Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Month: July 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Big XII Expansion Back in the Spotlight for UConn

big-12

After months of back and forth, will they-won’t they expand, the Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby (how great is his name?) announced the league will look to expand to 12 or 14 teams (add 2 or 4 teams). UConn has been in the Big XII conversation for years now, so the expansion news (if it actually ends up happening) is big in Storrs. UConn should be at least in the final group with a legitimate shot of getting an invitation, but they are facing some tough competition with an unclear future. Let’s take a look at where UConn’s resume stands in the expansion talks.

Geography and Travel

UConn has both an advantage and disadvantage in geography and travel. Let’s start with the obvious: Storrs, CT is a long way from the Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa where the current teams are located. West Virginia is the closest team and still 600 miles away, making travel in the league much more expensive and difficult. That’s a massive disadvantage, for sure, especially when comparing resumes of the University of Houston, University of Cincinnati and University of Memphis as other options.

The advantage comes with UConn’s strong presence in the large and powerful New York media market. Let’s face it, college sports (specifically football, but also basketball) are all about the money and if the Big XII looks to add a television network, UConn would pull in the New York market that no other team can bring to the table. This frankly is UConn’s strongest argument for joining the league. It’s all about the money and UConn has access to new money.

Competitiveness and Reputation

In terms of football, UConn falls pretty far back in this category, but in basketball, they immediately make the league significantly better. In terms of football, the program is improving but is not close to the same level as current schools like Texas or Oklahoma and not nearly as strong as hopeful BYU and Boise State (a long shot I think). UConn basketball is incredibly strong in basketball, both men’s and women’s, and it without a doubt the best school to add for basketball competitiveness.

Another challenge is attendance, which for example is 58,000 per game at BYU and a measly 27,400 last season at UConn. UConn’s stadium only holds around 40,000, which is the tiny relative to most big-time programs. Not particularly exciting numbers and not in UConn’s favor.

Bottom Line

It all comes down to money and where the Big XII feels the future cash will come from. If they feel a network and expanding into new media markets is key, then UConn will be atop the list and give them a great option to break into the New York market. If they value football strength above all else, UConn is screwed and won’t have a shot. The fact that the league is looking to expand was a bit of a shock, so at this point, no one has any idea what the future will bring. The one thing I know is that if the Big XII expands and takes more than 1 AAC school, the AAC will fall even further off the map in terms of credibility and strength and those left will be in the league will be in a tough spot going forward.

ERA Watch

wright era watch 7.22

Through 14 starts, Steven Wright had an ERA hovering a hair above 2.00 and was looking like one of the best pitchers in the AL. His following 4 starts were less than stellar, allowing 15 earned runs. We watched his ERA balloon to 2.77 (still incredibly respectable) and the conversation shifted to concern about the great run being over. Last night, Wright returned to his ace form and threw 8 innings with 9 Ks and 2 runs (1 earned) when the Red Sox needed to not tax their bullpen. It was against the terrible Minnesota Twins, but a strong outing and a return to form none-the-less. He dropped his ERA 0.10 after last night’s performance and will have a chance to shine again against the Detroit Tigers in the final game of the home stand on Tuesday.

Red Sox on Fire

Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

After an abysmal 10-16 month of June, July has been the exact opposite. After Thursday night’s victory against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park, the Red Sox moved to 12-3 in the month of July and maintained a 0.5 game lead in the AL East. They are 11 games above .500 and are the owners of the 2nd best winning percentage in the AL and tied for 3rd in total wins in the AL. In the month, they are averaging 6.33 runs per game and allowing 4.73 runs per game (if you remove the outlier of 21 runs allowed against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 2, then it’s only 3.57 runs per game allowed). No matter how you slice it, July has been kind to the Red Sox.

The Red Sox are in the middle of a crucial 9-game home stand. Thus far, they have taken care of business and swept the short 2-game set with the San Francisco Giants (best record in baseball at the time) and took game 1 of a 4-game set with the l Twins. The next 6 games will be important for the Red Sox because they have 22 of the following 28 games on the road after this home stand, including an 11-game west coast swing. It’s never easy to travel cross-country and have your body adjust to the new time zone.

Given the success in July, it’s looking like June might have been the aberration and not the start of a new trend. With Hanley Ramirez swinging a hot bat and the pitching staff mostly holding their own, the winning should hopefully continue. That’s good news considering 1 losing month won’t kill your postseason hopes, but 2 likely will.

Player Spotlight: Hanley Ramirez

hanley ramirez spotlight 7.20.16

To say Hanley Ramirez had a great night on Wednesday would be an incredible understatement. Hanley had one of the best nights of his career behind the debut of Drew Pomeranz. He hit 3 HRs, one to left, one to center and one to right – a feat that is rarely seen. Missing in his stat line are the several impressive defensive plays he made at first base to save runs, including a nice diving catch in the first inning. Before yesterday, Hanley had just 8 HRs on the season, making the display of power that much more special and fun to watch.

 

 

A Debut to Forget for Drew Pomeranz

drew pomeranz bad getty

After a 13-day gap between starts thanks to the all-star break and a trade away from the San Diego Padres, lefty Drew Pomeranz took the mound at Fenway Park last night for his Red Sox debut against the San Francisco Giants. The first three innings looked good for Pomeranz (1 BB, 2 hits and 4 Ks) as he seemed to be settling in heading into the 4th. In the bottom half of the 3rd, the Red Sox expanded their lead to 8 runs thanks to the 2nd HR in consecutive innings for Hanley Ramirez. Life was good for Pomeranz and the Red Sox. Then the 4th inning happened…

The first 7 batters against Pomeranz all reached base in the 4th, knocking him out of the game after allowing 5 runs on 6 hits in just 3+ innings. He walked the first batter, then gave up a single, HR, single, HR, single and single. His debut went from solid to awful in the blink of an eye and the 8-run lead he was given was vanishing quickly. Robbie Ross got the Red Sox out of the 4th with 3 straight outs, but the much anticipated debut ended with a flop.

This was just game 1, but a rough start for Pomeranz in a Red Sox uniform. It certainly raised some eyebrows, but when you factor in 13-days between starts and his first game at Fenway Park in front of a fan base that actually cares and pays attention (sorry San Diego), I’ll chalk the performance up to pressure and nerves. Hopefully I’m right…

Another Injury in the Red Sox Bullpen

koji uehara injury getty

After 8 innings in yesterday’s Boston Red Sox game against the San Francisco Giants the Red Sox were cruising 4-0. Rick Porcello looked strong and John Farrell went to Koji Uehara to finish the team shutout. Just 7 pitches into his appearance, Uehara grabbed his chest and was taken out of the game. We later found out Uehara strained his pectoral and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday. Uehara becomes the 4th bullpen arm to go down to injury this year.

As of Wednesday morning, we don’t know what the future will be for Koji, but with Craig Kimbrel recovering from knee surgery, Carson Smith gone for the season with Tommy John surgery, and Junichi Tazawa working through a shoulder impingement, the acquisition of Brad Ziegler is even more important than ever. After being on the team for a week he is the defacto closer and will likely play a major role going forward.

If Uehara has to miss time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Kelly make another major league appearance, although this time out of the bullpen. He has been working as a reliever in the minors for potentially this situation, however I’m not sure if the Red Sox have any confidence in him making a major league impact.

Whether Koji is on the shelf for a while or not, the Red Sox need to fight through this period of injury and hopefully get Tazawa back soon and Kimbrel back in August. Once everyone is healthy, the Red Sox could have a strong back end of the bullpen come September.

Important Upcoming Stretch for Red Sox

AP Photo/Adam Hunger

AP Photo/Adam Hunger

After taking 2 of 3 from the New York Yankees in the Bronx and winning 8 of 11 so far in July, the Boston Red Sox face an incredibly important stretch if they hope to stay in contention and make a push for the playoffs. After an off day Monday, the Red Sox begin a 9-game home stand against the team with the best record in baseball right now, the San Francisco Giants. The quick 2-game set will be a good barometer for the Red Sox, who have faced some bad teams as of late. Following the 2-game set with the Giants, the Red Sox will face the terrible Minnesota Twins for 4 games and wrap-up the home stand with 3 against the solid Detroit Tigers.

Sitting at 12 games above .500 and 1.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for 1st place in the AL East, the Red Sox need to take advantage of this extended home stand. Hopefully they will stay competitive against the Giants and then pick up a few wins at the hands of the Twins. The Tigers will be a tough series, but if the Red Sox can emerge from this home stand with a 6-3 record, then I would consider it a strong success.

The home stand is also important because we get to see the debut in a Red Sox uniform of Drew Pomeranz. The lefty starter will have a big adjustment moving to the AL East, but will begin his tenure by facing the Giants, a team he has faced 9 times (7 starts). Unfortunately he has a 1-4 record with a 4.54 record against the Giants, but at least there is some familiarity with his opponent and he will have a supportive crowd behind him.

At this point in the season the Red Sox need to be focused on winning series and not worry about standings, but I’m scoreboard watching on a nightly basis. Let the fun begin.

Drew Pomeranz Bolsters Red Sox Starting Rotation

Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

On the final day of the all-star break Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski finally addressed the biggest hole in the roster: starting pitching. In a one-for-one trade, the Red Sox let go of a top pitching prospect 18-year old Anderson Espinoza for lefty Drew Pomeranz. Espinoza was the 15th highest ranked prospect according to Baseball America’s mid-season rankings and was drawing comparisons to Pedro Martinez. Pomeranz on the other hand has had a very strong season with the San Diego Padres with an 8-7 record and a fantastic 2.47 ERA and 10.1 K/9 ratio in a career-high 102 innings pitched.

At 27 years old, Pomeranz in a great investment for the Red Sox, but not without some serious concern. Despite incredible numbers against the AL East, .190 opponent batting average and 46 Ks in 16 games, the sample size is very small. I always get a little weary of pitchers with amazing ERAs in the NL coming to the AL East, because pitchers tend to look much less dominant when facing strong lineups every time out and ERAs tend to cimb. Another concern is his workload. He has already eclipsed his career high in innings pitched in the first half of 2016, so it will be interesting to monitor how he handles more and more work down the stretch. It’s a big unknown.

That being said, I am always a fan of giving up a very young prospect for a fairly young established major-leaguer. This move shows me that Dombrowski really is committed to winning now. Pomeranz has proven he can pitch well at the highest level and although Espinoza is drawing some incredible comparisons, he is 18 years old pitching in A ball and is 5 years away from having a direct impact on the big leagues, if he ever gets there. The Padres are taking on future risk, while the Red Sox could potentially improve there team tomorrow (or Wednesday when Pomeranz makes his debut).

With any trade, only time will tell who is the real “winner”, but I like this move for the Red Sox. I don’t think Pomeranz is the answer to all pitching woes, but he certainly gives the team a hopefully reliable starter every 5 days and help the team push towards the postseason. I have a feeling Dombrowski isn’t done yet, with 2 weeks remaining until the trade deadline.

Yoan Moncada: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

yoan moncada

Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada was in the news on Sunday night after hitting a monster HR and earning the MVP in the Futures Game, an all-star game to honor up-and-coming young baseball stars. Moncada’s stock has continued to rise to new heights and was named the the #1 prospect in baseball mid-season by Baseball America, a jump of 2 spots from his pre-season #3 ranking. The 2nd baseman made the jump from A+ Salem to AA Portland this season and instead of taking time to adjust and get settled, he has torn the cover off the ball.

In 16 games with Portland, Moncada is hitting .328 with 5 HRs and 1 RBIs. Combined with his 61 games in Salem, Moncada is hitting .312 with 9 HRs and 49 RBIs so far this season. He is just 21 years old and not yet knocking on the big league door, but his name is already familiar to many Red Sox fans. With trade talks heating up lately, Moncada’s name in mentioned as an almost untouchable alongside outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who played opposite Moncada in the Futures Game. Watching him in the Futures Game is further proof of why he the Red Sox organization doesn’t want to part with him

I’m a five-tool player. For the ones that have never seen me play, today you’re going to have an opportunity to. -Moncada to press before the Futures Game on Sunday.

For those who don’t know, the Red Sox signed Moncada out of Cuba in 2015 by giving him an outrageous $31.5 million signing bonus. He has a strong personality and exudes confidence in everything he does. He arrived in Spring Training this year showing off the 2 new additions to his car collection, a BMW X6M Lumma Widebody and a Lamborghini. Not the first few purchases I would make with my signing bonus, but then again, I’m not 21 and definitely didn’t just get 10’s of millions of dollars. If he keeps progressing like he has, the $31.5 million will just be the very beginning of his career earnings and the car collection will continue to grow.

 

By The Numbers: David Ortiz’s Epic 1st Half

Photo by Brian Phair

Photo by Brian Phair

By any measure or any stat, David Ortiz is having one of the best years of his career At age 40, he has decided to take one last victory lap in baseball and is certainly making the most of his final hurrah. Earlier this season, I explored Ortiz’s projected career numbers in relation to a potential Hall of Fame invite, but didn’t dig into his season numbers and where they stand in relation to his overall career. Since it is the unofficial halfway point of the season, the all-star break, let’s look at Ortiz’s epic 2016 season thus far.

Ortiz has appeared in 81 games (out of a potential 87) thus far in 2016 and has a .332 average with 22 HRs, 72 RBIs, 34 doubles, and 2 stolen bases (I had to throw that one in for fun). For some context, Ortiz is a career .286 hitter and based on 150 games, averages 40 doubles, 33 HRs, and 110 RBIs per season. Ortiz is on pace to shatter his career averages at age 40 and set some new career highs. If he plays in 150 games and maintains his pace, he will finish the regular season with career highs in batting average (.332 – tied with 2007), slugging percentage (.682), doubles (63), HRs (59), and hits (180 – tied with 2005).

Considering some of the incredible offensive seasons Ortiz has had in a Red Sox uniform, to break his own career records would be just astounding. Looking at his success in context with the rest of the league is also impressive, removing age from the equation. In all of the MLB in 2016, Ortiz is 4th in batting average (.332), 1st in slugging percentage (.682) and doubles (34) by wide margins, 2nd in RBIs, and 9th in HRs (to name a few). He is not just having a career year, but also a stand alone amazing run as well.

I do anticipate a slight drop-off from Ortiz in the 2nd half of the season, mostly because how can his numbers not decline? He is 40 and has been dealing with achilles issues for a number of years now, which will likely limit his playing time a bit more in the 2nd half of the season, especially if the Red Sox are contenders because they need Ortiz healthy for the postseason. Even with a mediocre 2nd half by his own standards, Ortiz will be in rarefied air and certainly should leave a great impression on the Hall of Fame selection committee.

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