Red Sox

Nation STATion: Nine innings, nine pitchers

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Nation STATion: Nine innings, nine pitchers

By Bill Chuck
CSNNE.com

Nine innings, nine pitchers. Who are your picks?

There is a unique rhythm to every baseball game. On paper, heres what a pitching win should look like:

We watch a pitcher in the 1st inning to see what kind of stuff he has. Then over the next couple of innings, we look for consistency.

By the 4th inning we are amidst in the second time around the batting order and we can watch the adjustments made by hitter and pitcher.

By the 6th inning, we are now on an inning-by-inning watch as to how long the starter will remain in the game.

The 7th inning we are down to batter-by-batter and almost pitch-by-pitch. Can the starter make it through the inning? Does he have anything left in the tank? Is he now using everything he has left? Is he no longer pitching, but simply throwing? Should the manager start the 7th by going to the pen or wait until trouble arises?

By the 8th inning, we are thinking that this is the ultimate bridge to the closer. You can hear the save man warming up and singing Sam and Daves Hold on, Im Coming.

The 9th inning saves the game and the team savors the win.

Here is how the American League has actually played out inning-by-inning. Here are the league ERAs with the best, worst, and Bostons run totals:

1. 4.11 Toronto has allowed 48 runs, Baltimore 94, Boston 73
2. 3.67 Chicago has allowed 38 runs, Baltimore 86, Boston 64
3. 4.13 Oakland has allowed 40 runs, Toronto 104, Boston 46
4. 4.31 Oakland has allowed 48 runs, Minnesota 84, Boston 64
5. 4.43 Texas has allowed 51 runs, Minnesota 87, Boston 63
6. 4.27 New York has allowed 45 runs, Baltimore 84, Boston 67
7. 3.63 Toronto has allowed 32 runs, Detroit 74, Boston 45
8. 3.73 Chicago has allowed 39 runs, Minnesota 85, Boston 63
9. 3.34 Seattle has allowed 29 runs, Toronto 56, Boston 35

Ive created a game called 9-for-9 Nine pitchers for nine innings. Heres how the game works: you get to choose one Red Sox pitcher for each inning of the game. Like in a regular game, you can use the pitcher only once. You base your nine decisions on how well the pitcher has pitched in that inning throughout the season.

Here we go:

1st inning team ERA 4.86
There are pitchers we know we dont want to use in the 1st: John Lackey has a .347 batting average against (BAA) in the opening inning and allowed 18 runs in 21 innings, so hes out. Surprisingly, Jon Lester hasnt been great in the opening frame with batters hitting .269 against him, plus hes given up three homers and 13 runs in 24 innings. Josh Beckett has a .233 BAA but has given up four homers and 11 runs in 24 innings. So, as much as I hate to burn him early, I go with Alfredo Aceves who in four starts has held opponents to a .154 BAA without giving up a run in the 1st.

2nd inning team ERA 3.93
Tim Wakefield is the pitcher to avoid in the 2nd. He has a .306 BAA and has allowed 11 runs in 18 innings. Beckett has a .198 BAA and given up just five runs, but my choice is Jon Lester with his .165 BAA and since hes only given up six runs in 24 innings.

3rd inning team ERA 3.21
This has been a strong inning for Sox pitchers, one in each they have given up only five homers all season long (Lester has given up two). Josh Beckett has been great in the 3rd holding batters to a .160 average and having allowed just two runs, but Im not quite ready to burn him, so Im going with Tim Wakefield who has a .209 BAA and has allowed six runs in 19 innings.

4th inning team ERA 4.36
Here we are in the midst of the second time around the batting order and not surprisingly, John Lackey has had troubles with a .366 BAA and has given up an astounding 24 runs over the course of 20 innings. Andrew Miller has been hit hard this inning as well with batters hitting .357. Wake has held batters to a .225 average and Lester a .215, while Beckett has held batters to a .181 average, he has allowed 10 runs in 24 innings, so Im going with the small sample of Erik Bedard. Batters are 2-for-9 against him (.222) and he hasnt given up a run.

5th inning team ERA 3.93
This is another really bad inning for Tim Wakefield. The knuckleball doesnt flutter in the 5th as batters have hit .345 and hes given up 19 runs in 20 appearances. Josh Beckett again pitches well here with a .262 BAA and hes allowed eight runs in 24 innings, but Im greedy and I want to hold him one more inning. Im throwing John Lackey in here, as despite a .282 BAA, hes allowed just seven runs in 18 innings.

6th inning team ERA 4.64
Other than the 1st inning this is the worst inning for Sox pitchers and that makes sense. For most Boston starters, this is as far they go and the bullpen is not deep enough to have a great 6th inning pitcher. John Lackey has actually pitched well this inning holding batters to a .232 BAA. Jon Lester has a .250 BAA but has permitted 10 runs in 23 innings. We see the emergence of the bullpen in this inning. Matt Albers has allowed six runs in 14 innings and Dan Wheeler has held batters to a .190 BAA but allowed eight runs in just seven innings. Heres where the ace continues to shine, however. My guy in the 6th is Josh Beckett who has held the opposition to just a .190 batting average and a measly four runs in 20 innings.

7th inning team ERA 3.07
We have heard how good the Sox are offensively this inning, now you can see how effective they are on the mound as well. Beckett has pitched into the 7th 13 times and Lester 12 times. Check this out: Daniel Bard has faced 27 batters in the 7th inning; he has walked three and allowed one hit. Thats a .042 BAA and hes only allowed two runs. But Im saving Daniel. I could go with Matt Albers who has held the opposition to a .213 average, or Dan Wheeler, who has held batters to a .200 average and has allowed two runs in nine 7th inning appearances. But Im taking Franklin Morales, who has a .154 BAA and hasnt allowed a run in 11 7th inning appearances.

8th inning team ERA 4.18
You dont want to see Jonathan Papelbon in the 8th inning. Batters are 3-for-8 against him and hes allowed two runs in three appearances. You should know that in the five times that Josh Beckett has pitched in the 8th inning this season, batters are 2-for-15 and havent scored a run against him. Talk about leaving nothing in the tank! Daniel Bard is as good as there is in the 8th inning. Hes appeared in 45 of them this season and batters are hitting .199. Hes struck out 41 of the 166 batters hes faced and despite the five homers and 15 runs, you got to say numbers be damned, hes the man.

9th inning team ERA 3.06
For those of you who are ready to let Jonathan Papelbon go, heres a little fuel: In the 9th, Bard has faced 21 batters, allowed two hits, one walk, struck out seven and hasnt allowed a run. Those of you who want to retain Papelbon, heres your support: Batters are only hitting .206, hes struck out 58 of 185 batters and has allowed 17 runs over the course of 45 appearances. Hes the choice closer in this game.

So here are the 9-for-9 Red Sox pitchers:

1. Alfredo Aceves
2. Jon Lester
3. Tim Wakefield
4. Erik Bedard
5. John Lackey
6. Josh Beckett
7. Franklin Morales
8. Daniel Bard
9. Jonathan Papelbon

Does this mean much? Probably not a whole lot, but it does give you a good indication of the strengths and weaknesses of the staff. Try playing it yourself and let me know if you come up with a different combination.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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