(Title an homage to the immortal George Carlin)
Fresh off his retirement, Curt is apparently now in the Baseball prognostication and analysis business. Never one at a loss for words, but unfortunately often displaying a simple lack of having his facts straight and a sense of homer-ism that would make Harry Carey blush. He starts out with the Rays:
The East has been a war of attrition for years and this year people are going to take Tampa for real as a player in this fight. The same folks who last year spent the whole season saying “this month is it,” “they can’t keep it up,” “they’re ready to go down” about Tampa are the same folks this spring saying “they’ll come back to the pack” or “they’ll come down to earth.”
Problem is those comments were made with no logic behind them. Tampa won this division last year with not one player having anything close to a career year. They did it with their ace on the DL for part of the season. They did it with no 40 HR guy, no batting title contender. They did it because Joe Maddon can manage his people, and he got his younger players to understand that winning games is far cooler than being a star. You can have both. Now add to the mix Gabe Kapler, someone who will have a profound impact on superstar young players, a healthy Scott Kazmir, a more seasoned James Shields, Matt Garza and others and I don’t see them ‘fading.’ I think it’s going to be a challenge for sure, but they’ll hold their own in my opinion.
Let me do this in order
1-Grant Balfour, JP Howell, James Shields, Andy Sonnenstine, Matt Garza, all posted their highest ERA+ of their careers. And while Troy Percival didn’t have a ‘career year’, his season could only be described as remarkable. Also, Dioner Navarro posted the highest OPS+ of his career.
2-Pardon me for not understanding why what players think is or isn’t ‘cool’ affects the outcome of games, and not talent and abilities. And Gabe Kapler? Curt, I get the fact that he’s an old buddy from Boston, but the guy’s a fringe major leaguer at best. If you’re arguing his effect on team chemistry . . . well, that’s another whole debate. I will counter by arguing that nine times out of ten, Santa Claus will beat the snot out of the Tooth Fairy.
3-What? First you’re disagreeing that they will regress, then you conclude by saying “they will hold their own”. They won 97 games last year, Curt. ‘Holding their own’ in the division would represent a regression. Their ace was only on the DL for one month, they otherwise enjoyed exceptional health. Also, the Rays Pythagorean had them pegged as a 92 win team last year, yet Curt argues that ‘Maddon knows how to handle people’ as the basis for his argument. So on one side we have statistical analysis and facts, on the other Curt’s opinion that the manager knows how to rub elbows with his players. So much for the ‘lack of any logic’ assertion. Oooof.
He moves on to our beloved Yanks:
So New York needs to stay healthy, get 30 or so from Burnett and Sabathia, 25-30 from Chamberlain and Wang becomes as good as any #3 in baseball, right alongside Dice or Lester. The Yankee defense, if it’s not solid, could prove to be a huge issue for them this year as far as Wang is concerned. He’s won consistently with a below average defense and he won’t suddenly start striking guys out. I expect his numbers to remain the same, or maybe improve outside W/L. He is a guy that could have across-the-board improvement in all categories but W/L if he doesn’t get consistent defense.
Trying . . . trying to comprehend . . . . . . . Nope, I just can’t do it. Wang won for the past few seasons with subpar defense behind him, but now won’t win if the defense remains subpar. My head hurts just typing that.
Now for the REALLY good stuff. Curt Schilling predicts the 2009 Red Sox:
Boston, and yes there may be some bias here
Josh had a tough year last year. He was far more hurt in the playoffs than anyone knew. You put him out there healthy, which he is, with Jon Lester, Dice, Wake, Penny/Smoltz/Masterson, and you can’t help but feel good.
If Josh was hurt last year, why should we think he’s going to be healthy this year? He started LAST year healthy as well, Curt. Beckett has long been rumored to have a bad shoulder and those don’t get better without surgery.
The top three pitchers have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. It would not surprise me if two things happened I don’t think anyone is expecting this year:
1) Jon Lester is better than he was last year.
2) Dice is as good, if not better, than he was last year.
The Lester progression to me is natural. Given his makeup, his stuff, and the Farrell factor if he stays healthy there is no reason his numbers won’t continue to improve over the next few years. Add in the life experience (which cannot be underestimated imo) and you have a perennial Cy candidate.
And if I was Brad Pitt, I’d be waking up next to Angelina Jolie. But I’m not.
Dice is just smart. He ‘grew’ last year and progressed and the W/L total, while surprising given the IP, was not a fluke. There are pitchers with marginal stuff who can throw out the occasional W/L % like he did last year, and then there are pitchers with good stuff who know how to make pitches in big spots. Dice is the latter. He knows how to execute when he’s in a bind and that means he gives up far fewer runs than you might expect. If he can improve his command and mindset early in counts, he can move into lofty company.
Dice-K was described as a Houdini act by everyone that saw him on a regular basis last year. His walk rate was over 5 men per nine innings. You cannot do that and stay successful in the major leagues. Hideo Nomo got away with it for a year or two, and it appears Dice-K is following the same path. Being bat shy is something MLB hitters will make you pay for eventually.
If Justin masterson getting ahead and beating LHH he’s looking at a long and prosperous career as a starter in the big leagues.
You do that, imo, with command of the inner half of the plate to LHH through a cutter/FB mix. Greg Maddux was a master at this. He threw a sinker and a cutter to BOTH sides.
Did he just compare JUTIN MASTERSON to Greg Maddux? Really?
Brad Penny remains the potentially biggest bargain of the year. I’ve known Brad since early in his Florida days and he’s a fantastic kid. Unfortunately, and fortunately, for him he’s got a high-maintenance body. Speaking as someone with experience in that department he’s got to keep on top of that and it appears he knows that and is doing that exact thing. If he’s healthy and pitches like he can, with Tek, Farrell and this bullpen, he could be a 15-20 game winner. That’s a lot of ifs, but certainly not out of the question. If he is in fact healthy then he immediately becomes the best #4 or 5 in the game and the Sox could win 110.
Smoltz, damn. Another “if” but I’ve heard nothing to think he won’t be healthy. If that is the case then things get even brighter. I bet you any amount of money, if you asked every manager in the game what rotation they would NOT want in a best of 5, or 7, it would be a healthy Sox rotation. Two of the best big-game pitchers in baseball (Smoltz and Josh), along with Dice and Lester? I’ll match that group with anyone all time in October.
That’s another huge if. October is a loooong way off. As a fan though you have to feel good knowing that the training staff, led by Paul Lessard, along with Tito and John, will manage their guys and the innings in the best possible manner to see that this staff arrives in October as healthy as possible.
I don’t even need to go into depth on the bullpen. Another “if,” but if they are healthy they present the one thing every opponent dreads. The ’seven-inning game’. In the late 80’s and early 90’s it was the Reds. Mid 90’s it was the Yankees with Rivera and Wetteland. A few years ago you had the Angels with Rodriguez and Percival.
Curt, having a lot of ‘ifs’ means your team has a lot of uncertainty. That’s not a good thing. I know that in the magical place called Curtisland all these ‘ifs’ come up huge, but in the real world of professional sports that’s wishful thinking. Many, if not most of them turn out badly.
BTW-Did he just say the Sox would win 110 games?
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