Nation STATion: You can quote me on that

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Nation STATion: You can quote me on that

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

While writing Nation STATion twice a week, and reading stats seven days a week, I have just reaffirmed my belief that there is a never-ending collection of numbers that can be shared about baseball in general, and the Red Sox in particular.

Author Pat Conroy wrote, and I quote, Baseball fans love numbers. They love to swirl them around their mouths like Bordeaux wine. And I consider it my responsibility to find interesting ways to present those numbers so that when swirling, those numbers dont taste boring or bitter.

Thats why Im always looking for creative ways of presenting stats. Trust me, with the tools available today on the web, it easy for anyone to throw out numbers for quick consumption. For example:

When Josh Beckett is behind on the count, batters are still hitting only .245. When he is ahead on the count though, they are hitting just .128.

Or, J.D Drew, this season, in Sox losses is hitting .233, but inexplicably in Sox wins hes hitting .218.

Finally, the pitchers in AL average 3.80 pitches per plate appearance; Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester average 3.96.

So there were three for you to think about, perhaps to mention to someone, and then quickly forget. They are interesting, but not satisfying because as the great baseball columnist for the New York Times, Arthur Daley wrote, and I quote, A baseball fan has the digestive apparatus of a billy goat. He can, and does, devour any set of diamond statistics with insatiable appetite and then nuzzles hungrily for more.

Thats why I believe that presentation makes a difference. "Presentation is crucial when serving any meal," says Michael Crane, corporate executive chef of ARAMARK,which is clearly why those hot dogs look so gosh darn appealing at Fenway.

A stat to me is always more interesting when there is a little more to a stat than just a number. Telling you that the Sox are now first in the majors in runs, batting average, and on-base percentage is like a three-pitch strikeout and I always remember Crash Davis quote from Bull Durham, "Quit trying to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring and besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls. They're more democratic."

I could only wonder how Crash Davis would feel about Jon Lester who leads the team with 110 strikeouts and has induced 12 double plays, the most on the team. Josh Beckett is next in both categories, with 100 whiffs and he has forced 10 batters to ground into 10 double plays.

To me stats are a tool to tell a story and sometimes the story is about us. For example, this morning the Sox are in first place with a record of 59-37, a .615 winning percentage. Last year, at this point in the season, the Sox were 54-42, a .563 winning percentage, sitting in third place. Now, I know the Sox have the AL MVP this year in Adrian Gonzalez, but like Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez last year, one or two great hitters are simply not enough.

So what has made the big difference in this offensive explosion this year? I turn to the words of Hall of Famer Lou Brock, and I quote, A good leadoff man sets the tone of the game. He sets the table, as I call it, and also can arrange the way the other players sit at the table. He jump-starts things, is an igniter. You usually can't rattle a leadoff guy.

Jacoby Ellsbury is the guy Red Sox Nation ripped last year and is the guy who is ripping opposing pitchers now. Last year, the amalgam of Sox batters who led off hit .265, with 11 homers and 57 RBI. So far this season, when Jacoby has led off he has hit .328 with 12 homers and 46 RBI. Red Sox Nation owes Jacoby a big apology.

Its hard to beat a team who has Ellsbury, the Muddy Chicken, A-Gon, Youk, and Big Papi as the first five guys in your regular lineup. Thats why the Sox are thriving despite a starting pitching staff that ranks 26th in the majors in Quality Starts. The great Jackie Robinson said, and I quote, Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead.

The Sox dont quit when they are losing. They have 22 comeback wins as compared to just 14 blown leads. And they certainly dont quit when they are ahead, despite Yogi Berras insistence that, and I quote, It ain't over 'til it's over. When the Sox lead heading to the ninth, its over. They are now 50-0 when leading going into the last inning.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the presentation and learned a few things along the way. I can tell you that I feel about writing baseball the same way the great Tom Seaver felt about playing it, and I quote, In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

Wright extends scoreless streak to 9 1/3 innings in Red Sox' 10-7 win over Pirates

The angst surrounding the David Price- and (possibly) Drew Pomeranz-less Red Sox starting rotation may have eased a little -- or a lot -- on Thursday.

Steven Wright extended his string of scoreless spring-training innings to 9 1/3 by blanking the Pirates for 4 1/3 innings in his third spring-traing start, leading the Sox to a 10-7 victory over the Pirates at SkyBlue Park.

Red Sox-Pirates box score

Wright allowed two hits -- the only two hits he's allowed this spring -- with one walk and three strikeouts.

Several of his pitching brethren, notably Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross Jr., didn't fare nearly as well. (See box score above.) But the Sox -- using what may be their regular-season batting order for the first time -- bailed them out with a 16-hit attack, led by Dustin Pedroia (3-for-3, now hitting ,500 for the spring). Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and, yes, Pablo Sandoval each added two hits. Sandoval also drove in three runs and is now hitting .362.

Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-4 in his return to the Sox from the World Baseball Classic.

 

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies in a week

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies in a week

This isn’t your average young and hungry player on the brink of the big leagues.

Yoan Moncada, the ex-Red Sox prospect who was one of the principal pieces in the trade for Chris Sale, ate 85 Twinkies in a week, his agent told ESPN The Magazine

David Hastings, Moncada's agent, clarified to CSNNE that this was a one-time thing when Moncada first arrived in the U.S. Moncada had never had Twinkies before, Hastings said, so he was like "a kid in a candy store."

He's still in great shape. Moncada had a huge spring training with the White Sox after a disappointing major-league debut with Boston in September. 

The 21-year-old third baseman has been optioned out of big-league camp, so he’s slated to start the year in Triple-A. But he hit .317 with a .391 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage and 3 home runs in 41 at-bats — some of the best numbers anywhere.

Moncada took a $31.5 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, money that the Sox turned into Sale. Moncada, meanwhile, didn’t exactly invest every cent.

Twinkies weren’t his only indulgence. 

More from the story: 

Moncada had money to spend on drones, video games, toys and clothes. He sometimes spent $1,500 or more during nights out, David says. After he purchased the second $200,000 car, Josefa [Hastings, David’s wife] tried to talk some sense into him.

David Hastings reinforced to CSNNE that the message to Moncada was to invest in things that appreciate in value.