News and notes from around the league for May 15, 2013.
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Probable Pitchers for May 15, 2013
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Examining the mechanical changes that have driven the success of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and the Red Sox.
One of the biggest stories of the first month of the 2013 season has been the incredible turnaround of the Boston Red Sox. The team went from a near-lock for the postseason in September of 2011 to the victims of one of history's greatest collapses, and the disaster carried over to 2012. The Sox were a .500 team in April of last season, and were still three games over at the end of June. However, Boston would go 28-56 over the rest of the campaign, winning just one-third of their remaining games in a brutal crash that was catalyzed by bad blood in the clubhouse and the fire sale of August 25th, in which the Red Sox flipped a quarter-billion dollars worth of contracts in a salary-dump that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles.
General Manager Ben Cherington made a splash in free agency, signing a handful of players to revamp the roster, but the general outlook for this season was bleak. Preseason predictions by the BP staff placed Boston fourth in the AL East this year, but the team and the city have become a symbol for triumph in the wake of tragedy. Going into play on Tuesday, the Sox have the best record in the game at 18-7, and their run differential of +40 also leads the majors.
After 2012, what should we unlearn about the Red Sox?
One of the difficult parts about fantasy baseball is dealing with perception. When a player hits a home run, it feels like that’s what they’ll always do. Put another way, do you take a guy who just homered out of your lineup? No, of course not. He just homered. Therefore he’ll continue to homer. That’s a good way to lose. I know because that’s what I do best in fantasy sports. The way to do it, so I’ve been told, is ignore that homer. Let your understanding of the player’s value over the course of the season dictate your decisions. A single event, in this case the homer, shouldn’t enter into it. Yet it always does and I always pay the price.
Brett Lawrie crossed the line when he threw his batting helmet at an umpire.
The Tuesday Takeaway Brett Lawrie can hit, and the 22-year-old is rapidly learning how to pick it at the hot corner. But the questions about his makeup that led the Brewers to ship him to the Blue Jays in a one-for-one deal that brought back Shaun Marcum reared their ugly heads again last night in an incident that is likely to result in a suspension.
At the plate with nobody on and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Toronto trailing Tampa Bay 4-3, Lawrie worked the count to 3-1. Then, home plate umpire Bill Miller clearly gipped him of a walk, calling a Fernando Rodney fastball that crossed the plate at least four inches outside a strike. The payoff pitch was a changeup that threatened the upper fringe of the zone but stayed an inch or so too high. Miller rang Lawrie up, and—moments later—the young third baseman seemed ready to ring the ump’s bell.
Baseball's trio of dugout noobs have followed very different paths to their skippering slots, but what does the future hold?
Yesterday's column and my comments about the increasing importance of staff management are my cue to touch on what we do know about the three genuinely new skippers. The first of them is an ex-pitcher with no managerial experience, but someone who will be coming to the job with plenty of management experience.
Ex-pitcher John Farrell looks forward to his first season as the Blue Jays' manager, along with other news and notes from around the major leagues.
John Farrell stands as a rare bird in baseball, and it goes beyond the fact that he will be in his first year of managing the Blue Jays next season. Farrell is just the second active manager who spent his playing career a pitcher; he joins the Padres' Bud Black, the 2010 National League Manager of the Year. It is only fitting because Farrell's career path to reach this point has been anything but conventional.
Few pitching coaches ever get the opportunity to become major-league skippers.
The Blue Jays unquestionably chose wisely when they named Jay Jaffe GM, but the jury remains out on their signing of Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell to a three-year managerial contract. That’s not to say that Farrell doesn’t seem qualified; on the contrary, the newly minted manager’s resume makes for an impressive read. Farrell spent all or part of eight seasons pitching in the majors—giving him the apparently all-important cultural acclimation to major-league clubhouses that other first-time managers have lacked—before serving as the Indians’ player development director for five years, an experience which, at least in theory, should have imparted the rapport with rookies and appreciation for the bigger picture that some field generals lack.
More recently, he returned to the dugout, earning his first—but, his new employers hope, not his last—World Series ring in his inaugural season as Boston’s pitching coach. In three subsequent seasons spent in that capacity, he presided over the development of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, which made him an attractive candidate to oversee Toronto’s talented young rotation. In addition to his work experience, Farrell is well regarded on a personal level throughout the game, and considered media-savvy (a quality that should serve him well in the, um, bustling Canadian baseball media market), which earned him some serious buzz as a managerial candidate well before the Blue Jays’ extended hiring process got underway.
Trying to build a contender in this situation isn't the easiest task in baseball.
It's quite possibly as tough a time to be a contender in the AL East as it's ever been anywhere in recent baseball history, with the Yankees and Red Sox spending big dollars and the Rays reaping the benefits of the game's best talent pipeline. Even coming off their fourth winning season out of five, what's a fourth-place team like the Blue Jays to do? Stepping into the shoes of GM Alex Anthopolous isn't the most enviable task in the world at this point in time.
Last season, John Farrell moved from the front office to the field, taking over as the Red Sox pitching coach. David spoke with Farrell about his shift in priorities, the importance of a fastball that hits both sides of the plate, and more.
David Laurila: Warren Spahn famously said that you only need two pitches to get a hitter out: the one he's looking for and the one he isn't. Is that a simplification?