October 8, 2009

Navigation

Home Page

News & Features

News

Columns & Opinions

Publisher's Note

Boomers

Pinings

Longshots

Techie

Pop Culture

Film

TV

Books
Video Games
CD Reviews

Living

Food

Wine

Beer
Grazing Guide

Music

Articles

Music Roundup

Live Music/DJs

MP3 & Podcasts

Bandmates

Arts

Theater

Art

Find A Hippo

Manchester

Nashua

Classifieds

View Classified Ads

Place a Classified Ad

Advertising

Advertising

Rates

Contact Us

Hippo Staff

How to Reach The Hippo

Past Issues

Browse by Cover


LONGSHOTS: Predictable ending to 2009 baseball prediction game
by Dave Long

After a 12-7 rout of the Indians on Sunday — when Clay Buchholz gave The Nation a little more angst heading to the playoffs by getting ripped again — the 2009 regular season went into the books. It was not an uneventful year with its share of highs, lows and unpredictable occurrences.

For the fifth time in Terry Francona’s six Boston years they won over 90, and 95 for a third time. The other times they won 95, they (gulp) lost to Chicago in the 2005 ALDS and Tampa in last year’s ALCS. They finished eight games back of the resurgent Yankees, something many in baseball expected after they committed nearly half a billion dollars to three free agents.

Given that my policy is to stand up and show one and all, good or bad, what I predicted for a season after it ends, here’s what I said about the key issues facing the team counting down from worst to best  in my column from the Hippo’s April 8 edition. And, while I’m editing a bit for space, if you think I’m fudging check the Web site as it’s still there.

#7 - Will Age Start To Show? Yes. So don’t expect 50 and 140 from Papi or the Lowell you saw in 2007. But still, they’ll be productive.

Prediction: Oritz’s projected full season homers and RBI numbers during his injury-riddled ’08 would’ve been 32 and 127. Expect something similar. For Lowell, 20-83-.280.

Reality: Lowell at .290, 17-75 in just 119 games, while Papi fell far short in RBI — but after the slump he hit at that pace. So give me a B-.

#6 - The Five Hole. I just don’t get the fascination with J.D. Drew. Whether he’s brittle, soft or just has bad luck to quote Coach B, he is what he is — a guy who plays 135 games and has been over 90 RBI twice. Take out his two contract years, the number drops to zero and his per year average is around the 64 he’s had each year in Boston. So why in the name of Trot Nixon is he batting fifth? The 3-4-5-6-7 in the order should be this: Youk, Ortiz, Jason Bay, Drew and Lowell.

Prediction: If Mother Francona makes the adjustment Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia will score more runs than in 2008.

Reality: Though close, neither did, helped by Papi’s slump, Lowell going to the DL and Ellsbury getting dropped to the bottom of the order in June. And while Drew set Boston highs with 24 homers and 68 RBI, 68 doesn’t cut it at number 5 and his real value is when he hits eight. Plus I have to make an adjustment now with Victor Martinez on board. So I’m now happy with Victor, Youk, Bay, Papi, Lowell, Drew to go left-right-right down the line-up.

#5 - Will Jacoby Ellsbury Take The Next Step? When last we saw him he was on the bench in lieu of Coco Crisp as they were eliminated in Tampa. That followed an uneven year that started OK, fell off the cliff in June and July and closed with a rush in September when he hit .340 and scored 20 runs. Maybe he’s just a good September hitter, as ’08 was like the September 2007 that had everyone agog. At the root of his problem was an inability to hit/layoff the low inside fastball and a .336 OBP that was exactly 100 points lower than league leader Milton Bradley. Both need to improve.

Prediction: I love the guy, so my judgment is clouded, but after seeing the OBP was just .329 in the spring I’m wary. So while he’ll be a bit better to around .285 with more consistency and improved power numbers, he won’t make a big leap until he gets greater control of his at-bats.

Reality: He did take that step by improving in all offensive categories except runs  (94 from 98), hit .301 and led MLB in steals with 70.

#4 - Injury Risk: The roster is a disaster waiting to happen and is the biggest negative issue they have, given the recent injury history of John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Wake, J.D. Drew, Rocco Baldelli, Julio Lugo (already hurt), Mark Kotsay (on DL), Mike Lowell and David Ortiz. Throw in the Varitek question and age issues and it could be 2005 or 2006 all over again, when Wade Miller, David Wells, Wake, Varitek, Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke and others hurt (’05) or decimated (’06) the team. On the good side, they do have depth everywhere, outside of catcher, to with stand it.

Prediction: Half of these guys do time on the DL, which challenges them. 

Reality: The only two not to go on the DL or not last the season were Drew (who for him played a Ripkenesque 137 games) and Big Papi, who had the worst two months of his life to start the year.

#3 - Wakefield vs. Buchholz: This depends on whether Buchholz continues as he did this spring – a big maybe. But if so, he should get the fifth spot when ready. For all the nice things I just said about Wake, he’s a supposed innings eater who’s done 200-plus once since 2002, who needs his own catcher and is 5-7 in the playoffs with a gruesome 6.75 ERA.

Prediction: It’s all moot if Smoltz is healthy and Penny is what Theo hopes.

Reality: They weren’t. While Wake was a savior early, he got one win after July 8 while Buchholz was nearly as big a life-saver in the final seven weeks. 

#2 - Will It Be the 2007 or 2008 Josh Beckett? Injuries were an issue for him, as they’ve been in all but two years of his career. That track record makes you wonder. But he seemed injury-free in the spring and looks poised to get back on track.

Prediction: 17-9, 3.46 ERA.

Reality: The vaunted Bill James computer had him at 13-8, 3.57 and he actually was 17-6, 3.86. I win.

#1 - Will Varitek Bounce back? Many believe after hitting just .220 overall and .201 left-handed he will. But history says he won’t. Only Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza among top catchers have been productive hitters at 37. On his side is that players today are likely to last longer than earlier models. 

Prediction: He’s a little better, but not much in hitting .237 with 13 homers and knocks in 51.

Reality: He hit .207 with 14 homers and 51 RBI. Back to my blood war with baseball over Bill James value for a second. He has V at 13 and 52. I had V at 13 and 51 — and we both had him hitting .238. And I didn’t look any of his up until Monday, Oct. 5, at 2:53 p.m.

Do-do-do-do-do — that’s Twilight Zone material. All in all, not perfect — but not bad.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


10/01/2009 Bay watch on for Sox MVP

9/24/2009 Pitch count police trigger another dreamlike episode
9/17/2009 The mailbags open for business
9/10/2009 Pats now see more clearly what needs to be done for '09
9/3/2009 On the shrink's couch in a near francoma
8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets
8/20/2009 Sixty-one years later and Ruth's still in the conversation8/13/2009 Empire strikes back during annual visit
8/6/2009 Ortiz and Manny's steroid story tests fans as well
7/30/2009 Trading places not as simple as "I'll take the old guy" 7/23/2009 Mailbag delivers some interesting questions and answers
7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
7/9/2009 Season's second half is when it'll get interesting for the Sox
7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics
6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
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 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 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 Ms 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