Monday, April 13, 2009

Stats don't tell the whole story

Let's play a little True/False with statistics now that the first week of the season is behind us:

* Dustin Pedroia is hitting .167 (4-for-24).
FALSE. The Red Sox second baseman has scalded the ball this season but doesn't have much to show for it. Twice in one game against Tampa Bay, the Rays turned possible extra-base hits for Pedroia into outs -- Carl Crawford ran down a line drive in the gap, and Evan Longoria made a great pick of a bullet down the third-base line.

Said catcher Jason Varitek after that game, "That ball Pedey hit in the ninth (to Longoria), that's a Web Gem."

* Pedroia is slugging .375 (2 2B, 1 HR).
TRUE. That's more indicative; despite his stature, Pedroia isn't a singles hitter; he's a guy who's going to finish the year with 15 home runs and at least 50 doubles. As the batting average climbs, so too will the slugging percentage.

* Kevin Youkilis is hitting .522 (12-for-13).
JURY IS OUT. When a guy is that hot, in a lot of ways, you have to wait to see how he'll react once he hits a cold patch. Youkilis had a great season a year ago but is a candidate to regress; it'll be interesting to see how pitchers adjust to the way he's smoking the ball so far.

* David Ortiz is hitting .200 with no extra-base hits.
Unfortunately, probably TRUE. Big Papi has more strikeouts (five) than hits (four); the only real positive out of the first week is the fact that he's drawn five walks. He had to endure all sorts of talk this winter about how he might be close to the finish line; he's going to need to hit a hot streak fairly soon to quiet his doubters.

A couple of statistical quirks:
* He's hitting relievers (2-for-5 with three walks) but not starters (2-for-15 with two walks).
* He's 1-for-3 when swinging at the first pitch and 3-for-4 with four walks when the count is full, but he's 0-for-13 with one walk in all other counts.

* Jed Lowrie is hitting .056 (1-for-18).
TRUE, sort of. A year ago, Lowrie hit .194 against power pitchers and .385 against finesse pitchers; he also hit .222 as a lefty and .338 as a righty. If he's going to struggle this season, it's going to be against hard-throwing righties. That's what's happened so far.

So far this season, he has 15 at-bats against righties and three at-bats against lefties. He's also had to face power pitchers Matt Garza (0-for-3), James Shields (1-for-3) and Jered Weaver (0-for-2), all hard-throwing righties; Shields and Weaver both struck out at least 15o hitters last season.

It'll be interesting to see how Lowrie fares this week in Oakland; he'll be facing soft-tossing lefties Dallas Braden and Dana Eveland today and Tuesday -- exactly the type of pitchers against whom he should thrive.

* Tim Wakefield has a 4.50 ERA.
TRUE. Yep, that's about right.

* Hideki Okajima has a 13.50 ERA.
FALSE. Clearly, the lefty isn't this bad. But it's still a cause for concern. Okajima has made three appearances so far and has run into trouble in all three; he's walked three (and hit one batter) and surrendered two hits while recording just six outs.

One reason for optimism: He's faced eight righthanded hitters and allowed two hits (including a home run) and a walk. He's faced four lefthanded hitters and has walked two but hasn't allowed a hit. If he has to be reduced to a lefthanded specialist, well, at least that's something.

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