: 27-7, .794).

ALDS Game 2: David Price vs. John Lackey

  October 5, 2013 07:43 AM

Tampa Bay Rays David Price.jpgOnly two pitchers have had a better ERA in Fenway Park than today's starter for the Rays, David Price.

The Red Sox started the playoffs with a bang, racking up a dozen runs against the Rays to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven ALDS. That was the 12th time the Sox had scored a dozen runs in a game in 2013 (and sixth time in the team’s postseason history), and curiously none of those came in a game pitched by by Game 2 starter, John Lackey who has had trouble with run support all season. Given the way he’s pitched against today’s opponent, he’ll need all of the runs the Red Sox can muster.

Since coming to Boston, Lackey is 1-3 with a 7.11 ERA and 1.93 WHIP against the Rays. If you think that most of the damage against him had to come during his abysmal 2011 Sox debut campaign, think again.

In two starts this year, both at The Trop in St. Pete, Lackey was lit up to the tune of nine earned runs and 19 hits in just 10 combined innings, including the game in which the Lackey plunked Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce—a career .333 hitter against him with two home runs and six runs knocked in —with a pitch, sparking yet another chapter in this often heated rivalry.

Also chomping at the bit to face Lackey is third baseman Evan Longoria who has taken the big righthander deep twice as part of his 27 earned bases (including three walks) in 34 plate appearances. Second baseman Ben Zobrist who homered in Game 1 off of Jon Lester, also has had a great time batting against Lackey, touching him up to the tune of a .40 batting average and 1.034 OPS. But when it comes to ownership, you’re hard-pressed to find someone more successful against Lackey than Yunel Escobar. In 19 plate appearances against the Sox starter, the shortstop has a career batting average of .533, third (behind Endy Chavez’s .615 and Adam Lind’s .536) among all players with at least 10 career opportunities against him.

The Red Sox haven’t had similar success against today’s starter, David Price. In fact, far from it. In what could be his final appearance for the Rays, 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner will be in the spotlight against the AL’s best offense, one in which he’s had tremendous success against throughout his career. This season he subdued the Sox, allowing just 24 of the 116 batters he faced to reach base, creating a microscopic slash line of .171/.191/.297 against him. In three starts at Fenway Park he was even better, going 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA and 0.58 WHIP. Each of the three runs the Red Sox scored off of him in Boston came on solo home runs (David Ross, Mike Napoli, Brandon Snyder) and he lowered his career ERA in the shadow of the Green Monster to 1.88. That places him second among all active players with at least 20 innings pitched at the Fens (somewhat unsurprisingly, Koji Uehara is best at 1.60). And according to baseball-reference.com, the only other starter since 1916 with over 50 innings pitched and a better ERA at Fenway Park? Babe Ruth (1.76).

ALDS Rays vs. Red Sox: Tale of the Tape

  October 3, 2013 02:21 PM

In 2008 when these two teams last squared off in the postseason, the Rays outlasted the Red Sox 4 games to 3 in the ALCS, advancing to the World Series where they were vanquished by the Philadelphia Phillies. While only David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia remain from the lineup that faced Matt Garza in the deciding game, Boston's Game 7 starter, Jon Lester, will get the chance to avenge the loss by getting the ball for Boston in Game 1. The man who saved that clincher, David Price, will likely go to the mound for Tampa Bay in Game 2 on Saturday evening.

This season the teams squared off 19 times, with the Red Sox taking 12 of those, six at home and six on the road. Boston clearly has the advantage on offense while the Rays have the edge in pitching—mainly out of the bullpen—and defense. Here's a look at how the two teams compare statistically based on the 2013 regular season:


ALDS Game 1: Matt Moore vs. Jon Lester

  October 3, 2013 01:07 PM

In July Matt Moore turned in the most dominant visiting performance of the season at Fenway Park.

Starting at 3 PM on Friday afternoon at Fenway Park another chapter in the Red Sox greatest rivalry of the 2010s begins when the Bearded Boys from Boston take on the Tampa Bay Rays. Joe Maddon's tema is fresh off surviving two consecutive lose-and-go-home road contest, first against the Rangers to get into the postseason, and last night against the Indians, both highlighted by tremendous pitching performances.

But despite being forced to use staff ace David Price in Arlington and Alex Cobb in Cleveland, the Rays have exactly who they want taking the baseball in Boston. Moore showed the Sox firsthand how good he can be the last time he toed the rubber at Fenway in July. Let's also not forget how dominant Moore was as a fresh-faced rookie in 2011 when he was called on to face the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS in what was just his second big league start. He shut down the mighty Rangers, limiting them to no runs, two hits and two walks over seven dominant innings. He also pitched relief in Game 4, with only an Adrain Beltre solo home run between him and 10 career postseason shutout innings.

One player who won't be intimidated by seeing Moore on the mound is David Ortiz who has owned the young southpaw thus far in his career, enjoying a 1.346 OPS in 14 plate appearances, including two doubles, a home run and four runs knocked in. However other than Stephen Drew (2 for 5), no Sox hitter has had much success at all versus Moore during his short career. In fact Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Will Middlebrooks are a combined 5 for 53 (.094), with just three walks and one hit by pitch between them.

On the flip side, the Rays are very familiar with Red Sox Jon Lester having faced him four times this season and 26 times overall since the start of the 2007 season. The Rays' most dangerous hitter, Evan Longoria, is also the most well-versed in Lester's repertoire, having faced the Sox ace 63 times, producing 13 hits, eight walks, four home runs and 10 RBIs. Another tough out for Lester is rookie Will Myers who on July 23 homered and doubled in his first two (of three) at bats vs. the Sox southpaw. And despite being a lefthanded swinger, don't be surprised to see Matt Joyce come up to face Lester after producing a .417 lifetime average with two home runs (one in each of the past two seasons) and six RBIs against Lester in 11 at bats.

Check back here for more statistical previews prior to each of the Red Sox postseason games.

Follow David Sabino on Twitter @SabinoSports

Restoration Nation

  October 1, 2013 01:58 PM

chin092213soxjays_spt33[1].jpgThe Red Sox have to wait around to find out whether Terry Francona's Indians, or the new arch-rival Rays we discussed here earlier in the season, will survive the American League's win-or-go-home gauntlet for the right to play them in the Major League's version of the Elite 8. That gives us time to reflect on the incredible bounce-back, regular season just completed. To best do this we decided to examine each of Boston's positions based on stats from the 2011 and 2012 disappointments, compared to those of this year's squad that not only had the best record in the game, but also recaptured the hearts and minds of Red Sox Nation with it's gritty, determined, and mostly bearded play, while slipping back into the familiar role of the underdog.

Which positions had the greatest fluctuation in productivity? Which was the biggest bargain? Which looked like it was a disaster in 2013 but actually wasn't so bad afterall? For answers to these and many more questions check out this Red Sox photo gallery

Onto the playoffs.

Are you experienced?

  September 25, 2013 06:35 AM

salty091313.jpgJarrod Saltalamacchia is one of nine Red Sox who has yet to appear in a postseason contest

The common perception is the Red Sox are making their first playoff appearance since 2009, and on the whole that point is valid. However, for the individual parts nothing is further from the truth. Five current members of the projected 25-man playoff roster actually participated in last year’s playoffs, and another, Shane Victorino, played in the postseason as recently as 2011 for the Phillies. While the squad isn’t swimming in October baseball experience, there are a total of seven World Series rings belonging to players floating around the Boston clubhouse: two of those are David Ortiz's ('04, '07 Red Sox) while the others were earned by Victorino (‘08 Phillies), John Lackey (‘02 Angels), Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Dustin Pedrioa (‘07 Red Sox).

A total of 16 current Sox have some playoff experience during their career, all with varying success. Of the nine who never appeared in October, the spotlight will shine most brightly on starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia who was traded to the Red Sox from a team, the Texas Rangers, that would go onto three straight trips to the playoffs and two to the World Series. Among those postseason neophytes the most elated has to be eight-year veteran Craig Breslow who has pitched in 654 games as a professional, 416 of which came over eight seasons in the major leagues. The left-handed relief specialist who made 58 appearances with a 1.91 ERA this season actually played for two division winners, the 2005 Padres and 2009 Twins, but did not appear in the postseason.

The sample sizes are small so comparisons and trends are to be taken with a grain of salt, however one current Red Sox player has a career .500 on-base percentage and .857 career postseason slugging percentage. Another newcomer for 2013 is out-slugging David Ortiz by 20 points. One reliever has an ERA of zero in three games, while two other members of the staff sport double-digit career postseason ERAs. Who are they? Here’s a breakdown of the projected 25-man roster and how each has performed during their postseason careers (from most-to-least experienced).

  • David Ortiz, designated hitter: 7 seasons of playoffs, 289 plate appearances, 12 home runs, 47 RBIs, .283 avg./.388 OBP/.520 SLG, two World Series. Last playoff series: 2009 ALDS.
  • Shane Victorino, outfielder: 5 seasons, 198 PA, 6 home runs, 30 RBIs, 8 stolen bases, .269/.338/.446, two World Series. Last playoff series: 2011 NLDS (Phillies).
  • Mike Napoli, first baseman: five seasons, 110 PA, 5 home runs, 19 RBIs, 1 stolen base, .272/.373/.457. Last playoff series: 2012 ALWC (Rangers)
  • John Lackey, starting pitcher, five seasons, 14 games, 3-4 record, 3.12 ERA, 1.33 whip, 3.00 K/BB, one World Series appearance. Last playoff series: 2009 ALCS (Angels)
  • David Ross, catcher, four seasons, 8 PA, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, .429/.500/.857. Last playoff series: 2012 NLWC (Braves)
  • Dustin Pedroia, second baseman, three seasons, 132 PA, 5 home runs, 18 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, .252/.344/.461, one World Series appearance. Last playoff series: 2009 ALDS
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, outfielder, three season, 77 PA, 11 RBIs, five stolen bases, .261/.316/.391, one World Series appearance. Last playoff series: 2009 ALDS
  • Jon Lester, starting pitcher, three seasons, 8 games, 2-3 record, 2.57 ERA, 1.12 whip, 3.14 K/BB, one World Series appearance. Last playoff series: 2009 ALDS
  • Stephen Drew, shortstop, two seasons, 53 PA, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs, 1 stolen base, .320/.358/.540. Last playoff series: 2012 ALDS (Athletics)
  • Jonny Gomes, outfielder, two seasons, 7 PA, 0-for-7. Last playoff series: 2012 ALDS (Athletics)
  • Jake Peavy, pitcher, two seasons, 2 games, 0-2 record, 12.10 ERA, 2.38 whip, 1.25 K/BB. Last playoff series: 2006 NLDS (Padres)
  • Koji Uehara, closer, two seasons, 4 games, no record, 19.29 ERA, 3.00 whip, 2.00 K/BB. Last playoff series: 2012 ALWC (Rangers)
  • Franklin Morales, pitcher, two seasons, 8 games, no record, 7.82 ERA, 1.74 whip, 1.00 K/BB. Last playoff series: 2009 NLDS (Rockies)
  • Ryan Dempster, pitcher, two seasons, 2 games, 0-1 record, 6.35 ERA, 1.94 whip, 0.57 K/BB. Last playoff series: 2008 NLDS (Cubs)
  • Matt Thornton, pitcher, one season, 3 games, no record, 0.00 ERA, 1.20 whip 1.00 K/BB. Last playoff series: 2008 ALDS (White Sox)
  • Clay Buchholz, starting pitcher, 1 game, no record, 3.60 ERA, 1.40 whip, 3.00 K/BB. Last playoff series: 2009 ALDS
  • No experience in the postseason: Xander Bogaerts, Craig Breslow, Mike Carp, Felix Doubront, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Junichi Tazawa, Brandon Workman.

Follow David Sabino on Twitter @SabinoSports for sports stats, facts, figures, trivia and fantasy advise.

Danger zone

  September 23, 2013 12:55 PM

ThompkEd2.jpgEdelman and Thompkins (center) have scored all four of the Patriots red zone touchdowns.

The natives were restless early in Sunday’s victory over the Bucs at Gillette, as Tampa Bay took an early lead and fans were getting that “here we go again” feeling against one of the NFL’s lower-tier teams. However Tom Brady, Kenbrell Thompkins & Co. righted the ship and by the final whistle everyone in attendance enjoyed a 20-point laugher.

Among the take homes from the game, besides the victory which kept the Pats among the league’s seven undefeated teams and in a tie for the lead in the AFC East with the upstart Dolphins, was that two Brady-to-Thompkins touchdown connections (and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal) bumped the Patriots out of the cellar in red zone points per game, and into 31st place, above only the pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars.

Only Green Bay and Seattle (14 times each) have been in the Red Zone more this season than Tom Brady’s 13 visits, however the Pats have produced only four touchdowns (and five field goals)—those two by Thompkins, and two more passes to Julian Edelman against the Bills—on those drives. That’s an average of 3.31 points per red zone invasion, barely ahead of the Jags and around half of the point production of the aforementioned Dolphins, the league leaders at 6.5 points per red zone incursion (seven touchdowns and a field goal on eight trips).

Twenty-seven NFL teams score on at least four of every five red zone excursions. The Pats scored on just three of five tries against Tampa Bay dropping their season average to 69.2%, also 31st in the league, obviously a far cry from where the Pats expect to find themselves in any ranking, let alone something as critical as red zone scoring. By contrast, Peyton Manning, who hosts the Raiders tonight, has produced the same number of touchdowns over two games...in just five attempts.

This can’t be sitting well in Foxboro as the Patriots had been one of the NFL’s most potent teams when it comes to scoring points in the Red Zone over the past few years. Last season the offense dominated inside their opponents’ 20 yard line, tallying points on an NFL-best 94.3% of their forays deep into enemy territory, scored touchdowns on 70% of those drives, also best in the league, leading to 49 touchdowns, 17 field goals, and a league-high 6.51 points per RZ raid. The year before that the average was 5.35 which placed third behind the Packers (5.42) and Lions (5.36).

The loss of two world-class tight ends and Shane Vereen’s wrist injury have been major factors in the decline, but every team has trials and tribulations to overcome. You can be sure that scoring deep in the opponents’ territory have been, and will continue to be, a point of emphasis as the season rolls on. To win games as the schedule gets considerably tougher, it has to.

Let's get ahead of ourselves

  September 20, 2013 01:40 PM

Dodgers.jpgDefeating the symbols of a disappointing 2012 season would be icing on the cake for the 2013 resurgent Red Sox

The long New England nightmare is over, the Red Sox are in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. There will be no high school graduating classes that will be forced to say that they didn’t bear witness to a Sox playoff series during their secondary school tenure. It’s time to rejoice, and time to let yourself go a little.

That’s what we’re going to do here. There are still regular season games to be played and a yet-unnamed gauntlet of American League teams to navigate on the way to their ultimate goal, but for now let’s throw caution to the wind and let speculation take us, and the Red Sox, straight to the World Series. Why, you might ask? Well, because, the way the NL is shaping up, each potential Fall Classic matchup would have special significance for Boston No random Colorado Rockies or San Diego Padres in this bunch. Each of the five possible opponents would provide plenty of fodder for any series preview.

Here’s what I mean:

victorinoDodgers.jpg1) Los Angeles Dodgers Should the Red Sox win this bi-coastal series they should probably award Magic Johnson (and the rest of L.A.’s new ownership group) a championship ring and playoff share for allowing them the clear the books of the likes of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford last season. The players the Sox got back in return (Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa for two) haven’t made much of an impact yet, but with those big contracts gone, Boston was able to sign Dustin Pedroia to an extension, re-sign David Ortiz, sign Koji Uehara, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino (above right), and Jonny Gomes as free agents and trade for Jake Peavy.

Also, let’s not forget the Yankees connection, as the Dodgers are managed by Donnie Baseball himself, career Yankee and Steinbrenner antagonist, Don Mattingly.
And for those who want to dig deep, there’s even an ancient history element to this potential series: These two franchises faced off for the 1916 title, with the Bill Carrigan’s boys taking down Wilbert Robinson’s Brooklyn Robins 4-games-to-1. What’s interesting is that although Fenway Park existed and was the regular home of the Sox, all of the Boston World Series games that year were played at Braves Field.

bosbravesscript.gif2) Atlanta Braves That’s a perfect segue to Boston’s other team, the Braves, who look set to clinch the NL East at any moment. Although the Bravos the Sox never met in the World Series, the two teams kept the World Series championship in Boston all but two seasons from 1912 through 1918. A charter member of the NL, the Braves were originally the Boston Red Stockings before undergoing a transformation to the Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Braves, Bees and then finally Braves again. They abandoned Boston in 1953 for Milwaukee and left there for Atlanta in 1966. Handlebar moustaches and barbershop quartets will surely be out in force if these old Olde Towne neighbors square off.

Cy Young.jpg3) Pittsburgh Pirates It’s back to the beginning should the Sox and Bucs make it to baseball’s finals. You see, the very first modern World Series between the upstart American League and the much more established National League featured the Boston Americans against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Boston’s games were played at the old Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds and the starter—and loser—for Boston in the inaugural game was none other than Cy Young (right). He’d redeem himself with two victories later in the series, but it was Bill Dineen who pitched four complete games, going 3-1 including allowing no runs and just four hits in the eighth and clinching game of the best-of-nine set.

bambino.jpg4) St. Louis Cardinals The NL’s most frequent World Series champion has been a regular October opponent for the Red Sox. The two storied franchises have met three times (1946, 1967, 2004) with St. Louis taking the first two by holding Ted Williams to five singles in 25 at bats in the seven-game ‘46 Classic and making the 1967 team’s dream really impossible by taking the decision in another seven game set. All was forgotten and forgiven in 2004 when the Sox vanquished the Cards in four straight, thus putting the Curse of the Babe to rest forever. This year Boston has a chance to even the score.

5) Cincinnati Reds Fisk.jpgThese two teams played what is considered by many the greatest World Series in history, another seven-game classic that provided perhaps the most iconic moment in Red Sox history: Carlton Fisk waving his high fly ball down the left field line fair and over the Green Monster for a walkoff series-extending home run in Game 6. You can be sure to see Fisk everywhere should these teams square off again.
An interesting sidebar to a Cincinnati-Boston meeting would be the presence of one of the key members of the 2004 Red Sox, Bronson Arroyo, who has gone 13-11 with a 3.56 ERA for the Reds this season.

You're not crazy for fretting about the 2-0 Pats

  September 19, 2013 04:37 PM

Brady20.jpgThis is the sixth season that Tom Brady has led the Patriots to a 2-0 start.

Bill Parcells once famously exclaimed “You are what your record says you are” but maybe that’s not really the case. The way that a lot of folks have reacted to the Patriots first two weeks of the regular season you’d think the Belichick Bradys were 0-2 instead of being one of just eight teams that enter Week 3 with an unblemished 2-0 record. However those wins over the Bills and Jets— both strong contenders for last place in the AFC East that each started rookie quarterbacks —were awfully nerve-racking, and there might be good reason for you to have concerns going forward.

This is just the 12th time in 54 seasons that the Patriots have started the year with two consecutive wins (coincidentally only three of those seasons resulted in trips to the Super Bowl and only one resulted in a title). It also marks the first time that they, or any team since 1950 for that matter, has started off facing two rookie quarterbacks. However their combined point differential of +5 points, is lower than they had in six of the seasons they started 1-1. Only in 1999 when they began the year by beating the Jets 30-28 (a team that finished the season 8-8 under defensive coordinator Bill Belichick), and the Colts 31-28 (a 13-3 team in Peyton Manning’s second season), did they come away with two victories as narrow. And there’s virtually nobody who would contest, even after each has a win, that the 2013 Bills and Jets would be fortunate to finish the season at .500.

This year the Bears, winners by three points over the Bengals and one point over the Vikings, are the only undefeated team playing closer to the vest than New England, compiling a differential of +4 points. In fact, since 1950, the Pats and Bears are just the 16th and 17th teams to start a season 2-0 yet having outscored their opponents by a total of five points or less. Of the previous 15, just over half managed a winning record during the regular season, just a third made the postseason and just three could win a playoff game. However, before you get too far down, two of those, the 2003 Panthers and 1988 49ers made it to the Super Bowl, where the Panthers fell to the Patriots and the 49ers beat the Bengals.


This is the best Sox squad since...

  September 16, 2013 11:38 PM

John Farrell.jpgSmiles have been contageous throughout Red Sox nation during John Farrell's first season as Boston manager.

What a difference a year makes. The Red Sox have played 151 games and have a nine game lead in the AL East over the Rays. At the same point last season, they found themselves in fourth place, 19 games behind the Yankees and just a half game ahead of Toronto for last place. That was then, this is now.

Since the beginning of the season the questions swirling around Fenway Park have been "how much better can John Farrell’s team be than Bobby Valentine’s?" and could he reclaim a team that rapidly unraveled in the final days of Terry Francona's tenure, stained by beer and fried chicken grease? However with the Sox holding the best record in baseball and with 92 wins in their first 151 contests, the question has evolved into “where does the 2013 squad place among the greatest in franchise history?” It may sound like hyperbole for a squad that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, but in terms of regular season victories, 2013 has a chance to set a new modern benchmark.

In the 162-game era, no Red Sox team had as many wins through 151 games as the team led by Farrell. Not in 1967. Not in 1975. Not in 1986. Not in 2004 or 2007. None of them. In fact, the last time a Sox squad had that many victories through 151 games was in 1950(!) when they also had 92 wins, en route to 94 for the year. A season earlier, Boston won 95 of their first 151 games, finishing with 96 in a 155 game schedule. The 1946 World Series team won 101 of its first 151 and ended up with 104 wins, second most in team history behind the 105 of the 1912 championship squad.

By going 8-3 in the final 11 games, the current team has a chance to become the first Red Sox team to reach triple-digit wins since 1946. If the team maintains its .609 winning percentage it would be the second greatest season-to-season improvement in franchise history, at +.183 from last year’s .426. The only team to experience a bigger positive gain was also the 1946 team, jumping to .675 from .461 in 1945. Only 11 teams in big league history have experienced a larger success rate jump, period.

So with all due respect to Yaz and Dewey, Pudge, Rice, and Eck, the Rocket, Boggs, Manny, Pedro and Curt Schilling,the Beard Brothers could very well be the best regular season Red Sox team in 63 years. Sit back and enjoy it while it lasts.
Here are the Red Sox teams with the most wins through 151 games.


Green Jets QBs have left Pats seeing red

  September 12, 2013 02:24 PM

sanchez genoSmith (right) hopes to join Sanchez (left) among Jets rookie quarterbacks who've defeated the Pats in their debuts against them.
With Mark Sanchez likely having taken his last snap for the New York Jets following news that his injured shoulder will require season-ending surgery, Gang Green is squarely under the control of rookie Geno Smith. The second-round pick from West Virginia hopes to continue a long tradition in the New York-New England rivalry tonight in Foxborough. Of the four rookies who have started for the Jets/Titans franchise against the Patriots, three came away with victories in their first meetings with the Pats.

•November 14, 1965 The glamour boy from Tuscaloosa, “Broadway Joe” Namath was outgained 275 yards to 180 by Babe Parilli, and while both threw two touchdown passes, the veteran was picked off three times while Namath was spotless in New York’s 30-20 win at Fenway Park.

•October 14, 1973 Schaefer Stadium played host to an ugly contest that saw Jets rookie Bill Demory complete just one of seven passes for 11 yards. But the entire scoring output for the Pats came on a Will Foster fumble recovery in the Jets end zone in New York’s 9-7 win.

•November 11, 1976 Starting in place of a hobbled Joe Namath at Shea Stadium, fellow Alabama alum Richard Todd connected on four of his six throws, but unfortunately two of those went to Patriots. Namath managed to get in the game but was not effective, getting picked off himself five times in a 38-24 New England victory.

•September 20, 2009 There was so much promise in the Jets, their new head coach, Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, especially when he led a second half comeback to defeat the Patriots 16-7. In that game Sanchez out-dueled Tom Brady, completing 63.6% of his throws with a touchdown compared to Brady’s 48.9% with a pick.

Perfect in practice (Updated)

  September 11, 2013 02:00 PM

Koji.jpgFirst Koji Uehara emerged as the Red Sox closer and now he's become the most reliable pitcher in the game.

After starting the ninth inning on August 17 at Fenway Park by striking out New York’s Curtis Granderson and Eduardo Nuñez swinging, Koji Uehara allowed a double down the right field line on an 0-1 count to Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay. On the next pitch Uehara induced Chris Stewart to pop out to Will Middlebrooks at third to close out a 6-1 Red Sox win.

Amazingly, that was the last time a batter reached against Boston’s veteran closer, a span of 34 straight batters, or seven more outs than pitching a nine-inning perfect game. He now holds the Red Sox record, which was previously 32 straight in 1952 by Ellis Kinder. The alltime major league record for consecutive batters retired is 45 by Chicago White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle but his came in consecutive starts. As did the former mark of 41 straight batters retired set by San Francisco’s Jim Barr in 1972. That was matched by the man whose streak Uehara’s should be compared to, former Sox reliever Bobby Jenks, who as the White Sox closer also set down 41 straight hitters during the summer of 2007 over a span of 13 appearances.


Double-threat will be sorely missed

  September 9, 2013 06:30 PM

vereen.jpgThe news that Shane Vereen will be missing from the Patriots backfield for at least eight weeks on short-term injured reserve while recovering from a broken bone in his wrist is a serious blow to an offense already rife with question marks. The third-year man's opening week productivity — he was the only running back to gain 100-yards on the ground through Sunday's games—came mostly after he suffered the injury, which makes what he did even more impressive.

Playing in relief of Stevan Ridley who was benched the entire second half after fumbling issues, Vereen played a major role in the Pats’ come-from-behind victory against the Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park, rushing for 101 yards while picking up another 58 yards on seven catches to become just the second player in franchise history with as many as 100 rushing yards and seven catches in the same contest. The first was by Curtis Martin who ran for 120 yards with eight catches in a 41-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 16, 1995 at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium.

Vereen also joined Ridley among the six Patriots (in 54 opening games) to run for over 100 yards in Week 1. Three of the previous five did so at the start of a 1,000-yard season, something that the injury will make make virtually impossible for Vereen to achieve. Here’s the complete list:vereen22.jpg

Sox steals = Mo runs

  September 6, 2013 10:31 AM

Rivera.jpgMuch like the remake of a classic movie, you saw the script before. Last night the Red Sox, undaunted by a six-run outburst in the seventh inning by the Yankees, came from one run down in the ninth against Mariano Rivera, the undisputed greatest closer of alltime. The key to the Boston rally was a stolen base by Quentin Berry, pinch running for Mike Napoli who singled to start the inning. An Austin Romine throwing error allowed Berry to scamper to third where he was driven home on a single to right by Stephen Drew.

Of course the old script from the Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS original production had Dave Roberts in the role of Berry, Jorge Posada playing the part of victimized catcher (yet without the error) and Bill Mueller playing the hero by driving in the tying run with a single.

In his 1,107 career games, Rivera has faced Boston 114 times, for 10.3% of his career appearances. He’s saved a total of 649 games, 8.9% of those coming against Boston, with 19% of his 79 career blown saves coming at the hands of the Sox. Seemingly invincible at times with a career ERA of 2.21, against Boston it climbs to 2.83, the third highest against any AL club (Angels 3.75, Orioles 3.05).

However the key to last night’s game was the stolen base. In fact in the regular season, the Red Sox have stolen more bases against Rivera (8) than the number of home runs they’ve hit against him (7). In games the Red Sox stole at least one base against Rivera, including the great Roberts robbery during the playoffs, their record is 5-1. Six games, nine stolen bases, six runs.

Here’s a breakdown:

April 24, 2004 On first base following a force out of Manny Ramirez at second in the 10th inning of a 2-2 game, Jason Varitek takes off for second and makes it but is stranded as Kevin Millar pops out to end the inning. Boston rallies in the 12th off of Paul Quantrill for the 3-2 win.

September 17, 2004 Trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth, Dave Roberts, pinch running after a Trot Nixon walk, steals second as Varitek strikes out. Roberts comes into score the tying run on an Orlando Cabrera single. Later in the inning, Johnny Damon drives in the game winner.

October 17, 2004 Trailing three-games-to-none in the series and 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4, Rivera walks Kevin Millar who is promptly pinch run for by Dave Roberts. On the first pitch to Bill Mueller, Roberts steals second and comes around to score the season-saving tying run on Mueller’s single. Boston wins the game on a 12th inning David Ortiz home run off of Paul Quantrill, en route to becoming the only team in big league history to win a series after trailing 3-0.

April 27, 2007 Entering the game in a non-save situation trailing 7-4 in the top of the ninth, Rivera promptly allows four earned runs, including one scored by Coco Crisp who stole second base after driving in the eighth run with an RBI single. It’s the last time Rivera has allowed as many as four runs in a game.

September 26, 2010 With the Red Sox trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth, Ryan Kalish and Bill Hall each stole second and third base and score to give the Sox a 3-2 lead and hand Rivera a blown save. The Yankees however rally for a run in the bottom of the inning and one in the 10th for the walkoff win.

September 5, 2013 Pinch runner Quentin Berry scores on a Stephen Drew single after stealing second and advancing to third on a throwing error by catcher Austin Romine. Red Sox win in 10 innings.

Power cheering: Why Fenway's crowd last night saw history

  September 5, 2013 09:49 AM

Middlebrooks.jpgWill Middlebrooks' grand slam was one of eight home runs for the Red Sox.
Did you happen to be in the crowd at Fenway Park for last night’s 20-4 shellacking of the Detroit Tigers? If so, you can say that you were part of a unique bunch of fans that saw something no others had in baseball history. Here’s more on that and other interesting facts from Boston’s commanding victory.

•The steroid-era ad campaign that said “Chicks dig the longball” was off a little. Dudes dig it too, and last night’s Red Sox certainly provided entertainment for everyone with a B on the front of their cap. Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Oritz (twice), Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, and Mike Napoli all went deep against the Tigers staff last night, tying the franchise record for most home runs in a game set on July 4, 1977 when George Scott (twice), Fred Lynn (twice), Butch Hobson, Bernie Carbo, Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski hit eight at Fenway against the expansion Toronto Blue Jays. Amazingly, the only non-solo blast of the bunch was Boomer Scott’s two-run shot off of Jerry Garvin to tie the game at two in the bottom of the fifth. Despite the onslaught of power, in the end the score was close as Boston eked out just a 9-6 win.

•David Ortiz's sixth-inning double in the was the 2,000th hit of his big league career. His two home runs accounted for hits no. 1,999 and 2,001.

•The last time any team in the majors cracked eight home runs in a game was on August 7, 2010 when the Argonauts topped the Buccaneers, er, Blue Jays beat the Rays 17-11.

•The eight home runs were the most ever against Detroit, dating back to the first days of the AL. The old mark of seven home runs allowed was achieved four times, the most recent coming on Sept. 11, 2007 against the Rangers. The Red Sox also shared in that record, hitting seven at Tiger Stadium on July 24, 1999 (three by Trot Nixon, two for Nomar Garciaparra and one each by Troy O’Leary and Brian Daubach).

•The Red Sox had not scored 20 runs in a game since June 27, 2003 with a 25-3 win against the eventual World Champion Marlins. In that game the Sox knocked out their former farmhand, Carl Pavano, by scoring six runs in the first inning without him recording an out. Reliever Michael Tejera didn’t fare much better, giving up five earned runs of his own in the first, also without ever recording an out. The first 11 Red Sox all reached base and scored en route to a 14-run first inning. Amazingly, all 25 runs the Sox scored were earned, much like the 20 they scored last night.

•The last team to allow 20 runs in a game was none other than the Red Sox who got hammered 20-2 by the Athletics on August 31 of last season in Oakland. Just over a year later, only five of the 17 Red Sox who played in that game, remain on the team.

•And now for how unique that game last night was. There have been three teams to hit at least eight home runs in a game in which they scored at least 20 runs. The first were the 1939 Yankees who beat the Athletics 23-3 on June 28 [with home runs by Joe Gordon (9), Joe DiMaggio (two), Tommy Henrich; Babe Dahlgren (two), Bill Dickey, and George Selkirk]. The other was the Cincinnati Reds who hit nine home runs versus the Phillies 22-3 exactly 14 years to the day before the Red Sox-Tigers game. In that tilt Cincy’s blasts were by the low-key group of Ed Taubensee (two); Jeffrey Hammonds, former Sox second sacker Pokey Reese, Greg Vaughn, Mark Lewis, (place expletive here) Aaron Boone, Brian Johnson, and Dmitri Young. Both of those games took place in Philadelphia and both of the winning teams were on the road. That makes last night’s Fenway contingent the first crowd in baseball history to ever witness eight home runs and 20 runs from their own squad. It’s something to tell the grandkids.

Wide-eyed wideouts

  September 4, 2013 12:54 PM

Thompkins.jpgAt age 25, starting wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins isn't your average undrafted rookie
At 1 PM on Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y. New England’s great rookie wide receiver experiment goes live as the Patriots take on the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The group of green wideouts in red, white, and blue make up a full half of the team’s complement at the position and have been the source of both consternation and optimism by the Pats’ faithful—especially in light of the events of the Aaron Hernandez saga—leaving Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce squarely in the crosshairs of Tom Brady’s rifle arm. But to their credit, the neophyte trio outperformed a band of veteran NFL journeyman types during the offseason and exhibition games to earn their place on the 53-man roster. Now it’s time for them to prove that they belong.

Over the years the Patriots haven’t had many outstanding rookie performers at wide receiver. In fact, since 1960, the inaugural season of the AFL, first-year wideouts have accounted for just 15.5 catches per season, with a high of 90 for Terry Glenn in 1996. In fact, only seven total rookie wide receivers have managed as many as 40 catches in a season for the Patriots, and just one of them, Deion Branch (43 in 2002) occurred during the Belichick-Brady Regime.

40+ Catches by a Patriots rookie wide receiver (since ‘60)

  1. Terry Glenn ‘96 (90 rec., 1,132 yards, 6 TDs)

  2. Randy Vataha ‘71 (51 rec., 872 yards, 9 TDs)

  3. Jim Colclough ‘60 (49 rec., 666 yards, 9 TDs)

  4. Hart Lee Dykes ‘89 (49 rec., 795 yards, 5 TDs)

  5. Vincent Brisby (45 rec., 626 yards, 2 TDs)

  6. Deion Branch ‘02 (43 rec., 489 yards, 2 TDs)

  7. Will Moore ‘95 (43 rec., 502 yards, 1 TD)

To say that rookie wideouts have been not much more than an afterthought during the Belichick-Brady era would be an understatement of colossal proportions. Relegated mostly to special teams duty with a occasional snaps on offense here and there when they even make the roster, the last time two rookie wide receivers even caught passes for the Pats during the same season was—get this—2002, when Branch and David Givens both entered the league. That’s correct, the Patriots haven’t had rookie two wideouts catch as many as one ball in the same season since Deion Branch’s rookie campaign, which is over a decade ago. In total since Belichick took the reins, first-year wideouts have accounted for 133 catches, 1,480 yards and nine touchdowns which barely outdistances Anquan Boldin’s solo rookie output in 2003 (101-1,377-8)

Only Catches by Patriots rookie wide receivers since 2000

  1. Deion Branch ‘02 (43 rec., 489 yards, 2 TDs)

  2. Julian Edelman ‘09 (37 rec., 359 yards, 1 TD)

  3. Bethel Johnson ‘03 (16 rec., 209 yards, 2 TDs)

  4. Chad Jackson ‘06 (13 rec., 152 yards, 3 TDs)

  5. David Givens ‘02 (9 rec., 92 yards, 1 TD)

  6. Curtis Jackson ‘00 (5 rec., 44 yards, 0 TDs)

  7. Brandon Childress ‘05 (3 rec., 32 yards, 0 TDs)

  8. Taylor Price ‘10 (3 rec., 41 yards, 0 TDs)

  9. Fred Coleman ‘01 (2 rec., 50 yards, 0 TDs)

  10. Shockmain Davis ‘00 (2 rec., 12 yards, 0 TDs)

And big games from a rookie wide receiver are even scarcer than a good season. Art Graham holds the mark for rookie receiving yards in a game with 156 against the Jets in 1963. Julian Edelman one of two holdovers in the receiving corps (with special teams ace, Matthew Slater), and Deion Branch are the only rookie receivers to gain at least 100 yards in a game since ‘00 And here’s a bar bet alert: the last rookie WR to catch a touchdown pass for New England? Bethel Johnson on November 23, 2003 at the Texans. With this group, that fact will have a short shelf life.

Something’s lacking: John Lackey's struggle with wins

  September 3, 2013 12:11 PM

lackeyws.jpgLook at most of his numbers and it’s safe to say that John Lackey is the ace of the Red Sox starting staff. Of the four Red Sox starters with at least 100 innings pitched this season, Lackey leads in quality starts (18) WAR (3.2), ERA (3.32) and WHIP (1.17). Yet somehow he’s last in the rotation in wins (8). Few in the majors have pitched to tougher luck this season when it comes to getting credit for pitching well.

Of the 57 major leaguers who have at least made at least 15 quality starts (6 IP or more, 3 ER or less), Lackey is tied for 55th in winning percentage (8-6, .571) in those games. Four of those games have resulted in shutouts by the opposition, starts in which Lackey’s ERA is 2.76, having given up just nine earned runs in 29⅓ innings. Raise the bar a bit to extra-quality starts (7 IP or more, 2 ER or less) and his winning percentage actually gets worse, .556, having been credited with five such wins in nine games (although his plight pales in comparison to Ryan Dempster’s tough luck in those games, going 0-3 in five extra-quality starts).

Dempster however is second in the major leagues in average run support, receiving an average 6.29 runs per start. Ony Detroit’s Max Scherzer and his 19-1 record gets more at 7.17. The rest of the Red Sox staff isn’t too shabby either with Felix Doubront placing 11th at 5.69 runs per game and Jon Lester currently coming in 14th at 5.55. But Lackey is 69th of a pool of 83 qualifying starters at just 3.77 runs of support per game.

I decided to take a look at how Boston’s opponents are pitching in Lackey’s starts. And the answer is somewhat surprising. Here’s the breakdown.

•In terms of ERA, opposition pitchers (starters and relievers) have a collective 3.09 ERA when Lackey starts for the Red Sox. That would rank 11th in the AL if Lackey opponents were a single person, placing better than Lackey’s own 3.22, which in itself ranks 12th in the AL. Basically Lackey is matched up with a Cliff Lee-caliber ERA opponent every time he toes the rubber.

•However while opponents haven’t given up a lot of runs, they have yielded a slew of baserunners. Lackey’s personal WHIP (walks plus hits per inning) is 1.17 which puts him 11th in the AL. Opponents however are off the charts bad, at an average of 1.83 earned baserunners per inning which is where the fault lies with the Red Sox offense. The opportunities to score for Lackey are there, they’re just not taking advantage of them.

•Perhaps it has something to do with a high strikeout rate. Lackey’s opposition strikes out 8.76 batters per nine innings as compared to his own rate of 7.71. However they are overshadowed by his superior control, with a 4.09 K:BB ratio compared to 2.65 for all opponents.

•And perhaps karma is playing the biggest role here. Baseball is the ultimate game of averages, and Lackey is just paying the piper for his 2011 when while pitching mostly in pain his ERA was 6.41 but his record was abnormally good at 12-12. In fact, his dozen victories were the most for someone with an ERA of over 6.40 since Harry Staley won 12 with a 6.81 ERA for the 1894 Boston Beaneaters of the NL. Lackey’s run support in ‘11 was 6.75, third-best in the majors behind Texas’ Derek Holland (7.64) and his teammate Jon Lester (6.86).

The Billenium: Belichick by the numbers

  August 29, 2013 11:11 AM

Belichick.jpgThe current dean of NFL head coaches, Bill Belichick, has compiled quite a resume during his tenure with the Patriots. Here’s a look at some of the more outstanding streaks, feats, facts and figures during his 14 seasons in charge.

111 men that have made their head coaching debuts (either on a permanent or interim basis) for a team since Belichick was hired by Robert Kraft on January 27, 2000. While six teams have made just one head coaching move during that span (Eagles, Giants, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Titans), seven others (Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Lions, Raiders, Rams, Redskins) have made at least half a dozen changes. In the AFC East alone the Bills (7), Dolphins (6), and Jets (4) average more than one coaching change per season during the Belichick era, a fact he can take some credit for.

26.9 points per game scored by the Patriots since Belichick took over the team, the highest in the NFL and 1.4 points per contest over the second and third place Colts and Packers (25.5). New Orleans is the only other NFL team to average over 25 points per game since 2000.

18.7 points per game allowed by New England since 2000, third lowest in the NFL. Only the Steelers (17.1) and Ravens (17.3) have been stingier. The Patriots are the only team to rank both in the top 5 in points per game for and against over that period.

5 seasons in which the Patriots average margin of victory exceeded 10 points per game.

3 quarterbacks—Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel—who have started a game for Belichick’s Patriots. The only other team able to make the same claim is the Green Bay Packers (Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn). The Bears, Browns and Dolphins each had 17 different quarterbacks start for them over that time.

2 quarterbacks—Tom Brady and Matt Cassel—drafted by Belichick to go to the Pro Bowl. In fact, since 2000 they are two of the four quarterbacks taken in the fifth round or later to reach a Pro Bowl. Brady (6th) and Cassel (7th) are joined by Derek Anderson (6th) and Marc Bulger (6th).

3 individual 1,000-yard rushing seasons (Corey Dillon ‘04, Stevan Ridley ‘12, Antowain Smith ‘01) under Belichick.

10 individual 1,000-yard receiving seasons (Wes Welker [5 times], Randy Moss [3], Troy Brown, Rob Gronkowski) under Belichick.

21 straight regular season and postseason games won by Belichick’s team from October 5, 2003 to October 24, 2004, the longest string of wins in NFL history. The Pats also are tied for the third longest winning streak in league history, having won 18 straight games during the 2007 regular season and 2008 playoffs.

10 consecutive postseason games Belichick’s teams won from 2001 to 2005.

17 total playoff games Belichick has won for the Patriots, the most of any head coach since 2000. Andy Reid is the only other man in double-digits (10) while John Harbaugh (9) and Tom Coughlin (8) round out the top 4.

151 regular season wins for the Patriots under Belichick. That’s 26 more victories for any coach during that span, outdistancing Philadelphia’s (and now Kansas City’s) Reid. Mike Shanahan (106), Tony Dungy (104), Jeff Fisher (104) and Tom Coughlin (102) are next, yet well behind Belichick.

3 Super Bowl victories since 2000, making he and New York’s Tom Couglin (2) the only head coaches to take home multiple Lombardi Trophies during this era.

.822 winning percentage including the postseason, at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002. Overall Belichick’s home winning percentage in Foxborough is .788.

.661 New England’s winning percentage in regular season and playoff road games under Belichick.

.744 regular season winning percentage against AFC East opposition. Belichick is 17-9 against Miami, 18-8 against the Jets and 23-3 against Buffalo.

30 teams have a losing record against Belichick’s Patriots. Only the Denver Broncos (5-5) have been able to at least break even.

4 teams, the Cowboys, Eagles, Falcons and Jaguars have a combined 0-13 mark against the Patriots with Belichick.

3 former Belichick assistants with the Patriots—Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels—who became NFL head coaches.

The thrill of Victorino

  August 28, 2013 08:59 AM

Thumbnail image for victorino082813(2).jpgThe Flyin’ Hawaiian was saying aloha to baseballs all night on Tuesday, as he lei’d into two home runs, drove in a career-high seven runs and reached base in all five of his plate appearances, continuing a recent tear for the Red Sox rightfielder. Shane Victorino now has multiple hits in six of his last nine games, including three hits in three of those. Since August 17, he has major league-highs in slugging percentage (.917) and OPS (1.429). Over that span only runaway AL MVP favorite Miguel Cabrera and slugging Rays third baseman Evan Longoria have hit more home runs (five to four), only NL MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen has been on base at a higher rate (.532 to .512) and only San Diego’s Will Venable can match his .444 batting average.

Victorino’s seven RBIs in a game weren’t only the most ever for a player born in the state of Hawaii — breaking the old mark of five he already shared three times with Mike Lum, Joey Meyer, Lenn Sakata and Kurt Suzuki — it was the most by any player at Fenway Park since Toronto’s Lyle Overbay drove across seven runs in 2010 and the most by a Red Sox hitter since Nomar Garciaparra knocked in in eight against the then-Devil Rays in a 22-4 shellacking in the first game of a July 23, 2002 doubleheader.

The list of Red Sox who reached base in every one of their five or more plate appearances, hit as many as two home runs and drove in at least seven runs is not long. Actually Victorino was just the second, joining fellow rightfielder, Tom Brunansky, who on May 19, 1990 was 5-for-5 with two home runs and seven driven in in just his second career game against his original team, the Twins. And when you open up the criteria a little and take out the perfect night, you still get just eight Red Sox since World War I who have had similar night’s to Victorino’s big Tuesday against the Orioles. In fact, five of those eight came against the O’s or their predecessors, the St. Louis Browns, and two, by Walt Dropo and Bobby Doerr, came in the same 1950 game, a 29-4 thumping of the Brownies.

Red Sox to have hit at least two home runs, drove in seven or more runs and reached base five times in a single game (since World War I)
•Ted Williams June 24, 1949 vs. St. Louis 3 H, 2 BB, 2 HR, 7 RBI

•Walt Dropo June 6, 1950 vs. St. Louis 4 H, 1 BB, 2 HR, 7 RBI

•Bobby Doerr June 6, 1950 vs. St. Louis 4 H, 1 BB, 3 HR, 8 RBI

•Fred Lynn June 18, 1975 at Detroit 5 H, 3 HR, 10 RBI

•Ellis Burks June 10, 1987 at Baltimore 3 H, 2 BB, 2 HR, 7 RBI

•Dwight Evans August 13, 1988 vs. Detroit 4 H, 1 BB, 2 HR, 7 RBI

•Tom Brunansky May 19, 1990 vs. Minnesota 5 H, 2 HR, 7 RBI

•Shane Victorino August 27, 2013 vs. Baltimore 3 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 2 HR, 7 RBI

Boston's entry in the 4,000 hit club

  August 22, 2013 09:09 AM

tris_speakerbg.jpg Tris Speaker (above) had 3,965 hits as a professional

Usually when a member of the New York Yankees does something significant on the diamond, the news is greeted around here with shrugs and eye-rolls, but what Ichiro Suzuki accomplished yesterday should transcend even the bitterest of rivalries. The longtime Mariners and Orix Blue Wave All Star and sure Hall of Famer reached 4,000 hits in his professional career, with 1,278 coming in his homeland and another 2,722 in Major League Baseball. But his accomplishment also has some relevance to Red Sox history. Here's how:

Only two players, Pete Rose and Ty Cobb reached the mythical 4,000 hit mark in the majors alone, the banished Rose in front with 4,256, and Cobb with a re-adjusted 4,189 (down from the original tally of 4,191). However when you take into account all of their hits as a professional, Rose's 427 knocks as a minor leaguer bumps his total to 4,683, while Cobb's incomplete minor league total of 166 hits moves him to 4,355. Now with Ichiro joining them there are six players with professional resumes that include 4,000 safeties. Longtime Home Run King ,Hank Aaron, had 3,771 major league hits and 324 in the minors for 4,095. Stan Musial was truly The Man, collecting 3,630 hits for the Cardinals, another 371 in the minors and countless others playing on his base team at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The sixth member of the club is also the only one to appear for the Red Sox. Arnold “Jigger” Statz was a dimunitive (5'7”, 150 pounds) outfielder who played in parts of eight big league seasons for the Giants, Cubs, Dodgers and a hitless two-game stint for the 1920 Red Sox. Statz managed 737 hits in 683 big league contest. He also enjoyed a record-shattering 18-year career for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, where he set myriad league records including most hits (3,356) giving him 4,093 hits as a pro.

Of the members of the major league 3,000 hits club, the top two in minor league hits were onetime Red Sox. Wade Boggs had 3,010 hits for the Red Sox, Yankees and Devil Rays and 724 hits in the minors. Alltime runs leader, Rickey Henderson had 3,055 major league hits and 650 in the bushes. To this point another ex-Sox, Tris Speaker, is the top 4,000-club bridesmaid, standing at 3,965 combined hits (3,514 MLB, 451 MiLB) although at 3,859 paid hits, Derek Jeter has a chance to barge his way into the elite group. The Red Sox' alltime leader in hits, Carl Yastrzemski, is ninth overall with 3,419 hits in MLB and 363 in MiLB.

The greenest Red Sox

  August 20, 2013 04:55 PM

bogaertsxanderfinn85.jpgAs of right now the newest Red Sox player, Xander Bogaerts is 20 years, 10 months and 19 days (323 days) old, which means that once he appears in his first major league game, perhaps tonight in San Francisco, he will be the youngest Red Sox to make his debut in the bigs since Dwight Evans who was 20 years, 318 days on September 16, 1972 when he entered as a pinch runner for Reggie Smith in the sixth inning with the score 9-0 against the Indians.

Evans and Bogaerts are far from the youngest players in Red Sox history. That distinction belongs to catcher Jim Pagliaroni who was just 17 years, 248 days when he subbed in for Sammy White on August 13, 1955 against the Senators.

Since 1920 there have been 44 Red Sox who’ve make their major league debuts at a younger age than Bogaerts including 22 who arrived as wet behind the ears teenagers. Here are the 10 youngest:


As you see, Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr and Red Ruffing were among the youngest players to ever patrol Fenway Park. Here are some other notables who arrived in Boston prior to their 21st birthday.


Boston Strongest

  August 15, 2013 02:36 PM

TDGarden.jpgAs part of his keynote address at the Cynopsis Sports Business Summit yesterday in New York, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was boasting about how his league bounced back from a potentially catastrophic work stoppage by playing to 97% of capacity last year, the highest in the four major sports. Of the league’s 30 teams, more than half (16) played to at least 100% of their capacity, eight played over capacity (the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks led the way at 110.4%, thanks mainly to standing room at the United Center) while 26 played with at least 90% of the arena’s seats full.

The NHL was the leader for the 2012-13 season, but at nearly 95 percent full the NFL wasn’t far behind. The NBA placed third at just over 90%, and using data from the completed 2012 season, major league baseball, with it’s vast inventory, came in last among the Big Four at 71.4%.

The raw data enables us to take a closer look at the attendance figures, not only by league and team, but by region, and more specifically, metropolitan area, and gives us a metric by which we can measure fans rabidity. Given the success of the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox at the gate (granted the Red Sox “sellout streak” has been widely criticized), plus the well-known passion that Boston fans have for their teams, this area was sure to place high on the list, making it perfect fodder for this space.

To do a study like this fairly there have to be some ground rules in effect. Boston for example is a typical four-team, four-league town (apologies to the MLS). But limiting it to just regions where there’s four league participation would have eliminated places such as St. Louis, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Atlanta and a little place known as Los Angeles. So instead, to qualify, the bar the city had to reach was three or four teams in at least three leagues (the Lakers and Clippers both qualify for LA).

Another problem facing this look was the onus put on a region to support either poor performing, or niche teams, when they have more popular and successful teams to gravitate to. To eliminate any bias against cities that have multiple teams in each league—and with apologies to the Mets, White Sox, Jets, Islanders, Devils, Angels, Ducks, A’s and Raiders—we’ll look only at the most popular team in the region in each league (unless they fall into the above category).

That said, we summed up all of the attendance and approximate capacity figures, and calculated the rate of approximate capacity by region from the most recent completed seasons for each league.

Not only did Boston come out on top, it was the only area in which attendance exceeded capacity in the 2012 and 2012-13 seasons.

These are the results:

Doubront's stingy streak

  August 9, 2013 08:48 AM

doubront.jpgTommorow night in Kansas City Felix Doubront heads to the hill for the Red Sox hoping to continue his pursuit of one of the giants of the game. The lefthander has been one of the hottest pitchers in the American League, registering a 2.55 ERA since May 16, the fourth best among qualifying AL starters, trailing only Oakland’s Bartolo Colon (1.92), Max Scherzer of the Tigers (2.25) and Yankees lefty Hiroki Kuroda (2.53).

That date also coincides with the start of a streak of 15 straight starts in which Doubront has yielded three or fewer earned runs. He’s currently tied for the most recent stretch of such games by a Boston lefthander, set by Herb Pennock in 1919. While Pennock is a Hall of Famer, Doubront is now within striking distance of perhaps the most legendary names in the Game, George Herman Ruth. From July 29, 1916 until April 16 of the following season, The Babe allowed three earned runs or fewer in 18 straight starts.

Here are some other hurlers who have experienced similar spells for the Red Sox and around the major leagues:

•The Rocket, Roger Clemens went 32 starts over more than a calendar year from May 9, 1990 to May 13, 1991 without surrendering more than three earned runs in a start, the longest run for a Red Sox pitcher regardless of throwing arm in the live-ball era.

•The longest streak in the majors by a lefthander in the same timeframe was set by Los Angeles Dodger Claude Osteen whose line of starts stretched to three dozen from Sept. 2, 1965 to August 15, 1966.

•The longest span overall during that same era by any major league pitcher was 38 straight starts by Ray Washburn starting with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968 and ended as a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 1970.

•Dodger’s lefty Clayton Kershaw had his streak of 22 games with three earned runs or less snapped this past May 26 by the Cardinals. That matched Mat Latos, Chris Carpenter and Johan Santana for the longest streak in the 2000s.

•Gaints righthander Ryan Vogelsong has the majors longest active period at 16 games in a row. He faces the Baltimore Orioles tonight at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

•Jake Peavy is the only other current Red Sox starter who has had a longer career streak than Doubront’s when he went 16 straight games for the Padres August 31, 2003 to July 2, 2004. The longest for the others is current Red Sox starters: John Lackey (14), Jon Lester (11) and Ryan Dempster (9).

A sort of homecoming

  August 7, 2013 08:51 AM

PierceGarnett.jpgThe NBA announced the 2013-14 schedule yesterday, setting the stage for one of the most greatly anticipated basketball returns to Boston in recent times. Celtics, fans, management and holdover players alike will be circling January 26 on their calendars, in preparation for the Brooklyn Nets’ first trip to the TD Garden. The last two members of the now-legendary “Big Three,” Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, will be making an emotional pilgrimage to the sight of some of the greatest moments in their illustrious and nearly certainly Hall of Fame careers.

It will be an especially poignant evening for Pierce who, whose impact on the Celtics was discussed in more detail here . One of the most prolific players in the annals of Celtics lore, Pierce has never appeared on Boston’s parque in any other professional uniform, a trait quite commonplace among the franchise’s major stars over the years. In fact, given the team’s propensity to have their greats remain with the team until retirement (Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Tommy Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Kevin McHale, Bill Russell) returns of even one major contributor (let alone two) to play against the Celtics at the Garden have been rare.

Of the 27 Celtics enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as players, 17 finished their playing days wearing the green and white (and Bob Cousy didn’t play in Boston after coming out of retirement) while a few others (Gary Payton, Dominique Wilkins, Bob McAdoo) spent very little time with Boston.

Here’s how some notable ex-Celtics players fared in their return to the Garden wearing a strange uniform.

•December 15, 1956 Ed Macauley, traded for the rights to Bill Russell, scored 19 points for the Hawks.

•November 10, 1976 Don Chaney manages just six points for the Lakers, one year after bolting Boston for San Antonio of the ABA.

•November 10, 1982 Coming out of retirement for the Bucks, Dave Cowens nearly double-doubles with 10 points and nine boards.

•November 2, 1983 Tiny Archibald gets a standing ovation in pregame introductions and proceeds to score seven points for the Bucks on 3 of 5 shooting.

• February 28, 1986 Traded the season before, it took awhile for Cedric Maxwell to make his way back to Boston. He responded with typical hustle, racking up six points, five rebounds two assists and two steals as a Clipper.

• February 4, 1990 While his shooting wasn’t that sharp (1 for 7, 2 points), Kings guard Danny Ainge turned to distributing the ball, notching 10 assists.

• November 23, 1994 Starting alongside Alonzo Mourning for Charlotte, the 41-year old Robert Parish scored eight points with four rebounds and a block in 22 minutes.

•February 5, 1999 Dee Brown’s 3 of 13 shooting for seven points with just three boards, two assists and two steals against the C’s could be a sign of why a promising player was traded to the Raptors.

•December 17, 2003 Dallas Mavericks forward Antoine Walker misses all six of his attempts from beyond the arc en route to 3-14 shooting. He does grab seven rebounds and dish out eight assists.

• January 16, 2012 Sent to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins occupies space as usual to the tune of seven points, five rebounds and a block.

• January 27, 2013 The first member of the "Big Three" to depart, Ray Allen torches his old mates for 21 points despite an uncharacteristically poor 2-8 shooting night from three-point range.

Blowing away the past

  August 5, 2013 12:07 AM

lackey.jpgWhen John Lackey (above) takes the mound at Minute Maid Park in Houston against the last-place Astros, he and his teammates have a chance to do something few Red Sox teams have ever accomplished. The Sox left Boston for Houston Sunday night having just won their 68th game of the season, tops in the major leagues (they trail the Pirates by percentage points for best winning percentage) on the strength of Felix Dubront's eighth win of the year, a 4-0 blanking of the Diamondbacks.

Those 68 Red Sox wins through 113 games puts an organization that endured last year’s last-place debacle on the cusp of a very significant milestone. Possibly starting with Lackey's assignment in his home state, the next win for John Farrell’s team will match the entire 162-game output of Bobby Valentine's 2012 squad (69 wins) in two fewer months! That’s not a typo, it's a fact.

What’s even more amazing is that the Sox have actually reached the previous season’s win total quicker before. A few times the bar was set so low that it was easy to one-up the earlier competition, like when the 1933 reached the 1932 team’s total with their 43rd win in just 94 games. However others, like the 1946 Ted Williams World Series team, had more of a challenge, needing just 104 games to rack up the 71 wins of the 1945 war-ravaged roster. And on Aug. 19 during Fenway Park’s inaugural season, those Sox matched 1911’s 78 wins in the 114th game of the season.

Here's a look at the Red Sox teams that tied the previous season’s victory total in the fewest number of games (strike-shortened seasons not included). And if you're curious about the major league teams wit hthe biggest jump in winning percentage from one year to the next, take a look here: http://mcubed.net/mlb/bwimp.shtml


Thanks to world-class mathlete and multiple-time world pinball champion, Bowen Kerins, for suggesting the concept. If you have an idea you want fleshed out here, send me a tweet @SabinoSports.

Peavy's problematic postseason past

  August 1, 2013 08:25 AM

Peavy.jpgThe Red Sox made a big splash late Tuesday night acquiring Jake Peavy from the White Sox (along with reliever Brayan Villarreal from the Tigers) for a package headlined by Jose Iglesias who landed in Detroit, and a trio of minor leaguers who, with Tigers outfielder Avisail Garcia, ended up in Chicago. In terms of the 2013 season, there’s no doubt that Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner was the big catch in the transaction, stabilizing Boston’s rotation down the stretch.

Given that the Red Sox are on solid footing to at least claim an AL Wild Card slot, leading the division by ½ game and ahead of the top Wild Card outsiders by 5½ games, Peavy could get the chance to correct one of the only black marks on what otherwise has been an impressive career.

In 296 regular season big league appearances (295 of those starts) the 32-year old righthander has a 128-97 record (.569) with a 3.49 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a strikeout-to-walk rate of 3.23—all quite solid for a starting pitcher who pitched mainly in an era where offense has ruled. He twice led the NL in ERA (in 2004 when his 2.27 bested Randy Johnson’s 2.60, and in 2007 his 2.54 topped Brandon Webb’s 3.01) and twice led his league in strikeouts (‘05 & ‘07).

Peavy’s statistics in the autumn are dramatically different however. Not only are they subpar, they’re among the worst in over a century of postseason history. Of all pitchers who’ve started at least two postseason games since 1903, Peavy’s 12.10 ERA ranks 13th worst, his 2.38 WHIP is 19th and his 17.7 hits per nine innings places ninth. Obviously his 9⅔ in two starts is a tiny sample size—both of his playoff starts came against the Cardinals, both in the opener of the NLDS, one in 2005 and the other in 2006—but his past troubles have to be a concern, be it ever so slight, when John Farrell is setting up his postseason rotation which already included some combination of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster, Felix Dubront and (hopefully) Clay Buchholz.

Here's how Peavy's playoffs compare with other active players and also the other members of the Cy Young Award fraternity.

Pitchers (minimum two postseason starts) active in the majors in 2013, with the highest career playoff ERAs:

Rick Ankiel*†--- 2 games, 16.20 ERA, 4.20 WHIP, 13.5 H/9
Shaun Marcum†--- 3 games, 14.90 ERA, 2.28 WHIP, 15.8 H/9
Jake Peavy--- 2 games, 12.10 ERA, 2.38 WHIP, 17.7 H/9
Brian Duensing--- 2 games, 11.25 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 15.8 H/9
Ervin Santana--- 2 games, 9.31 ERA, 1.45, WHIP, 10.2 H/9
* No longer pitching †Played in 2013 but not currently on a roster

Cy Young Award winners with the highest career playoff ERAs:
Pitcher Games ERA WHIP Hits/9
Jake Peavy--- 2 games, 12.10 ERA, 2.38 WHIP, 17.7 H/9
Pat Hentgen--- 3 games, 9.24 ERA, 2.45 WHIP, 14.9 H/9
Don Newcombe--- 5 games, 8.59 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 11.9 H/9
Jack McDowell ---4 games, 8.55 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 12.2 H/9
Zack Greinke---3 games, 6.48 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 12.4 H/9

Koji Uehara's claim to fame

  July 30, 2013 01:01 AM

uehara.jpgThe trade deadline is tomorrow and for weeks the Red Sox have been rumored to be in the thick of things, especially in pursuing more bullpen help. But before they possibly make a deal for someone like Joe Nathan, Greg Holland or even Jonathan Papelbon, it’s time to ask: Where would the Red Sox be without Koji Uehara? The veteran righthander from Japan by way of Texas and Baltimore has done yeoman’s work stabilizing the back end of a bullpen that earlier in the season looked to be the Achilles’ heel of an otherwise strong squad. Entering the season Uehara was at best third on Boston’s depth chart for closers, and when the top two, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey each went down with injuries, it was Junichi Tazawa and not Uehara who received the first crack at getting saves.

Since taking over ninth inning duties on June 26 Uehara is tied for fourth in the AL with eight saves in nine attempts and has done so with typical Uehara efficiency. He’s struck out 25 batters in 17 ⅓ innings while walking just one. Only David Price, who stifled the Sox last night, has had a better ratio (35:1) among those with at least 15 innings pitched over that span. He also ranks among the league leaders in strikeouts per nine innings at 12.74 which also coincidentally is the highest for any hurler with at least 40 innings pitched in his Red Sox career.

But the main point here is that Uehara is a phenomenon when it comes to strikeout-to-walk ratio. Nobody who’s pitched at least 100 big league innings has a better career rate than his 8.05:1. That’s right. We’re not just just comparing him to active players or even modern players. That’s compared to everyone who has regularly toed the rubber in the big leagues. In fact the next on the list, James Burke, who pitched for the Buffalo Bisons and Boston Reds in the early 1880s, stands a half strikeout behind Uehara at 7.53. Among active players, the best rates belong to Sergio Romo of the Giants (5.77) and St. Louis’ Edward Mujica (5.26 career, and the only one ahead of Uehara this season with 38 K’s and just two walks).

To put Uehara’s 2013 season into perspective, he’s Boston’s franchise career leader by a mile over the rest of those who threw at least 40 innings (granted it’s a small sample but given the rest of his career, not an unreasonable comparison). The second and third pitchers on the list, Pedro Martinez (5.45) and Curt Schilling (5.31) were constantly lauded for their command and efficiency and rank among the best in modern baseball history. Despite the fact that Uehara’s rate in his Boston debut season is also his lowest in four years, his Boston debut currently places him sixth in terms of single-season stats.

These are the best single-season strikeout-to-walk ratios in Red Sox history
(minimum 40 innings pitched)

    Pitcher, Season, K:BB Ratio


  1. Jonathan Papelbon, 2008, 9.63

  2. Junichi Tazawa, 2012, 9.00

  3. Pedro Martinez, 2000, 8.88

  4. Jonathan Papelbon, 2011, 8.70

  5. Pedro Martinez, 1999, 8.46

  6. Koji Uehara, 2013, 8.38

Shedding light on the Laser Show

  July 25, 2013 09:05 AM

Pedroia.jpgYesterday the Red Sox and Dustin Pedroia finalized a new contract that will reportedly pay the All-Star second baseman $110-million over the next eight seasons. The soon-to-be-30-year-old will likely spend the rest of his career in Boston’s red, white, and blue allowing him a chance to continue his assault on the Red Sox record book for a long time to come. Midway through his eighth major league season, Pedroia has more hits (1,146) for the Red Sox than Carlton Fisk (1,097) did in 11 seasons, has a higher OPS than Bobby Doerr (.827 to .823), and has reached base more times (1,578) for the Sox than Jerry Remy (1,018) and Babe Ruth (540) combined. He already has the same number of five-hit games as Ted Williams, Wade Boggs and Johnny Damon (three, and only Carl Yastrzemski and Johnny Pesky had four).

At his position Pedroia’s prowess stands out even more. Only Doerr (who played 14 seasons) hit more doubles, more home runs, drove in more runs and amassed more total bases among regular Red Sox second basemen. Doerr and Billy Goodman (who played 11 seasons, primarily at second but also at various other spots) are the only Sox second sackers with more hits, runs scored and times on base. And let’s not forget defense. Pedroia has Boston’s highest career fielding percentage at second base (.991) among those who have played as many as 150 games at the position, and only Mark Loretta (.994) is better when the bar is lowered to include everyone with as many as 100 games there.

But his big new contract isn’t based on history, it’s based on current market value and at second base where it’s hard to find too many players in Pedroia’s class. Only New York’s Robinson Cano, who himself is seeking a big new contract, has consistently been more productive among those who’ve regularly played the position since 2007, Pedroia’s first full big league season. Here’s how he ranks since then.

  • Games: 927 (4th) Leader: Robinson Cano (1,061)
  • Runs: 614 (4th) Leader: Ian Kinsler (640)
  • Hits: 1,129 (2nd) Leader: Cano (1,253)
  • Doubles: 266 (2nd) Leader: Cano (278)
  • Home Runs: 94 (9th) Leader, Dan Uggla (202)
  • Runs Batted In: 460 (5th) Leader: Cano (645)
  • Batting Average: .30530 (1st) Next: Cano (.30524)
  • On-Base Pct.: .373 (2nd) Leader Chase Utley (.381)
  • Slugging Pct.: .460 (4th) Leader: Cano (.508)
  • Stolen Bases 116 (5th) Leader: Kinsler (152)
  • Extra Base Hits: 372 (3rd) Leader: Cano (470)
  • Total Bases: 1,701 (4th) Leader: Cano (2,084)
  • Times on Base: 1,553 (2nd) Leader: Cano (1,600)
  • Runs Created: 600 (2nd) Leader: Cano (657)
  • Multiple Hit Games: 328 (2nd) Leader: Cano (375)
  • Three-hit games: 100 (1st) Next: Cano (91)
  • Fielding Pct.: .992 (3rd) Leader: Placido Polanco (.995)

Don't underestimate Stevan Ridley

  July 24, 2013 09:53 AM

ridleyTD.jpgWith camp opening in Friday now is as good a time as any for people to stop underestimating Patriots lead back Stevan Ridley. Following the most tumultuous offseason in team history during which Tom Brady’s receiving corps was decimated, it’ll most likely be Ridley who will pick up the slack for the 2013 offense, and he’ll be up to the task. He’s answered every call thus far.

vereen.jpgDating back to the 2011 NFL Draft, when he was a third-round selection by New England Ridley has been the underdog. Not only was he just the seventh overall running back taken, he wasn’t even the first running back Bill Belichick pulled off the board (Shane Vereen, right went in the second round as the third running back). Thus far he’s been at the head of the class, leading every ‘11 draft alum in rushing yards, attempts and placing second to no. 1 overall pick Cam Newton in rushing touchdowns. In fact, a case can be made that the third-year man from LSU who was taken 73rd overall is one of the top 15 most talented players drafted that April, a group that includes superstars like Newton, Von Miller, A.J Green. Julio Jones, Colin Kaepernick, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt, nearly all of whom were taken before Ridley.

As an NFL sophomore he was tied with Adrian Peterson for third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (12), was seventh overall in rushing yards (1,263) and 10th in rushes of at least 10 yards. In 2013 he also has a very good shot at becoming one of the most productive runners through three seasons that the Patriots ever drafted, needing 1,292 yards to pass Jim Nance’s 2,995 yards from 1965 through 1967, second on the alltime list only to Curtis Martin’s 3,799 yards from 1995 through 1997. (He’s already ninth on the list). And like Nance, Ridley started just a fraction of the games he played during his first two seasons.

Here are the most productive Patriots runners through their first three NFL Seasons:Ridleyjpg.jpg

Moore's historic night at Fenway

  July 23, 2013 09:43 AM

MattMoore.jpgAs a rule visiting lefthanded starting pitchers have rarely fared well at Fenway Park. Since 1920 (the start of the live-ball era) opposing southpaw starters have a combined 558-694 record, for a .446 winning percentage in the daunting shadow of the Green Monster, a staggeringly low figure when considering that it includes some very lean years in Boston baseball history.

Those in attendance at Fenway Park on Monday night may not have been pleased with the outcome, a 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay that pulled the surging Rays to within ½ game of the Red Sox for the American League East lead, but they did bear witness to one of the greatest pitching performances by a visiting lefthander in the history of the venerable old building. Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout to become the first lefthander since Oakland’s Brett Anderson to blank the BoSox at Fenway since 2009. In fact, those two are the only lefties to pull off the feat since the start of the 1990 season, which leads us to how rare Moore’s start actually was. Here’s a breakdown of how few lefthanded visitors have accomplished what Moore was able to.

All numbers for visiting lefthanded starters at Fenway Park

  • Individual games started: 1,626

  • Number of different starting pitchers: 426

  • Games with at least nine innings pitched: 260

  • Games with nine innings and no earned runs allowed: 57

  • Games with nine innings and no runs allowed: 47

  • Games with nine innings, no runs and no more than two hits: 8 (Moore, Brett Anderson, Bo Belinsky, Chuck Finley, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Jimmy Key, Juan Pizarro)

  • Games with nine innings, no runs, and no more than three baserunners: 4 (Moore, Lefty Grove, Tommy John, Sam McDowell)

  • Games with nine innings, no runs, no more than two hits, no more than three base runners: 2 (Matt Moore, Rays on July 22, 2013 and Tommy John, Yankees on May 20, 1979.

Two halves don't make a whole

  July 18, 2013 07:59 AM

Ellsbury.jpgIn an attempt to further illustrate how different the current Red Sox are from their last-place 2012 brethren, and with the All Star break as a natural break in the season, I decided to take a look at the major league leaders in some main aggregate categories since last year’s midsummer classic and compare them with the Red Sox. While the numbers should look like season totals, few Red Sox, like Jacoby Ellsbury, (above) actually made the grade.

Here are some brief findings in the period from July 9, 2012 through July 17, 2013:

MLB leader: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (226) Sox: Leader: Dustin Pedroia (201, tied for 8th)

Only three other Sox —Jacoby Ellsbury (192), Daniel Nava (108) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (103) have as many as 100 hits during that span for Boston, although newcomers Shane Victorino (142 for three teams), Stephen Drew (113, also for three teams), and Mike Napoli (109) also have been productive.

Home Runs
MLB leaders: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers and Chris Davis, Orioles (56); Red Sox leader: David Ortiz (20).

Incredibly Ortiz is the Sox leading power hitter despite playing in just 82 of the team’s 173 games over that span, due to his Achilles’ injury. Mike Napoli has more (23) but 12 of those came last season for Texas. As an aside, the exiled Adrian Gonzalez shows up on the Red Sox list in seventh-place on the strength of the nine second-half home runs he blasted prior to the blockbuster trade that landed him with the Dodgers.

MLB leader: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (163); Red Sox leader: Dustin Pedroia (88, tied for 40th)

In that timeframe the Sox scored a total of 800 runs which places them sixth overall in the majors and fourth in the American League, the RBIs were just spread around 29 players, with Ortiz (68), Nava (59), Napoli (58), Ellsbury (56), and Saltalamacchia (55) doing the most individual damage.

Stolen Bases
MLB leader: Everth Cabrera, Padres (63); Red Sox leader Jacoby Ellsbury (50, 2nd)

Although the power he displayed in 2011 is virtually invisible, Ellsbury’s biggest asset, his speed, is back in full force, with 36 of those 50 swipes coming in the first half of 2013. Shane Victorino (11 this year for Boston, 31 overall) and Dustin Pedroia (27) also placed in the Top 25.

MLB leader: Max Scherzer, Tigers (21-3 record); Red Sox leader: Clay Buchholz (12-6) and Jon Lester (12-14), both tied for 50th.

The only current member of the Sox higher on the list is Ryan Dempster who has won 13 games since last break, with eight coming for the Cubs and Rangers.

MLB leader: Jim Johnson (58); Red Sox leader: Andrew Bailey, (14, tied for 35th in a 30-team league)

Boston’s post-Papelbon endgame has been a nightmare and this illustrates it. Joel Hanrahan (17 in that span) was supposed to be the answer before he was lost for the year and may never pitch again for the Sox. Koji Uehara (9) and Alfredo Aceves (6) were next. The Sox were tied for last in the AL with Toronto with 34 saves and ranked 29th out of 30 in save percentage, ahead of only Theo Epstein’s Cubs.

The alltime Red Sox All-Star Game team

  July 16, 2013 12:56 PM

Pedroia_dugout0104.jpgThe MLB All-Star Game is tonight featuring two Red Sox, David Ortiz, starting at DH and Dustin Pedroia (right), as a reserve second baseman. I thought it would be a good time to look back at the best Red Sox performances throughout All-Star Game history. From Pedro Martinez's dominance to Ted Williams' heroics I wanted to pick the greatest Red Sox All-Stars, based solely on their showings in the game's summer showcase. While some of those selected here are rather predictable, others are not who you thought they'd be, and that's the fun of exercises like this.

Remember, this is just one man's opinion, and your team could be completely different. But for the record, here are my Alltime Red Sox All-Stars.

Catcher: The first Red Sox All-Star was catcher Rick Ferrell who went 0-3 with a sacrifice bunt in his four trips to the plate in the inaugural mid-summer classic played at Chicago's Comiskey Park in 1933. And since then only three Red Sox backstops have managed any All-Star hits, just one had a multi-hit game and he's also the only Sox catcher to walke twice in a game. Is it Carlton Fisk? Nope, Pudge was 1 for 12 in his six games for Boston. Jason Varitek? The Captain did bat .500 with an OBP of .667 but came to the plate in only one of the two games he was selected for. The answer is Birdie Tebbets who played in the 1948 and 1949 All-Star contests and reached base four out of five trips to the plate. He and Fisk are also the only Sox catchers to drive in an All-Star run.

yaz.jpgFirst Base: An 18-time All-Star, Carl Yastrzemski was primarily a left fielder throughout his career but also played a significant number of games at first, including three of his All-Star appearances. As a first sacker, Yaz was an impressive 4 for 7 in All-Star competition, including 2 for 3 at the spot after moving from center field in his MVP 1970 game. Honorable mentions go to David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and George Scott, all of whom went deep.

Second Base: The table is set tonight for Dustin Pedroia who, with a good game, could take over the top spot from Bobby Doerr who appeared in eight ASG's, reaching base via hit just four times, accounting for every hit by a Sox second sacker in 32 All-Star at bats.

Shortstop: With 18 total games spread out seven All-Star shortstops to choose from you'd figure that there would be some competition for this honor, but the spot goes without much of a fight to Joe Cronin, who in five appearances hit .235 with a double and two runs batted in. In 1935 his second inning scoring fly (sacrifice flies weren't accounted for during much of the 1930's and 40's) provided the deciding run in the AL's 4-1 victory.

Third Base: Eight different Red Sox have manned the hot corner in the ASG, with Wade Boggs leading the way with eight games played and a typical .368 batting average. He gets the nod over Frank Malzone who was selected seven times and is one of just two Sox third basemen (with Boggs) to smack an All-Star homer.


Home Run Derby: no Red Sox, no problem

  July 15, 2013 12:29 PM

JimRice.jpgThe most exciting part of Major League Baseball’s All Star extravaganza takes place at CitiField in Flushing tonight as some of baseball’s best sluggers duke it out in the Home Run Derby. This season there will be an infusion of youth into the event as players like Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez, Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes, Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Washington’s Bryce Harper (the first-ever Nationals representative) square off for baseball’s power-hitting supremacy.

While there are no Red Sox participating in tonight’s festivities, only the Blue Jays (13) Mariners (12) and Orioles (12) have been represented more often than Boston, including Hall of Famer Jim Rice, (above, right) who finished in a tie for second place behind Dave Parker in the very first derby back in 1985. Given recent history and the team's recent struggles, perhaps sitting this one out is for the best.

Many a slugger has gone into a protracted power-slump following the contest that alters the approach of most of the participating batters. The last three participating Red Sox, David Ortiz (twice) and Adrian Gonzalez, each suffered a serious decline in home run production following successes in the Home Run Derby, Ortiz in 2010 when he won the title, and both Ortiz and Gonzalez in 2011 when Gonzo went neck-and-neck with Robinson Cano, only to fall one home run shy of the championship.

Following Boston’s 11 appearances in the Derby, only two players, a much younger Ortiz, whose rate dropped from 15.62 pre-Derby in 2005 to 10.5 post-Derby, and Nomar Garciaparra whose 1997 contest in Cleveland consisted of just 10 fruitless swings—enjoyed a substantial improvement in at bats per home runs after the contest. Worst hit by their appearance were Carl Everett in 2000 (24 home runs in 330 at bats before the derby, just 10 in 231 after) and Mo Vaughn in 1995 (24 HR in 312 PA before, 15 in 324 PA after).

Here are the At Bats per home run rate of Red Sox hitters from before and after their participation in the Home Run Derby:

Primero Papi: David Ortiz and the DH

  July 11, 2013 07:57 AM

PapiSwing.jpgLeading off the second inning of last night’s game at Safeco Field in Seattle, David Ortiz laced a double to the left centerfield gap off of Mariners starter Aaron Harang to become the alltime leader in hits among designated hitters, breaking a tie with Harold Baines. That added to a long list of records Big Papi now holds among designated hitters, including at bats (5,835), home runs (370), RBI (1,209), total bases (3,266), slugging percentage (.560), runs (1,018), doubles (432), intentional walks (131), and strikeouts (1,215). In fact there are only two more significant aggregate categories that he ranks second in and one day will likely own as well: most games as a DH (his 1,564 is 79 behind Baines’ 1,643) and most times on base for a DH (trails Edgar Martinez 2,659 to 2,630).

The DH was adopted by the American League 40 years ago but over that time there have been just 24 men who’ve collected as many as 500 hits from the spot. Among them, just 10 men have managed at least half of their career major league hits from the DH spot. Of those, only Travis Hafner of the Indians and Yankees has been a DH for a higher percentage of his hits than Ortiz, who has a mere 263 hits as a first baseman or pinch hitter. Even Martinez, the man Ortiz has wrestled the title of “Greatest DH” away from, reached base safely via a hit 624 hits as a corner infielder (and 16 more as a pinch hitter).


Tom Brady's tight spot

  July 9, 2013 03:05 PM

GronkBrady.jpgIt’s safe to say that in these parts there’s no current athlete—and few throughout history—more revered than Tom Brady. Entering his 14th season as a Patriot, Tom Terrific has ascended to Boston überstar status, something shared only with the legendary likes of Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Bobby Orr. Not only has Brady won championships and set NFL records, he became an accidental star, overcoming the adversity of being virtually ignored in the 2000 NFL Draft, then stepping in for an injured Drew Bledsoe to silence the din of critics, leading the Pats to their first Super Bowl title. For all he’s done in what’s surely a career that will be punctuated someday with a gold jacket and a trip to Canton, OH, Brady will likely face his biggest challenge in 2013.


Celtics usher in the Brad Stevens age

  July 5, 2013 12:41 PM

315980433_2528822508001_video-still-for-video-2528853573001.jpg When the 2013-14 NBA season begins on October 29, new Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will be one week past his 37th birthday and, barring another hire, will be the youngest current coach in the NBA. The three headlines surrounding his hire are a) his six-year contract, giving he and the Celtics a sense of security that shows that they’re in the fight together for the long haul; b) the question of how Stevens will mesh with the mercurial Rajon Rondo and c) Stevens’ young age and lack of NBA expericence.

The six-year commitment sets the stage for a long and hopefully successful career with the potential for Stevens to join some of the greats of the game. Looking at the NBA’s alltime greatest coaches, many of them started their pro coaching careers in their 30’s. Perhaps the greatest coach of alltime, started in his 20’s (see below). Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens (both 32), George Karl (33), Gene Shue (35), Don Nelson and Pat Riley (both 36) were all younger than Stevens when they first took control of an NBA squad. Even Stevens’ new boss, Danny Ainge, became a head coach at age 37.

With that as the backdrop, I decided to take a look at the age of other Celtics coaches when they began their NBA careers. What I found is Stevens will be the fifth-youngest coach in team history and the other four weren’t all that bad.

The youngest man ever hired for the Celtics head coaching job was Dave Cowens who was 30 during his only season at the helm, coinciding with with his final playing season on the parque. While Cowens’ team in Boston wasn’t very successful (27-41), he managed two 50-win seasons for the Charlotte Hornets later in his coaching career.

The second-youngest was Bill Russell, the best player in team history who became a player-coach in 1966-67 at the ripe old age of 32. All Russell did was win 66.1% of his regular season games, lead the team to two titles in three seasons before his 36th birthday.

Then there was a 33-year old who already had four-years of BAA/NBA coaching experience under his belt by the time he got to Boston. Arnold Auerbach got his first job in the fledgling BAA after coaching at the U.S. Naval Academy and managed a record of 61 games over .500 prior arriving with the Celtics. Nearly 1,000 victory cigars later, Red had transformed the Celtics into the greatest dynasty the NBA has ever seen with nine titles in his final 10 years on the bench, while revolutionizing virtually every aspect of professional basketball.

And finally there was Tom Heinsohn, who as a player, coach, broadcaster and unabashed cheerleader, might be the most visible Celtic of alltime. The 1972-73 NBA Coach of the Year gets plenty of Tommy Points for five 50-win seasons, a lifetime winning percentage of .619 in the regular season, .588 in the playoffs and two NBA titles, all starting at age 35.

Here's how old the Celtics other coaches were during their first Boston season:
39: Satch Sanders
42: Chris Ford
43: Doc Rivers
44: John Russell
45: M.L. Carr, Bill Fitch, Rick Pitino
46: Jimmy Rodgers
47: Alvin Julian
48: Jim O’Brien
49: Jim Carroll
51: K.C. Jones

Red Sox review: 2012 vs. 2013

  July 1, 2013 11:31 AM

PapiFlag.jpgThe Red Sox first three months of the 2013 season have been quite memorable and there's no doubting that this is a much more enjoyable squad to watch than the dysfunctional 2012 edition. However with a few exceptions, the team's stats on the morning of July 1, 2013 looked strikingly similar to those the Red Sox had on the corresponding sunrise exactly one year ago.

The current standings show that the Red Sox are in first place in the AL East with the best record in the entire American League. This marks the first time since 2009 that Boston has opened July in the division lead.

But for all of the gains on the basepaths (Jacoby Ellsbury has matched the team's first three-months of 2012 total by himself) and in the starting rotation (significant drop in starters ERA), last year's squad was much stronger out of the bullpen (more converted saves and nearly a full run lower in ERA) and actually had more power in the lineup than the current unit (a 19% decrease in home runs per game).

The 2013 pitching staff strikes out more batters than 2012, but also has walked the most batters in the majors (on the second highest rate of walks per nine innings in '13, fifth best in the AL over the same span of 2012).

So while it seems that this team is so much better than last year's, for the most part, the numbers aren't vastly different. The attitude, hustle and intangibles in John Farrell's first three months on the job are another story altogether.

Here's a head-to-head statistical look at the 2012 and 2013 squads entering July. RedSoxJuly1resize.jpg

The truth about The Truth

  June 28, 2013 10:37 AM

mag21paulA1__1229700915_9161.jpgAt one point during last night’s broadcast of the NBA Draft, ESPN’s Bill Simmons said that watching Kentucky center (and Everett, MA’s own) Nerlens Noel drop out of the Top 5 was one of the most stunning things he had ever witnessed in the NBA Draft. For me, however, the most stunning drop both at the time it occurred and still today was seeing someone else currently making headlines, Paul Pierce, drop all the way to Rick Pitino and the Celtics in the 1998 draft. Marginal players like Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz (Pierce’s Kansas teammate), Robert Traylor, Jason Williams and Larry Hughes all came off the board while someone who at the time was widely considered the best player in the class waited to hear his name called. But thankfully for the Celtics’ faithful, nearly a third of the league blundered that night, giving Boston a player for the ages at selection no. 10.

Word broke yesterday that on or about July 10, Pierce will traded to the Brooklyn Nets along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry for draft picks and a cacophony of Brooklyn's extras. Garnett’s passion and attitude will surely be missed in these parts, but for all of his contributions, he’ll always be remembered first as a Timberwolf. In this deal, the loss of historic proportions for Boston is Pierce. He’s not the first Celtics legend to be traded as Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White and even the 41-year old and coming-out-of-retirement Bob Cousy all were peddled away off before him, but Pierce’s pending departure marks the first time the current face of the franchise is being dealt.

Take a look at the Celtics record book and you’ll see Paul Pierce everywhere, standing shoulder to shoulder with (and in some instances, ahead of) Celtic Green giants. Here's where he ranks in most of the major statistical categories in Boston's storied history:

  • Games: John Havlicek (1,270), Robert Parish (1,106), Paul Pierce (1,102)
  • Points: Havlicek (26,395), Pierce (24,021)
  • Career Scoring Average: Larry Bird (24.3), Pierce (21.8)
  • True Shooting Percentage (min 10K points): McHale (.605), Parish (.587), Pierce (.561)
  • 3 Pointers: Pierce (1,823)
  • Free Throws: Pierce (6,434)
  • Assists: Cousy (6,945), Havlicek (6,114), Bird (5,695), Pierce (4,305)
  • Blocks (since 1973): Parish (1,703), Kevin McHale (1,690), Bird (755), Pierce (668)
  • Steals: Pierce (1,583)

Pierce also owns three of the top 10 scoring seasons in franchise history, six of the top 8 in made free throws, and six of the top 7 in usage percentage which takes into account the percentage of a team’s plays that a player was on the court, and calculated just for the players from the Larry Bird era on. Only Bird (11) averaged 20 or more points in more seasons than Pierce (8, tied with Havlicek) and Pierce is the only Celtic to score 50 points in a game since Bird in 1989.

Looking back on his the league-wide impact, Pierce wasn’t purely a Celtics phenomenon, he's a 10-time All Star, Finals MVP, and four-time member of an All NBA team. With hindsight being 20-20 he’s clearly one of the top two players taken in that 1998 draft, along with the eighth pick, Dirk Nowitzki. In fact, since the day Pierce was drafted only Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant have scored more regular season NBA points, a testament to his tenure of excellence as Celtic and an NBA superstar.

On more piece of truth about The Truth: Once his playing days are done, Pierce's 34 will be proudly displayed with numbers of Russell, Cousy, Bird and the rest of Boston's basketball legends in the Garden's rafters. He certainly earned his spot.

Pick 'em: The best players drafted by the Celtics

  June 27, 2013 07:44 AM

pierce1-2386.jpgHaving already lost Doc Rivers to the Clippers and with the futures of franchise cornerstones Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett very much in question, the Celtics enter tonight's NBA Draft at a crossroads. Barring any late transactions, Danny Ainge will be picking in the unenviable 16th slot, a position that has failed to produce an NBA superstar in nearly three decades since the Jazz took Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton from Gonzaga in 1984. During that time there have been some other quality NBA players selected 16th (Ron Artest, Tony Delk, Hedo Turkoglu) but those men fall under the heading of complementary players, not the face-of-the-franchise player Boston currently needs.

That got me to thinking, with so many great players to suit up in the green and white over the years, who were the best Boston has selected in the entry draft? To do so, I looked to basketball-reference.com’s Win shares rating, which evaluates players based on their contributions to wins, over the expected contributions of any other average player. The stat admittedly has some flaws, as many individual statistics used in it were not kept in the earlier years of the league, necessitating estimates for many players, but from the standpoint of comparing players from different eras, it does a decent job. Taking role of the 442 men the Celtics drafted since 1947, we were able to determine the alltime top 10 players picked. To say the results were unexpected would be a major understatement.

Let’s start off with the aforementioned Billups who amazingly places as the fourth best Celtics pick in terms of career NBA WS. In fact, he ranks 36th alltime in the NBA according to the metric. The leader of the Pistons 2004 title team and Finals MVP that season earned the nickname Mr. Big Shot by repeatedly burying clutch shots throughout his career, was taken third overall by Rick Pitino in 1997. Just 51 games into his rookie year however Billups shipped to the Raptors as part of a package for Kenny Anderson, Popeye Jones and Zan Tabak. Billups along with—Antoine Walker ('96), Paul Pierce ('98) and Joe Johnson ('01)—is just one of four All Star players drafted by Boston over the past 25 years.

The greatest Celtic of them all, Bill Russell, wasn’t eligible for the list because he was taken out of the University of San Francisco, not by the Celtics but by the St. Louis Hawks. What was surprising from the list however is one of the two men Boston traded for him, guard Cliff Hagan, made the list as the no. 9 Celtic pick of alltime. Hagan, a 6’4” two-time All America guard from Kentucky was selected in the third round by Boston in 1953 but returned to play for the Wildcats in 1954 (leading them to an undefeated 25-0 season). He then served two years in the military, playing basketball at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland with the Celtics holding his rights the entire time. When St. Louis wouldn’t only accept Ed Macauley in exchange for Russell’s draft rights, Boston sweetened the deal by adding Hagan who went onto become a five-time NBA All Star.

And while seeing Larry Bird atop the list comes as no surprise to anyone, it is of note that with all of the Hall of Famers that played on the parque, it’s current captain Paul Pierce who contributed the second most win shares to the storied franchise. Pierce currently ranks in the top 4 in virtually every significant statistical category for the celtics and ranks second to John Havlicek in total points and second to Larry Bird in points per game.

And that leads us back to Danny Ainge, the man who’ll be at the helm for tonight’s draft charged with rebuilding the storied franchise that took him from BYU with the eighth pick of the second round in 1981. One of the NBA’s first three-point marksmen, Ainge ranks 10th in WS among players the C’s ever drafted.

Here are the top 10 NBA careers from players drafted by the Celtics according to basketball-reference.com’s career Win Shares (Note: Heinsohn was a territorial pick)celticschart.jpg

Aggressive running key to Red Sox success

  June 26, 2013 09:21 AM

The Red Sox kicked off off a nine-game homestand with an impressive offensive outburst against the Rockies, racking up 11 runs and a season-high 20 hits in an 11-4 win. The explosion raised their major league-leading runs total to 505, an average of 5.13 runs per game, also tops in the bigs. The game was a microcosm of a new-look to this offense: Although they didn’t hit a home run, they managed to manufacture runs using speed. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2013 Red Sox are the American League’s most aggressive team on the basepaths.

Boston leads the league with 20 triples, the 20th coming in the fourth inning on Stephen Drew’s fourth of the season. By contrast, that’s already four more triples as a team than last season’s squad managed in 162 games in setting a new low water mark in Red Sox history. The last time that the Sox paced the league in three-baggers was 1972 when 17 different batters had at least one, paced by the “speedy” Carlton Fisk whose nine tied Oakland’s Joe Rudi for tops in the AL. In more than 11 decades they’ve led the AL in triples just eight times total (1903, ‘04, ‘08, ‘13, ‘14, ‘34, ‘40, ‘72), under three names (the Americans, Pilgrims and Red Sox)

These Sox also steal bases. Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia each successfully stole against Rox catcher Willin Rosario, adding to Boston’s AL-high total of 62 (32 of which have been contributed by AL-leader Jacoby Ellsbury). That’s nearly two-thirds of the way to last season’s team total of 97 swipes from Bobby Valentine’s team, and already more than Boston managed to steal in 48 other entire seasons. Incredibly, since 1901 when the AL was founded, the Red Sox have led the league in stolen bases exactly once, in 1935, when Billy Werber (29) and Mel Almada (20) stole more than half of the team’s 91 bags.

The victory over Colorado also marked the 11th time this season that the Red Sox both tripled and stole a base in a game, the most such games in the majors this season, and something they did just seven times all of last season. And while offensive stats are nice in themselves, what’s even better is that the team is turning that aggressiveness on the basepaths into winning, going 8-3 when both of those things happen. Since 1976 when the Mariners and Blue Jays entered the AL, only five teams have led the AL in both triples and stolen bases, the 1979, 1980, and 2002 Royals, the 1984 Blue Jays and 1986 Indians.

Last but not least, John Farrell’s team takes the extra base. Among the AL’s top eight players who have scored the most runs from second base on a single, three—Daniel Nava (10), Shane Victorino (10) and Mike Napoli (!, 9)‚—are Red Sox. While that might not seem like a lot, it is when you realize that only three Red Sox—Dustin Pedroia (17), Mike Aviles (12) and Nava (9)— managed to score as many as nine such runs all of last season, a vivid indicator of the differences between a team in first place and a team in last.

Bruins Are Best With Backs To The Wall

  June 23, 2013 09:25 AM

Julien.jpgThe Bruins road to the Stanley Cup took a critical turn on Saturday night when the Blackhawks captured Game 5 of the Finals by the score of 3-1, bringing the series back to the Hub with Boston on the brink of elimination. But before you despair, these Bruins seem to play their best when they’re faced with the prospect of an unfulfilled season.

Monday night’s tilt will mark the second time this postseason that the B’s find themselves in a win-or-go-home situation, the first coming in the stunning come-from-three-down-in-the-third-period overtime win in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs at TD Garden. However even before that massive comeback for the ages, Claude Julien’s group was no stranger to playing with their backs against the wall.

Starting in 2008, Julien’s first season guiding the Black and Gold, his teams have faced elimination 14 times. They’re an incredible 10-4 in those games, including two series —in 2008 versus Montreal and 2009 vs. Carolina — where they were down 3-1 and forced a Game 7 (although they lost in both instances).

In the last seven backs-to-the-wall games the playoff tested-squad has gone 6-1, with the only loss coming in last season’s opening round loss to the Capitals. That’s the best elimination game record of any team in the NHL over the past three playoffs and tied with their current nemesis, Chicago, for the most "must wins" during that period. In other playoff games Boston has gone just 27-19, for a winning percentage of .587. Obviously urgency counts.

Here's another reason to believe in the Bruins chances of extending Chicago to Game 7: When down three-games-to-two in a series, Julien’s B’s have not lost a Game 6, beating the Canadiens, Hurricanes, Capitals and Canucks. While all but the Canucks series ended with a Game 7 loss, the Julien Bruins have been solid overall in Game 7’s, splitting evenly the eight they’ve played since 2008.

Here are the teams with the most wins since 2011 while facing their postseason mortality: Wins Elimination Gamesbdc.jpg

Rask Taken to Task

  June 20, 2013 09:09 AM

raskgoal.jpgPrior to Game 4 of the Finals Tuukka Rask’s 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff performance was being compared by many to Tim Thomas’ incredible 2011 run through the postseason. Although Rask hasn’t been as spectacular as Thomas was in leading the Bruins to the Cup two years ago, his numbers hold up well against Thomas, even following the Game 4 overtime loss to the Blackhawks in which he gave up a career-playoff-high six goals. Here’s a comparison along with some stats of note about the Bruins backstop off night.


  • Prior to Patrick Sharp’s first period goal on Wednesday, Rask had gone 122:26 without allowing a puck to get past him.

  • Rask allowed more goals in the second period on Wednesday (3) than he allowed in the entire previous series against Pittsburgh (2).

  • This was just the second time in 171 career NHL regular season and playoff games that Rask allowed six goals. The first was back on January 31 in a loss to the Buffalo Sabres. He bounced back tremendously after that however by allowing just one goal total over his next two games in Toronto and Montreal.

  • Even after the six-goal shellacking, Rask remains the NHL leader in goals against average (1.83), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (3).

  • In two losses thus far in the Finals, Rask has made 100 saves (59 in Game 1, 41 in Game 4). In the two wins he stopped a total of 61 shots.

  • The last Bruins goaltender to allow six goals in a Stanley Cup Finals game was Andy Moog who lost 6-3 to the Edmonton Oilers in the deciding Game 5 in 1988.

  • High and Tight: The Red Sox-Rays Rivalry

      June 18, 2013 08:02 AM

    Red Sox Rays Brawl.jpg
    The Rays pull into Fenway today for a three-games-in-two-days series against the Red Sox for the latest chapter in one of baseball’s most heated rivalries. When these teams met last week in St. Petersburg the benches cleared after John Lackey drilled Matt Joyce in the back with a pitch, coming on the heels of an earlier incident when Joyce stared at a long foul ball as if it were a home run, irking Lackey and the Red Sox. That was just the latest incident of acrimony between teams with a long history of aiming at each other.

    These division rivals have made a habit of impromptu congregations on the field since the then-Devil Rays entered the AL in 1998, mainly due to batters getting hit by pitches. If it seems like these teams have targeted each other constantly with the baseball, they have. Starting that first year for baseball in Tampa Bay, there have been 250 hit batsmen in the 268 meetings in the lifetime series, with Red Sox batters plunked 127 times and Rays hitters feeling the sting another 123. The only matchup in baseball with more hit-batters over that span is the granddaddy rivalry of them all, the Yankees-Red Sox, which has produced a bruise-inducing 267 free passes via ball-to-body contact (154 Yankees hit, 113 Red Sox).

    The root cause of the conflict lies in the fact that both of these teams regularly hit a lot of batters, regardless of rivalry status, so there’s bound to be fireworks when these two intimidators meet. Since 1998 they are the only two teams to hit more than a thousand batters from the mound, the Red Sox leading with 1,095 and the Rays safely in second at 1,036. A vast majority of their opponents however don’t react with malice, as Boston batters have been hit the 10th most times since ‘98 (913) and the perennial underdog or overachieving Rays come in 13th (867).

    The top three victims on the Rays side of the BOS-TB rivalry — Carl Crawford (8), Jonny Gomes (7), Carlos Peña (6) — have not only each played for the Red Sox, they were all quite disappointing in their stints (although the jury is still out on Gomes who enters today’s doubleheader with a slash line of .208/.329/.352), Peña’s Boston experience coming before his time in Florida while Crawford and Gomes came after.

    The Rays’ favorite targets in the batters box were the heart and soul of the Sox success with Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis each drilled 11 times, while Nomar Garciaparra, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek getting the message eight times each. Perhaps as a testament to his congeniality, (or more likely the fear that he’s charge the mound) David Ortiz has only been drilled by a Rays hurler three times in 11 seasons.

    On the hill, Tim Wakefield (13, also the major league leader over the span with 139 hit batters) and Pedro Martinez (10) account for nearly 20% of the damage inflicted on Tampa Bay while the current quartet of Jon Lester (6), John Lackey (4), Alfredo Aceves (3) and Franklin Morales (3) make up another 12.6%.

    Former Rays ace Scott Kazmir, now of the Indians, hit nine Sox during his Tampa Bay career while former Sox lefty, Casey Fossum, was next with seven of his former mates feeling the pain. However Fossum’s HBPs brought much more of a message, coming in just 44 ⅓ innings over 10 appearances. Among current Rays only 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price (5) has hit more than two Boston batters.

    Jagr Shoots, Doesn't Score

      June 17, 2013 09:01 AM

    Long one of the game’s leading scorers and a key acquisition for the Bruins playoff run from the Dallas Stars, Jaromir Jagr, entered the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs with 78 career postseason goals, good for 11th on the alltime list—just one behind Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau who notched his last playoff goal in 1971. Now 18 games into the playoffs, two-games into the Finals, and following a Game 2 blast that got past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford but rang off the goalpost in overtime, Beliveau remains alone in 10th place and Jagr still has a zero in the goals column.

    Mario Lemieux's former sidekick's goal-scoring drought has reached 27 games dating back to early last postseason when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, an unimaginable stretch for someone who has scored one goal nearly every two NHL games for which he laced up his skates. Discounting the puck that eluded Crawford (since it wasn’t on net) Jagr, 41, has taken 51 shots this postseason, the most he’s unleashed in the playoffs since 1995-96, when he peppered goalies a career-high 74 times, but those resulted in a career-high-tying 11 goals. The drought has dropped his career postseason shooting percentage a full point, down from 12.9% to 11.9%.

    Since 2008 (including three years spent with Avangard Omsk in Russia) Jagr has just one Stanley Cup playoff goal in 29 games. He's now in serious danger of being one of the least likely achievers of a dubious distinction: unleashing the most shots in one playoff season without scoring a goal in the post-Original Six Era. That title is currently held by former Florida Panthers defenseman Gord Murphy, who failed to score on any of his 53 shots during the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    What's even more shocking about the drought is that Jagr had a decent regular season. He managed 16 goals for the Stars and Bruins, admittedly a career low, but he was actually Boston's leading scorer from April 4, the day he joined the team, until the end of the regular season, with nine points, including two goals. And while not lighting the lamp, the sure Hall of Famer is contributing—his seven assists place sixth on the B's in helpers and tie him for seventh on the squad in points during these playoffs.

    Game 3 is tonight at 8 PM at the Garden and on NBCSN.

    Jose Iglesias is Batting What?

      June 14, 2013 12:37 PM

    iglesias.jpgEntering this season Jose Iglesias’ status as the Red Sox shortstop of the future was is serious doubt, coming off of a 2012 that saw his batting average stand at .118, the second-worst in Red Sox club history for someone with as many as his 77 plate appearances (catcher Ed Connolly batted .075 in 1931). But things have certainly changed for the now-23 year-old from Cuba. The infielder has been a stand out offensively for John Farrell’s crew, raising his average 331-points over last season to an astonishing .449 through his first 87 trips to the dish. Obviously we don’t expect this to continue, but in the name of good fun, here are some tidbits about the incredible Iglesias.

    • He currently has the American League’s longest active hitting streak at 14 games which puts him one behind David Oritz for Boston’s longest streak of the season (Ortiz's 27-game streak was spread over two seasons).
    • Although he’s batting .440 during the streak, his average has actually dropped from .464 at the start of it on May 27 to .449 where it currently stands.
    • The last Sox rookie with a longer hitting streak was Jacoby Ellsbury who hit in 18 consecutive games in September, 2008.
    • His .449 average is the highest in the major leagues among all players with at least 87 plate appearances.
    • When we say the highest in the majors, we aren’t only talking about this season. If he were to not step up to the dish another time in 2013 (which we know won’t be the case) he would own the highest batting average of any player with at least 87 trips to the plate in modern baseball history (since 1901 when the American League came into existence).
    • Currently holding that distinction is Hall of Fame 417-game winner Walter Johnson who went 42 of 97 at the plate in 1925 for a .433 average.
    • Toss 19th Century players into the mix and Iglesias only drops to second, behind Levi Mayerle who batted a robust .492 for the National Association’s Athletics in 1871 (he also led the circuit in home runs with four).
    • Despite hitting just one home run and seven doubles, his .577 slugging percentage is .001 ahead of NL home run leader Domonic Brown, and also higher than Mike Trout (.550), Evan Longoria (.544), Robinson Cano (.521) and Jose Bautista (.520) among many others. Yet that places him third on the Red Sox behind David Ortiz (.613) and Mike Carp (.680)
    • His 2013 batting average and slugging percentage at Triple A Pawtucket are .202 and .319 respectively.

    The Bruins and Bonus Hockey

      June 13, 2013 08:04 AM

    For the 10th time in their last 24 postseason games the Bruins needed extra time to settle a playoff game. But after winning four of the first five of those contests this postseason run, they came up short early Thursday morning, dropping a 4-3 game to the Blackhawks in Triple OT on a double deflection goal by Andrew Shaw at 12:08 of the third extra session. Bruins3OT.jpg

    Boston is part of a much larger trend in the NHL, as overtime postseason games have become the norm in the quest for the Stanley Cup. Of the 81 playoff games played thus far in 2013, 25 have gone to overtime (30.9%) with a total of 30 additional periods needed to decide a winner. That currently stands as tied for the third highest number of overtime games in NHL history, with the record set in 1993 when 28 of 85 contests (32.9%) went long (with 2001 at 26 of 86 [30.2%], just behind). This year each of the 15 playoff series has featured at least one extra period, the first time that’s happened since 1958 when the playoffs consisted of just three series.

    Here’s how the rate of overtimes per playoff games has increased since 2006, the first post-lockout playoff run:

    • Season---OTG---G---%OT
    • 2013--------25----81---30.9%
    • 2012--------25----86---29.1%
    • 2011--------23----89---25.8%
    • 2010--------18----89---20.2%
    • 2009--------16----87---18.4%
    • 2008--------16----85---18.8%
    • 2007--------17----81---21.0%
    • 2006--------20----83---24.1%
    (OTG: Overtime Games; G: Games)

    Stats Driven: A New Era

      June 11, 2013 05:29 PM

    And so it begins. I'm David Sabino and I'm taking over as writer of the Stats Driven blog. If the name sounds familiar, you've probably read my work as stats editor and fantasy sports writer for Sports Illustrated, something I started doing the same year the Expos drafted an up-and-coming high school catcher from San Mateo, CA named Tom Brady. To this point my career has been spent analyzing stats across the vast spectrum of sports. Here I'll be focusing on the numbers behind the teams New Englanders care most about: The Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins.

    The overall goal of the new-look Stats Driven is to provide answers to some of your questions, while putting sports news events into context. If you come away saying to yourself, "Wow, that's interesting," or if you can stump a friend with a bit of trivia you've picked up here, then it will have been a success.

    All of the older posts will remain in this space, but from now on updates will be more frequent and much more tied to the latest news events, so check back often. Also, please feel free to send suggestions and comments (and follow me) on Twitter @SabinoSports. I'll be happy to hear from you.

    Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

    He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

    Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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