After an intense ALCS in which the Red Sox faced 3 starting pitchers that each amassed 200+ strikeouts during the regular season, we finally get a chance to relax and reflect for a few days. Well, maybe not relax as the Cardinals look like a pretty damn tough team, but we can definitely reflect. When I think about the ALCS, all of the big hits come to mind along with the dominance of the bullpen, but the man that seems to get overlooked by most is Craig Breslow. For most of the year Breslow played second fiddle to a record-setting performance by Koji Uehara and a lot of drama behind the injuries to Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan.
That’s fair enough but the emergence of Breslow as a solid setup man can’t be overlooked. I was unhappy in 2008 when the Sox designated him for assignment. Now, I’m not much of an MLB betting man but if I had money to throw down, it would have went on Craig having a successful career.
While his 2006 performance with the Red Sox wasn’t anything special, he had a curveball and changeup with Pawtucket that showed extreme promise. As soon as he arrived in Cleveland, he finally put that expensive Yale degree to use and started mixing his pitches with intelligence. To no surprise, he started getting outs and became a reliable reliever. As soon as Ben Cherington got his chance, he dealt an over-achieving Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik to Arizona in exchange for Breslow.
Breslow and the Sox haven’t looked back since. He finished last season relatively strong and then put himself into the ‘elite’ category with his 2013 regular season performance:
Since then he’s been part of a Red Sox bullpen that has cruised along with a 0.43 ERA in the postseason. That’s 21 innings with only ONE earned run allowed and numbers that boggle the mind. Breslow has pitched 7 of those innings with only 9 baserunners allowed. That shows just how much he’s depended on, with 1/3rd of the relief work coming his way.
With a series coming up against the St. Louis Cardinals (the 2nd best team in baseball), the Sox are going to have to depend on the pen even more. I’m still not much of a betting man but I’d put my money on Breslow and his dependability any day.
“Breslow uses words in a normal conversation that I’m not used to.” – John Farrell.
Big Papi is about to turn 38 years old in a month, which may seem like a shock to some. The lefty slugger hasn’t changed in appearance much since arriving in Boston more than a decade ago, and the same can be said for his bat. After Game 2’s grand slam against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, we were once again reminded of his value, both for the Red Sox and fantasy baseball owners.
In fantasy baseball, hitting is far and away the most important skill to look for. Fortunately for Ortiz, he has been able to hit just fine for quite some time. Sure, he can’t really play a position, and his speed would be below average in a slow pitch softball league, but he can hit for both power and average.
This past season, Ortiz hit .309/.564/.959 with 30 home runs and 103 RBI. He was able to stay relatively healthy, appearing in 137 games during the year. Fantasy baseball owners still have him ranked as the top DH option in the sport, with no real challenger at the time.
The biggest question with Ortiz is, just how long can he keep up this performance? Some fantasy baseball players tried to write him off as far back as 2009 when he hit .238 for the year (myself included.) In a league that stresses an all-around type of game now, Ortiz is a throwback slugger who just hits the ball hard and far each at-bat.
To Boston, Ortiz is more than just a slugger in the middle of their lineup. He was the one who spoke up before the first game after the Boston Marathon bombing. He has been there long enough to go through the good, the bad and now the good again. While other players have come and gone, Ortiz continues to hit. Come next spring, the 38-year old will once again be the first DH off the board in almost every fantasy baseball draft. As for Boston, they’ll find a spot in the heart of their order for the heart and sole of a franchise.
Predictions are a funny thing. They’re rarely correct and wildly off-base yet we all make them before every season. It’s sort of like fantasy baseball but without any legitimate intel other than off-season pick-ups and last year’s standings. With all of the offseason moves that Toronto made, most experts (and amateurs like myself) thought the Blue Jays would take the East by storm. RA Dickey, J.A. Happ, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, and a matured Brett Lawrie? On paper they were a team to be reckoned with but instead they finished the year in the basement of the AL East.
For a laugh, check out the predictions made by Sports Illustrated’s “experts”:
Want to see some more of their awesome predictions?
Most likely free-agent flop: 3 writers said Shane Victorino. Shane ended the season with an .801 OPS, his best since 2009 when he was an All-Star and received MVP votes.
No AL East team will win 90 games: Both Boston and Tampa Bay surpassed the 90 win mark. New York and Baltimore only fell 5 games behind winning 90.
This is what makes professional sports so amazing. Everyone expected the Washington Nationals to dominate all year long but instead they missed the playoffs. Unforeseeable.
Of ESPN’s 43 experts, not a single one picked the Sox to win the AL East. That’s what made the 2013 regular season so great. This team defied all odds (literally, Boston had a 30:1 chance of winning the division) and dominated the AL East with a 97-65 record.
How can you not love this sport?!
All in all, last weekend wasn’t a great one for the Fenway faithful, as the suddenly streaking Yankees came to town and took 2 of 3 from the Red Sox. One can safely say that we missed a chance to bury the Yankees a little bit deeper; but it’s alright and we shouldn’t get carried away with despair or panic as the Sox remain firmly in the playoff picture, and if you glance at the BetFair exchange sports book, Boston has the 3rd best betting odds to win the World Series (at 8/1), while the Yankees aren’t really even in the picture (40/1). While last weekend SHOULD have been about winning any and every game (as usual), it very quickly became about A-Rod and Ryan Dempster.
Let’s get one thing straight: A-Rod is a pariah in baseball, and it’s no surprise that his first visit to Fenway since receiving a massive 211 game suspension from the MLB (and then appealing it, ensuring he’d still be allowed to play this season) resulted in an barrage of boos. There’s really nothing more to say on A-Rod. He has, apparently, cheated the game multiple times, and he’s now being allowed to play for the hated rivals while making an absurd amount of money doing so and ruining the purity of Kate Hudson for the rest of us. (Seriously, every time I see her face now, my mind’s eye sees his giant purple lips too.)
But let’s get another thing straight: it’s on the MLB, and not Ryan Dempster, to level the playing field. Are we surprised that Dempster took it upon himself to plunk A-Rod? Not at all. It was probably only a matter of time before this happened, and it’s part of the game of baseball even when you’re not talking about the generation’s most polarizing player in the midst of the game’s biggest rivalry. What was surprising, was that Dempster did it on the last of 4 inside pitches. What was then disappointing was that A-Rod ultimately scored a run that inning, and came back a few innings later to blast a homer off of Dempster and defiantly, arrogantly, whoop and cheer himself while rounding the bases.
Back to Dempster: if you caught this game on Sunday Night Baseball, you know that Dempster absolutely, 100% meant to hit A-Rod. And you know what? That’s fine. As mentioned, it’s part of the game. What’s not fine, or shouldn’t be, to Red Sox fans, is that he took 4 pitches to do it and then couldn’t back it up on the mound, and that days later he’s suspended and fined and now the Yankees are red hot.
You throw inside to make a statement, and Dempster made that statement with his first pitch – one that actually went behind A-Rod. After 2 more inside pitches (that I honestly think were just poor attempts at hitting the inside part of the strike zone), he finally said “screw it, this guy has a 3-0 count and he’s getting on base one way or another” so he plunked him, in what was by then a tedious and repetitive exercise. Girardi was correct in his post-game presser: the baseball IS a weapon (which makes him yelling “YOU’RE GOING TO GET IT!” at Middlebrooks a bit ironic) but it should be a weapon used to get outs and Dempster definitely didn’t do that. No one is suggesting that Demp stooped to A-Rod’s level (that would take years of drug abuse and lying) but we should be a little bit disappointed, rather than bemused, at how it all went down.
In any case, let’s count our lucky stars that the Sox had some of those weird West Coast off-days and could maneuver their pitching rotation so that Dempster’s suspension ends up hurting more on paper than in reality.
Watch the Yankees response to Mike Napoli’s monster grand slam the other night:
Kidding, this is actually from last night’s game when a thunderstorm rolled in and helped the Sox win a shortened 5+ inning game, 3-0.
If you think I’m just picking on the Yankees, don’t worry, the Red Sox acted just as frightened BUT at least they put one in the win column while doing so!
Alright, maybe it’s not fair for me to pick on Jack Edwards since he is toiling away in lockout-land BUT the Wall Street Journal recently did a small study to see who gets the title of ‘Biggest Homer in Baseball’ and his name was the first to come to mind when I heard the term homer.
The WSJ based their study on usage of the words ‘we’ ‘us’ and ‘our’ to describe the team (something I’m very guilty of), as well as using pet-names to describe players and very blatant pro-team outbursts.
The results were almost exactly what one would expect: Ken ‘The Hawk’ Harrelson is TERRIBLE and is named the most biased announcer in baseball. I was first introduced to his unique style of broadcasting when I lived in Arkansas and the only games I could watch were the White Sox on WGN. It didn’t take long before I became a proponent of the ‘Heave The Hawk‘ movement.
There was another non-shocking result: big market teams have less biased announcing. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mets, and Red Sox all put a 0 on the scoreboard when it came to instances of blatant homerism. This is something I and a lot of Sox fans are very appreciative of. Nothing takes an observer out of the moment like the color guy using an inside-joke between himself and the player as fodder to create an unfunny nickname. Am I right, Muddy Chicken?
I salute you Remy and Don. Thanks for making a bad season fun to watch.« go back — keep looking »