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Series Preview: Seattle Mariners @ Boston Red Sox

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Seattle: 21-39
Red Sox: 37-26

GAMES

Game 1: Felix Hernandez vs Bartolo Colon
Game 2: Miguel Batista vs Tim Wakefield
Game 3: Jarrod Washburn* vs Justin Masterson

Here's the deal Felix. Your groundballs are down from 60% to 47% and line drives are up over four points. You are missing fewer bats, down to 8.4% from 9.6%, throwing more balls (36.2% from 34.8%) and your strikeout and walk rates reflect that. You have managed to find regression in your flukey BABIP and HR/FB rates from 2007 and that's the only thing that's keeping you looking decent. All in all, you are a markedly worse pitcher this year. Cut it out. Groundballs and breaking pitches. You have all the talent and stuff in the world. Put it to better use. I beg of you.

Jarrod Washburn actually hasn't been as bad as he's looked. Witness these numbers:

Year Pitches Ball Call Swing GB FB LD IF BABIP HR/BIA kL kS uBB
2007 3271 37.6% 17.2% 5.8% 36.3% 29.7% 20.2% 11.4% 0.284 5.8% 3.5% 10.1% 7.4%
2008 1046 37.8% 18.4% 5.7% 36.7% 29.5% 22.7% 10.1% 0.343 7.0% 2.7% 11.0% 5.7%

The big culprit there is the BABIP. Washburn sucks, but he pretty much sucks the same as he did in 2007 so that's something I guess.

Likely Starters:
C Jason Varitek^
1 Kevin Youkilis
2 Dustin Pedroia
3 Mike Lowell
S Julio Lugo
L Jacoby Ellsbury*
C Coco Crisp^
R J.D. Drew*
D Manny Ramirez

The Red Sox were faced with a situation in which they are going to be without slugging DH David Ortiz for a month at minimum. So what do they do? Why they shift their mediocre fielding left fielder to DH and replace him in the field with a bonafide legit center fielder. Manny Ramirez by all estimates costs the Red Sox somewhere around 20-30 runs in the field with his play. Coco Crisp, his de facto replacement (even though Ellsbury might be starting in LF), is above average for a center fielder. Defensive range wise, you might not be far off comparing him to Ichiro. Ichiro in RF was worth 10-20 runs above average over a full season. We're talking about 30-50 runs worth of run prevention improvement (over a full season).

Coco Crisp hasn't hit a lick since moving to Boston. His last season in Cleveland he was worth about 15 runs over average which is a superb total for a center fielder. Since being traded to Boston however, he's been consistently worth 15-20 runs below average. David Ortiz on the other hand has provided over 50 runs above average for the last three years, but had been struggling so far in 2008. Weighting the last four years as .2/.5/.2/.1 you get a full season 2008 projection of Ortiz at just over +50 runs. So assuming Crisp remained his Boston self, Boston is looking at a 65-70 run loss in offensive production (over a full season).

All told, that's between 15-40 runs over a full season. That's what Boston loses when their best hitter - their best hitter! - goes down for an entire season. All because they use that unlucky break as an opportunity to drastically improve their defense and thus defray the penalty as much as possible. That's how a smart team handles the situation. They acquire useful depth and apply it. When the Mariners, through injury or whatever could not, or did not want to, start Richie Sexson (hardly our best hitter), he was replaced by Miguel Cairo. When Jose Vidro (hardly a hitter at all) sucked so badly that he called to be replaced, the Mariners bypassed the possible defensive upgrades and instead put their best catching prospect at DH. It can always get worse, but it will be hard for me to care any less about this team in 2008.

CONTEXT

I said my peace above. 15.5 games back. Your season was over six weeks ago. It was unofficially over three weeks ago. Now it's really over. You are done Mariners. Oh, what's that? Joshua Fields? Sure. Whatever.

THIS SERIES BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

Samuel Adams Utopias
Boston Brewing Company. Boston, MA

At $100 or possibly even $200 a bottle this annually rates among the world's most expensive beers and for good reason. A barley wine this checks in at between 50 and 60 proof which, you know, is a lot for something you normally drink in a 14 ounce pint glass. Procuring one of these bottles is no easy task (though a hell of a lot easier than getting some Westvleteren which I've only been trying to do for four years) as production is limited to less than 5,000 bottles per annum. If you do manage to get a hold of one, the best suggestion is to sit on it for awhile. Barley wines, like wine, perform best when aged and when you are starting out at such a high alcohol content, a cellaring of 5-20 years is probably prudent to achieve peakness.