Friday, June 01, 2007

Scouting Out Saturday's Matchup

"No we did not share a moment at the dinner table."

Saturday's 4:00 game features the two "aces" of their respective rotation, with Mike Mussina going for the Bombers, and Curt Schilling taking the ball for the Sox. Before I break down this match-up, let me get into some other things:

Buster Olney of ESPN is reporting that Mark Teixeira of the Rangers might be traded in the near future, especially if the Rangers continue their last-place ways (currently 19-35, 13 1/2 games back of the Angels). Again, I bring this up because Teixeira would be a commodity that the Yankees would probably be interested in. Also, he's a free agent at the end of the year, and Scott Boras represents him, meaning that the Yankees are going to be one of a few teams that will be able to afford him once he is ready to sign an extension, which is likely to pay him anywhere between $10-12 million per year. If the Yankees are not too far out of it (it's hard to believe, but that actually may be the case in July if things keep going the way they are), I would expect them to make a push for Teixeira, because again, they need a bat at first base since Giambi cannot physically get the job done, and the tandem of Josh Phelps and Minky playing first is not nearly the kind of production you would want from a corner position. Plus, considering the fact that the Yanks are attempting to void out the remainder of Giambi's contract, effectively releasing him from the team, they are going to need a strong, left-handed bat to replace Giambi's presence. Also, consider Teixeira's career at Yankee Stadium. In 22 games, he's hit .308 with four homers and 16 RBIs. Also, playing 81 games with that short porch in right, it could signal a renaissance in his career, which seems to be sliding right now by his standards. In keeping with their attempt to get better at first, they have also contacted the Rockies about former Red Sox offseason target Todd Helton.

Randy Moss took his first few passes from Tom Brady yesterday, and from all accounts from those who attended, their connection was immediate. Remember that it was Brady who jumped on board and made his intentions clear that he wanted the Pats to do everything they could to get Moss. So now that he is officially in the lineup, Brady is probably going to have one of the better years of his career. Adalius Thomas was also at the voluntary workout, where he played both inside and outside linebacker. Plus, when you factor Junior Seau into the equation, you're looking at a scary core of linebackers, and although they are aging (all are above 30), they are still extremely effective in jamming the run, rushing the passer, and dropping back into coverage. The one notable absence was Asante Samuel, and although these workouts were "voluntary," you have to think that Samuel wouldn't have been there even if they were mandatory, as his intentions of signing a long-term deal have not been changed since coming out a few months ago after being assigned the franchise tag. There still has been no update on any kind of change in the contract talks, which at last check, had Samuel and the Pats about $4 million a year off (Samuel wants 10, the Pats have offered 6). The Pats got themselves an insurance policy just in case they cannot resolve the present contract issues in Tory James, so at least there is something positive you may be able to take away if Samuel is let go (by the way, they have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal for Samuel because he has been franchised, meaning that if they cannot work out a deal, Samuel will be paid the average of the top five salaries at his position for this year, given that he even plays at all this season, and will then become a free agent once the season is over). In my opinion, I think it's crucial that a deal get done here, but in order for that to be accomplished, both sides are going to have to let up a little bit on their demands. I think that Samuel's feeling on the proceedings are based purely on the deal Nate Clements received from the Niners (8 years, $80 million), and that's how he got his baseline figure to be 10 a year. However, Samuel is not as valuable as Clements is, and the reason for that is that Clements is better in coverage than Samuel based on yards per attempt from the opposing QB (6.1/attempt for Clements, 7.0/attempt for Samuel), and although his 10 interceptions was impressive, it could be interpreted as somewhat of a "fluke" when you consider he picked three in '05 and one in '04. Also, Clements is a factor in the return game, which is something Samuel doesn't give you. Look, I'm as big of a Asante fan as anyone, but for him to ask for 10 a year is just too much for his value. Realistically, I think he should be looking more for about 7.5-8 a year, which I think the Pats, through bonuses and other incentives, would probably be willing to meet. I really think that both sides need to come to the middle on this one, because I believe Samuel can continue to prosper in this system considering the Pats' front seven is probably the best in the league, and will force QBs into mistakes, meaning there will be more chances for Samuel to make plays.

On a sadder note, I want to just take time to pay respects to Marquise Hill, who died a couple of days ago after accidentally drowning in a jet-skiing accident. I watched Hill when he played for LSU, and, of course, saw him in his limited time with the Pats. I obviously didn't know him personally, but from what I can gather, when people have come out and called him "a hero of the community," you can tell that this is going to be a loss that will be felt by a lot of people, including everyone in the Patriots universe. Hill was especially beloved in his home state of Louisiana, where his funeral services will be held tomorrow. Hill was just 24 years old.

Marquise Hill

Going to be hard to continue after that, but I'll give it a shot. On Saturday (game is on FOX for all of my non-New Englanders, so check it out), the Sox and Yanks will matchup for the second of three games in this crucial series. Mike Mussina takes the ball for the Yankees. It's been a mixed bag for the Moose in his history against the Sox. For his career, he is 19-15 with a 3.58 ERA, and an equally impressive 10-7, 3.57 at Fenway Park. An interesting stat about Mussina is opposing batting averages in terms of when they see Mussina. In a batter's first time at the plate this year, they are hitting .325, but when they face Mussina for the second time, the average dips to .265, and then, once you reach the third or more plate appearances, the average rises back up to .310. This represents two things. First, hitters have been able to get to Mussina early. This is definitely a key for the Sox. If they are able to show discipline in their first at-bats, and get a feel of what Mussina is throwing for that particular game. Jumping out to an early lead will be crucial in this game, because once the order goes around once, Mussina seems to settle in, so those early runs will make a huge difference, because due to the fact that Mussina will be on a relatively short leash given the fact he has not been able to go more than 6 2/3 in any of his seven starts this year, most of which can be attributed to the strained hamstring he suffered earlier this season. He is on a budget of about 100 pitches, so if the Sox can be patient, and make him throw about 20 pitches an inning, they will likely be able to get to their bullpen, which has been not only ineffective this year, but overused as well. Curt Schilling is looking to capitalize on his last outing against the Indians, where he went seven innings, allowing just six hits, one run, and struck out 10 batters. Schill has been good at home, going 2-0 in six starts with a 3.12 ERA, including 36 of his 60 strikeouts. Here are some interesting stats to consider about Schill. When batters are facing him, they are hitting .432 on the first pitch, and this is due to the fact that, although Schilling has been able to pump his fastball in at around 90-91, his ball simply doesn't have any movement on it, and the Yankees have beat him around for it. In two starts this year, Schill is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA with a 1.62 WHIP (you want your WHIP to be around 1, and although .62 doesn't seem like a lot, consider that if Schilling pitched nine innings and gave up one hit an inning with no walks, his WHIP would be one, but, at 1.62, you're talking about 5-6 more hits or walks, which accounts for about 2-3 runs, so .62 is a lot). Also, Schill gets himself into trouble when he gets behind in the count. In a 1-1 count, batters are hitting .407, and at 2-1, are hitting .438, so it's crucial for Curt to get into pitcher's counts (0-1: .229, 0-2: .192, 1-2: .136). It's also apparent that Schill does not have the kind of stamina that he once had, as hitter are hitting .359 between Schill's 75th and 100th pitches. So, it is vitally important for the Sox to jump out on Mussina early also for this reason. With Schill pitching at home, he has a tremendous advantage no matter who he is playing, as he comes into this game with a 27-8 record. So it looks to be a tremendous match-up, with two guys who have performed very well throughout their career at "the friendly confines."

Again, hope everyone has a great weekend. What a way to start off June! Also, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals is tomorrow, and if LeBron can lead the Cavs over the Pistons, you are looking at one of the most intriguing series in a long time, with the Spurs and their team efforts vs. the budding super-duper star and his cast of merry men. Hopefully, this all comes to fruition, because I really don't need to see Detroit/San Antonio again. Spice it up a little huh?! Alright, take it easy now. Peace.


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