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Blue Jays 8 at Red Sox 6

In similar fashion to the beginning of last night's game, the Blue Jays got off to a very quick lead - this time against Red Sox starting pitcher Matt Clement. Obviously, this is a great way to kick off the team's first road trip. Although it's still incredibly early in the regular season, the Red Sox got off to a torrid 6-1 start, so it was good to reign them back to the pack (if only slightly).

Some notes:


  • Ted Lilly had, in my view, the most impressive performance in tonight's game. Since this site's inception, I haven't been especially kind to him, and was fully expecting a repeat of last season's subaverage performance. Of course, the usual "but it's only one start" caveat applies, especially considering his previous start against the Devil Rays. However, let's take some time to appreciate just how special tonight's performance was.

    The following shows the distribution of balls put in play against Ted Lilly last season, taken from Baseball Graphs.

             % of Batted Balls   %/OF      %/PA
    BFP     OF%   LD%   GB%       HR       K  BB
    566     36%   22%   37%       12%     17% 11%

    That's a relatively high percentage of balls hit to the outfield, which, combined with his high HR% of balls hit to the outfield, led to a high home run rate.

    The following shows the distribution of balls put in play from tonight's game, compiled from play-by-play data from tonight's game. As a result, it's not as reliable as the data posted on Baseball Graphs.

             % of Batted Balls   %/OF      %/PA
    BFP     OF%   LD%   GB%       HR       K  BB
    27      24%   35%   41%        0       37% 0%

    First off, I'm very skeptical of that line drive percentage. I think the play-by-play data may have incorrectly described some groundballs as line drives. As a result, that 35% is likely much too high. The good news, however, is how few fly balls he allowed, which deviates greatly from last season's performance. Additionally, that K% is unreal.


    Associated Press/Winslow Townson
    In fact, it's the third highest strikeout total he's ever amassed in a game, and the two higher totals occurred during complete games:

    Date             Opponent     IP   K   K/9
    August 23, 2004  vs. Red Sox   9   13   13
    June 22, 2002    at Padres     9   11   11
    April 22, 2001   vs. Red Sox   6.2 10   14.52
    April 15, 2003   at Mariners   5.2 10   17.31
    May 22, 2004     at Red Sox    5.2 10   17.31
    June 20, 2005    vs. Orioles   7   10   12.86
    April 13, 2006   at Red Sox    7   10   12.86        

    It's a strange coincidence that four of his top seven strikeout performances came against the Red Sox. Perhaps this suggests he should start against them more often. Nah, on second thought, we probably shouldn't put that much stock in it. It's still an interesting factoid, though.

  • The big blow to the Red Sox came in the second inning, when Vernon Wells hit a grand slam to center field against Matt Clement.

    Associated Press/Winslow Townson

    I've been really impressed with how he's hit during the first nine games. I mean, look at what he's on pace to accomplish:

      G     AB      R      H    HR    RBI    SB      BA     OBP     SLG
    162    720    126    270    72    162    18    .375    .390    .725

    Okay, that's probably not going to happen, but it demonstrates the unreal level (2001 Barry Bonds excepted) at which he's played thus far.

  • One thing I'm sure many people noticed is that Alexis Rios was in the lineup in place of Shea Hillenbrand. The original plan entering the season was to platoon Rios with Eric Hinske and start Hillenbrand at DH everyday. Well, after Rios' recent success and Hillenbrand's recent struggles, that plan was quickly modified.

    Although that's probably the main motivation behind the move, it's possible that it might have been affected by Hillenbrand's recent spat with Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett. In yesterday's edition of The Toronto Star, Geoff Baker outlines the fracas:

    Hillenbrand isn't pleased that Beckett called him out after Tuesday's game for starting to head to first base after a 3-1 pitch on which the plate umpire delayed his strike call.

    Beckett said something to reporters about "playing the game right" while Hillenbrand responded to the quote with an expletive in what one Boston reporter called a "war of words."

    I actually laughed out loud when I read what Hillenbrand had to say to the media about the situation:

    "How many walks do you see me draw in a season?" Hillenbrand said yesterday. "I mean, you saw how long it took (the umpire) to call it a strike.

    "I've played this game for a long time and no one has ever questioned my ability to play it right."

    When another reporter approached Hillenbrand, he said, "I've only got one answer to any question about Beckett: (expletive) him!

    "The only person he made look bad is himself. I'm not concerned about it."

    As if swearing at Beckett weren't funny enough, he actually acknowledges that he's deficient at taking walks. I admire his honesty and his blase manner in which he openly admits his foibles.

    On a serious note, I'm fine that John Gibbons' experiment. If Rios can maintain a level of offense similar to Hillenbrand's, it would greatly benefit the team, if only because Eric Hinske would start at DH rather RF.

  • After being publicly praised for his defense by coach Brian Butterfield, Russ Adams committed his third error of the season. I have some serious reservations about his ability to be an effective defensive shortstop, because he doesn't seem to be improving. Since few, if any, good shortstops are available via trade, and considering Sergio Santos, who's clearly not yet ready for major league competition, is the only viable in-house option at the moment, Adams will likely be the everyday shortstop for awhile. In that case, John McDonald should often be used as a defensive substitution during late, close games.
  • I'm not confident in Brian Tallet's ability to be a consistently effective relief pitcher in the majors, as I will discuss in the next entry of the "Are Vinnie Chulk, Brian Tallet, and Pete Walker Worth Keeping Around?" miniseries. And tonight didn't help change matters. Although he managed to strike out two hitters, he gave up a walk, a hit, a home run, and two earned runs in one inning. Jason Frasor, in whom I place more confidence, actually fared worse; he gave up two walks, one hit, and three earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. As a result, B.J. Ryan was forced to come in to close out the game. Fortunately, he did so by forcing perhaps the game's most feared hitter, David Ortiz, to fly out to deep right field.

    Associated Press/Winslow Townson