Red Sox

Nation STATion: You can quote me on that

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Nation STATion: You can quote me on that

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

While writing Nation STATion twice a week, and reading stats seven days a week, I have just reaffirmed my belief that there is a never-ending collection of numbers that can be shared about baseball in general, and the Red Sox in particular.

Author Pat Conroy wrote, and I quote, Baseball fans love numbers. They love to swirl them around their mouths like Bordeaux wine. And I consider it my responsibility to find interesting ways to present those numbers so that when swirling, those numbers dont taste boring or bitter.

Thats why Im always looking for creative ways of presenting stats. Trust me, with the tools available today on the web, it easy for anyone to throw out numbers for quick consumption. For example:

When Josh Beckett is behind on the count, batters are still hitting only .245. When he is ahead on the count though, they are hitting just .128.

Or, J.D Drew, this season, in Sox losses is hitting .233, but inexplicably in Sox wins hes hitting .218.

Finally, the pitchers in AL average 3.80 pitches per plate appearance; Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester average 3.96.

So there were three for you to think about, perhaps to mention to someone, and then quickly forget. They are interesting, but not satisfying because as the great baseball columnist for the New York Times, Arthur Daley wrote, and I quote, A baseball fan has the digestive apparatus of a billy goat. He can, and does, devour any set of diamond statistics with insatiable appetite and then nuzzles hungrily for more.

Thats why I believe that presentation makes a difference. "Presentation is crucial when serving any meal," says Michael Crane, corporate executive chef of ARAMARK,which is clearly why those hot dogs look so gosh darn appealing at Fenway.

A stat to me is always more interesting when there is a little more to a stat than just a number. Telling you that the Sox are now first in the majors in runs, batting average, and on-base percentage is like a three-pitch strikeout and I always remember Crash Davis quote from Bull Durham, "Quit trying to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring and besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls. They're more democratic."

I could only wonder how Crash Davis would feel about Jon Lester who leads the team with 110 strikeouts and has induced 12 double plays, the most on the team. Josh Beckett is next in both categories, with 100 whiffs and he has forced 10 batters to ground into 10 double plays.

To me stats are a tool to tell a story and sometimes the story is about us. For example, this morning the Sox are in first place with a record of 59-37, a .615 winning percentage. Last year, at this point in the season, the Sox were 54-42, a .563 winning percentage, sitting in third place. Now, I know the Sox have the AL MVP this year in Adrian Gonzalez, but like Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez last year, one or two great hitters are simply not enough.

So what has made the big difference in this offensive explosion this year? I turn to the words of Hall of Famer Lou Brock, and I quote, A good leadoff man sets the tone of the game. He sets the table, as I call it, and also can arrange the way the other players sit at the table. He jump-starts things, is an igniter. You usually can't rattle a leadoff guy.

Jacoby Ellsbury is the guy Red Sox Nation ripped last year and is the guy who is ripping opposing pitchers now. Last year, the amalgam of Sox batters who led off hit .265, with 11 homers and 57 RBI. So far this season, when Jacoby has led off he has hit .328 with 12 homers and 46 RBI. Red Sox Nation owes Jacoby a big apology.

Its hard to beat a team who has Ellsbury, the Muddy Chicken, A-Gon, Youk, and Big Papi as the first five guys in your regular lineup. Thats why the Sox are thriving despite a starting pitching staff that ranks 26th in the majors in Quality Starts. The great Jackie Robinson said, and I quote, Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead.

The Sox dont quit when they are losing. They have 22 comeback wins as compared to just 14 blown leads. And they certainly dont quit when they are ahead, despite Yogi Berras insistence that, and I quote, It ain't over 'til it's over. When the Sox lead heading to the ninth, its over. They are now 50-0 when leading going into the last inning.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the presentation and learned a few things along the way. I can tell you that I feel about writing baseball the same way the great Tom Seaver felt about playing it, and I quote, In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.

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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