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.

Could Chris Sale's altercation open the door to get him at a lower cost?

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Could Chris Sale's altercation open the door to get him at a lower cost?

Chris Sale -- this year’s American league starting pitcher in the All-Star game -- was a late scratch and sent home before his scheduled Saturday start.

This of course comes after the White Sox have begun to listen to offers for their bonafide ace -- including the Red Sox.

Preceding the game, the White Sox released a statement from senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn explaining that Sale’s removal was “due to a clubhouse incident before the game.”

After ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported the altercation was with staff from the front office and had nothing to do with his teammates, there was another report that the issue pertained to the throwback uniforms the White Sox planned to wear for Saturday’s game.

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal has additionally been told the issue “was bigger than that.” 

Sale is a huge addition to any starting rotation -- never mind the Red Sox staff.

His stats are without a doubt impressive. An All-Star every season since 2012 thanks to his career 2.95 ERA and 10.1 K/9 -- this year posting a 3.18 ERA and 8.7 K/9.

But numbers can be deceiving -- especially with players playing for a small market club. That’s not the case with Sale though. While the White Sox haven’t contended in the postseason with the lefty, there’s no denying that Chicago isn’t a small market by any means.

The jump from Chicago to Boston is nothing compared to players coming from places like Miami or Atlanta -- or San Diego. So Sale presents a good fit in terms of approach -- in addition to having good stuff.

The incident makes Sale come across as a prima donna, the fact that the issue went past the uniforms shows there could be a deeper issue at hand -- and not so much an indictment of his mental make-up.

Additionally, this altercation could open the door to get Sale at a lower value. If it was that bad that he was sent home, it could take a lot more than a stern talk and hand shakes to resolve the issue, giving interested teams a much better chance to obtain the Cy Young candidate.

However, if the Red Sox do manage to strike a deal with the White Sox, they’d be wise to throw someone else on throwback nights.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

Mookie Betts' injury likely just a short-term issue

Mookie Betts' injury likely just a short-term issue

BOSTON -- After leaving Friday night’s game with right knee soreness, structural damage has been ruled out regarding Mookie Betts, but he could still be out for a bit.

Testing was done on Betts’ knee, removing any doubt of a deeper issue, revealing it was just build-up of fluid, causing swelling in his knee.

“Day-to-day is the status. It may take a couple for him before he’s back to us.” John Farrell said. “Everything points to this being a short-term situation.”

Betts explained that his condition had improved from Friday night, but -- much like Farrell -- doesn’t know how quickly he can bounce back. He wouldn’t make a definitive statement on whether or not he’d be available Sunday.

“It feels pretty good now,” Betts said. “We’re going to do some treatment on it, make sure everything is good and hopefully get back out there.”

Betts joins the list of pivotal players unavailable in Saturday’s game, including Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara who are both on the DL.

Farrell couldn’t commit to a timetable for when he expects Uehara should be back, but hopes he’ll be available during the regular season.

“We’re hopeful of that,” Farrell said when asked if he thought Uehara would be back before the postseason. “There’s no number of day’s that says Koji’s going to put a ball back in his hand . . . To give you a time frame, it’s too early to tell.”

Kimbrel, on the other hand, has bounced back well, and is expected to throw his first bullpen Sunday or Monday. The hope is that he’ll throw twice off the mound before the trip to the West, which would set him up for a simulated game.

“We need to get some PFP involved -- just some change in direction, fielding the position,” Farrell said on Kimbrel. “But in terms of amount of time missed, and that fact that he’s able to as get aggressive right now in long toss. I would think it would be on the shorter end of appearances if it’s even more than one. He feels very good. If he wasn’t making the ultimate decision medically [he’d] probably say ‘Give me the ball tonight.’ That’s how good he feels -- that’s encouraging.”

 

Saturday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: Betts out with knee soreness

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Saturday's Red Sox-Twins lineups: Betts out with knee soreness

Mookie Betts is out of the lineup Saturday after leaving the game Friday night with knee soreness and Brock Holt moves into the leadoff spot for the Red Sox in Game 3 of their four-game series with the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.

Manager John Farrell said Betts is day-to-day after the right fielder left the Red Sox' 2-1 loss in the fifth inning with pain in his right knee. There is swelling, but an MRI showed no structural damage.Michael Martinez will start in right on Saturday night. Betts had started in 93 of Boston's 94 games this season. 

Aaron Hill gets the start at third base for the Red Sox in place of Travis Shaw.  

Left-hander David Price (9-7, 4.36 ERA) makes his second start of the second half for the Red Sox. Price took the loss in a 3-1 defeat against the Yankees on Sunday night, allowing 11 hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innnigs. 

Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.02) is on the mound for the Twins.

The lineups:

TWINS
Eduardo Nunez SS
Robbie Grossman DH
Miguel Sano 3B
Brian Dozier 2B
Max Kepler RF
Kennys Vargas 1B
Eddie Rosario LF
Kurt Suzuki C
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Ricky Nolasco RHP

RED SOX
Brock Holt LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Aaron Hill 3B
Sandy Leon C
Michael Martinez RF
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David Price LHP