Saturday, April 21, 2007

Enter Sandman???

As I flipped back and forth amongst the four baseball games available to me last night, the one game which got most of my attention was the Red Sox-Yankees game out at Fenway Park... Is there a bigger rivalry in all of baseball??? I doubt it. Last year, the Red Sox Nation was stung as the Yankees demolished them in a 5 game series sweep in mid-August, basically finishing their season and playoff aspirations.

So far, 2007 has been a little different... The Red Sox are in first place with a league-best 10-5 record with the Yankees sitting two games back. The Yankees could be further back if not for a miracle which happened two nights ago... They looked done on that night, trailing 6-2 with two outs and no one on in the bottom of the 9th. An amazing rally saw them score six runs off Cleveland Indian closer Joe Borowski - capped by an Alex Rodriguez 3-run homer.

Last night, the tables were turned on the Yankees by those aforementioned Red Sox. The Yanks were up 6-2 in the bottom of the 8th before the Sox rallied for five runs, including two off closer Mariano Rivera, to take a 7-6 lead. Hideki Okajima closed out the game in the 9th, pitching through the meat of the Yankee order - Jeter, Abreu and the red-hot A-Rod (who homered TWICE more) - to record a save.

For some reason, the Red Sox truly seem to have Rivera's number. Rivera, also known as "The Sandman," has now blown 10 saves in 34 opportunities the past seven seasons (2001-2007) against the Red Sox... that's only a conversion rate of 70.59%. Against the other 29 MLB teams over that time, he is 244 for 264 - a stellar 92.42% conversion rate. Why do the Red Sox seem to have him figured out, while the rest of the league doesn't? If you have a theory, please let me know... I really can't explain it - it's way beyond a statistical aberration at this point!


We are nearly three weeks into the baseball season now and look who has the best record of anyone - it's the Los Angeles Dodgers! At 12-5, the Dodgers are doing as well as advertised in the spring. While lacking much of a power game, they have won with their bread and butter - good pitching and speed on offense... a 2.94 team ERA is 2nd in the NL, while their 17 stolen bases lead the circuit.

Injuries and other things seem to be taking their toll on some of the players I thought would do really well this year. Adam LaRoche of the Pittsburgh Pirates is only hitting .100 (5 for 50) with 2 homers so far in 2007.. From all reports, LaRoche has suffered from back pain and stiffness the entire season. With 20 strikeouts in only 50 at bats, it appears to really be affecting his ability to hit the ball. Perhaps a DL stint is in his future. John Patterson of the Washington Nationals is another player I thought would do very well this year. Traditionally a pitcher with good control and a great strikeout to walk (K/BB) ratio, Patterson has been anything but that so far this year. In 2007, Patterson has walked 14, while only striking out eight in 18 innings. That's a 0.57 K/BB ratio. Compare that to last year where he had only 9 walks and 42 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings (an outstanding 4.67 K/BB ratio). I haven't heard anything about an injury yet with JP, but something clearly isn't right with him...


The NBA Playoffs start today with four first round games... the most intriguing game today will probably be the game between the 2005-2006 Miami Heat against the Chicago Bulls. Though the Bulls had a better record by five games, the World Champion Heat will probably be favored to win it. Injury plagued for most of the season, the Heat are now close to healthy. Anytime you can put a healthy Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O'Neal on the court, you're a force to be reckoned with...

Tomorrow's games will be more interesting for me than today's as the Los Angeles Lakers will take on the Phoenix Suns and the injury-depleted Washington Wizards will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers... it will truly take a miracle for the Lakers and Wizards to take more than one game in either of their series, let alone pull off the upsets and advance to the second round. I look for the most interesting game tomorrow to be the one between the Denver Nuggets and the San Antonio Spurs. The Nuggets are a VERY hot team at the moment, winning 10 of their final 11 games including a 100-77 win in San Antonio this past Wednesday to close out the season. Now that superstars Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson seem to have developed a chemistry between each other, the Nuggets have an excellent chance of beating the Spurs, and possibly advancing to the conference finals.


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