Big Vince Wilfork Getting Naked

Photo from HBO

When ESPN announces the athletes that will be posing nude, or nearly nude, for the Body Issue, it is always an interesting group. When I saw the headlines today exclaiming Vince Wilfork will strip down to his birthday suit, I spit out my drink. This has the potential to be one of the greatest Body Issues of all time thanks to the hefty former Patriots and current Houston Texans DT.

Wilfork is officially listed at 6′2″ and 325 lbs, but there is just no way he isn’t closer to 350. That’s a lot of man meat to show off in the Body Issue and he will most certainly be the most anticipated picture(s) in the magazine. Some other notable names participating are Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs, Christen Press of the USWNT, and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat.

Bruins Hot and Heavy on Kevin Shattenkirk

The Boston Bruins are in desperate need of top defensive help going into the 2016-2017 season. Of their top 4 d-men, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are 39 and 34 respectively and are both looking like time and injuries have slowed them down. Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are all good players, but ideally aren’t your top D-pairing guys. A guy like Kevin Shattenkirk would instantly make the Bruins defense more formidable. 

Shattenkirk is a top 4 puck-moving defensemen who can leave a serious impression on a game. He collected 14 goals and 30 assists last season with the Blues in 72 games and had a career high in hits (82) and blocks (113). He is only 27-years, is signed through next season, and went to BU. He seems great, what’s the catch? The price-tag will be very hefty to get Shattenkirk in the black and gold uniform.

Price is Right

Steven Senne/AP

When the Red Sox announced they had signed David Price for 7 years and $217 million I was excited. The lefty has electric stuff and the Sox desperately needed an ace in order to stay competitive in the division. Then April and May happened. Price did not pitch like an ace, except for one or two starts, and had an era that ballooned to 6.75 on May 7th after 7 starts. The restlessness began to get uncomfortable and thoughts of wasting $30 million a year crept into my mind.

Then things started to improve. Since May 7th, Price has not allowed more than 3 earned runs in an outing and has posted a 2.47 era, dropping his season era to 4.33. In his last three games he has finished the 8th inning and with a little run support, would be 3-0 in those starts instead of 1-2. He has returned to ace form.

Because I can never be fully satisfied, my main concern around Price going forward are the HR balls he keeps allowing. In his last 5 games, all 10 earned runs Price has allowed came on the long call, including one on Sunday that was wrapped around the Pesky Pole. All of 2015 Price only allowed 17 HRs in 32 starts and in 2016 has allowed 13 in just 15 games. If he can figure out how to keep the ball in the ballpark, he will be fine going forward.

In order for the Red Sox to make and compete in the postseason, Price needs to pitch to his ability like we have seen the last handful of starts. The team still needs at least one more starting arm, but at least the top of the rotation is set.

Diaco Donates

Our UConn football family is very fortunate to call The Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center our home. These facilities are among the finest in the nation and fully serve the needs of our football student-athletes. I want all Husky student-athletes and my fellow coaches to be able to enjoy the same caliber of facilities, which they richly deserve.

UConn Football Coach Bob Diaco on his $250,000 gift to help with the construction of facilities for UConn’s men’s and women’s soccer program, baseball program and softball program.

USMNT Eyeing a Semi-Final Birth

After an amazing turn of events to close out the group stage in the Copa America Centenario, the US Men’s Soccer team emerged as the group A winner. That gave the US a quarterfinal matchup against the 2nd place finisher in group B, which would help them avoid Brazil. We didn’t know at the time that Brazil would ultimately lose and be eliminated from the Copa America tournament in the group stage for the first time since 1987. As a result, the US gets to play Ecuador in Seattle tonight at 9:30pm ET.

In the group stage, Ecuador played to a nil-nil draw with Brazil, a 2-2 draw with Peru and then beat Haiti 4-0. Ecuador is a formidable opponent, ranked #13 in the FIFA world ranking. They have not had much success in the Copa America, reaching the quarterfinals in 1997 and nothing much since. The World Cup has also not been their friend, reaching the Round of 16 in the 2006 World Cup, reaching the group stage in 2002 and 2014, and not even qualifying in 2010.

On the other side of the pitch, the USMNT hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. After a 2-0 loss to Columbia, they beat Costa Rica 4-0 and then Paraguay 1-0 to advance. Both wins were big for their confidence, but can they translate that into a good game tonight? The last time the US made any headway in the Copa America was a 4th place finish in 1995. In World Cup play the US has had some mild success, reaching the Round of 16 in 1994, 2010 and 2014 and the quarterfinals in 2002.

Tonight should be a tightly contested match and will be a true test of where the USMNT is at this moment. A win could propel them into a matchup with Argentina in the semi-finals, which would likely be where their Copa run ends. Either way, the Copa America tournament has been a good test for this young USMNT as they set their eyes on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Steven Wright ’16 vs Pedro Martinez ’00

Steven Wright has had a fantastic 2016 season thus far and is at, or near, the top of the AL in most pitching categories. His 2.22 ERA ranks 2nd in the AL and got me thinking about the last time a Red Sox starter posted an ERA under 2.30 for a season*. Not surprisingly, Pedro Martinez was the last starter to finish a full season with an ERA under 2.30 and he did it 4 out of 5 years from 1999 to 2003. How do the two pitchers compare (over 1 season, not a career)?

For the sake of comparison, I looked at Pedro’s 2000 season, arguably one of the best pitching performances in recent baseball history and Wright’s 2016 numbers, projected out for the full season. Disclaimer: I’m not trying to say Steven Wright is as good as Pedro or will have half the career Pedro had, because that would be moronic. I don’t expect Wright to continue his torrid early season pace throughout the entire season, but what if he does?

Now for those of you who hate numbers or charts, let me summarize. If Wright were to remain on his current pace through 13 starts, he would end the season as the best pitcher in the AL and have a legitimate Cy Young case. He would have one of the best seasons in recent history for the Red Sox, but, spoiler alert, he would not upend Pedro even at this pace. In fairness to Wright and every other pitcher who has, and will, don the Red Sox uniform, it’s likely no one will ever have a better season than 2000 Pedro given how baseball has changed over the last 15+ years, not to mention a better 5-year span.

All of these numbers are just to say: Steven Wright is more than just a nice storyline. He is having a historic season thus far. As with any pitcher, but especially a knuckleballer, it could all fall apart the next time he toes the rubber, but for now, Wright is a serious contender for the best pitcher in the AL.

Footnotes:
*Buchholz had a 1.74 ERA in 2013, but he only pitched in 16 games.
+2016 Projected numbers are based on 32-33 starts this season, keeping the ERA and hits/9 IP steady, and increasing his HR/9 IP slightly.
++2016 Projected rank is based on where Wright would have ranked in the AL for the 2015 season.

Close Games Continue to Hurt Red Sox

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Last night’s pitcher’s duel between David Price and Chris Tillman lived up to the hype. Both starters looked a little vulnerable early on, then settled in nicely with shutdown stuff. Unfortunately for Price, of the 5 hits he allowed, 2 were HRs leading to a 3-2 loss. This was the 14th game this year the Red Sox have played with the final score being a 1-run differential and they are 5-9 in those contests.

For me, close game records say a lot about a team. They give a glimpse into the team’s ability to pull together and rally. In last night’s game, the Red Sox bullpen was strong (only Craig Kimbrel for 1 inning), but their offense could not produce the big hit when needed. Earlier in the game, there were chances with runners on base and less than 2 outs that resulted in nothing.

The once over-powering offense top to bottom now has more holes than swiss cheese. Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw both had hits last night, but have been struggling mightily as of late. Christian Vazquez is what he is: a top tier defensive catcher who will hit in the low .200s. Jackie Bradley Jr. is coming back to earth with his average dropping from .350 on May 25th to .310 on June 15th. On their own, none of these things are season-changers, but all together it amounts to some serious struggle.

In June, the Red Sox have a 4-7 record and are 0-3 in 1-run games. Overall they are 15-17 against AL East opponents. Things are trending in the wrong direction.