Monday, April 05, 2004

Nine Reactions, 04.04.04

First of all, a big thanks to Baseball Musings and Only Baseball Matters, two top-notch baseball blogs that listed The Ninth over the weekend and got us some quality exposure. Thanks much, and I hope you new visitors liked what you saw.

Second of all, now that the season is under way, The Ninth will begin posting much more frequently. The hope is to put up reactions the morning after every game my alarmingly scant social calendar allows me to watch. These items will be quicker and less zippy than The Ninth's usual, award-winning posts, but hopefully will provide good daily info that can't be found everywhere else. So check back early and often. Now, for opening day....

1. Pedro's fastball looked essentially the same as last season's. The precision wasn't there, but the velocity showed no noticeable decline. Martinez's main problem was no curveball and only the occasional changeup. It's tough to get any team out with just a two seam and four seam fastball, especially if those pitches are topping out at 91 mph. Does The Ninth believe Pedro could have thrown harder if he wanted to? Absolutely. Is The Ninth getting tired of saying it? Little bit. And going home before the game has finished, Pedey? Not good.

2. NESN's new graphics and visuals were a little overbearing , but fine overall. Nice to see the relievers history against the expected hitters. Why however they found room for a Red Sox logo (Oh, I'm watching the Red Sox!) in the upper-right corner and not the MPH readings is unknown. That's going to change, right?

3. Jerry Remy brought up his objection to the lefty infield shift. "It's too risky," he said repeatedly, "to use with runners in scoring position." While we all love the Remdog, this particular argument has one crucial flaw: it makes no sense. Either the play works or it doesn't. Moving the SS to the right of second base either hurts, helps, or leaves unchanged your chance of getting the lefty out. If it helps, do it, if it doesn't, don't. "Risky" has nothing to do with it. Just because the play could result in the scoring of a run, that doesn't make the strategy any less sound, does it? (The Ninth asks a question it already knows the answer to.) That being said, I am concerned about how the shift limits a pitcher's approach. A fastball away to a hitter with ANY ability to go the other way is asking for trouble against the shift. Sure, if you can pound Palmeiro in, the extra infielder is a great idea, but as we saw last night, something outside is just too easy to flick by the lone third baseman. The Ninth is certain that there is great statistical evidence to defend the shift, but it seems like only the most pull-crazy of hitters wouldn't dribble a grounder to SS if he got the chance. And pitching him anywhere other than on the fists gives him the chance.

4. Kevin Millar had consistently good swings last night, but only had one hit to show. Everything he struck was hard, on the line, and up the middle. Look for him to get hot. Ortiz, on the other hand, looked a little shakey. He's diving in a bit, and jamming himself on pitches that are over the plate. He might have a cold start.

5. Pokey sure hits like a gold glover, doesn't he? Everybody praised the idea of getting some pure defense in the infield, but it's easy to forget what .240 really looks like. Bunting with runners on 2nd and 3rd? Ouch. The sad part is, that might have been his best chance to get 'em in. One easy out can really change the scope of a lineup.

6. The way that Johnny Damon swings and throws, do you think he's actually right-handed and no one's told him yet?

7. The bullpen looked pretty solid last night. Timlin was the victim of some bad luck wind and a bizarre fit of wildness. Embree had the gas and showed off a slider that apparently he's finally learned in his 34th year of existence. Could be a positive development. And Williamson, whew. When he throws strikes he will be very tough to hit. Tougher than Foulke? Hard to say.

8. When did Oriole fans start chanting "Hey, You Suck" at regular intervals during the game? I don't remember that happening before. It's horribly unpleasant, and doesn't make much sense. You guys know you're the Orioles, right? Eric Dubose is your #2 starter. Is that what we sound like with "Yankees Suck"? If it is, then we should stop immediately.

9. Anybody have any doubt that Curt Schilling would have been pitched better than Pedro last night? So why is he the #2 starter exactly?

Bonus 10th Reaction That is Mostly Just for Boasting: The Ninth predicted the following line for Pedro Martinez: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. His actual results were 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Pretty impressive. At 5 pm today I will be throwing a party in my honor. I predict no one showing up.