Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mike Napoli with runners in scoring position

The batting average of most major leaguers is a few ticks higher when runners are on base than when the bases are empty.  That is to be expected.  When a runner is on base, the pitcher will be more worried about issuing walks, and so is more likely to throw balls down the center of the plate.  The pitcher may also be distracted by the threat of a stolen base, or may be worrying about what went wrong during the last at bat.  The very fact that there are runners are on base may simply indicate that the pitcher is starting to tire.  And, with the chance to knock in a few runs, the batter may be just a little more focused. 

Or, in Mike Napoli's case, a whole lot more focused.  With bases empty he is hitting a paltry 0.194.  That's the kind of batting average that earns you a date with the bench.  But when there are runners on base, he is hitting 0.333.  But wait, there's more!  With runners in scoring position, he is hitting a monstrous 0.370.  And with bases loaded, he is hitting a monstrous 0.667.

If I didn't know better, I'd say Napoli's is an RBI machine, an absolute clutch player.  

But I do know better: there is absolutely no statistical correlation between past clutch performance and future clutch performance in baseball. 

(If all the players in the major leagues were asked to flip a coin five times in a row, there are surely several who would get heads all five times.  Does that mean those players are really good at flipping heads?  Nope; on the sixth flip they are just as likely to flip tails as anyone else.  Similarly, statistics show that players who exhibit "clutch" hitting over a week or a month or a season are no more likely to continue being "clutch" than anyone else.)

So, don't get your expectations too high because of Napoli's early season exploits, and don't get too disappointed when he looks decidedly more average come the summer.  Just enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Doubront's Efficiency

Coming into this season, I was hopeful that Doubront would start to pitch more efficiently. There were flashes at the end of last season when he was pitching effectively and was able to make it through more than 5 innings. However, his first few games this season are not encouraging. Last night, facing a weak Indians lineup and given a seven run cushion in the second inning, Doubront labored to get through five innings, needing 104 pitches (!) to do so. In fact, he had the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, but fortunately got Reynolds to popup. And this on what - 10 days of rest?

I know that Doubront is only our 5th starter, but these results are not acceptable, and in fact probably won't get the job done when the relatively weak hitting Sox face any pitcher other than the train wreck that is Jimenez (remember when he used to be good with the Rockies?) If he doesn't step it up soon, i'd be surprised if the Sox didn't start looking for other options for their 5th starter.

Thoughts on the Boston Marathon

What started out as a fun day with my son cheering on famous runners, friends, and complete strangers turned quickly into a stomach churning afternoon when the news of the reprehensible carnage came in. Like a lot of people, I got caught up in the fear and terror and spent a night distracted by news reports and rumor mongering. But after a few days of sleep and reflection, I choose to reject the fear sowed by these cowardly terrorists and instead focus on the strength of my great nation and people of my adopted hometown. When I'm healthy again, I will continue to run races without fear. And i'll be down at the marathon again in 2014, supporting it in every way I can.

Many people with more talented pens than I wrote much better reactions than I could ever hope to do. Here are some of the best.

Patton Oswalt:
“I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. … This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago,”
Heather Hurlburt , on combating terrorism like being a marathon
We don't know who planted those explosive devices, but, as former West Point academic Brian Fishman reminds us, we know what those who resort to terror's indiscriminate violence want:
Terrorists kill for two basic reasons: They want to disrupt and destroy institutions or symbols of a political order they despise and they want to intimidate people not touched by the attack directly. 
... My fellow Americans, our hearts are broken, but the state of our union is strong. Maybe stronger than it was yesterday, before we saw those pictures of our fellow-citizens running from the race to the fallen.
So what about sowing fear and division among the rest of us, terrorists' other goal?
Americans of every political stripe have been calling out speculation and scapegoating as fast as it happens. Bostonians of every faith and race have come together to mourn their losses and celebrate their heroes. Maybe the attacker or attackers, whomever they are, didn't know Boston's difficult history of race and religious relations, maybe they did – but for those of us who do, this unity is especially beautiful to see.
That's pretty good for mile one. But we have so many hard miles ahead. Not turning on each other, or our institutions, or our own freedoms, whatever the truth behind these terrible attacks proves to be… can we keep it up?
And finally, my friend Norb, writing on Facebook. He watches the race from the other side of Route 135 than I do:

For those of you who don't know, I live a short walk from the mile 4 water stop on the Boston Marathon route in Ashland, MA. In the years I don't have to work, I take in the race with my kids. It's always quite amazing to stand on the hill there and watch a wall of people running towards us.
But then the fun begins. We pick out people to shout encouragement to. Maybe they have their name on their shirt. Maybe they're wearing their country's flag. Maybe they're just wearing pink sneakers. If we can find a way to address you, we will shout our encouragement at you as you run past.
And that will continue from mile 4 (and earlier), all the way to the end of the race. People you have never seen before, and will probably never see again, shouting heartfelt - and often hilarious - encouragement to those souls crazy enough to run 26.2 miles through our home towns.
It's one of those things that makes Boston Boston. It's why I love living here, and would never consider moving anywhere else. And no act of terror is going to change that.
Therefore, while I grieve for those people killed and injured today, I will say this to all you runners: I'll see you next year. And the year after that. And the year after that, too. Because for every "real" athlete out there running the race, there are five running it because they lost someone to cancer, or want their schools to have better technology, or any of a thousand other noble causes that drive people to test themselves against the Boston Marathon.
So, next year I will stand on the hill up by Ashland High School and watch that wave of crazy people washing down Union Street. And, while my smile may be a little sad, it will still be a smile. And then I'll go down and shout myself horse at the crazy people, helping them stay crazy enough to keep running for another 22.2 miles.
Because we're Boston. It's what we do.

        Friday, April 12, 2013

        Hanrahan vs. Papelbon

        Joel Hanrahan isn't the first Sox closer to blow a two-run lead, and I am not going to get on his case for it.  But what concerns me more is his attitude:
        "It’s not the first time I’ve blown a save, and it’s probably not going to be the last. It’s part of the game. It’s just how it goes sometimes . . . . That’s the life of a reliever. One day you’re the goat, the next day you’re the hero. That’s just kind of how it goes."
        Compare that to what Jonathan Papelbon had to say in 2010, following a similarly disastrous outing:
        "It was a long weekend, but, you know . . . all that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. It was about my performance today. I think some of it is focus. I’m able to make adjustments out there from pitch to pitch pretty easily. You got to learn how to make adjustments out there."
        Of all the ex-Red Sox players who are still playing elsewhere, Papelbon is the one I miss the most.

        James Salter - All That Is

        Well, shoot.  I am only three chapters in, and already I am ready to declare that, line for line, All That Is contains the finest writing by an American novelist in many years.  Consider, for example, the book's opening:
        All night in darkness the water sped past.
        In tier on tier of iron bunks below deck, silent, six deep, lay hundreds of men, many faceup with their eyes still open though it was near morning.  The lights were dimmed, the engines throbbing endlessly, the ventilators pulling in damp air, fifteen hundred men with their packs and weapons heavy enough to take them straight to the bottom, like an anvil dropped in the sea, part of a vast army sailing twoards Okinawa, the great island that was just to the south of Japan.
        But there is more to a great novel than great writing.  Can Salter make the grade in this, his first novel since 1979? 

        I'm optimistic.

        Thursday, April 4, 2013

        Review: Maui Jim Hot Sands sunglasses

        Bottom line: a lightweight, performance fit combined with Maui Jim's precision polarized optics makes this new model perfect for hours and hours of running. 

        I am a big fan of Maui Jim sunglasses.  However, I think it is fair to say that their lineup is largely targeted toward fishing, golfing, and the beach.   For some time, I've been looking for a model that would be suitable for serious running, so I was pretty psyched to learn about a new style they introduced this year, the Hot Sands.

        Now if you are looking for funky frames, strange lens shapes, or colorful coatings, you may need to look elsewhere.  With the Hot Sands you'll get a choice between four frame/lens combinations, any of which you could easily wear with a suit if you were so inclined:

        Hot Sands: four choices
        • Gloss Black with Neutral Gray lenses 
        • Blue with Neutral Gray lenses 
        • Rootbeer with HCL Bronze lenses
        • Translucent Matte Gray with Maui HT lenses

        Personally, I think that the Blue frames with Neutral Gray lenses look particularly fantastic.  However, this isn't a choice to be made based on which pair are most styling; with Maui Jim each color of lens is designed for a different purpose.  I have a pair of Kahunas and I can testify that neutral gray lenses are made for preserving rich color in direct, bright sunlight.  However, since I tend to start my runs early in the morning, and often will continue running until the late morning or afternoon, I opted for a pair with the HCL bronze lenses, which have a warm brown tint, and are the most suitable for a wide variety of lighting conditions.  (The Maui HT are strictly for early morning and late afternoon).  

        Out of the box, I could tell immediately that these sunglasses are solid.  They hug my face well, are very comfortable, and they stay put.  They are super light: the frames are made from Grilamid, a flexible polymer that is lighter in weight than the material used in traditional frames.  The temples have rubber inserts and the nose pads are adjustable, all of which makes for a secure fit.

        But the most important thing is the lenses.  While Maui Jim makes a lot of their lenses out of glass, these are made of lightweight polycarbonate.  Frankly, I thought the optical quality was just as fantastic.  In the early morning, the tint is light enough that I can make out the details of the trail clearly, but they still provide major relief from the mid-day sun.  The lenses are also polarized, and when I wore them while jogging across a snow colored field, I found they were terrific at cutting glare.  Other features to take note of is that they treated to repel water, and to resist smudges and scratches.  I'd still keep them in the case when not on my face, though.

        Here's what you get
        Speaking of the case:  the Hot Sands come with both a hardcase and a soft bag that doubles as a cloth for cleaning the lenses.  The bag reflects Maui Jim's Hawaiian heritage, and while its bright tropical pattern reduces the chances that you'll misplace it, I do wish it was more discrete.

        But that's a very small quibble that can easily be forgiven, especially given that I recently took them out on a five hour run and they were so light, so comfortable, that I barely knew they were there.  I'll certainly be wearing them at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler in June.

        The Hot Sands aren't marketed exclusively toward runners, but they provide everything that this runner is looking for.  But quality doesn't come cheap: Maui Jim prices them at $189, which is just a little bit less than some of the most popular high-end running sunglasses out there.  In my opinion, though, they are worth every penny.

        yours truly

        Daniel Nava, DH?

        My impression of Daniel Nava was that he had a good season last year - good but not great. It appeared for a while he was going to have a fantastic year, before falling off of a cliff (like most of the Sox, but that's another story).

        So I was surprised to tune in to the Sox/Yanks game last night and see him hitting 2nd - and as a DH no less. Has it come to this, that our DH has a career line of  .243/.352/.390? Doing some quick reading, it sounds like Farrell regards Nava highly, and sees him as a platoon with Gomes, going so far as to announce that Nava, a much better leftie hitter, is the best choice to bat 2nd vs. righties. So we may be seeing more of Nava than anyone expected this year. Hell, we may even see him at first base Which, if he keeps performing like he did last night (2 for 3 with a double - he's .667 with an .800 OBP! Sign him to an extension!), looks like it'll work out just fine.

        Wednesday, April 3, 2013

        Josh Reddick, we hardly knew ye...

        I miss having Josh Reddick on our team. Aside from the fact that he hit relatively well last year, just imagine seeing this guy come up to bat:
        Now that's a beard!