We get the sense that we're constantly being attacked by our co-worker here at Me and Pedro; that's okay, because we are. The other side refuses to admit such a beef, perhaps hardened by years of enduring barking-mad baseball rants from recently Sabermetrically-indoctrinated people such as myself, which we understand (we also hate the word "Sabermetrics" and any of its variants). For instance, in our last post, Ben writes:
I've been chided in the past for my fixation with the stolen base. But look here, thirty stolen base attempts for this Sox this season and only FOUR times have they been caught. Surely that kind of efficiency makes even the most hardened stolen base skeptics excited about the team's base running.
Let me parse this paragraph for you, Fire Joe Morgan-style:
I've been chided in the past for my fixation with the stolen base.
But look here, thirty stolen base attempts for this Sox this season and only FOUR times have they been caught.
"Only four times have they been caught... asshole."
Surely that kind of efficiency makes even the most hardened stolen base skeptics
— and by that, Bryan, I mean YOU, on your couch in Queens —
excited about the team's base running.
While I think Ben would be surprised by the amount that I've come around to many non-sabermetrically endorsed ideas, he's right: those type of numbers would make even the most hardened stolen base skeptics cock their eyebrow in interest. Quite simply, the Sox — led by (never-shhh) Ellsbury — steal bases very well. For any Sox fan familiar with the history of the team long or short, this is astonishing. The Sox have never been a base-stealing team. In their 107-year history, a Red Sock has led the league in steals a whopping six times, or the same number as Vince Coleman in the 80s (and five less than Rickey). I couldn't find team steals stats, but they'd be about the same. The last time a Sock won the steals title was in 1973, when Tommie Harper did it. So yes, this is rare. And yes, it's a lovely change of pace, especially when they never get caught.
For those of you who don't know why I was "shhh"-ing the boy wonder Jacoby's name above, it's because he's converted his first 20 SB attempts going back to last season, seven shy of the record held by Tim Raines to start a career. I think Ben is absolutely right when he says stolen bases are not entirely about speed, and that's what makes Ellsbury's achievement so impressive. While the kid's got speed to burn, he knows what to do with it at a young age. Contrast him with someone else who's got ridiculous speed like Jose Reyes and you see how impressive this is. Reyes is a valuable base stealer, and led the league with 78 swipes last year; he also was caught 21 times, which also led the league. The best base stealer on the Mets is Carlos Beltran, who swiped 25 bags and was caught three times. In fact, Beltran has the highest stolen base percentage in major league history, if I remember correctly, with players who have 250 or more steals (whatever his rank, it's 87.8%). The Sox' best base stealer is their fastest player. That's straight fire right there.
Also straight fire right now, as Ben said, is Kevin Youkilis, who's tearing sh*t up right now. To recap as of this morning:
Ranks 9th in AL in RBI
Ranks 8th in AL in Runs
Ranks 8th in AL in Walks
Ranks 7th in AL in OBP
Ranks 8th in AL in SLG
Ranks 6th in AL in OPS
Not that there's anything wrong with it, but Youkilis is a notorious hot starter/slow finisher (Hey, the games count the same in April and September!) To wit, here are his splits as a full-time starter:
Pre All-Star: .297/.406./.467
Post All-Star: .257/.347/.381
Pre All-Star: .328/.419/.502
Post All-Star: .238/.356/.391
This year, he's right in line with the early-season stats at .305/.397/.517. But the pattern is there and will probably repeat itself: dude is just better early on, for whatever reason. Contrast that with another Me and Pedro favorite, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis, who starts slow each year but rakes when the Mercury tops 90:
Pre All-Star: .268/.335/.348
Post All-Star: .311/.364/.531
Pre All-Star: .279/.340/.431
Post All-Star: .325/.389/.550
This year, he's at .263/.391/.456, having cooled down after an early hot streak. So what is it that causes these streaks? Youkilis is a bigger guy than Markakis, waistwise, and you'd have to figure there's an element of Youkilis wearing down as the year goes on and Markakis playing into shape. But there's got to be more to it than that, something that makes Markakis see the ball better in July and August and Youkilis to start hitting like Craig Counsell. The mind wonders what it could be. Summer television? Maryland crab?
There were some points I promised to touch on today, so I'll cover them now. The first was last night's Sox/Tigers game, which is only notable for the hocus-pocus Dice-K used to walk eight batters and still pick up a "W." We've been thinking a lot about the concept of a "win" recently, as it's been all but dismissed by the statistical community, but I think it still has some value. Certainly, wins and losses alone won't tell you very much about a pitcher, except a pitcher with 20 wins is unlikely to be terrible and a pitcher with 20 losses is unlikely to be Josh Beckett. But there's something about the W, when not haphazardly applied — as in, to a closer who blows the game to see his team rally for "him" — that's has an integrity we like. We recently saw Chien-Ming (F'ing) Wang beat C.C. Sabathia in a 1-0 twin masterpiece, which is about as tough an "L" the hefty lefty could earn. That's also about as tough a win as a pitcher can get, and if someone ever deserves one, it's Wang in that situation. And all Wang does is win. He doesn't have the best numbers of all the pitchers in the league, but the guy is on the mound when the Yankees win. That may be, as stat guys may argue, a matter of circumstances — circumstances like Wang being consistently good on a high-scoring team — but we only watch baseball for the circumstances that do happen. The win-loss system, as imperfect as it is, is something we smile when we're considering.
I think I've said enough for today without getting too in-depth into Bronson Arroyo and Hideki Okajima. The former Sock is getting roughed up in Cincy, and Okie keeps on rolling through smoke and mirrors, or so it seems. We still love that Gary Sheffield said that Okajima was the toughest lefty he had ever faced. Gary Sheffield said that. Gary Sheffield is going to the Hall of Fame. And Okie owns him.
God, I love baseball.