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Red Sox make no adjustments in ugly loss

Oct 13, 2013, 12:40 AM EDT

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Three Getty Images

How is the best way to deal with an inconsistent, pitcher-friendly strike zone?

Apparently, it’s to keep the bat on one’s shoulder or maybe just swing halfway and hope for the best.

The Red Sox succeeded in running up Anibal Sanchez‘s pitch count in Saturday’s 1-0 loss, but that was their only victory of the night. Even though they were no-hit until there was one out in the ninth, the outcome wasn’t finally decided until Xander Bogaerts‘ popup to short.

It was just the 10th ball put into play by the team all night.

Mostly, the Red Sox relied on umpire Joe West in the hopes of reach base via the walk. It worked six times, and with another ump, they might have been the beneficiary of one or two more free passes. But putting the game in the ump’s hands is never the best of plays.

It’s no surprise the Red Sox were a bit rusty after three days off, and while the Tigers may call Sanchez their third starter, the guy did lead the AL in ERA this year. It was no easy assignment with the way Sanchez’s slider was working. Still, the Red Sox took more half-swings than swings in the first six innings. It was a poor display from the team that led the AL in runs scored this year.

The Red Sox also took zero advantage of the terribly hobbled Miguel Cabrera at third base. Only two players showed bunt in the game. David Ross did it twice in an at-bat, pulling back both times before coaxing a walk. Shane Victorino finally dropped one down in the sixth, but incredibly, he pushed it down the first line and did it terribly, giving Sanchez an easy, one-pitch out. Cabrera, the likely AL MVP, looks like he can hardly move out there, but the Red Sox never tested him.

The Red Sox will probably come out better in Sunday’s Game 2, but with Max Scherzer on the mound, the runs won’t come much easier. It’d help to get on the board early, maybe by putting bat to ball once in a while.

  1. freddieoh - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    Matthew it was 12 balls in play for BoSox.

  2. weaselpuppy - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    Oh it was twelve?

    Toooooootally different.

    • freddieoh - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:22 AM

      My point being that Matthew is a lazy writer who rarely takes the time to get his facts straight.

      Asking for relevance is usually too much.

      • freddieoh - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:38 AM

        And weasel, the difference between 12 of the 29 AB resulting in a BIP vs. 10 of the 29 is not just a 20% increase in the number of balls in play, but can also be represented as the difference between .345 and .415. In a one-run game in particular that’s not an insignificant difference. Turned out to be insignificant to the actual result tonight for the BoSox though, as would have up to 15 or 17. Really what Matthew is foolishly doing is reaching the usual position of the typical annoying ex-player color commentator type who trumpets the value of the so-called productive out, only Matthew’s reaching that point by criticizing the strikeouts. If Matthew really wants to criticize the BoSox for being too patient or passive, he ought to refer to their overall swing %, or even better their swing % on pitches in the strike zone, but he’s not industrious enough to do so. He’d rather just tally the fly out/ground out numbers from the box score and add on one hit and try to use a miscounted total of balls in play as indicative of an insufficiently aggressive approach. Poor and lazy.

      • alexo0 - Oct 13, 2013 at 4:09 AM

        Headline should say “Red Sox Offense Makes No Adjustments…”.
        Pitching and defense did just fine.

      • cur68 - Oct 13, 2013 at 9:07 AM

        Honestly, I don’t know what Mathew is going on about here. The Red Sox lost 1-0 in 9 innings. They got on base 12 times via walks and chased a guy with a no hitter, who was easily K-ing guys who swung, by the 7th. When facing a hot, SO pitcher THIS IS OUTSTANDING PLATE DISCIPLINE. I’m failing to see how striking out MORE would have had a better outcome.

      • historiophiliac - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        Well, it would’ve been better for me.

    • freddieoh - Oct 13, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      And one last note – the pitch fx data actually shows that the Sox did adjust their approach against the Tiger bullpen, with a much higher swing % once Sanchez was out of the game. And the charts on their approach to Sanchez showed they were too aggressive against Anibal’s wicked slider, not too passive like Matthew appears to be trying to suggest. Bottom line is that it was just one of those nights – game still could have gone either way, right down to the last, and very drivable, pitch to Boegarts. That luck/timing factor is a huge part of what makes the great game of baseball so enjoyably unpredictable. Let’s hope for a comparable level of drama tonight after all those oversized ruffians are finished knocking their heads together this afternoon…

      • paperlions - Oct 13, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        There is also no evidence that it was an inconsistent or “pitcher friendly strike zone”.

        As someone who regularly looks at the strike zone maps on Pitch FX to see what the zones looked like (compared to the approximations shown on TV), I can tell you that the zone last night was called well, with fewer than average “missed called” and with those “missed calls” being closer to the zone than normal as well. If anything, the strike zone was tighter than average and the game zone called better than average.

        What the Red Sox did not adjust to was the superior pitching coming their way.

  3. Tim's Neighbor - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    It’s almost like baseball is hard or something. It’s totally easy to strike a sphere moving 90 plus mph with a rounded object and place it exactly where you want it.

    • apkyletexas - Oct 13, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      Hahaha – Boston fan thinks his team shouldn’t be expected to hit the ball successfully more than once a game.

  4. moogro - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:00 AM

    The lack of bunts was glaring.

  5. Staff - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    Reblogged this on SoshiTech.

  6. emdash01 - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:16 AM

    Oakland never hunted at Cabrera either. I don’t get it. Is it some kind of weird professional courtesy thing?

    • emdash01 - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:18 AM

      …bunted. Hunting at Cabrera would obviously be forbidden by law.

    • js20011041 - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:30 AM

      Matt Garza approves of this courtesy.

    • groleo45 - Oct 13, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      If you look at the defensive alignment, Miggy is playing on the grass every play defending the bunt. Unless a ground ball is hit right at him he has no chance, but they’re clearly trying to take away the bunt with positioning.

  7. js20011041 - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    Some of the Red Sox hitters thought about getting after Sanchez early in the count, but he was throwing first pitch change ups. It was nothing but junk until the 5th or 6th. You could tell it was mind fucking them when Napoli took a 2-0 fastball down the middle. One of only a handful of Sanchez’ pitches that actually caught the zone.

  8. riverace19 - Oct 13, 2013 at 2:38 AM

    Matthew your articles have been rubbish lately. My goodness. Sanchez was at the top in ERA and struck out 17 in a game this year. It’s baseball. Get over yourself and off your high horse because it makes you sound ignorant.

  9. doc - Oct 13, 2013 at 3:01 AM

    “The lack of bunts was glaring.” (moogro – Oct 13, 2013 at 1:00 AM)

    Yeah, especially for the bunt-happy Red Sox.

  10. sfm073 - Oct 13, 2013 at 3:44 AM

    I can’t stand when writers/bloggers insult or mock players. They had a bad night against a very good pitcher. It happens every night in baseball.

  11. km9000 - Oct 13, 2013 at 5:00 AM

    The Tigers were 1 for 11 with RISP. The Cards had 4 baserunners all day. If their opponents scrap together just 2 runs each, the story becomes how crappy their offenses were.

  12. watermelon1 - Oct 13, 2013 at 5:31 AM

    Easier said than done

    All they need to do is hit the ball? That’s what we tell ourselves about the orioles all the time!

  13. theskinsman - Oct 13, 2013 at 7:19 AM

    Sanchez was as good as he could possibly be. With West behind the plate, you’d best swing. Balls that were hit were hit at somebody. It happens.

  14. vincentbojackson - Oct 13, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    Doesn’t look good for the Red Sox at the moment. Losing at home with their ace on the mound against the Tigers #3 starter and now having to face Scherzer and Verlander.

    • 18thstreet - Oct 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      I would say that the Red Sox’ four best pitchers are all roughly as good as each other. Yes, Lester’s a little better. But it’s not like it’s a huge drop from one to four.

  15. amoses74 - Oct 13, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    West is the worst home plate ump in baseball. why they put that massive inconsistant mess behind the plate in the playoffs baffles me. I saw many many called strikes that werent even close which causes patient hitters to swing at crap. if I were a RedSox I probably would have been thrown out after some of those horrid called strikes

    • eightyraw - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      The zone was consistent with very few bad calls. He was giving low strikes to RHH, but it was Boston pitchers that were benefiting from this.

      http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/zoneTrack.php?month=10&day=12&year=2013&game=gid_2013_10_12_detmlb_bosmlb_1/&prevDate=1012

  16. thevauntedchris - Oct 13, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    the graph showed the strike zone was really good, with more called strikes that were actually balls in FAVOR of the red Sox. what are you using to judge this strike zone? I’d maybe recommend glancing at the graphs instead of an off center camera from your couch. and definitely don’t go by the red Sox player’s reactions. every pitch they don’t swing at is apparently supposed to be called a ball. been that way for years

    • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 13, 2013 at 8:39 AM

      I’m not entirely disagreeing with you, but those systems are not yet advanced enough, or fully calibrated in a way that is completely accurate. This is why they are not officially used by the MLB other than for show and not for critiquing umpires or batters. One of the big flaws stems from the fact that the strike zone stays static for each batter. What may be up in the numbers on Pedroia, would be knee high on Ortiz. See what I’m saying? While its a good indication most of the time of the general strike zones area, don’t base everything on a piece of technology that is relatively new and exists mainly for entertainment purposes.

      The other thing that a machine can’t show you is consistency in calling an expanded zone. For instance, if Joe West calls a pitch low to the outside as a strike, and it shows on the graph its outside the zone, that means you expect it when you’re up to be called a strike too. If its called a ball next time (or vice versa) it doesn’t matter what the graph shows-the batter is expecting an outcome based on the human umpires tendencies to expand the strike zone, and is expecting it to be consistently called that way throughout the game. Most of the Red Sox problems weren’t with whether they actually were balls or strikes, but rather the fact that they felt that Sanchez’s strike zone was much larger than the one Lester was getting, or that pitches were inconsistently being called balls or strikes and they had no way to get a read on what may be called. Whether they were right or wrong is another story..

      • paperlions - Oct 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        No, the K-zone is not static for each batter. The TV version is, yes, but the Pitch FX version is not, the height of the K-zone is in fact adjusted for the height of each batter. The technology can pinpoint the ball location to within a fraction of an inch and its location is marked at the front of the plate (thus, anything within an 1″ or so of the delineated zone could have crossed over some part of the plate), which is why anything that close isn’t really a “missed” call.

        “The Machine”, as you so eloquently put it, can show you everything you are saying it can’t, because you can chose to plot whichever pitches you wish and it shows the order of them to each batter as well.

        Though, I do find it rather funny that you think a hitter that has spent years honing his understanding of the strike zone will be able to adjust it after one or two ABs in which he may have seen one or two calls go against him in which the pitch was 3″ off the plate….because, yeah, they can integrate that information immediately into their decision process when they have a couple tenths of a second to decide to swing or not.

        In short, “the machine” can and does do many things you think it can’t or doesn’t and humans can’t and don’t do things you think they can or should.

      • eightyraw - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        This is calibrated and corrected: http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/zoneTrack.php?month=10&day=12&year=2013&game=gid_2013_10_12_detmlb_bosmlb_1/&prevDate=1012

  17. skeleteeth - Oct 13, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    Red Sox beat Scherzer this year after being shutout by Fister, Coke, Rondon, and Veras. You might remember the final game of that series where the Sox hit 8 homeruns and scored 20 runs as well.

  18. phillphan - Oct 13, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    Since Matthew knows everything and is the king of second guessing, this will probably be the end of his posts. He will no doubt be managing a major league team next year.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      I love how people complain about narratives and how they’d rather have analysis…but when they get some analysis, they get petulant about it. Disagree with him if you want. Argue his points. Don’t complain that he’s attempting to talk about the plays in the game instead of the beards and trophies.

  19. bbil2012 - Oct 13, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Matthew, a position somewhere in the Boston media awaits you.

  20. unclemosesgreen - Oct 13, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Lame bit of trollery, MP

  21. 18thstreet - Oct 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    Wide-ranging comment on a lot of topics here.

    You know, just because a team usually chooses not to do something doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision. A smart team tries to adjust. A good team is able to. If there was ever a time to bunt, it was yesterday. The third baseman — never a good fielder — is hobbled. And they couldn’t get a good swing against the starter, so the alternative isn’t all that great. In retrospect, with 27 outs behind us, I think this isn’t a controversial statement.

    Guys like Ellsbury and Victorino are surely capable of laying down one bunt (or at least attempting to) down the third baseline. And let me tell you, if Ellsbury gets a bunt past a ‘charging’ Cabrera, there’s probably a 40 percent chance he makes it to second base on that bunt. I like to believe there are others on the team who are capable of bunting, in the way that Ross at least tried it.

    I would love to blame Joe West for last night’s loss. I thought the strike zone was silly. I thought the check swings were checked (though I always think the batter checked his swing — that’s not Red Sox bias at work). I think Joe West holds grudges and made borderline calls that hurt the Red Sox because he holds grudges. (I am also aware that some Red Sox — Ortiz, especially — complain more than they ought to about umpiring.)

    I think that a lot of people are defending Joe West (to an extent) because they hate the Red Sox more than they hate Joe West. As a Sox fan, I understand. Me, I hate the Yankees more than I hate Joe West. But that conversation between West and Lester in the middle of first inning — broadcast by Fox — demonstrated a Jon Lester as a guy COMPLETELY terrified of being seen as making an unreasonable complaint to West. Buck and McCarver thought it was funny. I thought, knowing what we all know about West, that it demonstrated that Lester (like all players) are terrified of this incompetent bully. At some level, no matter your feelings about the Red Sox or Lester, that should concern you as a baseball fan. I thought it was awful to listen to. (And I think it’s not at all shocking that Joe West, who loves to be the center of attention, wanted to wear a microphone.)

    The Red Sox lost because they ran into a buzzsaw of a pitching performance.

    I would have liked to see them steal every base that they had a chance to — taking off on the first or second pitch to give more opportunities to move up on wild pitches (which seemed like a regular occurrence even with the bases empty, whatever that’s called). But the Sox lost because they couldn’t hit.

    I’m with Matthew here. I don’t think he’s trolling anyone. And I think saying that 10 balls were put into play when 12 were (I don’t know if that’s true, by the way) is not a horrible mistake — the point is the same at 10 or 12.

    • paperlions - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      I look at strike zone maps quite a bit, and even though West is a dick, he usually does call a very good strike zone, in general, he is far above average at calling balls and strikes. Yeah, he’s a jackwagon and he interjects himself into the action far too often, which makes him unlikable as a person, but he is actually pretty good at most parts of his job….it is his demeanor that is the problem.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      I’m not trying to be a homer here, but if you’re suggesting that West has more of a thing against the Sox than the Tigers, you would really need to provide some evidence of that. I would be highly doubtful. If you have info comparing the two, I’d look at it. West has ejected Leyland and Verlander (and Verlander when he was out of the game). I don’t think either of us are going to get preferential treatment from him. He bullies everyone, I think, so I don’t think either of us are getting an intentional advantage from him.

    • eightyraw - Oct 13, 2013 at 1:50 PM

      The K-zone wasn’t really that silly. It gave no real advantage to Detroit pitchers. There was no anti-Boston bias.

      Believe it or not, some people are defending Joe West’s zone because they don’t really care about either team but do care about facts. I have no rooting interest in this series, but to question Joe West’s strike-calling last night just because he is Joe West is ridiculous.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 13, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      And, I’m not trying to go after you here. I think you’re being reasonable, so I’m not taking a pot-shot or anything. I just thought the grudge part needed clarification.

      Go, Tigers! :)

      • 18thstreet - Oct 13, 2013 at 3:47 PM

        And I’ve got nothing against the Tigers. Great franchise, great fans.

  22. thebadguyswon - Oct 13, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    No, what you have here in the comments is a bunch of bitter Sox fans blasting the writer to work out their frustration.

    Small bit of news for you Red Sox fans: 99% of baseball fans of other teams are NOT rooting for you guys to win anything. It might come as a shock, but most baseball fans can’t stand your team, your act or your green garbage with seats can you call a ball park. You had one bad year in the past decade and now you act as if – this year – your guys have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of despair.

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