Saturday, April 30, 2005

Red Sox Nation speaks again

About a month ago I emailed a few questions to a handful of Sox bloggers here on the World Wide Web and threw all their responses together in one giant post. This time I did the same although because a few less guys got back to me and those who did respond were a little more brief, this entry is thankfully shorter than the last. Even though I did kinda cheat and ask several questions inside of all three of the questions, this one turned out to be a little more manageable.

My questions were....

1) Have your expectations for the Red Sox and the AL East in general changed after everything that has happened in the season so far?

2) What has been the biggest Sox dissapointment to you so far this year? What about the biggest pleasent surprise?

3) In all of baseball, whose fast surprise start (team or player) do you think has the best chance to stick? How about slow start?

And the guys answered with....

Tim from Bullshit Memorial Stadium

1) Not really- in fact, the season thus far has started sort of like I guessed- slowly. The roster is a little old, and out of the gate, the starting pitching is a little tenuous- guys coming off rehab, guys changing leagues, etc. I full expect this team to be a type that hits a stride like last year- though not as hot and not following a long .500 stretch. That being said- though I still think they'll win the division, I don't think they'll win 98 games like last year, due mostly to improvements made by Toronto and Baltimore.

2) I didn't necessarily think that Renteria would be worth the money, but I never thought he'd be this bad. Of course, it's early, and he's already showing signs of breaking out- being more patient, going to the opposite field- but since it's early and that's the context of the question... Renteria I guess. Schilling and Foulke are obvious choices too, but I don't think anyone expects their struggles to last.

Pleasant surprise is Varitek, no question. He's just been hitting tremendously from day one, and seems to have been able to coax Clement into pounding the strike zone early in games. Jay Payton too, and I thought Ramon Vazquez played some really great defense at 3B subbing for Mueller being sick.

3) The Dodgers will win the West, and though I wasn't surprised at the fast start, some people seemed to be, so I'd pick them. There's just no one else in that division worth betting on, including San Francisco, who had this hype attached to them I still fail to grasp. As for players, Mark Buehrle. Probably the most underappreciated great pitcher in baseball.

I think the Twins will come around, but I'm convinced more and more everyday that Chicago is pretty much sewing up the division right now. Oakland as well- I have them winning the West, and they're a lot better offensively than they've played. As for slow starts sticking- the Yankees? Seriously though, I think the Cubs are going to have a lot of problems all season, especially if Wood goes back down. Also, it's getting hard to be optimistic about Magglio Ordonez.

1) Have your expectations for the Red Sox and the AL
East in general changed after everything that has
happened in the season so far?

Marc from Baseball Rants

1) My expectations have been met by the Red Sox and the AL East so far, yes. The Sox are more dangerous rotation wise due to the added depth, but the lineup is not as scary yet since Mueller, Bellhorn, Millar, and Renteria have not done much. Renteria is meeting my expectations so far by the way, and is angering me greatly considering Dustin Pedroia's .358/.470/.509 start for Portland. I can't even talk about how much I dislike the Renteria signing anymore. The rest of the AL is shaping up mostly the way I envisioned it: The Blue Jays are middle of the pack, the Orioles can score in bunches but can't always prevent scoring, and the Devil Rays aren't threatening without Kazmir on the mound at his best. The Yankees are off to a bad start record wise (like last year) but there is something different this time around, as they look worse than their record shows. I can't wait to run the pythagenport standings for the AL again this weekend so I can see how they are actually overachieving at this point.

2) The fact that one of these guys in the rotation is going to have to go for Wade Miller soon. I expect a lot from Miller when he joins the Sox, but it is sad to think Arroyo or Wake is going to be booted from the rotation. The biggest pleasant surprise? Well its nice to see the Trot Nixon/Jay Payton platoon working out well, as well as seeing 3 of the top 10 starters in the league on the same team (Schilling-Clement-Arroyo) even though Schill hasn't done his part yet. Is that a surprise though, or am I just happy to see it in action?

3) The LA Dodgers start. It was not a surprise in stathead circles at all, as I watch DePo at work with admiration and wonder at what schemes he has employed, but it was a surprise to say, Skip Bayless and Buster Olney, who usually jump down the throat of guys like DePo and Beane. Glad to see the Dodgers doing well, especially Lowe (since he's on someone else's tab).

Slow start that'll stick? Well its not really a slow start, but Arizona's 12-8 record won't last. They have scored 91 runs and given up 100, which should stick them under .500 sometime for the rest of the year once it catches up to them, and it will. When I did pythagenport standings on Saturday for Baseball Rants, Arizona's win percentage was .360 according to their play so far. The Phillies slow start is more surprising, but I don't expect it to last.

For players, I'm concerned about Vernon Wells slow start; in fact I dumped him off my fantasy team because I am not going to wait around all season for him again. 2003 is starting to look like the outlier (kind of like Renteria). As far as quick starts to stick, I'll take Adam Dunn's .304/.435/.750 over whatever number Brian Roberts has found himself at today. By the way, Dunn has a fast start on strikeouts too, with 19 least he doesn't hit into double plays constantly, like a certain shortstop for Boston (I'm not bitter, ok!)

Denton from Surviving Grady

1) Not at all. I still the think the Sox and Yankees will finish 1-2 in the East with the Sox winning the division and the Yankees getting the wildcard. Sox pitching is better and deeper. Baltimore will outslug a bunch of teams for third but doesn't have the pitching to stay where they are now. Tampa Bay is young and improving, finishing fourth with Toronto in the basement.

2) I would have to say Wells is the biggest letdown. I thought his experience pitching in big games and hostile environments would make him a good Fenway/Boston pitcher.

I think Damon's and Varitek's hot starts have been a great surprise. For different reasons (Damon's off field distractions and Tek's big contract), I thought they'd start slower. And I mean that with no disrespect to Jason's work ethic, I just thought there might be a subconscious letdown.

3) Oakland's Harden is legit, though maybe not really a surprise. He will compete for the Cy Young this year. Same with Pedro in the NL.

For slow starts, I'd look towards Jaret Wright (maybe a moot point now that he's on the DL) and Zito as not having much potential to get a lot better. I think their slow starts are an accurate portrayal of what to expect.

Allan from Joy of Sox

1) Expectations are the same. I'm not sure we can spot any trends only 20-22 games in. The Orioles are playing much better (and playing the Yankees tougher) than I expected. While the Yankees started off last season at roughly the same pace they are at now, a significant part of that team could get old really quickly. And they'll have fewer options if their staff suffers the injuries we're dealing with this week.

2) I had originally written "no major disappointments, only minor gripes," but that was before Schilling and Wells went on the DL. Ugh. It's too early to say how long either of these guys will be out -- but they may both miss all of May. Wells threw poorly in three of his five starts and Schilling hasn't been consistent at all, so who knows -- maybe we can weather the storm
with Halama, Miller (when he returns) and a Pawtucket arm (Jeremi Gonzalez?).

I'm trying convince myself that:

(a) Foulke's struggles are temporary -- like his crappy 2004 spring training -- and hope he doesn't end up on the DL too; and

(b) It's not wise to get too bent out of shape -- it's still April and we've played only 21 games.

The minor gripes: Renteria's slow start, various base running gaffes, bullpen rustiness, having Mueller out for a week with Youkilis in Pawtucket.

Pleasant Surprises: Wakefield's excellent start (a league-leading 1.75 ERA), Ortiz's and Manny's mashing (which I expected, but is still nice to see), and the only MLB team with a perfect stolen base percentage (7-of-7!).

3) I haven't followed the rest of the league very much, so I'll skip this

Evan from Firebrand of the American League

1) not at all. i will say i picked the yankees to win the wild card officially on my site (orioles i privately said to friends were gonna be real good). the last 3 years ive picked them to crash and burn and the orioles to finish 2nd. the year i finally give up and give the yankees some credit of course i turn out to be right.

2) dissapointment ... i dont really have any ... and foulke is NOT a dissapointment because he'll be in lockdown mode eventually. so I would have to say its schilling not being healthy enough. Biggest surprise is Wakefield's hot start.

3) Orioles for fast start, they're for real. Brewers have had a slow start, don't think they'll last. Yankees are in crisis mode, I have a feeling they'll finish with ~85 wins. But the slow start bound to stick I would say is oakland. i said it once ill say it again: no offense.

Randy Booth from Over the Monster

1) My expectations haven't changed -- I still think the Sox will win 90+ games and win the East, but I think it's going to take awhile for this team to gel. With David Wells and Curt Schilling out for awhile, our rotation will be in pieces for a good couple of months until everyone is completely healthy and we have it all settled. I fully expect the bats, like Edgar Renteria, to come around and put up another great offensive season.

2) Biggest dissapointment so far has been Curt Schilling. He missed the first couple of weeks, then came back and was far less than impressive, and now is back on the DL. Biggest pleasant surprise has been Mike Timlin's hot start to the season. I figured his age this season would become a factor, but not for the first month of the season.

3) I think the Dodgers as a team have a really good team, and they'll perform well this season and make the playoffs. They won't stay as hot as they are now, but they'll definitely perform well. The White Sox as a team will start slipping at some point and, once again, lose to the Twins. Brian Roberts of Baltimore has started hot, but he won't keep it up. .270 batting average and 15 home runs is probably all for him.

Frawst, a friend and respected baseball fan over at Livejournal

1) Early impression is that it's going to be much tighter than normal. All predictions going into the season took it for granted that player decline is a gradual process. But that's simply not true. Sometimes it's the cliff. Steroids or no Giambi cliffed, Kevin Brown has cliffed. If not for the Superhuman efforts of Jeter and Posada where would the Yankees be? In general I think things will end up much as we all thought they would before the season, but without the large gap between 2-3 and without the Wildcard coming from the East. My expectations are lowerd for the Sox because my expectations came with the explicit proviso that they stay healthy. They haven't already, and this Schilling relapse is worse than they're saying. Without arms they're not hanging in all year.

And Brian Roberts had best pray that the Devil doesn;t come to collect early.

2) It has to be Edgar Renteria. Foulke and Embree's scuffling will turn around to at least some extent. And there hasn't really been another big disappointment.

There's no such thing as 'clutch', but dear lord it seems like everytime Rent comes up with a duck on the pond he shoots him. I figure he'll still come around and give me the .280 15 70 I expect, but if he's doing while booting more balls than Fredy Adu what price glory?

Pleasent surprise? 1995 Vintage Timmy Wakefield. Without a doubt. You have to root for the guy, but it's much easier when the Devil is Dancin'

3)Joe Randa could easily maintain this start as a swan song. Troy Glaus likey the BOB, and he can keep it going. The D-Backs can contend in the Hot Potato NL West (YOU take it! NO YOU!) all year.

Kevin Brown is D-U-N done. It's too bad that a great career comes down to cratering in the Bronx.

Jeff Kuhn from The House that Dewey Built

1) My expectation of complete and total baseball domination has changed after a .500 month. It was probably an unrealistic expectation anyway.

The refreshing thing about the World Series win was that there was actually a reduced expectation. All off season, I wasn't worried about trivial things like Tito playing Pokey over Bellhorn, or if Soup Campbell's arm will hold up. We have a veteran team with very little variance with how they were going to be used.

Now that they have had some injuries and just aren't playing good baseball, my game by game expectations have changed from "We will win and destroy" to "It is unacceptable to be down four games to the Orioles, but we won the World Series. I enjoy beer with baseball." It's basically a look at how Jeff Kuhn lost his edge.

2) After spending two paragraphs on how I've been numbed to caring about such things, I'll use this space to tell you how much Renteria has pissed me off this year. I love Edgar Renteria, and I really think his defense is the best we've seen in Boston since Nomar's rookie year, but he's basically OC at the plate.

Last year, Cabrera would piss me off because he'd have a great at bat, 6-7 pitches and take a fastball to the opposite field for a single. Rest assured, the next time up, he's trying to crush everything eye high like he was a Pocket Ortiz.

I also can't rationally explain the Schilling situation without dropping a few c-bombs.

As far as surprises, Tim Wakefield should win this one going away. Every few years, he looks like he might put together one of those fun sub-3 ERA seasons he has in his arm. As bad as he looks when he struggles, he's a lot of fun to watch when he's pitching well.

3) Dodgers, because I really think DePodesta had one of the better off seasons in recent baseball history. And because I'm a contrarian to the mainstream ethos that exists that still kill DePodesta for the Mota/LoDuca trade.

Kansas City and Colorado are pretty much toast already, so it's no big stretch picking them to stay bad. Raul Mondesi has been bad enough to have been released…John Schuerholz should have known better.

Speaking of should have known better, Eric Milton is way too Eric Milton for the Reds. It's amazing what people would rather have than money.

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