March 20, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Whether forecast is right or not is the question
by Dave Long

Itís college basketball time, but since Iíve invested so much time in the Celtics this winter, Iím going to wait until week two before weighing in on the NCAA Tournament. Besides, Iíve got something more pressing to talk about.

Itís the Bill James forecasts for 2008. To some he is a stat savant whoís changed baseball. Thatís pretty much what Red Sox co-GM for about two months Jed (ahhh) Hoyer told the Globe last week in saying baseball would have been very different the last 20 years if it werenít for Jamesí theories on quantifying performance. To me, heís a crackpot and just because evaluating players is now different it doesnít mean itís any more accurate. Thatís probably a little harsh, as he is a good read and I should know more about all his theories before calling him a crackpot. But itís not really him Iím calling that anyway. Itís those who blindly follow trends, well, just because everyone does it.

My friend Jeff (the) Eisenberg (ís have it) says I wonít let go of the past ó which, given the dynamics of our friendship, I disagree with. I look ahead. For instance, when I was coaching at NHC, I tried to keep track of the plus/minus for each five-man group. Head coach Tom Sullivan and fellow assistant Stan Spirou thought I was nuts, especially after Carmen Giampetruzzi went for 40 one night and wound up a minus 46. I thought it could give us a gauge of how different units played together. But I didnít realize the math behind how many different units could play in one stinking game. Keeping up with it by hand was like watching Lucy stuffing chocolates anywhere she could because she couldnít keep pace with the conveyor belt on I Love Lucy. Today Stats Inc. has plus/minus in all box scores.

To me James eliminates intangibles. Anyone whoís seen the Celtics knows intangibles make a huge difference and canít be quantified. I doubt thereís anything in Jamesí arsenal to forecast the impact of Kevin Garnett. Yes, heís talented, but his biggest contribution has been force of personality. A team that never played defense now does. A team that rarely passed now has everyone doing it. And because heís here, veterans are coming here who wouldnít have considered it eight months ago. Secondly, I say the Red Sox dismal record in free agency ó Edgar Renteria, Matt Clement, David Wells, Julio Lugo, J. D. Drew ó has been helped along with an over-reliance on this stuff. I mean what numbers could possibly tell you the brittle Drew should warrant a five-year deal ó win-shares?

Having said that, those stats can be helpful to the overall evaluation process ó but nothing replaces watching a guy play. Besides, since I was in the fourth grade (including my entire time in freshman economics) Iíve forecasted whoíll do what in baseball and am willing to put my intuition against his computer. So, in a two-part column Iíll do just that. First the starting pitching, and then, after a week off for the tournament, Iíll get to the rest of the team. Jamesí forecasts follow the playerís name and mine are at the end.

Josh Beckett: 14 wins, 8 losses, 3.50 ERA. Guys like Beckett, with huge potential who show flashes while struggling early in a career and then, as John Madden would say, BANG, arrive, mess up the computer. Itís why if James had been around in 1963 I doubt heíd have had Sandy Koufax jumping from 14-7 to 25-5 and 181 to 303 in innings. Ditto for Tom Glavine in 1991 as he jumped from 10-12 to 20-11. Beckett made a similar leap in í07 as his ERA dropped nearly two runs in winning 20 and was better in the playoffs. So: 19-6 and 2.87 and it could be better.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: 14 wins, 8 losses, 3.54 ERA. His numbers are nearly identical to Beckettís. Does that mean his computer has spit a bit, or two? Yes, the pundits say heíll take a similar jump as Beckett did after an adjustment year, but after seeing him need 70-plus pitches to get out of the third last week I wonder. Yes, itís spring training, but lack of command and high pitch counts were the problems last year and partly responsible for his end-of-the-year fatigue. I think heíll battle it again ó 16-12, 4.37.

Tim Wakefield: 11 wins, 9 losses, 4.03 ERA. You get predictable unpredictability with the now 41-year-old M. Wakefield. The last four years heís won 12, 16, 7 and 17. His deal is eating innings, but thanks to age-related injuries heís pitched just 140 and 181 the last two years. Plus, while he did win those 17 last year, his ERA and batting average against was the highest since 2000. I say that trend continues ó 10-11, 4.87 and 161 innings.

Jon Lester: 10 wins, 10 losses, 4.42 ERA. Anyone realize heís 11-2 lifetime? Heís similar to Dice-K, as he struggles with command at times. Thatís led to a lifetime ERA of 4.68. But heís a battler and the one I saw strike out 16 F-Cats a few years back. This is the maturation year when he steps up to 14-8 and 4.04.

Bartolo Colon: 4 wins, 4 losses, 4.37 ERA. If he does this, heíll be released by the trading deadline. But Iím optimistic heís on the Luis Tiant rehab route. Luis went from arm trouble and the minors at 29, to 1-7, with a 4.76 ERA at 30, to a three-time 20-game winner, with the last coming at 35, which is what Colon is. He wonít be that good, but a respectable 13-9 and 3.98.

Curt Schilling: 4 wins, 2 losses, 3.48 ERA. Iím betting 0-2, 6.12 ERA. Thatís saying he really needed the operation and didnít have it, because the Sox wouldíve gotten nothing for the $8 million deal they gave him for 2008. So why not try for the miracle?

There were no forecasts for Clay Buchholz ó who I think, because of Colon, starts in the minors. Iíll look at everyone else in two weeks.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did

3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury ó that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat